Welcome to My New Food Blog

Warning: Not for the faint of heart.

Welcome to a food blog that is born out of loss. In it, I will cook my way through grief. My name is Becca. On May 19th, 2018 my best friend Abby died unexpectedly leaving me forever changed. This blog is a creative solo exercise in honoring her memory and healing my way forward through the comfort of a kitchen, a physical space where I feel safe and in control. I am a home cook with a knack for finding exceptional recipes. The kitchen I will post from is in a studio apartment I leased for one year starting in June 2019. I do not live there. I cook there. I have chosen 12 cookbooks from my library and I will cook and bake my way through as many recipes as possible each month, from each book. The catch: each post will be a first trial recipe. Like life…no practice run. The idea is to begin with the books I have collected over the years but never had the time to seriously explore and learn. And what also occurred to me in this grief process is the importance to practice presence with what I already internally possess. I don’t need anything more than a beginner’s mind and an open heart. That feels like an authentic launching point. Abby would be pleased. Here I go. Let’s get cooking!

  • June: My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss
  • July: Purple Citrus Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe
  • August: Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown
  • September: 660 Curries by Raghaven Iyer
  • October: Market Cooking David Tanis
  • November: Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
  • December: Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat
  • January: Together: Our Community Kitchen
  • February: Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibanez
  • March: Ottolenghi
  • April: Marion Cunningham’s Good Eating
  • May: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Month of October: “David Tanis Market Cooking” Recipe: Yellow Beet Salad with Mustard Seeds

“Oh star bright, star bright. You’ve got the lovin’ that I like, all right. Turn this crazy bird around. I shouldn’t have got on this flight tonight.” Joni Mitchell

Beets are very grounding and I need grounding right now. My physical form is literally screaming in my right ear (tinnitus) that I am out of balance. LISTEN! LISTEN! LISTEN! I am hearing that my emotional life has been too much sadness, too much pain, too much anger. I am hearing that my work life has been too much stress. I am hearing that this life I have created is too far removed from my inner callings and subtle needs. Yesterday I grounded myself by actually getting on the ground. I found a soft, luscious tender mossy patch in the yard and I laid my entire body down. The sun was out, the sky was cloudless blue and the wind came by in glorious warm high bursts. I watched small yellow paper light black walnut leaves twirl in the currents. I cupped my left ear to determine if the wind in the white pine sounded different from the walnut. I watched tiny insects jump in the grass. I watched squirrels hide nuts. It was fantastic and this precious hour added moist drops in my dry cup. If it’s really this simple, then why is it so hard? Keep listening? Keep listening. Keep listening.

Ingredients: Golden beets, dijon mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, a mild oil such as vegetable, mustard seeds

Roast beets. I use parchment paper instead of aluminum foil and roast for about an hour until fork tender at 400F. Cool, peel and slice the beets. Make a simple vinaigrette of mustard, horseradish, lemon juice and oil. Season with salt and toss with the dressing to coat. Roast a teaspoon of black mustard seeds or nigella seeds in a tiny bit of oil in a small pain over medium high heat. When the seeds begin to pop, pour the contents over the dressed beets. Serve at room temperature with a spoonful of thick yogurt.

Month of October: “David Tanis Market Cooking” Recipe: Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

“Don’t wait any longer. Dive in the ocean, Leave and let the sea be you.” Rumi

Tomatoes are coming to the end of their glorious short lived season but if you’re lucky enough to get to a farmer’s market there still are a few lingering ones available to capture the last of the summer sun. Don’t wait any longer if you want some! I remember fondly a few special summers in the Kickapoo region of Wisconsin, now called the Driftless area where I lived a sliver of my wilder and younger life. I loved this area with all of my being. My son Sean, who was four at the time, hated it. Ah, the fateful ironies of our dreams. Leaving there was always hard. Decades later when we returned for Abby’s memorial I was struck at how much I still felt connected to the land and to the people. I realized what I felt in the depths of my soul so long ago was real and long lasting ,not a fleeting fancy. Now, here I am, middle aged, in this secret space on the second floor of a 19th century mansion, in a tiny room, cooking and grieving the loss of my closest friend. Every time I turn the doorknob and enter this studio, I hear her saying…”Carpe diem…seize the day…don’t wait any longer… ” I am listening Abby. I am listening. I don’t know where this is all taking me, but I am listening.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 3 large shallots finely diced, 4 garlic cloves grated or minced, salt and pepper, 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 1.5 pounds large peeled and deveined shrimp, 1/4 pound feta cheese, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 2 tablespoons roughly chopped mint.

1. Put 1/4 cup of olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the shallots and garlic, season and cook, stirring until softened about 5 to 8 minutes, lower the heat as necessary to keep the mixture from browning. Remove from heat and set aside.

2.Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the whole tomatoes and cook for about 1 minute just until skins loosen. Immediately plunge tomatoes into a bowl of cold water to cool and then drain. With a paring knife, core the tomatoes and slip off the skins. Cut into thick wedges.

