Thursday, July 31, 2008

Perfect for Out-of-Towners

We've just eaten for the gazillionth time at Salute in the Marina Bay section of Richmond - and it was delicious again. This time, we took friends from out of town, Chris, Jim and their son Brandon, and we've decided this is the perfect place to entertain out-of-towners.

The setting is pretty, the service is great, you don't often need a reservation and the food is reliably good, well cooked and delicious.

The restaurant is in a lovely wooden building that looks like a big house (but with lots of easy parking) and, as you enter, each step of the staircase just inside the door is decorated with a single rose in a clear vase. Nice. Then, you are seated next to the big glass windows that look out onto the marina, always a pretty view, and on a clear day the skyline of San Francisco is visible in the distance.

The wait staff is attentive and yet unobtrusive (unless you get our favorite waiters, one young and one seasoned, who are complete characters in a delightful way).

The food is good. Always good. Good every time. It's so nice to know I can take my guests there with confidence. In 13 years of visiting, I have never had a bad meal. There is always a nice selection of pastas, pizzas, meat, poultry and fish dishes, and a killer dessert cart. It's not haute cuisine (often out-of-towners, and my pocketbook, would be uncomfortable with that) but it is always fresh and well-prepared, and the prices are reasonable.

Take your out-of-towners, or just yourselves, to Salute and relax, knowing you're in good hands, whether the first time or the gazillionth.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stolen from Deetsa

Last week, Deetsa mentioned an Alsatian specialty that sounded good to me so I "borrowed" the idea from her blog and went searching on the internet for a recipe.

Tarte Flambee'. Or, if you're one of those who believe that Alsace really should still belong to Germany, Flammekueche.

It's a simple dish of very flat, thin bread covered with a mixture of creme fraiche, sauteed onions and crisped bacon bits with a little nutmeg, salt and pepper for spice and baked until the crust turns nice and brown. It sounded like heaven to me.

The dough for this pizza-like dinner rises twice, developing the flavor of the bread nicely. It's not as much of a hassle as it sounds, either - I was interrupted by some fun during the rising, stuck it in the fridge overnight, and it was still delicious the next day. Then, you roll it out very thinly on a baking sheet, top with the mixture of cooled, sauteed onions, creme fraiche and spices, and sprinkle on the bacon bits before sliding it into a 450 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned but, ideally, not as close to burned as one side of ours got.

We liked it but we didn't love it. I guess we like bolder flavors. I'd make it again but I'd jazz it up a little with something more tangy than creme fraiche, maybe add some plain yogurt or mild feta cheese. When you had a bite with bacon in it, it was really yummy (as Dagny says, everything is better with bacon) but the in-between bites were a little flat. I'd also add zucchini slices and/or fresh tomato slices next time and I might not saute' the onion first.

It's a fun start to a whole bunch of different ideas for dinner, however, and I send thanks out to Deetsa for a fun idea!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oeufs Lausannais?

Winding down from a busy and fun week with My Beloved's boss in town overlapping with a visit from our friends Ted and Jan from St. Louis, I was looking for an easy and healthful dinner for a very tired MB. I had mistakenly bought too many eggs, so that seemed like a good choice. But, how to present them?

As you may know, my veggie garden has been less than productive but, while the zucchini and greenie beanies have been having hissy fits and refusing to produce, my Swiss chard has been, without fanfare or sulking, quietly giving us a weekly pan full of green goodness - and it was time for a harvest again.

I made a chiffonade of the leaves and stems and butter steamed them lightly, then mounded the fresh green strips on a toasted English muffin half, topped them with a poached egg,and slathered the egg with a small dollop of a sauce made by adding just a little mayonaise to a nice dollop of Dijon mustard.

MB was reinvigorated.

Now, what do you call this concoction? Eggs Florentine refers to spinach under eggs but is there a name specifying Swiss chard under eggs with Dijon mustard? I looked up the city in Switzerland closest to Dijon in France - well, it's really Bern but we already have Bearnaise sauce so it seemed a little confusing and Lausanne is the next largest well-known city close to the French border. Oeufs Lausannais? What do you think? Will it fly?

