The Week That Was…..#showyourgold

us with 6-8

The week that was so many things all at once. The week that was clarifying and encouraging and enlightening and hilarious and exhausting and rambunctious and fun.

Because, on occasion, lady luck turns her smiling face towards me I got to spend my week at Camp Sunshine with a terrific group of people. I don’t know that I have laughed so much and so often in such a short amount of time, especially when stone cold sober. To find yourself so bonded with a group of absolute strangers, especially as an adult is rarer than rare- I landed in the albino panda bear triplets level of rare with my fellow members of Culinary Corps.

Here we are first night- all excited and trying to remember everyone’s name – I kept getting Margot and Chanel confused because, French.

 

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After  Pizza, Corn hole (no, dirty mind, its a game…with bean bags…that you throw) a bottle of wine, a few beers and some shared secrets we were a team.

The next morning when we got in the van and “Taking it to the Streets” started playing. For 4 years I did Street Theatre every summer weekend,  and that song signaled that it was time to get my shit together because in just a minutes it’s curtain’s up and SHOW TIME. The next song was Sugar Magnolia, clearly the music karma was right in the right place.

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It was less rural than my camp,  Camp Betsey Cox,  was but then again so are some parts of the Appalachian trail. It was pretty much what I expected as far as landscaping and housing and that kind thing, there was even tether ball. By 10:30 we were ready go and the adventure had begun….

We met the kids and their families the first night during an event we sponsored call Test Your Taste Buds- we had a collection of “exotic” ingredients that we were using throughout the week for them to taste.

I had balsamic vinegar….most people got it.

The kids were; well what can I say – they were kids. The teenagers looked like they’d rather be anywhere but where they were, the 3-5’s were berserk with excitement to be up late and at camp and surrounded by all these people, 6-8’s & 9-12’s were in various stages of over stimulation and interest. And as I  interacted with every person on the line, I stopped being scared because there was nothing left to be afraid of.

There were highs and lows throughout the week, though many more highs than lows. I fell madly in love with a 3 year old named Robbie- a fabulous little Ukrainian boy, a bear cub of a boy- maybe it was our shared blood that did it- there were 3 Eastern European women there and we bonded, our souls akin- –  born of the dark forests filled with mushrooms, souls that pick flowers and berries, Matrushka souls with layers upon layers- not to mention each and every one of us was dressed in velvet vests and flowered skirts when we were young.

One of the women had a daughter named Anna- who was terrifically articulate for someone so tiny and young, she was 4 or 5. Anna’s talent show performance will stay with me forever. She did not juts get up on stage, that child took the stage, she  had that thing that makes you stop talking and watch and listen. She began her performance with a bit of a sassy  sermon…during which she told us all that when we were afraid God was looking out for us, and that if we died it was ok, not to be scared,  we’d be ok because we’d go to God. Then she sang a hymn and encouraged up all to join, I wish I knew the words.

It was chilling- and not just because I tend to teeter strongly towards atheism and then totter over to agnosticism …but because she was so aware of her own mortality

It wasn’t just Anna,  for everyone at that camp mortality was an  inyour face reality not just a concept of a thing you realized when you almost got in an accident, not in a whew almost got me sort of way… but it is a constant presence in their lives. Some of these kids were sick, really fucking sick and the ones that weren’t had siblings that were, and the parents, the parents, facing the real possibility of losing their child.

After Anna’s song, after watching Kayden dance his little butt off to the Ne Ne song, watching Shayla hula hoop, and Robbie stomp around to Let It Go – I broke- I needed a time out. I cried in the walk in for a few, then got in the kitchen to take care of my prep for the night.

The rest of the week- we all worked our butts off to entertain and educate, in the evening we often got a chance to sit with a family and learn about their experience. I’ve had a look into the cancer experience with my Dad. I knew how one day everything’s fine then there’s a bump, a pain, a cough that won’t go away and the next day it’s 7 days a week 24 hours a day CANCER.

For some of these families there were/are treatments every single day for a year, weekly overnights in the hospital, for another year and it keep goign until and if you are one of the lucky ones and 8 years pass with no more cancer and after that you start with a clean slate, just the same risks as the rest of us- maybe.

There were children there with cancers that no one has even studied yet. Children in wheel chairs, with therapy dogs, with thinning hair and poor motor skills and it didn’t matter at Camp Sunshine- they didn’t have to be special just because they had cancer- they could be special because they were Jack or Jaxson or Salem or Finn- they could just be kids they could be individuals. Their siblings could be special too because they were Willow or Noah or Jesu or Hudson, not just the kids who’s brother or sister was sick and they could be loud and they could be rowdy and they could be the center of attention if they wanted to. And then families could just hang out and do stuff like families do.

us with 6-8

 

And the volunteers…those warm, wonderful people, they all smiled, like all the time and they weren’t Disney smiles- they were real, they were the kind of smile that you don’t even notice is on your face. Whether they were holding a baby or scraping off trays in the dining hall they were smiling and kind, so very very kind.

The air in that camp was filled with joy and light despite the 3 days of rain, and being a part of that was indescribable. The team I was with was incomparable…and the nightly visits to the fork were perfect, after all  camp isn’t camp without a nighttime sneak through the woods to giggle and misbehave.

