In the Spirit of Full Disclosure, I never watched Game of Thrones. Not one show… ever. Which makes you feel sorta like the last kid picked at recess for the kickball team.
Counterpoint: Call me a When Calls the Heart super fan. That show just finished it’s sixth season on the soppy, feel-good Hallmark Channel. When WCtH actress Lori Loughlin became embroiled in the college admissions scandal, I realized the formidable Aunt Betsy (Loughlin’s role) would become persona non grata in Hope Valley.
Realizing I’d taken for granted Mayor Aunt Betsy as a WCtH mainstay, Loughlin’s arrest messed with my happy ending programming. It also sullied Hallmark’s “When you care enough to send the very best,” halo of goodness.
These shows are fantasy. Whether you disliked the GoT ending or my being unsettled by Aunt Betsy’s demise, these discomforts are short-lived, non-important. But this ‘taking for granted’ business in real life is way different. Recently two events, bookends if you will, occurred which hammered that savor every moment message home again.
NOTRE-DAME CATHÉDRALE & ACES’ WINGED EDUCATOR
BOOKEND #1: Last winter in Paris I often walked by Notre-Dame Cathédrale. An astounding 30,000 people visit the cathedral daily. I stopped for services twice.
Just before flying home, I met my blogging colleague, Patty, for coffee and to sample ‘the best cinnamon roll in Paris.’ It was early, cold, rainy and quite a schlep to the boulangerie but well-worth the calories.
Afterwards Patty, who was leaving for San Francisco the next day, suggested we walk over to ND. “I want to see it one more time.”
Even though it was a bit of a huff, we did. It was a quiet morning, few visitors, only a priest saying Mass. We went our separate ways and finally met by the alcove where the 19th-century statue of Joan of Arc by Charles Desvergnes sits. We each lit candles, said our private prayers and left.
I took for granted that one of the most important religious structures of Western civilization, built in the 12th Century, would always stand tall. I’m thankful for the memory of that last visit.
BOOKEND #2 Last Sunday the iconic Golden Eagle who lived at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies for 30 years died of natural causes. She was 38. As a yearling, she’d been found with a broken leg and wing on nearby Bell Mountain. That she recovered at a Colorado raptor rehabilitation hospital is miraculous. That she would never survive in the Wild again was not a surprise.
We moved to Aspen in 1988, got involved with ACES and Michael served on its Board. There never was a time when I walked out to ACES’ Hallam Lake Preserve that I didn’t walk by that beautiful bird sitting on her grassy hill and not acknowledge her presence. In fact for 30 years more than 10,000 visitors a year, did the same.
She was a member of the staff, it’s longest serving environmental educator and probably the major take-away for many of the thousands of school kids who visited ACES. I last saw her several days ago when I took my friend Wendy birding at ACES. Wendy had never seen the GE so we went back to her enclosure as her trained caretaker, Derek, the GE perched on his gloved arm, was bringing her outside for the day. Wendy was mesmerized. As for me, I’m sad that what I thought would always be, is gone.
I don’t know what happens to winged creatures when they pass away but I like to think that our ACES Golden Eagle is finally soaring again with the angels.
I put together some definitely-don’t-miss fare to share with you. Emphasis on ‘don’t miss.’
FIRST, the CAKE
This lemon cake with lemon glaze topped with toasted coconut is Sweet Sixteen delicious. My granddaughter Clara turned 16 last week. Whether I celebrate with the girls or from afar, I always bake a cake. No recipe here, just bake and frost your favorite cake. Toast the coconut in a medium-sized frying pan on medium heat on the top of the stove for about 5-7 minutes. Liberally sprinkle the toasted coconut topping on the newly frosted cake. Very festive. Yum. Just yum.
HAM, GORGONZOLA & PEAR QUICHE by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
There are so many ways to improvise and change up this easily made and delicious quiche according to your guests and tastes.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large, firm, ripe pear, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes, Bosc or Anjou
1 cup (4.5 ounces) diced cooked ham
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 large eggs, rooms temperature
2 egg yolks, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) crumbled blue cheese, Roquefort (France) or Gorgonzola (Italy)
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
To make the crust, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Add the butter and beat on low speed until the butter is broken up and the mixture is sandy.
Add the egg and mix until the dough begins to clump and come together. Shape the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic. Chill it for at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be made up to 2 days in advance.)
- Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s 14 inches across. Wrap aluminum foil around the outside of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan to catch any leaks. Transfer the dough to the pan, pressing the dough against the sides and allowing it to come close to the top of the sides of the pan. Patch any cracks with a bit of dough from the edges so the filling doesn’t leak out during baking. Chill the dough in the pan while making the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. To make the filling, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the shallots with some salt and pepper until they are soft and translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove them from the heat and stir in the diced pear and ham. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, blend together the cream, cream cheese, nutmeg, eggs and the egg yolks until it is all smooth. Stir in the cheese, pear and ham mixture, then the parsley.
- Set the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in the filling, making sure the ingredients in the filling are evenly distributed. Bake the tart for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the filling still jiggles and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the quiche cool until it is firm enough to slice, about 15 minutes. Carefully untold it from the springform pan. Serve it warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers to reheat the next day.
David Lebovitz’s VINAIGRETTE
This is the only salad dressing I make now. Note that David suggests using canola or sunflower oil instead of olive oil. Season strictly to your taste, especially with the mustard.
Makes about 1/3 cup, enough for one large green salad, serving 2 to 3
1/8 teaspoon sea salt (a three-finger pinch or two)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons minced shallots,
1 to 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 C canola or sunflower oil
1. Using a fork, mix together all the ingredients, stirring until the salt is dissolved.
2. Stir in the oil briskly until fully mixed.
3. Storage: This dressing will keep for about eight hours, covered with plastic wrap or lid, at room temperature.