Raspberry Tryst

Sometimes you fall in love with the right person at the right time and sometimes you don’t. Same with fruit. In the Northeast, raspberries are ready in August, and I have no business buying them on the outside of March. I was walking the dog with no coat and no hat and it was the deep dark pink of a Spring tulip pressing into bloom on a third grey day of rain that drove me to it. I needed to eat the sun. I bought the raspberries, a half pint of heavy cream and just in case the reality of the raspberries was they looked better than they tasted the morning after, French raspberry jam.
Make a shortbread crust: 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes, pinch of salt and 1/4 cup of sugar. Rub the butter into the flour and bake at 400 degrees in a pan with releasable sides, until it begins to go golden around the edges.
Smash the raspberries with a fork and add a little raw sugar, and a few spoonfuls of jam to taste.  Whip the cream with a dot of pure vanilla extract and a tiny shower of confectioners sugar, until it begins to thicken.  When the crust is cooled, and just before serving, spread the raspberry mixture over the top, and nearly cover with the whipped cream.  Serve with a side car of dark chocolate.


What if you just want the meat?
Make tiny little balls of ground sirloin and season the outsides with kosher salt (pepper later.) You could skewer them first and then saute (or grill), but I like to brown them off first and then stick them on the skewers so that you get crunchy, crispy across the entire orb. As the meatballs sear, add a tab of unsalted butter to the pan, with a clove of garlic and a sprig of parsley, spooning the butter over the meatballs as they cook. Cook until medium rare.

On the side, make an arugula and parsley pesto, smashing a sliver of a garlic clove, 2-3 tablespoons of pignoli, a glimmer of lemon zest, and cupful of arugula leaves with a about 8 sprigs of parsley with a mortar and pestle. Stream in the olive oil a few drops at a time until it’s the consistency that you like. Taste for salt and black pepper. Serve with excellent bread and a wedge of creamy gorgonzola.

The Coca Cola shimmy

This from a tweet: “Finished making Coca Cola Salad and it’s ready to go in the fridge to set.”

One of the beautiful things about our country is the pioneer spirit.  Only in America would someone venture off into the land of Coca Cola in search of a salad.  A little gelatin, a few mini marshmallows, some maraschino cherries and maybe some flaked coconut–soda salad.

Truth be told, it would be a lot easier for moi to buy organic soda and make my own marshmallows than to dig in the dirt.  Bless my (English) husband for pioneering in a whole different direction–carrot seeds, celery seeds, corn, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and dirt.

On the other hand…

there are cinnamon donut holes at Sweet Leaf

the lady at the trailer under the Kosciuszko Bridge where you pick up your towed car if you’re from Queens, smiled at me this morning     
they use fresh mint leaves in the mint tea at Le Pain Quotidien

they play Bach for free for twenty minutes (in a church) from 12:20 to 12:50 Monday through Friday.  That has got to be good for digestion. (broadway and 10th st)

people are starting to talk about manners (after forgetting them during a certain political “situation”)

If you see somebody

crying over by the fresh peas, that’s me.  It’s just what happens after holding a shoulder against a long, dark winter and all of a sudden in a heap of green on Aisle One, a window of Spring gets thrown wide open.

Fresh Pea Soup

This doesn’t even seem like it could be a distant cousin, much less the same vegetable as the more common dried pea soup.  Use two pounds of peas for six people.  Start by heating up a pan with a little olive oil; add three cloves of garlic, until they are golden.  Leave the garlic in the pan, and add one diced onion and if you have it, a single leek.  Cook over low heat until the onion is soft and lightly colored.  Add a few leaves of basil, and a few of mint. Add the peas, along with a little salt and pepper to taste.  Stir around for a bit, then add a few cups of stock, vegetable or chicken, the important thing being that the stock is home made.
For chicken stock, use a one pound pack of chicken bones.  You want to bring just the bones to a boil first, then throw away the water and start again.  This gets all the weird stuff out of the stock. Start again with the same bones, fresh water, a carrot, a celery stalk, a large onion, a piece of garlic, parsley, thyme, a few peppercorns, and possibly a fennel frond.  The trick with stock, is to skim it.  Whenever you pass by the stock pot, or happen to think about it, skim it.  You can let it simmer for anywhere from twenty minutes, to four hours.  The longer you cook it, the deeper the flavor.
Allow the stock to come just to a simmer, then puree half of the mixture until it is almost smooth.  Combine the two, and adjust your stock if the soup seems too thick.  Serve with parmesan and a little more fresh mint and basil.

36 Umbrellas

We counted 36 umbrellas over the weekend, Ferdinand and I.  They were caught under parked cars, stuck in the garbage, stuffed in trash cans, or just lying wounded on the sidewalk.  “What a moment,” I said, “to walk out into the wet and the cold, thinking yourself protected by a nylon crescent on a stick and instead your whole front line gets blown inside out and twisted and you become so disillusioned with what you thought you had that you leave it all behind.”
I have never trusted umbrellas. Or eggs that come from a farm of chickens living in slightly worse conditions than business men who rent coffin shaped cubicles, at the Big Lemon Hotel in the red light district of Tokyo.  I read this morning that housewives are looking to anchor themselves by raising their own egg laying hens. It’s tempting, and every time I read something about women in cities raising chickens, I think, “I should be raising chickens.”  I have a backyard, I live in NYC. Except I gave up being a housewife (for money and because it’s one thing to truly enjoy the company of a chicken but another all together to think that any earth closeness raising a chicken might bring you, is going to save you from the malaise of being a housewife.)   I lived on a farm with a brand new baby, chickens, cows, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, no phone and a mule and trust me–if you are meant to work, there is nothing a chicken can do unless you start a business selling her eggs (or writing about them.)

