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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Netflix Anyone?

I was cruising one of my food sites and they mentioned a British TV series called Pie In the Sky- it was on from 1994-1997 about a detective whose real passion is cooking. He "retires", opens a restaurant and (big surprise) has to solve mysteries as well. You can find the series on Netflix!! It's been moved up the queue for the New Year.
I'm ready for 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

February in NYC Why Not?

- February 12-14, The Roger Smith Food Writers’ Conference, New York. Two days of workshops flank Saturday's day of panels with some of the best food writers in America.
Check out this link to an all star food writing orgy sounds so good I might have to cash in my free ticket from edge to edge!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What did You have for Christmas Dinner?

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I thought I would share with you my menu for Christmas dinner. At the request of The Princess we had ham. I made a glaze of mustard, brown sugar, maple syrup,cognac,lemon and black pepper.It was napped it with a hazelnut mustard cream sauce garnished w/ snipped chives.

The Princess honed her mandoline slicing skills and made scalloped potatoes w/ fresh herbs, shallots, and beef bouillon. Clean flavors and nice contrast to the ham.

Green beans w/ shallots and mushrooms had sauteed garlic and roasted garlic.

Saurkraut for that vinegar jolt, a really pretty red and green jelly (did not make) NSSP even had seconds in the jelly dept. I was shocked. Sweet potato biscuits and~~~

My newly created and recipe nailed, Pumpkin Pie in a toasted walnut crust w/ lemon curd and whipped cream. Not to shabby!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Food Porn for the Holiday's

I just viewed this on www.seriouseats.com and found it too good to be true! Why am I cooking this year!
Happy Holiday's!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Was Wooed by the Eggplant Parmesan, and it Won My Heart

Enticing smells and watching food porn rarely illicit a stomach grumble or lust to eat. Last night was different. NSSP and I were down in the Man Cave channel clicking between burly sports shows, a couple from Salt Lake City lusting after Mexican property, and the eternal Food Network.

We settled on Bob.Flayman was at his smack down again careening around NYC and surging with testosterone. The show settled on an NYC Italian Deli on Arthur St. The challenge? Eggplant Parmesan.

Cameras pan to the little 2nd generation Italian his round face and eyes. I started getting interested by the guy's passion and pride for his parm. I also started to go down my own eggplant parm memory lane. Efficient waitresses with dishes up their arms slinging them on the table. A bubbling metal oven dish with breadcrumb encrusted eggplant, fried, dipped and doused in tomato sauce. Thick slabs of mozzarella slightly brown with a rich unctuous come hither and burn your tongue texture. Next the waitress dealt out a round of spaghetti w/ red sauce as a side dish. Then came the challenge. How to remove the parm in one piece onto the waiting plate. Sometimes the waitress took pity and would deftly scrape the mass in one pass onto the plate. Other times I was left to my own devices. A dust of nebulous grated "parm" completed the plate.

Pan back to the little Italian. Bobby does his talk to the camera (taking us aside and confiding in us how he was going to ramp up the parm-)NSSP and I were certain the Flay Master was going to use his signature jalapenos or chili flakes for fire. He woosed out with regular peppers. BUT it was going to be different and wup the Wop.

The next shot sealed the deal for the Italian (sorry to give away such a riveting plot!) He peeled the eggplant, cut it uniform and thin the long way on a slicer and after a seasoned dredge in breadcrumbs he deep fat fried the eggplant shingles, dunked in sauce and lovingly laid them in a sauce doused baking dish topped with moz.

By this time I had no interest in Flaygo's unpeeled rounds of pan fried eggplant. I was all over the real deal. I caste a sideways look at NSSP and saw he was also in rapt attention.

Bobby was fascinated by the peel and slice "technique". Granted I had always left the skin on but pondering about it, I never liked the tough texture of the skin. Next time nix the skin. Bob Master also though it was rocket science to slice the eggplant thin on a slicer. Wake up and smell the deli! You have a gazillion eggplant to slice you think there's a mandeline around? Fuggetaboutit.

"I need to make that!" I said.

"Yes, make it tomorrow!" NSSP replied.

The contest was held at the deli and it looked like every Italian in a 10 mile radius turned up. There was a high concentration of old craggy women with big noses and young innocent doe eyed children. Wow! you could feel the tension---

There were 2 judges of no consequence. The outcome was based on execution of a traditional dish (guess who the judges would lean toward on that one...), and presentation (sorry folks but that is a real stretch with eggplant parm unless Giada is sprinkling parsley and smiling and stroking the dish).

The crowd held their breath with anticipation, Bobs gave the camera his cheesy "I know what I doing" look and the little Italian had sweaty palms.

So to re-cap, the Italian won,Flaygo was still amazed at the peel and slice routine and I was mentally making a grocery list for tomorrow's dinner.

Asta La Pasta! Vitello Tonnato!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Official 2009 Christmas Cookie Selection!

There~done! And I'm stoked! Great selection, execution and tasty finished product. I need another cookie holiday in the year!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

How to Win the Annual Cookie War

I’ve just finished phase one of the annual Cookie War 2009 on the edge. I want to share my divide and conquer strategies for surviving the surge and making several batches without going stark raving mad.

1. Pick the cookie menu-granted that isn’t rocket science. You will have family or your favorites, to nut or not, to roll, cut and ice or just squeeze from a spritz. The key is to have a balance of color, textures, and flavors. Don’t do all white, vanilla flavored; powder sugar coated balls even if they are flavored with different nuts. My go to book is Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum. She has a good take on any type of cookie you need. I like to pick the cookies early in December and mull over the variety and execution. Our family’s favorites are peanut butter thumb prints filled with jam and candy canes. A few years ago, when Gourmet was alive…they did a cookie issue. I found a recipe for a cocoa/bittersweet chocolate cookie. Dense, intense, and outrageous, a new must eat. When I was a little girl growing up in Iowa my mom made spritz cookies. They were an easily decorated white cookie. This year they have been omitted for an orange/cointreau flavored roll out that will be tripped up with royal icing. Another cookie that has been replaced is the ginger thin from the Joy of Cooking. Heidi Swanson offered a recipe for a triple ginger cookie that rocked my socks. I omitted the star anise (can’t stand it). Replaced the crystallized ginger with ginger preserves and a jack more flour. If you are into a SPICE cookie these will burst your buds! (RECIPES UPON REQUEST)

2. Make sure you have ALL of the ingredients! Double check the extract shelf, top off the spices, and buy butter, butter, butter (it freezes). Do you need chain saw to break the brown sugar? Deal with it early so it’s ready. Just because you have a jar of food coloring doesn’t mean it weathered the year.

3. The Day of Dough- I break up my cookie manufacturing into at least two days. Day one is the doughage, day two or in increments is the baking. I happen to have a ludicrously large kitchen and can use one of the counters for assembling ingredients and another counter for doughage. If you have limited space I still would suggest assembling all of the raw ingredients in one area. The kitchen table? Or a tray on the stove top (which you will not be using.) You get the picture. I mean everything. Remember Julia Child used to put a tray in front of her before she started cooking w/everything on it that she needed for the dish. Trust me this is key. Also gather your spoons, spatulas, measuring utensils, next to your mixer.

4. Recipes organized from white to dark cookie variety start the dough dance. Why? Because you are not going to fumigate in between each dough. Starting light means there won’t be color cross contamination. I started with the roll outs, then candy cane, peanut butter, ginger, and chocolate. After each cookie I smashed (formed) the dough into a disk and wrapped it in saran wrap. I rinse the utensils and bowls after each use but don’t use the full soap deal until I am completely done with the dough’s then the whole mess of utensils goes in the dishwasher (or bubbly soapy sink) to remove the sugar/flour/butter coating.

5. DON’T FORGET TO LABEL THE DOUGHS!!!! In a few days your eggnog induced memory will become fuzzy and the only way to remember what do is what will be to taste a nugget (not such a bad idea but it eats-bad pun-into the stash to give.

6. I’m exhausted and my kitchen is a mess. But the dough’s are done and ready for the oven.

7. When ready to bake. Pick a generic temperature or if one of your cookies takes an extreme temperature do the low one first or high temperature last. Otherwise its 350° all the way. Have at least 2 cookie sheets that are the same and use a baking sheet or if you’re old fashioned like me parchment paper. Don’t do the old butter the pan unless you want to scrub your fingers to a nub in-between each dough. Life’s too short.

8. Follow the white to dark order again. Saves on parchment paper.

9. Make sure you set up a designated cookie cooking area and have adequate cooling racks. A few years ago I bought from King Arthur Flour (www.kingarthurflour.com) a really neat cooling rack that lays flat but pops up to hold 4 trays at once. Granted it isn’t a must have for every cook but the once a year that I need it is a trés fabu tool. Also think ahead to container for the millions of little sugary treats you have created.

