Category Archives: food

Pockets of Comfort

Indira Ganesan, Filter Coffee at IIC, 2017

This is a snowless, sunny Christmas eve, with the trees bare. Red winterberry peek through the liched-laden branches, though, and sky is a mix of soft grey and blue.  Days like this in Cape Cod make me glad for my pockets of warmth.  On my coat, certainly, for as Coco Channel said, women need pockets, and female clothing hardly included them.  My pockets are also the tiny shops I frequent, for chocolate, for coffee, for a sandwich, and a pastry.  They are scattered throughout the Outer Cape, run by genius chefs and hosts, who remember my name, even if I generally don’t remember theirs. They are like gems in a place that frankly favors fish, and why should it not, being on the coast, a handmade island, but an island hard for a vegetarian to accommodate herself.  Unlike Santa Cruz CA, the chai does not flow on tap, as a friend once put it,  but it is starting to  trickle in, the kind that is strictly made with cardamom, and not pumpkin-flavors.

The December holidays though, make me nostalgic for date-nut bread spread with cream cheese.  I can’t find them at the supermarket, and apparently, neither can anyone else who hankers for a taste of 1970’s packaged, seasonal, sweets.  Thomas, of the muffin fame, made them, but I don’t remember that.  And the internet tells me it wasn’t enough to spread (not, note, “slather,” a lovely if trendy term I see everywhere suggesting to me, at least, English countrysides and lots of money, and not the gas-lines in suburban New York ) a slice with cream cheese; true authenticity demanded an another slice on top, a date-nut bread sandwich.  Again, intriguing, but not my experience.  I just remember moist, nearly black bread. Maybe the cream cheese wasn’t the silver foil-covered block, but the then new container of whipped.

It’s nearly 40 degrees farenheit, and the sun is out.  It must be snowing somewhere.

So where’s it snowing?  Right here, right now.  Go ahead, slather away!

And Happy Holidays!

Three Whistle Potatoes

dhaba-style-aloo-matar

Image:www.7spice.net

For a few weeks now, I’ve harbored a craving for alu mutter, that glorious Punjabi dish of potato and peas soaked in a tomato based sauce tinged with cumin, coriander, mustard, asafeodita, red pepper, garlic, ginger, and onion.  There you have it, the ingredients for a dish to be sopped by handfuls of poori, that delicate wheat bread that puffs up to a golden pillow in hot oil.  I looked for a recipe online, and found one that began with ” cook the potato in the pressure cooker for three whistles.  I looked for another, and made do with a curry I assembled quickly from an Australian transplanted from India and naan from Shop Rite.  Then I settled in to watch the new BBC War and Peace, in which Natasha dances at the ball.

 

 

 

Whole paych–Foods

Indira Ganesan, Can't Touch That, 2014
Indira Ganesan, Can’t Touch That, 2014

(The breads above are from a local boulangerie.)

Whole Foods finally opened on the Cape, and I spent a nostalgia-filled evening there after a play in Boston. I immediately spied the familiar pineapple chunks in a tub I haven’t seen in three years, the watercress that is not yet available elsewhere nearby, the pink lady apples. Though I am partial to my local health food store, a megalith has some different stock. Gulab Jamun in a can, check. Wild yam soba, check. Cold brew coffee in a bottle, check, please. There are still details to work out, like stocking Uncle Eddie’s Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies( I mean, this is Whole Foods, right?) and getting the black sesame slaw right.

I found my happiness ratio sharply increasing aisle by aisle. Is something sprayed in the air? Is it that luxury food shopping makes one feel better than shopping for clothes? Is it akin to buying shoes? It is easier, certainly. I needn’t decide between this color or that, but toss an item in my basket and moved on. Cardamom-coconut water? Lime-jalepeno chips? Organic socks?

I spent my paycheck, and came back the next day for more.

Since Moosewood

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On a marvelous gardening blog, I recently won a cookbook by lottery and answering a question on how my cooking has changed since I first used Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook.  I wrote I shopped for organic produce, which is true, but I also shop at Farmers’ Markets.  In my town, the Farmers’ Market is under fire because they occupy a parking lot adjacent to a candy shop for five hours once a week, for about five months.  The candy shop, open year-round, in regular candy shop hours,  is across the street from another candy shop.  There are at least two more such fudge shops in town.  We only have one farmers’ market, a Saturday bounty of two or three vegetable stands; one bakery stand; an essential oils lotions and potions stand; a meat and egg stand; a fish place; an olive oil and goat cheese place; a fresh mozzarella and burrata place; and a local sea salt stand.  As the season winds down, it just a few vegetable farmers, the baker, and salt and oils.  We have one large chain grocery store in town, and three year-round small markets.  There is talk that a Whole Foods might open in a year or so, in Hyannis, which is an hour away. Right now, we have a seasonal farmer’s market in a great location in the heart of town, where you can stroll into by foot, or bike or walk to gather provisions, chat with regulars, and leave with a full and contented heart.

When I first lived on the Cape, there was only a supermarket, a natural foods store,  and a little store where I could walk to buy broccoli, carrots, and onion and potatoes.  I ate pasta nearly every night, or made grilled cheese.  With supplies imported from New Jersey, I could make a rare Indian curried dish.  I used moosewood extensively with the ingredients at hand. I was lucky to be able to buy tofu.

A farmers’ market is such a joy,and necessity.   Taste test a farm apple and a store-bought. Try an organic golden delicious. Never pass up an opportunity to try watermelon radish. Here are farmers making a livelihood of sorts, carting their goods from an hour and more away to sell fresh tomatoes, eggplant, okra, basil.  They share recipes and stories. I would not live in this town if there was not a market. I still make pasta and grilled cheese, only with better ingredients, making them so much better.

Zuke

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I was gifted with two enormous zucchini from a local gardener. When I heard I was getting two, I thought, how nice, how restrained, just a sample.  I went to pick them up, and I think they must be three pounds each, maybe four. A few days ago, I made, with now what I must now call petite zucchini, linguine from Heidi Swanson’s book, Supernatural Everyday, a cookbook I received after reading at Brookline Bookstore. It calls for wringing or squeezing water out of shredded squash, which is much easier than, say, to do with a stone. The result was delicious. Now I tempted to make her spicy zucchini bread but I must wait until midnight, when it has cooled off enough to turn on the oven.

Whenever I think about cooking at midnight, I am reminded of a poet, Pasquale Verdicchio, who taught several of us how to make Midnight Pasta, a dish so simple, and so heavenly that it needs a magic hour for its own. I had thrown a party, in San Diego, and we were all mildly stunned with drink, so that we needed the fortification of restorative pasta. To learn how to make it, you need a party, spaghetti, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes. It sounds like another pasta dish, but it isn’t.

The other day, when I couldn’t sleep, I remembered an ayurvedic recipe from John Douillard’s website, which I made, since the only party I was at was on Facebook.  It might be better mixed in a blender, so you you don’t need to spoon up the dates and almonds, but it did the trick.

I have two fans going on now. It is nearly 5:00 PM. Seven hours to go.

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