Archive for August 12th, 2011

I’ve got a lot of stuff. I’m convinced it’s hereditary (that way, I have someone else to blame).

My Bubbie used to say, “even my dishes have dishes.”

See her waving there in front of the hutch? She’s the one in the frilly apron. The hutch is that huge piece of furniture piled with three tea and coffee pots. And a pile of mismatched tea cups. Yeah, that’s the one. With all of her dishes and her dishes’ dishes.    And see me having a very important conversation with Poppie? Same hutch of course. Not entirely sure why I’m wearing PJs to dinner.Here I am at Bubbie’s Rosh Hashana table. She really liked napkin rings. At least this time I dressed for the occasion.

Over the past few weeks and under Meira‘s tutelage, I’ve started implementing the “one in one out” rule, starting of course with one out. Well, more like 8 bags of clothing out. 2 bags of shoes out. 2 boxes of dishes out.

Those dishes, they were my Bubbie’s dishes (no, not the good china … the set she received as a gift for opening a bank account). I did keep one teacup and saucer from the set. I think Bubbie would have been proud.

There are some obvious benefits of the purge. Emptying my closet of clothing that no longer fits. Donating the dishes I always hated for their gold painted rims that could never be microwaved. Smiling every time I can reheat a piece of chicken without turning on the oven (except of course for schnitzel – that is best thrown right onto an over rack to crisp back up in about 10 minutes).

I’m already hard at work on one wrap dress in. One pair of python heels in. One set of new dishes in. A second set of new dishes. A black bustle pencil skirt in.

I’m good at the in.

Another benefit was that I unearthed a light-filled corner of my desk, previously covered in piles of files and books, that is a great canvas for photography. No more chasing the sun and hopping around shadows on my big wood table. This is a whole new playing field.

Check it out.

Oh yeah! Notice also, the  all-white, unrimmed plate.

There was one glitch. The other night, some uninvited visitors tried to help, cleaning out my place on their own. All of the photos I have taken since May have disappeared along with my laptop. The one picture I had uploaded only an hour before leaving for dinner is the photo above. I guess we can call these green beans the silver lining.  

At least they didn’t wipe out the fridge.

Green beans with mustard seed vinaigrette

Rachela made this recipe from Gourmet 2001 for dinner a few weeks ago and I just had to replicate it for myself. The steps are a little fussy, but the fuss elevates the green beans beyond the everyday. The most cumbersome step is cooking the mustard seeds which have potential for major mess – they’re squirrely little rascals that roll all over if you drop them and cook very fast, so  you need to keep a close eye on them. Rachela skipped the mustard seeds and used moutard à l’ancienne (a dijon mustard with whole mustard seeds that you can see) for a similar flavor and visual effect. You can make extra vinaigrette and keep it in the refrigerator for the next time you want a few green beans.

– 3 T olive oil, divided

– 2 T mustard seeds

– 1/3 C red wine vinegar

– 1 T sugar

– 1 medium or 1/2 large onion (red or white)

– 1 1/2 lb green beans

Pop. Heat 1 T of the oil in a skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add the mustard seeds and stir. Quickly cover the skillet – a glass lid, plate, or splatter screen works great. In less than a minute, the seeds will start to pop. Like popcorn. Really. They will also turn slightly darker. Remove the skillet from the heat after 1-2 minutes. Try not to let the seeds get too dark. Pour seeds and oil into a large bowl.

Simmer. Simmer vinegar and sugar in saucepan stirring, until sugar is dissolved. When heated, the vinegar lets off a strong vapor that may bother your nose and eyes if you catch a whiff – be forewarned not to lean over the pan as the mix is simmering. Let cool 5 minutes in the pan.

Saute. Heat the remaining 2 T oil in the skillet you used for the mustard seeds over moderate high heat until hot but not smoking. Slice onion thinly. Saute the onion, stirring, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Mix. Add vinegar mixture to the onions in the skillet. Then add this mix to the large bowl with the mustard seeds and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Boil. Set a pot of water to boil. Trim ends of beans (if you want to be French, take off the little tails too). When water has boiled, add a generous pinch of salt and add green beans. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Cook beans for about 5 minutes until they are tender but still crisp. Drain and plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Drain well.

Mix it all up. Toss beans with vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.

Variation. Throw dressed beans on top of oil-packed tuna for a light lunch.

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