Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Broccoli and Bow-Tie Pasta

According to Emilia, 'the people' came over to our house.  And broccoli with bow-ties was one of the things that we cooked up for them, which was really quite a hit.  Impressive, really, as half of 'the people' consisted of small children.  You never can tell what a child will do with broccoli, but since the recipe comes from the children's section of my cookbook, and as most of the kids come from parents who are of a particularly-hippie-disposition, shall we say (and everyone knows that hippie-kids eat their green veggies, right?), I figured we'd be on the safe side.  And we were, and I was right, and that's all I have to say about that.

Sadly, some of our friends have just packed up a U-Haul and are heading to Northern California.  (Jealous!)  And so because of that, a pile of us decided to get together and see them off.  Emilia had a grand ol' time.  She spent her time divided between two things: holding Torin's hand and running him around the house; and then chasing after him, exclaiming, 'But I just want to give you a hug goodbye!'  It was marvelous to watch, particularly since Torin loved to play with the girl, but wanted absolutely nothing to do with her little affectionate ways.  (Ah!  To be so young and to scorn the love of such a beauty!) 

Anyway, we've made this pasta a few times now, and I am happy to report that it is officially part of the ever-rotating repertoire.  It is incredibly fast and easy to make, very good for you, and so good you have to force yourself to stop eating it.  Oh, and as a quick side-note on the recipe -- the actual recipe calls for only half a pound of pasta.  That seems insane since it calls for eight cups of broccoli.  Don't get me wrong, I am a believer when it comes to broccoli and I never need convincing to have it.  But, do be reasonable.  So, instead, I have been using a whole pound, which it is much more manageable, I say.        

Broccoli & Bow-Tie Pasta
serves 6-8

8 cups broccoli florets (4 heads)
1 pound farfalle pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
zest of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli)
freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes and then remove with a slotted spoon.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In the same water, cook the pasta according to the package's instructions, usually around 11-12 minutes.  Drain well and then add the pasta to the broccoli.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and oil in a small pan.  Cook the garlic and lemon zest over medium-heat for a minute.  Turn off the heat and add 2 teaspoon salt, the pepper, and lemon juice.  Pour over the pasta-broccoli mixture.  Toss well.  Season to taste and then top with the toasted pine nuts and cheese, if using.  Serve.  (Recipe from: Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten.  Clarkson and Potter Publishing, 2002.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lavender Butter Cookies

It would appear that Miss Milia has turned into quite the sophisticate.  Yesterday when we were out and about, we decided to pop over to PinkaBella Cupcakes for a cupcake or two.  We each got to choose one.  I chose the vanilla cupcake with pink frosting and sprinkles on top (because that is their best one, don't you know), while Nearly-Three-Year-Old-Miss-Fancy-Pants opted for the salted caramel.  You know, dark chocolate cupcake with salted caramel buttercream?  That one.

She has also taken to asking for a cup of coffee with her breakfast.  'Can I have a cup of coffee, please?'  And she seems to find this quite hilarious.

And on top of that, the girl seems to think that she needs a beret.  I ordered a few things from the Olive Juice catalog late one night, and they finally came in the mail a few days ago.  Since then she has been pouring (or poring) over the catalog, claiming that she really really really likes that hat.  'Maybe we should order it, mama!  Because I reallyreally like it.'  And, alas, maybe we should.  Who am I to say?  At least it isn't glitter and all that diva crap that so many little girls seem to love.  (All in due time, I'm sure.  But then I'll really have to draw the line.  And/or stick a fork in my eye.  Oh, how I loathe that garbage.)

