Friday, December 31, 2010


I did it and I forgot to tell you. Well, I do recall that I wanted to write about my awesome cherry preserves. But, by the time I got my supplies and got organized, it wasn't cherry season anymore. I was able to make blueberry and peach preserves, however.
I couldn't decide whether I wanted to jam or preserve. Ultimately, I decided preserves (low sugar) because I planned to put them on my morning yogurt.
Preserving is pretty easy, actually. The toughest thing was getting the equipment. Funny, because I looked all over - restaurant supply, grocery stores, anywhere that seemed logical. I ended up ordering online. Of course! Then, long after I had made preserves, I was in Target, of all places, and voila! a whole shelf with the very same kit I bought online. Awesome.

Why is the preserving cage so wide, anyway? For the uninitiated, you place your jars in a sort of cage in a pot, cover with water, boil, and so on. And the cage is humongous. Luckily I have an enormous pot that it fit in, but who has something that size? Not even my husband's giant beer-brewing pot fit that thing.
I decided that my yogurt also needed homemade granola. The recipe made a boatload! I will halve it next time.
This whole DIY-back-to-the-land-citizen farmer-homespuns ... whatever it is we are doing with our locavore, homemade obsessions, is satisfying.
Deeply satisfying.

Boatload Granola
(adapted from the Marketplace Cafe, Seattle, recipe)
6 cups whole oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (make sure they are not rancid!)
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup canola oil
3 T brown sugar
1 cup dried cherries (you can cut these because they are really big and chewy)
2 cups Trader Joe's dried fruit mix (cranberries, golden raisins, blueberries)

Other possible additions that I left out because I am not such a fan:
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1.5-2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup dried currents
Also, for the TJ's mix, the recipe just says raisins.

Preheat oven to 300. Chop nuts into smaller pieces, or leave large - whichever you prefer (I whirred mine in the mini-chop for a bit). Combine oats, nuts, and seeds in a large bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cinnamon, vanilla, syrup, honey, oil and sugar. Whisk occasionally until warm and the sugar is dissolved. Pour wet mixture over oat mixture. Stir until everything is coated. Spread onto two lightly oiled or nonstick pans. Bake, stirring every 5-7 minutes, until granola is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Once granola is cool, add the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Poem for My First Donut

by Sam

Roses are red
Violets are blue.
I have found the donut
And my love is true.

Oh, donut, donut
You are mine.
You are fried in oil
So that you truly shine.

Then dipped in sugar,
And cinnamon too,
Without you, donut,
My life would be blue.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Biscuits and other tender and flaky edibles

A long absence, I know. I had resigned myself to only posting once a week due to work and toddler and ... well, that's it. But it's enough. THEN! I suffered a neck-shoulder injury-trauma, brought on by what else, stress, and was off the computer for a couple of weeks. This is week five and my shoulder still isn't 100%, but it's much better. So here I am. I have been looking at my favorite blogs, so that has been lovely, but I needed to get writing mine again.

When you have job+child, it's hard to figure out where you fit in. I mean, where are my hobbies. If I have seven, that's too many. But, can I have three? I find that I need to plan and "make time" and bargain and settle. Cooking happens mostly on the weekend. That makes me sad.
I keep thinking I am going to hit some sort of graceful stride and be able to not only cook during the workweek but also blog about it. Maybe. Doesn't seem like it's around any corner of any block that I am curretnly walking on or en route to.

Weeks ago, with the last tomatoes from our yard as an accompaniment, I made this leek tart. It was creamy and gorgeous. I thought the crust looked liked the Collosseum. As an accompaniment, we had homemade bread with those garden tomatoes I mentioned. Delicious.

And when you break out a wedge of something like this at the lunch table, you feel a certain pride. I heat my leftovers and wait to be asked what it is so I can beam and crow, "Oh, this? It's just a tart. Made completely from scratch with these very hands. It was nothing."

Speaking of light and tender. Biscuits. They should be light and tender, right? I don't know how well I did atop the pot pie - it was good, but hard to really judge texture when you are eating it with other goop. The whole pot pie preparation got me thinking about scones and the travesty being visited upon them in coffee shop and bakery, near and far. Several times now, when I had a hankering for a scone, I would check out my local purveyors ... and conclude that no one undestands this treat. The scone does not have frosting. The scone is not cloying. The scone is not a cake. You cut in the butter, like a biscuit. The housemade scones at the local cafe Josh and I frequent always sells out of their scones. I was fortunate enough to arrive early once to see what the fuss was about. The fuss is about nothing. Nothing. It was cloying and cakey, not light and tender with a hint of sweetness. I had a conversation with my mother's neghbor about why her scones never came out right - she was making them from a mix. I told her about the whole cutting in thing. But I am sure that a lot of the shops around here would think those mix-originated scones were just fine. But they aren't. They really aren't!

