recipes

Make This! (dude fude: cranberry sauce)

Cranberry Sauce

This is the best and easiest cranberry sauce ever. I’ve been waiting a year to eat it again. It comes from the now defunct Cookie Magazine (which I really kind of liked).

Here’s what it is:

4 ripe pears (any variety)

2 12-ounce bags cranberries (fresh or thawed frozen)

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar (but I’ve used no sugar, it’s still great)

1. put pears and cranberries on sheet pan.

2. dot the fruit with butter and sprinkle it with sugar

3. roast in the oven for 45 minutes at 400 degrees, stirring once about halfway through.

Just do it.

trouble, writing

NaNoWriMo, day 1

Almost no one is innocent in this story. Including myself. And so, no one will be protected. They will be identified, named, called out and held accountable in the hopes that when you see them on the street, you will not be fooled. That does not mean this is a work of non-fiction. Much has been fictionalized for lack of remembering, for one thing, but it is still as much the truth as anything.

Thus starts my new book, that collection of words written under the protective coating called NaNoWriMo. We will see…

Uncategorized

Ships Unmoored

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad lately. September is the anniversary of his death, so he’s on my mind more than usual during the fall months. While he was fighting cancer, he said to me: sometimes, ships unmoored come safely home.

When my Dad was alive, I could have asked for the reference directly (although I didn’t at the time). So I hit the Internet looking for the source. I thought it might be Shakespeare, but I couldn’t find it. I actually have the vague memory of looking up the quote some time ago and finding it and realizing that the quote wasn’t quite right and thinking, how beautiful: “ships unmoored.” Or maybe that was now, I love the idea, the phrase, ships unmoored.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to come safely home. How you can walk up your 12 steps and turn the lock with your key to that satisfying click, get the somewhat stale whiff when you walk inside to closed windows as your eyes go first to the couch to check and see if the cushion is turned in the way that hides the still mysterious medium-sized green stain (what was that?!). Or if safely home is really about that magical home in the sky home, where you don’t even believe it exactly but you’re hoping in some way when you die, whether you actually go home or you just feel like you go home, something (God, brain, death hormones, something) gives us the feeling that we are on our way safely home, going home, or just home.

I guess if my Dad had meant the latter, he could have said: ships unmoored always come safely home. But then he wouldn’t have been the same guy who got a good laugh out of his idea for a bumper sticker: Visualize my ass.

Near the end of his life he told me, he wasn’t scared to die, just curious. I don’t think he was worried about coming “safely home” although he did want to come home to die and he did. He also wanted to see the place where he’d be buried before he died. I’ll never forget the drive home from the hospital, maybe a week or so before he actually died, which included a drive by the lush, green graveyard. My father, leaning way back in the seat of the car, painfully sat up, looked out the window and nodded.

A few years after my father died, I wrote something about him for a class taught by the indomitable Daphne Merkin. The essay, she thought, was overly sentimental and over filled with positive adjectives (for starters) but, she said, the piece had really given her pause, and made her wonder what her own life would have been like if she’d had a father like my Dad.

Needless-to-say, I still haven’t trimmed much sentimentality out of my writing when the topic is my father. It’s probably not going to happen, so let me end, unashamedly.

My father taught a lot of classic Greek texts including The Odyssey. When I typed  “sometimes ships unmoored” into Google, it linked me to The Odyssey, book 13:

Then for Odysseus they spread a rug and a linen sheet on the deck of the hollow ship at the stern, that he might sleep soundly; and he too went aboard, and laid him down in silence. Then they sat down on the benches, each in order, and loosed the hawser from the pierced stone. And as soon as they leaned back, and tossed the brine with their oarblades, sweet sleep fell upon his eyelids, an unawakening sleep, most sweet, and most like to death. And as on a plain four yoked stallions spring forward all together beneath the strokes of the lash, and leaping on high swiftly accomplish their way, even so the stern of that ship leapt on high, and in her wake the dark wave of the loud-sounding sea foamed mightily, and she sped safely and surely on her way; not even the circling hawk, the swiftest of winged things, could have kept pace with her. Thus she sped on swiftly and clove the waves of the sea, bearing a man the peer of the gods in counsel, one who in time past had suffered many griefs at heart in passing through wars of men and the grievous waves; but now he slept in peace, forgetful of all that he had suffered.

stories worth repeating, thoughts, Uncategorized

the thing that made all the difference…

Reading Erica Goldson’s impressive valedictorian speech, which included a scathing and truthful critique of the state of this country’s education system, got me to thinking about how there’s not usually a lot of follow up with these people. We get to hear the, let’s go get ’em speech, but unless they hit the big time, we don’t get to hear what all those valedictorians think after they been around a while. That could be interesting … or not.

My father was the valedictorian of his high school. I never heard or read what he said in that speech, although he did say later that if he had it to do over again, he would have said something different. He was also the valedictorian of his University (okay, top 1%, they didn’t have only one valedictorian). That time he didn’t give a speech but I’d like to share what he wrote about his life for the alumni book 25 years later.

“The thing that made all the difference was doing what I knew was right even though I knew it meant losing my job, which it did. Everything fell into place after that.”

