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Felt like it


I’m just off the plane from a week in Oklahoma City with June and my mother, clearing out my teenage bedroom. Fun-wise, it was right up there with surgery in the pre-anesthesia era, especially my senior prom Party Pics. On the upside, Mom and I made a wonderful pea soup (only with half the amount of ham hock, and with dried herbs instead of fresh) and worked our way through approximately four bars of chocolate and an undisclosed amount of wine, and I determined (take note!!!) that the only way to handle letters from exes and otherwise is to shove them dutifully in a box and then pray it gets lost in the mail. We woke up too early every day, and I stayed up too late every night (reading We Are Called to Rise, the best novel I’ve read in a long time, and I would say that even if my editor hadn’t send it to me, though she did), and today, after my usual Wednesday admin at Essex, I was so tired that I had to stop for a three o’clock espresso, and I still yawned afterward.

But I wanted to say hi. Just felt like it.


Always to acclaim

Happy Two Days After Valentine’s Day! I hope you celebrated in style, which is more than we did. I typed most of this post on Valentine’s night, while Brandon worked at Delancey, slinging pizzas for all the lovers.  I did, however, rally to bake a banana bread.  Nothing says, I love you (or, You married your grandmother), like a banana bread on Valentine’s Day.

This is not a post about banana bread, just to clarify.

This is a post about lime curd.  Not lemon curd, but lime: "the superlative citrus," as our friend Niah, who is also the bar manager of Essex, likes to say. And if it seems like I only post sweets and baked goods anymore, I know, I know, you’re right. I’m sure it’ll pass.

This particular lime curd comes from a cookbook of my mother’s, Gourmet’s America, published in 1994 - a year that, I should admit, just for the sake of completeness, I spent mostly driving mopily around Oklahoma City, newly won driver’s license in my wallet, listening to Nine Inch Nails’s The Downward Spiral and having a lot of feelings for Trent Reznor.  Meanwhile, back at home, my mother was doing something of more lasting import, which is to say: while combing the bookshelf in the kitchen, pulling together ideas for a party, she found this recipe for lime curd. The idea was to serve the curd next to a pile of sugar cookies, and then your guests could "frost" their own cookies. She tried it. I remember ducking through the living room at some point during the party, noticing the stack of cookies and beside it a bowl of curd, creamy yellow with shards of green zest. I grabbed a cookie on the way up to my room, smeared it with as much lime curd as I could fit onto the edge of a knife, and wished, for the rest of the night, that I had taken two.

My mother has repeated the lime curd / sugar cookie trick several times since, always to acclaim. And when I became interested in a few things that were not Trent Reznor*, it was the first curd I ever made. I was intimidated at first, but fruit curd is easy alchemy: a stovetop custard, sort of, but with fruit juice instead of milk. This one isn’t a purely lime curd - it uses both lemon and lime juices, plus lime zest - but it nails it. It’s undoubtedly lime, fruity and fragrant, but the lemon helps to perk it up, to cut the sugar, eggs, and butter with added acidity. It’s an ideal texture for frosting a cookie, or for filling a cake, or folding into whipped cream to make a mousse.

That said, I don’t make it as often as I should, but that’s only because of my own biases: when I think of sweets, I think of chocolate first and citrus later. But it came to mind recently, when Matthew and I were brainstorming a forthcoming Spilled Milk episode on limes, so I made a batch. And when it tasted as good as I remembered, I took it to a book club meeting - some of us Delancey ladies have banded together to read books and, apparently, eat lime curd - along with a box of Walker’s Pure Butter Shortbread Scottie Dogs, and I am pleased to report that we enjoyed it more than Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin.

* For the record, I still have a thing for "The Perfect Drug." And, as I learned in a New Yorker profile, Reznor is a better dog owner than I am, because he actually remembers to brush his dog’s teeth.

