Archive | May, 2006

Summer’s First Salad

31 May

While this weekend was the “unofficial” start of summer, a few things have happened that have made me realize that I don’t need Memorial Day to tell me when summer officially, or otherwise, starts. One of my barometer’s is the first cold shower. Check. That was Monday. The second milestone is the day I change from hot coffee to iced coffee. Check. That was yesterday. The last, and most important sign that summer is here also occurred yesterday and that was the making of summer’s first chopped salad.

The chopped salad, at least in my mind, is a celebration of bounty. There’s no greens (aside from some members of the chicory family), everything is cut small, and everything is hyper, hyper-fresh. Now, I admit that almost nothing that went into my salad last night was either seasonal or, most likely, local, but it is the thought process that counts. It was hot yesterday. Muggy, overcast, the AC at work was barely cutting it. We had the windows open and my high-maintenance boss made us close them (he can’t concentrate when there’s noise around). It was a slow, lazy day and all I could think of was the symphony that is a summer salad.

I see people all the time on blogs asking for recipes for salads. Seriously? You need a recipe for a salad? Oy vey… What is the world coming to when a person can’t just cruise through the produce aisle and say, “That looks fresh. That looks yummy. Oh man, look at those BERRIES!” purchase them, take them home, cut them up, toss them in a bowl and drizzle some oil and vinegar over them and sit down and pig out? Yes, I guess I’m a salad snob, but, seriously, they’re like, the easiest things to make in the world.

Either way though, all food snobbery aside, I highly encourage anyone looking for a fresh, summery, tasty-as-hell salad to try this one and then, please, improvise on it, add your favorite this or you favorite that, change proportions, substitute vegetables and fruits with abandon, and please, let me know how it goes!

Head below the break for the “recipe” for Summer’s First Salad and some other ideas on how to customize your own summer salad.
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Save These Books!

30 May

Ah, books. Cookbooks to be precise. To be even more precise, out-of-print cookbooks. And the real cherry, the favorite out-of-print cookbooks of some of the food world’s cooking and writing illuminati. Grey Lady, you did good!

For some reason, I knew Batali’s choice would be hard to find and obscure. But I expected something less sentimental from my hero Anthony Bourdain… You know, a book about how to butcher buffalo or something. Nigella’s book is suitably sexy, homey and delicious sounding, Harold McGee’s a little off the beaten path and Maya Kaimal’s book is one I must track down.

In case I hadn’t told you guys before, I am an avid out-of-print cookbook collector. So Ann, you say, what is your choice then?

To The Queen’s Taste – A Cook Book For Moderns – Helen Train Hilles (1937)

This book was written for a certain kind of lady during the Depression. I remember doing research on the author when I first found this little gem and recall that she was a woman of some means in New York City, and I believe that her husband was on the board at the Met or something like that. Either way, this book is a wonderful snapshot in time. Even though people were suffering, and from the tone of this book Mrs. Hilles and her family were suffering to some degree as well, a woman of her social standing were still expected to keep her household and entertain in a very certain way. As she states:

We live in a certain amount of style. The maid may be general or non-existent. But the beds are turned down. We dress for dinner, even if it’s in pajamas, when we are alone. And our meals for two are as well-cooked as when we have guests, though the meat may be hamburg. Our grandparents, you see, did leave us something. We have standards, even though they be elastic.

Written 70 odd years ago and read at a more prosperous time her words (especially the part about the pjs!) still ring true. This is not a cookbook in the modern sense. The recipes are just vague, there are no recipe lists, no step-by-step instructions are included. Mrs. Hilles writes assuming that her audience has had the proper schooling, the proper instruction from her mother, so that she doesn’t have to write it all out for her audience. I love this.

Some of the recipes I could never imagine making, for example, Tongue with Spiced Fruit Sauce (p. 113) or Mousse of Tongue (on the very next page). But one I will definitely be trying soon? Dandelion and Tarragon salad. (instructions: Chop tender dandelion greens with watercress. Add to this a tiny bunch of tarragon. Three or four leaves will do.) I think i would serve this with Beet Dressing (yum!).