These oeufs by any other name are still delicious.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

The Secret Ingredient

Cooks these days are experimenting with all kinds of wacky combinations and finding that really delicious tastes result - one standard example, chocolate caramels with smoked salt on top. Who woulda thunk it?

Last week, I was reading about Cookiecrumb's savory clafoutis and Molly's apricot tart in the same day.
I left a jesting comment on Cookiecrumb's blog about adding bacon and nectarines to a clafoutis, only half seriously, but then when I was reading about the fruit tart, I thought, "Man, nectarines would be great in a tart like that - and why not bacon, too?" So, I set to work to combine those two individually-delicious-but-odd-together ingredients in a tart similar to Molly's but with a Cookiecrumb flair.

I expected the bacon to add salt and texture to the tart but what it actually added was smoke. As it cooked with the fruit, the bacon softened (even though I crisped it first in a pan) and the salt was lost in the sweetness of the tart, but the smoky quality remained and it really was a fun undertaste (is that a word?) that sneaked in around the fruitiness and sweetness. I still wanted a little saltiness, so I tried adding fleur de sel to my next bite of tart but it was not a success, too aggressively salty and raw.

As with all experiments, some parts work- and the rest blow up the lab! Another time, I'd still add the bacon as my secret ingredient but with more realistic expectations.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Gift of the Maple

Is there anything more delicious than real maple syrup? Once you've tasted the real thing, there's no going back. The light, sweet taste of grade A, light amber maple syrup is truly one of nature's best gifts.

And, if you dry it out, it becomes maple sugar, a treat on toast with butter in the morning or the makings for this tiny maple sugar tart.

I never make a pie without using the scraps of pie dough to line a 4" tart pan for a maple sugar tart. While I was riffing on Molly's apricot tart with a nectarine version (more about that tomorrow), I was already thinking, "Oh, goody, I can make a maple sugar tart, too!"

This little tart is simplicity itself to make. All you do, after lining a little tart pan with whatever pastry you like best, is to mix 1/2 cup unpacked maple sugar with 2 Tbs. of flour and a little salt, then stir in 1/4 cup milk until it is well incorporated. Pour into the tart pan and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then 350 degrees until thick, about 20 minutes more. Or, you can bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I usually put it in with whatever pie I'm baking at the time, pulling it out at about 30 minutes of cooking time - as long as the temperature is somewhere between 400 and 350, it does fine.

Cool it on a rack and, when it's thoroughly cool, cut into wedges to serve. It's sweet and a little rich so you won't want to eat the whole thing at one sitting, even though it's small. Take this gift of the maple tree bite by delicious bite and thank heaven for the Gift of the Maple!


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer Soup

One of the great things about life in the Bay area is that even the summers are relatively cool. That means we can happily eat hot soup year 'round, with only a few days being too hot for a bowl of broth.

Corn chowder is a favorite of mine, especially when made with the sweet, crisp kernels of fresh summer corn. My recipe comes from Elna, my first husband's mother, who had it from her mother, who had it from her mother, and so on back into time. Elna was a marvelous cook and a generous one - she shared all her recipes with me.

This is actually pretty basic corn chowder, made by sauteing five slices of chopped bacon in a heavy soup pot, then adding the chopped celery and onion until they are soft, followed by milk and red potato dice, raw corn kernels removed from the cobs, salt and pepper, and cooking it all together on simmer for about half an hour. You can enrich it with cream if you like but it's pretty nice just as is.

Over the years, I have tweaked the recipe a little. I now add fresh thyme from my garden, just the leaves of a few nice sprigs to round out the flavors, and I reserve the bacon bits rather than cook them with the soup, sprinkling them on at serving time to add a little bit of crispy crunch to the bowl.

