November 15, 2007

Friends I've Never Met...

It's the strangest thing how much you can come to value the friendship of someone you've never met. Now maybe "friendship" seems too strong a word to use, but to me the word expresses a degree of connection beyond mere acquaintance. Alice Goldsmith, a widow who lives here in Maine, has been a faithful reader of this blog since I started writing it, and I value her comments. When I stopped writing for a while she gently chided me, telling me that she missed the entries. She has shared some sorrows and some memories, and for both I thank her.

In the summertime I set out flower bouquets on the rock wall at the foot of our driveway for people to take; they can just help themselves. I love giving away beauty, and I've come to learn how much these flowers often mean to people, folks who wave, drop off a thank you note, or, best of all, pass the flowers on to someone else whose life may need brightening. I seldom know what the men, women and kids who take the flowers look like, I don't often know where they live, whether they went to college, what their dog's name is, or anything whatsoever about them, but we are most definitely friends. There is a connection centered on something important, perhaps essential, to both of us.

I've written before about what community is, what it means, why it is so intrinisically important to us. I think friends we've never met are part of the fabric of a well-woven community, one that can offer warmth whatever chill may come into our individual lives. So on this cold, dreary, November afternoon, I hope you think of several friends you've never actually met, and maybe even think about who might consider you in that way.

As the old saying goes, to have a friend, you have to be friend, but you know something? That doesn't have to mean best buds since kindergarten, or similar backgrounds and shared values.
Friendship can be of this moment and in this place where these two minds have met and come away the better from the connection, no matter how fragile or transitory it may seem.

Thank you for being a friend!


P.S. Next week we'll start on tons of Christmas gift ideas, frugal ideas because it sure looks as though money is going to be tight for just about everyone this year!

November 2, 2007

Salmon... Good, Good for You, But a Bargain?

Salmon, like all omega-rich fish, can be a delicious addition to your menus, especially in winter-hearty dishes. Fresh salmon steaks, canned salmon, and smoked salmon, which I especially like, are readily available year-round; however, while the fresh and canned varieties can be reasonably priced, the fancy fillets of smoked salmon are usually too expensive for an everyday dinner. At one of our local supermarkets (Hannaford in Portland), we've discovered a great buy on trimmings from those fancy fillets of smoked salmon, and not just any brand but Maine's own Ducktrap River. A ONE POUND package of trimmings is $6.95 (hmmmm... or was it $6.99).

Keeping in mind that you only need 3-4 ounces per serving, this offers great nutrition at an even better price. But, of course, the question is, how to use it? On a platter with red onion slices, whole wheat crackers or thin-sliced French bread, cheese (go light here), apple and pear slices, and a few black olives, some capers if you have them... a meal right there.

These bits and pieces - and many are good-sized chunks - of smoked salmon can be used in most recipes calling for any kind of salmon, and salmon chowder made with the smoked pieces is doubly delicious. But my very favorite recipe is one I clipped from our local weekly newspaper, The Notes, years ago. Because I don't eat meat or poultry, this recipe - Kedgeree - has become my favorite St. Patrick's Day alternative to corned-beef-and-cabbage. And YES, I still do cook that for the meat-eaters of my family!

Made with rice, smoked salmon, eggs, and seasonings, Kedgeree is a quick and easy, complete meal and the leftovers - if there are any - are terrific. Just try it once...

Kedgeree (with my modification, of course!)

2 TBSP butter
1/2 - 3/4 c chopped onion (we like more)
1 c white rice (I've tried brown where it's healthier, but... naaaah)
1 generous TBSP curry
2 c water
good sprinkle of both salt and black pepper
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced or chopped
1/2 to 3/4 lb smoked salmon trimmings, divided
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c chopped parsley, plus a bit for the top

In a large fry pan (one for which you have a cover), melt butter over medium heat, add onion, rice and curry powder, then saute, stirring, for 6 minutes. It's really important to do this with the curry to bring out its flavor and heat. Stir in water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked and all water is absorbed. Stir in eggs, most of the salmon saving a little to garnish the top, the lemon juice and parsley. I heat through then serve topped with bits and salmon and parsley. I often add oatmeal bread or muffins and a smidge of applesauce. YUM!

Soooo... Do look for those packages of smoked salmon trimmings at your grocery store as they are good for you AND for your food budget!