Archive for the ‘occasion’ category


November 25, 2010

In my summer kitchen, austerity and hedonism are the same thing. At the height of the season, when I’m hauling in buckets of beans and squash every morning, I sometimes find it difficult to get excited about the idea of eating them. But then later, when they’re on the plate, I am always amazed at my good fortune.

 There was a time I reveled in complex recipes and exotic ingredients, but my summers of rigorous seasonality and simplicity have definitely influenced my city kitchen. Part of it is a growing disgust with our industrial food system (though I don’t think I’ll ever give up avocados). It’s also a little bit habit, a little bit laziness, a little bit thrift. And, what can I say, I like to eat things that taste of themselves.

It was only as I prepared my contributions to today’s feast that I realized the extent to which big, complicated preparations have fallen out of my active repertory. And while there are plenty of reasons to make a habit of eating simply, there is something to be said for making an effort to mark an occasion. For baking the cornbread—from scratch—a day ahead so it has time to get stale. For starting a recipe with two sticks of butter. For supplementing the onions, herbs and carrots from the farmstand with chestnuts from France and figs from Greece. In the summer, I have the luxury of living off of vegetables I knew from the time they were seedlings. In the city, I have… well, everything else. So why not celebrate that?

Among my other contributions will be a heap of roasted vegetables from the farmer’s market. It is impossible to say whether I prefer this dish—one more typical of how I eat regularly—to the rich stuffing. It’s also irrelevant. Sometimes nourishment comes as much from the preparation as the consumption. How glad I am to be able to mark this day in this way—by making an effort, by serving up my love for my friends in edible form.


first shell beans

September 4, 2009

I don’t know if garden hygiene is more of problem this year, what with all the damp, or whether I’m just more alert to it. In any case, last week I walked out and saw one of my cranberry bean plants beginning to collapse upon itself, so I pulled it up immediately.

Shell beans are a blessing for the gardener who wants to extend her home-grown eating over the long, cold winter. Not only are they delicious and versatile, they require almost no processing. Thus, it feels a bit like cheating your own future to eat them in full summer, before they’ve had a chance to dry out.  Best to make the most of it!

The beans made one layer on the bottom of my saucepan. I poured in enough olive oil to just cover them, then added a splash of white wine. Also three large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped. And laid a few branches of thyme on top. Then I covered the pot, turned the burner to the lowest heat possible, and left them for a little over an hour. I think of it as sort of a bean confit.

While the beans cooked, naturally, I made bread. Because I was not just having a bowl of beans for dinner, I was having a bowl of beans and olive oil, and an appropriate vehicle was needed to convey that delicious shiny stuff to my mouth.

This super-rich bean preparation cries out for a hit of lemon zest & juice before serving, but I didn’t have a lemon. I did, however, have a handful of cherry tomatoes. I placed them on top of the beans, rolled them about so they were covered all over with the now unbearably fragrant oil, then replaced the lid and let them soften. All in all, I probably let them sweat for about half an hour, occasionally rolling them so that a different surface sat in the oil. They promised to be delicious, but not particularly effective at cutting the richness. A handful of peppery old arugula solved that problem just fine.000_0882

mid-august menu

August 27, 2009

000_0871soft lettuces with nasturtium flowers and mustardy vinaigrette

roasted beets with lemon thyme, green beans and toasted walnuts

grilled scallop squash with basil, lemon zest and yellow cherry tomatoes

grilled pork chops

cheese, bread, berries

harvest party for one

July 16, 2009