Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My recipe for cheer

At work, I meet people who are down on their luck – some who are unemployed and unsure of their future. Some are behind on bills, some homeless and without food. I advocate for them to get basic needs covered. These people become resourceful, adjust to living with less. They don’t have the luxuries many of us enjoy. They can’t go to happy hour with friends, bake whatever they feel like, get Thai take-out because they are too tired to make dinner. I know I am lucky. I have a job. I have a full pantry. I have a warm bed to sleep in.

This doesn't mean I never feel sorry for myself - or want something more. I have pictures inside my closet door of “things I want.” These are not the Sears catalogue cutouts of my childhood. There is picture of a welcoming kitchen with room for friends to gather. There is a picnic table outside under a tree, a happy couple in a canoe, a reading nook with bookshelves lining the walls, a lovely plant-filled sun porch, children running along a walkway in India. (This one does not necessarily represent the desire to have children, but the option of having happy children in my life. Or maybe a trip to India.) I don’t look at the pictures with the desperation I felt when eyeing the red bike in the Sears catalogue. They make me smile, like a sweet memory. I could almost say, "See you soon."

The last few days have been stressful. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed or sad, I go to Powell's and buy books. Sometimes a nice long walk does the trick. Or a hot shower. Or chocolate. Sometimes I bake. This time, I bought some Amaretti cookies and a wedge of Spanish blue to cheer myself up. I spread the blue cheese on slices of baguette. I ate the cookies and drank wine. I made a feast of delicious vegetables, including a brussel sprout and crimini mushroom hash. I did feel better after that.

The first time I had brussel sprouts was at a beachfront BBQ in Alaska. The meat and fish were grilled to perfection, but the host boiled the brussel sprouts and served them unseasoned. I saw a little girl gag and throw the brussel sprout into the rocks. I felt like doing the same. Last year, I had brussel sprouts again, sautéed with garlic and served in a sherry cream sauce. A completely different story...

I decided to try to replicate the Amaretti cookies. I used an almond macaroon recipe and subbed a combination of ground almonds and ground apricot kernels. I failed to get the crunchy amaretto-ness. But the failed batch still tasted like delicious almond cookies. With pear gelato, even better. I will try again. Today, I am happy with what I have.

This is the pear gelato recipe I used. I would keep the lemon juice limited to 3 tablespoons, unless you want a tarter taste. And while the little chunks of pear are a tasty reminder of the flavor source, if you want a smoother texture, purée the pears before combining with the custard mixture.

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