Thursday, May 31, 2007

meet the new addition to our family

So while at Sears on Monday, we also bought a new refrigerator.

In our defense, we really had to. The old fridge was old and falling apart. For a brief moment, we considered selling it on Craig’s List, but decided not to. It had too many problems that i wouldn’t want to impose on anyone. It would leak at random times all over the tiled floor and stain the grout. When cleaning it out yesterday morning, i found a three-inch thick slab of ice on the bottom of the freezer with wontons stuck in it that would not come out. The ice and water the fridge produced would taste bad. The fridge side was falling apart too – behind the “rotter” drawers, all the tubing on the back wall of the fridge had come off and was being held up by the back of the drawers alone. And sometimes i couldn’t even use the “rotter” drawers, as they would occasionally freeze whatever was in there, and make it inedible. The shelves on the door would break off under the strain of weight, and one of them we completely rigged with a piece of wood. It was time for it to go.

When we put our house in Maryland up on the market, our real estate agent told us we needed to fix up the kitchen (e.g. get rid of the broken fridge – somehow, we keep inheriting broken fridges), so we did just that and bought the cheapest of the bottom-mount freezer kind we could get. It was a Samsung, and we really enjoyed it for the 2 weeks we had it before we moved back to Atlanta. it had some quirks, being the cheapest of the best (for i do think that bottom-mount freezers are the best, i will get to why in a minute). One of the things we noticed after we bought that Samsung was that the inside shelves were not repositionable. You were stuck with where they were. I didn’t care much for that. but what makes that type of fridge the best for me is that i’m constantly opening the fridge. i rarely, maybe only a couple of times a week, open the freezer. So if that’s the case, why would i always have to stoop down or bend over or kneel to look inside a fridge? why have the freezer at eye level if i rarely open it? our old fridge was a double door (freezer on left, fridge on right), and even then one has to stoop down to get to the “rotter” drawers (that either rotted food or froze it). and you’re left with narrow shelves. You can’t stick a pizza box in there. okay, so yeah, i make my own pizza most of the time, but there are times, like after we worked Easter brunch, when we came home and ordered a pizza. And i don't know about you, but the boy and i never finish a whole delivery pizza pie in one sitting.

I remember the first time i ever saw a bottom-mount freezer. It was during an episode of Good Eats, one of the first where Mr. Brown’s set is at the New Location. The boy and i sat up at the same time from our slouchy couch pose and collectively gasped. What the heck is that? Can we get one? Where can we get one? Omigod i love technology.

So we’ve been wanting a good one for years, and now we have one.



I present to you the Kenmore Elite Trio in satin metal finish (it takes magnets; whereas the lovely stainless steel finish doesn’t take magnets yet takes fingerprints like nobody’s business). The Sears delivery guys had the old fridge moved out and new fridge installed in 10 minutes flat. I know they do this for a living, but i was so amazed at their swiftness. They told me that they normally install about 23 fridges a day.


Here’s a pic of the interior of the fridge. Notice how wide it is? It’s also pretty deep. I could install many pizza boxes there. or a whole sheet cake. OOH CAKE! Yum. Okay no, cake bad. No cake for me. I ate far too much last week. Cake is bad. Cake is bad. Wah.......

Next time i have cake will probably be on my birthday. At least that gives me something positive to look forward to and takes my mind off of how close to 40 i’m getting.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

yeah, yeah. i don't want to hear it.

I succumbed.

We woke up on Monday morning at around 9 am. this is about how late i can ever sleep. Normally I get up at 5:15 am every weekday morning, so come weekends and days off, 9 am is really stretching it. by then, my lower back is giving me grief anyway, so i might as well get up and do something about it.

So on Monday, i got up and made coffee and pottered around the kitchen for a bit trying to tidy things up, and then the boy got up and turned on food network. Because Monday was an all-day grilling extravaganza on food network, and we’d invited Mr and Mrs B over for some grilled food (j showed up later in the day); we needed a bit of brain prodding to figure out what to eat.

See, it’s because we got spoiled the previous week. We used the gas grill at the cabin for a good majority of our meals, so deciding on what to make next on the grill left us with a blank mind. Burgers? Done it. pizza? Done it. steak, pork tenderloin, chicken? Done it. blah.

So we sat there staring blankly at the tv for a half hour before we realized we’d seen the 7th Sears commercial in that short span of time. Then we started to pay attention. Because sears was (is) having a sale going on.

And before you know it, i got talked into buying a gas grill.

