August 31, 2006

3108 (Blog) Day 2006

It's International Blogging Day! Provide links to your top 5 blogs that aren't directly related to the content of your own blog. My five:

1. And I Wasted All That Birth Control...: Cecily just fought an uphill battle to have her (almost) brand new daughter. And she's a kick-ass feminist too.

2. Mimi Smartypants: A hard working editor and mom's trials and tribulations in Chicago

3. My Beloved Monster and Me: A dad to a daughter with a rare brain disorder works, parents, and writes book(s).

4. Nothing But Bonfires: Funny ex-pat Brit Holly and her life. Now with backpacking all over Asia.

5. Pink Is The New Blog: Your daily dose of celebrity gossip, embarrassing photos and snark.

Hopefully that might keep y'all busy for a bit.

August 30, 2006


On Sunday, I couldn't fall asleep. I was too nervous; my stomach was churning, my head wouldn't turn off. I lay in bed thinking, "Why am I not sleeping? Why am I not sleeping..." I had forgotten how scary the first day of school can be.

Bleary-eyed and feeling a bit like I was in a costume, I went to my first class, Introduction to Pantry, in my full cooking regalia. We then spent three hours getting to know each other and Chef. Students must call all of our cooking instructors chef. No last name necessary.

There are close to 50 people entering the program this year, the largest class the department has ever had. I heard about 5 times yesterday that not all of us are going to finish, which is understandable, not everyone is going to like it, people have other events going on in their lives, etc. Still it was a bit disconcerting to be told by almost everyone that I met that a good 3/4s of us aren't going to make it. Right now, my goal is to make it. In two years, I am going to have my certificates. I am going to be a cook. I am going to do what I've wanted to do since I was twelve. It is going to happen. This is one of the most nerve-wracking, brave, exciting thing that I've ever done. And I'm going to do it.


August 25, 2006

SHF #22 K's Birthday Jam

For the past four years, I have gifted K, the partner's mom, with strawberry jam for her birthday. I didn't even realize that SHF (Sugar High Friday) this month and K's day coincided pretty nicely, until yesterday. So here is my second addition to the SHF phenomenon.

In the past, I have just cooked the berries with a smaller then typical amount of sugar my secret ingredient and strongly advised that the jar be kept in the fridge. This method isn't really jam, more like a slightly thickened strawberry sauce. Depending on what I did that year, the "jam" was quite often runny. This year however, armed with my preserving book, I made an actual recipe for jam, complete with the scarily obscene amount of sugar. Then I really and truly canned it. I am slightly paranoid that K will get botulism and die but I don't think that will actually happen,at least I sincerely hope it won't. Without further ado, here is my recipe for strawberry jam with a twist.

2 lbs strawberries, preferably organic/pesticide free
2 lbs sugar (about 4 1/2 cups)
2-4 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-4 tsp orange flower water, or to taste

If you are planning on canning this, everything must be scrupulously clean.

Place a saucer in the freezer. Trim the greens off the berries and cut fruit in half. Combine berries and juice in a very large pot and cook over medium-low heat until fruit begins to break down, stirring occasionally, about 12-15 minutes. When fruit is softened, crush about half of the berries against the side of the pot. Add the sugar and stir until well combined.

Turn heat up to medium and let mixture come to a boil. Try not to stir once this has happened. Skim off the foam that comes to the top. If you ever read M.F.K Fisher's essay, "The Measure of My Powers", you will find this to feel like a slightly Proustian exercise.

After jam has boiled for ten minutes, remove the saucer from the freezer and place a few dabs of jam on it. Let cool for a minute. Poke with your finger, if it wrinkles, remove jam from heat and
let cool. If it does not wrinkle, let cook for another two minutes and test again. Conversely, the jam will be done once it measures 220F (this did not hold true for me, but it might for you). After jam is removed from heat, stir in the orange flower water.

If you plan on canning, which I will not give instructions for because I don't really know what I am doing and I don't want anyone to get sick, let jam cool for 5 minutes and fill jars. If you are not canning, let jam cool to room temp, and pour into very clean jars. The jam will keep in the fridge about six months.

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August 24, 2006

Lazy Days of Summer

I'm taking my week of unemployment seriously. So seriously, in fact, I haven't gotten out of my pajamas any earlier than 1 pm this whole week. Also, I have yet to complete any of my projects that I was planning on doing this week. I convienently forgot that I'm going to be out of town this weekend and have two less days than previously thought.

Well, how have I spent my time? I have been getting to know my shiny new birthday toy and watching a ridiculous amount of the Food Network. I am also trying not to think too much about throwing myself into a situation where I know absolutely no one. I am about as social as a hermit crab and while I am excited (<---so excited I can't stand still, apparently) about doing what I've wanted to do since I was twelve, I am not looking forward to meeting fifty new faces. However, we will all be wearing the same stupid pants so I hope that will help take the edge off. Encouragement welcome.

August 21, 2006

Reason #49 to Have a Garden: Turkish Herb Salad with Fried Eggplant

I don't really know if this is authentically Turkish or not. Unfortunately, I don't have that much understanding of the divisions between Middle Eastern foods. Anyone out there who knows if this is the real deal or not? Even if it isn't, it's still delicious.

