Abby Irene Larson

July 25, 1964-May 19, 2018

“Chaos is rejecting all you have learned. Chaos is being yourself.” Emil Cioran

first and foremost artist!!!, don juan’s reckless daughter, mississippi river lover and all things fish, loyal sister, cannabis partaker, tobacco addict, witty captivator, cabin dweller, tattooed adventurer, back to the earth nature girl, basket weaver, apple picker, wild crafter, van living loblolly pine tree planter, true friend, deep dive philosopher, fun stepsister, risk taker, hard working mother, South American traveler, wife, vegetable and flower grower, woods woman, ginseng and morel mushroom hunter extraordinaire, funny with a great smile and laugh, trout catcher and trout smoker, fabric weaver, painter, regretful nurse, playful aunt, backpacker, hiker, caregiver, stain glass creator, pontoon owner, keeper of my secrets, tropical fruit lover in Isla Mujeres, devoted grandmother, greatest gift giver ever, gone but not forgotten, eternally missed!

Month of June: “My Berlin Kitchen” Recipe: Rote Grutze with Vanilla Sauce

Not much to say here…this pudding is simply beautiful to look at and simply scrumptious to eat! The sweet sour deliciousness of the currants, sour cherries and raspberries captures the long awaited summer in a dessert form. I used currants from my garden mixed in with a few black raspberries for good measure. Viva el sol!

Ingredients: For the pudding; 1/4 cup cornstarch, 2 cups of cherry juice with no sugar added, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 cups raspberries, 2 cups sour cherries pitted, 2 cups red currents destemmed. For the vanilla sauce: 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 vanilla bean split (I used 1 teaspoon extract), up to 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

Pudding or Rote Grutze

  1. Put the cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup of water to make a lump free slurry. Set aside.
  2. Pour juice into a 4 qt saucepan and add the sugar. Set over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolved. Add the fruit to the pot and bring to just a boil.
  3. Give the slurry another whisk and pour into the pot just as the fruit starts to bubble. It will thicken almost immediately. Bring back to a boil and then remove from the heat.
  4. Pour the hot pudding into a large serving bowl or into individual dishes and let cool completely before refrigerating overnight. Serve with a jug of vanilla sauce for pouring over. See below.

Vanilla Sauce

  1. Prepare an ice bath.
  2. Put the cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk the 2 tablespoons of milk until no lumps remain. Set aside.
  3. Pour the 2 cups of milk into a 2 qt. saucepan, add sugar and vanilla. Set over medium heat and whisking, bring to a boil.
  4. As soon as milk boils, whisk in the cornstarch slurry very slowly. The sauce will start to thicken immediately. Whisk until smooth and remove from heat.
  5. Put the pot in the ice bath and continue to whisk until the sauce is cooled. You can add a little cream if you want it thinner. My sauce came out thin so I didn’t need to add any cream although I wished I could have.
  6. Serve the vanilla sauce at room temperature with the pudding or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Month of June: “My Berlin Kitchen” Recipes: Peperoni al Forno Conditi and The Best Nicoise Salad

A Feast fit for a Queen! This picture just doesn’t do justice to the beauty of all these vegetables. These two recipes are fantastic! The roasted pepper salad was such a complex flavor blended with oil cured olives (a newly discovered favorite!), capers and anchovies. The homemade bread crumbs sprinkled on top added a contrasting crunch. Weiss explains that this salad never fails to impress and I agree.

My pairing choice, The Best Nicoise Salad proved my culinary instincts correct. I really was surprised by the lovely added sweetness of the roasted fennel bulb and tomato on the vine. Wow…really something. Don’t underestimate the tomato on the vine, it’s absolutely worth the trouble finding it. The recipes worked very well together in spite of one being Italian and one French. (presumably). Oh yeah, I also added some leftover potato salad from a few days ago and that worked really well. So a little German touch as well! A real European experience. This combo would make a great picnic.

Grab a blanket, your favorite person, a bottle of wine or IPA and you will be well on your way to a very memorable summer day.

