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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Poor Paula

I don't know how she does it- Does Paula Deen lay in bed thinking of how to gross out the public? Does she read old Velveeta cookbooks or Chez Wiz creations? There was a posting on www.seriouseats.com with a youtube attachment of a "dip" recipe that you would be "proud" to take to any party. Not only will the five ingredients clog your arteries but your disposal as well. I don't know about you but my friends would become seriously worried if I showed up with a vat of this stuff to go with saltines and club crackers.
Here goes-
1 stick butter (what the hell lets do it with salted marjorine)
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup full fat mayonaise
6oz jarred cheese
and for flavor-
1 t garlic powder.....
just blend and go and be the culinary belle of the ball!! ya'll...
Do you have any classically bad recipes in your archives?
Share and laugh

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Egg on Pizza? Try it you'll like it!!

I've recently been reading a thread about egg on pizza. The august intelligentsia's that were discussing this phenomena were trying to delve into the historical origin. Now I fully admit that I am not a collage professor nor do I ponder many whys and wherefores in the culinary world. I do read zillions of cookbooks and anything that mentions food.

With that said-egg on pizza seems to me to be a natural. I fantasized about my non-existent Italian grandmother who would forage for fresh eggs from our free range chickens, climb a ladder and cut down the drying prosciutto to slice paper thin pieces. She would send my fictitious brother Guido to the garden for sun warmed tomatoes and fragrant basil and parsley.There we were, sitting in the dimming light of our kitchen around the wood table covered with nicks and burns from previous generations. Our wood burning oven, stoked with wood we all had gathered was baking the pizza.What better healthy meal could this be?

It was Friday night at our house. A day that I set aside for "fun food". After my NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) suggested light food,-fish, chicken, rice- I suggested pizza. Having been on the road and eating with his sales crowd he mentioned having pizza the previous night. Not missing a marital beat however he said it could hardly compare to my homemade version. (you've got to love a smooth talker!!) At this point I hadn't told him of my burning urge to crack said egg on pizza and I thought it wise that he be lulled into thoughts of our usual Italian delight, sausage, mushroom, onion, and chiffonade basil.

My foodie neighbor and I call our favorite grocery store "church" and on Friday I crossed its threshold with a mission. Mumbling a litany of vegetables as I stroked them. "Ah... fresh peas!! they must go with something! and what's this a pile of fava beans?? Vidalia onions? Oh, my." But wait! I looked at my watch and realized that I couldn't make my own dough in time and I would have to buy fresh dough. Slipping into high gear I dashed the outer edges of church genuflecting and grabbing ingredients.

Only 6 thin slices of prosciutto, 3 ripe tomatoes, a bag of basil, 2 handfuls of crimini mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, pizza dough and away I went. I quickly unloaded the groceries at home and turned on our "pizza oven" (wondering how hot the oven ever got). And then the question-

"What kind of pizza are we having tonight?" I put on my best happy voice and launched into my quest for egg pizza. It was met with curiosity, a shrug, and when's dinner. Left alone with my ingredients I began my inner dialogue in earnest.

"What goes first? How to layer the ingredients? Should egg be whole and fried? Broken yolk? Scrambled? Cheese on top? Basil? Is the G## D###m oven hot yet?

Here are the answers to these burning questions and more...

I stretched out two pizza doughs into rectangles put thin ribbons of proscuitto on top, sliced tomatoes, random sliced mushrooms and very finely diced vidalia onions. Chopped parsley and basil next. Little orbs of fresh mozerella. I put the pizza in the oven for a couple of minutes to firm up then cracked the eggs on top. At the last minute I made the decision to break the yolk not trusting my oven to cook the egg before burning the dough.

The result? A very rich and filling dish with all of the components of an American breakfast. Served with salad, fruit, and wine we watched HBO's"Rome".
Hail Caesar! and Bon Appetit!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

What Would You Eat???

I was just going to brag about a lovely lunch that I had with my FF (Food Friend) when I thought, what the h**l, I’ll just drag and click their menu to my blog and let you feast your eyes on what we had to pick from! We have three simple rules to Lady’s Lunch. 1. Commence at 1pm. 2. We share what we order. 3. A bottle of wine picked out by said FF and I guess 4. Lots of scintillating conversation (gabbing). The Items I have **are the ones we picked to gorge on.


fresh mint, preserved lemon and fried chick-peas

red wine braised bacon, spinach, croutons and kalamata olive aïoli

garlic, sun dried tomatoes, saffron and grilled bread

toasted hazelnuts, balsamic vinaigrette and currants

bay scallops, arugula and lemon brown butter

naval oranges, pistachios and goat cheese


gruyère, fried egg, aïoli and house made chips

crushed hertha potatoes, sorrel purée and capers

your kitchen garden rapini, arugula and shaved ricotta salata

saffron-fennel ragoût, potatoes and meyer lemon aïoli

your kitchen garden cardoons, kale and almonds

bacon braised kale, cipolline onions, gremolata and parmesan

house made slaw and sauce gribiche

beecher’s cheddar and fresh arugula

fennel, radishes, toasted almonds and aïoli

creamy garlic dressing, balsamic roasted red onions, capers and parmesan

cracked pepper focaccia bun, dijon aïoli, garlic confit and hand cut fries

As our eyes lit on each dish and we mentally tasted them it was very hard to decide what we wanted to spend real calories on. This isn’t one of those iceberg lettuce ice tea female lunches this is a no holds barred grease filled feeding frenzy with no apologies and we have a blast!! Now I put menus in two categories. The first is a menu that you cross off what you don’t want and order from the one or two items that might interest you. The second menu like the one above is a gustative challenge. As I say in my monthly book reviews (www.ingoodtastestore.com, click gourmet store then cookbook reviews)- Read! Eat! Enjoy!! The Queen Has Spoken

Friday, May 02, 2008

A Jiggle on the Table

My NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) and I have a food couple that we get together with from time to time and indulge and imbibe with, it's swell. My girlfriend is generous with her presents and when we go out to lunch she delves into her copious purse and often presents me with a "treasure". Before Easter it was a crouching rabbit Jell-O mold. Interesting. It sat on my kitchen counter vying for space with mail, magazines, and newspapers until...

We were invited for Easter dinner at said friends home. Then the BOB (burst of brilliance) happened! I would make a Jell-O Easter bunny for the table!! Now when a B.O.B. occurs it is like fireworks going off- perhaps it is an LSD flashback that we were all threatened to have (into eternity) when we did pharmaceuticals in the '70's. It felt more like evil glee...

Well, what color should ol' Thumper be? Since he would be sitting on a bed of greens I went with your basic red. I did have fleeting fantasy's of layering colors, adding chunks of fruit etc. but truth be told I am not a Jell-O Queen and my expertise is limited. As a child, Jell-o never passed The Princess’s lips in our house.

