Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quark Wars, Episode One: The Battle Is Joined

Intrigued by the idea that I could make cheese at home, I've been thinking about and researching on the interweb to find recipes.

I read about requeson at The Wednesday Chef. I looked at several brief descriptions from Googled articles. I even scanned a story from a 4th grader who was successful at making cheese for her classmates. It sounded so easy - heat milk, add acid, strain the curds - what could be simpler?

Little did I know that it would use too many of the pots in my kitchen arsenal and all my strainers, more productive of major frustration than of tasty cheese, not a good thing when one is stuck indoors in a three-day rainstorm with a sick Beloved, a leaking roof and an energetic young dog.

And here's the pathetic yield from my first attempt, a tiny bowl of very bland curds about the consistency of hummus. What you can't see is the nearly half gallon of milk in the pot below that didn't curdle.

Back to the drawing boards!


Friday, February 27, 2009

Rice, It's Not Just For Dinner Any More

My Mom, being the good mother that she was, sometimes got up early to make us hot cereal for breakfast before packing us off to school. It wasn't her fault that those hot cereals triggered a strong gag reflex in me.

I'm not sure why, as the flavors are mild and mostly inoffensive, but I simply can't face most hot cereals, even when loaded with butter and brown sugar. Oatmeal seems positively slimy, Wheatena has that weird husk thing going on and Cream of Wheat - well, let's just not go there. Mom even tried pouring hot milk over Grape Nuts - gag me with a spoon!

I'm perfectly okay with cold cereals and I'm especially fond of the crispy ones, but hot cereal - uh, no.

Until on the joyous blog, Gluten Free Girl, I read that Shauna's friend, Sharon Anne Jensen, likes hot rice for breakfast. Rice? For breakfast? Well, I guess it is a cereal...okay, gotta try it!

So, I bought a bag of that incredible Massa brown rice at the farmer's market one day and cooked it up for dinner, leaving enough to try for breakfast the next morning. Sharon suggested treating it like oatmeal, adding a little warm milk and brown sugar or raisins or fresh fruit, but I thought I'd try it first just plain, with a little butter, as my Mom used to serve those other unmentionables.

Success the first try! The rice has a great nutty flavor, the butter added just enough richness, and there was no slime anywhere. I may even work up the courage to try the milk-and-brown-sugar routine tomorrow. At last, a hot cereal for those of us who hate hot cereals.

Thanks, Sharon and Shauna!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

We Knew Her When...

We knew her when she was a shy and coltish college student just learning about independence. We watched her fondly when she was trying out her summer jobs at Whole Foods and her brother's restaurant. We cheered when she landed her first publishing job. We followed her when she started writing Orangette and made us laugh and cry with her lovely stories. We danced at her wedding when Orangette brought her the man of her dreams. We were thrilled when she landed a gig with Bon Appetit magazine for a monthly column.

And we are so freaking proud of her now when her first book, A Homemade Life, Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table is being published and she's having her first readings and book signings!

My Beloved has known her all her life; she is his niece. I've only had the pleasure of knowing her since she was a teenager. It has been a kick for us both to see her blossom.

You can all hear her talk about A Homemade Life and ask her to sign your copy next month when Molly Wizenberg comes to the Book Passage store* in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Mark the date, Wednesday, March 11th, 6:00pm.

My Beloved and I will be there bragging to everyone that we knew her when.

*Book Passage is an excellent independent bookstore; while you can buy Molly's book in many places, don't miss a chance to support independent booksellers. They are a vanishing breed and we need them.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Morgan, Avert Your Eyes

DancingMorganMouse, I apologize for yet another poached egg picture but I couldn't resist bragging on my Swiss chard, which is still charding despite being temporarily overwhelmed by the weeds in my garden.

During our brief dry spell, I offed the weeds and discovered the chard underneath, still valiantly producing delicious leaves without any assistance or fertilizer from me. I plucked a few of the biggest ones to poach briefly in the same water as the egg (I'm still on a water-saving kick, you see) and to nestle up against my corned-beef-hash-with-nasty-poached-egg dinner.

