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).