Tag Archives: Hilary

Hit or Miss Valentine

Consistency is not my middle name, at least not when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Sometimes I make cards, often I don’t. Occasionally I’ll bake up dozens of sugar cookie hearts and elaborately decorate them à la Martha Stewart with enough red food dye to make your teeth pink for days. Then the following year(s) I find I can’t be bothered to dig out my heart-shaped cookie cutters, let alone root around in the basement for my box of food dyes. I feel like I’m the poster child for a hit or miss Valentine gal.

Anatomical knitted heart by Hilary Zaloom

My friends are not like me. They actually plan ahead for Valentine’s Day. Hilary’s Vday imagination seems to know no bounds and each year sees her creating something more fantastic than the year before from an anatomically correct knitted heart to  sculpted love token molded from the red wax covering babybel cheeses. Diane’s family celebrates with a meal of red & pink foods. The mother of one of my daughter’s friends goes to an annual Valentine card making party where dozens of people drink hot chocolate and eat fun food while chatting and crafting Vday cards like maniacs. Perhaps I need to wrangle myself an invitation to that soirée. Even Julia Child and her husband Paul sent out Valentine cards instead of Christmas greetings, well they did that because they couldn’t get it together in December, but still.

Valentine's Day card of Julia and Paul Child

This year I found the cake – a glorious cake – with which all Valentine’s Days (and many other days of the year) should be celebrated. It’s path to my oven came by way of Jessica last week on knitting night that she had found in the New York Times, which purports to be an old Sephardic recipe John Willougby got from Ruth Levy who had the cake made for her by a woman named Dawn Datso. Got that? Continue reading

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Six Degrees of Separation Sangria

Six degrees of separation means everyone on earth is connected to everyone else by a “chain” of six friends. In the pioneer valley I joke we live in an area of two or three degrees of separation. This sangria is a classic example.

1. My daughter Isabelle went to Montessori with Isabel K., or the other Isabel,  as we call her.

2. Isabel K.’s mom Hilary and I became friends and now are in a knitting group together.

3. Hilary’s step father Bill was a master sangria maker.

4. Hilary’s step father was also a friend of my father. I met Mr. Catherwood several times when I was growing up without knowing anything about his step daughter Hilary or his delicious sangria.

I could have stopped at 3, but I just wanted to show you how wacky and wild things are in this six degree business.

"Bill's sangria"

I have a zerox copy of Bill Catherwood’s recipe in my kitchen drawer, though for most of the summer it resides beneath a magnet on our fridge. It’s so good I really don’t bother with other sangria recipes*, though there are plenty of them out there.

Of course me being me I’ve tweaked a few things. I use various red wines, often the inexpensive ones from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. You’re adding so many things to sangria you really don’t need to splurge on expensive wine. If you want to follow Bill’s recipe faithfully he called for Gallo Burgundy. Also I don’t always add the rum called for, mostly because I don’t always have it on hand. Seems great both ways.

Note this makes enough for a big party. You’ll probably need two pitchers, or will end up refilling one pitcher twice. If you want to cut the recipe in half I would simply halve all the ingredients except the fruit, I’d still stick with an orange, lemon, lime, and peach. My final suggestion is do not be tempted to use honey in place of the sugar. Even mild honey. It is yucky and even though you can drink sangria made with it you shouldn’t. Trust me on this, or ask my friend Lisa.

Six Degrees of Separation Sangria

1 gallon red wine

5 ounces rum (optional)

10 ounces club soda

1/2 cup sugar

1 orange

1 lemon

1 lime

1 peach

small amount pineapple juice

Dissolve sugar in large pitcher with club soda. Make long peels of the orange, lemon, and lime and put into the pitcher. Remove the pith (the white part of citrus) and chop fruit. Add the chopped citrus fruit to the pitcher, along with the peeled and chopped peach. Add the wine and rum and a splash or two of pineapple juice. Serve chilled with lots of ice.

I especially enjoy sangria outside on a sultry evening. The clouds this sangria evening were spectacular.

