11/24/2015

Purple Cauliflower Pickles

I believe I have mentioned Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio a number of times with regard to pickle making. Generally speaking,  it is quite a useful little cooking manual for some very basic preparations, just one of which is an extremely easy method for naturally fermented pickles. I keep trying various vegetables, of which the celery root was not successful.  Don't bother pickling that one.  However, I thought these purple cauliflower pickles deserving of their very own post.

Sometimes a vegetable will just call to me from the bins at our market.  Broccoli Romanesco was like that.  So beautiful and unusual, a natural approximation of a fractal.  The purple cauliflower stopped me in my tracks as well.


I decided to pickle the boy, combined with some wedges of daikon (large Japanese type of white radish).  In common with beets, this cauliflower will eventually turn the whole batch a brilliant burgundy color.  The good news is, that's not a dye of any sort. Purple cauliflower gets its beautiful hue, which can vary in depth, from the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.  It has the same texture, and firmness as the white variety, with a mild, slightly sweet and nutty taste.

Here it is starting out, with the air-lock on the kitchen counter.


11/06/2015

Book Review - The Hundred-Foot Journey, by Richard C. Morais


Our current (October-November) Cook the Books Club selection, The Hundred-Foot Journey, a novel by Richard C. Morais, was titled for the very short distance between two eating establishments in his story, French and Indian, though the journey between cultures is much longer.

An Indian family flee their home and restaurant in Mumbai, after the mother's tragic death in a riot, though not without first selling their property and making that escape with some solid cash.  After a brief unhappy stay in England, they move again, this time (after some driving around Europe, looking for a future home, in three second-hand Mercedes), they finally settle in the little French mountain village of Lumière.

There, right across the street from a well-known (to epicures) classic French Inn and Restaurant, run by a snooty, unhappy woman, though an excellent chef, Papa decides to open a colorful, noisy, family style Indian Restaurant, Maison Mumbai  You can just imagine the fire-works.  Literally in the case of the troop from India, with classic Hindustani music blaring out over speakers in the garden.  Their new neighbor is not thrilled, to say the least.

10/01/2015

The Great Moringa, Miracle Tree, Project and Spicy Lentils


 Here is my moringa tree patch, right after a good pruning

My long awaited post.  The Moringa tree, also known as Drumstick tree, or the Miracle Tree, is said to have the ability to cure over 300 diseases.  Just quoting research here.  From a food point of view, Moringa leaves can be used like spinach, though they are far more nutritious. Sorry Popeye.  And I love the nutty, legume scent of the leaves when picked fresh.

The leaves can be used fresh or dried into a powder, are an excellent source of vitamin A and C, a good source of B vitamins, and among the best plant sources of minerals. The calcium content is very high, iron is good enough to treat anemia — three times that of spinach — and it’s an excellent source of protein while being low on fats and carbohydrates. Said another way, Moringa leaves have seven times the Vitamin C of oranges, four times the calcium of milk, four times the vitamin A of carrots, three times the potassium of bananas, and two times the protein of yogurt.

 That’s quite a line up. The leaves also have the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine. Medically it is antibiotic and research shows it can be used to treat high blood pressure. A leaf tea is used by diabetics to help regulate their blood sugar. It is full of antioxidants, is anti-cancerous, and when eaten by mothers they give birth to healthier, heavier babies.  A 28 December 2007 study said a root extract is very anti inflammatory.

9/28/2015

Creamy Chicken and Grits



Just finished an intriguing novel by Margaret Maron, The Buzzard Table, a mystery set in the South, with lots of tantalizing food references, little known facts about vultures/buzzards, and the equally tantalizing murder puzzle for our heroines to solve. Deborah Knott and Sigrid Harald (visiting her grandmother), are here together (usually each stars in her own mystery series). A mysterious ornithologist is also staying at Mrs. Lattimore's Victorian home, doing research on Southern vultures, when murder strikes.

