Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Solstice, Channukah, Festivus, Kwanzaa, Etc.

Phew! Somehow I managed to get up early enough to clean up the mess my kid left in the kitchen, wash dishes, do 3 loads of laundry and still make the food I planned on taking to my mother's house for dinner: my take on deviled eggs and a batch of sugar cookie dough for my brother.I've been making the same recipe for about 40 years. Why screw around with perfection?

The first time I made my brother a batch of cookie dough for Christmas it was clearly appreciated. That year, he brought the bag o' dough with him and gobbled it up as we drove to my father's mother's house in Vernonia, Oregon. We didn't see a lot of her and she was always "Minnie" to us, never "Grandma."

As I walked through her doorway she shouted "Janet! Honey! Here, have a beer." I was 15.

My Favorite Sugar Cookies

This was originally from The Pillsbury Cookbook: The All-Purpose Companion for Today's Cook. It is maddeningly lacking in bibliographic data but must have been published between the mid- to late 60's (prior to the ISBN era). My copy is so beyond dog-eared that even the Great Duct Tape Repair of 1993 is falling apart.

The trick to sugar cookies is to handle the dough as little as possible and keep it cold while you aren't working it. If it warms up in your hands (and it will) put it back in the frig.

I'm lucky in that I have my fabulous KitchenAid mixer now, but before that for many years prior I would combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter with a pastry blender until mealy. It was a lot of work but the results were fine.

3 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C sugar
1 C butter, room temperature
1 egg
3 Tbs cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, cream and vanilla and stir just until combined.

Gradually add flour mixture until dough pulls away from the side of the mixing bowl. Chill dough for at least an hour before proceeding.

Divide dough in half and roll out into a sheet 3/8" thick. Cut into desired shape with a cookie cutter. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes. Allow to cool about 1 minute before removing from cookie sheet to a cooling rack. Decorate as desired.

Variation: If you're not particularly into rolling out dough an alternative method which has given me good results is to shape the chilled dough into 2 logs approximately 14 inches long and roll the logs in either powdered or granulated sugar. Cover logs with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill again. Cut into roughly 3/8 slices and bake as directed above.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Deviled Eggs alla Giovanna

12 peeled hard boiled eggs
1/2 C mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp wasabi paste (I had planned on using some horseradish but could not find it. Be careful with this stuff, it's HOT!)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp or so fresh ground black pepper
cayenne pepper for dusting
1/4 C chopped pepperoncini
1-2 tsp juice from the jar of pepperoncini, to taste

Cut eggs in half and place yolks in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork until crumbly. Add mayo, dijon, wasabi paste, vinegar, pepperoncini juice and black pepper. Taste for seasonings and adjust as desired.

Spoon yolk mixture into the egg white halves. Dust with cayenne and top each with approximately 1/4 tsp of the chopped pepperoncini. Refrigerate until serving time.

Makes 24 pieces.

Tip: to hard boil the eggs, place in single layer in a large sauce pan. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer over low heat. Place a lid on the pan and turn off heat. Allow it to sit on the burner for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until eggs are cool. Peel.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's That Time of Year Kiddies!

...for the abomination known as Sandra Lee's "Kwanzaa Cake House of Horrors."

What is it with Food Network "celebrities" and their need to bastardize every culture on the planet?

Corn Nuts?? On a cake???

Come on. Who in their right mind would eat this?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fettucine with Sage and Brown Butter Sauce

Photo by Robin Bellinger

This fettucine with brown butter sauce recipe was from the wonderfully creative folks over at Serious Eats. Sounded great to me because not only is it cheap, I've just completed some rather extensive oral surgery and while I love sugar free instant pudding and soup I know I'll get sick of them before I can deal with other stuff.

I mentioned this recipe to my Italian honey (sage is "salvia" in Italian) so that's what I told him is in it. His eyes lit up and I knew I'd stumbled over a winner.

Thought I'd mention that to add some color, I tossed a few chopped Roma tomatoes into the cooked pasta. Think of this as a blank canvas upon which one may create any number of masterpieces.

