Saturday, April 24, 2010

Driving... Me Crazy

I am not a good driver. I'm pretty sure there are those out there who are born to drive and those who are not. There are a lot of people who would like to consider themselves in the first category, even though they belong in the last. I'm honest. I'm no good!

Chris and I drove to Boston yesterday for a job interview. He was the interviewee so actually I drove. I hated every minute of it. Driving on the highway is like being on a roller coaster. I'm hurtling forward down the highway, cars in front, in back and to the side. I've got to maintain speed to keep up, I can slow down but I cannot stop mid ride and just get off. I'm trapped.

In addition, it is mentally draining. I need to pay constant attention because, surely, many of my fellow drivers are, just like me, not really meant to be driving. Any mistake, even the blink of an eye, could truly mean my own demise. I don't trust anyone on the road.

Needless to say, we made it there and I did not drive on the way back to Rhode Island.

I try to view things like this as experiences that make me stronger and braver. A face your fears kind of attitude. I've been a driver since I was sixteen. I've looked this particular fear in the face many times. I'd like to think that, even though driving doesn't get any easier, every time I choose to drive rather than not to drive I gather a little bit of courage that I can use somewhere else down the road of life.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Work in Progress

Starving Sparrow has a new face... and a cute little body! Thanks to Chris, the little bird at the top of the page is forevermore the Starving Sparrow. Just right I think.

This blog is a work in progress. I'm learning how to communicate in a new way and how to share bits and pieces of my life and my loves with whomever is inclined to follow. My years in San Francisco were like building blocks, they are my foundation. Now its time to build my house. I'm going to need some help. Chris and I have some pretty ambitious plans. Getting jobs in a new city, buying a home, building a small business and, maybe, even throwing a little sparrow into the mix.

I want this blog to be a way for me to access all that positive energy out there. Its a reciprocal relationship between you and I that I'm going to rely on for good advice, thoughtful commentary and support along the way. You, can count on me for a true story and a passion for food and life that I can't wait to share.

I'm off to feed the bird. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fried Fish

It's 10:30... Closing in on my bedtime but I had to document my first foray into the world of deep fry.

It all started with cod from Saturdays market. I had two perfect fillets left over after I made the soup a few days ago so I froze them. I'm not the best freezer. I feel like there must be some trick to it. Freezer burn is my arch enemy but I took my chance once again and carefully bagged those fillets in hopes they'd be there for me when I needed them.

This morning I pulled them out and miraculously they defrosted perfectly. I was off to a good start so I decided to try my luck at a technique that has always intimidated me. Deep frying.

There are a few reasons I was a bit put off by the fry. There is a lot of oil involved. It just seems so wasteful. Every recipe I have ever read calls for a thermometer. I don't have one. And, there is the batter aspect which I was pretty unsure about as well.

My thought was to put together an East coast meets West coast fried "fish 'n salad". I looked up a recipe for fish 'n chips online to get an idea of the process and proceeded cautiously. First I fried potato wedges. Fried fish needs chips. I fried twice and they came out perfectly golden and crispy. So far so good. Then I put together a really green salad of escarole hearts, parsley and mint with a creamy chive dressing and oven roasted tomatoes.

Last but not least, I dredged my seasoned fish in a bit of flour, then in beer batter and dropped them into the oil. I kept a close eye and adjusted the heat a bit when it appeared things were frying to quickly. Beyond that there's really not much to it. I'm not sure what I was so worried about. The fish turned out great! Super crispy on the outside and perfectly moist and flaky inside. I put those yummy little golden nuggets on top of the salad thrilled that I had conquered my fears.

I know it probably doesn't seem like much but a small success in the kitchen is always so encouraging. It really did make my day know that I learned something new and executed it correctly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's for Dinner

Tonight my mom has a friend coming to dinner. I love trying to come up with a meal using only what I've got in the fridge. Waste not, want not. It's Monday and this task is not so tough as we just went to the market on Saturday and have still got quite a bit of yummy food to nosh our way through. Talk to me in three or four days and see if I can still come up with something given the little I've got left.

I've decided to make tarragon roast chicken with braised baby beet greens. They are the most picture perfect little leaves. All green with dark red veins running through. I almost hate to cook them 'cause they are just so pretty. Because our chicken is on the small side, I'm gonna include a citrus risotto with goat cheese as well.

The cool thing is we've got everything we need right here in our little kitchen. Even cooler, we'll be using up a few things that have been hanging around a bit too long, like a couple of mineola tangerines, tarragon and a package of goat cheese.

So, that's the menu. Chris and I are gonna try to document the process in a little step by step photo shoot. Fingers crossed. If it turns out, we'll give posting it a whirl as well.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fish Soup

I'm making fish soup.

