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Updated: 2017-12-14T00:53:38.915-07:00

 



My Addictions

2009-04-02T14:29:48.373-07:00

I’ve been obsessed with these cookies for 3 weeks. I’ve made something like 8 batches. I mean, as long as I have milk and a Stress Tab with them, what's wrong with this for dinner?? The flavor of butterscotch, pine nuts, crunchy sea salt, and a bit of black pepper…well, it’s just wonderful. I don’t know what else to say about them, without going all Jeffrey Steingarten on y'all. The pepper may a bit over the top for some (i.e. wimps), but I’ve tried it 4 times and it was just the bite these cookies needed. These are officially my favorite cookies. I do need to find a better quality of butterscotch chips then the usual grocery stuff. I’m taking suggestions or sources, please! This is an addiction that Mama don’t want no rehab for! No, no, no.Cracked Black Pepper and Chunky Sea Salt Butterscotch and Pine Nut CookiesMakes about 4 dozen (not counting the raw cookie dough you eat off the spoon)2 cups all-purpose flour1 tsp baking soda1/4 teaspoon table salt2 sticks unsalted butter PLUS 1 tablespoon, at room temperature3/4 cup brown sugar3/4 cup granulated sugar1 teaspoon vanilla2 large eggs1 bag butterscotch chips1 big handful pine nuts1 tablespoon French grey sea salt1 teaspoon cracked black pepper1. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and table salt. Set aside.2. In a large mixing bowl, with an electric beater, cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla. If too stiff (you want the consistency of butter cream frosting!), place bowl in microwave (well, I hope to hell you didn’t use a metal bowl!) for 20 seconds. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating for 20 seconds after each egg.3. Beat in flour, in three additions. Stir in butterscotch chips.4. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small skillet – add pine nuts and toast until fragrant and lightly brown. Remove from heat and stir in the sea salt and pepper. Let cool for a few minutes, and then stir nuts into cookie dough.5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place scant tablespoonfuls of dough onto paper, spacing about 1 inch apart….cookies will spread. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool on sheets for 3-4 minutes, then continue cooling cookies on racks until completely cool. I have no idea what these guys are doing here....[...]



"One Potato, Two Potato...."

2009-03-09T16:04:44.803-07:00

Everything old is new again. (At least that’s what I keep sayin’ to the mirror!) My maternal grandmother, a world-class baker and pincher of ears, used to make a version of this Sweet Potato Crisp years ago. I thought it was weird. Sweet potatoes were for Thanksgiving! With a pile of marshmallows and swimming in syrup! So I ran out the door when it came out of the oven because there was NO WAY I was going to eat SWEET POTATOES like that! I was an 8 year old with very specific ideas about how food was supposed to be. Bologna sandwiches ONLY with chocolate milk! Fish sticks on the LEFT side of the plate, not touching anything else! Fried eggs, cooked so long you could bounce them off the pink Formica! I was a picky little brat, and it’s a wonder I’m not deaf or even have any ears at all after all the pinching they endured when I was a kid. I have an old wooden box full of old family recipes, mostly from my grandmother (my Mom mainly just tried to make sure we all didn’t die of rickets and wasn’t too concerned about recipes...she approached cooking much like a zoo keeper approaches feeding the monkeys) that I rummage around in from time to time. Every time I make the chocolate chip cookie recipe, the lasagna, the chipped beef and gravy, I am amazed how quickly I am transported back to my Grandma’s tiny kitchen and how she never gave up trying to teach me to cook and bake. (This is not quite what it looked like....)“Now, listen to me…and quit fidgeting! This is how you dissolve yeast! Stop eating your braid! Look at this dough, now, isn’t it just lovely….what did I tell you about crossing your eyes?? Do you want them to stay that way?? In order for bread to rise, it has to…if you don’t stop cutting the cat’s fur, I’m telling your Mother, the poor soul. Why did she marry your father anyway???” (No, my father wasn't Paul Newman, but that pose looks awfully familiar...)Thank goodness I grew up (everybody quit laughing!) and figured out that food and the process of baking and cooking is a marvelous, enjoyable creative thing. Thank goodness some of my grandmother’s wisdom somehow penetrated my preoccupation of trying to teach her parakeets to talk. Thank goodness she knew that some day I would want her recipe for Sweet Potato Crisp.There has been some tinkering with the recipe (the addition of candied ginger, etc.), but mostly it’s hers. The sauce is mine – yes, thank you very much, it is fabulous isn't it? Try not to slurp it all up before you get a chance to pour it over the crisp, ok?Sweet Potato and Candied Ginger Crisp with Coconut Caramel SauceServes 6 (or just me with a big spoon)For Crisp:1 cup all purpose flour1 1/4 cup oats2 cups granulated sugar1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg1/4 teaspoon allspice2 ¼ teaspoon cinnamon1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled5 cups peeled and thinly sliced North Carolina Sweet Potatoes2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice2 tablespoons finely chopped candied gingerFor Sauce2 cups sugar1 1/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milkTo prepare Crisp:1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack to middle of oven.2. Combine the flour, oats, sugar, nutmeg, allspice, and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Using the large holes of a cheese grater, grate the chilled butter into the bowl. Using your fingertips, lightly mix until butter and dry ingredients start to come together, being careful not to over mix.3. In another large bowl, toss the sweet potato slices with the lemon juice, the chopped ginger, and the remaining cinnamon4. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a non-stick 8” X 8” baking pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of the sweet potatoes.5. Bake, uncovered in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until topping is bubbly and brown and sweet potatoes are fork tender.To prepare Sauce:1. While crisp is baking, place the sugar into a heavy medium-sized saucepan. Heat, over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is melted and golden brown. Slowly add the coconut milk, stirring vigorously. L[...]



I'll Never Tell

2009-03-06T17:00:08.067-07:00

I’m not supposed to write about this. Strict orders from the spousal unit. But you KNOW I’m going to. By now you should know I’m a trouble maker. So promise you won’t tell a soul. I’d hate to kill anyone with my super powers. We found native Indian relics (pot shards, etc) on our property where we are building our home. Quite of lot of them. In Arizona that could mean stopping the process of building our home and dealing with graduate anthropology students from Yale pitching damn tents all over the place, smoking sage joints, and dragging out their drums for crazy ass ceremonies honoring the dead Indians. Right on the spot where my Thermador is going!!! I’m as National Geographic as the next person, but, hell-to-the-NO to a dig on our property….I’m building my kitchen!(I will never tell where our property is...but it's somewhere on that map...go ahead, send me to Gitmo and those weak sister water boards. I'll never talk.)And just so you know that I am culturally sensitive (I’ve waved a few sage sticks around in my time) - we DID check around covertly about what to do about it, but generally we were told, “yeah, there’s a lot of the stuff all over the place out there”, and no one seemed particularly concerned or excited. The area is a deeply researched and cataloged area of the Sinagua people that migrated down from northern Arizona (Flagstaff area) and settled all over central Arizona (our land). And we ARE being super careful about anything we do find and respectful of the general idea we aren’t the first to think our property is pretty damn great. But it is pretty cool to look down and find pieces of someone’s cookery right there, lying on the ground, from some several hundred years ago. And it looks nothing like All-Clad. I like wandering around, picking up shards and thinking about what it must have been like to cook back then. Well, first of all, evidently, you had to make your own pot. No running down to Williams Sonoma for a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, that’s for sure!!First Native American: “I’m hungry” Second NA: “Good grief, you just ate 3 days ago!” First NA: “Woman! Go get me some meat!” Second NA, sighs…picks up her spear, heads out. Stops to make a clay pot, and have a baby. Runs cross country about 8 miles to water hole, then crawls in the brush to ambush a big elk. Takes a breather and makes a pot. Throws her spear, then jumps on the elk’s back, wrestling it to the ground. Butchers 800 pound elk, making 12 pairs of shoes with the hide. Takes a break and nurses the baby. Packs the meat back to camp. Digs a fire pit to smoke the elk. Runs down to the crops planted by the creek and harvests corn, squash, and beans. Makes a couple more pots. Starts making dinner. Rattlesnake tries to bite the baby and she ties it in a knot. Makes some more pots. First NA: “Isn’t dinner ready yet, woman?” Second NA: “Pipe down, will you? It’s almost done!” Second NA makes a set of 12 pottery plates (with artistic black squiggles) and fills one with smoked elk tenderloin with a juniper berry sauce and a medley of fresh corn and squash. Complemented by bean cakes, topped with fresh dandelion greens. First NA: “Oh brother…elk again?”I think that’s when the pots got smashed. This recipe has nothing to do with anything I just wrote about. But it’s very good. And I took a picture of them perched on a big pot shard. I hope it was the one she used to bop her spousal unit on the head with.Butterscotch and Salted Pine Nut Cookies2 sticks butter3/4 cup granulated sugar3/4 cup brown sugar2 eggs1 teaspoon vanilla2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour1 tsp baking soda1 tsp salt1 bag butterscotch chipsHandful of pine nuts2 big pinches sea salt1. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, beating well after each egg. Add vanilla.2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture.3. Stir in butterscotch chips.4. Toast pine nuts in small skillet until barely turning brown and fragrant…toss with sea s[...]



