February 2012

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photos by gluttonforlife

2.29.12 Double Happiness

Not a lot of cookies get baked in this house. What with the chubbiness issue and the gluten factor, desserts, at this point, when they're even offered, tend to run more towards that chia pudding, a refreshing scoop of sorbet, some gussied-up tofu or simply a piece of seasonal fruit. Occasionally, however, the imminent arrival of company or some other deserving event does give rise to a batch. A good gluten-free cookie is almost as elusive as a good man. For a time, our cookie jones was sated by Whole Foods' house brand, which included a chewy ginger-molasses, a rich and crumbly peanut butter and the highly coveted nutmeal-raisin, but for some reason these disappeared from their shelves never to return. The (faux-helpful) staff tried to gaslight me when I asked about them, acting as though these divine confections had never existed. I vowed to G that I would try my hand at my own version of the nutmeal cookie, but so far I have not been true to my word.
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2.27.12 Raw Passion

I have an appointment with my nutritionist this week and in preparation have been keeping a food log. It's made me more aware than usual of precisely what I eat and, though I want to present a realistic scenario, I've been on good behavior (most of the time). We had friends over for dinner this weekend and things got a little out of hand, yet still I wanted a treat while watching the Oscars last night. Something creamy and rich but without dairy or eggs, something to lick leisurely off my spoon as I cackled to G about this one's dress and that one's cosmetic enhancements. Hollywood on display is a golden opportunity for the ultimate bitch-fest and it requires either gin or ice cream. In the absence of both, try this delightful pudding made with chia seeds. Yes, those of Chia Pet fame. They are intriguingly delicious. It's a kinder and gentler alternative, though I was neither.
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2.24.12 Louie, Louie

I started working when I was 16 as a hostess at Gilda's, a seafood restaurant on the wharf in Santa Cruz. It was one of a few restaurants owned by a large family of Neapolitan immigrants—the Stagnaros—who were born fishermen and restaurateurs. I met my first real boyfriend there, a line cook who surfed and drove a turquoise '59 Chevy. He made a mean Denver omelette and taught me to roll a joint. At Gilda's (pronounced with a soft "G") we served excellent Boston clam chowder and a divine crab Louie, the West Coast salad made with crisp lettuce, hard-boiled eggs and Thousand Island dressing. So when I saw a recipe in the Times last month for a slightly updated version (courtesy of David Tanis of Chez Panisse), I began craving it in the way you do the familiar tastes of home. I made it with fresh East Coast lump crab meat, not the classic Dungeness, and dressed it with a creamy boiled dressing instead of the pink stuff, and it still satisfied immensely.
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2.22.12 Chip In

I'm really struggling with my weight these days. A doctor friend told me it's my body's stubborn attempt to hold onto whatever little estrogen is left. My diet is ultra clean. Dessert is a rare treat and, despite my love of cocktails, I'm limiting myself to just one a week. I don't get as much exercise as I should—no snow has meant no snowshoeing, for one thing—but I'm hoping that warmer weather will make it easier to get outside and to use our makeshift gym in the (unheated) barn. My biggest challenge is to not loathe my body, which has outgrown much of my cherished wardrobe, but I am trying to practice compassion. I often consult Christiane Northrup's invaluable book, The Widsom of Menopause, so I know many women go through similar changes, and that they are not irreversible. On the plus side, I now have cleavage. Unfortunately, it's often in places it shouldn't be.
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2.20.12 Spare Me

I've acquired an armload of new cookbooks—despite a total lack of shelf space to house them in our tiny cottage. I just can't resist, especially after reading so many entertaining and informative reviews, especially those from Food52's Piglet competition. The newest tomes are piled up beside my bed, and any seasonal ones (grilling, popsicles, etc) are temporarily lodged in the attic. Cooking in the Moment has now migrated from the bedroom to the kitchen and, though I've only officially cooked one recipe from it so far, I have added several more to my always evolving mental list of "things to be eaten soon." After reading Nigella Lawson's Piglet review of North Carolina chef Andrea Reusing's enticingly photographed and thoughtfully composed book, I was seized with the urge to make her roasted spareribs. Whatever she means by "cooking in the moment"—eating seasonally, I assume—I take it as an excuse to immediately make whatever I most feel like eating right this minute. So ribs it is.
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today it's mostly slush