At one point Deborah is putting together a meal of Shrimp and Grits, which sounded extremely good.  And easy. So, we (in the Royal sense) started off with the idea of doing that well known recipe, slightly modified.  A dish which apparently originated in the low country of South Carolina, and has been a best seller and signature selection at Crook's Corner, especially since an article written for the NY Times by chef Craig Claiborne,  following his visit to the restaurant in 1985, and now a popular item in upscale restaurants around the country.

Modified because when I do anything with shrimp, there is the deal with Bob, who doesn't care for them or shellfish in general.  He might eat one, leaving me the rest, and given I am cooking for two, shrimp are usually reserved for eating OUT.  All of which brought me to left-over chicken, cut into pieces roughly shrimp size :)  What the hey?  Pharaoh's Chicken.

9/17/2015

Pork Mofongo, Yes, Chef!

What a terrific choice was Yes, Chef, a Memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson, our current read for Cook the Books Club.  His journey is a fascinating one, beginning with a small boy, carried 75 miles from his village in Ethiopia to the capitol city of Addis Ababa, on his mother's back, as she and his sister walked the whole way.  All three of them with TB!  They make it to the hospital there, where his mother dies.  He goes from that world to adoption by a Swedish couple, and growing up in Sweden.

His journey continued, through a happy, protected childhood to a life fraught with set backs, difficulties, and challenges in pursuing his career of choice, all while maintaining an early enthusiasm for cooking, inspired by his grandmother, Helga.

Marcus then takes us from early cooking school experiences to his various apprenticeships and stints in some of the top restaurants of Europe, all the while "chasing flavors" with a driving ambition to get to the top of his field.  Which he does, and then some!

His ambition included a desire to be creative and original, finding unexplored, exotic flavors from one end of the globe to the other, and using them in new ways.  All of which found an answering cord in my own life. I love finding, growing and using new herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables.  There was so much in the way of inspiration here.  Hard to know where to begin as far as one preparation for our club.

However, when he mentioned Camarones de Mofongo in a discussion of Puerto Rican foods, it hit me.  I had a large cooking banana, or plantain waiting for use, and some pork for braising, which could be subbed for the shrimp.  Actually a traditional Mofongo alternative.  Perfect.  I liked that the  pieces of pork nestle here in a delicious tomatoey broth with a little savory cake of plantain.

9/08/2015

Under the Wide and Starry Sky, Fa'alifu Ulu (Breadfruit)


I've just finished Nancy Horan's wonderful novel, Under the Wide and Starry Sky, a fictionalized biography of Robert Lewis Stevenson and his wife Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne.  Their passionate love story with lots of adventure and travel.  In fact, Stevenson's and Fannys' lives beat anything fictional the well-known author ever came up with.

The book, inspired by actual events in the lives of both protagonists, is beautifully drawn from extant letters, journals and diaries by two prolific writers, as well as from the letters of their families and friends.  So, an excellent example of historical fiction.

Stevenson was plagued with illness for most all of his life, and the search for a place that would be most beneficial for both his writing and fragile health took them from one end of the earth to another, finally landing and settling in Samoa, where together they spent the remainder of his life.

Which brings me to the inspiration for my breadfruit recipe.  Here in Hawaii, as well as in Samoa and the rest of the Pacific islands it is known as ulu.  Easier on the mind, and tongue.  Anyway, Fanny at one point was bemoaning the amount of breadfruit in their diet.  Understandable if that is pretty much what you're limited to in the way of starch.   But I say if people don't like ulu they probably have not tried it at the right stage of ripeness, or with a good recipe.  Though, I also enjoy it just plain boiled and sliced with a bit of butter.   Something like saying you don't like potatoes??

9/01/2015

Afghan Lamb Meatballs with Garlic and Mint



Really, it is the sauce that makes these tasty little meatballs extra special.  The contrast of a yogurt or kefir based, creamy sauce with added lemon, garlic and mint, just sets off the savory lamb so well.  The same sauce can be used for a salad of sliced cucumbers with extra mint  too.

I bought the book, The Silk Road Gourmet, by Laura Kelley, quite awhile ago, and as these things happen, only made two things from her book, both excellent - one recipe, was a Pomegranate- Cardamom Lamb Roast, and another, Meatballs with Lemon Sauce, though I did make that one several times, due to its excellence.  This is a re-visitation, and there is so much more in that book  needing to be cooked up.  Wonderful recipes from her travels following the ancient "Silk Road" through Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, noting the connections and links between the different cuisines and cultures.

