Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Went To A Model Railroad Convention... Iowa.

Since I know Raymond will bring it up, yes I did think of renting Track 29, but there's nowhere around here that would have it. But I did think of it. There, now we all know what a terrible, terrible person I am.

Not surprisingly, there were more adults there than children, and they were mostly of the creepy-middle aged-don't-get-out-much variety. It was awesome! I love creepy middle aged people that play with model trains.

So, what did you do this weekend? Anything good? I have the flower show tomorrow, that should be fun.

Gee Whiz, I Was Only Kidding

I think someone took the April Fool's joke I published in '04 a bit too seriously. Here's the Article, and below is my April Fool's Post. You decide. I mean...right down to the snark about self-esteem.

Austerity Measures

Due to a shortfall in the Nebraska state budget, many schools are finding it difficult to comply with the standards set forth in the federal No Child Left Behind act. As a result, districts are compelled to focus on academic test scores so as not to lose the all precious government funding. Subsequently, a number of districts are faced with eliminating elective areas of curriculum such as art and athletics to better allocate funds to subjects such as math and English.

Sensing potential public outrage of the elimination of sports from the Lincoln public Schools, the source of Cornhusker Football’s eventual fan base, the Lincoln School board last night approved a measure designed to provide students with background knowledge of various sports without the cost of actual gym classes. The measure calls for “virtual” education three times a week in which students engage in tabletop versions of basketball, football, and baseball via electronic games. Citing the degree of reality these new games are able to provide, the school board emphasises that the experience will be very much like the playing of an actual game while eliminating the cost of hiring physical education teachers.
“Its so important that these young people learn all the values associated with team sports which they can still do as the games are enabled for two or more players. Imagine no more dodge-ball injuries or exercise induced asthma attacks” school board member Cornelius Thresher Picker stated. “We are providing a safe environment for students to explore a number of different games without fear of being picked last for a team or the psychological damage to a student’s self-esteem that can result from teammates teasing a lack of athletic ability. We are, quite literally, leveling the playing field-to a flat desk that is.”

School board President Susan Carr Baum was equally enthusiastic,
“We couldn’t just eliminate physical education from the curriculum, yet we must comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, by challenging our educators to be more creative we have found a solution that will save the district a small fortune in insurance costs alone. Each year, more than five hundred students district wide go to the school nurse with some sort of PE related injury. Just last month, a student at Lincoln Southeast High School sustained serious injury in a volleyball game when a visually challenged student mistook her head for the ball and attempted to spike it over the net. Obviously, virtual PE eliminates that sort of thing and if we can spare one child the trauma of a concussion then of course, it’s worth it.”

Weather permitting, students will engage in outdoor activities so as to still benefit from the fresh air PE courses provide. Scheduled for later this spring are a Jacks tournament, air hockey and a new addition, Rock-em-sock-em-robots, which Picker says will be “just like boxing, but still in compliance with the district’s anti-violence rules. I mean, c’mon, they’re ROBOTS.”

“We see this as a silver lining really,” said Picker. We’re gonna’ save a bundle without sacrificing all the positive effects of physical education. Sometimes you just don’t see a blessing in disguise.”

The new classes are slated to begin after students return from spring break.

If you are still reading this-Happy April Fools Day.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Orange Peel Drying, Starter Growing

These look dark because the skins came off blood oranges. I'm making a steeped cordial that requires thoroughly dried orange peels-another few days ought to do it.

The starter is a 3 day potato water rye starter. Normally, I bake a rye bread with it, but tomorrow I might experiment and see if it makes a good rustic-style bread with wheat and rye. I get tired of baking the same things week after week (though I know I will hear howls of protest if I don't make sourdough rye from the starter. I've never met two people so in love with rye bread).

Le croque-madame

As I was so busy ruining a pie, and dusting bookcases (see previous post) I had little time to fuss over dinner. I served these with minestrone soup, and everyone was quite pleased.

I used the recipe in Simca's Cuisine, but made a few adjustments. I skipped the cayenne, used 1 teaspoon of brandy rather than 2 tablespoons, and added a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I also made a somewhat smaller batch. The bread should be sliced a day ahead and let stale, but i set mine in a 350 degree F. oven for fifteen minutes and then turned it off. An hour later, I had stale bread.