I learned a few things too.

I learned that I can be a part of team, that children and I get along just fine, and that I tend to over pack, but that that’s always not bad thing because sometimes you need to have a bathrobe picnic of snacks and sometimes someone needs an extra blanket because one didn’t fit in her garbage bag (wink).

I learned that I am definitely a crier but I can make friends fast and that I miss the camaraderie of a group. I learned that I can function without much sleep though I tend to get punchy and rowdy, that I should never again be photographed in an oversize white coat with my hair up, that being covered in jello really isn’t that bad except for the flies  one of which may have just stayed with me for the next 2 days.

And I learned that yes I did miss my husband and my kitties and Pudgie but we were all were just fine without each other for a few days, and no one starved to death or lived on hot dogs wrapped in pizza.

Thank you to Camp Sunshine.

Thank you Christine and Aimee. Thank You Shin and Matt and Jeremy and Chanel and Margot and Lauren and Janice and even you, Perri, my meshuganah maidela.

AND SO MANY HUMONGOUS TREMENDOUS THANK YOUS TO EVERYONE WHO DONATED AND HELPED ME  TO GET TO CAMP SUNSHINE…..

thank you

 #SHOWYOURGOLD #FUCKCANCER #CHILDHOODCANCERAWARENESS

CCSHOWGOLD

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO CULINARY CORPS

A Journey Begins Tomorrow

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Tomorrow at 4pm I begin my week at Camp Sunshine. I may have mentioned in an earlier post that I’m terrified, if not I’ll re-iterate- I’m terrified.

I’m uneasy about some things, like sharing a room with strangers ( I snore, its bad, deviated septum bad), and I’m afraid my broken finger tip is going to be painful and annoying and that my shitty knees are going to act up, and that I’ll have forgotten something important or I’ll curse in front of the kids or worse the parents. I’m going to miss my husband, own bed and my cats and even little Pudgie the budgie. But none of that scares me. That’s just housekeeping.

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What scares me is the necessary loss of ego that a journey like this requires. This is not about ME, the ME that needs approval and encouragement, the ME that posts pictures of her food on Instagram and delights when strangers “like” it. The ME who worries if she looks fat in that or whether her hair still looks like Justin Beiber meets Countess LuAnn.

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I am bound to this sense of self through all of my securities and insecurities and in order to give fully I’m going to have to let go  of the “I”. None of that will really matter, because nothing I will do this week will be about ME, in that sense, the “I”needs to be replaced with who I really am and what I have to give.

Some say the path to enlightenment is a series of lessons designed to instigate the loss of ego. In order to become a part of the whole that self awareness of fears, wants and needs must evaporate. And that is scary scary shit, letting go of fear is not easy.

So many of us are ruled by fear, fear of disappointment, of pain, of failure, of success, of happiness, of doubt, of death, of loneliness – so this week I have to put away my fears and just be, which is really hard.

The children and their families live with a daily sense of fear that cannot compare to my fear that I’m being judged for not being pretty enough or thin enough or well dressed enough.  Whether my knife kit is worn and ragged is not important. It’s important that it holds my knives and that it, as well as, I, am there to do what I went there to do and that is to have fun with these kids!

So that is what is gonna happen!

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This is my SandWITCH hat.

My costume for the masquerade is mostly done, my knives are sharpened, by tonight my bags will be packed and my food story cookies will be baked, I’ll get a pedicure and some last minute provisions tomorrow and be on the road by 3:00 ready to go through the rabbit hole…stepping into a world that will be as familiar as it will be strange.

My food story-

As a way to introduce ourselves to the other chefs we have all been asked to bring something edible to tell our food story. I really had a hard time with this, it seems my story is long and winding it has no definitive beginning, it branches out in one area then doubles back– my food story takes place in NYC and Long Island, in India and Philadelphia, in Maine, in Seattle, in Northern California, at my mother’s house,  in my grandmothers’ kitchens, in my father’s house, my food story is written on Chinese take-out containers, wax deli paper, slim-fast cans and sheet pans. Should I make bialys? Or kasha varnishkes ? (My husband tells me that no one wants that).What about pastrami ? Or toast with condensed milk . Maybe I should have started a batch of my grandfather’s wishniak 2 months ago. Maybe Bella’s apple cake with plums or Poppa Hy’s matzoh brei, Or my parents Chinese pork garlic bread sandwiches? What about my salted nutella & hazelnut budino? The smoky fried chickpeas from my first Food 52 win? Or something with blueberries because I live in Maine or should I  roast a turkey or make a porchetta? Then I remembered and I looked in my email…..

