Number 100

  • More parents...and rain

    This weekend closed a busy week for me. Beginning with Matt’s parents, who were here last Friday for the races (Saratoga), and then ending today with my parents leaving after being up here for the weekend, it was parent- and action-packed. In the middle of the week, Matt and I went to Boston for “work”---I had to attend an olive oil tasting dinner at the Boston InterContinental Hotel. Since we stayed (gratis) in an enormous suite that was bigger than my first apartment, and were wined and dined, it wasn’t too tough of a trip. I also learned a bit about tea through Cynthia Gold (no relation) who is the tea sommelier at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. She mixed us up some amazing tea cocktails, beginning with a tea-infused white port, moving into tea-tinis and other delightful mixed drinks, iced tea, and finally a cup of 15-year old pu-erh. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of Formaggio Kitchen the next day. They have a couple of “caves” or climate-controlled cool, damp rooms where they age huge wheels of cheese from all over the world. We wound up getting way too much cheese, as I was giddy with the selection and felt like I must stock up until the next time we come to Boston. Three pounds of cheese, salami, and olives later, we were headed back to sleepy Pownal. It was really inspiring to see how passionate and knowledgeable people can be about their work, and how excited to educate others about what they love. Anyway, it’s back to the real world for now. I’m swimming in work, but hopefully there’s another break for me soon.

  • Rain and more rain

    I definitely intended to post sometime this week. However, this is how it shaped up:

    Sunday – a trip to the Hathaway's drive-in to watch Dark Knight

    Matt wanted to get a good spot, so we got there early; in fact, we were the third car there, which is unheard for us. It rained and there was no where close to a full crowd. Good movie, though—worth seeing.

    Monday – It rained. Didn’t feel like doing much of anything when I got home from work.

    Tuesday – It rained. I picked more red currants anyway, and spent the evening doing Jam Session #2. Made only four jars of red currant and three of blueberry.

    Wednesday – It rained. Made cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday. Spent an hour tasting rice crackers for work.

    Thursday – Tried to clean up for Matt’s parents, who we were meeting on Friday in Saratoga.

    Friday, Saturday, Sunday – Visited with Matt’s parents and aunt. Fri. was in Saratoga at the racetrack, Sat. in Manchester shopping, and Sun. was lunch at our place. It rained again—torrentially, with accompanying thunder and lightning. In between, I spent some time gardening (time to pull the garlic and replant lettuce) and time reading Gourmet and thinking about food, which I do regularly anyway.

     

    This weekend it is my parent’s turn to hang out with us and do appropriate Vermont things, like buy maple syrup. 

    By the way, if you've been dying to check out my website, it's finally back up and running--and I promise to update soon!

  • Jelly Belly

    So, I tried to redeem myself in the canning department this weekend. My first effort consisted of collecting wild Concord grapes from along the dirt roads where we live. Matt and I walked around with a shopping bag and scissors, which we hid from any passing cars, and we picked 2 bags full. I didn’t want to bother with taking all the tiny seeds out, so I decided to pull off most of the stems, but to boil them down whole and strain it afterward. I also decided, being the mad scientist chef that I am, that I knew enough to change up the recipe a bit to be less sweet by cutting down on the sugar considerably. Oh, I also didn’t have canning jars, just a few clean but recycled jars from friends. The story ended with lots of sticky purple liquid all over the counters, sink, and big saucepots, and two jars of grape syrup. Yes, that’s right, pectin doesn’t work as well without the right amount of sugar. This time, I had help in the form of a coworker who is also very interested in food, a book, Internet recipes, real canning jars (sanitized in the dishwasher), 6 pounds of red currants, and real world advice from my Mom. We were set up for success this time. The red currant jelly set beautifully and was like a glistening red stained glass window. We also did a blueberry jam, with some alterations to the recipe. This didn’t work as well since we cut down the amount of sugar (we thought the red currant was a bit too sweet) and skimped on the amount of pectin. I also think we should have briefly cooked the mixture after the liquid pectin, even though the recipe didn’t say to. If there are any canning experts out there, let me know where we went wrong. The blueberry jam tasted great, even if it wasn’t as firm as it could’ve been. And it was a highly satisfying project, with our 12 little jars all decorated and lined up on the counter at the end of the day.<a

  • A hot sleepy kitty

  • First gelato of the season

    There may be an absence of pictures in the next few days---I’m waiting for Windows to arrive so I can download PhotoShop onto my new computer. Yes, that’s right….I’ve been typing all these fabulous entries on my MacBook that was an early birthday present to myself. It’s so cute, all white with rounded corners, and sweet little icons—as my brother says, “I just want to give it a hug before I go to bed.” It really is that cute.

