Thursday, December 23, 2010
My favorite gift that I am giving this year also happens to be the one I wish I was GETTING: A subscription to the independent food magazine Remedy Quarterly.
Let this be a lesson to me: usually if I purchase a great gift for someone else, I get one for me. Some people call this selfish. But it's how I have acquired half of my coolest things.
This is the Holiday Volume I Gift Subscription to RQ. You get the first three volumes of the magazine, plus the fourth volume, which is coming soon in 2011, and includes one of my essays.
Kelly, of Eat Make Read, helped start Remedy Quarterly. She sent the gift to me all tied up with bakers twine and with an adorable gift tag. I love love love it, but really don't want to give it away.
I'm planning on stealing this from Mom on Christmas afternoon and reading through every issue, piece by lovely piece. Is that selfish?
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Here's the scoop. It's five days before Christmas. We still have no couch, but we have two beds, five uncomfortable dining room type chairs, and two living room chairs. One cost $40. The other just arrived from a moderately expensive Italian design emporium, and Sean has spent all weekend agonizing over the choice to let it into our lives.
We're tired, were dehydrated, we're perhaps even a bit hungover.
And we're hungry.
Just the other day, Sean let it slip that in spite of my "expert home economy" I didn't feed him enough. Ah yes, this is why each dinner is followed by a cheese plate, dessert, and occasionally even a bowl of cereal or midnight snack of peanut butter toast.
As if I hadn't noticed. His hunger is like nothing I've ever seen. I just assumed he had admirable metabolism and a hollow leg.
But still... A guy has to eat.
And so, I interrupt the parade of red and green sprinkled cookies, homemade eggnog recipes, and a play by play of the perfect crown roast to ask: What do you eat every day? I want tips for the dinner meals you eat with your family, the hearty ones with leftovers to spare. Ideally they're easy, quick, and healthy, too.
Yes, I could look it up. But straight recipes and bound cookbooks feel somewhat less helpful right now. So, if you can, leave me something in the comments that tells me how you do it: Do you serve meat and potatoes? Casseroles? Is it all in the sides, or should he snack more before dinner?
I don't want him to starve, but really. It's five days before Christmas. There's laundry to do, presents to wrap, and work to be done. There's just not that much time for dinner.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I love it, though, and most days I can't believe my luck. I am thirty-three years old, about to publish my first book, and doing exactly what I dreamed of as a little girl. Still, there are bad days. And on those days, there's nothing I want more than Mom: her dinners are healthy and delicious, there's always milk in the fridge and a pantry stocked with snacks, and in a pinch, she knows that chocolate cures everything.
Just the other night she made me a pan of brownies at 10PM. It had been a day filled with BS (Book Stuff) that left me exhausted and, for the first time, wondering why I'd ever believed being an author was a fun idea.
A brownie topped with vanilla ice cream didn't fix it, but it did make me feel better, which, I think is the point of both mothers and rich, fudgey, just-a-little-salty, brownies.
This isn't my mom's recipe, but it is my favorite brownie for a bad day or (hypothetically) the week where you just can't find your camera charger or a clean set of sheets. In fact, these dark things are aptly called "Baby's Got the Blues Fudge Brownies," in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks: With A Measure of Grace: The Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant.
With a lot of chocolate and a kick of salt, these little things will cure anything. Just like mom.
Baby's Got the Blues Fudge Brownies
Adapted slightly from With A Measure of Grace: The Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant
4 ounces (4 squares) semi-sweet chocolate
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt -- use fleur de sel if you can, or fine sea salt
1/2 cup flour
Preheat oen to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8x8 pan (grease and flour it very well, brownies tend to stick)
Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until mix is smooth.
Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool.
Add vanilla, sugar, eggs, and salt to the chocolate mix and beat until combined. Next add flour and stir till mixed.
Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, until top is dry and a tooth pick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Do not over bake these brownies -- !
Let cool, then cut into squares.
Makes enough for one very bad day.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Yesterday I decided to abandon the lists. Baking sounded indulgent; relaxing; vacation-like. I made my neat little piles of spices, and prepared to roast some nuts.
Spiced nuts scream southern hospitality. They are perfect to wrap up for little hostess gifts or have on hand in case people stop by unexpectedly. I like them best with a glass of bubbly, but I like anything best with a glass of bubbly.
This recipe is nothing fancy, or hard, but it made me feel productive, like I was doing something worthy of a big fat mark of accomplishment. Shortly after I pulled the fragrant nuts from the oven, all hell broke loose. I spent hours on the telephone with my agent. The knots in my neck tied themselves into ever deeper coils. I thought about throwing something across the room.
Instead when my stomach screamed, I grabbed a handful of nuts and poured myself a very large glass of wine. These kicky, spicy, savory, bits totally hit the spot, even if I did feel like a 1950s angst filled writer, noshing away on salty nuts and pink wine before 5PM.
Later, my mom baked me brownies and served them warm with melty vanilla ice cream. But that's a whole other story.
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 cups pecan halves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small bowl, combine the salt, black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon and brown sugar. Toss pecans with melted butter and spices till nuts are well coated. Spread the pecans on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, until fragrant. Stir, than toast 5 to 7 minutes more.