Category Archives: Et cetera

Back to school announcements

It’s been ages since I felt like the whole “back to school” thing affected me. But here I am, in full mom mode, having dropped my child off for his first day of preschool. He put his lunch away in his little cubby, kissed me goodbye, and charged into the classroom in his walker without looking back. I was so proud of him.

Sure, things might be changing for him, but I feel like they’re also changing for me. Sitting down, I feel like I need to have a little come to jesus with my computer. Where am I? Who am I? What am I writing next? I have so many exciting small projects, but I need big picture focus. I need lesson plans.

In the meantime, I want to share a few things with you. They’re like announcements, only the loudspeaker is hopefully much less annoying:

  • First, the September/October issue of Edible Seattle is out, and The Recipe of Summer (or The Recipe My Wife Won’t Put Away, if you ask a certain someone) is on the cover. Yup, that’s it, right up there – the vermicelli noodle bowl that’s taken over every dinner party, every weekend, and every ingredient in my refrigerator. I’ve made it a gazillion ways, often with squash, sometimes whirling hot peanut butter into the dressing, sometimes topping it with grilled spot prawns, sometimes containing it in rice paper wrappers, like Vietnamese-style summer rolls on steroids. I’ve tinkered with the vinaigrette until it’s just the way I love it. The recipe is below. Pick up a copy of Edible Seattle for more recipes; they’re designed to help you use the abundance of squash hanging fat on their vines these days.
  • Tomorrow, September 7th, a joint art exhibit opens at the Gage Academy in Seattle. Spearheaded by my friend Hannah Viano, a papercut artist, “Straight Back Home to You” explores the concept of home through physical art, dance, voice, and smell. (Guess where I come in?) You can experience all of them together at the opening reception on September 21st.

In the meantime, here’s that new favorite…

Summer Garden Vermicelli Salad (PDF)
Originally published in Edible Seattle’s September 2012 issue

serves 4 | start to finish: 30 minutes
This flexible, colorful salad takes advantage of whatever your garden gives. These days, that probably means cucumbers, carrots, and squash, but use whatever vegetables you prefer—think tomatoes, thinly sliced peas or beans, or shredded basil. Use the marinade on chicken, per the recipe below, or substitute tofu or fish. If you’re feeling fancy, fry thinly sliced shallots in canola oil and use them as a crunchy topping.

for the dressing
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup fish sauce
2/3 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 to 3 teaspoons sriracha, to taste

for the salad
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3), trimmed of excess fat
About 8 ounces rice vermicelli (8 little bundles)
2 large carrots, peeled
2 small yellow or green zucchini, trimmed
2 small cucumbers, trimmed, peeled if needed
2 cups thinly sliced crunchy lettuce, such as romaine
4 sprigs mint, finely chopped
12 sprigs cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

First, make the dressing: Whisk the dressing ingredients to blend in a medium bowl.

Combine 1 cup of the dressing, the canola oil, and the chicken breasts in a baking pan, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (about 400°F). Soften the rice vermicelli according to package instructions.

Put the chicken on the grill, allowing any excess marinade to drip back into the pan first. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is well marked on both sides and cooked through.

Meanwhile, divide the noodles between four large bowls or plates. Grate the carrots, zucchini, and cucumbers with a food processor or hand-held grater, and add them in little piles next to the noodles, along with the chopped lettuce. Slice the chicken and divide it between the salads. Top with the mint, cilantro, and peanuts, and serve while the chicken is still warm, drizzled with plenty of the dressing.

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Filed under egg-free, Et cetera, gluten-free, recipe, stir-fry, vietnamese

A newish thing

One day last week, I accidentally terrified my child. I was strolling with him and my mother-in-law through the produce section of a grocery store, and like anyone might, I stopped to marvel at a buddha’s hand—those eerily hand-like, vibrant yellow citrus fruits. I picked one up and sniffed it, and held it out for him to smell, and he looked at me, wide-eyed, when I said something about a monster’s hand. I put it down and we moved on.

