Monthly Archives: March 2011

STAYING CLOSE

A recent post from For Me, For You almost made me lose it. When do you know if a place is your home? How do you know? In the last two years alone, I’ve lived in Ithaca, Portland, San Diego, and Montreal. The first three places all felt like home to me. Montreal, I don’t know. I don’t know if it feels like home to me yet. But will it soon? And how will I know? What makes a place “home”, anyway?

I just returned from four blissful days in Ithaca. It is the town where I became an adult, it is the town where I started my life as a writer, my life that I wanted to have, that I chose to have. It is the town where I fell in love for the first time, where I discovered cooking, where I adopted Joni. It was the town where I got my first real job, where I learned how to ride a bike, where I learned how to live alone. Even though it felt so deeply good to be back in Ithaca this past weekend, it’s not my home anymore.

What is home? For me, home is where I feel at peace. Where I feel complete and whole. Where my heart feels content and happy, even though my life — like anyone else’s — is often pierced with confusion and uncertainty. But after only half a year in Portland — and plenty of murky ambiguity — I knew unequivocally that it was my home. After (almost!) the same amount of time here, I feel less sure. Part of it is a new city, in a new country, with a foreign language; part of it is lack of family, lack of hearts that sing straight into mine. I know these things take time; I wonder how long I should wait.

That’s enough overshare for now. But tell me: What is home? When will we feel at rest? I’ve posted this before, but it bears repeating, as a mantra, or a reminder, or a prayer:

Truly, truly you couldn’t speak of discovery of the unknown unless you were unknowing. You have to make a room inside your own ego for what you don’t yet understand, and hold open the possibility that this is what you’re actually looking for. And that then becomes a very personal matter rather than a universal one, because you can’t account for what other people don’t know. But you can acknowledge inside yourself those things which you did not perceive until the encounter forced you into a recognition. You cannot keep score of that for anyone else, but you can acknowledge transformation of your own perception by experience. When you find something about yourself, you don’t throw it away, it’s a treasure. It’s symbolically very important because it acknowledges a transformation in yourself.

ELIZABETH SCHNEIDER ‘UNCOMMON FRUITS + VEGETABLES’

My boyfriend recently surprised me with a copy of Elizabeth Schneider’s indispensable tome Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables. We have a bit of history with this book, though we never actually owned a copy. I first saw it at Chino Farms, where the ladies who worked there provided me with a battered copy to browse while I wondered what to do with the cardoon I was holding in my hand. (Schneider recommends a bit of an oven braise with some white wine and a dusting of grated Parmesan, and it is a delicious, light dish).

It’s just as wonderful as I remember it, full of gorgeous writing, delicate drawings and lovely recipes.

A MAINE ROMP

Wish I could correct the lack of posts lately — but truly, I haven’t had a single extended moment to myself since we landed in Portland, Maine earlier this week. This city, it is nothing like how I remember it as a child summering in Maine. It has transformed, and it is astonishing to see. Everywhere you look, world-class restaurants and bakeries and patisseries and chocolatiers, all jammed up against each other. Gourmet markets and organic farms and wine stores and fishmongers. Our time here is limited, so I’m (stupidly) trying to squeeze in as much as possible by scheduling back to back meals — as in, one five-course dinner, followed by another five-course meal. I know. Digestive paralysis, bodily suicide!

For this article that I’m researching, I’ve met with so many warm and wonderful Maine bakers for an article that I’m researching. There will definitely be an entire slew of posts devoted to this mind-bending trip, and I can’t wait to share some of my stories. After a year spent in Portland, Oregon, I was sure I knew which was the superior Portland. Now — not so sure.

RICE VENTURES

[Broiled marlin with leeks in white wine; sauteed mushrooms with basil salad; black rice with lime juice and black pepper]

My boyfriend recently brought home a gorgeous pink filet of fresh marlin, and while we wondered how we were going to cook it, I rooted through our pantry to find a proper grain. Not quite desiring our usual staples — quinoa, couscous, pasta, or even some fresh bread — I fished out a dusty glass jar filled with black grains of rice.

What the hell is this?” I asked.

I grew up eating Chinese-style rice — white Jasmine rice, steamed until fluffy — and the kind of hippie-friendly, expensive wild rices that you see in every health food store today were completely foreign to me as a kid. Later, as I grew older, I discovered that rice could, in fact, be enjoyed in a million different ways. (At the moment, my favorite way to eat rice is like this).

This black Ontario rice was a piece of cake to make because it simmered with the top off, and with constant stirring, so there was no potential for sticking or burning. The finished grains emerged glossy, firm, and with a pleasant, nutty hardness in the mouth. The rice was even better the next day, so I stir-fried it with some kale, lemon, hot sauce, and cracked black pepper.

What’s your favorite unusual rice grain? I want to try them all now!

PESTO DREGS

Possessed with an intense desire to eat spoonfuls of my summer pesto, I peered into the freezer to pull out a jar of my summer reserves, only to see that it was the last jar. Always a sad moment for any home cook, but I’m heartened by the fact that in only a few weeks I’ll be able to make bountiful amounts of spring pesto with peas, wild ramps, and garlic scapes. I tossed this basil pesto with some hand-torn pasta, baby peas, haricot verts, smoked salmon, and shallots, and loosened up the sauce with a tablespoon of homemade chicken stock. Not the most photogenic of dishes, but delicious, and took about 15 minutes from opening a bag of pasta to sitting down and eating it.

THE TAROT WILL TEACH YOU HOW TO CREATE A SOUL

The event isn’t for a few more weeks, but I couldn’t wait any longer to share this rad news. I was commissioned to write a story about having my tarot cards read by Alejandro Jodorowsky — yes, that Jodorowsky. One of the many reasons why I love being a writer. I have no idea what to expect, only that it will be insane.

[images via the best time of the day]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXg1RaaMKho]

2 POINTS

More palms, by California-based Italian sculptor Benny Bufano. [Via an ambitious project collapsing]

And a witchy ring that I would actually wear every day. It uses my three favorite materials: lapis, opal (my birthstone!), and gold. [via Erie Basin]

JOE BEEF + FLEISHER’S + ME: A HEAVENLY MATCH

And that was the face I made when Vanya brought out that sublime St. Honoré cake you see above. “Please, please, please no more!” Reflecting upon the stupendous meal the next day — through the purple haze of one brutal wine-hangover — I decided that I probably ate enough food for four people. At least. Maybe five. But oh, was it worth it.

For a full rundown of our epic Fleisher’s hosted feast, read my full article in Serious Eats here. What a special evening that was.

[All photos courtesy of the lovely Pilar Benitez]

ON CELEBRATION

Recentlywe  had something really wonderful to celebrate, so I knew it was time for roast chicken (I have a hard time waiting longer than a few weeks for roast chicken, anyway). This bird was extra special: we tucked truffle slivers, alongside the usual fresh sage, into tight pockets of skin, a handy trick we had picked up  from a friend. The roasting smell as the truffles were marrying the chicken was indescribable. Truffles. After I pulled the bird out of the oven, smoking and sizzling, we dressed it with even more truffles. Served with two of my favorite sides — roasted purple potatoes and carrots, and kale with lemon and garlic — and one of my all-time favorite roast chicken wines, a juicy 2001 Joseph Roty bourgogne.

EMPTY SPACES

The huge white space over the sofa in my office is bugging me. I want to hang something over it, but what? The space is so big!