Is Fabio on Facebook?

2009-02-25T16:40:09.413-07:00

My muse has blown a fuse. I continue to choose to play 12 games of Spider Solitaire in a row over cooking delights like, say, quail leg confit with lemon and basil marmalade. My food mojo has gone to hell in a hand basket. Straight to Suduku hell. No, actually my WRITING mojo has done a Fabio face plant – and it doesn’t even have a charming Italian accent to fall back on. The FOOD part of my life continues at breakneck and gluttonous speed….I still eat and think about food all the time. It's just that I’ve just lost some of my…interest….in taking pictures of it and writing about it all the live long day. Maybe it’s this process I’m in of designing and building a house. I’m a very busy, artistic, angsty person with all the design and building books I’ve ordered from Amazon….used, of course. I mean, you can get the most gorgeous design book measuring about about 3 feet by 5 feet, weighing 78 pounds, for something like 42 cents. I have dozens!!! So many ideas!!! This is will be either the most beautifully unique house ever built in the entire world or it will look like the monkey tree house at Disney World. Yes, I am very busy with this house business. Then, of course, I have to do Facebook….I have to send people cool applications! And pokes! Hugs! And raise money for blind hamsters in Azbakistan by sending roses and lollipops and little green trolls over and over and over to all my FB friends! All this creative activity takes a lot of time! No wonder I am having trouble writing.The Spousal Unit was badgering me (yes, SU, sir, you ARE a badger and a mighty fine looking one at that!) about my blog yesterday. “Why aren’t you writing? I can’t believe you aren’t writing! Didn’t you just fix your blog up? What did that cost? What’s for dinner? Can I eat that cheese? Aren't you writing anymore? Are you making dessert? Where are all these books coming from?? Are those grandma panties??? Are you turning into your mother?” So I thought I’d give it a feeble shot today. No samples of exotic wood or appliance brochures came in the mail today, so I wandered into the kitchen with an old ratty copy of a recipe yanked from some magazine somewhere…coconut cupcakes. Yes, I can do this! These are very good things to eat. We’ll start there, I guess. Baby steps, people, baby steps.Vanilla Bean-Coconut Cupcakes Makes 30 regular sized cupcakes2 3/4 cups butter, room temp2 cups granulated sugar4 large eggs2 teaspoons vanilla extract2 teaspoons almond extract1/2 vanilla bean, split3 cups all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoon each of baking soda, baking powder, and salt1 cup coconut milk1 1/2 cups flaked coconut8 oz cream cheese, room temp2 3/4 cups powdered sugar1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream together 2 cups butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in 1 1/2 teaspoons each of the vanilla and almond extracts.2. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the tip of sharp knife, scrap the vanilla seeds from the split vanilla bean into the cup of coconut milk and stir. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with coconut milk. Stir 1 cup of the coconut into the batter.3. Fill 30 paper-lined muffin cups in two or more muffin pans about 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden and springy to touch. Cool for 10 minutes before removing cupcakes from pans. Cool completely.4. Meanwhile, toast remaining 1/2 cup coconut in small skillet until toasty brown. Cool. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, 3/4 cup butter, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extract until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Frost cup cakes and sprinkle with remaining coconut.Note: Sprinkle - oh, hell to the no sprinkles. I put the cupcake upside down into the coconut and give a twist.[...]



Caffeine, Sugar, and Butter - Yessiree!

2009-01-30T07:31:04.536-07:00

Is this a coffee cake? Why, yes it is.I won a California Almond contest with this recipe and with the gift certificate I won, I got a new burr coffee grinder I have been coveting AND a new drip coffee maker. Because I just have to face the facts. I am sick to death of cleaning a French press. I love the taste, but the damn grounds….so annoying to clean every day! They get on my last nerve! Oh…hell, no….! And I have a pathetic little Braun grinder that whirls coffee beans round and round without any kind of specific grinding goal, screaming the whole time like Amy Winehouse running down the street naked. I open it up and a big coffee cloud of caffeine dust wafts up in the air, way up into my nose, and there we are…back in the 80’s, damn it.I researched burr grinders very extensively….and given the amount I could spend, this Kitchen Aid Model came out on top. It works beautifully, and looks gratifyingly studly too. And it’s not too loud! More like Eric Ripert sharpening his knife while melodiously asking me what I want for dinner. In French.The pricier models are very cool, but for a less expensive grinder, this is greatly made. Die cast heavy metal body and a glass hopper, which is supposed to cut down on the static…which it appears to do. It doesn’t take a ton of room on a counter, and looks very industrial and capable. And while I was ordering that, I saw the Professional Line Kitchen Aid 12 cup Coffeemaker was on sale, so after briefly researching that (ok…I read just one review, from a guy who said he was a “professional barista” and this was the model he used at home), decided to pull the trigger on a new coffeemaker, thereby sending the French Press to “Catherine’s Ass Hat Appliance Abyss”. It’s not the “professional barista” European model I would have loved, but I just haven’t won any multi-thousand dollar contests lately. Ok…I’ve never won one, but J.H.C. on a half-shell, I’m working on it! When I do, I’m SURE that Eric Ripert will THEN return my calls.My little coffee robots look very Germanic, shiny, and sensible, sitting side by side, ready to do my caffeine bidding!Ok…about the cake. You need to have a 10” X 3” cake pan. It’s a dense, rich (1/2 pound butter!) cake…a little goes a long way. It’s sometimes hard to find (for me….in the culinary wasteland that I call the local grocery store) unsweetened ginger, so I’ve used the crystallized type and it works just fine, just cut the amount a bit.It’s a pretty cake, all bakery looking, and it’s awesome for dessert when you have a spicy Asian dish for dinner. Switch out the cranberries for something else, if you prefer….I have done this with blueberries, cherries, and once, incorporating the ginger in the cake too.It’s great with coffee. Cranberry-Almond Butter Cake with Almond-Ginger Glaze(KitchenAid Style)Serves 8-10For Cake:A little butter and flour for preparing cake pan1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature1 1/2 cup granulated sugar1 teaspoon vanilla extract8 large egg yolks2 cups PLUS 1 tablespoon (divided) all-purpose flour1 teaspoon salt1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder3/4 cup dried cranberries3/4 cup slivered almonds, roughly chopped1 cup buttermilkFor Glaze:1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar2 tablespoon milk (or more to reach desired consistency)1 teaspoon almond extract2 tablespoons finely chopped dried, unsweetened ginger4 tablespoons slivered almonds (not chopped)To Make Cake:1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10” X 3” round cake pan. Set aside.2. In a large bowl and using an electric beater, beat together the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add the egg yolk, one at a time, beating for 15 seconds after each egg. Scrape down sides of bowl.3. In a small mixing bowl, place the 2 cups of flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir with fork[...]



Here Comes the Sun, Little Darlin'

2009-01-28T10:47:24.610-07:00

I’m trying to talk the Spousal Unit into building our house off the grid, but he’s resisting. He’s old school (really old school) and still refers to email as “internet letters”. He can’t use the DVD without calling one of the kids for help, and he thought my IPod was a new remote control for the television.I have to use all my super powers to try to talk him into anything that’s 21st century. Or the 20th century for that matter. So I just bring out the bacon. A nice piece of crispy bacon calms the SU right down to the point he gets a glazed look on his face and will finally listen to reason about solar tax credits, advances in solar systems that have happened in, oh, the last century, how we won’t turn into hippies with goats eating grass on the roof, and we can actually have back-up electric tied in and have the meter run backwards. He liked that idea. And he liked this pasta. "Peace out! Here comes the sun! And the bacon!"Nothing complicated or innovative, but comforting, delicious, rich, and…convincing.The pint of Guinness didn’t hurt, either. Spaghetti with Smoked Bacon, Arugula, and Black Pepper Cream Sauce1 pound dried spaghetti1/2 onion, finely chopped8 pieces smoked bacon1 cup heavy whipping cream2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest2 cups baby arugula, roughly choppedSalt and pepper to taste1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions or just until al dente (about 9-11 minutes).2. Meanwhile, in medium-sized sauté pan, cook bacon until crispy – drain on stack of paper towels. When cool, crumble, discarding any big fatty parts.3. Pour off all but about one tablespoon of bacon fat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and soft. Add 2/3’s of the crumbled bacon, the cream, and the pepper. Continue cooking until reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Turn mixture into blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.3. When pasta is cooked, drain, and turn into a large serving bowl. Toss in the lemon zest and arugula. Pour in the sauce and blend well. Sprinkle with remaining bacon crumbles and parm. Salt and pepper to taste. Sir Francis Bacon - patron saint of off the grid solar systems[...]



