27 December 2009

Cookalong Live - ugh

MotH and I watched Gordon Ramsay's Cookalong Live last night on TiVo. I've never seen any of his television shows before - yelling isn't my thing, unless I'm the one yelling. So it's apparent from comments that he yells and curses a good bit and had to refrain from doing so -- and this is where it gets bad -- by laughing like a crazed psycho. What was wrong with him?
Whoopie Goldberg and her annoying daughter aside, the most objectional part of the show was the food - it looked terrible. There was no crust on the steak - no browning, barely cooked - who would eat that? ugh. I'm hoping this isn't a show that gets repeated - it was banal and certain no way to encourage people to want to make good food at home  - with or without flambe.

16 December 2009

Happy Birthday

Jane Austen. By far the best, funniest, sharpest writer to ever type out a plot pick up a pen or quill or whatever. Damn to be half that sharp would be a wonder indeed.


Every wonder how something becomes over used - over hyped - just plain done to death. That's currently going on with Treviso -- heard about it on a food show and next thing I know it's everywhere -- now, perhaps some of that is time of year - Treviso is a type of radicchio - not one of my favorite things to eat, but that aside - it's the right time of year for greens -- I get that, but every.fricking.where.I.turn ---- it's treviso.  Does it even grow in Treviso? What's the big deal and when will this trend die? not soon enough. 

Same feelings - bacon, love bacon, hate bacon hype
Snooty, multi-coloured French macarons - they are friging everywhere too - what's up w/that?

(Photo: Italianfood.about.com)
Hate about.com, but it was a neat picture


Dressing (not stuffing, damn it!) is, for me anyway, just elusive. I can't get it right. My mom has a recipe in her head, but no matter what I do, I can't replicate what I remember from childhood. This year I decided to try and just not do that -- but I was disappointed. I made a dressing that was good - it was different for me with apples and bacon in it, but I was disappointed. I was fine - really, I mean it, but it wasn't the dressing I'm used to. Even my bad attempts at cornbread dressing are decent, but I can't get back to what's in my food memory. So, this year, we'll be having dressing every so often to try and get back to those details. I'll talk to my mom some more and see what I'm missing and hope for a better showing from the dressing next year.

24 November 2009


As I type the refrigerator is going back into the kitchen - after wandering through the desert for 7 weeks... we're almost there. I get to start cooking in there tonight - still some work to be done, but ... finally.*

* Almost - a few small thing to be done post Thanksgiving, but... I can at least cook in my own kitchen again - yeah!

Timing is Everything ...

Monday - Cranberry/Horseradish relish, Pecan Tassie Dough
Tuesday - Boil Sweet Potatoes, Spiced (maple-glazed?) nuts, fresh cheese, cheese straws
Wednesday - Bacon caramels (if weather permits), assemble bacon-wrapped apricots, leave bread out to dry for dressing, cook bacon for salads/dressing
Thursday - Turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, salad, key lime bars

What am I missing - I'm sure there is something ... ugh.

23 November 2009

Thanksgiving - how far have we sunk?

It's a sad thing to look at grocery store advertising right before Thanksgiving. Take Target for example - yes, I realize it's not a grocery store in the strict sense of the word, but it's this ad that sent me off --Front Page "Hot Deals are Served" Del Monte canned green beans, Heinz home style gravy "roasted turkey" flavor, Kraft Stove top stuffing mix "For Turkey," Betty Crocker Au Gratin "Made with 100% read potatoes - disgusting.
And it gets worse Back Page of flyer: Pepperidge Farm herb seasoned stuffing, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, French's french fried onions and the worst - Chinet Classic White plates.
Now a couple of these things I purchase - such as whole berry cranberry sauce - I use it in a recipe for BBQ chuck and it adds a nice sweet/sour taste. We also buy Del Monte green beans in a can ... TO. FEED. THE. DOGS.
Is Stove top on Chinet what people really serve on Thanksgiving? Lord help our civilization if that's the case. Maybe my family was an exception. My mom made real dressing - She made the cornbread on the days leading up to T-day and the smell of celery and onion to me is the smell of Thanksgiving. Now we had jellied cranberry sauce (with the convenient lines for slicing) but everything else was homemade - like it's supposed to be.

Thanksgiving Planning

It's difficult to plan for Thanksgiving when:
1. You don't have a kitchen
2. You're not sure if you will have a kitchen
There are a couple of necessities for me for Thanksgiving - cranberry with horseradish and sweet potatoes from Wanda's recipe. But I'm not sure what else to do. Turkey - duh! but I want to have something special, plus I need to decide on apps and dessert as well. Won't be a large group, esp. will be missing Walt. Kids can eat at the bar IF it's finished.

