Monthly Archives: November 2007

334: Save this for a Sunday

Cider-Braised Pork 1

Cider-Braised Pork with Apple-Onion-Dijon Sauce (PDF)
Recipe 334 of 365

Serve tender slices of braised pork as is, or over a bed of mashed potatoes or couscous, which will sop up the sweet, rich braising liquid.

TIME: 45 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (2-pound) pork shoulder roast, netting intact
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil, plus more, if needed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 small leeks, halved lengthwise and cut into half moons
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 pound small yellow pearl onions, peeled*
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups hard apple cider
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a large, heavy, ovenproof soup pot or Dutch oven (with a tight-fitting lid) over medium-high heat. Place the flour on a small plate. Season the flour liberally with salt and pepper. Pat the pork dry, then coat it on all sides with the flour mixture.

When the pot is hot, add the peanut oil, and sear the pork (leaving the string on) until nicely browned on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, wiping the pot out and adding more oil if needed. Transfer the pork to a plate, and carefully wipe the pot clean with paper towels. Reduce the heat to medium.

Add the olive oil to the pot, then the leeks, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, peeled onions, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper.

Veg for cider-braised pork

Cook and stir for 2 minutes, then nestle the pork in between the vegetables. Add apple cider until it comes about halfway up the side of the pork, cover the pot, and transfer it to the oven. Braise for 1 hour, then turn the pork over, add the apples, and braise for an additional 45 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let rest. Meanwhile, return the braising liquid to the stovetop, and simmer for 10 minutes, until considerably thickened. Stir in the mustard, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the strings from the pork, slice it, and serve immediately, topped with apples, vegetables, and braising liquid.

*To peel onions, trim off the root strings with a small knife, and score the bottom of the onion with a small “x.” Cook in boiling water for 1 minute, then refresh under cold water, and peel.

Leave a comment

Filed under fruit, pork, recipe

Emergency party food, or something to have around

I’m sorry, but my cookie vibe is getting weak. A chocolate-peppermint toffee bark is still somewhere in my brain, but after the thumbprints, I need to lay off the butter for a bit, I think.

Today: Easy.

Normally, around this time of year, I stuff sweet, spicy peppadews with an herbed goat cheese. The blend of the tart, tangy cheese with the pepper’s piquant flavor is great, but you gotta dry the things out first, which seems to take more effort than it should, then stuff them individually. . . I wanted the results, but I dreaded the process.

I opened my peppadew jar to find they’d installed a nifty new draining device:

Peppadew jar

Herego, now you just turn the jar upside-down in the sink to drain them.

Then, a miracle of an idea (Hanukkah must be close): I just dumped all the ingredients together to make a peppadew-goat cheese spread. I got so excited by the hot tangerine color of the mixture that I forgot all about the herbs, but it didn’t matter. Now we’re schmearing the stuff on everything from bell peppers to carrots to little whole wheat toasts. My husband ate it for breakfast.

Oh, and a word of caution: Despite your best efforts, the black lid to the peppadews will not fit on your camera as a lens cap.

toasts wtih peppadew-goat cheese spread

Recipe 333 of 365: Peppadew-Goat Cheese Spread

Whirl 8 ounces softened goat cheese, one drained 14-ounce jar peppadews, and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper together in a food processor until smooth. Serve immediately, as a dip for crudites, breadsticks, or crackers (it will still be soft and dippable), or chill until more firm, and spread on toasts or sandwiches.

Or, for the days when a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup from a can seems awfully complicated, try this:

Tomato soup garnished with toasts with peppadew-goat cheese spread


Filed under appetizers, gluten-free, recipe

A touch of Grace

Driving back from razor clamming, my friend and I were discussing Christmas cookies, and we hit an impasse. He said Sugar cookies! and I said Sugar cookies? Ick.

See, I’m not from a sugar cookie family. I’m not even from a cookie family. The thought spending a day baking for the holidays with my mother makes me laugh out loud. When the weather outside got frightful, we skied.

But somewhere up the line, there must have been a cookie gene, because I love baking them. Just not. . .them.

We bantered a bit, driving home in the dark. My friend extolled the attributes of his family’s recipe, and I narrowed my eyebrows in disagreement, a bit thankful he couldn’t see me. I know I won’t fool anyone with any claims to cooking with virtuous ingredients all the time, but really, really, I don’t see the point of a plain white cookie with sugar-based icing on top. It just tastes like sugar.

Yes, I hear you. They’re called sugar cookies. But still. Boring. Who wants to bite into an anemic-looking thing, no matter its shape, with one flavor and the same too-yeilding texture the whole way through, when you could sink your teeth into something with a surprise in the middle, or a whole bouquet of flavors, or chocolate, for goodness’ sake? Plus, all the sugar cookies I’ve met stay fresh forever, and that freaks me out.

I argued briefly for cardamom snaps, and little sandwichy bites with ganache smooshed in between, and waved sugar cookies out of my brain entirely when I dropped him off.

But then I got home, and opened up Food & Wine’s December issue, where Grace Parisi – she always has the best recipes – gives a sugar cookie recipe jazzed up with ginger.

I wanted to turn the page, but she had me at “cookies that are especially crispy.” She used baking soda instead of baking powder, and only the yolk of an egg, which means the cookies actually rise less, and stay more snappy after they’re baked. Plus, her riffs on the same recipe got my wheels turning. The smell of my perfect cardamom snap floated out of the page.

But did I really want cardamom? I paused. As a spice, it’s delicious, but totally oversubscribed these days, if you ask me. Abused, even. I think it’s best used subtly, fresh from the pod, for aroma and background flavor, not as a main ingredient. But dammit, there was the convenient ground stuff, at arm’s reach. I couldn’t say no.

I hit the kitchen. First change: whole wheat flour. I figured I didn’t want something really soft, so I brazenly subbed all white whole wheat flour for her all-purpose flour, then changed the ginger flavors to cardamom and stirred in the zest of a couple of Satsuma tangerines.

The moment I took the dough out of the fridge, I knew it wasn’t right. It was cracking in the same sad, parched way a pie dough with not enough liquid does, and I knew it would never roll to the soft, thin, silky sheet I’d need for good-looking, smooth-topped snaps.

I tried anyway, and got the first half of the dough to about 1/3″ thick before it started falling apart. I cut out cute little flower shapes, and baked them off, changing my mind: I’d make thumbprint cookies, with apricot jam. Yes.

