Doctor got you down?

In my house, if you go to the doctor and they give you four shots, you can eat whatever you want. Ferd got a massive black and white cookie, he is planning on an ice cream pop when his show is over, and he is having popcorn and hotdogs for dinner.

To prepare myself for being the mother of the shot receivee, I went shopping with one of my best friends, and out for my favorite cup of coffee in New York City at Taza d’Oro, (still only $1.00), and then onto Chelsea Market because A. they had never been there, and you have to go, and B. I needed to eat whatever I wanted.

We got sticky buns, corn yeastbread twists with fennel and golden raisins, quiche with wilted spinach, blueberry muffins and hot chocolate. Later on we got a purple cupcake with no less than three inches of frosting. Yes maam. And it was all sooo good. I don’t care what people say about sugar and how many years it’s going to take off your life. I love it, and it does the job I need it to do.

For dinner, while Ferd eats his dogs, I’m going to have buckwheat noodles to pay my sugar debts. Once your head is healed from the cake, your stomach will love the buckwheat. I marinate the tofu in a good spill of soy sauce, a few Tablespoons of honey, some orange juice, some lemon zest, fresh garlic cloves, fresh ginger, sliced up without even peeling it, and cilantro leaves. (Add a little sesame oil if you have it.) Heat up a heavy saute pan with olive oil, and throw in a few cloves of minced garlic, and about two inches of ginger, along with a teaspoon of crushed coriander. Add the tofu, (cut in cubes) and don’t move it until it is golden.
Meanwhile, get your noodles cooking in salted water, and when they are still really al dente, drain them and toss with the tofu. Stir in a little chili and garlic sauce if you like it spicy, and wilt some baby dark greens in the saute pan to add as well.
Serve them with corn on the cob and cucumber with a little sugar and rice vinegar.

The challenge of other people’s food

Whenever I’m on my own it is so hard to get motivated to eat anything other than cherrios, possibly toast, definitely ice cream. Before my friend Eva goes away for a few days, she always brings over the food from her fridge. It’s easy enought to think about what you might make from the food that you bought yourself, but taking on somebody else’s groceries is a challenge. I never buy cucumbers. What does a cucumber do to a salad? Nothing. I don’t wear stockings, and I don’t buy cucumbers. But if it’s there, you can’t just throw it away, and it’s good to make yourself think outside the box. There is a dip that I do love, that’s cucumber, yogurt, a little garlic, olive oil and lemon. One large English, or hothouse cucumber (no seeds) is grated on the large holes into a quart container of whole milk yogurt. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, the juice from half a lemon, one garlic clove minced, and a drizzle of your favorite extra virgin olive oil. If you need to thin it out a little, add a bit of filtered water.
This is a totally cool and calming, eat-it-after-yoga kind of thing,or you could sear off a seasoned skirt steak, or even a couple of lamb chops (hot pan, olive oil, salt them, the each side about three minutes), and some roasted potatoes. (chop the potatoes, season with kosher salt, toss with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees til soft, about 25 to 35 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes).

Marinating, Roasting and letting things sit

It’s easy to want to rush things, but a tomato is going to rush into roasting about as quickly as you might rush into old age. It’s different if you’re old because you rushed it, and if you’re old because you’re ninety. A slow roast for a tomato is 250 degrees for six hours. This lets a tomato relax itself until it is completely collapsed and caramelized. You don’t have to mess with the tomatoes once they go in the oven, and if you are never home for a six hour stretch, you can get away with four hours at 300 degrees, and if you are never home for four hours, you need a rest.
Foil a sheet pan. Bring a pan of water to the boil make an x on the rounded end of each tomato. Cut the stem bit out of the other end. Make a big bowl of ice water, and set it aside. Get all the tomatoes in the boiling water, and after a few seconds, the skin will easily peel away from the x. Lift the tomatoes out of the boiling water, and immediately into the ice water. Let them sit in there just for a minute or so to cool, and then drain them. Peel the tomatoes, cut them in half and get the seeds out. Lay them out onto the sheet pan, cut sides up. Season with kosher salt and olive oil. Turn them over, more salt, more olive oil, and a thin, thin sliver of garlic on top of each one. Get them in the oven and do whatever else you have to do. When they are done, they are amazing on seared chicken, fish, steak, or even just on top of a piece of good baguette, all by themselves, or with a little sweet gorgonzola, or the obvious fresh mozzarella.

