Thursday, November 28, 2013

In The End, It's Not About The Food

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saturday Night Soccer

This is where we will be spending our Saturdays for the next few weeks, a soccer field nestled between the ocean and palm trees. Michele is playing defense on Lahaina's team. Jada and I are cheering on the sidelines, food and wine and snacks spread out beneath us on our picnic blanket.

I don't love soccer. I tolerate it. On a good day it is mildly entertaining. But this, the views and the cool breeze off of the ocean, connecting with new friends and neighbors, I could get used to this...

A Small Scale Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ideas For Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner For Two (or Two and a Half)?

Crispy Swiss Chard Cakes with Parmeggiano Reggiano/ Bietole Soffritte con Formaggio

So we are kinda obsessed with these. Every time we have a little bunch of swiss chard leftover, we make these. We even use kale, in a crunch. They are like simple, little veggie sliders- unadulterated greens bound by egg and topped with a sprinkle of cheese before pan searing. The perfect vehicle of veggies for kids, Jada loves them. An ideal contorno or side dish to pair with pasta, they are also just as good eaten alone. 

I've tweaked Lidia's version of this Fruilian dish. Here it is: 

Boil 3 quarts of water in a large pot. Meanwhile, de-rib each 1 large bunch of chard leaves, about two pounds, rinse and drain. Cook the leaves for twenty minutes, dicing 1 onion while you wait. 

Drain and cool the chard, then slice it in to shreds. Lay the shreds on a paper towel and squeeze them out until they are completely dry. 

Time to cook: Pour 3 tbsps of olive oil in to a large skillet and sauté the onions with a sprinkle of salt, on medium heat, until they are just transparent. Stir in the chard. Add 1.5 tbsp of butter. Add more salt, to taste. Continue cooking until the vegetables become dry again, without burning them. This should not take more than five to six minutes. 

Now, pour the chard mixture in to a bowl and add a little more salt and pepper, to taste. Set it aside and wait until it is cool to the touch. You will be adding one beaten egg to the mixture and you do not want the egg to curdle so take special care to make sure that the vegetables are room temperature. 

While you wait, you can get going on the cheese, grating about 2 cups of parmeggiano reggiano

Add the egg to your chard if they are ready. Fold it in to the veggies with your fingers. Make patties in the size that suits you. Then, turn your skillet back on, medium-low. Here's where you need to be agile: While holding a patty in your hand, sprinkle it with a generous amount of grated cheese and then flip the cheesy side down in to the hot skillet. Three minutes should do the trick. Right before you are about to flip it, sprinkle cheese on the exposed side and flip. You are looking for golden brown goodness. Again, three minutes should do the trick but follow the cues of your food and your particular circumstances. 

Repeat, until complete, and enjoy immediately. 

The Thinker, Baby Beach, Lahaina

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Things We Carried

There is a famous story called "The Things They Carried", in which the author, Tim O'Brian, reveals stunning information about his characters by listing the small items they choose to bring with them on a long journey. 

I went on my own long journey last night- a five hour, pre-Thanksgiving celebration with my extended family before we head back to Maui. And I wondered: Does what we consume reveal anything of who we are? Can anything be gleaned from the small details of a meal or a menu? I think that the particulars of a holiday meal speak profoundly of who we are as a family. We shared: 

Herbed turkey breasts
Roasted ham 
Collard greens 
Candied yams 
Cranberry sauce
Rice and beans 
Baked macaroni and cheese
Mashed potatoes 
Sweet potato pie
Junior's cheesecake 
Chocolate mousse pie 
Pineapple mocktails 
Ginger ale

Seems straightforward enough. There are the staples, the classic American and mandatory items that every family has on their own Thanksgiving menus, but if we look a little closer we can see that we all have our own twists and spins, our own particulars unique to our traditions. Not every family opts for just the breasts of the Thanksgiving bird. Some don't bother with it at all. And there are always the multicultural aspects that most families have to consider, the dishes of those who've married in or particular to the place or time in which they find themselves.

What things will you carry this Thanksgiving? What will you serve? Share your lists here. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Risotto con Salsiccia e Piselli

Dinner tonight at Dave's. We cooked. He and Jess provided the comfort & the kitchen, good wine and lots of laughs, too. Good memories made, priceless in light of our imminent departure back to Maui...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Conversations with Vincent Van Gogh

Spent the day with this guy yesterday. We met at The Met. It was a private affair, no husband or kids, no friends. I took him in quietly, listened contentedly to what he had to say about life and work and art. He talked about transcendence, the freedom found in moving beyond limits. He said he liked Cyprus trees. And sunflowers. 

