the shape of a Sunday

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granola, pre-bake

A few days ago, Mike asked if I would make a batch of granola. I did, and decided to try adding an egg white for extra clumpiness, a trick I had seen mentioned in a few different places recently.

That meant, of course, that we had an extra yolk around. And you know I couldn’t let that go to waste.

good eggs

We’ve gotten a couple of bags of local AP flour from Cayuga Pure Organics in the months that we’ve been back in New York, and I adore how it performs in fresh pasta dough. These Knoll Crest Farm eggs are pretty great, too.

sauce on the bubble

I had also gotten a great deal on some locally-raised ground Angus beef, so I pulled together a rich, slow-cooked meat sauce to go with our pasta, and while the sauce bubbled away and my granola cooled, I whipped up a few other things for our little guy to eat during the week.

roasted sweet potato wedges

A tray of little sweet potato wedges, just slicked with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, went into the oven to roast along with a batch of Judy Rodgers’ Roasted Applesauce.

Baldwins

I make this stuff just about every week – it is the easiest and best applesauce ever, and we all love it. This time I used some heirloom Baldwin apples we picked up at the farmers market earlier in the day.

I also cooked up a pot of Broccoli Cooked Forever, minus the hot peppers, as a side to our baked pasta and to have around for Julian this week – it’s one of his favorites (though very un-photogenic).

Dinner: December 2, 2012

I was craving a baked pasta, so I decided to do something a little different, canneloni-inspired, if you will. I cut my fresh pasta sheets into square sections, and blanched them as I do for lasagna. Once shocked and patted dry, I added a swipe of seasoned ricotta to each, rolled them into cigars, and set them on a bed of my sauce, with more sauce spooned over the tops. I baked them for half an hour or so, covered, then removed their tinfoil cap, grated on some cheese, and put them back in the oven to get bubbly.

tot-sized

Julian got a pint-sized portion of his own, and a chance to work on his fork skills.

concentration

He’s a natural, don’t you think?

Well.

getting started

You guys just blow me away. Thank you so much for your kind words, your links and tweets and retweets. I had no idea that last post would hit home for so many of you. I think my heart grew three sizes this past week. Truly, thank you.

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Speaking of giving thanks, and Thanksgiving, ours, aside from a bit of a plumbing emergency, was pretty fantastic. We had beautiful weather, a delicious meal, and we have just about finished the last of our leftovers. I made gumbo and sandwiches, and a dish I called the “hot mess” casserole. It was homely as heck, but delicious.

pumpkin

I got to watch my kid eat pumpkin pie for the first time. Which was pretty awesome.

it's here!

And a little something fun arrived in the mail.

we made a cookbook. again.

You guys. We made a cookbook. Again! Big congrats to all my fellow cooks and the whole food52 team. I’m so honored to be part of your community.

And to all of you reading, I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was as full of smiles as ours was.

the bird, out of the oven

Our 2012 Thanksgiving Feast (with links to recipes, where applicable):

Tuscan Chicken Liver Paté
Russ Parsons’ Dry-Brined Turkey (a.k.a. The Judy Bird), with a cider-spiked turkey gravy
Mrs. Wheelbarrow‘s incomparable Challah, Mushroom, and Celery Stuffing
mashed fingerlings
my Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Warm Cider Vinaigrette
roasted sweet potato rounds with fried sage
Canal House’s Cranberry-Port Gelée (holy cow, was this good – and we’re not big fans of the sauce, usually)
Meta Given’s Pumpkin Pie
Le Cinsault par Familongue

Truth and Gratitude

Prepping veg for the week.

Three years ago, we almost lost our apartment. We were buried under medical and veterinary bills, we found ourselves owing a fortune in back taxes due to an accounting error – we were in the red in every single way possible. I had no idea how we would – or if we even could – dig ourselves out of that pit. But you wouldn’t have known about that, just from looking at these pages. That year I spent a few hundred bucks sourcing out food for a Thanksgiving feast for an article that would pay me about half that amount. It was a great meal, and despite everything, we still had a lot to be grateful for.

Two years ago, we spent an entire day cooking up a spectacular meal: a heritage turkey, cooked two ways, all sorts of trimmings and sides. Though we were a party of two, there was food and drink enough for an army, and after a bit too much of the latter and a huge fight, I threw my wedding band across the living room and stormed out into the night, dinner uneaten. The weight and wear of all we had been struggling with over the previous years, the losses we had suffered, some still fresh and raw, brought us to a breaking point that night. I wasn’t sure our marriage would survive.

But you wouldn’t have known that either. The next day, I pulled bowls and platters from the fridge, made up a couple of plates, and took photos by daylight while Mike made coffee. We ate in silence. He dug my wedding band out from behind the bookshelves later that morning.

