Friday, July 31, 2009
Sad, because I have not been here enough, to this sweet space I made where we can share things - recipes, stories, fears, inspiration. Life. It's hard to explain, but I really do feel like this site is an actual place that I go to, visiting in that beautiful hour before work, or as the day comes down. I hope I've told you how much I like it here, at this table where we nibble on something delicious while we take stock of all the things that happen to us. And I'm sad that in the last six weeks I've only been able to poke my head in, wave pathetically, before shuffling off again to less desirable places. I've beaten myself up, a little, for not being able to control things enough, manage my days and weeks better so that I can get here more often. But mostly, I've been sad. Because I miss it here.
Happy, though, too, because I'm making my way back. There has been a world of good and bad on my end, and I've been taking notes, lists of the things I want to tell you. Maybe I needed a little time, a little perspective, an afternoon on my porch with an iced coffee so that everything could come into focus again. But here I am, feeling it all, ready to return.
Somehow, impossibly, it is already the end of July. These grown-up summers go too quickly, and I've been looking frantically for the Emergency Stop button. I'll not let this season pass by without me, and after one more week of work, I'll be squeezing all of summer into the month of August: swimming in the Pacific Ocean, floating on the lakes of New England, reading in the shade of a tree, and tasting all the flavors I've missed out on recently. I'll be making up for lost time, and enjoying every second of it.
So what I'm trying to say is, thank you for joining me here, and for saving my seat at the table. And to show you how grateful I am, I'd love to share two of my favorite sites with you, beautiful writers who have inspired me, and whom I believe will inspire you. I am constantly amazed at the talented writers I have discovered at the most modest of blogs, and I'm making these recommendations as solemnly as I would recommend a favorite book.
The first is Simmer Till Done, which deserves much exploration. There are sketches, tales, recipes, a little heartbreak, and a lot of laughs to be found here.
The other is Tea and Cookies, a blog that opens up to you like your favorite dog-eared novel. Poignant, honest, and leaves your heart ringing with truths you've never put words to.
And now, if you don't mind, I'll return to my coffee before the ice melts, before the sun goes down, before this golden summer is over.
Enjoy the reads, I know you will.
(*Also, I wrote a guest post this week for Marilyn of Simmer Till Done, which you can find here.)
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I've lost all will to go on.
The thick, heavy heat feels like gravity has changed and I'm fighting the air just to move through it.
My plants have mostly died. I pretend it's a drought-conscious decision. Really, the sun is just out to prove what a negligent, lazy gardener I am.
I don't go anywhere, because I can't make the effort. I'd go to the beach, or to the movies, but I can't withstand the 15 minutes of hell it would take for my car to cool down. It's all I can do to lounge in my air conditioned house, sipping on ice water, wishing I had a pool.
Really, it's that bad.
Remember, in The Great Gatsby, how a heat wave drives the characters to their moment of crisis, with everyone fighting, and Daisy and Gatsby driving like maniacs through the Valley of Ashes, eventually running over poor Myrtle? I understand that scene, now. The heat can make you crazy.
It doesn't have to be this way, though. I've found a solution: Homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.
I wanted to make a recipe using real mint instead of peppermint extract, and I found the perfect one at Simply Recipes. It's minty and light and transports you from the Valley of Ashes to a cool, refreshing, (imaginary) place.
See? Even my tone is suddenly breezier. My very syntax has cooled off, thanks to this ice cream.
I still totally wish I had a pool, though.
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
From Simply Recipes
*I usually take a lot of liberties with a recipe when I adapt it. In this case, however, I stayed true to the recipe, and am leaving most of Elise's recipe as written.
3 cups of fresh mint leaves (not stems), rinsed, drained, packed
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream (divided, 1 cup and 1 cup)
2/3 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
6 ounces semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate, chopped fine, keep in the freezer until used
Put the mint leaves in a heavy saucepan with the 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of the cream. Heat until just steaming (do not let boil), remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Reheat the mixture until steaming, remove from heat and let stand for 15 more minutes.
While the mint is infusing in step 1, prepare the remaining cream over an ice bath. Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a medium size metal bowl, set in ice water (with lots of ice) over a larger bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowls. Set aside.