I really wanted to unmold it before we left but my more rational side prevailed. When we got to our friends house, I shooed everyone out of the kitchen and commenced to the unmolding. As usual it was easier said than done. Ol' Thumper didn't shimmer out in one plop and when I shook the mold he broke in two!! So being the ever resourceful chef I shored him up for a viewing. He glowed and shimmered with delight as the candles bounced through his red transparent body.

Now I feel I'm ready for a real competition- The Bumpas and Parr Jelly Competition (no joke!this was a side article on www.seriouseats.com). So if you are in England around May 23rd you can see the competition or if you are there July 4 you can partake of a jelly dinner. If not take a gander at www.jellymongers.co.uk. Oh, those Brits!

This summer I think I will banish fresh flowers and delve into colorful jiggles for my centerpieces. I have found a new food group to master! Watch out Martha Stewart!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Official 2008 Horseradish Goggles

Hard times take a hard man to conquer and that was the predicament that my NSSP found himself in preparing for Passover. There are two jobs in the Passover dinner that only a man can do. The first is to make the sweet charoses a mixture of nuts, apples, cinnamon, and wine. Gently chopped and blended as if making a soufflé.

The second is to make the moror a job right up there with slicing onions for french onion soup. I had purchased the horseradish root the day before. A long withered shaft that looked worthy of moror-tification. My NSSP started peeling the outer skin away and chopping it into Cuisinart chunks to fit down the feed tube in its first step to be moror-tified. All of a sudden NSSP jumped back with incredulous surprise! The horseradish fumes were attacking his eyes and nose with a vengeance leaving him impotent and unable to finish his second task. It became apparent that the horseradish was mightier than the man.

I looked up from my various cooking projects and realized a woman had to take the moror by the horns and put NSSP quickly back in control of his projects, otherwise he would be left carousing with charoses next year and I would have a moror-ly addition to my endless list.

A B.O.B. (Burst of Brilliance) entered my mind. Could he possibly wear test a pair of virginal Speedo goggles thus protecting his peepers? As NSSP leapt around the kitchen trying to wave off the fumes (and spreading them throughout), I grabbed the goggles and fastened them onto his tear soaked face.

A smile crept over his face as he whipped his spatula around the Cuisinart bowl finishing his moror. It turned out to be a heady batch worthy of making anyone’s nose turn red.

Now I know you can buy onion goggles but these stylish peeper protectors are built for multiple uses. Who can resist a world turned blue?

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cafeteria Cuisine

It is hardly worth admitting, but I’m always fascinated with people’s consumption of food. I stand in mesmerizingly rapt attention when a grocery cart is emptied.

How many people in the family? Is this a pick-me-up (as in men’s shopping styles) or coupon laden decisions? Then I look at my prospective purchases and try to put them into the categories I have devised. I waste many hours with this mental masturbation.

I recently found myself visiting the Princess. Living in a sorority at a fairly well known University is light years away from my own urban collegiate experience. But one thing is a constant when leaving the nest and that is eating at the union cafeteria. Now “in my day” the colleges were still trying to force feed us nutritional meals. There were ice cream scoops of potatoes, palm size slabs of meatloaf,steam table vegetables, and gobs of hotel pan cobblers in red (cherry) or beige (apple).

I remember calling home and telling my mom that I had tried Brussels sprouts for the first time. She shuttered with disgust replying that the reason we never had them at home was because she was loathe to eat them. Little did she know that that’s the way I feel about lima beans today and they have never darkened a family plate in my house.

Now the cafeteria’s of the new millennium is all about not only feeding the next generation but making money as well. This has banished Brussels sprouts and introduced Sbarro, Dunkin’ Donuts, and deep fried nirvana to our acne dotted young adults. I have the distinct feeling that “nutritious” isn’t part of the equation.

What do they eat far away from home with no supervision and just a growling stomach to guide them? I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat at a table toward the front of the cafeteria. As I got my bearings I noticed the clichés and demographics of the patrons. I had plopped myself in the Asian section. Be-spectacled Chinese gentleman were laughing and telling stories. Two Korean contingents were trying to write a passionate paper threading random sentences into an “A” worthy treatise. Caucasians and other nationalities dotted the cafeteria in random clusters with computer bags and books. Audio plugs kept the rumble at bay for these students.

No one drank milk I’m sad to say Tropicana had to fight for a spot. This is a Pepsi cafeteria but I saw more students drinking blue beverages and bottled this and that than a big slurpie of caramelized water. There were boxed salads consumed but garnished with deep fried chicken fingers. Mozzarella sticks, French fries and chicken fingers was a three course delight for the males. Ladies liked wraps and everyone had bags of “healthy” Sun Chips.

I think I sat there about an hour before I saw a sandwich and a PIECE OF FRUIT!! on a gentleman’s tray. I felt like dashing up to him and kissing him on the cheek as well as e mailing his parents to tell them what a good son they raised!

The most curious eating habit I observed was by the Korean students. Gazing at their trays I noticed various Italian dishes and huge rolls. The couple that sat closest to me, a waif thin lady and rectangular flip-flopped male companion had gone through the Sbarro line. Both with some kind of pale yellow bottled tea, a Himalaya of pasta for him and rafts of ravioli for her. The plates were anchored with a zeppelin shaped roll that was the size of a five year old’s foot.

Just as I was pondering the Asian affinity for Italian cuisine, I noticed a wonderful cultural merging. The gentleman absently twisted his pasta but somehow didn’t fill his fork. He hunkered down scooped his fork and slurped his noodles as if he was home. Slurp after slurp his red coated noodles slithered down his gullet. Each time he swallowed I couldn’t help but inwardly smile. The young lady used knife and fork to delicately cut her ravioli and they both left their plates spotless.

Now my bigger pondering is how are these young people going to turn into the next foodies? Brussels sprouts and lima beans will become extinct and lettuce will be the only edible green.

Any answers?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Smell You Never Forget

I don’t know if any of you are, were, or fantasize to be in the food industry but there is one smell that you never forget. When I was growing up as a little girl in Iowa, I lived in Waterloo, home of Rath Packing Company. It was a meat processing plant that belched out its own unique aroma. Moving next to Deerfield, Illinois we lived in the home of Sara Lee. Now we all like the smell of cinnamon and sticky buns but multiply that by pounds and add 8-10 hours a day and – you get the point. Moving to Taiwan with its open sewers and meat markets conjure up heady memories but nothing beats the unique smell of old restaurant side towels and clothes.

That unique smell of room temperature towels packed together waiting for the laundry truck has been lurking in my data bank for 20+ years and has been awakened through a new job I have taken. I am now doing sales for a little deli a bit north and east of where I live. It is submerged in a wasteland of industrial parks with workers needing a quick bite mid-day. The back of the restaurant is generic and unremarkable. The office equally so except there is room for 3 desks. Right next to the door to the office are two laundry bags slowly gathering linen and emitting that unique smell.

It’s not a smell you can put your nose on. Not really animal, vegetable, or mineral but a layered stench that is created after the said towel has lasted an 8-10 hour shift. It’s not rancid or overly abhorrent. I felt the odor went with the culinary turf, like burning your arms on the convection oven or nicking your fingernails with a knife. These are not towels used as we do in home kitchens for days on end. They arrive with the shift and are cast away at the end.

