Wednesday, December 1, 2010

At least it tasted good

Two years ago, I tenderly tucked away a recipe I found on the web, keeping it in limbo waiting for the perfect occasion...and as I contemplated my contributions to the Thanksgiving feast, I tripped over this recipe and remembered I wasn't the only one with fantastic food memories.

My Dad's a Brooklyn Chocoholic and that can mean only one thing for folks of a certain age: Ebinger's Blackout Cake.

Three layers of rich, moist cake held together with pools of gooey, fudgey, custardy heaven and sprinkled with a surprise crumb. And it's ALL chocolate. Not too bitter. Not too sweet. Just perfect. (sigh)

Honestly, I think the man still dreams of the pale mint boxes with thin chocolate-colored diamond lines that came from Ebinger's bakery.

As a kid, I remembered hearing Dad wax whimsically about the though it was a goddess appearing before mortals. Then I tasted the cake and understood exactly why he felt the way he did.

So for Thanksgiving, as we savor what's sweet, I baked Gale Gand's replication of the famous Ebinger's Blackout Cake...and walked down Memory Lane with my Dad.

Here goes...or click the link above.

Gale Gand's Ebinger's Blackout Cake
Makes 8 to 10 servings
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 cup whole, 2% fat, or 1% fat milk
For the custard:
3 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
Scant 2/3 cup cornstarch
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Cut 2 circles of parchment paper or wax paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, then press them in.
In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter and shortening together. Add the sugar and mix until light and fluffy. One by one, add the eggs, mixing after each addition. With the mixer running at low speed, add the vanilla, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix. With the mixer running at low speed, add about 1/3 of the cake flour, then about 1/3 of the milk, and mix. Repeat with the remaining cake flour and milk and mix.
Pour into the prepared pans and bake until dry and springy to the touch and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are OK), 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely, to room temperature.
Using a long serrated knife, cut the cake layers horizontally in half. Reserving 3 halves for the cake, put the remaining half in a food processor, breaking it up with your hands. Pulse into fine crumbs.
Meanwhile, make the custard: Pour 2 ½ cups of the water, the sugar, corn syrup and cocoa powder into a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the remaining ½ cup of water and the cornstarch. Whisk into the cocoa mixture in the saucepan and return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly.
Cook, whisking constantly, until very thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until firm, about 45 minutes.
To finish the cake, place a cake layer on a cake plate or serving platter (reserving the most even layer for the top) and spread with cooled custard. Top with another layer of cake, then custard, then one more layer of cake. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining custard. Coat the cake with the cake crumbs. Chill until ready to serve, at least 2 hours. Serve the same day.

Be sure to use straight-sided cake pans...mine were not and the cake looked HORRIBLE. I can not stress this enough: The cake looked like I ran the car over it and that is NOT a memory suitable for thanks.

Dad enjoyed the cake. Said it was delicious. But I'm his daughter and he would've said that even if it tasted like car tire. Mom talked about her favorite Ebinger's cake, a minty chocolate confection. (Did Ebinger's bake anything but chocolate? Probably not!) 

And everyone around the table gave thanks that Hanukkah's around the corner and my latkes look as good as they taste!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

L'dor va dor

Food links us to our's the centerpiece for binds us to our satisfies us as we decompress after a long day. Tonight, it connects me with my Aunt who is leaving us way too young.

Moo, as I've called her since I met her at 15 when she started dating my uncle, is only 12 years older than I am and was more a beautiful big sister than an aunt...the sister neither of us had. I could confide in her; shop with her; and learn about life from her.

And I took notes.

Moo learned to cook from her incredibly gifted woman who regularly made baklava and myriad other sweet and savory delicacies for her family -- including her newly-extended family...and became a gifted cook in her own right.

She's Sephardic, so while her Middle Eastern cuisine seemed rather exotic at first, the food of her childhood became the food of mine.

And I took more notes.

When I set up my own house, Moo told me how to make fasulia, a hearty beef and green bean stew spiced with cinnamon and allspice that was often bubbling on her stove.

And it bubbled often on mine...but like Moo's and my relationship, too much came between us in recent years and the recipe -- like our bond -- went untouched...which is a shame. I needed to celebrate my Moo, so tonight I pulled out the yellowing loose-leaf page where I took down her directions and channeled one of my favorite people in the world.

Here goes:

-Toss 1lb chuck stew meat in enough flour to lightly coat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
-Add about 2 T olive oil to hot heavy dutch oven and brown the beef in batches.
-When all is browned, add 1 large chopped white onion to pot to sweat in residual oil.
-When translucent, add 1 t cinnamon, a half t allspice, salt and freshly ground black pepper and combine.
-Add about 2 cups of water and on high heat, scrape all the lovely bits from the bottom of the pot.
-Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot and add enough water to almost cover the meat.
-Simmer covered for 30 to 45 minutes.
-Add 1 lb fresh green beans and 2 small (8 oz) tins of tomato sauce and simmer for an additional half hour.
-Check seasoning and enjoy.

I held true to Moo's original directions, resisting the urge to add a little harisa paste or some garlic or deglazing the pot with wine. But I did chop the last of our homegrown tomatoes and added them with the sauce because we all have to hold on to what's sweet as long as possible.
L'dor va dor - from generation to generation - I love you Moo,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My favorite thing to hear

I could've just as easily titled this: Should I go green or go red? I didn't have a clue when I started rustling through the fridge and lots of sauce bubbles began crowding my head.

Spinach! Use the spinach!
Chipotle in adobo! Mmmmm, yummy!
Green tomatoes! Ya got plenty!
Tomato sauce! Makes dinner saucy!

You're thinking: She's off her rocker (true, but you knew that already); Mix 'em together (er ... um, that idea wasn't coming together); What the heck are ya makin anyway? (Ah, my point exactly!)

Enchiladas! And for that I need two sauces: Red to mix with the filling and Green to pour over! WooHoo, way to bow to the bubbles!

As for the filling, I had already planned to 're-purpose' the leftover pork chops from a couple nights ago.

Leftovers are key to our weeknight meals as there's often an abundance in the fridge.
If anyone can accurately predict how much dinner two teenaged boys will eat on any given night, please let me know. (There's probably a formula that involves Partial Equivalence Relation, but that math's beyond me.)


Here goes:

Green sauce
-In a blender, whiz about a cup and a half frozen spinach with 4 large smashed garlic cloves, 1 roughly chopped
large green tomato, juice of 1 lime, 1 t olive oil, 1 t each ground coriander and cumin, a half t salt and freshly ground black pepper until you have a thinish pesto-like consistency.
-Pour into a bowl.

Red sauce
-In the same blender jar - no need to rinse - whiz 1 8oz-tin tomato sauce, 2 T chipolte chiles in adobo, 1 t taco seasoning, a half t allspice, a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper until smooth.

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Spread about a quarter cup of the Green sauce on the bottom of a baking dish.
-In a bowl, combine diced pork chops with 1 15-oz tin drained black beans and the Red sauce.
-Using 12-inch flour tortillas, put about 2 to 2 and a half heaping soup spoons of filling into the middle and roll over once, tuck in the ends then roll again. Place in dish seam side down and continue until you're out of filling or tortillas. I think I got 11 out of this.
-Once all the enchiladas are nestled in the dish, pour the Green sauce along the center of the rows of enchiladas and top with shredded cheese (cheddar, taco blend, Mexican blend, even mozzarella if that's what you have).
-Bake uncovered for 25 to 35 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Oh, and what's my favorite thing to hear?
The boys say: It's really good!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Yup, almost as fun to say as Poggibonsi!

As many of you know, I recently returned from a week in glorious Chianti, Tuscany for my brother's wedding, and the food there lived up to its reputation: Clean flavors, fresh ingredients and simple preparations all used in vibrant, luscious combinations.

During the week, I often said that even the 'basic' food in Italy is better than ANYthing you can get here. Of course, that goes for the wine too...and I had a LOT! No need to contemplate vintages or varietals. Have the House wine, it's Wonderful; the pasta is toothy beyond compare; and every morsel is homemade.

Since coming home, I've looked at food in a different way, though I'm not quite sure what the difference is. Maybe I'm even more conscious of making the most of what food's at hand, be it leftovers or what's in the garden...I honestly don't know.

What I do know is spending a week in Lecchi in Chianti was a culinary gift and blessing. I've made pasta that, though still a novice's version, was much better than anything from a box; I've combined three nights' worth of leftovers into a crostata, so it was like a shepherd's pie in a pastry crust; and last night, I made ribolitta, the traditional Tuscan bean soup thickened with bread.

Here goes:

-In a large pot on low heat, render 4 or 5 slices applewood smoked bacon that you've cut into 1-inch pieces...remove lardons from the fat and reserve.
-Up the heat to medium, add a T olive oil and sweat 4 large minced garlic cloves, 1 medium diced onion, about a cup and a third diced green pepper and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a half t crushed red pepper flakes.
-When translucent, add 2 15-oz cans cannellini beans with the liquid, 1 and a half t each dried thyme and basil and 1 8-oz can tomato sauce.
-Add 1 quart boxed chicken stock and 2 cups diced (fresh) tomatoes.
-Simmer for 40 mins, check seasoning, then add about 8-inches worth stale french bread cut into small pieces.
-Simmer another 15 mins, add in the reserved lardons and just before serving, quickly stir in 1 beaten egg.

Spoon into deep bowls, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil, sip some Chianti and enjoy!

If I had been at the villa in Lecchi (see pic above), I would've gone out the garden and plucked rosemary from the hedges instead of using dried thyme and I would've gotten kale or spinach at the Coop in Radda and I certainly would've had pecorino or parmesan to enrich the soup. But I didn't and it was still a delicious taste of Tuscan heaven.

Monday, June 21, 2010

School's Out: Day 1

...and it's Boyz v. Food...Skillman Style!

No, I'm not bucking for another TV show...but Inspiration struck Dill today and whispered: Dinner should be like what Adam Richman from Man v. Food (click the title for the show) eats. Frankly, I think Inspiration whacked him upside the head, 'cuz that is some ridiculous food!

