Farming in My Flip Flops

File Apr 09, 8 29 12 AM

I’m sitting here at my kitchen window looking out over a soft light layer of snow, thinking. Mild annoyance would be the logical destination of those thoughts, as in, “aw sh#t…when is this nonsense going to stop.” That could be the script considering it is now April, tulips abound, and yesterday I was running around in my flip flops. And believe me, all those  things were in there, but that wasn’t the first stop on the thought train. My first thought upon looking out over this frosty tableau was…OH MY GOD!!!! MY BABIES!!!! – quickly followed by pulling on boots, (after glancing at my flip flops, a tiny tear running down my cheek), and running outside.

Hello, I’m the lunatic standing in nothing but a bathrobe and rubber boots on the front lawn…in the snow. At least I remembered to close the robe.

Yes, I’m a mother now to hundreds of tiny tender green shoots. City girl is making the leap of faith and fertilizer, to farmer. Or as I like to think of it, from Cooking in My Heels, to Farming in My Flip Flops.

This isn’t exactly my first foray into shoving seeds in dirt and watching the magic happen. But back then I was 5, the “garden” was a lima bean poked into a dirt-filled dixie cup, and there was no way in hell I was going to eat whatever happened after that. This is different. This is a big girl grown up garden, not just a few disposable-if-dead plants on the air conditioner in the sunny window facing W. 24th street.

I decided to make the leap of faith into a steady relationship with dirt over the past winter, when I desperately needed something to distract my mind to something to look forward to. What could be more anticipatory of reward (and/or frustration, mold, bugs, weeds, etc.) than a lovely garden. So about 4 weeks ago, I dug in. (You see what I just did there, right?)

Now some gardeners are a cross of landscape-architecty botanist-engineers, planning square footage, testing soil pH, examining phases of the moon and such, so that their fertile ground gets the most production per earthworm of healthy organic sustainable yield possible. I bought a cute pair of gardening gloves. I mean, I’m going to be taking pictures of this stuff and posting on instagram after all. I also picked up a few tools on sale, and big watering can, and a squishy purple mat which should protect my knees for about 20 minutes of weeding before I take a break.

New tools, gloves, and squishy purple thing in hand, I set out to prepare the soil for what would surely be the most successful, photogenic, and productive 8’x8′ plot of dirt in the lower 48.  After about an hour of turning 64 cubic feet of soil over on an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon I discovered the BEST thing about gardening. Cold alcoholic beverages. And you thought I leapt into this without doing some studying first, didn’t you.

I’ve discovered a few things on the month-long journey since that first cold beer too. I think I’m a helicopter parent. I have quite literally been out to peer into my dirt void every single day since the first seeds went into the ground. I knew enough not to worry for the first week or two. I do have a degree in biology after all, and a vague memory of botany and that lima bean in the dixie cup. But once it got to week three, I began to wonder. Was it something I said? Did my little pre-shoot darlings know I was a life-long city kid, and who was I kidding? Were they just being stubborn? Then, it happened.

I was a mother!! I named her Peanelope. Then I discovered the second thing about gardening. It turns me into a lunatic. One of those odd people that cause you cross the street when you see them. I talk to my seedlings. I tell them they are cute. I tell them they will grow big and strong. I need to find a man…

Anyway, I’m now the proud parent of two rows of english peas, 4 rows of future spinach (that right now looks alarmingly like blades of grass), and two rows of radish seedlings that started nice and neat, and are now looking more like a radish mosh pit. I’ll keep you posted on the technicolor carrots if and when they show their shoots, (because why go with orange when you can have all those silly posh colors they charge extra for in Trader Joe’s.)

And this morning’s snow? Well, luckily my children are far smarter than me, and know that a surprise blanket of warm spring snow is nothing to be scared of. But tonight, they get tucked in, just in case… 😉

goodbye heels, hello mini-greenhouse

Fennel Salad

So it turns out, not only am I a new mom to future vegetables of my own doing, I’m the adoptive parent of a rangy fennel plant. When I moved in last July, I noticed this lanky, nearly 7 foot tall delinquent in my side yard. One rub of the “flowers” let loose the familiar anise smell and I knew I was dealing with fennel, (one of my absolute favorite root veg.) Ten minutes of tugging the bamboo-like stalks with bupkis to show for it lead me to believe this was not going to yield much of anything for my kitchen. But…about 3 weeks ago, those beautiful frilly green shoots gave me new hope.