One year ago, we had a 9-week old baby boy in our lives. We slow-roasted a duck, kept sides and drinks to a minimum, took a long walk through the crisp November air, snapped lots of photos. It was the simplest and happiest Thanksgiving we had had in years. It felt like the start of something. And when I look back at my posts from that day, finally, I see the truth reflected.

What to make when you miss your grandma. #fideos

One reason I took an extended break from posting here is because I was beginning to feel pressure to be something I wasn’t. I felt like I had to put on a false face, put forward some idealized vision of our life, to hide the fact that it isn’t always cocktails and charcuterie, thirty dollar pastured chickens and good bottles of wine. It was all too much. There are weeks when we’re flush and we can spend a fair amount on food and drink, but more often than not these days, I am trying to figure out how I can best spend thirty bucks on enough good food to last us all week.

But you know what? I am so grateful for that. We have so much.

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Our life has changed, is changing – every day, it seems. Just when we think we’re in a good groove, a routine, something happens to change that. A delayed departure from work, a late train or a cranky toddler can disrupt everything. We had a stretch where we were able to eat dinner together every night before putting Jules to bed. Then we lived in a hotel for nine days. Then we moved to New York, without our furniture, our belongings – it was a month before we were able to get them out of storage and into our new space. I went back to work, and Mike and Julian got back into their daily routine at home, and just as we were settling back in to a predictable schedule, things changed again.

But that’s life. That is our life, and I want to capture our reality, preserve it here. I want to remember these times, these meals.

And I want Julian to remember.

Comfort.

The dishes I make from night to night are tasty and nourishing, but there is absolutely nothing sexy about them. They wouldn’t be sexy if I had a DSLR to photograph them with and a wardrobe of twee table linens to shoot them against. And that has kept me from capturing them, from cataloging them like I used to. I’ve felt ashamed, in a way, like I couldn’t compete. But what I got away from is that this isn’t a competition, it’s our life. And I don’t want to hide it anymore.

I can look at the pale-hued Polaroids I swiped from my mom’s collection, and see the little girl I once was sitting on a couch at grandma’s house, surrounded by aunts and uncles who are beginning to fade away, and just by looking at them, I can conjure up the smell of grandma’s dressing, the flavors of my aunts’ creamy casseroles. I want my son to grow up with some record of the special meals of his childhood, and the ordinary ones too, something to spark his memories when he’s all grown up and too far away from home.

I want him to remember that the three of us ate together, as a family, every chance we got. Even if the photos aren’t perfect, and more of what’s on his plate ends up on the cats than in his belly these days, I want him to remember. I want him to remember when he looks at these pages that even if the meals were plain and unpretty, and sometimes mommy was tired and cranky, and some weeks we had plenty and some weeks we had less but we always had enough, that most importantly we had each other, and we loved each other fiercely, and we ate together, and we laughed, and we were grateful for it all.

after the storm

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Like many New Yorkers, I’ve been engrossed in the media coverage following Hurricane Sandy. My heart has sunk more each day, as each new piece of news brings a fuller picture of the damage and destruction left behind. The area was hit with a nor’easter right after the storm, and though last weekend brought a brief respite from the cold, temperatures have continued to drop, and more rain is expected today. For those still in the thick of piecing their lives back together, it must feel completely overwhelming.

Two weeks after the storm, co-workers are still trickling back in to my midtown office, sharing their stories and the stories of those close to them who were affected. The office itself was closed for nearly a week, sustaining damage after a corner-office window blew out, taking down ceiling tiles and spewing glass, water, and debris all around. Some friends and co-workers were without power or heat or both for a week or more, some of them with pets or small children. Others find themselves harboring friends or family who have lost everything. It’s heartbreaking and sobering.

Personally, we were lucky – we had wind and rain, but we never lost power, only briefly lost our cable internet, and the biggest challenges we faced were a few days of screwy commutes, trying to avoid downed trees and tree limbs in the neighborhood, and keeping Julian from going completely stir-crazy while we were homebound in the days immediately after the storm. We have absolutely nothing to complain about and so very much to be grateful for.

So many have lost so much, and the road to recovery looks to be a long one. Thanksgiving is a little over a week away, and thereafter, the days and weeks will blur as we move through the December holidays. My heart breaks to think of those New Yorkers whose holidays will never be the same, and I sincerely hope that they won’t be forgotten in the weeks and months ahead.

There are already some terrific wrap-ups of who is doing what toward the relief effort and how you can help, but I’d like to throw a few more links out there:

First, I’ve been incredibly inspired by what people in all corners of our dear city have done in these last two weeks, how they’ve organized and mobilized and have Gotten Shit Done while FEMA and the Red Cross have been, from many reports, largely MIA. Ben Heemskerk of The Castello Plan in our neighborhood has been particularly active in commandeering the troops around here and sending caravans of buses loaded with food and supplies out to communities in need.

