Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tarte Tatin

What better way to settle election night jitters than to pile ginger ice cream on top of a warm slice of sweet, caramely tarte tatin?!

homemade sea salt caramel in the refrigerator
at least 4 pounds of heirloom apples in my vegetable bin (thank you Out on a Limb apple CSA!)
some puff pastry and ice cream from the store

Done, done and done!


Here is the original recipe from delicious. magazine. (what's that? you haven't hear of this amazing British food magazine?  Go.  Go and find it now. Try Longfellow Books. Order it if you must.).  As mentioned above, I already had caramel from another recipe, so I didn't make it from scratch tonight, but it's fairly quick to make.  And don't be afraid of the flip out of the pan.  Do it over the sink in case caramel drips out.  The key is confidence and a snap of the wrist.  You can do it!

Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin

8 mid to small sized apples - tart or middle of the road, not too sweet
3/4 cup sugar
3 T water
3.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 tsp Maine sea salt
one round of puff pastry (most boxes have 2, put the other back in the freezer)

  1. *Peel, core and slice the apples in half. Don't worry if they brown on the counter because the caramel covers that up.
  2. Heat an 8 inch, ovenproof skillet over low heat with the sugar and water.  Stir until sugar has melted and then turn up heat to low medium and let it bubble gently for about 5 minutes until it turns a caramel, brown color (keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn).
  3. Take the caramel off the heat right away and stir in the butter (it will foam quite a bit).  Sprinkle the sea salt over the caramel and then arrange the apples, cut side up.  Trim apples to fit them in snugly as they will shrink in the oven.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Put the pan back on low/low medium for about 5 minutes. Then let it cool completely.
  6. If you have a block of puff pastry, then roll it to the thickness of a quarter.  If you have a rectangle or circle then use it as is.  Place the pastry on the skillet and trim the dough to the edge of the pan.  Tuck the edges down over the apples.
  7. Bake the tarte for about 30 minutes until the top is dark golden.
  8. Let it cool for 5 minutes.  Then place a large plate over the top of the skillet and flip in one swift move.
Serve warm with your favorite ice cream.  Vanilla bean, coffee, ginger or coconut are all excellent choices!

*Save those peels!  Dip them in peanut butter, dehydrate them for a crisp snack, freeze them in cubes for a fun way to keep apple juice cool or steep them in boiling water with a cinnamon stick, strain and add honey for some homemade tea.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tidbits and leftovers

Tonight we warmed up with the last two servings of a delicious, spicy butternut squash soup topped with salted pumpkin seeds in sage oil.  On the side, we slathered the last two slices of my walnut currant bread with goat cheese.  For greens, a salad with a winter personality: I massaged balsamic dressing into raw kale (yes, it was very relaxed afterwards) and added dried cranberries, oranges and toasted sunflower seeds. And finally, the last three gingerx4 cookies - 1 1/2 each with a mug of orange cinnamon tea.

Tidbits and leftovers rock.

You'll love making this soup at home.  It's tasty, it goes well with grilled cheese and it makes extra so you can freeze some for a busy night.

I saw the folks from Karmasouptra making it on 207 last month and added my own twists.  Spice it to match your tastes.  Butternut squash goes well with so many different flavors from sage to cayenne to maple.

1. Seed, peel and cube one medium butternut squash.
2. Drizzle generously with maple syrup, sprinkle with cinnamon, salt, pepper and coriander and roast on a cookie sheet at 425 degrees until tender and golden.
3. Meanwhile, in a soup pot, saute:
     1 medium diced onion
     2 medium diced carrots
     3 medium diced celery stalks
     1 T crushed red pepper (or to taste)
     salt and pepper
4. Add 1 - 2 cups of water and simmer until all veggies are tender (start with 1 cup and add more later if it's too thick).
5. Add roasted squash to pot, scraping in all the syrup, spices and juices from the pan (amazing flavor!!).  Puree with an immersion blender or ladle into a blender in batches.
6. Back in the pot, stir in 1/2 cup or so of yogurt.
7. Taste and season to your liking.

