Monday, May 25, 2009

things left undone...

this is a confession. one that i'm only willing to make because reparations are in progress. i don't finish things. i start one great project after another, but leave many of them undone: creative projects, writing projects, and a great many small, but significant commitments to myself. if there were a 12 step program for this type of thing (actually, i'm certain there is) this might be my first step.

Some of these are old projects, like the memory book i began putting together for my sister (pictured above) which has been a sore spot for years. but there are also several new projects, started within the last few months, sitting around the apartment reminding me of my bad habit, and frankly, terrifying me~to think they too could join the boneyard of abandoned work!

(clockwise: stand mixer dust cover, hand-pieced/hand-quilted blanket, and unfinished painting resting on easel)

at this moment, i am feeling pretty comfortable surrounded by my things left undone - maybe it's the 3-day weekend, but really the answer lies in managing expectations and celebrating small successes.

big projects take lots of time. that's one reason i think i've taken such a liking to cooking. the process of creating a meal start to finish provides a quick healthy dose of accomplishment. enough small successes, and one might begin believing they could take on a greater challenge, like say... a quilt.

so in the spirit of celebrating small successes, here are some things that are finished:

rhubarb and strawberry jam, with hand carved block print label.
finished summer 08, but enjoyed with breakfast this morning

needlebook w/embroidery scissor pocket in sheep print

finished this book last night- Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Wheat berry and Smoked Chicken Salad & Tail-gating at minor league baseball game!

and now, i suppose, i have finished another post.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Georgia on my mind...

i sometimes live in denial of how deeply ingrained the habits of teaching are in me, until i spend two days reading archived articles about the country of Georgia and their recent conflict with Russia in order to write a blog entry about pork stew.

Georgian pork stew is just a recipe, like any other recipe one might find while perusing it's surprisingly tasty for Eastern European food, largely due to the mid-east influenced herbs and spices (fenugreek seeds, coriander, tumeric, basil, cilantro, etc) . but while serving this ethnic cuisine guilt overtook me, since really i know nothing about Georgia (the country).

now, a handful of web searches later, i feel superficially aware of the political strife in this smaller than South Carolina country. so, if asked, i will not be mortified. furthermore, i can share these culinary tidbits: Georgia is possibly the source of the world's first cultivated grapevines and neolithic winemaking. Georgian wines were the most highly prized and sought after wines throughout the former Soviet Union, but recently the demand led to widespread counterfeiting (some of which was just flavored grain alcohol, but this apparently didn't stop many Russians from indulging????). in 2006, Russia banned the importation of Georgian wines (small part appreciation for excellence, large part political motives) nearly killing the industry. since that time the Swiss have taken on the challenge of promoting Georgian wine throughout Europe and some of it has made it's way to us.

Georgian wine made it to our dinner table last night, to compliment our Georgian stew. the stew was delicious. all the research was perfectly edifying. the wine, well let's just say, four-fifths of the bottle still sits on the table untouched. i hope it was the fake stuff, for the sake of the Georgians.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

mise en place [MEEZ ahn plahs]

mise en place is a French culinary term that means you have prepped all of your ingredients and prepared your kitchen before cooking. if you grew up before the onslaught of round the clock real-time cooking shows, you might remember the beautiful array of little glass prep bowls of days past that made cooking seem like it was entirely an act of wizardry, magically in one oven and out the other...amazing! of course you knew someone had painstakingly minced that garlic and pre-baked that casserole, but cooking was neat, simple, and still looked fun!

of course, i don't always do it. it dirties lots of little bowls for someone else to wash. but when i do i find cooking highly satisfying and unflustered. it feels like the "right" way. not that anyone eating your food knows whether you went through this process. in fact, that person eating your food might grow increasingly worried after 30 minutes of prep and "you still haven't started cooking, yet?" but when the prep is fini, the cooking goes smoothly and often more quickly.

