Monday, August 31, 2015

Expanding orbits

This boy. This passionate, joyful, thoughtful, kind, wild electron. My orbiting moon for the last five years. This morning we send him off to his first day of kindergarten and we leap into the abyss with him. As I pack his special lunch and Joe cooks a breakfast feast, we say a traditional parental prayer - "please let them be kind, please let him thrive and learn and love it all. Please let him not be a total turkey who's hanging off the edge of the seat while yelling 'Hulk Smash!' and making the teacher repeat everything ten times!! Oh, and please don't let me bawl my eyes out at the classroom door and alarm the entire community in the first five minutes of school.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Saying good-bye

Early this morning, this lovely and amazing lady passed out of my life at the age of 95. So many family members have been sharing some of her funny phrases with each other all day. My brain doesn't really work that way. I remember in pictures, not words. As her health began to plummet in the last few weeks, I saw a parade of vivid images in my mind: Her greeting us at the door at 10 pm in her blue bathrobe with the white trim when we arrived for a visit and going straight to the kitchen to make us a snack of toasted LI bagels with the insides pulled out and canned peaches - she seemed to have that bathrobe for decades;

Floating with her in the ocean and being amazed by how buoyant she was and how her feet always popped out at the surface while mine determinedly sunk no matter how hard I tried; Playing Spite and Malice in her living room and Scrabble on the beach; Eating grapefruit drizzled with honey and artichokes dipped in butter at her dining room table (one visit without my parents, she made us 3 girls artichokes almost every night, knowing how much we loved them. When we got home my mother greeted us at the door with the promise of artichokes for dinner and we groaned, "artichokes again?!" She was crushed)...

It's astounding to me all the small ways that she lives on in my every day tasks. I used to sit side-by-side with her at the kitchen table and watch her cut piles of green beans with the bean held in one hand and the other hand  holding the knife so that the index finger pushed the knife through the tip of the bean and connected with her thumb on the other side without ever cutting her. I practiced this skill for years and whenever I cut green beans now I can almost feel her standing next to me.

When I'm at the gas tank and I get the cheapest gas (which she thought was terrible for my car), I can hear her saying "penny wise, pound foolish". When I sit down next to Joe on the couch to do a crossword puzzle with our legs stretched out in front of us and our feet crossed one over the other, I see her in her reclining chair in almost the exact same position, completing the NY Times Crossword puzzle (she was a master puzzler and I'm convinced this daily practice helped keep her mind clear and sharp for most of her 95 years).

She always loved to tell a particular story about me. When I was little - actually, this went on well into middle school - I would stand at the door and wait for her arrival. When the car pulled in to our driveway I'd be the first one out the door, jumping up and down screaming "Grammy's here! Grammy's here".

That's me on the far right
My Dad once said that when he was a kid she could be at times remote and not quick to give physical affection. Maybe she softened over the years. Or maybe the irrepressible joy and affection of her grandchildren couldn't be denied. At any rate, I remember her as warm, affectionate, wry, sassy, sarcastic, witty, and an amazing cook.

She was a globe trotter who went on African safaris and climbed the Great Wall of China in her 70s.

She lived just outside of NYC (born and raised in Brookly and moved to LI when my Dad was small). She took me to countless Broadway shows and after one such outing, introduced me to my first steak when I was 22 at Morton's of Chicago down by the World Trade Center on Washington St. She was curious and cultured and by example, encouraged us to be the same. My grandmother was an incredible woman that I will always love, always admire, always miss terribly. Good-bye Grammy Lulee, I hope your passing was peaceful.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Do you believe in magic?

K Bear. The steady friend who's continued to provide, love, comfort, and so much magic throughout the years. In fact, according to Taran, Pompeii was saved thanks to said trusty bear who dove underground, turned the flow of lava and sent it out to sea, thereby creating a new island and saving many lives in the process.

Thanks little bear for looking after my kid. And so many others. ;)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Good Eats

I'm always re-inventing the wheel with cooking. I'll throw stuff in a pot in a haphazard kind of fashion and if it turns out great I'll think, "I'll really need to write down what I did here" and invariably, I don't. Instead, I find myself standing in front of a fridge every night trying to send some connective thought between the two brain cells I have left to figure out what the heck I'm going to pull together in the next 25 minutes before the kids start to completely malfunction from hunger and end-of-day general fried-ness. In fact, they are usually already in this state by the time I start cooking.
Today, Calliope was sick (or teething?) and would not let me put her down for anything.

