Less Hating. More Relating – With Marcella #130, #131 & #132 (of 466)

I’m not hip, and I know it.

In case I didn’t know it, I was gently and respectfully reminded several times recently, while making a decision about a technological purchase. The store I entered was hip. The staff, eagerly ready to help me, were hip.

There use of phrases like ‘people over 40’ and ‘the responsible purchase’ had me wondering if they’d done some kind of cyber, wireless profiling of me as I walked through the doors.

It was fun, though. It’s fun to rub shoulders with the ‘youth of today’ every now and then. It helps keep me keep in touch and keep things real…the reality of being older, that is.

My favourite ‘youth of today’ to rub shoulders with are, of course, my niece and nephew.

A couple of weeks ago, while cooking dinner for them, my nephew made use of a phrase I rather think I’d like to adopt…if only my aging mind could recall it quickly enough in appropriate situations.

In response to the niece’s playful joke at the nephew’s expense, he uttered:

‘Can we have less hating and more relating, please?’

I think we can, don’t you?

Over the years I’ve found that one of the best ways to promote relating and do away with hating, is to eat food. Together. At a table. Right up close and personal. Close enough to hear the munch and crunch and sip and slurp of the potential enemy beside you.

It may be a rare thing to sit down with an actual enemy, but we certainly have times where we sit with someone for whom we’re feeling something less than love. It could be someone we’ve eaten with many times before, but things are currently strained. It could be someone we’ve never eaten with, but we’ve decided to invite them to our table to understand why they’re like they are. To have a little less hating and a little more relating.

A squashy table with some food, some questions and some understanding can do that.

This past month: #130 ‘Veal Scaloppine with Lemon’ with veal purchased from the shop where my nephew is apprenticed as a butcher, #131 ‘Warm Red Sauce’, and #132 ‘Piquant Green Sauce’, with various combinations of family members at various familiar tables.

Advertisements

Growing Up – With Marcella – #129 (of 466)

image
This past year, while I’ve been on the same land mass as my family, I’ve had the joy of occasionally travelling up to my brother’s to cook dinner for us all and catch up for the evening.

I still feel there’s so much to catch up on…so many days of life and inches of growth that my niece and nephew have experienced while I wasn’t looking, while a sea or two or three and a nation or two or three or ten have separated us.

Every few years I’ve parachuted in and seen them that bit older and wiser and chattier and funnier.

Yet, I think back to the baby boy I held and spent time with for the first four months of his life before I flew away for the first time. Eighteen years later, he’s taller than me, and he’s still so lovely and he makes my heart swell and hurt with love all at the same time. He’s a butcher in the making just now. He’s always been a sensitive, caring soul in the making.

I think back to the little, feisty toddling girl I met for the first time when I traveled back many years ago. She was already a budding actress and a very clever little girl. She could put her mind to anything and do it well. She still can. She loves quiet time. She loves learning. She’s pretty much the same height as me now, and I can’t believe how she’s grown into a young woman already. She knows more about doing her hair and makeup than I do. All while she excels at school.

I’m so proud of them both. I love having more time to see them. Though these days I have to take what time they can give me in the midst of their busy, social lives.

But I’ll take whatever time and hugs and laughs I can get. I’ll take, and give, as many ‘I love you’ s as we can say. I’ll keep enjoying all the cooking and feeding and sitting and taking around a table as we can manage.

Time is short. They are not! They keep growing!

#129 Fusilli pasta with ‘Courgette Sauce with Basil and Beaten Egg Yolk’ with brother, nephew and niece at my brother’s table.

Cooking Catchup – With Marcella #124, #125, #126, #127 & #128 (of 466)

The past few weeks I’ve been catching up, turning up, clearing up and cooking up – not storms, mind you, though there have been storms brewing, literally, the last few days. As the thunder has rolled and the hail stones have fallen, I’ve been reminded that I’m in a different country to the one I’ve been living in for so long.

I’m living in another time of transition, just now. I don’t love transition – though I often love the fruit of it and the next stage. I just don’t like the waiting to arrive.

While this past year hasn’t afforded the time to cook as often from Marcella’s book. The recipes remain one of the few constants in my life. Constant, in the sense that I know the recipe will work if I follow it. Even my brother, who is not known for trying lots of new foods, pronounced while looking tentatively into an unfamiliar concoction brewing on the stove, ‘It’ll be good! It has to be. It’s in the book!’