Pasta with Brown Butter and Sage

-serves 4-

1 pound pasta, preferably fettucine
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 sage leaves
Pecorino romano or parmigiano to finish


1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well salted boiling water. When it is done, set aside about a quarter cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Remove it to a serving bowl

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. It's best if the saucepan has a light-colored bottom so you can watch the butter darken. After the foam subsides, watch the butter carefully. When it begins to go from golden to a light caramel color (and begins to smell more interesting and delicious), drop in the sage leaves and toss them around a bit. Remove from the heat.

3. Right away, swirl a little of the reserved cooking water into the pasta in case it is sticking together. Then pour the butter over the pasta and toss to coat. Grind over some pepper and grate over some cheese.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

There's a Reason There is no Blue Food in Nature

The pic says it all and is copied from the Rachael Ray fan board on her web site. Yes folks, this is the demographic RR and Food Network are hitting on. My question is how do these people have the intellectual wherewithal to have money to buy every RR product being hawked on the FN store page? *shakes head*

Although oddly enough, I suddenly feel the urge to make some conventional deviled eggs. I'll use the recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Calphalon Still Rocks

I love my new omelet pan. There is no other way to say it. Crack 3 eggs, shimmy it around the burner. Throw some stuff on, fold it sideways onto a plate...voila you have a 3 egg omelet.

My very fave so far...3 eggs, some chunked up dry smoked pepper salmon, about an ounce worth of chunked cream cheese and a couple of chopped green onions.

All I can now say is...I have died and gone to heaven.

My Favorite Thanksgiving Memory

(cross posted to my other blog InkPaperWords and OpenSalon)

This was several years ago, when I was a single mom with 2 kids living outside Albuquerque. I wasn't making much but AOL, my employer at the time, was handing out turkeys to employees. So I picked up mine and straightaway began dreaming of all the leftovers I would make out of this huge sucker -- turkey sandwiches, turkey pot pie, turkey mole enchiladas...

My younger brat was just a toddler then (he's 16 now), and had a bad habit of leaving doors (front entry, back yard, refrigerator, whatever, it didn't matter to him). The big day came and went and the three of us feasted. The carcass was summarily parked in the frig to be attended to later.

Later that afternoon, I came into the kitchen and discovered the refrigerator door open. I knew who the culprit was. As I went to close the door, I noticed the turkey was not in the frig. We had 2 dogs at the time and I can just envision the scene:

Brat leaves door open, dogs discover turkey. Dogs drag carcass to the backyard, where they proceeded to have their own Thanksgiving feast.

All that remained of my hopes and dreams for leftovers was naught but a grease spot on the tile floor in front of the refrigerator.

Turkey Day ... and Beyond

I hadn't planned on doing a turkey since my mom invited us over to her place for ham. I ended up getting one anyway because I love turkey and besides -- they're on sale! I love the leftovers and salivate whilst dreaming about them.

Today I roasted the bird. Wasn't terribly sure what I'd do with it. The last few years I've been intrigued by both the brining and deep frying concepts, but both seem like I'd have to go get specialized equipment and I don't want to bother. As for the deep frying, I don't even deep fry chicken because it A) makes a mess and B) uses too much oil.

Anyhoo, here's what I did. I started with a mash up of Ina Garten's recipe for alleged "Perfect Roast Turkey" and Giada de Laurentiis' citrus-stuffed bird. Except I had grapefruit, not oranges and did not feel like making a special trip to the store. So I quartered half the grapefruit, a lemon and onion and halved a head of garlic to stuff the cavity.

Then I rubbed olive oil over the outside and made a rub of salt, pepper, chilè con limón, oregano and cayenne. It smelled like grocery store barbecue rotisserie chicken while it was roasting. End result: moist, juicy meat, flavorful crispy skin. I can hardly wait for the enchiladas!

Oh, and about Mom's -- Honey whipped up some bread dough out of which I made Parmesan-topped bow knots. Also took a bag o' salad and a batch of my very own Cranberry Crisp Bars (recipe follows).

Cranberry Crisp Bars

1 c flour
1\2 c cold butter
1\2 c finely chopped walnuts (I didn't have any walnuts so I used oatmeal instead and it was fine)

Cut butter into flour and nuts until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Press evenly into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

1 15 ounce can of whole berry cranberry sauce

Spread the cranberry sauce over the warm baked crust.

