Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ode to a small green gummy bear I found in the sofa cushions one rainy midspring afternoon

In the absence of any real cooking (we're on vacation and it's either put-together quick meals, or eating out), I should be going through my drafts and posting recipes from past cooking adventures. Instead, I'm drawn to an idea I had a while back, inspired by a food-ish poem showing up in my inbox from The Writer's Almanac:

Before I gave up wondering why everything
was a lot of nothing worth losing or getting back,
I took out a jar of olives, a bottle of capers,
a container of leftover tomato sauce with onions,
put a generous portion of each in olive oil
just hot enough but not too hot,
along with some minced garlic and a whole can of anchovies,
until the mixture smelled like a streetwalker's sweat,
then emptied it onto a half pound of penne, beautifully al dente,
under a heap of grated pecorino romano
in a wide bowl sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley.
If you had been there, I would have given you half,
and asked you whether its heavenly bitterness
made you remember anything you had once loved.
by Michael Heffernan

One of the first poems I remember from childhood was the plum poem by William Carlos Williams:

This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I adored that poem then, love it still. It was a bit of a revelation to me that poetry could be (and should be!) about such mundane topics as food. And lately, I seem to see food poetry all over the place, which is very inspiring. Here are a few that have caught my eye in recent weeks.

My brother gave me a slim volume of Li-Young Lee's poetry back in college. I have always enjoyed his work, from subject matter to phrasing, the whole package appeals to me, very much. 

Eating Alone
I’ve pulled the last of the year’s young onions.
The garden is bare now. The ground is cold,
brown and old. What is left of the day flames
in the maples at the corner of my
eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes.
By the cellar door, I wash the onions,
then drink from the icy metal spigot.

Once, years back, I walked beside my father
among the windfall pears. I can’t recall
our words. We may have strolled in silence. But
I still see him bend that way--left hand braced
on knee, creaky--to lift and hold to my
eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet
spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice.

It was my father I saw this morning
waving to me from the trees. I almost
called to him, until I came close enough
to see the shovel, leaning where I had
left it, in the flickering, deep green shade.

White rice steaming, almost done. Sweet green peas
fried in onions. Shrimp braised in sesame
oil and garlic. And my own loneliness.
What more could I, a young man, want.
by Li-Young Lee

In honor of my grilled-cheese-loving son:

grilled cheese haiku
golden delicious
warm cheese melts me to my soul
i’ll have another
by matt

I memorized this one for a poetry class in college. I was a bit of an Atwood freak at the time, I'll admit it. She's got bite.

They eat out
In restaurants we argue
over which of us will pay for your funeral

though the real question is
whether or not I will make you immortal.

At the moment only I
can do it and so

I raise the magic fork
over the plate of beef fried rice

and plunge it into your heart.
There is a faint pop, a sizzle

and through your own split head
you rise up glowing;

the ceiling opens
a voice sings Love Is A Many

Splendoured Thing
you hang suspended above the city

in blue tights and a red cape,
your eyes flashing in unison.

The other diners regard you
some with awe, some only with bordom:

they cannot decide if you are a new weapon
or only a new advertisement.

As for me, I continue eating;
I liked you better the way you were,
but you were always ambitious.
by Margaret Atwood

And Ogden Nash is just classic...

The Clean Platter
Some singers sing of ladies’ eyes,
And some of ladies lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways,
And course ones hymn their hips.
The Oxford Book of English Verse
Is lush with lyrics tender;
A poet, I guess, is more or less
Preoccupied with gender.
Yet I, though custom call me crude,
Prefer to sing in praise of food.
Yes, food,
Just any old kind of food.

Pheasant is pleasant, of course,
And terrapin, too, is tasty,
Lobster I freely endorse,
In pate or patty or pasty.
But there’s nothing the matter with butter,
And nothing the matter with jam,
And the warmest greetings I utter
To the ham and the yam and the clam.
For they’re food,
All food,
And I think very fondly of food.
Through I’m broody at times
When bothered by rhymes,
I brood
On food.

Some painters paint the sapphire sea,
And some the gathering storm.
Others portray young lambs at play,
But most, the female form.
“Twas trite in that primeval dawn
When painting got its start,
That a lady with her garments on
Is Life, but is she Art?
By undraped nymphs
I am not wooed;
I’d rather painters painted food.
Just food,
Just any old kind of food.