Serve with toasted, salted pumpkin seeds on top OR fresh sage OR a drizzle of olive oil and chards of gruyere.  Especially tasty when eaten with a grilled cheese on hearty multigrain bread and a mix of gruyere and cheddar cheeses.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Romping, Baking & Eating

A day as sunny and beautiful as this one calls for a long romp at the beach, so we promptly packed Kia into the car and headed to Pine Point beach.  The people strolled, collected shells, wiggled toes in the sand and threw sticks into the sea.  The dog raced across the sand, charged through the waves and swam after endless sticks with boundless energy.  Now, the dog looks like this:

Today was also a day of baking.  For breakfast, we had baked oatmeal with Maine blueberries, orange zest, walnut and pecans.  Served warm and topped with cranberry or pumpkin greek yogurt from Swallowtail Farm.  For lunch, leftovers from last night's dinner.  I was inspired by 1. ) a recipe from this amazing Mediterranean cookbook by Silven Rowe:

and 2.) by the fresh veggies and breakfast sausage I snagged at the market yesterday.  I simmered brown rice and raisins in red wine, added sauteed onions, garlic, red pepper, swiss chard, fresh oregano and sausage, and then folded in a container of feta cheese.  I lined a cast iron skillet with layers of phylo dough brushed with olive oil, filled the dough with rice mixture and then layered on more dough.  I brushed the top with olive oil and browned the packet on the top of stove before putting it into the oven to bake for a bit.  It turned out quite yummy and make plenty for two more lunches.

For my weekly snacks on sale at Dunne & Roman music school in Yarmouth, I baked Maple Date Orange bars and toasted some Spicy, Sweet & Salty nuts: cashews, almonds and pumpkin seeds with chili powder, cinnamon, salt, cayenne and honey. I also baked two loaves of whole wheat bread - one filled with peanuts, honey and salt and the other with sundried tomatoes, herb olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We decided to make dinner sandwiches of the savory bread and slathered them with avocado, Kennebec Cheesery's sundried tomato & red pepper goat cheese and salad greens - delicious!

Looking for recipes from any of the meals mentioned above? Just post a comment and I'll include them in a future post!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Food IS community

When we first moved to Oppenheim, our German neighbors would walk downtown almost daily to get fresh bread from the bakery, a cut of meat from the butcher or fresh vegetables from the market for the evening meal.  Meanwhile, our refrigerator was packed with groceries from the bimonthly trip to the commissary on base.  It didn't take us long to learn from the locals, and we began to frequent the bakery up the hill for crusty loaves of dark bread, the small tavern in the square for spiced Goulash soup and the food stand on the main drag that served spiced, roasted hanchen (chicken) and pomme frites, packed into a bag piping hot for the short bike ride home.

As an adult living in southeast Maine, I, too have access to an array of delicious, local markets and food artisans.  I made my weekly visit to the Portland Farmer's Market this cool, fall morning and wound my way through the stalls of autumn vegetables, winter squash, apples, cheese, sausage and yogurt.

The market just makes me happy.

So many people coming together to share fresh, local food.
Farmers and producers sharing their passion for growing and making clean, delicious food directly with the folks eating it.
A community connecting, overlapping, mingling and interacting.
No rushing or grumbling lines.
People stop to say hello and have a conversation or to listen to the guitar music or to chat with their farmer.

That's what food is about.  It's about community, from its source to the market, to the way you prepare it with care to share with those you love.

So no matter where you find your local food, whether it's at a market, a mom & pop store, a food cart or a bakery down the street, may you find the community connected to it.

That's food worth sharing.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Food + Books = Joy

Naturally, you all know that it is NaBloPoMo.....what's that you say?  This ridiculous sounding pseudo-acronym is not in your everyday vernacular?!?  Let me translate for you.  It's National Blog Posting Month, during which bloggers are encouraged to write with abandon, throwing aside excuses, propping open tired eyes with toothpicks as needed, in order to post once each day.  As you can see, I'm off to a slow start since it's already the second day of the month.  But I'm not going to dwell on it.  Instead, I'm going to blog.

