It’s been a fun holiday season and while I loved having Gil home for two weeks of vacation, I’m excited to get back to work and dive into new projects! Our break, as illustrated above:
- While home for Christmas, I had lunch with my friend (and artist) Riece Walton at Spahr’s in Des Allemands, LA, where alligators are known to pop up behind the restaurant. No luck — good or bad — that day, but I kept my eyes peeled just the same. (Thank you for the warning, sign!) The catfish chips and fried oysters were just as good as I’d remembered, but the hush puppies blew my mind. Not just crispy, but shell-shatteringly so with a moist interior and more seasonings than corn meal, they were easily the best hush puppies I’ve ever tasted.
- The cold weather kept us mostly inside once we were back in NJ and cabin fever set in. It’s always the dogs who suffer most in these situations and this time was no exception. They found themselves posing for pictures in the adorable snoods we bought at the Greyhound Friends of New Jersey craft show. (Pictures and downloadable cards of the boys are available in my Etsy shop along with lots of other goodies. The boys are also featured on this site’s home page, if you want to check them out.)
- Oh! AND THEN Gil and I attended the faaaabulous 12th Night Midwinter Masque hosted by our friends Nancy Hightower and Valya Dudycz Lupescu this past weekend. (And thank you to Marco Palmieri for the pictures!) My mask was a public hazard, but I got the hang of it by the end of the evening. Apologies to all I hooked, stabbed or otherwise inconvenienced throughout the evening. Also, Amy’s Mask: 5, Crystal Snowflakes Hanging From Ceiling: 0.
Now, bring on Carnival season!
I’ve also been making good use of that pear shipment I mentioned in my last post. I worked up this recipe for pear butter at Thanksgiving, when I realized I’d forgotten to buy applesauce to go with the latkes. Not wanting to go grocery shopping on Thanksgiving morning — if shopping was even an option — I chose instead to make something with ingredients already in my house. This pear butter is spicy, warming, complex and just the tiniest bit sweet. Also? It’s simple to make and takes kindly to fiddling.
I’ve already made another two batches and changed things up successfully each time. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Use a variety of pears or just one type, if you prefer. The quantity of sugar is merely a suggestion; you’ll have to determine the level of sweetness you want based on the pears you have and what you think the final result should be. My pears weren’t especially sweet and I didn’t want a sugary product, so two tablespoons worked well for me. The St. Germain was added more for its perfume than flavor; feel free to use another liqueur or omit entirely if it’s not your thing. Use it any way you’d use apple butter or try it warmed and spooned over vanilla ice cream for a luscious treat.
6 ripe pears, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup water
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 small star anise
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar (or 2 tablespoons sugar, plus 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon St. Germain liqueur
Put all ingredients except liqueur into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until pears are soft, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When pears are soft, remove star anise and cinnamon stick and blend with immersion blender on low speed until pears are the consistency you like. Stir in St. Germain liqueur. Taste and adjust salt/sugar, if necessary.
Sauce keeps five days in the refrigerator, longer if frozen