I was contemplating cheese and crackers for dinner when I remembered that I had some ground turkey in the freezer and some lacinato kale that needed using and some leftover carrots that I had picked from our garden the day before when I had a sudden hankering for carrot cake. Then I looked out the window and saw our tomato plants dotted with bright yellow, red, and orange lovelies. So I tucked Cally girl in the Beco, grabbed Taran and a basket, and we picked all the almost-too-ripe tomatoes we could find and headed in to whip something up.

While Cally girl rested her head on B dog, I threw together some A-mazing turkey-vegetable-feta burgers. The carrot and feta helped keep the burgers incredibly moist and we all inhaled them. As I was chopping and mixing, I kept staring longingly out the window at our garden, realizing I had forgotten to grab a handful of parsley on our last venture out. I weighed the quality of the finished product against a series of possible scenarios that would make obtaining said parsley feel like mission impossible. If I went back in the hot sun again, I couldn't guarantee that Cally wouldn't just melt, both emotionally or physically and Taran wouldn't get sidetracked by something and run around the yard with delight while I pleaded with him. "Taran I need you to come in now, I need to cook dinner now, Cally's totally done, Please baby please" Luckily, Joe came home just as I was finishing up the prep and so parsley was procured and the burgers were rendered delicious.

Alongside them I made a tomato and sweet corn salad with a red onion-chianti vinaigrette. We have some gorgeous varieties of tomato this year, my favorite being a large slicing tomato called Ananas Noir that looks mostly green on the outside when ripe but reveals mottled gold and rose hues when sliced. It is sweet, juicy, tender and almost tropical in it's flavor. We also have small, kalamata olive-shaped yellow-orange tomatoes with red striations known as Blush tomatoes, Tess's land race currant tomatoes, Costoluto Genovese and some strange hybrid tomato that is a volunteer from last year's varieties. I tossed them with kernels of sweet corn and chopped basil and sluiced on the dressing and it was heaven. Tomatoes and corn are two things I wouldn't even contemplate eating most of the year. But in that little slice of time come mid-August to early September when they have reached their pinnacle of ripeness, there is almost nothing more mouth-pleasing. And together? Kinda close to perfection. This is coming from a woman who will tell you 51 weeks out of the year that she kind of hates corn. Especially in soup. It's kind of like little floating yellow teeth. Yuck. Oh why did I say that?! Now you'll never want to eat this salad and it's something wonderful, not to be missed.

I got the idea from a luncheon I went to last week at the Seasoned Farmhouse to hear one of my favorite [food] bloggers Molly Wizenberg read from her new book Delancey and to share some of it's recipes. I showed up in converse and a t-shirt with un-brushed hair (I had intended to brush it before I left the house but Taran was clinging to my left leg and sobbing hysterically that he was going to miss me and I never got a chance), thinking we were actually going to cook with Molly Wizenberg only to find a lot of ladies in linen drinking gin lemonades in gold-rimmed martini glasses while professionally trained chefs zipped around in bright white chef coats. I suddenly felt nauseous, nervous, and downright shaky and had to down my gin lemonade before I could feel sub-human again. But, as always, I digress. The point being we had this salad (or something very much like it. I haven't looked at her recipe yet so I'm not exactly sure) with tomatoes from the The Seasoned Farmhouse's garden and it was perhaps my favorite part of the whole meal. Or maybe it was the warm, dates sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with maldon sea salt. Or was it the gin lemonade? Anyway, here is my version of the salad and a recipe for the burgers.

I felt somewhat obligated to include photos, but I have to admit, with a crying baby strapped to my hips and a four year old screaming out Frozen's Let It Go on repeat in the background, photos were the last thing on my mind. I took these shots just now, 8 pm, and the sun has already just about set (thank goodness for low-light camera lenses). These are as good as it gets. I refuse to use a flash. Not only that, but it would take a food photographer far better than I too make a turkey burger look like anything else than a brown hockey puck. Which reminds me. Turkey burgers often look overdone on the outside (is it a caramelization thing?) but can still be wonderfully tender inside. I heated the grill on high and did a quick sear on the outside, but then made sure to turn the heat down to medium-low to give the burgers a chance to come to a safe temp on the inside without also tasting like a hockey puck.

To-die-for Turkey burgers: (is that immodest of me?)
1 lb ground turkey (I way prefer thigh meat. more flavorful, juicy, and according to the NY Times, higher in vitamins and minerals)
1 cup chopped lacinato kale (or whatever kale you have on hand)
1/2 cup finely shredded carrots
1/2 small onion
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 eggs
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I like Ian's GF panko crumbs)
sea salt and pepper to taste

Use a food processor to finely chop the kale, parsley and onion and then mix it all together.

