Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Celebrate Brooklyn ended this year with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, playing on Saturday August 7 to a more-than-capacity crowd of 20,000. I went there with David, and really enjoyed it -- Sharon Jones is a treat to watch, a compact little woman made, it seems, of solid energy.

Russian Salade Nicoise

I have been winnowing down my old cooking magazines this summer, and sometimes I save a recipe just because it looks so good in the picture. This Russian-Style Salade Nicoise from a 1996 Food & Wine looked wonderful, and tasted great too.

My friends Alexis and David enjoyed it with me and were even brave enough to get into my homemade horseradish vodka!

A good rescue for over-the-hill cherry tomatoes: Cassoulet

You've done this too, I'm sure. Bought a beautiful box of cherry tomatoes and simply didn't eat them all in time. If this happens in dry cool weather, your tomatoes will first start to dessicate rather than rot, and they are still good at this point. They're sort of like raisins, just in tomato form. I added them to a white bean and mushroom cassoulet and they plumped up just fine in all the lovely juices.

Favorite Recipe: Oven-Fried Coconut Chicken

Here's a picture of preparations for the marinade for Oven-Fried Coconut Chicken, one of my favorite recipes from Cooking Light. I find that the panko breading does not stay put on the chicken even after it's marinated; I dip the marinated chicken in some egg whites and then in the breading. Also, be sure to coat the baking sheet with cooking spray -- doesn't do much to just coat the chicken. I need to take extra care when turning over the chicken after it's cooked for its first  half hour to make sure I don't leave the breading behind. I have gotten away with making this recipe with boneless chicken thighs, and cooking them only 10" per side -- but sometimes I have to run them under the broiler for a bit to make the breading turn nice and golden and crisp. This recipe is good to make ahead and serve the next day, reheated in the microwave with a finish in the toaster-oven.

Zabar's on a Saturday afternoon

I went to Zabar's recently and enjoyed just looking at all the cheeses.

This is the cheese case you see immediately upon entering the store.

And here's a closeup of the same case. I feel so lucky to live in a city where you can not only get Raclette, but you can get it sliced in a deli container to take to your party!

When I was young, my friend Sophie and I made up our own expletive: "Yarg!" It makes me smile when I see that word somewhere unexpected, such as on this cheese from Cornwall.

Of course when you are in Zabar's it's very difficult to not want to eat, and the management knows this -- they put out little toasts with tasty spreads on them for you to sample, and I swear they taste so great (being free adds to their savor). Can't you see the eagerness in this lady reaching for her taste of Zabar's house brand salmon mousse?

A Return to Spring: Bliss

My paper appointment book for the past few years has been Chris Hardman's Ecological Calendar, which follows the seasons from one winter solstice to the next with images, facts, and words that beautifully summon the characteristics of different times of the year. At the top of each page is a single word that captures the essence of that period -- usually a stretch of time four or five weeks long. The word they chose for this moment in time is "Bliss."

How true, when the weather turns just as you like it in early May. This week it is cool enough to need a jacket in the mornings and evenings, and summer-like only at midday. The trees are fully leafed out and juiced up by all the spring rains. We've had a good Spring in New York this year, and I enjoyed it so much I saved the banner from on a perfect April day:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mom and Me in the Ukrainian Weekly

On Mother's Day this year, I found an article from a 1966 edition of The Ukrainian Weekly that featured my late mother and her rock art. This article was written by Helen "Scoop" Smindak, a dear family friend, who wrote another article about me and my borscht-making (or, as Helen would more correctly, Ukrainianly spell it, borsch-making) in 2008. How many mother-daughter teams get such special treatment by the same journalist? It was wonderful to come across Helen's 1966 article and read about my 31-year-old mother living her "conservative bohemian" life on the Upper West Side, and hope you'll enjoy it too. For good measure I included the article Helen wrote about me 42 years later.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

84 degrees in the shade. Antidote: Kusmi Be Cool tea, iced.

