This Could Get Expensive

On Wednesday I tasted buffalo mozzarella for the first time. 

I’ve eaten a lot of fresh mozzarella since I discovered it five years ago.  Purchased, homemade, big, small and tiny, hot and cold, on soup and on pizza, every which way.  However, all of this mozzarella was made of cows’ milk.  It’s not that I object to non-bovine dairy products, but on the whole, buffalo mozzarella is more expensive than cows’ milk mozzarella, and I am not so flush that I can ignore the distinction.

On Wednesday, though, I wanted insalata caprese for lunch, and since I would be the only one eating it and I didn’t forsee any other occasions for mozzarella consumption on the horizon, I was reluctant to buy the 12-16 oz of mozzarella that most places sell in one container.  Instead, I blinded myself to price and bought the small container of one ball of buffalo mozzarella. 

At home, I chunked the tomatoes and tossed them in a bowl with Maldon salt and some of the enormous basil that my garden has lately been producing.  I sliced/chopped up the mozzarella, too, idly putting a naked piece of it into my mouth as I slid the rest into the salad bowl. 

Good lord! 

I actually dropped the knife.  I have never tasted anything like that before.  It was . . . it was . . . .  I almost called Teacherman on the phone at work to tell him that I just didn’t think I could handle it.  It was that good. 

And even though I have never had it before, what struck me about the taste was how familiar it was.  Not the familiarity of a long-cherished food, but the familiarity of the brain, where one KNOWS how things OUGHT to taste. 

It was creamy, with the shaggy texture of most mozzarella, but it can’t be compared at all.  I tasted the freshness and character of the cream, but the taste it most reminded me of was, of all things, buttered toast.  And no, it’s not that it tasted of butter, it tasted like nothing I can articulately describe–buttered toast is just the only thing that my overwhelmed brain can come up with.  It tastes like the idea of buttered toast remembered after a long abstention.   It had the deep flavor of something caramelized but the light freshness of of something raw.

Goodness.  Imagine how good it would have been if it had been really fresh; I hear buffalo mozzarella is best the day it’s made.

Published in: on August 31, 2007 at 6:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Quick


It was probably the easiest breakfast I’ve made in a long time. 

On Sunday, Teacherman and I were booked for a familial brunch at 11, away down into the heart of the city.  Since I usually eat breakfast at around 6:30, I knew I couldn’t survive for those 5-ish hours with no sustenance, so I determined to make the myself a snack to hold the hunger pangs in check.  Teacherman, always a sport (and also dubious at the idea of holding off hunger until nearly noon), decided to join me.

I originally got the idea from epicurious, but didn’t look at the proportions of the actual recipe when making it.  Also, as usual, I ignored the fact that it was supposed to be an appetizer and served the entire thing as a meal for two. 

From the counter: three almost over-ripe peaches.  From the fridge: one package of about 6 oz of prosciutto.  The peaches were sliced into a bowl, tossed with cumin and a little sherry vinegar, then sweetened slightly.  They sat in their bowl while we showered.  After that pause for ablutions, I spooned out the slices onto two plates, laid the prosciutto along side, and threw on a handful whole basil leaves from the garden. 

Voila: breakfast.  We wrapped the peaches and basil in the proscuitto, enjoying the sweet-spicy-sour-salty combination of the fruit, cumin/basil, vinegar and cured meat.  I far prefer this to the more typical combination of prosciutto and melon.  As much as I love all the varieties of cantaloupe, even the best ones are so often just sweet, without the background tang that good peaches inherently have.  Yes, the vinegar did help with the tanginess quotient, but if the peaches’s flavor hadn’t been complex to begin with the vinegar wouldn’t have blended with the whole–it would have seem harsh and out of place.

Tra la, tra la: 5 minutes of prep, 20 minutes of eating, a long lazy morning before heading off to see the family.

Published in: on August 29, 2007 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Food and Memories

The other day I was reading a collection of American food writing—a massive tome, actually, comprising examples of such from the entire history of America.  One of the essays mentioned the fact that, apparently, every person who cares about food has had a ‘food epiphany’ at some point in their lives.  Naturally, I started casting about in my memory to see if I had anything of the kind. 

