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Coming soon…Pork Belly

I know, I know, three posts in one day, it’s lunacy around here.

I just wanted to get you thinking about pork belly.  I have had two, yes two, dreams about pork belly in the last week.  One involved a complicated preparation where I braised the pork in eau de vie made from pears (is there such a thing?) and then roasted it “until crisp and browned” (that’s what I was saying in the dream) and glazed it with and apple cider syrup.  Sounds pretty good, but what do you serve that with?  Any suggestions?

When I get around to trying it out I will let you know how it is.  Hooray for food dreams.

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I had a realization tonight: If it wasn’t for my husband I wouldn’t eat nearly as well. Since I do about 98.4% of the cooking dinner in this house it hasn’t ever occurred to me, but it’s true. Robert is out this evening for some much needed relaxation. I was making dinner for Lola and myself and I found that I didn’t have the energy to turn our simple meal of salmon, baked potatoes and green beans into anything other than basic food. I thought ‘Oh, some chopped green onions and crumbled blue cheese would be good on these potatoes’ and ‘I should make a little sauce for this fish’ and ‘Mmm, some toasted almonds and sauted shallots would taste great on these beans’ but I didn’t do any of it. Lola likes good food, but she also likes simple food, and I wasn’t willing to go to the work just for myself. I am willing, happy, drawn to do it almost every night, because I am in love. I had the sad thought tonight that if, God forbid and knock on wood, I am ever a single parent I will lose all that comes with a partnership, and also my ability to cook in detail oriented way on a Tuesday night. This relationship has taught me to cook more than any class or book ever could because I have the desire to please someone. Thank you Robert, you are powerful motivation.

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Before I launch right into a post I want to acknowledge the fact that I have been absent for quite some time. I have had a number of things floating around in my head that I’ve been wanting to write about but this has been a bit of a hard time for me. The holidays were crazy as they always are, but this year we were also trying to pass the final inspection on our new house before the end of the year (we slipped in just under the wire on December 28th though our house is still not ready to move into yet). When we came out on the other side of the madness I found I was pretty tired. By pretty tired I mean bone tired, exhausted to the core, and weary. I haven’t felt like myself, though I think a breakthrough is coming soon. I hope.

Tonight when I decided to sit down and write and I opened my wordpress page I saw that you amazing people have kept on checking in even though it has been what, two months since my last post? I was shocked. I know that I have a few dear and dedicated friends who would check regularly, but I didn’t realize that there are two dozen of you checking every day! Wow! Thank you. I will try to do a more consistant job, but I am going to warn you that one of my new years resolutions is to get rid of some of the guilt that I carry around with me like a forty pound hump on my back. I realized that one thing I can let go of guilt about is this site. If I don’t write for a while, no one will die. It’s my blog mantra.

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I have a skinny husband. As a cook I feel ashamed of this. I do feed him, I really do, but he stays skinny. And recently he has lost some weight. It probably has something to do with how very hard he is working to get our new house finished, but in any case he can’t afford to lose weight. When he told me that he has had to punch a third new hole in his belt, just so his pants will stay up, I decided it was time to do something. So now I am on a mission to put some meat on his bony body and it’s pretty fun. I love thinking up ways to get more calories into something instead of less. The problem of course is that I do not need fattening up. I have been making Robert a special extra creamy Ovaltine drink every evening and even though I am not drinking it I can feel my body reacting like I am. It seems that the act of cooking up something decadent is the same as eating it. Not fair. (By the way, have you had Ovaltine lately? It’s pretty darn good. Especially if you make it with hazelnut milk instead of regular milk and you add a couple tablespoons of cream to your cup. But I’m not drinking it, I just had a sip, I swear.)

I made a great quiche the other night in my effort to plump Robert up. Quiche by nature is pretty rich so I don’t make it that often, but it sounded like a good thing for him to take in his lunch. And it sounded pretty good for dinner too. I have a recipe that came from a teacher I had in cooking school that calls for six eggs and a pint, yes a pint, of cream per nine inch quiche. It’s very good that way, oh yes, and great for a treat, but I usually use half milk and half cream and it’s perfectly acceptable. I put in some delicious leeks that I got from my friend Lauren who works at Wobbly Cart Farm, a few stray leaves of chard, and some good gruyere cheese. Here is the un-recipe.

Leek and Gruyere Quiche

1 recipe of pie dough (I like to use half whole wheat flour when making quiche, but it’s up to you.)

