I’ve been back from my trip East for a couple of weeks now and think I’ve finally caught up with sleep and processed all my memories along with the more than 500 photos I took. It’s a relaxing task to process photos after a trip and I find myself grinning like a sap as I work, time passing much more quickly than I’d like. Laundry, dishes, and other chores are waiting, but to be so engrossed in a task that little else interferes with is a good thing — something that confirms I enjoy what I’m doing. It helps when the photos I’m processing are of good things as well: lovely places, good times with people I care about, and great food, of course.
Quite some time ago, I came across a recipe in a magazine that I didn’t subscribe to but magically ended up in my mailbox each month, addressed to me. It didn’t take long to realize the publication’s advertisements outweighed its content, but a two page piece featuring a local chef caught my eye as did his recipe for honey ricotta ice cream. I’m more in the chocolate camp when it comes to ice cream, but once in a great while, a lighter flavor will temp me. Rarely, if ever, will it be plain vanilla, however. Sweet cream? Yes. Cream cheese? Definitely. It made sense that ricotta and honey would appeal to me, so I tore out the recipe and recycled the magazine.
The recipe sat among the other bits and pieces of paper that manage to hover near our telephone in the kitchen. When looking for someone’s number, or trying to locate a coupon, I’d see the recipe and think, “I should make this…” and place it on the counter hoping that its presence would coerce me, but it would get shoved back into the stack I removed it from, so never did. There was the small matter of not owning an ice cream maker that could also be the culprit. Not the old-fashioned hand-crank model my mother and I found at a garage sale for five bucks and which lost its novelty long ago. No, I needed an electric model I could plug in and forget.
Years passed (honestly!) and I finally bought a Cuisinart with an extra freezing bowl so we could enjoy home made ice cream whenever we felt like it. Ironically, the honey ricotta recipe disappeared, most likely falling victim to one too many sessions of being shoved into a drawer and out of sight when guests were expected, and then not retrieved. It figures.
But I’ve not forgotten the idea of those flavors, and so finding myself with leftover ricotta from a recent gnocchi making session, I finally decided I’d try to recreate my lost recipe. Of course all that entails is typing “honey ricotta ice cream” into my Google search box and voila! A few hundred thousand ideas are at my fingertips. Ah, but at some point, I’d decided to make gelato, so that reduced my options to just under 30,ooo. What would we do without Google?
In the end, I compared three or four recipes merging a honey vanilla gelato with a ricotta gelato. And guess what?
My gelato ended up with absolutely no honey in it.
Day 4 of The 12 Days of Cookies is starting a bit better than yesterday ended with the last cookie attempted. Being the planner I am when confronted with a lot of work, I not only chose all 12 cookies I’d make, I organized them into pairs by production so that I could get two done a day. They’d either have very similar elements (okay, so I’m not talking about butter, sugar and flour…), or one would need refrigeration and I could continue on with the second while…you get it, right?) I printed out the recipes, and sorted through them making sure I wouldn’t have any hang-ups, like realizing I didn’t have oatmeal after coming home from the store.
I know you hate that as much as I do when it happens, right?
So did I hop back in the car to get oatmeal? No. I went back through the cookies featured in Gourmet’s Favorite Cookies: 1941 – 2008 to choose another — one that wasn’t very complicated and for which I had all ingredients.
Brandy Snaps, Gourmet’s choice for 1949, looked to be the best for my particular dilemma. Although I’m not usually thrilled with the prospect of booze in my baked goods, I am able to deal with a little, and the cookies reminded me of Florentines: crisp, crunchy, and caramelley. Plus I happened to have three bottles of molasses in my pantry — light, dark, and Barbados “unsulfured.”
Does anyone remember eating warm spinach and bacon salad? I think the first time I tried it was at my aunt's house when I was in junior high. There was something fascinating about the sweet and tangy taste of it…and the bacon? Right.
I'd love to take credit for this recipe which is a lovely, more elegant version, but I can't. It's one of Susan Branch's recipes from her Christmas from the Heart of the Home book. If you aren't familiar with her, you're really missing something wonderful. I love browsing through her site and leafing through her books which are so much more than just cookbooks. They're like a trip to a special place where life is slow and pleasant, and creativity abounds. Such an amazing woman!
I like to make this salad at this time of year, because of the pomegranates, of course. And recently, I learned a new way to peel them, which makes me very happy considering I won't have to tolerate a red stain on my cutting board for a week or more.
Everyone has their rituals for special days — whether they involve huge family gatherings, or quiet time scheduled for two, food has a tendency to permeate them all. I know. Big surprise. With respect to Thanksgiving, my mother always insisted that we eat early — 1pm. I guess her mother did, so the tradition was passed along, allowing for the even more important tradition of getting all the leftovers out at about 7pm to begin the eating frenzy again. You know, just in case someone didn't have turkey coming out their ears yet.
When I met my husband, my family's early eating time meant that we could eat with them — (a dinner I made…) and then like complete lunatics the loving young people we were, head over to his family's house to eat again, usually at about 6pm. We could barely move when we were finished, our midsections stretched beyond anything we'd imagined before, and swearing we wouldn't eat turkey for an entire year. Funny how that works, isn't it?
Another thing I inherited was the notion of a holiday breakfast — but it wasn't from my family.
I was used to eating at midday, so the idea of a big breakfast not only made me want to crawl under a table to get away from even thinking of eating more food on such a calorie laden day, but cringe at the thought of trying to put a special breakfast on the table while I was in the middle of trying to pull off Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. When my husband told me not to worry, that he'd make breakfast, I wasn't soothed by his cheerful smile or the image of two of us doing completely different things in such a small space on such a busy day.
We've all aged, and in the years we've been married, we've established our own traditions. A holiday breakfast seems to have stuck — and it works, but only when I'm not also making the bulk of the holiday dinner and we're not eating until 7pm. Plus, believe it or not, my husband is the turkey dude now. Go figure. That leaves me time to think of other things — like breakfast.
Hence, the adoption of a recipe I found years ago when I wanted something I could make the night before, pop in the fridge, and then into the oven the next morning: Fat Momma's French Toast. Since that time, I've altered the recipe, of course, and it's a bit different each time I make it. But I tried something truly different a few days ago, and we enjoyed "breakfast" for dinner, another thing we did about once a week when I was growing up.
Funny, though. As we mulled over the first bites of my latest, we knew it was more of a dessert — no longer French toast. And with the day old pumpkin braid I had left over from the dinner rolls I made, my Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding was born.