Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ketchup, hot sauce, how I love thee...

Some people are condiment snobs. They want only the most exotic whole grain mustard, the most authentic creole hot sauce, the fancy-ass wassabi olive oil aioli, the organic ketchup made from tomatoes that volunteered to be in the bottle in the first place. And they will carry it with them, because what you have or what the restaurant has is just not good enough.

Some people are condiment phobics. They assume their food will be served as intended, and if you didn't put a remoulade on it, then it shouldn't be eaten with remoulade. To ask for a side of something not only doesn't make sense, it's offensive. (some chefs are like this)

Some people are condiment addicts. It doesn't matter how you prepare it, they will salt and pepper, put hot sauce and mayo, goop on the salsa and the ranch dressing. Often this behavior happens before tasting what has been given to them.

Some are condiment exclusive. They put ranch on everything. Everything. Salad, sandwiches, pizza, french fries, bread, apples, pretzels, chicken, crackers, cheese, pickles...

Some are condiment indifferent. It would never occur to them to use steak sauce on a steak, but if you provide it in a handy and cute ramekin, well, sure they'll use it.

Some are condiment indulgent. For them, a burger is just an excuse for the condiments and toppings. Subway is a little slice of heaven and the salad bar is acres of creative goodness.

I am condiment indulgent. My husband is condiment indifferent. I imagine that, reading this, he would think I would label him condiment phobic. This is because he eschews mayo, ranch, mustard, ketchup, pickles and most similar condiments. He used to be more strict about this; I have seen him make exceptions for aioli and remoulades, even if it's sometimes just a question of semantics. He is becoming more adventurous with condiments as ingredients, understanding the wonderful emulsifying powers of a dab of mustard in the vinaigrette. He eats his buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing, and is willing to at least try many new sauces, dressings and dips.

I don't really see him as condiment phobic, but more condiment indifferent. And while I tease him about this, it doesn't really bother me. (I am occasionally frustrated by his condiment association blocks on food. We rarely have sloppy joe's, because although he likes my sloppy joe's, the dish itself reminds him of the ones his family used to make with ground beef and ketchup and little else and so never likes the thought of them.) More than anything, it's something I find cute, eccentric and a funny thing to rib him about. But it works out for me, because I get his cole slaw from his fish and chips, and I never have to worry about running out of sour cream because he used the last of it.

He's happy to eat his steak naked (ahem, I mean, the steak would be naked, not necessarily him...) and his burger as-is. The answer to, "would you like a little smear of pesto on your turkey panini?" is probably yes, but he's not the type to take a taste and say, "you know, this really needs some pesto." I'm the type to be disappointed almost to the point of emotionally ruining dinner for myself if I have to eat my steak without A-1. And if I bought Wegman's brand A-1 thinking it would taste the same and it soooo doesn't and I've made beautiful medium rare thick steaks and my sauce is sub par? I'm inwardly pouty and looking forward to the next time I can make steak because this time doesn't really count.

Now that I've laid out the condiment labels for the people of the world, I'm thinking people probably can be in more than one category, and that I'm pigeon holing people.

Quick, how many brands of hot sauce do you have in your cupboard/fridge? I can think of five off the top of my head. I am a big fan of spice and have been since I was a kid. I have a higher threshold for heat than most of my friends and family. (Past boyfriends have taken this as a blow to their manhoods, virtually ruining their plates of food just to prove they can keep up.)

What about mustards? I'm thinking of four in my fridge... honey, yellow, brown and whole grain. What about you all? Where do you fall in the condiment spectrum? Do you always salt? Do you need a side of thousand island for your reuben? Or do you ask for your burrito with no frills, eating your tortilla chips plain?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The FDA can suck it, or, Uncle Sam loves you

This morning we made soft boiled eggs. I used to have these sometimes as a child. My mom had special egg cups... does anyone have egg cups anymore? Does anyone eat soft boiled eggs anymore? Have we all been cowed by the FDA, scared into never again enjoying the creamy, yolky goodness dripping off our toast soldiers?

If the FDA had their way, we'd all be eating our filet mignon well done, and our carbonara pasty and glutenous. There would be no sashimi, no sushi, no chocolate lava cake. Every burger an arid frisbee and every egg a rubbery disk.

