Archive | October, 2006

Home, Home, Soup

31 Oct

I was a good 30-something daughter and went Upstate to visit my mother this weekend, therefore, there’s not much food in this post. But don’t despair! From what I can gather, you guys seem to like my pictures of pretty things and there’s lots of that in this post! So, without further ado, may I present some beautiful scenery from a blustery, wet, Upstate weekend.

My mom met me at the train station and we immediately went over to the place where she works, the Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society, as it was the first day of their annual Christmas Craft fair.

This is the meeting house.

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

There’s three doors on the front when there should be only two. The city of Albany owns this site and they originally removed the two wooden doors, which were the entrances for the Brothers and Sisters, and stuck the one in the middle there. They also clad the exterior in brick, which has thankfully been removed in a recent restoration which also put the original doors back.

An interior staircase. Aren’t the colors beautiful?

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

The creamery.

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

The barns. There’s turkeys and chickens and quail over there. They make a lot of noise.

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

This is the herb garden that my mom is in charge of. The Shakers used herbs to flavor their foods, but also as medicine. They were also the first people in America to sell packaged seeds. Prior to the Shakers, seeds were sold in bulk and often got moldy over the winter. There are many Shaker cookbooks available out there, grab one if you see one. Their recipes were wonderfully simple and soul satisfyingly good.

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

And here’s what you were really waiting for, right? Oxen!
Shaker Oxen

The brown ones are Swiss browns, and the little black one, Kerry, is a heritage breed from Ireland that I’ve forgotten the name of.

Shaker oxen

And in case you didn’t know, oxen are always castrated males.

Shaker Oxen

I can’t remember which of the brown oxen is which, but their names are Freighter and Liner, and for good reason, they are HUGE.

Shaker Oxen

While both sects are Anabaptists, the Shakers differed from the Amish in their use of technology. The entire idea behind the Shaker religion was to become closer to God through perfection, good works and simplicity.

Shaker Oxen

Thus, if an invention came around that made their lives simpler and more perfect the Shakers would adopt that.

Shaker Oxen

I bring this up because over time these gorgeous guys were replaced with Studebakers and tractors.

Okay, let’s drag ourselves away from the oxen.

homeWe had a lovely dinner with my step-sister and her family; lambchops, sautéed escarole and puréed butternut squash. The mixture of garlicky greens and sweet delicious squash is one I hope to recreate here this week.

Here’s my nephew. Doesn’t he look like he’s about to do something evil?

After some shopping and general carousing, it was time to head back downstate to my other home. It’s hard to decide which home is home anymore, so I guess it’s just best to think of them both as well, home!

The sky was amazing, so I took some pictures of my favorite river in the whole world through the train’s windows.

Hudson River

Those are the mountains where Rip Van Winkle took his famous nap off in the distance there.

Hudson River

Because of the end of Daylight Savings and the massive storm we’d had, the sunset was brearthtakingly gorgeous.

Hudson River

The colors got even more intense than this if you can believe it, but there wasn’t enough light for me to continue taking pictures, so I turned back to my book.

And what did I find when I finally got home? The boy had made soup. One of the most wonderful, tasty, most deliciously simple, healthy and perfectly amazing soups I’ve ever tasted.

Perfect Soup

It was a cauliflower and mustard greens soup flavored with ginger, tarragon and harissa. Doesn’t sound like it could possibly work does it? But oh by did it! It tasted simultaneously healthy and hearty, it’s the kind of soup the Shakers probably would have made, and it was exactly what I had been craving.

What a great weekend. It’s so good to go/be home.

Inspiration & Laziness

24 Oct

It’s so easy to be inspired by the autumnal weather we’re having here in New York.

october leaves

Crisp, bright, crystalline blue, eye-popping oranges everywhere, deep velvety nights, opalescent moons. Ah, October.

st. mark'sApparently it’s also really easy to be lazy.

I’ve been spending my days lolling about on the couch, toddling about the city and oversleeping on workdays.

My computer must feel the same way as he’s been really loathe to do anything. Process words? Upload photos?  I always get a weak little, “meh,” out of him as his chips start lazily grinding away.

So, apologies for this truncated post.

I’ll be back later this evening to explain what this bowl of liquid love consists of, but please, feel free to try and guess in the meantime!

soup

Oh, and here’s a hint.

squashes

Oh, and I just realized according to the little stats counter over on the side of this page that I’ve crossed the 20,000 visitors mark. Thank you to everyone that’s stopped by!! You’ve made the last couple of months a total blast!

Hey Mac, Say Hello To My Little Friend Sprout…

20 Oct

Toast & butter. Chocolate & peanut butter. Wine & cheese. Spaghetti & meatballs. Turkey & stuffing. Pork & apples. Steak & potatoes. Coffee & donuts.

There are countless perfect culinary combinations. Like Shaggy & Scooby, they stand alone as a classic duo, there’s no need for a third wheel like hyper-annoying Scrappy-doo.