About food, of course.

I just happened to stop by First Foodie Friday at Longfellow Books downtown tonight.  I MAY have casually showed up to get my signed copies of two new, local cookbooks and nosh on their amazing edibles.

OK - fine.

So I was there early attempting not to hover anxiously over the table as the folks from Standard Baking Co. piled chunks of herbed focaccia and towers of sesame cheddar shortbread on the table in front of an enticing plate layered with dark, rich chocolate sables (WHOLE cookies, not stingy morsels!).  And I was the first person in line to get my copy of their cookbook, Pastries, signed by head pastry chef Tara Smith and one of the owners, Alison Pray.  Alison couldn't have been more sincere and engaging.  She wanted to know about my experience and connection with the bakery and was very supportive of my home baking adventures.  She spoke passionately about the joy of making people happy with delicious food and took the time to wish me good luck with Molly's Wild Roots.

I shall now double my purchases at Standard Baking!

Actually, I can't wait to crack open the cookbook and get into my own kitchen.  My favorite gingerbread with lemon icing and granola bars are in the book as well as their amazing almond croissants.  There are sections on breakfast pastries, tarts, cakes, cookies, sweet & savory snacks, and basic recipes (dough, caramel sauce, fillings, frangipane, etc...) in the book.  I am hoping this one will sell like hot cakes so they come out with a second volume all about bread.  I am dying to have the recipe for their fig anise sourdough.

As I sucked down the treats on the table, they were quickly supplemented with *local goat cheese, pesto and Lutenica sauce (made with red peppers, eggplant and chillies) that were added to the table by the creators of the second cookbook on hand, Extraordinary Recipes From Portland, Maine Chef's Table.  A husband and wife team (photographer and writer, respectively) took on the arduous task of visiting 47 Portland restaurants to sample food and chat with chefs (hello, do they need a volunteer for the next volume?). Margaret Hathaway provides the narrative around a sampling of recipes from each restaurant while Karl (our local Slow Food president), pairs the articles with beautiful photographs of chefs, their homes away from home and, of course, the food.  I'm pretty psyched about making the fried brussel sprouts from Green Elephant, Artemisia Cafe's Sunny Tartine and Swabian Spaetzle with Caramelized Onions & Emmenthal Cheese from Schulte & Herr.  Not to mention the baked goods like Grace's Beetroot Cupcakes with Lemon Curd & Mascarpone Frosting and the Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing from Aurora Provisions! Chris has already put in an order for Otto's famous Mashed Potato, Bacon & Scallion Pizza.

*NOTE: I had a very cool realization as I was writing this post that the goat cheese was quite local indeed, since I expect that it came from the Margaret & Karl's farm, Ten Apple Farm.  Margaret is the author of both The Year of the Goat and Living With Goats.  I have excellent skills of deductive reasoning.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Annual Pie Party

Pie.  Three little letters.  My synonym for joy.

How many different types can you name?

Harvest apple? Fresh summer berry? Coconut cream? Chicken Pot? Whoopie? Mud? 3.14159....? (well I AM a math teacher you know).  The list goes on and on.  Which are your favorites?

For me, it depends on the season.  What can I find on the trees, at the Farmer's Market or in my garden to put into a pie? It can be a savory pie, a sweet pie, a hand pie, a pizza pie - the possibilities are endless!  Which is why I have had a Pie Party at the end of the summer each year since I moved up to Maine.  I always serve pizza pies fresh from the grill and sweet pies topped with fresh whipped cream or local gelato. I invite my friends and family to come over and bring along their favorite pie to share.