So, please forgive the eggs and just shade your eyes from the upper portion of this photo.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter Confetti

Here's the corned beef hash I made with the leftovers from the Irish dinner and the roasty toasty veggies. It made a colorful jumble on the plate and a nice change from simple spuds and corned beef. Onions and kabocha squash and potatoes and yams - this is rib-sticking food to get you through a rainy spell or a nasty cold, or both, as has been our fate just recently. I owe our improved outlook to the colorful confetti on our plates.

If I wasn't so worried about offending a certain Australian brown mouse, I'd show you the picture I took once I topped it with poached eggs.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Early Irish

I'm half Irish, although I didn't learn that until I was well into my teens. Because our mother was descended from folks who arrived on the Juneflower (perhaps not quite as early as those on the Mayflower but soon after), growing up we always heard a lot about her family tree. When we'd ask Dad about his ancestors, he'd just grin and say, "After they hung all the horse thieves and murderers, we've been a very pure line since then."

It was only when my Dad's mother, a wonderful little lady who told me stories of riding a camel to the Pyramids and following her husband's fleet clear around the world, came to live with us that I learned that we were Irish.

I was a convert and converts are the fiercest believers. I went through a phase where most of my foods were prepared from Irish cookbooks and I was defiantly proud of the peasant half of my heritage. I've calmed down a bit since then but I still love watching movies about Ireland (or at least Hollywood's vision of Ireland) and I still enjoy the occasional dinner of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes.

Having tried several times to cook the cabbage in the corned beef water and ended up with a soggy mess, I have lately gone to lightly sauteeing the shredded cabbage in bacon fat, then laying it alongside my corned beef. The spuds were simply cut into spears and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper until tender. It may not be an authentically Irish preparation but it satisfies both the finicky WASP and the earthy peasant in me.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Roasty Toasty

You may have heard that here in northern California we are short on water. There have been dire warnings of water rationing each evening on the news and we fear the fires that come in the summer after too-dry years. We watch anxiously the measuring of the Sierra snowpack and wonder if we'll be collecting shower water again for our gardens this summer. Conversations with neighbors tend to drift to the amount of water each flush or car wash uses and how to reduce it.

Well, you could have fooled me!

After weeks of unrelenting heavy rain when nary a shadow could be seen on the ground through the heavy cloud cover, and the dog and I both have muddy paws when we come in, it would seem that our water situation must have at least been slightly improved. The Powers That Be have not relented in their harangue about water levels, however, so I decided it was time to declare officially in my kitchen that water rationing is in effect.

This batch of roasted vegetables is my first offering to the rain gods. It's all warming and tasty and toasty, good for what ails you, especially on a rainy day. All you do is cut up winter-type veggies in roughly same-size pieces, toss them in some good olive oil, drizzle them to taste with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle them with Garam masala before roasting them in a 350-400 degree oven until they are tender, roughly 40 minutes. I used unpeeled kabocha squash, red yam and russet potato, all cut in slivers. To those, I added a white onion, sliced lengthwise through the root end to keep the spears together and a full head of garlic, sliced across the top to expose the cloves. The roasting softens the skins to delicious edibility and the flavors mingle nicely in the oven.

Best of all, it uses not a drop of precious water to deliver its roasty toasty flavors.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Valentine Waffles

My Beloved spoils me. It's true. He makes a big deal out of my birthday every year and, in between, finds hundreds of other ways to show his affection. I know just how lucky I am.

He started my birthday this year with heart-shaped waffles, complete with Bisquick and real maple syrup.

He learned how to make waffles while his daughters were still little girls; they are grownups now, but he still likes to make waffles every now and then and remember how his tiny Katie would put away many more waffles at a sitting than his bigger girl, Sarah.

