28 January 2014

Tamal Azteca

It was a dark and stormy night ... and supper needed to be hearty and filling. Enough sweeping and shoveling snow! We made up the fires, dried out the mittens, put on the warm slippers and heavy sweaters and dipped into a steaming vegetable casserole with the biggest serving spoon in the drawer.

Bowls of Tamal Azteca and balloons of deep red Rioja - that's all. Until we were full and happily warmed from the inside as nicely as we were by the woodstove fires. Sunday suppers should be that warming on a snowy winter night, don't you think?

27 January 2014

An Aside ...

Okay folks ... in the ultimate 'play with your food' exercise AND in welcoming the Olympics, check it out! I may be a citizen of the United States, but I would love to be an honorary citizen of the UK if that plate of food came to the banquet table!

Check it! Got some extra jams and jellies in your fridge? Get creative and make your own tea time flag !


26 January 2014

Meringues Four Ways - IHCC Potluck

It's been weeks since I contributed anything to the I Heart Cooking Club's weekly share and I apologize for that! Sometimes life just gets in the way, I guess. I'm back this week with a fun Donna Hay recipe that gives me the basic how-to of making meringues. These lighter than air sweet treats are going to be used in four different ways over the next week ... this basic recipe is my contribution to this week's IHCC Pot Luck. I'm trying to do a bit of catch-up. Originally, they were meant to be the offering for the Time for Tea recipe share, but I just got so busy travelling and puttering on some other projects that blogging went by the boards. Thank goodness for Potluck week!

23 January 2014

Short Reads with MFK Fisher - Random Recipes

                                                                                                                                     Image by: Carla Porter

The tree is on the brush pile and the snow is still coming down

Christmas has come and gone. I am slowly and sparingly working my way through the books that came wrapped in paper and bows. One of them, An Alphabet for Gourmets, has given me small readings that I have enjoyed before bed or first thing in the morning with my hot coffee. Its author, MFK Fisher, led such an interesting life. Fisher, the daughter of a newspaper editor, came to writing early in life and despite forays into writing for her father's paper and trying to write novels, it was her frank, witty, and sometimes sensuous descriptions of food and food culture that brought her fame and a very distinguished circle of culinary friends.

And speaking of culinary friends ....

The Random Recipe challenge this month was to open one of the food-oriented books one received at Christmas and make what one finds. Well, I happened on MFK Fisher's discussion on 'Quantity' - a lesson in discretion. Here, Fisher admonishes cooks to learn the rules before you break them. She pokes fun at her childish attempt to make Hindu Eggs, a warm variation on Deviled Eggs that have the yolk filling flavoured with curry powder. They were perfectly flavoured when she had them made by her mother. When she made them, however, her love of curry powder caused her to think 'more is better'. The lesson here is ... more (curry powder:quantity) is not necessarily better when it comes to spices, sauces, herbs, et cetera. Learning that favorite flavours become 'favorite' because of their nuanced presence in different dishes was a key experience for MFK. Later in life, though, she also learned that once one has made the recipe and perfected technique, one can experiment and she uses the old peasant dish called Roasted Kasha as an example. Her love of the grain and its subtle nuttiness leads her to heighten that flavour by roasting it longer to a nutty brown before adding broth and simmering it to slowly soften it. She loves the combination of nuttiness and butter flavours, so she added far more butter than the traditional preparation recommends. In this case, 'more is better' as far as MFK's concerned.

See the whole groats vs the mid-grind groats? MFK swears by whole groats

22 January 2014

An Aside ...

I was just standing quietly in the kitchen moments ago, staring aimlessly toward the wood stove fire. It's really cold today and I was thinking about summertime. Looking over the accumulated detritus on the mantle above the stove, I spied a bunch of tarragon that I'd stuck above the stove's warmth to dry. How long ago was that, I wondered ?

Well, I snatched the clump and shook it a bit to free up any dust, blew on it some more, and brought it to the counter top. A gentle crumble took the leaves right off the twiggy stalks and the most incredible scent filled the air. Tarragon! Into the spice jar and ready to use ... it is ten times more pungent than any dry stuff that comes in jars from the spice aisle at the market, albeit perhaps with a bit of dust in the bargain.

