Nov 5, 2010

In Praise of the Rose Geranium

Rose geraniums were the most successful plant in the garden this year, and they are still going strong. No pests wanted to eat them and they survived dry spells and rain. They grew huge, but they're woody enough to not trail on the ground. They didn't bloom, but the best thing about them is their delirious scent, both floral and peppery at the same time. Just walking by and catching a whiff is such a calming moment.

My Nana made rose geranium jelly with hers. I haven't done much other than rub a leaf and take a good whiff whenever I've had the notion. Last week, though, I realized that I was running out of time this season, so I took off fifteen leaves, washed and dried them, and layered them with sugar in one of my Nana's blue and white striped ceramic cannisters. The cannister that says "FLOUR" on it, as a matter of fact.

In a few days I will take out the leaves, I supposed by dumping the sugar mixture into a colander over a big bowl and picking them out. Then the oils from the leaves should have flavored the sugar. Geranium sugar is good in cakes or cookies, I have read, but I would only put it in plain buttermilk cakes or sugar cookies, possibly shortbread. Here is a recipe for Victorian Rose Geranium Cake. I wonder if it has too many geraniums in it, though. I suspect it's like lavender; you only want a hint. A simple pound cake made with the geranium sugar, with a light glaze also made with the sugar, might be lovely, an occasion worthy of one's china tea cups. Nan's tea cups. Come to think of it, my Nana was a lot like a rose geranium: strong, long-lived, tenacious in adversity, and very feminine.


So I want to hear how Martha's dinner went last night! If you all still have a lot of green tomatoes, you might want to try this cake recipe I just found. I'd make it today if I weren't going out of town. Here is Green Tomato Cake with Brown Butter Icing.

Nov 4, 2010

Green Tomatoes, Butternut Squash, and Sausage

OMG!!!! Let me collect myself. Here's what happened. We had several green tomatoes from the CSA, and much as I love fried green tomatoes (and I mean pan-fried because I never deep-fry), they are labor-intensive. We also had a backlog of butternut squash. And we had just received a "breakfast box" as a special order from the CSA, which is just different types of ham, sausage, and bacon.

I like to roast a whole bunch of fall veggies together, so I thought, hmmm. Here's what I did. The tartness of the tomatoes balanced the sweetness of the squash, and the sausage just melds perfectly.

Roasted Green Tomatoes, Butternut Squash, and Onions, with Sausage

green tomatoes
butternut squash
fresh sage
olive oil
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
uncooked sausage

Preheat oven to 400. Line one or two cookie sheets with aluminum foil.

Cut some green tomatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on size. Put in a large bowl.

Repress any desire to peel the squash, as the skin is just fine to eat. Cut the squash into flat chunks and add to bowl.

Quarter the onions or cut into eighths. Add to bowl.

Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, and add a little salt and pepper to taste. You want a light coating of the oil over all.

Spread in one layer on cookie sheet,vegetables touching each other. Leave a good inch on the sides.

Roast for a while. Check after twenty minutes and then every ten to see if they've gotten a bit soft and browned. The onion will char a little, and that's OK, but you might want to take them out then.

While the veggies are roasting, cook the sausage. Squeeze it out of its casing into a preheated skillet and cook until there's no pink.

Chop the fresh sage. My sage out there in the garden seems strong, so I just put in a teaspoon, chopped super fine.

Mix the vegetables and sausage and serve over pasta, quinoa, couscous, something like that. I cooked this ahead of time, since my boys had a bass lesson from 5:00 to 6:00. I texted Mr. Dream Kitchen to cook the pasta and voila, a lovely autumn supper.

P.S. Anyone can comment now--you don't need a blog or a Google account. That's an invitation, dear readers.

Nov 3, 2010

Supper in Brooklyn: Alchemy of New York, Part Two

After the High Line that Saturday (see previous post), we stopped in a wine bar in the West Village called Gottino. We had wandered a long way, and were thirsty. Very thirsty. But Gottino's water glasses were truly the tiniest water glasses we'd ever laid eyes upon. The bartender took mercy on us and gave us carafes. Then we needed a flashlight to see the menu. I hate having to use a flashlight! It puts me into a snit, it does. But when we got our little bowl of artichoke slices,charcuterie, pecorino, and fennel, and the wine of course, we were snit-free.

Waiting for the bill, we admitted to being a bit knackered at that point, so we returned to Brooklyn to rest in the room, and catch the beginning of the Phillies game. (Won't mention the game again. Promise.) One really wonderful thing about walking for miles in a city, is how fabulous it feels to get back to your room, take your shoes off, and lie on the bed for ten minutes.

In Brooklyn, the modern and the vintage live together in a poignant harmony. Years ago, I remember hearing a itinerant knife sharpener making his rounds in the neighborhood I was visiting. And here's a recent picture of one. At the same time, you have your hip coffee places, bike and skateboard shops, minimalist restaurants, and funky dress shops, but tucked modestly into the streetscape, not blaring their newness, just waiting patiently to be discovered. And on this trip, two doors away from our guest house, was a bookbinder, with an ivy-covered sign admonishing "Appointment Only," and no phone number. According to Google Maps, it's called the Park Slope Book Bindery, but it seems to have no web presence. Indeed, why would it have one? But I feel sorry for any hapless writers schlepping by with their thick sheaves of vellum covered with polished prose or poetry, only to read on the sign that they needed to make an appointment.

Rested just enough, we went for dinner at a homey but stylish little pub called Alchemy. The owner of our guest house had recommended it after I mentioned to her that it was in my Zagat's. Alchemy was crowded with people all younger than 40. One otherwise normal-looking young man was wearing a scarlet fedora, which in the dim light and amongst all the black and gray garb, shone like a beacon.I'm not sure what to do with that observation of the red fedora, so I'm just sticking it in here all smooth-like.

Mr. Dream Kitchen ordered a Captain Lawrence Pale Ale on draft, an aromatic beer with notes of citrus, pine, a noticeable bitterness, and a touch of malty backbone to help balance it out. And you know I got that sentence from the Captain Lawrence website, correct? Do real people talk about beer that way?

I had always wanted to try a dirty martini. I'm in the generation between gin martinis and vodka martinis and am siding with the gin. The server, of course, asked what kind of vodka I wanted. Gin tastes like juniper and vodka doesn't taste like anything, and that decides it for me. The "dirty" just refers to a nip of olive juice. It was a sassy savory cocktail that took me all evening to drink. As for water, the server put a decorative glass bottle of plain cool filtered water at our table for our refills. (On this trip we decided not to lug around water bottles, hence all the tedious references to water in restaurants. It's like when you don't have a timepiece and you start to notice all the wall clocks.)

Then we split every course that we ordered:

Roasted mushroom salad with shaved parmesan and fennel. We don't get mushrooms from the CSA and were experiencing a severe mushroom deprivation.

Cassoulet with a tart cherry sauce. This is a classic French dish with duck, sausage and beans. The beans were a little mashed with the sausage, which was unusual but worked very well. The cherry sauce was not too sweet and a good complement for the duck, although it's not normally found in cassoulet. Although it's not as strange as a red fedora. Indoors. On a young man.

Guinness pudding w/ vanilla ice cream and candied hazelnuts. Unbelievably, pinch-myself, why-am-I-sharing-this-anyway good. It was more like a little cake right out of the oven, nothing sticky or glutinous about it. And the candied hazelnuts--brilliant. There was also some kind of butterscotch-y sauce. I don't know. It's hard to be terribly observant when you're in a swoon. After a martini.

Next installment: a vegan breakfast and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Question for my readers: Can you explain the red fedora?