Strain the milk cream mixture into a different bowl, pressing against the mint leaves with a rubber spatula in the sieve to get the most liquid out of them. Return the milk cream mixture to the saucepan. Add sugar and salt to the mixture. Heat until just steaming again, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.
Whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Slowly pour the heated milk cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks are tempered by the warm mixture, but not cooked by it. Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Return the saucepan to the stove, stirring the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon so that you can run your finger across the coating and have the coating not run. This can take about 10 minutes.
Pour the custard through the strainer (from step 2) and stir into the cold cream to stop the cooking.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (at least a couple of hours) or stir the mixture in the bowl placed over the ice bath until thoroughly chilled (20 minutes or so). Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Once the ice cream has been made in the ice cream maker it should be pretty soft. Gently fold in the finely chopped chocolate. Put in an airtight container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.
Note that there is no alcohol in this recipe. A few teaspoons of some spirits such as rum or bourbon will help keep the ice cream soft over several days. Even the alcohol in vanilla extract will help. If you have no added alcohol in a homemade ice cream recipe, we recommend that you eat it up quickly, in a day or two; beyond that point the ice cream will quickly get very very hard.Makes 1 quart.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Hello! It's been a little while, hasn't it? I've missed you.
I've also missed my kitchen.
This is my favorite season for food, after all, the time when I'm most inspired to cook. The last two weeks, I have dreamed actual dreams of cherry crumbles and gooey cobblers, waking up with the biggest smile on my face and craving vanilla ice cream. I've spent hours contemplating cool corn chowders and chewy grilled pizzas, crispy spicy shrimp and tangy mango slaws. I've had ideas clicking away in my head, flipped through food magazines, and even made shopping lists, full of promise for the most succulent summer dishes.
I have cooked nothing.
And you might think I'm exaggerating. But I mean it. Not a single thing.
I've had glorious bowls of crunchy cereal, and the simplest pasta with only butter, Parmigiano Reggiano, salt and pepper. I've had cheese sandwiches on nutty whole grain bread with mayo and fat slices of summer tomato, and I've done wonders with Greek yogurt, honey and fruit.
But cooking? Uh-uh. Nothing.
And oh, how I miss it. I've even been a little depressed, like when a best friend moves across country, and you find yourself with a hole in your heart. I actually cried a little this morning, I missed my life in the kitchen so. Pathetic and embarrassing, but 100% true. I shed a bona fide, cobbler-deprived tear.
These weeks just happen to us sometimes. I'm sure you've had your weeks of PB&Js, BLTs, quesadillas on the go, scrambled eggs two nights in a row. It's life, right? And there's a lesson in it: sometimes when we're forced to slow down and simplify, we get rewarded with the glorious reminder of how good Simple can taste. Cereal for dinner is seriously kind of amazing. Have you done it recently? And I made a cheese and tomato sandwich this week that was so delicious, I had to duplicate it and devour another one immediately.
So, in celebration of my non-cooking weeks, I'm offering you something simple: Watermelon and Lime Agua Fresca, which takes five minutes to make and tastes like summer on ice. It's cool and clean, not too sweet, with that lime giving it some kick. It's truly wonderful... and would be lovely with a shot of vodka, if you're so inclined.
I'm hoping to get back in the kitchen soon. I am blissfully aware now of how fond I've grown of cooking up dishes and sharing them with you. What we have here is special, and I can't wait to devote more time to it. I've also been reminded of just how much of my heart is in the kitchen.
And man, when I get back in there, the cobbler is going to taste all the more amazing.
Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca
Adapted from Los Angeles Times
1 medium seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into medium pieces (about 6 pounds)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
In a blender, purée the watermelon with 4 cups of water and the agave nectar, in batches.
Strain through a coarse strainer or mesh sieve, discarding any solids. Stir in the lime juice and a generous pinch of sea salt.
Adjust the seasoning and consistency to taste: agave nectar for sweetness, lime juice for tartness, sea salt to enhance flavor, and water to thin (I loved it with extra lime). Serve over ice. Garnish each glass with a slice of lime, if desired. This will keep for 2 days, refrigerated.