Stop the madness! Bring light and flaky back!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


When Josh and I were in France in 2002 - that long ago?! - we visited Bayeux. As I am sure you know, one usually travels there to see the Tapestry ... you know, the one that depicts the Battle of Hastings of 1066. The battle that turns the tide of, well, lots of things, including language and cultural influence of the French, Normans really, on the Anglo-Saxons, and all that good stuff. What do sausages have to do with this history lesson? Well, while in Bayeux, Josh and I hit the market and noticed people cheerfully holding onto what looked like hot dogs. Wha? Sure enough, we spotted the wiener cart off in the distance. I knew how to say saucisson, but my head started spinning with the notion that I didn't know precisely how to order this saucisson. And what if I was asked about condiments? What do the French put on their sausage? Yikes. Nearly paralyzing for a perfectionist who easily reddens. But Josh and I wanted one of those sausages, so we got in line and I furiously read the signs and eavesdropped on other people ordering. When it was my turn, I procured two sausages, in bread, with mustard. They were magnificent.

We will also remember the cuisine of Bayeux because this was where we met a very strange Frenchman who declared, in English, "I hate cheese," when we asked for a recommendation. Don't you get deported for that?
I once had a Rachel Ray cookbook. For the uninitiated, she is a TV personality-chef, which is to say, not a real chef, which is the say, she hasn't had training, but she's got some skills anyway. Her claim to fame is 30-minute meals. When I, a simpleton, actually make these meals, however, I find them to be more like 40-45 minutes. I suppose that's still pretty good for dinner preparation time. Anyway, I went through a very heavy Food Network phase when I watched pretty much everyone and all shows. The above sausage dish is one of Rachel's, and it is quite good. You brown sausage - kielbasa is nice - then remove it from the pan and caramelize your onions. Throw in your greens to wilt, adding a little chicken stock if dry. Once everything is wilted to your liking, dump in some drained sauerkraut, a few spoonfuls of brown mustard, and a tsp. of paprika. Throw the sausage back in, and mix. Rachel suggests servings with pan-browned perogis - potsticker-like. I couldn't find any at Trader Joe's, so we went with gnocchi, and it was great. Sam even ate a little bit ... when Josh offered it to him, of course.

Speaking of sausage, our American version is, of course, the hot dog. My mother has been on me for months to just get some for Sam. Josh has reminded me, every time I muse over the possiblity, that hot dogs are the #1 choking and death-by-choking food for toddlers. But I found these franks with no nitrates or other chemical weirdness in them, so we gave the wiener a shot - all cut up really small.

So? Well? What happened?

The short version: Josh and I have some hot dogs to eat.

How about this veggie update: Sam will eat carrots if you give him the whole stinking thing. The carrot you see here was just barely gnawed on after much protest because I cut the green end off. Sam likes to suck on and contemplate that end, declaring, "Don't eat the green part." I denied him that pleasure, so he only ate a bit ... like a rabbit, too.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Box o' produce

I was talking with my dad about the delivery items we're getting these days: milk and produce. They both come on Tuesday and it is simultaneously marvelous and terrible to see a cornucopia on your doorstep. Marvelous for obvious reasons, I think; those being that, huzzah!, someone else did your shopping. Terrible because you have to unpack, clean, wrap in plastic or paper towels, or whatever, while rangling your toddler and fighting back tears because, Christ!, you have so much stinking work to do and you are still a fulltime wife and mother, and tell me again why I shouldn't eat pasta with sauce from a jar every night?

No jars. I made, instead, lentils with beet greens, and a side of roasted beets.

Then there were the chard cakes with a side of pasta with sausage and tomatoes from our garden! Tomatoes from the garden, that is. Maybe pigs in the future. Ha. I have shared the chard cake recipe before and I must say - you think you can eat 20 when you start out, but cheese is so rich. Huh. And I never remember this. Each time I make these I look at the paltry plate of 6 patties and think: I can eat all of them! Then I push back after one and a half.