Dr. Donald Finkel

1965 Twenty-Fifth Reunion Class Book and Directory, Yale University

mommies, stories worth repeating, thoughts, Uncategorized

of perfume and forgiveness

Once upon a time…

I was visiting my grandparents in New York City.  I spent quite a bit of time there, and it was with my grandparents that I was introduced to the joys of theater, music and art. When I was six, I saw Yule Brenner in The King and I.  With them, I saw a Chorus Line for the first time, went to the opera, and would circle up the ramp at the Guggenheim and eat lunch at the original MOMA.

One day, when I was visiting, I accidentally broke a large, brand new bottle of my grandmother’s perfume.  I remember that distinctive and horrible sinking and miserable sensation of awfulness.  It seemed, to a child, that impending and irreversible doom must follow a transgression so great and careless, and of such an expensive and precious item.  And then, I remember how my grandmother shrugged it off as absolutely no big deal.

She was glad I hadn’t hurt myself.  That was the last it was ever mentioned.

That memory is one of the more resonant of my childhood and I recently recalled it again when my daughter accidentally pulled the belt  and buttons off my raincoat.

At every accident, there is an occasion to practice my grandmother’s gift of nonchalant forgiveness.  It is powerful, and I am grateful be able to pass it on.

thoughts, Uncategorized

life mirroring art mirroring life

Ever read the personals?

People love to say about themselves, “no drama.”  They also love to say they are looking for “no drama.”

Yeah, that makes for a really exciting story.

Movies, for example, are a series of obstacles that deepen and complicate until the protagonist hits a low point (end of act 2).

Of course, if there’s anything you can count on in life, it’s complications although some people do generate more drama then other, they seek out.  It seems, in fact, like they can’t bear the calm.

When we go to movies (or read) we like to see other people dealing with drama and then with mirror that in our own lives.  That’s what we’re there for!  Or we’re writers and we use our own lives at inspiration and tells stories about drama, often we dramatize what we’re writing because otherwise the true story would be too boring.  Of course in some cases, if you told the true story, no one would believe it.  Either way, a story without drama is dull, and perhaps, so is a life.
When people write “no drama” they mean, no bad drama, no tiresome, ongoing complications that never cease, no sub plots or minor character injecting themselves into the main storyline.  They mean, I’m a calm, cool collected person with nothing to impede my forward motion.
Good luck with that…

thoughts, Uncategorized

back in the big, big

This isn’t exactly the view from my new flat, but you get the idea.

From the first time I saw this view, I hadn’t been able to get it out of my mind, and now, I’m happy to say, I look at it every day.

A friend looked at me a bit askance (but with a smile anyway) when I mentioned the mist wafting over the city and  the pink light, and the dreamy, romantic nature of this particular view.  Well, yes, I have moved into the city of San Francisco, not just nearby, or just outside, or any of that bay area nonsense. In.

Moving, downsizing, changing, beginning.  It was a great, if exhausting process–down the birth canal if you will, and into the new world which has an oft discussed, and decidedly misty look (it’s coming… look on the left…).

dude fude, food, mommies

dude fude: curried rice and black beans (blog-worthy meal)

The problem with brown rice and homemade black beans is that they take a loooong time to make and, like many other good things in life, require planning.  However, these beans go from bag to bowl in the shortest time possible and the curried rice is about the same.  These are both Cook’s Illustrated recipes (which never seem to fail, well maybe once…) except that I don’t measure everything exactly. 🙂

The thing about these two things are, they are soooo good and make lots of leftovers, so it really is worth it.

Black beans taste better than they look

Black Beans

Put in a big pot:

1 medium onion minced

6 or so cloves of garlic

1.5 Tb coarse salt, a little less of regular salt

2 bay leaves

1 green pepper chopped

1 lb of black beans (picked over–I measure them out and then pour them in stages on a plate, picking out any that don’t look good)

12 cups of water

Bring to a boil, skilling foam off the top, then lower, partially cover and cook for around 2 hours.  Mine took less.   The liquid doesn’t totally cook down (and in fact if you run out of liquid add enough to cover the beans) but I store it with the liquid which is great for reheating, or cooking down in other dishes.  I just use a slotted spoon to drain the liquid off for immediate eating.

Curried Rice with tomatoes

Curried Rice

This, I just tried for the first time, but as M said, “This is soooo good!”

In a medium sauce pan put:

2 Tb butter, melt,

then add 1 chopped onion (cook 3 minutes)

then add:

1.5 ts curry power

1 Tb minced fresh ginger

1 or 2 cloves of garlic through the press

1/4 ts salt

cook 1 minute

Add I large can diced tomatoes (I used the really amazing! best in the world? San Marzano imports)

cook for few more minutes.  Set aside

Preheat over to 375

Put 1 1/2 cups of brown rice in a 8 inch sq. baking pan

add 1/4 ts salt

cover with 2 1/3 cups boiling veggie broth or water with veggie bullion cubes (as I did and then let cubes dissolve)

cover with tomato/onion mixture, spread out over rice

cover with two layers of foil (not sure this is necessary, but I did it)

bake for 70 minutes

then take it out and you can add frozen peas and then cover with a dish towel for 5 minutes, then uncover for 5 and eat.  Likewise, you could do the same with raisins.  It’s a bit of trouble, but it’s really tasty.

