Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Orleans breakfast

Brennan's in New Orleans serves an incredible brunch, and it has been one that I have used as a benchmark for all others. It was three courses, beginning with a rich, sherried turtle soup, followed by eggs Hussard, followed by bananas Foster, and accompanied by milk punch. I don't think I can get away with serving turtle soup in California, but I'm going to do my eggs Hussard for a crowd (the real thing requires poaching eggs; fine for a party of six but for more than a dozen, I prefer a strata base). I may substitute thick hot cocoa for the milk punch, unless someone wakes up needing the hair of the dog.

Eggs Hussard for 14

Plain Strata for Eggs Hussard
6 whole eggs and 1 dozen egg whites
4 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 loaf of dry bread, torn up and crusts removed
Butter to butter pan with

Mix eggs, milk and salt well. Pour over bread. Soak overnight. Put in a buttered 9x13 pan.
Bake at 375 about 45 minutes until puffy and golden.
Top with 2 cups of marchand de vin sauce and 2-2/3 cups holandaise

MARCHAND DE VIN SAUCE
1/3 cup butter
3/8 cup onion
2 scallions
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup minced ham
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a large saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic, scallions and ham for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes.
Blend in the flour and cook for 4 minutes, then add everything but the parsley. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about an hour. Remove bay leaves and put in fridge.

Reheat sauce slowly. Add parley before serving and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Blender Hollandaise
1 lb butter, melted
1 dozen egg yolks
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Blend the yolks, juice and pepper slightly in the blender or food processor. Turn the blender on high, then slowly add the melted butter. Cover, then pulse on for 60 seconds, off for 30 seconds, until the sauce thickens to the point that it does not drip down readily from a spoon. Do not reheat.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Onions: Cry me a river

I love onions, but I hate the tears that I usually am reduced to when cutting them. I've tried most every tip I've read. I've breathed through my mouth, kept a slice of bread under my tongue as I cut, refrigerated the onions before slicing, made sure my knives were extremely sharp, even worn goggles. Nothing works completely for me. But since many dishes would be lacking life without the allium, dice I must.

I like this video of how to chop onions and shallots; it's a technique that has worked well for me. But as hard as I try, still I cry.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Why can't we make water?


Well, Element Four (http://www.elementfour.com) has come up with the next best thing to creating water from combining hydrogen and oxygen. Its Water Mill takes the humidity out of your air and gives you a glass of drinking water. Pricey, yes, but we're on our way....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Casting aspersions on aspic

In one of my many cookbook reviews, I made a snide reference to the old-fashioness of tomato aspic and who eats it anymore, anyway? I quickly found out, by its many defenders. I did have a bite last night, fed to me by my husband, who almost made me laugh too hard to swallow by his insistence of putting the emphasis on the second syllable. 

Photograph by Lori Korleski Richardson
The Rev. Jim Richardson feeds John Kater's tomato aspic to Meredith Brown.

Tomato aspic
Serves party of 12 (easily)

1¾ cups tomato juice, divided
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 teaspoons celery salt
dash Worcestershire
dash Tabasco (if you like it hot)
1 box lemon Jello
¼ cup vinegar

Directions
Bring 1 cup juice, onion, celery salt, Worcestershire and Tabasco (if using) to boil. Add Jello and stir until dissolved. Add remaining juice and vinegar. Pour into mold and chill.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ever mindful of the needs of others...

Thanksgiving, Christmas and the other winter holidays bring an outpouring of goods to food banks and other charities serving the poor. But in these difficult times, the need doesn't diminish as the decorations and the lights come down. Throw an extra can or two of soup in your shopping basket each week and continue giving throughout the winter. We can't solve all the world's problems, but together, we can get our communities fed.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas feast that everyone may enjoy

As Christians sit down to dinner today, let us give thanks to the One born on this holiday. Whether you have a feast, or are home alone, I wish you good food as we remain ever mindful of the needs of others. Merry Christmas!

And in case you missed it earlier this month, check out this clip of "Food, Glorious Food" from "Oliver!"  Click here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gourmet gulch

Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet magazine, wants a high-profile chef in the White House who cooks delicious local food. That may be a fine sentiment for 6 to 8 months out of the year, but has she SEEN what's growing around DC at the moment? If it's local, and a vegetable, it's probably not fresh. That's not to say we shouldn't all strive for local first, but should it be a White House policy issue? I think not.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Enjoy Obama's Hawaiian treat

I was introduced to Spam musubi, the Hawaiian fast-food treat, through "Kona on My Plate," a community cookbook that I reviewed a few years ago. Seeing President-elect Barack Obama enjoying it on his vacation this week brought back memories of my first taste of it.

SPAM MUSUBI
2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
2 cups water
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup white sugar
12 ounces (1 can) Spam
2 sheets sushi nori (dry seaweed)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS
Soak uncooked rice for 4 hours; drain and rinse.
In a saucepan bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in rice vinegar, and set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, stir together soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. Slice luncheon meat lengthwise into 10 slices, or to desired thickness, and marinate in sauce for 5 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Cook slices for 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned.
Form rice into 1-inch patties the size of the meat slices. Top with a slice of luncheon meat. Cut nori into five strips each. Wrap nori around rice and meat, sealing edges with a small amount of water. Musubi may be served warm or chilled.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What was the bowl full of jelly for?

Jelly doughnuts, natch. Although latkes get most of the attention during Hanukkah, my friend Elaine says that her favorite winter holiday food is the traditional jelly doughnuts. She did a nice piece on it a couple of years ago for Capitol Public Radio in Sacramento, and you can listen to it by clicking here.

Here's a recipe for the treats, reprinted with permission from The Book of Jewish Food (Knopf, Inc.).

Jelly doughnuts
Makes 12

The doughnut was adopted in Israel to celebrate Hanukkah because it is fried in oil.

1 teaspoon dried yeast
¼ cup lukewarm milk or water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons sour cream or vegetable oil
A pinch of salt
2 or 3 drops of vanilla extract
1⅔ cups flour, plus a little more if necessary
Oil for deep-frying
Apricot, red-currant, or raspberry jam
Confectioners' sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk or water with 1 teaspoon of sugar and leave for 10 minutes, until it froths.

