Thursday, May 24, 2007
Saturday I bought some asparagus at the farmers market. A couple of days ago I went to Wholefoods to pick up some chicken noodle soup and some good bread. I got a loaf from La Ferme Bakery which is a local place run by a French master baker. I also had a good sharp cheddar in the fridge.
With these ingredients on hand, I decided to toast and butter two slices of the bread, top w/ several spears of cooked aparagus, and cover with a cheddar cheese sauce. The cheese sauce is simple a bechamel w/ grated cheese thrown in: melt a T. of butter, add a T. of flour and combine. Add milk slowly. Probably a cup, but I'm not really sure. It should be the consistency of gravy. Then add about 4oz of shredded cheddar. Salt and pepper to taste.
My grandmother and mother used to make this in the spring when my grandfather's asparagus was growing. In my humble view, this is the very best thing to do w/ asparagus. Eating it reminds me of my loved ones. I think about how my grandfather had the greenest thumb this side of Eden and how this did NOT rub off on me!
I don't even bother with side dishes. The only side it needs is possibly some fresh tomato slices.
2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and drained
8 ounces cream cheese (about 1 cup), softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream (see note)
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle in adobo sauce, or more to taste
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Tortilla chips, for dipping.
1. Bundle spinach in a clean dishtowel and squeeze very tightly to remove all excess moisture.
2. In a food processor, blend together all ingredients except spinach until very smooth, about 90 seconds. Pulse in spinach until just combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with tortilla chips.
Yield: About 3 cups.
Note: You can omit the sour cream and increase mayonnaise to 1 cup.
From May 23, 2007 NYT
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Well, here I am sick w/ a cold. My throat hurts from my ears to my collar bone. I've been asleep for two days and have been forcing myself to get up and eat, which isn't fun when swallowing feels like razor blades.
Anyway, I made some tomato soup to soothe my throat and I improvised a grilled cheese sandwich from what I could find in the kitchen: 2 slices of frozen whole wheat bread, olive oil, spinach and a ball of mozarella.
I brushed the bread on one side w/ olive oil and toasted under the broiler until it was no longer frozen. Then I took it out and brushed the other side w/ olive oil, put some torn spinach leaves on the bread and then topped each piece of bread w/ two slices of mozarella. I put it back under the broiler until the cheese melted. Then I placed the open-faced sandwiches on a plate, sprinkled w/ salt and pepper and drizzled w/ more olive oil. MMMM!
It was good, comforting and I managed to slip some leafy greens into my lunch.
Unfortnately I am now tired from all of that activity so I'm going back to bed for yet another nap!
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Yesterday morning I went to the farmers market to pick the strawberries. I had good intentions of picking them myself, but I figured it was more efficient and less messy to buy them. The weather has been surprisingly cool so the strawberries are especially sweet and red because they stay on the vines longer.
Making jam does require equipment. Most supermarkets sell the jars with lids. I called several hardware stores to find the water bath canner which is a very large covered pot with a rack in it for holding the glass jars. Once I bought the canner, I knew I was committed and not just for making jam once. The thing takes up so much space and cost $25 so it's not a one time only expense. Now I am determined to make peach jam, cherry jam and maybe some tomato sauce.
Here is how to make strawberry jam:
8oz jam jars w/ lids (lids should always be new but the jars can be reused)
Jar tongs, kitchen tongs, or a silicon mit for removing the hot jars from canner
6 quart cooking pot (or larger)
2 quarts of strawberries
7 c. sugar
1/2t. butter (to reduce foaming)
1 box SureJell
Put the jam jars and lids in the dishwasher to wash and dry. While this is happening, prepare the berries by removing the stem and in batches put them in a single layer in a 9x13 dish. Mash with a potato masher and measure 5 cups and put in 6 quart pot.
Fill the canner with enough water to cover the bottom 1 inch of the rack.
Meanwhile, wait to do the next step until the jars are dry and hot from the dishwasher drying cycle. Wipe of any remaining moisture from the lids and jar. Line up the jars and lids on a towl near the stove.
Add SureJell and butter to the pot of berries. Bring to rolling boil and add 7 cups of sugar. Bring to rolling boil again and boil for 1 minute.
With the help of the funnel and a large ladle, spoon the jam into each jar reserving 1/8 inch of space at the top of the jar. Using a paper towl, wipe down the jars, especially the top where the lid fits. Put the two piece lid on each jar and screw tightly.
Place the jars in the canner rack, cover with the lid, and bring to a gentle boiled for 15 minutes.
Remove the jars from the rack using either tongs or a silicon mit. There is special type of tongs made especially for jars but I couldn't find on so I used my silicon mit. Just be very careful not to burn yourself or drop the jars.