10. Plod through the baking process As soon as they are cooled pop the cooks into labeled containers otherwise the elves in the house will arrive and start eating the stash with abandon. Ideally if you have a cavernous freezer, use it. Otherwise I’m partial to the garage or basement. Somewhere that makes you think before you munch and cooler than the main living area.

11. Decorating. If these are ice jobs or to be decorated après baking gather a gaggle of gals, your piping bags (don’t be lured into the RR plastic bag routine~ you’ll be sorry I’ll know if your naughty or nice) sprinkles, icing dyes and go to town. Now you can sit down and depending on the day and volume lean toward coffee or cocktails. Go wild.

So what do you do with a mountain of cookies? Aside from gorging yourself and sending the family into sugar shock I find them a wonderful economical (ooh I hate the word cheap!) seasonal gift. They are a present of love and celebration.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Breakfasts of Yore or Fleeting thoughts at 2:30am

I woke up way too early-2:30 to be exact. Grabbing my glasses, socks, and bathrobe I padded quietly down stairs so as not to awaken the tsunami of male animals on the bed. Of course there is always one that follows, tonight the cat. Sometimes when I have these nocturnal jolts I pad to another bedroom seeking a different quiet or temperature. There are times when my book is whispering come hither. Tonight my Toshi was calling. I felt the need to tap on his keys and stare at his 17” screen.

I yearned for coffee but noise echoes in the house. I wanted to write some recipes and transcribe some notes I had made for said blog but left the notebook in the bedroom. To re-enter might disturb the NSSP. So I went to plan B. Cleaning up e-mails, puzzles and wasting time. I grabbed my camera, filled with pictures of a future crab dish and as I went to plug it in a niggling thought occurred.

Specifically an east coast early morning diner breakfast, no- my memory delved deeper and I was 20 something again on a different coast eating salami and eggs with potato pancakes and apple sauce at the now defunct Deli Haus, a German greasy spoon in Kenmore Square. It was an amazing place with a huge menu, huge portions, and dark stained wood, perfection.

Then my memory was on to the breakfasts at IHOP in Brookline. For a whopping $3.49! “3 Farm fresh eggs, any style, 3 links of sausage, & 3 pancakes”. Don’t forget the endless pot of generic coffee and the speed rack of syrups (my favorite was the now extinct apricot syrup).

My mind did flit back to NJ diner breakfasts. These were the end of the night variety. A quick infusion of sobering food before bed. Served by a bored waitress to a carousing crowd of kids. Ah, and what about dunkin’ doughnuts with coffee “regular”- sugar and ½ & 1/2 added for you. There’s a snack to set you jangling!

The smart scones and granola of the ‘70’s hold a small memory candle to the marvelous and timeless breakfasts of my past but the Coffee Connection with its intense Harvard Square cliental and the avant-garde French Press pots remind me of splurging on a Sunday NYT to fit in.

Its 4:30 and I can’t wait any longer for my coffee noise be damned!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Beef and Pork minus the Barley Soup

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On my quest to make different winter soups I did a twist on my mother’s Beef Barley Soup.

Remember soups are all about what you have on hand. Originally I was going to use barley but I had some cooked Israeli cous cous lurking in the back of the fridge so out went the barley idea and in went the cous cous. There also were some leeks on the edge so I omitted onions and used leeks. I wanted to add a bit of heat so I used hot Spanish paprika and Old Bay Seasoning. For meat I used a beef shank and a pork sirloin chop both on the bone. I like the two meat combo- This will be a keeper!

The Recipe~
1 ½# Beef Center Cut Shank (or short ribs)
1# Pork Sirloin Chop
1C Celery
1C Carrots
1 1/2C Leeks (or medium onion)
3cl Garlic
1qt Beef Broth
1-1/2C Red Wine
1C Diced Tomatoes (or 1sm can)
1 1/2C Cooked Israeli Cous Cous (or 1 1/2C diced potatoes or
1/2C pearl barley)
1 Herb Bouquet w/ fresh thyme, sage, marjoram, & parsley
2T Olive Oil -DIVIDED-
1/2t Old Bay Seasoning
1/2t Hot Spanish Paprika
Kosher Salt & Black Pepper

1. Chop celery, onions, carrots, and leeks (or onions) in medium dice (1/2”), peel and chop garlic, in a large thick bottomed soup pot sauté vegetables in 1T olive oil until leeks are translucent and carrots and celery is tender crisp. Remove the vegetables from the soup pot.

2. Heavily salt and pepper one side of the pork and beef. Add 1T olive oil to the soup pot and heat the pan until the oil is almost smoking. If the pan is large enough put both pieces of meat in the pan at the same time if not cook them one at a time. After you put the seasoned side down in the pan, season the top side. Cook the meat until nicely browned on both sides.

You may continue making the soup in this pot or continue in a crock pot.

3. Remove the browned meat and deglaze the pot with red wine. Scrape the browned bits off the bottom and into the wine. Add meat, vegetables, broth, tomatoes, herb bouquet, Old Bay & Paprika. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook on medium to low heat. Test the meat with a knife. The knife should go into the meat easily. Add the cous cous (or potatoes or pearl barley). If using potatoes or barley continue to cook until they are done. Adjust seasonings. Remove the meat and cut into small pieces. I keep the bones in the soup pot for future re-heating.

Serve with fresh cut apples, garlic bread or my previous recipe- Sweet Potato Biscuits!


Heat the crock pot with hot water while doing step 1&2. Once hot turn the pot on HI and add the sautéed vegetables & seared meat. After the soup pot has been deglazed with wine,add the wine to the crock pot and the rest of the ingredients in #3 including potatoes or barley. If using cooked cous cous add it toward the end to heat through.

Read! Eat! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Must See for the Food Inclined

I just stumbled on The Way We Cooked on youtube. It is a BBC series tracing the food phenom in Britain. Fanny Cradock makes Julia Child look "normal". A must see!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cook to Bang or Different Strokes for Different Folks

I'm the first one to admit that I have a dirty mind and mouth. I love talking dirty to my food. Carrots with 2 legs, green peppers with drooping protruding growths give me the giggles.

So it isn't surprising that I would find a website called www.cooktobang.com. Each day a recipe is sent with a suggestive title and loads of pictures to help the hesitant cook. The surprising thing is that the recipes are good, simple, and with all of the pictures easy to follow. I especially like the picture of the gathered ingredients. Boxes of this and bottles of that give an inkling of what to look for at the grocery store.

I was really excited by the website and thought it would entice The Princess into the mysterious kitchen but I got a slap down and was told she wasn't interested in cooking from the web. What's a Queen to do?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Book Review of Cleaving by Julie Powell. Review by Christine Muhlke in NYT 12.6.09

Done well, memoirs about love and food go together like steak and martinis. Meals are a perfect application for the “show, don’t tell” directive, from proposal soufflé to break-up pastina. These foodoirs have become a successful subset, one part chick lit mixed with one part chicken lit.

Julie Powell water-skied to notoriety on Julia Child’s apron, following every recipe in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” for a blog she called The Julie/Julia Project. The blog became a memoir, “Julie & Julia,” which in turn became a movie, the momentum of which whipped both Child’s and Powell’s books to the heights of the best-seller lists.

The publishers of Powell’s second memoir wisely waited until December to release it, lest they freak out book-buying admirers of “Julie & Julia’s” plucky co-star. “Cleaving” promises marriage, meat and obsession, but the object of said obsession is not a standing rib roast. It’s a man she calls D, who likes trussing our anti-heroine and covering her in bruises before sending her home to cook for her husband. The woman who came across as simply whiny and self-­absorbed in the film reveals a dark, damaged persona. Nora Ephron won’t be touching this one with a 20-foot baguette.

Powell and her “long-suffering husband,” Eric, are really suffering now. Unsatisfied by her new career, the author (“just call me Julie ‘Steamroller’ Powell”) — whose motto is “Want. Take. Have.” — has a two-year affair with D. His forceful wanting/taking/having of her instills the confidence that being played by Amy Adams in the movie apparently did not. “It was when he smilingly roughed me up that I finally felt fierce, strong — emancipated,” she writes of his first smack.

But wait. It gets more abject. Eric knows. So he has an affair, too. Powell relishes punishing him with kindness. “Have fun,” she texts him. “Come home whenever you like.” After D ends things (“You know it’s over when he’d rather show you ‘Team America’ than his penis,” he had warned her months before flipping open his laptop in bed on the fateful day), she resorts to cyberstalking. Powell’s not kidding about the “obsession” part: she pathetically texts and e-mails into the ether for almost a year, then fleshes her longing into a book that doesn’t spare the reader a single full-frontal flashback.

Eventually, she seeks a numbing distraction, something to reroute her self-destructive, addictive tendencies. How about butchering? Butchers are hot, Powell reasons, ahead of the current craze for men with cleavers. They are “more certain of meat than I’ve ever been about anything.” She apprentices at Fleisher’s, a cult butcher shop in Kingston, N.Y. (where I shop), and learns how to take things apart in the hope of putting her life back together. Or not. Rather than assuage her pathologically adoring husband, she wills her BlackBerry to buzz after sending D texts like: “Just had the worst sex in the world with a total stranger to try to get you out of my head. It didn’t work.”

Meaty bits over, she still can’t take the cleaver to her miserable marriage. She travels to Argentina, Ukraine and Tanzania, a 100-page exercise in self-indulgent writing, in which she dwells on how attractive the locals find her and how much Malbec, Cognac or goat’s blood she can drink. It makes the reader miss the circus of Fleisher’s. More meat, less obsession, please. Sorry, Hollywood: there’s no happy-ending resolution with longer-suffering Eric, either.

Despite all this, Powell can be an engaging writer. Fast, funny and observant — though too busy steamrolling to Google facts — she’s your mean best friend sending instant messages that make you snort at your desk. Her reliance on snark and pop-cultural references is cheap, but her sincere interest in butchery and love for the Fleisher’s crew bring the book’s slasher scenes to life. If you don’t know how to break down a side of beef or debone a turkey, you might be able to figure it out after working your way through “Cleaving.” The squeamish — morally and otherwise — should read elsewhere. In her acknowledgments, Powell thanks her editor for reminding her that there is such a thing as too much information. And how.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


20 Worst Restaurant Foods in America Revealed :: Hotel News Resource

I receive a daily food service email. Usually I just glance at the headlines and delete away. Today was different. There was an article about the 20 worst restaurant foods in America. As I read and clicked through the dishes I became embarrassed to think of myself as a food professional. I became incensed that an industry would knowingly create and serve dishes that came in at over 2,000 calories.

Where is their responsibility to the customers? The food industry started to look a lot like the smoking industry in its blind eye approach to food. I then pondered the agriculture industry and realized they too are oft times turning a blind eye to producing good products.

The great unwashed public has been subliminally enticed into an addiction for unhealthy food. Its sad how a simple act that sustains us can become so twisted and a harrowing experience.

The food industry doesn’t want to be policed by the government. If so then they should step up to the plate and scales and do their own policing and monitoring.

The tide is slowly turning with smaller farms and restaurants addressing the caloric issue but for the dearth and girth of America these are mists against a rain storm.

Read! Eat Responsibly! and always Enjoy!
(Click on the topic at the top to see the 20 worst)

The Queen has spoken~

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Awkward Family Story: The Thanksgiving Letter

I found this trolling around on AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com and thought it perfect for Tday!

From: Marney

As you all know a fabulous Thanksgiving Dinner does not make itself. I need to ask each of you to help by bringing something to complete the meal. I truly appreciate your offers to assist with the meal preparation.

Now, while I do have quite a sense of humor and joke around all the time, I COULD NOT BE MORE SERIOUS when I am providing you with your Thanksgiving instructions and orders. I am very particular, so please perform your task EXACTLY as I have requested and read your portion very carefully. If I ask you to bring your offering in a container that has a lid, bring your offering in a container WITH A LID, NOT ALUMINUM FOIL! If I ask you to bring a serving spoon for your dish, BRING A SERVING SPOON, NOT A SOUP SPOON! And please do not forget anything.

All food that is to be cooked should already be prepared, bring it hot and ready to serve, warm or room temp. These are your ONLY THREE options. Anything meant to be served cold should, of course, already be cold.

HJB—Dinner wine

The Mike Byron Family
1. Turnips in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. Please do not fill the casserole all the way up to the top, it gets too messy. I know this may come as a bit of a surprise to you, but most of us hate turnips so don’t feel like you a have to feed an army.
2. Two half gallons of ice cream, one must be VANILLA, I don’t care what the other one is. No store brands please. I did see an ad this morning for Hagan Daz Peppermint Bark Ice Cream, yum!! (no pressure here, though).
3. Toppings for the ice cream.
4. A case of bottled water, NOT gallons, any brand is ok.

The Bob Byron Family
1. Green beans or asparagus (not both) in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. If you are making the green beans, please prepare FOUR pounds, if you are making asparagus please prepare FIVE pounds. It is up to you how you wish to prepare them, no soupy sauces, no cheese (you know how Mike is), a light sprinkling of toasted nuts, or pancetta, or some EVOO would be a nice way to jazz them up.
2. A case of beer of your choice (I have Coors Light and Corona) or a bottle of clos du bois chardonnay (you will have to let me know which you will bring prior to 11/22).

The Lisa Byron Chesterford Family
1. Lisa as a married woman you are now required to contribute at the adult level. You can bring an hors d’ouvres. A few helpful hints/suggestions. Keep it very light, and non-filling, NO COCKTAIL SAUCE, no beans of any kind. I think your best bet would be a platter of fresh veggies and dip. Not a huge platter mind you (i.e., not the plastic platter from the supermarket).

The Michelle Bobble Family
1. Stuffing in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please make the stuffing sans meat.
2. 2.5-3 qts. of mashed squash in a casserole with a lid and serving spoon
3. Proscuitto pin wheel – please stick to the recipe, no need to bring a plate.
4. A pie knife

The June Davis Family
1. 15 LBS of mashed potatoes in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please do not use the over-size blue serving dish you used last year. Because you are making such a large batch you can do one of two things: put half the mash in a regulation size casserole with lid and put the other half in a plastic container and we can just replenish with that or use two regulation size casserole dishes with lids. Only one serving spoon is needed.
2. A bottle of clos du bois chardonnay

The Amy Misto Family (why do I even bother she will never read this)
1. A pumpkin pie in a pie dish (please use my silver palate recipe) no knife needed.
2. An apple pie in a pie dish, you can use your own recipe, no knife needed.

Looking forward to the 28th!!

Submitted by Kara at http://californiakara.blogspot.com)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sweet Potato Biscuits!

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In the December 2009 Food and Wine Magazine there is a two part recipe. The first part is for Vegetable Potpies the second part is Sweet Potato Biscuits. The picture of the roasted vegetables poking out of a petite Le Creuset coccote was too much! I have made a note to my self to purchase some soon!

Instead I made the Sweet Potato Biscuits. They turned out delicate,light, and very delicious! I think it would be fun to play around with different sweet or savory additions.

The Recipe~
Preheat oven 400°
3/4 C Cooked Sweet Potato (1/2# raw potato)
1 3/4C All-Purpose Flour
1T Light Brown Sugar
2 1/2t Baking Powder
1/2t Baking Soda
1t Kosher Salt
7T Unsalted Butter (I used 1/2 butter 1/2 non-hydrogenated vegetable
1/3C Skim Milk (F&W called for buttermilk-not a staple for us)

Bake off the sweet potato until a knife enters easily. Remove and let cool to the touch.

Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and give it a spin.

Add cut up butter and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed and in a fine sand like consistency. Add milk and 3/4C cooked sweet potato. Pulse just until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out on a heavily flour dusted work surface and knead 2-3 times.

Roll out to your desired thickness 1/4-1/2" and cut out desired shape.

Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet until golden brown.

Serve Hot!

Friday, November 20, 2009

TANJOOBERRYMUTTS.....or The Mysteries of the English Language


The following is a telephonic exchange between a hotel guest and room-service in a hotel..

Room Service : "Morrin. Roon sirbees."

Guest : "Sorry, I thought I dialed room-service."

Room Service: " Rye . Roon sirbees...morrin! Joowish to oddor sunteen???"

Guest: "Uh..... Yes, I'd like to order bacon and eggs."

Room Service: "Ow ulai den?"

Guest: ".....What??"

Room Service: "Ow ulai den?!?... Pryed, boyud, pochd?"

Guest: "Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Sorry.. Scrambled, please."

Room Service: "Ow ulai dee bayken ? Creepse?"

Guest: "Crisp will be fine."

Room Service: "Hokay. An sahn toes?"

Guest: "What?"

Room Service: "An toes. ulai sahn toes?"

Guest: "I.... Don't think so.."

RoomService: "No? Udo wan sahn toes???"

Guest: "I feel really bad about this, but I don't know what 'udo wan sahn toes' means."

RoomService: "Toes! Toes!...Why Uoo don wan toes? Ow bow Anglish moppin we botter?"

Guest: "Oh, English muffin! !! I've got it! You were saying 'toast'... Fine...Yes, an English muffin will be fine."

RoomService: "We botter?"

Guest: "No, just put the botter on the side."

RoomService: "Wad?!?"

Guest: "I mean butter... Just put the butter on the side."

RoomService: "Copy?"

Guest: "Excuse me?"

RoomService: "Copy...tea.. meel?"

Guest: "Yes. Coffee, please... And that's everything."

RoomService: "One Minnie. Scramah egg, creepse bayken , Anglish moppin, we botter on sigh and copy ... Rye ??"

