Saturday, May 28, 2011

Antiquing and Gnudi ...

I never thought I would start off a post this way but here I am:  

I am lacking lyrical inspiration today.

There. I said it (insert thoughts in head here going: you really think you should be saying this? I mean you write, it's "out loud" you know...). Well dear readers, I am throwing caution to the wind, upon your kind, forgiving souls, and hoping you do not judge me for taking a linguistic nap. Now, that said, kind, forgiving souls (aka you dear readers) just because I can't quite feel the words this week does not mean that I cannot antique and make gorgeous darling dish of spring Gnudi

Antiquing and Gnudi were the tasks on hand the last few rainy (what else) days. 

Confession: I have a slight obsession with ancient English farm tableware. And mature miniature curvy glass containers. With bubbles. And oldish (it's a real word!) mismatched (curvy) silverware. And depression era cups. Okay, so the list could go on ...End confession.

The perfect storm of gray somber rainy days, said obsession and the unfair (or quite fair, depending on the day) proximity of myriad antique shops within steps of home, culminated in obsession slightly placated and some neat, curvy vessels for gorgeous darling dish of spring Gnudi. So, if you will indulge me, I am going to show you bought little bundles and Gnudi.

Little bundles...

Beautiful, thick, crackly, curvy, soap bowl ...19th century...
Teeny, tiny, curvy, cream china ...
The coolest spoon ever ...
A really unique old English farm soup bowl who's exquisiteness I just could not capture on film not matter how many times I tried for today's purpose. I tried many. It became a casualty of editing.

Teeny, tiny curvy glass wear spoon for scale ...

Now, the Gnudi. Gnudi, literally "nude" are (are you ready for this?) raviolis without their pasta clothes on. Yup. You will be eating naked, luscious Gnudi glistening with butter and kissed with fragrant sage and floral basil.

It seems I found some words.

Time to dish.

Gorgeous darling dish of spring Gnudi

Gnudi ...what more can I say ...

Here is what you need:
  • Ricotta - 400 grams of the one that was freshly made from your nearest Italian store (or old lady).
  • Feta - just enough to taste and creamy and Bulgarian of course
  • Spinach - 3 bunches, preferably dirty from the ground.
  • Eggs - 1 whole and 2 yolks (remember, happy hens please).
  • Parmesan - 1 curvy tablespoon (finely grated) for the recipe and tons for you (shaved).
  • 1/4 cup of flour plus a little extra for dusting.
  • Butter - lots, of course.
  • Sage and Basil - from your garden?

Here is what to do:

  1. Make sure your ricotta is dry by placing it over a bowl, in a cheesecloth to drain overnight. 
  2. Blanch your spinach in boiling, salted water for five seconds then drain and squeeze out any water and finely chop.Now, in your nicest bowl (why not?!) combine the drained ricotta, creamy feta, the whole egg, the egg yolks, flour and your nutmeg. Sea salt & cracked pepper go in, along with the spinach. Now that everybody is happy in the bowl, gingerly fold everything together until just mixed. I like to use my hands.
  3. Place in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes so the mixture slightly comes together. Then, take out and roll into tiny meatball sized balls. Or whatever size your little hearts desire.Once done, back in the fridge they go for about an hour.
  4. In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and then reduce the heat until the water comes to a simmer.
  5. Careful attention here, please: Ready? Out comes the cold Gnudi. In goes the extra flour into a bowl. In go the cold Gnudi for a quick dusting and shaking off. Out come the Gnudi and in they go directly into the simmering water. Work in batches so that you do not overcrowd the little bundles of goodness.They are ready when they float to the top, between two to four minutes.
  6. In the meantime, brown some (a lot) of butter (if you don't know how, e-mail me, I'll tell you), add the herbs (they will be crisp in about a minute) and drizzle everything all over the Gnudi.
  7. Then, shave all your Parmesan on, as much as you like, take a bite, and close your eyes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Contemplation and salad ...

To state the very obvious, rain is everywhere these days people. Everywhere. You turn your head or ear in any direction and it's, well, rainy, gray, misty, gusty, blustery, floody (I know it's not a real word but I like it) especially floody (wanted to use it again). Here in my current hometown of Quebec it's also floody. Especially along the Richelieu river. I mean farmers are finding Carp swimming in their fields for heaven's sake. It is an uncertain time. When I see pictures like this, it hits pretty close to home. I worry about the crops. I worry about the farmers and I worry about their land.

Pictures like this ...