Put the jars upright on a towl and allow to cool completely. The goal of canning is to preserve the food and seal it airtight. You might hear a popping sound as the seals form while the jars cool. When thoroughly cool, test the jars to make sure they've sealed properly by pressing on the center of the lid. If the lid pops up, it is not sealed so put the jar in the fridge.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
- 1 (14.75 ounce) can salmon, undrained and flaked
- 1 slice bread, shredded
- 1 small onion, grated
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup vegetable oil for frying
- Mix together salmon, bread, onion, all-purpose flour, egg, salt and pepper. Shape into four patties.
- In a large skillet heat oil over high heat. Cook the patties until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes. Drain briefly on paper towels before serving.
Friday, May 18, 2007
It is not very common to see chili pie on menus. Happily, Q Shack does their own version of it which includes cheese sauce, avocados, sour cream and jalapenos as well as the other toppings. Q Shack chili is outstanding, Texas style chili with gorgeous chunks of beef in it. I could eat this every week but in an effort to be healthy, I opt for only very special occasions (like when I am REALLY in need of comfort food).
So give it a try either at Q Shack or when you make your own chili.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Anchoiade from Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food
1 2oz. Tin of anchovies
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 t. white wine vinegar
10 thin slices of baguette
Rinse anchovies and pat them dry. Pound in a mortar or bowl with a pestal or the end of a rolling pin until they are a thick paste. Pound in garlic, Add the oil, gradually, pounding all the time. Stir in vineagar. Toast the bread on one side under the broiler. Remove from oven and spread anchoiade on the untoasted side. Place under the broiler again for 2 to 3 min. Serve immediately.
Puttanesca Sauce from The New Basics Cookbook
½ c. olive oil
1 can anchovy fillets, undrained
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can plum tomatoes drained
1 (2 ½ oz.) jar capers, drained
½ c. pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
black pepper to taste
- Place oil, anchovies, and garlic in a heavy saucepan. Mash thoroughly to form a paste.
- Add tomoatoes, capers, and olives. Stir, and heat to simmering over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Serves 2; enough for 8 oz. of thin pasta; recipe can be made in larger batches.
Monday, May 14, 2007
I recently tried two new places.
1. El Meson de Fuentes is located off of Morrisville-Carpenter Road. It is my new favorite Mexican place. I still love Salsa Fresh but it's repetoire is limited mostly to burritos of the California ilk. El Meson is TONS better than either El Rodeo or Torerros, local institutions. It is far and away better than El Dorado over at hwy 54/hwy 55 intersection. The food actually looks like it was once vegetal or animal. It is fresh, not overly greasy, and homemade. I have had the chimichanga both fried and soft (unfried) and the steak quesadilla. All were excellent and came w/ a side of guacamole. That seals the deal for me! My friend one time ordered the tacos. They were basically corn tortillas w/ different types of meat fillings piled on: chorizo, beef, and picadillo. They also have tasty margaritas, which should always be on the rocks! Frozen...ewww.
2. Baby Moon Cafe and Bakery is located on Airport in a strip mall (ugh) just past the dive bar O'Mulligans. It's been there a while and I've never been. Fortunately one of my colleagues suggested we go there on Friday when all of the guys were out playing golf (I sure hope they took that as vacation). I ordered a vegetarian chef salad with lemon viniagrette. It was outstanding and included among the greens roasted red pepper, white beans, zuchinni, summer squash, tomato, olives, and goat cheese. My companions had grilled chicken sandwiches with pesto and mozarella which looked and smelled really tasty. They gave two thumbs up on the chicken sandwiches.
Rather surprisingly for RTP, the Baby Moon has an interesting wine list. We shared a bottle of prosecco among the four of us. It was delightful but I got back to work and needed a nap. I have no idea how people managed the three martini lunches back in the old days.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
It reminds me of two good friends every time I make it. For me, cooking has a lot to do with memories. There are dishes that remind me of occasions I've spent with certain people. This recipe is loaded with memories!
It comes courtesy of The New Basics Cookbook by Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins:
Pasta Sauce Raphael
2 jars (6 oz. Each) marinated artichoke hearts in oil
¼ c. olive oil
2 c. chopped onions
2 T. minced garlic
½ t. dried oregano
½ t. dried basil
1 T. coarsely ground black pepper
½ t. salt
pinch of dried red pepper flakes
2 can plum tomatoes w/ their juices
¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ c. chopped Italian parsley (flat leaf parsley)
- Drain artichokes and reserve marinade
- Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Add onions, garlic, oregano, basil, black pepper, pepper flakes, and marinade. Saute over medium heat until onions and garlic are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes
- Add artichokes, Parmesan and parsley. Stir gently and simmer 5 minutes.
*the black pepper and pepper flakes make it very spicy; adjust according to taste.
