Last year, about this time, I did a real jackass kind of thing. I invited myself along on someone else’s vacation. It was St. Patrick’s Day, we’d been enjoying all that Chicago has to offer on a gorgeous, unseasonably warm 70 degree day where everyone is Irish. My friends mentioned they were going to Napa and asked for recommendations. I then say “What? I’m going with you! You need me with you! I know people.” Obnoxious, right? I immediately apologized the next day and gave them an out, which they declined and invited me along anyway. That’s good friends for you.
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There’s something so bright and refreshing about lemons. I might even say bracing. They make me happy. The bright color and perky flavor is exactly what I need during this gloomy, grey and wet time. If you live somewhere sunny then you probably don’t know what I’m talking about but think about this. Last week I was wearing shorts and a light sweater. Four days later it was cold and drenching wet. Three days after that it snowed. I’ll take any bit of brightness I can get and if that’s in the form of some grocery store citrus than so be it.
Comfort foods are funny. Everyone has their own particular favorites and they really can perform miracles, lifting moods and brightening days. But there’s no reasoning with what each of us considers comforting. I, for one, do not care for tomato soup. It’s just not my thing. I’m reminded of bowls of marinara and much prefer “stuff” in my soups. Add a grilled cheese and I’ll eat the sandwich but leave the soup. It’s always been that way. Chicken noodle, now that’s another story. For my mother, however, tomato soup makes her happy. I once flew home to take care of her, post surgery, and that’s what she wanted. So I delivered. There are times when you put aside your preferences to please those you love. But I draw the line at meatloaf. That will never happen.
Several years back when I head the shocking news that Gourmet Magazine was ceasing publication effectively immediately, I panicked a little. I had years of magazines in various stacks around my apartment but I had long since relied on the online archives to find recipes quickly. I grabbed my laptop, clicked through recipe bookmarks like a madwoman and made some hasty notes in case the online resources disappeared as well. Last week I came across those messy notes, jotted haphazardly in a notebook and tried to make some sense of my illegible scribbles. One caught my eye – Roasted Mushrooms Escargot-Style. Hmmmm, this sounded promising.
I have a deep love for breakfast pastries. Crazy love. As a kid, special morning moments were always marked with a treat – Pillsbury pecan rolls to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, cookies for Christmas breakfast, pink donuts for Valentine’s Day. Don’t even get me started on Paczki Day. I could take or leave a muffin but a well-made croissant makes my toes tap. In culinary school I learned to make Danishes the proper way, with layers and layers of careful butter lamination, and promptly gained 5 happy pounds. A beautiful flaky scone or a perfect old-fashioned donut is cause for celebration. I’ve been known to do some serious damage on a kringle of any kind, but given the choice, a good bakery-style buttery, crumbly coffeecake wins every time.
There were two holidays in my house growing up where we went full on Polish – Christmas and Easter, the later much more so than the former. Easter was when we had a table groaning under the weight of food – several kinds of pierogies, sausage, sauerkraut, a butter lamb, potato casseroles, and always kolacky and a lamb cake for dessert. Sour cream usually featured heavily in there too. A Chicago-Polish friend once told me that it wasn’t a proper meal at her house unless someone was passing the tub of sour cream. For my clan, it wasn’t a proper Easter without three things: pierogies, garlicky sausage and kolacky. Wait. Four things. Pierogies, garlicky sausage, kolacky AND polka music. The night just cannot end without a rousing rendition or six of “Who Stole the Kiska”. You should try it.