7/30/2015

Pineapple Honey Pavlova with Fresh Mint and Dark Chocolate

Our Cook the Books Club read for June/July was The Wedding Bees, by Sarah Kate Lynch, an inspiring, charming romance and beekeeping mini-primer.  All about an escaped Southern Belle, who together with her queen bee and small colony of worker bees, take to a rooftop apartment in New York City, retaining from her background ample training in good manners, which are combined in Sugar's case with a large dose of kindness.

Sugar Wallace reaches out to all her needy, dysfunctional and semi-dysfunctional neighbors with that winning combination.  And what a terrific, mixed cast of  characters it is. From the shy, retiring cook in the apartment adjoining Sugar's, a sad, anorexic teen downstairs, and angry, terminally grumpy old landlords.  She even comes to see her own need for love in the end and does a healthy turn-around on some issues from her past.

7/14/2015

Ranting with Iced Coffee


What we have here is a lovely bit of fluff, perfect for poolside or beach.  On What Grounds, by Cleo Coyle, is a cozy mystery revolving around and in a New York coffee house.  Up until page 105 anyway, where drinks orders are being taken in the coffee house.  We came to a shrieking halt right there.  And, I quote:
"Double tall cap, get the lead out!"
Sixteen-ounce cappuccino with decaf.
Decaf.
A shudder ran through me as I glanced up and saw the wane, (Typo note: do you think she means wan?? Wane being a verb?) pale, overanxious face of the man ordering the decaf.
Okay, I'm sorry, but decaf drinkers annoy me.
Expectant mothers I can understand, but lifelong decaf drinkers give me the creeps.  They're usually the sort who have a half-dozen imagined allergies, eat macrobiotic patties, and pop Rolaids like M&Ms when their acid reflux kicks in from anxiety over the Chinese restaurant's delivering white instead of brown rice."

7/02/2015

Fresh Pineapple for Upside-down Cake



 When you are literally surrounded by ripening, falling over pineapples, just cannot wait, and succumb to the urge to pick one on which, after all, there was a streak of yellow on one side, a leaf came out (one of the signs) fairly easily, only to discover it is NOT QUITE ready.  Here is what can be done.  Pineapple upside-down cake.  This is not headline news.  Just an old standard, only not out of a can.  Better.  And, with a hint of tartness to offset all that sweet.




First, the cored, peeled, sliced  pieces must be cooked a bit, in a little butter.  Then set aside until you are ready for CAKE!!  And, some of us consider cake a breakfast food.  But I baked it in the early morning, mainly because it's so hot later in the day I knew it probably wouldn't get made otherwise.  This is Alice Waters' recipe, which is a bit unnecessarily complicated, in my humble opinion.  Whilst separating, some of the yolk of the 1st egg went into the white, and I said, what the hey, lets beat them all together with the other stuff.

6/25/2015

Hola!! Cuban Shredded Beef


It's just terrific when I'm reading along, minding my own (or actually the character's) business and they hit you with food that absolutely needs to be tried.  Now!  So, it was whilst reading one of my favorite authors' cozy mysteries, Death at the Door, by Carolyn Hart, that I came upon this: 
She opened the door and was greeted by a delectable scent.  She paused.  "Mmm, something smells wonderful."
"Flank steak simmering with onion and bay leaf, soon to be Cuban shredded beef seasoned with sauterne and Burgundy."  Max emptied the contents of a bowl into the skillet...
 You see what I mean.  That cries out to be made.  And, so I did.  Unfortunately, my husband has messed up sinuses, so never walks in and says "Mmm, something smells wonderful."  Sigh.  But, at least I get to savor it the whole time it's cooking.  In this case, four hours.

Annie, the heroine, and owner of a mystery book store, is often involved in helping to solve crimes on the island, off the South Carolina coast where she lives with her husband Max (also a good cook).  I love that they are happily married, besides being fully developed and interesting characters.  So many literary detectives and amateur crime solvers are riddled with angst, messed up and otherwise generally not fun to be around.