21 November 2009


We have an annual event in Pensacola sponsored by the Junior League. It's a nice little Christmas sale with vendors of typical banal, but occasionally very nice, things. I went looking for more German enameled Christmas ornaments, but there were none - boo. It's always strange for me to go to places like that because the people that are there all like things that are just at the point of going past the peak of being new/different/interesting. Take monograms for example; this crazy shows up every so many years and then everyone monograms everything - it has gone beyond normal. I know what my initials are - I don't need to be reminded. 
Several other random thought:
People who are obese take up a good deal of space at shows like these and I find that annoying. That said, what I find disturbing is obese people's teenage children are heading down the same road. Maybe it's hereditary, but they are certainly not helping their children in any meaningful way. Sad.
When I was a girl (got to hate starting a sentence that way), girls who were chubby wore clothes that distracted from that. Now girls don't seem to care if they have muffin top - they just dress like - well... you get the picture. Again sad. 
In general there are two types of people, based on said audience at MarketBasket, very well heeled, but over made up or one to many turns with the plastic surgeon or country come to town. Were is the middle? I wish I knew. 

10 November 2009

The Ida that was

Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival - Review

I'm a huge fan of the GGCAF . We've been every year since we moved here excepting the year it didn't happen because of the hurricane. This year we went on Sunday which was unusual, but it was packed as always and great fun - I wish they allowed dogs, but can understand why they don't. 
Some of my favorite things:
Spoon Guy - actually, he's officially John Weyer of Weyer Works from Sperry Iowa. You know it's got to be getting away from Iowa's winter that really motivates this guy, but his spoons and other kitchen implements are wonderful. Each year I get something and every spoon has the date and Mr. Weyer's initials on the back. They are great to cook with and are beautiful to look at. This year, I purchased smallish spoon and large spatula - Mr. Weyer informed me they are both made of hickory. They have to be hand washed, but it's worth it. The wood is from Iowa and is air-dried seven years before being shaped. His literature says he's been doing this for 32 years. 

I liked the poster this year and think it's great that a local artist is selected - the artist is Susan Rand. 

It was great to get out and do something in near perfect weather. We're lucky like that in Pensacola, it's such a great place for festivals and all other sorts of outdoor activities that there is almost no weekend that there isn't something to do. There were tons of people at the festival never mind that we had a hurricane on the way. Who cares - we're used to it, go figure - it's November and still within the dates for the season... so ... we get ready .. hurricane (thankfully) turned into a tropical storm - it's rainy, it's windy and that's that.

03 November 2009

The best $18.34

Went to Sweet Home Farm today. They make wonderful, fabulous, outstanding cheese. They are a small local farm that I wish we had more of around here. I first became aware of them through the Pensacola News Journal's limited food section. We've been going there since 2003 and I've never(!) been disappointed. They are very popular which I totally understand but I can't figure out why there aren't more places like this nearby. 

31 October 2009

TV Food

The recent articles about food shows keeping people from the kitchen made me think about the shows I watch and what I do with the information I glean from them. Do they get be into the kitchen?
MotH and I found Rick Bayless' show on PBS (Mexico: One Plate at a Time) - and the consensus is that it's pretty good. We'll need a few more episodes to be sure and he is a little slow, but I think that's just part of his personality. He's doing what the title says, taking on thing, salsa for example and showing what you can do w/it, beyond chips.  I was impressed with the roof-top garden at his restaurant Frontera. Not only is it innovative and appears to be something or rather long standing, but it's Chicago - how long of a season can you have there for hot season crops like tomatoes and peppers? Impressive. But his home garden is even more so -- wow! I. want.
Bayless was interesting on Top Chef: Masters - the only Top Chef we ever watched. We tried Top Chef: Vegas, but ugh. What a bunch of self absorbed icks. On TC:M he was stable, humble, I don't know, normal, especially compared to some of the rest (Michael Chiarello I mean you).
Another new show is Avec Eric - the first episode we watched - well almost finished was/is interesting, but the topic is artisinal and that is something that would interest me no matter what, so ... We'll give this a time or two and see how ol' Eric does. He's french (say it w/a freeench accent, itz more fun dat way) Eric Ripert -I know his name but I don't know why.
Final new show for now - Alex's Day Off** - hokey title. I mean please, but not half so gay as The Cooking Loft - ugh groan shoot me. Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter (love that name) has a new show. I've seen two episodes (TY TiVo) so far. She seems much more relaxed than on her last show - said cooking loft. Her breakfast show was very good if for just one idea - the cheesy hash brown (calories I can't even begin to count, but who the hell cares). Must get kitchen finished, because that recipe just went on the Must Make after Reno list.
** - No link because of Food Network's ridiculous obsession with video that annoys the crap out of me.

