Monday, August 11, 2014

The Meal Plan | 08.11.14 | A Sketch

Today we made purple pesto!  For our reach moment we made the peach tart prepped for yesterday's non-specific feasting purposes.  
Tomorrow I'm hoping to make Barefoot Contessa's provencal potato salad.  I made this on Sunday with half of the ingredients it called for and I'd like to try it again.  First she makes a basic but stand-alone french potato salad and then adds to it haricots verts blanched, tuna, capers, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion, black olives, hard-cooked eggs.    
Wednesday I might make a spicy ratatouille from the Home Made Summer cookbook that is now overdue. 
Thursday: On the same page of that cookbook is a recipe for large polenta pizza with ratatouille.  Then I'll return it.  
Unless I keep it around to try her crispy chickpeas on Friday.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Meal Plan | 08.06.14

There hasn't been much meal-planning around these parts.  We've been loading up at farmer's markets and trying to keep the oven off.  Duh.  We've been eating lots of tomato sandwiches and lots of peaches.  I perfected corn on the cob!  Boil it for only four minutes, drain most of the water, put a lid on your pot and let the corn steam until you are ready to serve it.  The corn stays warm and the kernels are plump.  Thanks Aunt Rebecca.  

Last week I ate raw.  I can't really call it a cleanse because I was still drinking coffee.  I made smoothies, ate lots of cashews, splurged on a beet juice and drank lots of water.  It was good and I learned a few things.  One, I can survive a day without a full bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.  Good to know.  Two, it is possible for me, though I don't recommend it, to go a night without wine and or chocolate.  And three, it is really hard to sit down and eat something different than your family.  There are many questions: "Momma, why aren't you having any oatmeal?"  "Momma, why aren't you eating any pizza?"  "You see, Naomi, I'm not growing anymore so I can go without sometimes."  This is very true, but it's also true that eating together and eating the same thing is the real bonding experience.  I felt like an outsider.  But the other part of me was like, "deal with it and stop with the peer pressure!"

What have you been up to lately?

*Above is a picture of some posies I made for a wedding.  I keep meaning to tell you about my new job at a most becoming little flower shop!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lobsters with a View

Chauncey Creek.  Last month it was featured in Bon Appetit and so when we went there last week I thought we would find it puffed up and crowded.  But it wasn't.  It hadn't changed at all.  There were parking spots, no framed copy of the article and no long line.  Granted we were there on a Tuesday.  We laid our tablecloth on one of the picnic tables and got out our accompaniments - a baguette, pasta salad and a bottle of white wine.  Then we ordered our lobster, some steamers and two cups of clam chowder.  Then we sat and sipped and admired the view.  Or ran around climbing on ropes, depending.  It really does make for the perfect summer evening.  If you can make it there go by way of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and take the little bridge that connects you to Kittery, Maine.  It really is beautiful.    

Friday, July 18, 2014

Birthday Week

Every year I get a little bit better at keeping the birthday blues at bay.  My tip for this year -Start Celebrating Early.  Take your "birthday week" seriously.  Open presents when they arrive.  Go to Trader Joe's with a couple of recipes in mind and stock up.  While you're there pick up a twelve pack of Whale's Tail Pale Ale and say to yourself -it's a whole lot cheaper than going to Nantucket.  Next, unabashadly and unbegrudgingly make your own birthday cake.  This year I'm making a pavlova because I've always wanted to and because Yvette van Boven is a hoot and it's her recipe.  If I ever write a book, I want it to be as personal and as lovable as hers.  Also, my mom made this killer lemon meringue pie -it was truly a masterpiece, and so every time I have egg whites beating I think of her.  I miss her dearly this week.  I find myself asking why, why all over again, but that is a question I'm getting comfortable with.  This question I ask best to my sister.  She asks the same question back to me.  Then we spend as long as we need to in the subjunctive.  We play out various and wonderful what-if scenarios and start many sentences with, "Can you imagine if..."  After our dwellings we walk about in disbelief critiquing our shoes and discussing where we want to end up for a drink, completely aware of the gift we have in each other.  We decided on Drink.  It's like a nugget of NYC tucked below a rather ordinary, wide street in Boston.  We decided on this place as we both declared we would be on the Acela to that very city if mom had any say in it.  The bluefish spread with warm, lightly charred bread was the best thing I've tasted in a long time.  There we laid out plans for the coming year -how to squeeze out every ounce of this life, how to rein in our wildest dreams and how to peaceably take over the world.    

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ginger Baked Beans

On my stove right now sit simmering, bubbling baking beans.  Last night I soaked a bag of pinto beans.  Today I added all of the extras -molasses, garlic, salt, a little ketchup and ginger.  Minced ginger is my secret ingredient.  It adds a sweet spice and an interesting flavor to a very simple dish.  I've made it a few times already this summer.  Once we put them on a salad.  The next time we put them beside a hot dog.  Today we will bring them to a going away party for a friend.  You can cook them with bacon if you are feeling up to it.  You could use tomato paste instead of ketchup.  In years past I always thought of these beans as too sweet and syrupy, but if you make them at home they can be just how you like.  