The Spousal Unit Dedication Post

2009-01-27T13:59:58.883-07:00

Hey. How do you like this new look? I'm still tweaking and re-arranging, but I'm liking it! (Thanks, Becky!)

Since he has been abused, misused, talked about and generally mistreated here at 'The Dish', I thought I'd dedicate this post to...The Spousal Unit. He's a pretty cool dude. He eats what I cook, mostly likes it, and puts up with quite a bit of derangement, noise, and confusion coming from the kitchen. He works very hard, is a wonderful Dad to our 4 kids, a great brother, son, friend, blah, blah, blah, but mostly is the best Spousal Unit I could have ever talked into marrying me. Thanks, Spousal Unit...couldn't have done anything without you. Now, would you please take out the garbage...smells like tuna cans!

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Now, for an important update!!!

2009-01-22T11:16:14.841-07:00

Lack of posting exquisitely clever vignettes from my life is due to technical changes and squirrely life stuff. The good thing is I’m getting my blog re-designed by someone who knows more about this stuff than I. Once that’s done, I’m moving to Wordpress.

On the negativity side, I’ve been pretty distracted by the issues that the Universe keeps throwing at me - damn that Stephen Hawking!

My Mom is so diminished by Alzheimer’s, well, maybe I’m doing some sympathy neuron firing, cause I just can’t think straight! Ok, not that….maybe it’s my diminishing hormones…that have been known to whack a person out at a certain age. Not that I’m saying I’m a menopausal mess with a propensity to warm up my coffee in the dryer and tell the clerk at Target they are a douche nozzle! Yes. Soon I’ll be shuffling around in a bathrobe from Sears, have 8 cats and write letters to the local newspaper editor complaining about how the population sign outside of town is WRONG.

We weighed my Mom yesterday and she’s down to 75 pounds. This from a woman who was an incredible baker. If she knew what was going on, she’d be so pissed off. She was such a great baker. I can’t even touch her talent. Her lemon meringue pies were THE BEST EVER…period. Don’t even mess with that legend. I've tried to make it and well, let's just say there are certain things meringue can do that reminds me of pictures from "Travel and Tropical Medicine Manual".

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, and the Spousal Unit has standing orders to shoot me and drag me out to the coyote café, if this ever happens to me.

But some stuff continues to amuse me. A few thoughts….

1. That English judge from Top Chef is bad. If you try to do snark, at least be funny. He’s not. And he has a pinhead. BTW…Tom C. saved some woman’s life at an Inaugural dinner…he did the Heimlich on her! I tell ya…a guy with a bald head just has something special.

2. Leah is an idiot. Seriously, is she in junior high?? And she whacked that fish!!! What was that sauce??? Why do I watch this show? Well, besides watching Tom’s facial expressions when Carla said she’s sending “love” out of the kitchen! Seriously, Tom gives the best face!!!! Padma…not so much. She’s annoying.

3. I won a nice little contest for the California Almond Board…$500 at Cooking.com! Hormone booster! I don’t know yet what to buy…probably just random stuff that needs to be replaced, like the melted spatulas, bent cookie sheets, and burnt wooden spoons. And a cheese grater from l983. Any ideas??

http://www.cooking.com/Recipes-and-More/Feature.aspx?ty=a&id=952

4. I’m leaving a little tune here….so fun! Crank up the speakers and just leave the link open for a while…sitemeter is running!!

5. I'm going to be a grandma. Our daughter who got married in October, well, I guess she had sex with her husband. I can't believe it. Kids these days! Don't they know those things are loaded???

See you cute little bloggers very soon. Seriously, I’ll be back. I’ll be so sleek and sexy and all design-y and there will be truffles and caramelized pork belly, and pictures of Eric Ripert naked, if I can find them.





Capirotada

2009-01-12T08:15:34.487-07:00

It’s weird that I don’t write more about Mexican food. Because it’s pretty much what I grew up on and what I eat at least twice a week. Just wrap me in a tortilla when I die and deep fry me. I used to live and work in Mexico and became familiar with the distinct culinary styles of the different regions in Mexico. And each region was quite sure that their version of whatever they were cooking or baking was the best in all of Mexico…if not the world. You do not cross a proud 80 year old tortilla maker! I got fed quite well by pretending to not understand why a certain mole, torta or relleno was better than another. Mexican cooks are fierce, competitive and love to stuff me, a silly gringa, with their mole or panaderia specialty - with me being the judge of how muy delicioso it is. Aren’t I a smart one?I wonder if that would work with Thomas Keller. Yo, Tom! Is that lobster BLT really the best in the world??Yesterday I was craving a bread pudding and found this very unusual recipe by Miguel Ravago. It’s a northern Sonora style of bread pudding – as in every type of Mexican cooking, there are so many differences between recipes within regions. The ingredients will surprise, if not shock you. Cheese? Cilantro? Dried pineapple? But I promise, it all works very well together. It’s just one of many bread puddings you could find in Mexican cooking. If you travelled just 12 miles from town to town, each one would have a completely different take on it. The syrup was amazing and I’d consider using it within another recipe…the anise seeds really made a nuanced difference. Capirotadaby Miguel RavagoFor the syrup:3 cups light brown sugar2 tablespoons anise seedsCinnamon stick1/4 cup vanilla extract2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoonsFor the bread mixture1 loaf French bread (about 12 oz), sliced and lightly toasted3 cups sliced bananas (about 3 large)4 tablespoons ground cinnamon1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped1 cup shredded cheddar cheese1 cup raisins1/2 cup chopped scallions, both white and green parts1 cup dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped1 cup dried candied pineapple, chopped6 large eggs, slightly beatenWhipped cream for garnish, if desired1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9” X 13” inch baking dish.2. Pour 4 cups of water into a 3 quart saucepan. Add the brown sugar, anise seeds, cinnamon stick, vanilla, and butter. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.3. For the bread mixture, tear the toasted bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the bananas, cinnamon, cilantro, cheddar, raisins, scallions, peanuts, and pineapple. Toss well. Add the eggs to mixture and toss gently.4. Strain the cooked syrup into the bread mixture and toss gently. Pour bread pudding into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 55 minutes.5. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Spoon into serving dishes and to with whipped cream if desired. [...]



All the Pretty Capers

2009-01-07T18:21:17.293-07:00

Can you believe it is “National Tempura Day” today? I know, I know...I can't believe it's that time of year again. Did you tempura some stuff in honor of this High Holy Day?? I did, because I’m ALL ABOUT the national food days! I can’t wait for “National Creamed Corn Day”! At first I thought I’d do liver. Tempura venison liver. But as soon as I thought about it, I got kinda sick to my stomach. I listen to and trust my supremely tuned gut. No tempura liver for you and me! But I did read last night (or maybe the night before…it all is beginning to seem like one big coma when I read in bed – it could have been a novel by Cormac McCarthy for all I can remember) in the latest issue of Gourmet about deep fried….capers. (btw…I’m really liking the evolving style of Gourmet…for a while there it was getting just a bit too serious and pretentious and who the hell can find those villages in Estonia?)I thought to self, “Self – deep fried capers sounds like a pretty damn spectacular idea!” Then I passed out.But when I saw that today was such a special day, I thought, “Self – you could TEMPURA those suckers!” Yes, I had almost a full jar of those extraordinary Spanish capers – the ones that are HUGE….not those wussy little ones you drop in tuna salad from time to time. What do these look like to you?That's what I thought!With a little research, I found numerous recipes for tempura, but for this experiment I stuck to the basics – egg, flour, cold water. There are many variations. Since I’m not so handy with the hot oil, I wanted to keep the recipe simple whilst I concentrate on not starting my hair on fire. One thing I gleaned from my tempura research is that it is critical not to over mix the batter and to have your oil nice and hot (whatever that means…I hate thermometers). Here’s the very basic recipe. If you feel more confident than I in the smoking oil department, check out the many, many recipes for tempura all over the place. One flavored with wasabi sounded promising. Basic Tempura1 egg1 cup ice water1 cup all purpose flour****1. Place capers into bowl of cold water and let sit for 1/2 hour. Drain, rinse, and then repeat for another 1/2 hour. Drain, and pat very dry.2. Beat an egg in a bowl.3. Add ice water to bowl…be sure it is very cold!4. Dump the flour all at once into the bowl and stir with chopstick – do not over mix – batter should be lumpy and barely moist. Any further and just make yourself a pancake and call it a day.5. Heat oil (I used peanut) in deep skillet until sizzling when you drop some water in there (no spitting, please). Dip caper berries into batter and fry until golden. Drain on paper towels. ****many of the recipes I found preferred rice flour to all-purpose flour. “Self – that WAS a pretty spectacular idea!”[...]