Guest: "Whatever you say."

RoomService: "Tanjooberrymutts."

Guest: "You're welcome"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Roughed Up Potatoes

I made a couple of dishes this past weekend I thought my imaginary readers would like to see.

The first, so simple and perfect from November-December Cook’s Illustrated it solved my age old problem of perfectly baked potato crisps.

In a nutshell-
Pre-heat oven 400°-450°. Place a rimmed baking pan (I use ½ sheet pan) in the oven to heat up.

Slice potatoes- they suggest Yukon Gold- I settled for Russets-into ½” slices and par-boil in salted water for 5 minutes. You don’t want them to be soft on the inside just a bit soft on the outside.

Drain, pat dry and toss w/ 2T olive oil &1/2t salt toss well with a spatula, repeat with 1T olive oil and 1/4t salt. The recipe calls for 2T 2t twice I use Kosher salt and found them a bit too salty for me.

Put 1-2T olive oil on hot baking pan and pour the potatoes onto the pan in one layer. Cook 15-20 minutes turning and rotating in the pan to a toasty brown.

The end result is a crisp outside and creamy inside potato.

Read! Eat! Enjoy!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pictures and More

Go to www.idahopotato.com/fspro for a picture of the potato ravioli and more recipes.

Thank you Idaho Potato Commission & Jimmy Schmidt!


Potato Ravioli with Chile Beef Short Rib
Chef Jimmy Schmidt, Rattlesnake Club, Palm Springs, California
Yield: 4 servings

Spice Blend

* 3 T New Mexican Chiles, ground
* 1 tsp Chipotle Chile, dried
* 1 T Black Tellicherry Pepper, freshly ground


* 1 Boneless Beef Short Rib, about 12 ounces, trimmed
* 1/4 C Olive Oil
* 3 Large Idaho Russet Potatoes
* 6 T Butter, unsalted

To Taste:

* Smoked Salt
* Vegetable Stock or water
* Oil to fry in

Chile Chimichurri Salsa

* 1T Chile Oil
* 1C Baby Bell Sweet Peppers, multi-colored, sliced into rounds
* 2T Red Wine Vinegar
* 1T Honey
* 1/2C Fresh Chives, snipped


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Short Ribs

1. In a small bowl combine the seasoning blend. Use half of the seasoning to thoroughly coat the short rib. Reserve under refrigeration.
2. In a small skillet heat the 1/4 cup of oil and the remaining seasoning blend, for about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. In a deep small skillet heat a few drops of oil. Place the seasoned short rib into the pan, cooking until well seared on all sides, about 5 minutes. Cover with the vegetable stock, season with salt to taste. Bring to a simmer. Cover the surface with foil and seal with a lid. Transfer to the oven, cooking until tender, about 1 3/4 hours.
3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the short rib from the liquid. Cut the short rib into 16 square nuggets about 1-inch by 1-inch by 1/4-inch thick. Cover with the braising liquid to keep warm.

4. Potato Slices-
Filling and Garnish. With a mandoline or mechanical slicer cut the potato paper thin, width-wise, into large round slices. Select 32 of the best slices. In a skillet of salted boiling water blanch the potato slices until al dente, firm to the bite, but not falling apart. Transfer individually to a buttered parchment lined sheet pan. Reserve.

5. Take half of the remaining potato slices and cut into fine julienne strips, frying until crisp. Transfer to bowl lined with paper towel to hold. Season with a little of the spice blend and sea salt. Take the remaining potato slices and cook in boiling salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove to a colander and drain. Transfer to a ricer and press into a mixer.

6. Whip the potatoes with 4 tablespoons of butter, seasoning with the smoked salt to taste. Reserve warm.

Potato Ravioli
Spoon a little potato puree in the center of 16 prepared potato slices. Position a portion of shredded short rib atop the potato purée. Cover with another prepared potato slice to make 16 ravioli, 4 per serving. Brush the top potato slice with melted butter and season with smoked salt. Reserve until ready to serve.

Chile Chimichurri Salsa
Heat chile oil over medium heat in a non stick pan. Add the sweet peppers cooking until al dente. Remove from the heat. Season with the vinegar, honey, smoked salt and half of the chives. Reserve at room temperature.

To Serve
Place the potato ravioli in the middle rack of the oven cooking until heated through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Using a small spatula to transfer, artistically arrange 4 ravioli per large serving coupe. Drizzle a little of the remaining chile oil around the ravioli. Spoon a little Chile Chimichurri Salsa atop each ravioli. Position the crispy julienne potatoes and sliced baby bell peppers atop the ravioli. Sprinkle with remaining chives and serve.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Decadent finale? or Ugh?

This time of year there is a bonus for all of you coupon clippers! Companies are also publishing recipes using their products in oh, so wonderful ways! Long ago when candy bars were 5 cents classic recipes were born. Chex Mix to go with martinis and the classic green bean casserole with frozen green beans,Cambell's mushroom soup and French's fried onions.

Today the intrepid cook can find recipes for Johnsonville Apple Breakfast Bundt using sausage links, apple pie filling, and thawed frozen cinnamon rolls. In this recipe you spend more time dinking with the pre-made ingredients than if you rolled up your sleeves and made it yourself. Either way I think it would be nicer to serve everything separately with a side of scrambled eggs!

Autumn Apple Salad weighs in with Crisco canola oil, Hungry Jack Syrup, mayonnaise ( guess you can go wild on what kind)vinegar, sugar,bag lettuce, red delicious apples (nothing with character or texture) dried cranberries and walnuts. This sounds like a ramped up Waldorf, hold the celery and gourmetize with dried cranberries.

My favorite for the Ugh! Hall of Culinary Fame?
Decadent Peanut Butter Pie
from the J.M. Smucker's Company
1 C Jif Creamy Peanut Butter (2T divided-o.k. this is hard- 1T & 1T)
1 8oz package cream cheese softened
1/2C sugar
1 12 oz container frozen whipped topping thawed and divided (it's a secret- we don't know how it's divided)
1 prepared chocolate pie crust (graham cracker crust won't do- wrong color)
1 jar Smucker's Hot Fudge Spoonable Ice Cream Topping divided (yet again?)

Then we get to the technique part-I will paraphrase.

Beat peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar and 3 cups whipped topping into submission.

Spoon and smear peanut glop over pie shell.

Grab a zip lock and place 2T fudge topping in the corner of the bag and set aside.Do the same with the 2T peanut butter.

Nuke the rest of the fudge topping, smear on top of peanut glop and chill until firm and bouncy.

Smear the top with the rest of the thawed whipped topping "being careful not to mix the two layers".

Now we get to decorate!
Snip a little hole in the zippies and pretend they are pastry bags with pretty tips and squeeze the fudge and peanut butter in opposite directions to form a cross hatch.

Don't forget to wash a slice down with another J.M. Smucker's product- Folger's coffee and more of that fabulous whipped topping!

Now if you like this one-"For more great tasting recipes, visit Smuckers.com and Jif.com" Definitely go-to websites for holiday cooking.

What are your suggestions for the Ugh! Hall of Fame?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Golden Touch was Fool's Gold

The Golden Touch Restaurant has all of the trappings of being a Greek diner except- it’s not on the East coast but on the Edge.

I still try it but each time my hopes are dashed and I leave with a sad memory instead of warm fuzzies. Today I was delusional and fell into the trap. There were cars parked in the lot! For any kind of eating establishment that is a good sign! Food moving out not rotting in the walk-in but there was deception.

This wannabe diner was huge, built in the two sided style with “fine dining” across the back and counter/banquets across the front. The color scheme was in the ‘60’s style with yellow tinted glass “chandeliers”, brown Naugahyde seats held together with clear tape and an empty rotating pie stand.

A glaring “Wait to be seated” sign was the friendly greeting. There was no one around to guide me to a seat. I looked around and saw the parking lot had lied the place was empty other than a few solitary people. The counter, a hub in any successful diner stretched 40’ decorated with coffee cups, napkins, and silverware waiting for the non-existent rush. A waitress materialized and flung her hands toward the multitude of empty seats. Nodding I picked a banquet for 6 and slid in. The waitress trudged over and flipped a menu at me as she poured water.
“Anything else to drink?”

I pondered briefly and answered,” Yes, a large tomato juice with lemon.”

Looking up I was greeted by a gal- dressed in a black shirt, black pants, glittery reading glasses, a generous artistically drawn make-up job, and short white grey hair that had been tipped in black. I was sure she had stuck her French tipped nails in an electrical socket to create the effect. She whisked away the coffee mug.

I had made up my mind before I arrived: a Greek salad minus the black olives, substituting tuna for the sliced eggs. Comfort food comes in many guises.

Order pad in hand, the waitress walked over. “Are you ready to order?”
I closed the menu, smiled sweetly and recited my order.

Her pen hovered over the pad as she mentally processed my order. “If I take off the black olives there’s nothing left!”

