Over the past four (!!!) months, my physical world has gotten quite small. I’ve only been in a store twice. Howard and I take a daily walk around the neighborhood, varying the route, but we seldom run into anyone. I do go to the farm to pick up my weekly CSA share and have been invited to do a few sessions of socially-distant outdoor volunteering there, but otherwise, my life is home-based.
Fortunately, the wider world, courtesy of the internet, has remained accessible. I exercise from home with my boot camp friends on our usual mornings. I continue to practice with my favorite teachers at the yoga studio. My book group still “gathers”. I still participate in programs “at” the library. I’ve had virtual happy hours and other visits with family and friends. Life is certainly not lonely.
Over the past decade, I’ve experienced the wonder of what the connections forged over the internet can be. When I joined the on-line cooking group French Fridays with Dorie, I had no expectations, mostly just relying on the weekly recipe as a prompt for my blog. What developed was a group of friends comprised of enthusiastic home cooks from around the world.
One of my new friends was Nana. Nana (aka Ro) and her daughter Tricia blogged about the weekly recipe, sometimes cooking separately, sometimes together, and shared their insights on their blog. Through these weekly reviews, I was drawn into their closeness, their enthusiasm, and their love of cooking. When French Fridays ended, Nana created her own blog and continued with the subset of us that moved on to cooking through a different cookbook.
Over time, I had the good fortune to meet Nana and Tricia in person several times. In person, I became even fonder of Nana. She was such a wonderful role model for aging gracefully, maintaining her joy in new experiences, sharing her wisdom, and keeping her sense of humor. I feel lucky to have known her as our paths would never have crossed without this cyber-experience. I will miss her posts, her stories, and her warm comments. I hope our group brought her the same pleasure that we feel about her being an integral part of it.
As a tribute to Nana, our little cadre of cooks in Cook the Book Fridays is making a recipe from Everyday Dorie that she often nominated for our schedule but the group hadn’t yet been chosen. So, this week I made a Lower East Side Brunch Tart. Nana, thank you for your friendship! This one’s for you…
It should come as no surprise that I LOVE TARTS. I make one almost every week, sometimes savory, sometimes sweet. A pastry crust is my favorite base for any set of flavors. The Lower East Side Brunch Tart is the cover photo on Everyday Dorie, so it’s bee on my radar for a while now. When I sat down to look at the recipe, I was intrigued with the combination of ingredients. Cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, red onion, dill, tomatoes. An intentional combination of the makings of a “dress-your-own bagel” buffet. The crust stood in for the bagel, and the flavors were locked in place with a simple custard.
Wow! This is my favorite recipe so far from Everyday Dorie. The lox was particularly smoky so there was an undertone of bacon. The little pieces of cream cheese gave bursts of richness. We ate it over three days for lunch or dinner. When it’s safe to have company again, this is the perfect centerpiece for a brunch gathering as the name implies. You can find the recipe here.
I hope that Nana had a chance to make this tart on her own schedule because it is so delicious! Certainly whenever I make this again, I will think of it as “Nana’s Bagels-and-Lox Tart”.
Reviews from other members of Cook the Book Fridays about the Lower East Side Brunch Tart can be found here.
My heartfelt sympathies go out to Tricia and the rest of Nana’s family for the loss of a special woman. xo
Strange times… Staying at home for the duration is obviously wreaking havoc on us all.
Being an introvert, I haven’t found being physically isolated overly challenging. Fortunately, this is 2020, so technology allows powerful ways to stay connected while remaining sequestered while we try to flatten the curve.
I am fortunate that I don’t have anywhere I’m supposed to be. My schedule is mostly my own. Thankfully, many of the events that give my week structure have moved on-line. I can still “attend” classes at my yoga studio via Zoom. My early-morning boot camp friends have organized for an abbreviated workout also on Zoom. The video lets me see familiar faces, though not so much chatting. My book group even met on-line this week. And I had a video meetup with my sisters with cameo appearances by their other family members.
I’ve also reintroduced daily walks that petered off after our dog died. Sometimes I walk with Howard, sometimes alone. I now realize how much I miss checking what’s going on in the surrounding neighborhood with a daily tour.
I also forced some forsythia from the yard for some early spring cheer. And, I gave Howard a haircut, with clippers. In the long term, I won’t be replacing the barber, but I did a good enough job to fill in for now.
My sourdough starter, normally relegated to the refrigerator between loaves, has taken up residence on the counter. In the past week, I’ve made baguettes twice plus baked an olive-rosemary loaf. And I just pulled a country boule out of the oven.
Grocery shopping is an activity I adore, and normally, I go almost every day. You could almost call it a hobby. In trying to steer clear of germs, for the first time in recent memory, it’s been a week since I stepped foot in a grocery store. This means I’m successfully making progress on my never-ending goal of reducing the contents of the freezer. I’ve found some treasures. We are eating well. There’s plenty in there: a chicken, a duck, CSA vegetables I froze over the summer, leftover scraps like chunks of corned beef and roasted turkey, frozen homemade soup and tomato sauce. Obviously, we’ll need to refresh the perishables soon, but it’s been a fun ongoing challenge .
All the exercise seems to be countering the increased cooking and baking I’ve been doing. I’ve actually lost weight.
On my last foray to the grocery store, I planned ahead for this week’s Cook the Book Fridays recipe challenge Last-of-the-Bunch Banana Bundt and picked up a bunch of bananas. I have an interesting relationship with bananas. My perfect eating banana is well past where most people will have made a banana bread. I’m someone who buys a bag of bananas off the seconds table and still waits a week before I consider them edible. I can’t stand any hint of that “green” flavor bananas have.
When I was ready to bake the banana Bundt, I used the first of the bunch, not the last. The other bananas are still waiting to be ready for me to eat.
I made a few adjustments to Dorie’s banana Bundt. For one thing, I don’t like coconut. I’ll eat Thai curry made with coconut milk, but the texture of shredded coconut repulses me. I wasn’t sure what would happen if I left out that volume of ingredients, so substituted chopped pecans. I also chose to use extra butter instead of coconut oil for the same reason.
As you might guess, Howard doesn’t eat bananas at all, not even in cake. I’m not currently comfortable about the safety of sharing food I prepare with people outside my house, and the last thing I want to do is eat an entire cake by myself. So, in the interest of minify-ing, I divided by the eggs and made half the batter. Many years ago, I bought a mini-Bundt pan that’s never been used. This was the perfect occasion for its maiden bake. For fun, I followed through with the icing. My milk had soured, so I used cream instead. It took quite a bit to make the icing thin enough to drizzle. I wasn’t so artistic with that.
The end result: half a dozen mini-Bundts giving me a week’s worth of darling sweets to look forward to with an afternoon cup of tea. This was a nice cake! I liked the addition of bittersweet chocolate. It offset the sweetness of the banana. The pecans worked well too.
If you have bananas, you probably already have the other ingredients on hand. Last-of-the-Bunch Banana Bundt makes a good candidate for “distracti-baking” while you’re social distancing at home.
Keep yourself and your family safe and healthy. You are in my thoughts. I’m grateful that we’re connected across the miles, oceans, etc. We’re all in this together.