I like him. I like his ideas and his questions. I like his gall and audacity, his soft heart. I always seek him out in my travels, try to make time to be reminded that all of our efforts are worthy and noble if our purpose is pure. The efforts are the art we leave behind, our lives.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Time To Break Down The Jacks!

Time to break down the jacks! Carved and colored pumpkins littering our living room are now fodder and food. 

"We're gonna eat this ok?" I sweetly informed my nephew Ryan, as I plucked up one of his pumpkins. His name was written on its side. 

"No!", he reached out to grab it from me. 

"Ok." I dropped the gourd in to his open hands and turned to my daughter Jada without missing a beat. "Can we eat yours?" 

"Sure!" she smiled.

That's my baby. And I didn't let her down. Asia and I made an amazing pumpkin soup with a fragrant base of onion, garlic, fennel and blanched tomatoes. We added kale and cannellini beans to give the soup a real depth of flavor and texture. A fragrant bouquet of sage and rosemary finished the soup and helped make it an incredible starter to what was ultimately a very kid friendly and palette pleasing meal.

If enough of you want the recipe, I'll put it up. It's a winner for the winter. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Spontaneous Stops at Blue Ribbon & Royal Crown

Lazy Sunday, a little off kilter with the extra hour and all. Late start and slow moving, we somehow missed breakfast and started the day with a take out lunch from the local Royal Crown. The best bread in New York, we used them exclusively at Va Beh' but the food at this bakery is fantastic too. Jada dove in to an eggplant parm sandwich that was literally bigger than her head. Asia blew through an arancini the size of a grapefruit. Mike went with his usual, the roasted chicken. I had a little bit of everything, picking from everyone's plates.

After naps, we headed to Brooklyn to drop off Asia. Dinner? A spontaneous stop at Blue Ribbon, for old times sake. They never let us down. The food is always great. Family friendly, the atmosphere is better than relaxed. They make us feel at home. And we had the best of the classic American fare that they offer, standards like the fried chicken and the tomato soup.

I'm relishing every New York minute, before we head back to Hawaii. I won't miss the weather or the crowds, but I will savor memories like the ones we made today.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Alma's Cooked Water Soup or Acquacotta di Alma

Been gone a few weeks. Thanks to all of you loyal readers out there. I promise more consistent postings now that we have settled in to a groove here in New York. I've survived Mike's two week trip to Italy and my exhausting stint as a single mom while he was handling business for our new restaurant in Maui. Time to write was literally impossible to find until now. Glad to be back at it. 

In the interim, I've been mastering the art of egg poaching and seeking out recipes that allow me to flex my new skills. This is a beautiful and simple soup that helps to counter the cold New York City nights that we are trying to bear while we spend what will probably be our last late autumn here with friends and family. 

Courtesy of Lidia Bastianich, via an enigmatic Tuscan woman named Alma, I followed the recipe almost to the letter. Here is my very slightly tweaked take on their cooked water soup: 

Stem 2 lbs. of Swiss chard. Then, chop the stems in to 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside and rip the leaves coursely in to approximately one inch pieces. 

Next, roughly chop 1 onion, 2 celery stalks, 8 basil leaves and 1/3 cup parsley

Then, blend or food process until well integrated and puréed. (This is called a pestata in Italian. You are basically creating a paste and an amazing base for the soup here.) 

Alma and Lydia tell us to use 1/3 cup of olive oil for the next step, but I only used half of their recommendation. Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the pestata. Stir frequently, adding a 1/2 tsp peperoncino, until it starts to get dry and sticky. Then add 1 tbsp of tomato paste, quickly stirring it on to the pestata, before adding 9 cups of water. This will be the beautiful base of your soup. 

Season the broth with salt and pepper, to taste, and raise the heat to high. Once boiling, dump all of the Swiss chard in to the pot. Cover it partially and let it roll at steady clip for about 30 mins. The greens should be soft but not wilted. Now, turn off the heat.

Lydia finishes this soup in one fell swoop but I prepared one bowl at a time, cautiously and in no hurry: Find a small sauté pan and ladle 1.5 cups of the broth in to it. Re-heat it until it is just simmering.  Then, and here is where it gets interesting, gently crack and release one egg in to the broth. Poach it at least two minutes, depending on your preference. 

While you wait for your egg, lay one slice of old bread at the bottom of a soup bowl. Then, lift the egg out of the soup with a spatula and lay it in to the bowl as well. 

Top with your cooked greens and ladle in the broth over the top. 

To finish this beautiful dish, sprinkle pecorino over the bowl and a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil. Repeat, depending on the number of your guests, and serve immediately.