Go purloin a sirloin, my pet,
If you’d win a devotion incredible;
And asparagus tips vinaigrette,
Or anything else that is edible.
Bring salad or sausage or scrapple,
A berry or even a beet.
Bring an oyster, an egg, or an apple,
As long as it’s something to eat.
If it’s food,
It’s food;
Never mind what kind of food.
When I ponder my mind
I consistently find
It is glued
On food.
by Ogden Nash 

This poem is not overly food-related, but is fun fun fun:

I Wave Good-bye When Butter Flies
I wave good-bye when butter flies
and cheer a boxing match,
I've often watched my pillow fight,
I've sewn a cabbage patch,
I like to dance at basket balls
or lead a rubber band,
I've marvelled at a spelling bee,
I've helped a peanut stand.

It's possible a pencil points,
but does a lemon drop?
Does coffee break or chocolate kiss,
and will a soda pop?
I share my milk with drinking straws,
my meals with chewing gum,
and should I see my pocket change,
I'll hear my kettle drum.

It makes me sad when lettuce leaves,
I laugh when dinner rolls,
I wonder if the kitchen sinks
and if a salad bowls,
I've listened to a diamond ring,
I've waved a football fan,
and if a chimney sweeps the floor,
I'm sure the garbage can.
by Jack Prelutsky

Here's a funny: In my online wanderings, I found a site: Poetry of Food. Couldn't actually find a poem (in the traditional sense) there, but I did find some wonderful food writing.

I hope you've enjoyed my food poem selections. Did I miss a favorite of yours? Do tell!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Need a little cry today?

For everyone who became a Carey Mulligan fan with An Education. And for every Pierce Brosnan stalker (who, me?) too. He does indeed appear to get better with age.

I'm really looking forward to seeing The Greatest. However, good grief, I was just a puddle while watching the trailer... I should probably wait until it's out on DVD so that I don't completely embarrass myself with the loud, heaving sobs in the the theater.

A real 10 for style!

Check out this beautiful and functional cake server. I was a wee bit skeptical when I first saw it in a still photo--you really need to see it in action to appreciate what it does! And of course, just seeing the video makes me want to bake a cake, just so I can use this clever tool.

The cake server and other beautiful household products (very modern!) available at the Magisso site.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bits of My Weekend: Volume 4

A little different setting this weekend... spring break is here! Family time. Ah.

Going for a drive...

Wind on the beach makes for shifting sand...

Out for Chinese lunch. I have a thing for egg foo young.

Sun on the beach.

There's a beach where you can drive ON the beach. Seth seems intent on popping out the sun roof.

Sure enough. He just loved the wind in his hair!

Some people don't take cars on the beach, they take their horses!

Hmmm... I wouldn't mind living on this road.

Tried out a new iPhone photo app... Histamatic, I think it's called. Will experiment more with that!

To play along with Bits of My Weekend, go here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday night grateful moment

Longish week around here (see image above). Some challenges on the farm-front. But some good stuff too, of course!

We're headed into spring break. How fabulous is that? I am grateful for a whole week, with a weekend on each end, with my men. Sweet!

I am grateful for our wonderful sunsets lately. They are quite fitting for driving off into... haven't done that yet, but have been tempted.

I'm grateful for perseverance and hard work. We had an irrigation crew here this week tackling what seemed to be a simple project, but as it went along there were complications and mysteries and unknown factors. I'm talking about pipe here, folks. This should be simple. But it wasn't. Yet the owner dude kept on it until a solution was found. And, we have water going to all the right places at the right times once again.

I'm grateful for reminders. Because, frankly, I need them. I seem to have the attention span of a gnat, some days. Did you see Modern Family this week, with the whole ADHD thing... hmmm. I can relate!

I am so thankful for husband, and our lunchtime rituals. I know people who don't get to see their spouse all day and I guess that might work (even be a good thing) for them (or, of course, maybe they don't have a choice); I like a little mid-day viewing of the significant other.

I am thankful for support and friendship. I really have the best friends. I know people who have to deal with catty, competitive friends (not sure friends is the right word to use there) and I just know I'm so grateful to not have THAT. Whether I see a dear friend once a week or once a year, I am blessed for the interaction.

I'm grateful for coffee. One of my favorite aspects to every morning. It's completely ritualized for me. Heaven in a cup.

