Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ann Law's Birthday Party

This past Friday I had the pleasure to cook food for my friend Ann Law's birthday party.  We had the party at Barking Legs Theater and it was wonderful.  When I told my brother that he asked- why?... I answered-  I 'spose it was because the food was good (not bragging on myself, sometimes it's not so good), the company was fantastic, and there were children!  I guess I am getting to the age where children are once again a part of all parties- and I'm very happy about that.  It is so nice to here and see the glee of little girls as they squeal around on a dance floor, hopped up on company and cake....

The party was woman-daughter party.  The theme was Women Authors so we all had to dress up as one of our favorite woman authors.  I waffled between M. F. K. Fisher, Eleanor Cooper, and Colette.  I landed on the last mainly because of the dress I had on hand....

But this is what I cooked....  I scoured my woman-author-books for quotes about food and planned the menu around the words.  So I will write the words first and the menu item next...

-Willa Cather  My Antonia

Grandmother often said if she had to live in town, she thanked God she lived next to the Harlings.  They had been farming people, like ourselves, and their place was like a little farm...
...(Mrs. Harling's) enthusiasm, and her violent likes and dislikes,  asserted themselves in all the everyday occupations of life.  Wash day was interesting, never dreary, at the Harling's.  Preserving time was a prolonged festival, and house-cleaning was like a revolution....


-Flannery O'Conner  Stroke of Good Fortune

She and Bill Hill hadn't eaten collard greens for five years and she wasn't going to start cooking them now.  She had bought these on account of Rufus but she wasn't going to buy them but this once.  You would have thought after two years in the armed forces Rufus would have come back ready to eat like someone from somewhere; but no.  When she asked him what he would like to have special, he had not the gumption to think of one cilvilized dish- he had said collard greens.  She had expected Rufus to have some get in him. Well, he had about as much get as a floor mop.


-Sue Monk Kidd The Secret Life of Bees

They got under way slicing ham, laying out fried chicken, shaking paprika on the deviled eggs.  We had green beans, turnips, macaroni and cheese, caramel cake- all kinds of funeral foods.  We ate standing in the kitchen holding paper plates, saying how much May would have loved everything.

with homemade mayonnaise, Ashley's mustard
and Williams Island Farm paprika

Eudora Welty  No Place For You, My Love

     But there was a beating, muffled sound from over the darkening water.  One more boat was coming in, making its way though the tenacious, tough, dark flower traps, by the shaken light of what first appeared to be torches.  He and she waited for the boat, as if on each other's patience.  As if born on a mist of twilight or a breath, a horde of mosquitoes and gnats came singing and striking at them first.  The boat bumped, men laughed, somebody was offering somebody else some shrimp...
     ..."Coldest beer you've got.  And food- what will you have?"
     "Nothing for me thank you," she said, "I'm not sure I could eat afterall."
     "Well I could," he said, shoving his jaw out.  Baba smiled.  "I want a good solid ham sandwich"...
     ...Baba laughed at everybody.  She decided the woman back there must be Baba's mother.
     Beside her, he was drinking his beer and eating his sandwich- ham, cheese, tomato, pickle, mustard....

with Niedlove's sourdough, my own pickled Signal Mtn Farm cucumbers,
Ashley's mustard and Sequatchie Cove Creamery cheese

-Amy Tan The Bonesetter's Daughter

     On the night of the Full Moon Festival, the Fountain Court restaurant was jammed with a line flowing out the door like a dragon's tail...
     Ruth had picked Fountain Court because it was one of the few restaurants where her mother had not questioned the preparation on the dishes, the attitude of the waiters, or the cleanliness of the bowls...
     ...More dishes arrived, each stranger than the last, to judge by the expressions on the non-Chinese faces.  Tofu with pickled greens.  Sea cucumber, Auntie Gal's favorite.  And glutinous rice cakes...


-Toni Morrison Jazz

And when spring comes to the city people notice one another in the road; notice the strangers with whom they share aisles and tables and the space where intimate garments are laundered... Copper coins dropped in the palm have been swallowed by children and tested by gypsies; but it's still money and people smile at that.  It's the time of year when the city urges contradiction most, encouraging you to buy street food when you have no appetite at all... Really there is no contradiction- rather it's a condition: the range of what an artful city can do.  What can beat bricks warming in the sun?

with rice noodles, William's Island Farm spring mix
and cilantro pesto

-M. F. K. Fisher An Alphabet for Gourmets

     I myself was fascinated witness to the first bite of so-called "solid food" my elder daughter took....Since then, over some five years she has progressed with a mixture of common sense and emotion through several stages of appreciation...
     Fortunately I can buy...bread that is not only edible but good.  It is brown as the ripe earth, nutty, moist, and inescapably honest.  My daughter feels this honesty the way she would fear a madman's lear, with an intuitive knowledge.  When she has not known I was watching, I have seen her sniff a crust of this good stuff and smile, unthinking as a puppy but absolutely right.