Recently, in another book, I’ve been reading the wisdom of Qoheleth, the Preacher. Ecclesiastes reminds me that everything in this life is transient. I may struggle with transition and wish things to be concrete, but wisdom is found in acknowledging the fleetingness of things. In these mist-filled moments, I am exhorted to enjoy the life that God has given me. Eat, drink and be merry. Do whatever work God gives me, with all of my might. Wisdom is seizing the day as it is, just one day. Just one, among many, in the light of a certain and concrete eternity to come.

I’m glad then, that one book (Marcella Hazan’s ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’) fits with the exhortations in another book (Ecclesiastes, The Bible). So here, below, you’ll find the fruit of my eating and drinking and being merry with many different folk, as I live through transition and put my hope in a sure, eternal future to come.

#124 ‘Frittata with Asparagus’ with my Mum and two Aunties at my parent’s table, outdoors in the warmth of an Australian Spring.

Asparagus Frittata

Asparagus Frittata

#125 ‘Grilled Chicken, Alla Diavola, Roman Style’ with family at my parent’s table, making prior use of their BBQ for this delicious dish.

Grilled Chicken alla Diavola

Grilled Chicken alla Diavola

#126 ‘Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper Sauce with Garlic and Basil’ with a wise, like-minded friend at my Australian table. (This particular photo is of leftovers eaten the following evening).

Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper Sauce with Garlic and Basil

Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper Sauce with Garlic and Basil

#127 ‘Crisp-Fried Courgette Blossoms’ with my family visiting at my table, for my Dad’s birthday dinner. The blossoms travelled from my parent’s garden and made for a tasty start to dinner.

Crisp-Fried Courgette Blossoms

Crisp-Fried Courgette Blossoms

#128 ‘Asparagus Risotto’ – with Mum, Dad and Brother continuing at my table. Dad declared it to be ‘much better than the frozen risotto packs he heats up when at work!’

Risotto with Asparagus

Risotto with Asparagus

Not Neglecting the Book (Not Much) – With Marcella #119, #120, #121, #122, #123 (of 466)

Forgive me readers. It’s been four months since my last posting of anything regarding my Marcella-n cooking adventures. Not that I’ve been working through the book at any great rate, anyway.

Here are the five that I’ve cooked over these past four months:

#119 ‘Pan-Fried Thin Beef Steaks with Tomatoes and Olives’ (with steak cut and served by my lovely nephew at the butcher shop where he works) – with my brother, my niece and my nephew (the butcher) at their table.

Pan-Fried Thin Beef Steaks with Tomatoes and Olives

Pan-Fried Thin Beef Steaks with Tomatoes and Olives

#120 ‘Sautéed Sea Bream or Sea Bass with Fennel, Sicilian Style’ – cooked for a dear, old friend (the friend took me out for a beautiful dinner that I wrote about here) – with Byron at the table of a kind friend who loaned me her harbour-view apartment while she was away. I didn’t take a photo of the food – but I did take a photo of the view.

The View

The View

#121 ‘Tuscan Peasant Soup with Cabbage and Beans’ – with Peter and Sonja at my table.

I felt the need of something green!

I felt in need of something green!

Shazzameena following Marcella's instructions!

Shazzameena following Marcella’s instructions!

The soup with the requisite poached eggs and parmesan on top. It really worked!

The soup with the requisite poached eggs and parmesan on top. It really worked!

#122 ‘Spinach Sauce with Ricotta and Ham’ – with Helen and Janet at my table. I forgot to take a photo…but just imagine pasta with lots of green sauce. Very yummy.

#123 ‘Tomato Sauce with Sautéed Vegetables and Olive Oil’ – with my brother, tonight, at my table.

Sauce cooking on the stove.

Sauce cooking on the stove.

I plan to get back to the free-writing prompts tomorrow. If you’ve missed the past three days of 15 minute free-writing stories, take a look back at the past three posts.

Ciao!

Dale, Ralph, David and Jeremiah At My Table – With Marcella #118 (of 466)

This blog started out focused around my table. That’s not to say that all posts had to be about food, or my table, for that matter.

In the past few months, the focus of my writing has been on rest, down streets, in books, and sometimes less frequent than I’d have liked. In short, my focus has been ‘all over the shop’!

This is not to say that nothing has been happening at my table. I’ve had a lot of ‘visitors’ – just not many of the ‘present’ or ‘live’ kind – though I’ve enjoyed many games of Scrabble with my brother at my table (he, you’ll be pleased to know, is both live and present).

At my table, I have been keen keeping company with several men. Dale (or Ralph – I’m never quite sure which name he’d like a friend to address him with) has been providing much food for thought in recent weeks. Dale Ralph Davis has written two books on the Psalms – each book covering 12 Psalms. The first, ‘The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life’, I read some time ago. The second, ‘Slogging Along in Paths of Righteousness’, I finished yesterday. I’ve read both while consuming my porridge of a morning.