You Will Need:

6 slices of good, white sandwich bread (I used the potato bread from the other day's post)
1/4 cup cold milk
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 pound Swiss cheese, grated
2 tablespoons cognac, kirsch, or rum (I used much less, and used brandy)
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I used 1 teaspoon)
Cayenne to taste (I omitted)
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Put the milk in a large bowl and mix in the flour and baking powder. Add the eggs, cheese, and alcohol. Add paprika, salt, and cayenne. Mix well. Place on each piece of bread and top each slice with melted butter. Place under the broiler until browned (about 4 minutes).

When slightly cooled, cut into triangles and serve warm.

Tastes Super, Texture Needs Work

I suppose that's the risk you take, creating recipes. Hindsight, being what it is, I'd add gelatin next time. It was far too soft. More cream cheese might have added stability, but I wanted something light. Next time, gelatin.

What you're looking at is the blood orange curd, whipped cream, vanilla sugar, and cream cheese-in a chocolate pastry crust. I spread a think layer of melted, bittersweet chocolate on the top, and stuck in a few pieces of blood orange brittle for "effect," (Yeah, clearly not the "effect," I was going for, but we all know I can't decorate).

It should have worked, and if I'd used my brain I would have chilled the filling before pouring into the shell to see if it firmed up (duh) but I didn't. Sue me. Hey, do you know what I did today? I dusted all of the bookcases, and the tops of the books. People who know us, and know the size of our collection are shaking their heads in amazement that I could do all that in a single day, and make a pie.

Anyway, I thought I'd share my FAIL for the week.

I do think it would take well to freezing, which I might try with a couple slices.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Moro Blood Orange Curd

This is very tart, which is what I was aiming for. If you prefer something less assertive, omit the grated zest and cut back on the lemon juice.

You Will Need:

1 cup vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blood orange juice
2 tablespoons grated zest of orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
3 egg yolks

In a small, heavy saucepan heat the sugar, cornstarch, salt, juice, zest, butter, and lemon juice over medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.Remove from heat. Beat eggs slightly, then in a small stream, add slowly to custard mixture, beating constantly, Return to heat and cook about 1 minute longer until it thickens. Remove from heat, strain through a sieve (there will be small bits of egg no matter how carefully you add it) and cool. Cover with a piece of waxed paper and poke a few holes in it. Chill. Transfer to a jar. Use within a week.

A Good Way To Use ...

...half a tin of leftover apricots in syrup.

This was so easy, I hesitate to post it as a "recipe". Simply toss the apricot halves, and remaining syrup in a pan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Keep stirring to prevent sticking, and cook it until it thickens. That's it. You've made apricot jam/spread/filling/whatever.

It will go nice with the vanilla sugar meringues you just made with leftover egg whites.

3 egg whites at room temperature
1 cup vanilla sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of salt

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar. Beat until they hold soft peaks. Add vanilla sugar a tablespoon at a time until it is all absorbed and holds stiff peaks. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone pads.

Shape meringues and bake about 1 1/2 hours. Turn off oven and let dry out another hour or two.

There. That's what you do with leftover egg whites. You have been saving used vanilla beans to stick in a jar with sugar, haven't you?

My inner-home economist just had an orgasm.
"Oh god...I'm..I'm...being so...thrifty! Oh, oh god, I'm saving money!"

UFO or Missiles?

Probably neither, but oh my gosh I had to laugh that the French have a nuclear submarine named, "Le Terrible."

Shortly after moving here, I witnessed some space junk re-entering the atmosphere. It would be pretty easy to think it was a missile, based on the horizontal movement and brightness.

But really, "Le Terrible?"

Howard Zinn

Well THIS is sad news to wake up to.

I'll probably have something more thoughtful to post later, but at this point (as the shock settles in) all I can do is shake my head side to side.

More HERE.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kitchen Klatter

Sometimes, I threaten Mr. Eat The Blog with recipes from the pages of my Depression-Era Kitchen Klatter magazines.
You know, that's just plain, good advice. You won't get advice like that from Ask Annie. Leanna never told anyone they needed a therapist.
That actually sounds good
OK, maybe this one could use therapy...
Blech. I've heard about cabbage juice being good for an ulcer, but the powder is a new one to me.
Oh gosh, my sister had dolls like this in the 50's. She had one particularly nice one in a pale blue taffeta dress with roses that we called. "The Judy Doll." I think all the dolls made between 1945-1960 had the same face. Only the hair changed. That would have been a pretty expensive doll in 1956 when this ad was published. I don't think our parents would have paid more than a couple dollars at the most for a doll.