It wasn’t until later, when my mother-in-law wheeled me a sobbing, bone-shaken creature, that I realized what I’d done. She’d strolled him past a fish display, where some perfectly innocent fishmonger had creatively staged another buddha’s hand where the head of a giant salmon should be. He shrieked, and clung, and hid his face for many long minutes. It’s not unusual for a 2 1/2-year-old to go through a phase of being scared easily, but it doesn’t feel good to be the one who starts it. Suddenly, my formerly unfazable kid is scared of everything. Thunder, leaf blowers, unpredicted stomps, particularly loud motorcycles—they all make him cower in the fetal position on the ground, face down. So far the solution has been to play Wagon Wheel and talk and dance until he comes out of it, which he does suddenly and completely after about 90 seconds. “Mommy, what’s a southbound train?” he asks. (No, I don’t show him the video.)

I don’t feel particularly proud of scaring the shit out of my kid. I am, however, impressed with how his fears have fueled his creativity. He’s talking about being scared, and showing me how his animal “friends” feel, and developing a community to help him get over the new frights. And out of that experience comes a lesson for me: even though I don’t have a typical job or lead a very typical life, I don’t do new things all that often. My life is composed of a series of expectations, all of which are more or less met on a daily basis. I plan articles. I test recipes. I shop for groceries. I make lists of inspirations. Then I write, and write, and write. But week over week, month over month, the overarching theme hasn’t changed in a while. The closest thing I’ve been to scared this week had to do with making corn dogs for the first time.

This isn’t to say I’m ready for something completely new or scary; it’s only to say that every once in a while, I appreciate a little shake-up. Something newish. Something fun.

Luckily, one of my friends happens to be one of the most persistently inspirational people I’ve ever met. Hannah’s the type of person who leaves a wake of ideas behind her when she walks across a room; she sheds creativity like a long-haired cat in June. When she proposed we do a pack of winter recipe cards together, pairing her artwork with my recipes, I jumped. Actually, I got in the car and met her for a drink. This was months ago.

We let the idea linger through the fall. But for some reason, with Graham’s buddha’s hand scare, I started thinking I should perhaps hop on these fun new things when they crop up, instead of running, which is what I’d do more instinctively. Because when else am I going to find an artist whose illustrations—papercuts, to be exact—so perfectly depict the foods I want people to eat? When would artwork, rather than a photograph, be a good representation of my food? When Hannah’s behind it, of course.

These here papercuts are just a little glimpse of our project—and the squash soup below is the starter, in a smartly wrapped package of winter cards each containing one recipe. There are five in the package, and together, they make up a lovely little winter dinner party menu.

There, now. Doesn’t’ that feel liberating? Food, illustrated in a completely new way. Stay tuned; we’re hoping to get them printed this week.

For now, the soup recipe. I’m off to figure out how to get Graham to eat salmon again.

Cumin-Scented Hubbard Squash and Apple Soup (PDF)
Time: 30 minutes active time / Serves 6
Based on a recipe that serves me all winter long, this squash soup has a lovely velvety texture–make sure you puree it until it’s silky–and enough cumin to scent every corner of your house.

4 pounds hubbard squash pieces • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil • 1 medium onion, finely chopped • salt and freshly ground pepper • 1 teaspoon ground cumin • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth • 2 large tart apples, such as Honeycrisp, peeled, cored, and chopped

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Plunk the squash pieces on a baking sheet, skin side down, seal the pan closed with foil, and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the squash’s meat and skin are completely soft when poked with a fork. Cool until the squash is comfortable to touch, then scoop or cut out and save the flesh. (You should have about 6 cups of 1” pieces.)

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the butter, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onions begin to soften. Stir in the cumin. Add the broth, apples, and squash pieces to the onions and stir to combine. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take the soup off the heat, and let cool for about 15 minutes. Carefully puree the soup until very smooth in multiple batches in a food processor or blender. Return the soup to the heat, season to taste, and serve hot.

