Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Festive Food… Strata

Here is a good dish that is good for brunches, potlucks, or even just to deal with leftovers.  It a strata, or savory bread pudding.  Basically, eggs, milk, bread, with ham, cheese and a green vegetable.  What’s great about this is  you put it together ahead of time, and can serve either hot or room temperature.  And of course, very pretty.   For this time of year, use broccoli, along with prosciutto (get the imported kind from AJ’s).  For a springtime brunch, use asparagus. Use a good grating cheese, Parmesan or what ever you like (or have), plus (what make it really festive)  real prosciutto.  AJ’s is a good source, get the imported Parma…  it’s expensive, but you only need a bit.

Also, for a less festive occasion (but still real good food), use a leftover bread, some leftover chicken or sliced ham, a leftover (or thawed frozen) vegetable…  use about 1/3 of the recipe and cook in 5x9 loaf pan.

The Gadget:  a scale (digital or not) to figure out quantities.

Asparagus (or Broccoli) and Prosciutto Strata

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
   OR ~1 ½ pounds broccoli crowns, use just the florets (1-2 inch pieces)
¾ pound crusty, artisan-style bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (1 loaf or a little less)
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into ½-inch strips
5 ounces parmesan, asiago, or ramono cheese (or a blend), shredded
½ cup chopped chives
6 large eggs
3 ½ cups milk (2% or whole)
Zest from 1 or 2 lemons
½ teaspoon salt (less if you cheese is particularly salty)
½ teaspoon pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add vegetable of choice and cook until bright green and barely tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

Oil a 9x13 pan (spray with Pam).  Spread half the bread cubes, top with half the prosciutto, vegetable, cheese, and chives.  Repeat with remaining bread, prosciutto, vegetable, cheese and chives.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended.  Add milk, zest, salt and pepper and whisk to blend.   Pour evenly over the layered ingredients.  Cover and chill at least one hour, overnight is OK.

Pre-heat oven to 350oF.  Bake strata uncovered until set and top is lightly browned, 40 to 50 minutes.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Napa Valley


One of our favorite places is Napa Valley. Maybe in a little attempt to recapture a bit of Italy (lots of food and wine fanatics), we decided it was time to go (again).  December is really a nice time to visit.  The crowds are not bad, even on a weekend, and its not difficult getting into restaurants.  Everything is nicely decorated for Christmas, with lots of real trees, and not overdone like most  anywhere-retail-USA.  Yes, the weather can be dicey, but the real rain usually doesn’t start in Northern Cal until January (and then it can be everyday).  We were lucky -- it was cool, but the sun came out every day.  I actually wore my cashmere sweater.  We stayed in a very nice B&B, Sunny Acres, which is located at Salvestrin Winery.  This was the first time, in many visits to Napa, that we found lodging that we will definitely stay at again.  Its an old Victorian house, nice antiques, great breakfast, and wonderful hosts.

We met up with friends from Grass Valley on Friday for lunch at Redd, one of the trendy places.  It was quite good, with interesting soup and salads.  For my main, I had quail (which I believe is the latest trendy meat).  What can I say?  It was good.  For dinner we went to Cindy’s Backstreet.  It’s more low key, with lots of comfort food on the menu.  Roy had meatloaf, I had a duck burger.  The burger was OK, but the fries that came with it were really, really good.  So good, they make you wonder why you eat the typical frozen things. For lunch on Saturday, we stopped at Greystone.  We have been there many times; it’s the restaurant at the CIA (Culinary Institute of American).  We both had excellent soups, Roy had butternut soup, they gave us the recipe (starts with 12 pounds of squash, ends with a gallon of cream).  I had a quite wonderful ciopino (fish soup).  They took my email address, and hoping they send the recipe for this too!  My only complaint was the wine list (irony alert - restaurant owned by Wine Spectator); it seemed overpriced for the valley, and the wines by the glass were not too exciting. For dinner on Saturday night, we had originally planned to go to Martini House (high-end tasting menu over top kind of place), but since we both had colds, decided to go for something simple, and had sushi at Go Fish (which is owned by the same Cindy as Cindy’s Backstreet).  It was good, and nice that it was walking distance to the B&B. And they had really cool Christmas decorations – silver snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, and pots of narcissus and paperwhites in the windows around the room.

For wineries, we of course visited Salvestrin, as well as Robert Bialli (they just do Zin’s, and buy some of their grapes from Salvestrin), and one other (ok, I can't remember how to spell it, but we will be getting some wine shipped).  Plus, we stopped at Trefethen Winery, which is the first winery we visited 15 years ago in December the first time we went to Napa… and got hooked.

Merry Christmas !



I love to get Christmas letters, to hear about what everyone is doing.  But, I usually don’t seem to actually do one for myself.  So, I thought maybe I will just do a Christmas blog instead! 
We have had some wonderful trips this year, the highlight being Italy.  I also managed to get back to visit Sharon in New Jersey, and we made a quick trip to Napa Valley.  For Christmas, we will be heading to Tucson where the Norman’s will be gathering.  (click on the links and you will have pictures and more information than you ever wanted!)

Roy continues to be the car nut, and has recently bought a 41-year old Jaguar.  Its very pretty.   

I took sabbatical (8-week vacation) this year, and had a chance to spend some time in my studio, as well as take a painting class.  I have also started doing Yoga. I am building strength and flexibility for the positions, but still really struggle with the part where you are supposed to relax and not think of anything (typically, my mind is drifting towards lunch).   After getting back from sabbatical, I had come to the conclusion that I needed to move on, fortunately Marvell downsized and gave me a nice package!  So I’m back on sabbatical, but need to decide what next.

My most surprising accomplishment (at least to me) is blogging, taking time to reflect and write about things I have done or read. This is post #72 (since February when I started).   Its nice to be able to share with friends and family food ideas, or books they might like to read (or not). I even like the writing part, striving to be concise but witty (and thankful for spell checkers). I just hope that all of you like to read it as much as I like to write!

May you have a wonderful Christmas, enjoying all the good things that come with the season.

