Lee and I have been discussing coffee shops since we met in college; we had a good one in Vermillion: Shelley’s. Actually, it’s called the “Coffee Shop Gallery,” but we never called it that. Pfft. My massive stonewear teapot is from there. I have a ton of memories from both locations we went to on Main Street. The first time I purposefully listened in to other peoples’ conversations (for playwriting class) was there. At any rate, we’re always talking about doing this or that to the house, too, and this summer I realized that what we kept talking about was making our house more like an ideal coffee shop. So we spent a few months talking about what the perfect coffee shop would be like.

I don’t know that we came to any conclusions, but we did get a house full of people and a lot of food out of it.

There were other recipes – we dropped ‘em.  Lee made espresso drinks for everyone, and mixed fizzy-water things.  My favorite was the “orangegasm.”  I’ll have to get the recipe from him. We also had a cheese/meat plate that Margie brought. I can’t remember what was on there, either, and a bunch of it was really good.

Click the links for the original recipes :)

Attendees:

  • Dave and Margie (and Katherine)
  • Cindy
  • Stan and Mary
  • Michelle Baker
  • Babara, and later, Joe
  • Jackie and Wendy

Chili
(Lee’s chili recipe)

This ended up just a bit too spicy for most people and had to be tamed with sour cream. Oh, the horror! But you may want to add just one chipotle chili at a time to test.

2 T dried chili pepper (not chili powder)
1 T cumin
1 1/2 lbs chorizo
1/2 lb summer sausage, cubed
1 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Anaheim peppers, seeds removed, diced
4 chipotle chilis in adobo, seeds removed, minced
1 T salt
2 15 oz cans pinto beans
4 15 oz cans tomatoes (2 before the cooking for a deeper flavor and 2 after for a brighter red color)
1 bottle dark beer (brown ale or stout)
2 oz mexican chocolate (for example, Abuelita brand)

Cook chili pepper and cumin over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the chili pepper starts to brown and smell toasty. Add the olive oil, sausages, garlic, Anaheim peppers, and chipotles and cook until the chorizo is cooked through. Add 2 cans of tomatoes, the salt, the beer, and the chocolate and cook over low heat for at least 3 hours (or place in a crock pot and cook overnight), stirring occasionally if on the stove. About 1/2 hour from serving, add the beans and the rest of the tomatoes. Heat through and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Mushroom Soup

The Best Mushroom Broth

This was to roll on the floor and make yourself sick for.

2 ounces mixed dried mushrooms, including some shiitakes and porcinis
6 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, cut in half
4 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
1-2 tablespoons miso, red if you have it (optional)

Soak the mushrooms in the boiling water while you prepare the rest of the broth. Heat the oil in a large pot. Sauté the onion, carrots, celery until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, rosemary and salt and pepper and sauté for another minute or two. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the red wine and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot to incorporate the browned vegetable bits. Add the mushrooms and their soaking liquid. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain vegetables from broth and discard. In a small bowl, stir 1 tablespoon miso into a half-cup or so of hot broth and then stir into the rest of the broth. Taste and add more miso if you like. This should make 4 cups, just enough for the soup, but I always end up with more. The extra freezes well and is great in risotto and veggie loaf. Or you could just make more mushroom soup.

The Best Mushroom Soup

8 ounces button mushrooms
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallot or onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups of The Best Mushroom Broth, above
1 cup bread crumbs from about 2 slices bread
1/2 cup cream (plain) or milk

Reserve 4 or 5 of the smaller, shapelier mushrooms and chop the rest finely. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Sauté the shallot and mushrooms until they are tender and mushrooms are releasing their liquid. Add garlic and salt and sauté another minute. Add the bread and mushroom broth and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Stir in creamer. Divide the soup into 4 bowls. Thinly slice the reserved mushrooms and use them to garnish the soup.

Spicy Brazilian Coconut Shrimp Soup (a la Shuga’s)

We left the tomatoes out of this for Jackie, and it was crazy delicious anyway.

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from one 15-ounce can)
5 cups water
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and cut in half horizontally
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1.In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes.
2.Add the rice, red-pepper flakes, salt, tomatoes, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 10 minutes.
3.Stir the coconut milk into the soup. Bring back to a simmer and then stir in the shrimp. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are just done, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the black pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.
NOTES Variation Instead of the shrimp, use one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about three), cut crosswise into quarter-inch strips. Cook for the same amount of time.

Beef au jus sliders

I made the beef for this the night before and, erm, just left it in the pot with the broth overnight. Good gravy, was that a good way to do it, though.

Ingredients
1 beef rump roast or bottom round roast (4 pounds)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large sweet onions
6 tablespoons butter, softened, divided
5 cups beef broth
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon brown sauce, optional (or Worchestershire)
2 large packages of Hawaiian sweet rolls (King’s Hawaiian)

Dump everything except one of the onions in a crock pot, cook until falling apart, turn off heat, and let sit overnight in the fridge.

Slice as thinly as possible. Skim the broth and add meat and broth to the crockpot again, turn on to reheat. Meanwhile, slice up the remaining onion and saute until brown, then add to warming broth.

Serve with mini rolls, mayo, horseradish sauce, cheese (harvarti or swiss or provolone, optional), and little bowls for the juice.

Nutella fluffernutters

A squishy mess that disappeared.

Mini bagels
Marshmallow fluff
Nutella
Peanut butter
Raspberry Jam (optional)

Muffaletta

Olive Salad
3 Cups Green Olives, Pitted
1 Cup kalamatta Olives (or Black) Pitted
2 Cup Gardiniera (Pickled Cauliflower, Carrots, Celery, Pepperoncini)
2 Tbsp. Capers
6 each Fresh Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup Celery, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. Italian Parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano (When I have it in my garden) or 2 tsp. dried
2 tsp. Crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 Cup Roasted red peppers
2 Tbsp. Green Onions, thinly sliced
2 Anchovy fillets
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground pepper To Taste

Combine all ingredients (either by chopping them all or a food processor. Cover with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, about 1 to 3 cups (enough Olive Oil that there is a thin layer on the top of the Salad). Put into a bowl or jar, cover and let the flavors marinate for about one week.

As noted by us, the Olive Salad recipe can easily by 1/2 or a 1/3 for two of the sandwiches or kept if you like Olive Salad.

Muffaletta
2 10″ round loaf Italian bread with Sesame seeds (Muffaletta, Chibatta or any other form of rustic round flat Italian bread).
1 Recipe of Olive Salad
1/2 lb Genoa Salami
1/2 lb Hot Capicola
1/2 lb Mortadella
1/4 lb Sliced Mozzarella
1/4 lb Provolone

Cut the bread in half length wise. Brush both sides with your 1 week old Olive Salad, go a little heavier on the bottom. Layer half of the Salami on the bottom half of the bread. Then the Mortadella. Then the Mozzarella. Then the Capicola, Provolone, and the remainder of Salami. Top this with the olive salad. Put the lid on and press it down without smashing the bread. Quarter it.

Onion dip
(Lee’s invention)

1 Sweet onion, diced
1 c Plain yogurt, Greek if available
1 c Sour Cream
1T soy sauce
1T Worchestershire sauce
1t salt

Saute the sweet onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until the onions turn black; don’t stir them much, let them stick to the pan rather than mess with them too much.

Mix ingredients together and chill for ½ hour.

Olive-garlic Hummus

2 16 oz cans of garbanzos
½ c olives–whatever kind you like
2T vegetable oil (NOT extra-virgin olive oil)
¼ c tahini
2 cloves raw, peeled garlic (smashed/minced–don’t count on the blender doing it for you)
Rice wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
Roasted sesame oil
Salt

Rinse and drain the garbanzos but don’t bother to take the skins off. In a food processor or monster blender, puree the garbanzos, tahini, and oil until the beans are as smooth as you like. The hummus won’t be the right consistency; you’re looking for something sticky and smooth, like peanut butter–but it can be chunkier.

Now, add about 2-3T rice wine vinegar, the smooshed up garlic, and about 2T sesame oil, and blend. Adjust oil and vinegar until the flavors balance; you may not want to add salt.

Madeleines

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

Powdered sugar

preparation

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter and flour pan for large madeleines (about 3 x 1 1/4 inches).* Using electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla, lemon peel and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended.
Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each indentation in pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 16 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)
Dust cookies with powdered sugar.
*A metal mold with scallop-shaped indentations, sold at cookware stores.

Easy Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
Preparation:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. Add eggs and vanilla, stirring until blended. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead 8 to 10 times. Form dough into a log about 2-inches wide and 16-inches thick.
Place log onto baking sheet coated with non-stick spray. Bake 30 minutes; remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.
Place log on cutting board and with a serrated knife, cut log diagonally into 1/2 inch slices, using a sawing motion. Place slices cut side up, on baking sheet.
Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Turn slices over and bake an additional 10 to 12 minutes until golden. Centers will be slightly soft, but will harden as they cool. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Cindy also brought…

Sopapilla Bars

2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar, divided
2 t vanilla extract, divided
2 8 oz packages of refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 t ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350. Coat 13×9″ baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine cream cheese and 4T butter until creamy, then add 1 c. sugar and 1 t vanilla extract and beat until creamed.

Without separating the rolls at the preforations, unroll one package of crescent rolls into the bottom of the pan, pressing the dough down until it reaches the edges. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the rolls. Unroll the other package of crescent rolls onto a lightly floured surface and stretch or roll out to fit the pan, then position on top of the cream cheese mixture.

In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 6T of butter, stir in the remaining 1/2 c. sugar, remaining 1 T vanilla, and the cinnamon. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then spread evenly over the dough in the pan.

Bake 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and slightly puffed. cool before cutting into squares.

Cindy Martino-Vaughn brought this to the last cooking party. Very yum, very good with eggnog, too.

12 c. strong, brewed coffee (she used 1/2 regular and 1/2 hazelnut)
2 lb. bag of brown sugar
5 T. vanilla extract (can be replaced in whole or part with almond extract, she said)
375 ml Everclear; 375 ml brandy

Brew the coffee, then put in saucepan and bring to a boil with the sugar; stir until dissolved. Refrigerate until cool. Add the extract and booze and pour in bottles.

I had the recipe notes on the fridge for a month. Fun times.

Based off April Baker’s family bulgogi recipe…

Bulgogi (Korean most-delicious beef)

Marinade:
1/2c. soy sauce
1/8c. brown sugar
1/8c. white sugar
1/4c. roasted sesame oil
2 Tbs sesame seeds
2 Tbs minced garlic
2 Tbs black/rice wine/red wine vinegar (opt.)
1 Tbs fish sauce (opt.)
1 inch peeled ginger (opt)
1 Tbs gochujang or siracha hot sauce (opt)

Blend into a sauce.

1.5 lbs thin-cut beef (get this specialty cut from an Asian market if possible (paper thin!); otherwise, pound out thinly-cut top sirloin or flank steak)
1/8 cup chopped green onion
1 small package enoki mushrooms, stem ends removed so they’re easy to separate (opt) (get these from an Asian market if possible)
1 green/red bell pepper, cut in strips (opt)
1 yellow onion, cut in strips (opt)

Add the marinade to the beef and veggies for 20-30 minutes or overnight.

Either saute or grill (on foil) until just done.

Most people eat it served w/ rice and lettuce leaves and hot paste in a lettuce wrap…traditional Korean style-messy and fun. Serve with banchan (various small plates) from an Asian grocery store.

Note: add sesame seeds and/or roasted sesame oil to the rice when cooking.

We had the great and glorious Indian cooking party on February 11th. Why Indian food? Popular request. Why…include baklava? Jackie asked for it. I pointed out that I had asked for requests for Indian food or from places close to India. I was thinking, oh, Pakistan. Sri Lanka. That kind of thing. On the same continent. But no. I sent her my recipe for baklava and told her to make it herself, but then other people started mentioning how much they liked baklava. Fine. Baklava it was.

Attending:

  • De, Ray (kid) (Lee skedaddled; he doesn’t like Indian food)
  • Margie, Dave, Katherine (kid)
  • Jackie and Kaylee (kid)
  • Steph
  • Bruce
  • Ann (and, later, Larry, who we let “swoop in right at dinner time, help with nothing and gorge myself and fantastic fruits of your labors!”)
  • Kate, Doyce, and the Sean-meister (kid)
  • Bob, Charlotte, and Jordyn (kid)

It sounded like everyone had a fair to great time, except for Sean, who was just getting over a nasty cough and ran out of go-juice early, which meant that Kate and Doyce left before the food was done. AHHHHH! Tragedy. But the bebe comes first, I know :)

We had the following pickles:

  • Spicy mango pickle
  • Kerda berry pickle

And we had candy-covered fennel seeds.
All three of these items elicited grimaces from various people, and I had the pleasure of making everyone taste the fennel seeds and caught all the faces :)

This time, I emailed out an order of battle for the recipes:
2 p.m.

  • Naan (needs to rise for 2h)
  • Chicken Tikki Masala up to marinade (needs to marinate for at least 1 hour)
  • Ghee and Paneer for Saag Paneer
  • Mint-cilantro dip
  • (Note – we were missing the mint on this, but it turned out wonderfully.)

  • Kashmiri noon chai
  • Any other snacks

4 p.m.

  • Kheer
  • Basmati Rice
  • Lamb Korma
  • Chicken Tikki Masala post-marinade
  • Chicken Vindaloo
  • As the meat dishes get done, put in crock pots and heat as necessary.

6 p.m.

  • Saag Paneer
  • Amba Maluwa
  • Baingan Barta
  • Baklava

And this seemed to help things move more smoothly: I knew when I had to kick someone off the burners. Bob mentioned bringing his camp stove next time so we could expand a little, and I’m definitely thinking about it. We ended up starting the baingan barta early, as either the masala or vindaloo had to push back a little later. Rice cooker = goodness.

Naan (Based on this recipe.)
Serves 16
8 cups all purpose flour or wheat flour
2 cup of warm milk
2 cup of yogurt
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together and make a well of flour. Mix the milk and yogurt together and pour half of it into the well and slowly combine it together, slowly pouring in the rest of the liquid mixture.
The dough should be soft enough for you to be able to dig your finger into it without applying any pressure. If dough sticks to hand too much then use little bit of oil on hand and then punch into the dough.
Cover with damp cloth and let it sit in a warm place for at least 2 hours. After a few hours, dust your working board, take out the dough and knead it for about 2-3 minutes. Divide the dough into smaller balls. Dust the board again and flatten the balls to make bread which is a little thick and elongated.

Brush one side with water. Heat a thick bottom skillet or a wok or any heavy bottom pan with a lid. Once its nicely hot place the naan wet side down and cover it with a lid.
Let it cook for about 30 secs or until you see bubbles on it. Now cook the other side of the naan over direct flame of the burner with the help of tongs. When you see some charred brown spots then you know that the naan is done.

–The naans ended up thicker than restaurant naans, but utterly and completely delicious. I am now pro-thicker naan.

Chicken tikka masala (Based on this recipe.)
Serves 12.
Chicken marinade
4 lb chicken breast, boneless and skinless
1 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 lemon, juice of
3/4 tsp ground coriander
2 1/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 tbsps plain yogurt

Dice the chicken breast. Combine all the above sauce ingredients (except for olive oil) in a bowl and mix well. Toss the chicken and coat well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to a day. Skewer the chicken with pre-soaked bamboo skewers. If baking, set the skewers on the baking sheet and bake 8 minutes, turn and bake another 7 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle at 450F. Remove from skewers and set aside.

Masala sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
3 large white onion, diced
12 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp ginger
3 28-ounce can of tomato puree
pinch of ground turmeric
3 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
6 tsp sugar
3 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
6 tbsp butter
9 cardamom pods, crushed
3 cinnamon stick
3 cup yogurt

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until the onions become golden brown, stirring frequently for about six minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomato puree. Cover and simmer for a few minutes until the tomato softens, stirring occasionally. Mash it with the onions until it becomes a sort of mushy paste. Stir in the cumin seeds, coriander, paprika, red pepper, salt, black pepper and sugar. Let the masala simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the sauce into a blender and purée until smooth.
Return the masala to the saucepan and stir in the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, butter and yogurt. Set on high heat. Let it come to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add the chicken and let simmer 5 minutes. Stir it every minute or so.

–Margie said that she wishes she’d poured off the cooking liquid from the chicken. Also, that we only used about half the tomato puree called for, and it was still almost too much.

Mint-Coriander Chutney (Based on this recipe.)

1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh coriander
5 cloves garlic
1″ piece of ginger
2 green chillies
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps lime juice
Cut off any thick stalks from the mint and discard. Peel garlic and ginger and remove stalks from green chillies. Wash all these ingredients thoroughly.
Grind all the ingredients (including the salt which you can add more of later to suit your taste) into a smooth paste in a food processor.

–Yum.

Kashmiri noon chai (Based on this recipe.)

9 cups of water
2 tablespoons semi-fermented tea leaves
15-20 seeds of green cardamom
1\2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1\2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1’’ or ½ ‘’ of cinnamon bark
¼ teaspoon of crushed peppercorns
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 pint whole milk
1 tablespoons fresh cream (malai)
3 teaspoons ground pistachio
3 teaspoons of powdered almonds
Few strands of saffron (optional)

Pour water in a large pan and add tea leaves, salt, seeds of green cardamom and bicarbonate of soda to it. Bring to boil and then simmer quickly for 20-45 minutes or until it reduces 3/4th its original quantity. A burgundy/dark pinkish film will appear on the surface which indicates that it is boiled to the desired level.

While it is still boiling, add the cinnamon bark, poppy seeds, crushed peppercorns and about 2-3 cups of cold water. Bring to boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, take the boiled tea in the ladle and raise the level of the ladle about 8-10 inches and pour the tea back to the pan. Repeat it for at least ten to twenty times. This will bring a change in the colour of tea. Stop the process when you find the colour becomes peachy/ burgundy with a prominent pink tinge and let it sit for a while. Strain the tea and keep it aside.

Boil the milk with ground cardamom over low heat and add the prepared tea blend to it. Bring to boil and simmer for 3-5 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and pour into the cups which are already filled with crushed almonds and pistachios. Spoon the thick cream or malai and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of pistachio over it to garnish. You can also add few strands of saffron on the top.

P.S: Adding excess amount of baking soda will sweeten the tea even if sugar is not used to prepare it. Also be careful to use the correct proportion of tea leaves because the desired pinkish colour will not be obtained if more than the required amount of tea leaves are used.

–Delicious. Not very sweet; I wish we’d tried increasing the baking soda, now that I think of it. This took longer than the stated times, but that may have been due to the high altitude here.

Kheer/Indian Rice Pudding (Based on this recipe.)
Serves 16
4 cup cooked long grain or basmati rice
4 cup whole milk
2 cup heavy cream
3 cup coconut milk
8 ounces sugar, approximately 1 cup
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 ounces golden raisins, approximately 1 1/3 cup
6 ounces chopped unsalted pistachios, approximately 1 1/3 cup
In a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat, combine the cooked rice and milk. Heat until the mixture begins to boil. Decrease the heat to low and cook at a simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring frequently, approximately 5 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium, add the heavy cream, coconut milk, sugar, and cardamom and continue to cook until the mixture just begins to thicken again, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Use a whisk to help prevent the cardamom from clumping. Once the mixture just begins to thicken, remove from the heat and stir in the raisins and pistachios. Transfer the mixture to individual serving dishes or a glass bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

–Daaaaamn, this was good. Again, it took longer than stated, but I think it was due to the altitude again.

Basmati Rice (This recipe comes from here; we just made the plain rice in a rice cooker and called it good.)

Rinse the rise in water before cooking until the water runs clear. Cook it in salted water with a good chunk of ghee/butter, and toss a dozen or so whole peppercorns and four to six green cardamom pods. Let it sit off the heat for five minutes or so after cooking with the lid off to let the last of the water evaporate. Then toss in a few saffron threads and toss with the rice, adding more ghee/butter if necessary. You can get some of the red effect from the saffron’s contact with the rice, but the flavor of restaurant rice is mostly rice, butter, salt and cardamom. Saffron in any quantity can be pretty strong.

LAMB KORMA (Based on this recipe.)

Serves 6
2 lb boneless lamb, cubed
4 oz cashew nuts
1.5 tbsp peanut oil
3 white onions
6 garlic cloves
1.5 inch piece of root ginger
1.5 inch piece of cinnamon stick
3 tsp tomato puree
3 bay leaves
5 cardamom pods, crushed
1.5 tsp ground coriander
.75 tsp turmeric
.75 tsp chilli powder
A small bunch of coriander

Peel the garlic and ginger and then crush the garlic and finely grate ginger, mix together and set aside.  Peel and finely chop the onions.  Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan (I like to use a Le Creuset pan for this, or any other heavy based, stove top casserole pan with a lid), add the onion, cinnamon stick, cardamom and bay leaves and gently sauté until the onion is soft – around 5 – 10 minutes.
Add the ginger and garlic, ground coriander, turmeric, chilli and tomato puree.  Mix well and then continue to sauté over a low heat for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the lamb, season well and mix together so that all of the lamb is coated in the spices.  Pour over ¼ pint (150 ml) of water, cover and simmer gently over a low heat for 30 minutes or until the lamb is tender.

Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle, grind the cashew nuts with a little water, until you have a smooth, creamy paste.  Once the lamb is cooked, scoop out the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and add the cashew paste, mix through and simmer for a couple of minutes.  Roughly chop the coriander, stalks and all, and sprinkle over the korma ready to serve.

–I was frustrated by how not-smooth the paste turned out, but otherwise this was wonderful. I wish we’d had the time to leave it in a crock pot all day, to make the lamb even more tender.

Chicken Vindaloo (Based on this recipe.)

Serves 8
3 lb chicken thighs (cut into cubes)
2 cup diced onions
8-10 whole red chilies
12-14 cloves of garlic
2 inch ginger
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (add more if you like)
For dry spice mix:
2 teaspoon cloves
6-8 whole cardamoms
2 teaspoon cinammon powder
1 tablespoon peppercorns
2 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 teaspoons mustard seeds
4 cups diced potatoes (optional)
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt

1) Soak whole chilies, garlic cloves and ginger in the white wine vinegar for about half an hour. Grind and make a paste of it.
2) Marinate chicken in the chili paste and let it sit in a refrigerator for at least an hour.
3) For the dry spice: mix cloves, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric and peppercorn. Grind them in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside.
4) Heat oil in a thick bottom pan, add mustard seeds.
5) Once they start to pop, add onions and fry them in oil until they turn light golden brown.
6) Add marinated chicken with all the juices and stir fry for a few minutes.
7) Add dry spices along with salt, mix it all together and cover the pan with a lid.
8) Let it simmer and cook until the chicken is done and curry is thick (stirring in between from time to time).
9) Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with rice or your choice of bread.

–This was the most spicy dish (other than the mango pickles), and some thought it too hot. However, I thought it tasted like a good sinus clearer :) We used dried chilis, soaking them in the vinegar, and they turned out just fine. I haven’t eaten Indian-buffet vindaloo that was this good, although is suspect doing wings in this would be better than chunks.

Saag Paneer (Based on this recipe; which was not the recipe in the original packet.)

SERVES 4
FOR THE CHEESE:
8 cups milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar
6 tbsp. ghee or vegetable oil

Ghee:
1 pound unsalted butter
Put the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, swirl the pot around to ensure that it melts slowly and does not sizzle or brown. Increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is covered with foam, stir gently and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Gently simmer, uncovered, and undisturbed for 45 minutes, until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown and the butter on top is transparent. Strain the ghee through a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth. The ghee should be perfectly clear and smell nutty; pour into a glass jar and seal tightly.

FOR THE SPINACH:
1″ piece ginger, peeled and chopped
3–4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 serrano chile, stemmed and chopped
4 bunches spinach, washed, trimmed,
and finely chopped (about 6 cups)
Salt
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1-2 pinches cayenne
6 tbsp. heavy cream

1. For the cheese: Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth, draping it over sides, and set colander aside in sink. Put milk into a large saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon to prevent it from scorching, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, add lemon juice, and very slowly and gently stir until large curds form, about 30 seconds. Carefully pour milk mixture into colander and gently rinse off under cold running water any foam and residual lemon juice from curds. Gather corners of cheesecloth together and gently squeeze out liquid. Tie opposite corners of cheesecloth together to make a sack, and hang it from a large kitchen spoon suspended over a deep bowl. Set aside at room temperature until excess liquid has thoroughly drained from cheese, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer sack to a large plate, untie cheesecloth, and loosely drape corners over cheese. Place a large heavy pot on top of cheese, then set aside for 30 minutes to compress cheese. Remove pot and unwrap cheese.

2. Cut cheese into1/2″ x 1″ pieces. Heat ghee in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cheese and fry until golden brown all over, 4–6 minutes. Transfer cheese with a slotted spatula to a plate and set aside. Set aside skillet with ghee.

3. For the spinach: Put ginger, garlic, chiles, and 1/4 cup water into a blender and purée to a smooth paste. Return skillet with ghee to stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger–garlic paste and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 30 seconds. Add spinach, season to taste with salt, and cook, stirring often, until spinach wilts, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring often, until spinich is very soft, 10-15 minutes. Stir in garam masala, cayenne to taste, and cream.

4. Add fried cheese to skillet, cover, and continue cooking until liquid thickens and spinach is silky soft, about 15 minutes more. Serve with warm Italian flatbread, if you like.