This waffle iron, one of three that I own, was a gift years ago from my friend Wenirs, who couldn't resist the lure of heart-shaped waffles - she comes from a long line of wafflers, too, and her sour cream waffles are to die for. She makes them for us when we visit her in Michigan.

When I was growing up, my mother made waffles from scratch while we were at church with my Dad. He'd shush us when we got restless, put what seemed to us to be enormous donations in the offering basket and, even when we were very small children, let us drive home steering while seated on his lap as he worked the clutch and gas pedals. I think it was his way of giving Mom a morning off, as we all got to take turns behind the wheel if we had been good in church and that took some time.

Mom also made waffles, very occasionally, when she was sick to death of cooking and couldn't face the stove. Then, she'd put pieces of bacon in the waffle batter and call it a meal. Needless to say, this was one of our all-time favorites, generally served when Dad was out to sea.

Our syrup came in a little tin can shaped like a log cabin; when I moved to Western New York, however, I learned the joy of real maple syrup and have never looked back. It's a pricey luxury but one for which I am more than willing to pay.

When I eat waffles these days, all these little associations come back with each sweet, sticky bite. They all make waffles for a birthday breakfast one of the very best ways to spoil a girl. Husbands, lovers and significant others, take note!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Fish and Fudge

When Cousin J-Yah comes down from Petaluma to visit, I never know what goodies she will bring with her. Sometimes, it's kitchen magic, other times it's a mystery, but it's always slightly surprising.

Last week, in honor of my Social Security birthday (62 - I'm not waiting, in case they run out!), she brought me fish and fudge. See what I mean?

Here's one of the pieces of fish, a lovely mild snapper that she purchased from her "fish man," to date a mystery figure. I've gotta meet this guy, however, as he has wonderfully fresh fish.

I prepared it simply by brushing it on both sides with olive oil and broiling it on one side only, 6-8 inches from the broiler until done, just about five minutes, then brushed with a butter melted with lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano and pepper to taste. I broiled a fresh tomato at the same time, drizzled with some olive oil and brushed with the same butter once it came out. Delicious. Scrumptious, in fact. But, next time, I'd try broiling the butter, too, as I think the nutty flavor of the cooked butter might have been even better.

J-Yah also brought us a nice big piece of salmon; stay tuned. And I'm thinking about what to do with the fudge, too.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009


If you are a frequent Zoomie Station reader, you know that I'd probably eat rocks if they were mocha-flavored. Luckily, My Beloved went shopping and he came home with brownies rather than rocks.

Brownie Bites from Just Desserts, halved and filled with coffee ice cream from Haagen-Dasz. It might have been better had I baked my own brownies, but for a quick and easy dessert, this can hardly be topped.

Except, perhaps, with a little whipped cream. Dang, why didn't I think of that? Oh, well...



Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Ever Happened to Trish Olson?

Trish Olson was the wife of a high school friend of First Husband's, a beautiful blonde "stewardess" who gave me the recipe for these pork chops more than 35 years ago when we were both young brides and flight attendants were still called stewardesses. The friendship didn't flourish and we later heard that the Olsons had divorced, but the pork chops live on, albeit in somewhat changed form.

The original recipe calls for an onion slice, a lemon slice and brown sugar to top the pork chops; over the years, I've tried several combinations of citrus, onion and catsup. The catsup remains the constant but the other things can change, depending on what I have in the house and I usually leave out the brown sugar these days. Then, just slide the foil-covered pan into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes for thick cut chops, uncovering and basting for the last 15 minutes or so. It's pretty simple and the flavor is not sophisticated
, like so many recipes from that era, but it is tasty.

It's easy to make, a bonus for a young married woman with a job and a new husband to impress. It was the height of "Women's Lib" when we were told we should "Bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you're a man!" and a little dab of Enjoli perfume would take care of the latter part of that promise. Turns out that pork chops beat perfume for pleasing a man, in my experience.

What ever happened to Trish Olson? And Enjoli?