So Dad was saying that when he was a boy they got the milk delivery, in glass jars. I don't know why this image is part of my understanding of his childhood - where did I get this mental picture of a milkman and those jars? TV, probably. What I didn't know was that the produce guy would come down Dad's block once a week too! What? A farmers market come to your door? Surely you jest. I'm sure there was no arugula or squash blossoms, but still! Oh yes, the ice man too. I have that image as well: big calipers grasping ice. No, that can't be right. I need to replace the calipers with a medieval hook of sorts. Yes, that works.
My dear blogger-friend wanted my meatloaf recipe. Ah, Charlene, you honor me with your request.

Meatloaf with brown sugar-ketchup glaze:
Glaze: 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3T cider vinegar. Mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan and set aside.
Meatloaf: 2tsp. veg oil; 1 medium onion, chopped; 2 medium garlic cloves, minced; 2 large eggs, lightly beaten; 1/2 tsp. dried thyme; 1 tsp. salt; 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper; 2 tsp. Dijon mustard; 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce; 1/4 tsp (or more) hot sauce; 1/2 cup plain yogurt; 2 lbs. meatloaf mix (1lb. ground beef; 1/2lb. ground pork; 1/2lb. ground veal - I usually don't get veal, I just use more beef or lamb); 2/3 cup oats OR 1 1/3 cups fresh bread crumbs; 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1. Heat the oven to 350 (medium). Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and sweat until translucent, not browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Mix the next eight ingredients in a medium bowl. Add this mixture to the meat in a large bowl. Then add then crackers, parsley, and onion mixture. Mix to blend with a fork or hands. I like hands because if I gently squeeze the ingredients while mixing, they get incorporated well. The mixture will be slightly sticky, but shouldn't stick like glue to the bowl. If it does, add milk, a couple tablespoons at a time until you get a good, cohesive, not-too-sticky mass.
3. Turn the mixture onto a sheet pan lined with heavy duty foil (easy cleanup), and shape it into loaf form, 9x5 inches.
4. Remove about 1/3 -1/2 cup glaze from the saucepan and brush it over the meatloaf. (Some people add bacon to the top of this!)
5. Bake the loaf until it is 160 degrees, about 1 hour 20 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, simmer the remaining glaze over medium heat until it thickens slightly. Serve alongside.
-America's Test Kitchen recipe

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

You grow up eating certain things. Often, these dishes become your Comfort Food when you are older. I don't know if every culture has a phrase that equates to Comfort Food, or at least share some sort of archetypal understanding of it. It does seem like something that only Western cultures would think of. Food is so much a part of the luxurious lifestyle in the West that we can afford to have even the idea of comfort, let alone associate it with something as basic as food.

For my second week at school, I made a meatloaf to last Josh and I for several days, and I made vegatables to accompany it. The peas portion is a joke, really. We had large salads with peas in it, but I thought I could conjure some Americana by putting a tiny bit of green on the plate with the huge servings of meat and potatoes. Meatloaf is definitely comfort - my mother made it and it was good, I recall. I have my own version, which I like very much, especially with a little extra sauce americaine, i.e. ketchup with sugar, vinegar, and hot sauce, thickened a bit in a saucepan. And white potatoes are pure vice - done up with onion powder, garlic powder, sliced gralic, and thyme. It's nice to come home to something meaty and sweet - something you don't have to spend a lot of time making, but rather just heat up.
The week before meatloaf week, I got my first organics home delivery. The produce is gorgeous and seems to always include greens. I sauteed some kale for my mom, who was here watching Sam. I may have shared the recipe with you before - it's my simple saute that I usually do with spinach in garlic, olive oil, pepper flakes, and golden raisins. You finish it with slivered almonds and sherry vinegar. It's good with spinach and fabulous with kale, I think.

The reason I bring this up is because my mother said that she liked it (thank goodness), and that she believed it was her first experince with kale! It is true that we never really ate greens other than salad growing up. And now I think Dad (the chef in the family) uses collards and chard sometimes, but certainly did not when I was a kid. Then I started thinking about all the things that I now consider part of my diet, like beets and greens and winter squashes, that I didn't grow up with. Mom asked me how I even found out that I liked kale. I didn't know. What makes us want to experiment? It might have been the TV!