"Sangria drinking sunset"

*When Shawn and I recently went to the tapas bar in Northampton we got to choose from a dozen different Sangrias on their menu. It was a lot of fun, and we ended up with a carafe of watermelon sangria.

"watermelon sangria"I am curious to know what your favorite sangria recipe is. Care to share?

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4 Ways to Beat the Heat

It’s been bloody hot the past few weeks. There were a few days when things cooled down a bit and I felt I could catch my breath, but otherwise I’ve been “perspie” as my Grammy Thompson used to say.  “Perspie” was her delicate way of saying perspire. Since we don’t have air conditioning I’ve come up with four great ways to beat the heat.

"swimming hole"

My favorite swimming hole

1. Clean your basement. Seriously, the basement is always cooler than upstairs. I’m not talking heavy lifting, just some rearranging, a few loads of laundry. You’ll cool down and be happier. Heck, just tell everyone you’re going down to clean the basement and instead grab a folding chair and a good book and read for a while.

2. Find a Swimming Hole. This tip is for folks in the country. There are several near and far from me (unfortunately nothing within walking distance). What you’re looking for is something on the icy side so you can bring your core temperature down. Don’t forget to put an extra towel on your car seat so you don’t fry your bottom when you leave.

3. Turn on the Brooklyn AC. When I lived in Brooklyn there were no swimming holes, and we couldn’t afford the electricity an AC unit sucked down so we made our own AC. First set up a chair with a towel on it. Beach or bath it doesn’t matter. Second position an oscillating fan in front of your chair. Third grab all the bandanas you own and soak them in cold water, wring out most but not all of the water. Fourth strip naked. Then sit on the chair, place the damp bandanas all over your body and turn the fan on high.  It will feel like you have AC. Re-wet the bandanas as they dry.

4. Make a pitcher of ice tea. I covered the basic concept for ice tea here. My friend Hilary Zaloom made this divine ice tea for our monthly knitting group when we were crazy enough to meet during a similar heat wave last summer. We ended up at Hilary’s house because she has AC (and not the Brooklyn kind) and she also makes the most delicious drinks. Needless to say between the beverages and the AC we were all happy to sit there for several hours chatting with a bunch of wool in our laps.

"Hilary's Ice Tea"

Hilary’s Herbal Ice Tea with Honey Water

Hilary’s Herbal Ice Tea

The genius of this ice tea isn’t just in the flavor combination, but in the sweetener. Instead of using a simple syrup (one part water to one part sugar) Hilary adds honey and some warm water to a squirt bottle. Once shaken to combine the honey water can be squirted into any cool beverage as a sweetener without clumping as it is want to do in cold drinks. Brilliant!

Red Zinger or Hibiscus tea

1 orange

2-4 spring mint

honey water* to taste (I make mine at a 1 part honey to 2-3 parts water)

Place teabags in a large pitcher of water and let soak 3+ hours or overnight. Remove bags and add mint sprigs.  Slice half the orange and  juice the remaining half. Add juice and slices to the tea. Sweeten to taste with honey water.

*Store honey water in the fridge if you don’t use it immediately, it will keep for a week or so.

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Hello and Goodbye

I almost didn’t make it to the hospital to deliver my first child because I had a craving the night I went into labor which sent me to town to satisfy said craving on a very foggy evening. After I returned home I forgot to turn off the lights in my car, which of course killed the battery*. The next morning when my husband realized what I’d done he called AAA to get a jump-start. The AAA guy got lost trying to find our house and in his panic once he finally did arrived crossed the wires and fried the battery. I guess watching a pregnant woman walk around holding her ginormous belly and moaning can cause the level of anxiety in someone who is just there to fix the car, not deliver the baby, to rise to such an epic point that they then make mistakes. Thankfully my husband, who had not lost his cool, was able to come up with an alternative plan to get us to the hospital, and figured he’d worry about replacing the battery later.  At that point I didn’t really care since my craving had been satisfied. We eventually made it to the hospital, and 36 hours later said hello to our daughter Isabelle.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I  first tasted one of these magical things I later developed cravings for, but after the first bite I was hooked. Chuck Hettinger introduced me to turkey burgers over twenty-five years ago when I was helping him organize his home office. When Chuck and I thought we’d done enough work to deserve a break we would leave his apartment and wander a few blocks over to a little lunch joint. There we would ordered turkey burgers covered with caramelized onions and a generous squirt of dijon mustard on the bun, and devour them. They were glorious and flavourful and surprisingly juicy, and I was in food heaven.