Golly, my hands smell like summertime gardens! What a happy accident for a cold winter day!

Ten minutes later-

Just so you're not grossed out, I've wracked my brain and that bunch of tarragon went up on the mantle two weeks ago ... a fresh batch that I bought for some roasted chicken.  I knew you'd feel better.

20 January 2014

Gooey Pork, Slippery Greens and Mushrooms ...

This is the weather for cozy suppers - ones that are full of heat and spice and that warm you to the cockles of your heart. Now, normally I think of cozy comfort food as something in a bowl with steam rising up and around my face, enveloping me in a heady scent. Yeah. Total comfort and a sauna besides. A total sensory experience that calls back far off memories of home and hearth.

19 January 2014

My Love Affair with Nigel Slater ...

It all started when I got a copy of Nigel Slater's memoir called Toast out of my little public library. I curled up with tea, toast, and Nigel's memories. You've gotta love a kid that truly appreciates food and the making of food, and the sublime sensory imprints that certain foods put on the brain and the heart. I was immediately smitten with Nigel and left that book happy for him when he made the move away from his 'oh so English, stuffy, backwater home' and out into the world.

Then, the movie adaptation came out and of course, I viewed it. And guffawed at Helena Bonham Carter's sassy ass sashaying around the house and bending over that oven door. A sweet adaptation that hit all the highlights, but the book was better and that's all I'll say on THAT.

And yes, on further investigation, I learned that Nigel Slater turned out 'just fine'. Take the boy out of a stiff and stifled family life, let him spread his wings...  and it's amazing the wonderful things he can accomplish! God, if Nigel Slater EVER reads this post, I hope he doesn't take offense at my overly frank impression of his early life. That being said, he has gone on to much better and more fulfilling things than trying to outdo his father's second wife in the kitchen.


15 January 2014

Two Words ...

.... Bookstore Pearl ....

... Icy Swirl ...

... Buttery Roast ...

... Warm (as) Toast ...

... Butterscotch Treat ...

Birthday! Sweet!

SB 'celebrated' his birthday yesterday afternoon, while I made him a special batch of Butterscotch Ice Cream with Salted Pecans ... it's a tough life, folks! Recipe follows ...

10 January 2014

Kaleidoscopic Cups and Savory Muffins ....

It's amazing the gadgets and nifty little kitchen items there are in the world these days! Who would think that I could get a charge out of these little silicone muffin cups ... but I do ... now.  First of all, they came to me free and clear from the people at New York Baking Company, and anything free is like manna from heaven to a Yankee like me!

08 January 2014

Virtual Supper Club - Retro Food

They say that everything old is new again ... music styles, clothing trends, political trends, graphics in media, and yes, food trends! Well, this month's Virtual Supper Club just goes to show you that some of the recipes from our mother's cookbooks are coming back around the dinner table and they are glorious!

Looking at this small platter of endive spears and curried crabmeat salad, I feel like I should have a crinoline-poofed house dress, spiky heels, a headband in my flipped shoulder-length hair, and super-defined lipstick. Just call me Donna Reed because with this plate of retro, tussy-mussy small bites, I can see myself at a 60's neighborhood cocktail party. Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra make the play list, the guys are making the cocktails and pouring a snappy, crisp white wine and I am circulating the party, passing these small bites. Totally delish and totally easy to make ... but don't tell anyone.

This month's Virtual Supper Club's theme is 'Retro Food'. When I typed in retro food, I  had a ball looking at molded Jello salads, warming dishes filled with Swedish meatballs and warm shrimp dip, high towers of olives and cold shrimp pinned in place with jazzy toothpicks and surrounded by parsley sprigs, holiday party platters filled with 'dressed up' Vienna sausages and stuffed olives. There was even a faux crown roast made with hotdogs ... yeah, hotdogs. Then, I happened upon a photo gallery of retro hors d'oeuvres posted by Saveur's on-line magazine. A look through brought me to this recipe.

Simple, easy to lighten up calorie-wise, and very light on the palate. A perfect start to a meal, I thought. To boot, not an assault on the sensibilities! Ha!

04 January 2014

Chicken and Chickpea Curry

A cold day, stick-to-your-ribs dinner with a just enough spice to heat you from the inside out ... no fuss ... just a slow cook in a heavy pan with a pot of rice steaming alongside. Two burners cooking supper throw a bit more heat into the cold, drafty house. 

