Friday, June 29, 2007

on bread and being old

so yesterday while at the store picking up some *ack*horrible*foul*nasty* coca cola sody pop for the boy (hi boy! love you!), i walked through the publix bakery and the sourdough baguettes were calling to me. really, truly, honestly.

i never eat bread anymore.

except for dinner, last night. i ate the entire baguette along with a container of eggplant spread.

talk about bloat.

and in other news, the news which really isn't news, because i get this way before every single birthday; and with my birthday right around the corner (literally),i get all down and blah about getting old. and then the boy sends me this:

he turned 17 yesterday.

my god. i feel like a crusty old broad.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

on fish, and roman polanski. well, not really.

Last night i was preparing today’s lunch, and i ended up with so much of it that i had some for dinner. I’ve never cooked flounder before, but it turned out to be very easy and ridiculously delicious; but that might have to do with the amount of butter i used to pan-fry it. heh. Butter makes everything better.

I used flash-frozen flounder from Publix; as it turns out, Publix has pretty decent frozen fish. I sort of followed the recipe on the side of the bag, which (if memory serves me correctly) goes something like this:


12 oz flounder (the contents of the bag; there were three pieces in my bag)
butter
white wine
2 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper (to taste)
lemon

Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge each piece of fish in the flour until it is lightly coated (it should stick, ever so lightly).

Melt a big pat of butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once melted, add fish and DO NOT TOUCH for 3 whole minutes. This is really the key here, not budging the fish, and the real reason why so many people have trouble cooking fish in general. We get really antsy and want to fidget with it, move it around, flip it over and generally fuck with it until it disintegrates and becomes mush. Just walk away for three minutes. Seriously.

Flip fish, add another pat of butter, and let it cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from pan and put on a plate. Add another pat of butter, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white wine, and the juice from one lemon. Let that reduce for a couple of minutes (depending on how much wine you put in), and pour on top of the fish.


You can add parsley if you want, and you could also add capers at the same time as the wine and lemon juice go in; however, i over-capered some fish last week and made the executive decision that we need to take a small break from each other. i also kind of think that flounder doesn't need too much to make it great, so keeping it simple is the way to go, in my opinion.

There was so much of this (three portions) that i ended up having some for dinner last night along with a tomato and avocado salad. I parked my butt in front of the TV and ate this while watching The Ninth Gate, which is so campy but i really love it. i’m no lesbian or anything, but in that movie, Lena Olin is (in Corso’s own words) dishy.

i kind of got yelled at by the boy because i went and bought flounder without realizing that it's been overfished these last few years (i had no idea, really). since it was already in my freezer, of course i went ahead and ate it, but i'll have to be more conscious of what i buy in the future.

UPDATE 12:16pm: leftover cooked flounder is not so fabulous the next day. it was all right - don't get me wrong. but it wasn't vavavavoom like it was last night while watching frank langella light himself afire. oh well. you live and learn.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

a few of my favorite things

no, i am not fond of brown paper packages tied up with string. because i can't ever get the damn string off without scissors, and i can never find the damn scissors when i need them.

I didn’t watch Hell’s Kitchen last night, so don’t tell me what happened.

however, today i want to share with you a few of my favorite kitchen-related things:


Suede oven mitts

A weird thing to get excited about, i know. But trust me, these babies are fantastic. They don’t conduct heat at all and they’re honestly and truly machine washable. At first i tried to be really careful not to get any food on them because, well, they’re suede. and i kept thinking about how in the early 80s my mom worked for a leather goods clothes store in Paris and she would try like hell not to stain her suede pants. but when you’re reaching into a 450 degree oven, that’s kind of hard not to do. And i was very skeptical about tossing them in the wash. But no, they didn't dry hard as a rock, as you’d think. They came out just as floppy and fantastic as they did when they went in, albeit a whole lot cleaner. I originally gave two of these to the boy for Christmas and upon opening the box, he said, “Oh. Oven mitts”, and he too was skeptical, until he used them. I have since given some to my dad and to my friend Charles and they too had the same initial impression, but since then love them.



Envirosax


I love these bags! And they’re really roomy. However, the baggers at my local Publix cannot make heads or tails of them. They seem perplexed when i ask them to use my bags instead of their plastic. Mrs B says it’s because at Grocery Bagging School, baggers are taught not to bag certain grocery items together; but they’re my damn bags and i want them filled. I think it’s because we live in the ‘burbs and "environmentally friendly" hasn’t caught on here like it has in my parents’ Northern California neighborhood where complete strangers walk up to you while you’re strolling down the street, get in your face, and demand that you put your cigarette out (this happened to my aunt more than once. Her response was to blow smoke right in their faces. I’m an avid non-smoker but i totally sided with her on this). I think i’m going to get my dad some of these bags for Christmas, although i might go with the smaller Acme bags from this site for him.