Since to market, to market I did not go -- it was Father's Day, for cryin all night! -- the cupboards are relatively bare...but the Bubbles took care of me providing chopped meat, baked beans, applewood smoked bacon and smoked gouda cheese...Oh, and naan bread to serve as buns...This could actually be fun! or fantastically be the judge.

Technically this - including the obligatory chips that John had to grab on his way home - could all be served on the same plate. And technically this all goes to the same place, as Moms with picky one-food-can't-touch-another kids announce with constant frustration. But the thought of this 'sandwich' had me begging for my Master Mixologist's Magic. And he gladly complied with a perfecto Martini.

Here goes:
-This is more of an exercise in construction technique than an exercise in culinary technique, but I will suggest seasoning the 1 lb of chopped meat with salt, pepper and adobo seasoning and add about 2 T of water so it won't dry out and shape it into a single 1-inch high patty.
-Fry the bacon, then cook the burger in the bacon fat. (This isn't for the faint of heart!) Oh and heat up the canned baked beans...I used a Maple Syrup-flavored variety.
-Begin construction with a thin layer of ketchup on one side of the naan, then the burger, load up drained beans, the bacon, 3 or so slices of smoked gouda (I would've prefered 1 slice, max) and finally as many potato chips as you can get on before topping with the other naan.

We sliced the 'masterpiece' in quarters and bolstered by a sip or 2 of cocktails for us and vanilla shakes for the boyz, took tentative bites. This is OK. Actually, it's pretty good...although it's still fantastically gross!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Confession No. 419

Nestled among my cookbooks is a well-loved and similarly-worn copy of The Betty Crocker Cookbook. It's the one who's front cover is floating around my pantry and who's back cover is holding onto it's last spiral ring; the one where pages 204 and 205 are stuck together and index pages have been sacrificed to the moving gods two homes ago.

That this Velveteen Compilation came into my cooking life at all was laughable...not a came with John, a gift to him as he set off to conquer adulthood. I've always derided it for being so 'pedestrian.'

So clearly, I didn't crack its spine for the delectable-sounding Fish-Vegetable Medley (page 71), Glorified Cheese Cauliflower (page 173) or even the Pineapple-Stuffed Spareribs (page 51)...gag!

No, it earned it's 'well-loved' status because when it comes to basics, this almanac cooks to perfection. Pancakes? Page 197. Hard-boiled eggs? Page 103. Teaspoons in a tablespoon? 3, on Page 357. For almost a quarter-century (yes, we've been together that long!), it's been my go-to guide for the fundamentals.

Until now.
I have fallen for another, and Betty can find her own way home.
(Sorry Saw Doctors, I had to!)
My heart now belongs to Joy. She's much more robust, more flexible and doesn't take herself nearly as seriously when she lectures on cheesecake (page 742)....She's the Joy of Cooking and I'm in love.

So when I asked the finals-taking, delayed-opening boys what they wanted for brekkie this week, I consulted Joy when they said: Waffles (page 646).

She didn't disappoint, offering three amounts for butter and the rationale behind each as well as a buttermilk variety...the sliced strawberries were Jere's idea.

Here goes:
(with props to Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition...Rombauer, Becker & Becker)

-Your waffle iron is your own...figure out how to use it...mine's ancient, a gift from my bridal shower, so I can't help ya...
-Slice about a c of strawberries...or about 10 medium ones.
-In a large bowl, combine 1 and 3 quarters c all-purpose flour, 2 t baking powder, a quarter t baking soda, a quarter t cinnamon, 1 T sugar and a half t salt. Make a well in the center.
-In a smaller bowl, whisk 3 eggs, 1 and a third (or so) sticks melted butter and 1 and a half c buttermilk.
-Pour the contents of the smaller bowl into the larger one and whisk only to combine...
-Fold in the strawberries and work your waffle iron magic.

Joy bakes like a dream; sautes like a beast; and boils like a charm.

Like their father before them, the lads will have a woman at their sides as they prepare to conquer adulthood...Move over Betty, there's a new Chef in town and she's a Joy to behold.

Monday, June 14, 2010


With some trepidation, I rejoined the World of the Wired and now have a mobile phone ...

And even though it's the fanciest, schmanciest, Blackberry I'm still not so sure I wanna be one of those folks who doesn't watch where she's walking or is a slave to the blinking red light - Again.

Yes, my friends, I was one of those people. One of the many driven to oblivion by the duty-filled call of the office, the obligatory ring from home and the seductive prospect of a magical email from afar. I believed each vibration held a vital piece of knowledge that surely would make me the envy of my universe.

And most often, I was mistaken: email! Could this be a morsel of political intrigue? I'd ask my self with glee.
Ohhh, I'd sigh after clicking my device to life...just another store's email telling me how out-of-fashion I'd be if I didn't buy a certain this that or the other - at 50 percent off, no less. Blech!

Although I felt naked at first, I began my three months of blissful ignorance the day I was let go and, soon I felt liberated. Liberated, I tell you! I was on my own without panicked requests for cheese-filled pretzels while checking out at the market...Just my GPS and me trolling for victuals.

Ah, those were the days...

But I'm resolving to be reasonable - where the mobile is concerned, anyway - and not let it control me...And if I slip into CrackBerry mode, just smack me!

To 'celebrate' my return, and the return of our patio steps, the Bubbles gave me Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Breasts!

Here goes:

-Fire up the grill!
-In a shallow dish (I used a 9x13 baking dish, or a ziptop bag would do) prepare marinade.
-Combine a quarter c olive oil, 4 minced garlic cloves, 2 T dried oregano, a half t each ground cumin, ground coriander, fenugreek and white pepper, 1 t lemon zest & 3 T lemon juice (from about a half of a lemon) and 1 t salt. You can put all this in a blender (with just rough chopping the garlic) and whir to combine.
-Butterfly the 2 lbs (or 4) chicken breasts by slicing them horizontally but not all the way through and soak in marinade for up to 4 hours....I did 30 mins and it was quite flavorful.
-Pop on the grill and enjoy!

I'm still torn about going mobile but am thrilled that I've kept my addiction to a minimum...tho, it did come with Solitaire...Oy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When life gives you...

...a stunning day - but you don't have patio steps down to your grill - you make lamb chili.

And it was good.

But steps would improve the situation. Perhaps I'll have them tomorrow....

Perhaps not.

Pasta Carbonara.

That's OK...I'll have a new set of patio steps soon!

Oh, I didn't tell you that story?

When Contractor No. 1 paid his first visit, every item on our list lit up FIX ME! in neon. The worst offender (with the prettiest lights, I might add) was the steps down to the patio from the kitchen: Narrow uneven treads, cracks in the cap stones, unsturdy feeling underfoot. So I asked for a rough idea of 'How much?''ll wait. And it did...until I couldn't take it any longer! Just do it...fix the underpinnings and replace the stone.

Simple enough, right? Sure. But that wasn't all she wrote. Pull away the stone, and Holy Moldy! there's a ton of water damage that no one expected. At least now we know why the tiny ants have been visiting.

Well, days of designing, sawing and banging later, we have a lovely - solid - new set of wooden steps from the kitchen to the patio...Whew.

And the sun's come out!

Lamb chili and pasta carbonara are meals of the past...

Here goes:

-Brown a half lb lamb stew in batches in 3T olive oil.
-When the last batch is done, add 1 cinnamon stick, 9 allspice berries and 1 t coriander seeds to toast.
-Add 1 large Spanish onion coarsely chopped, 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 1 t salt and a half t ground black pepper and saute until tender.
-Add 4 large minced garlic cloves and saute until translucent.
-Return meat to pot and add a quarter c coffee (leftover from the AM!), 2 15-oz tins of diced tomatoes w/juice and 1 tin beans (any variety will do).
-Simmer for 30 mins and add more salt & pepper to taste.

-Put up salty water to boil for the pasta.
-In a large saute pan, render & crisp a half lb applewood smoked bacon, diced.
-Add 1 T olive oil and saute 2 large minced garlic cloves and 3 thinly sliced scallions until soft.
-Add 1 t red pepper flakes and keep sauce warm while cooking the pasta.
-In large serving bowl, whisk 3 large (fresh!) eggs with a half c parmesan, then add a heaping T creme fraiche and whisk until combined.
-Drain pasta into the pan with the sauce and toss to cover then pour into serving bowl with the egg mixture.
-Toss, add more parmesan and hefty grinds of black pepper. Add pasta water by the T if necessary.
(Something should be said disclaimer-wise about eating 'raw' I will: Be careful, and don't do it if it makes you uncomfy.)

While I can step lively into the backyard, I need more tiles before I can shower in my own bathroom...I wonder if my life's going in 'baby steps' or 'one step at a time'...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hangin out in '80s Alternative MusicLand

No, you won't find this Land in Lake Buena Vista or in Anaheim - I think it would send the kiddies to Maleficent for comfort - and honestly, I'm surprised by how big this Land is in our record collection. Yes, I said Record collection. As in vinyl - 33 and a third - skipping when you dance.

And I do. A lot.

I couldn't believe this DJ session started 'cuz Dill asked if I've ever heard of Erasure.

Are you kidding me, Child? cried my speech bubble! But actually I said: Yeah-ya! So we started Googling and YouTubing and soon I rolled over to some of the records and started pulling out everything - from the Eurogliders to Ultravox to English Beat to Yaz...and my favorite of the day: Flesh for LULU - spinning one song after another...Much to my delight and the boys' embarrassment.

Ah, memory lane...made me nostalgic for 'foods of yesteryear'...ya know, tasty things that have had their voguish luster replaced by other fads: Swedish meatballs, tuna casserole, chicken tetrazzini, Tab, JELL-O mold. Some have passed the test of time, like fondue; and others haven't, dare I say Tang?

One thing that still has cache for me is creamy, briny, shrimp salad...and it became nostalgic since I haven't had it in Forever. Thankfully, the Bubbles offered me langoustine tails (frozen from the market), avocado and Romaine lettuce.

