June 2011

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photos by gluttonforlife

6.30.11 Cukes Galore

The weather upstate has been so strange and variable—an early heat spell, followed by cold, then way too much rain and not enough sun—that there has been disappointingly little progress with the plants. The mint patches are lush, the shiso, sage and lemon balm are doing well, and the first squash blossoms have appeared, but the cucumbers have scarcely put out a few tendrils. New Jersey has been luckier, however, and there were already piles of newly picked Kirbys at the farmers market in Union Square last week. I bought about 8 pounds in preparation for our annual pulled pork fest on the 4th. Pickles are essential for barbecue! They're a traditional counterpoint to all that fatty meat, and really aid in its digestion. You may remember from last year that I make both dill and bread-&-butter chips. The dills are lacto-fermented, which means all you have to do is slice them up and put them in a jar with salt and whatever spices you like and let them sit on the counter for a few days. Nature will do the rest, creating the right natural bacteria to give your pickles their requisite tang.
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6.29.11 Dancing Fool

Speaking of fools (as in yesterday's gooseberry delight), who takes up ballet at the age of 48? This crazy bitch does. Uh-huh. I was so pigeon-toed as a child that the family doctor prescribed an iron brace to be worn at night that essentially forced my legs out in a painful and unnatural (for me) position. As an alternative to this medieval contraption, my mother offered ballet lessons. So for 7 years, until I was 14, I was a regular at Wendy Barrett's ballet studio in a little cabin in the woods. I was never very good—and my hips, knees and feet still turn more in than out—but I do have excellent posture. (And to this day, The Red Shoes is one of my favorite films.) Having now discovered the excellent Shain Fishman at Highland Yoga & Dance, I once more find myself heading to a little dance studio in the woods. I have been taking yoga from her for over a year, and recently left my pride at the door and signed up for her Adult Beginner Ballet class. (As with diapers and movies, when you preface something with "adult" it immediately becomes creepy and pathetic. Joke stolen from Jimmy Fallon, btw.)
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Tagged — ballet, dance
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6.28.11 Fool for Love

That's me. Did you know I've been married four times? And I'm not that old. Twice divorced and widowed once. But in it for the long haul now. I'm so glad I finally found what I was looking for and it turned out to be even better than what I had imagined. I'm in the zone! And so will you be when you spoon a big bite of tart, creamy and dreamy gooseberry fool into your mouth. Allegedly dating back to the 15th century, this dead simple treat is nobody's fool; or rather, anybody's. It's just a cooked puree of sweetened gooseberries folded into whipped cream. Chilled and served in a wine glass or a coupe with a long spoon, it's among the most elegant desserts you can make without breaking a sweat.
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6.27.11 Wings of Desire

I never was much into wings. My friend Busby always sang their praises when she wasn't going on about California Pizza Kitchen or Popeye's fried chicken. They just never seemed meaty enough to me, and I hadn't yet developed a fondness for eating things off the bone. But G has a passion for wings, and in learning to make them for him, I fell for them. That happens sometimes, doesn't it? Indifference turns to pleasure and life just gets that much better. Now I understand how succulent, how crispy yet gooey, how caramelized and packed with flavor are these little wings. No wonder they make such great stock. Did you ever sample David Chang's wings at Momofuku Noodle Bar? I'm not sure he still serves them but they were insane. I think they were poached, then smoked and then finished on the grill. (Here's an adapted recipe which I may try sometime.) The point is, don't just throw your wings under the broiler and expect them to be great. They have a fair amount of fat, so one great technique is to poach them first and then finish them in a very hot oven. Marinating them overnight or even for a few hours does wonders. They pair beautifully with strong flavors like garlic, ginger and chile, and a little something to help them caramelize like soy sauce, honey or maple syrup.
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6.24.11 Vintage Soda

The Rickey, a mixed drink featuring lime and not much sugar, was originally created in the 1880s with bourbon by Washington, D.C. bartender George A. Williamson, purportedly in collaboration with Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey. Thus the name. Years later, mixed with gin, it became something of a worldwide sensation. Change that to rum, add a little mint and it’s basically a mojito. I first came to know it in the delis and little corner “spas” that dotted the East Village in the 1980s. (Remember those days? I was making $250 cash a week and living in a 3-bedroom-2-bath apartment on Avenue A that cost $1,550 a month. Total. And I had really big hair.) There, it was a huge glass stuffed with halved, squeezed-out limes, plenty of sugar and lots of ice, then topped off with seltzer. Not necessarily the soul of sophistication, but damned refreshing on a sweltering New York City afternoon. I've brought it to a slightly different place with the addition of a ginger-infused honey syrup (you can sub simple syrup, or even superfine sugar) and a splash of bitters, but it remains a thirst-quencher of the first order. Spike it with gin, and it's the perfect summer cocktail.
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6.23.11 Flower Power