Cumin-Scented Hubbard Squash and Apple Soup 1

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Filed under Et cetera, Fun food sites, gluten-free, kitchen adventure, soup

Lost, suddenly.

I have a dependable, possibly annoying habit of picking up other peoples’ isms. I’ve started saying “oh, gosh,” the way my friend Tami does, and “I do not,” instead of “I don’t,” because that’s what my (now very) two-year-old says when he disagrees with me. These days, I’m saying “craaaazy” like Hannah does, and “not so much,” which came from someone . . . I have a favorite ism, of course. When offered coffee, my friend Dan says “always,” instead of “yes, please,” or maybe “I’d love some.” It’s just a little word, that “always,” but having the opportunity to copy him makes my day. It tells people my stomach is always open. They always smile.

But today, someone told me I’d have to stop with the always thing. I went to see an ayurvedic doctor, about lupus and shingles and balancing life’s little pleasures with life’s big problems, and she said what I’d know she’d say–that for 8 weeks, I should try an elimination diet, a sort of spring cleaning for the body, albeit in midsummer. She said I should eat for nutrition, not for pleasure. (What???) She was good at phrasing it as a positive, exploratory time. She talked about kale chips and nut and seed butters and about cooking with coconut oil, which I’ve never done. She tried to convince me, right then and there, that I need to be working on a cookbook for autoimmune disorders.

I told her, quite bluntly, that altering the way I eat every day is completely at odds with what I do—it clashes with my career, with my mindset, with my lifestyle. By nature, I am not an eliminator. I am an overindulger. I tend to add nutrition to my diet, but I rarely take things out. (Evidence here.) But now this: a list of NOs, when I’m so used to saying YES. No eggs, beef, pork, dairy, sugar, nightshade vegetables, corn, gluten, spices, alcohol, caffeine, soy, chocolate, fruit, or high glycemic index veggies. That’s a list. (I’ve always said I never met a list I didn’t like, but this one is the exception to the rule.)

I nodded seriously at the doctor. Then I explained to her that there are just certain things I need to eat, because I’m testing recipes. She recommended I have other people taste for me. Perhaps my husband could be my taster? Like hell, I thought. Tito is an excellent eater, but he himself claims to have the palate of a rock. And how could I possibly create a recipe for a broad audience without tasting it myself? Nonsense. It can’t happen. But this doctor also said I could get many of the benefits of the diet by following it as much as I can—i.e. if I eat per the guidelines 75% of the time, I’ll see 75% of the benefit. At the end of our hour together, she congratulated me on not crying. Until then, it hadn’t occurred to me to cry, but hearing it made me realize what a big jump she was asking me to make.

After the appointment, I went to a Whole Foods to explore the rice and almond milk aisle, and to digest the concept of “dieting,” and to purchase a weird herbal tea she said tastes remarkably like coffee, for the mornings, when I will supposedly be going off the bean. I’m sure I looked like a newly rescued disaster victim, wandering the aisles with an empty stare and a basketful of esoteric ingredients. I felt sort of homeless, frankly. No fruit? In August? I got into my car, opened a can of coconut water and a bag of salted pumpkin seeds, and tried to feel healthier.

But I don’t know if I can do this, people. I want more than anything to find a way off the lupus roller coaster—it’s no accident I got shingles at 32, it’s a product of my crazy immune system—but the purification process is so deeply conflicted with what I do for a living that I’m not sure how the two can possibly coexist. I’m not afraid of the 8 weeks. I’m afraid of the 8 weeks’ being successful.

