“Shit” She looked down at the list in front of her, already 9:00 in the evening and she had a litany of things to finish before she would be ready for the wedding tomorrow. How did the time get away from her? It was clear she would be lucky to be done before 2:00 am, really lucky. She rubbed her eyes and ignored her exhaustion. “Okay, okay, okay” she muttered to herself as she looked over her list. She had promised this spread of focaccio, which had to be made from scratch. This would not be difficult if it weren’t so late in the evening. She tried to calculate her rising time to see if she would get any sleep at all tonight. “Shit” she thought again, her head was swimming, she needed to just dig in and not think about it.
What was harder to ignore was why she was running so late. It wasn’t that she was just physically tired, she was emotionally drained. The business was taking up more of her time than she had ever imagined and that was not sitting well with her partner. There were the endless discussions about money. But when it came to talking money, there was no discussion, only his superiority and her lack of finance. A business could be outwardly successful and internally struggling. The first few years had been an endless balancing act to just stay afloat. It was very hard to turn a profit, and for every step forward there seemed to be two steps back. Every extra dime went into building the business, a 24/7 juggling act of vendors, clients, and cooking. She could not seem to make him understand this. Last week she had bounced some checks because a payment hadn’t come through when expected. That had ended with him shaking the statement of the returned check fees in her face, his face growing redder and redder at what he saw as her flaws. She was growing tired of it all. She turned her attention to her dough. The sponge had risen enough that she could add more flour and knead the dough. There was something so gratifying about kneading dough, the rhythmic pushing and turning, a thousand sorrows could be pressed into the dough and it thanked you for it.
She finished the kneading and put aside the dough, placing it in a warm spot of the kitchen. The dough would fill with tiny air bubbles until it had grown to twice it’s original size. There was the satisfying swoosh when it was punched down only to be set aside to rise again. Depending on her time she would sometimes allow two full rises before shaping the dough and letting it rise for a third time before baking. It was always a question of timing, let the dough rise too much and it would end up depleted of the necessary gases and the final texture would be off. By the same token if not allowed sufficient rising time it would not build up enough gases and would be heavy and too dense. As she prepped the toppings for her focaccia she reflected that bread dough had a lot in common with both business and relationships, and figuring out how to push and turn the business, knowing when to let it breathe seemed a whole lot easier.
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 c warm water
3/4 c unbleached white flour
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 c warm water
3 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
3 1/4 c unbleached flour
2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
1 1 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
SPONGE: Sprinkle yeast over the warm water in a large mixing bowl, whisk it in and let stand till creamy (about 10 minutes) Stir in the flour . Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until very bubbly and double (45 minutes)
DOUGH: Sprinkle yeast over warm water, whisk in and let stand till creamy (about 10 minutes) With a wooden spoon stir the yeast mixture and olive oil into sponge. Mix well. Stir in 1 c of flour ; stir in salt and remaining flour, 2 cups at a time. Mix until the dough is well blended. Knead on a lightly floured surface until soft and velvety (about 8 – 10 minutes)
FIRST RISE: Place the dough in a well oiled container. Cover tightly with plastic and let rise till double, 1 1/4 hours.
SHAPING AND SECOND RISE: The dough will be soft and delicate and full of air bubbles. Divide the dough into desired sizes and flatten on an oiled work area. With well oiled hands press the dough into circular shapes. Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Just before baking dimple the dough vigorously with your knuckles or fingertips, leaving visible indentations. Drizzle olive oil over the dough leaving oil pools in the holes you have made. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
BAKING: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees . Bake until the crust is crisp and the top is golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Before baking top the focaccio dough with any of the following:
ROSEMARY, OIL, SALT
extra virgin olive oil -drizzle over the dough
course sea salt – lightly grate or sprinkle sea salt over the surface
sprigs of fresh rosemary – scatter sprigs over oiled and salted dough
GARLIC AND TOMATOES
extra virgin olive oil – drizzle over dough
2 cloves minced garlic – mix with chopped tomatoes
1 lb fresh tomatoes – chopped. spread over dough
course sea salt – lightly grate or sprinkle sea salt over the surface
SWEET RED PEPPERS AND BASIL
extra virgin olive oil – drizzle over dough
1 -2 sweet red peppers – roasted, peeled and seeded, and cut into strips then laid on top of dough
fresh basil – chopped and sprinkled over dough
course sea salt – lightly grate or sprinkle sea salt over the surface
These doughs can also be used as a base for pizza. Prepare any of the focaccia above and build it up as desired, adding olives, cheese, sundried tomatoes, fresh zucchini, oregano. Have fun with it and play around with the flavors.