Side towels are a cost going out and in many restaurants I worked in, you were given 2 per shift. This meant you never let those precious towels out of your sight, never got them wet (or you couldn’t pick up hot pans-forgetabout the crud incrusted oven mitts), never let anyone- especially the chef- borrow them. At the end of the shift- believe me you wanted to shed those towels. I remember at the end of some busy nights it felt like the towels had gained weight. They hung fully impregnated with food ooze.

So why am I waxing poetic about the bag of aging linens and its aroma? Because dear reader it was a smell I thought I would never encounter again. With first whiff I was back at the line remembering the meals I had created, the ache of my feet and butter slick on my forearms. It reminded me of pure joy that can only be felt when you remove your armor with the rest of the pirates and go out for a drink.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cookbooks for a Deserted Island

I was just reading a blog entry by Mark Bittman requesting responses to update his 50 favorite indispensable cookbooks and it found me gazing around my office. It also got me thinking what would be mine and perhaps yours (if anyone is actually reading my nuggets of knowledge). So step up to the plate and interact with me and your choices.

Now this deserted island does have a phenomenal grocery store (lets dream big!), fabulous wine and if your dream allows a male or female counterpart to share your meals and?? with.

The first installments of books I have chosen are for the pure enjoyment of cooking. Since there isn't much to do on the island, I would have lots of time (and a perfectly equipped kitchen) to play.

My backbone or go to book is The New Making of a Cook by Madeleine Kamman. She is an unsung hero of the cooking world and this book is brilliant.

On an antique mission I picked up Roger Verge's Vegetables in the French Style. His recipes read like French vegetable porn and are tasty too!

There will have to be a grill on this island and The Thrill of the Grill by Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby is my grillin' bible.

For new and intriguing techniques I discovered Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard and I plan to master his "pleasures of plastic wrap".

Not possessing a baking mentality but wanting to give sweet to the sweet, Dorie Greenspan's Baking From my home to yours will help me whip up delectable desserts.

Maybe we would just want a quick cookie or bar. In that case Rose's Christmas Cookies will be cracked open. Ever since I had my catering company in the '80's I have used this book annually.

Now what would you bring to this little piece of paradise?
Please leave me a comment and let's start talking!

Where's Ruth when we need her?

Short of reading recipes, the second most popular food reading venue is restaurant reviews. These voyeuristic snippets are free, have no calories and can salivate you imagination. My favorite restaurant reviewer is Ruth Reichl. Prior to becoming the editor of Gourmet magazine, author of three memoirs and her fingers in the pies of many other projects; Reichl honed her skills as a restaurant reviewer. I became addicted to her prose when she wrote for the New York Times (type in her name in the NYT search engine and read away!).

Every Wednesday “we” went out. She sat across from me and we ate and talked. I always felt sated after one of her reviews and thoroughly enjoyed our meals. I still read restaurant reviews but most of the reviews these days are about as exciting as reading ReMax descriptions of homes for sale.

Recently our newspaper had a review of a new Italian restaurant. Located in a suburb of our fair city; it yearned for unique twists and lasting impressions. What stood out for me were the descriptions wielded by the reviewer’s pen.

Only Captain Kidd would want to eat a pasta dish that was “admirably seagoing”.

“True to trattorias, the menu hits its highest points in the pasta section.” Then there is a description of gnocchi and risotto.

I also don’t think of my desserts as being “friendly” or “firmly flavored” and what about an “endearingly crunchy top”? It just makes me want to pinch it and say “how cute!!”

I know one must try to hook the reader- bring them back for more verbal bantering- but let’s step back and think about what we are talking about. Where’s Ruth Reichl when we need her?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Check out this Menu!

From My Dear Friends at Meals for You a special menu. My jaw dropped down to the keyboard when I read the recipes and thought you would do the same.
Nothing makes my heart race faster than cornbread stuffing mix, that old standby Cream of Mushroom Soup, and grated cheese.

Oops! did I mention the little sausage boners that get wrapped in puff pastry and for dessert a gut busting Cinnamon Bread Pudding with whipped cream optional? Cant' wait to fire up the oven and feed my happy family a memorable meal...

Golden Pea and Onion Bake, Sausage Rolls, Cinnamon Bread Pudding
Prep Cook Cals Fat Fat% Chol Pro Carb Fiber Sugar Sod.
45 min 40 min 776 34.8g 40% 195mg 25.4g 93.9g 6.0g 44.0g 1525mg
view detailed nutritional information
Dietary Exchanges: Milk: 0.4, Vegetable: 2.3, Fruit: 0.7, Bread: 3.2, Lean meat: 1.5, Fat: 5.4, Sugar: 1.0, Very lean meat protein: 0.0

Golden Pea and Onion Bake
Prep: 15 min, Cook: 30 min.
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups packaged cornbread stuffing mix
  • 2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped or 2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 3 large onions, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt 2 Tbs. butter and combine with stuffing and parsley. Set aside. Melt remaining butter in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions 4-5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in soup, milk and peas. Spoon into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle cheese and stuffing mixture over soup mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until hot.

This recipe serves 6 people. Due to the nature of this recipe, it adjusts the number of servings in multiples of 6 only.

Per serving: calories 403, fat 19.4g, 43% calories from fat, cholesterol 43mg, protein 13.1g, carbohydrates 45.9g, fiber 4.8g, sugar 10.6g, sodium 1158mg, diet points 9.2.

Sausage Rolls
Prep: 20 min, Cook: 15 min.
  • sheets frozen puff pastry, about 9 ounces total
  • 1/2 lb. bulk pork sausage

Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Unfold pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 12x10 inch rectangle. Cut into 3 strips along fold marks. Divide sausage into thirds. Roll each into a cylinder the length of the pastry. Place on edge of pastry strip. Starting at the long side, roll up. Press edges to seal. Cut each roll into 12 1 inch slices. Place 3-1/2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden.

This recipe serves 12 people. Due to the nature of this recipe, it adjusts the number of servings in multiples of 12 only.

Per serving: calories 79, fat 7.6g, 88% calories from fat, cholesterol 13mg, protein 2.2g, carbohydrates 0.2g, fiber 0.0g, sugar 0.2g, sodium 126mg, diet points 2.7.

Cinnamon Bread Pudding
Prep: 10 min, Cook: 40 min.
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon bread, cubed
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bread in greased 2-quart shallow baking dish. Sprinkle raisins over bread. Combine eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Pour over bread. Bake 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream.

This recipe serves 6 people. Due to the nature of this recipe, it adjusts the number of servings in multiples of 6 only.

Per serving: calories 224, fat 6.6g, 26% calories from fat, cholesterol 139mg, protein 7.8g, carbohydrates 34.6g, fiber 0.6g, sugar 32.2g, sodium 109mg, diet points 5.4.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oh, Paula! We're Sorry You're not the only Killer!