1lb dried pinto beans or any white bean.  
ketchup or tomato paste
2 or 3 cloves of garlic minced
tablespoon or so of minced ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and more to taste
a few grinds of pepper

If you can, soak a pound of beans overnight after bringing the water to a boil for a moment.  The next day strain and set aside some of the bean liquid until they are just barely covered.  Bring the pot to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Add 1/3 cup of molasses -more or less depending on your taste.  Add 3 tablespoons of ketchup or tomato paste, the garlic and ginger.  Let cook until the beans are tender -about 30-45 minutes.  Ina Garten says salting beans early can make them tough so I add it towards the end.  That's it really.  It can be tweaked forever but at some point they are good enough.  


Monday, June 23, 2014

The Meal Plan | 06.23.14 | A Little Bit of Everything

It's starting to click.  Oh yeah.  Summer is easier than I remember.  It's just that ornery New England Spring that confuses me.  But summer means effortless snacks of blueberries by the pint and strawberries for the picking.  Summer means pesto!  Praise God.  I love pesto.  I made it tonight and sliced and salted heirloom tomatoes to top.  It was a good moment.  

Today was one of those days that just worked.  I think it was anchored by thoughts of pesto.  We all have those days that unfold in ways you couldn't have foreseen.  A day when there is no one peak arriving approximately at 10 o'clock in the morning, but simply a day placed against a backdrop of contentment and emotion.  Or something like that.  Anytime when you can pass the 4 o'clock hour with short people underfoot and not question the meaning of life you are in the lead.  Gorgeous weather really does help.  So does beet juice.  The beet and carrot and apple and lemon juice that I u-turned for was well worth it.  I had more energy today at 4pm than I have had in a long while.    

I record this because sometimes my melancholy folk music mental state allows me to mostly write about the sullen.  

If you are feeling a little sullen listen to this song.  Follow it up with some pesto and we can be twins.  

This week we are headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We are going the long way.  There isn't a short way.  But we aren't racing is what I mean.  We aren't going to try to beat our record from last summer.  I have lots to do before then, mostly get excited.  But that will come once I see the hills and slip off the grid for a bit.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Have you ever heard a south Jersey accent?  It's the accent of a clammer, of someone who's spent most of his days on the bay digging in the sand.  It's the accent of salt water and sail boats, of callused hands and skin leathered by a life spent in the sun.  You say wuder in place of water.  Philly is your city.  Blueberries, corn and tomatoes can be bought no place else.  Vinyl siding now dots the landscape, but so do the massive and lonesome Pine Barrens, and the shore.  Oh the shore.  Tacky, rustic, Beautiful.

My grandmother died a week ago yesterday. The phone rang and it was my mom's youngest sister saying she had sad news.  Then she blurted it out.  "Grandmom died this morning."  There wasn't a long enough pause for me to rifle through my mind and guess what that news might have been.  If I had had the extra second, I wouldn't have guessed that.  And anyway, she was Gramma West to me.  It was just recently that I learned it was always her intention to be called Grandmom.  She told me that the last time I saw her.  All these years, all my life I've been calling her by the wrong name?  The younger tribe of cousins got it right, but aren't they supposed to follow the lead that we the older grandchildren set?  They were told otherwise in a whisper tone, I wager.  Isn't that odd?  Maybe, but its telling of the complexity that surrounds my mom's family.  Her family, that is the family I love.

My grandfather told me to weep, but not to mourn for her.  The Herringtown Poet he is.  A Texan who married a Jersey girl.  He was in the Coast Guard and she was in nursing school.  They met on a blind date in Atlantic City, back when that was scandalous and back when that city was exciting.  She was a Mayflower descendant.  Her father owned a marina.  She was very close with her own grandmother; we always heard stories and sayings from Granny.  We also have the stories she told us on repeat of when we were children.  I will never forget her pantomiming me tell her as a child while I was chewing that I could now chew with my mouth closed.  I have all these little facts, these stories and I have her letters.  We spent our summers on the Jersey shore and on the off season we wrote letters.  Lots of them.  She saved all of mine and had begun to send them back to me.

We also have her house.  It was Granny's house before it was hers.  As a child she dreamed of living there and she got to.  A wonderful old farmhouse with a screened-in back porch, a musty smell and bad plumbing.  There is a swing out back and the remnants of an old playhouse my mom and aunts enjoyed as children.  There are chickens out there and there's a big pile of clamshells too.  My grandfather has told us all he wants them to cover his grave.  Maybe he told us that as kids so we'd keep out of them.  They were always worried about us getting bit by a tick.

That's where we head this week.  Back to that farmhouse.  Our bologna sandwiches are ready to go in the cooler.  When we get down there we will busy our hands with making a chicken pot pie.  That will help a small bit.  

Blessings to you.