I was supposed to be hungry—NPO after midnight—the day my son was born, but instead I had a fried egg sandwich for breakfast.
Oozy yolk, melty cheese, crisp bread. Eight years later, I don’t remember if it was homemade bread or a sesame loaf from the bakery down the street. I do remember how my husband cleaned up the counter methodically before he got started cooking, as he always does.
He moved without haste as if it were any other day. But then he still thought our baby was going to be born the next day.
Henry was to arrive by planned c-section on a Wednesday, three weeks before my due date. Given the plan and those 21 days shaved off, I was pretty smug that I knew when my baby would be born. His birth one day earlier than planned would be the first of many lessons about expectations.
Late Monday night, I started spotting. A little anxious, though not alarmed, I called my doctor who said to call back if I had any cramping or contractions. I fell into the uncomfortable, fitful sleep of late pregnancy.
I felt a jolt and woke with a start. What was that? I think it was a contraction. Wait was it?
I waited and waited. Almost an hour. And then again.
I debated if I should call my doctor. Two contractions an hour apart. But my doctors had impressed on me that I should not go through labor, and after the spotting had said to call if I had any contractions.
5 AM. I called and woke her up. After reminding her about my case, she told me to come in for monitoring at the hospital at 8 AM. They’d check me out before my scheduled appointment at the office.
I quietly went upstairs and packed a bag and then I waited, letting Brian sleep as long as he could. Then I shook him gently and explained the change of plans.
“Do you want a fried egg sandwich for breakfast?” he asked.
I was hungry as I was so often those days, and we had a busy day of bustling from one appointment to the next. I was having more contractions, and I suspected that we weren’t going to wait until the next day to have this baby. I knew I wasn’t supposed to eat before surgery, but my doctor hadn’t said I couldn’t. . . .
So he wiped down the counter and cleaned a few dishes and sliced bread before heating up the pan for the eggs. All the while, I waited to get going.
I enjoyed that sandwich thoroughly, though I ate it quickly. It’s one of the last memories of before. At the time I watched Brian impatiently, wondering at his need to clean the kitchen before he started working, but looking back his unrushed approach was part of the normal of those last moments before life changed.
Henry was born that day. When the anesthesiologist asked when I ate last, I admitted to the egg sandwich as I signed consents and got an IV put in. Soon after Henry entered this world. Brian held him in the OR and chatted with the anesthesiologist about hiking in the White Mountains. Everything was OK, or so it seemed.
After Henry died, I fumbled around on his birthday for a while, trying to figure out what to do. One thing I settled on a few years in was making my self an egg sandwich for breakfast, a nod to the memory of the day he was born. These days we are just as likely to have cake and sausage for breakfast, a tradition that Henry gets included in though he wasn’t here when it began. Henry’s birthday is coming up. I think I’ll an early egg sandwich and second breakfast of cake.
I’ve listened to a few episodes of the Plan Simple Meals podcast recently, and host Mia Moran ends each episode with this question:
Tell us about one meal that made an impact on you, whether it was because of the company, the food, or an aha at the table.
She inspired me to start thinking about all the meals I could pick to tell about. It’s Wednesday—Write with me.
Tell me about one meal (yes, just one) that made an impact on you.
I’ve been in a kitchen rut.
I cut down on the “what to make for dinner” dilemma by meal planning (so resistant to doing, so glad I did), but I was getting bored. Last week my friend Lilly hosted a winter recipe jam that got me excited about food again.
I almost said cooking, but really it’s the food. I started reading this book last night and it made a clear distinction between enjoying cooking and enjoying food. I like both, but I’m coming back to the food—the eating, the sharing, the memories, the stories.
For the recipe jam, I pulled a jar of pickled peppers from my cupboard and asked, “What would you do with these?”
The answers came in:
sprinkle on pizza
serve with sausage
toss with greens
add to white chili
use on nachos . . .
None of it was earthshakingly new. I was just in too stuck in what we usually do. I think first of fresh peppers for nachos. I turn to dried for chili. My kids are back on forth on spicy. The little one won’t eat a fried egg sandwich without Tabasco sauce. They’ll both eat our homemade chili. Except on the days they won’t. “Too spicy.” So too often I skip it.
I opened a jar to have with pork dumpling burgers (dumpling filling pressed into burgers). The suggestion to use the hot peppers on pizza with sausage reminded me of stuffed jalapenos (and that I had an overabundance of cream cheese in my fridge.) A few nights later, I sprinkled the rest of the jar over a corn-meal crusted pizza with spicy sausage, cream cheese, and a Mexican blend cheese.
Definitely not rut material.
Hot Pepper & Sausage Cream Cheese Pizza
3/4 c. warm water
1 tsp yeast
hefty pinch of sugar
1 1/4 c. flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
- Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and add the sugar.
- Put both flour and the salt in a large bowl and combine.
- When the yeast has bubbled up, add it along with the olive oil to the flour.
- Stir to combine. Then knead lightly.
- Coat the dough in oil. Place back in the bowl and cover with a towel. Set in a warm space to rise. My dough didn’t double, but it expanded.
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Sprinkle a pizza stone or pan with coarse corn meal. Stretch the dough into a round (or several small rounds).
- Bake for about 15 minutes until dough starts to set.
1 8-oz package of cream cheese softened
cooked spicy sausage
1 4-oz jar pickled hot peppers (or chopped fresh jalapenos)
shredded cheddar, Mexican blend or similar cheese
fresh salsa or pico de gallo
- Spread the cream cheese on the partially baked crust.
- Sprinkle the sausage and peppers evenly over the pizza.
- Top with the shredded cheese.
- Bake until the cheese is melted and the edges of the crust are just turning golden.
- Serve with fresh salsa.
“What happened?” my big girl asked from the seat behind me, her question mirroring my own momentary confusion.
“Somebody hit us,” I said stunned.
She was OK. I was OK, but shaken, badly. All week, I was tight and anxious. All week, my stomach has churned as I called the insurance company, filled out forms, waited for call backs, avoided thinking about what could have been.
All week, still off-kilter, I needed grounding, so I stepped outside. I welcomed the golden afternoon autumn sun, warm on my back. I breathed deep the cold smell of fall. While my kids jumped in piles of yellow and browning leaves, I pulled plants soft and straggling after our frost. I loosened the cold earth and dumped wheelbarrows of compost. And I planted garlic.
Garlic was the most satisfying thing I grew in my garden this year. I don’t know why I haven’t grown it before. I loved every step from the early green points poking out of the earth to the graceful curved scapes that I cut off for pesto to the bulbs themselves that I dug a few months ago and hung to dry.
I love this starting point too. It’s time to plant garlic again, now when everything else is wrapping up or just hanging on. Now while I’m pulling dead plants and putting the garden to bed for spring. I love the hope of planting, even if it means a long wait. All winter, I’ll know that my garlic is out there under the soil, under the snow, waiting for spring sun, ready to push up shoots and get going.
Garlic didn’t ask a lot of me. I picked the scapes and dug the bulbs. I ate the scapes quickly, and the bulbs will stick around for a while (though we go through garlic pretty quickly around here).
Garlic was simple in the garden and it’s simple in the kitchen. I’ve been making this easy garlic bread for more than 20 years now, since I first learned it in an Italian kitchen.
1 loaf good, firm bread
1–2 cloves garlic peeled and halved
kosher or sea salt
- Slice the bread and toast it under the broiler just until it starts to take on a little color. Flip the bread and toast the other side.
- Arrange the toast on a platter, and while it is still warm, rub one side of each slice with the garlic.
- Drizzle with olive oil.
- Sprinkle with salt.
One of my favorite fall dinners is this garlic bread served with greens (sauteed with more garlic) and white beans. Some nights I’ll add sausage (my favorite is garlic and cheese—yep, more garlic—from our local market) or mushrooms. Some nights I just keep it at beans, greens, and bread. Simple. Quick. Satisfying.
It’s a weird garden year. My green beans haven’t done much yet. My zucchini and summer squash are succumbing to powdery mildew, and I’m hoping the cucumbers don’t follow. I’m still waiting to see if my tomatoes will hang in there.
But my snap peas produced.
To use up a bunch earlier this month, I did a stir fry with beef and peas and garlic scapes and ginger. To finish it off, I added a heavy splash of coconut milk. That left about a cup of coconut milk.
I kept thinking coconut + chocolate = yum. Since it’s summer, ice cream was the obvious answer. I’ve since subjected my kids to the same stir fry (not their favorite) again both because I had a lot of peas and because I was craving another batch of this ice cream.
Chocolate-coconut Ice Cream
(makes about 5 cups)
½ cup milk
½ cup sugar (scant)
8 oz bittersweet chocolate chips or bar roughly chopped
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or light cream
- Pulse the chocolate and sugar in a food processor until chocolate is very small.
- Heat the milk in a small sauce pan until it just starts to bubble at the edges.
- Add hot milk to the chocolate-sugar mixture. Stir or run the food processor until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Pour into a 2-quart or larger mixing bowl. Chill. (I left it overnight, but you can chill for less time as long as it gets really cold.)
- Take the cold chocolate out. Try not to stand at the counter eating it all. (It’s really good, but the ice cream is too.) Stir the 1/2 and 1/2 or cream into the chocolate mixture.
