Monthly Archives: September 2009

Comfort Food

After several days of sweltering 80-degree plus heat, a fall chill is finally in the air. Soren, who hates heat and humidity, is ecstatic. I like fall too because it means the return of soup season (and honeycrisp apples). I don’t want to play favorites, but if I had to pick a favorite food, it might be soup. This one, a hearty mix of ham, sausage, beans, potatoes, kale, and tomatoes from the Ovens of Brittany (a cookbook written by the very talented Terese Allen) verges on stew.

I made a batch last Sunday, before curling up on the couch to watch Mad Men.

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Here kitty, kitty . . .

Well, we finally did it. After weeks of hemming and hawing, we now have a cat. The tipping point was a chance encounter in a friend’s backyard. We stopped over for a barbecue, and a tiny stray came mincing through the garden to greet us. Then she hopped up in my lap, curled in a ball and started purring. It’s very easy to say “no” to a theoretical cat. It’s very, very hard to say “no” to a homeless flesh-and-blood feline, especially such a charming one.

So last week, we bought a cat carrier and picked her up. “Izzy” has adjusted to life indoors beautifully. She uses the litterbox, chases toy mice, sleeps with us and has expressed no desire to go outside. Not surprising, really. You wouldn’t be so psyched about the outdoors either had you once been forced to live on the streets.

This week was Izzy’s first visit to the vet. Based on her size, habits and teeth, he thinks she is about 7 or 8 months old. (“She’s a ‘tween,’ just like Miley Cyrus. We’ll call you Izzy Cyrus, won’t we!” the vet gushed. Which raises two obvious questions: What does my 40-year-old vet know about teenage pop sensation Miley Cyrus? And why does he feel a need to share this knowledge with me, making himself appear even stranger than he probably is?)

This being the US, it shouldn’t surprise me that after one vet visit we’ve already spent more on Izzy’s healthcare than I have on my own. Next week she goes in to get spayed. My vet charges $250–and that’s cheap. I called another vet in Stroller Central (Park Slope) and they charge $450! Call me heartless, but it’s a cat. They can’t figure out some way of cutting costs? My vet actually offers a $65 test (optional, thank goodness) to make sure that the cat won’t have an adverse reaction to the anesthetic. I can’t even afford to spend $65 on myself for optional procedures. (If I could, I might consider a massage, or botox).

Enough venting! The point is that she is very sweet and cute, and we’re happy to have her.


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Puppy Madness

Puppies make me weak in the knees. Here’s one that’s nearly too cute to exist.

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A Lovely Labor Day Stay-cation

Most people leave for Labor Day. We debated and dithered. We backed and we forthed, but ultimately we decided to stay. And I’m pleased to report we had a very lovely stay-cation.

Friday night Soren and I babysat our friends’ 3-month-old son. He seemed pleased to see us at first. But when he realized our boobs don’t produce milk, he became infuriated. Crying followed by more crying followed by even harder crying. Finally, exhausted, he collapsed on my chest and slept. Poor little guy. His parents had a lovely, but short, dinner — just the two of them.

Saturday was a lazy, hot day. After spending the morning cleaning, we met up with friends in Prospect Park for a picnic. The spread included a delicious beet salad composed of raw beets, raw carrots, raw red onion, parsley, orange juice, olive oil and lemon juice. You would think raw beets would be tough, but these were delicious, perhaps because they were matchsticked. The recipe (more or less) is here. Perfect! I may attempt it myself this weekend. After the picnic, we followed our friends back to their house for an impromptu party. They are very good at having impromptu parties because 1. they have a phenomenal back yard with an expansive garden and a fire pit, 2. six people live in their house and 3. they are masters at whipping together on-the-fly meals.

Sunday I hit the farmer’s market. Then I came home and canned dilly beans. I added dill seeds, a clove of garlic and a hot pepper to each jar. Everything seemed to work out fine. The jars sealed with no problems. But I won’t know how they taste for a few more weeks. The beans have to sit for 4 to 6 weeks before we can enjoy them.

That evening, we took a train to Astoria to visit more friends. Brooklyn and Queens are right next to each other, but trekking from one to the other takes as long as a trans-Atlantic journey. Ok, maybe not THAT long, but at least 1.5 hours. We might as well live in different cities. Still, the trip was worth it. Thanks for a delightful evening, Sally and Kyle!

So our weekend wasn’t wholly a stay-cation. Monday our friends (who are fortunate enough to own a car) drove us to Cold Spring, a small town on the Hudson about an hour north of the city. The whole area is ringed with miles and miles of hiking trails. We chose a 5 or 6 mile loop that took us to the top of Bull Mountain (Mt. Taurus). It was a perfect day for hiking, cool with not too much sun. The views were awesome, and the greenness of the forest definitely helped ease some of the constant frenzy that comes with city living.

Our friends’ dog, Gunther, apparently felt the magic as well. In the city, he absolutely REFUSES to walk farther than a block. But he had no problem finishing this hike. He even had a chance to run off leash.

Large game was in short supply, but we did manage to see bugs, slugs, spiders and a single snake. In the Midwest, the slugs are gray and small — about the size of a jelly bean. They are disgusting, for sure, but relatively inconspicuous. The slugs in the East are brightly colored and enormous, 3 to 5 inches. I first noticed them on the sidewalks in our neighborhood.

Brooklyn slugs have leopard spots. The slugs on the trail in Cold Spring — all eleventy billion of them — were rust colored with black tentacles. Once I spotted the first one, I couldn’t stop seeing them. They were everywhere, and so were their slimy slug trails.

I told my mom about enormous eastern slugs the last time I was home, and she asked me “What are slugs for?” The question seemed enigmatic at the time, but now I realize it was a good one.

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Summer Baking

I love making bread. If I were an independently wealthy woman, I would spend all day doing it. But my funds are limited and my free time scarce. So if I’m going to go to the trouble of mixing and kneading the dough, allowing it to hang out on the counter or in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours and then letting it rise and rise again, the bread better damn well be delicious. Because lord knows there are 501 million delicious ready-to-eat loaves just waiting to be purchased. In fact, my local co-op sells a fantastic unsliced multigrain sourdough for $4.50.

My birthday yielded two of Peter Reinhart’s books: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Whole Grain Breads. Reinhart is a bread guru and his books (according to one of my friends) have the ability to change lives. Needless to say, I was excited. Last week I threw together some ciabatta and today I finished off two loaves of multigrain struan.

The ciabatta (pictured above) was unquestionably a success. It turned out airy, chewy and delicious–just as it’s supposed to be.

The struan looked delicious, but the taste definitely leaves something to be desired. These particular loaves contain brown rice, quinoa, bran, flaxseed and lots and lots of whole-wheat flour. Healthy? Yes. Delicious? Not so much.

I thought the point of Whole Grain Breads was to teach techniques that make whole grain breads taste not so much like whole wheat but rather like scrumptious balls of deliciousness. Yet the struan is decidedly dense and wheat-y. And it took two days and four bowls to make.

Perhaps the struan is just not my cup of tea. Perhaps I added too much bran. Perhaps I didn’t let the loaves rise long enough. Or perhaps even a bread guru can’t make four grains and several cups of whole-wheat flour taste like ciabatta. Still, I’m not ready to give up on Whole Grain Breads quite yet. Anyone up for some whole-wheat cinnamon raisin bread?

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