Spring’s Bounty (Let’s Lunch)

Posted in Manna on April 11th, 2014 by Annabelle – 5 Comments

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Welcome to the April edition of Let’s Lunch!  This month’s theme is blissful simplicity: three ingredient recipes.  I’m not normally a pared-down sort of a cook, with one exception: the preparation of beautiful seasonal produce.  Sometimes, it’s best just to let Mother Nature speak for herself.

Coincidentally, this is the time of year when I inevitably become obsessed with spring produce.  You will note that I do not say that this is the time of year when spring produce shows up in our local farmer’s markets.  This is the North, folks.  This is just the time of year when I feel like it ought to be showing up.  I’ll be delighted to see it in another month when it actually arrives.

In the spirit of spring fever, however, I picked up some lovely asparagus that probably flew here from California, and gave it just a tiny bit of help to make it special with a dash of truffle oil.  Turns out, this may be just enough to tide me over until May.

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Eggs for Bren

Posted in Amusements, Manna on March 7th, 2014 by Annabelle – 7 Comments

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Welcome to this month’s Let’s Lunch!  The delectable theme for March is dishes inspired by literature.  For a compulsive reader like me, it was hard to know where to even start.  I’ve been reading and dreaming about things my favorite characters ate since preschool.  (Anyone else remember Bread and Jam for Frances?  How about the scene in Little House in the Big Woods where Laura and her family make maple sugar candy by pouring syrup into the snow outside?)

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The Emperor’s New Clothes

Posted in Fairy Tales, Fiction on February 19th, 2014 by Annabelle – 5 Comments

The fire popped, showering sparks unheeded against the stone.  Cloth of gold burned surprisingly quickly, it turned out.  Burned – melted?  Mira stared at the remains at the edge of the hearth.  A little of both?  There did seem to be some gold left.

“This is not happening.”

That did not, strictly speaking, seem to be true.  She tried to come up with something to say.  “Why did you leave it so close to the fire?”

Var’s head whipped up, stung.  They’d had other things on their minds when he’d taken them off.  “You said you were cold!”

“I meant for you to keep me warm, idiot!”

“It wasn’t in the fire until you kicked it.”

“I can’t help being ticklish.”  He probably hadn’t meant to tickle her, but…  So they were a little awkward still.  They were figuring it out.

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Let’s Lunch: Olympian Eats

Posted in Manna on February 7th, 2014 by Annabelle – 16 Comments

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Welcome to this month’s Let’s Lunch!  I’m sure you hardly need to guess what this month’s theme is; is anyone capable of thinking about anything today but the arrival of the Winter Olympics?  Naturally, being as obsessed with Greek food as I am, the Olympic theme immediately suggested Greece to me, but a brilliant friend did me one better by pointing out that the lighting of the torch cries out for things that are on fire.  (I swear I am not a pyromaniac, but is flaming food not more festive?  Come on.)

Having spent my childhood making regular pilgrimages to Greektown for dinner, saganaki (pan-fried cheese) immediately sprang to mind.  We ordered saganaki every time we went, and while the process of having it brought to the table (“OOOOPPPAAAAAAA!!”) was intermittently terrifying, it has remained one of my favorites.  This would be a great snack for the opening ceremonies.

Since this isn’t a breaded, deep-fried number, you need a cheese that will actually hold up to being pan-fried instead of turning into a puddle in the bottom of your pan.  I use halloumi, but Greece has a whole slew of delicious sheep’s-milk cheese that will also fit the bill, including graviera, kefalograviera, and kelalotiri. I have also seen kasseri frequently recommended for it, but my own personal experience with kasseri was that it was too melty for the task.  If you find you’re having that sort of issue with your cheese, freezing the dredged slices before frying and then using rather a high heat may help.

Cheesy deliciousness after the jump.

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Let’s Lunch: Kummerspeck

Posted in Manna on January 17th, 2014 by Annabelle – 7 Comments

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Oh, Germany.  I do so love the way you make new words by jamming existing ones together.  How else would we end up with a word like kummerspeck?  In case you hadn’t heard it before, kummerspeck translates to “grief bacon,” meaning the weight you gain from emotional overeating.  How do we not have this word in English?