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order.”
It was quiet, only a gently breeze and the sound of the birds. Too early for insects and a little warm for early spring, but all in all it was a beautiful day. Perfect for gardening. There was something so enticing about plunging her hands into the loose dark soil and finding it full of earth worms, squirming to find their way back to the shadows of the deep. The yard was like a blank canvas awaiting her creation, a visual arrangement of color and texture, but also a symphonic composition performing in its own time and space. The lyrical music of thyme lacing its flowers across the soil inviting the gentle whisper of the bees, contrasted by the crescendos of the tomato vines searing to the heavens with squirrels and chipmunks arguing over who got the first drink. And like a true symphony the garden performed its year long piece in distinct sections; the joyful opening, the leisurely second movement, the energetic third, followed by a strong finale
The vegetable and herb gardens were finished; tender plants peaked out of the mulch and invisible seeds comfortable in their earthy bed. She had decided this would be the year she planted asparagus, a three year commitment of care before there was any reward for her efforts, but wasn’t that true of most artistic endeavors? Asparagus needed to be trenched. A 6-inch deep furrow was dug then a layer of rich compost is placed at the bottom. The asparagus crowns are tossed on top of the compost and as the summer progresses the furrow is slowly filled in with soil until the empty bed is finally level with the ground. The ferns that sprout from the stalks send food back into the plant. So it is with patience that you let the plant grow and feed, grow and feed until the long awaited day comes and you are able to harvest the tender spears that are full of last summers growth.
The garden had always been her teacher, her spiritual advisor. Any confusion seemed to find its answer in nature. A seed must be treated properly if you wanted it to grow, and with that nurture came abundance beyond any imagining. And not all seeds needed the same care; if it was treated without understanding though to survive it needs to grow the results would be difficult and unfortunate. And you were never really sure if the plant was all it could be.
“Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein
Spicy Shredded Carrots with Lime & Cilantro
8 medium carrots (about 1-1/2 lb.)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 T hot salsa
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Whole cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
Peel and then grate the carrots using either the large holes on a box grater or a food processor fitted with a medium grating attachment. Put the grated carrots in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil and lime juice. Add the jalapeño and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the dressing and chopped cilantro to the carrots and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with the cilantro leaves (if using), and serve.
Snow Pea, Scallion, and Radish Salad
2 cups (8 oz.) snow peas, trimmed
2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
4 radishes, trimmed and cut into thin strips (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbs. sesame oil
Put the snow peas in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 Tbs. water. Cover tightly and microwave for 1 minute. Drain and let cool. Cut the snow peas on the diagonal into 1/2-inch diamond shapes, discarding the end pieces.
In a medium serving bowl, combine the snow peas, scallions, and radishes. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and oil until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the salad and serve.
Orange, Avocado & Mâche Salad
4 medium navel or Valencia oranges
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. minced red onion
1 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium ripe avocado, thinly sliced
5 oz. mâche (about 6 loosely packed cups)
Finely grate 1 tsp. zest from one of the oranges and put in a large bowl. Using a sharp knife, trim off the peel and white pith from the oranges and cut crosswise 1/4 inch thick.
Squeeze two or three orange slices over a small bowl to yield 1 Tbs. juice; add the juice to the zest along with the olive oil, onion, and vinegar. Whisk to blend and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the remaining orange slices and the avocado slices to one side of 6 salad plates.
Toss the mâche with the dressing, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mound next to the oranges and avocados.
