TV has cured me. Again.

Normally I don’t watch television. I don’t have a television hook up. Not because I think it is so terrible. It just doesn’t move me.
Except when there is nothing else to be done, and then I watch it like it’s 20 feet ahead of me on the hot sand of a desert trek and I lost
my water bottle two days back. Then I watch it. Then the truth to be found in television is monumental.
So now I’m back. Now I’m going out on Saturday night. Now I have got a heart beat and I need to eat.

Saute a tight red onion with a peeled and finely chopped sweet potato, clove of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. When it’s tender give it a few cardamom pods, some red pepper flakes
or a diced red chili, and about a teaspoon of crushed coriander seed. Finely chop a knob of fresh ginger and add it to the mix along with a good shake of a mild curry powder. Drain and rinse a can of black beans. Put those in the pot with a half cup of basmati rice and 1/2 cup or more of coconut milk. If you need a bit more liquid, add a cup of water. Cover the pot until the rice is tender. Give it a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a tablespoon or two of butter. Taste for salt. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro.

If you are not sure you have knees, just look down.

I started out a baker. I don’t mean just professionally, I mean in life. By the age of five I had a reputation for being into butter, sugar, and braiding hair. Cute, and also odd.
Between my mini M&M sized fingertips I rubbed flour into butter and remembered to touch the dough only as much as I needed to for rolling and baking. I never crowded cookies on the sheet. I was in complete and smack down admiration of my mother’s pies. I looked at a piece of pie and thought about it like an eighth wonder. I wished my Aunt Faye would write a cake book to record her mile high and tender crumb wonders for when I learned to read.
I waited without moving for my grandmother to show up with her cheesecake.

I worry about if people are going to like my stuff and if they are going to think I am qualified to bake.
Now that I am in the home stretch of ordering ovens and racks and work tables and securing permits and credit and finding people to work alongside and nailing tax numbers and the authority to collect sales tax and the permission to drill holes in the wall for the electrician and figuring out the best coffee and the best cheese, butter, milk, fruits, vegetables, soups, and bread, I worry about,
“Can I Bake.”

And you know what?
I can. I know I can.

And you know what else? It’s not just any baking. When you have loved something so bad since before you can remember there is a love line that opens up. Nobody can argue with the love line.

Try this. You don’t even have to put it in the oven. Smush up Zwieback crackers and add enough melted butter and sugar to make you happy. Set aside. If you want to give it that certain Je ne sais pas add a teeny weeny bit of ground cardamom.
Halve a bunch of small empire apples, as fresh from the tree as possible. Put them in a covered pot with a few tablespoons of water and a cinnamon stick. You can sugar them up or not. Simmer til tender. Push them through a ricer and taste.
Layer with the Zwieback crumbs in a bread pan, making about four layers, with a center layer and top layer of barely whipped, barely sweetened cream.
Serve with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

Don’t give up on the lettuce

I stopped an old man called Omar on the street today to say hello. I hadn’t seen him in a few years. He is from faraway lands, loves his cigarettes and his dog called Lollipop. I told him I was starting another cafe. “Yea, good” he said. And then he looked at me.
“Stay healthy. Very important. You stay healthy.”
“Okay” I said.
“You are too skinny. Think of your health.”
“Okay” I said.
So I came home and made lettuce soup. Not that that is going to fatten me up, but I love it. Not just because I am weird, but because it is truly delicious. And for what ails me, I could use double abyss of All That I Love.
If you want give your walk some wiggle, add a good dollop of creme fraiche.
Buy Romaine that’s got some dirt on it; rinse it off by soaking it in a bowl of cold and ample water. Roughly chop. Slice a leek down the middle and then into about 4 chunks. Separate and soak in it’s own bowl of water. Lift out and dry well. Saute in a spill of excellent olive oil w/a bit of sea salt and a grind of pepper. Add two small cloves of garlic w/out chopping. Rinse off two small to medium red and juicy new potatoes. They are ready right about now. Chop them up and add to the leek. Let them stick to the pan and then stir around a bit. Add a few sprigs of thyme; give it a stir. Add the lettuce and a teeny bit of butter. Give it another stir and water to nearly cover. Simmer until the potatoes are tender. Puree with your immersion blender and taste again for salt and pepper.
What a soup.

It’s good that it’s food

Icks nay on the ating day. All I want is to be distracted, vacuumed into distraction, but cooking is the only card I’m signing at the moment. Thank God fifty is like being the art on a dentist’s wall. I can focus on fruits and vegetables and bury everything else in the broom closet like some kind of rogue barrette.
I bought everything I could carry this week from the farmer. Carrots, kale, more red onions, radishes, red potatoes, cucumber, and broccoli. I have made a pan of roasted squash because last weeks was so good but this week I’m going to smooth it out to a puree with just a shadow of cream, curry and fresh thyme and a squeeze of lime. I made snickerdoodles and I’m on to rice pudding. I completely forgot Ferdinand’s hip hop class which he is happy about. I called him from the middle of rolling buttery bits of dough in cinnamon sugar. “Ferdinand.” “Yea ma?” “I forgot your dance class.” “That’s okay.” He hates the class, but I made him take it so that he knows the feeling of skill and flow and focus.
Ironic.

