Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wealthy and Narcissistic: Eat Me.

The “Man”
There’s something about this bald man—spicy and dark, colourfully dressed, glistening with sweet secrets—secrets that have helped him manipulate his way through the ages. Who is this plump, yet stick-like man, where did he come from and what does he want?  To find our answers, we start at the beginning…

He has been seen since the Medieval Crusaders brought home a plethora of ingredients that would become his playground:  almonds, citrus fruits, spices and sugars.  Of course these ingredients were too expensive for the common folk so guild craftsmen began crafting elaborate likenesses of rich lords and swarthy soldiers and selling them to these very same lords--wealthy and narcissistic; a perfect match indeed.

Times changed, and eventually those inflated prices decreased and the common folk started making their own.  Practicality being their main tenet, our subject lost his illusions of grandeur and became a simple, more humble creation.  However, this did not stop him.  At around this time the discovery of ginger brought with it new meaning for our man—preservation.  He would last much longer.  As time wound its sultry way, his spicy popularity grew, until we find him at local country fairs.  And of course we find evidence of inevitability:  unmarried women eating “husbands” which meant they then had a good chance of finding flesh and bone--shocking, but true.

We cross the ocean, following our philanderer into the New World, ambitious as ever, cuckolding the housewives and professionals alike into sustaining him forever--yes, the cookie cutter was born.  And with the proliferating cutter came the likely merge:  the “man” and the Christmas tree.  Our subject connects himself with a celebrated holiday by having him festively adorned and lovingly placed on the tree.  He’s practically winking at us.

Is he content for now? What further secrets does he hold and where will we find him next?  No one knows, but that angel may be looking for a new job.

I still like this piece, probably the more sedate out of the revisited bunch. Below is a picture of a book jacket that I snapped last weekend in Richmond (delicious, fun-filled post to follow.)

What wine to drink with munched cookie?  Coffee.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More late night finds...Basil is Sexy!

Oh Basil, My Basil

So now what?  You’ve made the pesto and you’ve eaten about as much as you can of caprese salad.  You want more of your home-grown perfection, but you’re having doubts as to what to do with it.  Look no further, because dessert has arrived and basil is the star.

With more than 150 species of basil, the most widely known is of the species Ocimum basilicum or sweet basil.  For me, basil’s fragrance is incredibly earthy and sexy.  Picture The Wizard of Oz and the scene where Dorothy and friends are running through a field of wildflowers—now change those flowers to a valley of basil and all of its many colours and sizes:  pale to deep greens, cabernet reds, and patches of golden sun with small leaves and large ones too.  And as I’m running and jumping, I release scents of mint, clove, anise, cinnamon, and citrus, all vying for my attention as I slowly lay down in my bed of sweetness, sleepy and satiated...Only wake me when it’s time to bake!

When preparing basil for desserts, it’s important to remember that basil bruises easily—turning black if handled too much.  After washing the leaves, dry them thoroughly with paper towels.  The preferred way to cut basil is to tear it into smallish pieces with your hands.  To get these pieces even smaller, stack 5 – 6 leaves together, and gently roll into a tight bundle and with a very sharp stainless steel knife, slice into thin strips, called chiffonade.  From this point, mincing is just a few knife strokes away.

Basil and Citrus Sorbet
4 cups loosely packed basil leaves, washed and torn
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 ¾ cups organic lemon juice

Combine first four ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook three minutes or until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and chill.  Strain mixture through a sieve, pressing basil with a wooden spoon to remove as much liquid and goodness as possible.  Discard basil.  Mix basil syrup with lemon juice.
Pour syrup into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Spoon sorbet into a glass container, cover and freeze at least one hour or until firm.  Remove from freezer and let sit for 10 minutes before service.  Garnish with flowering basil sprigs.
Yield:  5 servings, 1 cup each

 Basil Butter Cookies
1 cup softened unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sifted all purpose flour
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, washed and minced
¾  teaspoon salt
½ cup sanding sugar
Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add yolks and vanilla scraping the bowl.  Add flour, salt and basil and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
Divide dough in half and shape each into a log.  Roll logs on sheets of parchment to 1 ½ inches in diameter, pressing a bench scraper into the parchment to make tight, even rolls.
Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll logs in sanding sugar and slice to ¼ inch thick.  Arrange 1 ½ inches apart on baking sheet.  Bake until edges are just golden, 20 – 22 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks and cool.
Yield:  About 4 ½ dozen

