Monday, December 31, 2007

Mahimahi Soba Salad Lunch at HAA

In my first job after college I worked as a general dogsbody at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. It was one of the best jobs I have ever held, both because I got to inventory every single piece in the collection from gorgeous Korean ceramics to gold pieces thousands of years old to modern paintings and European decorative arts, and because I met wonderful people there who are still friends today, forty years later. One of those lovely people invited us to join her for lunch at the Academy Cafe while we were in Hawaii for Christmas. She's a wonderful lady who, in her 80s, still plays tennis three days a week and still doesn't need glasses.

This is the meal I chose.

Topping the cool, crisp greens and cubed cucumber dressed with a light vinaigrette were cold soba noodles and two triangular pieces of sauteed mahimahi fresh out of the ocean. Mellow carrot strips and tiny, sharp sprouts added zing to the salad as well as visual interest.

We reminisced about our days at the Academy (she worked there for more than 50 years, I a paltry four) and enjoyed the breezy almost-outdoor ambiance of the cafe while we enjoyed our leisurely and carefully prepared lunch. If you are going to Honolulu, don't miss the beautiful museum and its very special cafe!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Italian Chicken in Hawaii

One of my Hawaii friends, a true kama'aina (native) who chooses a great restaurant every time we visit, took us for dinner to an Italian restaurant in Manoa behind the University of Hawaii, while we were in the Islands. Donato's was crowded that evening so we strolled around the Manoa Marketplace while we waited for a table. It was worth the wait.

My Chicken Pomodoro was served over angel hair pasta and was rich with mushrooms, onions, artichoke hearts and fresh tomatoes. It was so good, I tried to recreate it the next day at home and was only partially successful. Here's how I think you could make it better:

Prepare fresh tomato sauce by removing skins from Roma tomatoes and coarsely chopping them. Saute some chopped onion and minced garlic just until translucent and soft - don't scorch the garlic - then add some sliced mushrooms and brown them lightly. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juice plus the artichoke hearts with a little tomato paste to round out the taste and perhaps some Italian seasoning. Let the sauce simmer while you prepare the chicken pieces.

Pound boneless chicken pieces until uniformly flat, about 1/2 - 3/4" thick. Lightly flour the pieces. Quickly saute the chicken in some hot olive oil, until parts of it are crispy and it is nicely browned. Boil the pasta in salted water, plate the pasta on a dished platter, top with crispy browned chicken pieces and spoon the sauce over the whole dish. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and garnish with basil leaves.

And, if you have a yen for Italian food on your next trip to Hawaii, I can recommend Donato's - but make a reservation or go early!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sunny Salad

I don't know too many people who would not only invite you to stay with them for 10 full days for Christmas in Hawaii but would also let you commandeer their house for a dinner party for 16 people two days after you arrive. My Hawaii brother and his lovely wife let My Beloved and I do just that over the holidays. They have earned their place in heaven.

They also served us numerous delicious meals while we were with them, including this lovely salad of spinach, tiny tomatoes from their garden and rings of sweet pepper. I'm not usually in love with salads in the winter - that's usually when I'm hungry for starches and rib-sticking meals, but in Hawaii it's summer year 'round, so what the heck!

The salad was dressed with their patented Caesar salad dressing, redolent of garlic and strongly spicy. They use 2 egg yolks, 6 garlic cloves (yep it's a lot) dashes of Worcestershire sauce (4-6 shakes) and Tabasco (8-10 shakes) to taste, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. They don't use the sardines or anchovies as the Tabasco adds the punch. The regulator seems to be the cheese; more cheese reduces the punch, more Tabasco increases the punch. They suggest adjusting to your own taste.

It was really strong and wonderful - but we all agreed to eat some so no one person would be offended by the others' garlic breath! We all enjoyed this sunny salad and the chance to visit with our Island relatives!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sunny's Chicken Soup

I met my friends Bonnie and Sunny when I was 15 and we were all Navy juniors studying in a French boarding school. Sunny was the ringleader and Bonnie and I the avid acolytes learning at her adventurous knee. Our group was broken up by Navy orders to different places but, many years later, we all discovered we live within 50 miles of each other here in the Bay area. We have periodic reunions to swap stories, share pictures of our grandchildren and catch up on each others' lives. We have even roped in Bonnie's daughter to our hen parties.

