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Summer Kisses and Drunken Cherries Friday, August 22, 2008

Posted by Grace in from the kitchen, until the wheels fall off.
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…And then I don’t post for eleven days. Ha ha.

Cherries always make me think of kissing. The bite of flavor from one gives me a similar rush to when a certain someone’s lips are on mine. That, and the taste of cherries takes me right back to my first kiss.

I was working up at one of the national parks for the summer, not too many years ago, as a camp counselor. It was Saturday afternoon, in that gorgeous space of time when one week’s campers had left and the next week’s weren’t going to arrive until the next morning. That left the entire camp: kitchen, cabins, beach, canoes and kayaks to the camp staff.

A group of us counselors had hiked the hour or so into town, to pick up various amenities that had run out over the week. Candy, soap, sunscreen, etc. At the tiny general store, which carried everything from swim suits to screw drivers, I purchased a bag of cherries.

When we got back from the excursion, some of us went to suntan or nap, and the rest of us headed to the beach to swim.

Sitting on the dock, drying in the sun, we talked of schemes that seem to bubble up in camp counselors left to their own devices.  How long would it take to swim across the lake? Lifejackets would slow us down, wouldn’t they? How could another fan be jerry rigged into action in stifling hot cabins with a single electrical outlet? Do we have enough finger paint left from last week to make a mural on a staff cabin wall?

People gradually started to head back to shore from the floating dock, taking with them their sandy damp towels and half empty bags of chips, candy and fruit that had been contributed to the floating smorgasbord. It was starting to get cool, so the last of us started to pick up our stuff. I folded up my towel and zipped the top of what remained of the cherries.

As I stood up he stepped in and I was face to face with TM. And he smiled, took my hand in his, and kissed me.

… Neither of us heard the end of it the rest of the summer.

Drunken Cherries

Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs dark cherries

2 C red wine

½ C sugar

2 strips of orange peel

1 stick of cinnamon.

In a saucepan, bring everything but the cherries to a boil for a couple minutes until it gets syrupy. Let cool. Strain out orange peel and cinnamon stick.

Put the cherries in a bowl that has a tight fitting lid. Pour syrup over cherries. Cover and put it in the fridge. You’re going to want to let it get happy for a couple of hours, or even make it a day ahead.

When you’re ready, ladle them out into cups or bowls. They’re great by themselves, but even better over ice cream.

Love You Madly: Mm Mm Hamantaschen Friday, March 21, 2008

Posted by Grace in from the kitchen.
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I have a love affair with these cookies, a deep seated one. Because I have no recipes that involve Easter traditions, other than perhaps paska which I don’t know how to make, I’ve got one for Purim. Perhaps I should give my Baba a call… maybe I’ll hit you all with that recipe later.

Hamantaschen

For the cookies, you need:

1 C Butter
2 C Granulated sugar
2 tsp orange rind (grated or filed, not big chunks)
2 eggs
3 ¾ C flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and orange rind until fluffy. Then add in the eggs.

In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking powder and salt. Give them a mix to disperse the ingredients more evenly. Add to the butter mixture, and stir until you achieve a smooth dough.

Divide the dough into thirds, and form each into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap to seal in the moisture, and stick them in the fridge for about an hour to firm up.

When they’re nice and cold, roll the dough out to ¼ – 1/8 inch thickness. Using a round cookie cutter, I use a 3 inch one, cut out rounds. Reroll the scraps to make more cookies.

Next, what you want to do is go around the edges with egg wash (that’s an egg beaten with about a tablespoon of water, it’s what makes the edges stick). Place a heaping teaspoon of filling (recipes for which will follow) in the middle of the cookie.

Fold up three sides to make three corners. Pinch the corners to seal them, leaving a small opening in the center.

Place the cookies about an inch apart on a prepared baking sheet, and put them back in the fridge. They can hang out in there for about half an hour.

Bake them till they’re golden in a 350 oven, that’s between 15 and 20 minutes.

For the filling:

Poppy seed variation: In a saucepan, bring milk (1 C) and water (1/4 C) to a boil. Mix in ground poppy seeds (1 C), sugar (1/2 C), chopped raisins (1/4 C), honey (2 tbsp), cinnamon (1/4 tsp), and a pinch of salt. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, stirring often until stiff and dry, about 18 minutes. Let cool and use in cookies.

Apricot variation: In a saucepan, soak finely chopped dried apricots (1.5 C) in water (1.5 C) for about 20 minutes. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low about 30 minutes, until almost no water remains. Stir in 2 tbsp honey, and a splash of orange juice (I never measure, maybe a little less than a quarter cup?) and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Let cool and use in cookies.

This recipe makes about 50 cookies, but they’re so good that they disappear quickly. Once or twice, in a pinch without poppy seed or dried apricots, I’ve used strawberry rhubarb jam, to much delight of my fellow Hamantaschen munchers. I’m sure there are other fillings used out there, of which I would be curious to learn, but these are the ones I know of.