Lock & Lock

They sell these at the Super H. actually, i would never have bought any had Mrs B not bought some first and raved about how wonderful they were. So i bought one in a good size (enough for 2 cups worth of fruit salad) and the boy just didn’t understand. he said he couldn't warrant paying that much for a tupperware-type container, he’d just rather stick with Gladware, and what makes them so great anyway? Then he took it to work one day loaded with fruit salad and somehow during the morning it fell right smack onto the floor and he was amazed that the lid didn't come flying off. Since then, he’s a convert. And we have many Lock Locks in many sizes (we call them Lock Locks. Lock AND Lock is just too darn long to spit out. Yeah, i’m lazy).


Cuisinart coffee maker

Another weird thing to get excited about, i know. But you would understand if you knew the track record the boy and i have with coffee makers. We have gone through so many of them over the years (approximately 8 or so), and they all failed. Most of the ones we’ve had in the past leaked water all over the place, or had great design yet when you went to pour a cup, you would get coffee all over the counter instead of in your cup. We had years of horrible coffee makers, and some of them were really pricey. Finally we plopped down some of our Macy's store credit from registering there for our wedding and got the Cuisinart one in the link above; we have not had an issue with it since. If i don’t have to think about how horrible my coffee maker is, then it’s a good day.


Nigella Lawson’s whisk

Years ago i was watching Nigella Bites on the Style Channel and i saw her using a tiny whisk, so i spent a good few hours one day searching for a similar whisk on the innernets and found one on some French website. I used it for years and then one day it wasn't in the kitchen drawer anymore... so i asked the boy where it was and he said it was in his knife bag, that he’d been using it at work. I couldn't remember where i originally bought it, but saw that Nigella now has her own line of kitchen stuff out there and makes her own whisk with a molded plastic handle, so i bought one to replace the one that was pilfered. This thing is great because it gets rid of ALL lumps. And sometimes you just don't need to haul out the big whisk to whisk up a couple of egg yolks for custard. Ya know?

I have more loves, and i could spend the rest of the morning yammering on about them, but i won’t. cos that would be boring.

What are some of your favorite indispensable kitchen-related gear?

Friday, June 22, 2007

on strawberry ice cream


so i got home yesterday and the first thing i did was freeze the strawberry ice cream in the Krups.

It’s fairly tasty. But what i found annoying about the recipe i used is that there is enough for two batches. Hey, don’t get me wrong, i am not going to turn down more ice cream. But that means that i could only freeze one batch at a time in the ice cream maker (i have to freeze the other half tonight when i get home). I vastly prefer soft-set ice cream to hard-as-a-rock, which is why i have no problems just digging into a freshly made batch of ice cream; but i have to freeze this batch really hard because it is destined to be molded into little cows and piggies. Patty got me these molds last year for my birthday and damn if those aren’t cute as hell! I made the brownie base last night, and started to mold some of the sandwiches, but the ice cream was still too soft after an hour in the freezer and i ended up making a huge mess and having ice cream all in between my fingers. I suppose there are worse ways to spend an evening than licking ice cream off your hands.

The recipe i used for this batch is here, and in retrospect, that seems like far too much cream. I ought to have cut down on that and also not made as much strawberry purée. You live and learn. i also used far less sugar than called for.

Once when i was a kid i watched my grandmother microwave her bowl of ice cream for a minute until it had melted somewhat but still had some cold chunks in it. I wondered why she did this and asked her about it. back in the 1950s, my mom’s oldest sister was married to an American GI who was stationed in Paris. My grandmother told me that she would take the bus to the PX and buy chocolate chip ice cream, which was unheard of in France at the time, and haul it back to my aunt’s apartment. By the time she got it home, it would have melted down somewhat, and she got used to eating it this way.

I miss my grandmother, and i wonder if subconsciously i prefer my ice cream to be soft because it reminds me of her.

Who knows. At any rate, here is my favorite ice cream recipe that i’ve used for the last couple of years and had the most success with. I believe this is from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer and is the basis for her Raspberry Ripple ice cream. I use this base for basic vanilla, and for Chocolate Ripple (use Hershey’s syrup for the ripple part). This is the goods, people. I'm going by memory here, so it may not be exactly like the recipe in the book, so bear with me.

2 ½ cups half & half (Nigella says to use light cream but i can rarely find that in my store)
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla (you could use a ¼ of a vanilla pod if you prefer)

Bring cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. in a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar. add some of the cream to the eggs a little at a time to get the egg yolks used to the heat, then pour the eggs into the saucepan. bring back to a simmer and keep an eye on this, while stirring, until the mixture thickens (this could take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how much heat you have going on).

