February 2011

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photos by gluttonforlife

2.24.11 Marinate On This

Due to my previously mentioned upbringing (college professors for parents, etc), I'm kind of a prig when it comes to language. Some might even say I am less than rational when it comes to being exceedingly irritated by changes to the lexicon, especially when they involve loose grammar. Which is not to say I don't embrace slang. And occasionally a newly coined term or phrase will capture my fancy. When I first heard the expression "to marinate on something," I was instantly won over. Mostly because I knew exactly what it meant. Sometimes you just need to soak up new information, letting facts and emotions seep in through your pores. You emerge steeped in whatever it was you had to mull over, newly flavored. And of course culinary metaphors are always big with me.In the kitchen, marinating is part of your arsenal. It can take the place of cooking, as with ceviche, or just be the first step in infusing flavor into your food. Although acidic or enzymatic ingredients are commonly used to tenderize proteins, marinades can also be like a kind of dressing that slowly penetrates vegetables and fruits, without going all the way to becoming pickles.
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strong flavors permeate nicely

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photos by gluttonforlife

2.22.11 Kishu? I Don't Even Know You!

I come from a very linguistically focused family where all sorts of word games (not to mention mind games) were the order of the day. I'm very into language and its limitless possibilities for manipulation, including the humblest pun. Never can resist. Ingredients are sort of like words, able to be tossed together in seemingly infinite combinations, so that cooking becomes a kind of jazzy poetry (rap?!) or improvised narrative. The kishu is a sweet little grace note, an ampersand between clementines and satsumas. This tiny mandarin, only slightly bigger than a jawbreaker, originated in China and arrived in Japan around the 17th century, where it is known as mukaku-kishi. Mukaku means seedless, which they are. They have a super-short season and are not that easy to come across. I got mine through Local Harvest, a locavore network that helps you find farmers' markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, and through which you can buy produce, grass-fed meats and other coveted items. My kishus came from Churchill Orchard, a small organic farm in Ojai, California.
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kishus are a bright spot in winter

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photos by gluttonforlife

2.21.11 Meaty Monday: Lamb Vindaloo

I arose this morning to the deep silence of new-fallen snow, a world blanketed white. Today is a holiday. An opportunity to putter about guilt-free, reading yesterday's paper, enjoying a leisurely cup of chai. Thoughts turn to the cubes of lamb I pulled from the freezer to defrost overnight. Something warming is in order, a comforting braise of some sort, but nothing that requires too much work. Perhaps a spicy vindaloo is just the thing. It can marinate for hours, and then G can stir it on the stovetop while I'm at yoga this evening. A group effort, and yet not much effort at all. Brown rice, sauteed spinach and a little raita. That's dinner on this Meaty Monday. A day off for you might mean ordering in, but it's actually much more indulgent to inhale the wonderful smells of aromatics and spices, knowing that a delicious curry is in your future.
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i love the earthy palette of these fragrant spices

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photos by gluttonforlife

2.17.11 Cereal Killers

As in bleached, refined, high-heat-processed, denatured, extruded and packaged breakfast cereals. You know the cutesy O's and puffs and crisps we all grow up eating? Poison. In reading Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon's excellent, information-packed guide to eating and cooking for maximum health and nutrition (and enjoyment!), I learned something that I had sort of intuited already but that still seemed shocking when I really understood the facts: the extreme processing to which much packaged food is subjected not only robs what we eat of essential nutrients but can actually be toxic to us. It's particularly true for grains and nuts, which contain fragile oils that turn rancid, and thus harmful, when subjected to heat. That's what makes breakfast cereals so bad for you. The grains are totally broken down and then extruded at extremely high temperatures; ever notice how little they resemble any actual food? Even those "healthy" boxed cereals should be ruled out, including granola and rolled oats. For the most part, convenience foods are not at all convenient for our bodies. As easy as it is to dump some Cheerios and homogenized milk into a bowl, it takes just 15 minutes more to cook up a breakfast that actually has some nutritional value.
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photos by gluttonforlife

2.16.11 Home Run: Vintage Stoneware

Our bathroom remodel finally got started yesterday, almost a year to the day after we first began thinking (and writing) about it. Sadly, due to various factors (the size of the bathroom, the size of our doorways) we had to give up the idea of a soaking tub. But we are replacing literally everything—all the tile and fixtures, even the walls. More about all that later. We are so fortunate that a dear friend has loaned us his gorgeous, spacious and light-filled weekend place, just a quick drive from our cottage. A relocated Frenchman, his home is filled with beautiful antiques, including hefty, hemstitched linen sheets and amazing stoneware pottery. I covet these rustic dishes, and have made a mental note to scour ebay and local thrift stores for the American version of them. Incredibly strong and durable, stoneware has long been used for cooking and was the predominant houseware of 19th century North America.
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old stoneware acquires a beautiful patina