I’ve already waxed poetic on the joys of charcoal grilling, on the wonderful smell of chunk charcoal and how much better it grills your food than gas. I understand the ease of being able to fire up your gas grill in 30 seconds, and i appreciate that; but frankly, nothing will replace charcoal for me. But within 2 hours, i found myself putting together our new Kenmore gas grill in our driveway (because the damn box was far too heavy to haul out of the back of the car, so i was forced to put it together out front and endure the looky loos of everyone driving by and rubbernecking. Then again, i was wearing a low cut tank top, so for all i know they were oogling at my boobs. Who knows).


So, the new grill is awfully nice and pretty, i will admit. It has a gas burner on one side. And it has a rotisserie attachment. Because i do love rotisserie chicken. That’s one of my favorite things of going to the outdoor markets in France; there is always a butcher who’s set up his rotisserie, and as a child i’d watch 20 or so chickens slowly turning while their drippings basted potatoes strategically set up on the bottom of the rotisserie box.


We broke in the grill by making (in this order):

Pineapple slices (for pineapple salsa)
Slices of eggplant, squash, and portabella mushrooms (for my lunch this week)
Rum and brown sugar glazed shrimp, which, once off the grill, were topped with lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro
Pork chops which were dry rubbed with chipotle chili powder, oregano, and garlic, and later served with the pineapple salsa
Store-bought prepared ribs with sauce, just heated through on the grill.


While we were prepping food, Mrs B made me an excellent concoction of Nassau Royale rum we’d brought back from the Bahamas and fresh pineapple juice. Heaven. And we ate some of Mrs. B’s mango and cucumber salsa.


I am sad to report that this new grill (which we named Fred, don’t ask why) will probably get a lot of use. I feel badly for the ol’ Brinkmann, but the boy assures me that he will not neglect Brinkmann. Brinkmann and Fred are sitting side by side in our yard. At least i can now boast that i have a pretty decent outdoor kitchen.

P.S:

the pork chop and pineapple salsa recipe is adapted from Emeril's pork tenderloin recipe.

the rum-brown sugar-glazed shrimp with lime and cilantro is from bobby flay's boy gets grill, and i hope the copyright junkies won't get me into trouble for posting this; but seriously, these were so fantastic that i urge you to make them. i will again very soon.

for the glaze:
1 cup dark rum
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of salt

combine the rum and brown sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is reduced by half. add the pepper and season to taste with salt.

for the shrimp:
24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (we left the tails on)
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 limes, zested and then quartered
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

heat the grill to high. set aside a few tablespoons of glaze for brushing the cooked shrimp.

brush the shrimp with oil and season with salt and pepper. grill the shrimp, brushing often with the glaze, until pink, opaque, and just cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side. remove to a platter and brush with the reserved glaze. squeeze the lime quarters over the shrimp and sprinkle with lime zest and chopped cilantro.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

what i ate while out of town, aka how much weight i gained while out of town

I described in my last post about the wonderfulness of being away someplace nice and quiet. Sometimes you need nice and quiet (actually, i need nice and quiet a good majority of the time). I wish we could have stayed longer. I wish that i had enough money to buy my own cabin up in the mountains. Sigh.

For today, I’m deviating from my normal blog format of posting little pictures to the right of the text because i have a few pictures to show of what we ate while up there and it's easier to post this way. because, lets face it. all we did was eat, nap, stare at trees, and eat some more. i had bacon for breakfast a lot. Lets just say that it is probably for the best that we came back when we did because i had some trouble buttoning my pants this morning.

Lets just open up the first of the pictures by showing you the contents of the cabin fridge. we brought all of this with us, and the only thing we brought back was lunchmeat, some bread, and some leftovers.



I woke up on our second morning and made pizza dough.



(we grilled most everything we ate, except for a few occasions).

pepperoni pizza



barbecued chicken pizza



this next one is the one of the only pics i took of the fajitas. I was so excited to eat that i forgot to take pictures of the finished food.



then there was steak. I showed a picture of that on the grill in my previous post. Here is a pic pre-cooking. And Oh Yeah, there was much whiskey imbibed during this trip.

>

steak was served with crabcakes and grilled corn. The crabcakes did not go on the grill; these were cooked on the stove.




we also had bobby flay’s cuban burgers. Normally you’d wrap the assembled burger in tin foil before placing on the grill, but hey, we forgot tin foil. We ended up sandwiching the burger between cookie sheets and finding the heaviest pot in the cabin to put on top for smooshing before putting on the grill.



our last night there, we had that pork tenderloin with mojo that i’ve blogged about before. By this time, neither the boy nor i felt like doing dishes, so we used paper plates. Fancy.




i think i gained 5 pounds in 5 days.

This morning, back to yogurt for breakfast. FOR A GOOD LONG WHILE.

