Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Antidote to Flying the Friendly Skies

Over the past six weeks I've traveled three times for work. Here's how it went:
Early May, Sales Conference in Florida:
Flight out fine. Sales conference went well. Flight home delayed, then cancelled. Arrival time of 1:00 p.m. turns into 8:00 p.m., including a flight past city of destination, and then a separate flight to double back to city of destination.

Mid-June, One Day Trip on Friday for Half-Day Meeting in Hoboken:
Flight out fine. Meeting went well; we all felt great about the outcome. Flight home delayed significantly, meaning that I would miss my connecting flight. No means for getting home that evening. I stayed in a Newark Airport Marriott, fell asleep watching a series of City in Terror documentaries of killers like Andrew Cunanan and BTK. Saturday morning put on same clothes from Friday, took 1:00 flight home to get home at 3:00 p.m. Entire Saturday morning's worth of plans with the boys shot to Blazes.

This week, One Day Trip on Wednesday for Some Meetings in Hoboken:
Flight out fine. Meetings went well. At airport, learn that flight back, along with almost all flights that night, cancelled. Stood in line for an hour and a half to get the quickest flight home, which was the next day at 3:00. Booked a hotel in Manhattan. Went to Macy's on 34th, which was feeling less than miraculous, to get clean clothes and pajamas. Also bought basic toiletries. Flight back delayed about an hour (on the tarmac), but I was grateful for this efficiency, as colleagues flying from a different NY-based airport sat on the tarmac that same night for three and a half hours.

On flight out, purse was searched, as the thermometer I'd bought a couple days ago appeared to be a cigarette lighter on the x-ray screen. The security advisor searched my purse, pulling from it the offending thermometer, a Luna bar, a stack of Lego's, a half-knit sock, and a crochet hook we used in a photo shoot a few weeks ago. Note to self to edit purse contents before flying again.

As a balm to my battered, travel-weary soul, I took M and T to our ritualistic Saturday stomping grounds, the local farmer's market. It was time to stock up for the week on greens and meat and whatever else was in season. Today the market and its local vendors, still-alive produce, and happy smiling Labradors seemed more magical and comforting than normal, having just suffered through a three-for-three bad airline experience.
In all, we:

* Got some fair-trade, shade-grown coffee from local vendor Hubbard & Cravens. T was ogling the ice, so the woman at the stand gave him a cup of ice in a coffee cup that he carried around the market, Yankees cap pulled down, looking like he was getting his first jolt of caffeine to meet the morning.

* Picked up some radishes from a local organic family farm. The radishes were tiny enough that I was advised to slice them thinly and put them on a salad; at that size they don't require cooking. Who knew? Lunch eagerly awaits...

* Checked off Phil's list of meat requirements -- New York Strip (I got crazy and bought tri-tip roast instead) and pork chops -- at the Royer Farm booth.

* Selected a tote bag's worth of salad fixings from Field's Farm.

* Got M a chocolate croissant from local vendor Scholar's Inn Bakehouse. He ate about half and decided he'd had plenty. Resisted the urge to rip said croissant from his hands, eat it whole, and lick any errant chocolate from his fingers. How I do love a good chocolate croissant.

* Said Hi to my friend Carla, who was buying what appeared to be a garbage-bag full of mixed greens for the week. Tried some of the mustard greens in her bag. The spicy bite is pretty interesting.

While I haven't been cooking much lately, my friend Katie just discovered the farmer's market last weekend and sent along the improvised recipe for a stew she made from local meats and vegetables. The weekend was rainy and drab, and the comforting stew would have hit the spot. Because today is sunny and gorgeous, I'm tucking away the recipe for the next overcast, grey day that requires comfort eating. Or the next time I have to fly.

Katie's Farmer's Market Stew

About a pound of sausage: lamb, pork, whatever you like
Three big tomatoes, cut into wedges
A few handfuls of green beans
A small bunch of chopped fresh oregano
A couple pinches of red pepper flakes
Boiled potatoes
To make the stew, Katie browned the sausage, and then added in the tomatoes. She cooked this down until it was "good and saucy." Then she threw in a the green beans, oregano, and red pepper flakes. When the beans turned bright green, she served it over boiled potatoes.
Next time I get home from another trip-gone-wrong, I'm whipping up a batch of this stew, plugging in The Thin Man, and detoxing.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rhubarb Redux!

