A few weeks back my mom and I were talking about strawberries. Being the lovely chat that it was, it led to a discussion concerning strawberry shortcake. We decided that I should figure out a gluten-free version that we could enjoy this summer. But, our conversation determined, it should not be anything resembling those greasy, saccharine, sponge-like grocery store cakes that are often topped with flavorless, out-of-season berries and a noisy swirl of aerosol cream. It should be like the strawberry shortcakes that my grandma once made. It should take the form of a lightly sweet biscuit. It should be what strawberry shortcake is meant to be.
After hanging up the phone, as it was not quite prime strawberry time, I filed this away in my overflowing Must Make Soon folder. And then promptly forgot about it. See, I didn't write the idea down, and the aforementioned "folder" is actually a place in my mind where things get lost because they weren't written down. If I want to remember anything--ever--it must be in writing. My photographic memory unfortunately refuses to keep records of anything non-visual.
Thankfully Food & Wine had my back. Not only were they so kind as to remind me that my subscription is about to expire and I must renew now, but they included a cute little insert with a recipe for none other than strawberry shortcake in the mailing. And I will be renewing. I owe them big time for what came out of my kitchen last night and it seems the least I can do.
Something clicked so solidly between this recipe and my translation that I'm still feeling a little giddy. The dough came together like magic--sticky at first and then kneaded into a supple, pillowy round. As I held each cut biscuit in my hand, I could feel in the pit of my stomach that something special was about to happen. I watched impatiently through the oven door as they rose magnificently, impossibly high. If they tasted even a tenth as good as they looked, I was going to be in serious trouble.
I'm in serious trouble.
I mentioned that my zucchini plants have been up to a little something lately and promised I'd share. About a week ago, I woke up and looked outside to see this:
It literally happened overnight. One day I had a good-sized but innocuously green bud nestled down among the leaves and the next there was this orange-yellow blossom nudging it's way through. I was thrilled.
Then it opened up, closed back up, and fell off.
But the next day I had another!
Okay, so let's be honest here. This whole Meatless Week thing? Well, it hasn't exactly been a challenge for me. This is the way I've been eating for months now. I bring it up here because I think it's a valuable undertaking and I sincerely hope that some of you have been trying it out for yourselves--or if not this week, pick your own! Going meatless is a learning experience, whether you find it difficult or think that it's easy, breezy, amazing.
But again, it's not like I'm really taking on anything and I feel a little like I've been sitting over here twiddling my thumbs and whistling away my meatless days. So I wanted to step in and offer up a recipe. We're more than halfway through here, so there's a chance that some of you may be running out of ideas, and I especially want those of you who are struggling through to stay strong. So here it is: Spaghetti with a Spicy Zucchini Sauce.
A couple weeks ago, I was very excited to show you all how far my garden had come. Everything was planted, things were starting to come up in every container. It was beginning to look like a real garden.
And then there was that weekend. That one weekend. Fifty mile an hour winds or something crazy like that. I had one of those regrettable brain lapses where I forgot that I have a container garden and that container gardens are, by nature, mobile. I only had the realization when it was too late, of course, at which point I said something along the lines of, "I think I should bring the plants inside." Six hours earlier would've been nice.
I left them inside for the weekend and I didn't touch them. I wasn't ready to deal with what damage may have occurred and I wanted to give them time to heal. When I finally looked, I found that I had lost my Round Two cucumbers, both of my tomato plants, and all but one radish. Some of my herbs looked a little mangled, one kale plant was in disrepair, and my zucchini were a bit worse for wear, but I knew these were all things that could recover.
Fortunately I had saved one of each tomato plant indoors, just in case, and was able to move those outside. We'll see how they'll fare, but this might be a tomato-less year. I sowed brand new cucumbers--if they don't stick this time, I'll find something else to plant in its stead. So far, things are looking up. In the two weeks since, everything has been flourishing. Once again, it is starting to look like a real garden.
It's amazing to watch the progression. It's exciting but it's also an exercise in patience. Because there isn't yet any fruit, Chris especially feels like nothing's happening. Sometimes it feels like things are moving slowly for me too, and then I'll look at pictures taken just days before and realize how fast the plants are actually growing. Below I've done a little before and after. The before pictures were taken on May 7th (the day before the windstorm) and the after pictures were taken today.