Beat the rest of the sugar with the egg and the yolk. Add the sour cream or oil, the salt, vanilla, and yeast mixture, and beat very well. Fold in the flour gradually, and continue beating until you have a soft, smooth, and elastic dough, adding more flour if necessary. Then knead for 5 minutes, sprinkling with a little flour if it is too sticky. Coat the dough with oil by pouring a drop in the bowl and turning the dough in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Knead the dough again for a few minutes, then roll out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin to ¼-inch thickness. With a pastry cutter, cut into 2-inch rounds. Make a ball out of the scraps so as not to waste them, roll out, and cut into rounds. Put a teaspoon of jam in the center of a round of dough, brush the rim with a little water to make it sticky, and cover with another round. Press the edges together to seal. Continue with the rest of the rounds and arrange them on a floured tray. Leave them to rise for about 30 minutes.

Heat 1½ inches of oil in a saucepan to medium hot. Drop in the doughnuts, a few at a time. Fry in medium-hot oil for 3-4 minutes with the lid on until brown, then turn and fry the other side for 1 minute more. Drain on paper towels. Serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. They are at their best when still warm and fresh.

VARIATION
An easier way is to fry a thicker round of dough-about ½-inch thick-and when it is cool enough to handle, cut a slit with a pointed, serrated knife and put in a teaspoonful of jam.

From "The Book of Jewish Food," Copyright 1996 by Claudia Roden. Reprinted here with permission from Knopf, Inc.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Stop making scents

Best oddball food-related story this month, courtesy of the Associated Press:

Looking to beef up your mojo this holiday season?

Burger King Corp. may have just the thing. The home of the Whopper has launched a new men's body spray called "Flame." The company describes the spray as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."

The fragrance is on sale at New York City retailer Ricky's NYC in stores and online for a limited time for $3.99.

Burger King is marketing the product through a Web site featuring a photo of its King character reclining fireside and naked but for an animal fur strategically placed to not offend.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What the Dickens?

Combatting hunger

Words of wisdom from today's Economic Times:

The efforts to reduce hunger and ensure enough food for all need to be linked to efforts for environment regeneration with special emphasis on soil and water conservation and afforestation. It is only in conditions of water and moisture conservation and growing greenery that it’ll be possible to promote low-cost, sustainable farming practices that can produce more food on the farms of small farmers.

The article also pointed out the 2008 World Development Report assertion that GDP growth based on agricultural growth is as much as four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A simple supper

Over the years, Jim and I have become quite adept at fixing hot dinners that travel well. Here's one I prepared the other night. Rice is a good choice for traveling dinners; it usually stays hot for a half-hour or more.

Winter's melange
Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 ounces of ham, chopped
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
Fresh ground pepper to taste
½ cup uncooked rice
1 cup water
Salt to taste
2 cups baby spinach leaves (or ½ cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed)

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat; add onions and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, add ham and saute for another minute, then add mushrooms. Season with pepper to taste. Cover, turn down heat to low and cook until the rice is done, stirring occasionally.

To cook the rice, put it in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid with the water and salt. Bring to a boil uncovered, then put on the lid and turn heat to low. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Meanwhile, if using fresh spinach, process until well chopped; if using frozen, squeeze out the excess water, and remove any tough stems.

When the rice is almost done, add the spinach, stir well, cover and continue cooking until done. The heat of the rice will cook the spinach.

Put on plates or in traveling containers, then pour the ham mixture over the rice mixture. Eat within 30 minutes, or reheat in the microwave for a minute.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Food trends from abroad


Yesterday, I posted the 2009 trends from foodchannel.com; today, we check out what the Europeans foresee, courtesy of thefoodpeople.com.
Among the mega trends expected to continue into next year, are “comfort food, nostalgia, scratch cooking and home baking, as consumers want to save money as well as feel good about the food they serve.”
Overall, the amount of protein on plates will shrink. But where meat is served, consumers will aim to make it go as far as possible through “head-to-tail” eating – including offal.
And considering the stiff markup of alcoholic beverages in restaurants and bars, more people will have that drink at home, either with their meal there, or before going out.
Thefoodpeople sees less reliance on packaged food. The group also predicts an uptick in fishing and growing your own vegetables.
Also emerging will be ‘freeganism’ – that is, the practice of living off discarded, yet perfectly edible food that has been thrown out. To date the freegan movement has been driven by green crusaders who object to unnecessarily wasted food clogging up landfill sites. Now it may catch on with people trying to decrease household spending.
People may start to club together and produce food by committee, and begin community food projects.
Sustainability will “remain high on the agenda”. This includes sustainable fish sourcing, and investigating little consumed varieties that are not endangered, such as rockfish and flounder.
Organic foods, because of their expense, may well drop back in importance.
Desserts are likely to contain less sugar and derive more flavors from the ingredients themselves, and also cross the line into savory sensations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Food trends

Top 10 Food Trends for 2009, according to the Food Channel:

1. Home on the Range - Downsized economy breeds new generation of home
chefs, more food-savvy than their predecessors
2. Foodie 2.0 - Growth of virtual and non-virtual food communities
3. Going, Going Green - Kitchens go eco-conscious
4. Living La Vida Locavore - Eating locally and seasonally, both at home
and in restaurants
5. TMI? - Is seeing the calorie count on the menu Too Much Information, or will it lead to healthier choices?
6. FrankenFood - The rise of bioengineering and genetically modified
food; the next evolution of last year's Functional Food trend
7. Food Philanthropy - Individuals and companies address world hunger
8. Food Insecurity - The call for tighter food controls, after the
tomato and jalapeño scares of 2008
9. Brewing Business - Striking a balance when cost is an issue; the
divide widens between the exotic and day-to-day food needs
10. Where in the World ... is the next flavor trend coming from? It's
all about globalization and variety

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Souper celebration

St. Paul's Memorial Church's first Guadalupe Day service and dinner to raise money for PACEM was enjoyed by about 50 people on Dec. 12, 2008. Here, as promised to those who asked, is the recipe I used for the tortilla soup. Meredith Frazee (who turns 7 today) made the quesadillas to go with them; and many, many thanks to Pam Dennison who made the delicious flan. Many thanks, too, to the many hands who made the work light, especially Jane Rotch who chopped the onions, and Lisa Inlow and Jim Richardson who diced the jalapeños. And gratitude beyond measure to the cleanup crew, spearheaded by Simeon Fitch.

