Monday, December 28, 2009

Stuffed

Hello, dear ones! Have your holidays been marvelous? Ours have been. Except for the overeating. I go on a clementine fast every day after dinner and it lasts all the way until morning. But somehow it's not getting the job done.

These recipes--beef stew and no-knead bread--are the least of my worries, in some ways. What with my mother's melt-in-your-coronary-artery linzer cookies. And our friend Jonathan's roasted pork. And my potato-fennel gratin that absorbed a shameless entire pint of cream. Sigh. But that stew is nice and regular, if you need a break from holiday feasting. It's not dietetic or anything (unless you serve it at a diner inside a cantaloupe half with a scoop of cottage cheese), but it's straightforward and excellent. And the bread? Try it. If you haven't tried no-knead bread before, try it. Try it even if you have. I have tinkered and tinkered, and it is a near-perfect recipe. Let me know how it goes, okay?

And thank you so much for the book recommendations. Given that a bunch of you mentioned it, I rushed out and got The Glass Castle, and it totally blew me away. I could not stop thinking or talking about it, and now Michael's reading it too--just to spare himself, I think, from my overstimulated nattering. Thank you, too, for your enthusiasm about the books I mentioned. Thanks to our dear old BillyJoe6666--who told me about it--I recommended them via an amazon account that gave me credit for your purchases, so I thought that, once they send me the credit, we could do a little give-away of favorite books here. Stay tuned!

Have a joy-filled New Year. I leave you with another holiday-card out-take. "Just go ahead get it out of your system," I said. And so they did.


And a sleepy cheers to you, from the babiest of babies:




Friday, December 04, 2009

Angels We Have Heard on High

Can you believe we're already seven sausage slices into December? What? You don't have a salami advent? Us either. Alas.

But boy am I getting into the holiday spirit. Which you will see over at family.com if you read only about the eggnog cheesecake bars and skip the whole lice episode. Or kale slaw! I know! Festive or what? The column seems fixed now over there, so hopefully it will be updating regularly.

Meanwhile, I don't always understand the way it works, this receiving of gifts, but I wanted to thank you. I asked about great websites for kids, and your suggestions have been utterly fabulous. "Wow," Ben said. "These people really *know* me." I feel the same way. Already he's played Bookworm on popcap, a bunch of games on that sweet Orsinal site, something on the Vancouver 2010 site, and some strange car-crash thing on the edheads site. He has many more suggestions book-marked too--oh, and he completed the dance-mat typing lessons on the BBC, which we all loved. It's been so great to look with him at these tried-and-true favorites of yours. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

In return, I am offering a holiday gift-book round-up. Some of these are books that I have mentioned so many times that you'd think I'd be over them by now--but I'm not, apparently.

For instance

LinkI know. I have been talking about Children Just Like Me for, like, a hundred years. But it's such an incredible book, the way it shows kids from over the world--their schools and houses of worship, their homes and pets and favorite toys and meals--and it prompts loads of conversation about sameness and difference, about privilege and hardship, without ever bonking you over the head with a moral hammer. We still read it all the time, and it would make a great gift for any child up to the age of 10 or 11 or so. But I'm warning you: the kids in the book are so beautiful that you will be a little bit heartbroken.

Okay. Jame's Herriot's Treasury for Children is another book that I can't say enough good things about. Did you ever read his vet books for grown-ups? You might think you don't want to hear about this tweedy English guy pushing his gloved hand into the yonis of various birthing farm animals, but actually, you do. Nevertheless, this is a collection of his gentlest, least gynecological vet stories, and they're beautifully illustrated. Plus, a) there's a Christmas story about a cat and, b) you get to read the dialogue in a heavy cockney accent. You know. If you want to. We have given it as a present to many children, and everybody loves it.


Now, Christmas Tapestry I have to mention because we read it every year, and every year it makes me cry, and every year the kids say, "Oh, Mama, this book makes you cry every year!" and yes, it does. It's kind of heavy--we used to edit it a little when the kids were younger--because it refers briefly to the Holocaust (though not in very specific terms), but it is the most devastating and romantic fantasy about restoration and reunion that I can imagine. Also, a good mix of Jewish and Christian stories.