He was going to Hawaii, that very morning, in just a matter of hours he would be on a plane heading to paradise. His first trip had been when he was still in his twenties. At the time he could hardly afford to make the trip and debated long and hard whether he should spend his hard earned money on something so seemingly frivolous. But he had never been one to pass up an opportunity and this one had been staring him straight in the face. The islands had changed him in ways that were hard to verbalize. It was as if the richness of the natural beauty had traveled deep into his soul and it became necessary after that for him to make periodic trips to the islands.
There were some last minute errands he needed to finish before the trip, so as soon as it was late enough for the businesses to be open he darted out of the house and jumped into his car. He was dressed simply in a gray t-shirt, baggie shorts and running shoes. 30 minutes, 40 minutes at most, were all he needed to check off those nagging little items that always seemed to present themselves right before a trip, no matter how carefully he planned. He was so focused on what he needed to do that at first he didn’t see the red light flashing in the rear view mirror. “Dammit”, he thought to himself as he pulled his car over to the side of the road.
The officer got out of the patrol car and walked up to his window, standing there for a moment giving more weight to his presence and letting his quiet stare sink in. The officer then indicated with a hand gesture that he should roll his window down. When the window was open the officer seemed to swell in size as he moved into position and folded his arms, “What are you doing out this time of morning?”
“Excuse me?’ for a second he was confused, his mind had been so focused on the trip that he had foolishly thought that he had been pulled over for nuisance reasons like a bad tail light or some problem with his tags.
“This doesn’t look like your neighborhood, so what are you doing out at this time of day in this part of town?’
“I was heading to the dry cleaners, over there on 5th, I need to…”
“I need you to step out of the car.”
“But what seems to be the problem?”
I just need to make sure there is no problem, if you get my meaning.”
He got out of the car, trying to maintain a semblance of calm because inside he could feel his rage growing. He took a deep breath and let out a long, slow exhale, then fell into a much practiced manner and hoped that this would not turn into anything more than an annoyance.
So Much More Than Pancakes
1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c masa harina (may substitute corn meal, masa harina is more finely groundso creates a smoother texture)
3 t baking powder
1 T raw sugar
1/2 t sea salt
1 free range egg, beaten
1/2 c organic vanilla yogurt
1/2 t vanilla
1 c milk
2 T sunflower oil
Stir all the dry ingredients together. Combine the egg, yogurt, vanilla, milk and oil. Add to the dry ingredients. Stir together just until the liquid ingredients are incorporated into the dry ingredients (if the batter seems to thick add a bit more milk). My father always said to treat pancake batter as gently as a baby, so stir just enough to break up the clumps. Brush a griddle with oil. Heat it until water droplets dance on the surface. Pour the batter onto the griddle and cook until you see bubbles on the uncooked side (this doesn’t always happen if the batter is very thick, so check the griddle side if no bubbles form to see if you need to flip them). Flip and cook until done. Serve warm with organic butter and warm maple syrup.
“The piano was here in the house when I bought it,” the owner told me, “do you want it?”
“Yes, that would be lovely”. I replied. “How ironic”, I thought to myself. This would be the third piano I owned, none of which I had ever purchased, and none of which I could play. My last piano had belonged to my grandmother, who had been a beautiful singer in vaudeville days. When my grandmother came to live with our family, her upright piano found a new home in our living room, becoming a fixture of my childhood. All my siblings pounded away on it, attempting chopsticks and the like. We imagined ourselves as accomplished pianist. Though none of us ever managed more than a basic finger dancing around middle C, we competed with each other trying to outshine the others rudimentary skills. The piano bench also served as extra seating during holidays when we would have more mouths around the table then chairs. Eventually, I inherited the piano and moved it from home to home, my own kids copying the practice of bad piano playing, until a new move forced me to realize this home had no corner for it and I had to pass it on to hopefully more skilled players.
