.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Foodie's Bookshelf

Foodie's Bookshelf

As mentioned in this post, I recently acquired Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte. I am working my way through some of the recipes that look do-able (Hesser's previous book had lovely prose but looked way too fussy to cook from).

One I tried was the green beans and tomatoes. For one pound beans (and 3 good tomatoes), the recipe said 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon Dijon, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, salt, pepper. I had a lot of my viniagrette made up so I used that instead. It was much better the second time when I didn't use quite so much of it. I also learned the second time that the beans look better if you follow Hesser's instructions to put the beans in water that is boiling and cook them for 4 minutes only. Duh. But that's a "live and learn" thing. It is so simple, and so good, that I will be doing it often. It's good with fresh basil added to the dressing, too. Yum. Next one I want to try is the green beans with walnut oil. I have been on a green bean kick lately.

One of the things she said in that book that brought me up flat was that she, unlike her mother and grandmother and assorted in-laws, did not have a repetory of recipes. That made me do a VERY tiny superior dance because I do actually have one these days. Only a tiny dance though, as I did not when I was the age Hesser was.

The other note from the Foodie's Bookshelf, which I was contemplating even before Deb asked her questions about cookbooks (I already know I'm not completely in bad shape, as there are people on RFC with thousands), is that I had an almost chance encounter with the delightful book Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray. The protagonist, Ruth, is an extremely talented home baker who both imagines herself "inside the cake" when she gets stressed and does a lot of stress baking at 3 am when, in short order, her husband loses his job and both her divorced and feuding parents are living with her. I could, of course, totally relate to the stress-cooking part, but part of the genius of this book is that it's not story-line-with-recipes, the baking really is part of the character development. Ruth and her cakes have flair. They have genius. They have soul. And the family pulls itself back together again, including a really sweet development where the snotty teenager becomes her mother's best cheerleader and marketing guru.

I did want to eat cake after that. (Maybe I will try the chocolate dump-it cake from Hesser's book.)

From a food point of view, I was pleased that it wasn't death by chocolate; the author chose very interesting cakes, recipes from some of the best in the business.

Friday, July 30, 2004

A Cookbook "Meme"

This was a recent post by the fabulous Deb of In My Kitchen. Since I had a few minutes to kill, I answered them. As she says, "Please don't feel you have to answer all the questions, this is not as easy as I thought and no worries if you can't name three in every category or even one in every category, I only suggested three because it was my favorite number yesterday."

1. Name 3 cookbooks in your collection that you consider good general cookbooks.

Joy of Cooking (1975), Fannie Farmer, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I also have to put in a plug for "How to Cook without a Book" as a technique type book with very helpful hints for getting dinner on the table consistently in not a lot of time. I don't have a lot of technique books and I am heading in the direction of applying principles, not recipes, to food. A recipe I can follow but technique will get me fed at 7 pm on a Tuesday night.

2. Name 3 cookbooks in your collection you consider all-time classic favorites.
Fannie Farmer, VCfE, hard to decide on another at the moment. I'd have to look at all the books and that would make me sad to consider just how many I have!

3. Name 3 cookbooks in your collection you consider terrible now but not at the time you purchased them.

I've purged a lot of those. The original Moosewood cookbooks went. I am also not as fond of JoC as I used to be, although I wouldn't call it "terrible". Just a bit boring.

I will probably purge more once I get the one or two possibilities from the books into the binder I'm assembling (which already has Mom's typed out recipes and some print outs). The bookshelf in the kitchen is very full and some of the food writing has already had to move to another room.

4. Name 3 cookbooks in your collection you consider current favorites, but not necessarily all-time favorites.

The late lamented Laurie Colwin's two cookbooks are among my all-time and current favorites. I have only had one problem with a recipe from those books and I have done a lot of the recipes (and I know how to fix the problem, too). I recommend them to those who wish to become Good Home Cooks with a minimum of fuss.

I haven't had a new cookbook for a while, except for Cooking for Mr. Latte, and mostly cook new stuff out of my magazines or the occasional blog post that catches my fancy as I have even stopped reading the food newsgroup these days.

5. Name 3 cookbooks in your collection you consider great reference cookbooks/books.

CookWise, How to Eat a French Fry, tie between Fannie Farmer and VCfE for general information.

6. Name 3 books in your collection you consider to be terrific (or not) food writing.

I have a lot of food writing. Elizabeth David (from when I lived in England two decades back), Jeffrey Steingarten, MFK Fisher, John Thorne, Calvin Trillin ... you get the idea. Colwin's books are precious to me because her recipes are (almost) never-fail, her enthusiasm is infectuous, and her prose is delicious. I am still sad that she is gone, because I so wanted her to do more, more, more. And I was as interested in visiting her foodie landmarks in NYC on my visits as I was in seeing sites of literary, artistic, and general tourist value. (I paraded around the Episcopal Seminary in her honor last time I was there.) Teresa Lust does pretty well in "Pass the Polenta", as does Peter Reinhardt in "Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Cafe" (special sentimental connection as I ate at the order's SF restaurant a lot). I think Amanda Hesser might be taking on the mantle with "Cooking for Mr. Latte".