Okay, those are my recommendations for children. Though I also wanted to mention a few chapter books. The Children of Noisy Village, which Beck once recommended to me right here, and which we loved: it's by Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking), and it's a collection of rustic little tales of old-fashioned daily life in Sweden; think Little House on the Prairie, only with less death defiance and more lutefisk. Also The Great Brain series, which I loved and devoured as a ten-year-old, and then ten-year-old Ben loved and devoured 30 years later (annoyingly, they don't seem to exist as a boxed set). And The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton, which my ten-year-old mother loved and devoured and then, many, many decades later, her ten-year-old grandson loved and devoured (annoyingly, these also don't seem to exist as a boxed set in this country, though I was able to order one from the UK to send my nephews in Geneva. Shhhh.).

Those are my picks for kids. And for grown-ups:


My mother and I love, love, loved the novel Brooklyn, though my father did not. Maybe it's more of a women's kind of book? But Colm Toibin is a devastatingly fantastic writer, and I have loved all of his books. This one is worth reading if only for the most harrowing sea crossing you can imagine. Also, because it too is like Little House on the Prairie, only set in an Irish immigrant neighborhood in Brooklyn in the 1950s. If you can picture.


But maybe you wanted to give that special someone not a novel but a book of odd, melancholy drawings. Principles of Uncertainty, by the incomparable Maira Kalman, is one of the strangest and most beautiful books I have ever held in my hands. She is heartbroken and filled with gratitude all the time--a stranger's earnest fur hat can bring her to tears--and her grief-filled joy is always pitch-perfect. Always. I am giving this as a gift.



Or did you want to give a book of poetry? True, the white cover is not showing up very excitingly here, but Evidence by Mary Oliver is full of her stunning, grateful observations of love and the natural world, along with the the kinds of lines ("Tell me / what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?" is not in this book, but it could be) that have been changing lives for as long as she's been writing.


Or do you know someone who loves to cook? Local Flavors is a cookbook that I read cover to cover, like a novel. It is beautiful to look at, and full of fresh, delicious farmer's market recipes that are so sparklingly good you won't even miss the bacon. Also: grape chiffon pie. I just love her for having that recipe.

Please feel free to add more in the comments here about what you've been reading/loving/giving as gifts, book-wise. I am always so thrilled about your advice.

Meanwhile, I hope you are thriving and louse-free. xoxo


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cranberry Sauce
Link
Oh, happy Thanksgiving, dear ones! I am thankful for your company on this journey. So, so thankful. I am also thankful that I decided not to make sweet potatoes this year. Just like that. "I'm not making sweet potatoes," I just said to Michael, two minutes ago. And he made a sad face. Too bad. He can be thankful that I've made them so many times before! Oops--that wasn't a very thankful thing to say, was it? No. It wasn't.

And will you be thankful for my recipe for cranberry sauce? Maybe. But only if you didn't already buy canned. It's fine to buy canned. Be thankful that you did.

I am also thankful for Mr. Outtakes.


Oh he sure likes to insinuate himself into photographs, that Flattypants Cat of ours.


Although this sad little scene I couldn't even blame on the cat.


Are you thankful that you didn't have to clean my stove top? I know I was! Ha ha. Thank you, Michael. I owe you.

Next week I'm going to offer some book and game suggestions for holiday giving--to grown-ups and kids both. And I'm wondering if you might offer me some advice: Ben is getting a little bit of computer time, newly, and I'm wondering about some great sites for kids. Mostly he plays little games on the American Girl site, and they are quite benign ("Fun for girls!" he likes to read from the banner, in his wry way, before playing). But do you have any thoughts about other fun games he could play? Cool things he could look at? Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you!
xo

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Well, hello there! How did it get to be the second half of November? Birdy just now said to me, "Wow, soon it will snow because it will be December!" And I said, "Uh oh." "What is it, Mama?" "I have to go order a turkey." This part of the year crashes in like a sleeper wave, and I will pop up in January, gasping and exhilarated and happy to be combing the seaweed out of my hair.

