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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Dough Master

Last year I gave you a holiday strategy for making cookies- See Archives December 18, 2009. This year I want to share with you my 2010 selection.

This is not a typical Christmas on The Edge. Life is in boxes waiting to sell the house and move on to new adventures so my pastry tips, bags, and random fun toys are packed away. Licking my wounds I confided in The Princess that I wouldn’t be making cookies this year. “But MOM you have to make cookies even if you make just one kind!” I could feel her eyes welling up with tears.

Wait a minute!! Was that The Princess who wanted me to MAKE something in the kitchen for her??? How could I turn her down? And so I rallied.

First on the list was a new cookie from The NYT- Cardamom-Walnut Crescents a quick dough executed in the Cuisinart. Next a classic from my family- Candy Cane Cookies-but wait-my little grey cells jingled. Why do I always make the dough in one lump only to split it in half to color one part red? How about-(and this is where rocket science kicks in-) I just split the recipe in the beginning! Bingo fans I broke through the sound barrier! I almost called one of my culinary cohorts to brag but I had other dough’s to conquer.

Next up were the brown dough’s. From Rose Beranbaum’s Christmas Cookie book (if you only buy one cookie book this is the one!) I made Mrs. King’s Irresistibles a dense oatmeal, raisin, chocolate cookie made even more decadent with chopped up E. Guittard semi-sweet chocolate (screw Toll House). When finished I think we will do a drizzle of white chocolate to gourmetize. Rose also contributed The Princess’s favorite, Peanut Butter and Jelly Jewels. I used to buy special hydrogenised peanut butter but have changed my ways and use our everyday peanut butter increasing the flour to absorb the extra oil.

Last year Heidi Swanson had a Triple Ginger Cookie I tried. It usurped my Ginger Thin recipe from The Joy of Cooking. If you love ginger this is unbelievable!! It is a trifecta of ginger, freshly grated, ground, and crystallized with a lacing of lemon zest.

For the last few years I have been making Gourmet’s Chocolate Christmas Cookies this year Serious Eats tempted me with Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies. I read the title to NSSP and got a nod of approval. Really how can you go wrong with little cocoa discs filled with a peanut butter cream cheese?

And then I was done!! All wrapped labeled and accounted for chillin’ in the fridge waiting for The Princess to arrive and help with the baking.

If any of you are interested in the recipes. Drop a comment below and I’ll get them off to you!!

Pictures will follow~ Fa-La-La!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Book Review-Buckhorn Springs Heritage Cookbook

Buckhorn Springs Heritage Cookbook
By Lauren, Leslie, and Bruce Sargent

I was recently contacted to review Buckhorn Springs Heritage Cookbook, by Lauren, Leslie, and Bruce Sargent. This is a unique cookbook that celebrates a family’s dream and those people the dream has touched. There is passion for the land, its history dating back to the American Indians, and how various owners tried their luck. The winners are the Sargents' who bring skill and love to a dream with success.

The book is woven like a tapestry. A cast of many lend their voice and stories about how Buckhorn Springs influenced them and lingers in their memories. Pictures are copious with before and after shots of the buildings, children growing up, and tempting food.

The stories and recipes are divided by the time of day; beginning with Morning and a selection of quick breads, a frittata, granola, and pancakes. All recipes are simply laid out and easy to follow. Noon’s offerings are many with various wraps, salads, and soups, just the right sustenance for a break in the day. Night is more substantial with many filling and mostly vegetarian dishes. After Hours has the kind of offerings that you want to take back to your cabin for a midnight snack.

Leslie Sargent is the driving force in the kitchen. She found her culinary infatuation at twelve when she began cooking for her family. The Buckhorn Kitchen philosophy is to create dishes “simple and fresh, with ingredients from the harvests of local farmers”. Her challenge has been to serve food that fits the wide variety of clients who pass through, taking into account diets, allergies, and food restrictions.

With that in mind, the recipes are stand alone terrific but with room for additions and subtractions to fit assorted diets. Leslie gives credit to her inspirational sources and suggests changes a cook may try. Always take note of the serving sizes because they vary.

If you try only one recipe in the Morning chapter it has to be Very Lemon Bread. This is a straight forward quick bread with the addition of a Lemon Pour that is poured over the bread while still warm. The pour soaks in and adds a fresh lemon infusion to the cake. Divine!

Lunch and dinner recipes embrace global flavors. Ginger Marinated Tofu Wraps with Peanut Sauce reside next to Sweet Potato Quesadillas and Minestrone for lunch. Aside from the usual salad suspects Leslie has included Quinoa Salad with Oranges, a brightly flavored dish with Middle Eastern spices, raisins, and almonds. Her Farro Salad has the addition of vaquer beans (sometimes called vaquero beans) that add protein, a unique color, and great texture. The dish is worth the adventure! Www.RanchoGordo.Com in Napa Valley, CA carries them.

A perfect hostess always sends her guests to bed with a little sweet. Leslie has that covered with a selection that appeals to all tastes and dietary restrictions. Vegan Wheat-Free Cashew Cookies, Summer Squash Spice Cake, Buck Bars (Leslie’s tasty answer to Cliff & Luna bars), and don’t forget Leslie’s Brownies or Lauren’s Oatmeal Granola all put a smile on visitor’s faces.

Buckhorn Springs Heritage Cookbook is an amazing story that one feels is ongoing and not yet at the end. It is a wonderful example of our unique state and what it has to offer the world.

I can’t wait to read the next installment!

Read! Eat! And Enjoy!

Judith Bishop

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Buy My Calendar!

For those of you who are not relatives...And will be receiving a calendar for the holidays... Zip over to www.lulu.com, type in Judith Bishop and check out My Calendar 2011

Friday, November 12, 2010

Traditions be Damned! We have Memories!

I was asked not too long ago to write a piece on the theme Family traditions. I was flummoxed and hard pressed to come up with a tradition.

Would going to the Nutcracker for 18 years count? Hanging our 48 star flag on appropriate patriotic holidays? A toast to Nouveau Beaujolais in November? Lighting candles for dinner every night? This was a tough assignment.

I called my daughter to see if she fondly remembered any fleeting traditions. She said Christmas cookies.

I thought back to my childhood and tried hard to glean a tradition. I wrote to my sister and she mentioned our Christmas coffee cake, Thanksgiving turkey and maybe roast beef for Christmas dinner. “Geeze I guess we were a bit deprived on the tradition thing...” she wrote.

I don’t feel that my life is lacking because there are no family traditions. We have many fond memories to rely on. We always have a Christmas tree. In Florida we wore sunglasses to the tree stand. Out here on The Edge it has become a tradition to buy and chop one down from the same farm. When we move this tradition will become a memory. Our tradition of going to the Nutcracker was the cultural glue of the holiday season until our daughter decided we were done. Our family tradition of sending our daughter to visit her best friend every summer and vice versa came to an end when they no longer had endless summers. We share these memories.

When it comes to holiday food I seek both comfort and a different twist. “Why can’t we eat normal food like everyone else?” was a common lament. “I can’t cook that way” was my reply. Cranberry sauce is cooked with apples and Cointreau. My mother’s coffee cake is now made with dried fruit instead of the old standby candied fruit.

Each tweak to a recipe breaks tradition and shifts life’s sand. Perhaps my tradition is always to change.

Jessica’s Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Preheat oven 375°
1 1/4C All Purpose Flour
1t Baking Soda
1/8t Kosher Salt
1/2C Brown Sugar (firmly packed)
1/4C Granulated Sugar
1/2C Unsalted Butter
1C Smooth Natural Peanut Butter*
1Lg. Egg
1/2t Vanilla Extract
Raspberry, Cherry, or Strawberry Jam

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl. In a medium bowl beat the butter until soft and smooth. Add sugars and beat until well mixed. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Gradually add flour. Mix until combined, don’t over mix.

Refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Roll 1 inch balls in your hands and place 1 ½” apart on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Use your finger to make an indentation in each ball.

Bake 6 minutes make the indentation again in the cookies and rotate the sheet pan in the oven. Bake another 5-6 minutes or until lightly brown.

Fill the indentation with jam just before serving.

*If you are using processed peanut butter (Skippy, Jif etc.) reduce the flour to just 1Cup.

Nana Baker’s Candy Cane Cookies

Preheat oven 375°
2C Unsalted Butter
2C Powdered Sugar
2Lg Eggs
1T Almond Extract (or Orange Flower Water)
5C All Purpose Flour
2t Kosher Salt
Red Food Coloring*

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until pale and smooth. Add eggs and almond extract beat well. Add salt and beat. Gradually add flour.

When well mixed divide the dough in half. Add red food coloring to one batch and mix until the dough is uniform in color. Cover both doughs and refrigerate 1 hour or 1 day.

When ready to form, break off an equal piece of pink and white dough roll into uniform cords. Put them side by side and twist over each other to make them look like candy canes.

