Monday, September 16, 2013

two days


This weekend, I cut up watermelon while cinnamon wafted from the oven where apple muffins baked—this juxtaposition the epitome of seasonal transition. Saturday was sunny, warm. I ate a heavily relished banger dog and ice cream al fresco.  (Jeni’s just opened in Chicago and the brown butter almond brittle is nothing short of life changing.)
On Sunday, it rained and I wore pajamas. And I took that as a sign to do the kind of cooking that makes a house feel warm and glowy against a grey day. Leftover muffins to start, a traditional Welsh breakfast for lunch, and coq au vin for dinner.  Is there a better smell than wine cooking? Can you eat too many mushrooms in a day? Is there anything cozier than a tuckered pooch all curled up in a big chair? My answer to all three: I don’t think so.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

With autumn closing in

Sitting on the edge of Amy’s tub, washing a thick, dusty layer of would-be mud off my feet was not how I wanted to start fall. One more night in her tiki-lit outdoor living room, eating hot, warm, and then cold grilled asparagus with my fingers and coaxing lovable cat pal Bobo out of the rose bushes was a welcome event, but it’s time now not to have to get quite so red-faced and sweaty dancing to Robyn. It’s time to be able to attend a favorite outdoor beer, cooking, and music festival and meet another Top Chef-testant with a scarf wrapped jauntily around one’s neck. It’s time not to have to worry about chipped toenail polish. It is time to wear moccs with socks.
At least while the heat stretches out, the produces follows suit. I’ve become particularly fond of the sweet little cherry peppers that Nichols has been making available. The tiny bells seem to have the same volume of seeds as the standard variety, despite being a fraction of the size. This poses a challenge to both my rudimentary knife skills and my big dumb thumbs, which I try jamming into the little peppers only to cause widespread scattering as the seeds escape to the apparent safety of the maple floorboards. “Safety” as I don’t vacuum or sweep nearly as often as would be threatening to seeds or appropriate for other human beings. Once I’ve successfully popped the seed clump out of the pepper, or at least relocated the seeds across the counter, I like to fill their little bellies with a wedge of sharp cheddar and a cashew for crunch. This makes a satisfying, bite-sized snack that works well on a cheese plate, picnic, or as something that you carry to the couch and eat directly off the coffee table.
While I’ve got a stock pile of puff pastry in my freezer, ready and waiting for pot pies on a nippy night, I don’t want to go back to a world without tomatoes. Those of you scoffing at my locavore antics should know that I’m most dramatic about grocery store tomatoes—AND HOW THEY MIGHT AS WELL BE MURDERERS. WOULD YOU LET A MURDERER INTO YOUR HOME ON A COLD WINTER NIGHT? I DIDN’T THINK SO.
Is this digression? I’m still planning to talk about tomatoes, so perhaps not. Ina Garten has a great recipe for tomatoes. That’s my point. Cherry tomato gratin, otherwise known as “what to do with tomatoes when you are tired of eating them raw or as sauce (which I know is never, but please can we just pretend?).” Talking points include: it’s delicious. Maybe I use that word too often because of my American penchant for making things seem great to convince myself of my own good fortune and worthwhile life—EVERYTHING IS AWESOME—but delicious is the right word for conveying that something tastes really good. The tomatoes go to that juicy saucy place, but maintain their shape and acidity, not getting too sweet. Also, note the toasty garlicky breadcrumb topping. Lastly, this dish is vegan in that surprising way that makes you remember that veganism isn’t all swapping in soy-rizo and forgetting to put cheese on pizza.
So, I’m conflicted, enjoying these last few weeks of warmth while hoping that it will soon please be boot weather, please. Ice cream cookie sandwiches, icebox banana cream pies, rainbow cones, and sunny rooftops competing with an overpowering urge to be inside of bookstores—a lifetime of fall-time conditioning. This year I’m working on a positivity campaign as a way to productively focus the back-to-school energy that arrives as a Pavlovian response to each September and no longer has an outlet in organizing new notebooks and pens. So far, I’ve retitled my to-do list with the heading: “Good things.” And though it wasn’t on the list, washing my filthy feet in Amy’s tub Saturday night was a decidedly good thing. Moccs with socks can wait.

Notes: 

  1. Sometimes writing these posts feels a lot like the conception of “Singin’ in the Rain,” except instead of a list of songs to work into a narrative, I’ve got an instagram feed.
  2. I wasn’t sure this post could recover from starting with a Bob Seger lyric, but it went okay, I think!