Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to Back

At sixteen my mother had been a swimmer.
I have seen a picture of her

poised at the edge of the pool, knees bent,
hands on knees, and smiling with her teammates.

My aunt once said back then she swam
as gracefully as Esther Williams.

But that is not how I remember her.
It is when I am sixteen and a runner

and am forever wanting to stand against her,
back to back, to see who's taller;

however much I stretch I still come up
an inch short. I've called her up

to have her drive me home from practice.
We ride home in utter silence

after my curt "thanks" and her nod,
not for a lack of feeling, but for want of words.

Following her in, cleats slung over my shoulder,
I tell her to wait, I'll help her.

Already she's at the sink, peeling potatoes
and humming, one foot lifted like a flamingo.

by Debra Kang Dean from News of Home: Poems

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tarragon Buttermilk Pie

This is a down-homey pie with a twist

Serves 8 pie-eatin' folk


*Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust insofar as it prevents too much gluten from forming and causing a chewy and heavy crust. The vodka imparts no flavor; do not substitute! This dough will be moister and more supple than most pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup).

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
½ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 2 pieces
2 tablespoons vodka , cold
2 tablespoons cold water

1. Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

4. Trim overhang to ½ inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against rim of pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Then cover pie with a layer of foil. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for an additional 4 minutes, until crust just begins to color.
Fool Proof Pie Dough Recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated


*If you love anise, substitute 1 teaspoon anise seed for the 2 teaspoons dried tarragon.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons dried tarragon

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in sugar, flour, and salt. Remove from heat and set aside. In an electric mixing bowl, beat eggs medium speed just until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Stir in buttermilk, vanilla, and dried tarragon. Gradually whisk buttermilk mixture into butter mixture until smooth. Pour into prebaked crust. Do not overfill the pie crust. It’s better to discard some of the filling than use it all if it gets too close to the pie dish’s lip.

2. Place pie on oven rack; carefully tent the whole pie with aluminum foil. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until sides are set and most of the pie remains firm when gently shaken. Center may still look slightly wet, but it will continue cooking and set and also firm up in the refrigerator. The tarragon floats to the top as the pie cooks. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. This pie is best served 5 minutes or more after it is taken out of the refrigerator. Serve alone or with candied orange or lemon slices.

* Most dairy that is labeled "buttermilk" in the United States is not true buttermilk. Genuine buttermilk is the low fat dairy that remains after milk has been churned into butter. Modern dairies mimic this traditional buttermilk by fermenting skim milk until it becomes viscous and acidic.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

My plane was delayed and while waiting I took a good look at the diversity of our species and I thought some thoughts...Some people thought it fitting to provide these uncomfortable (I know - I gave them a whirl) rocking chairs to the jet set at the Boston airport. Are these chairs a last resort? A sorry consolation for surviving the stale air and various vectors of disease in this waiting room of the unfriendly skies? Somehow they just didn't make up for the price of the prohibitively expensive flights and the lack of the crappy free food I used to be able to complain about on board. I don't even think the rockers appeased the geriatric crowd. These ladies were emitting noises - half burps, half complaints - it was the chairs' fault. I don't know who is behind the chairs but THEY are uncommonly bad people. Forgo the cost of chairs; I'd rather be served free nuts on the plane - cashews or almonds, roasted and salted please.

I did have some wonderful opportunities to check out the masses.

First, I did some serious tattoo watching. The foot seems to be prime real estate - too many bones there if you ask me.

Then, I saw a straight man with greasy hair in a head band - SCORE!!! That's worth like 5,000 points in the video game of life

Next, I visited the loo - ewww! Public restrooms make me nervous. The bathrooms on airplanes make my teeth itch and my toes curl... and NOT in a good way. Nowadays, when I use a public restroom, I assume that I will not have to manually flush. THEY - as in the aforementioned THEY - must invest in those automated sensor thingies. The less I touch on an airplane and in an airport the better. One of the most wondrous things you get to see at the airport, though, is people brushing their teeth. It's usually a very abbreviated and abashed version of people's real deal. Sometimes you can totally tell that a person developed a whole new style of brushing so as not to embarrass themselves while I stare. Anyhow, you forget that brushing your teeth is kind of a private ritual - it tickles me to watch people's private rituals.

Finally, while nursing a very expensive green tea (Starbucks is the devil and they needn't use double cups, a lid, and a sleeve, but they always do, even though I ask them, kindly, not to and the people who serve me always grimace when I tell them my hands are impervious to heat because I am trying to save the Earth as I purchase second-rate bagged tea from this horrid company) I try to imagine appropriate reading material for each person's carry-on. However, a young man with an ill-fitting pair of punk-rock skinny jeans, basketball shoes that were shiny as a new car and perhaps only slightly less expensive, a crazy haircut for which there is no name or scientific explanation, and a beautiful rosary REALLY stumped me. I'm still thinking about what he could possibly be reading - it completely blows my mind just thinking about it.

All in all I fared better than this poor soul: