Archives for the month of: September, 2013

Last Thursday, a few days before the equinox, I stepped outside after an evening yoga class and looked eastward toward the late twilight sky. The amber moon was stunning, immense. It hung low and heavy, like ripe fruit.

So mesmerizing was this moon, I couldn’t turn away. I wanted to feel closer. And to me, closer to the moon means closer to the water. Lucky to live near the Lake Michigan shoreline, I headed toward the beach.

As I stood and watched, the waves roared and sparkled in silver and black then broke languidly into the sand. I just needed time to feel the night breeze, to gaze at the placid moon while it seemed to gaze back at me.

How many other beings, I wondered, are spending a few quiet moments with the moon, elsewhere in the world, as I am now?

It’s hard to resist the pull of the full Harvest Moon, bringing with it a procession of moonlit nights. On this night, I finally turned away and headed home, feeling oddly and greatly at peace.

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At the farmer’s market in Michigan, I picked up four perfect candy onions. (I mean, who can resist that name?) This recipe produces insanely delicious sweet, slightly crispy onions that would complement a million things, but I end up just eating them as they are. And of course they are good for you…. onions have anti-inflammatory benefits and protect your body in all sorts of ways, we all know about olive oil, and even maple syrup provides the antioxidant benefits of manganese and zinc.  Note: there is a slight bit of technique involved here, but your patience and attentiveness will be highly rewarded!

4 medium candy, sweet, or Vidalia onions

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 good dashes salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Peel outermost layers of onions; trim off stem and root ends; cut in halves, then into thin slices. In large saute pan, warm olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion slices and stir with spatula to coat with oil. Spread the slices evenly in the pan and allow to cook for ten minutes or so. Sprinkle with salt, give it a stir. You may need to adjust the heat to prevent onions from burning or drying out. Feel free to add a bit more oil as well to avoid this. Stir frequently as all slices become softened.

Continue cooking the onions for up to an hour. Keep an eye on them, stirring only when the onions begin to brown but before they begin to burn; this is what helps caramelize them. After 25 minutes or so, you might want to lower the heat and stir and scrape the browned bits more often. Add the maple syrup for flavor and to encourage the caramelizing process. Watch, stir, and scrape until the onions are very soft and nicely browned. Splash with balsamic vinegar, stir well. Let rest for a few minutes and serve.

Serves 4-6 as a topping or side.

Have you ever had a day when things keep going astonishingly wrong, hour after hour as the day ticks by, and you wonder what kind of bad karma you’ve projected to create such a day?

And have you ever had a day when things just click into place, hour after hour, and you wonder what you’ve done to deserve such a day?

Earlier this week I had a simple day of driving through the state of Michigan, and it totally rocked.

Starting just north of the Canadian border, I crossed the International Bridge and headed through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the famous Mackinac Bridge. As I pulled up to the toll booth, I was ready to apologize to the operator for not having correct change when she said, “The driver in front of you paid your fare.” I was shocked and asked, “Why would they do that?” and the toll booth operator shrugged her shoulders and said, “It’s an act of random kindness. And the driver asked you to drive safely and have a good trip.”

This small and generous gesture had its intended effect:  my heart completely swelled and I felt like all was right with the world.

An hour later I headed toward Traverse City to attend a reading of the fantastic memoir I had just read (Bootstrapper, by Mardi Jo Link, a Michigan writer). I was running late and kicking myself for not getting an earlier start. This part of the drive follows along the shores of Lake Michigan and is postcard gorgeous. But since I was afraid of being late for the event, I barreled along at top speed past the pottery shop, the cherry orchards, the farm stands, and the wineries where I usually love to stop.

As I reached the venue, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be walking in 15 minutes late. However, I quickly learned that the event schedule had changed, and now I was an hour early. I had time to enjoy lunch in a spot overlooking the entire bay before returning to the venue. The reading was lots of fun, the author was just as kindhearted and smart as she appeared in her book. and I had a great chat with her.

As I left Traverse City and bumbled along a country highway through farmland and forest and canoe bases and small towns, I wished that I had had a chance to pick up some produce and wine from the region. Far further downstate I stopped at a gas station with a big store featuring lots of things to do with guns, hunting, beer drinking and…. a lovely selection of wines from the Traverse City region. I happily chose a few while waiting for the freshly brewed coffee that the clerk had put on just as I walked in.

Further down the road I came upon the most picturesque farmer’s market I had ever seen, and I gathered up peaches, plums, apples, giant cauliflower, oblong tomatoes, multihued peppers, and candy onions, After paying for these and loading up the car, I headed on the last stretch to Chicago.

Perhaps I’m easy to please, but this long day of driving down the length of this Great Lakes state, tuning into local radio stations along the way, felt charmed and beautiful and very much like a very good day.

This very simple recipe is elevated by the quality of its seasonal ingredients, making beautiful use of all those ripe tomatoes you have in your garden or just picked up at the farmers’ market. It’s super healthy because it really doesn’t need dressing; the ripe tomatoes and all of the flavors just meld into a celebration of summer.

6-8 Ripe summer tomatoes, thinly sliced  (no need to peel or remove seeds)

2 Sweet or Vidalia onions, very thinly sliced

2 Cucumbers, peeled if not organic, very thinly sliced

Salt

Fresh ground pepper

A bit of chopped fresh basil, dill, or parsley if desired

Layer the bottom of a large salad bowl with cucumber slices.  Follow with onion slices, then layer on tomato slices. Generously season with salt, pepper, and herbs if you are using. Continue layering in this order until all ingredients are used. Chill in the refrigerator for about two hours to allow flavors to blend.