Stracciatella gelato, whimsy, words

I think I might have found my standard contribution to family gatherings. You see, my sister brings this spinach dip to every family gathering, and everyone always acts surprised and delighted and showers her with compliments about how <insert superlative here> that spinach dip is! I never knew, until recently, that I wanted a standard contribution too. I make a lot of things that no one else in the family does. I make delicious Thai curries and curry pastes. I make delicious ramen broth. I also make a damn fine cacio e pepe. None of those dishes really go with everything though. You can’t just show up to someone’s house for a dinner gathering with a big pot of curry and a rice cooker. I guess you could, but no one would act surprised and delighted when you do.

Anyhow, we were getting together for mother’s day yesterday, and earlier in the week my sister mentioned that mom wanted me to bring some lemon gelato (because mom was over at the house the first time I made it and was surprised and delighted!). It was like a light bulb going off. OMG I can take gelato to nearly any family event! GELATO IS MY SPINACH DIP! People will be genuinely surprised by my genius flavor combinations! So I made a stracciatella gelato. I used a vanilla bean instead of extract. I made my own chocolate syrup to drip into the churning vat of delicious. I managed to drip the chocolate in so gingerly as to create chocolate chips, not chocolate ice cream. I carefully packed it, made a cute label, and showed up quite proud and excited, and everyone was surprised and delighted! Why? BECAUSE MY SISTER BROUGHT A LEMON ICE CREAM PIE.

I genuinely found this hilarious. I do intend to dominate the ice cream and gelato arena at family gatherings from here forward. No, I don’t really see it as a competition. I do somewhat feel like I’m at the point in my life where I should carve out a niche for such events that involves more than taking a seat in front of the chips and dips and watching everyone while avoiding conversation. Gelato is a start.

Happy wife, happy life. 😍😍😍😍😍

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On an unrelated note, since I’m ranting away today. Mrs. Primate just started a new work schedule for the summer. You see, I work 11:30 – 8, and previously she worked 10-7. She has to get up earlier, which means I have to get up earlier if I want to fulfill my morning duties of delivering a breakfast and beverage to her vanity as she gets ready for work. This is a slight modification of waking up slowly together in the kitchen while I sip coffee and deliver her breakfast to the table while we watch YouTube videos. Then she leaves at 7:30 and I have another 3 and a half hours before I have to be at work.

I’m not good at change. I feel a little lost this morning without my breakfast buddy. I don’t know whether to try and get in an hour or two of Grand Theft Auto, or to go grocery shopping. I could also stand to go for a run, but that doesn’t sound like much fun either. Basically, I’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes trying to figure out what to do with my life…for the next three hours ;). Times where I don’t have an established pattern drive me nuts. I rely on structure to help me figure out my timing. I’m probably the only person on the planet that could wake up an hour earlier and show up to work late because I just couldn’t figure out when I needed to leave! Whine whine whine, piss piss piss, moan moan moan.

I think I’ll go grocery shopping, that’s always fun in the morning.

A homemade taste of France: Croque Monsieur

A week ago I decided it would be a good idea to try and make a representative dish from each of the stops we made on our honeymoon a year ago on my day off. Last week I made a meal of tapas to kick off the start of this culinary trip down memory lane. This week a year ago we were in Marseille, France.

There was one thing Mrs. Primate wanted to eat while we were in France, and it was surprisingly difficult to get our hands on due to the French method of dining. It was always on the menu, but never seemed to be available when we wanted to eat. It’s not anything too fancy, but it’s what we wanted. This led to a bit of frustration as we searched and searched for a place that had an open kitchen, and additionally, wouldn’t refuse to make one. The croque monsieur, was our metaphorical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Vieux Port, #marseille #france #picstitch

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On our last evening in Marseille, we visited a small bakery where we had purchased some macarons a few days earlier and the very nice, very friendly baker had two Croque Monsieur sandwiches in her case. She graciously heated them up for us and wrapped them in wax paper, and we took them to the old port, sat down, and had a little picnic next to the boats gently bobbing in the water, in the shadow of the citadel and Nôtre Dame de la Garde basilica on the hill across the harbor. It was sublime. It was the perfect moment from Marseille to recreate with a meal.

