Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lime Sorbet

A quick and simple sorbet you can make without an ice cream maker.

You Will Need:

1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 cups sugar
1 cup water

In a small pot, combine sugar and water over moderate heat and whisk until sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature. Mix with lime juice. Transfer to a freezer tray (mine is an 8x8 glass pan) and chill one hour. With a fork, scrape down the frozen parts clinging to sides and return to freezer. Every thirty minutes scrape and break up the frozen parts until it comes together in a thick slush. (about 2 hours). Transfer to a plastic container and freeze several hours to firm.

That's One Way To Cool Off

From the next room I hear, "glow little glow worm, glimmer, glimmer, this is the month we call December."

102 degrees F. ugh.

Look out for small fry down below.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blini (Bliny)

No Babushka! Those are for dinner.

These are the yeast-raised kind. Mr. ETB called it, "Russian Injera", which I can kind of see, given the similarities of teff and buckwheat, along with the spongy texture. I'd say it is impossible to ruin blini, but the memory of the ones Mr. ETB made a decade ago keep me from doing so-oh god, were they awful. He tried grinding up kasha groats and using that as flour with yoghurt and some baking soda (as I recall-it is all a suppressed memory at this point). That was the last time anyone in this household made blini, so I thought we were due to try again. I was comforted in the knowledge that even if they weren't wonderful, they couldn't possibly come close to the last attempt. As it turns out, they were wonderful-in a Russian Injera kind of way. The boys ate the entire batch between them. Now they keep muttering about getting the, "moose and squirrel."

These are a great way to bake bread without heating up the house as we head into the yearly heatwave. When they start talking about heat indices of 110, you can forget heating the oven. Tomorrow night they're getting a similar dinner with the addition of some herring and picked beets.

I served these with a few salads I will give basic recipes for at the end.

For The Blini:
This is a recipe from About.Com. Probably not the most traditional recipe, but it worked and no one spat it out on the plate.

2/3 cup AP flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast (not the rapid rise)
1 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter
1 egg, separated

In a large mixing bowl mix the flours, salt and yeast. Heat the milk to lukewarm and blend into the flours. Mix well, and cover. Let rise until doubled-about 1 hour.

Stir in melted, cooled butter, and egg yolk. In another bowl, beat the white until it is stiff but not dry. Fold it into the batter. Cover and let stand 20 minutes.

Over medium heat in a non-stick pan (I used a well-seasoned cast iron pan without any trouble sticking) drop quarter sized dollops onto hot pan and spread gently. Cook until bubbles have broken on top and turn. Cook about 30 seconds longer on second side. Keep warm until serving time (I made a pouch out of foil). Serve with plenty of sour cream, and perhaps one of the side dishes offered below.

Warm cabbage:

1/2 head shredded green cabbage
2 carrots, grated
1 apple, peeled and grated
4 tablespoons butter
3 juniper berries
Thyme to taste
A splash of dry vermouth

Heat butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. When melted, add cabbage and carrots. Add juniper, thyme, and salt and pepper. Cook until cabbage begins to wilt. Turn up heat and splash on a generous glug of vermouth. Cook until it burns off. Serve hot with blini.

Mushrooms with sage:

1 lb. mushrooms trimmed and finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon crumbled sage

Cook over medium heat until mushrooms have thrown off their mositure and onions are soft. Serve with blini.

Cucumber Salad (cold)

1 large cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible
1 heaping tablespoon coarse salt
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon mixed pickling spice
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1 bay leaf
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

Slice cucumber and place in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with salt and let stand 1 hour. Rinse and pat dry. Meanwhile combine everything else in a non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Strain liquid through cheesecloth lined colander. Pour liquid over cucumbers to cover, and chill several hours before serving. After the first day you can transfer them to a jar-lasts about a week, but they will disappear pretty fast.

For the Potato salad:

2 cups peeled and diced new potatoes, boiled until tender but not mushy
1/3 cup salad oil (I used sunflower seed oil)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
A generous grind of black pepper
Chopped parsley to garnish

Combine all and chill well before serving.

For Your Amusement

The Omaha World herald is going to start charging ten bucks a month for, "premium content". OK stop laughing, we all know how important it is to read whether Rainbow Rowell is going to wear denim shorts this season (oh please God, no). But it get so much better (in a seriously deluded way).

From the article by the paper's editor:

"This week, we are taking an important step toward digital subscriptions for our content. While some people believe that all content on the Internet should be free, this business model is changing across the world in a number of industries, including music, movies, television, books and magazines. Prominent news content originators, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Dallas Morning News, have already successfully introduced digital subscriptions."

-But Hoss, your paper ain't the New York Times, nor The Wall Street Journal.

"Stories you cannot get elsewhere. Stories no one else knows to tell. Or stories no one else can tell with as much depth and sophistication. Content that makes us a valuable part of your busy day."

-You see, this is where all that, "building self esteem" crap they pushed in schools over the last forty years comes home to roost. Actually, these stories are available just about everywhere on the web for free, and on broadcast news, and radio. Unless we're talking about stories concerning denim shorts on Rainbow's well-fed flanks. Then, I guess it is an exclusive.

Here's the thing, if he just said, "we have to do this, or the paper will not survive, or we'll have to start sacking employees-I'd be cool with it. Instead, we get delusions of grandeur where the Omaha World Herald is the only place in the whole of the Internet to get these stories. Rubbish. What's more, after their refusal to print gay marriage announcements using the rationale that gay marriage hasn't been legalised in Nebraska (I mean, that's pretty bloody twisted. At first it was an outright refusal, no rationale offered but after public outcry they put the corporate lawyers on it and arrived at the convenient, The law's the law" cop-out.") they really lost any sort of credibility as far as I'm concerned.