The latest meeting of the Cours Maintenon Forever club met at Sunny's house over this past weekend. Having just celebrated the start of the Holiday Feasting Season with a killer lasagna dinner the night before, I was delighted that Sunny's lunch for us was a delightfully light green salad with edamame for interest and a cup of doctored chicken soup. Sunny has a wonderful way of buying stuff from the store and then adding her own touches. The soup came from a nearby grocery chain, but she added fresh green Italian parsley, thinly sliced strips of sweet peppers and some other secret ingredients to create a lovely, homey, satisfying but light soup.

These meetings are truly chicken soup for our souls as we share our lives, our woes, our ideas and our joys over a cup of soup and a salad while we reconnect with our history, our heritage and our shared future.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday Feasting

It has begun. The holiday feasting began for us this week with a party at our friends J & J's house. It started with a line of playful orchids leading us up the sidewalk and in the door to hugs and holiday decorations in fine style.

We started, after champagne and hors d'oeuvres, with a lovely green salad topped with mandarin orange sections and whole cashews, dressed lightly with a savory vinaigrette.

Then came the lasagna on fine china served with cabernet sauvignon in vintage Waterford glasses and enjoyed with J's Grandmother's antique, richly decorated sterling. This was classic lasagna, rich with two cheeses, meat and pasta, a decadent belly-buster of a lasagna. I ate every bite.

Oh, did I mention the festive ice cream cake for dessert? I ate my whole serving of that, too!

It has begun, and I'm in lasagna heaven!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Seasoned Eatings from Nashville

In the past 48 hours, I have had a dead battery in my usually reliable little car; a visit from AAA to jump start it; a highway robbery at the BMW dealer where they sold me a new battery for $400 (yes, folks, 4 C-notes and no other battery will fit into my model of car); had my marriage license called a "toy" when I tried to include My Beloved in my retirement pension plan; stood in three lines at the San Francisco City Hall over my lunch hour to get official proof of my eight year marriage (at least it's a beautiful building and MB declared he'd marry me again if they couldn't find it); paid 13 clams for said certificate, which took 30 seconds to find and print out after 20 minutes of time in queue; received a $400 electric bill from PG&E (our normal bill is about $30 per month); spent untold time on the phone with PG&E operators explaining that the bill was impossible since we have in the past year upgraded all our doors and windows to low-E glass, bought a new energy efficient fridge and emptied and turned off our hot tub because we're so effing "green"; spent a freezing hour under the deck where the trolls live trying to calibrate the blankety-blank electric meter; and learned that my husband's dear mother is headed for a lengthy hospital stay over Christmas due to the incompetence of a doctor who didn't listen to her symptoms. It's enough to drive a saint crazy and, believe me, I'm no saint!

So, you can imagine my pleasure at sitting down, after a long and frustrating few days, to the homey chicken dish I made from the fermented black beans and Asian style noodles sent to me by my secret pal from Seasoned Eatings, Lannae Long of Lannae's Food and Travel blog. Lannae lives in Nashville, TN and couldn't find a local spice to send so she substituted these exotic (to me) ingredients instead. Lannae explained that this dish is comfort food for her and her family, and the recipe comes down from at least her grandmother. She says this sauce is to Chinese Americans as tomato sauce is to Italian Americans.

I gathered all the ingredients for the recipe and put them all together over the weekend. The dish is lightly salty, slightly spicy from the two kinds of peppers, very flavorful thanks to the garlic, onion, chicken broth and soy sauce, and deeply satisfying at the end of a crazy couple of days!

Happy Holidays, Lannae, and to all of you who are reading about her very thoughtful and delicious gift. And a special thanks to Katie of Thyme for Cooking and Lindsay of Country Girl City Living who hatched the plan for Seasoned Eatings and organized this fun event!