Only, we were out of apricot jam. So I tried a little of everything: I let some flowers bake alone, but the tops came out cracked and ugly. I pressed whole apricots into the center of a few, but those, too, were unimpressive, and the apricots would have needed a quick poaching first, perhaps. I filled some flowers with orange marmalade, and the flavor was great, but I hadn’t made my impressions in the cookies deep enough to hold the marmalade, so it oozed out over the cookie in a sickly pool of orange. I tried smashing little pieces of dough into rough-edged snaps, but no go there, either, they just came out looking like squished dough. And cardamom squishes doesn’t really have that nice ring.

By this time I was frustrated and tired, flinging measuring cups into the sink from across the kitchen. I debated throwing the second half of the dough into the trash. My brain swirled with hateful thoughts toward all sugar cookies. I’d thought it would be a quick experiment – I had other, more pressing things to do – and by the time the squishes came out, I was swearing I’d never bake again, or cook, for that matter.

The phone rang. It was Adriana, with a quick question. I did my best to sound normal, determined not to give away my frenzied mental state, and when we hung up, I tried to reevaluate my mess. Let’s not be brash, I thought to myself. I am a big girl. I can handle a cookie disaster gracefully.

I touched the rest of the dough: I’d spent so long messing with the first batch that the second would surely be too warm to work with. But when I picked it up to toss it in the trash, I noticed that the dough was holding together much better than it had right when I’d taken it out of the fridge. Well, I’ll be darned.

So I rolled, and thumbprinted, and filled the cookies with the thick, spicy ginger spread I’d found at Trader Joe’s. And while I puttered around the kitchen, wishing the days were longer and my cookie temper slower, the cookies did their part. They puffed and cracked, and held the jam in just fine. And now, by golly, they’re pretty good cookies. They don’t flop and disintegrate between the teeth, like some cookies we know. They’re upstanding cookie citizens, these little thumbprint gems, fortified with the flavor of whole wheat and what certain picky jam eaters of this household might call jam for real men.

Just don’t call them sugar cookies.

WW Cardamom-Ginger Thumbprint Cookies

Whole Wheat Cardamom-Ginger Thumbprint Cookies (PDF)
Recipe 332 of 365

Based on Grace Parisi’s recipes for Double-Ginger Sugar Cookies and Coconut-Raspberry Thumbprints from the December 2007 issue of Food & Wine magazine, these are sugar cookies with a little more attitude than what usually comes around on the Christmas plate. Plus, you can tell anyone that cares that they’re made with whole wheat flour, and those that don’t won’t know the difference.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: about 4 dozen cookies

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Satsuma tangerine (or orange) zest
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Thick ginger jam, for the centers (apricot or peach jam would also be delicious)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the next five ingredients together in a mixing bowl, and set aside. Add the yolk and vanilla to the butter mixture, and mix on low to blend, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. With the machine on low, slowly add the flour mixture, and mix just until all the flour is incorporated.

Roll the dough into 1” balls and arrange about 1” apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Using your thumb or the back of a round 1/2 teaspoon measure, make an indentation in the top of each cookie, and fill each with a scant 1/2 teaspoon of the jam. Return cookies to the oven, switching the positions of the sheets, and bake another 10 minutes.

Cool cookies 10 minutes on pan, then cool completely on racks. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.


Filed under Cookies, kitchen adventure, recipe

331: Pan-fried razor clams

Pan-Fried Razor Clams 2

If you search YouTube for videos of razor clamming, like my friend did when he wanted to show his family what we did on Sunday evening, you might find this one, which makes it look absurdly easy.

This is not razor clamming. This is a video of some guys who fitted razor clams with magnetic attractors of some sort, planted them in a bed of fine, pretty sand in their back yard, washed them over with water to make it look like the tide had run out, and dug them up using a clam gun (that big, heavy, metal tubey thing in the video) and some sort of X-ray sensing device to determine precisely where the clams were located.

But that’s not how it really works. Not for me, anyway.

When I learned that razor clams thrive up and down Washington’s eastern shore, my reaction was mixed. Sure, I’d love to forage for my own food, but truth be told, I’m not a huge clam fan. With regular clams – quahogs or cherrystones or even tiny Manila clams, or especially littlenecks, with their leathery little siphons – I get a little grossed out when my teeth find the barrier between the smooth, thin muscle and the viscera it protects, and when popping one in my mouth means finding a few grains of sand to grind between my molars, I cringe. It’s a texture thing, I guess.

But razor clams are different, I heard, at least the ones found around here. When you clean them, you take the stomach out entirely, and open them up in such a way that the sand gets washed away, so what’s left to cook is pure muscle. No guts, no sand. They’re the boneless, skinless chicken breasts of the clam family, as my friend Jill put it.

That’s why on Sunday, with the afternoon sun beating in through the windshield, I set myself adrift toward Twin Harbors beach in post-Thanksgiving traffic with a buddy, a dog, and a razor clamming license, determined to find a clam I could call a friend. Instead of that handy clam gun, we came armed with one shovel and our respective arsenals of waterproof winter clothing.

So here’s how it does work: You follow two small children around, depending on them to see the signs of life under the sand that you are somehow completely incapable of recognizing. They tell you to dig, and you dig, not down a foot or so, like in the video. Actually, that part’s true, you do dig a foot or so down with your shovel, first. Then you fall to the sand and start heaving sand out in messy handfuls, like you’re pawing through a giant vat of 34-degree Cream of Wheat, and you feel your dog staring at you. She’s got her head tilted to the side, wondering who the hell taught you to dig like that. But as soon you feel the tip of the clam, it digs down farther and slightly seaward, so you flatten your chest to the sand and get your whole arm involved, right up to the armpit. You have to make sure you have your watch on and the sleeves of your fleece a little bit open when you plunge your hand into the liquefied sand, so that millions of hard little particles dive directly up your sleeve, where they exfoliate your elbows, and down under your watch band and into your good biking gloves.

Then, and only then, do you bring the clam up. Sometimes, when the sand at the surface of the hole solidifies around your bicep and elbow, getting one’s arm out requires significant effort and considerable grunting. I’d guess I dug faster than the clam did about half the time, and of the twelve clams I did manage to finally drop in my square yellow bucket, almost half had shells I’d shattered with the shovel on the way in. Poor guys.

Then, when the children you’re with have caught their limit (I’m pretty sure the five-year-old beat my catch) , and you’re limping back to the car, filthy with sand and freezing and happy even though your clamming skills really do need some work, you have to sing a clam song. There’s no particular song; it’s not like sailing, where there’s a song for the mainsail going up, a song for the anchor, and a song for washing the deck. In our case, it was a variation of the Twelve Days of Christmas (again with the Christmas carols?). We started in the middle somewhere: Six buckets swinging, FIIIIIVE MANGLED CLAMS. Four clamming shovels, three cold butts, two new diggers, and a. . .