I don’t really think I did—not the way the author meant it, anyway.  There was never a moment at which I thought “I will now CARE about food!  I will now only eat The Best Foodstuffs and PITY those who don’t!”  Well, probably the author didn’t mean it to be quite that harsh, but it did come off that way in writing. 

I have, however, had two tiny moments of what I suppose you might call clarity: moments where I suddenly realized that a certain food was good and that it had flavors that I’d never noticed before.  I don’t know if these count as epiphanies, but they were certainly formative experiences. 

The first one is rather embarrassing.  I was living away from home for the first time, and making all of my own food in my own kitchen in the requisite grad school tiny one-room apartment.  I was mostly subsisting on ramen (as one does) with occasional forays into chicken baked in canned soup and things like that.  I didn’t particularly mind.  The meals were satisfying, in their way, and I used the herbs and spices I had to vary the flavors from night to night.  Also, though, I was reading cooking magazines.  I’d gotten a subscription to Gourmet as a reward for something—good credit, I think—and I’d become fascinated by the pretty pictures.  Most of the recipes were too elaborate for my budget, if not my ambition (I’ve always had a complete inability to grasp that a recipe is too advanced for me—when I decide not to make something it’s usually from laziness, not defeatism) but every month they had one article devoted to a recipe using five ingredients.  Five ingredients, unless the five included saffron and truffles, was something I could handle. 

One month’s recipe in particular caught my eye—Chicken Piccata.  Chicken, lemon juice, capers (what were those?), parsley (and something else, surely, though I don’t remember what).  I could easily obtain all of these ingredients.  When presented with the price of capers, though, I was taken aback.  These days, three dollars for a jar of capers does not cause hyperventilation, but at the time it was so much that I almost sat down in the aisle of the market.  Even in my inexperience, though, it was obvious that capers were the point of Chicken Piccata, so HAD to buy them.  How to justify the price?  Back went the lemons—I had a few drops left in the squeezy bottle at home.  Back went the fresh parsley, and into the basket went a tiny bag from the bulk section, filled with about a tablespoon of dried parsley.  I’m sure that if someone had asked me at the time if I thought bottled lemon juice and dried parsley were as good as fresh, I would have said something like “Probably not, but it doesn’t matter.” 

And it didn’t matter, because the dish turned out beautifully.  It was delicious, and started me on a caper addiction that continues to this day, but what I really noticed about the meal was the parsley.  Yes, really—the dried parsley.  I remember the actual sentence in my head after my first bite: “Parsley has a flavor.”  I wasn’t excited: I was astonished.  After years of dealing with my sister’s and my refusal to eat anything green, I’m sure my mother had given up on fresh herbs altogether (at least on our food), and I don’t think that I’d ever eaten any kind of parsley before.  I’d smelled dried parsley at my friends’ houses, and it had smelled like grass; I’d ignored it thereafter.   This must have been fresh dried parsley, because it smelled astonishingly like the bunch of live parsley I’d almost purchased in the produce section, and it tasted just like it smelled. 

I know that I’m opening myself up to the scorn of thousands by admitting that one of my most formative food memories is based upon dried parsley, an herb widely renown as tasteless dust when dried, but there it is: it’s a true story.

My other formative food moment came earlier in my life.  I was fifteen—not “cool” by any means, but at least mildly aloof.  I was fifteen, and my stomach hurt.  My stomach hurt so badly that I began to scream and cry and call for my parents, who came running from each end of the house, convinced that I had broken a bone or put my hand through a window or something—my tolerance for pain is pretty high, and they knew it couldn’t be something tiny.  But no, no horrible disaster had taken place, my stomach just hurt.  After a few minutes of questioning it became obvious that it wasn’t my appendix or a broken rib or anything that would require a visit to the emergency room, but no one knew what it was.  My mother put me to bed with a heat pad, a cat and some Tylenol.  I sobbed for an hour or two, while my family ate dinner very quietly downstairs, speaking in whispers.  At about 8 pm, the stomachache began to wane, and by 8:30 it was gone, with absolutely no sign that it had ever been there. 