    We’ve been enjoying the warm summer weather. I broke out the ice cream maker for the first run of the season last weekend. I’ve been dreaming of ice cream sandwiches with all kinds of combinations between cookies and cream. My first 2008 gelato was fresh basil. I could tell Matt had some trepidation about my choice. I could see him thinking, but there’s so many normal flavors out there, why’d you have to start with basil. It took him a couple of spoonfuls until he was convinced. My ultimate sundae with this flavor would be olive oil tortas from Spain (crisp sugary cookies with just a hint of anise) and a thick balsamic reduction. A dessert Caprese….Last night I made chocolate lavender gelato, which was good. Of course, Matt thought it was too floral at first, but was again converted with a second helping. I have a pretty decent herb garden, so the flavor possibilities are endless…..although maybe I will just do a plain ol’ vanilla bean and of course, homemade hot fudge.

    Matt and I were invited over to our friends’ place last night for margaritas and nachos. She apologized by saying, “I don’t feel like making dinner.” To me, it was better than dinner. I’m a big fan of having people for non-dinner courses, like dessert and drinks, or football and snacks, or movies and popcorn. It was a beautiful night with a nearly full moon and rustic country garden. We were sitting in an old chicken coop that was converted into a three-sided lean-to, with a tiny bubbling fountain right beyond the concrete floor, and your choice of views; mountains and the field, the garden, and the yard back towards the house. Before the nachos, we picked red currants, bags and bags of them. Apparently, they fruit every year and go to waste, so I couldn’t let that happen. That’s going to be my Saturday project, making red currant jam.

    I wish summer went on for six months instead of three.

  • Finally summer

    Yesterday was a steamy summer Saturday, a lazy-feeling day that makes you want to brew up a giant pot of iced tea and sip languidly in the hammock. On those sort of days, I envision the big front porches that lots of houses in New Orleans have, white with wicker furniture, huge ceiling fans, and cool pots of greenery. People don’t have those sort of porches in New England for a good reason---it’s only that hot one or two days a year. Matt did spend some time in the hammock, trying to coax Kidalou up with him. He’ll sit with you if you get in first and he can sit on your chest, but on his own, he hooks into the ropes with sharp talons since he can see the ground beneath. I guess it must be very confusing for a cat.

    I ate my first Sungold tomato from the garden on Friday….so sweet and good! I wish the plant would hurry up and make more! I’ve been picking a small bowl of raspberries nearly every day. It’s only enough for my cereal in the morning—I dream about having enough to make jam and pie, and some left over to freeze for the fall. We’re also starting to get blueberries now, firm and juicy and untouched by the birds (thanks to plastic netting).

    I realize that I didn’t say much about my birthday, and there are some things worth noting. Like an excellent dinner at Mezze down in Williamstown---Peekytoe crab salad with pea shoots, roast chicken with pea risotto, and a beautiful glass of  Spanish Monastrell (yum—one of my current favorites), and then homemade dessert at home. Yes, my wonderful husband made my childhood birthday cake, a spice cake with caramel frosting. He even called my mom to get the right recipe! We gorged ourselves for the next two nights, and then I took it to work, where it was an empty plate by the end of the day. One advantage to working in an office---people eat anything that is sitting around.

    Last night we went to Cambridge, NY to see a friend’s band, the Buckhill Ramblers. It was in a crunchy little bakery/café, and they made a good Sicilian pizza. We heard rumors about late-fourth fireworks, and sure enough, just down the street there was a small-town carnival, and people were set up to watch the display. My theory is that you can never have too many fireworks, so we patiently settled in to watch a decent show---very close and very low, which made for an exciting time. The fireworks were totally unexpected and made for a good end to the night. 

  • Latest projects

    [wp_caption id="attachment_22" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="My current artistic endeavors"] 

    My current artistic endeavors[/wp_caption]

    Beautiful greens from the garden

    Beautiful greens from the garden

    Here's an idea of a couple of projects I am working on----the garden and occasional art. I did a linoleum cut and printed it the other night for some endpapers. Yes, there are books in my future. Hopefully very soon.