Chinese Black Bean Sauce and Chicken, described by Lannae Long

In a big bowl, do this first and let sit while you make the other parts:

3 lbs chicken with bones, big chunks cut through bones to expose marrow. Marinate chicken in:
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs corn starch
1 egg white
2 Tbs toasted sesame oil

Black beans in a cup
2 heaping Tbs fermented black beans
1/4 cup alcohol (red wine, sherry, rice wine or sake)
after a few minutes, use the back of the spoon to mash the beans on the side of the cup.

Sauce in a bowl
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 T alcohol
2 cups chicken stock
a small squeeze of honey
a shake of hot chili (dried sprinkles or packed in oil)
1 Tbs toasted sesame oil

Corn starch cup
mix corn starch with cool water or stock in a cup

1 large yellow onion, diced into bite-size pieces (1/2-1 inch square)
2 poblanos diced into bite-size pieces
you can substitute one bitter melon (fu-qua melon) for poblanos
garlic, all you like, minced

Noodles (Asian style wheat noodles)


1. Heat a big frying pan or wok.
2. Add oil to coat pan
3. Drain the chicken, and reserve the liquid
4. Brown chicken on all sides
5. Take chicken out, and set aside
6. In the same pan, coat the bottom with oil
7. Add garlic and fermented black bean cup and stir fry to fragrant (30 seconds)
8. Add onions and peppers/bitter melon and stir fry for about 1 minute
9. Add chicken and reserved chicken liquid to the pan and stir fry for about 1 minute
10. Add sauce in bowl and bring to a boil
11.Lower to a simmer and cover until chicken is done (15-20 minutes)
12. Uncover and add cornstarch cup to thicken
13. Boil noodles
14 Serve chicken and fermented black beans over noodles

Note: You can substitute hard tofu (not silken), for setan (Buddha's meat) for meat, nix the egg white, use veggie stock for the stock, and use drops of real maple syrup to make it vegan. If you make it vegan, you don't have to cook it that long, just thicken and enjoy!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bachelorette Night

The other night, when My Beloved was out for a business dinner, I was close to the end of one of the best books I have read all year and not feeling much like cooking. I briefly considered poached eggs on toast, but was defeated by the thought of dragging out the toaster, finding the toast tongs and supervising the toast in our less-than-reliable toaster after a long day at the office.

The author of the book, Liz Gilbert, had eaten a lot of pasta when she visited Italy and that sounded good to me. Luckily, the pantry yielded a box of angel hair pasta and I found a small head of broccoli tucked next to the green onions in the crisper and a chunk of Parmesano reggiano.

When I cook like this, it's all about using the fewest pots and utensils possible. I boiled the pasta in water with a little salt and, just before it was done, dropped in the broccoli florets to cook in the same water. After draining, I slathered the pasta and broccoli with some butter, grated a nice coating of the cheese over the whole thing and tossed with the slivered green onions.

I was hungry enough to eat, inspired to say a prayer of thanks for this quick and simple meal, and I loved the ending of this terrific book.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Reluctant Vegetarian

Don't get me wrong, I love vegetables. My mother never had to force me to eat my veggies - I was always more than willing. Peas, greenie beanies, broccoli, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, asparagus - you name it, I love it!

As long as it's parked next to a thick steak, lovely lamb loin, big pork chop, nice fillet of fish, or any kind of chicken.

Vegetarianism has never had much appeal. Not that I haven't enjoyed some vegetarian cooking but it always felt a little like a heavy petting session when I was a teenager, lots of fun but vaguely dissatisfying, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, that changed when I found Neatloaf at Ananda Fuara, a vegetarian restaurant near my work in the Civic Center. This stuff is a mixture of textures from grains and beans and perhaps some tofu thrown in for good measure, and rather mild in flavor, sort of like meatloaf but minus the meat. It's served with a highly savory barbecue sauce, so it really is pretty tasty. I chose the Neatloaf and Soup combo, which came (that day) with a wonderful, smooth bowl of African Peanut Soup made with (duh!) peanuts and yams. Quite, quite delicious.
And dig the colorful little carrot and purple cabbage salad that graced the plate with color.

