Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Although we had planned a hike today on one of my favorite trails, I decided to stay home, rest my back a bit, and be domestic. I waved goodbye to Odel, Rosanna and Joy with a mental list of "catch-up" chores I was eager to attack.

First, though - the daily morning adulation of the oven! There is something about this heavy earthen dome that we all find irrestible. We peek out at it first thing in the morning, and visit as soon as we step out the door. I frequently see Rosanna or Odel examining the surface or admiring the form, as I do each time I go outside.

We gather there to discuss the drying process and the cracks that are appearing as it dries, to admire the shape, to wonder when it will be dry enough to remove the sand... it is quite mysterious and interesting.

You can see that we have added a sand and gravel walkway; our project is complete for now. We plan to remove the sand on Saturday, which will allow the interior of the oven to dry. The final step in finishing the oven will be to add an insulating and protective layer of "cob" - that is about a week away.

So, what did I do today? Lost myself in the kitchen.

I had promised a dish for dinner tonight, so Basque Lamb Shanks went into the crockpot first thing this morning: lamb shanks slow cooked with white beans, butternut squash and tomatoes. Just before serving, kalamata olives are added; I plan to serve it on a big platter of soft polenta. Note to foodies who read this blog because you are preparing to go fulltime: take your crockpot! It is an invaluable fulltimer's cooking appliance.

Searching out the kalamata olives for dinner reminded me of Carole's delicious roasted kalamata olive appetizer. It is Rosanna's turn to take snacks to a meeting she attends regularly, so she and I have been experimenting with appetizers.

(Here is one we perfected, made with ingredients we had on hand: Rosanna's homemade rye bread, sliced thinly and toasted, quartered into appetizer size, then spread with "garlic cream" I picked up at the Temecula Farmer's Market. We topped that with Trader Joe's pre-cooked Baby Beluga Lentils - they look just like beluga caviar- which I mixed with a bit of olive oil to give them a true beluga caviar sheen. A little twist of freshly ground sea salt - oh, man! Delicious!)

Back to olives... since I had plenty on hand, I roasted a batch of 'em for Rosanna to try, as they are very simple to prepare. The condition of my recipe files has bugged me for awhile so, while the olives were roasting, I started bringing order to the chaos... and came upon a newly acquired recipe for marinated, baked, tofu. I have never been a tofu fan - but would like to be. I dug a box of tofu out of the "pantry" (under the bed), whipped the marinade together (sweet and sour), and started the tofu baking when the olives came out of the oven.

That give me time to finish up with the recipes, which lead to cleaning out the refrigerator. I threw the not-quite-limp half-bag of mixed greens, the slightly withered red pepper and carrot, the limp celery and the puckered cherry tomatoes into a pot of soup, with a chopped onion and the tail end of a package of lentils and a bit of wild rice...

I was a cook possessed! As I write, the lamb shanks are just about falling off the bone, and the table holds roasted olives and baked tofu (which turned out to be very yummy) appetizers. The soup, finished off with a couple heavy splashes of balsamic vinegar, is cooling on the stove and the refrigerator is ready to be freshly stocked.

Sometimes there is nothing more fun than a day spent (alone) in the kitchen.


  1. And, Boy!!! -- was it ever HEAVEN to be on the "eating end" of Laurie's day in the kitchen!!!!!!

  2. Boy, that all sounds so good!! I'm excited to see the olive recipe. For some reason I had bought a jar of kalamata olives awhile ago with no idea on what to do with them! Perfect. If it's not too much trouble, could you please post that lambshank recipe? It's always so nice to come home and smell the food from the crockpot!
    Your earthen oven looks beautiful!

  3. Looks like we picked THE WRONG DAY to visit!

    My Crock-Pot is looking over my shoulder at this very moment!

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie and Gary