We never did figure out what could stand in for the partridge.

I have to save the nuts and bolts of cleaning and cooking clams for better-paying print, but here’s what they look like before you get those gorgeous shells off:

Granddaddy razor clam

Here’s the video I took (with my husband’s camera, which I will soon return to him, because my camera’s baaaaaack!) of someone showing me how to actually clean the things.

And here’s a clam without any clothes on:

Raw, cleaned razor clam

If you’re patient and good with scissors, you can clean them so that the digger (the part on the right) stays attached to the rest, and nestles into the little hole you see in the body on the left, but it will still flop around when you cook it, and the digger takes a bit longer to cook than the body, so why bother?

Oh, and on the eating part: They don’t taste like regular clams. They taste so much better.

But what does one do with them, you ask?

Not much.

Late on the night of the dig, we dredged them in flour and fried them up in olive oil. It was a good choice – the clams were still tender, and not at all leathery, like I hear they can get if you cook them too long – but I wanted more crunchy texture, and a little more flavor. Yesterday I dusted them in cornmeal and fried them up in butter. After all that clam killing, I felt somehow nicer breading them in something with a sandy texture. You know, remind ’em of home. Twisted? Maybe.

Frying razor clam

There’s not much to it, really. You just season a clean razor clam with salt and pepper, drop a good knob of butter into a pretty hot pan, dredge the clam in cornmeal, and sear it for a minute or so on each side. When they cook, the clams curl up a bit, like bacon in a hot pan, and if the razor clams weren’t so neatly cleaned (they weren’t all this pretty), the two halves of the clam splay out and bounce around in the hot pan like the legs of a very unfortunate frog. You can squeeze a bit of lemon over the top when you’re done, like I did, or just eat them, as fast as they come out of the pan.

Pan-Fried Razor Clams 1

It is so worth going.


Filed under kitchen adventure, recipe, shellfish, travel

It was a dark and stormy night

Is. It is a dark and stormy night, perfect for baking. Or not baking, as the case may be.

Dark & Stormy Rum Balls  2

Dark and Stormy Rum Balls (PDF)
Recipe 330 of 365

My mother-in-law is famous for her holiday rum balls, which she makes precisely because there’s no baking required. Sometime around Thanksgiving, she rolls them together and packs them into the back of the fridge or freezer in plastic containers, and by the time Christmas comes around, the rum has mellowed a bit and the cocoa flavor comes out a bit stronger. Here’s a version that leans on the old drink standby, made with crystallized ginger, ground dried ginger, and ginger thins instead of the more traditional Nilla wafers.

Whirl the ginger thins, pecans, and crystallized ginger (each separately) in the food processor until very finely chopped, or cut the pecans and ginger by hand, and put the cookies in a big zip-top bag and pound into crumbs with a rolling pin.

TIME: 35 minutes active time
MAKES: about 60 rum balls

3 cups ginger cookie crumbs (I used two 5.25-ounce packages Anna’s Ginger Thins)
1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup cocoa powder, plus more for dusting at end
1/4 cup very finely chopped crystallized ginger (from 1/2 cup ginger slices)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup dark rum (Gosling’s, of course)

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to blend very well. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, until batter is firm enough to scoop, form into balls about 1” in diameter, and place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate again for 15 minutes, then roll in cocoa powder to coat. Store in freezer or refrigerator, at least 1 week and up to 1 month before serving.

1 Comment

Filed under Cookies, dessert, recipe

I can’t beat ’em

Lavender blossoms

I sort of hoped an early Thanksgiving would mean a bit of a break between holidays – you know, just a day or two to let the country collectively relax before being handed another Hallmarked to-do list. But it won’t happen. Not in Seattle, anyway. Yesterday I got pounded with Christmas music. I let it snow at Trader Joe’s, got my halls decked at Whole Foods – couldn’t even avoid it on NPR. And you know that old saying. . .

So I’m joining. You’ll find lots of holiday sweets here this week – maybe not every day, but most days. Early, I know, but this way, two weeks from now, when your cookie crisis hits, you’ll have a bit of a collection to turn to. Not that there wasn’t one already around here. . .heck, between the Rustic Salty Cashew Shortbread, the Everything Oatmeal Cookies, and the Cornmeal Sparklers, you already have a few good (and freezable) options for your swap.

Lavender-Pistachio Tea Cakes

Lavender-Pistachio Tea Cakes (PDF)
Recipe 329 of 365

Based on a recipe for Russian Tea Cakes handed around in my husband’s family (and inspired by the Lavender-Honey ice cream at Bi-Rite in San Francisco), these little guys carry just the right hint of floral flavor.

If you’d like to make these ahead, form the balls and freeze unbaked, first on a cookie sheet until they harden, then in a big zip-top bag. Bake directly from frozen for a few minutes longer.

TIME: 25 minutes active time
MAKES: about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried lavender buds, crushed or finely chopped
1 cup pistachios (shelled), coarsely chopped
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Note: You can bake the cookies directly after mixing, skipping the chilling part, but they’ll be denser and a little less delicate. I prefer them to be fragile and shatter when I bite into them.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Scrape the butter from the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the flour, vanilla, salt, and lavender, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated.

Chopped pistachios

Stir in the pistachios, and chill the dough at least 30 minutes. (It will be crumbly.)

Lavender-Pistachio Tea Cakes dough

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Press the dough into walnut-sized balls and arrange 1” apart on two parchment-covered baking sheets. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, or until cookies are firm and just beginning to brown. Let cool 2 minutes on baking sheets, then roll in confectioners’ sugar, once when hot, then again about 15 minutes later, when the cookies have cooled a bit. Let cool to room temperature on racks before storing.

Lavender-Pistachio Tea Cakes 2

Leave a comment

Filed under Cookies, recipe

Drinking is dangerous

San Francisco was a short, sweet, delicious trip. Our hosts shared my usual priorities, and the weather was flawless, so we split our time between making food-related pilgrimages around the city and enjoying the sun. Fortunately or unfortunately, our trip more or less started at Mijita on Wednesday, where a juicy pork taco loaded with cilantro and onion competed for attention with my husband’s fish taco and my brother’s queso fundido. In my haste and excitement to taste everything on the table, I chugged my too-hot Mexican hot chocolate and scorched about 90% of the inside surfaces of my mouth, so the rest of the trip, though enjoyable in all its Thanksgivingness, was a little (literally) tasteless. I can tell you that by texture, the turkey was cooked perfectly, and the soup was gorgeously smooth, but I didn’t really taste either. Drinking can be dangerous that way, I guess.