Now, I'm not trying to be some sort of commie pinko raw diet fanatic. I understand germs, foodborne illnesses, parasites and salmonella. I've even had food poisoning once or twice (although never, I should say, from anything I've mentioned. Fizolli's tried to kill me with chicken parmasean once, and Taco Bell with a chicken quesadilla.) I understand that there are people who eat raw chicken, and that really skeeves me out. I actually wear non-latex gloves to clean chicken, and am diligent about guarding against cross contamination with knives, cutting boards, cooking utensils, the sink and the counter in general, as well as marinades.

To be honest, I do these things with pork and beef, too (not the gloves).

I'm just saying we maybe took a good idea a little too far. The sight of all those asterisks in the menu condemning me to death if I don't order it burnt, well... it makes me irritated. Inform me that my coffee is hot, and I thank you. Warn me in big letters on the side of my cup that the beverage I'm about to enjoy could scald and disfigure me if I pour it on my crotch? I don't feel so thankful anymore.

And so this morning I ate my soft boiled eggs and loved them. So HA.

On an unrelated note, we drove past an old meat market today and were excited to see a big sign proclaiming it would soon be a Jamaican and Carribean restaurant. Wooooo-hooooo! We had to turn the car around and buzz it again, just to be sure. I don't know when it will open but I can't wait.

Tonight we made pad thai. Or, rather, Darling Husband made it, and I sous cheffed when I could, in between feeding our beautiful daughter a hippie combo of squash, apple, prune and barley. Chicken, tamarind, ginger, garlic, soy, egg, sugar, szechuan peppercorns, peanuts, fish sauce, sambol olek, cellophane noodles, sprouts and a squeeze of fresh lime. The kitchen smells awesome, hours later. It was lovely, although I can't take any credit for it. Pad thai is the sort of dish I don't quite understand, in that I can't instinctively know what goes in it. We briefly watched the Good Eats pad thai episode that we had TiVo'd, but we had already gone shopping and had the dish pretty much set. I admit, it makes us arrogant to turn off the tv and say, "ours will be better." Yet, while I couldn't eat Alton Brown's, I could eat ours. And it was yummy with a squeeze of lime.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Guest Blog: Adam's Chopped Dinner

This post, dearest readers, was guest blogged by my Darling Husband. I did not alter his text, and will comment below on my thoughts. Thank you, honey!

So, tonight was my night to tackle my latest round of Chopped ingredients. As you may recall - and you read it here first! - my ingredients were andouille sausage, buttermilk, chayote squash, and potato chips. The squash and the buttermilk I a little bit figured would take care of themselves. Whatever route I went with the other ingredients, they'd surely fit in somehow. And the sausage, I figured hey, it's sausage. You cook it, and it's sausage, and it's yummy, and you eat it.
And then, there's the chips... My initial thought was to break them down to crumbs, and use them to crust something. But crust what exactly? The sausage? I COULD, Iguess, but... I don't know. Sounds a little weird. Especially alongside my preliminary thought for the chayote and the buttermilk, which was some sort of creamy pureed soup type of preparation. Creamy soup with a side of crusty sausage...? Ehh...

The next idea started as a joke. "Maybe I'll just make gnocchi from them." But then I tried it out again... "I'll make... gnocchi... from them!" With a mad scientist's gleam in my eye, it was all settled. So, I present to you, tonight's featured dish...

Potato-chip Gnocchi with Andouille in a Chayote-Sage Brown Butter.

Yeah, that's right. ;-)
It could've been a disaster. I had no idea how or if the gnocchi was going to come together. I started by stuffing chips into the food processor and grinding them down as finely as I could. NOT very encouraging. I was hoping for something that looked like cornmeal, or Italian breadcrumbs. What I got looked like the bottom of a potato chip bag. So, I thought, maybe what I need is a little moisture. I added a splash of the buttermilk, and tried it again. Within 30 seconds, the mixture had gathered itself into a perfect ball.

It looked like dough. It FELT like dough. It tasted... like potato chips. I repeated the process with the rest of the chips, adding an egg to bind it, and a bit of flour, and I had a pretty acceptable looking dough. It was a LITTLE crumbly - rolling it out, I had to stick with more of a log than a rope, but I was able to make a nice pile of little nuggets.