So much as I said, "toodle-loo" to the Journal Star, I'm going to say the same to the World Herald. I've actually been reading much better coverage of the local flooding in the Americas section of the Guardian. You know, all that reporting you can't get anywhere else, except Britain. And sometimes Canada. You can always turn on the radio as well.

Besides, we all know those pay-walls can be breached ten seconds after they go up, and passwords passed around on Twitter. You know, in case you can't sleep without knowing what Rainbow is thinking.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chow Chow

Chow-Chow relish is one of those things I think of as being distinctively American, or Amish anyway. As with so many pickles of this sort, there are as many recipes as there are cooks. I use very thinly sliced carrots in mine, but omit the red pepper. Some people use celery, I use celery seed. The thing that really distinguishes chow-chow from corn relish is the cabbage. Otherwise, I don't see that much difference in the two save for some possible tweaking of the spices.

The basic recipe I use comes from the Ball Blue Book. Because it is a high acid food from the vinegar, it can go through a water bath canner. I halved the recipe and am storing it in the fridge (we'll use it without any problem). I'll post the large batch with instructions for canning, but bear in mind when canning, it wouldn't make sense to halve the recipe-if you're going to sterilise jars and run a canner, you might as welll make the full batch. Additionally, I'm not sure the proportions of vinegar would be adequate for canning at half.

I did not use tomatoes in mine as I don't think they add much to the relish. I like tomatoes, but not in this. Some people (in Pennsylvania anyway) will turn up their noses at this omission, and perhaps they are correct-but I still don't want tomatoes in my chow chow. That's the privilege of being an old lady-you can make your chow chow any darn way you like.

You Will Need:

1 quart chopped cabbage
3 cups chopped green tomatoes
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped scallions
1 cup finely sliced carrots
2 cups freshly cut corn
1 cup chopped red bell peppers
3 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons celery seed
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon mustard seed (I used brown)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar

Combine vegetables, and sprinkle with salt. Let stand 4-6 hours. Drain well, rinse and drain. Combine sugar, spices, and vinegar in a large pot. Simmer 10 minutes. Add vegetables and simmer 10 minutes. Bring to a boil. pack hot relish into hot sterilised jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. remove air bubbles, wipe threads, and seal. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Makes about 4 pints.

Need Advice on Vintage Clothing

Anyone out there familiar with dyeing vintage clothing? I have an eyelet dress from the 50's that has discoloured to yellow from white, and I would like to dye it. I don't really care what colour, though black would probably be most practical. I'm concerned that the fabric, being old and somewhat brittle might fall apart. I don't mind doing the dyeing by hand outside, and I have plenty of space to make a mess with dye-I just don't know what sort of dye to use, sealer, and if this is even worth bothering with.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

And while I'm at it-any advice for restoring a black, silk drop-waist dress from the 1920's would be helpful as well. It has some holes (insect damage I suspect) that can't be rewoven, but I'm guessing someone skilled with a needle and thread might know how to fill them in. Anyone?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nut-Free Raspberry Streussel Coffee Cake

Of the many ways to replace nuts in recipes, I've been trying out the use of finely ground porridge oats with a few drops of oil. While toasted coconut also works well, the oatmeal will provide the lightness of nuts with a somewhat neutral flavour. It won't work for everything of course, but in a streussel sort of application, it does the trick.

The original recipe called for apples, and cinnamon, and chopped walnuts. I know what you're thinking, but I have so much confidence in Rose Levy Beranbaum's ability to come up with fantastic cake recipes that I guessed the basic coffee cake recipe would adapt well. I was correct in my assumption. Let's face it, with six egg yolks, three sticks of butter, and a cup of sour cream there was no way this cake was going to be anything other than delicious. And fattening. I should mention that a 9x13 tray of really rich coffee cake is more than three people need, so the rest is going to work with Mr. ETB in the morning. Sometimes I wonder how much weight his co workers have gained since he started working there? Anyhoo, this cake is dangerous, so you should avoid that, "just a tiny sliver" routine people do with cake because...well come on, do I really need to beat the point to death with a stick (or three) of butter? Share your cake, then everyone can be happy (and fat).

So here's some excitement in my otherwise boring country-mouse kind of life-the mixer started smoking as I made this. No flames, but the hand mixer emitted smoke. As I had just invested a shit load of expensive butter, sour cream, and cake flour there was no way i was going to let a smoking hand mixer ruin my ingredients. I quickly dislodged the beaters, scraped off the batter, and ran outside with the mixer in the event it was destined to burst into flames. I could just see being horribly disfigured by an exploding hand mixer, the way the Universe seems to have a warped sense of humour. Anyway, as I went outside, I saw a very sad looking border collie, soaking wet, caked with mud, and lingering around my back door. He didn't have tags, and his fur was really matted. He looked at me, it was so heartbreaking, as if to say, "Come on lady, the other dog is gone, help me out." but then turned and ran off towards the rubbish pit. Damn it, this is the second dog in as many weeks roaming the farm. People seem to like our county road as a place to abandon dogs they no longer wish to take care of (they run out of money, dogs get sick, have to move, etc.) How anyone could just drop them on the side of the road is beyond me, but it happens so much I have accepted it as the norm for these parts. I tossed some, "extra good" scraps out with the trash tonight-hopefully he'll get to them before the feral cats that roam the pit.

Last weekend, we had a Longhorn in the yard. Now, we knew that didn't belong to our neighbour, but Mr. ETB gave him a call anyway, you know, in case he took up hobbyist ranching or something. Turns out it belongs to someone down one of the side roads. Okay. A Longhorn. Running around loose in the yard. I'd say something to the effect of, "now I've seen it all" except I know I haven't.