Nigella suggests keeping a sink full of ice water just in case the mixture splits. if this should happen to you (and it did happen to me the first time i ever made ice cream), if it looks like your creme and egg combo is going to split, dunk the bottom of the saucepan in the ice water, making sure not to get water into the pan, and whisk like crazy. chances are you will end up saving the batch, but only if you keep whisking like it's your job and like nothing else matters in the world.

once mixture is thick enough, add the vanilla and remove from stove. let cool at room temperature (or over an ice bath, but again i'd stir every once in a while, because it could still split on you) and then put into the fridge for a few hours or overnight. your base really has to be refrigerator cold before putting into the ice cream maker or else it will not freeze. trust me, i know. i willed a batch of chocolate ice cream to freeze once, and all i got was a batch of gloopy thin chocolate mess, which i sadly fed to the garbage disposal.


UPDATE: i am having a total blonde moment these last couple of days. I don't own a Krups ice cream maker; the one i have is by Cuisinart. i don't know why i keep thinking it's a Krups. heh.


above picture "borrowed" from the Williams-Sonoma website.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

on custards


I started to make strawberry ice cream last night. Tonight i need to put it in the ice cream maker and let it do its thing. But i’m not holding my breath that it will turn out. Why?

I love making ice cream, and i’d like to think i’m pretty good at it. in all honesty, making ice cream is not all that hard. The only hard part is making sure that the custard doesn't split on you while you’re at the stove.

But yesterday, the custard would not get custardy. It just wouldn't thicken the way it’s supposed to. I brought it to a point, after a super long time standing at the stove, where i knew it just wouldn’t thicken up anymore, so i pulled it off the stove and mixed in the strawberry puree. All that is now in the fridge waiting for me to chuck it into the Krups.

I’m actually kind of annoyed because i spent all my free time yesterday scouring the web and again at home looking through cookbooks for a certain strawberry ice cream recipe that i swear i saw someplace last week. It had all the usual components of heavy cream (or half & half) and egg yolks, but in addition to the bunches of strawberries, it had 2 tablespoons of crème de cassis. I know i can’t possibly have dreamed that up. I saw it someplace, but where? I checked all the food magazines in the house, the ones stacked up haphazardly in the downstairs bathroom too; i checked the web like mad. And nothing came up. i just wanted to re-read the recipe and see how different it was (if any) from the one i used yesterday. I’m sure i could have just chucked in the cassis with the strawberry puree, but seeing as i’m not 100% sure this batch will turn out, i didn’t want to waste any cassis. I only have about a ¼ cup’s worth of the cassis that Mothra brought me back from Bourgogne, and i’m trying to save it for something good.

My take on ice cream is this: i don’t eat it very often, so when i do it has to be the Real Deal: full fat, egg yolks, sugar. Ice cream is a treat, and i want to ensure i get the best quality if i’m only going to eat it once in a blue moon. Actually, i feel this way about all desserts.

When i was very small, my dad would take us three kids to the Thrifty Drugstore in San Rafael, CA because they had cheap ice cream that came in all the favorite kiddie flavors. I don’t even know if Thrifty is still around, but they used this weirdly shaped ice cream scoop that dolled out cylindrical disk scoops. You could get up to three of those disks on your cone, but i think the most i ever got was two. I always got Rocky Road and strawberry. And it always melted faster than i ate it. i would sit there on the curb outside next to my brother (he was a 3-scooper) and we would try to beat the melting by eating as fast as we could, but always ended up with ice cream all over the pavement.

If this strawberry ice cream recipe works out, i’ll post it tomorrow. I won’t bother with posting a recipe that doesn’t work.

But – because i’m not evil and i won’t leave you hanging - i’ll post instead my recipe for crème brulée, the recipe i’ve been using for years which has never ever failed me. The ingredients list and basic technique are ridiculously similar to ice cream making.

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract (or if you want, 1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds extracted with the tip of your knife)
5 egg yolks
sugar (for dusting on top of finished product)


Preheat oven to 325°F and put four ramekins (i use these, although i think mine might be a little bigger) in a larger baking pan, like the size of a lasagna pan.

In a large saucepan, mix the cream, sugar and vanilla. Bring mixture to a simmer, while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once it gets to a simmer, cover the pan, reduce heat to low, and leave it alone for 10 minutes. Strain into a bowl.

Whisk the yolks in another bowl until well blended. Gradually whisk in the hot cream mixture. Return mixture to first bowl and fill the ramekins. Put the larger pan into the oven and then add enough hot water to come up about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. It’s much easier to add the water to the pan once it’s in the oven, but be careful not to splash any water into the ramekins.

