Thursday, October 13, 2011

CONNECTING

Dash has bursts of energy that can result in television-punching, sister-mauling, and one very pissed off mama.

I'm not always proud of what comes out of my mouth. Find some ahimsa, dude. Settle down. Get it together. Chill out. Control yourself. Shit. You're insane.

But sometimes I manage to meet him at his level and say the right things. Why are you so angry? I want to help you. Where do you feel the intensity in your body? He points to his chest. We knock knock on his sternum. Come out crazies, we plead. Just come out and we'll take care of you.

We channel his waves of fervor into drawings, diaphragm-squishing hugs, and maniacal scooter rides around the block. And when these releases aren't enough, we bust out the tape and the rope.

Dash's intricate tape and rope installations freak out the dog and cause my grandmother to trip. But I think they're beautiful. A chair connected to a hanger, around the door knob, under the sofa, down the hall, and around my favorite boots.

Sometimes a list can stop Dash in his tracks. There's nothing quite like hearing the what, when, where, why, and how of a mama's love. 

"Dash. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." As my list builds, you see the intensity drop down and out of his body. He melts. And then he slips into my lap.

And sometimes, I'm the one who gets grounded by a love list.

"Mama, now let ME count the ways of YOU."

"Okay. Go."

"Number one. I love your sparkly shirt. Two I love how you cook. Three is that I love that you let me stay up at night for one minute or two to get out my energy. Number four I love how you match me on Halloween. Number six I love to hold your hand. Number seven I love your feet.  And I love your eyebrows."

"One more?"

"Okay. Number 10, right? I love those package things we made with fig leaves and ricotta."

So we make them again.

Place one large fig leaf (or several smaller ones) seam side up. Add a big scoop of fresh sheep's milk ricotta.

Always an anchovy, says Dash.
Always some lemon zest, I say.
A handful of pine nuts. Some salt. 
Some garlic confit? Some scraps of prosciutto. A few drops of olive oil.
And then get busy tying.
Your kids can do every step of this process. Have them tuck in all four corners. And then they can just go crazy wrapping, tightening, and knotting.
If you ask Dash, he will tell you that a chocolate and ricotta package would be "exterminably delicious."
Throw them onto an open fire. Or bake them in your oven. Or grill them (just like we did) on a pancake griddle.  High heat for 10 minutes or so—just enough to infuse the ricotta with the essence of fig leaves. The flavor of fig leaves, by the way, is indescribable. We all tried to find the words. Herbacious? Green? Disgusting? Sweet? We all failed.
Open the packages up at the table, smear the contents onto some grilled bread, and experience what my brother described as an "awesome savory cheese danish with pig fat." 

You heard him right. Pig Fat Cheese Danishes. Bring it on.
A LIST ABOUT RICOTTA PACKAGES:
1. I've tried these packages with leaves from three different kinds of fig trees: Adriatic, Black Mission, and Brown Turkey. They all imparted slightly different flavors—all pleasurable.
2. The old-school ricotta I grew up with was firm and gelatinous. Not appealing unless puréed into pancakes. But more and more cheesemongers and markets have fresh sheep or cow's milk ricotta that's moist, fluffy, and sweet. Make sure to eat it within a few days because sour ricotta is not appealing.
3. Or make your own.
4. Try different flavor combinations with the ricotta. Figs and honey. Pomegranate arils and parsley. Plums and balsamic. Preserved lemons and apricots.
5. These packages can be re-heated in the oven with great success.
6. I experienced ricotta baked in fig leaves for the first time at Oakland's Camino restaurant. Just wanted to send out massive thanks to chef Russell Moore. Wow, can this dude work a fire. His food is such an inspiration.
7. The figs are just ripening on the trees around Berkeley. But I realize that some of you from other areas might need to wait until next summer!
8. Have your kids taste the milky substance that drips out of the stems. And then ask them to describe it. Dash and I need some help.

16 comments:

  1. Love your blog and hearing about the cooking advantures with dash and bella. just wanted to let you know since i have never posted a comment to your before (i think ;))

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  2. Such a great idea. Now I need to find some fig leaves. So happy Cheryl (5 second rule) led me to your blog.

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  3. I am especially happy to read this today...I needed this as I spent much of the day wondering what had possessed my four year old son. Thanks for your honesty!

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  4. I have two fig trees in my backyard that we just got this summer. The leaves are so big and beautiful, kind of crispy rough, but I never thought of using them in a recipe. Cant wait to try it! Black mission and brown turkey is what we have. Hope they turn out great! Love knowing there is flavor in the stem.

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  5. I am in love with your blog! You keep it real for lack of a better way of saying it. Thanks!

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  6. My solution for the "crazies" was always putting them in water.
    Thanks for the suggestion to taste the fig leaves. My Calmyrna figs are ripening as we speak. I'll taste the leaves and let you know.
    Anyone want big yellow squishy figs?

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  7. petra: thank you for posting a comment. it means a lot.

    ashley: cheryl (http://5secondrule.typepad.com/) has been so supportive. i'm glad she brought you here!

    becca: it really can be so hard. and i do find it helps to hear stories from other parents. do you cook with him?

    ani: black mission and brown turkey leaves. perfect!

    natalie: thank you. i try so hard to keep it real. i'm not a fan of bullshit. thanks for writing that.

    ustabahippie: water. yes. it often works here at well. but, of course, it's not always an option. enjoy your figs! i love that kind.

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  8. I just love stopping by and reading about how you so patiently cook with your children. The memories I have of cooking with my mother are with me whenever I am in my kitchen. You are giving your children something amazing.

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  9. I really like the "count the ways I love you' strategy! Why haven't I tried this before, its genius. It probably serves as a gentle reminder for us in the heat of the moment. I am trying this with my little men asap.

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  10. allison: thank you. yup. the kitchen. it's one of the few places i'm consistently patient with my kids.

    nicole: yes. lists can be very powerful, distracting, and calming. give it a try.

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  11. Hi. I went to berkeley for undergrad and spent the best 4 years of my life there. In the wasteland of uchicago, the recipes and style of your blog screams and shouts the answer to a question a friend today:

    "You know what I realized all of you californians are fucking obsessed with? Being from california."

    Thanks for the blog. I made the garlic confit the other day as a housewarming gift, and the recipient was gushing. Just like the garlic.

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  12. anonymous. it's true. i left california for 12 years and missed it desperately. now i'm back and enjoying the ridiculous bounty this climate and land have to offer. i'm especially delighted to re-experience it through my children's eyes. love that you made garlic confit for someone. love the image of gushing recipient AND gushing garlic. that makes my california heart fucking happy! thanks for the comment.

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  13. Lovely writing and beautiful pictures. You are amazing.

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  14. You have a new fan :-)
    Love your blog !

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  15. thanks kelly and rotemz! so happy you're reading.

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  16. Phyllis-I only recently stumbled upon your blog and have been reading older posts. This one particularly struck me because of the similarities between our two boys. Blond, rambunctious, and ready to cook. Mine also makes me swear with his energy, and I appreciate your perspective and novel tips for lifting it up, releasing it, and melting it away. I love the grounded love list, and may have to try the rope and tape next time I get desperate. Mine also says foods are 'consciously delicious' and 'espressively delicious'.

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