Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mommy Soup Six, Seven and Ate

Debbie's car had issues last week so she couldn't take us shopping. The soups came out of whatever we had. I had a can of white beans and had intended to buy some ham to make soup with it. Instead I used what is becoming a default of bacon, onion, celery and carrot. Added the beans and chicken stock. It was good. We keep ending up with one bowl left over, which I have to stretch in some way. I tossed the left over in the freezer because I wanted to wait until I could buy more of the smoked canned tomatoes.
I also had some French lentils. I didn't use bacon but onion, celery, carrot and mushrooms. Added the lentils and stock. One bowl left. Can't figure out how that happens but I'm thinking I'll use the tomatoes to stretch it as well.
This week will be finishing lots of stretched soups so I can focus on cookies. I drive myself a little crazy over the cookies every year. I always start with doughs I can roll into logs and toss into the freezer. After I've baked a bunch of other cookies I can slice and bake off all of the freezer cookies. The goal is variety. Mom makes Russian Tea cakes, (also known as Mexican Wedding cakes) Snickerdoodles and Fudge. I'm going to make one more freezer dough today and maybe another kind.
I'm making chicken stew and mashed potatoes tonight.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mommy Soup Four and Five

Four was clean out the refrigerator soup. I didn't have enough left over potato leek soup for both of us. I cooked up some lardons of bacon and a half of left over white onion, the last four or five mushrooms and the last of some celery. I added chicken stock and a potato and cooked it for awhile. Then I added the last of the potato leek. For a hodge podge it was extremely good.
The next day we ate out and then I made us a mommy request dinner: pork chop, baked potato, apple sauce and spinach. And then it was time for minestrone.
This is another one of those easy soups. First the holy trinity: onion, carrots and celery. No garlic because Mom is not a fan. Then a can of kidney beans, a can of garbanzo beans, a can of tomatoes, a bunch of chicken stock and some penne. Topped with grana. We ate that for two days and there's still left overs. The Muir Glen tomatoes bring a lot of smoky goodness.
Last night I made mushroom, spinach and smoked artichoke rissoto. Tonight we're going to Debbie's mom's house for turkey. Not sure what I'll do on Friday.
I have two cookie doughs in the freezer. Maybe cookie blogging will begin.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mommy Soup Three and Four

When I make soup I try to make enough for a few days. I think soup is one of those things that tastes better the next day. The French Onion went over a little too well and there were no left overs. Sooooo I made mushroom barley. It's another easy soup except the barley always takes longer than I think it will.
Right before I made the soup I watched Chuck's Day Off. He was making stuffing and was chopping a bunch of veg and sausage. I was surprised when he put all of the veg in the pan at the same time. I always add onions first. The longer you cook them the sweeter they get. There may be times when you don't want sweetness but usually it's a good flavor. When I made the soup I sauteed onion first then carrots because they're dense and need longer then celery, which needs no time at all. Last, Crimini mushrooms. I added the barley and cooked it for a minute or two to make it toasty and finally I added beef stock.
I served it with a warm spinach, bacon and red bell pepper salad and corn bread. I got the idea to make corn bread from Chuck. He was making some for his stuffing and it sounded good.
The next day we ate it again although I had to add more onions, mushrooms and stock. And I made a salad with radishes, celery, radicchio and spinach.
Tonight I made potato leek. Sauteed leeks, added chicken stock tossed in some Yukon Golds and TADA! Sometimes I start with bacon. Same salad. Mom got the last piece of corn bread. We'll be eating it again tomorrow.
Soup is good food.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mommy Soup Two

French Onion. Really simple. Really Easy.
I sauteed Vidalia Onion in olive oil on high heat at first but then medium heat until they got brown and sweet. I love the way onions start to smell like meat. When they had reduced by more than half I added some Balsamic vinegar and beef stock. White wine is more traditional but I love the sweetness of the onions and the Balsamic just amps it up. I was wishing, as I always am, for some fresh herbs like Bay leaf and Thyme. My herb garden in a pot failed a few times.
I toasted some Pugliese and topped it with Gruyere. I cut the toasts into cubes to make it easier for Mom to handle. She seems to have liked it.
I really wish I had taken a picture but the drive to feed the mommy throws me off my game. I'm sure I'll be making it again.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Mommy Soups

Mom's visit threatens to reduce my already sparse posting. It occurred to me that I could write posts about the many soups I make for her. She starts off wanting butternut squash soup, which she says is her favorite. Last year she changed her favorite with pretty much every new soup. I had butternut squash soup ready when she arrived.
My soup techniques are as random as as all my cooking. No recipes. For the butternut squash I roasted the squash, sauteed carrots, celery and onion, added the squash and some chicken stock, blended everything and ran it through my food mill ( just because it's new and I'm enamored). As always there are things I could do. I could season with cumin, or smoked paprika. I could top with creme fraiche. Chili flakes are a good add but Mom isn't into spices. She really just likes the plain soup.
I serve this with a salad of apples, celery and fennel, dressed with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. I got this from a chef I worked with years ago. He topped the salad with a goat cheese souffle. Divine.
Soup season is here. Maybe I can blog it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

And then it was soup.