For the sauce, I began by browning the sausage, which I'd cut to lengths roughly the same size as the gnocchi. Once it was nicely browned, I set the sausage aside, and began to brown about a third of a stick of butter in the rendered sausage drippings.
I then added the chayote...The chayote was interesting. In my head, as I'm thinking through the dish, I'm imagining it as a squash. Butternut, acorn, whatever... But it's almost more like an apple. It's got a seed, and a bit of acore, thin skin... The raw flesh was crisp, not unlike a granny smith or a jicama, with a hint of tartness, and a clean, grassy, cucumber-y flavor. Would make a great salad... But for today, I cubed it and added it to the brown butter. I then covered it, letting it simultaneously saute and brown in the butter, and steam and soften in its own moisture. I pureed everything with astick blender, and then added a sprinkling of fresh sage, and a touchmore of the buttermilk. It was a complex sauce... all at once nutty and sweet from the brown butter, and bright and clean from the chayote and the sage.

I quickly boiled the gnocchi, which mostly held together, tossed them with the sauce and the sausage, and garnished with a dollop of ricotta. I tasted the first of the gnocchi, and let out a little giggle. They were a LITTLE weird. But they worked! Despite the occasional slightly toothy and recognizable bit of chip, I found them surprisingly light and pillowy. The sausage was bold and flavorful, and the sauce, which had been so complex in the pan, managed to tie it all together and be completely unobtrusive.
I had to go back for more...Maybe my dear wife will see fit to weigh in too, but I must say that I was a little bit impressed with myself. I took an idea that seemed faintly ridiculous and far too ambitious, and managed pretty well. For better or worse, I pulled off a shocker. And not a buckwheat fritter in sight...


My father told me the other night he was inspired by my blog to do some creative cooking of his own. Fending for himself for dinner while my mom was out of town, he decided to make an omelet.

First, he microwaved a vegetarian black bean burger slightly to thaw. Then he chopped it with a chef's knife into small pieces. At this point, it resembled ground burger.

He had a hot pepper that had been sitting in a small dish on the auxiliary heater all winter. It was, in his words, completely dessicated. He used a mortar and pestle to pulverize the pepper, reducing the whole pepper (seeds included) to powder. This he sprinkled over some olive oil in a pan and put on the heat, allowing the pepper flavors to bloom. [I was particularly impressed with this part, as it's something I found out on my own after much trial and error. If I fry the crushed red pepper flakes first, the oils and the heat is activated and also infuses the oil itself, thereby flavoring all of the food that absorbs the oil evenly.]

He added the burger to the pan and gently fried it to brown it a bit. He noted that the burger absorbed much of the oil. At this point, he used a knife to shave some 5 year old aged cheddar cheese over the burger. He poured Egg Beaters over the whole mixture and allowed it to set, lifting the edges and tilting the skillet so that it didn't scramble, but formed what I would think of as a fritatta. He covered the skillet and turned the heat to low.

While the omelet set up, he made himself a few pieces of toast. Omelet onto plate and voila, "I et it." Dinner is served.

I'm flattered that my father thought of me while he made this meal, but I'm not exactly surprised. My mother has always been the one to do the cooking in that house, and my father is very appreciative of that fact. He has famously said, "Going to a restaurant isn't exciting to me. I eat better at home." And it's true, people, it's so true. My mother is a phenomenal cook. They have been married over 40 years, and there's no reason for his culinary skills to be very developed. Once, when I was a teenager (or maybe summer break between semesters in college? I can't quite remember) my mom went to France for a couple of weeks. My father put the food money for the week in a cigar box and we took turns being in charge of dinner. The money was to buy groceries or buy take-out, and it was a pretty good system. I was rather a novice in the kitchen, but we certainly didn't go hungry. That being said, I do recall a handful of occasions when my father did cook. The one that sticks out in my mind is doctored up spaghetti-o's with blue cheese and hot sauce. Or was it ramen noodles with blue cheese? I'm pretty sure it was "sketty oh's," as I still say. I tasted them. It wasn't bad. Wasn't my cup of tea, either, but wasn't bad. I wonder if he remembers that dish, and whether or not he enjoyed it?

I know he enjoyed his omelet the other night. One thing I have no doubt about is that my father's plate, with the toast and the omelet, looked beautiful. He has an eye to the aesthetics of presentation, and infinite patience. Go to a buffet with him and he will create these lovely plates of food worthy of being photographed and displayed. If we do, as they say, eat with our eyes first, his cooking will always taste good--at least at first. :o) Love you, Daddy...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dr Lector, this chianti is divine...

