The day after you have tried hard enough for long enough and you’re sitting instead of standing is not the day to make dinner complicated. I would recommend thinking about a sandwich or packaged popcorn.
Last night after little sleep and barely treading water in a sea of how to make something from nothing that I swim in over and over again with never enough safety equipment, I thought I had it in me to make dinner in the 20 minutes that I had left before dark started to creep in and the ice cream man could potentially drive away from his post at the river.
I smashed the potatoes, steamed the asparagus just long enough, remembered to slice the chicken breasts in half along their sides so that they would cook in the pan, but got in a fight over homework right in the middle of making soffritto of finely minced onion, carrot and celery with whole cloves of garlic and sprigs of parsley over high heat.
I tried to stay out of it and mind my business of looking for rosemary in the garden for the sauce that the soffritto was supposed to turn into and basil leaves in the fridge for the marinade meant for the asparagus but I was a four hundred pounder with a fear of falling balanced on a skinny twig meant for a lean squirrell on the run. It all burned up and there was nothing to do but eat it anyway.
I hate homework, and as a four hundred pounder I don’t belong anywhere near it. I made Ferdinand eat the chicken, but I told him from here on in, he can do his homework however he pleases, without the involvement of a grizzly.
Home from LA and it’s windy and sunny and I’m still missing. I’m lucky as a cloverleaf to have friends I love like sisters but it’s hard as nails to leave one that lives so far away. I made chicken pot pie for Sunday night dinner with a side of string beans and whole garlic cloves. Meant to have a salad, but the string beans were enough. There were more friends round the table which is always lovely, but especially so on a Sunday.
chicken pot pie
I have been obsessed with vegetables like a mad crazy wait outside his door way after you’re usually up just to get you closer, in the pouring rain crush. Which is weird.
We walked past George Clooney’s driveway yesterday and I thought, “I bet George is really happy that I have this thing for vegetation instead of him. It’s better for everybody.”
I ordered a Power Green Salad at Hugo’s in Studio City with chopped up broccoli, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, avocado and sesame seeds and washed it down with a cloud of African tea. I ordered beets and walnuts and arugula and goat cheese at a cafe on the edge of the Pacific after skipping over magical hippy bridges crossing the Venitian canals, and I’ve been snacking on curried Kale chips, baby carrots and clementines and apples.
I’m not saying I gave up coffee or pork cheeks or jelly beans. I just can’t get enough of anything that started as a seed.
to visit my friend and cook and talk and walk and sleep.
Me: You want to get take out?
My husband: I don’t need to.
Me: (in my mind) WHY NOT?
My husband: (exit)
He took Ferdinand to the dentist, and only in NYC I bet do they make dentist appt’s at 6:45 pm which means when they get home there’s no time for take out.
Who can’t eat beans even after dentil work? I opened a can of cannellini and gave them a solid rinse. I thought about cannellini, roasted pumpkin, red peppers and avocado tacos and cannellini w/baby arugula leaves, red onion, paremsan and pignoli and decided to cook an onion. I sauteed it w/some teeny potatoes from the farmers’ market, salt, pepper and thyme sprigs and then added some homemade chicken stock. I thought I might go French. I added a leek, a celery piece, a bay leaf and a few parsley sprigs, more stock and rice. And a drizzle of olive oil that tastes like blades of grass and artichokes. I added a bit more salt and pepper and covered it until the rice was tender. On the side: asparagus w/fried basil and whole cloves of garlic and on top of the beans for zip and zest: a gremolata. Raw garlic would have been good but every so slightly caramelized slivers of garlic would be heaven mixed with toasted breadcrumbs, fresh lemon zest and chopped parsley, rosemary and a wee bit more olive oil. Serve with a chunk of hard cheese on the side for grating.
You’ve got your “reduce, reuse, recycle” t-shirt on (or maybe one like mine that says “let’s talk trash”) and you’re feeling good because you have a compost in the backyard and a child that eats raw carrots and crispy beans with an easy bribe of 5 jellybeans meant for Easter and you’re pushing your cart through the vegetable aisle. You come upon the beets still stuck to their leafy greens and you look around for a trash can so that you don’t have to waste perfectly good space with them in your vegetable drawer.
And then a little bee gets stuck in your bonnet.
Somebody somewhere down the line told you you could eat those greens. You could get two for the price of one when you bought beets for your juicer or beets for your borscht&fage or beets to shred and saute w/fennel seed&garlic&shallot& paper thin shavings of parmesan.
You can eat the greens. You should eat the greens. If for nothing else: to stay regular. Throw up your arms like they do on the sidelines of a football game and then keep your elbows out and your hands together for the “penalty, oversharing sign”–but it’s true–beet greens work like a charm.
My favorite: puree them into potato leek soup and then finish the soup w/ nudge of gorgonzola or any blue veined cheese from a cow or ewe.