I started to make a warm spinach salad. I sliced some bacon into lardons, cooked them with red onions, mushrooms and spinach and began thinking about using as pasta sauce instead. So I started adding a bit of chicken stock and as I poured it looked better and better and I kept pouring. I added a bit of the afore mentioned tomatoes, put it in a bowl and topped it with some grana. It just sort of became soup. And it's good. Sweetness from the onion and tomato. Salty from the bacon. Rich from the broth and musky from the mushrooms. The spinach still has some crunch. Rainy day. Perfect dinner.

New Toy

When I said I'd write about the roasting tomatoes later I didn't really mean days later but, oh well. That's the way it's going.
Debbie brings me stuff from the farmers market all summer and there's usually a point when she brings way too many tomatoes. Every year I end up making some kind of tomato sauce and every year I fret the seeding and peeling. It's just messy and I never feel like I do a great job. I always wish I had a food mill.
Last week when Jane was in town we went to Sur Le Table and I found one. It's the perfect size for me.
Food mills are great for mashed potatoes. I like lumpy mashed potatoes. I'm usually cooking just enough for me so I smash them a bit and call
it good enough. But if you run potatoes through a food mill they get evenly mashed and stay fluffy. Add salt, pepper and butter and you get smooth, creamy, melt in your mouth clouds. I did this yesterday because I was making a shepherds pie for a neighbor.
So. I was roasting the tomatoes. I let them cool before I ran them through the mill. I used the blade with the largest holes because I wasn't sure what I wanted and tada! Lovely clear tomatoes on one side, seeds and skins on the other. All in about a minute. Less muss, no fuss.
I tossed the thing into the sink before scraping the bottom of the blade, which makes me so mad. There was so much good stuff there. It's been years since I used a mill and I've forgotten the basics. There are some seeds and I think I could run them through again with smaller holes but I don't really mind a few seeds.
I have a nice amount of sauce, some of which will end up on pasta. I'm thinking about making soup.
I love new toys.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Food Blogging

Need To Know did a list of must read food blogs. I had a mixed reaction. I felt completely not-good-enough but also ... the truth is ... I didn't love any of them. I think I remember Chocolate and Zucchini from awhile back. But I didn't remember it being so glossy and full of ads. It's like a magazine, which I think is cool, sort of. But I like my blogs more home-made-ish.
The last time I looked around I ended up finding some blogs that seemed interesting. Yesterday I tried and failed. I was thinking about adding a blog roll in my new attempt to read and write more. I'm trying again today.
I'm also struggling with the blog design.
There are tomatoes roasting in the oven. Maybe I'll write about that later.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ugly Root. Pretty Soup.

Mom will be coming for her annual visit in a few months and I am already making lists of things I need to get together. When she's here we eat a lot of soup. She is particularly fond of butternut squash soup and would eat it every day. I need a little more variety so last year I pushed her to try potato leek, minestrone, spinach and red bean all of which she liked.
I saw someone on a cooking show making celery root puree and thought it would make a good soup. I've never worked with celery root. It's an ugly looking thing. I think celery is one of the most under appreciated flavors. I remember the first time I noticed it. I think I was cutting vegetables for stock and the smell of the celery hit me. I thought of celery as texture and crunch but not much flavor. The smell seemed to elevate my awareness. I decided to experiment with celery root and make a soup.
There are lots of things I could add for flavor but in this first attempt I wanted to make a simple version so I could taste the root. I saut├ęd some Cipollini onion and celery in olive oil. I peeled and boiled the root. My hands smelled like celery for hours afterward. I pureed everything in the Cuisinart. Not much salt needed. I guess the root is salty. Some white pepper. It was very good. It tastes like ... celery. Imagine that. But here's the thing. When you really taste something that you normally ignore it can be such a revelation.
The whole thing amped up my desire for a food mill, which I have wanted for a long time. My soup had some texture that wasn't bad but to make a really smooth soup I'd want to strain it somehow.
There's a long list of things I'd like to experiment with now. I could add leeks and/or potato. Bacon makes everything better. I could add creme, or Creme Fraiche, or sour cream. A few different cheeses come to mind, swiss, cream cheese, Grana is my default. Truffle oil would be a great addition. Chervil would be great. And I can imagine making a puree to serve under roasted meat of any sort.
And it was so easy. Peeling the root is more annoying than difficult. Rough chopping the veggies is nothing. If you cut the root in small pieces it cooks quickly. You just want to be able stick a fork in it. It took about twenty minutes from start to soup.
And it was pretty.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Day In Meals

I don't really feel like I'm doing any cooking these days. Just a lot of assembly work.

My day usually begins with me standing over the sink sucking on a plum. Breakfast is a very big bowl with peaches, two or three kinds of berries and yogurt. Jeane brought me some of her very good granola so it's on top. This morning I also had a croissant and coffee. More often I drink tea. On days when I swim I come home and make eggs and pile all the fruit on the plate.