29 October 2009

Emma (cont)

I'm still slogging through Emma. I have figured out another problem I have with her as a character. She's never been anywhere. It's implied that she's been to Bath - maybe implied is too strong, for Mr. Woodhouse went to Bath with receiving any real benefit. Imagine that - either the water does not help (astonish me) or Mr. Woodhouse would still be the needy whiney old guy that his is even if taking the waters did help. Either way, she's not see much of the world outside of Highbury and Hartsfield, so her whole life is based on the fact that there has never been anyone of more consequence than her. Miss Taylor has done nothing to curb this and that's explainable again with the fact that she's a paid governess until Mr. Weston marries her.
I'm just never really going to like her... the story is good, not one of Miss Austen's best, I'll grant you, but give me Anne Elliot any day - hell, even Catherine Morland.
Thank goodness for Georgette Heyer.

Breaking the (only) garden rule

I broke the first and perhaps only rule of gardening - I didn't bother going out into the front garden for weeks. You see, when you go out into the garden, daily is best, you see little things that you can deal with or make note of that needs to be dealt with on the weekend. You can pull a few weeds or tie something up or maybe water a plant that looks a little blah. Well, in not doing that for much of the summer, I have created a huge mess to clean up. The weeds that need to be pulled are incalculable, the confederate rose needs to be trimmed and the leaves from it raked up because they are smothering some of the plants below. Seeds need to be collected or at least distributed for next spring. Hell, I even managed to let a knock-out rose die -- how the heck did that happen?

The back garden fared a little better. Largely because parking there means I have to come in contact with the garden there more often, though most of the time, in a rush. I let the zinnias take over the vegetables and then didn't bother to dead head the zinnias so I'm expected zinnias in the veg garden again next year - my justification that they attract pollinators doesn't really work if you let them tower over the okra so the okra doesn't get enough sunlight to produce.

So in going to the house via the front I have realized the error in my ways... must. work. in. garden. Or risk feeling like a sham as a master gardener.

26 October 2009

Bobby Flay

How was it that I really (really!) didn't like Bobby Flay until Throwdown? We started watching Throwdown to see Flay get his ass kicked. Then we realized that he wasn't the big jerk yankee that we thought. How did we miss it that he seems (for a "famous" chef) pretty normal? Now we've gone back and looked at other shows (Boys meets Grill) and we really like most of them. We even watched his chefography.
What's behind our change of thought
#1 - Perhaps he got a new PR person who told him to be nice
#2 - Perhaps he got better on TV - more comfortable and therefore coming off as less of a yankee.

I think it just might be #2.


While contrary to my friends, I don't consider myself a food snob. I am however a pizza snob. If it's not made from scratch - dough and sauce and cooked in a wood-burning oven then it's just not for me. Pizza needs only simple things - exceptional sauce  - tomatoes oil bail and a good melting cheese. My current favorite is fontina and maybe another ingredient or two - something different. Sun-dried tomatoes is a favorite, but roasted garlic is great, crimini mushrooms, prosciutto, spinach, bleu cheese. I'm not in the egg crowd though. The dough must be thin and crisp - sorry Chicago, but that thing you make has nothing to do with pizza - call it something else.
MotH's favorite pizza is any pizza. So that's how I get out of making dinner ...

Tuscan Oven
4801 North Ninth Avenue 32503

Blueberry Syrup

2 pints of blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer 20 minutes until it resembles syrup.
Store in clean, sanitized mason jar.

Definition of boredom (this meeting I'm sitting in)
              the state of being bored; tedium; ennui
              syn. dullness, doldrums, weariness

Ennui - love that word...

21 October 2009

Culinary Backwater

It is irritating to me that because I live in a relatively small town that there are so many culinary things we miss out on. Sure we have a couple of decent farmers' markets that do stock a good bit of local produce, which I think is a good thing, but nothing like those of New York, which I have only seen on television and in magazines - I mean Union Square market is almost enough to make me want to go to NYC, and London which I have been to and love love love. Not to mention Logan Square in Chicago - I'm envious.

If I could have an ideal food-city, this is what I would like
An exciting diverse farmers' market that features local fruits and veg - not art and books or at least if it does - 75% fresh local fruit, veg, and herbs and 25% detritus. Local dairy with fresh milk, ice cream and butter - I won't say cheese because we have a GREAT local innovative farm just across the border - did I say GREAT? Sweet Home Farm is amazing but fresh butter, milk, cream, and ice cream would really be super. Oh, and how about local flowers for those not so inclined to grow their own.
We have some fine interesting restaurants but what would be cool is if you knew they were using local produce. Come on Global Grille - give it a try. Now I should put in this many many local restaurants use local seafood - duh - no brainer, but how about some support for small farms in the area. No one even reviews restaurants for our local newspaper - that's a travesty.

