Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Still not funny

My amusing commentary switch is still off, but I'm cooking like a maniac in the meantime.  I hope it comes back soon--I'm finding myself boring.  Still, at least we're well fed.  Fat and boring.  Oh dear.

 Company dinner from last weekend:  STEAK AND CAKE (Why not stake and ceak?  English is so random.)

To start, my friend Keri called to say we should have dinner this weekend, at my house, kids included.  They would bring something, only they had soccer/horse shows/etc all day, so nothing complicated, EVEN THOUGH her husband is justifiably renowned as an incredible cook.

Well we had a comparatively simple weekend of just soccer and a little canvassing to pass the local school tax, so I said yes, absolutely you must come.  I will cook something.  All I ask is that you make a fuss over my garden, which is kicking ASS right now.  Ask Ruby what I should make for dessert (Ruby is 5).  Ruby's reply was unequivocal:  Chocolate Cake.

Huh,  I was thinking strawberry rhubarb pie, but ok, Chocolate cake.   I told Keri to just bring lots of red wine, for the steak.  We would have Steak and Cake--isn't there a chain of restaruants in the South called Steak-n-cake?

The menu was as follows:

Olives, Cheese, crackers and white wine. ( Ruby kept biting the crackers, trying to make her tooth come loose.  It remains stubbornly embedded.) Steak, rubbed with garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper, grilled medium rare-rare.  French bread,  and shaved asparagus salad.   Triple chocolate cake.

Besides the cake, the salad was the best part:  Here's what you do:

Use a vegetable peeler to shave large asparagus spears into a bowl.  You may have to julienne the last bit with a sharp knife.  There is probably a gadget to do this more easily, but I don't have it.  As long as you're not in a hurry, it's easy enough with a peeler.

Make a vinaigrette:  3 cloves mashed or minced garlic, salt, pepper,  juice of two lemons and the zest of one lemon, 1/4th teaspoon mustard and olive oil.

Toss the shredded asparagus in the vinaigrette and let it marinate for an hour or two before you serve it.

Finish with curls of hard salty cheese--manchego, parm, whatever.   And a few leaves of baby arugula--which I have growing in abundance in my garden.  I could eat this 3x/day.  It's my new favorite food group.

As to the cake:  It's the Triple chocolate cake from Sky High--my new favorite sweets cookbook.  I got rid of the incredibly huge and annoying Cake Bible by the excessively exacting Rose Levy Birenbaum, because I like Sky High (by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne) so much better.   My father-in-law Mike gave it to me.   It is so good I am not going to give you the recipe.  You should go buy the book because those authors deserve their royalty checks.  I also bought really good cake pans, which make a huge difference in the layers rising evenly and popping out easily.

I have a very early memory of my mother cussing up a storm as the cake layers broke and crumbled.  We always had to fill the holes with lots of extra frosting.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why not?

Have some hooligans?  You will never be bored.  Sleep deprived, maybe, but never bored.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gardening and cooking do not mix.

I was weeding busily when the fire alarm went off.

Oops.  I forgot I was also cooking.

Perhaps I should just take spring and summer off from cooking.  The people who live in my house will have to fend for themselves.

Pictures of the magic that is my garden coming soon.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Delicious Nostalgia

Ok, recipes are complicated.  They are fraught with memory and associations.  When I was really small--3 or so--I remember being taken to have dinner with my dad on summer evenings.  He was working at the Shriners Children's Hospital across town.  I guess he had to stay overnight for those shifts.

There was a skeleton in a closet that we would visit, "Hello Mr. Bones!" I remember that I was already bathed and wearing my nightie, which seemed very elegant.  Going out at night was a rarity.  My mom would pack a picnic  dinner.  We would eat on the grounds--lots of rolling lawns and big rhododendrons.  And this huge old white hospital building as a backdrop.

I remember spinning because my nightgown twirled in a very satisfactory way.  Boys miss out on this stuff, poor things.  Anyway, the rhodys in my garden are blooming, so I was inspired to replicate the picnic dinner tonight:


But wait:  there's more discourse before I can disclose the formula.  No one else I knew my entire childhood ate this.  I thought our family was just weird to have this peculiar favorite until I was in England for a term during college:  It turns out that my Crazy New Zealander Nana was the source for this very typical British dish.  She is also the reason we don't bother whipping up the cream, we just pour it on whatever sweet thing is around.  MMMMMM.  One of my roommates in England would nip down to the corner shop and buy a  "Mr Kipling's Fudge Cake"  in a box--equivalent to little Debbies--she'd drown it in cream and eat it up.  Yum Yum.

OK  here it is:

One recipe pie crust:  Don't freak.  It's easy.  In England, they call this "Short Crust":
Grate 1 C cold butter into 2 cups flour,  every 1/4  c or so of the butter, pause in your grating and mix it around.  there, now you have the butter and the flour, that took about 3 minutes.