I had fun with pizza when Jeane was here. I'm getting better with the crust. I keep going for more crunch and less chew. I cooked up some Criminis, shallots and garlic. I had some lamb from Whole Foods deli, which I cut up. I still had some tapanade from when the girl gang was in town. And I bought more of the amazing grilled artichokes. Ridiculously good. We got some fresh mozz and I always have grana around. We piled it all on in two different combos and then sat in the living room eating and mmmming. The fun part was imagining all the things we could do with pizza. I never get tired of that.

I eat a big breakfast and an early dinner so I don't usually eat lunch. I snack on almonds, or popcorn. I usually have something sweet. Cookie. Ice cream. But today I ate an early breakfast and was a bit hungry so I used a half of a hard roll and made a sort of bruchetta with the tapanade, artichokes, mozz and grana.

Right before the summer fruit began I had three apples in a bowl. Once there were cherries and peaches I ignored the apples until they were close to gone and then I quickly made some apple sauce, which sat in my fridge. I also have some pork chops in the freezer that need to get eaten. So tonight I filled a bowl with watercress, peas, smashed Yukon Golds, a pork chop and, of course, apple sauce.

It was a good food day. I might repeat it tomorrow so I can eat up the other pork and the rest of the applesauce and the other half of the hard roll. Saturday is shopping day so I can start over. But really, these days it's all about fruit and peas and watercress and grilled artichokes. Can't get enough.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Big Bowls

I was going to write a post about how easy it is to eat in a healthy manner in the summer. The inspiration for the post came from the big bowl of mixed greens, red bell pepper, turkey, carrot and peas that I was about to eat for dinner. It had been really hot when I was shopping last week so I planned on lots of raw food. And every week the summer fruit is more available so I've been eating peaches, plums, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and cherries all week.
The truth is I think the notion of healthy is badly formed. Sometimes the healthiest thing might be cake. But a big bowl of bright colors seems so healthy.
Another truth is that the big bowls of soup I make when it's cooler are also full of health. Why do raw foods seem healthier? Maybe because they require more chewing. I dunno.
I do eat toward a notion of health but flavor and pleasure matter. It's something I continue to affirm. So why did I have that thought about the superior health attributes of my big bowl of dinner?
For a minute I was going to take a picture of the big bowl. It was pretty spectacular. But all I'd done was chop stuff. It didn't feel special.
It's hard to think clearly about food. Too much background noise.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Spring is waning.

The apartment smells so good right now. I made sauce for pasta. I roasted some tomatoes and garlic, sauteed spring onion and mushrooms, added the tomatoes, garlic fresh basil, peas and asparagus. First there was the smell of the garlic and tomatoes followed by the onions and mushrooms. I used some tagliarini and topped it all with grana after I took the picture. It's such clean fresh flavor. My senses are all full up.
I'm stocking up on peas. The season is almost over. I shelled four pounds this weekend. I'm comforted by the appearance of peaches. I had the first one the other day. Not quite ready but full of promise.
I have a bowl of cherries for dessert.
I have funny lyrics in my head. It's good good good. Like Bridget Bardot.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Grrrl Gang Snacks

When Renee and Nicki were here we made pizza but were so caught up in the making and eating that we forgot to document. We really did have fun with food. We shopped first and came home with a bunch-o-toppings. We found some grilled artichoke hearts that were ridiculously good.
We also had a wonderful lunch at Hog Island followed by doughnut desert. We were a little dismayed at how many of the oysters came from far away. The waiter explained it as a seasonal thing. Faced with the choice between one kind of local or a variety we opted for variety. Fossil fuels were consumed. Sigh. It's fun to go with three or more people because you can order more than one thing and share. After our dozen mixed oysters we had a really nice salad with some roasted pork and bull's blood micro greens, some oysters baked in butter and citrus, creamy clam chowder and oyster stew and a grilled cheese sandwich. The grilled cheese is made with three kinds of Cowgirl Creamery cheese and crusty bread from Acme. I don't even like doughnuts but Dynamo makes some irresistible ones. We got a variety which included rose chocolate and apricot. So bleepin good.
I'm still happy from all the great conversation but I did have the blues when they left. They left me with a loaf of olive bread, which I think they got at Wild Flour. I spread one of the left over pizza toppings made from two kinds of olives and capers and peppers. It seemed redundant but it worked. I topped that with some grana and roasted asparagus.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I bought a cookbook. I own quite a few but I haven't purchased one in awhile. This one was featured in BOMC so I got a deal. I like Mario well enough but it was the picture of pizza that motivated me. I thought he might have some good advice. I'd seen him on Iconoclasts recently. He served Michael a pizza with an egg on top. It made me think about Jaime Oliver's horror when he saw kids being served pizza for breakfast. Ironically he has a recipe for the traditional pizza with and egg on his web site. I guess maybe he doesn't serve it for breakfast. Of course the pizza he was reacting to had a thick doughy crust, tomato sauce, cheese and scrambled eggs. It was not appealing but his reaction irked me because I knew he knew how to make a lovely breakfast pizza.
I know a lot people eat left over cold pizza for breakfast. Once in a blue moon I will eat cold left over pizza but never for breakfast. I thought about making a breakfast pizza one day recently when I was out of bread but had left over doughs in my fridge.
I only follow recipes when I bake and even then it's likely I'll change things a bit. But I like reading cookbooks. Mario's is full of beautiful photos and simple recipes. I've been going though it again and again. I was inspired by a recipe from his book and a recipe I'd seen Ann Burrell make to buy some Fregula, which I made with fresh peas (of course), grana, olive oil, lemon juice and lemon basil. Very good.
I haven't read Mario's other books so I don't know if his focus in this book is wildly different. He does often talk about the differences in food from the different regions of Italy. In this book he writes about going to farmers markets to see what is fresh; it's the seasonal/regional approach that always appeals to me. In a long paragraph defining a context for his use of the word we he writes: We love the change from merely slicing tomatoes and adding salt to complex braising as summer fades and autumn slides in. And he mentions the social costs associated with our food choices and makes a list of changes he has made in his restaurants. He is a big importer of Italian specialty foods. Lots of fossil fuel use. I don't really have a problem with that. He uses lots of local stuff as well. In my own life I try to reserve my fossil fuel use purchases for specialty imports. And I'm lucky because I live in a foody part of the country where so much of what I want is made locally.
Mario's pizza crusts all look a bit charred. I imagine that's because he cooks them first on a skillet and then under a broiler. I'm ambivalent about that method. In my perfect world I will have a brick oven. Until then I am happily making pizza in my toaster oven.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Doyenne and the Dancer