RE: Cookies

Ira Waks <IWaks@jackrussellgroup.com>

3/8/11

to me
 Very good better than aunt lola

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Not Quite Aunt Lola’s Rye Miso Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3 C AP flour
  • 1 C rye flour
  • .5 # butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 T blond miso
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 C granulated sugar
  • 3 C dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt +
  • 1 cup semi -sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 bar dark chocolate broken in pieces
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • .75 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • .25 cup chopped candied ginger
  1. Brown butter, while butter is hot whisk in miso to combine- let cool till “softened butter texture”
  2. Sift together flours, baking soda & salt
  3. Cream butter & sugars
  4. Add egg 1 at a time allowing it to fully incorporate before adding next one
  5. Add flour in 3 steps (DON’T FORGET TO LOWER THE MIXER SPEED!)
  6. Stir in Chips etc
  7. Add 1 Tablespoon HOT water
  8. Mix well
  9. Portion  with tablespoon & freeze at least 4 hours or overnight
  10. Preheat oven to 375
  11. Place frozen dough directly on sheet pan, leaving room for spread
  12. Sprinkle with sea salt
  13. Bake 12 -13 minutes

 

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO CULINARY CORPS

ohmygawditssofrickinhotout

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Hey you,  wassup? How’s your summer going? It’s been awhile I know, I’ve been busy too, and by busy I mean kind of occupied but really more like I’ve had lots of intentions to actually do things but procrastinated them away because there’s a new season of Real Housewives of NY and you know I’ve been like doing stuff too.

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I’ve been cooking things and instagramming them and pretending that that is the same thing as writing – which it is not.

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How pretty is that? It’s just a side of wild salmon with Dijon mustard, brown sugar, salt & pepper – then I cooked it till it was done.
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Chickpea fritters with mint & dill – lots of animal free protein in here- I served them with a garlicky yoghurt and a watermelon salad spiked with ginger and harissa.
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I re-decorated my dining room to the way I thought it should be at first, but had to wait until a day when I was alone in the house to do it because Christian thought I would be wrong- but it totally opens up the space. HA!

 

But today, today in the humid sticky heat of nearly August, I’ve decided to share with you not only what’s been happenin’ but my new favorite recipe for No Churn Ice Cream.

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I grew these pretty pretty flowers.

I’ll be heading to camp in a few weeks, and I’m nervous but excited. I’ve never spent very much one on one time with sick kids and I’m afraid of getting emotionally overwhelmed, luckily I’ll be with 10 other chefs who are doing the same thing, and we can support each other. One of the great things I’ve discovered about volunteerism is the asshole quotient is usually pretty low, most people who donate their time and energy are kind and generous, and that makes it a whole lot easier to do things that are emotionally and physically challenging.

If you are reading this and you have not yet donated to Culinary Corps I urge you to do so on my behalf,  it’s a good thing to do. CLICK RIGHT HERE.  Please put my name in the Honoree Box. ( I was using Go Fund Me- but I found their fees too high).

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Farrah says- “Donate to Culinary Corps!” – actually Farrah gives zero zilch eronay fucks about anything besides her own comfort, but that’s because she’s a cat.

So I was on TV the other day, yeah I was on a show called 207– they highlight things that are happening here in the great state of Maine. The host Rob Caldwell was super nice, in fact everyone there was. I went on to promote Culinary Corps at Camp Sunshine.

Here’s the clip:

http://www.wcsh6.com/story/news/local/207/2015/07/28/panzanella-salad/30789839/

Aside from the 300 ums, my wacky looking hair and sweaty brow I think I did pretty well- all I need is a make-up artist and a dream and I would be great at this TV thing.

On a much lighter note I received my first Influenster box this month…so I too can shill free stuff like a celebs, and though I’ve only really gotten to try out 3 of the six items in the box – let me tell you I LOVED them! Hand to god, I wouldn’t say anything if they sucked- like my Glossybox- I did not love Glossybox and I will say nothing more about it (#wasteofmoney).

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1. Dickinson’s Witch Hazel cloths– This could go on my desert island list, and it is certainly going with me to camp. They are wonderful when you are hot and sweaty- they cool you off and clean your face- and yes I should maybe have thought of using them before I went in front of the camera.

2.  Vaseline Spray moisturizer– I am both lazy and perpetually running late, mostly because I am lazy- and yes my skin does suffer from it- because really who has time to put the lotion on it’s skin when you’ve given yourself 35 minutes  to shower, dress, do your hair , feed 3 cats, 1 bird and make breakfast & lunch for you and your husband? This morning I sprayed on my moisturizer as I was walking down the stairs– and my skin is soft and just a bit shimmery. Booyah!

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Yes, my bare foot is on my dining room table, where people eat (not me though, I usually sit on the other end)

3. Blue Diamond Sriracha Almonds – So the day my Sunshine box arrived was hot as hell, I just rode my bike all over the place , I was schvitzy and hangry so after I wiped my face down with the aforementioned wipe, I ripped into these babies like I’d never seen food before and forced myself not to just pour the whole packet into my mouth. Instead, I went upstairs to hang out with the bird- like I do everyday when I come home and I ate them like a lady, one (or two or four) at a time whilst sipping a cold glass of lightly sweetened herbal tea ( spiked with gin). I’m not one to go ubernuts with the sriracha, I think it has a time and a place- and that place is definitely on salty crunchy almonds- also I think they would make an AMAZING crust for pan seared fish.

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And that’s the end of the notreallyadevertising but they gave me stuff so I would write about it, and now I fulfilled my obligations (and I LOVE my new stuff) so win win.

