• cooking

    Stocking Up

    Two months ago, during our last snow storm, I went out and bought a pressure cooker so that I could start making and storing my own stock. As a bit of a health nut, commercial stock drives me nuts because it’s so salty that after I eat anything with it, I’m immediately tempted to go and drink a gallon of water. So being able to make my own is cool, but it’s far too much effort to make some every time I want to use some.

    Yesterday it snowed again, so apparently it was time to make stock:

    My Beloved moved in with two very, very large pots that are perfect for this. They are so large that they do not actually fit into any of our cabinets.

    Recipe (Golden Veggie Stock):

    – Take lots of old veg (onions, mushrooms, carrots, parsnips and the like) and a sweet potato or two. Boil with some nice spices, like oregano and rosemary. (Think Italian). I like to make sure I have an actual fennel in there, as it’s a nice strong flavor. After the veggies have boiled the flavor out of them (about an hour), strain out the veggie parts.
    – This leaves a very pale golden stock, but it’ll darken during the canning process.
    – Can according to the pressure cooker’s instructions. In my case, this means 11 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes for the big jars and 25 minutes for the small. (I obviously need to invest in more big jars. Who ever needs a quart of stock?)

    The last time I did this, I did about half the amount, with twice the amount of veg. From initial taste tests, I completely overdid it last time – and then I ran out of stock within a month because I actually had good stock to use, so I used it in everything.

    The whole canning process does take a while, since I can only do so many jars at a time, but it makes you feel so incredibly cool and independent. Take that, commercial food corporations.

  • cooking,  knitting,  new york,  politics

    Memory

    It’s September 11th, ten years after the event. There’s so much that’s been written about this that I couldn’t dare, even if I wanted to. But I find that I don’t want to – that day was horrible enough to live through the first time. Perhaps it’s cowardly of me, but I can’t stand to watch any of the coverage. I hate being reminded that we live in a world where people exist that spend all their productivity on hurting other people. The September 11th attacks are a demonstration of the worst part of humanity. I don’t want to give people like that any more attention than they already get. And I don’t just mean Al-Qaeda – every country and every group has its murderers in the population. We must understand ourselves and each other as humans first. We are all responsible for and to each other.

    I’m a Washingtonian and a New Yorker. My two homes were attacked. But I want to live a life filled with gratitude and light. It is so easy to drown in the badness in the world. Spending a day reliving the emotions of that day, as I tried to track down the safety of people in both of my cities, is just too much.

    I spent this morning watching kids play soccer at the community center. Kids who don’t remember the attacks, or a world unchanged by them, but are out and joyful and worried about nothing more than keeping the ball out of the goal. I was surrounded by family, knitting in my hands. I was filled with gratitude. The day was crisp and beautiful, like it was ten years ago. We talked about it. Looking back, we all seemed so young. It’s one of those pivotal moments in a culture that people just don’t forget. Major hurricanes, volcanoes, terrorist attacks. You remember where you were.

    We were so young ten years ago. And yet, time has gone on. I decided to celebrate life.

    I ran some errands. One of them was to fix my car, which someone tried to break into during the hurricane. They fortunately did this rather ineptly, so I have a car to fix, but they did knock out my turning indicator, which means I can’t drive it. But this is a minor problem, compared to the “evacuate because a hurricane is coming” problem of two weeks ago. It’s hard to be too upset, although it was done while we were evacuated, which means it was probably someone I see every day. But it’s just stuff. The car is just a thing.

    We ran to get groceries and then I spent the afternoon doing the cooking for the week. (And pie!) While I was chopping vegetables, listening to Norah Jones on Pandora and filled with peace, I looked out the back door into the yard. There, my fourteen year old cat and my thirteen year old cat were pouncing on dried leaves like they were newborn kittens. Even today, when we’re all thinking of death and murder, life goes on, unstoppable and, in some places still, innocent.

    In the darkness, light.

  • cocktails,  cooking

    Liqueurs: A History

    In the great strawberry liqueur adventure, I realized that I had no idea what actually comprised a liqueur, even though they’re something I’ve enjoyed for years. Being a food nerd, naturally this Will Not Do.

    I find alcohol fascinating. Perhaps this is natural, given that I’m the daughter of a (recovered) alcoholic. I can’t remember a time in my life where it didn’t have a special significance. But family history aside, it’s tied in so closely with so much human history; our rituals, our societal progression and regression, our bonding, our celebrations, our mourning. Entire countries have prohibited it, religions have alternately celebrated and shunned it and it’s even provided a significant nutritional benefit when food has been scarce.

    In other words, it’s a whammy, which we sometimes deal with better than other times.

    Back to liqueurs. A little research. Liqueurs, like soda, began as a medicinal. We can blame the monks, who were trying to make better medicines. A liqueur begins life as an infusion of alcohol and some flavor producing item; sometimes bark, sometimes fruit, sometimes flowers or nuts. Let’s look at the life of my forty-dollar bottle of strawberry liqueur. Somewhere, in Italy, someone picked a whole bunch of strawberries, then added some alcohol and sugar. Then it was reduced. And reduced. And reduced. Eventually, it got down to a point where it could fit in a bottle and was worth shipping across half the world, because someone desperate for strawberry flavor in her cocktail was going to buy it.