Monday, May 28, 2007

a little nostalgic

so we are back from our escapade into the north georgia mountains. i was sad to leave, because, well, i was. i don't have to explain. i almost don't feel like explaining it. we hadn't seen a soul since last wednesday afternoon, and frankly, i liked that. we listened to the wind, we saw bees (a lot of bees), we heard woodpeckers in the morning, we saw deer. i watched the sun come up and the sun come down over the trees, and i watched their colors change as the days wore on, from bright varigated greens to muted dark shadowy green. sadly, when we woke up this morning and started packing, the valley of green was filled with the smoke from the burning wildfires in south georgia; it was time to leave. i'll miss that feeling of not being on a schedule, of not caring about what time it was; and if i felt like taking a nap at 2 pm, well, i took a nap. i'll miss the nest of baby cardinals right outside the back porch; those babies were born while we were there. i saw their big mouths gaping open when their dad brought them pieces of worm or whatnot to eat. i heard them cry. i'll miss that.

so we're back home, and life is back to normal, except for the pile of mail waiting for me to go through. i've got a lot of pictures to post on flickr; and if you're interested in seeing them, please email me and i will email you back the link (i am kinda not in the mood to post a link to my flickr account in the world wide open for various stupid reasons) {please be warned that the pictures in my flickr account are kinda on the boring side, unless you like endless pictures of my dog and like watching me be all nostalgic and stuff about days gone by). i'll probably come back tomorrow and post pictures of the food we ate. because DAMN if we didn't eat like kings!! we had gourmet meals for every meal. yep. here's a sneak preview.

grilled steak (corn on the cob up top). this was served with maryland style crabcakes, which in my humble opinion are the only kind of crabcake worth having.

hope you guys are having a good memorial day weekend, and i hope you take a moment to think of what exactly memorial day means, and not, "Hey i can now officially wear white again!" or "Gee, the neighborhood pool is now open". go forth, grill, and pour a little beer out for our fallen soldiers.

love,
French Tart

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

seen at the grocery store last night



which prompted me to say, "what the HELL IS THAT?"

if you buy this, i will find out where you live and beat you over the head with my crepe pan.

totally sacrilegious.

today's breakfast



red and orange fruit salad: cherries, apricots, peaches, cactus pear, blackberries.

cactus pear tastes like a less-sweet kiwi with larger seeds, in case you were wondering. but it's got the most beautiful flesh, the color of garnets.

if you want to make this particularly outstanding, squeeze a bit of citrus on top (or even pour in a small slug of orange juice from the container), and drizzle with honey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

on grilling out

It is 7 am, and all of atlanta smells like everyone is outside grilling. Simultaneously. All at once. (incidentally, the first time i ever used the word “simultaneously” was in the 6th grade. It was in a required reading short story about some Southern kid who opted to spend his allowance on radish seeds rather than lavish it on the chick he just asked out. Why i remember things like this is the bane of my existence, believe you me). The winds brought in the smoke from the wildfires, those wildfires that are a good 3 to 4 hours South of here. I could smell it when i walked outside at 6 am, and we live 20 miles north of downtown. One time i got evacuated from the south of France because the wildfires, started by some jerkface’s discarded ciggy, burned all along the coast and man was that a sight to see. The horizon glowed like red lava the night before. It was both awful and beautiful at the same time.

As sad as i am about wildfires, i don’t mind the smell so much because it reminds me of grilling; and lately chez Big & Gay, grilling means Bobby Flay.

Last night we made a meal that was originally intended for Sunday night’s dinner; but on Sunday, by the time we were done running errands, shopping, prepping, etc, neither of us felt like firing up the ol’ grill. So we made it last night, which was perfect because all the prep had been done beforehand. How great is that? Just fire up the ol’ grill and toss a salad (heh) and all is good with the world.

The boy likes to smoke cigars while he grills out. Is this a chef thing? He doesn’t smoke cigarettes (anymore), but occasionally a cigar or two. I’m down with this. I actually like to smoke the occasional cigar myself. They’re especially great if you’re in the Caribbean and you can find a good Cuban, and then buy a bunch and smuggle them in to the US. Oh whatever, don't seem so shocked. Everyone does it. i hauled back a huge garlic braid from the south of France and was mortified when arriving at customs because i thought for sure the dude would see the look on my face and rifle through my stuff (i am a lousy liar. I have no poker face). And my mom hauls back suitcases full of good gooey French cheese and saucisson on each trip, and she’s never been caught. I’m not smuggling in Nile crocodiles or stolen diamonds or anything. hi, oh reader from the Department of Justice! How are you? I know you’re out there because Google Analytics told me so. Game over.