Foodies Read 2014 ... Food and Books !

One of my resolutions for the year is to read a book, article, essay, poem, whatever from each of the recognized literary genres ... it may sound like a 'geeky' thing to do, but what can I say? I'm a reader who is always trying to stretch myself a bit. Anyway, I was browsing the blogs today and came across this intriguing reading challenge. 

Check it out! Reading foodie books! Cook books, food policy, memoirs, food history, novels where food plays a part in plot, biographies of famous foodies ... there are bunches of possibilities! To boot, it plays well with my on-line activities and with my new year resolution. What's not to like ? 

So ... I have cast around for several books to put on a reading list and voila ! I'm jumping on board! Wanna come along? Check out the link I've provided and read for yourself how you can become a part of this years Foodies Read 2014 Challenge.

I'm trying to be eclectic here, as I'm going across genres ... what do you think? See any interesting titles? I'm psyched! I'm well into Nigel Slater's book right now and Luke Barr's Provence 1970 is on my bedside table. Marco Pierre White intrigues me, seeming to be a dangerous and unpredictable personality; his the devil in the kitchen memoir may be a 'toss-away', but I'm going to try it anyway. A Feast of Ice and Fire will feed my obsession with Martin's fantasy series and Like Water for Chocolate is a re-read of one of my favorite novels. Both Babette's Feast and Like Water for Chocolate will be followed by screenings of the film adaptations. The other titles are totally new to me. 

It's going to be a delicious year! Here's a link to investigate this foodie challenge.

03 January 2014

Everybody's Doin' It ... the 2013 Foodie Round-Up

New Year's Day is for looking back, even as one looks forward. I've been seeing so many bloggers looking back on their 2013 blogging year to choose their finest, tastiest, most amazing foodie pride moments. I wasn't going to do that and then I got thinking ... I've made some amazingly good dishes this past year and I have not returned to remake many of them because  I was too busy moving on to the next good thing. I have decided to go back and choose one of the recipes from each month of the year and make it again. Sometime during the next couple months or whenever I can get the ingredients (should 'seasonal ingredients' be a huge issue), the following meals will be repeated.

And to keep me honest ... here's the list ... pictures, links and a few words of comment for posterity's sake. Think of it as my list of  Foodie New Year's Resolutions. So here we go ...

January 2013 

... Note to Self: make half the recipe ! ...

February 2013

... savory quick bread at its finest ...

March 2013
Spring Greens Salad with New Hampshire Maple Syrup Mustard Vinaigrette

... fresh greens when you REALLY appreciate them ...

April 2013
Sun-Dried Tomato and Garlic Hummus

... guilt-free snacking ... anyone have a good gluten-free bread stick recipe? ...

May 2013
Simon Hopkinson's Lemon Surprise Pudding

... Note to Self: must research this guy even more ! ...

June 2013
Strawberry Shortcakes

.... well, HERE'S a no-brainer!  Bring 'em on! ...

July 2013
Pan-Seared Lemon Pepper Swordfish with Orecchiette and Peas

.... perfect seafood sear with melt in your mouth pasta ...

August 2013
Stuffed Portabellas with Melting Fontina (or Tallegio)

... small bite bliss ...

September 2013
Viennese Potatoes

... a perfect potato side dish ...

October 2013
Gluten-Free Chai-Spiced Cheesecake with Spiced Apples

... gorgeous use of apples and spices !!! ...

November 2013
Pizza with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers, and Rosemary

... who knew capers on pizza could be so darn good ?!? ...

December 2013
Prawn, Chili, and Coriander Pasta

...Note to Self: investigate the gluten-free corn pasta suggestion that Kim made ... thanks, Kim! ...

So, there you have it ... some of the best of what I made this past year. Looking at the list, I see a few dishes that are loaded with glutens ... and glutens have been bothering me of late. Hence, I will try to get some gluten-free options into the pantry so I can make them again. If I can't, I won't lie, I'll splurge and make the 'real deal' recipe. Life's too short to pass up some of these dishes.

Happy New Year, dear readers! Have a tasty year, but don't forget the good stuff in the archives!