Anyway, off I went to procure the necessary ingredients, after searching Google for a righteous sounding recipe.  Which I adapted slightly.  You might think, 4 hours, oh boy, that's a lot of cooking.  But, the nice thing is, you can put it in a slow cooker or skillet on very low, early in the day, and forget about cooking dinner.  It's in the pot. 

6/15/2015

Texas Style Chipotle Chicken, Oven-fried


This recipe was inspired by a book I just finished, Susan Wittig Albert's, Cat's Claw, one of her Pecan Springs Mysteries, set in the Texas hill country.  Fun, not too nasty who-done-its.  The publisher's blurb on this states:
 As the first female police chief in Pecan Springs, Texas, Sheila Dawson has cracked many a mystery in collaboration with local sleuth China Bayles. Now Sheila puts her smarts to work, sifting through secrets to find a killer on the prowl…

Larry Kirk, Pecan Springs’ computer guru, has been shot dead in his kitchen. At first Sheila believes it to be suicide, but further investigation reveals that Kirk’s death wasn’t self-inflicted. And the truth is reinforced by her friend China Bayles’ news—Larry recently asked her for legal advice in regards to a stalker.

As a police chief in a male-dominated force, Sheila meets many challenges, especially when her theories rock the boat in high-profile cases like that of George Timms, who was caught breaking into Larry’s shop. Now that Larry is dead, Sheila is sure the burglary is connected to the murder. But when Timms disappears instead of turning himself in, Sheila must prove she’s got what it takes to hunt down a predator who’s loose on the streets of Pecan Springs…
I enjoyed Albert's recent approach to character voice, shifting between the various leads, which brings more depth and insight to the story.  She also includes her usual interesting segues into different local and cultivated herbs, as Cat's Claw, which give each book its title.

6/02/2015

Shaved Asparagus Meets Cast Iron Skillet Pizza


 Some of you may have noticed the Buzz Feed video being passed around on Facebook recently.  A rather speedy tutorial on quick pizza in a cast iron skillet.  Well, I wanted to try that.  Then the idea expanded.  One of you, likely on Beth Fish's Weekend cooking, recommended the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, and I got that from the library (to test out prior to buying, of course).  In it there is, among all the gorgeous food photography, a very tempting looking, shaved asparagus pizza.  You can see where this is going.  I did not care to use the packaged sauce and packaged pizza dough in the video.  I wanted to use some of my own bread dough with Deb's directions and  toppings.  It's a merger.

And that merger was spectacular!  I would buy shares for sure.  Baking bread about once a week or so, it is very easy to slightly increase the amounts, to have enough for some pizza.  I have done this in the past, however not nearly as successfully; was on the cusp of buying a pizza stone in fact.

My sponge would be started the night before, and in the morning the remaining flour added, the dough kneaded, and set to rise.

Going with Deb's "leisurely pizza dough" suggestion, I made the amount for a 10" pizza (the size of my skillet) (eyeballing here), put it in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap and set in the fridge to do a very slow rise for 8 hours. Less is okay.  Off to do other stuff.

5/22/2015

Jammin' Out Jambalaya

 Our latest Cook the Books Club pick has been (you all have til June 1st to join in) The Feast Nearby, by Robin Mather.  How she lost her job, buried a marriage, and still found her way, living on $40.00 a week, eating locally, keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, and bartering, in rural Michigan.

Still, all things considered, eating locally is one thing in Michigan and another on an island in the Pacific. Besides which, we each have our own priorities and my #1 priority is that whatever I put in my mouth would be healthful, without pesticides, preservatives, hormones, etc. etc., whether or not it was raised by a neighbor.  Although, when possible I do make an effort to buy locally....  Maybe not enough.

Short of shooting a wild  pig myself, gutting, breaking it down, hiking out of the woods with the meat on my back, then making the bacon, we wouldn't have any.  However, having said that and reconsidering things, I have decided to make more of an attempt to buy my chicken, duck, pork roasts, and sausage from a friend who actually does all that darn hunting stuff, as well as raising chickens, rabbits and ducks, and making sausage.  He's a very self-sufficient guy.  With a huge garden.  Quite inspiring.  As was this book.

