Eating

Mastiha 790 xxx
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.


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Mix 790 xxx
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.


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Serve 790 xxx
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. 


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Ratatouille1 790 xxx
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.


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Drupes1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

8.3.15 Cool-Ade

There's a very particular satisfaction to be had from eating wild things. The connection to nature, the bold (if largely misguided) sense of self-sufficiency and the discovery of new flavors all add up to a deeply enriching experience. If you've never ventured into the fields and forests in search of a delicious morsel—wild blackberries! fiddleheads! oyster mushrooms!—you're missing something very primal. Fear can hold us back, but stop for a moment to ponder that. We come from nature and it is only there that we are truly in our element. Let knowledge dispel ingorance and find your way back to the wilderness. I will lure you off the beaten path with a couple of easily identified wild treats.


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Shop 790 xxx
photos by george billard

7.30.15 Raising the Bar

Last month I had a book-signing in Narrowsburg, NY. This charming village on the Delaware River is about 20 minutes north of where I live, one of the only real destination towns in my area. It's got many wonderful attractions, including a delicious restaurant, a great liquor store, a world-class women's clothing boutique and a popular home store. And then there is Maison Bergogne. Owned by Juliette Hermant, this unique antiques warehouse is a world unto itself. Juliette is French, with a rare eye for beauty and patina, and a personal charisma that knows no bounds. An accomplished painter, photographer, stylist and interior designer, all of her talents come together to make Maison Bergogne a wholly original emporium. And because I am lucky enough to call her my dear friend and collaborator, my book-signing was held in this magical place.


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Octopus 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

7.22.15 Foreign Markets

A number of you expressed dismay when I mentioned the lack of fresh seafood in Greece, so I want to let you know that I did see a lot of beautiful fish, squid and octopus glistening on ice in the central market of Athens. I like nothing better than getting lost in one of these big foreign food markets (like this one, here and here; and this one) and Varvakios Agora did not disappoint. It was sprawling, bustling with shoppers and filled with what the locals eat every day. Worlds apart from an American grocery store, there was an intimacy—between the vendors and the buyers, between the people and the food—that was beautiful to behold. 


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Greek salad1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

7.17.15 Meet Me at the Greek

In many ways, Greece was as I had imagined it. Athens was hot and bustling, with the presence of the ancients hovering everywhere. (More about that soon.) Syros, a small island next to Mykonos, was even hotter, with quaint stone streets and sun-bleached buildings against the dazzling blue of the Aegean. What I didn't expect was an almost total lack of fresh seafood. Whether it's because tourist demand exceeds the supply, or the waters are regulated due to overfishing, we saw only frozen octopus and no fresh fish on the menus. Only once, when we were on Syros, did we enjoy wild mussels and red shrimp, which were truly wonderful.  So for much of our time in Greece, we stuck to a classic that never gets old: Greek Salad.


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Tagged — salad, feta, Greek salad, Greece
Paris 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife (many with iPhone)

7.13.15 Travelogue: Beirut (but first, Paris)

Travel is not what it used to be. No more steamer trunks and parasols. No more dapper Don Drapers suiting up to fly PanAm. These days it's all hustle and long lines, cramped seats and synthetic blankets. Hordes of massively irritated people feeding cheapie bags of cocktail peanuts to snotty-nosed kids. At least there's no more smoking on planes. Here is one instance when it's best to disregard the journey and focus on the destination.

 

Traffic out of New York City was so terrifically bad that we missed our flight to Beirut and had to take one to Paris instead. Jetting to The City of Light for a day sounds much more glamorous than it actually is, especially given that the flow at Charles de Gaulle airport is so ill-conceived that it took us more than two hours to funnel out of the main door. Once outside, there were about 200 people—all cranky and bleary-eyed after overnight flights—waiting for taxis. But on the drive into the city, the mood shifted. The beauty of Paris overcomes all.


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Hummus1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

7.7.15 Remember Me?

Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned. It's been more than a month since my last post. And still no pictures from my trip to Lebanon and Greece! It's not exactly mea culpa. My husband's laptop died on the way home and it's taken several weeks to recover the data, including all the photo files downloaded during our travels. (But kudos to the geeks of Tekserve for recovering everything!) So, images of the Aegean are forthcoming. And as penance for my long absence, I am considering not taking the month of August off as I usually do. To further placate you, I come bearing the definitive recipe for hummus, one that is so light, fluffy and creamy, you will feel instantly transported to the Middle East, where, wearing rustic leather sandals and a smock of gauzy linen, you will recline in the shade of an ancient olive grove and be soothed by balmy breezes.


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