This year, I made three savory pizzas and one sweet pizza as well as two dessert pies to share. I jotted down some ideas before heading to the Saturday Market in Deering Oaks Park, but I adjusted my recipes as vibrant produce and fresh cheeses caught my eye: over-sized white peaches, runny goat's milk brie, bright rainbow swiss chard, heirloom tomatoes, fresh ricotta...I could've topped a dozen pizzas with the gorgeous food laid out at the market!

Once at home, I started in on my dessert pies.  With a bulging bag of fresh peaches, I had no trouble picking my first pie: a peach & red currant pie with a gingerbread crust inspired by the recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts cookbook (thanks to Betsey for contributing the currants from her backyard in Burlington, Vermont!).  And the second pie was a no-brainer.  Ever since my last trip to San Francisco, I've been waiting for just the right opportunity to pull out the Tartine pastry cookbook and make their crazy good banana cream pie.  What makes it so amazing, you ask?  A flaky pastry crust, melted bittersweet chocolate, homemade caramel sauce, fresh pastry cream, sliced bananas, a tower of real whipped cream and a garnish of chocolate curls just to push it over the edge (or, in my case, chocolate shavings).  It was worth every step.  The leftovers were still delicious the next day.  AND I have a whole cup of caramel sauce in my frig.  I added sea salt, of course, and plan on using the rest to make caramel brownies.  Don't worry.  I'll post.

With the peach pie cooling and the pastry cream setting in the refrigerator, I turned my attention to the pizzas.  First came the dough.  I doubled this 1 pound dough recipe from Eating Well, using all whole wheat dough and 4 T of yeast.  I came out with four nice-sized balls of dough, which held up on the grill quite nicely.

You can use your favorite dough from the store or make it from scratch.  Either way, it's a snap to grill a tasty pizza.  After the second rise, shape your dough, brush it with olive oil and put it on a hot grill set to medium low, oil side down.  Close the lid, but keep a close eye as it only takes a few minutes to brown and bake.  Then remove the crust with a large spatula, brush the uncooked side with olive oil, put the crust oil side down on a cookie sheet and top the grilled side with your favorite ingredients.  I suggest you precook the ingredients, so the pizza only needs to be on the grill for a few minutes in order to melt the cheese and bake the other side of the crust.  

Now start thinking outside the crust and create some wacky, mouth-watering pizzas!  This is what I came up with this year:

Pizza 1: The Sassy Swiss Chard
fresh ricotta spread on the crust
swiss chard sauteed with cayenne, red pepper, leeks & garlic
corn straight off the cob
Sungold tomatoes
grated pecorino

Pizza 2Figgy Peach
fig jam spread on crust
sliced white peaches
fresh rosemary
goat's milk brie
toasted slivered almonds

Pizza 3: Balsamic Bliss
ricotta, goat cheese & cracked pepper spread on crust
sauteed red pepper and portobello with balsamic vinegar
fresh avocado
drizzle of balsamic

Pizza 4Pistachio Pesto Pizza

pistachio pesto spread on the crust
sliced heirloom tomato
fresh mozzarella
fresh basil
toasted pistachios


Anyway you make it, it's good stuff.

Happy eating!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Spicy Pickled Carrots & Fennel

When I think of vinegar, I think of hot, Belgian pomme frittes piled into an over-sized, paper cone on the shore of the English Channel.  My family and I were taking a trip by ferry to England to visit friends and we'd stopped for a snack.  At age 11, I was revolted by the idea of dousing my fries with the strong, sour vinegar rather than the traditional, American condiment of ketchup.  Unfortunately for me, there was no ketchup to be found, so I kept it simple and gobbled them down with only a dash of salt. Amazing. Hands down the best fries I've ever had.

As an adult, I can't get enough vinegar: sweet balsamic drizzled over strawberries or grapes, cider vinegar in my fall dressings and roasted tomato jam, salt and vinegar potato chips - hand cut and fresh.  I even use vinegar as my primary cleaning buddy (whose BFF is baking soda).  So you won't be surprised to hear that I love pickled foods.  Anything that takes a long bath in vinegar is worth sampling.  So when I got a good deal on carrots and fennel at the Farmer's Market, I knew what I had to do.  I filled my basket, hurried home and pulled out a canning cookbook for inspiration.  This tasty recipe is heavily adapted from one for pickled fennel.