I came downstairs to the kitchen, where my mother was grading papers at the table.  She got up and handed me my leftover dinner, a bowl of rice and black bean picadillo.  I’d never much liked picadillo before, but I can remember the flavors of that particular rendition perfectly—how the tomatoes softened the beans, the juxtaposition of the hot green chiles and the sweet chopped apple, and the way that all of the ingredients melted into each other, and melded with the rice.  I had never noticed the way flavors worked together until that night and I had never been so comforted by familiar flavors.  Because of that moment alone, black bean picadillo has become, for me, the most perfect comfort food ever invented.  Even thirteen years later, if I’m craving comfort, I crave that particular picadillo recipe more than any of the typical comfort foods.  Macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes: none of these can hold a candle to it. 

Herewith, therefore, I will give you an actual, written-out recipe for my mother’s black bean picadillo.  I don’t know where the recipe originally came from (a cooking magazine? the back of a can?), but I’ve never been tempted to try any of the trendier, more modern, and infinitely more authentic versions I’ve encountered since.

Black Bean Picadillo
(serves 4-6)

1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes (these days I use fire-roasted Muir Glen tomatoes)
1 15-oz can black beans
1 lb ground beef (round, not chuck or sirloin)
1 small chopped onion
1 small can of chopped mild green chiles (fresh work, but roast and peel them first)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp orange peel (dried, but fresh would be fine—just use a light hand)
1 tsp cumin
1 finely chopped apple (I’ve always used Rome apples in this even though I prefer incredibly tart apples for everything else—the soft sweetness is important)

Sauté the beef and onion together until the beef is no longer pink.  Add all other ingredients and cook over low heat, uncovered, for half an hour to forty-five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve over rice and melt back into your childhood.

Published in: on August 27, 2007 at 1:48 pm  Comments (3)  

Lush Life

I cannot tell you how many batches of fruit sorbet I have made this summer.  Countless thousands, I’ll wager.  (Betcha didn’t know there were that many weeks in a summer, didja?  Well, now you do).  At least twice a week I blend up fruit or berries, sometimes cooking them first, sometimes not, add herbs, spices, sweeteners, and churn away until I have cups and cups of smooth, luminously colored sorbet.

I’ve added one thing to these sorbets over and over, and its continual presence is rather unexpected.  My favorite sorbet ingredient this summer, specifically in sorbets where the fruit is cooked first, is red wine.  It obviously wouldn’t work with everything, but it worked with strawberries, it worked with raspberries, with blackberries, it worked astonishingly well with nectarines, and just today it worked marvelously with plums. 

I essentially outlined the preparation method above: cook the fruit with the wine, sweetener and, in the case of the plums, a branch of fresh rosemary.  When it was soft, I took it off the heat, let it cool, then blended it up.  Then, a day in the fridge to chill, and churning at dinner time. 

It’s hard to describe quite what the wine adds to the sorbets—it mellows the fruit, somehow, yet makes it taste more like itself.  Sorbets made with wine are not just smooth, but silky in their texture, even after being frozen solid and re-thawed—the texture is almost that of an ice cream.  An ignorant observer could be forgiven entirely for suspecting that one of these wine-enhanced sorbets had oodles of cream in it.  Of course, the wine also adds color—a deeper purple to the plums, a red blush to the nectarines and an intense, almost neon-magentaness to the strawberries and raspberries.

There are only a few more months left in sorbet season—soon the soft fruit will be over and I’ll have to sate myself on apples, pears and quinces.  In the meantime, though, you can find me by the ice cream maker, wine bottle in hand, churning away at whatever deep-flavored, dark-tinted sorbet is of the moment.

Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ooh! OOOOH!

This is very exciting. 

Brace for geekdom, one and all: I just made bacon.  No, no, I didn’t prepare bacon, I MADE bacon.  From scratch. 

Ever since Teacherman gave me a book on curing meats (this one) for Valentine’s Day last year, I’ve wanted to make bacon.  I tried the recipe from that cookbook, and ended up with an inedible, metallic, throat-raspingly salty slab of greyish meat.  It didn’t even look like bacon.  I’m sure that the fault was mine and not the cookbook’s, but I was still afraid to try the recipe again.  (I don’t like wasting anything, even if it’s only $3.99 a pound).