Tortilla soup
Prep time: 15 minutes / Cook time: 1 hour / Serves: 6

I adapted this recipe from the soup served at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. -- Lori Korleski Richardson

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 cups diced onions
1 15-ounce can tomato puree
1 15-ounce can small dice tomatoes
1 large can Ortega diced chilies
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon epazote (optional)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 large bay leaf
1½ quarts chicken stock
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen peas
4 tortillas chips, crunched up
Garnish
Fresh lemon wedges
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (or 1 tablespoon epazote)
2 fresh jalapeno chilies, chopped
1 cooked, whole skinless, boneless chicken breast, seasoned with cumin and salt, cut into thin strips
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and cook 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, tomatoes, chilies, cumin, epazote (if using), coriander, bay leaf and stock. Bring to a boil. Add corn and peas. Lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Prepare garnishes while soup is cooking.

Process soup through a food mill if desired. Season soup to taste. Ladle over tortilla chips into warm bowls and garnish as desired, with fresh squeezed lemon and the other garnishes. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blog fog

Forgive me for not posting much this week; I have a church dinner to prepare for (unknown number of guests, a fundraiser for a homeless program in town) besides the usual nuttiness of trying to adjust to a new town during the holidays. More next week, for sure!

Pasta pronto

I love fresh pasta. But the price often stops me. At $4 or more for 8 ounces, that's about the same per pound as a nice piece of fish or steak. And whole wheat pasta, which has more nutrition, often is even pricier.
What to do? If you know how to roll out a pie crust, and you don't mind it looking a little rustic, you can make it yourself. Jamie Oliver, TV's Naked Chef, says making pasta is so easy that he's "seen a 10-year-old turn out a decent ravioli." He's right about it being simple; I made some this morning for lunch.

Lori K's basic wheat pasta
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side

½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup pasta flour, divided
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix the wheat flour, ½ of the pasta flour and salt in a large shallow bowl. Make a well in the middle. Beat together the egg, milk and oil (if you need to limit your cholesterol, use just the egg white and add another tablespoon of oil). The dough will be sticky; add as much of the remaining flour as needed to make a rather dry dough. Knead for at least 3 minutes until smooth. Form into a ball and cover bowl with a towel, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While waiting, roll out the dough to about an ⅛-inch thick, then slice it into ¼-inch ribbons. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta strands. Stir as the pasta cooks and check it for doneness at 3 minutes. Do not overcook or it will turn into a paste. Drain and toss with a little olive oil and whatever else you desire. I used chopped sun-dried tomatoes and olives for lunch today and that was delicious. 
If you don't use all you've made, it dries easily. Drape it over a rack for faster drying, but it will dry on a breadboard as well; flip the strands over every hour or so.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat?

While I lived in Northern California, one of my favorite destinations was to San Francisco to take in a meal (or a series of meals, wandering from neighborhood to neighborhood). Yet in all the time I was there, not once, NOT ONCE did I ever EVER come across Rice-a-Roni on a menu! Yet I knew from years of watching television that it was "The San Francisco Treat." It even featured a cable car. So what gives?

Apparently, it was only created there. Here is the company's version of its history:
Like most great products, Rice-A-Roni® began as a well liked family recipe…

The DeDomenico family all enjoyed an old Armenian dish consisting of rice, vermicelli pasta and chicken broth. The rice and pasta were sauteed in butter before the liquid was added, giving the dish its distinctive taste.

In 1958, Vince DeDomenico decided to take this recipe and produce it for sale in grocery stores. He placed the rice and pasta in a box, and added a dry seasoning mix in place of the liquid chicken broth. Because this product was made up of half rice and half pasta, he decided to call it RICE-A-RONI®.

Chicken RICE-A-RONI was first introduced in the northwestern states in 1958. With it came the first RICE-A-RONI commercial, featuring San Francisco's Cable Cars and the now famous jingle. Created in San Francisco, RICE-A-RONI would soon be known to all as "The San Francisco Treat®!".

I long ago swore off the stuff, since the rice no longer tasted like rice, and it had more sodium in it than a person needed in a week. But I always liked the way it looked and decided to cook my own at home. It was surprisingly delicious! 

Lori K's Twice-as-Nice-a-Roni
Makes 3 cups

1 tablespoon oil or butter
½ cup filini pasta (or vermicelli pasta broken into 1 inch pieces)
½ cup bastmati rice
1¾ cups chicken or beef broth

Heat the oil or butter over medium high heat; when hot, add the pasta and sauté until it begins to brown, then add the rice and continue stirring until the most of the rice turns white or begins to brown. Add the broth and turn up the heat to boil. When it comes to a boil, cover and turn heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes, fluff and serve hot.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Haste makes waste - that 5-minute chocolate cake

If you have someone in your life who loves everything that comes into his or her inbox and must pass it along to you, you've probably already seen the 5-minute chocolate cake. I got a copy of it today, and I must say, don't sell your Sara Lee or Hostess stock just yet. Hohos, DingDongs and even the lowly cupcake have nothing to fear from this quickie dessert. If you must try it yourself, here it is, but believe me, the chocolate chips are NOT optional; they may be the only thing that saves this mess.

5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
EAT! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).
And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world ?
Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More on the no-salt turkey

People have been asking me how the various turkeys turned out, so I thought I'd post a couple of (admittedly amateurish) videos of the fresh turkey we cooked without salt. Betsy Poist, who carefully slid many thin slices of lemon under the turkey's skin, stars with the bird in both shorts. Unfortunately, I was elbows-deep in dinner preparation when the turkey came out of the oven, but it looked great and tasted even better. No one noticed it had not been salted. Really.



Last White House tree for Bush - but not chef


What does a tree have to do with food? Nothing really, but the person in this European Pressphoto Agency photograph by Matthew Cavanaugh is White House chef Cristeta Comerford. My money is still on her to stay on as the Obamas move in, unless she's completely embraced cheesy TexMex (and I'm talking Velveeta here) and can't move on. But I'm betting that she's a heck of a chef and won't be toppled easily.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cookbook review: "Mod Mex"

Here's a review of mine that ran in The Sacramento Bee's Food&Wine section today (Dec. 3, 2008):

Mod Mex? New York City? Don't get a rope, get a fork

By Lori Korleski Richardson

Pace, the San Antonio maker of salsas in a jar, got a big laugh with a commercial that had the cook admitting the salsa he served at the chuck wagon was from New York. "Nyoo York CITY!?" cried cowboys in disbelief, as one darkly intoned, "Get the rope."

For years, one could get almost any kind of food in New York except good Mexican food. So hopes were not high when I picked up "Mod Mex: Cooking Vibrant Fiesta Flavors at Home" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $24.95, 224 pages) by Scott Linquist, chef of Dos Caminos Mexican Kitchen, and cookbook author Joanna Pruess. What could a New Yorker possibly impart to us folks, so much closer to Mexico, with Spanish culture all around us?

Plenty, as it turns out. Linquist lived as a child in the heavily Latino city of Covina, near L.A., and grew up making tacos from scratch and "mashing refried beans that weren't from a can."

After graduating from culinary school, he developed what he called Mod Mex, using the traditional techniques of Mexican cooks adapted "to appeal to a generation of food-savvy diners."

The book includes a nice glossary of Mexican food terms, a source list for more unusual items, a list of metric conversions for both dry and wet ingredients, and color photographs by Shimon and Tammar Rothstein that at once look totally authentic and would inspire any cook, regardless of experience.

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 03, 2008 | Page 4D

Recipe: Ensalada noche buena (Christmas Eve salad)

Prep time: 10 minutes / Cook time: 45 minutes / Serves 4 to 6

Adapted from "Mod Mex" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $24.95, 224 pages) by Scott Linquist. Note: The prep and cook times overlap but does not include cooling time.


INGREDIENTS
2 medium-size red beets, trimmed
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup pine nuts
6 cups baby lettuces, watercress or arugula, or a mixture of all three
1 small (about 1 pound) jicama, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 Valencia or navel oranges, peeled and cut into segments
Citrus-jalapeño vinaigrette
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
½ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Seeds from 1 pomegranate (about ½ cup)
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 ounces goat cheese or queso fresco, crumbled (about 1 cup), optional

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wrap each beet in a piece of aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast the beets until very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 40-45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, let the beets cool completely, unwrap, then use a clean, old towel to rub off the skins. Cut beets into thin strips.
While the beets are cooking, cover the raisins with hot water in a small bowl and let them stand for about 10 minutes until plumped, and brown the pine nuts in a skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown, shaking the pan often so they don't burn.
In a large bowl, combine the lettuce with the beets, drained raisins, jicama and orange segments and toss gently.
Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, juices, mustard, honey and jalapeño. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper, and whisk until emulsified. Immediately pour about half the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently.
Arrange the salad on individual plates and top with the pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, cilantro and cheese. Serve immediately; pass the remaining dressing for those who desire more.

Choco-almond tarts

If you're on a diet after last week's feasting, skip this entry. But if you need just a little something sweet after dinner, these might fill the bill.

Lori's choco-almond tarts

Makes 7

Ingredients
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 ounce dark chocolate
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 Athena mini filo shells

Instructions
Put the almond butter and chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and microwave until the chocolate melts. Add the cream and vanilla and mix well. Use a teaspoon to drop mixture into shells. Chill for at least 30 minutes, then serve.

Warning: Each tart is 78 calories, and most of the calories are from fat. 


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey day postmortem

My favorite line from a Slate article by Regina Schrambling, a New York writer who travels to eat and writes about it for gastropoda.com, the Los Angeles Times and other publications:

Every fall, writers and editors have to knock themselves out to come up with a gimmick—fast turkey, slow turkey, brined turkey, unbrined turkey—when the meal essentially has to stay the same. It's like redrawing the Kama Sutra when readers really only care about the missionary position.


I so loved cooking the turkeys this year, and I am thankful they all came out so well. Even the no-salt turkey came out tasting fine. Which just goes to show: Don't overcook it. Turn off the oven when the thermometer hits 170 in the breast, 180 in the thighs. Brining overnight gives the turkey a nice taste but doesn't give it the texture of canned ham. We fed 60 people on the night before Thanksgiving and probably could have fed 40 more with the four big fowl and extra breast.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving - and a tipple to try later

I'm heading over to St. Paul's Memorial Church to put on the confit of turkey legs, but before I go, I'd like to wish all you loyal readers (I know you're out there, even if you're too shy to comment online) a very happy Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for your support. Later in the day, I'll roast the breasts. I'm also cooking a whole turkey without salt.

And although I write mostly about food, sometimes it's nice to have a beer to go with it. One I had recently that is just perfect for wintry days is Point's St. Benedict's Celebration Ale. This is made by Point Brewery in Steven's Point, Wis., not too far from my paternal grandparents had their farm. Back when many American craft breweries were throwing in the towel mid-century, Point soldiered on, brewing quality beer in their little town. And it's still really good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

White House chef, cont.

I got a little excited when I saw Yahoo news promoting a story on the new White House chef, but after talking to several more people in the know, Associated Press reporter Holly Ramer didn't get much more information than I shared in my Nov. 15 item, "Who will cook for the Obamas?"

She did advance Alice Waters as a celebrity chef consideration, and quoted the Culinary Institute of America's Tim Ryan making the point that like the Kennedys, the Obama White House can send a message to the nation with the choice of a chef with an agenda.