2.17.12 Google-Eyed

Hello, my name is Laura and I'm an addict. Hello, Laura. It's been 30 seconds since I last Googled. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to get off the stuff, but I just keep going back. It gives me everything I need and I can't live without it. I don't even remember a time before it—what was that like?! How did we know anything? Go anywhere? Where did our answers come from? I'm safe with Google. It's the past and the future. It's knowledge. It's the modern oracle. It's everything to me. And it's good news for you, too. Just take a look at what I've found for you this week.
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2.16.12 Eastern Promises

My sister-in-law, who lives in the 'burbs, mentioned to me the other week that she had ventured into a local Middle Eastern market and been thrilled with what she discovered. Most towns have at least one ethnic market—Korean, Mexican, Greek—serving not only its immigrant community but anyone smart enough to take advantage of its wares. They present a fantastic opportunity to do a little armchair traveling, and to expand your cooking repertoire in the process. When I lived in L.A., I found the most amazing Thai market and, with the help of this extraordinary book, entered a whole new world of fish sauce, palm sugar, wild lime, sticky rice and green papaya. Of course New York City is like one big ethnic market, but when I want Japanese ingredients, I love to take a trip to Mitsuwa. I've mentioned this enormous Japanese superstore before—its aisles of rice, sake and bonito flakes, ramen stalls and red bean confections—but thought I would show you some of my bounty from a recent visit. The store is located in Edgewater, New Jersey, and well worth your time even if all you come away with is an automated rice cooker.
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2.15.12 Salad Days

Those were the days. Sometimes I yearn for the suppleness of youth, its insouciance and capacity for indulgence. But it's a fleeting moment of fantasy because I belong irrevocably to this moment. I inhabit this skin with a sense of purpose and without regret. There are times for looking back and times for looking ahead, but there's no time like the present. As Joni Mitchell sings, in her seminal song "Down To You," Everything comes and goes, marked by lovers and styles of clothes. Things that you held high and told yourself were true, lost or changing as the days come down to you.The salad days that matter now are on your plate. Channel your creativity and your quest for health into this ageless combination of the raw and the cooked. Interrupt the dreary weeks of winter with refreshing concoctions crisp with cabbage, celery, apple and bitter greens, and punctuated with sweet bursts of citrus and pomegranate. By all means toss in some protein—a grated hard-cooked egg; some oily tuna or smoked mackerel; a crumbly goat cheese or sharp pecorino. You're looking to create that perfect balance of flavors and textures: crunchy and creamy, sweet and tart, salty and spicy. As in all things, experience enhances your ability and wisdom makes a superb seasoning.
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2.14.12 Warm Leatherette

One of the great things about starting this blog has been connecting to kindred spirits near and far, some of them with blogs of their own. Distances collapse in the virtual landscape, rendering us all just a keyboard away. But true connections inevitably materialize in 3-D—as recipients of my caramels discovered—and on occasion this means little packages of pure joy winging their way to me from Julia (quince & sour cherry preserves; grape, fig & walnut conserve); from Rob & David (birch syrup and homemade herbes de Provence); and from Janet (wild lime catsup and Buddha's hand preserves). This last creature is an old pal from 20 years ago. We had long gone our separate ways only to chance upon one another and discover how our paths had neatly converged. Janet is an artist (married to an artist), mother and writer living on a farm. Her newish blog, A Raisin & A Porpoise, is full of her hilariously wry wit, but also poignant insights and recipes for nourishing dishes that I actually want to cook right away, like this divine dip and these gingerbread muffins. And the spicy fruit leather, above, which she kindly presents to you here, in her own words.
 

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2.13.12 Tai One On

We've been in Florida since Friday. Palm Beach Gardens. First it rained, and now it's 45 degrees. Need I say more? On the bright side: Some quality time with my lovely in-laws, and the perfect Mai Tai, mixed by G's dad. His secret recipe is pretty close to the 1944 original from Trader Vic's, though I suspect his contains a maverick touch of pineapple juice. (As a point of interest, "Maita'i" is the Tahitian word for "good.") Along with the pupu platter, this tangy and potent cocktail is a fabulous relic of the Tiki culture that was all the rage in the 50s and 60s. Though I'm not sure crab rangoon deserves a comeback, I'm positive the Mai Tai belongs in the pantheon of classics.
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