Markets I like
Nature's Produce - new and well stocked and nice staff - go their often (excepting when decidedly lacking a kitchen)
By-Pass Market - in Milton - v.g. and worth the drive, esp since it takes me right past Steven's Market Deli (best potato salad in the world)

20 October 2009

More thoughts to manage

Okay, I've been thinking of using the recipe diary (still need a less gay name) to help me sort out what is happening in my kitchen brain while I can't be in the kitchen. Perhaps it will help me get started again, but also help me sort out what to make each weekend so we can have good things to eat while living in a space that seems so. very. small.
So this weekend I made tortellini, mac n cheese (don't even ask the question, because I won't dignify it with an answer), sloppy joes, lasagna, and just to have on hand, hummus and mushroom onion pate* plus grilling out - hopefully it will be a tolerable week.

We had the skillet lasagna last night -- another good call from America's Test Kitchen -- so good and easy I may never bake lasagna again - who knew? 

Missed the greek fest - damn it, but will try for greek food later this week. 

*resisting urge to say yummy.


I'm rereading Emma for the millionth time and I still don't like her. I think it's the idea that so many people defer to her but there is no reason that should be excepting that she's rich - and maybe that's Miss Austen's point - money rules everything. It's so very apparent the importance of money in other books - first and foremost Sense and Sensibility sinking from grandeur to virtual poverty (although they could still keep a couple of servants) as the Dashwood sisters do. It's very apparent in Mansfield Park as illustrated by the squalor that Fanny Price comes from and temporarily returns to with the thought of teaching her a lesson. Northanger Abbey, while not strictly about money, is impacted greatly by a misunderstanding about the worth (interesting choice of word) of Catherine Morland. And you could go on...
But back to that deference to Emma - I find it annoying. That said, Emma does say things or at least think things that others of Austen's characters might not admit to - especially as it concernes Mrs. Elton. A more odious creature, I cannot imagine, but Emma and I think the same thing. When Emma thinks that the best that can be said of her is that she is "very pleasant and very elegantly dressed." I couldn't help but think of how that would come out where I live. "Why, she's so sweet" - the southern insult to end all insults.

By the end of the book I will like Emma - she will have learned that she doesn't know everything yet and will have come final to realize who she really is, but until then I'll continue to dislike her. Miss Austen is again correct, she created a character only she could like.

17 October 2009

Grill, Grill, Grill, and Grill

Grill, Grill, Grill, and Grill (spoken as if in the Python Spam sketch).
We've grilled for nights and nights lately. I guess the charcoal grill is making a difference - it's really nice and not much more trouble than the gas grill. It's a Weber gold - very nice. Still need to come up with new things to try - don't want to get bored and will really need some new ideas.
I like the idea of MotH making dinner and it seems to be enough fun (ie. beer drinking opportunity) that he doesn't realize he's doing all the work - and there's no clean up.
Recap of Recent Grilling Evenings:
Burgers - cheated and didn't make James Beard's famous burgers - which are easy, but slightly messy. Used pre-shaped (more $) chuck patties from Winn Dixie - they aren't called the beef people for nothing -  very good.
Pizza - what a cool experiment and it gave the crust a good flavor. Bought dough from Publix and after rolling out, grilled for a few minutes (4 or so) on one side and then flipped and added toppings and covered - the crust was crunchy, the cheese melted well. Pretty easy, but I'm glad we had a pizza peal or it would have been very difficult. Toppings = fresh mozarella, prosciutto, simple tomato sauce, mushrooms and scallions - very good.
Steak - my favorite is ribeye, but I'll eat anykind as long as it's on the rare side -- with Bernaise it's out of this world, also good with bleu cheese sauce or just bleu cheese
Sausages - not my favorite thing on the grill, but easy to make lots for leftovers. Makes MotH happy.

Garden of Note...

There is a garden at Alcatraz . Who knew?
I had no idea there was a garden on the site of one of the most infamous prisons in the United States.MotH has been there, but be he never noticed a garden - not surprising. They catch the rain to water the plants and inmates started some of the gardens. Figures Paul James would be the one to talk about it - certainly not Gardener's Diary.
Wonder how much work they did to get it to look so nice before the TV crew showed up - weeds don't seem to exist there - interesting.

Food Snob?