Then, in April, Bon Appetit had a recipe for spaghetti carbonara with home-cured pork belly insteadof purchased bacon or pancetta.  The cured pork belly looked impossibly easy: one just rubs a pork belly with salt and ground coriander (1 tsp of each per pound of meat), then leaves it in a covered container in the fridge for 4 hours to 2 days.  I left it in for two days, hoping for the maximum amount of curing.  I wasn’t worried that it would get too salty, since I use about 1 tsp of kosher salt per pound of meat when I make sausage. 

After two days are up, one is supposed to braise the pork at 275 degrees for 2-2.5 hours, turning it every half an hour.  The recipe calls for braising it in a mixture of chicken broth and white wine, with an onion, carrot and celery stalk along side.  I was guilty of very little forethought concering this process: when it came time to braise the belly, I had no carrot or onion, just celery.  I didn’t want to have a celery-flavored bacon, so I decided to leave out the vegetables.  And my chicken stock is so powerfully chickeny that I was afraid it would overwhelm the pork flavor (bizarre, but true), so I decided to leave the stock out, too.  I upped the quantity of white wine, threw the stipulated bay leaf and whole peppercorns, and braised away.

After two and a half hours of braising the belly was still not very tender, and I was afraid that I had done something Drastically Wrong.  It was nearly 10:00 pm, though, and I was exhausted, so I just dumped the pork and its juices into a tupperware container, shoved it into the back of the fridge and went to bed. 

The recipe calls for leaving the pork belly in the fridge for 1-2 days, but I ended up leaving it there for 2.5, since I wanted to eat it for breakfast, not as part of a carbonara sauce.

When morning came, I recruited Teacherman to slice off the skin and most of the extraneous fat (leaving just a nice 1/4-inch strip on either side of the thick strips of meat), and then slice the slab into the thinnest slices he was able.  Given that his resources were a chef’s knife and a cutting board, the slices were thicker than supermarket bacon, but no thicker than premium thick-cut bacon.  There was a half-inch slab that he wasn’t able to slice anything off of, for fear of slicing his fingers as well, so we just froze it for future use as lardons. 

Half of the remaining strips of proto-bacon went into the fridge and half went into a big frying pan.  We fried them up exactly as one would ordinarily fry bacon, deviating from the Bon Appetit recipe, since their finished product (carbonara) was different than ours (breakfast).  The bacon was crisp, ruddy and, what’s most important, absolutely delicious.  The salt level was perfect, and the coriander gave it an intriguing sweet back note, unexpectedly reminiscent of maple-cured bacon. 

As I said before, this is exciting.  Not only did I make bacon and have it turn out well, but I have all kinds of ideas for making it a second time.  Next time I might substitute smoked paprika for some or all of the coriander.  Or I might throw in some cinnamon.  Or I might put juniper berries in the braising liquid instead of pepprcorns and a bay leaf.  Or I might rig up a smoker in our gas grill and see if I can smoke the belly instead of braising it in the oven. 

I think, though, that first I ought to find someone with a meat slicer.

Published in: on August 19, 2007 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Ha!

I have figured it out.

You may recall my mentioning the blueberries I ate on the honeymoon–tiny, juicy, glossy-black and intensely flavored, they reminded me of raisins more than anything else. In spite of this, I knew they were blueberries. Not only did they look like blueberries (albeit tiny ones), but the sign next to them at the market was very clear: “myrtilles.” According to my high school French class, Chocolate and Zucchini, and any number of random Google searches, Myrtilles=blueberries.

Yesterday morning, while eating breakfast, I perused a reissued 1981 history/cookery book on fruit, each chapter dedicated to a different delectable item. The recipes and chapter headings, though titled in English, are footnoted with French translations (something which might seem odd in a British cookbook, until one calculates the actual mileage between the two borders, and, you know, the dynastic history). There, footnoting the chapter on bilberries (NOT blueberries), was the French translation: “myrtilles.” The main descriptive paragraph then goes on to exactly deliniate the berries that Teacherman and I ate in France, in all their diminuative, shiny, full-flavored glory.

Not blueberries, BILBERRIES!  I ate a new an exciting fruit and I didn’t even know it!  Ah well; they were exciting and delectable even without the knowledge that I was having a unique introductory experience, and I recall the flavor perfectly.  (I really should have known that something was up: we didn’t see blueberries anywhere in else in all of our time in Europe).  Myrtilles can obviously refer to both blueberries and bilberries, but these were definitely the latter.

