Tag Archives: ideas

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

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

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

The Deep State, Habitualization and the Trump supporter

Every once in a while I hear something, generally on the radio, and it is so damn timely that I’m stopped dead. It can happen in two ways – I hear a phrase or word and suddenly I seem to encounter it everywhere. The most recent example of this is the word “deep state” used when referring to long term, career public employees.

The right has begun wielding this phrase in a negative fashion, despite the popularizer of the term Mike Lofgrennever having presented it in that type of context. His book, titled The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of the Shadow Government, used the phrase to describe the entanglement of large institutions and government and the subsequent lack of ability for politicians to affect meaningful change. “Deep State” was a bipartisan condition, observed Lofgren, a long term Republican who has vowed to not vote republican again until “they demonstrate to me that they’ve purged Trumpism.

Trump and his supporters have elected to use the phrase deep state as “shorthand for Democratic-leaning bureaucrats who want to undermine Trump.” This “out to get us” stance is consistent with other methods of dividing our population which are you used with great success by our present federal administration, as well as those from fascist groups throughout history. When experienced people, be they bureaucrats, journalists or educators, are perceived as the enemy, we’ve got problems, people.

The instance of a term overheard can also serve to succinctly define a phenomena or situation which had been puzzling me, as in what occurred today. Listening to WAMC, I caught a Ted Talk, featuring Khasfia Rahman. The theme of the broadcast was Risk and Rahman described research she had initially begun as a high school student. Fascinated by the tendency of young people, particularly those between the ages of 13-18, to exercise poor judgment when making decisions, Rahman devised a study to explore the phenomena after observing her peers binge drinking, experimenting with drugs and generally proceeding through life in a reckless fashion.

Her question grew into one about brain development. If the brains of teens between the ages of 13-18 were immature and the cause of their risky behaviors, she posited, why weren’t the choices made by even younger people even more potentially hazardous?

Rahman determined that habitualization was the most likely cause of this phenomena. As she explained, young people who are repeatedly exposed to an unsafe or unappealing situation can frequently be observed moving from initial feelings of disinterest and rejection to an openness to explore, and eventually embrace, dangerous and risky activities. 

She provided an example of this behavior relating to tequila shots. As Rahman witnessed, young people with repeated exposure and access to shots of tequila become less fearful of the negative consequences of indulging in illicit drinking and grow increasingly accepting of the experience. The brains of these young actually people change.

I see a similar thing occurring to the brains of people who support the current president. As we are assaulted, seemingly from every angle, by information which clearly demonstrates the complete lack of integrity or qualification of Donald Trump, his followers continue to adapt their beliefs to allow for his outrageous and irrational behavior.

It begins as a denial and then evolves into an acceptance. Faced with evidence of Trump’s corruption, his believers deny the truth with which they have been presented.  After an onslaught of continued evidence, they transition from rejecting the facts, to minimizing the risks involved with ingesting them.

They swallow.

Anyone else need a shot of tequila?

 

 

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Filed under aging, Boys, musings, News, Observations, politics

Bozen Kill Preserve

I’ve had a really busy month. There was a wedding in Buffalo, a weekend wine fest in Rhinebeck and two Albany events last Saturday. I’m not complaining about the state of my social/work calendar at all, but I do feel as though Jeter has been a little neglected recently and I can’t coast on his Wellfleet week forever. So, Sunday afternoon he and I took a drive out to Altamont to the Bozen Kill Preserve for a little quality time together.

How I came to select this particular spot is kind of funny. I knew I wanted to get him outdoors for a hike, but was unwilling to drive any real distance. As I was considering where I might take him, my Facebook feed offered up a recent  CivMix post  and the first option struck all the right notes – not too far, welcoming to dogs and with the added bonus of clean water for my boy to take a dip. After Waze-ing the drive, we were off.

The ride was pleasant with hints of fall’s shades of orange and red just starting to make a splash in the foliage. I don’t drive out that way very often and am uncertain what surprised me more – how very crowded Indian Ladder Farms is or the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to increase the speed limit to 55 mph just before this way-too-popular place is visible. Someone really should re-examine that decision.

After another few minutes and a series of turns we were past any apple picking crowds and parked in a small lot that contained only one other vehicle. We was in the country! Leashed and ready, Jeter bounded out of the wagon and I signed us in at the nearby trailhead and off we went, following the white trail across the field and into the woods.

Our path was well marked with the occasional mild incline. Once we were about 10 minutes up the trail, the sound of cars faded and we were alone with only the birds and the occasional tiny toad for company. As far as humans, we only encountered one family on our walk. giving me the sense that I had traveled far further than a mere 15 miles.

Eventually we found our way to a gentle stream, aka Kill, which Jeter happily stepped into for what may have been his last swim of the year. As promised, the water was pristine.

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Filed under beauty, Exercise, family, Hiking, ideas, Local, Recommendations, road trips, sunday, upstate New York

Eternal life and other things I brought back from Greece

My relationship with souvenirs is complicated. I find it easy to buy things for friends when I’m traveling, but have grown into a person who doesn’t want to bring another thing into my home unless it serves a practical purpose. With a couple of exceptions, that is.

Here’s what I brought home from my most recent trip:

A miniature Parthenon for our family collection.

A bag of oregano to add to Greek salads and anything else as the mood strikes.

A couple of key chains and a bracelet for my son because I love the power of the evil eye symbol.

A jar of orange marmalade for my morning toast.

Some pretty stones and small pieces of marble I picked up while walking. They were warm from the sun and I thought I might give them to friends who might appreciate their beauty and need evidence that one never knows where they might end up. I mean, those rocks probably never imagined they’d make it to upstate New York one day!

Refrigerator magnets as gifts.

Vivid memories and hundreds of pictures.

And, about that whole eternal life thing…On our final night in Athens, G and I walked the Plaka and I noticed a copper necklace with a medallion bearing an intricate design. As I admired it, the vendor shared that it was a symbol for eternal life. My son told her I was buying it, even without the added origin story. He was right.

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Filed under Europe, favorites, Greece, ideas, Observations, Summer, travel