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East Coast USA, United States
Lowcountry porch sitter. Appalachian Mountain lover. Finger Lakes dreamer.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Buttered Toast and Tea

My grandmothers were both native West Virginians, but economically and culturally opposite in their food preparation. One menu was limited by financial capacity, enveloped in coal camp traditions and always simplistically delivered in pure comfort. The other much more refined, served on china and included a great deal of red meat. Though described here with an emphasis on disparity, make no mistake I relished each equally. The defining difference in visiting each grandmother was the manner in which one dressed and behaved to participate in meal time endeavors. Breakfast in one home included pajamas, bacon, biscuits, fried eggs and coffee. Breakfast in the other, full dress, buttered toast points and Earl Grey tea served with milk (followed by an early lunch at the local country club after a round of golf). It's the memory of sipping tea and knoshing on buttered toast in my grandmother's kitchen around her dutifully appointed side table that I sought to recreate in the kitchen this week. My sister and I would awake, comb our hair, dress, slip downstairs and wait patiently as my grandmother toasted fresh bakery bread to a golden brown in the oven. Once toasted she would swiftly butter both sides then transfer each slice to a platter before cutting the slices on the diagonal. Had it been permitted beyond two slices I could have sat in that kitchen for hours lingering with the wafting smell of toast and the aroma of honeyed tea. I reach for my copy of Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast for her Lazy Loaf recipe and pull out a jar of Tupelo honey from H.L. Franklin's that I had recently been gifted to bring a childhood experience forward into the present. The beauty of this bread recipe is that it requires no kneading or rising and thus can be prepared in an instant (albeit initial baking requires an hour and 45 minutes). Cookstr's quote in introducing Nigella's recipe that I have linked here is a fitting conclusion to this post...It is heartening to know that you can be in a permanent hurry and not spend more than a few minutes at any time, any where, let alone just in the kitchen - and still make a beautiful loaf of bread (or recreate a beautiful childhood memory).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saucy in Seven

I give Claire Robinson with 5 Ingredient Fix on Food Network a great deal of credit for accentuating many many simplistic options to deliver great flavor to the table in 5 or less ingredients. There are some days that an uncomplicated entry and exit to a meal is desired. Other days call for a long lengthy ingredient list and a multitude of steps to achieve the end result. Much like life, one must balance both scenarios in approaching daily existence. There are occasions where time should just stand still and tick forward ever so slowly. For instance, while a roast cooks slowly in the oven one spends the time sitting ocean side chatting it up with an old friend and reading a great book. By the same token, it's nice to have a few recipes in reserve that provide the opportunity to spend less time in the kitchen and more time sitting around a table reflecting on the day's events with a loved one. Notoriously I allow the moment in front of me to determine what the order of the day is to be. I have a fabulous text Ayurveda: A Life of Balance: The Complete Guide to Ayurvedic Nutrition & Body Types with Recipes that has a plethora of information both food and otherwise, but I've found the section on sauces and dressings to be exemplary. I have prepared a recipe for Cilantro and Coconut Sauce from this cookbook many times over (served with/fish, chicken or shrimp). Roasted pine nuts, cilantro, avocado oil, coconut milk, minced fresh coconut, sea salt and a couple tablespoons of hot water. Seven simple ingredients minced or pureed deliver a huge culinary experience via the aromatic quality that cilantro brings to the kitchen and the creamy goodness that coconut milk delivers to any dish. And when time is really cut short and won't allow preparation: I keep in reserve a jarred product from Stone House 27 that is deliciously lovely with a hint of lime and ginger. (and a web site filled with a healthy assortment of recipes).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Common Denominators and a Melting Pot

The lions of August continue to roar their mighty breath across our area. Though expected this time of year after what feels like endless dripping of sweat from one's kneecaps I have to say it's a state of existence that for many of us has simply worn out its welcome this summer. Symbolically (as we all melt away in this heat) I pull out a chilled appetizer recipe for Stuffed Vidalias from the cookbook Recipes from the Hilton Head Melting Pot. In scanning the web I find a blogger/tourist referencing that she picked up this very same text in 2009 during a Thanksgiving vacation on Hilton Head Island that included a garage sale spree at the South Carolina Elks Lodge 2773 where I too had purchased this text. Always interesting when two seemingly disconnected individuals are brought together through a common passion (cookbook collection). Thanks to a host of channels today (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, FoodSpotting, etc) one can easily locate like-minded individuals with similar passions (at least those who prevail in the open windows of the internet). No matter the occasion this specific appetizer (compliments of Elaine Mitchell of Elks Lodge 2773) is simple, easy and plates beautifully for any neighborhood gathering. You have to use the real deal Vidalia Onions, not the one's claiming to be sweet or passed off as onion cousins to the Vidalia (I've tried that and it truly does not taste the same). Essentially the recipe involves peeling and coring vidalia onions which are set aside while you blend cream cheese and deviled ham, dry mustard, pimentos and seasonings of choice. After blending, fill the onion cores with the blend then chill for several hours in the refrigerator. After chilling one simply slices the onions into rounds to serve and plate accordingly. From one woman's kitchen to a garage sale to an internet post to another woman's kitchen the life of a recipe comes full circle like so many other things in this life.

Life Enrichment is like a travel and learn program...offering infusions that make every day life thereafter far more interesting! ~ Ann-Marie Adams, Reflections on a Meaningful Life