Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Celtic New Year
Now, I'm going to sit down and wait for the second rise.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Fresh Corn Bread and Onion Wine Jam
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Years ago (and really, I mean years) there was a wonderful farm way the hell out in the middle of nowhere on Rt. 22 in Illinois (way west of Deerfield, which wasn't the booming metropolis it is today but rather a sort of unremarkable backwater). Gosh, you'd think I could at least remember the name of the place, but I'm not sure I ever knew it. Every fall, We'd drive for what seemed like forever in the backseat of my parent's 1968 Mercury (a green so dark and sparkly it almost looked black) to go get apples and pumpkins, as I choked on second hand smoke from both adults and my teenaged sister-smoke that mingled with my mother's heavily applied Azure perfume. What? You don't remember Azure? It was horrendous, but it came in a gorgeous bottle (Estee Lauder was all over the beautiful bottles back then. Mum had previously worn Youth Dew but felt compelled to give it up when our housekeeper took to wearing it (I guess a fragrance tends to lose its cachet once the cleaning ladies embrace it). Anyway, between Pall Malls and Estee Lauder's latest assault, it seemed like a pretty long drive into the wilds of North West Chicagoland. Vernon Hills? Was that it? I'm sorry, for the life of me I can't remember the name of the place nor the town-not that it matters as the place is long, long gone.
I could spot the orchard from a few miles off as they had a gigantic Jack-O-Lantern atop their silo. You couldn't really miss it as there wasn't much of anything else around. Wait...Koppens? Could that be the name? Meuller's? Damn this early senility. Anyway, I'd see the giant pumpkin and know that fresh air was only a couple of miles down the road.
Free of the smoke chamber, my first stop was the barn where they had both hot apple cider and apple cider doughnuts. Years later, living in Massachusetts, we'd go to the Big E (Eastern States Exposition) pretty much so I could re-live this happy memory by gorging on cider and cider doughnuts. They were good, but not even close to the treats of my childhood.
I don't remember if my sister was partial to the doughnuts or not, but our mother was. Clearly, not the best thing for a diabetic with cardiac problems, but eh-it was a once a year binge. Oh, those doughnuts were really good. They sold apple and pumpkin butter that were pretty fantastic as well.
My mother wasn't a baker, but you know, we'd driven all this way out into the country so it was almost obligatory to buy a few apples. She'd bring them home and bake them in (I really do wish I were making this up) diet ginger ale and cinnamon hearts. She'd hollow the apples out and plunk exactly three tiny candies into each and fill it with ginger ale. The apples would then be baked to a pulp. Mmmm...memories...almost as good as the skinless chicken breasts stewed in V-8 Juice. Anyway, we'd get a few apples that were too special to simply eat, that would instead be subjected to my mother's idea of baking.
When I saw the recipe for cider doughnuts in this month's issue of Gourmet, a little voice went off in my head saying "Don't." I'm a firm believer in trusting one's gut feelings. The minute I begin making excuses, or trying to ignore it-I'm doomed. I made the doughnuts. Or I tried to anyway.
Reading the recipe, it sounded screwy to me, particularly not chilling the dough for a couple hours, which is normal with cake doughnuts. There were so many poorly conveyed directions and just outright wrong directions that I feel confident that the recipe was not tested prior to publishing. What I got, from following the directions was a sticky mess that even with a well-floured cutter was impossible to cut. I added close to 1 cup more flour than the recipe called for, and it was still impossible to work with. The doughnuts were heavy, bland, (save for too much cinnamon which overpowered any hint of boiled cider flavour) and not very attractive (I gave up and cut them with a small juice glass forgoing the holes).
OK, I'm being a bit harsh-they weren't inedible (though they would have been if I'd not added the flour) but they also weren't special. These were not the cider doughnuts of my youth-they weren't even the second-rate cider doughnuts of my early adulthood. For third rate cider doughnuts, I don't need a subscription to Gourmet-I could have improvised much better on my own (and I'm going to prove this by trying them again next Sunday).
On the other hand, it did provide me with an excuse to make boiled cider syrup, which makes the house smell wonderful-or it would have had the stupid, insipid cinnamon not overpowered it.