The female wait staff all wear saris in this restaurant, which I suspect is a fundraiser for the guru whose picture appears all over the walls posing with various famous people. The male waiters are less gorgeously attired but there's a good vibe and the place is always packed at lunch time. Don't go there for a quick lunch - they seem to do everything with intention and that takes time - but if you have a full hour, I can recommend the Neatloaf that convinced even this reluctant vegetarian!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Finished Product

My Beloved is not a big Brussels sprout fan. I love them in just about any preparation and I am eternally optimistic that one day I will discover a recipe for Brussels sprouts that will win him over to my side of the debate. Bless his heart, he has manfully downed several servings of the cute little cabbages in our years together, trying to please me, but they just never quite resonated with him.

Here's the finished plate with the chicken and veggies layered over the Garlic Bacon Swiss chard I described yesterday. The other notable item on the plate are the very dark green Brussels sprouts, which I tried roasting along with the chicken.

I rolled them in a little olive oil and put them with the shallots and fingerling potatoes and basted with the pan juices once or twice during the hour the chicken was cooking. They turned out really delicious, the oven softening not only their texture but also their bite. These were mellow sprouts, soft, creamy and a little browned where they met the roasting pan. What happened to their flavor is analogous to what happens to the shallot when it's roasted, bringing out the sweet mellowness.

If you've never liked Brussels sprouts, try them this way - I'm optimistic that you will be pleasantly surprised. As for MB, he grudgingly admitted that these were the best so far but I don't think he's completely convinced yet.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eat Your Greens

We had bacon for breakfast one recent morning, good, thick, meaty applewood smoked bacon with scrambled eggs. Yummy, but for once I couldn't finish it all. I saved two of the bacon strips for later, not knowing quite what I would do with them.

Fast forward to dinner time when I had a nice chicken roasting in the oven with fingerling potatoes, whole shallots and Brussels sprouts surrounding it, a nice reward for "estate work," our least favorite chore. I had planned to have rainbow Swiss chard with the chicken, so I had crushed about four fat cloves of garlic and was sauteing them in butter in a wide frying pan prior to adding the washed, destemmed chard leaves to the pan, when I had a brainstorm.

Chopped those two rashers coarsely and added them to the pan to sizzle and mingle with the garlic just long enough to heat them through, then tossed and turned the leaves in the garlic bacon butter until they wilted into a dark green softness.

Our new favorite chard recipe. Rock on!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

He's Also Got Great Buns

I'm not certain but I may have mentioned just once or twice on this blog that I am blessed with having a really, really nice guy in my life.

The other morning, My Beloved proved it again with a surprise breakfast of croissants and a morning bun. He must have bought and hidden these when he shopped for dinner fixings.

He got out the coffee maker and the grinder and soon the siren scent of fresh Graffeo's coffee tickled my nose and tempted me to abandon my email for the moment. Then, he brought out with a flourish worthy of a magician the baked goodies, ta-da!, hot and ready to spread with McEvoy Ranch Meyer Lemon Marmalade and/or butter.

He's so sweet, he should be sticky.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Morning Is Breaking

Here in the west, we have great sunsets. I have seen the most spectacular sunsets here of anywhere I have lived in the world. Especially in winter, when we have interesting clouds to add to the glory, the sunsets are rich, ever-changing canvases of pure color. We stop almost every evening to admire them. Each year, as we are sorting through pictures taken the previous 12 months, we inevitably have hundreds of sunset pictures, each more dramatic than the next.

But, this week, My Beloved broke the early morning's sleepy calm by exclaiming, "Quick! Look!" and capturing this image of Mt. Tamalpais bathed in pink sunrise light. A moment later, it was gone. No two days are the same here. We are blessed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue

When I got home from work one evening last week, I found that My Beloved had been to our little neighborhood market to procure a nice wedge of Danish Castello Blue and an assortment of Carr's Water Biscuits for our pre-dinner nibbles. Most blue cheeses are too strong for hors d'oeuvres but this one was mild and very rich.

He also brought home some ground beef that I decided simply to prepare as hamburgers, rare and juicy the way he likes them. As I flipped the burgers, I was inspired by the remaining Castello Blue to try melting a slice of it over the beef to make a different sort of cheeseburger.

Unlike the more traditional cheddar, this cheese melted almost instantly revealing it's triple cream nature as it slid like butter across the top of the burger. The taste was intensely savory and rich, earning lots of "Mmmm-mmm-mmms" from MB.

