Feast

Feast Daily Writing Prompt…

What does feast mean to me? What doesn’t it mean? It’s my life. Every good memory I have, and every story I tell is almost always surrounded by what I ate. Just about every meal I eat, is a feast. Sometimes I think I’m unusual in my preoccupation/obsession with food, but then I realize that almost everyone I interact with shares this similar attraction.  Chefs, farmers, friends, and family.

Mamma always had a Sunday Feast. (Mamma, that’s what we called our grandmother, some called her Mamma Salmon, her name was Betty Jean Salmon- I think even once or twice I heard someone refer to her as Mean Betty Jean, she was about 5’2″ and married to my 6’7″ grandfather whom I never met-she was already a widow when I was born). Anyway,You know how Holiday feasts at someone’s home is usually buffet or potluc style meals, and are always a big spread? Well, every Sunday was like that. My mom was 1 of 8, so once all her siblings and all of their kids were in the same house, there just simply had to be a lot of food on hand to feed us all. This lasted until I was about 12, then she passed, then we moved, and I think I’ve been looking for that feast ever since. I’m always hungry.

When I was 31 I moved to Boston all by myself. I knew a couple people but I had set out to the city from a smallish town to be alone and to find out something about myself. For some reason I find comfort in being alone in a City, surrounded by strangers. It’s kinda lonely, but not completely. I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 14, so I pursued a serving job. I made really good money and worked all the time. One day a week I would start in 1 neighborhood  and work my way across the city. My own personal feast. Kind of like a potluc, but spread out. I’d have oysters here, salad there, a small plate next door, hop on the train or walk a bit to grab another plate of food. I usually sat at the bar. You can always count on a bartender to keep you company. Once the sun begins to set and the wine begins to flow you always make a friend at the bar. Someone passing through the city or another lonely single diner, often a much older man or woman looking for company. Sometimes I brought a book or magazine if I was feeling especially interverted. You start to find spots you enjoy and you become a regular at certain bars. I can still remember the feeling of certain bar stools or worn wooden ledges of certain bar tops. I recall good conversations with certain bartenders and strangers. All this transpired over food. Within my traveling feast. Perhaps because I’ve worked in restaurants my whole life or because of my fond early memories in the kitchen, I always feel very comfortable, literally at home in restaurants and kitchens. Every meal I have I try to make special. I think I have been trying  to recreate that feeling of comfort in Mamma’s house on Sunday’s.

Now I have my own family, a new baby and we are often at my in laws. Their home is a farmhouse, we’re actually moving in in about 19 days.  They grow food and provide for many of the restaurants in Philly. So, there are often Chefs and restaurant folk in the farm house which is about an hour from the city. Someone is always cooking, the table is always set and a feast is always just a moment away. I have found a feasting family that enjoys the simple pleasure of setting a table, reading cookbooks, planning dinner while you’re eating breakfast, talking about which butcher is the best, and reading the food section of the paper. There are usually at least 5-8 people around the table. I have fond memories of my one woman feasts, although looking back they don’t seem as warm now as they once did.

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Popsicle Summer

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Last summer I was pregnant. Hot, sweaty, grumpy, tummy achy—-> pregnant! I bought a Popsicle maker thinking it would change my life. I made one batch and it was just one of those pregnancy taste bud things where I took one bite and and I wasn’t feeling it. It was really quite tragic actually. (However, looking back those Popsicles were made with Sheeps milk yogurt and this organic low sugar version of Nutella-no bueno! I was OBSESSED with yogurt when I was pregger and was trying every possible version, needless to say, the sheep milk yogurt had a little funk that I’m just not that into)

This summer I’ve dusted off the ole Popsicle maker and I’ve been going to town! It all started with a vision…Jello Pudding Pop! What happened to them?!  Where are they?! Does Bill Cosby have a stash in his freezer that are going to be auctioned off once he is imprisoned for his heinous crimes?! Sorry, I’m still really bitter about all that…anyway….so like I often do I become obsessed, this time with the idea of the puddin pop. I’ve made Martha Stewart’s pudding recipe several times and it’s really delicious, rich, and most importantly pretty quick. So I made the pudding, poured it into the Popsicle mold, popped it on the freezer, and for 24 hours I dreamt of creamy frozen chocolate childhood bliss. The next day after dinner, it was time. My partner, Ian, and I reached in the freezer and unveiled what was to be, aside from the birth of our child, the greatest moment of our lives. The re-awakening of the chocolate pudding pop. Since that day I’ve made peach, mango, raspberry and I have all these dates that I need to use so I think at some point I am going to make this date caramel I keep hearing about and incorporating it into a Popsicle…how bad could that be?

Chocolate Pudding Pops:

•Popsicle mold/maker

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-I use (and LOVE) the Zoku Classic Pop Maker, it makes 6/3oz pops, it takes overnight so you do have to do some planning. I found it on Amazon for around $16, but they have a pricier version, the Quick Pop Maker, and that will give you a pop sooner. You can always go old skool and use little paper cups and wooden Popsicle sticks!

