Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fennel and Curd

Monday when I was on the cooking roll it was partly to use up some produce I'd bought when I shopped unwisely. It's always unwise to make purchases when sleep-deprived, and I've had lots of experience with making tired and muddle-headed decisions.

Fennel: In this case I'd been shopping at Trader Joe's and I was trying to make it the only stop, even though I needed some vegetables and don't usually buy much produce at that store. The fennel bulbs seemed to be a good price, so I picked up a package of two medium-sized bulbs (20 oz.) for $1.99.

The wisdom I lacked was from being too tired to know that I was too tired to cook. I didn't have a plan for using fennel, so I got along for a couple more days by raiding the freezer. But I didn't want the vegetables to go bad so eventually I read recipes online and opted to make a simple soup.

I started by chopping and sauteeing the vegetable. Already I can't remember if I used olive oil or butter, but some people liked to use a combination. I was looking for a caramelized or roasted effect, and I didn't want to heat up the oven for such a small amount, so I used a cast-iron skillet. I sprinkled on salt and pepper and cooked the fennel slowly. Some of the pieces were too large to actually caramelize, but there was enough sweet roasty flavor coming from the licorice-flavored bulbs to make for a great taste in the resulting soup.

After all the fennel was at least tender, and some was very brown and some was even black, I blended it with water (I meant to use some chicken broth but forgot), then tasted and tested as I added small amounts of cream, sugar and lemon juice, more salt and pepper. I chopped up some of the unused ferny green top to sprinkle on top before serving....and Mr. Glad declared it fantastic. I didn't take a picture of it, but it was brown and full of browner flecks. We ate the whole panful.

Curd: The big bag of lemons I bought even earlier would have lasted weeks more in the cold garage, but lemon curd was easy to put together, and it makes a prettier picture than brown soup, too.

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup butter
grated peel of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks

Beat the eggs and yolks together slightly. Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler and stir in all of the other ingredients. 

Cook over boiling water, beating constantly with a wire whisk, until thick and smooth, about 20 minutes. Store the refrigerator up to 6 weeks.

Lemon curd makes a nice gift if you put it in a little canning jar with a flowered lid. Too bad for my friends, I just happened to have a pint jar that conveniently held my whole batch. But if you come by for tea really soon we can makes some toast together and slather it on.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cozy and Baking

I got on a roll today in the kitchen, and made a huge happy mess. I really don't mind cleaning up a kitchen - I especially like it when someone is cooking and I can just do the dishwashing for them. If I could be two people, I could cook up a storm as one GJ, and the other of me would gladly wash and dry and wipe counters. Doing all the jobs is complicated. I won't get to bed early tonight!

And I won't have time to tell you about everything I cooked. Just the bread, for which I give credit to Jody. I read her blog post about sourdough baking, and it stirred again in me the urge to bake some chewy loaf and fill the house with that amazing aroma.

I glanced at the clock and saw that I had just enough time to start and complete a bread project before bedtime, so I jumped up and opened the freezer, scooped some yeast into a bowl and started pulling out of my memory the beginnings of a batch that would make two loaves.

Eventually I ended up with a potato-rye sponge, and after it rose a few minutes I added enough wheat flour and other goodies to make a stretchy dough that rose further in front of the wood stove. I was using Giusto's Pumpernickel Rye flour.

A couple of years ago Soldier son gave me a pizza stone and I remembered just in time to get it out of the cupboard and use it to give the loaves an even chewier crust. They turned out so big, I think three round loaves might have been even nicer.

Because of the kitchen mess I ran out of time to post the photos of everything I made, and I'm not even getting all the cleanup done. But I did take time to slice off the heel of one loaf and try it out. Success!

Tomorrow I'll have to revisit the world of sourdough, too.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bodega and Stories of Horror

Portuguese Beach - Sonoma County
This week we tripped over to the coast with Mr. and Mrs. C. A walk along the shore north of the town of Bodega Bay was first on the leisurely agenda. Schoolhouse Beach was closed, so we drove a little farther north to Portuguese Beach. It's steep where the waves break on the sand, and signs warn you not to turn your back to the surf or to go on the down side of the slope, where an undertow can get you in its grip.

The View Landward

We strolled the length of the beach and back, admiring the view landward and seaward, and then sat on a log. Mr. and Mrs. C didn't have their frisky Yellow Lab with them, but we've seen how she loves to romp in the water at Lake Tahoe or at nearby Salmon Creek Lagoon.

As we were climbing back up the cliff to the car, we met a couple coming down with four dogs, no matter that pets are not allowed on that beach. A tall great dane, two medium dogs with long hair, a tiny dog, and their owner carrying colorful beach ball.