I have a large stack of these magazines, and one of these days, I'm going to make good on my threat to cook from them. Until then, I'll try to post them when I get a chance, for your entertainment.

Wheat Potato Bread

This was a an adaptation of an old recipe. I increased the potatoes, used more whole wheat flour, and replaced the AP flour with bread flour. The result was two (very) large loaves of beautiful bread. You can make it as three regular sized loaves as well.

You Will Need:

3 1/2 cups whole milk, scalded
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup mashed potatoes
4 1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast
1/2 cup potato water (from boiling potatoes) lukewarm
4 cups whole wheat flour
6-7 cups (or more) bread flour

Scald the milk and pour over the sugar, butter, salt and mashed potatoes in a large bowl. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

In a small bowl, proof the yeast in lukewarm potato water until foamy.

When milk has cooled, stir in yeast, four cups of flour and 1 cup bread flour. Using a hand mixer on high, beat for two minutes. Stir in enough remaining bread flour until the dough is no longer sticky and can be easily kneaded. Work until smooth. Place in a very large greased bowl, turn to coat, and cover. let rise until doubled-about two hours. Punch down dough and let rise again until doubled-about another hour.

Punch dough down again and let rest ten minutes. While it rests, butter pans generously and sprinkle each with about a tablespoon of cornmeal. Knock out excess. Fit bread into pans, dust tops lightly with AP flour, and cover lightly. Let rise until almost doubled-about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake loaves 40-45 minutes (depending on size) until they are nicely browned, sound hollow when rapped or reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. Cool on racks.

Goodbye, Lincoln Journal Star

Given the opportunity, people can be downright horrible. I know this, and so do you. Why it comes as such shocking information to newspaper editors, I can't say. Personally, I think they know it too. How strange it is then, when comment threads turn nasty, that the individuals charged with monitoring the human potential for awfulness feel the need to scold readers for behaving in exactly the manner they are expected long as it doesn't insult the reporters, editors, or local police. Otherwise, the gloves are off for just about any personal attack so long as it stays on the legal side of becoming libel. Why? Page views.

Each time an enraged commenter clicks back to read responses, they must go through the main article, then the comments. If you were trying to generate advertising revenue based on clicks, that becomes significant. In fact, simply by the phrasing of headlines, an editor can ensure numerous clicks for an article and comment thread. The best example I could find today was:
"Medicare Change Could Affect More Than Illegals"

Not, "Illegal Immigrants", or "Undocumented Workers", or even, "Economic Refugees", but "Illegals." An editor doesn't permit a story to go to print with that sort of charged terminology unless they are trying to elicit a specific response. In this case, it brought out the nativist crowd (shocking, I know) ready to spew their fantasies of a perfect world devoid of ethnic diversity. That headline couldn't have been anything but a calculated decision. At the very least, the paper ought to acknowledge this, and drop the absurdity of claiming objectivity. You can't be objective when using dehumanising terminology. Why not "Sub-human?"

I have seen comments deleted because someone suggested the reporter get a copy of Strunk and White (wasn't me, but I cheered it anyway), because the comments are critical of the police, or because the articles themselves have been ridiculed as fluff. Conversely, I've seen some of the vilest, cruelest, most racist/bigoted comments permitted to remain. Yes go right ahead, and have "your say", so long as it remains profitable to the publication, and stays within the parameters of local, "correct thought."

For my part, I'd really like to see the comment threads gone. It reflects poorly on the community as a whole (sorry, but that broad brush does a good job of painting all by the words of a vocal minority), and only encourages those already inclined to be bullies, and thugs. Oh, I know people will scream about the free speech issue, but comment threads on a local newspaper aren't Constitutionally guaranteed. You can still write a letter to the editor, start a blog, or stand on a box in the local park (as far as I know) but you still can't threaten, harass, or libel, no matter how obliquely. Ever notice those who scream the loudest about their "freedom of speech" are the least likely to understand the Constitutional protection?

