I hope everyone had a fun & relaxing holiday weekend. Mine was fun, but, definitely not relaxing. The highlight happened on Sunday. We went to the theater with Tom's parents to see Spamelot on Broadway. Spamelot is a musical based on Monty Python's movie The Holy Grail. Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce & Hank Azaria star in it & Mike Nichols directs. I'm not sure what I was expecting. The reviews were great, but I kept thinking to myself - 2 hours of the movie replayed for the stage? How funny can it possibly be? How are they going to pull off the Black Knight? Well, all I can say is, I've never laughed so hard in the theater before. It was brilliant! The acting, dancing, costumes, sets & songs were so innovative. This show is not PC. They made fun of every major political group, religion, race & sexual preference. How refreshing!!! And yes, they did a very good job with the Black knight scene. After the show, the souvenirs included cans of spam & little stuffed killer rabbits. I highly recommend it to anyone coming to visit NYC.
The past few days have been a whirl of activity. There was lots of cooking, cleaning & decorating in prep of Tom's parents' visit. I'm happy to report that three recipes can be checked off the list; gravy, meatballs & manicotti. Whoo Hoo! The stuffed mushrooms need another attempt. They were flavorful & better then the 1st soggy, mushy batch, but need some extra crispness. I think I have a solution. I'm going to finish them off in the broiler for 1& 1/2 minutes. That should do the trick. Here's a picture of dessert. It was inspired from Ms. Moira's English trifle.
The bottom layer is poundcake. I poured 1&1/2 cups of cassis over the cake. 2 small boxes of strawberry jello were prepped & poured next. Place in refrigerator to set. Add a layer or 2 of fruit of your choosing. I used berries - straw, blue, black & rasp. Then make instant vanilla pudding or custard(2 small boxes) & layer on top of fruit. Put back in frige. Top it off with homemade whipped cream & garnishes. YUMMY!!
My apartment smells heavenly today. That's because I got up bright & early this morning to make a gravy. I've been perfecting it for years, slowly adding & expanding upon Momma's original recipe. Working hard to make it my own. What's the difference between me & my grandmother's? Mine definitely has more garlic in it(but, of course) & I add a bit more wine. That's the beauty of this recipe, no two are exactly alike. I did a little tasting & this is the best one yet!! I've had the flavor down for a while now, but struggled a bit with the consistency. I think that problem is finally solved. I added a little tomato paste. The gravy still has another 2 hours of simmering to do & my guests will have the final word on Saturday, but, it looks like another recipe checked off as complete!
It's been a busy few days. Tom's parents are coming to visit this weekend. There's nothing like company to whip all your home improvement projects into high gear. We spent a good portion of our day at Home Depot, which fills me with so much joy. I can't say the same for Tom. He actually dreads the place. He does have a natural knack for building things, though I'm not sure if he really enjoys it. He dreams of buying a loft that's either a fixer upper or totally down to the bare bones & doing all the work ourselves. After one day of just putting up selves together, I don't know if we could actually build an entire home without killing each other. I guess the first step is finding a place that we can afford (no small feat in NYC)& Tom becoming one with Home Depot. I'm working another dirty double tomorrow, but Thursday is all about cooking. I'm going to make my gravy & meatballs which I'll be serving to our guests on Saturday. I'll pour the gravy over homemade manacotti & serve a side of sauteed broccoli rabe. Stuffed mushrooms will be the starter. If all goes well, that will be 5 recipes I check off as complete!!.
The battle with the dreaded pepper biscuits has finally reached a conclusion. Tom tasted the new batch & said they were right on. At last!!! "Cel-e-brate good times come on!!!" I'm going to chill today & enjoy my small victory. What recipe will I try to conquer next? My Mom's stuffed mushrooms. The first attempt was a mushy watery mess, but, I've done some research & think I can improve it. Fingers(as always) are crossed.
My dear webfriend Moira, was away for 5 weeks, though it seemed much longer. She's back from her trip to the states & not a moment too soon. Moira is not only a lover of food, sharing spectacular recipes, but, she's one of the best food photographers I've ever seen. I visit her site often for inspiration & motivation. She just posted a new picture of feta stuffed olives (I'm drooling), that is so detailed that you'll swear you could pick them right off of your computer screen & eat them. Welcome home girl!
Here's all the pictures I was able to gather of the birdie babies. I witnessed what I think was their first coaching session on flying. One of the babes was teetering on the edge of the windowbox with wings spread wide. The mom was sitting with her other off spring & patiently cooing & nudging at the little daredevil. There's no photo of that moment because I didn't want to distract them. They have moved on from my flower box, but still stop by for early morning visits.
Hi Friends! I'm sorry I've been a bit slack lately. I'm a bad blogger!!! I've been working on a couple of projects & will share the details once things come together a little bit more. My Sunday was spent in a writing class. Seven hours of learning all about the art of memoirs. Damn, my ass hurts from sitting on those hard wooden school chairs! The seminar was informative & hopefully you will soon see (read) some of what I learned. I figured I need all the help I can get with the stories that will accompany the recipes. I wish I could just talk the stories. I'm a much better storyteller than writer. But, practice makes perfect, or at the least, practice will make it readable!
Momma Bird was being very stingy! She sat on her little ones whenever I was around & hid them from view. But, they're getting bigger so now they do not fit very well under her bottom.