This is not the first time Gourmet has published a horribly off recipe-but the frequency with which they are happening is notable. I'm really disappointed, not only with the doughnuts, but with the subscription in general. Clearly, I won't be renewing. The magazine has a long history, and maybe in a decade it will be safe to return to its pages again, but for now I think this is going to be the last thing I prepare from Gourmet's pages for a while. My gut feeling is screaming to be heeded.
Anyone have a good recipe for cider doughnuts?
Friday, October 26, 2007
Meatless, Tomatoless, Pizza (Sort Of)
Sour Cream Poppy Seed Cake
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Odd Food Combinations
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Apple Raisin Crumble
We're still feeling a bit wobbly (as in sick, not the IWW, not that there's anything wrong with the IWW) and had exactly four apples in the house-which is all you need to make this wonderful fruit crumble. I made the ice cream as well (1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup 1% milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 3/4 cup sugar). For dinner, I have a pot of chicken soup (why yes, I will be making matzo balls...gosh, stereotypes don't occur in a vacuum, eh?) and some stale bread. I do hope I'm feeling better soon, this cold has really been something else.
Recipe From Granny Stark's Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier
You Will Need:
4 medium sized apples
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and grease a 2 quart baking dish.
Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices. Combine with the raisins, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, orange rind, orange juice and allspice in the baking dish.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Spread atop the apples and raisins. Bake aprox. 30 minutes, or until browned on top.
Best served warm with cream or ice cream.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Chocolate Cornstarch Custard
The recipe comes from the 1950 edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook.
You Will Need:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 squares chopped, unsweetened chocolate
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a heavy saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, chocolate and egg. Slowly stir in the milk. Over medium heat, keep stirring (or whisking) until it comes to a boil. Cook one additional minute making sure to keep the custard moving in the pot. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla and beat smooth. Pour into cups and press plastic over each to prevent a skin forming. Cool slightly, then refrigerate. Makes 4-5 servings
Vicious, You Hit Me With A Flower
I'm still alive; though I have a severe cold that has me thinking I may be teetering near death. It seems to last a couple of days at its worst, and then hang in there with some additional yuckiness to kick your butt. Yesterday, at what about the worst of my cold (and Danny's) we run up to the store for a couple of items (soft tissues, anyone?) and Danny manages to knock his head in the same exact spot he'd klunked it a few hours earlier (on the corner of the dining room table). Now seriously, what are the odds? I swear it must be something in my family as I once broke my arm twice in the same day. * Well, they say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree (and if it does, its sure to break an arm or bruise its noggin).
It was probably the fluorescent lights in the place, but the goose egg was looking pretty terrible, so off we went to the small country hospital down the street…that had closed that very day. They never did say when the new building would be opening, but as we discovered as we drove down the road to the lavish new digs-yesterday was the first day of business, and Danny the first patient. I dunno, he should get a plaque or something, don't you think?
Mind you, I was a wreck seeing his forehead turn purple, but the child was in positively wonderful spirits. He'd been to his paediatrician the day prior for an earache, so he was ready to instruct the doctor where to put the stethoscope and how to find the penguins in his ears. Every doctor jokes with children about something in their ears when they have a look. Be it puppy dogs, potatoes, what have you, it must be something they teach in medical school as a way to distract children. My son, he's particular about what resides in his ears and corrected both doctors promptly about the contents therein. What can I say, my boy is partial to penguins and a good thing too as they tend to hide in my bed and stockpot. It's true. They get everywhere. Now me? I'm awful shy of penguins-just don't like them a bit, so my son checks my bed for me, looking beneath the covers and pillows making sure they aren't hiding. Sometimes, they like to hide in my big stockpot so he will step in, lift the lid and yell "hey you guys, mama said to beat it", so I can proceed with whatever I was doing. Right, so if there's anything in the kid's ears, odds are pretty good it is penguins.
