Down To Earth

12 Mar

Apparently getting engaged makes me tongue-tied.

Or maybe getting engaged has given me so much to think about and so many things to do that I haven’t had the time to write.  Or cook.  But that’s also because suddenly everyone wants to take us out to dinner: friends, relatives, everyone.  It’s really nice–a whirlwind really–but I also can’t wait to sit back and relax a little bit this weekend, to roast a chicken a la Jacques Pepin, and maybe bake a loaf of bread.

But, before I do that (lest I sound ungrateful) I’d like to say a big, hearty and heartfelt thank you to each of you for your kind wishes and enthusiastic yays! You’re the nicest group of people to ever gather here at this little website.  Thank you all so much!

There are so many details to iron out, but since I’m sure you’re all just like the friends with whom I speak day-in and day-out, I figure you’d like a few details, too.  So here’s what I’ve got: We’re going to do a civil ceremony soon, like, the end of April soon.  Just our parents, my step-sister and her family and maybe Isaac’s sisters.  And then in September, we’re going to have a big party in our backyard up at the house!  Barbecue! Bocce! Croquet! Local beer! Finger Lakes wine! Laughter! Dancing! Smiles!

It’s going to be great and I can’t wait, but, it’s still incredibly overwhelming.  So in an attempt to bring things back down to earth a little bit, I’d like to talk about something very mundane: steamed potatoes.

I have managed to actually cook one thing in the three weeks since we got engaged (I have cobbled together several things as well, like a kimchi and short rib stew, but it wasn’t really cooking) and it was a potato salad.  Sounds kind of dull, right?  But let me tell you, this is no humdrum, run-of-the-mill, average potato salad.  It is a Spanish-influenced salad with chickpeas and olives from the inimitable Greg and Lucy Malouf.  It is the sort of salad that, after making once, you immediately index away for every single potluck you’ll ever go to again.

And it starts with steamed potatoes.  Before this recipe I had never steamed potatoes before.  But now?  I want to have steamed potatoes on hand at all times.  They are so versatile and very delicious.  Steaming does something very profound to potatoes.  It concentrates their flavor, gives them rigidity and solidity and primes them perfectly for tossing in a paprika-scented, sherry vinegar based vinaigrette.

In fact I’m so head over heels with steamed potatoes that, for a minute, I actually thought that it might be a good idea to put this copper potato steamer on our registry (I later came to my senses and realized that asking for such a thing was not acceptable, and that asking for this would be even worse, and yet not nearly as bad as this.)

So, back to the salad.  If you own the Maloufs’ book Artichoke to Za’atar you can find the recipe on page 63.  If you don’t own the book and you’re a fan of all things Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, you really should.  Anyway, salad.  Focus Ann!

Start with about two pounds of good waxy potatoes.  Peel them and cut them into little cubes and steam them for about 10 minutes or until they are tender.  If you’re lucky you have a master potato-taster like I do who can help you determine the exact moment at which your potatoes are done.  Remove the potatoes from the pot and set aside to cool.

While the potatoes are cooling, rinse a can of chickpeas and add them to a big bowl (don’t throw away the can).  Dice one purple onion and add to the chickpeas.  Dice two medium tomatoes or quarter a container of cherry tomatoes and add to the chickpeas.  Smash and chop a big handful of your favorite green olives and add to the chickpeas.  Chop a big handful of a mix of parsley and cilantro and add to the chickpeas.  Season with salt and pepper and coat with a bit of olive oil.  Toss until well mixed.

Fill the chickpea can gently with the steamed potatoes.  If you have some leftover potatoes, don’t panic.  Save them for making an impromptu after-work potato and leek soup or for heating up and mashing with lots of olive oil and herbs or for pan-roasting gently with butter and parsley … Oh wait, back to the salad!  Tip the potatoes in the can back into their cooking pot, season with salt and pepper, a pinch of paprika, another pinch of smoked paprika and coat liberally with olive oil, sherry vinegar and a dash of lemon juice.  Toss to coat and then tip the potatoes and their dressing into the bowl with the chickpea mixture and toss again.

And that’s it!  What a long-winded way of telling you about such a simple salad.  But, that’s what it’s like around here these days. I’m constantly distracted and always feel like I should be doing at least two or three other things at all times.  I keep telling myself to just sit back and breathe and enjoy it, but I have a hard time being that way.

So, if you’ve gotten married recently and have some good tips on how to handle it all, please feel free to share!  I’ll try to pay attention in-between choosing a dress, picking out rings and booking tents.  Oh boy, here we go!


6 Responses to “Down To Earth”

  1. heather March 12, 2010 at 8:31 am #

    love the sound of your august party. i could share a lot, but the first thing that springs to mind is wedding bands. no, not the singers, the jewelry you will wear for the rest of your life. we got ours (not matching) at the Clay Pot in Park Slope: I bet they could have them for you by April.

  2. Margaret March 12, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    I love the Malouf way with words. And pictures. And recipes. I poured over Turquoise, another of their books, and it was just as nice as listening to the voice of Ina Caro in Traveling through History in France, another lovely book. Not that you will have time to read them in the next few months, but I am sure you will be enjoying life in a myriad of other ways! Thansk for keeping the blog posts coming- I LOVE your photography and the way you write about your experiences. :-)

  3. Katie Peek March 13, 2010 at 8:38 am #

    The best thing I did was do all my dress shopping from the comforts of my home. I ordered about a dozen dresses from Nordstrom, Macys, J.Crew, then had a fashion show with some friends who helped me narrow things down, then I took the top contenders home for a second-round show with my folks and my fiance/spouse. It was SO relaxed & fun. And those stores have like one-year return policies so there was no rush.

  4. Christina March 14, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    It sounds like you’ve got things figured out already, at least the important stuff: approaching that PARTY (because it is a party) exactly the way we did, as something fun and personal. Woohoo! The best party of your life!

    I’ll drop you a real email, rather than just a comment. Once again, I’m thrilled for you.

  5. ann March 23, 2010 at 5:48 am #

    Heather — Thank you! I swear, everyone I know buys either their engagement ring or wedding bands from Clay Pot! It’s such a great place.

    Margaret — Thank you for the kind words. I’ll certainly be looking up that French book. It sounds right up my alley!

    Katie — I’m giving dress shopping in person one try today, and then after that I’m going to just start ordering things. I’m trying to be positive, but, we’ll see!!

    Christina — Thanks for the note and the good ideas. You’re a star.

    All — Sorry it took so long for my reply, we took a little break from the city. More on that soon :-)

  6. Anne March 26, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    Well, I get busy and stop visiting my favorite blogs, and you go up and get ENGAGED! What the-! Congrats, congrats, congrats, Miss Ann. Being married is a wonderful thing! I wish you and Issac all the best. And yeah, it is overwhelming, this planning stuff. I think it’s a way to distract us from the fact that we’re making a huge life change. Ha!

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