Hello, friends! It’s been quite a while since I’ve written, and lots has happened over the past few weeks in my life- and I’m sure the same goes for you. I hope you’ve enjoyed laughter, hugs and happy moments with your favorite people during this very special time of year. As Adam disassembles our tree and boxes up our ornaments, festive candles, and knick-knacks, I’d like to take some time to reflect on December.
Lemme see if I can catch you up…
since I last touched base, I revisited the local outdoor Decatur Farmers Market a couple of times. Much to my delight, several of the vendors I’ve come to know and love at Grant Park also set up shop in Decatur on Saturday mornings.
Recognize these tasty sweets?
Cookies and brownies from the Little Red Hen Bakery! They also had delicious pepperminty cookie sandwiches that look like giant Oreos.
Another familiar vendor I was glad to see was Katherine from Ivabell Acres. She and her business partner Rebecca sell their veggies,
grown right down the street in Douglasville, at the Decatur Market when they are not busy delivering to local restaurants, like the highly acclaimed Cakes and Ale.
I was completely inspired by their carrots,
and decided to make them the star of a very special pot of soup. I was asked to participate in Pink Palooza, a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, sponsored by the fine people at Decatur Jazzercise. Since I really didn’t have items to sell, like candles or jeans, or stuffed animals, as some of the other participants did, I chose to donate a gift certificate for auction, give away soup samples, and chat with folks about my services.
Carrot ginger soup is souper simple to make
and intensely delicious when your ingredients are plucked out of the ground hours before you cook them.
Here’s the recipe for you:
Carrot Ginger Soup
You will puree the soup, so don’t stress too terribly much about the chopping.
3 T butter
1 yellow onion, diced
4 – 6 cloves garlic, minced
3 inch chunk ginger, peeled and chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 T flour
2 Cups milk, heated til hot
2 Cups carrot juice
4 C broth
juice of 1 lemon
3 bunches fresh carrots (or a bag from the store), peeled and cut into 2 inch hunks
Heat a large pot with butter to medium heat. Add onion and cook for 7 – 10 minutes, until soft. Then add garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and stir for another minute or so. Sprinkle on your flour, raise heat to medium high, and grab your whisk! Stir for a full minute. Then, keep stirring and carefully pour in your hot milk. Stir, stir, stir….for another minute or 2, until the milk begins to bubble and you feel it start to thicken. Then, turn heat back to medium. Stir in the broth and carrot juice slowly. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze in your lemon juice too. Allow the liquids to heat through, stirring occasionally. Once hot, turn the heat down to medium low and allow the soup to simmer for about 15 minutes before adding your carrots. (A good time to chop them!) Walk away and let your carrots become soft in the simmering pot- another 20 minutes or so. Once the carrots are soft enough to mash with the back of your spoon, it’s time to blend. You can transfer the soup in batches to a food processor- be careful, the soup will be really hot! Or use an immersion blender, “stick blender”, to puree the soup.
Put the soup back into the pot. If you are happy with the consistency of the soup, fabulous! If not, let the soup continue to cook at a low simmer until you like the consistency. Check for flavor and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Garnish your soup with fresh chives or fresh parsley and enjoy!!
Keisha, who was helping run the event, came back three or four times to get more soup. I’d say that’s a success! And it felt good to be part of a benefit, especially so close to holiday time.
Getting back to the Decatur Market…aside from those old faves represented, there were a couple of new-to-me vendors that piqued my interest. Sharon, from Bowl & Whisk offered eye-catching quiches
and freshly baked breads. We grabbed a loaf of rosemary and a loaf of rye- both very tasty.
And if you need flavored oils for dunking your fresh bread, Alta Cucina has plenty of choices.
I loved the Italian herb infused olive oil. These would make great gifts for friends- they feel fancy and are of the highest quality.
Being that we were only days away from Christmas, I was thrilled to lay my eyes on these!
Steve Miller’s Farm, in Clarkston, grows beautiful fruits and vegetables available for sale at the Decatur Market each Saturday.
Their sweet potatoes are incredibly sweet and delicious.
Their greens are picture-perfect, and they offer quite a variety of produce at reasonable prices.
I took home some of their fresh, ripe, red tomatoes
and placed them in a bowl with some limes…
so Christmasy! That was the day we set out to find our Christmas tree.
This is only our second year with a tree, since we’ve always been away from home in years past. We purchased our tree from a local boy scout troop both years-
-a worthy cause to support and they have great trees for low prices.
While we were decorating, we cooked up a bone-in turkey breast.
Our best turkey to date! And we listened to Christmas music and had ourselves a merry little tree decorating evening.
My days of being 35 were waning, and I received a phone call – one of those calls you know is coming, but hate to receive. My grandmother passed away. The last of my grandparents. A woman who was so stunning, she graced the pages of magazines in her younger days.
They were quite the pair!! Memere was an extremely talented cook, skilled in both savory and sweet disciplines- most famous for her meat pies at holiday time. Her crusts were golden brown, rippled works of perfection. I remember watching her delicate fingers fold the dough with ease but also with great attention to detail. And one of my favorite places to be in the world as a child, was in her lap rocking in her rocking chair in the kitchen. In the kitchen–surprise.
