Yesterday, I sat by one of the West-facing windows in the house to watch the sun set over the ridge. One of the things we note in our house as the seasons change is the position of the sun as it moves back and forth behind the ridge. We know that when it’s really deep winter the sun will be nestled in the v where the two ridges form a valley, and that, as the days get longer, the sun slowly moves over the mountain back towards the West. It’s been almost ten years that I’ve watched this back and forth, and it never seems to get old. As I sat in the window seat, the sun was brilliantly yellow, and as it dipped lower and lower you could see it shining through the leafless trees on the top of the ridge. I was surprised at how tall the trees seemed, as the sun shined through them for such a long time. But then it dipped below the mountain, always such a stark difference of a minute ago when the sun was still bright. Lately, the sunsets have been lovely, perhaps because they seem to linger a little more than what we’ve become accustomed to. The pale blue offsets the pearlescent orange-pink of the cloud’s underbellies as they rest above the horizon.
This is an interesting time of year, as we wait for spring. And much more so after such a brutal and long winter, which started in earnest before Thanksgiving. A little while ago, I talked about emptying the freezer and the pantry, and it’s still going on. It’s been fun, and forces some creativity, which I enjoy. And I see friends of mine enjoying it too—Local Kitchen, Cookblog and Mrs. Wheelbarrow are on the clean out or making do with what they have and are full of great ideas. Being creative during these times, when we are really low on local goods, is helpful for making it through the doldrums of late winter.
Sometimes I force myself to really clean out the fridge. It’s a game: I do not allow myself to go food shopping until I really have to. The other day I really got down to the nub, but still managed to prepare a really satisfying meal. This is where a well-stocked pantry comes to play. I am never without anchovies, always a one-two punch in your corner. You might sauté cardboard in garlic and anchovies, and I would be happy to eat it. I happened to have a head of romaine and some parmesan, so I made a Caesar salad, which is never turned down in our household.
Out came the canned jars of tomatoes, for the pizza. Out came the frozen roasted plum tomatoes. I made dough, of course, and made two pizzas: one plain for my son, and one with roasted tomatoes. We had a little mozzarella left, and that was supplemented with some parmesean. But what of me and my new found gluten-free diet? I have not yet graduated to a gluten-free pizza, or to a gluten-free flour blend for that matter. I’m not sure if I will even go there. For me, I made a quick batch of ricotta, served with more roasted plums, Arbequino smoked olive oil, and Maldon salt. It was outrageously good—soft and creamy, smoky and rich with umami from the tomatoes and olive oil. I also made myself a small bowl of tomato soup, from the more liquid-y part of the canned crushed tomatoes that I used for the pizza sauce. And a total bonus: I used the whey from the ricotta for the pizza dough.
It’s funny how meals like this give a home cook like me so much joy! Here’s a couple of other things coming out of the pantry, both freezer and larder alike, in my gallery below.