Meanwhile, as the weather cools, there is my world-famous (okay, at least 3 or 4 of my friends make this) instant oatmeal recipe over at family.com. And then there is the buttermilk birthday cake, which is up though not posting on the homepage. In it you get to ogle many parade-float style cakes we've designed over the years.

And did you want to see how the carnival fortune teller answered Birdy's question, "Will I go to college?" I like how her New York accent breaks through on the word "chariot." The funniest thing was how few of the kids realized that they actually *knew* her. "I do!" they'd cry, baffled and thrilled. "I *do* have two older brothers!" Or, even the kids she didn't know: "I am! I *am* kind towards animals! How did you know?" Eet voz a lucky guezz.

Edited to add: I thought it was so obvious, but before anyone says anything awkward about the fortune teller, I wanted to give you a hint that I'm in this video. And I'm not the one filming it.

video

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hi guys! For some reason the new column is posting on the home page this week. But you can find it here, where you will see many frightening things there. The specter of tooth decay! A wild beast! Roasted cauliflower! But you won't see this. Birdy's Charlotte in her Halloween bunny costume. Enjoy the rest of your week. And don't make me tape a paper carrot to your face.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Oh, you are lovely. You are. Thank you for your kindness, and for offering me the comfort of being known. How sweet that is. It is indeed a sad and reflective time.

Which may explain the French fries over at family.com. For some people, comfort food is oatmeal and scrambled eggs. For others, it is salty grease. Hello!

And meanwhile--the crackers! Who knew? I read other people's food blogs, and it's all, "These look great!" And "Thanks for another super-duper recipe!" But if you think that for one second I would trade your frank crankiness, merciless teasing, or grumpy skepticism, then you really don't know me. I do love you. (Not that I don't love you when you're appreciative too, of course!)

xo

[Edited to add: That's a sad Birdy after she did her own crown tattoo and didn't realize she was putting it in her hair. I just thought that picture so perfectly conveyed the way I feel sometimes.]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We have a cord of wood waiting in the driveway. We will stack it and then we will burn it. Every year, at this moment, the wood strikes me as a metaphor, even though it just is what it is. "It's like a cord of wood in your driveway," I say to Michael, metaphorically, and he laughs. It's work and it's warmth and it's the season changing. It's wood in the driveway.



A childhood friend died suddenly--a person who was vital in every sense of the word: he was healthy, a community activist, the father of a 6-year-old and a 1-month-old, a husband, son, brother, friend, wildly beloved by everyone who knew him. I had the opportunity to grieve with old friends, to be inspired, to let gratitude and sadness and fear wash over me in alternating waves. I wish I'd understood better that knowing him was the opportunity of a lifetime. I wish that loss were not so firmly barnacled to love. I wish that time would pass more slowly. I wish, I wish, I wish. But I want for nothing.

I am at it again, this heartbreak of mine. And now there's this kitten in the mix. "He's getting so big!" I said last night, with tears in my eyes, and Michael kissed me.


There he is. With his brother Ben, who turns ten on Friday. What the?

Meanwhile, there are recipes up at family.com: The Soup of 1000 Vegetables, which offers some of my old-school self-flagellating melancholy along with a really good pot of soup. Hurray! And Homemade Fancy Crackers. Yes, it's crazy to make your own crackers, but you'll never go back.

Sending love to you, here from this cold and golden world.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Menace to (Clothespin) Society

Dear ones!

Please do visit over at family.com, where there are a couple of useful recipes. One for my dad's spaghetti sauce, which is out of this world, and the other for granola bars, which solves the problem of making granola into a portable substance.

Also, and I know this is bribery of the most grotesque sort: both columns offer actual, clear photographs of the baby featured below.

And by below, I mean here, in these photographs of the clothespin dolls sent to Ben and Birdy by Erin K., a stranger! A stranger who is a reader and feels like a friends. Erin, thank you. A million times, thank you. They are even more lovely in person, but I present you with:


The Woodland Gnome, A Casual Person, The Mermaid Ballet Girl, and Rapunzel. As Birdy has named them. They are perfectly beautiful and cherished by our entire family. Even that whiskery shadow back there.