–This was the best saag paneer I’ve tasted (granted, I don’t eat a lot of it). The cheese was a bit loose, and I suppose you might argue for firmer, more fryable cheese. But no complaints from me.

Amba Maluwa (Based on this recipe.)

SRI LANKAN CURRY POWDER

6 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 x 5cm cinnamon stick (crumbled)
4 cloves
4 cardamom pods
5 dried curry leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Heat the pan and first put coriander seeds and fry it till it starts
to get golden brown. Then add rest of the ingredients and fly all in
medium heat, till it is nice golden brown. (Do not burn it.)
Place in a grinder and grind to a fine powder.
You can store it for months in an airtight container.

–Makes more than needed for the curry.

Curry:

1 medium ripened mango
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 onion (sliced)
salt – to taste
1 teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
6 curry leaves
1 x 2.5cm cinnamon stick
2 cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons sugar

Wash the mango & cut it into pieces with the seed. Now in a large bowl mix all the spices & sugar with mango pieces (mango, salt, Sri Lankan curry powder, chilli powder, turmeric & sugar) and keep it in aside. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add ginger & garlic and fry it for 1 minute, then add curry leaves, cinnamon stick & onions and cook it for nearly 5 minutes. When onions are cooked, add the mango pieces into the onion mixer and mix it well & keep it for nearly 10 minutes in medium heat. Final step is adding the coconut milk, and stir the curry. Keep it on heat till the mango pieces are getting soft, but do not try to break the pieces. (Try to stir the curry without a spoon, shake the saucepan.) Taste for salt.
NOTE:
If you do not peel the mango before cutting, it will give you a good taste. (When I´m making mango curry, I do not peel it. :-)

–We peeled the mangoes and tripled the recipe and it was MY FAVORITE.

Update: Ann says she put in one can of coconut milk on a triple recipe, so adjust the single batch to 1/2 cup coconut milk.

Baingan Barta (Based on this recipe.)
Serves 4 -6
Italian eggplant ………………………… 1 large
Potatoes ………………………………… 2 medium boiled and mashed
Tomatoes ………………………………. 2 large chopped
Mushroom ………………………………. 1/2 cup sliced (optional)
Anaheim or green bell pepper ………….. 1 medium chopped fine
Onion …………………………………… 1 medium chopped
Garlic …………………………………… 5 fat cloves minced
Green chilli …………………………….. 2 chopped fine
Red chilli powder ………………………. 1/2 tsp or to taste
Coriander powder ………………………. 2 tsp
Turmeric powder ……………………….. 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida ………………………………. one large pinch
Amchur powder …………………………. 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds …………………………… 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds …………………………….. 1/2 tsp
Salt ……………………………………… to taste
Oil ………………………………………. 2 tbsp
Cilantro leaves ………………………….. chopped for garnishig

Wash the eggplant and pat dry.Take a kitchen knife and poke 3-4 holes on the eggplant and microwave it on high for 5-6 minutes till it gets a little tender to touch. Take it out and place it in a 1″ deep baking tray lined with aluminum foil. Spray some oil spray all over the eggplant. Set the oven on high broil mode and place the eggplant on the middle rack . Broil it for 15 minutes on one side, flip and broil again for 10 -12 minutes on the other side till it gets nicely charred and skin starts to peel off. Take it out and let it cool till it is easy to handle.Peel the skin off the eggplant and take out the flesh and reserve the juice. Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan on medium heat and add the asafoetida, cumin and mustard seeds and stir for a minute till the seeds crackle. Add in the garlic and green chillies and saute till they get light golden brown. Add the onions and salt, saute for 2-3 minutes, add bell pepper and saute while stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Now add the mushrooms and mix.
Increase the heat to medium high. Cook for 2 minutes and add in the tomatoes and turmeric powder and cook for 5 -7 minutes while stirring frequently (it tends to burn fast so be careful) till the mixture starts leaving oil. Next add the potatoes and eggplant with the juice, coriander powder and mix. Lower the heat to medium. Keep mashing it with with a wooden spatula till it mixes into a nice even pulp for about 4-5 minutes. Add the red chilli powder and amchur. Keep cooking till it starts to caramelize at the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Turn off the flame and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Notes:
1. Traditionally the eggplant is roasted on an open flame till it gets charred. Broiling them in the oven also has the same effect and they get the distinct roasted flavor. But if you don’t have access to an oven just roast them on a stove top.
2. I like the bite and meatiness of the mushrooms in this. It is entirely optional but give it a try if you are a mushroom lover.

–I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. Unfortunately, I was soooo full that I didn’t get to eat as much of it as I liked. I think we ended up increasing the salt on this one.

Baklava (My personal recipe.)

Thaw 1/2 package of phyllo dough (that is, there are usually two envelopes of phyllo dough per box, just do one if that’s an option). Leave on counter for a while; do not thaw in microwave (follow directions on box–note, cover with wet paper towels or as directed, because this stuff dries out almost immediately). Heat oven to 350F.

Run about 2C walnuts through a food processor until chunky but not yet pasty. In a small saucepan, warm 1C of honey until it’s just barely warm (warm enough to pour). Stir in pinch salt and a shot or two of decent brandy. Add the nuts, stir, and remove from heat. In another saucepan, warm 1/2 C butter until just melted.

Brush a 9×13 pan with melted butter. Lay down 2-3 sheets of phyllo dough and brush with melted butter. (Remember to put down slightly damp paper towels on the unused phyllo while you’re working.) You want to put about half of the thawed half of the package down, then use a spatula to spread out the walnut filling. (You might want to use less than half, but that’s up to you.)

Meanwhile, warm another 1/2 to 1 C honey, adding another pinch salt and shot or two of brandy.

Lay down the rest of the phyllo in layers 2-3 sheets thick, brush with butter, next layer, etc., until you use up the other half of the thawed half of the dough. Brush the last layer of butter on.

With a sharp knife, lightly cut your baklava in the shapes you want it. Make sure you’re gently cutting all the way through to the bottom. Pour the rest of the honey over top the baklava.

Bake in 350 oven for 30 minutes–if it’s bubbly all the way through, you’re done, otherwise let it cook a bit longer. The tricky part is getting it out of the pan. If it’s too hot, it’ll slide apart. If it’s too cool, it’ll stick to the bottom. You want to try to get it out ideally when it’s about lukewarm: cool enough to eat without blowing on it, but not cold.

–A big hit; people were fighting over the pieces…

I had a great time :)

My first real new recipe in some time…I mean, I cook things, but I haven’t invented anything new lately.

I had some blackberry salmon at a nice restaurant a while ago, and the fish was overcooked.  I was at the point where I was starting to think I was never going to like salmon.  Ever.  Because every time I ordered it, it was dry and tasteless.  Then I was talking to someone about it (I wish I could remember who), and they said, “If you don’t like salmon, it’s because it’s overcooked.”

Fast forward to Christmas…

The salmon was moist and flavorful all by itself, and fantastic with the blackberry sauce.  Score!

Blackberry Salmon

Heat oven to 450F. Yes, really.

1.5 pounds of salmon fillet (for me, this was one freezer package–note, unless it says “never frozen,” it was probably frozen and then thawed.  Just get the frozen stuff and let it thaw in the fridge.)
parchment paper to wrap fish
olive oil
salt
1 10-oz package frozen blackberries, thawed
1/4 red onion, minced–about 1/2 c mince
1/4 c butter
2 T blueberry balsamic or to taste (regular balsamic is good, too)
salt

Preheat the oven.  Lay the fish skin side down on the parchment paper and rub skin with salt–2-3 T of salt–enough that you can feel a paste of salt under your fingers, but not so much that you can rub it into lumps.  Drizzle olive oil over the fish in three thin stripes.  Fold the paper over the fish so that it’s a sealed envelope of fishy goodness.  Bake at 450F for 10 minutes, then peek inside the package to see whether the fish is pale pink or red.  If red, the fish isn’t quite done.  If pale pink, you’re good.  The second the top of the fish turns from red to pale pink, take it out and leave it on top of the oven for a few minutes.  You can peek, but close the envelope afterwards.

Meanwhile, saute the onions in the butter until they’re translucent, then add the blackberries and break them up with a wooden spoon.  When the blackberries are simmering, turn off the heat, add the balsamic, and salt to taste.

Let the salmon sit on top of the oven for a few minutes or until cool enough to eat; serve with the blackberry sauce on the side.

Your Souffle Must Die is a cooking-cozy-farce that I wrote earlier this year and is out on submission.  I want to put some recipes in the back…thus, recipe testing!  We had a lovely time October 1.

Present:

  • De, Lee, Ray
  • Margie, Dave, Katherine
  • Jackie, KK, and friend AHHHH I can’t remember her name. Wendy Harding!
  • Steph
  • Bruce
  • Barbara & Joe

Watched first episode of Heston’s Feasts, which was one of the major inspirations for the book.  Lots of “ew” and “ahhh.”

I need to know who has the recipe for the grownup chocolate milk, please?  Mmmm…also, if you remember any alterations, let me know.

I keep thinking, “I need to continue recipe testing on all of these!” but…that shouldn’t be stopping me from posting them as works in progress.

Dark Chocolate Orange Soufflé with White Chocolate Chunk Whipped Cream
Based on this recipe.

These were good…we ended up with way too much souffle for the ramekins I had on hand and put the rest in glass pie pans, which were okay but much, much flatter. We did some of the ramekins in a water bath and some not in the water bath: they both ended up at a decent but not spectacular height. The bathed pots produced SUPER creamy textured souffles, though.

(per 2)

For the souffle:
1/4 cup whipping cream
4 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Cointreau or other orange liquer
1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Sugar
3 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar

2 tablespoons sugar
Powdered sugar

For the whipped cream:
1 ounce imported white chocolate
1/2 cup chilled whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon Cointreau or other orange liquer

To make the souffle:

Cook cream and chocolate in heavy small saucepan over low heat, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and beat in yolks 1 at a time. Mix in Cointreau and orange peel. Cook to tepid. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature. Stir over low heat until tepid before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 365°F. Butter one 4-cup or two 1 3/4-cup soufflé dishes; dust with sugar. Beat whites and cream of tartar in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Beat in 2 tablespoons sugar. Fold 1/4 of whites into chocolate. Gently fold in remaining whites. Spoon into prepared dishes. (Can be prepared 1 hour ahead. Cover and let stand in draft-free areas at room temperature.) Bake until soufflé rises but still moves in center when touched, about 20 minutes for individuals and 30 minutes for one large. Dust tops with powdered sugar. Serve immediately, passing whipped cream separately.

Cut chocolate into 1/4-inch dice. Combine cream, sugar and orange peel in medium bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Mix in Cointreau. Fold in chocolate. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Note: Sea level temp = 375.  Mile-high temp = 365.

Rice Pudding
Based on this recipe.

Oh, lawdy lawdy, delicious.  However, the rice content here was too low.  Good, but not as thick as I wanted it.

(serves 6-8)

2 quarts whole milk
1 cup long-grain white rice (do not rinse)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ c. almond butter
2T (?) cherry balsamic vinegar
¼ c. dried, pitted cherries, minced

Soak the cherries in the cherry balsamic.

Bring milk, rice, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt to a boil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until rice is very tender, about 1 hour.

Just before rice mixture finishes cooking, whisk eggs lightly in a bowl. Remove pan from heat and slowly add 1 cup of rice mixture to eggs, whisking constantly. Stir egg mixture into remaining rice mixture in pan, then stir in cream, almond butter, and cherry mixture.

Pour pudding into a 13- by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish (3-quart capacity) and sprinkle with cinnamon. Chill pudding, covered, at least 3 hours, if you can stand to wait that long.

Thai Coconut chocolate truffles
Based on this recipe.

The filling is TOO THIN! And I need to nail down what kind of fish sauce to use; the one we had smelled like butt.  I mean, seriously.  But they turned out to be delicious…after, like, four hours in the freezer.  One good thing:  if you freeze your fillings, the chocolate sets quickly.  I don’t remember if the chocolate was shiny, though.

10 ounces white chocolate, chopped fine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup coconut milk
1T red Thai curry paste or to taste
½ t fish sauce or to taste
Juice of 3 limes
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¼ c sweetened coconut
Grated lime peel from limes, reserved
8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped fine

Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in a medium size glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process 1 more time. Set aside.

Heat the sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the melted chocolate mixture; let stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently, starting in the middle of bowl and working in concentric circles until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy. Gently stir in the lime juice. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Using a melon baller, scoop chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place the grated lime peel in a shallow bowl and reserve.

In the meantime, place the 8 ounces of chocolate into a medium mixing bowl which is sitting on top of a heating pad lined bowl, with the heating pad set to medium. Depending on the heating pad, you may need to adjust the heat up or down. Stirring the chocolate occasionally, test the temperature of the chocolate and continue heating until it reaches 90 to 92 degrees F; do not allow the chocolate to go above 94 degrees F. If you do, the coating will not have a nice snap to it when you bite into the chocolate. Once you have reached the optimal temperature, adjust the heat to maintain it.
Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Use powder-free vinyl or latex gloves, if desired.

Dip an ice cream scoop into the chocolate and turn upside down to remove excess chocolate. Place truffles 1 at time into the scoop and roll around until coated. Dust truffles with lime peel and place in parchment lined sheet pan. Allow to set in a cool dry place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Smoky Shrimp Bisque

I love this recipe…but it was the end of the night and I was fried. I left out some things…guh. I’m just going to have to start over on this one. The recipe is my own invention, if I remember correctly.

1 1/2 lbs medium shrimp with their shells on, thawed and peeled, shells reserved.
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 T smoked Hungarian paprika (chipotles would probably work)
olive oil
Optional: bay leaf
2 T good sherry vinegar (or other mild vinegar, like balsamic or cider)
1 quart chicken broth
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small can of tomato paste
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or about 1 t dried
salt
2 T cream

Sautee the shells over med-high heat in a little olive oil until they turn pink with black spots (i.e., starting to burn), about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika and saute until the paprika starts to smoke or turn dark brown.

Add the sherry vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth and simmer, covered, over low heat for at least 10 minutes. (Optionally, add a bay leaf.) Strain the solids out and discard. Reserve the broth.

Saute the shrimp and onion until the shrimp is barely cooked through. Puree the shrimp and onion in the blender, adding broth to help liquefy the paste. Return the mixture and broth to the pot and add the tomato paste and thyme. Simmer, covered, over low heat for at least ten minutes. Add salt and additional smoked paprika to taste.

Just before serving, stir in the cream.

Puff Pastry Figs-and-Chorizo in a Blanket

I’m going to say if anything was an unqualified success, it was this dish.

400F.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chorizo, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, sliced lengthwise
1/2 c. red wine
1/2 c. sherry vinegar
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. dried figs (I like white figs in this recipe), trimmed and halved
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp. Cloves
1 package puff pastry (thawed)
Minced flat-leafed parsley for garnish
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 T water
Smoked salt (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion and chorizo and stir for about four minutes, until the garlic and onion is soft and starting to brown.

Add the sugar and stir vigorously for approximately 30 seconds, being sure to coat all the ingredients.

Add the wine, vinegar, dried figs, cinnamon and cloves. Heat to a simmer and let simmer for approximately 30 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and created a glaze for the chorizo and figs.

Cut the puff pastry into 2-in (approx) squares. Place 2T mixture into the center of the square, sprinkle with parsley, then pinch two opposite corners together above the mixture, making “a pig in a blanket.” Brush with egg yolk-water mixture, then sprinkle with smoked salt.

Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes.

Frothing Acid Dip for Fruit, Nilla Wafers, or Various disgusting things.

Sadly, this didn’t work. The acid has to be ACIDIC for this to work; it did much better with just lime juice. I’ve never had ghost tastes before, but I’ve caught myself since the party tasting baking soda at odd moments. THE HORROR!

Dip:
1 can coconut milk
1 mango, pureed
1 c. lime juice
½ c. browned sugar (I’m thinking ¾ of the way to caramel, here)
Drops of blue/yellow food coloring, to taste

Powder:
Light dusting of baking soda

Fruit – bite sized pieces of NON ACIDIC fruits
Nilla wafers

Make the dip; brush the dipees with baking soda. A neat effect, but you may want to warn people about eating the stuff without dipping it, as it’s quite nasty.

Mushroom Loaf Salad

We didn’t get to this one, but I made it later. Here’s the super-simple recipe:

Serves 1.

1/2 mushroom loaf (a tofu-like substance; you can get it at the asian grocery store)
Vegetable oil
Sesame oil
Black vinegar (Chinese)
1 bunch mizuna or other greens, washed, long bases of stems removed, and torn into bite-sized pieces

Slice the mushroom loaf into slices about ¼ ” thick. Fry over medium-high heat in vegetable oil with a dollop of sesame oil until the mushroom loaf is brown on the sides. Drop the mushroom loaf onto the greens, the raise the heat to high and deglaze with a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. Toss the salad with the hot dressing and eat.

Highly addictive. So drooling.

Mini Meat Ziggurats

Yay! I got some meat glue from Modernist Pantry. Boo! It didn’t work!

Red Chimichurri sauce

Too thin…I need to find another base recipe. The taste was quite nice with the lamb, though.

3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup warm water
2 bunches Italian flat leaf parsley
6 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Whisk together the kosher salt and warm water until the salt dissolves, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. This is called the salmuera.

Combine the flat leaf parsley, garlic, and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse several times to chop up the parsley. Add the roasted red peppers, paprika, oregano, crushed red pepper, black pepper, cumin, white vinegar, and red wine vinegar. Continue to pulse the food processor until the ingredients are well combined, but still chunky.

Transfer the sauce into a large mixing bowl, and slowly stir in the cooled salmuera. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the salt to mellow. Sauce can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

Lamb a la Sous Vide

As far as I can remember, this is what we did.

170F oven.

Boned leg of lamb
Red chimchurri sauce (above)

Cut lamb into 3-4 sections about 6 inches by 2 inches. Put them in freezer bags and beat to about 1/3 inch thinness. Remove from bags and place on sheets of plastic wrap.

Spread chimchurri on the lamb, then roll into approximately 1-inch width rolls inside the plastic wrap, making sure the wrap doesn’t end up inside the rolls. Put lamb back in the freezer bags, removing as much air as possible. Optional: tie the rolls with twine after rolling but before putting in bags.

Fill a large roasting pan 2/3 full of hot water. Add lamb rolls to water and bake for 1.5 hours.

Poor woman’s sous vide setup :)

De’s G&Ts

Serves one.

Lime.
Ice.
Gin to taste (currently Hendrick’s)
Light agave nectar.
Tonic water.

Slice lime in half and add all the juice to a drinking glass. Add 2 oz gin, then add about 1-2 T agave nectar and stir.  Fill to top with ice, then add tonic water.

This is the summer of gill bliss.

No, I don’t have a charcoal grill.  I have a gas grill.  Yes, a charcoal grill tastes better.  No, I wouldn’t use it.  Yet.  I really only started trusting myself on a gill last year.

This has a slightly Asian profile; the spices add an aromatic element to a salad that’s mostly all tongue-tastes and no nose-flavors.

Cherry-Chicken Salad
Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken thigh per person (thawed if frozen)
2 c pitted, halved cherries
1/2-3/4 c whole almonds
1 large bag of spring mix or lettuce or spinach
1/2 c white wine
2 T olive oil
1t salt
4 T sugar, separated
1/2 t five-spice powder
3-4 szechuan peppers, optional

Grind the szechuan peppers in a spice grinder or mortar, then add the salt, five-spice powder, and 2T sugar and grind or mix together. Sprinkle about half of the spice mix on both sides of the thighs and set aside.

Preheat the grill.

In a small pan, heat the wine, olive oil, cherries, and the other half of the mixture until the cherries are soft and the sauce is dark red. Taste and adjust the flavor with the rest of the sugar as desired; it should taste more sweet than salty, but not like a dessert topping.

Meanwhile, add the almonds to a saute pan and toast, stirring occasionally to keep from burning. When they smell good, remove them from heat and reserve.

Grill the chicken until just barely done. Let rest for a minute or two, then slice across the grain into strips.

Assemble the salad on separate plates or bowls, rather than tossing everything together, to ensure the almonds don’t get lost at the bottom of the bowl.

Wow, I have not posted here in a while.  Then again, I haven’t needed to add any recipes to my collection, either.

But!

I pulled these two out of the May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit, and I wanted to save them, so here goes…we had them over english muffins, like eggs benedict.

Crab Cakes

This is more like a crab cheesecake than your typical crab cake.

Preheat oven to 350F.

8 oz cream cheese, room temp
3/4 c grated Parmesan, divided
1 egg
1/4 c sour cream
1 lemon’s worth of finely grated lemon peel
4 T plus 2 T chopped fresh chives (or green onions), divided
1/4 t salt
pinch cayenne or other hot pepper powder
6 oz crabmeat, picked over, padded dry, coarsely shredded
1 c panko
1/4c unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pans

Beat cream cheese until smooth; add 1/4 c Parmesan and egg, beat to blend. Beat in sour cream, lemon peel, 4 T chives, salt, and cayenne. Fold in crabmeat by hand.

Butter 2 muffin top pans. In bowl, toss panko, rest of Parmesan, and 2 T chives. Drizzle 1/4 c butter over and mix until butter coats all. Press a T of panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin spot, a heaping tablespoon of crab over that, and another T of panko mixture on top.

Bake until set, about 30 minutes; cool in pans for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides and remove from pans. You can rewarm them in an 350 oven for 6-8 min.

Blender Hollandaise

This was a bit too thick…

1 1/4 c unsalted butter, cubed
2 large egg yolks
2 T fresh lemon juice (plus more to taste)
Salt
Pepper (white pepper for a bonus)

Fill a blender with hot water and set aside.

Melt butter in saucepan until foaming, remove from heat.

Drain blender, dry well. Immediately add eggs and lemon juice; blend to combine. With blender running and lid insert out, drizzle a thin stream of butter into the blender, making sure not to add the solids at the bottom of the butter pan. Blend until a creamy (mayonnaiselike) sauce forms. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice. Serve immediately.

…of Doooooooooom!

I have come to enjoy these cooking parties more and more. This is the third one; you can see the recipes from previous endeavors here and here.  This one had the most attendees, to date:

Stan and Mary
Steph
Ann and Larry
Dave, Margie, Kay
Bruce
Bob, Charlotte, and Jordyn
Joe and Barbara
Lee, De, and Ray

Seventeen total.

I am not a big party-thrower. I am not a big decorator or a big organizer. I’m really not good at perfect (I try too hard to achieve it, miss the mark, and stress). But this is exactly my kind of thing, where we already know that things may or may not turn out well, and that’s part of the fun: there’s no perfect to be had, only wonderful.

I have a lot of good memories this morning. I found out that Bruce raises worms, which I can’t help but think makes him a vermicellist. The girls making a row of snowballs on top of the playhouse, just waiting for someone to come outside to get bombed. The subtlety of the strawberry tea. The look on Charlotte’s face as she was staring down into her first bubble tea, half disgusted and half delighted. Mary’s poison-pill engagement ring getting snagged on her clothing [insert chortling here]. The way the snow turned heavy and perfect, and I was afraid that everyone would have to go home, but nobody did (and it sounds like the out of towners made it back safe, except I haven’t heard from Bruce yet). Sitting and talking to Joe and Barbara after everyone else had gone, and talking Barbara into making me a hat for my birthday. Drinking Larry’s yogurt beer (he admitted it has lactobacteria in it, so it’s yogurt beer now), the perfect sourness of it. Passing around my awful cider – here’s to first tries, huzzah! – and having Stan say he was glad I was dumping it out, “Because otherwise someone might drink it.”

This morning, the cat, feeling somewhat guilty for not contributing last night, left a dead mouse near my computer. I praised him thoroughly and threw the mouse away. I think we were both relieved that neither one of us had to eat it.

On to the recipes!

Wheat Starch Dough

(from Dim Sum/Blonder)

A note here:  we couldn’t use any of these!  They came out fine when first made, but quickly turned fragile and broke.  We let them get too dry, I think – and left them too long before we tried to use them.  I might try these again with the same recipe to see whether the time-delay was the problem.

The dough for these is an absolute joy to play with, weird and uncanny.  Wheat starch is more like corn starch than it is like flour, texture-wise.

Makes 24 3 ¼-inch wrappers (translucent)

1 ¼ cups wheat starch plus ¼ c tapioca flour
½ t salt
1 c boiling water
1 t peanut or vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, combine the wheat starch, tapioca flour, and salt. Add boiling water and oil; stir with a wooden spoon. While dough is still very hot, turn onto a board dusted with 1 T wheat starch and knead until smooth, adding more wheat starch if necessary. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Divide into thirds; use palms to roll into 8-inch cylinders. Cover with slightly damp paper towels.

Slice off chunks of dough and press flat with a cleaver or flat pan between 6-inch squares of baking parchment. The circles should be the size of a tuna can.

Pot Stickers

These were as tasty a bunch of potstickers as I’ve ever had.  The regular, cut-up eggroll wrappers that we used worked just fine in the pan – I had been afraid they’d tear up.

(Dim Sum/Blonder)

Makes 24 potstickers

8 oz napa cabbage, finely shredded
1 T salt
8 oz ground pork
2 T crushed or finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1 scallion, finely sliced
2 t soy sauce
2 t sweet rice wine (I have mirin to use, works just fine)
1 T toasted sesame oil

Dough for 24 wrappers
Potsticker sauce
2 T peanut or vegetable oil

In a large bowl, toss the napa cabbage with salt and let stand for 30 minutes, until wilted. Rinse cabbage, then squeeze out as much water as possible; you should have about 2c cabbage.