To The Queen’s Taste is not just a cookbook however. Mrs. Hilles feels that a proper modern woman is always prepared, so she offers advice on how too cook for your husband if he happens to come from *gasp* the South. My favorite chapter is entitled “Fire Burn And Cauldron Bubble” and explores what to do when:

You are planning to spend the weekend at your home in the country and have invited two guests. It is mid-winter and the building you are going to has been closed tight for some time. You know that this weekend can be either delightful or a failure and have chosen the least risky of your friends as guests.

She goes on to explain what supplies should be dragged from the city, how the pantry should be stocked so that upon arrival from The City a proper meal can be made and how to cook in the fireplace. This is my kind of life, just reading about it makes me happy.

Finally, she offers a list of things that a proper lady (and a good cook of any era) should and should not do. To wit:

  • I will never serve peas and carrots mixed, canned soup without the addition of something, rolls cold, or dry cereals untoasted.
  • I will not serve strange, fruit-juice or liqueur cocktails.
  • I will omit tutti-fruitti salad, artificial coloring, matching color schemes, or any wolves in sheep’s clothing. (Sandra Lee take note!)
  • I will never serve steak on cold plates nor salad on lukewarm ones.
  • I will never say “I love onions but they don’t love me!”

And finally, possibly the most important words printed in this book for both moderns, and MODERNS:

I will never apologize for my food.

Truer words were never spoken.

People Drop By From Time To Time…

25 May

One of the fun features about the wordpress blogs (I’ve never used any other service so I don’t know if this is a common feature) is that they show you the search terms by which people arrived at your site.

Sometimes, they make sense, like when someone gets here by searching for “pollo mole verde.” But, one person also made it to that posting with this search term: “sandra lee” topless.

The name of my blog also seems to cause some strange dropins. Actually, they might be totally legit but the algorithims by which search engines operate cause people to string along some words that, in their minds probably make perfect sense, but since it’s my mind reading these terms, they become funny.

A few examples you say? Why, how could I deny you this joy…

my horses name is Granny

granny addiction

granny rides boy in park

cart like the old folks use to carry

ruby granny bang

And then there’s just a plethora of funny chicken searches. (Why are chickens so funny? And I thought the duck was the funniest animal…)

owning one chicken

picture of a chicken braid

Pictures of pheasant and chicken crosses

bovine chickens

chicken getting hit by car picture

purple chicken

sophisticated chicken picnic

(this is one of my favorites, can’t you just picture a bunch of chickens sitting around having a lovely picnic? One rooster says to another “Well, I say Nigel, but, do you think Esmerelda is fluffing her feathers a wee bit, wantonly?” oh man, this just cracks me up!)

Apparenly my posts can be a bit confusing too. I think (or at least I hope) this post Sausages And Sparrows lead to this term: cooking sparrows.

And well, we’re back at the Pollo for this term which, well, yeah, it kinda suits me to a tee: lazy chef requires rice cooker. Yep, that’s me!

There’s also the terms that come through that are, well, a little blue, and well, really make me wonder about my style of writing. Seriously, all these words exist somewhere on my site? Eep!!

i was topless with my boyfriend

lovely virgin teeny

sexy meal girl cut meat pictures

I hope I didn’t actually write any of those phrases!

And now finally, I’m going to leave you and head off into this goregous Memorial Day weekend with a lovely term. It’s a dream of mine to someday find one of these. Maybe, if they were really tiny, I could have one of these in my apartment:

tiny bunnies that don’t grow for sale

Yes people. Tiny bunnies. That don’t grow. That you can buy. Seriously person-that-searched-for-this-term… If you find these magical bunnies… PLEASE email me!!

Happy summer ya’ll!

By the way, the pictures have nothing to do with the post. They’re from our four hour tour of Vienna. They have cool signs in Vienna (I love the crosswalk one, the guy’s wearing a hat!). And this one over to the left? That’s a print I wish I could have bought, but, seeing as it was Sunday, the shop was closed. *sigh*

Who Put Buttermilk In My Curry?

23 May

When I first saw this post from Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks, I knew a few things immediately.

1. I wanted it right now.

2. That when I emailed it to the boy, he’d want it right now as well.

3. That I had to come up with an excuse to make it as soon as humanly possible.

and 4. That it would taste a helluva lot better with some chicken and a lot more heat.

