How it feels

It's January 7th. The new year is one week old. I'm probably supposed to be charging ahead, thinking new-new-new, and resolving the crap out of things. But you know, if 2013 were a human, it would still be in that sleepy, blobby stage, when the name of the game is take good care.

Here's a thing: At our table on New Year's Eve, someone asked about resolutions. I couldn't think of a single one. I want to do better and I want to be better, and I have some specific, personal ideas about what that means. Does it count as a resolution, though, if I felt this way every day of last year, too? Maybe yes. "Better" means lots of potential new.

This last year was very big and very fast, like one of those dogs, enormous and eager, that you sometimes see straining against its leash and wonder who's walking whom. It slobbers all over your chin and leaves paw prints on your sweater; it doesn't know its own strength. And though I could probably use a shower, and a nap, and maybe a hot fudge sundae, what I'd really like is to sit right here in it for just a little while longer.

2012 was hard in the way that the best things are hard. I'm grateful for that, and proud, and I want to remember how it feels. The breathless, jam-packed days. A proposal-in-the-making became a book deal; an idea became a business; a doughy, blinking babe became an honest to goodness person who walks, and talks, and wakes up singing, and will fight you for the last fish taco. (She does, I am happy to report, still smell like a warm pretzel. Thank goodness.) I've wondered sometimes if our pace is sustainable. Some days, I'm sure that it's not. But of all the shades of tired out there - sick tired, bored tired, sad tired - it's unspeakably lucky to get to fall into bed every night exhausted to the core by the people and things I love. I'm happy tired.

These are the party maps from the last month of the last year. Not pictured: the one from New Year's Eve. A bad head cold took me out of the game before I could finish it. Fortunately, there was a Molly in the house that night to take the reins and make sure no one starved. I repaid her by disappearing for 45 minutes to nurse a teething baby when I was supposed to be cooking and, upon my return, knocking a full glass of red wine to her feet as she rolled gnocchi for twelve. Then, because I am a very good friend, I burned a pear tart and moped about it.

I did get one thing right though, a spread of whipped feta with sweet and hot peppers that I think you're going to love. It was something of a December specialty - we made it and made it and ate it and ate it - and it's with us here in the new year, too. The fact is, whipping feta is a very smart thing to do. Feta is notoriously crumbly, but whipping it (or whirring it like crazy in a food processor, which this recipe counts as "whipping") makes it creamy and smooth. The sweet here is roasted red pepper (from a jar!) and the spicy is Aleppo pepper which adds a mild heat and, though this might just be me, a flavor like sun-dried tomatoes. I tasted this spread for the first time years ago at Oleana, a favorite Cambridge restaurant that I've mentioned here before. The chef, Ana Sortun, published the recipe in her first cookbook, Spice, which came out in 2006. Eli served it that year at my 26th birthday party, and we made it a handful of times after that, and then for some unfathomable and totally unjustifiable reason it fell off our radar for years. (Despite delighting over it time and again at the restaurant. We are sometimes not so bright.) Now that it's back, I'm not letting it out of my sight, and neither should you.

p.s. Halfway through writing this post I realized that today is the fourth anniversary of this blog. That's a nice chunk of years! Let's do some more. xo.

Whipped Feta with Sweet and Hot Peppers
Adapted from Spice by Ana Sortun

1 pound sheep's milk feta, drained and roughly crumbled 
2 medium red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped (I use jarred.)
2 teaspoons Aleppo chilies, plus a pinch for garnish
1 teaspoon Urfa chilies, plus a pinch for garnish
½ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil

Put everything in a mixing bowl and stir until the sweet and hot peppers coat the cheese. Transfer to a food processor fitted with a metal blade and purée for about 2 minutes, until very smooth and creamy. The mixture will be loose, but will firm up when chilled. Pour into a bowl or, as I do, a few ramekins, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the extra Aleppo and Urfa chilies and the paprika before serving.


Sylvie said...

Beautifully written post, and I think its a rare thing to sit in and enjoy something for what it is. Too many people strive after something constantly (myself included) and just being is something special.

Whipping feta sounds like a new method to try!

In the Farm Kitchen said...

"Happy tired". I love that.

london bakes said...

Happy new year Jess, I hope 2013 brings you all the happiness that you could want and more.

Very excited about the idea of whipped feta, this sounds like a perfect little bite.

Molly said...

What a year. What a happy tired year! 2013 is going to great. And hopefully include lots more feta spread. xo

Luisa said...

happy blogiversary! happy new year! i hope 2013 is grand for you! xo

Shira Cohen said...

I am loving your writing, and I have to agree with this: 2012 was hard in the way that the best things are hard. Yes, perhaps that's the nature of birthing so many wonderful and exciting ideas, especially one that turns into a little person! Cheers!

Elishag said...

Happy blogaversary. Happy to still be reading and eating with you - here's to many more!

Jess said...

Thanks, Sylvie. Hope your year is off to a great start. And yes, get on that feta whipping!

In the Farm Kitchen - Me too. (wink)

london bakes - And you! I think it's going to be a good one.

Molly - For you and me both, eh? Love you, lady.

Happy New Year, Luisa! Thinking of you, friend. xo.

Thanks so much, Shira. Yes. Exactly. We really must get our littles together in the new year. I say we demand an ABC duet! (Though Mia's more on a "row row row your boat" kick these days...")

Elisha - Thanks, my friend. How far we've come... Whew!

Suzi Banks Baum said...

Happy New Year Jess and Happy Anniversary. The feta spread is right up our fat free very flavorful alley here in GB, so I will give it a try. And about the pretzel smell, you remember it.

All my love to you and Eli and that chubby angel,

la domestique said...

Congrats on four years! I've decided if the word "whipped" is involved in a recipe title I immediately crave it, and the whipped feta with peppers sounds very, very good.

Rogue Unicorn said...

Happy New Year and happy birthday to Sweet Amandine.
(Can I come to all your parties? Your parties look awesome.)

Anonymous said...

Love the party maps, Jessica. Just love them.

Amy said...

I'm with In the Farm Kitchen -- love the concept of "happy tired."

anya said...

Happy fourth blog anniversary, Jess! You are a joy and treat to read.

Kasey said...

Hello, friend! One of my favorite things about NYE was reflecting back on 2012. Oh it flew by. And it was a challenging one. But so, so great. It felt good to enter 2013 with a full heart. I think we should always strive to be better but more than anything I think we should all try our darnest to enjoy these precious moments and most importantly, the people who are important to us. Cheers to 2013!