3.Heat the oven to 400F. Set the skillet of shallots and garlic over medium high heat. Add the tomato wedges and season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring, until mixture is juicy and tomatoes have softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a shallow earthenware baking dish.

4. Put the shrimp into a medium bowl, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season. Stir to coat. Arrange the shrimp over the tomato mixture in one layer. Crumble the cheese over the top and sprinkle with oregano.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the tomatoes are bubbling, the shrimp has cooked and the cheese has browned slightly. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with mint and serve.

Month of October: “David Tanis Market Cooking” Recipe: Improved Creamed Corn

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace-only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. ” Anne Lamott

It’s been a tougher week than most. I am calling on all unseen forces and any help from the universe I can get. It takes everything I have to wait it out. Patience is not one of my virtues..unless its in the kitchen. Creamed corn takes a bit of patience because it must be made with fresh corn on the cob. No canned or frozen will do. It’s the last of the summer corn here in upstate NY and this is by far the most delicious creamed corn I have ever eaten. My husband called it “exquisite.” What more can be said? Hurry up and try it! You won’t be disappointed. Tanis never does.

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons butter, 1 onion very finely diced, kernels from 4 ears of corn about 2 cups, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds toasted and ground, 1 jalapeno chile seeds and veins removed and very finely chopped, 1 cup heavy cream, juice of 1 lime, 1 tablespoon chopped chives, a few cilantro sprigs.

Steam the corn in salted simmering water for 4 minutes, remove and cool. Cut kernels from cob. Melt the butter in a large saute pan over low heat. Add the onion, salt lightly, increase heat to medium and cook gently for about 5-8 minutes until onion is soft and translucent. Add the corn kernels, season with salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the cumin, jalapeno and cream, stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes until slightly thickened. Taste for seasoning, add the lime juice and stir once more. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with chives and cilantro.

Month of October: “David Tanis Market Cooking” Recipe: Green Basil Oil

“Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.” W.S Merwin

David Tanis, in my humble opinion, is a culinary genius. I cherish his recipes. He was once head chef at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in Berkeley, has written many cookbooks and contributes to the New York times among so many other things. There is not one recipe of his that has ever disappointed me. A good friend and fellow cook turned me on to this icon and now I want to share him with you. In “Market Cooking” the premise is very simple: buy and cook with the freshest in season. Since I am working with this book in October I have to forfeit so many delicious looking options made with radishes, asparagus, leeks and peas. But that is fine because we have so many other heavier vegetables to choose from that are still being harvested in our fields. Right now we have a few lingering summer flavors so I am starting with the most amazing basil oil. Abby and I adored basil and the years I lived near her we would together always make tons of pesto from our homegrown basil. Honestly, this is way better. Sorry Ab. Bon Appetit!

Pick the leaves from a fine bunch of basil about 2 handfuls and about 1 handful of fresh flat leaf parsley. Puree in a food processor (or use a mortar and pestle or blender) with 1 garlic clove, about 3/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt until you have a bright green, not very thick sauce. It doesn’t hold an emulsion so stir before using. Makes about 1 cup. Tanis tells us this is delightful over a spring vegetable soup or lovely piece of white fish as well as the ever complimentary tomato.

Month of September: “660 Curries” Recipe: Nine Jeweled Medley with a Cashew-Raisin Sauce (Navratan Korma)

“I write because it is the only way I can reach you.” Sanober Khan

Today will be my last post for September. I have hardly scratched the surface of this cookbook but nevertheless have learned enough to reignite my desire to keep moving forward with the curries. I am in it now for the long haul. I’ve been converted and I hope you have too. The Nine Jeweled Medley curry emanates we are told from the royal palaces’ kitchens of Moghal India. Could it be because of the abundance of vegetables and luxurious raisin and cashew sauce? Regardless of its origin hundreds of years ago, it still exists to this day on the menu of Indian restaurants around the world. So let’s go out with a bang! But get ready to beef up your knife skills..there’s some chopping here and plenty of veggies left over to make something else tomorrow.

Ingredients: 1/2 cup cauliflower florets, 1/4 cup frozen peas (no need to thaw), 1/4 cup fresh green beans (1/2 inch pieces), 1/4 cup of bottle gourd squash, I used zucchini (1/2 inch cubes), 1 small carrot (peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes, 1 small white potato (cut into 1/2 inch cubes), 1 small green or red pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 2 tablespoons of ghee, 1 small red onion coarsely chopped, 1/4 cup raw cashew nuts, 1/4 cup golden raisins (I used black), 1 teaspoon ginger paste, 1 teaspoon garlic paste, 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves, 1/4 teaspoon cardamon seeds from green or white pods, 1 or 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1.5 teaspoon sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon punjabi garam masala, 4 ounces of paneer cubed and pan fried (I omitted), 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro for garnish.

1.Combine the cauliflower, peas, beans, squash, carrot, potato and bell pepper in a medium size sauce pan. Add water to cover and boil over medium heat. Lower to medium and simmer, uncovered, until tender about 5-8 minutes.