Bake until the crème brulées are almost set in the center when gently shaken, about 25 to 30 minutes (this is really dependent on what kind of oven you have – it could go longer. Just keep checking). Remove ramekins from the water and let sit on the counter until you can actually hold them without burning yourself, then put them in the refrigerator to chill completely; overnight is best.

Right before you’re ready to serve, sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of sugar on top of each custard and either use your fancy blowtorch to scorch the top or put them under the broiler. If you’re going the broiler route, keep an eye on them – DO NOT WALK AWAY! This is not the time to go potty or start chatting away on the phone. The broiler can do some serious damage to your custards, so keep an eye on them and rotate them so that they will brown evenly on the top.


Once the sugar on top is caramelized, these won’t keep for long (the caramel will eventually become moist and rather gross). Without the caramel on top, the custards will keep for a few days in the fridge, but i wouldn’t keep them for more than 3 days as they could develop some funky ass flavors from having sat next to your jar of pickles or tub of garlic spread. Trust me on this, i speak from experience.

If you want to make a big tub of this rather than individual ramekins, lets say for a crowd at Thanksgiving, double the recipe and instead of dividing it up, pour it into a Pyrex or Corningware-type container (which fits into your lasagna pan), and follow the directions about filling the pan with water, yadda yadda; but cook it at least 15 to 20 minutes longer (it might even take longer than that).

One of my favorite sounds in the world is the sound the spoon makes when cracking into the top of the custard.

Go. Eat. Be happy.

above image of strawberries from stock.xchng

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

on quiche


They say that real men don’t eat quiche.

I say, Bullshit.

After all, what the heck is frittata? Quiche with no crust! And there is nothing better than frittata, especially on Leftovers Night when you’re digging in the fridge trying to find something interesting to eat, realize that you have half a dozen eggs, plenty of veg about to rot, some lunchmeat, and a heel of cheese. Seriously, ask my boy what we ate when we got back from the Atlanta Motor Speedway last October.

Uh... did i just admit that i’ve been to a NASCAR function?

ANYHOO.

For some inexplicable reason, i’ve lately been hankering for some quiche. I especially like my mom’s Tarte à l’oignon, which is basically an onion pie; but seeing as i will more than likely eat said quiche at work, i won’t be making that one any time soon. I already have a hard enough time remembering to go brush my teeth after lunch as it is. The quiche recipe i most rely on is one i found about 6 years ago someplace online, and i can’t remember where, because i cut n pasted it into a Word document so there are no fancy headers or footers to tell me where it originated from.

And who are these real men anyway? I’ve got bacon going on in here, and cheese. You’ve got to be a nut not to eat this.

Special equipment: I use a removable bottom fluted pie pan. Removable bottoms make life easy.

Crust: either make your own or buy one ready to go. Either way, once you’ve got the crust in the pie pan, poke holes with a fork all over and put the whole thing in the freezer while your oven gets up to temperature.

I’m not going to pretend that i made this crust myself, although i had every intention of doing so. I normally use Julia Child’s dough recipe from that lovely little slender book, Kitchen Wisdom, which i think every good home cook should have. No, instead i went The Lazy Route and picked up a refrigerated Pillsbury crust, so all i had to do was roll it out into my pie pan. In my defense, i was running low on time yesterday; I got home late due to unbelievable traffic issues all over Atlanta, and had to swing by the store on the way home. I then proceeded to spend the next few hours in the kitchen making things, like my lunch for today (sesame encrusted tuna, which i marinated first then seared off briefly; and rice) and started yogurt so that it could slowly yogurtize over night. These things take time. Making crust is not daunting for me anymore, but it still takes effort and i was low on that last night. In times of need, Pillsbury will do.

Also, if you think I make my own puff pastry myself, you are on copious amounts of crack. The stuff in the freezer section of your grocery store is fantastic.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake crust for 15 to 20 mn and remove to a rack to cool while you assemble the filling. About this time, reduce oven temperature to 375 F; but sometimes I forget to do so, and it’s not the end of the world.

For the filling:
6 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (you can use lardons; or if you use thick-cut bacon like i do, reduce amount to 4 slices)
1/2 cup chopped shallots
about 3 or 4 big handfuls of fresh spinach*
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup shredded Swiss or Gruyère cheese (if you can afford Gruyère, go right on ahead and use it. I already had a block of Swiss in my fridge so that’s what i used)


Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain. Add shallots to same skillet and sauté until tender. Add spinach and sauté until just wilted, and then promptly remove from heat. Add balsamic vinegar; toss to combine.

Spread the spinach mixture over the crust first, then sprinkle the bacon on top. Whisk the cream, eggs, salt and pepper in large bowl to blend. Stir in cheese. Pour mixture into crust.

Bake quiche until filling is puffed and golden, about 35 minutes.


