September 30, 2008

A Little Jar of Summer

The weekend I returned from Alaska, I was craving something bright. Pesto, to be exact. Bright, spicy little bites of summer that remind me of warm afternoons with my Nonna. I think I got the last batch of local basil from my green market, and now I have my own little jar of summer, sitting in the door of the refrigerator.


6oz fresh basil
3cloves garlic
1/2c. pine nuts
1-2tbsp olive oil
Kosher or Sea salt

Wash and dry the basil, removing any browned leaves, stems are fine. Peel and lightly chop the garlic.

Place basil, garlic and pine nuts in the blender and blitz quickly. Add a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt and blitz again. Stop when it resembles a paste.

Pesto is best when everything is not completely blended and homogeneous.

Store in a jar or airtight tub it the refrigerator

September 25, 2008

Fall Comfort Food

Here I sit, at my small home desk with my cup of Sleepytime tea and a small dish of incinerated nuts (my last attempt at roasting in an unpredictable oven), the first fall rain is pattering against the window and I am finally trying to decompress after a very long four days.

It auction season, all the big houses have sales in the next few weeks, Doyle's, Sotheby's, Christie's, so things are hectic at work to say the least. Our neighbors were evicted and the landlord decided to fully exterminate both the vacant apartment and ours, we're the only two on the floor, on Wednesday. Tuesday the Trainer and I, and his family, had to remove all our clothes and books from the apartment, only to put it all away again Wednesday evening. The past few evenings they have been doing work next door as well, last night until after 11pm.

I'm very glad that I had the foresight to prepare some comfort food last weekend. I roasted a large spaghetti squash and prepared a batch of my Nonna's pasta sauce to go with it. I hadn't planned on eating it every day, but it's warm and comforting, and it's all ready for me to grab from the freezer. I learned how to make this pasta sauce from my Nonna and my uncle and I certainly don't follow a recipe, but I do follow a few guidelines.

Spaghetti Squash
Clean the outside of a spaghetti squash and cut it in half. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place both halves of the squash cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the squash. When it's cool enough to handle scrape the meat with a fork to create the spaghetti-like strands and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

Nonna's Pasta Sauce
1lb- ground beef
1- onion
5cloves- garlic
6- Roma tomatoes
4- vine ripe tomatoes
1/2bunch- parsley
2tsp- Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, majoram, thyme, savory, sage & rosemary)
Olive oil
Sea salt

To prep- chop the onions and garlic, wash the Roma tomatoes and remove the stem part and peel the vine ripe tomatoes*

Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil with 1tsp seasoning until translucent.

Remove 2/3 of the onion mixture and place in blender.

Add ground beef to remaining onions and sautee, breaking up into clumps of desired size.

In blender, puree onions and Roma tomatoes.

Transfer meat and tomato puree to a sauce pan, add peeled, chopped vine ripe tomatoes, remaining seasoning and chopped parsley. Simmer for at least 1 hour until flavors are well blended.

*to easily peel the tomatoes score an X over the stem and place tomatoes top down in a heat proof bowl. Cover with boiling water. After a few minutes, rinse in cold water and remove peels

September 20, 2008

Summer Vacation 2008; Alaska

Stage 1: LGA to DTW
I managed to get from New York to Ann Arbor without much excitement. As I was browsing the bookstore prior to my flight this little book caught my eye and triggered the Art Major in me, not to mention the cute factor. I could happily spend my days decorating cupcakes.
I arrived home ready for lunch and my mom and I quickly mixed up some tuna. As I was getting ready to serve myself she looked at the back of the can, it was packed in soy based broth and not SCD. Make sure you check all the ingredients in your canned tuna!
Monday evening I tried a few recipes to have SCD breads to take with me. I made Naomi's carrot pulp bread, as muffins and banana date bread from Raman Prasad's new cookbook for travel food.

Stage 2: DTW to SEA
Wednesday morning I packed my backpack with enough food to hold me through the flight, boiled eggs, muffins, fruit, chicken salad and Lara Bars, and we loaded into the car and headed to the airport.
I didn't expect to be able to eat anything at the airport or on the plane, and there wasn't anything I would have been comfortable with. The flight was fine, I used Sea-bands to prevent motion sickness because all the pills like Dramamine had lactose or some other illegal substance in them. I can't say if they worked, but I didn't get sick.