After scouring pinterest for a recipe, I decided on a basic Croque Monsieur recipe I found that looked easy enough to accomplish and a “ratatouille” made in the style of Disney’s movie about the culinary rat. Hey, we needed vegetables and this looked pretty, even if it isn’t so authentic. Four ham and cheese sandwiches, one pot of bechamel, and a few chopped vegetables later, dinner was served, and you know what? It took me right back to the old port of Marseille for a few minutes.

Taming the wanderlust

My oh my, has the wanderlust been hitting me hard lately or what? (It has, that was a rhetorical question.) I think it’s the weather getting warmer, the smell of the flowers and herbs in the garden blossoming, and the fact that a year ago Mrs. Primate and I were on the biggest trip that we’ll (probably) ever make. When you add the reality of I’m-not-going-to-have-an-opportunity-to-leave-the-country-for-at-least-a-year to the general feeling of oh man I feel so stuck in San Antonio right now it makes for a palpable feeling of meh. Here’s some things I’ve been doing to combat it.

  1. Focusing on the good ol’ career. This is the thing that’s going to make bigger, better adventures possible (and allow us to stay at the W instead of some ratty old hostel next time we’re in Barcelona if it advances the way I plan.
  2. Cooking things that remind me of places I’ve been. The senses of taste and smell give me the strongest connection to places I’ve been, I can totally capitalize on that. Candles are helpful too, as is the “Hawaiian Aloha” vent clip I just put in my car to combat the smell of mildew.
  3. Watch travel shows on TV. Okay, I’m not really sure if this makes it better or worse, but it kinda feels like learning more about places I’d like to go helps me focus on something other than wishing I could be somewhere I’ve already been.
  4. Work on the house. We need to finish it out the way we want it to be finished in pretty short order, and housework always makes you feel better. For real. It’s something about seeing your results in real time. We need new dressers, a new couch, and to replace some light fixtures.
  5. Find things to be excited about. For example, after submitting my tax return for 2013 in February, it was finally approved today and we’ll be able to make a big payment on our TV and computer! (For real, what took 90 days?)
  6. Get interested in something. My interest in fitness has waned a bit, my interest in finding a pillow that will allow me to wake up not feeling like I’ve been hit by a freaking MAC truck has increased. Maybe one of those memory foam mattress toppers would help too. This went a bit off topic, didn’t it?
  7. Plan for the future. This is a frustrating exercise in knowing what you want to achieve and dickering with yourself about how to make it possible. Is there a book that tells you how to end up with a small bed and breakfast that doesn’t need the income stream of guests to remain afloat somewhere with a good view of the Mediterranean?

Yeah, so these are some things that I’ve been doing to focus on how to really get to the lifestyle that we want to have. It might mean a bit of studying and learning and a lot of work, especially the “career” one. As one of my coworkers told me though, You gotta step out of the boat if you want to walk on water. She’s wise. Put in the work now, reap the benefits later. Sounds good to me. Not all those who wander are lost, but I’m pretty sure that if you wander too long you can get lost.

Reliving our honeymoon one plate at a time

Boy oh boy, have things changed in the past year. I had a great day off yesterday, and I had invited my mother and her husband over for a tapas dinner because hey, any chance for a visit right? When I woke up yesterday I realized that a year ago I woke up on a plane descending into Madrid with Mrs. Primate on the first day of our honeymoon. I figured it was a sign that I should probably make something for dinner on days that I cook that would remind us of where we were on our honeymoon at this time a year ago. Well, dinner number one was already in the bag.

Last night I finally cracked open the Spanish cookbook that Mrs. Primate gave me for my birthday and made a couple typically Iberian delights, a tortilla with potatoes and onions, and albóndigas with a tomato salsa. In addition I added in a memory of our trip to Hong Kong (where I had my first tapas dining experience) with asparagus roasted under a blanket of manchego cheese. It turned out beautifully, and we had just enough little plates to even serve it in an authentic fashion. Things weren’t 100% Spanish though.

This #homemade lemon #gelato has me pretty excited for #dessert tonight. #food #foodporn #foodstagram

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For dessert I made gelato. Why? Well, memories of how good the gelato in Rome was as we walked through the streets on a hot spring day have been going through my head like freight trains as the weather has started to heat up. I logged onto trusty old Pinterest, searched for a lemon gelato recipe, and came up with this. It took me about an hour, and this was only my second experience with the ice cream maker my sister unloaded on gifted to us a few months ago. Well, let’s just say the second attempt went MUCH better than the first. So much better that I’m planning to make a little straciatella when we run out of this wonderful lemon batch.

