Fresh Pix

So it’s last Sunday and Magazyn Wino needs the photos, like, yesterday. They’re supposed to accompany my next piece, Kryzys, Czyli Szansa, which explores the food-and-wine side of contemporary health-driven diets (one such diet, in any case). So there I am and time is short and I need both an illustrative idea and presentable photos. If there’s cooking and plating involved, I need to hurry before I’m all out of daylight or stamina or both. And then it occurs to me to skip pretty much everything and go straight for the essence. Three fruity shots in, I’m loving it all: the pictures, my job, the article, plants as food, the gleaming kitchen counter that doubles as my photography studio—and month five of the elimination-rotation diet that has benefited much, much more than my thyroid. Here is a cross-section of those vibrant cross-sections I captured that day, to whet your appetite for the next issue of Magazyn Wino. In the meantime, I recommend the issue out now: a veritable coupage of wine-driven culture, including my piece on bisque-style vegetable soups, entitled Po Prostu Miazga.

All photos taken by the author using the Leica X1 and random shiny white paraphrenalia to harness the light. Edited in Lightroom, without which none of this would even approach the stock-level adequacy on display. All rights reserved.

An Education

It’s unclear who had the bigger job: the one forced to do the writing or the one forced to do the forcing. Either way, the results were a victory for all.

A Food Writer’s Update

Freshly rolled cracker dough made with amaranth flour, ground sunflower seeds, grated beetroot, water, olive oil, chia seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and salt. Image (and dough, and recipe) by the author, taken under the kitchen lights with the Leica X1.

Freshly rolled cracker dough made with amaranth flour, ground sunflower seeds, grated beetroot, water, olive oil, chia seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and salt. Image (and dough, and recipe) by the author, taken under the kitchen lights with the Leica X1.

One year and seven essays into writing my very own column for Magazyn Wino, I am equal parts satisfied, grateful and relieved. I’m proud of the achievement, which is both more tangible than so much of the confidentiality-bound work that I do—and infinitely more mouth-watering. (It is also in Polish, and I seem to have passed what loomed as a long-overdue test in my non-English ability.) I’m grateful to the amazing team at Magazyn Wino, both past and present, for trusting me with the job and for the ways they’ve inspired me to produce essays worth reading. And I’m relieved to find the writing itself increasingly familiar and manageable. Sure, it’s still pretty overwhelming to get an article ready for review, but it’s no longer a nightmare to get started in the first place, or to figure out when I’m done.

Pictured below is my content in the final two issues of Magazyn Wino in 2016. One was a deep dive into stock, the other a scrutiny of the spice rack. Coming soon is my essay on cream soups, which I wrote in January, featuring a handful of inspiring ideas and a handy master recipe. Then, in the April issue, I’ll be divulging the details of an unexpected diet I’ve been following—and sharing a few recipes, possibly including the one for these amazing wheat-free beet crackers, above, which have become a dangerously addictive household favorite. But that’s an essay I haven’t even begun to start finishing yet. Hence this post, I guess: a wayward excursion away from the piece I actually need to be writing.

Essay and image by the author, published in Magazyn Wino 2016/5.

Essay and image by the author, published in Magazyn Wino 2016/5.

Essay and image by the author, published in Magazyn Wino 2016/6.

Essay and image by the author, published in Magazyn Wino 2016/6.

Making Millet Edible

Known to many only for its role in bird feed and pig fodder, millet is a gluten-free grain with some amazing health benefits. Notably, it’s rich in iron, hostile to candida and highly alkalizing (a boon in these over-acidified times). According to Ayurveda, millet counteracts cold and congested conditions by heating and drying the body. Then again, Chinese medicine puts it down as a cooling grain, though surely one with potential for a mid-winter meal.

Unfortunately, most of the time millet’s pretty camel-yellow beads wind up pasty, mushy or gluey when cooked. While some insist on defending this “creamy” texture, I find it insipid and incompatible with millet’s metalllic-tinged, slightly bitter flavor profile. In fact, what this grain needs most is fluffiness, nutty and sweet toasted notes and a tooth-engaging chew. Luckily there’s a pretty easy way to make it so.

The secret is to combine loads of pre-rinsing with some heating action before the actual cooking takes place. The best way, which I first discovered in The Splendid Grain by American natural foods expert Rebecca Wood, involves toasting, then rinsing, then cooking the grains using the absorption method in a covered pot. Another, related, solution is to use several changes of boiling water to give the millet the thorough rinsing it requires. (Obviously when the water is scalding hot, you can’t use your fingers to rub the grains gently together and rid them of their chalky dust; use a wooden spoon.)

To toast the grains lightly in an oven, try 5-10 minutes at 170°C, staying as vigilant as when toasting easy-to-burn nuts and seeds. Or use a skillet over moderate heat, stirring, tossing or shaking constantly. It’s important to keep the grains from burning or turning dark before cooking. Three minutes in a cast-iron skillet usually does the trick. If you burn a batch—save it for the birds and start over. Next, it’s crucial to rinse the toasted grains thoroughly in several changes of cold water. Get in there, use your hands; you want the rinse water to run clear. To cook, cover the strained grains with double their volume of boiling water, add a fat dash of salt and a spoonful of butter or ghee, cover tightly and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, but let stand, covered, for at least 10 more minutes. Uncover, fluff, season to taste with plenty more salty butter and serve.

This is how we make one of the basic morning meals at our house, usually tossing in a few quartered dried figs and five or six green cardamom pods with the millet. We then add additional ghee, toasted nuts and honey or maple syrup at the table. Nutmeg and cinnamon make another great flavor combination, alongside a smattering of raisins. Or try chopped dried apricots (orange or brown) and pitted dates nestled in with a vanilla bean. For us, millet has become an archetypal breakfast dish, so we don’t experiment with swapping in olive oil and sweated onion for the butter and fruit, or stock for the boiling water. But that’s the way to go if it’s dinner you’re after.

As you can see, making millet edible is not only possible, but quite easy. Though I should probably mention that sometimes it also requires a lot of maple syrup, and maybe also the undivided attention of one who is willing to play Mikado ad infinitum.

A Grand Ending

Days before the year’s close, another dismantling was on display outside our windows. Breathtaking views tugged at unexpecting heart strings, coloring the monumental with shades of nostalgia. The workers, strangers before, now waved back to a captivated boy and the mom with the camera. The fourth wall demolished, lives on display. It felt like the last day of summer, heavy and fleeting at once.

What had begun so concurrently with our own grand-scale reconstruction as to seem a reflection of it had grown apart from us, into familiar permanence. A beacon of industry regarded with nothing but wonder. A weathervane for the astronauts. A colossal plant on the windowsill, turning as if toward and away from the sun. Now, the giant stalk is picked apart, dimensions collapse, a landscape is shocked into change.

The transition is over, the construction has been a success. Soon, orchids will peek out of windows that haven’t yet been fitted with panes. It is, so aptly, a time to celebrate endings, embrace emergence, mourn permanence.

In the year to come, we will remember the crane that seemed close enough to reach out and touch with our hands. We will strive to live well, wave back, bear loss and reclaim the sky.

Photos of the construction site at Warsaw’s Różana taken by the author on the morning of December 28, 2016. Emotions ran high, routines were disruptive: key moments were missed, but the spirit has been captured.

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