The zucchini have been the rockstars. I'll show you soon what they've been up to most recently--it's very exciting. Look here though, the leaves are now as big as my hand!
A while back, I hopped on board the Meatless Monday bandwagon and made an effort to post a meatless recipe every Monday. Unfortunately, that only lasted a few weeks. I've found new inspiration in Meatless Week, though, and have decided that I am going to start back up again. As of next week, I'll be posting a new meatless recipe here every Monday.
Hopefully many of you have already had a great meatless start to your week and are thinking about trying to make it through to the weekend as well. Head on over to The Cookbook Chronicles to hear about Lorna's first day
and check out a list of many of the bloggers taking part in the challenge.
Last week, for the first time in four months, I cooked meat in our kitchen. For the first time in my life, I roasted and carved a whole chicken. And, after carefully reviewing the photos, I’m pretty certain I roasted the poor bird upside down.
Aside from the fact that turning it over would have resulted in something that looked slightly less like the Rancor, it came out beautifully. I used the recipe for Thomas Keller’s “favorite simple roast chicken.” The skin was salty and crisp, the meat was unbelievably tender and juicy. Not to toot my own horn—though I suppose I’d actually be tooting Mr. Keller’s here—but it was by far the best roast chicken I’ve ever eaten.
Credit is also due to the farmer here. This particular chicken came to us from Herondale Farm a couple hours north of NYC. Herondale raises certified organic, grass-fed beef and lamb, as well as pastured chicken and pork. If you’re going to eat meat responsibly and conscionably, you would be hard pressed to find a better source. The people at Herondale are great as well. Chris and I hosted Christmas Eve dinner this year and we ordered up a massive prime rib roast for the occasion, about which I traded some truly pleasant e-mails with Christine at the farm. It feels great to be supporting wonderful people doing such admirable work.
That all having been said, none of these are the reason why roasting that chicken the other night was significant. It was significant because, since the beginning of the year, we haven’t been eating much meat around here. In fact, for the month of January, I went vegan. The decision to veg out was in part a result of having seen Food, Inc. for the second time, reading Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet, and sheer curiosity. I had this naughty feeling about veganism like I imagine some people do about drugs—it was intriguing to me and I wanted to try it but was afraid and never had the balls to follow through.
One month seemed doable, though, and during the month that I ate vegan I felt fabulous. If you’ve seen Alicia Silverstone on any daytime programs over the past year or so, it was exactly like she says it was for her. Everyone started telling me how great and healthy I looked, that my skin was glowing. We ate really well that month, too. I got creative in the kitchen and we never once felt deprived or like anything was missing. Actually, that first week, Chris told me every night that whatever I had made was one of his new favorites and asked mid-meal “When are we going to have this again?”
When I wasn’t relying on things like meat or cheese to fill out and flavor our meals and started focusing on vegetables, beans, grains, and herbs, the quality and variety of what we ate expanded immensely. I wouldn’t say we ever ate particularly meat-heavy prior to this, but meat was definitely a part of our diet. We were both surprised to find that neither one of us was sad to see it go.
Since that vegan trial in January, we’ve incorporated both eggs and dairy back into our kitchen (organic as much as we can, of course, and pastured/greenmarket-bought when possible). I will say, however, that we use these items with much less frequency. And the meat had remained absent entirely until last week. Which brings us to now.
Today I am, as many of you are, celebrating Mother's Day.
I am celebrating it for my own mother, who is wonderful for all the reasons that mothers are. I am lucky enough, however, to not only celebrate a parental figure but a really great friend. From a young age, I began to know my mom outside of the archetypal image of Mother, Parent, Guardian--I got to know her as Woman, Person, Human. My parents' divorce broke my childhood illusions about both of them, I saw them at their best and worst, watched as they found and redefined themselves. Some would be sad to have this bubble broken, and it wasn't always easy, but I feel so fortunate that this has been my experience. Because I know my mom in this way, and because she in turn views me not only as her daughter but as an individual, we have the most amazingly honest relationship. There is no judgment--just a constantly supportive, endlessly sympathetic, and, when necessary, critical understanding of our unique human experiences. I love this and I wouldn't change it for the world. I hope the children I have will one day will know me in this way, as a woman and a person above all else. Mother is just one of the very many things my mom is. It is a part of her and not the definition, and I celebrate her today for all of her parts as a beautiful whole.