P.S.     Please keep the comments coming, it’s good to hear your thoughts and feedback!  (its not hard, you can make up any name you want, and only I get to see your email address).  And it you want to get the entries via email, just subscribe (and I just know how many subscribers I have, not who). You can un-subscribe any time!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Comfort Food – Mac and Cheese

I’m sure that everyone has their favorite, mine is Mac and Cheese.   We ate of lot of the Kraft version while in college (seemed so much more like food than ramen noodles), but once we had real jobs, we swore off the Kraft , something about that unnatural orange power (we moved on to Stouffer's Frozen).   But now, job or not, there is no going back to the boxes!    Here is our favorite.  Once you have done it 10 or 20 times, it goes together pretty quick, but does need to bake for 45 minutes or so.

Macaroni and Cheese

 I like that you don’t need to cook the macaroni separately.  No need to clean the food processor between jobs.

1 ounce (about a 1x1 cube) Parmesan cheese
1 slice of bread

½ a medium-large onion
4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

1 carton 1% cottage cheese
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
pinch of cayenne
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ pound uncooked elbow macaroni

Preheat the oven to 375oF.  Prepare a 9-inch square baking pan with a light coating of Pam.

Grate cheese in food processor with blade.  Tear bread in large chunks, add to cheese and process until bread is turned into medium crumbs.  Pour into small bowl and set aside.  Using shredding disk, grate the cheddar cheese and onion.  Place in large mixing bowl.

Using blade, process the cottage cheese, buttermilk, and spices until smooth.  Place in bowl with onion and cheddar cheese.  Add macaroni to bowl and stir. Pour into prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over top. 

Bake for about 45 minutes, until the toping is browned and the center is firm.  Let sit for a few minutes then serve.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme

I think Julia Child had 2 lives, one as a TV Chef that we all know and love and laughed at the Dan Akroyd impersonation, the other is documented in “My Life in France”.  Of course, there were the 30-some years before this, but you really get the impression that she had not “lived” until she discovered France (and she didn’t start with TV until her late 40’s… maybe I still have hope!).  This book touches on many current events of the 1950’s and 60’s, ranging from McCarthy investigations to space exploration, but mostly how Julia learns to cook (and live) as the French do, and through that, come to realize how limited and narrow thinking much of America (including her parents) had become. 

I loved the writing style used, it was very matter of fact and understated. It was mainly based on letters that Julia and Paul wrote over the years, mostly to Paul’s brother.  The co-author is Julia's nephew, who worked with Julia and finished after her death.  What  treat it must have been for him to learn the history of his family.  Much of the book is about Paul (her husband).  You don't hear much about him, but he introduced Julia to French cooking, and through the years contributed everything from drawings for her books to behind the scenes support for her TV appearances.

Somehow history seems more real when seen from different views.  One character in Life in France, Curnonsky, was a journalist who reviewed some wonderful feasts (and passed himself off as a prince), and at some point was just invited to eat at the best restaurants when ever he wanted, seemed to be one of the eccentric characters from Suite Francoise who seemed to do nothing but eat.

Another link is Julie-Julia Project, not the obvious connection of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One , but the comments on intestinal upsets, not surprising considering the volume of butter, cream and other animal fat consumed!  Of course, Julia make Julie seem like a wimp, Julia spent 10 years and undoubtedly made well over 10x the number of meals that Julie did in 1 year.  The amount of work and detail Julia put into the research and testing of the recipes was phenomenal.  I was also surprised at the difference in basic ingredients between the US and France, such as flour, that she worked to adjust for.   Maybe the more important parallel is that today, Julie Powell changed her life and because a successful writer in a couple of years, something Julia took a decade to do.  Just that’s what they mean by “internet time”.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving

I will be hosting a small gathering for family, total count will be 7.  I’ve ordered an organic, pasture raised turkey, they smallest they had was 12-14 pounds.  Assuming it comes in on the small side, I am planning to do a “deconstructed” turkey.  You cut up the turkey, into a full breast with wings, legs with thighs, and everything else.  Everything else (back, neck, etc) is used to make a very nice broth, the thighs get stuffed.  To roast, the breast sits on a pile of stuffing and the legs sit along side.  This cooks much quicker than a full bird.  The full recipe is in the Julia and Jacques Cook book (which is one of my very favorite cook books).  In addition, I’ll make mashed potatoes. gravy, cranberry sauce (this is really easy, see below for the recipe), and a few vegetable sides.  Maybe a squash gratin, maybe a cornbread dressing with roasted fall vegetables…  it’s wheat free corn bread with lots of vegetables, but I’ll need to find a dish that fits in the toaster oven to make this work.   But when else are you going to eat parsnips and rutabagas? (and if its good, I'll post the recipe next year!) And of course there will be pies for dessert, both pumpkin and pecan unless someone gets a better idea.

Let me know what makes the perfect Thanksgiving meal for you!

So, to keep you interested in Thanksgiving and NOT Christmas (no matter how many of our neighbors already have their Christmas light up already), here are two favorites:


Creamy Winter Squash Gratin
8 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2 teaspoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 2 large)
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups 1% milk
1/3 cup flour
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 clove garlic
2 (1 oz) slices bread
2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 400F

Arrange squash in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or use cooking spray).  Bake for 25 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add leeks and salt, cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.   Combine milk and flour, stirring well with a whisk.  Add milk mixture to pan, bring to a boil.  Cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.  Add cheese, pepper, and nutmeg, stir until cheese melts.  Gently stir in squash. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with a cooking spray.

Mince garlic in food processor.  Break bread into pieces, add with parsley to food processor.  Pulse, then process into crumbs.  Sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over squash mixture.  Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup).

Do ahead: prepare the gratin a day ahead and refrigerate, store the bread crumb topping separately. Let sit for a while at room temperature, add crumbs, then bake at 400o for 30 minutes or until brown.

Cranberry Sauce not from A Can

I think the cinnamon and vanilla really make this special (not to mention the lack of a tin-can taste), I always use tangerine juice since we just start getting them about this time)

Cooking Time: About 15 min.
Prep Time: About 5 min.
Makes:  3 1/2 cups, about 12 servings  (about as much as two cans)

6 cups (2 bags, 12 oz. each) fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup tangerine juice                 
(or use orange juice with a tablespoon of lemon juice added)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla

Put everything except vanilla in a saucepan, and over high heat bring to simmering. Turn down heat, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cranberries are tender (lots of them pot open), about 10 minutes.