And yet sometimes, a new twist on a classic actually works. Say, a new way of thinking about mac & cheese? Heresy you say? Allow me to explain.

roasty, cheesy

First there was the simplest Mac & Cheese, and there were leftovers.

Then there was the the Rogue Sprout and his roasted vegetable brethren, and there were leftovers.

There wasn’t enough of either to make a meal, so the boy suggested combining them and heating them up together.

roasted vege& mac & cheeseCulinary heresy? Mad dining genius? I’m going with the latter.

The mac got crustier, the vegetables got roastier and cheesier. Combined they felt as if they had taken one step above the simple comfort food plateau.
Do I think this combination will catch on?

Mac & cheese & roasted vegetables?

Nah. Too long, too complicated a name. Let’s just keep this one a secret amongst ourselves.

Now if only they’d done the same with Scrappy…

A Rogue Sprout

19 Oct

It was Sunday night. I was standing at the sink cleaning and halving Brussels sprouts when one went skittering out of my hand, landing with a surprisingly loud metallic thump in the sink. Without even thinking, I bellowed out “Sprrrrrrrooout Doooooooooooouwn!”

Before you go thinking I’m crazy, say it with me in your best pirate meets Patrick Stewart tenor, “Sprrrrrrrooout Doooooooooooouwn!”

roasted

See? Now isn’t that fun?

roastedAnd what on earth was I making when I started thinking of my tiny cabbages as weeee scrrrrruvy currrrrrs?

Roasted vegetables, natch.

Brussels sprouts, parsnips, a second harvest of baby carrots, Northern Spy & Macoun apples, shallots and garlic roasted for two hours to a perfectly sweet & roasty bowl of fall; finished with a glug of the best Croatian extra virgin olive oil and a splash of aged balsamic vinegar, and served with hunks of Iacopo‘s finest baguette (to sop up the pot liquer).

Thank you Maillard reaction for this delightful meal.

Just one note for you New Yorkers however.

roastedWe went to the Tompkins Square Greenmarket for our vegetables, but unfortunately there were no sprouts. So we trucked up Ave. A to the Key Foods for the sprouts. We grabbed four 10 oz. containers, went to the register only to find that each container cost $4 a piece! 40 ounces of sprouts equals roughly 2.5 lbs or, even more roughly, $6.40 per pound!!

So, New Yorkers, take my advice, if you’re craving sprouts, go to a Greenmarket anywhere in the City and buy them there for $2 per pound, pay the $4 round-trip subway fare, and yeah, you’ll still come out waaaaaay ahead. You have been warned.

roastedAnd just so as you all don’t think I’m the only one that personifies her sprouts, check out “An Inconsolable Sprout” for some more fun with cruciferous vegetables. I’ve never met Erielle before, so I can’t personally vouch for her sanity, but I do love her “voice,” it seems perfectly sane to me.

And what of the leftovers? More on them later this week.

Mac & Cheese Please

17 Oct

I have one true love.

No, not him (but close).

It’s pasta. My life is littered with memories of the pasta I ate.

mac & cheese

There was the mac & cheese I ate just before breaking my arm in third grade; the great ziti war of ’88; the egg noodle, cabbage and kielbasa casserole that my grandmother used to make me that I’m still trying to recreate from memory, and the black & white angel hair pasta served with a sauce of olive oil, golden garlic and sage in Germany that changed the way I ate forever.

Living on my own, I would probably eat pasta for dinner every night. Plain with butter or olive oil, or fancy with complex sauces, I’d be just fine. Asian noodles, Eastern European noodles, Mediterranean noodles, American noodles, I’m an equal opportunity pasta eater, I see no sense in discriminating against one type or the other, ever. They’re all equally delicious.

So it’s been a wee bit of a cross to bear to be living with a man who when I suggest pasta for dinner goes, “Eh, I could take it or leave it.” So sometimes I have to do what women have been doing for millenia, take the bull by the horns and force noodles upon him.

mac & cheeseBut here’s the strange part. What’s one of his favorite meals of all time? Boxed mac & cheese with frozen peas. Not that I object, because after a really stressful day, it is a pretty sweet little dinner. But, he claims that the boxed stuff is better than homemade. Now that I cannot accept.

Recently I was home sick and craving my favorite guilty, sick-day comforting meal; elbow pasta with lots of butter and chunky salsa, but realised I had no pasta in the house. I felt awful, but I was simultaneously bored, so while I was at the market, I decided that I was going to make mac & cheese for dinner and surprise the boy.

mac & cheeseIt was a brilliant, simple rendition of a classic (as befitted a sick-day). Both cheesy and crusty, decadent yet comforting. I had initially intended to serve this with the truffle salt, but, the combination of the two cheese created such an intense, all consuming taste and feel of umammi in the mouth, it was completely unnecessary

And did the boy like it? Oh yes, and even more the second day, but more on that later in the week.

Head below the jump for Simple, Sick-Day Mac & Cheese.

Continue reading