6 eggs

2 cups cream or a combination of cream and milk

a little freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper (white pepper is especially good here)

olive oil

2-3 leeks, depending on the size

a little fresh or dried thyme

1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese

Roll out your pie crust, put it in your dish and crimp the edge. I like to blind bake (pre-cook) my crust so that it is nice and crisp. Line the inside of the crust with parchment paper and put in a cup or so of dried beans and then bake it in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Carefully lift out the parchment and beans and continue to bake it for another 10 minutes or until it starts to get brown. Make sure you keep an eye on the crust during the last part of the cooking to make sure it isn’t puffing up. If it does, just pat it down gently or poke a little hole in it with a fork.

While the crust is baking, clean and chop your leeks, the white and tender green parts. Saute them in a little oil and until they are tender and just starting to brown. If you have any chard around, you can slice up a few leaves and throw that into the leeks while they are cooking. Season to taste with salt and thyme.

Cooked leeks

Cooked leeks

Beat the eggs and cream together and season with salt, pepper and the grated nutmeg.

Egg mixture

Egg mixture

When your crust comes out of the oven, turn the heat up to 400 degrees. Layer the leeks and the grated cheese in the crust and pour the egg mixture over the top. Sprinkle on any extra cheese.

Quiche, ready to bake.

Quiche, ready to bake.

Bake on the bottom rack of your oven for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 325 and continue to bake until the center of the quiche is set, about 20 minutes more. You can poke into the center with the tip of a knife to check on it.

Finished quiche

Oops! I forgot to take a picture before cutting into it!

Quiche is great any time of day but I especially like it for lunch with a simple salad dressed with lemon and olive oil. Though this is pretty rich, it is not unhealthful and winter is coming so a little fattening up is not a bad thing!

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You can now subscribe to my blog and/or the comments by clicking on the RSS links on the right hand side of the page. Thank you to my friend Korum for setting this up!

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I just had to share my recent popcorn success. After reading the helpful comments I got on my post about things I can’t cook I went out an bought a fresh bag of popcorn on Saturday. I wanted to find a way to pop regular popcorn in the microwave without the special bowl that Sue has. A little internet research led me to the paper bag method and I actually made a delicious bowl of popcorn, and the house didn’t stink! Robert and I had a good night eating popcorn, drinking Champagne and watching Weeds. I interrupted the show a couple times (OK, three or four times) to say ‘This is great! I’m so proud of myself!’ I felt like a real kitchen pro, popping corn and being able to eat it and all.

For those of you who want to try my new paper bag popcorn method, here’s how:

Put a generous 1/2 cup of popcorn in a paper bag. Squeeze out the air and fold the top over a few times. Put it in the microwave and turn it on. Nuke it until you stop hearing lots of popping. I think it took about five minutes in my microwave, but it is old and crappy so yours might be quicker.

Paper bag popcorn

Paper bag popcorn

Put popcorn into a bowl and pour melted butter over it. I ground up some salt in a mortar and pestle to sprinkle over. The powdered salt sticks to the popcorn better, I highly recommend it.

I can't believe I made this!

I can't believe I made this!

Robert and I have been really stressed out by our house building project lately. We’re feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and out of money. But the new popcorn development has been a bright spot in our life. I told Robert as he was heading up to bed that we need to think of something to do tomorrow to make it feel like Friday night without spending any money. He said “We could have popcorn…” We laughed a lot thinking of all the days we are going to have to make special by eating popcorn. It’s good to laugh.

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The Beginning

Starting a blog is so unlike me.  I’m sure that doing this will surprise most everyone I know.  But it’s time for a change.  Change is good, right?  I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, but usually I just make myself hungry coming up with things to write about and I have to go fix a snack.

I’m not a writer, nor do I have any illusions that this will make me one.  But I do love food.  I love eating food, talking about food, cooking food, buying food.  So I am going to assume that I will love writing about food too.

This blog will mainly be about what I’ve been cooking and eating, with some posts dedicated solely to ingredients that I especially love – strawberries and fava beans come to mind…  I also want to write about restaurants I visit, cooking for and with a certain five year old named Lola, my black market pizza operation, and things that go on in my kitchen in general.  My friends and their culinary talents will make appearances here from time to time and so will Robert, my handsome husband and favorite eating partner.

So, that’s it.  We’ll see where this road leads.  I would love it if all of you would lift your cyber forks, raise your cyber glasses, and join me in a cyber toast.

Cheers!  Here’s to something new!

And now, let’s dig in…

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