A New House

2009-01-06T10:01:28.865-07:00

I can spill the beans now. We’ve bought a 36 acre parcel to build our “dream” home on. We just closed escrow on it yesterday, and since I’m superstitious and believe in voodoo, UFO’s, Leprechauns with hatchets, and not stepping on any cracks anywhere in the universe, I didn’t want to mention it until it was absolutely a done deal. It’s spectacular and we’ve been looking for something just like this for something like 10 years. It borders millions of acres of National Forest AND a Designated Wilderness area (so important for keeping the ATV riding and beer bottle throwing cretins away), has plentiful water (this is akin to a gold mine in Arizona), plenty of trees and is very VERY private. Because I’m sort of a hermit – a hermit with a Blackberry and Facebook. I am in love with this land. We can be more self-sufficient as soon as I figure out a good deer fence around the garden. I am afraid of snakes, so I have to work on that issue. Because this land is so…wild…there will be lots of snakes just waiting for a semi-blind gardener talking on her Blackberry."LOOK INTO MY EYES, LADY!!!!"I guess it’s sort of contrary to buy/build in this economy, but it has worked in our favor…good deal on the land, and supplies, equipment, and construction labor is getting very cheap. But we’ve saved and saved, and it’s definitely not a dumb thing to do, because the Spousal Unit is so…frugal...there’s no way this would happen unless it made financial sense. I’m finding stuff like Traulsen refrigerators and Wolf ranges for 40 cents on the dollar! I may wet myself. We’ll start building in a few months, once the weather clears. Right now I’m snake boot deep in design books, kitchen magazines and articles, a plethora of internet sites, and half-baked ideas on cocktail napkins. Cause you know, don’t you? This new kitchen will definitely make Eric Ripert want to come and visit. And, of course, he’ll fall in love with me, which will make things sketchy with the Spousal Unit, but will make for good blog posting. Stay tuned as Catherine and Eric make profiteroles together in her fabulous kitchen and Eric challenges the Spousal Unit to a dual!My new kitchen is not going to be all disco-y and stupidly fancy and pretentiously useless. There will be no Greek columns, 3 dishwashers, or built-in niches for a small dog with a jeweled collar to sit and eat (yes, I just saw this in a magazine). It will be solidly workable and comfortable. I’ll never leave it. Which means I could give a rat’s ass about the rest of the house. Well…I care; it’s just that my focus will be on the kitchen. I guess doors and windows are a good idea. And a nice bathtub. "Oh Eric, hand me the soap, will you??"So, dear and gently understanding readers, that means you’ll be subjected to all manner of nonsense from me for the next year or so. Rantings and ravings, tears and fears, worries and questions – yes, a Dr. Phil show right here on The Dish. Stay tuned as Catherine rips a sub-contractor a new one! First question for you guys….what would you absolutely NOT do in your dream kitchen? What disaster appliance, layout, or other aspect of kitchen-ness do you hate? I figure I’ll start with what DOESN’T work…then go from there. Because I’ll depend on you guys!!! I really want your opinions! Left to my own devices…well, I just don’t want to scare Eric away. You know? [...]



Dead Meat

2009-01-05T11:14:08.065-07:00

Ok, I’ve posted before on our deer and elk hunts. There is no better way to eat meat, if you are so inclined. I far prefer elk meat over the finest beef. There is something very basic, satisfying and honest about eating the meat you’ve procured yourself. So, if you’re offended by hunting (which means you’re a hypocrite if you are a meat eater or a vegetarian…either way, we can’t be close friends…well, I can appreciate and be friends with vegetarians, but you’re probably pale and anemic, and need a nice elk roast!) you may want to pass on this post. I guess I feel a bit cranky about comments I get about hunting. Usually from people who have no problem bellying up to a $37 steak cut from a genetically altered animal shot full of hormones and kept on an extremely uncomfortable and unnatural plot of feces soaked ground on an industrialized feedlot, thousands of miles from its habitat and from your plate. I guess that clears up my feelings on the subject in case there was any doubt. The Spousal Unit archery shot a quite large mule deer last week. He butchered it himself, and has just completed the last of parceling cuts. We now have a freezer full of meat, which if calculated out into grocery dollars, is worth several hundreds of dollars. All organic and natural protein. Meat that was gotten with some effort, respect, and gratitude. As I said, I prefer elk, but venison is the next best thing. One of my favorite ways to eat it is prepared as air dried jerky. On my kitchen table. We sliced up a “skirt” cut (any cut would do – but best to keep it lean) into thin strips and seasoned as desired. In the past we’ve brushed with Tabasco and lime, marinated with a little teriyaki, and done a bunch of experimentation – but simple salt and pepper is pretty terrific. We lay out the strips on newspaper to absorb the moisture and as the jerky dries, even hit it with a hair dryer occasionally to keep it moisture free. It takes about 4-5 days (but this is Arizona, very dry air...longer in higher humidity) to get a very satisfying piece of jerky dried at room temperature. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, and no one definitive “recipe”. I love the whole idea of it. No complicated process, ingredients, or utensils…just a sharp knife, some space, and time. It’s ancient, it’s nutritious, and it’s simple and honest. It's a nice change from the complications that we invent involving food. Sometimes it's best to keep it close to home and the ground, out of the store, and without a recipe or technique. [...]



"Do You Have A Safeway Discount Card?"

2009-01-01T20:01:56.770-07:00

I hope you all had a wonderful New Year’s Eve and nobody is in jail. That would be a bummer. Computer time is probably limited, I bet. I never go anywhere on New Year’s Eve. It’s amateur night! I haven’t been to a party or out bar hopping since that unfortunate year that involved a folding table, strawberry daiquiris, a leather mini-skirt, a gay bouncer named Bernard, and a wig stuffed down a toilet.It’s just not worth it, man. So it was off to the grocery store for snacky stuff. No cooking, no company, no annoying people who shall remain unnamed, telling me my brilliant joke about a bridesmaid on a cruise boat is stupid. Just me and the person who shall remain unnamed, hanging out around the coffee table, eating a variety of Aisle 7 delights. Crackers, cheese, olives, Serrano ham, avocado, peanut butter right out of the jar, nuts, carrot and celery sticks, mayo (see, you put the mayo on a cracker, then stack with ham, olive, cheese, and a dab of peanut butter…woo!), and whatever else needs clearing out of the refrigerator. It’s New Year’s Eve for Pete’s sake! Resolutions and goals start….later…don’t be a buzz kill!It was all very delicious. We shared a perfect, and I mean…perfect…bottle of Swanson’s 2003 Sangiovese, Limited Bottling. I have been saving this bottle for 2 years. What a wonderful winery with a completely charming tasting room. It’s like none other I have ever visited. The Swanson girls (from the frozen dinner family!) have done very very well with their enterprise, and their wines are among my very favorites. If you ever get the chance, do visit their tasting room for an experience you won’t forget – but make reservations, the tastings are scheduled and are very popular. If nothing else, buy the Muscat….then sit down, put some bleu cheese on a cracker, pour a small glass and ponder a life that contains the wonderment of this pairing of flavors. You’ll totally write and thank me. And probably send me some money or gift cards. I am kinda nutty (or eccentric – you choose the word) about my good bottles. I favor enjoying them in an environment that usually isn’t associated with fine wine drinking. SilverOak, 2003, Napa Valley? That got opened on a recent deer hunting trip – accompanied by a can of mustard sardines, slices of sausage cooked on a rock, and Cheetos. Or the very treasured 2003 Chateau Montrose Saint Estephe? Emptied into water bottles for a toast after a hike into the Grand Canyon. And my Christmas gift of 2005 Opus One (thanks Scott, Nancy, Robert Mondavi and that French guy!) will most likely languish for a year, then come out for some hair-brained excursion down a dirt road with no name that involves shooting beer cans on a fence. And Ding Dongs.I believe these types of beverages, which are priced about the same as a small pedestal sink, need to be enjoyed without the distractions of fine, rich, complex food. There’s something rather…poetic…about quaffing delicious wine outside, hair in ponytail, hiking boots dirty, armpits smelly. My own personal terroir, if you will. For the life of me, I can't enjoy wine in stilletos. If I could I'd dine at The French Laundry in my pajamas. Yes, indeedy, I DID dine at FL...and yes, it's superlative and the best eating experience I have ever had. If only I would have been in pajamas. They really should have a seating for that, you know. The pajama seating. Reservations made a year in advance.Anyhoo. A very nice New Year’s Eve. With my best friend in the world. Doing what we do best. Acting like a couple of dorks, eating crap, watching "The Twilight Zone" (the one with Agnes Moorhead and the invaders from space...good one).Happy New Year – may we all become better people and share[...]