On the menu: Jerk chicken, chicken smothered in barbecue sauce, jicama and cabbage slaw, grilled corn, grilled red onions. It’s a lot of food, i know. I don’t know what was wrong with me yesterday; i ate like a pig all day and then completely demolished my plate at dinner. I have to be careful, because we are going out of town this week and all i ever do on vacation is eat like a pig and loaf around, so i can’t exactly be doing that before said vacation. Sheesh.


Jerk Chicken

this recipe on the food network site is relatively close to the recipe we used from Boy Gets Grill. The one we used has about twice as many ingredients, and uses 3 scotch bonnets (habaneros). That’s right, THREE! Surprisingly, it wasn’t kick-my-ass spicy, even though the chicken marinated for about 24 hours; but then again, i can really tolerate heat because we eat spicy hot food all the time. I made the mango-cilantro relish the day before and ate that with a piece of grilled mahi mahi for lunch yesterday and OH MY GOD i could just eat that relish with a spoon, the whole thing in one sitting. It’s really simple and insanely good. We opted not to serve it with the jerk chicken last night because we had so many other flavors going on, but i urge you to at least make the relish and put it on everything.

Jicama Slaw

even though the recipe doesn't call for it, the boy cut up some matchstick-sized pieces of chayote and put that in as well. The napa cabbage will start to wilt on contact with the dressing, and i’m afraid when i go dive into the leftovers tonight it will have wilted away to nothing. but the chayote will bring an added crunch to the salad which it will need after having sat around for a day. The smoky flavors going on in this salad are really intriguing, and went really well with everything on the plate.


Speakng of chayote, it has no nutritional value whatsoever. By itself, i think it tastes like fresh cut grass, but it is an amazing filler in salads. It is also ridiculously funny looking, so we like to use it.

we had the most difficult time finding jicama, because neither of us knew what it really looked like. we were walking around the produce section of the Super H looking like dumbasses. the boy ended up pulling up a picture of it on his cell phone, and we found it over near the potatoes (duh). we were this close to walking up to the store manager and showing him the picture of jicama and gesture wildly. i'm all about gesturing wildly. must be a French thing.

Mesa Grill Barbecue Sauce

now, the boy was a bit skeptical of how good the jerk chicken would turn out, so he grilled up some un-jerked chicken and then slathered it with some of mr. flay’s barbecue sauce.


we also slathered it on skewered red onions, and i decided to make these even more attractive by adding grape tomatoes to the skewers. I love grilled tomatoes; they burst open and get awfully sweet and tasty.

And grilled corn. Well, you don't need a recipe for that. Just remove the silks, and either keep the husks on or not (depending on your mood) and wrap in foil. You don’t have to wrap in foil if you keep the husks on, but we do because i don't like burned corn and i always end up burning the corn if i don't wrap it in foil first. You can make a compound butter if you want and slather some of this on the corn before wrapping in foil; that’s entirely up to you. Anyway, plop on the grill and just turn from time to time and kind of ignore them, off to the sides, while the rest of your food is cooking away.

Let me tell you: Southwestern meets Caribbean is a good thing. There are so many various flavors on this plate, but everything complimented each other very well.

Anyway, go forth and grill. That’s an order.




picture of chayote "borrowed" from wikipedia


UPDATE: so bizarre, it appears we may get sent home because the smoke from the wildfires has gotten into our A/C and the building is now smoky. Security is currently doing a walk-through. interesting.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

taste of alpharetta

taste of alpharetta is tonight.

i'm too beat to go, even though it's just down the street.

if the boy was working it, i'd consider showing up for a bit. but i can barely keep my head upright today. i'm sure the people watching will be excellent. ho well.

aiutilo! au secours!

okay people. i need your help. the mere idea of planning 3 meals a day for 5 days away is kind of driving me batshit crazy. normally i'm not like this at all; normally i love making lists and thinking things through. but this work week is turning out to be a big pile of poo; and by the time i get home and force myself to do yoga and situps and all that, the only thing i want to do is to become one with the couch. i've got to start making my lists.

just a recap: we're going to a remote cabin in the north georgia mountains later next week, and said cabin has a fully-equipped kitchen, an outdoor gas grill, and indoor and outdoor fireplaces. so far on the menu:

* pancakes and bacon (i usually never eat big breakfasts, but this is vacation, so bring on the pig)
* s'mores, because nothing says being in the middle of nowhere without marshmallows on a stick
* various sandwiches, so i'll have to pick up about 3 pounds of lunch meat
* fajitas
* blackened shrimp and grits
* some sort of marinated pork tenderloin (grilled, of course)
* stick meat? (as in meat on a skewer)
* ....

i can't really put thought into this until sunday, so please throw ideas my way!