Sublime Strawberry-Basil Sundaes
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon organic honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
½ cup loosely packed basil leaves, washed and minced
2 pints ripe strawberries
1 quart vanilla ice cream
Basil butter cookies
Bring balsamic vinegar, honey, cinnamon stick and bay leaf to a slow simmer and continue to cook until syrupy.  It will reduce considerably.  Cool to room temperature. 
Wash and slice strawberries and place in a bowl with the syrup and basil.  Mix to combine and marinate for 10 minutes.
In coffee cups or sundae glasses, add a scoop of ice cream then drizzle on strawberry basil mixture.  Garnish with basil butter cookies.
Yield:  7 servings

I wrote this piece for an online food magazine eons ago and I still use these recipes today.  So feel free to use these time-tested recipes, especially the basil butter cookies--deliciousness!

In fact, I just found a Patrick Bottex "La Cueille" Bugey Cerdon Rosé, which is somewhat of an odd little sparkler from Savoie in Eastern France.  Made with 80% Gamay and 20% Poulsard it's low alcohol 8% and light sweetness of strawberries and raspberries make it a nice accompaniment to the desserts above.



Monday, September 26, 2011

Strung up and Stringing the Lights

Absurdity, frailty, vulnerability, inevitability—a thousand subtle voices screaming. The once and future susceptibility to fail—regardless.
“Should I worry?”
“No, Olivia. Worry is for the weak.”
“Worry is a human emotion.” She countered.

She walks; the softly swaying movement of her hips lulling her. A heavy pitter patter of rain on leaves penetrates her senses and memories reach. Small scenes of laughter, disappointment, anger, joy, sorrow, confusion. Somehow stained with the unwanted—those emotions which surface time and again, unwelcomed yet intimate: her longing rises—that tangible sensation where her surrounding motion increases: clouds scuddle across the sky—too fast, leaves twitter, falling, rain stinging, the trees shuddering…she clamps her teeth, and swallows her rising bile.

“Mother, Father,” she shouts to the water-saturated trees. “Where are you?” Her world answers as she knew it would—twilight descending—magical and frightening.

Strung up, strung out, stringing the lights, strung fragments…She reaches for her emerald sister and is embraced greedily, exhilarating in the pure numbness of her. And within her dark reveal she becomes emboldened and she discovers. Somewhere between the circles that ensorcelled her, she finds him. As her sylvan surroundings wrap her in their damp, leafy approach, the realization pierces and a gasp escapes her lips. Years and more years, infinite, but so disturbingly short.

The finding was easy she muses to the heady soil; the journey rife with confusion and angst. And yet knowing it, no, experiencing it, makes that difficult journey all the more sweet, like black liquorice finding the tongue.
She frowns.
“Too late?” she asks.
“Never, Olivia, never too late.”

It was a fitting sobriquet she earned, never sanctioned lightly. Extricated as she was, with the noblest of purposes. Fitting indeed—years of self-doubt, longing and with just a hint of madness. But that’s my purpose she quipped to the leaf rot. My cross, mine alone so the moon child can revisit, recapture…

Her breath releases and again memories rouse. She remembers those days. Young, many years ago; Isn’t it always that way, the ferns remark.
“Yes,” she answers, a bit too slowly. Vulnerability lurks in the clinging moss, and for an instant she falters.
“Did you know,” she cries to the babbling brook, its cool, spring-fed water warmed by her proximity, “that moon children are protectors? They are unselfish with their love, asking for little, on the outside looking in, unstable but somehow dynamic, transitional, transitional scapegoats…!” Her voice rising, chest heaving—the babbling brook creating waves, timed to her erratic breathing.
She turns her head, eyes closed, a darkened shadow falling upon her face—cloud over sun. Her violet eyes open, hooded, staring.
“Becoming,” she mouths.


Peter, Paul and Mary, I wrote this five years ago and it still sucks.  If anyone can find any redeeming qualities about this piece, by all means comment and I'll send you a bottle.  Late-night desktop cleaning uncovers the darndest things... (Oh man, I just noticed the date--wow.)