The Dallas Morning News (where I worked in the early '80s) had this item this morning:
Walter Scheib, the White House executive chef for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, believes there's a 90 percent chance the new administration will stick with his successor, Cristeta Comerford. He also said a celebrity hire, as hinted on food and political blogs, wouldn't work. "You have to be a person who has a real heart of service, and it can't be someone who needs to see themselves on camera," Mr. Scheib said.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jail bait

Item from today's Charlottesville Daily Progress
Once the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail runs out of oil, kitchen staff will no longer fry the potato wedges that inmates and staff alike eat at mealtimes.
That should keep more than a few people from a life of crime. ;-)

French flee cafés...

Steven Erlanger had an interesting article in the New York Times Sunday, on emptying out of cafés across France. My personal favorite quote was the café owner who complained that the no-smoking ban was to blame: "They go out for a cigarette and they don't come back." For the full article, click here. 

SAULIEU, France — Nathalie Guérin, 35, opened Le Festi’Val bar and cafe here two years ago full of high hopes, after working at this little Burgundy town’s main competition, the Café du Nord. But this summer, business started to droop, and in October, she said, “it’s been in free fall.”

“Now there’s no one,” she said, standing in a somber room with a few sad holiday decorations, an idle pool table and one young man playing a video game.

“People fear the future, and now with the banking crisis, they are even more afraid,” she said, her eyes reddening. “They buy a bottle at the supermarket and they drink it at home.”

The plight of Ms. Guérin is being replicated all over France, as traditional cafes and bars suffer and even close, hit by changing attitudes, habits and now a poor economic climate. In 1960, France had 200,000 cafes, said Bernard Quartier, president of the National Federation of Cafes, Brasseries and Discotheques. Now it has fewer than 41,500, with an average of two closing every day.

Photo credit: Ed Alcock for The New York Times
Photo caption: Business at Le Relais, a cafe in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris, declined after a smoking ban took effect.

Talking turkey... prices

One thing for which I'm not thankful as Thanksgiving approaches is that I couldn't justify spending four times as much to buy the turkeys for our free night-before-Thanksgiving dinner from a local farm. I called them all; the lowest price per pound was $5.25. When feeding 8-10 people, that's certainly less than the same amount of beef tenderloin, even taking into account the bones. But when you're talking between 50 and 100 people, one does have to consider the total cost. I did get one fresh, organic turkey to cook salt-free. I thought about doing each turkey with a different seasoning, but decided that may be a little too ambitious. Maybe next year. This year, we're just going to focus on delicious.

BTW, I just heard on the Today show that the average number of calories consumed in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is 4,000. Be careful out there, people.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Do you see what I sea?

Lori's easy crab enchiladas
Serves 2

1 small onion, diced
8 ounces lump crab meat
½ lemon
6 corn tortillas
Olive oil (spray)
½ cup Herdez red or green salsa (or your favorite fresh salsa)
2 ounces grated white cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring about an inch of water in a steamer pot to boil. Put the onion in the top part and steam about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Unless you just boiled and cracked the crab, put the crab in water with the juice of the half lemon. Drain thoroughly.
Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Spray each tortilla just before putting it in the pan; heat until warm and flip. Remove from pan and fill tortilla with about a tablespoon of onion and a tablespoon of crab. Roll up and put in an 8x8 baking pan. Repeat with each (you'll have 5 across and one down the side).
Pour salsa across the top and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and enchiladas are bubbly. Serve immediately.




Thursday, November 20, 2008

Soup bones for healthy bones


To get more calcium into your soup, the Ohio State University Extension suggests adding 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar when simmering soup bones, to transfer some of the calcium from the animal bones into the broth as it cooks.

A lighter crab gratin

Crab -- sweet, fresh crab -- pairs so nicely with a bubbly, creamy sauce, replete with vegetables and topped with a grating of cheese. But the traditional gratin, full of butter, cream and topped with a thick layer of cheddar, flies in the face of healthy eating. If you're trying to watch your fat intake, take heart. Here's a flavorful crab gratin that doesn't depend on cream for its creaminess.

Lori's lighter crab gratin

Serves 2

1         tablespoon olive oil
¼       cup small-diced onion
2         stalks celery, minced
½       tablespoon butter
2         tablespoons flour
1         cup milk
½       asparagus, blanched and sliced
8         ounces fresh lump crab
2         ounces grated fresh Parmesan

Instructions
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add onion and celery and sautée until translucent. Add butter and when it melts, add flour. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk slowly, using a whisk to get out the lumps. When thick and smooth, add asparagus and crab. Turn out into two gratin dishes and top with Parmesan. Put in center of the oven and cook about 10 minutes until bubbly. Serve with crusty bread and a simple salad.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Butter up!


Tip: If you don't use a lot of butter, but like to keep it on hand to add a little flavor to a dish now and then, store the sticks of butter in your freezer. When you need a tablespoon or so, mark off the amount with a notch of a sharp knife, then run the stick of butter over a coarse grater until you get to the notch. You can do it right over the pan you're using. It melts really quickly. Return the remainder to the freezer.

Seed and be seed

If you are planning on baking the pumpkin to go in your Thanksgiving pies, or just baking one for dinner or to make a soup, be sure to save the seeds -- they can be turned into a tasty treat. To get some ideas on how to bake the seeds and season them, listen and watch Gina Kim in a Sacramento Bee video by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Countdown to turkey day

In case you are new to this blog, there was a posting last month on how to do-ahead much of your Thanksgiving dinner so the cook can enjoy the day, too. Recipes for most of these dishes can be found here. To recap, here is the timetable:

Start cooking Sunday; buy bird Wednesday.

Sunday: Make the apple cake and/or the pumpkin ice cream pie and freeze (the sauces can be refrigerated).

Monday: Make the Gulliver's Corn. Refrigerate.

Tuesday: Make the Curried Cream of Pumpkin Soup and the Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes. Blanch the green beans and make the sauce for that dish. Refrigerate.

