“Force Majeure”, Thanksgiving and a Pizza Recipe

Yesterday, I had an adventure.

The day started out like any typical busy Monday; the normal frenzy to get the lunch ready, the kid up and dressed and fed, the homework together, the instrument packed for band practice and out the door with my husband who had to trek to the next block over to get the car, because the city is replacing a drainage pipe right outside our house and closed the street.

I took a deep breath and sat with my cup of coffee  in front of the computer. My husband comes back and we start to work.

Ten minutes later we hear a loud bang just outside our door, followed by an angry hiss. My husband goes up to investigate and I hear  him run down the stairs and shout: “Out of the house, NOW!!!!” It wasn’t a polite request, it was an order and not one to mess with.  We run out of the house through a cloud of nasty smelling gas, my neat looking husband and I, a sorry mess in flimsy ballet slippers, a thin long-sleeved t-shirt, at 43 F (that’s 6 Celsius for the Europeans!) standing in the street, unwashed with greasy hair. It was cold.

The street construction crew broke a 4 inch gas main with the  noxious and flammable gas funneling straight into our house.

After 3 minutes of standing there, the excitement wore off and I realized how cold it was and how unprepared I was to be standing there. This was obviously not going to be a ten minute fire drill. We had 5 dollars in our pocket and nothing else. No keys, no phone, no wallet, no purse, no shoes, no jacket. To cheer me up my husband painted a situation of me taking a shower with shampoo in my hair while  simultaneously being thrown out of the house and I had to admit, given the alternative, I was lucky.

One large heavy construction worker with blond hair, a grey beard and sparkly eyes, told me not to worry. “It’s probably not gonna to blow up”, he said reassuringly. “Last week we had two houses blow up like popcorn, wasn’t anything left but the foundations, but the pipe was 2-inches bigger than the one you have.”   While he was talking I was picturing our house blowing up with all of our belongings floating slowly over the city. It was a poetic image. Then I thought about our insurance which would probably deny any claim on the grounds that this was “force majeure” or an act of god. Well, force majeure with a shovel.

After 4 firetrucks, the gas company and the press arrived, we quietly retreated without being noticed and went for a cup of coffee, basically because I didn’t feel very photogenic and my cold toes started to make tinkling sounds.

The entire time I was thinking how little in that house I really needed…or even wanted. If I had to name ten things of importance, it would have been difficult. Yes, the travel memorabilia were irreplaceable, but the memories were already with me. To lose some of our friends original art would have been very sad. If I expressed myself more through “tangible objects” like art I know I would feel very different. If you were thrown out of your house, what would you rescue?

After a few hours, we were allowed back into our house. The whole episode was a reminder of what’s important and what’s not.

It’s Thanksgiving this week and I’m very much aware of how thankful I am.

Now that you’ve made it this far, below is a half finished post that I started Sunday night. It has some links to food, a good pizza dough recipe and a reminder that Sunday is fabric play date.

See you on Sunday!

Food is on my mind, because on Thursday we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving here in the US.

I’m hosting and will be cooking all day Wednesday while sipping champagne, one of my favorite parts of the celebration.

The NY Times Harvest Tart was on our menu last year and deserves a repeat. Not only does it taste great, but it also makes a beautiful centerpiece to replace the Turkey if you happen to be vegetarian.

And while I won’t make pizza, I made this one the other day and it’s worth sharing.

– 1/2 cups of tepid water (more if dough is too dry)
– 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
– 3 cups of flour
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp sugar
– 2/3 tbs olive oil

Stir yeast into tepid water and dissolve.
In a separate bowl mix flour, salt and sugar.
Dump dough on kitchen counter and make a volcano.
Make a “crater” and pour the water/yeast mixture inside.
Move the flour from the outside into the crater until dough is partly mixed.
Add olive oil and knead the dough with your hands until it’s smooth, but not too dry and can be pulled apart. It’s more a matter of feel in the hands than the result of precise measurements.
Place dough in a bowl, cover with a clean damp warm dishtowel and let rise for about an hour until dough has doubled. Quickly knead once more and divide into four balls for small pizzas or 2 for larger ones. Let rest 15 more minutes.
Roll out four pizzas

Top with sauteed onions, red pepper, steamed broccoli and black olives, which is our favorite nowadays. In summer I like fresh tomatoes and basil. And if you are adventurous for a fall pizza (with pumpkin!) Chloe Coscarelli has an interesting sounding recipe here.

Fabric will be hosted here on Sunday. I’ve been playing and the results are interesting so far.

See you on Sunday!


Best Way to Eat an Apple

Yesterday I discovered the next best thing to apple pie when you don’t have apple pie. All you need is a tortilla wrap and a crisp and juicy apple.

Warm apple + cinnamon + tortilla wrap + maple syrup = something like an apple pie.

Easy and delicious. And fast!

How to make an apple wrap:

Cut apples in 1 inch cubes. Soften the apples on the stovetop, or if you’re pressed for time in the microwave for 2 minutes. Be careful not to mush them. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top. Drain the apples and roll up in a warm tortilla. Drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy a warm comforting apple wrap.

