Every Last One of Us Can Do Better Than Give Up

“Every last one of us can do better than give up.”  ― Cheryl Strayed

I mentioned last post that spammers hacked my blog of years, Caviar and Codfish. If you try to do a google search for one of my posts, you will inevitably end up at the hacked domain (which still shows my photo and lists stray personal details of my life amid the trash posts about yogurt machines and microdermabrasion). I thought I could just move the domain to this website, keeping my treasured Caviar and Codfish name, but it hasn’t worked out. It simply bums me out.

And, anyway, I want to branch out in the blog-o-verse. I’ll still focus on cooking and food, but there’s more that I’m passionate about now. Crafting, for instance. And marriage, how to be a wife, to work at maintaining a wonderful relationship with my soul mate. And my ice cream shop, how to nurture, and grow it, while maintaining the artisanal quality I began it with. And the study and experiences of chronic pain and disability.

My new blog, A Sleepy Conscience, will be more of a lifestyle blog – my life’s style blog. So check it out. I hope I don’t lose those of you food-blog-onlys, but it’s a thing I need to do.

I started this post with a quote from Cheryl Strayed, or Dear Sugar, a modern-day Dear Abby who writes for the fabulous website The Rumpus. So, I’ll end the post with the full quote of which my new blog’s name derives from. A Sleepy Conscience is a snippet from this quote, from one of my favorite writers, a man who influenced me greatly as a child, and who often makes me smile as an adult: Mark Twain.

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” ― Mark Twain

 

I will be transferring most of my Cav&Cod posts over to my new blog overtime. So, while you can’t find the recipes here through anything but a search, there will eventually be a recipe index at A Sleepy Conscience. Thanks for your patience.

 

A New Start (And A New Domain)

Hello. To anyone who hasn’t forgotten about me in the ten billion years since I blogged. And to anyone who’s figured out that the blog posts at http://caviarandcodfish.com (about yogurt microdermabraion machines and pet wheelchairs that pray at the foot of olive trees) are not actually my blog posts, but those of the hackers that recently took over my site (and what feels like my life) and inundated everyone who subscribed to it with spam-posts full up of horrid writing mixed in with tiny bits of my writing, and my smiling face (a stolen photo that’s not even mine but my wedding photographer’s) right up on the page, as if I condone it… and then saw that I moved my blog over here, to http://caviarandcodfish.robinsalant.com (http://robinsalant.com is under construction, but will probably become a website someday) and happened to see this post: hiya!

I haven’t fallen off the face of this earth, just the internet. Life got tough after the husband and I got hitched. Back pain. Business to run. Surgery to be had. Like that. So I stopped blogging, without notice or any explanation, because it felt like the one thing in my life that I didn’t have to dig my nails into and hold on for dear life.

But in truth, it wasn’t the best idea. Once I stopped blogging, I stopped cooking (anything other than ice cream for my business). I lost touch with a passion that had begun to define the very person I am, and it left a hole. Sure, I filled the hole with Justified, all 12 seasons of NYPD Blue, looking through old family photos, and Micheal Connelly’s Harry Bosch detective novels (a new genre for me, which is both fulfilling and oddly scandalous), but without blogging, and cooking, I had to turn away from all facets of that passion of mine, lest I turn into a puddle of regret and sloppy tears.

The past year has been devoid of cookbooks, cooking shows, fancy restaurants, and foodie vacations. I haven’t spent hours in gourmet markets. I actually had my first Big Mac since high school. I’ve been low.

I need a change. A rewind. I’m going to take back my passion, albeit at a slow pace. I can’t afford to burn out again; I might become a fast food junky, or worse.

So, to begin, I don’t have a recipe. I haven’t actually started cooking again yet, but I have been eating well. And that’s a start.

Griddlecakes

I need a break. A time out from my life. Just a few months, maybe, to live someone else’s. Or, better, to live in someone else’s body. Everything will stay the same — the gorgeous husband, the fledgling business, the blog, the family, the happiness I feel about everything except my health.

