Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

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.


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
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
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


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.