cycling, food, garden

Finding Orchids

It’s been one wacky June: no running, a lot more biking, some cocktails, a lot of cottonwood fuzz, a malasana that actually felt good, and finally, I used some of the mace in our spice cupboard. I don’t have much to say beyond “bring it!”, but I do have some photos to share. Enjoy!

The sparrow photo above was taken from the parking lot at Orchids Limited: a magical place to which I finally made a pilgrimage to replace Jenny’s orchid. At the time I was convinced the bird was something far more rare than what it appears to be now: Plymouth, MN may be just a metro suburb, but I don’t get there often! Also, I was promised alpaca and they were nowhere to be seen.

Once inside, I was surrounded by exotica, including pitcher plants and many more orchid varieties than I’d ever seen, even though I was raised in a green-thumb’s household & was dragged to more nurseries than I can count, as a kid. The shop proprietor wouldn’t permit me to take photos, but there was a plant there with which I fell in love! I may go back to buy one, if we can keep this new phalaenopsis alive for at least a year. However, I did find a photo of this Japanese orchid that I can share via Creative Commons Licensing, and it is below.

neofinitia falcata

Neofinitia Falcata. Photo by Scott Wilson.

Thank you, Mr. Wilson! The smallest specimens at the shop had $65 price tags; I was told that some of the larger ones (about rugby-ball sized) could fetch several thousand dollars. These aren’t your standard Trader Joe’s variety of orchid plants, that’s for sure. The shop got me set up with a lovely new yellow and purple plant, some special food for it, and detailed instructions. We’ll be keeping this one in the upstairs bathroom, where we can keep a closer eye (and more humidity) on it!

Ras el hanout

Skipping Penzey’s This Time

We made two recipes from the Jerusalem cookbook recently, and both were fantastic. Pictured at right is the spice blend I put together, as it was needed in the Watercress & Chickpea Soup with Rosewater and Ras El Hanout (the recipe can be found here, but the cookbook is worth a purchase!). Ras el hanout is a north African spice blend, and one that we were able to put together at home, notably because we have mace that I have used perhaps once since I bought it. Thankfully enough of the sweet and spicy parts of the blend were fresh enough to make this dish very distinctive and delicious. We’ll be doing that one again!

We also made the Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak. I’m particularly glad that I didn’t dump our Pernod after my last attempt at a Sazerac with it, as Pernod worked beautifully as an arak substitute. This recipe had two fennel bulbs in it; I’m convinced that this is the way to do fennel, from here on out, even if I skip the chicken. This was a great dish; I will share the recipe below with a slight tweak for the last step, and my substitution. After roasting, my pan had no liquid in it, so I needed to add some Pernod, to get it bubbling.

beer a-bubbling

Caribou, Slobbering

For his birthday, I bought Steve a beer brewing starter kit from Northern Brewer. We’d found out earlier this spring that you can do tiny batches, with home brewing, so if you end up with an icky brew, it’s only maybe 12 bottles that you need to suck down, rather than a basement full. Yay! Of the four flavor options, I picked “Caribou Slobber” as I figured it was perhaps modeled after the Moose Drool brown ale that I know he likes. He got it all started last weekend, and darn if it wasn’t just a little too warm for its first several hours. We’ve gotten it cooled down so that we don’t have a hops volcano in the tool closet downstairs, but we are prepared for the first batch to be so “trial” that we have to try again. It’s a good thing we are headed to the Beermuda Triangle event, this weekend!

cottonwood trees on the mississippi


Last week was Twin Cities Bike Walk Week: citizens were encouraged to ride a bike or work to work on one day when they’d normally drive, in order to generate more interest in trading in the car for a more affordable and ecologically beneficial mode of work transport. By coincidence: all of the cottonwoods in the area – and there are a lot, as they like growing near rivers, and we live close to the Mississippi- were in that charming reproductive stage in which they disperse seeded fuzzies, constantly, and the damn stuff grips onto the hairs on my arms and gets stuck in my nose, eyes and mouth. Blech. Glad I’m not allergic to it.

gateway trail

A near-Irish adventure on my Cannondale

I have two bikes. The Cannondale (“Canny” from here on out) touring model is one I’ve had since the mid-1980s, when I was doing some touring in the British Isles and the San Juan Islands in Washington. It’s suffered through a lot, including airline and train travel as well as long periods in storage. About 10 years ago, Steve and I bought two low-end hybrid Trek bikes, which have fatter tires and straight handlebars; we figured they’d be a little more appropriate for around-town bike fun and work commuting (he also has a Canny tourer).

Most of the time I use the Trek, as its shifter arrangement is a little more handy and safe, my pannier bag fits better on it, and as we don’t have a great way to keep three bikes handy during cycling season (we lock them to the arms of the snow blower, in our tiny garage). I decided to pull the Canny out of the attic for a spin; I’d been growing tired of the slow pace up hills and the more vertical position the Trek puts me in. With it I investigated the St. Paul end of the Gateway Trail, which is new to me (though not all that new). That trip also got me onto a few new stretches of the Vento trail, and around Lake Phalen. Super fun ride, even with toe straps and down-tube shifters! I’m really glad I live in a top bike town. Er, towns. Minneapolis apparently would have won even without St. Paul’s help. Bam!

American Robin

Cocktail with Hairy Eyeball

Houseplants-on-porch season has begun, and so our little porch sanctuary has returned for a few months. We have a robin family nesting up in one corner, so that has provided a little entertainment, if not also a little anxiety as well in some of the creatures involved. It’s been fun watching mama and papa feed the pale, wavering and gaping maws, though not so much fun when I accidentally spook any of them by settling down in the chaise with a Red Hook.

patio elements

Our urban jungle

More excitement in the front porch is coming: we’re getting the tilting front steps and languishing front plantar (both are pictured above) re/undone, in a few weeks, along with a house repaint. Researching color ideas has been fun. Stay tuned for photos of the results!

The promised recipe is below.

Roasted Chicken With Clementines, Fennel and Pernod

Inspired by a recipe of similar name in Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi


2/3 cup Pernod
4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons grainy mustard
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
11/2 Teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
2 medium fennel bulbs cut lengthwise and then into quarters
1 2 pound organic or free-range chicken divided into 8 pieces
4 Clementines, unpeeled, sliced thin
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
Parsley, to garnish


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup of the Pernod, oil, orange and lemon juices, mustard, brown sugar and salt. Season with pepper, to taste. Add fennel, chicken, clementine slices, thyme and crushed fennel seeds. Turn several times to coat. If time allows marinate chicken for several hours or preferably overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Transfer all ingredients, including marinade, to a large roasting pan. Chicken should be skin side up. Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  3. Lift chicken, fennel and clementines on a serving plate. Cover and keep warm.
  4. Pour cooking liquid into a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1/3 cup of Pernod, bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. You can degrease by using a spoon to remove some of the fat from top of the sauce.
  5. Pour heated sauce over chicken. Garnish with parsley and serve.

One thought on “Finding Orchids

  1. MI says:

    You always have so many interesting things going on! And those spices sound so exotic, much more than the BBQ chicken I made tonight ;)

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