Monday, May 01, 2006

a brief return to boston

On Thursday morning I lugged my huge suitcase down the two flights of stairs from my apartment to the sidewalk. With each lopsided step the suitcase bounced against my leg; it was a fight to keep from falling face first down the stairs. Coupled with the gigantic backpack I had somehow managed to stuff with every possible item under the sun (did I really need 6 different books for my four days in Boston?) my balance was widely off-kilter. Once on the ground I rolled the case behind me as I walked to the subway, leading like a tugboat of sorts, silently berating myself for agreeing to deliver this monstrous suitcase to my mother in Boston. She is going to London; she likes to pack a lot. By the time I awkwardly bounced myself down onto the F train, up the stairs at East Broadway, and down the few blocks of Canal Street to the friendly “Fung Wah Bus Station,” I was covered in sweat. After hectically throwing my money ($15.75; best deal ever) in the tiny glass window to get my ticket stub (handwritten on a scrap of paper) I lofted my suitcase (with a combination of arm raising, back bending and a few aggressive karate kicks) onto the luggage platform of the bus and collapsed into my seat, hot, sweaty and tired. I promptly fell asleep, wading through hazy dreams of subway trains somehow supplanted into the office of the magazine I am currently working for alongside some spinning cherry trees in full blossom, an old friend from elementary school and a series of shooting firecrackers launched from a rooftop. Strange dreams; I’ll blame it on the loads of allergy medication I need to take this time of year in order not to sneeze my nose off. I woke up when we reached South Station in Boston somewhat disoriented, but happy to be back, however briefly, in such a familiar land.

My mom and I walked to a local French bistro that night and had a glass of wine (or two) together while we ate fresh pea soup, vibrantly green with a pool of white crème fraiche in its center, grilled calamari and spicy chorizo. We talked about a lot of things: my new life in New York, hers continuing in Boston, future trips, plans, the excitement of my little (well not so little; 6’3 varsity lacrosse playing) brother spending the summer in NYC as well. And simply the strangeness of finding myself back in Boston, even if for only a few days, after my first two months in New York. I am beginning to feel comfortable in Brooklyn – like I live there and it may possibly one day be called ‘home’. In Boston it seems as if in every corner there lurks a ghost of my former, injured self. Driving to the grocery store there is a girl on crutches sitting in the passenger seat next to me; she winces whenever we go over a bump. Riding the T I brush hands with my shrunken self, the one wearing a large black knee brace, as we simultaneously grab the handrail. The kitchen reverberates with the sound of my cane and when I walk into my bedroom I leave behind a woman who is not able to climb the stairs to reach it. It’s amazing what only two months away can do to change your mindset. New York is good for me. It is wonderful, however, to be back at home for a weekend and see my family.

And Friday night I again took the helm of the kitchen and cooked dinner for my mom and her boyfriend Charley. I think they miss having an enthusiastic personal chef around the house; I certainly miss their standing mixer and Cuisinart (maybe them, too). I made a simple meal from the Balthazar Cookbook: mustard glazed salmon and earthy lentils, roasted asparagus with parmesan and a toasted vanilla pound cake with strawberries. It was very spring, fitting well alongside the yellow daffodils winking through the kitchen window. And comforting – to cook, to eat, to be back home, and to know how far I’ve come.

Mustard-Crusted Salmon
Adapted from the Balthazar Cookbook

6 salmon fillets
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ cup Dijon mustard
6 tsp dry bread crumbs
2 tbs vegetable oil

-preheat oven to 500
-season salmon with salt and pepper. On top, spread 2 tsp of mustard and a sprinkling of bread crumbs. Press the crumbs into the mustard with your fingers.
-heat oil in large sauté pan, when it begins to smoke, add the salmon, mustard side down and lower the flame to medium. Sear for 2 minutes, until there is a crust. Flip for one minute and then transfer the pan into the oven to finish cooking for 3 minutes.
-Plate on top of the lentils

Adapted from the Balthazar Cookbook

1 cup green lentils
2 slices diced bacon
4 sprigs thyme

½ medium onion, diced
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp salt
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
¼ tsp white pepper.

-rinse the lentils in cold water and drain. Put them in a sauce pan with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
-meanwhile in another saucepan, sauté the bacon and thyme for two minutes. Add the garlic, onion and salt and sauté 5 minutes. Add butter, carrot, celery, white pepper and one cup of water and boil five minutes.
-drain lentils and then put them back in their pot. Add the vegetable mixture and simmer 10 minutes. Serve under the salmon.

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan:

Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Handful of parmesan cheese

-preheat oven to 500.
-toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.
-roast 7 – 10 minutes, until fork tender.
-throw the parmesan on top, while hot, and serve.


Anonymous said...

I just discovered your beautifully written blog. It's fantastic.

I made salmon and lentils from the Balthazar cookbook last night for dinner. It was fantastic, although reading your post makes me wish I'd had some fresh asparagus to go along with it. Oh well. Next time.

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