Mine looked a little plain, so before it went into the oven, i spread some spinach leaves around the top and sprinkled on some parmesan cheese.


* The original recipe calls for arugula, but i’m kind of over arugula. When spinach was pulled off the market last year due to all the e coli issues, i ate the hell out of some arugula instead, and now i think we need to take a break from each other.

what's next, mad goldfish?

Foie gras may transmit mad goose disease

MAD GEESE??!?

no way! say it ain't so!

but on second thought, if someone injected me with liver, i'd probably go nuts too.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Brine, or the Magic of the Dead Sea right here in your kitchen!


I am a huge fan of moisturizer. I have been as long as i can remember. I slather the stuff on from head to toe. This is one of the things that Mothra etched into my skull at a young age (that and drinking so much water a day that i’m surprised i haven't floated away yet). You’ve got one skin, take care of it. so i do; religiously. I’m fighting age as fiercely as i can without doing ridiculous things like going under the knife or laser or (and this one scares the crap out of me) willingly injecting poison into my head . You have got to be totally deranged to do that.

So there’s this big market out there for Dead Sea products, moisturizers made with water from the Dead Sea, which may or may not be all they claim to be. I don’t think i’ll venture to find out, although if you are currently using them and they really are the source of the Fountain of Youth, please don’t hesitate to tell me so.

So what does the Dead Sea have to do with food, you ask? EVERYTHING! And here’s the point where i segue into the magic of brining.


I’m not going to give you a dissertation on brining, because I’m not all that technical (and frankly, i haven't had near enough coffee yet). Things like feta cheese and olives are jarred in brine because they keep longer. Way back when in the days before refrigeration, people would preserve meat by covering them in salt (or mustard). I’m not going to go to that extreme, and besides, we’ve got a fancy new fridge to preserve our food. Shirley Corriher talks about brining whole chicken in Cookwise , and how a roast chicken that has previously been brined far beats out other non-brined roast chicken in flavor. The only poultry we’ve brined has been the yearly Thanksgiving turkey and chicken destined to be fried (good ol’ Southern fried chicken, first brined, then soaked in buttermilk; there is nothing better). One day I will take Ms. Corriher’s advice and brine me up a whole chicken. But until then, we faithfully brine all our pork products.

Why?

Something to do with the alchemy of using gobs of Kosher salt in water and then soaking your meat product (heh) brings out more flavor, keeps the meat moist, and salts it ever so gently. It makes pork products not dry. Remember those super-dry-as-a-bone pork chops your mom used to make you when you were a kid? Start brining and you will never have a dry pork chop ever again. I guar-Ohn-TEE.



The brine I use is basically water, gobs of Kosher salt, a few peppercorns, some brown sugar. I suppose you could put other stuff in, but this is a good basis. To be honest, I don’t measure. What you need to do is to dissolve the sugar and salt first, so i’d start this on the stove. For a gallon of water, i’d do a half to two thirds a cup of Kosher salt, along with the same amount of sugar. Once this is dissolved, turn off the heat. You can’t put your product into this right now, because the water is hot and then you’d end up just boiling it and that wouldn’t be tasty now would it? it has to come back to room temperature. If you’re in a big fat hurry, you can mix this with cold ice water and then toss in your product. Put this in a good sealable Lock & Lock or tupperware and refrigerate for a while. For pork chops, i’ve normally done up to 3 hours, but even as little as 45 minutes or an hour makes a world of difference. Then (and this is crucial) remove the meat from the brine and rinse it off thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels. Then cook, however you want to.

One way we’ve done it this past week is grilled pork tenderloin with an asiany sauce (1 part soy, 3 parts honey, ¼ part chili-garlic sauce or Sriracha), and pork chops with a cherry barbecue sauce..



mm. pig.

I urge you to start brining. You will not be disappointed. I also urge you to use moisturizer, eye cream, body lotion, and to drink at least 2 liters of water a day.

Oh whatever. Don’t give me that look.

PS: i don't have the recipe for the cherry barbecue sauce with me; so if i remember to, i'll type it up later when i get home and post it right here on the good ol' innernets.