Or maybe *especially* that whiskery shadow. Look out, Rapunzel! This is not the rescue you've been dreaming of!


Oh dear.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bartering, Peach Jam, Conjoined Twins

Ask and ye shall receive! Herewith, over at family.com, the peach jam recipe. Even Michael makes this jam. Even Michael. Michael who, when we lived in a vegetarian co-op, would, on his night to cook, put out gallons of milk and boxes of Life cereal. That Michael. (Now, you're thinking to yourself, is that a good way to positively reinforce Michael's challenging of himself in the kitchen? Michael's making of peach jam? By shaming him publicly? No. LinkNo it is not.)

And the deodorant recipe is Angry Chicken's, here. (It really works. And I recommend following her advice of going in on the ingredients with a friend or two. Assuming you have friends you can approach with such a request: "Hey, you seem kind of stinky and broke. Want to start making homemade deodorant with me?" We made an evening of it, complete with bottles of wine and shea butter.)

And homemade bikini wax is here. Easy and, as my kids noted, delicious! All I'm saying is: let it cool, okay? Let it coooool. That $25 dollars you saved isn't going to go very far at the ER when you're getting your groin burn treated.

And my Brain, Child piece is here. (Hey, thanks for asking! Sorry so strange!)

And Krishna from last week's comments: wow, it gets so much easier to do things. I used to imagine going to my grave having only eaten miniature Snickers bars since giving birth to Ben in 1999. When I showed up a party recently with homemade crackers, our friend Lee said, "Catherine, I think you need to have another baby. You've obviously got too much time on your hands." Sigh.

And my bartering request: I got an offer to trade pickles and jam for sex toys and lingerie. Life is good.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Minted Cherry Tabouli


You say tabbouleh, I say tabouli, let's call the whole thing off. Okay, let's not, even if you spell it "taboo-li" because you've eaten bad versions of it at too many potlucks. I know. Some potluck dishes just seem to have gotten up on the wrong side of the vegetarian cookbook, you know? Gritty hummus, bland pasta salad, watery tabouli. Part of the problem is that grain recipes don't always multiply all that successfully. When Michael and I lived in a vegetarian coop (cue the violins of nostalgia) 50 or 60 years ago I think it was now, we ate terrible rice at almost every meal. And the terribleness was not even predictable: sometimes the rice was like grainy school glue, sometimes like fine shards of pottery, and sometimes so enthusiastically burnt you expected to see flames leaping out of your bowl of stir fry. Rice for thirty people turned out to involve some secret algorithm of grain and water that nobody was quite able to crack.

But here is a fresh and lovely wheat-based salad recipe that promises to be neither bland nor watery. Plus, there is no cooking involved--making it a perfect recipe for the dog days. Bulgur is a precooked, dried wheat that you will surely be able to find in the bulk area of a natural foods store, and in the natural foods area of a bulk store. I mean a supermarket. If you can't find it, you might be able to find a box of "Tabouli Mix" and you can use that, just toss any little packets that came in the box, and scale back the recipe by a third, since there will likely be a cup of bulgur in there. Honestly, unless you're feeding a crowd, you may want to scale back the recipe by a third anyways, as bulgur has a tendency to grow and grow, kind of like the pasta pot in Strega Nona, if that's a kids' book you know. Scaling back should be easy. That's one cup of what, one cup of boiling water, and, er, 2/9ths of a cup of oil and lemon juice! I assume that's marked out on your measuring cup.

You may be surprised or not to hear that authentic Lebanese or Syrian tabouli is more parsley than wheat, and feel free to make it that way and then post a Youtube film of your kids eating it and become a star! No, I'm kidding--it's delicious like that, but this way makes a more familiar type of dish that is likely to go down easier. We swap in plumped dried cherries for the traditional chopped tomatoes because a) Ben hates tomatoes, b) tomatoes get creepy in the leftovers, and c) cherries are a magic food that convinces kids that they're going to like something. We buy dried cherries from Trader Joe's, and they're excellent. You could of course use chopped tomatoes, or halved cherry tomatoes, or even grapes or diced plums: we have used all of these things at various moments. Let me know if you add anything else that works really well: fresh corn is a great addition, and I bet other veggies would be too. Now get yourself to that potluck! The people need good tabouli.