So, while all this floody (getting used to it, aren't you...) business is going on around me, I sit quietly and remember that I love the rain. The French have a saying (of course) for the feeling that a somber, gray, rainy day brings about. They call it la tristesse

La tristesse.

La tristesse visits me on these days dear readers but I have another perception of it. I find peace; a quiet beauty in the softness and stillness of a rainy day.

La vie est belle sous la pluie.

I love to be out in the middle of all that tristesse. To ride my bicycle to the empty markets, sporting sunglasses (I like the view from the cool way droplets accumulate on them) and grinning while my face gets all misty from the humidity in the air (and the rain). To be out in our front garden and watch the drops of rain gather on the leaves of our flowers. And at home, to snuggle under my blanket and watch movies (and eating way too much popcorn for my own good) while I look outside and listen to the rain.

The changing of seasons has always been a contemplative time for me. I tend go into myself for a little while. In the springtime, I contemplate seeds and life. Awakenings and beginnings. I watch all around me as life bursts out of every empty branch. All of a sudden, grounds that have been barren and frozen for the last seven months are spilling over with flowers and greens ready for their time of warmth and beauty. I watch the audacity of weeds breaking concrete to reach the sun.

I garden and plant seeds, alone, marvelling each time at their complicated perfection. This tiny little living thing just knows what to do.

I think about me and the plants. Me and the dirt. Me and the food. The beauty and fleetingness of it all. I am grateful and a little triste.

I also contemplate salad.

"Sorry?" you say? "Salad contemplating?" you ask? Uhhhh, yeah! You mean you've never contemplated salad? Come on people. It's pretty neat. My salad contemplation revolves around some very special wild salad greens that I look forward to every spring. The ones where each leaf is different, where flower buds are included and you get really cool splotchy leaves that taste like melon. I think of how they grow and how awesome it is that we can still eat wild foods.

They are hand gathered every year (by Francois) purchased every year (by very happy me) then delicately dressed and thoroughly enjoyed.

Time to dish.

Wild handpicked mesclun greens with peppery Greek olive oil & sharp goats cheese.

Glorious ...

Here is what you need:

- A bunch of handpicked wild mesculn greens (if you can't find them just use any other delicate, yummy green you like).
- Peppery Greek (or your prefered) extra virgin olive oil.
- Lime juice.
- Your goat cheese of choice (preferably with rind and broiled in the oven unitl slightly melty - I know it's not a word, but I like it).

Here is what to do:

1. Be very gentle with your greens because they are delicate. Drizzle them gingerly the olive oil. Splash a little lime juice over the top. Mix them gently with your hands. Place lucious goat's cheese on the side, slightly balanced and enjoy dear readers. Contemplate and enjoy.

Some other wild, handpicked, yummy stuff Francois has to offer...

Tetes de violon ...aka Fiddleheads ...

Morels and other hand gathered, crazy wild mushrooms ...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The pockets of stillness ...

There I was, waiting to get out. Like a kid with my rain boots on, buggy in hand, scarf on head (I felt very Garbo) staring through the window at the beautiful rainy day outside. It was going to be my first trip to the market this season. I love rainy day market trips. Listening to the patter of raindrops on all kinds of surfaces, the other sounds of life on a wet day. Life sounds different in the rain.

Pitter patter on the way to the market ...

I love the smell of earth in the air. The contrasts of color between the soft gray of light and the bright greens and orange and fuchsia of  grass and flowers that have sprung from their tiny little buds makes me feel like I'm home. All is right.

I also love the silence. The pockets of stillness. Less people are out on rainy days.

That said, the poetry of it all kind of came to bite me in the foot. Here is why. No one goes to outdoor markets on rainy days. Except me. So what do I find dear readers as I scowered the stalls for my well loved purveyors you ask?

I find this:

My beloved small organic farmstand ... empty ...
My beloved butter and milk stand ... empty ...

My tiny beloved ewe's cheese and milk and sweetgrass and wool sock and everything else lovely... empty ...

My wild garden stand ... empty ...

But with promises of what's to come ...nevertheless ...empty...

And finally, just as I was about to give up and go soothe my sorrows with a steamy dark hot chocolate (with cream please) I found eggs. Lots of eggs. From chickens and geese and quails and turkeys that run around in a field and people that run around to collect the eggs right in the fields where they were layed. Genius uh?

Lots of eggs above ...

Big ones. These would be goose eggs.

The little one is an egg from a hen ...

Spotted ones. These would be Turkey eggs. Cool huh. Turkey.

I also found Stephen. Wait until I tell you about him.