There was an old episode of Iconoclasts on last night. I've seen it before but I watched anyway. Alice Waters is a doyenne of American cooking. I think there are a few branches in what we call American cooking. She is another woman who went to Paris and learned how to cook and eat but she came back with a desire to eat the way she ate there in her own town. She may have used some French technique but she was focused on eating what she could buy locally. I remember reading about her way back in the day. She's been trying to raise the quality of food in schools way before Jaime Oliver. She uses the obesity word now and again, which is aggravating but she is really someone who loves food and cooking and gardens.
I've eaten at Chez Panisse three times, once upstairs and twice downstairs. It's like church for me. There's an open kitchen. Everyone looks so focused. I could never work there because I like to talk and laugh and even sing while I cook but I admire the monk like manner.
I liked the pairing of her with Baryshnikov. He's wonderful. They have a very cute old friend vibe.
Sometimes I worry that I sound disapproving of people's food choices. The truth is -- I am. I mean I don't really care if people want to eat junk but it's not interesting to me. And it makes me sad. I can't help but think they'd enjoy good food if they had it prepared by someone like Alice. I know I'm wrong about that. It's an emotional reaction. I remember sending some good chocolate as a gift to a friend who sheepishly tried to tell me that they didn't like it. It wasn't sweet enough. I felt bad that they felt bad but I had a hard time letting go of the desire for them to get why it was so good.
In the show she and Mikhail eat a salad with beef tongue and micro greens. If she served it to me I would eat it but I wouldn't order it. I'm not a fan of organ meats. I do admire the trend to cook the whole animal but I don't have the palate. And yet the salad looked so beautiful.
Food approval/disapproval is complicated for fat people. When you live a life in which you're taught to mistrust of your desires for food you need to have a sense that your choices aren't wrong in order to heal. I would beg forgiveness if I seem to harsh on anyone.
The connection between food and art/craft is so thrilling for me. I love having a great meal with a great friend, especially when that friend loves good food. I loved hanging out with Alice a Misha.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Ramen Girl

I watched The Ramen Girl this weekend. It's not a great movie but it's fun. And for anyone who has entered a kitchen hoping to learn it's right on.
There's so often a gruff teacher. I always laugh when people react to Gordon Ramsay with dismay. He's fairly typical. I've worked for many screamers. I know how to swear in five languages.
And two people who don't share a language trying and often managing to understand one another is also a restaurant experience. The movie stretches this a bit in a scene where the American girl seems to understand an elder Japanese woman. Still, it's true. Hand gestures and some kind of almost extrasensory communication often works.
But it's the idea that the chef's energy that makes food good is sweetly portrayed and also fairly true.
Food has been a bit boring around here. I almost took a picture of a bowl full of really simple romaine and tomato salad and rigatoni in white cheddar sauce with fresh peas. It was pretty. But it didn't seem interesting. I am often inspired by books, movies or TV shows about food.
My experience of Ramen is from times when I've had no money and ate it for days and days in a row. After the movie I wanted a big bowl of broth with noodles. And I wanted to open a restaurant.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Pound of Flesh