In a bowl, mix pork, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, sweet rice wine, and sesame oil, mixing it with your hands to blend well. Mix in the cabbage. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

On wrappers, make pleats around half of the wrapper, fill with 1 T filling, and press closed.

Heat skillet and add vegetable oil. When almost smoking, arrange enough potstickers to fill pan but not touch. Pan-fry for 2-3 minutes over medium-high, or until the bottoms of the potstickers are brown and crisp. Pour ½ c water into skillet. Cover and simmer for 5-6 minutes, or until the water has almost completely evaporated.  Remove from pan and nom.

Potsticker Sauces

(Dim Sum/Blonder)

¼ c soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
2 T sugar
1 t scallion, sliced paper thin

(Lee)

¼ c balsamic vinegar (cheap kind perfect)
2 T soy sauce

(De)

¼ c soy sauce
¼ c rice vinegar
1 t sriracha
1 T mirin
1 T sesame oil

Char Siu Bao (Steamed)

(Dim Sum/Blonder)

(This is not the recipe we actually used; I’ll get updates from Margie and put them here.)

Makes 24 buns

Filling

(Overnight/3h marinade, 350F oven)

2 lbs boneless lean pork butt or loin
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/4-in slice of ginger, minced
2 t sugar
1 t salt
2 t sherry
2 T honey
1/2 t five spice powder
2 T catchup
3 T light soy sauce
2 T hoisin sauce
1/2 t red food coloring (optional)

Cut pork into 6-by-2-inch strips.  Combine the other ingredients; use to marinate meat for at least 3 hours or overnight. Arrange meat in a large roasting pan with a rack; if the rack sits lower than 1 inch over bottom of pan, elevate it with ramekins or other oven-safe small dishes. Pour 1/2 to 1 inch of boiling water into the pan roast for 60-75 minutes, basting frequently with marinade or pan juice. Turn the meat every 15-20 minutes.

Line a steamer basket with several layers of dampened cheesecloth. Cut 24 2-inch squares of baking parchment.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces; use your fingertips to flatten one piece lightly into a 3-inch circle. Place the circle flat in one palm. Spoon about 2 t of the filling into the middle, then gather the edges of the dough together and pinch closed. Place the bun pinched side up on a square of parchment. Space the buns 1 inch apart on the steamer tiers. Let the buns rise for 30 minutes. Steam a single tier at a time for 12 minutes.

Steamed Bao Dough

(Dim Sum/Blonder)

for 24 buns

Starter
2 T active dry yeast
1 c lukewarm water
½ c sugar
1 ½ c cake flour

Dough
½ t salt
1 T rice vinegar
2 C cake flour, plus additional for dusting
1 T baking powder
¼ t baking soda
1 T vegetable oil

Starter: In large bowl, mix yeast with water and sugar and let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients until well blended. Turn onto well-floured board and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth, adding more flour if necessary.  Grease a large bowl with shortening, place dough in bowl, and cover with damp cloth or plastic wrap until doubled. Rise for 1 hour. Lightly punch dough down; it’s ready for bao.

Char Siu

(mostly http://www.whats4eats.com/meats/char-siu-recipe)

2-3 pounds of boneless pork butt
¾ c hoisin sauce
½ c soy sauce
½ c rice wine
½ t five-spice powder
1/3 c honey
1 T sugar

Slice meat into strips 2 inches wide and 5 inches long. In a large bowl, mix hoisin, soy sauce, rice wine, honey, and sugar. Add pork and marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 425 F. Add a rack to a roasting pan; fill the pan with water to come just below the rack. Put the strips on the rack.

Roast for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and roast for 30-40 minutes, turning and basting frequently with the remaining sauce.

Daifuku (Mochi)

(http://veganyumyum.com/2009/03/daifuku/)

(Ann and Margie, I think, made changes to the recipe; I’ll update when I get them.)

10-12 cakes

1 c mochiko (special type of rice flour)
¼ c sugar
2/3 c water
red or green food coloring, optional
cornstarch for dusting

Filling types:
Anko (azuki bean)
Strawberries
Raspberries
Ice creams

Add the mochiko, sugar, water, and food coloring (if using) to a bowl and stir well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl so the dough heats evenly.

Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes. Stir well. Microwave for 1 minute; watch for the dough to inflate when heated/deflate when you open the door. If it does, it’s ready. If not, microwave for 1 minute each time until it does.

Scrape the dough onto a board dusted with corn starch. Flatten the dough a bit and cut into 10-12 pieces. Add 1 t filling to each and press the edges together to seal.

To store: Wrap individually in plastic and refridgerate.

Anko Filling

Makes enough for 3-4 batches of the recipe above.

1 14-oz can of adzuki beans
½ c water
1 c sugar
1 T veggie oil
pinch salt

Mix water and sugar and heat until sugar is dissolved, then turn off heat. Drain and rinse the beans, then mash them in a pan. Add 1/3 of the sugar syrup, salt, and oil. Mash together over medium heat; the beans will thicken and become slightly glossy.

Three-Mushroom Dumplings

Delicious.

Makes 24 dumplings

6 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 t peanut/veggie oil
6 oz fresh white or brown shrooms, finely chopped
5 oz fresh enoki or oyster mushrooms, finely chopped
2 scallions, finely sliced
2 T finely chopped cilantro
1 ½ t soy sauce
1 T oyster sauce or vegetarian stir-fry sauce
2 t rice wine or dry sherry
¼ t sugar
pinch white pepper
1 T cornstarch dissolved in 2 T water

Put the shiitakes in a small bowl and cover with hot water, let soak for 30-45 minutes. Discard hard stems, rinse, squeeze dry, chop finely.

Heat a wok or skillet and add oil; when almost smoking, add all shrooms, scallions, and cilantro; stir fry for 4 minutes or until most of liquid has evaporated. Reduce heat to low, stir in soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, sugar, and pepper, then add cornstarch mix and cook for 1 minute longer or until thick. Let filling cool.

Make shallow pleats over ½ the wrapper, insert about 1 t filling, and fold closed. Steam for 7 minutes.

Stir-Fried Hokkien Noodles with Prawns

(Simple Chinese Cooking/Kwong)

Watching Stan disembowel the prawns was fun.  This needed a more intense sauce – I added dipping sauce, a couple of people added straight sriracha.  I don’t have malt vinegar (what?!?  there’s a type of vinegar that I don’t have?!?), and they used rice wine vinegar instead.

We used dried noodles (fresh weren’t available), and that may have caused the difference; there were so many more dried noodles than fresh.

Makes 6 side-dish servings

12 uncooked medium prawns
1/3 c veg oil
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
12 ginger slices
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 15 oz packet of fresh Hokkien noodles
2 T shao xing or dry sherry
2 T light soy sauce
1 T malt vinegar
1 t white sugar
½ t toasted sesame oil
1 c fresh bean sprouts
1 c julienned scallion
1 large red chili, finely sliced on the diagonal

Peel, de-vein, and butterfly prawns, leaving tails intact.

Heat half of oil until the surface seems to shimmer slightly. Add prawns and sear 30 sec/side or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

Add remaining oil to pan with onion, ginger, and garlic, stir fry 1 minute or until onion is lightly browned. Add noodles, prawns, wine, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add bean sprouts, half scallion and half onion and stir fry for 30 sec or until prawns are just cooked through and noodles are hot.

Arrange noodles in bowls, top with remaining scallion and chili, and serve immediately.

Egg Rolls/Spring Rolls

Bob made these ahead of time…they were the best rolls I’ve ever eaten.  I was, however, disappointed that he’d made them already, especially since they were so neat and even; I wish I’d been able to watch him put them together, to see what he does differently than I do.  Mine are so lumpy!

Steph brought a deep fryer, and it was sweeeet.  However, upon packing it up, she managed to tip the handy, post-filter oil container under the unit, and non-hot oil went everywhere.  I must remember to give her crap about for ever after…or not.

(Liu/Chinese Cooking the American Way)

2 packages or 2 lbs egg roll skins
12 oz ground pork
4 oz shrimp
2 c bean sprouts
3 c shredded cabbage (Napa)
1/2 c shredded carrots
1/2 c fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c yellow onion, chopped
veggie oil

Meat seasoning:
1 egg
1/2 t ginger, chopped
2 T sherry
1 T soy sauce
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 T sesame oil

Veggie seasoning:
2 t salt
1/2 t sugar
1 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil

Shrimp seasoning:
1 T sherry
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 t cornstarch

Marinate meat with meat seasoning; marinate shrimp with shrimp seasoning. Refrigerate overnight.

Before frying, saute all veggies in 2 T oil over high heat in the following order: cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, yellow onion, bean sprouts. Add veggie seasoning. Remove from heat.

Stir-fry pork in 2 T oil over high heat for 2-3 minutes, then add shrimp. Toss quickly for another minute and remove from heat.

Mix meat and veggies. Place 2 T filling in the middle of a wrapper and fold it up like an open envelope with the filling inside. Dab the open part of the envelope with water, then roll into a tight cylinder. Deep fry in medium-hot oil, until the skins are crisp and brown.

Burmese Fish and Shrimp Rolls

These ended up strangely bland, but that might have been because I left out the coconut milk…anyway, I dunked it in dipping sauce and they were delicious again. Barbara really liked these…I am planning to take my leftovers and make a tomato-based sauce based on the Polish golupkis, with Asian flavors. Cabbage rolls need tomato-coconut milk-chaat masala sauce. I could not find the bamboo sauce mentioned. The original recipe specifies using large banana leaves and cutting them up, but I found precut circles. We tied them with regular string after having the banana-leaf ties break/slip off a few times.

(Karen Lin)

Steaming time: 20 minutes

12 banana circles, rinsed and drained

2 medium yellow onion, half sliced and half pureed in food processor
4 cloves garlic, pureed in food processor
1 T finely grated fresh ginger
1 t turmeric
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
1 t chili powder
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons rice flour
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

12 leaves of Napa cabbage, rinsed, the thickest base parts snapped off, if necessary
12 small, firm fish filets (bass, halibut, snapper, orange roughy) or larger filets cut into 12 parts
24 medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined

In a medium-sized bowl, blend pureed onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt, pepper, chili
powder, coconut milk, rice flour, and sesame oil. Set aside.

Pass each banana leaf over heat or pour boiling water over it to make it more pliable. Drain or dry with a
towel.

Put a leaf of Napa cabbage on a banana leaf section, grains of the leaves parallel (with the circles, this didn’t work – the string ripped through were the banana-leaf ties probably would not have). Then
on top of that add a piece of fish, two shrimp and 1/6 of the spice mixture, and some of the sliced
onion.

Roll the leaf up, making sure not to roll the banana leaf inside the cabbage, and secure each end (like a Tootsie-roll) with string. Repeat this procedure for each of the remaining leaves.

Steam the packages, seams facing up, over 2 inches of water for 20 minutes, checking
water level occasionally. Serve in their packets, with white rice and hot bamboo relish.

I had planned to make soup dumplings (that is, dumplings, when steamed, turned into soup in the middle), but the chicken stock never gelled, and we were too full and ran out of time by the end of the evening, so I just let them go.

Ahhhh, it was a good day. I’m so glad we did it.

I’ve seen this recipe all over the place with broccoli rabe, but I often can’t find rabe, and when I do, it does’t turned out right. I’ll keep working on the rabe, but until then…

1 lb mild Italian sausage
1/2 lb dried orichette (maybe a pound fresh?)
Olive oil, extra-virgin
1 lemon, peel grated and juice reserved
4 cloves garlic
Salt
1 T fennel seeds
1 T chili flakes
2-3 cups of pea pods
Parmesan or other hard grating cheese

Prick the sausage if it’s in links and cook it, covered, over medium heat.

Meanwhile, heat water for the orichette, salting it generously. Add the orichette when the water is at a rolling boil.

Grind the fennel seeds, salt, and chili flakes in a mortar or with a spice grinder.

When the sausages are done, set them aside, covering them to keep them warm. In another saute pan, add about 2 T olive oil, the garlic, and the spice mix, stirring constantly. Cook until the garlic is translucent, then remove from heat.

When the orichette are done, drain them and add them to the spice mix. Add the peas and grated lemon peel to the spice mix. Over medium-high heat, stir the orichette and peas until they are heated through and coated with the spice and lemon peels. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice and another T of olive oil, stir to coat evenly, and serve with the sausages.

Adapted from Bon Appetit November 2010.

1/2 lb sirloin per person
1/2 lb baby bellas per person, sliced thickly
Olive oil
Toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic per person
1 1/2-inch section of ginger, peeled and minced/grated per person

Soy sauce
Sriracha or other Asian chili sauce
Rice wine vinegar
Mirin or sugar

Cilantro, chopped (if desired)
Mixed salad greens (if desired)

Mix the sauce: about 2 parts rice vinegar to 1 part soy sauce, with mirin/sugar and sriracha to taste. Add a little sesame oil and mix to combine. Try to make sure the flavors are balanced; if it’s salty, add more of everything else, etc., until the tastes are about equally strong. About 1/4-1/3 cup per person is good.

In a saute pan, swirl about 1T olive oil and 1 t sesame oil to coat. Raise to high heat and add the mushrooms, stirring fairly constantly. The heat has to be high enough to dry the mushrooms as they cook, not letting water build up. When the mushrooms are browned on both sides and have lost most of their water, add the garlic and ginger and continue to stir until the garlic is translucent. Remove from the pan but keep warm. Note: If you’re cooking for more than 2 people, you may want to use more than one saute pan; otherwise, the mushrooms will release more water than the pan can evaporate.

Add more olive oil/sesame oil to the saute pan, as before, and raise the heat to high. Add the steaks and fry to the desired doneness. When they’re done, remove them from the pan and add the sauce. Quickly reduce the sauce over high heat until it’s reduced to about half, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate everything well. Add the mushrooms and stir to combine, then remove from heat.

Serve the mushrooms with the steak or slice the steak and serve the mushrooms and steak over greens.

Something that I have been getting into more lately is greens, especially kale. However, I picked up some beets last weekend that had stems and leaves that were almost two feet long for a different recipe. Looking at those beautiful, red-stemmed leaves, I knew I was going to have to take a deep breath, let go of my obsession with kale for a week, and figure out what to do with beet greens.

I’d never had beet greens before. I suspect this was because they looked so flimsy and grimy on beets that I’d purchased before—if they hadn’t been cut off entirely.

I cut them off the tiny beets they were attached to and washed them.

Then I washed them again.

Then I put them on the cutting board, cursed, and washed them again.

They were just coated with mud.

I cut the ruby-red stalks off the base of the leaves and diced them, then cut up the leaves in bite-sized pieces.

And washed them again.

I don’t normally have poached eggs for breakfast, eggs Benedict aside. However, this was one of those delicious breakfasts that left me dancing around the kitchen energetically.

Beet Green Breakfast

½ bunch of greens from 3 beets, chopped (about 2 ½ cups of greens and stems)
1 egg
1 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T balsamic vinegar (chocolate balsamic!)*
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Saute the garlic clove in the olive oil until it turns a little translucent. Add the greens and stems and sauté until the greens are wilted. Turn off the heat, add the vinegar and salt to taste, and mix to blend.
Meanwhile, poach an egg in water to the desired doneness.
Put the greens on a plate, top with the egg, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and grated parmesan to taste.

Polenta is cornmeal. Masa is cornmeal. Grits is cornmeal.

It makes me wonder whether I can take a package of prepared polenta and stuff it in corn husks with pulled pork and call it a tamale. No? What if I mix it up with a little cumin and bacon grease before I use it, then?

Anyway, I was messing around with leftovers in the fridge yesterday and ended up with this salad, which was pretty good. My idea of what a salad is has been changing lately–some sort of melange including dressing, with or without lettuce.

Polenta Salad

(for one)

4 1/2-inch slices of prepared polenta
2 T olive oil
salt
1 thin slice of red onion, rings pulled apart
1 orange, rind removed and cut into circles
thin shavings of peccorino romano
cherry-balsamic vinegar
fresh thyme leaves (optional)

Add the olive oil to a saute pan and raise the heat to medium. Add the slices of polenta and cook until just turning brown, sprinkling them with salt to taste. Arrange warm on a plate, alternating slices of onion, orange, and polenta. Sprinkle the vinegar over the salad, then add the cheese and thyme leaves, if using.

Ray had meatballs at a Chinese buffet that she really liked. Really, really liked. Really, really, really liked. I think she hurt herself with eating them, she liked them so much.

And so, of course, we have to figure out how to make them. I tried a first batch last night; it went well, but not yet where I want them to be.

We started out with a recipe from ifood tv but didn’t stick to it closely. It really wasn’t authentic; I may just start over rather than trying to tweak this on further. However, it had the benefit of being very easy to make; if you don’t have a lot of condiments in the house, this might be a better bet than tracking down a recipe with Shao Xing wine or something. They were pretty tasty, and Ray stuck her lip out when she found out they were all gone.

Sweet and Sour Chinese Meatballs

1 lb ground pork
3/4 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t grated fresh ginger
2 T vegetable oil
1 green pepper, but into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow onion, grated
1 carrot, grated
1/4 c black vinegar
2 T brown sugar
2 T soy sauce
1/4 c shao xing cooking wine
1 T cornstarch
1/2 c water

Mix the meat, salt, pepper, and ginger and form into meatballs; bown on all sides in a hot pan, then reduce heat and cover.

Mix everything else but the water and veggies, making sure the cornstarch is not lumpy. Add the mixture, water, onions, and carrots from the pan and return to boiling. When the sauce has thickened and the onions and carrots are soft, remove from heat and stir in the green peppers.

Pate is a strange creature.

First, it’s about as appropriately named as a chai tea latte.*

Pate comes from the French word for paste or pastry – it originally meant “meat jelly stuff wrapped in pastry.” Now, if you’re going to indicate “meat jelly stuff wrapped in pastry,” you have to say pate en croute – “meat jelly stuff wrapped in pastry, wrapped in pastry.”

You could call it a terrine (named after the earthware dish it was made in), which is “meat jelly stuff smooshed in an earthenware mold to make it hold its shape.”  However, a terrine means pretty much anything that you mold like that, and is just as applicable to a ham-in-aspic concoction as what I’m talking about here.

Properly, what I’m talking about should be called either “chicken liver mousse” or “chopped liver,” but neither of these really connote deliciousness, so I’m going to call it pate anyway.  Language moves on.

I love pate.

It’s probably bad for me, but I love it.  I loved liverwurst when I was a kid, and that’s what this is, refined liverwurst.  It certainly isn’t going to turn me into a vegetarian anytime soon.

I made my first batch yesterday, based on (wait for it…) a Mark Bittman video.**

So far, what I’ve learned is that I don’t care for liver and onions.  The first stage of this dish is “make a pan of liver and onions.”  The liver tastes bitter on the outside. even if you don’t cook it much.

Second, upon puree, it tasted funny.  Bitter.  I was so disappointed, but then again, I was happy – because that meant I could mess around.  When something tastes bad, it’s a justification for messing around with it until it tastes good or until it tastes so bad that you have to throw it away.  I like messing around, so it wasn’t a total loss.

I added more cream and some salt, and it tasted pretty good, which made me both happy (yum!) and disappointed (awwww…no more messing around).   Then I remembered I was supposed to add more butter (yay!  more messing!), which made it taste even better (awww…all done).

The pate was very runny, so I dumped it in a bowl in the fridge, as directed.

The taste test (this morning):

The pate set up nicely.  It’s softer than commercial pate, but stiff enough to be a spread.

The flavor is more like liverwurst than like commercial pate, a very unsophisticated (but delicious) flavor.  I really want to mess around with adding some sherry or sherry vinegar to this next time.

Pate (currently)

1 lb chicken livers
1 yellow onion, diced
1/4 c butter
2 cloves
20 peppercorns
5 coriander seeds
2 allspice berries
1/3 c cream
salt

Melt about half of the butter in a saute pan. When melted, add the onions and saute until they’re translucent. Add the liver and saute ONLY to medium-rare, pulling out pieces as they finish. (Next time, I’m going to deglaze the pan with sherry after pulling out the livers. We’ll see.)

Grind the spices with a little bit of salt.

In a food processor, add the liver, onions, cream, the spices, and the rest of the butter. If it tastes bitter, add a little more salt and cream.

Pour into a container and chill in the fridge for at least four hours, preferably overnight.

*I.e., “Tea tea coffee with milk.”
**I am afraid that with the release of his new cookbook, The Food Matters Cookbook, he will stop showing people how to make these fundamental recipes that are meat-based.

After last January’s Great Grapefruit Tragedy, I subsequently learned how to candy citrus peels successfully.

There are several tricks to it.  I’m sure I don’t know all of them, but here’s what I learned:

  • You can either have perfect fruit wedges or nice peels, but not both.  In this case, you’re sacrificing the fruit.
  • Thicker peels are easier to work with than thinner peels and larger fruit is easier than smaller.
  • Slice a good slice off the stem and blossom ends of the fruit; a circle of fruit should be exposed that’s about 2/3 of the width of the widest part of the fruit.
  • If the pith is still thickly attached, use a spoon or your thumb to push the pith away from the fruit.
  • Slice down the side of the fruit in a straight line.  Use your thumb or a spoon to pull the pith away from the fruit.  Your goal is to keep the pith as unbroken as possible (to make the prettiest pieces).
  • Use the fruit for something else, like practicing your supreme cuts.
  • Cut the pith into narrow, top-to-bottom strips (including the stem and blossom ends, minus the actual non-peel bits).  The stronger-tasting the fruit, the narrower the strips should be (to allow the blanching to pull out more bitterness and general flavor weirdness – I’m looking at you, grapefruit).  However, I keep forgetting this.  It’s not the end of the world.  Grapefruit, about 1/4 inch.  Oranges, about 1/3 inch.
  • Blanch the strips three times.  (Boil water.  Add strips.  Bring strips to a boil for approximately 5 minutes.  Drain strips.  Discard the water, or your mouth will feel like you turned it inside out.  It’s just weird.)
  • Put the blanched strips back in a pot and cover with a measured amount of water.  Add approximately 3/4 to 1 times as much white sugar to the water as you have water (for example, if you need 4 cups to cover the blanched strips, add 3 to 4 cups of white sugar.
  • The reason you need so much sugar is that you’re doing to the piths what seawater does to sailors in a lifeboat without fresh water:  the high sugarity (or whatever the word is for when you use sugar instead of salt) draws out the lower-sugar-concentrated water, and the sugar goes into the cells instead.  Gasp!  Who knew you could die of sugar dehydration.  Probably Willy Wonka, but I digress.
  • At first, your strips will look like normal strips.  However, you should persevere with the boiling until most of the pith looks like a jewel, and you can see light most of the way through it.
  • A word of warning:  it may be tempting to increase the sugar ratio or to use very little water.  However, as the water boils off, the syrup in which you are boiling your strips will start to either a) turn into candy itself or b) burn and turn into caramel.  I’m sure there are some interesting things you might try, such as burnt orange caramel, but that is not our goal here.  If the top of your syrup starts to froth up, add more water, about a cup.  Repeat as necessary.
  • When your patience has run out (this takes about half an hour – at least, it does when you’re at my altitude), remove your strips from the syrup and drain them in a colander.  Put a piece of waxed paper in a pan and a cup or two of sugar in a bowl. While the strips are still warm, put them in the sugar, swirl them around a bit, and put them on the waxed paper to dry.  You will need to leave the strips alone for an hour or two, then flip them over.  When they are as dried out as you like them, put them in an airtight container and hide them.  Better yet, have someone who doesn’t like them hide them.  Whatever they ask in bribery to retrieve them for a party or whatever is worth it to keep yourself from eating them all before it’s time.

I am finally reassembling my brains after my first book release. This is the first really good thing I’ve cooked since late November, or perhaps even earlier.

————-

This recipe descends from Mark Bittman’s in Kitchen Express.

I am a big soup lover.  It’s warm, it’s soothing, it’s restorative.  With good broth, it puts life back into you.  And you can dunk things in it, which I enjoy, because then you get an extra set of flavors that go with the soup.

I am not one of those people who carefully separate the flavors on their plates, or who eat their food in order.  My ideal way to eat is to switch back and forth between things until I get to the very end, which I try to make the “perfect bite.” For example, if I’m eating a salad, I want a bite with one bit of everything I liked in the salad stacked up on the fork.

With soup, this just happens, very little planning required, with almost every bite.  (Except for things like udon, where there’s only so many fish sausages to go around.)

Ah, what am I trying to do here, justify soup?  I just like soup.  There’s no reasonable or rational about it.

I used to work at Panera, years ago, and I never got tired of their food…except for the soup.  I quickly became a much better soup-maker than they could pull off, because their soups sit on the heater all day, and they have to be shipped in frozen, which just kills the flavor.   That was a proud day for me, the day I realized that I could make better soup than you could buy at Panera.

I went through a phase earlier on when I tried to add broth to everything, because I had read that it makes a lot of foods taste better.  This, in my opinion, is mostly crap.  Water works just as well, for the most part.

Except in soup.  Some soups.

I used broth in this soup, mostly because I had broth to use up and a roast chicken in the fridge waiting to be turned into the next batch.  I sense that broth isn’t entirely necessary, however, because of the meat and the fennel and tomatoes.