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Good Goo

Okay, so, risotto. I've always wondered, what's the appeal? A bowl of gooey rice studded with bits of this and that? Hmmm, I'm from Missouri.

Being a risotto skeptic (though not actually a Missourian), I had never eaten it before, never been tempted to try it in a restaurant as there were always yummier-sounding options on the menu and certainly never been tempted to make it at home, what with all the ladling and stirring described in the recipes.

Just goes to show how wrong I can be.

On a whim, I made risotto for the first time last night and it was not only laughably easy but quite, quite delicious as well. From the various recipes I read, it looked as if you just start with aromatics, rice and wine, and the rest is up to you. So, to the minced garlic and chopped onion that I sizzled in a heavy, large pot in a little olive oil and butter combo, I added a measure of my homemade duxelles before adding a cup of rice for a few minutes of cooking, then about half a cup of white wine.

When the wine was absorbed, I started ladling in the hot chicken stock by half cups until all five cups (to one small cup of rice!) were absorbed, stirring more or less continuously. It sounds far more tedious than it is - in a way, it's nicely contemplative - and it only took about 20 minutes. At the end, I added a big handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and, for just a minute or two, the frozen peas and chopped leftover chicken to warm the meat and gently cook the peas.

That's all there was to it! At the table, with the candles lit and the rest of the bottle of wine at his elbow, My Beloved and I added a bit more cheese to the goo in our bowls, marveling at the creamy texture and rich taste that just a few ingredients, patiently combined, can produce.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Rub Conversion

I've been slow to jump on the rub bandwagon, generally preferring the fresh flavors of foods to dominate and not usually being a lighthouse customer, but a few months ago Sam and Naomi gifted me with a bottle of Penzey's Northwoods Fire seasoning and last night I was looking for something a little novel to do with my fresh Coho salmon.

I searched and found an interesting-sounding recipe for Salmon Steak with Orange-Balsamic Glaze (did I mention that I had two oranges left from the ones Cookiecrumb and Cranky gave me?) but the comments were just so-so. Then, I had the idea of first rubbing the salmon with the Northwoods Fire before marinating it as described in the recipe. Oh, baby, was this ever a hit! The Northwoods Fire gave it a little heat, the marinade mellowed and sweetened the blaze, and the grill did the rest. Served with some bright green broccoli and, yes, those are baked potato chips you see on the plate (not homemade), it was a major feast.

Reluctantly Rubbed Salmon

I used a fillet of salmon rather than a steak and it worked fine.

1 nice piece of wild Coho salmon, either steak or fillet
Penzey's Northwoods Fire Seasoning* to taste - I used a light rub, just enough to cover all sides.
1/4 cup orange juice and the zest from the orange
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh rosemary (use less of the dried kind)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable cooking spray

Rub the salmon on both sides (mine had the skin still on) with the Northwoods Fire. Let it stand while you combine all the other ingredients except the cooking spray in a zip top plastic baggie or a pan. Add the salmon and smoosh it around until all sides are in contact with the marinade.

The original recipe calls for marinating an hour in the fridge but I'm impatient and my salmon was nicely fresh so I just left it on the counter for about 15-20 minutes while I set the table, fed the dog and heated the Jenn-Air grill (I'm sure a grill pan would work great, too) and sprayed it with the cooking spray.

Remove the salmon from the marinade, drain it briefly and slap it on the hot grill, skin side down first. Cook for about five minutes, then flip and the skin should peel right off in a single sheet. You can discard it or save it for 'cracklings.' Continue grilling to desired doneness; one nice thing about a fillet is that one side is thicker than the other so I can give My Beloved his favored seared-on-the-outside-rare-on-the-inside piece at the same time as I get my cooked-through-but-still-moist portion.

This dish was so delicious that I'll be rubbing all kinds of meats from now on! That sounds vaguely naughty, doesn't it? Oh, well, converts are always the most intense believers, aren't they?

*The Northwoods Fire is a blend of paprika and hotter peppers, salt, yadda, so you could approximate it if you prefer, but I'd recommend just getting this lovely stuff from Penzey's.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

That J-Yah!