All right, here's the wonderful, fattening, coffee cake that I can't be responsible for if you devour it all by the end of the day. Plan accordingly. Use your hand mixer on low gear as well.

You Will Need:

12 ounces fresh raspberries
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, divided
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 cups quick oats
6 large egg yolks (just freeze the whites for an angel food or meringues)
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature

Grease and flour a 9X13 pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, toss the berries with 1/2 teaspoon of the ginger. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, and remaining ginger. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, sour cream, and vanilla. Blend well. Set aside.

In a large bowl (finally!) Stir together the cake flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and half the egg mixture. Beat at medium high (at your mixer's peril) for 1 minute, scraping down the sides. Add remaining egg mixture in three parts, scraping down the sides and beating for 20 seconds after each addition (That's what I was thinking too-but are you gonna question Rose? Neither am I . 20 second intervals it is).

Fold in raspberry mixture carefully. Spoon half into the bottom of the pan, spreading smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle on half of the streussel, then remaining batter. Top with remaining streussel.

Bake 35 minutes (mine too closer to 45) or until cake springs back when lightly pressed in centre, and a tester comes out clean. Let cake cool completely in pan on a rack. Cut squares directly from pan.

Sad Onion, Happy Tomato, Ignorant Cabbage

Danny bought these towels for me as a Mother's Day present, and I finished embroidering them the other night. They are almost too adorable to use. I'm not sure why, but Danny said the cabbage looked, "ignorant." *shrugs*

Apple Chips-a review

These reviews are both completely unsponsored. I paid for both items. The opinions that I offer are mine, and yours may differ.

Let's start on a positive note, both brands are manufactured on dedicated, nut-free equipment. That fact had a great deal to do with my making the purchase. Nut-allergic families don't have much choice in purchased snack foods, so what there is becomes more attractive.

the Brothers All Natural Apple Slices, were wonderful. They are a freeze-dried fruit without any additives or preservatives. They claim to have fair working conditions for their workers, and strict sanitation. If that's actually true (and obviously I haven't been to the plant to check out the claim as it is a product of China) then that makes the product even better as far as I'm concerned. They have a range of fruit available with the same freeze-dried method including pears, strawberries, and Danny's favourite, the banana chips. While not cheap at close to a dollar for a 7.5 g package, they make a nice take-along treat when we'll be out for an afternoon. The packaging protects the fragile fruit, while being simple enough for an uncoordinated 6 year old to open.

Would I buy these again? Absolutely-and I have, many times.

Now the bad news, not all nut-free, dried apple snacks are created equal, and some taste not unlike a decomposing compost pile-no wait, scratch that-my compost pile would taste much better.

Bare Fruit 100% organic bake-dried Granny Smith Apples are without challenge, the most vile tasting, horribly textured, aftertaste-inducing, poor excuse for a snack I've run across (and as an anthropologist, I've eaten some pretty disgusting things).

The texture is different from the apple snacks reviewed above, and as such I can't compare them as these are baked, not freeze dried. I can however compare them to other baked apple chips, which I've never experienced tasting as awful as these. There's a strong taste of rotten fruit-like the apples had started fermenting before being salvaged and turned into chips. The package I had was full of cores (the odd core happens in dried fruit, but three? That's far too many). They never really were crisp, but they weren't chewy like a dried apple either. They started hard-trip to the dentist hard, and after five minutes trying to soften the piece in my mouth, I finally spit it out as it was impossible to chew. It had the texture of gristle. As I bought these for a child, this is concerning as they would pose a rather serious choking hazard, no matter how well supervised, or strong one's teeth. One could chew rawhide easier-and it would probably taste better. I can't think of many foods that require tooth brushing and mouth wash to get the aftertaste out of one's mouth, but after all that, I could still taste the decaying apples-it was like being a witness to the last dying gasp of an apple-and then eating the corpse.

I noticed the bag didn't have the usual blurb about returning the unused portion if not completely satisfied-perhaps that's telling. I will however be returning the unopened second bag to the grocer. What's more, these were outrageously expensive, and purchased in the Health Market section of the store. I don't think I've ever said outright that something is inedible, but in this case, it very literally is-at least if you expect to chew it well enough to swallow. Bad apple. Bad, bad apple.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Like a Uniform

Mr. ETB finally gave in and bought a couple of summer shirts. I met up with him in the department store and he had in hand, two identical light green plaid shirts.

"You just want everyone to think you're wearing the same shirt day after day as some sort of uber-computer-geek status thing, don't you?'

At that point, as I was scolding him in the centre of the men's department, a fifty-ish man walked past, and hearing the exchange burst into approving laughter before being shot an angry look from his wife, lest he get any similar fashion ideas.

I mean, it is bad enough to wear a short-sleeved shirt with a tie, but lime green and white plaid?

Another Actual Conversation

Driving past the outlet mall in Gretna, where they have set up a carnival:

Me: Look Danny, a carnival. Would you like to go tomorrow? Wow, they have an upside-down roller coaster.

Danny: (Outraged) Why would anyone want to do that? Wouldn't it be nauseating?

Hard to disagree with that assessment.

The Wireless

We brought the old Philco down from the shelf for Danny to use. When I bought that thing back in the early 90's, I never imagined I'd have a son sitting in the front room trying to tune in Cuba.

So far he's found:

China (an English broadcast)
-and some religious nutter that sounded Canadian doing the old-time fire and brimstone you're all going to burn in hell, routine.

Actual Conversation:

Danny: Mama? It sure was fun when we tuned in those Nazis! Didn't you think that was fun?