Minted Cherry Tabouli
Total time: 25 minutes

Scallions are a traditional addition that I omit for the obvious reasons. Sigh.

Heaping 1/2 cup dried cherries, plus hot water to cover
1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (or an equivalent amount of smaller cukes)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 clove of garlic, peeled and pressed through a garlic press
1 bunch of parley, to make 1 heaping cup finely chopped (or more!)
1/4 cup finely chopped mint (if I don't have fresh mint, I use a teaspoon of dried mint from a peppermint tea bag)

In a small bowl, pour hot tap water of the cherries to cover and let them plump while you make everything else. In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the wheat and cover (I use a large pot lid) while you prepare the cukes and herbs, and the dressing, which you will make by whisking together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic. There. Wasn't that easy?

If your diced cukes taste bitter or seem especially watery, sprinkle them with salt and leave them to drain in a colander while your prepare the rest of the ingredients, then give them a quick rinse and rub them dry with a clean dish towel; if they taste sweet and delicious, don't bother.

Now return to your wheat, which should, when you fluff it with a fork, look puffy and dry-ish; it should be chewable but still chewy. If it's sitting in water, drain it well and cover it again for a few minutes to let it sort itself out. Stir in the dressing, then stir in the herbs, then stir in the cukes and the drained cherries. If you can, let it sit, covered at room temperature, for an hour or so to let the flavors blend. Taste it before serving and add more salt or lemon juice if the flavor needs a boost; it will most likely need salt. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A quick note from Ma Ingalls before the long winter sets in

Hello, hello! It has been so long, and so much has changed, hasn't it? The little ones are at school, the afternoons are bright, sleep is breezy and cool, the trees are painting each other overnight. (Hello, inadvertent rhyme scheme!)

I have made tabouli
and chocolate zucchini cupcakes
and two late summer dips.

And you--you have been to Echo Lake and Petit Lac Echo. You've worn your undies on the beach and explored the foresty corners of your yard. You've been obsessed with Pippi Longstocking and you've started started school and you've started homeschooling and you've given your children shot glasses as little cups to drink out of (which I would never do). You've made roasted tomato sauce that came out great, and some that came out weird (girlinaboyhouse Nicole, maybe it turned orange from air getting blended into it???). You've been home and away and delighted and exhausted and now--well, now it's now. And you're here.

And meanwhile, I was pickling beans


and jalapenos

and carrots

and pickles


and also I was making peach jam and wild grape jam and autumn olive jam, and also dill sandwich slices and pear fruit leather and bread and butter pickles and underarm deodorant and also there in the front, that little jar of brown something?


Bikini wax. Homemade bikini wax.

I have become the DIY equivalent of the lady with the all the cats who loves all her cats so, so much, even though she doesn't understand how it is that her one kitten turned into all these many many cats and the cat hair and the cat food smell and the gravelly litter underfoot everywhere. What has happened, and how?

They will find us and we will be buried under mason jars and mason jar lids and pickled sneakers and homemade Tampax and I will still have this goofy smile on my face and I will send them away with a jar of jam.

"It's like money in the bank!" I keep saying to Michael, gesturing at my rows and rows of jars, and he smiles at me strangely and says, "It is a little bit like money in the bank." Ah. Yes. I see. In fact, canning instead of working is really nothing at all like money in the bank. It's almost the opposite of money in the bank. If only I lived in a bartering economy. Sigh.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dwindle

I am not sure how it's been so long since I updated here. Just as I am not sure how it is that when you try to buy your kid a new swimsuit, they laugh like summer already ended fifty years ago and why don't you just buy some nice back-to-school items and keep your mouth shut. Time passes strangely, and is hurried along in various ways, and I just want it to be summer forever and ever and not have that 80's MTV Don Henley "Boys of Summer" song moving its melancholy tune through my head all the time. Alas.