This wasn’t going as planned. I wanted cheerful- sounds great! Would you like crackers as well? Instead I felt like I was in the movie 5 Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson and his famous egg sandwich. I surveyed the tuna salad on a bed of greens and wondered if I could order that and add the other Greek garnishes.

“Is the lettuce the same with the tuna salad as with the Greek salad?"

She spun on her heels and walked up to the cook. “Do we have any Romaine?” she sneered just loud enough for me to hear her batting 100 for her customer.

“Nahh” was the also audible reply.

“I’ll give you more time.” She went off bussing tables.

I was abandoned with a huge menu, a gazillion offerings, and my hopes dashed for my Greek salad no black olives, no eggs, and tuna substitute. I was crushed. Looking at the table I saw my über tron had left the tomato juice now I really couldn't slip out. There was no escape I had to find something to eat. I mentally crossed off items all the while lingering on the Greek salad lettering, still trying to figure a way to phrase my request.

A comfort meal was quickly turning into a heartless fuel fest.

Decision #2 was made and eye contact sealed the deal. This time the gal tried to meet me half way. “I’ll have the feta tomato omelet with egg beaters, no toast, no potatoes and a small salad with Italian dressing.” This time there was nary a rebuke. Her pen flew over the pad and the order was complete. We both said thank you and she put the dupe in.

A final olive branch was offered in the guise of the newspaper. “Do you want something to read? No? Well o.k.” We had worked out our differences. I was left to my own thoughts.

The omelet arrived and my heart lurched in dismay. There was a cold nugget of feta on top and 2 chunks of pale hard tomato. The omelet was so thin I doubted there were any more tomatoes or feta within. No orange slice, no parsley just a flaccid omelet. There was no joy on the plate.

The salad, served in its separate bowl was iceberg with a couple of strands of red cabbage, croutons the size of children’s teeth, and frozen defrosted peas. A heavy pouring of Kraft’s Italian best soaked into the salad.The peas were the only cheerful bright green in the salad but flavor wise they didn’t make the profile. I wasn’t surprised by the salad, it delivered crunch.

I took the pepper shaker and decorated my omelet with black flecks. Tucking in I found that there were more tomatoes and feta chunklets inside the omelet.

I looked over at the kitchen and saw the problem. It was the cook. A tall, pasty, light brown haired man wearing a 10” paper chef’s toque (a chef's toque in a diner?). Instead of a long chef’s coat he had a short sleeved white shirt of a pantry guy. There were no piercings or tattoos, a sign of good food out here on the edge. I looked into his face and saw no food love I looked down at my plate and saw the results of a listless cook.

I choked down the food, gave my usual 20%, and high tailed it out. I will never seek comfort again from the Golden Touch…

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Little Recipe

I think I found this on Serious Eats but it could have been Saveur mea culpa. The directions are mine however.
Preheat oven 350°
1/2 # Fresh Salmon (or other fish)
Black Sesame Seeds (or white)
Sesame Oil
Make some diagonal slices in the fish. Not all the way through and place in a baking dish. Pour a little bit of sauce in the slices and pat black sesame seeds into fish drizzle with sesame oil.

1/2 Lime juiced
3T Mirin
2T Soy Sauce
2t Rice Wine Vinegar
1/2t Wasabi Powder or to taste
Combine. Set aside.

Bake until firm to the touch-10 Minutes-

I served it with sautéed bok choy and Chinese noodles tossed with Tom Douglas’s Rub with Love Triple Garlic Teriyaki Sauce. This sauce has a nicely balanced flavor. Not your usual teriyaki goop. I’d make this again!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shoot I Missed It!

The Bloody Mary had its 75th anniversary on October 5th. Geeze I hate to miss a reason for a party! It was created at the King Cole Room in the St. Regis in NYC. Serge Obolensky asked Fernand Petiot to recreate a cocktail he had in Paris.

It was named after the Catholic English Queen Mary and included salt, pepper, lemon and Worcestershire sauce. Polite society found the name a bit offensive so the St. Regis rechristened it the Red Snapper. Either way it is my drink of celebratory choice on a slow Sunday or before Thanksgiving festivities.

Below is a recipe adapted from Hip Sips by Lucy Brennan and Carolyn Burleigh that we use. It takes a bit of forethought (2 days)but once the vodka has macerated it's good for a pitcher of Red Snappers!

2 days head

1/4 each yellow,red,orange peppers, sliced
1/2 sm jalapeno pepper
1 lg garlic clove
4 basil leaves
1 bottle potato vodka ie-Monopolowa (save bottle)
Combine all ing. in a wide mouthed jar and store in fridge or cool dark spot for 2 days. Strain and pour back into vodka bottle.

The Drink-

3 oz tomato juice
2 oz Bloody Mary Vodka
5-6 dashes worcestershire sauce
2t horseradish sauce
Garnish du jour

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tuna Casserole #2

I stumbled upon this today in my Saveur email update. With the addition of mustard and a white sauce (instead of mushroom soup) it would have more of a rarebit taste and look at the work! Mom would never make this!

This stalwart of American cooking is often topped with a crunchy layer of crushed potato chips instead of bread crumbs and traditionally made with a can or two of cream of mushroom soup. Our "from scratch" version is respectfully updated.

10 tbsp. butter
4 1⁄2 cups (about 10 oz.) flat egg noodles
5 scallions, chopped
3 tbsp. flour
1 1⁄2 tsp. dry mustard
3 1⁄3 cups milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 12-oz. can tuna packed in oil, drained and broken into
small chunks
1 1⁄2 cups homemade fresh white bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Rub the inside of a 2 1⁄2-quart casserole dish with 1 tbsp. of the butter. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add noodles and cook until al dente, 5–7 minutes. Drain and transfer noodles to a large bowl.

2. Melt 4 tbsp. of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add half the scallions and cook until softened, 1–2 minutes. Add flour and mustard and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Gradually pour in milk, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil. Cook sauce, stirring frequently, until smooth and thickened, 16–18 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer sauce to the bowl with the noodles. Add tuna and stir gently to combine. Transfer tuna–noodle mixture to prepared dish.

3. Melt remaining 5 tbsp. butter and toss with remaining scallions, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Scatter seasoned bread crumbs over tuna–noodle mixture and bake until golden brown and bubbling, 20–25 minutes. Let casserole cool slightly before serving.

This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #98

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuna Casserole

I’ve just finished an unmemorable book. It was chick lit with mid-life crisis characters set in contemporary England. There were some sterling insightful observations and quick repartee. In no time at all I will forget it and move on. Since the title was Cloe Zhivago’s Recipe for Marriage and Mischief by Olivia Lichtenstien; she felt she had to weave recipes throughout. At the beginning of most chapters there was a recipe with a hint of tying it into the chapter with a noted character.

One recipe and chapter gave me pause. It was a recipe from the ‘50’s- a bit more gourmetized than I remembered. It was offered by the mother/mother-in-law/grandmother. She was a woman that made you cringe just reading about her. True to form she made a dish that everyone either gagged on or quickly left the table. Of course the characters had to hate the meal the woman was vile.

When I looked at the recipe I had a different feeling. Take the peas away and it was Tuna Casserole! As a child it was a delight! A casserole with potato chips as one of the 4 ingredients was culinary utopia. For my mother it was bliss from can to table in 20 minutes and no complaints. “Lick your plate clean!” “No problem!”

When the characters gagged and rolled their eyes I felt like shaking them!
“Don’t you understand how good that casserole is? Where else is there a recipe that has potato chips as part of the square meal? Usually they were parceled out but in this dish they could be eaten with orgasmic abandon. Toasty on top and drenched in cream of mushroom soup it didn’t get any better back in the fine cuisine era of the late '50's.

I will not go down culinary lane and recreate the dish. My memories are strong and I don’t want to mar them with the reality of a mediocre meal. A tear will be shed over the memory.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cranberry Apple Sauce w/ Japanese Pickled Ginger

Fall is here and so are the first apples and cranberries. Last week I bought some heirloom apples. They had a lovely taste and snow white interior but the texture reminded me of Delicious apples in March. So I ignored them and ate with glee and delight the Honey Crisps. Slowly the heirlooms made their way to the front of the fridge reminding me that something had to be done with them. A cruise of the fresh produce aisle solved my apple dilemma. Grabbing a bag of fresh cranberries I was ready to cook!
This is a loose recipe based on what you want to get rid of and how much is on hand.
2 Apples quartered, peeled, seeded
1 bag Fresh Cranberries rinsed, and picked through
1/4C Water
1t Japanese Pickled Ginger, julienne into thin strips (ginger preserves can be
1pinch Kosher salt
Sugar-to taste
1 Squeeze fresh Lemon Juice

Put all of the ingredients minus the sugar in a thick bottomed pot. Cook at medium heat until the apples are mushy and the cranberries have popped. While still hot add the sugar to taste. Stir vigorously to combine ingredients. Let cool and serve.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

D-Day For Moles! or Part 2

It was a dark and stormy day…Well not actually- it was an “everything” day as I like to call a cloudy-rainy-sunny-day. The only precipitation we were missing was hail.

