Good Gnocchi Caring!

I’m blessed to have a friend who has always seen a better version of me than I see in myself.

It’s said that we are the mistresses of our misery, and through the years, I’ve tried to live up to the standards of the woman she thinks I am, usually missing the mark.  This special friend, however, has always helped me find the silver lining in myself, and in the world. She’s a perpetual up,  and these days it’s my turn to help her.

We met in the food industry some twenty years back. Our love and fascination with food and wine pairings were the initial catalysts of a friendship that has bloomed into something quite lovely through the years.

The gnocchi takes several minutes to brown to perfection.

Of late, she has become gravely ill. Not in pain, as she is quick to note (she’s never been one to complain) but profoundly tired. Her appetite, however, has not diminished and a well-prepared dish is a treat in which she can look forward to eating.

Popular culture tells us to “embrace the moment”. But what if the moment isn’t necessarily pleasant? Sometimes, isn’t looking forward to something the very something that helps us get by?

Friendship means caring, and how we care tells us a lot about ourselves. Caring for friends, family, neighbors, and for the people in our communities can be exhibited in a  myriad of ways. When people feel cared for, they feel loved, secure and safe.

Removing the leaves from the Brussels Sprouts is a bit tedious but worth the effort.

How we care is unique to us and the opportunities that present themselves. In this situation, for instance, my friend chooses an appealing recipe, I make it and deliver it to her home. I love to cook, she can enjoy the pleasures of anticipation and eating, so this is a win-win.

Yesterday, she selected a Blue Apron recipe she found in the New York Times for Crispy Brown Gnocchi with Meyer Lemon and Brussels Sprouts. The results were so so delicious, I’ve decided it will be my side-dish alongside a roast for Christmas Eve dinner. (I doubled the recipe.)

Her husband was working from home, and I dropped it off. I’m fairly certain they will find it yummy, and I look forward to cooking the next recipe that strikes her fancy.

In the front matter of THE RUBY OF THE SEA, I dedicate the book to this woman, so dear to my heart. It immediately proceeds the epigram, which is a favorite quote from Mother Teresa:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.”

Yesterday, I showed the dedication and epigram to my friend. It pleases both of us that the pages are flattened together when the book is closed. Who inspires you to be your better self? I’d love to know.

Oh. And by the way. Some of you have mentioned to me that you’ve pre-ordered the Kindle version of THE RUBY OF THE SEA, which is so very much appreciated. Could you e-mail me @ peggylampman@me.com or message me on FB? I have a little something-something I’d like to send your way in gratitude. The Kindle version is $3.99, will appear in your e-mail on Feb. 6, (Pub day), and it helps the Google-bots find me (-:

Looking for festive recipes? Tap the Holiday Ball in the right-hand column, which directs you to the Holiday Cookbook. Have a lovely holiday, and take that second helping of caring!

 

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Musings on Twice-Baked Potatoes, Books, and Restorative Acts of Kindness

Saturday night I was part of a band of merry revelers who joined forces to throw our friend a potluck birthday party. I was charged with making the birthday girl’s favorite side, Twice-Stuffed Potatoes––a classic.

This path of aging has its drawbacks but it carries with it a suitcase filled with wisdom. I’m at a stage where life is about surrounding myself with people I respect, those I love and who love me back––hiccups and all.  Above all, I like hangin’ with folks who make me laugh.

Tacking on the years, as well, is liberating. I’m far better adept at shrugging off negative energy.

One of many random ego-bashing examples: A decade or so back, after selling my specialty food store and beginning to write for the newspaper, a negative comment from a reader shattered me. And they were right. I wasn’t a trained chef; how dare I write a food column. Maybe I was, indeed, a poseur.

On the other hand,  I’d been in the trenches of the food industry most of my life. Maybe I should go online and defend myself. I kept quiet yet fantasized ways of retaliation that only hurt my spirit in the end.  When writing The Welcome Home Diner, it was easy to channel that angst when my protagonists were faced with damaging Yelp reviews.

Random Tip: If a recipe calls for a half a cup of onion or less, I purchase a large shallot––Avoids a leftover onion half rolling about my fridge.

Coping with negative book reviews is a topic that often comes up in writing circles as misery loves company––alongside a glass of Cabernet. More seasoned authors have helped me adjust. If one publishes a book, one must expect public scrutiny and take the positive with the negative.

OK. Easy to say. But this is what truly works for me: When feelings of negativity and doubt step in: I step out of the strangeness and do a kindness for another.  Then, my energy is re-balanced. A bit woo-woo, perhaps, but the gesture is manna for my soul. Do any of you have special ways of coping when the dark forces invade?

Sure, negative reviews still sting (and drop ratings), but my psyche is better armored to shrug them off. Even learn from them. What a concept (-: I write from my heart, fingers crossed my books will be matched to my reader’s taste, and damn the torpedos.