Drowning at Portuguese Beach in 2011
We stopped at the top for a while and watched the Dane canter around joyfully. The mid-sized dogs pushed the beach ball into the waves and along the ocean's edge -- all right at that steep part that is so dangerous. Mrs. C. commented about how many people go into the ocean to rescue their dogs; the people often drown, but if they only had known that dogs almost always manage to get back on their own....

When I was researching for this post I discovered a news story and photo depicting a case of that very thing: a dog owner having drowned when she went after her dog and got caught in the surf. That time the dog did drown also, and it was at just this time of year. These accidents, though not always involving dogs, happen so often on the Northern California coast that the multiplied effect has turned them into horror stories for me.

"Birds" children running downhill from schoolhouse
A bit inland from Bodega Bay, we came to the town of Bodega. Confusing, isn't it? Both are famous for the Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Birds" being filmed here in the early 1960's.

I saw it in my teens, and can still recall sitting on the living room floor, self-consciously and silently terrified. Ever since then, when I see crows looking down from telephone wires, I know from the experience of that movie that they have a sinister intent.

The schoolhouse today, a private residence

Hitchcock mixed up scenes from the two towns for the film, and we checked out two of the landmarks that remain in Bodega: the schoolhouse and the church, which stand very close to one another on a hill. Within the last year we Glads and the C. couple watched "The Birds" together. It wasn't as scary as I remembered, but I still don't like it. I do like the buildings in Bodega.

On our way back from the beach we first stopped at a historic watering hole in the town; the Casino's bar was built a hundred years ago by the bartender's great-uncle. His grandmother still manages the place, opening the doors and closing up every day even in her 80's.

The dining room (the sign said "Dinning Room") was most appealing to me. It was fresh and clean and empty that afternoon, tables, chairs and floor of bare weathered wood as old as the bar. A dozen or more deer and elk heads decorated the walls around. I drank an Ace Peary Hard Cider, brewed locally.

After our refreshment we walked along a muddy little track through the grass along the bank above the road, to see the church and the school.

The church is St. Teresa of Avila. Services have been held there weekly since its dedication in 1861. From the church you can look down on the little artsy town of Bodega, as in the photo below.

When we had set out from our house that morning, I decided not to bother with a camera. Then of course I regretted it many times! I was lucky to find all of these pictures on the Web.

I'm happy to say there was nothing horrific about our meandering day. That's a good thing about enjoying the present moment: one doesn't have to be subject to artists' imaginations, to old news articles, or to one's own memories of bad things. "Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof," and as there wasn't any of that sort of thing on our outing, it provided sufficient R&R for my weary soul. Thanks be to God!

Town of Bodega, California

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I see in the glass darkly.

When I married my husband, I married into his family. If that family were a building made of earthly stones, the large rock that for so long stood at the corner of the foundation, the one that bore the most weight, has been taken out of his place. He passed from this life last week at the age of 96. My husband's father was a Christian man and there was nothing fancy about him; still, many people said rightly that he was "a prince of a man."

The house is being restructured. We know that God's everlasting arms are under us in any case, but I feel the shifting, and the huge change. And I could not think of a thing to say here until today when I read these words from a hymn of the Greek Orthodox Rite for the Burial of Priests. This man who was so significant in my life was not a priest, or even Orthodox, but the hymn helps me to pray and to hold the mysteries in faith.

God intended the soul and body to be a unity, but at death they have to be torn apart. The words wonder about that and about other things regarding our death of which we understand so little. I like the musical setting by John Tavener; you can read the words below the link while you listen to the hymn.

And let us do as exhorted at the end, to enter into Christ, and His Light. Amen.


Why these bitter words of the dying, O brethren,
which they utter as they go hence?
I am parted from my brethren.
All my friends do I abandon, and go hence.
But whither I go, that understand I not,
neither what shall become of me yonder;
only God who hath summoned me knoweth.
But make commemoration of me with the song:

But whither now go the souls?
How dwell they now together there?
This mystery have I desired to learn,
but none can impart aright.
Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them?
Or have they forgotten all those who mourn them
and make the song:

We go forth on the path eternal,
and as condemned, with downcast faces,
present ourselves before the only God eternal.
Where then is comeliness? Where then is wealth?
Where then is the glory of this world?
There shall none of these things aid us,
but only to say oft the psalm:

If thou hast shown mercy unto man, O man,
that same mercy shall be shown thee there;
and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion,
the same shall there deliver thee from want,
If in this life the naked thou hast clothed,
the same shall give thee shelter there,
and sing the psalm:

Youth and the beauty of the body
fade at the hour of death,
and the tongue then burneth fiercely,
and the parched throat is inflamed.
The beauty of the eyes is quenched then,
the comeliness of the face all altered,
the shapeliness of the neck destroyed;
and the other parts have become numb,
nor often say:

With ecstasy are we inflamed if we but hear
that there is light eternal yonder;
that there is Paradise,
wherein every soul of Righteous Ones rejoiceth.
Let us all, also, Enter into Christ,
that all we may cry aloud thus unto God:

He is the Resurrection and the Life

Saturday, January 5, 2013

I'm jumping in with joy.