Perhaps it is my love of music that brings that pianos into my life. My first, an ancient upright, arrived from an unexpected source when I was just out of college. It came from a musician boyfriend who thought it would fit well at my house. The piano lasted longer than the relationship and one suffocatingly hot and humid August day that piano nearly met its end as well. I had coaxed my male friends into helping me move by enticing them with offers of pizza and beer. During the move, as they were turning a corner in the UHaul, the unsecured piano fell with a resounding thudl. When we arrived at the house my sweaty, exhausted friends decided it was damaged beyond repair and not worth carrying up my steep drive into the house. It was decided – it was staying by the curb. That night the heavens opened up and what wasn’t already damaged become soaked. The next morning, sleepy from the move, I awoke in the early morning hours to the sound of someone playing a piano. “What?’ I was in a confused morning fog, I looked out my window and saw that a pedestrian had stopped in front of my house to play the piano. Three times that morning the drenched piano beckoned to passersby to take a moment to play a tune. As the sun climbed the sky, turning the night’s rain into another sauna-like day, I walked outside and looked again at the forsaken piano. One of my new neighbors came out to greet me. Within a matter of minutes he had decided it was worth saving and rallied a group of neighbors to carry the piano up my drive and into my new home.
So now a new home, a new piano and an endless love of music.
A SYMPHONY OF VEGETARIAN DISHES TO SATISFY EVEN THE MOST DETERMINED CARNIVORE
5 1/2 c vegetable stock
2 white onions, diced
2 T olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
16 oz mushrooms, sliced
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c sherry
1 medium size potato, peeled and sliced
1 T fresh herbs, parsley, thyme, marjoram (or equivalent in dried herbs)
fresh lemon juice
Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until caramelized. Add sherry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and soy sauce and sauté for several minutes. Add herbs and vegetable stock. While soup is cooking boil potato in separate pot until tender. When potato is tender puree with some of the stock. Adjust seasonings and enjoy.
FIG CARROT SALAD
2 c. grated carrots
3/4 c. roasted pistachios
4 diced scallions
1/4 to 1/3 c Fig Balsamic Vinegar
Toss all ingredients together and enjoy.
FRENCH GREEN BEANS
10 cloves of garlic
1 lb of green beans
1 lemon, or meyer lemon if possible
Add garlic cloves to a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Add green beans and cook till just tender. Remove to bowl. Squeeze fresh lemon just over and season with salt and pepper to taste.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH FRITTATA
3 c spaghetti squash (pierced and baked for one hour)
I onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 T olive oil
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 t basil
I zucchini, cut into half moons
4 oz of crumbled feta
1/3 c parmesan
1/3 c ricotta
In cast iron skillet or omelet pan, sauté onions, garlic and seasonings in olive oil till onions are translucent. Add zucchini, sauté just till tender. Stir eggs and cheese and spaghetti squash together. Add to vegetables in skillet. Stir together and let cook on low till sides of frittata are just set. Sprinkle top with additional parmesan
Bake in oven on 350 for 20 to 25 minutes until frittata is set.
Your lipstick stains on the front lobe of my left side brains
I knew I wouldn’t forget you, and so I went and let you blow my mind
“What are we having for dinner?’ he asked as he slid up behind her and gave her a kiss on the neck.
“Well that depends, what would you like?” She turned to kiss him. Facing each other they smiled. She ran her fingers through his hair, still thick although the years had turned it grey, but when she looked at him she saw it dark and sensous as it had been in his youth. The texture of his hair, the scent of his skin, were so familiar as if it hadn’t been almost 4 decades since they first met. Fate seemed to have more of a understanding of their relationship then they ever did. They had met at a school dance when she was Sophmore and he was Junior. She was coquettish giggles and he played off her teasing with humorous responses. High school lasts an eternity and life lay in wait, in the end they went their separate ways, until fate intervened the second time.
Your sweet moon beam, the smell of you in every single dream I dream
I knew when we collided, you’re the one I have decided who’s one of my kind
Life’s twists and turns pulled at them and fifteen years later she was working as a caterer, her days an endless cycle of food planning, prep, and orchestrating parties. Failed relationships had left her wary and cynical. The catering put her at the center of social events and when men approached they felt the bite of her ascerbic tongue. She could dice them up into little pieces and move quickly on. Her business demanded focus and a clear head, no time for exhausting games of love, until fate reminded her of her heart.
