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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Yoohoo/Mocha Frappuccino Panna Cotta


Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to. 
- John Ed Pearce 

The first morning, my mother and I sat in her kitchen cleaning out the cabinets as we awaited news of my wayward suitcase, which chose to remain in Paris as I flew off to Florida. First thing emptied was her large, state-of-the-art oven whose existence has been relegated to storage rather than baking. I pulled out box after box of cookies, candy bars, overly-sweetened, chocolate-studded treats trying to pass for granola bars, sweetened oatmeal and more cookies. I yanked open the tall pantry cupboard and unloaded can after can, many expired, of baked beans, tuna, soups and corn and stacked them on the counter. Out came more boxes of cookies, granola bars, cookies, sweet cereals and, yes, cookies. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Peanut Butter on Toast


Gone — flitted away, 
Taken the stars from the night and the sun 
From the day! 
Gone, and a cloud in my heart. 
- Alfred Tennyson 

I've been eating peanut butter on toast, lunch and dinner, for the past two days. To be more precise, peanut butter on baguette, fresh or toasted, but that's just semantics. Fastidious. Under the circumstances. I've been eating a lot of peanut butter on toast. Peanut butter on toast is my ultimate comfort food. I eat it when I am sick and I eat it when I am sad. I woke up Tuesday morning, logged onto Facebook, as is my habit first thing after coffee, and discovered the death of a friend. A man just a year older than I, killed in an automobile accident in Orlando, Florida.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Lamb Curry with Fresh Peas


You will never get out of pot or pan anything fundamentally better than what went into it. 
Cooking is not alchemy; there is no magic in the pot. 
- Martha McCulloch-Williams, Dishes & Beverages of The Old South, 1913

Supermarkets are rather a newfangled affair in France, having come to fruition, caught on and spread like wildfire sometime during the 1990's, during our stay in Italy, when we were out of the country, surprising us upon our return. My husband, like all Frenchmen and women of his generation, like the generations before them, grew up shopping at the market and small artisan shops, the butcher, the baker, the cheese and the fishmonger, the mom-and-pop corner shop for dry goods. They were not ready for the supermarket explosion.


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