Look what I got for my birthday!

Cousin J-Yah bought me these fun earrings when we were at the CIA for lunch a week or so ago. I had admired them before and was surprised to see they were still in bookstore when I returned.

They are a hoot! They look like sophisticated silver dangles until you look closely - then the chuckles begin.

That J-Yah, she's the best! Thanks, Cous!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

True Love

Well, why the heck not?

Heart-shaped pizza for your Valentine from Malnati's in Chicago. They ship anywhere, maybe even to the White House, these days.

My Beloved and I learned about Malnati's deep dish pizzas on a TV program about olives, so we ordered one of the heart-shaped ones to celebrate my birthday this year. Then we got carried away and ordered another for our SIL, Rachel, who went to school in Chi and returns there frequently to visit friends.

Rachel loves pizza, so now it will love her back. Perfect! She lives in Hawaii - I hope the cheesecake holds up in the heat.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Woodchuck and Groundhog

My Beloved's mother called this Woodchuck, because she made it in a sort of free-form loaf shape that resembled nothing so much as a baked woodchuck. Cookiecrumb would call it Groundhog, 'cause she's so clever. Actually, it's both, a meat loaf made with both grass fed ground round beef and mild Italian pork sausage (ground hog, get it?).

I use roughly equal portions of the two meats, plus sauteed chopped celery and onion, minced garlic and bread torn in bits. I add an egg and a splash of milk and moosh all that together until it's fairly evenly distributed, then mound it into a baking pan and bake it for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees, until the uneven top is almost crispy in spots but the interior is still moist.

My friend Annie calls this Meat Lump. No matter what you call it, it makes My Beloved smile when he comes home to dinner that features Woodchuck and Groundhog.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Poetic Justice

When we were children, my siblings and I were not shy about expressing our distaste for some of the foods our mother served. In point of fact, we were total brats. Looking back, I am ashamed of the nose holdings, the groans, the grotesque faces and the retching noises we made when presented with rutabaga, spinach or - heaven forbid! - kale. "Eeeuw, kale! I won't eat that junk!"

Now that I'm the cook and I know how sensitive I am to criticism, I'm a little surprised she didn't slap us upside the head or rush from the table in tears when we exhibited such incredibly boorish behavior. Instead, she just made us eat Every.Single.Bite. Poetic justice, I suppose.

Fast forward to my new resolve to try one new thing each time I go to the grocery store. As I was bopping down the veggie aisle, what should I spy but a nice, healthy bunch of organic lacinato kale. Even as I was mentally making those same retching noises, I was thinking, "Yeah, but you haven't tried it in 50 years; why not give it a whirl?"

So, here it is, simply rinsed, coarsely chopped and sauteed in bacon fat with a leftover slice of bacon crumbled in amongst the dark green leaves. Next time, I'd remove most of the unpleasantly fibrous stems but it was good. Seriously good. Surprisingly good. So good that I'm mentally apologizing to Our Mother Who Art In Heaven for all those disgusting noises and crass comments.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Report Card

The gradual improvement of fitness is not always easy to chart especially if, like me, you are unwilling to take your pulse every few minutes or use exercise machines that count calories for you. The former is just too, too Type A for me (I think I'm a Type C-) and the latter results in boredom and discontinuance.

Ever since I retired, however, I've been enjoying walking up and down the fairly steep hills of my little town (or
more recently being towed by an eager young canine) and the only measure I really had of my progress came with the slow disintegration of my walking shoes and the even slower increase in my range. The range improved dramatically with Cora's advent, but I must admit that I am not always grateful.

I do have my own personal fitness gauge, however, in the form of the highest local hill, Nicholl Knob. I think of this particular spot on the Crest Trail as my own personal StairMaster, a hill I have never been able to climb without stopping to gasp for breath at least three times before reaching the splendid panorama of the Bay that is the reward for all that sweaty effort. The road up is paved and winds around the hill, affording glimpses over the Bay as I stop, struggling to stay upright on the steep slope, while my lungs and quadripceps settle from active screaming to quiet whimpering. Sisyphus had a hill like this.