I did not see the comment thread in question, but based on the numerous ones I have, it isn't difficult to conclude that "out of hand", probably means it would upset advertisers. Speaking as a resident of Eastern Nebraska, I can tell you that based on what I have read in the Journal Star over the last few years, I no longer "Shop Lincoln First." In fact, I simply do not go to Lincoln. That's right, I travel an extra half hour in the other direction to spend my grocery money. Omaha is much less convenient, but I have not spent grocery money (or really much of anything else) in Lincoln in over five years. I am a consumer, and as such I can make the decision to consume goods, and services in places where I am not viewed with hostility. The overwhelming message conveyed through the newspaper comment threads is that I am not welcome. True or not, that's the perception. So I shop in Omaha. I may be equally unwelcome in Omaha, but I am not made aware of it through vile comments posted on line, or articles with charged language designed to encourage awfulness.

At some point, the management of the paper made the decision to go with rubbish articles about popular culture, poorly written human interest stories, and inflammatory, ill-reasoned articles about local issues. They managed to sack the only journalists capable of writing sentences containing both nouns and verbs, and instead began publishing self-congratulatory articles by teenagers that carried out tasks requiring more than fifteen minutes of uninterrupted concentration.

I would happily pay for on-line content at a newspaper that didn't insult my intelligence, and then protest that they are the only reputable source of "news." That might well be the thing that saves the already damaged print media. As someone who reads numerous newspapers a day, and for years had mail subscriptions to papers from other parts of the country (they'd arrive a couple days late, but it was still a valuable thing to have access to in pre-internet days) I derive no pleasure from the potential demise of print media. We need investigative journalism, the population needs local reporting. I don't see any of that (at least not of any quality) happening at the Journal Star. What I see is a publication that gives the impression it is run by children-rather dim-witted ones at that, who are so used to being falsely praised for their brilliance in carrying out mediocre work that they are unable to recognise how foolish they appear.

Therefore, I'm out. To quote the poet Lew Welch from his painfully dead-on, Chicago Poem:

"Maybe part of it will die if I'm not around, feeding it anymore."

American Presidency Project

I know everyone is getting ready for the State of the Union Address tonight, and here's a helpful link to help you prepare.

There's full text of previous SOTU speeches, including the first one, by John Adams in 1789, and all sorts of other interesting things like seating plans, terminology, and more.

Seems like a pretty good way to spend some time.

Gosh, That's A Pity

Parents are being forced to scale back on extravagant birthday parties for their children.

I really wish they had a photo of what a $5,000. birthday cake looks like. For a five year old. Jeepers.

My mother did my first few birthday parties at home, but once I was in school (you know, back in the stone age before we had paved roads and stuff) and was expected to invite the whole class, she started having them at The Ground Round. It was perfect-pitchers of beer for the parents, you could make as much noise as you wanted, and the peanut shells got tossed right on the floor (we felt so incredibly naughty doing that). You had to bring the cake yourself, but they did all the cutting, serving and provided a clown. It couldn't have cost too terribly much, because I know my parents didn't have extra money to toss around. I don't know, I look back at the photographs, and they seem like nice enough parties. The article makes it sound like "cutting back" is keeping it under $1,000. You know, you can buy a halfway decent used car for that.

Really, beyond the cake, and a gifts just how much entertainment does a child need?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A First Attempt-Kale and Bean Tart

Here's something you don't hear people say everyday:

"I really wanted to make a tart with kale and white beans."

So I did, by golly. It was acceptable, and the boys were both relieved that it didn't really taste like kale, but the crust was less than perfect, and I should have added much more salt. I'll note the salt in the recipe, and encourage you to find a pastry recipe you prefer. Otherwise, it is a nice tart to serve hot or cold. And it doesn't even taste like kale.

You Will Need:

1 partially baked tart crust
1 bunch kale, stripped from stems, chopped, boiled and squeezed dry of all liquid
1 heaping cup of cooked white beans
1 cup bechamel sauce
Salt (use more or less depending on whether you used tinned beans) You should taste it before baking.
1 egg
1 cup finely shredded Swiss cheese (I used the imported stuff for this as it is drier, and has a more assertive flavour)

Make a cup of bechamel sauce. Stir in the cooked kale and beans. Mix in the egg, and half the cheese. Pour into partially baked tart shell and top with remaining cheese, Bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven until puffed and browned on top-about 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Julia Child's Onion Soup

I don't know why we keep this as a special occasion soup-it isn't that difficult to make. The step-by-step instructions (with a number of variations) may be found in Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. They are probably widely available on the Internet. Because of copyright considerations, I'll skip posting the recipe and offer some photographs instead. I do encourage you to seek out the recipe, it is quite good, though I draw the line at dotting the top of the cheese with additional butter. I mean, I like butter too, but really...