Next on my experimentation list is kohlrabi. What in the world do you do with that thing?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Breads of the veggie variety

I combined the idea of Sam eating vegetables with Sam eating a variety of cold lunches at school, and I came up with carrot cake and zucchini bread! Although the recipes call for white flour, I went ahead and substituted half the amount for whole wheat flour, thinking that that makes the breads even healthier! I don't know how the cups of sugar figure into the health equation, but I have a feeling there is a direct and negative effect. Hm.
That's a photo of banana bread because I forgot to photograph the zuke bread. Does it look weird? Trader Joe's is now on my shit list! (I know, this is the first curse word on this blog. I hope I have not driven you away. It won't happen again. Well, no promises.) The reason I am mildly annoyed with my beloved TJs is that they packaged baking soda (that's bicarbonate for my British readers) in the same sort of container as baking powder! What? Everyone knows that soda comes in the box and you use the flap to level off your scoop. The powder comes in a can with a 1/3 cover-like thing that you use to level your scoop. Well, TJs used the can for the soda! When I grabbed my supply of baking powder out of the cabinet I discovered - yikes - that it was baking soda. Curses! Meaning I had to bake bread with no powder. I know that they have different functions and was fairly certain that my bread would rise anyway because we do have Irish soda bread which, of course, uses baking soda as the leavener. But, knowing that one often uses both white powdery substances in baked goods, I did worry a tad. The bread rose, but not normally. It was good, so hey.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cramp in My Style

I have gone back to work. This puts a serious cramp in my blogging schedule, not to mention my cooking schedule.

I did a trial run during Sam's first week of daycare. The trial being: Can I cook dinner, prepare lunches, get myself and Sam ready in the morning, and so on. I only went to work a couple of those days, and cleaned the house during the others. The trial was me waking up at 5am, trying to exercise and ready myself, and make Sam's lunch and get him up and eating breakfast. Turns out that is too much to do in the morning.
The trial also included me hanging out in the kitchen all day Sunday. I prepared a couple soups and a few items for lunch. I even made Sam empanadas which - surprise - he didn't like.
I made bread for breakfast and lunches, too. It was a recipe I found on the back of my whole wheat bread package that called for "cracked wheat" and "cracked rye," neither of which can be found. I substituted wheat berries, thinking I would crack them myself with a rolling pin. That didn't work. So we had incredibly chewy bits in the bread. So chewy that it prompted Josh to ask about their identity, which is his way of saying that he doesn't like something. "Hm, what is this?" He manages to wipe all curiosity out of his tone so that you get the message. It was good bread, the wheat berries just needed more soaking so that you could chew them ... at all.
I made a soup that I have featured here already: Lydia Bastianich's vegetable soup. I got to include more potatoes from our garden. Yippee.
The second soup was a Jacques Pepin recipe: Corn Soup. You use hominy and tomatoes, thyme and cumin, then add fresh corn and cilantro. It was delicious.

I think I will continue with this plan of making a couple big things over the weekend. But I don't want to spend all day in the kitchen. I know I will get used to my new schedule, but it is so different and my body is so tired. I was exhausted when I got home every day. I just wanted silence - something not easily had with a two-year-old.

Speaking of which, I have to pack his lunch every morning. This is a major drag because (a) he is picky, and (b) it has to be cold. The parents are advised from the outset to pack a variety of lunches. Okay. Sure. The real curve ball is that the daycare is peanut free! What the hell is wrong with Western culture that we have created all of these allergy mutants! Who in the world is allergic to all nuts? I had a kid tell me he is allergic to stone fruit! What? These were domesticated thousands of years ago in the Orient and you are allergic to them? Egg whites? What?!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My New Fridge

As you can plainly see, the space for the fridge in our kitchen was not made for this behemoth. Josh removed some molding and we made it work. I think cleaning behind the old fridge was almost as gratifying as loading up the new one.
There are two reasons I love this fridge. #1 the long meat/cheese drawer. Don't you hate it when your lame drawer takes up valuable shelf space? You can only stick really really short things under it and you forget they are there because you can't see them and one day you're like, "What is that smell? Oh, it's this unidentifiable thing that was in a baggie under my cheese drawer for 10,000 years. Darn."

#2, the bottom freezer. You know, you pull out your produce drawers and your like, "How does cat hair and my hair and dust bunnies and ... is that a bug ... get under these drawers?" My theory is that you create an eensy-weensy vortex of air every time you open the fridge and everything on the floor in your domicile gets swept up in there. But with the bottom freezer, no more! The only thing under my freezer drawers are little ice crystals. Ha!