It was just another job until that moment when she stopped scanning the food on the buffet, stopped checking to see that everything was in its place, stopped for one moment to see what was right in front of her. There he was. His eyes, his hair, his smile. Sixteen years melted into a day, and after a single chance encounter, yesterday moved into tomorrow and they were together again. For a while. The innocence of youth had melded into broken hearted apprehension and two demanding careers allowed them to avoid facing that.
You see, I can be myself now finally, in fact there’s nothing I can’t be
I want the world to see you be with me
Fate has a way of waking us up even when we are convinced of our superior wisdom. A personal tragedy can open your eyes to the person who has been beside you in spirit from the beginning. A chance encounter, a renewed friendship and you realize you have always been together in one way or another.
I don’t want to miss a single thing you do tonight
BETTER WITH AGE LENTIL SOUP
1 white onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 2 Tablespoon of olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of green chili sauce or hot sauce (my fave is Mama Trujillo’s Green Chili Sauce)
Saute the onion and garlic in oil until transparent. Stir in green chili sauce. Let cook one more minute. Take out of pan and puree until it becomes a paste.
1 – 2 sweet potatoes (depending on size), peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup vegetable stock
Put cubed sweet potatoes and stock into pan. Cook until sweet potatoes are tender. Separate potatoes from stock and save the stock for later. Puree potatoes and add to onion/garlic mixture.
1 cup red lentils
2 cups or more vegetable stock (Add enough to fully cover lentils. Add leftover stock to pan first, then add the additional stock or water)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Mix together and cook until lentils are tender. Adding additional stock or water if necessary. Stir in sweet potato/onion mix. Let simmer a little longer. Soup should have a smooth consistency with a slight texture from the lentils. Check seasonings.
2 sorrel leaves, chiffonade
Serve hot soup in bowls and garnish with sorrel
ITS COMPLICATED TURNIP & YUMMY PEPPER SALAD (for 2)
small bag of micro greens (found at Farmer’s Markets)
4 yummy peppers (bite size orange sweet peppers), sliced into thin rings
2 scallions, diced
2 medium turnips, peeled and sliced into circles about 1/8 in thick
1 Tablespoon butter
Fig & Walnut Savory Balsamic Vinaigrette by Lucini (this makes it fast and easy and I love their vinaigrettes!)
Take 2 salad plates and put a handful of micro greens on each. Scatter the yummy peppers & scallions over the greens.
Melt the butter in a skillet and lightly saute the turnips on both sides. Let cool slightly and lay a few slices on each salad (you may have a few slices left over). Drizzle vinaigrette over and enjoy.
FOLLY OF YOUTH CAPELLINI & SPAGHETTI SQUASH
1 lb capellini (thin spaghetti pasta)
1 spaghetti squash, baked in the oven till tender, then prepped and seeded
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c white wine
4 – 6 leaves basil, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, cubed
1/2 c pecans, lightly toasted in olive oil and salted
small piece of semi-soft truffle cheese, crumbled
Prepare the spaghetti squash first and while the spaghetti squash is cooking saute the garlic in oil till golden. Save till later. Bake the spaghetti squash in a 400 degree oven for 30 -45 minutes or until the shell begins to collapse and the squash is tender. Take it out and let it cool enough to handle. Pull the hard skin off and clean it of seeds. While you are doing this set a large pot with salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. The pasta takes about 10 minutes to cook and you want to prepare these items as simultaneously as possible so they can be blended at the end while hot.
Before you begin cooking the pasta, chopped the tomatoes and set aside for later. Crumble the cheese into a bowl and set aside.
While the water is coming to a boil take the prepped squash and put into the skillet with garlic. Stir the garlic through the squash. Turn off heat.
Lightly toast pecans in olive or sunflower oil till golden. Grind a little sea salt over and stir through. Set aside.
When water is ready add pasta and cook til al dente. While the pasta is cooking add the white wine to the spaghetti squash mix and let it cook for a few minutes to heat through. Stir in basil and reduce heat. Drain the pasta and then return to pot and toss with spaghetti squash mixture. Serve immediately and top with fresh tomatoes, toasted pecans and cheese.
“Hey what are you doing? Are you hungry?’
“Maybe. Let me guess, are you at Chai Shai?”
He laughed, “Of course!”
