On a recent evening, as my sister and I surveyed my mother’s cabinets for the makings of pre-dinner hors d’oeurves to accompany pre-dinner drinks, Greta piped up with an offer to roast some brussels sprouts. Hmmm, brussels sprouts for cocktail hour . . . well, sure, why not? Thanks, Greta! Continue reading “Pre-Dinner Brussels Sprouts”
Leslie Kaufman’s recent NY Times article, “My Sons, the Sous-Chefs”, is inspirational. It describes the results of an experiment, now in its 6-month, requiring each of her sons, ages 14 and 10, to cook dinner for the family once a week. They must decide what they will prepare ahead of time, to allow for mom’s yay or nay (the menu must be balanced, fairly healthful) and the requisite grocery shopping. Much has been learned by all involved. Mom has learned to curb her kitchen-control and I-can-do-it-quicker impulses, and the boys have learned about planning and experienced the pride and satisfaction that comes from seeing your loved ones enjoy a meal of your making. Continue reading “My Daughters, the Sous-Chefs”
Between fish tacos and margaritas, I got quite a bit of reading in during our visit to Sayulita. Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck, the story of his summer as a chef on a private sailing yacht in the Mediterranean, was a perfect beach read, except that it made me want to race to my kitchen. But on Sunday night, when I had retrieved my daughters from their annual week in Massachusetts with my parents, it was time for David’s Linguine with Clams and Zucchini. Additionally, Greta informed me as we were driving home from our Connecticut rendezvous spot that she was feeling the need to do a little baking.
“Can we do that, Mommy? Can we bake something?”
“Well, I picked up some nectarines at the farm stand this morning. How about a nectarine crumble? And we could use some of those blueberries you’ve got there from your blueberry picking expedition with Nana and Grampa. How’s that sound?”
The thing that made me want to give this clam recipe a try, was the idea that the almost over-cooked zucchini provides a coating that allows the sauce to better adhere to the linguine. (Plus, as you know, I’ve just got a thing for linguine and clams. New twists always welcome!) You cook the zucchini in garlic and a nice amount of olive oil, remove the zucchini, and then cook the littlenecks (I had to use mahogany clams from Maine on this night) in the zucchini-garlic-flavored oil. Add some hot red pepper (which I had to forgo in consideration of my daughters’ sensitive palates) and parsley, toss it all (including zucchini) together, using a bit of pasta water to make a bit more of a sauce, and va bene!
As for the crumble, we peeled the nectarines, added the blueberries, and Greta did her magic with cinnamon and grated nutmeg. She then mixed together some whole wheat flour, oats, brown sugar, dash of salt, and pinched it all together into crumbles with half a stick or so of butter. Many would insist that vanilla ice cream is the only appropriate accompaniment, but I prefer something to cut the sweetness a bit – honeyed yogurt or creme fraiche will do the trick. If you’ve got some heavy cream in the fridge, how about that?
At 7:45 this morning, I was awoken to a chorus of “Happy Mothers’ Day, Mommy!” and the sight of two beaming girls holding a breakfast tray. For the past several days, 9-year old Greta had been saying that she wanted to make scrambled eggs for me for Mothers’ Day, and while telling her what a lovely thought that was, I had tried to encourage something that wouldn’t involved the stove top, since the thought of the girls in the kitchen with an open flame, while I slept, was a bit unnerving.
“We used Julia’s recipe, Mommy!”
“Yes, Julia Child!”
How fantastic is that?!! My daughters had turned to Mastering the Art of French Cooking for their first solo cooking endeavor. Could I be more proud?
Considering how well that had all gone, I reasoned that it would be ok to ask Anna to put a kettle on, for my coffee, while I read their cards.
A few minutes later, after I had opened a gift of homemade vanilla-scented sugar and olive oil scrub, I realized I had been hearing a periodic clicking sort-of sound and asked Anna to take a peek in the kitchen to be sure everything was ok on the stove. “Oh, no! Oh, no!” is what Greta and I heard seconds later. I ran to the kitchen half expecting to find the room ablaze, to discover the milk bottle we have been using as a water carafe, sitting on the stove top, directly beside the gas burner, still standing but cracked into three pieces. Though the girls were fond of the bottle, fortunately this was no catastrophe. In fact, it provided a “teaching” moment, as well as an opportunity to practice my nursing skills.