I usually add yogurt on top and sliced avocado and tonight we chopped up some cilantro as well.  I should of taken a photo of the food on the plate, but I didn’t think of it, and then it was gone…

thoughts, Uncategorized

3 steps forward and 5 steps back (happily)

Painfully slow broadband speeds, dogged determination by AT&T and a bargain price convinced me to finally upgrade my broadband speed/home system. It did require that I get cable television for six weeks and thus, the my phone/broadband/cable were untited in one fat cord running into a box at the side of my house.

I then spent a weekend watching countless random movies on a combination of 8 temporarily free HBO channels–violating one of the 10 tips of achieving happiness as catalogued by a British study–watch half the amount of TV you’re currently watching. (can’t find the link at the moment. But here’s a different link about happiness tips.)

And so it was that last night, when my united cable failed, so did my phone and internet connection.  As I started to look through the papers they gave me about how to program my new voice mail, I saw the myriad  warnings about the inability to call 911 if the cable were to fail…  which… it did last night.

I have to say, I’ve been very happy  with AT&T’s customer service, they’ve been smart and apologetic (if a bit talkative) and they got the service up and running in just under 24 911-unavailable hours.

So, last night, for the first time in a long time,  I was broadband-free and not entirely sure what to do with myself. I had 20 minutes of clicking and zooming, watching and surfing withdrawal symptoms after which I ended up playing guitar and house cleaning, and guess what? I felt pretty happy.

I’m not really into co-dependence (more into independence) and I sure felt it when I had home-wide system failure. It took only one old-fashioned evening to seriously think about making my home a cable free zone, a place with a land line, where 911 can always be reached, if necessary.

And of course, in cases of broadband emergency,  I’ll always have the iphone.

dude fude, food, Uncategorized

On being irresistible…

As a kid, chocolate chip mint ice cream was my favorite flavor.  In this, I was not  alone.  However, I was alone in thinking chocolate chip mint pares perfectly with caramel, and pare it I did, when I had the opportunity to have an ice cream sunday which was usually once a year with my grandparents, on the way to the Berkshires from New York City.

Askew glances from waitresses aside, I stuck to my guns.  Glowing accounts of fudge sauce could not dissuade me.  Nor could the sight of the stuff itself. I always preferred the golden tendrils off caramel cooling against soft minty mounds.

Many years later, I unsuccessfully pitched the idea to Ben and Jerry’s during a nationwide ice cream flavor contest.  I forget which flavor won that year.

And so it has come to pass that I, on occasion, make my own ice cream.  I try not to make it too much because it is so delicious.

But with a small but significant peppermint bush growing in my garden, and an excess of cream in my fridge, I decided to make some.  The only sugar I had in the house was brown sugar and I decided to use it.

And so it was that I found myself back to the minty caramel marriage of my youth.  Not quite caramel, but just an absolutely addictive undercurrent of caramel taste.  Teasing in that way, so that you must take another bite just to make sure it’s really there. And another.  Combined with the freshest, brightest mint (from garden to pot in 10 minutes), it’s a real delight.

Butter Mint Chip

Adapted from Elise’s Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream (she’s got pictures and step by step making instructions)

Here’s my version:

Put lots (2-3 cups) of mint leaves in a pot with 1 cup of whole milk and 1 cup of cream.  Heat until just boiling, cover, turn off heat and let sit for 30 minutes.  Repeat, but you can let it sit for less time.  Strain out leaves, mashing milk out of them and put back mixture back into the pot.

Mix in 1/2 cup of brown sugar and a pinch of salt until dissolved.

Pour 1/3 or so of the milk mixture into 4 egg yolks, stirring constantly (you don’t want to scramble the eggs).  Then pour the egg/milk mixture back in pot on the stove, turn up the heat to medium, stir constantly and make a custard.  It’s done when the mixture thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon.  Don’t let it boil.

Strain into 1 cup of cream.  Let cool.  Sometimes I do this overnight.   Sometimes I put this mixture in a bowl surrounded by ice first.

Once it’s cold, put into ice cream maker.  I add a little bit of alcohol or vanilla, and chopped up chocolate. I like it chopped finely.  I actually chop the chocolate first and put it in the freeze prior to the whole process.

After it comes out of the ice cream maker, it’s this beautifully soft and creamy ambrosia.  You can eat it now.  Or,  if you put it in a container and let it freeze, it will harden a lot.  Both forms are irresistible.  It’s food that brings on the quiet and completely focussed concentration of my four year old.  Bliss.

Update:

I have now made a chocolate ice cream with chocolate hunks and caramelized pecans and a Meyer lemon with slivers of dark chocolate.  Uh… both delicious.  It’s kind of ridiculous how good this stuff–too good. And so now, left with a huge number of egg whites left over I forge into new egg white-related domains…

yum
Meyer Lemon with chocolate
into the freezer