I jumped to a site today because a friend "liked" it on Facebook. It was full of "positive" thought all of which seemed fine to me until I came to the advice: Go meatless one day a week and don't enter the doors of a restaurant that sells a 16 ounce steak. That is obscene.
Hmmm. Well. Going meatless one day a week is no big deal. Some times I go more than that not because I'm avoiding meat but because I'm getting protein in other ways. But a sixteen ounce steak, obscene?
My mixed influences hold sway. I know dieters who would power through a 16 ounce steak and push away the potatoes and veggies. I don't think that's a particularly healthy thing to do but it's their choice. I've read about swimmers who eat what seems like a crazy number of calories because they need them and dancers who need them to get through a performance. A 16 ounce steak is just fuel for them. Six ounces is good for me and I'm gonna want the potatoes and veggies.
I saw a piece on the Huffington Post shaming Paula Dean and the Food Network in which meat is mentioned as a bad thing. The whole rant is loopy. I don't care if people eat meat or how much they eat. I just cringe when people stir up fear of food.
Mom is dieting after being told her knee might not bother her as much of she lost weight. She was talking about a friend of hers who doesn't like sweets. Mom wishes she didn't like them. Mom does have a big thing for sweets. She actually worries me some times. She visits during the holidays when there are lots of cookies and candies around and she eats them by the handfuls. She eats until her stomach hurts. I think it's because of all the dieting. She goes through the cycle of denial and consumption again and again. But her longing to be like the woman who doesn't like sweets made me sad. She's so cute when she gets a treat. She takes such delight in them.
I think a common sense approach is good in a general sense but sometimes excess is the most alive thing. Obscene is word used to describe immorality. And there may be a time when food and eating can be described in moral terms. But most of what I read is just so round the bend.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Left overs dinner.

A week after my pizza party with Eli I still had left over onions and peppers. I'd used some of the onions and the mushrooms in chicken and gravy on Sunday. And I always have some fresh peas sitting around these days. Today felt like the day to use them or lose them. I hate throwing away food.
So I cooked up some pasta, heated everything else up in some chicken stock and ... dinner.
So easy. So good.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Du beurre,du beurre,du beurre ---"

When it comes to food I have three kinds of friends: hippie health food types, gourmands and people with diet histories. I guess I do have a few friends who eat junk food and don't really think much about it. So. Four kinds of friends.
Once I made a comment to my mother (person with diet history) that I use about a stick of butter a week. More if I bake. She thought that was an enormous amount. Mom sort of scrapes a bit of butter on her toast and then tops it with jelly. I'm not sure why the calories from the jelly are OK and the calories from the butter are not. I imagine it has to do with the fear of fats. I said something about it to a friend (hippie health food type) who also thought a stick of butter a week was quite a lot. I mentioned both conversations to a friend who is a pastry chef. We were shopping at the time and she simply pointed to her basket in which there was a pound of butter.
So I was amused when I read the quote from Fernand Point, ""Du beurre,du beurre,du beurre - that is the secret of good cooking in The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones. The book was a fun read. She is one of those women (Julia Child, MFK Fisher) who went to France and became a foodie. She was a central character in the evolution of foodie culture in this country. The book is conversational in style. I got bored with it for awhile but that's more about my state of mind than about the book. Yesterday I did a bunch of laundry so I finished the book while I was waiting for it but for some bits of writing attached to recipes in the last quarter of the book.
There are days when I don't eat any butter. I eat fruit and yogurt for breakfast when the weather is warm and less cooked food in general. No butter on pizzas although I was tempted to try some on a left over dough. I thought butter and honey might be good. In the end I used up some the left over tomato/leek sauce and some mozzarella. Another time perhaps.
If you told me I had to pick one thing to eat for the rest of my life it would be good bread and butter. That might seem like two things but I think Fernand would understand why it is one thing for me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

More Fun With Pizza

I baked orange muffins last Sunday. Just as they came out of the oven Laura called so I said, "get over here."
She did.
Half way through the muffins I started talking about pizza and then, of course, I had to make some.
It's a long process. She left for awhile while the dough was rising and I was making toppings: caramelized red onions with fig balsamic, sauteed leeks, crumbled feta, sliced roasted lamb, (from Whole Foods deli) crumbled smoked trout and crumbled feta.
I liked the dough better. I added a bit of whole wheat and a bit of corn meal, brushed it with roasted garlic infused olive oil and I cooked it longer. It isn't perfect yet.
First pizza was tapenade, the red onions, roasted lamb, feta and watercress. The second was
leeks, trout and creme fraiche. Both were pretty bleepin good.
The dough makes four pizzas and one is very filling. We each ate half and half and I took a half and half combo over to Kev and Mimi. I saved the remaining pizza till the next day, which worked. Fresh is best but it worked.
Today I roasted some roma tomatoes and garlic sauteed leeks and made sauce. It's hard when you should only make one pizza and you have a gazillion ideas. Fortunately Kev and Mimi are willing to be taste testers. And I'm experimenting with keeping two half baked doughs for tomorrow.
I'm getting better at the doughs. I shaped them into rounds and then used the rolling pins to get a more uniform shape. I'm not overly concerned with uniformity. I like rustic looking pizzas but working the dough is a good idea. I'm not likely to be one of those dough tossing types. Because the sauce was really saucy I pre-baked the dough. I took the first pizza over to K & M: tomato/leek/garlic sauce, fresh mozzarella, a mix of olives and pancetta. Since there was garlic in the sauce I brushed the dough with truffle oil. It smelled SO great when it was cooking.
My shopping stupidity is still in play. I bought a nice mix of olives, all of which had pits. So I was slicing them off for the pizza and then sucking on the pits for awhile. Not a bad thing. The pizza I made myself was more complicated. I wanted to use some stuff up. It was good but a little messy looking.
Friday night.
Belly full of pizza.
Sink full of dishes.
Left over sauce and dough.
What will tomorrow bring?

