It was hard not to take it personally.
The moment my mother and I stumbled off the plane onto Parisian soil this past June, the city was getting away from itself in a most unusual way.
Too-close-for-comfort terrorism alerts were being issued to Americans traveling to France. Torrential and relentless downpours of rain were pummeling the streets. The Seine was flooding to a historic level. A strike by transit workers and airport employees was looming. Unseasonably cold temperatures were forcing us to forego wearing the Paris-style fashions we had dreamily packed in our matching luggage sets. And, in an emergency act of protecting its antiquities from drowning, the Louvre had the nerve to close its doors - literally as we were arriving at the ticket booth - rendering us unable to so much as snap a prized selfie of us surrounded by hundreds of other tourists snapping selfies of themselves snapping selfies with Ms. Mona Lisa.
Frankly, the City of Light was looking more like the City of Uh-Oh, and I’m fairly certain my mother wanted to cry. After all, this was the highly-anticipated mother-daughter trip she’d been planning for a year now. A vacation to celebrate our triumphant survival through a previous year of abysmal woes. A vacation that had already been postponed once and had a lot riding on it emotionally and spiritually. A vacation that, at this point, seemed would have been better spent in the Bahamas. Or Trenton, New Jersey.
It was a hunk of meat that turned things around for Mom and me.
This is been a TERRIBILIS AUTEM SABBATI (aka a really bad week)... a lot of pain - all over the world. Cautious moderate thinking seems utterly incapable of solving the problems, as we have moved into a communal state of FIGHT OR FLEE. For a moderate middle of the roader this is awkward. So while my point is serious, I now move into a wistful moment of humor. I am offering two options each on fight or flee.
Fight: Slim Pickens riding the bomb from Dr Strangelove and Brunhilda from Wagner's Ring Cycle, (photo©Nancy Ellison Photography).
Flee: IZ - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and his youtube video of Somewhere Over the Rainbow - the sweetest most personal rendition ever, and finally my personal favorite - the White Cosmo that I just had at Cafe Boulud for brunch today....
The Flee choices are short term. The Fight choices are rather permanent.
Once in a great while, I come across a spectacular dish that needs little tinkering because it’s already perfectly healthy and incredibly easy like Swedish Gravlax with Mustard Dill Sauce.
Not the same as the smoked salmon you’d find in a grocery store, but similar to traditional lox you sometimes find in a kosher deli, gravlax is “cold-cured” in salt and sugar. But with the additional seasonings of fresh dill and Aquavit (a Scandinavian alcohol flavored with caraway and other herbs and spices), it has a uniquely delicious taste that somehow makes it more “special” than any deli breakfast food. (That hint of “specialness” may also be because a gravlax appetizer in a restaurant like Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit in New York will run you 20 bucks…)
So when in Stockholm for the husband’s “Jack Reacher” premier in December, I was thrilled to see gravlax (or gravad lox) show up at every meal.
Sorry, brisket fanatics from Texas. My apologies, pulled pork addicts from North Carolina. If I had to pick my last meal on Planet Barbecue (I sure hope I never do), I’d order ribs. Perfect for July 4th celebrations, ribs offer it all: gnawable bones that provide structure and flavor, presenting a broad surface to the smoke and fire. Well-marbled, rich-tasting meat at with a price that remains relatively affordable -- especially when compared to steak.
Ribs possess other advantages. Versatility is one: all the major meats types come in rib form, from the ubiquitous pork and beef to the more rarified lamb, veal, and bison. Ribs can be cooked using a myriad of methods, from direct and indirect grilling to smoking and even spit-roasting. (You’ll find the latter at Brazilian-American rotisserie restaurants, like Fogo de Chao.) Many pit masters use multiple methods -- smoking the ribs for several hours first, for example, then flash-searing the sauce onto the meat directly over a hot fire.
Even rib portion sizes vary widely, from the paper-thin strips of kalbi-kui (beef short ribs) direct grilled on charcoal braziers at Korea town restaurants to the plate-burying slabs we’ve come to expect from barbecue joints in Memphis and Kansas City.
But most of all, ribs are just plain fun to eat, evoking a primal memory of when our cave-dwelling ancestors roasted huge hunks of meats over campfires, ripping them apart with their bare hands. Admit it, part of the pleasure of ribs is that you get to eat them with your fingers.
Why doesn’t somebody make a hamburger bun that also fits a hot dog? It would be hinged. That way, if you had a small family, you would only have to buy one package of buns. Here’s what it would look like...