1 c old fashioned rolled oats
3\4 c flour
3\4 c brown sugar
1\2 softened butter

Combine topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle over cranberry layer and continue baking 30 more minutes. Cool.

Makes 16 servings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Just May Need to Try This

Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese and Rosemary

from Michael Symon's Live To Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen as posted on Michael Ruhlman's blog.

Kosher salt as needed

1 pound dried rigatoni

1 quart cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

8 ounces goat cheese

2 cups shredded roasted chicken

Bring a pot of water to a boil (add enough salt so that it tastes seasoned). While it's heating, pour the cream into a large sauce pan, add the rosemary and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring it to a simmer, careful not to let it boil over. Reduce the cream by about half. Add the goat cheese and chicken and keep cooking it till the cream coats the back of a spoon.

Cook the rigatoni till it's al dente, about ten minutes. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce. Toss the pasta in the sauce till the sauce resumes a simmer, then serve.

Serves 6 to 8

As it happens, I have a fairly cheap source for goat cheese. I'm happy to do something with it besides spread it on crackers (not that there's anything wrong with that)

Late Night Snack

Of course, I'm not entirely sure that this was a snack. My sleep pattern is so screwed up who knows anymore? But about 4AM last night (pretty sure it was night because it was all dark outside) I got the munchies. So I went into the kitchen, sliced a little off the roast beef I made for everyone else last night for dinner, and nuked them for a minute so they wouldn't be cold from the fridge. Then I took the next to last piece of the bread my honey made earlier, slathered it with a brie spread I got recently, then put the beef on the bread.

It was one of the best roast beef sandwiches I've ever had. The only thing I can think of to make it better is to add a smidge of horseradish to the brie. OOOOOOOOooooooooooooooh.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Defense of Guy Fieri

Oh gag me.

From Food Network Fans (natch).

You've got it all wrong, John. I can't speak for others, only myself, but I will say this:

I dislike Guy Fieri (nee: Ferry) primarily because on too many occasions I saw him cram some huge greasy thing in his mouth and then witnessed the excess condiments drip all over his beard where it usually remained. Sorry, but this is not my idea of compelling television.

His network-developed, over the top Peter Pan frat boy persona is just, as they say, gravy. He is in no way real or sincere; rather he exists because some network tool thought him up and then cast him for the job. Ever see The Simpsons episode where network executives decide that Itchy and Scratchy's ratings are dropping and need to add a new character -- Poochie? Guy Fieri is Poochie.

I know he graduated from UNLV with a BS in Hospitality Management (doesn't quite sound like culinary chops to me unless in addition to Hotel and Restaurant Management they offer a chef option -- but frankly I don't know and yes, I could look it up, but I don't care enough to bother). I've seen his cooking show a couple of times and I can't imagine making any of his recipes. He has yet to learn that less is more. Goddam, does he ever back off with the spices? I think you'd have to be a hard core smoker to enjoy anything he made.

Is Bob Tuschman so very disappointed by criticism of his pet ("no one doesn't like Guy Fieri!") that he had to pay you to counter it with this touching paean? Tuschie would be better off realizing and acknowledging that he has screwed up Food Network big time with his poor programming decisions.

No one I know who is serious about food in general (at least cooking it, those whole like to watch jiggling tits and listen to inane stories while watching it be prepared and the aforementioned Peter Pan frat boy stuffing crap in his gaping maw are another story altogether) can't be bothered with Food Network anymore.

Now that you mention fois gras, perhaps Tuschie's next brainstorm will be a show in which tubes are shoved down the hosts' throats and they are force fed, Now that would be riveting!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Natalie Portman and Vigilante Veganism

Don't you love the alliteration?

Came across this post on Salon today. I have to say there was a very interesting conflict among the ideas expressed both by the subject of the article and some of the posters commenting on the article.

I tried vegetarianism for a while and I have nothing against those who want to pursue this lifestyle. Frankly it doesn't work for me anymore because it's just too difficult to fulfill my protein need.