Cut into 4” lengths curling one end into the cane hook (or leave them straight). Place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bake 5-8 minutes or until lightly brown around the bottom edges.

*To get a good dark pink color I suggest using a professional red dye paste. Sur La Table, Decorette Shop, or sometimes JoAnn Fabrics carries it. If you use liquid dye the dough will become too moist before the color is achieved.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Diane Morgan Rocks!!

Nothing to do on Sunday night? 11/14- Watch the FOOD NETWORK CHALLENGE: Thanksgiving Family Face-Off2! Check local listings for the
time. My friend and colleague Diane Morgan is one of the judges! Also check out her numerous cookbooks as well!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What will You be Reading this Christmas?

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I don’t know about you but I take my cookbook buying very seriously. Throughout the year I scan Jessica’s Biscuits newsletter and Kitchen & Letters and shuffle books over to a cookbook folder. At Christmas, when NSSP is looking to feed my habit, I give him the list. The first few years he DIDN’T GET IT meaning that he thought he had a CHOICE from the list. No, No dear NSSP I want all that I ask for! But as you know compromises occur in any marriage. So I modified my request. There were the ABSOLUTES and the “you can pick from my surprise list”. This has been a win-win ritual. NSSP “surprises” me and I get what I want.

There is a bit of excitement-will he place the order in time? What DID he pick? Then, the arrival of the box. I stroke, shake, and dream of its contents.

Christmas day when all the presents are opened a second pot of coffee is made and I curl up with my new stack. I know I have a few hours before the kitchen turns into Christmas dinner mayhem and I am riding high on my cookbook fix.

I thought it would be fun to share the books I have accumulated through the year. Some were bought at Christmas others gathered from the “can’t live without” category.

My southern cookbook section is slim so I “requested” John Besh’s My New Orleans The Cookbook. This is a book of seasonal ingredients, celebrations, and the terrior of New Orleans through Besh’s palate. Many recipes have universal appeal and can be made anywhere but after reading about shrimping, Mardi Gras, Feast Days and Creole Tomatoes I started to understand why this iconic cuisine needed to be recorded and passed down. A note must be made to Ditte Isager the photographer and Dorothy Kalins the editor who brought the whole concept together.

I always like to get a BIG book. That means a culinary tomb written by a chef with amazing recipes oozing with creativity. Last year’s hit was MOMOFUKU by David Chang and Peter Meehan. If you haven’t heard of one of David’s restaurants-MOMOFUKU Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, Ko, Milk Bar or Ma Peche you’ve been living under a rock. This book is flipping hot! His combinations and techniques are worth a cruise. Who knew a compound butter of Miso and sweet butter could be so sublime?

In January I continued my Asian infatuation with Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat’s Japanese Hot Pots. Harris pens The Japanese Report. A blog that features his ruminations on Japanese ingredients, chefs, techniques and travel. Through the year I have become more comfortable with Japanese recipes and it’s thanks to Harris.

I didn’t really want to take a class on Stir Fry, but I did want to check out Grace Young. She was coming to The Edge and off I trundled to her class. Boy was I wrong! There was a whole level of stir fry that I didn’t know about. I quickly grabbed her The Breath of a Wok and Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge and haven’t turned back. I have many Chinese cookbooks but what turned my head was the procedure logic in her recipes. Before I started cooking I could easily imagine the flow of the ingredients and execution. A recent dish I made was her salon stir fry. Excellent, light , and not a splash of soy sauce. I have been able to widen my Chinese repertoire and listen to the “Wok Hay”.

Another Asian Chef blew through town and I signed up for her class on Asian Dumplings (book of the same name). Andrea Nguyen is an effervescent cook passionate about anything wrapped in dough. It was hands on, not my favorite venue but how else do you learn a new technique? The dough that captivated me was made with wheat starch. It took me 3 Asian stores before I found it in a reasonable quantity. A Google search led me to businesses that sold it by the pallet load. It is library paste to some but to Asian cooks it makes supple translucent dumplings that melt in your mouth. It was worth the search!

My Italian section has been growing. For years I dismissed Italian cookbooks. I liked my repertoire and felt comfortable creating my own versions. My sights turned to Italy a few years ago when The Princess went there for Junior Year Abroad (we called it finishing school…). Lidia Bastianich came out with Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy and it flew onto my Christmas list. Her passion is felt in every recipe and the chapters start with the regions in the north at Trentino and end in Sardinia. Each region is unique and each chapter illustrates this.

Another book I picked up this year dove tailed perfectly with Lidia’s and that was Why Italians Love to Talk About Food by Elena Kostioukovitch This book focuses on the people of the regions, their differences, and relationship with food.

Cruising the aisles of Borders one day, I picked up Venezia Food & Dreams by Tessa Kiros. Venice is a visual confection and walking the streets you feel like you are in a play. If you never go there buy this book! From the gold edging to the sumptuous pictures and velvet book mark, this cookbook is the next best thing to visiting Venice. The recipes are good and the chapters laid out like a meal from Cicchetti to Dolci you’ll want to share the romance.

Summer found me at the library and I checked out, Recipes from an Italian Summer published by Phaidon. I jokingly told myself I would just skim it but the mind is a devious organ. I didn’t get 10 pages into it when my post-its started dotting the pages. Half way through and I capitulated and bought it. I haven’t regretted the decision. Summer in Italy is easy to imagine with our wonderful Farmer’s Markets and this book. The recipes scream fresh, seasonal and languid meals. Always looking for another food holiday, Italian Summer didn’t let me down. I was introduced to Ferragosto an Italian feast that dates to pre-Roman times and a must celebration on August 15!

In gathering these books I’ve become humbled by all of the must have purchases. When I saw that Dorie Greenspan came out with a new book, Around My French Table I thought I could wait until Christmas, but no. A 40% off coupon at Borders coincided with a cookbook signing on The Edge. Dorie’s books aren’t for the weak wristed. Her Baking cookbook (fabulous- no need for any other baking book!) weighs 4pounds 13 ounces and the new one is 4pounds 11 ½ ounces. I was carrying 3 of them around to be signed and my shoulders were killing me. Ahh, the new book-Such gorgeous pictures by Alan Richardson and recipes that make you imagine your home is in Paris. Dorie is like a good friend whose love of France is infectious. This is about putting together good, simple, food not as a grand dinner party but as a vehicle to a casual night with good friends and conversation. I’ve done a little stroking of the book but am resisting its use until the holidays. I think Dorie’s book will be my featured holiday inspiration.

Last but not least, and in my quest for dinner table etiquette I found The Art of The Table by Suzanne Von Drachenfels. From Dining Fundamentals to Table Manners, Susan deftly covers every aspect of the table as well as upkeep and care of your items. The topic can be daunting but Suzanne keeps on track without bogging down. There is much to learn about setting the perfect table and how it sets the stage for a meal.

A few tips on buying books. I don’t just go off willy nilly and slap the plastic down as soon as I see a book I want. My three go-to sources are: www.powells.com, www.ecookbooks.com, and www.alibris.com. I compare ponder and oft times will buy a used one.

Soon the holidays will be here and I’ll slip my list under NSSP’s office door. I can’t wait for Christmas Day!! What will be under your tree?

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fall and Apples Go Hand in Hand

Fall is a magical time of year for apples. It feels like a true connection with my American heritage. Juice, cider, hard cider, vinegar; pies, sauces, betty’s and crumbles. A simple satisfying bite and snap of the skin as the juice dribbles into my mouth.

When I was growing up in a state that begins with an “I”,my parents would buy a gallon of apple cider and let it sit on the attic stairs to ferment, turning it into hard cider. The container had to be opened to release the gathering gasses. There had been some close calls with bulging plastic containers. My father would taste a bit to determine if it was ready. I never really liked the bubble feel on my tongue or the slightly sour flavor but it was a seasonal family drink.

Apple cider emerged again when I was living with three other women. It was an ex- tavern built in 1747. On a cold night you could feel the wind scuttering over the wide floor boards. One of my roommates was fond of hot cider with cinnamon and a healthy splash of Captain Morgan’s dark rum. Served in a large coffee mug it chased the chill away and left fond memories. I still drink my hot cider this way with a nod to the roommate.

As a young wife I discovered making applesauce. At first I dutifully peeled the apples before cooking them, rendering a pale yellow brown sauce. One day I left the peels on and strained it afterward. The sauce was a beautiful pale pink. It was added to my growing repertoire.

I also discovered a chopped apple added to cranberry sauce softened the sourness. It sits next to the canned cranberry jelly on our Thanksgiving table.

My mother wasn’t a pie person but made crumbles instead. Easy, satisfying, a crunch of cinnamon flavored oatmeal any fruit would do but apples were the best. It took me awhile and a second husband to gather up the courage to make pie dough and an apple pie. Although the first attempt was tasty the gap between top of the pie shell and the apples didn’t look right.