Peperoni al Forno Conditi

Ingredients: 2 to 3 slices stale white peasant bread, 3 red bell peppers, 3 yellow bell peppers, 1/4 cup oil cured black olives pitted and chopped, 3 anchovy fillets finely chopped, 1/4 salt cured capers drained, 1 cup minced flat leaf parsley, 4 tablespoons olive oil, flaky salt such as Maldon

  1. Cut the stale bread into rough chunks and pulse in a food processor until course crumbs. Spread crumbs on plate or paper towel and set aside to crisp up and dry out.
  2. Heat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wash and dry the peppers and arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes turning the peppers every 10 minutes with a tong. By the end they should be all blistered and soft with juices escaping.
  3. Remove peppers, allow to cool until able to handle. Remove plug, seeds, skins. Tear or cut the pepper flesh into bite size strips or pieces.
  4. Put the salad together: Arrange peppers on platter or plate, sprinkle the plate of peppers with breadcrumbs, olives, anchovies, capers, parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Mix gently or just layer, and add a few pinches of salt to taste. Serve right away or let sit at room temperature, covered, for up to 4 hours before serving. If you’re not serving the peppers right away, don’t sprinkle on the breadcrumbs until the last minute. That way the retain the crunch.

The Best Nicoise Salad

Ingredients: 1 large fennel bulb sliced very thin, good quality olive oil, Maldon flaky salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 pound cherry tomatoes on vine (don’t skip the vine type), 3/4 pound green beans, 4 large eggs, 1 pound fingerling potatoes, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, can of tuna preserved in oil, fresh lemon juice and 1/2 cup of Nicoise or Kalamata olives.

1.Heat the oven to 250 F and roast the sliced fennel tossed with a little olive oil and seasoned well for about 40 minutes. Drizzle oil and season the tomatoes (leave vine on) and roast 1.5 hours.

2. Steam green beans and drain, running under cold water.

3. Hard boil 4 eggs and shell.

4. Cook potatoes and set aside (or use leftover German potato salad or make a fresh batch!)

5.About 30 minutes before you are ready to serve the salad make the dressing. Put Dijon, salt and pepper in a bowl, add vinegar and whisk. Then add 1/4 cup of olive oil in a thin stream whisking continuously until you have a smooth creamy vinaigrette.

6. Put all cooled room temperature vegetables on a platter, arrange beautifully, open can of tuna and slice in quarters. Slice eggs in half and drizzle the salad with dressing to taste.

Reflections of Abby

“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “you owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Hafiz

In “Comedy Sex God” by comedian Pete Holmes, he introduces a character by the name of Duncan Trussell, another comedian and actor known for a popular podcast. His words strike me about some people. I know this type very well. He calls them “vampires”. The vampires he warns will keep you “stuck in the harbors of sorrow.”

Abby was no vampire. Like Duncan, Abby didn’t “drain life from people, (she) infused them, resuscitating their awe and bringing color back to their cheeks.” She was the most generous human I have ever known, generous to every person she was involved with, not just me. Generous to a fault some have said. But the fault harmed the giver, not the receiver. Ironically, or not, the cause of death was cardiomyopathy. In other words…. an enlarged heart.

Her gift to me now, after her death? “Go find yourself Bec. I am with you always. Life is so brief. Love yourself well and then wait to see what happens!”

Month of June: “My Berlin Kitchen” Recipe: Kartoffelsalat (Potato Salad)

Nothing to say today, just cooking.

Ingredients: 2 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes (I used petite golden), 3.5 tablespoons of butter, 2 yellow onions finely chopped, 1/3 cup of white wine vinegar, 2/3 cup of beef or chicken broth, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground pepper, 2/3 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley, minced.

  1. Wash the potatoes and put them in a pot of salted water just to cover. Boil with lid on and reduce heat to medium and cook until just tender. Depending on the size could be 20-30 minutes. Drain and cool. Per Luisa, Germans boil their potatoes the night before believing it helps retain a good shape. I might try that next time.
  2. Peel potatoes and cut in 1/8 inch slices (mine were bigger and they were fine.)
  3. Melt butter in 10 inch saute pan and add onions, mixing well and cook about 3 minutes. Add vinegar, broth, mustard, stir well making sure the mustard blends, about 3 minutes or less.
  4. Carefully whisk in the oil, pour hot dressing over potatoes and mix well. It takes a few minutes for dressing to absorb into the potatoes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Finish with parsley.

Month of June: Book: “My Berlin Kitchen” Recipe: Ragu alla Bolognese (Beef Ragu)

I decided to opt for comfort today. What’s more comforting than a bowl of spaghetti, homemade sauce and grated parmasean cheese? This recipe for ragu bolognese will not disappoint but be patient: it takes 5-7 hours to cook. The flavors all come together like magic in the end. Like the way our lives come together over time. Like the way it takes time, lots of time, to have a good friend.

