Spring is here, spring is here; call it from the mountain tops, SPRING IS HERE. And an auspicious first day of spring it is: although I was met with intense fog when I awoke early this morning, the sun was trying to burn a hole through it on my drive to work and it was absolutely gorgeous. The temperature was in the 50s during my afternoon commute (convertible weather!), and considering we got 6″ of snow on Monday, I couldn’t be happier about that. I AM SO FLIPPING TIRED OF SHOVELING SNOW. I am tired of LOOKING at snow. I don’t know how you Canadians out there deal with this all winter every winter. Of course, the weather forecasters are saying there is a chance of yet more snow next week, but I refuse to think about that on this beautiful day.
Mark saw me taking pictures of my dinner last night and excitedly asked, “are you going to do a blog post? It’s been two years!” To which I responded, “more like two months, but yes, if this meal is blog-worthy I’ll do a post.” Mark stuck a fork in his bowl and loudly announced, “YES! YES! DO A POST! THIS IS DELICIOUS!” I have taken photos periodically of other meals over the long weeks since last I posted, but none of them seemed good enough to write up, and of course the longer I wait, the higher my standards are for a comeback. Fortunately Mark assures me this recipe qualifies (I have a feeling he’ll be requesting it in the future) and I think it has an air of spring about it so it seems appropriate for today.
Tahini-Miso Soba Salad
3-4 bundles buckwheat soba, cooked according to package instructions and rinsed in cold water
1/2 lb extra firm tofu
1 head broccoli, cut into florets and lightly steamed for a minute or two
1 small or baby cucumber, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 avocado, chopped
3 scallions, sliced
2 Tbsp sriracha
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
splash of toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup white miso
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
couple splashes toasted sesame oil
water as needed to thin
Whisk together the sriracha marinade ingredients. Slice the tofu into 1/2″ thick slices. Slather with half of the marinade. Let marinate for a while if you have time, although as I doubt much of the marinade will penetrate the tofu, this step is optional. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, then turn over and bake for another 15 minutes, coating with some more of the marinade. You can let it return to room temperature after baking if you have time.
Place the miso-tahini sauce ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, adding water as necessary to thin.
Prep the soba, broccoli, cucumber, and avocado as described above. Place 1/3 to 1/4 of the soba into each bowl or plate, then pour in enough of the tahini sauce to lightly coat the noodles, mixing with your hands or chopsticks. Top each bowl with some of the broccoli, cucumber, and avocado. Chop the baked tofu into cubes then sprinkle onto each bowl. Drizzle any remaining tahini sauce on top, then if you like, drizzle any remaining sriracha marinade (or just decoratively squirt on some additional sriracha), then top everything off with scattered sliced scallions and sesame seeds.
So there’s the food. What’s going other than food? Well, Mark bought me a new car! New-to-me anyway. I was/am very attached to my old car, a blue 1995 Miata I fully planned (plan?) to run into the ground. It has 152k miles and I was hoping for another 150k more. When it started pulling to the right and my mechanics weren’t able to fix it with an alignment, I was slightly concerned but trusted they would figure it out. Then the shop manager lent me his personal Miata while he tried to diagnose Cookie Monster (my car’s name, owing to its Cookie Monster color and pop-up googly eyes), and I developed a car crush on it. It’s one of the very few turbo Miatas ever made and it has all the available racing upgrades. I’m not a car enthusiast like my father or brother, but I inherited enough of the car-loving genes that I got addicted to the power and was reluctant to relinquish it in exchange for my still-right-leaning, suddenly-very-slow-seeming Cookie Monster. Then the manager offered to sell it to me and I realized I’d been tricked! He lent it to me knowing full well I’d want to buy it. It was a Friday night and I told him there was absolutely no way I was buying a new car when we already own a fleet of cars AND I need to buy a lot of expensive things for going to Africa. As soon as I returned home that Friday and told Mark it was for sale he immediately said, “I’ll buy it for you.” And that was all the convincing I needed. First thing Monday morning I called him to say we’d be by that night to take it.
It’s awesome! It gets terrible gas mileage and requires premium fuel! It’s also a huge amount of fun. It needs a name! I need a take a better picture of it than this one from the night we bought it, but unfortunately it’s been buried in snow for half the time we’ve had it. (Also pictured is Mark’s Jeep, which I muddied up nicely getting to the raccoons.)
Other than that, my life has been raptor-a-rama. Last weekend I had my first raptor escapee: a tiny screech owl flew out of his cage before I could grab him to move him for cage cleaning. Luckily we were inside. Unluckily, screechies are by far the smallest bird we rehab and they can hide ANYWHERE. I’d far rather a red tailed hawk or even a red shoulder had escaped; they’d have been much easier to find. I thought he was under some cages but didn’t have a flashlight and couldn’t see anything at all under there, so I swept underneath with a broom handle and out he hopped, a huge dust ball all over his face. Annoyed as I was with him, I couldn’t help but laugh at how surprised and silly he looked standing there. I quickly netted him and stashed him in an empty cage so I could clean his home. Kent, who runs the organization, told me later that was the same screechie that broke through the netting in another cage earlier in the week and escaped…Kent came into the bird room in the morning and found things overturned, which is how he knew a bird was out. Naughty owl!
