A Little Luxury

Recently I attended a day of seminars at the Boston Design Center, on the topic "redefining luxury in today's economy".  The morning began with a panel discussion and an interesting mix of opinions.  Two of the four panelists spoke endlessly of their immensely wealthy clients, and the value and necessity of $20,000 sofas.  Necessity?  Clodagh, a designer whose work I much admire and was thrilled to see in person, took an different view and defined luxury as "feeling the sun on your face, sleeping on the perfect mattress, gathering around a table large enough to accommodate your family and sharing a meal".  Meaningful stuff that resonated with many of us. 

Years ago when my mom and I visited Greece together, we experienced little luxuries on a daily basis.  As it was May and summer weather, nearly every meal was eaten outdoors.  We ate thick, creamy yogurt drizzled with local honey in courtyards shaded by bougainvillea cascading down from balconies, and sipped wine at sidewalk cafes where we watched life go by.


A Lesson Learned

This will be no great tale of culinary disaster.  If that is what you are looking for, let me know and I can tell you about the sweet potato gnocchi doorstops, the peach champagne gelĂ©e that couldn't be cut with a knife (!!), or the low-fat, 'lite' version of oysters in cream and Pernod. (May I say "Gag!" about my own cooking?  You betcha!) Each of those stories could keep you awake at night - or, if not, they will at least have you dreaming of antacids.

Today's post is a story of learning to trust.  Trust the recipe.  Trust the chef.  Trust the details. 

If you are a all like me, the first time you make a recipe you will do it exactly as written.  (Okay, I am a total liar - sometimes I make changes immediately and the finished dish in no way resembles the intended recipe...)  But, assuming that on occasion I follow the recipe to the "T," there does come a time when I simplify or adjust or change the recipe completely.  My mother's recipe for Autumn Vegetable Bisque is a perfect example.  It calls for boiling the butternut squash with the other veggies.  While good, this method just didn't yield the fullest-flavored soup.  So I roasted the squash and some of the vegetables and then added it to the soup.  Perfection! 


Color Cravings

Dear Reader,

It's been busy.  And although I've had more than a few days to write a little story for you, una piccola storia, I've come up empty.  So let's get right down to business:  Rhubarb and Peach Crisp.  This recipe has been sitting in the "must try" pile for eons and I'm not sure where I found it.  Judging from the type, it looks like a clipping from Bon Appetit, and my apologies for any error in attribution.  It was the color that inspired me to try it - red rhubarb, yellow peaches. . .  And while tasty out of the oven, it was even better the next day.  So good, in fact, that I ate it for dinner.  Let me know what you think.

- Doreen


A Stick of Butter

When my mother died in July of 1988, I set out within a few weeks to collect, edit and create a book of her recipes to give to my father and siblings for Christmas that year.  For me, it represented the ultimate memento of her life, as she was always in the kitchen preparing amazing meals for us morning, noon and night.  These days, when I feel a bit blue, I flip through the pages of the original manuscript much like one would visit a loved one in the cemetery.  I open the book and there she is there on every page, in every recipe.  (For your information, my father resides in my checkbook... I visit him once a month when I balance it to the penny!)

I remember very little about putting together Mom's cookbook other than the computer had a black screen with green words.  Proofreading was impossible without massive headaches.  French accents were also impossible at that time.  And Courier was the font of choice... well, the only font available.  Considering the recipes, one thing that didn't strike me then but is so obvious to me now is that there is one reason so much of my mother's cooking was so good.  Butter.  Yep, butter.  As I retype all these recipes, I am stunned at how many recipes begin with "a stick of butter."  I now understand fully why: a) I struggled with my weight all my life, and b) why I am addicted to butter.



Spring arrives on the Seacoast in fits and starts.  It might be 75 degrees today, 35 degrees tomorrow.  With longer days the city comes alive, crowds spilling out from cafes to fill sidewalk tables, faces turned to the sun.  In the garden, snowdrops and tulips have pushed through the ground and it won't be long before oregano and mint make their appearance.

On most days, I'll put on sneakers and head out for a brisk spin through town.  Along the river and across Prescott Park, a quick stop at the post office, through Market Square and past the library - old and new - a loop around the South Mill Pond and back into the narrow streets and jumbled rooftops of the South End.  I pass two neighborhood favorites, and if I've thought to bring enough money with me, I may stop in here and - better yet - here.  Which, quite often, is a mistake.  A little of this, a little of that. . . a little more of that.  I can't help myself and now I'm loaded down with gorgeous mussels, shrimp, a crisp white wine, generous wedges of Humboldt Fog and Parmesan cheeses, Kalamata olives.  Serious nibbling will most likely ensue. . .