December 20, 2008

I Have A Dream....

Do you ever dream about food?

Ok, that’s a ridiculous question – OF COURSE YOU DO! Who hasn’t dreamt about a meerkat dining on short ribs that you’ve braised on an old stove at your Grandmother’s house, while you practice the piano for a recital in front of the whole 4th grade class? Or being chased by Sandra Lee into an alley, who turns into a giant white spider that gets stuck in the corn syrup you’ve cleverly dumped on the ground? Everyone does!

I have been dreaming about a sweet potato pizza. I foolishly mentioned this dream to my husband, who always gets “the look” on his face when I want to “share” my food dreams. He immediately nixed the idea, because his idea of pizza is something with meat with meat sauce on a meat crust. Topped with meat. Anybody got a recipe for meat beer?

But I figure dreams are meant to be LIVED, people! Martin Luther King doesn’t have a birthday vacation day for nothing!

There was nothing much in my refrigerator for dinner last night, but there were those sweet potatoes…some “emergency” refrigerated pizza dough…cilantro…and my dream.

Roasted Sweet Potato Pizza

Some pizza dough (I swear to God, if anybody makes fun of my Pillsbury pizza crust, I’ll spam the comments on their blog….I was in a hurry, out of flour because of those dang Christmas cookies, and absolutely did not want to go the store, ok? Can you relate AT ALL??)

Cilantro pesto – process a big bunch of cilantro, a handful of pine nuts, 4-5 garlic cloves. Slowly add the olive oil, until the consistency of…well…pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little of that Cotija cheese if you want. Or go buy some pesto. I am all about the dream - not the

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, sliced into 2” rounds, brushed with olive oil, and that you have roasted in a 350 degree oven until fork tender (but not mushy).

About 1/4 cup Mexican Crema with a little (about 1 teaspoon) cumin stirred in – or some other Mexicany spice – DREAM BIG!!!!

Cotija cheese, shredded or crumbled to toss on top – about 1 cup

So…you just press out that dough and spread the pesto all over. Slice the roasted sweet potato rounds into thinner rounds. Place on top of the pesto, overlapping if necessary. Drizzle the crema over the top. Scatter the cheese on top of crema. Bake at 425 until browned and bubbly.

Ok…the husband was scoffing and laughing at me. “Who ever heard of sweet potato pizza? That’s dumb!” This is our “special” way – him, making fun, me getting indignant and defensive. The wonderful dance of marriage. Then I have to kick his ass.

But the pizza came out of the oven at about the time my son, his girlfriend and their friends came by.
If a bunch of hungry, young 20-somethings don’t like it, my dream has failed. And I'll go watch re-runs of Top Chef and eat 9 Lindt truffles and some Chinese rice crackers.

But they loved it. LOVED IT!!! Even Mr. Smarty Pants grudgingly agreed it was "good".

"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!"

December 16, 2008

Booty Soup

About a month ago, I got quite a surprise. UPS delivered a huge box, marked “perishable”.
“Hmmm”, thought me. Who the heck would send me a box of dynamite marked as food??? (I think those thoughts because I’m very paranoid and well…there’s my history with nefariousness.)

Cautiously I pried open the package with kitchen tongs (from a safe distance of course), and found an enormous basket. “Hmmm”, thought me. Nestled in the basket was an amazing array of food and other wonderfulness. Still perplexed, I examined the box a little further. “La Tienda” – the venerable purveyor of all things Spanish, edible and otherwise. “Hmmm”, thought me, myself, and I. I was getting warmer! And my coffee was kicking in. I vaguely remembered entered a tapas contest a while ago – perhaps this was a prize!!

After some super sleuthing (I AM the Mom of a spy, you know) I figured out I was a first prize winner – not the Grand Prize winner, alas. That lucky winner received a whole tapas party at her home, complete with a tapas chef, who probably is insanely good looking and then he invites the hostess to join him in Barcelona to open a small and stellar tapas bar on his family’s olive farm that covers many acres and has 12 outdoor fireplaces and lots of cute goats. No, I’m not the Grand Prize winner. Or bitter.

But first prize was pretty freakin’ fabulous. An abundance of olives, olive oil, chorizo, a beautiful wheel of Manchego cheese, a fabulous cookbook by Jose Andres, a cool cheese board with cute cheese knives, Spanish tapa plates, a gorgeous wooden olive tray, a bunch of other stuff, and BEST OF ALL…a chefs jacket with “Olive Oil from Spain” on the sleeve! So…guess who wore the jacket to Safeway that afternoon? And pretended to be an olive oil authority in the condiment aisle? With no one listening?


" Why, yes...I DO love Spanish olive oil...and your jacket! Let's make out!"