One of my epiphanies was in talking to a friend of mine who was a chef. We were living in a state that begins with “M”and he was from apple country. He told me to always use as many different kinds of apples as I could find thereby giving as much depth to the dish. Made sense to me and I filed it away.

Moving to a state that begins with “O”, and another recipe, I discovered perfection. It was an interesting technique. Instead of putting fresh apples into the shell etc., the night before you cut the apples, added seasonings and let them sit at room temperature. When ready to make the pie you drained the apples, poured them into the shell, thickened the drained juices and poured it over as well.By making the pie this way the apples lost their volume before baking and the pie stayed high and the juice was thick. I don’t look for apple pie recipes any more.

I’ve made beautiful duck and pork sauces with shallots, apples, apple brandy, cream and stock. The ultimate caramel apples for a catered Halloween party were also drizzled in dark and white chocolate and packed with chopped walnuts. My Thanksgiving stuffing isn’t complete without chopped apples.

Apples store well but in time they lose their crunch. The season closes but I have learned patience and wait for another fall and its apple richness.

The Ultimate Apple Pie
I found this recipe in my local newspaper in 1997 and with a few twists of my own think it is the best! The filling must be made at least 8 hours or 1 day ahead.
Try this pie dough recipe as well. I multiply the recipe 4 times using about 5 pounds of flour, making it on my bread board. Once made, I weigh out ¾ pound portions wrap in plastic wrap, label and freeze. I’m ready for pie and pasty season.

Vinegar Pastry Makes 2 8 inch or 9 inch double crust pies.
1 ¼ C Butter or Shortening (I use half butter half non-hydrogenated shortening) cut in
3C All-purpose flour
1t Kosher Salt
1 Egg (I use 1/4C Egg beaters)
1T White or Cider Vinegar
5T Ice Water
Put flour in food processor and cut the butter in chunks over the flour. Add the salt. Pulse the mixture several times until the butter is about the size of small peas.

Mix the egg, vinegar and ice water together and with the processor running slowly pour the liquid down the feed tube. As soon as the dough binds together remove it and put it on a floured board. With the heel of your hand, push the dough 3 times away from you. Gather it, divide in half, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Apple Pie Filling
9-10 Assorted Apples (about 9 cups) peeled and sliced
1/2C Granulated Sugar
1/2C Firmly packed Dark Brown Sugar
1T Ginger Preserves
1 ½ t Ground Cinnamon
1/4t Ground Nutmeg
1t Vanilla
1/4t Kosher Salt
2T Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4C All-Purpose Flour
1T Butter
Place the sliced apples in a large bowl and add sugars, preserves, spices, vanilla, salt and lemon juice. Mix well, cover and let sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours.

To Bake
Preheat oven to 425°.
*Position the oven rack in the middle.
*Roll out one piece of pastry for the bottom crust and place in a pie pan.
*Using a strainer; drain the apples reserving the liquid and combining it with the flour.
*Mound the apples in the pie pan and pour the reserved juice evenly over them. Dot with butter.
*Roll out the second pastry and put on top. Crimp or seal the edges and pierce the top several times with a fork. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
*Bake 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350° and continue to bake 45-60 minutes or until the apples are tender when pierced.
*If the edges are getting too brown, cover them with strips of foil until the pie is done.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm Falling for Pumpkin Sweet Rolls!

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Fall is a very confusing season. The last of the tomatoes vie for attention with the new crop of winter squash. The same is true of what and how to cook. Oven? Crock Pot? Grill? Soup? Roast? Salad? Broccoli and Brussels sprouts emerge pushing the zucchini out of the way. Hamburgers turn into pasty and roast chicken today is chicken soup tomorrow. I relish the change it keeps my cooking nimble. Sometimes an ingredient bought for one dish morphs through my mind into another as the weather swings. When all else fails it gets popped into the freezer until the weather settles down.
A few days ago I my eyes were flitting over recipes on the internet. I lingered, dragged, and clicked a recipe over to my folder for future experimentation. It was Saturday and there was no sweet or savory starch to go with Sunday coffee. I pulled up the internet recipe and did a quick inventory of my pantry. We were in luck! Pumpkin Sweet Rolls to the rescue!
I decided to split the recipe process into two days. I wanted hot rolls on Sunday. The recipe works perfectly and is a great fall addition to anyone’s repertoire. This makes 2 large pie pans of rolls (16-18 rolls) so it is wonderful for giving or brunches.
Pumpkin Sweet Rolls
Preheat oven-375°
Grease 2 9” pie pans or 2 9”X13” baking dishes
1/4/C Warm Water 100°-115°
1 Pinch Sugar
1 Package Yeast or scant tablespoon
Put the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl. Stir and let sit until bubbly.
1C Milk
1/2C Sugar
1/2C Unsalted Butter
In a small sauce pan heat the milk and butter. When butter is melted add the sugar. Stir until it is dissolved.
1Cn Pumpkin Puree (15 oz.)
Pour the milk mixture in a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand up mixer with paddle attachment. Add the pumpkin and mix until warm (100°).
1 1/2t Kosher Salt
1t Ground Cinnamon
1/4t Ground Allspice
1/4t Ground Cloves
1/4t Ground Ginger
1/4t Ground or grated Nutmeg
5 ½-6C All-Purpose Flour
Add the salt, spices, and flour (5Cups) all at once. If the dough is too wet (like a batter not like a dough) add more flour until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If you are using a hand mixer you might have to switch to a spoon for the last bit of flour.
Cover and let rise until double in size 1-3 hours. To speed it along you can put it in the oven with a pot of boiled water. If you heat the oven it must be no hotter than 100° or you will kill the yeast before it rises.
Once raised, punch down and either cover and put in the fridge to bake later, or continue the recipe.
1/2C Unsalted Butter
1/2C Dark Brown Sugar
1/2C Grade B Pure Maple Syrup
2t Ground Cinnamon
1/2t Ground Ginger
1/2t Ground or Grated Nutmeg
1 1/2C Chopped Nuts
1/2C Raisins or dried fruit (cherries, blueberries, chopped apples)
In a medium sauce pan melt the butter, dark brown sugar, and maple syrup. Add the rest of the ingredients. Let cool. Add the nuts and raisins.
Roll out the dough in a 12”X24” rectangle. Spread the top with the filling leaving a ½” edge all around. With the 24” side horizontal to you roll the dough making a tight tube.
Cut the tube into about 1 ½” circles. Place in the baking dishes (this is the second time that the rolls can be covered and put in the fridge for the next day or baked.)

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When ready to bake let rise until double in size and place in a pre-heated oven at 375°. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the tops are light brown. Depending on your oven you might have to rotate the pans for an even bake.
This quantity is for a drizzle on top if you want more of an icing double the quantity.
2T Unsalted Butter
1/4C Milk
1/4C Dark Brown Sugar
1/4C Grade B Pure Maple Syrup
1 1/4C Powdered Sugar
Pinch Kosher Salt
Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan and let come to the boil stirring occasionally.
When the rolls are done let cool slightly and using a large spoon, drizzle the glaze over the top. Serve warm.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Slice and Dice on the Line and Memory Lane

Last Sunday was the food section in The Only Real Paper I Read. I wandered over to This Week in Review and paused. I know that the Op-Art section is cute, a tie in to other weighty pieces but really Choice Cuts? Asking chefs and “chefs” about their burns and cuts on the line?

I gazed at my arms and went down memory lane. My right arm is criss-crossed with various line scars. My right arm was the oven arm and there are many quiche scars and Salamander licks. Splatter burns? Yes I’m sure some of the scars are from an overzealous jerk of the pan in the heat of sauté. Little nicks from barnacles on mussels, and I remember a few times I grabbed a hot sauté pan handle that bubbled the whole hand in the heat of the action. Such is a cook’s life.

There was the time when I was new at a restaurant and doing prep for dinner service. I sliced lemons and myself. Not wanting to bring attention (I was the only female in a testosterone cesspool) I grabbed a clean side towel wrapped it around the finger and continued to slice. It was painful.

There are only slight scars where a cleaver came down on 4 joints as it missed the mark on a chunk of Parmesan. Why the heck was I slicing it during service on a Saturday night? I guess the chef told me to and we needed it. Four squirting fingers joints brought the chef and manager to my side. I was woozy and the manager promptly brought a glass of brandy. He took the first sip. I regrouped, calmed down, went back on the line and finished my shift.

This wasn’t out of old school camaraderie it was about not losing a few hours of pay. Every penny counted in the glamorous world of restaurants.

There are matching thumb scars with stitches created at different times and honestly I don’t remember when. They’re kind of cute in a perverted way.

I don’t see why the public would be interested in scars on knucklehead cooks’ arms. Paula Deen burned her forearm taking out cookies. Big Wazoo.