The capacity is amazing. And a good thing, too, for I am returning to work this year after two glorious years raising my son (read: watching Mexican soap operas) full time. We need some serious capacity for the huge soups and stews I will make on Sunday to get us through to Friday so that I don't have to kill myself every night. Gone are the days when I can stick a roast in for 2.5 hours in the middle of the day! Well, unless that day is Sunday and we aren't eating it until Monday, reheated.

I have a feeling I will have much more to say about this working-mother-frustrated-chef thing very very soon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lumpia, Part II

After my enlightening conversation with the pediatrician regarding the fact that one can hide veggies in food, *gasp*, I made more lumpia. Half meat, half veg in each one. I didn't let it marinate with enough soy sauce, though, so the flavor wasn't as strong as my previous batch.

And guess who noticed?

I slaved over these things for hours. And this time I did not cook the meat before stuffing and that made it so much easier. That might have had something to do with the flavor? You think? Well, His Royal Highness, the Mighty Refined Palate, Sir Sam, spit them out. Now I have 40 lumpia in my freezer.

Why, yes, Sam is learning the periodic table of elements. He has gotten far beyond the alphabet and really needs a challenge.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Things that look good, but aren't. Parmesan flan, for example. Sounds delicious; looks lovely. Tastes like gunk from between your toes, mitigated by the lovely tomato-basil topping. Topping? I tend to think chocolate sprinkles with that word, but it works here, technically.

And then we have the deception I engage in to get my son to eat vegetables. Recently we had a doctor's appointment, and I asked about vegetables. I was looking for assuaging. I was looking for something like, "Don't worry, lots of kids do this. A year or two without a single vegetable won't kill him. He will not die of scurvy or other weird 16th century sailor diseases. It will all even out by the time he is 10, provided he eats vegetables then." I got nothing of the sort. Instead, Dr. S told me that I can hide veggies in many things, like pizza! So I screamed, "I don't need recipes! I have a blog about food! I am a veggie-hiding genius! He doesn't eat them!" Only, I screamed that on the inside while smiling and thanking the doctor on the outside.
I took this beautiful cauliflower and I made a puree and called it "cauliflower yogurt." Sam always asks for yogurt, honey and O's for dinner. I was happy to oblige. Unfortunately for me, this particular veggie has a distinctive smell that alerted Sam to its non-yogurt-like nature. He refused to try it. I did what any mother would do and proceeded to mix 1:1 puree to yogurt, and gave him O's thinking that they would dull the cauliflower taste even more.

This was the reaction. As in, "Get this out of my mouth! What have you done to my beloved yogurt? You can't fool me, you witch!"

Josh and I happily ate it with our dinner because it was soooooo good. I opted for no O's in mine.

Cauliflower puree:
1 head cauliflower
1-2T unsalted butter
2-4T creme fraiche
1/4-1/2 cup cooking water
salt and pepper to taste

Add cauliflower to pot of boiling water and cook until soft, but not mush, 8-10 minutes. Drain, reserving some cooking water. Puree cauliflower with everything else, adding just a bit of water to start and adjusting for your desired texture.

Creme fraiche makes life worth living, so add a lot!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Let's Talk Salad with Fruit

Well, last time I talked about wanting to eat bread and muffins because of cool weather. Then summer arrived! I have been making lots of salads this summer, and in them, fruit! I know this is not revolutionary. We have been seeing fruit in salad for many summers now, but it seemed too odd to me. Until now. I still can't go with strawberry or watermelon, but I did some peach and plum recently. The verdict? Delightful. It all has to do with the Universal Salad Equation:

Creamy+nutty/meaty+acid+sweet+tart/bitter+x = Good Salad

Avocado fulfills creamy, as above - that, or a nice cheese. I think if the cheese is a bleu it counts as umami, i.e. the x factor. You must have nuts. I have decided that they positively make a salad. Actually, you can use beans instead of nuts, getting a similar effect. If you candy nuts, two parts of the equation are taken care of. Lemon can function as the acid in the dressing. The sweet can be a little fruit, caramelized onions, honey in the dressing, something. The greens will give you tart/bitter. I like arugula for almost any salad - it goes well with fruit ...oooooh, and beets. For bitter, radicchio will do the job - another item I discovered for myself this summer.

I find that I can barely stand a salad without nuts in it these days. Which reminds me of the Sarouhans. My family used to go to the Sarouhans' house around Christmas every year, or every other because I guess we alternated hosting. E, the head chef at the Sarouhans, would put out the same hors d'oeuvres every time: salted peanuts, and an orange-yellow-nutted cheese log with crackers. There might have been something else, but that's all I recall. Right before she served the salad, E would dump the leftover nuts in it. I thought her behavior was downright malicious and I avoided each and every nut in my serving. Now, I totally get it.
I put this salad on a homemade pizza with goat cheese.