Whew! It's a scorcher this first day of May. As we wait for news from the hospital that my dad can come home after angioplasty, I went to Zabar's and got some treats, including this new tea from Kousmichoff (their Zoubrovka, Prince Vladimir, and Samovar varieties are my favorites when I'm throwing a borscht party).

Mint provides refreshment, liquorice and anise sweetness, apple and verbena notes a herbal green quality, and rosehips a dark tart note that just feels more interesting among all the other clean light flavors. I put three teabags in 8 oz of boiling water and let steep 6 minutes, then poured over ice. Ahhh.

Kusmi has a press release that notes their first North American store has opened in Montreal (a city well worth visiting for many other reasons). How delightful it would be to sample their teas at this boutique, and flip through their cookbook (although this only seems to be available in French for now)....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Favorite Recipe: Sicilian Pesto

I used to grow cherry tomatoes on my deck when I had full sun there (neighbors and a red maple have since intervened), and at the end of the summer was so inundated that I researched a lot of recipes for cooking with them. This was my favorite: a pesto that uses almonds instead of pine nuts. Hm. I may just make some tonight.

Sicilian Pesto (as adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

1/4 cup slivered almonds
12 oz cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/3 cup olive oil
1 oz parmesan cheese, grated
pinch of salt
1 lb cooked pasta (spaghetti is best, I think)

Process almonds, garlic, and oil in a blender until broken down a bit – add salt and the cherry tomatoes a handful at a time and process until smooth. Add basil leaves and process until smooth. The sauce will be a sort of unappetizing murky green color but don't despair. It tastes wonderful tossed with hot pasta and the grated parmesan. You might need to add a little hot water during the tossing process to make sure the sauce coats all the pasta.

Favorite Recipe: Cardamom-Pistachio Thins

I worked a food processing shift at the Park Slope Food Coop yesterday and promised to share some recipes with the people around the table. Here's one of my all-time favorites; it makes only a dozen cookies, and as Corinne my fellow food-processor noted, "it's really nice sometimes to not have huge batches of cookies."

Cardamom Pistachio Thins (from Eating Well)

I alter this recipe slightly by toasting whole cardamom seeds (discard the pod) in a hot skillet for about 30 seconds and then whizzing them through my coffee grinder. The aromatic nature of the cardamom is just so lovely this way. I also add a bit of powdered ginger. These cookies are a wee bit crisp at the edges and soft at the center, and are delicious with a cup of black tea.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Velik'den': The Blooming of the Bradford Pear Trees

"Velik'den" is the Ukrainian word for Easter, but it really means "The Great Day." I like to think that the pre-Christian Ukrainians, calendarless, anxious about the coming of Spring, all decided among themselves when the Great Day was. They'd just know, stepping outside and sniffing the air...and a special smile would spread across everyone's face.

For me, Velik'den' is when the Bradford Pears bloom in the treepits of New York City. In early Spring these trees present buds that open to a tight fistful of smaller buds, which gradually relax and open up into a bouquet of little white flowers. (Not particularly nice-smelling, though.) When warmth comes quickly, as it usually does at least once or twice in Springtime here, the trees explode into flower all over. This happened on Friday, April 2 this year.

Pysanky 2010: Freeform Pattern 6

I've been experimenting this year with making Ukrainian Easter eggs simply by melting the beeswax patty a little and smudging it immediately on the egg. The smudges are of slightly different shapes – some quite perfect-edged, others feathery. The overall effect is impressionistic. Since pysanky (if these can truly be called that) can be made very quickly via this method, I've been more daring with dye combinations. Here's one that I decorated with white, then red, and then dipped in green, producing an interesting dark grey background. It reminded me of something, and when I was on my way to work recently, I realized what it was. I've obviously been spending too much time in the subway just staring at the floor.

Early Spring, Union Square

Across the street from my office is an Anthropologie store. They painted their windows with a green leaf design that glows in the angle of sunlight coming across the street.

 At the greenmarket in late March it was still chilly enough to require a coat – and it was a good idea to have an umbrella too – while shopping among the forced tulips and hyacinth.