Me: I think they prefer, "Germans".

Danny: Same thing. Wasn't it fun?!

He didn't get that from me, must have been his Dad who spent his formative years in Germany and never fully got over it. It sure was fun though, Nazis or not.

Oatmeal Pancakes

The boys loved these pancakes from the Sunset Breads, Step by Step. The batter needs to be partially mixed the night before, but then it goes quickly enough in the morning.

You Will Need:

2 cups regular rolled oats
(about) 2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup AP flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon EACH baking powder and baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I omitted this)
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, combine the oats and 2 cups of milk. Cover, and chill overnight.

Next Day: In a bowl, beat eggs lightly and add to the oat mixture. Add butter and raisins. Stir just until blended. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture. If batter seems too thick, add more buttermilk (I needed about 3 tablespoons more).

Preheat griddle and grease lightly. Over medium heat (I had to go much lower as cast iron gets really hot, fast) spoon batter-about 1/3 cup. onto surface. Spread out into circles, and cook until bubbly and appear dry. Flip, and cook until done.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Danny Made Dessert

Gosh, I wonder what's under there?
Oooh, it looks colourful.
Summer pudding! I love that stuff.

Would you look at these beautiful, individual Summer puddings Danny made? I'm just so impressed (proud, "that's my boy" moment). I should have him do all the cooking.

Fine, white bread
Blueberry Syrup


Tomato Souffles and Rosemary Corn Cakes

If you've been hanging about this blog for any time, you've no doubt figured out that I tend to cook with what I have. This is economical, and with some dedication, not as difficult as one might think. I don't spend an absurd amount of time planning meals, nor do I obsessively clip coupons. I do look for sales, and I keep staples on hand that can be transformed into any number of things-but beyond that? Just practise, and believe me, not everything that comes out of my kitchen is good. Oh, I've made some dreadful food over the years. Danny was lucky enough to be born after I'd passed the learning curve, but poor Mr. ETB had to endure some really awful food.

Sometimes, I'm just not sure how things will go over with the boys. For the most part, they have similar tastes, and they are both polite enough to eat what I bring to the table whether they hate it or not (save for Butternut squash which Danny still loathes). Tonight was one of those split reviews. Danny adored the green pepper/corn dish over the corn cakes, but couldn't stomach more than a few bites of the tomato. Mr. ETB happily ate Danny's tomato. They both really liked the salad with raspberry vinegarette (recipe follows) but then, it is pretty hard to find fault with a dressing made with fresh berries.

In the middle of preparing dinner, our power went out. It was restored an hour later (thanks, OPPD!) and fortunately I wasn't that far along with anything that it couldn't get held in the fridge. Luckily, the corn cakes were already baked. Had the power not returned by dinner, I would have used the tomatoes with the salad, and opened a tin of black beans turning it all into some sort of Southwestern inspired salad. A little cumin and chili powder works wonders. That ability to change direction when some sort of problem arises has served me well outside the kitchen, and were I the sort of person that gave a shit about other people's problems I'd probably be a good social worker. Thankfully, I really don't give a shit about other people's problems so I can reserve my "flying by the seat of my pants skills" for improvising dinner when the power goes out.

For The Corn Cakes:
( from Best of Food and Wine, 1995)

1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature (yeah, it isn't health food)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 large egg
Yolk of 1 large egg
1 3/4 cup AP flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary plus more for decoration (I didn't decorate)
1/2 cup heavy cream (as I said, not health food)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light. Beat in honey, egg and yolk. Scrape sides of bowl and beat well. Sift dry ingredients together and mix in. Stir in rosemary. Pour in cream and blend well.

Dough will be very sticky, so use plenty of flour on your work surface.

Pat dough out into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. using a biscuit cutter, cut into rounds and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Decorate corners with small sprigs of rosemary if you like.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until bottoms are browned. Let stand on sheet for a few minutes as they are fragile when hot. Cool completely on rack.

For the Salad Dressing:

1 cup raspberries, sieved to remove seeds
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 cup (or more) olive oil
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon honey

Shake well.

For The Tomato Souffles:
( from Encore With Claudine, Jacques Pepin)

4 large, ripe tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons AP flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons chiffonade of basil
4 tablespoons grated Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove top 1/2 inch from smooth end of tomato. Reserve tops and scoop out the centre and ribs (reserve those as well). Make sure you have 1/2 an inch thickness in the tomato.

Sprinkle tomatoes with 1/4 teaspoon salt and place cut side down in a baking dish. Bake 8-10 minutes or until shells have softened.
Place reserved tomato caps and ribs in a blender (I used a food mill) and process until smooth.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and whisk it over medium high heat for 30 seconds. Whisk in the tomato puree and bring it to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 30 seconds.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Whisk the yolks in another bowl with the cheese, and basil. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the tomato mixture. Fold the egg whites in gently to combine.

Pile into hollowed out shells and place extra filling around them in baking dish. Bake 25 minutes or until nicely browned and puffed on top.

For the vegetables:

Just a combination of corn cut from a cob, green bell peppers, scallions, garlic, basil, thyme, marjoram, a few red pepper flakes, and finely diced carrots. I cooked it quickly in a pan with corn oil (to go with the corn cakes). Adjust salt/pepper as you like.

Put it all together with some nice, chilled salad greens.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Foot Ain't No Size Seven

Vanity sizing has now infiltrated footwear as I currently wear a size seven shoe. That's funny, because my entire adult life I've worn a size 9, or an 8 1/2 wide in some cases-but never a size seven. Presumably one's foot does not shrink with age (if anything mine seem swollen) so I have to figure this is yet another example of the idiotic trend where manufacturers think people will buy something because it is a smaller size. Great, I'll wear them with my size four jeans that would have been size eight ten years ago.