The fruit must be sweet. These were organic plums, so I felt good about them, but not very tasty, so at the same time every bite made me mad. I don't think it's full plum season anyway. I seem to recall that plums are more August - late and into September. I think. Last summer I found an awesome plum purveyor at the Lake City Farmers Market. He had several varieties of plum hybrids. So good.

Speaking of farmers markets, I just really want a European market experience. I realized this when I read French Women Don't Get Fat, and then recalled my experience in Spain when I lived there so many years ago. I was initially appalled when I was told to be careful of touching the produce in Spain. What would happen, I wanted to know. I need to choose my fruit; surely the vendors won't pick good ones. Oh, how wrong I was. Here and now, as there and then, I want to be asked, "When do you want to eat these? I will give you these for today and these need two days. Be sure to have a nice glass of champagne and some cheese alongside. " Instead I get to pick my own and maybe they ripen and maybe they don't; maybe they are as tasty as the sample, and maybe they are mealy. I know we like to be independent here in the States, but ... but ... I want to be helped at the farmers market. Handing me a bag does not count as helping.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Baking Fool

Usually, summer is for fruit and salad - delicate, slimming eating. But here in the Pacific Northwest, summer was a late arrival, and sunny days are interspersed with overcast ones. That means I still feel like baking... which does not create a beach-ready midsection.
Sam was asking for "muffin? muffin? muffin?" so I made these. They sounded so good, and I had some raspberries. Raspberry Crumble Muffins. They look good, don't they? Well, they would have been much better if I didn't have some sort of brain hiccup while I was making the streusel topping. I managed to completely omit the sugar. It tasted a bit floury, so I scraped it off every muffin I had. I made a second batch with cherries that were awesome - and not floury. Sam? He decided that he didn't want a muffin after all.

I must take a tangent here to comment on my son's fickle nature, as I have done before. So, he loves raspberries and cherries and all manner of interesting dishes ... when we are out and about and especially if someone other than me has prepared it. I get excited. I buy ingredients. I get it all home, work my magic, and voila! "No, Mommy. O's." Fickle. The boy eats zero vegetables.
But he did eat this - surprise. I put sausage on it - his favorite. I snuck peas into the sauce, along with artichokes. Great! BUT, he wouldn't eat it two days in a row. I spent too much intellectual time wondering about people who don't like leftovers - my son is now one of them. You can't make anything else out of pizza, either. There is no disguising the leftovers.
I made some wheat bread too. I decided to go with my tried and true recipe, instead of the 5-minute-a-day version that makes four loaves. I think I let it rise too long. I think I always let it rise too long because the top always seems to flatten out like that. Hm. I must experiment.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My New Weapon

I have been so out of sorts. But I have been thinking about you. About us. I will do my darnedest to get back into the swing of things with blogging. What have I been doing instead? Cleaning. And watching two telenovelas, i.e. Mexican soap operas. What? I need to keep my language skills up.

One of the great things about having this blog is that when I screw up in the kitchen, I get to release it all on the page. I go through the intellectual exercise of acknowledging and atoning for my wrongs. In a way.

To wit:
The Cherry Clafouti. You may recognize this country-French dessert, originally from the Limousin region. Basically, it's a fruit cake (not to be confused with a fruitcake, all one word, which is full of candied fruit and soaked with rum *shudder*), with cherry being the traditional fruit, although you will find plum, berry, pear, or whatever fruit is in season. I had never eaten, not to mention made, clafouti of any sort, and really didn't know what it was supposed to be like. I took the recipe from a book that I dislike more and more with each new recipe I try. I think you see what's coming: the dessert wasn't very good. I dutifully ate it, nonetheless.
The saddest part about the clafouti, was not the wasted time, nor spent ingredients, but rather that I made it for my son's second birthday. He took a bite ... spit it out ... and had vanilla ice cream instead. He paid for his ungratefulness with his first intense ice cream headache. Poor Sam howled and grasped at Josh screaming that it was "hot! hot!" I suppose that is how your head feels with a brain freeze, somehow.
Clafouti prep was quite fun, such that I do not regret trying it - which is how I feel normally when I screw something up. In fact, I purchased a new gadget: a pitter! I do want to make preserves and jam this year, so I do plan to use this thing more than once. I also have a few olive recipes where I could employ it, so it won't collect dust, really.