My eyes are hungry for green, but at this point in Spring I can only find this color painted on, or imported from a greenhouse....

Pysanky 2010: Kids at Ukrainian Museum

On Saturday afternoon, March 27, I taught a class at the Ukrainian Museum that introduced the art of pysanky to middleschoolers from Chinatown. These kids were from the honors class so they were serious and intelligent adolescents – only one of them set himself on fire, just a little bit. Here's a picture of one young gentleman melting the wax off his egg with great concentration. This is the best moment of the pysanky-creating process but also the riskiest. I do appreciate how he held his paper towel far away from the flame.

A small crowd gathered around this girl as she melted the wax off her pysanka:

And here are the finished eggs this group made. Very nice!

Pysanky 2010: The Hunter's Egg

Here is my friend Jeff's second Ukrainian Easter egg of the season, right after I melted off the wax. He likes to fish and hunt, so I drew him a pattern with fish swimming on one side and a deer pausing under a tree on the other. My friend Chris sketched the deer so it would look more realistic instead of the stylized Ukrainian design for a deer. The dyes were from last year and came out a bit too light, I think. But it's a very nice egg. I like the pattern underneath the soil where the deer is standing -- it looks like the energies of growing seeds. In the traditional Ukrainian reading of pysanky symbols, this egg invokes wealth (deer), balance and protection (stars and meanders around border), and health/Christianity (fish).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Early Spring; Oboes.

Friday March 26 was a bright sunny cold day here in New York City. The elms in Union Square Park had just started to unfurl tiny pale green leaves that looked too delicate to be out in the wind just yet. Stout daffodils nodded slightly, their faces still pointed at the ground. A squirrel begged on hind legs for a piece of my cookie. Unless I stayed in the sun with my wool scarf wrapped around my neck I was too chilled to remain still. The weather was rich and bracing. It reminded me of this piece by Poulenc, a gentle day suddenly overcast for a moment, then the smooth liquid oboe notes like sunshine carried on a breeze.

Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano, Andante

Read more detail about this piece of music at the Los Angeles Philharmonic's website.

Good city, bad city, good

I know I'm lucky to keep myself in comfortable enough circumstances to enjoy living and working in New York City. And, when I have free time and free range enough, to really love living here. I had such a moment a few weeks ago when I got out of a doctor's appointment early and had time to enjoy a good sit-down lunch at a Greek restaurant I'd wanted to try, Kellari's Parea. I took a table facing the street and while I enjoyed my kolokithokeftedes and lamb meatballs I watched the street scene opposite, as a waiter came out of the Russian restaurant (Mari Vanna, very interesting place) across the street and proceeded to undecorate the Valentine's day frippery on a small Christmas tree standing on the street just in front of the restaurant's main window. Although it was a raw day, barely over freezing with sparse flurries of large wet white snowflakes, the man stood outside in a t-shirt and jeans and apron worked comfortably for at least fifteen minutes without showing any signs of chilling – shoulders relaxed, workpace leisurely. I sipped my glass of red wine and watched him unravel the red sparkly garland and maroon foil hearts from the tree and deposit them in a wicker basket at his feet. His skin was pale and his hair black, the coloring my mother had, a Slavic contrast built for low sunlight, in my unscientific opinion. Suddenly he shivered slightly and picked up his pace, and soon was rushing back inside, the tree bare again in the falling snow.

Wine with lunch, especially after fasting for a blood test, makes me quite happy. I received three small delicious Greek pastries for dessert – each the size of a quarter – and decided since I had a little more time before I had to be back at work that I would walk up to Madison Square Park and stroll around a bit. I love the feeling of a cool snowy day when I am all bundled up and well fed. Even though the snow was coming down a bit more insistently I did not put up my umbrella and walked along letting the cool flakes hit my warm face and melt there. At Madison Square Park I noticed that the Shake Shack was open and that one of their frozen custard flavors of the day was Bananas Foster. I walked to the line, which consisted of two people, and was waiting only a moment before I had my treat in hand. "You know, you have an umbrella in your backpack," a young man behind me noted. I turned to him and grinned. "I love this weather," I said, turning my face up to the soft grey skies. It was cool enough to keep the ice cream frozen in its cup inside my backpack, and I enjoyed it thoroughly back in the office, late in the afternoon after I'd caught up with my work and wanted a break. The bananas foster flavor was delicious, although sweeter than I would have liked.