Mmmm…fennel. It smells licorice-like, but it tastes like pure deliciousness. I suspect that people who don’t like licorice will still like this.

White Bean Soup
1 mild Italian sausage, skin removed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil (if necessary)
1/4 c red wine vinegar
3-4 c good-quality, low-sodium chicken broth (or water)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can white beans
A handful of chopped fresh spinach
2 t fennel seeds, crushed
1 t dried basil
Parmesan rind (or 2 t grated good Parmesan or other hard grating cheese)(optional)
salt to taste

Brown the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up into bite-sized chunks as it cooks. As the sausage finishes browning, add the garlic. (If the sausage didn’t release much oil, add a little to the pan with the garlic to help keep it from burning.) As the garlic turns brown, add the red wine vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any caramelized sausage bits.

Add the broth and the rest of the ingredients except the salt. Simmer for 5-10 minutes to combine the flavors, then add salt to taste.

Serve with bread, cheese to grate, and capers (on the side).

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These were recipes inspired by the feast in the book Dzur by Steven Brust.

I pulled the recipes off the internet or just extrapolated them based on the descriptions in the book.

Attending (slave labor):
Dave Hill
Margie Kleerup
DeAnna Knippling
Lee Kenyon
Jackie Testerman
Cindy Martino-Vaughan
Stephanie Fisher

There was wine. Wow, I can’t remember what it was.

Want klava? Read to the end…

Peasant’s Platter (Appetizer):

1 lb beef sirloin, in thin slices
1 lb chicken leg meat, in thin slices
1 lb seafood/salmon, in thin slices if a filet

Marinade:
Toss with a little sea salt and a mix of olive and grapeseed oils.

Lettuce leaves, separated, from leaf lettuce (red/green)

Sauces:
1. Spicy mustard sauce—1/4 c dijon, 1 t horseradish, 1/2 clove grated garlic, hot sauce to taste, 1 t smoked paprika, and olive oil to desired consistency.
2. Sweet lemon sauce—1 lemon, zested and sqeezed; 2 T walnut oil, 1 t maple syrup, and salt.
3. Lee’s special dipping sauce (not in the book)—1/4 c balsamic, soy sauce to taste.

Flash-fry on a hot pan, then place in lettuce leaves with sauce.

Also used description here.

Langos(h) (Hungarian fry bread):

(Per 4)

1 large potato, boiled, peeled, mashed and kept warm
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (not rapid rise)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, cut in half

Place the ingredients in the order given, except the garlic, in a mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients until well moistened.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 to 7 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled.

Separate dough into 4 portions, shape into a round and place on a lightly floured board. Cover and let rest 20 minutes. (Note: We had to heavily flour them; the dough was a big damp.)

In a large skillet, heat 1 inch canola oil to 350 degrees. Flatten and stretch dough to about an 8-inch diameter. Fry one at a time about 2 minutes per side or until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Serve hot rubbed with garlic clove and sprinkled with salt. Variations include topping with sour cream and chopped dill or shredded Emmenthaler or Gruyere cheese. Or, for a sweet version, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or confectioners’ sugar.

(Note for my fellow South Dakotans – this ends up being like squaw/Indian bread for tacos, but very moist. Try the garlic; you’ll like it.)

Shamy (Champagne Sorbet):

2 cups champagne
1 1/3 cups sugar (Note: we thought this recipe was too sweet.)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sparkling water

Heat the champagne, sparkling water, lemon juice and sugar over medium heat until he sugar dissolves. Remove the mixture from the heat and chill it in the fridge for one hour.

To churn the sorbet, either 1) follow the directions on your ice cream maker or 2) freeze the sorbet for 4+ hours, breaking it up with a food processor or blender every 20 minutes. Leave the sorbet in your freezer in your freezer until it reaches the desired consistency, and then serve.

Makes about 2 cups of sorbet.

(Note: Wow, this was delicious. But it took so long to freeze that we ended up with champagne slushies, about 2h late. Do ahead.)

Mushroom Barley Soup:

1 chicken, quartered
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 stalks of celery
½ c. dried mushrooms
pinch of saffron

Add to large pot and cover with water; bring to a simmer and cook until the meat falls off the bone. Strain the stock, discarding the chicken and veggies (or reserve for another use, like chicken salad).

In the same pot:

2 shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

In the same pot, saute shallots and garlic in butter until translucent. (The book recommends goose fat, but I could not get any.)

1 c barley
½ c white wine
4 c mushrooms (variety – not button; go to your local Asian market)

Add the barley, wine, mushrooms, and stock to the pot and cook until the barley is cooked through and the liquid reduced. If possible, set aside for an hour for the barley to achieve maximum softness. Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.

Sour cream or crème fraiche and snipped chives for garnish.

Spreading cheese:

1 c. soft goat cheese (chevre)
¼ c. heavy cream
a drop of good balsamic
a few flakes of sea salt
minced fresh thyme

Mix; serve at room temperature.

Stuffed Trout

Unsalted butter
1 pound carrots, julienne
3 Hungarian peppers, thinly sliced in strips (or Cubanos)
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ c chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 t smoked paprika
salt
white pepper
1 c shrimp stock
2 lemons, zested and juiced
¼ c heavy cream

3 (3 to 3 1/2 pound) whole trout, cleaned
3 whole lemons, thinly sliced
extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Saute the garlic with the paprika until the garlic is translucent. Add the carrots and peppers and saute for 2 minutes. Remove from pan. In the same pan, add the lemon juice and fish stock and cook until almost evaporated, 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook until heated through and the cream has evaporated a bit, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and the carrots and peppers.

Season the inside cavity of the trout well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stuff the cavity of the trout with the stuffing, place half the lemon slices in the cavity and half on top of the fish, and top with extra olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place inside a double layer of parchment on a baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, until the fish flakes easily.

Asparagus with lemon-butter sauce

(Note: this is the recipe we planned on using, but were too full and exhausted by that point to make it.)

2 pounds asparagus
1/4 lb Butter
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
Salt to taste
Dash Tabasco (to taste)

Method

Break ends off asparagus spears. They will assist the cook by snapping off where they are inedible. Throw away inedible pieces. Peel the spears halfway up to the tips. Only the lower part of the asparagus needs peeling. Steam the spears over boiling water for 5 – 8 minutes. Test for doneness, but do not overcook. Drain well and place in a serving dish.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add lemon juice and zest, parsley, salt and Tabasco Sauce. Pour over cooked asparagus. Serve immediately.

Salad with rose petals

1 large bag of mesclun
1/2 c slivered almonds, toasted
1 lb tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and cut into wedges
1 c hearts of palm, sliced into ½ in slices on the bias
1/2 c sliced fresh pimento or other red sweet pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced
½ c artichoke hearts, cut in halves or quarters

1/3 c balsamic vinegar, reduced by half
3 T almond oil
A few flakes of sea salt

Paper-thin slices of a hard grating cheese, like parmesan or parrano
Candied rose petals (see following recipe)

Toss mesclun with dressing, arrange on plates, and top with the rest of the ingredients.

Candied rose petals

Here is the recipe we intended to use:

4 edible-grade roses
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1 t water
1 c superfine sugar

Flowers are best used immediately. Snip petals from the base of the flower. The white base of the petal of many flowers may have a bitter taste and should be removed. Wash petals and dry completely.

Hold the flower or petal with tweezers. Apply a thin layer of egg white mixture on each side with a small paintbrush in a thin, even layer. Any places not coated will turn brown. Holding the blossom over a bowl, sprinkle or shake superfine sugar in a clean salt shaker, over the entire flower. Tap the tweezers to remove excess sugar and repeat on reverse side. Place on superfine sugar covered parchment or waxed paper to dry. Let dry in a cool place to dry for 2 – 4 hours.

Use as garnish right before serving.

Sugared flowers can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container up to a year in a cool, dry place. Line an airtight container with soft padding, like Easter grass or excelsior (available at crafts stores). Cover with a piece of tulle on top. Arrange crystallized flowers in a single layer on tulle, then top with another piece of tulle. Add more layers until container is full. Store at room temperature.

However, here’s what we did:

1 container rose petal jam
superfine sugar

Take rose petals out of jam. Coat with sugar twice and dry in the sun on paper towels. Watch out for small children.

Chicken with Shallots

Sauce:

2 c chicken broth
1 c white wine
truffle dust or truffled oil to taste (optional)
1 t corn starch, mixed with 1 T water (slurry)
salt
white pepper
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3 Hungarian red peppers, cut in rings (or large, moderately spicy red peppers)
¼ c butter, room temperature
1 truffle, thinly sliced (optional)

Simmer until reduced by half, then add corn starch slurry and stir. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Just before serving, remove from heat and stir in the butter, whisking to combine. Add the the cherry tomatoes and red peppers.

Chicken:

1 lb boneless chicken legs, thinly sliced
sea salt, white pepper
2 T oil (olive, etc.)
¼ c butter, room temperature
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 shallots, peeled and cut in fourths across the root end, so the quarters hold together

Toss the chicken strips with salt and pepper and set aside for ten minutes. Meanwhile, using a little bit of oil, saute the shallot quarters over very high heat until browned on the edges. Add the garlic and saute until a little translucent, then add the chicken strips and saute until just cooked through.

To serve, add the chicken to the plate, then cover with sauce and a few truffle slices.

(Note: Unfortunately, this was left warming in the oven for far too long [you wouldn't believe how long it takes to eat all this stuff, especially when you're finishing dishes as you go]. The cornstarch in the sauce was offputting; I’d try a roux next time.)

There were supposed to be steamed carrots and potatoes in clarified butter; I just let that go.

Brisket of Beef

1 beef brisket (about 4 lbs) at room temperature
salt and black pepper

½ c. goose fat (schmaltz?) (used butter)
2 T smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sweet onions, thinly sliced into rings
4 red Hungarian, Anaheim, or Cubano peppers, thinly sliced
4 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded (heirloom are best)
1 c red wine
1 c sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the brisket with salt and pepper, let rest for 30 minutes-2 hours.

In a Dutch oven, heat the goose fat and smoked paprika with the garlic, onions, red peppers, and tomatoes until the onions are translucent. Remove the onion mixture and add the beef, browning all sides over high heat. Add the onion mixture with 1 c red wine to the pan.

Place in oven until the brisket is fork-tender, about 2-2 ½ hours. Add additional wine, if necessary.

When the meat is done, place on a platter and cover with foil.

Spoon off any fat from the juices in the pan, then blend until smooth.

Serve sliced with the blended juices (pepper essence) and sour cream.

(Note: We were so full. Soooo full. I felt like this was overcooked, but everyone else disagreed with me.)

Palaczinta

The Hungarian crepe recipe I found did NOT work, so I went with ol’ reliable – Tarvinator crepes.

Chris Tarvin’s Crepe Recipe
(Makes about 8 crepes)

1 c cold water
1 c cold milk
4 eggs
1/2 t salt
2 c sifted all-purpose flour
4 T melted butter

Put water, milk, eggs, and salt in a blender and blend for a few seconds. Add the flour, blend for a few seconds, and then add the butter.

Cover and blend at top speed for one minute, scrape the sides of the blender, then blend for another minute.

To cook, heat a skillet over medium-low heat with a small amount of butter, or until the butter foams but doesn’t brown within a few seconds. Pour in enough batter to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cook until the crepe slides around in the pan when you jerk the pan around (until the top of the crepe looked golden and forms cracks or ridges). Flip the crepe using a spatula OR by sliding it onto a plate cooked side down, then flipping it back into the pan, raw side down.

Finish frying all the palacsintas, choose your filling and smear it on the top of each palacsinta, than roll them up one after another. You’ll get 15-20 rolls of palacsintas when you’re done. (you can fold them in half or quarters too if you’d like it that way)

Fillings (bottom to top):

Pistachios: 1 c ground pistachios, ½ c confectioner’s sugar, 1/3 c butter (room temp). Process into a paste.

Chocolate: 2 c confectioner’s sugar, 3 T unsweetened cocoa powder, 3 T butter, ½ vanilla bean seeds

Raspberry: 2 c raspberries, ½ c sugar, cooked lightly.

Walnuts: 1 c ground toasted walnuts, ¼ t salt, ¼ c butter, ½ c brown sugar

Apricots: 2 c. peeled, diced apricots, ½ c sugar, cooked lightly. (We used dried apricots soaked in wine; it was too winey.)(This is supposed to be a cranberry sauce, but I was craving apricots and made an executive decision.)

Top with Chocolate brandy sauce: 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, ¾ c heavy cream, 2 T butter, 1 T brandy/cognac (and raspberries and mint leaves).

And finally…klava.

Every time you see the description of klava, there’s this elaborate process involved. If you’re looking for a recipe that follows the process – sorry, we didn’t use it.

My husband Lee made this. I just about rolled on the floor like a dog over it; I would have, but I was too full.

Grind about 1c coffee beans (I think) to a medium grind, then add to a glass carafe or iced tea jar along with 1/3 of a vanilla bean with the seeds scraped into the coffee and 4-5 hickory wood chips (the kind that are not smoked, that you add to a smoker, and that are food safe). Leave out in the sun for a couple of hours. Bring inside, filter, and set aside in the fridge or at room temperature for several hours to “cure.” (If you’ve ever cured espresso, same thing; it alters the flavor.)

Reheat gently and add honey and cream.

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Another Jamie Oliver recipe. Best couscous ever.

1 c quick-cooking couscous
olive oil
2 lemons, zested and juiced
salt/pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 fresh red chile (fresno, jalapeno OK)
fresh basil
1 T cumin seeds
1/2 t cinnamon
2 6-oz tilapia fillets
1/2 lb raw, peeled shrimp
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
2 handfuls peas, beans, etc.
1 14-oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

Put the couscous in a serving bowl and add 2T olive oil, zest and juice from one lemon, and some salt and pepper. Pour in enough boiling water to just cover. Cover bowl and let soak for at least 10 minutes.

Over medium heat, add 2 T oil, garlic, chile, basil, cumin, and cinnamon, and a little salt and pepper. Lay fish fillets on top. and scatter shrimp all around. Add the tomatoes and garbanzos, if using, and any frozen veg. Cover pan.

Simmer until the fish flakes easily. Add any fresh veg to steam for a moment, covered.

Fluff couscous with a fork, then serve with fish on top. Garnish with basil.

YUM.

1 lb egg noodles
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, washed and cut into thin slices
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 lb boneless chicken leg meat, cut into strips and sprinkled with salt
olive oil
1 c lager-type beer
salt and black pepper
several sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 1/4 c. creme fraiche or heavy cream
1 lemon

Cook the egg noodles in boiling water until done; drain and set aside.

Saute the chicken in the oil until almost cooked through, then add the leeks. Cook until the leeks have softened and the chicken is cooked all the way through. Add the beer, creme fraiche, pepper, and thyme and simmer for a few minutes, until the flavors have combined. Squeeze the lemon juice over the sauce, and serve over the egg noodles.

What is it?  Slightly soured heavy cream.

What does it taste like?  At first, more like cream than sour cream, only thicker.  As it gets older, it tastes more like sour cream.

What do you do with it?  The same things you’d do with sour cream or plain yogurt in cooking; the difference is that you can heat creme fraiche and it won’t separate.

How do you make it? Add 2 T buttermilk to 2 c cream, leave on the counter for a few hours or until it’s a pudding consistency, and then put it in the fridge.  Simple as hell.

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I read this recipe in Ad Hoc at Home and…had to give the library book back.  So it’s a combination of the recipe in AHAH and the Alton Brown one here.

One of my cooking life dreams…superlative fried chicken.  This seemed like a good start, although managing the oil temperature was tricky.

Fried Chicken

1 fryer chicken, cut into 10 pieces, backbone, wing tips, neck, etc., reserved for soup stock
2 c. buttermilk
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/4 c. salt

1 t smoked paprika
1 t salt
1 T black pepper (fresh ground)

Flour

Vegetable shortening

Cut up the chicken (cutting the breasts in half), leaving the skin on. Put the chicken, buttermilk, garlic, and salt in a sealable bag (e.g., a Ziploc freezer bag) and let sit in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight (if overnight, halve the salt).

Prepare the shortening: heat in a LARGE skillet or two smaller skillets, to a depth of about 1/8-1/4 inch, to 325 degrees F, or just slightly less than the temperature you’d use to deep fry, if you go by that.

Mix the seasonings together; you’ll probably need more than I show, but that’s the ratio you need. Drain the buttermilk mixture off the chicken, sprinkle with seasoning, and dredge in the flour. Lay chicken in the skillet, skin side down, dark meat in the middle. It’s okay to crowd the meat, but it should all be in a single layer. Cook until the skin side is brown, about 10 minutes (if it gets dark sooner, lower the heat), then flip. The chicken should end up at an internal temperature of 180 degrees, about 10 minutes a side, or until the juices have just turned clear near the bone.

Take each piece of chicken off the heat as it finishes and drain on a wire rack set over a pan. Do not drain on paper towels.

I based this on the one in Jaime’s Food Revolution.  His attitude bugs me – not that he’s wrong, I just don’t like being “should”-ed.  But it was a good recipe.

Chicken Chow Mein

About 2 inches of fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2-1 fresh red chile (I used Fresno), thinly sliced or minced
1 lb diced chicken legs/thighs, tossed with 2 T salt
2 scallions, thinly sliced
A small bunch (1/4 inch around the stems) of fresh cilantro, leaves pulled off the stalks and the stalks finely chopped
1 bok choy cabbage, sliced into bite-sized pieces
Crunchy chow mein noodles
A few T of olive or other mild oil, with a T of sesame oil (which burns easily, so mix with the other oil)
1 T cornstarch
1 8-oz can of water chestnuts
1 c raw, whole almonds
1 small lime
Hot and soy sauce to taste

Make sure everything’s prepped beforehand.  Heat a large frying pan with the oil as hot as you can get it without smoking.  Stir-fry the chicken until it browns slightly and is almost cooked through.  Add the ginger, garlic, chile, cilantro stalks, almonds and half the scallions and stir-fry for another minute, or until it smalls good and the bottom of the pan starts to brown.  Dump in the bok choy and the chestnuts and their liquid, scraping the bottom of the pan, and squeeze in the lime juice.  Stir fry until the bok choy stalks are warmed through and the leaves are wilted, then remove from heat.

Serve with crunchy chow mein noodles, cilantro, and scallions on top, with hot sauce and soy sauce to taste.

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  • Gathering strength. #
  • Amazing talk about storytelling by Chimamanda Adichie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg #
  • Song of the Beast – Carol Berg: The parable of the prodigy–brilliant, destroyed, reborn with purpose rather than talent. With dragons. #
  • Transformation – Carol Berg: Let the betrayals begin. I've come to expect to trust nobody in her books, but in a good way. #
  • Made chimchurri beef sirloin and zucchini cake last night. Today: chimchurri-bedecked bruschetta #
  • I think I'm working on the wrong project today. #
  • Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman: Propose new word, not pathetic, but pathotic, a kind of psychosis of sadness. #
  • Wow. Heuberger's won't do VWs anymore. #
  • I don't normally sign up for contests, but for a Vitamix I'll do it. #
  • Jack Horkheimer has left the galaxy; I will miss him. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/23/AR2010082304771.html #
  • Gleefully putting all kinds of stuff on the Nook. Scribd? What's that? Oooohhh. #
  • I am now at a bookstore, drinking a mocha, and not leaving until I have a completed draft of a short story. See you in a month. #
  • I'm not sure how, but I have an errant editor-knight on my hands. She swore to return to publish her sec'ys chick-lit, however. #
  • Reading Anathem during breaks, on the Nook. I have a hardcover; the N. is lighter. I look forward to 1000-page ebooks, a new niche. #
  • The new story makes me snigger. But no title. Gah! #
  • The Whispering Tree done: “It’s all just a game of Satan says to me.” #
  • I got tired of waiting for rejections, so I sent another one to Clarkesworld; they'll reject me right away. #
  • If you won't grab me in the first line, when will you grab me? #easyreader #
  • Despite several titillating panegyrics to the contrary, I am now SICK of reading Bradbury short stories. #
  • Another lesson learned: write new fiction every day, or you'll get depressed. Guh. #
  • Real ranch dressing: mayo, buttermilk, salt, green onions, Italian parsley. Over summer tomatoes with smoked bleu cheese. #
  • Getting ready to write Ray's next book. The easily dismissable outline awaits! #
  • Wuthering Bites. Uh huh huh huh huh. #
  • And thank you :) Dance dance dance… #
  • Okay, enough people don't know Steven Brust that I shall add him to my list of automatic recommends. #
  • What else bugs me is SF people who stopped reading at Asimov/Clark/Heinlein. Wot? #
  • Great. Now I have a Peaches song stuck in my head. You know, the one with the bicycles. #
  • Offdropsy the car for brake work! #
  • On the fact that food should be tasty and good: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-ruhlman/message-to-food-editors-w_b_555003.html #
  • C1-4 of the next book for Ray's series, Xanadu House, is done. #
  • C4 Xanadu: "She was used to boys being mean to her; it wasn’t like she was a kindergartener any more." #
  • Wondering if I should ping the people who are looking at Ray's book 1 when book 2 is done. #
  • A good formula is liberating. Book 2 is going well. #
  • OUCH! RT@jasummerell …if you don't have [coffee] yet you do things like type the words, "starts the beginning" in your FB status. #
  • Juicer or cider press? #
  • Anathem – Neal Stephenson: In the nicest possible way, that shit is @#$%^& up. I will reread ASAP, possibly in a few years. #

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  • Ad Hoc at home – Thomas Keller: Recommend for beginner+. Typical home cooking at a superlative level. #
  • The Pleasure Is All Mine – Suzanne Pirret: Solo cooking, refined, with the female version of Anthony Bourdain. Saucy. #
  • An Edge in the Ktchen – Chad Ward: Knife skills book inspiring me to get a Japanese waterstone (actually, two). #
  • The Vengeance Quilt done. "If anyone would use last rites to accuse someone of murder, it was Eileen…" #
  • The Zombie Apocalypse site is up! http://www.doompress.com/ #
  • Only two rejections over the weekend. I'm waiting for the mail truck with just a touch of dread. #
  • The good news is that I have twelve stories out right now; somebody's got to like ONE of them. #
  • I should eat something. [Looks at belly roll.] Maybe not any more Lil' Debbie snacks. And after yoga. #
  • Cirque du Freak – Darren Shan: Tiiiight YA adventure. Not especially deep, but fun and fast. Not if you hate spiders, though. #
  • Help! Is playing WoW/online MMORPGs considered "nerdy" among high school students anymore? #
  • I'm reading a friend's ms. and he's acting like it's on same level as DnD in the 80s. #
  • Trying to save a beloved character from an abandoned short story… #
  • Using Google maps to drive along a street seems a LOT like playing Myst. #
  • Re-draft of Paid (time travel story) done: "I decided to start at the present and work my way backward; it’s weird but it saves work." #
  • "My mother-in-law's a travel agent for guilt trips." -Quote from anon contributor to writing exercise at PPW Write Brain w/ Deborah Coonts. #
  • Excellent Write Brain. Left with inspiration to turn a standalone into a series. #
  • Good thing I haven't written the proposal for that yet… #
  • Dreaming of a manga-type YA series… #
  • Off to the post office. #
  • Zombie campfire songs, from Celina: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/lists/1harkin.html "He's got a whooole femur…IN HIS HANDS!" #
  • Sat down for a few minutes to find something in a box. Now it's noon. #
  • Does anyone else find it hard to get rid of stuff that's a kick in the gut? Really? I wanted to remember THIS? #
  • Scrapbooks: an excuse to keep one of something and get rid of everything else. #
  • <—-Mental today. Flee! #
  • Revolution Girl Utena seems closely related to the Dark Tower series (the ending) and Kate Bush's Hounds of Love (theme). #
  • Heard 30-yo woman bitching about how easy kids have it. Ray 2.5 hours of homework and karate…While 30-yo had time to whine on the radio. #
  • Nevermind; that was UNCYCLOPEDIA. Damned funny, though. #
  • Sent proposed characters for murder mystery expansion pack (for Lei'd to Rest at Freeform Games). Pleeeeease can I do these ones? #
  • Wait, it's NOON? #
  • Starting the pork. Ohhh yeah. Four batches of ropa, 1 green chili, 4 BBQ, 1 cubano! #
  • BLT with havarti. #
  • I had a post-wedding-cake sugar apocalypse. #