I will say, however, that many vegetarians I've met are insufferably sanctimonious. I certainly understand Tony Bourdain railing against them. If a person were to look at what goes on in nature, you know, that whole "Circle of Life" shtick, the way of things is to eat or be eaten. I remember a not-terribly-recent letter to the editor by someone complaining about neighbor cats and how they shouldn't be allowed out because when they killed birds in the area her vision of what "nature" was about was interrupted. Honey, cats killing birds IS nature. And yes, when the dog of my mother's neighbor killed another neighbor's cat, that was also nature. I wonder whether when vegetarians who are so against killing and death receive gifts of dead mice from little Fluffy are they upset?

For those who choose to be vegetarian for the sustainability aspect, I'm fine with that. I've had lots of neighbors who produced their own meat. At age 12 I was shocked when the people next door slaughtered their cow. But I can say that the animal was dispatched as quickly as possible and it seemed like a mere matter of seconds between the shot and the truck from Walt's Custom Slaughtering hoisting it up and going at the carcass with a chainsaw. Where I grew up (Vancouver, Washington) it used to be quite rural and all the 4H kids raised animals whose end, no doubt, would be in someone's freezer. Gordon Ramsey's show (on The F Word, I believe) detailed him taking the pigs his family had raised to slaughter. They showed the act and it did not appear to me as though the animals (Trinny and Susannah, LOL) suffered much pain between. Plus, he had the humanity to show some degree of conflict about having it done.

Industrialized meat production is not a pretty industry by any means. Remember the turkey murder that was filmed behind Sarah Palin talking about how great and fun it was to be at the turkey concentration camp?

There are in fact safety issues to be considered due to commercial meat production, which is why I have come to believe that the safest meat a person can get comes either from your own backyard or that of a neighbor, or anyone else who deals with it on a smaller scale.

I grant vegetarians every right to express their opinion and it would be nice to have the same freedom reciprocated. But hey, I don't tell you what to eat (Beano) so don't tell me. There are worse evils in the world to worry about.

PS-- in the Salon article Portman is quoted as saying she's a vegan. That is simply not the same thing as vegetarian because vegans don't eat dairy or eggs. Many of the recipes from that episode of Top Chef were clearly not vegan.

I also wonder whether she uses leather products such as shoes, purses, coats, etc. Oh, and "animal rights?" Let's stop killing people and then we can deal with animals.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Calphalon Rocks!

Got my new pan yesterday, have to hide it away from The Brat due to his tendency to put pans on the stove, turn the burner on and forget about it (love that ADHD!). In less than 24 hours we went though 2 dozen eggs. So far my fave involves sauteed shroom and cheddar.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

She Didn't Take Much Persuading

Only the briefest of mentions in an email to Sharmagne ("say why don't you compile these and publish your own cookbook?") LOL I am the editor and already have the table of contents. Now to the fun part of formatting and layout! I'm in heaven!

The working title is The Brown Hackle Lodge Cookbook, named for her fishing lodge in Arlington.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Last Night's Dinner

I had 2 pounds of defrosted ground beef in the fridge that I knew had to be used soon. I figured meat loaf was a good, fast, easy way to dispose it all at once. My honey is Italian so we tend to use a lot of traditionally Italian ingredients such as garlic and parmesan cheese. So here's what I did:

I cut 4 slices from a loaf of artisanal sourdough garlic bread and toasted them to make bread crumbs. Added about a teaspoon of dried oregano and maybe twice as much dried basil. I'm growing basil but it's getting cold now and it isn't exactly looking great these days.

Placed ground beef in a large mixing bowl, add 2 eggs, about a cup of grated parmesan, some salt and pepper. I sauteed a chopped red onion, 3 cloves of garlic and 5 or 6 chopped cremini mushrooms. I mooshed everything together, adding the crumbs at the end. Shaped into a log in a greased 9x13 pan and baked at 350 for about 40 minutes.

The ends were fine but the middle was still a bit pink, so I nuked those slices for 1 minute and they were fine.

Honey couldn't stop saying "girl, that thing is delicious." It's a pleasure to cook for someone so easy to please.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Yes, Euell, Many Flowers Are Edible

Sharmagne Leland St.-John was one of my very first good Internet pals. I had been working at AOL for a few months and begun exploring the many message boards. In the Royalty section, I noticed many posts referring to a person named "Sharm," but never saw her posting. She seemed to evoke tempestuous feelings in others as to a man, they either loved her or reviled her. I began to wonder whether this mythical being, who no one could stop talking about, was real or legend. It wasn't long before people started accusing me of being her.