By the time my plane touched down yesterday, the blisters had stopped burning, but my mouth is still in general malaise. Last night I only tasted a little of my Indian food (finally, finally, a decent experience at The Kabab House, down the street), and still today, I find myself craving silken, calming textures.

Garlic white bean soup 1

Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup (PDF)
Recipe 328 of 365

Serve the soup marked with cream or a swirl of olive oil, with good, crusty bread for dipping.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1 medium head garlic
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained
6” sprig rosemary
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the top 3/4” off the pointy end of the garlic, and discard the point.

Garlic before roasting

Place the garlic in a square of foil, drizzle the cut ends with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, and fold the foil over to seal the garlic in. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the garlic is soft.

When the garlic is done, heat a soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of the husk, and add them to the onions, along with the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper, increase heat, and simmer soup 10 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat and let sit for a few minutes. Remove the rosemary sprig, and puree the soup, either in batches in a blender or food processor, or using an immersion blender. Return pureed soup to the pot, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.

Olive oil on white bean soup

1 Comment

Filed under recipe, soup, vegetables

Beets for breakfast

Yes, indeed. You could think of it as Pink Eggs and Ham, if you take into account the way the beet juice sneaks up the egg whites as the eggs bake.

Red and blue flannel has with eggs

Roasted Red & Blue Flannel Hash (PDF)
Recipe 327 of 365

I first had red flannel hash, beets fried up with golden potatoes and big bits of bacon, at Goldy’s, the breakfast spot I hit every time I return to Boise, Idaho. Her version is delicious, but you can taste the fried, which always prevented me from making the hash at home. Here’s a beet-centric version, made with bacon, of course, and gorgeous blue potatoes, that isn’t quite as heavy.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

3 medium beets (about 1 pound)
4 thick slices bacon, diced
3 medium blue potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large eggs
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco, if needed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil and roast for about 1 hour, or until soft all the way through. Let cool 15 minutes in foil, then peel and chop into 1/2” cubes. (If you do this the night before, like I did, preheat the oven again before continuing.)

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, cover, and cook 5 minutes, until the fat comes out of the bacon. Scoot the bacon toward the edges of the pan, then add the potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until potatoes are crisp on the outside and almost soft in the center, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the beets, season again, and stir to mix. Make holes in the mixture for 4 eggs, gently crack the eggs in, and roast for 10 minutes, or until the egg yolks are just clouded over on top. (You can also separate the hash into four smaller ovenproof containers and add eggs to each, if desired.) Serve immediately, with hot sauce.

1 Comment

Filed under Breakfast, gluten-free, pork, recipe

A dating game

Bromley's Black Bean Birthday Cake 2

My brain likes dates. It’s convenient when it comes to things like birthdays and anniversaries – today, for example, is my friend Jessica’s birthday, the 4th wedding anniversary of some friends from Idaho, and also our dog’s 4th birthday. Yesterday was my friend Amy’s birthday, and also her son’s first birthday.

These things just come to me when I wake up and realize it’s (Month) (Day). It’s convenient when it comes to friends and family members, but the constant swirl of dates can also fog up my brain a bit. Even though they’re the part of the Worry Board that I don’t have to really worry about, I’m always sifting through them. And I’m so used to having a discreet number automatically attached to certain events that holidays that jump around (like Thanksgiving) totally throw me off.

On Tuesday, it occurred to me that Thanksgiving would fall on Bromley’s birthday, and that we’d be here in San Francisco. We’ve never celebrated her birthday before (really, she is a dog), but the two dates’ coincidence inspired me to mark it somehow.

So I baked my dog a cake.

The ingredients are random, for sure – I just threw in whatever I could find, whatever needed to go, keeping in mind that Scout, the neighbor’s dog, who I assumed would be the only other birthday cake participant, is on a diet. I started with the egg whites leftover from making the eggnog, and threw in a can of black refried beans, thinking their color would make the cake look a little chocolaty. I decided I’d leaven it with baking powder, but needed some sort of acid, so in went the last of the cottage cheese.

Then, stirring, whirring, spreading, baking, cooling. The cake came out looking like . . . a cake, and before I knew it, I’d cut a slice and was sitting on the floor, sharing it with my dog. One bite for you, one bite for me. It wasn’t bad. It sort of tastes like black bean bread, only not as crusty. And she certainly didn’t complain.

Bromley & birthday cake

Bromley’s Black Bean Birthday Cake (PDF)
Recipe 326 of 365

If you’re the pathetic sap that celebrates your pets’ birthdays, try this. Top the cake with a smear of peanut butter, or perhaps a layer of puffy mashed potatoes, and serve on whatever nice china your pooch prefers.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: A birthday cake for your dog. Mine would eat it alone, but I’m going to try to give her just a little each day and ignore the way she whines insistently below the counter where I’m keeping it. Do beans do to dogs what they do to humans?

Vegetable oil spray
1 (16-ounce) can refried black beans (I used the vegetarian kind)
6 large egg whites
1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 cups flour
Creamy peanut butter, for “frosting” (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8” cake pan with the vegetable oil, and set aside.

In the work bowl of a food processor, whirl the beans, egg whites, cottage cheese, salt, and baking powder until uniform and smooth. Add the flour a cup at a time, pulsing between additions until incorporated. When all the flour has been mixed in (the batter will be thick), scoop it into the cake pan. Smooth down the top, and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and . . .cake-like.

Cool cake ten minutes in the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve as is, or frosted with peanut butter.

Bromley's Black Bean Birthday Cake with cat

(Bromley wasn’t the only interested party . . .)


Filed under Cakes, dog, recipe

A Running-Out-the-Door Recipe

I made this last night, running out the door to catch a plane to San Francisco. It was one of those hairy departures, packing, coordinating with neighbors for dogsitting, shooting off last-minute emails, trying to figure out what to shove down for dinner, etc.

I sliced a pork tenderloin into little steaks, seared them in a hot pan, made a quick sauce with jarred salsa and a spot of cream, and served it all over quinoa (which takes 10 minutes to cook), along with some steamed cauliflower. Not exactly my most colorful dinner creation.

My husband sat down with a bottle of hot sauce, which is Titospeak for “Gosh, honey, thanks for whipping something up, but this looks like it might be boring. Mind if I obliterate it with spice?”