On that note, I believe in a good solid, cardboard packaged organic egg.  I made little omelets last night with tender spears of braised asparagus and tiny spoonfuls of sheep’s milk ricotta.  We had them with roasted potatoes from someone else’s garden and tiny peas flavored with pancetta.

Can you keep the salmon a secret.

Last night I made tiny little salmon cakes–I don’t know what I was thinking–the salmon just looked so fresh in the case and Ferdinand loves mashed potato.  I got all whipped up into a salmon/potato cake and pan seared asparagus frenzy.  I lost my balance on the edge of reality:  “He’ll love this.” I thought.

It’s one thing to think your baby is going to like this or your baby is going to like that before they are born.  And sometimes they surprise you and say things like “I love lettuce.”  But to try and fool yourself into thinking that your child who gagged on the essence of fish the last time he had it is going to accept it, pink, and in a fish cake, is ridiculous.  My son could enter himself into the Guinness Book of World Records for scent accuracy and in his age group he would have no competition.
I tossed together some tender watercress leaves with slices of endive and parsley for a salad on the side.  I made a sauce of creamy yogurt, a dollop of mayo, crushed garlic, fresh thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper and poured into individual sauce dishes.  I plated the whole thing and as I was setting the food onto the table, “he’s not going to eat this” drove it’s way through the roadblocks.  Ferd sat down and said very matter of factly, “Mom, I can’t eat that.”   I took a bite of delicate, delicious, crispy on the outside creamy on the inside salmon cake.   He held his nose.  “Mom, I can’t even smell that.”  “You know, tastes change,” I said.  “They’re not changing now, Mom.”  It’s hard to be a mother when you want to believe that you can convince this other, smaller version of you, that they should like a piece of fish because you like a piece of fish. Or that you should at least put your foot down, and say “well, that’s what’s for dinner,” but you’re too tired to make it happen.

Ferdinand had a hamburger, a carrot, and chicken soup with some peas in it from last night. If you can manage to muster up a little salmon love, make the salmon cakes.

Get yourself a super fresh filet of salmon, weighing about a half a pound.  Season it with kosher salt on both sides, and cook it either in a hot sauté pan with olive oil, or roast it in the oven at 400 degrees.  Either way, cook the salmon until just done.  It should still have a tinge of darker pink to it in the middle when you take it off the heat.  Allow it to cool completely.  Cook about four fist-sized potatoes, peeled, cut into two inch bits, and crowded in cold salted water, until fork tender.  Drain and mash immediately.  Add salt to taste.  (This is a good point to start cooking your beans.  Hop down to the next paragraph, and come back when the beans are simmering.)  When the potatoes are cool, add one egg yolk, a dribble of cream, a Tablespoon of fresh chopped chive, one of chopped shallot, a teaspoon of fresh thyme, or if you have nothing else, a little chopped parsley.  Mix in the salmon gently with a rubber spatula.  Form into small cakes, about two to three inches across, and sprinkle with flour.  Heat up your best quality olive oil, or a little olive oil with butter.  When it spits at you, if you flick in a little crumb, it’s ready.  Arrange the cakes in the pan with plenty of space between them, and cook til nicely browned.  Flip them over, and brown the other side.  Remove to a plate.

1 super fresh filet of salmon, weighing about a half a pound
4 fist-sized potatoes, peeled, cut into two inch bits
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon of heavy cream, or good quality mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon of fresh chopped chive,
1 Tablespoon of chopped shallot
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, or parsley
Flour to sprinkle on to the cakes before frying
Best quality olive oil for frying

For the sauce: equal parts whole milk yogurt, and mayonnaise, mixed with a little minced shallot or garlic, some lemon juice, lemon zest, (some crushed coriander), fresh thyme and some salt and pepper.

Chicken Soup

Ferdinand came home from school yesterday saying “you know Mom, everybody in the schoolyard had their sweaters off and were swinging them around–no coats, nothing.”

Some people feel a grip in their chest in the middle of the night when it sounds like someone is definitely breaking in, or maybe walking along the edge of a cliff with an overloaded backpack and a donkey with an ankle issue.  It’s nothing I can help–I’m afraid of the cold when it’s wearing Summer.  Monday it’s snowing outside and Tuesday the weather is calling to your child like some kind of Evil in a Good Grandma suit: “you don’t need a coat little boy, it’s practically summer, all warm and cozy here in the sunshine–you could practically swim…”  And before you know it the wind starts howling between the buttons of flimsy cotton onto innocent and unprotected skin, straight to the lungs. He swore to me that he would keep his sweater on.  And his coat.  Zipped.
I made chicken soup.  I added lime and thyme to tip my hat to the islands that are hot year round and still making chicken soup.  Poach a whole chicken breast on the bone with plenty of water, a splash of olive oil, a sprig of fresh thyme, a clove of garlic, an onion, half a carrot, half a celery stalk, a bay leaf, and a sprig of parsley.  Let this go very gently until the chicken is cooked through.  Let the chicken stay in its poaching liquid.

Saute one small onion, half a celery stalk, two carrots, and three small yukon gold potatoes with two sprigs of thyme and one of parsley in olive oil with a tiny bit of butter.  Give it a little salt and a grind of pepper.  If you wanted to make it spicey, you could add a few red pepper flakes (or a whole pepperoncino) at this point.  Add the stock you just made by poaching the chicken and simmer until the potatoes are tender.  The liquid should come not too far above the potatoes.  (I cut my carrots pretty small so that their tenderness coincides with the potatoes, cut just a tiny bit bigger.)  Spoon some of this into a bowl, along with some large shreds of chicken.  Add a spoonful of stock and taste for salt.  Give it a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and swirl in a tab of room temperature butter.

Feel the warmth.