Marinating is quicker, but even with marinating, you have to be willing to wait. Give at least half an hour for a few pounds of raw cut tomatoes from the farmer’s market to sit with a few teaspoons of your favorite vinegar, a peppery olive oil, a few Tablespoons of diced shallot, a minced garlic clove, salt, freshly ground pepper, and some sprigs of fresh thyme. Get your pasta boiling in salted water, and toss everything together, tasting for salt, and adding another drizzle of your best olive oil and a GOOD, hard, Pecorino. A good marinade is worth waiting for, and a good cheese counter is worth looking for.

There is always a limit

I tried to give them a second chance, but the ever popular food delivery service that I have been giving my all to muster up some love for, isn’t working for me. They made promises that made my heart beat–a beautfiul selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, and even lunch for Ferdinand. Yes, yes and ohh, yes!! But I don’t care what someone promises, and no matter how good they look, they have just so many times to let me down. The mussles were bad, they over-ordered my strawberries, I paid twice the price for beer, and they don’t want to talk to me.
I can forgive a lot, but if someone isn’t talking to you, there is no hope. When things are going bad in any relationship, make a list for yourself of pros and cons so that a tiny little pro like, “Lord, there has never been another man that can kiss like that”, doesn’t rob you of your brain matter, and outweigh things like, “he has never called me, not once.”
Maybe it was just my anger getting in the way, but my list of cons starting growing and I realized I don’t like buying fruit I can’t touch and smell, and I want to see the fish staring back at me before I stuff it with shallots and tomatoes and garlic and coriander. I’m getting on the train, I’m going up to Fairway, I’m buying a big red snapper, and all of those things I just said, to stuff inside it, along with some salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon, and I’m going to roast it uncovered at 350 degrees until it just begins to flake, and not a minute more. I’m going to serve it with little potato pancakes, and I’m going to hold ripe peaches up to Ferd’s nose and let him choose by smelling which one he wants for dessert.

The Phoenix fridge

It’s an amazing transformation that my refrigerator goes through when my husband leaves. There’s nothing in there but refreshments for Ferdinand and a head of broccoli. I’m hoping that Child Services doesn’t come around to do an inspection, because it’s not going to look good, and I can’t see them willing to think creatively about what I could possibly make for dinner for Ferd from what I have available.

My mother has many hidden talents, and another one of them is making something from nothing. It’s true that it can be embarassing when she goes so far as to steal lobster from a sea gull who had temporarily dropped the lobster on the beach. Or when she collects coals from other people’s finished fires to start her own in order to cook the thing, to make one darn good lobster salad. But we never went hungry, or had a dull meal.

Tonight Ferdinand is having a little minced shallot fried up in olive oil, with a few basil leaves from out back thrown in and the broccoli. (Steam the broccoli first for a minute before you throw it in with the shallot.) I have a lemon in the fridge, and I’ll zest some in, along with a squeeze of the juice, some freshly ground pepper, and some salt. Pecorino Romano wouldn’t hurt to finish it if I can find some, and my friend Teletha won a contest at the tomato festival yesterday and said I could come by to take a few. There you go. Nothing like a few sliced heirloom tomatoes with olive oil, garlic and salt on the side. Use the best olive oil you can get your hands on, one that speaks to you, moves you, and tastes like the fruite of the olive and grass you want to lie down in.

Sandwich style

When I was seven, I had a pair of fabulous pajamas my mother made for me that you could use for daywear, nightwear, or lounging. They were one piece, and they were red with tiny flowers, about twenty yellow bubble buttons that started at the neck, and wide, flared legs, and they had a matching bathrobe, in the same materieal, but quilted. I loved it, and I wore it in a fashion show, and then for one week straight, 24/7. Nothing beats a fabulous jumpsuit throughout the day, and into the night.
Croque-Monsieur is a lot like that. You can serve it for breakfast, lunch or dinner and if you cut them up, you can serve it for an appetizer.

Butter a bunch of good white bread on one side, and put them buttered side down on a sheet pan. Spread the other side with a fancy mustard and cover with slices of Gruyere and any baked ham without water added. Cover them with a second slice of buttered bread. Stick them under the broiler, and when they are browned, flip them, and stick them in again. Sprinkle with a little Gruyere on the top, and broil for one more minute.
Have them whole, sliced into triangles, or tiny squares. Madame has them with a fried egg on top. What is not to like about ham and cheese on toast with a classy name like Croque-Monsier?

If you’re on your way to Micky D’s, Don’t do it!