When my little chatterbox sees the doctor walk in (whom they had to page at home to come in-I told you it was a small town) she was still wearing sweats and a t-shirt with a motorcycle on it which led to my son exclaiming "The lady doctor is wearing a motorcycle shirt". Everyone thought this was adorable save perhaps for the doctor who probably has had more than her share of "lady" comments over the years from less innocent mouths. She looked him over, said he looked fine and didn't want to stick us with a big bill for unnecessary x-rays. We had our list of things to watch for and did the waking-up every four hours just in case of concussion. He's fine. Between poking himself in the eye with a fly swatter and this, I'm ready to make the kid wear a helmet and kneepads around the clock. I don't know what I'm going to do when he's older and wants a skateboard or something.
Most kids, when they're not feeling well get sort of sullen and quiet, but Danny just becomes more of a chatterbox than usual and sometimes begins singing and making up songs. It's cute how he can take the melody of Ode To Joy and add words until he's singing (not making this up, dear God, I wish I were)
…They have drills and
All of the things I really like
Cause I like to go to Shop-Ko
When I sing the Ode To Shop-Ko.
He does that. I suppose everyone does, to a certain degree when we can't remember the words. Sometimes you just get the lyrics wrong like my husband who always thought Bad Moon On The Rise was "There's A Bathroom On The Right" (apparently, that's a common mis-understood lyric). I sing to Danny quite a bit, and whenever we go out in the car, we listen to my old cassette tapes. One of my son's very favourite tapes is part of a multi cassette set of Lou Reed recordings that cover the stuff from Velvet Underground up through the mid-80's, all the songs you'd expect like Caroline Sez, Satellite Of Love, Sweet Jane. The one that my kid just adores is "Vicious" because he thinks the chorus is funny:
"Vicious, you hit me with a flower
You do it every hour,
Oh baby you're so vicious."
OK, not the best recording on the tape, but I don't mind re-winding and playing it again and again for him. With any luck, one of these days it will break and I'll be back to listening to Richard Hell's version of Chinese Rock.
As I already pointed out, the child likes to sing and when he's not feeling his best, we're apt to hear him sitting back in his room playing with matchbox cars and singing. As a parent, this is great because I sort of know what he's doing without going all the way to the other end of the house to check every five minutes. He has a short bookcase that he likes to line up all his little cars atop and play with them. I'm not sure what brought me back there, but I hear him singing Vicious, only he's changed the lyrics to:
Vicious, you gave your mama headaches
You do it every hour
Oh baby you're so vicious…vicious…vicious
*When I was in preschool we took a field trip to some park with a very large slide and I broke my arm falling off at the bottom. The teacher did not believe I was hurt (I seem to recall her waving it around to prove to me it was not broken) so the trip continued. On the way back to the school, we had to stop at one of the children's houses to see a bird's nest in the doorway. We all trudged up the front steps to see the bird's nest and I was knocked backward down the steps where I fell a second time on the broken arm. This had lead to years of jokes about breaking my arm in two places, literally.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Baccala With Red Peppers, Olives and Roasted Potatoes
Salt cod has a bad reputation, largely due to its association as a food of deprivation. With the price of cod these days, even the salted variety, it can now safely be thought of as a luxury food. Still not convinced? Conjures up too many images of boiling cauldrons of chowder ladled over hardtack? Relax, I'm going to show you a recipe that reflects neither Newfoundland thrift, nor the Scandinavian tendency to cook with lye. This is a salt cod recipe you can manage to both prepare, and eat.
Last year (about this time, actually) I made Brandade and used it to spread on toast and as a filling for ravioli. I rather like it, but two people can only eat so much of it-and a little goes a very long way. The baccala however, went fast. This recipe should serve six but instead I had one nugget sized piece of fish and well, we all know who finished the rest of the platter (and it wasn't Danny). That sort of shocked me, though the dish is considerably lighter than brandade. It sort of reminded me of my dad when the family would go out for Friday fish fry (this used to be a big deal in the Midwest-all you can eat fried fish and chips. Now you only see it during Lent, if at all though when I was young (a million years ago) every Friday was meatless for Catholics. So anyway, my dad would tell the waitress to just skip the potatoes and cole slaw and bring him fish three at a time so he wouldn't have to keep flagging her down. Mind you, my dad did pretty hard physical work all day making deliveries so it wasn't like 5,000 calories was just going to sit there (though he was a pretty large man). He could easily down ten pieces of fried fish and then stop for ice-cream on the way home (he used to walk to the corner drugstore every night after dinner for a pint of ice-cream until my mother put a stop to it). What was my point? Oh yeah, if you're serving this to a man with a hearty appetite, don't count on leftovers. I'm sure a woman could devour a pound and a half of salt cod, but I've got to think even if she could, she would have more sense. I'm sure that's why God put women on Earth-to keep men from eating until they throw up-like dogs...except dogs sometimes eat their vomit...but anyway, you get the idea.