A few weeks ago in www.seriouseats.com there was a snippet about Paula Deen trying to kill y'all with fat and love. Her demure "Lady's Lunch Burger" was a delicate combination of sliced glazed donuts (maybe this recipe will help the floundering Krispy Kreme empire), fried egg, hamburger, bacon, and parsley for color.

Today I found out that this donut/burger combo is sold at Mulligan's Tavern in Decatur, GA. Their Krispy Kreme delight is simpler to make just a humble bacon cheeseburger between those grilled donut cheeks. You can see a picture of this as well as the top 10 best foods to eat when drunk at college at www.seriouseats.com

Watch out Bubba Here I come!

Preserve it!

There is one element to the “sustainable” bandwagon that people are forgetting.


Throughout history eating was to survive. When food was plenty people gorged when scarce-you get it. In the mean time societies learned ways to preserve food for those lean winter months. It was part of the rhythm of life. We have gotten sloppy about preservation. We now let the grocery stores do it for us as we demand a wide variety of food all the time.

I think there is a balance between buying fresh and buying stupid. If you buy green beans, asparagus, you name it, at its peak in season and preserve it- even in a freezer; there is no reason to buy imported products out of your own growing season. Now if you have used up your last broccoli and must dip into the traveling food chain do think about where it comes from- closer is better and make a note to up your garden quota or farmer’s market purchase. Unless you are delirious for grapes in February, nix those orbs from Mexico and hold out for summer.

Preserve realistically. I’m not proposing to turn your kitchen into a Del Monte processing plant. If you don’t eat jam then don’t preserve it! Tomatoes? You betcha-Pickles- o.k. get out that Food savor and shrink those bags of peas for risi bisi. How virtuous!

It’s all about our rhythm of food and life. That’s why we have four seasons, to embrace the changing food and appreciate our bounty.

Stop stuffing your freezer with has beens and dribs and drabs. Instead, fill it with product to play with!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Terms of Endearment

No, this isn’t going to be a late for Valentine’s rumination. As you know after 20+ years of (add your own adjective) marriage couples learn how to communicate. Sometimes it is to goad or challenge. Sometimes it is to woo or make the mate laugh.

When I was a new teenager I spent a lot of time with my Aunt and Uncle. We lived overseas and when they were together my aunt would pour over magazines and drawings dreaming of retiring to their house in Maine. She would snip and file while my uncle would read. When he wanted her attention he would call her, Pigeon, or Pidge. It was so intimate and cute. I had never heard of anything like that before. Now my parents laughed and chatted as well but all I remember from my dim recesses is a shortened version of their regular names. And of course when they were referring to the other in front of my sister or myself it was always “YOUR Father,” or “YOUR Mother.”

My NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) and I don’t really have cute names for each other. I will call him by his Jewish name or a new nickname based on a character in a book I read. For me there is a shortened version of my name that was once a song (unfortunately as a male).But he does have a phrase that always melts my heart and spurs me onto cooking one more meal.

After commuting home from his upstairs office, NSSP wanders into the kitchen and sniffs. Looking at the converging of food and heat he boldly asks, “What’s for dinner?” I put on my happy face and recite the menu du jour.

He smiles and says,” That’s exactly what I was thinking of having for dinner.”’

And that dear friend is what marriage is all about. A bit of blarney and love served forth.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Smart Idea or Dumb Idea- You Decide

I found an interesting article in the Wednesday, New York Times (but then again what isn’t interesting in that paper!) titled “Your Waiter Tonight…Will Be the Chef.” The cover picture that accompanies it is of one of those skinny bedraggled chefs who really should stay in the back instead of serving his food.

I know the eating public embraced the fly on the wall concept of dining in restaurant kitchens a few years ago. That craze flew right by me. Yes, it would be great to watch a famous chef (real one, neither Mama Paula nor Sister Rachel) but kitchens and silk dresses don’t go together. I want to be pampered, not smelling of a fish fry or seared tenderloin at the end of the meal.

Now the craze is for the chef to go to the market, (thank you Martha Stewart) serve, mop, and wash his own dishes and be creative on the side to win loyal customers. I know money’s tight but I think creativity wanes when one puts on too many hats. The article mentioned that when service was busy at one restaurant they stopped answering the phone. What is wrong with this picture? A prospective customer calls to find out what is being served, how long the wait, etc. and willing to spend buckaroos at your establishment and can’t get through because the restaurant hasn’t hired a front man? It strikes me as cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Kitchens are run as a dictatorship. Top to bottom and bottom working up to the top. Its tough love. You can’t have everyone running around with a mile high toque in charge. “Everyone who works here is a chef, and everyone is also a dishwasher,” Schwa Chef Michael Carlson bragged. What bunk. The idea of all for one and one for all doesn’t get the mussels cleaned or grease trap unplugged. Remember the Cultural Revolution in China? That was one smart move by Chairman Mao.

I know there can be hostility between the front and the back of the house with no one liking the bartenders who come in late cut lemons and limes and get great tips. But you sign up for your own poison. I loved being a cook. All tables were dupes and all I cared about was taking down the dupe and replacing it with another. I couldn’t do the waitron’s job and cook at the same time. The waitron segued between my little piece of paradise and the world beyond. When it was done we all kissed up to the bartender for our drinks.

I also ponder what are these chefs’ com waiters going to wear? If they are preparing the food it will get slopped on them. White outfits are magnets for red sauce. Again if I’m paying for a nice creative meal I don’t want to see dirty side towels or beurre rouge splattered coats. For all of the money they are saving on staff they will incur a large cleaning bill.

The two best quotes, in the article, justifying truly good waitrons were-“A really sensational waiter is transparent,” and “I tell my chefs to concentrate on their food…the waiters are there to be ambassadors, and they are trained to take command of the customer as soon as they sit down.” Nothing sets the tone of a meal better than having a good waiter working for a big tip.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pasta,Black Beans, Turnips, Oh, My!

From My Meals for You Website-
A menu that leaves my taste buds astounded.


Herbed Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs / Black Beans Tuscanese / Honeyed Baby Turnips / Banana Grape Cup with Yogurt

Squeeze with Precision and Decorative Pride!

In my continuing disgust of the dumbing down of food preparation, I’ve been really steamed about the use of plastic bags. I’m sure the Food Network has stock in Glad Bags otherwise how can they justify the gleeful use for marinating food, or better yet rolling out pie dough in a plastic bag. There also was a scene that I watched where the food entertainer threw all of her guacamole ingredients into a- you guessed it- plastic bag and smashed them all together! Snip a corner and squeeze that baby out. I can’t tell you how disgusting guac looks when squeezed in plastic! What is so hard about dirtying a flipping bowl and mashing the avocado and friends with a fork or one of those new fangled guacamole gadgets?