As I’ve kept company with Dale (or Ralph) and his examination of the Psalms, I have therefore also kept company with David (writer of many of the Psalms). It has been very helpful to spend time with the words of one who has trusted in, and cried out to, his God. Those words have encouraged me to ‘keep company’ with the same God.

This morning, I moved onto another book by Dale (or Ralph) – a collection of sermons he preached on the book of Jeremiah. I look forward to keeping company with this intriguing prophet for some breakfasts to come.

Today, I fancied some soup. I had swept up some autumn leaves in the back yard of the apartment block where I live – and I fancied something simple and warm for lunch. I turned to Marcella Hazan’s chapter of Soups.

Her ‘Chickpea Soup’ required no shopping on my part. I had a tin of tomatoes and a tin of chickpeas. I had some beef stock. I had some garlic. I had some fresh rosemary in the garden.

It was took little effort to make the soup and little effort to invite my neighbour to join me. After keeping company with men who were not present and, in the case of Jeremiah and David, not live, it was good to have a live, present, woman sharing a meal with me – at my table.

Chickpea Soup

Chickpea Soup

Lunch Today: #118 ‘Chickpea Soup’ with Phillippa at my table.

Time Out from Marcella – With Margaret Fulton, Weight Watchers and Marcella #117 (of 466)

You may argue that my ‘time out’ has been time out from blogging. Since my last post, 17 days ago, I’ve been back at work, speaking at an evening on Mentoring Women, speaking at a Women’s Weekend Away, and hosting various visitors staying in my home. I’m probably ready for some more time out. Meanwhile, I have fond memories of a ‘time out’ visit to a cafe in Sydney’s CBD, where my order was delivered according to the animal on my table – not a table number. Nice touch!

A sheep?

A sheep?

Regular readers may also have noticed that I’ve been on a break from my cooking adventures with Marcella Hazan’s ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.’ This was partly due to a few weeks of relative hibernation – and I rarely cook her recipes just for me. It was also due to a concerted and, so far, successful attempt to shed some kilos and once again fit into my clothes (I am 3 kilos lighter).

Thus my cooking has revolved around Weight Watchers recipes. It has been interesting – but nowhere near as tasty as Marcella’s recipes!

A visitor staying, a desire for a simple ‘poached pears’ recipe, and a two-month look at Margaret Fulton’s cookbooks on The Cookbook Guru, had me turning to Margaret’s recipe for Poached Pears. Hers included a macaron-like stuffing of pistachios. I was lacking in time and pistachios, so I skipped the stuffing. Her poached pears had very little sugar in the poaching syrup (some recipes online called for 2 cups of sugar!!) and worked beautifully. A simple scoop of vanilla ice cream on top was all that was needed.

Poached Pears

Poached Pears

Two nights ago, I experienced a glimmer of hope, a light at the end of a tunnel of weakness, a taste of the old energetic, hospitable life I long for once again. I had four students, from the college where I’m working this year, come for dinner and a chat about the future possibility of them living, working and sharing God’s love in other parts of the world. They each had their eyes set on different corners of the globe. We chatted and dreamed as we shared Italian food together. I cooked Marcella’s ‘Chicken with Lemons’ (this is the third time I’ve cooked this!) and her ‘Potatoes with Onions, Tomatoes and Sweet Pepper’ as a side. Simple and delicious!

Steam from the pan fogging up my camera!

Steam from the pan fogging up my camera!

I’m not up to a repeat performance anytime soon – but it was good to keep the hospitality flame burning!

Wednesday Night: #117 ‘Potatoes with Onions, Tomatoes and Sweet Pepper’, with four students and their dreams, at my table.

25% of a Cookbook! – With Marcella #116 (of 466)

On Friday night, I reached the 25% mark of recipes cooked from Marcella Hazan’s ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’. So I’m taking a moment to celebrate.

Technically I should have cooked an additional half a recipe to reach 25% – but if you’re OK with me celebrating at this point, I’m OK.

Recipe #116 of 466: ‘Baked Crespelle with Bolognese Meat Sauce’

This recipe used three other recipes from the book – all of which I had cooked before. The Bolognese meat sauce was an extra batch I had in the freezer. The Crespelle took a while to cook, as crepes do, but I was able to do other things in the kitchen while I cooked them. The Bechamel Sauce was prepared in the final moments, just prior to assembling the dish for a short trip to the oven.