    The first known liqueurs were being produced in the thirteenth century, strictly as medicinals, but like soda, a good thing caught on and now we drink far too much of it. Says you. I drink precisely enough.

    Liqueurs are not liquor, even when they’re flavored. They are, however, cordials, which finally answers my confusion that I’ve been carrying around for years about Anne of Green Gables and her escapade with the elderberry cordial. At last, I understand what all the fuss was about (if not what an elderberry is, other than a reference from Monty Python)…and wonder where to get mine. They’re the food dye in the easter egg – they give the flavor that straight liquor often lacks.

  • cocktails

    Blue Mondays

    Darlin’, it’s a blue Monday — at least it was in our house, since we didn’t make our cocktails on Sunday. But it’s a holiday? Even if we both had to go to work?

    Anyway, here are the ingredients:

    It makes for a pretty drink, which does make me want to dash blue caraçao into *everything*, because blue food is awesome and I have the maturity of a twelve year old.

    It’s a nice and light refreshing drink that still tastes just a bit alcoholy, but mostly of orange and blue. It’s definitely one of our favorites so far, though it goes back just a little *too* nicely… Our live-in teenager has been on a brownie making spree, so I can tell you that it complements chocolate quite well and I recommend it. Especially when the brownie is delivered.

  • cooking,  family

    Cupid in the Corner, Sloshed

    As we are burgeoning alcoholics[1], we’ve started a tradition of making a different cocktail each Sunday. It’s fun and it lets me justify the purchase of The Complete Bartender’s Guide, which I bought when I first moved into my house, since I love to throw parties. (Note, parties thrown to date: three, which happens to be an average of one per year. But all memorable, I assure you.)

    Tonight, I started with a Grasshopper for my fiancé and tried it and decided that I didn’t like it much. We didn’t get green crème de menthe, so it wasn’t even pretty. It was pretty minty and heavy on the cream, which I’m not such a fan of. We refer to plain cream as Irish cream in this household, as Americans know better than to eat it without sugar. Cultural differences were discovered at an inopportune dessert moment for which we still sometimes bow our heads in mourning.

    So for my cocktail, I browsed through the book for Things That Use Chambord, as we had just returned from purchasing some at the liquor store. I settled on Cupid’s Corner, which is equal parts cognac, Chambord and heavy cream with a dash of grenadine. You then use some cream to draw a heart on the top of the drink, which I got better at by the second one. The trick seems to be to barely touch the surface of the drink – you’re laying the cream on top of it, rather than putting it in the drink at all.

    Personally, I found it far too alcoholic to my taste, although we were admittedly pouring doubles for lack of real cocktail glasses. Of course, you can see what that leads to.

    [1] As the child of an alcoholic, I can make that joke. And no, we’re not really, but everyone needs a goal.

  • cooking,  health,  house,  nature

    Season Change

    Here in NYC, it has become impossible to deny the fact that autumn is upon us. The temperatures have dropped significantly and I find myself wearing a sweater to and from work. Not yet a coat, thank goodness. I dread winter like nothing else.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about my garden. My goals for my garden this year were to raise some food and to get the roses all settled into one corner and producing. It was a miserable year for the roses in terms of flower production, but they did have a lot of stem growth. And blight, unfortunately. Food-wise, I managed to grow a lot of tomatoes and chili peppers, a few cucumbers, a handful of strawberries and keep a persistent herb garden (mint, basil, rosemary, oregano, chives). My green pepper plant was stolen by the local squirrel mafia.

    I inherited a number of flowering bushes that all flower for about a week in the springtime. My yard turns pink. They don’t do much for the rest of the year and are not what I would have planted. Still, I have some reluctance to kill a living thing just because it’s taking up valuable land. But I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m ready to maybe try to move them into large planters so that I can have the valuable garden space for growing food. Or kill them. What happens in the garden stays in the garden.

    I have a very small amount of space and it’s in the front of the house, in a neighborhood where no one except me seems to devote land to food at all. I am sensitive to the needs of my neighbors, but I do think that I’m going to tear out the decoration and really plant food next year.

    I have a whole winter to plan – but would any experienced gardeners want to opine on what I should be doing now to make the soil as fertile as possible for next year? Would chopping up my bushes now and burying the body, as it were, be of benefit? Would the decomposition help with the soil? I could probably get down with plant murder if it would help feed me better next year.

  • cooking

    Vegetation

    I joined a CSA this year, which has been an exciting adventure into vegetables that have never before graced my kitchen.

    So far, I have discovered turnips, kolrabi, bok choi, Swiss chard, kale, garlic scapes and rhubarb. We have managed to eat most of it, although the quality of our recipes are improving with time.

    I think our favorite so far has been a snap peas recipe. You take fresh snap peas, boil them until they’re bright green, than blanche in cold water. Heat up oil in a stir fry pan, then add snap peas, chopped scallions, soy sauce and some sesame sauce.

    Nearly instant yum.

    My CSA has excellent recipe resources for vegetables that are perhaps new to you too. I thought I ought to share the link. It’s an adventure in food that we’re really enjoying a lot.

    If only for the fresh strawberries. So, so, unbelievably fresh and yum. I feel like I never knew what food tasted like before.

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