"turkey burger with sesame noodles and kale"

Clearly at this point my life can be divided in two by those lunches. There is my pre-turkey burger existence, spent eating turkey in one of two ways – Thanksgiving dinner or sliced thin from the deli counter and layered on a sandwich. Then there is my post-turkey burger life which includes turkey burgers in a myriad of forms. Turkey burgers were one of two foods I craved while pregnant (the other was watermelon). I just wish I’d known sooner how fantastic turkey could be in burger form.

I’ll admit the one draw back is turkey meat can get dry if you don’t pay attention, it’s poultry after all, but with a little care and a few tricks it will be divine. One thing I often do is mix a package of ground breast meat with another of ground thighs/legs both for moisture as well as economy (ground breast meat is usually more expensive – sometimes by as much as $2/pound). Then I think extra moisture, something that can be added to the ground turkey before cooking to add a juicy component. A little bit of shredded zucchini or apples both work, a trick I learned from my friend Rick Ellis. Lately though I’ve been adding mango chutney along with a few teaspoons of curry powder which transforms a turkey burger into something so juicy and exotic you don’t even need a bun.

"mango chutney"

While the sugars in mango chutney help caramelize the burgers you have to beware of mango chunks which can make the burgers fall apart as they cook. my friend Hilary showed me a nifty tool she uses for quick chops and I highly recommend it. It’s like a salad spinner got married to a food processor and they had a baby. You load the handful or two of whatever you want to chop, put the top on, and pull the handle like you would for a salad spinner. Voila, no more mango chunks.

"veggie chop removes chunks from chutney"

This recipe is an adaptation of a curried chicken salad that everyone used to make in the 80s. Back then you cooked curry in a little butter to release the flavors, added mango chutney, mayonnaise, grape halves and tossed it all with cubed chicken breasts. For these burgers you don’t need to pre-cook the curry since you’re cooking the meat, and of course no mayo or grape halves.

Mango Curry Turkey Burgers

1 pound ground turkey breast (light)

1 pound ground turkey thighs (dark)

1/3 cup mango chutney

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon salt

oil for the pan (vegetable is fine)

If your mango chutney is chunky puree or smash or pick out the biggest chunks. Add curry, chutney and salt to the turkey meat and squeeze it all gently until everything is mixed. Heat up a large sauté pan and add a little oil. I bounce back and forth between using a well seasoned cast iron pan and a non-stick pan. Form the seasoned turkey meat into burger shapes and cook until well browned on the outside and cooked through on the inside. As much as I like my beef burgers medium rare, turkey burgers should be thoroughly cooked.

*One note of advise as these burgers cook and caramelize your pan may end up with some hyper caramelized bits cooked on. I soak before scrubbing (even though you’re not supposed to soak cast iron sometimes it is the only thing you can do-just reseason the pan and you should be good). Trust me that these burgers are worth the extra bit of clean up.

"mango chutney turkey burgers"

Isabelle served these turkey burgers at a small going away party for her friend Katja who was returning to Germany after going to school with her in the US for two years. The turkey burgers were delicious with a dollop of mango chutney instead of catsup, sesame noodles, and a whole lot of kale sautéed with olive oil, garlic and onions. For dessert they ate molten chocolate death, which was fine since the effect of the excessive caffeine in the dessert was lost on teenagers.

"sautéd kale"

Sauté the stems, onions and garlic first, then add leaves.

It was a bittersweet dinner for Isabelle and friends saying goodbye to Katja. Hopefully the next time we serve turkey burgers it will be to say hello again.

"Katja's turkey burger"

"Eamon, Isabelle & Katja"

*My husband corrected me and said it was the main fuse, not the battery. In either case the car wouldn’t go and we had to find a different way to get the hospital (and this I do remember the AAA guy did not want to drive us in his truck).

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