Because as soon as I picked up the bottle, it fell to pieces and at least one tiny shard ended up on the floor, and soon after, in Anna’s foot. Thus I found myself, seated by the window, sipping my coffee, tweezers in hand, extracting a sliver of glass from Anna’s tender foot. What’s a Mothers’ Day without a little mothering!
Having been apart on my recent birthday, my daughters informed me that we would celebrate my birthday this evening. They had a little plan up their sleeves, about which they whispered and plotted with our dear friend and irreplaceable sitter, Beth. I decided to make my own contribution to the evening by trying out this week’s French Friday recipe, Beggar’s Linguine, or Linguine Mendiant.
Calling for pistachios, almonds, golden raisins, and dried Mission figs, a healthy heap of Parmesan and dusting of orange zest and chopped chives, this is not a recipe that would normally catch my eye – even if the 1 1/2 sticks of butter might! I simply could not get my mind around what it was going to taste like. Sweet? Fruity? Is that really something we want for dinner? The raisins alone gave me quite a long moment of pause. Some readers may recall the dismay I caused at my best friend’s home when I showed up with a dessert containing golden raisins. And a person with whom I generally share a similarity of taste in all things culinary, made a face bordering on disgust when I suggested we share a cinnamon raisin bagel one recent morning. Would my daughters and Beth join this group of people offended by the inclusion of raisins in their meals? (Topic for future blog: Where to do raisins belong?) After mulling this all over for a few minutes, I decided, “What the hell!” and made my grocery list.
A little background on where the inspiration for this pasta may have come from. Dorie Greenspan tells us that there’s a French candy called a mendiant, which comes in the form of a chocolate disc topped with chopped nuts, dried fruit and sometimes a little orange rind. Traditionally, the nuts and fruits represented the four mendicant monastic orders – dried figs for the Franciscans, raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnuts for the Augustinians, and almonds for Carmelites. So it seems that someone thought it might be a good idea to apply this idea to a pasta dish and, somewhat surprisingly, it was!
After browning that stick and a half of butter, in go the chopped fruits and nuts, followed by the cooked linguine. Toss that all around, pour it into a bowl, add a generous heap of Parmesan, little orange zest, and healthy handful of chives, and oh my how happy you will be! I am, in fact, so certain of this fact that I intend to prepare this dish for each of the aforementioned raisin detractors in the very near future.
Good as this pasta was however, it couldn’t beat dessert – a birthday cake baked, decorated, and served with an abundance of love by my two beautiful daughters.
Our plans include the expected – visits to the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and Sacre Coeur. As you know, we plan to check out Shakespeare & Co. and E. Dehillerin. We may ice skate at l’Hotel de Ville, but will definitely eat ice cream at Berthillon. The girls intend to bring home a few French fashion items and I intend to stash in my bag a few jars of Fleur de Sel de Guerande, pails of G. Detou Dijon, and lentils de Puy. The macarons will be gone before boarding time.
We will (hopefully!) eat at Cafe Constant, Les Cocottes, Les Papilles, Chez Marianne and perhaps Le Gaigne or A La Biche au Bois. We will eat crepes! We will buy a Poulet crapaudine from the Chicken Lady at the Bastille market! And we will wish you were with us! (You know who you are.)
Next time – posting from Paris!
The town we live in, and I believe most of the state as well, has a delightful tradition of scheduling 3 half-days followed by two days off from school in the first week of November. Both working and non-working moms can appreciate the small bit of chaos this can wreak in an otherwise orderly schedule. But as my Nana liked to say, it’s an ill wind that blows no good, and this particular wind means a break from school lunch preparation, which I must admit is not among my favorite activities. Though my children have fairly experimental palates in general, when it comes to school lunch, we’re in a bit of rut, from which, try as I may, we seem unable to break free.
And so it is that these 3 half days provide an opportunity to prepare a hot lunch! Yes, I know some of you are saying, “this girl needs to get a life if this is what excites her,” but I do love having a morning free of peanut butter sandwich-making, and a lunchtime seated at the table with my daughters.
Yesterday my fridge contained the last-of-the-season green beans from the farmers’ market, and my head contained a vague recollection of a recipe I had recently encountered that called for green beans, bread crumbs and garlic. Here’s the result: