Friday, March 26, 2010

Look! Behind you!

I grew up on the largest lake in Minnesota – Lake of the Woods. I mean, excepting Lake Superior. Okay? I KNEW that. It’s on the Canadian border. Every spring something or someone goes through the ice. Our son, Jerem, lives up there with his family and he keeps me posted, as this is of great interest to me. This week he sent this which happened six miles out from shore. (These are my people.) I admit I’ve watched it about ten times. And laughed. Not in a mean-spirited way, but as from someone who dumped a polenta on the floor last night, and recognizes I’m one who in no way should be trusted to drive or fish on ice. Maybe shouldn’t be let in the kitchen, either. Or even use my computer as in, a couple days ago while trying to download a weather program (I LOVE weather) I copied all my applications twice, so now I have three of everything and thought: DRAG the extras to the TRASH. Yes. And in doing so found I had no applications whatsoever. Now luckily, clever me, I dragged them back out. And I think everything will be okay, but mymacman will see to it. But this poor guy, Chris, the owner of the vehicle, wasn’t so lucky. Even though another truck and a bombardier tried to drag him out, it was too late. One less Silverado to drive over the pressure ridge on Lake of the Woods!

There’ve been more sorrows around here (according to my reckoning) than I have time to cry for. Many of them belong to other’s lives, not our own. But then there was a text message recently, from a friend who’s way sweeter than most, well, at least than I - and she always begins “Dearest  Margie,” as if there’s no price on texting, and this one she ended with “Isaiah 35.” So, not remembering it exactly I looked it up. It’s a good, good chapter. It reminds us that one day we’re going to look behind us to see “sorrow and sighing flee away,” and “gladness and joy” running us down and finally overtaking us. I could stand that.

Meantime, I look at this pickup (not the same one as in the video) thinking some sorrows are stinkin’ and sure make you glad they’re not your own or at least cause you to evaluate your car insurance. And other sorrows we’re just meant to bear with others, because it’s part of what we do, carry the weight to the cross. It’s like a down-payment on their joy. Some day we’ll get to share theirs with them, maybe even get to eat some of their best chocolate, drink their finest wine. We, some day, might even get the truck back. We’ll see about that.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Suicide Bunny Notice

I like wild bunnies. I really do. But today I’m SLIGHTLY annoyed. This little guy ate our arbor vitae all winter. He also gnawed and girdled the hedge which I’m philosophical about, okay? But today, I’ve no use for him because he is more clever than I. (or is that me? Jeremy? Marsena?) He systematically waits until moments before the crocus (crockeye?) open (How does he KNOW?) and then nibbles them to stubs. We’re spreading this. And may his little paws burn all the way to heaven or at least to the next yard.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Almost Perfect"

Last Friday Comment Magazine posted my column on perfectionism in the kitchen. As you know, I have a lot to say about that. If you're a perfect person, don't bother.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fresh ginger cake in cast iron

Sorry, I’ve been gone for awhile. Things. Life, you know. Am in Chicago staying with Marsena for a few days. Denis will join us later this week and we’ll be helping her move.

Some days there’s not much in life that can compete with a warm ginger cake. But add sweet, caramelized pears and I’d consider selling my bed. And you know how much I love my bed.

This cake has the subtle warmth of fresh ginger and gentle molasses. Add to that the slight crunch of sautéed pears and buttery caramel. Mmmmm. (Be sure to use a mild molasses. Blackstrap or dark is way too strong a flavor.)
Cast iron is really perfect for this recipe. I used a 9 inch skillet for the cake and a 10 inch for the pears. I don’t know if you’ve ever made a caramel sauce, but it’s not that hard and the results kill. Especially if you make it in a cast iron skillet – the heaviness of iron and the even distribution of heat way reduces chances of scorching or burning.  

Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears
1 c flour
½ t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
¼ cup unsulfured molasses
¼ cup sour cream (lo-fat or no-fat doesn’t work)
4 T (2 oz) butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 t. finely grated peeled fresh ginger
½ t. grated lemon zest

Caramelized pears:
2 medium firm-ripe pears, any kind
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
4 T water
4 T heavy cream
2 t. brandy or bourbon

Oven 350 degrees.
Lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch cast iron skillet. Or, okay if you don’t have one – a round baking pan will do.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt. Set aside. In another medium bowl, combine molasses, sour cream, butter, brown sugar, egg, ginger, and zest. Whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and stir just until combined. Pour batter into prepped skillet. Shake to even out. Bake 15-20 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool cake 5 minutes, turn out of pan onto a rack. Cool to room temp.

