23 January 2015

Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Most of time, I riff in the kitchen. I read cookbooks in bed, and I’m all over the Times food section, and I love Smitten Kitchen, but when it comes right down to it, I rarely make a recipe as printed.

Not long ago, a friend posted something on Facebook, wondering if she could substitute farro for barley in a hamburger soup that she was making. I looked at her recipe and thought, eh, not hamburger, how about sausage? But other than using less of a different meat, and adding a piece of parmesan rind, I pretty much followed the recipe, and wow – it was really good. That little bit of barley gives the soup a certain unctuousness. There’s so little meat in it that the meat becomes more like a condiment, but the little chunks you pick up are delicious. And, parmesan rinds are a wee bit of magic – turning trash into goodness. Keep them in a bag in the freezer, and throw one into a soup. Like this one:

Sausage and Barley Soup

½ pound sweet Italian sausage, out of its casing (if it was in links to begin with)
A glug of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 big red skinned potato, raw & unpeeled, in ½” cubes.
1 or 2 carrots, diced
1 or 2 celery stalks, diced
1-2 cups shredded cabbage
½ of a 28oz can of whole plum tomatoes
Piece of parmesan rind (optional)
28oz of water
1 bay leaf
½ t. dried thyme
½ t. dried basil
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup barley

In a nice soup pot (I think mine is 6 quarts), sauté the sausage and onions in the olive oil until the sausage looks cooked through and the onions are translucent. Add the potato, carrots, and celery. Add the tomatoes, squeezing the whole ones through your fingers as you add them to the pot. Fill the tomato can with water and add the tomato tinged water to the pot. If you have a parm rind in the freezer, add it. It’ll add a certain funkiness to the soup. Add bay leaf, thyme and basil, and salt & pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil, then cover & simmer for a ½ hour. Check the liquid level and add more water if you think it needs it. Add the barley and simmer, covered, for another ½ hour or so.

When it’s done, fish out the parmesan rind, and chill the soup overnight. Like so many things, it’ll be better tomorrow. Serve hot, and bring the leftovers to work.

20 January 2015

Commuting in Seventeen

On a southbound MetroNorth train:

Fifteen minutes to
Grand Central and you stand up.
First guy off train wins?

On the downtown #4 train at 9:42am:
Her long fingernails
Click on the MacBook keyboard.
That typing is loud.

In the 14th Street station:
Young man and red cord
Stealing power underground.
Google search can't wait.

Walking through the Union Square Market:
As I make my way
downtown, inexorably,
The haikus gush forth.

13 January 2015

Judge Not

I am only just now deChristmasing. I should have done it the weekend after New Year's but we had a big party and I had to make 18 quarts of chili and Mary Berry's cherry cake. I could have done it last weekend, but I had to go spend the night elsewhere so we could play Cards Against Humanity with old friends and relatives. So here I am, a Tuesday night, into January's double digits, child and husband already in bed, fondling my Christmas ornaments and thinking about my mother.

It's hard not to. She loved Christmas. She's why I have enough antique glass ornaments to fill three trees - and I only have room for one tree. She's why I have fifteen mismatched red votives marching across the mantlepiece.

The votives were collected over many years, and a few of them have been repaired - with wire, with crazy glue. I take care of them as best as possible, honoring their past, remembering my mother.

Late on Christmas day, I lit the votives. We were sitting around eating cheese and opening second round presents, when, with a cra-ack, one of the votives broke, cleanly spitting out a chunk of glass.

Clearly my mother was visiting. Happily, though, my husband had gotten me a fresh batch of Sugru, so a few days later, I made a Sugru repair to the broken votive. I like to think it's in the spirit of kintsugi, treating the "breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise".

I'm not sure that the repair will work with a candle in it; the Sugru is only supposed to be good to about 350°F and not around open flame. But still - I had to fix it. Honoring the past, you know. Besides, my mother would have loved Sugru.

08 January 2015


As the subway slides into the station, I pull my 30 year old beige cashmere gloves out of the pocket of my Lands’-End-meets-East-German-army-surplus down coat. Each of my winter coats has a pair of gloves that lives in the pockets: thin blue wool in the short black duffle coat, grey fleece wristlets in the wool-lined raincoat, the warmest gloves in the warmest coat. I think to myself “don’t drop them in the gap”, knowing that I’ll never replace them. They were a gift from an old boyfriend back in about 1984, and it’s not that I care for him, but rather for the little piece of history that they represent.

As I walk uptown, towards my office, on this bright and cold cold day, I mentally catalogue the rest of my habiliment. A scarf, woven alpaca in muted blue, green, rust and grey – a gift from my father. A black fleece baseball cap – a gift from my sister eons ago. Wool socks, warm but not loved because they’re knee socks that won’t stay up. Black boots, newly acquired, as a result of a conversation on Facebook with an imaginary friend, in which she posted a picture of her new boots – and they reminded me of the cap-toe black leather boots my grandfather used to wear.

[At the reception after his first wedding, my cousin slyly winked at me, and lifted his dress pants from the knee. There on his feet, a pair of our grandfather’s boots. I’d no idea that John had that spirit of thrift and sentimentality that would lead him to claim used footwear for his own - and wear it to his wedding.]

Most of the rest of what I’m wearing is unremarkable – jeans, a pale grey top, a black cashmere sweater with lettuce edges and tiny buttons, my wedding ring, a pair of small silver hoop earrings – though I know where each and every bit came from. But five bangles jangle on my left wrist. Three of them are sterling silver that I’ve had since high school, one a gift from a then best friend, one a gift from a family friend, and one with a forgotten provenance. I’ve worn all three of them for years. Recently I added two – a skinny silly aluminum bangle dabbed with orange paint, probably Indian, once my mother’s, and an odd steel bracelet that looks kind of as though someone took a bead chain and affixed it to a piece of flat wire. I have no idea where it came from. In my strict what goes with what head, I shudder a bit at mixing sterling and aluminum and steel, but I'm also amused to be pushing the envelope.

It’s these things around me, they ground me, they keep me warm. They remind me of old times, of family, of people I’ve never even met.

Everyone complains about the cold; I think of my enveloping warmth, and I’m grateful.