“Meet you there in 10 minutes”
“Okay, love you, see ya”
It had become a running joke ever since they had first discovered the corner cafe. He discovered it first, and after that harped on her constantly to eat there, until finally one day she stopped in and became hooked on it as well. The two of them had been friends for years and it was through food that they had first met. They had each had restaurants of their own, at different times in their past. That experience made them both picky and forgiving of the different places they ate. They could bicker like siblings, disagreeing on nuances, but in the end relenting to the other’s opinion. The meals were just a backdrop for their enjoyment of lengthy discussions on life.
She walked into the cafe and saw him sitting at the counter conversing with the owner. Laughing, she snuck up behind and tapped him on the shoulder.
He stood up and gave her a quick kiss and hug “I’m starving! Let’s eat!” A brief scan of the menu and orders were placed for spicy mango slices, chicken boti wrap, pakora chaat, moong soup with paratha and masala chai. “We always order too much. We’ll never eat all this, well maybe we will…” he said
“I can’t seem to resist,” she sighed putting the menu back, “and, if we can’t eat it all, it does make such good leftovers.” They grabbed their chai’s and headed outside to the patio. This was a true neighborhood cafe. Nestled in an older neighborhood, this corner had seen many businesses arrive and close, the difficulty of sustaining customers at an offbeat location proving to be too challenging. But this cafe had sprung up because of a family coming together during unexpected financial hardship, and the ambiance created from that was as addictive as the food.
The food arrived and they settled in for a long lunch. It didn’t matter how many times they ate together, the conversation always promised to be endless and it was always with reluctance that the meal came to an end. Until the next time one of them called the other and said, “Are you hungry?”
INSPIRED BY WHAT I TASTE CURRIED VEGETABLE SOUP
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
3 pieces ginger, minced
2 T curry
1 T gram marshal
1/4 c sherry or white wine
4 large carrots, peeled and cubed
3 zucchini, cubed
1/2 cauliflower, broken apart
1 apple, peeled and sliced
vegetable stock, enough to cover vegetables
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/ 2 can coconut milk
Sauté onions in oil. Add garlic, ginger and seasonings. Sauté. Add sherry and stir through Add vegetables, apple and stock. Let cook until vegetables are tender. Puree in small batches in food processor till very smooth. Stir coconut milk and garnish with cilantro. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot or cold
A quick hand dip into the holy water followed by the sign of the cross – forehead, chest, shoulder, shoulder. The ritual was automatic and meaningless. She reached up to check her chapel veil to make sure it had not slipped to the side in her rush to get to church, walked to a pew and genuflected before entering and sitting down. When the chords to “Loving Shepherd of the Sheep” began to ring through the church the congregation stood in reverence to the altar. The priest and altar boys made a holy processional as they walked toward the altar. An altar boy swung the thurible with the pungent incense from side to side, its heavy fragrance wafting into the pews symbolically sending the prayers of the congregation heavenward.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The priest intoned.
“And also with you” the congregation responded and sat back in the pews. Mass had begun.
Ritual had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember. The Jesuits say “Give me the child for the first seven years and I will show you the man.” She had certainly been immersed in the rituals of the church from her infancy, but now as she was entering her sixteenth year she was bored with the confines of the church. She hungered for culture without restrictions. As long as she was in school she would have to follow the dictates of the church, but the church could not wall in her dreams. Any casual observer would see her going through the motions of the mass, but inside she was escaping into her fantasies of what her life could be. She was an artist and as a youth the nuns had taught her to tow the line without question, so much so that she now wondered if she even knew what her own voice was. As a child, she had been an annoyance of questions that saw through the absurdity of the rules. “Why did Sister pin a tissue on my head when I forgot my chapel veil?”, “Why did I get in trouble for peeking behind the curtain in the confessional?”, “How will I know if I have committed a mortal sin?” Her questions became tiresome to the nuns, to her family and were answered with scripted responses that left her unsatisfied.
“Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.” the priest entreated the congregation. Obediently they acclaimed, “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.”