Things did not bode well for Mole City. After an invigorating walk with Bz.Lt.Yr, NSSP was back. His jaw was set in one of those classic male poses- determined, resolute, and gunning for a confrontation.

“Don’t you think it’s a bit wet for The Super Gasser?” I had started to feel a wee bit sorry for the little blind web-footed invaders.

“You can’t stop me woman! Today is the day! I will rule my turf!” his eyes had turned a steely blue and I thought I had been dropped into a grade B movie. Instead of Bill Murray I was faced with John Wayne, The Lone Ranger and Clint Eastwood rolled into one. “I don’t need your help! This is a MAN’S JOB.”

As he gathered his manly tools I quietly pocketed my camera to record the battle. NSSP emerged from the shed with such technical tools as a 3 pronged hand rake, ergonomic serrated scoop, dandelion poker, a rake that has followed us across the USA and his WMD. Long strides quickly brought him to the mound. We both stared fantasizing the upcoming battle. In one quick movement NSSP was on the ground leveling the mound. I refrained from mentioning that Bz.Lt.Yr. could dig faster and more efficiently but I realized that would spoil fun #1 playing in the mud.

After leveling the mound came fun#2 poking the hole with the dandelion poker. Plunge, poke, wiggle, then thrust again and repeat. NSSP was like a mad scientist getting ready for the big bang. NSSP emitted a satisfied grunt. “Ah…I found it!” He sat back on his haunches and stroked The Super Gasser. I knew better than to interrupt or break his concentration.

NSSP whipped out a lighter and lit the fuse. We stared at it as if it was a stick of dynamite and would explode. Instead it started smoking. Thrusting The Super Destroyer into the hole NSSP quickly filled the hole and we looked at the ground as if there would be a horde of little moles clamoring to the top. Instead we saw smoke wisps puffing out of the grass.

Fun#3 commenced with a tarantella stomp/dance where ever we saw smoke escaping.
“We can’t let the smoke escape or it won’t follow the tunnel!” my expert in mole destruction exclaimed.

It was time for fun#4 finding more holes to smoke out. Must use up the sticks! Bill Murray was back poking, stuffing, and stomping in the front yard. When he got too close to the house I pulled the fun cord and called an end to the experiment.

Only time will tell if the moles met their match with NSSP but he did have a great time and vowed to buy more Gasser/Destroyers…I can’t wait...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WMD~Weapons of Mole Destruction! Part 1

Living on the edge can turn the mildest milk toast professor into a whirling dervish when confronted with moles, voles, and Norwegian rats. I have witnessed this transition in NSSP (Not So Silent Partner). He has never been a milk toast professor but does have a kind heart toward dogs, cats, and children. I have heard that on the golf course a darker side comes out but it never crosses our domestic thresh hold until…

He came back from walking the dog. Slamming the door shut he screamed, “That’s it! This is war!”

I put on my ‘concerned spouse what is it this time dear look’ and gently said, “What’s wrong?”

His eyes had an other- worldly glaze as he ominously whispered, “It’s the moles! there is a huge mound of dirt in our front yard! I’m going to kill them this is it! This is WAR! You just try walking on the yard! Your feet sink into the tunnels! The yard is riddled with tunnels!”

I did my June Cleaver smile and patted his chest, “Now dear it can’t be all that bad.” I was already losing interest in this yard violation but I dutifully opened the front door and peeked out. I hate to admit it but the mound was rather large, it looked like big brown erupted zit on the green grass cheek of our tamed yard. “Did Bz.Lt.yr. Pee on the zit -err- mound?” it was an urban edge legend that pee- human or dog- would chase moles away.

“No he did not! We need to start patrolling more! The rains are coming and this problem needs to be dealt with! They must die!”

By this time I had heard enough of NSSP’s blather and scuttled downstairs to my office cave. Thinking the best way to deal with the problem was to ignore it. A few hours later NSSP had calmed down (I thought he had taken my approach to the problem) and said he was off to a spin class at the club. I inwardly sighed thinking the world had righted itself and started dinner.

Coming home to a bubbling crock pot of split pea soup (this is the meager food entry), I saw a slightly manic sparkle to NSSP’s eyes. Thinking it was just an elevated heart rate from exercise I gathered the rest of the meal and we sat down to dinner.

“I stopped at Lowe’s on my way to the club.” He said casually, “I talked to a young man about OUR PROBLEM and he had the perfect solution!”

“You spoke to a minimum wage teenage employee and he had the perfect answer to our mole city?” the world was starting to shift slightly.

“Yes! You won’t believe it! There are no chemicals, vibrating sticks or traps!” NSSP’s eyes were in full manic glow. I hadn’t seen him this excited since last Sunday when he had a sports trifecta with the Yankees, Giants, and American’s winning in golf.

“ Soooo- how does it work?”

“I’m going to smoke them out!!”

That was when I noticed a change in NSSP. As I watched him describe how he bought the perfect rodent smoke bombs, perfectly safe around children and dogs, I watched him turn into Bill Murray from Caddy shack fame. Before my eyes there he was in a dirty ragged tee shirt, squashed hat, slurring his words out of the side of his mouth, wobbling his head, and leering at me. The world was definitely tilting and I was slipping off the edge.

I looked at the wine bottle and knew I couldn’t blame this on our consumption. I had to calm the beast before he became a menace to society.

“Can I see what you bought?” NSSP snapped back to my mate with a shy smile.

“Do you really want to see it?”

“Yes!” I feigned interest. “Where are these smoke bombs?”

“They’re in the garage!” He leapt up and brought back the package placing it on the table.

To say I burst into laughter is an understatement. I howled! “Look at this packaging! This was designed only for men! What sane woman would be attracted to this? “The Super Gasser? The Giant Destroyer? The effective gas killer? This product has been used successfully for many years for rodent control?”

I looked up and saw a glimmer of realization that this might not be the final answer for NSSP but would be one hell of a good time. Like poking a worm to death or stepping on a slug.

NSSP reverently held his super gasser package and lovingly put it back in the garage.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shrimp Chips with Lobster Pics!

This is my last nod to 10/10/09 until next year. I won't regale you with the frozen dim sum extravaganza we ate watching "The Chinese Feast" except to point out these psychedelic fried discs you should try. They are Chinese shrimp toasts. Flat discs you fry in oil that turn in to crispy pillows. They take only seconds to cook and I suggest only cooking what you will eat in one sitting. You can buy them all white but why? The colors are a blast! They have a nice shrimp flavor and I have served them before with a crab dip.

Family Dinner Part 2

There was a disturbing article in MY Sunday paper (NYT) with the title,“The Guilt-Trip Casserole” by Jan Hoffman. The nut graph was that a study by CASA (Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) at Columbia University found that teenagers who ate less than 3 times a week were more likely to turn to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs than those who dined with their families 5 times a week (Dined? Obviously the fact gatherers haven’t eaten with a monosyllabic teenager or an obnoxious 10 year old).Families are stretched thin and time is on the short side. Cooking has been getting the short sheet for many years. Pierre Franey wrote a couple of cookbooks for the 60 minute gourmet back in prehistoric cooking times of the '70's. Today RR is doing it in 30 minutes and there is a series of cookbooks using only 3-5 ingredients to make a tasty? meal.I won’t even mention another Julia Child wannabe who rips open bags of prepackaged stuff and finishes her show with a vodka slurpy. Food has been delegated to fuel (energy bars, drinks, fast food in the car) void of its leisure and mentally nurturing qualities.

How can we put quality back into eating if we are ripping open packages of pre-cut vegetables or bagged cooked rice and zapping them?It’s not that we have to eat like the Romans and recline on pillows but like a nightly bedtime story it should be a time of staring at each other and brushing up on the technique of speaking to a person not a cel phone.We have to be reminded that we are a family unit and not just individuals careening around with head sets and lap tops. The family unit grew out of the love (or mistake) of two people and their commitment to the future. Children need to see how their parents or elders interact for better or for worse. It is the subconscious template for their future relationships.

When a job is hard to do and the rewards seem elusive we try to work around the elephant in the kitchen. This is what has happened to many parents today. Feeding a family sucks and it is a 365 day responsibility. It can be grueling and mind numbing. Keeping track of everyone’s likes and dislikes, or worse yet allergies, taxes even the most organized executive. Then we have the nonexistent “rave reviews” or thank yous. I’m not saying my generation was the golden age of family meals but it was a dictatorship in the kitchen. There also wasn’t the proliferation of restaurants on every corner. You ate at home, period.