But there it is, sophisticated cupcakes and little frenchy-french hats on request.  I'm beginning to get upset by how quickly she is growing up.  Last night we went to the open house for the pre-school we are planning to send her to next fall.  We went on a nice little tour and everything -- and it was all I could do not to throw myself on the ground and revolt.  She, being one of the only kids who showed up for the event (as most others were home and getting ready for bed by likely better parents than we are, who have a tendency to drag the girl wherever we happen to be going, and never leave her with a baby-sitter -- ever), stood and played with a monkey-banana game for quite a while.  She seemed to be having a great time, too.  Once we said our goodbyes and thank-yous, and started walking back to the car, Michael said to her, 'Are you so excited to go to school?  You're such a big girl!'  To which she responded, 'Maybe I should wait til I get a little bit bigger.'  To which mama replied, 'Here, here!'  (Incidentally she also said that she thinks she likes going to the park better.  But she says that every week after Spanish class, too.  I don't believe her on that count, though.  How could she prefer the park to La Vaca Lola, I ask you?  And that is the reason why I keep signing her up for Spanish.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lemon Capri Torte and Meyer Lemon Curd

Egads, I can't stand January.  It is the dreariest and most dismal month that ever was.  And the longer it seems to drone on, and the greyer it seems to get outside, my longing for something (anything) citrus seems to mirror it*.  There is, after all, something very cheery and alive about a clementine or satsuma, is there not?  And Emilia loves to sit at the table and peel one in the morning.  She slowly removes every bit of peel and then breaks the orange in half.  She hands half of it to me, and then sits back, tucking into her own half, and chatting all the while.  ('Do you like pith, mama?'  The answer is no.  'Grandma Jo likes to eat the peel.  That's crazy!  I don't like to eat the peel.  Do you like to eat the peel, mama?'  The answer to this is not unless it comes from Fran's and is covered in chocolate.  Then I find it tolerable.)  See what I mean?  Cheery.

But my favorite citrus in all the world is the Meyer Lemon.  I still remember the first time I saw one.  It was in my favoritest** grocery store that ever was -- Zagara's, in Marlton, New Jersey.  And when we lived in Haddonfield, we would go there all the time.  (This is despite the fact that my mother-in-law claimed it was quite elitist of us, and that after Michael finished law school he was going to have to get two of those jobs, in order to pay for his wife's habit of fancy food things.  I still say that isn't the worst idea I've ever heard***.)  Anyway, no matter what time of day it was, Michael and I would go and get an enormous cup of Viennese Cinnamon coffee, some rugelach, and whatever else happened to be on our list that day.  In the winter months I gravitated to oranges and lemons, along with sundry other items.  (For example, these nasty raviolis filled with tofu.  Seriously, doesn't that sound revolting?  Oddly, they weren't half bad.) 

And so, we would load up on Meyer Lemons and, when they had them, these Sicilian blood oranges.  They were actually from Sicily, mind you, and half of them came wrapped up in papers with a picture of some Italian mamasita right across the front.  The flesh was the color of a raspberry and they were exquisite.

Cutting into a Meyer Lemon is one of the loveliest fragrances in the world.  It smells of lemon, with a just little bit of orange -- the scent is unmistakable and oh so wonderful.  It reminds me of my Grandma Aileen's backyard in California when I was a kid.  She had lemon trees scattered all around and we would ride our tricycles all around them, feeling pretty slick, no doubt.  Anyway, I digress.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

'My Tummy Hurt!'

It went like this:
After a long day of worrying about the car nearly breaking in half, the checking account virtually exploding, and family woes out the wazzoo, it turns out I've also got a sick little girl on top of it.  This morning when Emilia woke up, she kept telling me that her tummy hurt.  'My tummy hurt, mama!'  But apart from that, she appeared to be normal.  And as we sat down to breakfast (just plain toast with butter), I should have known.  When Emilia starts recounting all of the locations where she has thrown-up, it typically means that she is getting ready to do it again.  ('I throw up in New Jersey!  I throw up in Oregon!'  'Yes, and you've also thrown up in Maine, Washington DC, Las Vegas, California, Utah, and the whole of Washington State!')  She had one little bite of toast -- and thar she blows, as they say.  But after that, she seemed to feel great.

This is why I thought it would be fine to take her to the library to pick up our books that were on hold.  And nearly five minutes from the library, she says, 'my tummy hurt.  I don't feel good.'  Don't worry, she didn't throw up in the car, or the library, for that matter.  Even though I had to run her to the bathroom as fast as I could, because she was threatening to do so.  And she didn't throw up when we ran into QFC to get carrots for dinner.  And she didn't even throw up when we were home and I was trying to figure out some sort of non-hurling-inducing lunch for her.  Instead, she laid on the kitchen floor with her favorite blanket, sipping a grapefruit fizzy drink, and discussing the many merits of both Frosty and Rudolph.  Then she declared that pasta with butter and parmesan ought to be alright, and so we had that for lunch.