Bring the bowl to the sink.     Spray a teeny bit--just a dash!-- of cold water over the butter and flour and mix thoroughly with your hands.  add a little more water.  Mix.  repeat until it makes a ball when you squeeze it.  They dryer your dough, the better the texture will be when it's cooked.  The more frequently you make pie crust, the better you'll be at judging when it's just right, so get started!  This will take another 5 minutes.

Put a ball made of half the dough on the  (Clean) counter.  Using your hands, mash a dough ball until it's a flat circle.  Roll with a rolling pin or a wine bottle if you don't have a rolling pin.  Turn the dough frequently to keep it from sticking and to coax it into a round-ish shape.add more flour to the surface if it's sticking.  When it's about the thickness of cardboard, fold it in half, then in fourths, and unfold over a pie pan.  Repeat to make the top crust.   You could skip the top crust, but the crust is the best part.

You can use this crust recipe for any pie.  It's from my mother's 1961 edition of the Joy of Cooking.  Except the grating part.  Somebody, my friend Jeanine's 90s era boyfriend?-- gave me that tip--it really speeds it up.  I never use anything else.  I make really good pie, although now I am intimidated becasuse my friend Sam makes this strawberry rhubarb pie that 3 people shelled out $50 for at our auction.  Is my pie THAT good?  Maybe.


break 8 eggs very gently into the bottom crust.  Try not to let the yolks break.  Sprnkle with 6 crumbled strips of crispy bacon.  Layer thin slices of white cheddar cheese, and two thinly sliced tomatoes.  If you join Rhe Man Who Lives In My House in insisting on green vegetables (oh please), you can add chopped spinach and parsley.

Place the top crust over, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden.  This pie looks beautiful when you slice it and you can see the  yolks, whites, red tomotoes, etc.  it's good warm, but even better at room temperature.  In short, perfect picnic food.   Since it's one of my dad's favorites, it's likely that my mom is making it, too, as he is having surgery at the end of this week.  Send him good thoughts!  And enjoy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's not dessert, but it will have to do.

This is really good granola.  It's very easy, as long as you don't let it burn--that's my issue, though.  You are probably more competent and less distractible than I.

4-6 C rolled oats
1-2 C sliced almonds
1/2-1 C:  raw sunflower seeds, other nuts, pumpkin seeds and/or unsweetened grated coconut (not shredded, unless you like coconut in your teeth.  I do not.
1/2-1 C brown sugar, and/or honey, maple syrup, other sweet stuff, your choice
pinch of salt
cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, as you wish
1/2 c oil, I use coconut oil or canola.  Coconut is better.
1C Orange Juice!!!! this is important!
AND the zest of one orange.  Also important.

I mix this all up in a big bowl, spread it out on 2 cookie sheets, and roast it @ 350 for several 10 minute intervals.  I stir it around every time I check it.  I have to just sit down on the floor and read the paper while it cooks, or I burn it,  It goes from perfect-crunchy-chewy-caramelized to burned black in about one second, so you have to watch it like a hawk.

Dump the hot granola back in the bowl and stir in the dried fruit of your choice (I like currents.)

This is hella good, especially with greek yogurt--preferably full fat--and sliced fruit.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


We had fish tacos for dinner--Cinco de Mayo and all.  The Man Who Lives In My House concocted a pitcher of sangria, as well.  We really should have had people over.  Just as well we didn't, though, because there was nothing for dessert.

Not even some stale jelly beans left over from easter.  Not even a calcified marshmallow peep.  I am jonesing, but not enough to go to the store.

I will have to look at shoes on zappos to distract myself.  

I guess I'm on a shoe shopping* diet.

*Please note, this is not shoe buying.  Just shopping......

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Some Dogs have it really good.  Like Truffle, for example.  He likes to snuggle in the duvet in the morning.  Then he has some eggs scrambled with salmon and rye toast. One of his butlers takes him for a walk.  He feels really sorry for his friend Otto, who just gets kibble, and has to make do with a dog bed.  The poor thing is not even allowed to lounge on the couch.  He should file a complaint. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011


That crazy Texas Rob turned 40. They celebrated with a Dukes of Hazard themed crawfish boil. 90pounds of crawfish is a lot--every last one was devoured. I was not going to be seen in any Daisy Duke short shorts. That is just not dignified. So I wore this:

Boy I have big teeth. I am not afraid to look ridiculous. It is unclear whether or not this is a good thing.

I found all our costumes at various thrift stores. Since the party, I have co-opted The Man Who Lives In My House's overalls. They are the ultimate in "I give up" wear. Better even than sweats. Yesterday, I wore them all day in the garden. They are the best! You don't have to suck in your stomach and your butt crack will not be exposed, no matter what.

We were invited to a dinner party and I took them off with great regret. If they had not been covered with mud, I would probably have worn them. This could be a very slippery slope.