Have you seen this?  Mad Libs for Every Food Blog Commenter ? It is BRILLIANT- maybe more so if you have ever posted a recipe or read the comments section of an online recipe but the team at The Kitchn nailed it!

My dessert making has been going pretty well I’m getting very into this no churn ice cream. I love the texture it’s very soft and creamy and lush, sort of like gelato but more like the spumoni you get at L&B spumoni gardens. If you have ever had the pleasure you know, I don’t gotta tell you. But if you haven’t and if you are ever in Brooklyn and want to know what it was like before Pinterest the go to L&B Spumoni Gardens it’s in Bensonhurst fircrissakes, and not for nuthin’ but the Sicilian slice is freakin’ great also they have good clams.

Today I even have recipe for you!  It’s a long game sort of recipe, perfect for when its hot and you don’t want to move around so much. There’s a long wait time – 3 days- ish – but you are really only doing anything for like 25 minutes.

This requires some time because it implements the cold steep; during which you infuse flavors into cold cream using time rather than heat to fill all those fat cells with essential oils. If you are planning to have it on the weekend, you can put in 5 minutes on Wednesday night and a half an hour on Friday and it will be ready on Saturday.

Tea & Toast Ice Cream

  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 3 tablespoons or 3 tea bags of good quality Darjeeling tea
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 can less 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Thick slices of sturdy white country bread or 1/3 of a good baguette
  • 4 tablespoons best butter
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  1. Using tongs hold the cinnamon stick over a gas flame until it starts to smolder- if you have an electric stove place in a heavy pan and toast until it turns black and your house is filled with this great smell that is burnt cinnamon. Do the same with the vanilla pod, yes I know, it smells freakin’ great.
  2. Break up the cinnamon stick into small pieces  and chop up the vanilla bean.
  3. Place the cinnamon, vanilla, tea, pinch of sea salt & cream in a container with a tight-fitting lid cover and stick in fridge if you remember to do so give it a good shake every couple of days let steep over night or up to 3 days.
  4. Meanwhile…. Toast the bread well- until its dark brown with just a tiny bit of burnt
  5. Butter both sides of the bread USE ALL THE BUTTER, break into pieces and place in food processor.
  6. Pulse until you have a coarse crumb, remove from processor and stir in 2 tbs of the condensed milk & salt, taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  7. Strain the cream discard solids (you could wipe off the vanilla beans and stick in some sugar to keep forever, if you wanted to, I do that because I am thrifty)
  8. Whip the cream to stiff peak – I use my KitchenAid  you could use a whisk, if you need an arm work out
  9. Fold the remaining condensed milk gently into the whipped cream, get it thoroughly mixed in, the cream will deflate some.
  10. Carefully swirl the toast crumbs into the cream mixture to give a swirl of toasty bits. If you are not confident in your ability to do this with out mucking it up- pour half the ice cream base into a loaf pan then add the toasty bits then cover with remaining base and tap on the counter a few times to get the air bubbles out.
  11. Gently pour everything into a loaf pan or wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze over night.

I would serve this with bourbon soaked cherries or some blackberries smashed with a bit of sugar– or even a spoonful of warmed cherry or blackberry jam, a couple of sugar cookies wouldn’t exactly be over kill either.

If you want to do away with the whole nonsense and just make some ice cream whip a cup of cream add most of the can of sweetened condensed milk to it + some thing like chocolate chips or some bits of halvah or crushed berries or salted peanuts or even sriracha almonds (ooooh, hmmm, maybe but maybe not) and freeze it over night in a tightly wrapped container.

So so my lovelies that is the end of today; my girl Holly Jo is in town and I’m meeting her for happy hour in an hour and a half. So in honor of my new hairdo which I hate even though it is a necessary evil because I accidentally burned a hank of hair off of my head with my new hairdryer the same week  I broke my fingertip. I am leaving you with these words of wisdom from Countess DeLesseps- with whom I now share a hairdo.

Will you help me give the kids at Camp Sunshine a Terrific (and Delicious) Summer?

I have a fabulous opportunity this summer- and I need your help.

I have been selected from a large pool of applicants as one of ten chef-volunteers with CulinaryCorps – the nation’s first service organization designed specifically for culinary professionals.

On August 24th-28th, I will be traveling with the CulinaryCorps team to Camp Sunshine (right here in Maine!) during the oncology/hematology session. I’d like to think that this would make Ira (my Dad)  so proud- food and children were two of his favorite things. I’m doing this in his memory and because, really how could I not?

It will no doubt be an amazing and transformative trip but I am writing to you because I need your help.

Would you be willing to support our culinary outreach efforts?

As a 100% volunteer-run organization, all funds go directly toward trip logistics and are 100% tax deductible.Your contribution, no matter how big or small, will supply us with the ingredients and equipment necessary to cook alongside the 120+ campers and 75+ volunteers at camp that week.

We will be launching the World of Flavors cooking program, a CulinaryCorps-designed cooking curriculum designed all ages that includes hands-on cooking instruction, healthful ingredient exploration and the much-anticipated Top Chef Sunshine competition. Though above all else, we aim to have lots of delicious fun with families who need it the most.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. Please click on the link below if you feel you are able to contribute. I look forward to updating you at the end of August about the many delicious contributions we were able to cook up at camp because of your generosity- I figure if everyone I know donates $15 I’ll meet my goal in minutes!

