Yesterday I sat through two and a half of the most excruciating hours of my life. Sat through, twisted my torso through, felt like throwing up through. But I stayed there riveted, horrified, sickened and saddened beyond belief.
I was at a movie, "Twelve Years a Slave." A movie that should, in my humble yet convinced opinion, be required viewing for every American over the age of fifteen. It is based on the true story of a black man, a father, a husband, a violinist, a cultured, educated, middle class citizen of Saratoga Springs New York in the 1840's who is kidnapped, brought to the south and sold into slavery. It is the story of what he witnessed, endured, and survived for twelve years before being rescued and reunited with his family.
The movie, directed by Steve McQueen, gives it to us full strength, undiluted. The camera lens takes us into the open, oozing, purple wall of the wound. Close up and into the bubbling beads of fresh blood made by the long taut leather lashing out, slashing, ripping red rivers into chocolate skin.
It's a story of a despicable part of our history and needs to be told correctly for many reasons. And it is torturous to sit through.
1) A glass of champagne.
2) A ripe juicy heirloom tomato during summer.
3) Anchovies or Sardines, In Any Format, Any Time Of The Year, No Matter Where
About number three, yep, it’s true. My lifelong love affair with those salty, powerfully fishy flavors of the sea no doubt originated with my dad, who was happy to keep tins of sardines in the house, and when I think back we kids must’ve been a sight to see, eagerly inhaling sardines in mustard or sardines in olive oil with crackers, toast, or just by themselves.
As an adult I was happy to learn that there’s actually a whole world of variety when it comes to anchovies and sardines (two completely separate fish), but it’s a group I’m quick to lump together just because, well, they belong in THAT category. To me, at least.
If they’re on a menu — FRESH — forgettuaboutit. If I’m in Spain, they will be consumed daily. If they’re layered on a pizza (we’re talking anchovies here), I’m in. And my eyes eagerly seek the fine print of menus for the “Our Caesar Is Made With Anchovies, Please Inform Your Server If”, which, of course, I never seem to finish that last sentence. I am so down.
We took a break from olive picking to hop across the pond to Barcelona to attend the Catalan International Environmental Film Festival. We were invited through our friend, Will Parinnello, who was being honored for his films about this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize honorees.
All of which means that we spent three days — and nights — with some of the greenest people on the planet. It was nice to learn that environmental heroes can eat and drink with the best of them. When you think about it, munching on tapas and slugging down innumerable glasses of Cava is really just another form of re-cycling.
On an earlier trip to Barcelona, Jill and I had lunched at a counter in the Boqueria, the extraordinary market in the center of town. When we mentioned to some locals that we wanted to repeat this experience, they pointed us instead to a little piazza just outside the entrance to the market. There, they told us, is a tapas restaurant that the Barcelonians prefer. It’s called Papitu and it was wonderful, indeed.
Truthfully, Hanukkah makes me anxious. It’s one of those performance things. Not about making crispy incredible latkes or the homemade applesauce or the chorus of songs after the blessings. No, it’s the presents. Giving exactly the right gift meant you know exactly what the kid needs. A mom’s job, right? Um... Know who they are and you know what they want? Right? Um... Could we call it generalized mother present anxiety syndrome? Hanukah really ups the ante on the whole thing. I mean, Christmas, ok, one day. If you blow it – well, sayonara until next year, baby. But, Hanukah! Eight days! Every night! Really? I mean, who thought of that? Not the Maccabees when they decided they’d had enough of the Greeks.
I raise my hand in admission of guilt. You see, my husband and I disagreed over giving gifts. Him against me. How can you not give gifts to little kids? All those latke and Hanukah gelt (Hanukah chocolate coins) turned up at the lights, wishing for a little present just like the Playstation (I’m dated, I know) his friend, Avi, got last year. I won the argument. Over gifts. Kind of like winning a ticket to do all the dishes all the time.
I’ve seen wooden molds with delicate designs carved into them many times as I’ve browsed through antique shops and rummaged my way through flea markets. I never really knew what they were supposed to be used for. A neighbor once gave me the light colored rolling pin you can see in the photo above. She’d had it for years and wasn’t exactly sure if she’d ever used it, but she thought it would be a nice addition to the collection of old rolling pins I kept in an old wicker bike basket hanging on the wall in my kitchen. That was years ago. I’ve never used that carved rolling pin. Until last Sunday.
I was invited to join the Oja family in their spacious kitchen for their annual springerle-making day. Snowflakes were falling as another friend and I pulled into the long driveway leading to their house tucked into the countryside outside of Bemidji, Minnesota.
As I stepped into the warm and cozy home, I was immediately hit with the aroma of mulling spices and cardamom. Beth Oja, our hostess, had prepared Finnish Pulla and mulled cider made from apples the family had picked from their trees and pressed themselves. I thought I might be in heaven. And, I knew this was going to be a great day.
"Latkes are a kind of oil, into which small quantities of shredded potato have been infused." -- Jonathan Safran Foer
Latkes, also known as potato pancakes, are a traditional treat to eat at least once during the eight days of Hanukkah. The reason you eat latkes for Hanukkah is because they are fried in oil. Why oil? Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the second temple after a battle and along with the victory came the miracle in which mere drops of oil in an oil lamp lasted eight days. The "miracle" is much like a story about a fat man coming down a chimney with presents...
A real miracle would be to have perfectly crispy and not-so-greasy latkes. For years there has been a debate in my family. My mom and I spoke up in defense of shredding potatoes for latkes, and my papa insisted that grating lead to much crispier ones. It's all in the technique, as most recipes call for the same ingredients--eggs, flour or matzah meal, onions and potatoes. Last year I had some of the crispiest latkes ever and guess what? Papa was right. Grating does make them crispier. That and frying them in the just right amount of oil at just the right temperature of course.