First things first: I posted some camping recipes, here. Because Charlotte wanted them. But honestly? I tried to make them user-friendly even for the non-campers out there. And then I posted this grilled chicken, which, truth be told, is one of my ten best-ever recipes, and is one I've actually been looking forward to posting since I started this column. It is so, so good. And finally, today, I posted a great and super-easy tomato sauce. Which Ben ate for breakfast.

We've been working, reading, playing, bickering, eating, drinking, and lounging around the window air conditioning unit. The kids have each celebrated their "Special Day" which is a long-standing summer tradition. You get one day to do whatever you like, but with a couple of ground rules: only one thing that costs money, and just the family all day. I swear it is a huge case of spin, because we end up doing stuff we would have done anyway (play board games, rent Jungle Book, go to the park, make pancakes and popcorn), but somehow it all just seems incredibly fun and thrilling when it's your *Special Day*.


What are you doing that's special? (Besides looking at my butt in that picture.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer, Finally

Thank you so much: for the clam shack recs (Bob's in Kittery! Awesome, Kiki, thanks. And, Karen, the Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, where we went on a kind of seafood-sandwich pilgrimage last week, having not been there since I was pregnant with Ben and hormonally transported by the lobster roll there. Turns out it wasn't just the hormones.) and the doll clothes enthusiasm (please write or link if you make some) and the wishes for sun and fun. We had such a wonderful two weeks of vacation--visiting friends in New Hampshire and Maine, and then camping on Cape Cod--it's a little hard to re-enter real life, and I find myself blinking the way you do when you come out of the cool dark of a movie theater into the brightness of an actual, unpretend afternoon. I hope you are enjoying everything there is to be enjoyed right now.

Meanwhile, over at family.com, I've posted a column about an incredible, bacon-y potato salad, and, also, about an incredible, un-bacon-y bowl of grains and vegetables, which you should try, even if you're revolted by or skeptical about the very idea of quinoa. If you're revolted *and* skeptical, maybe skip it.

I will post just a tiny few pictures here. Rest assured there was plenty of rain and emergency gas-station bathroom stops. Oh, but mostly, it was so lovely. The kids are such *kids*. These are summers they're going to remember.

New Hampshire was all about kayaking. Also, playing Bananagrams with our friends.


And Maine is for sailing. This is Biscuit, our friend Gordon's beautiful boat. We were right by Acadia National Park, and every second of every day was sky and water and blueberries.


Every second, that is, that the kids weren't playing the "picking game" indoors with a Playmobil catalogue. Do your kids do this? Sit for hours and hours deciding what they would get on every page, if they could get anything they wanted? All very dreamy and longing-filling, like they're little window-shopping Orphan Annies with their cheerful, deprived faces pressed to the glass? Beware if they ask you to play, though: they're very strict. "Oh, Mama, sorry--you can't get that whole set, only the animals from it." "But if it's just for imagining, can't I get anything I want?" "Oh, yeah, um, you'd think so, but no."

We spent one night in Ogunquit, since the beaches in Northern Maine somewhat elude the children, what with their wild and freezing pebblyness.


And then the Cape. I love this picture of Birdy and her friend Harry, like some kind of surfers 'wedding ceremony. Dude, I pledge to keep my board tied to yours *forever.* Or at least until we hear the clang of the ice cream truck.


The campfire always returns Birdy to my lap. I think she imagines that I can keep the smoke out of her eyes, and I have done nothing to dissuade her from this idea. Oh, Birdy. Stay right there.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Warm and Smoky Potato Salad



We interrupt this quinoa special with a word from our sponsor, The Bacon Lady. I know, it's a little helter-skelter, this food column, what with a recipe for bran timbales one week and marshmallow-Cheezit balls the next, but that's a little bit how it is around here. And bacon? Well. I'm sure I don't need to go on and on about bacon's charisma and magnetism. Either you eat bacon, and understand this perfectly well, or you don't eat bacon but remember it still, sighingly, in your dreams. If we were boating home together after the Trojan War, you would need to plug up your noses with beeswax and tie me to the mast of the ship so that I would not fling myself overboard at the first whiff of the siren song of the bacon smell (While smoked meat does not make an explicit appearance in Homer's Odysseus, it is widely believed, by me, that the sirens are a metaphor for the smell of bacon frying.) Turn the heat up under a pan of bacon, and the children will stagger into the kitchens, their arms leading the way like those of ravenous zombies.

