Thursday, September 2, 2010

Growing stuff


I have eleven (11!) tomato plants on my balcony. There are white ones, yellow ones, green and red ones, pink, orange and even black ones. Some are big, some are small, some are the shape of dates, some are very round and others very long. Two of them are striped. A couple of them I grew from seed, but I couldn't help myself when we went on our yearly visit to Gartneri Toftegaard, so some of them came into this home as wee little baby-plants. They've grown, they're producing like crazy (as in big bowlfuls, everyday) and I love it. I loved that I've nursed them all through spring and summer, trimmed the little side shots and the crazy leaves, schlepped water from downstairs so they could have their drinks, fed them, talked to them, moved them around so the sun wasn't too harsh on their delicate leaves or so that they didn't drown in the August downpours. Tomatoes are like gold.

But they are not the only thing growing in this house.

When I got pregnant, I promised myself I wasn't going to turn this into a mommy-blog. I like being a mom - I may even go so far as to say I love being a mom. I like reading about other people being mom's. I just thought no, this is a FOOD blog, my food blog. Not a baby blog.

But then. There had to be a but. I am a mom. I've become a mom. Being a mom is what I do these days, it's what I've done for the past ten months. It's what I eat, read, and (don't) sleep. It fills up my thoughts, takes up my time, even fills up my kitchen, with it's sippy cups and plastic spoons and pureed foods and high chairs. It's just like that - he's everywhere. While I do blog about food, my blog would be nothing without the stories I tell about myself, my family, my life, my everyday and my past. My future. This blog is about food, indeed, but in essence, it's about me. My thoughts, my food and thoughts. And if there's one thing on my mind these days, these past months, it's him. He's called Charlie.

He was born on a pretty non-assuming grey Tuesday, a couple of hours past noon. In the evening he was welcomed into the world by an entourage of family members and friends who joined us at the hospital. My dad - the proud granddad - arrived with a briefcase full of champagne and crystal champagne glasses and silver trays of kransekage. Everyone toasted and smiled and cried happy tears and the little one slept through it all, safe in the arms of people that already loved him.

The growing up whizzes by faster than anything you can imagine. Everyone told us it would, but it's unreal. He eats now, proper food, like the rest of us. Strawberries was a favorite for a while. If he's on my arm when there are rolls fresh out of the oven, he lunges forward to grab one, happily gnawing away on it, leaving crumbs in his trail. He loves sitting in his high chair when we cook, yelling at the pots and pans if they hiss too much, keeping a track on everything going on. He likes homemade pizza and tomato sauce from a spoon, meatballs and salmon and baked, peeled bell peppers. Cheese-sticks disappear within seconds, even those cut from really adult (i.e smelly) cheeses. The only thing I've sen him wrinkle his nose at so far has been anchoïade (and okay, the one time I tried feeding him something from a glass. He's already spoiled rotten ;)) He eats with gusto, and he eats a lot. It's a joy and I know he may outgrow it, but we'll deal with that if or when the day arrives.

It's crazy and it's hard. I've lost count of the hours I've spent worrying about his eating, or  his motor skills - or his sleep. Don't get me started on the sleeping. Is it enough? Is it at the right time of the day? Is he tired now? What about now? An hour ago? Why won't he sleep? It's a constant guessing game and sometimes it's hard to accept that the result of all of this worry and trying to do the best you can won't show for many, many years. And once it does, there's nothing you can do to change anything.

Then again, it's right there, the result. He's right here.

I called it hard. But those moments are forgotten the second  he looks at me with his big blue eyes. It's in the belly laughs and the small, chubby arms stretching towards me. It's in the middle of the night, when his cries settle as I hold him close and I rock him gently. It's in spying on him and his dad, when dad pretends to chew him up, and he giggles so hard he can hardly breathe. When he smiles and his forehead headbutts mine, because for some reason, this has become his way of showing affection, his way of saying: you're one of mine. I like you.

He's crawling. He's two months away from being a full year, and only two supporting fingers away from walking. He's growing. All we can do is watch. Maybe feed him a tomato or two.  Make sure he grows up well fed, you know.

And you may just find a word or two about him, and motherhood, and all that jazz around here in the future. I hope you can forgive me ;)

What to do with all those outstanding tomatoes? There's barely been a meal in August that didn't include a plain tomato salad with optional extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. I've made panzanella, of course, and just popping them like candy works fine, too. But how about a proper dish, one that included other ingredients, but still would let the tomatoes shine in all their jewelery-like colors? This here is pretty great, and it works as a meal - one that's ridiculously fast and easy to do. Basically, it's vinegary fish, paired with sweet tomatoes. Kind of the same principles as in panzanella (the kind I did, anyways), and you could always add some croutons if you'd like. Capers would work, too, I'm sure. I actually added some fried leftover potatoes, 'cause they were there, in the fridge and needed using. It was very tasty. That's what I like these days. That's what I've always liked, come to think of it.

Red snapper with tomatoes, red onion, mint and parsley (barely adapted from Nikolaj Kirk: Fisk)
-Enough for 3 adults and one toddler

400 g. of red snapper filet without skin, cut into 2-3 cm/1 inch cubes. (The original recipe calls for wolf fish, but I'm guessing any firm-fleshed fish will do.)
A little all-purpose flour, salt and pepper
Neutral oil for frying (I used rapeseed (isn't that what you Americans call canola oil, btw?))
1 tablespoon apple vinegar - maybe a bit more
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
salt and pepper
500 g. tomatoes (preferably a mix of colors and varieties), cut into wedges
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 red onion, finely sliced
Fresh mint and parsley, as much (or as little) as you'd like - chopped

Toss the fish cubes in a mix of flour, salt and pepper. Fry the fish in a little oil until done - it doesn't take long, maybe 2-3 minutes per side, so keep an eye on them. I fried mine in two batches as I wanted to make sure it got fried, and didn't boil. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle over the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the sliced onions and minced garlic here too - they'll mellow a little in the vinegar. Toss and leave to step for 10-15 minutes, then add the tomatoes, mint and parsley. Taste to see if it needs more vinegar, salt or pepper. Toss again, then transfer to a nice platter or bowl and serve with freshly baked bread.