I think the most ridiculous was the cook who inadvertently burned his chef with splattered grease on the chefs’ pants. At the end of the service the budding chefflete found the dupe that caused the burn, put it in the deep fat fryer for 15 seconds and heroically adhered it to his forearm to replicate the pain he inflicted. He has two more hash burns he has self inflected to remind him of preventable gaffes. Wow that’s noble! Can’t wait to see him at 50!

I have never sat next to a chef drinking a smarty and jauntily asking him about the burns on his arms. Shit happens. Your timing is off some nights. What is more important is getting the food out and not getting the line in the weeds. That is the true fear that numbs the random burns and cuts makes you suck it up and keep slinging hash.

I think Marcus Samuelsson summed it up. “I have scars all over, but they’re part of my DNA as a chef.”

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Chicken Fried Lady

I wasn't ready to scramble to the top of the driveway this morning so I fired up Toshi(ba). There is a feed I follow with this video. Not only did I find it hilarious but it reminded me of what dirty minds food people have-I miss talking dirty to my food!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Adieu Dear Coho!! Til Next Year!

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It shouldn’t have been a surprise when the fish monger told me that he was cutting up the last salmon of the season. My basket was filled with squash and apples.

I cast my eyes on the sides of salmon trying to figure out which was the darkest pink. Pointing to a side closest to me I asked for a tail piece about 4 inches long. I figured (and rightly so) that it would be shy of ½ pound and perfect for NSSP and me.

But how to cook it? How to bid adieu to the mighty Coho from The Edge? Time was running out for our meal. NSSP was leaving for a sojourn in the quad cities (a grandiose description of 4 measly cities in the mid-west) then onto his epic 40 HS reunion.

I kept it simple with one of my favorite “recipes”.

Pre-heat broiler
1.Spray an oven proof baking dish with vegetable spray
2.Splash the dish with white wine
3.Thinly slice or chop a shallot, add ½ to baking dish, sprinkle of herbs (I used dried dill but when I want a French spin I use fresh tarragon)
4.Skin the fish, check for bones, cut a few diagonal slices in the top of the fish, lay on top of the shallots
5.Push some of the shallots into the diagonal slices as well as some more dill
6.A sprinkle of Kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper
7.Broil until firm to the touch
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The beauty of this recipe is that the wine on the bottom keeps the fish moist as the top broils

Sometimes I coat the top with Dijon mustard, other times soy sauce and slices of ginger and garlic. It is fail safe and a good way to be creative.

I served it with butter and chive noodles tossed with zucchini and patty pan squash and a bowl of first crop Bartlett pears. I guess I am ready for fall!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mexican Inspired Chicken, Corn, Black Bean Soup

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When most people look at a leftover roast chicken carcass they think yuck, when is garbage day? I look at leftover chicken and can’t wait to turn it into another meal!
Enter the carcass, overbought corn, and a bevy of Hispanic ingredients and voila! (or the Spanish equivalent) a hearty soup.

I’m going to try a different way of writing a recipe. It is more the way I cook than a straight forward ingredient/procedure recipe. See if you like it and have comments.

Roast Chicken Carcass
2 Ribs Celery
¼ Yellow Onion
1 QT Chicken Broth

Break the chicken into pieces and put in a pot large enough to hold it. Cut the celery and onion in medium dice add to the chicken, pour in the broth and cover. Cook at a medium boil for about 15-20 minutes.

½ Red, Yellow, Green Pepper
1 Pasilla Pepper

Seed the red, yellow, & green pepper. If you have a gas stove turn it on high and very patiently hold the different peppers over the flame to char them. If you have an electric stove put the peppers in a non-nonstick pan and dry sauté. The more blistered the peppers, the easier it is to remove the skin. Rub the skin off under cold water and pat dry. Cut into strips and then dice the size of the corn. Put in a medium size mixing bowl.

2 Ears of Corn

Cut the kernels off the corn. Put half of the corn in the pepper bowl. Put the other half in a food processor or using an immersion blender or regular blender grind until medium grind. Let it hang.

Turn the chicken stock off and strain into a bowl. Chill the bones and meat. Save the stock.

1 Large Carrot

Peel and cut into corn sized dice add to bowl. (I cut the tip end off, leave the leafy end and cut the carrot horizontally. I give it a quarter turn and do it again if the carrot is very thick I keep making incisions to make smaller dice. When done I chop it up. The dice won’t be cooking school perfect but it works.)

1 Medium Zucchini

Cut both ends off and cut 4 horizontal pieces leaving the seeds. Cut into smaller strips and dice corn size. Add to bowl.

½ White Onion

Cut onion into corn dice, add to bowl.

3 Cloves Garlic

Peeled, mashed and finely chopped. Off to the bowl!

Remove the cooled chicken from the fridge and painstakingly remove all meat. Put in a separate bowl. Throw bones and cooking vegetables away.

4 Tomatillos

Remove skin, rinse and cut into corn dice. To the bowl.

1T Olive Oil

Put a large soup pot on medium heat and add oil and pepper bowl. Cook and stir about 5 minutes. Add and turn on low.

1t Dried Oregano
1t Dried Marjoram
1 Bay Leaf
1t Ground Cumin


2 Large Tomatoes

Fill a pot, large enough to hold the tomatoes, with water. Core the tomatoes and put an X on the bottom. When the water comes to a boil lower the tomatoes into the water and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove and shock in a bowl with ice water. Remove and peel. Cut in ½ and squeeze out the seeds. You don’t have to get rid of all of the seeds. I squeeze into a strainer over the soup and pick out the chunks letting the juice go in the soup.

Pureed Corn
1/2C White Wine
1 Can Black Beans

Rinse the black bean very well and put in soup pot. Add the chicken broth, white wine, chicken and pureed corn.

1 piece Chipotle Pepper in Adobo Sauce (or to taste)

Finely chop add to soup

Sprinkle once around the top:

Onion Powder
Garlic Powder

Taste, add salt and simmer.

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To Garnish:

½ Juice of Lime
3T Sour Cream
1/4t Salt

Chop a bit of

Cut some fresh corn tortillas into strips and pan fry in ¼” oil until lightly brown and dust with Kosher Salt.
To serve-

Soup + Sour Cream + Cilantro + Tortilla Strips = Full and Happy Tummy!

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Corn Pudding/ Souffle or Souffl/Pud

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When I bought corn a week ago I was planning on NSSP working his grill magic a few more days. The weather changed all of my meal plans. Ground beef turned into meatballs for spaghetti instead of hamburgers. Halibut was sautéed and served with a beurre blanc instead of grilled with a shallot and mustard glaze. The corn lurked.

Yesterday NSSP was going stir crazy and grabbing his jock bag ran off to a spin class. I opened the refrigerator for a glass of wine and there they were, 4 ears of end of the season corn waiting for my creativity.

My mind flipped through its mental index cards of recipes. Corn chowder? Don’t want such a heavy dish. Grandma’s Corn fritters? Made some potato rosti recently. Soufflé? Too much, Corn Pudding? To heavy. I needed some expert guidance so I trundled down to my library and dug up my go-to vegetable author, Marian Morash.

The Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash, is a marvelous book that follows on the heels of The Victory Garden a popular PBS show in the 1970’s-1980’s. Both Marian and her husband Russell were integral parts of the early Julia Child shows. Judith Jones came on board to edit and guide. It is well worth seeking out and adding to your library.

The book is laid out alphabetically from Asparagus to Turnips and Rutabagas. Each vegetable is introduced in Marian’s voice with a section on Special Information containing yields, storage & preserving and hints. The best part? The recipes!

I turned to the Corn chapter and found my answer. Corn Pudding, Light Corn Custard, and Corn and Chive Soufflé there was a little bit of each recipe that I wanted to incorporate in my own recipe. I was looking for an entrée not as fluffy and big as a soufflé, not as heavy as a pudding, but just right.

I give you my Souffl-Pud.
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A hybrid mixture easy to make and delicious! To complete the meal we had end of the season chopped Tomatoes and first of the season Honey Crisp Apples.

Preheat Oven 375°
Place a 4 Cup baking dish in the oven to heat.
2 Ears (or 2Cups) Scraped Corn
1/2C Egg Substitute (or 2 large Eggs well beaten)
1/4C Heavy Cream
1/4C Grated Cheese (sharp Cheddar is great)
1/4C Snipped Chives
2T All-Purpose Flour
1t Dijon Mustard
1t Granulated Sugar
1t Baking Powder
1/2t Kosher Salt
Tabasco Sauce (to taste)
Freshly Grated Black Pepper
Freshly Grated Nutmeg
2 Egg Whites
Pinch Kosher Salt
2 Slices Bacon chopped into little bits
1t Olive Oil
1T Grated Parmesan Cheese

Put the ingredients from corn to nutmeg in a medium bowl and stir until well blended.
In another medium bowl beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks. To test, take a washed egg and set it on top of a mound of whipped egg whites. If it settles down 1/4-1/2 inch it is good. If it sinks keep beating a little more and test again.

