Grey Gardens

This is my biggest fear: two single beds – me in one; S in the other. She has her iPhone, iPad, and Macbook as her companions. I only have a bottle of wine and my own laptop on which I watch the following in a continuous loop (based on the current selections available on the Netflix "Watch Instantly" queue): Grey's Anatomy, 30 Rock, Dawson's Creek, ParenthoodGrey's Anatomy30 RockDawson's CreekParenthood.... Occasionally S and I will confer on what to order for take-out, or we'll spat about which couple we like better, Joey and Dawson or Joey and Pacey, but otherwise we don't speak. In the first few years friends visit; relatives call. Then repelled by the rats, squalor and pathetically adolescent TV listings, they slowly slack off, and we're forgotten.

In case you haven't figured it out, what I dread the most is becoming Big and Little Edie. So, to avoid the inevitable isolation, filth, and failure, I sent my kid off to boarding school to start the separation process. I only hope it was early enough; we're pretty entwined. I tend to forget that we're separate people.

"Boarding school?" you question. "Isn't that a little extreme?" Trust me, the $50,000 is worth staving off the dread. Almost. It would be better if I actually had $50,000, but that's another post. Of course we went through nearly a year of living hell to get to the send-off. We had to make sure it was the right thing. And as the months of sophomore year dragged on, months of being woken at midnight with the words, "I forgot I have an English paper due tomorrow, can you help me write it;" months of hearing as I walked in the door, "I already finished my homework," when I knew it was a lie; months of skirting my friends and colleagues who also happen to be her teachers, knowing they were talking about her, about us, it became clear: S will not do her homework if I'm within a 50 mile radius. So... 90 miles it is. I want to say, "so far, so good," because it really has been good, but I don't want to jinx it. At the very least my money (and the money of familial donors and whatever I find on the street) is paying for other people to bug her to do her work. And right now that feels like enough. 

In the days leading up to the send off, comfort food was needed, and here's what I made:

April Bloomfield's Summer Tomato Soup  and Grilled Mozzarella and Speck Sandwiches (this meal was actually eaten on 9/1/12 - save it for next August). I'm only providing the recipe for the soup, since I assume you know how to make a grilled cheese.

Summer Tomato Soup
adapted from A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield

7 medium heirloom tomatoes (about 3 pounds)
¼ c plus 3 T extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, sliced
A small handful of basil leaves
3 T flaky sea salt

Halve the tomatoes through the stem and cut out the cores and any hard, pale bits. Use your fingers to push out the juice and seeds, strain the juice through a sieve into a bowl, stirring and smooshing to extract as much liquid as possible, and discard the solids left behind.

Combine 3T of the olive oil and the garlic in a medium pot or deep pan that has a lid and is large enough to hold the tomatoes comfortably, then set it over medium-high heat. Once the garlic begins to sizzle, cook it, stirring often, until it’s a light golden color and fragrant, a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes and the strained juice along with 5 or so of the basil leaves and 1 T of the salt and give it a gentle stir. After a minute or so, pour in ¼ c water. Turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Peek inside after 5 minutes, and when the tomatoes look like they’re swimming in their own juice, take off the lid and adjust the heat so it simmers gently. Let simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes slightly so they release more juice, until the liquid has thickened a bit.

Turn off the heat and add the remaining 2 T salt, the rest of the basit, and the remaining ¼ olive oil. Blend the mixture, working in batches if necessary, until it’s very smooth and has a lovely creamy texture. Pour it back into the pot, stir, and add a bit more salt, if you want. Serve.