I cried about Abby today. I still miss her. She was so extraordinary! Open, authentic, honest, flawed, creative, adventurous, witty, compassionate, daring, outrageous, loyal and so perfectly herself. I was so lucky to be loved by her and to love her for 35 years. We were deeply connected, yet comfortably separate. And by that I mean, free to be ourselves! It was a beautiful precious gift. I didn’t fully realize how rare it was, until after she was gone.

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter, 1 large onion and 2 large carrots finely minced in equal proportions, 1 pound of ground beef and 1 pound of ground pork, 1/2 cup red wine, 28 ounce can of pureed and peeled San Marzano tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt

1.Put the oil and butter in large cast iron pan. I used my Le Creuset. Add onion and soften about 7 minutes, but do not let the onion color. Then add carrots and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir.

2. Add the ground beef and pork. Raise the heat to medium high and using a spoon break of the clumps of meat until if breaks down uniformly. Cook until there is no pink but do not brown. About 8-10 minutes.

3. Add the wine and stir. Simmer 2-3 minutes.

4. Add tomatoes and salt, stir well. Lower heat to lowest setting, put on lid and let the sauce simmer for as long as you can. Per Luisa 7 hours would be wonderful, 5 is pretty good, but anything less than 3 and you are missing out. The longer is cooks the richer it gets.

I had time for 5.5 hours and it was delicious.

Month of June: “My Berlin Kitchen” Recipe: Poppy Seed Whirligig Buns.

I thought I would start out the first month of this grief adventure with “My Berlin Kitchen” by Luisa Weiss. Her wonderful book, which really isn’t a cookbook per se, was lent to me by a nurse colleague and it inspired me with a spark to start a food/grief blog. Her tale is about finding romantic love with a recipe after each chapter but mine is a love story of a friendship with a recipe after each post. So here I am. And you know what? It doesn’t matter if this is well received or not because I must do this. I am writing it to tell you about her, to honor our love and because I must rediscover myself.

Luisa explains that Germans love their breakfasts, apparently A LOT. I have Germanic DNA and I like breakfast so why not give this recipe a whirl? No bun intended. I have the day to myself. No reason to hurry. Beginner’s mind…time to understand yeast. It’s time to understand this grief.

I followed the directions on the package (hmmm…a good start) and guess what? Activation! Life! The dough came out pliable and supple. I was pleased. The result was delicious in my humble opinion. The poppy seed “pudding filling” was a cinnamony lemony flavor that contrasted nicely with the yeasty bread. I would definitely make these again. Thanks Luisa! (and Laurie for thinking I might enjoy the read!!) This book means more to me than you both could ever know!

Yeast dough: 3/4 cup whole milk, 1/4 ounce of fresh yeast or 1 package dry, 1/4 cup sugar, 4 cups all purpose flour, 2 large eggs, 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling: 2 cups whole milk, grated lemon peel of 1/2 lemon, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/3 cup sugar, pinch of salt, 1/3 cup semolina, 1 cup fresh poppy seeds

  1. First make the dough. Heat the milk until lukewarm, add yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar to activate the yeast. Stir and let stand until mixture starts to get foamy.
  2. Pour the flour into a large bowl, add sugar, then begin to stir incorporating with each stir, Add eggs, butter and salt. Begin kneading with hands within the bowl. It will be sticky, don’t worry. Dump onto a lightly floured counter and knead 3-5 minutes until smooth.
  3. Wash out bowl, dry and rub butter into bowl, add dough and let rise until double in a draft free area, about an hour or more.
  4. Make the filling: Put milk in 2 quart saucepan over medium head, add lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and then SLOWLY add semolina making sure to whisk while adding. Cook 1 minute stirring all the time. Then add poppy seeds and mix well. Important: Make sure you find fresh poppy seeds, don’t use the ones that have been sitting in your kitchen for years. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Punch down dough and knead again. Roll out into a large rectangle with rolling pin to 1/2 inch thickness. Spread the cool poppy seed mixture on top evenly almost to edges. Roll up dough lengthwise into a log and wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze for 1 hour.
  6. Butter two 9 or 10 inch cake pans or sheet pan. Remove log from freezer and discard foil. Cut the log into 1.5 inch thick slices. Place in buttered pans and let rise for 45 minutes with a towel to cover. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  7. Mix one egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of milk together and brush buns with mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until golden.
  8. Per Luisa, buns are best the same day they are made. If you want to keep them, wrap the baked cooled buns in foil, in a freezer bag, freeze. Defrost unwrapped in 300 degree oven for 15 minutes.