My personal favorite is the baggie turned pastry bag. The humble pastry bag comes in many guises. It can be waterproofed cotton, nylon, polyester, and yes plastic (the difference being the thickness of the bag). Its purpose is to attractively extrude semi-liquid food onto another food. Simply put, ice cakes, fill devilled eggs, or twice baked potatoes. Now I will admit before the plastic bag impostor craze that I did in a pinch use a plastic bag but that was only after forgetting my pastry bags at a catering job. Never again.

Over Christmas this past season I watched a cake decorating sequence where a female TV announcer was given a plastic bag filled with chocolate icing and told to broadcast the icing across the cake. This poor hapless woman was nervous, squeezed too hard and a huge blob of icing landed unceremoniously in the middle of the cake. Icing interuptus. The “chef” laughed and spread the goop around and I’m sure the TV announcer will never do that trick again.

Pastry bags won’t break the bank and the disposable ones make it even easier for the occasional squeezer. If you can have sharp knives, All Clad pans, granite counters and stainless steel appliances; why the hay short change your decorative possibilities?

Then there is the tip issue. Pastry tips come in many sizes and shapes and truly add that gourmet touch to plated mashed potatoes. They just don’t work with plastic bags. They also are reasonably priced last forever (they do have a way of wandering around the kitchen drawer), and make great squiggles out of the most mundane stuff. Don’t forget to buy a coupling- a little two pieced affair that when put on the outside of the bag holds the tip so you can change the tip without emptying the bag every time.

There is technique to using a pastry bag but it isn’t one of those rocket science things like beurre blanc emulsions or choux paste. The important thing is to have a bag generous enough (don’t go skimpy or just right- it won’t do) to twist the top and with one hand on the twisted top and the other as a guide it’s just squeeze and go. When you stop squeezing at the top the goop stops coming out, even Rachel Ray would say, “How easy is that guys!!!!!." If you use a square plastic bag you won’t get the same twist at the top and without a pastry tip the bag can easily hemorrhage and splat.

In a perfect world television chefs would stop promoting their knives, pots and pans, and other logoed items and TEACH a simple real technique that Jane and Joe cook could have fun with and wow their friends. Oh, well I can dream, but in the mean time-

Buy your pastry bag today and squeeze away!

Friday, March 14, 2008

How do YOU eat a pretzel?

It doesn’t matter if the pretzels are large or small, thick or thin. I’m talking about the kind of pretzel with the Mickey Mouse ears and a peace sign in the middle.

I eat and savor them the same way. Take a large pretzel. There usually are one or two nubs where the ‘peace sign’ over steps its boundaries. Off they go in two nibbles. Then it is time to knock off loose salt and gaze upon the curves of the Mickey Mouse ears. Right/left, left/right it doesn’t matter. What does matter is not breaking any of the peace sign sticks within. Just the curves please with eyes closed. If you happen to break any part before its time, the game is over and you might as well inhale the pretzel as quickly as possible and put yourself out of the misery of loosing the pretzel eating challenge.

Have you surmised that with each nibble the deconstructed pretzel is getting more fragile? The next munch takes finesse. Since the initial nubs were eaten off the emerging fan the fan arch is unstable at this juncture it is important to swallow and gently bite at each end of the arch. If you get this far you are holding an upside down peace sign. Right/left, left/right, two nibbles leave you with the stem and you are done!

Forgetabout the sticks their no fun!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My Dirty Mind meets Crate and Barrel

I can’t help it. I have a dirty side to my mind. Usually it’s kept in check, lurking but not coming to the fore.. Maybe it was the swinging drug induced ‘70’s (no I did not inhale…) or my divorcé lifestyle of the ‘80’s that developed this part but truth be told I owe my slutty mind to the restaurant business.

Nothing gets a bored chefflete’s creative juices going than trying to peel a carrot with two legs or gazing at a green pepper with an embryo nestled inside. Then there is fondling sausages, creating little boners with pig intestine and wrapping cooked sausage in puff pastry and calling it saucisson. Enough said.

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite stores (this is not a plug!!) Crate and Barrel. Through the years they have been my go to store for reasonably priced serving dishes that if chipped could be sensibly replaced. Always clean styles that meld with any type of entertaining and catering.

I was on a mission to buy. My NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) had been wear testing our china (see www.artoeat.blogspot.com, archives 2006, August 10) last weekend and discovered that the plates break when met with the top of our French press. I believed him and didn’t try the experiment. So here I was with my arm twisted in back, forced to go to Crate and Barrel! I knew with certitude that at the end of my foray, no matter how long I stroked their products I would be relieved of $$ and sent home with a Crate and Barrel bag.

I was jubilant and a quiver. I didn’t go full frontal stimulus and barge through the front door but slipped in the side door unannounced. That Crate and Barrel must have known I was coming because they had changed their displays (they love to tease and entice!). Placed at eye level were the most uniquely shaped porcelain dishes I have seen in a long time (www.crateandbarrel.com , cuisine dinnerware- cuisine onda bowls). There were sublime rectangular serving plates breathlessly waiting for appetizers or petite desserts, square dinner plates, and serving bowls with lids crying to be filled with wild mushroom soup or chiffonade Brussels sprouts. In mid coo my eyes fell on a little bowl. It was as if a rectangle (think credit card but bigger) had a perfect center sucked out of it. The sides were flat and stretched out from the indentation.

My culinary mind was wildly wrapping around the plating possibilities and justifications to bring them home when…I turned the first little bowl over and noticed a knob-no- my slutty mind kicked in and saw-a-nipple. This bowl was too good to be true. Next I saw its larger version and again I turned it over. Would it also have a protuberance? Yes!! It looked like a pregnant belly. True dish porn.

I really don’t know what food would be most attractive in the concave indentation. Maybe a pudding or blanc mange. I would love to set a buffet and turn these bowls over and scatter them about in a randy tease.

Dinner anyone?

Monday, March 03, 2008

What Does Your Little Voice Say?

What are your first thoughts when you wake up? Do you think about that lays ahead? What you did last night? How quickly you can dash to the bathroom? Or is it food? It will be no surprise to you that my first thoughts are about the food to come. It starts as a whisper while I open the curtains of my mind.

Once done with my morning ablution I hurl myself downstairs between running cats and an excited dog. My stomach is still sleeping as I feed the four footed kids and put the coffee on. Opening the fridge for the first time in twelve hours I gaze at the array of leftovers and condiments. My inner voice pipes up again reminding me of what I ate yesterday and its first thoughts on how to eat today.

Intent on my coffee and letting the dog in and out, in and out, in and out; I push the little whining voice aside, grind my beans and wait sluggishly for the water to boil. As if in a trance I consume the first cup with no more thoughts of the future. Then the little voice pipes up. This time in a duet with my stomach that has decided to add its own bass rumblings.

“All right,” I say, “What is it to be?” I think in basic units, starch, protein, fruit, and vegetable. Remember the four food groups of yore before we started scaling the Pyramids? I find it easier to remember a four item check list especially in the morning. This is where the little voice gets excited. It is its first food decision of the day and one that will set the groundwork for the rest of my eating. My stomach silently waits for the voice’s decision.

