My time in Brooklyn is down to single digit days. I seem to be walking in an alternate universe. Everything seems familiar, yet foreign. It’s in these moments that I feel greater confidence in the change we’re about to make. The conveniences of the city no longer outweigh the cravings of my mind and heart. Continue reading »
The girls are rather good at keeping tally over everything being even-Steven. Inevitably, the scales tip more in one’s favor on certain days, although I’m quite sure it will balance out to an equitable share over the longevity of our lives. Try explaining that to a six or eleven year old, though.
Most days, I’m pretty sure I’m messing everything up. I wasn’t always sure of what I was doing when we were a two-parent family. Now, on my own, left in charge of raising these girls into strong, confident, happy, loving young women—I think it’ll be okay, but sometimes I wonder. These last few weeks have left me sleep-deprived, anxious and short on patience as I watch moving boxes pile up, and ponder the change about to happen in less than three weeks. Continue reading »
Spring has finally sprung upstate. It was a long, cold winter, and many of us thought it would never end. The wonderful thing about living in the Northeast is that we have seasons. The not so great part of that gift is that the contrasts between summer and winter are brutal. Spring and fall aren’t always a guarantee. Often, they feel like blips on the radar of Mother Nature, and yet there are people who still question the direct correlation of how we use our planet with climate change (a conversation for another day).
Everything around is coming to life. The raspberry bushes are snaking their way through the side garden. I’ve been told they’re like weeds, and indestructible. I hope that’s true since I have much to learn, and my thumb is far from green. There’s a single rose bush along the house, too. I can’t help but think of M when I see them. He took such loving care of the ones we had at our old apartment on Henry Street.
I didn’t taste my first falafel until my mid-twenties. It seems unthinkable, especially living in New York City. My family wasn’t very adventurous in the food department, though, the most exotic cuisine being Chinese food (and mostly not very good, either). Any parent will tell you that eating habits, and palates, are created from an early age, as well as food phobias.
I often wonder what my relationship to food would be had I never met Michael. He gave my appetite, the same gift he gave my heart. Michael opened my eyes to trusting it was okay to try something I’d never experienced. The fear of the unknown is often more difficult to overcome than the unknown itself.
By now, you’ve probably figured out I’m a bit obsessive about cooking from scratch. Michael used to tease me, and ask when I was going to start making my own water. There is a hazard to this, though, and in my case it started with a simple pot of beans. Most cooks will agree that there is no worse fate for a pot of beans than overcooking them. Beans should have a little bite to them; kind of like al dente pasta. You know their just right when you bite into them, and they give way ever so gently, but still require some chewing, and don’t just collapse in your mouth. They should hold their own, so to speak, when combined with other ingredients, as in the Chickpea, Parmesan and Fennel Salad in Homemade with Love.
There’s no shortage of chocolate recipes floating around the internet, especially this week with it being Valentine’s Day and all. A more organized person who writes a food blog would’ve even planned such a thing out. I always chuckle when I get a PR pitch about my upcoming editorial calendar. This little space of the internet is about as organized as my daughters’ room. This is one place in my life where no plans are actually comforting. I can be who I want, when I want. It just so happens that my craving last week coincided with a holiday where chocolate plays so prominently. Why is that exactly?
This soup doesn’t look like much in the bowl, but I promise you eyebrows will raise once you taste it. It first caught my attention while reading Orangette a few weeks ago. Laid up with a sinus infection, that manifested into strep throat, left me with time to catch up on blog reading. The timing wasn’t ideal, just one week before Christmas, but one must make the best of a bad situation, right?
So, after I dropped the girls off at school one morning, I popped into the market and picked up a head of Savoy cabbage, and got to work slicing it paper thin when I got back home. The recipe is from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking. I must confess that I didn’t own one of her cookbooks until just a few weeks ago. After cooking up this very humble cabbage dish, the fire was fueled, and two days later the book arrived at my house. I instantly became smitten with it, but also realized the reason I had yet to add one of her books to my collection. Partly, I prefer to collect vintage, hard-to-find, cookbooks. There’s only so much book real estate one can allocate in a NYC apartment.
Hazan was a cook to whom we owe much in terms of preserving old Italian recipes, and methods. Her tone, though, is rather contrary to my approach. My feeling when sharing recipes is to encourage people to get into the kitchen, and I believe that was her goal, too. Still, you have to read the introduction to Essentials of Italian Cooking with confidence in your skills. For instance, when she discusses basil in the Fundamentals section (pages 7 to 52), she says “Do not ever use dried or powdered basil. Many people freeze or preserve basil. I’d rather use it fresh and, if it isn’t available, wait until it is in season”.