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Want To See Them Try To...

...blame THIS on Tonya Harding.

I know, you think I'm awful. I always hated the way the media portrayed the attack on Nancy as class violence. You know, "nice people" from Stoneham don't resort to violence...etc.

It is sort of an interesting case-is it murder if you have an argument with someone, and they die of a heart attack?

Caramel Cookies

These cookies sound rather plain, but they melt in your mouth and have a wonderful caramel/nutmeg flavour. I could see crushing these as a cheesecake base. Or making a whipped cream icebox cake. Or....or...or...gosh, they're just really good.

Plan ahead as they really need to chill several hours or overnight.

From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by, Phyllis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman

You Will Need:

2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
3 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream sugar, butter and shortening together until light. Add eggs, one at a time until fluffy. Sift dry ingredients together and add. Mix in water and vanilla extract. Mix well and divide in two. Roll into logs and wrap in clingfilm and chill several hours or overnight.

Line baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice cookies about 1/2 inch thick and place about 1 inch apart on sheets. Bake 10-14 minutes or until delicately browned. Cool on racks. Cookies will crisp as they cool.

Gnocchi From Bon Appetit

Earlier this week, I purchased a 10 lb. bag of potatoes for around a buck. We're going to be eating potatoes for a while.

These gnocchi come from the current issue of Bon Appetit (recipe isn't up on the website, but will be eventually). Obviously, I skipped the pork and wild mushroom ragu they featured, serving my own meatless tomato sauce instead.

These start from baked russet potatoes rather than boiled ones, and it was much simpler to prepare than my usual recipe. I did not try any, but they boys devoured theirs and had seconds. That's unusual for Danny, so I feel confident declaring the recipe a great success.

I ended up with quite a few gnocchi. I froze the extras on a plate , and then transferred them to freezer bags for use on time-pressed weekends.

Now, if I just knew what to do with the rest of the potatoes (and yes, I already baked two rye breads from a potato starter).

Queen Cakes-Gourmet, April 1972

These small muffins come from a James Beard article on tea-time treats. He suggests baking them as mini-muffins, which will yield 24. I did a dozen larger ones. You'll need to test for doneness more often for the large ones.

I also improvised and added cut-up maraschino cherries rather than glaceed fruit. After the holidays, we've had all the glaceed fruit we can stand. These will be individually wrapped, and frozen for breakfasts and (duh) tea. At our home tea is called "This and That", due to the nature of what I drag out of the pantry. As Danny selected this recipe, he's looking forward to his 4 PM This and That.

These are somewhat drier than what passes for muffins today, but nowhere near the dryness of say, white cupcakes. The method is a bit strange, but it does actually work. Adapt as you see fit.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins dredged in a bit of flour
2 tablespoons glaceed fruit
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/3 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line muffin tins (either 24 mini or 12 regular) with paper cups.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla extract. Add fruit and milk. Gently mix. Fold in dry ingredients. Fill cups and bake about 20 minutes for small cakes, 35 minutes for large ones, checking for doneness with a toothpick. Cool out of pan, on rack.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

From The Sunday Globe

The magazine section at the Boston Globe has a parenting article written by a woman who is awfully proud of herself for padlocking the household sweets. Literally-she padlocks the "bad" foods. I think we all know how that one is going to end ten years from now. Good work making the simple carbs more attractive! You know what would make this even better? If she subjected the child without self-control to a daily weigh-in. I don't think locking up the food, and making him beg for it like a dog is humiliating enough, do you?

Looking at childhood from a different angle, there's the issue no one wants to discuss-all the psychiatric medications they hand out, are causing obesity and related conditions like diabetes. Imagine that! I like that obesity is being added to the DSM-V. That's er...sweet.

You thought I was going to say this was all, food for thought, didn't you?

Whole Wheat French Bread Pizzas

I had a French bread in the freezer, and half a head of radicchio in the crisper bin. I know that doesn't immediately suggest pizza to most people, but it certainly uses up the odds and ends that accumulate in the fridge.

I bought a round of Brie for three dollars-insane, I know. It was dated 1 February, but when I cut into it, the cheese looked like it could have stood a few more weeks of maturation. Now I'm kicking myself for not buying more-that was a fantastic bargain.