I have been called a food snob. I'm not totally sure why; I make my own pickles, so what's the big deal? People used to do that as a matter of course. No one turns down my bread-n-butter pickles, by the way. In fact I have been presented with bags of pickling cukes and dutifully with in a couple of days return with a couple of pints of pickles. I do the same with summer squash (yellow crookneck, zucchini, etc.) that overflow in our area at this time of year.
Maybe because I try new things in the kitchen or don't really follow recipes or because I buy from the farmers' market and decide dinner as I stand between the local softball-sized tomatoes and the fresh green onions. After all, I still make things like lasagna and sloppy joes, I just mostly make them from scratch. The sloppy joes started from a recipe that now it is so far removed from, I don't feel like it's based on it anymore.
But do any of these quirks make me a food snob? I don't know, but I do know I'd rather be a food snob than a foodie. I won't go into what I consider a foodie*  - suffice to say, it's not positive.
Better yet, I'd prefer to be called what I consider myself - curious.


random thoughts
Why is background music on tv food shows so annoying?
Please shoot me... "What would Brian Boitano make?" - who the frick cares!

Pickled Cherries - Reviewed

Well, they are certainly beautiful in the jar ... there is no doubt about that. Out of the jar, well, let's just say, the cloves were too strong - disappointing too, because otherwise, I like the flavor, especially the black peppercorn.

Had read Mollie Wizenberg's recipe for pickled grapes , which I thought sounded interesting -- again with black pepper which seems to be showing up a lot in my flavor combinations lately - but more importantly for process. Letting the pickling liquid cool before adding to the jar - it makes sense with something that could go mushy and had not been salted to remove any extra liquid. The texture and bite of these cherries is very good - the flavor -- needs work. More black pepper, more bay (which is very good bay from Turkey) and ... something warm maybe next time. We'll see. 

14 October 2009

No Compromises

I have no intention of compromising while the kitchen/family room is being destroyed.  The only way this is possible is that I have a wonderful mother-in-law. She's let me take over her kitchen to cook on weekends and run the dishwasher - which is a true blessing. I only wish she would take some of what I make for herself and even more wish my father-in-law were there to share it. 
I spent several hours in her kitchen making things we could reheat here for dinner. On the menu this week:
Spaghetti - homemade sauce of course, Chili Jj, Tortilla Soup - from a food network recipe via one of my former students who was a wonderful cook, Cornbread - recipe from a great friend who is never far from my mind, Sausage - for breakfast with Two Pigs Farm maple syrup, Mayo - must have when making lots of sandwiches in tiny kitchen-type space.
That said, demo seems to be going well, some surprises, but that not unexpected. Things are moving along and it can't happen fast enough for me because I realized I'm sort of lost in my own house. The kitchen was mine and now I'm homeless - if you know what I mean. 

Homemade Mayo

I used the new food pross monster* tonight to make may. Super recipe from Cook's Illustrated for quick mayo and it's great. All ingredients I have on hand, takes all of five minutes to do, and tastes - well, it's just too good to be so very simple.  Have decided two things.
1. Will purchase no more mayo. This is too easy and too good to buy stuff from the store.

2. 12 cup KitchenAide Food Processor is ideal (TY MotH)
3. oops, yes there is a three - sixteen year-old loves homemade mayo, esp. for BLT's. Shall have to teach him how to make it - perhaps donate to his independence stash the old 4 cup food processor to impress college girls in the not-to-distant future. 

*What 16 year-old called the food processor when he was a 3 year-old.  


What do you do when you can't cook? When you want to cook, but your kitchen looks like, well ... this.
I keep reading my food blogs and my magazines and watching my cooking shows, but I can't do anything with the inspiration that come up. I'm going to have to figure out how to store recipes and ideas away until I can do something with them.
Now I do have the weekly (thank the good Lord) cooking sessions at my mother-in-law's home and that will be a saving grace, but that slam cooking. 4 hours to make meals for an entire week - that's work (Good tasting work though). How am I going to manage the times when I really want to be experimenting and goofing around and just trying different ideas? Not to mention wanting my own space back -- the kitchen is my place. So far, I've taken to the back patio with it's humidity and mosquitoes - less than ideal.

Apparently, I have lots of questions about how I'm going to manage and am very short on answers.

Thought: Must let guys at Nature's Produce know that I've not abandoned them, it's just that I don't have a kitchen.

06 October 2009

Step Process Jalapeno Jelly - A Success.

I totally forgot ... I made hot pepper jelly in a step process (need better description) and it turned out great. It was totally from being tired. I was making BnB pickles one weekend and had started the peppers, but just couldn't get it done that day. So thinking through the recipe, I figured I could chop the peppers and simmer them in water and boil and then just keep that mush in the fridge until I had time to finish it off (strain, boil, add lemon and pectin, boil the hell out of it) later.
Well, a day turned into almost a week before I could do it, but because I don't leave the peppers in (and excuse me to those who do, but yuck), it wouldn't matter how yuck they looked or mushy they were. So I went ahead with the recipe and except for not gelling the first time (reboiled and it was okay), you never would have known there was almost a week between chopping and jelly - how cool is that?