Okay, I am about to admit something that people who are 30 are not supposed to admit.

I like liver.

Still reading? Oh, good. It's not something I admit often. I'd never say it at work, for example. Actually, it's more that people my age aren't supposed to like liver. All I can do is shrug. Is it fashionable? No, it invokes early bird specials and little old men smacking their lips. Or, Hanibal Lector smacking his lips. Which isn't an improvement. But sometimes taste trumps fashion.

Why don't young people like liver? I don't know. I guess because it's old fashioned, like cold tongue sandwiches and tomato aspic. I have an easier time understanding why the generations before me do like it. Those were the times before PETA, when people were closer to their food in general. Not everyone lived on a farm, but I think people were less likely to try to psychologically distance themselves from the "meat is murder" mindset (which didn't much exist) and understood that meat does, indeed, come from animals. Hermetically sealed packages in supermarkets weren't ubiquitous or, even, necessarily an option. Plus, liver is cheap. If people in today's economy can appreciate that, just think of those living in (or having lived through) the great depression. People couldn't afford to be picky, to want to eat only the breast meat of a chicken and ignore the rest. Getting hung up on the basic function of the liver (to filter and nullify toxins) was a luxury they didn't have. I think there was also more of an effort to eat the whole animal, not to waste. Our culture is blissfully unaware of how much food we waste, of how much of the animal we turn up our noses at. I'm far from the first to point this out, but if we truly cared about the noble animal who gave its life for our sustenance, we would honor it by eating or using every last bit. Then again, I'm 30. What do I know.

I'm not an organ meat kind of woman, in general. I don't fight over the gizzard at Thanksgiving, nor have I ever had kidneys (that I know of). Come to think of it, liver is probably the only organ meat I eat. (I do remember being a child and eating sweetbreads at my grandparents' house at Lake Latonka... I remember loving them. As an adult, I'm not sure where I'd even find sweetbread, let alone bring myself to eat it. Totally a psychological thing.)

There's something vaguely threatening about liver. Raw, it's slithery and slimy, an unpleasantly bloody color. Sliced thinly, the slices are almost too heavy for themselves, and fall limply with no structure at all. It tears easily in the way muscle meat does not. Pinch it too hard between thumb and finger and it crushes, breaking apart in an almost micro-fibrous way. It's almost like it's ripping. Cooked, the texture is still a problem. It's unbearably tender, even silky, but your teeth are still crushing and tearing instead of actually cutting. The taste is... well, it's like the essence of meat.

Western palates are familiar with sweet, sour, salty and bitter tastes. The Japanese have proposed a fifth basic taste, which they call umami. Essentially, it's savory meatiness. Mushrooms also have an umami -ness. But then again, it's difficult to describe a basic taste. (Quick, assume I don't know what salt is. Describe "salty".) Regardless, liver is dripping with umami. In a good way.

I cook liver the way my mother does. I go to Gordon's Meat and buy it from the nice middle aged ladies there, one with a startling spider tattoo on her forearm. I dredge it lightly in flour and lightly fry it, served along with onions fried with bacon. Tonight, I actually achieved something of a country fried liver with half of it, as I dredged a bit too long before I fried and the moistness soaked the flour enough that I felt compelled to dredge a second time. This made for a rather crispy, almost defined crust which was unusual but not bad.

My husband is not a liver fan. He tried it, but the essential organness of it was a bit much. Too meaty, too creepy of a texture, I think. I don't make it often for this reason. I used to take the opportunity to make liver for myself when he wasn't home for dinner, or else I'd make something for his dinner that I didn't like. When we were first together, it was venison. Tonight, it was breakfast.

I'm only vaguely warming up to breakfast food in the past several years, but nothing throws off my chi quite like breakfast for meals other than breakfast. My Darling Husband, however, is a great big breakfast fan, and is happy to eat it at 9 o'clock at night. He got an omelet with farmer cheese, cheddar, mushrooms, italian sweet peppers, onions and a spoonful of roasted tomato salsa. And a couple pieces of bacon. We shared some potatoes cubed and done in a pan with what Sam's Club calls "perfect seasoning."