Before leaving Ann Arbor I called the hotel to get food suggestions and we got a few from Ken, our CruiseWest booking agent, as well. I called the restaurant by the hotel and was told that their menu
was not gluten free friendly but they could probably fox me a salad with plain fish or chicken but the overall response was not confidence inspiring. Ken recommended 10 Mercer who has a gluten free menu on their website and the were confidant they could handle the additional SCD restrictions. Unfortunately, the Impromptu Bistro was out for SCD.

We ended up going to 13 Coins, which was within walking distance of our hotel and where they said they were comfortable serving me. I think it helped that we were there at 4:30, our stomachs
were still on eastern time. Our server Rose was very helpful and I ordered the steak salad with no blue cheese, dressing or fried onions. They did bring out a small plate with veggies and salami and bread, of which I did not partake. The salad was very good and appeared to be safe. I didn't take much notice of my parents eating the bread until I found a sizable crumb in my almost empty water glass. My mom had been wantonly tearing the bread and crumbs ended up in my water, and probably my salad as well. As we were walking back to the hotel I was almost doubled over. It wasn't a horrible gluten reaction and was only really severe for the night. If
it had been the food, the reaction would have been much worse. The moral is: watch out for bread on the table and sloppy dinner mates.

Stage 3: SEA to KTN
The Coastal Gateway Hotel in Seattle offers a breakfast bar including eggs and fruit. I discovered that the fruit was sad apples, the pre-packaged peanut butter had added sugar and the boiled eggs were already peeled in a bowl right next to the toaster. I asked
if I could get a few eggs still in the shell and the young woman at the desk said that "that's how we get them." Good thing I still had two eggs left from the airplane.

The Seattle airport has lots of cute shops, including one that sold cooked salmon in vacuum packages with only salmon and sea salt. We stocked up. They also had Washington honey and fruit and honey blends as well as Slug Butter, which is GF but not SCD.

In Ketchikan we were picked up from the airport and taken to the Cape Fox Lodge, our gathering place for the cruise. And of course, we had to eat. The Heen Kahidi Restaurant was right there and it looked fairly promising. After explaining gluten free and cross contamination to our waitress, Vickey, she told me bread and salads were all prepared in the same area as was the salmon. She checked with the kitchen and determined that I could safely have halibut and steamed veg, since they were kept in a different area. I
asked her that it please be plain, since I can't have corn or soy either.

A little while later she came back to tell me that the chef had seasoned my fish, and that she checked and the seasoning contained cornstarch and that they were fixing my meal again. It arrived plain and as we were finishing the restaurant manager came over to apologize. I told her how much I appreciated how aware and alert the waitress had been, how impressed I was with her knowledge of the kitchen practices and her honesty. Mom made Dad leave a large tip, even though they took my meal off the bill, and I left a thank you note for the waitress as well.

Stage 4: Cruising Alaska's Inside Passage
After lunch we wandered around Ketchikan, saw salmon swimming, just packed, in the local creek and the local Discovery Center. Before boarding we were welcomed by a Tlingit native and taught a little about their culture.At the dock their were humongous cruise ships, and our little ship that is only 3 levels and holds only 102 people.

After getting myself situated in my cabin I brought my SCD yogurt down to the bar, where I was told I would be able to keep it. Somehow I found the Second Mate who put my yogurt away and found the chef to come and speak with me. Chef Eric wanted to make sure he fully understood my restrictions and to see what I wanted for dinner.

Misty Fiords-
Our first morning on the boat, my birthday, we woke up in Misty Fiords. Beautiful. Before breakfast we saw a black bear and bald eagles. By the time we docked at our first stop we saw harbor seals as well.

After lunch we visited the Tsimshian reserve of Metlakatla on Annette Island. This reserve, rather than reservation, is unique because the community was permitted to choose their own location close to their ancestral territory.Here we saw many of the community's totem poles and a performance of native dances inside the community longhouse.