I especially enjoyed the moments with Pippin, Robins's very clever parrot, having had no idea that some varieties of parrot were so intelligent.  He understands and answers her.  Amazing.  Overall, the book is geared to locales with freezing winters, getting the summer harvest into storage by canning, dehydrating or freezing.  We have a year-round growing season here in Hawaii, though preserving what we grow is still an excellent thing.  Using fruit that is abundant beyond what can be eaten out of hand, to prevent waste and save money.  Just think of all the wine I don't have to buy, because I grow the fruit and make it.


The book is divided into 4 overall sections, based upon the seasons, with recipes appropriate to each.  It was hard to single out one dish, from Baked Acorn Squash with sausage and maple syrup to Cardamom-coffee Toffee Bars, Lamb and Apricot Tagine, and Cheese Souffle with greens, all sounding delicious, but what especially called to me was the Jambalaya.  I do love a good Cajun-Creole Jambalaya.

5/12/2015

Mushroom Soup Umaminess


 Well, there should be a word. So I am coining it, as of now.  Umaminess.  The n'th degree of umami.   In my favorite little market the other day I was astounded by a new batch of shitake mushrooms that had just arrived.  Specimens so robust, so plump, so big and fresh looking, it was impossible to resist them; practically jumping out of the bin and into my cart.   Well, I had been wanting mushrooms for soup; and, in my humble opinion shitakes are the kings of mushroom flavor.   They are admittedly pricey, but when vegetables look really really good, it is totally worth it.  Besides which, I am a mushroom admirer, see my various posts on the subject.  The fungal fascination.


In her blog, Ruth Reichl had mentioned Elizabeth David's book, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, which I then got from the library and have been reading.  A collection of various articles she had written over the years. In that interesting book David very briefly discusses soups thickened with bread;  particularly a mushroom soup recipe of hers which appears in French Provincial Cooking.  Now I was not willing to wait for another book, and could find no such recipe online. (note below)*  So, it was time to improvise darlings.

Always on the lookout for ways to utilize the remains of my loaves of bread, this was a match made in heaven for the soup of shitakes.  The method is not too difficult.  Briefly, just saute some onion in a bit of butter, add your mushrooms, saute some more, then add stock and the bread cubes, some fresh thyme or marjoram, simmer, blend.

5/08/2015

The Mysterious Properties of Beans and Green Papaya

Not so mysterious really.  Papayas have an enzyme, blah, blah, blah.  Sometimes science takes all the mystery out of things.  This post developed as a result of my pinto beans not softening.  I added the small amount of baking soda, soaked them overnight, boiled them for hours, on hours, all to no avail.  They remained quite firm.  Then, I remembered the tenderizing effect of green papayas, and thought we'd give that a try as a last ditch attempt.  Nice there were some in the garden.

Unfortunately the papaya did not help.  Definitely a good thing I had started early on my Cinco de Mayo project, a big pot of Chile con Carne, to go with my Margarita.  The beans weren't totally hard, but a large portion of them got eliminated set aside for another use (maybe bean dip), and the chile turned out fine with mostly meat and vegetables (including that green papaya, which cooks up like squash.)  Do you know that in some places they don't even consider putting beans into chile.

Also the mystery of the beans got solved.  If you keep your dry beans, especially here in Hawaii with the humidity and warmth, for a year or longer, there are phenolic compounds, blah, blah, blah..... and they will never get soft.  Period.  No matter WHAT you do.  *see note below.

Next day,  3/4s of a green papaya left.  Now, what does that suggest?  Yes, Green Papaya Salad, which I do happen to love.  One of the best things on a Thai menu.  And, perfect to have after or with a bowl of Chili, seeing as the green fruit has a lot of that digestive enzyme.

5/03/2015

Fiddlehead Ferns for Dinner


I am so thrilled with my warabi, or fiddle-head ferns.  The little patch of them in a side garden by some rocks has grown and is thriving.  We are now having lovely fern shoots as a vegetable from time to time, and I don't need to go out in the boonies and forage.