This past weekend, when my godson Mark was visiting, he mentioned on our Sunday walk that he thought my stamina had improved so this morning Cora and I tackled Nicholl Knob to measure the progress. Imagine my delight when I only had to stop once before cresting the hill!

Up there, the wind was warm and fresh, a young Asian couple stopped canoodling long enough to offer me some New Years fruit from their lunch, and I was suffused with a sense of accomplishment and well being. My bathroom scale says I haven't lost an ounce since I retired and began regular exercise but I feel as though I have gained a measure of health and a load of pleasure.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pasta for the Pathetic

I learned this little trick from Jamie Oliver - to make meatballs for pasta out of Italian sausage links - and it has saved my bacon several times, most recently now that I have a nasty cold, don't feel much like cooking, and who wants to eat when you can't taste anything, anyway?

My Beloved, that's who. So, I got out a can of tomato sauce, two Italian sausage links, onions, garlic, green onions, mushrooms, shallot, red wine, yadda and made a very quick sauce for cappellini.

You make the meatballs by pulling out of the sausage casings little bite-sized dollops of filling and browning them thoroughly in olive oil before adding the chopped onions, minced garlic, quartered mushrooms to the pan along with whatever herbs you like (I used oregano, rosemary and thyme). Saute those together until you can smell the herbs over the rest, then add the tomato sauce and a cup or so of red wine and simmer until the sauce is as thick as you prefer.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta, drain it and add it to the sauce, tossing it around while still a little wet, so it will absorb all the lovely flavor of the sauce. I dressed the finished dish with slivered green onions for color and a nice grating of fresh Parmesan cheese.

If I hadn't had a head cold and had my wits about me, I'd have added some fresh chopped tomato at the end, just to heat it through and give the dish a freshness but I don't do my best work when my sinuses feel as if they are stuffed with cotton. Pathetic. But, My Beloved didn't think so!

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Cold

Who cares about the soul? I have a cold and all I care about is having enough tissues, enough fluids and enough chicken soup. I hate colds.

Luckily, I had some homemade chicken stock with chicken bits in the freezer when this particular bug bit me, so I added a handful each of chopped onion, celery and rice to that and simmered it until it was a comforting lunch. As you can see, I rather overdid the rice portion and while it was warming and tasty, it wasn't very pretty.

Until I had the idea to add orange zest, that is!

I figured that the Vitamin C in the zest would be good for me and the bright taste might actually penetrate my woefully stuffy nose. Guess what? It did! The flavor of the soup was immeasurably improved by the zest and, another time, I'd add bigger pieces while the soup simmered, just for that added kick.

I feel better already.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Beety Beauty

My mother's borscht was always served cold and blended to smoothness, a deep pink summertime treat with a dab of sour cream swirled in. She didn't use meat in her borscht, just beets, onions, celery and herbs.

This borscht was a winter treat when we ate lunch with Cousin J-Yah at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone last week. It was piping hot, deeply red and rich with beets and beef, but topped like Mom's with dollop of white, creme fraiche in this case.

We have made an annual pilgrimage of this trip up to the Napa Valley to enjoy the off-season when the roads are open, the vines are sleeping and the bright mustard plants paint the fields with the brightest possible yellow. It's a beautiful time of year, inside the restaurant and out.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Zesty Bellybuttons

When Cookiecrumb slipped me a bag of navel oranges from her garden, she said, "Save the peels! The zest is the best part of these oranges."

She was correct, even though the fruit itself has been wonderfully sweet and juicy, too. We've been zesting everything in the past couple of weeks, adding a touch of orange to many different foods, enjoying all kinds of new ideas.