He took a bite, and I could see his surprise register as the spunky sauce and tender, juicy pork hit first his mouth, then his brain, then his stomach.

“This is AWESOME,” he said, eyebrows high. I’ll admit, I was a little surprised, too. It’s not the sexiest recipe to look at, but it shore’s tasty.

Pork Tenderloin with Salsa Cream Sauce 2

Pork Tenderloin Steakettes with Salsa Cream Sauce (PDF)
Recipe 325 of 365

If you cut pork tenderloin crosswise into little steaks, each about the size of a giant scallop, they cook quickly and evenly, which means dinner in a jiffy for you, but no real sacrifice for those at the table. Serve the tenderloin over quinoa (which cooks in about the same time it takes to make the pork and its sauce) or quick-cooking brown rice, with steamed or sautéed vegetables or a big green salad.

TIME: 15 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 2 to 4 servings

1 pound pork tenderloin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup salsa
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. While the pan heats, slice the pork into rounds a bit more than 1” thick, and season them on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pan, swirl to coat, and add the pork.

Cook the pork for 5 minutes, undisturbed, or until it releases easily from the pan. Flip the pork, moving the pieces in the center to the outside and vice versa, and cook another 3 or 4 minutes, again until it releases easily from the pan.

searing pork tenderloin

Add the salsa and cream, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the pork but the meat still feels a little squishy in the center when you touch it. Serve immediately.


Filed under gluten-free, pork, recipe

324: Roasted cauliflower with tapenade and feta

Real goat’s milk feta – the soft kind that comes submerged in water, not the kind that’s pressed into a sterile-looking cryovacked block – is a most amazing melter. It doesn’t fold in on itself and sort of wilt like the less expensive forms of feta, but blooms as it warms, swells with pride in its own sharp, tangy flavor. Like tapenade, it’s a universal picker-upper. Add it to something whose flavor might not shine so brightly for you on its own, like roasted zucchini, broccoli, or green beans.

cauliflower with tapenade and feta

Cauliflower with Tapenade and Goat’s Milk Feta
Recipe 324 of 365

(Serves 2 cauliflower lovers)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the florets from half a two-pound head of cauliflower and dump them in a big baking dish. Drizzle with two teaspoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to mix. Roast for 15 minutes. Add about 1/4 cup good olive tapenade to the cauliflower, dropping it in little bits right onto the florets and maybe smearing it around a bit. Roast another 15 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is soft and browned in spots. Serve immediately, topped with crumbled fresh goat’s milk feta.


Filed under gluten-free, recipe, side dish, vegetables

Will this kill me?

Whipping egg yolks and sugar for nog

My uncle Ken first introduced me to real eggnog. His has a voluptuous body that stays on the tongue long after it goes down the hatch, and an alcohol content that expands one’s stomach to two or three times its natural capacity before a holiday meal begins. It also ensures a swift transition to the napping portion of Thanksgiving Day, which is a relief for me when football is on. (Tryptophan, my ass.)

Each year, my husband and I spend Thanksgiving with my family. (We do Christmas with his.) The Howe clan isn’t huge on tradition, so the week invariably involves a certain amount of confusion, and some travel, and often revolves around skiing. We rarely eat the same thing from year to year. We spent last year in New Orleans, the year before that on Cape Cod, and the preceding years, in backwards chronological order, in San Francisco, Park City, Sun Valley, and Vail.

Or something like that.

What does usually stay the same is the audience – there’s my immediate family, and my father’s brother, Ken, and his wife, Alexis, and often my grandparents from that side – and the eggnog. My paternal grandparents made it when my dad and Ken were kids, and somehow, a few years ago, Ken was crowned eggnog captain. He stirs and whisks and emails the recipe across the country, if necessary, and on Thanksgiving, we all get good and tipsy.

Years ago, we planned Thanksgiving 2007 in San Francisco again, but work took Ken to Hong Kong for the year. While I’m unclear why we didn’t all hop on a plane and skip the Pacific to join him (that’s only now occurring to me, now, after he’s been emailing us about his culinary adventures for three months), I’m happy we’re still going to San Francisco, and very excited to celebrate with a new crowd.

Only this time, without Ken there, we can’t be sure there will be eggnog.

This recipe falls under the same category as the beer. That is, it’s a recipe whose success depends on both time and luck, and thus isn’t entirely predicable at the time it’s made. Too bad for you.

But last night, we tasted the beer. Frank came over with Red Mill burgers, and it was a most fortunate pairing, especially for me. (I love light beers, but am perpetually embarrassed by that fact, so a beer that looks like a hoppy, sassy IPA but tastes rather like a Hefeweizen is right up my alley.) So the nog has a chance.

Now, my husband would never attribute the quality of his beer to luck. He’d attribute it to skill, natch. But that’s getting off-topic.

For eggnog, I’m gonna stick with luck. See, eggnog is really just raw eggs, sugar, dairy, and liquor, left to “mature” for a few weeks, then fluffed up with egg whites and a quick sprinkle of fresh, fragrant nutmeg. (My sis called me a few weeks ago to ask what it is – there you go, honey.) It may taste a bit different each time, depending on which liquor you choose, or how heavy you go with the milk or cream, or how much sugar you add. No matter what, it’ll taste sharp and offensive when you make it, but it will improve with age, mellowing and softening from week to week.

And for me, no matter what, there’s always this tiny, lurking worry in the back of my brain: Will this kill me? It is made with raw eggs, after all.

So yeah. Luck.

If you’re lucky, it won’t. If you’re lucky, you’ll know a good farmer you can trust, and you’ll be able to buy eggs from him or her, and know the chickens are healthy. If you’re lucky, you’ll have two (clean!) gallon-sized crocks just for the occasion, with seals on the lids, and space in a refrigerator somewhere to keep them cold, so you don’t have to worry about the S-word. And if you’re lucky, you’ll make the nog ahead of time, so it’s ready a month later, just in time for Christmas, if you believe in that sort of thing, or for, say, a giant Solstice party.

If you’re less lucky, you’ll panic about the raw eggs, and you won’t make this. (You’re probably also the type that stopped eating beef after the Mad Cow scare, and swore off spinach forever last summer. Suit yourself – more for the rest of us. But stop driving, too, while you’re at it.)

And if you’re a little cavalier, like we were until The Perfect Eggnog Crocks revealed themselves at TJ Maxx a couple years ago, you’ll stir everything up and store it in whatever you can find, and just keep it in the coldest part of your basement, like my grandparents did. And you probably won’t get sick.

