Refusing To Fold
Last night’s super moon rose in a golden haze and sank in a silvery one. Fog at both ends of the night made for dramatic beauty and also accented the darkness at both ends of the day. These are indeed dark times for our country and the world, and I’m not the only one who feels like I’m stumbling through a dense grey fog. Though I can’t always see my way clear, I’ve read enough history to know that such backward swings as we’re experiencing now usually follow and are followed by forward swings. However, there have never been so many of us before, and we humans have never had as great a capacity for lasting, pervasive harm. Thus, I teeter on the edge of panic and despair, knowing in my bones that’s exactly what is intended by all the malicious nastiness oozing from the current regime. The daily smoke and mirrors are meant to keep us off balance and the relentless, aggressive destruction is carefully planned to make us despair. So I refuse. The despair of good people is the goal of evil people. So. I. Just. Refuse.
Instead, I am keeping close track of every scrap of good, every positive action, every kindness, every joyful effusion, every moment of sweetness that comes my way. I’m even carrying file cards around so I can make notes. My goal is to notice ten Good Things every hour, all day long. It can be a bird on a branch, my granddaughter running to me with open arms, my cat purring beside me as I knit little fish for my grandson’s game. It can be calling my senators and congress people and hearing cheerful thanks from their aides, no matter how often I call. It can be seasonal music, an enchanting book, or helping my grandkids make small gifts for their family and friends. It can be the scent of my birthday lilies, baking bread, folding tiny laundry (grandkids again), reading a story from YES Magazine, making my five calls (5calls.org). It can be meeting friends, watching the clouds roll, seeing a burst of sunlight along with a scatter of rain. It can also be comfort food.
Just A Little Lift
Comfort food can definitely have its drawbacks, especially after this insane year when every day required some comfort. I’ve been working on recipes that deliver the soothing impact of classic comfort foods without the overburden of excessive dairy or sugar or etc. I’ll keep offering these recipes to you as the new year unfolds, along with some that have no redeeming nutritional virtue except that of bliss. Surely bliss nourishes us as much as protein or vitamins? For example, this extremely lemony lemon pie, my usual birthday choice, was a major hit at a recent pie day event (true, much of the competition was pumpkin, but still…). Ginger K., this one’s for you!
There’s also a heartening soup that can be vegetarian or not, depending on your mood and/or dietary choices. I find this palate pleasing, lemon-infused Greek peasant soup highly comforting, and it’s ideal for those recuperating from any illness; just add chopped cooked chicken, nutritional yeast, or tofu for additional protein. The seasoned salt blend is my go-to; sprinkle a little in the pan when you start things off with a little oil or butter or what have you, bring it to the fragrance point, and whatever else you add will taste subtly more delicious. It’s even lovely on pasta with just a bit of warm olive oil and pepper, or sprinkled on avocado toast, or scrambled eggs, or a baked potato, or a plain soup, or a sandwich. It’s super simple to make and I use some form of it every day. See what you think and let me know.
Leaning Into The Lemon
Yes, this pie filling is seriously tart, so you can adjust the flavor at then end of the cooking while the filling is still hot; just add sugar and/or butter to taste, but don’t eat it all, unless you really need to. Then it’s fine. The crust can be graham cracker, toasted nut crust, gluten free or regular dough or you may prefer the filling as a pudding, with roasted pistachios, toasted coconut, or candied ginger for garnish. Grate the zest for the seasoned salt below!
Zingy Lemon Pie
1-1/2 cups cane sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup water
grated zest from 2-3 organic lemons
4 large egg yolks, well beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in piece
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 baked pie crust
1/2 cup chopped roasted pistachios
Sift together 1-1/4 cup sugar, the cornstarch and salt into a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Stir in the lemon juice, water, and lemon zest, then add egg yolks and blend well. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently (especially pan edges). When mixture thickens, stir constantly for a minute, then remove from heat and stir in butter until completely incorporated. Taste and add more sugar if needed, stirring until dissolved. Stir in vanilla and pour filing into the baked pie crust. Top with merengue (see below) if you like it or sprinkle top with pistachios. Serves at least one.
Weepy, floppy meringue toppings are kinda icky but this one, based on lightly coddled egg whites, holds its own for several days in the fridge if need be.
Meringue Pie Topping
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl over very hot water and stir until egg whites warm up (around 80 degrees F). Remove bowl from the water bath, stir in salt and vanilla, and whip until stiff and glossy (an electric mixer works best, stick bender not so much). Preheat oven to broil. Spread meringue over hot pie filling, making sure it’s anchored to the pie crust edge all the way around. Broil until golden brown, about a minute (watch it, it goes fast!). Serve at once or refrigerate for up to 2 days.
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup cooked short grain brown rice
2 organic lemons, juiced, rind grated
(1/3-1/2 cup lemon juice)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flat Italian parsley, stemmed
In a soup pot, bring broth to a simmer over medium high heat. Add rice and lemon zest and simmer for five minutes. Whisk lemon juice into eggs, then add to hot broth while stirring constantly over lowest heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve, garnished with parsley. Serves 4.
Seasoned Sea Salt Blends
Seasoned sea salt makes a lovely small gift, useful enough to have some meaning without triggering any need to reciprocate. Play around with the proportions and ingredients to find your own favorites: lavender and rosemary is lovely, as is thyme and lemon, or basil and garlic. I save spice bottles (especially the kind with holes in the inner lid) and tiny canning jars for this stuff, which I can hand out freely during the holidays.
Italian Rosemary, Lemon And Garlic Salt Blend
1/4 cup chopped garlic cloves
1/4 cup stemmed and chopped rosemary
Grated zest of 2 organic lemons
2 cups medium flake sea salt
Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. In a food processor, grind garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest with 2 tablespoons salt to a coarse puree. Add remaining salt and process a few seconds until evenly distributed. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 225 F until slightly crispy (15-20 minutes). Break up any clumps with the back of a spatula and spoon into small jars with tightly sealing lids. Store in a tightly sealed jar. Makes about 2 cups.