Category Archives: Delish Things

Good and yummy.

Finding the Sweet Spot

This is a story of renewal, perfect for the Spring.

This tree you see endowed with so many glorious orange orbs was, not so long ago, a barren and unhappy thing.  She was planted in the area of my yard most welcoming to citrus.  By that I mean it was hot, sunny most of the day, and protected from the wind.  It was also right inside the front gate, so every day, many times, I would walk by my little growing mandarin orange tree and mentally entreat her to “please grow.”  I put her on the drip system, I gave her citrus food, good earth, and I infused her with doses of iron and fish emulsion.  You know,  I paid attention to her.  And she responded.  Grew into a fine-looking specimen.  But she never, ever set any fruit.  Year after year, strong green growth, zero fruit.

The value in a fruit tree is … um … fruit.  Without fruit, it’s just a nice shrub, and in my little patch of warm, sunny yard, if a fruit tree was simply going to be a tree, then she had to make room for someone else who would provide.   But she was a healthy tree, and I’m a pushover when it comes to ending the life of a sturdy grower.  So we banished her to the backyard, in an afternoon-only sunny spot where the earth hadn’t been amended with all manner of lovely soil but rather had a clay-like consistency.    We gave her a nice hole twice as wide as deep, put her on the drip, and said a prayer.

She proceeded to drop each and every leaf, as if she was hot and needed to expose her branches to the fresh air.  Or she didn’t care anymore.  In the short order of two weeks, she went from a green, robust citrus bush to a craggy looking old lady.  The move killed her spirit.  Feeling like I had failed her, I took some consolation in knowing that I hadn’t simply ripped her out by the roots and dumped her unceremoniously into the compost pile.  We had at least given her a second chance.

But when, after a rain fall, I took a walk out the back door towards the compost pile, I noticed that my naked mandarin orange tree was adorned with delicate white flower buds.   Somehow, after jettisoning every bit of exterior life, this cagey tree was going through a re-birth.  And not just a few fruits on the maiden voyage.  Oh no, she was covered in flowers that I knew, weather and wind and birds willing, would turn someday into precious fruit.

So you see.  Sometimes we just need to find the right patch of dirt for us to fully flower.  And it might not be the patch of dirt everyone thinks is perfect for our growth.  Yet if it feeds us, then all is right with the world.

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Words I Love: #5

This week it shall be words of gluttony, in homage to the recent holidays and the damage done to waistlines across America.

To wit, the word glop.  It just sits up there, all jello-y and slightly wiggling.  A glop of mashed potatoes is what everyone gets at the Glader house, because a spoonful just doesn’t convey the message.  And honestly, it’s more like 4 spoonfuls.  Which is equal to one glop, if you must know.

Sop is a cousin of glop.  Sop comes in and cleans up the mess that glop leaves.  Damn glop, can’t take him anywhere …  Sop is often found near a thick slice of bread, or, actually more precisely, sop is IN the slice of bread, because sop is what you do with your bread and that last drizzle of gravy smooshed all over your plate.  When I think of the word sop, I see glistening lips and hear lots of slurping sounds.

Now, we all need to make way for plop, who is the superstar of the family, forever known for her role in the Alka Seltzer commercial.  Ah, the days when advertising copywriters would use words that evoke sound!  Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, OH!  What a relief it is!   The “p” on the end of plop sounds like a beautiful bubble bursting, and it’s so fitting.  When you plop a few ice cubes into your cocktail, there is a satisfying tiny splash.

Then you can do some gulping, which certainly isn’t recommended if you are drinking my husband’s margaritas.  But gulp is so lusty and big.  There is bravado in gulp.

And I bet you have never realized that gulp spelled backwards is another fantastic word?  Plug.  Plug is not a word of gluttony.  It’s a word of control.  Which is what you need to do here in the new year to fit back into your jeans.

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My Little Sunshine Tomato

For a town where, it seems, the sun has not shined with the kind of uumph I think a lot of us would like this summer, I give thee the happy baby tomato.

