I took my Mac to the Apple store recently because I was notified that its serial number was one marked as having a hard drive that could potentially fail. I dropped it off, a new hard drive was installed free of charge by the next day, and I was able to restore all the data I had conveniently backed up on an external hard drive. It sounds like not much effort was made on my part to get things back up and running, but I spent the better part of several days organizing what was in my files, reviewing my ridiculous number of photographs, and making sure I had them backed up in several different places. As much as I could tell the young man behind the counter at the Genius Bar that, yes, I’ve got everything backed up, I still worried.
My food magazines seem to pile up quickly these days so to encourage myself to sit down long enough to look at them, I make a small pile and carry them from one room to another thinking their physical presence will be a reminder. It’s not an effective plan on most days for obvious reasons, such as, I’m busy doing other things?
But last Friday the sun unexpectedly graced us with its brilliance burning through the June Gloom, and I found myself daydreaming out the windows instead of doing the dishes, listening to the dribble of water from the fountain on our patio my husband diligently worked on to get the large spout at the top to run well enough to fill the smaller ones. Will wonders never cease. It’s a nice sound that distracts me from the traffic just over our wall and watching the hummingbirds trying to bathe themselves in it is hilarious. I haven’t been able to get a shot of them yet, but give me a few weeks.
I give in to the urge to go out and sit in the warmth. The sun feels good, so I relax a bit and begin to thumb through the magazines remembering how much I enjoy the summer issues. Everything is fresh and the recipes are relatively uncomplicated.
It’s not long after I’ve had some time to make a mental list of my favorites that I email my best friend and invite myself and husband to dinner at her house. It takes a bit of arm wrestling to get her to agree to let me make the entire dinner, but she loves the recipes I mention, so dinner it is.
I make a quick run to the store for ingredients, do some easy prep, and everything is ready to pack up and take to her house for a night of food that comes one dish at a time — with wine, of course.
When’s the last time you grilled lamb? This recipe is truly delicious, and quite easy to make — even at the last minute.
My mother has always been a master at stretching a dollar because she’s had lots of practice most of her life. As a single mother of three children under the age of five by the time she was 25, she worked hard to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. She was very good at providing us a life we never considered was lacking, even though by today’s standards, most would say it was. Our clothes were mended and patched when they began to show wear, and those gently worn were passed down to the next child in line. Yes, we had toys, but more often, we ran around outside playing with friends at imaginary games. We ate only at meal times, and when we did, the food was simple and filling. Often, beans were on the menu, and on those days when my little sister asked what we were having for dinner, the response would be, “Hundreds of wonderful things.” And why not when you consider that a two-pound bag of pintos costs only a few dollars even at today’s prices.
As much as I still enjoy a good pot of beans, white beans, or cannellinis, are what we most enjoy now. Often referred to as white kidney beans, they’re related to navy beans, or great northern beans. I often keep a can or two in my pantry, but I always have a small bag of dried beans as well. They find their way into so many different quick dishes these days — like pasta, soup, or salad. Our favorite way to eat them is with wilted dark greens such as chard or kale, and lots of garlic. On some nights, sun-dried tomatoes are tossed into the mix, and others, whatever pasta I have in the pantry helps bring everything together.
This recipe for “Cooked Shell Beans” is from Frank Sitt’s Bottega Favorita and is a good starting point for so many fabulous recipes, including a nice Bean Puree if you add some roasted garlic. Put a pot on this weekend, and enjoy all the possibilities.
I’m never out of garlic, and yet yesterday when I wondered about what would go in the potato leek soup we made for dinner, I found I had only the shriveled remnants of my normally plump reserve. There were no shallots, and I couldn’t find an onion, either. Cooking just isn’t the same for me without these flavors. I roast garlic and smear it on crostini, flavor oil with it to drizzle over roasted vegetables, saute it with almost everything, smash it and sprinkle on some sea salt to make a paste, mince it, cook whole heads in their papery skin, and wince when I find I’m out.
Have you had your garlic today?
When I saw Mario Batalli with Gwynneth Paltrow in the September ’08 issue of Food & Wine, I thought, “Hmm…interesting,” only briefly wondering what the two had in common, then continued on to scan the recipes since that’s what life is all about, right? All that olive oil and garlic…potatoes and rice. I love Spanish food. But I missed the point the article was making about the connection between the two celebrities — the premier of a 13-part series called Spain…On the Road Again.
I have found out that at least in San Diego, PBS is running the series in the middle of the night, so have set my DVR and begun to live vicariously through the Foodie Foursome which includes Mark Bittman and a lovely Spanish actress I’ve not seen before, Claudia Bassols. Evidently, there was no specific route planned for the trip which was originally a “guys only” event. Instead, the purpose was to travel from one place to the next enjoying locally produced meat, fish, and vegetables, to sample local wines, and to enjoy the traditional dishes of each region. Oh, to be cruising through Spain in a caravan of expensive German cars. Actually, just cruising through Spain would be fine with me since it’s been decades that I was there. The countryside is gorgeous, and the cooking featured on the show seriously simple. I’m loving the entire experience. In fact, I’ve ordered the book, Spain: A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali with Gwyneth Paltrow, just so I could sample some of the al fresco meals made during the trip. Since my Penelope Casas’ La Cocina de Mama has been getting quite the workout lately, it’s about time I add something new.
Recently, we had meatballs and I’m left wondering why I never had meatballs when we lived in Spain.
There were meatballs?
Had I only known how delicious these particular meatballs were…