  • Back to work

    The holiday weekend was an action-packed few days of fireworks, boats, and cook-outs. We spent an entire 24 hours with the Manfre clan at their lakehouse on Highland Lake, NH. It was a really beautiful area, with a cute little cabin right on a lake……parked next to boatloads of who else but honest-to-goodness New Yorkers! They were everywhere, on their (loud) motorboats, their (loud) ATVs, and at their “peaceful” lakeside cabins. Matt and I slept on the screened-in porch, which gave us the full effect of the New York surround sound. To be fair, I was woken up one time by a gaggle of loons passing by, so I can’t blame my whole sleepless night on them. Matt was so restless that he got up to fish for awhile----between the hours of 4 to 5 AM, which is actually too early for the fish! We still managed to have a great time, and caught some amazing fireworks right over the water (shot off by the next-door neighbors. Luckily we were out in the boat). The Manfres are champion eaters, so we ate really well---steak, corn, doughnuts (my fault), brownies, ice cream sandwiches, and other foods too numerous to mention.

    We came back to VT Saturday afternoon and started Part One of the birthday production. Matt got tickets to see Beth Orton, who was performing at the MOCA. It was an incredible concert, at once transformative, delicate, and powerful. I would highly recommend any of her albums, although I haven’t heard her latest.

    The last part of my mini-vacation involved going to a friend’s house for a sixth of July party. Lots of good food and some heated conversations about how the Olympics have been ruined by media coverage, as well as the use of Spanish smoked paprika as a secret ingredient (try it—it works with anything). A relaxing time….and back to work today.

    Did you know that Pinot Noir is really good chilled?

  • [wp_caption id="attachment_8" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Heirloom tomatoes"]Heirloom tomatoes[/wp_caption]

  • Happy Anniversary!

    We went about our day in a normal fashion, and had just gotten home with dinner (pizza with eggplant and goat cheese and Caesar salad) when Matt’s mom called. From my end of the conversation, I gathered that Matt was thanking her for a card we hadn’t yet received. I suddenly realized that it was our anniversary! Four years, which isn’t much in the grand scheme, but not too shabby. We both felt terrible that we hadn’t remembered on our own what day it was…and we would’ve been much nicer to each other if we had. Unconditional love is a nice thought, but sometimes dirty dishes get in the way…….

    I weeded in the garden for a bit today. Every day I venture out, vulture-like, to see what’s ready to pick. We’ve had some strawberries so far, and the blueberries are getting very close. The raspberries have started to turn, and I picked what I could from the edge of the patch. It always turns into a brambly mess as the weather gets nice, as hard as I try to keep paths clear so I can pick. Instead, I have to put on pants, sneakers, and long sleeves so I don’t get too scraped up.

    Tomorrow we’re going to New Hampshire for the fourth. We’ll be at the Manfre’s lake house, close quarters and hopefully fun times. I’ve always loved the fourth, since it’s right around the corner from my birthday. When I was little, we would go to Pennsylvania to visit with my Mom’s family. They would have a cake and present for me, and I would swim until my lips turned blue. There are pictures of me when I was six in my pink tiger bathing suit with the little skirt, eating cake.

RSS Feed

Number 100

[caption id="attachment_726" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="My husband made breakfast"][/caption]

I've just realized that this is my 100th post...and since I've missed my blog's anniversary this year and possibly last, we're going to celebrate! I made an apple cake for the occasion.

This year, I'm on a quest to perfect those recipes that I feel every baker must have in her arsenal. Number one was brownies, which I finally nailed thanks to Alice Medrich (I highly recommend her book Bittersweet, which also contains the recipe). The secret to that one was cocoa powder rather than pounds and pounds of chocolate, which unfortunately seem to dry out the brownies and make them more cakelike than fudgy. We (my husband) adore fudgy brownies, so I can finally make one that he's not ashamed of.

Next was a good biscuit...found! My new (borrowed) biscuit recipe is flaky, fluffy, and not loaded with pounds of butter or tainted by sour cream. It's a straight-up buttermilk biscuit–with a substantial amount of guilt-reducing whole wheat flour.

So, number three is back to the above apple cake. I love my mom's cake, but after it sits for a day or so, it tends to get really dry. My new strategy for making cakes moister is to replace some of the butter with a neutral oil, like canola or grape seed. I subbed oil for all of the butter this time and incorporated pear juice and black Ceylon tea. Instead of chunking up the apples, I quartered them and sliced thinly along their length and layered them in the batter as done by smitten kitchen. Oh, and I thought it needed a walnut streusel topping. The real test is how much I like it tomorrow after it languishes overnight...but I'm hoping that I found my knight in white satin and walnuts.