Friday, September 28, 2012

unhurried curry

Since you made the ginger-garlic paste (you did, right?  you stepped away from the computer and plopped the three ingredients into your food processor and pressed the BINGO button, right?), maybe now you want to try that simple fish curry that Punty threw together, which is not exceptionally simple, in that a good number of ingredients and steps are involved, but is not at all difficult, in that the main skills required are stirring and the pressing of buttons.  And the rewards are copious.

Fresh curry leaves are presently available in my local Healthe Foode Shoppe, but can also be mail ordered or purchased in a specialty Indian grocery and frozen in an airtight bag for nearly indefinite storage.  Tamarind paste comes in dry blocks, which I am told is the best quality, but which must be soaked and pounded and strained; you can also buy it in a jar and this ease of use means its a compromise I make with no regrets.  It keeps quite nicely in the fridge for longer than it takes me to use up a jar, which is a good long while.

Ready?  Here you go.

andhra fish curry

3T olive oil
a fat pinch of ground turmeric
1 heaping T of the garlic-ginger paste
a handful of fresh curry leaves
2t brown mustard seed, whole

2 good-sized onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/4 c tamarind paste, thinned with a little water
2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
2 heaping teaspoons of ground coriander
crushed red chile to taste

3-4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2-3 t salt 

About a pound of shrimp, cleaned, or firm white fish, skinned and cut in chunks, or frankly, potatoes, peeled and boiled until firm tender and quartered, or for that matter probably boneless chicken

First, put the onion into the food processor and pulse/chop until you have a nice puree.  Scrape out into a small bowl and reserve.

In the same food processor bowl, without washing it, puree the tomatoes, and reserve those as well.

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil and add the turmeric to it.  Let that warm through.  Now add the ginger-garlic paste, and stir that around a minute.  Throw in the mustard seed and the curry leaves.  Stir.  Now dump the onion puree in, and stir and cook and stir and cook and stir and cook (it is helpful to have something not very absorbing to think about, or someone charming to talk with as you do this).  You want it lightly brown, and you want to take your time about it.  As it begins to brown, it will begin to stick, and then you dribble in a little water to keep things moving nicely.  Take 15 minutes or so for this.  You are building up some serious flavor.  The whole trick is in this stage--taking your time with it and letting it brown slooowly.

Now add the other spices (cumin, coriander, chile) and let them warm through, and then stir in the tamarind paste-water mixture and the salt, followed after a few stirs by the tomato puree.  Simmer it for several minutes to let it thicken and mingle.  You can stop at this point and set it aside and it will only improve.  You can also press onward, and add the protein of your choice or potatoes and let them cook in the sauce and really soak up the flavors. 

Serve it over rice.  Punty says you should lightly stir-fry some baby bok choy in oil with a pinch of salt and red chile flakes to serve on the side, and I am not one to argue with her.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

fully fed up

My sister has a shockingly beautiful friend named Purnima, which is already a pretty lucky thing to have, and when you consider that she is called Punty, and is the kind of cook whose meals make the people who have eaten them get misty in the recalling, and that she came over recently and gave me a cooking lesson--well, the luckiness factor just multiplies exponentially.

She was planning to teach me how to make a simple fish curry, and she did that.  But even a simple fish curry has a lot of steps. I am reluctant to tell you how to do anything that has a lot of steps, generally.  There are layers and layers of flavor in a good curry, and you do not get those in a snap, unless you buy a jar of what a friend of mine calls Curry In A Hurry, and then you have something, but not anything you would serve to Punty or that would make anyone terribly misty when they recalled it.  This is not to say that some of these jiffy products are not tasty enough to fall back on when you must.  Some of them are.  But they are not what we are talking about.

Punty said she did not learn to cook as a child in India.  She just ate.  But when she moved to the U.S. and found herself to be a homesick and hungry student, she began to try to piece together what she had witnessed and what she was hungry for and to reconstruct it in her little kitchen.  The rest is history.  My nephew cannot speak of Punty's food in public because the weeping compromises his manliness.  "Her breakfast..." he says, and has to clear his throat.  Punty told us a hilarious family story about an Indian gentleman declining an offer of more food by saying politely, "Oh, no, thank you. I am fully fed up."  Max has been fully fed up by Punty more times than he can count, though I think on nights when he can't sleep he is happy to try.

One of the steps on the road to Punty's fantastic curry was the one where she said, "does your family like it hot?" and I said (thinking of the innocent little children) probably not by her standards, and so she said, then we will add only a little pepper.