The Good Watercress

If you go out to eat with me and there is watercress on the menu there's a good chance I will order it. If there's a salad with beets and watercress it must be mine.
Whole Foods has terrible watercress. It has flat uniform leaves and no flavor. I saw Rick Bayless shopping on an episode of Top Chef Masters saying something about wanting the good watercress. Love that guy.
I look for good watercress and I found some at Safeway the other day.
I made a bit of dressing in the bottom of the bowl with shallots, olive oil and sherry vinegar, tossed the watercress in that. I roasted a Yukon Gold and picked apart a fillet of smoked trout. Topped it all with a swak of creme fresh.
I love this kind of plate. Cold and hot, salty, creamy, crunchy. So much going on. Happy, happy meal.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In the last update for my Blackberry I got Social Beat. I usually check it late at night after I've turned off my computer and I'm about to go to sleep. On Tuesday night I saw a link to this article about people who photograph their food and post the pictures on line. I forgot about it until late on Wednesday when I skimmed it. Finally got around to reading it today.
I remember years ago I found a blog on which a guy was posting pictures and descriptions of his lunch. It wasn't beautiful or unusual food but I liked the blog. It was fun to see the plastic containers he used. He was very good at compartmentalizing.
This guy seems to eat a lot of cottage cheese, bananas and what looks like some kind of cereal. He has 9000 pictures on line. I'm not sure what I think about that. It's also kind of fun. But how many pictures of popcorn does anyone need? I could argue for and against the project with equal fervor. I wish I knew more about why it's a trend. The guy with the 9000 pictures says it keeps him honest. So I guess he doesn't want any one to know if he eats cake. That, of course, makes me roll my eyes.
Another woman from the article is motivated by taking pretty pictures of good food. I get that.
I don't think of myself as a photographer. I don't even have a camera. I'm using my Blackberry. I almost took a picture of some potato leek soup that I made the other day and had for dinner twice this week. It was visually appealing. It was chunky. I dunno. I looked at it and thought about taking the picture but I didn't have anything to say about it. And I was hungry.
I just had a late lunch/early dinner of brie, pineapple, toast and cold green tea. I took a picture because I'm thinking about the article but it doesn't look particularly beautiful or say anything about me. I bought the brie to use on a pizza with leeks and crimini mushrooms. But the leeks ended up in soup and I have some Fontina to use with the mushrooms. I was trying to stay out of the kitchen because I wanted to mop the floor. If you look carefully in the photo you can see why.
The floor is mopped. The plate is clean. I'm still jumping around on blogs from the article. It's very interesting.
I guess I think food can be boring. Pictures of food can be boring. On the other hand and I'm not sure why, simple pictures of food can sometimes be so beautiful. People have been painting pictures of food for a long time.
I've always liked Thiebaud's paintings. And in some ways all those pictures of bowls of cottage cheese, bananas and cereal have a similar aesthetic. Except the project isn't about beauty or a love of form. It's about using the fear of public disapproval as a way to not eat a jar of peanut butter.
Like so many times I feel myself wandering around in a value structure, not sure where I stand. The article quotes Brillat-Savarin. “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are. I like that but I'm also aware that it's like any other way of assigning meaning. My bias about food makes it hard for me to understand people who aren't open and willing to try things. But I do know people who aren't that into food and I like them. I don't think badly of them.
The Internet is curiouser and curiouser.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