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  • C42 Chance done: "His voice sounded strange in his own ears; he wasn’t sure whether it was his voice or his ears." #
  • Six more chapters… #
  • Wait…one whole Monday went by with no rejections. That's okay, I just got one this morning. #
  • C46 Chance done: "He found himself singing the alphabet song under (obviously) his breath. No, that wasn’t right." #
  • Florida Roadkill – Tim Dorsey: Poorly-disorganized, nonlinear plot that was brilliant when all pieces known. Probably better in next book. #
  • Also, some brilliant murder weapons. #
  • All good citizens show up early to collect their children on the first day of school. #
  • Ray and I are not sure about her new teacher. Seems to state obvious things in a triple-underscore tone. #
  • Last Chance day! For the first draft, anyway. Then on to Ray book #2 and a murder mystery party game. #
  • Done with first draft of A Chance Damnation! "Aloysius squatted down next to Jerome. Damn, that kid was going to be tall, he thought." #
  • Feeling lost and unsure of what to do until it's time to pick Ray up. What? Answer e-mails? Pffft. #
  • Think I'll make a trade-in run at a used bookstore and drop off the rejects at Goodwill or the ARC. The Bug is PACKED with donations. #
  • I find giving things away very satisfying. Not, like, uplifting or noble or anything. A sense of closure with unwanted STUFF. #
  • I had a terrible nightmare about not being able to find an unimportant phone number. #
  • Ayah, another rejection on Alien Blue; she suggested I send her an urban paranormal. Chance Damnation is a RURAL paranormal… #
  • 2:15. Time for your regularly-scheduled rainstorm. #
  • Ray: "Whipped cat, now that's weird. Like whipped cream, only cat. Meow! Meow!" #
  • Eating pears with hot-cocoa-flavored whipped cream. #
  • The cat is safely alive, on the couch. #
  • Listening to La Bamba on harp at Three Margaritas. Oddly appropriate. #
  • Ray got her orange belt! #
  • "Vengeance Quilt" done. "Claire, especially, reminded him of himself in seminary; she chased down technicalities like a dog after a rabbit." #
  • This is the first short story I've written for a previously-invented world; it's the same world as "Chance Damnation." #
  • Why is it that all the supermarket blackberries have especially sucked this year? #
  • Author Allegra Gray signing at the Briargate B&N TONIGHT at 7 p.m. Book: Nothing but Deception. #
  • Ray's sick…Lee's sick…I abruptly feel like shit. This does not bode well. #
  • I find myself judging other people by the quality of their book recommendations…but dammit, they READ. #
  • On the way home from Dave & Margie's, the DMB song "Too Much" came up. Appropriate. #
  • Craving soup to eat with my croutons. I'm thinking a tomato-basil bisque. #
  • You know, if I don't get at least one good block of Internet wanderlust a week, I feel sad. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0409847/ #
  • Earworm: Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches… millions of peaches, peaches for free! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvcohzJvviQ #

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  • I got a Nook yesterday, and read about half of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." #
  • I put it in a ziploc freezer bag and took it with me in the bathtub. #
  • The plot didn't start until page 95–a big no-no that nevertheless worked. #
  • I also read about 1/4 of a free small-press book that had no conflict (all non-dramatized backstory/world explanation) for 50 pages. #
  • Sadly, I very much wanted to like it, given the beginning, but I had to let it go. #
  • Mmmm…lemon thyme bread. #
  • Currently attempting to navigate library ebook system. Sllllow. #
  • Back to work! #
  • Damn it, I wish I'd known this word a week ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limerence #
  • C30 Chance done: “I would like something bad to happen to the priest,” he said. #
  • Come on, 5K words… #
  • 5K done! C31: “Good bread, good meat, good God, let’s eat!” #
  • Dwight V Swain in the morning. #
  • Waiting for this, too, to pass. Waiting with my boots on. #
  • And my legs pumping. #
  • Researching labyrinth-retreats in CO for story: http://www.benethillmonastery.org. I might actually go there for an afternoon. #
  • Dwight V. Swain, as usual, kicks my ass in a most informative way. #
  • I think I'm finally to the point where I can write this story today and not have it suck. #
  • Irreverently, I want a "Bride of Christ" t-shirt with a flying-hat nun in a "Bride of Frankenstein" pose. And neck bolts. #
  • I suck at titles lately. #
  • Ray's orange belt test is today at noon. Tooth seals (clap clap) at 9:50. Feeling like at-home limousine this a.m. #
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larrson: Good stuff. A reminder of how messed up sex is. #
  • My face is a grease-pit this morning. #
  • Ah, another rejection. [Whimper] #
  • Bees have become a beautiful insect, like a butterfly, since the Great Bee Deaths. Ray: "Oooh, a bee!" I remember fleeing in terror. #
  • I have started to use the appearance of bees as an indication of a minor miracle in my writing. Twice, now. #
  • Damn it, I keep typing "she" for "it." This story is a pain in the ass. #
  • Ate lunch at Wholly Crepes at the mall…mmmm. So authentic I could barely follow the chef's French, and it was all words I knew (food). #
  • I had one with Brie, walnuts, honey, lettuce, & vinaigrette…Ray had bananas and Nutella on FIRE. #
  • Heh. If prison and aging trends continue, the Boomers will be the first generation with minimum-security retirement homes. #
  • The Resignation, done: "It laid on the ground under the hydro on its elbows and looked at the window through the scope." #
  • Readthrough tomorrow. As usual, I feel that the story is much better now than when I was stuck in the middle, when it sucked. #
  • Not sure how accurate this is: http://www.angel-guide.com/names-angels.html #
  • Ascotts aren't solely the province of Fred of Scooby Doo: http://www.elitetuxedo.com/gray_ascott_dots.htm #
  • Shoot. This means I have to answer my e-mails now, doesn't it? #
  • Oh frabjous day! Calloo, callay! Prop 8 Struck down – http://bit.ly/ahb1Fc #
  • Awesome valedictorian speech: http://www.sott.net/articles/show/212383-V…aduation-Speech #
  • Hm…I wonder why I haven't had as many sinus infections this year. #
  • I get to annouuuuunce things later today…but first I have to get my work done. #
  • C32 Chance done: "What with one thing and another, he wasn’t sure that he had survived until his head broke water." #
  • C33 Chance done: Lost, lost, lost, breathe. Lost, lost, lost, breathe. #
  • I didn't get caught up on chapters, but I did almost 5K again today. Heavy stuff. #
  • Now I will do yoga. THEN I will prep announcement…I am disciplined, yes I am. #
  • Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain. Rock on. #
  • Hey, I want to start reading Tim Dorsey. Which book do I start with? Sounds like timeline/book order is confusing. Florida Roadkill? #
  • Ayah, I seem to be about half-and-half with personal vs. form rejections lately. #
  • C34 Chance done: “You’re the expert,” Aloysius said. “Amazing what a fat lot of good that has done me,” Sebastian said. #
  • Chapter 48 should be The End of Chance Damnation, by the way. #
  • I keep wondering when I'm going to hear ANYTHING back about Ray's "Menagerie" book from a publisher. Hopes up? No hopes up? What?!? #
  • C38 Chance done: “Impossible,” the red-stripe demon said. But Aloysius could tell he was lying. “Summon demons? Here?” #
  • I think I'm going to set everything else aside for the next few days and finish Chance. About 17K to go. #

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  • In a heroic effort to get caught up, I wrote almost 10K today. Five chapters. I'd feel better about it if I weren't so stunned. #
  • How to boil an egg: http://www.b3ta.com/links/502106 All I need is a chainsaw… #
  • Another personal editor rejection. Siiiiiigh whee! siiiiiiiiiigh. #
  • Elya took some fantastic pictures of me yesterday. Also some dumbass ones, but those were TOTALLY my fault for making faces. #
  • Half Moon Investigations – Eoin Colfer: A master of character. High (personal) stakes for a middle grade book. Liked it. #
  • After dog highjinks today, I want to take my day, throw it on the ground, and stomp all over it. #
  • Okay, moving on with my day. #
  • Actually got Ox to obey for [drumroll] thirty seconds today. Hard-won victory. #
  • The Great Plains is like that ALL OVER. RT@slashfood Fertile Mississippi Delta region a 'food desert?' http://bit.ly/bssO7X #
  • To write a short story within a few hours, have a viable story idea (for you) B4 starting. A good idea isn't enough; *you* have to love it. #
  • Painful lesson, perhaps learned, perhaps not. #
  • I know, I know. It's too boring being in the same room as a working writer. #
  • For someone who tears up every time she watches Pride & Prejudice, you'd think it wouldn't be so hard to write the love (not "sex") scene. #
  • Okay, this week's story is Not Ready to Write; I only had half the idea. Last week's story is done now, though. WHEW. #
  • Uvlechenie done: "Space. It was the biggest small town in the universe." #
  • I defend your right to say what you like…but I don't have to let you bring me down, so na na na, bye! #
  • Up for today: Chapter, silly food show, short story, brainstorm murder-mystery characters, movie! #
  • C29 Chance: The demon tilted its head to the side. “Keep killing us. We’ll keep coming, but there’s only a couple of thousand of us.” #
  • If you have to ask, "How hard could it be?" the answer is maniacal laughter. #
  • Remind me again why I'm putting up with more adolescents than I have to. #
  • Just so. Anne Rice refuses name "Christian."
    news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100729/ap_on_en_ot/us_books_anne_rice #
  • I can't wait. @jasummerell It smells like October. #
  • Friday is rejection day. Two so far… #
  • Three, three rejections! HAHAHAHA! #
  • Watching a cable TV show off the Internets for research. Really? How do people stand to watch TV without Bejeweled? #
  • Wow. There are a lot of Dibs out there. #
  • Cribbage and ribs yesterday. A good day. We ended up with extra girl, though. #
  • Lee is becoming an espresso master. The sucky foam-producing capabilities on the machine are limiting his foaminess, though. #
  • And this was the best rib sauce yet. #
  • I get most of my news off Twitter now. Weird. #
  • I'm thinking about getting a WiFi-only Nook. Any thoughts? #

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I’ve been trying to eat better.  For the most part, it’s been working–it’s summer, and eating healthier meals is easy, with all the veggies I keep dragging home from the farmers’ market.  I feel bad about letting them go bad, and I have very little impulse control when it comes to farmers’ markets, so there are a lot of them.  Voila, the perfect conditions and inspiration to make meals mostly based on a little protein and a lot of vegetables.

But then there are the snacks.

I eat healthy meals and then gorge on stupid stuff.

A few weeks ago, I found some crystallized ginger on sale, so I picked some up.  Now, there’s only so much crystallized ginger that I can eat at any given time, but I do like it.

I’ve found, in fact, that when I crave a pile of potato chips or cookies, if I eat a piece of ginger instead, I’m good.  Sure, it’s a piece of ginger soaked in sugar, so I’m getting a lot of sugar.  But it’s only one.

The intensity of flavor is much more satisfying than its quantity.

I wonder what else might work.

  • Bang! #
  • I shot an AK-47 yesterday. It was a letdown; I much preferred the 12-gauge shotgun. #
  • Arms sore from heavy lifting; no bruising (yet?). #
  • Short story day. Later :) #
  • Holy Rejection Day, Batman! #
  • I just gave up yesterday, between being sore (no bruises!), attack of PMS, and "I'M NEVER GOING TO BE PUBLISHED WAAAAAH" yesterday. #
  • On another note, I wrote "it's all good" to someone this morning and meant it. I must have a brain lesion. #
  • First task: resending rejected stories. It's okay, babies. *I* love you. #
  • Also, I'm on a library diet. No more library books until I get this set (of fifteen) out the door. #
  • I may break down and buy the next Fullmetal Alchemist, though. IF I have an appreciable victory. #
  • Dear fate, if you get me published I will buy someone else's book, thus extending the chain of good fortune. #
  • Dear fate, if you don't get me published, I will still buy that book, so do good by me anyway, 'kay? #
  • I don't care for melon; too unabashedly sweet. But: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2009/08/grilled_chicken_breasts_with_honeydew_salsa #
  • Ooh, it's a Lora Zarubin recipe, too. I liked her "I Am Almost Always Hungry" cookbook a LOT. #
  • That reminds me, I have basil to grind up into pesto today. #
  • If you haven't seen it yet: Muppets do "Popcorn": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7UmUX68KtE #
  • Here's the original Gershon Kingsley version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSRCemf2JHc #
  • The Hot Butter version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y_VHOCp7Lw&feature=related #
  • And, to round things out: the Kraftwerk version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSxFmH03a4o&feature=related #
  • Okay, only four rejections yesterday, not five. #
  • Pesto! Figured out how to do it in the blender, too: start with a tiny amount of Canola oil, grind everything up, fold in olive oil & cheese #
  • Pesto: 2 bunches basil leaves, 5 cloves garlic, 1 c pine nuts, 1/2 c parm/romano finely grated, approx 3/4 c best EVOO, 2 t canola. #
  • Closer to the Beeg Announcement…come on, come on… #
  • C19 Chance done: "A dead demon, well, what was it dead for? Here?" #
  • Considering "do what thou wilt" as a curse on the shortsighted. #
  • I'm working on the smoking story. Jeez, it's intense. #
  • I wish I had a decent title. So far: "A world without hate is not this world." A character says that. And not the ditzy one, either. #
  • Dance Me In – Sons and Daughters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9mvsMUKWoE #
  • Trying to prioritize. Ugngh. #
  • It's amazing how good a personal rejection feels. I guess I'm just easy that way. #
  • Why liberals should love 2nd amendment: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/7/4/881431/-Why-liberals-should-love-the-Second-Amendment #
  • C21 Chance: The demon stopped in front of Aloysius and roared, “What were you doing in my house?” #
  • Fullmetal Alchemist 23 – I really like Colonel Armstrong. Really. She has no ruth. #
  • Scott Pilgrim 1 – Good goofy. #
  • What if you couldn't hire an accountant if you were bad at taxes? #
  • What if you couldn't hire a decorator unless you knew your color wheel? #
  • What if you couldn't hire a secretary unless you could prove you were a PowerPoint master? #
  • I don't expect the clients to be able to communicate through writing. I love people who are looking for "writters," because I can help. #
  • If one task you're hired for is to communicate professionally, should your clients have to jump through hoops to prove their skills in that? #
  • So…http://queryshark.blogspot.com/2010/07/166.html #
  • Pathfinder – Laura E Reeve: I sense This Is Not Over. Ending went by too quickly. #
  • Jane Austen's Fight Club: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2PM0om2El8 #

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There’s something good about homemade granola:  there’s nothing in it that you didn’t put in it.

Admittedly, there is the pain in the ass factor of having to bake it.  It takes about an hour, and you have to stir it every 15 minutes to make sure the browning is even.  But other than that, it’s pretty effortless.

De’s Granola

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

1/2 c honey
1/4 c vegetable oil (not olive oil)
1/4 c peanut butter
1 t powdered ginger
1 t cinnamon

3 c. old-fashioned oats
3/4 c coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1/2 c nuts or seeds (chopped if almond-size or larger) (I’m using pepitas)
Salt (optional)

1 c dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, banana chips, etc.)

In a small saucepan, heat the honey, oil, peanut butter, and spices and stir until the peanut butter has been completely combined.  Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, add the oats, coconuts, and nuts (if untoasted).  If the nuts are already toasted, do not add them until after baking (no sense toasting something that’s already toasted, eh?).  Add about 1 t salt if the nuts are unsalted (optional).  Add the peanut butter sauce and mix thoroughly, until all the oats are coated and sticky.

Spread the granola onto a cookie sheet and toast for 1 hour, or until the coconut looks golden brown.  Stir every 15 minutes to keep the browning even.  When the granola is the color you like, remove it from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.  Sprinkle the fruit (and nuts, if already toasted) over the granola, stir it again, then put it in an airtight container.

Modification notes:  if you remove oil, I seriously suggest removing honey in the same proportion.  The oil helps keep the honey from turning into dried honey candy chunks, which could be hard to eat.  You can swap out other sweeteners for the honey, like brown sugar or molasses.  If adding chocolate, let the granola cool to room temperature (NO cheating) before you add it.  Freeze-dried fruit is really good in this; plus, it doesn’t have any added sugar.  Crystallized ginger is a nice addition.  Don’t put anything in the oven that you don’t intend to get browner and more dried out:  thus, previously-dried fruit is already perfect for granola and doesn’t need additional baking.

This is the grown-up, sophisticated version of pickled beets, which I l-u-v-ed as a kid.

The sauce is based on Muhammara, a spicy Turkish sauce, but I didn’t want anything spicy at the moment–I wanted to recreate the pleasure of eating pickled beets!

For best color, use golden beets.  Red sauce on red beets just isn’t as pretty.

Golden Beets with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

3 medium-sized golden beets, washed and greens removed*
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
3 T pomegranate molasses (or about 1/2 c pomegranate juice reduced to 3 T)
1 roasted red pepper (I got mine out of a jar; it was fine), minced
salt
freshly-ground black pepper

Quarter the beets and put them in a microwave-safe dish and cover either with a sealable lid or plastic wrap to trap moisture.  You will think to yourself, “I should roast these in the oven.”  It takes forever, and you can’t quarter the beets to speed things up, or you’ll lose a lot of moisture.  Just nuke them.  Nuke them until they are tender all the way through and the skins slip off, or until they’re almost tender all the way through and you don’t care about the skins slipping off elegantly.  This will be about 10 minutes, but I advise doing this in 2-3 minute increments because I’m paranoid about things exploding in the microwave, which these beets shouldn’t do, because you’ve cut them in quarters.

Take the skin off, either by slipping it off or by cutting it off with a paring knife, if the magic beet skin trick doesn’t work.  Let cool and slice into 1/4-inch quarter-rounds.

Okay, that’s enough crazy talk about the beets.

Add the olive oil and garlic to a saute pan and cook over medium heat until the garlic is golden but not brown.  Add the red pepper and molasses and cook through, until the smell crawls up your nose and tells you some sweet nothings.  Add salt to taste.  The flavor should be a balance of tangy, salty, and garlicky.  The red peppers will add something, but it won’t be the main flavor.

Place the sliced beets on small plates and dollop the red pepper sauce on top.  Grind black pepper on top and serve.  Good at room temperature during the summertime.  You could add a crumbled white cheese like goat cheese or feta to make it heavier, or some real sour cream (the kind with the ingredient list:  cultured cream.)

*Beet greens are good.  Treat them like a heavy form of spinach or a light form of kale.  Saute with garlic and pine nuts, add a sauce of your choice.

  • Time to pry Ray out of bed. #
  • Made it back from SD again. Just exhausted. #
  • Trying to get through my e-mail, but people keep sending me more. [Head spins.] #
  • Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor – one of the better retellings of Lewis Carroll; inventive but not especially whimsical. #
  • Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay – 3 gory thumbs up (not mine). Ending went too fast. More scenes, less cute on the epilogue, 'kay? #
  • Uhhh…this story turned out better than I thought it would. An experiment in world-building. #
  • The Cliff House: "That’s power, all friendship and sudden threats." #
  • Want: http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts-apparel/womens/8a70/ #
  • Get free @chizinepub PDF book Choir Boats, by Daniel A. Rabuzzi: http://news.wowio.com/2010/07/book-of-the-month-choir-boats/ #
  • #shakespeareinengrish FTW! #
  • Going through the motions today. I need to figure out how to get from this attitude to somewhere better. #
  • …And "Just wave your magic @#$%^& wand" ain't gonna cut it. #
  • These kinds of day are a lot harder when you don't do lots of caffeine. But you get so many more of these days when you do. #
  • I need to watch more movies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEY6_jcrzI8 #
  • Writing with an outline is like drawing the edge of a fractal using a few simple rules. #
  • Just so. RT @wwbhjd Little Gods http://nblo.gs/5RsNk #
  • Okay, okay, the Old Spice Guy is brilliant already. #
  • Click send! Out the door. #
  • Cliff House is out: "I’ve grown so used to dirty bread that I would miss the taste if she didn’t drop it." #
  • Coming down with a cold, I think. Time for some juice. #
  • Odd & the Frost Giants – Neil Gaiman: charming but…give me Diana Wynne Jones's Eight Days of Luke instead. #
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson: Real horror, not the jumpy outy kind. A masterwork. #
  • The inside of this tea mug looks like a tobacco stain. The dishwasher cannot defeat the tea. #
  • Goodbye, my fair friends. When next we meet, I will have finished a chapter. #
  • C14 Chance done: "But her father could send her out to pick flowers for the altar in January and she’d come back with *something.*" #
  • Hungry. Peach salad with fresh mozz and prosciutto. Wooo! #
  • Sorcerer's Apprentice mentions Tesla and has the guy from How to Train Your Dragon. I might have to see it. #
  • C15 done. "He was pretty proud of himself until he realized he couldn’t find the switch to open the damned door." #
  • Song for the Chance soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0eQL5R3bw4 Yes, it's from True Blood. I didn't know that at the time. #
  • Another: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCsHS6ZYfHE Ukuleles and girls with sweet voices. And yet I still hear Tom Waits in it. #
  • C16 Chance done: "He was yelling at the top of his lungs and his heart was pounding so hard he couldn’t hear himself." #
  • Another song for Chance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6Z_So76zhU Not a big Nirvana fan, and the lyrics don't work, but the tone is perfect. #
  • Okay, time to do yoga and prepare myself for my NOSH experience this evening. Think hungry thoughts… #
  • Personal rejection from Orbit. Mixed feelings :) #
  • I think I just burnt the bottom of my foot on a piece of dark-painted metal. #
  • Quizzing glass: single magnifying lens on a handle. http://www.candicehern.com/collections/04/eyeglass.htm #
  • YESSS! Choir Boats mentions "Tlon, Uqbar, and Tertius Orbis." #
  • C17 Chance done: It must have hit the ceiling above the hole, pulling the house inward and down as it fell. #
  • Sorry, that was C18. #
  • C17 was: "Jerome couldn’t breathe, and then he could, and then he couldn't." #

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  • We are safely home in COS. Had pollo con crema to celebrate. #
  • I apologize; I'm waaaay behind after the SD trip. I'll get caught up ASAP. #
  • Done with Procrustean Mirror. Taking break to unpack. “What’s in the box?”
    “Your marriage.” #
  • Ambergate by Patricia Elliott – Beautifully flawed characters in character-driven plot, first of series. #
  • Sweet Myrtle & Bitter Honey by Efisio Farris – cover-to-cover Sardinian cookbook. #
  • I'm in a mood. Funny, it's not time for PMS, but it feels similarly wonky. I'll probably just go with it. #
  • I think I figured out where to send Chance Damnation – to ChiZine, not a NY house. I suddenly feel much better about the book. #
  • There's always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby It's a deal, it's a deal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxLAT2U1bCc #
  • A zorcico is a type of Basque music/dance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tt-yWQEXeo #
  • C13 Chance done. "When a man runs away from the table, you don’t go looking for him, not unless you were his girlfriend or something." #
  • The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg – gleefully read every word. Next book's not out yet, dammit. #
  • Finally made it to Trinity last night. Good beer, great food, wonderful company. #
  • Working on a good project…but OW my head hurts from hitting the wall. Ungh. #
  • At the marina in Chamberlain in case anybody needs to know. (Knip reunion.) #
  • Sunset, river. #

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No, not the kind of pickle chips you get out of a jar.  The kind of pickle chips you get out of a bag…

I can’t find these in Colorado, usually.  There are some really good ones that you can sometimes get at the commissary at the Air Force Academy (thanks, Chris!), but I don’t go there.

However, for some reason, you can get them freely in non-Colorado states like Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota.  I think it’s all the Scandinavians and their love of dill (see gravlax).

Anyway, on my recent trip back to South Dakota (traveling through all three other states mentioned), I bought four bags of pickle chips.  Here’s how they rated:

  • Dakota Style Dill Pickle Kettle Potato Chips – 5/5. Extremely crunchy chip with lots of vinegar and dill. This is the kind that hurts your mouth so good. The kind at the commissary were like this, but I don’t remember if they were the same brand.
  • Lay’s Dill Pickle – 4/5. A fragile, delicate chip with lots of vinegar and dill. If I liked the type of chip, I would have liked this best. But I like kettle chips better, so there.
  • Old Dutch Dill Pickle Flavored Potato Chips – 3/5. A fragile, oily chip with only a modicrum of vinegar but plenty of dill.
  • [Eaten on a different day.] Pringle’s Extreme Screamin’ Dill Pickle – 2/5. I’m not that fond of Pringle’s-style chips, and if I remember correctly, these aren’t vinegary so much as they are vinegar-powdery, and have sugar in the powder. Meh.
  • Uncle Ray’s Kosher Dill Potato Chips – 1/5. A fragile, oily, bubbly chip with no flavor and little pieces of dill scattered across them as decoration.

All in all, a dill chip extravaganza.  My cultural heritage has been celebrated!  Yaaaaay!

  • Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey: conffusingly enjoyable. #
  • Pondering how to make a predictable short story perversely enjoyable… #
  • All right. Ray's at karate camp. If I can get four chapters out by noon, I'm going out for lunch. Goodbye, my tweet! #
  • C6 Chance done. "It smelled bad, sour sweat and vomit, and he knew the demons would never find them where they had gone." #
  • C7 Chance done. "The gold-tag demon grabbed the Bible out of Sebastian’s hands and ripped it right down the middle." #
  • Dang it. Still midway through third chapter. Need food….maybe tomorrow. #
  • Ray passed her belt test and is now a high yellow belt! Woooo! #
  • Also, the first day of karate camp went swimmingly. When I came in, they were just finishing the plum flower sword kata, sans footwork. #
  • Ray's book has been sent out for e-subs to five eds. Still awaiting printer cable… #
  • Ate at Tomo to celebrate belt test success. In a yakiniku-induced stupor. #
  • Tuesday. Short story and one chapter day. #
  • Just finished a creepy, horribly predictable short story. Heh heh heh. #
  • Lunch is OVER! Back to work! #
  • Yay! Start work on an online story for the book tomorrow. #
  • Don't wanna! I'm not sure what it is that I don't wanna, but I don't WANNA. #
  • Mailing mailing mailing… #
  • The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford (ss collection): surreal whiskey shots, one per story. #
  • Sep 10 Analog: Pupa, Eight Miles (is that steeeampunk?), Spludge, Red Letter Day, and stuff that didn't click for me. #
  • Oooh, ten NIAs for $50. #
  • Today is doggy bath day. If you never hear from me again, that's what happened. #
  • K. To work. #
  • Ditto. @doycet Crochet "Robot Droid" Hat. Want. http://is.gd/dbqP1 #
  • C9 Chance done: “I don’t know. It seems more likely than that the demons want a little half-blood girl.” #
  • C10 Chance: "Saying you don’t believe in magic is like saying you don’t believe in miracles. It’s like saying you don’t believe in God." #
  • Hitler's Angel by Kris Rusch: Just so. I have trouble with that same question. #
  • Heading out of Kearney. Five hours to Soo Foo. #
  • Omaha. #

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  • Finished outlining next book, feeling pretty hip. Time to do some yoga and get knocked down again. My dog does stretches better than I do. #
  • Grilled angel food cake for breakfast…mmmm….. #
  • via @maleesha: Star Trek: Tik Tok http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZWaWrvJ7nA Awesome. #
  • Tim: Defender of the Earth by Sam Enthoven – another good book ruined by a transcendental (read: deus ex machina) ending. #
  • Things transcending life as we know it are problems, not solutions. He got it half right. Fun female lead though, especially the very end. #
  • Yesterday was a bad day. Today will be better, because I said so, and I can do things like that. #
  • The dog is eating my hose. It's all fun and games until you threaten my strawberries. #
  • Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson: Fun cozy read, good recipes, but I called the ending. I LIKE to be bamboozled by mysteries. #
  • Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan: YA adventure. Not deep, just fun and easy to relate to. Not as good as book 1. #
  • Wild Robert by Diana Wynne Jones: Novellette? Not sure what the point of this was. Felt like a truncated novel. #
  • Almost cleared out overdue liberry stack…yesterday's bad day = a lot of reading done. Oh, well. #
  • I hate this McChrystal thing, but it's been a long time coming. #
  • I'm thinking of calling the new book, a dark fantasy set in 1960s South Dakota, "A Chance Damnation" – whaddya think? #
  • Frames – Disappointed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZdx9e3YdVY&feature=related First song on the new book playlist. #
  • C1 on Chance Damnation done: "Someday, he was going to marry her, and there would be problems." #
  • Heh. That quote probably made you think I'm writing a *totoally* different book than I really am. #
  • Ray and I are off to her belt test for high-yellow. Wish her luck! She has worked SO hard on this kata. #
  • Back from test – won't find out until next week. #
  • I am very witty, insightful, and productive when I'm avoiding something else. #
  • Somebody send me a deadline! #
  • Time to give up on the submission to LCRW. They've had it for 10 months and won't respond to my "Hello?" inquiries. #
  • I am in love with Wanda Jackson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzJ3hiqsi0U&feature=related #
  • I finally found it! Tennessee Ernie Ford singing 12 Days of Christmas! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu0uSQ_vbZw #
  • Now that's a bass. #
  • Johnny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgK-1mpSljI&feature=related

    As a child, he had cried, as all children will. #

  • I'm having waaay to much fun looking up songs for this book. #
  • Muppets spoof of cooking shows: http://www.youtube.com/user/MuppetsStudio?blend=2&ob=1#p/u/5/2Qj8PhxSnhg #
  • Leon on the Spitting Image by Allen Kuzweil – YA silliness with a lot of spit. Unexpected ending. #
  • Hello, Twitter. Goodbye, Twitter. #
  • C2 Chance done (new POV): "Theodore rolled his eyes, as if to say, There goes Aloysius, trying to save the world using his mouth." #
  • C3 Chance done: "Or maybe he was praying that Theodore wouldn’t kill him." #
  • Interestingly, if you burn a cow with anthrax, it may take up to three days to get rid of the carcass. #
  • That's a lot of wood. #
  • So I don't forget, Theodore has a garab knife. http://www.marcialtirada.net/filipino_weapons #
  • I have the next set of e-mail subs prepped (for Ray's book). Going to wait until tomorrow, scan over the one more time. #
  • Hardcopy subs have to wait until I get a new printer cable. With switch from old PC to laptop, I need a converter! #
  • Off to the farmer's market! Lee has to work today. #
  • Decided today will be a dreadful day, as in, I'm going to do all the things I've been putting off, or a good many of them. Like Quicken. #
  • Front yard trimmed, yoga done. Arms shaking. #
  • Quicken and hustling done. #
  • Ungha. #
  • C4: Any minute, the flames would spread to the dry grass outside the church, and all hell was going to break loose, if it hadn’t already. #
  • These chapters are running shorter than usual, about 1500 words to my usual 2000. #
  • Hm…is 72K too short for a horror/dark fantasy novel? #
  • Sometimes I love the unknowns implicit in an outline. "HOW am I GOING to pull THAT off?!?" #
  • C5 Chance done: "And thinking about Maeve maybe being pregnant when she’d died wasn’t making him any less nervous, either." #

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  • In Denver. #
  • Now in Portland! #
  • Virga: Rain or snow that evaporates before hitting the ground. Via A.Word.A.Day #
  • From Uncle Dan: The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi (?). #
  • Another from Dan: I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian. #
  • No more sleep. Time to walk the beach instead. #
  • Picked up a bunch of shell fragments that have been worn down into what look like teeth. And hearing aids. #
  • In Portland. Already missing the sound of the ocean. #
  • In Denver. Flight out at…9:30. #
  • At concourse B, looking for my gateless gate. I think I passed it. #
  • Bored, bored, bored. #
  • Yay! Ray finished the end of her story and liked it. #
  • Returned from trip. Cleaned out fridge. My squick for the week is over. Don't Lee & Ray EAT while I'm gone? #
  • That is, don't they eat anything out of the fridge? #
  • Ox wants to bring the pain down on the guys clearing branches from the power lines. He keeps huffing at me for keeping him inside. #
  • He thinks they're threatening the strawberries, I guess. WHY DIDN'T YOU STOP THE SQUIRRELS WHILE I WAS GONE, OX? WHY?!? #
  • My goodness! Where does the licorice go? #
  • Daily food lesson: Make crepes in two pans. Then, if one of them sticks, you can abandon that pan. Price: burnt pinky. Ow… #
  • Ray's not feeling well today, going to miss belt test practice. She's drugged up and eating a crepe now. #
  • I make all-healing crepes. Had nothing to do with the Motrin, I swear. #
  • Three more subs sent out. Glah…my mouth tastes terrible. Dear self: it's FINE. #
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law was pretty good, a YA tall tale. Just excellent writing, although the plot was slow at times. #
  • Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine by Steven Rinella: I read every word. Not something a speed-reader often says. Great nonfic storyteller. #
  • Got Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane at airport. Liked it until end, then wished to strangle author for bad science. ONE GUY is a study? #
  • I have too many library books at home. Can you tell? :) #

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  • I was thinking I hadn't had a rejection for quite a few days in a row and was feeling paranoid that I had only dreamed of submitting stuff. #
  • Luckily, I was rejected today, and now feel more secure in my place in the universe. #
  • Tra la, tra la. #
  • My boss made me work a fourteen-hour day! Waaaaaaah! #
  • She did give me a manga break, though. #
  • Yay! Going to be an awesome day today. #
  • Mandoline chopped off the tip of my finger because I was being an idiot! Not faaaaaiiir! #
  • To be honest, the asparagus ribbons were quite tasty, though. Maybe it was the blood spatters. #
  • Please check out the PPW critique corner! Several people are looking for groups. http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/critcorner/ #
  • The kids' book is done! Let me know if you have kids and I can foist a softcopy on them for comment (8 yo target audience). #
  • It's an adventure story with spies and magic. Warning, kids do get hurt (but not killed) in the story. #
  • Thrilled! Ray just read half the book. #
  • Also, she just put Bjork on her Pandora. #
  • CAKE OR DEATH! Ray's watching it right now… #
  • I @#$%^&* hate Open Office. It's worse that MSWord. #
  • Brain dead. Need a break. Oooh, or chocolate. #
  • Paying jobs done! Now I need to finish my reading for the workshop… #
  • Working on the summary and query letter for Floating Menagerie. #
  • Putting together a food-freelancing resume. Let me know if you have a restaurant or food-related website and want me to do some free work. #
  • I think I write stories about the incompetency of THEM and the humor that ensues when normal people get sucked into taking THEM seriously. #
  • …or the tragedy that ensues, I guess. #
  • This is why, I think, Libertarianism, as a movement, irks me. Independents should not attempt to become a THEM. #
  • Finished reading Blink by M. Gladwell. My blink = the flip test. One paragraph, three random spots in book, I know whether I'll like it. #
  • I think prologues are usually so bad because the AUTHOR's not in love with those characters, either. #
  • I want to take the day off, dammit! #
  • I enjoyed Karate Kid with Ray and her karate school yesterday. I had to laugh at inappropriate moments, though, like the crane kick… #

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IMGP0074

Yeah, I’m going to need to work on this one.  Not only did the soufflés not shoot up over the edges of their ramekins like new shoots in spring, mere moments after taking this picture, they were all below the edges of their dishes and sinking quickly.

Nevertheless, we ate them, and they were delicious.

In fact, I mentioned that I was uploading the soufflé picture, and Ray said, “Boy, those were deeee-licious.”

I struggle to find the perfect crepe-batter recipe.  You know, not too hard or anything, but I do struggle.

I don’t have a crepe pan.  I don’t have a non-stick pan.  I don’t have an especially well-treated cast-iron pan that I use for crepes in a pinch.

I have good pans, tri-ply Calaphon ones, and I am determined that if I have to use a special pan to make crepes, that recipe is not for me.  It’s a regular old skillet or nothing, man.

One of my coworkers at my previous job (it’s so exciting to say that!) gave me her crepe recipe; it’s my favorite one yet.  It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.  Supposedly, if you mix the flour too much, the gluten will stiffen up, giving you tougher crepes.  I didn’t notice any toughness.  They were a bit thicker than I wanted, but just a little bit.

Chris Tarvin’s Crepe Recipe
(Makes about 8 crepes)

1 c cold water
1 c cold milk
4 eggs
1/2 t salt
2 c sifted all-purpose flour
4 T melted butter

Put water, milk, eggs, and salt in a blender and blend for a few seconds.  Add the flour, blend for a few seconds, and then add the butter.

Cover and blend at top speed for one minute, scrape the sides of the blender, then blend for another minute.

To cook, heat a skillet over medium-low heat with a small amount of butter, or until the butter foams but doesn’t brown within a few seconds.  Pour in enough batter to just cover the bottom of the pan.  Cook until the crepe slides around in the pan when you jerk the pan around (until the top of the crepe looked golden and forms cracks or ridges).  Flip the crepe using a spatula OR by sliding it onto a plate cooked side down, then flipping it back into the pan, raw side down.

I recommend letting the crepes cool before you eat them for sweet crepes.

We added honey-flavored Greek yogurt (extremely thick, like a set pudding) and cut strawberries.

  • Yay! REALLY unusual words. http://users.tinyonline.co.uk/gswithenbank/unuwords.htm I've never heard of a bunch of these. #
  • I am freeeeeeeee! Fulltime freelancing has begun. #
  • This morning's goal is to complete the rewrite of Ray's story through C8, then clear out inbox (brag sheet, critique blog, org signing). #
  • Chapters done. "She used the bathroom, washed her hands, and looked in all the drawers while the water was still running." #
  • Mission impossible! da da da da… #
  • Working on brag sheet (finally). #
  • The PPW May Brag Sheet is up at http://blog.pikespeakwriters.com/?p=111. #
  • Down to the last two e-mails, which are going to have to wait until tomorrow! #
  • Dropping another story off at the post office today, which will make six stories and one novel out for subs. #
  • That's the second time a potential client has asked if I'm on Skype. Dear fate, I get it. I'll talk to Lee about it tonight. #
  • Chapters 9-12 for Ray's. "Oh, great," a voice from the top bunk said. "I'm trapped on a pirate ship with someone who gets sea sick." #
  • Looking at an old story to see if I can should send it out again. Not as bad as I feared. Messing around with awkward constructions. #
  • New blog post:: Freelancing. http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2213 #
  • Apparently, it's now un-American to ask companies not to shit where they eat. #
  • New blog post:: Book review: Heir of Autumn http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2215 #

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  • PMS depression successfully defeated by Lee's (bbq) ribs, grilled corn, and Levity beer. Sorry, got nothing done this weekend. #
  • Trent Reznor has a pot belly. I seen it. #
  • Just got back from first Nia class. Like the best parts of college, oddly. #
  • I will work hard on getting edits on two projects done, so I can do some new writing. Yay! #
  • Editing the chocolate story means listening to Vampire Weekend! "When your birthright is interest, you could just accrue it all." #
  • And Iron & Wine "On Your Wings" – "God, give us love in the time that we have…God, every road takes us farther from home." #
  • Jesca Hoop Big Fish "I'm a seed, I'm a seed, I'm a seed/From a dandelion wish." #
  • Done editing the chocolate story. Except for the formatting. Guhhhh. #
  • Okay, formatting done. Now I need fancy paper. #

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  • New blog post:: Some of my rookie mistakes. http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2207 #
  • Cats wave their tails to show they're angry and likely to attack. Yet another reason our cat hates our dog? #
  • I just made 2 peanut butter cup cheesecakes for Cinco de Mayo. Somebody please confirm that Mexicans like peanut butter, 'kay? #
  • Chapter 2 (finally) of Ray's story went down very well. I read to the end of the chapter. Then Ox sneezed and scared the crap out of her. #
  • Once again, I didn't get everything done that I wanted to do. Nevertheless, time for a shower. #
  • It looks like someone hacked my gmail. PW changed; sorry folks! #
  • Hellyeah! RT @ChuckWendig Forget Stephen Baldwin. Let the Glory go to Joss. http://bit.ly/aZgBzQ #
  • Watched Sherlock Holmes last night. Loved it. Needs 2 sequels, with a death scene atop Reichenbach falls at the end of the second movie. #
  • Robert Downey Jr does a very good OCD, by the way. #
  • Don't waaaaaannnnnna be good today. #

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Smiley’s is a small bakery-cafe in downtown Colorado Springs, across from Poor Richard’s. We went for a weekend brunch.

The counter is opposite the door. The floor is stuffed with small assorted tables, just stuffed with them, and there’s no way to get from the door to the counter without running into tables or diners. The walls are crammed with bric-a-brac and mirrors; the mirrors are set to reflect the faces of diners as they eat, which was a little creepy.

The food was good. I had a quiche with really good crust and a delicious side salad, and chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert. My husband Lee, the carnivore, didn’t fare as well; the breakfast sandwich was good but not enormous, and he was still peckish afterwards.

The service was a little slow, but not annoyingly so. The staff was friendly, but they were all trying a little too hard, a little too stressed out and a little impersonal.

I feel like the place was trying to force itself to have more character than it really needed to. Keep it simple, baby.

Based on a recipe from Bon Appetit, Jan 2010.

Ever since I can remember, my favorite everyday, go-to meal has been soup and sandwiches, for preference, tomato soup with grilled-cheese sandwiches.   If I’m deadly depressed, it’s Campbell’s and Velveeta.  If I’m feeling creative, it’s whatever I have in the fridge.

I have a hard time thinking of a sandwich as anything but something to dunk in my soup.

But I’m trying.  Lee likes sandwiches that aren’t meant to be dunked in soup; however, his idea of a sandwich is a hoagie roll stuffed with salami.  Not bad, but not creative, either.

So I’ve been keeping an eye out for weird sandwich recipes, things to stretch my horizons.

Take, for example, the banh mi.  This is a Vietnamese sandwich.  If you haven’t had Vietnamese food, it’s not as strange as you might think, because the Vietnamese were colonized by the French, and the French left their stamp on things.  We ate at a fantastic place called Lemongrass Bistro a couple of weeks ago, and Lee declared it his new go-to Chinese place.  Go figure.  I had a comfort-food soup (big surprise) called pho; Lee had sweet and sour chicken; Ray had some of the best bbq ribs I’ve ever tasted.  Nothing too weird.  No bugs onna stick or anything.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have banh mi.  I have no idea what these sandwiches are supposed to taste like, but what I ended up with was delicious.

Banh Mi with Pork Meatballs

You’ll end up with a roll with spicy mayo, meatballs, vinegar slaw, and garnishes.  I recommend getting the hot chili sauce for sure.  The fish sauce is very good, but if you can’t find it, add soy sauce instead. Rice vinegar is the mildest vinegar you can get, and I highly recommend it, but you can switch off with apple cider vinegar. I made this a few months ago with the daikon radish; I have to say that regular radishes did just as well and didn’t require an extra trip to the Asian market.

Mayo:

2/3 c. mayo
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 T hot chili sauce (Sriracha)

Slaw:

2 c. coarsely grated carrots
2 c. coarsely grated radish (either daikon or regular)
1/4 c. unseasoned rice vinegar (or apple cider)
1/4 c. sugar
Salt to taste (1 t or so)
1 T sesame oil (optional but especially delicious)

Meatballs:

1 lb ground pork (or whatever)
1 T dried basil (or 1/4 c chopped fresh basil)
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 T fish sauce
1 T hot chili sauce
1 T sugar
2 t corn starch
1 T black pepper, freshly ground
1 T salt

Fixings:

4-6 long sandwich rolls, sliced hoagie-style
Thinly sliced jalapeño or Anaheim chilies
Coarsely chopped cilantro sprigs

Mix up the mayo and set aside. Mix up the slaw and set aside.

Mix up the meatballs and form into balls about one inch across; put in large skillet over medium heat and cover. Cook the meatballs, carefully loosening from the bottom of the pan, until cooked through, then raise the heat to medium high and remove the cover. Cook the meatballs until browned but not dried out.

Assemble by spreading the mayo on the bread and dumping everything else inside. Eat well.

  • You are what you surf: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/04/expose-yourself.html #
  • I don't care how full the glass is. What's in it? #
  • Editing. I crack myself up. #
  • You know it's a bad cold when your own open-mouthed snoring keeps waking you up. #
  • Poor Ray. She's feeling worse than I am. I wish I could take it for her. #
  • Made Mexi-Chicky-Leeky soup. Pretty good, even if I could only taste a bare hint of four limes' worth of peel and 1/2 c. lime juice. #
  • Stupid cold. #
  • Okay, time to try to fall asleep until the dog decides I'm the bottom of the heap of his personal dogpile. #
  • There needs to be a support group for people who survive my redlines. #
  • Watched last half of Avatar. What a piece of shite, demeaning to troops AND natives, who can only be saved by a trooper. WOT? #
  • I think the Navi were analogues of computer hackers. Living in harmony w/ the earth doesn't mean cabling into fauna's nervous system. #
  • Avatar review: hackers vs. shooters in warfare! The one with the better cyber wins! #
  • My self-respect limits me from going off on that for yet another 140 characters. [Sniff!] #
  • Ate at Jack Quinn's Irish Pub. Mythic-level food. I had a boxty with Irish stout beef stew inside and blue cheese sauce on top. #
  • Unfortunately, upstairs closed at Quinn's, so I couldn't show Lee the naked brass meraids at the bar upstairs. #
  • I am NOT doing Story a Day in May. I have too much writing to do. #

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  • Ray rolls her eyes and counts off a number. Rolls her eyes, counts off next number. I ask what she's doing. Counting sheep :) #
  • I read Ray the first chapter of her story. One fixit, but otherwise she liked it. A very good first listener :) #
  • Back to work. Not looking forward to this day at work…tossed and turned all night. #
  • Lee made some of the best ribs I've ever had tonight. "Don't worry," he says. "The next batch will be better." #
  • Working on a chapter book for Ray. "Ordinary girl must save mom, known as Queen Bee, from smugglers of magical animals and humans." #
  • I'm calling it The Floating Menagerie. There's a boat. #
  • And don't say, "No 8 year old will know that word." Pfft. Like nobody learned a vocab word from a book before… #
  • So many, many, many things to do. Sleep happened to be #1 on my list this afternoon, though. #
  • 11/26: "You're not crying, either. Nice. I couldn't stand that, if the Queen Bee's daughter were a crybaby." #
  • Dear Adobe, what could you possibly have to update this morning…again? Stop crying wolf, bitch! #
  • Going to the PPW April Write Brain tonight – It's pitch boot camp, yo! #
  • WTF? A three-page permission slip?!? #
  • I am drinking hot cocoa with a giant strawberry marshmallow. Because I said so. #
  • New blog post:: Panda bears and marshmallows http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2202 #
  • It's a strawberry marshmallow, too, from Rancho Liborio. #
  • Boo! Rejection in the mail today. Yay! Talking to project artist tonight! #
  • Why are form rejection letters always so smug? "I just wasn't enthusiastic enough about this submission." #
  • Okay, not always. The "this wasn't for me, but thanks for thinking of me" letters are appreciated. #
  • Don't subtly insult the people who might be paying your bills – or the people who look up to you. Even if you don't like their stuff. #
  • Getting ready for #ppwc My freakin' website on my biz cards is outdated, dammit. #
  • Sad now. @ChuckWendig When I say, "I ate Five Guys," that's not what I mean… #
  • Shoot. I can't remember where I found this. "My Milk Toof." Show to all wee ones: http://mymilktoof.blogspot.com/ #
  • Pikes Peak Writer's Conference starts today. I pitch to the EIC of Del Ray. Wish me luck :) #ppwc #
  • So, last 24 hours: Fog, sunshine, hail, and snow. Yay COS! #
  • Karen Albright Lin has a cookbook that includes folklore. I think I talked her out of a chapter so I can cook it and blog. #ppwc #
  • Here's Karen Albright Lin's "Cooking in Leaves" link: http://www.karenalbrightlin.com/cookingleaves.html #ppwc #
  • Also, the tale on the website deals with the Dragon Boat Races. EIGHT SKILLED GENTLEMEN by Barry Hughart! Swoon… #
  • NIN and Peter Gabriel on the way to #ppwc this am. A good sign. #
  • Waiting for Godot–I mean my pitch appointment. #ppwc #
  • Twenty pages requested! #ppwc #
  • In other news I may soon be a puppy momma! #
  • We now have a 11-month mastiff-[something] puppy! Welcome to Number 10 Ox. We pick him up at five today. #
  • Just got out of #ppwc (Sniff!) #

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  • Luckily, the waitress did not set herself on fire with the saganaki. Opa! #
  • I now have three short stories out at one time. And a novel. I feel all productive and stuff. #
  • Wood Chick's BBQ was very good, but the suggestive mounds of pulled pork on cornbbread were too jiggly, I kept having to shake the table. #
  • Also, the counter service was like going through the Inquisition. "Here or to go? Damn your eyes…" #
  • Beautifully simple crab soup at Brutti's in Portsmouth. #
  • Anybody know how long the chapters in a chapter book are? I don't have any at hand, and nobody wants to put a whole chapter online. #
  • Looks like it's about 50 words/page for a chapter book. #
  • Dug another story out of the mulch pile and sent it off. Hey! It wasn't too bad, eh? #
  • To me, first drafts are accompanied by a mocking voice saying, "This suuuucks." With variations. But they're not that bad, really. #
  • Clash of the Titans (new) is the movie that Terry Pratchett was mocking with Dunmanfestin years ago. #timetravelwin #
  • Miracle, Texas is out – back to the Chocolate Story. And the mandocello! #
  • Ooh, I just went back through the Choco Story to see what else needed to be done. Not much! #
  • Choco story sent out to first readers. Should be wrapped up and sent out soon :) #

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  • Going on a jet plane today, hoping it'll actually take off on time. #
  • Grinding my short-story writing skillz while TDY. #
  • I finally wrote the "murder god" story; chars no longer resemble the people they were inspired by. THAT story is too complex to write. #
  • Now I'm working on "Miracle, Texas," about an Old West tribe of Amazons. It doesn't go well. #
  • Although that's the basic plot of any story, isn't it? "Here's the situation; it didn't go well." #
  • On my way back from DC. Smithsonian good. Traffic bad. The Mall is an overdignified state fair. #
  • Chuao's Firecracker (dark choc, chipotle, salt, pop rocks) is both funny and delicious. It's the salt that makes it, though. #
  • I have bribed the maids into letting my room stay a mess with chocolate Riesen. #
  • Bought a laptop mouse. Ahhhhh, sweet lord. #

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  • I hate herding cats. I hate herding cats. I hate herding cats. I hate herding cats. I hate herding cats. I hate herding cats. I hate h #
  • Ray's sick. Might be strep. Doc's opens at 8:30. #
  • Then again it might not be strep. Her throat hurts, she can't talk, but her lymph nodes don't hurt, apparently, and no guck in her throat. #
  • She had trouble breathing last night. Not much sleep for either of us. #
  • Ray update: she has general crud that's irritating her airways kind of like an asthma attack. Antibiotics and a temp inhaler. #
  • I see I'm going to have to watch my grammar watching. http://www.asofterworld.com/index.php?id=544 #
  • Mystery WIP rewrites sent out; submitted short story to Weird Tales. Good writing day. #
  • Want. @doycet My easter t-shirt: http://bit.ly/cYipBE "Jinkies! That creepy zombie was Old Man Jesus all along!" #

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  • The "Obamacare is from SATAN" people are cheesing me off. Hello? I hope you got paid to go against your own best interests there. #
  • Don't like it? Fix it. But don't take away the chance of writers being able to GET insurance. #
  • Done writing for the night! Almost done with the first draft of mystery project–80% or so. #
  • I'm getting to the point where I don't want it to be oooover. #
  • Dude. From the new phone. #
  • Forgot the phone at home this morning, post-blizzard. Duuuuhhhhhh. #
  • On the last block of the WIP, first draft. Waaaahhhhhh! #
  • Ugh. Nap attack. #
  • WIP first draft is done! #
  • New blog post:: What's your all-time favorite movie, book, TV show… http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2193 #
  • WIP first draft done. My goal today: INBOX 0. #
  • Snowing under a blue sky. #
  • Down to two e-mails, one of which I will resolve today. #
  • I just realized Lee's beard looks like the lead singer of Static X's hair. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWdA1DKfbwo&feature=channel #
  • Updated Alien Blue with new beginning and incorporated Richard's comments. #
  • Down to one last e-mail. #
  • And none! DING DING DING! NO E-MAILS IN THE INBOX! Yesssssss! #
  • Ray's singing, "Z is for zombies, z is for zombies, zombies eat braaaaaaaaaains, z is for zombies." #

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  • New blog post:: February Brust: Yendi (Part 3) http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2186 #
  • Repo! vs Repo Men. http://www.tor.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=blog&id=58903 #
  • Lee says it's almost grilling season. Yay! #
  • Almost done with the writing slog for tonight. Come on…just one more grotesque death. You can do it…you can do it… #
  • Plan: Write. Haircuts. Groceries. Nap. Mix up dough for sweetrolls tomorrow a.m. Margaritas at Pine Creek. Cowboy Beebop. #
  • Tomorrow: TAXES. #
  • Extended bouts of small talk are like jerking on the lawnmower cord to get a real conversation going: repetitive and painful. #
  • I really don't spend much time in small talk land. I pounce on any weird detail. Like a hobby for historical scuba diving. Zowie! #
  • Today is tax day. #
  • Today is tax day. Please distract me. Pllllleeeeeeeeaaaaase. #
  • Also, I bought a cell phone online. If I don't give you my number, it's because I haven't figured out how yet. Or it's not here yet. #
  • Calculate my home office, bitch! [Beats computer.] #
  • How do you figure out the value of your land without your house if it's not on your property tax statement? [Whimper] #

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…I’m working on a writing project, for money, with a deadline, and it’s using up all my time and brain cells, so you won’t see anything else for another week or two.