I Have A Dream....

2008-12-20T10:09:45.535-07:00

< Do you ever dream about food? Ok, that’s a ridiculous question – OF COURSE YOU DO! Who hasn’t dreamt about a meerkat dining on short ribs that you’ve braised on an old stove at your Grandmother’s house, while you practice the piano for a recital in front of the whole 4th grade class? Or being chased by Sandra Lee into an alley, who turns into a giant white spider that gets stuck in the corn syrup you’ve cleverly dumped on the ground? Everyone does! I have been dreaming about a sweet potato pizza. I foolishly mentioned this dream to my husband, who always gets “the look” on his face when I want to “share” my food dreams. He immediately nixed the idea, because his idea of pizza is something with meat with meat sauce on a meat crust. Topped with meat. Anybody got a recipe for meat beer?But I figure dreams are meant to be LIVED, people! Martin Luther King doesn’t have a birthday vacation day for nothing! There was nothing much in my refrigerator for dinner last night, but there were those sweet potatoes…some “emergency” refrigerated pizza dough…cilantro…and my dream. Roasted Sweet Potato PizzaIngredients:Some pizza dough (I swear to God, if anybody makes fun of my Pillsbury pizza crust, I’ll spam the comments on their blog….I was in a hurry, out of flour because of those dang Christmas cookies, and absolutely did not want to go the store, ok? Can you relate AT ALL??)Cilantro pesto – process a big bunch of cilantro, a handful of pine nuts, 4-5 garlic cloves. Slowly add the olive oil, until the consistency of…well…pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little of that Cotija cheese if you want. Or go buy some pesto. I am all about the dream - not the actual...work.2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, sliced into 2” rounds, brushed with olive oil, and that you have roasted in a 350 degree oven until fork tender (but not mushy).About 1/4 cup Mexican Crema with a little (about 1 teaspoon) cumin stirred in – or some other Mexicany spice – DREAM BIG!!!!Cotija cheese, shredded or crumbled to toss on top – about 1 cupSo…you just press out that dough and spread the pesto all over. Slice the roasted sweet potato rounds into thinner rounds. Place on top of the pesto, overlapping if necessary. Drizzle the crema over the top. Scatter the cheese on top of crema. Bake at 425 until browned and bubbly. Ok…the husband was scoffing and laughing at me. “Who ever heard of sweet potato pizza? That’s dumb!” This is our “special” way – him, making fun, me getting indignant and defensive. The wonderful dance of marriage. Then I have to kick his ass.But the pizza came out of the oven at about the time my son, his girlfriend and their friends came by.If a bunch of hungry, young 20-somethings don’t like it, my dream has failed. And I'll go watch re-runs of Top Chef and eat 9 Lindt truffles and some Chinese rice crackers.But they loved it. LOVED IT!!! Even Mr. Smarty Pants grudgingly agreed it was "good". "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!"[...]



Booty Soup

2008-12-17T07:47:18.188-07:00

About a month ago, I got quite a surprise. UPS delivered a huge box, marked “perishable”.“Hmmm”, thought me. Who the heck would send me a box of dynamite marked as food??? (I think those thoughts because I’m very paranoid and well…there’s my history with nefariousness.)Cautiously I pried open the package with kitchen tongs (from a safe distance of course), and found an enormous basket. “Hmmm”, thought me. Nestled in the basket was an amazing array of food and other wonderfulness. Still perplexed, I examined the box a little further. “La Tienda” – the venerable purveyor of all things Spanish, edible and otherwise. “Hmmm”, thought me, myself, and I. I was getting warmer! And my coffee was kicking in. I vaguely remembered entered a tapas contest a while ago – perhaps this was a prize!! After some super sleuthing (I AM the Mom of a spy, you know) I figured out I was a first prize winner – not the Grand Prize winner, alas. That lucky winner received a whole tapas party at her home, complete with a tapas chef, who probably is insanely good looking and then he invites the hostess to join him in Barcelona to open a small and stellar tapas bar on his family’s olive farm that covers many acres and has 12 outdoor fireplaces and lots of cute goats. No, I’m not the Grand Prize winner. Or bitter. But first prize was pretty freakin’ fabulous. An abundance of olives, olive oil, chorizo, a beautiful wheel of Manchego cheese, a fabulous cookbook by Jose Andres, a cool cheese board with cute cheese knives, Spanish tapa plates, a gorgeous wooden olive tray, a bunch of other stuff, and BEST OF ALL…a chefs jacket with “Olive Oil from Spain” on the sleeve! So…guess who wore the jacket to Safeway that afternoon? And pretended to be an olive oil authority in the condiment aisle? With no one listening?> " Why, yes...I DO love Spanish olive oil...and your jacket! Let's make out!"It was all very wonderful, yet strange…I never received a call or an email letting me know I won anything. I guess that’s the beauty of a complete surprise. One minute you’ll shuffling around in your bathrobe with some Windex in your pocket, singing “I’m Bringing Sexy Back”, the next minute you’re a Spanish chef! Making out with Xavier Bardem! (But not when he was in "No Country for Old Men")Last night I made the “base” of our most favorite soup in the world. It’s a fennel and kale concoction, and I added some of the smoky chorizo – wow. The spousal unit said it was the “best” soup he’s ever had and believe me, I’ve made that soup a zillion times. The smoked paprika was released into the broth by the brief sautéing I gave the sausage, and completely changed the soup. For the better. Here you go. I hope you get a food surprise someday. It’s a kick in the pants.Oh, here is the link to Olive Oil from Spain….I can’t find my recipe anywhere on the site, or even reference to the contest. It’s so weird.Olive Oil From Spain(thank you, thank you, thank you, oil people from Spain!) "Booty Soup from a Big Box from La Tienda"6 oz smoked Spanish chorizo, cut into bite sized pieces or “coins”1 medium onion, diced1 medium-sized fennel bulb, diced4 garlic cloves, minced1 pinch of red pepper flakes1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves8 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth2 bunches kale, trimmed and roughly chopped (about 8 cups, I guess)1 bag dry cheese filled tortellini (I use Bertolli…it’s easy to find for me)Chunks of Manchego cheeseThis pot made 6 big bowls of soup…and it is better left on the stove overnight and re-heated for lunch the next day.1. In a large pot, sauté the sausage until sizzling and releasing the oil [...]



Semper Fi, Mamacita!

