November 2009

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illustration by janice richter

11.25.09 The Great Pumpkin

I love pumpkin pie. What I really love about it has everything to do with pumpkin and nothing to do with the crust. It's all about the innards. (Yet another reason why I'm a good match for my gluten-intolerant husband.) I began making this custard years ago, partially influenced by the many flans of my childhood. I like to serve it with a dollop of ginger-spiked crème fraîche and some candied pepitas. And then I like to wake up the next morning and eat it just plain or with yogurt (or with more crème fraîche) for breakfast.
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11.19.09 Meat, the Fuckers

I love animals and I love meat. It's a mind-numbing conundrum and one you can read all about in the news these days. From the works of  Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser and now even the novelist-turned-nonfiction-writer Jonathan Safran Foer, many of us have come to know a lot more about factory farming, industrial agriculture, our government and even our own hearts than perhaps we wanted to. And let me say right off the bat that I'm aware I'm writing from a position of privilege. I can afford to buy the boutique meats that let me breathe easier. But if you learn even just a little bit about factory farming—about how we're forcing ruminant cows to eat our government-subsidized surplus of corn, thus destroying their digestive systems and making them so ill they need to be shot up with the antibiotics that are ultimately destroying our own health; about how the amount of methane gas released from factory farms far exceeds air pollution from cars—you know the answer is not just different meat. It's less meat. In a perfect world, no meat. But this isn't that. Still, for your own health and for that of the planet, it's not a bad idea to consider building your diet around legumes and whole grains and vegetables. Invent a new paradigm for your plate, beyond the antiquated notion of meat, starch, vegetable.
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photo by gluttonforlife

11.18.09 Addictive Salad

I invented this salad a few years ago on a freezing January in Boston when I was desperately trying to think of something vibrant and fresh to serve at a friend's baby shower. Something to offset the usual selection of doughy, starchy finger sandwiches and cookies. I remember feeling rather discouraged by the limited selection of mid-winter produce. Finally I picked up some firm, deeply magenta heads of radicchio, a few shiny ruby grapefruits and, on a whim, a chunk of pecorino pepato and a bag of walnuts. I wasn’t really sure where I was going with all this but it just felt right. (You're probably saying “grapefruit with cheese?!” but I swear, it’s delicious.)


11.14.09 Creature Feature: Young Buck

photos by george billard
It's been two months since we closed the door on the Bowery loft and made the move up to our little 1935 cedar-shingle cottage in Sullivan County. I moved to New York City on June 6th, 1985, right after graduating from Harvard. I remember seeing Rubén Blades at the Village Gate that first night in town. It was quite a wild ride for nearly 25 years (with a 4-year hiatus in Los Angeles), but the time just felt right for something else. G and I had been spending increasingly more time upstate, and loving it. To date—and winter has not kicked in yet—I have no regrets. Living in nature is magical, inspiring, relaxing. I was working for Johnson & Johnson last year on the launch of a new product and came across some research that said just being in nature reduces stress. Your eye alights upon a wildflower or a monarch butterfly or a bald eagle—not on a homeless person or dog poop or a steaming manhole. Don't get me wrong, I love the city. It's just that this suits me fine right now. A couple of days ago, when our nature-loving friend Philip was visiting from the city, we went to check out the nearby Basha Kill. This beautiful wildlife preserve lies in the valley between the Shawagunks and the Catskills, once inhabited by Native Americans and then, in the 1700s, by European settlers.
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11.12.09 This Cake is the M Word

When my husband finally realized he was gluten-intolerant (after many years of horrible heartburn and at-times-comical flatulence), I had to abandon many of my special-occasion desserts. Of course there are great alternative flours from Bob's Red Mill (his all-purpose is a mix of garbanzo, fava, tapioca and sorghum) but it was also interesting to pursue baking without any flour at all. This particular cake recipe is based on ground almonds. It would also come in handy for Passover as it uses no leavening. I'm not really sure where it originated. Martha has a version with a schmancy topping. The New Yorker once featured Claudia Roden's. Of course I like mine quite a bit, even though I can't bear to use the word that best describes it:
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11.11.09 Cool Cat