With a bit of filling of crespelle with meat sauce and a final smothering of the leftover meat sauce and bechamel, this…

Bechamel, Bolognese Sauce and Crespelle

Bechamel, Bolognese Sauce and Crespelle

Became this…

Baked Crespelle with Bolognese Meat Sauce

Baked Crespelle with Bolognese Meat Sauce

It’s not much to look at…but it was awfully lovely to eat.

The brother, the nephew, the niece and I all sighed and declared it to be delicious!

I think I shall continue with the other 75% of the cookbook.

Reaching 25%: #116 ‘Baked Crespelle with Bolognese Meat Sauce’ with the brother, the nephew and the niece at my table.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/all-its-cracked-up-to-be/”>All It’s Cracked Up to Be</a>

Gnocchi and Creativity – With Marcella #114 & #115 (of 466)

I haven’t been around here for a few weeks. My best intentions have been around here. My creative spirit has not.

It’s a funny thing (not the kind of funny to make you laugh), that when you most need the heart-starting, spirit-soaring fuel of creative activity, you don’t have what it takes to self-medicate.

A visit from my niece and brother last night gave me the necessity, if not the energy, to make something for our dinner. I had been saving the Potato Gnocchi recipe from Marcella Hazan’s book to cook for my niece who loves potato. I would dearly have loved to make it with gorgeous, floury, Irish potatoes – but I’m fairly sure I would have ended up on an episode of ‘Border Security’ if I’d attempted importing them into Australia in my suitcase.

So we made do with potatoes from the local supermarket.

And we made do with our collective energy.

And we made beautiful gnocchi together!

Earlier that afternoon, I had quietly and respectfully harvested pretty much every leaf from the basil plant that Mum had lovingly grown for me at Christmas. The harvest was not necessarily plentiful, but the eaters were few.

The fruit of a couple of months of watering.

The fruit of a couple of months of watering.

I had to make do with the mini food processor in my ‘home away from home’. With a bit of packing and stuffing, I made all the leaves fit.

Before the leaves were added

Before the leaves were added

The cheese was grated ready to add to the blended leaves, oil, garlic and pine nuts, once we were all set to make the gnocchi.

Marcella adds a little butter to her pesto. So I did too.

Marcella adds a little butter to her pesto. So I did too.

In my ‘home away from home’ there dwells a ‘potato ricer’. I never really knew what it was until now and, on previous stays, had considered sending it the charity shop. I’m thankful I didn’t. I turns out, that in the absence of an Italian food mill, this is just the ticket! Brother and niece had a great time ricing the potatoes together.

Marcella mills her potato straight onto the counter, so we did too. Such fun!

Marcella mills her potato straight onto the counter, so we did too. Such fun!

Then we added the flour and I did the kneading. Once smooth we divided it into three and made the sausage-shaped rolls to cut the little ‘gems’ from. No photos were taken at this point as we all had floury hands.

Kneading

The brother and the niece picked up the technique that Marcella specifically instructed. It took me a little longer…but the laughs were worth it.

Beautiful little pillows of yumminess

Beautiful little pillows of yummy-ness

They take around 10 seconds to cook. They are cooked in a few batches in a large pot. You sauce them with the pesto as they come out in batches.

Two recipes combined.

Two recipes combined.

This was one of Marcella’s recipes that demands you serve and eat immediately. So we had the table set and ready to go.

In a small kitchen, you prepare and eat food at the same table - cleaning as you go.

In a small kitchen, you prepare and eat food at the same table – cleaning as you go.

And may I just say, the gnocchi were perfect! It was like eating little clouds. All three of us sighed a little as we ate.

Making potato gnocchi for the first time, with the assistance and company of family, felt like creativity to me. Enough for now, anyway.

Last night: #114 ‘Pesto by the Food Processor Method’ and #115 ‘Potato Gnocchi’ with my brother, my niece and communal creativity at my table.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/hammer/”>If I Had a Hammer</a>

A Year of Blogging – A Few Weeks of Recipes – With Marcella #108, #109, #110, #111, #112 & #113 (of 466)

Last week, I received a congratulatory message from WordPress (the makers of the world in which I blog). It turns out that I have been blogging here, At My Table, for a year now.

It was a great thing to be brought to my attention. I had been merrily blogging away and happily working my way through Marcella Hazan’s cookbook – and the anniversary would have passed me by. So I’m thankful I was alerted to it.

It’s good to be reminded sometimes of the things one has achieved. I’m not always good at persevering with long-term projects. So it’s good to stop and realise that I’ve persevered with this particular project for a whole year.