Stir in vanilla, let cool.  Serve, or chill airtight up to 1 week.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mixed Media



One of my endeavors during sabbatical was taking a mixed media art class at the Desert Botanical Gardens.  They have a very serious botanical illustration program, with drawing, pen and ink, and watercolor classes.  Mixed Media was a new class, to combine pen and ink with watercolor.  The instructor was intending this as an advanced class, expecting the students to have taken the pen and ink and water color classes as prerequisites.  She was a bit unprepared when most of us in the class had little if any experience.  Fortunately, she quickly switched gears, and did a great job …  in the end, everyone had some very nice pieces. Her background was doing medical illustration, and she patiently taught us how to dip our pens, draw a line, as well has how to use watercolors.  However, She did not have any patience for non-artist quality materials, and started us with a pricey list of materials.  I have now fallen for sable brushes, and today figured they how well they work well for doing a little oxide line work on my pots!

We started the class by copying some Beatrice Potter illustrations from “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny”, as she used a mix of ink and watercolor.  We tried ink first, then watercolor, and then the other way. We also tried different inks, including one made from walnut shells.   Either way, you start with a pencil drawing (which we traced) that is transferred to the watercolor paper.  For the watercolors, she taught us how to mix colors, we started with 2 reds, 2 yellows, and 2 blues. A good reference book is  “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green” (hint, hint Christmas is coming).  The hardest color to mix was the grays. For the final project, I composed a picture of five different basils that I have in my herb garden (sweet basil, lemon basil, variegated basil, a purple basil, and Blue African basil).  I did cheat a bit, I shot pictures of each, cut out the background (so I also learned a lot about Photoshop), then did some tracing to get the basic shapes and perspective.  My biggest problem with getting big drops of ink on the paper, fortunately, the teacher had some watercolor whiteout (Creative Mark Aquacover) which did a good job of covering them up!   Here are pictures of my pieces.  I also did one of a yucca, hoping to get one without an ink blog (but not successful).

I’m really glad I took the class, I have a much better feeling for a few more more techniques, I might get to the point someday where my drawings have some level of accuracy(!), and have found that good watercolors are really pretty fun to use.  I was really surprised how quick you can get the colors down, but found that just like pottery, there are times you just have to stop, to let things dry out properly… because it can go bad very, very quickly.   Now to just get my studio arranged to support both pots and paints!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sabbatical End

The wailing you will hear tomorrow morning will be me going back to work.  It’s the last day of my 8 week sabbatical.   Its been a fabulous time, … I’m not even close to running out of fun things to do, and most days I’m exhausted in a good way.  The highlight was the trip to Italy, but there were so many other wonderful things, like my visit with my sister-in-law, a mixed media art class at the botanical gardens, time to, doing stuff with friends like lunch, golf, and wine tasting.  So far, I have written 20 blog entries, about 50% more than normal, and going twice a week to yoga.  The BBQ at my in-laws has gotten some use.

I have also really enjoyed my time at home: working on art, listening to music, puttering (not to be confused with putting), cooking and watching the birds and rabbits in yard.  I enjoy making a really nice salad for lunch:  finding what looks good in the fridge (which has not once been really, really empty), composing the salad, having a glass of wine. I have found that I might have the patience to paint.

I feel very lucky to have had this time, and glad my friends (and especially my husband) have been so supportive, and put up with my blathering even when they have had less than stellar days.  I am currently reading Julia Child’s “My Life in France”, where she describes herself before going to cooking school as the “butterfly of fun”.  That’s what I have felt like!  Maybe I should go to cooking school next (she started at the Cordon Bleu in Paris).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boyce Thompson Arboretum


After many years of talking about it, we finally made the trek (with the dog) out to Boyce Thompson.  It is about 60 miles east on Hwy 60, just before you get to the town of Superior. There is a loop trail (a little over a mile) which runs around the arboretum, which takes you through the cactus gardens, rose garden, herb garden, and what I thought to be most unusual, the Eucalyptus garden, which has 80 year old (i.e. really big) trees for the middle of the desert.

Fortunately, you gain a bit of elevation over Phoenix, so it’s a few degrees cooler, which was really nice yesterday since it was 95F yesterday (and the end of October… if this sounded like a whine, well, it was).  There were a few things blooming, but I think the really nice time to visit would be March.  There would likely be some water running in Queen Creek, there are bunches of irises as well as other bulbs you might catch in bloom, maybe even the start of the roses.  Its nestled in a bit of canyon, so its protected from the wind.  I think it would especially cool to hit at the very tail end of a storm.  The first part of the trail is pretty standard botanical garden (and not too far from Hwy 60), but once you get to the end and circle back, its much more interesting.  At one end it the Picketpost house, up much higher than the park.  It used to belong to Boyce Thompson.  The walk back has two options, the main trail or the high trail.  The main trail follows the creek, going through a small canyon, I really liked the rock walls.  Also, back near the visitor center, there is a demonstration garden, a great place for ideas for landscaping your own yard. 
Its probably worth a trip back, but only with the right weather conditions.  The dog's new nickname is Dusty.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl

If I had to give the movie pitch for Tender at the Bone, it would be “The Glass Castle meets the Julie / Julia Project”.   Ruth Reichl became famous as the food critic for the New York Times, is now is Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet, and has written a few books about herself.  This book is about her younger days, up to the point she started are a food critic.  The Glass Castle reference’s the relationship with the mentally ill mother, and the ability to build your own successful life while still maintaining that relationship in one way or another.  The Julie / Julia reference is living poor in New York as a young adult, and the seemingly natural ability to write about food.  The best line in the book is the disclaimer at the front “Everything here is true, but it may not be entirely factual …  I have occasionally embroidered”.  I think it should be included in most the memoirs I have read!   An enjoyable read, but lets hope they don’t make a movie about it, her mother’s cooking would definitely put this in the category of horror movies!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fall Colors


So, I will just start by saying, yes, I went to New Jersey for fun.  My sister in law lives there, in Hunterdon County (which is on the Pennsylvania side of the state), and I was way overdue for a visit.  We had a great time… spent an inordinate amount of time eating, with museum visits, hiking, massages, kayaking, and top-down Miata driving fit in between.   Click here for some pictures.

The eating started with dinner at Fusion on Main in one of the cute little towns around where she lives.  It’s Thai-influenced, we started with chicken satay and vegetable triangles (each with a very nice sauce), and shared the coconut shrimp entrée… out on the porch of the restaurant, with a bottle of a French Chardonnay (non-oaked).  

