Italian mushroom and celery salad

June 21, 2012 § 23 Comments

First, the bad.  My hometown was ravaged by horrible flooding in the last two days.  Just torn apart.  A torrent of rain developed overhead and wouldn’t budge until it had dumped 7 inches, 9 inches, 10 inches of water in some places.  The wall of water rushed down the hill toward the lake taking out huge chunks of roads and sidewalks, dumpsters and bridges with it.

Perhaps you even saw it on the news yesterday.  I know the story about the seal that was swept out of the zoo by a river of water and was found stranded on the highway received a lot of attention.  Many of the other zoo animals – the little barnyard animals in the petting zoo – drowned.  I spent half the day in unremitting tears about this.  Unfair is not nearly a strong enough word.

It’s horrifying to be reminded how powerless we are. It’s  also probably really important to be reminded.  These extremes may be the new normal, and it’s time to be truthful about the fact that we are not remotely in control.  And perhaps the best we can do sometimes is bond together, lend a never ending supply of helping hands, and cope.

All my family and friends there are fine, though.  Thank heaven for that.

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Spring pea puree

May 29, 2012 § 18 Comments

The last of our guests left this morning, and I’m left with that funny feeling of slight relief and slight let-down after a big event and lots of social time.  The apartment feels remarkably quiet and empty, and I have a lot of work to catch up on.

If you mapped out the trajectory of the contents of our house from Thursday through now, you would see how it arced parabolically, from the two of us (well, three, if you count Squid) to five, to fourteen(!), to nine, to four, and down to just two again.  And now one, actually, as I sit at my desk at home with my reflections and the puppy for company.

The weekend was  nothing short of epic.  The belated Syttende Mai party topped the charts (I’ll tell you more about it later when I have both my photos and thoughts in order), but we did a great deal more excellent eating and exploring on top of that.  Also, can I just say that Minnesotans (former Minnesotans included) make the best house guests!  Sure it’s still work, but every time you turn around, someone has done the dishes for you or even gone ahead and scrubbed your stove top.

Anyhow, the odds and ends of a dozen delicious meals are sitting in the fridge, and I’m partaking in the joy of leftovers.  Today, I’m particularly loving this pea puree.  Its sweet pea flavor and sateen texture are so fresh, so spring, and oh so very, very green.  Preppy green.  The green of chinos that one might pair with a rather pink polo shirt and a cardigan draped over the shoulders.

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Lemon braised lamb with rosemary

January 20, 2012 § 7 Comments

Pretty much everyone in my family is a card carrying nerd in his or her spare time.  You may not perceive this on first glance.  It’s a sort of internal nerdiness.  Our spirits wear broken glasses, high water pants, and pocket protectors.  We pick up on Star Wars references, and occasionally sing little songs under our breath about whatever it is we’re doing in the moment.  Ok, maybe it’s actually just me who does that.  But, whatever.  (Have you seen New Girl?  Kind of like that.)

One of my brothers has read famous political figures’ dissertations, for fun.  The last time I spoke to my mother, she was gleefully reading a stack of dictionaries.  (Some of them have fascinating material in their appendices.  Seriously.)  I have a certain propensity toward exploring the thesaurus.  My reliance on it during college verged on the religious, zealous, fervid, a little over the top.

As many of the food obsessed are wont to do, I also like to read through cookbooks.  So, when my middle brother gave me The Flavor Thesaurus for Christmas, well it was clear that the book and I were going to need to get a room.  I’ve been slowly savoring my way through it ever since.  It’s truly a magnificent little oeuvre, informative, but not remotely boring.

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Homemade ricotta (and a honeyed grape compote)

August 15, 2011 § 15 Comments

If you are of the ilk of people who spend a considerable (some may say disproportionate – I say proper) amount of time thinking, preparing, and reading about food (My people!  Hello!), or if you are an Italian nonna, then making your own ricotta cheese may be old news to you.  Old news, but then hey, you have no excuse for not having some sitting freshly made in your refrigerator right now, now do you?

If it is not old news to you, well then my friend, do I have some news for you!!!  Run, don’t walk, gather the ingredients, and make some.  Now!  Well, read this first.  I give you permission. 🙂

I will make no secret of my love for ricotta.  It is a profound adoration, really.  It’s nearly as passionate as my love for whipped cream (and it may be slightly healthier). I know it’s a fairly commonplace activity to imagine what clouds taste like – come on!  don’t even try to tell me I’m the only one who thinks about that – and while most dream up clouds of marshmallows or cotton candy, I think they taste like ricotta.  Smooth and airy, billowing in your mouth and then melting into a pool of cream on your tongue…

I would just eat it with a spoon.  I do just eat it with a spoon.  Though, generally only when no one is looking.

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Marinated beef kebabs with salsa verde

June 28, 2011 § 7 Comments

Having lots of pots of herbs growing on our little balcony has allowed me to develop another brand new obsession.  Salsa verde.  I’m telling you people, this stuff is magical.

Imagine someone walking out to a lushly growing herb garden and snipping a bountiful spray of fresh herbs from each patch.  Then, grinding them all together into an emerald green paste, with some garlic, capers, and anchovies because, you know, why not?!

The result is a massive wave that breaks over your taste buds in a spray of woodsy, grassy, briny, garlicky flavor.  I’ve been racking my brain, and I don’t think I can think of anything else I’ve had in quite a while that packs so much beautifully blended and balanced flavor into even a tiny bite.

I discovered salsa verde when making a riff off of the summer squash gratin from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.  My mother and I cooked it up while I was at home, with a few tweaks and the addition of a hefty amount of extremely good Italian sausage.  It was seriously delicious (though it had too much bread-crumb action sprinkled throughout for my taste).

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Grilled asparagus with lemon anchovy vinaigrette

May 29, 2011 § 11 Comments

Grill baby grill!

You can really tell it’s Memorial Day weekend around here.  Firstly, three-quarters of the city is gone, probably to the Cape or up to New Hampshire, which makes it feel exponentially more relaxed and sane around here.  (And makes the roads much more conducive to my continuing driving practice as I finally learn how to drive a stick shift.) And secondly, the smell of grilling is permeating every square inch of the air.  From every porch and backyard in the area, the scent of charcoal and meat and sauces is wafting, pretty much around the clock.  It means my mouth is doomed to be continually watering, all weekend.

And, whoever is in charge of the weather took the whole ‘Memorial Day is the start of summer’ thing very seriously.  It’s like they ran into a back room and flipped the summer switch because, where one week ago I was putting on fleeces and wrapping an afghan around myself while sitting at home reading, now I suddenly find myself wandering about the apartment in a featherweight sundress and kind of wishing I could just go naked.  I can’t.  We have guests.  Also neighbors.  And a dearth of curtains.

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