Add a spoonful of whipped egg whites to the corn mixture. Stir in to lighten the base. Add the rest of the egg whites on top and gently fold in.

In a small sauté pan put the olive oil and the chopped bacon. Cook on a low heat to render as much of the bacon fat as possible. Remove the bacon bits and pour the fat (there should be about 2t) into the baking dish that is warming in the oven. Swirl around to coat the bottom and sides.

Quickly pour the corn batter into the dish, scatter the bacon and parmesan cheese and bake about 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out hot and clean from the middle of the dish.

Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as a first course.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Food Industry Let Us Down

I’ve been pondering our relationship with the Food Industry lately. All the scares, junk food hype, obesity, basically the whole ball of wax.

I thought back to my carefree ‘50’s childhood when food was the good guy. We trusted that our parents would fill our bellies. There were times when we hated what was put in front of us. There was no choice but to suck it up. Eat the lima bean hot with the family or cold by yourself. Don’t forget to clean your plate, your father worked hard to put the food on the table.

Restaurants, because they fell under the food satisfying umbrella, were never challenged for being unhealthy. If it tasted good it was good for you. Chances were you could count on one hand how many fancy restaurant meals you ate in a year. These were events punctuated by Shirley Temples and everyone eating something different at the same time.

Drive-thrus emerged as a fun cheap family outing. Eating in the car was a challenging experience. There were no cup holders or pull out trays. But chomp we did in communal bliss. It was a treat not a weekly occurrence.

We had the Colonel selling chicken, little Wendy and her burgers, Big Boy showing us how happy we would be eating in his restaurants. No one thought that any of the food served was bad. Even the frozen dinners eaten when our parents went out were considered healthy. Mom was ecstatic that she could run away from the kitchen one night and our bellies would be full.

Science entered the equation figuring out that cholesterol was bad and pointing at all of the food that contained it. Salt became the bad ingredient. Quantities were analyzed by age and sex. We all knew we needed food to live but the unconditional joy was being removed.

Restaurants had to work harder to bring the joy back with bigger portions, richer ingredients, and more reasons not to eat at home.

Grocery stores were also vying for the satisfying buck. The frozen food aisle bulged with dishes to entice easy replaced economical. Quick replaced from scratch.

Food slowly fell into 2 categories. Healthy, which we discovered annually in January, and the rest that we ate the other eleven months. Cooking magazines reminded us of when to change gears cutting time and variety of ingredients.

The food industry tripped over itself inventing new dishes always seeking the elusive comfort factor. They pushed the flavor profile to the absurd.

Agribusiness quietly imploded with dire consequences to our country’s health and psyche.

The Food Industry has become bloated with bad products and the consumer is left with indigestion.

I’m mad at the callous lack of respect for the public. Healthy, good food should be a priority not an unattainable dream.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Roquette Anyone?

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We’re very simple cocktail drinkers, a gin and tonic here a Cointreau on ice there. I leave the vodka infused smoothies to more adventuresome friends. So it surprised me when my eyes lit on “The Roquette” in Bon Appetit’s September issue.

“NSSP! I found a cocktail we must try-we have all the ingredients!” Slipping on his reading glasses he read the simple recipe. “We have the limes.”

“Details! We haven’t had Hendrick’s gin in awhile and I’ll pick up the other items in time for Labor Day weekend and The Princess’s arrival.” Thoughts of swigging a tony drink on the back deck were fueling me into frenzy.

The next few days I gathered the rest of the ingredients. I could hardly wait for The Princess to unpack. “Guess what! I have a cocktail for us to try!”She looked at the recipe and said, “Let’s wait for NSSP to come home, and he can make it for us.” I wasn’t deterred and agreed. Since he was the Bloody Mary King we should let him have another notch in his drinks belt. I cooled my jets.

Days slipped by, until NSSP and I was alone on the deck on Labor Day. “What about a gin and tonic? It’s a holiday, we’re not going anywhere.” NSSP was getting ready for a little buzz in the afternoon.

“How about The Roquette? I’ll get everything ready for you.”

I sat outside listening to the muddle action, the shaking, and then a drink was put in front of me. It had a pale green tinge and was garnished with arugula. Served in a martini glass filled with ice it was a decadent concoction. The taste? Wow! My palate was punched with so many herbal essences from the distinctive Hendricks gin to the unique and aromatic arugula slightly sweetened by dark blue agave it was great.

We toasted, slurped and settled in to jazz and reading. It was perfect. Maybe next time we’ll let The Princess have one.

The Recipe-
Bon Appétit attributes the recipe to Matthew Biancaniello from Roosevelt’s Library Bar in Hollywood.
1C Baby Arugula (taste first for strength)
4 1/2t Dark Agave Nectar
4 1/2t Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
1/2C Hendrick’s Gin
Ice Cubes
In a cocktail shaker combine arugula, agave nectar, lime juice and a few ice cubes. Using a muddler or thick handled rolling pin or wooden spoon mash until the arugula is wilted. Add gin and fill the shaker with more ice. Cover, shake to chill and strain into glasses with ice. Garnish with a leaf of arugula.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Follow Your Creativity Not the Recipe!

I found a recipe by Mark Bittman in the NYT that got me thinking. The article heading was, “For Moister Chicken, Tuck the Flavor Inside”. There were three easy techniques he used, an herb compound butter stuffed under the skin of a bone-in skin-on chicken breast. A boneless skinless chicken breast smeared with a tapenade lookalike and folded over and finally a Japanese inspired chicken breast wrapped around a scallion and cooked.http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/18/dining/18mini.html?emc=eta1

It was Sunday and I wasn’t ready for a Japanese meal but I still wanted to wrap my chicken around a scallion. I stared into the fridge, willing an ingredient to jump into my mind. I settled on an appetizer spread we had eaten the previous night. It was a goat cheese, lemon, artichoke goop that was flavorful and would fit the bill. I lay the chicken breast out and cut it into thick slices and pounded them thin.Next I cut them into pieces about 3” long and spread them with the cheese mixture. A sprinkle of S&P topped a slice of scallion and they were ready to be rolled and tooth picked.

Now I had a dilemma. These were not neat and clean rolls, the cheese mixture had an ooze factor not found in the original recipe. So I did the next best thing and rolled them in flour, egg, and Panko. As you can see the “recipe” had taken a big morph.

Frying up these morsels took no time. They were juicy and fun to eat. I served them with chopped red and yellow tomatoes splashed with balsamic and chiffonade basil, haricot verts tossed with sautéed shallots and butter and a dessert of fresh peaches and almond flavored whipped cream.

Next time I really must follow Bittman’s Japanese version but until then I’ll be playing with this scallion wrapped chicken idea.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I was Bitten at The Bite

The Edge has many culinary events. Some to beef up the food bank, others as fund raisers for worthy causes. This past weekend it was The Bite; a food, wine, and beer extravaganza helping to raise money for the Special Olympics. We woke to a gorgeous day with a perfect al fresco temperature. Through the years this event has added “Iron Chef” competitions, culinary demonstrations and a good selection of haute and junk food.

After grabbing (and donating $) a glass of wine we surveyed the crowd. It’s never a dull moment on The Edge. Humans sporting flip flops and tattoos were rubbing elbows with their Birkenstock elders. Each clothed in their own fashion statement. The common denominator was the abundance of porcelain hued skin, even in August.

It wasn’t that we were hungry but why else should one go to a food event but to eat? NSSP wanted the haute. I wanted to bottom feed. His haute was sold out so we stumbled to a cheese steak booth. Next door cheese fries were giving me the come hither. We split up only to find that NSSP’s cheese steak line was moving faster than the fries. With sandwich in hand NSSP turned to me and consoled me with, “You really don’t need them.” He didn’t see the tear of disappointment nor read my mind that was screaming, “I want to gorge on cheese fries!” I trudged behind NSSP to a table to split our sandwich. I made a mental note in the future not to bring him to a grazing extravaganza unless he was ready for some serious chow.

Once slightly sated we ambled around the event, I had brought my camera (its first public excursion) to play with my new found photographic knowledge. It’s not hard to entertain me at food events I am a junkie for watching people cook. There was the giant paella pan, a bubbling flat cauldron of colors and smells.
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Skewers of shrimp, the usual Edge bento. My heart stopped. Tucked away, off to the side was a PB&J booth.

I have worked many restaurant lines and watched even more, but this one with its efficiency and simplicity of product grabbed me. I started taking pictures of the finished product when Photo Lesson 101 tapped my shoulder. “You need action! You need human involvement. Take pictures of people making the food!”

“But what if the pictures aren’t good? I can’t control their movement or the composition!”

