Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Something Pretty

I thought I'd share something pretty.


Poppies. Lots and lots of poppies.





Fields as far as the eye can see, a swelling sea of orange.

And way off in the middle of it were some tables, just begging for a picnic.




If it weren't illegal, I would have run through these fields, barefoot.

Instead, Bailey and I parked ourselves on a path, and just enjoyed the view.



Well, I enjoyed the view, anyway. She had no idea she was there. Which is the same thing that happened when I took her to the beach.



Right now she's kind of like the traveling gnome in those pictures from all over the world. But next year she'll be able to enjoy it more... and maybe even join us at one of those tables for a picnic.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Making My Way Back

Bit by bit, I'm tip-toeing back into the kitchen.

Soft scrambled eggs when the morning is quiet, some grilled asparagus with lemon and parmigiano reggiano on a Sunday evening. A perfect steamed artichoke for lunch, and a slow pot of soup made from leftover veggies in the fridge.

These are not grand culinary accomplishments, by any means. But they are significant nonetheless. It's a sign. I'm making my way back.

I'm just surfacing from a six-week long immersion in this brand new world, and it's a little like waking from a long sleep -- a little stiff and bleary-eyed.

There have been days full of small miracles, and some long sleepless nights. Most of the time I feel completely natural and serene in motherhood, but here and there I second guess my decisions, and feel as though I'm stumbling around the nursery hopelessly. Every single day is new and huge and filled with epic explorations and discoveries. It's the best feeling I've ever felt, but it doesn't mean it's not a little unnerving every once in a while.

Which is why the small moments in the kitchen are so important. With all this newness, I crave the familiar feel of the wooden spoon in my hand, the sound of onions sizzling in olive oil, the predictable rhythm of my knife. I know these motions, these sights, these smells. I don't have to think too much, or try too hard. It's second nature. It's the old part of me, coming out to meet the new part of me.

Last week, as spring knocked us over the head in Southern California, I witnessed promises being made in my backyard.




There are infant pomegranates, probably born the same week as Bailey.




And grapes even smaller than her little toes.



There are more lemons than I know what to do with, growing in heavy clusters that beg to be turned into lemonade.


There are mango blossoms reaching to the sky.


The rosemary I planted and quickly forgot about has grown tall enough to get my attention.


And all of these promised me that I will be back to what I love, soon. I don't have anything to share with you yet, but I'm certain I will in the coming weeks. The recipes might be simpler, but fancy food was never what this was about, anyway.

And as for Bailey... she's started smiling now. There's an awful lot to smile about in this house.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bailey Louisa

It's a girl.




If I had words, I'd put them here. Every time I try, I start crying and my heart feels like it's going to burst through my chest. Because there are no words to describe this. But there are pictures.

Lots and lots of pictures.



I have a beautiful, healthy daughter. And I have more love than I possibly know what to do with.

And soon, I will have words, and maybe even simple recipes to share with you here.

Until then, I will be singing lullabies and staring at this breathing little miracle. And trying to find the words...



...and probably changing diapers.





(Welcome to the world, my Little Woman.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Adapting

Goodness, it's been a long time and many inches of belly since I've written here.

A lot has happened in the last couple of months. But then again, not much at all. I was swallowed up by work, which I gleefully allowed to happen, because I love my job and will miss it in the months or years to come. So I submerged myself in my career while I still had the chance.

I've also been eating quite a bit, (eating, and yet not cooking) which has taken up a shocking amount of my time and brain power. I fantasize about Pho, which I order several times a week, along with more Mexican food than you can possibly imagine, interrupted every once in a while by stretches of shrimp tempura rolls. Work, eat, work, eat, work, eat. I even invented a new kind of brownie-like candy in a dream the other night, which I called "Flutties," and which I'm hoping someone will actually invent and send to me as soon as possible.

And yet, regretfully, very little has actually come out of my kitchen in the last two months.

