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Archive for the ‘Recipes’

ala Nilda

February 03, 2010 By: admin Category: Blogging Dinner, Coal, Cooking, Family, Food, Happiness, Health, House, Humane Food, India, Love, Michael, Molly, Mom, Recipes

Before I go another back-breaking minute of transcribing a long interview for my coal film, I’ll pause to tell you about a treasure I just found…

When Mom died I did three things: gathered all her clothes and jewelry and farmed them out to family, friends, and charities; brought home my third of her ashes (morbid, I know, but I really wanted “her” near me); and collected as many of her cookbooks as I could find. Specifically, I searched for books that had her writing in the notes and margins. Mom thought in recipes all the time and when she had an idea, she’d write it down. Everywhere. There are bits of loose paper, newspaper articles, notecards, and books written all over in Spanish and English. Names of spices and proteins, temperatures, and cook times.

BLURREDcandy-peanut-brittle

Today, as a break from the transcribing and in the name of finding something yummy to make for dinner, I pulled out one of her stacks of random recipes clipped together with a metal binder and looked through them. What I found are recipes and memories:

“Chicken Curry, Juthica.” Juthica is an old family friend and a good one to begin this list with. Mom and Juthica met through their Yale connections in New Haven, CT in the 60s and became good friends. Mom always liked strong, independent, and smart people and Juthica was certainly that. One day while I was in my sophomore year in college in NYC, I got a call from Mom telling me to come home immediately, that she had someone she wanted me to meet. It was in the middle of the week and so I reminded my usually VERY academically-minded mother that I’d be missing a day of COLLEGE if I came home. “I know. It’s worth it. Come tonight,” is all she said. I got on the commuter train early the next day and met Juthica that afternoon. Like my mother before me, I was instantly entranced by charismatic Juthica–a native Bengali of Calcutta–and resolved to help her with the humanitarian aid project she’s started only a few years before. Little did I know that this would be the first spark in a film career that would have it’s first international accolade (“Soma Girls”) because of Juthica.

“Alfajores.” These are basically the cookies to end all cookies. Think of an oreo where the chocolate cookie-part is a butter cookie and the middle squishy part is half-hardened caramel spread. My brother would beg for these.

“Roast Pork ala Nilda.” Nilda was my mother’s name and almost nothing in her repertoire of savory dishes would exclude cumin. That’s where the “ala Nilda” bit comes in, I think. Not surprisingly, therefore, this dish has a bunch of fun spices as well as cumin and on the notecard includes the instruction: “Let sit for ten minutes, then serve with the pan juices.” Neither my mother nor I have ever met a pan of juices we didn’t like. The theory is that if it’s slurpable with bread, it’s “FOOD.”

When I was much older and had only a modest number of recipes that I could cook well, my mother bemoaned her former strictness in the kitchen. Even though she came from a traditional culture where women were suppose to learn the “domestic arts,” she hated having me underfoot when she cooked. True, I did have an annoying habit of grazing as things got prepared (something I also plagued Molly–another fabulous cook–with), but that wasn’t it. I think she just needed her space clear. The kitchen was her church, her fiefdom, her production studio and she needed it controlled in order to create her masterpieces. Thankfully, I have a very good sense of smell and memory for the flavors and dished she created and so even though she made me stand at arm’s length, I saw most of what she did and how she did it.

Today I still cook only a few of my mother’s dishes–I’m slowly building up the amount that I memorize–but the ones I know have their impact. Recently, I made Mom’s Bolognese sauce for Michael and Laura. Michael flipped when he tasted it. I saw the memories and joy fly across his face. It must have been almost ten years since he’d last had it with pasta. That sauce has a Molly memory too: her family loved it so much that they used to commission it. Or, sometimes, when I was making it for just Molly and me word would get around that “Alexia is making meatsauce,” and before we knew it we’d have many more at the table for dinner. :)

Mom’s meals used to feed armies of children in New Haven, mostly Michael’s friends who, if they became “regulars” soon saw themselves being cooked-for specifically. “I’m making the pie for David,” Mom would say of Michael’s best friend. I’d have to have children in order to have those kinds of numbers of people climbing through my house, but when there’s a group event that I’m either hosting or contributing too, I always make something of Mom’s. It’s an easy way to make people happy and introduce a whole new crop of devotees to “ala Nilda.”

Solo

July 02, 2008 By: admin Category: Happiness, Health, House, Mom, Recipes

A family friend once wrote that, no matter what we do or who we meet, what relationships we develop, all of us die alone. He said life was a lonely thing. His words and sentiment were so sad. Someone like him… he was always so filled with…, well, LIFE, and so to read that he wrote that…

Anyway… now I see his point.

I don’t like the people who keep sadness and loneliness at bay with artifice and cruelty, nor I do admire those who abuse themselves in order to not feel the pain, although I understand their method a bit more. Pain is just there. You don’t have to do anything about it. In fact, if you just leave it alone it will soon go away on it’s own and be replaced by a task or healthy distraction. It’s when you stare at it and dwell that Pain has it’s power.