Whether you know them as warabi (Japanese), ho‘i‘o (Hawaiian) or ostrich fern (most of the mainland), the fiddle-head ferns are the young, edible, tightly coiled shoots of the fern that resemble the end of a violin or fiddle. The shoots remain coiled for about two-weeks before they unfurl into the delicate, lacy greenery we are all familiar with.

The species most commonly found in Hawai‘i is the Pteridium aquilinum, which grows in temperate and sub-tropical regions. It was introduced to the islands by Japanese immigrants who value it mainly for the young stems rather than the unfurled coils. Certain varieties of the plant contain the carcinogenic compound Ptaquiloside and need to be cooked thoroughly before eating.

4/07/2015

Pasta, a Better Lunch than Sandwiches, Faster Too!



 Left-overs are key here.  And, I had some good ones: asparagus, steamed and refrigerated, extra grated Parmesan, fresh pigeon peas, boiled and chilled, a little container of left-over spaghetti pasta and of course, the staples, an Olive Tapenade, which is important to have in your fridge, along with capers, and you could add anchovies, but the base is a combination of the noodles and olive oil, or preferably this great Tapenade, the chunky version with olives of several kinds, peppers, garlic and other spices in olive oil.  Just get some and keep it handy for pasta, pizzas or panini.  Do it, yes!


So all you do is heat a few heaping tablespoons of that wonderful Tapenade over medium, then when it starts to sizzle, add in all your extras with the pasta, toss til heated through and voila.   Is that easy or what?? Top with clippings of fresh parsley or minced basil, or....and the grated cheese.  Best lunch or quick dinner you'll ever have.  Guaranteed!  Sending this post to Beth Fish for her Week-end Cooking collection.

4/06/2015

Marinated Mushrooms and Just Keep Getting Better, Awesome Pickles

 
Since these pickles turned out absolutely fantastic, I'm posting the recipe.  Because y'all are so nice, and totally deserve it.

Also giving the recipe for marinated mushrooms included with a mystery by Mignon F. Ballard, which I just finished. She writes very lightweight little confections, and adds recipes at the end for some of the dishes mentioned in each book.  This one happened to be called Claudia's Marinated Mushrooms.  So you might say it spoke to me.  In more ways than one, since I do love mushrooms (having been known to forage them against the advice of  husband and granddaughter) and marinated or pickled things.


I served the mushrooms as part of an antipasto plate for Resurrection Sunday dinner yesterday, to rave reviews.  Including my own.  Not the most photogenic of subjects, but superlative in taste.  Trust me.

3/27/2015

So Beautiful, Colorful Pasta Bowties for Puttanesca High Hog



I love, love, love this Farfalline Multicolori, it is Specialita for sure.  A bit (uulp) pricey to say the least, but  your spirits will be raised, just looking at the package.  Mine were.  A possible cure for depression.  Color therapy.  A friend was behind me in line, and both she and the checker totally convinced me.  Not that I needed much convincing.  Healthy too, no fake colors in there, they use spinach, turmeric, paprika, beetroot or squid ink.  So colorful.


Having just finished the latest (in our library anyway) set in Venice, Donna Leon mystery, By It's Cover, I was hankering for Italian.   Always enjoy her tantalizing descriptions of meals eaten along the way.  So inspired by the book, did a Puttanesca on the high hog (wearing fancy bow ties, with pork, ha ha) with it last night.  Just added some cubed ham, crisped up in olive oil, garlic, olives, capers, and cream.  Some of the saved pasta water as well.  Also, the colors do not leach out as some other colored pastas have a tendency to.  Lovely and deelish!  Will share this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking.  She is sharing a delightful cookbook with contributions from mystery writers this time.

3/07/2015

Swiss Pumpkin for Cook the Books Club


For our Cook the Books Club this go round, hosted by fellow Hawaii resident and blogger, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, we read (or in my case re-read) Comfort Me with Apples, a memoir by noted Chef, Food Editor, Restaurant Critic, TV personality, and author, Ruth Reichl.