The Outdoor Water Blessing for Theophany at Little Lehigh Creek in Emmaus
At Little Lehigh Creek in Emmaus PA

It's the Feast of Theophany! How can I not post something on this day when there is blessing abounding to the degree that people want to jump into icy waters over it? I am caught between the impulse to spread the riches around, and the awareness of the extreme limitations of my mind when the meaning of Christ's baptism is set before me. There is a lot to take in and try to absorb at Theophany, regarding the Baptism of Our Lord.

Orthodox Christians celebrate Theophany in various ways around the world. Some release doves as a symbol of the Holy Spirit while others toss crosses into water in remembrance of Christ’s baptism. Young boys or men often dive into the water to retrieve the cross. I know what I'll do -- I'll post a link to Father Stephen Freeman's recent blog on the subject. An excerpt:
St. John himself does not seem to understand the purpose of Christ’s Baptism. He is told that “whomever you see the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain” is the Messiah – but he is given little information beyond that. Witnessing Christ’s Baptism and the Spirit resting upon Him, he hears the voice, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew, Mark and Luke all bear witness to the voice).  The Church later celebrates this manifestation of the Trinity (Christ in the water, the Spirit descending, the Voice of the Father – hence the title “Theophany”).
But with the text alone, on its literal level, we are left with a mystery, without context or meaning. The Tradition of the Church, however, sees the Baptism of Christ in the context of Pascha (Easter) as it sees everything in the context of Christ’s Pascha. Christ’s Baptism is a foreshadowing (and on more than a literary level) of His crucifixion and descent into Hades (just as our own Baptism is seen by St. Paul as a Baptism into Christ’s “death and resurrection”).
When he goes on to explain that in the workings of God in the world, the literal is not all there is, he quotes Fr. Andrew Louth:
Allegory is a way of entering the 'margin of silence' that surrounds the articulate message of the Scriptures, it is a way of glimpsing the living depths of tradition from the perspective of the letter of the Scriptures.
There is so much to think about, even if you aren't part of the Orthodox Tradition in which we will be participating on the praxis level by blessing urns of water, creeks and lakes and oceans of water. In parishes everywhere priests will be blessing houses as my rector described in our newsletter, so as to bring "the joy of the feast of the manifestation of the Holy Trinity to each and every dwelling. Think of the house blessing as a renewal of God's grace in your home."

How could we not be welcoming of that? I won't be jumping into any frozen streams, I hope ever, but I will certainly have the joy of the feast.

O Christ our God,
 Who hast revealed Thyself,
And enlightened the world,
Glory to Thee.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

We Gladly remember the Hobbit-Holes.

Happy Birthday, J.R.R.! 
Yes, January 3rd is the date J.R.R. Tolkien was born in the year 1892. Once I actually gave a party in his honor, on what would have been his Eleventy-First Birthday.

At the end of 2011 several of us Glad people did see the new Hobbit movie. We were reminiscing about our distant historical connection with lovers of everything Tolkien. The main claim to fame I can see is that Kate started an e-mail discussion list on Tolkien's writings, characters and stuff called Hobbit-Hole. She does still have friends from that group, but she had forgotten that she was the creator of it.

Some 20 years ago I read the whole Rings trilogy to all the children. Kate was probably too young to appreciate it then. And I read The Hobbit myself twice. Seeing Peter Jackson's movie made me want to read it again, to remember the amiable and heartwarming spirit of it, which I didn't find in the movie, though I did like the film enough overall.

And Pippin eagerly offered her own annotated edition for Mr. Glad and me to read aloud together. We plan to start today, on the author's birthday. Leafing through the pages of this book made me excited to begin, and I thought I'd share a few illustrations with you, too. Maybe if you click on the pictures you can see them better in a larger version.

I'm not feeling too adventurous at this time of year - well, truthfully, at any time of year. But right now I'm going to get a fire going in the woodstove so we'll be all ready to cozy up and read about the adventures of a Hobbit.

To your memory, dear Mr. Tolkien! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The earth is full of the Lord's mercy.

This passage I just happened to read today seems to be just right for contemplating at the beginning of a new year. Its focus is the Lord's nature and works, but it includes instruction to us humans, too. The second line makes me think how all of our art and culture ought to be to His glory, and done to the best of our ability, demonstrating the best of our humanity made in His image.

Sing to Him a new song;
Sing praises beautifully with a shout.
For the word of the Lord is right,
And all His works are done in faithfulness.
He loves mercy and judgment;
The earth is full of the Lord's mercy.

Psalm 32: 3-5 (Septuagint)

Lord, fill us with Your Holy Spirit this year so that 
we would be in unity with that mercy that your earth is full of, 
and may our lives be a beautiful praise song to You.