Tag Archives: grandparents

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Lima Beans . . . Yum?

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my Nana told me that she loved lima beans when she was my age.  Then she paused briefly before going on to say, “But they just don’t taste the same anymore.” 

No wonder.  The lima beans of my Nana’s adulthood — and for all of my childhood —  were either the salty canned variety or the insipid frozen kind. 

While I never turned my nose up at lima beans, I never really embraced them, either.  That is, until, I found them at my farmers market, fresh and still in their pods. 

Now I finally understand why Nana once loved lima beans.

Lima Beans . . . Yum?

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Veal Tongue

One of the unfortunate consequences of growing up in a wealthy country is that most Americans children don’t learn to value the offal and other under-appreciated — though wonderful — parts of an animal.  Even as an adult, I find that most of my friends wince when I mention dishes such as braised sweetbreads and tripe tacos.  I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to have grown up with a father who loved calf’s liver, a mother who ate chicken hearts, a grandmother who cooked veal kidneys, and a neighborhood Chinese restaurateur who routinely used chicken feet in his meal preparation.

So, when our favorite New York dairy farmers, Tim and Mary Tonjes of Tonjes Farm Dairy, mentioned last week that they had veal tongue for sale, I bought one and brought it home.  Having not cooked one for about 15 years, I found an easy recipe on the internet, and threw it in a pot of celery, onions, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and gently boiling water for about an hour and a half.  Then I turned the burner off and let the meat sit in the cooking juices for another hour.  When I finally removed it from the liquid, I peeled the off the outer layer, discarded it, and sliced the tender meat.  The aroma and flavor are delicate and meaty, and the texture is somewhere between corned beef, though not stringy, and stew meat, though far more tender.

I served the meat on a crunchy baguette with horseradish and lettuce.  It was simple.  And simply delicious.

Veal Tongue

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Jam Juice

“Waste not, want not,” my Gramps told me, as he scraped the last of the jam from the jar, filled the jar with tap water, and shook it up.

“What are you going to do with that?” I asked him, wide-eyed and spellbound.

“It’s jam juice!” he declared before pouring half the vaguely pinkish water into a small glass for me, and drinking the rest down straight from the jar. 

I followed his lead, noting that the liquid no longer tasted exactly like water, nor did it taste anything like juice.  In fact, I wasn’t really sure I liked it.  But I smiled widely and drank it all anyway, because I loved my Gramps, and that was good enough for me.

Jam Juice

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Christmas Tamales

Last year at about this time, my friend Raquel spent the day with me, teaching me to make Christmas tamales using her abuela’s recipe.   A few days earlier, in anticipation of Raquel’s arrival, I bought a pork shoulder, lard, chilis, and cheese at the farmers market, and braised the pork shoulder until it fell apart.  Then, together, Raquel and I visited nearly every grocery store in Greenwich Village searching for just the right corn husks and masa, which took longer than expected because store clerks thought we were asking for “matzah.”  We couldn’t stop laughing. 

When we finally had all of our ingredients, we spent hours making tamales and sharing stories about Christmases past.  When we finished, we divided the tamales in half so that she could take some home, but not until at a few ourselves to make sure they were perfect.  They were.

This week, Raquel and her fiancé will be moving back to California . . . probably forever, though she promises me they’ll be back.  I suspect her promises to return are intended to keep me from being quite so heartbroken about their departure.  If that’s the case, it’s not working.  My one consolation, though, is that I will always have her tamale recipe and the memories of the day when she taught me to make them.  I like to think that means a part of her will always be with me.

Christmas Tamales

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Anatomy of a Cranberry Bean

When I was a little girl, my paternal grandmother had a sewing basket that she kept in the enclosed back porch of her Chicago home.  Inexplicably, at the bottom of the basket — alongside the needles, thread, and darning egg  — were more than a dozen shiny marbles, each different from the other.  I couldn’t wait to hold each one up to the light and admire its size, shape, color, and unique design.  Each year, when cranberry beans come into season, I am reminded of the surprise I experienced when I first found the precious and beautiful little objects in such an unpredictable place.

Cranberry Beans

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Cacao Prieto

On a recent jaunt via ferry to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, I scanned New York Harbor for signs of a floating bottle.  “If I ever find a genie in a bottle,” I fantasized, “My first wish will be that my grandparents return to life to spend a day with me in New York City.”  The thought slipped away as I took in street after street, and shop after shop, in Red Hook.  Then, about an hour later, I came upon Cacao Prieto, a stunningly beautiful distillery and single-origin organic chocolate factory founded by the grandson of the little girl depicted on the postcard accompanying the chocolate bars.  It seemed as if my grandparents had heard my thoughts on the ferry ride to Red Hook.  My Nana, a chocolate lover, and my Gramps, a bourbon lover, were there with me that day in New York City.

Cacao Prieto

 

Bourbon Brownies

Every Friday night when I was a child, my grandparents came to visit.  My Gramps would settle into a chair, readying himself to read me countless books, with a can of beer and a shot of bourbon.  He would allow me “as many sniffs as you want of beer but only one sip.”  The bourbon was relegated to “sniffs only” territory.  To this day, I still love the smell of bourbon.

Bourbon Brownies