And as you well know, we here at LND are big softies when it comes to the fuzzy creatures of the world. I was heartsick to read about the devastation many stray/feral cat colonies experienced in storm-damaged waterfront communities. The folks from North Brooklyn Cats, Neighborhood Cats, and the SI Feral Initiative, Inc. continue to do heroic work to care for these animals, often at great personal expense.

Finally, there is the Occupy movement. Their swift and focused response has taken my breath away, and I think their use of Amazon’s gift registry is simply brilliant.

If you’re still looking for a way to help, maybe you could send these folks, and those they’re working so hard to help, a little love.

[We'll be back to the food here soon, I hope, with an update on our first 12 Months | 12 Dishes project... I've just had a hard time summoning up the enthusiasm to write about cooking with everything that's going on in our beloved New York. We sincerely hope you and yours are safe, warm, dry, and well.]

12 Months | 12 Dishes

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let the games begin

A few months ago, our friend Emily Dietsch (who is actually no relation to Mike, though we wish she was) came up with a rather brilliant project for herself. She called it 12 months, 12 dishes, and she described it as such:

Over the next year, I’ll utilize a list of ‘essential’ dishes and work through one per month, trying out a few recipes or even the same one until I get something just right. By ‘essential’, I mean dishes that qualify as one or a few of the following: classics that have been around forever (and deserve that status); comprised of core techniques that I can use in other dishes; crowd-pleasers (i.e., things to whip up offhand for friends or partners); and me-pleasers (i.e., things I want to eat again and again).

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She’s compiled a wonderful list of dishes she wants to take on: seafood stews, vegetable gratins, curries or tagines, roast chicken, bistro-style steak… a nice mix of classics from various cultures. It has been so much fun to follow her progress as she cooks her way through them.

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In fact, I found the whole project so inspiring that I asked her if Mike and I might borrow her idea, put our own spin on it, and post about it here.

To my delight, she agreed.

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I feel like we’ve gotten into a bit of a cooking rut. While we’ve developed a solid little rotation of favorite dishes over the years – pantry pastas and mac & cheese, stews and braises, roast chicken, meatballs, and pizzas, thick and thin – I think we’re both getting a little bored with the same old, same old. We also feel that there are some gaps in our repertoire, that there are recipes and techniques we’d love to master to help beef up our kitchen skills, and dishes we’d love for Julian to grow up with.

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There might even be some baking.

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So this is our challenge – 12 Months | 12 Dishes. Mike and I are still finalizing our list of the 12 dishes we’ll cook through over the coming year, but we’ve decided to start with a comfort food classic: chicken and dumplings. If you have a favorite version, we’d love to hear about it.

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Let the games begin.

reentry

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Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in

It’s wild to think we’ve been back in New York for four months now. It was four months ago today, actually, that I returned to work at my old law firm, walking the same familiar corridors, gazing out at the same familiar view of the city stretched out for miles and miles from my perch on the 52nd floor.

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I will never grow tired of that view.

I’m working with many of the same folks I worked with years ago, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt a catch in my throat at hearing the words “welcome home” from co-workers here and in our other offices.

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It really has felt like a homecoming, a return to a place that, in many ways, I feel I never should have left.

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We had our reasons for leaving New York. We needed a break. We thought we were moving toward something… a home, stability, a safe and quiet place to set down roots and build a life. And it wasn’t all bad – our time in Rhode Island gave us Julian, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the whole entire world.

post-op blues

But there were big things, ugly things that happened while we were there, things that still cause a great deal of pain. The wounds have healed, mostly, but we still bear their scars.

There are times I wish we could get those four and a half years back.

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When I left Detroit and my first husband in 2001, I swore to myself that no matter what happened in life, I would live with no regrets. “Everything happens for a reason,” as my beloved and very wise Grandma always says. I would learn from my inevitable mistakes; even the bad stuff holds a lesson. And yet…

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Reentry has been hard. Much harder than I expected it would be. And while I am still absolutely certain that moving back to New York was the right decision for me, for Mike, for Julian, I’ve been struggling with what to do now that we’re here. What is this next phase of our life going to look like? How do we make this new life, this second act into everything we want it to be?

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We landed in a neighborhood we knew next to nothing about, coming in, and which we have fallen in love with quickly and hard. We’re slowly establishing routines, gradually getting to know our neighbors and other parents and kids in the area, exploring the markets and greenmarkets and restaurants and bars in our new nabe, venturing out to revisit our old favorites and old friends when we can.

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We’re shopping and eating our way around our new neighborhood and our new-old city, and we’re cooking our way through the rough spots, because that’s how we make connections, that’s how we persevere. It’s just what we do.

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We’re settling in, hopefully for the long haul.