Wednesday: Pick up a fresh turkey, allowing 3/4 to 1 pound per person. Make stock from the neck and giblets. Make stuffing and gravy; refrigerate. Wash turkey in cold water and dry well; cover and refrigerate. Set the table and cover with a sheet. Take the cake out of the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge.

Thursday: Determine when you would like to eat. Calculate the cooking time, stuff the turkey, place it on a rack in a large roasting pan and bake as directed. If you don't stuff the turkey, put the dressing into a loaf pan and cook it with the turkey for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 45 minutes while you heat the soup, the gravy and vegetable sauce on the stove, and bake the potatoes and corn in the 350-degree oven. Take out the green beans from the fridge. After 25-30 minutes, take out the potatoes and corn and crank up the oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, serve the soup and urge everyone to start without you. Carve the turkey. Remove the stuffing to a serving dish, or slice it from the loaf pans. Toss the green beans with the sauce. Turn down the oven to 350 degrees. Serve and enjoy!

For dessert, put the apple cake into the oven 10 minutes before you're ready to serve. Heat up the sauce. Serve up the cake and top with sauce. Or soften the ice-cream pie a bit by putting it in the refrigerator before sitting down to eat, then serve it with its sauce after the meal.

Do not try this turkey dinner at home

Monday, November 17, 2008

What does raw hide?

Foodies, especially those who have lived in France and England, extol the virtues of cheese made from unpasteurized milk. Pasteurization does affect flavor, but it may be an effect that we can live with. According to research published in the November issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, there’s a lot more in raw milk than previously thought.

"When we looked at the bacteria living in raw milk, we found that many of them had not been identified before," said Dr. Malka Halpern from the University of Haifa, Israel. "We have now identified and described one of these bacteria, Chryseobacterium oranimense, which can grow at cold temperatures and secretes enzymes that have the potential to spoil milk."

Debate continues to rage about the benefits and risks of drinking unpasteurized milk. Some people believe the health benefits resulting from the extra nutrient content of raw milk outweigh the risk of ingesting potentially dangerous microbes, such as Mycobacterium bovis, which can cause tuberculosis, and Salmonella species.

Pasteurization involves heating milk to 162 degrees for 15-20 seconds in order to reduce the number of microbes in the liquid.

Tip -

xGoof of the day: I broiled a pound of Peruvian asparagus I got from Whole Foods yesterday (seasoned with a spray of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, 8 minutes, perfect to the tooth and a lovely shade of green) after popping off the bottoms. But since I no longer have a compost pile (we're renting a condo in Charlottesville until June), I wanted to use the bottoms as well. I thought maybe by slowly cooking them until soft, I could purée them and use them in soup. I thought wrong. They turned a putrid green and once processed, they were as stringy as a bowl full of toothpicks. Slimy toothpicks. So the bottoms ended up in the trash anyway.

Tip +

aSuccess of the day: I bought a trio of whole wheat croissants last week, which were delicious with 6 g of fiber and 7 g of protein but heavy on the saturated fat (hey, they were flaky... how many whole wheat items can claim that?). We used two for sandwiches, but the last one was left hanging out on the counter until I noticed it this morning. Of course, it was dry and crusty. Rather than throw it out, I put it in the food processor and in 10 seconds, I had about a half cup of nice crumbs. I'll use them on fish fillets or chicken breasts later this week and let you know how they turn out.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mex to the max

Spice is nice, but Mexican food doesn’t necessarily need to sear your lips to be authentic. Here’s one of my favorite meals that can be put together in about a half hour.

LORI K’S EASY CHICKEN TAQUITOS

Serves 2

6 corn tortillas
Oil
6 chicken tenders or 2 chicken breasts, cut into 3 strips each
Garlic salt
Cumin
Chili powder
Salsa or guacamole for dipping

If serving with rice and beans, your beans should be cooked and on low, and you should start the rice before assembling the taquitos, since rice will stay warm up to 30 minutes after it’s done.

Heat about a quarter-inch of oil over medium heat in a frying pan that’s just a little larger than the tortillas. Have 6 paper towels ready. When the oil is hot, grab a tortilla by its edge with tongs and briefly submerge it in the oil. Drain on a paper towel. Repeat with all the tortillas. Keep the oil medium hot, just under smoking.

Season the chicken tenders or strips with a light dusting of the spices. Roll up each piece of chicken in a blotted tortilla and secure with a toothpick.

Put three taquitos in at a time. Brown on all sides (the toothpicks can come out after the first side is browned). The chicken will be thoroughly cooked, yet tender and moist inside. Keep the first three warm while cooking the rest.

Serve hot with the salsa or guacamole.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Who'll cook for the Obamas?

The changing of the guard at the White House may include the chef -- but not necessarily.

Cristeta Comerford, 45, a naturalized citizen originally from the Philippines, is the first female executive chef in the White House. Comerford, who started her career in the United States at the Sheraton near Chicago's O'Hare Airport, had worked in the White House kitchen for 10 years before being named to the post in August 2005. At the time of the appointment, Bonnie Moore, a former assistant chef at the Inn at Little Washington who is president of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, a national group that had urged Mrs. Bush to name a woman, said naming Comerford to the position "sends a message around the world. Women make up more than 50 percent of food service workers, but hold less than 4 percent of the top jobs. And this is the top job."

Usually, the chefs are not replaced just because of a change in the Oval Office. The first White House executive chef, Rene Verdon, was brought in by the Kennedys to class up the fare; he was promptly fired by Johnson because he wouldn't provide the new president's Texas favorites.

Although the Obamas ate plenty of fried stuff and pizza on the campaign trail, that's not their favored mode of eating.

"Apparently he is not into carbs," said Denver chef Daniel Young, who cooked for Obama at the Democratic National Convention. "I made lots of fresh, healthy foods."

Young was mentioned in a New York Daily News earlier this week as a possible pick for White House chef. Although Rick Bayless and Charlie Trotter have been mentioned as possible White House chefs, I’d lay money that it won’t be someone with an existing restaurant empire. Young or Art Smith, who has cooked for Oprah Winfrey, would be more likely -- although an up-and-coming chef, one who is a great cook and versatile menu planner who may not have yet made it onto the public radar, would get my vote. 