I served it to Jan and Ted, friends visiting this week from St. Louis who came in late and starving from their flight - there is nothing remotely edible on airlines these days - and they loved it! Summer can be such a fine season for soup!

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Friday, July 25, 2008

The Peaches Are Coming! The Peaches Are Coming!

The other day, while picking lemons, I checked on the peach tree that my work colleagues at SUNY Brockport gave My Beloved and me for a wedding present nine years ago. It lives down in the lower 40, too, so I don't visit it often.

It is simply covered with peaches this year, so many that even though they are still pretty small the branches are bowed down under their weight.

In this strange growing year, when zucchinis are difficult and tomatoes small and green, the peach tree seems to be thriving with abundant fruit and lush green foliage. Go figure!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Peanut Sale

For many years, my sister's husband Tom was a peanut farmer in southern Virginia, where they grow the very best peanuts on the planet. Georgia peanuts? Pshaw! President Carter wished he could have grown peanuts like these! Virginia peanuts are da bomb, and well worth increasing your carbon footprint to obtain.

Tom used to sell his peanut crop to these guys, Plantation Peanuts of Wakefield, Virginia. I've blogged about these in the past but wanted to let you know that they are currently having a sale. If you love peanuts like I do, visit their website and place your order!

Tom is no longer farming, so you needn't think that I have a family axe to grind - this is just from one peanut lover to another!

And send some positive healing energy toward Tom this week as he's recovering from surgery. Thanks.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Coq au Riesling

Love that coq au vin! Especially the recipe that Julia Child put into her classic, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," but making it is a bit of a hassle requiring three pans so when I saw this recipe for Coq au Riesling that could all be accomplished in a single skillet, I jumped at it.

One change I made to the basic recipe is that, when it suggests removing and discarding the skin after browning, I knew that no self-respecting French housewife would waste perfectly good chicken skin so I made cracklings from it as Jacques Pepin had taught me years ago, by laying the skin in a pan and baking it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. It came out crisp and most of the fat was rendered; I broke it into little pieces as garnish for the chicken (that's one of the pieces at the top of the dish, bathed in evening sunlight) and added some chopped green onion for color. The cracklings made a nice texture surprise in an otherwise soft dish.

My other deviation from the recipe was to use two slices of chopped bacon instead of pancetta (didn't have any pancetta on hand), so I omitted the butter and, even then, I took out several tablespoons of rendered fat before sauteeing the aromatics and adding the cream. It's still a very rich dish, even with the wine added to deglaze the pan.

It's a lovely Alsatian variation on the chicken-and-wine theme; My Beloved remarked on how good the house smelled while it was cooking as well as how delicious it tasted. Big success!

Coq au Riesling

1/2 cup chopped sweet onion (I used more)
1-2 cloves garlic (next time, I'd use more)
6 mushrooms, sliced thickly (next time, I'd use more)
1 oz. pancetta (I substituted 2 rashers of bacon, chopped)
2 Tbs. butter (I omitted this and still had to remove some of the rendered fat)
4-6 chicken thighs, or mixed parts (I used all thighs)
Salt, Pepper to taste
1/2 cup good-quality Riesling
1/4 cup heavy cream
Nutmeg to taste (grated)

Melt the butter (or saute' the bacon) over medium-high heat in a large skillet until it renders its fat and browns. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, browning well on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side, and remove them to a warm plate. Remove the skin if you wish to save a few calories; it won't be crunchy in this procedure (this is the point at which I baked it to make cracklings).

In the butter (or bacon fat - remember to remove most of the fat if you use bacon) and chicken fat remaining in the skillet, cook the chopped onion and minced garlic until translucent and aromatic, add the mushrooms and saute' until soft. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom. Return the chicken to the pan with any accumulated juices, then pour in the cream. Bring back to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover, increase heat to medium low so the sauce bubbles gently, and cook for a few more minutes until it reduces and thickens a little.. Grate a bit of nutmeg, check seasonings and serve. I served over noodles and we had a glass of the leftover Riesling with dinner.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cute Zukes

Sadly, my homegrown zucchinis are not doing very well. I'm not sure if they are not getting enough sun or enough bat poop or enough TLC but, whatever the reason, they only give me one or two small zucchinis every now and then, so I had to resort to store bought ones. At least finding these rolypoly little round ones softened the zucchini disappointment a bit.

