Friday, May 3, 2013

Little Ears

Orecchiette- which means "little ears"

The 28th year is said to be the Saturn Return. When that shift from your years of countless re-invention, exploration, transformation take a turn, and something brings you "home" again. Maybe home translates to the weary traveler as a place, or a feeling, maybe even a quality or trait that re-surfaces itself in your life. For me it literally brought me home. Eucalyptus in the air, in the land wild sage and avocados- Central California. 

So, once the siren of my 28th year sounded her song, I made it home in time for my birthday. Uniting first with my tribe of lady chefs and coming together to determine what new task on our ever growing list of creations to try.

"Ash, Orecchiette!!" 
Kim proclaimed with girl-like excitement. A creative task we had yet to embark on within our 9 years of cooking side by side. Convincing Peggy was easy, as she would be the one to give us the personal tales from watching the process on the streets of Puglia herself.

The day began with our fists united with in a vigorous kneading for 20 minutes on the white marble counter top. A strong task to ensure strong dough, our muscles feel it as our mound of raw orecchiette begins to smooth out and ready itself for rest.

The process is simple. Using a bench scrapper to slice off wedges of dough, then roll between your palms and the cutting board. The dough remains smooth and firm, in no way clinging to your fingertips when touched. An almost silky tactility that soothes the spirit as therapy through creation.

 Roll, slice into 1" squares and then quickly pull the dough across a wood cutting board with the back of a butter knife. The true Nonnas of Puglia would jump to their feet with disapproval if they witnessed our first attempts at Orecchiette- "NO! Non cosi!!!" they would proclaim. As dough was smashed, torn, or pulled too thick or too thin. But eventually we got our groove on, and little ears appeared one by one.

We set our pasta out in the garden, inside a clean beehive screen and covered with a linen sheet.
The destiny of our oriecchiette was to be happily united with kale, braised lamb with jus, and fresh chili breadcrumbs. 

Orecchiette drying in the March sun of CA

Table set, awaiting guests. 

Chèvre and beets unite!
A Birthday Menu

Cocktails- 28 Roses (gin, grapefruit & rose geranium) Thyme Sip (bourbon, meyer lemon, & thyme)

Hors d'ouvré - Fava bean and preserved lemon dip with crudite. Beet and chèvre spread with crostini and radish.

Pizzas- Radicchio, mozzarella and amaretti. Melted leeks, sausage and burrata.

Mains- Orecchiette with lamb jus, kale and chili breadcrumbs. Wood-fire oven broccolini. Salad of garlicky kale and roasted chickpeas.

Dessert- Choice of salted caramel or lemon curd ice cream. 
Coffee or verbena mint tea.

Bellies were full and sore from laughter. Our glasses remained filled with central California's best in red wine. Some still found space for another scoop to top off the evening, while a question was posed...

In this house and around this table for as long as I can remember, a question has been posed for all to answer. It's a beautiful tradition that brings everyones attention back to the center and gives each individual a chance to tell a story of personal importance. 
The question (posed by Howard, Kim's sweet husband)--

"What was a lesson or experience that you could not learn from anyone else, and only on your own?"

A wave of vulnerability and joyful emotion came over everyone as they told there stories of that lesson or experience that invited a shift and a transformation. We listened tenderly with open hearts as the smell of lamb from the wood fire oven continued to linger over the table. One of my favorite aging moments yet, the year of the saturn, and the night of rose geranium-scented cocktail surrounded by my favorite beings. A magical start to my 28th year.

28 Roses Cocktail on March 1st, 2013

:: 28 Roses Cocktail ::

5 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
1 1/2 oz Gin (Preferably Plymouth)
1/2 oz Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
2 oz Rose Geranium Simple Syrup (recipe follows)

Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake and serve in a tumbler.

Rose Geranium Simple Syrup:
1 c White Sugar
1 c Water
4 or 5 Rose Geranium Leaves

Heat the sugar and water together until the sugar is completely dissolved without boiling. Add the Rose Geranium once you've turned off the heat and steep the leaves for 10 minutes. Or less. It can get strong quickly, so check the progress and taste as you go along.