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I have a hard time following directions. Specifically, I fail at following recipes. This is not because: 1. I cannot read  or 2. I have cognitive disabilities. In fact, sometimes I just have a better idea, or an alternate method that works for me. Or maybe there’s no Dutch Chervil in the cupboard (whatever the hell that is). Generally, this truth is an asset for me and not a liability. I suspect it relates to my being self- employed. But more specifically, I think it relates to the nature of my work. There are very few recipes when it comes to restoration work.

For instance, it is impossible to google “restore this heap of cello bits” and get a concise and printable course of action that may result in something worth putting strings on:
DSCN0217

This cello is actually not in such bad shape, since most of its parts, rather ALL of its parts, have literally come apart at the seams. Beyond that, there will be some serious planning, some random moments of ingenuity, and an otherwise brilliant trajectory of skill and awesomeness. All in a day’s work.

This, however, is a challenge:

re-heartlandmenu-shrededsprouts608

http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/2000s/2003/11/brussels-sprouts-maple-hickory-nuts

Here is a recipe that I love, for shredded Brussels sprouts with maple glazed pecans. I can never quite get it right, for all its simplicity. It’s best when the flavors are isolated and the textures are differentiated. I know how good it can be. I excel at soups and stews, or when a visual presentation is required. But the perfection of this particular recipe eludes me. I’m thinking it might take someone who can follow directions.

Happy New Year!

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Yesterday I delivered a bunch of home grown veggies to my neighbors. I was grateful for the short term loan of a dehydrator, with which I dried my first batch of Principe Borghese tomatoes. I look forward to committing these little red gems to olive oil and herbs, probably sometime in January or February, when a hit of summer will be ever so much more effective than the latest designer “pick-me-up.”

So my thanks to M and her partner T, with whom I remarked about how this summer seemed to be  unusually difficult for many of us. I say was, because we have just been kissed by our impetuous lover (if you live in New England), Autumn. Yes, the temperature dipped below 60〫F just the other night. In New England we love and hate the weather. It is unreliable – glorious and disappointing in turn.

For the better part of the summer we have been looking at this:
I did not mow the grass during the month of July. And while that would seem like a strange gift of time otherwise unallocated, the “brown out” has, overall, been a serious downer. I’ve been thinking about my first year in this house – only last spring/summer, really – in which I sweated through a dramatic late winter thaw that flooded the basement, a nearby spring tornado, an almost unheard of East Coast earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and a devastating late October snowstorm that downed trees still dressed in showy yellow, red  and orange foliage. The aftermath of that last storm inhibited mobility, left thousands without power for days and caused several deaths including the old lady up the street, who died wrapped in a blanket, in a comfortable chair, because she would not leave her 45 〫F house.

For me, the weather events of 2011 were all near misses. Still, I admit to becoming weather shy. Maybe it is a function of my age, or of circumstance. I am a newcomer to this community. In any case, as this dry, dry weather seems to take a needed turn, it is a joy to be sharing the bounty of a summer salvaged by care and diligence:

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It seemed appropriate somehow, this being Bastille Day.

Late last summer, I planted some little cabbage plants along the driveway. Really, I stuck them in, not  expecting there would be enough growing season left for even a late fall cabbage crop. Indeed. I watched the proverbial snow fall, since we didn’t have much of the real stuff, and didn’t give mes petites choux a second thought.

Then, we had a week of summer-in-March, and I discovered that one little intrepid cabbage had not only wintered over, but had already bolted out of the starting gate! This had promise! I was a proud mama!

I’ve become kind of accustomed by being met in the driveway by Madame La Chou, as she has become known in her maturity. Kind of like having another pet. Since I need that like a hole in the head, I’ve had to deal with the inevitable:

When to do the deed.

All my other cabbages are still (appropriately) babies, so it will be a while before we see another like Mme La Chou. Hers was a story of endurance, tenacity and determination and a grave reminder that it is always possible to wake up on the wrong side of the Revolution.

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Possibly the best thing I ever brought home from my visits to Italy:

I had my first spritz in Venice, in a bar at Piazza San Marco. I observed city workers in yellow safety gear and large rubber boots stopping in after their day’s shift to down a tall icy wine glass full of something I had to try. I was traveling solo and so it was all up to me to make this educational experience happen. I was motivated.

Some kind of sketchy Italian combined with some sketchy English and a few minutes later I had myself an Aperol spritz and a new best friend. I had opted for bitter, rather than sweet and I’m still not sure what the sweet option would be – maybe Campari, or maybe more of what I was offered on the train platform in Florence (that’s another story)!

I’m a little embarrassed that I’ve had to (cough!)google the proportions of Aperol, prosecco and seltzer. Then there is the issue of a slice of orange? like I had in Venice? or a green olive, as is recommended in some foody travel blog I read once (maybe they know something)? Personally, I prefer both. A slice of orange grabs your nose as you go for the dive, and the olive is that opening to another dimension as you come up for air.

By the way, a spritz is readily available in Cremona as well (this is a violin related blog), where I’ve had it served in the early evenings with a bowl of pistachios and/or a bowl of potato chips. I think it’s a northern Italian thing. Say “Aperol spritz, per favore”.

2 oz prosecco

1 1/2 oz Aperol

dash seltzer

orange slice, green olive and lots of ice

*note: be sure to add the Aperol last, after the seltzer and prosecco so that it diffuses nicely in the glass, rather than sitting at the bottom.

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