I am also celebrating Mother's Day for all of the mothers in my life. For those in my extended family and those who are soon to become my family. I am celebrating the women that I knew when we were girls who now have itty bitties of their own. It's a surreal experience to watch as old friends and new begin to build families and have children--from ultrasounds to baby bumps to that very first photo and "Oh my goodness, it's a mini you!"
And, though I'm not officially a mother, I did wake up to a card from my four-legged baby. So, I also celebrated at home with lots of wet kisses and a wagging tail.
Today is also special for another reason. One year ago today, I started this blog. That first time I pressed "Publish" I had no idea what a huge part of my life GF in the City would become. I didn't know if anyone but friends and family would ever read the words I put out here, but have been surprised and delighted to see the occasional unfamiliar name pop up in the comments section. It's also been a bit dizzying to see that recipes that were created in my kitchen are actually being made and reinterpreted in other kitchens. There's something about this that strikes me profoundly--the thought of something that I've put out there bringing joy to someone else, that maybe they're experiencing the same delight or comfort that I felt in that recipe, or that they've now been inspired to create something new. It's humbling and connecting and thoroughly wonderful.
I guess, in a way, I'm celebrating the day that I became a blog mom. Maybe it's a stretch, but it almost feels appropriate that my blog's one-year anniversary fell on this day. It's hard to believe I've been at it for this long; sometimes it still feels like I just started. I am so thankful for these past twelve months, though, and I sincerely hope to be celebrating again next year.
So Happy Birthday to my little blog and a very Happy Mother's Day to all you mommies out there--hope it was a great one!
I recently discovered the bulk bins at Whole Foods. I’d heard talk of them, but must have always walked past them. It was probably one of those things where I saw them out of the corner of my eye at some point and assumed that they were all just full of nuts and granola, completely missing the ones full of beans and rice and quinoa. Silly me.
When I did finally decide to seek them out, I first checked the Whole Foods in Union Square. To be honest, I don’t much care for this store and try to avoid it whenever possible. As a result, I don’t have a good idea of where everything is located. If I went all the time, though, I can't say that I’d know it much better. It’s constantly crowded, poorly laid out, and not easily navigable. I always feel claustrophobic and overwhelmed, which is why, if they exist, I may have missed the bulk bins both times that I walked around the entire store specifically searching for them. So, as far as I can tell, they don’t exist at that location. Please let me know if I’m wrong.
My Whole Foods of choice is the one located on Houston. It's a bit more of a hike, but the store is spacious and very cleanly laid out. It’s rarely crowded, which means that I can spend as many hours as I want strolling lazily through the aisles and standing like a goon and staring at all the options in front of me. I was quickly able to find the bulk bins at this store once I decided to look for them.
As an avid lover of legumes and grains, I found the bulk bins were at once exciting and dangerous. You mean I just push this here and I can fill up this bag as much as I want? I felt like a kid in a candy store. One of those candy stores with all the bulk bins. Except you can’t really sneak a taste out of these bins—your teeth wouldn’t like you much for it.
Luckily Chris was there to rein me in a bit, so we only brought home a few bags of dried beans instead of the dozens I might have otherwise come away with. Among them were chickpeas. I immediately had thoughts of stewing them with tomatoes and smoked paprika, creating something simultaneously light and hearty, deep with flavor. A few days later I found some spinach at the market that looked particularly good, some pretty little shallots, and I decided it was time.
This past weekend, Chris and I trekked down to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens for the Sakura Matsuri spring festival. We went with hopes of seeing some cherry blossoms, but considering the early spring that we've had and the fact that the flowering trees in our neighborhood have almost all dropped their blooms, we should have known we'd be too late. In any case, Saturday was the warmest day we've had so far this year (80 degrees!) and it was nice to be outside, walk around the gardens, and exercise my camera muscles a bit.
Many people came out for the festival, some carried Japanese parasols and a few dressed up for the occasion.