7. Name 3 cookbooks in your collection you consider the best of international cookbooks.

I seem to not have a lot of those dedicated to a particular other country's cuisine these days, except for Mrs. David's, and "Mediterranean food" I hardly consider "foreign" considering where I live. I have Rick Bayless' "Mexico, one plate at a time" and it seems to be a good book, although I haven't cooked from it much as I know a lot of the principles. I do have quite a collection of historic food books, though, does that count?

8. Name 3 cookbooks in your collection you consider terrific single subject cookbooks.

Williams Sonoma Soup, Williams Sonoma Muffins, Luscious Lemon Desserts. Chocolate I can take or leave, but I LOVE lemons!

The WS Dessert cookbook is also very good as a way to build a classic dessert repetoire, although I have not cooked out of it much.

9. Name 3 cookbooks in your collection you consider must have baking cookbooks.

I don't have a lot of baking books. I do have a good cooky cookbook from Sunset and use Fannie Farmer a lot, if not relying on Tested By Mom recipes. I am baking some out of "How to be a Domestic Goddess" - the banana bread is ace and I like Nigella's style - and I recommend it for the hesitant home baker.

My baking experiments seem to be fueled by the "daily reads" (magazines, newsgroup, blogs). I do have a small repetory now, mostly cookies, muffins, and some cakes, although with all the beautiful artisan breads here, I'm not much inspired to bake bread.

10. Name your 3 favorite cuisines and the cookbooks devoted to them that you can't part with.

I am a Home Food cook. My definition of Home Food has expanded a lot since I was a kid so Cal-Mex, Cal-Med, and Cal-Asian all count now. That is why I adore Laurie Colwin. I do, however, love Michele Anna Jordan's "California Cuisine" (it's home, baby!) and Peter Reinhart's "Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Cafe".

I might start on more Asian (Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese) foods because I like them, but it's not like I can't do stir-fry at home or get reasonable-to-great Asian food out around here. I can do a couple of my favorites (pad thai and hot-and-sour soup) at home. I should take a class or something.

11. Name three biographies or autobiographies you found fascinating, boring, influenced you or whatnot.

About Elizabeth David: "South wind in the kitchen".

Otherwise see food writing above.

And Finally:

Name 3 favorite chefs or cookbook authors that had the most influence on your cooking and why.

Since my mom has never written a cookbook all her own ...
I was never of the Cult of Julia. I started out with Elizabeth David. I lived in the UK at the time and she was the reigning goddess.
My next major influence was the warm-hearted folksiness of the Joy of Cooking. By that time I knew enough to tweak when I felt like it. It felt like Mom Food and answered some of the questions I would otherwise have needed to ask my mom ("how long do you cook artichokes for?").
Laurie Colwin has to be next: an omnivore in the city, someone who experienced the joy that good home food has to offer. Also a necessary antidote, in my opinion, to the super-produced Martha phenomenon.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Lamb on a Stick

This was an "extra" in my entry for IMBB #6. But since I made it last night, and it was good, it deserves its own post.

Especially since I now have a peeecture:

Dinner is served

(Bit of a funky camera angle here - the lemons on my tree can get big, but not that big - and I didn't grill the lemons as per recipe. But you get the idea.)

Even people who think they don't like lamb (probably because they got served mutton as a young'un) will probably think this is very tasty. The trick with lamb dishes is to get a nice leg of lamb (boneless if they sell it that way) or some lamb sirloin (Jamie's recommendation, available at Costco) and then TRIM IT very well. (My dad has a butterflied marinated leg of lamb recipe that also "converts" non-lamb-eaters and he confirms that prep is the key.) I will report that the lamb sirloin is especially succulent, but a good trimmed leg of lamb will taste just fine.

It's a good party dish because all the prep work is done in advance (so you can socialize with your guests) and the skewers take only about 10 minutes to cook. Anyway, eating kebabs is fun.

If you use a barbeque, I highly recommend some sort of grill basket or foil grill pan. I used a disposable grill pan (with big holes punched through) and not only did I not have to worry about tasty morsels being sacrificed to the coals, the cleanup became a lot easier.

I served it with tzatskiki (sp) as well as the cilantro yogurt. Both were pretty tasty with it. If you have extra mint springs, by all means use them in the garnish.

Skewered Lamb with Coriander (Cilantro) Yogurt, aka Lamb on a Stick
From Mediterranean: food of the sun by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow, via Jamie U. of RFC

The authors note that lean beef or pork work equally well.

