Archive for January, 2009

Wild woman

Last week I got the call: My salmon was in town, and it was wondering if it could come to stay.

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It comes every January, you see, all the way from farthest  Alaska, to take up residence in my freezer (I finally bought a chest freezer this year for the overflow of a year’s supply of sockeye and coho, plus breads, stocks, berries, and the occasional leftover tomatillo salsa). It arrives by air, shrouded in glacier ice packs and cardboard, carried to my door personally by the very family that catches it, Brenda Charles and her father.

And even though it’s the wildest of wild, I’m not afraid. There will be no middle-of-the-night phone calls. No broken windows or smashed wine glasses or trashed guest suites (ok, I don’t even have a guest suite).

But this year, I promise that I will get a little wilder with the wild salmon. It’s delicious all by itself, for sure, but it can also handle a lot more variety of flavor than I’ve been dishing out. And I think we’ve all grown a little too comfortable with my weeknight fall-back: mustard and lemon and herb variations, or garlic and soy and maple.

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First up: Upon cleaning out my freezer to make way for this shipment, I found some cooked polenta from a few weeks ago. It made a fine crust for roasted salmon.

But what are your ideas? Your favorite things to do with salmon? I’m totally amenable, open to suggestions. Bring ’em on!

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You cook anyway

I’m nibbling a slice of leftover birthday cake (Emmie’s lemon bundt) and getting my fill of Saveur‘s February issue “The Saveur 100: Home Cook Edition.”  (I’ve earmarked half a dozen pages already: New oils to track down [La Tourangelle Roasted Pistachio], recipes to find [spicy Trinidadian chana], writing to read [that of author John Thorn].

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Bundt cake is the unhip of cake, but it’s ok with that. It’s ever reliable and simple, hardly suggestive of fondant. I’ve mentioned once or thrice before that I’m not one for fluffy cakes, so perhaps that’s why I’m game to eat a rich slice of bundt, with its concentrated flavor and moist crumb.

And the bundt as a form is rooted in memory:  Foremost, how as a kid I didn’t really prefer it because, frankly, it couldn’t hold its weight in frosting. But I also remember my mom’s black-coated bundt pan, and I remember that she made bundt cakes from time to time. That is reason enough to bake one.

Such culinary traditions are part of what Saveur is all about, but so is flexibility. As Nancy Harmon Jenkins writes: “If a dish calls for six cloves of garlic and you have only one, if the recipe requires a tablespoon of tomato paste and you’re all out, if you’re supposed to use lemon juice but you’ve got only oranges, you cook anyway, and you end up making something good.”

It’s how I worked this cake, with almond extract and a drop of Fiori di Sicilia instead of lemon extract.

I cooked anyway, and I ended up making something good enough that I’m forgoing a plate, fork in hand.

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Filled with happy

How do you feel when your kid sister lands back home from Russia, where she taught English to cute little kids with big eyes whose names all end in -sia or -tia (the girls, anyway), and where she took cooking classes in her off-time?

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And how do you feel when, in your company, she applies her newfound talent for adapting Russian dishes based on American supermarket availability?

Happy, that’s how you feel. And full. Happy and full. Full and happy.

Especially when said sister gets to the dessert part of the Russian food extravaganza.

Behold the so-called Tower of Happiness. It must have an official Russian name, and surely it’s served for a Russian purpose somewhere in Russia. But my sister referred to this — this construction of egg whites and sugar and homemade dulce de leche (yes, I know that’s not Russian) — as the Tower of Happiness.

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I must say, that after I consumed way too much of it that first night, and way too much of it at subsequent, and regular, intervals, I most definitely felt happy. And full.

And when one night I poked my nose in the refrigerator and asked, “Is the happiness all gone?” and learned that indeed it was, I felt a teeny bit sad. Not heart-ripped-to-pieces sad. Not wailing and teeth-gnashing sad. More of a bite-lower-lip-and-carry-on-through-the-emptiness kind of sad.

But even when the dessert is gone, there’s always happiness left to spread: Sarah, at Life is Still Sweet, passed this lovely award to me, and I’d like to forward it on to the following amazing bloggers.

“This blog invests and believes the PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!”

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Batter-Splattered (for her site’s literary and atmospheric quality); My Kitchen in Half-Cups (because that sums up what food blogging’s all about, anyway); Britt’s Got Boys (for her wry delight of momhood, and for making me glad I don’t have boys); An Edible Symphony (because she tells food-as-life stories). Read, view, enjoy!

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This year

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In 2009, and in celebration of my 100th post (!), I resolve to eat more balls of glittering sugar-coated cookie dough.

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