However, a few days later I had an experience on the subway that reminded me of how awful it can be to live in New York City. We are so crowded here; in the 2000 census, Manhattan was estimated to have 9,999.9 people per square mile. (The national average is 79.6 people per square mile.) So, here we all are, and of course, some of us are crazy. Some of us are dangerous. Some of us are both. One of the latter popped up at the end of my car of the N train as it left the Atlantic-Pacific station in Brooklyn; a not totally disreputable lump of an older woman sitting with a few plastic shopping bags suddenly stood up and yelled, "I need to clean! I need two thousand dollars!" Her accent was difficult to place but her tone of voice was definitely insane. People moved away from her end of the car and she upended one of her bags onto the floor there; a water bottle rolled away from her. Evidence of some kindness and care were among her belongings – she had some kleenex in a packet, and a nutrition bar. She kept yelling off and on: "Molesters! You molested me! Give me two thousand dollars!!" She did not accost anyone in particular but the force of her voice pushed the crowd of people in the train back one by one. I didn't move at first. Then she opened a bottle of rubbing alcohol and started to throw that around. As fumes of isopropyl stung my nostrils I decided that was the most discomfort I was willing to accommodate from this lady and I abandoned my seat to stand in the middle of the train. I thought the daylight coming through the train as we went over the Manhattan Bridge might soothe her – or at least produce some change in her behavior – but she raved on just the same, now throwing objects with some force, haphazardly. By the time we got to Union Square I felt something needed to be done to help this woman and protect the people around her, so I ran along the platform to the conductor's car – along with several other riders from my car – and we all said the same thing: "There's a lady throwing things." Or, "She needs help." One man said nervously, "She's throwing a bottle of alcohol around!" The conductor assured us he'd radio the police and they'd deal with it at the next stop, Penn Station. I hope they did.

The next night was my not-really-Orthodox-Christmas dinner at my dad's. My cousin and her godparents came, and I cooked a white bean cassoulet. Larissa called us from the street, very upset, because she'd left behind her purse in the subway. She called around everyone she could think of – the city's 311 information line, etc. – but to no avail. She was heading to our house when the subway station attendant called her and said someone had turned in her bag! She picked it up and the purse was fine, all its contents present and accounted for. She came to dinner smiling and bearing a beautiful poached pear dessert and told her story, giving us a reason to believe there's good in Gotham after all.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Western and Eastern Easter, everyone!

This year and next, Western Easter (that's what I call the Rome-defined Easter) and Eastern Easter (a.k.a. Orthodox Easter) are on the same date. This special confluence of the two Christian branches was something I felt like celebrating this year, and I'm happy to say we're all recovering from said celebrations. (Yes, as usual, The Brooklyn Sheep's chosen method of celebration was a homecooked dinner with gourmet flourishes. This one was served to a gathering of four – me, my dad, dad's girlfriend, and Helen, the very nice lady who introduced my dad to my mom way back when and thus has earned beyond measure her email landing in the "Family" superfolder in my inbox.)

Smoked Sable Tartare With Beets and Watercress (from Epicurious, served more simply though – just a stripe of salad, a stripe of sable, and a stripe of beet relish on each plate. Why fuss more?)