05 October 2009

Excerpt from the Recipe Diary

I just read Michael Pollan's article "Out of the kitchen, Onto the Couch" about the supposed end of cooking as we know it. There are many (too many) parts I agree with, but as someone who makes pickles, puts up pear preserves, makes mac and cheese from scratch (having never subjected my child to any mac n cheese from a box), makes pies, cookies, and cakes from scratch and tries all sorts of new recipes that don't involve dumping anything. I take great umbrage at the sentence (section 5 graph 2, last sentence), "... yet all American women now allow corporations to cook for them when they can." In true and proud gen-x style, I'm throwing the bullshit flag on that one.  Why American women?   hmmmm....

Oh, and Harry Balzer can bite me too.


Another similar criticism of the article is here .

The Recipe Diary

I keep a recipe diary - initially I did it to help with pickle/preserves recipes because I never, well almost never, follow a recipe exactly except when baking and sometimes not even then. But now I'm using the recipe diary to follow almost everything I make, especially if it is new to me. I have not done a great job of keeping up with what I'm essentially stealing from other people, but I will try to get better at that -- credit and criticism should be given where due.

Recipe diaries help with pickles because often times it's weeks before you can should taste what you've made. So it can be a reminder or help decide what changes to make the next time, if there is a next time, you make a recipe. I make notes, changes, thoughts about changes, my valuable rating system all on the page for that recipe - it's also necessarily in date order which provides an idea of when seasons start and end for certain local foods -- which is becoming increasing important to me.  (Recipe diary needs a better name, but I'm too tired to be creative or cutesy*)

I expect editorial recipe diary comments will likely make it here too. We'll see.

* I'm rarely cutesy.

Food Terminology

Last night, on the 1st episode of Next Iron Chef, the participating chefs kept tossing around the word confit. Now, I know of duck confit, but I've never heard of someone making mango confit or salmon confit. Both sort of defy the definition of the word. If you look at Barron's Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst, which I have owned and used since 1999 at least, you would not that confit is defined as such, "...is derived from an ancient method of preserving meat (usually goose, duck or pork) whereby it is salted and slowly cooked in its own fat. The cooked meat is then packed into a crock or pot and covered with its cooking fat, which acts as a seal and preservative."

It certainly seemed like everyone had just learned the word so they were using it as much as possible - blame it on the foodie I suppose. groan.

So are they just tossing around words to impress people who don't own a copy of the Food Lover's Companion? If (and that's a big IF) Food Network is interested in getting people to cook - which I realize these cooking contest are not designed to do - you would think they would advocate for proper use of terminology. I would have expected, at a minimum, that Alton would throw the BS flag on the chefs... disappointing. 

Flavors ...

These blog posts are written long hand first. I'm not sure why except I can do it when I want - especially in boring meetings. Another thing I do in boring meetings, an aside: I spend too much time in meetings - is think of flavors combinations that I think would be interesting to try (read: nectarine and jalapeno jam). This is partly due to a fascination with canning. Oh, an due to my love of a new (for me) book The Flavor Bible. It is fascinating - the book has given me a  new way to think about flavor.

When I want to develop a new recipe, often times, I'll sit around eating something (cherries) while smelling or tasting other things. So when I wanted to pickle some cherries, I ate cherries and smelled herbs and spice to see what seemed to fit. I have yet to look at the cherry section of The Flavor Bible to see if I've made some dreadful mistake, but in a couple of weeks when I taste the cherries, then I'll go look at the book.

Recipe Note: Cherries pickled with white wine vinegar, cloves, black peppercorns, and bay. 

02 October 2009

Canning on my own time table - an experiment

Is it possible to can something over a few days instead of just one long (hot) afternoon? I think more people would try canning if you could make things in a step-type process.

So that's what I'm going to try and see if it works - there are some recipes that might not work in this type of process, but I think the critical step is where in the recipe you decide to stop.
Where do you decide it's safe to leave off, cool down, refrigerate, and start again the next day (or so).
And another thought - I read somewhere to freeze blueberries during summer and use them to make jam later in the year - even in winter perhaps when heating up the kitchen seems like a good idea. So, I've cut up some local green jalapeno peppers and some local red serrano peppers. I put them in a zip top bag and then those two into freezer bag and found room for them in the freezer.
I figure later in the fall, when the kitchen is done (who the hell knows when that will be), I'll pull them out and make red and green pepper jelly - who knows that might be a Christmas present for a few people.
My logic, if it can be called that, is that since the starting point for the jelly is just water that has be used to simmer the peppers* and not the peppers themselves, time served in the freezer shouldn't have an impact on the outcome of the recipe. We'll see...

* Recipes that are titled "jelly" and still use the peppers are gross and are not jelly.