But I still feel like something isn’t quite right yet, and I can’t put my finger on it.

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Maybe this is like seeing your high school sweetheart for the first time after being away at college… you’re still the same person you were before, and you still recognize the things you loved about him or her back then, but you also know that you’ve changed, and you are acutely aware of what’s new and different about yourself and that person you shared so much with.

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Maybe it just takes time to figure out what your relationship is going to be like as a couple of adults, with four years of heartbreak and healing and loss and recovery and growing up under your belts. Being together is comfortable and blessedly familiar. It’s safe. But is it right? Is it meant to be, built to stand the test of time? I know who I am, now, but who are we together?

heart of the cauliflower

How do we move forward, and get back to that sweet space where we once were, where we fit together so easily and well?

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Time will tell, I suppose. And in the meantime, we’ll be shopping and eating our way around our new neighborhood and our new-old city, and cooking our way through the rough spots, because that’s how we make connections, that’s how we persevere.

It’s just what we do.

Better With Butter

I am unable to resist.

I feel like this summer has all but passed us by. Between our move, getting settled in our new home, keeping up with an increasingly mobile and ever-changing soon-to-be-one-year-old, and last weekend’s trip to see Mike’s family in Indiana, I feel like we have had very few of those “lazy days” people talk about. No trips to the beach, not a single lobster roll, no barbecue or bluefish.

But we do have tomatoes. Every chance we get.

baby heirloom tomatoes in brown butter

Some of the best tomatoes we’ve had recently were these brown butter tomatoes. I saw the post on food52, and I couldn’t not try it. But tomatoes and butter do not a complete meal make, so I spooned them over some herbed farro, and topped each serving with a ball of creamy burrata.

Dinner: August 29, 2012

I may never eat another caprese salad again. (Julian was also a fan.)

How To Eat Your Vegetables

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Since I read Tamar Adler‘s book a month or so back (yes, I’m late to the party as usual), Sundays will find me, at a minimum, roasting a couple of big platters of vegetables to tuck away for the week ahead.

weekly ritual

This sort of cooking ahead is more important than ever now that Julian’s diet has shifted mostly to solids, and we want to provide him with an abundance of tasty, seasonal vegetables in a format that’s easy for him to eat – and that’s easy for both his work-at-home Daddy and office-working Mommy to prepare and eat as well.

It’s also nice to have something easy to throw together for dinner after, say, a long weekend away, when you return home to a near-empty fridge and the thought of another meal out makes you want to stab yourself with a fork.

marinated roast vegetables

Enter our trusty jar of slow-roasted vegetables, a mix of yellow and green zucchini, young eggplant, and candy-sweet golden tomatoes, caramelized and bathed in a soft marinade of cider and champagne vinegars and plenty of fruity olive oil. I’ve tossed these with pasta, layered them in a warmed pita with our favorite local hummus, served them on a bed of wheatberries, or with salty French feta alongside, and on this night, I scattered them over a base of prepared whole wheat dough spread with creme fraiche and dotted with soft goat cheese – a rustic tart, of sorts.

Dinner: August 27, 2012

Julian ate his straight, once it had cooled enough to touch, and devoured room-temperature leftovers the next day, eating crust and cheese first, then gathering up any vegetables that had dropped off and popping them into his mouth one by one. I topped the grown-ups’ portions with big handfuls of raw arugula, a drizzle of red wine vinegar, and lots of cracked black pepper.

the grown-ups' part

A meal that took a minimum of time and effort to put together, packed with vegetables and loaded with flavor, that all three of us loved? You can’t get much better than that.

“Bon appétit!”

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Back in April, I received an email about the JC100, the online celebration of Julia Child’s life and work on what would have been her 100th birthday. Like most of what lands in my blog-related inbox (especially since our little guy arrived), that email was read and left unanswered, forgotten until yesterday, when I started seeing remembrances posted nearly everywhere.

Tomato mania!

Julia’s show was the first cooking show I remember watching, and though it would be many years before I ever cracked open a copy of Mastering the Art, I feel that she was a big influence on me as a home cook. She was large and loud and kind of endearingly dorky – all of which I could relate to quite well – but she had this incredible self-confidence, and in watching her cook, I felt that I, too, could take even the humblest of ingredients and turn them into something both delicious and elegant. She did what she did with love, she seemed to get such true joy from feeding herself, her family and her friends, and she never seemed to let a little kitchen mishap get her down.

Dinner: August 14, 2012

Mike has almost certainly cooked more recipes straight from those iconic books than I have; I’ve never had the patience for classic French technique. But every time I step into the kitchen, set a cutting board in front of me and pull my knife down from the wall, I can’t help but feel that Julia’s spirit and influence is guiding my way.

Happy birthday, Julia, and thank you.

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