Well, I didn’t have to wait very long. Saturday was beautiful, bright, sunny, and the boy was sick. Like, pitiful sick. Like, not moving from the couch sick. It was kinda heartbreaking. So, not to sound like June Cleaver or anything, but, when the boy gets sick, my immediate urge is to cook him something. And what better to try and scare away some nasty upper respiratory monsters than a wicked spicy curry?

I had my excuse!

Off I tromped to Dowel Quality Products to pick up some spices and other assorted oddities. If you live in NYC and have never been here, shame on you. If you’re visiting NYC and have some room in your suitcase (and you aren’t afraid of your clothes smelling like curry) stop by to pick up some wonderful spices, snacks and food and beauty products.

For this dish I only needed black mustard seeds but I was seduced by the green cardamom, kalonji (black onion seed, aka Nigella sativa), curry leaves and frozen paneer. I figured I could come up with some way to use them in the lentils I was planning to make to accompany the curry.

Alas, when I got home and was excitedly sniffing all my spices I realized something was amiss. I’ve never bought curry leaves before but I have a pretty solid suspicion that they shouldn’t smell like ammonia. Oh well, at least they were cheap!

I had to move into multi-culti mode then, because I just didn’t think that cardamom scented black lentils would be a strong enough flavor to cut through the boy’s head cold. I settled upon using some Pimenton de la Vera to add some serious heat and a lovely hint of smokiness that would be redolent of my favorite meat, bacon!

Just as Heidi said it would, the curry came together in a snap! The lentils, on the other hand, were as stubborn as cloned mules. They just would not cook. I didn’t add salt, I did nothing different from the last time I cooked them. I was expecting everything to be done in about 15 minutes, but those stupid little legumes just refused, taking well over 45 minutes to bend to my will. But, in the end, I got them. Not only were they cooked, they were damn tasty too… Bwaaahahahah… Oops, sorry, back to our regularly scheduled cooking show…

And just to keep with my Croatia obsession, we drank a wonderful white from the Island of Krk topped off with a little mineral water (aka bevanda style). The light acidity and fresh fruit sweetness of the wine really cut through the heat and flavors, and the lovely bubbliness from the water kept the whole meal feeling very fresh and healthy.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about the rice, no, I did not suddenly become capable of cooking delicious, perfect rice. But I did buy it from someone who could.

Head below the break for my version of Heidi’s curry and a recipe for some multi-culti lentils.

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FFF: Rižot Dalmacija & Warm Salad Hvaranin

19 May

As I write this, two men are jackhammering the street below my window. Yes, I am very much back in New York City. But that doesn’t mean I have to suddenly start cooking hot dogs and eating pizza. No. I can keep eating, and begin cooking, like I’m still in Croatia. Fresh, local, light and tasty.

So with this new mantra I decided to tackle one of our favorite dishes from Split, Dalmatian Rice, for the Fabulous Favourites Festival (IMBB? 26 + WBW 21). The Caveman, an awesome Canadian wine blogger, and I decided to trade specialties for this event. I gave him a recipe, he gave me a wine. His suggested vin was Cuvée Marie, which of course, I could not find. Doh! So I settled on what I believe is a similar wine, the 2003 Chateau Jolys Jurançon Sec ($13.99). Sorry Caveman… I blame jetlag!
I ordered the rice in a restaurant on our first night in Split. I assumed it would be something like risotto. The boy assumed it would be black and white. I was right, he was wrong.

There are two things that makes this dish special: 1. Like most of the rižot we had in Croatia, it is not creamy and 2. most of it’s flavor comes from a healthy, healthy dose of raw garlic added at the end (and probably from the national “secret” ingredient as well). But neither man nor woman can live on rice alone, so I threw together a simple warm salad, inspired by our hostess on Hvar, of tomatoes, zucchini and ramps baked in the oven with some sole filets.

The wine was a revelation and ended up being a perfect pairing to this light, healthy, tasty meal. It’s bright acidity cut through the unctuous olive oil I used as a final flavor element to the dish, while it’s slight fruity sweetness acted as a lovely foil to the bright, slightly spicy raw garlic.

Head below the jump for these very easy, very tasty recipes.

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