Rosemary Lamb Chops With Lemon Butter Breadcrumbs ('twas the financial splurge – D'Artagnan free-range Australian lamb, marinated overnight; just as Epicurious did it, except breadcrumbs added the last 1'30" of broiling)

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Baby Artichokes (much altered from Cooking Light's version: I used no artichokes, and instead of roasting I pan-fried halved parboiled yukon golds – with skins on – in a Tablespoon of olive oil until browned nicely on all cut sides and then tossed them in a paste of Vermont cultured butter, grated lemon rind, and fresh parsley)

Asparagus and Spring Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette (pretty close to CookingLight's version: I used half regular balsamic and half champagne vinegar, only green asparagus, and a tad less gorgonzola)

Nigella Lawson's Damp Lemon and Almond Cake ('twas the caloric splurge)
Decaffeinated Sumatran coffee from Fairway (thanks, Mary!)

I cooked almost everything in advance. On Saturday afternoon I did my coop shopping and then at home made Ukrainian Easter eggs, pausing while the eggs were in the dye to roast beets, make the cake, prep the vinaigrettes, and set up the lamb in its marinade.

We had such a lovely Easter Sunday afternoon in New York City. The sun was shining, everyone was outside. Two daffodils in my East-facing stoop pit were spring open. As I drove towards the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel WQXR had just racked up Vivaldi's "Gloria," sung by the San Francisco Girls' Chorus in the composer's original arrangement for his charges at Venice's Ospedale della Pieta. I cranked up the volume and sang along to this beloved music as I drove the familiar route up to my dad's. The sun shone in on my hands on the steering wheel. The recording was a bit too heavily reminiscent of boys' choirs but I appreciated the heck out of it all the same, channeling memories of my high school Glee Club as I navigated the curves of the West Side Highway. I liked the way this arrangement worked around the timbre of girls' voices – the tenor part was low and sweet instead of the high and thrilling quality in a male tenor's voice. I think there was even a particle of the bass line, mostly covered by the large string instruments in the orchestra but, in some cases, sung – so low in the girls' register that the effect was something like the bass pedal of a church organ, a vibration felt more than heard. And the altos – my tribe! – sounded out clear and strong, as though the sopranos were just icing on their cake. I kept driving around my old neighborhood until the piece finished, and as the final text of the final movement played, I was just passing the door of 164 West 79th Street, my first home. I gave it a wave of my hand, sang "In Gloria Dei Patris Amen," and continued on to my dad's, with the ingredients for Easter dinner packed carefully behind my seat. What a blessing to enjoy all at once a sunny Spring holiday, the reverberations of music I know and love in the marrow of my bones, and the satisfaction of driving back home with a feast readied to bloom in my father's kitchen.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cape Ann Sou'Wester

When I bought this hat from Lee Valley Tools (no, I don't work for them) a few years ago, I imagined I'd need it for those times when I gardened out on my deck in raw rainy weather – harvesting spinach in March, or the last of the mesclun lettuce in October, that sort of thing. As it turns out, it's a terribly useful garment on a day like this one, as a Nor'Easter sweeps through New York City. I have buckets strategically placed around the apartment, and downgraded my expectations for the survival of items in the basement. But nothing made me feel better about facing the weather than strapping on my Cape Ann Sou'Wester. With this hat, and the rest of me wrapped in a good sturdy wool scarf and trench coat and boots I don't really care about any more, I didn't need an umbrella. I marched out into the rain and made the two long blocks to the subway without incident – the chinstrap kept the Sou'Wester on, the flannel lining stayed snug and dry, and it didn't really matter that my face got a little wet. This hat kept the misery of wet windy foul weather at bay. I know that when I wear it I am going to get either envious looks or some wisecrack about the Gorton's Fisherman.

As the weather keeps getting more fickle and the seas rise around New York City, I wonder – should I invest in some waders? Perhaps that inflatable one-person evacuation boat I bought after 9/11 isn't such a bad idea after all...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Importance of Broth

My dad gets embarrassed when people compliment his perfect houseplants. ("All I do is get rid of the dead leaves," he admits.) But deadheading your houseplants is the kind of task that seems insignificant at ground (or flowerpot) level, but in the big picture makes a big difference. Same for homemade broth. Sure, you can cook with store-bought broth. But the results will be tremendously better with homemade broth, and the time-intensive project can be done if you can check the stove a few times during other big projects such as doing your taxes.

