Fresh Eyes

I’m here.  Here is Tunisia, Carthage, ACST,  the Mediterranean, my pretty house on Rue Kherredine.  I am at home.  I have been quiet for a few weeks, but I have been writing.  It was just that the writing was taking place in my head instead of on paper.  I actually had a writing-rich summer.  I had great talks with many different people who are writing, including my niece who just finished a MFA and is going to a writers’ retreat this fall to finish her second novel.  My brother is working on a “what if God was one of us” road trip story.   It will be strange, funny, and poignant just like him.  Another friend dedicated some of her summer to finishing Book 1 of her two part sci-fi fantasy.  I was impressed by each of them.

I also read books about writing.  I read Ensouling Language, On the Art of Nonfiction and the Writer’s Life, by Stephen Harrod Buhner,  and Katie Wood Ray’s book, What You Know by Heart on using your own experiences in writing to develop curriculum to teach the writing process to students.

Finally, I read like a writer.  To most people, this is simply reading, but I read, or rather mostly listened to audio books, mostly young adult and classics, noting ideas, and structure, and language.  I am excited to get back to my own writing, and I am grateful that I have a place to publish myself on a regular basis as opposed to just jotting entries in my writer’s notebook.  Thanks to those of you who actually read this.

One of the reasons I had to do so much writing rehearsal in my mind this summer was that I simply could not break that experience down to a manageable focus.  It was all so big and I was overwhelmed with choice, and sadness, and beauty, and responsibility.  I couldn’t choose just one thing in a day, and I couldn’t pin down my feelings on any regular basis.

On our way home from the airport last Saturday, we stopped at one of the many streetside produce vendors in our neighborhood.  Of course he didn’t have the vast array of produce I had been offered at my grocery store in Bellingham, but what he lacked in breadth he made up for in depth.  This little stand had three varieties of plums, all organic and tree ripened.  I tell you the truth that carrying my little bag of plums to the car, I felt about the first peace I had felt in weeks.  I knew I was back in my simple, but elegant life that would feed me in many ways, and I would be able to write about that.

Plums

We have had the pleasure of hosting our new staff this week.  You know how showing off your home to visitors always reinspires you about how great the place you live is and why you wanted to live there in the first place?  These are grateful souls who have worked hard the past few months to get themselves here.  It is fun to roll out the small delights of our life here, bit by bit.

Eggs

Featuring the  bounty of fruit at the moment, I have two recipes that utilize the yin and yang of the egg.  One uses the egg whites and features those tri-colored plums I mentioned, and I will get to that one in my next post.  This one is all about the yolks and uses the jammy figs that are trying to burst out of their skins in crates all over town.

Fig Pistachio Semifreddo

Serves 12

Martha Stewart Living, June 2013

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted roasted shelled pistachios
  • 8 ounces figs, scooped out of skins (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Steps

1.  Line a standard 5-by-9-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.  Pulse pistachios in a food processor until coarsely chopped (some will break down to a course grind).  Transfer to a small bowl;  do not wipe processor clean.  Place figs and 3 tablespoons sugar in processor;  puree until smooth and transfer to a fine sieve set over a bowl.  Stir puree, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible;  discard solids, or use a food mill to separate the solids.

Strawberries Food Mill

2.  Combine egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Beat on high speed, or vigorously by hand, until pale yellow and tripled in volume, about 3 minutes.  Transfer bowl to a large bowl of ice water;  stir until mixture is very thick and cool, about 3 minutes.

3.  Beat together cream and vanilla in a large bowl until soft peaks form.  Whisk 1/3 of whipped cream into egg mixture, whisking until smooth, then fold into remaining cream with a rubber spatula just until thoroughly incorporated.

4.  Pour 1/2 of cream mixture into fig puree.  Gently fold together until thoroughly incorporated, then pour into loaf pan and smooth top.  Fold pistachios into remaining cream mixture and pour evenly over fig cream;  smooth top.  Fold plastic wrap over surface and freeze at least 12 hours and up to 3 days.  To serve, peel plastic from surface.  invert pan onto a cutting board.  Unmold semifreddo, remove plastic, and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices.

Semifreddo 2

4 thoughts on “Fresh Eyes

  1. Hi Julie, I read your blog today and loved it! Your words are reassuring. Your recipe for fig pistachio semifreddo looks fantastic. Will be trying it out for sure.

  2. as usual, i live vicariously through your passion for creating fabulous eats. in my world, it’s always panini night…

  3. I enjoy your reflections and recipes. One question for your consideration, does the role of the academic act as a barrier to good writing?

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