I must suffer from some sort of medium-term memory loss.  Most of the book seemed new to me.  Had forgotten the long, drawn-out, often sad, business of her marriage break up and affairs, but on the brighter side of honesty, there is humor, good food, more humor and interesting snippets with restaurant personalities and food VIPs.  Do read as well, Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, they are even better.

There was much in her memoir to tempt and inspire, as well as challenge our cooking skills.  Reichl has the ability to communicate smells and tastes through descriptive writing, aided by an unbelievable palette, which is the premier gifting for a food critic or chef.  I sometimes wish mine could be tuned up a few notches. It would certainly help in the area of wine tasting as well.  I wonder if there is an herb that would help??


It was difficult to decide exactly what to prepare for this round.  So many directions you might go, from California nouvelle, to Chinese or Thai.  The idea of Cook the Books Club, in case you are new here, is to read the current bi-monthly book selection and then to cook and post a recipe inspired by your reading.

2/11/2015

The Year of the Kumquat


 A very small portion of them shown here.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or in my case Lemon Mead, and when you've been blessed with a load of kumquats, you need to be creative with them.  We haven't really had a whole year of them, it just sounded good, and sometimes feels that way.  Bob has had a strange obsession with the fruit ever since Thanksgiving when I made a Cranberry Kumquat Sauce.  I know it was only partly my delicious creation, with the other driving factor being humor.  Really, the name is not that funny.  He started with Facebook posting a W.C. Fields film clip on kumquats.  Yes, that was funny, ha ha ha.  Then Googling and posting all sorts of information on the fruit, health benefits, recipes and etc.  And which has caused other people to give him kumquats.


Bob notwithstanding, I still needed to deal with the second large bagful of those tasty little citrus, thanks due to Nancy, whom some of you might remember from my fabulous post on chocolate making.  First up was marmalade, which I simplified.  I did not like the sound of most of those lengthy recipes.  So, rather than mincing them all, one at a time, I tossed the halved, seeded fruit into a food processor and voila.

2/03/2015

Chocolate Cake with SECRET GF INGREDIENT


I am posting about this cake for two reasons.  One, due to being absolutely ashamed of myself for neglecting this blog.  Have not been posting consistently, and mean to change that.  Secondly, not only was that cake totally delicious, but gluten free.  Now I'm not "normally" a gluten free person.  My husband, Bob, thinks it the joke of the year to ask at the Natural Foods store if he can have some of that free gluten that's going around.  But when our local supermarket coupon booklet came in the mail, with a GF cake on the cover, that was my heads up, knowing I would be having a group of women over, one of whom is, yes GF.

The Chocolate ganache icing was simplicity itself, consisting of just cream and chocolate chips.  The recipe called for coconut milk, but if you have an opened container of cream on hand, I figure go with it.  And, truly the taste cannot be beaten.  Unless you are also lactose free.

1/24/2015

Pigeon Peas



I walked out in the garden this morning,
  Sun warming my head and arms,
And the green pigeon peas. 
A breath of legume scent teased out by that sun,
   Brought them to my attention.
Picked a handful, then two.
Dropped into boiling salted water
   For 10 minutes or so, cooled in a colander,
   Shelled -  lifted from their
 Plump nurturing pods, some
   Kissed a bit brown by that sun.
Suitable now for our salad,
Or pigeon peas 'n pasta
With basil and tomato.
                                     .... C. Riley

Well, that was my inspiration (inspired to poetry as well as food) from our latest Cook the Books Club pick, Sustenance & Desire, an anthology of poems, essays and various excerpts, loosely associated with food, edited with paintings by Bascove.  I would give the book mixed reviews.  Overall a bit uneven in quality and interest.  Some of the poems mystifying, some mediocre and several excellent, of course all in my humble opinion.  Among the essay selections, I enjoyed a few, some were okay and a number of others could be done without entirely; for instance the piece on cannibalism.  Did you know that:
"The Aztec cared intensely how they ate people and also who they ate, when, and where."
Not particularly appetizing.  That said however, her art alone was worth the book purchase.  I tried to find any Bascove paintings on ebay, but none were available.  Must all be in private collections or museums.