Grief bacon is the theme for this month’s Let’s Lunch.  Being as the holidays are just over, I could take this as an opportunity to post a healthy recipe to address the results of the seasonally traditional overeating, emotional and otherwise, but what fun would that be?  Bacon, frankly, makes pretty great cause for grief bacon, but if I am feeling really down, I prefer to be beaten soundly about the head and shoulders with the Stick of Chocolate.  (And Scharffen Berger makes some really great chocolate chunks for just that purpose.  They are SO my favorite.)

After the jump, the brownies I want when I am In A Mood, preferably a trifle undercooked, and always chocolated to the teeth.

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Holiday Treats! Pecan Caramels

Posted in Manna on December 13th, 2013 by Annabelle – 7 Comments

Pecan Caramels

It’s time for our holiday edition of Let’s Lunch!  This month’s theme is things that are both edible and decorative, and, wow, doesn’t that cover a lot of ground at this time of year?  Maybe I’m biased by my gigantic sweet tooth, but I feel like there’s nothing more decorative than a lovely plate of Christmas cookies and treats.  Or at least, it’s decorative for the ten seconds between the time that it comes out of the kitchen and the moment when all that’s left is that weird thing your crazy neighbor brought by yesterday and the painfully overbaked M&M cookies from that batch that was in the oven when your mom called.

In recent years, I’ve taken to doing caramels as a festive way to greet friends and family at this time of year.  I know that may sound intimidating for those who haven’t made candy before, but it is crazy easy if you a) do not ever walk away from the pan, and b) have an accurate candy thermometer.  I admit, this last item can be a challenge – I bought two thermometers and found that they sometimes gave me readings as much as 30 degrees apart – but assuming you get a good digital thermometer and pass that hurdle, you’re golden.

Because I continue to be obsessed with pecans around the holidays, I put together the little gems above.  Recipe after the jump!

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Blowing Smoke

Posted in Fiction on November 11th, 2013 by Annabelle – 11 Comments

“The tea tray for Herself.”  The tray slid onto the table.  Marthe picked it up and sailed down the hallway to the Headmaster’s office.

“Lise.”  The Dean was struggling not to laugh.  “Thank you, Marthe.”  The Head, in full dragon mode, gave her an irritated flap of the hand.

“You want to take the students out to try their skills at an actual stone circle?”  The Head picked up a cup.  “Have you seen what Celia produced with a simple conjuration just yesterday?”

Marthe shook her head and set out a plate of cakes.  That had been ugly.

The Head, catching the movement, gestured with her cup.  “See?  A disaster in the making.”  She narrowed her eyes at the Dean in an expression meant to be terrifying.

Marthe hid a smile.  The Head might bluster, but the staff knew what sort of woman she was.  She never failed to remember their service.  Not with money or words.  It was the Dean whose easy smile accompanied their Christmas envelopes, while the Head glowered conspicuously at the students’ holly boughs and stopped just short of saying “Bah, humbug.”  But the servants’ quarters were always warm, even when ten-foot snowdrifts buried the castle doors.  A nice piece of magic, that.  And food in the servants’ kitchen stayed fresh far longer than it should have, so that no matter how late a worker dragged in, there was always a hot meal waiting.  There was never anything she’d have to stop and be thanked for, but the staff knew.

Marthe cleared away a collection of old cups onto the tray.  Was it the same in the privacy of their bedroom?  Did the Head ever say those words to him?  Or did he just know it all the same?

“I can reverse anything they do wrong, you know that.”  His voice was full of patient affection.

“Fine, then.”  Marthe heard the softened voice behind her as she closed the door.  “If you like.”

 

This week I’m combining prompts; Trifecta Writing Challenge asked for 33 to 333 words on the third definition of the word REMEMBER (verb):

And this week’s Write at the Merge gave us two pictures and quotes; the one that caught my imagination was “This tornado loves you.”  This is a follow-on to The School if you’re interested.  Thanks for reading!

Sleeping Beauty

Posted in Fairy Tales, Fiction on October 23rd, 2013 by Annabelle – 11 Comments

The girl sat in the stone window-ledge.  She was graceful, beautiful, talented, all the gifts given to her at her birth.  She’d had plenty of time to wonder if they had been worth the cost.

Below her, the castle spread in silent grandeur.  In every room, sleepers, hardly seeming to breathe, left where they had fallen.  In the slanting autumn light, the air sparkled with dust that drifted and turned, but never hit the ground.  Not here.