On Friday, we headed to “the city”, where we visited the Museum of Modern Art.  We had secured reservations at The Modern for lunch, which is right next door (and it fact, you don’t even need to leave the museum, quite convenient).  There we started with Champagne, Foie Gras Torchon with muscat gelée and Pumpkin, Couscous and Chestnut Soup with ricotta salata and spiced crème fraîche.  Both were great, the fois gras was wonderful and creamy, the pumpkin soup had all sorts of interesting things mixed in.  For mains I had Beer Braised Pork Belly with sauerkraut and ginger jus and she had Gaeta Olive-Crusted Quail with chorizo, barley, toasted almonds and pickled ramps.  Both were good, but the quail was better, tender and well matched to the accompanying couscous and sauce.  To go with, we had glasses of Pinot Noir. Desert was Apple Strudel for her, and a Chocolate dome (over Pistachio filling) for me.  And some port.   The museum seemed even more interesting after lunch.  By the time we were done at the MOMA, it was raining, but we braved a walk to Ideal Cheese, where we loaded up on some stinky cheese, a salami, and fig jam..  not planning to let our eating standards to go down hill! 

The next day started with really wonderful massages, followed by lunch (and more Champagne) on the porch of the Frenchtown Inn.   I had a plate of several different pates followed by a very light butternut soup with apples, she had a pear and procuietto salad followed by mushroom soup.  They were all quite wonderful.  I wish Phoenix wasn’t overrun with big-box chain restaurants!  This was followed by driving the Miata with the top down, and a stop at a farm stand – mostly for apples, but they still had tomatoes.  We kept dinner simple with a nice salad including those tomatoes.   We started the next day with a hike at Merrill Creek Reservoir (which involved more driving around top-down), where the trees were really starting to get into the fall colors.  For dinner, the kids (along with their kids) came for dinner, where we grilled pizza (using some of the cheese, salami, tomatoes).   Desert was apple crisp the local apples (some kind I had never heard of) which were really good.   And we ate on the back deck… which for mid-October in New Jersey is a rarity.  

The weather continued to get warmer, so kayaking seemed to be the best thing for the last day of the visit.  We went to Round Valley Reservoir and did some paddling.  This was followed by a visit to a different farm stand, where they not only had tomatoes (we were out), but Macoun apples and local pork products.  The afternoon was a drive along the Delaware River, lunch at the Stockton Inn (OK, but not the Frenchtown Inn), then a drive back on the Pennsylvania side.    Dinner (again, out on the deck) was country-style sage sausage, grilled vegetables, salad (more yummy tomatoes), with a delightful Ponzi Pinot, and the rest of the apple crisp for desert.

As I was writing this, it was 48 degrees and raining in New Jersey.  We had 3 dinners and 3 lunches (in 4 days) outside, glad I didn’t put the trip off any longer!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Grilling Pizza


My latest adventure in grilling has been pizza’s on the BBQ.  Pizza has become yet another way to use up odds and ends of cheese, vegetables, and cured meat at our house (along with pasta, salads and soup).  But it does heat up the kitchen in the summer (the A/C can keep up with baking most things, but not a 475F oven).  And its not great for doing more than one or two since they take 12 minutes each to cook.  I was considering buying a grill pizza stone from Williams-Sonoma, but after checking on the Chowhound board, it seemed possible to cook right on the grill.  So I started to experiment…first on my self (lunch at home… I love this sabbatical thing, the loud crying you hear on Nov 5 will be me going back to work), then Roy, then on unsuspecting relatives in New Jersey… where I made 6.

So, to start, I use my basic Pizza dough (see below..  its really quick with the Cuisinart).    Here’s the basic technique (and tricks):

1. Get your toppings ready..  have by the grill when you start to cook.  On toppings… I usually use olive oil (no tomato-based sauce, but you can), some herbs (like basil), a “melting cheese” (think mozzarella or fontina) plus a flavor cheese (parmesan or goat or peccorino), plus a couple toppings of choice… salami, onions, eggplant, bell pepper, olives, sliced tomatoes, mushrooms.  The important thing is not too much or too many toppings.  Too much and the bottom is burnt before the top is done, too many and the bottom burns before you are done getting toppings on (but… if you really want 6 different things or are just slow, you can take the pie off grill, put on the toppings, and then back on).

2. Roll the dough thin, going for a 12 – 14 “ pizza.  Don’t worry about perfection, square-ish pieces fit better on the grill.  When you are done, roll onto a piece of parchment paper to help support the dough to get it on the grill.  If you are doing multiples, just stack them up. 

3. The grill should be at medium / medium high depending (good and hot, but not nuclear hot).

4. Flop a piece of dough directly on the grill (no need to oil, but you can), peel off paper, close the lid, and wait 3 minutes.  You can do 2 at time.

5. Check to make sure the bottom is nicely brown, then flip the dough with tongs (it has enough structure by this point to do easily).  Brush with olive oil, add herbs, cheese, toppings.  Close the lid, cook for another 4 minutes or so.  Its done when the bottom is brown and cheese melted…  it the cheese is not melted, its done anyway if the bottom is brown.  Pull the pizza off (tongs work) on to a plate or tray.  Slice and eat!


Figure 1 pizza per person it they are hungry…  less for polite eaters or if there is lots of other food. 

For a party..  the dough gets soft and puffy and hard to get on the grill if you let it sit after rolling.  I would recommend putting in the fridge if you are looking at more than 20 minutes between rolling and cooking, you might also try pre-cooking the one side and setting aside (I have read about this, but never attempted)
Also – you can just cook the bread (no toppings), add a little olive oil and salt when you are done for a nice bread side dish. 


Pizza Dough.      Cook pizza at 475 F.  This also is good for calzone’s.
Makes 1 ¾ pound dough – enough for 2 pizza’s (in the oven) or 3 pizza’s (on the grill)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ¼ cup warm water (105 – 115 oF)
3 1/3 cup flour  (ok to replace up to 1 cup with whole wheat flour)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for bag

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, let stand until foamy – about 3 – 5 minutes.  Coat inside of large zip-loc baggie with oil.

Insert dough blade in work bowl of food processor and add four, salt and oil, then mix.

With machine running on dough speed, pour liquid through small feed tube as fast as flour will absorb it.  Process until dough cleans sides of work bowl and forms a ball, then process for 30 seconds to knead dough.  Dough will be a little sticky.  Put into baggie and seal.  Let rise for about 45 minutes.