It's a cold, drizzly, dreary Spring Saturday and my mother, aunt Claire and I drove to the market this morning to gather some fresh, local bits and bites for the week. Of course, I plucked spring garlic and pea shoots from the first farmer who had them. They are staples this time of year and I will eat them every which way until they are gone. In addition I picked up a lovely fresh chicken, eggs and bacon, huge bags of spinach and beet greens, a loaf of perfectly baked bread and fresh mussels and cod. Enter fish soup.

Two days ago Chris and I were in Somerville MA touring about and our friend, Meaghan, took us into a little specialty shop in Union Square. They were carrying a particularly eye catching, aka well marketed, brand of fish and lobster broth that I bought to try. Now, I am a huge fan of making your own anything and normally I wouldn't have bothered. But, I read the label and was pleasantly surprised to see that the ten or so ingredients listed were all totally identifiable and all things I would use in my own stock had I the time or inclination to make it. Sold.

At first I thought risotto, but the beautiful mussels and cod I bought this morning were clamoring for a soup. Maybe its the day. It really is so raw out. I started my soup three hours ago with the bacon. I added some leeks, celery and green garlic. I'm a sucker for fresh herbs so in addition there was a little bay, thyme and oregano. I chopped carrots and potatoes into nice little cubes. I washed spinach and prepared a chive butter for the griddled bread that will accompany each bowl. A bit of red wine, the fish broth and some diced, canned San Marzano tomatoes and it's simmering. It smells great.

So here I am, its 5:00pm, not time to eat yet. I've got the fish ready to go in the fridge, the bread sliced and the soup on the stove on hold until... later when everyone else is ready to eat. I am so impatient. I want to eat it now. Even though I know it will taste better later and that then I'll be able to enjoy it with my family, I still want it now.

This happens a lot when I cook. I love the process. I love getting everything ready, filling little bowls with carefully chopped this and that and then putting it all together to create something delicious (most of the time). Its just when I get to the end, I cant wait to finish. I want to put it on a plate and taste it to make sure its good. I feel a bit crazy about this but, I'm sitting here right now wishing I were devouring that soup. So, wish me luck. Neither mom or Chris is ready for dinner yet. I'm just about finished with this blog. It has been my one and only distraction.

Later? Maybe.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Working Hard

Well, jobless is sometimes productive...

I've spent a couple of days organizing myself. When you have a job, a lot of to-dos disappear into the "I worked hard today. I'll do that tomorrow." mindset. My current status does not allow for that kind of excuse. My yield is not in dollars and cents, so all of those to-dos have to count for something.

Anyway, I've got some new systems in place that I plan to use well into the future. Keeping track of recipes and recipe ideas has always been something I have done half-assed. I've got a couple of ragged journals and that's about it. Despite my lack of love for all things technological, I realize that if I want to be more organized I need to get into the habit of recording the recipes digitally. Paper is so in the past.

There are a million and one programs out there for this specific chore, but my husband suggested I use a program called Evernote. You can use it for keeping track of lots of different things; ideas, interesting articles you read, photos. Basically, an easy way of taking notes and keeping them online. It's pretty flexible, it's free and, for now, it's what I'm using.

So far so good. I've got a bunch of recipes entered using a system for cataloging that works for me. It feels good.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pawtucket Market

Sorry for the gap in posts. I have every intention to update this blog as regularly as possible. We've been 'sorting it out' as they say. Living rent free in your mothers basement, with no job and very little responsibility might seem like a dream to some, but for Chris and I it is a bit of a challenge.

We moved back East from San Francisco, in part, because we felt removed and out of touch with our families but we did not realize how independent we had become over the years. Our life out West was our own. We underestimated what our responsibility to our families would be once we eliminated our 3000 mile buffer zone. There was a lot that went on day to day that, thankfully, got lost in distance and time changes. I'm sure that most of this minutia is exaggerated because we are not in our own space, and once we are on our own things will not seem so intense. This whole life change is a learning experience for me and right now I'm trying my best to soak up all that I can, as fast as I can, in order to adapt.

On a less personal and much more fun note, I spent yesterday morning at the Pawtucket Farmers Market. I drove about an hour to a big, industrial, brick building that had been re-purposed to house artists studios along with the Saturday market throughout the winter months. I have been craving green garlic and pea shoots. They are a sure sign of Spring at the Ferry Building in SF and I was hopeful that, although Spring has just barely sprung here, I might find these simple pleasures at this market.

The main hall where the vendors set up their tables had high ceilings and brick walls along with white wash beams that made it fresh and new. The wood floor was weather worn but polished and creaky beneath my feet. I arrived too early to make any purchases so I wandered slowly through the space eying each stall as vendors set out their goods. There were farms with beautiful pastel eggs and tons of baby salad greens. There was a man with fresh fish and shellfish that looked like it had just been plucked from the icy Atlantic. Poultry and meat, multiple varieties of apples, root veggies, winter greens and perfect looking baked goods all tempted me.

