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.

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