When ready to serve cake, peel the pears, cut in half lengthwise and into 8 wedges, discard cores. Place in bowl, toss with lemon juice. (I like a bit more pear so used 2 ½  pears. Eat the half you don’t use. Fruit, good.)

In a cast iron skillet large enough to hold the pears in one layer – 10 inch is about right – over medium heat, melt butter. Add pears and saute, shaking skillet occasionally, for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and continue to sauteing, gently turning the pears until the sugar is melted and pears are tender, but not too. Transfer pears back to bowl.

Still over medium heat, boil sugar-butter mixture, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn a deep shade of caramel. While it cooks, combine water and cream in small bowl or cup. When caramel is the right color, remove skillet from heat and carefully – it can splatter- add the cream mixture. Then add the brandy and a pinch of salt. Return skillet to heat and simmer, stirring until thickened slightly. (If your caramel seized when you added the liquids, don’t worry; whisk briskly until it’s smooth again.) Return pears to skillet, and cook until heated through.
Serve cake in wedges, with a few pieces of pear alongside and caramel drizzled over the top.
Also fabulous with a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 4-6 people.

(This recipe was from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Some days

Often when I pray, I use a phrase from the prayer Jesus taught us: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth...”

What I mean to be  saying is “A bit of Thy kingdom come here, to us, today, please.” I pray, sitting in an Amish bent rocker looking out the second story window where beyond our yard I see people walking to work at St. Mary’s hospital, delivery trucks stopping at the Canadian Honker, patrons leaving Caribou Coffee clutching cups. In this in-between time while we wait for Kingdom to fully arrive I’m asking if God would share a tiny cheese cake of a thing to hearken us, and those we meet, to Himself. I’m saying I welcome a bit of Pasture into this house, into this day, even an atom of it so we remember who we are and where we’re headed.

Night before last I didn’t sleep much because I forgot to set the alarm but didn’t want to wake Denis by turning on the light, and whacking the buttons, so I kept watching the lit numbers until 5 a.m. which I don’t care that you get up that early all the time and think nothing of it, it was EARLY for me.

I was driving to Minneapolis (about 1 ½ hours from Rochester) to pick up my Mom at 7:00. She was flying in on the Marvin Windows plane. They arrive at a little terminal - tucked near the big one - that accommodates small corporate jets. CEOs with leather briefcases and the Minnesota Wild team, for eg, come and go. Security is drive up to the gate pick up a phone and tell them, “I’m here to meet the blah-blah-blah and the gate pulls back. No monitors, I mean none I see, no information, but really nice lounge, fireplace, bathroom with hairspray and shoe polisher, though I have no use for either. And fyi, people up in Warroad who have remote connections to Marvins can get a seat on their plane, for a price, and if they have room. Okay you really wanted to know all this, didn’t you?

So, I arrive and wait until I notice NO ONE is coming or going. It’s 7:30 and no Mom. Can’t reach her by cell phone or home phone. She’s left no messages anywhere. The desk says no plane is scheduled and no info but I can call Marvins. Jodi in Scheduling and Tours answers. Long pause. She says, O no. I think we told her the wrong time. She was supposed to leave at 6 p.m. not a.m.

In Warroad she’d been waiting forever out at the airstrip and there was NO ONE there either, but finally a guy showed, checked the schedule and said, ah. It leaves at 5 p.m. tonight. When Mom finally reached me, she’d hurried 36 miles back home to call as she’d forgotten her cell phone. The leather lounge chairs are pretty nice, but I couldn’t sit all day waiting without computer or book. And shopping for 12 hours at Mall of America is, well, I’d rather eat cockroaches. So I drove back home to work. Returned to meet her late afternoon. Again, I waited and waited, wondering what happened now, I finally got a call from Mom who reported, “We’re on the ground in Duluth! (pause) But we’ll be arriving in Mpls around 7:15.” She did arrive at last and we had dinner together. But I was wondering about God’s Kingdom arriving in my life on “this day” and whether it had.

You hoped I’d have some big message? Sorry. I’ve taken all your time to say I drove six hours and it was kind of meaningless and boring. All I have to report is I saw the sun rise – not an option at Toad Hall even if you’re up early. The colors made me think of melons. Layers and layers of hazy pinks, corals, salmons, purples. Fields of snow reflecting light so soft … so fleeting, it may have been my cheesecake for the day, though having a Mom, especially this Mother is pretty nice any time.