Oh, yeah.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Is there anything better to surround a roast chicken than root veggies and onions? This time, we roasted some cippoline onions, heirloom carrots in various colors, and halved red potatoes (we used to call them "new" potatoes in my family but I don't know why) alongside our usual Sunday chicken for a hearty, savory fall dinner.

They don't need any preparation besides removing the roots and the tops and a little olive oil but this time we added just a little soy sauce to change the headline a bit.

Even the short days are welcome when they end with fulsome autumn fare like this.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Kitchen Play

Looking around my kitchen, I realized that functionality is a big value for me but I seem also to enjoy playfulness. Some of these tools I purchased but others have been gifts from friends and family who seem to understand my love of whimsy.

Here's a little quiz. You'll recognize the Santa egg whisk, the yellow duck nail brush and the tomato timer perhaps but what's the function of the star on the end of the long stick between the pink octopus dish brush (with soap in a cavity in the head) and the green fish soap holder under the squid whisk that always make me smile when I use it? Will you hazard a guess?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Pearl Harbor

So many mental images flash when I think of Pearl Harbor. Before I was born, my mother and older brother lived on Ford Island, the small island in the center of Pearl Harbor, being ordered to the Mainland just months before the attack. As a Navy junior, I lived in Pearl Harbor on two tours of my Dad's duty. My younger brother was born at Tripler Army Hospital, overlooking Pearl Harbor. My heart was broken there in 1968, when I was briefly engaged to a wonderful young Airman. My first husband's nuclear submarine, U.S.S. Sargo, was home ported at Pearl in the late '60s and early '70s. My younger brother now works at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard as a trainer. I celebrated my 21st birthday with a drink at the Bachelor Officers' Quarters bar in Pearl Harbor.

Pearl and I go 'way back.

My first memory of Hawaii is the Navy housing called Makalapa, where our family settled for the 2+ years we lived in Hawaii in 1954-56. Each house had a Navy blue metal sign with gold letters next to the carport proclaiming which officer lived in the residence. The furniture was mainly Navy issue massive bamboo and life for a second grader was just about ideal. We wore flipflops to school, played outdoors in the warm rain, and enjoyed unprecedented freedom from parental supervision. Once I was tested for water safety, I could go to the pool with my friends unchaperoned - the pool was right in our neighborhood - and because officers of roughly the same rank were housed together, playmates of roughly the right ages abounded. There were huge playgrounds and an extinct crater out the back door where we could explore to our hearts' content. My best friend, Rosemary Barnwell, lived in the same duplex with us and her bedroom window was right next to mine so we could whisper back and forth even after bedtime or until my sister, who shared the room with me, told us to shut up and go to sleep.

In the late 1960s, my father was again ordered to Pearl Harbor and we lived again in Makalapa, but this time our quarters on "Admiral's Row" were somewhat more luxurious and the furniture was no longer Navy issue bamboo. We lived right across the street from the swimming pool, my childhood dream come true. The Vietnam War was being fought this time, and echoes of the war reached us frequently in casualty reports that listed men we knew well as having been shot down and killed, wounded or taken prisoner. My Dad had huge admiration for young John McCain, who served in Dad's command at that time, and was shocked and saddened when he learned of McCain's capture.

At that time, I worked at the Honolulu Academy of Arts where I encountered many people who had been in Honolulu, just 10 miles away, on Sunday, December 7, 1941. Their stories of the shock and incredulity they experienced at seeing planes flying low over Pearl Harbor with rising suns on their wings and black clouds of smoke in their wakes painted vivid personal pictures for me of that day.

I also escorted many, many visitors on my Dad's barge to the Arizona Memorial to see the long, tragic lists of names of mostly very young men carved on the walls of the monument. Visitors always wanted to see it and experience the ship below, still leaking oil from her broken hull. Toward the end of Dad's tour of duty, I could no longer take them there - it was just too sad to bear. By then, I had known some young men like them, myself.