Here goes:

-In a medium bowl, combine: a third c plain Greek-style yogurt, juice from half a lemon (about 1 and a half T), 2 grated medium garlic cloves, 1 t grated fresh (frozen) ginger, 2 thinly sliced scallions, a quarter t each fenugreek powder and smoked paprika, a splash of worcestershire and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
-Cut avocado into half-inch dice and fold that and 12 oz (defrosted) langoustine tails (or shrimp) into the sauce.
-Lightly dress about 4 c of Romaine ribbons (three-quarters to an inch wide) with a lemony vinaigrette and serve the seafood salad on top.

Mmmmm... I Confess (English Beat), my Master Mixologist provided the perfect dry Martini counterpoint - after all, they've made a comeback too! - and as Always (Erasure), it was Heaven (Eurogliders).

Wait! Don't Go! (Yaz) Is it just me, or can one tiny nugget derail your train for the better part of an afternoon too?

Oh well, when my train finds the station, I'll send you a Postcard from Paradise (Flesh for LULU).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A surgery, a virus, 2 adults on the mend

OK, so it was a minor surgery...(that's being milked for EVERYthing it's worth!)...and an odd virus that came on in waves and is leaving in the same (loggie) fashion...but we are 2 mending adults.

Here's the skinny:

Last month, John had a cyst on his back drained and Thursday, had the offending sac, gland or whathaveyou totally removed...He's fine, though he says he's still a little off-kilter from the sedation. (That's the 'milking' part.) I'll be fine when he finally gets to shower tomorrow.

But that's not what brought on the virus, I really don't know what did or what the virus did except make my tum burn, provide rolling waves of tum ick and kick me on my butt but not let me sleep...and I think that was enough.

Needless to say, there hasn't been much to report on the food front: Brought in John's favorite meal - cheeseburgers - and other stuff from the Tale on Thursday, he scrounged for the guys last night but tonight, I'm 'back' on my game - ish.

Unfortunately, we had to postpone dinner at friends' tonight, so I'd better be on my game...or close to it.

With Hockey Nite in Skillman, I didn't know if the Kodiaks - or how many of them - would be looking to tame their hunger here or they'd be lookin I made lots of pork loin and a big orzo salad...

Here goes:
-Marinate the pork for anywhere from 1 hour to 4 in 1 bottle beer, 3 shredded dried ancho chiles, 2 shredded dried chipotle chiles, salt, pepper and a quarter c turbinado sugar.
-Grill on high for about 14 mins total.
-For the orzo, combine about 2 c cooked orzo with 1 lb bag corn kernels, 2 seeded and diced tomatoes, 1 small red onion frenched and about a third c crumbled feta cheese.
-Dress in combination of olive oil, salt, coarsely cracked black pepper, lime juice, dijon mustard and capers.

I'm gonna try a bit o'red wine with this ... and hope my tum will thank me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hippo Birdies, Two Ewes...

Yesterday we celebrated a birthday...for the Younger...15 years...time sure flies like those birdies!

Our family tradition is that we go out for dinner - just the 4 of us on The Day - and the honoree gets to pick where we eat. Often the boys will opt for hibachi and John will pick someplace convenient...once I chose a minor league baseball game for the dogs, beer and spectacle...but it's not my birthday and I digress per usual.

Jere chose Old Man Rafferty's in New Brunswick, not Hillsborough, but we decided to go a day early 'cuz he didn't want to stress through homework to enjoy dinner. So, as an added b'day bonus, I offered to make whatever he wanted for dinner on The Day and he came up with: My Mac 'n Cheese. In this heat? Yes, he said, I think of it as warm weather food 'cuz you put in know, the ones we grew? So they're from the summer and well, you know...

(OK, that was a couple years ago...kid has a steel food trap noggin!)

And a sweet for a candle holder? Wild Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches of course!

Here goes:
-Boil pasta in salted water until al dente; given the choice, Jere picked cavatappi since it's a tubey corkscrew and would hang onto the sauce for dear life.
-Preheat the oven to 400.
-In another pot, melt 4T butter then add 4T flour to make a roux.
-Add 4 c milk and 1 c chicken stock...recipe I use for guidance calls for all milk but I had 4 c in the jug, didn't wanna crack open the new one, so I augmented it with boxed stock in the fridge...stir constantly as you bring it to a boil.
-Add the cheese in phases, as each clump melts...I use a combo: It's what's leftover in the fridge and whatever else l feel like adding when I procure the rest...Today I used: a half lb each grated fontina and smoked gouda and I added the rest of my bbq rib meat (from our B'day Dinner, cut from the bone of course!) to the sauce.
-Season with salt and pepper and a half t each smoked paprika and aleppo pepper flakes.
-Add about a c frozen chopped spinach to the drained pasta.
-Combine the pasta in the sauce and pour into a 9 x 12 (ish) baking dish and make the topping: half c panko bread crumbs, 2 T parmesan cheese and 2 T olive oil. Mix to combine and sprinkle on the whole shebang.
-Bake until brown and bubbly...about 20 mins.

I think I'm the one who got the present from Jere: Mom, this is your best mac 'n cheese Ev-er!
Thanks Babe!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Something's in the water...

What an odd evening Thursday:
-Jere had little homework;
-Dill went to sleep at 8:30p;
-the well went dry; and
-I started thinking that some religious orders have it pretty good.

TMI? Prolly. But that's how I roll, as you know.

We made do:
-Jere found something else to occupy his evening ... XBOX;
-Dill missed dinner ... yummy Korean-style skirt steak;
-Master Mixologist neither shook nor stirred ... I poured wine; and
-I'm still mulling over those religious institutions ... think Hamlet's admonition to Ophelia.
(Or was it an admonishment? A fine line that's gotten way too fuzzy for me in the last 30-odd years.)


To accompany the steak (see Good for what ails ya! for the recipe), we had a corn salsa or corn relish or corn salad sumpthin or other...that was quite yummy.

Here goes:

-Empty a 1 lb poly bag of defrosted corn kernels into a large bowl and add 1 large ripe tomato diced, 1 avocado diced, 2 thinly sliced scallions, 2 minced garlic cloves, juice from 1 lime, a sprinkle of salt, pepper and chili powder and a shot of olive oil if you're so inclined...
-Toss and savor!

Maybe I can turn that water into gin...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Feeding my soul

I've just had the best kind of dinner: Nourishing, satisfying, unpredictable, and packed with lots of smiles. And believe it or not, the food was inconsequential.

I sat at the proverbial tables of 2 wonderful women and feasted on their wisdom and comfort...

...and can only hope I provided them with a little of each as well.

We've all been through crap...that's just life. We have scars: Some have healed to invisibility while others left only surprisingly shallow wounds...scrapes even. With a distinct honor, we sport these badges of pain, of growth and of courage.

Throughout it all, we share triumphs and pitfalls ... we're not left alone to laugh or to cry.

Friends - good friends - feed our souls: They're a fuel as important as food, as necessary as oxygen. There's no recipe for this, only chemistry.

And I'm oh so lucky that my elemental table overflows.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I'm gonna make curry chicken!

Huh? Oh.

Well, almost finally...

Turns out one family member doesn't find the taste of curry chicken appealing and connects the taste with yaking.

Plan B: How 'bout soup?

Soup it is....chicken with Thai influences...similar flavors without the full curry experience.

And no yaking!

Here goes:

-In a stock pot, saute 2 large minced garlic cloves and half a thinly sliced onion in olive oil.
-When translucent, add about a lb of thinly sliced chicken thighs (4 or 5 will do).
-Cook almost all the way through then add half a thinly sliced red pepper and a half t tumeric.
-Add 2 quarts boxed chicken stock and about 3 quarters can coconut milk.
-Bring to simmer, then add 1 c frozen spinach, 1 t freshly grated ginger, juice and zest of 1 lime and 1 cubed mango.
-Season with 2 t salt, 1 t freshly ground black pepper, half t white pepper and 1 t aleppo pepper.

Did it satisfy my curry tooth? Big time! And again no yaking...I hate yaking.

And yes, it satisfied my curry tooth!

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'll fess up...

I don't know if you've noticed, but I've been rather uninspired of late...

...and blaming it on everything from the Bubbles to the GPS to global warming.

Maybe I've been too busy:
-looking for materials for the shower stall project;
-getting Ginger back on her freelancing feet;
-keeping the house together...

Maybe I've been too lax:
-avoiding cleaning my closet;
-avoiding dealing with bloody idiots about my health insurance bill;
-forgetting to return ill-sized appliance filters;
-evading the calls I need to make to the 3 close-but-no-cigar contractors...

Maybe I've been too frustrated:
-my closet's a mess;
-change No. 3 to tile design;
-in the 'spend $$' vs. 'expend effort' balance, Hubby's choosing the former;
-please do your homework, please do your my face blue?
-dealing with bloody idiots about my health insurance bill...

And what is that email? An Evite? Who is Alexis? Oh, my first cousin's getting married. Thank G-d I have a shower gift!

Oh yeah, there was Mother's Day...

Maybe I've just been me.

You haven't missed much: There was the cheese steak naan pizzas and the Mother's Day tapas spread...other than that, do you really wanna know that we ordered in hot subs - again? Didn't think so.

As for the Cheese Steak Pizza...

Here goes:

-Preheat oven to 450.
-Saute thinly sliced onion and bell pepper in canola oil until soft.
-Remove from pan and add sliced minute steak to saute.
-Put the naan onto a baking sheet and spread on bbq sauce (to sub in for the tomato sauce)...and top with the steak & pepper/onion mixture, then shredded cheese and bake 'til bubbly.

As for Mother's Day...'cuz my mom loves the treat of caviar, I cut 1-inch rounds from challah, toasted 'em and spread on a dollop of creme fraiche and yellow ($10 a tiny jar!) caviar...made fried oysters...a salad from leftover green beans, potatoes and yellow peppers...seasoned chicken wings...and the best fried wontons/kreplach (depending on where yer sittin) EVER...believe it or not, I ground up the leftover steak from the night before, added a bit of hoisin sauce and garlic chili sauce, tossed in a handful of bagged Asian Slaw...and wrapped it in a wonton wrapper before frying...

