Monday, February 7, 2011

Give back your heart to itself . . .

How did your five-year-old love to play? Did you make up games? What were they? What did you truly love?

Yesterday, speaking on the subject of Life as a Work of Heart, I asked this question of my audience. Gradual smiles softened their faces as they remembered.

In mid-life, this very self-inquiry changed my life. I realized it wasn’t food preparation that had led me into my long career in cooking and entertaining; it was the result—the gathering of people around the table in celebration, in sharing ideas, in connection! And so I then reinvented what I was doing and my career turned into something infinitely more satisfying.

Will you take a moment to recapture what gave you joy? Where did your inborn love lead you?

(Above is a Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake for your five-year-old. You can keep them in the freezer--they thaw in only a few minutes for an afternoon treat for yourself or when a friend drops in.)

It is so important to pay attention to what our hearts tell us. These words from the poem Love After Love by Derek Wolcott (click on the title for the whole poem), remind us of the deep meaning of our lives.

. . .love again the stranger who was your self. 

. . . Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored 

for another, who knows you by heart. 

Here is a great Valentine gift for yourself. Marci Shimoff's new book, Love For No Reason is an astonishing teaching of the experience of pure love for its own sake. What I call Divine Love. Truly, every page is filling my heart with joy!

And, what better time of year, when hearts as a symbol of love are everywhere, to use something we take very much for granted, fresh strawberries, as a sign of celebration? This is so easy. I hope you will love it!

Goat Cheese with Roasted Sunflower Seeds,

Strawberry Hearts and Honey

Small log of goat cheese

Roasted sunflower seeds (can use honey-roasted)

Strawberry slices

Honey to drizzle over all

Serve at room temperature with thinly sliced bread or crisp crackers

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day!

It sure doesn't feel like it, but the groundhog says we are in for an early Spring!

With two-thirds of the US snowed in, it would seem a risky call.

This photo by Melissa Farlow is from an article in National Geographic that informs me he is also known as a woodchuck or marmot. Did you know that? Did you know he has been right 24 out of his last 30 predictions?

A fun weather blog I found this morning shows how outrageous this forecast is.

The poet Lynn Ungar in her poem, Groundhog Day, asks:

Celebrate this unlikely oracle,

this ball of fat and fur,

whom we so mysteriously endow

with the power to predict spring.

Let's hear it for the improbable heroes who,

frightened at their own shadows,

nonetheless unwittingly work miracles.

Why shouldn't we believe

this peculiar rodent holds power

over sun and seasons in his stubby paw?

Who says that God is all grandeur and glory?

Early Spring or not, I'm ready!

Nothing says "Spring is here" more than bright bundles of fresh asparagus just hitting the markets. For the best recipe I know, I head for Sarah Leah Chase's COLD-WEATHER COOKING, an appropriately named and favorite cookbook I've cherished for years.



Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard,

1 small clove garlic, finely minced

½ cup fruity olive oil

6 cherry or grape tomatoes, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 pounds medium asparagus trimmed and bottom portions of stalks peeled (See Note)

1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Note: Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus spears where they naturally break. Use a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler to peel the bottom 3 inches of the stalk.

1. For the vinaigrette, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice and mustard together in a small bowl. Add the garlic. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then stir in the diced tomato. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let mellow at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

2. Blanch, steam, or microwave the asparagus just until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain. Arrange the hot asparagus on a serving platter and our the vinaigrette over all. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving. The asparagus may be served warm or at room temperature. I often make it about 30 minutes ahead of serving and let it sit while I attend to the rest of my meal.