I’m not sure what I’ll actually get from this resilient baby once the bulbs underneath grow bigger, but the fronds themselves in this tender stage are sweet and absolutely delicious. So, I decided my first of hopefully many recipes involving the dirt candy of my 64 square feet of soil will be my go-to fennel salad.

This is less a recipe than a technique you can adapt to your taste of lemon/olive oil ratio. Raw fennel is commonly served in Italian and Sicilian homes as a digestive after a meal. I learned that from my favorite Sicilian-American the first time I stayed at his house on the Jersey Shore, long before I was the pioneer I’ve become in  recent years. Back then I decided rather than just pieces of raw fennel, I’d make a lemon vinaigrette and toss the thin slices of veg in. I’ve been making this salad ever since. It’s highly adaptable to change, like oranges or pink grapefruit sections and oil cured olives, substituting the appropriate juice of the appropriate fruit for the lemon. Serve after a great meal of pasta and Sunday gravy, or grilled whatever from the BBQ.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 fennel bulbs, stalks removed and tough outer layer removed or peeled down
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Extra virgin olive oil (this is a good recipe to use the good stuff, since there are so few ingredients every one counts)
  • Flakey sea salt, such as Maldon
  • Freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, squeeze the lemon, add in a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and a little more olive oil as you have lemon juice. Whisk together until it emulsifies, or doesn’t separate. Taste and adjust for whatever is needed.

Cut the fennel bulb in half, and remove the triangular core (this is really too tough to eat). Slice each half into 1/4″ pieces, then cut up the pieces to bite-sized. Toss with the lemon vinaigrette. Taste, and adjust with more salt, pepper, lemon or oil, whatever floats your boat. If you are lucky enough to have those spring-fresh baby fronds, chop them up and toss with the fennel. And eat smugly, knowing you grew at least some of that deliciousness. 🙂

There will be more Farming in My Flip Flops and the adventures of a city girl turned loopy helicopter parent gardener as long as the dirt is doing something interesting. In the meantime, if you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), or my Instagram page. Thanks! 🙂

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Three Tons of Stuff

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

It’s a flippant way of saying you’ve got a lot…a ton of whatever. I’ve got a ton of work to do. You’re not really referring to the actual weight of things, just an amount everyone understands as a whole mess of stuff. That is, until you are about to pack it into boxes and load it onto a truck. That’s when your “ton of stuff” gets real. Or in my case, just under three tons of it. I’m not kidding. THREE TONS! When you are moving across town you’re charged by the number of hours. Try moving across the country, and now you’re talking weight….a LOT of weight. When I mentioned that number, about 5,700 pounds to my friends, the usual reaction goes something like: “OMG!! How much stuff do you HAVE?!” Now before you start nominating me for the next installment of Hoarders, let me explain something. Things weigh a lot more than you’d think. The average cookbook weighs over two pounds. The average pair of shoes? Ok, admittedly I probably have over a hundred pounds of footwear. But just consider if a book weighs about two pounds, imagine a bookcase full, not to mention the weight of the bookcase itself. This crap adds up fast! So the contents of a 3-½-room apartment? Yeah, three tons sounds about right.

Once I got over the shock of the number, the realization hit… I have to pack three tons of stuff! And when you have to pack that much well-loved crap, you notice that as the packed boxes pile up, the packing technique starts to resemble the laws of decreasing grading standards. I’ll explain. When I was teaching high school and faced a stack of 80 essays to grade, the top of the stack was graded on a somewhat stricter standard than the bottom. In other words, I was more enthusiastically pulling out the red pen and attacking those top papers, marking off for even the smallest infraction against the answer key. You know it happens. You never wanted to be the last one to hand in an essay, right? The last one went on the top, and if your answers were even a little “creative” in regards to the facts, you just knew you were screwed. Packing three tons of stuff suffers from the same fate. The first boxes are packed so perfectly, so properly, there’s no way anything in them would shift in transit or be marred in any way from their pristine pre-pack condition. And they were pristine. I was actually dusting books off before putting them in, spine side down, in ascending size order, arranging all of the same sized books together to perfectly fit in with the “book box” I ordered from U-haul. By the time I got to the 5th book box, well, you get the picture. They were lucky to get tossed into the box at all and not the big plastic bag I ordered from Hefty.

With a little more than two weeks left before my move, I’m about two-thirds of a ton down, leaving two tons to go. And I’m thinking it would probably be wise to stop grading on a curve soon. Because I start packing the wine glasses tomorrow….