There were a number of things that caused me to attempt food writing. I've mentioned a few but I saved the best for last.
So. I have this fantasy about the cooking I'm going to do when I'm older and retired. Well I am older and being unemployed is similar to being retired.
Sort of.
Just more stressful.
Anyway. One of the things I was always going to do was make pizzas. I like cheesy, tomato sauce old school pizza but that's not what I mean. Pizza is a great medium. There are a gazillion things you can do. Someday I figured I'd buy a pizza stone and a peel and start cooking.
And. I've been looking for a toaster oven. I've had my toaster oven for over fourteen years and I've never liked it. It's been fritzing out for the last few years and I knew I needed a new one.
And then. I was watching Avec Eric and wanted to see if he had posted a recipe from the show. I was looking around the site and noticed his web show: Get Toasted. After watching a few I bounced over to the Cuisinart page and start looking at the toaster ovens and ... there is was ... the toaster oven of my dreams. It was also way more money than I could rationalize. Ah well. Some day when I'm older.
But then.
One day I was I was looking at the Macy's web site for no particular reason and saw the same toaster oven for about forty dollars less. My neighbor Mimi works at Macy's so I sent her an email asking if she could get it at more of a discount and it turned out she could.
I am so crazy gonzo in love with this toaster oven it's ridiculous.
My knee is quite a bit better but still hurts if I stand on it for any length of time. The pain slowed me down. Years ago I bought a set of books William Sonoma books, one of which was about pizza. It's pretty good. Loranza De'Medici contributed to it. I spent a few days reading it and imagining all the things I could do.
Today it's raining and cold and seemed like the perfect day for pizza. I pushed through the pain and made the dough. The book has four or five dough recipes to be made in a Cuisinart or by hand. I used my Cuisinart but I didn't like it. It felt like the motor was going to burn up. Mine is pretty old but I think I'll switch to my Kitchen Aid next time. I was worried that the yeast wasn't going to work because the kitchen was cold but I turned on the oven and set the dough to rise on top. It worked.
I caramelized some red onion and once again my bad shopping messed with me. I didn't have any Balsamic vinegar. I ALWAYS have Balsamic vinegar. My kitchen has fallen apart. I used some red wine. Different taste but OK. I roasted some asparagus and two cloves of garlic and sliced some prosciutto. Cut some mozzarella balls in half. Got out the Grana and THEN...

I intended to take a picture when it first came out of the oven but I got too excited. I knocked on Kevin and Mimi's door and told them to come see as soon as I put the first one in the oven. We ate the ones with asparagus first and I'd cut this one before I remembered to take the picture. The dough recipe makes four small pizzas. I don't love the dough. It's thicker than I want it to be. It never got brown. I need to experiment with the temperature and possibly precooking the doughs. I'm also going to try the other recipes and the one in The Cheese Board book. And I've read a few on line. They're all pretty much the same. I'm ambivalent about whole wheat but half and half might be OK. I wonder if a little bit of wheat germ might add flavor. So many experiments await.
And then there's the toppings.
I understand how all the people with i books feel. I have a new toy. Cooking is science and art and great fun.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

So I decide to try writing about food and suddenly I can't seem to shop. Seriously. It's hard to shop for one person and I pride myself on being able to do it well. The last two weeks I keep running into walls of shopping failure. Not enough of this. Too much of that.
I've been planning on making lentil soup for awhile. Yesterday I start cooking and I don't have shallots. Shallots are are a main ingredient around here. I always have them. I buy them when I don't need them because I worry about running out.

I mean. What happened?
I had chicken stock but not quite enough. What? I always have chicken stock.
What I did have was some chunks of sirloin that I intended to use and they weren't going to stay fresh forever.
It worked out. It isn't perfect and it bugs me when I don't have what I need. But it tastes good and will last for the next few days until I can go shopping.Maybe I need to make a list.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I do have more to say about Jaime Oliver. I watched the second section of the show on Friday and because I can't stand commercials I switched over to Kitchen Nightmares during them. That was interesting because there were similar themes. Bad food. Defensive cooks. And guys with English accents trying to make it better.
I do have an issue with Jaime acting like nothing like this has ever happened in the USA. Alice Waters has been doing it for a long time. But I don't want to sound overly critical of Jaime. I only really have one issue. Not all fat people eat badly. Not all fat people are unhealthy. And people who aren't fat are not well served by bad food and can be unhealthy. I heard him say that "scrawny people" can have these issues when he was being interviewed on CNN but two sentences later he was tossing the O word around again.
My issue was amplified by another show I watched that night in which a young girl who has been athletic all of her life can't find clothes to fit. She tells a story about winning some athletic competition. She heard a visiting coach say to her coach, "man that fat girl can run."
But for most of the show I am with Jaime. I am sharing his dismay when not one child in a classroom can identify a tomato. Or a potato. Or cauliflower. I have never known a child that couldn't identify vegetables. I guess that's because I know hippies and foodies.
I share his frustration when the cafeteria ladies are not willing to give the kids knives. I share his happiness when the teachers and the principal step in to teach the kids how to use them to eat.
One of the most confusing moments in the show is when he shows a group of kids how chicken nuggets are made. The kids are grossed out, as they should be, but when he asks if they want to eat them when he's done making them they say yes. When he does the same demo in England the kids say no. When he asks the USA kids why they'll eat these things that they know are gross they say they're hungry.
I'm really not sure what to make of this. Is it about instant gratification? Is it about such a lowered expectation about food that anything will do? I have always believed that if people know what's in the bad stuff and taste the good stuff they'll make the switch easily. But apparently I'm wrong.
I get the project and it is good. I want kids to know what a vegetable looks like and tastes like and I even want them to feel like they can participate in making their own meals. I want them to have that agency.
In most of the group scenes the kids don't look particularly fat. I'm not going to argue about people being fatter. I just know there have always been fat people and there will always be fat people. And I don't think that's a bad thing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Plans for food and writing happen the same way for me. It starts with a repetitive internal monologue. I've been thinking about doing this blog for about a week. Once that thinking starts everything I see and hear seems like a blog post.
I had French Toast for breakfast yesterday. I have French Toast about ten times a year. It's hard to do it more often because I like to use a baguette and I can't eat a whole baguette in one day. So I make French Toast when I have guests, or if I have another use for a baguette. Acme makes a small baguette but they don't have them at Whole Foods. If I'm at the Ferry Building I'm likely to grab some triple cream. But I usually only go there if someone is visiting or it's a holiday. So French Toast is special but when I was shopping I saw some raspberries. Then I thought about French toast with raspberries. Then I thought about the blog.
Being a fat person and writing about food makes me anxious. I do wish people understood that not all fat people eat junk.
I don't think of myself of someone with an eating disorder. I have disordered days but generally I like the way I think about food. But I've grown up in a world that looks in my grocery basket and makes judgments. Or makes judgments without looking about what's in my grocery basket. I am fairly immune to all of that stuff but not completely. My original idea was to start the blog with a picture of the French Toast and I was stunned by the negative voices that rose up and yammered away in my head. The most eating disordered thing a person can do is think about their food and the meaning it makes about their body.
I think about what I need to eat to feel good every day. I know I need protein and I know if I eat too many carbs I get stomach ache. Back in the day I could eat a whole baguette no problem. That stopped being true in my forties and every year my capacity for carbs gets lower. There is a protein/carb relationship. If I've had enough protein I can eat carbs with no stomach issues. But it's a delicate balance. I'm not interested in taking pills so that I can eat more carbs and I never want to stop eating baguettes. So I dance along that protein/carb edge and do my best.
Andy Weil said something about eating across the color spectrum as a guideline and I've never forgotten that. Green food is important. At least one other color every day seems to work. More is better.
French Toast is white bread and I use a lot of butter when I make it. I don't like maple syrup that much so it's not about sugar but it is about rich. I like the baguette because it stays chewy after being soaked in the egg and milk. I like soaking it for a few minutes because it gets custardy. I use a little cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg in the eggs and milk. I make extremely good French Toast.

