Food, Love and the Love of Food

Girls Night Out

A friend called yesterday, and she  had her feet knocked out from underneath her.  We have all, including myself had bad days or weeks.  Many people have called this the “wolf”.  The “wolf” that sniffs at everyone’s door and comes in with different forms.  It may be in the form of losing your retirement that you have worked so hard for 50 years, it may be that your air-conditioner has stopped working and it is 98 degrees (feels like 110 degrees with humidity) and no cash or credit to fix it.  Sarah Ban Breathnach coined it beautifully in her book, Simple Abundance.   Sarah wrote about M.F.K. Fisher and how she kept her “wolves at bay”.  She says  “Poverty is always experienced in the soul before it is felt in the pocketbook.”

We all want it~ a full belly, a heart overflowing with love.  Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, a wonderful food writer who lived during the depression said it best.

It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.

― M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition

How many times have we been around a table, and the memory of it fills our soul?  The ritual of  “breaking bread” with our loved ones is such a soul lifting experience.  Afterwards, full from eating, we linger at the table because the company is so wonderful and we want to continue the conversation and laughter.

When friends come over, it is such a pleasure for me to make a wonderful meal for them to show my love to them but I also get to share in conversation to solve our small but very important life problems.  The combination of food, wine, and deep belly laughs are all I really need to persevere through a really difficult week.

This action need not be expensive.  This recipe of Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Linguine isn’t expensive at all and is not difficult to make.  During the summer, taking a walk to your local farmers market if it is close by will only add in the wonderful experience of the preperation.

Surrounding myself  around those I love with a great, but simple meal is exactly what I needed this last week to remind myself of how much I am loved.  I encourage you to do the same.  As Sarah and M.F.K said, “rely on your own innate sense of what you must do with the resources you have to keep the wolf from sniffing too hungrily through the keyhole.”

 

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Linguine

Ingredients

2 Pounds Organic Tomatoes, diced (if they are not in season, use cherry tomatoes cut in half)

2 12 ounce container of Ciliegine Mozzarella (fresh bite size mozzarella)

1 cup fresh basil leaves chiffonade

3 cloves garlic finely minced

1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2  teaspoon pepper

1 Pound Linguine

Directions

In a large bowl, combine, the tomato, basil, mozzarella, garlic and oil.  While that sits, heat your water for the pasta and cook your linguine as the directions say on the package (usually 7-8 minutes).  When pasta is al-dente, drain and add the warm noodles to the tomato mixture.  Mix in salt and pepper.  This can sit out for a bit at room temperature or serve immediately.

Cheers to wonderful friends around a lovely meal and to brick houses that can’t be blown down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wrapping Things Up

Lasagna

Lasagna

Here we are coming to the close of another year.  It has been another eventful one.  There is no lack of excitement going on over in this neck of the woods.  It hasn’t been easy but there isn’t one thing I would change if I could.  Not one.  Well, maybe just one.

I am not a person of complacency.  Thankfully I live in America and what a great foundation for a good life.  Wherever we live, we would still strive for happiness.  But, everyone’s definition of happy is different.  The glass half empty comes to mind.  When my older girls where younger I had a terrible fear of death.  I would have anxiety over flying, the girls choking, or what would happen if I left them with a sitter.  Something shifted inside me that lead me to understand that life is short.  Death is something we will all experience and no avoiding it in our heads is going to make it not happen when our time comes.  I can’t tell you what exactly happened to me to make that shift.  But I am not afraid of living or dying anymore.  And I do believe that the two go hand in hand.

That being said, you may not like what I have to say.  My words may seem volatile, or irrational, maybe funny, always exciting, lovingly truthful, with a touch of crazy, sometimes sad, but it will always be human.  It will be my human emotion through this journey of personal triumphs and failures.  But it is my journey.  It is my journey of growing and thriving as a business owner and a single mom of three beautiful girls.  It doesn’t define me as a good/bad person, a good/bad chef, or a good/bad mother.  It is an experience.  I know that some of you think of me as a strong woman who has always got it together, but I do not.  Through experience I have come to redefine my definition of confidence.  To me, it isn’t being 100% sure of a decision.  Confidence, to me, is making the best decision despite what could be the outcome- all while feeling good about the person looking at me in the mirror.   It is feeling good about myself, even if the outcome is not perfect.  However, I now have an editor, so ultimately she can be blamed when things go really south.  Readers-blame her.  There is no doubt I can throw a fabulous party and cook a damn good meal.  But there is so much more that goes with it.  Maybe one of you can learn from my personal successes or failures.  I may not be perfect in what I am doing personally, but I will always take risks to make things unique and wonderful. This is evident with G&H.   That is what I hope my blogging does for you-gives you confidence and courage.  If you are just 1 person or if you are 101 people.  Writing is my therapy.  I want to write it out and share with you the things that I do right or learn there may a better way.  And I do this, always, one meal at a time.