2.Reserve 2 cups of cooking water, drain vegetables in a colander. Return vegetables to the saucepan. Leave saucepan off heat while you prepare the sauce.

3. Heat the ghee in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cashews, raisins, ginger and garlic paste, cloves, cardamom seeds, and bay leaves, Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions and nuts are browned and the raisins have swelled about 10-12 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water and scrape the bottom of the skillet to deglaze it, releasing any brown bits.

4.Transfer the sauce to a blender jar. Add the paste, salt, cayenne, turmeric and garam masala. Puree into a thick reddish brown sauce. Add this to the vegetables in the saucepan. Pour the remaining 1.5 cups reserved cooking water into the blender jar and whir the blades to wash out the inside of the jar. Add the washings to the saucepan.

5. Fold in the fried paneer if using. Cover and simmer until everything is warm. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Bejeweled

Month of September: “660 Curries” Recipe: Whole Black Lentils with Ginger, Garlic and Butter

“I seemed to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times, in life after life, in age after age, forever.” Rabindranath Tagore

This curry is called makhani dal. I have eaten chicken makhani in Indian restaurants many times but never one with legumes. In “660 Curries” there are amazingly over 130 legume curries alone. Legumes are basically seeds and they are the protein lifeline to the vegetarian diet since 4500 BC!! Our author tells us that this black lentil is a Punjabi classic and a “must” at every special occasion. It’s easy to make and very filling with the fragrant garam masala (from previous post) and rich cream. I would suggest eating it on a cool day when you are very hungry. This idea of a cool day conjures up an unforgettable memory of a special occasion in my life on an autumn day when Abby and her daughter Rita unexpectedly drove all night from Wisconsin to New York for my wedding. I was marrying Andy, a man who, decades earlier I had met shortly before meeting Abby. I was also marrying, I might add, the father of my only child Sean, who was then 27. Abby made us a magical trellis of foraged bittersweet adorned with twinkle lights where underneath we cried our tears of true forgiveness and love. She crafted my bouquet of salmon roses and pale green hydrangea that I still have to this day, all dry and withered. What also made this day so extraordinary is that Andy and I were getting back together after decades apart, after marrying and divorcing our first spouses, and Abby and I were re-connecting after nine years of silence. It was a reincarnation of forms and it felt like we all touched on something spiritual, something karmic, something eternal. I can honestly say it was the happiest day of my life.

Ingredients:1 cup whole black lentils, 1/4 cup ginger paste (I chopped fresh ginger into a paste), 2 tablespoons garlic paste ( I chopped garlic into a paste), 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup cream, 1.5 teaspoons sea salt, 1 teaspoon Punjabi garam masala (from earlier post),1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 2 to 3 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro

1.Place lentils in a large saucepan and rinse multiple times until water runs clear. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam on top. Add the garlic and ginger paste and stir. Cook on low until tender, about 15-30 minutes. Watch to make sure water does not evaporate completely. Add a little more water if needed.

2. Blend the yogurt, cream, garam masala, salt and cayenne in a blender jar. Sauce will have brown and red specks.

3. When lentils are tender and most of the water is cooked off, add butter and stir until melted. Add the yogurt sauce to the lentils and mix. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with rice and or flabreads.

Month of September: “660 Curries” Recipe: Punjabi Garam Masala

“What is stronger than the human heart which shatters over and over and still lives.” Rupi Kaur

Garam masala is a familiar spice we have heard of before. Garam, I learned means “warm” and masala means “blend”; hence, a warm spice blend. This recipe is labeled a Punjabi style which means it comes from the northern region of India; however garam masala is prepared in other portions across the country as well. It is very simple to make by toasting, cooling and grinding spices to elicit a complex and rich aromatic flavor. How fascinating life is where one can take whole things and grind them up to produce something totally different. Kind of like our hearts that can get broken over and over and over yet it still hopes, it still laughs, it still loves. It sounds so cliche but this resilience truly is miraculous. It has been an emotionally difficult week for me, letting in new realities of loved ones, sinking ever deeper in the knowledge that we all have our limits. But why do mine always feel less than others? Why do my limits feel limitless and others so rigid and fixed when an injury happens once or twice? I am too forgiving, just like Abby was. She would know exactly what I am talking about. I understood her garam masala and she understood mine, like no one else ever has.

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon whole cloves, 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom seeds (from black pods), 3 cinnamon sticks broken into smaller pieces, 3 bay leaves dried or fresh.

  1. Preheat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add all the ingredients and toast for about 1-2 minutes until mixture is highly fragrant. Remove from skillet and cool on a plate. (If they remain in the skillet they may burn making them bitter and unpalatable.) Once they are cool to the touch, grind in a spice grinder. (If you don’t allow them to cool the ground blend will acquire unwanted moisture from the heat, making the final blend slightly “cakey”. The ground blend will be reddish brown and the aroma will be sweet and complex, very different from that of the pre-toasted and post-toasted whole spices.