And don’t count out Comerford; why kick out a youngish, minority woman for a older white guy? Change? Maybe not the best policy in this case.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The ol' recipe file, updated

If you haven't checked out the Washington Post's recipe database, you're missing a really good source for searching out recipes by ingredient or cuisine, by preparation time, or whether they are kid-friendly. Many of the recipes have been tested by home cooks, and all have a nutrition facts box, just like the one on prepared foods in the grocery store. 

After plugging in "tuna," I found a delicious Basque stew that took about a half hour to prepare from items I already had on hand, and it was quite enjoyable.  

To test it out for yourself, go to www.washingtonpost.com/recipes

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fun with turkey

I don't think this guy used a turkey for this experiment (if you know where one can get a 2-pound turkey, please shoot me an e-mail), but I thought it was pretty ingenious even it was a fryer. 


On another note, I'm going to cook at least one of the fresh turkeys for our church dinner (which happens the night before the big day) without any salt. I've never done one without salt and I haven't seen a recipe that doesn't use salt at all, but since there are a number of folks I know who shouldn't be eating salt, I'm going to give it a try.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Red, white and Prop 2

One of the propositions that passed in California last week was Prop 2, which creates a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. Having spent every summer of my life on my grandparents' farm in Wisconsin, I can see clearly the benefits of the proposition. Not only does it benefit animals while they're living, it makes them taste better when they're butchered. (Apologies to my vegan friends, but I still like meat and I have no illusions about its origins.)

And according to the magazine Mother Earth News, giving chickens room to roam may make us healthier, too:

The results from Mother Earth News’ latest round of pastured egg nutrient tests are beginning to come in. So far, pastured egg producers are kicking the commercial industry’s butt — woo hoo, go free range! We’ve invested a lot of time and energy over the last few years in researching the differences between the meat and eggs coming out of the commercial industry and those produced by conscientious farmers who let their animals graze on fresh pastures. In the past, we’ve found that eggs from hens raised on pasture, as compared to those commercially raised factory farm eggs, contain:
  • 1⁄4 less saturated fat
  • 2⁄3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene
Now we’re looking at vitamin D, which many of us do not get enough of because we don’t spend any time outdoors, and even when we do we use sunscreen that blocks vitamin D production. Eggs are one of the few food sources of naturally occurring vitamin D, and we wondered if true free-range eggs might be higher in this important vitamin, too. Our latest tests show that pastured eggs have anywhere between 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dunked duck


Judy Rodgers, who wrote one of the best "how to" cookbooks with her "Zuni Cafe Cookbook,"  suggests one needs to buy duck fat to have enough fat to make a proper duck confit. This afternoon, lacking the extra, I simply put two salted duck legs in an enameled cast iron pot, skin side down, along with all the extra skin from the duck and its wings, a little garlic and a dried California chili, and then put the pot on a burner set on its lowest setting. When I returned four hours later, the legs were simmering nicely, covered with fat, and tender as could be. I drained off the fat, let the meat cool, then pulled the meat off the bones. I put the succulent chunks across a broiler pan, and broiled the duck until it sizzled. It then went on top of a salad of romaine and arugula, apples, craisins and walnuts, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil with a grinding of sea salt and black pepper. 

Now, what to do with the breast? Stay tuned.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lusting for lemons


One of the most lovely parts about winter in Sacramento was when people with lemon trees would bring in big bags of lemons to give away. (Note to California friends: If you could send me a box, tell me the weight and I'll send you an addressed and prepaid UPS label to put on it.) 


Three things I love to make and use in cooking require quantities of unblemished lemons: preserved lemons, lemon vinegar and limoncello. I saw this tip today on Chowhound:


The most important piece of advice for making homemade limoncello, says Delucacheesemonger, is to use food-grade grain alcohol instead of vodka to infuse your lemons. “The additional alcohol, or perhaps lack of water, leaches more oil from the zest. Difference is dramatic,” says Delucacheesemonger. Zest your lemons and use only the yellow part for limoncello infusion, sayskosmonut. Infuse the zests in grain alcohol for around three weeks. You’ll know it’s ready “when the zests appear to be almost crunchy,” says kosmonut. Then combine your infused alcohol with an equal volume of clear simple syrup.


I've had luck using vodka, but it does take about a month for the zest to whiten and the liquid to turn yellow.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Vineyards and Virginia



Yesterday afternoon, the trees adorned in breathtaking shades of crimson, rust, gold and evergreen, Betsy and I headed toward the ever-earlier setting sun, past the homes and rolling estates of Jefferson and Monroe, to the Kluge Estate Winery and Mrs. Kluge's farm store. With a glass of their Albemarle rosé for me and cider for Betsy, we enjoyed a plate of artisan cheeses: Bra Tenero from Italy; Brie de Nangis from France; a 4-year-old Netherlands Gouda; a double Gloucester from the UK; a Spanish Roncal; and BMF Stilton, also from Great Britain.

Tasting the cheeses and sharing stories on the porch, looking out into the lovely forest (a mulched trail leads through them to an overlook of the vineyards), cheered the heart of someone who hasn't missed a fall in Napa and Sonoma valleys for more than 20 years. I'll be back, soon!

By the way, the rosé, a dry well-balanced, not-too-light beauty, is on sale for $50 a case.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An A+ result for a B vitamin?


An over-the-counter vitamin in high doses prevented memory loss in mice with Alzheimer's disease, and UC Irvine scientists now are conducting a clinical trial to determine its effect in humans. 

Nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, lowered levels of a protein called phosphorylated tau that leads to the development of tangles, one of two brain lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease. The vitamin also strengthened scaffolding along which information travels in brain cells, helping to keep neurons alive and further preventing symptoms in mice genetically wired to develop Alzheimer's. 

"Nicotinamide has a very robust effect on neurons," said Kim Green, UCI scientist and lead author of the study. "Nicotinamide prevents loss of cognition in mice with Alzheimer's disease, and the beauty of it is we already are moving forward with a clinical trial." 