Having a little leftover rice (you know, the kind you make by sauteeing onion, then the rice grains, and substituting chicken broth for the water) I decided to try stuffing them with some doctored up rice mixture, a riff on Bea's idea of a couple of weeks ago. I sauteed a large minced shallot and half a rib of minced celery with some of the chopped zucchini flesh that I scooped out with a teaspoon, added about a cup of the rice to heat it and, off the heat, mixed in a heaping tablespoon of creme fraiche before filling the shells and replacing the tops.

Before baking them in a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, I added about 1/4 cup of water to the pan. They were tasty and pretty. Another time, I might use cheese or yogurt with a little more zing but, all in all, we loved the cuteness and the fresh flavors.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Am I the Last?

Am I the last person in the Bay area to discover that, in addition to their delicious artisan-shaped breads, Acme also makes loaves of lovely bread? Where have I been all these years?

Anyway, in the past two weeks I have tried two of their loaf-shaped offerings, this Whole Wheat Seed bread and their Herb Loaf, which tastes like the herb slab they make, only taller.

The wheat bread is really nice, firm and full of wheaty goodness, not as dense and hearty as my own wheat bread, but that's a good thing! This bread has the lighter texture I was looking for without being wimpy. The herb loaf is studded with little flecks of herbs, a nice change from standard sandwich bread and toast.

I'm one of those people who is always out of the loop, but I finally get the picture!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Crinkle Cutter

When I posted about the French fries I made with Cousin J-Yah's crinkle cutter, some of you expressed an interest in what it looks like.

Here it is.

This picture doesn't show the heavy plastic cover for the very sharp blade! It's really just a wavy-edged cleaver with the handle on the top. It has significant weight and cuts through most veggies without effort. I use it carefully as I think it would make wavy-edged cuts on fingers just as easily!

I have used it mostly for shaping veggies more interestingly but it also makes unique butter pats and slices of ice cream. So far.

It is manufactured by Pampered Chef and you can find one here but Cousin J-Yah found mine for half that price at a garage sale.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Old Faithful

We are not good farmers. We forget to water. We neglect to fertilize. We leave our fruit trees to struggle against wind, weather and insects down on the lower forty, all by themselves. Still they reward us, year after year, with unexpected produce. A case in point, the lemon tree.

The poor little thing is sickly,
with yellowed leaves and straggly branches, competing for light with an overgrown but gorgeous flowering crab that delights us each spring with rose-colored buds and lavish white flowers. I may have hammered one of those food spikes into the ground on the steep hillside above the lemon tree 12 years ago when we moved into this house and I was seized pride of homeownership, but that's the last help I ever gave it. Yet it continues to produce lemons, not very many but really good, tart ones, every year. They always look like this, sort of scarred and weary, when I remember to scramble down the steep incline to pick them, which isn't often. Sometimes, they ripen and fling themselves down the hill into the street below in a desperate bid for attention from passing joggers.

We are not good stewards of our tiny plot of land - we don't deserve the faithful service the lemon tree gives us, but we are grateful.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Peppery Love

My Beloved loves steak. He also loves pepper. It stands to reason that he'd really love Steak au Poivre and, every now and then, I make this favorite dish to insure his continued regard. had an easy and delicious-sounding recipe for Steak au Poivre with balsamic reduction so I started with that but I happened also to read some of the reviews and got another good idea from one of those.