- Pour into your ice cream maker, following instructions.
- My machine takes about 25 minutes. Transfer the ice cream to a covered container and let set for about 2 hours—or eat right away. This one’s really good in it’s soft stage.
Waiting for green coriander—and keeping the pollinators happy
Tick Tick Ticktickticktick
A cluster of tiny green seeds rolls through my fingers into a plastic bowl.
“I think everyone really loves my green coriander pesto,” my big girl says as she strips seeds from the plants I’ve pulled. “Well, except for some of the kids. Because they’re picky.”
She’s been anticipating this moment since early spring when I began finding cilantro everywhere. We noticed the plants getting bigger and sending out feather, carrot-top like leaves. We watched bees buzz the tiny white flower clusters. And we found the first tiny green seeds. Now, some of the plants have gone from full flower to full seed.
To everything its season, and this is the season for green coriander.
Two years ago, I cooked with green coriander for the first time, making the green coriander–marinated chicken from Grow, Cook, Eat. Picking green coriander (and later the dried, brown seeds) became a summer afternoon activity with the kids asking if we could pull one more plant to strip. As long as everyone had their own plant and their own bowl, squabbles were minimal.
Last summer my big girl decided we should make pesto with the green coriander. We talked about the things that usually went into pesto and she picked what she wanted to put in. Here’s what she came up with:
K’s Green Coriander Pesto
1/2 cup green coriander (roughly seeds from 3–4 plants)
1 scant cup parsley leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
Two good squeezes of lemon juices
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Romano cheese
- Run the green coriander, parsley, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor until smooth-ish. (The green coriander will still be a little pebbly, but all the seeds should be somewhat ground up.)
- Add the olive oil and lemon and whiz to combine.
- Stir in the cheeses.
- Taste and add more lemon juice or oil if needed.
This has a crunchier texture than most pesto. We love it on chicken and crackers. We’re less fond of it on pasta. I imagine that the bright green, citrusy flavor would be good with fish or shrimp.
My big girl was so excited to bring green coriander pesto chicken to a pot luck last night. If rosemary is the smell of jealousy, maybe green coriander is the smell of pride.
What are you creating with summer’s bounty these days?
A long time ago, several life times it feels, I spent a semester in Florence. In May, after classes ended, my friend Kate and I took the train to Spain. When we tried to get our tickets in Italy, they told us we couldn’t do it. What they meant, was we shouldn’t.
It was a long, long trip, and despite the Nutella we always traveled with, we were exhausted and starving and parched when we arrived. I set off with my Sesame Street Spanish to get us two waters, while Kate went to get us some sustenance. She came back with Spanish tortilla sandwiches—egg, potato, onion on crusty bread. Like I said, I was delirious and famished, so my judgment may have been clouded, but it was the perfect food.
Kate and I tried to make Spanish tortilla for 10 years before we got it right. This was pre-Internet age. There was no All Recipes or Food Network or Google. We relied on our memory and experimentation. We searched the the rare Spanish cookbook. Finally we found the secret—cooking thin slices of potato in oil, almost simmering them until tender.
It uses a lot of oil, and it’s a great thing to make when you are hanging out with friends in the kitchen with a bottle of red, but sometimes I crave it when I don’t have that kind of time or company.
Here’s my lazy version. It would serve nicely if you had just come off a 20+ hour train ride. It would also be lovely with a salad of bitter greens with a simple vinaigrette for lunch or served as part of a spread of tapas with sangria. I enjoyed my most recent one with dark coffee and toast with olive oil. Eat it hot or room temp. It’s delicious either way.
Lazy Spanish Tortilla
6 medium potatoes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
salt and pepper
5 Tbsp (or glugs) of milk
- Slice the potatoes and onion (a mandolin slicer works well for this).
- Oil a large piece of foil. Layer the potatoes and onions in the foil, sprinkling each layer with salt and pepper. Drizzle heavily with olive oil and fold up foil to form a closed packet.
- Cook the potato/onion packet on the grill until potatoes are soft. Eat some for dinner and save the leftovers for your tortilla.
- Beat eggs and milk and set aside.
- Heat a skillet and coat lightly with oil. Layer the remaining potatoes/onions in the skillet. Cook for a few minutes to reheat.
- Pour the egg mixture over it. Cook until egg starts to firm up. Use a spatula to pull the edge of the egg away from the side. Tip the pan to let the uncooked egg slide underneath.
- When the egg is mostly cooked, slide a spatula around the edge to loosen. Place a plate over the pan. Hold the plate tight and flip.
- Slide the tortilla back into the pan and cook the other side for a minute. Serve.