Friday Night

So, I’m supposed to be at Amour right now. You know, the foreign film up for an Academy Award – a “real” one for Best Picture, not just “Best Foreign Film.” I was all set for one of my favorite activities: sneaking a burrito and a glass of wine into Coolidge Corner Theater and having dinner and a movie all at once in a beautiful art deco surrounding. (I really don’t have to “sneak” them in because the Coolidge allows outside food and drink, and now they even sell wine at a reasonable price, but I happen to like the sneaking feeling.) I was all set to go. I worked hard at work and came home and took down the Christmas tree and cleaned up after it (January 18 isn’t too late, is it?). I deserved to do this favorite thing. I could almost taste the carnitas, rice, beans (just a few; pinto, please) sour cream, cilantro, tomatoes, and guac. Okay, you can’t really taste the guac in these things unless you get it on the side, but I can’t live without knowing it’s there. But…. it’s a Friday night and I’m alone and at the last minute it didn’t feel okay to see a movie about an old couple in their last days faced with death apart and the memories of a life together. I think I just couldn’t bear it. Did I mention that it’s a Friday night and I’m alone? I used to be the person everyone asked on Monday what I was doing the following weekend. Because they knew I’d already know. I always had a plan. It helped, I guess, that I lived with and then married my college boyfriend –  I always had someone around. And then we had a kid, which makes for even more people around. And even when I left him, I still had the kid. But, now she’s at boarding school going out for pizza with her cohort, and I forgot to make plans. I had dinner with friends on Wednesday. I should have saved it. So, I felt I needed to get out of the house. I’m perfectly happy being at a movie alone, but not so much at home. I’ve seen Lincoln, and Django, and Silver Linings Playbook. The assassination of Osama Bin Laden didn’t seem like the best way to start a weekend. Les Mis…. well, I saw it twice on Broadway – isn’t that enough? So, Amour it was. Or wasn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I decided to stay at home and make home okay. I found a recipe by Amanda Hesser that she makes when she’s home alone (probably not that often what with the New Yorker writer husband and the twins, but she did mention it). And, I even made myself an hors d’oeuvre. Bruschetta. I never toast the bread when I have guests over – too frazzled-slash-lazy. But it didn’t seem that hard to toast the bread (and rub it with garlic and olive oil) just for one. I only needed to make two (or three) pieces. I actually had the tomato – well I always have tomatoes, but for some reason I forget, I actually had fresh mozzarella. Something that should always be in my refrigerator but never is. So, bruschetta. And wine. And a fire, even. Sure, I cheated with a Duraflame, but see above for divorce situation – 10 years later, I think I have grilling down, but I still need help with a fire. I’m going to read for a bit and then making Amanda’s Spaghetti with Fried Eggs and Roasted Peppers (and capers and breadcrumbs). So, I can pretend to be an Italian peasant home alone on a Friday night, which makes the whole thing seem a little bit better.

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs and Roasted Peppers

Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser

Serves 4 if you have the sense to invite people over.

2 red bell peppers

1 T salt-packed capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped if large
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 c finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 rounded tablespoons course dry bread crumbs
5 T extra virgin olive oil
3/4 lb spaghetti
2 large eggs
Freshly grated Parmesan and Pecorino Romano

1. Roast the peppers under a broiler (recipe for disaster for me) or on a gas burner with the flame on low. (oops, I had it on high, but it worked fine). Turn them regularly so that they char all over. When they are fully blistered, place them in a paper or plastic bag and let cool. Or skip this step and buy them in a jar.

2. Peel the peppers. When you cut them open, catch any pepper liquid in a small bowl. Trim off the stem end, scrape out the seeds, and cut out the ribs. Slice the peppers lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

3. Combine the peppers, capers, garlic, and parsley in a small baking dish. Season w S&P. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Set aside.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Just before it boils, sprinkle 2 T olive oil over the peppers and place in the oven for 10 minutes.

5. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.

6. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When it shimmers, crack in the eggs and fry, sunny side up, until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny. Remove from the burner.

7. Scoop out a cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Pour it into a large warm serving bowl. Using 2 forks, toss in the baked peppers and fried eggs, adding some of the egg-cooking olive oil. As you toss, break the whites into pieces and let the yolks act as sauce; they will spread over the pasta and cook further from the heat. Add a little reserved pasta water if it gets too thick. Season to taste w S&P and serve, passing (to the aforementioned guests) the cheese on the side.