Note: Dough freezes well.  Put ½ of dough in quart baggies (coated w/ oil) and freeze. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, let sit out ~ ½ hour before using.  It will also keep in the refrigerator for several days.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin

I actually read The Apprentice last year, after picking up the book at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Napa Valley while on vacation.  Both Roy and I read it, and both loved it. I have always liked Jacque Pepin’s TV shows (most memorable moment was when he was fixing some giblet dish, and for the liver, he said in his French accent “this, you feed to the dog”).  He is one of those people who has had an amazing talent, and has picked his course in life, not just going the direction that tradition would take him.  I recommended this for our book club for this month, with the incentive that I would cook some of the recipes.  So, I picked up the book, and had a hard time picking recipes because I would start reading the book again, completely derailing plans for choosing a recipe or two.  But, I have finally picked recipes, and will do the Egg’s Jeanette, Mussels Ravigote, and Roast Leg of Lamb Provincial as well as a Tomato and Zucchini Salad and an Apple Tart from other Jacque Pepin recipe books (yes, I have several).   And in honor of my recent trip to Italy, we will start with Bellini's!   So – Pagerturners – please come hungry on Wednesday!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Grilling: Chicken

One of the things I am doing while I have some time off is teaching my father-in-law how to grill.  They have recently purchased a home in the Phoenix area, and put in an awesome grill in the backyard. I got to start breaking it in!    We started with grilling some shrimp on rosemary skewers ( just a coating of olive oil and chopped rosemary) to honor the grill, and give us substance to move on to grilling chicken.  We made up a marinade I have done for many years, a spiced onion paste, which was combined with chunks of chicken for  kabobs.  Salads are handy to do with a grilled meat, since they can be done ahead.  I would usually do a pasta salad (who me, more pasta?) but for a nice change did a rice salad with farmer’s market vegetables and lemon juice / olive oil dressing.   My other grilling tricks: Use a zip-loc baggie for marinating (in addition to reducing dirty dishes, by pressing out the air, you get better contact between meat and marinade),  spray the hot grill with Pam, and let the meat cook about 4-5 minutes before turning.  The hard part is learning when its done, that’s just takes some practice!
Here are the recipes:
Cajun Chicken Brochettes

This marinade (done in a food processor) is a nice thick consistency.  It’s always better to marinate longer, but even a couple of hours is OK.

6 SERVINGS

½  small onion
1 medium garlic clove
¼  cup olive oil
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
Several grinds of pepper
4 boned chicken breast halves, skinned, cut into 1 ½ inch squares
1 large onion, cut into 1 ½ inch squares
12 medium mushrooms (about 6 ounces), trimmed
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 ½ inch squares
Lime Quarters (optional)
In food processor fitted with steel knife, and machine running, drop 1/2 small onion and garlic through feed tube and mince, stopping to scrape down sides of work bowl if necessary.  Add oil, lime juice, spices, and mix.  Transfer marinade to ziplock bag, add chicken pieces; seal bag and turn several times to coat with marinade.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, turning bag occasionally.
Thread chicken and vegetables on ~6 skewers in following order. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.)
Grill over medium heat until chicken is just opaque, ~ 10 minutes, turning once.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Homework recipe:

Grilled Savory Chicken

This chicken always comes out nice and moist -- a good one to fix for company (especially since you have to think ahead a little bit to marinate the chicken).  Of course, you don't have to marinate overnight, 20 minutes works.  It comes out best if you use at least half fresh herbs.

Serves 4
4 half chicken breasts
1 tablespoon fresh minced thyme (or 1 teaspoon dry)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
3/4 teaspoon fresh minced marjoram (or 1/4 teaspoon dry)
3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, cut into wedges (garnish)
Skin, bone and flatten chicken breasts to 1/4-inch thickness.  Combine all herbs, spices, lemon rind, and oil.  Rub cutlets with mixture.  Place in Zip-lock baggie.  Cover and chill overnight.  Sprinkle cutlets with salt and pepper to taste.  Grill 3-5 minutes on each side.  Optional:  Serve with lemon wedges.


Vegetable Rice Salad

This salad goes great with chicken or grilled fish.  Fine to use leftover rice. 

1 cup of rice (raw), cooked per package directions
Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
Freshly ground pepper
Vegetables:  Need about 2 cups of vegetables, finely diced (4-6 kinds). 
Possible options:  Bell Pepper, cucumber, carrots, celery, green onions, sweet onions, sugar or snap peas, or thawed frozen peas, broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes
Herbs:
1/4 cup minced parsley or other mild herb

Cook rice and cool to room temperature in a large bowl.   Mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl.  Mix vegetables together the rice, then add enough dressing to moisten.  Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if needed.

Serve room temperature or chilled.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael

Yes, another food book!  The Omnivores Dilemma is that as omnivores, we can eat most anything, and today's  huge selection of food makes it difficult to pick what to eat.  And in the US, where we don't have strong traditions of what to eat (and when to eat it), the result is a very dysfunctional relationship with our food, which has in turn led to high levels of obesity and other food-related illness.   The premise of this book is to follow supply lines of food - "industrial corn" which is responsible for the bulk of the calories eaten today in America, small sustainable farms as well as organic farms (which are mostly not small), and "forest" for hunting and gathering.  For each one he starts at the source (the first is a corn farm in Iowa, later is hunting pigs in Northern CA) and follows through to a meal (the corn resulting in a McDonald's meal, from the beef raised on corn to the soda made with high fructose corn syrup, later the forest resulting in a gourmet dinner with friends that helped with the hunt).  
Pollan contrasts the four systems:  the industrial corn is scalable, but not sustainable (not only is it killing the land, its likely to kill us), industrial organic (think Whole Foods) is some better, but still relies on mono-culture and lots of petrochemicals, small farms (grass) are sustainable but not scalable, and hunter / gather is neither sustainable or scaleable, but does get people much more in touch with their food.

His message is similar to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, but I found it much easier to digest ... yes he ranted about oil companies and high fructose corn syrup, but started with facts and put them together into a story.  Ultimately, the industrial corn and the resulting industrial beef, chicken and pork industries are portrayed as evil, but he provides a lot of data to support the conspiracy theory (how does that saying go, just because your paranoid it doesn't mean people aren't out to get you?).   He explains the government policies and history that made the industrial corn what it is today, where corn is sold for less than the production cost.  He goes through the calculation of how it takes more energy (calories) from petrochemicals to produce corn than calories of energy in the corn (which really makes ethanol production from corn a head scratcher).  But he also doesn't proscribe any easy answers or fixes.

