Allium Green: 12.09


The merits of the martini

It is the day after Christmas. There are still ribbons and scraps of paper on the living room floor. There's a plate of cookies on the table across from me looking distinctly picked over. I do not want to eat anything even remotely sweet. My nephew is across the table, cranky and tossing cheerios on the floor, belting out hoarse screeches every couple of seconds. My brother is trying not to listen to it, but getting increasingly irritated. Everyone else is in the basement playing wii. Even Grandpa is perfecting his golf swing on wii golf.

And I'm thinking that now might be a nice time for a martini. In the midst of all the detritis of a holiday party, I'm pretty sure there's a bottle of gin and some dry vermouth. Some olives in the back of the refrigerator? No doubt. It's been raining for two days. The lovely two feet of snow that was dropped on the DC area has all melted into a flat, gray landscape. And I'm thinking that martini might chase away some of the post-holiday blues.

So in the spirit of the season, a cold cocktail recipe for you. A classic. Like It's a Wonderful Life or twinkle lights on a Christmas tree. Just like that. Enjoy.

Classic martini
While the recipe is a classic, the gin is not. This gin has an entirely different taste from something like Tanqueray- it's a bit like cucumber. And I love it. So, see what you think. It isn't cheap, but it's worth it.

2 oz. Hendrick's gin
splash of dry vermouth
three olives

Add gin and vermouth to cocktail shaker along with a handful of ice. Shake vigorously - I figure it's ready when my fingers stick to the shaker. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the three olives speared on a toothpick or a slice of cucumber. And to be honest, I don't measure the gin. It's probably a little more than 2 oz. It is the holidays, after all.

Photo by Ralph.


Caramel corn goodness

It is the Christmas season. Also known as the season of baking. This usually does not move me. In the years since I stopped eating gluten, it's just not as much fun to bake. This does not break my heart. It has its advantages. The loss of a few pounds, the ability to focus on the more nuanced, savory side of the plate. But then along came the damn caramel corn. The stuff is like crack. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was looking through a list of new (to me) food blogs that a friend sent me - thank you, Sara - and got caught up in the beautifully written blog by Smitten Kitchen. And there I found a recipe for coffee toffee which I sort of idly thought might be nice to make. Except that I didn't have enough butter (yesterday's tamal party-for-one having used up most of my supply) or instant espresso powder or brown sugar.

But then when I saw the recipe on Orangette's blog for caramel corn, well I did have most of those ingredients. And Hubby is a pretty big popcorn fan. And what else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon? Better yet, we have special popcorn in the pantry right now from our CSA share. It comes from a farm in Quebec, Tullochgorum Farm, and it's called white lightening popcorn. The stuff is beautiful- snowy white and delicious.

So I did it. And, well, I still didn't have brown sugar, so I used white sugar plus some molasses. And have I mentioned that I've never made candy before? Which is essentially what this is. Well, it's like magic. Magic closely monitored with a thermometer. Which I dropped into the blurping, bubbling, bleeping-hot caramel just shy of the magic moment were boiling sugar turns into caramel. And then woah, people, the stuff turns to rock-hard pretty damn fast. There was some shouting, I admit, and popcorn scattering all over the kitchen; it was pretty exciting. Hubby was definitely laughing at me. This is not for the faint of heart. Or probably also not for people who substitute ingredients and don't measure very reliably. And don't get the stuff on your skin, no matter what. I'm here to tell you, it hurts. A lot. All in all, this is probably not the recipe for me. Or the genre for me, really.

But then we started tasting it... and this stuff is ridiculously delicious. It's impossible to stop once you start. And now's probably a good time to mention that I added chocolate chips during the oven phase, melting over the top of half the caramel corn. Gilding the lily, perhaps, but it was brilliant, I tell you. I guess it's kind of a cross between that coffee toffee and the caramel corn, but, er, without the coffee. Orangette suggests that this might make a nice gift, packaged in mason jars. And I'm thinking, who is she kidding? I'm pretty sure this will be gone long before it comes anywhere near a ribbon-wrapped mason jar. Sorry folks. You'll have to make your own.

I know this photo isn't gorgeous, but I thought you might like to see it.
This is from the gilded-lily chocolate side.


Swooning over tamales

Have you ever had tamales? If you have and you don't love them, you might want to stop reading. This may turn into a love letter. I've spent most of today making tamales and they're steaming away on the stovetop right now. The smell in the kitchen is sweet, a little dusty, homey, warming.

The recipe I use is from Rick Bayless, whom I would run away with in a second if only he promised to cook for me every day (sorry, Hubby). I know, I know. I'm a faithless hussy. But seriously, withhold judgment until you try the tamales. And then even a little longer until you nose around on his website. The man is magic in the kitchen. But I digress.

Making the filling, making the masa dough, folding the husks... this all takes hours. Tamales are party food. Something to make when there's a lot of hands on deck. They're traditionally made at Christmas-time, and I've been making them most years since I discovered how much I love them, either for my in-laws or my own family.

I made today's batch by myself. Hubby has gone to Lake Placid for the evening to see his sister and her family, and I'm working on my weekly detox from work. Something about being crazy busy and stressed at work makes me unwilling to socialize on the weekends. I am hoping that this ebbs in a couple of weeks and that I can return to the land of regular humans. But we'll see. In the meantime, I'm doing lots of reading, lots of cooking, and trying not to think about how much damn work I have to do come Monday. And I make tamales.

I made red chili pork for the filling, and this is what I mostly do. However, chicken cooked with tomatillos is also nice. And I just saw a recipe for chocolate tamales. I think this sounds inspired but I didn't have any chocolate today. Actually, I didn't have corn husks either. And it's a measure of my devotion to these things that I drove into Burlington to buy the damn husks. This is a 45 minute drive, people, and one that I make five days a week, and the last thing I want to do on the weekend. They're that good.


Tamales are steamed. They're a lot like dumplings actually. And they steam for a looooong time- more than an hour. I'm not afraid to admit that I've ruined more than one pot by boiling it dry. My attention span is apparently something less than an hour and a half. On one memorable occasion, the smoke alarm went off and the pot heated to the point where the bottom actually melted to conform to the shape of my electric burner. I shudder to think how hot that pot was. We'd retired to the porch for a drink while we waited for them to finish steaming. Those tamales tasted like carbon. I think we ate them anyway.

Calamity aside, I love these things. And I wish you'd make them so that you'll love them too. You now have the benefit of knowing how not to make them (by letting the pot boil dry) and the benefit of knowing how they make one northern girl swoon. So try them out. Tell me what you think. I bet you'll be willing to run away with Rick Bayless, too.


December light

There's something special about the light on snow. This morning, lying in bed, the light on the ceiling was brighter and softer than it's been lately, reflected off the snow outside. It's the beginning of December and this is the first real snow we've had. It was coming down hard all morning and blowing across the field in little twisters. I worked from home today and I'd nearly forgotten how much I like this.

I kept getting up from my make-shift desk at the dining room table to stand at the window and watch the snow come down. And I even braved the chill wind to take a few photos - and then immediately ran back in hooting and shivering with the cold, stamping snow off my slippers. November did not prepare us for December this year.


So this is my offering today. Light on snow and not much more. I do apologize for the silence recently. It's dark and cold; this is not inspiring. But more to come soon. More to come.