Tag Archives: cooking

I’m out of words, I’m just going to draw things #2

15 Nov Chickpeas for dinner. Alexandra Hanson-Harding
Chickpeas for dinner. Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Chickpeas for dinner. Alexandra Hanson-Harding


I’m eating oatmeal while  child #2, the chef, is saying, “You know what would be delicious? Pancakes. You know what I want? Pancakes. You know what I wish someone would make me? Pancakes.” Father says, “There’s a package of pancake mix on the top shelf.”

“Pancakes pancakes pancakes.” says child. “Pancakes with a capital P. I want twenty tiny little pancakes that look like cereal but aren’t.” The rain is pouring down and he has a long nasty wait for the bus ahead of him to get into the city. It makes me sad, thinking of how many years I spent waiting at the same bus stop, rain pouring down the back of my legs, into my shoes. I’m more sorry for myself than the annoyance running around the kitchen.

“If only there were someone in this house who could cook.” I say. Child cooks at top restaurant in Manhattan. The other day when he was less annoying, he cooked us breakfast. Poached eggs that were lightly toasted in Panko and Afghan lamb spices, then fried, and served on top of sauteed brussel sprouts. “Poke the eggs so they go right on the sprouts,” he said.

How do you fry poached eggs? It’s like frying air. But they were delicious.

Okay, he started making the pancakes. He puts the mix into a small plastic bag, then cuts off the corner. “Piping bag!” he says. So fancy.

Husband says that he has to drink coffee or he’ll have organ failure. He read it in an article and it’s science.

“Big coffee’s feedin’ you a lie,” says child.

Child finishes his pancakes. They are the size of a quarter each.

So, a week ago, I woke up very confident about the state of this country. It was a beautiful Tuesday. September 11 was another beautiful Tuesday. The rain is drilling into the skylights.

Right now it seems very hard to want to leave this cozy little house with these crazy little people.



Three Different Years, Same Date: Entries From My 135 Journals

16 Mar
Mrs. 135 Journals with her demon spawn Jacob circa 2011. Photo by demon spawn's paternal unit, Mr. Hanson-Harding.

Mrs. 135 Journals with her demon spawn and cabbage skeptic Jacob circa 2011. Photo by demon spawn’s paternal unit, Mr. Hanson-Harding.

One of the benefits of keeping a journal since forever is seeing how life changes and how it stays the same. Here are entries from three different March 16ths, chosen completely at random. One thing that has remained the same—boys, both brothers and sons (and friends and boyfriends and husbands, or, shall we just say, husband!)—have been a constant source of amusement in my life. And I’m glad it doesn’t smell like a dead mouse under my bed anymore!

Sunday, March 16, 1975 I don’t get along with anyone except the parents and Craig and the Dog. Which is a majority, but just barely. I do get along with the other three sometimes. But not often.

Guess what? I get to BABYSIT. I have to cook: Ugh. Robbie shrieked to Mom and Dad, “Don’t go. DOOOOOOOOOONNN’T GO!” But they went.

March 16 1994, Wednesday

Now I’m on my way back home after visiting the baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Dr. Mark Ehrlich the plastic surgeon. I got a shot of cortisone in the scar I got under my nose from falling on that ice patch. It really hurt.

“That looks as if it hurt more than I thought it would,” Dr. Erlich said sympathetically. I like him. After I saw Jakie and went to the doctor, I went shopping. I actually did a lot of walking today, too. I walked from Port Authority up to the hospital (59th and 9th) to the doctor’s office 61st and fifth, then wandered up to 68th and back to Port Authority. It still smells like a dead mouse under my bed.

March 16, 2011 The other day Jake said, Why do I have to study? Why can’t I just do the studying montage?”

Also, last night he said, disgustedly, “What is it with you two and cabbage? It’s the food of PEASANTS”

He was shocked for a moment to learn that once upon a time, so was lobster, but then he said, “Well, that makes sense. It’s just a CRUSTACEAN.”

Writing Prompt: Can you remember what you were doing and whom you were with on any past March 16?

Chef Jacob Dishes on making irresistable Israeli food –Shakshuka and Israeli salad

3 Feb Jacob and his finished Shakshuka. Yum!

My foodie son Jacob first got interested in making shakshuka, which he describes as “a dish made of poached eggs in a spicy tomato stew with feta cheese on top that you eat with pita,” when he was in Barnes and Noble one day, reading a book about food photography that featured Israeli food. (As I said, he is a foodie.) Luckily for me, after he and his dad went on a nice, brisk winter hike yesterday, Jacob was inspired to try out the warm and homey looking dish for himself.

I asked Jake what appealed to him about making shakshuka. Jacob said, “In the book, it was talking about how Israelis value freshness and healthiness. It’s a little bit like Italian food—they’re both Mediterranean—but Italians value the fatty good stuff more. Israeli food has more Greek/Middle East/North African influences. It’s actually a Tunisian dish. But Israelis eat it all the time.”

How does the young chef make shakshuka? “You need a twelve inch skillet that’s flat on the bottom and high on the sides, like a cake pan. Then you get the onions diced, and get the jalapenos or other spicy pepper cooking in the pan with a quarter cup of olive oil until the onions are translucent or golden brown. I did translucent because Dad was really hungry.”

“You have to be patient, stirring it occasionally, then it’s done. Then add cumin, paprika, and five cloves of crushed, diced, garlic. With that, you have to stir it constantly for one to two minutes, until the garlic is soft and cooked. It smells amazing, like the most fantastic thing in the world, at this point. All that stuff mixed together in the oil smells heavenly.”

