Foodie Tuesday: Pie Eyed

photoSince we don’t always make a big deal out of holidays, my husband and I, and even when we do get the urge to celebrate we’re not huge sticklers for partying on the officially designated day or with the popularly traditional foods and events. This year we’re being a little more predictable, perhaps, by having a Thanksgiving gathering with eight musician friends. We’re doing our dinner on Wednesday rather than Thursday to accommodate schedules, but otherwise we’re being more predictable than not. There’s a big pastured turkey, spatchcocked and dry-brining, in the fridge and it’ll be accompanied by plenty of at least somewhat traditional sides and garnish treats, and most fittingly of all for this particular American holiday, we’ll have US-dwelling friends from the Netherlands, Estonia, Austria, Hungary, Puerto Rico, Canada and yes, stateside gracing our celebration with their presence. A great way to remember part of what’s best about this country and what I’m most thankful for–and not just on this holiday.

I’m going with pies for dessert. That’s the real reason for today’s post title, not that I’m planning on getting plastered to celebrate, if that’s what you were wondering. Ahem!

Apple pie, as any of you who’ve been around here for any length of time know, is not just a supremely suitable dish for the season but my spouse’s first choice for dessert any time there’s the slightest possibility of having it. Easy choice, clearly. Another thing that’s wonderfully fitting for the season and my tastebuds is maple syrup, and since we have a jug of gorgeous dark Grade-B-heaven maple syrup, a gift from another friend, just beaming at us with its heavenly come-hither look from the pantry, I deemed it a sign that I should get around to trying my hand at another pie I’ve long wanted to make, Tarte au Sucre. Here goes!

Meanwhile, there’s other stuff to get ready. Spiced apple cider is in a big pot, infusing at room temperature overnight until I heat it tomorrow. Potatoes are [literally] half-baked and will get finished on the day as well, smashed with cream and butter and a little salt before going to table next to the chicken-white wine gravy I put up last week and am storing. The appetizers of Gouda, homemade beef pate and crackers, nuts (including some Marcona almonds I set a-swim in olive oil a couple of weeks ago) and pickles–homemade beetroot pickles along with southern style pickled okra, green beans and green tomatoes–are all ready to set out as we sip some bubbly and cider for a start. Since the turkey’s ready to roast all I have to do is take that big, handsome bird out of the fridge and bring it up to room temperature right in the pan it’s in now and roast it on the rack of celery, carrots, apple chunks, cinnamon sticks and lemon pieces it’s been resting on overnight.photo

I’m using store-bought bread but will hope to have time to make our friend Jim’s southern corn bread and sausage dressing, so ridiculously tasty that when he made it for me the first time we two ate most of the batch which I later learned from the written recipe is meant to serve twelve. Not kidding you.

I’m keeping the vegetable sides exceedingly simple, serving steamed green beans with bacon I crisped up and froze earlier, plus sweet coleslaw, so those will practically make themselves, being so easy and quick. What the others bring, if anything, will be entirely a surprise, with the exception of one person saying she was likely to bring some pureed squash and cranberry sauce, either or both of which would be deliciously appropriate. All of this, regardless of whether anyone does bring more, means that we will very likely have heaps of leftovers, one of the true treasures of the occasion and certainly one of the reasons we give thanks!

I will share pictures after the fact–not much to show for the process that will thrill or impress you for now–but first I would like to share with you my wish that whether you are planning to celebrate this American holiday this week or not, you will all be blessed with immeasurable reasons yourselves to be thankful. As I am, indeed, thankful not only for my many other privileges and joys, but most of all for the wonderful people filling every corner of my life, including you, my friends in Bloglandia. Thank You!photo montage

Foodie Tuesday: Come Away with Me

Travel eating can be a horror, of course, since the challenges of being in unfamiliar territory, changing time zones (and therefore, often, the times when we’re hungry or not), having to figure out the differences in price based on a travel budget and possibly foreign currencies and the simple odds of finding great food in a new or different place can all conspire to put us at risk of eating badly, if at all. I can think of a few classic examples in my own history, to be sure. A trip to a certain little (long gone, God willing) Inn that wanted ever so dearly to be thought quaint and Elizabethan and folkloric springs instantly to mind: a speedy glimpse into the dining room should have warned of danger ahead, had either my sister or I bothered to note that the decor included a plate rail circling the room and bearing an ominously vast collection of cartoonish miniature boxes of cold cereal. What followed, since we failed to notice this flagrant danger signal before we’d ordered and waited quite awhile, was remarkable in its weirdness and memorably awful tasting, a meal in which every single ingredient smacked noticeably of the tin from whence it sprang and the pièce de résistance was a salad thus composed: one wet leaf of iceberg lettuce cupping a hard, slightly greenish canned peach half that in turn cradled one whole pitted black olive. If ever a thing eyed me ominously, it was that thing.

