Saturday, December 20, 2008

Another Pause from Food: In Memory of Paul Hawthorne

I recently broke from food blogging to point you to that wonderful video. Now I've got a much sadder pause to ask you to take.

Over the course of the last six months my cousin-in-law, Paul Hawthorne, one of those rare guys you find who are beyond belief kind, funny, good and creative--he was a photographer, a funny guy, a good husband and a wonderful new father to Max, age 4 and Lucas, age 6 months...he was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare disease in which the body makes extra protein that the body cannot handle.

He went straight into aggressive treatment. My cousin Amy started blogging to help us--friends, family, coworkers--get our minds around what treatment meant for Paul, how he was doing, how the fight was going. A more positive outlook would have been hard to find.

Amy is a great creative soul herself, and her writing about this awful fight was funny, touching, poignant and personal. She kept us all hopeful, pulling for Paul, and the comments back to her posts were often funny--funny enough that I guess I checked into her blog, Getting Paul Healthy, nearly every day. We were all upbeat.

Photographer friends have organized a fundraising photography effort, The Photographer Project (I encourage any NYC area photographers to check it out and get involved), which will raise funds for the family--originally to offset costs of medical treatments and having Paul out of work, but now the funds will be for the family without Paul.

This morning, Paul's heart gave out. I don't know any details. Only this. His organs were really affected by the proteins, and a lot of damage had already been done when he was finally diagnosed.

I can do so little to make a difference from so far away. But if I can make some people aware of the disease, if maybe the next time you see a chance to donate to an amyloidosis cause you pull out a dollar or if you'd like to take part in The Photographer Project, you'll show up at Brian's studio, or maybe if you one day get to meet Amy or Max or Lucas Hawthorne and you can say, "I heard what a great person your dad was...," maybe that's just a little bit of what I can do.

In the meantime, please keep Amy, Max and Lucas in your hearts. They'll need that. And it's a lot.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Overview of Amyloidosis
Paul Hawthorne's Cheering Group
Getting Paul Healthy: Read here about Amy and Paul's experience, and check out the wonderful photos. The post about a Paul-i-day Party, a post that left me so hopeful (he was cooking again! What a great sign!) finishes with a photo of him jumping on the red carpet before he was diagnosed--I hope he's jumping like that now, wherever he is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Roasted Brussels Sprouts. I kid you not.

Well, I had dinner the other night at Michael's Genuine Food and Drink, a fabulous restaurant in Miami's Design District--the Design District is the place I send people when they ask where they should eat in Miami. It's a funky neighborhood filled with fabulous design shops I cannot afford and beautiful people. Dressed from those fabulous shops.

I digress.

We were in the capable hands of Chef Michael Schwartz himself (he also hosted the farm-to-table Dinner in Paradise), and we let him recommend what to choose for the meal. I'll blog the whole meal shortly, but for now, I have to wax rhapsodic about the roasted Brussels sprouts. Frankly, I have not jumped on the sprout bandwagon these past few years. I know I was supposed to be rediscovering this lowly veg, but ...well, I wasn't sold.

And then these came out. Oven roasted with pancetta for tenderness and sweetness. The bitterness faded to barely a bite. Smoky from the roasting...yum. I thought: I've found my new favorite vegetable.

So tonight, getting home late, I decided I had to have roasted Brussels sprouts. I trimmed them, popped them into a 400 degree oven with some chopped bacon and walked away...for nearly an hour. (Actually, I forgot about them. I started checking email, writing a blog know how you get lost online.)...I pulled them from the oven and they were perfect: perfectly seasoned, perfectly soft, perfectly sweet...Bacon goes a long way here, and maybe I was zealous (Chef Schwartz said not to be shy with the bacon...I took him at his word)...but really..these are gooo-00d.

The whole meal was about simple goodness--and for all I know, Schwartz gives his a touch of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon...I'll work on the flourishes some other time. For now, I got me a new favorite veggie. Roasted Brussels sprouts.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

L is for Limoncello, Part 2

Well, because I am impatient, the recipe I picked had me soaking the peel for only 7 days, then adding the simple syrup.

I soaked the peels for about 10 days (ooh, the patience)--the vodka was truly yellow. I am thinking it MUST taste of lemon. So today, I went for the alchemy part--where it would turn that milky yellow color of limoncello.

This is so easy it's criminal. BUT. Mine didn't turn milky. What?! Why?
The only thing I can think is that the recipe used Everclear (the nice name for grain alcohol) and I used the vodka...It tastes great, so I may pass out a bottle or two this Christmas. But I also plan to go get Everclear and make another batch. Just because I want that cloudy look.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

L is for Limoncello Part 1: It begins

Cliches do, indeed come to mind...when life gives you lemons and all that...but I went looking for these lemons because I decided I simply MUST do limoncello.

Now the idea was to do limoncello for Christmas, but of course, once I went looking at recipes, I realized three weeks are hardly enough for limoncello. But since I had 32 lemons...well, you get the picture.

So this short entry--there will be more--is the beginning.

It's really quite simple...Everclear (heh. You might call it grain alcohol) was not so easy for me to find, although it's not like I shop for it that often. With time an issue (after all, it was important for me to get my nails done for Nevis), I went with the vodka other recipes used. I used this limoncello recipe, but there are tons of recipes out there--all close to each other. You choose your Googled poison.

The only other thing you need for the first step? Lemons. I peeled them carefully, making sure to get JUST peel, not pith, which would make it bitter. So I stood, watching what? Hmm. Last Wednesday..I must have had Top Chef on the TV. Peeling carefully took some time.

Then? Well, then the vodka goes into a big container followed by all those delicious smelling peels...sunshine in a bottle, right? Seal. Place in a cool, dark place. Shake now and then. According to the recipe, I could add the sugar now (7 days later) and drink...Hmm. Maybe I will. Other batches sit forever (45 days followed by 45 days). It has turned a lovely shade of yellow, sitting in that cupboard forgotten except for me to give it a little shake here and there.

And then again? Maybe I won't. But I will let you know! Practicing making limoncello could become a new favorite pastime.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A moment away from food, please...

I cooked, clean, set up, cleaned up food too much in the past two days...So when my brother, Rick, sent me this youtube clip, I listened to it once. Then again. Then again. And now, when something has made me crabby, I listen again, just for the smile it gives me. I promise to learn how to embed video if I can on blogger, but until then, click here:

Stand By Me: International