This is a visual on "only a little pepper," Purnima-style:

Another one of the steps was this paste, which did not take very long to assemble at all, and which is the topic of our discussion today.  "We will make a lot," said Punty, "because it is very useful to have on hand." 

She was right about that.

Here is one thing you can do with this paste: when you melt butter for popcorn, drop a tablespoon of this in there and let it bubble a bit.  You would never (or anyway, I would never, no matter what you suspect) make garlic and ginger paste as part of the process of producing a bowl of popcorn.  If you happen to have a jar of it lurking in the condiment forest of your refrigerator, however, you have this kind of option before you.  And then you also have this kind of popcorn. Salt it as liberally as you generally would, and maybe get a little nutritional yeast on there.  Never look back.

Here is another, perhaps more useful thing you can do with it.  Make a fast and fantastic and pretty memorable for a weekday curry for dinner.  Curry in a hurry, Punty-style.  With a pot of rice, you are set to jet.

the paste

a head of garlic, peeled
about 3" of fresh ginger root, peeled (peel it with a teaspoon--it will change your life)
1 small hot pepper, seeded (a jalapeño, for example)

Coarsely chop the ginger and the pepper, using all proper and prudent precautions regarding not touching your eyes or other tender areas after touching the pepper.  Put all three ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine, and then really mince the hell out of them.  Maybe add a little water if you need it to get things moving.  You want a smooth and uniform paste. Put it in a glass jar with a tight lid, and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks, if you can manage to hang on to it for that long. 

the curry in a hurry

about 3T of canola oil, ghee, butter, or coconut oil
about 2T of ginger-garlic paste
about a T of curry powder
about a pound of chicken breast, chopped, or tofu, cubed
about half a cup of half and half or coconut milk
about half a cup of chicken broth or water
salt to taste
a large handful of baby spinach
a large handful of chopped cilantro (or not, if you hate it)

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the paste and stir it around for about five minutes, letting it golden up a little but not brown at all.  Add the curry powder and stir a few times.  Doesn't that smell nice?  Add the protein and sear it well on all sides.  Now add the liquids and simmer a few minutes, scraping all the tasty stuck bits off the bottom as you go and letting the sauce thicken a bit.  Throw in the green things and the salt, and taste.

Monday, September 24, 2012

the hot sweet

A late-afternoon moment this weekend found me and my daughters gobbling raspberries and grapes off the bush and vine, respectively, like bears laying it in for the long winter sleep. For many reasons, certainly including the golden September light, it was heavenly.

Faced with a perfect grape, or berry, or peach, or moment, sweetness is enough.  

Another moment this weekend found me wanting to make an apple crumb bar.  This can happen to a pie-averse person in New England in the fall, even in a year (like this one) that is pretty light on apples.  In this case, sweetness didn't seem like it would, in fact, be enough.  The idea of an apple bar lightly seasoned with (snore) cinnamon made me feel tired.  I found I was thinking of a spicy apple bar, and let me tell you, my thoughts did not run to nutmeg. 

A little toodle around the Interwebs reminded me of another thing that's very hot and now, which is caramel, especially with salt in it.  I generally hide under the couch when the Hot and the Now are out and about, but I do like caramel.  My grandmother used to send little kits with sheets of caramel and wooden sticks to make caramel apples.  I am pretty sure we just ate the caramel sheets neat.

A number of bars trotted across the screen with caramel sauce in them.  But they all said, 'oh, how nice, an apple bar, sleep well,' to me.  I wanted something with a little more presence.  I know every other thing that doesn't have bacon (so hot!  so now!) in it all of a sudden has chiles (very hot, very now), but trendiness aside, I really do like a little heat with the sweet.

A plan began to take shape.

Having gone on record that caramel sauce is a snap to make, I stand by this assertion.  I also stand by the assertion that I had 10 caramels from Trader Joe's left over from assembling some party bags, and thanks to that I could move from plan to action like a sprinter.  By all means make your own caramels.  Homemade caramels are excellent for your self-esteem.  But you don't have to make them, for this.  I won't tell anyone.

There's some nutritional merit to these bars, though I don't think that will register for most of the people you feed them to.  I used white whole wheat flour, but I bet you could use regular and still not be found out.  You could replace some of the whole wheat flour with almond meal, if you wanted to enhance the healthy aspect of things, or even add some nuts to the filling if that appeals.


base & topping
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 c sugar
1/4 c flax meal
1/2 t baking powder
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon

1 stick of butter (half a cup, or 8T), cold
1 egg, beaten

1 t red pepper flakes
2 t finely grated fresh ginger
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped in about 3/4" dice
2t cornstarch
1T sugar

10 caramels, chopped up

A fat pinch of coarse, flaky salt

Heat the oven to 375.  Lightly butter an 8x8 baking pan. 