It was all very wonderful, yet strange…I never received a call or an email letting me know I won anything. I guess that’s the beauty of a complete surprise. One minute you’ll shuffling around in your bathrobe with some Windex in your pocket, singing “I’m Bringing Sexy Back”, the next minute you’re a Spanish chef! Making out with Xavier Bardem! (But not when he was in "No Country for Old Men")

Last night I made the “base” of our most favorite soup in the world. It’s a fennel and kale concoction, and I added some of the smoky chorizo – wow. The spousal unit said it was the “best” soup he’s ever had and believe me, I’ve made that soup a zillion times. The smoked paprika was released into the broth by the brief sautéing I gave the sausage, and completely changed the soup. For the better.

Here you go. I hope you get a food surprise someday. It’s a kick in the pants.
Oh, here is the link to Olive Oil from Spain….I can’t find my recipe anywhere on the site, or even reference to the contest. It’s so weird.

(thank you, thank you, thank you, oil people from Spain!)

"Booty Soup from a Big Box from La Tienda"
6 oz smoked Spanish chorizo, cut into bite sized pieces or “coins”
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium-sized fennel bulb, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
2 bunches kale, trimmed and roughly chopped (about 8 cups, I guess)
1 bag dry cheese filled tortellini (I use Bertolli…it’s easy to find for me)
Chunks of Manchego cheese
This pot made 6 big bowls of soup…and it is better left on the stove overnight and re-heated for lunch the next day.
1. In a large pot, sauté the sausage until sizzling and releasing the oil and paprika.
2. Add the onion, fennel, garlic, red pepper, and thyme. Sauté for a few moments, until vegetables are soft, but not browned.
3. Add the stock or broth and bring to gentle boil. Add kale, stir around, bring to boil again, then let simmer for 7-8 minutes.
4. Add tortellini, bring back to boil, and cook for another 8-10 minutes are until pasta is done.
5. Serve hot, with chunks of cheese on top.

December 14, 2008

Semper Fi, Mamacita!

One the biggest cooking pleasures I have is cooking breakfast for my kids. Now that they are adults and not fighting over the toy in the Cocoa Puffs box or letting the dog lick syrup off their faces or squirting each other with milk spit. That wasn’t cooking…that was crowd management using sugar, toys, and yelling.

So now that they are gone from home, independent, broke, buying furniture at Target and trying to scam gas money from the parents…they are much more appreciative of a big ol’ plate of bacon, eggs and toast. Especially our eldest son, Mac, a Marine platoon sergeant. Yessirree, Mom’s cooking is way better than roasted mystery animal in the Iraqi desert!

Mac is home, on a long leave, just back from a second tour in Iraq. This guy can eat. Even I, who watched him devour whole boxes of Pop-Tarts as a small child, am amazing at what he can put away these days.

So this morning I couldn’t wait to scurry downstairs and cook his breakfast. Six slices of smoked bacon. Fried onions seasoned with alder-smoked salt. Four poached eggs. Four slices of sourdough toast, pan-fried in the bacon fat. (Oh yes, I’m still lovin’ on the bacon fat….is there anything bacon fat doesn’t make better?? Huh?) Topped with deli slices of real American cheese, salsa and ketchup. It’s imperative the ketchup goes on everything, evidently. But on top of salsa? I blame the Marines.

I realize that this type of cooking isn’t approaching anything creative. But it’s disgustingly good. And it’s even better just watching the enjoyment Mac has eating it.

Damn…I’m on a slide….what's next? Fried Ding Dongs with a slurry of Fritos and Mountain Dew??

BTW…he didn’t like it much when I was taking pictures. I think it’s because he’s like some sort of military spy or something.

Cause we all know terrorists read cooking blogs.

December 13, 2008

Bringin' Home the Bacon, Baby!

Well, you just knew it would be something like FAT to bring me to my senses.
It’s been a long summer, fall, and early winter, and I won’t make you clinch your teeth and roll your eyes with boredom filling you in with all the details and drama, but I find it amazing and yea, verily…natural…that a cookbook would snap me back to the truly important. Stuff like an utterly fascinating, informative, and wonderful cookbook….about fat.

Let’s think about bacon mayonnaise. Yes, you know you want to. Because I sure did…at 2:30 am, even after an Advil PM! Pondering a BLT sandwich, but not with lettuce… with arugula. And some grilled avocado. Heirloom tomatoes, that as far as I know, only exist in my 2:30 am mind, since there no decent markets around here….and some of this BACON FREAKIN’ MAYONNAISE!