“Then you take a 28 ounce of whole tomatoes, pour the liquid into a large bowl, and crush the tomatoes with your hands. You add the crushed tomatoes and the liquid back together, and add half a cup of water. Pour it into the skillet with a half cup of water, stir it and keep the heat a little to let it simmer. Let it simmer until the sauce is thick. The directions said fifteen minutes, but it was actually ready after eight.” Add salt and a little bit of ground pepper.

While the sauce is thickening, he said, it’s time to get some pita bread, wrap it in foil, and put it in the oven at low heat. And it’s also time to make up the Israeli salad. “The base salad,” he said, “ is cubed English cucumber, roma tomatoes, or whatever kind is the freshest, green peppers, and red onion. You core the tomatoes, slice them horizontally, and dice the sections. The cucumbers and onion also get diced. Then, add half a cup of feta cheese. The recipe said add one and a half tsp. of sumac, but we didn’t have it. So we just used lemon juice and I cut up lemon slices to put into the salad. I used lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and it was just killer. The lemon juice captures the Mediterranean feeling. You could put in other pretty looking vegetables if you want to make the most vibrant, popping salad. It said to use olives, but we didn’t . You could add some salty capers or olives if you want, but the salad was salty enough with the feta. If you use olives, you want to slice them. I would choose black olives for contrast and to give it that Mediterranean look. But green would be okay. Toss it. If you have too much liquid, drain it with your hand.”

preparing to add the eggs

preparing to add the eggs

But now, it is time to turn tomato sauce into a meal—and that means adding the eggs. “At this point,” Jacob says, “you take out the eggs, set them on the table, get more feta cubed, and prepare a tablespoon of parsley leaves. Eggs will go bad really fast if you leave them out, so wait till the last minute. What you do at this point is, you take six eggs, and you crack them one by one around the skillet, and drop them strategically on the skillet on top of the sauce. You will immediately see the egg whites starting to turn opaque. Basically, the eggs will get poached in the tomato sauce. Put them around the perimeter and the inside–Get the most area with the eggs. Also note that an egg is one serving with the sauce around the egg. So space them out. Once you crack those six eggs on top of the sauce, you cover it with a lid for five minutes. You’re still on medium low/medium, whatever the simmering temperature is. You might want to do this for even less. We got some harder centers and some softer. But five minutes was fine. It sets.

Jacob's Shakshuka, almost done.

Jacob’s Shakshuka, almost done.

“Then, take off the lid. You baste the eggs slightly by dripping a little bit of tomato sauce on them. Then you sprinkle a half cup of cubed (or crumbled) feta on the top and parsley and sprinkle it on the top.”


After that, serve the eggs and pita and salad. Between Jacob and his hungry parents, there was nothing left by the end of the meal—we had savored every delicious bite. It was surprisingly filling, too. So if you’re looking for a really healthy, tasty, exotic and beautiful-looking meal, just get Jacob to make Shakshuka for you. Hey, it worked for me! One more piece of advice: “Before you make it, read ALL the directions first.”

Jacob and his finished Shakshuka. Yum!

Jacob and his finished Shakshuka. Yum!

Writing Prompt: What’s something delicious you’ve made lately? How did you make it?

This Insane Piece of Art Will Force Tears to Spurt Out of Your Eyeballs and Make You Cry Uncle

21 Nov
Illustration: Red Onions by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Red Onions, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Lately, I have been obsessed with drawing circles. I got the idea from some beautiful African dyed indigo cloth. But when I created this piece, my future superchef child Jacob said, “OMG, Mom, you should name that piece red onions.” And then I saw how the different purples and shapes did indeed resemble a very large collection of red onions, which Mr. H eats raw every day. So as you stare into the depths, let your mind wander to the onionyness if you like. Think of how amazing onions are–how impoverished our diet would be without them. And yet how they exact a cost in painful tears as you slice into them. I don’t usually like raw onions myself. I think they need heat to coax out the sweetness and complexity they bring to so many dishes. They remind me of some people who at first can be so sharp and painful to deal with that one gasps and tears up immediately. But if warmth is steadily applied, they too can give up the treasure of their own sweet complexity. It reminds me not to give up on people just because they might seem offputting at first. I like to see if kindness and interest will let me pass through the painful thresshold and find their rich, true essence.

Writing Prompt: Write about a memory involving onions.

Random Journal Page: May 29, 1995

12 Oct

The word of the day is definitely food. We got up, went to the International House of Pancakes, bought a massive amount of food at SHopRite in Hasbrouck Heights, bought some more vegetables at the Farmers Market, and came home. Then, I put food away and cooked al afternoon until Woody and Elise came. Then, we ate. And we ate dessert. It was just lovly. Now I’m having a cup of tea and contemplating life and looking at and listening to the clamorous sky–there’s a biglightning storm outside. The air is fresh and cool. Steam from my cup , white with green polka dots, is sucked out the door. Meanwhile, the floor of the kitchen is getting wet.

Thinking about a lot of things. Like how amazing it is that the application of heat can cause flavors to change, not in one but in many different kinds of ways. How gentle heat introduces the flavor of tomato into the INSIDES of beans. How they are so bland and almost chalky in the beginning, but begin to take the flavor into themselves, so they have their own texture and presence and look, but also have that richness inside of them. But also how quick heat can also do so much, as in shishkebabs. I just like to think about things.