Years later she would discover a beauty in these rituals, but now, at this time, it felt suffocating. There was no room for expression, for art, for music, for dance, for anything that moved outside the confines of “what was right and good”. Two more years she thought, and I can be free.
“This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.”
The congregation responded, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed”. They sat down in unison and systematically the pews began to empty row following row to receive communion. She had thought many times of not taking communion, especially if one were sitting in the middle of the pew. It could be such a glaring abstinence as fellow parishioners would solemnly pass being careful not to knock against her. But in the end she always conceded. When the time came her rebellion would be unobserved; a slow folding of the veil, packing of her missal, a quiet closing of the church doors.
“The Mass is ended, go in peace.”
“Thanks be to God” she whispered.
The following recipes are all by Suzanne Goin a true artist when it comes to food. A talented chef innately understands the chemistry of food and how to balance complex flavors. Once there is an appreciation of that structure freedom follows and that allows for creative abandonment. Salute!
ARUGULA AND MINT SALAD WITH OIL-CURED OLIVES, ORANGES AND RICOTTA SALATA
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon orange-flower water*
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 medium)
4 large oranges
1 5-ounce package arugula (about 10 cups packed)
1 cup fresh mint leaves (from about 2 bunches)
1/2 cup thinly sliced pitted oil-cured black olives
1 5-ounce piece ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta cheese),cut into 1 1/2-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick slices
Whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature and rewhisk before using.
Place onion in large bowl. Add 1/3 of dressing; toss. Let marinate 20 minutes.
Cut off peel and pith from oranges. Cut each orange crosswise into 8 slices.
Add arugula, mint, and olives to bowl with onion; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Add remaining dressing; toss. Divide salad among 6 plates. Tuck orange slices and ricotta salata slices into salads.
ROASTED WHOLE FISH AND FENNEL WITH CRUSHED POTATOES, PRESERVED LEMON AND CHARMOULA
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (preferably Greek-style)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 (3- to 4-pound) whole black bass with head and tail, gutted, scaled, rinsed
1/2 bunch fresh Italian parsley sprigs plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 bunch fresh thyme sprigs plus 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh fennel fronds
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 medium fresh fennel bulbs, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds small fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon
Charmoula (recipe follows)
Fresh cilantro sprigs
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 cups finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Stir cumin in small skillet over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to mortar. Add garlic; pound with pestle until paste forms. Transfer to bowl. Mix in cilantro and next 4 ingredients. Stir in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Do ahead Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.
Mix yogurt, chopped cilantro, and lime juice in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.
Cut 2-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slits into outside of both sides of fish, spacing 2 inches apart. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Place parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, fennel fronds, and lemon slices in fish cavity. Sprinkle top side of fish with chopped parsley and 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Do ahead Lime yogurt and fish can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Stir fennel seeds in small dry skillet over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Mix fennel wedges, 2 tablespoons olive oil, toasted fennel seeds, and 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme on rimmed baking sheet; toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until fennel is tender and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Do ahead Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 400°F oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.
Place potatoes in large saucepan; fill with enough cold salted water to cover. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer just until potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Transfer potatoes to baking sheet and cool slightly. Using heel of hand, smash potatoes coarsely. Return potatoes to same saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and preserved lemon. Do ahead Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over fish. Roast fish just until opaque in center, about 30 minutes. Let fish rest 5 minutes.
Add 1/4 cup reserved potato cooking liquid to potato mixture; stir gently over medium heat until heated through, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if mixture is dry, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Using 2 large metal spatulas, transfer fish to platter. Arrange fennel and potato mixture around. Spoon some charmoula, then some lime yogurt atop fish. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serve with remaining Charmoula and lime yogurt.
ITALIAN ALMOND TART
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, until golden. Let cool slightly, then coarsely chop the almonds. Leave the oven on.
In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with the orange zest and the extracts. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or rub it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the granulated sugar and brown sugar and the toasted almonds. Gently work in the egg yolk mixture with your hands; the dough should be crumbly.
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and loosely press the crumbs; the surface should be uneven. Bake for 40 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely before unmolding.
Break the tart into large pieces. Pile on a platter with the Roasted Red Grapes and serve with the Champagne Sabayon.