Anton Chekhov —
People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.
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photo from the interwebs

9.4.15 Labor Day

I love everything about this image; to me it conveys what is best about summer, from those fat bolsters to the surrounding green to her bare, brown calves. My hope for all of us is that, during this last weekend of the official season, we find the time, place and inspiration to capture a few moments of true peace and reflection. I'm going to share with you some wonderful reads, but just file them away for later if you're going to get outside and unplug. I'll be camping out at the lake with my husband, fortifying myself with a big dose of nature. Fall is on its way, and with it comes that rush of energy and a bittersweet longing that begins now.

Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) —
No poems can please for long or live that are written by water-drinkers.
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photos by gluttonforlife

9.1.15 What a Sap

Traces of my recent trip to Greece still echo through my kitchen. The Greek salad simply does not grow old, and I now crave the strong herbal presence of fresh oregano, something I previously shunned. Another very particular flavor I discovered and adore is mastiha, "mastic" in English. This natural sap that weeps from the lentisc tree (Pistacia lentiscus), known as "the tears of Chios" (pronounced "hee-os"), is found only on that particular Greek island. Sun-dried into brittle, translucent bits of resin, mastiha becomes soft and gummy when chewed. In fact, its name derives from the Greek word meaning "to gnash the teeth," and is related to our "masticate." Used since antiquity for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, mastic has a sharp, piney aroma that reminds me of the rosin string players use to treat their bows. Its flavor is equally pungent and strangely compelling.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow —
The world loves a spice of wickedness.
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photos by gluttonforlife

8.18.15 Lucky Seven

We read a lot these days about cooking simply—"ingredient-driven cooking" is a phrase that flummoxed me when I first heard it. What cooking isn't driven by ingredients? Since when are the ingredients not supposed to shine? But I think I was just being purposely obtuse because, of course, there are entire schools of cooking that are all about technique. Just learn to make this perfect sauce and the quality and provenance of your pork loin won't matter. That sort of thing. So, really, my cooking is entirely driven by the ingredients. But that doesn't mean I don't like to build layers of flavor in the dishes I make. One of my favorite ways is with finishing. I have an arsenal of powders, oils, salts and other garnishes and condiments that act as perfect punctuation marks, underscoring a particular note or adding an element of surprise. Although Maldon salt in all its crunchy salinity often suffices, sometimes I reach for something more complex, like this version of shichimi togarashi.

Fran Lebowitz —
Large, naked raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who lie in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter.
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photos by george billard

8.13.15 In Person

In one month, I will celebrate six years of living full-time in Sullivan County. We bought our tiny cottage as a weekend place in December 2005 and I never could have envisioned the life we would make for ourselves in this area. My visits to the city are now mostly out of necessity and the only thing I really miss are my friends. (Talking on the telephone seems to be a thing of the past and for those of us who grew up during a time when marathon phone chats were a regular bonding activity, texting just doesn't cut it.) Five minutes from our little hamlet of Eldred is Barryville, a town on the Delaware River that is host to our farmers market every Saturday. This year, for the first time, the market is offering hands-on demos from local chefs and purveyors, and I was lucky enough to be invited to participate. 

Sylvia Plath —
August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.
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photos by gluttonforlife

8.11.15 I Smell a Ratatouille

You may not know this about me (though it is mentioned here), but ratatouille is one of my very favorite words. I love to trill the r and the whole concatenation of sounds just feels so marvelous tripping off the tongue. (And the movie was pretty fabulous, as well.) The dish itself has never held quite the same appeal, mostly because I shun bell peppers. But when candy-sweet cherry tomatoes, firm zucchini, lush basil and fresh garlic are flowing from the garden, and gorgeous Japanese eggplants are piled high at the farmers market, this humble Provençal vegetable stew definitely comes to mind. Here's my twist on a beloved classic.