This week’s recipe was inspired by the fact that if I don’t eat it I have to pack it. And that means getting creative with the things I have left in my pantry. Luckily that still means some tasty meals in between all the boxing. I first had a salad like this on a visit to Florence several years ago. It was served on top of crostini or little toasts, and is a great example of simple good ingredients and not too much fuss creating a really tasty meal. The key to my Tuscan Tuna and Cannellini Salad is a can of good tuna packed in olive oil. The rest of the recipe is ridiculously simple. Just a can of cannellini beans, some celery, parsley and lemon. It’s one of my favorite meals for a hot summer day when I don’t feel like cooking.

Tuscan Tuna and Cannellini Salad

Makes about 2 ½ cups

I like to serve this the way I had it, atop thin slices of toasted baguette, but you could easily serve on a salad of arugula or baby greens and tomatoes.

  • 1 5-oz. can of tuna in olive oil (I like Genova or Cento)
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1/3 cup parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery (about 2-3 stalks)
  • Zest and juice of a small lemon (you’ll need about 1 teaspoon zest, and 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons juice)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and put in a bowl. Add the chopped parsley, chopped celery, lemon zest, 1 ½-2 tablespoons lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the can of tuna, with oil, and toss well. Let the salad sit for an hour or so for the flavors to develop, then taste. Add additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice if needed. Calories: 540 total, or about 110 per ½ cup.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). Thanks! 🙂

Do They Have This, There?

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©cookinginmyheels.com

It’s a month before my big apple exodus, and about a week before taking all my worldly possessions out of their cozy nests and putting them in cardboard. Which means my diet for the next 31 days consist of the stuff I have in my cabinets, pantry and freezer. Basically, if I don’t eat it, I have to pack it, and I don’t want to pack it. So the other day, as I was busily braille-ing the contents of my freezer (since everything was encased in a layer of tin foil and freezer bag), I happily excavated a bratwurst. Lunch!

As the onions and sausage sizzled in the pan, I opened the refrigerator door and reached down past the Gold’s prepared horseradish for its cousin, Gold’s grainy mustard with horseradish. A brat is naked without it, and a naked brat is a crime against wurst. Baguette split, brat nestled in a bed of sweet golden onion, I loosened the cap and dipped knife tip in. And that’s when the wave of panic hit…what if they don’t have Gold’s in OREGON!!

Part of the joy of moving to a new neighborhood (or in my case, new neighborhood, city, state, and a whole new world,) is discovering all the swell stuff in your new hood. The flip side is wondering if they have what have become the staples in your life up to now. In other words, do they have this, THERE? You can handle the shift in the big things, the favorite museum, or neighborhood, or restaurant, because you know there will be lots of new wonders to discover. But it isn’t until you’ve been living in your new digs for a while that it hits you…. Mr. Softie doesn’t come here. And I can’t just run to Rafiqi’s food cart when I’m in a mood and only a lamb gyro or falafel will make it all better. Even those things I can handle. But not being able to find a condiment that has been in my history of fridges pretty much since I dropped from the womb…DISASTER! How can I make an egg cream without U-bets? Does anyone out there make a decent sfigliatelle? Does anyone out there even know what sfigliatelle is? Are there diners to go to after a night of cocktails  and friends and I have a hankering for breakfast at 3AM?  And what about knishes? And pastrami? And soft pretzels with mustard? Well, no, they probably won’t have many of the things I’ve come to love. Those are the things that give a location its distinct flavor. What there will be are many new flavors to discover, and that’s the really exciting part of all of this.

And as far as my jar of Gold’s? As long as there’s Amazon I’m good. They sell it by the case…

Rather than pay tribute to my old hood with this week’s recipe, I’ve decided to incorporate ingredients from my new one. Farro Salad with Dried Cherries and Hazelnuts is a hearty salad substantial enough on it’s own for lunch, or as a side with grilled chicken, a steak or just a good sandwich. The hazelnuts came directly from Oregon (well, according to the package), and since cherries are synonymous with the Pacific Northwest, I’d like to think the cherries did too. 😉

Farro Salad with Dried Cherries and Hazelnuts

Makes about 2 cups

Farro or emmer wheat is an ancient grain popular in Italy, and supposedly what sustained the Roman legions on their journeys. I’m not so sure about that, but I am sure it makes a wonderful salad, pilaf or addition to soups. Farro has a texture similar to barley, and is available in many markets, in Whole Foods, and on-line. If you can’t find it, barley would make a fine substitute.