It was only after lunch, after she got a thermometer in the rear (oh, how I hate that job), and we read books and got her all snug in her bed for a nap.  That's when it happened.  All was quiet, I had just poured a cup of tea, got my box of See's out, and was heading toward the study when I heard it.  The poor girl was violently throwing up in her bed -- all over every scrap of bedding she had, her hair, her ears, and everything.  All but her stuffed friends, whom I managed to get out in the nick of time.  And so, I stripped her down, plonked her little self in the shower, scrubbed her down, lotioned her up, blew her hair dry, brushed her teeth, tossed her bedding in the washer, scrubbed her wall and carpet, put clean sheets on, convinced her that her other blankets, while not the most desirable, would in fact be just fine for nap-time, gave her a drink, and plonked her back in bed.  And apart from crying over her sodden blanket, she was fine. 

Why am I recounting this for you?  I'm not really sure.  But there it is, and now you know.     

Thursday, January 6, 2011

We Three Kings of Orient Are!

And so, a new tradition has been born!  And I must say that I am beyond pleased with ourselves because of it.  Yesterday, being the Eve of Epiphany, Emilia and I knocked ourselves out by making a (so very yummy) Galette des Rois.  Or rather, we made the vanilla pastry cream the day before, and then I caused an enormous racket in the kitchen finishing it yesterday, while she was supposed to be taking her nap.  (She just laid in her bed belting out Frosty the Snowman as loudly as she could.) 

Anyway, I look forward to making a lovely Galette des Rois all year.  I love it -- I love this sort of baking, and I love this sort of celebration.  Because like it or not, Epiphany belongs to the Church.  There is no bastardizing of it, and there is no forcing it to be secular.  There is no Santa and there is no Bunny.  There are just three rather dusty old men, who finally rolled into Bethlehem so that they might worship Jesus.

In addition to the marvelous Galette des Rois, we also decided to come bearing gifts, much in the manner of the three wise men.  And instead of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (these really serve no practical purpose, by today's standards -- well, apart from the gold anyway), we opted for other things.  Emilia got toy fruit and vegetables that she can cut and/or peel, which are really quite slick.  And I got the book The Bachelors, by the much adored Muriel Spark, and Michael got whisky stones and a jigger.  Not bad, not bad at all.  We talked about it a few weeks ago, and sort-of settled on the idea of doing small gifts under the categories of:  religious, a book, or something to do with drinks.  Emilia's gift doesn't really fit any of these categories, but it is stinking cute and more fun than the lame food that came with the kitchen that Santa brought.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year! (and a Sticky Persimmon Pudding)

And so, for your reading enjoyment, I will now supply you with a list -- a New Year's Resolutions kind of list. 

1.  Read David Copperfield
2.  Sew one thing a month, including that damn dress and new drapes for the study
3.  Make Coq au Vin (very well), trying Julia Child's recipe, Anthony Bourdain's recipe, Ginette Mathiot's, Joy of Cooking (if there is one is that book), and maybe Larrouse Gastronomique's, as well
4.  Read another country (either China or India) in the way that I read Africa last year 
5.  While I'm at it, read another book or two on Africa
6.  Man-up and go to confession, all proper-like -- no more sit-down sessions with a priest, unless I've got a serious doozy
7.  Take Emilia to the Space Needle
8.  Go somewhere -- Maine, Napa, London, Sevilla, Roma, Jackson, MS, or wherever, as I'm not really all that particular at this point
9.  Go for a visit (i.e. a roadtrip) to Utah, with a brief visit in Salmon, Idaho
10.  Less time on the computer screwing around and doing nothing
11.  Start mulling over the idea of researching and writing another paper/article
12.  Try a Side-Car and an Old-Fashioned
13.  Sing in church (for some reason I turn into a mute whenever there is singing in church)