Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pecan Buttermilk Muffins


To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. 
- Oscar Wilde 

Comfort Food. It's all I could think of today. I needed comfort food. I wasn't sad, I wasn't heartbroken. I wasn't even wistful, contemplating better worlds and future hopes. Nope…. I was exhausted. Two weeks solid, non-stop of helping my younger son organize his internship in Germany, find housing, figure out transportation, yadda yadda yadda, Marty recovering from his surgery and older son off in the wilds of Senegal, working and partying amid the threat of ebola (images of The Masque of the Red Death dance through my head although I know I am exaggerating), not to mention our own waiting for our own plans to fall into place (fingers crossed). I was simply and utterly worn out. But don't get me wrong: all is good.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fast and Fabulous French Bread


Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes 
and home-made bread - there may be. 
- David Grayson 

Even as I have warm, oven-fresh bread practically at my fingertips whenever I like, baked daily at the boulangerie a mere two-minute walk from my home, I still yearn to pull a homemade loaf from my own oven. I love the measuring of ingredients, the cups, the poofs of flour, the yeast fizzling and foaming in a few inches of warm water, the rhythmic movements of kneading, the graceful shaping into rounds, lengths or braids, carefully brushing each loaf with egg wash and dusting the tops with sesame seeds or coarse salt. I press my nose to the warm oven door and watch with bated breath as the loaves rise and color, waiting for the moment when the kitchen, my home is filled with the scent of fresh bread.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rum-Poached Plums and Mousse

SUMMER BARBECUE: A Progressive Dinner

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, 
listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, 
is by no means a waste of time. 
- John Lubbock, The Use Of Life 

Not much of a summer we've had. It's been cool if not downright chilly. Gray and lots of rain. We have enjoyed nary a picnic out in the vines nor many strolls along the river. I did spend an extremely hot few weeks in Florida, sweltering days, steamy evenings. We did fire up the grill on my brother's back porch for steaks and corn on the cob but it was tough simply hanging around the patio for long periods of time.; breathing became labored and sweat trickled down my back. Hot. Okay, so I'm not happy here and I'm not happy there. Because I miss the eating outside.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Polenta Bread


Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn. 
- Garrison Keillor 

I grew up with cornmeal, such an American thing, hushpuppies deep fried, dipped in powdered sugar and eaten with Florida fish and seafood dinners; cornbread dotted with hot green jalapenos or salty bacon, sliced and eaten at barbecue joints. Corn muffins with their faint sweetness, broken open, slathered with salty butter until it melts against the warm crumb becoming damp and moist, a deeper yellow. And we won't even mention the fresh corn on the cob all summer long, the bowls of cornflakes or the mountains of popcorn I must've eaten over the years. Let's stick to the glories of cornmeal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Visual Feast Chinon


Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door 
and a lost kingdom of peace. 
- Eugene O'Neill 

A stroll through the beautiful city of Chinon, and the fairytale of living in France returned and excited my esprit. One afternoon in this picturesque village with its swags of roses draped over gates and doorways, its quaint shopfronts and cobbled streets and I was once again enchanted. I forgot the daily grind of life, the drab, rainy summer we've had, the need to see my doctor that I keep putting off and trying to help one son find an internship and the worries of the other off in Africa and here I was, once again, in the beautiful, romantic France of every American girl's fairytale.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Golden Vanilla Layer Cake with Chocolate Mocha Frosting


A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way 
that everyone believes he has the biggest piece. 
- Ludwig Erhard 

My son is very particular about cake. Very. I often refer to him as persnickety and he is. When it comes to cake he requires a texture halfway between gooey and dry…. just moist without being too dense or creamy. Lightly fluffy is best. For flavor he goes for plain chocolate, not too sweet, not too bitter, just, well, right. And frosting, you ask? There is only one single frosting he will eat and happy for me it is simple as pie to make. Each time I ask him what he would like for me to bake his answer is invariably the same: "The double layer chocolate cake. You know that is the only one I'll eat!" Cue in eye roll.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Plum and Wild Blueberry Fruit Crisp


They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. 
- Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol 

We've been going over the accounts, income and expenses, with a fine-tooth comb for the last three days, coming at each budget spreadsheet from every direction. Again and again. It had all better be right! Luckily our minds work in different ways, come at this from two different directions thus we see different things, catch errors, ask new questions, highlight what the other doesn't making the outcome surer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cool Summer Shrimp and Grilled Peach Quinoa Salad

SUMMER IN THE SOUTH: A Progressive Dinner 

Appreciation is a wonderful thing; 
it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. 
- Voltaire 

I'm a Southern Girl. Oh, I'm no Georgia Peach and my brand of South isn't the cornbread and biscuits, fried chicken and yams, collard greens and black-eyed peas South, ya'll. I grew up in Florida along the dunes and waves of Cocoa Beach and in the shadow of the rockets of NASA. My South is flavored by the tropical fruits and citrus that grow in the lush and savage flora along the Indian and Banana Rivers, the seafood fished in those rivers and in the ocean, coming in through the ports of Titusville. My Southern cuisine is shrimp, crab legs and catfish, steamed or fried, the mangoes and avocados, oranges and grapefruit, peaches and watermelon indigenous to the area, most eaten as is, fresh from the tree, rather than being elaborated in a dish. Cool respite from the sweltering heat of the Florida summer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Panmarino becomes Italian Chive Bread


Chester chooses chestnuts, 
cheddar cheese with chewy chives. 
He chews them and he chooses them. 
He chooses them and he chews them. . . . . .
those chestnuts, cheddar cheese 
and chives in cheery, charming chunks. 
- Singin' in the Rain 

I never know when something will please my son and when something won't. Homebaked, homemade goods fill him with dread and suspicion, and he jumps to the conclusion that there is something odd and horrid hidden within. Tiny flecks of green or orange convince him that I have secreted vegetables, something healthy, into a cake or bread, any red meat in a stew means fat that must be dissected away, chunks mean the dreaded mushroom. Even a plain chocolate cake if not THE chocolate cake he loves fills him with mistrust, questioning my baking integrity, assuming that I am trying to pull the wool over his eyes and trick him into eating something… weird.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Best, Old Fashioned Cherry Blueberry Cobbler


Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been 
the two most beautiful words in the English language. 
- Henry James 

Not much to do these steamy Florida afternoons. Locked in the house but to dash from inside to out to car to shops. Even inside with the sometime chill of the air conditioning when it is working one feels a summer sloth, hot and tired, too lazy to cook or bake. Infused with summer vacation. I keep mom entertained, drive her from errand to errand, and every afternoon we head to brother and sister's-in-law for a meal, talk and movie night.


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