Eat

I used to go to school with a guy called David Simoni. I had a crush on him about the size of a bus. If you had asked him who I was he may have remembered on a good day that I sat next to him in philosophy, but 99.7 percent of the time, he wouldn’t.
He loved everybody. He loved the security guard, random people who walked by on the stairwell, the cracks in the sidewalk–it was like having a crush on Gandhi. I stood out in his world as much as tree bark.
I didn’t care. He looked right into my mascaraed eyes and said things like, “what is history?” Which at the time, was my question exactly.
It worked for me. I had no time for real life; I never left the library. I drank diet soda and popcorn with butter flavored pam for dinner.

Now I know better. I weigh more and I wake up next to a husband who would know me in high winds at midnight with a voice changer and who misses me when I go, whom I love as only I could ever love only him and all of him.

For lunch I salted the water, put the pasta on to boil and sauteed a piece of bacon with an onion and Italian parsley. I crushed in about 8 fennel seeds and added two cubed zucchini and a tiny pepperoncino. I bit into the pasta to test it. Saved a little of the cooking water, pushed the zucchini to the side, added a hunk of butter, a handful of parmigiano reggiano, the spill of water, stirred it into a sauce, and then tossed everything together. He put two plates on the table, two forks, two jelly glasses for the end of a bottle of wine and we ate.

This is it; it’s turkey time

Click this link for turkey entertainment: how to open the turkey

Thanksgiving could be the one time of year you cook.
You might get the same feeling when you show up at Rockefeller Center and everyone is out there in tights and sweaters doing back flips and salchows.
You start strapping on your skates, your heart rate goes up and you think “I can do that.”
Not necessarily.
The thing about Thanksgiving is, there is often a crowd coming and though we don,t always admit it straight out, we,re cooking for compliments. Nobody fights their way through the slightly frozen section to haul a twenty pound bird home and cook it up with sixteen side dishes and not expect a slap down moment of silence followed by, “THAT was delicious”. Come on now.
If you haven’t been practicing, take the tights off and put your jeans back on. People are most impressed when you land on your feet. Cook what you know, and if you want to go crazy, keep it for the cranberries with a can in the pantry just in case.
If all you have is butter, salt, pepper and an onion, you,re all right. Dry the turkey really well (no washing). Preheat the oven. Pull out the giblets and neck, checking all cavities, front and back. season that thing inside and out with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Push an onion and anything else you have into the large cavity and tie the legs together. tuck the wings underneath the body. Put the neck in a pan of water with an onion and some salt. If you have aromatics (cel. Carrot, parsley, bay leaf, leek) even better. simmer with no lid. set the oven to 375 and shove the turkey in there with a good rub of butter, on a rack set in a roasting pan. Find another pair of hands to peel potatoes, crowd them into a covered pan, give them a good pinch of salt, a good hunk butter and just enough water to cover. drain and mash as soon as they are tender. Heat them back up later. do the string beans and carrots the same way (no mashing). Taste both for salt, pepper and more salt.
Sauté an onion in butter with celery if you have it and mushrooms if they are acceptable. add a chopped up loaf of excellent bread. season with salt and pepper. Baste the bird every twenty minutes. Add drippings to the stuffing along with stock from the neck, til soft and mushy. butter a casserole and add the stuffing; bake covered for an hour. A half hour before the turkey is done, push the stuffing in the large cavity by cutting the strings, and gently spooning In as much as you can easily fit. the turkey is done, when you insert a small sharp knife into the thickest part between the thigh and the leg, and when you carefully touch the blade of the knife to your lip, it,s super hot. Knock yourself out with the bag of cranberries and call in the troops to bring pies.
Happy Thanksgiving and all my love.

48 years

and for every single one of those, with the exception of one, I have had a roast turkey and all the fixings, no matter what; no matter if there was no money to buy anything extra for the rest of the week, or if my mother became a vegetarian.
She put a turkey and stuffing and creamed pearl onions and string beans with butter and mashed potatoes and mashed butternut squash and cranberry sauce cooked from the bag and pies on the table. The year there was no turkey dinner, there was an ice storm that took all the wires down. We popped corn and roasted vienna sausages over a fire and slept in the living room.
This is the first year my mother hasn’t had a house to make Thanksgiving in. My sister planned to meet in a restaurant, but it turns out my mom won’t be well enough.
I have my apron on at the moment. I bought my tiny turkey yesterday for my husband and Ferdinand to eat while I’m at work, cooking. No matter what I’m going to roast it.