Pickled Carrots & Fennel with Ginger
adapted from Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton

3 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 T kosher salt
2 T each fennel seed, coriander seeds, whole peppercorns and whole allspice
5-6 thick slices of fresh ginger, about 1/4 in thick
1 poundish fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 poundish carrots, thinly sliced

Note: I used a mandolin to slice my fennel and carrots, but you could do it by hand.

Combine all ingredients from vinegar to seeds in a medium nonreactive pan and bring to a boil.  Add the fresh ginger, fennel and carrots.  Return to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until veggies are tender.  Ladle into jars and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Enjoy these on a cheese plate, on a sandwich, on cold soba noodles, on a salad or just straight out of the jar!

P.S. Make sure you eat the ginger, too - it's delicious and good for you!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Thai Coconut Fish with Grilled Kale Salad

When I planned my second trip to San Francisco last summer, I did my homework.  I researched all the farmer's markets in the city and in Oakland so I could get a sampling of what the local farmers and artisanal food makers had to offer.  On my first trip, I got happily lost in the endless rows of almonds, avocados, peaches, pastries and honey at the Ferry Building (fortunately someone warned me in advance and I arrived hungry).

But this time I didn't want to be just another tourist.

So I took a friend's advice and headed to the market in the UN plaza, which is known for its affordable prices (yes, in San Francisco) and for its Asian influence.  I strolled by each stand, amazed at the number of foods I didn't recognize: knobby gourds and massive squashes in various colors, spiky cucumbers and gangly green beans over a foot in length.  I stopped by a table and asked the farmers to tell me about their vegetables - how do they taste? what are they called? how do you prepare them?  A customer overheard and jumped in to give me tips and recipes.  Later, I was kicking myself for not writing them down.

I couldn't leave empty-handed, so I bought a large bundle of fresh lemongrass and a generous piece of ginger root. 

I spent less than 2 bucks.

Back at my cousin's apartment, I sliced the ginger and the lemongrass and then gave everything a good whack with a heavy spoon to release the flavor.  Then into a large, glass bowl to cover with boiling water and bathe for a spell. This became the most heavenly tea, which I drank for the next 3 days, both hot and chilled.

This helped balance out my daily sweet (insert preferred dessert item here: pastry, ice cream, chocolate; you know, the usual suspects).  Um, OK - sweets.

Actually, who am I kidding here?  I would've had to consume several vats of tea a day to counteract the affects of the sugar shock.  Don't get me started on the burnt brown sugar ice cream with the caramel swirl from Bi-Rite or the insanely delicious banana cream pie with caramel and fluffy whipped cream at Tartine.  Yes, I'm planning another trip soon.

Yet, I digress (dessert, you distract me far too easily).  This new love affair with lemongrass resurfaced last night when I pulled a few stalks together with ginger, peanuts, lime and coconut to create a Thai inspired meal for my honey. That's right - I put the lime in the coconut.  So get out the blender and start cooking!

First, fire up the grill! You could use the broiler instead, but keep a close eye on things so the your dinner doesn't end up charred! (Remind me to tell you sometime about the fire I started in my parent's oven when I tried to make kale chips under the broiler....).  Second of all, read through the whole recipe first so you have a sense of the timing.  It seems like a lot of components, but the prep is quick and the final result is delicious!

Fish & Rice: 

1 can of coconut milk
1 stalk of lemongrass
1 knob of ginger about 1 inch long
juice of 1 lime

Simmer all in a saucepan for 20 minutes and then strain out solids.  

1 pound piece of white fish (I used hake)

Pour just enough over the fish in a shallow dish to cover the fish, sprinkle with cracked pepper and marinate for about 20 minutes on the shelf (don't leave it too long or the lime juice will start to "cook" the fish).  