My dinner was wonderful and comforting, particularly with a dab of brown mustard. He enjoyed his as well, and is currently snoring gently on our big, red, puffy chair with our kitten curled up on his lap. We've got the Villanova/Duke game on TV, although I'm about to stealthily change the channel to Food Network.

Bottom line: Offal isn't awful!! (sorry, couldn't help myself.) It's actually quite wonderful, in my little corner of the world. There are worse things. Besides, it's not like I made fava beans with it...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ingredients revealed

It's Darling Husband's turn to make a chopped dinner, and I thought it would be fun to introduce his ingredients via blog.


Fresh andouille sausage

Chayote squash

Kettle corn potato chips

Stay tuned to find out what he makes!

Rah Mahal--Indian food at last!

For far too long we've been without a good Indian restraint. Or any Indian restaurant, for that matter. But now we have the Raj Mahal. We happened upon it one day and were drawn to it especially because they had a lunch buffet. I'm not that familiar with Indian food, so it was really nice to be able to try a little bit of a lot of things, and then know from the labels what we liked.

Tonight we got take out, as I worked until 7pm. It was a pleasant change from pizza, chinese food, wings, burgers, etc. We got dal (a lentil dish) and chicken makhani, billed as "Succulent chicken cubes broiled in tandoor with delicious blend of creamed tomato curry and exotic spices." Oh, and was it ever... Velvety and smooth with huge hunks of white breast meat. The rice was perfumed and spiced and matched perfectly. I haven't had something there I didn't like, but I especially recommend the chicken makhani.

I'm glad to have another ethnic food option, especially since the Pho place closed. We still don't have a Thai place...maybe next year!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Tuesday and guess what's on...

So I'm sitting in bed with my laptop, watching the brand new episode this week of Chopped. I am watching it delayed by about a half hour, but I'm going to blog as I watch. A kind of viewer's guide, if you will.

A former body builder.
A former personal trainer.
A private chef who works on mega yachts.
A martial arts guy who used to cook with his grandfather after watching cooking shows. Aww. Actually, that's really sweet.

Course 1: Appetizer. 30 minutes. Ingredients: Peanut butter, granny smith apples, jumbo shrimp.

Adam suggests a spicy peanut shrimp (thai style) with an onion apple sautee as a bed for the shrimp. Maybe the shrimp could even be on a skewer.

I'm thinking of something similar, but maybe grilling the apple with something spicy... sambal olek? And making a shrimp salad underneath with a bit of rice noodles in a peanut butter sesame sauce. So that the apples are warm but the shrimp are cold. And you'd need lime.

Stream of consciousness on the actual cooking: jeez, these guys are really complaining a lot. Whoah! That's a lot of butter that guy's putting in to butter poach! They all seem to be doing similar things, so it might just come down to who executes it better. I think this former personal trainer just complained that everyone's doing asian, but she's doing a Thai thing, too. Hmmmm. I think it's fun that the shrimp are huge and whole. I wonder if they are all going to leave them whole or break them down into the form with which we're most familiar. So far they are each doing well... often there's one contestant trying to do way too much who loses out just based on time management. Oh, wait, here it comes. The private yacht chef is stressed and feeling like she's not going to finish. That's familiar. If only she had some barely cooked chicken to serve on a plate... Five minutes to go. The one guy is doing a salty apple slaw looking stuff. Could be good. And why is this girl insisting on cooking her shrimp with no seasoning? She thinks her sauce will carry it? Whooo! Sriracha! My favorite hot sauce! I grew up putting that stuff on pizza and spaghetti. We called it Chinese ketchup (politically incorrect, but I did once hear Alton Brown say something like that once).

Tasting: Chef michael's dish looked fresh and fun and seemed well received. Personal trainer girl's dish is too sweet, too mushy of an apple. Chef Yacht lady's dish looks a mess. Oooh, and they are tearing her up for not cleaning the shrimp well enough and being too heavy handed with the flavors. Now Chef Todd, salty apple guy, didn't clean his shrimp at all. Hmmm. I think Yacht girl is going to go.

Who got chopped? Ooooh, an upset! Personal trainer girl! Hmmm. We are surprised.

Course 2: Main course. 30 minutes. Ingredients: Kielbasa, pepperoncini, fingerling potatoes, tarragon.