900g/2lb lean boneless lamb
1 large onion, grated
3 bay leaves
5 thyme or rosemary sprigs
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
25 ml/1/2 tsp caster sugar (regular old US sugar - clb)
75 ml/3 fl oz/ 1/3 cup olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
sprigs of rosemary, to garnish
grilled lemon wedges, to serve

Coriander Yogurt

150 ml/1/4 pint (2/3 cup) thick natural yogurt
15 ml/1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
15ml/1 tsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro in the US - clb)
10ml/2 tsp grated onion

1. To make the yogurt, mix together the yogurt, mint, coriander and grated onion and transfer to a small serving dish and refrigerate.

2. To make the kebabs, trim the lamb well of fat, cut it into small chunks (1" or under) and put in a bowl or non-metal casserole dish. Mix together the grated onion, herbs, lemon rind and juice, sugar and oil, then add the salt and pepper and pour over the lamb. (Note: if you have a food processor, by all means whizz it up together - clb) Leave to marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

3. Drain the meat and thread on to skewers. Cut lemons up, brush with oil, and thread on a skewer.

4. Arrange on a grill rack and cook under a preheated grill for about 10 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. (Or cook over charcoal/gas fire until they look done - that will also be about 10 minutes -- clb) Transfer to a plate and garnish with rosemary or other herbs. Serve with the grilled lemon wedges and the yogurt.

Fresh Berry Pie

I had some people over for dinner last night, and wanted to make an appropriately summery dessert. (I don't think "chocolate" or "lemons" much in the summertime.) I did flirt with the idea of making the berry fool in the latest Fine Cooking, but it did ultimately seem like a lot of work and I wanted to keep it fairly simple. Anyway, it's nice to serve that sort of thing in individual dishes, and finding space in my fridge for them is often a challenge.

The buckle I made a couple of weeks ago was a possibility, but I dismissed that because the dinner ended up having lots of bread so I wanted to try to balance things.

I happily remembered the Fresh Berry Pie from the August 2003 issue of Cook's Illustrated. I made this a couple of times last summer when raspberries were cheap at the Bowl and it was very well received.

And who wouldn't drool over something that looked like this?

fresh berry pie

This particular time, I not only scorched the filling slightly as I was making it, but it did not set up (so much for going with something I had made before and was familiar with *rolls eyes at self*); thus my notes about puree amounts and heat. But it was still very, very good, and much enjoyed by the guests, and I finished off the broken leftovers for breakfast.

Summer Berry Pie
Cook's Illustrated, August 2003

9 graham crackers broken into rough pieces
Or one cup graham cracker crumbs - clb
2 TBS sugar
5 TBS unsalted butter, melted and warm

Berry Filling
2 cups raspberries (about 9 oz.)
2 cups blackberries ( about 11 oz.)
2 cups blueberries (about 10 oz.)
(Obviously this can be tweaked according to what you have but your total should be at least 6 cups - clb)
1/2 cup (4 oz) granulated sugar
3 TBS cornstarch (cornflour)
1/8 tsp. salt
Juice of one lemon (about 1 TBS)
2 TBS red currant jelly

Whipped cream for serving:
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 TBS sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. For the crust, which can be done in advance: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 325 degrees.

2. In food processor, process graham crackers until evenly fine, about
30 seconds (you should have 1 cup of crumbs). Add sugar and pulse to
combine. Continue to pulse while adding warm melted butter in steady
stream; pulse until mixture resembles wet sand.

3. Transfer crumbs to 9-inch glass pie plate; form crust using 1/2 cup
dry measuring cup. (Use the bottom of the cup to firm up the bottom, and the side to press out the sides - clb) Bake crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes; tranfer to wire rack and cool completely while making filling. If making ahead, cover loosely with plastic wrap after cooled.

4. For the filling: Combine berries in large colander and gently rinse
(taking care not to bruise them); spread berries on paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet and gently pat dry with additional paper towels. (Gotta love CI for their obsessive attention to detail - clb)

5. In food processor, puree 2 1/2 cups mixed berries for a minimum of one full minute until smooth and fully pureed. Strain puree through mesh strainer into small non-reactive saucepan, scraping and pressing on seeds to extract as much puree as possible (you should have 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups). Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl to combine, then whisk mixture into puree. Bring puree to poil over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon; when mixture reaches a boil and is thickened to consistency of pudding, remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and set aside to cool slightly.

Note from clb: If you have more berry puree, add more cornstarch, or the filling will not set. It will be delicious but messy. The idea behind this recipe is to containerize the fresh berries in something that is gelatin-like, but better tasting than commercial jello, so that they may be neatly served. Also, be careful to cook the puree over medium heat, and stir/check it constantly to prevent burning.