I also bought a stack of used T-shirts and 15,000 feet of sewing thread. Guess what I’ll be doing over the weekend….

Mystery Food Revealed…

Evi was the closest, but not quite. The dish was made with jackfruit, an Asian tropical fruit which can grow as large as 3 feet long. It can be used either green as a vegetable or mature as a sweet dessert.

Unripe Jackfruit has a remarkably similar texture to chicken (or pulled pork), making it an excellent vegetarian substitute for meat. It is often used in Indian and Thai curries.

After finding this recipe, I was intrigued and wanted to try it immediately. Luckily our Asia market in town had a good supply.

So, what’s the verdict? The dish has a unique taste and a meaty texture. Does it taste like what it looks like when it’s cooked? Nope. Will I eat it again? Yep. It seems very versatile and I can’t wait to experiment further.

Enjoy your weekend!

In the Kitchen: Kansha and Sustainable Cooking

This morning I was watching a hilarious clip of Annie Leonard, author of “The Story of Stuff” on the Colbert Report:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Annie Leonard
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

So, what does that have to do with cooking? Food is not stuff, or is it? Frankly, some of the food you can buy here in the supermarkets is more stuff than food and that goes beyond the packaging.

The image on top is taken from Elizabeth Andoh’s phenomenal book: “Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions” and in her world, food is food. Many of you are most likely neither vegetarian nor vegan, but the book is nevertheless fascinating no matter what diet you’re on. As usual, the Japanese aesthetics are stunning, but the book goes way beyond that. The premise is to cook with appreciation and sustainably without waste and frankly that doesn’t always happen in my kitchen. There’s packaging and leftovers, lack of time and bananas in winter and that made me think of the “Story of Stuff” and how Annie Leonard comments on the consequences of “stuff”.

When it comes to consequences, food is not much different from stuff. There are 7 billion people in this world all of which have to eat and the current system is not sustainable. There are environmental and policy issues, factory farming, health problems, obesity, just to name a few. Without going into details about possible solutions on a broader scale, Elizabeth Andoh’s book offers small steps to take.

She invites us to practice kansha in our own cooking, and demonstrates how “nothing goes to waste in the kansha kitchen.” In one example, she transforms each part of a daikon—from the tapered tip to the tuft of greens, including the peels that most cooks would simply compost—into an array of wholesome, flavorful dishes.

Do I have time to cook like this every day? Absolutely not, but isn’t it interesting to integrate some of the principles in one’s own kitchen? And there are always weekends.

Kansha means appreciation-an expression of gratitude for nature’s gifts and the efforts and ingenuity of those who transform nature’s bounty into marvelous food. I can definitely use a bit more of that when I absent mindedly shovel something (yes, I mean ‘something’) into my mouth. As usual, awareness makes all the difference.

Below is my small, messy and humble kitchen. All of my food is visible on shelves (and of course, in the fridge), so I know what I have. Usually, this helps me not to forget about the hidden packages in the closet and reduces waste.

How people eat and the food choices they make, interest me greatly and I’m really curious:

How do you eat? Do you cook?

Making and Baking

Remember the tatting flowers?  My daughter loved the idea of wearing flowers around her neck in winter. When using wool, it makes in her words “a cool scarf”. I’d use a different color next time (maybe bright red) and even thicker yarn. I might also make the flowers a tad smaller. We also baked some […] Read more »

"What one has not experienced……"

Fiddleheads for dinner. Have you ever had fiddleheads? They’re from a wild fern that grows in the American North-East and believe it or not, they’re edible. In fact more than edible. First boiled and then sauteed with some garlic and onion they are delicious and taste a bit like asparagus. They’re seasonal and only available […] Read more »

They Draw and Cook and I Eat Out

 Salted Cucumbers by Artist Anastasia Zhebyuk, Kaliningrad City, Russia What is the next best thing to do when you can’t cook, but love food? Reading a cookbook of course. This is what I discovered: They Draw & Cook, a wonderful website for food aficionados found through A Billion Tastes and Tunes. Nate Padavick and Salli […] Read more »

Food, Lace and Other Ramblings

In Barcelona, I used to eat palmeras at least 3 times a week, but now, here in upstate NY, palmeras are scarce and muffins abundant. It was time to make my own, so I bought some puff pastry and gave it a try. I sprinkled lots of sugar on the counter, used one thawed sheet, […] Read more »

Cookies in a Jar, Ornaments and Gift Tags

When my stitched ornaments were featured on Sew Mama Sew last week, I thought it would be nice to give an idea of how they would look dressed up for winter using felt or wool fabric. The cookie jars above were gifts I made last year with my daughter. The cookies were made from the […] Read more »

Time To Cook – 101 Ideas from the Minimalist

  Have you started to cook already? For last minute preparations, yesterday I found Mark Bittman‘s NY Times contribution of 101 clever ideas for the big feast, which all sound delicious. (Free registration required).  He always comes up with unusual food ideas, and in our kitchen, we like to experiment.  Thanksgiving is understandably one of […] Read more »