Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Carpe Diem!

Seize the moment, seize the day. Pick, pluck, cull, crop, gather, make use of, enjoy. It's a good way to live life. Sometimes, I am able to do this. To live and love and be grateful in THIS moment, knowing that THIS moment is all there is.

And sometimes, it takes death, suffering and loss to remind me of this. This year has been a doozy. Hell, this month alone has been a doozy. My dear friend Sabine lost her dear friend Pam to cancer just last week. Pam was a loving mother and wife and daughter and friend. Many of my friends who knew and loved Pam are grieving, hard. I wish I could have known Pam beyond meeting her a couple of times. She was no doubt an amazing soul and has left a huge hole in this world, in this life of all who knew and loved her.

My Uncle Pat also left the world and lost his battle with cancer earlier this month. His cancer was sudden and shocking and brutal. He was a wonderful friend to my Dad. He was the one who would come and visit my Dad during his illness and brighten his spirits, bringing him treats from the Italian store, a family member who was also a dear friend. The last time I saw him, he was strong, healthy & vibrant. I was so glad to know that he was there to support my Dad through my Dad's illness. I can still hardly believe that he is gone, and heartbroken at the way cancer snatched him away from his loved ones so fast. And I can't even get started here about how much my Dad is suffering now, not only over the loss of his dear brother, but through his own illness. He has been so strong for so long now through this journey. I'm proud of him and inspired by him and doing my best to take each moment as it comes, thankful that he is still with us.

My friends Steve & Patsy lost their dear friend & musical co-conspirator, Scott Petersen, to cystic fibrosis, this month as well.

The last email exchange that I had with Patsy, she said something about us needing to get together more, to seize the moments while the moments were still ours to seize. So I invited them over for dinner that night and to my great delight, they didn't have a gig. And so last Friday, we managed to pull together a very spontaneous barbecue, along with our dear friend Lucio, who was in town for some shows, and Berge, another treasured friend and musical partner who is dealing with a landslide of difficulty and illness in his own life right now. Sabine would have been there with us, except she was at Pam's memorial that night.

I wanted to make something fabulous but didn't have the time or the wherewithal. We got some fish & veggies to throw on the grill and I made some cole slaw, and we had each other and plenty of beer & wine and guitars, and that was all that was needed. It was summer in the bay area - by the time the sun went down, the fog had rolled in and we were freezing and had to start a fire in the fire pit just to keep warm. But it didn't matter, because we were all together. Anything else was just icing on the cake.

Steve & Patsy's 4 3/4 year old daughter Monique cracked me up all night long. I've known and loved Monique all her life and it's been an absolute pleasure watching her become the person that she is. She ate all the tomatoes we'd recently picked from our plants, straight out of the bowl, with pure delight, the way Sabine had taught her to do. When she later asked me for a blanket so she could lay on the couch, I gave her one, which she proceeded to sniff and then proclaim indignantly, "… you need to wash things more!!! This stinks!!". I couldn't help but agree with her and laugh through my horror. The blanket did indeed smell like dog. We must have used it in the car at some point, and I swear it was clean and had been washed, but somehow that dog smell has a way of lingering. If you ever want the truth about just how much your shit stinks, just ask a kid. They'll tell you straight up!

Monique also brightened my spirits by letting me play with her Grouch Marks glasses. I got a little obsessed with taking pictures of me and that nose and mustache. I think the pic below pretty much sums it up. I hope it will always serve as a reminder to me to not take myself too seriously, to remember that not only does my shit stink, but many of my the things in my house do too, and to love, love, love and be grateful for every single moment. Carpe Diem!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Let's Make Mustard!

Recently I experimented with making mustard. I started with this recipe for a Spicy Beer Mustard that I found in Food and Wine Magazine. The flavor was great, but be warned - the recipe makes a huge amount of mustard! Definitely enough to share. I ended up adding even more mustard powder and seeds than the recipe called for. In the end, I was pretty happy with it but have been wanting to try out some different recipes.

Luckily, today I stumbled upon this post on the awesome blog Food In Jars. I have never canned anything, but I love this blog and am thinking it may inspire me to give it a try one of these days.

The mustard post is actually a guest post, written by Kaela Porter of the blog Local Kitchen, another fine and inspiring blog with many lovely photos.

Enjoy the blogs, and enjoy making mustard! I plan to make another batch soon, and will report back.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lotta Frittata

Lately I've been going to the farmers market every week, sometimes twice per week, and the produce has been blowing my mind. I've developed a sweet summer ritual of making a frittata every week with fresh farm eggs from the market, and whatever produce I pick up there. Lately that's been corn that is explosively sweet, sometimes chard or potatoes, and sometimes squash and fresh herbs from our garden. Tonight's frittata featured corn, chard, sweet red onions & juicy early girl tomatoes from the market, basil & sliced padron peppers from our garden, and shaved imported parmesan. The simple tastes of summer abundance. It doesn't get much better than that and I'm savoring it as it comes and enjoying it while it's here.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Hello, Summer. And Thank You, Portuguese Bringer of the Fava Beans!

I'm finally sitting down after a good five hours spent in the kitchen, and wow. It was such spontaneous joy.

It all started with a little Portuguese woman. I don't know who she is, only that my co-worker Todd knows her, and that every year around this time, she brings him garbage bags full of fava beans. And he never has the heart to tell her that actually, he just isn't quite up to growing callouses on his thumbs to shell & peel them, and so he brings them to work & implores that we take them off his hands. And that is how I find myself, once a year, with my own callouses after having shelled & peeled a big old mess of them like I did tonight, so they could enjoy a starring role in tonight's amazing impromptu summer bounty bachelor dinner!

That's right! No pizza or mac & cheese for this gal tonight. Tonight was all about those fava beans...

and shaved zucchini from our garden...

... and lots of other garden goodies too, like sweet as can be cherry tomatoes, cool and crunchy cucumbers that I can hardly believe I finally managed to grow, preserved lemon from our bountiful tree, and freshly cut parsley & marjoram (and shallots from the farmers market!).

It all would have been perfect just like that, but then there were fresh eggs from Riverdog Farm that I couldn't resist poaching in homemade vegetable broth, because I had just made it using all the ends of the vegetables from the week, so why not enjoy it right away?

All this chopping and slicing and poaching and shucking and shelling served as the perfect way to pass the time for hours while a big batch of granola slowly baked to perfection. Lots of dear friends & loved ones have birthdays or other occasions they're celebrating right about now, and I bet you can guess what they'll be getting from me! Yes, all my love and some of my granola. The gift that tastes good *and* keeps you regular!

But, I digress a little. There's no recipe really, nor much of a point to all my rambling tonight. I just had to stop & share my pure joy & gratitude for the fact that summer is here, and for all the sweet, crunchy, tender, vibrant gifts that come with it. Thank you, summer, and thank you, Todd, and most of all, thank you, little Portuguese woman of mystery for helping me to complete this warm & breezy summer night!