Thursday, July 06, 2006

Life (with Radishes & Prosciutto) is Beautiful

A Note, by Wislawa Szymborska

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it's not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble upon a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

Be careful what you wish for … I disagree. I am now six days into something that I have wished for often over the past two years, and I’m glad that I wasn’t careful.

Last month, I quit my job of four years, and as a fitting farewell for my last day, which was Friday, my coworker-in-crime, Sylvie, took me to a screening of The Devil Wears Prada. I’m grateful to have had that job, for the work itself, which I enjoyed, and for the financially secure footing it put me on, but I’m even gladder that there was a straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Because of that silly straw, I emailed my publisher at Things Asian and said, “I want to quit X-job, where I'm not happy. I want to do something that makes me really, really, really happy. May I work for you?" My publisher, a man of generosity, kindness, creativity, and integrity, said … yes. Sigh! As of August first, (after taking the month of July off), I will be the managing editor of the To Asia With Love guidebook series.

A beautiful life requires proactive efforts, something I had forgotten in recent years and was reminded of, in all places, in the world of food blogging. As I began reading food blogs in April (I know, I’m a Jane-Come-Lately), I discovered people around the world who lovingly, zestfully, exuberantly, and quietly incorporate life’s greatest pleasure into their lives. Reading Chocolate & Zucchini, I think of both MFK Fisher and Laurie Colwin. The words are so light, and by that I do not mean frivolous, but filled with radiance. Reading Orangette, I remember my own twenties, living in Seattle, working at the Elliott Bay Bookstore, teaching myself how to cook and reading Gourmet—I thought I was the height of sophistication when I got my own subscription. I have already made a new blog friend, Anni, who sent me the most amazing fig confiture, and who is inspiring me now by making her own cheese.

Yes, a straw broke the camel’s back and prompted me to quit, but it was all those lovely food blogs out there that pushed me to ask for the job I really desired and reminded me how I want to live my life once again now that I’m free. Just when you think life is too busy dealing you blows—the loss of my beloved Grammy, the loss of a former boyfriend, a mean boss, this really messed up world—it comes up with some crazy way to remind you that it is also a thing of great beauty. Reminds me that I was very lucky to have had Grammy for so long in my life, to have had that former boyfriend who taught me how to appreciate the value of words and faith, to have had a job where I could write all day, to have the privilege of living in this world no matter how messy it is. Free from my old job and inspired by the always positive words of foodies around the world, I spent this weekend celebrating ...

Reading for hours on end the way I used to when I a kid: The History of Love gives me hope in the future of American literature! … Going to the Hollywood Farmer’s market with my sister and friend, Lisa, and buying apricots, artichokes, tamales, bread, grapefruit, and radishes so beautiful they inspired me to spend that night working on an enormous painting for the living room … Sorting through all the recipes I cut out of magazines over the past five years and actually making two of them (the sun-dried tomato tart was nice and the butterscotch biscotti a dud) … Cleaning up the novel I began 10 years ago so I can finally send it to agents … Starting a batch of nocino for Christmas gift-giving … Replanting my balcony garden with herbs and geraniums … Eating and drinking with my sis and our friend, Vickie, who is house-sitting for a friend with a pool—L.A. has never been hotter, and a pool never more enjoyed.

I haven’t cooked anything in the past few weeks that dazzled me, so I’m going to share a favorite recipe. This is a hit every time I take it to a party. And since prosciutto is yet one more thing in life to celebrate—I would nominate it for its own food group, if such a thing was possible—I want to pass it on.

Prosciutto & Artichoke Involtini
(from Food & Wine magazine)


- 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup slivered blanched almonds (2 oz.)
- 1 can artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained and patted dry
- ¼ cup cream cheese, softened
- 2 Tbls freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 18 thin slices of prosciutto


1) Heat the oil in a small skillet.
2) Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
3) In a mini food processor, pulse the artichoke hearts with the almonds until finely chopped.
4) Add the cream cheese, Parmesan and lemon zest and process to a paste.
5) Season with salt & pepper.
6) Lay 3 prosciutto slices on a work surface, overlapping them slightly along the sides.
7) Spoon 2 tablespoons of the artichoke filling onto the short end and roll into a tight cylinder. Repeat with the remaining prosciutto and filling.
8) Trim the ends, cut into quarters & serve.

A platter of Prosciutto Involtini
People actually speak with reverence about this appetizer ...


anni said...

What a surprise to be mentioned in today's post.
You flatter me. I'm glad you enjoyed the Fig confiture.
I have had family visiting the last few days and will post our gathering with "Asian" (Filipino) foods galore.
More goodies forthcoming! Congratulations on your new venture! Ask... and you shall receive...

Anni :-)

elle said...

kudos to you and good luck-yipee. If you are replanting your garden-try a bag of soil with bat stuff in it. Our garden has exploded and the plants are tremendous.