You Will Need:
1 1/2 pounds (about) salt cod, soaked two days (with water changed 2-3 times each day)
1 finely chopped carrot
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion,finely minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup marinated red pepper cut into slices
8 oil cured olives
8 large green olives
1/4 cup capers, rinsed well
olive oil for frying
flour for dredging
1 cup chopped parsley
2 cups hot water
pepper to taste
Roasted potatoes or rice to serve with
In a pot of boiling water, cook the baccala for about eight minutes. Drain. Dry well on a towel. Cut into chunks and dredge in flour. Fry in pan with olive oil until browned. Set aside.
In a large, heavy pot cook the carrot, celery and onion in a bit of olive oil until browned. Add the tomato paste, peppers, olives, capers, wine and half a cup of the hot water. Bring to a boil and cook a few minutes to slightly reduce and burn off the alcohol. Add the baccala, cover with sauce and sprinkle with parsley. Slowly add 2-3 ladles of hot water . Cover and simmer very slowly for 1 1/2-2 hours. Keep checking to make sure the sauce doesn't dry out (add more water if needed).
While baccala cooks, either roast potatoes or make rice. A good crusty bread is also nice to soak up sauce.
Before serving, remove to a platter and then heat the remaining liquid at boiling until it thickens. Pour sauce over fish, vegetables and potatoes/rice. Serve hot, and try not to eat a pound and a half of salt cod in one sitting (mama sez even if you don't get a bellyache, it isn't smart).
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Two More Views Of The Concord Grapes
Chili With Beef And Beans
Concord Grape Mini Pies
tempted to try it out as haircolour, were I twenty years younger.
The filling recipe will make one 8 inch pie, or about a dozen mini-pies. I opted for less pies and kept the extra filling for ice cream topping.
It occurred to me that a peanut-butter crust would turn these into mini PBJ pies (maybe next time).
You Will Need:
4 cups Concord grapes
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
Remove skins from grapes (just squeeze them, they slip right out) reserving skins. Place the grapes in a small pot and bring to a boil. As they cook, use a potato masher to break them up. Let cook about two minutes, remove from heat and place through a food mill (or sieve) while still hot. Discard seeds.
Return grapes to pan with the skins, and everything else. Bring back to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly. Boil 1-2 minutes, or until thickened. Remove to a bowl and chill before using.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I Hope You Enjoyed Dining On My Cashmere Blazer
After the mouse episode in the crawl space, I held my breath and opened another seldom-used closet. Though not quite as bad (probably due to a lack of food) they did manage to completely destroy a few items of clothing. I know they climb, but it seems so strange that a mouse would want to climb up a dress, a suit and a fragile antique lace blouse, to nibble gigantic holes. It actually looks more shredded. Gosh, I'm heartsick over this.
Over the years, I've really all but stopped buying clothes figuring what I had would last a lifetime (…and it would have, blah, blah). Only today, as I realised the jacket I was wearing had (numerous) moths holes, did it dawn on me that I've become old. Too old to see properly to put on makeup (and yes, I forgo blush lest I sport the typical old lady unblended line straight up the cheekbones…if I had cheekbones) haven't had a professional haircut in over five years, shoes have holes, can't see well enough to tweeze those few hairs that have decided to sprout on my chin (yes, really. Just wait till your estrogen ups and leaves) and so on. I don't know, in the back of my mind, I figured I at least had a few nice items to wear, should I ever need to do more than clean piss up off the floor, or pick up groceries at No Frills. Seeing the destruction made me terribly sad-silly as it sounds (and it is actually being kind of silly) those clothes were the last nice things I'll ever own. I know that. Even if we could afford to replace them, I wouldn't. Ideologically, it no longer fits in my life-I couldn't very well go indulge in expensive clothing when I know people who are eating from dumpsters. Odds are, I wouldn't have ever worn most of these things again because I'd be embarrassed that they seem ostentatious. Sooner or later, I'd have given them away-seems a shame that the mice should get them first though.