This morning, though, we ate blueberries.  Actual, real, undeniable blueberries, that were large, dusty-blue, and labeled “blueberries” in English at the farmer’s market.  I dug a frozen cupfull out of one of my enormous freezer bags and blended them up with a 12-oz container of Greek yogurt, a pinch of lavender, a squeeze of lemon and a bare smidge of sweetener.  Into serving glasses it went, and Teacherman and I savored the concoction, not because it was reminiscent of our unexpected bilberries, but because it was lovely in its own right.

Published in: on August 17, 2007 at 7:44 am  Leave a Comment  

In a Pickle

Last night after work Teacherman and I went to a concert performed by Tafelmusik, a group that plays Baroque chamber music, one of my favorite things. The concert was at 8:00, I had to work until 5:30 and the (rush-hour) drive to the north-suburban park venue takes about an hour, so we had to come up with some way to eat a quick dinner in the half an hour between arriving at the park and the beginning of the concert. Enter one of my other favorite things: the picnic.

Teacherman and I go on a lot of picnics. We haven’t gone on as many as usual this year–unless you count our foraged lunches in Europe–but I’m hoping to get in a goodly number before the winter closes in. (Yes, I know it’s August, but the weather has been really weird these past few months). It’s rare, in spite of our love for picnics, that we eat our dinner en plein air: we tend, overwhelmingly, to have picnics at breakfast time, with occasional lunchtime forays. This meal, situated as it was at 7:00 pm, was definitely dinner.

Last week, back when I was planning the menu, I had been struck by a (none-too-original) brain-wave: why not match the food to the concert itself? The music was Baroque, so 18th century food was in order. I immediately consulted my history-of-cookery books (and yes, I do have a plurality of these), but, short of descriptions of huge haunches of meat and myriad custardy desserts, they didn’t yield much information.

In any case, haunch of meat? Check. I would buy some lovely peppered eye of round at the deli and make a horseradish-scallion sauce to go with it. Custardy dessert? Check. I had made a big butterscotch cheesecake for Teacherman’s welcome home dinner, and we’d only eaten a third of it by that point. (Admittedly, the two of us consumed this third at one meal, but this is not an entry about gluttony, so that’s beside the point). Dessert and protein were covered, but what about side dishes and vegetables? Surely 18th century gentlemen and ladies ate more than JUST meat and dairy products? I’m fairly certain that not every citizen of the western world had gout.

Eventually, while working on a different project, I stumbled across a very interesting piece of information: when tomatoes were introduced to Europe after their discovery in the New World, the citizenry were much more accepting of yellow tomatoes than they were of red. Further, they were much more accepting of pickled tomatoes than they were of fresh. Pickled tomatoes? Pickled yellow tomatoes? This sounded like an excellent side dish to roast beef with horseradish sauce.

I’ve made pickled tomatoes before, but always from full-sized, rock-hard green ones. I could have bought full-sized yellow tomatoes, but I when I visited my favorite organic vegetable stall at the farmer’s market Saturday morning, I was seduced by the fairy delicacy of yellow cherry and grape tomatoes. I bought a pint of each and took them home.

I pulled out all of my pickling cookbooks and scanned the recipes for quick pickled tomatoes (quick pickles are more like intensely marinated salads than fermented pickles, but excellent nonetheless). One recipe, for red-but-not-yet-ripe tomatoes included fresh ginger juice as well as huge quantites of ground coriander, with wine vinegar as the sole pickling medium. Ginger and coriander sounded like perfect matches for the flavor of yellow tomatoes, but I may have only thought so because of my visualization of a jar full of golden orbs floating in equally golden juices. That recipe was definitely the one.

I washed all of my glowing sun-drops, then halved them and tumbled them into a bowl. I sprinkled on a prodigious amount of salt, then let the mixture sit all day in the fridge, shaking the bowl occasionally, whenever I walked by. After the hours of salting were up, I rinsed the tomatoes off, drained them well, and funnelled them into a large mason jar, layering the halves with aromatic shakes of coriander. Over the top went several squeezes of ginger juice and white wine vinegar (rather than the red in the original recipe). I capped the jar, shook it a couple of times, and then stashed it in the fridge for the next 48 hours.