It is a well-intentioned point of view, and I agree fresh basil offers the most true flavor. The reality is that most people do not use a whole bunch of basil before it goes bad. Preserving is a very thrifty way to manage your budget, and still enjoy a basil-flecked marinara sauce year-round. I appreciate her conviction, but cooking isn’t one size fits all, and I prefer to write in a way that welcomes the reader to try recipes with less rigidity.
Alas, I’ve gone off topic, in a way, so let us make our way back to the soup. As the smothered cabbage, the base for the recipe, wilted away on the stove top, I began to get excited. The smell was intoxicating. I stayed true to her recipe, for the most part, with one very liberal change. The soup, as Molly describes it, is supposed to be a loose kind of risotto, meaning on the thicker-bodied side. The intent to heal my cold left me wanting a soup with more broth to slurp, so I doubled the amount of stock. It was still incredibly thick, so don’t let this sway you. I’m including the original measurements, so you can decide which version you want to go with. I also used Pecorino-Locatelli cheese to add a sharper edge to my soup. Hazan’s original recipe calls for Parmigiano-Reggiano, which has a nuttier, aged flavor (a favorite of mine, too).
The last time I made this soup, just a few days ago, in fact, I had run out of chicken stock in the freezer. Sadly, I came home to find my last jar had cracked (yes, it almost made me cry). I was also out of my homemade vegetable bouillon—it’s bare bones around here, I tell you, so I swapped in plain old cold water. I’ll be honest, it is a more substantial tasting soup, if you have chicken stock on hand. In a pinch, though, the water worked just fine, and a little extra Pecorino sprinkled on top gave it the necessary oomph. A couple of slices of this apple-sage vegan sausage on top made it extra hearty. Don’t worry about serving it alone, though, it is sure to leave a last impression.
Last night I fell asleep with Hazan’s book by my side, a number of pages now dog-eared. Her spell has been cast on me, and the respect to which she pays to food, coaxing flavors from simple ingredients, makes me wish I wasn’t so late in picking up her cookbook. The saying goes “better late than never”, though, and I hope to have a few more decades of cooking left. I plan to hand her book down to my girls one day, splattered with memories of the many meals to come.
Music Pairing: I’m Living in a Great Big Way by Louis Prima
slightly adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
Hazan notes in her recipe that you can use regular green, red or Savoy cabbage. I’ve only made it with Savoy, but am eager to try it with red cabbage next. I imagine it will be a nice contrast of color with the rice.
One batch of smothered cabbage (recipe here)
6 cups (1.5 L) chicken or vegetable stock (the original recipe only uses 3 cups/750 ml)
2/3 cup (140 grams) arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano rice
2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter
1/2 cup (56 grams) freshly grated Pecorino-Locatelli cheese, plus more for garnishing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Add the cabbage and stock to a deep 6-quart pot. Bring to a boil. Add the rice, and cook until it is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter and cheese. Season with pepper, and taste, adjusting for salt, and more pepper, as needed. The soup will last, stored in a covered container in the fridge, for up to one week.
We had our first big snowfall in the country this weekend. Well, not in the country, as in the United States of America. I mean the country, as in the area where our house is upstate. I figure you all probably knew what I was talking about, but the writer in me felt compelled to make it very clear. I have readers around the globe (it boggles my mind, really), and I didn’t want anyone to confuse my country with the country.
See how easy it is to get caught up on the little details? Something as simple as me coming here to share an easy recipe for a quick last-minute homemade gift has me pondering the clarity of my own words. Perhaps the simple things are the tasks that truly push us to look closer at the finer details of life. I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately. Continue reading »
“The whole truth is that you can love your life, and still yearn for what is missing.”
This quote is from an article Katie Devine wrote recently about being 35 and single. What struck me about her piece was the honesty in her words, something we are often too afraid to be with ourselves. I didn’t expect to walk away from it feeling validated. Our lives are on different paths, but the truth she shared summed up so much of what I’ve been feeling lately.
I am incredibly thankful for my health (let’s hope I didn’t just jinx it!). My daughters, though they drive me crazy often, and I will never love being a single parent, are two gifts I feel so thankful to have in my life. I’m in love again, and loved again, by a person who understands me almost better than I do myself. Continue reading »
The trip to the country this past weekend was a bit treacherous. The rain and fog made for a very slow drive, but I’m glad we went up on Friday night because this is what we woke up to on Saturday morning. Meet Olaf. He’s our upstate mascot until the sun turns him into a puddle. As you might have guessed we saw Frozen recently, hence our snowman’s name. Continue reading »