To learn any skill there is a logic one must learn. Sewing? Knitting? Carpentry? Cooking? These all require a commitment to get to the next level. Cookbooks are written today to sell and tease most aren’t meant to help build a repertoire. Unless you have the culinary fire in your belly you won’t be the next Féran Adria but a few simple meals could turn you into a nurturing person.

I wish I had some concrete answers. My heart goes out to the cooking challenged it’s a hard road.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Think Fast! and Use Wondra!

I had all intensions of making the perfect unctuous macaroni and cheese but even the best plans can go awry. I should have gone downstairs and retrieved my Betty Crocker (this is the only recipe I have ever used her for) but no, I was cock sure. I foraged in our meat/cheese drawer and found a plethora of “fromage du jour”. There was also bacon lurking, waiting to adhere its fat to my hips. No problem! I’m the gal!

The first big hurdle was the shape of the pasta. I take this very seriously. What does it look like? How will it soak up the sauce? Is it a shape I want to eat tonight? Swirling questions as I groped pasta in my pantry and there it was! Culinary Circle Authentic Bronze-Cut Trottole shaped pasta (on sale at Albertson’s) I knew the bronze cut would be the secret ingredient to my pasta absorbing cheese concoction.

I proceeded down my mental mac&chez checklist until….I looked at the finished sauce and realized it was cheese oil slurry lacking the emulsion qualities I wanted. I stepped back and said “flip”... I’m not about to make a separate roux to jack the white sauce. In a B.O.B. (Burst of Brilliance) I reached for my Wondra! A couple of T’s later and we were on smooth sailing. A pop in the oven with a dusting of toasted breadcrumbs and I put Kraft M&C to shame!
The Bailed Out Recipe: oven @350°
2 strips bacon, minced
¼-1/3C onion, finely diced
1 cl garlic, minced
2T olive oil
2T flour
2C milk
31/2C fromage du jour, grated- hats off to the food processor!
grates of nutmeg
1/2T mustard
1/2C additional milk (oops!)
2T Wondra flour
squeeze of lemon
sel e poive
toasted, buttered breadcrumbs (thank you freezer)
heavy cream to lubricate (o.k. any milk will do)
Directions: Put large pot of salted (like the sea) water on to boil. Cook pasta while the rest of the circus is going on. When done, drain and let hang until needed.

Sauté bacon, onion, garlic, olive oil until the onions are translucent and bacon has started to brown. Add flour and cook (yikes! A culinary term! It morphs into a roux!) Add milk and cook until thickened (here dear friends is the faux pas- not enough roux for the~ second culinary term~ white sauce) this will slightly coat the spoon not a heavy pudding coat which would be nice.

Add cheese, nutmeg and mustard. Check the damage. You can charge through and ignore the less than perfect M&C texture or bail out with Wondra. Adjust seasonings add black pepper, lemon and salt “to taste”.

By now the pasta has solidified- rinse in hot water and SHAKE VIGOROUSLY less is more in the water department.

Combine sauce and pasta in oil laced casserole- is there anything other than Corning Ware to use? Cook until bubbly (this culinary term has to be from the ‘50’s!) If you peer in and see it is not as creamy as you would like add a splash of heavy cream around the edges (o.k. I have this h.c. that I’m trying to use up).
Did I forget to mention enjoy? M&C in any variation is always a perfect meal.
Bon Appetit!

Family Dinner Part 1

Family Dinner. Why do those two words conjure up so many different emotions? It used to be simple. At 5pm in Iowa (6pm for us there were cocktails first) we sat down for dinner, period. There was no dialog about what to have, where to sit or more importantly what to eat. We ate what was put in front of us either hot as served or lukewarm to cold if we decided to resist the lima beans. I don’t remember pithy conversations, jokes, or stories. I do remember a lot of boredom, waiting to be dismissed to dash outside, in the summer or just away in the winter. Dismissal was at my father’s whim. Dinner attendance was expected. Only on sleepovers when you changed dinner tables was there variety. Dinner was the last family ritual to be performed before individual homework, baths, and bed. In those days there was a touch of black and white T.V., also controlled by Dad.

Fast forward. When The Princess was a tyke, I fed her first for many reasons. Firstly, she just wasn’t fun to eat with. She was happy eating the same thing all the time and I wasn’t happy making the same thing all the time for me to eat. Secondly, I didn’t even think about dinner until 5-6pm. During school I would bang out something for her but in the summer it was oft times when food wasn’t ready until 8-9pm. When she did become old enough to be tolerated at the table there were manners to be taught- elbows off, milk finished, napkin in the lap, silverware placement, and most importantly shoulders up! No slouching. We did make a stab at conversation but most of the stories had been told already. I did find it a great time for a family meeting, a time for us all to be updated on future plans and obligations. I didn’t make her wait until the last scrap was eaten by all and there were times when we did eat in front of the T.V. but mostly there was dinner music and candles not in a hoity toity way but a benchmark for civility and respect.

My job was to feed. My NSSP and The Princess’s job was to eat without complaint. There were a few years when I almost hated to put food in front of the other 2/3’s of the house. “Can’t you make anything plain?” she lamented. “Why does it always have to be fancy or gourmet?” she would push food around her plate as if it was a hated substance. I didn’t have an answer that she would understand but in defense I would have gone stark raving mad if I had to cook from Betty Crocker every day. I needed to be creative in my kitchen.

What goes around comes around. I find The Princess a success now. She can work her way around a menu at the fanciest of restaurants and is a joy to eat with next to NSSP. She hasn’t learned to cook (I was never a touchy feely stir the pudding mom- more of the go get your homework done and I’ll meet you at the dinner table kind of gal) but her palate is developed and she will try almost anything. She has a cook’s logic and on the few times she’s called me for recipes whipping down the aisles at Gristedes Market or the Fairway her questions are insightful.

She also is fearless. Last Thanksgiving she and her best friend made turkey pot pie with dough made from scratch. I do get nervous when she says she has nothing in the fridge (this prompts me to send pasta, sauce and peanut butter) I have to release. She will find her way.

These days with an empty nest, Family Dinner is for either one or two. Candles are still lit and jazz replaces the classical cooking music. It is an interlude between two parts of the day and a time to wind down. I wouldn’t give it up for anything!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Celebrity Cooking Circuit or The Three Stooges are Back!

I read far too many food related articles, blogs, and other people’s ruminations. I ponder each gem wondering if this is the next craze, chef, or food to note. There are times however when I step back and reflect on what is being said. A subconscious knee jerk occurs as I push back from the rising tide of culinary sensationalism.

In an article titled “Rock Star Chefs” by Katy McLaughlin in www.onlinewsg.com 10.2.09; she explores the rock star status that chefs are attaining today. This isn’t rocket science. We’ve seen this rolling tsunami, flood the culinary scene with chefs turn celebrity, chef market food; wannabes reach chef stardom, and random failed restaurants. What has this done to elevate truly excellent cooking and passion in the masses?

RR in her own way ( and believe me I hate to give a nod to her slap dash in your face recipes and sloppy presentations and verbiage) we find her at least careening around a kitchen and squatting in front of a ridiculous oven to yank out broiled food. She doesn’t try to hob knob with the likes of Chef Eric Ripert and when she was on an Iron Chef Cook-off a few years ago seemed quite humbled and realistically out of her depth.

There was a quote in the article from used to be chef, and now resident culinary journalist Mr. Anthony Bourdain mentioning that he did 25 live appearances and will up it to 40 next year because the majority of his do$ re$ mi$ comes from these dog and pony shows. He did one last year here in my fair city on the edge and some close friends of mine went. When queried, they said his one man show was good when he was reciting his shtick but when the show was opened to questions from the masses it fell like a deflated soufflé. Everyone wanted to have a little one-on-one even if the question had been asked before or wasn’t relevant.

Hurling bras on the stage? (Guy Fieri) “Garnishing” a bald headed person in the audience with whipped cream and licking it off? (Paula Deen) What the flying wazoo has happened to cooking demonstrations?

Today “Bam!” is so innocent with everyone jamming food in their faces, ooze dripping down, and orgasmic grunting sounds.

My eyes welled when I saw that Chef Jacques Pepin, Chef Eric Ripert, and Mr.Tony Bourdain were going to do a three act celebrity chefs series in Miami.What is the world coming to? The last 3 act I remember was the 3 Stooges on black and white t.v.

I have seen Chef Pepin do several demonstrations alone and with Julia Child in his prime I thought of him as a human cuisinart in precision. The minimum of movement for maximum results exuded what it is to be a truly efficient chef. His La Technique and La Methode were seminal books that enticed me to pursue a culinary career.

I watched a Chef Ripert demonstration when he was on the cusp of “stardom” and felt the same reverence for his craft. I ate at his restaurant and although I am not stupid enough to think that he was dipping his finger in each sauce before it went out I felt his exactitude conveyed to the staff both front of the house and back of the house. His cookbooks exude a love for ingredients and a masterful execution of dishes. He's a pro!