Using two good-sized ribeye steaks (I like mine medium-rare while he likes his still to have a blood pressure), I patted them dry and loaded them up with freshly cracked black peppercorns and sprinkled them with just a little salt. A heavy skillet works best; I melted a little butter and oil until they were hot but not smoking, cooking the room-temperature steaks for about two-three minutes per side, then removed them to a platter to rest while I added a minced shallot and garlic to the pan. Once the aromatics had cooked just briefly, I added 1/4 cup of good balsamic vinegar and cooked them all together until the vinegar was reduced by about half.

The steak was sliced, the reduction was poured and the man took a bite, closed his eyes and savored in stunned silence for a moment, then turned to me with love in his eyes and said, "Wow, great steak!"

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Med Veg

Because I had successfully harvested my first three zucchinis before they became baseball bats, despite being away on vacation for a good part of the last three weeks, I tried to think of a way to cook them that would enhance their innocent flavor.

I also had a single ripe tomato from my Early Girl plant, which got me thinking "Mediterranean" and that led me to the half bulb of fennel that was lurking in the vegetable drawer, which reminded me of a jar of nice McEvoy Ranch Tuscan table olives full of briny goodness, and that seemed to call for herbes de Provence.

Somehow, sauteeing didn't seem right and grilling wasn't quite it, nor did I want to add water and steam them - then, finally, I remembered that I had seen veggies roasted in parchment paper using just a little olive oil or butter to add richness - perfect!

Having sliced the veggies thinly, seeded the olives and quartered the tomato, I whipped out my seldom-used parchment paper, made little packets of the mixed veggies and herbs,
dotted the top with butter, folding the paper over and tucking it in as my Mom used to do with the waxed paper for our lunchbox sandwiches, and slid them on a cookie sheet into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. The result was simply heavenly, a savory-sweet mixture that made the most of all the veggies in the packet.

I'd make this again for guests - it was that good! It would be easy to make up ahead and pop into the oven 10 or 15 minutes before serving. Each guest would get her/his own packet, which was fun to open, a little like a mysterious present, even for me who knew exactly what went into each one! They'd make a nice vegetarian lunch (even vegan if you went for the olive oil) and are a terrific side dish for dinner.

And all that from three little zucchinis, dark green and shiny, with a Mediterranean twist.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Something Different

Today, instead of the usual food stuff, you get a visual treat of a different sort. I don't have a picture to go with this post but if you follow this link you will find one of the most smile-producing videos it has ever been my pleasure to watch. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did when my friend the Evil Empress sent it to me.

You may have to update your Flash, but it's worth the effort. Trust me. And, I recommend clicking the button that expands it to fill your screen.

Happy dancing!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jamie's Fans

We are Jamie Oliver fans - even My Beloved will watch his show on the food channel with evident pleasure and we have set the VCR to record "Jamie at Home" so we won't miss a single show. We like his insouciant attitude toward cooking while he produces dishes that make our mouths water and wish for smellivision.

On a recent program about peas and broad beans, he made a spaghetti sauce using the contents of Italian sausages squeezed out of their casings for the meatballs and sprinkled the top of the finished dish with fresh, raw green peas, a brilliant (Jamie's favorite word) idea to give lively flavor and crunch to the dish.

When I made it a few days later, I added some homegrown Swiss chard to the sauce, which was a nice addition, but I didn't have any fresh peas on hand. I did have a small handful of snappingly fresh tiny green beans from my garden, so I cut them up and sprinkled them on top. They added color, crunch and a wonderful fresh greenness to the dish, confirming our admiration for Mr. Oliver's ideas.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Mocha Shake

On a recent Sunday brunch outing with our pal Sari, we drove to Point Reyes Station, a fun and funky little town in west Marin, to enjoy the Station House Cafe's version. The day was brightly sunny, the drive out is lovely and the food was tasty, especially this mocha milk shake.

Frequent Zoomie Station readers will know that I adore mocha and am usually on the lookout for mocha anything. I hit the jackpot on this occasion - a friendly and funny waitress who brought an espresso shake drizzled down the inside of the glass with chocolate syrup.