Today I started my maternity leave, which is a little strange, a little quiet, and more than a little scary. I'm standing on a precipice of a great unknown, wearing XL sweats, clutching a cup of decaf coffee. I'm excited. I'm terrified. I'm enormous and uncomfortable and can't find my ankles, and am full of so much love I hardly know what to do.

These are certainly strange times.

I am sorry I've been away as long as I have. It was never my intention to take a break. But this was a place for me to talk about the things happening in our kitchen, and there's not much to say about take out and nightly bowls of cereal, so I decided to stay quiet instead of accidentally turning this into a pregnancy blog.

I'll admit I'm a little nervous about the months ahead of me - how and when I'll find my way back to the kitchen. Suddenly, cooking seems like a luxury, and I never want it to be that. I love the dailiness of the kitchen, the comfort of it, the rare combination of habit and adventure. But I'm trying my best not to worry about the future, to just see where this adventure takes me and keep myself open to all the new things that are coming my way. I know that when something really matters to you, there's always a way to make room for it in your life. So once I've learned how to feed and dress and care for an infant, I feel pretty confident I'll make my way back into the kitchen, one way or another.

And now, as I sit here, my arms barely able to reach the keys from around my belly, it feels good just to talk to you again. So, thank you for being patient.

And because you've been so patient, I have a gift for you.

Something easy, something slow, something to nibble on during a quiet morning over tea or coffee, savoring each solitary moment.

Something called Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti.



I made these with my mom a while ago, and just never got around to writing it up for you. Selfish of me, really, because these were so easy and so satisfying, they must be shared.

I adapted them from a recipe in Bon Appetit, which called for white chocolate, which I did not have on hand and did not have the energy to procure, so I used dark chocolate instead. Feel free to adapt it to your own pantry. You can use almonds if you don't have pistachios, can swap out the cranberries for dried cherries, and you can skip the chocolate dipping entirely (although, I would never recommend such a thing).

These are easy to adapt, easy to make, and easy to enjoy with your feet up.

And as for the "feet up" part. I am dreadful at that. The truth is, I ate these biscotti at my desk, at work, while I happily did 1,001 other things.




As I waddle around this city, strangers give me unabashed looks of disapproval and order me to go home and put my feet up. I'm not very good at that, but I'm working on it. Perhaps a few of these biscotti will lure me into a (temporary) life of leisure.

Or, I could get up and launder all those adorable booties for the adorable feet that kick my ribs in a not-so-adorable way every night. And organize onesies by size. And stack diapers next to the changing table.

It's not easy to adapt. But I'm doing my best. Maybe tomorrow, I'll try putting my feet up. Or maybe I'll find something tempting me in the kitchen, and will find myself at the stove. Which is a pretty good place to be, if you're going to be on your feet.


Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Adapted from Bon Appetit

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon whole aniseed
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries or dried cherries
3/4 cup shelled natural unsalted pistachios or roasted unsalted almonds
6 ounces imported white chocolate or dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift first 3 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl to blend well. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lemon peel, vanilla, and aniseed. Beat in flour mixture just until blended. Stir in cranberries and pistachios (dough will be sticky). Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Gather dough together; divide in half. Roll each half into 15-inch-long log (about 1 1/4 inches wide). Carefully transfer logs to 1 prepared baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart.

Bake logs until almost firm to touch but still pale, about 28 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet 10 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Carefully transfer logs still on parchment to cutting board. Using serrated knife and gentle sawing motion, cut logs crosswise into generous 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place slices, 1 cut side down, on remaining 2 prepared sheets. Bake until firm and pale golden, about 9 minutes per side. Transfer cookies to racks and cool.

Line another baking sheet with waxed paper. Stir white chocolate in top of double boiler over barely simmering water just until smooth. Remove from over water. Dip 1 end of each cookie into melted chocolate, tilting pan if necessary; shake off excess chocolate. Place cookies on prepared sheet. Chill until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature.)