One day, after a year or so, she returned to the boards. Amazed, I emailed her and said I was so glad to see that she existed because so many posters thought I was she. That was the beginning of a great friendship.

Today Sharmagne and I are colleagues on a poetry site and yes, we've met in real life. She never fails to amaze me with her endless creativity, schmoozing ability, and generosity. Not to mention the occasional hilarious hot-headed outburst. Rock on soul sistah!
Recipes courtesy of Sharmagne Leland-St. John

Rose Petal Bread

This unusual recipe dates back to Medieval times and is perfect for serving at an outdoor luncheon.

2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
6 tablespoons honey
7 cups unbleached white or whole wheat flour
1 2/3 tablespoons coarse salt
6 whole eggs plus one egg yolk
1 cup currants, softened in warm water
6 tablespoons melted butter
Butter for greasing bowls and cookie sheet
1 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped rose petals * (1 - 2 dozen red roses)
Several drops of red food color

Pour 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; sprinkle with the packages of yeast. Stir in the honey and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add the remaining warm water and 2 1/2 to 3 cups of flour. Beat by hand with a wooden spoon about 200 strokes. Cover with a damp cloth, put in a warm place and let the dough rise for 35 to 45 minutes or until doubled.

Punch the dough down and beat in the salt, melted butter and 5 whole eggs and the one yolk. Stir in the softened currants.

With a pestle and mortar, crush the rosemary, basil, cinnamon and the rose petals to make a paste. Add the herb mixture to the dough in the bowl and knead it, blending well. The bread should be a delicate rose hue. If the color from the petals isn't strong enough, use the red food color sparingly.

Using a spoon, beat in the remaining flour. Knead the dough until it comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Lightly flour a bread board or a slab of marble and turn the dough out onto it. Knead until smooth or elastic, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add small amounts of flour if the dough becomes too sticky to handle.

Place the dough in a buttered bowl. Cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about 50 minutes).

Punch the dough down. Cover it and let it rest again until it has doubled in bulk. (30 minutes)

Again punch the dough down. Turn it onto a floured surface and let it rest for 5 minutes. Shape the dough into one or two free form twists or coils. Place on a buttered cookie sheet, cover lightly with a towel and let rise in a warm place until it has doubled again. (25 minutes)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the loaf or loaves with the remaining whole egg, lightly beaten.

Bake for about 50 minutes until nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped lightly with the knuckles. Place the bread on a wire rack to cool.

*Use ONLY rose petals which are free from pesticides. These may be purchased from a florist or home grown in an organic garden.


Nasturtium Salad

Harvest the nasturtium leaves flowers. The medium leaves and flowers are best. You may also find these in most gourmet markets.

40 Nasturtium leaves
20 Nasturtium flowers
2 heads of Butter lettuce
3 hard cooked eggs peeled and sliced into rounds

In the bottom of a large salad bowl prepare the dressing, stirring well to
dissolve the salt.

3 teaspoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons nasturtium vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 or 3 pinches white pepper

Wash the leaves, flowers, and lettuce. Spin in a salad spinner until dry. Set the flowers aside.

Tear the butter lettuce into bite sized pieces. Put the nasturtium and lettuce leaves into the bowl, add egg rounds and toss until all the leaves are coated. Sprinkle the flowers on top. Toss again just before serving.

Nasturtium Vinegar
Harvest and wash at least 20 nasturtium flowers. Boil a jar or decorative bottle until sterilized. Fill the jar or bottle with the nasturtium flowers and pour rice vinegar over them. Seal and put in a cool dark place for 3 weeks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Welcome to Hakuna Fritatta!

Just one more meaningless, noisy blog dealing with food on the interwebz. This blog was inspired by the arrogance and general douchebaggery brought about by, who seems to think that only they and Food Network should be allowed to post about food. Since their site is awash in pay-per-click advertising seemingly paid for by Food Network they have offered $25 to food blogs who shut down and post their incredibly tacky ass poster showing that now owns their ass.

Dunno, selling one's soul to FN for a lousy $25? Dignity and not being a whore...priceless.

Well guess what Eater? Eat me!