Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Not Just Any Cast Iron Skillet

Oh, so much to report. I don't know where to begin and I doubt I can cover it all, so I'll shoot for the most important points.

First, I just got back from five days in Ohio w/ my family, where we celebrated my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. That's right - fifty years! It was a joyous occasion for so many reasons, not the least of which is that my Dad is feeling good again, and that alone is reason to celebrate. On Sunday morning, he was up at five a.m. making homemade sauce, followed by an entire afternoon of making homemade pasta - ok, truth be told, he supervised the pasta making part with my brother-in-law Terry doing much of the work, and bless 'em both, for they sure did create a feast.

My Dad reminded me that I really ought to mind my Italian heritage and get with the pasta making program, or at least with the Italian food making program in general, and he's so right! I'm hoping this newly acquired cast iron skillet will inspire me. I grabbed it from my parents' basement, and Dad informed me that it's been in the family for at least one hundred years. I imagine that he, and his mother, and who knows how many others in the family, have cooked many a meatball in this skillet, and who knows what else? Polenta, quick sauce, fried peppers, sauteed greens, and probably, all manner of meat. I hope that somehow, a little bit of the family's culinary magic will live on in this pan, and that maybe a little bit of that Italian food magic in particular will rub off.

Dad and I talked about how so many of the family recipes are cooked with "a little of this, a little of that, and a little instinct", and how sometimes when I operate that way, it's a hit - and sometimes, it's a miss. I can work wonders with solid recipes, but am not always entirely confident improvising in the kitchen, and maybe that's why I haven't had major success in my Italian food cooking adventures. But like I said, this skillet is inspiring me to keep at it, and keep at it I will!

The other thing to report is that - gasp - I HAVE A GARDEN!!! AND FOOD IS GROWING IN IT! I know that for some people, this is no big deal, but I have never in my life successfully grown anything to eat, and I'm tickled pink!! I had salad for lunch AND dinner today, all with greens that we grew in half wine barrels. And I have to say it's the coolest thing ever to just walk out into the yard, pick some food, and eat it moments later.

Not everything is growing perfectly - the chard seems to be dying and the cucumber plant is getting eaten by critters - but the salad greens and herbs are thriving, and the tomato plants are doing quite nicely. And this makes me very, very happy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Life is a Colander of Cherries

I am very happy to report that my dear Dad is on the mend. We still have a long and probably hard road ahead of us, but for now, he's healing and having good days, and this makes me so happy. And I get to visit him and my Mom again in a couple of weeks, and am looking forward to filling their freezer with more treats.

I've been spending a lot of time in the yard lately, and that makes me happy too. We planted another garden and this year I'm determined to keep it alive and make it thrive! We've got hot peppers, cucumbers, chard, lettuce, eggplant, zucchini, delicata squash, arugula and several kinds of tomatoes. I was so thrilled to discover the first little row of arugula sprouts, tiny as little bugs, sprouting out of the soil the other day.

The other thing that has been making me happy is summer fruit, like these gorgeous cherries, so pretty I just had to share, if only virtually.

I took these pics when I was working for Chef Phil Gelb, who was making a cherry vinaigrette to go over a salad that included roasted peaches, among other delicious things. It's always a treat to enjoy Phil's kitchen creations; I learn so much every time I work with him.

That's all I have to report for now. Until next time, here's hoping you and yours are enjoying your moments as they come.