Saturday, 24 December 2011 | 7 comments

A simple beet & barley salad

During the harvest and crush this year, Ben used a phrase that I latched onto. When racking wine in its initial stages of fermentation, the winemaker Ben works for calls for “big air”—pouring the wine from one container to another from a great height, to ensure that oxygen comes in contact with the juice. In winemaking, a certain amount of oxygenation of the juice is a good thing: it helps to stabilize the wine, protect it, and develop in the bottle. Too much oxygen during barrel- and bottle-age though, produces oxidation, a flaw. I love that idea. Taking a risk, to be sure. But that risk, in prudent amounts, protects and encourages growth. The next months will be a whirlwind—really, they already should be, but I’m a bit in denial. In two days, Ben and I are moving to a new home. It is old (the original part of the house was built in 1760). It is rural (it sits on 5+ acres and is surrounded by more vacant land). Ben is also going to Uruguay for three months to apprentice during the southern hemisphere harvest. Conveniently, though, he’ll have two whole weeks to settle into this house that I impulsively decided we needed to live in, before he leaves. Before he goes to Uruguay, we are taking a trip to Buenos Aires. After I get back from Buenos Aires, I have just a few days before I fly to Indonesia for work.Somewhere in there, Christmas and New Year’s have to happen. But I haven’t quite worked that out yet. » Click to read more

Friday, 16 December 2011 | 10 comments

Breaking rules

Do you make rules for yourself? I started to write this post, and then realized that I might sound a little crazy, talking about lists of rules I self-enforce. I don’t mean self-denial or masochism. They’re silly rules, but they’re useful. For instance, there is a growing list of publications I’m no longer allowed to read on the train home, because I am statistically more likely to stop at the grocery store and impulse-buy ingredients for recipes that I need to have if I read them. No looking at the Anthropologie catalogue, ever (for similar reasons). No drinking an entire bottle of red wine by myself on a Sunday. I’m joking about the last one. Sort of.Similarly, there is a list of states in which I should not allow myself to go to a farmer’s market. There was that time I was starved for color during a week of grey days and bought radishes just because they were so rosy. Or the time I got peach-drunk on the promise of summer and brought home a bushel of peaches. Then, when summer was waning, I became a bit obsessive about wringing the last drops out of the season, and bought every single forlorn, split tomato from a farmstand. I am a woman that needs a little structure, if nothing else, for the sake of my budget. » Click to read more

Monday, 5 December 2011 | 12 comments

Endive & gruyère flatbread

Most recent in the “I never stop learning” chapters of my life was getting schooled on the subtleties of endive. As it turns out, that which I know as “endive” is technically “Belgian endive”. Confusingly, “endive” can refer to what most people call “frisée” (the curly-leafed, spindly salad green) and also “escarole.” All of them—Belgian endive, frisée, escarole (also known as “broad-leaf endive”)—are in the chicory family, but are the leaves of chicory plants, not the roots (which is the chicory we might think of as a coffee substitute). All of this newfound endive knowledge was conferred onto me by a very zealous farmstand helper who must have had a lot of coffee to start off his day (caffeinated, not the chicory kind). I almost wished I hadn’t asked about the word “Belgian” on the sign. But the endive zealot finished his polemic with a fact that left me walking away feeling as if I had tucked a few treasures in my basket: there are only one or two commercial producers of Belgian endive in the U.S., so even in the grocery store, it is very rare to find a Belgian-style endive grown in the States. » Click to read more

Monday, 28 November 2011 | 8 comments

Thanksgiving scenes

We headed to the mountains for Thanksgiving, holeing up in a cabin for the long weekend. A fire crackled every day, all day long. We ate. We tromped through the woods.Photobucket Louise and I don’t get to see our dad as much as we’d like, but it’s nice to see how we’re still very much his daughters, despite the distance, despite growing older. The three of us took our cups of coffee—all black—for a morning hike. I don’t know many other people who’d set off to scramble up rocks and ford mountain streams with a porcelain coffee mug in one hand. But we all did, heading out the door without giving it a second thought. I reignited a long-standing love affair with the textures of moss and lichens, gathered up pinecones and acorns (to explain to my 3-year-old step-nephew: “These are oak tree seeds, and these are Christmas tree seeds…”), and read a ’90s essay by Joan Didion.And when I got bored with that, Louise entertained me with her newest tricks. Family, food, mountains, lichens, books, and the coolest little sister: I have a lot for which to be grateful. Hope you had a good holiday, too.

Friday, 11 November 2011 | 16 comments

Mushroom barley soup with rosemary oil

In the last months of my mom’s life, she spent a lot of time at home, unable to get around very easily. She watched a lot of TV. After she passed away, I found a notebook. The first twenty pages or so were filled with lists of ingredients and, sometimes, half-scribbled directions. It would seem that Mama had been watching some cooking shows.My mother was a great cook, but outside of a few indulgences—prosciutto comes to mind—she had a fairly straightforward, American-fare cooking style. The recipes in this notebook, though, were beautiful, celebration recipes. Roast chicken with morels and madeira, french bread pudding with sweet italian sausage, ragout with escarole and chardonnay. Recipes for big dinners or brunch, shared with other people. I wept over that notebook. What had my mom been planning when she wrote those recipes? With whom did she want to share them? They were just jotted-down recipes—but she was never able to make them. » Click to read more

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