September 2012

Hanna Rion —
The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.
Laura 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

9.27.12 Garden Party

Few things make me happier than cooking for the people I love. I had a great time making the most of summer's last days when I co-hosted a dinner party right smack in the middle of a friend's lovely and prolific garden. We featured the late-season produce that was overflowing on all sides and the weather cooperated, offering balmy breezes late into the night. The menu was organized around a main course of paella, which we cooked outside on a big burner that belongs to the deep fryer we use for our Thanksgiving turkey. You can use your grill instead, or cook it inside on the stove if you prefer. Paella is actually pretty forgiving, and the recipe can be scaled up or down as you will.
Chips1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

9.26.12 Chip In

Kale, once the darling of dreadlocked health nuts, has gone so mainstream that there must be a backlash brewing. I'm a longtime fan, having been raised in Santa Cruz, California aka hippie mecca. This leafy green is always in heavy rotation in our kitchen because we grow so much of it. My favorite is the dark, bumpy lacinato variety—also known as Tuscan, black (cavolo nero) or dinosaur—but I also appreciate the curlier types, and the sweetness of Russia kale cannot be denied. I adore the now-ubiquitous kale Caesar salad, which I first swooned over years ago at Il Buco in New York City and is undoubtedly coming to a McDonald's near you any moment now. I also gave you a very basic recipe for kale chips some time ago and it appears to have passed from one mommy blogger to another until every kid in the universe has green flecks stuck between its teeth. I'm still a fan, though I've moved on from plain to fancier stuff. You may remember me mentioning a certain obsession with Bombay Ranch-flavored kale chips, the ones referred to by New York magazine as "Doritos for health nuts." Their vegan cheesiness is nothing short of addictive. Rather than paying eight bucks for a box (easily consumed by two during a short car ride), I set out to make my own, and I was not disappointed.
Henry Miller —
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
Transplanting rice duguid 790 xxx
photo by naomi duguid

9.24.12 Naomi Duguid: On Burma

More than a decade ago, I was given a cookbook that taught me how to use ingredients in my own kitchen that I had previously enjoyed only in restaurants found deep in ethnic neighborhoods. Fish sauce. Kaffir lime leaves. Sticky rice. This was “Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia,” for which authors Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford—with their two young sons in tow—followed the Mekong River south through southern China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Along the way, they ate from stalls in village streets and learned to cook in the humblest of private homes, absorbing traditional techniques and discovering the kind of authentic food that is a true reflection of people, places and cultures. And they shot roll upon roll of film—intimate portraits, sweeping vistas, the quiet poetry of everyday life.

The result was a gorgeous and enthralling book that served as inspiration for my own travels to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and taught me always to begin with a visit to the local outdoor food market. Naomi and Jeffrey wrote five more books while pursuing the road less traveled—“Seductions of Rice” (2003); “Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World” (2003); “Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent” (2005); “Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China” (2008); and “Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas” (2008)—each one showered with well-deserved praise and awards. The couple divorced in 2009, and Naomi’s first solo endeavor, “Burma: Rivers of Flavor,” is being released by Artisan this week. It’s proof that two heads are not always better than one. I was lucky enough to interview the author by phone late last year when she was finishing work on the book, and have read it in an online galley form thanks to the kind people at Artisan. 

Dorothy Parker —
Ducking for apples—change one letter and it's the story of my life.
Parfait 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

9.19.12 C'est Parfait

I majored in comparative literature at Harvard in the 80s, when symbolism was in. I was immersed in deconstructionism, from Derrida to Barthes. So some long-neglected part of my lizard brain perked up when I came across Pamela Yung's tantalizing multi-faceted dessert in an Edible Selby feature in T magazine. (Scroll through until you find it.) The grand finale to a loosely-Brazilian-themed lunch cooked by a bunch of groovy food types (Ignacio Mattos, former chef at Isa and Il Buco; David Tanis, of Chez Panisse fame, etc), the dessert combined grilled pineapple, lime sherbet, coconut mousse and a nutty riff on farofa (toasted manioc flour), all casually jumbled together in a clear glass. Reader, I was smitten. These elements might have been composed into a more formal construction, yet in this supremely modern ensemble each one retained its own distinct identity while still contributing to a revelatory gestalt. It wasn't as obvious as when you get all the pieces of a classic dessert spread out on a plate—like the tired conceit that is deconstructed pie, for example. This just felt so fresh and original that I was compelled to copy it right away.
Birds 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

9.17.12 There Will Be Blood

One thing I love about living closer to nature is how attuned I have become to the seasons. Although fall is still my favorite— for its surge of energy, its bittersweet luminosity—I have developed a much deeper appreciation of each one's particular qualities. The light, the air, the plants and the animals all telegraph the changes and make me so accutely aware of the cycle of life. In nature, death is not hidden away. Decay, rot, disease, skeletons—even genocide and homicide—are all around. These signs of death can sometimes be chilling, but also poignant and beautiful. You come across "scenes," learn to piece together clues and decipher narratives. On the rickety porch of an abandoned cottage nearby (I stop by there often to check out the old apple tree, the twining vines of wisteria and wild grape, the rampant patches of day lilies and iris), I found this tattered bird's nest. Inside were the dessicated skeletons of two baby birds. They reminded me of Heckle and Jeckle and I took them home, adding them to my collection of deer vertebrae, dead bugs and found feathers.
Leonardo da Vinci —
As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.
Ls 790 xxx
photo by george billard

9.14.12 Stroke Me, Stroke Me

Not much of a post today (rushing into the city), but just wanted to let you know that the blog, and my recent post on Cape Cod, are featured today on Gardenista, the new garden-centric sister to the wonderful design/lifestyle site, Remodelista. I'm really thrilled about this and hope it may lead to other collaborations. Please stop by for a visit and leave a comment there so I can feel popular. Have a lovely weekend!