• 1 recipe for Chocolate Pudding

http://www.marthastewart.com/314077/vanilla-or-chocolate-pudding

-As mention before I use my old standby recipe from Martha Stewart, I provided the link. Any pudding recipe should work, I’d imagine you could even get away with using a box mix. I’m not judging!

Make the pudding, fill the mold, throw it in the freezer, wait……then enjoy!

Once you do one batch you’ll be obsessed and throwing everything in there! I use fat free Greek Yogurt as a base, honey as a sweetener and whatever fruits I have on hand. Full fat yogurt does make a creamier pop FYI. Sometimes I use just a simple purée of fruit and nothing else and I justify that as a healthy breakfast treat! (I think breakfast Popsicles are on the verge of being the next cronut). I’ve added chunks of fruit, peanut butter, nuts, cookie bits….its endless! Pinterest has a ton of Popsicle recipes and some even have booze!

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Tomato & Quinoa Salad w/ cumin vinaigrette

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My herd, Ian -my partner, Goldie-our baby, and I, decided Friday evening that as soon as the baby woke up in the morning we would head to market to beat the crowds and the heat, and then not leave the house for the rest of the day. It was expected to be one of those 88 degree 75% humidity situations. A real buzz kill in the kitchen. Aside from whipping up some peach Popsicles and a turkey sandwich I haven’t cooked all week. Maybe it’s the heat, lack of inspiration, or lack of sleep (teething baby).

Today however it seemed like inspiration was everywhere. My partner is a farmer and he often brings home little handfuls of this and that from his family farm and I make use. Today I looked over and caught a glimpse of these beautiful little tomatoes. I popped one in my mouth and it was just so perfect, so sweet, so summer.  There were just about a handful so I thought maybe a salad. We had just had a pretty hardy lunch earlier and agreed that dinner should be somewhat healthy. Two whole fish made their way home with us from market, so we knew the evenings main attraction, and that it was going to be light, fresh, simple, and prepared by Ian. So it was then my duty to prepare a side dish to suit. I often make a grain salad of farro or wheat or spelt berries with feta, currants, walnuts and a cumin vinaigrette. I asked him if something like that would work with how he was thinking of preparing the fish…And then he started going through the spice cabinet delighted and said that he thought, “cumin & fish go great together!”  I had on hand the feta, some quinoa, and of course my handful of sweet tomatoes. I stayed with my flavors for my vinaigrette: cumin, olive oil, honey, lemon, red wine vinegar and a pinch of chili.

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On one side of the kitchen, I plugged in the rice cooker and threw in the quinoa to cook while I prepped the rest of the salad. Halving the tomatoes and prepping the dressing. He was on the other side of the kitchen toasting enough cumin seed for mine and his recipes. I tossed my toasted seeds into the grinder while he reserved his to go into the mortal & pestle, along with about 6 other things. I did see dried lemon grass go in but I missed the rest (he’s famous for his spice blends). He rubbed the whole fish down with the blend after cutting small slits on the sides of each fish and then gave each a pan sear to crisp up the skin in the cast iron that had been anointed with a good glug of avocado oil. My quinoa tomato salad was composed long enough before the fish was done in order for me to change the baby and set up her seat at the table with us.

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Tonight was only her second time at the table in her own seat. (Her first being a few nights ago at a dinner party at Grammy’s house) We just began to use one of those seats that attaches the table. So, tonight was our first time at home seated all together at the table!!  She’s an exclusively breast fed 6 1/2 month old who is just beginning to dabble with foods, tonight she dined on homemade applesauce. The table was set with plates and the fish arrived on the table on a sheet tray. We flaked white chunks of flesh and crispy skin off of the fish with our fingers and never really used our plates except for the humble pile of quinoa that was studded with sweet tomato gems. There was a red snapper and a Bronzini. We exchanged opinions and comparisons about texture  and flavor of the two fish. I occasionally fed Goldie tiny little spoonfuls of applesauce while she scrunched up her nose and closed her eyes and Ian wiped her face. Each fish eventually had been picked clean and Ian grabbed the bowl of quinoa and suggested that we polish it off, since there was just a few spoonfuls left. every morsel that had been prepared was eaten and I was proud of my little salad I threw together. It stood out next to his glorious fish and was definitely not an afterthought.

Salad:

About 2 1/2 c cooked quinoa (3/4c pre cooked)

1 cup chopped tomatoes

4 oz feta

Dressing: combine all in jar, shake. Add dressing a little at a time, may not use it all.

6 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP red wine vin

1 tsp cumin

juice of half lemon

pinch chili flake

1 tsp honey

1 shallot diced

1/2 tsp dried garlic flake

s & p