Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Marking an end...

Hibiscus Punch – yields 8 cups
1-cup dried hibiscus flowers
1 Mandarin orange – broken up
1-inch piece fresh ginger – thinly sliced
12 whole allspice berries
6 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
¼-cup honey or agave

Bring 8-cups of water to a boil in a 2½-quart saucepan.

Remove the pan from the flame and add all the ingredients. Allow all the ingredients steep for about 45 to 60 minutes. Strain the punch through a sieve.

Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Naughty or nice

 I want to be naughty!  But, really what does it serve? I doubt the women in front of me at the market will find her wallet any faster, oblivious to the fact that line winds down aisle 8, as I give her the evil-eye. The un-orchestrated flow of pedestrians and motorists looping across a shopping mall parking lot is a flip-of-the-bird and merry Christmas from both parties. Then the dreaded dinner you have to attend, as the obligatory plus one that your are, when really all you wanted to do is stay home and watch the Survivor Finale.

There are moments in this frenzied time of year when you are given pause. How touched you are by a handful of change that is getting passed along from customer to customer. Not that anyone was in need; a kind recognition that the strangers around us are not so strange.  And the most warming spot this time of year is the post office. A queue that on first impression guarantees to be over an hour and a muffled, shit, slips from your mouth, but everyone’s arms are hugging envelopes and boxes stuffed with words and expressions of appreciation and love.

It just really seems impossible to be naughty no matter how much I just want to order in Chinese, binge on Orange Is The New Black and not answer a single text. Nothing about this time of year resonates for me on a spiritual or religious level – we were absolutely forbidden to have a Hanukkah bush.  However, message of joy has a way of seeping in and you just have to smile at the madness. Eateries and homes sing with clanking silverware and a cacophony of conversations fill the room. Finally, Christmas morning stillness when all is eerily quite and peaceful, until the next day when everyone is wound up returning gifts.

Naughty Nut Squares – yields 30 pieces
4-ounces unsalted butter – melted
1¼-cup ground almonds
1-tablespoon all-purpose flour
1⅓-cup unsweetened shredded coconut
6-ounces white chocolate – roughly chopped
½-cup chopped macadamia nuts
½-cup chopped pistachio nuts
1-can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.

Pour the butter into an 8-1/2 inch by 8-1/2 inch pan.

Mix the ground almond and flour together, and then sprinkle over the butter.
Then distribute the coconut over the almond mixture. Then scatter the nuts and white chocolate over the coconut. Finally drizzle the sweetened condensed over the nuts. Do not mix the concoction.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack, and cool completely.

 Cut into approx. ½-inch squares.

Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis the season to …..

We are being pressed to secure all those gifts with the starting gun firing even before the leftovers have cooled with the pathetic frenzy of Black Friday and anonymous click through of Cyber Monday. This is no longer the season celebrating the birth of a messenger of love, but loving what is hidden within tissue paper stuffed, bow adorned box.  Receiving pretty, shiny objects are great, just not sure I trust it as a measure of how much one is loved.

Personally, I will admit to never really loving getting gifts, perhaps it is a reflection of my insecurities coupled with my love of control. I have gotten better at saying, how wonderful, thank you. It is the gift of ritual, and a shared life that cannot get parceled and shipped overnight express, which really brings me to my knees with gratitude.

I am a few years into my marriage and this time of year prompts me to reflect on the copious amount of gifts I have already received: my marriage is recognized by family, friends and the IRS; a honey-do list is generated every weekend as we personalize the new homestead, and sweet treats are plated as reward for work well done. There is an agreed perspective that we have what we need, and as for want --- it is gotten with reason. Our dining table is where gifts are laid out. Birthdays produce slices of moist, gooey-coated carrot cake; Sunday nights is for wings and Christmas, well for my Swedish husband, gravlax must be made. Participating in these traditions is the best gift of any season.

Gravlax – yields approx. 10 servings
2-pounds salmon fillet (skin still attached)
¼-cup kosher salt
¼-cup sugar
1-teaspoon minced lemon zest
1-teaspoon ground coriander seed
1-packed cup dill (stems and leaves)

Cut the salmon fillet into 2 pieces of equal length.

In a small work bowl mix the salt, sugar, lemon zest and coriander to fully combine.

In an 8-inch long glass or ceramic dish lay a quarter the dill down, and place a fillet skin side down. Sprinkle half the salt mixture over the fillet and another quarter of the dill. Sprinkle the other salmon fillet with the remaining salt mixture, and carefully place on top of the salmon in the dish, skin side up. Distribute the remaining dill over the salmon. Cover with plastic wrap, and put a 6-inch sauté on top of the covered salmon. Put in the refrigerator, and after 24-hours remove the sauté pan. Flip the salmon and return to the refrigerator. Refrigerate for another 24 to 48 hours. Every 12 hours spoon the liquid that collects in the bottom of the dish over the salmon.

After 2 to 3 days remove the salmon, and discard the dill. Carefully slice the salmon vert thinly from the skin. Serve with Dill Mustard or Sour Cream.