Serves 6, enough for 1 lb of pasta.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Now is the season for greens: arugula, chard, turnip greens, mustard greens, and lettuce of all sorts. I bought a bag of mixed greens and some spinach.
Asparagus is also in season. The best asparagus, which is hard to find in the supermarket, is the thin, young shoots. They are especially tender and sweet. Did you know that the correct way to eat asparagus is with your fingers? The key is for the asparagus to remain crisp enough to hold. Droopy asparagus is hard to eat and unattractive.
Strawberries were in abundance at the market. I bought a quart but next week I will either go pick some or buy a big basket so I can make jam.
The local purveyors of cheese were also out at the market today. I bought a small piece of goat meunster from Elodie Farms and a round of smoked mozarella from my favorite place in the world the Chapel Hill Creamery. They also sell pork from their free range, grain fed pigs. I bought some sausage when I went on the farm tour. It was delicious and spicy but not too hot.
I didn't buy any pork but I did buy beef from one of the farms. I got a NY strip that I cannot wait to put on the grill when it warms up and stops raining.
My other treasures were green peppers, hot house tomatoes, eggs, and oddly some garlic shoots. I never heard of much less ate garlic shoots before. The shoots of the garlic should be trimmed in order for the bulb to grow large. Apparently the shoots are delicious when chopped and cooked. I will soon find out!
Some wise people also set up a stand for selling cups of coffee! Genius. I picked up a cup of coffee and bought an empanada from one of the bakers selling at the market. It was a perfect breakfast for strolling around the market.
I am devoted to the farmers' market. In addition to having great local and organic produce, it is a good place to see people. I always run into someone I know. It makes me happy to start my weekend at the market.
Friday, May 11, 2007
The problem is that nowadays, fashion and food are diametrically opposed. It is very hard to advocate butter, cream and chocolate in a world of 6ft tall, 120lb (and they are the fat ones) models, actresses, and wannabes. I pretty much decided that I would stop watching TV when I heard that "America's Next Top Model" was branching out to feature "plus size" contestants who were 6ft tall and wore a size 12...gasp! Reeling from the news that I am now almost "plus size" (being 6ft tall and a size 10), I decide to opt out of TV pop culture.
The last straw for me came today when I read an article in the NYT Fashion pages called "The Collar Bone's Connected to Slimness." The latest news out of NYC and LA is that the clavicle, yes the collarbone, is the new sexy. And how well one's clavicle protrudes is a sign of one's thinness. Having a thin clavicle is very important if you wear the season's trapeze dresses (aka, a very short tent w/ armholes) because the dresses suggest girth and clavicle protruding demonstrates that one is actually skinny under that tent!
By far my biggest issue about fashion is that women develop an antipathy towards food because of their desire to look or to try to look like the latest waif du jour. Waif. It used to be a word that connoted a poor, hungry child. The fact that "waif " is now a fashion descriptor means that we've reached the height of vulgarity. We are more concerned about looking waifish than about real waifs.
It is so easy to get sucked in to this body image race for perfect clavicles or whatever. Even a food lover like me sometimes has guilt about eating a certain whatever because it was too fatty or sugary. It is not OK to have guilt about eating. Eat, drink, and be merry. We are so lucky that we enjoy abundance. We are so lucky that we are alive. We must enjoy the good gifts of the earth that we have so readily available to us.
So starting today, I vow never to utter the word "diet" again. That is not to say that I won't aim to be healthy. Rather I am banishing all thoughts of body image and food-related angst from my head. Bring on the chocolate cupcakes...with a dollop of creme fraiche, please!
Thursday, May 10, 2007
My friend is an excellent cook and well-known for her skill in the kitchen. Here is her recipe:
- 1 lb. firm tofu,cut it into pieces (about 1/3cm height,3 cm wide and length)
- 10 oz.some beef ,cut the beef into small pieces,put some salt and a little wine (1/4 spoon)into it. Stir the beef with the salt and wine (Use Chinese Huangjiu--a kind of cooking wine or white wine)
- Garlic and ginger into small pieces
- Black bean spicy sauce( You can buy it in the Asian Market)
1. Put some oil into the pot and fry the tofu on each side until golden. Be careful not break the Tofu into small pieces. Remove the tofu to a plate.
2. Put some additional oil into the pot .Put the garlic into the pot. When fragrant, put the beef into the pot and stir-fry it. One minute later, put the tofu back into the pot.
3. Put 1-2 spoon black bean spicy sauce into the pot. Put ginger and half bowl water into the Tofu. Turn on high heat until boiling,then reduce to medium heat and cover with lid.
4. After 5 minutes( the liquid in the pot is near to dry), add some green onion (cut into 2-3 cm long pieces) and put all the tofu into the dish.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
The good news is that we can do something about it. Durham has the Community Kitchen downtown off of Main St. It is part of Urban Ministries of Durham. The kitchen serves 3 warm meals a day, 7 days a week. Between 100 and 150 people show up for each meal. The food preparation and service are done by volunteers. The food itself comes from local supermarkets, farmers' markets, and restaurants. If you can weild a knife, you should volunteer. Information is on the website.