I have a personal fundraising goal of upwards of $1000.00

Donate DIRECTLY to Camp Sunshine by clicking here  Camp Sunshine

Please note: In the “Dedicate my Donation” section, please type my name in the honoree box so they know who raised the money.

IF you are not into the exchange of money on the interwebs you can mail a check:

  1. Please make payable to CulinaryCorps Inc.
  2. On the memo line of the check please write my name.
  3. Please send the check to:
CulinaryCorps Inc.
3133 Connecticut Ave NW #324
Washington, DC 20008

As a 100% volunteer-run organization, all funds go directly toward trip logistics and are 100% tax deductible.Your contribution, no matter how big or small, will supply us with the ingredients and equipment necessary to cook alongside the 120+ campers and 75+ volunteers at camp that week.

We will be launching the World of Flavors cooking program, a CulinaryCorps-designed cooking curriculum designed all ages that includes hands-on cooking instruction, healthful ingredient exploration and the much-anticipated Top Chef Sunshine competition. Though above all else, we aim to have lots of delicious fun with families who need it the most.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. I look forward to updating you at the end of August about the many delicious contributions we were able to cook up at camp because of your generosity.

Love,

Ali

PS. Let’s do it for Ira!

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________________________

May has come and gone.

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May is now behind us, it was full of birthdays and visits and feelings and food and new adventures and June just crept right up on my ass wham here it is, a balmy 52 degrees here in Brunswick, I’m wearing a sweater and boots.

A quick review of May…I began the month rife with emotional drama, my 45th birthday approaching, there was a family issue that I have to reconcile in my mind, as well as my on-going work/life drama , but it’s all sort of sorted.

I’ve started making desserts for Trattoria Athena, which I think is the best restaurant in town, it’s a tiny Italian place where everything is handmade with local ingredients, it’s the sister to the Enoteca where I often go to happy hour. I walked in to talk about working FOH and walked out with a weekly pastry gig. So far I’ve made the following:

 

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Burnt sugar caramel budino with Nutella caramel, hazelnuts & Maine sea salt (this is my signature)

Chocolate salami with rice krispies, currants, pistachios & coffee beans

Wine poached dates with orange blossom marscapone & sugared almonds

Rhubarb crostata in semolina/jasmine tea crust

Olive oil lemon curd with lavender shortbread & lavender candied lemon peel

Cannoli cream whoopies pies with cocoa, chocolate, & cocoa nibs

Ricotta semi-freddo with sweet toast & amerena cherries

White nectarines in lilac confit, amaretti cookies & limoncello ice cream

I’m pretty excited for what is to come up next…ideas are furiously fluttering! I am thinking of strawberries & elderflowers and Maine blueberries with buckwheat….we shall see what’s to come.

May 15 was Xtian’s B-day- we had an adventure day in Portland went to a whiskey tasting, where we not only got along with others but had a pretty good time, and we bought some very nice gin.

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Great summer cocktail : Gin + pink grapefruit + grapefruit bitters + sparkling water+ splash tonic

 

We had cocktails with ribs on them for a snack and then visited the Cryptozoology Museum. It was a bit dusty and overstuffed, less informational than I would have like , and it mentioned nothing about Bigfeet’s proclivity towards Smashing Pumpkins, both the band and the activity. Pumpkins make Squatches very very angry, and they can’t help themselves but too smash them to the ground in a million pieces,but we did get a nice Yeti Christmas ornament.

We walked around Portland a lot (um parked like a million blocks from the museum by accident and got lost -ish) . It was a good day, a really good day.

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Us & a Squatch

On the way home we stopped in Freeport to visit a chocolate shop and also get some bird food (not at the same place though they were across the street from each other).

We decided to take a road we hadn’t been down before to see where it would take us and it took us to a dead end, one that was home to two of the biggest chickens I’d ever seen, they were like 3 feet tall.

Anyway since I happened to have some millet on me; I thought we should stop and say hello and offer them a snack. So we stopped the car and before I could even reach back to get the millet the red one hopped up on our car !

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Then, the black and white one jumped up…

big chicken

They started crowing and pecking at the windshield wipers, and Xtian was getting a little freaked out that they would a) attack us b) break the car

So I got some millet, I got out of the car, I clucked at them and got them far enough away and gave them a treat. Then  I ran back into the car (even though I was secretly hoping one would jump in the back seat and we could take it home, even though I read the city ordinance and we can’t have a rooster.).

It was close they trotted over the other other side of the car and we had to back away pretty slowly so we wouldn’t hit them.

I thought it was one of the best things EVER!

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Xtian’s first birthday present to me– I miss that bike  (look how cute he is!!!!)

MY BIRTHDAY was spectacular!

Xtain went back to Philly (that is not why it was spectacular btw) and Jenn & Sue came for the weekend, so it was a house full of ladies.

On Friday- Jenn & I got horrible pedicures did some shopping then had relaxing lunch at home while watching reality TV. ( um, perfectness).