Chianti-red onion vinaigrette:
1/2 small red onion minced (use the other 1/2 for the burger)
chianti vinegar (any red wine vinegar is fine)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
I'd love to give you measurements here, but that is just not the way I cook. I kind of could make them up for the burger but I just can't fake it here because I honestly have no idea. I just went by taste. You'll often read that the perfect ratio is 3:1 (oil to vinegar). It's not uncommon that I do something more like 2:1 when I make my standby dressing of lemon and olive oil with dijon and a drop of honey.  Start with 2:1 and taste it. Add more olive oil as needed. I think for Molly's recipe, she said that she let the red onion pickle in the vinegar for 6 hours before finishing her dressing. Who has that kind of time (i.e. forethought.)? Mine sat for about an hour and was still pretty terrific.

Tomato corn salad:
Use a mix of your favorites. Don't worry if some are big slices and some are little round ones. They'll all be delicious in your stomache. If you can't saw some raw fresh corn off the cob, frozen corn is still really sweet and wonderful and you won't be disappointed. But don't bother buying fresh corn in June and hoping it will taste as good. It won't! Don't forget the fresh basil. It's so key.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


When I was a kid, most family vacations were camping trips. Think "cheap, fun, easy to do". Mostly we stayed very local. Growing up in upstate NY, there were many state parks just a stone's throw from our house. Sometimes we'd travel an hour or two away, but usually, it was more like 15 minutes. But the magic of camping is that wherever you go, sleeping out in a tent can feel like a world away. and despite the occasional stone or stick that jabbed me in the side from under the tent, the plethora of mosquitos, the drips from the roof tent when it rained too hard, and in one memorable case the collapsing of the tent during a particularly hard storm, I still found camping absolutely magical.

My favorite part was the after-dinner bedtime read by the fire - my Dad always brought his collection of Sherlock Holmes and Uncle Wiggly (bizarre bedtime combo when I think about it now) and we would snuggle up in our smokie the bear sleeping bags and beg "just one more, just one more". Nostalgia aside, as a parent, I realize that for my parents, it might have been less than idyllic. 5 to a tent for a week and 3 meals a day on a 2 burner Coleman stove, with dishwater hauled from some distant hand pump probably got pretty old, pretty fast. Luckily, I was blissfully ignorant. 

Since T was born, I've thought on a few occasions about attempting a family camping trip. Every time, the idea just gives me shudders. I'm convinced that he would wake up at around 11 pm to pee and, delighted to find us a captive audience (in the worst sense of the word) spend the next 7 hours regaling us with Thomas the Train reenactments or endless questions that would go something like this:

 Taran: How deep is that lake?
Me/Joe: I'm not sure love.
Taran: Do you think it's like a 100 feet?
Me/Joe: Maybe like 10 or 20?
Taran: Or maybe a 100
Me/Joe: Maybe.....
Taran: Or maybe like 30 or 40. Could it be like 30 or 40?
Me/Joe: mmmmmmmm (drifting off to sleep)
Taran: Why is it called a lake?

 And on and on.

 So yeah, camping sounds pretty lousy right now. But that doesn't mean that Taran doesn't still ask us to go. A lot. So the other day, I managed to at least partially appease him by setting up our 2 person tent. In the front yard.

I felt kind of self conscious being right there, especially as we live  in a highly pedestrian-trafficked area. But Taran and Calliope thought it was absolutely the best.

 Taran built the two of them a nest, and dragged out some books and his pink princess microphone - because what is camping without a pink princess microphone.

And harmony reigned for almost ten whole minutes until Taran kept grabbing Cally by the back of her shirt and flinging her down into the nest. They thought this was a fantastic game. But I just kept waiting for her head to miss the pillow stack and go smashing into the hard ground. And as a general rule, I'd like Taran to not be in the habit of flipping his 15-month old sister around like a limp towel. I'm impressed by Cally's puppy-like pleasure in wrestling with Taran, and I'm happy to see them enjoying each others company, but I also get an anxious lump in the back of my throat at this kind of play. It's a very thin line between puppy love and over-aggressive rough-housing on Taran's part and that line is very easily crossed. I'm never sure where to draw the boundary when I know chaos is lurking just around the corner, but they are, in the moment at least, both having an uproariously good time.