Since my last meal was pasta, my little voice suggests a protein. I open the fridge and gaze at the eggs both hard boiled and raw.

“Not today my stomach, you might go out to lunch and need that cholesterol.”

“What about egg beaters or cottage cheese?”

“Those are better choices, and what about a little fresh tangelo and a slice of Rycrisp?”

My little voice fades away knowing that my stomach will be fed fuel and I have two more meals to eat.

At lunch time my little voice is a bit louder and more demanding. This is when the decisions will directly affect “What to have for dinner”. Should I continue on my four pronged food assault with a bit more protein and some V-8? The bigger question is what will trigger the happy meal spot in my brain to make me feel satisfied mentally and physically so there will be no snacking before dinner.

Added to the mix is a trip to the club which squelches the little voice. My body screams out “I AM HEALTHY!! I CAN EAT LUNCH!! SHUT UP LITTLE VOICE!!” So with that in mind I cast my mind as if I was fly fishing toward different eating establishments to figure out what would be the most satisfying food, environment, and price to pay.

“Not so fast,” my little voice pipes up, “you have pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, green beans, sauerkraut, and applesauce that you were planning for dinner, so just cool your caloric jets my gal and stay focused.”

I try to stay upbeat and optimistic about my options but that damn little voice has pulled the imaginary rug from under my culinary feet. “Okay, can I have a half tuna sandwich or sliced turkey on rye?”

“That’s better my human,” she says as she slips silently in the background again.

Life continues with errands, laundry, and dog walking. At 5pm my dog loudly barks; explaining that it is time for his snackies. The kittens erupt looking for snacks as well and attention.

By now my half a tuna sandwich, carrot wedge, and pickle have long ago rumbled down my digestive track leaving room for dinner. My little voice has awakened and rounded up a chorus from the bass stomach grumbles to the soprano melodies of the creative side of my brain. It is hard for me to think straight with this cacophony swirling around so I pour a glass of wine and the voices subside into a soothing melody.

As I pull out the various ingredients for my planned meal another voice is heard from. This is the little creative side that joyously pipes up every time I look at food. “Do you really just want a hum drum pork meal? Do you need that comfort today or would you like to take a trip to Asia with a stir fry and Hello Kitty made rice? Remember we had mashed potatoes a couple of days ago and you did exercise so perhaps a crisp potato pancake or that risotto recipe that looked tasty. I just can’t see eating sauerkraut right now so let’s nix that one. Anyway it is a bit salty- remember the high blood pressure. We’ll keep the applesauce and how about a dry sauté on those green beans- you’re trying to master that technique.”

I feel the creative voice clap its hands as it spins a web around my ingredients making me happy to cook and eat the meal. “But what are we doing with the pork again? I’m confused as the creative voice happily pirouettes demanding risotto rice, stock, panko soy sauce, shallots, and Parmesan cheese.

I am just a vehicle to prepare sustenance for the rest of my body but now my taste buds have started to weigh in. “A touch of lemon, some thyme, are we up to mustard today? Should we stay Italian? Do I want to taste green beans or how about some asparagus folded into the risotto at the last minute.”

Plastic vegetable bags are riddling my counter and crowding my cutting board. I still haven’t picked out the knife I’m going to use tonight nor given it a few strokes on the steel.

I take another sip of wine and put a damper on my mental crew. I decide on the knife, for old time’s sake I reach for my 10” Sabatier carbon steel and slowly run it over the steel. The sound of knife and steel rubbing against each other helps me focus on the final details and the order to prepare dinner.

Pots and pans come out, a splash of this and that. A grate and a chop, all is coming together when I realize there is calm in my production and the last ingredient of the meal must be decided. What dishes, glassware, and utensils will I use? I open my cupboards and stare at the options. Do I want to use my mindless everyday or would it be fun to go retro with Russell Wright? Do I feel black and white today or circular with my Manhattan glass? Another sip and the decision is made to do Russell.

The table is set, candles are lit and music is on. The dish is plated, the mess is- well let’s say I turn my back on it and eat in the dining room. I pour water and reach for a clean wine glass. Emitting a sigh I can sit down and enjoy the best meal of the day. My voices are sated. My happy meal spot pats me on the shoulder and says, “Well done, you’ve fed me well.”

Until tomorrow when I wake up to my little voice and new decisions.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

For Once in Your Life

The first wild mushrooms I encountered were dried porcini’s in a cooking class. We made veal scaloppini with a reduced cream porcini sauce. It was ridiculously easy to make. Pour the cream in a pot. Re-constitute the mushrooms in Madeira strain chop add to the cream and reduce by half. I then graduated to dried morels. Now, living in the Pacific Northwest I have moved up to fresh porcini’s, morels, and recently matsutakes (which are to the Japanese what truffles are to the French).

Truffles have always lingered in the deep recesses of my mind. They were the imaginary ghosts of the fungi world. Expensive, short season and not found in your basic A&P. Any impassioned food person had to try them and love them. It was required. But truffles eluded me. It wasn’t until I started to circle expensive food items that I finally “got” truffles. As with champagne and caviar, truffles are acquired. You have to slow down and turn yourself over to the experience itself. This isn’t pork barbecue the hits you between the eyes and you are bowled over into a lusty culinary orgasm. Some of the classic preparations are only sensory vehicles to turn on your mouth. Risotto, soft scrambled eggs glide the truffle taste around your tongue. A shaving here a shaving there, it’s all about awakening your taste buds to the heady aroma of this delicacy. Close your eyes and give way to the taste.

Champagne for me is all about the size of the bubbles, how fast they race to the top of the glass and their effervescent feel as they explode in my mouth. Using the perfect glass for the bubbles to race up and most importantly the right way of opening the bottle adds to the champagne experience. None of this flamboyant twisting of the cork so the champagne explodes all over you or is soaked up in a towel. Just a very slight twist of the cork to loosen it and then it is all bottle action. Holding the cork perfectly still with one hand and a thumb in the bottom well and fingers gripping the bottle at the other end it is twist, twist, twist until there is a slight “puff” sound as if a woman has taken an intake of breath when she has seen something particularly beautiful. And with that, the champagne is poured into chilled glasses and drunk. If a toast is to be made clink the glass at the bottom where there is liquid not at the top where there is a greater chance of chipping the glass.

Caviar? Those plump tapioca shaped orbs, when pushed by the tongue to the roof of the mouth are all about squish and a delicate hint of fish and saltwater taste. It is a perfect two dimensional taste that isn’t about gorging into bliss but about a very sexy eating experience. The whole ritual can be charged with accoutrement's. Caviar on ice, mother of pearl spoons, little blini’s and cream cheese to transport those vessels of taste. These vehicles melt away once a dollop of caviar hits the roof your mouth.