Springtime Eggs Benedict with Wild Greens and Mushrooms from Cooking with Shelburne Farms was a recipe that required preparedness, and i was happy to oblige!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

the morning after...

last night we smushed 6 folks around our little dining room table. we borrowed 2 chairs, and i humbly served dinner on mismatched plates. it wasn't picture perfect, but sometimes you've got to let go and enjoy.

it was a fun mix of farmers and foodies... the loveliest people anywhere.

we drank wine, shucked oysters, and ate layers of creamy wild mushroom lasagna. at the end of the night we plunged into flourless chocolate cake, goat's milk cherry ice cream, and sun-cooked brandied cherries from our preserved food stash.

for the first time in a long time we had crashers on our couch and our living room floor. while tempted to lament about not having a room for guests, i chose to focus on the opportunity for another wonderful meal: brunch.

the boys went out early in the morning for a game of frisbee, while i prepared a pie crust. even without those convenient little pie weights (which i'll undoubtedly purchase the next chance i get), the quiche turned out lovely: creamy, flaky, and filled with some of spring's first leafy greens- broccoli rabe and wild ramps.

and as this beautiful spring weekend comes to a close, i feel grateful for all that i do have - great friends and delicious leftovers. what else is there? (besides pie weights?)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

it's working...

it's only the second week that we've been using the kitchen menu board to stay organized and culinarily-inspired. but like many novelties, it was in danger of wearing off quickly. last week we made impressive food: short ribs, mushroom risotto with wild ramps, matzah ball soup, middle-eastern street food. this week we stared at the board without inspiration. um...burgers? finally we just jotted down some ingredients and left the details to be worked out later.

now it's later, and inspiration showed up just in time.

tuesday night: pork tenderloin & potatoes, or, if you prefer: Sauteed Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Port, Dried Cherries, and Rosemary, accompanied by Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Kale. it's a winner because it gives us a chance to use up some dried fruit before summer arrives and we're knee deep in the fresh stuff, and it involves port. what could be wrong with a port wine reduction?

maybe this menu thing is working after all.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

around the corner

while i set out to find inspiration for a meal at the market, it was pouring rain. generally, i like the rain, as long as i'm dressed for it. it keeps the crowds away. my gigantic umbrella provides an oddly pleasurable sense of privacy in a public space. but yesterday was a "pick up what you need, and move on" kind of day. mostly because there were better things awaiting me a few blocks from the market. NY Cake & Bake.

this week was the first time i'd stepped foot into this well-known establishment. somehow i wound up there twice in two days. once for a walk through and to pick up a b-day gift for my niece, then again yesterday to get serious.

i had a master plan to make not one, not two, but three fancy-pants martha stewart cookies. martha always seems to find her way back onto my radar. she's a perfectionist guru. she makes the simplest things grossly overcomplicated. so much so that her daughter now has a show that's entire purpose is to mock the impractical nature of her projects. martha makes sense to me, completely. i think to myself, we'll see whose laughing when i have a media empire built on my neurosis!

so i made cookies. lots and lots of very pretty cookies. 2 am, neck aching from hunching over the table placing symetrical dots on the backs of chocolate ladybugs. it was that kind of evening. entirely satisfying, once i hid all the smears, bleeding icing, and bunnies that had lost their limbs.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

a spring menu

as a perfectionist i struggle sometimes with spontaneity, unless i plan it well. when the question "what are you making for dinner?" comes without warning i am known to panic, at least inwardly.

now, we use this menu board. and for one whole week, it has worked beautifully. i know what and when i'm cooking. i know what and when jordan's cooking. and i know which days we're on leftovers, and when we'll be dining out.

it's great. having it up there is just the right amount of compulsive organization, while the ease of changing it up keeps it flexible.

now i'm off, as it's getting late, to the greenmarket to find out what's in store for week two of project meal planning. to be continued...

Monday, January 19, 2009

i took the backroads to get here...

i've been away from this blog for some time now, but still rambling along the road to a perfectly satisfying existence. when i decided to sign on again, i thought about the way i began. it remains true. we find ourselves once again picking things up in the middle somewhere.