Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

It's just about time for bed after a lovely and relaxing holiday meal with family. As per tradition, we spent the day at my brother-in-law's house where everyone comes with a dish, or two, or three to contribute to the feast. Everything was especially delicious this year, yet even so, I didn't go overboard. I sampled a little of everything and didn't have to loosen my belt a notch like I usually do (which is a factor in my ability to write this post...normally, I'd be doing this right now). Most importantly, today was a day to remember how much I have to be thankful for.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cranberry Hazelnut Bread

Cranberry Hazelnut Bread
I've waited an entire year to make this recipe. It wasn't by choice either, or because I just never got around to it, or because I think cranberries should only be enjoyed in November. The problem was, cranberries are very difficult to find at any time of year other than this one. Not finding fresh cranberries at the market in August is something I would expect. But even frozen? Maybe it's just me, or where I live, but frozen cranberries are not something grocers stock around here off season (and by off-season, I mean anytime other than the Holidays). So when I finally saw fresh cranberries at the market, I grabbed some. Then I went to the freezer department and - lo and behold, they were there too! I grabbed a couple bags, and now I'm primed to bake with cranberries whenever the impulse strikes.
The thing is, cranberries are great all Winter long. Moreover, this Cranberry Hazelnut Bread is great all Winter long. I sampled this particular version at a family dinner about a year ago, and was surprised by how much I liked it. I couldn't place what it was I liked so much about it, until it occurred to me that it was the hazelnuts!
While pecans, or walnuts seem to be the more popular choice in most cranberry bread recipes, hazelnuts are by far the winner in my book. Even better if you leave them on the coarser side of "coarsely chopped".
Roasted Hazelnuts + Cranberries
I don't bake with hazelnuts much. For one, they're pricey, and two, they're a pain to peel. But with this recipe there's no need to be too particular about getting every inch of skin off. I used the method I usually use, which is to roast them and then rub the skins off with a dish towel. I would estimate that I managed to get about two thirds of the skins off this way.
If you'd like, you can try dampening the dish towel slightly. I've heard that does a good job as well. Or if you're really seeking perfection, you can try this method I found here, from Alice Medrich via an episode of Julia Child's cooking show.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy has had such a powerful impact on so many people all over the world. In the days since the storm touched down on the Jersey Shore, it's become more and more evident that the aftermath has been life changing for most, and deadly for far too many. I live in coastal Connecticut, and we were braced for the worst. Many waterfront communities were under emergency evacuation orders, and between the full moon tides, an anticipated slow moving storm, and the rainfall expected during it, we were in for a rough time.
Many of the photos in this post were taken at 9:30am last Monday, or 2 1/2 hours before the first high tide of the day. As you can see, flooding was already wreaking havoc on many homes and businesses. But as bad as it seemed at this time, and as heartbreaking as it was to see the path of devastation left behind after the storm had come and gone, our community was spared when compared to others.
Raymond Street
Many coastal areas here in Connecticut, some just blocks from my front door, had their homes flooded and their belongings destroyed, and millions lost power for what seemed like an eternity in 40 weather, yet much of what was forecasted to happen here didn't. The second high tide, expected at midnight, was predicted to occur while Hurricane Sandy's storm surge peaked, and that would have been disastrous. But thankfully, the storm moved through this area faster than predicted and we were spared the second blow that would have surely devastated thousands more.
However, there is really no way to compare or diminish people's suffering. The fact is millions are suffering in towns all over New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Like many out there who are counting their blessings, I wanted to know how to help.
Shorefront Park
There are many grassroots efforts happening right this very minute, on the ground in the areas worst hit by the storm. I have gathered a list of those I've discovered and I'm sharing them below (I will update this post if I come across more, so feel free to comment here, or contact me if you know of others I should add). In the unlikely event that there's anyone out there who doubts the level of devastation in the wake of Sandy, I'm also sharing links to some emotionally powerful stories and images I've come across in the past seven days. For those who have asked, my family escaped relatively unscathed and we are very grateful. As a former resident of both Brooklyn, NY and Jersey City, NJ, when I see the devastation there I am filled with both shock and sadness. My thoughts are with all of the families, right here in South Norwalk and beyond, who have lost loved ones, homes, treasured memories, and to anyone who's lives have been changed forever by this disaster.