I just want to buy my damn clothes and footwear without playing this stupid game of, 'flatter the consumer." Wouldn't this sort of nonsense make it impossible to shop by post any longer?

So the shoes, here's the link (I bought mine in black). Oh, I know they are teeny-bopper shoes, but they are the most comfortable pair of sandals I've ever owned. But I don't wear a size seven, so if you order on line, be warned they run large.

Weekly Omaha Book Sale at Swanson Branch

Mr. ETB had some vacation days that he needed to, "use or lose", so we dropped my car off at the mechanic and headed to the book sale in Omaha. He's only gone to the quarterly sale, and was blown away by the quantity and quality of the books on offer each Thursday.

Best Score: A set of My Book House. No library stampings, so they must have been donated. Excellent condition. Paid: 1 dollar for each volume. Imagine me looking very happy.

Other excellent finds:
-a pate cookbook (Mr. ETB shuddered visibly when he saw it)
-some historical cookery books
-a recent book on shortwave radio (we have one that Danny is eager to start using)
-a beautifully illustrated field guide to insects
-a nicely bound, 2 volume edition of Life of Johnson (with engravings)
-The City in History, Mumford (my crappy paperback edition was falling apart)
-The Witches of Fire, Witch Hunting in a Scottish Shire 1560-1710, Macdonald
-Famous Mathematicians (yeah, I know what you're thinking)

I still haven't posted the better finds from the quarterly sale, which I promise to do at some point over the summer break.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Garden This Week

Both rose bushes have buds about to bloom, the surviving carnations have buds, and the patch of sunflowers are going strong. Goldenrod is still alive, dianthus have dug in, and the wisteria continues to grow as it does year after year still refusing to bloom (ten years! I have waited ten years for that bloody plant to bloom, and I fear it never shall).

In the kitchen garden, the escarole is finishing up, the mesclun is still going strong, potatoes, fava beans, lima beans, and borlotto beans are coming along. The grapes are growing insanely well. The cherry tomatoes are forming, the aubergine is dead, the curry plant is alive, and someone continues to eat the tips off the laurel leaves. I am not pleased. Don't be shocked if you see me serving rabbit in the near future.

Danny's lovingly tended parsley is finally growing. It takes so long to germinate you wonder if you have parsley or weeds until the recognisable leaves burst forth. He's really delighted with all the hard work watering, and devising ways to ward off bunnies, and I suspect we'll be enjoying our share of butter and parsley sandwiches soon.

The forget-me-nots still have not flowered. I'm getting irritated, but the plants look healthy-they're just being stubbornly slow. I planted them in march for heaven's sake.

The glads are up, and the foliage looks healthy, but still no flowers. The nasturtiums have not flowered, but I have pots full of healthy leaves. I may just pluck them out for salads.

Danny wants to do a large area of daffodils this fall, and I'm dreading the digging. I agree that we have a perfect spot for them, and it would look rather spectacular in the early spring when not much else is going-but oh, digging in dozens of bulbs! I'm not sure I'm up to that. My desire for early colour in our landscape may outweigh my common sense yet.

I still can't believe I'm successfully growing fava beans. I go out there and look at the gorgeous pods and feel like I've just solved some mathematical theorem. Favas might just be the one thing that grows in our garden that pests refuse to touch. How exciting.

A Quick Sandwich Spread

If you live with a mayonnaise hater as I do, it takes a bit of creativity when making sandwiches that require a bit more than oil and vinegar. As I was making veggie club sandwiches tonight, I had to improvise. This worked out so beautifully, I thought it was worth sharing.

You Will Need:

1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix everything except the oil together in a bowl. Slowly (I mean, a drop at a time) whisk in the oil which will emulsify slightly. Use immediately.


The car is going to the mechanic tomorrow for some regular maintenance (at over 200,000 miles it makes sense to keep on top of things). In what I can only explain as the Nebraska version of, "cleaning up for the cleaning lady" I thoroughly cleaned the car's interior. I know our mechanic won't think less of us for a cluttered car, but I still couldn't permit it to be dropped off with empty soda cans on the floor, and clothes piling up in the rear seat. I. Am. So. Pathetic.

A Discovery

Wandering the aisles at an unfamiliar supermarket today, I happened upon tubs of rendered chicken fat. You can get all the duck fat you want at the high-end shops, but chicken fat is kind of elusive in these parts. Mind, I'm a vegetarian, but Mr. ETB is not, and an egg fried in chicken fat and served on toast is one of those treats reserved for the rare occasion when I have used thighs for stock and have skin left for rendering. That doesn't happen too often around here.

I did not purchase the chicken fat, but somehow I feel happy just knowing it is there. I probably need to get a life.

I'm Probably Not A Very Nice Person

I don't watch much television, but last evening I caught about fifteen minutes of a PBS show called, Globe Trekker. Said programme featured a kid traipsing his way across Tunisia and Libya (prior to the recent events, obviously) and (here's the part where I'm probably not a very nice person) the first and only thought that came prominently to my mind was, "Wouldn't it be great if he met some Paul Bowles-ish (The Delicate Prey, A Distant Episode) fate out there in the desert?"

The kid hosting the show seemed like he had been waiting in the dock for some petty robbery offence, and they gave him the option of military service, the clink, or doing a travel programme. Had he not been saddled with so dreadful an accent he makes Billy Bragg sound upper class, I might have been able to absorb some of the historical facts the writers wanted conveyed to the viewers-but I couldn't (or rather, "coo'unt"). Yes, I know, I am not a very nice person. Truthfully, there wasn't a whole hell of a lot of historical fact being presented anyway. This show is focused on getting sweeping shots of sand dunes, and locals in ethnic dress. "Oooh look everybody-a fellow in a turban! exotic."