I'm thankful for blue jeans. I'm in a bit of a dress-down phase right now and it feels good. I don't usually look appropriate to visit husband at work most days (yes, that casual!), so occasionally I have to throw on something decent. (Side note: in my spring cleaning recently, I pulled out an old box of blue jeans from just 5-7 years ago. Oh wow. How dated! Did we really wear jeans like that so recently? "Mom Jeans." Yikes. Well, maybe it was just me and no one thought to tell me. Thanks. Maybe I take it back about the "I have such good friends" comment above. Or not. Maybe you were wearing them too...)

I'm thankful for Twitter. I know, Twitter has its haters. But I never fail to get some good information or at the very least a good chuckle. It's easy to get addicted and sucked into it, so Twitter boundaries (would that be Twoundaries?) are necessary. But once you have those in place, it's a fun little addition to the world.

Still in love with (thankful for!) my Daisy perfume. Is it wrong to say that I like to smell myself? I hope not. You know what I mean.

Can you make out the words in the picture above? When I saw it I just knew I had to grab it and use it! Because that's what I wish for you, every weekend.

All images (except the sunset and Twitter bird) are from Across the Universe.

We did it our way: Homemade pizza

Pizza is kind of a big deal around our place. It is loved by all, and there's a general agreement on toppings--that is, Seth likes very few and very specific, while if it's most any vegetable at all, husband and I are fine. Every once in a while I deviate off into some fruity-pesto-y land, and leave the boys behind (as you'll see below). (Seth's pizza is pictured above, very simple: red peppers and green peppers and lots of cheese!)

But pizza itself, how lovely. Really almost a perfect food, when you think about it. I seem to remember my brother and I making this argument as children: what's not to love? You've got your grains (crust), your vegetables (sauce AND toppings), your dairy/protein (cheese). Almost a complete meal. There's been a trend of egg-topped pizzas lately, and how much more complete would that be? Yeah, I didn't think you were going to go for that one. My guys either. But I might be persuaded to give it a whirl, one bold and crazy weekend. (Yes, I know. How sad if that's what passes for bold and crazy. Sigh.)

Here's a fabulous pizza crust recipe I found in my new standby: Cook's Illustrated. It requires a large-ish food processor for the version I tried, but there are also instructions for using a stand mixer too. But if you can squeeze this into your food processor, give it a spin--it's quick and easy and makes a really delightful crust. Me, I need to work on my pizza-dough-twirling skills. They are lacking...

Pizza crust 
from Cook's Illustrated

1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, room temperature
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.

The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a  smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.

 Poked and on its way down...

 Husband's veggie version, with pepperoncinis. Those peppers were HOT.

My version, with pears, blue cheese and chevre, on pesto. It was an attempt to recreate the California Pizza Kitchen's Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza... and it was quite yummy. It did not, however, hold up as well as other pizzas in the leftovers department. Sad but true.

I see this crust getting to be a regular around here. Maybe calzones are next on the list?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday 13: Randomness, again

My oh my, but isn't it a random week around here? And how.

1. We've had a lot of work done on our irrigation this week (some planned, some unplanned--isn't that how it goes?) and I think it's about to be done (knock on wood!). Hopefully what we've been trying to accomplish (better water pressure with both the field and the house being watered at the same time) will actually transpire.

2. It's my husband's sister's birthday this week (I could say sister-in-law, but then you'd wonder, "Which one?" I have two, in case you didn't know. I'm lucky like that.). We've been having fun celebrating. I love birthdays! Especially when it's someone else turning a year older! Age schmage. Just a number, right? That's what I've been telling her, anyway.

3. Spring break is right around the corner; I can practically see it waving at me, toying with me. I'm not sure who is happiest about our break: husband, the boy or me? I would wager it's a three-way tie.

4. I'm  not even going to think about getting the drip irrigation all repaired from a winter of doggy chewing until I really need to turn the sprinklers on. I have faith that BDR (that would be Bad Dog Ruby) is on her way to being a less-chewy dog, but I'm not going to be foolish about it. When the irrigation guys asked me if I wanted them to repair it, you would have liked my chuckle. And my shaking head. And my "No, but thanks for offering." I like my skills on that task just fine, and I'm a lot cheaper!

5.  We're at that funky place in the season when it's not really winter clothes weather, and not really summer clothes weather... so I am working on the layered look. Not my favorite. I went and visited my summer clothes recently in my office closet, and we had a nice chat about how happy I will be to drag them back out to the light of day and wear them. No tights. No socks. Just me and my skirts and pale white legs... but not white for long!