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We had drinks

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Then dinner with Christine at Trattoria Athena– it was super delicious!

We followed my Italian eating formula: 3:2:1:2 (for 3-4 people)  2:1:1:2 for 2 people

Share 1 app per person,  share pasta – (get two 1/2 orders or 1 full  if two people , 2 orders if 3-4 people),  share a single meat/fish and get 2 desserts

Meatballs – so tender, I probably could have eaten them ALL. Also I did eat everything and stopped taking pictures– sorry.

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Fritto misto with artichokes & fiddle heads

Razor clams– which were something I’d never had before and will eat again and again, they were just perfect

Trofie ala Genovese : Trofie is a hand-rolled pasta made from old bread & semolina and the sauce was very slow cooked onions & beef – This was my favorite of the night.

(here’s a recipe in the NYtime archives for sauce ala Genovese, which is totally worth trying)

Farfalle (handmade!) with ramp pesto& asparagus

Lamb chops with gigante beans

Yes, we had dessert – the Budino and the Olive Oil Lemon Curd plus lots of wine & after dinner drinks(thank you Tim)

It was a fantastic dinner and with such great company, its so nice when your girlfriends enjoy each other’s company.  I think now that I am older I have better friends- there’s no more competition or any bullshit- my friends are the people  I trust and the ones I really really like spending time with, which is exactly how it should be.

(Jenn & I stayed up drinking more way too far into the night)

Saturday we woke up super early, and ever so slightly hungover, we went to go get Sue at the airport, went to Farmers Market, then had a nice 4 hour Spa afternoon – mani/facial/massage, it was very nice. We had a crappy lunch at Gritty’s because it was 2:30 and I forgot that Eventide was open -then hit TJ’s before some well deserved rest and dinner of too much Chinese food & huge drinks- we were going to go dancing but we were too old and tired.

Sunday, we needed some exercise so we took our recently glycolicly peeled faces to the beach where we burnt them to a crisp. We took a long walk on Popham beach and had a beachside lunch at Spinney’s (which was not bad)beachladies

We went home, napped, and I made dinner for my ladies:

Crostini- goat’s milk ricotta, wilted ramps, green garlic & french breakfast radishes

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Ribeye steaks, grilled asparagus and a ramp bearnaise

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For dessert we had more of the cake I made for Sue (it was her birthday too) – it was a buttermilk cake filled with blackberry & lemon and covered in penuche frosting.

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We lit a fire in the fire pit and drank more wine and laughed alot… like ALOT.

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Monday was Memorial day- we hit town for the parade, and Xtian came home we had a late lunch BBQ of Hot Dogs, Hamburgers with my “Irish Lady Potato Salad” & Kimchi cole slaw.

Xtian brought me an Italian rum cake w cannoli filling all the way from Philly- It was the same as our wedding cake and my 40th birthday cake.

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We skipped dinner that night, made popcorn and watch American Sniper- which I hated.

It was just war porn, I really thought it would be more about PTSD and what that actually does to a person, I thought it would be insightful, instead it was swaggering macho bullshit.

And that was pretty much the month that was. I finally figured out how to attach my instagram (@aliwaks on intagram) to this page so you can see all the pictures of what I’ve been cooking everyday

Our friends John & Amy are coming to visit tomorrow and I have to figure out how to pick these amazing wild geranium growing on the railroad tracks without getting arrested. They are the most glorious shade of purple and I want them in my house!!!!!

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This is me at 45… not too bad I think.

 

The Morel of the Story

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Well its time to stop mucking about with all my #FEELINGS and get down to it and write about some food.

The sun has returned to the land of seemingly endless winter and we’re feeling less and less like hibernating walruses rolling from bed to car to couch and back again every day. I’m back on my bike and moving freely through the world (at least the part of the world without hills, since its a single speed cruiser).

Mackerel Cove Daffodils

Lovely small green things are popping out of the ground, and so are those lovely lascivious ever-so slightly penile harbingers of spring; morel mushrooms. I’m am not kidding you when I tell you that my heart skipped a beat when I saw them on Saturday morning, chunked right in there between the homenji and the miatake. I let out a small gasp and bouncing on my heels got right in line behind a gentlemen in a small and interesting hat.

The lady in front of us was taking her time, examining every single mushroom available, chatting about this and that, I was practically climbing out of my skins wanted to just reach over and touch just one morel…to make sure it was real.

I chatted with my line-mate, I’d seen him around with his curious hat and fancy basket- from the first word out of his mouth…I knew – a fellow New Yorker, a member of the tribe- its strange how the accents of your youth can affect you. We chatted about mushrooms and NYC and Long Island and Maine, and that’s how long it took the lady to select and pay for her mushrooms.

A Feh-tarsec : The amount of time it takes newly acquainted NY Jews to trade jokes & information.

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But back to my mushrooms, my mushrooms, my $7 worth of luxury (an eighth btw). All of the sudden a world of possibilities had opened up. Before the mushrooms I’d been obsessing over lamb, and a desperate need to explore the Portland Whole Foods on my own, without my husband hurrying me along whilst pretending to die from over exposure to overpriced condiments and self satisfied shoppers.