Which is not to say that bacon is the key to my own loving of potato salad, because I am a nearly whorishly indiscriminate lover of potato salad. I love the potato salad my mom makes, which is similar to this one but (gasp) without the bacon. I love the potato salad to which we became addicted when Michael and I were still vegetarians, and not even (yet) the bacon-eating kind of vegetarians: the potato salad with chipotle-lime vinaigrette from the utterly fantastic Field of Greens cookbook--a potato salad that is still consistently requested of me at potlucks, and that is a little too spicy for most children, leaving more for the sane rest of us. And I love the classic kind of potato salad with mayonnaise and lots of hard-boiled eggs chopped into it and sometimes sugar even. Oh I love that kind. At the lake house we were just visiting, our friend's mother made a gigantic bowl of this very kind of potato salad--it was to be for dinner--and then left to spend the day golfing while we peeled back the plastic wrap and studied the salad and tried to figure out if we could tunnel under the beautiful garnish of egg wedges and paprika and dig some out for our lunch without anybody being any the wiser, which, no, we could not.

I'm running this particular recipe, though, because the bacon is a great lure for skeptical children, like a smoky worm wiggling out from the hook of potato salad, and most kids can be persuaded to harbor a serving on their plates if only to pick off and eat the bacon, which is, at least, a start. (I was going to call bacon the "gateway to potato salad" but then dimly recalled that I'd already called it a gateway to something else, and so Googled "Catherine Newman bacon gateway" and got 306 hits. I guess bacon is the gateway to all kinds of thing!) Also, because the onions are briefly sautéed and marinated, the kids won't have to fear any inadvertent chomping into the spicy crunch of raw onions. Not that they love the onions this way either--but at least these can be discreetly piled to the side of one's plate (see photo) without contaminating everything in their oniony path.

If you are not (yet) a bacon eater, go ahead and make this, but substitute olive oil for the bacon fat, and add a teaspoon of smoked paprika or chipotles. It will still be delicious. Plus, swapping righteousness in for porky crunch is a pretty good trade-off, as I recall.

Warm and Smoky Potato Salad
The measurements are somewhat approximate here, which means that it is as important as ever to taste the salad--as you're making it and before you serve it--to make sure that it is adequately salted and seasoned. Should I write a cookbook and call it Not Undersalted Foods? Maybe. (Note: if you are vegetarians, make this potato salad instead.)

2-3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, washed, then halved and/or quartered (halve the smaller ones and quarter the larger ones; you can leave the wee babies whole)
Kosher Salt
1/3-1/2 pound sliced bacon
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup (or so) chopped parsley
A few snips of chives, if you've got them

In a medium pot, cover the potatoes with a few inches of cold water, then salt the water heavily (when the salt dissolves, the water should taste salty) and bring it to a boil, covered, over high heat. Turn the heat down and simmer the potatoes until tender, around 15-20 minutes. The only way this won't be good--besides your stubbornly refusing to salt it sufficiently--is if the potatoes are undercooked. You know what I mean, when you take a bite and there is still a resistant something in the potato's heart of hearts. I am always more in danger of overcooking the potatoes, but then again, I don't actually care if they fall apart a little bit while I'm making the salad. Drain the potatoes and leave them in the colander to cool off and dry out for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a very wide skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat, turning as required, until it is crisp. Drain it on paper towels and evaluate the fat left behind: you want about a third of a cup; if you've got less, add a bloop or two of olive oil; if you've got more, pour a little off. Add the onions to the fat and stir over medium heat until they are just barely wilted, 2 or 3 minutes. Now add the vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to the pan and boil two minutes. Whisk in the mustard, and leave the onions to pickle briefly while you dice the potatoes. Dice the potatoes. In a large bowl, use a rubber spatula to combine the warm potatoes with the warm dressing/onion mixture, then taste for seasoning. Does it need more salt? More vinegar? The potatoes will absorb the dressing as they sit, so be sure to taste it again right before serving and re-adjust as needed. If you're not serving it right away, cover the potato salad with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature. Only refrigerate it if you really must, as the cold will give the potatoes a weirdly leaden and mealy texture. Which is not to say that leftovers aren't good in their way. Just that it's better freshly made.