Yesterday, working on my next cookbook, Dishing Up Washington, I made a gorgeous summer pasta with cauliflower and capers and lemon and goat cheese. I planned to eat it for lunch today, and to tell you about it-about how the poor cauliflower, so sweet and tender and lovely when browned, is completely overshadowed at farmers’ markets by flashier summer vegetables, by tomatoes and corn and peppers and eggplant and goodness, have you seen the carrots these days? Now I’m supposed to avoid all of them, and the pasta, too—for a while, at least. The leftovers are sitting in the fridge, begging for escape, and I can’t help them.

So for 8 weeks, I’m supposed to test just the recipes that comply with the diet’s restrictions. It’s very doable, on the recipe front, based on the list I have for Dishing Up Washington. I can do it. There are so many foods I can eat. But I’m not sure I want it to be doable.

What I want to do is lie on the ground and pound my fists into the floor. My two-year-old has recently been schooling us on the best methods of throwing tantrums, and I think I could do him proud.

Have you done this-not the tantrums, but an elimination diet? Did it make a difference? How did you get through?

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Filed under Et cetera, lupus

Spendy Threads

Cloaked in a bolt of royal blue cloth that revealed only a nose, a braided grey beard, and a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, the man I approached at my farmers’ market looked something like a modern-day executioner. I knew there was no rational reason for me to be nervous. Someone I had trusted had given me the hook-up to Washington-grown saffron. But I’d been expecting a hipster, not a hippie.

Surrounded by tables of baby succulents, the grower was busy discussing the particulars of a plant I’d never seen before with another customer. I lurked, observing how the guy’s hands were permanently creased with dirt, almost as though the hands themselves were half-plant. When he noticed me, I shyly asked if he knew who sold saffron. A bright, welcoming grin burst out from behind his hood and he opened his eagle arms wide. With no small drama, he swooped a hand under the table, brought out a small tackle box, and extracted a tiny cellophane envelope filled with abnormally long, red threads. I had to remind myself that what I was doing was perfectly legal. I took a deep breath. “How much?” I ask.

Continue reading at Leite’s Culinaria…

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Stewing

The Cookbook Stack

It’s been so long since I had the opportunity to properly obsess over the stream of cookbooks flowing into my house that many of them can no longer even be considered “new.” Just the same, I’m making my mental lists: recipes to make, recipes to pass on, recipes to horde for the perfect occasion. Essays to read. Tips to internalize. Books that inspire. Books that turn on. (Books that turn off.)

There’s a stack that travels from my kitchen counter to my dining room table to the bureau in my bedroom, depending on where I have space and whether I want the house to look cleaner than it really is. It’s more or less the same-sized stack that accumulates every so often, made up of books tagged with little scraps of paper where they need more attention. Only this time, in the midst of planning a cookbook of my own, the stack looks suddenly different.

Like a teenager with a brand-new set of braces, I’m suddenly hyper-aware of details that might have completely escaped me a year ago—things like how the color of recipe titles contrasts with the page, which recipes they’ve chosen to photograph, how the recipes are organized, and whether I think the headnotes are giving the right kind of information. Most importantly, I’m trying to figure out what it is about a cookbook, exactly, that makes me use it.

The answer, as far as I can tell, is a little complex. The average cookbook in my household enters through the front door, but beyond that, they all have pretty disparate paths. There’s an immediate split, for sure: standing at the door with my purse falling off my shoulder and a toddler hanging off my hip, there are books I open and books I don’t open. But the eventual pleasure derived from each set of books might be the opposite of what you think: If I’ve heard good things about a book, and/or know that it might be interesting for some particular reason, I don’t usually open it right away. I place it on the counter, where it sits until I have time to pick it up with both hands. Books are usually only opened when they land on my doorstep unsolicited, in which case I’m more or less expressing surprise and outrage at something having entered my personal realm without my express permission. These books aren’t doomed, by any means, but I admit there’s a definite difference between how I approach books I recognize and those I don’t.