Unless you’re extremely unlucky. In that case, don’t say I didn’t warn you. God knows what could happen inside that thing over the course of four weeks.

Eggnog crock #1

Ken’s Eggnog (PDF)
Recipe 323 of 365

Based on my uncle Ken’s recipe, this eggnog is the real stuff. We favor a combination of dark rum and cognac, but I think Ken used half rum and half brandy. No matter – just make sure you mix it up at least three weeks before you plan to drink it (four weeks is best), as the flavors mellow and blend over time. And the farther ahead you make it, the more opportunity you’ll have to taste it. As Ken says, “Stir and taste, every day, if you can. Consequent shrinkage may argue for doubling the recipe.”

This recipe is an excellent excuse/rationale for owning two bowls and two whisks for your stand mixer.

TIME: 30 minutes active time, plus regular stirring and four weeks aging
MAKES: Almost two gallons

12 extra-large egg yolks
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cognac
1 quart (about 4 cups) dark rum
3 quarts half and half
6 extra-large egg whites for nog, plus 6 more for serving
Nutmeg, for serving

In the work bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. With the machine on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, and mix until blended. (No need to sift the sugar.) Add the salt and cognac, whisk to blend, and use a rubber spatula to scrape any sugar off the insides of the bowl, whisking on low and scraping until the sugar is totally absorbed into the liquid. Add the rum and one quart of the half and half (the liquid should come up almost to the top of the whisk), mix to blend, and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Clean and dry the bowl and the whisk.

Next, whisk six egg whites until thick and opaque but still soft (soft peak). Add the remaining 2 quarts cream, and whip again to mix. Transfer half of this mixture to each of two gallon-sized vessels. (I store my eggnog in two ceramic crocks with lids that seal closed.) There will be about 6 cups in each, including the foam.

Finally, stir the reserved mixture with the alcohol in it, and divide it between the two crocks, again about 6 cups into each. Stir to blend, and refrigerate for about one month, stirring (and tasting!) the eggnog once every few days, and ladling liquid from one crock to another, if you’d like the two crocks to taste identical.

To serve, whip 6 additional egg whites to soft peak, and fold into the eggnog. Serve cold, dusted with freshly grated nutmeg.


Filed under cocktails, recipe

An unorthodox cookie

Blue Cheese and Walnut Cookies

Bleu Cheese and Walnut Cookies (PDF)
Recipe 322 of 365

I can’t decide whether these are better as an unusual appetizer, served with a little tray of olives or a schmear of tapenade, or as a dessert geared toward those who prefer a more savory nibble after dinner. Either way, they’re a unique take on shortbread, and easy to make. Bake them all at once, or wrap half the prepared dough well in plastic and freeze for a month or two, until the next time you need them. They’ll take a few minutes longer if you slice and bake them from frozen.

TIME: 25 minutes active time
MAKES: 40 cookies

1 cup walnuts (shelled halves)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces blue cheese (such as Point Reyes Original), crumbled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until browned and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. (Watch carefully!) Transfer the nuts to a cutting board to cool, and turn off the oven.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cheese with the sugar on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes.

With the machine on low, add the flour to the mixer a little at a time, and mix until the flour is fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the mixer with a plastic spatula when needed. (The dough will be a little crumbly.) Finely chop the walnuts and stir in half by hand, and spread the rest out on the cutting board.

Divide the dough between two 1’ square pieces of wax paper. Roll each mound into a log almost a foot long and about 1 1/2” in diameter. Roll the logs in the remaining walnuts, wrap each log in wax paper, twist the ends to seal, and chill for 2 hours (or up to 3 days), or until very firm.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Cookies (rolled in walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking sheets, and set aside.

Slice dough into 1/2” rounds, and arrange on baking sheets, about 20 cookies per sheet. Bake the shortbread for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, or until the cookies are only very barely beginning to brown at the edges. (They will not look much different from when you put them in.)

Cool the cookies 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Cookies 2


Filed under appetizers, Cookies, dessert, recipe

Biscuit time

WG Blue Cheese & Scallion Biscuits (top)

The holidays must be drawing near: All I want to do these days is bake. I have cookies on the brain , mostly, big and small, sweet and savory. I have plans for chocolate bark and toffee, too.

Last night around 10 p.m., my brain settled on whole grain biscuits, crunchy with millet and quinoa and rich with the blue cheese that arrived mysteriously on our porch yesterday. My husband convinced me that 11 p.m. is not really biscuit time, and since they’re best eaten fresh, I gathered all the dry ingredients on the counter and waited until morning.

I woke up with a rainy day body, joints creaky and cranky, wrists in no shape to use a pastry cutter. I dumped everything into my stand mixer, and hoped for the best, leaning my forehead up against the mixer as it whipped the butter into pea-sized pieces, feeling the machine’s vibration make more space between my vertebrae. KitchenAid really should look into marketing their mixers as massage units.

It worked: The paddle pressed the butter into flat, pea-sized flakes, which wedged themselves between layers of flour and the yogurt I used as a moistener. and melted into flaky layers that would make the Doughboy jealous.

WG Blue Cheese & Scallion Biscuits 2

Whole Grain Blue Cheese and Scallion Biscuits (PDF)
Recipe 321 of 365

Packed with whole wheat, flaxseed meal, oat bran, millet, and quinoa, these biscuits score high on both nutrition and flavor. Be sure to mix the dough just until the flour is incorporated, and not a moment longer – over mixing will result in tough biscuits.

TIME: 25 minutes prep
MAKES: 8 savory biscuits, give or take, depending on your cutting implement

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon raw millet
1 tablespoon raw quinoa
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon oat bran
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 thin slices
1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled bleu cheese
1/4 cup chopped scallions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Combine the first nine ingredients, through oat bran, in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and stir to blend. Add the butter, and mix on low speed until the butter is about the size of small peas. Add the yogurt, cheese, and scallions, and mix just until the flour looks incorporated.

Dump the mixture onto a floured work surface (the dough will be crumbly) and pat and knead it lightly until all the pieces stick together. Gently roll the dough out with a floured pin to about 1/2” thick (or a rough circle about 8” in diameter). Using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, punch rounds 2” – 3” in diameter out of the dough and transfer to the baking sheet. Press the remaining dough together, roll it to 1/2” thick, and cut out the last biscuit or two.

Bake biscuits 15 – 17 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool five minutes on pan, then eat, spread with butter, if desired.