2008-12-14T11:03:34.278-07:00

One the biggest cooking pleasures I have is cooking breakfast for my kids. Now that they are adults and not fighting over the toy in the Cocoa Puffs box or letting the dog lick syrup off their faces or squirting each other with milk spit. That wasn’t cooking…that was crowd management using sugar, toys, and yelling.So now that they are gone from home, independent, broke, buying furniture at Target and trying to scam gas money from the parents…they are much more appreciative of a big ol’ plate of bacon, eggs and toast. Especially our eldest son, Mac, a Marine platoon sergeant. Yessirree, Mom’s cooking is way better than roasted mystery animal in the Iraqi desert! Mac is home, on a long leave, just back from a second tour in Iraq. This guy can eat. Even I, who watched him devour whole boxes of Pop-Tarts as a small child, am amazing at what he can put away these days. So this morning I couldn’t wait to scurry downstairs and cook his breakfast. Six slices of smoked bacon. Fried onions seasoned with alder-smoked salt. Four poached eggs. Four slices of sourdough toast, pan-fried in the bacon fat. (Oh yes, I’m still lovin’ on the bacon fat….is there anything bacon fat doesn’t make better?? Huh?) Topped with deli slices of real American cheese, salsa and ketchup. It’s imperative the ketchup goes on everything, evidently. But on top of salsa? I blame the Marines. I realize that this type of cooking isn’t approaching anything creative. But it’s disgustingly good. And it’s even better just watching the enjoyment Mac has eating it. Damn…I’m on a slide….what's next? Fried Ding Dongs with a slurry of Fritos and Mountain Dew?? BTW…he didn’t like it much when I was taking pictures. I think it’s because he’s like some sort of military spy or something. Cause we all know terrorists read cooking blogs. [...]



Bringin' Home the Bacon, Baby!

2008-12-13T15:30:59.301-07:00

Well, you just knew it would be something like FAT to bring me to my senses.It’s been a long summer, fall, and early winter, and I won’t make you clinch your teeth and roll your eyes with boredom filling you in with all the details and drama, but I find it amazing and yea, verily…natural…that a cookbook would snap me back to the truly important. Stuff like an utterly fascinating, informative, and wonderful cookbook….about fat. Let’s think about bacon mayonnaise. Yes, you know you want to. Because I sure did…at 2:30 am, even after an Advil PM! Pondering a BLT sandwich, but not with lettuce… with arugula. And some grilled avocado. Heirloom tomatoes, that as far as I know, only exist in my 2:30 am mind, since there no decent markets around here….and some of this BACON FREAKIN’ MAYONNAISE! Bacon MayonnaiseMakes about 1/2 cup 1 egg yolk3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juiceSea salt and freshly ground black pepper1/2 cup liquid bacon fat Combine the egg yolk, mustard, and lemon juice in the small bowl of a food processor or in a blender and process to mix. Season with salt and pepper.Have the bacon fat liquid, but not hot. With the machine running, gradually add the bacon fat until the mixture starts to stiffen and emulsify, about 2 minutes. Once it starts to emulsify, you can add the fat more quickly. If the mayonnaise is too thick, just blend in a 1 teaspoon of boiling water to thin it. Taste and adjust the seasoning. From “Fat – An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes” by Jennifer McLaganI love this book. I want to cook EVERYTHING in it. Jennifer McLagan is a genius and a wonderful writer.I am so making “Salted Butter Tart” and not sharing. (oh yes...I do not jest..)BTW….I’ll going to try to be diligent about blogging again, but I’m not going to be actually cooking and baking and then blathering on about how good it is with really lame ass pictures. I am thinking I’d rather pontificate about food and eating, and merely offer the truly wonderful, occasional treat from my kitchen that you may actually find…useful. There are zillions of blogs with tremendously talented work going on and those are the bloggers/cooks/bakers that have the energy…I am merely semi-energized to do the same. But I do have a passion for food, for cooking, and I do want to share observations or whatever insanity manifests itself through my writing.Let me know how it goes down with y’all. Thank you for all the kind emails about Molly, the encouragement, and yes, ragging on me to start blogging again. I appreciate it all. Yes, Liz, YOU. I’ll get up to speed…yea, verily…soon.And make that bacon mayonnaise. My action figure of Obama just arrived.[...]



The Golden Child

2008-11-19T00:12:55.928-07:00

(image)
She DOES look like a little Buddha, doesn’t she?

We are home now, after 26 days in the neurological ICU and 4 surgeries (3 brain and 1 abdomen). The last surgery, to place a new shunt, was something of a big miracle, and she came out of recovery with a big smile. Could there ever be anything so amazing as that?

It’s great to be home.

Molly Kate feels “fantastic” (such a relief for her, after so much pain) and is taking things slow. Well, slow for her. She already has been to Starbucks and freaked the barrista out with her train-wreck head. And she had a few bites of a carne asada burrito. And my ears are bleeding, cause she’s talking so much. The tremendous relief she feels translates into a motor mouth that just won’t quit….not that I’m complaining….but, dang! Take a breath, Molly Kate!!

I can’t wait to cook , bake, arrange spices obsessively, start annoying people again, and blog about random stuff. But right now I need to do about 22 loads of laundry, pay bills, make phone calls, get a pedicure (seriously - remember those raptors in Jurassic Park?) and just enjoy the sweet chirping sound of my daughter‘s voice, who doesn’t mind being bald with big ol’ nasty looking scars all over….she is just so relieved to be home and feeling great. It will take some time to gain all her strength back, but this is such a terrific outcome. Brain surgery rocks!

Thanks, everyone, for your sweet thoughts and prayers, your offers of help and food, and all the other wonderfulness that kept me afloat. I promise I’ll be back up and blogging away very soon - I’m thinking you all need some crazy ass post about hospital food.



16 Comments

2008-07-12T08:28:31.633-07:00

I have no jazzy title to this post at all. Maybe something like, LIFE SUCKS, but, hey, I’ve gotten some remarkably kind and hopeful emails from many of you, so I don’t want to scare anyone.

Our daughter, Molly Kate, has been in the Barrow’s Neurological ICU since June 22, the day after our son’s wedding. Since then, she has gone through two surgeries, a major infection, a dangerously low white blood cell count (2!!!) and is facing a fairly big brain surgery on Tuesday, if “all goes well“, which is always a dicey thing to write at this point. On the optimistic side, she is eating well (no feeding tube!), awake most of the time, and her pain is diminishing. All the medical hoo haw is complicated and frankly I don’t want to get into that shit here. I came home for two days to wash clothes, get some sleep, water dead plants, and pretend I can walk around without paralyzing fear and anxiety. And to not hear endless beeping of monitors.

We are not strangers to this situation. Molly since birth, has had many surgeries for her condition, hydrocephalus. It’s a bitch. I have learned enough about our completely backassward and negative health care system to know that it’s in complete and utter crisis. I have learned that most doctors just want to cover their ass and will try to avoid family members and their questions at all cost. Hey, who can blame them? When their malpractice costs are above $200K per year, they have lost their passion. I have learned that you have to advocate constantly for your loved ones and be demanding and assertive 24/7 when they are helpless. But all that stuff doesn’t matter right now. I’ll deal with those issues later, probably in a future post that will make you groan and wonder what it has to do with food.

On the bright side! Barrow’s is one of the premier “brain” hospitals in the country - we are lucky it’s only two hours away, and takes our insurance. Her nurses are, for the most part, extremely, wonderfully good and compassionate. Her original surgeon, who has performed some 50 surgeries on her as a child, is back on the case, coming in from Utah to take care of “his girl”. I feel this is something of a miracle, because of his guidance and relationship with our family, he has led us away from a truly dangerous situation to a real solution. We have friends and family who pray and help - my dear sister flew in from San Francisco and helped me in a way that only she understands. Our other children are so helpful and make her laugh - even our son in Iraq calls every chance he can, which is no small thing. We have a powerful and loving circle around us. I am truly, deeply thankful.

And, I hear from some of you that have learned of this situation. Your emails and posts move me very much. Sometimes I think that a complete stranger, who has no connection with us at all, sending prayers and good wishes, is the strongest indication of human…goodness and compassion. It is surprise and wonderful revelation
Thank you.

So, I’ll end with that….otherwise this post will get stupidly emotional and really, I just wanted to let you all know what’s up and to thank you so much.



Get DOWN With Your Nigerian Bad Self!!!