UPDATE: behold the power of the innernets. cherry barbecue sauce can be found here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

a quick thought on Top Chef before i run to my next meeting

am i the only one who thinks it was just a wee bit creepy that the opening scene for top chef was filmed at gianni versace's mansion in miami beach? that they showed the stairs where he died?

i know the place is super extravagant and stuff, and i've no doubt that whoever currently owns it probably rents it out for weddings and office offsites (heh - i can't imagine my Big Ass Corporation spending money like that, but i'm sure someone's workplace does), but man. that creeps me out.

that's about as creepy as, oh, the idea of someone renting out the mansion where sharon tate was killed and recording their whole album there. oh NEVERMIND, someone already did that.

ghosts freak me out.

on a more food-related note, there's an awful lot of good talent on the new Top Chef. and an awful lot of Big Ego. i'm going to have to re-watch that first episode again, because Mrs B was over and we were chatting up a storm.

on feeling silly

i'm about to go into a meeting. and i'm feeling particularly silly. i usually get a case of the afternoon sillies, but that coupled with lightheadedness the last two days, well. i'd run around and bop people on the head with my tony stewart pez dispenser (don't ask why i have that) or pinch people's asses if i could, but i wont because that would land me straight into a pissed off HR rep's office.

so i thought i'd share this.



thanks to the boy for finding this for me. i can only assume that it's from fark.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

the magic of the sleepy South


Saturday was one of those lazy days, the kind where you start to drink early on in the day. That’s one of the things which always reminded me of living in the South. I know people up North drink during the day, but in the South it almost seems more acceptable, a way of life. I remember reading Truman Capote books as a kid and his descriptions of New Orleans’ Garden District, and it evoked images of women getting sloshed in their backyards while wearing big floppy hats against a backdrop of overgrown lush greenery.

Well, at least that’s how i always thought of the South. That coupled with the trip I made to New Orleans with my dad in the August heat of 1999. it was so damn hot that we had no choice but to cool off with drink. That was one of the best trips i ever took with my Dad. He loves New Orleans, and used to go there several times a year.

This image (of Southern women getting bombed mid-afternoon) was solidified when i moved to Savannah. It’s hard to describe how life in the South is to people who’ve never been (and I don’t mean life in the thrivin’ metropolis of Atlanta either, because it’s just a bustling big city like other big cities). I remember my first week in Savannah and suddenly having a complete understanding of all those descriptions i’d read of the South. Life is much slower here, and i don’t mean slow as in brain-dead. It’s maybe that people here understand not to take life too seriously. Or maybe it’s because they do take life seriously and their seriousness means that one ought to slow everything down and enjoy and embrace it. The pace, people walking down the street, no one in a hurry. That was what life was like in Savannah, before it got hit with the ridiculousness of that damn movie being filmed there. I always liked Clint Eastwood, until he came to Savannah and would block off squares and streets and make me run late for class. A couple of times we’d just get on our bicycles and speed through whatever lot they were filming just because there was no other way around. Get yelled at. Give them the finger. Peddle to class. You know. Funtimes.



So anyway, yeah. This past Saturday is when i started to really notice how hot it’s getting down here.

The boy was working; J was visiting; and Mr. and Mrs. B invited us over for dinner. J and i strolled over there around 5 or 6 pm. I’m not quite sure what time exactly, but that’s the whole point about sleepy Southern-ness that i love. We eventually ambled over, with J holding his bottle of Seagrams VO tightly around the neck.



There was a bustle of activity coming out of Mrs B’s kitchen, so i helped out (or got in the way, or got giggly and took pictures, whichever way you want to see it). Mr and Mrs B were inspired by our last two cookouts, and on the menu was the Rum Glazed Shrimp, barbecued chicken (with a barbecue sauce that Mrs B concocted as she went along – turned out to be most excellent), warm potato salad with bacon, coleslaw. Mrs B, i hope you wrote down what you put in your barbecue sauce recipe. I forget things if i don't write them down; and then the next time i try to make it i have no previous notes. All of my cookbooks have notes jotted down in the margins – what works, what doesn't work, what i omitted or added to a certain recipe. I got that from my mom.



We ended dinner with Bananas Foster and some of the salted butter caramel ice cream i made last weekend (recipe snagged from Dave Lebovitz’ website), and it was insanely good. The ice cream alone is good, but is better when coupled with something else (in my pea brained opinion).

Bananas Foster (honestly, you don’t need a recipe for this. Use this as a guideline and vary it to your taste. It’s that simple).



Couple of bananas that are on the verge of being dumped in the trash
Couple of tablespoons of brown sugar
Couple of tablespoons of butter
Dash of cinnamon
Nice slug of rum. I prefer a dark or spiced rum, but any will do just fine.

Put brown sugar and butter in a sauté pan on medium-highish and let the sugar melt. Keep stirring and stirring until it’s all nice and melted together and happy. You’ll know what i’m talking about when you get to this stage.

Add dash of cinnamon.

Add cut up bananas. You can half them or cut them up into little pieces. It doesn’t matter.

Remove pan from the heat (this part is important or you run the risk of causing a massive rum explosion in your kitchen and you don’t want that, trust me) and add the rum. Put pan back on the heat. See if you can catch some of the rum ablaze, but that’s not necessary as it will burn off anyway.

Plate up. Add ice cream if you want to.