“That’s why you have a digital camera stupid! Look, like, save, or delete.”

I snapped, and snapped and was having a great time, honestly I had no idea how the pictures would come out but I was working on the process.

I looked up and realized NSSP was on the other side of the booth.

I sidled over and was captivated by the owner’s sandwich savvy. A squirt of peanut butter a smear of jam, topping of bread and off the grill station for a toast up. I was salivating and damning the beef whiz sandwich we had just ingested.

NSSP turned on his charm and The Peanut Butter Guy was spilling his story. Eyes ever watching his crew and deftly executing his creations we learned that he and his partner came from Nevada seeking a better lifestyle and finding it on The Edge. They set up a PB&J food cart and are fulfilling a dream. Life can be so simple when you’re in your 30’s.

I mentioned that I am an open faced PB&J gal and The Peanut Butter Guy’s eyes lit up as he tempted me with a sandwich he was creating for a special such passion and love for a food product. Note to self do lunch at their cart before the rains descend.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

How to Take your Watermelon for a Walk

I love the Japanese! their sense of beauty and view of the world is unique. Who else could create Hello Kitty,Kabuki, and Samurai Swords?

Now those Amazing Asians have solved the problem of taking your watermelon to a party!

Hope your all are enjoying the summer!


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Me and my Virgin Oven

I’m sure my reading public (big joke) all knew that it wouldn’t take me long to break my resolve and fire up my Electrolux oven. She gave me the come hither look every time I nuked something in her poor cousin. I was horny for pizza and not the mediocre On the Edge kind. I wanted Queen ArtoEat’s version. I went to grab my pizza book…Only to remember that it was packed away with my Joy of Cooking collection. Rats! Not to be detoured I hoofed it downstairs to my used to be office that NSSP has commandeered.

Stroking the Italian section I found a Pizza cookbook by Rosario Buonassisi. The book had not made it up to the kitchen counter because it was more historical-“From its Italian origins to the modern table”. It would have to do. Perusing the recipe I had a sneaky suspicion that it was a bad translation. It just wasn’t right. Too much water, not enough oil, salt, and not a mention of Semolina 00 flour; no problem, I would remedy that.

I used to make my pizza dough in Vickie Viking but have recently opted for the manual method. Yes, it takes a bit longer but hey! It’s fun. Mounding the flour and making a hole I added the proofed yeast, water/oil/salt mixture and grabbed my fork to blend it in. I like the challenge of incorporating the liquid w/out breaking through the wall of flour encircling the liquid. It is the same technique when making pasta but this time the liquid has yeast added.

I couldn’t wait to fondle the dough and was soon trying to knead the mass. The problem was that the recipe called for more liquid than I am used to using so it was looser. Undeterred and with dinner looming I alternated with the addition of semolina flour and all purpose flour until it was a consistency I could knead w/a minimum of dough sticking to my hands. A smart tea towel protected the dough from the elements until it had risen.

I turned my attention to The Virgin Oven. What secrets did she hold? Would she bend to my wishes? Well first there was the humbling task of yet another locked keyboard, light swearing, and a fumble for the instant read card. The next challenge was that I wanted to remove one of the swank rolling shelves and add my less than pristine pizza stone (would that be o.k. w/ The Virgin Oven or a violation?)

NSSP wandered into the kitchen and seeing me in a compromising position fondling the rolling racks whispered, “When is dinner?” Surprised at the interruption, I nodded to the Card of Knowledge and he backed away mumbling that he would get a beer in the Man Cave.

Now my dough was pregnantly plump and ready to become my first offering to The Virgin Oven. I stretched, cooed, and ended up w/ a shell that would max out my peel and stone. Along the way I realized the dough was supple, forgiving and ready to hold my simple toppings of drained balsamic basil marinated tomatoes, chiffonade basil and fresh mozzarella. But how would The Virgin Oven perform? And the dough! I decided to invoke Julia Child’s mantra, play dumb and act like the pizza was just the way I wanted it to come out.

The surprise was- It was just what I fantasized!! Halfway through the cooking I looked at the puffy crust (like Angelina Jolie’s lips) and knew I had entered into a new level of pizza perfection! Then The Virgin Oven showed me her chops- Not only could I cook at 500° but her sliding rack gave me an aerial view of the pizza! I was humbled and psyched.

To hell with selling The Edge and keeping an antiseptic home! I want the Virgin Oven and me to rastle up some amazing grub and do the cooking dance that only a Chef and tool can execute. She’s mine and I love her!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How the Language of Food Has Changed

I just read an article by Simon Schama from his newly published book Scribble,Scribble,Scribble. The article, The Language of Food is well crafted beginning with his lingophobia (aversion to eating tongue) through the history of discussing what we eat, the demise of gastronomie for fooding and finally the eloquence of M.F.K. Fisher’s prose.

It’s a long article and on the computer it forces one to read the same sentence a few times to follow his logic but Simon’s many points are worth thinking about.

“The best writers embed their cookery-and their recipes-in remembered experience; part memoir, part re-enactment…(the recipes are)made to disappear inside the text of the essay.” A light bulb went off in my head. This is why the food memoir genre has taken off like gangbusters. We all have food memories that swirl around our conscious as we eat. The key to good food writing is to bring the reader along on your culinary trip.

Simon mentioned that Elizabeth David lit his culinary fire. I was drawn in by the old Gourmet’s with their recipes written in paragraph form. My imagination followed every word with the ingredients and measurements punctuating the story.

If you have time, follow the link and enjoy the article! There’s lots to ponder about and maybe post!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Frozen Food Experiment or How to Ruin Dinnertime

Apologies to the anonymous public, I have been side swiped by life~in a good way~ and my food obsessed blog has taken a back seat. In a nut shell the Château is on the market and we are to hitch our horses and move back to The Other Edge and to The Smallest State in our country.

I’ve been boxing up my life, turning our home into a product that the most generic of customers would love. Doing the mundane turns me introspective. Boxing up my table cloth collection was humbling and overwhelming. There wasn’t one cloth I wanted to move on and the junkie in me still wants to buy more. I released my vases from their plastic and displayed them with color coded pride in the pantry jostling with packaged and canned food. The silver? I was more hard core and nixed the catering trays and their memories. My hammered aluminum was scrutinized and thinned; the choicest pieces nestled in a packing box.

A box labeled “A Box of Joy and Bread” holds a small selection of Joy of Cooking and bread books that lived on our kitchen counter. They were replaced with one book-an autographed copy of The Way To Cook by Julia Child, to inspire. Decorative clusters of red Hall pieces add pop. Vickie Viking anchors another counter with the evil black Robot Coupe. No more dish drains or offensive dish soap for me! All are hidden away as if it’s natural to have a kitchen without them.

Along the way I realized to keep up the façade of a “gourmet” kitchen I couldn’t cook in it. I was far too messy. An idea came to me-what about exploring the world of diet frozen dinners? We just installed a snazzy microwave for the future owners and this would be a perfect excuse to “go where no Chef had gone before”.

It was so easy! I cruised an alien aisle filled with colorful boxes and enticing pictures. It was like a boxed menu! I rifled and dug until I decided on 7 meals from Smart Ones Morning Express Breakfast Quesadilla to Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese. This was going to be fun! There was Healthy Choice spicy Caribbean Chicken and Michelina’s Lean Gourmet Santa Fe Style Rice & Beans. For fro-comfort food I bought Healthy Choice Golden Roasted Turkey Breast and a fancy Smart Ones Artisan Creation of Grilled Flatbread Savory Steak & Ranch. Yahoo!!

This was going to be fun!! The first night it was Snackies for the boys at 5pm. I rummaged through my new stash and opened Lean Cuisine Linguini Carbonara. I was psyched! The directions called for a combination of high nuke level and an on and off wrap. The total cooking time was less than 5 minutes so that meant I would be eating at 5:15. Not good. My internal dialog suggested that I make a salad or SOMETHING else to go with it but my rational sided intervened. NO MESS! Chastised I read my newspaper, computer and waited until 7pm.

This was the first time I looked that the front of the microwave. It’s quite the machine. There are 15 pre- settings from Kids Meals (it asked what kind) to baked potato. How hard could it be? Opening the microwave I lovingly put my dinner inside punched buttons…

What was this? The control panel said “Child Lock”! I’ll be damned! Wasn’t the microwave made for idiots and children? I pushed another sequence to no avail. Rats! I had to humble myself and read the manual. I unlocked the flipping thing and it commenced to cook. The dish spun happily around in its lighted splendor. Just as I sat down the discreet bell sounded and I jumped up to peel off the top wrap.

Well it wasn’t my idea of Linguini Carbonara. The pasta looked like spaghetti from when I was a kid and a stir confirmed it was overcooked. Microscopic bits of salty brown (bacon?) and green peppers diced by midgets added to the “flavor profile”. As I stared I had a sinking feeling.