While in my borrowed body — let’s give me about a year — I’ll do the things that I’ve been thinking about so much lately. I’ll play in the snow with my dog. I’ll organize spontaneous outings with my husband — maybe even hop on a plane for a few days of swimming in the Caribbean. And I’ll definitely partake in the best New Year’s resolution that I’ve ever heard of: Molly Wizenberg’s decision to enjoy more breakfasts in 2011.

With my current body, mornings are a wash-out. I wake up late due to restless nights. I need to stretch, and ice, and pop a pain pill just to sit through my morning coffee and a possible bowl of Raisin Bran. Cooking, if I am lucky, comes later in the day, once I’ve begun to manage the pain.

So this new body is crucial if I intend to wake up and make these griddlecakes as often as I’d like. As yet, we’ve only eaten them for dinner. They transfer flawlessly from breakfast to dinner — made with whole wheat flour for a savory-ness that’s wonderfully dinner-friendly – but I imagine (often) that these griddlecakes would be the perfect pick-me-up early in the morning (the time that I would be waking my new body up), with a cup of dark coffee, slatherings of butter, generous drizzles of maple syrup, caramelized apples, boiled kale, and thick smoked bacon.

We found a bag of the dry ingredients (kind of like gourmet Bisquik) in the pantry at Riverstead bed and breakfast, in Chilhowie, Tennessee, on the final (and favorite) leg of our honeymoon.  I’m not sure why they said the ingredients would make “griddlecakes” rather than pancakes, as all the research I’ve tried to dig up on the subject says the same, ambiguous thing: “American or Canadian pancakes (sometimes called hotcakes, griddlecakes, or flapjacks) are pancakes which contain a raising agent such as baking powder; proportions of eggs, flour, and milk or buttermilk create a thick batter.” A wikipedia search for “griddlecakes” even redirects to the pancake page.

My own understanding of griddlecakes vs. pancakes is that griddlecakes are made with whole wheat flour or some other whole grain flour, and are made smaller and thinner (less fluffy or cake like) than pancakes — but I don’t know where this knowledge comes from, as some things you come to know during your life have hazy, forgotten origins. I do know, though, why they are called Sweet Carolina griddlecakes — the whole wheat flour in the batter is Anson Mills Sweet Carolina whole wheat graham flour. You can buy Anson Mills whole wheat graham flour online, along with a bag of their fine cloth-bolted white flour, which goes into the batter as well.

The rest of the ingredients are the same that you would use for any other pancake, griddlecake, or hotcake batter: milk or water, an egg, baking powder, and salt. You prepare them exactly as you would any other recipe, too, making them as small as silver dollars, or as big as dinner plates. I like to rub butter all over the griddle before ladling on the batter; it browns as the griddlecake cooks, and brown butter is particularly delicious on whole wheat griddlecakes.

With this new body, I’d like to make lots of breakfast recipes, especially those from the new addition to my cookbook shelf, but these griddlecakes would make a weekly appearance on the morning table, at least.

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Whole-Wheat Griddlecakes

Adapted from the Anson Mill’s website, Makes 10-12 griddlecakes
(You can buy pre-made packages of the griddlecake dry ingredients here.)

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1 cup Anson Mills Antebellum-Style Graham Flour
½ cup Anson Mills Fine Cloth-Bolted Pastry Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg
1 ¼ cups milk or water, or a combination of both

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, or more, as needed

Put all ingredients except butter together in a medium bowl, whisking with a fork until just combined. Set an electric griddle on high, or place a large skillet over high heat. Rub some butter onto griddle or pan. Ladle however much batter you’d like onto the griddle (I usually use about ½ of a ladle-full, for small griddlecakes), trying to make the batter fom a circular shape (though non-circular ones are charming in a adorably-ditzy housewife way). Let cook until the edges are looking cooked and you see a couple of small bubbles rising to the top-side of the griddlecake. Lift griddlecake with a spatula, quickly rub some more butter on the griddle, and flip. Cook for another minute or two, until the other side begins to brown, then rub some butter on the side facing up, flip and repeat. (This butter-rubbing makes for deliciously crisp sides.) Transfer griddlecake to a platter and begin again. (Even though I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, I usually slide a tiny pat of butter above the griddlecake on the platter, so that each griddlecake added to the platter will sit atop some butter, and then have more butter laid atop of it, creating the perfect stack of griddlecakes and pats of butter.)

