You’re Gonna Shock the Monkey

I learned a whole lot on Saturday afternoon. First: I boiled some of the larger potatoes we grew, slid them out of their skins and – following the directions of Marcella Hazan, Italian food queen – put them through the food mill. Then the learning began. Marcella said to mill them directly onto the work surface. It seemed awkward, but I threw some AP flour on the work surface and started milling. Three potato halves later, I was like, ‘Torturing myself is fun and all, but I need a way to stand this thing above this surface. If only I had a sturdy tube.’ I rested the food mill on top of the empty angel food form et voila! The food mill produced a whole lot more potato than I expected. Marcella’s recipe uses only potato and AP flour. The potato had nice flavor, so I went with it. I kneaded the flour and potato and it became a dough. I cut it into quarters and rolled it into long tubes. I tried out cutting 3/4 inch bits but they seemed large. Smaller turned out to be better. I have a gnocchi form and at first using it was strange, but very quickly I learned a smooth motion. That by itself was very encouraging. I put the formed gnocchi on a 1/2 sheet pan lined with wax paper and dusted with AP flour. The filled tray went into the freezer, for a little extra insurance. Later, we dropped them into boiling salted water and they came back to the top immediately. I expected this to take a few minutes, but no. Steve was concerned about how soft they were so were plated them directly from the boiling water. He mixed the gnocchi with sauce very carefully. The texture was extremely light but too light. Steve remembered that his grandmother would rice the potatoes and let them dry for a few hours or overnight.

I made terrible gnocchi! From scratch!

I made terrible gnocchi! From scratch!

To summarize:
1. Station the food mill over an empty angel food pan and a base of AP flour.
2. Mill potatoes and let ’em get some air.
3. Add salt.
4. Roll the dough smaller than you want to and cut the little chunks small.
5. You WILL get the forming motion, so quit whining.
6. Some time on a lined, floured cookie sheet in the freezer helps.

I had worried this would be hard to do, but it is not. It is completely easy. Can’t wait to try again.

At the Top Of the Greenest Tree

It’s August, so the house has fleas again. This is nothing compared to New Brunswick’s new infestation of coyotes.

Over the weekend, I suddenly learned how to cable knit, though, as the lower right hand side demonstrates, I did not suddenly learn to count.

Over the weekend, I suddenly learned how to cable knit, though, as the lower right hand side demonstrates, I did not suddenly learn to count.

Coyote sightings in New Brunswick over the past day have prompted a police warning to stay away from the animals.

“Multiple” coyotes have been seen in Buccleuch Park, according to New Brunswick police. Residents should report their location to police at (732) 745-5200. People also shouldn’t feed the animals.

The park is directly across the street from a hospital, so the inevitable ignorers carrying and comprising coyote chow will have a short stumble to the ER and thorough mocking.

Better Run Better Run Faster

Yesterday, I was saying hello to Topaz upstairs when I looked past her and saw a deer across the street. I ran down the stairs, shouting for Pete to grab a camera and run for the door. He did not ask why because I play for Team Crazy and he threw open the front door, camera in hand. A doe and two fawns came running toward us across a lawn. Almost invisibly, the doe and a fawn escaped the yard and bolted for the street. As Pete and I hit the sidewalk, he was snapping pictures as one of the fawns got caught behind the fence and panicked.

Whaddoo I do whaddoo I do whaddoo I do?

Whaddoo I do whaddoo I do whaddoo I do?

The fawn ran from us and toward us, over and over, and could not figure out how to get out. I was afraid it would try to leap the fence, but it didn’t. I hesitated. The doe stood on our side of the street, two yards down, with the other fawn. I thought, ‘I have to do something here before something very bad happens,’ but I had no idea what it would be.

Word to the wise, buddy: if your wife hurts my baby, we're gonna rumble.

Word to the wise, buddy: if your wife hurts my baby, we’re gonna rumble.

I stepped out of the driveway and clicked my tongue the same way I do to get my cats’ attention. The fawn was making a pretty similar noise as it ran back to the corner. I stopped walking a safe distance away in the middle of the street and clicked my tongue until the fawn locked eyes with me. It realized there was no fence between us. A second later, the fawn sprinted around the edge of the fence and toward its mother. Then Pete and I went to the farmers market for fresh vegetables and wild ideas.

Mama mama mama mama mama mama mama!

Mama mama mama mama mama mama mama!

Odd footnote: while I was in the street, someone behind me was talking to her dog. I turned to look and recognized the dog as the one that lives directly behind us, so the only witness to my deer-whispering besides Pete was the neighbor we don’t speak to. That was amusing. I have no explanation for how she and the large dog walked past the doe and the fawn, as they must have. But how?

East End Boys And West End Girls

Heirloom tomatoes roasted with olive oil and salt on the left; roasted red tomatoes with olive oil and salt. We jar whole tomatoes from organic farm girls who humor me about my unusual art supplies.

Heirloom tomatoes roasted with olive oil and salt on the left; roasted red tomatoes with olive oil and salt. We jar whole tomatoes from organic farm girls who humor me about my unusual art supplies.

Six years ago, I started thinking about food preservation as a way to test whether my brain would let me learn again after the whole wacky memory loss episode. Congratulations to me! If I really work at it, I can absorb new things. I wanted to try jarring as many different kinds of things as I could to learn as much as I could about what I was doing. The upside of that plan was that invested time, money and effort paid off in some beautiful jars and exciting meals. The downside was that, since I don’t usually cook our dinners, the food in jars ages in the pantry, often beyond what might be safe to eat.

This year, I’m much stronger than I have been since food school started. Today, we went on a 12 mile bike ride on gravel at a good clip two months after Pete’s knee surgery. Afterward, I needed a glass of wine and a nap, but it was completely great and we’re planning more challenging rides. This of course takes time.

This year, I’m thinking about narrowing my focus – STOP LAUGHING! I have focus! – to tomatoes, beets, apples, peaches, raspberries. I would like to find time to get red peppers into jars whole and as red pepper spread, which I love all winter, but if not, I’m going to try not to be heartbreaky about it. I’m finished with beets. We almost can’t get enough tomatoes and tomato sauce into jars, but we’re pushing that rock uphill. I’m excited about moving into fruit soon.

Anyhoo, this is all very promising. We’re on bicycles and out of the kitchen! We’re in the kitchen and on the prowl. I do hear blueberries calling my name…

Whole red beets are both beautiful and slightly spooky.

Whole red beets are both beautiful and slightly spooky.