Do you hear that sound? It’s me sobbing after yet another trip to shovel out our driveway. Yes, we live in New England and we expect to get snow here. That’s fine. But this… this is getting to be ridiculous. The worst part is that there’s nowhere to put these massive piles! It’s just packed in front of our house… and on our sidewalk… and around our driveway. It’s everywhere. I know I’m not the only one who was thinking, just a few weeks ago, that this winter hasn’t been that bad. It wasn’t! Really. Maybe an inch or two. That’s nothing! Well, Mother Nature is obviously pissed off about something. 72 inches in 17 days. It’s too much.
On these snowy days, cocktail hour comes early. After shoveling for the millionth time, we hunker down for bourbon and nibbles. We ran out of cheese (I know, sad day) and, so, I got a little creative with our appetizer with these roasted potatoes and mushrooms. I’m new to the miso craze (ok, maybe it’s not a craze… but I feel like I’ve been seeing it used more and more). It makes for a wonderful glaze on fish or vegetables, especially when some brown sugar is whisked in.
This past weekend we became a two car household. When we moved out of the city, I didn’t think we’d need another car. We’d managed for years on one car and I thought it’d continue that way. The challenge is that my work takes me all over the place. Most of my clients are in Boston or Cambridge, accessible via public transportation. Recently, though, more inquiries have been coming in from restaurants in surrounding towns. In these instances, I’ve had to check in with Eric. Would he need the car that day? Can I take it? Is he able to get a ride home? Running your own business is chaotic enough and adding these logistical complications into the mix was creating more stress.
When my parents asked us a few months ago if we’d be interested in taking their old car if they got a new one, we said, “Of course! That’d be amazing!” So, here we are, the proud owners of a ’97 Toyota Camry. It’s a car I grew up with and have fond memories of. I’m feeling a bit liberated now that it’s in our possession. My day to day routine will surely change because of it. I can run errands I wasn’t able to before. I see other ways it’s going to change my life… the spontaneous trips I can take to the Cape or to visit my family in New Jersey. Or if I just need to get out of the house, I can drive over to a local nature reservation for a walk in the woods with Maki.
After our trip to New Orleans, I was excited to get back into the kitchen. Following our return, we were hit with a pretty large snow storm, forcing us to hunker down at home for a couple of days. I used this time to do some recipe development, starting with a wild rice dish that I’d been meaning to prepare for quite a while. I’m not sure how it happened, but we have a massive quantity of wild rice in our cabinets. We don’t cook with it all that often, so I can see how we’d have some… but there are multiple bags, some half used, that have piled up in there. I’ve never been a huge fan of wild rice, except in soups. How does one make it interesting? The answer, I’ve learned, is by loading it with exciting flavors and textures. A little sprinkle of salt isn’t going to cut it. It needs something bolder. I took inspiration from an old recipe my mom had saved from, I believe, Bon Appetit, which utilizes pearl onions and dried cherries. I loved this idea, but I thought, “Why stop there? Let’s run with this!” I took out a mixture of spices from the cupboard: cumin, cinnamon, cayenne (I add cayenne to just about everything), cardamom and cloves. Here are the flavors (and smells) of the season that I love so much. I’d imagine it goes perfectly with roasted meat (I’ve seen similar recipes used as stuffing) and salmon. It also works wonderfully on top of a salad of greens and cucumber with a light lemon dressing.
I can’t even think about fried food right now. All I want is a big salad or a piece of poached fish. Simple, healthy, clean. Shrimp fritters are a no-go in my life. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy them. I’m sure at some point I’ll recover from our trip to NOLA, but for the next few weeks, I’m keeping things light. That’s what five days of shrimp and grits, fried oyster po’ boys, beignets, and Sazeracs will do to a person. No regrets, though. None at all.
Our time in New Orleans was memorable and we left with a good feel for the city. When we travel, I like to do one activity each day and we managed to do that. On our first day, we took the trolley up to the sculpture garden, which is situated in City Park next to the New Orleans Museum of Art. Entry to the garden is free, and one can easily spend an hour perusing the 63 sculptures.
Looking to get a bit more general history of the city, we signed up for a guided tour of St. Louis Cemetery 1. The hour and a half spent walking with our guide was packed with information (some of which I’m sure we missed since he spoke at a dizzying pace). Having now seen the above-ground vaults, I need to watch the infamous scene from Easy Rider again. Apparently (and not terribly surprising), part of the movie was filmed without permission from the city and, ever since 1969, no other films have been allowed to shoot inside the cemetery.
Our third day was a bit rainy, which made for the perfect museum day. The Ogden was down the street from where we were staying. A relatively compact museum, the exhibits gave us a great foundation on Southern art.
But the part I’ll remember the most was what we did on our last day. A friend who lives locally offered to pick us up to drive around the Ninth Ward. While a few buildings have been constructed over the years since Hurricane Katrina (mainly those financed by Brad Pitt), not much has been developed in this area. There are huge gaps between the houses. Instead of a city, it resembles a more rural neighborhood. A number of these houses are in a state of complete disrepair and should have been demolished years ago. Yet they haven’t been touched and just sit there. It’s a sobering sight; one that anyone visiting New Orleans should see.
I’m not sure when Eric and I will have a chance to return for another visit, but we already have a list of eats, drinks and landmarks we missed on this trip. And speaking of dining, I’ll be sure to share my recommendations later this week.
Back to these fritters! So, see that book down there? These fritters are a result of that beautiful book by Ashley Rodriguez (of Not Without Salt fame). I’ve read through Date Night In once already (a sign of a stellar cookbook is that you read it from cover to cover) and have already gone back through passages. I just love them so much. Now, shrimp fritters aren’t in the book, but a tzatziki dressing is and I went off of that. Because a fried frittery thing, especially one with a bit of a kick, needs a yogurt dipping sauce to cool things down (I should note that I modified it a bit by adding some chipotle pepper to give it a little smokiness).