Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This much I do remember

"This much I do Remember"
by Billy Collins....

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked....

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.....

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of you shoulders....

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way that stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.....

Then all of the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all of the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.....

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.....

Forgive me. I can feel myself getting overly sentimental.

At its very essence, a shared meal is an intertwining of lives, a minted moment we carry with us. That is why I so very much enjoy creating meals with others, and sharing recipes, especially those that already come with their own stories and history. Because those recipes and meals become a part of me, intertwined in my own life, maybe even for generations to come, if I’m lucky.

A certain Brussels sprout recipe will forever conjure memories of a friend and the Thanksgivings we’ve shared for the past three years. I cannot make galumpkies without thinking of my Papa, and my mother too, who caught a batch on fire once and had to run the smoking pot into the front yard. There are many many more recipes I’ve gotten from family and friends that feed more than just my body when I make them; meals that remind me of certain houses, certain kitchens, times of year, smiling faces, music, and always the sound of laughter.

Just this last Sunday, a friend came over to share his mom’s recipe for stuffed grape leaves. I wish I could say I had photos and a recipe to share, but the three of us devoured them before I could even break out the camera (a sign of a delicious meal indeed!)

What I can share, is what I did with the leftover ground lamb. There wasn’t enough lamb to make two burgers, so I added a little bulgur (soaked in water for about 30 minutes,) stuffed them with goat cheese, and pan fried them. Once on the bun, I topped them with a caramelized red onion relish I made a few days ago, a little spinach and kewpie mayo mixed with a little lemon zest. Very very good! And a recipe that will definitely stay in my repertoire.

Caramelized Red Onion Relish

From Small Batch-Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard

This recipe boasts it is best served with barbequed or broiled meats such as steak, lamb chops, and chicken.


2 large red onions
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup dry red wine
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp of salt and freshly ground pepper

1.Slice onions into very thin slices. Combine onions and sugar in a heavy non-stick skillet. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 25 minutes or until onions start to turn golden and start to caramelize, stirring frequently.

2.Stir in wine and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high hear, reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid had evaporated, stirring frequently.

3.Season to taste with salt and pepper. It can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.



Cheers to future meals and memories and the people who have woven themselves into our lives through shared meals!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The lost week


Meet the Sour Patch Kids. Hands down my favorite non-chocolate candy since I was a kid and could walk to the corner store for penny candy. You've never seen a kid weed and water flower gardens so fast and thorough for a dollar. Even recently, I've been known to ruin a whole day of eating by devouring several packs in one sitting. I can't keep them in the house, that's how much power they have over me. So what does my sister do a week ago, but bring me a 5 pound bag of them. Well, not exactly 5 pounds. More like a pound and a half, but that's still around 500 sour patch kids! I was simultaneously ecstatic and furious. Simultaneously hugged her and screamed, "I swear to god you want me fat!!!" These little guys are to blame for my recent lack of posting. It's because of them I've had to eat plates of meat and protein to counter near sugar and carb induced comas and shaking sketchiness. Last Sunday's dinner consisted of two and half chicken breasts. Tuesday I sat down to a one pound bowl of sauteed shrimp with nothing else. I don't have anything against meat, but this is a little much, even for me. Over the week, after more stomach aches than I care to confess, I've slowly phased out of the meat-fests and reintroduced myself to a more balanced diet.

First meal "back?" Pizza. My pizza crust has been something I've been pretty proud of for the past few years. I finally had a recipe (thanks to Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) that was easy and consistent and tasted good. I'd baked it and grilled it both with very good results, so I'm not sure what possessed me to try a different one, but I'm very glad I did. I still use the Kingsolver recipe whenever pizza is a last-minute idea because it only takes an hour from starting the dough to pulling the pizza out of the oven, but for those occasions when you have a little more time, and want a more sophisticated, complex crust, I would highly recommend a recipe from Jim Lahey's cookbook, My Bread: The Revolutionary, No-Work, No-Knead Method. My only complaints with this recipe are that it's somewhat fickle and takes about 3 hours from start to finish. Though it's always turned out delicious, it's always been a little touch-and-go as well. The consistency is never quite the same and stretching it to fit the pan is not always easy. But if you have the patience and time, it's completely worth it. It's a moderately chewy, buttery flavored crust, with a wonderfully crunchy exterior and a lovely humble, artisan look. It may be my favorite crust of all time, and I don't say that lightly.

Basic Pizza Dough a la Jim Lahey

(just a warning...though the work is minimal, it takes about 2 1/2 hours until you're even ready to put dough in the oven)

3 3/4 c. bread flour (I've used all-purpose and it's been fine)
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. sugar
1 1/3 c. water at room temperature (I almost always end up using about a 1/4 to a 1/3 c. more water than is called for)
olive oil for the pans

1. Stir together flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, 30 seconds. Dough will be wet and slightly sticky. Cover and let sit at room temperature until doubled, 2 hours. (This is the beauty of this recipe: no kneading, no nothing. Stir for 30 seconds and let it sit!)

2. Remove from bowl onto floured surface. Gently form into a round ball. Divide dough into two halves, spacing them 4" apart and cover with a moistened towel for 30 minutes.

3. When you're ready to make your dough, pick up the dough and invert and stretch the length of the pan. Floured side should be facing up. Gently pull to fit entire pan. No need to make a "crust" or a "lip." Objective is to have an even layer of dough. If the dough sticks to your fingers (which it will!) lightly dust with flour or coat your hands with olive oil. Pinch any holes together. Repeat with second piece. Bake 500 degrees for 25 minutes. (I lower mine to 450, and it rarely takes that long.)


My recent favorite topping? Drizzle the dough with olive oil. Top with spinach, pine nuts, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and another drizzle of olive oil. Delicious!!!!


If you only have an hour to put dinner on the table, try Barbara Kingsolver's recipe for pizza dough.