Monday, September 8, 2014

Tomato How To's

How to grow tomatoes:

Buy them*.
Plant them.
Ignore them.
Harvest them by the bushel.

Done it twice now.  So I'm kind of an authority.

Note:  Does not work for any other living thing.  Especially basil plants and those cute little flower pots from Trader Joe's.  For them, Sharon = Death.

How to eat tomatoes:

Straight up is good.  Really good.

Or, you can make the big ones into tomato jam.

Recipe from Fine Cooking, modified not at all.

The jam is fresh and sweet and tart, a little spicy, and perfectly tomato-y.  Don't be tempted to add onions or garlic or herbs or fancy vinegar.  Let it be, and it'll taste exactly like summer. Amazing on burgers.  Like, ridiculous.  

You might attempt Gazpacho.  I did.

This recipe, a riff on one from Alton Brown, needs more work.  The flavors were spot on, but the texture was a little too much like salsa.  I should have followed along with this great video, from Judy of Two Broads Abroad, or tried making this recipe from Serious Eats.  Next summer!

With full confidence, I can recommend that you make the baby ones into warm tomato vinaigrette.

Tangy, bright and wonderful, I made this last year and it's now in permanent rotation.  The very simple recipe is over at Bon Appetit. Ladle it over roasted potatoes, grilled fish, a steak, or a frittata at breakfast.  Or be like me and slather it on top of fresh focaccia bread.

I insist you try this salad/salsa number with feta cheese and mint. (Recipe follows)

Despite the onset of September, there's no sign of summer slowing down around here. Instead, it seems to be getting hotter, if such a thing is possible. That means there are still a few juicy, ripe tomatoes to be had**.

Find them.
Eat them.

Don't forget, you can always check out the Recipe Box for even more tomato ideas.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'm Back

I took the summer off.

It was supposed to just be a break from my job. Time away from meetings and contracts and managing, from sales calls, board reports, inventory and auditors, Powerpoint and spreadsheets and Salesforce.

And conference calls.  I was going cold turkey on those.

Don't get me wrong.  I value and thrive on my work and the people I get to do it with.  But I just couldn't be my working self this summer.

I needed to be a different self.

So I snatched at the gift of this time.

I thought I'd tackle projects, make progress, tick long postponed tasks off of lists, and set my life in order.  I envisioned photography sessions, elaborate recipes, blog redesigns, a new cookbook.  I saw myself deeply enmeshed in my children's consciousness, undistracted and welcomed.

I would write.

None of this happened.

Instead, I took a break from all of it.

I calmed down. I breathed and slept and had the house to myself. I walked. I read many marvelous books*.  I grew tomatoes and found wonderful ways to eat them**.

I baked slabs of pie***, and had people over.

Cherry Nectarine Slab Pie | Cheesy Pennies

I stretched and tried spinning and came to truly crave exercise.  I felt myself begin to be stronger, and was thrilled.  I even went so far as to initiate hiking.  Once.

I hung out with my dog.

I played Mahj and made it to book group and met my son for lunch at his job.  I returned carpool favors and drove my daughter to the airport and to camp and to anywhere else she wanted to go. I let my hair get all curly and didn't touch my blow drier and rotated between five t-shirts that have holes in them now.

My nails, though, have never looked better.  I made time for manicures and drank decaf iced tea.

I left home often.  I travelled to Iceland**** with my family and to Alaska***** with my friend. Both times I came back deeply moved and quietly elated by the experience.

For all of this, every lazy moment and plate of pancakes, all the cheerful reunions, each glass of good wine and the many sweaty drives home from the gym, I am grateful.

For the gift of this extraordinary ordinary summer, I give thanks on my knees.

I needed it, all of it. The perspective. The peace. I needed to be this relaxed and resilient self so I could bear what came next.

So I could sit on the couch next to my son watching Suits on TV like it was any other August night, and not the last night******.  So we could laugh together with the rest of the house asleep and his bags packed in a room down the hall, and I would not fall apart into a million pieces on the floor.

Now he's gone.

And I'm back.

Toffee Cheesecake Bars | Cheesy Pennies

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fortune favors the prepared

That quote is attributed to Dr. Louis Pasteur, circa 1854, where he supposedly said something along the lines of, "When it comes to observation, chance favors the prepared mind" during a lecture at a French university.

I remember it much better as stated by Edna Mode in The Incredibles:

Edna: I didn't know the baby's powers so I covered the basics.
Helen: Jack-Jack doesn't have any powers.
Edna: No? Well, he'll look fabulous anyway.

