Sunday, March 25, 2012

Classic but never Old.

We just celebrated by husband’s grandmother’s 90th birthday.  This milestone has got me thinking about growing old and age in general.  This Grandma, by the way, is one of the most lucid, vibrant and independent people I know of any age ( I am knocking on wood, spitting in every direction and throwing salt over both shoulders, since I can’t remember which one wards off bad luck.  I figure more superstition has got to be better than less, where my loved ones are concerned).
So, back to contemplating aging.  When I was about 15, I perceived my 35 year old aunt and uncle as ancient, at the sunset of their days.  What can life possibly offer after the age of 30 was unclear to me.  Now I look at our grandma and I don’t see her as old, just older than me, even though our age difference is more than half century.  Her age is not haughtily unreachable or unreal to me anymore.  I look at her lifetime with wonder; just think how the world has changed for her generation – from horse and buggy to the digital reality we live in today.  I am excited to see what my lifetime will bring.  Will I see a man on Mars?  Will I experience virtual reality?  Will my daughter ever clean her closet?
Some things get better with age: wine, cheese, bread starters… as I grow older I don’t feel the weight of age, instead, I become like an old collector of cherished memories, experiences, joys and sorrows.  I build my collection recognizing that they make me who I am, that without them I am just a blank canvas.  I treat my precious collection like little treasures, wrapped up in lace and stored in wooden chest.  Sometimes I take them out and revisit them, lovingly going over every detail in my head.  For every wrinkle around my eyes and for every gray hair I will get, there will be years of life, joys of family and friends, pride for my children and more memories to store in the treasure chest.
My husband’s grandmother is not old, she is classic and classy.  There is something very timeless about how lady-like she is, with her lipstick, a new hairdo and attention to fashion.  She is classy in her dancing and cooking.   She is constantly reminding me that we should always be reinventing ourselves, learning, improving….  To celebrate all things classic but never old, I am remaking an old favorite 2 ways – Deviled eggs.. 

Smoked Salmon Deviled eggs.
10 Extra-large or jumbo eggs
½ lbs of smoked salmon finely chopped
1 tbs capers finely chopped
1 tbs fresh dill finely chopped
1 tbs Japanese mayo ( you can use regular, but I like the Japanese kind, pure umami)
2 tbs sour cream
2 tbs crem fresh
¼ tbs of sweet smoked paprika
Fresh ground pepper
Salt to taste

Harissa Deviled eggs.
10 extra-large or Jumbo eggs
5 strips of bacon
1 tbs harrisa paste (start with ½ tbs if you not sure about the heat level)
1 cup mayo
1 tbs of lime juice
½ tsp chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp chopped fresh mint

Start by making hard boiled eggs.  If you think you know how to do it perfectly, great, skip ahead, but honestly it is not as easy as it sounds.  It is difficult to time eggs perfectly, so the yolks are fully cooked and the whites do not get rubbery.  I also hate when the yolk becomes gray on the outside.  So here is my trusted method. 

In a shallow pot cover the eggs with hot water ( this will help the water come up to a boil quicker, making for more even cooking).  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to the lowest setting and cover the pan.  The water should not be bubbling; very gentle simmer is what you are looking for.  Cook for exactly 7 minutes.  Rinse under cold water and peel right away, using the cold water to rinse as you peeling. 

Let the eggs cool.  Split them in half lengthwise, gently tease out the yolks and set the white “shells” aside.

To make the Smoked Salmon deviled eggs.  Combine all the ingredients and the yolks in the bowl and mash with a fork until you get a smooth mixture.  You can also use the food processor; it makes for a mousse like texture.  Do not salt the mixture right away, try it first.  Add salt as needed.  Spoon or pipe the mixture back into the white’s half-shells.  Garnish with smoked paprika.

To make the Harissa Devil Eggs.  Cook the bacon to very crispy.  I use my husband’s method for this, little mess, quick and easy.  Place 3 or 4 paper towels on a plate (paper if you got it).  Spread the bacon on the paper towels.  Cover with 3 more paper towels.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes.  After 2 minutes, check if the bacon is crispy, if not, cook at 30 second intervals until it is.  Nice crispy bacon, zero mess.  Husbands are good for something.
Crumble the bacon until fine.  Combine all the ingredients and the yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  For this one, I don’t like to use the food processor as the bacon loses its crunch.  Spoon or pipe the mixture into the white’s half-shells.  Garnish with chopped parsley and mint.