2008-11-19T00:12:57.344-07:00

It's time for a short break for The Dish...(not to be confused with break dancing, which I am quite good at, btw)We have a son getting married on Saturday, so have to shave my legs, pluck my eyebrows, find some shoes that aren't flip flops, that I can bust a move in, to "We Are Family" at the reception...besides, it’s really hot, and I don’t want to cook or bake. So you can see how BUSY I AM, OK?What’s your opinion about hats? I mean, I found a really cool one, you know, to wear to the wedding. My sister said “you’ll look an ass”. She's just jealous I look like English nobility. But, I’m just thinking how awesome those Royal broads look when they’re going to the horse races or knighting Richard Branson, or whatever the hell they do on weekends.Don't worry, I'll wear some blush.Ok, I know some of you read a post I made a month or so ago about a nice Nigerian man who needed some info from me so he could send me 68 million dollars. I wrote back, saying I’d send him some fudge, but that’s about it. I never did see my money, dang him. Those Nigerians are soooo unreliable! But I'm intrigued by their...earnest persistence and apparent willfullness to trust total strangers.So, I get an email AGAIN from ANOTHER guy from Nigeria. He’s a “Manager”…I don’t know of what, but it appears I’m in for yet ANOTHER chunk of change! For my “goodself”, I’ll get 10 million dollars. I must be very goodself! Again, I’m rather concerned about the lack of proper SPELLING instructions these Nigerian guys get in school! I guess going to school with a bunch of holy cows milling around in the schoolhouse is distracting!I’m pretty honored, you know – this is a “TWO-Man business deal” and he thinks he can trust me. And evidently, I can see from my email that LOTS of people trust me. And generally, they're from Africa, Iraq, and the United Nations. How come nobody in the USA has millions of dollars laying around, unclaimed?? Huh? Can you tell me the answer to THAT mystery?I’ll see you knuckleheads after the wknd!From the Desk of:Mr.Jason IfekadimaWith great pleasure I Mr.Jason Ifekadima, working with a bank here in Nigeria as a Manager. I am writing you in respect of a foreign customer (an Oil consultant/contractor with our National Oil & Liquidified Gas Sector) whom made a US$25M depository for an investment program that has remained dormant for years now. (Umm, I’m wondering if I can take part of my share of the money in actual GAS??? For my CAR??? Like, have you seen the price of gas in America??? Can you send some money to those OPEC guys? It appears that they need some!)Hence, I have decided to contact you due to the urgency of this transaction. On my personal investigation, I discovered that the account holder died on December 2002 in the Ukrainian aircraft crash. (Another plane crash! All these rich guys dropping like flies!!! Ukrainian?? Everyone knows those guys can’t fly!!! Doesn’t anybody fly Southwest over there?)I made further investigation and discovered that the customer died without making a WILL on the depository.It may interest you to know that I am only contacting you as a foreigner because this money cannot be approved to a local Bank account here, but can only be approved to a foreigner with an account since the money is in US Dollars. I have decided as a matter of urgency upon this discovery now seek your permission to have you stand as next of kin to the fund as No one has ever come forward to claim this fund. (Damn straight, Skippy, it DOES interest me! I’ll be[...]



ESPRESSO-CINNAMON SABAYON IN CHOCOLATE CUPS WITH ORANGE (SMASHED) TUILES

2008-11-19T00:12:59.061-07:00

Bonjour! Michel Roux and I will be leading the class today on the proper way to….how do you Americans say…fouet? Whisk? No matter - you will BEAT THE LIVING MERDE OUT OF THIS STUFF on your way to a lovely, fluffy, light Sabayon! And, as an added treat, we will be baking some Orange Tuiles!!! Merveilleux! Please take notes – your practical exam will test you on these techniques! Écouter!!! And, you, in the back row…yes, YOU-Miss Heather! Please see that your apron is properly cleaned next class! And no more Beaujolais in class! Scandaleux!We will make our Orange Tuiles first. Michel! Start on the orange zest, s’il vous plait!!! We don’t have all day! And you have some foie gras in your hair!!! MERDE!!!!Orange Tuiles – from “Michel Roux – New Techniques from a French Master Chef”Ingredients:½ cup plus 2 tablespoon granulated sugar1/3 cup flour½ cup slivered almonds3 ½ tablespoons softened butterGrated zest of ½ orange¼ cup orange juice, strained1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.2. Put the sugar, flour, almonds, butter, and orange zest in a bowl and beat well, then mix in the orange juice.3. Take a scant tablespoon of the mixture and push it off onto a nonstick or lightly buttered baking sheet. Repeat to use half of the mixture, spacing the heaps well apart to allow room for spreading. Dip a fork in cold water and use it to flatten the mixture, roughly into rounds. The more you flatten them, the thinner the tuiles will be, but the more fragile they will be to shape when cooked.4. Bake in the oven for 4-5 minutes, until the tuiles have spread evenly and are a pale nutty brown color. Leave the tuiles on the baking sheet for 1 minute, then lift them off with a palette knife, and drape them around a rolling pin or a tuile mold so that they set into a curved shape.When you have molded a few tuiles, you will need to return the bakng sheet to the oven for 30 – 60 seconds, to soften the unshaped tuiles (which will have hardened on standing). Repeat with remaining mixture.MERDE!!!!! Michel, you are SURE you have written this recipe correctly?? Would you look at this!!!! MERDE! Les étudiants!!! DO NOT use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture!!!! A teaspoon will be sufficient!!! And definitely keep them in your oven a bit longer!!!! “Pale nutty color”???? Incroyable!!! Bake them longer!!!! MERDE!!! Look at my tuiles!!!!Ok students, we will not panique!!!! We will simply make do. Escouffier would NOT allow this, but he would manage…he would make do. So, students…SMASH these tuiles! We will figure this out later! Oh, save the two perfectly formed ones. Those are mine. Yes, Peter - it is fair, I'm the boss here. MERDE! Oh right, everyone settle down. It is time to prepare our Sabayon. Pas de problème – it is easy!!!! Of course, you need to whip this like a stubborn mule, but the ingredients are few and simple to put together.Coffee Sabayon with Cinnamon - from “Michel Roux – New Techniques from a French Master Chef” (with a variation by Catherine Wilkinson a Arizona Master…oh never mind)Ingredients:1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee granules¼ cup cold water4 large egg yolks¼ cup granulated sugar½ teaspoon ground cinnamon1. For your bain-marie, half-fill a saucepan that is large enough to hold a round-bottomed copper bowl or pan (or heatproof glass bowl) with warm water. Place the saucepan over a low heat.2. Put the instant espresso and water into the bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to dissolve. Lightly whisk in the egg yolks, sugar, and cinnamon.3[...]



GNARLY VEGETABLES

2008-11-19T00:12:59.811-07:00

These kohlrabi bulbs look like freedom fighters from the Death Star. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted one – but the local CSA is diligent about introducing us to new vegetables and techniques for preparing them. I have used their recipe for a kohlrabi salad, which was “purloined” from Deborah Madison, Queen of Vegetable Land. I found another recipe, that called for cream, butter, nutmeg and a gentle simmering to tenderize the somewhat tough kohlrabi, but I figured I should go for the raw version to see if I liked it. It was like – a combination of cabbage and turnip. Not unpleasant, good crunch, but next time, I’ll try the creamy, buttery version. The best part about this salad? Besides those wonderful Japanese Salad turnips? The vinaigrette is super excellent. It will go into the salad dressing rotation at my house. It’s really really REALLY good. So, take the vinaigrette recipe and put it somewhere….it’s an excellent slaw dressing.This is a choice salad to accompany ribs, or some other slathered up hunk of meat.Supposedly, you can cook up the kohlrabi tops, like chard, or turnip tops, but I'm just about topped out with the whole roughage thing. I'm thinking it's time for some sweet, sweet lovin' from the butter box.Kohlrabi, Turnip, and Celery Salad with Mustard-Caper Vinaigrette2 tablespoons red wine vinegar2 shallots, finely diced1 garlic clove, mincedKosher salt and freshly ground black pepper1 tablespoon Dijon mustard2 tablespoons crème fraiche1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil2 tablespoons snipped chives1 tablespoon chopped parsley3 tablespoons capers, well rinsed2-3 trimmed and cleaned kohlrabi bulbs3-4 trimmed and cleaned Japanese salad turnips2-3 celery ribs and leavesAssortment of lettuce/herbs1. Combine vinegar, shallots, garlic, and some salt in a medium sized bowl. Let stand for about 15 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, cream fraiche. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking vigorously until mixture is thick and creamy. Set aside to mellow out.2. Peel 2-3 kohlrabi bulbs and cut into fine julienne strips – peeling them reminds me of peeling ginger – a little tricky. Thinly slice the turnips. Peel and thinly slice celery ribs and chop leaves. Place vegetables in a bowl with a good mix of lettuces. Toss. Drizzle in vinaigrette to desired amount and toss. Or, plate salad first, then drizzle on the vinaigrette. [...]



I AM A GRINGO PIG!