Combine the dry ingredients and cut the butter into them until you have a coarse, mealy texture.  Pour in most of the beaten egg and toss everything together; you are aiming for a crumbly dough that will come together when you squeeze it.  Add more egg if you need it, and even a splash of water.  But keep it crumbly, overall.

Pat 2/3 of this mixture pretty firmly into your prepared dish, and set it aside. Reserve the remaining crumbly bits separately.

Toss the apple chunks with the sugar, ginger, chiles and cornstarch.  Now toss in the caramels and the salt, and then spread this out on the waiting crust.  Crumble the reserved dough on top of this, and bake for about 35 minutes, until the crust is golden and firm.  You can spoon it out while it is hot, but for cutting purposes, best to cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

i am afraid that will be impossible


This post will eventually be about salad.

The summer I was sixteen, I met a boy.  He was a hilarious boy, but despite his fundamental belief in kidding around almost constantly, it was clear to everyone that he was at his core a gentleman--not a quality that is often readily observed in sixteen year old boys, much as we all love them.  When the summer was over, he went back to Canada and we stayed in periodic touch for the years and years that came after.  This meant periodically receiving a letter from him written on toilet paper, or a prank phone call saying he was at the airport near my house.  Sometimes we kept up, and sometimes the interval between contacts was kind of long.  After my kiddos were born we fell out of touch for quite a while.

When I tracked him down a few years ago I found out that he had gotten married and had a beautiful baby girl, and also that he had ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.  When we reconnected that time, he resumed his practice of sending me periodic, hilarious emails peppered with his insanely accurate memories of very silly things he had been told years before.  Incriminating things I had done as a toddler and ridiculous phobias I had long outgrown were trapped securely in his nimble brain.  He was famous for it, he said.  I can't repeat here the story he had on his cousin Cindy, for example, but rest assured she wishes fervently it had been lost to history and not, instead, dredged up at every family gathering since she was four.

The normal progression of this disease is very rapid.  Half of patients die within three years of diagnosis.  But Richard wasn't one of those patients.  He lived, by which I mean not only that he survived, but that he LIVED.  Have you seen that poster that says "carpe the hell out of this diem"?  That was him, by all accounts: swimming (even though he could not use his arms, or much of his lungs) and playing hockey (he was Canadian, after all) and biking and staying in touch with people he knew all over the place and most of all enjoying his beautiful wife and their little girl.  He was the most positive person you can possibly imagine.  And he also was driven to change the landscape for people with his disease.  He raised thousand and thousands and thousands of dollars toward finding a cure, mainly (as near as I can tell) by being cheerful and funny and exemplary.  

Richard lived seven years after his diagnosis.  Last April, it seemed to me it had been a while since we had exchanged emails, and I had a funny feeling, and thanks to the Internet it became clear that Richard had died a few days earlier.  I went to pick my kiddos up that afternoon, and when I turned to say hello to my older daughter as she got in the car, I saw that she was wearing a pair of earrings I had never seen her wear before, and that they were the black coral earrings that Richard had given me for my 16th birthday.  My daughter is 16, of course.  This made a kind of senseless sense.

Richard’s wife Richelle is leading his annual hike for ALS this year, and yesterday, in her rabble-rousing email to Richard’s network, I read this:

He would start thinking of ideas for his website months in advance and would spend days and days setting it up. And he was so grateful for everyone's support that he would send personal thank-you emails to every single donor.  All of this would be done one key at a time with his toe.

I began yesterday feeling pretty downtrodden by all the things I needed to get done, and ill-equipped to do most of them, and generally burdened.

I concluded yesterday willing to concede that I have not been very good about counting (using my fingers, and the full breath in my lungs) my many blessings.

This in no way prepares us to talk about salad, except in the sense that the kale is at is peak, now that cooler nights are upon us, and the lettuce is still tender and good, since we still have sunny, warm days.  The tomatoes will never be any sweeter than they are right at this moment.  There’s a lemon or two left from my last care package.  As far as this salad goes, now is the time.