Serve with lots of good maple syrup.

Note: I don’t have true recipes for the caramelized apples and the kale, but if you would like to make them, follow these loose guidelines.

For the apples:

Peel and chop 4 granny smith apples, then place them in a bowl and sprinkle some lemon juice over them to keep them bright and crisp. Add a good knob of butter to a pan and melt it over medium heat. Add some sugar, about a fourth to a half cup, and let the sugar caramelize in the butter for a while, 10 minutes maybe. Once the sugar turns a nice amber color, add the apples. Cook them, stirring occassionally, until they are tender on the inside, with caramelized outsides — be careful not to break them up while you stir. Use a light hand and a silicone spatula. Add some cinnamon towards the end.

For the kale:

Buy some good kale at a farmers market or decent grocery — nothing with wilted leafs or huge, thick stems. Prepare the kale by stripping the leaves from the stems (my dog loves to eat the stems) and tearing the leaves into small pieces. Wash in a salad spinner and then add kale to a pot or dutch oven. Add water — for a bunch of kale I add about two cups of water or homemade chicken stock — and a good knob of butter and begin cooking kale over medium-low heat. Cover, let cook for a while, 20-30 minutes, then uncover, add a good pinch of salt, and continue cooking until almost all of the water is gone and the kale is silky, tender, and delicious.

the comforts of carbonara

I adore Molly O’Neill. You too, right? She’s a former restaurant critic (current columnist) for the New York Times; a food writer who’s the envy of every aspiring blogger. She’s written for a slew of food magazines, and won awards for her New York Cookbook. She’s kind of a big deal.

January 3, 2011

Her latest cookbook, One Big Table, is also wildly popular — and for good reason. It was researched over many, many years; Molly visited different regions of the country, spending weeks or months at a time, before retuning home to process, write, and cook. Then she spent years in the kitchens of Americans who’d recently immigrated into the United States, learning how they tweaked their homeland’s recipes to accommodate for the ingredients unknown here, or to allow for the inclusion of New World ones. Finally, she spent a year holding potluck dinners across America, where all sorts of people came to compete in recipe competitions and share their favorite dishes.

guanciale

Instead of following the memoir-cookbook trend, writing a travel journal of her time on the road, Molly chose to stick to the recipes she found, creating a tome of American cookery. The recipes are unadulterated, not tweaked to suite Molly’s own tastes, or changed to make things easy, more accessible. They are the real deal — 100% Americana.

A quote by Clementine Paddleford in 1960 is included in One Big Table’s introduction:

We all have hometown appetites, every other person is a bundle of longing for the simplicities of good taste once enjoyed on the farm or in the hometown left behind.

It’s a quote that sums up the intention of One Big Table – Molly sought out these hometown appetites, expelling the notion that ‘Americans don’t cook’ with the many varied regional recipes, lovingly prepared by second, third, sixth generation cooks everyday. But it’s also a quote that stopped me short.

guanciale

I’m not sure I have a hometown appetite. I can’t say I’m a bundle of longing for the cuisine of my youth. Save for a few family recipes (tulta and piange, two recipes made with spinach with names made up by our family  — “tulta,” derives from “torta,” which means “cake,” since it is a spinach and rice cake, and “piange” in Italian means “cry,” which I cannot explain save for the spinach stuffing being so good you might cry.)

Molly writes that she has “never known a food-obsessed person who did not have someone in a cotton apron… standing behind them;” but she’s never met me. When I picture the people who guided me toward my obsession with food, it’s the faces on covers of cookbooks, the celebrity chefs on cooking shows, and the men and women in the kitchens at my favorite restaurants.

pasta

It perturbed me, reading the introduction to One Big Table. If I have no hometown appetite, will my food be remembered? Will my children, and their children, have a sense of belonging? Will they not have the comforting, cozy feel of history that comes through family recipes? Or, does that not matter so much, when their mother (or grandmother) cooks well, feeds them varied recipes, from all over the world, not just their hometown?