This came on a day when I was already feeling pretty lousy, physically (which is of course, a great time to go clean a closet, eh?). Regular readers will attest-I am not even close to being thin-skinned. I routinely dish it out, and in return, do a fairly good job of taking it. I don't take Internet things personally; because they are not personal-even less so when I have to take crap from total strangers. That said, and again-I think this just fits into a very long couple of weeks and being a bit run-down, I just about put my fist through the computer this afternoon.
I made the unbearably stupid mistake of commenting on something in our inane newspaper. The story was about a traffic accident that resulted in a fatality. I noted that I frequently pass the area and it is indeed dangerous, and advised people should be cautious there. The story was shortly thereafter updated to indicate more details, and it turns out the accident was about a mile down the same road. Oh my God! There was a factual error in my comment. Slap me upside the head and call me moron, I will have zero credibility from now on. This lead to (weirdly) someone else posting to correct me (in MY name) and another poster all but calling me an idiot for not reading the article.
I'm furious that I'm furious over a fucktard comment from someone I don't even know. Believe me, this stuff never so much as irritates me in passing. Today, it did (for like, fifteen seconds-but still, I'm pissed that he/she got even that much of a rise out of me). So yes, I'll learn how to read a newspaper, and while I'm at it, I'll write to the University that had the poor judgment to issue me not one, but two degrees. Maybe they'll permit me to sell them back-I could use the money.
I'll tell you this, I'm afraid to open any more closets. I need to go upstairs and unpack my winter clothes, which are in sealed plastic tubs. If I find those gnawed and pried open, I'm moving back to Boston, where the rats stick to eating garbage.
Quick, someone please tell a joke or something in the comments thread before the mood around here gets too self-pitying.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The Quilt That Wouldn't End
Highlights From My Afternoon
"Can you have sundae on a Tuesday?"
(playing with my Nantucket basket necklace)"What's in there? Is there cheese in there?" (and then, loudly so all the old folks having lunch could hear) "Are there cheese maggots in there?" (proud, "That's my boy" moment there).
(Looking at pies in glass case) "That's a cherry pie, that's apple pie...what's that pie mama? Oh, that's cheesecake. Cheesecake is very good and very tasty. Mama will make cheesecake after she cans pears."
(To waitress) "The grocery store was out of Ball jars. The drug store was out of Ball jars. We need Ball jars. Mama has to go to Lincoln for Ball jars to make pears. Mama will make cheesecake."
"Two kinds of syrup!"
"The kitchen by the bathroom is where the mama bakes pies. This bathroom is by the kitchen,"
"I have to go...right now."
"I have to go again."
Me: This ice cream is pretty much melted now Danny."
Danny: (grabbing the dish) Danny will eat it. Danny will eat it." (shoots mama a "back off of my ice-cream" look).
(announces loudly to entire place) "Ice cream is very tasty...mama necklace has cheese maggots!"
(leaving) "Thank you, Danny really enjoyed that."
Monday, October 15, 2007
Lentil Soup, Harrisburg Style
Sunday, October 14, 2007
They Really Did Build A Better Mousetrap
Eillien's Candies, Green Bay,WI
Friday, October 12, 2007
But I Like Lutefisk
The maggot infested cheese would have made my mum laugh. She worked for a cheese company in the 50's at the corporate office. Every once in a while, this elderly, Italian delivery man would bring an infested cheese back for a refund. He'd walk in and plop the crawling cheese down on her desk, even though she'd plead with him not to. She had no problem giving him a credit without proof, but he still felt compelled to prove the cheese was infested with maggots. Anyway, I think she'd have laughed at a Sardinian delicacy of sheep's milk cheese with leaping maggots.
I was so not going to link this to a cooking blog, but then I figured "eh, what the hell."