You can sell my clothes, I died and went to heaven.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Drunk Chicken

Having half of a Marin Sun Farms chicken in the freezer is inspirational - I can spend the whole day while it is thawing thinking about what I might do with it.

This time, I remembered an old, old recipe that I came up with 'way back when God was a child. Drunk Chicken. It's easy and quick and always good although the "recipe" varies a bit.

I cut up the chicken in serving size pieces, brown it thoroughly in a pan, then add slivered onions, mushrooms, a can of squished tomatoes (if they don't come squished, I squish them with my hands) and the juice from the can, whatever herbs I'm in the mood for, usually thyme, a bay leaf and wine of any kind. This night, I added the last cup of a nice but unremarkable red wine we had tried for dinner a few nights before.

While all that stews together for about 20 minutes, I cook pasta or rice and prepare the veg. It all goes together in about half an hour and it always goes down easily, especially if you serve the rest of the wine alongside.


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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Smoked California

From my kitchen window, I normally have a nice view of Mt. Tamalpais, one of the highest peaks in the Bay area and a beautifully symmetrical counterpoint.

We returned from Michigan, however, to find that the smoke from all the wildfires in northern California had all but obscured Mt. Tam. That hazy blue-gray triangle in the picture is about all we can see now. Can't help but worry about people with respiratory diseases and the poor firefighters who have been battling these blazes for weeks and weeks. In other parts of the country, they could count on rain in a few days to help the firefighters but we normally don't have rain from late March through late October. Usually, that means you can plan a summer outdoor wedding without fear but this year the brides would all have sooty dresses. We are hoping for the return of our blessed fog, which sweeps away the smoke as it rolls inland on a westerly breeze.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Up North Produce

Up North in Michigan is a year-round playground. The winter offers good skiing and snowmobiling as it receives copious snow off Lake Michigan. The fall brings the hunters up in droves looking for Bambi and birds. Dotted with lovely lakes, in the summer it's great for fishing, boating and kayaking, not to mention golf.

When we went for provisions at the local fruit stand, where you can buy anything from local Michigan cherries to bird houses to peanut brittle, we were amused by this enormous bin of golf balls for sale by the pound.

Playful produce.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Smoked Michigan, Part Two

Here's another smoked item that we enjoyed on our trip to "Up North" Michigan. One day, we drove into Charlevoix to buy some of Murdick's famous fudge and for a little upscale shopping, and chanced into a delightful little pub-style restaurant, Whitney's Oyster Bar on Bridge Street. Everything the four of us ate there was delicious but the standout was this smoked lake whitefish pate'.

Served with capers and lemon, the delicate whitefish was lightly smoked and not quite pureed, mixed with minced red pepper and presented with saltine crackers. The serving was more than enough for lunch although it was billed as an appetizer and we shared it around the table to universal murmurs of approval.

It gave me all kinds of ideas for fish pate' - like smoked halibut pate' or smoked salmon pate' - fish we can find here on the Left Coast. I might even try smoking petrale sole and making pate'. Have any of you done this? Any words of warning or encouragement are welcome!

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Smoked Michigan

In true Fourth of July fashion, we were invited to a barbecue - this time, in an exceptional show of Up North hospitality, by two people who had never met us before, friends of our Michigan hosts.

The couple live on lovely Manistee Lake in northern Michigan. The lady of the house welcomed us warmly, introduced us to the collection of family and friends, and showed us an incredible spread of nibbles, salads and desserts. The husband, pictured here with his contribution to a memorable meal, is a great guy and a marvelous cook of meaty ribs and, best of all, smoked brisket.

He proudly gave me a tour of his smoker when I drooled over his handiwork and generously shared his recipe for moist, deeply smoky brisket.

He bakes the brisket in a slow oven in, of all things, classic Coke or Pepsi for several hours before putting the whole pan into his smoker with charcoal under the pan and apple wood in the smoker which, in his barbecue, is attached off to one side. The cola simmers and evaporates and turns into a sweet, syrupy consistency which keeps the meat moist. Then the charcoal and applewood have their turn and, after a couple of more hours, the result is truly out of this world. He trims the excess fat as he carves the now-tender meat and the guests stand around snatching bits off the brisket before he can even get it on the plates.