Big isn’t always better

The tricky bit about dinner is, the truth. The truth is not necessarily that there are going to be happy people ready to help you. Or that there is plenty of time to cook exciting and delicious, memorable. Your people might be moody. There is no time to look for recipes from Brooklyn’s latest or to call your grandmother.
It can be a slippery road at that hour leading to decisions that aren’t good ones. For instance. If you have six people to feed, bigger is definitely better can take over. Here comes the movie:
You have about 20 minutes to get dinner on the table before certain family members start to leave and look for food somewhere else. You open the fridge and there is a box of eggs in there, a good piece of cheese and something that still looks a lot like salad. You think: a family frittata. And why not make one great big omelette?
The biggest frying pan you have is on the fire, not quite enough time to heat up all the way before the eggs went in and things start sticking pretty badly across the middle. The whole box of eggs is in the pan now, so there’s no going back. Your breathing has shortened, going no further than your sternum. The bottom of the frittata is definitely broken in more than one, and even many places. It has a solid inch of a dry sponge look and pools of yellow on the top still to cook. You think about taking the whole pan to the sink and using a turkey baster to get rid of whatever isn’t already done. You think about being the first one to find food elsewhere. You scream at whomever is closest, “We need toast! Why aren’t you toasting!” You decide there is no other option but to flip (the eggs.) You have no plate big enough to flip them on. The last scene is terrible. It’s that same feeling of smelling the smoke before you see it when the pies are on the bottom of the oven and the half cooked turkey is on the top. I don’t want to talk about it.
Get out the little pan. Point to the people you need, and give them their jobs. (salad, set the table, light the candles, drinks, crowd control.)
It takes about 4 minutes to make an omelette on a slow day. Lightly whisk 2 eggs together with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Have a big bowl of grated cheese on the ready and if you’re really feeling it, sauteed mushrooms. When the pan is nice and hot give it a spill of beautiful olive oil, enough to coat the pan. Then add the eggs. Let them sit for about 20 seconds, then gently lift with a heat resistant rubber spatula, all around the edges, so that the loose egg on top, spills through to the bottom. When the top is still wet but not pooling, either flip in one swoop with the help of a metal spatula or fold one half over the other. After two seconds, slide it out of the pan. Keep the warm in a 200 degree oven while you make the rest.

Think happy

Ferdinand got his report card and it was a shock to the both of us. He was sure it would have been better, couldn’t understand it, went from “what the heck” to the dumps, where he stayed for the rest of the night.
I am about the worst person you could ask over to help in that situation. I am Signora Subjective in heavy shoes that are hard to move with a hearing aid on the blink and bags of the past that I carry around loosely packed like a load of coal in badly woven fishnet.
I start out with determination and good intentions, “don’t worry about it. I know it’s hard. Grades aren’t everything, look at the nice comments.:
and end up saying things like
“but were you listening?
were you thinking about what you wanted to do or what the teacher wanted you to do?
you love school, don’t tell me you don’t love school”
and the worst:
“you can sit there and feel sorry for yourself or you can do something about it. You can set goals.”

Try telling that to somebody who has just burnt the turkey for instance. It’s not the right time to be the heavy with issues.

Eat and then eat some more

I’m missing France. I like my whole wheat toast but no matter how I slice it or squint my eyes, it’s never a croissant. I miss riding a bouncy old green bicycle with fat tires to the village and pretending I speak French and trees with mistletoe growing in their branches and castles the size of Rhode Island, just sitting there on the edge of a river.
So I am going to make a huge pot of stock and leave it to live and breathe on the edge of my stove for an afternoon with leeks, fresh sprigs of thyme and parsley, celery stalks, carrots, bay leaves, maybe even a tiny piece of bacon (a trick I learned from my good friend Bruce) and an onion studded with a clove. And after a while I’ll add a chicken and let it go for another hour. And I might eat it just like that with a side of sliced saucisson and and thin slivers of carrots, celery, radish and fennel tossed with a mustardy vinaigrette and some tiny capers.
I’ll put all the candles I own on the table and clusters of tender, fragrant flowers and turn on low and rusty Piaf. The thing about France is, it’s never not a good time for romance. In fact, it’s shocking to leave romance in the closet.
I’ll eat until I can’t eat any more and then I’ll eat dessert.

Fabulous and New

sounds so dreamy and delicious. Who doesn’t want fabulous new boots, kitchen, brains, boobs, or dinner? Fabulous new puppies look so cute. Who couldn’t use a fabulous new boyfriend? Heck I could go for a fabulous new pair of socks. Forget the old coat and the old kids. Fabulous and new, baby.
Except in reality, it would be a celluloid nightmare that I got from watching too much late night television and not enough sleep.
I have a pair of beautiful new boots in the closet. Number of times I’ve worn them: 0
The last thing I want is someone taking a sledgehammer to my kitchen and making dust. I love my kitchen.
Brains: I’ll just leave that blank.
New boobs would only highlight that the rest of me looks like I overstayed my tub time. Plus I like to sleep on my stomach.
A new boyfriend? A. I’m crazy about my husband B. I fall asleep at about 7:46 pm.
As much as he can drive me out of my only mind, I would never, not ever never trade my Ferdinand.
My coat: maybe
Dinner: the truth is, even when I go out, I don’t feel all upside down and wonderful at a brand new restaurant that is making brand new food. I think, maybe I should have gone to Shake Shack.
Which is why every time I look at a bunch of fresh spinach I think of either a stacked sandwich of red peppers, fresh mozzarella, roasted eggplant and spinach or spinach sformata or cream of spinach soup or saag aloo or pasta. I love them all, I’ve had them all about fifty billion million times and I almost always make pasta. Slivers of fresh garlic sauteed in a fruity olive oil tossed around with wilted spinach leaves, a little pepperoncino, crispy homemade croutons and pasta is just plain old dependably delicious.
I’m not saying there isn’t room for keeping things lively.
I took the vegetable peeler to the side of a lemon and added the strip of zest to the croutons when I was toasting them in the pan with chopped parsley. The trick: do the garlic first with the pepperoncino. Set to the side. Now the croutons, and on the side they go. Add the spinach to the same pan, and then let it sit in the sieve while you wait for the pasta. Drain the pasta really well, saving a few spoons of the cooking liquid. Toss everything together but the croutons. Tilt the pan, add the cooking water you saved, and drop in a handful of parmesan. Let the parm melt w/ a drizzle of olive oil and then stir into the rest of the pasta to coat. Right before you walk to the table, toss the croutons through. Put your old slippers on and taste for salt.