UPDATE:
patty has suggested pigs n blankets.
zack has suggested nachos (he actually told me about this a while back, but i forgot to add that to the original list).
my old boss suggested wrapping potatoes in tin foil and shoving them in the fire pit. he makes a mean barbecue, good ol' Tennessee boy that he is. but i won't let him read this site because he's a good ol' Christian boy who's never drank a drop in his life, and i think he'd get a heart attack and try to convert me to Southern Baptist if he knew that much about me. he's got an idea, i think, but prefers to ignore it. it's for the best, really.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

grocery list

Fajitas.
(i am almost positive that this isn't the least bit authentic. but it's how we make it).

one lb.or two of flank steak, or a couple of chicken breasts
Juice of one lime
Tablespoon of chili powder
Half a can of chipotles in adobo. Haul the chipotles out and cut them up, if you can.
Drizzle of olive oil
half to 3/4 can of beer. we use Miller Lite, because the boy is not a beer snob.


1. Marinate your meat (hee. there i go with the 5th grade humor).

2. Oh, i do sauté some peppers and onions on the side, and drizzle some of the marinade on those while they cook.

3. Grill meat. I dont know for how long, 4 to 5 minutes a side for chicken. A bit longer for beef.

4. Let rest.

5. Slice up on the diagonal and add to tortilla along with the peppers/onions, shredded cheddar, a good dollop of sour cream, some shredded lettuce, and salsa. Hot sauce on top is optional.


I’m writing this down because it’s one of the only recipes that i know by heart. This is why i write everything down. I’ve a brain like a sieve, however i have the inane ability to remember shit from days long past, like Stupid Useless Trivia. Incidentally, i’m great at that bar game Trivia.

I’m also writing this down because we made this for dinner last night, and we’re going to make it for dinner some time next week while we’re gallivanting about the blue ridge mountains. And this will be part of my grocery list. Still trying to determine a full list of what food we’ll eat up there.

I’m also writing down that i need to upload a boatload of music to my ipod so that i don’t forget to do so later. i’m currently listening to U2; i had no idea i had this much U2 on here (right now, it's Discoteque). I ‘spose i ought to thank the boy for that, seeing how he’s one of U2s biggest fans. this probably got on here when he uploaded all the songs from Life Less Lived: the Gothic Box, which we saw a few months ago at the record store and made me squeal (however – i did not buy it then. the boy found all the songs on the innernets for me. Thank you boy!)

Monday, May 14, 2007

on roast beef and spandex pants

I worked with the boy yesterday for Mother’s Day brunch. My feet are killing me.

All in all, i had a good time. At least nobody said to me, “Thank you, young man”, like at Easter brunch. I didn’t realize that wearing a baseball cap and chef whites automatically makes one look like a man, especially since i have hips and long hair. oh, and boobs too. although i can understand how the jacket flattens the boob area, but you know. they still show.

A bit of advice. Don’t show up for the last reservation of the day after we’re just about to start clearing up, stand in the middle of the room glaring at everyone in your white spandex stretch pants and bleached-out hair and bitch openly that there’s no medium-rare roast beast left. Then proceed to bitch at the GM, who immediately gets a steak thrown on the grill for you; confront other guests by asking them if smoked salmon used to be on the buffet; and holler a bit more for your own plate of lox. First off, 1985 called and they want their pants back. Secondly, by the time she showed up, we’d been on our feet for 7 hours and didn't feel like dealing with her; however we did, and we were pleasant as hell with her. but she still barked orders at us. I don’t like people barking at me. It makes me want to go stabby. And since i was at the carving station, i had ample opportunity to get stabby; i had three knives in front of me, one of them the boy’s sashimi Shun which was sharp as a razor. But i didn’t. so instead i repressed those feelings and had World War II dreams all night long.

Seriously, do they still sell spandex pants? Not that i really want to know... I don’t need a pair, thanks. I may have been dumb back in the 80s, but at least i had enough fashion sense to leave that one be.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

on grey goose martinis and more bad james bond

"effective immediately - your license to kill has been revoked".

oh no! what's going to happen?

currently watching the other lame bond movie, which is pretty sad considering timothy dalton is hot. was hot. well, you know.

and in keeping with the mood, i'm having a grey goose martini. thanks for the idea, ashley!

i'm limiting myself to one, though, because we don't want Evil French Tart to emerge. she's no fun, especially when the boy isn't here to keep me in check (he's at work).

y'all have a good weekend.

that's right, i said Y'ALL.