I bet you could use any old kind of miso, though certainly the smoother the better.  The dashi miso that my dear brother in law gave me has a pungent smokiness that is extra delicious, and you can get it at any Asian grocery.  Ditto the yuzu juice, which is also not essential--lemon juice alone is fine--but which kicks it all up a notch or two.  

I would love to show you a picture of the salad, but we keep eating it after the sun sets.

carpe diem salad

1 heart of romaine, coarsely chopped
1 head of bibb or boston lettuce, mainly the tender inner leaves, torn
1 firm-ripe avocado, cubed
5-6 leaves of Russian kale, finely shredded
1 perfect tomato, cored and coarsely chopped

2T dashi miso paste
1T yuzu juice
juice of half a lemon
¼ c EV olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper, if that appeals

Combine the vegetables in a large salad bowl. Thin the miso paste with the juices, and then whisk in the olive oil and the pepper. Toss thoroughly and eat, with gusto, immediately.  No time like the present.

Friday, September 14, 2012

saucy little tarts

Would you like to know the secret to making good pie?  Well, don't ask me.  I make lousy pie, so I can't help you with that. What I can help you with, thanks to a devious workaround in my bag of tricks, is diverting attention—yours and anyone else’s--from your lack of pie-making skills.

In my entirely unsolicited opinion, whomsoever came up with the phrase “easy as pie” has a little bit to answer for.  It’s easy as pie for me to make a cardboard crust that stays raw underneath the fruit but burns on the edges.  Easy as pie to underfill the thing so that the top crust collapses AND to overfill it so it blurps all over the oven.  It’s easy as pie for me to imagine I can flute and lattice and, heaven help us, stencil a pie crust, but tough as nails to translate that into reality on the plate.

There is nothing like a pie, in my experience, to bring a person’s lofty fantasies regarding their personal superpowers sharply down to terra firma.  Although I did just offer to make a wedding cake for some friends who are getting married in November, and I have a consequent hunch that in fact there IS something like a pie for that purpose.  My oldest child has quietly requested that she be allowed to live somewhere else while I am constructing the cake.  Wise girl.

But pie.  Do you long to pass for a pie-maker, and feel pretty hot about yourself into the bargain?  We can address this desire.

Cue the trumpets!  Enter, stage left, Julia Child!  Why, what is that she is carrying?  I think it is a galette.  Galette is a French word meaning “just as yummy as pie and no trouble to make.”  This recipe comes from Baking with Julia and I have tweaked it only a little bit.  To revert to the original, leave out the whole wheat flour and use all white flour.  The cornmeal gives it plenty of textural interest.  But I like the nuttiness of a little whole wheat in here, especially with the plums.  Which reminds me that it is a recipe for a BERRY galette, in the book.  But I had plums.  And really you could use any fruit at all.  Or make a savory one with tomatoes and herbs and cheese.

Here are two reasons to love the original recipe, other than the tasty food that results from it: one, when it instructs you to cut in the butter until some pieces are the size of small peas and some are finer, an explanation is given.  “The finer bits will make it tender, and the larger ones will make it flaky.”  I love that kind of insider info.  Teach a man to fish, and so forth. Later on, after you’ve added the liquid, you’re told, “it will be a soft, malleable dough—the kind you might be tempted to overwork.”  Mmm hmm.  It’s like they were watching me.

This is not a very sweet dessert at all, meaning you get carte blanche (that’s also French, for “a little more wrist action on that scoop, there”) with the ice cream.

Parchment paper is your ally here.  Absolutely essential.  Don't leave home without it.  The almond paste fillip came to me in a flash; I used to put a little bit of minute tapioca in there, to keep the juices from getting too runny (even though Julia and her friends said nothing about this; runniness does not worry them), but the tapioca that clings to the fruit on top doesn't cook properly, and tweezing those bits of tapioca off cuts into my golf time.  Adding the almond paste is good because it is yum, and because it drinks up all the fruit juices while all around it stays crisp, but it's hardly essential—to anything other than your “CHECK.  ME.  OUT.” feeling of happiness, that is.  Yeah, that’s right.  We got swagger.  We ain’t afraid of no PIE.

galette of whatever pleases you
adapted from Baking With Julia

3 T sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk
1/3  c ice water (about)
¾ c all purpose flour
¼ c whole wheat flour
¼ c cornmeal
1-2 t sugar
½ t salt
7T cold unsalted butter, cut in cubes

3 c fruit, sliced
1-2T sugar
1 t grated fresh ginger

1 7oz tube almond paste
1 T cold unsalted butter, cut in slivers

1 T heavy cream
1 tsp sugar

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream and the water until totally combined.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Toss the butter in there, and use a fork to coat the pieces in the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter in, making sure to leave some bits more or less pea-sized. Now splash in most of the liquid mixture and use the fork to toss it all around.  Pinch a bit of the dough; if it holds together, gather the whole mess into a ball; if not, add the remaining liquid.  If it still seems dry, add water by the teaspoon until it comes together.  Once you have gathered it all up, divide the ball in two and form a disk from each half.  Refrigerate for at least half an hour.