Was this a good decision? How could I eat something at home that I hadn’t interacted with? It was so, so sterile and sad. I grabbed my microwave plane and covered the top in parmesan snow. It wasn’t worth setting a table for so Toshi(ba) and I ate.
I came close to bursting into tears on the first bite. It was gluey, tasteless, and ugly. Worst of all there was no satisfaction in eating it. I drank some wine to “cleanse my palate” and grabbed a spoon for a quick peanut butter and jam uplift.

Dinnertime, a time I used to look forward to, became a minefield of depression and unfulfilled meals.

The next night it was Smart Ones Artisan Southwestern Style Chicken Fiesta. Not much better. Midget cubes of meat and vegetables in a “roasted red bell pepper sauce”. I put my happy face on and stared at the flat disc that looked like bad pizza. Ah, but there was technique in cooking! The disc was cooked on a magic disc and could be baked soft or hard. When done it was folded in half!! I was thrilled until I bit into the crispy Velveeta textured sauce. I added Rainer cherries to my wine and peanut butter uplift.

This was not going the way I had planned! I was starting to question Joe public and their palettes. How could anyone eat this stuff on a regular basis? Push back from the table and say, “Wow that was a swell meal! I’m so physically full and satisfied I can’t think of putting another thing in my mouth!”

Dread followed me when I opened the freezer. It looked like the selection was growing. Could breakfast be as bad? A morning quesadilla answered that question. Looking at the serving size they said 1 piece. It was packed 2/package. Insidious. I ate one. I don’t know where the egg whites were lurking, but chez whiz was coating everything. There was an ooze factor that gave the illusion of “oh, my how gooey!!”

I hit my wall last night, mess be damned! I had to make something for myself. By this time the vegetable bin was brimming w/ rotten vegetables and I still was emphatic about not making a mess. There had to be something…Pasta, frozen pre-cooked sausage, frozen tomato sauce, I added a splash of red wine, basil, marjoram and oregano. I felt like I was cooking in college. This was hardly fancy but I was playing with my food and it calmed my soul. I defiantly ate my pasta, wine, watched Julie & Julia on Netflix and didn’t need a PBJ uplift.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Affair w/ Bernard or How I Learned to Bake Bread

NSSP has been on a rampage. The only bread that doesn’t go moldy in 2 days is the kind-of, sort-of, processed stuff. This morning was no different. Salivating about Sunday breakfast of sunny side up eggs, bacon and toast; he hit his carbohydrate wall.

“Look at this!” He exploded, “I’m tired of paying $4 for a loaf of bread to have it go moldy in a day! I don’t know why bread is so expensive it’s ridiculous!! ” He rummaged around in our bread basket and found some 3 week old pumpernickel. “See, this is good bread! Look at this! There’s nothing wrong with it!” He gloated and shoved some bread into the toaster oven.

I buried my head in the newspaper and took a swig of coffee. I found several things wrong with his rant. So I became the NSSP and had an inner dialogue. “There he goes again. As usual he doesn’t know that I pay $3 for the loaves or less. He never buys the bread. This is a prime example of why I keep him away from grocery stores. And anyway the artisanal bread is 3 days old and I’m working on my own reason for its hasty moldem. Is it from the starter? If I use bags that previously held moldy bread does it transfer to a new loaf? How can he possibly think 3 week old bread is good for you when it has calcium propionate as a preservative? Note to self nix the packaged stuff.”

I looked outside and noticed yet another grey day. “You’re in luck NSSP, Garrison Keillor and I will make bread today.” (Go play golf and you can quit whining!)

Truth be told, I like making bread. When we moved to The Edge I found the winter and spring months perfect for bread baking. Our triangular family would go through a loaf a week (unless NSSP was on a bread-gasm) so I could experiment.

Grabbing my 1973 edition of The Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton Jr., I slowly worked my way through the book and learned his baking logic. Our Brittany Buzz gave me The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz his note to me inside said “Zees reminded me of my home country, Brittany.” This book was tougher going with various times to add the poolish, refreshments, and finally a dough to bake. I played with the book, and did master Ciabatta. I learned how the texture changed when adding old dough to new. I felt artisanal and lusted after a wood burning oven.

What about the world of Flatbreads? Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid came to the rescue w/ 1995, Flatbread & Flavors. I toured the world w/ Jeffrey and Naomi we shared Bulgur Bread with three Kurdish men; we skipped to India, Egypt, Norway, and beloved Italy. I had a great time! We crouched over fires w/ flat pans and bare feet. We gladly burned our fingers when we flipped the bread.

Rose Levy Beranbaum came knocking at my kitchen with another one of her epically researched cookbooks, The Bread Bible. This one was tough to wrap my bread head around. Up until now it was fun. The kneading was nurturing and I was getting wow ratings from the other 2/3rds. Rose brought Ed Nye the Science Guy into my kitchen. I told myself I should get more serious about my quest for the holy loaf but she deflated my dough. She wrote about weights and liquid percentages that Bernard breezily mentioned. I felt daunted and depressed. Kissing Rose goodbye I renewed my affair w/Bernard.

Lovers are fickle and affairs are meant to ebb and flow. I wanted to add a healthier note to family bread and embraced Tiffany Haugen with The Power of Flour-Cooking w/ Non-Traditional Flour. She bounced into the kitchen w/ rosy cheeks and blond hair the color of wheat. Not only did she use Amaranth, Coconut, and Green Pea Flour she did it with a tasty flourish. I was smitten and sure weight would fall, blood pressure drop and cholesterol would be a thing of the past. I also fantasized about being 10 years younger. None of that happened, silly me.

In the end I took up with Bernard once again and we made-

~Sister Virginia’s Daily Loaf~ with adaptations-
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Makes 2 loaves

2 1/2t dry yeast (1 package)
1/4C warm water (105°-115°)
1 pinch sugar
1C milk, scalded
1/8C sugar
2t kosher salt
4T unsalted butter
3C bread flour
3C all purpose flour
When ready to bake, pre-heat oven 400°

In a small bowl mix the yeast, water, and pinch of sugar. Let stand to proof.

In a small sauce pan add milk, sugar, salt, and butter heat until you see small bubbles. Remove from heat and let cool to 115°.

Add 3 cups of flour to a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Slowly add the cooled milk. Add the yeast and 1-2more cups of flour. Knead for 2-3 minutes. The dough will be very tight and hardly sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured work surface. Knead for about 5 minutes. It will be very stiff. When you poke the dough the impression will quickly bounce back. This means you have developed a lot of gluten.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl large enough for it to double in size. Cover w/ saran wrap and put in a warm spot until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the dough from the bowl back on your floured work surface and deflate and knead for 1 minute.

Place back in the oiled bowl and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Oil 2 bread pans. Put the dough on the counter knead briefly to deflate any big bubbles.

Cut it in ½ with a sharp knife. Shape into balls and let rest 5 minutes.
Form one ball into a flat oval roughly the length of the baking pan. Fold in half and pinch the edges together. Turn the loaf seam side down and fit into the pan. Repeat w/ second ball.

Cover and let rise until the bread has risen ½-1” above the pans. This should take about 50 minutes.

Bake the bread until they are crusty and brown. Tip onto a cooling rack. Test for doneness by tapping the bottom crust with your fingers if you hear a hollow sound it is done. If not put it back in the pan and bake a few more minutes.

When done remove the bread from its pans onto a metal cooling rack and let them cool on their sides.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What I Learned from the Soup Sloth

The last time I went to the Farmer’s Market I bought 3 huge bunches of asparagus. One thick and the other two pencil thin. My imaginary eye saw NSSP grilling the fat ones to go with steak and I making a rich creamy chilled asparagus soup to be eaten al fresco with pollo tonnato and pinot grigio.

It’s been cold and rainy. We did eat the grilled steak and asparagus. But al fresco was in my dreams. Still the asparagus lurked in the fridge. Last night was soup night. I stared at the ingredients wishing they could conjure up a summer’s night.

Enough, it would be hot asparagus soup and pinot noir. As I cut the ingredients I thought of my soup evolution. Growing up, my mother made a mean beef and barley soup. This was augmented with Campbell’s best on school days.

Newly married to NSSP#1 I discovered turkey soup. Making stock from the Thanksgiving bones the soup took on huge proportions with the addition of barley. Who knew those little nuggets grew to three times their size? It was like a Lucy and Vivian moment. Every time I turned to the pot I had to grab a larger one dumping the contents and adding more water. We slurped, ate, drank, and froze the stuff. Finally we threw out the last remnants before we moved.

Soup took on bigger proportions when I worked as a prep cook in my first restaurant. 4AM found me in the kitchen bowels drinking coffee, listening to rock and roll, and slicing 50# of onions for French Onion Soup. Handfuls of seasoning went into the vats that I left for the night crew to finish and serve.