7. While puree is cooling, place remaining berries in medium bowl. Heat
jelly in second small saucepan over low heat (or microwave in microwave-safe bowl - clb) until fully melted; drizzle melted jelly over berries and toss gently to coat. Pour slightly cooled puree into pie shell; top with fresh berries. Loosely cover pie with plastic wrap; refrigerate until chilled and puree has set, about 3 hours (or up to 1 day).

8. Some time before serving, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla. I will not go into CI's detail, but you will get better results if the beaters and the bowl are cold as well. I usually put them in the fridge for a half hour or so. Refrigerate the cream if you make it in advance.

To serve, cut the pie into wedges and serve with whipped cream. A tip for pie-cutting is that the first slice of pie will come out neater if you cut the second piece before trying to lift the first one out.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Busy Week

Getting ready for mini-dinner party tomorrow. Lots of cleaning, and deciding what the menu would finally be (besides Jamie's Lamb on a stick, which I have to try). Made the graham cracker crust for fresh berry pie last night - pictures and recipes when the dust settles.

I made two new summer salad recipes from new reading, somewhat winging it; one was green beans and tomatoes from Amanda Hesser's book, and one was corn-avocado-tomato from "Real Simple" magazine (a highlight of visiting the acupuncturist). Both were tasty but soupy because in winging it I added too much liquid (two limes not one in the corn salad). Definitely worth redoing, a little closer to the originals in the dressing department.

Must go root for veggies now to have with my lunch. Full reports on the rest over the weekend.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

IMBB#6 Roundup

The gang at Too Many Chefs collated the results of the IMBB #6 event.

A really impressive bunch of entries, with a lot of creativity from the "city chefs" (without grills or balconies) and a good variety. Host Barrett almost smoked his kitchen out pan-grilling though (we're all glad he's okay).

I also learned quite a bit about a local vendor of things wonderful and meaty, The Fatted Calf (and I still LOVE that name). Thanks to Dr. Biggles for the tips and maybe see you at the Saturday market. (I got some of the chorizo, and it rules, but maybe next time a pork roast or merguez.)

Sunday, July 18, 2004

IMBB#6 - Girl at the Grill

Ever since I visited San Luis Obispo earlier this year, I've had a hankering for Central Coast-style barbequed tri-tip; I picked up a pre-marinated "Santa Maria Style" piece of meat at Trader Joe's one day, consumed it with great cries of glee, and was distressed to find only the un-marinated meat the next time I was in.
But I got it anyway, and got to work.  I had some vinaigrette dressing in the fridge, a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck (for those of you not familar with the wonder that is Trader Joe's, this is wine from the Charles Shaw Winery that sells at the whopping sum of $2 US in California and is quite passable), and some Susie Q seasoning I got in SLO:

Susie Q

Susie Q is the house brand of the excellent Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe near Santa Maria, a place well worth a visit if you wish to eat steak that cuts "like butter".

The basic procedure was very simple:

- Get out a ceramic casserole with a lid

- Salt top and bottom with Susie Q (you could mix salt, pepper, and herbs if you didn't have Susie in your cupboard and don't wish to order it)

- Pour vinaigrette (recipe below) in to cover top and bottom

- Pour a good glug of inexpensive red wine in to cover top and bottom

- Season again

Then I covered the dish and let it marinate in the fridge overnight and turned it in the morning. I estimate I used about half a cup each of wine and dressing.

I fired up the barbeque in the evening, using a combination of regular briquettes and mesquite. Trader Joe's directions with the meat said to grill it fat side up for 50 minutes, but I cooked it fat side down (after, you guessed it, another shake of Susie Q) for 10 on a covered Weber and then turned it and cooked for 30 more. I let it stand for a good thirty minutes after it came off the grill. It was plenty done and mighty tasty:


The absolutely traditional side with Central Coast barbeque is pinquito beans. The beef-and-beans thing goes back to the Californio days before the land was part of the United States. Pinquitos are, as you may have gathered, small and pink. They hold up quite well to the cooking process and retain their shape. I usually get them canned, as S&W does a good brand, cooked with spices, which is available in my local markets.

Other sides you will often see with tri-tip are salsa (pico de gallo variety), potato salad of the classic American russets-mayonnaise-and-green onions variety, green salad (we are Californians and we like our veggies), and/or garlic bread. If you drive down the main drag of any Central Coast town (the closer to the central Santa Maria-SLO axis, the better) on a Saturday afternoon, the chances are good some civic group has set up their Q rig in a parking lot as a fund-raiser. Follow your nose.