If you’re super duper nervous

for no good reason and you can’t sleep, make soup. Making soup is like doing laps. There’s no big thinking involved–you just have to remember to breathe and keep going til it’s done.

Turn the oven up to 375 degrees. Whack a butternut squash in half, and scrape the seeds out with a spoon. Drizzle it with olive oil and a little salt. If you’re not sure about your olive oil, use a few dabs of butter instead. Drop the squash halves onto a sheet pan and til tender. Try not to eat it; you need it for the soup.

Cut up a shallot and a small red onion (or no worries–one medium yellow onion is fine) and saute that with a whole clove of garlic, a few red pepper flakes, or a small pepperoncino, a few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf, a sage leaf and about a third of a piece of bacon, cut into bits. Let all of that go until it’s completely tender. Stirring and letting your mind wander over nothing is good for you. When you keep taking tastes because it’s so delicious, add two little peeled and finely chopped potatoes. Let them stick to the pan and then add water, vegetable or chicken stock. It’s best when you make stock yourself–if you don’t have any just use water.
When the potatoes are soft, peel the squash from it’s skin and add to the soup. Let it simmer away a little longer and give it a tiny grind of nutmeg. Taste for salt. Shove your immersion blender in and puree til nearly smooth.
Have a bowl of that and I guarantee you will be on your way to better.

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie

If there were two things you could count on growing up in the lava life at 80 Kenyon, it was onion dip from an envelope with a side of ridged chips and a bowl of unshelled mixed nuts with a nutcracker set on top for cracking, on Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, when you opened the door of my grandmother’s house–or wherever she was living–the chips and nuts were there. Never missing, never late, never more, never less.
“Sit down” she’d say, “and eat your appetizer.”
If she had decided to go fresh, and caramelize her own onions to stir into the Breakstones, it would have wrecked everything. Some things just aren’t meant to be changed.

I feel the same way about pumpkin pie. Don’t even whisper fresh pumpkin to me. Don’t mouth the words. The only thing I want to know is pumpkin pack. I have been using the same recipe since I could read the side of the can. From the beginning I have used fresh milk and cream since my mother didn’t buy evaporated, and right at the end, I would get the grinder down from the spice cupboard and add a flury of nutmeg.

Make your crust for a 9 inch deep dish pie crust (1 cup flour, 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, pinch of salt, big pinch of sugar, drops of ice water to bring it together. Freeze for at least half an hour and then let unchill enough to be able to roll.) Blind bake for til just before golden, covering the edges.)

Stir together:
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 (15 ounce) can pure pumpkin–I use Libby’s
12 ounces of half cream and half whole milk

Serve with ever so lightly whipped heavy cream.

Do u ever feel like an old vegetable

that’s stuck in the bottom of the refrigerator drawer? It’s wilted, definitely doesn’t look safe, and you don’t really want to touch it. Yesterday I woke up at 4 in the morning and by lunch time, I was that vegetable.
No shower since France, pajamas under my sweater, unmotivated to clean buckets of dust rolling around the office and every time I stood up I thought it was best to sit down.
Around lunchtime I opened the door of the fridge and in there was a head of fennel in training to be me. You just never know what it’s going to be that’s going to move you/save you. “WAIT!” I yelled at it. “I need you!”
I gave it a rinse, cut off the tops and whacked it down the middle. I set it on it’s side and cut it so thin you could almost see through it.
Put a heavy saute pan on the heat with life breathing olive oil and three whole cloves of peeled, uncut garlic. Added thyme sprigs and a bay leaf. Gave it a little sea salt. When the garlic went golden, pushed in the fennel. Let it go over a medium fire until it was completely wilted with half a piece of beautiful bacon from the freezer that had the fat broken off. I moved the fennel to the side of the pan for a minute to crisp the pork. Gave a few tablespoons of the stock I had on the stove and let everything go even further. When the fennel was completely soft, and the garlic cloves golden, I smashed the garlic with my knife, cut it into bits and put it back in the pan. Pasta water on, with a good pinch of salt and penne rigate only until seriously al dente. Grated a haystack of parmigiano reggiano and when the pasta was done, in it went to the fennel pan, with a few more spoons of stock and the parm. Holy cow.
I’m on my horse again, showered and I swept.