Nobody asked the squash to talk

You know, there has been a butternut squash siting in my fruit dish for a week now. It’s to the left of the toaster. I have said it before. For the state I’m in, I may as well be wearing a robe, a hairnet, and smoking a cigarette.
I’m not.
But when the butternut squash starts talking to me, I ignore it.
“Forget it.”
or
“For your information, I have given up butternut squash.”
or
“Could you please not look at me like that? Stop looking at me.”
or
“What. What is it with you. Butternut squash.”

I never asked for this connection to food. I would rather stick to press on nails. With the press ons, the worst that can happen is red can freak a person out when they forget they have on press on nails because they think that their nails have spontaneously started to bleed.
Food wants you to love it and taste it and smell it and get all involved on a level not meant for someone who at the moment prefers to cement up.

It was only a little bit bigger than the size of my hand and thin skinned enough to peel with a peeler. I diced up a new red onion and sauteed it with a sprig of rosemary, a sprig of thyme, a pepperoncino and a halved clove of garlic. I gave it some of that damn sea salt from Brittany which made the whole thing taste like Autumn and tears. I peeled and chopped a red potato and added it to the onion, sauteing until it stuck to the pan. The squash went in, in cubes with a mist of freshly grated nutmeg. I barely covered the mess of it with water and set the lid on askew.

On the side: ground turkey sauteed with shallot, garlic, hand crushed fennel seed, and red pepper flakes tossed with pasta, sauteed spinach and garlic and grated cheese.

Stirring the pot

I haven’t really been cooking lately. My hands lie idle, folded open on my lap in front of late night cheap TV or one over my mouth and other beneath my elbow, as I tend to do when I am in deep waters. Ferdinand likes food that doesn’t touch. I make a hamburger with a side of buttered potatoes and a side of string beans, or a breaded chicken cutlet w/sauced pasta and a side of broccoli. I have been serving cookies that come in a packages that I bought when I was in France last week. And popcorn.
But it is different, cooking for your boy.
And one day I’ll get used to it and past it and I’ll get caught up in work and cook until I drop into bed without more than a moment between me and sleep when my head hits the pillow.
On the way back from my walk with my friend Mary I shoved myself over to the farm stand set up on the corner on a Saturday and bought every vegetable I could carry. Beets with the greens attached, sandy carrots, red potatoes, onions, parsnips, string beans, kabucha squash and I came home and cooked. Vegetable soup with a soffritto of leeks, shallot, onion, garlic, fresh thyme, and parsley, then finely chopped seeded tomato, a bit of finely chopped cabbage, some of everything else I bought, water to cover, a spill of olive oil, rough grey salt from Brittany, and a grind of pepper. Ferdinand ate with pastina. I imagined it spooned over a crusty slab of bread that had been rubbed ever so lightly with a clove of raw garlic and drizzled with the new olive oil being pressed at this very moment in the hills outside of Florence and shavings of a Parmigiano Reggiano.

Cabbage vs Superstar

Don’t let gas or being single keep you from making cabbage. It’s good for you, (can help to lower cholesterol along with about a billion other things) and if you know how to cook it, it’s delicious.

The trick is to start with a water with flavor. Think about it like the posse of a superstar. Have you ever seen those before and after pictures of famous people? Some of them look worse than I do without hair and makeup. But throw some Maybelline on those faces, zip them into a dress that sparkles and finish it with hair that shines and you have what equals tasty cabbage.

Add a hunk of leek, a piece of celery, a little piece of carrot, some fresh thyme, fresh parsley, a knob of butter and grey sea salt from Brittany (this is the Prada shoes–you can try to find a substitute or you can beg, borrow and steal to know what it tastes like to have the real thing. Any sea salt is fine.) Let that go for a while til it’s all happy and singing in there. Finely slice up savoy cabbage. Add it to the water and simmer til tender.

In a separate saute pan add bits of lardon or bacon. Remove and keep to the side. Saute a finely chopped onion with a few cloves of garlic that have been cut in half. Drain the cabbage. Save some of the cooking liquid. Reduce a bit with a spill of white wine until it tastes delicious. Reserve. Stir in the onion and the bacon into the strained cabbage, and if the bacon was really good, a little of that bacon fat. Taste for salt, freshly ground pepper and more butter. Don’t hold back.

