Saturday, July 23, 2011


Done with the Hanukkah chapter, and I'm pretty happy with it. Hope to wrap up July 4th Chapter in the next few days . Testing summer salad-as-a-meal recipes. Grilled Steak and Veggies Summer Nicoise Salad, has potential- needs to be expanded and the garlic grilled pitas need to be served immediately for it's full effect. Note: Include grilled corn in next version.
Hub's sis and fam arrived today from Israel . More captive Tastebuds- yippee! Perfect crowd to test out cherry cola ice pops. Tonight's Bibimbop was hopeful. I seared tuna in a crust of sesame seeds, cracked pepper and a little salt, made some gochuchang which is a spicy Korean pepper paste which is mixed into the jasmine rice that the seared tuna, matchstick carrots, snow peas, and bean sprouts rest colorfully atop. I also brewed up some spicy sweet soy sauce which is the dressing for this filling yet light summer salad. On the whole very delicious- except I might suggest serving the gochuchang on the side for the benefit of milder palates.
The Blue Cheese dressing that I shook up last night was also noteworthy. I plan on serving it over a wedge of iceberg lettuce garnished with cherry tomato halves. A nice side to the simple tuna sandwiches I plan on serving tomorrow night for dinner. Might make a salad pizza for Thursday Pizza Night (TPN). I'll report back from the tastebud set.

Blue Cheese Dressing

1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. buttermilk
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. minced red onion or shallot
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. garlic powder
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
1/2 c. blue cheese crumbles

Mix up all ingredients in a large jar.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Sweet Taste of Summer- The Bright Side of Winter

Like everyone I have taken some lumps, but on the whole life has been pretty good to me. I am currently living my dreams of being a writer and a mom. OK, so I had to readjust the setting of the dream, but in this version I'm only 30 minutes away.
That's just the thing about dreams, you have to be flexible to let them come true. Nothing is perfect, except for a dream that just lingers softly in your mind and heart. Making the dream come true, working on it, bringing it into being- well, that's where flexibility and effort and a little heartbreak come in.
The first chapter for the book is due in two weeks. After my initial baffled "Huh?" reaction, last week I sprung into action. We decided that we would start with Hanukkah, which 10 days into the process I'm having another "huh?" moment, this time with irritation. I'm smack dab in the middle of the loveliest summer weather I have enjoyed in a long time. So while working on Hanukkah I'm also doing July 4th. I'm serving fried food for dinner, accompanied by light crunchy summer salads, and fresh, sweet, fruity desserts. I haven't heard a complaint from the tastebud set yet.
Donz and I are trying to figure out the format of the chapter introductions and recipe headers. Being a writer I care as much about the words as I do the food. The two go hand-in-hand, without one there cannot be another. Donz is breakneck-speed busy, with a show a day, and a couple of meeting sprinkled into the mix, in addition to her homelife. And we are trying to figure how this all works, and how we work ourselves into it. As is my way, I'm figuring it out as I go along, sometimes I'm a few steps behind- once in a while I'm a little ahead.
For guidance I have turned to books. I have consulted with Julia Childs editor; Judith Jones. She was very helpful, informing that many of the best cookbook authors were unschooled culinarially. She also told me that many were over 40 when they got their start. But her best nugget of advice was to have passion and a point of view.

I also turned to a contemporary. Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life" is based on her blog Orangette. In addition she was a contributor to Bon Appetit, and that's how I became acquainted with her food and words. Since I didn't follow her blog, the book is fresh and new to me. She has a charming style, I say this through gritted teeth. She is very very talented. And she deserves the attention and acclaim. She has passion and a point of view, which she expresses often-times with beauty and grace. What more can you ask for?

So here's what I've come up with: My best offering so far, the one that delights everyone the most - is the summerfruit kuchen. It's a snap to make and can be personalized to taste. I like it with plums personally, but nectarines, peaches, or apricots work just as well. The cake layer is soft and sweet thanks to the juices of the fruit layer on top. I made this stonefruit dessert every day last week, for many of my taste buds. It will fit nicely into my Fourth of July menu, which has been a pleasure to devise. Summer is my muse, and the plentitude of fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs provides me with real inspiration.
My Hanukkah menu, which calls for an inspiration that takes me in the opposite direction, has been a little more challenging. Why we decided to start with a holiday that is placed in the heart of cold and barren (vegetationally speaking) winter, mystifies me, and makes me think that my intuitive powers may need some fine tuning. I have recipes for three different kinds of fried fritters so far, that are solid. My jelly donut muffins are good, and the chocolate dipped dreidels are adorable. I'm still playing with a couple of crispy-fried ideas. Trying to get myself back into a winter-state-of-mind, which happens to be a difficult time in the year for me to begin with, is a bit of a drag. But, on one of our hot and sticky days, it's not hard to yearn for the cool austerity of winter. I need to idealize winter, and get that Brighter side of Winter in the Hanukkah menu.

