20 December 2009

Notes from a snowpocalypse...

So, when I heard about the winter storm warning I admit, I was a snow snob. I was skeptical. I secretly laughed at these people who didn't know what real snow is. The previous winter weather warnings this year had done nothing to change this opinion. I just raised my eyebrows at the cleaned out grocery stores.

Clearly, I was wrong.

D. played inside. Jack Russells do not like the snow. It was rather funny - he would be so excited to go out... and the we would open the door. He would sniff the snow and then look back over his shoulder at us, and sniff and look and sniff and look. Hilarity ensued. And then, after outdoor business had been taken care of, he would quickly do anything and everything to eradicate all traces of the snow.

So, this morning the view from our windows was worthy of a snow snob's expectations. Neighbor's car buried, window's obscured, snow mounded everywhere. It is beautiful. From inside.

The official report from Regan National Airport was 15 inches, breaking the previous record of 7 from 1945. Alexandria measured 19 inches. Our back yard has drifts well over two feet.

I guess they know how to do snow here, too.

17 December 2009

5:20 am

I can't remember the last time I was up this early when I didn't have to travel. G., M., and I, and maybe G.'s friends S. & I., have all decided to do the Avon Walk to end breast cancer. Our mom died of it, S.'s mom is still recovering, it is something we all want to see ended. S. would have to fly in, so it is something she is still considering. It is a big walk - 39 miles over 2 days, a full marathon on the first day and a half marathon the second. And so I got up at 5:20 this morning, bundled up, and went for a walk. Neither I nor my sisters are prepared for the physical commitment of this walk. But it is important to us. G.'s bus leaves at 6:45, so we get up at 5:20 and are out walking by 5:30, starting this morning. And we plan to take longer walks on the weekends, until we can walk a marathon in a day.

Maybe it will be good for other things than just getting in shape. Lots of people say that it is the best time to write. And here I am at 6:16 composing a reasonably lucid blog post. I do want to write more. Maybe now I will actually write down the things I used to compose in my head as I would try to fall asleep. And I am constantly lamenting that I don't have all the time to read that it would take to finish my absurdly long to-be-read list, so maybe this can be that time.

It will be hard to completely reset my bodies rhythm, though. I am, or at least I have always been, a night person. So maybe, by getting up this early I am actually losing time, time that was productive for me in the evenings, at night. Time that it will now be necessary to try and sleep. How does an insomniac handle 5:20 am? What will it be like to get up not long after I finally settle into sleep? But if we are going to do this together - and, to be honest, I probably wouldn't do it by myself - this is the time it has to be so G. can get to work on time. So, 5:20 am...

Three Sisters Pasta

The other night I had yet another lovely moment to pause and be grateful that I am living with two of my fabulous sisters. I love cooking with them.

We have been meaning for a week to make this dish. It is something of a specialty for G. She discovered it watching a cooking show with our grandmother in 2003. All we have to re-create it are a few somewhat cryptic notes that Grandma took while watching. The recipe is for shrimp, but we frequently make it with chicken, or in this case Quorn, the closest vegetarian meat-substitute I have ever encountered, and I have searched far and wide. Really, it tastes like chicken... and it's meant to.

Here is the recipe that we have come up with... It's not perfect yet, and G. maintained her title of Little Miss Picky-pants, stating however good it was, it didn't taste quite right and we would have to try again to get it closer to how she remembered it. Until then...

1 package orzo pasta (other small pastas work, too, like mini-bowties)
1 package fresh baby spinach, shredded
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 package grape tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 package Quorn cutlets, cubed small (or raw shrimp, peeled and deveined)
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Boil pasta according to package directions; drain; place in large bowl. Add in spinach, 1/2 the lemon zest, and the grape tomatoes; stir; add basil, salt and pepper; stir. Heat oil in a skillet; sauté garlic; add red pepper flakes and the rest of the zest. Heat for 30 seconds; add cutlet cubes (or shrimp), and sauté until cooked. Add lemon juice to deglaze the pan and toss immediately with the pasta mixture. Serve warm.

09 December 2009

Veggie thoughts...

So, as I was cooking dinner tonight - no, I didn't write down the recipe - I pondered how glad I am that my sister decided to become a vegetarian. While I still eat meat, this decision (made several years ago now) has completely changed the way I think about food. It has caused me to think about what I cook in new ways. I think about where my food comes from - what died so I could eat this meal? Was it part of a natural cycle? When I eat meat, I think about things like how the animals lived? How were they killed?

But beyond these rather philosophical and difficult questions I have also changed the way I think about putting a meal together. Vegetarians, like all of us, want a meal, not a collection of side dishes. I think about what goes into satisfying the people I feed, and how I can do that without basing it on meat. This means I have so many options that I never considered before, and may have never considered if I wasn't cooking for a vegetarian. This thought process was compounded by living with a vegan two years. It has fundamentally changed how I compose with food. There are moments when it strikes me, and I feel like a painter who was only painting with half the colours and now I have a full palette - and yes, the pun was intended and I am not sorry.

So for dinner we had a tikka curry with potatoes, veggies, and paneer. With saffron rice. And it was lovely. Six years ago I never would have thought to put this meal together.

06 December 2009

A list...

I may have mentioned this before, but I think it bears repeating: I love lists. I get causght up in the creation of lists and before I know it time has disappeared... time which I really needed for other things, like term papers or cleaning or reading articles or the giant pile of library books I have somehow acquired. But never mind, since I made the list, I will share it with you...

A list of food-related books which I would like to read:
  • I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci
  • The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp Through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis by Tara Austen Weaver
  • Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard W. Wrangham
  • The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family by Laura Schenone
  • A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances by Laura Schenone
  • From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women And Food by Arlene Voski Avakian (Editor), Barbara Haber (Editor)
  • The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
  • Nigella Lawson: A Biography by Gilly Smith
  • The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater by Nigel Slater
  • Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West by Beatrice Hohenegger
  • Tea: The Drink that Changed the World by Laura C. Martin
  • The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou Heiss
  • Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess by Gael Greene
  • My Life in France by Alex Prud'homme, Julia Child
  • Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch
  • American Food Writing: An Anthology: With Classic Recipes by Molly O'Neill (Editor)
  • Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution by Thomas McNamee
  • A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
  • The School of Essential Ingredients
  • Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table, a Collection of Essays form The New York Times
  • The Hunger: A Story of Food, Desire, and Ambition
  • Eating My Words: An Appetite for Life
  • What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes
  • Amarcord: Marcella Remembers
  • Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton
  • The Recipe Writer's Handbook, Revised and updated
  • Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris
  • Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
  • More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen
  • The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: My Adventures in Life and Food
It is by no means a complete list, and I think there in may lay some of the seduction of lists - they always need one more item... What would you add?