What do these three delicacies have in common? You can’t make a whole meal of the single item, you will go seriously into debt to satisfy your habit, and halfway to Debtors prison with mouth gorged in sensory delight you will realize there is nothing better in the world and you have experienced perfection.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Vickie Viking Fantasy

When I decided to upgrade my Kitchen Aid mixer to something more powerful I fell in love with Vickie. How could I pass up her glowing red color, 7 quart bowl,and little rolling wheels in the back. She can delicately whip one egg white into submission or roll up her sleeves and knead 3 loaves of bread. She is my go to girl for power in the kitchen.

Shortly after Vickie came into my life I was holding court in our kitchen with my NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) and two of our neighbors. We do this regularly discussing various male and female views on subjects. I introduced Vickie to our neighbors and we all looked at her with wonder.

The four of us started to fantasize what Vickie would look like in "real" life. The women saw a Nurse Ratchet/blond pigtailed woman. Competent, strong, and no-nonsense. The Mars boys saw Vickie as a shapely bikinied blond ( at least we agreed on her hair color) with flashing blue eyes in need of rescuing.

Now folks, take a gander at this gal- what do you think?
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Slather Me with Butta!!

Butta- those hard yellow cubes of saturated fat that make everything it touches glisten and yes taste better. I always thought there was a magical process to making butter, a reason why no one made it today, another convenience food. But thanks to Saveur Magazine my eyes were opened to the possibilities of making butter at home and I dashed out to buy one quart of organic heavy cream.

At first, I was going to follow the recipe using a balloon whisk (had to knock the dust off of it first), and a big bowl. But I quickly saw the error in the recipe and dumped the cream in Vickie Viking my burly red mixer. Fitting her with her own balloon whip I started her slowly and gently increased the speed as she moved the cream through its chantilly, heavy whip, and butter clot stages. To put it simply, it was way cool!!

After the clumps of butter had materialized there was more beating to do to separate the buttermilk from the curds (as in curds and whey) Well, I had to tell someone about this successful science experiment so I dashed out and found my NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) cutting the grass for the first time this year. He rolled his eyes and gave me thumbs up.

The next step was to pour all of the contents (buttermilk and butter) into a moist towel and after draining the buttermilk away (and fantasizing about buttermilk biscuits, buttermilk pancakes, and googling buttermilk recipes) there was a gentle washing process to remove any last milk. This is when I started to have my first butter-gasm. I cooed to my yellow disc as my mind raced to whom I should tell next about this glorious discovery. I discounted The Princess feeling her eyes roll. I pondered my neighbor but I couldn’t face the answering machine that they leave on. Finally I settled on a quick e-mail to my partner in culinary crime knowing she would be duly impressed and reply with the appropriate strokes.

The texture was so soft and delicate. As I kneaded it moisture came to the top and I patted it away. So now what do I do with the stuff? First I weighed it- just curious about the yield- and found it was slightly less than a pound. I did add the ½ teaspoon of kosher salt as the recipe suggested. I buy salt free butter but was curious about the flavor.

In closing the recipe suggested wrapping the butter in wax paper, (honestly, I think I am the last person on earth who still has a moldering roll in the back of my drawer) I updated with two rectangular molds and saran wrap.

So in less time than it takes to mow ¾ acre we have homemade butta. Now all I need is a cow and I can go into full production! Watch out Land O’ Lakes!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Surprise it's the Beard Man!!

I know you all are waiting with baited breath- maybe reading my blog daily to see when I'm going to answer the puzzler. And here it is Portland, OR. own Jimmy Beard. The man who gave Calaphon the kiss of death with, "I like pans that look pretty when you cook in them. That's why I couldn't stand to cook in those dart gray anodized aluminum pots. They look as if you're in mourning."
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Vegetarian Cassoulet?

I love my Gourmet Magazine! From random issues dating back to 1968 to the one I cracked open last night (March 2008); I always find a comment, recipe, or article that I enjoy. With Ruth Reichl as editor in chief the magazine has broken out of its stuffy beginnings and entered the new century.

Enough waxing poetic. This month is dedicated to rustic French cuisine with a cover photograph of three profiteroles filled with ice cream and an active shot of melted chocolate syrup oozing down. There is a fabulous menu that I want to make in its entirety.
"Spiced Orange Wine
Onion Tart with mustard and fennel
Provencal Fish Soup with Saffron Rouille
Rack of Lamb with swiss chard
Roasted Red Peppers
Roasted Garlic Souffle
Meyer Lemon Cake with Lavender Cream"
I can't think of a better way to say Vie Va La France! than with this menu.

Now I was on a roll and my eyes fell on an article about a bread making technique from Richard Bertinet a master baker from Brittany (historical home of our dog Buzz The Brittany Lightyear). This is a sweet brioche like dough that is very wet and thanks to www.gourmet.com there is a video of his kneading technique.

Wow! after purging myself of my magazines (see previous entries and pictures) I have a reason to horde another batch- Until my respect for Gourmet plummeted when I saw three disturbing recipes.
A Crustless Quiche- "Getting rid of the crust for this clever play on quiche Lorraine is a win-win." How cute is that! And lazy to boot! You might as well just make a Frittata and be done with it in 1/2 the time!!

Mussels and Fries with Mustard Mayonnaise- " While there's no substitute for eating a bowl of mussels on France's Atlantic coast, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to re-create this briny, aromatic dish at home." With one 15-16 oz. package of frozen french fries (cooked according to package instructions- keep warm in oven if necessary.) as the first ingredient. Nothing like a soggy institutional fry go eat with those briny bi-valves.

And the piece de resistance?
Vegetarian Cassoulet!! What were they thinking? I feel the French Revolution all over again! A rustic dish that takes 1 1/4 hour to make and serves 4-6? Julia, Louisette, Simone where are you? I leaped up and grabbed my Mastering the Art of of French Cooking volume one, page 399 and found not necessarily the definitive recipe but a recipe and its variations that embraced the true essence of the dish WITH MEAT. Another part of the cassoulet mystique that was missing from the vegetarian version (ugh) was the bread crumb cracking and basting to form a seasoned crust. The Veggies have you wielding a potato masher to smash the beans and the "Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs."

Now I will have to put on my critical cap and instead of being lulled into a food orgasm with Gourmet I'll have to have an inner dialogue with every recipe and notation. There is no reason to keep the magazines in their virginal entirety I will now slash and cut only the recipes I want.
Ahh- such is life!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's not Micheal Jordan-

Guess Who?
I know that one is supposed to have a professional gas stove in order to qualify as a gourmet cook, but maybe I am just never going to be one.(How humble...)
"Corning makes nice oval gratin dishes. I like some of their white pieces, but not with those goddamn cornflowers on them"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Only Three for Me!!

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Ready to Go!!

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The Snazzy Celica!!

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Purge and Ponder

It was a day of purging and gloom. It was time for me to come to terms with 30 years of cooking magazines that have formed culinary insulation in our garage. Let it be said that there was a time when the collection was smaller and in use. The magazines were divided by month and used for inspiration when I created catering menus.