In addition to the cherry preserves, I also hope to make jams from various berries. My neighbor has huge raspberry bushes that she said I can pick from. Actually, she specifically said that I can pick "whatever hangs on your side." She has said this several times, in fact, to both me and Josh, always emphasizing the "your side." Now, I firmly believe in following instructions, so I don't even want to reach across the plane the fence creates, nor would it be following the letter of the restrictions to pull a vine over to my side so that I could pick the berries.

And yet.

I do recall that last year there were scads and scads of berries on the ground such that it became breeding ground for all the fruit flies in Seattle. So, I might allow for some liberal interpretation of her offer because, hey, you can't just let food go to waste like that. I'll even give her some jam.

So I got a cherry pitter for those preserves. And if you have been reading religiously, you know of my run-ins with various purveyors of kitchen equipment and the attitude I have been getting for wanting supplies for atavistic pursuits, such as canning and preserving. So I went ahead and ordered a darn jar lifter online because, as previously noted, you cannot find one in the whole state because "no one cans anymore." God willing, you will see a post with the pitter as star again.
Pitting is nasty business ... and fun. Just like going to the firing range. What? Bear with me. (1) You load your weapon with a cherry. (2) You apply enough force to discharge the weapon and force a solid object from within a fleshy one. (3) Red juice squirts all over. It was messy and a little off-putting.

The next time I talk about my cherry pitter, it should be when I am making preserves. The cherries can't wait forever. I hope I get my lifters and pint jars soon!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Potatoes? Can you just grow those?

I spoke ill of my garden in the last entry. Let me just amend with the fact that the real pride and joy of the farmland here is the potatoes! Josh has been tenderly nursing them in containers. Do you know what a potato plant looks like? I was raised in a suburb of San Francisco and my parents were not gardeners of food, so I definitely had no idea what many things looked like, or if they grew in the ground, on trees ... or in plastic containers!
Speaking of being far-removed from our food and what the heck it looks like, I had a conversation with a grocery bagger the other day about chamomile. She said that, until she started working at the co-op, she had no idea that chamomile was a flower. I then commented that I have discovered a whole host of things that I didn't realize a person could just make. Like, really, who makes a marshmallow? No way. Who grows a potato? And I went looking for jar lifters and was told that "no one cans anymore" so no stores carry these necessary items. Really, sweetheart? These skills are coming back with a vengeance. I bought jars and now I need to lift them out of boiling water without breaking them or burning my hands! Stock some jar lifters! Doesn't Oxo make jar lifters?!
So my garden ... There are a few things that work and imbue me with enthusiasm and hope in spite of my deep-seated pessimism and Russian-novel-driven angst and self-torment. Josh planted the potatoes and we harvested and ate the first batch - see above. How do you know when to harvest? It seems that the plants die back when the potatoes are ready. Fascinating, right?
Then there are the peas. Josh threw a billion peas all over our yard. We have peas everywhere and they fruit like mad, baby! I believe I already spoke of my peas, so I won't bore you with more. But I will say that if you have never grown your own, and you like them, you really should throw some around your yard. You can even grow peas on a balcony if you live in an apartment. That crispy, snappy, sweet goodness is simply divine right off the plant.
Speaking of divinity, the Berry - any color and creed - is my very favorite. Our strawberries have been teasing me all strawberry season... which is pretty much over. All of Seattle's strawberries behaved badly this season because of the crazy weather and complete lack of spring, but ours were especially rotten. I caught glimpses of berries that would shrivel up and fall off. We have several species and the one above looks like the only plant that might deliver. My cat killed a rat the other day, so that's one berry-robber down.

There's so much hope in a green berry, isn't there?

And yet.

We have a species of green strawberry, and I realized the other day that I won't know when to eat them!
Our lettuces are going pretty well, too. I planted a few more rounds, so we should have lettuce for a while. I also want to plant squash and a cover crop and I just don't know how that will all work. I listened to a radio show on gardening on Tuesday and, basically, you are supposed to have several areas for planting so that you can leave an area fallow every year. Ug. I seriously need to get someone out to get rid of our awful vinca so that I can plant a cover crop in the current bed. We really need to build humus.
I set a goal for myself: Do one small thing in the garden every day. I have done this ... zero times. Sam simply won't let me get anything done while he is awake. That leaves approximately 2.5 hours of nap time to do IT ALL. "It" often includes feeding myself, cleaning up ... and my Mexican soap opera. What? I need to keep up my language skills!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gardening Vicissitudes

Did I tell you that I gave up on my garden? Well, the yard, really. I keep planting and thinning in the raised bed just so I have something to moan about when the crops don't look incredible as ... my next door neighbor's, who must have the best humus anywhere on the planet. We have a huge yard in front and back and, according to the same neighbor, work has not been done on it for roughly 10 years. Josh and I weeded and built a raised bed. We also pulled out a bunch of dead heather and crazy viney plants that were taking over, and planted flowers and herbs to take their place. We amended the soil. We dreamed.