  • New blog post:: Book Review: Artemis Fowl, the Time Paradox http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2173 #
  • Evil! RT @FakeAPStylebook Remember: "its" means "it is" and "it's" is the possessive form of "it." #
  • Groooan. RT @ChuckWendig Yes, grass-fed ribyes. Come to me. Come to this hot pan over here. MOO HOO HA HA HA. #
  • Yes (female) – Mom. @mightymur Question to male authors: IF you swear in your novels, do people complain and tell you it's "not necessary?" #
  • Sounds like a purity test I took in college. @elizawhat
    The MMPI test I'm taking is 500+ questions long! http://tweetphoto.com/13824065 #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: Old Man's War http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2175 #
  • I tried that, but the shrieking made my ears hurt. @tafkae I should rewatch Excel Saga if I ever have time #
  • Why is it so hard to get anything done when it's yucky out? It's not like I'm going outside. #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: Unseen Academicals http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2177 #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: First Blood (Rambo) http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2179 #
  • I am done with Colorado Springs traffic. Not one but TWO accidents on the way home. #
  • However, Ray is getting ready for her yellow belt test, so I may have to get over this anti-driving attitude quickly. #
  • Also, don't mock people who have just emerged from traffic. #
  • Break's over! Write write write! #
  • New blog post:: Belated February Brust: Yendi (Part 1) http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2181 #
  • La la la la la la la laa, la la laaaa! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEY6_jcrzI8 #
  • Look, I'm a writer. "How to hotwire an armored truck" is an acceptable search term. #
  • Delicious with pancakes? RT @MsAllieD I like my bacon like I like my men… #
  • I just came up with the perfect way to hide a spare key in your car, and I am so not telling you. #
  • Last night was a lot of messing around, disguised as research with a minimum wordcount. Today is getting shit done. #
  • Major milestone in WIP reached. Time for…breakfast! #
  • KKR's latest Freeland Survival Guide on risk taking: http://kriswrites.com/2010/03/11/freelancers-survival-guide-risks-part-one/ #
  • Back to work! [Crack.] #
  • Took Ray to belt test practice. She learned her first kata yesterday and did it solo today. So proud! #
  • Then, raced back to the house to pick up Lee and drove to CULPEPPER'S. Then a nap. http://www.culpeppers.net #
  • I had the sampler with gumbo, red beans, shrimp etouffe, maque choux, and hush puppies. #
  • Ray had her first hush puppy. And her second. And her third. And her fourth… #
  • Lee shared his catfish and a piece of alligator. I didn't care for the alligator the last time I had it, but that was somewhere else. #
  • I plead, "Come on. It could happen." #
  • New blog post:: February Brust: Yendi (Part 2) http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2184 #
  • Almost halfway thru WIP. However, starting to get creeped out. A sign of both effective writing and the end of the session. #
  • I thought I had reached my snort-inducing limit. No. The music swells, a romantic kiss, and a bad pun followed. #

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I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed having everyone over for the party.

Also, for something so disorganized (bring over stuff for a dish you’ve always wanted to cook!), dang, that was a lot of organization.  I think a lot of the organization came from planning for contingencies.  What if X doesn’t show up?  Will we have enough side dishes? How will I handle the gluten/dairy free contingent?  Vegetarian?  Kids?

But it all worked.  Strangely enough for me, I wasn’t nervous about it, either.  The only thing I got worked up about was cleaning the house.  Ah, well.  It was clean enough.  I can’t plan things that need to be perfect.  But I can plan things that need to be reasonably spontaneous and will probably not go entirely as planned.  Go figure.

The combination of orange and rosemary is a beautiful thing, as I discovered.

Olives (from I Am Almost Always Hungry)
1 c good green olives, not stuffed with anything
1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 orange, zested and juiced
2 T extra virgin olive oil

Mix all ingredients. Let settle for ten minutes. Serve.

The baked cucumbers did not fall into mush, like a potato gratin. It was more like baked shredded cabbage with a cucumber flavor. I don’t like cucumbers; these were…surprisingly okay? Nevertheless, not something I’d make every day; they’re still cucumbers. I think it’s some kind of mutation: I have the same automatic aversion to both cukes and muskmelon. But if I had to eat cucumbers, this is the way I’d go.

Baked Cucumbers (from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
6 cukes, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into matchsticks about 2 inches long
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 t salt
1/8 t sugar
2 T butter, melted
3 minced green onions
A few grinds of pepper

Mix the cukes with the vinegar, salt, and sugar, and let sit for a couple of hours. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Heat oven to 375F. Toss cukes with butter, green onions, and pepper. Bake for 1 hour, or until crisp-tender. May be sprinkled with minced parsley.

I made up the following salad as an excuse to cook with celery root, an ugly vegetable with a heart of crunchy goodness, much like many monsters I know. [Cronch cronch cronch.]

Winter Salad
1 celery root, skin cut off, cut into matchsticks
1 fennel bulb, cut in half lengthwise and cut into matchsticks
3 green onions, sliced thin
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 small bunch of radishes, sliced thin
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel or other flaky salt
Spring mix

Toss everything but the spring mix together and let set until serving time. At the last minute, toss in a few handfuls of spring mix and serve.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes are here. I added some green onions.

More later…

We successfully pulled off the Julie & Julia party on Saturday, with Ann, Larry, Dave, Margie, and Cindy coming in through snow and fog to reach our humble abode.  Dave & Margie brought Katherine; she and Ray disappeared outside to the playhouse for oh, about six hours.*  Ray, unsurprisingly, has a bad cold right now.

The general idea was to make all kinds of challenging or unfamiliar dishes, eat, then watch the Julie & Julia movie to help us struggles past our flops:  if we can laugh at Julie Powell and Julia Child making fools of themselves from time to time, then surely we can laugh at ourselves, right?

Here’s what we made:

  • Fresh mozzarella (success!). Ann made a honey-date sauce for it.
  • Rennet (which, sadly, died.  But it was for bonus points anyway.)
  • Egg noodles (success!).
  • Truffle Parrano sauce (success!).
  • Orange-rosemary olives (a ridiculously easy success!).
  • Baked Cucumbers (success!). (Don’t make that face. They were good.)
  • Garlic mashed potatoes (which I have made a thousand times and thus cannot claim anything much about, other than I felt like eating them).
  • Celery root-fennel salad (success!).
  • Beef with Marrow (success!).
  • Creme brulee (coughforgotsugarcough but successful use of blow torch!  FIRE!).
  • Rum Raisin Ice Cream (success! Next time, no rum in the custard! NONE!).
  • Lavender martinis (TOO MUCH LAVENDER OIL).

We were also treated to Larry’s beer.  I had the Ginger Saison.  It was mine.

Mostly successes, which surprised me:  we didn’t burn, tip over, put an inappropriate ingredient in, or otherwise destroy anything utterly.  Some not-so-successes.  The movie was…huh.  Funny but a bit of a lollygag.

Recipes, as I know them, will follow later this week.

For everyone who came over to my house to play with food – Thank you :)

*Oh yes. And then the bathtub, for almost another six hours. How many bathrooms in my house? ONE.

  • New blog post:: Book Review: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2129 #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: Conrad's Fate http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2131 #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: Beyond the Deep Woods (Edge Chronicles) http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2134 #
  • Gray and dreary out. My brain is trying to explain that I suck at writing. Screw you, brain. You just want to sleep until it's sunny. #
  • After two weeks of editing Choco story and Artemis Fowl on CD, the voices in me head have acquired an Irish accent. Quoit chaarming. #
  • Off to karate, laptop in tow. #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: Artemis Fowl, the Lost Colony http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2137 #
  • I think my cat is heavily invested in the idea that fur deposits = love. #
  • RT @cmpriest Anti-Don'tAskDon'tTell poster sums it up nicely, sadly – http://tinyurl.com/yjkrnt2 #
  • RT @novelwhore_com On another note, seeing what everyone is reading on Twitter is just making my reading list that much more out of control #
  • Ray's Nintendo DSi, for which she saved half the dineros herself (I think most of it came from correct math bedtime quizzes), has arrived. #
  • She has agreed to wait until Lee gets home to open the box. Lee's working late. Today Ray = saint. #
  • New blog post:: Pictures! http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2142 #
  • The truffles arrived. They smell horrible. But taste like chocolate lobster bacon. #
  • Pipe tobacco. @badbanana Coffee. Robe. Newspaper. Slippers. Loyal dog. What else should I steal before my neighbors wake up? #
  • New blog post:: The Tale of the Guinea Pig and the Tale of Onion Boy http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2154 #
  • Taking the day off! NANANANA! #
  • Which means you deleted it. Right? Right?!? @ianthealy just used "that" properly in a sentence… #

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Today is Julie and Julia Day! Wish us luck!

I’ve been playing around with making homemade chai. Because I’m lazy,* I’ve been playing around with making it in the microwave.

There’s a secret ingredient.

What’s the worst thing about making some kind of milk-based hot drink? In the microwave or otherwise.

That’s right. The skin. No matter how much you try to talk yourself into thinking that you can just peel it off and make it all better, it’s still gross, and you still have to flick it off into the sink, where it dries and becomes difficult to remove.

So. Fill your mug 3/4 full of milk, then top it off with water. Works every time.

Chai
3/4 mug milk
1/4 mug water
–Heat almost to boiling.

Add, in a tea strainer, one rounded tablespoon of good, loose black tea leaves, 1 teaspoon of salt-free Chinese five-spice powder, a pinch of ground cardamom, and a pinch of nutmeg. Brew for five minutes and remove strainer.

Add a teaspoon of sugar or honey, stir, and reheat for half a minute in the microwave. Stir again, and drink.

*I may not appear to be lazy, but that’s because I’m doing what I was going to do anyway, nyaa.

Location: by the IMAX.

Good things, bad things.

The bad things first. Nobody noticed me when I came in. The only reason my server noticed me was that I stared her down as she was serving someone else; after that, everything she did had an edge of “yeah, whatever” to it, as if she were pissed at me for staring at her! And the room was so cold that I didn’t take off my coat the entire time.

I ordered a combo with a little bit of alligator green chili, red beans and rice, and gumbo. The chili and gumbo were almost indistinguishable from each other and indistinguished on top of that, with very little meatiness/yuminess to them.

The good news was that the red beans and rice was quite the thing.

And from the menu, which showed three pages of BBQ, Po-boys, etc., I think the gumbo and the chili were at the bottom of the chef’s love list, right next to the veggie muffaletta. The hush puppies, light and yet creamy, showed the deep fryer had been mastered.

And then I got the beignets.

Yeah. I’ll be back.

Note: Do not inhale beignets. I thought I was going to cough up a lung when that powdered sugar went down.

Adapted from Fine Cooking Feb/Mar 2010.

I don’t like anchovies. Except in ceasar salad, where you can’t even taste them. Occasionally, I try to convince myself that I’m making a big fuss about nothing, that anchovies are just another food, and really I’m being too picky for words.

So I found this recipe, which contains all of 3 anchovies in a whole pizza, and decided I could stomach it.

Glah. I choked down a whole piece of pizza and hated every bite.

However, I should think that anchovy lovers would roll all over this one, so I’m not going to count it, strictly speaking, as a fail.

The pizza dough was excellent but needed just a touch more salt. I want to try making it on a pizza stone and peel, though, because I’m convinced it would make the crust even lovelier. I pulled the recipe out of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Pizza Dough
3c lukewarm water
1 T granulated yeast (check the expiration date and take it seriously) (Note: Use 1 1/2 T if you’re closer to sea level.)
2 T salt
6 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
2 T olive oil (1 glug)
–Mix the water, yeast and salt in a 5-qt ice cream bucket. Mix in the flour with a wooden spoon, making sure no lumps accrue. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let raise for at least two hours (naptime) or until it begins to fall. Spread the dough flat on a greased pan and let set for 10 minutes (you can assemble the toppings during this time).

Olive-Onion Pizza
Note: To be French, you can leave out the olives and call this a pissaladiere. Yeah, didn’t think so.
3 T olive oil
3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped
Pinch of red-pepper flakes
1 t crushed fennel seeds
2 med red onions, sliced into rings and carmelized (slow-cooked in a saute pan with olive oil)
1 T fresh thyme
1 c olives (green or black, in brine), chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 t lemon juice
1/2 c mozzarella, in small pieces

Spread a thin layer of olive oil on the pizza dough. Mix the above ingredients and spread on the dough. Bake at 400 degrees F for ten-fifteen minutes, or until the dough is cooked through. Switch the oven to the broiler, and broil the pizza on high heat for a few minutes, or until the cheese is browned and the tips of the onions blackened. Remove from heat and serve.

I looked suspiciously on this recipe at first but decided to give it a go; it’s a Mark Bittman recipe, so it can’t be THAT bad.

The idea is to have wedges of warm beets decorated with dollops of goat cheese. I added chicken so Lee and Ray would try it.

“How bad could it be? There’s chicken.”

It was…okay. Not great, not terrible, but not something I’d make again. The warm beets melted the goat cheese and turned it into pink mush, which coated the chicken unattractively.

It did make me crave beets, though. Beets and balsamic. Mmm. Some red onions.

Here’s the recipe: Nuke 3 medium beets in a covered dish until they’re fork-tender. Pull the skins off and cut the beets into bite-sized wedges. Mix 1 c goat cheese and 1/2 c plain yogurt with a lemon’s worth of juice, dill, salt, and pepper. Dice some celery. Saute a pound of chicken breast in olive oil, salt, and lemon. Serve with the celery and goat cheese on top of the beets and chicken.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, Jan 2010.

This was a kick-ass recipe, as in, “If there were a contest between two chefs, and the first chef make this recipe, you would eat this recipe and then gently drift into sleep smiling, and the first chef would walk away with your wallet while the second chef cried like a baby and you wouldn’t care” recipe.

The name of the recipe in the magazine is “Lamb Kofte with Yogurt Sauce and Muhammara,” but I’ll never remember that when I want to look it up. I include it for the sake of authenticity. Speaking of, for the sake of authenticity, use flatbread or pita bread instead of tortillas and pomegranate molasses instead of pomegranate juice. And add some chopped mint to the meatballs.

A note on Greek yogurt: It’s the consistency of cheesecake and about as rich. It’s like the difference between Bartle’s & James wine coolers and a good red zinfandel, which is to say Greek yogurt is worth the money, so get some if you find it, especially if you’re going to make a thick, non-runny sauce, as in this recipe.

Tahini – the peanut butter of sesame seeds. This stuff keeps forever in your pantry, and you can make hummus at home with it for way cheaper than you can buy it. A good investment if you like Greek or other Mediterranean food.

Lamb Meatballs with Red-Pepper Pomegranate Sauce
1 c plain yogurt (Greek, if available)
2 T tahini
1 T lemon juice (1 lemon, add rind if possible)
Salt to taste
–Mix the above ingredients and set aside.

2 lbs ground lamb
1/4 c grated onion (or finely chopped – grated made for a more cohesive meatball)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground chili powder
1 T ground pepper
1 T salt
1 egg
–Mix the above and form into LARGE meatballs, about 1 1/2-2 inches across. Place in heavy skillet. Heat to medium heat and cover. Turn the meatballs over after about 7 minutes.

1/2 c or more pomegranate juice
1 T sugar
1/2 c finely chopped drained roasted red peppers
Salt
–Add the juice and sugar to a saucepan and reduce the juice by about half. Add the red peppers and simmer for a few minutes, until the peppers practically fall apart. Add additional pomegranate juice to bring the sauce to the right consistency, if necessary. Add salt to taste, about 1/2 t.

Serve the meatballs on warm tortillas with the two sauces and chopped red onions and red peppers, if so desired.

  • Five more queries out today. Finally. Rejections (no new ones today or anything): 8/16. #
  • New blog post:: January Brust: Jhereg http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2095 #
  • Ouch, bad query day. Received 4 rejections: 12/16. #
  • New blog post:: Review: Freelancer's Survival Guide http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2102 #
  • An evening of clearing out my inbox. The thrills! Open Office is SHIT for doing hyperlinks. Don't format the whole sentence! NOOO! #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: An Autumn War http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2100 #
  • Alas, the knife class doesn't not contain any teaching of actual knife sharpening. Just julienning, etc. #
  • Jeez, I feel like the most boring person on the planet today. Maybe it's that everyone else is interesting today. #
  • New blog post:: Pikes Peak Writer's Conference http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2105 #
  • The truffles are ordered. #
  • Wait. That deserves all caps. THE TRUFFLES ARE ORDERED111!!!111! #
  • Wait. I just cleaned my inbox yesterday. #
  • Chocolate Story plot has been fixed…I mean, improved. Last round of polishing, Chapters 5-8, coming up. #
  • I put the "Cousins" song on the soundtrack for the Chocolate Story. I don't think the cousins in the story would like the song. AT ALL. #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: The Circle (Wonder Woman) http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2107 #
  • All it takes is one website to crash the brag sheet. Stupid M$! #
  • All it takes are TWO websites to crash the brag sheet. Freakin' A, M$. #
  • Screw you, M$. #
  • You never really learn how to USE M$ Word, just how to force it to bend to your will. It's like summoning a @#$%^&* demon. #
  • I'm going to start putting that on my resume: Professional M$ Word Demonologist. #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: The Surrogates http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2109 #
  • Here's to "not growing out of it." Huzzah! #
  • Want the boots. @ianthealy "Miss, we're the Fashion Police, and those boots are a crime against all that is good and right in the world…" #
  • New blog post:: Rachael goes to Physics Day at school (pix) http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2114 #
  • New blog post:: Book Review: Boneshaker http://blog.deannaknippling.com/?p=2111 #
  • Lee bought an ungodly amount of chocolate, unless it's Quetzacaotl. I'm tempted to make an altar just to show it off. #

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Adapted from Bon Appetit, Jan 2010.

My major learning experience here was finding out how much Ray and Lee like radishes.

LEAVE SOME FOR SUPPER, YOU JERKS!

Ahem.

The Bon Appetit recipe was all about perfection.  I neither had time nor inclination for perfection that night, so I ended up with something that took about 45 minutes from start to finish, instead of five hours.  You’re welcome.

Chicken Sriracha
Chicken
Cut 1 lb chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes, then marinate with 3 T soy sauce, 2 T sriracha, some grated ginger (about 1 T), and 2 crushed garlic cloves.

Dipping Sauce
Mix 2 T sriracha (rooster) chili sauce with 2 T soy sauce and 2 T lime juice for each dipping dish.

Oil
Heat a pan of deep-frying oil (say, at least 2 inches) to about 350 degrees F.

Garnishes
Take a head of loose leaf lettuce, wash and shake it dry, and cut off the stem end. Slice a bunch of radishes into thin slices. You can chop up some mint, cilantro, and/or green onions, if you like.

Cooking
Mix 1 cup flour with a teaspoon of salt. Dredge chicken in the flour, then drop into the hot oil for a few minutes (3-4) or until barely cooked through. Place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain for a minute, then place a few pieces of chicken, some radish slices, and some garnish herbs on a piece of lettuce. Wrap gently and dunk in the sauce.

Just eat in the kitchen. It’s messy, but delicious.

I decided I wanted to make a recipe from Tastespotting, while I was running around exploring, so when I happened upon a practically do-it-in-your-sleep dessert like this, I said, “Why not?”

It comes from The Baker’s Daughter, who seems to bake too much for her own good but seems otherwise okay.

First, you get your puff pastry and thaw it out.

Then, you roll  it a bit thinner and bake it according to package instructions, minus a few minutes, until golden.  (I didn’t roll it thinner, which I regret now.)

Then, you mix a package of room-temp cream cheese with a lemon’s worth of lemon zest, 1/2 c sugar, and a little whipped cream (a few T) for consistency.  After the puff pastry is cool, pipe the cream cheese onto it, add blackberries (which were on sale), pipe on a dot of cream cheese, then add a lid.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

This was a terrific project to do with Ray, by the way.  Totally kid-friendly.  The next step up from Rice Krispy bars, in fact, but about 1000x more elegant.  And tasty?  No…it’s terrible.   Forget I said anything.

Yeesh. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to find Saveur sitting around a grocery store. I found this one at Sunflower Market.

I’ve never read an issue of Saveur before.

If Fine Cooking is about a fascination with technique and adaptability, and Bon Appetit is about engineering an memory, with food, then Saveur seems to be about running around in circles and screaming, “OMG Did you try that?” while pretending to be respectable.

But maybe it was the issue, which was “The Saveur 100: Our readers share their favorite ingredients, chefs, tools, tips, and more.”

I haven’t hit the point where I’ve made any of these recipes yet, but I still feel like I got an education. Ginger syrup. How to make a salad in parts, dress it, then stir it together (Burmese tea leaf salad). (Yay! They mentioned Tastspotting.com!) Rabbit recipe that looks good. Snake cucumbers. Using wonton wrappers for everything under the sun. Chocolate gravy (chocolate gravy?). Dried lemon zest: take it off, put it on a piece of waxed paper, then crush it. I bet it keeps well, too.

The recipes range from the tasty to the foolish, with no real drive for “elegant” or “difficult.”  There’s a recipe for tuna melts, for heaven’s sake.  And chocolate pie.  And for a bloody mary you’d have to eat with a fork, the chunks are so big.  The main recipe I’m keeping my eye on is Crabs and Spagetti, which is spaghetti with marinara and a crab on top.  (Crab legs, crab meat.  But I bet you could just put a whole crab.  On top.)

I can just feel the exclamation points running behind the text:  “Try this!  And this!  And this!”  And a little excitement isn’t a bad thing, but I’ll have to read another issue or two before Idecide whether the subscribe.

Maybe I should just stop right there, because that’s all it was.

1 loaf of good, crusty bread, cut down the middle, spread with butter, and broiled for a minute.
1 c. goat cheese, softened, with some cream added to make it smoother and stickier.
2 pears, sliced thin.
1/2 lb bacon, cooked crisp.

Spread cheese on bread, add pears and bacon, slice into servings, eat.

Some pepper mixed in with the cheese would not have gone amiss.

Mmmm.

Either I pulled this one from a Mark Bittman recipe or out of my ass.  Either way.

What’s the difference between jambalaya and gumbo?  As far as I can tell, technically nothing.  Jamba tends to have rice in it, while gumbo doesn’t.  Gumbo tends to have file powder and okra in it, while jamba doesn’t.  Spiritually, however, there seems to be a world of difference.  Jambalaya seems, to me, to be a more civilized dish, a kind of thick stew married to a starch.  Gumbo seems to be a myth more than anything else.

I’ve come closer and closer to that line between jamba and gumbo, and I’m not sure where I am anymore.  I’m going to say this batch was jamba, though, because I didn’t do any voodoo over it.  It only took a half hour to make, too.