Lime Curd
Adapted from Gourmet’s America

2 large eggs, beaten
1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, diced
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
2 Tbsp. lime zest
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
A pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan – I used a 2-quart – and set it over medium-low heat. Whisk until the butter is melted, and then continue to whisk constantly (or almost constantly; you don’t want to let it curdle or scorch) until the mixture is thickened, like jelly. As it thickens, you’re looking for it to hold the mark of the whisk, and if you lift the whisk, the mixture should hold its shape when it plops back into the pot. This will probably take about 10 to 12 minutes. When it’s ready, remove the curd from the heat, and press through a mesh strainer into a storage container.  Chill well before serving.

Note: If you want your finished lime curd to still be flecked with bits of green lime zest, you could skip the straining step. But I always worry about finding bits of cooked egg in my fruit curd, so I like to strain mine - and then I lose the zest, but oh well.


Book update, housekeeping, la la la

It is with pleasure, great relief, and even greater trepidation that I can FINALLY say that Delancey, my second book, will be published in three months and one day.

Right! Three months and one day sounds like an eternity. An age. But we’re closer than we were a month ago! Look at it that way. That’s the way I look at it in my better moments, the ones when I’m not staring at the clock.

In the meantime, I get to present to you the book trailer, or video, or whatever you call it, for Delancey. My publisher and the video team did a beautiful job! Granted, I am not exactly what one would call at ease in front of a camera, but aside from the fact that I blinked so much that one might think my eyeball was about to fall out, I’m very happy with it. I should also tell you, while we’re on the subject, that Delancey is available for pre-order. And when it comes out, I’ll be doing readings and signings across the country. Planning is underway! More to come!

I am also tickled - and turning into my grandmother, as evidenced by my use of the word "tickled" - to learn that my first book, A Homemade Life, was chosen as a Kindle Monthly 100 Pick for February.  That means that the Kindle edition is crazily cheap - $1.99 - throughout the month of February. And because they were feeling nice, my publisher updated it to include a sample chapter of Delancey, too, at the very end. I love that they did that. I don’t have a Kindle, and believe me, I am quite familiar with A Homemade Life, but still, I bought it tonight and had it sent to our iPad, just so I could check it out. I’m living large.

It also recently occurred to me that some of you may not know that Brandon and I have been writing a column on craft cocktails for Food52?  Or, I don’t know, maybe you know? In any case, we post there every other Thursday, which adds up to a lot of cocktails already. The next post will go up tomorrow. I try not to play favorites, but what the hell: my favorite is the unlikely-seeming Negroni Flip. And in moments when that feels like too much work, I find it hard to beat a Campari Shandy.

Somewhat, or maybe mostly, off-topic: I watched the documentary Pearl Jam Twenty for the second time last week, and I have to insist that if you haven’t seen it, and if you have even vaguely fond memories of the hard rock bands of the early '90s, or even if you don’t, you should watch it.  I streamed it on Netflix, but it also seems to be available as a 12-part series on YouTube. It’s directed by Cameron Crowe, and it’s wonderful, and I say that as someone who has always, actually, leaned more Nirvana than Pearl Jam. PJ20 is as much about Seattle, my adopted city, as it is about Pearl Jam, and one thing I particularly love about the film is its exploration of the unusual tradition of collaboration, rather than competition, between Seattle bands.  Brandon and I have experienced the same phenomenon in the restaurant business here - and I write a bit about it in Delancey - and I don’t know, but the whole film is just very inspiring. Brandon is going to kill me for publicly admitting what losers we are, but both he and I choked up the first time we watched it.

Last, but not least, I was invited to deliver the keynote speech at Food Blog South in Birmingham, Alabama, at the end of January, and yesterday, the esteemed Dianne Jacob posted an excerpt from my talk. Being asked to give the speech forced me to think through my gut feelings about writing and creativity - so many ideas and decisions that I don’t usually take the time to articulate, even to myself - and now that the anxiety of the actual talk is behind me, I’m happy to have those thoughts on paper, and grateful to Dianne for her interest in sharing them.

Happy Thursday, all.