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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~