Category Archives: Spring

My first focaccia


B195A6C6-71CE-4356-8AE6-69EADC0DCEFCTwenty-five years ago I went to Italy for the first time. It was my honeymoon and we intended to spend a couple of days in the Lake Como area as part of our five week trip. We were about 2 weeks into our vacation, having already visited rainy Ireland and soggy Germany, when we drove into Lake Como under foggy skies.

It’s hard to recall what made this scenic city feel unwelcoming, but we made the decision to stay in the car and keep driving.  I remember we committed to not getting out of that damn car again until we found sunshine. Three hours later, under sunny skies, we hit Genoa.

The next few days contained some of the most memorable moments of our honeymoon. We had a couple of fantastic meals, were eaten alive by mosquitos and discovered Pigato, still one of my favorite white wines. When we eventually left Liguria to rendezvous with friends in Switzerland, we were sunkissed and happy.

As we departed, we stopped for bread, cheese and tomatoes to make lunch on the road during our drive north. The aroma of the still warm bread filled the car as we drove away from the bakery and proved to be irresistible. We tore into it, our hands and mouths becoming shiny from the olive oil which had been brushed over the top of the loaf. There were deep dimples in the loaf which became wells for rosemary and salt and the dough had been baked to an ever so slight chewiness. It was the best bread I had every eaten – and my first ever focaccia.

It seems that many home bakers, during our current time of forced isolation, are exploring bread baking and I’ve heard about shortages of both flour and yeast in local stores. A friend of mine has been teaching her social media followers how to make and feed their own sourdough starter, a project I’ve never attempted. I’m more a no-knead girl and have used Mark Bittman’s recipe with great success over the years.

When I saw this recipe in the April 2020 issue of Bon Appetit, it immediately called my name. “Shockingly easy?” Yes, please. I’d like to make that. After consulting with my baker friend, I tested the yeast I’ve had in my refrigerator for at least 3 years and was happy to see it was still alive. Time to get busy.D84604E7-2845-4528-8EAD-45D295804B53


I prepped the dough on Friday and placed it in the fridge for an overnight rise. When I pulled it out the next morning, it seemed to have just about doubled, so I continued with the recipe. About 4 hours later, following the directions, I got my hands into the dough a bit, stretching it to completely fill the rimmed baking sheet. The texture was surprisingly silken and poking my fingers into the dough was incredibly satisfying. Excitedly, I dusted salt and fresh rosemary over the dough and slid it into the oven for 25 minutes.

Once out of the oven, there was a final basting of butter* and grated garlic and my first focaccia was complete. It may not have been exactly like the one I greedily ate all those years ago, but I could not have been prouder of the result. Make this!

BDCC4EB3-51BA-4F86-A385-91D35B909848*I used a combination of butter and olive oil.

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Filed under baking, Food, ideas, Italy, Recipes, Recommendations, road trips, Spring, travel

C-ing past Corona

0DB47822-785B-4765-87CE-FB02C5144FA6I don’t know about you, but I’m getting more than a little overwhelmed by the constant barrage of CoronaVirus related news. I’m feeling anxious and isolated and sort of cast adrift as I struggle to figure out how to do my job from home.

While I’ve been escaping with live streamed yoga classes, professional Zoom meetings and binge watching Sex and the City, it isn’t enough. For the rest of my waking hours, irregular as they may be, there are two C words beyond Corona that are occupying my time – cooking and cleaning.

Since grocery shopping is such an ordeal these days and we’re encouraged to remain at home, I’ve been trying to cook out of my pantry and my crisper drawer. Last night’s meal nicely capitalized on what I happened to have on hand – broccoli rabe, chickpeas, canned tomatoes and an open container of veggie stock.

Now, if you look at this NYT recipe you might notice that it doesn’t actually call for broccoli rabe, listing kale instead, but this is very much a recipe that one can modify according to whim or ingredients available. My take on it, after reading some of the comments on the NYT website, doubled the chickpeas and used the liquid from the canned tomatoes and veggie stock instead of water. I also tossed in a Parm rind for some added flavor and increased the crushed red pepper by a generous extra pinch.

DB984C4F-F9E3-4D70-BEEA-684206D4BAEDServed with grated cheese, it was a cheap and healthy dinner with the bonus of being delicious.

Cooking the Pasta e Ceci  was easy and satisfying – just like some of the recent home projects I’ve taken on. Since I frequently find myself wandering from room to room in my house, I’ve done a fair amount of organizing and weeding of items that I’m prepared to eliminate from my home. There’s been quite a bit of dusting also and I actually removed the three milk glass sconces from my bathroom light fixture and gave them a good washing. I learned that they are in fact not milk glass. They were just really dusty.

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On the menu for the upcoming week – Asparagus Pork Stir fry, cleaning the ceiling fans, and moderating my news consumption. How about you?

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, DelSo, Dinner, Food, ideas, News, Observations, Recipes, Recommendations, Spring, stress, upstate New York

Minding my Ps and Qs

BEEB0672-60F8-4749-932A-8773DC4DA611(As in where my mind goes during a Pandemic and Quarantine)

How will we collectively and individually remember these days? What will this experience etch upon each of us?

I’ve never been so relieved to not own a small business. This must be the most challenging situation small business owners have ever imagined, must less, faced.

In this time of mandatory physical distancing, has gardening become the new intimate contact? There’s a certain satisfaction to be had from getting your heart rate up and getting a little dirty and my backyard has never looked better.