What a meal. Busy life = slow-cooking meat = happy family.
Again, I am embracing the slow-cooker. It's saving me! However, have you ever been home all day while the slow-cooker is going? Or worse asleep at night while it's cooking? I feel like I snack more while those amazing smells are wafting from the kitchen. Then the kids come home from school and whine until dinner because they smell the food too. And want it. Oh well, a small price to pay for an awesome meal.
This pork, is melt in your mouth delicious. And you can literally throw it together in 5 minutes and be on your merry way. When you get home you will have a fabulous, slightly sweet and savory meal that goes QUITE well with mashed potatoes. And there is so much juice to pour over the meat, leaving it moist and yummy. Ah, bliss.
We will be doing this one again and again this winter.
My recipe is the one my mother and now I have been making for years. I mean years and years. It came from one of my mom’s best friends Roz Katz. Mom and Roz met as co-op nursery school mothers. The Katzs still grate the potatoes by hand using the old fashioned grater that is like a grid. I’m in a hurry so I use a food processor.
– Evan Kleiman
For dinner on the first night of Hanukkah my mother always started with a romaine lettuce salad topped with scallions and Lawry's French Dressing. Then there was a brisket of beef with carrots and mushroom gravy. But the real stars of the meal were the latkes served with apple sauce and sour cream.
My mother's latke recipe was handed down from her mother: grated potatoes, eggs, flour, a little salt and pepper. She'd fry them in vegetable oil and serve them as soon as they were browned. So simple and yet the result was so soul-comforting: crispy on the outside, soft inside, with just the right amount of oil and salt. There are few dishes that are as satisfying as food and so emotionally evocative.
Like most kids, my sister, Barbara, and I waited eagerly at the table. As soon as the plate full of latkes was passed around, we emptied it. I kept count, because I didn't want her to have more than I did. They were that good. When my grandmother was in town, she and my mother made Hanukkah dinner together. Their relationship was competitive to say the least, so there was always considerable discussion about the right way to make the latkes: flour vs. matzo meal; onions or no onions. My grandmother liked to point out that she had given my mother her latkes recipe but my mom insisted that she hadn't remembered it correctly.
Kohlrabi, a vegetable that sounds just as foreign as it is alien to most people, is a subtle-flavored vegetable in the cabbage family. In fact it's German name translates to cabbage (kohl) turnip (rabi). Varieties include purple and pale green. It often gets confused with rutabagas or turnips, but it's actually much more attractive than both. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw (its taste resembles that of radishes) or cooked (where its taste is similar to boiled broccoli stems). This creamy soup is the perfect recipe for kohlrabi, because the vegetable turns sweet and tender.
This recipe is based on my mother's version. Her soup is a Hungarian specialty. It's wonderful for a first course before an elegant dinner. When you match it with a big chunk of bread or crackers, it's even great as an entire meal. Its creaminess and sweetness always hits my comfort spot. And even though, as a kid, I never thought of kohlrabi as much of a vegetable, I still always asked my mom to make this soup in the fall and winter.
For some reason I have found myself in Scandinavian and Eastern European countries during the winter months and although the weather can be a bit frigid, the experience has always been memorable. Recent visits to Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Prague proved not only beautiful to see around the holidays, but each city also offered its own version of a warm libation to combat the cold temperatures – mulled wine.
If you find yourself in just about any European destination in December you are bound to come across a local version of their mulled wine. Whether it’s Glühwein (in Netherlands and Germany), Glögg (in Scandinavia), or Svařák (Czech) this spiced wine concoction with warm your body and spirit.
While the basis of mulled wine is pretty much the same, each region has a slightly different take on the recipe. The Swedes add raisins and almonds, as well as more sugar than most and usually a healthy dose of extra alcohol like Aquavit or vodka. In Germany, you´ll find a lighter, less sweet version – theirs has less sugar than Glögg and more spices like nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.
I'm a tea drinker and I love experimenting with it as an ingredient. I make hot chocolate with tea and use tea to smoke chicken. But I have to admit, I only heard the term cambric to describe tea made with milk, such as chai, at an event recently at the T-We Tea Shop hosted by the California Milk Processor Board. It's an old fashioned term for a combination of tea, milk and sugar often served to children. But that doesn't mean you can't make it into something enticing for adults.
The certified tea specialist and proprietor Christopher Coccagna made a number of wonderful drinks for Winter with tea and milk. Some of the drinks had alcohol in them and others didn't. Some used herbal teas and some used black teas. Some will definitely perk you up while others are perfect as a relaxing nightcap. There's really something for everyone, even kids and teetotalers. Check out the recipes for all kinds of luscious tea and milk drinks including Vanilla Mint Cambric, Lavender London Fog Latte and White Russian Caravan at GotMilk.
by Susan Salzman
Comfort food with a crust. Need I say more? Thanksgiving, for me, is all about the sides. I do love my gravy, but I prefer it over my rustic herb stuffing. Forget the turkey and save it for a big batch of turkey potpie or a morning hash.
This recipe has been part of my repertoire for the past 20 years. It has evolved over the years but one...Read more...
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It's not too early to start planning what you are going to make with your Thanksgiving leftovers. There might be items you want to pick up and have on hand for the days after the holiday. Goodness knows you won't want to head back to the market (even though it will be empty). Anyway, the Monte Cristo is traditionally a fried ham and cheese...Read more...
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Me: I should post the turkey sandwich with the cranberry sauce. Everyone will have leftover cranberry sauce to use up.
Me: Nope. Too much like Thanksgiving. I'll go with the Southwest sandwich.
Me: But cranberry sauce won't be around much longer; habanero Gouda cheese is around all year.
Me: No, no. Too much like Thanksgiving.
Me: I'm just...
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