Edna: [on Jack-Jack's suit] I cut it a little roomy for the free movement, the fabric is comfortable for sensitive skin... [a sheet of flame erupts in front of the suit]
Edna: And it can also withstand a temperature of over 1000 degrees. Completely bulletproof... [four heavy machine guns appear and open fire on the suit, without effect]
Edna: And machine washable, darling. That's a new feature.
Helen: What on earth do you think the baby will be doing?
Edna: Well, I am sure I don't know, darling. Luck favors the prepared.

So true! I've discovered that in order to avoid future exchanges like this:

Edna: [to Mr. Incredible] My God, you've gotten fat.

...fortune favors me having a prepared fridge.

Joining my now-permanent stash of minted jicama in my fridge this week:

Quinoa Tabbouleh - Taco Style

Utterly refreshing and oh-so-good-for you tabbouleh salad...

Creole Lentil Soup with Andouille and Shrimp

...and a killer Creole lentil soup with andouille sausage and shrimp.

With any luck, I'll be able to fit into my Supersuit in no time.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


We named ours Jasper.

18 years ago today.

He came home from a party last night, tall, late and unshaven, swinging his car keys around.

Me:  Happy birthday!!
Him:  I know! I was thinking while I was driving, if I were somehow arrested right now? I would have to go to JAIL! Can you believe it?

We laughed.  I hugged him, and he headed down the hall to bed.  My breath caught as his footsteps receded.

The answer is, No. 
I can't believe it.

Just look over your shoulder.
Just look over your shoulder.
Just look over your shoulder.
I'll be there, always*.

*  Except if you actually go to jail.  Then call your dad.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Root Vegetable Study

At the kids' elementary school, the first grade class theme was How Food gets to the Table. The curriculum was very comprehensive*.

Going out to a local vegetable farm for a day? Perfect.
Creating a replica farmers' market in the classroom?  Makes total sense.
Field trip to Whole Foods? Count me in.
Making farm vehicles out of wood? OK, I can see that.

Milk Truck Artwork

An entire unit** on root vegetables?

My kid got jicama.  He liked it because it started with a "J".

Jicama artwork

Don't get me wrong. The artwork was fantastic. But how much time can you spend learning about jicama?

Whole jicama

Turns out that teacher*** was a savant on the topic, and I was completely wrong to doubt her.
Jicama is incredible:

Cut into sticks, throw in a little lime juice, mint and chile, and oh, baby! Fresh, clean, crisp, tart, juicy, a little sweet, a little spicy...just wow. Almost no calories and great for you, too? Double wow!

Minted Jicama Sticks

Root vegetables that start with "J". Seriously phenomenal.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

YOU get an NBA Team! And YOU get an NBA Team!

My son has been a Clippers fan since he was barely able to talk.

My daughter, on the other hand, was only a vampire for a day

He and I have been going to games together almost his entire life.  It's our thing.

As the disaster that has been this past few weeks unfolded, he wrote an incredibly articulate piece about his feelings on his blog, Me+TV*.

Jasper Article on Donald Sterling

"Think of how amazing it would be if the Clippers won and showed Sterling that he isn’t better than them and to show him that they can succeed no matter how he feels. A team full of different races, and the fans from all over the world rejoicing in victory not only in basketball, but for equality as a whole. That would truly be something special." -- Jasper Pike

Naturally, that something special kid and I will be celebrating Mothers' Day downtown at Staples Center today, with my daughter and my husband and the rest of #ClipperNation.

Meanwhile, someone else is working on a fix as well.

You go, Mom.

* If you are a fan of intelligent television, you should check it out.  I'm slightly biased, but it's well worth a read.

Friday, April 25, 2014

It more than made up for the completely nondescript gazebo

When I was growing up, one of the many signs of Easter was watching The Sound of Music on TV.  My sister and I would sit, entranced, gazing up at the screen.  We'd giggle like crazy at the dinner table scene, scowl at the selfish Baroness, yodel along with the lonely goatherd, imitate Gretel on our own stairs (lisping "The Sun. Has Gone. To bed and so must AYE-aye!" at the top of our lungs for weeks afterward), and cheer when the nuns say, "Reverend Mother, I have sinned".

Yep. We wanted nothing more than to help our dad push a car all the way to Switzerland and have a boy to dance around a gazebo in the rain with, even if he did turn out to be a Nazi rat later.

So of course, the minute I set foot in Europe for the first time, I couldn't wait to go to Salzburg and run singing through the streets.

I was not alone.

My friends and I signed up for one of the many "official" Sound of Music tours, packed in with zillions of other tourists with guide maps, cameras, and visions of Julie Andrews and the gang hanging from trees in colorful curtains.  Yes, we did see the convent yard where they crouched behind the gravestones, and the actual gazebo (relocated to a convenient in-town location), but the whole experience was vaguely disappointing and made us a little sad*.

On the plus side, there was Linzer Torte.

Cherry Linzer Torte

That made us feel better.  As in, very, very happy.
And being able to bake my own is one of my new favorite things**.