Bacon Mayonnaise
Makes about 1/2 cup

1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup liquid bacon fat

Combine the egg yolk, mustard, and lemon juice in the small bowl of a food processor or in a blender and process to mix. Season with salt and pepper.
Have the bacon fat liquid, but not hot. With the machine running, gradually add the bacon fat until the mixture starts to stiffen and emulsify, about 2 minutes. Once it starts to emulsify, you can add the fat more quickly. If the mayonnaise is too thick, just blend in a 1 teaspoon of boiling water to thin it. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

From “Fat – An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes” by Jennifer McLagan

I love this book. I want to cook EVERYTHING in it. Jennifer McLagan is a genius and a wonderful writer.

I am so making “Salted Butter Tart” and not sharing.
(oh yes...I do not jest..)

BTW….I’ll going to try to be diligent about blogging again, but I’m not going to be actually cooking and baking and then blathering on about how good it is with really lame ass pictures. I am thinking I’d rather pontificate about food and eating, and merely offer the truly wonderful, occasional treat from my kitchen that you may actually find…useful. There are zillions of blogs with tremendously talented work going on and those are the bloggers/cooks/bakers that have the energy…I am merely semi-energized to do the same. But I do have a passion for food, for cooking, and I do want to share observations or whatever insanity manifests itself through my writing.

Let me know how it goes down with y’all. Thank you for all the kind emails about Molly, the encouragement, and yes, ragging on me to start blogging again. I appreciate it all. Yes, Liz, YOU. I’ll get up to speed…yea, verily…soon.

And make that bacon mayonnaise.

My action figure of Obama just arrived.

July 21, 2008

The Golden Child

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

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

It’s great to be home.

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

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

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

July 12, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 17, 2008

Get DOWN With Your Nigerian Bad Self!!!

It's time for a short break for The Dish...(not to be confused with break dancing, which I am quite good at, btw)

We have a son getting married on Saturday, so have to shave my legs, pluck my eyebrows, find some shoes that aren't flip flops, that I can bust a move in, to "We Are Family" at the reception...besides, it’s really hot, and I don’t want to cook or bake. So you can see how BUSY I AM, OK?

What’s your opinion about hats? I mean, I found a really cool one, you know, to wear to the wedding. My sister said “you’ll look an ass”. She's just jealous I look like English nobility. But, I’m just thinking how awesome those Royal broads look when they’re going to the horse races or knighting Richard Branson, or whatever the hell they do on weekends.

Don't worry, I'll wear some blush.

Ok, I know some of you read a post I made a month or so ago about a nice Nigerian man who needed some info from me so he could send me 68 million dollars. I wrote back, saying I’d send him some fudge, but that’s about it. I never did see my money, dang him. Those Nigerians are soooo unreliable! But I'm intrigued by their...earnest persistence and apparent willfullness to trust total strangers.

So, I get an email AGAIN from ANOTHER guy from Nigeria. He’s a “Manager”…I don’t know of what, but it appears I’m in for yet ANOTHER chunk of change! For my “goodself”, I’ll get 10 million dollars. I must be very goodself! Again, I’m rather concerned about the lack of proper SPELLING instructions these Nigerian guys get in school! I guess going to school with a bunch of holy cows milling around in the schoolhouse is distracting!

I’m pretty honored, you know – this is a “TWO-Man business deal” and he thinks he can trust me. And evidently, I can see from my email that LOTS of people trust me. And generally, they're from Africa, Iraq, and the United Nations. How come nobody in the USA has millions of dollars laying around, unclaimed?? Huh? Can you tell me the answer to THAT mystery?

I’ll see you knuckleheads after the wknd!

From the Desk of:Mr.Jason Ifekadima

With great pleasure I Mr.Jason Ifekadima, working with a bank here in Nigeria as a Manager. I am writing you in respect of a foreign customer (an Oil consultant/contractor with our National Oil & Liquidified Gas Sector) whom made a US$25M depository for an investment program that has remained dormant for years now.

(Umm, I’m wondering if I can take part of my share of the money in actual GAS??? For my CAR??? Like, have you seen the price of gas in America??? Can you send some money to those OPEC guys? It appears that they need some!)

Hence, I have decided to contact you due to the urgency of this transaction. On my personal investigation, I discovered that the account holder died on December 2002 in the Ukrainian aircraft crash.

(Another plane crash! All these rich guys dropping like flies!!! Ukrainian?? Everyone knows those guys can’t fly!!! Doesn’t anybody fly Southwest over there?)

I made further investigation and discovered that the customer died without making a WILL on the depository.It may interest you to know that I am only contacting you as a foreigner because this money cannot be approved to a local Bank account here, but can only be approved to a foreigner with an account since the money is in US Dollars. I have decided as a matter of urgency upon this discovery now seek your permission to have you stand as next of kin to the fund as No one has ever come forward to claim this fund.

(Damn straight, Skippy, it DOES interest me! I’ll be the guy’s family, for sure! If I can find a Nigerian outfit at Target, I’ll wear it, and take a picture and send it along, ok? Do Nigerians wear…hats? Cause I found one that I like A LOT.)

