Spring Has Sprung

L's Photo of Grape Hyacinth


I am sittling here at my computer and the sun is streaming into the window. I can see birds and bees flitting around the blooming trees. How did this happen? How has time flown by so quickly?

L turned thirteen last week, and we celebrated her bat mitzvah as well. What a tremendous milestone. The months (years) of preparation for the day, then, poof it is over. I am not really having the post event let down so much as feeling incredulous that it could be over and that we are on to the next thing. As L said, it felt like a 24 minute day. Almost like it never happened. Indeed.

We had the last member of our family hit the road on Monday night. They were supposed to have been on a flight in the morning, but the flight was cancelled and the earliest replacement they could get was the red eye. So, we had the pleasure of their company for an impromptu dinner. Steak, baked russet potatoes and sweet potatoes, asparagus, salad….and, because local strawberries are in the market, strawberry short cake. Actually, it wasn’t about the strawberries. It was about the fact that we had so much whipped cream left over from our Sunday brunch waffles, I needed an excuse to use it. And, because I like it better, I made a yellow cake instead of shortcake. I guess you could call it Strawberries and Whipped Cream Cake.

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Superfood for Hikers

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When S & I went to Acadia National Park, we planned to do some hiking on the small but steep mountains by the ocean. Unfortunately, our view of the ocean was completely obscured by an incredibly dense fog that hung around the entire time we were there. We saw neither sea nor sky, really.

However, we did see a lot of blue. Hiking/climbing/clamboring on fun trails, we snacked on wild blueberries during both the ascents and descents.

No photo taken, but the popovers and lobster stew (cream, sherry, lobster, paprika and butter….that’s it) at the Jordan Pond House were very, very memorable. The company of my 88 year old great aunt was the most special part of the visit Down East.

4th of July Recap

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I’m still full. Actually, that isn’t true. I’m full from eating leftovers for lunch.

The new recipes that I tried for our celebration last night with JS and JO were a hit.

First off, we had wonderful starters prepared by JS. Perfectly ripe honeydew melon draped in shaved proscuitto and creamy, rich deviled eggs sprinkled with paprika were devoured by our intimate group.

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I was too busy lounging around, kid-free, during the day to mentally time the meal and I forgot that I wanted to bake a fresh loaf of bread (from dough that I had made a few days ago – from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day). While it takes no time flat to make the bread dough, it still takes a while to let it rest out of the fridge and then to bake. And, I forgot about the beets. So, after we talked and talked, while I was getting the fruit tart ready, I looked at the clock and said, “Whoa, look at the time. Is it o.k. if we wait a little while for dinner?” “Sure,” S and our guests replied. I got out the bread dough, put it on a pizza peel to rise for 40 minutes and got started on the beets and beet greens.

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Watermelon Seeds

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Watermelon seeds make me feel old.

I know that sounds strange, but it is not easy to find a watermelon with seeds these days. Most watermelons at the grocery store are seedless, including the new mini-watermelons. And, those “watermelons” don’t even make sense to me – since watermelon seems to be about abundance and summer excess.

Today, we are having a watermelon seed spitting contest at the 4th Grade end-of-year party. My task is to bring an old fashioned watermelon. Luckily, my favorite grocery store had them in stock (bless them). I bought one that is, I think, more than 20 lbs. An early season monster.

I’ll be curious to know if any of the kids exclaim, “Watermelons have seeds?!!” And, with all those leftover seeds on the field, will we have a new crop of seeded watermelon growing in the autumn?

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

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Ambrosia. Strawberry rhubarb compote is food for the gods.

I love rhubarb. I love strawberry rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb is such an incongruous plant. It is sometimes called, “pie plant”. The leaves are poisonous. The stems are edible, but very sour and must be cooked with some sugar in order to be palatable. But, not too much sugar, or the vegetable becomes cloying.

Last year, I had a rhubarb tart at a restaurant (Scala’s Bistro in San Francisco) that was so delicious, I still dream about it. In fact, I asked for the recipe the last time we went to the restaurant , and the pastry chef graciously sent the recipe to me. Unfortunately, it makes a little too large a quantity of dough and the filling part is in chef-speak. I think you just have to have a good feel for the ingredient and fillings to know how long to cook it. If I ever attempt the recipe, in a small quantity, I’ll post the result.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, I bought some rhubarb at the market – brilliant crimson and stalky. I had never bought it before, never cooked with it. I thought the girls might like it (a vegetable for dessert) and looked in my trusty Joy of Cooking for a recipe. Not wanting to make a whole pie, I happened upon the compote recipe. I haven’t looked back. Like many recipes in cooking bibles, the ingredient list leaves some room for interpretation – 1/2 to 1 cup sugar. There is a lot of room for defining your own recipe.

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Splendid Seder

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My favorite holiday is Passover. I love the tradition of it and the lack of commercialism surrounding it. My favorite part of the holiday is the seder dinner – making the meal, setting the table, putting together the seder plate, reading the Haggadah (we finally bought new ones and graduated from the Maxwell House version), and, of course, eating.

This year, we went to our friends DM & EM’s for the first night seder. It was wonderful. We have a tradition of spending this holiday together – and because Passover frequently falls during spring break when we are away, we have a seder to mark the holiday whenever we can. This year, both families were home for the big night, on the big night. DM & EM prepared a great dinner. We all relaxed, drank fabulous wine and gorged ourselves on the succulent matzo ball soup, moist and flavorful brisket, whipped potatoes, and perfect vegetables.

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More Baking, Less Restraint

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I went to the farmer’s market with the girls on Saturday and it was packed. There were so many new purveyors of unusual foods, not just the usual fruits, vegetables and flowers. People were selling all sorts of baked goods, grass fed beef, fresh fish, crepes, brick oven pizza, chocolates, and more. It was really amazing.

We saw some gorgeous strawberries, and as we got there late, the sellers were trying to get rid of the inventory and we bought a half flat of beautiful organic berries for $11.00. I couldn’t help myself. But, what to do with 6 pints of berries?

Well, it was the perfect reason to make my favorite strawberry pie to bring as dessert for dinner on Sunday night at a friend’s house. I use a very old-timey recipe from the Better Homes and Garden’s New Cook Book (the one with the red gingham cover). I have always loved strawberry pie, which I first learned about while visiting my grandmother in Florida when I was a kid. It was a very special dessert served at a restaurant called Testa’s. Testa’s had these huge family steaks that they would serve charred on the outside and rare on the inside. It was always a treat to go there. My favorite dish at Testa’s, though, was their strawberry pie. Now, this is not a cooked, double crusted fruit pie. It is fresh strawberries, no top crust. But, it is also not a strawberry tart – it has no pastry cream. It is a regular, buttery pie crust, heaped with fresh strawberries and glazed with a fresh stawberry glaze. I’ve never seen a pie like it at a restaurant before or since.
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Which gets me back to that old cookbook. When I was living in Philadelphia in the late ’80s, I only had a couple of very basic cookbooks because I was a student and didn’t do all that much cooking, at least not compared to today. Nonetheless, one day, I got it in my head that I wanted to make this strawberry pie and I found a recipe that looked like it could be THE ONE in my paperback copy of The Better Homes & Garden’s New Cook Book. I remember walking to a fresh fruit market that was quite a distance from my apartment and buying a box with 6 containers of strawberries, and purchasing some other groceries, only to have to walk back with bags and the box held straight out in front of me. I made two pies and my arms hurt for days from carrying all the groceries in such an awkward position. It was worth it.

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