The story of looking at food from the source to the final meal is also similar to  The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy by Sasha Issenberg, which I have been reading (for months now... it really more than you ever wanted to know about sushi), but is much more readable.  Sushi Economy gives insight into how airfreight became an acceptable means for moving our food around the world, as well as how food traditions change over time (before WWII, Bluefin tuna was not even a delicacy in Japan!)

The message is that we should care about our food: its important and a source of great enjoyment, and should not be reduced to filling and cheap.  We should care about where the food comes from, how the land and animals are treated, and enjoy the seasonality of the food.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Italy

We had a fabulous trip to Italy.  Lots of good food, lucky on the weather,  and lots of arts and interesting sites.  I have put our pictures and a bit of a narrative up on the photo web site, please take a look (best in filmstrip or slideshow mode).

There is lots written and on TV about traveling to Italy, so I won’t bore you with the expected (the churches and art like David, Gelato on every corner, etc.)  Here is what we found unexpected (good and bad):
The food…  lots and lots of seafood, especially Venice, but even in Florence.  In addition to the expected cheese (Parmesan), we had lots of pecorino -- sheep’s milk -- cheese which ranged from young to well aged, with and without truffles.  All of it was good.   And Prosciutto ham is not saved for special occasions.

The crowds…  Both Venice and Florence had hoards of tourists, streets and squares around major sites are mobbed.    We watched a Rick Steve’s show on TV about Florence that TiVO caught while we were gone… not sure when they went, but there weren’t so many people. 

The weather..  Overall, it was wonderful (and we were a bit lucky on not getting much rain).  Daytime was short sleeves, evenings, maybe a sweater.  A nice break from the 100+ that we left in Phoenix.   It seems most of the country gets some ocean effect to modulate the extremes.  Not sure what the cause was, but my allergies were just terrible in Florence.

So,  “would we go back”?   Definitely would like to go back to Italy, but probably not to Venice or Florence.   There are some other very interesting places (Cinque Terre, beaches in southern Italy, the Alps) I would like to see – and hopefully without such big crowds. 

September Firing..

Here’s the latest from the kiln (this link should now be fixed... sorry to the subscribers getting a duplicate email).    My favorite of the bunch was done by my niece, it’s a platter with a drawing of her dog Chester.   The favorite of my work is the face with red eyes…  a self portrait before vacation and sabbatical!

Let me know what you like… I need to make room for more stuff.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Risotto

We are back from Italy, we really had a wonderful trip.  Will have some pictures, along with a short synopsis of the trip posted soon.  But I thought I would start with this recipe, since our trip was book-ended with Risotto, first at an outside café in Venice (where it was simply done with shrimp and zucchini), and last as one course of the final dinner for our cooking school (where it was elegantly done with squash blossoms and pecorino cheese).  I’m now pretty confident my risotto is authentic, and adjustable as desired for what is fresh and in season.. and great as we start to get a little cooler weather for fall.

Risotto


This does call for very good chicken broth, I usually use homemade.  If not, make sure to use a high quality, low salt broth, such as Pacific Organic (use 1 quart, and dilute with a bit of water to get the extra ½ cup).
In Italy, we had once with Shrimp (small pieces) and zucchini (which was cut very small), the other had zucchini squash blossoms with pecorino cheese (sheep’s milk) instead of parmesan. 

Serves 4

4 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
2 cups vegetable  (asparagus, winter squash, mushrooms, etc)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Fresh herbs

In small saucepan, heat broth to just below a simmer.  In medium heavy saucepan, sauté the onions in the oil for about 5 minutes, until softened but not browned. 

Using a wooden spoon to avoid breaking the grains, add the rice and stir until it is well coated with oil.  Add the wine. When it is absorbed (it won’t take long) ladle in the ½ cup of the hot stock stirring frequently until the rice has absorbed the liquid. The heat should be at a low boil.  Continue to add ½ cup at a time, for 2 –3 minutes between each addition, until a about half the broth has been used.

Add the vegetables. Continue adding ½ cup of broth every few minutes for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the rice is tender but firm (most all of the stock will be used). The consistency should be creamy, not dry or soupy.   Remove from heat, stir in the nutmeg and cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste (it might not need any salt, depends on the broth, also the cheese is salty) and serve.  If desired, finish with some finely chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, parsley, and / or chives.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

With this, I will be caught up on my book blogs… only to be hopelessly behind after our trip to Italy.
I had heard of the Julie / Julia project and the book, but never got around to reading it, thinking it was just another obsessed, foul-mouthed New-Yorker writer.  Fortunately Vy loaned it to me. 

The book is written by Julie Powell, about her 1 year self-imposed challenge to cook everything in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of Fine Cooking.  The project was motivated by feeling stuck in her job (a low level drone in a government office) as well as rebellion towards the whole Alice Waters, locovore, trendy foodie things.  I instantly connected with the author – she was a Buffy the Vampire fan (the blog was going on during the last season), found the act of preparing food very sensual, and was trying to figure out what to do next with her life.  The book is very entertaining, mixing stories about Julie Child and stories of her own family in with the trials of cooking the recipes (including treks to find bone marrow, brains and other offal).  Her husband Eric is portrayed as a saint, her friends are nuts.  Its fun to read.  

But what really struck me was not the challenge of cooking, but the blogging.  In addition to cooking every recipe, she blogged about everything she cooked. I went on-line and looked at some of the blogs. She blogged almost every day, and not just “I checked Filets to Poisson en Souffle off the list, didn’t puff but tasted good”… no, she went into details about procuring the ingredients, the moods of her husband, her cats, occasional Buffy references, how the food was prepared, what worked, what tasted good, and what didn’t.  And it was entertaining… she had a huge following (after a while, she set up a way people could donate money to help buy lamb and more butter to keep the project going – and they did).   She never talks about the challenges of blogging in the book.. things I find really hard, like making it witty (but not contrived), not offending others (however, that New York thing probably helps here), how personal to get, making a good story but not going on and on, punctuation and grammar good enough to make it readable.  It has a happy ending, she found her real calling as a writer.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Pesto

Seems that I am getting behind in blogging, which I will  blame on finding a new way to waste time on the computer, which is Chowhound, a foodie discussion board.  There are lots of folks in Phoenix posting about local restaurants, I also find the home cooking section interesting.  If you take a look, yes, my tag line is Firecooked.