The boy makes me this when i’m angry with him. I’m immediately not angry with him anymore. This shit is just that damn good.

Not that i’m ever angry with him. :)

a nice dinner to end an equally nice day.

love letters

the boy's switch to night shift at his restaurant has prompted many kind notes from the day shift folks similar in style and taste to the one below:



anyway. thought i'd share.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

more thoughts on bad television

Okay so last night I finally got around to watching the first episode of The Next Food Network Star that we had on DVR (i haven’t yet watched the second, so don’t tell me the outcome if you happen to know it). And because i can’t remember a thing, i had to look up the title to ensure i wrote it down correctly.

So it appears that most of the contestants actually can cook. See, when i’m wrong I say so. I was wrong to assume that they couldn't cook, lumping them in with the majority of the contestants on Hell’s Kitchen. It appears that these folks have handy knife skills after all.

However, what i found most disturbing is exactly how much makeup some of the contestants (and judges) were wearing. And I’m not just talking about the women. Bobby Flay, this means you. Seriously, dude, wipe some of that rouge off. You look like a French tart! HA!! WOOO!

Then there’s another contestant, I believe his name is Thomas, who rivaled good ol’ Booby in the makeup department. His eyebrows were so perfectly waxed and painted in, and his face was so overly powdered that he glowed like the moon, all round and pale. It is quite disturbing to watch his big moon face bob around on the tv screen.

Then there’s the chick who unbuttons her chef coat in such a way to make it look like a suit jacket (that’s just wrong), and her boobs are practically hanging out of her coat. Okay, okay, i exaggerate a bit, but they might as well call her the Princess of Cleaves. She’s totally working the boobelage angle, and if that’s her “thing”, what makes her stand out from the others, i guess it’s working so far in her favor. Not so sure about her food though. She needs to take off most if not all of her big bulky jewelry. Who ever heard of a chef wearing gobs of jewelry? In fact in the kitchens where the boy has worked, the most you’re allowed is a wedding ring and maybe a watch (depending on the Exec).

And my biggest pet peeve of all? Women who don’t pull their hair back when they cook. I love me some Nigella Lawson, but I find myself screaming at the tv when her show is on because her hair is all over the place, in the food, in her mouth, etc. and it drives me UP THE WALL. I’m thinking the Food Network stylists have these contestants keep their hair down, but for OCD people like me it’s almost making me want to change the channel. Almost.

And now, on to Hell’s Kitchen. WHY oh WHY is the big dorky asian cowboy allowed to stay? They’re keeping him around for “show” or whatever. The man can’t debone a fish, for crying out loud; and he “doesn’t feel well” so he naps and rests while the others cook. Yet he is still there. I’d previously mentioned that i’m suspicious he’s a paid actor who will never be kicked off until near the end. If Ramsay keeps this shit up, i might have to stop watching for a while.

Ah, who am i kidding. I’ll still watch the crap.

AND JUST A QUICK NOTE:
The new season of Top Chef starts tomorrow night. seeing as i'm studying the inside of my eyelids that late in the evening, i won't watch it until later on Thursday (it comes on at 10 pm, and there is no way in hell that i can watch that then attempt to fall asleep, because This Girl needs her sleep). i love Top Chef as much as everyone else, so come Thursday morning, puleez don't tell me what happens or i will get stabby on you. Seriously. Thank you for your consideration. now back to my coffee... is everyone having as hard a time waking up today as i am? for the life of me, i can't keep my eyes open. someone come over here and kick my hiney. i'm on peachtree street near colony square.... 5th floor...

Friday, June 8, 2007

on bad television

So i think it’s safe to say that the boy and i watch our fair share of bad tv.

When we were at the cabin a couple of weeks ago, there was not a whole lot on TV, since the channels were broadcast from the butt end of Tennessee with really oddball local commercials. We ended up watching some ridiculous show called So You Think You Can Dance? (seriously bad, bad show) and laughed our asses off (laughter was fueled by boxed wine, Miller Lite, and Seagrams VO). The show immediately after that, name of which i completely forget because it’s just that damn memorable, is a “reality” show about people who want to direct or produce or whatever. Since i don’t know the name of it, and frankly, don’t care, i call it So You Think You Can Direct?.

It is so terrible. So very very terrible.

Last Thursday night, fueled by some wine, we discovered that there’s a “reality” show about people wanting to be pirates. When the boy told me of this concept, i said, “What’s the name of that show – So You Think You Can ARGHH?”. And because i’m such a dumbass, i fell off the couch laughing.

I crack myself up. I am just that silly.