6. Favorite quote find this week: "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." --G.K. Chesterton

With a close runner-up of:
"Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine." --Anthony J. D'Angelo. Here's a song that completely goes with that, an oldie but a goodie.

7. Favorite Bible text read this week: Titus 3:9: "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain." Hmm. This one really spoke to me.

8. Favorite poem find this week:
yes is a pleasant country
yes is a pleasant country
if’s wintry
(my lovely)
let’s open the year

both is the very weather
(not either)
my treasure,
when violets appear

love is a deeper season
than reason;
my sweet one
(and april’s where we’re)
--ee cummings

9. Is it any wonder why green is my favorite color? Right now with everything so green and beautiful, I am reminded how many shades and hues of green there are, and how all (well, OK, most) of them are just lovely.

10. Caught up with an old friend this week--actually Googled her and found her!--and that was nice. I hope we keep in touch. Completely different paths since college, but hopefully enough history and commonalities to still feel a connection. She's not a Facebook person, so it will actually take some work to keep in touch. You know, like in the olden days, before Facebook... actual email, actual talking on the phone. 

11. Jesse James. What a guy. I bet he's feeling pretty low these days, for good reason. Choices, dude. Choices. Maybe he and Tiger can get a reality show going. Seems to be the way of it, these days. I think his head could easily be added to the lovely display below. Heh heh. What if there really was a place for certain heads to be stuffed and mounted? I feel a business idea coming on...

12. A friend gave me a little lavender-filled piglet for Christmas. I love her--I named her Violet for some reason, and she makes me very happy, all smelly and cute on my dresser. Not often that the scent of a pig wafting over can make you smile. If you warm Violet in the microwave she smells even sweeter (though husband might dispute that) and is known to take away muscle aches and pains. A multi-talented pig, yes.

13. Take a look at this great t-shirt design I found via some web site or other (bad memory, too many web sites, I apologize if it was yours) this week. How fabulous is this? Must have.

Happy Thursday 13! To spread more TT love, go here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pop-culture moment: TV theme mash-up

Everyone has a favorite TV theme song that gets stuck in our brains on repeat... well, check out this guy who has combined a bunch of them into a giant mash-up. It's pretty fun and covers quite a few different genres and time periods...

So which ones did he miss? I could have handled a little Greatest American Hero action, or even some Magnum PI, but I suppose lyrics might be helpful--although he did include The Office... Which theme song do you wish he'd included?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bits of My Weekend: Volume 4

It was a lovely weekend filled with family. Good times!

A chicken pot pie! Probably the last one of the season--for many reasons, I see this as fall/winter/early spring food. I'm ready for spring spring food!

I was taking pictures of another bunny hopping away from me when my mother pointed out the one right under my nose! Sometimes you have to take the camera down from your face to see what's in front of you...

Love the bleeding hearts! So remind me of my Grandma Goerlitz.

One of the horses in the neighborhood... I love to stop and talk to them. I refer to them as My horses... maybe some day.

Gotta love mailbox creativity!

My walking buddies.

For more Bits of My Weekend participants, go here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Signs of spring: Rhubarb coffee cake

Here comes spring, and with it, fun baking with the fresh fruit of the season. And as challenging as ever (for me), finding the right mix of fruit to cake. I feel like I've been chasing that ratio for some time now. But I'm up for the challenge, of course. And as I was browsing with my fresh rhubarb in hand, I couldn't help but be impressed with the following recipe from Smitten Kitchen. And, given that we've eaten generous slices for the last three meals (yes, breakfast too, it IS fruit after all!) and the whole family has pronounced it yummers, I think I chose just fine. This cake is more "cake" than fruit, so the search for the Sher-perfect ratio does continue. But for a coffee cake, it's superb. And take the "big crumb" part of it seriously--this crumb is indeed rich and thick.

‘Big Crumb’ Coffeecake with Rhubarb
Adapted from The New York Times 6/6/07
Serves 6 to 8

Butter for greasing pan
For the rhubarb filling:
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups cake flour

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make crumbs in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

As Smitten Kitchen observes, and I heartily agree, most any fruit would work wonderfully. Next up, I'm pretty sure I'll take blueberries out for a spin. Mmm, where's the next piece?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday night grateful moment

Many thanks to Jen for the sticky-note idea! If you'd like to do sticky notes, too, go here.
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