2008-11-19T00:13:00.458-07:00

Hey. I just ate 6 fresh, hot flour tortillas straight from the woman who just opened a tiny tortilla shop nearby. And I ate them really fast, while making noises reminisce of a baby calf nursing. Because THERE IS NOTHING BETTER IN THIS WORLD THAN FRESH FLOUR TORTILLAS. Wrapped around some meat and cheese product is pretty good. But they are best with about a stick of butter, and some coarse sea salt.So now I feel rather ill.But it was so worth it! Back in the day, the day when I was a ramblin’, backpacking groovy kinda chick, hanging out at Mayan ruins in southern Mexico with nefarious characters, my main mission was to locate the best tortilla maker in the vicinity. When I found her (and it was always a woman, I never saw a guy make tortillas…muy mal!), I pretty much set up camp in her front yard with the chickens and waited for her to get to it. In southern Mexico, it was always corn tortillas, never, ever flour. Flour tortillas are pretty much a northern Mexico, south Texas thing. Whenever I would ask the tortilla lady if she could make flour tortillas, she gave me a look like I had just asked her to fry up her first born. I loved the corn tortillas….they were very small, thin, and sublime. I could eat a dozen at a time, no problem. I was hypnotized (or possibly a little dazed by the latest remedy for diarrhea from the Pharmacia) by the rhythmic slapping of the tortillas between her hands, then watching her quickly cook them, flipping them deftly with just one finger …there were no fancy tortilla presses, or spatulas. It remains, to me, the finest display of culinary skill I have ever seen.But being from Arizona, I grew up gnawing on flour tortillas, (seriously, my Mom gave them to us when we were teething as babies!) and they remain my favorite. And when I can find someone who knows what they’re doing, I become an addict. I’ve made lots of my own over the years, some of the results pretty dang good. But nothing compares to the genetic wonderment and magic that flows from the hands of an accomplished Mexican woman (usually somewhere over the age of 102, with 3 dogs that hate me). Who refuses to speak English (even though she knows exactly what I’m asking for), slaps a warm dozen tortillas into a plastic bag, closing the bag with a twist that would snap the antenna off a border patrol truck, and barks the price in Spanish. And she has no change. Too bad for you, gringa! I pay up timidly, bowing all the way out of the tiny store. Once in the car, I can’t wait, and fold one into fourths, cramming it in my mouth. Ah, yes….the warm taste of flour, lard, ancient fry pans, salt, some sort of earthy slick, summer monsoons, and heaven.The second tortilla was wrapped around a mix of ground venison, cilantro, jalapeno-smoked chorizo sausage, tomatillo salsa and Cotija cheese.The third tortilla was buttered up and salted.The fourth and fifth, with a little honeyThe sixth is sitting here with me now – I’m tearing bits off as I type.Yeah, I’m feeling pretty disgustingly full.I hope somewhere, somehow, in some tiny tortilla shop next to a mercado selling beer and cashing checks, some wonderful tortilla lady will give you just that feeling.[...]



"Roasted Orange Beets and Truffle-Honey White Peaches over Sautéed Greens"

2008-11-19T00:13:01.548-07:00

I've had this jar of truffle honey for a while now. I'm a fan of truffles, when you can weasel them out of the chef. I had a special white truffle dinner at The Toque in Napa Valley and the chef actually came out and shaved a hunk of truffle all over my plate, after I kept bugging the waiter. It was a wonderfully decadent experience, however - have you ever burbed truffle? It quite quickly loses it's appeal. I'm not doing that again - a little goes a LONG way.This honey has an odd flavor, at first taste - like licking a tire, (long story) but once it mellows out, very lovely. I really didn't know what to do with it, other than take a taste now and then and think of bicycles. I did read somewhere that it would be a good idea to smear it on some toasted bread, with some sparky, stinky cheese. That was OK tasting, but I really thought it could benefit from some heat. And some benign and non-assertive vegetable. How about those orange beets, I thought? (It's really some sort of circus in my brain as I ponder the stuff in the refrigerator - monkeys on bicycles, wearing a fez.) And those peaches that I've haven't had time to fiddle with - I was going to do a chicken with balsamic roasted peaches, but the chicken went south....very south. Like, maybe all the way to El Salvador. On a bus. With goats. Whew.Now, my peaches were very ripe. I do think if you consider roasting them, it would be a nice technique with less ripe peaches. Mine got a bit mushy. Also, I would consider a light brushing of the honey on those beets, before roasting. The flavor of the honey drizzled on the finished beets was outstanding.But ultimately, this was a really nice flavor combination. Nothing fancy (well, that Italian truffle honey cost enough to make the Spousal Unit yell at me using bad words), but flavorful and satisfying. Roasted Orange Beets and Truffle-Honey White Peaches over Sautéed Greens1 bunch of beets, orange or yellow is best2 tablespoons olive oil4 white peaches, halved, pitted, but leave skin on2-3 tablespoons honey (I used an Italian honey, infused with black truffle bits)1 teaspoon peanut oil2 cloves garlic, finely choppedSalt and freshly ground black pepper to tastePreheat oven to 375 degrees1. Chop off tops of beets, cut into bite-sized pieces (removing any tough leaves) and set aside. Clean and trim beets, leaving them whole with skin on.2. Place beets into small pan (I used a heavy bread pan) and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes or so, until a knife inserted into the largest beet slides in easily.3. Meanwhile, brush cut sides of peaches with some of the honey. Heat the peanut oil over moderately high heat in a heavy, oven-proof skillet. Place peaches cut side down into skillet and caramelize those babies, until just turning brown. Place in oven, along side of beets for the last 6-8 minutes of roasting.4. While the beets and peaches are finishing their roasting, heating the remaining olive oil in a sauté pan. Add garlic, sauté for a couple of minutes. Add chopped greens and sauté until nicely wilted and tender.5. Serve the beets and peaches over the wilted greens and drizzle with a little more of the honey.Serves 4 Beet Love"Really, really, really want to shake your tree"[...]



Portrait of An Artist As A Baker

2008-11-19T00:13:02.249-07:00

Pity party officially OVER. Time for The Dish madcap hilarity and hi-jinxity!I am quite the serious artist. I work mainly in sculpture. Oh, I’ll dabble in watercolor, but my first love is in the primitive desire to mold something out of some resistive medium. Take pie dough, for example. Yesterday, while making The Birthday Pie (so incredibly boring), I found myself with a lump of leftover dough. Instinctively, my hands began to shape the pliable Pillsbury into life. Because it was the Spousal Unit’s birthday, I had the brilliant inspiration, nay, the GENIUS idea to sculpt a bust of his likeness. Slowly, deliberately, his countenance came to life in my talented hands. I was struck with angst occasionally (much like Michelangelo during the David phase), but ultimately the brilliance burst forth! It’s an incredible likeness. I used cake decoration for the eyes and hair, but that was my only concession to anything but the raw power of the dough. The candy eyes capture the depth of his soul perfectly!Behold….”Man on His Birthday” Birthday Pie – “Apple Caramel Filling in a Pillsbury Pastry Adorned by Afro-American Dancers” Ingredients:Pie pastry for two crusts – I’m sure you have a good recipe. If not, Google – there’s about 2 bazillion recipes out there. Me? I used refrigerated Pillsbury dough because I’m cranky AND lazy. Actually – don’t judge! It’s not bad! Especially if you have the need to sculpture!About 6 cups golden delicious apples, cored, peeled and sliced1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice¼ cup all purpose flour1 teaspoon cinnamon¼ teaspoon nutmeg¼ teaspoon salt1 teaspoon vanilla4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream6 tablespoons unsalted butter½ cup caramel ice cream toppingMilk for brushing top crust1 tablespoon turbinado sugar1 teaspoon cinnamon1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.2. Place the sliced apples into a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Toss gently.3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir into apples4. Stir in the heavy whipping cream and vanilla. Stir gently to coat apples.5. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a large heavy sauté pan. Add apples and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the caramel sauce. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally for 6 more minutes or until apples are a bit tender.6. Fit bottom crust into deep dish 9” pie pan. Turn cooked apples into shell. Top with other pastry crust – seal and crimp. Slash steam vents, brush with a little milk and sprinkle turbinado sugar/cinnamon mixture over top.7. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove pie and cover edges of pie with strips of foil to prevent burning, lower heat to 350, and return to oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil during last 7-8 minutes of baking.8. Cool on rack for at least half an hour before serving.Since it was a birthday, it was necessary to decorate. I just love these two jiving hip-hoppers. I got them to decorate a cake I made a few years ago for an old man turning 72. Of course, it made no sense, which heightened my pleasure at watching his reaction! It was almost as good as putting a Rabbi on top of a toddler’s bunny cake! You can find the most awesome decorations at Pretty Party Place!!!! This is how it always ends up, doesn't it?[...]