The central coast is wine country so even the diviest of the BEEF restaurants (Jocko's in Nipomo) offers a full-bodied red as a beverage option. The less divey places, and the supermarkets that the high school band has set up their rig in the corner of, have a nice selection of local vintages. It's good with microbrew or iced tea (which in California is not very sweet) or lemonade as well. The only thing bad about it is that tri-tip, like flank steak and skirt steak before it, has been popularized so that a cut of meat that was previously cheap and only good if you did something about it is now costlier and you still have to do something about it.

The vinaigrette I use is from my trusty summer standby and RFC "signature dish" Bread Salad, which would make a very tasty if not exactly canonical side with the tri-tip (indeed, I am working on some right now and highly recommend it as a Summer Party Dish):

Whisk together:

1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
1 - 2 cloves smooshed or finely diced garlic
Juice of one lemon

and then whisk in 2/3 cup good olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

(For the rest of the bread salad recipe, follow the link above. You won't regret it if you aren't low-carbing.)

Extra Bonus Recipe - Baa Baa Barbeque

My next grilling adventure is to reproduce a dish my pal Jamie from rec.food.cooking calls "Lamb on a Stick" for a party. Even people who think they don't like lamb (probably because they got served mutton as a young'un) will probably think this is very tasty. The trick with lamb dishes is to get a nice leg of lamb (boneless if they sell it that way) or some lamb sirloin (Jamie's recommendation, available at Costco) and then TRIM IT very well. (My dad has a butterflied marinated leg of lamb recipe that I was unfortunately not organized enough to get from him, but will include in this entry when I do. It also "converts" non-lamb-eaters.)

It's a good party dish because all the prep work is done in advance (so you can socialize with your guests) and the skewers take only about 10 minutes to cook. Anyway, eating kebabs is fun. You might want one of those trays for your barbeque for this one. And if you, like I, have an overactive rosemary bush, it's perfect!

Skewered Lamb with Coriander Yogurt, aka Lamb on a Stick
From a book called: Mediterranean: food of the sun by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow.

The authors note that lean beef or pork work equally well.

900g/2lb lean boneless lamb
1 large onion, grated
3 bay leaves
5 thyme or rosemary sprigs
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
25 ml/1/2 tsp caster sugar (regular old US sugar - clb)
75 ml/3 fl oz/ 1/3 cup olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
sprigs of rosemary, to garnish
grilled lemon wedges, to serve

Coriander Yogurt

150 ml/1/4 pint (2/3 cup) thick natural yogurt
15 ml/1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
15ml/1 tsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro in the US - clb)
10ml/2 tsp grated onion

1. To make the coriander yogurt, mix together the yogurt, mint, coriander and grated onion and transfer to a small serving dish.

2. To make the kebabs, cut the lamb into small chunks (1" or under) and put in a bowl or non-metal casserole dish. Mix together the grated onion, herbs, lemon rind and juice, sugar and oil, then add the salt and pepper and pour over the lamb. Leave to marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

3. Drain the meat and thread on to skewers. Cut lemons up, brush with oil, and thread on a skewer.

4. Arrange on a grill rack and cook under a preheated grill for about 10 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. (Or cook over charcoal/gas fire until they look done - clb) Transfer to a plate and garnish with rosemary or other herbs. Serve with the grilled lemon wedges and the coriander yogurt.

Charlotte's Bread Salad

I thought it might be time to post a recipe I'm somewhat famous for here on Love and Cooking. I brought it to a rec.food.cooking event one August (drove the tomatoes and bread down to LA *grin*), people liked it, and it started circulating. I have been careful to credit my source but people call it "Charlotte's". *preen*

Especially since it's a tomato recipe and the farmer's market looks like this:

Tomatoes at the Berkeley Market

(Yes, L&C is now fully digicammed. Whoohoo!)

The recipe has a bonus in a Pretty Good Vinaigrette recipe for many of your summer salad needs.

If you have access to EXTRA GOOD summer tomatoes, and you and your eaters are not on Atkins or South Beach (some of us feel a moral obligation to make up for the carbs those poor souls are missing), this will wow people. But please don't ever make it if you can't get your hands on real summer tomatoes (I love using Brandywines from the market; I like mixing up the colors, too) and extra-good bread. I usually use sourdough because that is what I eat, but any firm mostly-white country-style bread (Italian, French) will do fine.

Bread Salad with Tomatoes, Onions, and Olives (Panzanella)
Michele Anna Jordan in Kitchen Garden magazine, some variations by Charlotte and friends

Serves 4 (side servings ... but it scales up very nicely)


2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I usually use a heaping teaspoon - clb)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2/3 cup olive oil (extra-virgin recommended)
Salt and freshly ground pepper


4 cups day-old Italian, sourdough, or country bread, in 1" cubes
2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped or halved cherry tomatoes (A color mix is very pretty if you have it - clb)
1 small red onion (diced) (I often leave this out since I have a friend who is allergic to onions. It is okay without it - clb)
3 Tablespoons Italian parsley (minced)
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (I often add more, or other kinds of good olives - clb)

2 Tablespoons drained capers (my usual variant - clb)

Salad greens for serving (optional)

Make the dressing by combining the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic in a bowl. Whisk the olive oil in. Add salt and pepper; add a little more mustard or vinegar if you want it a little sharper.