...Oh, and of course, I made my 'famous' bread pudding (with caramel sauce!) for dessert.

And now I'm onto design No. 4 for the shower tile...Oy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ginger's got a brand new gig

So now that I've found the chicken, it's too much of a grillin day to make curry even though the 'craving' hasn't gone away. Why is it that all I can think to make is 'cold weather' food? It's probably because I still haven't changed over my closet to summer. Oh bother.

Grillin goes better with margaritas anyway, right?

So we'll grill with a Latin flare...

I seasoned the chicken breasts with adobo seasoning and lime zest and served the slices over polenta with feta standing in for queso fresco and added a bit of cumin with salt and pepper...

...Ginger's a happy gal! Plus, she just sold a speech!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's not the Bubbles' fault

It's my GPS that's failing me...

Dunno why, but I've been hankering for curry with John workin late, I figure I'll either try to create a curry or treat the boys to take away...

So, I go to the freezer. No chicken.

So, I go to the basement freezer. No chicken.

I could've sworn I bought a package of chicken breasts 2 weeks ago.

We might've eaten it. Did we?

I honestly can't remember. I'll put it on the shopping list to make sure.

Now that I've hunted for the elusive chicken, I seriously do not feel like driving to pick up take away and I'll pass on pizza delivery.

OK Guys! How 'bout some dogs and shu mai and samosas? Yay!

Talk about a smorgasbord! The oven's cranked and dinner's a heatin.

I put my glass to chill in the freezer for my Sweetie's-not-home-it's-mediocre-martini-time, and what do I find?

Yeah, you know what I'm going to say...the chicken. Duh!

Maybe the GPS's fine afterall...Memory's the first thing to go, right?

Monday, May 3, 2010


While it may be true that no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, I didn't expect to be laid low by a headache at the end of a productive day...

...and it's interfering with the Bubbles.


OK...I mentally rummaged through the freezer's Emergency Provisions of boxed pizzas, hors d'oeuvres and the like and came up with chipolte-marinated chicken skewers...that and the leftover taboule should keep 'em happy.

Me? Despite the heat, I wanted a can of chicken noodle soup...ya know, the high-sodium stuff from Camden?...but even in my grim state, I couldn't leave well enough alone...

Next time you crack open a can, try adding a squirt of lemon juice, a sprinkle of aleppo pepper flakes (or hot sauce or regular red pepper flakes) and a sprig or two of fresh parsley...does wonders!

I doctored the chicken soup and the chicken soup doctored least there was no trouble at the mill.

Mulch Mountain

My GPS was long and involved and took hours to tackle...but at least I think I got a full complement of weekly provisions...for a change!

Oh. Except for the tequila. I'll run back out later....gotta have tequila. My darling Mixologist will be making margaritas, so we neeeeeeed more tequila. Nope, I already got w(h)ine at Trader Joe's...and with my First Mate of a brother's help, I steered clear of the Shaw.

Tangy, refreshing...a perfect accompaniment to grilled strip steaks with bearnaise, long-sauteed onions, and a taboule-ish salad.

Before we could start on dinner - or get the aforementioned booze - we had to put a dent into the Mulch Mountain that appeared on our driveway while hunting, gathering and running into someone I hadn't seen in aaaaaages.

OK not to be misleading - 'cuz I'm not quite sure last night's sangria worked a full dose of magic on my Darling John - but when I saw the MM, he had already made quite a dent and then I assisted by artfully spreading it.

And only then did I go out for the tequila...but it was worth it!

Here goes:

Taboule-ish: It's 'ish' because I didn't have bulgur wheat, so I used couscous instead...there's no 'ish' about the Yummies!
-Zest a whole lemon into almost 3 c water and bring to a boil. Add a c and a half couscous, stir, slap on the lid, turn off the heat and let sit for about 5 mins then fluff with fork.
-Pluck, rinse and spin dry the leaves from a whole bunch of flat-leaf parsely. Chop - somewhere between coarse and fine - and dump into a large bowl.
-Dice 1 peeled and seeded cucumber and 3 seeded plum tomatoes and throw 'em - along with 3 thinly sliced scallions and the couscous - into the bowl.
-Add juice of 2 lemons, 1 T salt, 1 and a half t ground black pepper and 2 to 3 T olive oil.
-Toss and's always better the second day...if there's any left.

Bearnaise: So easy!
-Melt a stick of butter.
-In a small saute pan, reduce 2 T champagne vinegar & 2 T white wine (I had rose, so I used rose) with 2 med minced shallots by half.
-In a blender, whir the cooled shallot mixture with 1 egg yolk, 1 T minced fresh tarragon leaves, a dash of salt and a dash of pepper.
-Slowly add the melted butter as the blender's still going...add 2 T more tarragon and whir for for a sec just to blend...

John muddled limes and mixed incredible margaritas, grilled the steaks to med rare juicy perfection seasoned with just some salt and pepper... but as good as those steaks were, they're just a mechanism for gettin that bearnaise into my mouth. A spoon would be gauche...right? (Sorry, 'bout that French speakers!)


Unfortunately for everyone, that was our mood not our menu.

We schlepped hither and yon: Looking at tile - I like this; John likes that; It's HOW MUCH a square foot? - looking at shower doors - 3 weeks to order??? - and garden center after garden center - 'cuz 1 just isn't enough!

So it didn't take long for the crankies to set in...especially after 145 thousand tile options and nearly as many plants!

The 'plan' had been to treat ourselves to a light dinner out - appetizers, drinks, oooo and maybe dessert - but you know what happens with plans...they turn into Suz Serves Sustenance.

I needed help on short notice and beseeched to the Bubbles..."Ommmm, Opalescent Bubbles...Dinner needs to be quick, tasty and do its best to Cure my Cantankerous Crowd...Ommmm."

Pop! Chopped meat for sliders...
Pop! Shrimp to grill...
Pop! Sangria to take the edge off...

Here goes:

-For 15 mins (more time, less time: doesn't matter), marinate 1 lb shrimp in zest from 3-quarters of a lemon and its juice, a half t chili powder, 2 T sliced scallions, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 t salt and a half t ground black pepper. Lance 'em with (water-logged bamboo) skewers. Grill 'til pink.

-Into 1 lb (80/20) chopped meat, combine zest of a quarter lemon, a half t fenugreek powder, leaves from 5 stems of fresh thyme, a quarter lb crumbled feta, 3 T sliced scallions, a half t ground black pepper and 1 T garlic infused (if ya still got it hangin around, plain if ya don't) olive oil. Form into baby burgers (don't forget the imprint on the top!) and grill to your liking.

-Into a pitcher, pour 1 750-ml bottle sturdy red wine and a half c B&B (it's what I had, any nice brandy or cognac will do).
-Add a half t turbinado sugar, 3 quarters of an apple sliced, 1 lime sliced, 1 lemon sliced, 1 plum sliced and 3 mandarin/clementine oranges sliced.
-Top off with ice and enjoy...

Just the ticket to soothe the blood and extricate the crabs.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Will he or won't he?

I could prolly pluck the leaves off a full-grown tree and still not know if Contractor No. 4 is gonna show we sit...and wait...and sit...and wait...

...but the glasses are chilling and the pizza order's in...

Hooray! He came, he looked, he measured. So while we thought the choice was clear, he gave us more food for thought...and now the onus is on us.

We'll deliberate over masterfully made martinis...and pizza.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Every now and then... moves so fast that you hafta work hard just to catch up.

So here's a fast forward through my week to get us back on track, OK?

Sunday was under-the-covers icky (yes, that's a meteorological term) so Monday I hunted & gathered what was on the GPS (Grocery Procurement System); it's nice to have that luxury seeing as I'm home; weather still frigid, so we had warm, comforting, rice and beans for dinner see This too shall pass for details...this time I added coconut milk to the rice cooking liquid; and got cauliflower ear from being on the phone.

Runaround Suzy Tuesday: Picked Dill up from school; got him to dentist; whew, no nerve damage to his tooth; a little bonding job and he was good as new; got him back to school; then off to meeting for a freelance gig; brought Dill to orthopedist for follow up on his knee; Yay!!! from knee brace to knee cuff and physical therapy; What? I need another referral for this 'cuz the script isn't good enough? Sheesh!; No show for Contractor No. 3 - not good; we had store-bought sliders en baguette; at least the weather's starting to turn; and as Dill said: All day's been good news. Amen.

Wacky Call Weds: Suffice it to say, I had a field of cauliflower growing outta my head...3 calls for the PT referral; goofy, rude, recruiter wants my precious cash to find me a job. HA!; my bro finds it 'strange' that our Mom is coming here for Mother's Day...God, I hate this "holiday" but more on that some other time; and the piece de resistance? Dealing with frustrating incompetent, unhelpful civil servants about my COBRA bill...the saving grace was named Renee and she works for the Feds...the state ones were just plain ignoramuses - And I'm the one who was let go? Double sheesh!! Oh right, dinner! Dill and I trekked to a college fair and shared a half of a real deli hot pastrami...the rest came home to the other guys who scarfed down dogs and beans.

Thoroughly Thursday: Still on the phone for the this rocket science? I don't think so; poor Dill is suffocated by this new cuff...too small? After waiting a half hour for the nurse to check him out, we realize he needs a non-existent small-and-a-half. Oh well, the medium is better than feeling his pulse through the too-tight old one; Bummer, John and I were supposed to meet so someone else could make us a cocktail after his doc appt...but our lines were crossed...see my squishy face? He kindly mixed up a lovely martini that we enjoyed outside - Yay Warmth! - while grilling the pork tenderloin and veg...