The study appears online Nov. 5 in the 
Journal of Neuroscience. 

Nicotinamide is a water-soluble vitamin sold in health food stores. It generally is safe but can be toxic in very high doses. Clinical trials have shown it benefits people with diabetes complications and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

If you haven't already done so, VOTE TODAY! It's important.

I was going to offer some recipes for election night snacks, but the time has passed and I'm sure you have settled on your favorites. Here is a funny menu for the night -- from a recent Washington Post chat on their food section's story on election night food (to read the Post's package, click here) -- from a reader in Berkeley, CA:

Lipstick on a pig sandwiches - ham with cranberry chutney. Elitist sandwiches - goat cheese and arugula. Amnesty dip - guacamole. Bill O'Reilly's falafels with rogue nation pita bread. Tim Russert Memorial Buffalo Wings. Pork barrels - bacon wrapped dates. Green Party - veggies and dip. Real Virginia Peanuts. October Surprise - Jamie Oliver's butternut squash cupcakes. Cookies in the shape of various swing states. Yes We Candy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A prudent China policy


For many unfortunate pet owners in the United States in 2007, their dogs and cats became the canaries in the coalmine that is the food chain. The additive that was making them sick, melamine, is now reported to be in most food in China. If you aren't making every effort to determine where the food you eat is from, this article from Reuters news service should give you added incentive to do so.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Eye of newt and toe of frog...

Boiled peanuts are not quite as exotic as what the weird sisters in Macbeth were cooking up but 
still they look rather unappetizing before they come out of the shell. Once out, they look like normal peanuts with skins. But the taste? Well, they sort of taste like peanuts, salty peanuts, but the texture is more like edamame or a dense bean. They may be an acquired taste, and one I'm not likely to acquire as long as those excellent roasted Virginia peanuts are readily available.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Staunton Grocery shopping




The Staunton Grocery is a grocery the same way the French Laundry is a laundry.

It may not have the service-staff theater of the latter Napa Valley legend, but it has crisp white table cloths, attentive servers and a creative menu. Its presentation is assured but not overly fussy. And the food, from the amuse-bouche to the tiny sweets that appeared with the check, was prepared well with fresh ingredients from many local producers who were listed on a prominent chalkboard over the full-service bar.

On an early Friday night, in order to take in some Shakespeare at 7:30 p.m., we were one of four couples in the restaurant, but the warm brick and cosy bench seating made it feel welcoming despite the sparse population.

The amuse-bouche was a smoked mackerel with lemon and radishes; salad, shaved green pumpkin and arugula tossed with a molasses vinaigrette and topped with a sunny-side-up egg and chili threads; entrees, crusted halibut with truffled gnocchi, roasted fennel and green apple shreds, and grilled monkfish on butternut latkes and chard topped with green pumpkin shreds and blood orange sections; after-dinner sweets, a dense spiced stout cake and little langues de chat cookies held together with a plum jam, a bite each. Beautiful.

We'll have to go back sometime to enjoy both the wines and the desserts. The selection of wines in the cork-covered notebook looked to be mostly European, and broken down into red and white, bold and supple. It was tempting to start the evening with a glass of Dubonnet, the better to enjoy the 1920's inspired jazz wafting in the background. The desserts, too, were tempting: Cinderella pumpkin bread pudding with stewed figs and ice cream, apple-almond tart, lemon verbena donuts swimming in a chocolate soup, poached pear with chocolate caramel, allspice anglaise and black sesame sprinkles; all were $8. There was also an artisan cheese plate for $14.  Coffee from a local roaster is offered, as well as an assortment of teas.

And the best part of dining at a grocery rather than a laundry? The bill. It was about a quarter of the price.

Click on the restaurant's name at the start of this review for address, map, directions and hours.

Photos by Lori Korleski Richardson and James Richardson; from top: amuse-bouche, halibut entree, monkfish entree.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Something special in the air?


Move over rubber chicken.

The headline on this item is from an old jingle for American Airlines, back when it WAS something special in the air. Hoping to make its flights a little less soul-sucking, starting today (Saturday, Nov. 1) the airline is offering two new sandwiches for afternoon snacking:

-- Italian Deli Panini - beef salami and turkey, provolone cheese, lettuce and tomato on panini bread served with a side of Italian herb dressing
-- Roast Beef Ciabatta - roast beef and provolone cheese, lettuce and tomato on ciabatta bread served with a side of horseradish Dijon dressing.
The Asian chicken wrap -- grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, Napa cabbage, red bell peppers and Mandarin orange slices wrapped in a tortilla -- will remain on the menu. The above items are available for $6 each and will be offered on flights lasting three hours or longer and departing after 10 a.m.
For those traveling on flights departing before 10 a.m. and lasting three hours or longer, American Airlines will continue to offer its popular bagel sandwich -- a plain bagel with roasted turkey and mild muenster cheese -- and the breakfast croissant -- a croissant layered with turkey, muenster cheese, lettuce and tomato -- both available for $6 each.
But when will American let them eat cake?

A little dessert, big taste, few calories


Last night, I wanted something light after feasting (a bit of lamb and artichokes, with a cup of butternut squash soup to start), and I had just picked up a package of phyllo tart cups. Here's what I came up with, after warming up the cups in the post-lamb oven: I mixed 2 tablespoones of all-fruit (no sugar) peach jam with 1 tablespoon of non-fat yogurt. I filled the warm tart cups with that mixture and topped each with a fresh raspberry. Delicious! We had three each. Per tart: 28 calories.

photo by Lori K

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Makin' bacon -- for dessert?

The San Jose Mercury News this week had a little item from Sue Kidd in Tacoma on a bistro there that features bacon in desserts. For anyone who would like to try this at home,  here's a recipe for a bacon candy that the chef uses in some of his creations. And for anyone who loves bacon, check out Joanna Pruess's "Seduced by Bacon." I did a review of  it for The Sacramento Bee when it first came out, including a recipe or two that I tested. If anyone's interested in reading it, I'll repost it here.