Just a quick check in to say hello. I’ve spent far too much time working this weekend, but it’s all for a good cause. We’re Montreal bound for spring break this week, so I’m trying to cram seven days’ worth of work into two. Yes, I know. It’s colder there than it is here, and it would’ve been nice to swap winter boots for open toe sandals. I’m on a mission for an amazing pain au chocolate I tasted at Patisserie Au Kouign Amann last summer. Montreal is only 250 miles from my house, and my motto is “will travel for good eats”. I suppose once I tally tolls and gas, it’s a rather expensive pastry, but since we only live once, I’m doing it to the fullest. Continue reading »
I realize the general consensus regarding Mondays is that they’re an unwelcome event. I prefer to see them as a wipe the slate clean kind of day; a new beginning, of sorts. Way back when, Mondays used to be mommy and me day. Virginia was still a wee one, and only went to daycare four days a week. I’d wake, go for a run, come home, cook breakfast, pack lunch, and then gently wake the rest of the house to start the day. Once he left with Bella for school, Virginia and I would cuddle on the sofa with poached eggs and toast, watching Sesame Street.
Then it all changed so suddenly, and it took me a while to find my footing. In the beginning, it was a matter of survival. Each Monday was a reminder that I’d gotten through another week. I feel like you should get a grief badge for each one, the way they give chips at AA meetings. As time passed, Mondays morphed into a day of relief. Single parenting seems relentless on the weekends. It’s one long 48 hour shift without a break. Continue reading »
It’s been a while, I know. Life has been quite busy, and I didn’t mean to stay away for this long. As usual, there are a ton of recipes I want to share with you, all in various stages of being tested, written, and edited. There’s also the matter of deciding which ones to share here, save for the magazine, for the cookbook proposal, and for future projects.
Alas, my visit here will be very brief today. I worked on a recipe for traditional Irish soda bread recently, and realized if I didn’t share it with you all today, then it would have to wait until next year. It would be like sharing a recipe for chocolate truffles the day after Valentine’s Day, right? I suppose a proper cooling off time, say a few weeks, and a recipe for soda bread popping up here would’ve been fine. But with it being St. Patrick’s Day, and all, I didn’t want to wait. So, here I am, bread (recipe) in hand, clicking away at the keyboard while lunch heats up in the oven in preparation for getting the kids out to school.
In my search for a traditional Irish soda bread recipe (remember I made this oat soda bread a few years ago), I came upon this site called The Preservation for Irish Soda Bread Society. After delving in a bit, I knew I had to stay somewhat true to tradition. You’ll notice my recipe below isn’t the sweet teacake kind being sold in most bakeries at this very moment. My recipe is more of an everyday bread that you can enjoy lightly toasted, with a smear of butter, and jam, if you like. It still isn’t quite a sandwich bread. I imagine my kids would blow a gasket if I tried to tuck a few slices of turkey between it. Still, it’s a nice counterpart to the fruit and egg enriched recipes out there. Hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve been. Now time to go pack those lunches, and get the kiddos out the door. Have a great day everyone!
Irish Soda Bread
Traditional Irish soda bread is made without any sweetener. The versions we’re accustomed to, flecked with raisins or currants, and enriched with eggs and a touch of sugar, are considered a teacake. I love that kind of bread, but decided to develop a recipe that harkened back to its roots. Of course, I still took a couple of liberties, one by using whole-wheat pastry flour, and the other in including a smidge of honey. It’s just enough to enhance the flavor of the bread without it being noticeable. Feel free to swap in all-purpose flour (it’s an equal weight), and omit the honey, or swap in agave to make it vegan. I’ve not tested it with gluten-free flour blends, though, but do let me know the results if you give it a try, as I’m curious.
Makes one 8-inch round loaf
1 2/3 cups (240) grams whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for kneading & shaping
1 1/4 teaspoons (6 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) sea salt
1 cup (237 ml / 214 grams) plus 1 tablespoon (15 ml) buttermilk, well shaken
1 tablespoon (20 grams) honey
1. Arrange the rack to the upper middle position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to a deep bowl. Whisk to combine.
3. Pour one cup of the buttermilk into the bowl. Drizzle the honey over the top of the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir just until it comes together into a rough dough (it will look more like a very thick batter at first).
4. Dust a counter or cutting board with a bit of flour. Scrape the dough onto the counter. Sprinkle a little more flour on top. Knead 30 to 60 seconds until it forms a somewhat smooth ball (it will have dimples, but shouldn’t be sticky).
5. Generously sprinkle flour on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the shaped dough onto the tray. Brush the top and sides with the remaining buttermilk. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour on top. Using a very sharp knife, make two cuts into the top to form an “X”, taking care not to cut all the way through to the bottom (you want a deep slash in the dough, not to separate the pieces).
6. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes, until the loaf is a deep golden color, and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckle. Let the bread cool completely before slicing, about an hour.
I take a deep breath when people ask me about the best pizza in New York City. My desk may be an overrun pile of papers, my cupboards an exercise in organized chaos, but my mind is a neatly organized rolodex of pizza, classified according to type (gas oven, coal oven, and wood-fired). So, I’m going to need some clarity on what kind of pizza you want my “best” opinion about. And you need to be willing to travel for it, because I don’t satisfy my pizza cravings based on proximity. Continue reading »
My mind is a browser with way too many tabs open today. It’s all good stuff. I have an energy, emotionally and professionally, that’s been lacking for a few years now. And, it’s all thanks to him. My moments of insecurity crept in a lot the last few days. Worry of falling too fast, too hard, depending too much on his love to carry me; preparing myself for the moment he, too, disappears. It’s hard to admit that. I want to live in the present, focus on the future. And yet my past haunts me.
In the time it takes to shop for groceries life as you know can fall apart. Do I have the strength to pick up the pieces, yet again, if destiny decides to deal a cruel hand? I don’t know, really.
But I do know that I’m willing to take the chance. I was “all in” from the moment we began exchanging texts. Just thinking about the way he looks at me forces the fears from my head, and makes my lips curve upwards into a smile. Continue reading »
I ate chocolate cake for breakfast two days in a row. I suppose I could call it research and development for work. I mean, it is important to know how many days homemade devil’s food cake lasts exactly, right? Of course, it’s that kind of fuzzy logic that has me wondering why my jeans feel more snug than I’d like.
It’s easy to blame the weather. The temperatures drop, and the needle on my scale rises. Okay, that last bit is a lie. The only scale I own is my OXO one for baking (big surprise!). Years ago, my real scale broke, the needle stuck at 25 pounds, and the kids couldn’t understand why I kept it for so long.
But back to this cake problem, um, I mean work dilemma. Rather than forsake sweets, I tend towards moderation in other ways to balance out my lack of running since the snow started falling mid-January. Salads always find their place at our dinner table, and lately I find myself going back for seconds on them before the main course. My guy isn’t generally a salad person, so I was quite flattered that he’s enjoyed everyone I’ve made so far. There are a couple of basic things that define good cooks, the art of salad making ranking high for me. It’s about texture and flavor, and getting both of these into every bite. Continue reading »
In Dorie Greenspan’s new bi-monthly column in The Washington Post she said “you’d have to be a card-carrying curmudgeon to hate Valentine’s Day”. While there’s something to be said for showing your love every moment you can, rather than cramming it all into one day (and paying way too much for red roses), some days we all just need a little extra boost. Those moments when your mind is too heavy, or perhaps your eyes just too tired from lack of sleep (two things that happened to be ailing me yesterday). Maybe that’s how we should look at Valentine’s Day. A bonus love day, of sorts.
It’s surreal being in love again, and I find myself stopping to take deeper breaths. Trying to appreciate the moments, rather than worry about it all going away. I remember talking to my friend David before I moved, wondering if I’d ever be loved again. He told me to stop thinking about it, and it’d happen when I least expected. Well, he was certainly right about the latter. And in a way, I had stopped thinking about. I’d resolved myself to possibly meeting someone who I could have interesting conversations with, and didn’t mind my kids (plus a cat AND a dog). But really, I thought about settling into some corner of the world once the kids were off to college. A small flat was all I needed, along with a little kitchen and a wi-fi connection. I could live out a peaceful, perhaps even happy existence in a bubble of my own making. Continue reading »
Pot roast. It doesn’t seem like much. The cut alone, chuck roast, is a humble hunk of meat. It needs time, and patience, to be rendered tender. Some aromatics, a helping of sweet vermouth, and homemade stock, and in a few hours you have a pot of meat, tender enough to release it’s hold with the the poke of a fork. It’s a meal filled with depth, a heartiness only the tenets of low and slow can yield.
Pot roast is kind of like love. Time isn’t of the essence; it’s the foundation of it all. A few key ingredients, thoughtful, yet unfussy technique, and don’t over think it too much.
It makes sense that this was the first meal I made for him.
I first heard about him two and a half years ago. A friend and I were making our way from the W Union Square to an event in midtown. Julia told me there was this really great guy I had to meet. I’d just come back from Paris, though, and had reconnected with C. We knew each other from my restaurant days. Simply said, it wasn’t time for us. Not, yet. Life still had some simmering in store for me. Continue reading »
Twenty four hours ago I was walking out of Webster Hall. It was my first time ever going to a gig alone. I don’t think I’d even seen a live concert until I met Michael. He was my muse and mentor, all at once. Some of it is undoubtedly chalked up to the 14 year age difference. Though I suppose at 21, the age I was when we met, there was no excuse I hadn’t seen a live show, except for the fact that music just didn’t have the relevance in my life as it holds today.