But more often than not, lest you think me incapable of finding out the true culinary delights peculiar to any place I visit, I love travel in large (no pun intended) part because I do find and relish such specialties of places-not-my-home.

In Texas, besides the fine variety of regional treats influenced by the mix of whatever native and immigrant populations rule therein, there is almost always some great Mexican and/or Tex-Mex food to be had, not to mention the whole range of beefy, meaty and BBQ-smoky goodness that reigns in the hearts and stomachs of the locals. So you know full well that when my spousal-person and I get to do any wandering in our current state of dwelling, we tend to hunt for those joints where the area’s avid eaters congregate to eat such good and glorious things.photoA trip to the Boston Early Music Festival is reason to rejoice by virtue all of the fantastic playing and singing we hear there. High art and musical culture are always a thrill. But it’s also an outstanding excuse to indulge in Boston‘s superlative food culture. So, given the chance, you can bet I’ll dash to one of the nearest provisioners of provender to order up a beatific lobster roll as soon as I can manage it. If it is repeated numerous times and also happens to be followed by a number of equally fine regional treats, say, a dainty dish of Boston baked beans swimming in molasses-sticky sauce or some spectacular Italian food at the north end of town, why then, I’m all the happier.photoDriving through Oregon wine country is a sure way to enjoy some spectacular scenery, its vineyards interspersed with small organic farms and fruit and hazelnut orchards, but do you think there’s any chance I would settle for merely viewing such glories and not dining on them too? Think again! Would I go visiting in northern Italy and not fill up on ethereal handmade pasta with wild mushrooms? Never! Cross an inch of Hungarian soil without seeking out a good dose or ten of paprikás or gulyás? Perish the thought! This musing is motivated in part, of course, by the opportunity and intent to spend a bit of this summer engaged in this beloved sport of eating-while-traveling. (Or, admittedly, traveling-while-eating.) But if it also serves to move you to further such adventures, rest assured I will be cheering you on all the way. And if I can find you and join you at the table, I most assuredly will.photo

Way Out Back

The ever-marvelous Celi, she of the sustainably-farmed wonders at The Kitchens Garden, challenged all of us to share what we see from our back porch, patio, stoop, door, window or patch of land, and the images pouring in have been a delight. Each so different, each from some other far-flung locale around the globe–but each seen from the home turf of a person joined together in this fantastic community of blogging and readership that makes the otherwise disparate styles and locations seem we are all next door neighbors. What a superb thing, to shrink the world down to a size that can easily fit into a single embrace!photoSo I give you a glimpse of what I see behind my home, too. Our house is situated on a city lot (about the typical suburban US standard of 50 x 100 feet), but it feels both less like a suburban place and much bigger because it backs on an easement, a small ravine for rain run-off and city/county service access. The ravine’s seldom wet (this is, after all, Texas) or used for services, so it’s mainly a tree-filled wild spot and a refuge for local birds, flora, insects, and an assortment of critters that have at various times included not only squirrels and raccoons but also rabbits, opossums, armadillos, deer, foxes, coyotes and bobcats. There have certainly been, along with the delightful bluejays and cardinals and wrens and chickadees, doves, grackles, hummingbirds and killdeers and all of those sorts of small-to mid-sized birds, plenty of hawks and vultures and, I suspect (since I know others not so far from here who have had visits from them) wild turkeys, though I’ve not seen the latter.photoWhat I have seen recently that is infrequent if not rare, is some very welcome rain pouring down on us here, so I’m showing you slightly uncommon backyard views today. The second picture is taken from our raised patio, but the first is the view as I most commonly see it: through the kitchen window, where I can stand safely out of the lightning’s reach (as on the day shown) and more comfortably in air-conditioned splendor than in the 90-105ºF (32-40ºC) we experience so often here. Believe me when I tell you that the intense green of this scene as shown is rather unusual for this time of year, when we would more often have much more brown and bedraggled plants all around us. But we also have the luxury of a sprinkler system, so if the ravine begins to droop in dry hot weather, we’re generally protected from terrible fire danger and can still be an inviting spot for the local wildlife to take its ease. To that end, and because I generally prefer the beauties of the more native and wild kinds of landscapes to the glories of the manicured, I have my new wildflower swath in place and it’s just beginning to show a variety of the flowers and grasses I’ve planted there; seen to the left of the grey gravel path in the second picture, it stretches from the patio all the way back to the ravine.