Yesterday, the very first review of The Ruby of the Sea was released by the woman behind Novels & Latte (on Facebook) and Wild Sage Book blog (on Instagram). My cast and setting found its way into just the right hands. Here’s an excerpt from her review:

“Allow me to begin by saying~ very few books will wake me in the middle of the night and whisper, “It’s time to experience more.” This book was more than whispering to me, it was touching my heart. Truly.”  For the full review, link to my FB Author Page.

Which leads me to my latest Book News. Ta-da! The Kindle version of The Ruby of the Sea is, at last, available for preorder, to be released on Feb. 5.  Note the nifty little preorder button in the right sidebar. Not a Kindleite? Physical copies will be available on pub date, as well. 

But I digress. back to the recipe.

These are forgiving spuds. Not only did they allow me to make them a day in advance, by accident I froze them overnight in our malfunctioning cellar fridge. Oops. I was concerned about the texture of the skin when thawed and then reheated, and worried the creamy interior would be compromised. Would a graininess emerge? Alas, they were delicious after the abuse, and perfect alongside the grilled lamb chops and roasted asparagus. I enjoyed them cheesy, but feel free to reduce or omit the cheese, if desired.

Here’s a link to another stuffed potato favorite, which incorporates spinach into the recipe.  They are both, truly, yummy, make-ahead sides.  I’m quite sure one of them will show up again–maybe I’ll sub them for the expected sweet potatoes over Thanksgiving? Perhaps not. At my Thanksgiving table, expected is the operative word, guarding tradition with a razor-sharp eye.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For more festive, seasonal recipes, tap the Holiday Ball on the side.

Recipe: Make-ahead Twice-Stuffed Potato with Bacon and Cheddar

Ingredients

  • 6 strips raw bacon
  • 12 medium-sized russet potatoes
  • Olive oil as needed for rubbing potatoes
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon half-and-half
  • 2/3’s cup finely chopped shallots (2 large shallots)
  • 3/4 cup plus ¼ cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh chives

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚.
  2. Arrange bacon on a foil-lined sheet pan, and bake on the middle rack until crispy, 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of bacon. Drain on paper towels, reserve bacon drippings, and finely chop.
  3. Rub olive oil over potatoes and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt, if desired. Place on middle rack of oven and bake 30 minutes. Prick each potato with a fork and continue cooking until potatoes are tender, about 15 additional minutes.
  4. While potatoes are cooking, sauté shallots in 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon drippings until tender and fragrant.
  5. When potatoes are just cool enough to handle but the interior flesh is hot, slice off 1/4 piece from the top of each potato and, with a melon baller or spoon, scoop flesh into a large bowl. Leave about 1/4-inch-thick shell on the potato “bowl” and place potato shells on a baking sheet.
  6. With a potato masher (it’s important to do this while potatoes are still hot), mash potato flesh with butter, sour cream, half-and-half, shallots and chopped bacon. If desired, with an electric beater, whip on lowest speed until just silky smooth. If you overwhip, your potatoes will likely become gummy.
  7. When mixture has cooled down a bit, stir in ¾ cup of cheese and chives, and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  8. Stuff potato mixture into potato shells and sprinkle each potato with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. (This can be done up to 24 hours in advance at this point.)
  9. Thirty minutes before serving, bake on middle rack in 400˚ oven until heated through, 20-30 minutes.

Active time: 70 minutes

Baking time: apx. 90 minutes, including time to cook bacon

Number of servings (yield): 12 SERVINGS

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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The Ruby of the Sea

Today I’m revealing the title and cover of my third novel, THE RUBY OF THE SEA. Perhaps not as food-centric as THE PROMISE KITCHEN or THE WELCOME HOME DINER, food lovers will not be disappointed. Especially if you enjoy a bit of Cuban heat in your recipe repertoire.

The novel is about the indelible bond between three sisters, a historic Key West lighthouse they once called home, and the secrets, passions and lies of the past, which collide with the present in a most harrowing way. Of course, all of my characters LOVE to eat!

Here’s an excerpt in the second chapter that one of main characters, Delphina, is enjoying a Cuban specialty that her mother-in-law just made. I hope this will whet your palate:

“…First, she ladles a mound of steaming white rice upon a plate. Then, long-simmered beans and sauce are spooned over the top. The color of henna, a deep reddish-brown, they appear to be flowing down a mountain. She embellishes the dish with a garlicky, bell pepper sauce–a beautiful contrast of color, texture and flavor.

I dig my fork into this masterpiece and stir everything up until the rice, beans, pork and sweet peppers lose their individuality, morphing into a singular bliss. Bringing the fork to my mouth, I inhale the scent of cardamom and oranges, Lita’s secret ingredients. My baby in my arms, comfort food at my side, why do I continue obsessing over that silk?”

The link for the recipe she is eating (Slow-Cooked Pork, Black Beans and Rice) is here.  Delicioso! The pre-order link for this latest will be added to the site in a couple of weeks!

Cuban Pork and Beans

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