autumn pizza: creamy chevre, caramelized onions + butternut squash, honeycrisp apple & sage

Before me I have a plate with three of these pizza slices. For once I’m camped at my dining table, a phenomenon occurring maybe twice a year. I have a peripheral view of my balcony, outside of which gleams reflections of the midday sun twinkling off the leaves as a light dry breeze pulls dry bits of fall, or wishful fall, through my neighborhood. That’s today’s Tampa weather forecast. Hope you enjoyed it, like you hopefully will enjoy this pizza. Continue reading “autumn pizza: creamy chevre, caramelized onions + butternut squash, honeycrisp apple & sage”

lemon basil lentils with black beans + roasted summer vegetables

I take my own screw-ups far too seriously. When I’m wrong or in the wrong, the inner marshmallow plumes: I’m stripped of indifference, I apologize profusely, I want to right everything at once and mellow tempers and for the remainder of the day I dwell on the error even if it was minute & forgotten by the other party in five seconds. I suppose, then, that writing is partway so appealing because of the delete button. Retry. The writing won’t hold a grudge. This lentil recipe, too. Forgiveness between cook & cuisine is valuable like forgiveness between humans.

Continue reading “lemon basil lentils with black beans + roasted summer vegetables”

November supper: white cheddar pumpkin shells + prosciutto + herbed mushroom saute

November crept up and smacked my head from behind. The door to 2015 is fast closing and someone cracked open the window leading to the path of 2016. I’m rather startled by this rapid passing of time, flitting off the ticking clock like dust mites. Who have I been in 2015? A stranger, mostly. Yet, at the same time, a familiar friend. Continue reading “November supper: white cheddar pumpkin shells + prosciutto + herbed mushroom saute”

Summer Birthday Supper + Random Ramblings

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It’s mid-August, the 13th to be exact, a day fraught with bustling clatter and dripping water and tender reminders of mortality. I look to my mom, working yarn between three sets of needles with a precision and gentleness – I look to her again, and again. 62 years old in two days, evidenced only by the care lines penciled by her mouth and folds beneath her mint hued eyes referencing bursting smiles from the past. Her soul is of a different grain. I know it pulls her earthward, causes those little kinks in her back or hip that aren’t so much debilitating as inconvenient. I plant a few tea bags in the pitcher of boiling water and barely wince as it lightly splashes against my hand. My mom is turning 62. I listen to the needles clip together and it sounds like clocks tapping out the seconds and minutes. I suck in my breath and store it in my lungs, just to hear the click and snap of socks in progress. The sound builds and whorls around my body, prodding my skin until it dissolves into my blood and drifts into my pulsing heart. In there the sound nests in all four chambers. Soon my heartbeat resembles the clip of sewing needles, beating rhythmically with each knit and purl of her project and stopping only when she adjusts her hands to begin a new row. Mother and daughter, soldered together by the strings of a sock. If the needles fell to the floor and sprawled themselves on the carpet unmoving, what would I be but a collection of threads ripped up in the tumble cycle of grief? I pray the needles continue purling while stirring the tea.


IMG_2046IMG_2253 IMG_2060 IMG_2063 IMG_2075 IMG_2087I started preparing for her birthday feast a few weeks ahead of time, writing and rewriting recipes for four courses and pulling the fibers of my hair in an attempt to evoke a dessert from some cavity of my brain. Like all delicious things in life, the resulting dishes were altered last minute just before wandering into the market for supplies. One was erased after shopping. A stalk of ginger rounded into the shape of a juicy peach, small glasses filled themselves with rich chocolate mousse, and lavender flowers wilted from the stem, crumbled to ash, and shot skyward in a bright cascade of hibiscus. Sometimes you plant the seed and something different sprouts from the soil. I wonder if she’s though the same of me as she nurtured me (and continues to do so) into and through adulthood. If she dumped too much of one ingredient into the bowl. Knowing my mom, perhaps she said “oops” once or twice, but instead of dumping the batter down the sink she picked up her spoon and counterbalanced the bitter- or sourness with a generous extra tablespoon of love. She has barrels of that ingredient in her larders. Love curls from her lips when she smiles and glows from her eyes like moonlight on undulating ocean waves. It manifests in the stringy gray hairs sprouting from her scalp and the fold of her arms when she hugs. I offer all of the daily catch of love I haul into the morning and regift a few dozen boxes extra.