It was at a pool on the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor where I began flirting with my first husband, a young submariner fresh from the Mainland. For two years, we dated around his weekly ops schedule and a 6-month tour in the Western Pacific, when we wrote frequently and I sent him care packages of brownies while he and his shipmates did things that would have made my hair stand on end had I known about them at the time. If you haven't read Blind Man's Bluff, it makes for amazing reading.

We married in the chapel at Makalapa and left the church for the reception under the traditional arch of swords, my brand new husband dressed like "An Officer and a Gentleman" in Service Dress White, the handsomest uniform known to man. Before he left on his second six-month WestPac tour, we moved into base housing where the furniture was, again, Navy issue bamboo. That year, he missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday and our first anniversary. When the boat came home, all of the wives were on Hickam Air Force base, the closest point to the mouth of Pearl Harbor, dressed to the nines, waving frantically and throwing kisses before piling back into our cars to race over to the SubBase to watch Sargo edge gently into her berth with my husband at the helm.

Because my parents retired in Honolulu, I have been back to visit Pearl Harbor many times since I left with that young husband, who decided he was a civilian at heart. Sometimes, I still stop in to visit Navy friends who now live there, or just to remember. Then, I go up to Punchbowl Cemetery, where both my parents are buried, and look at all the crosses for the young men who didn't live a long life and died for a cause the whole country believed in.

In my lifetime, there has never been a war we all believed in - Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq - and my political beliefs are now diametrically opposed to the ones my parents held - but I still have pride in our service to our country and wish that, if we ever end this war, the next one (there seems always to be a next one) is one with the clear cut mission and high ideals our country followed after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Birdie's Really Great Chicken

My sister gave me this recipe for Birdie's Really Great Chicken about thirty-five years ago and it has been a staple ever since. It is one of those guilty pleasure recipes that are ridiculously simple and begin life with a can of Campbell's soup.

Here's the recipe - it's easy, tastes great (for some reason, it has always been especially attractive to the men in my life), and gives you an hour while it's cooking to catch up on your favorite food blogs.

1 broiler/fryer chicken, cut into serving pieces
1 can Campbell's Golden Mushroom Soup
1 Leek (white and light green parts only, or a large onion) coarsely chopped
1 small can (3-4oz) sliced mushrooms, plus the liquid from the can (I substitute fresh mushrooms, about 7-9 little ones or 5-6 big ones and add a little more water).
1/4 soup can water
2 Tbs lemon juice
6-8 oz grated cheddar cheese

Lay the chicken pieces in a single layer in a roasting pan. Mix all the other ingredients together and spoon over the chicken. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 1 hour until richly browned, basting once during the baking. While the chicken cooks, prepare a long, involved story about how hard you worked to serve this gourmet dish to your loved ones.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Slender Bovines

My Beloved and I adore ice cream. Our love is constant and seasonless - we savor ice cream all year 'round. For us, a dinner that doesn't end in ice cream is not only a rarity, it's a vague disappointment.

Sadly, our love affair with ice cream is one of the (many) reasons why we are as round as we are. Sigh.

So, when we discovered at our local Mom and Pop market the Skinny Cow brand of fudge bars, we were thrilled to pieces.

Normally, low fat foods are lacking in flavor and texture as well as in calories, and they can be counter-productive since they don't really satisfy one's desire for dessert. These bars, however, we find to be nicely chocolatey and silky, a really reasonable substitute for the higher calorie treats that we do occasionally indulge in. We like them so much that when we dine out, we often skip dessert in favor of coming home to what we fondly call a "stick dessert."

As kids, we chanted "You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream!" We still do, and thank heaven for this happy invention.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Rosemary's Babies

With our omelets at our "Make Your Own Masterpiece" party, we had these little beauties, roasted fingerling potatoes with fresh rosemary from the garden.

This isn't really rosemary season at my house as my rosemary bush is flowering and it usually tastes a little better when it's not busy attracting bees and hummingbirds, but needs must, so I sallied forth with my kitchen shears anyway and did find just enough new sprigs to flavor a pan of fingerlings rolled in a little extra virgin olive oil and roasted in their skins for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

These are the last four left from the pan, rescued for just long enough to photograph them. Mmmm, spuds and fall - a match made in heaven.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Make Your Own Masterpiece

We had an amusing party this past weekend, a "Make Your Own Masterpiece" omelet party with My Beloved's younger daughter K and her squeeze A. Rather like the French where if you have a group of two people, there will be at least four political parties represented, we four have distinct food preferences and cooking styles.