Song of the Day: Love You Madly – Cake

I’ll Cover You Monday, February 18, 2008

Posted by Grace in eating crackers in bed, from the kitchen.
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Yesterday, the rescheduled Valentine’s was rescheduled again because Fearless has come down with a serious bout of the flu.

I went to his place at the time he had given me, dressed for the weather as I was told to do. And when I rang the buzzer, there was no answer at the door. I was confused at first, wondering if I had forgotten I was supposed to meet him elsewhere? I got out my phone and dialed his number.

The door opened. It was him, looking like death warmed over, wearing naught but a pair of gray sweats.

It’s Sunday? He asked, voice a little raspy.

I didn’t answer. You’re sick?

He ushered me inside. His movements were slow, very out of the ordinary because he normally carries this kinetic energy that buzzes from him. He grabbed a blanket from the floor, where he must have dropped it, and plunked down on the couch. I’m sorry about Valentine’s. He proceeded to lie down again.

The caregiver in me kicked in (as it always does), Have you eaten anything today?

He pointed at an open but untouched looking packet of soda crackers and said, Keep throwing up.

Are you staying hydrated?

He lifted a bottle of water from his side.

I fluffed the pillow under his head. He started to mumble something about moving Valentine’s to another day again, but I shushed him, gave him a kiss on the forehead, and told him I was going to make him some chicken soup. Fearless started to protest; he’s such a protector, he likes to do the taking care of, not be the object of it. Luckily, he was tired and weak from being sick, so protesting didn’t get him very far.

I whipped up a simple stracciatella, the perfect thing for a sensitive tummy, and brought him a new glass of water.

He ate, got sick, and tried to eat a little more. I got him into his bed, solved his achey muscle issue with a long massage, and just sat with him for a while in the quiet. He kept saying sorry about Valentine’s day, he had so much planned; but really it wasn’t bad at all. I got to spend a quiet day pampering my man and showing him I care. The only thing better would have been if he wasn’t sick.

Valentine’s has been moved again, to as soon as he’s feeling up to snuff again. From talking to him today, it seems he already feels much better. I hope work tomorrow doesn’t make him any worse, it sounds as if it’s going to be a rather intensive day.

Stracciatella

7 C Chicken Broth

1/2 C Orzo (my personal choice for this) or other small pasta

2 Eggs

1/3 C Grated Parmesan Cheese

2 Tbsp Chopped Parsley, fresh is best but dried works too

Pinch pepper, to taste

Bring six cups of the broth to a boil, reserving one cup. Stir in orzo or other pasta, and cook until al dente.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, cheese, parsley, pepper, and reserved broth. Gradually pour mixture into boiling broth, stirring constantly until the eggs break into strands.

Serve!

Song of the Day: I’ll Cover You – RENT

Fisherman’s Blues: Coming Home to Soda Bread Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Posted by Grace in from the kitchen, marble & holly.
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My Grandma, a transplanted product of the Green Isle, has never served a meal I’ve attended without soda bread. My mom, who isn’t Irish at all, tells stories about meeting my father’s family and wondering why they always ate that ‘funny, dense, nutty bread.’ It’s tradition that Grandma has just never let go of.

I learned to make this bread standing on a chair at the counter beside her, listening to stories of about my grandfather, her husband, who worked on ships before they came here, and how he would come home smelling of salt in the evening for a warm meal with this ubiquitous bread.

Not being in that household for every meal, the habit of eating it with every meal hasn’t been instilled in me to its full extent, but there is little else so comfortable as a thick slice of soda bread, warm from the oven, with some butter or some home made jam.

Grandma’s Brown Soda Bread

1 C All-purpose flour

1 C Wholemeal flour

3/4 C Rolled oats

1 1/2 tsp Baking soda

1 1/2 tsp Caraway seeds

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 C Cold butter, cubed

1 C Buttermilk

2 Tbsp Molasses

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients (that would be the first six, for those of you who may wonder). Add butter cubes, and use two knives to cut it in until mixture gets fine crumbs.

In a different bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses, and then add to the dry ingredients. I suppose you don’t have to mix the two together beforehand, but doing so lets the molasses distribute evenly. Mix together just until combined; do not overwork!

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 8-10 turns, just to even it out. Form into a round loaf, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut a cross into the top of the loaf, and bake at 375 until the edges go golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Those are the cooking rules I’ve been told, but it generally takes about 45 minutes.

Often, soda bread comes with raisins, it just depends what you’re eating it with. If you want the raisins, add a handful in the mixing process before you start kneading.

I have found that substitutions for the buttermilk do not go over well, as the loaf won’t turn out with the gorgeous tender crumb that soda bread is famous for. Also, after some conversations with non-family members, I’ve learned that molasses isn’t the most common ingredient to use in soda bread, and have tried other recipes without, but this is the one I’ve been raised on, so I’m sticking to it.

Song of the Day: Fisherman’s Blues – Kilt