When you are ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge.  Let it enjoy the room’s temperature while you mix the fruit and sugar and ginger in a small bowl.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and have two squares of parchment and two baking sheets at the ready.

Sprinkle a little flour on the parchment, and plop a disk of dough on there.  Cover with a sheet of wax paper, and roll out to about ¼ “ thick.  Think about a circle as you are rolling, but don’t invest a moment’s thought into whether or not you achieve one.  A rustic ovoid will serve. Rough edges are good, too.  Take about a third of the almond paste and pat and poink it out (or use your rolling pin, but that means another two sheets of wax paper) to a rough circle that will rest on the dough with a comfortable margin all the way around.  Plop half the fruit on top of that, in a single layer, again leaving a wide margin.

Now, we have some fun.  Using the parchment paper, fold one section of the dough up over the fruit.  

Work your way around the circumference, folding up with the paper.  


Why, lookee there!  You are pleating your way to magazine-readiness and not even breaking a sweat. 

Round you go.  Very nice.

And there you have it.

Dot the exposed surface of the fruit with slivers of the butter.  Brush the top side of the pleats with a little heavy cream.  Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of sugar over that.

Repeat these steps with the second disk of dough, just absolutely digging that pleating thing now that you have it down.

Bake 30-40 minutes, until quite golden brown, and slide the parchment onto a rack to cool for as long as you can restrain yourself.

Monday, September 10, 2012

free wife high

Back in the old days, a housewife in need of a pick-me-up had some options.  For example, amphetamines.  Those were an option.

courtesy of
These are harder to come by nowadays, and generally frowned upon as a solution to most common problems.  On the plus side, the house-dress and girdle have also gone the way of all things, so there is that to be grateful for.

Trying to get my cooking mojo back led me to resurrect some staples.  It's kind of like playing scales.  I made some granola bars, this time with lemon zest and apricots but no frosting.  I overbaked them a little when my unmedicated mind wandered, but they are still quite useful to have in a jar on the counter come lunchbox or low blood sugar time, and counted (just barely) toward feeling better about cooking.

Then, still thinking ahead to MondayMorningLunchBoxPanic, I made a batch of those quinoa and cheese muffins.  If I gave a concert, this would be the one you all would raise your lighters for.  Every Raisinette (and you know who you are) mentions this recipe.  My cousin's neighbor.  My daughter's classmate's mother's co-worker.  It even got anthologized!

I employed some first-rate second-grader labor to get the cheese sprinkled correctly:

and these turned out fine too.

But it is housewife food that has really saved the day.  Housewife food is not the food that anyone responsible for the caloric intake of everyone under one roof churns out, as above, to keep the wheels turning.  The person making that daily stuff may or may not consider themselves a housewife.  I mean instead a category of food-making that involves a can of this and a package of that and a general feeling that you are leaping from your minivan ready to feed a hungry crowd of teens after a sports event.  The term also refers to anything that involves cooking with mayonnaise, includes the word "mock" in its title, or tempts you to write "it's THAT good, people."

The substance below was concocted in a general sense in response to a number of recipes that had floated past my head in recent months, each with their appealing elements (in sum: hot cheese) and specifically because I was invited to an all-female evening and asked to bring a snack offering.  I leaped from my minivan and whipped this up immediately.  

It is a flexible item.  It served comfortably as a dip for tortilla chips the other night ("does this have dairy in it? then I probably have to skip it," said one of the females, who did not, ultimately, skip any part of it), then the next day I made it again and we ate it over rice and I heard no complaints.  I have made it now with sour cream and with whole milk Greek yogurt (also once with nonfat Greek yogurt, but it's best not to dwell on that).  It calls for fresh corn, and for good reason, but I imagine that if you are not making it in New England in the late summer or early fall (where and when the use of frozen corn is, as it should be, an actionable offense), you could use frozen corn, too.  Extra housewife points for that.  If you are making it for dipping purposes, use less corn as it's the cheesy part that you'll want to emphasize; if you are heading more towards a casserole side dish, strap on a girdle, use more corn and for a shot at the title of Housewife Champeen, crumble some tortilla chips on top before you bake it.