WG Blue Cheese & Scallion Biscuits

Leave a comment

Filed under bread, Breakfast, recipe

The Cranberry Conundrum

The cranberry conundrum is this: You’ve picked a cranberry sauce recipe for Thanksgiving, and you know it’ll be good. You know you don’t really need that much, but you hate the idea of only having one tiny bowl that has to be passed down the table each time anyone takes another slice of turkey. So rather than parsing it out into shot glass rations for your guests, you make a double or triple batch. Everyone’s happy; there are healthy-looking bowls of it all over the table.

Then in February, you open your refrigerator, and wonder what could be in that sour cream container?, and yes, there’s your three-month-old cranberry sauce, still waiting for you. What a waste of all that stirring and popping.

As I was flipping through Cooking Light the other day, I happened upon a recipe for ginger cake that intrigued me. Applesauce, it said.

Or cranberry sauce, maybe?

I started playing, straying from the recipe, as usual. First I substituted my leftover cranberry sauce for the applesauce, which gave me a mixture that didn’t seem headed for anything other than red velvet cake. Hmm, pink cake, I thought. Weird. But molasses soothed the batter into a much less garish shade, so I kept going. I substituted whole wheat flour for some of the regular flour, maxed out the ginger, skipped the author’s other spices, and added pre-shredded carrots and milk, instead of boring old hot water.

The cake came out a gorgeous mahogany color, and perfectly flat on top, to boot. But dinner beckoned, so I left it there to cool. This morning, we scooped Greek yogurt on top, and wolfed it down for breakfast. No trace of cranberry.

Update: My camera (who I’ll call Nellie) has decided to extend her vacation. (She’s at rehab in L.A.) Tito’s camera “works,” if “working” means it takes photos, but really, we aren’t getting along so well, me and his little Pentax. I say focus there, and it refuses. I shove the focal point too close for comfort, and it says no, you idiot, you’re not supposed to be that close to the food. We struggle for much to long before we find a shot we can both agree on. It’s killing me softly. If you pray, please pray for Nellie’s health. I miss her.

Ginger-Molasses-Carrot Cake

Ginger-Molasses-Carrot Cake (PDF)
Recipe 320 of 365

Based on a recipe by Anne Kotchek, published in Cooking Light’s November 2007 issue, this relatively low-calorie, low-fat cake (two tablespoons of oil!) is a great way to sneak leftover cranberry sauce out of the refrigerator. Yup, you read right: it’s moistened with the same stuff you put on your turkey. You could serve the cake as dessert, with ice cream or whipped cream, but I liked it best for breakfast, topped with a big scoop of Greek yogurt and sprinkled with ground ginger.

TIME: 20 minutes prep
MAKES: 12 servings

Vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup leftover cranberry sauce (chunks are okay)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup molasses
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup skim milk
3 packed cups store-bought shredded carrots (or 2 cups if shredded by hand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x13” pan with the vegetable oil spray, and seat aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, cranberry sauce, and oil until well blended. (Yes, it will be pink. Don’t panic. The cake will not be pink. In fact, you won’t even taste the cranberries.) Add the eggs, whisk to blend, and stir in the molasses.

In another bowl, whisk the flours, flaxseed meal, wheat germ, soda, ginger, and salt to blend. Alternate adding the dry mixture and the milk to the molasses mixture until all of both have been added. Stir in the carrots and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly in the center. Cool completely in pan. Cut into squares to serve.

Ging-Molasses-Carrot Cake with yogurt


Filed under Breakfast, Cakes, recipe

Potatoes? With Lemon?

Yup, it works. The olive oil and Meyer lemon team up and crust the bottom sides of the potatoes with a sweet, flavorful patina.

potatoes with meyer lemon

Roasted Fingerlings with Meyer Lemon
Recipe 319 of 365

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat 1 pound fingerling potatoes with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of half a Meyer lemon on top. Slice the other half of the lemon into four wedges, toss in with the potatoes, and roast 35 to 45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.


Filed under recipe, side dish, vegetables

A recipe for more leftover mashed potatoes

Spinach Salad with Peanuts and Pomegranate

Spinach Salad with Peanuts and Pomegranate (PDF)
Recipe 318 of 365

Here’s a simple, festive salad that will go a long way to counteract the more predictable flavors on most Thanksgiving tables. Its crunches are great, too – there’s the soft, fibrous munch of scallions, the satisfying pop of pomegranate seeds, and the dull crack of roasted peanuts. Made with lime juice, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, and sweet-tart pomegranate molasses, the dressing also packs a whollop.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 big handfuls baby spinach
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts, finely chopped
Seeds from 1/2 large pomegranate

Add the mustard, soy, lime juice, and pomegranate molasses to a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until all the oil is incorporated.

Place the remaining ingredients in a salad bowl. Just before serving, add dressing to taste, and toss.

Leave a comment

Filed under recipe, salad, vegetables

Waiterly Conduct

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Tea

It worked. The Meyer lemon and rosemary and honey thing worked, and by noon yesterday, my voice had morphed back to normal, and when I stood up to read, my epithelial muscle bounced happily along my vocal chords; I sounded much more like a normal human being than I had 36 hours before.

Plus, my family was a big help. My mom showed up, flew in from Boise just for the occasion. And my brother left me a useful phone message: Hi. It’s your brother. Just wanted to give you a heads up for your reading tonight. If you go top to bottom and left to right, you should be all set.

Thank goodness he called.

But the highlight of the evening wasn’t standing up in front of a crowd, or wearing my new dress, or tasting how Tom Douglas interpreted courses from the dinner I read about. It was when a woman walked up to me and asked me if I have arthritis.

She seemed a little shy, at first, but her smile was kind. I read in your bio that you write for Arthritis Today, she said. Are you . . . She trailed off, uncertain what she should say next. She introduced herself, telling me she’s done some food writing, and also has rheumatoid arthritis. I told her I have lupus, and suddenly we were long-lost friends, yelling like crazy people about spoon theory, methotrexate, and hair loss, hands flying, voices trilling above the food talk around us. We hugged and promised to start our own support group, and I spent the rest of the night wondering how it had taken me so long to find her. Just last weekend, I finally admitted to myself and my husband that no matter how many people comfort me, support me, encourage me, something about having lupus makes me feel entirely alone. But now. Ahh. I found a buddy. And I don’t even know her last name.

Anyway. Here’s what I read (published over at Leite’s Culinaria), if you’re interested, a piece called Waiterly Conduct. (There’s an audio version, also.) It’s a shortened version of something I posted here in April. Click here for the original (and outrageously long) version.


