Food, glorious food!

I am feeling pretty excited abut the fall produce rolling in. The lima beans have continued to hit the spot, and yesterday I roasted some gorgeous carrots and rutabagas. They looked nearly neon, and I love the prominent rings decorating the carrot interiors. Root veggies drive me wild. Last night's dinner was a recipe of mine that has been going gang-busters on Pinterest for the past month: Caribbean Sea Bass. Chilean Sea Bass (I always get Marine Stewardship Council-certified because for a while the future was looking bleak for these fishy friends), which is not really a bass at all -but rather the Patagonian Toothfish, a cod icefish- nor necessarily from Chile- is so delicious. It's buttery and delicately steaky and holds up nicely to a range of seasonings.

This simple recipe utilizes honey, pineapple, habañero, scallions and avocado, a pretty, fragrant, zingy combination that pairs nicely with the fish's texture and flavor. Healthy and delicious!

I roasted salmon with whey, salt and pepper for the boys and then topped it with capers: they went nuts, and I can see that we've passed the point of a half-pound being sufficient to feed them. While they ate, I finished up the apple strudels that Jack wanted to bring to his class today. They were so pretty, and I'm sad to say that the photos of them were erased from my loaner phone when I returned it today. My iLemon was irreparable, so they gave me a new one. Not a 6, folks; they're not that generous. But I'm pretty darn satisfied with a new phone. In any case, no pics of the strudels unless you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. I also managed to give away the rest of the olive oil cake; it was so good, but I needed to part ways.

Look at this cat- he is so handsome and curious and charming.

Tonight, dinner starred another uncomplicated dish: Chicken with Garlic, Capers and Oregano. My sister made this for us in Florence and we devoured it so enthusiastically that she sent me the recipe. Grazie, grazie. Mamma mia, it's divine. We had leftover veggies and I also made one of T's favorite recipes, Couscous with Celery, Parsley and Red Wine Vinegar. It's an Amanda Hesser recipe that I discovered while reading Cooking for Mr. Latte when we lived in Amsterdam. For many years, it was a staple side dish. Then, for no good reason, I stopped making it and tonight decided to remedy things. It's fab!

A special not-quite goodbye

As I mentioned earlier, tonight's dinner was my last for the Grands. It was a bittersweet meal to prepare because I have felt honored to cook for them and will be sad to be without an excuse to visit them regularly. The boys and I have become so fond of them, and they of us. Fortunately, their new home is just a mile or so away, and they have already welcomed post-move visits. Surrounded by their daughters and sons-in-law, they've been busy packing up 43 years of memories. My mom and her siblings have been doing the same with more than 60 years of accumulations and remembrances at Nanny's house. It must be so emotional to help sort, toss and box up a lifetime. I remember sitting in the bedroom of our old house (the one before my parents' current), on the floor with my mom, crying our faces off about leaving behind ten years of memories. I can't imagine leaving a place in which I moved as a newlywed, raised my babies, watched them move out, learned to empty-nest. Tough. Heavy. A whole host of feelings to be sure. I knew one or more of the Grands' daughters would likely be there this afternoon, so I made a big dinner, enough for all, of some of my favorites: roast chicken, broccoli with a smoked paprika-sherry vinaigrette (to die for), couscous with red wine vinaigrette, celery and parsley (from A. Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte), and my spiced chocolate Madeleines with espresso-cream sauce. Comforting, good, hearty, saves well = good for people in the midst of a move. I wrote a letter to the daughter who hired me for this job, thanking her for the opportunity and sharing this post which you might remember I wrote just after I took the gig. I forgot to truss the chicken so he was splayed in every which way, but looks aren't everything!

It was so nice to see everyone and hugs and smiles were shared. I left dinner in the kitchen, unloaded the bubble wrap I'd brought from my too-large stash (who ever has enough bubble wrap when they move?!) and started to tear up. It is rather rare that I feel I receive back all that I give, but today I felt I'd been, by virtue of this lovely family letting me be a small part, the grand winner. I felt, again, faith in the hope put forth each time a new connection is made; when meeting someone, you never know how you might be blessed and even when others are selfish or limited or flawed or whatever, there are still those who aren't. Those who will enrich you, make you happy, simply by virtue of your knowing them.

As I started to say goodbye, a cardboard box was passed to me. Stunned, I found I'd been gifted with some of Mrs. H's demitasse cups and saucers and individual porcelain tart shells. They said they couldn't think who'd enjoy them more. My eyes are again welling up just thinking about how touched I was. Am. I will treasure these, and I look forward, eagerly, to the boys' and my first visit.

Delicious new couscous dish, solid greens recipe

This couscous salad was really wonderful and will definitely move into rotation over here. YUM! Summer squash, mint, pistachios, sultanas and wonderful, subtle lemon-garlic dressing. Seriously good, and so pretty. I love buying newly picked produce (here the squash) and using it later that day: the fresh factor is unreal. I also used the collards from our FM outing with corn T bought just yesterday in this collard/corn/bacon dish which is also quite lovely to look at. Corn and bacon are such nice friends, as are collards and bacon. This recipe is so thoughtfully constructed but I would a) cook the bacon until crispy and b) slow-cook the collards to get the silky factor that in this dish, as written, is missing. They were too chewy for my taste, and as the lardons weren't crisp, the double-chew factor was disappointing. Crispy bacon would be a great textural counterpoint to the corn and collards, especially if the collards were smooth as they can be.