In any event, hours usually pass. Then I open the book. From there, after much geekery, I decided cookbooks have four possible paths before the actual cooking begins:

Per the flowchart above, cookbook may be:

1. Rejected. This book holds nothing for me. I would have no compunction starting a fire with the pages, and it will not garner a spot in my downstairs cookbook collection. There are very few books that fall clearly into this category, but when they do, it’s miserable.

2. Regifted. Often, I find a book that I think is interesting, but for some reason or other I don’t think I’ll use it as much as another person might. This can be a good or a bad thing. It may mean that I’ll buy the book multiple times as a gift, but it also may mean that I just don’t have the heart to actually throw it away.

3. Perused. I leaf through the pages, making mental notes of which recipes I might actually follow—which, for me, means opening the book, buying some or all of the ingredients, and cooking more or less in the same general vein as the recipe. (For someone who writes them for a living, I very rarely actually follow recipes.) Sometimes, I leave the book on my counter for a day or two, until I have the chance to bastardize a recipe in my own special way. Once I’m finished, I tend to memorize how happy I was or wasn’t with the recipe, and shelve the book – in which case it’s a success – or use it to decorate my house, as described above, until I have a chance to call yay or nay. Most typically, the books that spend the most time traipsing from counter to counter are those I deem the most successful. In rare cases, I cook something I don’t like, and the book gets a spot in the basement.

4. Devoured. For me, the difference between perusing and devouring is a matter of posture. A book is perused standing up. A book is devoured sitting down. If a book is interesting enough to cuddle with, there’s a pretty good chance it will earn a spot on the kitchen cookbook shelf (which, theoretically, gets cleaned out every so often). Devoured books get assaulted with sticky notes, and typically birth a cascade of other ideas, most of which are scribbled on the back of junk mail envelopes. They follow the same path as perused books, only they get priority status, a veritable red carpet into the week’s dinner rotation.

Once it’s cracked, I use a book like most people use a thesaurus: for ideas, and for education. When I open cookbooks, I usually open four or five at a time. And like good new words, good new recipes stick with me—not their ingredient lists and instructions, verbatim, but their concepts. That pasta dish with lemon, anchovies, and olives, from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef? It introduced me to mixing lemon and olives in pasta, which I’d somehow never done before. I made it without the pine nuts, because I didn’t have them, and I only made a half recipe, which I regretted after bite number two. I’ve made three variations since then, each a bit different. But I know people who wouldn’t dare turn on the stove without having every ingredient listed in a recipe on hand, people who would always make a recipe the exact same way they made it the first time if they liked it the first time, and people who would never try a recipe for something they hadn’t tasted before. We’re all different.

Until yesterday, I’d forgotten that there are times when I simply don’t know how to use a cookbook. (You’re not the only one.)

Take Amanda Hesser’s hefty new tome, The Essential New York Times Cookbook. With 1,400 recipes that chronicle America’s culinary history of the last 150 years—from a New York perspective, anyway—the thing’s a giant red linebacker of a book, and it scares the shit out of me. I have many books like hers on my shelves, but they seem like books that have always been there. They’re fixtures. It’s rare to put a book like that on the shelf for the first time, especially when you know it’ll be there when your kid goes to college.

When I saw Amanda speak at an event last night, I peeked into it to read the recipes she referenced as she spoke, and found they somehow had as much personality on the page as they did when she talked about them. But when I got home, arm aching from carrying two of the suckers, the book intimidated me again. I put it on the high counter between the kitchen and dining room, and looked at it in a way I’ve never done, peeking in fits and spurts. I’d walk by and open it at random (Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pine Nuts from 1990), have a little swoon, then snap it shut. After a quick email check, another opening: Snow Pudding from 1877. Some tea. Cream of Carrot Soup from 1974. The book is a culinary cave of wonders.