Put the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and pour part of the dressing over
them. Toss to coat evenly. Let sit for 30 minutes or so.

Here's where Charlotte gives you a big tip not in the original recipe: if you are using diced tomatoes, keep back some of the dressing and add the tomatoes shortly after you add the salad dressing to the bread bits. They exude delicious juice and moisten the bread. If you add all the dressing, the bread will get soggy in a bad way. The dressing makes 1 cup; for a double recipe of salad with juicy tomatoes, I used 1/2 to 2/3 cup of dressing (out of the total 2 cups for a double recipe of dressing) and the salad was fine. This is especially useful if you end up having leftovers, which I did. I will also often let the cubes soak for a bit longer as I prepare other things, covered with a clean kitchen towel.

To serve, add the tomatoes (if you didn't add them in before - clb), onions, olives, parsley, and whatever variants you're using to the bread cubes and toss. Serve on salad greens if desired.

Variation: Roasted red and/or yellow bell peppers, diced.

Variation: Fry four slices of bacon. Use 2 Tablespoons bacon fat and enough olive oil to make 2/3 cup. Crumble the bacon in the salad.

Variation from Samantha D. of RFC: Replace some or all of the parsley with fresh chopped basil.

Edited later to add a picture of a salad itself:

Salad with yellow and red tomatoes and peppers

Saturday, July 17, 2004

A Trip to the Ferry Marketplace

[Also posted in abbreviated form on my LJ]

Went with a friend today to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market and Market. Many wonderful things there, including some tasty eats (free samples and more) although there were too many people. That overcrowded feeling did hit a couple times, most notably in the Surly Table store. I relaxed some after we had a softshell crab sandwich (delicious) with a nice sit-down at the San Francisco Fish Co.

They have a "Veggie Valet" for produce bags, for visiting the market. I was lucky, lucky, lucky in that I got mine back after closing. I must write a thankyou letter; it would have been a shame to lose that tasty cheese I got, even if I had the berry turnover from Healdsburg's Downtown Bakery and Creamery (one of my mandatory stops on a visit wine-tasting in Sonoma).

I was pleased to note that non-food artisans seem to be setting up shop down there - the more this gets like Portland's utterly delightful Saturday Market, the better as far as I am concerned.

I'd like to go back to the Market some time when the FM is not going on to avoid some of the crowds.

Now I must stop playing with the computer (in the cool of the house; it got warm there, it was a beautiful day to be out by the water) and start my grill for tri-tip, and make gazpacho, which urge came over me at lunchtime (the fish place sold it, but I figured I would have it for dinner instead). Also considering making some bread salad as an accompaniment, but might try that (as a perfect barbeque side for IMBB 6).

Cook's Books and More

Last night I went directly to North Berkeley after work, hoping to get some Cheese Board City Bread and avoid the trip in this morning. They were sold out for the day, but the trip was definitely not a total bust, as I went to the Produce Center for some produce and got myself half a HOT Cheese Board pizza du jour (roma tomatoes, several cheeses, red onions, garlic, and garlic oil).

Between the produce and the pizza, I popped over to Black Oak for some reading material and got two items I've been waiting for in paper for a while: Feeding a Yen by the always entertaining Calvin Trillin and Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser. I will try some of the recipes but am hooked by her prose. The comparision to the late Laurie Colwin seemed apt in that department. If her recipes are half as successful as La Colwin's I shall be pleased.

I decided to blow off more errands in the area as I had a warm pizza and a bottle of wine at home with my name on it. I did manage to clean out the veggie bin and make the vinaigrette (I will learn to spell that word if it kills me) for the tri-tip marinade (for IMBB #6) and get that started off before retiring with a glass of Two-Buck Chuck, the last piece of 'za (why, yes, I did eat the whole half), and a book.

I am going to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market today and will read Trillin on BART as I go in. I do have one tiny end of bread left and some tomatoes that are getting soft, so am considering making ONE serving's worth of bread salad to go with the tri-tip. Not traditional, but very, very good!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Recipe Binder: Charlotte's (Mom's) Lemon Curd

My mother typed up some of her favorite and my favorite recipes and put them in a binder for a birthday present. Some of my copies I have asked for over the years have gotten lost in the clutter so I am happy to see them. I was really touched by this. I am working on getting all my favorites in the same place (ordered a binder with tabs and plastic sleeves for this; I ordered extra sleeves and tabs in case I ever finish decorating the binder I bought for this originally) but it's oh so nice to have this.

