Tired, I’m slow waking up, slow getting up, slow moving all day as a slow freeze sinks in. I bake a pumpkin pie from our last fresh pumpkin, and I put a little cinnamon in the crust. As darkness falls, also slowly, snow flakes fall. They swirl over the streets like steam over a hot plate of food — premonitions of Thanksgiving.
Crusty bread, slathered in butter,
topped with a thick slice of smelly Swiss cheese.
I remember my Onkel Polde,
and how he and my Tante Gerda would make sandwiches for us. I
could never understand why they used so much butter.
But now I put a little on, and I want more. I add more,
and I still need more, until finally it’s perfect, just
like he used to make it, and I eat it with relish in his honor.
Up again in the dark (easy this time of year). I get the paper and look up to a lemon-wedge moon — not a “Harvest Moon” or a “Hunter’s Moon,” but a “Lemon-Wedge Moon” — juicy, tart and a little bit silly. After that it’s hard not to greet the day with a smile.
Later lemons find their way into our lunch in a delicious, vegetarian version of mulligatawny soup.
Roma tomatoes fresh from the garden
Tomatoes contain our entire summer, from the earliest days, still cool, still fearing frost; through heat, and fears of too much rain, or not enough; through storms and hail and advancing weeds.
They grew in our own backyard, sharing our lives, breathing the same air, basking in the same warmth and light. A part of our lives is in them, in their red glow, their juicy flesh, in the seeds we save for seasons yet to come.
We can savor the summer later in tomato sauces – a comfort in winter, to be sure – but nothing’s better than tasting it now, deeply, before it’s gone.
It’s been a hard summer, I won’t deny it.
A generous, wet spring raised my hopes, but since then it’s been dry, and then hot, and then even hotter, and my garden, my soil, my spirit grew harder, less forgiving, looking inward to dwindling reserves of patience, of hope, of water.
But a good soaking rain this week has revived me a little. We go out, and for the first time in a long time, I treat myself to an ice cream cone. Not just any cone, but my favorite ice cream, in my favorite cone, from my favorite ice cream store… raspberry chocolate chip, in a handmade chocolate-dipped cone, from Sebastian Joe’s.
That particular combination of ice cream and cone has been my friend for almost 20 years now, and it was great to renew our friendship – the perfect sweet tang of raspberries at their peak, a sprinkling (not too much) of dark chocolate, licked from a cone, melting directly over my taste buds on a warm, sunny, summer day…
I forget whatever else was on my list to do, lose all my ambition and am happy again, and that’s all that matters.
p.s. I found the recipe online – next year I will make it myself with our own raspberries.
Update: That night it rained again – more hope, and no mowing for another day – so more happiness, too :-).
A Five-Course Feast:
Apple, curry, butternut bisque;
Blue – Maytag blue – green salad;
Mellow roasted red peppers baked into spinach pie.
And at the last, the best cake,
golden yellow, with almonds and apricots and
buttercream that melts into your tongue.
I’m helping Jenny make a spectacular cake. Today we made the
frosting: real buttercream: a pound of butter, a cup of
sugar, 8 egg yolks, and dashes of vanilla and rum. I’ve never
tasted anything so creamy, delicate and lemon-yellow delicious.
Spinach Pie. This is the recipe I’ve made time and again on special
occasions. It came long ago from a restaurant called Georgio’s, when it was
just a hole-in-the-wall on Hennepin Avenue, two blocks from my apartment
in South Minneapolis.
It’s a magnificent blend of delicate flavors: deep
green spinach, caramelized onions, garlic, smoky roasted
red peppers, white wine, a hint of cheese and a slight
sweetness to the crust. And it’s easy to make special with
decoration on top.
1 7/8 cups flour
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 pound salted butter
1 lightly beaten egg
1/4 cup ice water
2 red bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds fresh spinach
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup white wine
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
6 slices Swiss cheese
egg wash (1 egg and 1 tablespoon soy milk, beaten together)
Combine the flour and sugar. Cut butter into the mixture until it
looks like coarse meal, but not batter. (I just “mush” the butter
into the flour between my fingers until I get the same result).
Add the beaten eggs and mix. Beat in the ice water a little at a
time. Using your hands, press it into a ball, wrap it in plastic
and refrigerate for an hour.
While the crust chills, coat the red bell peppers with olive oil
and roast. Originally, the recipe called for roasting in the oven
for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, then removing them from the oven and
placing them in a brown paper bag for another 30 minutes. If you
have a gas stove, you can just roast them over the burners until
their skin turns black.
Once the peppers have been roasted, peel the skin and remove the
seeds. Quarter them length-wise.
Clean the spinach and leave it wet. Using the 3 tablespoons of
cooking oil in a large skillet, sauté the onions and garlic
over medium heat. Cook the onions slowly until they turn a caramel
color. Add the white wine, heat, and stir for a minute. Add the
spinach and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the
spinach wilts. Stir so the vegetables don’t stick to the pan. Drain.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Cut the dough in half;
return half to the refrigerator. Sprinkle the dough and counter
lightly with flour and roll out the dough with a rolling pin. When
it is no thicker than 1/8 inch, place it in a 9-inch pie tin. Let
the excess dough hang over the sides.
Spread the spinach, garlic and onion mixture on the bottom of
the pie. Spread the Swiss cheese evenly over the spinach, and the
pepper slices atop the cheese.
Trim the excess from the bottom pie crust. Roll out the other half
of the dough. Cut a circle slightly larger than the top of the pie
tin and place it over the filling. Tuck the excess under the edge
of the bottom crust. Seal and flute the dough edge, pressing it
between your fingers.
Brush the top of the pie with egg wash. Bake at 400 degrees for
40 to 45 minutes, covering the edges with foil after 20 minutes to
prevent excess browning. Serves 6 to 8.
Good soup: Chard and Lentil Soup with Fall Vegetables, from Organic Gardening.
I used extra carrots and parsnips, a can of diced tomatoes instead
of the ripe tomato the recipe calls for, and the green lentils
took too long to turn tender, but the end result was very good –
a delicate flavor, a little sweet from the carrots, and very filling.
I’ll make it again.
What to do on a snowy afternoon? Bake cookies – lots of cookies. And then
eat them, one by one.