Peel 4-5 good sized, looking yukons and clean and chop 3 new leeks. Saute both for just 5 minutes in olive oil and a little butter. Add a thyme sprig, bay leaf, half a celery stalk, a parsley sprig or nothing and barely cover with water. Simmer with a lid on until the potatoes are completely tender. Remove the bay leaf, celery and thyme sprigs. In a little sauce pan on the side, bring water to the simmer and add the whole bunch of beet greens. Simmer for 3 minutes. Drain well and add to the soup. Cook for another 2 minutes and then puree, using an immersion blender. Taste for salt, pepper and for extra pleasure, grate on a teeny weeny bit of nutmeg. Get it into bowls and drop a few good pieces of gorgonzola onto each.
Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
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Last night I went out by my lonesome to taste wine and cheese in the big city at Murray’s. On the train somewhere under the East River I realized I had no pen, no notebook, no hair tamer, and the wrong boots. I walked up the stairs at Times Square cussing and took the number 1 train downtown to Christopher street. I have lived in the Village, and on the corner of West 4th and 7th Avenue I had no clue where Bleeker street was. Bleeker Street always does this to me. I asked a doorman for directions and sure enough, there it was half a block away. I get so nervous when I have to do something completely new and for the first time. It never stops me but it does feel like I am carrying a sleeping horse on the way there. I have tasted wine for hours at the mouth of a cave in France and from bottles made from a single grape that grows up and around the fence posts in Umbria, but I have never taken A Class.
I looked through the window of the cheese shop–on the same corner for 143 years–and figured what are the odds this will be what takes me down? You would think since I teach, learning wouldn’t be a problem, and I know. I agree. But I worry that I don’t know enough to learn in a class. Carl Henry had the same condition actually. He had to study for years before he let himself go to Italy, because he didn’t feel worthy of gracing the streets of Florence without a fluency of it’s history since the day Florence was officially Florence and even a little before that, just in case. I made it to my seat and took a look at the 7 glasses so beautifully arranged for each of us. The one furthest to the right had water in it. Who wants to start with water. You must start from the left. 6 beautiful cheeses were laid out on a piece of slate; I lifted the slate to my nose to smell them. It was a field of earth and grass, a neck of French perfume.
And then I didn’t care anymore what was right and what was wrong. What I loved was there in front of me in all it’s splendor and flavor and toil of the ones who made it and the passion of the ones who were talking about it. All I had to do was drink and taste and savor and drink and taste and savor again.
It’s like wondering if you can promise yourself to the one who makes you happy; there is nothing else to do when they are standing there. You wrap your arms around them and love them as you ache to.
I cannot imagine a more perfect match.
My hands down favorite of the evening: Favray Pouilly Fume 2009 with Valencay. Until I met the Lambert Chinon “les Terrasses” 2010 Rouge and had a gulp of that with the Tomme du Bosquet. And such a lovely touch–a plate of dried cherries, apricots, Marcona almonds and walnuts. Had some of those as well.
I learned things like the Valencay was a full out pyramid until little Napolean, still fuming from losing a battle in Egypt erupted at the sight of it and lopped of its top, demanding that was the way it would always be. I am just going to lob this all together–I learned that 12% of us in America drink 90% of the wine and that the creaminess from cheese is due to the evaporation of the water in the cheese and the breaking down of the proteins, nothing to do with the fat. How about that! Goats came to France with the Moors over hill and dale in the 700′s and when they lost their own battle the story goes that they had to leave their wives or goats. Hm. I learned to taste cheese with an open mouth and never but never hold the belly of the glass which I so beautifully made a clear example of how not to do it. It’s an effort not to cradle your wine glass.
When I was 11, Carl Henry went out to the backyard with a kerchief in his pocket ready for the sweat, and dug a six foot by six foot patch of dirt. I looked at it from the safety of the upstairs bathroom window and prayed I wouldn’t be enlisted.
Carl Henry brought the enthusiasm, stamina, research, work ethic and rule book for seceding from the Union and starting a small country to each and every task. When I crossed through the backyard to babysit Becky Lubin I would occasionally let my eyeballs wag over to monitor the progress, but never for long. I wanted no part in it, I wanted no tweak of curiosity to be stirred, no wonder at the throb of green leaning against its corset of chicken wire. I was a believer in convenience and in grocery stores. I was a lover of the clothes dryer and electric toothbrushes and brand new cars that got from one place to another as long as you filled up the gas tank that I knew personally as well as I knew Cher.
Tiny heads of tender lettuce and green peas you could pop from the pod right into your mouth made it to our table. I said nothing and marveled on the inside that the sweet flavor of Spring could be captured in a forkful of salad.
Last year I started digging up my back yard at the insistence of my friend Mary and I was humbled by how hard it was to get a potato to grow anything more than a grassy looking weed, talked to baby beet leaves and swooned on the concrete path at the taste of sun warmed, red tomatoes. Eating what I was growing gave me goosebumps.
It will be a long time or never before I grow more than a fraction of what I consume and I am ever more thankful for the farmers who take the job on full tilt, tilling the soil seriously and full time in a way that will sustain both us and the land. And for the ones who get up before the sun to tend to cows who are fed grass and hay the way they were meant to be and for the ones who are letting chickens out of their coops to stretch their legs and giving pigs enough room to stand up and have a wander.
All these years later after Carl Henry who is long since gone and buried, I see the point.