I’ve been working on quite a baking project. It took months of effort, and the result weighed in at a whopping seven pounds, nine ounces. I think the finished dish is pretty photogenic though, what do you think?
Meet William. Aka Roo, Squeaker Jones, Minikin, Mr. Man and Silent Bill. So far, much to his big sister’s disappointment, he doesn’t do much, but Boy is a champion eater, which pleases his mama.
Not doing a ton of cooking right now, but I hope to be back in the kitchen soon.
I will admit the traffic sucks. And the home prices are insane. And yes, we have earthquakes. And fires. And floods. But I can’t escape the feeling that living in Southern California is like having won the lottery. With the fruits and flowers, the birds and the animals – I do believe that it’s not too far from living in the Garden of Eden. And this month’s bounty has been loquats.
If you don’t have a backyard tree, you may never have had a loquat. They’re a fruit that’s related to the quince and the apple (both of which we’ve planted in our yard) that originated in China. They are small ( about the size of a large walnut), orange, and juicy, with large (but very pretty) seeds. And when your loquat tree is bearing, you have a wealth of loquats. (If you can beat the squirrels to them.)
It’s rare to see loquats in the market — the bruise extraordinarily easily – but if you’re lucky enough to have a tree (or a neighbor with a tree, or a friend with a tree) they’re also extraordinarily easy to grow. The flavor isn’t remarkable but is nice — a good balance of sweetness and acidity with a lot of juice. They’re easy to peel (although the peels are also edible) and although the ratio of fruit to pit is lower than the ideal, the pits are easy to remove. They’re good for eating out of hand, or if you have some patience to peel and pit, it’s worth cooking with them too.
When faced with a bounty of loquats, I turned for ideas to my friend Erika Penzer Kerekes of In Erika’s Kitchen, who is a loquat queen. She advised jam, but also said she had made a very good loquat crisp recently. I wasn’t up for canning, but the following crumble was short work (if less than perfectly photogenic) and really showed off the flavor balance and juiciness of this great backyard treasure.
Continue reading From my Garden: Loquats, and a Loquat Crumble Recipe
The Nuni as a baby
So guess what I’m doing today? I’m off having a baby! I’ve set the camera to auto, so hopefully I’ll be back soon with pictures, but in the meantime, I wanted to leave you with a guest post by my wise and wonderful friend from law school Cat. Cat has shiny hair to rival Kate Middleton’s (maybe it goes with the name) and is a fantastic writer. She still considers herself a novice cook, but wanted to tell you about her cooking inspiration, and I thought today of all days this would be appropriate!
Cooking for Baby
Catherine Cugell Rombeau
When Kate graciously invited me to guest-blog here on Savour Fare, I pitched myself as an outside voice: someone who doesn’t cook, posting on a cooking blog! Oh, the anarchy of it all. But what else did I have? I am not a good cook. I salivate over the food porn on here as often as anyone, but at the end of the day, I end up setting the water to boil for Annie’s Organic. And I am a fearful cook, which may be the worst kind. I measure obsessively, am afraid to substitute, and have an unfortunate tendency to pull things out of the oven just a little too early. Once in a while I will venture into slow-cooker land, but I have to be feeling particularly girded.
When I got pregnant, I did consider that my current culinary acumen wouldn’t manage to keep our child alive once she joined us on the outside. But I figured I had plenty of time before she needed real food. And didn’t reading food blogs count as preparation? Turns out, though, that many folks feel very strongly that unless you scrub, peel, steam and puree every morsel that goes into your beloved babe’s mouth, you are one sorry excuse for a parent. I have a knee-jerk reaction to this sort of dogma; it makes me want to push Ellie’s stroller right up to the McDonald’s drive-through already. I was determined to dig in my heels: my daughter wasn’t going to miss out on any life-altering culinary experiences just because I didn’t mash up her yams myself.
And yet, somehow, I’ve ended up making all of Ellie’s baby food after all. I know it doesn’t actually count as real cooking, but I’m still sort of astounded by my enthusiasm for it. To the great skepticism of my husband, I went and bought one of those baby food processors to steam and puree all of Ellie’s fruits and vegetables in one easy little machine. And I actually use it! All the time! Unlike, say, the mixer taking up space on our kitchen counter, or the bread maker hiding in our basement (what can I say, my husband did our wedding registry). I’m not sure why–so I can claim the moral high ground? Save money on store-bought options? Conserve time by freezing trays worth of food at once? Use up leftovers? Maybe all of those hold some truth (bananas going bad? Smoosh them up for Ellie, she won’t know any better!). But I think in some small way, making Ellie’s food myself has allowed me to connect with her and with the safest edges of cooking, without feeling so afraid.
