About Me

My photo
on the downward side of the age mountain.

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!!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Restaurant Madness- A Culinary Poem

I don’t want to know that Sam is my Server

(Or attentive slave salivating for a tip)

Nor that Babs is my Busser

Nor that Carlotta shakes my cocktails

I don’t want to be told that my entrée is a good decision

(Would they tell me other wise?)

Do they know my palate?

I don’t want them to kneel at my feet

And look adoringly up at me as I place my order

I do hate being asked, "How everything is tasting?"

Or "Do you like the food?" with wringing hands

It would be nice to have my chair pulled out

And to always be told the specials

(And not hear them recited at the next table)

It would be nice to have my beverages topped off

Without raising my white napkin

And at the end of the meal I would like my

Check delivered face down

Until I am ready

To pay