Thursday, May 23, 2013

Leaning in to the blog

the annual manicure
The first homemade pasta I ever tasted was cannelloni my parents' friends Steve and Jeannette Grant served from the Time-Life Cooking of Italy. This was circa 1978 and I'd never eaten noodles so silky, never known noodles could even be silky. The meat was suave and incredibly rich, thanks, I later learned, to the addition of chicken livers. I made the cannelloni last night and have two overarching comments:

1. This cannelloni is so fussy and involves so many little pieces of noodle and meat and butter that toward the end you will wish you were an octopus.

2. It is delicious.

The recipe in brief: You saute a mixture of onion, beef, spinach, and chopped chicken livers. You make a tomato sauce. You make a bechamel sauce. You make very thin egg pasta and cut it into many rectangles that you must place flat on a floured surface because if you place them on an unfloured surface they will stick and you will have to scrape them up and roll and cut them again just like I did. Boil your pasta pieces, drain them, and now you must carefully place them flat on paper towels. If the pieces get folded, they will stick in that folded shape and in trying to restore them to flat rectangles you will rip a great deal of pasta, just like I did. One by one, roll your intact pasta rectangles around spoonfuls of meat and place in a pan. Top with the bechamel, tomato sauce,  bits of butter, and Parmesan. Bake.

Clearly, it's useful to have a helper for this. Owen was with me the whole time and he's wonderful company, but not a helper. Isabel is a wonderful helper, but she's never here anymore. I think she's gently preparing us for that dreaded day in September 2015 when she moves out. At this rate, we won't even notice.

While I was struggling with the cannelloni, Owen took several dozen candid flash photos of me from odd angles. When that got old, he stuck a butter knife in the pasta roller and turned on the machine, just to see what would happen. If you're curious, the butter knife gets stuck. Really stuck.
Supposedly, he'll be leaving us in 2018. Hard to picture.
When Mark walked in the door I was spitting tacks, as my mother liked to say. Mark helped Owen get the knife out of the pasta machine and while the cannelloni baked I asked Owen to take a picture of Mark and me for my 25th college reunion book. He immediately started taking pictures of cats and spiders; he climbed up on the retaining wall, crouched to try arty angles, fiddled with the camera settings, etc. Mark, at least, was amused.
Is he going to stick a butter knife in the camera now?
The photo shoot was a bust. What would happen if I sent that picture in to the reunion book? Would people think it was funny, tragic, or just very, very weird? Obviously I won't send it, though I'd sooner send a picture in which I look like I'm going to kill someone than a picture in which I look radiant, joyful, and fat. Yes, I have certainly matured over the last 25 years.

As for the cannelloni, like I said: delicious. Owen wolfed it down and went back for thirds. I ate a ladylike portion. Mark wouldn't eat the filling because of the chicken liver, so he picked it all out and said, "The meat is too dominating. When the noodles are this good you really just want noodles and butter." Isabel, as mentioned, was out.

All in all, a hit, but we won't be eating cannelloni again anytime soon.

On another subject, I've made two more batches of the Indianer cakes and mastered the recipe, but want to try the apricot variation before calling it a day and posting. Interesting how much apricot jam Austrians use in their pastries.  

53 comments:

  1. This post made me laugh out loud. A real laugh too, not a cyber "LOL."

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  2. You don't look fat. And why would you mention the liver?

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    Replies
    1. I didn't mention the liver, he said, "What's weird about the meat? It tastes rancid." And when he said that I explained. If he'd said nothing I would have said nothing.

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  3. Have I told you how much I love you, Tispy Baker? Thanks for starting my day off right- with a belly laugh. For the record, you do not look fat. I say send it in...what they will discuss most are the stripes:)

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  4. I am with Lisa, 100percent! Oh, and I say boo to fussy pasta. Now that you know it's delish and you can make it, why not adapt the components into a lasagna?

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  5. I am totally in the non-fat camp too! Even though you might look a little morose in that picture, you look extrememly youthful as well.

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  6. To clarify: I don't think I look fat in that picture. Just miserable, which by my cracked female logic, is preferable.
    Fortunately, we can just take another photo under better conditions this weekend.

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  7. That canneloni description is why I never want to make pasta and why, when I have a recipe like that, I change the pasta to out-of-the-box penne, dump it all in the pan and call it "baked". I do not have the time or the patience for fussy.

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  8. I'm commenting now for the second time (first time was last week in response to the "SK problem" that you don't get as many comments) -- to let you know that I love this post, love your writing style, and once again, I laughed out loud -- which, echoing Anonymous above, was a real LOL, not a cyber-ish LOL. and BTW, understand completely the cracked female logic of preferring a miserable photo to a fat one. I've just joined LinkedIn cuz I'm getting fired from my current job, and am honestly considering hiring a professional photographer for my photo, even though I'm so cheap that I shop mostly at Goodwill. . . what a world . . .