My parents didn’t cook much for us. Anyone remember Steak-Ums? Staple of my childhood diet. I often feel at sea in the kitchen, without instinct or experience telling me how long to bake or how much spice to use (note to self–do not double cayenne pepper just because you are doubling the rest of a jambalaya recipe). But it’s nearly impossible to screw up pureeing peas. And when I feed them to Ellie, and she smacks her lips in appreciation, I think: I did this! I made something that fills my daughter! I can take care of her! Somehow it gives me hope that I can come up with 18 years’ worth of meals for her that don’t necessarily consist of Velveeta Shells & Cheese (well, not every night anyway), and that Ellie will be more excited to try new and unconventional foods than I ever was. Perhaps she will not be 24 years old and have to move to Manhattan before she tries sushi, for instance. And maybe one day we will cook together. Today, steamed and blended broccoli, tomorrow, mother-daughter dinner parties for 12! Or maybe I’ll settle for baking her a first birthday cake that doesn’t collapse in the middle. Baby steps.
Despite what my husband thinks, I do try to avoid foodie preciousness. I’m short on time, like everyone else, and I make liberal use of shortcuts in my cooking. I get that premade ingredients make cooking easier and more accessible. But there are some things that making from scratch is such a deeply ingrained habit that I wouldn’t think of buying them premade. For example: I never buy bottled salad dressing.
Salad dressing may not seem like a hill to die on, but homemade is so simple (once you know how), and it tastes so much cleaner. It’s free of the gums and sugars and preservatives you get in even high-end bottled dressing. And it’s pretty infinitely variable.
Making salad dressing has become like breathing to me, but as I’ve been trying to put my feet up lately and assigning the salad making task to the husband, I realized that it’s not universal knowledge. The key is knowing what ingredients to use and what ratio to use them in.
I didn’t always grow up on homemade dressing. Sure, my mom always made Caesar from scratch, and my dad was a dab hand with blue cheese, but I remember a parade of bottles of Italian dressing marching through my childhood. Then balsamic vinegar came on the scene, and we started to dress salads with oil and vinegar. But it never had the feeling of “salad dressing.” I remember sitting at a little cafe in the South of France one summer when I was in high school, and wondering why my oil and vinegar dressing wasn’t like the perfect vinaigrette you find on every green salad in France.
And then I discovered the secret.
Continue reading Back to Basics: Homemade Salad Dressing
I’ve been watching bemusedly as the latest “battle” in the “mommy wars” has exploded over the internet. First, it was a controversial statement by a French sociologist that attachment parenting is anti-feminist. (For those not up on their parenting terminology, “attachment parenting” is a term coined by Dr. Sears and is characterized by parents or caregivers creating an attached relationship with their children. Some practices that are typically considered “AP” include breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding (after age 1), babywearing (carrying baby in a sling or carrier instead of a stroller), cosleeping (a family bed), feeding on demand, responding to a child’s nighttime cries instead of “crying it out”), and other practices that aren’t necessarily AP as Dr. Sears defines it but are often practiced by parents who practice other AP practices, including elimination communication (early toilet training by following a baby’s cues instead of diapering), unmedicated childbirth, vaccine avoidance or delay, cloth diapering, homeschooling, unschooling, etc.) This was picked up by the New York Times in a ludicrous “Room for Debate” feature in which various “experts” (note to the NYT – just because someone writes a blog called “PhD in Parenting” does not mean that she has, in fact, a PhD in parenting) weighed in, mostly with arguments as nuanced as “Attachment Parenting is best!” “Attachment parenting is pointless!” or my favorite “Feminism is bad!” (Thanks, NYT. I feel so educated.) Then Time Magazine joined the fray with this provocative cover and the even more provocative headline “Are you Mom Enough?”
The argument is that a) on the one hand, the principles of attachment parenting cause Mothers (and don’t get me started on where fathers are in this whole debate) to subjugate themselves to the whims of their children and lose everything in the process. Breastfeed? You can’t work. Cosleep? You’ll NEVER HAVE SEX AGAIN. Babywearing? YOU WILL NEVER BE FREE OF THE MONSTERS. On the other side, Mothers (again) should follow the principles of attachment parenting because it’s best for the delicate psyches of their children, and Mothers (again) should recognize that mothering is their most important job and putting their child’s needs comes before all else in a Mother’s world.
I am here to tell you that attachment parenting is not that far outside the norm. It does not automatically create a choice between the child’s happiness and the mother’s. I know this, because by many measures, I am an attachment parent. The dirty little secret that the media isn’t telling you is that most mothers are attachment parents to some degree or another. It’s not an all or nothing proposition. Parents adopt the parenting strategies that work for their families. And the other dirty little secret is this: nobody really cares what you do with your family. When it comes to surviving and thriving as parents, there are no “mommy wars.” We’re all just trying to get along and raise our kids the best way we can.
Continue reading The Attachment Parenting and Breastfeeding “Controversy”