Thursday, October 18, 2012

shoppin at the mideastern store

I took a trip across town to the middle eastern grocery, hoping their new crop of walnuts had arrived - they had and there is no comparison to prepackaged nuts at the average grocery. These are divinely fresh, and when I return from Italy I'll put them to immediate use. I also purchased a lovely, full-bodied olive oil and, from the poultry case, glistening in their ice bath, precious little poussins beckoned - irresistible. The next evening son number two came for dinner and I served the tiny chickens. I roughly cut some parsnips, carrots, shallots and apples, a perfect bed for the birds. I basted them with a combination of hard cider and dry white wine and when they were bronzed and ready to serve I accompanied them with roasted acorn squash sections. We began with a simple salad of baby greens ( there's a thread of infanticide in this blog)  tossed with chevre and dried cranberries. It was a most pleasant evening, I enjoy our conversations.

The leaves are  changing,lots of copper, yellow and orange and all that's left in the vegetable garden is swiss chard - lots of it. I diced some stems rather finely and sauteed them at gentle heat  in olive oil - tasty.

No more cooking for the next ten days, but lots of good eating in Bologna,  Parma, Modena and, briefly, Milan. Arrivederci.

Monday, October 8, 2012

cool weather cooking

Monday, October 8

Overcast and chilly - I'll postpone garden cleanup for a less gloomy and more sunny day. The chard is enormous and I'd better harvest it before it's taller than I.  A friend is coming for dinner tomorrow evening, and  ale-braised chicken with its hit of chili powder and red pepper sounds perfect for a cool fall evening. I'll serve some of the aforementioned chard with it and soft polenta. A green salad to start and glazed pumpkin cookies for dessert. The herb garden will probably get hit by a night frost by the time I return from Italy so it behooves me to get out there and harvest some lemon verbena for drying, as well as mint, sage and lovage. I'll puree the sorrel that's done so well this year and freeze it. It was truly  a banner year for the herb garden. Today I'll practice for tomorrow's voice lesson, then bake some butterscotch cookies to have on hand. And practice some key phrases of Italian for my upcoming trip.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

a rainy day's memories

thursday, october 4

Autumn , "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" . John Keats. I've always loved those introductory words. It's been more than  misty these past few days, with occasional fierce downpours and slow, steady soft rain. It's brought a bit of melancholy, transitory, and some indoor efforts including baking cookies for Halloween when the kids in the neighborhood implore their parents to bring them here first for "homemade stuff". I'm  making them now and freezing them as I don't return from Italy until the night before trick or treat takes place. I also prepared dinner to bring over to my son who is under the weather with pneumonia. His favorite part of the meal was the salad, a mix of pea shoots, radicchio,blue cheese and pear slices  The pears brought memories of my husband, Dean who planted an orchard at our country inn, researching it in his scientific way, deciding an espaliered approach was best and discussing it all in detail with orchardists.He built supports and wired the apples, pears, apricots and plums to them, planting those bloomed first up front and the last to bear fruit at the rear. We went out to the gardens every night after dinner and one evening as we approached the apples I noticed that the trees reputed to bear fruit in October were laden with apples, in August.  When I pointed this out to Dean he  was horrified - science  had failed him. The more crestfallen he became the more I became gripped by hysterical laughter. He'd done all the research, he couldn't believe this. I fell  on the ground, unable to stop laughing,  He was not amused.
As if this blow to scientific research was not sufficiently astonishing and disappointing to my beloved, there was more to come. After a long and busy day and a full house of guests I sat out on the patio after dinner and glanced at the stuccoed wall where Dean had espaliered in a most artful fashion non-bearing pear trees - the owners of the orchard from whom he  bought them assured him that though there would never be fruit, the trees would be marvelously decorative - and they were. After a second glance I walked over to the wall and oh my god  there were more than  fifty large and perfect green pears. I called out to Dean and pointed this out to him. Incroyable - he had to sit down. I did a better job of concealing my  amusement and promised him all sorms of dishes from this totally unexpected lagniappe and that perhaps soothed his soul - a bit! I made good on my promise - pear sauce, pear muffins,  pear cake, pears  baked and napped with a custard sauce. And some guests left with little bags of our unexpected bounty.
Tomorrow evening my great pals Jim and Jane are coming to dinner.We'll start with drinks and a little autumnal plate of deglat noor dates, a chunk of good parmesan and some roasted almonds. At table a simple salad and a whole fluke resting on a layer of potatoes with lots of lemon slices and some rosemary. I' make a light lemon vinaigrette to sprinkle on the fish. With this, snow peas and tiny turnips, caramelized in the oven. For dessert, apple charlotte, a perfect fall dessert. I love being with these two, lots of  easy conversation and laughs.
ah,  there's a bit of sun peeking from behind the clouds - may in hang around for a while.

Monday, October 1, 2012

a happy meeting

I had an injection today, administered painlessly by a warm and charming nurse, Jeannie. After, we talked for a  long while, she was a kindred soul, who spoke of her happy childhood with a dairy-farmer father and hardworking mother, loving parents who instilled in their kids a strong work ethic. The talk turned,  as  it often does, to food. Everything was homemade and most of it came  from their farm, and sitting down togethr each night for dinner was a given - they always waited for their dad to come in from the field, no matter what time that might be. She spoke of her grandma's root cellar, filled with the pickles and applesauce and other foods her grandmother put up, and the baskets of potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables that sat on the cellar floor. Today, Jeannie cooks very much in that style, with a husband who enjoys food enormously. Our conversation was an unexpected treat and one that I'll remember. I'll think of her tomorrow when I bake apple bars and, if I have time, a batch of applesauce.