On Monday night, we opened the jar at our picnic table and were immediately overtaken by the wafting smell of coriander, backed with a warm and, yes, golden tomato scent. The tomatoes were firm, even after their two-day soak in vinegar (thanks to the earlier hydroscopic salting), and the coriander and ginger had blended perfectly with the vinegar. Tasting the brine, I immediately thought of vinegar-based shrubs–sprightly, refreshing drink syrups meant to be mixed into still or sparkling water. Even though the brine had no sweetener in it, the innate sweetness of the tomatoes and ginger made one long to drink the liquid straight. Wonderfully, that compelling flavor had completely infused the tomatoes themselves, and each bite was a mix of the earthy coriander, zippy ginger, tingling vinegar, and round, warm tomato.

As I suspected, the pickles were a refreshing side dish paired with the deep-flavored beef and horseradish sauce, and a perfect palate cleanser before the richness of the cheesecake. Teacherman and I consumed the entirety of the tomatoes, leaving only the cup of brine left in the bottom of the jar. Though leftover On The Night, the brine has not been discarded. The nearly empty jar now lives in the fridge, awaiting sparkling water and the desire for a tongue-tingling beverage.

Published in: on August 14, 2007 at 8:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Still and Yet

It is still much too hot.  I’m fully aware of the fact that my friends in Texas are sufferring temperatures to which the Midwest cannot dream to aspire (not that it would want to), but I’d still set our humidity up against theirs any day.  (95% humidity?  Couldn’t it just rain?)

As the degree of humidity rises, the degree of my patience lessens.  By this point I don’t want to spend more than 5 minutes making any meal, and no food substance should require the use of heat to render it consumable.  (When it’s 75+ degrees outside in the pitch black dark of night and one has to swim through the air, even morning tea is out of the question).

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been eating a lot of salads.  A big bowl, a few good ingredients, a little light chopping: dinner. 

Tonight was even simpler than usual.  No fruit.  No cheese.  No toasted nuts.  Into the bowl went about 5 ounces of baby spinach (torn into very small pieces), 1 fennel bulb (diced to microscopic size), 6 ounces of crabmeat and a dressing of lime juice, lime zest, champagne vinegar, vegetable oil, salt, white pepper, and a tablespoon of mayonnaise (because I had no desire to try to mess around emulsifying an egg yolk, but I still wanted the non-dairy creaminess of such an amalgamation). 

I tossed it all together, then sat in the coolest room in the house to eat it–mostly with a fork, but eventually with a spoon, when I got down to the bottom of the bowl.  The sweetness of both the crab and the fennel played off of each other–fennel isn’t as sweet as, say, corn, and it’s brightness and crunchiness elevated the richness of the crab.  The spinach was a chewy background for the strong flavors and the whole of the salad was very satisfying. 

I chased the meal with a perfectly ripe peach, so well chilled in the back of the fridge that it gave me brain-freeze.  Now, I should be able to get through the rest of the evening easily if I can just balance this bag of ice on top of my head. . . .

Published in: on August 10, 2007 at 7:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gang Aft Agley

It was not my intention to begin my much-anticipated two day weekend with excruciating allergies and a bum leg, but there I was.  I lurched around the farmers’ market, honking and breathing with difficulty, trying not to step down hard on my right leg, all the while carrying far too many bags of fruit at once.  (So many bags, in fact, that I pulled some of the muscles in my left shoulder).  I got back home at about 11:30, shoved everything into the fridge or freezer and went back to bed with a book.

I don’t think I ate anything that day besides farmer’s market samples, broth and lots of tea. 

Sunday morning I woke up absolutely ravenous, but still with a raw throat and useless nostrils.  When I stepped outside to walk the dog, it hit me: it was already in the 80’s and the humidity was near 90%.  I wanted something cold for breakfast.  I wanted something really cold.  I wanted ice cream.

I did not, however, have any cream.  Nor, truth be told, am I very good at making ice cream without Teacherman around.  Our ice cream machine is a modern frozen-cylinder deal, but it’s a hand-crank, and I don’t often have the stamina to force the dasher around for more than five minutes at a time.