Next time you go through your photos of years past and start feeling old, just think of yourself as classic instead!

Monday, March 12, 2012

I have my kitchen and my life back!

Aside for a few very minor details my kitchen is back and I am beyond exited.  It turned out exactly how I wanted, with touches of the old world and my own personal quirks. Of course I am still missing one cabinet glass, one shelf and all the trim, but who is keeping score.  I just keep the kitchen guys on speed dial until it is all delivered and installed.    I even got to cook today, for the kids first of course.... they missed a normal meal.  It is funny, but it took longer to cook such familiar food because I couldn’t find anything.  In my quest to improve the layout of everything, I have moved all the dishes, pots, pans and gadgets to new spots.  I may have over improved a bit... it felt like cooking in someone else’s house.   Plus everything is so shiny and new, I hate to dirty it up.   My favorite parts of the new kitchen are the granite (it so pretty, almost like a painting, I keep staring at it), my butcher block ( this thing is awesome, and I have not gotten to baking yet), my new magnetic knife bar ( I don’t have to rattle around in the draw for the dulled knives anymore), my new sink ( it is so big and deep it seems more like a bath tub than a sink), all my wood, the pantry door, the chalkboard with the daily specials ( my kids love that one), all the parts I made myself.  The new huge peninsula, doubling up as my kitchen table is a hit ( I was very worried that it would look funny and out of place), my new old-fashioned lights, the bricked up wall ( I am working on making another one by practicing my concrete skills in the garage for now).  And these are just my most favorite parts… everything else is just plain great.  I can’t wait for everyone to see it…. I can’t wait to do what I always did in my kitchen… relax and be happy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I see light at the end

I don’t know how much relevance a kitchen remodel story has to the food theme of this blog.  I figure, I promised to write about the adventures in the world of food and wine, and this experience is definitely an adventure.  It is the thorny road I must travel before I can cook again.  So far there were some really exciting moments, like when I finished making all of my wood trim and my masterpiece of a door.  There were some low moments, like when I had to re-do all the wood paining over again and when I found out that my house is literally falling down resulting in not a single straight or leveled surface to be found.
I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, though.  All the new cabinetry is in (no trim yet) and they are coming out to template my granite tomorrow.  I am more nervous now about the final then I was before.  For crying out loud, I picked some really funky granite from looking at only one slab, so in reality I have no idea how that “movement” (I learned a new decorating term) will work. 
I am also tired of the whole family living in one very dusty room.  I am tired of looking at my dusty children and my dusty dogs (poor animals, I think this thing is the hardest on them… the kids are at least looking forward to the eventual food).  Even my nightly Japanese take out is dusty and smells of paint (no, that would be my hands, I think I have a permanent paint stains on them).
I keep repeating like a mantra: “I will love it when it is done, only one more week to go, I brought this onto myself!!!”
In the mean time I try to entertain myself with small decorating, do it yourself, projects ( at least until I have to stain more wood ), twisting my husband’s arm into building me some new pantry shelves and trying not to think about how I am going to clean all of this mess up.

Every artist has to have his own Mona Lisa, this door is mine ( it really looks like a 100 year old door, the picture does not do it justice)

The first thing done, where my archways, this was a very optimistic moment

Another fine moment, My wood is up.  This project has become all about the wood.  I think I am slightly obsessed.

My little projects.  I made a chalk board to hang on the kitchen wall to write the dinner specials.  Now, when my son asks "what's for Sunday dinner?" I can say the menu is on the board.

What do you get when you take a perfectionist ( my father) and a man who's idea of perfection is sitting on the couch and not doing anything at all ( my husband)?  The answer is, you get slightly imperfect pantry shelves.  Although I must admit they are better than what I had before, but only thanks to my organizational skills.  If it wasn't for my direction they would still be hashing out whether to build them perfectly or none at all.

Wish me luck and no major surprizes in the granite world.