This particular recipe is a favorite far and wide. It impressed my foodie friends from rec.food.cooking. It beats the socks off most of the stuff you can find in the stores (if you can find it at all!). People drop bags of Meyer lemons at her house hoping for some curd in return. And it always goes first at present exchanges. Before you think I'm poaching it, her name is Charlotte too.

Charlotte's Lemon Curd
makes about three cups

Be sure to clean up some freezer-safe jam-type jars. You don't have to boil for ten minutes and you can reuse the lids but be sure they've gone through the dishwasher recently.

4 heaping teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1/2 cup melted UNSALTED butter or margarine (Mom always uses margarine)
5 eggs

Grate the lemon (Mom uses a potato peeler or a box grater, but if you have a microplane, use it by all means). Combine with sugar in food processor and blend.

Add lemon juice and eggs one at a time, blending after each addition. Drizzle the melted butter/marge in through the spout.

Pour mixture into small heavy saucepan or double boiler over hot water. Stir constantly over medium heat until sauce simmers and becomes thick. (One recipe I used suggested the spoon trail test - when a spoon across the bottom of the pan leaves a clear path, it's done.) Cool slightly and put into the jars. Cover and refrigerate till cool. If you do not eat these within a couple of days, freeze them.

EDIT: See this post for some comments and helpful tools about making this recipe.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Buckling Under

I got my new Fine Cooking on Thursday, and was drooling over the delicious desserts. As it happens I got an opportunity to try something else from the magazine almost immediately when the Exploding Frog had a somewhat impromptu barbeque party at his house so people could meet his seeester. (I'll cheerfully admit here that I enjoyed sitting on my ass and watching someone else do the work once I got there - he did get some help from his guests, including his highly domesticated and all-around-good-guy BiL, however, I was specifically verboten to enter the house except for necessary plumbing use to avoid any possibility of picking up feline coronavirus.)

The one I picked was from an article by Greg Patent about old-fashioned American fruit desserts with interesting names - grunts, buckles, brown betties, pandowdies. (No slumps, as slumps are the same as grunts. Here is a useful guide to the terminology.)

I picked the buckle, which is a yellow cake with fruit in and on it and some struesel (what's not to like), and made raspberry-peach and blueberry-peach instead of the recipe's specified apricot-raspberry. (Blueberries are the classic buckle fruit and I can see why. Like a cinnamon blueberry muffin.) I did also tweak the streusel somewhat by using some ginger instead of the cinnamon. Next time I might make more struesel because either most recipes are stingy with it or I have a heavy hand distributing and need more. But in any case it was a keeper.

I doubled the recipe as I was hoping to feed dessert to 11 or so people. I made one batch in a 9" square pan obtained at great expense from Andronico's, and one in a 7 by 11 brownie pan I have. I may have put more batter in the 9"; it certainly took longer to cook.

All-American Summer Fruit Buckle
after Greg Patent, Fine Cooking Magazine, Aug/Sep 2004

375 F Oven
Pan: 9" square (or 7"x11" - clb), buttered

For the streusel:

1 1/2 oz (1/3 cup minus 1 TBS) flour (unbleached all purpose)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
(Ed. comment: you could add some brown too. Heck, you could double all the quantities)
Pinch salt
1 Tea ground cinnamon
2 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut in small pieces
(Ed. comment: you can work with it softened too, I usually make mine that way for crisps)

Four cups - stone fruit should be pitted, peeled if you think appropriate, and cut into thumbnail sized chunks.

For the cake:

6 oz (1 1/3 cup) flour (unbleached all purpose)
1 1/2 tea baking powder
1/2 tea salt
6 oz (12 TBS) unsalted butter, softened
(Ed. comment: You know it's going to be good with that much butter)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tea vanilla extract
1/2 tea almond extract
3 large eggs (room temperature)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat.

Make the struesel by combining ingredients till butter resembles small peas, or it is well mixed. Refrigerate till needed.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and set asides.

Beat the butter with an electric mixer (Ed: recipe says to use the paddle attachment, but even my ancient Sunbeam or a hand mixer will do) on medium till smooth, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup sugar and the extracts and beat 1 min on medium. Gradually add the remaining sugar while beating on medium. Turn off mixer, scrape sides and beaters. Beat on medium-high for 3 mins or so, until pale and slightly fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, beating completely each time. Stop and scrape again. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. (Batter will be thick.)

Add half the fruit to the batter and fold in gently with a large rubber spatula. Spread batter into prepared pan and top evenly with the rest of the fruit, and then sprinkle with struesel.

Bake till cake springs back in center when lightly pressed and toothpick comes out clean, 45-50 mins. Cool cake on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. It's good by itself, but some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream would be extra delicious with it.