Adam's initial thought is to make some sort of hearty, rustic sausage stew kind of thing with the potatoes. Not sure how to work the pepperoncini in there. They're so vinegary, maybe puree them? Swirl them in? Still working on that part.

I'm somehow thinking of stuffing and roasting the pepperoncini with the sausage and the potatoes, but then that's not much of a main course. Maybe a rustic mash with a kind of ragout on top? Maybe with other peppers, like bell? Gnocchi would be fun but there's no time. Ooooh, or, a frico with a sausage pepper filling... I like that. But then again, maybe an egg fritatta? This one's hard.

S.O.C: This guy's adding ricotta into a kielbasa sandwich. Hmmm. AH! He's making gnocchi!! (I tried that once and had to throw it out. It was for valentine's day, if I recall. Hazelnut gnocchi. Sounded great but the batter just couldn't come together for love nor money.) I have concerns about gnocchi guy getting it done in time. The other two seem to have it going on, seem confident. Gnocchi guy just admitted he had big hips. Ooop, the other guy's potatoes aren't cooking fast enough and there's just two minutes left. Don't know if gnocchi michael is going to get food on plate... okay, he did, but in a very small portion.

Tasting: They seem to be pleased with Chef Yacht, and I'm pleased for her. Sandwich guy just got reprimanded for telling them how to eat the food. The gnocchi taste good, they say, but there isn't enough of it. I'm not sure who is vulnerable... we think Chef Yacht is safe.

Who got chopped? Sandwich guy, Chef Tod. They blasted him for doing extreme tapas and not an entree.

Course 3: Dessert. 30 minutes. Ingredients: Marshmallow spread, chocolate puff cereal, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dried strawberries.

Adam said: hmmmm. [long pause] Take the cocoa puffs and pulverize them to crumbs and make some sort of dough from them, with eggs, a crumbly dough. Make some sort of double chocolate thing with the chocolate chips, baked. The strawberries, rehydrate in rum for some daiquiri type thing and puree them as a dippy sauce. The marshmallow fluff is going to be too cloying, needs something to cut the sweetness. Mix with some cream? Egg whites? Make a meringue? So meringue on top of cookie, or a napoleon cream.

I'm saying extreme rice krispy treats, baby! Mix it all up with butter and let it fly!! Maybe not very high end, but it sounds actually pretty good. And I'm about out of ideas at this point.

S.O.C: I like that the guy's putting some heat into his brownie dish. Cognac with the strawberries. There you go. Chef Yacht is calm, collected. She's making crepes, and her technique looks comfortingly familiar. The other guy 's brownies are weirdly fluffy and light tan. Ricotta into the marshmallows, seems a good move to me. Candied orange zest... yum. Um, that guy's chomping on cereal, hanging out, and just asked her if she needed help. That's rude. I mean, it sounds nice, but it comes off patronizing and cocky. He seems really pleased with his brownies, but they look burnt on the sides to me.

Tasting: They're blasting him for being overconfident. Looks a bit dry, they're saying it's burnt! Ha. Ass. I don't like him and I hope he loses. Chef Yacht (Jackie) is self conscious about her dish... they like the ricotta, find it playful, maybe a bit too much on the plate, "fluffy and interesting." I'm not sure who they will pick. Adam thinks they're sending Chef Michael.

Who wins the $10,000? CHEF (YACHT) JACKIE!! Whooo-hoooo!

Ear Salve? Oh, Sophia!

Tonight my darling husband designed and created dinner. He's been doing this so much more lately, and it's wonderful. It takes the stress off of the whole "what do you mean we have to eat dinner? We just cooked and ate dinner last night!" that inspired this whole blog. Maybe he's found his fun again in meal planning. Maybe he's just a sweet guy and this is the current way it's manifesting itself. Maybe he is trying to give me a break more. Maybe it's all my imagination, and he's doing what he's always done. Or maybe... maybe... maybe... he's just trying to get props written into this blog. :o)

He made a fantastic pasta dish with basil pesto, cream, sundried tomato, chicken and button mushrooms, all over this wonderfully chewy pasta, the name of which I have forgotten. Basically, it's like a thick spaghetti, but hollow in the middle. Very fun to eat, very filling. One minor problem was it didn't twirl well on the fork. Had he cooked it more, it would have, but then it wouldn't have been beautifully al dente. Why ruin food just so it twirls? The dish was fantastic! Crumbles of farmer cheese just set apart the flavors of the whole creaminess of the sauce with the freshness of the pesto, the earthy intensiveness of the sundried tomatoes and the tight, moistness of the mushrooms. My biggest complaint was that it was so filling, I couldn't possibly manage a second helping and so have to package it up for lunch. :o) Yummmmm.

