I'm on my 6th week of this book; I know this because check-outs from the library run in 3 week cycles. I frequently keep books 9 weeks before forced to return them, and actually it's in the 8th week that I'll really buckle down and finish reading a book - feeling as if I'm under an important deadline. Some cookbooks are perpetual check-outs, lining the shelf in my kitchen like old friends that I've rescued from dusty corners of existence. When I check my account online to see about renewals, I'll feel a sense of dread that my friends need to go back, to become friends to someone else. When my best new friends cause this type of feeling in me, that is when they drop into my Amazon cart - which feels bottomless at times, especially since I'm not buying anything extra right now.
This feeling of thrift (which, for me right now, is an elegant term for "poorness") that I'm currently going through is overwhelmingly perked up by Adler's book. She is single-handedly making me appreciate every last scrap from my kitchen and garden, every dirty pan I reconsider before washing. She has validated me as a home cook, as someone who does pay attention to the sound of the sizzle in the pan, the change of a color, the scent of a crunchy onion as opposed to a cooked one. She makes me feel like I do have kitchen instinct, which she explains as coming from a combination of "in", meaning "toward", and "stinguere", meaning "to prick". "It doesn't mean knowing anything, but pricking your way toward the answer, " she says.
She talks at length about good bread and using it to make toast. That whole meals can be made of toast - and that they are the perfect foil for vegetables. I was overjoyed to read this. Most of my lunches are toasted "old" bread with some kind of vegetables and cheese. I often think to myself how Kingly I eat, knowing where each ingredient comes from, knowing the time and feeling of the dough I made to bake into bread.
toasted bread, "red wax" gouda, roasted beets with salt, pepper and oil, farm market tomato, tellicherry black pepper.
The heat that has overwhelmed the Midwest this Summer found me neglecting my garden (though it is much smaller and less productive than the mighty Tigress's). The stifling heat made me intentionally forget a half dozen radishes in the ground, which grew surprisingly tall and bloomed in pretty white or purple flowers. Yesterday at breakfast, I was paging through Linda Ziedrich's Pickling book, and found a recipe for pickled radish pods. After clearing the dishes, I stepped out into the lung-filling heat and picked a small amount, enough for a quarter amount of Ziedrich's recipe. I packed them tenderly into a little glass yogurt jar, topped by the modest amount of brine, and twice as many dried cayenne peppers than called for that were from my garden last year.
Pickled Radish Pods (Linda Ziedrich, The Joy of Pickling)
- 1 pint "fully formed but still tender radish pods, stems trimmed to 1/4 inch)
- 1 small, fresh hot pepper like serrano, cut into rings (or 1 dried hot pepper) (I used 2 hot peppers for a 1/4 recipe)
- 1 sprig of tarragon
- 1 large garlic clove, sliced
- 1/2 c. cider vinegar
- 1/2 c. water
- 1 t. pickling salt
- 1 T. olive oil
Pack a clean jar with the radish pods, hot pepper(s), tarragon, and garlic. Stir the vinegar, water and salt together, and pour over the pods covering them and leaving about a 1/8 inch headspace. Add the olive oil, and cap with non-reactive lid. Store for 3 weeks in a cool, dark place before eating. After opening, store in the refrigerator.
The potatoes that I had insufficiently braised in the stock to begin with became homefries, because I had not cooked them long enough the first time, they gained momentum combined with onion and more rosemary, and the incomparable heat of a big cast iron skillet. I had just enough of them leftover from dinner to use for breakfast, alongside some perfectly fresh eggs, a gift of my Parents when back home.
There is always something new to be learned, something more to be thankful for. Beyond everything else, I know I am being looked after by the Power on high, in gifts of cupfuls of peas and vacuum cleaner bags, in stuffed pork tenderloins and sincere new friendships. All of these things allow me to cook with economy and grace, just as Tamar Adler suggests. They allow me to "prick my way" forward, finding my way in uncertain time.