Here goes:
-Preheat the grill to hot.
-Slice the pork loin lengthwise, but only 3-quarters of the way deep, to kind of flatten it so it cooks quicker.
-In a small bowl, whisk a quarter c hoisin sauce, 1 t canola oil, 2 T white or rose
wine (not the candy pink stuff-ever! It's not safe for human consumption...sorry Mom!), a half t granulated garlic and a dash of chili oil (or hot sauce).
-Baste the grilling meat with the sauce.
-Drizzle baby bok choy that have been halved through the core with olive oil - I still had some of the garlic infused stuff, so that's what I used - salt and pepper just on the cut side.
-As the meat cooks on the hot side, turn the other side down to med and grill the bok choy for 5 mins, or until warm and they have grill marks.
-Slice the bok choy, 8 or so creminis and halve 12 or so grape tomatoes.
-Toss together and dress with an olive oil drizzle, a half T red wine vinegar, salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve the sliced pork on top.

So, that's my week in a nutshell...and pardon the non-PC self-description but after this week, I feel like I'm the nut in the shell...
I promise this won't happen often...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chip and Concurrence

I think I can safely say: These have been the strangest 6 weeks of my life.

Some not-so-good things - no job, Dill's injury, Mom's injury, tending to John's wounded back - and some good things - BEST friends ever...lifting my spirits and feeding my soul.

But, "odd" just doesn't do my life justice right now, even though the chicken finally did defrost!

While enjoying an after-dinner glass of vino last night, John's phone went off...It's Dill...He's OK, but...not the word a Mom wants to hear...he's chipped his front tooth. How bad? Not too bad, but...there's that word again...

Upon inspection this's a small irregularity that's kinda sensitive...We'll call the dentist on Monday.

Think that's the only curio to add to my cabinet? Notta chance. Read on and file under You-Can't-Make-This-Stuff-Up...

So, a man, a woman and a black cloud walk into a car dealership on Saturday afternoon.

What brings ya in? asks the former cop, now car salesman...
Well, my parents begin, we had a really bad car accident the night of the big March storm...
That was You? the cop/salesman says, halting their schpiel.
Yup, they chime...
I called it in, he says.

Wow! I'm gonna guess he's not Latino, but I'll call him Angel just the same.

To counteract the weird, the Bubbles gave me roasted chicken and orzo salad.

Here goes:

Orzo Salad
-Preheat oven to 350.
-Dice half an eggplant and let it sit, salted, in a colander for 15 mins.
-Toss with 1 t worcestershire sauce and roast for 25 mins, stirring after 15.
-Set aside.
-Slice 3 large garlic gloves and let steep in a quarter c olive oil over a low flame for 10 to 15 mins.
-In a large bowl, toss 8 oz cooked orzo pasta (don't forget to salt the water!), 2 T garlic infused olive oil (you can put the rest in a jar for other uses), half a diced yellow pepper, 4 thinly sliced
scallions, 1 large seeded and diced roma tomato, 4 diced artichoke hearts, 1 T capers, 1 T fresh thyme leaves, the juice from a lemon, a half t salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
-Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for the flavors to blend.

-Preheat oven to 375.
-Starting with a whole chicken, remove the backbone with shears so you can flatten him out.
-In a small bowl, mix a rub of 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 t smoked paprika, 1 t cumin, a quarter t cayenne, zest of a lemon (you'll need a 2nd lemon if you make the orzo salad at the same time), 2 T fresh thyme leaves, 1 and a half t salt, 1 t freshly ground black pepper, a half t fenugreek seed and a half t ground corriander seed.
-Slice half the lemon thinly (6 or so slices) and put under the chicken's skin. Squeeze the remaining lemon juice onto the bird and sprinkle both sides liberally with the rub.
-Heat a large oven-proof skillet on the stove til smokin...I used the Behemouth...and sear the skin side first. When the other side's seared, pour in 2 splashes of white wine and move to oven to roast for 30 mins.

A comforting meal in these topsy-turvy times...Oh, and of course, my folks bought a car from (our) Angel.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Some things are truly worth the wait

Contractor No. 3 paid his visit today. And the best part was that he came with his wife - my friend. My friend I'd never met in person.

His wife and I became fast friends about 2 years ago when she saw my name as the contact on a press release and just knew I could help her. She's VERY resourceful, you see, and I did my best. Apparently it worked, and we've been tight ever since. By phone, we've shared our boys' driving experiences and family issues, political banter and Can-You-Friggin-Believe-Its.

And now, I finally got to meet my pal...we hugged like we'd known each other forever and it was truly worth the wait.

For dinner, tonight, we went to visit old they're not 'old' but we've known them for ever. In fact - I love telling this story - he brought her as a 'date' to Dillon's bris. (Email me/comment if you need clarification!) Actually, we've known them longer than that...

But, we've been a little remiss in the getting-together department. So tonight we went over and were treated to a marvelous seafood dinner...Oh yes, my lads stayed home - there was hockey to be played!...and drank lovely wine...and chitchatted about this, that and the other thing...and simply enjoyed the divine comfort found in the company of good friends.

And it was truly worth the wait.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The big defrost

Some days I feel more domestic than others. But they are few and VERY far between. This was one of those domesticated days.

While I didn't do what I've wanted to do - change the clothes in my closet to the appropriate season - I did what John could never do - sort out the woodworking magazines littering the house. (Actually, they consumed his vanity in the master bathroom, but I don't wanna embarrass ssshhhh, don't tell.)

I tossed about a ton of my old mags too and it all felt so good.

I also tried to start dinner a bit earlier by defrosting a whole chicken in the morning...but since it was a rock at 6 - and it was a Friday - and a little medical procedure knocked John on his butt, we went with our pizza fall back.

Thanks Pizza guys up the street!

Oh well...I'm hoping that bird'll be toast on Sunday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Contractor No. 2

Not as melodic as Love Potion No. 9, but not as odoriferous as Chanel No. 5 either. (While the latter is lovely, I'm a Chanel Coco Mademoiselle gal m'self.)

With time getting short before the Shower Stall Show n' Tell, the Bubbles told me that last night's leftovers and a Big salad is the way to go...a big salad with 2 little ones on the side...They're rather insistent when not hanging out with the toddler set.

Time was shorter than planned...I hate when that happens!...'cuz Contractor No. 2 showed up a half hour early for the appointment. Urgh! I don't do early: I'll be late to my own funeral, as the saying goes. Thankfully, he caught me with only my proverbial pants down.

Ready as I'd ever be, we trudged upstairs and I did the schpiel on behalf of my still-commuting-home husband: Yes, we'll need all new tile and Greenboard; No, we're keeping the same base; Yes, the seat will probably need to be reconstructed; Yes, we'll need a new shower door, but; No, we don't want anything too fancy-schmancy with etched sea birds or anything as ridiculous as that...

I can sum up his visit thus: He came. He saw. He measured. He said little. He left.

Time to make dinner!

I added sliced scallions and celery as well as jarred sliced sundried tomatoes to a mix of romaine and arugula and dressed it with a quick - as in swirled around the bowl, not even pre-combined - vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt & freshly ground black pepper.

To add a little variety for us see-food, oops I mean, seafood eaters, I made 2 'topper' salads. The first was a non-mayo tuna salad and the second was a shrimp and avocado morsel...

Here goes:

-Dump the contents of a fine oil-packed tuna tin into a bowl.
-Add a pinch of granulated garlic powder and salt n' pepper to taste.
-Squeeze on juice from about a third of a lemon.
-Mix to combine.

Shrimp and avocado-
-In a bowl, combine a quarter lb boiled and coarsely chopped shrimp and half a cubed avocado. -Add a third c plain yogurt, 1 t dijon mustard and the juice from a third of a lemon.
-Gently mix to combine.

Both were really tasty...and Dill even said that it all 'worked really well together.'

Wow...I got more outta him than I did from Contractor No. 2! Now let's see if his estimate hits the right note...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guilty pleasures

Yeah, I got ' embarrassing to me as they are.

Butter-soaked movie popcorn, spoonfuls of Nutella from the jar, the chewy ends of a good rye bread (actually the heel from any good much so that my Guys think French bread comes from the market with chunks missing), Wild Cookies for breakfast....

But not all my guilty pleasures are food-related...there are others.

Listening to The Monkees, watching Real Genius for the umpteenth time, hearing that the NJ Devils have lost (sorry gang, but I bleed NY Rangers' blue) and checking my weekly horoscope.

I'm sure I missed a few, but it's the last one that's of interest today.

Now, I've heard that a person can open ANY book, point to a sentence and find some sort of relative meaning. Each week, I crack open that website and KNOW the Leo entry was written just for Me! It's creepy...but like a train wreck, I hafta look.

So today, feeling not-so-thrilled to be ungainfully employed, I searched out my dirty-little-secret of a site and - wouldja believe? - that horoscope lady nailed it.

She knew I'm riding a bumpy road to my goal this week. And, she said, a certain planet is providing the courage and strength I need to resolve this "rocky reality." Does this mean I'll be gainfully employed by next Wednesday's premonition? Doubtful. But it does mean she's sufficiently suckered me in and I've lost the sad-sack feeling.

Yay Me! We'll celebrate with stir-fried chicken and eggplant.

Here goes:

(Oh, you may have to tweek the seasonings a bit...I'm afraid something might've gone into the wok but not my notes, such as they are.)

-Start by marinating 3 large chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips, in a half t sesame oil, 1 T rice vinegar, a quarter c soy sauce, 1 heaping t hoisin sauce and a pinch of white pepper before prepping the rest of the ingredients.
-Cube half an eggplant - 3 c maybe - toss in colander and sprinkle liberally with helps leach out any bitterness...and let sit in the sink for at least 10 mins. Rinse thoroughly before cooking.
-In a small bowl, combine 1 T soy sauce, 1 heaping t ground bean paste, 1 t chili-garlic sauce and a half t honey. This sauce will coat the veg as they cook.
-Heat a wok - or large saute pan - to smoking, add 2 T canola (or veg oil), then quickly saute the chicken - with the marinade - until it's opaque. Remove chicken to a clean bowl and set aside.
-To the remaining juices, add 1 thinly sliced red onion and 3 small sliced garlic cloves and cook until translucent.
-Add the rinsed eggplant and saute for 4 mins (crusty is good here), then add the veg sauce and 1 5-oz (drained) tin sliced water chestnuts and 1 15-oz (drained) tin straw mushrooms.
-Stir to combine and when the veg are warmed through, return the chicken to the wok - you may need a splash of chicken stock for more sauce - and toss all to combine.

