Category Archives: Snowstorms

Found by Nemo

Lots of Snow

The Blizzard of 2013 has come and mostly gone from the Boston area. The eastern part of the state is still under a travel ban until 4 pm. I applaud the governor for proactively keeping people off the roads. I’m sure it went a long way towards the seemingly seamless cleanup effort that has taken place so far. There are power outages in some area, mostly southeast of the city (we are northwest of the city). For a variety of reasons, the public transit system remains down, but hopes to be up and running for the Monday commute. Officials are urging all to be patient, a virtue that Americans often seem short on. I’m happily settled in for the rest of the day with a cup of tea and a book (Jill Lepore’s The Story of America: Essays on Origins).

Backyard at start of storm, noon on February 8, 2013

Backyard at start of storm, noon on February 8, 2013

I estimate we got about 27 inches of snow. It’s a little hard to judge because of the heavy drifting. Thank goodness the snow blower was successfully fixed! Howard did a few passes with the heavy equipment, and I supplemented with the shovel. We were cleared out and ready for action by around noon.

Backyard after the storm, 24 hours later, noon on February 9, 2013

Backyard after the storm, 24 hours later, noon on February 9, 2013

What’s the perfect lunch for a snowy day? I always vote for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I made a pot of soup yesterday in anticipation of the storm, and it definitely hit the spot today. This recipe was quick and easy and uses canned tomatoes, a staple in my pantry. I used garden basil that I froze in ice cube trays at the end of the summer which gave the soup a hint of a warmer season.

Soup and Sandwich

Spicy Tomato Soup
Adapted from Food52
Serves 6

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into ¼-inch-thick slices
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 (28-oz) cans whole tomatoes, NOT drained
1½ cup water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool briefly, about 5 minutes.

Set a medium-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth. Pour the blended soup through the strainer. Stir and press on the solids with a rubber spatula to force what you can through the strainer. Scrape into the bowl any tomato that goes through the strainer but sticks to the outside. Discard any solids that don’t go through strainer. It won’t be that much. Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat until hot.

Taking Modern Conveniences for Granted

Wow! What a weekend! Saturday night, October 29th, that’s October, not December, we had our first winter storm, a pre-Halloween storm. We had a little dusting on Thursday night, but that was nothing. We only got 4 inches, but, oh the destruction this early storm wrought.

Last night, we heard a loud crack. We looked outside to see a large branch broken off a neighbor’s tree and blocking our road, a major thoroughfare. The plows did a creative dance and pushed the limb to the sidewalk, but it’s a lot of wood for someone to clean up. Personally, we sustained minimal damage. We had some branches down in the front and back yards. Initially, I thought I lost my beloved magnolia out front, but I shook the snow weighting down the limbs, and as the sun melted the rest during the day, the tree resumed its upright stance. There is some damage, but fortunately not a total loss.

We made it through the night with power. There were a few flickers overnight. Around 6 am, the power went out for good. No power, no heat, and eventually, no phone.

At least, it was a sunny day. We went for a morning stroll to check out the surrounding neighborhoods. Lots of trees were down, blocking roads, leaning on wires. Power outages were the norm, though some streets were unaffected. Lots of people were outside, cleaning up the debris, and commiserating about the early storm.

My heart goes out to neighbors that I’d never met before who live about ten houses down from me. A 75-foot oak tree was leaning on their house, where it had broken through the roof. An amazing show followed about an hour later when the tree service showed up with a 120+ foot crane and actually lifted the tree into the air, over the power lines, to lay it on the main road to cut up and run though the chipper. I was nervous watching the tree dangle high up in the air. I can’t imagine how the homeowners were feeling.

Tree Lifted by 127 Foot Crane Extension

Per town recommendations, we were trying to “avoid unnecessary travel”. It was interesting to discover all the things you can’t do when you have an unexpected, powerless, day at home. You can’t really cook when you’re also trying not to open the refrigerator. Even so, you’re restricted to the gas cooktop, manually lit. No baking because the oven’s electric. You can’t do much in the way of housecleaning, because you can’t vacuum. You can’t do laundry. You can do self-contained work on the laptop, as long as you don’t need the internet because the wireless is out, and the battery is charged. You can’t surf the web for the same reason.

You can go for walks (avoiding streets with downed wires) and chat with neighbors. You can read, during daylight hours, and there’s never a shortage of books here. You can also work on low-tech craft projects like knitting, again never a shortage of in-progress projects either.

We were quite lucky, and our power was restored around dinnertime. Spending a single day without electricity and the other “necessities” it supplies was not a real hardship. It really made me think about how fragile our dependence on the manmade world really is.

Unfortunately, many of our neighbors had to wait longer. The neighborhood behind us didn’t get power until one night later. Other friends still don’t have power more than three days after the storm. Halloween was postponed until next weekend.

Fortunately, I made some pre-storm beef stew which was a wonderful, hearty meal. This was different from a typical beef stew. First, I made a chunky tomato sauce, then simmered browed beef in the sauce until tender. The recipe called for serving the stew over garlic toasts, which I did. I served leftovers over egg noodles, which I preferred. The recipe serves 4, but they aren’t generous portions for most eaters. If you’re making for hearty eaters, you might need to double it. A bitter salad, with a mix of chicory and romaine tossed with garlicky-anchovy dressing, was the perfect accompaniment.

Italian Beef Stew
Serves 3 or 4
Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser

1½ lbs lean beef (I used top round, but you could also use bottom round or chuck)
2 cans (28 oz each) whole peeled tomatoes
2 stalk celery, chopped
½ cup chopped parsley
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
½ cup dry white wine
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Trim the meat of any fat and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.

Drain the tomatoes (reserve 1 cup of juice). Coarsely chop the tomatoes. Combine the chopped tomatoes, reserved juice, celery, parsley, oregano, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper in a Dutch oven, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Put the sauce through a food mill (I used the blade with the largest holes) and set aside. Clean the pan.

Melt the butter in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef, and cook, stirring, until the meat is browned (do in batches, if needed). Lower the heat to medium, and stir in the garlic. Transfer the meat to another dish.

Add the wine to the Dutch oven, and boil over high heat until reduced by half. Add the meat, rosemary sprig, and tomato sauce back to the pan. Taste, and adjust seasonings, if needed. Cover and simmer until the meat is very tender, 1½ to 2 hours. Taste again and adjust seasonings.

Serve over cooked egg noodles.

Chicory Salad with Anchovy Dressing
Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser

3 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic
1½ Tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Chicory and romaine lettuce

With mortar and pestle, mash anchovies and garlic to a creamy, smooth paste. Whisk in vinegar. Then, slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tear chicory and romaine into 1-inch pieces. Toss the greens with enough dressing to coat. You might not use it all.