Sunday, August 29, 2010

We had a dinner party last weekend and I felt it was such a success. Success is such a relative word, and what I mean is that we all have different ideas of what constitutes success.

I had invited 16 people and only 3 came. I had planned 6 dishes and served only 4. I had hoped to buy water goblets for the table, but the week flew by and it never happened. Still we had a great time!

Felice brought a wonderful bottle of red wine, which added to the convivial atmosphere. J showed everyone around the farm while I cooked. There was laughter and romance (I do love romance).

We had set the table outside in the grass. One of the many successes was that we only had a rustic wooden table big enough for 6 people, so I was able to get closer to the Italian dinner I was going for. See, God knew just the right amount of folks to have at our first dinner party! I served Arugula Salad and Beets with a wonderful Fusilli with Beet Greens. I threw together an antipasto with fresh mozzarella and J grilled a lamb roast.

As the evening wore on we sat in the living room with guitars and sang songs together. There were few songs that any of us knew all the way through (with the exception of Felice who should be on one of those shows where you sing the lyrics to songs in various categories). Still, just being together in the living room after breaking bread was wonderful for me. I could feel the abundance of squash and pumpkins cushioning my spirit with their fullness and the warm personalities of the folks attending left me feeling cozy. I could feel the love and that matters so much to me. Yes, I call that success.

How about you? I would love to hear from all of you about a success you recently had, big or small?

Fusilli with Beet Greens and Ricotta

5 tbl Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs butter
4 cloves of garlic
1 small diced shallot or yellow onion
1/3 cup finely sliced sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 red hot pepper seeds removed and minced
2 large bunches of beet greens (stems removed cut into 2 inch pieces)
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
10 oz fresh ricotta
1 lb fusilli or ghemelli pasta

Put your water on to boil and season water with salt. Prepare all your ingredients while you wait on the water to boil.

Put a large skillet on the stove and get it hot. Add oil and butter. Press you garlic into the pan and saute with onions until translucent. Add hot chile to the pan. I like to add about 1/2 the seeds as well for a mild spice. Add the sun dried tomatoes and saute to release flavors. Turn on very low heat and add your pasta to boiling water to prepare as directed.

Put your ricotta into the bowl you plan to serve your pasta in. This allows it to come to room temp.

Add your beet greens to your skillet and stir until wilted. Take 3 tbl of your boiling pasta water and stir into ricotta. Did you know that this allows the starches in the pasta water to mix with your cheese for instant sauce? Drain pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile add the cream to your skillet and salt and pepper to taste. Add skillet mixture to ricotta and mix. Add pasta, toss, and serve.

Serves 6

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Community is a key to sustainability

We have summer rain!

OK, it's more like a drizzle, but I'll take what I can get.  My window sits open and the sound of drops in a syncopated rhythm is carried in by a cool breeze laden with the smell of summer rain drops on dry soil.  I am waiting for my second wind as tonight I am making chocolate custard pie.

This weekend Jay and I are hosting a dinner party.  I am reading and focusing on Italian cooking this month (recipes forthcoming), so Italian it is.

Europeans really know how to eat.    Food sits in the backseat of American culture for too many of us.  It's such a sad thing!  Good food makes for good times.   Community is built quickly by eating together.  In order to sustain life here on Earth in better ways shouldn't we know one another to sustain one another? Community is a key to sustainability.

We hear about buying local, but I would add, BE local.   Be present with the people around you.  Enlarge your circle of love by reaching out.  I charge you this: make it a point to break bread (or even just coffee) with someone soon.  Remember that hospitality is not a clean house, but the warmth others feel from you upon entering your home.  Don't wait for things to be perfect!

Maybe a dinner party is too overwhelming for you, but there are so many ways to connect in love; we have only to see our world as bigger than ourselves and the list of never-ending tasks before us.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Herons Nest Farm Organics: Gathering Heaven

Herons Nest Farm Organics: Gathering Heaven: "The day is coming to a close. I am waiting for my Creme Brulee to finish baking. My journey into farming is just beginning. Jay and I hav..."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Creme Brulee

Don't be intimidated!  This recipe is easy and tastes great.

2 cups 1/2 and 1/2
1/3 cup sugar
5 egg yolks (slightly beaten)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Heat 1/2 and 1/2 gently on low in a saucepan.  Be careful not to burn it. 

While you are heating your 1/2 and 1/2, in a mixing bowl add slightly beaten yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Stir with a whisk until combined.  Once your 1/2 and 1/2 is very hot (almost bubbling) you can begin to add it to the yolk mixture.  Do this in 3 parts, stirring after each addition, until your sugar is dissolved.

Skim off the foam from the mixture using a large spoon. 

Set 6 ramekins in a shallow baking dish.  Pour hot mixture into ramekins.  Make sure to leave about a 1/4 from the top empty.  Next pour VERY HOT water into the baking dish so that the water is about an inch up the sides of the ramekins.  This will help the custard not to burn and cook evenly. (If you spilled a little custard as you were pouring --as I always do-- no worries.)

The above photo is just after removing from the oven.

Bake for 50 minutes at 325.  When a knife is inserted into the custard it should come out almost clean.  Custard will continue to cook after you remove from the oven.  Remove hot ramekins from baking dish.

Chill overnight or at least 4 hours.

For Tops
Sprinkle the tops of your chilled custards (just before serving) with about a teaspoon of sugar.  Using a kitchen torch slowly melt the sugar atop the Creme Brulee.  This may sound intimidating, but once you've tried it you will see how easy it is to do.  The sugar will crystallize and harden from the flame, creating that restaurant finish.