I served this with fried wide noodles, just like the kind that come with soup at the Chinese restaurant, because my defrosted eggroll wrappers (remember that post?) couldn't go back into the freezer. Easy peasy...cut 'em in strips and pop 'em into hot fat for a split second. The color'll tell you when they're done.

Whoops! I forgot to mention my favorite guilty pleasure food: Cotton Candy. Mmmm.....
What's yours?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If you could have ANYthing ... wanted for dinner tonight, what would it be?

I've been asking myself this because the Bubbles seem to be AWOL...prolly playing in some 3-year-old's sun-drenched backyard. Fooey.

I think I want Chinese...perhaps I could whip up some egg rolls and some sauteed noodles....I wonder what's in the pantry to further this along...

Well, I've got the goods, but I also have VERY hungry spawn, so what can I do quicker? OK, here's your choice boys: Naan Pizzas or Baked Eggs.

Resoundingly, they opted for Baked Eggs. OK, easy and fast. For details, see In heavy rotation, but today I added 5 stems worth of fresh thyme leaves and 4 slices of prosciutto that I sliced into ribbons.

I hope the Bubbles come play with me soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sing along...

Monday, Monday...dah dah dahdahdah dah...OK, enough of that. You know I can only carry a tune if my iPod's in my hand.

The first of the contractors is coming in for a shower-stall estimate dinner's gotta be quick and easy...I'm thinkin dogs and beans or pasta...

Nope, dogs and beans...I haven't had enough nitrates lately.

Since this is basically heat-n-serve, I'll regale you with what I put on top of mine...bbq sauce, then some leftover broccoli slaw and topped it all with a few slices of avocado. Man, they were good!

And washed it all down with a superb martini, thanks to my very own Martini God. I was leaning toward a crisp rose that's been chilling in the fridge, but no. After Contractor No. 1 left, the poor man (literally and figuratively) nearly hyperventilated and needed something stronger to help relieve the stress.

What's that? $600 for the newfangled Styrofoam base? We'll stick to the old shower pan. Huh? The floor's kind of soft near the shower? Can you add that to the estimate? Another exhaust fan? Just for the shower? Vent through the roof?

And on and on...

To be honest, when we got outside to look at the roof line, I didn't help matters.

Um, what about That? Do you do patio stairs? Yes they are caving in. What would I like there? Hmmm...bluestone? That expensive, huh? What if it wasn't a solid piece? Really? That much?

I happily ditched any idea for that rose and let the martini do its thang. I hope we have enough gin: Contractor No. 2 is coming on Thursday.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Flavors of spring

I can't hold back any longer...I need, yes NEED, fried artichokes...the tang, the salt, the crunch, the yielding flesh...I think my fridge maybe harboring a few of those overgrown thistles and more are on the GPS...

..Yes, I will make them tonight! But as much as I would enjoy a meal from this delicacy alone - I could gorge 'til I bristled in verdant shades - pale greenish yellow isn't my color. I'm more a mix n'match gal...

Hmmmm...I watched a cooking show where the guy crisped up the skin on striped bass fillets and then nestled them in a lemony escarole broth...sounds good.

Let's go see what's at the market...

Thankfully, my GPS didn't let me down as it had last week...but there was no striped bass. I could've gone to the fishmonger, but I really didn't want to make yet another stop today.

There was an option though...whole bronzini. It was about the right size and the guy behind the counter said he'd de-scale and gut it for me, so I said: Sure! I'm brave, I'll take a whole fish! (Well, I said the last parts in my head...)

Oh, in case you were wondering if my non-seafood-avor would eat tonight - I picked up some minute steaks too.

And while cooking, my Master Mixologist macerated some (over-the-hill) strawberries in vodka, then muddled them with half a clementine and a splash of dry vermouth and garnished our 'tinis with a slice of the was waaaaay pretty and rather tasty...but certainly different. Ahhhh.....

Here goes:

(For the fried artichokes with lemon, see Decisions, Decisions...)

-In a large heavy-bottomed pot, crisp up about a half c applewood smoked bacon in 2 T olive oil. -Remove crispies and into the remaining fat, add a quart of chicken stock, 1 thinly sliced lemon, 5 crushed garlic cloves and the leaves from 6 or so stems of fresh thyme.
-Bring to a boil then add 1 15-oz bag o'chopped fresh escarole, 1 and a half t salt, 1 t freshly ground black pepper and 1 t turbinado sugar. (The lemon pith is bitter and sometimes so is the escarole.)
-While the broth is simmering (for 15 mins), heat 2 T olive oil in a large saute pan on med high.
-Pat dry your fish...inside and out if nec...and decapitate and de-tail fin if you choose...and season with salt and pepper.
-When your oil is smokin, add your fish - skin side down if you have fillets - and do not touch for about 2 to 3 mins...the skin will get crispy and will not stick to the pan if you're patient. (If you're doing a whole fish, repeat on other side, if you're doing fillets move on to the next step!)
-When the skin's crispy, gently place the fish onto the simmering broth - fillets go skin side up and put whole swimmers in with their 'prettiest' side up - and let braise for 1 to 3 mins depending how thick it is.
-Serve it up with a few crispy bacon pieces on top.

That fish was moist and flavorful - but not 'fishy' - and John even dealt with the bones.

I'm so glad I was brave.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The circle of life

This isn't the story of birth or rebirth or death. It's the story of Austen as Simba/Dillon as Rafiki.

Ya got me, it's really the story of being silly and using pets as props for Saturday night entertainment when the hockey gang is recovering from the Junior Prom (or some such nonsense).

We have 2 cats: Austen, a large long-haired ginger who is the Beta cat and Sizzle, a shrinking gray-striped tabby who is the elder statesman and pretty much rules the feline roost. Oh, and they used to be male...if you catch my drift.

And if you're counting that makes me the lone female in the house.

But back to Austen...he looks like a miniature lion and has that distinctive caught-in-the-headlights expression when Dillon lifts him over his head to meet the kingdom. Is it cruel? Maybe. But it's pretty funny too. At least - as Rafiki - Dill doesn't say, It iz time, then bonk Austen on the head with a stick.

Ah yes, back to the food chain...the Bubbles gave me whatever was lyin' around - chicken & apple sausage and pappardelle pasta - and I turned it into baked pasta fit for a king.

Here goes:

-Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 baking dish.
-Start your super-salty water to boil for the half pound of pasta. And when ready, boil the pappardelle to al dente...any pasta would do for this, so don't worry if you don't have the long ribbons hanging out in your cupboard like I did.
-In a saute pan, toast 1 thinly sliced red onion and 2 minced garlic cloves in 2 T butter and season with salt and pepper.
-In a sauce pan, melt 3 T butter then add 4 T flour and stir to make a roux. Let it toast until cafe au lait color, then whisk in a quarter c white wine then a half c milk then 1 c chicken stock. -Season the bechamel sauce with 1 t salt, a half t each white pepper, smoked paprika and dried parsley.
-Finish the sauce by whisking in about 2 oz goat cheese. Keep warm on a very low flame.
[If the sauce is too thick, add more chicken stock in quarter c increments until it has a thick, but still liquid consistency.]
-Back to the saute pan...Thinly slice 12 oz sausage and add to the onions and garlic to warm. Add about 5 sliced cremini mushrooms, a half c frozen peas a splash of white wine and season with a half t salt and about a quarter t freshly ground black pepper.
-Cover and heat everything through.
-When the pasta's draining (out of the cooking pot), pour the contents of the saute pan into the pasta pot and pour the sauce over. Add the pasta and mix carefully to combine.
-Pour the whole shebang into the baking dish and top with a mixture of 2 T parmesan, a half c panko and 2 t olive oil.
-Bake for 40 mins or until crusty and bubbling.

And while I may be the de facto Queen of My Castle, your subjects will enjoy majestic pleasure with this dish...and elevate you to the top of Pride Rock.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What to do, what to do...

Yes, it's pizza night...and Conte's has been calling to me for some time like a Siren's Song - without the repercussions!

OK, maybe repercussions in the cholesterol department, but I can count on 2 fingers the times I've had lunch since entering the realm of the I should be OK...John? Not so much.

But Conte's is a treat, and we deserve a treat. So do you, by the way! We all do every now and again.

MMmmmm....Oh MY! That everything pizza - no anchovies! - was to die for! And really hit the spot. Thin crust, the most flavorful sauce, mouth-exciting toppings and a beer to wash it down. Truly, it's heaven on a bread-like product. Right...It's heaven PERIOD.

Those of you in the Princeton area or with ties here will understand what I'm saying...Others of you will have to make it over here for a taste.

And when you do...lemme know so I can join ya!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Only 2 things are certain: Death and...


I'm in the mood for risotto and the Bubbles complied. They gave me cremini mushrooms and frozen peas to fold in and shrimp to serve on the side. I love the Bubbles! (Today, anyway!)

Although I can't claim Italian heritage, risotto has long been one of my favorite comfort foods...It's creamy, satisfying and you can eat it with a spoon if you like. Kind of a hot version of ice cream...effortless to eat and just slides down. Ahhhh.....

I hear that some people are afraid to make it...

"Too much stirring," some say.

"Too much watching," others say.

"Too much kvetching," I say.

As long as your stock remains hot and your pot is sturdy, risotto is a cinch.

Here goes:

-In a stock pot heat 9 to 10 c chicken stock to simmering.
-Mince 2 large shallots, 4 garlic cloves and a sprig's worth of fresh rosemary leaves.
-In a heavy pot - I used my dutch oven - melt 4 T butter with 2 t olive oil...butter's for flavor, oil's to reduce burn.
-Add the shallot and onions and when they've sweated, add 2 c arborio rice to coat in the fat and toast just a smidge.
-Stir in a third c white wine to the rice and when it's been absorbed, stir in the stock 1 c at a time making sure each addition has been absorbed before you add the next. You do have to vigilantly stir so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom.
-After incorporating about 8 c of stock, season with a half t salt and lots of ground black pepper.
-Add more stock until the rice is creamy and al dente.
-Add 5 large sliced mushrooms, a half c peas, the rosemary and 2 handfuls grated parmesan and fold it all in.
-Serve immediately.

