As the Story Goes...

I love writing my weekly posts. It is something that gives me great pleasure and fulfills my need to be creative. Pretty much, that kind of fulfillment is all I need.

Well, having said that, I do like knowing that you are reading what I write, and I really appreciate getting your comments. In the beginning, when Cocoa and Lavender was in its infancy, I was discouraged that it got so few comments and thought no one was reading. I had to ask... If I were in a forest all alone and wrote a post, would anyone read it?

I think every blogger out there loves knowing that s/he is adding something to the world (even if it is just a recipe on how to hard boil and egg), and that it is being read and appreciated.

Today, I had a great morning! Someone "paid it forward" and did something for me that made my day! Paula, of Vintage Kitchen Notes, who was nominated for a Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling, nominated me for Cocoa and Lavender! I am so grateful to her for this - how thoughtful that she thinks I deserve to be recognized for doing something that brings me such pleasure! Thank you, Paula!

When Cocoa and Lavender first premiered in February of 2010, I had never really written anything for pleasure. I wrote essays in college, bad poetry when I was in [unrequited] love, and grants for worthy nonprofits... It wasn't until I started writing posts for C&L that I discovered how much fun writing was, especially when it is fueled by passion. (Thinking back to my pad poetry... perhaps, if it was real love, the poems would have been better. ... I blame the objects of my affection...)

Happily, my passion for food is unending. So much so, that I think I annoy people by bringing the subject around to food in every conversation. ("It was such a lovely funeral, wasn't it?" "Yes! Did you try the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus?")

Why am I so passionate about food? I love how food brings people together. I love nothing more than gathering friends and family around the table to share a meal. Stories, happiness, sadness, successes and failures all spill out over the fork and knife and, by the time the dessert spoon has been set to rest, problems have been solved, new ventures planned and friendships strengthened. How can this not bring great joy to a host?

Food blogs are another perfect example. Since the inception of C&L, I have made friends all over the globe. Literally, in dozens of countries, I now have friends who I have never met. Some of them are bloggers themselves while others are readers. We e-mail back and forth, share recipes, support one another's efforts, laugh and cry together, and learn from the communal creative genius. I feel part of a wonderful virtual community.

I know that I am not alone in this; I am not alone in my passion for food, my love of friends and the joy of storytelling. I can't wait to open my email and find posts from The Netherlands, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Sydney or Texas. The stories are terrific - glimpses into their lives, small windows into other worlds. For their stories, passion, friendship and the enjoyment hey give me, I nominate these five friends... and I invite you to check out their blogs as I do. Each of them deserves a Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. (click the link to find out more!)

From them, I get so much - creative recipes, insightful food photography tips, history lessons and humor. But mostly, I get friendship... over food. (Pun intended...)

~ David

Hard Boiled Eggs

When I was growing up, I remember hard-cooked egg yolks always having a coating of icky grayish green around them. When I was in Morocco and was served goat testicles, they bore a strong resemblance to the green-gray egg yolk. (Yes, I ate them and, yes, they were tasty!)

But Mark taught me a great way to make them - a method that produces a tender and moist (not mealy) center that is golden through and through - all the way to the white. Try it, you'll like it!

Put room-temperature eggs in a saucepan filled with cold water and a teaspoon of salt; the water should cover the eggs by 1 inch. Place pan with eggs on the stove and, over medium heat, bring to a roiling boil. Let it boil for 30 seconds and then remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 12-14 minutes. While they eggs are "steeping," prepare an ice water bath. After the 12-14 minutes are up, drain eggs and place in ice water to cool. Eat immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. They are perfect for the Salade Niçoise below. (you didn’t really think this was all about hard boiled eggs, did you?) If your shells are sticking and hard to peel, week-old eggs are easier. If problems persist, place egg in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, then peel. The heating process separates the membrane from the egg.

Salade Niçoise

What is an authentic Salade Niçoise? I have found many versions that claim that moniker - yet all are different! Here is my version, for better or worse!

1 head leaf lettuce, leaves separated, washed and patted dry
2 6.5-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil
1/2 pound haricots verts (French green beans),

     blanched in salted water, then chilled
12 new potatoes, cooked whole and chilled
24 grape tomatoes
4 hard boiled eggs, quartered
24 kalamata olives, pitted (we can never find Niçoise olives!) 

4 teaspoons non-pareil capers
4 basil leaves, cut in chiffonade (very thin strips)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 8 anchovy filets
 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Arrange lettuce leaves on 4 dinner plates.

Divide the tuna into 4 portions and place on one side of each plate. Arrange the green beans, potatoes (halved or quartered), grape tomatoes (halved, if desired), hard-boiled eggs and olives around the tuna, then sprinkle with capers, basil and parsley.Top with 2 anchovy filets per salad.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

Serves 4. 

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