At exactly 11am the bell rang signaling the opening of the market. Quite a few folks had been strolling around early on and within a short period of time the hall was bustling. There was a jug band to enhance the warm and lively scene. Children with fresh food in their hands and mouths jiggled and danced. I watched and longed for my own market so far away, thankful that this one was here.

I found pea shoots right off the bat. The green garlic was a bit harder to locate, but eventually I found that too. The look, smell and taste is so indicative of the season. It is grassy green and has a light fragrance, a savory version of the soft scent of spring flower buds. The flavor is bright but not as intense as mature garlic bulbs. It reflects the newness of the season and the warming changes in the weather before the intensity of the summer sun sets in. ...BTW, I just spent five minutes googling the 'smell of garlic' so I could be more precise. Not much on the "interweb" to clarify. If anyone has got any specific descriptors I'd love to hear them.

In addition, I found kale flowers to use as salad garnish, downed a delicious bottle of fresh cider before I even made my way out of the building and found a local cheese company, Narragansett Creamery selling the most rustic, perfectly smelly, sharp and creamy Gouda-like cheese. Couldn't resist!

All in all, my morning was buoying. In the midst of so many adjustments it lifted my spirits to fall back into an old and familiar pattern, the Saturday market.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I realized today that the beginning of this chronicle is going to be a bit 'food' sparse as I'm just starting that learning process here in the East. Eventually, I want this blog to be more about food than me. I hope, as I put one foot in front of the next on this new/old coast, that my life will become wrapped up in all things edible and the amazing people who grow, breed, cook, sell and eat the best of what this environment has to offer.

I spent my day hanging out with my husband's family at their home in Cape Cod. It was great to catch up but I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself. It's been over two months since I had a job. Chris has got freelance work to keep him busy and all I've got is my "research". Where are we going to live and work? Where could we hope to open our own small business in a couple of years? I spend hours online looking at real estate in different cities and checking out restaurants and the "food scene" in communities we are interested in.

I'm excited about the possibilities but I miss a routine. I miss making money and not feeling guilty about spending it. I miss learning and interacting on the fly. I miss having my own home and, most of all, my own kitchen. I do appreciate that this time of transition is necessary in the life change we have implemented. I know that soon I'll have a job and, probably, wish I had more time off. Hopefully, I'll have a little money too. I envision cooking in my own kitchen in a home that we own and, down the line, I see our own small cafe thriving in some warm, thoughtful community.

At the moment though, I'm feeling a bit impatient and discouraged. I'm eager for the next step in this endeavor and waiting for something to point me in the right direction.

Till tomorrow,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Dinner

Quick note... I'm tired.

Food is not always meant to be the star. Sometimes a simple meal is just that. It allows for a conversation beyond what's on the plate. It brings us together and allows us to enjoy one another.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

In the Beginning

I'm just gonna start writing... I've been thinking about this blog for quite a while. I haven't got a profile nor do I have a grand idea about what this whole thing might entail, but I'm gonna start right here.
Today was beautiful. The birds are chirping, there are crocus and daffodils popping up in every random spot. It is my first Spring on the East Coast in ten years. Everything I took for granted growing up here is now a gift.
We've been delayed... My husband and I were scheduled to head to the Cape today to join his family for Easter but he had to work. I spent my day cleaning my mothers house and our car, doing laundry, running errands and attending to our dog Oscar. I have been putting together "dinner" (not so traditional, just a home made bite and an excuse to touch base with each other for a few minutes) for Chris for the last hour. He's been computing for two days straight. No time for a fancy meal. I'll use what I've got.
In the refrigerator there is exactly one eggplant, a bag of carrots, a small head of broccoli and some fresh herbs that need to be eaten before we depart for Cape Cod tomorrow. This is my favorite thing to do. I feel so thrifty using up the last of the last in the fridge. It takes a minute, but I decide on a roasted vegetable salad. I take my time, browning the eggplant while the oven gets hot enough to roast the carrots. My idea is to get all the veg cooked, toss them with a vinaigrette and finish with mint and parsley. Along the way I decide to add some chopped castelvetrano olives into the mix too.
All this brings me to... my first blog entry. The salad turned out yummy. I'm biased, I know. But, that's the thing about cooking. You put all this time and energy, or maybe just a little time and energy, and then something actually works out. It makes my day. It inspires me and gives me courage to try something a bit more intimidating. Like writing.
So, for now, this is it. I wanted an informal beginning to what I hope will be an incentive to put my random thoughts into words. Now that I've got this down, I have to continue. Wish me luck and let me know what you think every once in a while.