" black liquorice finding the tongue."  krikey

Monday, September 19, 2011

Do I Take the White Pill Now, or the Green Wafer Later?

I've begun reading the Wall Street Journal again, print edition.  This way I feel as though I have a handle on the news without staring at a computer screen any longer than I need.  There's the typical doom and gloom, but every now and again I'll find an article that resonates with what I have on my plate for the day, week or month.  One particularly poignant article series is the plight of the American rancher.

Now, I am not a vegetarian although I desperately wish I could be.  In fact, I eat less meat protein now than I did five years ago and I've reduced my intake to about twice a week.  I'm sure I'm bordering on malnourished, but the less I eat of it, the less I want it, but because I'm thin, my body does need much more protein than I'm feeding it.  For instance, tonight I made pot roast, a roast which the Hubs and I purchased from Belmont Butchery, where they believe in animal welfare (more on them next post.)  My choice to purchase from groups who care about animals as much as I do helps my decision-making.

The above whole thought process led me to a gastronomy conference I attended back in 2005 at Boston University. A major focus was the emergence of urban farms, which I found absolutely fascinating.  None of this was new, mind you, but beginning to become publicly known.  I took away an inordinate amount of knowledge from that conference, but the part that stuck with me most was the possibility that the world's food and nutrition source could be widdled down into one large, extremely white pill.  Why? because with the rising population, climate change and economic issues our big company food sources are becoming scarcer by the second.

The strange thing about climate change is that those changes are different in each part of this glorious country of ours.  So at the risk of sounding naive,  here's a thought:  why not send those cattle on a little jaunt to a reciprocal farm a few states over where there isn't a horrific drought.  Seems to me we'll need to start thinking outside of the proverbial box otherwise we'll all be swallowing the green wafer, Soylent Green (brilliant film.) 

And speaking of swallowing, my Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout has now warmed to perfection.

Eat and drink up now, 'cause the future looks a little dense.


Monday, September 12, 2011

of Cordial Bows and Bugle Trills

I wrote this post yesterday, but since it was the tenth anniversary of 9/11 I felt unworthy of actually posting on such a day.  For content’s sake, I left the present tense.

The Hubs and I slept in this morning.  For the past two months I awake quite restless—ought I to be doing something? and I can feel it, too, that aching, longing.  But this morning I fought it, so I stayed in bed, languishing in the warmth.  The previous evening we participated in a blind wine tasting at a newfound group, and the subject of how we would prefer to leave this world (speaking of our dogs of course) and as human beings we have choices.  And at first I thought peacefully and quietly but then I wasn’t so sure. If I’m going to bite it, I want to go down doing something worthwhile.  Don’t we all imagine ourselves in some epic battle with the forces of evil, saving the day while we go out in a blaze of glory?

Today is Patriots Day, 9/11, and again that feeling of restlessness and sadness.  We don’t have television, but I wanted to engage in at least one program commemorating the day.  I made a beeline for one in particular: a tribute to Father Mychal Judge, Franciscan Monk, NYFD Chaplain. And the thread of how do we want our last moments to be really hit home.  He chose to be at the towers during the first moments of the attack, praying, administering, rescuing.

His father died when he was a young child and he always said he could never remember calling anyone father.  At the “wordly” age of 15 he entered the seminary and his friends say that his wish of calling someone “father” became reality.  I immediately thought of Walt Whitman’s poem:

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!

On April 14, 1865, a war-weary nation was plunged into shock when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Across the country there was an outpouring of grief, especially from a man who was a great admirer of Lincoln’s.  Whitman: “he embodied the American virtues of plain-spokenness, courage, and horse-sense”. Apparently he would see the president on horseback around town and the men would exchange “cordial bows.”

I find this scop's evolution so ironic, from my blind wine tasting last night (my favourite was Jefferson Vineyards 2008 Meritage), to my longing sadness, to my watching Father Mychal, then to Walt Whitman's poem.  I like to think as Americans, we're all somehow connected.

I’ve included the entire program’s link below, please watch if you have time.  I’m reminded of a particular quote of Father Mychal’s where he says, “let’s love the hell out of eachother.”  Indeed.