Get your hands on Toulouse Sausages. They’re good. You may have to go to France to get some, but it’s worth it. Gives you something to live for sometimes to dream on something. Bring a pot of water to the simmer with a pour of red wine, a few bay leaves, and a garlic clove. Add the sausages and simmer until they looked like they have cooked through, about 12 minutes. Strain and saute with a spill of olive oil until browned on all sides.

Plate the cabbage with the sausages on top and serve with the reserved cooking liquid.

Keep walking

It’s been 28 days since I last posted.
Here’s the update. May as well just lay it out.
The lease has been signed. Tables have been built, walls have been painted, the oven arrived. All other equipment is on hold by the broker, waiting
for a fridge so it can all be shipped at once.
The IRS is on furlough which is putting a wrench the size of a swollen cyst in my get-the-cafe-open-check-list.
I got back from teaching in France for two weeks, two days ago. It was beautiful. It always is.
My husband has moved out.

I don’t know what to say about that last one.

Except that I had no idea.

What are you going to do? There is a road in front of you and you can stand still or keep walking.

I cooked up a massive amount of cavolo nero with garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes. Ferd wouldn’t go for it. I made him chicken meatballs w/rosemary and sage instead.

How to: Corn Chowder

On the job last night:

First I walked the dogs. They are beautiful dogs and I walk them along the glinting East River. It’s a job perk. Then I cooked.

Starters of an oval stone platter of a heap of marinated white peaches (honey, lemon, sea salt, fresh thyme) and a heap of peeled, cubed and seeded cucumber tossed w/olive oil, lemon, salt and mint. Bowl of pistachios in their shell and a plate of tiny circles of buttered toasts topped w/a truffled duck/pork pate.

For the first:

corn chowder made from corn off the cob
stock: the cleaned cobs from 6-7 ears of corn, onion, carrot, celery, bit of fennel frond, clove of garlic, a piece of tomato, pinch of salt and spill of olive oil.
Saute 2 onions, 3 stalks cel, 1 small carrot, pepperoncino and 1 whole garlic clove until they collapse. Add one peeled, finely chopped potato and saute til it sticks to the pan. Remove the pepperoncino. Add stock to cover, along w/corn kernels. Simmer til tender. Puree a bit of the finished soup and stir back in. Taste for salt and black pepper. Reserve about 3/4 cup of the corn kernels. Saute them in a pan w/bit of salt and butter. In a clean sauce pan, add about 1/4 cup of heavy cream and reduce a little w/the reserved corn kernels. Spoon soup into bowls and garnish w/creamed corn and a piece of chive.

Main:

Pan fried chicken cutlets w/tomato vinaigrette served w/sides of coleslaw and herbed potato salad

Buy chicken breast off the bone. Slice each into two thin pieces with the blade of your knife, flat to the counter, reserving the tenders for another use. Season all sides w/sea salt. Dip each piece in flour, then beaten egg, then panko crumbs. Let rest 5 minutes. Fry in about and 1/8 inch of olive oil. Remove to paper lined plates. Seed, dice ripe tomatoes. Saute finely chopped shallot w/thyme sprigs, pepperoncino and parsley leaf. Add tomato w/spill of high quality red wine vinegar, teeny squeeze of lemon and tab of butter. Heat through. Taste for salt. Remove pepperoncino.

For slaw: balance w/spill of olive oil, squeeze of lemon, dollop of mayo, splash of vinegar and sea salt.
For potatoes: boil in the their skins. I use combo of red skin and yukon. Peel the yukon when cool. Chop. Add shallot or white onion, fresh mint, parsley, chive, lemon and olive oil. Be sure to cool potatoes on a flat sheet pan.

Salad course:

pickled pearl onions, string beans, carrots and beets. I individually pickled each one in its own brine of water, bay leaf, thyme sprig, fennel seed, coriander seed, parsley sprig, spill of vinegar, generous pinch of sugar and spill of olive oil.

Served w/platters of bunched black grapes and sliced fennel and selection of American Cheese. Meadowbrook Glendale, Cypress Grove, and Point Reyes

Dessert:

Purple plums and black grape tart w/red wine reduction and vanilla ice cream

Somebody fresh out of culinary school wrote me yesterday to ask what I would advise a new chef.
What I didn’t say: you will never work harder and if you’re not working hard, work harder. Have fun. Laugh. Make out in the walk in.
Cook with your whole heart. Look for the still and throbbing beauty in the fruit and vegetables.
Love who you cook for.

One more day

One more day of doing nothing but
5th grade math with Ferd
reading the paper
walking by the river and
dishes.

And then it doesn’t matter if the load is heavy, it doesn’t matter if it hurts, it doesn’t matter if it’s uphill, the matter will be moving on.

In the end all the phone calls will be made, all the permits will be hanging on the hall, the benches will be built, the lights will be lit, the cakes will be baked and the rhythm will be rolling. I will be a single, cafe co-owning mother with a two door commute.