 I definitely have this issue at play dates too. I read this article recently, and I see where they are coming from. I am certainly one of those people who only learned boundaries by testing them as a kid. But when I see Taran pinning another child to the ground, releasing them so they can begin to run away - a look of half-amusement, half terror on their face - and then shoving them from behind every few feet before taking a flying leap and tackling them back to the ground.... honestly? I feel positively ill and like an utter failure of a parent. In that moment, he reminds me of my cat on the hunt for a small rodent, taking pleasure in the prolonged kill. Toying with his food before he eats it.

In all fairness, lest you think I've forgotten, he's four, I fully understand that most four year olds are pretty uncivilized rapscallion. But, you know, he's MY uncivilized rapscallion so I'd like to do my best to make sure that playdates at my place don't turn into a terrifying cat-and-mouse game. Luckily for Taran, Calliope just pretty much adores him no matter what. And I guess lucky for her, most of the time he feels the same. It cracks me up when we walk through stores and Taran stops everyone to say, "That's my sister. She's 1. Isn't she cute?!" She sure is!

And just because I'm having fun with my camera lately, I'm throwing in a few extra pictures of other fleeting summer pleasures, watermelon and corn...

Monday, June 23, 2014

What's cooking

Today was a lovely day - 70's, breezy, no plans, and best of all... good food. We took a stroll to the farmer's market this morning and picked up delicious local bacon, garlic scapes, and  a quart of strawberries (our patch seems to have been decimated by some sort of black-spot fungus and ceased production. So sad). While Cally girl slept and Joe took Taran out to practice riding his Thomas the Train bike to the library, I had some quiet time to putter in the kitchen. I picked kale and collards from the garden along with rhubarb, fresh basil and some variety of red leaf lettuce.

For lunch we had Potatoes Anna made with yukon golds and adirondack reds (all crispy on the top with soft, buttery layers of paper-thin potato below), slow-cooked collard greens with sweet onion and bacon, and basil and red leaf lettuce salad with fresh mozzarella, tunisian olive oil, chianti vinegar and sea salt. As Joe, Taran, and I scarfed everything down, I kept thinking, "I should really get up and take some photos", but I was worried that the boys would vacuum up the meal before I had a chance to eat my fill so I stayed put and elbowed them aside as I heaped food into my mouth. Ok, maybe not really elbowed, but it was too good to get up from the table.

Dinner was simple: kale and cheddar quesadillas and matzoh ball soup (yea for gf matzoh ball mix!). But after the kids went down, I whipped up some garlic scape, kale and toasted hazelnut pesto and a strawberry-rhubarb crumble in preparation for a brunch with friends in the morning. I've been alternately messing and cleaning the kitchen all day, but the house smells heavenly.

Once I had removed the last of the debris off the counters and floors, I did something I had been intending to do for weeks: I finally pulled my bike out of the garage and went for a ride along the riverside. In what seemed fitting for our mostly local food day, I listened to Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on my ipod and dreamed of one day having a little farm with a converted barn that houses a mishmash cooking school-monthly supper club-public space for lectures on food/ spirituality/quality of life. Oh yeah, with gardens where guests could help pick fruits and vegetables for the meals and chickens and goats runafoot in the yard. A girl can dream, can't she?

Garlic Scape Pesto
10-12 garlic scapes
~ 3/4 cup chopped black russian kale (you could use other types. I love the tenderness of black russian)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4-1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts (I threw them on a tray in the toaster oven for about minutes at 350 degrees)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper

I start with the dry ingredients first and blend them fairly fine before drizzling in the olive oil. You could probably throw it all in at once and it would work just fas well. I served this over brown rice pasta with some sauteed tri-color bell peppers and summer squashes from the farmer's market (ronde de nice and a beautiful small yellowy-orange squash). Extra Yum

On the child front? These days, the babes are lovin' more than fighting



moving lightly towards independence

For the love of donuts

This past winter, my 3-year old son wanted to do two things he’d never done before: ride a city bus and eat a donut (inspired by a Saveur magazine article). So one blustery winter day we hopped on a bus heading South, down to Buckeye donut. I took him to the counter and his eyes became huge as he scanned the wire bins of maple glazed, sugar n’ cinnamon, chocolate on chocolate. He settled on an old fashioned cake, top-dunked in chocolate and adorned in rainbow sprinkles. I salivated while I watched him make quick work of the tasty golden torus of perfection and lived, for just a moment, vicariously through him. 

A recent post by the Gluten-free Girl informed me that now I can have my cake and eat it too. Thanks  Shauna and Dough Buddies! This led me to do a quick search on the Saveur site where I discovered this. Ok, now I'm really salivating. I think Taran's upcoming birthday cake might have to be a plate of donuts.