We first made this salad last summer when it appeared in the August '05 Bon Appetit. I vowed that we would grow our own nasturtium just for this salad and the partner was kind enough to defer to my culinary wishes. I only wish that we had enough space and sunshine to grow everything else for this salad. The mint, chives and flowers came from our tiny plot, but our basil is being devoured by some caterpillars and everything else will just have to wait until we win the lottery and buy a house.

I realize that I am on a huge eggplant kick lately which shows no signs of abating. Tonight we're having eggplant stir-fry, and sometime later this week we're going to have this pizza again. The partner just pointed out to me that summer is two-thirds over, might as well eat all the eggplant (tomatoes, strawberries, melons and summer squash) that we can to hold us over til next summer.

Turkish Herb Salad with Fried Eggplant adapted from Bon Appetit

1 shallot, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2" thick
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups arugula
1/3 cup basil leaves
1/3 cup parsley leaves
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup chives in 1/2" lengths
Nasturtium flowers, if you have some

Combine shallot and lemon juice in a small bowl.

Lay out eggplant in a single layer on a flat surface. Salt and pepper eggplant slices on both sides. Set aside.

Combine all greens, except for the chives. Wash and spin dry. Transfer to a large bowl. Add chives and toss to combine. Salt and pepper greens.

Whisk 2 TB olive oil and salt and pepper in with the shallot and lemon juice.

Heat 4 TB olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. When hot, add as much eggplant as will fit without overcrowding. You might have to cook the eggplant in batches. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. If the pan looks dry, add more olive oil. Layer a plate with paper towels. When the eggplant is done, remove from pan and place on lined plate.

Toss greens with vinaigrette. Divide salad among plates. Lay eggplant on top of greens. Decorate with nasturtium, if you have them.

Serves 4 people as a starter or 2 greedy people dinner.

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August 16, 2006

How to Not Satisfy a Craving

Yesterday, I got it into my head that I was going to make tarte tatin but with peaches. We had peaches and I knew that I had a recipe somewhere for this exact thing. I became a woman possessed. Even though I got home late, I was still insisting that I make my tarte. After a delicious dinner, I did some quick cook book research while chanting "peach tarte tatin peach tarte tatin", to discover that my tarte was in The Last Course, which I have previously had a few interesting experiments with. And although I may be crazy enough to start making a cake after 8 pm, in no way am I sufficiently insane to start making the puff pastry required for this particular recipe, yet.

I remembered my favorite tarte tatin recipe and though that if I could tweak it a bit, that it would work. Uh, not so much. What I ended up doing was cooking the peaches in the oven with caramel as Claudia recommends but in one large cake instead of individual ones and baking it with pastry on top with the instructions from the B.A. January 2006 recipe (that they do not have available on-line otherwise I would link to it). This, as you can well imagine, did not, in any way whatsoever, turn out well.

I planned on taking a picture to share but it was ugly, really ugly. Here is a drawing instead. It's surprisingly accurate.

The caramel turned to black tar and it all stuck to the pan and I am not looking forward to doing the dishes today. The peaches and pastry were good but the "sauce" was a hard, sticky, burnt mess. Yes, we ate it anyway. We couldn't let those peaches go to waste.

August 14, 2006

New and Improved

My fumblings with html have yielded me a new look. Can everyone see it all right? What do you think? Are polka dots so last season? See any errors that need to be rectified? Please let me know.

August 11, 2006

Friday, Friday Part IXX

I just realized this week that summer is 2/3s over! There are so many things that I wanted to do/make/eat and I feel like I missed my chance, even though I know that summer happens every year. Does anyone else ever feel a bit melancholy when the seasons begin to transition? Here are some summer-y treats to start rounding up the season:

Melissa's Fig and Goat Cheese Clafoutis

Blended Mojito from the Bon Apetit Blog

Clotilde's Fiadone, Corsican cheesecake

Panzanella by Ivonne

This weekend is my 5th anniversary with my partner. I'm planning on making a mussel marinere dinner for us. Does anyone have any good suggestions for a first course/appetizer and dessert? I'm open to new ideas. Have happy weekends!

August 10, 2006

Bronzed Eggplant Pizza

This pizza is so good we've had it twice in the last two weeks. Both times we ate the whole thing in just one sitting. The only other meal that we've greedily eaten repeats of this summer is our home grown tomatoes on sourdough with mayonnaise (why did I never try this before? It's mind-boggingly delicious). Of course, we couldn't just follow the recipe as is though. We upped the eggplant in a major way (try three times as much) and included chilies from our garden, instead of using dried chili flakes. Do yourself a favor and try it at least once while eggplant is still in season. You won't be sorry. Here it is with our modifications:

Bronzed Eggplant Pizza, adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook

your favorite pizza dough
2 lbs small-ish eggplant, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices
5 TB olive oil
1-2 TB cornmeal
3/4 cup coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella
1/3 cup Asiago or Parmesan
2 TB minced garlic
2 TB chopped chilies or 1/4 tsp dried red chili flakes

Preheat your broiler, or if you don't have a usable one like us, heat your oven up to 500F. If you have a pizza stone, leave it in the oven (if you don't all ready) so it can warm up. Arrange eggplant on a baking sheet in a single layer. You might need to use another sheet or do this in two batches. Brush eggplant with 3 TB oil and sprinkle with salt. Broil about 2-3 inches from the heat source(or bake), turning once, until golden brown and tender, anywhere from 6 to 16 minutes total. Set aside.