<OH MY GOSH! I FINALLY HAVE PICS OF THE BABY BIRDS (THEY'RE GETTING SO BIG THEY LOOK LIKE TEENAGERS) & I JUST REALIZED AT THIS VERY SECOND THAT I CAN'T SHARE THEM ALL WITH YOU BECAUSE TOM TOOK THE ADAPTER/UPLOADER/ THING WITH HIM TO VIRGINIA ON A SHOOT. SUM IN A BITCH!!!
He's back on Monday afternoon, so I'll post them then. But, just so you know, I've got pics of Momma Bird feeding babes & shots of them all alone. Momma must have gone off for some food. I know many of you may not find this exciting because you are surrounded by nature. For me, here in NYC, this is soooo cool! But, I do hope the babies begin flying soon, I need to plant my herbs!!
Yes, pepper biscuits have become a major thorn in my side. In case you missed my ranting about this, here's an update; Momma sent me the recipe & it didn't look right to me so I added an extra teaspoon of pepper-BIG MISTAKE! One bite & smoke was coming out of our ears, eyes were tearing & nose was running. 2nd time around I followed her directions & it was still too spicy. A friend had to eat them with milk(gross!)to put out the fire in his mouth. Then I went to RI & Momma gave me a totally different recipe than the one she sent me. It's the "real" one, she said. That didn't work out at all. It was oily & wouldn't cook through & yes, still too hot. So I begged her to call her niece Rita & get her version. She did, but, before she handed it over, she increased the pepper & fennel seed amounts. They were each 1 teaspoon less than in her "real" recipe, so I thought that it would be o.k. How was the 4th attempt? The consistency was perfect but, I'm going with a little less pepper & fennel seeds next time. In other words, Rita was right. Her version was perfect & no ingredient increase was needed. Yes, I will have to make them again!!! I used to love pepper biscuits but, I swear, once the recipe is perfected, I'm never touching them again. At least not for a very long time.
Today, I will make a fourth attempt at Momma's pepper biscuits. I had no idea that this simple recipe would be such a major pain in my arse to perfect. Fingers (& toes) are crossed that it will finally come together.
There was a bit of commotion outside my bedroom window yesterday at dawn. I thought about getting up & taking a look, but drifted back to sleep. When my butt finally got out of bed I peeked in on Mama Bird & didn't notice anything. So I figured that the noise I heard was just her & Papa Bird having a spat. Later on I noticed that she looked like she was sitting on something. Guess what it was? Yes, her babies, trying to keep them warm. I got a glimpse of a tiny wing. Today from a distance I saw her cleaning her precious babes, but as soon as I came towards the window with my camera, she hid them underneath herself. So, I'm still trying to get a pic. This is all I have. Look very closely at the dark gray mass under Mama bird.
Newsday featured an article about this Jersey girl who wrote a cookbook/memoir all about her grandmother's Italian recipes. She even self published it. I put my head down on my kitchen table & cried after reading it. My sobbing was probably a combination of a long hard double at the restaurant, that time of the month & feeling like one of my dreams had died. My tears have dried & Tom sat me down for a pep talk, so I'm in a better frame of mind, slightly. Then I remembered the reason I decided to put this project together in the first place. It wasn't to sell millions of books(though that would be nice), it was to preserve special family recipes, stories & memories so that each generation could enjoy, learn & laugh from them. Something has happened along the way - two things, actually. I've receive support & encouragement from people I've never even met. And the other is/was even harder for me to foresee - a special bond between my grandmother & I.
Momma & I didn't always see eye to eye on things(that is putting it mildly). We were in fact like oil & water - just didn't mix. Yes, of course we loved each other & shared good times, but we were from 2 different worlds. Hers is the land of never leave your hometown or family. Get a good job, find a man & have babies. Mine is... well I'm still trying to figure some of it out, but our visions of life are not the same. I can't tell you the amount of times we've argued over her "having a man makes you whole" theory or my, "I'm strong & independent & I don't need anyone" attitude. She used to look through the classifieds & call me in NY & say things like "They're hiring seamstresses at our local(R.I.) bridal boutique." or "You like to explore, so why don't you move home & become a travel agent. Then you could live in R.I. & visit the world." There have even been some screaming matches where words/curses were thrown at each other until it ended in tears. I'm not proud of those moments, although much was learned from them. Then things began to shift.
I called Momma & talked her about food, one of her great loves. I asked/begged for recipes & tips. I went home & spent time with her in the kitchen always watching her closely. She's truly a wiz. She can turn three ingredients into a gourmet meal. She's now use to my cooking visits. She waits & lets me measure ingredients & slowly demonstrates cleaning & prep techniques. There's lots of laughter, storytelling & yes, still some yelling, though the tone is not the same - the anger is gone. Our relationship has definitely changed. I'm not saying that we truly understand each other. There's just more of a respect & acceptance of our differences. Through this cookbook we've reached some common ground. So, I would like to have the cookbook ready to give to her on Xmas Eve. At least the completed recipes & stories. The cover & pics can wait, if need be, until the actual publishing. I can't think of a better way to thank her & let her know that I will always treasure our time in the kitchen.
Tom arrived safely from Amsterdam last night. When I asked him to describe it he said it was a cross between Paris(architecture), Venice(canals)& the East Village(funky with artist types). He met wonderful people who treated him very well even though he's an American. They like us there! He was able to celebrate Queen's Day which he said was a huge street festival throughout the entire city. It was a day & 1/2 of dancing, eating, drinking & dubiage(ya know, pot). He brought me back some wonderful gifts, but no wooden clogs. There's chocolate(must try it from every possible country), Gouda cheese, smoked ham, a Van Gogh print & tulips. YAY! I love presents from foreign lands.