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  9. I think you look pretty glamorous in the photo, like a college girl! I'm not joking! Mark looks handsome and happy.

    That Time-Life Italian one is the only one of the series I ever bought. The only recipe I made is the canneloni but I was smart enough to make it w/out chicken livers; I'm surprised Owen liked the livers. It was about 30 years ago and I was living on a rented houseboat. I had to open the fridge with a long screwdriver and had never made fresh pasta, no machine. My boyfriend was more than willing to hand roll out the pasta and it was sublime.

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  10. Teenage boys are very gratifying to feed. They're just so very, very, very odd.

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  11. You do look very youthful. Your classmates will be so envious. A lovely, youthful appearance and a handsome husband!

    My husband is exactly like that. If I make something that has anything unusual in it, he notices. Otherwise, he never notices anything. I made this wonderful chicken dish that had fennel pollen in it. I thought it was divine. He thought is "tasted funny". Sigh. I thought I had a real winner, but evidently not in his opinion. Needless to say, I froze the extras into small individual portions, and he will be eating it again. I will be watching to see if he notices when he eats it the second time.

    I admire your patience in making pasta. I did it once. I thought it was wonderful, but waaaay too much trouble. When I want fresh noodles now, I buy them.

    Really? A butter knife? At least he is inquisitive, but that would try the patience of a saint! You will miss him so much when he is gone.

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  12. You look super young in that picture! My younger daughter, age 7, sounds like Owen. Always moving! My parents offered to take us to a nice restaurant, but asked if she could "sit still." The answer is obviously no!

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  13. I love apricot jam, and wish it were more popular here. You look thin, young, sullen and very pretty in the photo. Maybe you could recreate it exactly (same time of day, same level of light, same angle) but with a smile. On the other hand, maybe it would be better to send in an ugly photo of yourself (if one exists) and then show up at the reunion all beautiful for the win!

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  14. You're the only blogger whose family I'm actually interested in!

    I have always wanted to make the Indianer cakes from Kaffeehaus, but I keep getting stuck on the delicious Ischl Tarts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't get the Indianers from Kaffeehaus to work in the aebleskiiver pan. So I reverted to the Time-Life recipe. There are so many recipes from that book (Kaffeehaus) I want to try.

      Delete
  15. I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn't Isabel in the picture! You look super young and THIN!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dagnabbit, you stole my comment!

      Delete
  16. You look adorable and hip in that photo -- love the stripes and belt buckle. I think you wear distortion glasses when you look at yourself. XO

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    Replies
    1. My mom's burgundy suede belt from the '70s! I remember her wearing it. I will be sad when it falls apart, as it is starting to do.

      Delete
  17. LizA (A for Austria)5/25/13, 6:21 AM

    Austrians like apricot jam because they grow lovely apricots, and also because it tastes great. A Sachertorte without apricot jam between the cake and the icing would be just a dull affaire, but with it (and some whipped cream, which we are partial to as well!) it is divine...

    I do not see the problem with chicken liver but then I like liver in general. I really admire you for making cannelloni though - it sounds rather complex. I do like making things on my own and I don't generally mind fussy recipes, but it does not seem like a quick friday dish.... ;-)

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    Replies
    1. I love apricot jam and jam in general and I think this is why these recipes are all so enticing.
      Cannelloni was too fussy even for me.

      Delete
  18. You look beautiful, if a little stressed, in the picture. My son who was once like Owen, is now in graduate school. He is quite adroit in the kitchen. You may be suprised one day about how much Owen has picked up just fooling around in the kitchen while you cook.

    As for the canneloni, it sounds like too much work for a pasta meal. Do you think the filling and sauce would work in a lasagna?

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    Replies
    1. I think the filling would work great in lasagna. A few times while making this I thought I would just have to use the filling as a sauce on spaghetti, though it was a little dry for that.
      Owen is a trip. Graduate school. That would be great. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed for high school right now.

      Delete
  19. I've been reading your blog for about a year. My favorite thing about it, aside from your charming wit, is how your husband is so...non-food oriented. I suffer the same fate. Nice to see that you forge ahead anyway!

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  20. I just spent 12 hours in a minivan with several 9th grade boys. The heartiest laughs of the whole trip were of them recounting the (apparently universally-experienced) moments when their mothers start complimenting or bragging about their talent or skills to a friend or grandparent only to look over at them to see them in la-la-land picking their nose, sniffing their toes, or some other equally neanderthal-esque endeavor. None of them were so sophisticated as to have stuck a butter knife in a pasta maker!

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  21. I have to say that you look absolutely gorgeous in that photo!

    I have a friend from Austria who makes apricot jam every year when the local apricots are available at the greenmarket. I think it's like mother's milk to her as she is not much of a cook ordinarily.

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  22. If you turn the page from the cannelloni, you will find the picture that made me keep this book.
    Great pic of you two, brings tears to my eyes of 12 years ago.xxoo

    ReplyDelete
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