And I can’t help but wonder myself, as I stare at it now, whether this book will somehow be used differently. I clearly won’t marvel at the photos, because there aren’t any. I won’t bring it to bed, because I don’t tend to do that. (To paraphrase what Tom Douglas said last night, people who read cookbooks in bed need better lovers.) And goodness knows I won’t cook my way through the entire thing. Will the historical nature of many of the recipes encourage me to – gasp! – follow a recipe from start to finish? Maybe every book I have is used differently, based on some signal it sends my brain telepathically the moment I first crack the binding.

Which brings me to the question I ask every time I look at this here stack o’ books: How different are we in our cookbook use? How does the way we use cookbooks change over our lifetimes, and over the lifetime of the books themselves? I feel like planning my book, I’m making a stew I want everyone to like, and I have to decide what to put in it right now. Like Thanksgiving, in a way. Only 75 recipes long.

Oxtail Stew with Wheat Berries, Carrots, and Kale 2

Decision anxiety is a common problem for me in the kitchen, too. Last weekend, I initially bought beef oxtail to be used in an oxtail bolognese, again from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, but it somehow turned into a variation on the oxtail, farro, and root vegetable stew from Ethan Stowell’s New Italian Kitchen.

Of course, I changed things. (I always do.) But the resulting stew – a rich mix of shredded oxtail, carrots, and kale, much more like the stew I tasted at Tavolata once than the stew in the book – was exactly what I wanted. Yet somehow I was sort of depressed to think that no one else would ever make the same variation.

Ultimately, I’d like to follow a good cookbook from the inside out. I’d like to plant a little video camera inside, say, the aforementioned oxtail stew page, and send the book around to everyone I know, so it can record what people add and subtract, how they shop for it and how they serve it, or whether they even pause to look at the recipe at all. Ideally, the camera would also be able to tell me, in retrospect, every time the recipe inspires the user to cook or create down the road – which, to me, is the essential sign of a successful recipe.

Thus far, I haven’t heard of such a camera. So for now, I’ll have to rely on this old-school internet thing, and wonder what the big red book (and its little cousins) will bring in the months and years to come.

You tell me: How do you use a cookbook?

Oxtail Stew with Wheat Berries, Carrots, and Kale

Oxtail Stew with Wheat Berries, Carrots, and Kale (PDF)

It only takes a slower trip past a good butcher shop to learn that there’s more to cook from a cow than steak and hamburger. Cooking the oxtail for this stew, an uber-rich mixture of ancient grains, beef, and kale adapted from a recipe for oxtail stew with farro and root vegetables in Ethan Stowell’s New Italian Kitchen, is criminally easy—you just stick it in a pot with some water, and it stews itself into a rich, fragrant stock while you do something else for a few hours nearby. I just might call it The New Beef Stew.

I won’t lie. Picking the meat off the bones is a project. (Think eating ribs, only you use your fingers instead of your teeth, and you have to do it for everyone at the table.) But I’ll make you a promise: If you make this unctuous, beef-rich stew, filled with tender shreds of oxtail, and don’t feel it was worth every second of your time, call me, and I’ll come take it off your hands.

Since oxtail is often sold in many different sizes – because, you know, cow’s tails aren’t exactly evenly cylindrical – it might help you to think of needing roughly enough meat and bone to cover the bottom of a 9” by 13” pan in one layer.

Start the stew the night before; the fat on the stock is easier to remove if you let it cool overnight.

Makes 8 servings.

4 pounds oxtail
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onions, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
3 ribs celery, sliced into 1/4” half-moons
1 cup wheat berries
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine
5 large carrots, cut into 1/4” half-moons
1/2 pound lacinato (dinosaur) kale, ribs removed, chopped into 1/2” pieces
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Hot pepper sauce, to taste

Place the meat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add water until the meat is covered by about 2 inches. Bring to a simmer and cook, turning once or twice and skimming any foam that collects on the surface off with a large spoon, for 4 hours, or until the meat is tender. Use tongs to transfer the meat to a platter. Set the stock aside to cool to room temperature.