I Hereby Crown Myself Mistress of the Mess-ups and Guru of Good Intentions

photo collage

It's okay to be screwy, as long as I keep it upbeat . . .

Yes, I have received another award. This one’s from me, to mark the official recognition of my silliness in not quite getting it right when I got the last one.

My last award was a generously conferred Versatile Blogger nod from one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Ms. Cecilia the Sage and Savvy Farmer. Yesterday I was tagged with a second such recognition by the delightful and gifted Nia, a photographer and diarist from Istanbul. And when she sent me the notification, I had to slap my forehead with dumbstruck awe at how remiss and inattentive I’d been when I was tagged the first time. So, with my apologies, I tip my new self-anointed crown in an apologetic genuflection and promise both to re-post and to remember to inform (as is customary, if you’ll note in the rubrics down below) the people to whom I had hoped to show my admiration in the first place. Oops! My oversight is in no way meant to be reflective of my great enjoyment of the bloggers listed here, and I hope all of you reading this will click on the links, check out their blog sites, and share in their wealth of knowledge and artfulness and entertaining and thoughtful world-views too.

award tag

Now, for the REST of you, who really do deserve this!

Ad Alta Voce

Cherry Tea Cakes

Claudia Finseth

Closet Cooking

Draw Stanley

In Search of My Moveable Feasts

Just a Smidgen

Little Brown Pen

My Little Norway

My Open Source Life

Plate Fodder

Roost: A Simple Life

Sustainable Garden

The Last Classic

Tinkerbelle

We ask anyone receiving the Versatile Blogger Award to
pay it forward, if you will.

  • Thank the person who gave
    you the award and link back to them in your post.
  • Tell your readers seven (7)
    things about yourself.
  • Give this award to fifteen
    (15) recently discovered bloggers.
  • Contact those bloggers and
    let them in on the exciting news!

As for things to tell you about myself, I’ve already mentioned my dyslexia and wildly meandering forms of thought, and here I am just proving the point again. No news there! So I’ll go off on a little different tangent, with a list of a few of the interesting places I’ve visited.

1   The Grove of the Patriarchs (Washington State). An isolated little island surrounded by streams in Mt Rainier National Park, because of its sheltered position there the islet is still populated by spectacular old-growth trees, mainly Douglas firs and cedars, that are awe-inspiring and make you feel you’ve stepped into another dimension, an incredibly peaceful one.

2   Saint Lucia. Another island, but of an utterly different kind, being in the southern Caribbean. My mother and father in law took the family on a cruise with them for their 50th anniversary (apparently missed the memo where people are supposed to give YOU big presents for big events). While ‘cruise culture’ isn’t necessarily a logical fit for my personality, it was tremendous fun to spend the time getting to know the family better, seeing a part of the world I’d never seen before, and especially, going off with the parents, my spouse, and the elder nephews and scarpering off the ship across a lonesome stretch of high road to the local aquarium, where they had the most impressive tarpon I’ve ever seen sailing around in the tanks.

3   Prague (Czech Republic). By default, really, the first time. Our honeymoon was planned to time perfectly with a previously scheduled conducting gig my husband had gotten in Hungary, so we thought we’d fly to Budapest right after the wedding since we were to be picked up there by the festival arrangers. But it was one of the big years for European travel–so much so that there were no tickets to be had anytime close to when we had to be there. So we flew into Prague, fell wildly in love with its superb Gothic-to-Art Nouveau architectural beauties, and were sorry when we did have to leave on the train to Budapest.

4   Tijuana (Mexico). It’s not really what I’d call having been to Mexico! I’m sure it’s quite different now, but if you visited there, say, in the seedy seventies, you know exactly what I mean. But what a colorful experience in a sort of eccentric country-of-its-own. Unforgettable.