When you make a French bread pizza, it helps to dry the bread out a bit before topping it and placing it under the broiler. 350 degrees F. for about ten minutes ought to do it-or just use stale bread. If the toppings are very wet, you may wish to go as far as actually toasting the bread first.

You Will Need:

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb. mushrooms, trimmed and chopped (I had Baby Bellas)
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon peel
1/2 head radicchio, trimmed and chiffonade
Splash of port
thyme/sage to taste
Hard Cheese thinly sliced (I used Pecorino Romano)

Roast the asparagus with a few tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper on a baking sheet at 425 degrees F. for about 25 minutes, turning frequently. Cook until lightly browned and shriveled.

In a frying pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions and lemon peel until onions are dark. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are soft. Add thyme and sage and salt and pepper. Add radicchio. Add splash of port, and increase heat to high. Cook until port has burned off. Reduce heat to low and cook until radicchio has wilted. Remove from heat.

Toast or dry out slices of French bread. On a baking sheet, lay out the bread slices and top with the mushroom mixture. Layer on the asparagus and then dot with cheese. Place under a broiler until cheese is melted and brown.

Whatcha Callin' Pretentious Hoss?

We've all seen movies we wish we could un-watch. I understand that, I do. In fact, I'd respect a reviewer saying that Antichrist was just too, too awful to sit through.


Declaring a film "pretentious" because you didn't understand the allegory, and it made you uncomfortable is pathetic. Reading the review, there's an underlying hostility aimed at discrediting the personally inaccessible as "arty", in much the same way "elitist" was batted around as an accusation during the last election. "Art film followers" sounds a little too much like the "fellow travelers" smear.

Thank goodness he didn't bring a date. He brought a co-worker though- the guy who wrote a rather long, self-congratulatory article for having finished an entire Stephen King novel to review (and not because the novel was unreadable, but because it was long) and celebrated with a "fist pump" (whatever the hell a "fist pump" is). I'm glad he brought his colleague along, if only for the following quote:

" my colleague Micah Mertes observed, "Antichrist" is too arty for the "Saw" audience..."

You know, I'll bet that was von Trier's goal-making a film that would be accessible to the Saw audience. The film may be horrific, but it isn't a horror film. I would expect someone that is paid to review film for a newspaper to understand that distinction.

Women's Expo

"Happiness, Health, and Handbags."

That's OK-I can't wait until you finish throwing-up.

You back? Great. It can't just be me-someone else must find this offensive, right? Wigs, skinny jeans, bubble dresses, dealing with cellulite, dixie cups of sangria-wow, that really speaks to the modern woman, eh? Sort of like the "Women Matter", series they do on the local Fox affiliate that that had a feature about plastic surgery as a method of empowerment.

Certainly, I understand that this has zero to do with empowering women, or promoting our well-being. This, is marketing. This is women as marks. This is exploitation. Why anything this blatant still works in 2010 is beyond me, but obviously it does. This is only marginally more subtle than wearing yoga pants with "Juicy" emblazoned across the bum-or convincing someone it is ever OK to wear, "Juicy" emblazoned across their bum. Oh, I know-I sound old and cranky. I am old and cranky. I really thought we'd be past this rubbish already.

Yeah. So anyway, if this isn't your scene, there's a used book sale next weekend in Lincoln. With any luck, you might find some Andrea Dworkin books.

What Is It?

Anyone care to guess? I'm only showing you the back of the item. I would guess anyone over forty would know.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Very Dark Chocolate Cake

After ruining my first cake today (see previous post) I went for something quick and easy. This is the recipe for Perfectly Chocolate Cake, and frosting from the box of Hershey's cocoa. I used the Special Dark cocoa which for the money, is really pretty decent. You certainly can't improve on that colour. My only regret was not doing a whipped cream filling to provide a striking contrast, but the chocolate frosting was awfully swell.

You couldn't pay me to eat a Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bar (blech) but the powdered cocoa is just terrific.

The recipe is easily found all over the internet and at the Hershey's website.

I Screw-Up Too

First, I read the recipe incorrectly-I needed 3 8 inch pans rather than two. Then, I forgot to beat and add the egg whites and only saw them sitting on the counter as I slid the pans into the oven.

I just thought I'd share.

My mum always said you weren't drinking recklessly so long as one didn't begin before noon. It is 11:57. Of course the only thing I have in the house is some dry vermouth and sherry for cooking, so I don't think I'll be indulging.

Bah. I'm glad the weekend is here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Clafouti of Peas-Gourmet, February 1973

Another vintage recipe. Everyone loved it (amazing what a bunch of eggs, butter and milk can do for something as mundane as frozen peas).

You Will Need:

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup AP flour
4 tablespoons melted butter-divided
1 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked peas
Salt to taste

In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, sugar, thyme, and pepper. Blend on high for 5 seconds. Scrape down sides with a rubber spatula, and blend again until well mixed. Pour into a bowl, cover and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 1 1/2 quart souffle dish. Pour 1 cup of the batter in the dish and then gently layer in the peas. Sprinkle with remaining melted butter. Pour on remainder of batter and bake until well-puffed and golden-about 50 minutes.

"We Could Feed The Whole Damn World...

...if we didn't need to feed the broads."

My better half fails to see the humour in this film, but I love it, and own two copies. No, you can't have one-go order your own off Amazon. You won't be able to rent it (unless you have a decent movie store, and you live in Providence or Boston or someplace that would have a local interest in a movie filmed at Lupo's) but go on, and spend the five bucks to own it. If you don't like it, you can send it to me. I'm of the belief that you can never own too many copies of a movie you love. I love this movie. Oh god, do I love this movie.

Some of the better lines, HERE.

It is kind of too bad it didn't have wider distribution, as it could have become a cult-classic. The songs are wonderfully absurd:

"Why Do We Waste The Protein On Women?"
"Just As We Were Getting Started, You Farted"
"Do The Heimlich"

"When you see a brother, choking on some the Heimlich, get up on your feet."

If you can imagine people pantomiming the Heimlich in a dance...well yeah, you probably can't-you need to see the movie. With the week I've been having, I can honestly say this is the only thing that has brought a smile to my face in days. Everyone should have a movie like that in their collection. Feel free to share your favourite "cheer-up " movie if you have one.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pots de Creme au Moka

From Gourmet, February 1973
(Yep, still working through the stack of vintage magazines)

You Will Need:

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I used half bittersweet) shaved
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder (I cut this to one)
5 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare ramekins and have foil ready to cover the tops of each. Have a roasting pan or large baking dish to set them in ready as well. Begin boiling enough water to fill pan halfway up the sides of ramekins.

In a heavy pot, heat the milk, cream and chocolate over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Stir occasionally. Continue stirring until chocolate melts. Remove from heat and stir in espresso powder.

In a medium, heatproof bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until frothy. Beat in the mocha mixture in a very slow stream taking care not to cook the eggs.

Pour into ramekins and cover with foil. Set in roasting pan and carefully fill with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake 30 minutes or until set. Cool completely, then chill. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and (if you have it) pulverised brittle.

Blood Orange Brittle

I had a very old recipe for an orange brittle with flaked coconut. I adapted it, and came up with this wonderful treat. I'm going to pulverise the small pieces to use as a topping for dessert.

The blood orange colour is lost in the cooking (rats!) but it is still a beautiful amber colour. The bits of orange zest get a burnt-sugar carmelisation and the flavour really carries through against all the sweetness. I am just so pleased with this.

You Will Need:

2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup blood orange juice
2 tablespoons butter

Grease a rimmed baking sheet generously with butter.

Butter the sides of a heavy, 3 quart pot. Combine sugar, corn syrup, zest, and juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it reaches the hard crack stage (300 degrees F.)
Remove from heat, and beat in butter.

Pour onto baking sheet and let cook. Crack into pieces. Makes about 1 1/4 pounds.

Los Angeles Peda Bread

Not anything like the Armenian bread I'm familiar with from Massachusetts, but an interesting bread for a change. It is quite light, and should go nicely with leftover chickpea stew. I made a few changes including the use of bread flour rather than AP.

From Sunset Breads, 1984

You Will Need:

4 1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons melted and cooled butter
4-5 cups bread flour

Flour Glaze:
2 teaspoons AP flour
1/2 cup water

Dissolve the yeast in a large bowl with the water. ADd the sugar, salt and butter. Add the flour a cup at a time beating well after each addition. Keep adding until you have a dough that is not too sticky to knead. Knead until smooth. Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled-about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Butter anf flour 2 baking sheets. Divide dough in half and shape each into a ball. Place on baking sheet. Cover lightly with a towel and let rise 30 minutes.