Smokin' Michigan hospitality at its best!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Glorious Gmish

I love curry. I love everything about curry - the tangy sauce, the fluffy rice and the sprinkle of sweet, salt and savory toppings. I would eat curry weekly if My Beloved didn't put the brakes on.

Recently, I had some leftover chicken, which always gets me thinking "Curry!" but I had neglected to restock my pantry with cream of chicken soup, my usual base for the sauce. (I learned to cook in the early '70s when most dishes began with a can of soup and have never found any reason to change this particular recipe, as it makes great curry.) I didn't feel like a return to the store and my taste buds were all set for curry so I decided to improvise.

Turns out curry sauce is dead simple to concoct. I sauteed a chopped onion in butter, then made a basic white sauce* in the same pan and added curry powder to taste. We like our curry deep yellow but not too spicy - different curry powders have different levels of heat so start with a little and keep tasting as you add more until you get the desired level of taste vs. spice. Add bite-size pieces of chicken, shrimp, lamb, beef - any meat you like - and vegetarians can use big beans, mushrooms or chunks of tofu in place of the meat.

We topped ours with raisins, peanuts, mango chutney, crumbled bacon, chopped hard boiled egg, sliced green onion and minced white onion. Other ideas are shredded coconut or fresh, finely ground coffee beans but, really, you can use anything that seems tasty and exotic to you. Just pile it all on, mix it all up and enjoy the glorious gmish!

*2 Tbs. butter, 2 Tbs. flour, 2 Cups milk. Melt the butter, cook the flour in it for a few minutes, then slowly add the milk as the sauce forms and thickens. Add more milk if needed until sauce reaches the desired consistency.


Monday, July 7, 2008

The Honeymoon is Over

This is our anniversary. Not our wedding anniversary, our blog anniversary. I've been posting stories about our life for a year today.

Thought you might like to see who you've been talking to all these months.

Zoomie on the left, My Beloved on the right. In the airport in Brussels, Belgium a few years ago. Doesn't he have beautiful blue eyes?

So, our blog honeymoon is over and our blog life is just beginning. Thanks for all the presents you gave us in the form of your comments, recipes and links to your own lives.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Experimental Dessert

So, what do you do with leftover, stale lady fingers (that got shoved to the back of the counter and just showed up again this morning) plus half a carton of whipping cream that has been lurking in the back of the fridge?

You can tell I don't like to waste food, not even several-day-old lady fingers.

I love mocha anything - I'd eat rocks if they tasted of mocha - so my idea was to concoct a dessert that incorporated coffee, chocolate, whipped cream and lady fingers.

I brewed some very strong coffee, dipped the lady fingers in it, spread them with whipped cream, topped them with another lady finger and another layer of cream, then drizzled them with chocolate sauce (good old Hershey's) and stuck them in the fridge to chill.

The verdict? Well, meh.

The lady fingers turned instantly soggy in the coffee. The whipped cream needed a little something - maybe espresso powder or vanilla sugar or...?

Next time, I think I'd try painting the lady fingers with Kahlua and flavoring the whipped cream. I'd keep the chocolate - it was the best part.

Back to the drawing boards!

Any suggestions?

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hot Onions

Hot Onions. Sounds like a great name for a '70s rock group, doesn't it?

While I had the oil hot for making my Belgian frites, I decided to fry some onions for the burgers while I was at it. They came out nicely brown and had that strong onion taste that comes from cooking them with high heat, but they didn't caramelize and they don't turn sweet when this much heat is applied. Now I know why onion rings always have that thick breading around them - to protect the onion from the high heat of frying and keep it sweet.

