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Posts Tagged ‘Valentine’s Day’

As the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen. Right now it’s 12 degrees F at the New Jersey Shore, and everyone on Facebook is comparing our temperature to that of Anchorage, AK (32F) and Davis Station, Antarctica (31F). It’s totally whack.

I’ve been staying warm working backstage which, with the stage lights lending their colorful gusto, is about 85 degrees. Outside, the ice has been a femme-fatale combo platter of treacherous and strikingly beautiful. Most people don’t stoop to take pictures of the snowflakes trapped in the ice at the bottom of their driveways.

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But I’m not most people.

And a recent fire destroyed some of the stores and homes in Ocean Grove. I did my laundry in the laundromat a few doors down. It was intact, but smelled strongly of smoke. People did what they did when 9/11 struck and when Hurricane Sandy struck: wandered a little, stunned; collected provisions for those who has lost their own; and cleaned up. Water from the fire hoses froze in the trees in the foreground—an eerily beautiful counterpoint to the burned debris behind them.

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And I’ve been in the kitchen, for a change. I love Valentine’s Day, and filled orders for European-style chocolate truffles (55% semisweet Ghirardelli chocolate, cream, and sweet butter rolled in cocoa powder or topped with fleur de sel). I am told hearts were warmed, which makes me happy.

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And I made marzipan. The candy hearts were sold at The Flaky Tart in the Atlantic Highlands, NJ.

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The Japanese maple branches and dragonflies (detail below) were pitches for Confections of a Rock$tar in Asbury Park…

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…along with a little (2″) dinosaur egg. This little guy warms my heart, as he did for the shop proprietor. Hey, it’s almost hatching season.

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I know it’s almost Valentine’s Day and I know that’s not a picture of heart-shaped Scharffen Berger chocolate and Bordeaux up there. I’m dispensing with tradition again and deliberately not talking about candy and wine in the interest of…well…I don’t want to be trite, especially not this week. I don’t even want to get into the gooey romantic language, if I can help it. Hope you’re good with that.

Instead we’ll salivate over other combinations I adore,* stuff that’s not typical, starting with sandwiches. The first one, above and at the very bottom, makes an incredible lunch.

-Sweet** onion (like a Vidalia), caramelized in olive oil or butter

-Chicken, roasted (or grilled, or whatever), shredded and added to the onion

-Apple (pick anything that’s not a McIntosh because those’ll just dissolve on you), sliced, don’t bother to peel it, thrown into the pan with the onions and chicken and cooked until golden brown

-Fontina (a European, kinda nutty, kinda pungent, eminently oozeable cheese that any supermarket has)

-Ground allspice, a few shakes into the onion/chicken/apple pan

-Black pepper, coarsely ground  (I like a lot in this) into the pan as well

Now. Butter and toast your bread under the broiler (I used a Cuban roll because it was all the bakery downtown had left but it was awesome), melt your cheese, then pile your stuff on top.

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When I shot this I accidentally had the camera set on video like a dope. So right now I have valuable footage of a sardine sandwich in its natural habitat, on a plate, on my dining room table. It’s fascinating. They’re very docile, much quieter than you’d imagine.

The next sandwich, above, makes an incredible breakfast if you’re my mom. I grew up in a house that relished the combination of sardines and raw onion on a sandwich. The above is normal to me and wildly addictive, too, actually. I hope I don’t lose subscribers over this.

-Sardines (skinless and boneless, packed in either water or olive oil)

-Mayo

-Red*** onion, thinly sliced

-Bread of some sort (I used a whole wheat roll from Trader Joe’s)

-Salt to taste

Add mayo to bread. Add the rest. Wipe exertion from brow.

Since many of you are already appalled, another delirious combination is tuna packed in oil into which you’ve mixed in a good amount of anchovy paste. Keep the sliced raw onion, hold the mayo, and sandwich-ify.