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An 1/8th of shrooms

I understand why he feels that way, and I agree that there are people in the world who believe that since they shop at Whole Foods they have filled their decency quota by purchasing non GMO fair trade coconut oil and therefore do not have to be respectful in the parking lot but I don’t care because I LOVE WHOLE FOODS, always have, always will. If there was a bus from where I live to Whole Foods, even if it took over an hour I would take it just so I could be there alone to explore every aisle. But there’s not and I am still not ready to drive to Portland by myself.

Back to my MUSHROOMS…. now cradled in my greedy little paws…

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A boyfriend once referred to my hands as polar bear paws.

I felt free to explore the market and start to plan out the what to cook this week.  I picked up some tiny tiny radishes with luscious greens, a small chunk of salami made with orange peels and honey, a dozen eggs, a purply bunch of mustard greens and two fat leeks, two wedges of locally made cheese, tiny potatoes, a watermelon radish, a stubby diakon, a quart of buttermilk and a loaf of ciabatta and before I knew it my alotted $40 was gone- POOF. (ok, I cheated I put another $8 on debit card)

I took a few moments to construct  this weeks menu.

Saturday

We had lunch with my husband’s Aunt Nat at The Dolphin, she is lovely and it was a pleasure to spend an afternoon with her.

I had an excellent Bloody Mary and some serviceable fish tacos. The fish was fresh but too many things in that taco, I like them with raw cabbage, lime & crema ..these had an overly complicated red pepper salsa nightmare and avocado chipolte crema. Also I think they cost like $20 for 2 little tacos and some crappy rice.

The Dolphin is great for drinks though, only problem is it’s SUCH a drive that you need a chauffeur if you’re going to really take advantage.

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Then we napped for too long because of the Bloody Marys and so we were cranky and didn’t finish our errands until 7:30 – we fell back on an old standby Fried Chicken from supermarket- (I was cranky because I did not get to go to fun butcher or to Whole Foods and Xtian was cranky because of me), I wanted  asparagus and mint fro my morel pasta but our supermarket had been ravaged of mint, asparagus and cilantro by Bowdoin students, which added to my crankiness,

In an attempt to stave off further crankiness we had some Champagne, we LOOOVE Champagne with fried chicken and watched Reds 2, which wasn’t that bad. The night before we watched the last Hobbit Movie which SUCKED so badly it made us even more crabby.

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Sunday 

I was tempted to just have my shrooms on toast or  scrambled eggs but my morels wanted to be pasta- so after I cleaned the bathroom, my room, our bedroom, the kitchen and the dining room table I made:

Sweet Pea Tortellini 

I made pasta with the lovely fresh eggs and “00” flour, and while it was resting I made ricotta with leftover milk from last week that was about to turn. I am always so damned pleased with myself when I make cheese and pasta, it’s just so fucking cool. Making food is awesome!!!!!

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I pureed some defrosted peas then mixed them in with the ricotta, a green onion, lemon zest, bread crumbs & Parmesan (it was a bit thick so I used the whey to thin it out a bit).

I sauteed my morels in butter, cubed the last bit of some Bisson’s slab bacon, rendered those into crispy cubes, then I sauteed a bit of leek, de-glazed the pan with sherry until it was dry. Once the tortellini were cooked I added them to the pan with a good glug of pasta water, some whole peas and swirled it all around with a tablespoon or so of cream, a dash more butter and finished with more parm, the buttery morels, the bacon, a good amount of black pepper and it was very good, it was very good.

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Monday

I had Welsh Rarebit on the brain, I actually have never even eaten Welsh Rarebit but I watched April Bloomfield make it on Mind of a Chef and I have SUCH a girl crush on her, that I was sure it would be absolutely delicious, just like she said.

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I made “bechamel” with Guinness in place of milk and added the two local cheeses + some grainy mustard & Worcestershire sauce, I quick pickled a bit of red onion and made a HUGE salad with watermelon radish, carrots, red cabbage & arugula in an aggressive red wine vinaigrette. Also very good.

Here is a terrible, out of focus picture of said Welsh rarebit.

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Tuesday (tonight)

I’ve had a little organic chicken marinating in 1/2 buttermilk 1/2 whey from the ricotta + garlic and lemon zest for two days. I’m going to spatchcock it and roast it, along side my tiny potatoes and the carrots I have left from last weeks farket visit. I think I’ll make a salsa verde with parsley, capers, anchovy, garlic and pistachios to give it some green.

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Wednesday

Warm soba noodles with crispy tofu in black bean vinaigrette with red cabbage, watermelon radish & sauteed mustard greens

How virtuous of me.

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Thursday

We’ve been doing pizzas alot and I’m a bit bored of them also we are bad at portion control. This week I’m making individual calzones filled with ricotta, chunks of salami and sauteed radish greens and a salad of tiny radishes and arugula in a punchy anchovy vinaigrette.

