Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Plan to be spontaneous...

Tomorrow (April 11th) is my birthday (yay!)-- I turn 26 years old. (Which means that I am rapidly leaving mid-twenties and rushing headlong into late-twenties. Boo.) Exactly one year ago today I made a list of 25 things to accomplish in the next 25 years. Here they are, in no particular order:

Live in another country
grow my own tomatoes
write a book
publish the book
see a total solar eclipse
give birth
get married
eat pho in Vietnam
eat pizza in Naples, Italy
kiss the Blarney Stone
hike the Grand Canyon
white water raft the Colorado River
SCUBA the Great Barrier Reef
eat at The French Laundry
visit the pyramids in Egypt
learn to snow ski
learn to surf
visit all 50 states
visit Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Australia, Brazil, Singapore, Israel
learn to ride a horse
learn to tango, ballroom dance, and waltz
learn to speak another language, at least conversationally
buy a house
hike in a jungle, either South American or African
learn to sail

Thus far I have only done *one* of the above. I learned to snow ski last month, and, in case you were wondering, I absolutely loved it. However, one accomplished goal a year is not enough -- as you may have noticed, some of those are multi-part dreams.

Luckily, I do have plans to cross off a few of those in the next year. I have been studying Italian, though I don't speak it fluently, or even conversationally yet. I will be visiting Greece in July, and Naples, Italy in August (where I can try that famous pizza). I have a few small tomato plants that I plan on planting soon (hopefully they will live and produce tomatoes and I can claim that I "grew" them). And, I have plans to go to Mongolia in 2008 to watch the solar eclipse. It is possible, if I continue at this clip, that I actually may complete all of those goals in the allotted 25 years.

I am proud of my list, and of my plans to fulfill those goals ... though to be honest, I wish I had added something else to the list. I wish I had included, "Try something new as often as possible."

Friends, I tend to get stuck into ruts. In fact, I once was given a fortune cookie that said "plan to be spontaneous" and it was the most accurate description of my yearly New Year's resolution that I had ever read. I've already admitted that I eat the same thing for breakfast every day. I also tend to pack repeat lunches and order the same coffee drink at Starbucks. I drink the same types of wines, wear my favorite clothes over and over again, and listen to my favorite CDs on a continuous loop. I've watched a handful of movies over 50 times, just because I love them. Once I find a favorite bar or club, I often return there exclusively. It isn't that I don't want to try new things, it is just easier to stick with what I know.

However, I am adventurous in at least one area of my life on a regular basis (keep your minds out of the gutter, this isn't that kind of blog!): I am excellent at trying new foods. I love digging up new and unknown (to me) delicacies to try -- this year I tried alligator, rabbit, and every new fruit and vegetable that I found. I shy away from offal and other organs, but other than that, I'm game for most anything.

Last week, at the Farmer's Market, I ran across a vegetable that I had read about, but never tasted. Dandelion greens. They were beautiful and green, with long delicate leaves and thick veins. I bought them and brought them home to languish in the refrigerator for a few days. I finally pulled them out tonight. Here they are raw:

I cobbled together a recipe from a few cooking methods I had read about on the internet. They turned out wonderfully -- bitter and sharp, but in a good way, with garlic and sweet onions as soft counterpoints.

Be adventurous with me, and try them! :)

Dandelion Greens with Garlic and Lemon


--2 large bunches of dandelion greens, about 2 pounds
--2 cups water/chicken stock
--2 tablespoons olive oil
--2 spring garlic shoots, white and green part thinly sliced
--2 spring onion shoots, white and green part thinly sliced
--1 lemon
--salt and pepper


1) cut the tough ends off the greens and cut the leaves into 2 inch pieces. Swish the leaves in a bowl of water to rinse the sand off and allow any dirt to settle to the bottom.

2) Bring 2 cups of water/chicken stock to boil in a large pot and add the greens. Bring back to a boil and put a lid on the pot. Lower the temperature, and allow the greens to simmer for 15 minutes.

3) After the greens are added to the pot, swirl the olive oil in a frying pan over medium high head. Add the thinly sliced onions and garlic. Stir.

4) Zest the lemon over the pan of onions and garlic, and then squeeze the juice of the lemon into the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5) Turn the heat in the frying pan down to low and stir occasionally as the onions and garlic slowly soften and begin to caramelize.

6) After 15 minutes both the greens and the onion/garlic mixture will be ready. Use a slotted spoon to remove the dandelion greens from the boiling water/stock. Add the greens to the frying pan and toss to distribute the onion/garlic mixture. Turn off the heat.

To Serve:

Pile on plate, and squeeze a little extra lemon over the top if you like. I served it with mashed potatoes and carnitas.


These are bitter greens -- if you don't cook them for at least 15 minutes you will be unpleasantly surprised by the bitterness. If you cook them thoroughly, however, they are just bitter enough to keep your tastebuds dancing, but aren't painful to eat. Enjoy!

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