little things

At not-quite-the-end of a long week of work and deadlines, The Fella came home from work around midnight and sat down with a blank look on his face, getting ready to write the weekly newsletter.

“You look a little beat, hon,” I said. “Did you have dinner?”

“Not really.”

It took me all of three minutes to whip up something simple for him to eat. As I gave him the plate and a beer, The Fella took my hand and quietly, earnestly said, “Thank you. Thank you for marrying me.”

Today is our second anniversary, and The Fella’s hatched some secret plans. (Nothing big, he assures me. Just secret.) The first item on the agenda: he got me an enormous coffee. Number two on the agenda: he’s doing laundry.

This guy gets me.

* [The Fella, don't hover over the links!] update Now that I’ve given The Fella his gift, I can describe it here. We’re going to have a mid-year variation on our Valentine’s day tradition of staying in with cheesy horror movies and pizza.

For the cotton anniversary, I gave The Fella the abominable-looking Lady Frankenstein, starring Joseph Cotten. Yeah.

Because it’s too hot to heat the oven, I’ll be picking up fantastic take-out pizza from Otto.

Wait for it… cotton.

I toyed with plenty of other gift ideas. For example, I thought about getting a really luxurious set of sheets, which we kinda need. Or towels, ditto. But I dismissed those as gifts for me, not for The Fella.

What did The Fella give me? A really luxurious set of sheets. And a really luxurious towel. Did I mention: this guy gets me.

“Jehosephat, it’s Christmas!”

Christmas came early ’round these parts!

A few weeks ago, I discovered The Alchemist’s Blog, where Alchemy Gen writes about food and its attendant issues with real thoughtfulness and verve. When I came to her entry asking for tips and tricks on hosting a cookie exchange, of course I waded right in, because who doesn’t like to give advice? Especially advice that lingers lovingly on sweet, sweet cookies and holiday fun?

And that brings us to the early Christmas: today, Alchemy Gen emailed to notify me that she’d be sending me a sweet cookie-making kit, complete with moveable type for embossing personalized slogans. I couldn’t be more tickled! I know for sure: next Christmas, I’ll honor family jokes..

[Note: Uncharacteristically salty language ahead!]
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small triumphs

Sometimes little successes feel big. I think there’s value in celebrating these small triumphs, remind ourselves that we did well at something, even something small.

So, a few small success stories:

I tempered chocolate! After reading several guides to tempering chocolate, each more confusing than the last (a heating pad? really, Alton?), I shrugged, gathered my tools, and took a whack at it. Hey, presto — glossy, shiny, well-tempered chocolate that doesn’t smear or smudge. I felt so accomplished!

I finished my (admittedly modest) Christmas shopping (though there’s lots of making and baking left to do), and I did all my gift shopping with local vendors. Thank you, independent booksellers, movie, and music shops!

I gathered some wrapped gifts to take to the post office, and announced to the room, “Now I just need a box exactly this big and I’m all set!” And then I rummaged around our seemingly box-free home, and I found one. Eerie!

agrodolce

Some time ago, my mother lamented the depletion of her jar of sweet-sour cippolini, which she’d brought back from a trip to (Italy? Slovenia? somewhere). After scouring the local shops of my small city to no avail, I took a critical tasting and a casual (and no-doubt inaccurate) translation from the original jar and thought “Gee, I wonder if I can make these?”
Turns out I can, and so can you.

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expectations

A snippet of phone conversation to illustrate Christmas giftgiving in my family:

Gaoo: Well, it’s kind of a spoiler, but I thought you might like this present before Christmas… I bought you a tin of yeast*.
Elsa: Did you? YAY!

*It’s the enormous catering-sized packet of yeast, bigger and cheaper and inexplicably better than I can buy at my grocery. It’s a great present that Gaoo gives me every so often, and one that routinely baffles friends if I mention it.

onion-garlic jam

Inspired by Ximena and redfox, I started making batches of onion-garlic jam.

Whoo doggies, this is good stuff, miles better than the onion jam I used to buy, and once you’ve sliced all the onions, it can be knocked off on any evening you’re staying in. Just wander by the pan once in a while to add ingredients and stir, and otherwise let it bubble away happily until it’s time to scoop it into little glass pots. We’ll get to the recipe in a minute; first, let me tell you why you want to make this at the first opportunity.

Onion-garlic jam makes a simple and sexy last-minute cocktail snack: alongside a stack of crackers on a pretty plate, pair a big glob of onion-garlic jam with a generous blob of softened cream cheese or yogurt cheese.

Smear schmear a cracker with cream cheese, then top it with jam. Each bite is a little sensory overload: creamy, crispy, buttery, tangy, pungent, and sweet. Goat cheese and homemade crackers doll this up for your uptown friends, but truthfully, cream cheese and Ritz suit onion-garlic jam just fine. Onion-garlic jam isn’t snooty like some hors d’oeuvres we could mention. Onion-garlic jam also makes a fine addition to sandwiches: tomato and avocado; cheese (grilled or otherwise); cream cheese with anything; grilled vegetables and bean spread.

Biscuits or popovers with this suave, tangy jam will smarten up one of our favorite winter suppers: potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots tossed lightly in olive oil, dusted with salt, pepper, and chili powder, then roasted until they’re soft in the center, caramelized around the edges. A pot of onion-garlic jam and a dish of goat cheese alongside a basket of hot, flaky biscuits would make me happy to serve this menu to guests.

For meat-eaters, its complexity is just the thing to complement the salty smack of ham, or to punch up chicken or turkey. As a relish alongside a grilled chicken breast or a lamb chop, onion-garlic jam elevates an after-work dinner into something a bit special.

As redfox points out, it’s a marvelous addition to scrambled eggs. I imagine it would make a superlative omelette filling, or as addition to, say, mushroom crepes.

As the latest batch bubbles away, wafting its irresistable savor through the apartment, I’m planning to try:
– mashed sweet potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, and a sliver of butter, topped with a blob of onion-garlic jam. I dread the gussied-up sweet potato monstrosities that haunt so many holiday tables, with their brown sugar and citrus or marshmallow, and always drenched with butter. To my palate, sweet potatoes pack so much flavor and such a luxurious mouthfeel that they’re best when treated simply. But this might be a fine compromise: a bit sweet, a bit sharp, a rich flavor that doesn’t obscure the flavor of the sweet potatoes themselves.
– baked potatoes with sour cream and onion-garlic jam.
– potato pancakes topped with onion-garlic jam.
– frittata a la anything at all topped with onion-garlic jam.

Now, who wants to give me a recipe for hot pepper jelly?

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