When I thought it couldn't get any worse, the kid dramatically strips off (to a pair of baggy trunks anyway) to go bathe in an oasis exposing his pale, flabby body for the viewers... for what? Certainly not enjoyment, probably not amusement either. This isn't like the time Michael Wood lay stark naked at some bronze age Mycenaean spot with nothing but a well-placed copy of The Iliad over his manhood. Really? You don't remember that?

Seriously for a moment, what really struck me about the presentation of the show is the disrespect it has for the local culture. I mean, that's a large part of what a travel show is expected to do, is it not? Pretending to take a shit at a Roman Bath, stripping off and leaping into the all seemed so, "Colonial master takes a holiday in exotic locale." Do you know what I mean? As though the people are there for the Westerner's amusement. The snarky, too-clever commentary, the arrogance, maybe even perhaps the youthfulness of it (as in immaturity) really left me bewildered by the decline in quality shows on PBS these days.

Now get off of my lawn while I go think about Michael Wood in the buff. Er, I mean read Edward Said. Just get the hell off of my lawn, OK?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Paprika Baked Tofu in Puff Paste With Carrots and Red Peppers

Everything I've used here, I've done before (Puff paste recipe HERE, Tofu recipe HERE.) But I thought it might be worthwhile to show you a different way of putting it together. I pre-cooked both the tofu, and vegetables earlier in the day so that the pastry could bake quickly at high heat (425 degrees F.). After rolling out the puff paste, I mounded the filling in a strip down the centre, then cut strips to fold over ladder-style. I brushed them lightly with an egg wash and baked.

I don't see any reason you couldn't do this with store-bought puff paste- I've used the stuff with excellent results on desserts, etc. If you do make your own, it freezes well and costs considerably less than store bought, and you get some control of the butter quality as well-but really, I wouldn't turn my nose up at the frozen variety.

Catalan Mushroom Salad-Gourmet Magazine December 1972

I used plain, old button mushrooms for this and the results were fantastic. Mr. ETB said it actually tasted like 1972, but I think 1972 tasted like Green Goddess dressing. *shrug*

You Will Need:

3/4 pound mushrooms thinly sliced
1 small tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves minced to a paste
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil

Place the mushrooms, tomatoes, and parsley in a large bowl. Chop and smash the garlic with the salt until you have a paste. Transfer to a small bowl. Slowly stir in the vinegar, and add the pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour over mushrooms, and toss lightly.

Gratin Dauphinois-Julia Child's Version

I won't say this dish is impossible to screw-up, but you'd have to make a determined effort.

You Will Need:

2 lbs. "boiling" potatoes (I used Yukon Gold) totalling 6-7 cups sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 clove unpeeled garlic
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup Swiss cheese (4 ounces) grated
1 cup boiling milk

Peel the potatoes and place in a bowl of water until needed.

Rub a flame-proof baking dish with the clove and then butter generously. Drain and dry the potatoes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. with the rack in the upper-third position. Layer half the potatoes in the pan. Use half the salt and pepper, and half the butter to dot. Sprinkle on half the cheese. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, spices, butter and cheese ending with a cheese layer. Pour on the boiling milk and then place on a burner until it comes to a simmer. Bake 20-30 minutes or until nicely browned and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Speaking of Bad Weather...

Danny wanted a tornado cake for his half-Birthday, and Mr. ETB wanted one for Father's Day as well. Here you go boys!

The funnel cloud is cake (not a funnel cake, though I did think of it and then disregarded the idea) , the flying debris are made from decorated butter cookies. Danny was impressed, as was Mr. ETB. The only thing Danny wanted for a gift was some spiral notebooks, so we bought him a nice assortment. I suspect he won't always be this easy to please.

Danny made Papa a couple of coasters (.49 cent white tiles from the hardware store decorated with a sharpie), and a 27 page story that he illustrated and I helped him bind in cloth covered cardboard. Oh, and we made him some caramel corn as well.
-Look, cloud-to-cloud lightning. How's that for detail?

A good day all around-hopefully the only severe weather tonight will come in the form of cake, but we are in the path of some expected stuff tonight. I think we should play some sort of game, like every time the weather radio goes off with a new warning you have to eat a cookie or something.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pumpernickel Bread-Sort Of

I say, "sort of" as it isn't anywhere near as dark as the pumpernickel I remember from childhood. I haven't tried any of this, but it is disappearing fast, both toasted and plain, so I'll assume it was well received.

From Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Book

You Will Need:

3 packages dry yeast (I did NOT use that much. I opted for 4 teaspoons and that worked just fine)
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 3/4 cups rye flour
2-3 cups AP flour
1/2 cup dark molasses (I used full flavour, but next time would try blackstrap)
2 tablespoons shortening (I used butter) 1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon caraway seed
Cornmeal for dusting

Soften the yeast in the water until foamy. Combine rye flour, 1 cup of the AP flour, molasses, shortening, caraway seed, salt, and softened yeast. Beat well. Stir in enough AP flour until you have a dough that is no longer sticky and can be kneaded. Knead until smooth.

Place in buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled-about 2 hours. Punch down, divide in 2 and let rest 10 minutes.

Shape each into a ball and place on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled-about 45 minutes. meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

The instructions did not say to score the loaves, but I did. Do as you see fit.

Bake until well-browned (about 35 minutes or until it reads an internal temperature around 200 degrees F.). If you desire a chewy crust, brush with water several times during the last 10-15 minutes of baking, otherwise dust with flour before baking.