It’s mysterious the way the world works. Just days before Christmas, my grandmother brought us all together one more time. It was a lovely turn of events, having the opportunity to hug my cousins, and spend lots of time with my brother, sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew. And the icing on the cake was staying an extra day in New Jersey so I could surprise my mom when she arrived for holiday time with my brother’s family. She thought I had headed back to Georgia, but my brother spins a seriously tall tale- and we pulled off the whole shebang. Being able to spend one night of Hannukkah with my mom and my fam was the best gift I received this year. So I am thankful to my grandmother for bringing me home.
I flew back to Georgia one day before Christmas Eve and on the fourth day of Hannukkah. Just in time to do a quick bit of planning, keeping everything real simple so we’d be able to pull it together. Not our typical holiday undertaking, but we’d make it work.
And there I am- embracing both sides of my heritage. Preparing a mix of my family’s favorites. There were the makings of my Bubbie’s brisket,
a potato latke extravaganza,
and my Aunt’s sinful bacon rollups.
We lit candles by the television-powered fire,
and enjoyed an evening with just a couple of friends/ family members who I’ve known longer than 20 years. More entertaining than photo-taking took place, but it was a celebratory night.
We began Christmas morning with a festive frittata, made with zucchini
and toasted almonds,
recipe courtesy of my high school friend, Paul. He’s a chef up at Princeton these days and always has interesting food ideas to share.
I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to start Christmas Day with bacon.
And then we needed to get started on our cookin’. Again, we kept things real simple. We candied pecans and cashews for a delicious, special starter.
To add a bit of flare, we sprinkled chili powder, salt, and black pepper into the syrup of brown sugar and water. We packed them up in a festive container just for fun.
We also whipped up a quick and easy dip that Giada happened to be making on the Food Network Saturday morning before our grocery store run.
Sour cream, mascarpone cheese, fresh chives, and crispy crumbled bacon. I’d never combined mascarpone with sour cream, but the flavor was subtle and the creamy factor was luxurious. I can definitely use that as a jumping point for another recipe in the future.
What to dip in the dip? Homemade naan chips. I took my whole wheat naan bread, cut it into triangles, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I roasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 – 20 minutes, flipping once during cooking.
When the chips came out of the oven, we tossed them with Nazifa’s zatar seasoning. Then, we packed them up in a cute snowman container,
and cranked the oven up to 425 degrees. It was time to prepare our brussel sprouts- such a controversial vegetable! People claim to hate these little baby cabbages.
and yet, they received the highest praise at the Christmas table. I like to treat the brussels simply. They don’t need much prodding or dressing up. We just cut off the very bottom of each sprout, cut them in half, and removed any loose outer leaves. For each sheet pan of brussel sprouts, I chopped 3 slices of high quality bacon.
We drizzled the pan with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Finally, we tossed and coated the brussel sprouts and roasted them for about 20 minutes, tossing once during cooking. It’s easy to know when they are finished, because they turn a lovely roasty-toasty brown and the stray leaves crisp up like potato chips.
They taste so nutty and decadent- a true crowd pleaser. We placed those beauties into an oven-safe serving bowl for quick reheating, and headed over to our friends’ home to enjoy a Very Faircloth Christmas.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
and the entire house was decked from top
in full-on Christmas regalia.
And Mary never skimps on the tablescaping.
She is a genius in that department.
Candies and shiny Christmas balls added color and pizzazz to the table inexpensively.
Before we knew it, the turkey was out of the oven,
looking beautiful, as usual. It was time for Adam and I to mash potatoes and make gravy and for Terry/ Santa to prepare his carving station.
T’was almost a shame to slice this work of art,
but there were hungry folks in the house. Mary always says that Christmas at her house is just a repeat of Thanksgiving. And the spread mostly supports that notion…
but who could be mad about having a second chance to eat the most delicious turkey in America,
Not this girl, that’s for sure. Like I said, the most compliments went to the brussel sprouts.
I believe that folks were shocked by how much they loved this dish- emoting feelings directly in conflict with their memories or misconceptions of the flavor of the sorely underappreciated brussel sprout. Maybe you should try them again too, and give your taste buds a little surprise party!
Festive, but humble, this plate of food, accompanied by friends who have become my Atlanta family, warmed my heart and overwhelmed me with deliciousness and the Christmas spirit. I am so thankful.
On this second day of 2012, as I reflect upon my progress and growth as a business owner and a cook, I feel proud and encouraged. My client base has increased, and the feedback I’ve received has been positive and enlightening. I’ve learned volumes about utilizing fresh, local food at the peak of its excellence. My connection to the grass roots community of farmers and artisans in Atlanta is inspiring and growing stronger. Having a platform to share my food and life experiences fills me with an intense joy that I know will only expand in the weeks and months to come.
I want to move forward in the new year with renewed discipline and creativity- with a vow to experiment more, write more, share more, and stretch myself further than ever before. I am beyond excited by the possibilities that lie ahead.
I wish you renewed vitality, strength and an arousal of the best you that you can imagine. Here’s to an amazing, fulfilling, and delicious 2012.
Happy cooking and eating to you,