The big difference this year—besides this being the end of her 30’s—is that my sister is married now! We all agree that it was worth the wait. Happy next decade little sis.
I have to tell you about my sister’s birthday dinner. But before that, I have to tell you about my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
We had a small celebration on Cape Cod—the big one will be in a couple of months—to mark 50 years of wedded bliss. Kidding. This is the real world! But seriously, they’re a pretty awesome couple, we should all be so lucky.
Shane pretty much commandeered dinner, my mom did the decoration, and I made the cake (natch).
We ate homemade pizza, meatballs, roasted cubanelles and salad, on the beach by the fire pit at dusk. So not-bad. So very not-bad at all.
Happy 50 M&D xoxo
“We used to like Mark Bittman, but then he became a vegetarian so now we like Melissa. Melissa Clark. She’s a nice Jewish girl from New York
and her recipes are just wonderful.” – My dad, on Monday night
On Monday evening, our dinner guests cancelled at the last minute. We called around, trying to find someone who was available to help us eat 3 pounds of Melissa Clark’s shrimp scampi at a moment’s notice, but were not successful. And that’s why we had shrimp scampi again on Wednesday.
This is a gorgeous recipe by Melissa Clark. Flavorful and satisfying, the cilantro in the mint chutney cools and compliments it perfectly. We regretted not having any plain yogurt or sour cream on hand and will be sure to add it next time.
A simple chicken side dish was enough to placate the meat eaters. Sid had peanut butter.
Fine sea salt, as needed
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
1 pound ripe tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 ¾ cups (one 15-ounce can) cookedchickpeas, drained and rinsed if canned
1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 scallion, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice, more to taste
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
Plain yogurt, for serving (optionall)Season eggplant slices all over with salt. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until it thins out in the pan. Add enough eggplant slices to fit in one layer without overlapping. Cook until the bottoms are browned, then flip and continue to cook until well browned and soft, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Add more oil if needed. Transfer cooked eggplant to a plate lined with paper towels, and repeat with more oil and eggplant until all the eggplant is cooked. Taste eggplant and add more salt if necessary.
While the eggplant cooks, combine all the ingredients for the chutney in a blender with 2 tablespoons water. Blend until puréed, about 1 minute. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt, or both, if needed.
Serve the eggplant topped with the chutney and yogurt if you like.
For years we’ve been setting beautiful long tables for 17 (or 25 or 30) people, and sitting down to epic, gorgeous meals. For years it’s been lovely. Lately though, it’s sometimes been not-so-lovely, because now we have toddlers.
Having precious little buggers around has a way of turning a pleasant sit-down dinner into a run around and chase your kid and try to get them to stop doing whatever horrible and/or cute but disruptive thing they’re doing dinner. Not so lovely.
So this summer we’re taking it outside, casual-style. Yeah, sometimes it takes us a while to catch on.
A year ago today, I packed up my last box, gathered my family and cats, and left the city I’d called home for 14 years. I tried to smile as Shane took one last photo of us outside our very own apartment, and my heart broke right there on 78th street.
I didn’t expect heartbreak.
We’d been flirting with leaving the city for years. We considered Rhode Island, spent a day with a realtor in the suburbs of Portland, Maine, put bids on a couple of houses in Westchester.
We loathed the brutal commute we made to Cape Cod 5 months out of the year. We resented it’s potential for being under 5 hours, but somehow always taking 6 hours or more once you finally got over the bridge and found parking.
The parking! So much time spent driving around looking for parking in New York. Eventually one of us would drop the other one off with the kids, and load our stuff into the lobby and dumbwaiter. And then drive around some more, finally finding a space miles away. If we were lucky, we’d get a Thursday spot.
New York is noisy, and I don’t like noise. 8 years of calling 311 about cars honking at the intersection near our building never yielded the ‘No Honking $500 Fine Sign’ I repeatedly requested. In summer it seemed there was always a parade steps from our front door, with a singular anthem playing on repeat at maximum volume, at nap time.
There was the trash smell in summer, the bed bugs, the crowds, the lack of competence in snow. But also I loved it.
I loved my neighborhood, Jackson Heights Queens. I loved my corner store, my local coffee shop, seeing everyone at the Sunday farmer’s market, CSA pickup & compost drop off.
I loved the ease of getting around by Subway and the proximity of all Manhattan has to offer. Taking Rose home from school on the Roosevelt Island tram. I loved that I always met someone I knew on the street. I loved my apartment and our co-op garden. I loved the diversity, my family, friends, neighbors, my community.
We left it all because we needed a change. Shane’s job was making him miserable, my career was going nowhere, we needed another bathroom and more space for our growing family. So when I was offered a job here, we moved to Boston. To be precise, we moved into my childhood home in Brookline Massachusetts, with my parents.
I always admired people who had the good sense to leave New York, and would congratulate my friends as they made their escape. I figured after a few weeks in Boston, we’d wonder why we hadn’t left New York sooner. Instead I’ve spent nearly a year grieving and feeling like a complete failure.