For the salad:

  • ¾ cup farro, soaked overnight in enough water to cover (store in refrigerator overnight)
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped dried cherries
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs –I used a combination of tarragon, basil and parsley), divided into two piles (you’ll use half in the recipe and add in the other half just before serving)
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped

For the dressing:

  • Zest from an orange (about a heaping teaspoon)
  • Juice from half an orange (about ¼ cup)
  • A few good grinds of pepper or more, to taste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP water
  • ½ tsp honey
  • 2 heaping tsp honey mustard

To cook the farro:

Drain the farro, add to a medium saucepan, and cover with about an inch of water. Add in 1 tsp salt and mix well. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook 10-15 minutes. The farro should be chewy, not mushy. Drain and put in a bowl to cool.

Chop the herbs, hazelnuts, scallion and dried cherries and set aside. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid (or you’ll have dressing all over you and the kitchen), add the dressing ingredients and give a good shake to incorporate. Add 2 tablespoons of the chopped herbs and shake again. Pour the dressing over the farro, toss in the nuts and cherries and mix so everything is covered in dressing. Cover and let sit in refrigerator for a few hours. The longer it sits, the better it gets so this is the perfect make-ahead dish for your next barbecue or picnic. When you are ready to serve, toss in the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped herbs. Calories: about 185 per half cup.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). Thanks! 🙂

Oregon Observations: Chapter 1

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

You may have noticed I’ve been a bit quiet of late. Well, hopefully you’ve noticed. The reason there was no pithy commentary last week was because I was taking a peek at my new world in the Beaver State. Ok, stop snickering. Oregon’s nickname is the Beaver State. And the beaver is a very noble creature. No, really…it is. Anyway, over Memorial Day weekend I visited Hood River, and was warmly welcomed by my friends, their friends, and a passel of very happy dogs. Oregon is an assault on the senses in the very best way. Visually, tactilely, and orally, it’s a pretty amazing place. The landscape is breathtaking, so much so that I nearly drove off the road several times on the ride from PDX to Hood River due to slack-jawed gawking at the world outside my windshield. Suffice to say the ride from Newark to West 24th Street isn’t quite so picturesque. Next there was the food…HOLY COW…the FOOD! Crazy good locally grown produce and the wonderful dishes they become, a plethora of tasty craft brews, fabulous baked goods (particularly in the Heights), and of course, the wine. I had it all and loved every tasty bite.

Since I did a bunch of research on the area before I decided for sure I wanted to move west, the resources, food and even the scenery were somewhat expected. But there are always a few things you can only learn by planting feet on ground, and I thought I’d share some observations with you. I have no doubt there’ll be more of these as this bold adventure unfolds, so for now consider this Oregon Observations – Chapter 1:

  • Rain: Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat – yes, the Pacific Northwest has a reputation for rain. Know what? It rains. And sometimes a lot, but taken all together probably not as much as you think. While I was out there it rained, but it was also sunny and warm too, so there you go. What I found interesting was not the fact that it rains, but rather how the locals deal with the rain. Most folks have an assortment of rain wear. Light, not so light, with heiny-flaps, short, long, for the bike, for the hike, whatever. And when it rains, or drizzles, or threatens, they just slap on the appropriate rainwear for activity, (or don’t bother with rain gear at all), and just go about their day. Unless it’s a downpour, a little moisture isn’t going to stop an Oregonian (or Washingtonian I suspect) from curtailing any outdoor activity. Hike? Sure. Bike? Why not? In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion the mountain bikers enjoy a ride more if they come home splattered in mud. They’ve earned that mud. If you spy someone sporting an umbrella, chances are they are a visitor. So for those of you who plan on moving to the Pacific Northwest with a startup umbrella business? Yeah, don’t.
  • Scree – According to Wikipedia, “scree is a collection of broken rock fragments at the base of crags, mountain cliffs, volcanoes or valley shoulders that has accumulated through periodic rock fall from adjacent cliff faces.” In other words, cliff schmutz. And for a hiker walking along a trail of the stuff, it is a twisted ankle waiting to happen. Luckily, it didn’t to me (this time), mostly due to the fact that I was doing my best impersonation of Tim Conway’s little old man as I picked my way down it. Elegant, hell no, but I did get down the evil ankle-twisting stuff with everything intact. When it comes to scree it’s accuracy, not speed.
  • Microbrews – the art of brewing tasty craft beer with goofy names like Molten Lava, White Rider of Conquest, and The Vaporizer (which, by the way, was great) reaches it’s pinnacle in Oregon. In fact, I don’t think I’d be too far off to say that there are probably as many beer options as residents in Hood River (and perhaps a bit more). You have to love a place that takes the ancient and seemingly simple craft of applying industrious yeasty fellows to hops, malt and barley (or wheat) and creates something new, interesting and very tasty.
  • Portland is Brooklyn West (or more accurately, Brooklyn is Portland East) – One of the appeals of moving to Hood River is its proximity to the city when I need an urban fix. And while I didn’t venture into the city this trip, what I’ve notice about Portland the last time I visited was that it had an oddly familiar vibe, though I couldn’t put my finger on it until I got back home to New York. Portland is Brooklyn. Or as NPR’s Ari Shapiro once commented, “Portland is Brooklyn before Brooklyn was Brooklyn.” Trendy hipsters, artisan everything, and previously dicey neighborhoods that were cheap but are now “cool” and hence not so cheap anymore. This may be a gross generalization (and you know I never make those…), but I’d bet you could take someone out of Williamsburg and plop them into the Pearl and it would take them a week or two to realize it.
  • The Religion of Biking – Now this could just be the group I was with on my trip, but it seems to me the Church of Cycling is thriving in the PNW. Road, trail, fat tires or skinny, one seat or two, bikes are transportation, exercise, sport, and a special form of insanity when hurling down a steep mountain trail, the afflicted looking like they’re having a whale of a good time. I haven’t owned a bike since my trusty roadster with the tiger-growl bell, streamers in the handlebars and baseball cards attached to spokes with clothespins. I have a feeling I’ll be heading back to “church” soon…