I am so not going back to McDonald’s for a long, long time. The truth is, I’m an addict as much as my son is. Are you kidding me? I love McDonald’s, but with age, I have to hope, that I will find some kind of self control. There are a lot of things that you might think you love, but it’s not love at all, it’s just the memory that you love.
Make your own chicken nuggets. Buy whole chicken breasts, clean them of all the bits and pieces, and then slice them into two horizontally. For nuggets, just cut them into two inch pieces, or for chicken parmesan, leave them. Pat them dry, season them with kosher salt on both sides, then dip them into flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. (Look for the ones that are Japenese, they are fantastic; otherwise, just throw some day old bread into the food processor, and whir it around until it’s fine crumbs.)
Keep one hand clean for dipping, and one hand for doing things like moving pans around. Lay each piece onto a sheet pan, and let them rest for about fifteen minutes, so that the crumbs can really stick. Get a heavy saute pan ready with a nice glaze of beautiful olive oil (why start with bad oil, when good oil is so good and is going to make such a difference right from the beginning?) and throw a whole garlic clove in there. When it’s golden, take it out, and then lay the pieces of chicken away from you, and into the pan. Your heat should be medium. Let them cook without disturbing them for until the one side is lightly browned. Turn them with a pair of tongs, and do the other side. Remove to a plate.
Make a red sauce, by heating up more olive in a clean pan, add three whole cloves of garlic, and five basil leaves. Get the garlic golden. Don’t let the basil go brown, just dark green. Add a few red pepper flakes, and turn off the heat. Crush 28 ounces of whole San Marzano tomatoes with your hands. Add to the pan, and cook for half an hour (or more if you have the time). You can use this as a dipping sauce, or for chicken parmesan, grate some fresh mozzarella and some Grana Padano. Spoon a layer of sauce into a lasagna pan. Add the chicken pieces. Spoon on another layer of sauce. Sprinkle with a little mozzarella and a little of the parmesan. Heat in a 400 degree oven until the sauce is hot. Don’t overcook the chicken–that’s the best way to get moist chicken–don’t overcook.

Happy Meals

I hate forgetting. There was a building on the corner that they tore down, and it was last week, but I can’t really remember it anymore. There are recipes that I don’t remember and it could make me cry I loved them so much. The one for brown edged sugar cookies, I can’t remember for the life of me.
Of course certain things are best forgotten; it would just be too painful to remember. Think how stuck you would be if you remembered everything. It would take you an hour or a lifetime to cuss and cry through it before you could even get out of bed in the morning. I just wish I had more control over what stays in and what gets sifted out.
Ferd got ten points for doing so many good things this past week, and he had no problem not forgetting it, so we aren’t making dinner tonight. We’re going out for Happy Meals.

Waiting for Jonny to come home

Jonathan left for Italy yesterday. I went to bed at 10:00 and at 3:24, I was still watching my clock. At 8:30 Ferd woke up and said “I think I hear my dad”. It’s not the same without him. Even though I’m the one that does all the talking, everything is much too quiet. Maybe Ferd and I will just eat chocolate brownies tonight with a milk chaser. I don’t even feel baking though, so I’ll make them from a mix. Ferd will stir and I’ll shove them in the oven.

The cream sauce cure

I knew I was feeling nervous and afraid yesterday, so instead of buying my new favorite flavor, vanilla ice cream with a caramel and chocolate fudge core, I bought sorbet. I don’t know why I do it. Or, I know why I did it–if I’m slipping down the road of nervous and afraid I know there is no way I’m sticking to single portions–and I won’t feel quite so sick if I eat a whole pint of sorbet. The thing is, when you want something, and you know exactly what it is that you want, a cheap substitution is not going to do it. If I want ice cream, I want ice cream, not more of something that I didn’t want in the first place. It’s a tricky one though. What you want isn’t always good for you. And sometimes what you think you really want, is just more cover up for what is making you afraid.
Anyways, let’s stick to the idea that heavy cream is a great bandaid. How about some pasta with a lemon cream sauce for dinner. Reduce one pint of heavy cream with three of four whole cloves of garlic, a one inch by two inch peice of lemon peel with all of the pith removed, a sprig of fresh thyme, a little salt and three peppercorns. It will take about half an hour over a very low heat, and you will know it’s done when the garlic completely soft. Smash it right into the cream, and strain the whole thing through a fine sieve, trying to get as much of the garlic through as you can. The cream should be reduced by about one third, to one half. Taste for salt. Meanwhile, get nine ounces of pasta going and cook until it is al dente. Drain well, and toss with the cream sauce, some Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a little finely chopped parsley and torn basil. Serve it with wilted baby spinach and a really crisp cool white wine, and then take a walk.