1/2 cup rice (I used strawberry rice, but jasmine would be nice or forbidden rice would be wonderful)

Prepare the rice using the remaining coconut mixture in place of the typical water.

Transfer the fish to a large piece of foil and fold it up like a packet.  Cook it on the grill for about 12 - 18 minutes, depending on how thick the fish is and how hot your grill gets.  You want it flaky, not rubbery! (NOTE: put on the veggies at the same time - keep reading!)

Grilled Kale Salad:

1 red pepper
2 portobello mushrooms
1 medium bunch of kale
peanut oil
1/2 cup toasted peanuts, unsalted

Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds.  Remove the stems from the mushrooms and brush off any dirt.  Cut stems from kale.  Wash the pepper and kale, pat dry and rub all with peanut oil.  Put the pepper and the mushrooms on the grill at the same time as the fish.

Once the fish and veggies are done, remove all to rest for a minute while you briefly grill the kale.  Lay the leaves out on the grill for about 1 minute, then flip and grill for another 30 seconds.  You want the leaves to wilt and brown, but not shrivel or blacken. 

WARNING: once you've had grilled kale, you'll madly add it to recipes left and right; then you'll start grilling things like chard and lettuce.  It's OK - don't hold back - just go for it.

Cut the peppers and mushrooms into chunks.  Stack up your kale leaves, roll like a yoga mat and slice (yep, you chiffonade like a pro).  Toss together in a bowl with just enough peanut miso dressing to coat.  Top with chopped peanuts.

Peanut Miso dressing:

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup white miso
2 T soy sauce
drizzle of honey
a few slices of ginger, chopped

Puree in a blender/food processor.  Then add:

1/8 cup hot water

Puree to create a smooth dressing.  Add more water if it's too thick.

Cilantro Scallion puree:

bunch of fresh cilantro
4 or 5 scallions
juice of 1/2 lime
kosher salt
cracked pepper

Roughly chop the cilantro and scallions.  Combine all ingredients in a blender/food processor to combine, but leave it a bit chunky.

Putting it all together:

Serve the fish on the rice, topped with cilantro scallion puree.  Serve the salad along the side with the peanuts on top.  If you have an extra flourish in you, then pop a sprig of cilantro in the rice.  Presentation is everything.

Happy Eating!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

the coveted pastry

I fingered the money in my pocket, just a few bills and some coins, but enough to have a couple of Marks left over.  I smiled in anticipation.  I knew exactly what I would buy with those extra Marks.  I headed up my street and turned down a narrow road that led me up a hill towards the town square.  My shoes made a satisfying tromping noise on the cobblestones as I wove through the old buildings to the small bakery tucked at the edge of the square.  I looked up at the tall houses to see window boxes snuggled in between old shutters, overflowing with bright, red geraniums. Their long tendrils hung lazily over the sides, crowded with bright, green leaves.

Looking ahead, I could see the open square: an empty gathering place with picnic tables, always crowded on weekends in the fall when Oktoberfest was in full swing.  Along the edges of the square were all of my favorite stops: the Gausthaus that served spicy goulash soup and huge cuts of breaded schnitzel paired with fluffy, handmade spaetzle; the gelato shop shining with rows of aluminum bins, packed with a rainbow of creamy colors; the narrow gift shop crowded with stickers, cards, pens, clips and desirably useless gadgets of all sorts.

And then there was the bakery.

The storefront was lined with windows just begging to be leaned upon by passers-by who fell into a food trance at the sight of golden apple strudels, stacked chocolate cakes, twisted egg breads, pyramids of sweet buns, creme-filled pastries, dark loaves of sturdy rye and almond tarts loaded with homemade jam.  Once inside, the counter of glass cases revealed an endless array of pastries, while shelves on the wall behind were stacked with fresh loaves of bread - some hearty and crusty to sop up the juices of a good roast and others delicate and sweet to nibble on with a cup of strong coffee.