PotterOPAM-Joan-ABunchofRadishes-9x12-$2300

Friday

I have a small slab of pork belly in my freezer- and my husband LOVES having sandwiches for dinner, and that totally fits our Friday vibe. Thursday night I’ll Bo SSam the pork belly till its soft & unctous. Friday night I’ll crisp thick slices slathered with gochuchang on the grill . On to crisp baguettes they’ll go with raw jalapeno, pickled diakon + some fresh cilantro & mint (which hopefully have returned to the shops) + a bit of mayo MAYBE there will be pate maybe not depends on what I can find, and so the week that started with morels will end with Korean pork belly banh mi.

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This week the farmer’s markets move from only Saturdays to Tuesday, Friday and Saturday… I can’t wait to see what’s popping out all over!

Sunday is our 1 YEAR Anniversary of moving to Maine. It’s unbelievable, yet it seems like we’ve always been here. (We are celebrating with fried clams, frappes & cheeseburgers at Fat Boys- after which we should probably do a juice fast)

#FoodBankNYCChallenge

I’ve been pretty vocal on Facebook regarding Gwenyth Paltrow and her food bank challenge purchases, and I’m not an “important voice” or anything, but I wanted to back up my bitching.

My issue is not that shes a very rich person, or a movie star or someone who would spend $27 on a teeny tiney shot of vitamin juice with no hesitation. My issue is that she purports herself to be a real cook, a food writer and I can’t see any other person I know of who is a chef or a food writer or even a real cook making those choices… so I decided to go do my own theoretical challenge.

I went on my local supermarket’s website and made a shopping list. Knowing full well that the reality of it is that you really get $119 a month, and there is more variety available especially in regard to proteins. But as I have mentioned my mother and her husband live at this level, and without our help or trips to the food bank they could go a couple of months without things like fresh limes, cilantro, kale…much less orange juice, lettuce, and cucumbers.

I KNOW THIS ISN’T THE SAME AS LIVING  IT

BUT

I ALREADY HAVE LIVED ON $25 A WEEK

AND

I DON’T WANT TO DO IT AGAIN

Chicken thighs ( about 4 thighs on sale) 2#  $       3.50
Store brand pasta 1 box  $       0.89
Egg 1 doz  $       1.99
Brown Rice 1#  $       1.19
Frozen Veg (Broccoli, Spinach, Peas) 4- bags  $       3.96
Store Brand Canned Tomato 2 cans  $       1.58
Store Brand Cheese 1  $       2.49
Store brand WW bread 1  $       1.99
Store Brand Peanut Butter 1  $       1.99
Canned Beans 2  $       1.50
Onion 2  $       1.00
Garlic 2 heads  $       1.00
Bananas 3#  $       1.47
Potato 1#  $       0.99
Oatmeal/Instant 1  $       1.59
 Tuna on sale  1  $     1.00
 $    28.13

 

Then I made a menu- figuring that I did not exist in a vacuum and so had a few things on hand already like tea bags, sugar, salt, pepper, oil & a few spices, also, much as I did when I was broke, I would have a stash of soy sauce, duck sauce & mustard packets, sugar packets, lemon juice, ketchup packets, honey packets, mayo really anything that I could help myself to (also a  handful or so of those 1/2 & 1/2 containers stashed in the fridge)

It’s pretty grim even with a goodly stash of purloined condiments (especially the lack of chocolate and coffee)

Sunday

Breakfast

1 Egg + 1 cup frozen broccoli + cheese on Toast

Lunch  

Brown Rice & Beans (1 cup each) + 1 oz cheese (onion & garlic + hot sauce)

Dinner

1 Chicken Thigh braised in tomatoes, onion & garlic + 1/4 box  Spaghetti +1 Cup Frozen Broccoli

Dessert 1 Frozen banana blended w 1 TBS peanut butter

Monday

Breakfast

Breakfast – Oatmeal w Raw Sugar + 1 little half & half

Hard Boiled egg

Lunch

“Fried” Rice – Left over rice + soy sauce+ onions + egg

Dinner

Baked Potato w/ Spinach & Cheese

+ Peanut Butter Toast

Tuesday

Breakfast

Breakfast – Oatmeal w Raw Sugar + 1 little half & half

Hard Boiled egg

Lunch

Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwich

Dinner

Chicken thighs (soy sauce/duck sauce/hot mustard) + Brown Rice w Onion & Frozen peas

Wednesday

Breakfast 

Oatmeal w salt & pepper + Fried egg & Hot sauce

Lunch

Leftovers from Dinner

Dinner

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup made from canned tomatoes/onion/garlic + half & half

Thursday 

Oatmeal w bananas

Lunch – Leftover Tomato Soup + Extra Veg

Dinner: 

Omelet with Onions, Spinach & Cheese & Potatoes

Friday

Breakfast

Tuna Sandwich (mayo & relish)

Lunch 

Beans & Rice w Cheese

Dinner

Spaghetti  w Garlic & Broccoli

Saturday

Breakfast

“French Toast” w Bananas

Lunch 

Toast & Peanut Butter

Dinner

Last Chicken Thigh +  Caramelized Onions with Toast + any veg left

This is just one option- there are other ways- I could have included a quick trip to TJ’s to pick up a $1.19 pizza dough, there are sales on things like yogurt ($1 each) there are $1.50 boxes of cookies and 2 for a dollar chocolate bars, and .89 Stock… and its amazing what like $5 more could do…amirite?