I didn't used to like pesto, and it took me a while to realize why. I love basil (every year Adam and I plant an herb garden. The year before last, it was all kinds of basil. Last year it didn't get planted, because I was too hugely pregnant to feel much like digging in the dirt in the heat.) and Parmesan, oil and even pine nuts. So if I like all of the ingredients, what about it didn't taste right? No, it's the Golden Girls that did me in on pesto for many years.

Remember the oldest member of the Golden Girls, Sophia? Played by Estelle Getty, who was not nearly as old as she appeared on that show, Sophia was an immigrant from Sicily who told all these old world stories that always started the same way: "Picture it. Sicily. 1926." Her character was sassy and wise, irreverent and even bawdy. Often her stories were of someone who could've made it big if only, or who did make it big but somehow we just don't know their name. One of the stories that really stuck with me featured a neighbor in Sophia's village who made this wonderful ear salve that helped everyone, except some fool put it on his pasta instead and said it was great, but the guy should rename it. Linguine with ear salve didn't sell well, but linguine with pesto did. Ugh. Just thinking of that story gives me the heebie jeebies. I don't know why, since it's not like he had it on his ear first, but I don't know. Maybe it's the color? Vivid green and gritty... not appetizing when you mentally pair it with anything needing salve.

I have fond memories of the Golden Girls. I remember watching it with my mom as a kid. When I was single, it was on Lifetime at 11pm. I would often watch one episode (it was also on at 11:30) and then go to bed. It was like a ritual. In the weeks after my daughter was born, I discovered it was on at 9 in the morning. At the time, that was just after her first morning nap, and about the time she needed to be up and nursing. Early morning was tough for me, after my husband left for work and I was faced with my entire day taking care of this wonderful but baffling little life who depended on me for everything, and who hated to be put down. I was sleep deprived and scared and lonely and coping with hormone soup and the awesomeness of having birthed a new human and oh shit now they expect me to know how to care for her?! So the ladies of the Golden Girls helped. I would look forward to catching a few minutes with my "old friends," with predictable jokes I vaguely remembered and a can-do kind of girl power spirit, and it helped me establish a time flow to my day. After Golden Girls, we tried to get dressed and get out, or at least get downstairs for a change of pace. When I went back to work, I missed them. I started to TiVo it just to feel connected. After a while, I didn't need Blanche, Dorothy, Sophia and Rose the same way anymore. I turned off the timer. But I'm glad I had them there to help me through. Sometimes the least sensical things make the most sense.

Anyway, it took me some time to get over my pesto hang up, but I'm glad I did. Because dinner tonight rocked.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A rather French dinner

Tonight I got a package in the mail from my uncle in France. It had a container of pate, a jar of mirabelle jam, a bottle of ricqules and some chocolate. Suddenly, I was inspired for dinner.

We put together a spinach and arugula salad, and had that along with a plate of pate and brie. I tried Pillsbury french baguette in a tube, which actually wasn't bad. Maybe not fantastic, but not bad. A pretty simple meal, but a tasty one. The pate has such a richness, an unctuousness that is almost over the top... it's a bit dirty and sinful, in a way that just adds to the fun.

When I told my mom what we were having, she told me how when she was single, she and her roommate would sometimes get a baguette and a camembert and make sandwiches, of a sort, and call that dinner. Mmmmmmmmmh.

My darling husband and I have a rule that we established when we started living together: two side dishes make a meal. Sauteed green beans? Not a meal. Sauteed green beans and corn on the cob? There you go! We've been known to make some strange dinners, but it works because we are, for the most part, on the same page, food-wise. I'm lucky he's adventurous and willing (even if I grumble that he won't try oysters on the half shell). There are plenty of people out there who turn up their noses at anything unfamiliar, from artichokes to muscles, duck to sushi, escargot to soft cheeses, steak tartare to okra, cured meats to andouille sausage. These aren't every day foods for us, but I like that he can appreciate them the way I do. Come to think of it, he didn't like soft cheeses when I first met him. I wonder what changed his mind?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tartlett. Word's lost all meaning.