For the sake of visualization (although my escapee was red screechie), here is a totally different screech owl I photographed last year:
I made another mistake the same day. While making my feeding rounds, I found a red tail lying on its back with its feet all curled up, looking very dead. “This bird is dead,” I announced to a senior volunteer, who happened to be there training a new volunteer. They peered into the cage and said, “yes, he sure looks dead,” and we all felt sad. I left him there for the time being to finish feeding the other birds, all of whom were EXTREMELY alive (it was a very rowdy raptor day). When Kent came in, I told him about the dead red tail so he opened the cage to retrieve the body AND IT JUMPED UP AND FLAPPED INDIGNANTLY AT HIM. Which was bad because Kent wasn’t wearing protective gloves and red tails are very large and strong and can easily maim you. Of course, I felt incredibly stupid, but that hawk really was sleeping in a most bizarre position. So, kids, apparently hawks play dead. Who knew? (Incidentally, Nick Cave fans, this paragraph reminds me of “…where that mad old buzzard, the reverend, shrieked and flapped about life after you’re dead…”. No?)
I’ve been going to the wildlife refuge every weekend for the eagle show. That’s right, we have at least one pair of nesting bald eagles and it’s been very easy to spot them and several other eagles, soaring about or just sitting around looking mighty and majestic.
Eagle in nest!!
(If you live in the area and want to visit for yourself, please note that because the eagle nest is RIGHT next to the trail, they’ve closed off a small but important length of the trail, making it impossible to do a loop through the center of the refuge (where the nest is). This map shows the closure, although you can actually get closer to the nest heading west on Charlie Road than the map implies. You will, however, have to double back along the bay to return to the parking lot. The nest is visible if you approach from the east, but you will need binoculars or a super-telephoto camera lens to see an eagle in the nest – and even with binoculars or a lens, the nest is deep and you may not see anyone in it.)
More on the eagles in a bit, but first, what else have I seen? Well, can anyone out there help me identify this bird?
My friend pointed it out to me the other day, saying, “that bird looks rusty,” which was a curious thing for him to say because just a couple of days earlier I’d been reading about the rusty blackbird “blitz” going on right now: Fish & Wildlife are asking for the public’s help in counting these threatened, rare birds, and Mark and I had been planning to look for them. So I snapped a picture in case it was a rusty blackbird, but in the photo it looks more iridescent than rusty to me, although apparently in the spring they are more black than rusty. Anyone out there know what this bird is? Rusty blackbirds are confirmed to have been seen in the refuge, so it’s not impossible that’s what this is. I’d like to report it if it is.
It amazes me every year how entirely different the refuge looks in the winter and the summer. It’s so lush and verdant in the summer, although you can see much, much more in the winter. I’ve been grateful for somewhat warm weekends despite all the snow we’ve gotten this winter.
We took my brother to see eagles the other weekend and at first it wasn’t looking good on the eagle front – it was the first time we encountered the trail closure (which they don’t bother to mention at any of the trailheads for some unknown reason). So I was glad when he spotted a beaver so at least he got to see SOMETHING interesting. (A few minutes after this we ran across an entirely intact beaver skeleton on the trail near the bay, which was…odd.)
I see great blue herons every time I go anywhere. I’ve actually seen them fly over my head while driving near my house.
Osprey and eagles are the big raptor attractions at the refuge, but it has its share of hawks and owls (though I haven’t YET seen an owl!).
It’s also somewhat known for the wild turkeys, which for the longest time were so elusive I couldn’t get a picture, but I’ve been lucky this year.
AND as of last weekend, the ospreys are back!! Ospreys are what this refuge is most well-known for (if you can call it well-known; it actually seems to be a huge secret, which is fine with me).
But if you’ve been reading for a while, you know it’s the bald eagles that both Mark and I love so much. We return week after week to admire them. I took this one on President’s Day, which was right before they closed the trail off for the nest, but the eagle couple must have picked the location out already because I walked right under the nest and consequently was much, much closer than I’d ever been to a wild bald eagle in my life: like 10 feet. It was exhilarating.
My brother finally did get to see his eagle: despite the trail closure we were able to get very close to this eagle sitting in a tree near the nest, close to the trail barricade.
My friend and I saw this eagle looking out over they bay near the end of the day last weekend:
Mark missed the first half of my President’s Day adventure (though he called me and asked me to come get him so he could join me later), so when we came across this eagle staring out at the bay from a tree maybe 50 feet from us a couple of weeks later, he was flabbergasted. I was delighted by his position on the edge of the tree and not behind a bunch of branches! These are my favorite pictures.
Whew! Now you are all caught up with me: new car, lots of eagles. Coming soon to an ieatfood post near you: BABY RACCOONS!!! No, we don’t have any yet, but we are currently prepping for our first intakes, which we expect in a few short weeks. I die every April when the first infants appear. I get so used to seeing the large juvies and adults that over-winter with us that I forget how very tiny and FLIPPING ADORABLE babies are. I’m excited, but life is about to get even more hectic once they start arriving. But spring also brings the farmers market, which I am DESPERATE for, so hopefully I’ll have more interesting meals to blog about. In addition to baby animals.