So far, the very best application I have found has been on broccoli. Not only does the bright orange zest enhance the color of the broccoli, the flavor of the zest, a little salt and a tiny dab of butter lifts a plain winter veg like broccoli into the heavenly category. Now that navels are in the stores in great profusion, don't forget to save the skins and add a little to your plain winter veggies.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Jamie's Violent Video Chicken

Browsing for ideas on the Interwebs, I came across a fun little video on the NY Times Dining and Wine website of Jamie Oliver bashing the hell out of a chicken breast with the bottom of a frying pan.

Being an Oliver fan and intrigued by his violent attitude toward the seemingly blameless breast, I watched it twice and decided the recipe looked easy enough to try, bashing and all.

Cora ran for cover at the first WHUMP of the frying pan so My Beloved comforted her while I whaled away on the chicken. I can't find a link for the recipe any longer, but here's what Jamie did:

Bashed Chicken Parmesan (My title, not his)

Sprinkle a chicken breast with fresh, chopped rosemary, thyme and s&p to taste. Sprinkle with lemon zest to taste. Cover the breast with a generous handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, then lay a thin slice of prosciutto or Parma ham over it. Wrap the dressed breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it with the bottom of a frying pan (I suppose you could use a meat mallet, but where's the fun in that?) until it is about 1/2 inch thick. This procedure sticks the cheese and herbs to the meat as well as flattening the breast so it cooks evenly.

Saute in olive oil for just a few minutes per side to keep it moist, drizzle with balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice and serve. A good-sized breast will feed two people.

This would be a good meal to make when you've had a frustrating day at work and a snarly commute. Bashing the chicken could save your sanity and the resulting delicious flavors will restore your sense of well-being.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Halibut Riff

Look familiar? Yes, this is the same preparation that the Italian Dish recommended for scallops but, having eaten one too many scallops in my youth, I seem to have developed an allergy to them - or maybe it's just an aversion. In any case, I wanted to try the orange-and-dried-herb combo on halibut.

Both My Beloved and I actually preferred the halibut this way to the scallops. The mild flavor of the fish was enriched by the sauteeing, the strong herbs and the freshness of the oranges. We will add this one under "Keepers" to our permanent recipe file.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Friendship Fruit

Do you remember Friendship Fruit?

'Way back in the '70s, there was a craze for Friendship Fruit, a sicky sweet combination of canned fruits swimming in brandy that was the starter for a cake or to be poured over ice cream. The idea was that you had to get it from a friend who had gotten it from a friend, and you kept adding fruit and hooch and passing it along. To me, it always seemed like a thinly-veiled excuse to get high.

Anyway, here in sunny California 40 years later, we have redefined Friendship Fruit. We just trade fresh fruit that we grow or liberate from neighbors' yards with our blog friends, and then post about what we made with it. The oranges for this recipe came from Cookiecrumb and Cranky, when we met for coffee. They got my neighbor's grapefruits in return.

I found a recipe that sounded just right for My Beloved, who loves scallops, on the beautiful blog, The Italian Dish. The whole concoction worked like a champ but, interestingly, only once the sea salt was added at the end. I had neglected this last flourish and found the dish disappointingly bitter but when we remembered and added the salt, it changed the entire profile of the flavors remarkably and changed a so-so dish to a really wonderful one!

So, the moral of the story is "Use the Friendship Fruit and Don't Forget The Salt!"

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Youth

Sorry for neglecting Zoomie Station this weekend but look what fun we were having! My Beloved and I had a visit from three young charmers, two from LA and one lately from England.

I am the proud Fairy Godmother to the handsome young man on the left, whom I have known all his life, am growing very fond of the cute guy in the striped sweater who brought me a huge bouquet of purple tulips, and loved immediately the pretty girl in blue.

We ate a brunch of homemade waffles, real maple syrup, bacon, raspberries and creme fraiche then headed off via the Golden Gate bridge to explore the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, followed by a stroll through the Japanese Tea Garden, where I took this picture to remember what fun we have when The Youth come for a visit.