This summer marks my thirty-first year as an attorney. But when I think back to the summer of 1978 it is not a courtroom that I see; rather I recall a brilliant sunny July day barbecuing at the base of the Seattle Space Needle on a Weber grill. About twenty of us from the country’s largest pork producing states were vying for first place in National Pork Cook-Out Contest. Truth be told though the southern states, principally North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee are known for barbecue the big boys of pork are Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska and Kansas. They were the guys to beat.
For me the event was the culmination of a 2-year grilling odyssey that began in 1976 when I entered the North Carolina State Pork Cooking Championship and came away with a respectable but disappointing third place for Orange Flavored Pork. Despite the loss (and despite my New York Jewish heritage), I knew I had it in me to bring home the bacon so to speak. Though I had always loved pork – mostly in the form of ribs slathered in ‘duck sauce’ from the local Chinese take out joint – I really never really embraced the true pig in me until I had come to Chapel Hill, North Carolina two years earlier to attend law school.
"I never thought I'd be eating asparagus, much less for breakfast."
That was my husband on Saturday morning as he dangled a small chunk of roasted asparagus from his fork. He was just finishing up his breakfast of poached egg atop roasted asparagus spears with an Italian-seasoned ground almond crumble.
Just after he headed to the golf course, I started cleaning up the kitchen and discovered one asparagus spear still on his otherwise empty plate. I guess expecting him to eat up six asparagus spears was pushing my luck a bit too far.
I love asparagus. Steamed, roasted or grilled, just hand it over. Althought I strongly support the Buy Local movement, I just can't stop myself from buying some of the first asparagus that appears in the grocery stores in the spring. Green and bright, my first asparagus each April truly is a rite of spring. Around here, asparagus is often harvested for the first time in June. That would seem a rite of summer.
Just when you think you know everything about a person, an unseen facet of their life reveals itself. My good friend, accomplished cook, and popular cookbook writer, Valerie Peterson has just revealed herself as a fellow shellfishaholic. In theNew York Times she writes a charming remembrance about summer days at the beach, picnicking and clamming at Sherwood Island State Park in Connecticut in "Digging for Summer".
Sadly this is a remembrance of things past because Sherwood Island where she and her family used to gather now prohibits clamming because of pollution. There are alternative beaches to try but her personal experiences speak eloquently about why environmental protection is not just an abstract notion.
Reading Valerie's description of clams cooked at the beach after being gathered by her cousins is a near-perfect scene: packing the steamers into "coffee pots with a couple of inches of water" and heated on the hibachis carried in by cooperative uncles; watching the water boil, the shells open, broth being seasoned, butter added, and then the adults happily eating the sweet chewy clams. As she says though this was an experience seen from two perspectives. While the adults appreciated the rubbery bivalves, "for us children, the thrill was the hunt..."
Early August is here and the close of peach season in my neck of the woods is drawing nigh. Thankfully 'maters and peas and other summer produce will take us into an Indian Summer and then, thankfully into fall!
I have two sets of iron skillets - one set for savory cooking and one set for sweets. There's hardly anything better than a good iron skillet, but there's hardly anything worse than a peach or apple or berry pie that tastes like onions and gravy! Trust this Farmer, keep a sweet skillet handy so you don't serve onion/gravy flavored peach pie at a dinner party!
Mimi was the source - of course - of any of my iron skillet prowess. She taught me about cooking with them, in them, seasoning them and even bringing a rusty one back to life. She told me that if the house caught on fire, grab the silver and family photos - the skillets will be just fine!
So here is one of my favorite pies in an iron skillet - peach! Followed closely by apple and bringing up the rear would be my pineapple upside cake. The iron gets so hot that the cake or pies cook quickly and give your crust some crunch and substance. Besides tasting absolutely divine, these desserts are beautifully presented in their skillet caches - one less dish to wash and allows for easy reheating!
by James Moore
The real secret to a great Margarita is choosing the best tequila, so save these for special occasions with just a few friends. Start this recipe the day before your party – it’s worth it. The longer the zest and juice mixture is allowed to steep, the more developed the citrus flavors in the finished margaritas - the full 24 hours is best,...Read more...
by James Moore
I generally don’t care for Sangria, except for when I’m in Spain - it just seems to taste better there. Sangria makes a perfect summer drink when entertaining, because you can make large batches ahead of time.
This recipe is based on one I received during my stay at Le Meridien Barcelona from the General Manager, Gonzalo Duarte Silva. They...Read more...
by James Farmer III
My house wine is sweat tea, but there are a couple concoctions I simply relish as much as tea. One is Mrs. Wilson’s Rosemary Lemonade and the other, a “James Farmer” – this Farmer’s version of an Arnold Palmer.
Dear friends of mine in Montgomery host me and “put me up” (or more so put up with me) when I’m staying in town for the night, and Mrs....Read more...
A Day at Venice Beach
by Maureen Greer