Press, pull and punch dough into an oval that is roughly 11x14 inches. Cover and let rise again until doubled (45-60 minutes).

Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush the sides and tops of the breads lightly. With your fingertips, press a 1 1/2 inch wide border around the edge. Then press checkerboard design in rows. Press all the way down to the pan. Cover and let rise again-about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Meanwhile, prepare flour glaze by mixing the flour and water together in a pan over medium heat. bring to a boil (over medium heat) and stir until thickened. Remove to a bowl and cover with a piece of foil until needed.

Bake loaves on at a time.

Bake loaves fifteen minutes or until puffed and golden. Upon removal from oven, brush lightly with glaze. Cool on racks.

Makes 2 large breads.

Something To Add To The List...

...of things I wish I could un-watch.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


...ruin everything.

Rich Chickpea Stew

Good heavens, I sort of feel an obligation to say something interesting about this stew. Uh...yeah, it is has chickpeas...yeah...bad day. Good stew though.

You Will Need:

6 cups cooked chickpeas, skins removed
1 14.5 oz. tin of whole tomatoes, plus liquid
Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 small onions, chopped
1/2 head garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon preserved lemon rind, chopped
Salt/pepper/cumin/turmeric/thyme-all to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Remove skins from chickpeas and set aside. In a large, heavy pot heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil and over medium heat cook the onions, garlic, lemon peel, and bell pepper until softened. Add the chickpeas and tomatoes. Add spices, and enough water to cover everything by about four inches. Cook over medium heat until it reduces to a thick stew. You can add more water and reduce it again if you like, but it isn't necessary. In the last five minutes, add the parsley. Serve with rice or cous cous.

Changes Coming

I'm going to be re-doing the blog template. I know, that's really tempting the whole thing to implode, but I'm going to do it anyway. I thought I'd try to do a "favourite posts" series of links in the sidebar and maybe some other stuff people might find interesting. If you have a favourite post, let me know.

Anyway, things might look askew over the next week.

I had a really, really, REALLY awful day today. Long story short-someone approached me in the grocery store to ask (very loudly, because non-English speakers are obviously all deaf) if I, "Watch other children."

I should probably take it as a compliment, since the nannies tend to be better dressed than I am most days.

I'll leave you with THIS.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Canadian Gorgonzola

I'll wager a dollar (US) the rest of the wedge is gone by morning. I suppose it would be wrong to wish the Canadian economy takes a nosedive just so we can enjoy their fine cheese for less money...but damn. That is some good Gorgonzola. This wasn't even the high-end stuff.

I just found a recipe tonight for Gorgonzola soup. That might be dangerous. Anyone want to take a road trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa to snag more of this cheese?

Yogurt Marinated Tofu

Have half a carton of plain yoghurt sitting around approaching the expiration date? Yeah, me too. What's worse, it wasn't very good yoghurt. That's OK, it made a terrific marinade for tofu.

I put this together early this morning and cooked it tonight. I would give the tofu a minimum of four hours soaking.

There are a million variations of this recipe. The one at 101 Cookbooks is also very good, though it uses lemon juice which I prefer to skip. If you hate thyme (you're probably a weirdo, but that's OK I like weirdos) feel free to skip it, or try some other herb. Like most of what I cook, this is more of an idea than a recipe. You're still probably a weirdo if you hate thyme. How can anyone dislike thyme? It is the perfect herb. Weirdos.

I served the tofu with cous cous, carrots and shallots cooked with raisins and apricots, and a salad with blood orange vinegarette.

You Will Need:

I package extra firm tofu (NOT silken)
2 cups plain yoghurt, drained through a cheesecloth lined sieve for at least an hour.
3 tablespoons olive oil
Dash salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons ground cumin (you can use less if you prefer)
A generous grind of black pepper

Mix it together and pour some in a small casserole dish. Prepare the tofu by slicing it in four pieces and then pressing as much liquid out as possible with towels. Layer the tofu on the yoghurt mixture and then cover with remaining mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pan (I used cast iron, but if you have a grill pan that would be great). Scrape off excess marinade and place the slices in the hot pan. Cook over medium heat until browned, then turn and cook on other side.