But alas that was 25 years ago and now they had been breeding at a brisk clip of 4-6 magazines a month for way too long. You do the math and figure it out. My NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) has been quiet on the growth. He only whimpers when the magazines are in the house. Once they make the move outside his only interaction is to avoid them when parking the car. After an hour of speculating my day’s activity he surfaced to view my paltry results.

I turned with tears in my eyes and with clenched fists beat him on his chest saying, “Why didn’t you stop me! Why did you let me continue with this collection?” He gloated at my despair and walked away!

What was the catalyst? You might ask. It all had to do with a chance meeting of a budding chefflet who came into In Good Taste lusting after Art Culinaire magazines. I dropped my voice and like a dealer looking to sell drugs I told him of my horde of not only Art Culinaire but other untold culinary magazines waiting for a good home. And that dear friends is why I spent a beautiful, actually sunny, warm day in my cold garage humping boxes and shifting the stash from monthly organization to title.

Many had old addresses and had been with me from my divorced swinging single time when I dashed around Boston in my Toyota Celica ST. Then there were the years represented in our address in Michigan, New Jersey, Florida, and now Oregon.

I held firm not to read anything, I did flip through, but resisted ripping random recipes out. I found out that Gourmet changed from paragraph recipes to our ingredient/explanation style of today in 1983 and with that a narrower collection evolved. I kept those magazines prior to that bench mark. My ever trendy Bon Appetits received the same harsh treatment with only a few of the oldest staying.

I was merciless! Away Cuisine! Be gone defunct Pleasures of Cooking! Adieu Australian Taste! Never breed in my garage again Cook’s!

And when I was done I had moved the magazines from one side of the garage to the other, broken up the old moldering boxes and liposucted the collection from 28 crates to a svelte three.

Having gotten rid of one crate to my new culinary friend I dream of a steady stream of foodies clamoring for the rest of my booty ($25-crate included). If not it’s off to recycling!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Whoopee it's Bagel Bliss

Let’s talk about those bagels that I alluded to in the Whoopee blog. My first thoughts Saturday morning were of how quickly I could make coffee, feed the animals, and dive into bagel bliss. There is always trepidation when food memory and real product meet. Have you waxed poetic on the perfection of the item? Was it really that good? Maybe it was good because you were starving and you used your last dollar to buy sustenance. Maybe it was who you were with? Was this a food shared in a post romantic interlude? My perfect bagel moment was when I was in high school and had Saturday morning Chinese language lessons. There was a car pool of kids that traveled from Dover, NJ to Piscataway. Along the route was a bagel shop in a strip mall.

Time stopped when I walked into the bagel shop. Giant caldrons of water were bubbling with their doughy orbs. Large horizontal pizza ovens flanked the back wall cranked to the perfect temperature to brown the bagels outside. I only ate the hot freshly baked bagels. I snubbed the cool ones in the metal bins. Salt, poppy, sesame, everything, I ate them all with or without cream cheese depending on the pennies in my pocket.

Why did these become my gold standard? It was a food I discovered. Growing up in Iowa gave me little experience to this ethnic wonder. It was an adult pacifier that sent me into a carbohydrate orgasm that lasted through the interminable Chinese class. That gummy doughy center encased by a skin that you had to fight open and chew into a pulp before swallowing. It didn’t get much better.

My husband’s gold standard was based on bagels at the source, New York City. It never occurred to him that there could be a bad bagel until we found ourselves in the Midwest. Then all of his ethnic standards were challenged and we only ate bagels that were brought to us from friends and relatives. We ate them like junkies gorging and hording until the last poppy seed was swallowed.

Now we have become a bit more egalitarian in our bagel consumption. We resign ourselves to an inferior product and with each bite remind each other that it isn’t like…

It is only when we have a chance to eat the perfect bagel that our trust in our bagel memory is renewed. We forget all of the inferior substitutes and wallow in bagel bliss.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Woo-er to Whoopee

I’m so glad I’m not a male “in a relationship” or wanting to get lucky on Valentine’s Day. In the restaurant business we call it V-D Day, innuendos implied and it is deuce night a go-go. To the hapless public it is Valentine’s Day and for the male constituency it’s woo or sleep alone.

There are those high flying types who pull out all of the stops and the credit card for a dozen long stemmed roses (a flower that wracks up frequent flyer miles in February) and a gourmet meal. A hump in the hay is a shoe-in as long as the conversation focuses on the female’s interests.

Another sure fire way to a big bang is a little bauble. Now the woman that you are setting your sights on might “state” that she isn’t interested in gems but remember Mr. Woo that the jewelry food chain is long and you need to seek the sweet spot and buy the embellishment. This can be challenging when you realize Valentine’s Day is a mere 24 hours away. Believe me men, go for the goods be they diamonds, sterling silver or a plug for the ear. Every girl loves her jewelry of choice. Don’t forget to have it wrapped! Surprise is also important to the recipient of woo.

Let’s say your plastic is too hot to handle. In the plastic vs. Christmas fight Christmas won. So nix those roses and buy a bunch of tulips or better yet a little plant for her to nurture and think of you when she waters it! Gee how cute!

We’re on to dinner and the Outback Steakhouse is out. She turned vegetarian last week. The produce section has “caution enter at your own risk” taped around it as far as you are concerned. Wow this is getting rough! Words of advice? Start safe and dive for the wine and beer department. Grab the wine guy and ask him for suggestions. Don’t quibble! Go for the bubbly rosé with a pink and gold label in French. Good job! Remember your goal as you ease back to produce land.

So meat is out and you don’t eat anything green. Have you pondered our aquatic friends? A burly fish like tuna (don’t grab a can Mr. Woo!) or swordfish? How about shellfish short of being allergic shrimp can elevate your status as a cook and get you closer to the night of your dreams.

Buy a half pound of shelled shrimp (1/2# will do), a head of garlic (use 2-3 peeled cloves chopped), white wine (1/2 C) with the rest ready to drink after the rosé has run out, chopped parsley (1T) DON’T buy the curly kind buy flat leaf! That separates the men from the boys on the parsley front. It’s not really a vegetable just a bit of color.

Heat 1T olive oil or butter; throw in the chopped garlic, and then shrimp. Once one side is pink turn the shrimp over and add the white wine, parsley, salt and pepper. Turn heat off and cover.

Done deal. Serve over linguine ( just testing- it’s spaghetti to you) with garlic bread (make sure you are both eating the bread and pasta!!), and a salad from the grocery salad bar. After the coos and kudos you both will be in a garlic induced amorous heaven.

Remember- the meal should be filling but not button popping! Your goal is eat enough calories for friskies not to pass out with the bloats.

Dessert? Well let’s just say Mom’s Apple Pie isn’t appropriate. Go for sex and nothing screams “I want you” more than chocolate and ice cream to be served in bed. Clean sheets help and candles for effect.

Good luck men and the force be with you!!

P.S. My husband knows the way to my heart. Although arriving a day late he is bringing me fresh H&H bagels- onion, garlic, and everything bagged separately…

What a guy!!