Sunday, September 30, 2007

Be Seduced by Food

Americans may be getting fat because we are seeking satisfaction in all the wrong places. McDonalds is a one night stand of taste. Quick and perfectly forgettable.

On the other hand, when you look at how you eat as part of how you relate to the world, you have the opportunity to develop a satisfying relationship that is healthy and sustaining. Inspiring even.

Roasting the lemons prior to using them in a marinade takes the acidic edge off the citrus. There are good commercial marinades on the market- but taking time to blend and precook the fruit and use herbs fresh from the garden in the virgin olive oil resulted in a flavor that is layered and subtle: most intriguing. When you close your eyes to take that first bite and the moment is suspended in satisfaction- you have been seduced in to the world of understanding that food can nourish the soul as well as feed the body.

The only other time I remember the chicken being as moist and tender was when I baked a pair of chickens in a kosher salt meringue. The boys took one look at the salt-entombed chickens and were certain their mom had gone off the deep end. Insisted I take the first bite. When I didn’t choke- they got out their forks and learned something about the magic of imagination and keeping an open mind.

Flavored Oils and Vinegars by Michael Chiarello is the book that inspired the chicken marinade. Michael’s cooking style is quite intuitive. Many of his recipes aren’t meant to be followed, they are meant to be played with. Buy it. Use it. Have fun with it.

Second Helpings from Union Square Café by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano is the source for the Salt Baked Chicken recipe.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

When Time Stands Still

There are moments in our lives when time stands still. Moments of such intensity that the picture in the mind cannot be erased.

We remember where we were when there are events of historical importance. I was watching television with JoAnn Turovsky in her parents' family room when the news came in that JFK was shot.

We remember moments that are out of the ordinary. I remember the first time I heard Mick Jagger sing "Satisfaction". It was on my first trip to the Grand Canyon, around Prescott. My very staunchly conservative father turned the radio up full blast, and we all sang along, even my father.

And I remember the day the original OJ verdict came in. I was wearing a red tunic T shirt, dividing the salmon daylily in this picture.I don't remember the species name, just that they were a dormant thatch. A couple bulbs of them had been my first catalog mail order purchase. Half a decade later they fatly filled this narrow border just below the vegetable path.

My garden fork and spade were pitched in to the earth when the acquittal came over the radio. I was stunned.

Fast forward to this month. On the same day the book on OJ and the murder, "If I Did It" was published, out came the news that OJ was under suspicion for armed robbery in Las Vegas. He repsonded to the charge "If I did it..."

I gaze at the same border now. It is apparent that while little changed about the hubris of the former athlete, this little piece of Eden had evolved and improved. The daylily now has good company in the pink carpet roses and two types of purple verbena. On the long stems of the verbena bonarensis, little birds perch and sway in the breeze.Bunches of lavender call in the bees.

The still lifes we look back on in our memories are history. But life moves on. Gardens live. Give companionship to what grows in your garden now. By adding diversity and abundance we create the opportunity for a future masterpiece.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Summer turns to Autumn

The world is very small. I know Sue Maxwell even though she lives in an other state. Our mutual friend, Trisha, thought we would enjoy each other's writing. I was so moved by how she described this time of year, I asked her permission to publish her link, and she gave it. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND pasting this address into the address line of your browser.

Sue moved from Temple City to Rogue River, Oregon just about 10 years ago when her husband and she retired from the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department.

For about 10 years, until Sue's husband, Jerry, passed away, they enjoyed living together on their 20 acres filled with wildlife. A partial list of God's creatures who have graced this Eden include deer, elk, possums, skunks, bears, cougars,and many, many birds, including owls, vultures, hawks, finches, towhees, hummingbirds.

Sue writes about the view from her front porch on page 2, and she invites you to be her guest on the site she maintains on the web. On the first page is a short tribute to her partner of 33 years. Sue misses that terrific and interesting man. But she keeps connected with my family and friends.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Expiration on Passion

“There’s no expiration date on passion.”
Paula Panich carved those words in to my writer’s soul. They are found in her inspiring instruction book, “Cultivating Words: The Guide to Writing about the Plants and Gardens You Love”. My copy of that little blue paperback is dog-eared, highlighted and underlined. Great truth is often simple, its boundaries reaching outward from the subject it addresses. While her book is ostensibly about garden writing, it is a wonderful guide for anyone interested in cultivating or harvesting the bounty of words.
When I learned that Paula would be teaching a class on writing the Getty Garden, even though a weekday getting across the Los Angeles Basin may take longer than a flight to San Francisco, it was a double opportunity. It was a chance to develop my craft as a writer. And it was a chance to see this controversial garden through the eyes of someone who loves it with passion.
If I spent three hours driving the freeway to maybe arrive before the class started, the chances of being fresh, receptive and creative were not likely. Since being armed with the proper attitude is important to the learning process, I called Patty Gee, travel agent extraordinaire. She booked an overnight stay the night before at the safe and sane Hotel Angelino. Now, the morning of the class, the alarm might not go off, the traffic could be insane: I would still be on time. This decision created a bonus opportunity to leisurely take in the Big City as is was crossed.
My sons are both college graduates. By the time they were in elementary school, I remember reading about The Cook’s Library and wanting to go. This isn’t part of the county library system. The Cook’s Library is a store front bookstore dedicated to cooking and to those who are passionate about what is brought to table. But in two decades there never seemed to be time when I rushed home from whatever called me to that part of the city. My mistake. Packed with books stacked floor to ceiling, nooks and crannies: this charming shop should be a pilgrimage for anyone interested in the culinary arts.
The smell of yeast rising to me is primal. The feel of the dough becoming alive as it is kneaded is sensual. The sight of fresh loaves on a tray laden with fruit suspends time. And the touch to the tongue of bread freshly broken open, the steam melting butter to its silky best, is proof that heaven on earth is achievable. And this little nirvana is available to everyone with no distinction of class, race or ethnicity. It can be had for the cost of a loaf of homemade bread.
Last summer I took a class on baking bread. But I did not find a book that tempted my hunger to bring home to use as guide to bake bread. Not until I walked in to The Cook’s Library. There, in this charming bookstore are yards of bookshelves filled with volumes on baking. All proficiencies and areas of interest are represented.
Better than the internet or big box bookstore, the help is passionate about food and beverage. It is their calling to help those of us who want to drink in the knowledge of the printed word. Alan Zumel and Tim Fischer (pictured above left to right)asked a few questions to help discern my individual desire in a book, then they narrowed my search far better than I would have on my own. They led me to “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”.
Now, over the coming months I will practice my belief that books are like faith, best when used.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Spritz the Garden When it is This Hot

Sunday, in the time it took to clip a bouquet of basil from the herb garden and walk it back to the kitchen, it was already wilting.
On days when the heat is oppressive, it is nice to spritz anything green in the garden. My lawn likes beer. It can be leftover, flat from the can or still fizzy and cold. No beer? Ice tea will also refresh and pick up anything green.
Below is my favorite hose end sprayer. It doesn't clog nearly so easily as any other brand or type I've used.

Ace - Ortho® Tree & Shrub Spray-Ette (0833810)

Ice tea and beer is so mild- I don't worry about the dilution rate. Just pour in the container, fill it with water, and spray away!