It is all there. Just listen.
Monday, December 2, 2013
I was too busy preparing and hosting on Thanksgiving to remember to photograph our table, our guests, and even what we cooked and baked.
I wanted to finish in the kitchen, go out for a walk with Harry and Charlie, and their out-of-town visitor, Dolly, and then sit down for a while by the fire before gathering for our dinner.
In addition to my apple pie, this year I thought a cake might be a nice addition. Most everyone made the traditional selection of pie, so we ate pumpkin gingerbread cake all weekend. I finished the last piece this morning. I've shared other recipes from Gingerbread here before, and this one was as wonderful as the others. The pumpkin cuts the intensity of the spice a bit, yet the overall flavor is definitely of gingerbread.
adapted from Gingerbread
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups pumpkin puree (1 can of puree is 2 cups, so I added 1/4 cup of homemade rhubarb butter, or you could use apple butter or apple sauce)
Confectioner's sugar for dusting
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl.
Put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Pour in molasses and beat until smooth. Drop in eggs, one at a time, and beat for about 2 minutes, stopping at least once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, mixing until combined. Reduce the mixing speed to medium-low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until the cake is dark chestnut brown in color, the top is cracked, and a wooden skewer inserted near the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before turning out to cool completely.
Dust with confectioner's sugar.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
After talking it over with Mr. Savory on Sunday, I decided to put aside an essay I began earlier this fall as a response to a writing exercise.
I felt relieved to let it go because that piece of writing, and I really can't call it anything more than a "piece", became an obligation to be the dutiful student, to not give up. Yet, I have no burning desire at present to tell this particular story from my childhood.
At first I was excited by this exercise and relieved to leave the not-too-distant past, as I worried that soon I will run out of material. I quickly saw that the past holds plenty of material, but my voice is centered in who I am now, not in the girl I was at eleven.
I believe I will return to her when I understand what her story is about, but for the moment, I am enjoying the photo albums I unpacked from storage boxes. I am remembering her clothes, her bedroom, what her family looked like.
This girl needs time to come to life again. But for now, ttyl girl in braids.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Three weeks ago, before our leaves in Philadelphia were turning, my friend Emily sent me honest to goodness real maple leaves from Vermont. She picked them herself, pressed and packed a pile of New England autumn down to the Mid-Atlantic, where the temperatures were in the 70's and our maple leaves were still green and fixed on their branches.
They carried a Vermont chill with them, the feeling of walking amongst the leaves wearing boots and a heavy sweater.
After spreading them out and admiring the colors, I placed them in our wooden salad bowl (made in Vermont, of course), and every morning I come down to the kitchen for breakfast wondering why we forgot to put the salad in the fridge the previous night.
Except we haven't been eating big, green, leafy salads, so I continue to admire my bit of Vermont, pour Vermont maple syrup gifted from another friend on my oatmeal or waffles, and watch golden leaves fall from our own trees now, hearing the dogs crunch them as they run about outdoors and up and down the kitchen door steps.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Sometimes I decide to accept a minor event as a sign pointing me in a particular direction. I go with it and take the ride.
After reading several tributes to the Italian Cookbook author, Marcella Hazan, who died recently, urging readers to go out and buy Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking as a way to honor her, I wondered if I ought to do just that.
A few days later, I was going through some boxes in a third floor closet, looking for some childhood photo albums and scrapbooks. While I didn't find what I was looking for, I did open a box containing items from my mother's apartment that I had quickly packed up after she died and we were preparing to sell her place.
It was like Christmas morning, when I pulled out The Classic Italian Cookbook.
This edition is a re-print published in 1980, and my mother must have received it as a gift. The edges of the jacket are a bit torn at the top, but otherwise it appears to never have been used.
I thought I'd try dedicating myself to it, at least the recipes not containing meat. I've been feeling lately that I want to settle in and learn from a master cookbook author. An opportunity has come knocking.
I know Marcella wouldn't approve of our eating a bowl of spaghetti as our main course like we did last night, but the tomatoes for the sauce did come from my garden, so I hope she would forgive our American ways.
Give yourself about two and a half hours to prepare this sauce, and while it simmers, putter about and wash that sink-full of dishes from the day, pour yourself a glass of wine and spend a few minutes with a book you're in the middle of reading.
Maybe take a moment and think about who or what this slow-cooking sauce might connect you to.
Sughi di pomodoro
Tomato Sauce I
adapted from The Classic Italian Cookbook
2 pounds fresh, ripe plum tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1. Cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise. Cook in a covered saucepan at a steady simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours more.
2. Puree the tomatoes through a food mill into a bowl. Discard the seeds and skin.
3. Rinse and dry the saucepan. Put in the olive oil, then add the chopped onion, and lightly saute over medium heat until just translucent, not browned. Add the carrot and celery and saute for another minute. Add the pureed tomato, the salt, and the sugar, and cook at a gently simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir from time to time while cooking.
Serves 4 as a main course
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Yesterday, as I left the house with Harry and Charlie for their afternoon walk, we ran into our next door neighbor who commented on our mushroom garden.
I looked over to where she was gesturing and gasped.
Overnight a toadstool village sprang up from the previous day's heavy rain!
It was one of those moments of synchronicity where everything fits together and gets delivered to your door.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The self-portrait above was a response to a photo prompt.
The funny thing is that it wasn't until I spent a considerable amount of time setting the self-timer on my camera placed at the end of the table and running back to my chair and posing, that I realized that I had missed the point entirely.
The context of the prompt was a seasonal one: to include a few details giving clues to autumn. To make yourself comfortable, say on the couch or in an armchair, with a mug of tea and a bowl of popcorn. Think about what texture and camera angles can convey...Now, popcorn may not be my quintessential autumnal snack, but no matter, it could be an apple, apple pie, a cider donut.
I seized on the get comfortable part and tried to be natural about it. I log very little couch time, and never by day. Occasionally, on a weekend, I grab an hour with a glass of wine and a book if Mr. Savory is cooking dinner.
But up there in that photo is me in my spot at the kitchen table. I suppose it is where I am most comfortable, not necessarily physically, but creatively. And while that capture was posed, it looks completely natural and familiar to me. I habitually sit right there, with my Moleskine, clutching my coffee.
But really, they are not the same thing. Being comfortable can be making sure you are not hot or cold, hungry or thirsty to the point of distraction. It can mean wearing clothes that make you feel confident or support your activity for the day, not tight or baggy, nor shoes that give you blisters.
It can mean preparing food that nourishes you in the season, and consuming enough but not so much that your stomach hurts.
I think it's time for me to take a seat in my living room, on the couch or in that armchair we picked up by the curb and had new springs put in. When it's daylight. Thirty minutes to read or knit.
A few years ago, Olivia and I took needlework outings, where we went to our local yarn store and sat upstairs in their comfy seating area. I brought my knitting and she her needlepoint. I commented one day to the shop owner how I never knit at home during the day, only on the couch in the evenings. She understood and said, "I know, that guilty pleasure, right?"
Maybe October is my month to explore getting comfortable. Tease apart the notion that it means I'm a slouch. I'll be back later, in a new pose, with my camera and a snack.