30 September 2009

Dill Pickles

As I have said before, I'm not a big fan of dill pickles, excepting on a media noche - but that is a sublime sandwich experience. That said, MotH and boy both like dills on other things so in an attempt (or two) should be made. 

I'm lazy. These dill pickles are refrigerator dills, but on a first attempt, I think that is acceptable. Perhaps next summer I'll brine for days on end, but not now. 

Sad Note: Local pickling cukes are over and out here now.
Happy Note: Green peanuts still rollin' on in. 

 Wonder:  How much does a bushel of green peanuts cost?
 Wonder also: How much is a bushel ?
 Wonder as well: How long would it take to boil a bushel?

Refrigerator Dill Pickles
Equipment: 5 pint jars, with appropriate lid stuff.

4 lbs of cukes
2 onions (optional)
5 Tbs pickling salt

Put scrubbed whole cukes in glass bowl, cover with boiling water briefly, and drain. Slice into 1/4" slices. Slice onions and place w/cukes in strainer over bowl. Add salt and stir, let sit 3 hours. Rinse and most importantly taste. If they are still too salty, soak in cold water for ten minutes, check again and repeat as necessary until they are pleasantly salty. 

3 c vinegar (white wine is lovely)
3 c H2O
7 T pickling salt
1/2 c sugar
3 1/2 t Pickling Spice

Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, 10 minutes.

In each jar:
1 tsp dill seed
1 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
4 sprigs of fresh dill

And ...
Pack jars with cukes and onions in jars that include the above. Pour in brine, release bubbles and seal (in scrupulously clean jars and rings w/new lids)*. Let cool in a draft free part of the kitchen (not right under the A/C vent if you get what I mean) and they go pop pop pop. Put in fridge, wait three to four weeks - if you can (insert evil laugh here). 

* If you do not know what this means, please do your homework at this site or here. 

Sources: Amalgamation (see pickling books in my librarything), plus a little playing around.

22 September 2009

More ... thoughts on squash pickles

While I wasn't a vegetable gardener that first year I made pickles, we had a good bit of local produce from farms in and around Pensacola. So weekly, we (MotH, Dog1, Dog2 and me) went on a drive to the farmers' market near the river in Milton to see what was available - and yellow squash was plentiful and therefore cheap. At the worst, I wouldn't waste too much money* if I jacked it up.

The recipe started as one from the internet I found and like many recipes for me I couldn't quite make it as directed even that first time. I had to mess about with it - and that's the case for most recipes.

I have strong feelings about these pickles. First - You must use turmeric. I didn't the first time, largely because I was too lazy to get any and because I couldn't see how it could make any real difference. That was a mistake. Must. Use. Turmeric. Be warned liquid with turmeric will stain your pretty dishtowels with dragonflies on them. Second - I ate a lot of these pickles in the days following a hurricane. When the dominate noise was from generators and chain saws and all outdoors when from changing from initially smelling like pine sap from obliterated trees to smelling like wet nasty things that the trash men aren't coming to get for a while. All the while  - with all that associated history - these are still damn good pickles and I make them every year. Reminders of a hurricane or not.

*except in jars, lids, pot lifters, etc... you get the idea.

What I've done today...

Since coming home from work, I've made blueberry syrup, a batch of chocolate-heath bar-pecan shortbread cookies (Thank You America's Test Kitchen) and 2 pizzas for dinner --- on the grill no less and am very tired.

Still so much to do while the last remnants of summer are here...

Jalapeno Jelly
Serrano Jelly
Butter Pecan Cookies (can't find my favorite recipes - am devastated)
Another Key Lime Pie (more traditional)
Hot Carrots

It's getting darker earlier and earlier now which makes me want to cook more - just in time for the kitchen to be torn up. Ugh.

Poured rain for over a week now - given up on keep up with total - it's been toad strangler after another. One that finished up with a nice light rain - a bird rain  - where all the birds come out and chirp. I imagine it's a nice shower for them. But it's one of my favorite things - I love rain, rainy days, going outside in the rain (as long as there is no lightening).

21 September 2009

Kitchen - first frustration

First day of true frustration with contractor - can't start anything (ANYTHING!) until cabinets arrive. ETA - end of the month. Damn it. That pushes remodel into mid November - prime cooking month  - damn it.*

*But it's a few weeks reprieve from packing up the kitchen (yeah!).

19 September 2009

Big Food vs. Big Insurance

Very interesting read from Michael Pollan. It's short but makes lots of sense to me. As someone who tries to eat local as much as possible and I'd like to see and would certainly be willing to support "a diversified, regional food economy" and expect I'm not alone. Now if someone could find a way for us to afford the said "regional food economy" I'd really appreciate it. Anyone? Anyone?