While still warm, pick the meat off the bones, discarding bones and cartilage but keeping as much fat as you’re comfortable with. Package the meat in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. Once it’s cool enough to handle, transfer the stock to a vessel that fits easily in your refrigerator, and refrigerate overnight.

At least an hour before dinner (or up to 2 days before), heat the soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onions, shallots, garlic, and celery, and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the stock from the refrigerator, and use a spoon to remove the white cap of fat that has formed on the top.

Add the wheat berries and thyme to the pot with the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine, and bring to a simmer, stirring. Add the stock (it should have the consistency of Jell-O), bring to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes at a bare simmer. Add the carrots, kale, sherry vinegar, and reserved meat, along with enough water to submerge the chunky ingredients, if necessary. Season with salt, pepper, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning, and serve hot, with crusty bread.

Oxtail stew and the cookbook stack

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Filed under Beef, commentary, Et cetera, grains, recipe

Slim Pickin’

cherries to taste

7:45 a.m.

I fuel up at Le Panier in downtown Seattle. I’ve had breakfast already, but it’s going to be 90 degrees in Wenatchee, so I down a flaky croissant, in case the day turns into eight hours of volunteer labor. Andrew, who must be tall enough to harvest cherries without a ladder, picks me up in his Prius wearing a lovely pressed shirt, slacks, and trendy lace-up leather shoes. He has the self-assured smile of a very successful car salesman. Back home, I’d been so sure sturdy sneakers and an old t-shirt were appropriate, but now, I’m not so certain. Thank goodness I remembered my cherry-print bobby socks. Andrew notices them immediately.

In high school soccer, I was a forward. I had neither the speed and endurance required of a midfielder, nor the ball skills required near the goal. I thought it was a pretty good gig, hanging out up past midfield, waiting for someone to pass me the ball so that I could score and dance around like I’d actually accomplished something. That is, until one girl started screaming “CHERRY PICKER” every time I scored. That made it less fun.

When Andrew, the Washington State Fruit Commission’s resident cherry expert, said he’d take me cherry picking at high season, I jumped. I had no reason to believe I wouldn’t be good at the real thing, especially if I didn’t actually have to grow the cherries myself. And it would be awfully nice if no one hollered at me.

Continue reading Slim Pickin’ at Leite’s Culinaria. . .

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Two lists, from two hundred

Looking through the year, it’s hard to imagine making some of the recipes I made in January – who wants to eat pot roast right now?

But that’s how he works, Father Time: strangely. At one hundred, I listed my favorites. In light of my recent hankering for repetition, I flipped through the (now) two hundred entries in my recipe journal to make you two lists:

Recipes from 2007 that I’ve made more than once (more than I thought, and mostly quick ones):

1. Vodka Tonic with Pomegranate and Pernod
2. Parmesan-Garlic Breadsticks
3. Variations on No-Knead Bread (more times than I can count)
4. Goat Cheese with Kalamata Olives and Sundried Tomatoes
5. Butter-Titrated Brownies
6. Mixed Seafood Roast with Fennel and Sorrel
7. Chicken Stock
8. Hot Tangy Beans
9. Sari’s Tuna Salad (at least five times)
10. Shallot Cream Dressing
11. Rhubarb-Apple Crisp
12. Eggs Carlos
13. Olive Oil-Vanilla Cake (four times, I think)
14. Creamy Chopped Salad with Chickpeas and Cucumbers
15. A Different Kind of Guacamole (don’t ask about the time a friend added a cup of lime juice instead of a tablespoon)
16. Roasted Pepper Vichyssoise
17. Apricots with Blue Cheese, Pistachios, and Honey
18. Lambic Float (try peach!)

Recipes Tito wants me to make again (I told him to pick three):

1. Rustic Salty Cashew Shortbread
2. Andouille-Green Chili Hash
3. Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub
4. Gnocchi with Morels and Mascarpone Cream
5. Baked Trout with Peppers, Tomato, and Capers

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