Mr. Bourdain? His Kitchen Confidential was an Upton Sinclair for the restaurant industry. His stories were far too true and made me wince remembering the wild west days of the restaurant industry. These were stories I never even shared with my NSSP and here they were in print for the masses. He was a bad boy chef who worked hard and bailed out. He still has this fantasy that he is part of the trenches but this image can only be seen through rose colored glasses and a softened memory bank. His prose are acerbic and spot on but he’s strayed. New books have been shelved for live appearances. How many bugs and offal can he eat with the natives? Even that gets old.

I haven’t even mentioned the groupies who follow these people around and eat food prepared by more wannabe cooking school cheflets using the “God’s “ recipes. Kind of like buying a print of Picasso when he's in the room.

Call me old fashioned but I want to be inspired and learn from a cooking demonstration or show. It’s not good enough to see someone washing their hands 5 times and opening packages. How about some interesting technique with a properly set table and a plate with a reasonable portion?

I guess it’s time to throw in a Julia Child DVD and go down memory lane.
Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Soup to Warm Your Bones

One look at the upcoming weather sent visions of chicken soup to my mind’s eye. I couldn’t wait for the happy sun to disappear under a blanket of grey clouds. First I had to start my broth base. I save as many random chicken bones and pieces as I can in the freezer to start my broth. I throw the frozen mess into a large le creuset pot along with a mirepoix, (large pieces of celery, onion, and carrot) thyme, parsley, garlic and boxed chicken broth. I like to use the boxed broth-it jump starts the flavor. After cooking the base until the chicken meat falls off the bones and the neck bones crumble with a pinch, I chill it overnight so the fat rises and can be skimmed off.

Call me a sissy but I hate to fondle cold meat. Squishing ground meat for meatloaf makes my fingers ache just thinking about it. The same is true with cold slimy chicken. After skimming the fat I warm the base until it is comfortable to plunge my digits in and commence to separate the meat from the bones and vegetables. It’s tedious but the happy wag from our dog’s docked tail keeps me filling the bowl for his breakfast.

Strained and golden, the broth is ready to turn into a soup. Originally I was going to do the usual; chicken vegetable with a medley of summer’s end vegetables undulating in the crock pot. This morning is another day and looking over at the pyramid of tomatoes cascading across the counter I realized I should branch out. Scurrying downstairs to my study I grabbed Splendid Soups by James Peterson Bantam Books CO 1993.

Page 394 held the answer to my soup du jour dilemma, Chicken Soup with Garlic, Saffron, Basil, & Tomatoes. I skimmed the ingredients and found I was only missing 3; leeks (a mixture of shallots and mild onions will suffice), turnips (no problem I’m not wild about them) and crusty French bread (everything bagels from Yom Kippur would step in). In a nod to France I grabbed some flageolets to substitute for cannellini and some chanterelles to ramp up the mushroom category. Then I stopped short. The recipe was for 4-8!I didn’t want that much sitting around for us. I used a little trick that works for me when making soups. I grab the size pot that will hold enough soup for us and use it for measurement. When it is full of all of the ingredients (in rough proportions to the recipe) the amount of soup made has been contained to a reasonable amount and I haven’t made vats. I fiddled and fondled until perfection was achieved!

I must say this turned out to be a sterling soup! Mixing in a portion of the saffron garlic added a creamy element and fresh garlic flavor. The basil cream gave a fresh herb flavor. All in all this would be a great entertaining dish or after skiing soup. All I need now are a few more friends or lessons in skiing!

I will give you the list of ingredients but you will have to mold the soup around your palate and larder. Have fun & Happy Eating!
Bouquet garni
Chicken broth
Olive oil
Heavy cream
Cannellini beans
Saffron & Garlic Mayonnaise
French bread
Soup is made from leeks, carrots, turnips, mushrooms, bouquet garni, and chicken broth. Poach chicken in this, shred. Add peeled and seeded tomatoes make green sauce with basil olive oil and heavy cream. Make saffron & garlic mayonnaise stir some in soup save some for garnish add rest of ingredients sans bread. Put bread on the bottom soup on top with saffron garlic mayo and basil cream.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall is Crashing In

September and October on the edge are a couple of months of perfect weather and fresh produce strawberries, raspberries plums and peaches are in profusion but quietly being nudged out by honey crisp, braeburn and granny smiths. Tomato plants haven’t given up and are still in frenzied production. Winter squash is squatting next to purple majesty and German butter potatoes.

Each day I switch between summer grilling and oven cooking. I wonder when we eat outside if it will be the last of the season. It takes longer for the house to warm up- we just put on another layer.

Last night it was summer and we made ribs. Not the slow cook kind but a somewhat quicker version. I patted the ribs with a dry rub and wrapped them in foil letting them “marinate” for a couple of hours in the fridge.

When ready the NSSP fired up the grill and cooked them covered for a little over an hour. He then took them out of the foil and slathered them with bbq sauce and finished them on a slow flame to crisp and caramelize. It wasn’t fall off the bone perfection but darn good Friday night vittles. I whipped up some classic cole slaw channeling my mother-in-law’s recipe and of course our daily intake of tomatoes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why Do I Think Of These Labor Intensive Tasks?

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Last year I held a Bastille Day celebration and thought the only way to serve raspberries was to stuff them with melted chocolate. It was a decadent end to the evening and a perfect marriage but gee wiz what a gooey nightmare!

This year as an additional appetizer to the salmon mousse below I dreamed up these tasty morsels. Who in their right mind is going to hollow out cherry tomatoes (these babies were miniature plums from our garden) pat them dry, minuscule mince chives and uber chiffonade basil alternating on top and below with red dragon mustard cheese and mozzeralla pearls?

All I could think about was that it was only for 4 and I wasn't doing the deed on 1/2 sheet pans for the masses.

They were cute,and tasty and yes I will do them again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Little Things You Learn On The Cusp Of Your 25th Anniversary

On the cusp of our 25th Anniversary I thought I pretty much knew my NSSP's likes and dislikes. I mean lets face it I cook and he eats. It's a pretty easy division of duties. That fateful night it was a simple meal of large tube pasta, herbs, garlic, and chopped tomatoes.The tomatoes turned warm after the addition of the hot cooked pasta. It was a pleasant meal with the usual candles,jazz, and wine. We chatted as couples do about nothing profound in fact I am certain we were talking about our animals and wayward daughter probably in that order.

My plate was licked clean it was delicious and uncomplicated. I looked over at his plate and found herbs and pasta gone and a neat pile of chopped tomatoes to the side.

"Was there something wrong with the pasta?" I queried knowing full well that I had made yet another perfect meal.

"No I don't like warm tomatoes." he sheepishly admitted.

"Wait a minute! You like raw tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup, salsa and you don't like fresh slightly warm tomatoes in a sauce?" My voice started to squeak.

"You know I don't like those broiled tomatoes." he mumbled.

"Who does? Their gummy, burnt and soggy all at the same time. Slightly warm tomatoes fall into the same category?" I looked at those innocent red flavorful chunks that had been cast off as inedible and were cooling their jets as we argued.

"Is there anything else I should know about your likes and dislikes?" I pondered creating a form for him to fill out.

"No...Not really," the NSSP gave me his most winning smile trying get the dinner back on track and perhaps into a romantic culmination of the evening.

I'll let you finish the story as you feel fit...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Casual and Special Dinner for Friends

I recently invited a couple over for dinner. I would describe the meal as casually elegant. For appetizers I made salmon mousse with dill. Instead of using canned salmon I used the real thing and poached it in a court bouillon (wine, celery, onions, carrots, thyme & tarragon). I removed the skin and any feather bones lurking in the meat and cooked it until it was firm when gently squeezed. Leaving it in the liquid over night, the salmon retained its moisture. The next day I put it in the food processor with Neufchatel cheese (a light cream cheese substitute), fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt, white pepper and dried dill. It was puréed until silky smooth. The rich pink color and fresh subtle taste made it sublime.

Next I stuffed cherry tomatoes with Red Dragon cheese, a cheese studded with mustard seeds. Our first course was a red and green pepper soup with a splash of heavy cream to smooth the flavor out. Our entrée was grilled lamb chops with lemon and rosemary. A no-brainer since my NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) took care of the dirty work. The rest of the plate was a riot of color. I steamed purple new potatoes and garnished them with chopped chives. Next there were sautéed Romano beans that had been cut into diagonal pieces, sautéed in garlic oil and topped with toasted garlic chips. Nestled in the center of the plate were a healthy serving of chopped tomatoes finished with a turn from my black pepper grinder and French sea salt.

Dessert? Apple strudel made with the first apples of the season. What made it easy was that I didn’t have to tear around looking for recipes nor reinvent the wheel to impress. Also most of it was done beforehand a requirement for any entertaining culinary event I create. More pictures will follow!