I remember the day George Harrison died. I heard the DJ mention it on the radio as I was driving home from running errands. M was sullen, and mournful, when I walked in the door. He was in a funk, and there was no shaking it. I very unthoughtfully told him to snap out of it after a few hours…it wasn’t like he knew Harrison. Why the need to put a damper on our day? It would be years later, and losing part of my own past, to understand what that connection meant to him. The Sunday I woke up to hear that Lou Reed had died, I felt empty and numb inside. I lost something I couldn’t get back the day Reed left this great earth. I lost a piece of my love all over again. He saw Reed many times, but me, I only saw him twice, and both with M. We heard him recite the Raven someplace in the city…I should know that, shouldn’t I (note to self: go look in M’s box of old ticket stubs). We also went to see him perform Berlin at St. Ann’s when it was in Brooklyn Heights, not Dumbo (is it even there anymore?).
I got lost in Lou and Patti Smith when M died. I got lost in all the music he loved when he died. It was my life raft, my arm stretched out, fingertips grasping to him in the distance. Lou’s passing was a reminder that you can’t hold on forever. The tangibles eventually become intangible.
Today I caught up with a dear friend, someone who has believed in me since the beginning, in a way only Mikey ever did. I told her that last night, going to see Patti by myself, it taught me something. For the last few years, and probably long before that, I thought I had no claim to his music. It was his, and I simply liked it by default. In preparation for our move six months ago, I made the decision to sell part of M’s record collection (or is it albums? I never remember the difference between a record and an album). It took three passes before I had a “sell” pile.
The first pass was purely sentimental.
The second run through resulted in a slightly larger “sell” pile, having discarded some stuff I knew I had no interest in (if only I’d known that damn Leonard Nimoy album was worth more money!!!).
The third pass was a ruthless stripping away at the layers. It was no longer about my allegiance to him. The stakes were higher. What did I like (not the Sex Pistols!!!)? What did I think was essential for the girls to have as part of their father’s musical history?
Finally, the pile was whittled down to half, a mere 200 albums. The day the guy from St. Mark’s came, I felt somewhat dirty as he handed me a wad of cash. It felt tinted with betrayal. But the truth is that he had threatened many times to digitize it all, and get rid of the vinyl, to which I always protested “over my dead body”. Guess he won that argument…
Anyway, last night I realized that while I came into my own musically under his tutelage, the ownership of taste is all mine now. So much of our relationship, the first nine years in fact, were quibbles usually about me demanding to be heard and loved for who I was at my core. I may not have been as well-read, and I liked 80s music because I was a kid of that generation. I pushed back at every step of the way in our relationship, screaming (often literally) to just be loved for the person deep down. Back then I viewed books and music as window dressing. And in a way that’s what they represent. They’re the goods that pique your interest. I get that today, and only time and experience can teach that lesson. At 21 we think we know the rules. At 41, I realize we’re just making them up as we go along.
As 2014 winds down, I say goodbye to my sweet love. It is not the first, and I know it will not be the last. This goodbye is a thank you in a way, for the gift he gave to the soundtrack of my life. And these songs are for his journey.
I love you Mikey. See you on the other side. One day.
Music Pairing: Trampin’ by Patti Smith
Video: People Have the Power – Webster Hall 12/29/2014
Last week when I told Isabella I wondered what gingerbread rice crispy treats would taste like, she rolled her eyes and said “oh here we go…gingerbread this, and gingerbread that”. It was a page right out of the Michael Perillo playbook. He would’ve teased me incessantly about the tear I’ve been on the last two weeks. I just.can’t.stop.
I won’t stop.
But, I think we covered that with my last post, you know the one where I made a NO-BAKE GINGERBREAD CREAM PIE. Sorry, but that one got me really excited—I had to get that out, and only all caps would do. Can you tell I’m feeling punchy tonight? I’m just feeling a groove I haven’t felt in quite some time, and truth be told—it’s nice to be my own muse, of sorts. I’ve nothing more witty to say about this recipe, just that it’s so easy, and the perfect thing to make when you’re short on time (and who isn’t this week?). Provided you have the ingredients on hand, these treats are ready to eat in about 45 minutes, from start to finish. You can make a tray, wrap it in a cloth, and bring it as a hostess gift (the gingerbread twist ups the ante, making them worthy in my opinion). Last minute class party? It’s great for those, too. Continue reading »