Even though I grew up here, Boston seemed weird and alien at first. They’re so clean! Shane and I whispered, as we marveled at the impeccable personal tidiness demonstrated by our fellow Bostonians. We were in one of those chain restaurants designed to seem like it’s not a chain restaurant—a place we never would have set foot in in New York. We could never look that clean, we said. Do they shave before and after work? Whats with the excessively fancy shoes? How do you get hair to do that?
I was surprised to discover that the T is not designed to handle a lot of passengers, and that people gather by the doors leaving seats unoccupied. Unoccupied! There is a distinct lack of “man spread” but Boston never got the memo about taking off your backpack while on the train. Paying your fare is more or less an honor system at rush hour.
New York doesn’t have a reputation for being friendly, but it really is. There’s a comraderie among New Yorkers, a feeling that we’re all in it together. In New York, you could meet someone on at the playground and have a new best friend by evening. Here it takes work, I’ve had to stalk moms at the park.
I don’t want to become jaded though. There are good things about living here too. I really like my job and my co-workers are rad. My career is finally theoretically going somewhere. I might actually be able to retire one day.
My kids are developing the most wonderful relationship with my parents whom they now see every day. One of the great pleasures of living here is listening to my parents take care of Sid while I work from home on Fridays.
Brookline has wild turkeys all over the place, which I find surreal and endlessly entertaining. We can garden, and there’s a playground—albeit an often empty one—right out the back gate.
There are really cool houses here, some of them are not even on streets, they’re just behind other houses. This fascinates me. And there are walking paths everywhere. Little ways and stairways that cut between the curvy knotted streets.
We no longer think twice about hopping in the car and going somewhere, because now we have a parking spot. Cape Cod is 2 hours away with traffic. We can go every weekend. We can have dinner there on Sunday and be home by the kids’ bedtime.
Recently, I’ve started to not feel heartbroken all the time. I no longer stand with my eyes closed, brushing my teeth in my new bathroom, picturing myself in my old bathroom, and hoping that when I open them I’ll be back in my old life.
It still makes my stomach sink to look at pictures from our life in New York. I get choked up every time I have to look at a map of Manhattan at work, but I no longer have to talk myself out of taking the rest of the day off to mourn.
What Shane has been saying to me all along is that it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. He’s been right all along too, but I’m just starting to grasp that now. If we hadn’t left that life, we’d only have that life. Now we’ve had that life, and we also have this life.
I’m not sure I’ll fall in love with Boston, but we’ll be good here. We’ll be here, and little pieces of my heart will be there, right there on 78th street.
A couple of weeks ago, on Father’s Day to be precise, my lovely sister and delightful now brother in law Chris, tied the knot in a surprise ceremony at Chris’ parents house. Actually, they crashed his mom’s party with said wedding, but I’m pretty sure she was cool with it.
It goes without saying that the next time the newlyweds came to the Cape, we had a party.
Dinner was salmon baked in parchment with leeks, an absolutely amazing red rice salad with edamame, walnuts, lemon and herbs (see below) made by Ronni, and a yummy green salad to round things off. It was pretty highbrow for the Cape. And delicious.
For dessert there was a wedding cake made by my mom (aka the mother of the bride). Our family favorite, the chocolate mayonnaise cake with mocha butter cream between the layers to make things fancy, and beach rose embellishments.
See photo captions above and click on images for a bigger view.
• Red (or Black) Rice Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette •
from Bon Appetit
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice or 3 tablespoons regular lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup (nectar) or honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 ounces green beans, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
Freshly ground black pepper
Meanwhile, spread out walnuts on another rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven, tossing once, until fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Let cool; chop.
Whisk lemon juice, vinegar, and agave in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, gradually drizzle in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt.
Toss rice, walnuts, scallions, edamame, tomatoes, green beans, and vinaigrette in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
We’re trying hard to simplify this year, fewer dishes and less food. The idea is to be mindful of waste and prevent unnecessary extra work, we’re here to relax after all.
Since there were 22 of us, we fed the 7 kids early so as to make dinner slightly less totally insane.
Shane did an excellent job of commandeering a meal of grilled steak with chimmichuri sauce, grilled asparagus, miso corn salad, and quesadillas with (and without) beans.
There were lots of oohs and aahs and excellents when we finally tucked in. And there were hardly any leftovers!
On Sunday, while working on our weekly meal plan, I wondered aloud on facebook whether we should have pasta with corn on Monday, or shakshuka. Only my friend Rachel replied, and she did so after I’d already decided on shakshuka (which is what she thought I should make too).
So there you go.
It’s a dish I’ve wanted to try for years. Why didn’t I? It’s really, really good. My mom (who made it) says there are quicker recipes than the one I chose. But man it was good.
Rose complained a lot at first, but ultimately loved it. Shane didn’t fuss, even though he thinks eggs are not a “proper meal.”
Don’t, don’t, don’t forget the grilled bread!