Doesn't keep long according to the article but it's good enough that it probably won't. As with many other old-fashioned homey fruit desserts, it makes excellent breakfast food.

Edited later to add a photo of raspberry-peach (the blueberry disappeared before I had a chance to photograph it):

Cakey Goodness

Meaty Goodness at the Market

I went to the farmer's market yesterday to get my supply of heirloom tomatoes; I remembered the camera this time so really, really need to do the details of installing the gizmo and software and adding peectures.

There is a new (to me) vendor of charcuterie at the market. It's not like I can't get good sausage, etc., in town if I want it (the Berkeley Bowl meat counter springs to mind). But I am always pleased when we MEAT lovers get a treat at the market (which does lean towards the vegan).

But what really made me smile is the name of the vendor: The Fatted Calf.

My name is Charlotte L. Blackmer and I approve of this signage!

I got some chorizo. Forgot to immediately fridge it after getting home so cooked some of it WELL this am with frozen potatoes O'Brien as part of a KICK ASS BREAKFAST TACO - huevos, chorizo y papas, frijoles pinquitos, salsa and enough left over for a couple more days' breakfast.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Meat and Tomatoes

Note to self: It's important to pick up the tomatoes on the plate daily and inspect for soft spots. I found one last night that had collapsed and oozed liquid all over the plate. Fortunately it was easy to clean.

I have been on a tri-tip binge lately, ever since I picked up the pre-marinated one from Trader Joe's on July 4 weekend. Of course when I went back jonesing, there were only the un-marinated ones available. But I figured I could do something about that. (To top it off, the recently announced Is My Blog Burning event is Grilled/Barbequed foods.)

I had at least half a cup of the Attack Vineagrette ready in the fridge. So I washed the roast, salted it with the Susie Q seasoning I got in SLO, placed it in a casserole of appropriate size, opened up my bottle of Two-Buck Chuck Shiraz, gave it a good bath, then poured the dressing over it (with another shake of Susie for good measure). Then I covered it and put it in the fridge overnight. I flipped the roast in the AM.

When I got home, I fired up the barbie (new grill), rinsed it off, gave it a good dose of Susie Q top and bottom, and then cooked it for about forty minutes (the fire was relatively hot), starting with the fat side down and flipping that after 10 min. The package said 50 for medium rare but I would estimate 18-20 min/lb, or 50 might be ok for a less hot fire. I had the "tippy" end and it was pretty close to well done, although a lot of juice came out when I let the meat rest.

Not as assertively spiced or as bog-simple as the pre-done but pretty good stuff! I might add some crushed garlic and some more spices like oregano next time but it's a matter of tweaking.

And I had that yummy meat-and-woodsmoke smell in my hair as I went to bed. Mmm, mmm.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy July 4!

Last weekend I was mostly either at the ballgame or thinking about going to the ballgame. The big food news was that I did the Vietnamese summer rolls a la Koko at the San Diego cook-in. Of course I used her quantities, which would feed considerably more than the two people I needed to. The pork has been good for sandwiches but I need to keep this in mind.

Summer is definitely in full swing at the Farmer's Market; I got lovely heirloom tomatoes yesterday, ripe plums (I'm not much of a plum fan but the samples convinced me) and peaches from Blossom Bluff. I have lovely food. Forgot to bring the camera, but next week for sure (might go to the Ferry Building Market).

Noel, Ayse, and Elaine came over last night and ate in my mostly-decluttered kitchen (good thing too, as I had to w*rk a lot yesterday - barely got a shower in time). I had purchased items for the Keep It Simple Stupid, All American July 4 Dinner on Friday before this social plan got hatched, and was pleased to have potato salad and hamburger in my fridge when it was. Given that the vineagrette almost didn't get made - I knocked the Pyrex cup with the first batch off the counter onto my foot, and the second batch into the sink - it is good that I could just throw it together. After that, I was glad I wasn't baking!

Le Menu:

Marcona almonds
Citrus stuffed olives
Mock Boursin with Flatbread
Red-White-and-Blue Goldfish crackers (couldn't resist at the store)

Hamburgers and Tofu Pups
Old-fashioned potato salad (yay Trader Joe's)
Green salad with yellow bells, cucumbers, and heirloom tomatoes

Vanilla Ice Cream
Raspberry Ice Cream
Raspberry Truffles
Summer Fruit

Unfortunately Noel has learned that he is fairly dairy-averse - a large blow to a man who likes ordering cheese plates for dessert. He enjoyed the truffles and the fruit, though.

I still have most of that around (including the Anchor Wheat they were kind enough to bring me!), although it's tri-tip for dinner tonight, and I already snacked on almonds, olives, boursin, and goldfish today. I also have cabbage for coleslaw.