Other comments on Pollan's opinion piece: Locally (Mobile!) 

But I thought this Pollan piece is so far my favorite (excepting Harry Balzer - groan). My counter point later. 

Thanks to the New York Times for letting Big (Evil) Food be a topic of criticism.  

16 September 2009

Attention Retirees: Get out of Sam's Club

A little off topic, but you know I don't care  - wait - this is my blog thing so everything is on topic if I want it to be.

To: Retired People
From: Working Stiffs

Stay the hell out of Sam's Club on  the weekend. Go to Sam's during the week ____ the damn work week. You know when the rest of us are ... um ... working ... putting aside money for your retired-ness.

I would just once like to go to Sam's to get the few usual things we get there p'towels, peanut butter, milk (oh, and beer) with out you sloth-like creatures in the way. Stop snacking at every applewood-smoked bacon station - by the way, I love applewood-smoked bacon - come on Maverick Farms show some love.

Retirees, you are slow and obviously have plenty of time to waste and stop at every food trough and get in my damn way.

Next:  List of things I will never do when I get old.

15 September 2009

It's the obligatory end of summer and ....

And time for articles about pickles and preserving. While I appreciate these, it's a shame that it only happens at this time of year. Now perhaps it's a shame because individuals and companies are only trying to fill up space since there is not much else going on -- Halloween Parties and Thanksgiving are a little ways off yet - though you wouldn't  know that based on magazine covers. Perhaps it's a shame because I think you can pickle and preserve year around if you put your mind to it, but I'm the chick with a fridge so full of bread and butter pickles there is barely any room for the beer (gasp!).

I did think this was interesting enough to keep. 

And what about Canvolution?  Canning Across America's mission is right up my alley: Canning Across America (CAA) is a nationwide, ad hoc collective of cooks, gardeners and food lovers committed to the revival of the lost art of “putting by” food.  Amen.

31 August 2009

Pickles, anyone

Life is too short not to have pickles. I'm not a fan of dill pickles, though the one here is very good in my opinion.** But I've always enjoyed bread and butter pickles. We ate them growing up with homemade chicken and rice. We also ate them traditionally on bbq - on or with - either way is fine. They are also good out of the jar, standing in front of the open fridge, while you're trying to figure out what to make for dinner or fetching another beer. 

Summer squash pickles were the first pickles I ever made, they were in fact, the first canning of any type I did on my own as an adult. My MotH and I had our first home and I supposed that's what started it. Two things happen at this house - our home together. I was finely able to have a proper garden on a scale that I wanted - .5 acre in the city that was all mine to do with what ever I wanted. Secondly I had a huge kitchen. Big enough that our son could ride his scooter round the 9' long island. A. Big. Kitchen.

** Recipe forthcoming...

Squash Pickles 
4 lbs mixed summer squash (yellow squash or zucchini or both)
1 lb onion (or more if you like)
6 Tbs kosher salt

3 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp nutmeg, fresh grated if possible
1/2 tsp cloves, ground
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups sugar.

Slice the squash to about the same thickness 1/2" or so (removing ends of course). Slice the onions as well. Place in either colander over bowl or just a bowl (glass is best - nonreactive). Add the salt and stir to distribute. Go and do something else for four to six hours (or overnight really).

Drain squash and rinse once (or twice if so inclined).

Add all ingredients of pickling mixture to large pot and bring to boil (Btb). Reduce heat and to gentle boil for five minutes. Add squash mixture and simmer for three to five minutes. 

Do the right thing by your jars (clean and sterilize). Put pickles w/liquid in jars, remove bubbles and top off to about 1/4 an inch of top. Clean rim and seal.  

Keeps in fridge for a year, but will not last that long. Excellent flavor, but make sure you use the turmeric - it gives the jar a look of golden honey  - just beautiful which all pickles should be if possible. 

Credit: I got this recipe from recipezaar.com and have modified it - will attempt to learn more about blog etiquette to make sure I give credit where it is due. 

No photos of this because they have already been eaten and I need to make more. 

15 August 2009

In deciding to do this (writing online, that is), I wonder what was my motivation. Mainly, it was to record with pictures what I'm experimenting with in the kitchen and in the garden. Would rather not have anyone else read this, so need to figure out how to do that. But with the upcoming kitchen remodel, there will certainly be plenty to comment on as we go through this process and this might* help me get into a better habit of writing on a more regular basis. Will have to sort out the pictures - not to worry - MotH will help. 

If nothing else, this isn't as gay as a facebook page (people, please move beyond elementary school, "Will you be my fwend?"). Facebook has been compared to an online reunion  ... just remember high school was one of two things: 1. high school sucked and who wants to remember that - or 2. high school was the best time in your life - therefore, I pity you.  

*or might not