About a week ago, I made my first big cutting of basil from my herb garden.  I think everyone should have an herb garden.. it is a lot less effort than growing vegetables, and there is something wonderful about going out before dinner and cutting some herbs.    This time of year, a lot of the herbs are a bit tired from the heat (and some things, like parsley and cilantro are long gone), but basil is just hitting its prime.  I did have to put some cages around mine this spring (basil is an annual, and you need to re-start every spring) to keep the rabbits from munching the tender little plants (surprising, the herb of rabbits which inhabit the yard seem pretty much content to just eat grass and not herbs, but baby basil is the exception). 
With the first mass cutting of basil (think a pile about a foot in diameter, and a foot high), I always make pesto… the full recipe with parmesan cheese, nuts, olive oil and of course, garlic.   After I pick a bunch, I pick off the leaves (just pinch with my thumb nail), and put them in my salad spinner.  I give them a rinse then spin, and put out on paper towels to finish drying.  Every pesto recipe you look at calls for “packed cups” of basil, but I really hate mushing it to measure.  I have figured “2 cups packed basil” is just under half full of loose leaves in my Cuisinart.  Although I always start the pesto making with a full, traditional basil, mostly I make a “pesto starter” with basil, garlic, and olive oil, then freeze it to use the rest of the year.  It really keeps well, I have been putting about 1 cup in a quart size Ziploc baggie, push out any air and seal, then make cross lines and fold into quarters. I can use the whole thing, or most often, just pull out a quarter at a time.  Adding a chunk of this mixture to soup or pasta, or thawing a spreading on pizza dough is like adding some summer to your dinner… any time of the year.

If you don't have any basil plants (next year... they are pretty enough to grow instead of flowers), try either the farmers market or Trader Joes to get big quantities for pesto.

PESTO

Pesto: The full fledged recipe.
Makes 2 cups.

4 oz. Parmesan cheese
3 - 4 cloves of garlic
2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry (packed fairly tightly)
½ to 1 cup walnuts or pine nuts
~ 3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cut the cheese into chunks, and process with blade in food processor until finely grated.  Pour out of food processor and set aside.

Put bowl with blade back on base (don’t need to clean the bowl), turn on and drop the garlic through the feed bowl.  Let process until most of it is stuck to the sides.  Scrape down; add the basil and nuts.  Process w/ pulse on/off until basil is chopped.

Turn the motor on, and add olive oil in a slow, steady stream. 

Shut the motor off; add the cheese, a big pinch of salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Process briefly to combine, the scrap out into a bowl and cover until ready to use (press a piece of plastic wrap right onto the surface to keep from turning dark.  Will keep for several days.

Freezer Pesto:
2 - 4 cloves of garlic
2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry (packed fairly tightly)
½ cup olive oil (or just enough to get a thick paste)

Turn on food processor fitted with blade and drop the garlic through the feed bowl.  Let process until most of it is stuck to the sides.  Scrape down, add the basil.  Process w/ pulse on/off until basil is chopped.
Turn the motor on, and add olive oil in a slow, steady stream. 
Put  into a quart freezer baggie.  Press out air, and make indents into quarters.  Freeze until ready to use.

Pasta with Pesto:
Cook 1 lb. of Linguine.  Meanwhile, mix 2 tablespoons pasta water, ¼ cup cream (or use all milk), 1 cup pesto.  Drain pasta, return to pan, add pesto mix and toss.
Serve immediately, with more pepper and cheese. 

Rice with Pesto:
Add a big spoon full of pesto to cooked white rice.

Pesto bread:
Spread pesto on slices of French bread, broil/toast until bubbly.

What to do with freezer pesto:
Thaw, mix with cheese, etc. to get full pesto.
Throw a frozen quarter chunk into a batch of spaghetti sauce.
Thaw, mix with a can of tomato sauce and use for pizza sauce.
Thaw, mix with a little more olive oil and use for pizza sause
Throw a frozen quarter chunk into rice that’s almost done.
Throw a frozen chunk to a big pot of soup that’s almost done.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Fish and more

Yesterday I went down to my folks to help with fish butchering,  my Dad and brothers were back from a 5-day fishing trip out of San Diego with a bunch of large fish – mostly Albacore, but some Bluefin Tuna and Yellowtail too.  You’ve gotta love a family who likes to get together with big sharp knives.   We tried a new way to skin the albacore (which was demonstrated on the boat by the cook), which was pretty quick, but usually took off a chunk of the belly meat.  I have heard that on some fish (like Salmon), the belly is the best part, so we decided to cut off the chunk and save it was kind of thin and small for cooking.  My idea was to make fish burgers from it, my brother was thinking a doing some kind of a quick sear on it like he does with bluefin.  Everyone else just thought we were nuts (but had the biggest knives).   Anyway, I did make fish burgers with the belly meat when I got home (with a large cooler full of fish, nicely vacuum packed), and they turned out quite yummy.  
The more:  we spent last weekend in Colorado Springs (where the daily high temperatures were lower than lows in Phoenix) with wonderful friends who also love to cook and eat, and dish which got the most raves was crab cakes.   Which are the more famous cousins of fish burgers.    We had with a bit of mango salsa.  Yum yum.   Both recipes are below.
One note, there is a trick on cooking both of these (which had very similar consistency before going into the pan):  you need to flip once.   You need to very carefully peak to see if they are brown on the bottom.  A well seasoned pan, or non-stick skillet is another must.  Good eating!
Also – does anyone have any experience buying crab in Phoenix?  I am sure that AJ’s and Whole Foods must carry it, but have never seen it (maybe because I haven’t looked) at the fish counter.
Fish Burgers:

1 ½  teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup minced red bell pepper
1 lb tuna, chopped in ¼ inch or smaller dice
1 egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt, the mustard is already pretty salty)
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
Start with making a fruit salsa… see the next recipe, mango salsa, or your favorite (you might even be able to find one pre-made, but it only takes a few minutes to put one together, especially since you are already chopping onion and bell pepper).
Saute the onion and bell pepper until soft in the smaller about of oil (use a large pan, you will use again to cook the burgers).  Transfer to a medium bowl, and let cool.  Add the fish, mustard, egg, parsley, a bit of salt and some pepper. Mix with a wooden spoon. Put a piece of plastic wrap on a place, form 4 patties on the wrap, and cover with more plastic.  Refrigerate for an hour (or at least 20 minutes, I suspect they will hold together better if let sit longer).   To cook, heat a nice layer of olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Pan fry, flipping once, until each side is lightly brown and crispy (about 4 minutes per side).