BUT.  These two things were the case, and I was still determined to have ice cream.  I had mountains of frozen fruit.  I had yogurt.  I had a food processor.  There would be ice cream.    (All right, technically it was frozen yogurt, or even a very thick smoothie or something.  Shut up, she explained).

The first bag of frozen fruit I saw when I opened the freezer was filled with black raspberries.  My sluggish brain sparked.  There was a recipe for black raspberry-rose geranium ice cream in Local Flavors, a Deborah Madison cookbook I bought at the library’s last booksale.  I’d remarked on it when I first read the recipe (I love black raspberries.  I have a rose geranium), but then forgot about it amid the joys of less esoteric ice cream flavors. 

On the way back into the house with the dog, I grabbed a few rose geranium leaves.  These were washed, then pulverized in the food processor.  I poured a heaping cup of frozen black raspberries over the geranium leaf powder, then pulverized them, too.  I emptied a small container of Greek yogurt into the processor, added a few tablespoons of simple syrup, and pulsed until it was completely amalgamated.  Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream.

In fact, it really was like ice cream, and not frozen yogurt.  The tang of the yogurt wasn’t obtrusive, it just made the finished product taste fresh and light.  The main flavor was that of the black raspberries, with the rose geraniums as a tiny floral breath in the background, muting the raspberries’ somewhat piney aggressiveness.  It was smooth and frozen and perfect for my ravaged throat. 

Thus fortified, I spent the rest of the day cooking, making various things for my upcoming breakfasts (cherry-plum-almond crisp), and lunches (Spanish-esque meatloaf, roasted cauliflower), even finding enough inspiration to start a raspberry-rose geranium liqueur infusing away next to the nascent cassis.   

My last spurt of industry created my dinner–an arugula salad with blue cheese, peaches and walnuts, with a vinaigrette of white wine vinegar, walnut oil and grainy mustard.  Just as I sat finshed tossing it, though, the tornado sirens started.  I spent the rest of the evening sitting in the (empty) bathtub, eating my salad out of the mixing bowl and reading a silly novel, while the cat and dog cowered on the floor nearby.  This wasn’t how I intended to end my weekend, either, but the salad was certainly very good.

Published in: on August 6, 2007 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Food is Love?

As previously mentioned, Teacherman is out of town, not to return for 8 more days.  I am very sad (tsk, tsk, these new brides and their codependancy), but, as usual, I’m taking the opportunity to eat a lot of shellfish and broccoli, his two allergic triggers. 

What’s unusual, though, is how little pleasure I’m taking in making delicious meals.  I have the ingredients and the recipes and the palate, but I don’t have anyone to make the meals for.

Some, I’m sure, would say that wanting to cook FOR other people rather than for oneself was unhealthily self-effacing, but for me, a great deal of the enjoyment I get from cooking comes from feeding people I care about.  When I have a dinner party, I don’t make fancy comestibles because I’m trying impress my guests, but because I’m actually excited at the idea of giving them really good food, excited about making them happy through the flavors of what they’re eating.

This sounds odd, I know, and I have a number of colleagues who refuse to believe it, unable to grasp that entertaining could be anything but stressful and exhausting.  These same colleagues have a hard time understanding why I would be happy at the prospect of “having” to cook almost every night of the week for even just two people.  To them, even though cooking can sometimes be fun, it is always a form of drudgery, always a form of oppression, no matter how benign. 

I am not opressed.  I do not toil.  Cooking is what I have to give to the people I love, and as much as I enjoy cooking for myself (I’m sure I’ll regain my equanimity after a few days), I miss sharing what I’ve made with my husband. 

Evidence?  At noon today I took a picture of a tomato–the first Brandywine tomato picked from one of the backyard plants–so I could show him how beautiful it was.   The tomato itself was ur-tomato perfection: acidic and spicy and sweet and warm from the sun and smelling of earth.  Thank heavens for the six other tomatoes ripening on the plant; a flavor like this should not be horded for one alone.  The topmost one looks like it might be perfectly ripe eight days from now. . . .

Published in: on August 3, 2007 at 7:21 am  Comments (3)