Here are my three recipes for vegetable, chicken, and beef broth. Health bonus: I've found that using homemade broth allows me to reduce the milkfat and/or meat in the soups I cook; the broth provides all necessary flavor and body.

Roasted Vegetable Broth
Clean the pots, pans, off-season clothing, etc. out of your oven (skip this step if you live outside NYC) and turn it on at 400F. Fill a roasting pan with peeled and halved onions, carrots, celery stalks, a head of garlic (unpeeled), and whatever root vegetables you have lying around; I like to use a few paste-type tomatoes (i.e. Roma) too. Toss everything with a quarter cup of olive oil and a tablespoon of salt and roast for one hour, checking at 30 minutes to turn things over with tongs so they brown on more than one side.

In your 6-quart slow cooker or largest soup pot, place a few cabbage leaves (the outer, tougher leaves  are perfect), a few stems of parsley, four cloves, three bay leaves, celery foliage, an ounce of dried porcini, and a few sprigs of thyme (lemon thyme is particularly nice). If you have potato peelings or mushroom stems left over from cooking something else, add those too. Add the roasted veggies and enough water to cover. In a slow cooker, cook on Low for six hours (I've left it overnight up to eight hours and all was fine). In a pot, cook on low heat for four hours, stirring occasionally. Pour broth through a colander into another pot and press down on the cooked ingredients to extract more liquid from them. Pour into jars and cool; freeze in plastic bags or use within a week. (The longer the broth sits, the more you'll have to stir it up – veggie broth separates more than other broths.)

Chicken Broth
Can you get your hands on a stewing chicken? It makes all the difference. If not, use bone-in and skin-on chicken legs and wings. Tie a handful of fresh parsley and dill between a few leek leaves and put at the bottom of your largest pot. Add two onions, peeled and halved – stick three cloves in each half. Add a few bay leaves and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Place the chicken, cut into pieces (using legs/wings? leave them whole), on top of the veggies and herbs and sprinkle with a tablespoon of coarse salt. Pour in water until everything's covered by an inch or two. Bring slowly to boil, and reduce to simmer; for the next half hour or so skim off the foam that rises to the top and discard. Put lid on the pot with a little room for steam to escape and cook on low heat for five hours. Add four peeled and halved carrots (or a cup of peeled baby carrots) and cook one hour more. Strain as in veggie broth instructions, above; the chicken meat will probably be pretty cooked out at this point so just discard it.(Tip: to make lovely succulent poached chicken breast, add skinless boneless breast meat to the broth while it is still hot, cover the pot, and cook on low temperature for about fifteen minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside; skim off foam that rises to the top. You'll end up with extra-chickeny broth!) Refrigerate overnight and remove fat that rises to the top; then bottle and use within three days, or freeze in bags and use within a month or two.

Beef Broth
Get a few pounds of beef bones. If they have any meat on them you're ready to go; probably they won't, so get a meaty shank bone too. Extra credit: Oxtail! Put these in your roasting pan along with a few carrots and onions and roast at 450F for one hour, turning over with tongs at the half hour mark. Put a handful of fresh parsley, a few bay leaves, three smashed cloves of garlic, five cloves and ten peppercorns and a few sprigs of fresh thyme between a few leek leaves and tie shut (or use a piece of cheesecloth) and place at the bottom of your largest pot. Add the vegetables and then the bones on top and sprinkle with a tablespoon of coarse salt. Pour the fat out of the roasting pan and pour in some boiling water; stir with a wooden spoon to loosen any baked pieces at the bottom of the pan, and then pour this liquid into the pot. Top up with water until everything's covered by an inch or two. Bring slowly to boil, and reduce to simmer; for the next half hour or so skim off the foam that rises to the top and discard. Put lid on the pot with a little room for steam to escape and cook on low heat for 6-10 hours. Strain as in veggie broth instructions, above. Refrigerate overnight and remove fat that rises to the top; then bottle and use within three days, or freeze in bags and use within a month or two.