  -Alice Waters  Fanny at Chez Panisse- A Child's Restaurant Adventure with 46 Recipes

When Chez Panisse turned twenty, they had their own outdoor farmer's market so everybody could meet all the people who grow food and raise animals for the restaurant.  They closed Shattuck Avenue, and all the farmers set up booths with all kinds of fruits and vegetables and meats and cheeses, and even Carrie set up a booth with flowers.  There were live trout in buckets, and one girl brought little lambs and put them in a little pen with hay.


-Ruth Reichl Comfort Me with Apples

And then, as if things weren't confusing enough, I got mugged.  Afterward I started baking sweet potato pies, standing in the kitchen at Channing Way for hours, cutting butter into flour, watching the fat disappear into the soft white powder.  I found solace in the precision of the gestures: filling a glass with ice cubes until the water was so cold it made my fingers ache, dribbling the icy liquid into the flour until it came together in loopy clusters.  I liked the softness when I gathered them up, liked pressing them into the suggestion of a ball.
... I roasted sweet potatoes and mashed them with a fork.  I added sugar and eggs and rum.  I heard the policeman's voice as he finished taking depositions.  "You're lucky to be alive," he said.  "God must have wanted you to have a second chance."


-Colette Break of Day  
While the Ravishing One is still at his favorite game of imitations, silent feet, shod with espadrilles, have been running hither and thither until, loaded with local ham, tomatoes, peaches, cheeses, almond tarts, sausages shaped like a club, long breads that we hug as if they were stolen children, and a hot soup tureen wrapped in a napkin, we take to the rutty hill...Twenty minutes later a table set up under a wattle roof offers us a feast, and the green moonlight of old starboard lights, hung high in the branches, streams unctuously over the convex leaves of the magnolias.

with Sequatchie Cove Farm butter
and my own peach butter




Recipe- Collard Dolma

Dolma are those little grape-leaf-wrapped bundles of rice.  You can put meat in them too- ground (William's Island Farm) lamb, or ground beef or sausage... just mix it in with the rice.  I did a Greek dinner last year and made dolma with grape leaves in my front yard.  Later in the season, when the collards were in and the grape leaves too old and tough, I discovered that collards work just as well.  They aren't as acidic and tannic as grape leaves so some people might actually prefer them.

I was lucky enough to snag the last of last winter's collards from William's Island Farm.  We might have to wait a bit longer til they are back in the market....

Not-Yo'-Flannery O'Conner Collards (see post above)

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion,  diced
  • 1 cup long-grained white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup or so olive oil
  • 1 bunch chives (Crabtree)
  • 1 bunch mint (also Crabtree)
  • 1 bunch oregano- or as much you can find on your dead looking plant in the yard
  • Salt to taste
 Cook the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat until soft and fragrant.  Add the rice and saute for a second and then add the water.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook til the water is absorbed (the rice should not be quite done).  Let cool and toss with the herbs.  Set aside while you prepare the leaves...
  • 25 or so collard leaves  
  • Boiling water in a big pot
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Drizzle or two of olive oil
  • Salt
Cut extra protruding stems from the leaves but leave the main vein intact.  Blanch the leaves a few at a time til they are flexible and bright green- just a few seconds.  Let them dry on a towel a bit.  Line a pot with blanched leaves.  Make sure it is a pot that you can fit a plate all the way into.

Put a small dollop (about a teaspoon) of rice onto a leaf. Place it near the stem-side (the bottom).   Roll the rice up one turn in the leaf, then fold the sides over to form a package, and roll it up the rest of the way.  You should have a little collard bundle.

Place the bundle in the collard-lined pot.  Finish rolling the rest of the rice in the remaining blanched leaves.  Place the bundles very snugly into the pot- but only in one layer.  Pour the lemon juice on top of the dolma, drizzle some olive oil, and sprinkle some salt. Add a little bit of the blanching water to cover the dolma with liquid. Place a dinner plate over the dolma- they should be covered entirely (or almost).   Put a weight on top of the plate.  I like to use a half gallon jar filled with water.  

Place the pot on the stove.  Bring first to a boil but immediately turn it down to a gentle simmer.  Simmer for 45 minutes- checking now and then that the liquid is still covering the dolma and that the heat not too high or low.  

I prefer to refrigerate the dolma overnight with the weight still on and eat them cold the next day.  You can also eat them warm-ish the same day.  They just get very firm if left overnight.