Oh, the shrimp! I forgot to tell you about them!
I put about a half pound onto a half sheet pan after marinating them in the juice from a lime, half a lemon and a clementine (they are REALLY orange!) as well as a sprinkle of chili powder. I popped the pan onto the hot grill and stirred them until they were pink. Whew, sorry 'bout that!

I'm thinking one other thing might be a certainty in utterly happy risotto makes me feel.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unfortunately, Fortunately

Yesterday, John and I played a game of Unfortunately, Fortunately.

Unfortunately, the plumber touched a tile in our shower stall and it caved in.

Fortunately, the leak from the stall onto the kitchen floor isn't a plumbing issue.

Unfortunately, we weren't planning on redoing our master bath.

Fortunately, we get to pick new tile for the shower stall for a little redecoration....

You get the idea...drip, drip, drip has planted its wet self as Priority 1 on our (ever-growing) List of Projects. Never mind that we have to strike a match to light the listing stove burners; or that the laminate on some kitchen cabinets has melted just enough to prevent doors/drawers from closing properly; or that our income was recently chopped in 2...

Nope. When the drip calls, you listen.

So while the Bubbles merrily popped overhead today, I was daydream designing with the blues and greens of glass mosaic tiles that Catherine and I saw at Lowe's yesterday...

Mmmm....that would go really well with - POP! - chicken. Chicken? Oh right...dinner.

Grilled, with bbq sauce, and maybe I'll make 'em into tacos...that's my plan and I'm stickin to it!

Unfortunately, a plan's only as good as the screen it's written on.
(no tortillas or taco shells in the house)

Fortunately, I am flexible!
(tacos morph into a french bread sandwich)

Here goes:

-Heat the grill to high.
-Dry 4 boneless chicken breasts and season lightly on each side with adobo seasoning. Drop onto the grill.
-After flipping the chicken onto the second side, brush the cooked side lightly with (jarred) bbq sauce. (I used Trader Joe's smokey, but not overly sweet, sauce.)
-When side 2 is done, brush on a bit more sauce. By basting the cooked sides, you don't have to worry about raw/cooked cross contamination...or having the sauce burn on the food.
-Slice open the french bread lengthwise and brush a bit of bbq sauce onto the bread.
-Thinly slice the chicken, pile onto the bread and top with 4 slices havarti cheese.

My darling Mixologist provided the martinis ... and on the side, we had broccoli slaw (see A new way to call...) and this time I wanted the dressing a bit more tangy so I substituted plain greek yogurt for the mayo, used juice from half a lemon, and added a half t honey and a quarter t sesame oil...and I think that's the way to go, especially the martinis!

Unfortunately, there were few leftovers.

Fortunately, the game starts over tomorrow.

Leftover's are OK in my book

Hmmm...So John's stopping on his way home to get lawn fertilizer, I'm hitting the market to pick up the butter and eggs the GPS didn't include and the guys have been noshing all afternoon...

...It's Clean Out the Fridge Night!

Well, last night's Savory bread pudding anyway...

The guys and I had a nice dinner, a little conversation and watched an 'educational' program on the life and times of sperm...they used people to illustrate the little swimmers and so Dill and I picked the top 2 and Jere says, the guy with the glasses wins, and we say, how do you know? and Jere says, I saw this in class. My tax dollars at work.

So, I'll leave you with this thought: If sperm were People-sized, their travel in the female body would be monumentally more strenuous and daunting than 15 back-to-back triathlons...So after they burst open their heads to gain egg-try (entry, get it?), they should be rewarded with a microscopic bread pudding...doncha think?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Time to try something new

I've often wondered what it would be like to take traditionally savory dishes and turn them sweet and vice versa....I have a wonderful apple cake recipe that I've been thinking about twisting into an onion tart, but haven't gotten around to it...

What I have gotten around to is a new take on bread pudding...a Savory bread pudding...and while I was somewhat concerned that it would embody the title of the blog, I had an inner confidence that everything would be all right. I mean really, it would be, in essence, an inside-out quiche, right?


The Bubbles gave me sagey sausages, parmesan, goat cheese, scallions and seasonings...

Here goes:

-Preheat oven to 325 and grease a 9x13 baking dish.
-Chunk up a loaf of challah into 1 and a half inch cubes.
-In a large bowl, whisk to combine 6 eggs, 6 T melted butter, a quart heavy cream, 5 (3- to 4-inch long) sliced sausage links, a half c grated parmesan, 2 thinly sliced scallions, 3 minced garlic cloves, 4 oz chunked goat cheese, a half t salt, lots of ground black pepper and a half t aleppo pepper flakes.
-Add the challah cubes to the custard mixture and drown 'em so they soak up as much custard as they'll hold.
-Turn into baking dish and cover with foil.
-Bake for 50 mins, then remove foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 mins to crunch up the top.

Let me tell ya, as odd as this sounds it turned out was creamy and flavorful and scarfed up by all.

Anyone up for couscous cookies? Nah, me either...but I might be on to something.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday, this is my funday

My GPS (grocery procurement system) failed me yet again. No butter. No eggs. Urgh! Maybe I should get the kind that talks to me: Um Suz, don't forget the staples - Again. Maybe one that's male with a sexy, silky voice...never mind, I'd never keep to my budget that way.


I did pick up a pork loin and since the weather was glorious yet again, it would work well along with potatoes and asparagus roasted on the grill. But how to do the meat? I decided to brine it would add flavor and since I rarely brine, it would also be 'different.'

Here goes:

-In a ziptop bag, combine 2 c water with 1 c salt (kosher's all I use), a half c sugar, 1 T black peppercorns, 1 t corriander seeds, 6 whole allspice, 3 roughly chopped garlic cloves, a quarter t red pepper flakes and a handful of fresh dill sprigs (stems and all).
-Pop in the 2 lb pork loin, squeeze out the air, and seal. Refrigerate for 1 and a half to 4 hours. I did the minimum and could taste the difference.
-Before grilling on a med high grill, remove from brine (discard the brine) and sprinkle with Jerk Pork blend seasoning.

My, Oh, My. We could taste the brine right off but it didn't put a salty or sweet flavor in our tasted luscious and tender. Or am I thinking of my fantasy GPS voice....No, it was definitely the pork.

Saturday in the Dark

I'll warn you now, with apologies to match: This entry is going to be really've seen, or um read, the food before - we had Korean BBQ steak - but this was a night of odd occurrences that when added up don't make much sense.

I walked around shaking my head - a lot.

I met a woman most didn't think existed; the phone rang off the hook; and there were teenage boys in and out of the house most of the evening.

All in all, it was a good night, an amusing night and it's a good thing my Master Mixologist was up to the task.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Caramel corn to die for!

Seeing as it's Friday - pizza day! - I thought I'd tempt you with a not-too-sweet snack that doesn't last long whether it's offered from the bowl or bag. It's tough to keep this guilty pleasure at arm's distance so there's a bit left to watch TV with...

A few of you - Vonnie, Catherine, Elena you too, right? - have had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into chewy fresh popcorn laced with rich sweet salty caramel and perhaps a few pecans. Those of you who haven't had that indulgence will have to recreate it on your own...or knock on my door. It's that good.

Now, I don't suppose it speaks well of my character to speak so well of my creations...But here's the thing: I'd say the same of someone else's - if it tasted as good (better's cool too)! By now you know me: I cook what I want to eat; I like to eat well; and if it's not good this go-round, I'll play until it's just where I crave it. (By the way, I've played with this quite a bit!)

Here goes:

-Pop yer corn. I heat the dutch oven with about a quarter c canola oil and 3 kernels in the bottom. (I'm not finished with the corn instructions yet if you're goin retro and not microwaving it, but I'll do simultaneous corn/caramel play-by-play since this is how I go about it. Oooo, I'll color the corn directions in green and the caramel directions in an orange. I love technology!)
-In another sauce pan, add a half c water to 2 c sugar and stir on high heat until sugar dissolves.
-By now, the 3 kernels have popped - Don't forget to keep the lid on!! - so add almost a quarter c more kernels to the pot and slap on the lid. You're gonna hafta shake the pot to keep the kernels moving so they don't burn. It's ready when there's about 5 seconds between pops. Remember Jiffy Pop? Kinda like that.
-When the sugar's dissolved, Stop stirring and let it come up to a boil. Watch this VERY carefully, because browning sugar goes from delectable to disgusting in a no time flat. You can shimmy the pan, but no stirring.
-When the corn is popped, toss it into a large bowl that you've sprayed with oil and sprinkle on about a half t of salt and a couple handfuls of pecans if you'd like.
-When the caramel is a lovely amber, cut the heat and add 3 T butter stirring.
-Quickly pour over the popcorn add another half t of salt and carefully mix the whole thing with a silicone or rubber spatula.
-Let can even spread it into a single layer on a Silpat-lined baking sheet to cool off in the freezer if you're impatient like me...then break it into bite-sized or hand-sized pieces to enjoy.

OK, there are about 3 salty foods on the planet that John could ignore without trouble...1 is popcorn...but to get some of this, he'd walk half-way around the planet - proverbially speaking, of course!

Are you craving it yet?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thank you Cuisinart! an order on Tuesday with the cheapest, slooooowest delivery option...and get it on Thursday - Now that's service with me smiling!

Even though my food processor is back in business, the Bubbles didn't care. They offered me pasta, beans, tomatoes and salty condiments....with a bounty like that, how could I refuse?

I couldn't....besides, I've had enough "meat" to last me...and I'm getting a little cranky. Which is probably why making dinner tonight was an ADD disaster!