Hence the idea of Make Your Own Masterpiece.

The choices on offer were, left to right, fresh dill, thyme and tarragon to snip, cubed Swiss cheese, blanched broccoli, sliced mushrooms, fresh King crab meat, chopped green onion, minced shallot, blanched asparagus, and blueberries. Each person had her/his own cutting board, freshly sharpened knife and omelet pan

A chose real eggs, but separated out the yolks for his scramble and went heavy on the veggies. K is on a specialized eating plan to accommodate some food allergies, so she avoided the cheese and butter but loved the fresh tarragon and anise seed with her asparagus and crab omelet. MB loves variety so he added a little of almost every option to his scramble, using EggBeaters to keep the cholesterol count low. I'm a confirmed French-style omelet maker, so mine used whole eggs (even added one of A's yolks for richness) mixed with a little water and was rich in butter, crab, asparagus and cheese with some tarragon and thyme for extra flavor.

They say that too many cooks spoil the broth but in this case it just made for some giggling in the kitchen and four satisfied chefs.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Citrus Season

My mother must have had a deathly fear of scurvy, as she and Linus Pauling were great believers in Vitamin C. I think I had OJ every morning of my life from the moment my pediatrician okayed it 'til the time I left for college. For several years, we used the morning OJ to wash down the cod liver oil pill she also insisted upon and woe betide the child who kept that little round squishy gel capsule in the mouth too long, arguing against the need for it, because if you didn't swallow it quickly it melted, flooding the taste buds with fish oil. We tended to be persuasive (argumentative) children - you'd have been forgiven for thinking we were all going to be lawyers - but the Fish Oil Fear shut us up pretty quickly.

We also always got the traditional orange in our stockings on Christmas morning, one more opportunity for the Good Mother to slip in a little vitamin C and, as we grew old enough to drink alcohol, she introduced us all to Screwdrivers and Mimosas.

My early indoctrination seems to have stuck - I can't wait until the fruit appears, shiny and heavy for it's size, with most of the dimples filled out from the juicy goodness within. Oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, tangelos, not to mention my favorite lemons - I can't think of a better way to start a day, spark up a salad or complement a dinner.

No fear of scurvy in my current household, either, thanks to my early training and the juicy season of citrus!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Thanksgiving spuds

My friend Wenirs and I have a long history; not only have she and I been friends all our lives, our parents were great pals as well. Our families visited frequently, they coming to us when we lived somewhere interesting and we spending summers with them in Michigan when the Navy parked us in less glamorous places. When I moved as a young bride to Western New York, happily, that was just a six-hour drive across friendly Ontario to get to Wenirs' house.

She's my rock when I need one and we laugh at the same goofy things;
I'm her children's Fairy Godmother.

We have shared many Thanksgivings starting even before the children, who are now young adults, came along. Each year I'd drive west or she'd drive east on Thanksgiving day when the traffic was lighter, so our tradition has always been to eat our Thanksgiving dinner the next day, feeling as we do that Thanksgiving is not a specific date in late November but rather the time when one's favorite people can gather.

Our visits have been less frequent since I moved to California so, when her children and I hatched a plan to surprise her and her delightful husband at Thanksgiving, I knew it would be a joyous surprise. My Fairy Godson flew in from LA, My Beloved and I landed soon after from SF, and My Fairy Goddaughter swooped by to pick us all up and deliver us. The surprise was total - we even got tears as well as hugs and "I can't believe its."

This year, she cooked the bird on Sunday and I made the mashed potatoes. Simple is best with family dinners, so all I did was boil the red potato halves until tender and, leaving the skins on, mashed them with lashings of butter, half and half and pepper. We cooked more potatoes than we really should have eaten and still I had to call a halt to photograph the last spoonful before it disappeared.

My only quandary now is how to top the Surprise Thanksgiving - and whether or not to make more of these delicious spuds for dinner again this evening!.