Filed under media, review, travel

317: Rock-Paper-Brussels Sprouts

Rock-Paper-Brussels Sprouts

I am thrilled with myself.

It’s Brussels sprouts again, with pigs and vinegar (or something like it), of course, but this time, it’s way more fun to make. It’s like playing Rock-Paper-Scissors with your food. Only, without the scissors.

See, all you have to do is get some Brussels sprouts, and about half as much thinly-sliced proscuitto (by weight – I used 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts and 1/4 pound prosciutto). You tear the prosciutto strips in half, not lengthwise (the pain-in-the-ass way), but across the short way, so you’re really just separating the prosciutto strip into two parts along its natural seam. Each piece of prosciutto should be about as big as the palm of your hand. (But for God’s sake, don’t get out the scissors to make them perfect.)

Okay, ready? The sprout is the rock. The pig is the paper. Paper wins every time. (I love winning when I’m Paper. It’s like saying Neener neener, I won, and you get a hug. Winning when you’re Rock just obliterates your opponent’s fingers, and when you’re Scissors, really, who believes my two fingers will cut your hand in half? That’s ridiculous.)

But wait, we’re still cooking. Wrap each sprout in prosciutto, folding the meat all the way around the vegetable so it adheres to itself, adding them to a baking pan generously greased with olive oil as you make them. When you’re finished, roll them around a little in the pan, so they get oiled on all sides, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, and roast at 400 degrees for about half an hour, or until the prosciutto begins to brown and crisp. Squeeze some Meyer lemon juice (I used about a quarter of a fat, juicy one) over the sprouts, and shake the pan back and forth to distribute it. (I’m sure a regular lemon, or a bit of balsamic vinegar, would also do the trick.) Serve hot, as a side dish.

Or. OR. Serve them as an autumnal version of melon and prosciutto, speared with toothpicks, as an appetizer.

My goodness, where could this lead? I thought I’d wrapped everything in prosciutto, but it occurs to me now that I’d always served things cold (prosciutto-wrapped strawberries, prosciutto-wrapped blanched asparagus) or fishy (shrimp, scallops, etc.). Now, I don’t have to tell you that I’d eat cardboard if you wrapped it in a good Serrano ham, but lo! The possibilities!

What about roasted prosciutto-wrapped baby potatoes, made with a smear of Dijon between the potato and the pig? Little spring rolls, with prosciutto on the outside and creamed kale on the inside? Slices of kabocha squash, rolled in spice, then wrapped . . .

I love being Paper.

Leave a comment

Filed under appetizers, pork, recipe, vegetables

This is not happening

Yesterday, right after posting the soup recipe, I got an email from a dear friend. It was to me, and a few other girls; we’ve stayed close since college.

She’d miscarried the night before.

At first, I stared blankly at the screen. I didn’t even know she was pregnant. None of us did, of course – it had been early, but it was still a nontrivial event, with doctors and hospitals and nothing at all happy.

I swiveled my iMac screen away angrily, like it was the computer’s fault, as the tears simmered up inside and seeped out, down flushed cheeks. I remembered my last conversation with her, when she told me how much she wanted a second child, and realized that when we talked, she must have known. She’d described a longing she’d never imagined existed within her, a need to bring company to her firstborn.

I put my elbows on my desk, palms cupping my eye sockets, so my fingers pointed straight upward, and sobbed, tears running down my forearms. I cried for my friend’s emptiness, and for the loss of someone no one ever knew.

This is not happening to her, I thought first, the one who wants it most. But as I calmed down, I found a few of those tears coming out of happiness, or if not happiness, at least relief. Miscarriage is all to often concealed, shuttered, hidden behind whispers, and this woman had the guts to come home from the ER, plunk herself down at the keyboard, and say Girls, this happened to me.

It is happening. It did happen.

And even though she doesn’t want phone calls yet, isn’t ready to talk, she’s made a step I think so many women never make: She’s reached out. I know she’ll always carry a sadness I may never really understand, but damn, the girl makes me so proud. In this little circle of women, at least, miscarriage will not be a dirty word. It will be part of life, part of what makes us appreciate each day, and part of what makes us so important to each other.

I wanted to celebrate and be lively with our pals from out of town, but all night, part of me held back, mourning with my friend.

When I opened my refrigerator door to start dinner, I could only see bitter and sour flavors. The first of the season’s Meyer lemons caught my eye, and they jumped into everything – the sprouts, the salad dressing, and even the potatoes, the first of the fifty-pound potato haul. It was like I was trying to taste her pain, just to dilute it a little for her. I made the lamb I’d meant to make the night Friendsgiving intervened. It was all delicious, but I just didn’t taste the way I normally do. I had a hard time enjoying it.

I woke up this morning thinking of her, and her husband, and their little boy, probably quiet in their home back east, feeling as colorless as today’s Seattle sky.

I also woke up sick.

I tried to speak, and I couldn’t. My eyes were swollen almost shut, my throat ached, and my nose was full. When I opened my mouth to interview someone over the phone an hour later, my voice was low and hoarse, a scratchy, unpleasant bark totally unfit for Tuesday’s reading.

Now, I’m hitting my miracle mix (hot Meyer Lemon tea, made with honey and a sprig of fresh rosemary) hard, hoping the concoction will coax my vocal chords into a more pleasant range.

I’m healing with each sip, and hoping somehow, three thousand miles away, my friend feels it, too.

Rack of Lamb with Sage-Pecan Crust

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Sage-Pecan Crust (PDF)
Recipe 316 of 365

If anyone tells you rack of lamb is difficult to cook, they’re lying. It’s only difficult to buy. But once you get it home, wounded though your pocketbook may feel, it doesn’t take much. Crust it with a simple mixture of breadcrumbs, meaty pecans, and chopped fresh sage, and you’ve got as fancy a main course as anyone ever needs.

TIME: 10 minutes prep
MAKES: 4 servings

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage (lightly packed)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt salt, plus more for lamb
Freshly ground pepper
1 (1 1/2 pound) rack of lamb (Frenched)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the breadcrumbs, pecans, sage, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a good grinding of fresh pepper, and blend well with a fork.

Coat a rack of lamb with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the lamb fat side-up on a baking sheet or on a roasting rack in a pan, and press the crust into lamb, on the fatty part and on the bones. (It’s okay if some of the crumbs fall to the bottom of the pan.) Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and the lamb measures about 130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (for medium-rare). Remove from oven and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before slicing into chops. (Be sure to serve any crumbs from the pan along with the chops.)


Filed under Lamb, recipe