Serve on buns, with lettuce, and salsa, I like a little mayo too.
Pineapple (or plum) Salsa
1 cup chopped Pineapple or plum
¼ cup finely chopped onion (green or sweet are good)
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons minced ginger

Mix all together in a glass or ceramic bowl, refrigerate (best if sits for an hour or so, this will hold for a couple of days).      Next day – good with chips, in a salad with some goat cheese, etc. 

Crab Cakes (see hear for original and reviews)Adopted from The Barefoot Contessa

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup small diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 1/2 cups small diced celery (4 stalks)
1/2 cup small diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/2 cup small diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, drained and picked to remove shells
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten for frying
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil

Place the 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons oil, onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, salt, and pepper in a large saute pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, break the lump crabmeat into small pieces and toss with the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the cooked mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
Heat the butter and olive oil for frying over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the large spoonfuls of crab mixture, flatten into patties (epxect to get 6-8) and fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a 250 degree oven and serve hot.   Can also do a bite sized for a party, they reheat very well.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse

For me, biographies test to fall into two groups: ones I love, and ones I hate.  This was definitely a love.   It's told like a story, and even though there are lots of dates and people, its done in a way that's easy to read and follow along.

What really impressed me was Alice Waters, and how the author brought you a feeling really knowing her, warts and all.  Of course I knew of her, have at least one of her cookbooks, and knew that she is considered the "Mother of California Cuisine".   This book walks you through what she has done, how she has really changed the culinary landscape (literally... small farmers, organic, local).  But what was really interesting to me was how she did it.  She had a great skill: knowing what tasted good, and how to get something to taste just right.  That skill, combined with passion and energy was able to lead profound changes to what we eat in good restaurants (and some of us, at home), without things like good public speaking skills or people management skills.  She knew what she wanted, but often could not clearly articulate a vision.  She was not good a public speaker, was horrible about managing money, did not give others credit where credit was due, and many, many times let others "save"  her when things were going the wrong direction.  She is profoundly talented to react to what she saw or tasted.  She led in a way that only a women could.  And I suspect, in a way that was more possible 30 years ago than today.  But fortunately, she has both established herself and matured.  She has re-focused her energy on kids, and providing an environment where they can learn what is good about food.

The other wonderful thing about this book is the descriptions from Alice on how to cook things.  Not recipes per se, but how something should look and feel, how to go about cooking something marvelous and simple.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Little people and other creatures

Little by little I will eventually get all my pictures up on the web.  This set is my little people (click here to look), which I think of as doodles in clay.  I usually use a left over chunk of clay, make a couple of slices to get the legs and arms started, and then just work it until it looks like something.   It’s not too unusual for them to crack during firing (and then they typically end up in a pot with some plants).   There are a few in here (like the Airedale) which are slab built.  I have done many lizards this way…  my next group of photo’s will be lizards, so stay tuned.

I can’t say I am happy with these photo’s, I think that what worked a few months ago (shooting the pictures outside in the shade) is not working with the summer sun, especially with shiny glazes.   It was interesting to notice that most all them have their legs crossed the same direction (something I never noticed until I was sorting through bad pictures, and using positions of legs and arms to figure out which was which).   I’m open to suggestions on getting better pictures. 
Let me know what you like!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mangos

Today we hit another summer milestone, the first day you walk out of the house at the crack of dawn (so 5-something early-am) to walk the dog, and its noticeably warmer outside than inside my 80F house.    (This is followed by later in the summer where you walk out at 5am and just burst into flames).

The good news is they are going to try to go all summer at the Ahwatukee farmers market. It’s on Sunday, and they are now starting at 8am.   The find for the last couple of weeks has been mango’s, the really good kind.    There are two types of  Mangos (ok, there are probably more than that, but I’ll stick to what I know).  First are the ones you find in grocery stores, what I know as Mexican mangos.  They have been bred to ship well, and are pretty good if you let them ripen (these will go from green to a pretty rose/gold shade when ripe) but tend to be a bit fibrous.  The other kind of mangos, the really good kind, are Philippine mangos.   I first had them in Manila (when I had to go there periodically for work, I tried to go in February, which is when mango’s are in season and before the summer monsoon’s hit).  These mango’s are generally a little smaller, more yellow (no red color at all), and really sweet and juicy, not fibrous… in fact, you can cut them with a tableknife (the sharpest knife they will leave in the hotel room).  And they have had them for the last couple of weeks at the farmers market.   I am not sure what the season is in Phoenix, but glad they are growing them!

Mangos are a bit tricky to eat.   You need to peel them, they are somewhat slimy once the peel is off, and they have a strange flat seed inside.  Here is how to be a mango master (this works for either kind of mango):  After washing the mango, hold it in your hand with stem end up, and you will notice that its wider in one direction.  With a paring knife, starting at the middle of the top, slice down with the knife running across the widest dimension.  Once you are through the skin, you will hit the seed. Let the knife go either right or left, and slice down along the seed, you should just feel the seed with the knife.  Cut all the way through so half is cut off.  Repeat for the other side.  You will be left with a slice from the middle that’s about ¼ inch or a little wider.   Next, pick up a half, and gently make criss-cross cuts, in the size you want (small, like a ¼ inch for salsa, closer to an inch to just eat). Just push on the skin and turn inside out, and scoop off with a spoon.  There is a bit of fruit you can still get off the seed, cut off the skin, and then cut the remaining fruit from the edge (maybe a ¼ inch or so).   That’s it.

Mangos are good with ice cream or just to eat straight, but I really like Mango Salsa.  Its great with grilled fish or chicken, with chips or on sandwich, or dumped into a salad (with a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing).  Here is a recipe to try, feel free to adjust to your taste!   It will keep for several days.

Mango Salsa

1 Mango (preferably a Philippine mango), diced (¼ inch)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ to ½ a bell pepper (yellow or red), diced
¼ teaspoon chili power*, or a bit of finely minced Jalapeño (to taste -- going for a mild heat)
About 1/4 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of salt
Juice of ~ ½ a small lemon
Cilantro (optional)

Mix everything together, adjust sal t, chile, and lemon to taste.   Best if done a couple of hours ahead of time, and this will keep for several day’s.

* I have been using a green chili powder from Native seed search which is quite yummy  (thanks Barb!)