I heard a story about one woman who gives full-time care to her 7 grandchildren. She brings them to the Community Kitchen to eat because otherwise they'd go hungry. She does not have the money to feed herself and the 7 kids.
In addition to volunteering, we should be grateful for every morsel we put in our mouths. Appreciation of food is empty at best if gratitude does not accompany it.
So, don't just feel sorry for the plight of the poor and hungry in our area, do something about it!
Sunday, May 6, 2007
The secret to their yumminess lies in the brown sugar and browned butter. The quality of the ingredients matters too. I used to buy the standard, inexpensive Dixie Crystals brand brown sugar at the supermarket, but no more. I picked up from WholeFoods a brand called Wholesome Sweetness. Not only is this brand organic, green, and fair trade, it is also rich and complex in flavor. It tastes like molasses and vanilla! I also used farm eggs.
So, here is the recipe:
14T unsalted butter
1/4c. granulated sugar
2c. packed dark brown sugar
2c. + 2T all purpose unbleached flour
1/2t. baking soda
1/4t. baking powder
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1T vanilla extract
1. Melt 10 T butter in a skillet (preferably not a dark one because it is hard to see if butter is browned) and cook for an additional 1 to 3 minutes until butter turns brown and smells nutty (swirling the pan or stirring the entire time). Watch it carefully or the butter will go from brown to burnt! Remove to a heat proof bowl and add remaining butter, stirring until it melts. Let cool.
2. Mix granulated sugar and 1/4 brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets w/ parchment.
4. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
5. Add remaining 1 3/4 c. brown sugar to cooled butter. Mix until no lumps of sugar remain. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Mix until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
6. Roll dough into 24 to 30 small balls. Roll each ball in the sugar mixture. Place on cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove cookies to a wire cooling rack.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
I'm glad I live in an area where there are so many options for supporting organic, sustainable farming.
With Mothers' Day coming up, I found myself in a pickle of a situation. My mother lives 800 miles away so I cannot really pick up a gift for her at the farmers' market and drop it off. Buying something online and shipping it to her was really my only option. Recognizing that shipping things across the country takes an environmental toll, I wanted to find a gift that would offset that somewhat and was not made in China. Imagine my delight to discover Organic Bouquet
Besides selling certified organic flowers that comply with sustainable agriculture practices, these people gave 10% of the sale to Amnesty International! I cannot even tell you how much this warms my heart. Plus the bouquets online line are gorgeous. I hope my mom likes hers.
So if you need a gift or a table arrangement for a dinner party, I highly suggest ordering online at Organic Bouquet!
Thursday, May 3, 2007
I am prostrate with grief! But not as grief-stricken as the owner. She said she's been weeping for two weeks. She had a place lined up in Durham to re-open but it has fallen through due to the high cost of rent.
We will be bereft of the beautiful, delicious, sexy food from The Queen of Sheba. The owner will be out of business with her primary source of income gone, demolished in a heap to make way for some ugly office space or yuppy condos. I'm sure the purpose of the new development is to bring up that end of Franklin Street. The council probably approved the zoning. It depresses me. How much local business has to be squashed in the name of progress?
Well I'm sure the owner is a fighter and survivor. She may down, but she's not out. I'm rooting for her. I'll let you know when she starts up another restaurant or a catering business.
1 pound asparagus, peeled, trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add half the asparagus stalks and cook until quite soft, at least 5 minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add just enough water to allow machine to puree until smooth; set aside.
2. Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add a large pinch of salt. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more.
4. After about 15 minutes, add remaining asparagus pieces and tips, continuing to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 1/2 cup asparagus puree. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Serve immediately.
Yield: 3 to 4 servings.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
This past weekend, I went for brunch on Sunday. Then my friend and I went to the exhibit on Egyptian Art from the British Museum. Both the brunch and the museum were great! We had a very civilized and cultured afternoon!
At the restaurant, I could not decide what to order. Everything sounded delish on the menu. And I scoped out other people's food as it went by. It looked and smelled good. What a good sign! After consulting w/ the waiter, I ordered a sweet potato biscuit w/ ham, egg, fried tomato (would have been even better as a GREEN tomato), and hollandaise. It was sooooo good! The waiter mentioned that this was his favorite item on the brunch menu.
My friend ordered a mezze platter which included eggplant, hummous and artichoke dips and a plateful of fresh, gorgeous vegetables. Yummy but way too healthy for me!
The coffee was strong and dark.
I cannot wait to have dinner there one Friday evening, and visit my old friends in the picture gallery.