Friday, May 11, 2007

what does gin taste like? has it changed ?

 
my friend charles likes to send odd gifts. when i moved to savannah in 1996, he sent me all kinds of basic kitchen stuff which i didn't have. all of my worldly goods at the time fit into the back of a pickup truck, and i didn't own things like a can opener or a coffee maker. i was really very grateful towards him for helping me out in my time of need.

basically, charles is a really nice older gentleman, but also a kook. and over the years, he's gotten kookier. his gifts, although well-meaning, are a bit on the bizarro side. he makes up holidays, or sends gifts for kooky holidays. for example, in the weeks leading up to the kentucky derby, i'll get really long novel-type letters from him (he doesn't do email, and actually, i really appreciate this quality about him. people have forgotten how to write nowadays), letters about how great the kentucky derby is, and about how hats are pretty fantastic. usually somewhere in between the letters, a package or two show up full of little bourbon minatures. he did the same for saint patrick's day (we received a boatload of irish cream miniatures). and then for no apparent reason about two months ago, he sent mango rum.

so anyway, yesterday we get a package in the mail from him with all these little tanqueray miniatures. because according to him, the holiday i am to celebrate is the opening of Gin Season this weekend.

yeah, i raised my eyebrows too.

Gin Season, you ask?

i didn't realize that there was a season for this shit.

my one and only foray into gin was an unfortunate one. actually, i think it was this exact week in 1995; i remember it being in May of that year - May of 1995 was a big turning point in my life. i went through a lot of personal hell and rebirth during that time. it was getting pretty hot down in gainesville, florida, and me and a buddy of mine met up with some friends of his at Farah's on the Avenue. it was the night i met a girl and her boyfriend (girl and i became fast friends, however her and her boyfriend killed themselves a few years later; and no it was not a romantic romeo and juliet kind of thing). it was hot out, i was playing hooky from going home, and i decided that i would drink gin. and i really liked it; it was tasty, it was refreshing, and it made me feel good. two double gin and tonics later, and a hot car ride home, i was not feeling so good anymore.

and that was the last time i had gin.

but in an attempt to squash old feelings and thinking about my friend, i'm willing to crack one of these bad boys open and see if that fleeting moment of invincibleness i felt that night can be rekindled. problem is, i have no tonic. i have a teeny tiny bottle of san pelegrino (yeah, i'm a bottled water snob), and i have orange juice. when people talk about gin and joooce, what juice is it? i'm sure i could squeeze some of these grapefruits in the fruit bowl.

it's just not a red wine kind of night, ya know?
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stress eating

i have a meeting at 3 today (in 15 minutes) that a lot of us low-totem-polers now have to attend. i'm kind of not looking forward to it, because these people running the call, they eat their young. i'm kind of scared, dammit. really.

so you'd think i'd go and get my facts straight, be prepared for the meeting, and talk to all the right people so that when they dive bomb me i'd be ready, right? no. instead, i went to the vending machine in our breakroom and bought a bag of m & m's. i havent eaten m & m's in many years. i ate the whole bag, and now my teeth hurt.

little fuckers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

on Gordon Ramsay and last night's dinner

In our household, we love Gordon Ramsay. I realize that this isn’t the popular opinion in the US – most people really dislike him, and that’s because the first and only time they’ve ever heard of him is from watching Hell’s Kitchen, where he’s such a complete ass. I love him because his recipes really work; and i respect him because he’s only a couple of years older than I am yet has accomplished so much in his lifetime. So i’m kind of envious, yeah.

The part about his recipes working: i know it sounds kind of strange, but very few “celebrity” chefs have recipes that actually work. Recipes that need no tweaking in order to be fantastic or edible, and deliver what’s promised.. I own a boatload of cookbooks, yet only a handful of them have recipes i’ve never needed to change in any way. I realize that recipes are guidelines, really, and that tweaking is often encouraged. And i’m no stranger to tweaking a recipe. In fact, i think that’s one of the fun parts of cooking, making something different or sometimes even better than the original recipe. But on my flip side, it’s also kind of satisfying to know that a recipe works each and every time you use it. Chefs who fall into that category along with Ramsay are Emeril Lagasse and Julia Child. Not once have i had to change anything to their recipes in order to make it better. It’s already perfected. Then there are those whose recipes are truly bad, and you don’t realize at first that it’s the recipe that’s off. You carefully backtrack in your head where you could have gone wrong in your steps. You make the recipe again, and again, and then realize that it’s just not worth following that “guideline” because in order to make the recipe successful, you’ve had to alter it so dramatically that it doesn't even resemble the original one bit. I’m sad to say that Ming Tsai falls into that category for me. I was giddy with anticipation when i brought home one of his books, and now i just look at it for the pretty pictures. Besides, i have another reason for disliking Ming Tsai, and that has to do with one of the boy’s previous executive chefs who worked with him in Chicago years ago, but I won’t get into that now because that’s a whole other story.