Simmering up a syrup for limonata.

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I also made a syrup with lemon and basil to make homemade limonata, you know, the Italian version of lemonade? Something about the tartness of the lemon with the aroma of the basil really works together, and the basil was grown in our own garden. Talk about a fresh flavor! I found that one part Limonata mix and two parts carbonated water make for a really refreshing lemonade. If only it had a shot of limoncello…

These naked #lemons are making my first batch of #homemade #limoncello. #booze #drinks #picstitch

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Well, it will have a shot of limoncello, in about 30 days when this vodka I recently poured over the zest of 8 lemons is finished infusing, and simple syrup is added. But I digress.

The Spanish bit of the meal was absolutely fabulous, and it did in fact remind me of sitting at a table in Plaza Mayor in Madrid, watching street performers, hawkers, and families mill about as we enjoyed our tapas and wine. That was the point. I’d better save some Italian stuff for a week or two until I need to remind myself of Italy. 😉

One Year

wedding

One year ago I married the love of my life. Our first year together has been crazy, filled with the greatest joys, sorrows, and anxieties of our lives (well, at least of my life.) We’ve grown closer together, made a million memories, and I’m so looking forward to our future together. We’re off to a great start! That’s really all I’ve got to say about that.

Watering the plants: morning garden time

The lemon tree is already growing a few fruits, hopefully enough to make my own Limoncello!

The lemon tree is already growing a few fruits, hopefully enough to make my own Limoncello!

Herb Garden

Our little Herb Garden is growing up!

This Bougainvillea reminds me of Greece every time I walk by.

This Bougainvillea reminds me of Greece every time I walk by.

Pomegranate

This Pomegranate tree also reminds me of the Mediterranean, with it’s hardy, scrubby branches.

A couple of weeks ago we went nuts at the garden center in an effort to beautify our home a little bit. Well, at least the outside of our home. It’s led to something beautiful, not just the blossoms on the flowers and stuff, but a few quiet minutes each morning after Mrs. Primate gets ready to go to work where we just chit chat while I water the plants. She enjoys watching me water them, I enjoy talking with her, and it’s a few quiet minutes before we each head off to a busy day at work. We enjoy remarking about how much the oregano, lavender, mint, and cilantro have grown, pointing out new blossoms on the bougainvillea, and wondering whether or not the Turkish pomegranate needs more support. It makes the transition from home to work a little easier, because there’s a few minutes where the anxiety preceding the upcoming workday just clears out. It’s just nice.

Love for Lemons

So Mrs. Primate and I have this little tradition to celebrate change of seasons. We go to the Bath and Body Works a soon as the big three wick candles are on sale at the price of 2 for $22 and buy a few to make the house smell more seasonal. This spring there was a line of scents that had a bit of a travel theme, and we bought the “Tokyo Petals” which smelled of cherry blossom and iced sake (read: delicious), and “Cheers to Capri” which smelled of Limoncello. When that candle burned its last flame I was sad, for the scent of lemons really does make me think of Italy. It makes me think of the train ride from Napoli to Sorrento, the walks through the ancient streets of Pompeii, and of course the Limoncello that I managed to sip after just about every meal in Florence and Rome.

I’ve written before that scents and flavors are particularly powerful memory stimulators for me, bringing back memories that might be just under the surface. Lemon digs deep. I remember walking around lower Manhattan with Mrs. Primate and her sister on an ice cold winter day while eating a warm lemon macaron. There’s the lemon macarons I would buy at Choi Gane bakery in Daegu, the citron macarons in the IFC Mall in Hong Kong, Limoncello in Italy, and lemon meringue pies at my Granny’s house. One little yellow fruit can pull up some random game of canasta from twenty years ago and remind me just how freaking frustrating that game is.

Lemons have a more romantic notion now, though. They remind me of Italy. Riding Treno Italo from Florence to Rome to Naples. The scent of the air in Campania. The cool breeze on the beach at Sorrento. That’s better than losing at a hand of canasta.

As the story goes, we almost bought a lemon tree this weekend, but for $40 we decided we’d wait until we could get a Meyer lemon tree as opposed to Lisbon lemons, because we certainly want our fruits to be usable and we’re unfamiliar with the Lisbon variety. Also pomegranate trees were much less expensive, but I know there’s a spot in our yard to grow the little yellow fruits that manage to cut through the layers of my memory.