It may also interest you to know that I have secured from the probate an ORDER OF MADAMUS to locate any of deceased beneficiary. In accordance to Nigerian Law, fund deposited for over a period of Six (6) years without claim will be reverted to the Government treasury, if nobody applies to claim this fund.

(MADAMUS?? What’s that? Like a ‘Madam who must’, or ‘musty Madam’? What exactly are you saying here, Mr. Jason??? I’m a little confused....and possibly insulted!)

I will like you to provide immediately your full Names and Address, Date of Birth, Occupation, Tel & Fax Numbers so that an Attorney will be able to prepare the necessary documents and affidavit which will put you in place as the next of kin. The Attorney will draft and carry out the notarization of the WILL and also obtain the necessary documents and letter of probate/administration in your favour for the transfer. At the successful conclusion of this business, your goodself shall be entitled to have 40% that is, USD$10M of the total money while I will have 55% that is USD$13.750M and 5% that is SD$1.250M for communications and other expenses. I am ready to invest a reasonable percentage of mine into any viable business you suggest as a joint partner. Your percentage will also be a source of upliftment. You have absolutely nothing to LOSE in assisting me instead, you have so much to GAIN. Be rest assured that this transaction would be most profitable for both of us.

(A source of “upliftment”? Ohhhh, yeah, I’m talkin’ MAJOR "upliftment" for 10 million dollars! Extreme make-over "upliftment", if you get my drift, Jason! Dolly Parton upliftment!!!! WOOT!)

Your response is highly imperative as this is a TWO-man business deal transaction as I shall then provide you with more details and relevant documents that will help you understand the transaction. I need your assistance and co-operation to this reality as I have done my Home-work and fine tune the best way to create you as the beneficiary while I would use my connection and money to secure almost all the paperwork for this transaction which will be done by the Attorney and my position as the Branch Manager guarantees the successful execution of this transaction with you as the beneficiary to this fund.

(You can count on me, Jason! I’m your other MAN! It's a good thing you're an esteemed African 'Branch Manager'! The bank branch managers around here are one step up from Domino's Pizza delivery guys!)

I will appreciate your early reply for commencement of business. Contact me for acknowledgment by E-mail and whereby you are not interested, please indicate in your reply so that I can seek for the assistance of someone else. If this proposal is acceptable by you, I expect that you will not take undue advantage of the trust I Will bestow in you. I await your urgent response.Thanks with great regards......Mr.Jason Ifekadima

(I'd LOVE to do some "commencement of business", but, um, I'm a little busy, Jason, what with the wedding, hats, etc....I'm wondering if you could send me about couple of million just to tide me over? I promise I'll get you all the information you need pretty soon. It's just that this hat I'm looking at is a bit pricey. You can wire the other 8 million after I get my info to you, ok?)

I did find a recent picture of Jason....I'm not sure I'll ever get that money

June 11, 2008


Bonjour! Michel Roux and I will be leading the class today on the proper way to….how do you Americans say…fouet? Whisk? No matter - you will BEAT THE LIVING MERDE OUT OF THIS STUFF on your way to a lovely, fluffy, light Sabayon! And, as an added treat, we will be baking some Orange Tuiles!!! Merveilleux! Please take notes – your practical exam will test you on these techniques! Écouter!!! And, you, in the back row…yes, YOU-Miss Heather! Please see that your apron is properly cleaned next class! And no more Beaujolais in class! Scandaleux!

We will make our Orange Tuiles first. Michel! Start on the orange zest, s’il vous plait!!! We don’t have all day! And you have some foie gras in your hair!!! MERDE!!!!

Orange Tuiles – from “Michel Roux – New Techniques from a French Master Chef”
½ cup plus 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
½ cup slivered almonds
3 ½ tablespoons softened butter
Grated zest of ½ orange
¼ cup orange juice, strained

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put the sugar, flour, almonds, butter, and orange zest in a bowl and beat well, then mix in the orange juice.
3. Take a scant tablespoon of the mixture and push it off onto a nonstick or lightly buttered baking sheet. Repeat to use half of the mixture, spacing the heaps well apart to allow room for spreading. Dip a fork in cold water and use it to flatten the mixture, roughly into rounds. The more you flatten them, the thinner the tuiles will be, but the more fragile they will be to shape when cooked.
4. Bake in the oven for 4-5 minutes, until the tuiles have spread evenly and are a pale nutty brown color. Leave the tuiles on the baking sheet for 1 minute, then lift them off with a palette knife, and drape them around a rolling pin or a tuile mold so that they set into a curved shape.
When you have molded a few tuiles, you will need to return the bakng sheet to the oven for 30 – 60 seconds, to soften the unshaped tuiles (which will have hardened on standing). Repeat with remaining mixture.