But those damned weeds are so very good at what they do. I know I have said this before. And crap! how about grass? Why does anyone have grass? I think, if you aren't pasturing a ruminant in your yard, get rid of the lawn! I have been drooling over rock gardens as of late. I'm not kidding! Why bother weeding when it all comes right back? Ug.
But peas make you dream. They just grow so ... easily and fast. Their flowers are so cute - like little bonnets. And you think, when they all flower and fruit like mad, I am a gardener! Look at the life I have created! Look what I nurtured from seed, I say!

Then your beets and leeks and turnips all end up in some sort of strange suspended animation. And the weeds come back with a vengeance. And grass starts to come up from within the wildflowers you plant. And. It's. Too. Much.
But we did have peas. Ah, the peas.

That I managed to overblanche. But they were still delightful with a bit of butter and salt.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baguettes and Knives

No, this is not another version of the classic economics exercise with guns and butter; this is my life.

Forgive me for being so completely out of the blogging loop. I haven't been able to keep up with the blogs I follow, and I definitely have not kept up with my own writing and cooking. I've been feeling down and in a deep deep rut ... my toddler is dragging me through this rut, actually. I have no time for anything. I don't know how I ever thought that I was busy when I didn't have kids. Hell, I don't even work and I have no time!

The knife collection is back. The star player, i.e. the chef's knife, was missing for a couple of weeks. I had a Henckels and liked it very much, but the wood handle was pulling away from the tang and reached a point of no return. I asked my knife guy what to do and he said that They should give me a new knife for free because it's a manufacturing defect he sees all the time. Free? New? So I call and customer service tells me to send it in and if they "determine it to be a manufacturing defect," I will get a new knife or be "offered" one at wholesale. No, no, my knife guy said. You tell them a new one and nothing else. Hmmmm. I don't know how to wrangle and bargain. I do not think I was ever a Turk in a past life. Completely foreign; it makes me totally uncomfortable. I am convinced there is a world of secret passwords and just the right amount of complaining at a perfect E flat in order to get what you want.

So I sent my knife in with a note detailing the damage and that I like their knives and I deserve a new one! Then I read the Henckels fine print about "manufacturing defects" and got all worked up thinking that there was no way I would get a new knife. I just knew those bastards were going to screw me! Uh, the humanity!

Happily, I was wrong. I received a lovely, brand new knife in the mail. Yeah! So sharp and delightful.
I made some new bread. I told you I intended to try a baguette, so here it is. I know; I know. It's funny-shaped. When I slid it from the peel onto the stone - I need a new, bigger stone, by the way - part of it slipped over the side, so I tucked it back on, at great peril to my fingers and forearms.
It was good. The texture was nice. BUT I wasn't too fond of the crust. AND the other loaves I made from the dough came out weird. Well, one of the loaves, anyway. I made a batard for my neighbor and one for me. I really hope hers was okay because part of mine wasn't cooked. I think it had to do with a sort of hard, goopy part that was stuck to the container from the last dough that was in there. The authors of my new-fangled bread book said to go ahead and keep adding dough to the same container because you can build a nice particular sourdough, but I don't intend to do that again. Or it might have been my rolling technique. Anyway, how do I get that crunchy crunchy crust? Gah! I'm just going to have to try a real baguette, with its crazy manifold steps and rituals. Do I have to sacrifice something to Escoffier?
It made excellent pizza dough, however. The topping was totally random but so good that I will definitely try to repeat it. Try. Does this happen to you: I tend to throw a bunch of stuff on a pizza and it comes out awesome! Oh! Josh and I oooh and ahhhh about it being the best ever... never to be replicated because it was so organically spur-of-the-moment. Hm. On this one: zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant - all sauteed in olive oil. The sauce: garlic-thyme olive oil made by heating those in oil. Cheese ... and maybe sausage, too.