The boy has been downloading episodes of The F Word (they show it on BBC America as well) and decided to make the Stuffed Chicken Leg with Pistachios and Marsala sauce. This is a particularly time-consuming recipe, so if you’re going to make it, ensure that you have the day off because there are so many steps. We didn’t make the suggested risotto, but i made pilaf instead because it’s easy and i can pretty much make pilaf in my sleep. and I didn’t feel like standing at the stove for 40 minutes stirring a pot; instead i opted to drink three-quarters of a bottle of 2 Buck Chuck and sprawl out on the couch. The pilaf was a good choice, because you don’t want a side dish with too much going on, as the entree already has so many flavors. Basically, this is a chicken leg that’s been deboned and stuffed with a pork sausage and pistachio mixture, rolled up and wrapped with bacon and finished off with a Marsala wine sauce.

The boy had done most of the work by the time I got home, so i wasn't able to take any pictures of the work in progress. While the poached and cooled rolls were searing in the pan, Mrs. P came in to find out where all the good pig smells were coming from, so we played some and then i went off to the back yard to take pictures of things that are coming up.


Like the tomatoes.








And the blackberry bush.








After the rolls are properly seared up and the bacon has become golden and crispy, and it’s had a little rest, it’s time for sauce-making and plate up. Followed by eating.


As you can see, we have a lot of leftovers. Some of those are in the fridge here at work, where i’ll be indulging in them for lunch in, oh, about 2 and a half hours from now. It sucks to be me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

bring on the peace and quiet

the boy and i are taking a few days off in a couple of weeks and heading to a small cabin in North Georgia. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited we are about this. This isnt exactly camping, as the cabin has electricity! Running water! Full kitchen! Satellite TV! But it also has a hot tub under the stars, a 360 degree view of trees as far as the eye can see, and a backyard full of bears and deer, oh my.

I’m waiting for this like the comin’ of the messiah. Okay okay – i’m not vying for the end of the world, but you catch my drift.

Usually when we go camping, it’s all-out camping, with tents, dirt under the fingernails, and copious amounts of Dr Scholl's foot powder. One of our usual standby meals while camping is fajitas of some sort. Although this will be Ritz Carlton-type camping, in keeping with the idea of camping we’ll probably make fajitas one night; but I’m kind of at a loss as to what else to eat while out there. the cabin has a fully-stocked kitchen, including an outdoor grill (gas, but i’ll live) and coffee-maker (and if it didnt have that, you’d be damn sure i’d be bringing ours). all we’ll need to do is bring food, condiments, spices, and our knives – yes, i’m a knife snob. I loathe using strange knives, as they’re usually as dull as that seminar on medieval history i once took (you’d think it would be interesting, right? I normally dig that stuff, but this dude managed to make it about as appealing as pulling nose hair). In case we forget anything, the town of Blue Ridge is 5 minutes away, and i’ve been assured there’s some sort of grocery store there.

So i need some advice. what do you guys usually eat when camping? Or on vacation?

oh - and please don't tell me to watch Cabin Fever before i go. or i'll never go. the boy watched that the other day, and i had to leave the room. or the first Friday the 13th. or the first half hour of The Ring. or Prophecy. i adore scary movies, i love being scared, but after it's all over, i have a vivid imagination. whenever we go regular-camping, i always have trouble peeing at night. there's nothing scarier than having to drop trow at 2 am in the dark while hearing branches crackling behind you.

Friday, May 4, 2007

was this a really stellar meal or what?

i've said before that we don't always eat superfancy gourmet shit. i try to eat healthily, most of the time. then there are times when i come home late from work after a full day of stupidity and impromptu meetings, and the last thing i want is to really cook. all i want to do is stuff my face full of french fries.

yesterday afternoon, i had a hairdresser appointment which took fourteen billion hours because i'm at that age where gray is not an acceptable color choice for someone who gets carded regularly. by the time i got home, i was famished and the boy was too. so what did we eat? a steak-umm sandwich.

with american cheese slices.

and Ore-Ida fries.

yep yep.

today, back to healthy.

but i do love me some fries.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

on "Super Natural Cooking"

Okay. i’m jumping on that bandwagon. I just love this book.

I’ve talked about this before, and it’s a good read and it makes a lot of sense, especially to people like me who are trying to be careful of how much crap they ingest. Things like being aware of how much high fructose corn syrup is in every day packaged foods. Scary, really.

The one thing that worried me about the book after i bought it and waited for amazon to ship it is that i thought it would preach to no end about the merits of vegetarianism. And i am no vegetarian, although I can go days or weeks without eating meat; and in fact when i lived in Savannah i don’t think i ate meat for months at a time, but that was mostly because i was flat broke. So anyway, i had a sneaking suspicion that this book would be riddled with Meat Is Murderisms, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t. it’s the kind of book for a person like me, who eats mostly vegetarian meals at lunch (that i make myself), who doesnt really eat meat unless she’s eating dinner with her husband. And most of the dishes in the book can be served as a side to a meat entree.