It is also therapy to share my recipes.  I get bits and pieces of recipes from everywhere.  I have a library of cookbooks and with the internet, there is no loss of information.  I  love sharing them for you to try them out yourselves.  G&H is here to make it for you when you don’t have the time, but I completely understand wanting to play in the kitchen.  Here is the lasagna recipe that a client ask for a few weeks back.  It is such a lovely compliment to want a recipe!  Thank you-

Ingredients

~1 Lb Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage in casing

~Bulb of Garlic

~4 26 ounce containers of Marzano italian crushed tomatoes

~1 Roasted Fennel (optional)

~Sliced Mushrooms (optional) 8 ounces

~Fresh Mozarella thickly sliced  16oz

~Whole Milk Riccotto 16 ounces

~1 Egg

~1/2 Cup Parmesan (plus more for sprinkling on top)

~1 Package Barilla No Boil Lasagna Noodles

Directions

The sauce is the most important part of this dish.  I learned from some Italian friends the way to make a good tomato sauce.  Simmering it on the stove for a long time is the secret.  It is a weekend type of dish.  Start your sauce on Saturday and let it simmer over night and then put it all together on Sunday.  To make the sauce, brown your sausage and break it up in the casing.  Add all of your bulb of garlic.  I just smash it and peel it.  Next add your containers of crushed tomatoes.  If I have fennel and mushrooms, then I will add them.  If I don’t, then I won’t make a special trip out for them.  When everything is in your stockpot, let this simmer on low for 8 to 12 hours.  The tomato sauce will become this deep red color.  Hold back from eating it now, because you will want to!  Mix your egg, 1/2 cup parmesan and ricotta in a small bowl.  Start with a layer of tomato sauce, then noodles, ricotta, then mozzarella slices.  Do this as long as you have ingredients to layer and room to pile it up.  Your last layer should be the tomato sauce and sprinkle some parmesan over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly hot.  Serve this with an italian loaf and garden salad.  Yum- a perfect Sunday family meal.

Cooking, throwing a party, helping clients to make wonderful memories, having this forum to share feelings and recipes, and celebrating life are all things I enjoy and give me great happiness.  I look forward to sharing many more recipes and experiences with you in 2014!  Here’s to living!

Formal Dinner for Twelve

It was such a beautiful night.  We set up tables outside for the guests to sit with flower votives and candles.  We had a small bar set up outside and brought the food out to the guests.  I am kicking myself because I didn’t get a photo, but I was a little busy with the preparations of the food.  I’ll forgive myself this time.

We started out with cheese boards, dates and sliced peaches.  I got the peaches on a whim.  They are very much in season right now and they are delicious.  It is always good to give yourself that flexibility.  If something is in season, looks yummy, and is reasonably priced- go for it.  Be creative.  That really is the fun of it all.  We also had Beggar’s Purses which were the first to go.

For the main course we made a large Beef Tenderloin on the grill, Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Rosemary and Olive oil, and Heirloom Tomatoes with Mozzarella and Basil.  The tomatoes were beautiful to the eye and to the tummy.  I found yellow, red, and pink tomatoes and stacked those colors on the plate with the basil and cheese.  It is simple, fresh, gorgeous and screams summertime.  I just love it.

We finished the evening with Cupcakes, Vanilla Ice Cream with a Fresh Raspberry Syrup and Mint.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Raspberry Mint

Vanilla Ice Cream with Raspberry Mint

Voila!

Everyone left very happy with the evening.  My client was having a business dinner.  She didn’t have to leave her clients for one moment.  I was there to make her evening enjoyable and simple.  With the stress of having guests, she didn’t want to expend the energy on cooking, serving and cleaning.  She was able to focus solely on her company and today when she wakes up, the house is clean.  Now, that is Grits and Honey!

Pressed Italian Sandwiches

Pressed Italian Sandwich

       I needed something simple but delicious for a party I was catering for this weekend.  This puppy would be great for the pool, beach, or sunday picnic.  And, it makes me feel all giddy inside because of the simple technique.  I discovered this from a great website www.crepesofwrath.net.  The very very best part, drum roll… it doesn’t heat up the kitchen and it is blazing hot this summer!

    I went to my local farmers market where they make the best ciabatta bread, italian meats and cheeses.  I bought a loaf and cut it along the center, lengthwise.  I also bought Sopressata, Genoa Salami, Hot Capicola, Prosciutto, Provolone, Mozzarella.  You don’t have to use all these meats, in fact, for my catering party I did a vegetarian one with sundried tomatoes and cheeses.  You can be so creative with what you like!  I topped the sandwiches with fresh basil from the garden.  Then, I  wrapped it with plastic wrap and placed a book on top to press overnight.  No grilling or extra oils for this pressed sandwich.  The next day, I have nothing to do but cut it and eat it!