Chef Eric and I spoke in the morning and again planned my days meals. At dinner we had an empty seat at our table and Captain Mike choose to sit next to me. Exciting to say the least. After dinner they announced my birthday *red face* and everyone sang, rather than a cake Chef Eric fixed a fruit purée and fruit plate for everyone at the table to share. They didn't want to give my dinning companions a dessert that I couldn't share. *me: beaming from ear to ear*

The second day we stopped at Petersberg, a town founded by a Norwegian fisherman that still has strong Scandinavian influence. Dad saw a Norwegian dance preformed by local youth and a raptor rehabilitation program. Mom and I took a jet boat out to see the Lekant Glacier. There were lots of harbor seals and I got to touch an iceberg. I also made the boat take a pit stop cause I couldn't hold "it" any longer.

Tracy Arm & Frederick Sound-
On the fourth day of the cruise we traveled through Tracy Arm and Frederick Sound where we saw Harbor Seals, sea birds, sea lions, Sawyer Glacier and South Sawyer Glacier. We sailed into a huge pod of Orcas, they were everywhere you looked, including right next to the boat! We saw several Humpback Whales, even a mother-juvenile pair. It's so amazing to see them up close in the wild.

We visited Sitka, where the U.S. Purchased Alaska from Russia, the next morning and Mom and I went on a "bike and hike" and learned some of the native lore of Baranov Island. And the notable banana slug. We saw a plant called Devil's Club which is used by the Tlingit for aches and pains and rashes. We bought lots of the oil and salve made by a local tribal elder.

Glacier Bay National Park-
The following morning we picked up a Tlingit Cultural Interpreter for a cruise through Glacier Bay National Park. We saw sea otters at breakfast, murrelets, two types of puffins, murres, ravens, loons, sea lions, cormorants, gulls, kittiwakes, ducks, a bear and a mountain goat. Also the Margerie Glacier, Grand Pacific Glacier, Lamplugh Glacier and Reid Glacier. The glaciers are such amazing forces of nature. And to hear about the geology and native culture of the area while looking right at it really made it even more meaningful.

Skagway is a goldrush town, a port where people set out for the Klondike. At the end of the 19th century a train track was built over the pass and Dad and I rode up and over into British Columbia along the same track that the stampeders used. The buildings in the downtown are mostly original but all the stores are geared towards tourists and all the huge cruise ships.

In the afternoon we went on a rain forest hike in Haines. On our way to the hike we saw two young brown bears along the river. On our way back we saw eight, two juveniles and two mothers with two cubs each along with seals and bald eagles.

We disembarked in Juneau and went to see the Mendenhall Glacier before doing a little shopping. I got myself an ulu, and my nephew is getting Alaskan Manly Man soap for his birthday. While in Juneau we had lunch at The Twisted Fish Co. and after explaining gluten free to the waitress twice I was served a plate with a roll. The waitress really didn't seem to interested in us at all.

Stage 5: JUN to DTW
The airport in Juneau only has one little bar where my parents ate while waiting for our plane, which was delayed. After sorts losing Dad we boarded the plane which was delayed. In Seattle they drove us down the tarmac from one plane to the next. In Minneapolis we ran for the next plane which took of almost as soon as we boarded. After leaving Alaska around 9pm PT we were finally back at my parents house by noon ET. Not bad for a red-eye.

Stage 6: DTW to LGA
I was in Michigan long enough to have my mom do my laundry and do a little baking before returning to New York. The Trainer met at the bus stop and we went home together.

**I would like to thank CruiseWest and especially chef Eric for making my trip so wonderful with such amazing care, consideration and food!**

(it's driving me crazy that I can't get these pictures the way I want them, but I'm not savvy enough to get more then one picture in a frame. How do people make those collages? any help out there?
Sent from my iPhone

September 19, 2008

Home Again

For any and all of you who are wondering where I've gotten to, I'm back in New York safe and sound. I'm working on sorting out all the pictures from my trip and a few new concoctions. When I got home we removed Toni's collar, his last step back to health and normalcy. But, best laid plans. . . the other night, several days after being reunited Toni and his twin Tavo had a knock-down drag-out brawl, leaving them both bloodied and battered. And me to clean up and take care of my little ones.

So, hopefully the dust will settle, I'll get used to this whole work schedule again and I'll have lots of great Alaska pictures to share, as well as a menu (I've eaten variations on the theme of chicken all week) and perhaps even a new recipe as well.