Friday, November 24, 2006


Aww, look at Amber, my Labrador-niece. I just snagged these from Ryan's blog b/c I think she's so beautiful, I just love her! She's a Seattle girl & she likes cheese.

Turkey, paella, and ham! Oh my!

We had such a fun & festive time yesterday! The dinner Becky made was AMAZING. Here she is carrying the turkey out to the table.

Becky is a Southerner & an incredible cook. She not only served the traditional turkey w/sides of stuffing, mashed potatoes, & cranberries; but also a ham, baked beans, sweet potato casserole, a fruit platter, deviled eggs, rolls, and an incredibly delicious shrimp & lobster paella!

Mr. Turkey, headliner...

The Kids' Table. They were happy to be segregated.

One of the best Thanksgivings ever. And we were sent home with a bag packed full of lefovers to eat all weekend long, so I got to have paella for lunch.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Last night I made spinach pies w/puff pastry dough for one of today's appetizers.

As I was assembling the little triangles, I was thinking about my loved ones. While it's impossible to not think of those who are absent today, I was listening to Christmas music (thanks to Elisabeth, I downloaded Sarah Mc.'s "Wintersong"), busily working with my hands, and thinking of how lucky I am to have my beautiful family, and the best of friends. I am very grateful.

Today is also about food! I just made John Thorne's Best-Ever Pecan Pie, from Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts. Troy loves pecan pie, but I've never been a big fan, b/c usually it's all gelatinous and claggy (is that a word?), and way too sweet. Finding this recipe changed my feelings about pecan pie -- John Thorne cracked the code. It really is the best ever! It contains golden syrup and dark rum, and is perfect.

Wishing you lots of love & happiness today.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Laurie Colwin's Gingerbread

My absolute favorite recipe for gingerbread comes from Laurie Colwin's great book Home Cooking. I've tried others, but have always returned to (and now never bother to stray from) this recipe, which is featured in the chapter, "How to Make Gingerbread." Ms. Colwin writes about her preference for a very gingery cake; her discovery of Steen's pure ribbon cane syrup -- the King of Molasses from the South; and, most memorably, lovingly recalls the afternoon she spontaneously made button-sized muffins and tiny cakes for her daughter, using her daughter's set of child-sized baking tins.
Laurie Colwin died young of a heart condition. I do not know much about what happened to her, only that the world lost a wonderful writer, and someone who must surely have been an extraordinary woman. Yesterday, one of my beloveds, my mother-in-law, underwent a heart procedure that probably saved her life. As my son and I sat at the kitchen table today, both eating a slice of the most comforting of cakes, I thought about Laurie Colwin, and my mother-in-law, and, of course, my Mom. Perhaps it's as Southern (gothic) as Steen's cane syrup to be thinking about death while eating gingerbread, but so be it.
Listen to your body, listen to your heart, and try Laurie Colwin's gingerbread...that is, if your cardiologist doesn't mind you having a little butter & some eggs.
Makes one nine-inch cake:
1. Cream one stick of sweet butter with 1/2 cup of light or dark brown sugar. Beat until fluffy and add 1/2 cup of molasses.
2. Beat in two eggs.
3. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and one very generous tablespoon of ground ginger (this can be adjusted to taste). Add one teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice.
4. Add two teaspoons of lemon brandy. If you don't have any, use plain vanilla extract. Lemon extract will not do. Then add 1/2 cup of buttermilk (or milk with a little yogurt beaten into it) and turn batter into a buttered tin.
5. Bake at 350F for between twenty and thirty minutes (check after twenty minutes have passed). Test with a broom straw, and cool on a rack.
Chocolate Icing
1. Cream 1/2 stick of sweet butter. When fluffy add four tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa.
2. If you have some, add one teaspoon of vanilla brandy (easily made by steeping a couple of cut-up vanilla beans in brandy -- another excellent thing to have around), or plain vanilla or plain brandy. Then add about a cup of powdered sugar, a little at a time until you get the consistency you want.
This cake is also delicious with lemon icing. Substitute for the cocoa the zest of one big lemon, one teaspoon of lemon juice, and proceed as in chocolate icing.
Of course, you need not ice gingerbread at all. You can bake it in an adult-sized pan and shake powdered sugar on top or serve it with ice cream or leave it alone.

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

Learn more about female heart health

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Daisy Saatchi's stuffed potato patties: the breakdown.