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Other yummy food combinations:

-Almond extract, just a teaspoon or so, baked into anything that features peaches, nectarines, cherries or apricots. Almonds and all of these fruits are botanical cousins. Ever notice that the pit of a peach looks a lot like an unshelled almond? Yep. And they are lovely together.****

-Mushrooms cooked with a few splashes of chicken broth. Not cousins, to be sure, but for some reason they bring out the best in each other, like Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. Okay, mellower than the two of them, but the point stands.

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*Sorry. Crap. That was quick.

*Totally not my fault. Vidalias are sweet!

***It’s a color, not a holiday.

****%&#%*!!!

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Flying in the face of tradition today, kids. I’ve decided I’m going to make New Year’s resolutions that I can get stoked about. Why should I come up with some gruesome list that will make me feel panicky and guilty? I might as well stay behind in 2012 with a pocket flask of Tanqueray in my hand and the covers over my head. I refuse.

Instead, here are a bunch of good resolutions; and not surprisingly, they’re all food related.

I’m going to…

1. …bake bread more often. I miss punching down dough, I miss the smell of it browning up in the oven, and I miss pulling apart warm chunks of it and scooping up butter with it.

2. …cook some classic treats from the UK that I have always wanted to try—Dundee cake, Cornish pasties, pork and apple pie, maids of honour pastries, game pie and toad-in-the-hole with onion gravy.

3. …illustrate recipes for my posts, along with photos. I want to get back to where I started: with Ebony and Berol Prismacolor pencils.

4. …get my paring knives sharpened.

5. …freeze more of summer’s fresh produce for the winter. I used to do that and it saved me extra trips to the supermarket, was more nutritious, was better for the environment, supported local farms, and even saved money. Just took an hour of prep time each week. I’m chicken, because Hurricane Sandy just defrosted my freezer for 11 days. But I’m going to do it anyway.

6. …keep up with making up vanilla extract. I don’t buy the stuff from the supermarket because there’s a much cheaper way, and that is to buy a bottle of plain vodka and some vanilla pods, slice the beans in half lengthwise, and stick them in the vodka. Every few days give the bottle a shake, and after a couple of months the extract will be brown and murky, with happy little bits of pod and seed floating around in it. The bottle lives in your fridge and will always be there for you. Unless you’re me, and you’re down to the last 16 drops and don’t have a backup bottle ready to rock.

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Lame.

7. …bake treats on Valentine’s Day to give to my teeny town’s local cops and volunteer firemen. I had a stressful December and was only able to make a small plate of cookies for each over Christmas. When my boiler blew, the cops came over inside two minutes and duct-taped off my most hysterically spouting radiator. The firemen cheerfully changed the battery in my smoke detector, at 1am, on my narrow, hairpin-sharp angled steps. They’re amazing, selfless guys, and deserve more than I gave. I’m making it up to them in spades.

8. …have company over more often. There’s nothing like sitting around my dining room table with my favorite people, eating something sweet, and splitting our sides laughing. I want to have a chocolate-off with one group of friends this spring and a local hard-cider-off with another group this fall. It’s so much fun to gobble and sip, compare and contrast, and write about what I learned.

9. …make little coconut souffles for my sister’s birthday. You take them out of the oven and then you dig a little hole in the middle of each and pour warm chocolate goo into it. I have a sneaking suspicion she will find this appealing.

10. …figure out a way to make food—writing it, editing it and shooting it—a full-time gig.

11. …go out for Indian food again because I miss those flavors, try authentic ramen noodles in NYC, and have the lardo pizza—which is exactly what it sounds like—at Porta in Asbury Park, NJ.

12. …try not to roll my eyes when, at a restaurant that prides itself on serving genuine Italian food, the pasta carbonara sports a cream sauce with little bits of ham in it instead of egg and pancetta. (No promises, though. I’ve already fouled this up this once.)

13. …learn to make an old-fashioned candy called divinity.

14. …buy my eggs from local farmers once they’re in season, when the weather turns warm.

15. …make pumpkin butter with nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar and eat it straight out of the pan.

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Coming soon, to a kitchen near me.

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