First, if you were waiting with baited breath to find out which book Teresa chose, it was Two Fat Ladies Ride Again, full of all the deep fried, cream-topped, butter-melting Two Fat Ladies goodness. God rest Jennifer Patterson's soul; she's still missed.

Matt's comment about how much he didn't appreciate the rhubarb he had when he had it, and how it's now precious because he doesn't have access to this lowly fruit made me think differently about this lowly fruit. I decided to get and eat every stalk possible--raising a fork toward Matt's international direction while doing it.

With my parents in town to drop off a tired but exuberant M, and Phil's parents coming over for dinner, I made a quick rhubarb sauce to go with the chicken thighs Phil grilled. Like the rhubarb jam, this is delicious but incredibly easy and perfect for the very lazy in the kitchen. I threw in a few apples we had that on hand that were close to turning, and the whole thing made a nice foil for the spicy chicken. Here's how.

Rhubarb Sauce for the Very Lazy

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup water
About 4 cups one-inch segments of rhubarb
3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks

Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add the rhubarb and apples, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Take the lid off and let it bubble a bit more until it's slightly less thick than you want. (It'll thicken as it cools.) Eat it warm, cold, or at room temperature.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

The Incredible Edible Local Egg

This is very exciting. Tonight I pick up my first dozen eggs in a local egg co-op from the Brown Family Farm. Here's how it works: I determine how many dozen eggs I want every two weeks. For us, for now, that's a dozen. Then every other week I go pick up my eggs after work. They're grown from chickens who roam freely, squawk at each other, and lay eggs at their leisure. If you haven't eaten fresh farm eggs, the yolks are such a bright sunny yellow they can seem alarming, and the taste is lovely and fresh.

This is my third attempt at making a pick-up, which was exacerbated by late work nights and a friend and fellow co-opper who was picking up for me not being able to make it. But third time's a charm, and tonight the connection will be made.

This now means that, come the late summer/early fall pick-up of bulk meat and chicken from Royer Farm, our chicken, beef, and eggs will all be farmed locally and come from animals who were treated humanely. Slowly, we're making food choices that leave less of a carbon footprint, enable us to have a connection to the food source, and don't involve inhumane living conditions for the animals.

If you haven't seen the July 2007 issue of Gourmet, check it out. This month's theme is sustainability and conscious eating. In Ruth Reichl's letter from the editor, she writes, "At this moment, ethical eating may be a mere whisper in our national conversation, but it is getting louder by the day." It's exciting to see that eating locally, seasonally, and ethically isn't a kooky trend from the unshaven guy in ragg socks and Birkenstocks who harangues you in the supermarket line; it's becoming mainstream and is attainable for all of us. One dozen eggs at a time.

Tomorrow I go to our local farmer's market for the first time in four weeks. I've nearly had the shakes from this long absence, which was due to a visit to Michigan, a book convention in NY, and getting stuck overnight unexpectedly at Newark Airport, which I swear I will never fly into again because I always get stuck at Newark. I have a list of about 20 things I "need" from the market. Report tomorrow. Over and out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Little Victories

The other day M was watching The Iron Giant. If you're unfamiliar with this cartoon, it's a lovely story of a boy in the 1950s who makes friends with a huge, misunderstood robot. Really, it's better than I just described. The film is based on a short story by the late Ted Hughes, former Poet Laureate of England and the estranged ex-husband of Sylvia Plath whose dalliances purportedly drove her to her untimely death.
So in the film there's a part where Hogarth, the main character, is squooshing spray whipped cream into a Twinkie. And M said, "What's he doing?" And I replied, "Adding even more whipped cream to a Twinkie." And M said, "What's a Twinkie?"
In other little victories, Teresa was the first to respond with the name of the sportcaster who would yell "Rhubarb!" (Red Barber, if you didn't know.) She's currently thinking through her cookbook options. Will it be Two Fat Ladies Ride Again? Welcome to Junior's? Stay tuned!

