December 2010

12.28.10 Making Lemonade

Silver fox 790 xxx
snow daze
Our flight to Mexico was totally cancelled—not delayed, not postponed, CANCELLED! 10 years ago exactly, trying to make my way from LA to Tulum to celebrate Scott's 40th, the same exact thing happened. In the end, I never made it down there at all, but this time G pulled a rabbit out of a hat and got us a flight to Mexico CIty on Thursday. We'll make it to Todos Santos late that night, missing just a day and a half of our vacation. By the 31st, we'll have our day in the sun.In the meantime, we'll make the most of another 2 days tromping around the snowy city, and another couple of nights at the Ace. Yesterday we saw Black Swan and True Grit; the former a hot mess, the latter a beautifully shot and rather compelling film, though not the Coen brothers' best. There followed another flawless dinner at Momofuku Ssam. The duck with plum and cashew was divine, as were the pickled Prince Edward Island mussels. Today, we're headed out to see The Fighter and The King's Speech, then Co. for pizza—G will fall off the gluten wagon for that! Bottom line: it could be worse. Hope you're tucked up somewhere warm...
Broadway 790 xxx
photo by george billard

12.27.10 The Great White Way

This photo doesn't really begin to capture the insane blizzard swirling through Times Square as we stepped out of the theatre last night. Broadway was virtually deserted except for the rush of people desperately trying to make it home by any means necessary. The silence and the fluffy whiteness were magical but there were also lightning and strong winds. Luckily we made it down the snow-packed subway steps and safely back to the Ace, where we awakened today to a foot of snow out the window. Our White Christmas, just a little late.

Todos santos 790 xxx
sand, rock and sea in Todos Santos
As of tomorrow, I will be on the road, traveling to Todos Santos, Mexico. Four of us are gathering at a rented house on a pineapple plantation in this tiny surf town/artists' colony on the Baja peninsula to celebrate Scott's 50th birthday. I don't surf but I plan to swim, stroll the beaches, eat lots of fresh fish and generally soak up as much relaxation as possible. Not sure what the wireless situation will be, but stay tuned...
Jr snow tree 790 xxx
illustration by the very talented and lovely janice richter

12.26.10 Snow Day

Wouldn't you know, on the day we leave the country to spend time in the city, here comes the snow?! It hasn't quite started yet, but G says we even need to be prepared for the possibility that the Broadway show for which we have tickets tonight may be cancelled. I don't feel bad for my sake, especially since we already saw Fela last year, but it was to be a special treat for my sister and niece. Fingers crossed. We're expecting feet of snow. G and I are on our way to Todos Santos, on the Baja peninsula for a little R&R. I'll be sorry to miss the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing possibilities, but I can't really complain. There will be more snow in our future. In the meantime, a few suggestions for keeping warm as you huddle indoors, safe from the biting winds and plummeting temperatures.
Caramelized fruit 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

12.25.10 Holiday Cheer

Merry Christmas! I hope you're doing whatever makes you happy today, whether on your own or en famille. I know that this is a big time of year for loneliness and heartache. There is so much pressure on us to resemble the classic picture: parents, grandparents and children all gathered together in good health with plenty of food and lots of presents. Reality is so much messier, what with divorce, Alzheimer's, diabetes and all the human foibles that stand between us and perfection. The point is to do your best and to be grateful for what you have, whatever that may be. I launched this blog a year ago with the hope that I might be able to share my passions with kindred spirits, and the time has gone by in the blink of an eye. I've explored and learned a great deal, including how wonderful it is to get support from so many friends, both old and new. Thank you from the bottom of my heart: without you, I'm nothing.
Carrot soup 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

12.22.10 Orange Genius

With all those rich roasts and braises, the patés and terrines, the confits and caramels, the puddings and petits fours, you need something tangy and vibrant to spark your palate, no? I've been enjoying cooling glasses of seltzer, lightly flavored with lemon-rosemary syrup. Quite a tonic. And a tart, juicy clementine can really hit the spot. I also rely on green juices to keep me honest, though I don't suppose that's actually a good way to kick off a holiday meal. But what about a bowl of brilliant orange carrot soup enlivened with lots of spicy ginger and a warming hint of cumin? The great thing about this soup is that you can adapt it to suit your mood and what you've got in your fridge. Stir in some buttermilk, or a tiny bit of cream. Add chopped jalapeño, or cilantro or dill. Got some stale bread? Make croutons to float in your soup. You can even forget the carrots and ginger and use broccoli, or potatoes, or squash. What I'm trying to say is that you can invent a fantastic vegetable soup by following a few basic steps I will lay out here for you.
Lamb 790 xxx
photo by sarah shatz for food52

