Artichoke & Black Olive Gratin

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A temporary shortage of fresh tarragon in northeastern metro Phoenix has interrupted my holiday baking schedule for the moment, but that’s ok.  There is another, actually greater, issue at hand right now, and taking care of that challenge may also help with ideas for your own holiday meals — and that challenge is, clearing out the freezer and cupboards in preparation for one very big move.

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Chocolate Whisky Mac Cake

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… “Never explain, and never apologize.”  - Julia Child

Last Sunday evening we dined with our friends D. and J., and what a wonderful meal it was: a shrimp and rocket salad, and a main course of salmon and pasta with a light sauce containing capers and bits of red onion.  As she multi-tasked, J. and I chatted about the food she was preparing, as cooks do together. But what concerned me as we talked were her concerns about the meal — her belief that the recipe must be right, and that her instinct to tweak it to her own taste was wrong; her apology, in advance, for any deficiencies in her culinary skills; and overall, her unfounded lack of confidence in her own natural talent as a cook.

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Cauliflower, Apple, & Blue Cheese Clafoutis

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Rainy and moody October is the month for hiraeth, the poignant yearning for something unknown and undefined, for beauty, the beyond, the mystery that will never be solved, for that which was once had and is now lost, or which was never had at all.  Hiraeth belongs to Wales, a country experienced in conquest and loss, the inhibition of language and identity.  It is the silent voice of a country’s — or an individual’s — longing.

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Whisky Plum Cream with Ginger Oat Biscuits

Respect to Scotland.  Two weeks ago the Scots had one hell of a decision to make, and they responded with pure courage.  45% were brave enough to vote yes to independence, 55% were brave enough to vote no, and nearly all were brave enough to respect those who thought differently.  They all had the guts to confront the status quo.  The yes voters were ardent in their desire for progress and change; the no voters didn’t necessarily vote against progress and change, just against independence.  The Scots took their country to the very brink of either disaster or destiny, but whatever the result — they all had the courage to move from the place they were.  What a message!  And the Union listened.

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Loch Lomond in the late afternoon

Scotland is also a ravishing country.  If you see beauty in the austere, as I do, here it is. Continue reading