Makes 2 smallish loaves.

RIP Little White Poodle Dog

The poodle has gone to that place where you can have all the table scraps you want, and your humans are never vegetarians. It has been a very difficult week without him, and I suppose it will take some time getting used to his absence. Algy was about 18 years old (he was an adult dog when we adopted him, 16 years ago) which is a good, long life for a dog that was rescued from a beach in Puerto Rico, and flown to an animal shelter in Massachusetts. I couldn't have asked for a better companion all these years, and he will be greatly missed. It feels so strange to be in the kitchen without someone dancing around and stomping his foot to let me know he'd like a taste of whatever I'm fixing.

For the first time in 16 years, I've had to come home without anyone running to the door to greet me.


The weather alarm just went off for what must be the seventh time this evening (two tornado warnings, severe thunderstorms, and now ping-pong sized hail). I am so. Sick. Of. It. I sort of feel like I was baiting the Universe as I was preparing decorated cookies for a weather themed cake on Sunday. Imagine how absurd it felt to be standing there icing lightning bolts and funnel clouds as the alarm starts in with, "The National Weather Service in Omaha has issued the following warning for Saunders county..." The roar outside is unbelievable.

Thankfully, we're far from the Missouri River, and the flood plain-but let me tell you, I had to drive into Omaha today, and you could smell the stench of spilled wastewater along I-80 near the new ballpark. So far the airport and downtown are OK, so everyone is keeping their fingers crossed.

Anyway, I guess it was lucky I was too tired to transplant my pepper seedlings in the garden today-there's no way they could survive 60mph winds and hail.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mushroom Pate en Croute, Gourmet Magazine, February 1973

While I had the stack of magazines out, I figured this would put a pound of Baby Bella mushrooms to good use. This is a long recipe with several steps best left for a day when you will be home. It came together nicely, and the boys are looking forward to cold slices as picnic fare tomorrow, which makes it seem less of an effort when it will be several meals. The pate wasn't difficult at all to make, but you need to permit enough time.

The only change I made was omitting the celery (because I didn't have any) and using parchment rather than wax paper to bake it. I'll post the recipe as written and let you decide what works best for you.

In a small bowl soak 2/3 cup oatmeal in 2/3 cup heavy cream for 5 minutes. In another bowl, combine 1 lb. mushrooms, finely chopped and squeezed (squeezed dry in a kitchen towel to remove moisture), 1/4 cup chopped shallots sauteed in 1 tablespoon butter until soft and chopped parsley (no amount given-I used a handful).

Add 2 stalks celery chopped fine, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon each of rosemary, oregano, and basil. Add in 2 beaten eggs (I used large), the soaked oatmeal and cream, and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Line a 1 1/2 quart terrine with well-buttered wax paper (I used parchment) leaving enough so that the sides overlap. Fill the terrine with the mixture and fold the sides over the top. Cover tightly with foil and place on a baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree F. oven. Bake 1 1/2 hours. Let cool 20 minutes in the terrine, then turn out onto a plate and remove paper. Let cool to room temperature, then chill three hours. Meanwhile, make the pastry.

In a bowl combine 2 cups AP flour, and 1/4 teaspoon salt with 1 cup chilled butter cut into tiny pieces. Cut in butter until it resembles fine meal. Add 2 tablespoons ice water (slowly, you may not need it all) and gather dough together in a ball. Flatten to a disk, wrap tightly and chill 3 hours.

Roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick into a large rectangle. Put the pate on it, top side down and trim edges until it is just large enough to cover. Cut out the corners of the dough and seal with an egg wash of 1 yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Gently press sides together to seal. Invert gently onto an ungreased baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Decorate top with any scraps. Chill 1 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake pate 1 hour 10 minutes or until it is golden. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Danny's Favourite Salad

Danny dislikes mayonnaise, even the homemade variety. Over the years, I've worked out some impressive potato salads using a number of different dressings. This is a current favourite, so I'll post the recipe here.

The peas, are from the garden, cooked in lettuce, a few tablespoons of water, and a pinch of sugar. Cover them tightly and cook over medium heat for about ten minutes. Refresh under cold water.

I didn't catch the salmon, that came from a tin.

Danny's Favourite Two Potato Salad:

1 lb. small red potatoes, diced
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 large green bell pepper, finely diced
1 heaping tablespoon imitation bacon bits
1 heaping tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon honey

Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain. Combine in a large bowl with pepper, bacon bits, and onion. Mix remaining ingredients in a cup to make dressing. Pour over still warm potatoes and gently mix. Chill several hours before serving.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Bitter Chocolate Orange Ice-Gourmet Magazine September, 1973

This ice is too good to lose to a stack of forgotten magazines. Promise me you will give this a try before the summer comes and goes. This would be a wonderful dessert for guests that cannot have dairy. If I had thought of it, the ices could be served in hollowed-out orange halves.
Nice chandelier. That's where Gourmet went wrong in the final years-they stopped putting photographs of Austrian crystals on the cover. I mean, you just know a magazine with that kind of lighting fixture on the cover is going to be page after page of elegant stuff, not attempts to class-up chicken fried steak and green bean casserole for fuckwit foodie types.

I did not do the beating with a mixer part, instead stirring it every hour or so with a fork until it froze and solidified. I will post the recipe as printed, but I also think it could be made in an ice cream maker if you don't have room for freezer trays. I used a 9x13 glass baking dish rather than the two trays suggested, and my results were excellent.

One final thought-I might try exchanging the vanilla extract for a bit of orange blossom water.

In a small dish sprinkle 2 teaspoons gelatin over 2 tablespoons cold water to soften for 5 minutes.