Jamba on Polenta
1 lb andouille sausage, removed from its casings
2 T red wine vinegar
3 T butter
3 T flour
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stalk of celery, diced finely; another stalk (with leaves), sliced
1/4 red pepper, diced finely; the rest of the pepper cut in strips
several sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped off
1/2 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen
1 can good diced tomatoes
salt
pepper
hot sauce
1 pkg prepared polenta
1/2 to 1 c milk
1 oz freshly-grated parmesan or other hard cheese

Cook the sausage over high heat until cooked through, stirring constantly and breaking up the chunks in the pan. The idea is to add some burnt bits to the pan without drying the sausage out too much. Remove the sausage to the side. Use the red wine vinegar to help scrape up the bits at the bottom, then add the butter and flour, stirring quickly to break up the flour before lumps form. Lower the heat to medium and stir the roux until it turns brownish; scrape the pan constantly. Add the thyme and diced garlic, celery, and red pepper, and stir constantly until soft and fragrant, a couple of minutes. Add the shrimp and raise the heat to medium-high; cook until the shrimp is browned on the outside but not cooked through. Add the tomatoes and sausage and cover, lowering heat to medium.

Meanwhile, put the polenta in a saucepan over medium heat and add the milk, using a wooden spoon to break up the polenta. When it’s about the consistency of a good bowl of cream of wheat, turn off the heat and add the cheese and salt to taste.

After about 10 minutes, check the jamba and season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Serve the jamba over the polenta, with the red pepper strips and celery slices on top. Parmesan on top might not be a bad idea, either.

Based on a Fine Cooking recipe from Feb/Mar 2010.

I’ve been loving on the red Thai curry recently.  It used to be, that I’d walk into a Thai place and get the pad thai, no questions asked.  I’d go to Thai restaurants just for that dish–kind of like going to a diner and ordering the fried chicken (which is my spouse’s favorite tactic).  I had no idea what anything else even tasted like.

Eventually, I shook things up a bit and ordered different things.  Until I got to the red curry.  At that point, I stopped ordering anything else.  It may take years to get this obsession out of my system.

But now I know how to make it myself:  by picking up a container of red Thai curry paste.

What?!?  A prepared spice mix?  Aren’t you trying to cook things for yourself?!?

Yes, but.

It is soooo good.  And I wouldn’t have put in dried shrimp.  Not in a million years.  I used Mae Ploy red curry paste (ingredient list:  dried red chili, garlic, lemongrass, salt, shallot, galangal, shrimp paste, kaffir lime peel, pepper.  No msg, preservative, or color).

It strikes me that fish sauce may come off as alien and odd-sounding. It isn’t. It’s just Thai-style worchestershire sauce, less smoky-tasting and just a touch more fishy. No worries. Come to think of it, I’ve never tried to use Lea and Perrin’s in Thai. Maybe next time.

Here’s the recipe:

Red Thai Curry

1 T olive oil
3 T curry paste
2 c snap peas
2 shallots, sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 can coconut milk (don’t buy the cheap stuff)
soy sauce
fresh basil leaves (one package, or a cupful if you can swing it), torn or cut into smaller pieces
1 lime’s worth of fresh lime juice, with lime zest
1 lb chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 T fish sauce (nuoc mam or similar)
(3-4 kaffir lime leaves, if you have them)

Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the curry paste, shallots, and chicken, stirring frequently, until the chicken is browned but not cooked through.  Add the coconut milk (and lime leaves, if using), cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through.  Add the peas, red pepper, basil, lime juice, and fish sauce and remove from heat, covered, and let sit for a minute to integrate.  Season to taste with soy sauce. Serve over long-grain rice.  (I used jasmine, just because I could!  Yay for grocery stores.)

Something for me to think about – the Asia Market has live blue crabs.  I so want to make this curry with blue crabs on top, to crunch up.  However, I am still working myself up to being able to kill (and CLEAN!) live crabs.  Dunno.  Watch this space.

Pan-roasting is a combined, double-technique kind of dish, where you start out with one technique and finish up with another. It sounded fantastic: brown the chicken in a pan, then finish it in the oven.

Alas, I had ideas and did not follow the recipe directions as given.  Where the recipe stated to pour off all but a few tablespoons of the chicken fat after browning the pieces in the pan, I left it in:  more fat, more flavor.

Alas, the finished dish turned my stomach, and the crispiness of the skin had disappeared into a gelatinous slump.

Maybe it was the cornbread I decided to bake at the same time, releasing too much liquid into the oven air.  Probably it was a combination.

However, Lee said the chicken was quite good, and I probably would have liked it, if only for the grease.

I threw the chicken in with green olives, lemon, shallots, and thyme.  A good combination, and I’d use it again.

Oh, Warehouse. You make me so happy. However, you really need to get some decent beer. The Blue Star kicks your ass when it comes to beer.

But I praise your forest mushroom soup, which is more like brewed milk than a heavy chowder. The crab cakes were all right, but nothing exotic. Perhaps I should give up on crab cakes, as much as I like crab, because they are essentially a comfort food that I get when I’m not looking for comfort food. Also, the fried polenta sticks that came with the orange-chipotle wild boar were heavy and dull and annoying, so nevermind them next time, sorry. I sucked the meat off the bones. The cannoli were regretfully dull; please don’t do that anymore. My husband’s black and white chocolate pate was delicious; he is a king among men for letting me taste it.

Remember I only say these things because I love you. Mwah! I plan to hack your mushroom soup recipe in the near future, see if I don’t.

What you have here are some meatballs with a half-tomato sauce, half-salsa sauce.  I’m not going to give the recipe other than to say 1 lb hamburger, 1 egg, and 1/3 c. crackers will do you nicely.  Use good crackers that you’d eat on their own, though.  Saltines are boring, so you shouldn’t be surprised if they make for boring meatballs.

Ray asked for these, so I made her mix them up. She did a great job.

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A Complete Guide to Fine Cooking for Beginner and Expert (originally published 1949).

Am I worthy to worship at the feet of the master?  I get the impression he’d rather I just brought him a nice jar of homemade pickles.

I picked up Fireside Cookbook and Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food on the same day at the library, and while I can’t stand Alice Waters’ attitude about food (which came across as genuinely uppity), it does make a good contrast to James Beard.

James Beard was writing right after WWII, and it shows.  He’s trying to convince people to eat better, as best he can.  That sounds bad (or at least uppity), but it isn’t.  People had just started to eat convenience food out of cans; he saw that and tried to show them how fun it was to potter around in the kitchen.

I was fascinated by the sheer range of seafood and fish dishes he suggests as casually as I might suggest book titles.  And, apparently, he loved appetizers with a passion that some men save for their excessively multiple mistresses.  But James Beard was also a master of meat.  He almost has me convinced to try making some tongue, after all:

Tongue Rolls

1 t chopped onion
2 t horseradish
1/2 t dry mustard
1 pkg cream cheese
salt
parsley, chopped
12 thin cold tongue slices…

The way he describes it makes me think that the processed lunchmeat (bologna) we eat is a kind of secret version of tongue. I imagine it as elastic, but possibly not unpleasantly so.

However, when it comes to vegetables, the recipes looked about as exciting as, erm, cold tongue.  Take a vegetable, boil it, and put salt and cream on it.  Or fry them.  Or sprinkle hard-boiled egg on top.  Or put 1/2 c. mayo on top.  Anything to kill the flavor, apparently.

I’m sure Alice Waters would not approve.  Really, I don’t either.

by Republic of Tea.

Another case of me convincing myself I was going to like something, but I didn’t.

This is a seasonal (Christmas) red tea, with cinnamon and vanilla.

Unfortunately, there is neither cinnamon nor vanilla to be found.  And red tea is okay, but it really needs another flavor to perk it up; there’s nothing bitter, sharp, or sour about it.

Fortunately, it makes a great base with which to add flavors.  I keep adding the lavender sugar from the Savory Spice Shop that I got for Christmas.  (Thank you Ann!)

I’ve seen a bunch of recipes for this lately, but I actually got the recipe from a guy at work who makes it all the time.  Feta guac is creamy.  It’s delicious.  Just make sure to wait five minutes for the flavors to meld before you decide whether you like it; when I first made it, I was so disappointed.  It just kept getting better and better, though.

Feta Guacamole

Five perfect avocados (do not attempt this or any other guacamole recipe without perfect avocados)
2/3 c feta cheese, crumbled
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1 chile pepper, variety to taste (used Anaheim; the other ones looked kinda mushy that day), seeded and chopped
1/2 bunch of green onions, sliced thinly
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt

Mix the tomato, pepper, onions, cilantro, lime, and salt together. Let sit for 5 minutes and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Dice the avocados; do not mash. Add cheese and avocado to salsa mix. Add a few tbs of olive oil to stick everything together. Wait five minutes, and adjust seasoning.

adapted from Fine Cooking Dec 09/Jan 10.

As you may know, I love charred Brussels sprouts, so when I ran across this recipe, I marked it.  I drooled.

However, there were problems.

First of all, I wasn’t about to roast the spouts, as the recipe suggested, instead of charring them in the pan.  No, we do not heat the oven to 500 degrees for a quick and easy weeknight pasta dish.

Second of all, it was just too much damned pasta.  The orichette that I bought ended up being both longer-cooking and starchier than I expected, thus falling apart around the edges even as I got the chunks in the center barely cooked through.  And so much of it!

Third of all, the sauce was a lot heavier than shown in their picture.  I should have skipped the cream and used olive oil instead.

I ended up with a gummy, pasty, cream-flavored, bitter mess that looked nothing like the picture, except for the orichette.  Nevertheless:  tasty.  I highly recommend the sprouts/Gorgonzola/nut combination.

The basic idea is, saute a bunch of quartered Brussels spouts in butter until they char around the edges.  Meanwhile, cook a pound of orichette.  Add some nuts (I ended up with almonds, the recipe called for pecans, walnuts would be tasty) and some chopped shallots to the sprouts, saute until the shallots are translucent.  Remove from heat and add some crumbled Gorgonzola (ahh, creaminess) and one lemon’s worth of juice and peel (but not pith).  Add salt and a lot of pepper, to taste.  I finished it with 3/4 c of heavy cream (!) but I think I’d just toss it with maybe a 1/4 c of olive oil next time.  And I’d add less orichette.  Or maybe just more sprouts.

in Colorado Springs.

I am totally getting jaded about restaurant food.

I like the food at Blue Star, but I don’t know that it challenges me the way I want it to.  I want a restaurant that comes up with ideas that I couldn’t have, and then prepares them perfectly.  For me, Nosh and the Warehouse always hit that.

Don’t get me wrong; Blue Star is inventive and prepares its dishes pretty damned well.  It’s just that there wasn’t anything on the menu that felt like I could toss myself off the stupid cliff, screaming, “I’ll just have to trust the chef” on the way down.  Nothing that made me look twice.

I had deep-fried, battered green beans with truffle mayo and crab cakes with sriracha, cilantro, and soy dips, with green peas.  All delicious.  And the company was great – Ann and Larry, and meeting Doug and Lauren, who unabashedly love long-haired chihuahuas and want to know if I’ll join their smartass PTA commune in Manitou Springs (I negotiated a cave for Lee).  I like the atmosphere (although it’s a bit loud for intimacy), I like the food…I’m just not inspired to cook anything after eating there.  Hm…I do want to find some of that truffle cheese that Ann ordered, though.  I took a bite, and it was like a male stripper was humping my leg:  Wow!  But, um, could you er, step back a bit?

in Colorado Springs.

Musashi is a Japanese teppan-table restaurant in town.  I’ve seen it hundreds of times (it’s right on Academy), but I’ve never gone.  A group of women from work got together and went.  During the daytime, the place is abandoned.  But at night, it’s packed.

I’m glad I went (and not just for the company), but I don’t know that I’ll go back.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s just the PMS talking.  They wouldn’t seat us until everyone had arrived, and then we were packed around that table like sardines, and it was so, so hot.  I wasn’t very comfortable.

Imagine a family diner, not a chain, that was built in the late seventies.  Now imagine it’s Japanese.  Everything is homey and old fashioned, just in a different culture.  The older waitresses wore kimonos and geta.  The younger ones wore black pants and hapi coats.  The lighting was dark.  The knickknacks were plentiful.  The food was simple, plentiful, and good, Japanese diner food.  The paper lanterns were decorated with beer names.  The vents over the teppan tables were fragrant with grease.  The everclear burned brightly from the stacked onion rings.  The only thing missing was the chef hiding an egg in the folds of his chef hat.

Dark chocolate with chocolate mousse and cherry and chili fillings.

Erm.

I didn’t like this one, either.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to throw it out; it’s chocolate.  I’d be hard-pressed to throw out Hershey’s kisses, come to that, and I think they had to change the legal definition of chocolate to get those things to count as chocolate.

The syrupy cherry filling inside the chocolate bar is so freaking sweet that it turns my stomach.  It doesn’t really taste like cherries (not even cheap chocolate-covered cherries) or chili (although I can pick up a tiny, bitter aftertaste) so much as just plain sugar.

The chocolate itself isn’t bad, but it’s not anything to write home about, and I can barely taste it.  “Dark” is about the best I can describe it, because the filling just drowns out everything else.

It strikes me as the kind of thing a European chocolatier would think Americans would like – exotic sounding, but no real exotic flavor to it, with Extra Sugar.  Bleah.

I am always prejudiced to like Fine Cooking.  The recipes are right around my level of cooking, or a bit more.

However, most of really fun-looking recipes are more time-consuming than I have right now.

Ingredients introduced:  chestnuts, dates, pomegranates, endive, parsnips.  How to do more with clementines than just eat them.  How to use up a buttload of smoked salmon (from Sam’s, Costco, etc.).  Cookbook reviews including Ad Hoc at Home and Momofuku, both of which look interesting but the sort of thing I’d like to check out from the library before I buy.  How baking soda and baking powder work (and why they’re two different things).  How to eat lighter.  Mixed drink recipes (they like to dig up old drink recipes that people probably haven’t tried before).  Two big meat-based holiday meals.  How to roast ducks, geese, and Cornish game hens.  How to make authentic  tamales.  Three gorgeously fancy cakes, including one with homemade marshmallows on top.  Fudge.  Tons of Christmas cookies.  How to make dulce de leche without exploding a tin can.  And, finally, at the end, seven recipes that take less than three days to make.

I made a parsnip recipe out of this, the parsnip risotto.  And I’m planning to make one of the quick recipes from the back, Orichette with Brussels sprouts, gorgonzola, and brown-butter pecans.

I want to make everything.  It just seems overwhelming.

I want to like this magazine.  It make me think; it makes me want to cook.

But I cook so few actual recipes out of it.  I cook so many more out of Bon Appetit.

Hm…there’s this rapini recipe in there that says I need to blanch the rapini for 4-5 minutes.  That sounds more reasonable than the fifteen seconds…

I think if I actually cooked my way through this magazine, I’d be a lot better cook than I am now.  It just seems like I’d have to spend six hours a day doing it for two months to get it done.

I guess I’ll never cook my way through the Julia Child cookbooks then, either.

Some weeks, everything turns out great on the food front.  Some weeks, you learn stuff.

So my latest discovery is that rapini, or broccoli rabe, or even broccoli rape, is fucking bitter.

It looks so pretty.

I ran across it a week ago and snatched it, because I’d been kind of thinking about making something with it for a while. Did I mention that it looks pretty?  With big, wide leaves, long stems, and cute little broccoli bits at the top?  Anything that looks that pretty must taste nice, right?

So I sliced up my mushroom tofu*, profoundly glad that nobody else at my house liked the stuff, because it’s divine.

And then I cut up the rapini.  I tasted a bit of it, and it was interesting.  A little more bitter than broccoli and a little wilder tasting.  I was expecting all kinds of good things.

Then I fried the tofu and rapini up with a little garlic and added mushroom soy and black vinegar, because those are the perfect things to go with mushroom tofu (to me).

I tried some of the mushroom tofu, and it was delicious.

I tried some of the rapini, and it was a little more bitter, so I added some mirin to balance it out.

I called Ray, because she’d at least agreed to try some.

By the time I’d dished it up for her, the rapini was so chokingly, gallingly bitter that we couldn’t eat it.  We picked it out.  Ray said, “Mom, that tofu is really good!”  And later, Lee said, “I stole some of your mushroom tofu.  It’s pretty good.**”

Dammit.

Apparently, you’re supposed to blanch the rapini before you put it in a dish, or else it gets really bitter.

So, dunking this stuff in boiling water for fifteen seconds is supposed to remove the bitterness?  Really?  Maybe if you dunked it in a quart of caramel, threw out the rapini, and ate the caramel, maybe that would get you something that wasn’t quite so bitter.  I’ll believe it when I taste it, buddy.

*You know, I don’t think that’s what it’s really called, because I can’t find it online. I’ll have to pick some more up. O noes.

**Unspoken:  For something that’s not bacon.

This is an English traditional dish that Lee requested, and fits solidly into the category of “guy food.”

Not “man food.”  Guy food.

Guy food is meat, grease, and starch, with a few aromatics or something sour for flavor.  Pizza isn’t guy food, but brats on a bun with sauerkraut is.  Fish and chips is guy food.  Steak and taters is guy food.  Bacon and eggs with pancakes is guy food.

I like me some good guy food from time to time, but I’d kill myself inside of five years if I tried to eat that way all the time.

Bangers and mash is sausages with potatoes.  There’s a particular type of sausage that goes with it, apparently, because when I went to Sunflower market to pick up some sausages, they had some labeled “Banger sausages.”  Unfortunately, I only saw those after I picked up “English sausages.”

Unfortunately, I never did get one of the English sausages to figure out what it tasted like, because I had one of the Linguisa (portugese garlic) sausages I had left over, instead.

Mmm.  Garlic.

I’m not going to give a full recipe here; like most guy food, it’s a pretty forgiving dish.

Make a batch of mashed potatoes.  I made a batch of my usual garlic mashed potatoes.  Open a jar of beef gravy (or make your own, if so inclined) and heat it with some Worchestershire sauce, maybe a teaspoonful, and some garlic, if desired.  (The Worchestershire sauce, IMO, is not optional.)  Fry up some sausages, pricking the skin with a fork and covering them.  When the inside is cooked and the outside is covered with crunchy bits, you’re done.  Slice a yellow onion thinly and fry it in butter.

Assemble with the potatoes on the bottom, sausages next, onions after, and gravy on top.

A milk chocolate.

First, the chocolate.  I’m not a big fan of milk chocolate, so I tend to be pickier about milk than dark.  Milk chocolate doesn’t snap, but the stuff that I like tends to have a high fat content from the chocolate as well as from the milk side of things, and so still has that melt-in-your mouth quality.

This bar didn’t have it.  It was a much more dense, Belgian-chocolate type.  I could almost taste the milk, but it was more like powdered milk than anything rich.

Next, the flavor.  Neither the honey nor the green tea flavors really came through.  The honey was there, but not strongly.  The green tea appeared as a weak aftertaste.

I don’t know.  Maybe this would be a milk chocolate lover’s dream.  Maybe I’m getting too picky when it comes to chocolate.  I was looking forward to a heavy, almost bee-pollen taste and the scent of good matcha crawling up my sinuses, but no.

The chicken turned out just fine.  I actually improved it a bit with the addition of a lot of salt after I’d flipped the chicken over, toward the end of the roast.

But the couscous.

I want to like couscous.  In fact, when I’ve had couscous elsewhere, I’ve liked it.  My personal success with the stuff seems to be pretty spotty, though.

I pulled a recipe out of the Dec 09 issue of Bon Appetit:  couscous with clementines, garbanzos, and olives, and dates. Sounds pretty good, eh?

Nope.  Bland and dry, bland and dry.

I think I’m going to have to treat couscous like risotto and add at least half again the liquid specified by the instructions. Maybe it’s the altitude.  Or maybe I just don’t like couscous as dry as most people do.  Bleah.  Eating this stuff was like eating sand.

I had couscous once at Blue Star that was HUGE, the size of large-pearl tapioca, and bathed in carrot puree.  I loved it, saucy and squishy, like savory tapioca pudding.

Does anybody know whether that’s just regular couscous, overcooked, or something different?

I am not made for Nanay Betty’s; Nanay Betty’s is not made for me.

It’s true, perceptions change facts.

I stopped at Nanay Betty’s right before I went to the library on Saturday to drop off books.  About a dozen people were sitting at the tables, chatting pleasantly.  The decor was the same – white walls, tables set up mostly as eight-tops with white tablecloths with plastic covers, the huge karaoke setup dominating the room, the porcelain crucifixes behind the counter.

I really wanted to take a picture of the tiny woman behind the counter with all those crucifixes, but I chickened out.  I’m really going to have to work on that.

I ordered chicken adobo, some kind of pork thing with coconut milk and ginger, and tarot leaves stewed in coconut milk and ginger and garlic.  With rice.

I have no idea whether the food was prepared well or not – but it was heavy, bland, and oily.  How you can make food that has been soaked in coconut milk and ginger bland, I don’t know, but you can.

Ah, I was sad.  I ate quite a bit of it, trying to convince myself that it was just my unfamiliarity that was the problem, but I never succeeded, and had to leave about a third of it behind.  Even with my upbringing, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for a to-go box (and then just toss the box).  I didn’t even want to carry the food out the door.

As I ate, the place became more and more annoying.  “What?  You can’t even bother to decorate the walls?  These tables feel like picnic tables.  Like troughs.  These people actually look like they’re enjoying their food.”  Blah blah blah.  The snide voice running in my head made me almost feel worse than the food did (she noted snidely).

I won’t be going back.

When I started out as a cook (that is, cooking for myself, rather than cooking to learn, from my mom), I didn’t have much of a repertoire. This should not come as a surprise; I didn’t have much of a repertoire as an eater, let alone as a cook.

So almost every recipe I saw contained exotic ingredients that I’d never tried before, and that I had to buy especially, for a recipe.

The first cookbook I ever bought was Dad’s Own Cookbook:  Everything Your Mother Never Taught You, by Bob Sloan, who as far as I am concerned, wrote the definitive book to give to a college student moving out on her own and having any sort of interest in cooking whatsoever.  It contains recipes for familiar food, made the way it should be made.  Basic food, basic recipes, probably about a million miles beyond the level of cooking most kids have done at home before.

I walked away from that with two recipes:  Chicken Soup and Lasagna.

And a love of garlic.

Fresh garlic.

I had to nerve myself up to buy fresh garlic, that first time.  And sausage that wasn’t breakfast patties.  And fresh mushrooms.  And ricotta.  And spinach.  And when I put the lasagna in the oven I almost passed out from worry that the noodles weren’t going to cook through.

O please o please o please…

But the important thing was the garlic.  The first time I smelled fresh garlic on my fingers, I smiled.  So that’s what vampires are afraid of, I thought.  Fools.  And then I tasted it.  Holy Mother of GOD.  And then I sauted it, and tasted it again.  A whole new food.*

Ever since then, I’ve been trying to invite new ingredients into my palate.  (You have to be able to taste something in order to know how to cook with it.)  Sure, you can cook with the same ten or fifteen or twenty ingredients for the rest of your life, but how will that make you happy?  Trying new ingredients can suck (candied grapefruit peel), but that’s part of the gig:  how to deal with tastes you don’t like.  Finding out what tastes you don’t like – and finding out what tastes you brainwashed yourself into deciding you didn’t like, but that are quite nice, when done well.

Are you afraid of new ingredients?  Me too.

But being afraid?  Meh.  I have the Internet on my side.  Where could I go wrong?

*You know what vampires are afraid of? Pickled garlic. YUCK.

Based on a Mark Bittman recipe, from Kitchen Express.

I picked up some fennel seed just for this recipe.  I’ve been trying recipes with fennel, the vegetable, in them, because it’s a seasonal fall/winter vegetable, and because I like licorice, and fennel is supposed to be reminiscient of licorice (anise).

Maybe it is, is you loathe licorice.

As it is, I’m always a little let down by fennel.  Just a little.  “This could be Black Licorice.  Instead, it’s just fennel.”  And then I remember that it has to go with the rest of the ingredients.  Fennel.  It’s okay.  But it’s not black licorice.

So I have purchased the fennel seed.  Not with a lot of hope, mind you, but I’ll give it a go.  Ho-hum.

I saute the snausage.  I add the garlic.  I deglaze.  I add the fennel and tomatoes and garbanzos.

And…meh, it’s the blandest recipe I’ve had in a while.  But I’m throwing the recipe together out of memory, and I might have forgotten something, so I look the recipe up in the book.  Aha!  I have forgotten chili flakes and fennel seed.  Crap.  Didn’t I buy fennel seed, just for this recipe?

I can’t find any chili flakes (didn’t buy those), so I decide to use ancho chili powder, which is pretty mild and flavorful, because my stomach says it’s not up to cayenne or chipotle today, thanks.

And then I grind the fennel seeds in my mortar and add them.

Fantastico.  I can’t tell you what the flavor is like, because it’s not black licorice any more than fennel bulbs are.  But if you ever want to sell someone on fennel, use this recipe.

Snausage and Fennel

1 lb small noodles
1 lb (3 large links) sausage (Italian, Portugese, something with garlic. I used “Linguisa” from Sunflower)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced very thin, with stems and fronds
1 can of very good diced tomatoes
1 can garbanzo beans, skins rubbed off
Red wine vinegar
Salt
2 t ancho chili powder
2 T fennel seeds, crushed to a powder

Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil and make the noodles.

Cut the sausage out of its casings and brown it over medium-high heat, breaking it into bite-sized chunks. Add the garlic and chili powder and saute until the garlic is translucent. Add a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar and deglaze the pan, then add the tomatoes, garbanzos, fennel bulb, and fennel powder. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for a few minutes.

Serve the sauce over the noodles with grated Parmesan or other hard cheese. You won’t believe it’s that good; you’ll be walking around telling people, “Try this! It’s that good! Can you believe it? It’s fennel! Not kennel, fennel!”

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