As I sat on the plane Tuesday night and headed east the sunset, I realized one thing. While the move will be hard, I’ll have a beautiful and welcoming place to unpack my Pradas in the Pacific Northwest. So thank you to Megan and Clint, Ashley, Heidi, Rob and everyone else I met (and especially Maddy and Romeo) from making me feel so welcome and introducing me to the Beaver State and Hood River. While I may not “blend”, I think I might just fit in.

So since last week was the “unofficial” start of summer, I thought it was time to break open the family vault and give my grandmother’s potato salad recipe to the world. Tante Betty’s (my grandmother) potato salad established its reputation in Portland East (Brooklyn) and was loved by everyone in the neighborhood who bought it by the pound at the deli where she worked. The legend grew over countless backyard BBQ’s and picnics, a hush often falling over the crowd when the dish was brought to the table, crowned in crispy bits of bacon. Ok, so maybe that didn’t happen, but it’s really good. I’m very democratic when it comes to spud salad and love many different types, but this is the potato salad of my memory. It will always bring back the vision of my grandmother’s hands slicing “good” potatoes into the dish.

I’m posting this exactly as it was written on the card tucked into my mom’s recipe box. I’ve added a few comments in parenthesis, since not everyone speaks “Tante Betty”.

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

Good German Potato Salad (I kid you not, that’s how it’s written on the card)

Makes about 4 cups

Cook 2 lbs good potatoes not too soft.

(I used white potatoes, but you could use yukon golds, new potatoes, or another waxy type, cover with cold water, add a good pinch or two of salt, bring to a boil and simmer about 20-25 minutes, but start checking at 15 minutes or so.)

Boil together:

  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 2 heaping TBSP sugar
  • A dash (½ tsp) pepper
  • A messerspitz* dry mustard (* a messerspitz literally translates to “knife tip” or somewhere between a pinch and a dash. Figure a heaping ¼ tsp.)
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil

To the boiled mixture, add 1 grated small onion (about 1/3 cup), a heaping teaspoon of grainy mustard and mix. Put some of the mixture into a dish. Slice the potatoes into the dish, layering more mixture over it. Continue layering, finishing with the dressing mixture on top. If it looks too dry when you finish, you can add a little hot water till it suits you.

To make EXTRA good (and who wouldn’t want extra good), fry up about 3 oz. bacon and crumble over.

This is best served warm. Do not refrigerate.