Ironically, for the past couple of weeks, while persevering with cooking, I have not managed to sit and write anything much at all. So here is a quick culinary summary of the past couple of weeks:

In the first week of March, I had my Mum, my brother, and two of my lovely Aunties, around my table for a quick dinner. It had to be quick as my brother was on his way to work, and my Mum and the Aunties were on their way to catch a train back to their home territory. Quick sauteed fillets of chicken were the order of the day.

20150307_172420

Sauteed Fillets of Chicken, With Lemon and Parsley, Siena Style

Last week, I celebrated St.Patrick’s Day with an Italian dish that was green in colour. It was especially lovely to have Helen as one of the guests around my table. For those readers who have been following since recipe #1, you will remember that Helen was visiting with me at the time. She was the friend who encouraged me to set out on this culinary adventure and blog about it as I go. Much of the celebration of this past year of blogging is a celebration that Helen is very much a part of making possible. Thanks, Helen!

The green-tinted dish was ‘Gratineed Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi’ which took care of two recipes in one go. First the ‘Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi’ and then the ‘Gratineeing’ of them!

Gratineed Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

Gratineed Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

In the months before my arrival here in the homeland, Mum had been growing some potted herbs for me as a belated Christmas present. I was able to harvest the required ‘large bunch of basil’ from one of these pots, to make Marcella’s ‘Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil’. Mum came for a visit this week and we enjoyed the sauce over pasta for our dinner one night. Sorry, no photo.

Tonight, I had Mum and my brother for dinner again. We enjoyed another of Marcella’s fish dishes (didn’t remember to take a photo). This was followed by my first attempt at one of Marcella’s gelato recipes.

20150322_182947

With a loan of an ice-cream maker, a punnet of strawberries, some sugar, a 1/4 cup of cream and 30 minutes of patience, we were rewarded with one of the most delicious things we had ever tasted. My brother declared it to be a ‘tick and three smiley faces’ achievement.

Yummo! Gelato!

Yummo! Gelato!

Some things are worth persevering with!

A few weeks ago: #108 ‘Sauteed Fillets of Breast of Chicken with Lemon and Parsley, Siena Style’ with mother, brother and two aunties at my table.

St.Patrick’s Day: #109 ‘Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi’ and #110 ‘Gratineed Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi’ with Janet and Helen at my table.

From a Christmas gift that keeps on giving: #111 ‘Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil’ with Mum at my table.

Tonight: #112 ‘Baked Fillet of Sole with Tomato, Oregano and Hot Pepper’ and #113 ‘Strawberry Gelato’ with Mum and my brother at my table.

“Tick! Smiley Face!” – With Marcella #106 & #107 (of 466)

It all began with Nigella and Anna.

As I began to work through Nigella Lawson’s ‘Kitchen’ and Anna Del Conte’s ‘Classic Italian Recipes’, I would tick the recipe I had completed and if I felt it deserved it, I’d give it a smiley face. With both books the smiley face became somewhat redundant. With the exception of two or three recipes between them, every recipe worked and tasted good.

But the phrase ‘Tick! Smiley Face!’ has stuck.

Last night, I had the delight of cooking dinner for, and eating dinner with, my brother and his two kids – my lovely niece and nephew. I had the added delight of dropping in to the shop where my nephew has begun an apprenticeship as a butcher, and ordering the meat for that night’s dinner. He served me with good manners and attentiveness. I, apparently, managed not to embarrass him in the process. It was definitely a ‘proud aunty’ moment!

Later, as we ate together, my nephew declared the dish to be a definite ‘Tick! Smiley Face’.

After dinner all four of us danced, sang, even harmonised, to ‘Stayin’ Alive’. A priceless moment of memories created!

Earlier that week, I’d also tried another of Marcella’s frittata recipes with another good friend. We didn’t, alas, do any dancing or singing to music of any kind. But I’m around these parts for a while, so there’s still time.

For those readers who love a good photo – or any photo, really – I’m delighted to present a photo sent in by one of your fellow readers, and friend of mine, who has been perfecting Marcella’s ‘Piedmontese Almond Biscuits’. Nicoleta was among the group of women who first sampled these biscuits. You can read about that past sampling back in this previous post, written back in the dim and distant days of recipe #9 (of 466).

Here’s her beautiful photo – where she has nicely coordinated the colour of the plate with the tablecloth:

Nicoleta's Repeat Attempt of Marcella's Piedmontese Almond Biscuits

Nicoleta’s Repeat Attempt of Marcella’s Piedmontese Almond Biscuits

Last Week: #106 ‘Frittata with Courgettes and Basil’ with Lois at my table.

Last Night: #107 ‘Pan-Fried Beef Steaks, Cacciatora Style’ with my Brother, Nephew and Niece at their table.