mock housewife food

2-3 ears of corn, cooked and cooled
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/4 c mayonnaise (I like this one because it is not at all sweet and is actually tasty, whereas most bottled mayonnaise is unpleasantly sweet and is used as a sandwich lubricant but brings nothing to the flavor table, not that you asked)
1 4 oz can of chopped roasted green chiles
1.5 c coarsely shredded cheddar or jack
a handful of finely chopped cilantro
a handful of finely chopped scallions
1 t ground cumin
1t chile powder
A good dash of hot sauce, and if you really like some heat, a chopped pickled jalapeño and/or a teaspoon of finely chopped chipotle in adobo

Heat the oven to 375.  Mix everything together and smooth it into a baking dish.  Bake about 15 minutes, until bubbly, hot and lightly golden.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

back words

back in the old days

An explanation is in order here, and perhaps an apology. It certainly was not my intention to vanish without a trace, so I will catch you up on all of that and maybe I will spin a yarn so totally absorbing that you and I will both overlook the fact that I seem to have forgotten how to cook.  Do not become alarmed.  It's not too troubling, or anyway it shouldn't be.  It's happened before and generally blows over.  In the mean time, thank goodness we have cereal.

As far as things that are totally absorbing go, we are in a boom year.  Among other recent developments, my husband and I are working hard to raise the financial and social capital to save and re-purpose a large piece of land in our community.  Many things have already resulted from our careful, sensible, methodical process.  Here is a sampling:

1. Catching myself attempting to insert my credit card directly into my gas tank at the filling station, with the secondary result that I was cackling sort of hysterically in public while all alone.  Excellent PR for a big project.  Highly recommended.

2. Washing the same load of laundry repeatedly, because it never gets into the dryer before it rots. There is a quality of a Greek myth to this, if you can get past the washing machine. (I cannot).

3. Driving into a mailbox and shearing off my side mirror, while miraculously avoiding contact with a telephone pole that continues to stand, unscathed and with a clear conscience, mere inches away from my victim.  Those side mirrors are handy little buggers, and let me tell you that you don't miss the water till the well runs dry.  SUPER handy.  VERY hard to drive about hither and thither with a blank visual experience on the starboard side of the vehicle.  After a week (and a frightening but mercifully false estimate), all is now restored.  Think about driving when you are driving, my mother always said.  She turns out to be right on the money there.  Note to the file.  I am on it.

4. Never once cooking a photo-worthy meal in daylight for two weeks straight.  We ate some good stuff (it is summer here after all, and so it's hard to go too far wrong), but we ate it in the dark, and we ate all of it.  No light while we had the food, and no food left when the sun rose again.  

Up there in the picture is a lovely (if I do say so myself) little breakfast repast (frittata, muffins, and a salad of oranges, plums, ginger and basil) that I toted along to a meeting on the 22nd of August, and since then it's all been a blur eaten under cover of night.  If you do make the muffins, which I really encourage, try adding 1/4 cup of corn starch to the batter.  It improves the texture quite a bit, and this knowledge dates from well before The Great Blur so you can accept it with confidence.

Today I took French leave from my project, sort of unwillingly, and headed off to a day-long faculty retreat at Community Access To The Arts, where I will be teaching weekly writing workshops next month.  The timing was all wrong, in that my to-do list, incomplete, presently fills a notebook.  The timing was excellent, in that a very kind and well-informed person came over to help us think things through last night.  After she left, I had copious notes on her excellent recommendations, and in the place normally occupied by my brain there was a small, withered legume, rattling feebly around.  I was the Little Engine That Could Hardly Stumble to Bed To Stare Into The Dark With Owl Eyes.  Sometimes I can't imagine how we will ever get this done, and sometimes I can't imagine how we could possibly let anything stop us.  I was erring sharply toward the former, which is probably how a person ends up driving into mailboxes.

At the retreat, we played with pastels.  We talked about creative ways to interpret the theme of the program year.  We ate food prepared by others.  And we watched this short film. It is well worth eight minutes of your time, I think, and don't forget to click on "full screen."  I'll wait here.

Good, right?

It all seemed like it would add up to a re-set button on my state of mind.

After the retreat, I was home and ready to make dinner while the sun was still shining.  Sadly, there is the small matter of my having temporarily forgotten how.  Here is another thing my mother likes to say: This too shall pass.