Now we are getting the summer onslaught of “reality” (i use this term lightly) cooking shows, like Hell’s Kitchen, which i’ve always loved because there is nothing better than a red faced Ramsey screaming out “WHY ARE YOU PUTTING FISH STOCK IN THE FUCKING RISOTTO??”. But this time around, first episode, i almost felt sorry for Gordon Ramsey. They sure did pick a bunch of fucking pansies this time around. One dude openly bawled before dinner service even started. Mrs. B thinks that he’s a paid actor, and i am beginning to think the same. Most of the contestants are such douchebags and can’t cook a damn thing. The only one i have a real respect for is the chick who is a Waffle House cook. I am rooting for her all the way – and i’m totally not kidding about this. I know she probably won’t win in the end, but don’t ever disrespect a short order cook. Ever.

Since the boy is working tonight and i’ll be home alone hemming some of his chef pants, he told me that i need to watch the Food Network’s Next Cooking Show Star show (whatever the hell it's called) that we have on the DVR (he likes to keep the DVR free and clear for god knows what). I’ve aptly named that show, So You Think You Can Cook?

Because frankly, can they?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

mahi mahi and dog poo. yes, they're related (sort of).

we've been dealing with dog poop and dog health issues all week, which is why i've been slacking in the blog department. my heart just isn't in it this week. Mrs P is not feeling so good (got the poops) and is currently on a liquid diet, suggested by the friendly folks at the red bandanna. not to go all crunchy hippie on everyone, because one thing i'm not is a crunchy hippie, but i'd rather do the all natural homeopathic way of things with my dog unless, of course, it's life threatening. so Mrs P has been ingesting a lot of this:

pretend you're making soup stock: add one whole chicken, leeks, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, turnips to a pot, add water, bring to a boil, strain. let dog lap up as much of the soup she wants with a few of the smooshy vegetables. they say chicken soup can cure anything, and i certainly hope it helps, because my dog is miserable and we could use some real sleep.

i haven't been sleeping well (or much), and the boy's been working nights, so that leaves me a lot of free time in the evenings to do... a whole bunch of nothing. but i have actually eaten a lot of fish in this whole lotta nothing time. night before last, i made my lunch for yesterday.

mahi mahi with pineapple salsa, green rice, black beans. since it's just for me, i made a fraction of the recipe, but still ended up with boatloads of beans and rice. i used bobby flay's chimichurri recipe (which i wrote about here) instead of sara moulton's because i'm used to making bobby's; although i only use 1 cup of the mint instead of the 2 suggested because damn, that's far too minty for my taste. so i had that for lunch yesterday, and it was good. no pictures to show. wasn't really in the mood; sorry.

since i have gobs of beans and rice left, i decided to make macadamia encrusted mahi, but as i didn't have macadamias onhand, i use pistachios; and this is what i'll be eating for lunch today.

i noticed that whenever i bring fish for lunch, there tends to be a film of sorts that forms on the bottom of the fish, something that is not particularly appealing to me. i remedied this by lining the bottom of my tupperware container with lemon or lime slices and using that as the bed for the fish for transport. no more weird film, and i just throw out the slices afterwards.


anyhoo - back to my regularly scheduled program of working my ass off to make up for taking the day off yesterday. i hope i'll be more full of life next week.

Monday, June 4, 2007

about how my sense of humor really stinks. yes, i'm 12.


I completely forgot to take pictures of Saturday night’s dinner in making. Fueled by wine and a couple of chocolate martinis, Mrs. B and I instead thought that it would be funny to take a picture of the debris.

Heh. Yeah. Funny. Everything is funny after a few shots of vodka, godiva liqueur and Hershey's chocolate syrup.

On the menu:

Smoked spice-rubbed turkey breast;
Cajun spice-rubbed Beer Butt Chicken with coca cola barbecue sauce;
Cole slaw;
Baked beans (something similar to this Martha Stewart recipe, kind of using whatever we have on hand)


Fed six happy people. This is definitely a menu that we will recreate again this summer, sooner rather than later. I’m not really sure what kind of spice rub the boy used on the turkey breasts (we cooked two – ate one that night and have been snacking on the other since), but he did smoke up some hickory chips in Fred and put them to one side. The other side of the grill had the beer butt chicken. What’s the technical term for that? Beer Can Chicken? Chicken With a Beer Can Up Its Butt? Ha. Who knows. This is the second time we've made this in one week (the picture shown is from the last time).


and because it's monday morning, and i've been awake since 2 dealing with dog poopy issues and i'm now at work and have 5 meetings plus endless reports to run, i leave you with this gem. this amuses me to no end. i know, i know. i'm juvenile. what can i say. just look at that orifice! heh.

Friday, June 1, 2007

list

dear boy,

this is what i want for my birthday.

1. A camera tripod (like the Gorillapod from JOBY); doesnt have to be that one.
2. The new nine inch nails cd
3. Perfect Scoop

That's it.

Love,
Me