Calories: about 150 per ½ cup

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). Thanks! 🙂

Once more into the breach, dear friends

So here we are, about to close out another year and put up a new one with a digit added. Which means time to think back on the year passing and make plans for the new one ahead. Which means ‘wish I had’, ‘wish I hadn’t’ and ‘next year I’ll do more, better, less’, etc. In other words, regrets and resolutions. I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions. I mean, other than the ones that typically follow a season of over-indulging and moving the clothes with Lycra and elastic waistbands to the front of the closet. Sure I have wishes and hopes, but they are more speculative these days and not limited to only expressing on one specific day beginning the year. I really hope I  find a job that I love in 2012. I really hope I find a man who I love in 2012 too (other than Mr. Clooney, because I don’t think he’s ready for me just yet.) I had the same hopes last year. And just like last year, I’ll do what I can to make these happen, but ultimately the success of either is up to things beyond my control. Yet here I go, once more into the breach, making wishes and plans. And hoping like hell they come true this time.

New Year’s Eve used to be so much simpler when I was younger. There was less thought to the passing of time, little if any regrets, and far more excitement over the actual eve event. When I was a kid, I loved New Year’s Eve. We were allowed to stay up past midnight, got wired on maraschino cherries from too many Shirley Temples, and at midnight we’d run, pajama-clad, out into the street to make a calendar-sanctioned racket with wooden spoons and saucepans. We were actually allowed to wake up the neighborhood making too much noise! By early teen-age I looked forward to lucrative babysitting gigs on December 31st, with extra for staying past midnight and maybe even a tip from tipsy clients. At 18 we were legally able to buy some Andre’s Cold Duck (which only an 18-year-old palate could take and survive). Foul as that stuff was, we thought we were living large. Serious partying began in my twenties, with shoulder pads, glitter and hair spray in ample supply. It wasn’t until my late 30’s that I realized many New Year’s Eve celebrations (especially the expensive ones) were more hype than hip. The meal was overpriced and underwhelming, the outfit not as fabulous as thought, and if there was a guy, it was likely his libation level would preclude anything other than watching the ball drop from happening. At some point in my 40s I discovered my favorite way to usher in the new year was at home with friends, off the roads and relaxed. We would always try to make it to midnight, but sometimes that ball just dropped early. Hey, it’s a big world out there, so it has to be midnight someplace, right?

This year I’ll be spending the year-end my favorite way — dear friends, good food, cheesy movie, and in my pjs. And hopefully out in the middle of the street banging pots at midnight. I’m not going to be sorry to see this year go. By several measures it’s been a pretty crappy one, with more rough patches than smooth. Yet, as a dear friend of mine might say, it wasn’t “all together bad.” They never really are, are they? There’s always, thankfully, a little break in the grey clouds along the way. For me, in the midst of a year of disappointments, frustrations and other sundry crap came an idea. And that idea became this blog, filled with food, shoes, humor, even a little bit of hope. So thank you dear friends, for reading, commenting and encouraging. You all helped make this year, well, not all together bad. I hope you know how much I appreciate it too.

Just about every culture has its ‘good luck’ foods to be eaten on New Year’s Day. Lentils, black-eyed peas, greens, and countless other foods are consumed in the hope that they will bring good luck and prosperity. In my family, New Year’s Day must be met with a plateful of herring salad. Here’s my grandmother’s recipe by way of my mother. I plan on ushering in 2012 with as much of it as I can get!

Herring Salad

My grandmother’s recipe was more like a framework around which you built the flavors that you liked best. Sometimes it needed a little more vinegar, other times more anchovies. I’ve done my best to give you the most complete recipe I could, but feel free to adjust it to your taste preferences. The good luck works regardless.

This recipe make a lot of herring salad (about 8-9 cups) – you can never have too much good luck I say, but the recipe is easily halved if you want just a little bit of luck this year.

  • 4 cans sliced beets, drained
  • 3 Macintosh apples, peeled and cored
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, one reserved for garnish
  • 3 medium Idaho potatoes, cooked and peeled
  • 1 jar small dill gherkins
  • 1 bottle capers, chopped
  • 4 small (12oz) jars of pickled herring in wine sauce, drained and onions removed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 3-4 tsp sugar
  • 4-6 anchovies, 2 filets reserved
  • 2 TBSP mayonnaise
  • 2 TBSP sour cream

Chop all of the ingredients finely (1/4 inch dice) and mix together. Add in vinegar and lemon juice. Add in the anchovies, reserving 2 filets. Once the entire salad is chopped and mixed, taste it and add more chopped anchovies if needed for saltiness or depth of flavor. Add in the salt, pepper and sugar and taste. You can adjust the salt, sugar and vinegar to your taste preferences. Mix in the mayonnaise and sour cream.

When ready to serve, take the reserved hard-boiled egg, grate it and sprinkle over the top for garnish.  Serve with black bread or other hearty, dense bread and sweet butter. Calories: Good luck foods have no calories.