Sunday, September 30, 2012

autumnal thoughts

There's a hint of chill in the air meaning my food preoccupations turn to heartier food, root vegetables, apples, squash,soups, stews and more. This morning I drove to the Sunday farmer's market held in a bank's parking lot, hoping I'd find tiny japanese turnips, my little jewels,and after visiting several stalls I came upon a farmer with beautiful bunches of these beautiful treasures. Two for me, two for a friend who fell in love with them, eating them for the first time having dinner chez moi. I also purchased lovely pea shoots, heirloom tomatoes and two breads - a fig-anise loaf and a crisp crusted ring of potato bread. On to the apple stand where I was guided to a bourbony, crisp fruit to eat out of hand and some
large, crisp/sweet apples for the apple brownies I'll make tomorrow.

I just made creme fraiche,with heavy cream, buttermil and fresh lemon juice. I'll utilize it tomorrow, when I'll prepare chicken  paprikash for dinner. I like it over egg noodles and, to start, a refreshing orange,grapefruit and fennel salad. Tonight is simple, a spaghetti and scallop mix with a light tomato sauce and some of the gorgeous basil that seems to be flourishing at this late date.

Perhaps because her birthday would be tomorrow I'm thinking about my mother often. She was a gifted cook and it was her way of giving. She wasn't particularly demonstrative but showed love to family and friends through her terrific meals, for which she was celebrated but received little praise from my father, who expected and took for granted sitting down to a fine dinner every night. She was a master at cake baking though pies eluded her - she was convinced that she  could not make a good crust. Her brisket was without peer and among the many other dishes I remember were perfectly prepared whitefish, abundant in Chicago, where I grew up.  We all ate meat in those  days,and oxtail stew, gelatinous and bursting with flavor, was frequently on the menu as well as world-class sweetbreads,various stews and standing rib roast. My parents entertained frequently, and we kids would sit on the stairs, waiting to attack leftovers, convinced that shrimp impaled on frilled toothpick's and speared int upside down grapefruit halves was the height of sophistication..
For our birthdays Ma would make each kid's favorite cake. When I was very little it was white cake with strawberry frosting and little men made of marshmallows and later my treat of choice was yellow cake with caramel frosting - I  loved licking the bowl of  caramel  icing clean  after the cake was frosted. Food figured prominantly  in  our home and there was always an abundance. Small wonder my friends loved coming over.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

dinner with a son

The other night son number two came for a chicken dinner. For dessert I made deeply chocolate, espresso infused brownies  which, the minute  they emerged from the oven I poured homemade caramel sauce over, finishing with a sprinkling of flaky maldon sea salt. I'm an anomaly in the family as I'm not a chocolate lover, but they went over  very well indeed. And after eating we talked for a long while, perhaps more openly than in many years and I shared aspects of my family life growing up that I'd not spoken about up to that point. It was an evening of  comfort food and just "comfort."

Today I made up two casseroled of macaroni, one for Tony,the above-mentioned son and one for me. I enveloped the pasta in a cream sauce, rich with extra-sharp cheddar and some minced chipotle pepper, the dish topped with garlicy, browned in oil bread crumbs. I look forward to dinner tonight: the macaroni, flounder sauteed, with capers, lemon and parsley and some broccoli. To start, a small salad of roasted beets and mixed greens. Tomorrow night's dinner will begin with a light, flavorful butternut squash soup that includes cider and a bit of lowfat sour cream. I'll dice up  some honeycrisp apple  to top the soup - a pretty, crunchy touch. Tony will take home a jar of this along with the pasta casserole.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

food shopping in the autumn mode

I started out early today - a good workout,then a visit to the country cemetery where my husband,love of my life is buried on this anniversary of his passing. I brought an enormous pot of bronze mums and told him this, my favorite season, brings memories of wonderful shared repasts. Then, on to the farmers market, where I purchased two home-grown heads of broccoli, a few slender parsnips and two boxes of baby turnips. tiny jewels that give me little frissons of anticipation. Next, the poultry counter for a fat roasting chicken. Last, the fishmonger for two thick fillets of  haddock, glistening on their bed of ice. Tomorrow, I'll coat the chicken with good mustard, fill the cavity with half a lemon, some onion and lemon thyme from the garden. I'll set the bird  on a bed of  slightly dried sourdough bread to be saturated with the drippings and become a toasty, crisp brown. I'll roast the parsnips and turnips as an accompniment and start the meal with a salad of bitter greens, pear and gorgonzola. As Ina Garten would say, "how good is that?"

Thursday, September 20, 2012

an intimation of autumn dinner

There's a bit of chill in the air and I'm feeling autumnal, so for my dinner tonight I roasted some butternut squash until it was satisfyingly caramelized, combined it with a saute of just-harvested chard,garlic and a hit of hot pepper flakes. I added some cannelini beans, combined it with penne rigate, set out a chunk of parmesan and enjoyed!! I have a shelf in the kitchen to hold some cookbooks that I"m currently using frequently - I returned some others to the shelves that house the majority of my sizable collection. Among those I'm perusing now is Melissa Clark's "In The Kitchen With A Good Appetite" and this weekend I"ll make her roast chicken coated with mustard and  roasted atop some sourdought bread cubes./ And a nice mix of  root vegetables, roasted. That and a green salad and perhaps  a lovely glass of wine will be something soothing to my soul..

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Fiesta

Sunday,September 9,2012

Last night my niece, Sam, and I made a “Mexican Fiesta” dinner for my daughter, Rachel, to celebrate her birthday. Sam was the decorator – lots of candles, color, lanterns, and an extravagance of flowers in yellow, salmon, pink, fuchsia and cream, bought for a song at our local Produce Junction. The table was set with a striped cloth in yellow, blue, red and green with bright yellow napkins and a pitcher filled with a fat bunch of sunflowers, the stems cut short. We started with icy margaritas to accompany guacamole, crudités and a spicy roasted peanut and pumpkin seed mix I roasted till the nuts were glazed with the chili powder. On to dinner. Chicken Mole, Enchiladas Suisse, filled with roasted vegetables, sitting on and coated with a sauce of roasted tomatillos, garlic, onions, chiles and spices, enriched with cream – luscious. The rolled up enchiladas were then topped with grated  Monterey Jack cheese and baked. Also on the serving counter seared corn and green chiles lavished with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro - and yellow rice. The birthday cake was a seven-layer chocolate  concoction filled and topped with a rich bittersweet  chocolate ganache, finished with a sprinklong of chocolate curls. It was an evening of love, laughter and celebration with family.