Heat remaining oil in a small fry pan and cook garlic and chili, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds to one minute.

Shape pizza dough to a 14-inch round. If you don't have a stone, roll it so it will fit on a large baking sheet (or you could make 2 smaller pizzas). Sprinkle evenly stone or baking sheet with cornmeal. Place dough on heated stone or baking sheet. Combine cheeses in a bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 of cheese on pizza, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Layer eggplant over the cheese. Pour garlic-chili oil evenly over the eggplant. Sprinkle pizza with remaining cheese. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Cut into wedges and consume. Try not to fight with dinner companion(s) over last piece.

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August 08, 2006

White Sangria or How to Get Your Friends and Loved Ones Drunk Without Them Knowing It

The first time we made this, the partner's elderly grandfather kept on requesting more. So we continued to pour out the sangria. Hey Grandpa's an old man, he deserves to get what he wants. And then we realized that it had probably been quite a while since Grandpa had that much to drink and before we knew it, it was all ready too late. We gave Grandpa a lot of water that night.
When we made this for my party, we made a triple batch for 11 people. All of it was gone in less than two hours. And I had a very tipsy mom and a few friends to boot. The problem is that it tastes so good, people don't realize how strong it actually is. The original recipe recommends that it gets cut with some sparkling water, which is nice if you like bubbles. I'm a sucker for them. However, if you are anti-carbonation, you can serve it straight with caution. This stuff packs a wallop.


1 750 ml bottle of rose (We used Bonny Doon's Big House Pink)
1/2 cup peach schnapps or brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
3 white peaches (this is what we had), sliced into wedges
1 nectarine, sliced into wedges
juice of 1 lemon or 3 limes
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 bottle sparkling water, chilled

In a large container, combine all ingredients, except the sparkling water, and stir gently. Let sit at least for one hour or overnight in the fridge. Serve full force or 2 parts sangria to 1 part sparkling water. Encourage guests to spend the night, if necessary.

August 06, 2006

Friday, Friday Part XVIII

August 04, 2006

Birthday BBQ Menu

For N who just couldn't wait:

One of my favorite parts about having a birthday is throwing myself a party. I decided that for my entrance into my second quarter century, I wanted to be surrounded by my women folk, so the poor partner gets kicked out of the house and I get to spend a fantastic evening with some of my favorite people. The most important part of this party planning is, of course, the menu. I wanted lots of summer-y food, some of my favorite things to eat (and make), while also trying to include some recipes I've had my eyes on. So, with much editing and renting of garments, here is my birthday BBQ feast:

White Sangria (recipe coming here)
Ice Tea

Spicy Chickpeas and Pistachios
Spinach Dip with Greek Flavors
Perfect Salsa
Corn Chips

Vodka-Spiked Cherry Tomatoes with Pepper-Salt

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Sage Pesto and Apple on Homemade Grilled Foccacia
Grilled Ratatouille Salad
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Chive Butter

Butter Biscuits with Strawberries in Balsamic Vinegar and Whipped Cream

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August 03, 2006

Where's the Stout?

Have I ever told you where I used to work when I was summer break from uni? It was by far the most fun I ever had at a job and ever since then I hold a special place in my heart for B&J and their products. Even though they phase out my favorite flavors one by one. When I heard that they were releasing a exciting but unfortunately named new flavor, my heart filled with glee. Mmm, stout flavored ice cream. I made Guinness ice cream many moons ago when I was still testing out my shiny new ice cream maker. It was delicious, and if my version was good then B&J's had to be too, right? Dun, dun dun.

After my fantastic b-day dinner, I decided that instead of staying at Opal for dessert, what I really wanted was to go the local ice cream parlor and get a cone. On the way home, we stopped by a market to grab a bottle of wine and lo and behold, they had the very flavor that I had been lusting after for months! Happy Birthday to me indeed!

We rushed home to enjoy our bounty. Alas! It tasted nothing like stout and if you got some of the chocolate ice cream in your spoon, it tasted overpoweringly of chocolate. It was good chocolate but definitely not stout. I do believe that very soon I need to unearth the Guinness ice cream recipe and fulfill my beer ice cream desires.

August 01, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

I love birthdays, especially mine. You get presents (or cards), phone calls, some cake and, best of all, quality time with those who want to celebrate your day with you . What could be bad about this? I'm planning on getting spoiled rotten over the next few days by my wonderful partner, friends, and family and I am looking forward to it immensely.

<---- My birthday flowers were just the beginning of the festivities. We're going out tonight to one of my favorite places in town and I'm throwing myself a party this weekend (more on that later).

For those of you who stumbled upon this quite unwittingly, thanks for stopping by and going on this journey with me. May all your days be celebrated.