There’s an itchy little part of me that fears something will be missing, if there is no story or sense of place in the food my family will eat.

So I better get started now. I’ve bought a new recipe box, and I’m going to write down our very best, most comforting, tradition-making recipes, to hand down to future generations once I’m too old to cook them. I might not have a “hometown appetite” ingrained in me, but I know I can make one up.

peas

Carbonara, that inimitable pasta covered in a silky egg sauce and garnished with sweet peas, salty pork jowl, and lots of black pepper, is the first recipe to enter the box, for a few reasons: First, I am (in good part) Italian. Or, Italian-American. I have family in Italy, and our few family recipes are Italian. And although I come from Dutch, German, and Irish lines as well, we’ve identified, mostly, with being Italian. (I grew up in North Jersey, after all.)

Carbonara, also, is already a tradition in my immediate family of two. Jim and I make carbonara whenever we return home after a long trip on the road, or when our spirits are down. We make carbonara in the middle of winter, when we need the comfortable feeling that comes with a blanket of creamy egg sauce. And we make it in summer, adding fresh vegetables and loads of herbs, because the comforts of carbonara are useful anytime of the year. It’s become a testament to our cozy, loving home. We will be making carbonara for many years into the future.

peas

And, most importantly, carbonara is just dang delicious.

I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll go over the rules of carbonara again for you here, in case you’d like to enter it into your own recipe box. For a great carbonara, you need to pace yourself. Don’t rush things. First, get your hands on some real guanciale (pork jowl) because bacon is too smoky and usually cut too thin, and pancetta is too salty. Guanciale is cured with salt and black pepper, adding a particular flavor not found in bacon or pancetta and, if cooked slowly over a medium-low heat, it’s high proportion of fat will become golden and crunchy on the outside, with pork-belly-like meltyness on the inside. If you can’t find guanciale, I’d leave out the pork altogether, and try to find some pork lard to cook the peas in.

IMG_6094

Once the guanciale is completely cooked, remember to take it out of the pan and let it rest on paper towels before adding it to the pasta. You need this resting time for the crunchy parts to set a little, so they won’t turn to mush in the bowl later.

Now, on the matter of pasta. No matter what any fussy Italian says, it really doesn’t matter what type of pasta you use. I’ve made it with linguine, spaghetti, orecchiette and even, in a pinch, bow-tie. This last time around was my first using Bartiliono’s cirioline all’uovo — egg pasta nests — and it was my favorite pasta yet, though it’s somewhat hard to find. Most of the time however, we just use whatever’s in the pantry. Carbonara is best as a spur-of-the-moment meal. One to whip up after a long day, or during a snow-storm, with items grabbed from the pantry. (Just make sure you have a good stock of guanciale in your freezer at all times!) So, use whatever pasta you like, but, if you want to make it a little more special, use a premium, imported brand from Italy.

runaway noodle!

On to peas: I use frozen petite peas. They’re teeny and sweeter than garden peas, and worth the few extra cents. You don’t need more than a handful (one bag will provide you many carbonara’s worth) since peas are only in the dish to provide little hits of sweetness (some authentic recipes don’t call for peas, but I don’t see why). Also, even in the spring when fresh peas are available, I tend to forgo them for frozen, since sweetness is key, and I find most fresh peas are too starchy by the time they go from the farmer to my kitchen. (But if you have a good supply of fresh peas, by all means…)

Finally, there’s only two more things to say about carbonara: First, use a lot of black pepper. It’s the flavor that you need to cut through the fat of the guanciale and the sauce, and to flavor the pasta, and compliment the peas. Make sure it is freshly ground. And a healthy amount.

add the eggs

Second, toss the sauce with the pasta in a bowl, off the heat. If you try and add the sauce to the pasta while it’s in the pan, you will end up with a less-than-silky sauce. So, transfer the pasta and peas to a big bowl, and immediately add in the eggs and toss like crazy. I whisk the (seasoned) eggs (one egg per serving) in a small bowl before adding it to the pasta. I know some people break the eggs directly over the pasta — the process is prettier that way, but it makes it more difficult to stir the eggs into a sauce before they curdle. Though, again, whatever works.