Surprise is also amazing. We live our lives setting things up so that the only times we’re surprised are when it’s deliberate. I was surprised tonight. And my surprise gave way to pain. Sadness. There were so many reactions I could have had and I chose something I’ve never chosen before: I didn’t react.

There was nothing satisfying in it at all. No feeling of superiority wafted over me. I just felt pain and then pushed the pain aside. I do this thing when I’m hurt: I predict the future. Something hurtful will happen and I’ll retreat into a fantasy of another life. A life that would have come out if I took the other road.

We have choices. Always. Every minute. It’s recognizing when to act on some that’s the real doozy.

ZUCCHINI & POTATO SOUP, ITALIAN CHICKEN CUBES

Zucchini

Potatos

Onion

Boil these ingredients with only 1 cup of water, add salt to taste, and VOILA.CHICKEN

Cube chicken, sautee in olive oil. Add Italian seasoning (1 tbls) and Garam Masala spice (a dash to taste, to give some BANG!).

The Zen of Great Rice

February 21, 2008 By: admin Category: Blogging Dinner, Cooking, Food, Health, India, Mom, Recipes

doversole.jpg

DOVER SOLE WITH MAYO AND MUSTARD GLAZE
I got the ingredients for this dish from Mom’s copy of “The Spice Cookbook.

Filets of Dover Sole for 2
Mustard (of choice — I used a French kind with those big, brown seeds in it)
Mayonnaise
Thyme
Pepper
Salt
Lemon juice

Heat large skillet on Med/High.

Mix about 2 teaspoons of mayo with 1.5 teaspoons of mustard. Add 1 teaspoon Thyme, .5 teaspoons of Pepper, and dashes of Salt & Lemon Juice to taste. Stir’em up good so they’re mixed together very well. Lather the fish in this concoction and place filets into the skillet. Cover and immediately turn heat down to Low. (Sole cooks very fast!) Cook one side of filets for about 2 mins., then turn over and cook opposite side for 2 mins. Turn heat off, cover skillet, remove skillet from cooling burner. let sit. 2 mins. on each side should be enough to cook the fish through. If not then the cover-and-let-sit action will do the trick. It will also enhance the moistness of the fish.

*****

rice.jpg

I’m a simple girl. Easy to please: you work hard, I’ll get off your back; you treat my nearest and dearest well, I’m your friend for life. So then it’s little wonder that I’m in awe of great rice. Great rice can make a meal, and as Mom used to say, “It’s not easy, Ah-lehck-SYA!”

Tonight and last night I made killer rice. Molly had requested fish for dinner and when I went to the store I couldn’t resist getting dover sole AND whole brook trout. She’d only asked for fish for the one night, but when a Prichard sees a deal ($4.99 a pound!!!)… and we had to have rice because if you’re avoiding potatoes in a pathetic attempt to lose some of the weight you inexplicably gained in your recent trip to the third world, there aren’t that many choices for something to balance to plate, especially if you’re also having salad. I don’t know about y’all, but I need something grainy or starchy with my fish because for some reason fish with only salad fucks with my stomach. It’s like I need something in there to “bind” with everything else.

Anyway, so I have a little bit of a gift with fish but have always burned, undercooked or overcooked the rice. It’s never a total disaster, but it’s always rarely as good as it could be. So you can imagine my delight when Molly produced HER RICE COOKER.

People…

All I can tell you is that if you’ve been slaving over a hot stove trying for the perfect Oryza sativa, STOP. Stop, and run to the nearest kitchen store and get yourself a goddamned rice cooker. The tastse of rice from a properly used rice cooker is like the first time you had an orgasm: you just won’t believe that anything could be this good.

Happy cooking. :)

Soup For Bean

November 20, 2007 By: admin Category: Blogging Dinner, Cooking, Food, Recipes

CHICKEN
2 packages of chicken tenders (cubed)
Olive oil (enuf to cover bottom of frying pan)
Soy sauce (1/3 amount of oil)

Heat oil & soy sauce.
Add chicken, turn heat down, cover. (You want to make sure you are moistening the chicken)
When chicken is full cooked, turn heat off and set aside.

SOUP
Water (fill 3/4 of a pot)
Salt (approx. 3 tablespoons–shouldn’t overwhelm)
Onions (2 medium-sized)
Garlic (5-7 cloves, coarsely chopped–large pieces)
Celery (1 bunch, chopped)
Bok Choy (1 bunch, chopped)
Potatoes (3-4 large potatoes)
Taragon (approx. 1 tablespoon, to taste)
Thyme (approx. 1/2 tablespoon, to taste)
Pepper (approx. 1/2 tablespoon, to taste)

Heat water and add salt, potatoes, onions and garlic. Bring to a boil.
Turn heat down and add celery and bok choy.
Add spices.