Sunday, May 29, 2016

Still missing Rick and David..and Tea and Dad

For four years running, I posted this post, or a variation of it (last year, I had to include Rick..)...Just a reminder, that to honor the people we love, we should live well. Take care of ourselves. Enjoy the sun, the rain, the snow, the ocean, the lakes, the pools. Say yes to the next adventure. Eat well. Laugh loudly. Open that bottle of wine or champagne...every day is special...

I miss my brothers. I miss my niece. I miss my dad.

In the last four years, I lost the two below, and as I sit here today, I am marking five weeks since I very suddenly lost my other brother, Rick, the eldest of the four of us. He was well one day, and then he was not. Tonight, We will enjoy a simple but nice meal. We will raise a glass to the wonderful memories we share. We will be sad and we will be happy. We will cherish those who are with us and those who are far. We will be sure the gods have gotten it wrong somehow, but we will know this is the reality, however unfair. Most of all, we will miss these people. 

Baking Bread In Memory: David and Tea and Rick

What I wrote a year ago today:

I've lost these two in the past three years. Miss them both. Three years ago today, David died. So I  bake on May 20. Today, I might be on overload, making bread AND pizza. But it makes me happy and makes think of David. The spiral form (in the photo below) is one he used...the essay is one I wrote and read at his memorial service in September, 2011.

Before you go on and read below, do this--it is taken from something I wrote on May 31, 2011:

So today, please go open a bottle of wine you may have been saving for a special day. Pitch the sliced bread and either bake a loaf or go get REAL bread, good bread. Drizzle out a bit of really good olive oil, and savor it all with family and friends. Because today? Today is a special day.

Remembering David

My little brother David died very suddenly this past May. He was 47.

David was a real intellectual. He had big ideas and frankly, I am sure I didn't always even understand what he was talking about, and we often butted heads over ideas and issues. But we did share one passion: cooking. Any heated debates were quickly forgotten at the dinner table when we--quite literally--broke bread. We would thoughtfully taste, chew and discuss the merits of the loaf at hand, no matter what we'd been arguing about during the day. 

David was a bread baker better than any of us, his recipes spreadsheets (formulas, really, weighing in humidity, type of wheat, etc.) that I didn't really understand. In fact, we found his spread sheets on bread and those are pages I will treasure always. Even if I can't bake from them.
Early in the year, in February, I got an email from David asking for savory chocolate recipes. He was on his way to a Slow Food dinner in Redlands, California, where he lived, and the theme was chocolate. He was determined to do something different. 

I had just written a short online piece about where to find great chocolate recipes and one website had stuck with me, a site with a lot of savory dishes. After we traded a few ideas talking about possibilities, he tweaked a recipe, making corn cakes topped with his own version of Mexican mole-style chicken and some cheese. 

His report back captures David's personality for those of us who knew him and still makes us chuckle, especially reading of his scorn for American cheese "food":
Topped a tablespoon of cornbread batter with a bigger spoon of the chicken mix.  Topped that with a modest amount of mozzarella cheese since I had some handy already shredded -- bad move; should have used the local Monterey jack I bought for the purpose, which is very tasty, or had I thought of it, better still would be supermarket-humble Havarti (which is a great American cheese, IMO, if inexpensive and widely least it's cheese compared to prevalent and therefore so-called American "pasteurized-process cheese food").  15 minutes in the oven and they were done.

He signed off "mangia, mangia."

Three months after those emails, I found myself in his house, my first time in Redlands, but he wasn't there. His death was heartbreakingly sudden and being there was unspeakably sad and difficult.

We spent a week at his house, cleaning it out, preparing details of the memorial we would hold, sometimes finding laughter in our memories, admiring his garden full of wildflowers, touching pots and pans he touched, always aching for his presence.

One day I peered into the freezer and found a batch of little corn cakes, wrapped in foil and plastic, perhaps a little freezer burned. I knew exactly what they were. I pulled them out, heated them up and had a couple for lunch one day, remembering the process, remembering David, and happy to taste, one last time, one of his creations.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

5 Surprising Things I Make at Home

Bit by bit, I find I don't want to buy much from the stores these days--I always think I could make it better here are a few gourmet items I make at home--and I am lazy--these are easy.

1.  Limoncello. I spent a while creating recipes for Anova Sous Vide--that was a fun gig. I got to create just about anything I wanted to as long as I cooked it with the Anova Sous Vide unit. One of the most successful things I made was limoncello. So successful that now, whenever I need to use a lemon, I wash and peel it first. The peels live in the freezer until I have 8 to 10 lemons' worth. A kcouple of hours with some vodka in the sous vide, a cup of simple syrup and ...homemade limoncello Bam.

2. Candied orange peel. So, just like the lemons, I find myself hoarding orange peels, devising the simplest, cleanest ways to peel oranges so I can then cut them into strips, cook them in simple syrup for about 45 minutes, drain, dry and toss in sugar. These are so good--one is all I need to feel like I am treating myself, and it is just the right amount of bitter and sweet...I keep meaning to dip them in chocolate, but I never quite get around to it.

3. Clove/Cardamom Flavored simple syrup. Once I've made the orange peel, I am left with about 2 cup of simple syrup, nicely orange flavored. But not as nice as the bottle of Clove/Cardamom flavored syrup my sister gave me once. So now, I take that orange syrup, water it down a bit again, add at least a tablespoon full of cloves and a teaspoon of crushed cardamom. I let it simmer again for about 30 minutes, then I store it in the fridge with the cloves still in the syrup. This is awesome.

4. Pecans with Salted Chocolate. I toast a plateful of pecan pieces in the microwave (who knew? Elaine gave me that trick.) minute at a time until they are starting to brown. Let cool. Melt chocolate in microwave (heat 30 seconds at a time, stirring every time--don't let it burn). Stir in a handful of chocolate chips at the end to quick temper the chocolate. Spoon the melted chocolate into a plastic bag, seal. Snip of one corner and drizzle the chocolate over the toasted pecans. Sprinkle with sea salt. Chill. Hostess git.

5. Pizza dough. This is so easy, especially if you have a mixer. And so much better than anything. I use Carol Fields' recipe for dough from Italian baker, but there are a lot of good ones out there. If you want a real treat, grill the pizza.

What do you make at home that other people buy? It can be anything. I want to hear about it.

Barb's Lunch
I am loving my yogurt these days (I have made that, too). So much that I think I might need these bowls, found on Cheryl Sternman Rule's website.

1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1 strip homemade candied orange peel, chopped fine
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
2 teaspoons homemade clove/cardamom syrup
2 teaspoons chopped pecans.

Put it all in a bowl. Eat it and love it..