She hadn’t understood at first.  Alone in the stillness, the unwaking bodies of two handmaids on the floor next to her bed, she had finally realized.  The prince hadn’t come.

At the thought, her eyes fell to the brambles surrounding the castle walls.  She saw no bleached skull, but she thought she knew what had happened all the same.  She imagined she could see the spot — just there, where the roses bloomed in dusky glory every summer.

He had died.  And then the funny thing had happened; the angry fairy’s power at last had broken.  The girl had no idea how many years had passed until then, or how many since. The cruelest joke was that it was the “kindness” of the fairy who had saved her that had kept them all trapped.  The fairy had caught the castle out of time until the prince should arrive.  And then he never did.

So here she was, still sixteen, a phantom of longing drifting through the halls, promise eternally unfulfilled.  Outside, the seasons turned.  Inside, she waited for the last spell to break.  She closed her eyes and wished that her parents had not been so eager for magical gifts, that they had let her birth go unremarked and let her take her chances with an ordinary life.   When the distant geese flew by, obedient to the dictates of time, ordinary seemed like the most extraordinary thing she could imagine.

In the courtyard below, a yellow leaf ceased its eternal circling and slipped down to touch the pavement.

 

This week I’m combining the Write at the Merge prompt from Write On Edge and the weekly Trifecta Writing Challenge.  Write at the Merge gave us the word “pine” and a photo of leaves falling on a deck, and Trifecta gave us the third definition of the word “phantom” (noun):

And of course, a little fairy tale retelling.  Thanks for reading!

Let’s Lunch: The Perfect Breakfast

Posted in Manna on October 11th, 2013 by Annabelle – 5 Comments
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Best. Breakfast. Ever.

Welcome to the October round of Let’s Lunch!  This month’s theme is guilty pleasures.  Since around here are in the painfully, painfully brief season when fresh figs are available, I thought I’d share one of my favorite indulgences: starting the day with an opulent breakfast of fresh figs and ricotta.

I love a fancy breakfast.  Let’s be honest: despite the fact that nutritionists are constantly telling us that it’s important to eat breakfast, it’s hard to make time to actually have a real meal at that hour.  Life gets in the way.  So there’s something especially indulgent-feeling about sitting down with a real treat instead of a bowl of cereal or a breakfast bar.

I do try to eat something for breakfast.  I also try not to start my day with a big bowl of full-fat cheese.  But hey, fresh figs are worth it, don’t you think?

Figs and Ricotta with Honey

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
A pinch of salt
2-3 fresh figs
Freshly ground black pepper
Honey (I used orange blossom)
Fresh mint or rosemary, finely chopped

Stir a pinch of salt into the ricotta and place in a bowl.  Quarter the figs and arrange them on top of the ricotta.  Give a few grinds of pepper on top, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with your herb of choice.  If you use rosemary, as I did, be sparing and make sure to give the leaves a light chopping first.  Mint you can use more freely.

Still hungry?  Check out the other offerings on Twitter, hashtag #LetsLunch, or below:

The Breakfast Club at Sandwich Surprise.
Shoulder Pork and Ham deconstructed at Insatiable Munchies.
Nutella Cookies at The Little Good Ride.
Halayang Ube at Asian in America.
Mars Bar Slice at Monday Morning Cooking Club.
Japanese Crisp Choco Bites at A Tiger in the Kitchen.
Homemade Biscuits and Sausage Gravy at Dreaming of Pots and Pans.
Dark Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Raspberries and Lemon-Scented Cream at Spicebox Travels.

Let’s Lunch: Chocolate Pie

Posted in Manna on September 13th, 2013 by Annabelle – 16 Comments

Chocolate Pie

It’s time for this month’s Let’s Lunch round!  This month’s theme is pie.  You might say that this is the perfect time of year for an apple pie recipe, headed as we are here in the Northeast straight into apple-picking season.  I have to admit, though, I never think of fruit pies when someone says “pie”; my mind immediately goes to pecan, buttermilk, fudge, and all the other delicious, nutritionally irredeemable confections of my youth.  That being so, I thought I’d bring you a straightforward favorite my grandmother used to make: chocolate pie.  This is a simple recipe — so simple it might well have come off a can label sixty years ago — but I promise, it’s 100% delicious.  There’s a reason my family keeps coming back to it decade after decade.

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