5   Winnipeg (Manitoba). I’ve been on the Canadian plains before–not least of all, spending joyful years going to our home-away-from-home in Edmonton, Alberta. But going to Winnipeg in cold, wintry weather was a special kind of revelation. Wonderful historic buildings rising seemingly spontaneously from this incredibly flat expanse allowed me to see distances that seemed almost godlike in the chill and windy silence of the season. Indoors, warmth galore: great events, great food, and most of all, great people. But outside, something uniquely apart that appealed to my soul greatly too.

6   Grim (Kristiansand, Norway). The neighborhood near my sister’s home in Kristiansand is not a tourist destination or remarkable for its unique character, per se, and let’s face it, the name doesn’t read with promise in English! But as it’s the ‘home’ neighborhood for us when we’re there, it has the unbreakable draw of bloodlines coursing through its streets and walkways. And all roads then lead to family. Quite the opposite of feeling grim, indeed, to me.

7   Molokai (Hawaii). After a rough year at work, my father’s friends and supporters gave our family plane tickets to Hawaii, a family to greet us on Oahu and host the start of our visit, and a week’s stay in their condominium on Molokai. When we flew into the dirt-paved airport on Molokai and saw the big scrawl on the tin roof of the “terminal” (using the term advisedly here) shouting “THE FRIENDLY ISLAND” at us in welcome, we almost fell out of the plane laughing. The 6-mile-long island looked so dusty and forlorn and godforsaken that we couldn’t imagine anything would be engaging there. But the condo was peaceful and proved a perfect place for personal restoration after the year’s exhaustion, not to mention for the family to simply regroup a little. And better than that, the locals embraced us as though we were long-lost relatives, feeding and leading us with incredible generosity and kindness that can never be forgotten.

8   Kersey, Suffolk (England). Our late friend Ruth was a world traveler, gourmet cook, lifelong teacher, and one of the kindest souls to grace the planet. She took my sister and me in over American Thanksgiving when we visited her charming home Blue Gate in the English countryside. She fed us glorious meals, showed us the Wool Churches and thoroughbred stables nearby, and took us into the sweet town of Kersey, where she introduced us to a marvelous lady I still suspect of having been a fairy or elf of some sort. With the most perfectly gossamer sterling hair and blue eyes brighter than the North Star, she ruled a tiny woollens shop right beside the most significant natural feature in the village, the main street ford of the stream. Which was no more and no less than a slight depression in the road, and would fill with water at any and every drop of rain or dew, and it was accepted as the Only Thing to Do that when the water came in, the ducks followed, and when the ducks were in the so-called Ducksplash, anyone in an automobile had better just settle in for a wait until the bathing was done rather than risk the ire of the villagers by forcing the ducks out of the little ford to let him pass. The shopkeeper knew full well what a marvel this village was, surviving intact and quietly into the noisy modern age, and told us of a young man who’d visited in the past and was unable to conceive of this sleepy town’s merits. He asked her what on earth it was that had moved so many people to urge him to spend time in Kersey. “You don’t know yet, then?” asked the twinkling lady. He shrugged. She smiled more widely than the Cheshire Cat and said softly, “Well, then, you’ll die wondering, won’t you.”

9   Balatonfüred (Hungary). A resort town on lovely Lake Balaton, situated in wine country and popular as a seaside getaway for many generations, my husband and I and a pair of close friends visited it on the advice of colleagues while we were at that honeymoon music festival I mentioned before in a nearby town. While the town itself is quite charming and pretty and full of interesting people and inviting walks along the water, the driver we hired, who tore up the countryside with us crammed in his little car while he narrated at top speed in delighted broken English, was really the highlight of the trip. His evident pleasure in the outing, in racing his little automobile as though on fire, and in showing us a favorite town were wonderfully contagious.

10   Fort Worth (Texas). Now that I live in a nearby town myself, I have been to this haven of cowboy culture and enjoyed a taste of the present-day version of Old Tejas. There’s something immensely appealing about being in a city big enough for the requisite skyscrapers and big business but still housing pens full of beautiful longhorn cattle within the city limits. Ft Worth has much more resource in the way of arts and culture that I’ve yet to explore, but it’s nice to know that the old west is still alive and well here thousands of miles from where it finally hit the actual west coast of the continent.