In a heavy saucepan combine 3 cups water with 2 cups sugar. Cook over medium heat stirring and washing down any crystals sticking to side of pan. When sugar is dissolved, increase heat to high and boil for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add 1 tablespoon grated orange rind and 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind. Stir in the gelatin. Stir the mixture until the gelatin is dissolved, and let it cool to lukewarm.

In a heavy saucepan, melt 4 ounces unsweetend chocolate over very low heat. Transfer the chocolate to a bowl and beat in the syrup mixture in a slow stream. Stir in 2/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Transfer the mixture to 2 freezer trays and cover with foil. Freeze until mushy. Transfer mixture to a bowl and beat it until it is smooth. return to tray and freeze until solid (about 4 hours). Makes about 1 quart.

Monday, June 06, 2011

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Sub Editors

They have already corrected it, but the newspaper had a story about the, "Levy breaches" in Iowa. I dunno, it kind of makes me think of an old Jew wearing his pants tightly belted, far above the waistline. Sometimes Danny will pull his up like that, and run around the house screaming, "Old man pants! Old man pants!"

Mr. ETB suggested I start getting screen shots of all these absurd errors that get printed and start a blog called, "USA Land." Something to think about..

"Old man pants! Old man pants!"

Meeting Girls, Do's and Don'ts via the Internets!

Don't- Send photographs of your bulge to women if your last name is, Weiner-it makes the jokes too easy. My son disagrees, stating with the mock incredulity he's already mastered, "His name is Weiner? Oh well that explains it, he probably had to send the photos." Mind, he hasn't seen the photos or been following the story save for what he's heard on the radio...Thanks NPR!"

Do- follow the adventures of little, "Woody" as he tries to get a date in a 1950's informational film for youngsters. I love that they named him Woody. I like the implied bit about pretty girls being bitchy too.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Quarterly Book Sale

It was 98 degrees by our thermometer today-and humid. I'm glad an hour drive in a car without air conditioning turned out to be worth it, but then the Omaha Library book sale always is. I went Friday, and today, and it was empty and quiet as a tomb. An air conditioned tomb filled with books, but apparently that wasn't enough to bring in the crowds.

A reminder for the locals, the on-going sale continues on Thursdays from 11-3PM at the Swanson branch on Dodge Street. There was an excellent supply of .25 cent, and .50 cent books (good stuff too, John Hawkes, William Gass, Peter Ackroyd) and I came home with some of the strangest cookbooks I've ever run across. I'm not sure when I think I'll find time for a 600 page biography of Lorca, but eventually Danny will grow up, move out, and I'll be able to read a book for enjoyment again. Until then, I guess I'm stuck plowing through a history of the Habsburgs.

I'll do a post later in the week with a photo round-up of the better illustrated items. I bought Danny a set of children's music books form the 30's that are breathtakingly beautiful. I still can't believe they let that set go for five bucks. Madness.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Meatless Taco Salad

What is a taco salad anyway? I picture ground beef and cheese in a deep-fried corn chip type bowl. This isn't that. Feel free to come up with a better name if you can.

I made my own corn tortillas, and shallow pan fried them, but that's a bit of a hassle if you don't do that sort of thing regularly. I'll post the recipe, and instructions but don't feel bad if your first few fall apart-consider it part of the learning process-they will still taste good. Store-bought works too, you know.

This is one of the few things I make where corn oil really seems to make a difference. You can of course use anything you like. The vegetables and tinned bean combination was just what I had, but as always use what is lurking in your crisper bins. I don't see why this couldn't have roasted potatoes, or red onion, or summer squash. I'm serving huge salads each night because I'm overrun with greens from the garden, but a bit of shredded lettuce would do too.

For the corn tortillas:

2 cups Masa Harina flour (not corn meal, or corn starch (also called, "cornflour" but a finely milled flour made from corn. If you have a Mexican grocer you can buy it already mixed, which helps when you're first learning to handle it). I use MaSeCa brand.
1-2 cups warm water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix salt and masa together. Slowly stir in water, mixing with your hand until you have a soft, spongy dough. You don't want it too dry or it will crack, but too wet won't roll out. You can take a ball of dough and try flattening it on a board. If it cracks badly at the edges, it is too dry and you should add more water a tablespoon at a time.

Wrap dough in cling film and let rest 15 minutes.

Roll into a log and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each into a ball. Keep covered until you are ready to roll each out.

Preheat a pan that can get very hot when dry (cast iron is good-don't use teflon for this). Roll out tortillas into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Edges will be shaggy, that's OK. Lift carefully with a thin spatula, and transfer to frying pan. Cook about 2 minutes on each side or until it has browned spots and a cooked appearance. Cool on a plate. When all are made, you can fry them in about 1/4 inch of corn oil, then drain them on brown paper. Do this last as you'll want to assemble and serve the salad right away.

For the salad/filling/toppings:

Salad greens, washed, dried and chilled (I had escarole, pea shoots, red leaf, green leaf, bibb, frisee, rocket, spinach and I can't remember what else).

Sliced black olives
Sour cream
Diced cucumber
Diced tomato
Shredded Cheddar

2 tins pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 bunches scallions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fresh corn (I had ears to use, but frozen or even tinned is just fine)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 large carrots, finely diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons corn oil
Chillies to taste (I had dried ancho and used about 2 teaspoons)

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add oil, then spices, then everything else. Cook until carrots and corn begin to soften. Remove from heat. Assemble still warm over lettuces, and fried tortillas. Top with fresh toppings, cheese, and sour cream. Makes enough for 2 greedy boys, or four reasonably hungry people.