How jealous are you that we saw this amazing lynx while driving back from the city on the Palisades Parkway the other night?! (OK, maybe not this very one. It was dark and we were going 6o miles an hour, so stopping for a photo really wasn't on. But I swear, it looked just like this.) Suddenly, there it was—standing stock still at the edge of the road, illuminated by our headlights, a halo delineating the little tufts at the top of its ears. We were both gobsmacked for a moment and then turned to each other and said WTF was that?! As soon as we walked in the door, we googled it and it was immediately clear that we had seen a Canadian lynx. It is extremely rare to see them in this area but evidently there was some attempt to increase their population in these parts about 20 years ago. I can't really describe to you how beautiful it was: silvery, majestic, sleek. I will carry this vision with me forever.
Tagged — lynx, animal, creature, nature
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11.10.09 Quince a la Alice

It is thought that the quince—and not the apple—is actually the fruit being referred to in the Song of Solomon; the one that caused Atalanta to pause in her fateful race; perhaps even the fruit of paradise. Today, in this country, the quince is not widely known, and is available primarily at specialty or farmers markets. It ripens in September and October but can often be found through December. The quince's gorgeous perfume, sweet and floral, belies its astringent taste and hard texture, which is sometimes covered with a sparse, velvety fur. But roasted, baked or stewed and always sweetened, quince takes on a rich, rosy color and a deliciously complex flavor, like an apple or pear but with hints of guava and pineapple. Most often seen as a paste to accompany Manchego cheese or in jams and jellies, Alice Waters offers this simple poaching recipe.
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11.7.09 Grindhouse

You can really connect with your inner cave woman when using a mortar and pestle. Or maybe it will take you back to Baba Yaga, that terrifying witch of childhood fables who flew around in a mortar, using her pestle as a rudder. There's something very primal about them, although you can see that the one I have, above, is pretty civilized. I also have a deeper one made of something very hard (cement?) that I use for making papaya salad Thai-style, and a small wooden one I use for crushing herbs. Real pesto aficionados always rely on a mortar and pestle.
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11.6.09 The New Cocktailians

Did you read Dana Goodyear's profile of inimitable LA food critic Jonathan Gold in the recent New Yorker? (If not, you can check out an excerpt here.) It makes reference to an article he wrote for the LA Times last March, touting a growing movement he dubbed "The New Cocktailians." He gives a shout-out to Sasha Petraske, whose cocktail bar on the Lower East Side, Milk & Honey, arguably kicked off the post-modern fetish for authentic drinks that may finally have driven the appletini from our midst. That’s where Sam Ross, the gentleman above, made a name for himself with fabulous concoctions that tweak classic cocktail combinations in clever and delicious ways. Like many of the new so-called mixologists, he appears to favor a steampunk-inflected look, with the requisite vest and curated facial hair. Don’t let that distract you. I recently sampled his Penicillin at Momofuku Ssam and it’ll cure whatever ails you.
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photo by george billard

11.3.09 Creature Feature: Titi

I suppose the more classic image is of children playing in the piles of leaves. But Titi took an altogether different approach, finding these heaps of crispy birch and maple and dogwood leaves to be ideal for an afternoon nap. As we raked and sweated in the glorious fall sunshine, she snoozed happily, her brindle coat the perfect compliment to the hues of russet and brown.I always imagined that I would have children, but life's mysterious ways took me down another path. I have this little fur bundle of joy to bring me a a different sort of love and, in the 10 years since she thrust her paw at me through the bars of her cage at the Santa Monica pound, together we have experienced sorrow and loss, transcendence and triumph. She loves her new life upstate, showing her true colors as an invaluable mouser and fireside companion.
Tagged — Titi, life, cat, animals, nature