Over all, I don't think I'd do this again. I like slow-cooked onions more than these hot ones. So, if you have a rock group you've been looking to name, Hot Onions is still up for grabs.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July! Why are you indoors reading this rather than out celebrating our birthday with whatever picnic, barbecue, friend or family party you enjoy? Go on out and have fun!

I'll be in far northern Michigan where it doesn't get dark enough for fireworks until well after 10pm, celebrating with three of the most patriotic people I know.

That doesn't mean they subscribe to "America, Right or Wrong!" It means they subscribe to "America, Right the Wrongs!"

America isn't perfect yet and although we are still well ahead of most other countries it does help to remember that tomorrow we'll need to be back at work trying to improve those areas where we are yet lacking - like good, affordable schools and health care for everyone, peace at long, long last, and equality, true equality for all our citizens.

Happy Fourth of July! Now, let's get to work!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dirty Word

In my mother's food lexicon, there was one dirty word.


She never fried anything that I can recall, not even an egg. She might saute' something in butter, but fry in hot oil? No, indeed! She saw frying as the royal road to a fat family, an idea that horrified her. As a result, we never had potato chips or fried chicken or any of those fatty foods while she was the cook.

So, when I decided to exercise my new crinkle cutter, a garage sale bargain given scouted out by cousin J-Yah, I did so with a certain amount of trepidation and guilt.
Trepidation because this is a skill I didn't learn at my mother's elbow and guilt because, you know, she's watching from heaven.

Turns out, it's pretty easy. I used a heavy iron skillet and about half an inch of canola oil, set it over a medium-high burner and, when it was hot enough to make a scrap of potato sizzle, I put in my crinkle-cut red potato pieces and let 'er rip.

I was hoping to approximate the fries we so enjoyed in Belgium so I fried them twice, once to soften the potatoes and, after cooling them, once again to crisp the outside. As they came out of the second frying, I salted them lightly and served them with - what else? - burgers. They weren't Belgian but they were darn good, nicely crispy and browned.

Frying may be a naughty word but, damn, it's good!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Upper-Body Workout

I have friends who swear by Pilates, others who frequent Yoga salons, some who swear by going to the gym and still others who wouldn't miss their sessions with their personal trainers.

I'm a little more low-key in my exercise regimen, relying mostly on walking up and down the steep hills of our little town for an hour or so each morning, but while it's great cardio-pulmonary exercise and is slowly shrinking my derriere, it doesn't do much for the upper body, so I was delighted when East Bay Municipal Utility District came up with a new exercise to help their customers get in shape.

We have been catching the water that falls into our shower stall as the water heats and lugging it all over the house and garden to put to other uses. Our bucket is a five-gallon beauty from some big box hardware store. Because water weighs approximately 8 pounds per gallon, we are lifting about 30 pounds (we don't fill it to the top) each time we heft a bucket of water for the garden or the dishes. Isn't that great? Instead of pumping iron, we are pumping water. Who knew that EBMUD was so into the fitness craze? The bonus is that it saves water in this dry year, too. Isn't that handy?

Next time you see us, I will be ripped and My Beloved will be buffed - ready for the summer beachwear!

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

President Reagan's Legacy

As Americans, we have a rich heritage. We have enjoyed unprecedented liberty in the way we think, and speak, and write. We have fought against tyranny and racial prejudice. We have fought for equality and freedom. We have had a glorious history and great presidents.

And none greater, today, than dear Ronnie. Know why? He declared back in 1984 that July was forever after to be known as National Ice Cream Month.

God bless him, he slept through many a crisis, gave us empty-headed slogans like, "Just Say No," and seemed to think that looking good was better than being good, but he was a guy who really appreciated ice cream, or at least the ice cream lobby.

Not only is July National Ice Cream Month, it's also the month in which National Ice Cream Day is celebrated. This year, it will fall on Sunday, July 20th. So, you have just under three weeks to get your recipes out, your ice cream makers tuned up and your cones readied for the Big Day.

I love this portrait of Reagan done in jelly beans. How appropriate!