MERDE!!!!! Michel, you are SURE you have written this recipe correctly?? Would you look at this!!!! MERDE!

Les étudiants!!! DO NOT use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture!!!! A teaspoon will be sufficient!!! And definitely keep them in your oven a bit longer!!!! “Pale nutty color”???? Incroyable!!! Bake them longer!!!! MERDE!!! Look at my tuiles!!!!

Ok students, we will not panique!!!! We will simply make do. Escouffier would NOT allow this, but he would manage…he would make do. So, students…SMASH these tuiles! We will figure this out later! Oh, save the two perfectly formed ones. Those are mine. Yes, Peter - it is fair, I'm the boss here. MERDE!

Oh right, everyone settle down. It is time to prepare our Sabayon. Pas de problème – it is easy!!!! Of course, you need to whip this like a stubborn mule, but the ingredients are few and simple to put together.

Coffee Sabayon with Cinnamon - from “Michel Roux – New Techniques from a French Master Chef” (with a variation by Catherine Wilkinson a Arizona Master…oh never mind)

1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee granules
¼ cup cold water
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. For your bain-marie, half-fill a saucepan that is large enough to hold a round-bottomed copper bowl or pan (or heatproof glass bowl) with warm water. Place the saucepan over a low heat.
2. Put the instant espresso and water into the bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to dissolve. Lightly whisk in the egg yolks, sugar, and cinnamon.
3. Place the bowl over the bain-marie and continue to whisk the mixture without stopping for 10 -12 minutes. It will thicken and increase dramatically in volume as air is incorporated. The Sabayon is ready when it is light, fluffy, and shiny, and thick enough to leave a dense ribbon when the whisk is lifted. The water in the bain-marie must not exceed 190 degrees F, or the sabayon will start to coagulate; the temperature of the Sabayon itself must not go above 150 degrees. If necessary, turn off or lower the heat as you whisk.
4. Serve the sabayon in glasses as soon as it is ready. Accompany with Orange Tuiles.

MERDE!!!! MY ARM!!!! I have whisked and whisked for so much longer than 10 minutes, Michel!!! Qu'est-ce que tu parles? I don't CARE! I am turning up the heat and don’t look at me with those poodle eyes!!!! I can’t take this endless whisking!!!! MERDE!

Students! It is IMPORTANT for you to determine the best temperature for this Sabayon to cook! Too low – nothing! Too high – egg salad!!! It will depend on your particular cooktop. Mine is electric (MERDE, MERDE, DOUBLE, FRICKIN' MERDE!!!!), so perhaps that is the problème. Once I cranked the heat up a notch, it whisked up beautifully. So fluffy, light, and shiny, just as Michel promised! Il est un success! (But, MERDE - that whisking! I have the biceps of Popeye!)

Students! You have heard of this American place, "
Cost Plus Marketplace"?? Il est magnifique!!! I have found there, the most interesting little chocolate shot cups.

How perfect for our finished Sabayon, yes? Take a close look, students…(and don’t breathe on them, pour l'amour du Christ!).

And now, we will address the slight issue of the failed Tuiles….we shall garnish our adorable little shots with the shards of broken dreams! Il est là!

Merci, les étudiants…merci, Michel! What a class today, no? I am worn out! MERDE! I need a nap! But, we have made a delightful dessert with very little ingredients and learned a bit more about the complexity of heat and whisking, no?

Rendez-vous demain, mes petits!


These kohlrabi bulbs look like freedom fighters from the Death Star.

I don’t think I’ve ever tasted one – but the local CSA is diligent about introducing us to new vegetables and techniques for preparing them. I have used their recipe for a kohlrabi salad, which was “purloined” from Deborah Madison, Queen of Vegetable Land. I found another recipe, that called for cream, butter, nutmeg and a gentle simmering to tenderize the somewhat tough kohlrabi, but I figured I should go for the raw version to see if I liked it. It was like – a combination of cabbage and turnip. Not unpleasant, good crunch, but next time, I’ll try the creamy, buttery version. The best part about this salad? Besides those wonderful Japanese Salad turnips? The vinaigrette is super excellent. It will go into the salad dressing rotation at my house. It’s really really REALLY good. So, take the vinaigrette recipe and put it somewhere….it’s an excellent slaw dressing.

This is a choice salad to accompany ribs, or some other slathered up hunk of meat.
Supposedly, you can cook up the kohlrabi tops, like chard, or turnip tops, but I'm just about topped out with the whole roughage thing. I'm thinking it's time for some sweet, sweet lovin' from the butter box.