You're sitting in your screened in porch, or on your tiny terrace, front lawn or tar roof. The sun is high in the sky. Maybe you've worked up a sweat gardening or playing badminton or thinking about your in-laws' visit. What you need is a nice cool glass of something. Not a soda, for crying out loud. Those eat the enamel off your teeth and cause osteoporosis. Not lemonade which is, frankly, too much work on a day like this, what with all that squeezing. Need some new ideas? Pick up Fany Gerson's latest book, Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice and Aguas Frescas, recently published by Ten Speed Press. You may remember I referenced her book on Mexican sweets, here and here. Not only does this popsicle queen of the Hester Street Market have loads of great recipes for cooling ice pops—like pineapple-chile; fresh coconut; and sour cream, cherry and tequila—but you can also learn how to make raspados, Mexico's answer to Italy's granità, and some wonderful traditional drinks called aguas frescas. These are essentially fruit or herbal infusions in water; not too sweet and very refreshing. This one, called agua de jamaica, is made from dried hibiscus flowers, also known as Jamaican sorrel.
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6.21.11 Ruby Sippers

Summer is officially here! As the inimitable Bob Marley says, "Sun is shining. Weather is sweet. Make you wanna move your dancing feet." In honor of its much-awaited arrival—and the long, hot days and balmy nights it brings with it—my next few posts will be dedicated to the kinds of cooling drinks you'll be craving. Today, it's the taste of summer in a glass. Icy cold strawberries pureed with basil and lemon juice into a refreshing slushie I call the Ruby Sipper. As with so many summer classics, you can simply add a little tequila, gin or rum for an R-rated version. I'll teach you a couple of neat little tricks that you can apply to all sorts of fruity drinks. All you need is a blender and a song in your heart.
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the ruby sipper is an ode to the strawberry, so irresistibly red and ripe

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6.20.11 Garden Update: June Bloom

I've been so busy with my hands in the dirt, I haven't had a chance to share with you everything that's coming to life in the garden. After a ton of rain, a couple of sweltering days and lots more rain, we've had a few temperate days with a decent amount of sun that have finally given the plants just what they need to flourish. G is still crabbing around the yard with lightning speed and a ferocious determination to do more than his fair share. He is a sight to behold. And so is the garden. Without further ado, my friends, here are a few highlights of what's busting out in June. (Above is an incredibly happy tangle of sage and lavender, both of them highly fragrant and sprouting little purple flowers.)
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6.17.11 Father Time

My father died more than 20 years ago, long before his time. The moment of his death is still very clear in my mind. Later I sat with my mother in the upstairs hall, both of us in our nightgowns, averting our eyes as they brought him out in a dark green body bag. I can't say those images have faded, but they are often crowded out by happier thoughts of him as he was in life: the consummate prankster, a sly grin twisting his mouth, a deeply compassionate man, a generous spirit, a scholar. As Father's Day approaches, I long to tell him what has become of me, to seek his approval. Some things never change. He was most often at his desk, talking on the phone with colleagues, proofing manuscripts, scribbling away with the tiny pencil stubs he favored. Intrusions were not wholly unwelcome, especially if you came bearing a small snack. He loved nuts. His favorites were cashews, pistachios, peanuts and Spanish almonds; also hard licorice, chicharrones and chicken liver. In his honor, I post again my recipe for Tuscan chicken liver paté—a shout-out to both his humble Jewish roots and his later-acquired European sophistication.
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6.16.11 Quick Pickles

I know I'm always droning on about making your own this and growing your own that. My life must seem like some sort of Laura Ingalls Wilder fever dream. The truth is, between one thing and another, things are pretty hectic here, too. Just 'cause I'm a country gal, it don't mean I got all the time in the world. But I do what I can, and I can when I can. Don't be put off by putting up! (OK, I'll stop now.) Seriously, just because you don't have the time or inclination to be canning pint after pint of jams and pickles, doesn't mean you can't throw together a quick batch just to keep in the fridge. Skip the whole "canning" step entirely! Make one jar of chutney or one pint of pickles. Here, for instance is less than half a pound of garlic scapes I picked up at the farmers market. I decided to pickle them and the whole process took about 15 minutes. You can do this.
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