Nothing like running after a truck

Big rewards when the truck is full of fruit.  I bought pears that glow, a pumpkin, a bag I could hardly carry of apples, massive celery that tastes like walnuts and woods, red peppers, lavender eggplant, gold grapes, and all weighed with weights and balance from a scale that hangs from between the rear wheels.  I have wine, I have oil, I have prosciutto–all I need are my people.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said

“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.” *

to make a stock of chicken bones and simmer til it sings,

of celery sticks and carrot bits and onions sliced in two,

of parsley, thyme and garlic cloves and

a fennel frond or two..

It makes sense to make stock in September.  Buy chicken breast on the bone, slice it off the bone, save the bone and throw the bone into the freezer (in a plastic covered container.)  When you have a significant pile of anywhere from 2 to 10, throw them in the pot with cold water, and as soon as the water comes to a boil, keep the bones and throw out the water.  Give everything a little rinse, add new water and the same bones to the pot, along with a sprig of parsley, a sprig of thyme, a garlic clove, a half an onion, half of a carrot stick, half of a celery stock, a bay leaf and that’s it.  If you have a fennel frond, throw that in.  If you have a little piece of tomato, throw that in.  No stock police are going to come into your kitchen to make sure you have one thing or the other.  If all you had was the bones, nobody is going to write you up.  Cook all of this in plenty of water, first bringing it to a boil, then turning it down to a simmer for as long as you possibly can.  One hour is good, six hours, is fantastic.  Skim the stock whenever you see the impurities/scum rising to the top.  If you do the changing of the water trick like I told you, there will be hardly any scum at all.  Strain everything when it’s done, throwing away everything in the pot but the liquid.  Allow it to cool and then freeze in plastic, covered containers.  Be sure not to pour it into anything plastic until it is completely cool.  As I need it, I just take it out of the freezer, run the container upside down until the whole thing loosens, drop the frozen stock, like a giant popsicle, into a pan over a low flame and wait until I get enough liquid melting around the frozen mass to measure what I need it for.  Then I lift the frozen stock out of the pan, and set it back into its original container, and pop it back it into the freezer.  Voila.  Stock for finishing pasta sauces, stock for chicken pot pie, stock for a little single bowl of soup, even as a bouillabaisse for oysters and their friends.

*The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll

Wrap up the dinner and leave

The hardest part of having people over for me is not the cooking. My mother used to be married to a man who, when people were coming to the house for dinner would get ready by cleaning our dark, never intended for company, dungeon of a basement–just in case one of the guests, I don’t know, decided to do a load of laundry. It was a problem. If the basement has never been cleaned before in the history of a one hundred year old house, the job is a big one and is going to leave little time for getting the basics, like food, on the table.
Even with no blood between us, I have inherited this crippling compulsion. The difference is my improved technique. I hide the door to the basement behind piles of coats on hooks–no one expects a basement in NYC–I remove the light bulbs in my office where I refuse to clean, shove anything loose or lying around into a closet or a drawer, sweep, clean the bathrooms, and use fairy lights and candles instead of anything overhead to mute whatever is left. Day before yesterday I decided to forego the whole problem by leaving the premises. I made roasted potatoes, fresh beets, and walnuts and stacked them up on a pearly white platter with shavings of parmesan and caramelized onions with fennel seed. I washed a pile of arugula and wrapped it in a towel and made a lemony vinaigrette by shaking all the ingredients together in a jar that doubled as a carrying case for things like tricky liquid. I packed wide bowls for people to toss their own salads with the greens and everything on the platter. I smashed some cannellini with lemon juice, garlic fried mint and a good drizzle of olive oil, and toasted slivers of whole grain boule to spread it on, and threw slices of candied ginger shortbread to have on the side. Dinner was done and ready to carry in an hour to the banks of the East River–no cleaning necessary.