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photos by george billard

2.15.11 Chickening Out

This past weekend G and I attended a workshop about raising chickens. It's something we've been daydreaming about for a while, because we've long enjoyed the delicious eggs from River Brook Farm. And because we could really use the poop to fertilize our garden. So we signed up to learn about this ancient enterprise from Mark and Barbara Laino at Midsummer Farm in Warwick. This amazing couple is into organic, sustainable farming; they grow vegetables and herbs, raise animals, and hold down full-time jobs. Barbara is also a holistic nutritionist, and I was thrilled to see several pages of egg recipes from Nourishing Traditions (one of my bibles) in the packet they send home with you.
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nutrition-packed eggs are one big reason to raise your own chickens
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photos by gluttonforlife

2.14.11 Meaty Monday: Heart on Sleeve

Even though it ends with me cooking dinner for my husband, I believe this to be a feminist post. After committing to joining in the year-long fun at Charcutepalooza, I promptly fell behind in procuring and curing the requisite first couple of challenges: duck prosciutto and pancetta. I'm pleased to say that here, today, on Meaty Monday, I can present the results of both completed endeavors.The day I found myself rubbing spices into 5 pounds of fresh pork belly, I happened to be tuned into Terry Gross' Fresh Air interview with historian Stephanie Coontz on the subject of her new book about revisiting Betty Friedan's seminal "The Feminine Mystique." Friedan's book, published 47 years ago, ignited the contemporary women's movement, appealing to all those busy and domestically accomplished stay-at-home moms who were mystified by their utter despair and unhappiness. Cut to 2011: I am standing in my kitchen in the middle of a weekday, contentedly massaging a piece of meat with freshly ground nutmeg and feeling no pain. As we post-feminism feminists understand, it's all about choice.
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a pork belly has a fatty side and a meaty side like this

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photos by gluttonforlife

2.11.11 I Heart You

We're so bombarded with commercialized holidays that I'm loathe to even mention Valentine's Day again, but it's hard to be completely cynical about a day that's all about LOVE. Of course we've all been programmed to think of candy, flowers and—for the really optimistic among us—jewelry as expressions of love. But remember how exciting it was in elementary school to open those teensy envelopes with your name clumsily scribbled in grubby little-boy script? (I was popular until I moved to Spain in the 4th grade, and so can remember 3 blissful years of adoration before it all went to shit.) Those days may be over, but I know the die-hard romantics among you are already planning something special for Monday night. How about a delicious and heart-warming dinner, lovingly whipped up without too much bother? Does it really need to include cheese, beef and chocolate? How about something that takes into consideration your beloved's heart—in the high cholesterol sense?
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photos by gluttonforlife

2.10.11 Stuff It

Valentine's Day is approaching. Do you even care? Even if you do, the last thing you'll be planning is dinner out with your sweetie. We all know what a disaster that is, right? Surrounded by tables of clammy-handed twenty-somethings trying to express their devotion through over-priced specials at restaurants with mood lighting? No, thanks. If you want to be truly romantic, prepare a lovely meal at home. In the next couple of days, I promise to post some richly satisfying and epicuriously exciting dishes worthy of this over-hyped occasion that you can consider whipping up for your beloved(s). You might even try this one, a fairly simple, easily customizable recipe for stuffed poblano chiles, those gorgeously green and glossy creatures you've undoubtedly admired from afar.

2.8.11 Highly Illustrative

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all illustrations by janice richter
Once upon a time, I toiled in the creative department at Saks Fifth Avenue, working on high-profile advertising campaigns in the wacky and fast-paced world that is fashion retail. My boss, SVP Janice Richter, was a multi-talented woman who (like I) has since moved on to greener pastures. We had some fun while we were there, though she coped with the whole corporate thing much more gracefully than I ever could. Jan never lost her cool, perhaps because under the desk in her corner office she harbored the soul of an artist. In her new life as an illustrator, she reveals a talent for lyrical, vivid and always incredibly chic images that incite desire for whatever they're depicting. She's been kind enough to let me post a few here in the past, and today we have an embarrassment of riches along with her thoughtful take on, among other things, art and commerce.
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jan is also a good cook (and adventurous eater)