Given that I've lost most of my readers on Fatshadow and this is a brand new blog and that people reading are my friends I do not really need to worry about judgment. So I was surprised at all the internal hish.
I was cooking dinner while I wrote this. Applesauce was cooking and the smell filled the apartment. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's often sell really thin cut pork chops. I seared them quickly in a not quite hot enough pan, which meant that they didn't get very brown, threw in some asparagus and stuck it in the oven. I heated the leftover risotto. The plate was too beige.
Heh. See. Now I'm obsessing.
Pleasure. Pleasure is on the list I go through when I'm deciding what to eat. My too beige dinner was a pleasure to eat. Nuff said.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm going to try and write a food blog. There are a few reasons.
First, I'm having trouble writing. So I hope that having a focus might make it easier. I like writing about food but I'm not exactly sure how to focus. I don't really use recipes. I'm not that interested in obscure ingredients or whacked out cooking methods. Maybe the second reason has to do with the uptick in obesity epidemic talk and how it makes me feel. The Jaime Oliver show, for example.
The show is fodder for an entire post. I watched a preview last week and he's been on numerous talk shows. Two things that I feel very strongly have a head on collision in the show. I share his horror over the crap food. And ... I get tired of the fear and loathing of obesity as a motivator. I think I will write more about this later. For the purposes of this post I just need to say that when I'm watching shows that generalize about how fat people eat I get cranky. It's just not true for me.
I've been cooking again. I have the time. I have things to say about food, much of which is just musing. And I've been having fun taking pictures of food. The picture above was inspired by a post I'd written. I think about how the food looks when I'm making a meal. I think more about it when I'm cooking for other people but I'm always aware of it. I love the moment when the food is all on the plate and it looks ... pretty. I am annoyed when I do things badly or in a sloppy manner or when I have an idea and it just doesn't work out.
When I was making dinner tonight I imagined what Jaime might say.

First, I roasted some asparagus. I like roasting because it's fast and brings out the sweetness in most things. I caramelized some shallots and then added the risotto and stock. Cooked all that until it was creamy. I had a few pieces of steak left over so I tossed them in with the asparagus for the last minute just to get it warm. When I pulled the asparagus out of the oven I drizzled a bit of truffle oil on it and put it in a bowl. I put the risotto on top of that with some Grana and then the steak. A small glass of wine and it was dinner. I think Jaime would approve.
My food thinking for any given day organizes around a need for protein, what's in season, what I have the time and energy to do. Nothing unusual. I like to eat seasonally and regionally. The truffle oil and risotto were from Italy so the meal is a fail on regional terms. I decide on risotto because I wanted to eat the asparagus. I didn't have much steak and I knew the stock and Grana would add protein.
I don't really care what Jaime would think. I like him well enough. His cooking shows are fun. He does a lot great community work. People, specifically kids, are fatter and it is about crap food and lack of movement. But people of all ages and sizes are not well served by crap food and lack of movement. So why does it always come back to the fat kids? It worries me.
I'm rambling around here but I'm just going to keep experimenting and see how it goes.