Is a pandemic a valid reason for not observing street cleaning parking regulations in Albany? I believe street parking meters fees have been suspended, but am I jerk for thinking it isn’t too much for my neighbors to move their cars for three hours on a weekday when they’re obviously home?

Can you appreciate how fortunate we are that this illness took aim at our country in spring? How much more desperate would we each be feeling if it were the onset of winter instead of the prelude to a season of growth and natural beauty?

What do you miss the most from “normal” life? What will you do when we are eventually released to resume regular programming?

Do you ever imagine that maybe these times might cause our contemporary society to reset? That we might change what we value most in our world?

Is it really ok that CEOs make millions of $ a year, while nurses, store clerks and delivery drivers earn so much less? When you consider the contributions they’re each making at this time, how do you justify the incredibly broad income gap  between the top earners and the rest of the population?

What about you? What have you been thinking?

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Filed under Albany, DelSo, Gardens, ideas, Local, musings, Observations, Spring, upstate New York

Maintaining the six foot rule

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Flowers in bunches are beautiful. People, not so much.

Walking these days take some attention. I mean, it always demanded that we have our eyes and ears open, but walking in the midst of a pandemic requires an additional sense  – as in common sense.

As Jeter and I meander our way through the street of Albany, I now have to consciously take of note of people who might cross paths with us and decide how to best evade them. Cross the street? Go wide? Make eye contact? Smile?

It can all feel a little awkward.

As I walked yesterday I considered how the act of being a contemporary pedestrian was forged into the brains and muscle memory of a lot of 80s kids. We were raised on Centipede, Frogger, Pac-Man and Asteroids. We know how to avoid shit that pops up in front of us and gets in our way. Navigating through perils was a part of our childhood.

The sunshine helps and I appreciated the feel of it on my back Saturday afternoon. Put on some warm clothes and get outside while you can. Breathe deep. Take care of yourselves and each other. Six feet away beats six feet under by miles.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Exercise, friends, Gardens, musings, Observations, Recommendations, sick, Spring, stress, upstate New York

Signs of the times

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With little else left to do, I find myself walking a lot. On the sunny days, it’s hard to not believe that eventually things will find their way to a new normal. Trees are budding and the earliest bloomers are showing off in front yards and gardens. Life continues, right?

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When the skies are grey, though, it’s more difficult to project into a future that contains all the components previously taken for granted – regular schedules for schools and work, grocery stores with fully stocked shelves, hugs with those we love. All those things we never could have anticipated disappearing in a haste that is breathtaking.

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It feels like it’s important to document what is happening, with words and images and I’ve been doing both. The photos here are from recent walks I’ve taken. I’ll continue posting photos over at Instagram, if you want to give me a follow over there.

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For now, I need to put on some lipstick, set up my Chrome Book and read another chapter in the book I’m sharing with my students using Screencastify. Maybe listening to a book being read will provide an escape from some of what we can’t avoid seeing in print.

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Filed under Albany, Exercise, Local, medical, musings, Observations, Spring, stress, upstate New York

The inevitability of spring

We each respond differently to frightening and uncertain times. Some say that the media is exaggerating and insist that the situation is not nearly as dire as it is being portrayed. Others feel the need to purchase and hoard essentials without thought to those who may need immediate access to basic household items such as toilet paper and soap. Or maybe, instead of stockpiling supplies, you’re actually working your way through that stash of alcohol and ice cream that you’ve been saving for the perfect occasion. You know, like today.

I suspect that most, though, are doing their best to continue to meet the demands of family and work while remaining cognitive of the obvious shifting of importance of each of those aspects of life. There’s no two ways about it – this is a very scary time and there’s no telling when we will have our normal lives back again.

So, be kind to one another. Check in with your neighbors before heading to the store. This would be a great time to create a virtual neighborhood group on Facebook for communicating with people who live by you. Do some yard work. Clean out the basement. Take long walks. Look for and acknowledge signs of spring. It’s still coming.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Flowers, Gardens, Local, musings, News, Observations, Recommendations, Spring, stress

Cathedral in Bloom, 2020

Gorgeous welcome courtesy of Kate Fleming of the Floral Garden

Even when winter has been relatively mild there’s still excitement for spring, particularly in upstate New York. As the crocus and daffodils start popping through last season’s faded mulch, I can’t help but begin looking forward to afternoons on the deck (or stoop) and sandals on my feet. Looks like we’ve almost made it to another spring, friends!

Yesterday I got a giant dose of the upcoming season in a floral fashion when I visited the second edition of Cathedral in Bloom Albany’s amazing  Cathedral of All Saints. This gothic edifice, which always seems to be overlooked in favor of the more visible Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, is absolutely magnificent. The craftsmanship and architecture of the building provided an excellent backdrop to the artistic and fragrant floral displays and I appreciated the spaciousness of the minimally furnished interior.

Very Madonna ”Like a Virgin,” no?

In years past when there was a similar event hosted by the NYS Museum, I was a regular visitor. The inspiration of the museum exhibits always provided a cohesive theme to the floral arrangements and, while I miss that component, the new venue allows for a fresh approach and provides opportunity for growth as the event gains traction.

I imagine the weekend opening hours will be more densely attended than yesterday’s opening day, but parking should be readily available – and if it isn’t the weather forecast looks inviting. May as well take a walk and grab a drink or bite to eat while you’re downtown. Plan accordingly, breathe deeply and enjoy the preview of spring!

 

 

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Filed under Albany, art, beauty, Events, Flowers, Gardens, ideas, Local, Observations, Recommendations, Spring, upstate New York