Even without copious sun, his friends are all popping up too.

Can you say cherry tomatos for anyone in my neighborhood that want to stop by?

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The World’s Best Yogurt

It’s a small world, all right, and for me it runs through the middle of a spoon of yogurt.

Some might say the best part of traveling is experiencing food from around the globe.  It is rare that a family of three will all have the same “ah ha!” moment over the same food,  but such was our collective experience with the yogurt served to us in small clear glass containers every morning at Riad Noir D’Ivorie in the heart of the Medina in Marrakesh.  http://www.noir-d-ivoire.com

This was “homemade” yogurt, it was explained to me, and I’m embarrassed to say that I had never, ever considered making yogurt at home.  I was one of those mystery foods, kind of like cheese, that somehow is “made.”  I knew it was dairy.  I just didn’t know how much.

“We make it every day. It is very easy to do,” our waiter explained, and casually mentioned something about warm milk and Danone yogurt from France.  I didn’t quite understand his French enough to catch the details, but then it didn’t really matter, because they would bring us as much as we wanted and I didn’t have a kitchen at hand.  And frankly it was hard to concentrate, what with the nectar drizzling off the end of our dainty little spoons, as if it was pretending to be warm honey instead of cool yogurt.

Cut to the parking lot outside of school five weeks later, and I am speaking with two girlfriends of mine about a local woman named Bea who lives a zero waste lifestyle http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com.  Half in awe and half sort of overwhelmed and appalled by her zealousness, we are deconstructing the pros and cons of hauling glass jars to the store for your chicken breasts, when one child listening to our conversation starts throwing out items that couldn’t possibly fit within this lifestyle.

“What about the plastic bag that pretzels and chips come in?” he asks.

“She probably doesn’t eat them, or buys them in bulk,” we respond.

“And yogurt?” he asks.

Both of my girlfriends say, as calmly as if they were explaining the need to brush your teeth, “She makes it herself at home.”

Which, of course, resurrects the memories of my satisfied taste buds, and I regale everyone with my story of the perfect Moroccan yogurt.

Which then, makes me wonder … could I possibly merge both these interests – trying to cut down on the waste I produce AND make my own velvety smooth yogurt?

The answer is, sort of.

Armed with a recipe off the internet and a gallon of organic fresh whole milk in a returnable glass bottle (with the cream plug on the top) from Strauss Dairy, I give it a whirl.

My first batch never congeals, and so when I unwrap it from the towels, it is a slightly funky smelling big glass container of strange milk.  Not appealing at all.  So down the drain it went, which certainly wasn’t zero waste.

And for most things culinary that turn out badly the first time, I usually never attempt a second go-round.  But everyone said it was so EASY.  And so I carefully heated and cooled and swaddled batch two yesterday, with a bit of coaching from Kathleen.

“Use a candy thermometer. Leave it in there from the beginning, and let it touch the bottom of the pan.  Use enough yogurt as a starter and wrap it in towels.”

And wouldn’t you know, when I unwrapped it this morning, it didn’t swish.  It was solid.

Herewith is the recipe that worked for me.

Heat the fresh milk to 180-190 degrees.  Then let the milk cool to around 115 to 120 degrees, somewhere between very warm and hot.  Watch it on the thermometer.  (I used the one I have that came with the espresso machine).  For each quart of milk, stir in 2 tablespoons of yogurt, either store-bought or from your last batch, thinning it first with a little of the milk.

Then put the milk in a warm jar (which I had heated in the oven set at 200), wrap it in towels to keep it warm, and let it sit until it sets.  I put mine in the turned off oven overnight. The next morning, I put it into the fridge to cool.

So while the world’s best yogurt, according to the Glader family, is from Morocco, the most personally satisfying yogurt is the batch in my fridge right now.  It’s not as silky.  And it doesn’t have the same flavor as my favorite North African kind, but I made it myself.

And that counts for something.

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