My mom is 62 and appears not a day older than 40. She knits and sews, walks for 20 minutes every day, somehow manages to spread the ideal amount of maple syrup atop filets of salmon, dresses more stylishly than I on a daily basis.

Birthdays leave a good deal of room for lament and dwellings on an unknown cycle of 365 days laying before the present. Droplets of time passed and time to come, and who knows if a birthday is the last and thereafter and forever a pile of dishes will remain in the sink until anyone’s hands except the owner’s arrive to clean them and pack them into new boxes. I pick up my phone every day and text my mom for the sole assurance that she is doing okay. I dread the idea of an August 15th approaching without my messages lighting up from “Mom Z. Pan.” The thought oft shatters my sleep. Perhaps my voice, virtual or in real-time, will coax the winds to breathe another year into her lifespan. So far it’s worked. And I don’t intend to jinx the fortune.IMG_2267

I am a dreadful gift-giver. Shelves and drawers are only sturdy enough to hold a certain weight of objects, so I approached her birthday by another angle. Her part of the feast was washing spinach and providing me ideas for dessert. Otherwise I shooed her out of the kitchen and warbled through the afternoon in a song of clanging utensils and some sporadic off-key humming of Lord of the Rings tunes. At suppertime I packed away the bowls and utensils while the barley still steamed and rain clouds watched from the east, and headed to the back porch, a last-minute crunch in plans due to the blasted Floridian heat. I set the table and dished out the courses, starting with biscuits and ending with mousse. We clinked glasses while water tapped from the eaves of the balcony. For once, the noise did not render visions of a timepiece stopping and melting like the Dali clock. It drew me into an evening fragrant with hibiscus & lit by flickering sunshine and the streams of love connecting us and, like a metronome, keeping the time of our beating hearts. Together, toasting another year lived, and a great number of them to come.IMG_2205 IMG_2206IMG_2275

It’s been a touch since I last updated you with a random ramblings roundup, so here’s some notes about what I’ve been up to in my hobbit hole.

  • French press coffee has garnered a further respect for the art & science & engineering of coffee. A practice which usually took me two minutes in the morning now takes 10-15. The result is incomparable. I highly suggest all of you coffee guzzlers like me to invest in an alternative, manual brewing method. Choose your poison: press, pour-over…Possibilities are various and sundry!
  • The roommate situation is a positive report. Erin is amusing and unobtrusive, and I genuinely enjoy our brief kitchen conversations when I’m reheating coffee or fumbling around the refrigerator for a morsel. I fear our electric bill at the end of the month. Three cheers for emptying wallets!
  • I landed a job I actually don’t dread going to. I am relieved. I received the summons on Friday the 14th and nearly tipped over with joy. You can find me behind the counter of a cafe slinging lattes; according to all of my managers, I’m doing extremely well and advancing much faster than most.
  • I am eager for fall. Even though the steamy windows & glaring sunlight of Florida barely rest and autumn is a figment of fiction, I still anticipate the arrival of burnt orange decor and shelves of canned pumpkin. I have some exciting recipes jotted in my notebook, and I look forward to sharing them all with you. I look forward to sharing all my new and notables (or not so) with you.


Summer Feast: Birthday Edition

Fresh buttermilk biscuits
Whipped maple butter

Hibiscus flower lemonade

Warm barley & steamed spinach salad
Basil peach vinaigrette
Toppings: sliced strawberries, almonds, fresh grated Parmesan

Chocolate mousse + mint garnishIMG_2242 IMG_2322

Instagram: @venturingeast




Summer Squash & Vine Tomato Galette + Rosemary Pea Pesto

I allude to the future frequently on Venturing East. Perhaps the rambles of then are my way of cementing the future’s presence, and assuring myself that I am approaching one that won’t like a black hole stretch me thin & gulp me behind its stark black fangs. Writing has always been my way of adding permanence to the abstract. Once in word form, a concept or a wish exits dormancy. Words are a knight’s shield and a king’s royal orders.  Continue reading “Summer Squash & Vine Tomato Galette + Rosemary Pea Pesto”

The Hobbit Menu | Farmer Maggot’s Rosemary-Vegetable Pasties

Hobbits aren’t known for adding bells and whistles to their mixing bowls. A sprinkle of sage – or here, rosemary – never hurt Frodo or his Halfling comrades, however, and sets this particular pasty apart from those baked outside of Farmer Maggot’s kitchen. Continue reading “The Hobbit Menu | Farmer Maggot’s Rosemary-Vegetable Pasties”