To be frank, i’ve never been much of a label reader. That is until several months ago, when i read the side of a yoplait container (i won’t fall back into that I Make My Own Yogurt spiel, because i’ve already talked about that). But with more and more grocery stores here starting their own line of organic foods (Publix has “Greenwise”, and Giant Supermarkets up North have their “Nature’s Promise” brand), i started actively reading how much fucking crap people put in their products.

I’ve only made two recipes from the book so far. The first recipe is the Green-Packed Stir Fry with Fresh Herbs, which made enough for two lunches along with some brown rice. I really loved the combination of basil and mint thrown in at the end. Mental note to plant some mint in my kitchen garden, because i’ve been using it a lot lately and have no idea why i don’t grow it. The whole dish is really fresh tasting. The main reason i made it was because we’ve entered the period of time when asparagus has shown up all over the place in all the markets, and i’ve never cooked asparagus before (i know! Why not? Who knows).

I used half of the asparagus bunch for that recipe, and used the rest in the Straw and Hay Fettuccine Tangle with Spring Aparagus Puree. The asparagus puree is really a type of pesto. I made this last night (halved the recipe) with some spinach linguine bought at Trader Joe’s and some plain ol’ regular fettuccine. I’ll be eating a portion of this for lunch today. When tasting it last night, the only criticism i had was that it appeared to be just a tad too bland, and i’m wondering if this can be corrected with a pinch of red pepper flakes (i do like spice). But this could be because i didn’t really follow the recipe exactly; rather, i saw what the ingredients were, and put in extra spinach leaves (because i had them and they were otherwise going to rot in my “rotter” drawer) and a bit more olive oil than asked for. Really, all recipes are guidelines, and you can add or change them to your liking. I think i’ve only made a traditional pesto once, and stupidly followed the recipe i was using, which made it far too garlicky. I didn’t think that would ever be possible, to over-garlic a dish, seeing as garlic is pretty wonderful; but it was almost inedible. Since then, my pestos have been kind of whatever is on hand. So i had more spinach than what was called for, and it went in.

incidentally, i wonder how good this would be if i used a reddish pasta (i’d have to make that, probably with the addition of red bell pepper to the dough) and used a red pepper and olive pesto as the sauce? Oh man. I’ll have to try that. Patricia Wells has a red pesto recipe in her trattoria book that just might work with this.

All this talk of food is making me hungry.

above photo "borrowed" from amazon.com

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

"blondie" cupcakes

so I took last Friday off. a mental health day, if you will. A day of me trying to catch up with my life. I firmly believe that everyone needs one of these every once in a while. Just a day to take naps, do laundry, watch bad daytime television, and not feel the least bit guilty of doing so on a weekday.

I had all the best intentions in the world – i was going to sleep in and go kickboxing before making cupcakes. Well, i never got around to kickboxing. I slept in, made coffee, surfed the web for a bit, and made cupcakes. There was some laundry done (and since we now own a really great and fantastic washer and dryer, doing laundry isn’t so much of a chore anymore), and there was an afternoon nap thrown in for good measure. I really needed that day. I plan on taking another one next month, because i have around 200 hours of accumulated vacation time and i really never take any.

i wanted to adapt Mr. B’s birthday cake into cupcakes. Mr. B’s birthday cake is two layers of chocolate chip brownie (“blondie”, actually; no chocolate in the batter) with caramel buttercream and caramel sauce. The only thing that i really had to change from the original recipe was the cooking time. I originally halved the buttercream recipe, thinking i wouldn’t need as much as the full-on cake required, but i was vastly mistaken. I only had enough for half the cupcakes. I ended up having to make more buttercream.


While the cupcakes were cooling, i made some spring rolls and sat in the yard for a bit. Spring rolls, my god, what a mess! I had no idea what i was doing with those wrappers, but the end result was tasty. And i used up the last of my tofu that needed to be eaten or thrown away (pan fried it a bit with some of that korean sauce and layered it in between cucumber sticks, glass noodles, and scallions).

I do think, though, that the final cupcake needs some visual lift. The original cake recipe has you making caramelized sugar bits to press into the sides of the finished cake, but i didn't include them for the cupcakes. I toyed with the idea of a caramel cage or a caramel sculpture of sorts either propped up or sitting on top of the cupcake, but never got around to it (by that point in the day, i wanted a drink).

These were well received all around. And when the exec chef at the boy’s work, who is a 2-time James Beard house invitee, says that your cupcakes are pretty fucking great, then you know you have a winner.