Mom sent me to get a nice loaf for dinner - something with a good personality that's soft inside with a crust that will crack and flake when you tear into it.  As an added bonus, she gave me a little extra to get something sweet.  Now you may be thinking that with such an overwhelming variety of options, I might agonize over which pastry or tart to choose.

You would be wrong.

I coveted one pastry over all others. 

I anxiously searched through the glass cases.  And then, I found it.  Light, fluffy chocolate cream slathered thickly between two triangular pastry cookies - piped choux paste baked to golden perfection.  But wait - there's more!  Each corner was then dipped in bittersweet chocolate to create the perfect pastry: creamy, crunchy, chocolaty heaven.  My mouth watered at the sound of the thin, waxed paper crinkling around the large sandwich cookie.  Fortunately, I remembered my task and selected a fresh, round loaf with a dark brown crust as well.

I barely stepped out of the bakery before I reached into the bag.  The first bite stopped me in my tracks.  I had to stand still to savor each layer and catch each precious crumb.  If I had the willpower to make it home, a glass of cold milk would be the perfect companion.  But it never happened.

I remember the look, the smell, the taste of that sandwich cookie as if I devoured one just yesterday, but, in reality, my last trip to the bakery was in 1989.  My father was stationed in Germany, which brought us to the town of Oppenheim, right along the banks of the Rhine River.  One of many food memories of our three year stay in the country, this one remains one of the most vivid.  I don't know if that bakery is still there, nestled into the corner of the small town square, but I often dream of returning to get just one more chocolate cream triangle cookie, dipped in bittersweet goodness...who am I kidding?  I would get at least a dozen to tide me over until my next trip....the next day.

Monday, April 9, 2012

the seed of an idea

What is food to me?

It seems like a simple question, but the answer has filled pages of my journal and I've barely begun to answer it.

Smells and tastes evoke vivid images of their origins. Food is the tag for each life experience; it's the way my mind catalogs memories.  Bright tags with texture, color and smell hang from each memory.  They're all tucked into towering, wooden bookcases that line the walls of a cozy, circular library - the type with rolling ladders to reach high shelves, and tight, spiral staircases.  An oval skylight nestled into the dome roof high above showers warm sunshine into the room, with the help of several tall, skinny windows, reminiscent of any descent medieval tower.  Ivy and other climbing vines wind around banisters from great earthen pots on the ground floor.  Each level boasts a wooden window box overflowing with herbs and happy wildflowers from thyme and lavender to black-eyed susans and rosemary.  There are nooks that beckon: window seats lined with cushions, hammocks hanging with handmade quilts, plush grandmother chairs, antique rockers with soft pillows and knit afghans - all for me to lounge in once I've settled on a memory to savor.  A warm mug of tea in one hand with a soft, spiced ginger cookie or maybe a warm double chocolate brownie and a cold glass of milk that day to keep my company as I open the sturdy cover of a chosen memory to reveal the well-worn pages.

The walls melt away and I'm in my own memory, hearing, smelling, seeing, touching and TASTING it - I can feel the texture of the foods in my mouth, the mix of herbs and spices, savory or sweet, hot or cold, creamy or crunchy, salty or tangy - and the soundtrack snaps on: conversations, laughter, the wistful scrape of a fork on an empty plate, the rustle of the paper at the bakery as the pastry is pulled from the tray, the buzz of fat bees in my ear...

And that's where the seed began to grow.  These memories have gone from rustling to whispering to shouting from the shelves to be heard!  And at the same time, recipes and stories from my roots are bubbling up to the surface.  So I've started digging for more.  And all along, I've been cooking, baking, mixing, tasting and experimenting with wild abandon in the kitchen.  So this blog is a mix of memories - mine and those of my family - woven into recipes, food travels, and other tasteful stories.  I hope it inspires you to share your own food memories and family recipes with those you love.
Eat well-