At serving time, sprinkle the salad with the parsley and chives, then crumble the bacon over the top. Yum.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Baby Doll

Hello, hello! How patient you've been. We are in full summer mode around here, which means our annual trips around the great Northeast (Upstate New York! New Hampshire! We are total jet-setters), scrambling to work when we're home, and lots of projects. I want to write about the fabulous cooperative day camp we ran with friends (this is such a brilliant solution for the cashless and campless), or seeing my nephews, or how profoundly this has become the Summer of Snakes (why is that?). But instead, I'm going to send you to family.com, to my recipes for Asian-style Chicken Salad (man, that is a good salad), and the creamy, dreamy Mango Popsicles that we did, in fact, serve our aforementioned cooperative day campers. I am getting through your requests, though a camp meal? Really? It's going to look so gross, but maybe I should do it anyways.

And because it's what we just spent an evening doing, I wanted to alert you to this fabulous idea that I found on-line, when I was Googling "baby doll clothes free patterns." Thanks to the fabulous "Baby Clothes to Dolls Tutorial" over at a blog called Obsessively Stitching, we spent two dollars on baby clothes at the Salvation Army, and are now well on our way to the lovely, cottony baby-doll wardrobe of Birdy's dreams. And I didn't even have to futz around with a pattern! Not that I didn't jab a pin into my own forearm and say the f-word. Or manage somehow to sew the neck hole closed on my first pass over the sleep sack. Or tear a little hole in the onesie as I was removing the Salvation Army stapled price tag. Or lie down on the floor and say, with one arm flung over my eyes, "My god, enough, I'm done," about *doll clothes*. But still. I am so happy not to have spent the real money on real doll clothes. I am so happy to be rid of the revoltingly pilled nylon nighties that the dolls came with. I am so happy that Birdy's so happy. It was worth every curse.



Tomorrow we leave to visit friends in Maine. Wish us a bon voyage! Send us your clam shack recommendations! Take care of yourselves and have fun! xoxoxo

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ranch Dressing and Father's Day

My ranch dressing recipe is up over at family.com.

Which has nothing to do, not really, with our celebration of this

hard-rockin'


kid-cuddling


board-game losing


marathon-running


colonial heart-breaking


deliciously aging


love-of-my-life baby daddy.




Link

Tuesday, June 16, 2009





There is an excellent recipe for ribs over at family.com: it takes a long time, but it does this quite independently with almost no hand-holding on your part. Yum yum yum. Also, donut cake. Because you were wanting to make donut cake, weren't you?

Of course, I want to be the kind of blogger who posts gorgeous pictures without detracting from them with self-ironizing commentary. I want to be all, like, sure, a "summer" pennant--hardly worth mentioning! But please. I made that while the kids were at their last day of school and then practically waited by the door for them to get home--and then when they finally arrived, they both had friends with them and headed straight upstairs without noticing. "Did you see the banner? Did you?" I asked, after following them up, because I am five years old. And so, because they are good kids, they bolted back down and said, "Wow, Mama!" and "That's *so* nice!" and I felt like I was about as big as a deer tick.

And the peonies. "Did you see the peonies?" I ask everyone as they arrive. And if they didn't, then I have to take them by the hand and lead them back outside to look. I just can't believe we have peonies in our own yard, can't believe our good luck and beautiful lives. "Look!" I keep saying in a million ways. "Can you *believe* that?" Love and joy be with you!