Facebook IMing with a friend I desperately needed to hear from; talking on the phone; sending and receiving emails - including one so supportive, and from an unexpected source, that nearly brought me to (happy) tears; heating the pan then peeling the garlic - ACK, no wait! the bacon needs to go in the pan first!; What John? Yes, you can put the pasta in pot...wait, wait...Not Yet!!!

And on and on...I did finally get my groove back...

Here goes:

-Start the pasta water to boil...with lotsa salt!...and at the appropriate time, boil the pasta to al dente.
-Preheat large skillet and add 3 slices applewood-smoked bacon sliced in half-inch strips. Fry til order not to overcook the bacon, consider adding a quarter c water as it sautes - it keeps it from burning.
-Remove the bacon pieces from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan. Add about a t of olive oil before adding 4 large minced garlic cloves on med heat to sweat.
-Add 4 to 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets to the garlic and mash 'em up with the back of a wooden spoon...Jere'll never know they're there!...and add a half t crushed red pepper flakes, some freshly ground black pepper and 2 t capers.
-Drain a 15-and-a-half oz tin of cannellini beans, reserving the liquid, and add to the garlic. When they've picked up a bit of color, either from rolling around with the pepper flakes or from the heat, add a 14-and-a-half oz tin of diced tomatoes with their juice.
-Heat through and if you need a little more liquid to make more sauce, use the reserved bean close to the bottom of your container as possible, since it's naturally starchy and the starch thicken the sauce, of course!
-Combine with the pasta, add some grated parmesan and toss 'n serve!
[Just a note: There's no additional salt in all comes from the anchovies, capers, bacon and cheese.]

Well, a good dose of comfort carbs can soothe away the crankies...but still, I think I should crawl back into my Electronic Vacuum, don't you?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The car said it was 100 degrees

Gotta love Fickle April...Will this heat May bring flowers? Dunno, but it sure is blooming all the trees...and lemme tell ya, it's a lovely sight!

I am so ready for the delight of summer's warm, fragrant, weather...And the lovely, free-spirited allure of outdoor living. What's better than grilled salmon to pay homage to summer? I don't know either, so the Bubbles must be right!

(Since Jere doesn't do seafood, I needed to invoke one of Don Ho's tiny bubbles and also grilled chicken thighs.)

I riffed on a friend's salmon marinade and used it for both the fish and the chicken....I grilled up some mushrooms, celery and scallions and added them to the salad to round out the meal.

Here goes:

-In a blender, whir 3 quarters c orange juice, about a quarter c maple syrup - the Real stuff!, 4 med garlic cloves rough chopped, 1 ribbed & seeded jalapeno, 2 t fresh thyme leaves, a half t fresh (frozen, 'cuz that's where I store the hand) ginger peeled & sliced, lots of freshly ground black pepper and 2 T soy sauce to combine. If it's still a bit chunky, that's fine.
-Pour over proteins and let marinate while the grill heats.

The marinade hit all the right notes: Sweet, (a little) spicy, tangy and savory...just perfect on a sultry Prelude to Summer eve.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm sick of flesh

After eight days of hard, dry-as-the-Sinai matzah, I crave light, fluffy buttermilk biscuits...and since I have a wee bit of time on my hands, I can make 'em tonight! Ah, but how do I make them 'dinner?' What can I put in them...ticking off all suitable protein options, the Bubbles finally came to my rescue: Burgers!

OK, so it's more meat, but it's meat chopped into little bits - easier to choke down - and really, it's the only thing the Bubbles offered that fit on a biscuit bun!

Still being Passover, my mouth watered as I made the biscuits, but I held out!

I flavored the burgers with Worcestershire sauce and about a t of ground bean paste and John grilled 'em. Yes, with a dimple in the middle so they didn't go all ballish. And I made a salad...

...but the biscuits were the stars.

Here goes:

-Preheat oven to 450.
-In a mixer or bowl of a food processor (mine bit the dust this weekend but 2 replacement parts are on the way!) combine 1 and 3 quarters c flour with 2 t baking powder and a half t each baking soda and salt. Whir to fluff (aka sifting for the lazy).
-Add 6 T cubed frigid butter and mix only until the butter pieces are pea-sized.
-Add 3 quarters c buttermilk and combine only until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
(These last 2 steps are to ensure the biscuits are flaky and soft...which they were!)
-Dump out onto a floured surface and kneed 8, count 'em 8, times.
-Roll out to about a half inch thick and cut to your desired size.
-Place on ungreased baking sheet and brush tops with milk.
-Bake for 12 mins...and enjoy!

Oh my...they were manna in a desert of cracker crumbs...flaky (like me!), buttery, soft, and oh so tasty!

Monday, April 5, 2010

It had to be done...

...or as my friend so aptly put it: A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

So I did.

I needed fried chicken tonight, but being Passover...Oy vey, there's only so much unleavening a gal can take!...I couldn't use flour....Ah, but I do have matzah meal and matzah cake flour (just a finer ground version)...Would it work? Of course it would, I saw it in a magazine! Oooo, and they used egg whites as the wet stuff...interesting...I'll give it a go.

Of course, that's all I took from the recipe...matzah meal and egg whites...the rest belongs to that chef.

John and his soux chef (Jere) created a mashed potato dish Friday night when I was socializing that he replicated with sweet potatoes - essentially mashed w/carmelized onions - and put on some green beans while I lugged out the Behemoth and did the chicken strips.

Here goes:

-Heat about an inch of canola oil in a large cast iron skilled to 350.
-My chicken needed to be stripped, so I cut each of the 4 breasts into long thirds.
(A bit of a warning here: I had too much dip and dredge, so these amounts reflect that...)
-Mix 1 part matzah cake flour with 2 parts matzah meal, season liberally with salt, freshly ground pepper and granulated garlic in a suitable dish for dredging.
-In another, similar, dish mix 4 egg whites with a half t each aleppo pepper flakes and smoked paprika. I usually use hot sauce here, but my GPS failed me this week and I'm out. (It's on the shopping list for next week as is port...can't have that happen again!)
-Dip the chicken in the wet mixture then the dry and fry to crispy golden brown.

Not only did this work, but it worked great! Don't think it'll replace my Famous Fried Chicken, but it's a terrific alternative for Passover or any other time...

Oh, and even though it's still Passover, I only dipped once.

The result?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Duck and fore!

Ah...Spring is in the air...and that means two things to John: Gardening and Golf.

So, this weekend we did both.

Today was nine holes of golf and while I won't tell you what I shot (I did bogey a hole!), I will say that we had a great time...something I rarely say when golfing with my hubby. You see, there are some things that are better left undone between life partners...and golf is it for me. Neither of us is any good, so when the advice starts coming I'd rather be cleaning the house. But today there was no advice so maybe this is a new leaf for our marriage.

And while we galavanted in the sunshine, I was thinking about dinner...Mmmmm, duck breasts, grilled with a cherry port glaze and wild rice with grilled artichoke hearts. No wonder I didn't shoot so well!

Here goes:

-Start 4 c stock to boil for the rice and preheat the grill on high. Wild rice take about a third longer to cook than regular rice, so start that ahead. Oh, and it's a 1 part rice to 4 parts liquid ratio too.
-Drain a tin of artichoke hearts and put them on the grill to warm and get a bit of a char...when done, quarter them and marinate in olive oil, salt, pepper, 2 minced med garlic cloves and a squeeze of lemon.
-In a small sauce pot, simmer 3 quarters c dried cherries in a c of port...What?? Just a dribble of port came out of the bottle! Ah, there's about a c of red wine still in that bottle. OK, it'll work...with a fresh rosemary sprig until reduced by half. (Add stock if you've gone too far, like I did.)
-Score the skin of the duck breasts and season both sides with Chinese 5 spice and aleppo pepper flakes.
-Grill the duck - starting skin side down - until med rare...internal temp on the grill should be 135 and they'll carry over cook.
-Fold the artichokes into the cooked rice and serve the sliced duck w/sauce on top.

To be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the way the meal turned out...didn't have the POP I thought it would...but the guys couldn't get enough of it. Maybe I birdied that hole afterall!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bubble and squeak

If there's a "Jewish" version, matzah brei is it! And it's a Passover brekkie that gets unanimous cheers...

It's softened matzah mixed with eggs and fried...what could be bad? Except for the ketchup they smother it in...blech!...I'm not an eggs with ketchup gal.

Here goes:

-For each serving, break up 2 sheets matzah into 2" square or so pieces, rustic is fine and uniformity's not necessary, and put into a bowl.
-Fill the bowl with enough hot tap water to cover the matzah, then drain the water.
-Add an egg, salt and pepper to taste and mix - hands work best - to combine.
-Fry up in butter and listen to the bubble and squeak!

As good as it is, matzah brei fullness doesn't last all dinner's in order!

I've had a chuck roast in the freezer that's been giving me an Eat Me look for too long, so I took pity on it, defrosted it and got ready to devour it with roasted sweet potatoes and salad.

Here goes:

-Preheat the grill to really hot.
-Prepare a rub in the food processor: Whir 1 large dried ancho chile, 1 med dried chipotle chile, 2 dozen black peppercorns, a half t coriander seeds, 2 t salt, 2 t turbinado sugar, a quarter c coffee beans and 2 large sliced garlic cloves until ground.
-Cover both sides of the 4 lb roast with the rub, pushing it into the meat as much as possible, and sear each side on the hot grill.
-In a dutch oven, saute 1 large red onion diced, 4 ribs celery diced and 3 large garlic cloves sliced in about 3 T butter until translucent. Season with salt and ground black pepper.
-Add meat and juices to the pot and cover with a 14.5 oz tin diced tomatoes, a half c sweet vermouth and a 3" cinnamon stick.
-Cover the pot and braise on low heat for an hour.

John roasted the sweet potatoes on the grill while we enjoyed one of his signature cocktails outside and I rounded out the dinner with a salad of romaine, leftover blanched chopped spinach and dried chopped dates in a white wine vinaigrette.

It was such a lovely day that I tried not to bubble and squeak with enthusiasm!