Each restaurant I moved through had different soup requirements but none with the volume of my first job. It was the era of Vichyssoise, Gazpacho, and Le Puys Lentil Soups. I was mesmerized by the variety.

Then I met the Soup Sloth. I landed a job in a French restaurant I had been lusting after (more the chef than the restaurant). The lusted chef was going to the Cape and I was to co-chef w/The Sloth. I had several restaurants under my belt, had built up line speed, and was ready to do the demi-dance and nap my plates w/beurre blanc.

Dupes came in and I was ready. Except- The Sloth had installed himself near the stove leaving me in cold station Antarctica. I was not happy especially when I watched his line dance. For a thin guy he moved like a lumbering well, Sloth. Sub-consciously he would nod with every sauce addition until his dish was finished. My salad plates had gone out, come back empty and he was still laboring over his emulsion. I realized it was going to be a long and ugly summer.

The next day with my happy face in place I came into the kitchen to prep for dinner. The Sloth was standing over a cauldron of that night’s soup. Sipping, nodding, sipping, nodding he inched along. I stood next to him and stuck a finger in the soup. Then after a few more additions I did it again. He was subtly changing the profile of the soup. This process took forever and obviously used all of his brain cells, but once complete, I hated to admit it, but the soup was perfect.

My tour of duty was short lived thank God and I too went to spend the summer cooking my brains out at a hotel. I did learn how to season a soup from The Sloth.

What’s the secret you ask? When I start a soup I have a flavor goal. Matzo ball soup is all about the best chicken broth, always from scratch and not rushed. Lentil soup? The balance between a piece of salty pork and sweetness of carrots and lentils. You need to focus on what is the standout flavor in your soup. If making a stock add a few pinches of salt. You don’t want it to taste like the finished product, just a nudge in the right direction. As the soup cooks and you add other ingredients another pinch or grind of pepper. Never be shy of salt, pepper,or lemon.

When the soup is done it is now time to gather the final ingredients. Perhaps some fresh cut herbs to be stirred in at the last moment, cheese or cream. White pepper for heat, black pepper for flavor, salt, and lemon juice are my arsenal. I guess you could say I go into Sloth mode… I empty my tongue of any flavors and focus on the taste. I think about what I want the end product to taste like and how I’m going to nail it. Taste and think, taste and think, I reach a point where salt isn’t bringing out the flavor I want and I squeeze lemon juice into the pot. The lemon opens up the flavor and gives brightness to the soup. Now for some pepper and another pinch of salt. I come back to the land of the living with a perfect offering for my family.

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A Small Batch of Cream of Asparagus Soup

1bu Asparagus, trim ends & cut into 1" pieces- save tips
1huge Russet Potato, peeled and chopped
2 Leeks, chopped and well rinsed
2ribs Celery, peeled and chopped
1/2 lg Onion, chopped
1T Olive Oil
1qt Chicken Broth, nothing fancy
2T Roasted Garlic (very optional, found hiding in the fridge)
Heavy Cream (another shy and optional ingredient)
Kosher Salt, White Pepper, Fresh Lemon

Blanch asparagus tips in salted water until crisp tender save for garnish.

Saute asparagus,potato,leeks, celery, and onion in olive oil until soft but not brown. Add broth and roasted garlic. Cook until the potatoes are soft. Puree w/ blender,food processor, or emulsion blender. Adjust seasonings with cream, salt, pepper and lemon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Week's Slap Down~Chef vs. Critic

Tweets,rants,and opinions were fast and furious this week from a journal entry by Ron Lieber in the NYT Dining Journal www.TinyURL.com/2fszs3z

In a nut graph- he went to a posh restaurant, heard the chef screaming at one of his staff, Lieber went into the kitchen and countered the chef only to be thrown out of the restaurant with his friends. Of course when you read the article it is more fleshed out, more pros and cons, with Lieber on the side of the right.

Then there is the Marc Forgione rebuttal in Grub Street www.TinyURL.com/2dn95j9 .For you oldsters Marc is the son of Larry Forgione chef of An American Place Restaurant fame. Marc plays the put upon chef trying to turn out decent meals only to be thwarted by a testosterone fueled culinary knucklehead who fires the apps before the amuse bouche and has the nerve to lip off to the chef; hence the raised voices over the soothing Muzak.

Bad boy Gordon Ramsey and his colorful vocabulary were alluded to as perhaps Marc’s idol. And an über chef’s ego suggested for kicking out said wienie critic.

So what’s all the rants and hoopla? Where was the GM when this was playing out? His job was to smooth the feathers both front and back. Both sides made major faux pas. Marc should not have yelled loud enough for the front of the house to hear. Ron should not have entered the kitchen to voice his 2 cents. Period. Shake hands and walk away.

But no this is the Age of Opinions! Both sides were equally represented on the internet in a verbal slugfest.

I was heartened to learn that things hadn’t changed in back of the house shenanigans from when I was a budding cheflette. Part of your kitchen scars are from verbal abuse. It’s not for the thin skinned. A kitchen is not a touchy feely good place. Heat, moisture, sharp knives, and dupes can make or break you.

A slap here or there is part kitchen life. Ron, stay out of the kitchen Marc yank the jerk into the walk in and scream to high heaven.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Radical Housewives or Life from Hell?

Living on The Edge means that we either start trends or are the last to embrace them. You can still see Volkswagen Bugs and Wagons with original owners and there are many 60 yr. olds with long grey ponytails and Berkinstocks. So I guess it isn’t such a stretch for our Daily Edge Paper’s food section to run a front page article on-“Radical Homemaking”.

Before I even started to read the article, my eyes landed on the center picture of a young barefoot mother replete w/ apron, big mixing bowl, and her son trying to stuff a wooden spoon full of ? into his cute mouth. He was also barefoot. The “distressed” kitchen cabinets were without doors and the shelves were filled w/ mis-matched dishes and bags of bulk food.

A smaller picture above was of a hearty woman carrying just split wood to her stove and below was another apron garbed brick of a gal with chickens in her yard. All three were joyously happy shunning money. They were young, educated, and white…

In the old days (o.k. I’m showing my age), these gals would have been hippies and a newspaper written for the general public would never have spent the time of day describing their lifestyle. But this is The Edge and we are talking about “Radical Homemakers” of today.

Shannon Hayes, author of Radical Homemakers:Reclaiming domesticity from a Consumer Culture coined the term. These nuevo hippies are sprouting up all over the country (or so she says) and the book validates their exciting new lifestyle.“Most radical homemakers around the country live at about 200% of the federal poverty level. One or two people can do it on $20,000/year. For every additional person you need another $10,000."

Why would anyone want to dumb down to that level? Money means choices and quality of life. I don’t mean acquiring the latest and the greatest each year. I do mean having clean clothes, a healthy meal and regular doctor visits instead of the emergency ward. Maybe even braces or hip replacement. Gee, you could save for college!

“Before when I had only a couple of vegetable left in the bin and money in the pocket, I used to say, ‘I’ll go to the store.’ Now I say, “I’ll use the cabbage’.”
I’m not seeing poor ethnically challenged women in dirty apartments joyfully pedaling their 3 year old to school on the back of their bike. (Cars? Heck no! Let’s donate it to NPR!!) Or rolling up their sleeves to wrestle 50# of flour into wholesome loaves of bread or killing chickens on the ghetto street or soaking beans.

Taking knowledge to the extreme it is becoming popular w/ the Radical Homemakers to home school. Home schooling? I can’t imagine anything worse than having kidlits underfoot 24/7. I guess that’s why, “…homemaking isn’t about keeping a pretty house.” Yes I wanted my child to have the same view of the world as I did but my job was to filter the world she explored and help her understand what she was entering into, not protect her from the boogie man. The Princess has become a liberal after my own heart. She went to public school, University. Today she is earning a living and paying back her student loans. A fete that isn’t accomplished on a marginal income.

I am from the, “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out”, Timothy Leary generation. We were the first to wear long hair, live in groups, become vegetarians and dream of trekking to Ithaca, NY to eat at Moosewood. Short of that we owned their book and dreamed.

In time we cleaned up, and assimilated ourselves into society. We discovered that once the parental dole was cut off, it was time to cut our hair and earn a living.Our experimentation and different lifestyles have changed society.Our music lives on and food has gone from haute to food carts. Creased blue jeans and shirts have replaced suits and ties in trendy restaurants. We grew hair, this generation sprouts tattoos.

We would not have Apple if Bill Gates stayed on the farm and throttled chickens. Alice Waters wouldn’t be able to fly all over the US expounding a healthy way to eat if she didn’t have a lucrative restaurant behind her.

Let’s face it money ain’t all that bad. In fact when there is healthy ebb and flow it makes the world go round. It’s what you do with it that counts and can make a positive impact.