Summerfruit Kuchen

1/2 c. butter/marg
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. reg milk, soymilk, almond milk, coconut milk
4-5 thinly sliced peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines (or a combination)
2 tbsp. sugar (I like turbinado)
1 tbsp. butter/marg

Preheat oven to 350F
On medium speed and in a medium bowl mix together butter/marg, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until a batter forms. In a sperate small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add to wet batter and mix in until combined, the batter will be thick. Fold in milk to make a smoother more spreadable batter. With a spatula smooth out batter evenly over bottom of greased baking pan. Place fruit slices in whatever design you desire over batter, overlapping, and ensuring the top is completely covered with sliced fruit. Sprinkle sugar over surface and dor with butter/marg that was cut into 6-8 little slivers. Place in oven for 40-45 minutes, the fruits will be shrubken and golden around it's edges, and a toothpick inserted will come out mostly clean (save for a few clingy crumbs).
Enjoy this fresh taste of summer with ice cream, whipped cream, or on it's own.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Bonjour tout le mond! Just back from Montreal. This French weekend getaway was well-placed, so much so that if it wasn't for it, I might have found myself in the loony bin or receiving a visit from the coppers. Last week was tough. It contained several scenes that I am ashamed to even recall. Sometimes you gotta hold on for dear life, and last week was one of those weeks. Clutch onto sanity, balance and equilibrium; scrounge around for even a shred of patience and kindness, dig deep and try to find your better nature. It ain't easy. There are a whole lotta excuses: The flooded basement fills the house with the rank odor of cat piss, it's that time of the month-my exclamation point. The first draft of the book is due in three months and I am paralyzed wondering what to do next? And the collective culture in chez nous is that Maman has no other purpose in life other than the blind and unyielding service to Hub and Kids many needs. And last week there was a lack of female adult conversation that serves as a crutch sometimes. Crutches are necessary when one feels themselves stumbling and hobbling around in discomfort and pain. But it doesn't stack up, for me the measure of a successful person is how she overcomes her situation. I didn't overcome nuthin' this week.
The purpose for our visit up North was a wedding, our long-time friend Zelig was getting hitched to une fille Canadienne. They had the good sense to pick the perfect spot in the Montreal Summer Calendar: Jazz Fest. Friday morning I threw a few sundresses in my bag, my pink batik caftan with the plunging neckline for the wedding which called for "Shabby Chic" attire (?), and as an afterthought a few lacy undergarments for Hub's sake. And of course Judith Jones memoir: The Tenth Sense, My Life in Food". She was Julia Child's Editor, as well as many other reknowned food writers.
To further set the scene: As La Mother-in-law pulled up to pick up les jeunesses, I hosted the battling impulses of Motherdom; wanting to hold onto them and be with them and make up for all the horrible lost moments of the past week. But also needing to breathe, wanting to be unattached and unhindered to experience life on my own terms. And then they were gone, and we were off. Vive La Liberte!

A recollection of the weekend's best moments: Waking up in an elegant and stylish hotel room, to the thrilling notion that the day was all mine, to do as I pleased. With that delicious thought, I closed my eyes and drifted back to sleep next to Hub.
Sauntering through the fashionable shops and boutiques near L'hotel (two summer blouses and a bangle). Forcing myself to speak French, dreadful accent be damned!
Brunching with Hub at a Super-Duper French Brasserie. Decent Mimosa. Sampled a Montreal bagel, and am not ready to give up the New York ones yet. The Montreal bagels are smaller and sweeter and chewier. Hub's Oeufs en Cocotte were delicieux! His Bloody Mary was just right.

Our meandering path to Old Montreal cut right through Jazz Fest. The sights! The sounds! The chance to just walk, observe, and enjoy! The revived inclination to flirt!

Dinner at Kitchenette was good. Texas home cookin' fare; comfy, cozy, flavorful stuff. But the dessert is what made the good 'n tasty meal great. Sticky Toffee Pudding Sundae with Cracker Jacks- it was gone in two minutes. A sweet and dense square of toffee pudding topped with a dollop of classic vanilla ice cream and bathed in warm homemade caramel sauce, with a homemade cracker jacks as a garnish (which I thought were more of a distraction).

Then there was brunch and a brief hike up Mont Royal with NY friends also in for the wedding.

The wedding. Zelig was previously married, and after his divorce he went through a bit of a rough patch. This wedding was a triumph of Romance and Second Chances and all that good stuff that makes a lump rise in your throat. It was clear to all how happy and in love Zelig is with his bride. Instead of the usual speech Zelig crooned a love song to his new wife. It was a heart-melter. The wedding band was phenomenal. Even if I wanted to, I could not stop dancing. It was as though all the stress and aggravation of the previous week was released on the dancefloor.
Late to bed, early to rise. It was back to New York the next morning. I return with the desire to be better. To be a better mom, to write a better book, despite feeling overwhelmed by both assignments.