Kohlrabi, Turnip, and Celery Salad with Mustard-Caper Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
3 tablespoons capers, well rinsed
2-3 trimmed and cleaned kohlrabi bulbs
3-4 trimmed and cleaned Japanese salad turnips
2-3 celery ribs and leaves
Assortment of lettuce/herbs

1. Combine vinegar, shallots, garlic, and some salt in a medium sized bowl. Let stand for about 15 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, cream fraiche. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking vigorously until mixture is thick and creamy. Set aside to mellow out.

2. Peel 2-3 kohlrabi bulbs and cut into fine julienne strips – peeling them reminds me of peeling ginger – a little tricky. Thinly slice the turnips. Peel and thinly slice celery ribs and chop leaves. Place vegetables in a bowl with a good mix of lettuces. Toss. Drizzle in vinaigrette to desired amount and toss. Or, plate salad first, then drizzle on the vinaigrette.

June 9, 2008


Hey. I just ate 6 fresh, hot flour tortillas straight from the woman who just opened a tiny tortilla shop nearby. And I ate them really fast, while making noises reminisce of a baby calf nursing. Because THERE IS NOTHING BETTER IN THIS WORLD THAN FRESH FLOUR TORTILLAS. Wrapped around some meat and cheese product is pretty good. But they are best with about a stick of butter, and some coarse sea salt.

So now I feel rather ill.

But it was so worth it! Back in the day, the day when I was a ramblin’, backpacking groovy kinda chick, hanging out at Mayan ruins in southern Mexico with nefarious characters, my main mission was to locate the best tortilla maker in the vicinity. When I found her (and it was always a woman, I never saw a guy make tortillas…muy mal!), I pretty much set up camp in her front yard with the chickens and waited for her to get to it. In southern Mexico, it was always corn tortillas, never, ever flour. Flour tortillas are pretty much a northern Mexico, south Texas thing. Whenever I would ask the tortilla lady if she could make flour tortillas, she gave me a look like I had just asked her to fry up her first born. I loved the corn tortillas….they were very small, thin, and sublime. I could eat a dozen at a time, no problem. I was hypnotized (or possibly a little dazed by the latest remedy for diarrhea from the Pharmacia) by the rhythmic slapping of the tortillas between her hands, then watching her quickly cook them, flipping them deftly with just one finger …there were no fancy tortilla presses, or spatulas. It remains, to me, the finest display of culinary skill I have ever seen.

But being from Arizona, I grew up gnawing on flour tortillas, (seriously, my Mom gave them to us when we were teething as babies!) and they remain my favorite. And when I can find someone who knows what they’re doing, I become an addict. I’ve made lots of my own over the years, some of the results pretty dang good. But nothing compares to the genetic wonderment and magic that flows from the hands of an accomplished Mexican woman (usually somewhere over the age of 102, with 3 dogs that hate me). Who refuses to speak English (even though she knows exactly what I’m asking for), slaps a warm dozen tortillas into a plastic bag, closing the bag with a twist that would snap the antenna off a border patrol truck, and barks the price in Spanish. And she has no change. Too bad for you, gringa! I pay up timidly, bowing all the way out of the tiny store. Once in the car, I can’t wait, and fold one into fourths, cramming it in my mouth. Ah, yes….the warm taste of flour, lard, ancient fry pans, salt, some sort of earthy slick, summer monsoons, and heaven.

The second tortilla was wrapped around a mix of ground venison, cilantro, jalapeno-smoked chorizo sausage, tomatillo salsa and Cotija cheese.

The third tortilla was buttered up and salted.

The fourth and fifth, with a little honey

The sixth is sitting here with me now – I’m tearing bits off as I type.

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty disgustingly full.

I hope somewhere, somehow, in some tiny tortilla shop next to a mercado selling beer and cashing checks, some wonderful tortilla lady will give you just that feeling.

June 6, 2008

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

I've had this jar of truffle honey for a while now. I'm a fan of truffles, when you can weasel them out of the chef. I had a special white truffle dinner at The Toque in Napa Valley and the chef actually came out and shaved a hunk of truffle all over my plate, after I kept bugging the waiter. It was a wonderfully decadent experience, however - have you ever burbed truffle? It quite quickly loses it's appeal. I'm not doing that again - a little goes a LONG way.

This honey has an odd flavor, at first taste - like licking a tire, (long story) but once it mellows out, very lovely. I really didn't know what to do with it, other than take a taste now and then and think of bicycles. I did read somewhere that it would be a good idea to smear it on some toasted bread, with some sparky, stinky cheese. That was OK tasting, but I really thought it could benefit from some heat. And some benign and non-assertive vegetable. How about those orange beets, I thought? (It's really some sort of circus in my brain as I ponder the stuff in the refrigerator - monkeys on bicycles, wearing a fez.) And those peaches that I've haven't had time to fiddle with - I was going to do a chicken with balsamic roasted peaches, but the chicken went south....very south. Like, maybe all the way to El Salvador. On a bus. With goats. Whew.