I made this recipe from Feast on a whim after flipping through the book. In the lead-in to the recipe, Nigella kind of makes the recipe sound daunting, which I really didn't think it was. I suppose any food that requires separate, multiple steps can be a bit of a chore, but the steps for these patties are pretty basic, like, 1.) bake potatoes; 2.) sautee onion & add ground beef/spices.
I'm much more motivated to try a recipe if I can see it made, or visualize the process, so I wanted to post these pics for anyone thinking of making these. They're very delicious.
You're starting w/4.5 lbs. of russet potatoes (about six) scrubbed and baked in the oven for an hour, then cooled so you can split them scoop out the fluffy cooked potato. The "dough," as Nigella calls it, is basically mashed potatoes with a couple eggs.

Meanwhile, little doses (1/4 tsp., 1/2 tsp.) of the C spices are added to a small amount of sauteed onion & ground beef and cooked through. That's cinnamon, ground cardamom, clove, cumin, coriander, and all-spice -- & it makes for a very aromatic mix. Reminded me of some of the Greek pasta dishes that call for these spices which I usually associate with sweets. It's a nice change. When the beef is cooked & cooled, you add chopped fresh parsley.

And now, for the assembly. The potato mixture was super-sticky. So the forming of the patties did not, for me, work as expected -- like a pliable bread dough. Rather, I ended up with those wet-dry-wet mittens. At this point, I did swear a bit and suggest that probably I would have to be married to Charles to make these again.
A small amount of the beef mixture is pressed into the middle of the potato mixture and you form a patty, then coat w/Matzo meal and fry. I used olive oil, simply b/c it's always my preference.
The patties turned out nicely, and my "Charles" was so enthusiastic, that I beamed a little stoveside. But I thought they could be thinner, so I switched methods. I covered my wooden board w/Matzo meal, pressed down discs of potato mixture; put a little spoonful of the meat mixture on top; and then pressed more potato mixture onto the top & formed it. A final sprinkling of Matzo & then into the frying pan.

(That pic is a little blurry b/c I wasn't faster than the eater.)
The second batch turned out flatter, and larger but thinner, and of course as tasty as batch #1.

See? Easy! You would have to be slightly insane, in my opinion, to fry any kind of food for 20 people, as suggested as an option in the sidebar to this recipe (probably only b/c it's part of the "Wedding Feasts" chapter), but if you're perhaps not insane but willing, then your guests would be happy.
I would only make these for parties of 4, where it's a casual gathering & you're all just hanging out. The bottom line is that they're not as hard as you might think, and they're so delicious that they're worth the multiple-step process.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Message from Monster

I think my cat is telling me he has found a better use for my computer! I think he is right!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lay it down!

I really got an earful when I worked for Norris, my old boss who liked spouting off almost as much as he liked to be left alone. He was such a snob, and when I showed him my portfolio, one of his very few comments was, "Well, you write reasonably well." Looking back, that was a nice compliment from him, and I went on to become his first writer-on-staff for long enough to receive lectures on hundreds of topics, including form. Like how to behave in front of Passport Control (no jokes!) and Englishmen (behave). Also: Why you shouldn't ski in Michigan (it's not really skiing -- go to the Rockies or Switzerland, for God's sake); the difference between a filet and a fillet (fish, beef); and -- this via his wife -- what amazing things a good shoemaker can do ("you'd be surprised"). Norris used to sit in his office with his feet propped up on his desk, doing the NYT crossword in ink...Montblanc fountain. He turned me on to Fowler's and instilled in me a further love & obsession for the right word at the right time. It's like a hobby. And I do mean "like." As much of a pain in the ass (not asp) he could be, I did learn a few things from him.
There's a new book out that I highly recommend if you strive to use the right word at the right time. If you're into the English language, you will enjoy it. Common Errors in English Usage by Paul Brians. He'll set you straight on:
-card shark/cardsharp
and the big one:
I have to look them up every time, damn it.
Norris might be decrepid by now (but dressed in fine woolens), but they both were always behind me (Norris for the most part). I salute them for their encouragement and teachings, and say to you: read this book.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cuss Muss Fuss

My son, who just turned five, is really into rhyming this week. There's a lot going on in that growing mind, as evidenced by last week's question, "What the hell is heaven?" said as he ran around the backyard in circles. But back to this week.
Griffin: "Does itch rhyme with rich?"
Me: "Yes it does."
Griffin: "Rich, itch, bitch. Does itch rhyme with bitch?"
Me: "It sure does! But bitch is a bad word, so you're not allowed to say that."
Griffin: "It is?"
Me: "Yes it is. It means a really mean lady! But in England, it means a girl dog."
Hm, confusing perhaps. But as long as we stay on these shores, he can't say it.
Griffin: "Does FAKE rhyme with FATE?"
Me: "Mm, not really. FAKE rhymes with BAKE though."
Griffin: "FAKE BAKE."
I'm glad he wasn't going through this phase last July when we had Great-Grandma's birthday party, because Uncle Chuck was there.