Note on freezing broth: I like the freezer zip-style plastic bags you can get in almost any supermarket. The quart size or larger will do; fill them 75% to allow for the expansion of frozen water, and squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing. I like to clean out the bottom of my freezer and put in my cookie sheet, and then the bags of broth flat on top of that, separated by pages of an old catalog (this prevents the bags from sticking together while freezing). The flat frozen bags can be stacked on top of each other or lined up like books in the freezer.

Recent favorite recipes for broth, from Epicurious: Roasted butternut squash soup (vegetable, omit cream; chicken, use milk instead of cream; I used only a few cloves of roasted garlic since I could depend on the broth to provide plenty of presence), acorn squash veloute (chicken or vegetable, halve all spices), chocolate-infused chili (vegetable; I add roasted peppers and corn to this recipe, as well as sauteed zucchini).

Snowed-in Brunch

(This article was first published in the Park Slope Food Coop's Linewaiter's Gazette, Volume EE, No. 4, p. 10.)

Working from home during a major snowstorm this winter, I made myself a good brunch from odds and ends and wanted to share the ideas with you. Try this some quiet winter morning when you are at home with tasks interruptable by trips to the stove. These recipes serve two, but you may want to eat something extra if you will be shoveling snow.

Whoops Rosemary Salt
On a recent trip to the Park Slope Food Coop I bought fresh rosemary and a bag of salt, which landed at the bottom of my carry sack and became friends when the salt bag split. I saved the salt from the bottom of the sack and am keeping it in a jar on my kitchen counter. It's a nice addition to almost any savory winter cooking. Try it yourself with half a stem of fresh rosemary stirred into a quarter cup of salt and save in a sealed container to let the flavors develop.

Mesclun with Bottom of the Mustard Jar Salad Dressing
Take a mild-flavored mustard – you know, that jar in the back of your fridge with a teaspoon or so of mustard at the bottom that's been sitting around way too long. Add one minced garlic clove, a tablespoon of lemon juice and two tablespoons of a good olive oil. Put the jar lid back on and shake vigorously until blended. (If you have a fresh lemon, add a teaspoon of its grated rind too.) If the mustard is really dried out, reconstitute with a teaspoon of hot water before you add the other ingredients. I used a Maine Maple Champagne mustard from Stonewall Kitchens.

Meditative Potatoes
1 russet potato, peeled and cubed 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (slightly wrinkled are OK) 1 tablespoon olive oil1 tablespoon walnut oil 1/4 tsp Whoops Rosemary Salt (see above)
Boil the potatoes until they are barely done. Heat the oils in a nonstick pan over medium heat and add potatoes. Russet potatoes are not good for hash browns—they fall apart too easily. But you can make it work. Just don’t stir them. Let them sit for a few minutes. Turn them over gently with a fork, one by one, as each side browns to your liking (this is the meditative part). Use any remaining oil in the pan to coat the uncooked sides. After about 15 minutes the potatoes should be nicely done on all sides. Remove potatoes from pan, leaving some oil behind, and put them in a bowl to keep warm. Turn up heat to high, add cherry tomatoes and salt. Cook until cherry tomatoes are a bit puckered and start to split. Add cherry tomatoes to potatoes and stir gently to combine.

Poached eggs
Fill a pot with 2” of water and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil. Have two fresh eggs ready, each one cracked into its own small dish. Once water is at a full boil, turn off heat, quickly add a teaspoon of Kosher salt, and then slip in each egg. Put the lid back on the pot and let sit for three minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and gently tilt to pour off water – or blot on top with a paper towel.

To assemble brunch: Toss two servings of mesclun with a teaspoon of the dressing. (You want the greens barely flavored.) Serve each salad in a low bowl or plate, topped with the potato-tomato mix, and a poached egg on top of that. Nice accompaniments are fresh citrus and a hot cup of coffee. And a snow day, of course.