This last thing is the most important part of carbonara-making. Don’t be afraid of the eggs being left raw — they will cook, partly, into a silky sauce — though they aren’t supposed to cook fully. If you are feeding someone who shouldn’t eat partially cooked eggs, don’t make them carbonara. However, if you are a healthy adult, you shouldn’t fear eggs cooked this way, especially if you are buying your eggs from a good, local source.

carbonara

They only thing left to do now, is eat. And enjoy the comforts of carbonara.

Pasta Carbonara

Printable Recipe

serves 4-6, depending on whether it is a first-course, or main

6 ounces guanciale, chopped into thumbnail sized lardons
1 pound pasta, preferably a good, imported brand of you favorite type of pasta (I really liked egg pasta in this carbonara)
1 cup grated parmigiano cheese, or more to taste (you can also use pecorino, which is more traditional for carbonara, though I prefer the taste of parmigiano)
a handful (about 2/3 of a cup) petite peas, preferably frozen unless you have very sweet fresh peas
2 whole eggs
2-3 egg yolks (I usually add the extra yolk)
freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt

Heat a pan over low to medium heat (I have an electric range and set it between medium-low and medium). Add guanciale and cook until they are crisp on all sides. If the pieces begin to cook too fast, and you think they will burn before cooking properly, lower the heat. Low and slow is a foolproof way to cook the guanciale right, so they they are crisp on the outside but easy to chew, and meltingly tender inside. Once cooked, remove the guanciale and let rest on paper towel.

Usually, I will now pour some (not all) of the fat in the pan into a bowl, so I can decide whether I want to use it all or not later. (I don’t use olive oil in my carbonara, because I love the taste of pork fat, but you can use it in place of, or in addition to, the drippings, if you are crazy like.)

Put a pot of well-salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks until well combined. Add half of the cheese and season with a good amount of black pepper and some salt.

Add the peas to the pan you used to cook the guanciale. Cook until they become soft. The pasta should be cooked at this time, so drain and add the pasta to the peas and mix them together with some black pepper and salt.

Get a serving bowl and add in your pasta, peas, the remaining half of the cheese, and crisp guanciale. Drizzle the eggs over the pasta and stir, using a folding, tossing type of motion, to work the eggs into a silky sauce without curdling them. (If the pasta is piping hot, stir in big, quick motions to cool the pasta down as quickly as possible.) Taste and season again with pepper and salt before bringing to the table with some extra cheese for passing around.

Mrs. Salant

Hi there. I’ve missed you all terribly. Since we last spoke — months ago! — I’ve gotten my business going, I’ve made gallons and gallons of ice cream, I’ve become a Mrs. (!!), and, finally, I’ve spent some time at Blackberry Farm, sipping lemonade with my husband and eating lots and lots of delicious food while gazing at the Smoky Mountains.

I cut my hair very short for the wedding. It was a scary thing to do, and, luckily, I loved it.

We’ve hammocked. We’ve slept in past breakfast. We’ve swung on a wooden swing atop a high hill. We are actually, right at this moment, sitting in wooden chairs, in a cabin on a mountain — Legacy Mountain to be exact. We’ve left Blackberry and are holing up here in this cabin for a few more days, before heading over to Town House in Chilhowie, then to Washington D.C., to look at art and eat some more.

Blackberry Farm

Then, and I’m hesitant even to say this because I really don’t want it to be true, we’ll head back to reality. I’ll be back to show you wedding pictures, and give you all the details from that day, the good food we ate, and the (delicious!) food that we’re eating now on our honeymoon. I just wanted to pop in and say hi before that, though. Because I miss you. And it’s been so long.

wedding bands

See you soon!