Now, my peaches were very ripe. I do think if you consider roasting them, it would be a nice technique with less ripe peaches. Mine got a bit mushy. Also, I would consider a light brushing of the honey on those beets, before roasting. The flavor of the honey drizzled on the finished beets was outstanding.

But ultimately, this was a really nice flavor combination. Nothing fancy (well, that Italian truffle honey cost enough to make the Spousal Unit yell at me using bad

words), but flavorful and satisfying.

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

1 bunch of beets, orange or yellow is best
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 white peaches, halved, pitted, but leave skin on
2-3 tablespoons honey (I used an Italian honey, infused with black truffle bits)
1 teaspoon peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1. Chop off tops of beets, cut into bite-sized pieces (removing any tough leaves) and set aside. Clean and trim beets, leaving them whole with skin on.
2. Place beets into small pan (I used a heavy bread pan) and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes or so, until a knife inserted into the largest beet slides in easily.
3. Meanwhile, brush cut sides of peaches with some of the honey. Heat the peanut oil over moderately high heat in a heavy, oven-proof skillet. Place peaches cut side down into skillet and caramelize those babies, until just turning brown. Place in oven, along side of beets for the last 6-8 minutes of roasting.
4. While the beets and peaches are finishing their roasting, heating the remaining olive oil in a sauté pan. Add garlic, sauté for a couple of minutes. Add chopped greens and sauté until nicely wilted and tender.
5. Serve the beets and peaches over the wilted greens and drizzle with a little more of the honey.

Serves 4

Beet Love

"Really, really, really want to shake your tree"

June 3, 2008

Portrait of An Artist As A Baker

Pity party officially OVER. Time for The Dish madcap hilarity and hi-jinxity!

I am quite the serious artist. I work mainly in sculpture. Oh, I’ll dabble in watercolor, but my first love is in the primitive desire to mold something out of some resistive medium. Take pie dough, for example. Yesterday, while making The Birthday Pie (so incredibly boring), I found myself with a lump of leftover dough. Instinctively, my hands began to shape the pliable Pillsbury into life. Because it was the Spousal Unit’s birthday, I had the brilliant inspiration, nay, the GENIUS idea to sculpt a bust of his likeness. Slowly, deliberately, his countenance came to life in my talented hands. I was struck with angst occasionally (much like Michelangelo during the David phase), but ultimately the brilliance burst forth! It’s an incredible likeness. I used cake decoration for the eyes and hair, but that was my only concession to anything but the raw power of the dough. The candy eyes capture the depth of his soul perfectly!

Behold….”Man on His Birthday”

Birthday Pie – “Apple Caramel Filling in a Pillsbury Pastry Adorned by Afro-American Dancers”


Pie pastry for two crusts – I’m sure you have a good recipe. If not, Google – there’s about 2 bazillion recipes out there. Me? I used refrigerated Pillsbury dough because I’m cranky AND lazy. Actually – don’t judge! It’s not bad! Especially if you have the need to sculpture!

About 6 cups golden delicious apples, cored, peeled and sliced
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup caramel ice cream topping

Milk for brushing top crust
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place the sliced apples into a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Toss gently.
3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir into apples
4. Stir in the heavy whipping cream and vanilla. Stir gently to coat apples.
5. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a large heavy sauté pan. Add apples and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the caramel sauce. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally for 6 more minutes or until apples are a bit tender.
6. Fit bottom crust into deep dish 9” pie pan. Turn cooked apples into shell. Top with other pastry crust – seal and crimp. Slash steam vents, brush with a little milk and sprinkle turbinado sugar/cinnamon mixture over top.
7. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove pie and cover edges of pie with strips of foil to prevent burning, lower heat to 350, and return to oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil during last 7-8 minutes of baking.
8. Cool on rack for at least half an hour before serving.

Since it was a birthday, it was necessary to decorate. I just love these two jiving hip-hoppers. I got them to decorate a cake I made a few years ago for an old man turning 72. Of course, it made no sense, which heightened my pleasure at watching his reaction!

It was almost as good as putting a Rabbi on top of a toddler’s bunny cake!

You can find the most awesome decorations at Pretty Party Place!!!!

This is how it always ends up, doesn't it?

June 2, 2008

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.

No, I wasn't in Bali last week, opening my day spa. I wish!