Friday, June 08, 2007


Choice of free cookbook (I'll send you a list to choose from, and even ship it) to the first person who e-mails me (cindy_kitchel AT with the name of the sportscaster who used this phrase when excited by a play.

Last summer my parents brought us about 12 rhubarb plants. A few didn't make it, but several did, and this year I got my first harvest. A small one, but enough to make some marmalade and a pending crisp.

My mom, however, has been overtaken by their plants. I'm packing up the boys this weekend to head to Michigan where they'll have a lovefest with my brother's two boys. If you've ever been around four boys, ages 10 to 2, running, sweating, laughing, and getting grubby, you know that it's a nice little break. My mom and I have plans to set them all loose, putting out sandwiches and juice every now and again, and otherwise get to work on that rhubarb.

Which means I'm pulling out my 1962 Home and Garden, lazy recipe for making rhubarb marmalade. My guess is that this was whipped up in between shaking martinis, gabbing with the neighbors, and checking out Jackie O's latest pillbox hat. The steps are super simple, and there's hours between them, so it's very low pressure. The finished marmalade is unbelievably good melting on a hot English muffin or some good hearty bread. Even if you've never "put up," as they say, jams, you can do this. It's a great way to learn how to can without dealing with all the mucky-muck of a complex recipe.

Rhubarb Marmalade for the Very Lazy

2 pounds, chopped into 1-inch pieces (this equals about six cups)
Grated rind of 2 lemons
4 cups of sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Put on your frilly apron and take a sip of your martini. Now, in a non-reactive bowl, mix the rhubarb, lemon rind, and sugar. Stir it around really good. Go back to your martini. Have a pitcher. You're done with the marmalade for the evening.

In the morning, sterilize about six 8-ounce canning jars, lids, and rings. You'll probably only need five, but it's better to have more than you need than less. If you've never done this before, see the notes below.

Now, as you're finishing your third cup of coffee, pour the marmalade, which will now be pretty wet and oozy, into a pot. Over medium-high heat, bring the marmalade to a low boil and cook it until it thickens up a bit. This will take maybe 10 minutes. As it's cooking, you need to stir it constantly (I use a wooden spoon so it doesn't get hot), but you can easily do this absent-mindedly with one hand while using the other to hold a novel.

When the marmalade seems to have thickened up, carefully spoon it into prepared jars, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace (in other words, fill it to about 1/2 inch from the top of the jar). Put a lid on the jar, screw on the band, and flip the jar over. Because the marmalade was boiling hot when you added it to the jar, you don't need to worry with water baths and canners and such. Just flip the jar over. Do this with all the jars until the marmalade is gone.

In about 10 minutes, flip the jars back upright. Over the next 30 or so minutes you'll hear little *ping!* sounds as the dome lids pop down and the jars seal themselves. If any lids don't pop down and seal, just refrigerate the offending jars and use those first. The rest can go in the pantry and won't need to be refrigerated until you open them.

A couple notes:
  • My friend Kitty and I, many years ago, made a killer Rhubarb-Lime-Ginger Marmalade. Did we write down the recipe? No, we did not (she says, shaking her fist at the heavens). But you could add some fresh grated ginger and use limes instead of lemons and taste periodically during the cooking to see if you like the taste. The three tastes together were something else: comforting and fresh and tart.
  • To sterilize the jars, wash them thoroughly and them boil them in water for about five minutes or, alternatively, run them through the dishwasher. I know people who have not sterilized jars and lived to tell the tale, but I'm quite a freak about the idea of any kind of food poisoning, so I always sterilize the jars -- especially if I'm using the flip-over method for sealing the jars.
  • To sterilize the lids, either boil them in a little pan of water for a few minutes. As an alternative, microwave some water in a glass container until the water starts to boil, and then take the glass container out anddrop the lids into the water for a few minutes.
  • If you're just not that into the idea of canning, just make a half batch and put it into the fridge immediately.
  • If you'd like to learn more about canning, check out this site: I learned to can maybe ten years ago (I was making some pumpkin butter when I heard about Princess Diana's death, if that dates it). The first time was intimidating, and after that, I was hooked.