12.21.10 Roast Beast

I'm a terrible friend. I've been horribly remiss in preparing you for the grand holiday feast. I'm (sort of) ashamed to admit that I don't have a backlog of my own recipes and accompanying photos to offer you here, so I'm going to do another of my motley compendiums. Above is the roast leg of lamb with garlic sauce that I will be serving my sister and niece on the first night of their visit. Here's the recipe. It looks pretty easy and, as a recent convert to lamb, I'll be sticking my thermometer in and not trusting my own instincts. I recommend you do the same. On the side there will be a rich and buttery puree of celeriac and potato—do you really need a recipe? Oh hell, here's one. (I think I'll use buttermilk instead of the cream, though.) Also a simple arugula salad with a light champagne vinaigrette. For Christmas Eve dinner, we're invited to some friends' home for paella. I'm in charge of dessert; more on that another day. Inspired? Here's a slew of good-looking paella recipes.
Mercury glass balls 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

12.20.10 Home for the Holidays

The countdown has begun. My sister and her daughter (17 years old!) are arriving for a visit this week. Four of us crammed into this tiny cottage should be interesting. I had hoped like hell to have the bathroom renovation completed by now, but we're on country time up here and still praying it will happen in January. There's no snow either, and no prospects for any, even though further north they're up to their eyebrows in the stuff. So no snowshoeing. What will we do? Probably sit in the front of the fire reading, watching movies and eating a succession of wonderful things that will emerge from the kitchen on a regular schedule. (I'll definitely be making crack and white hot chocolate.) Since we'll be welcoming guests, I wanted to make sure the house felt festive. But not kitsch. I'm sure you all have your traditions—the tree dripping with tinsel, the crêche, the knick-knacks and gew-gaws you haul out once a year at this time—and I wanted to show you how, with just a few simple elements, I've added a bit of holiday cheer to my home. The giant glass mercury balls, above, I found on sale at Takashimaya a few years ago. They have a vintage look and I  love how they reflect the firelight.
Little girl 790 xxx
photos by george billard

12.17.10 Turning Japanese

Cold weather means hot pots which means trips to Mitsuwa, the Japanese superstore in Edgewater, New Jersey. It's on our way home from the city, and we take special delight in our visits there. For one thing, they have the most spectacular soft-serve ice cream in flavors like green tea and black sesame. I'm especially obsessed with the sesame, which is a murky purple color and so smoothly, sweetly seductive you could almost swoon. The enormous store contains aisles of ingredients—from produce to rice to fresh seafood—as well as kitchen tools (rice cookers), a bakery, an extensive sake selection, and several small restaurants serving udon, ramen, katsu, etc. In short, it's tough to get out of there in a hurry. You'll find yourself examining 10 kids of miso and 20 kinds of soy sauce. I have discovered wonderful quick-cooking brown rice; little jars of yuzu kosho and shichimi togarashi; and fresh chrysanthemum leaves. As I've mentioned before, I highly recommend you delve into the world of hot pots. These one-pot meals are super healthy, warming and hearty, and ideal for one or two people.
Meyer lemons 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

12.16.10 Sunny Side Up

I'm a sucker for citrus. It's such a relief when oranges, grapefruit and lemons begin flooding in from California and Florida at this time of year. Although I adore very tart lemons, I also love the lightly sweeter and more perfumey Meyer variety. Their smooth, thin skin is an electric golden yellow that seems to compensate, just a bit, for the lack of sunshine these days. I grabbed an armload at Fairway yesterday and, since they are a bit fragile and don't keep for so long, I'm going to immediately turn them into syrup and marmalade. The former will make wonderfully refreshing spritzers, especially with the addition of fresh rosemary. The latter will nicely cut through the rich fattiness of roasts or perhaps even our Christmas goose. And, of course, you can always preserve some lemons, as I've done again this year. Here's a recipe from last spring, along with one for chicken tagine, and a place to order organic Meyer lemons, if you're so inclined.
Grinch 790 xxx
some stories never get stale

12.15.10 Moving Images

In the movie of my life, I'm sitting on the couch in front of the fire watching a movie. I have done this, plus or minus the fireplace—and assorted family members—ever since I can remember. I definitely associate holiday time with watching movies and eating See's. So I thought I might take this opportunity to create a list for you of movies that would make great viewing during all the downtime you'll hopefully be having in the next few weeks. Of course I'm assuming you'll also be doing the requisite skiing and snowshoeing to offset all that lounging and the inevitable onslaught of calories. We've got a light snow cover here and I'm praying for more. I may even learn to ice skate this year! (I am a horrible, knock-kneed skater but G has promised to school me.) Perhaps you feel I've been shirking my duties and not posting enough holiday-relevant recipes. You're not wrong. Blogging has taken a bit of a back seat to the insanity of shopping and wrapping and schlepping. But it's not that we haven't been eating well. Last night there was a delicious salad of fresh Tuscan kale with roasted delicata squash, pecorino and fresh pomegranate.