For most of last week, I was at my parent's house, helping out with my Mom, who is in the very final, heart-breaking stage of Alzheimer's. My sister came from San Francisco, and we spent a very good time with my Dad at his favorite Mexican food dive. (Jenny F - "El Charro"!) We also cleaned out the kitchen and pantry, getting rid of jelly jars from the 70's, eight million coffee cups (mostly painted gifts from the all the grand kids), and generally trying to be useful in a hopeless situation. We are very blessed that she can stay in their home, with 3 excellent rotating care-givers and Hospice. I found a telling letter from my Mom to her Aunt - she is relating her daughter's (me) propensity for not I think this was when I was planning to leave college, go off to some third world country with some hare-brained scheme, and generally being an ass. But, of course, she always sent me off on my wild tangents with gritted teeth support (and a check for $100), no matter what. No one else has quite understood me so unconditionally as my Mom. And no one else in my life restrained from saying "I told you so" like my Mom. She knew I was wrong and ridiculous, but she always told me to "do what you want, you'll never know otherwise".

Anyway, I'm just not in the mood for creative cooking. Or blogging. So I thought I'd post the wonderful email I got from Shanti, who runs Whipstone Farm, where I get my weekly dose of CSA nirvana. She sends an email every Monday, before pick-up on Tuesday. You might find it informative and inspiring. I sure the hell didn't know about turnip tops, did you? Just reading this makes me feel chipper! And like a farmer! I also found out that my great-great-great grandfather grew all the hay for the horses at Army forts in Northern Arizona during the conflict with the Apaches in the late 1800's. That must have been some scary ass agriculture! And I think it's a big, bad deal when I find a tomato slug.

"Well, it has been a busy week, and the future holds more of the same! We are finally transplanting all the warm crops out and hopefully this finicky weather doesn't decide to turn cold again. We had a small crew of volunteers yesterday (about 5) and with a full day, hopefully by the end of today we should have all the peppers (and maybe the eggplants) set in the ground, with the tomatoes, tomatillos and melons to follow in the next few days. Cucumbers and summer squash (seeded about 1 1/2 weeks ago) are already poking their little leaves out of the ground.
Following is the list of veggies in your CSA bag this week:

Japanese salad turnips


Beets (Red or golden)

Head lettuce

Swiss chard


Dried chiles (Chile de arbol)


Some thoughts on the vegetables: The turnips will have awesome tops this week. They are great raw in your salad or sauteed and put in with your cooked turnips. But remember to remove your tops from your roots before your store them in the fridge (this goes for the beets and radishes too). The radishes: we have a few different types out there, some red, some pink, and then the easter eggs. Easter egg radishes are a mixture of red, purple, pink and white and for some reason I just love the analogy in the name. The radishes are getting a little spicier. Radishes are best in taste and texture in the spring, and as the weather gets warmer they get spicier. Some people love them this way, though. We will still have radishes on and off for the next month, but by July, it is just too hot. Some other ideas for eating radishes. Sliced thin on buttered bread (these radish sandwhiches are dainty and almost fit for a tea party - maybe the kids will go for them). Or, slice radishes, cucumbers, maybe avocado or tomatoes and add some olive oil, vinegar and salt, they make a good base for a non-lettuce salad. The chiles you will be getting are dried from last season, they are small red peppers that store great. They are called nippon taka or chile de arbol peppers (you will see little bags of these in the mexican section of the grocery store under this name). They are spicy, but not too spicy (the really spicy ones will be showing up later in the summer). I use these peppers all winter in salsa. I just take a can of tomato sauce, add a few cloves of garlic, about 3-10 chiles depending on your heat preference, and a little water and blend it up. Place the salsa in a bowl and add chopped green onions and cilantro (which you are getting this week too). It isn't the same as salsa with fresh tomatoes but it tastes pretty good. The lettuce: we call all lettuce that isn't cut baby stuff "head lettuce". Some people refer to iceberg as head lettuce and get confused by our terminology. But we don't grow that tasteless iceberg junk, so when you see head lettuce on the list, it could mean any number of different kinds of lettuce that are full grown and all connected at the base. This week there will be green romaine and red and green summer crisp (also called bativian) to choose from. You will be seeing all of these varieties often this summer as they do especially well in the Arizona heat. Many other varieties of lettuce just can't handle the heat at all; they get bitter and they bolt too fast. Everyone knows romaine makes great Caesars salad. The summer crisp also has a very crunchy rib to it, which I personally like a lot. They make great lettuce wraps. Just cook up a little stir fry, put a hefty spoonful into a lettuce leaf and wrap it like a little burrito. Make a dipping sauce with things like soy, miso, or whatever. It is a really fun dish.That's it for now. Remember your bags and don't forget we have Rebecca Routson's eggs for sale. (I will be elaborating on the benefit of these eggs next week!)"

I'll post tomorrow about the stupid apple pie I'm making for my husband's birthday today. Not a nice frosted, cute cake, but a pie. What is it about these damn pies??? I can't make a pie to save my life, but that's all anyone ever wants from me. Pie!

Creative Commons License
"The Dish" by Catherine Wilkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.