I'm pleased to say I made a perfectly fine dinner with my mishmash ingredients. An unconventional pairing, to be sure, but it tasted good...

The yogurt did, indeed, turn to something fun and lovely. Tangy and surprisingly thick, yet creamy, I could see smearing that on bits of cracker as is, or mixing in some herbs. I left it plain. It inspired me to go in a sort of Greek direction with the rest of the meal.

The chicken I marinated in some olive oil, lemon juice, two cloves of garlic (smashed) and lots of fresh oregano.

I cut the rhubarb in small pieces and let it sweat with some sweet spanish onion in a bit of olive oil. A pinch of sugar, a few grains of salt and a dash of water turned the whole thing into caramelized goodness. I let it simmer for a good long time--probably 30 minutes or so. All the rhubarb broke down and it became this interesting pink/mauve mush. But yummy pink/mauve mush... I finished it with a cap full of red wine vinegar.

I decided on a savory bread pudding for the waffles. (Prior to that, I attempted to roll one out thinly to see what it would do. It didn't. It's a sponge, basically. I scrapped that idea.) I cubed about five of the waffles and mixed them with two eggs and some milk. A little lemon zest, nutmeg, a dash of cinnamon and some fresh cracked black pepper went in. I was thinking along the line of pastitsio, seasoning-wise. I mounded this in a silicon pan and set it to bake.

I realize that having bread pudding should really count as one's starch, and so I must get points off for making a tart for the rest of the meal. (Should we call it tart? A pizza, I guess, but without sauce. Or cheese...)

I had gotten a tube of Pillsbury thin pizza crust, and was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. Buttery and crispy but a good, crunchy base without becoming dry. I baked it at 400 degrees for 7 minutes first, before topping it.

For the topping, I thinly sliced about half of an eggplant and cooked them lightly in a pan. I have always been intimidated by eggplant, although I love it, because when improperly cooked, it's much like gnawing on a kitchen sponge. Properly cooked, it's fantastic. The problem is, I'm not sure how to properly cook it, except in a handful of ways... So I made sure it got a head start. I distributed the slices evenly on the pizza crust, having first lightly brushed it with olive oil. Then I cooked the chicken in the same pan (the oil it marinated in was plenty enough to cook it) and removed it to be sliced before using it to top the crust. Into that pan, then, went several large hand fulls of baby spinach to wilt. The leftover juices really added to the spinach, and the liquid from the leaves helped to bring up the fond from the pan. Ohh, goodness abounding...

I sprinkled the wilted spinach on the crust with my hand (forgetting it had just been on the stove and, therefore, hot, and so burning my fingers in the process) and stepped back to examine my handiwork. Not bad so far.

I added the chicken and then diced up some dried figs, some oil cured black olives and some more fresh oregano. I sprinkled these on top, liking the thought that the figs and the olives looked very similar and so would be a small surprise when biting into the tart.
The whole thing then was popped back into the oven to finish. About this time, I removed the bread pudding and was pleasantly surprised that it was edible!

The ubiquitous pan that had cooked eggplant, chicken and spinach was pressed into use a fourth time, this time to toast the hazelnuts. I chopped them in order to sprinkle on the tart when it came out. I also zested some more lemon.

So! The final product, a Grecian Inspired Tart with Chicken Thigh, Spinach and Eggplant with Savory Bread Pudding and Caramelized Rhubarb-Onion Compote. Oh, with dolloped yogurt.

I liked it, but then again, I cooked it. We'll ask my Darling Husband to comment on how it tasted...

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I've set the yogurt to drain in a papertowell set in a chinois. I'm hoping it will get thick, like greek yogurt or even yogurt cheese! I would've put it in cheesecloth, but I don't have any...

Saturday and another Chopped!

We decided tonight would be fun for another round of Chopped. (FYI, there was a second round that I haven't yet blogged about... I'll have to backtrack and do it another day, because this just seems more fun)

Well, Dearest Husband has just returned from the store bearing cinnamon scones for breakfast and the following ingredients!

Chicken Thighs
Plain Yogurt
Frozen Waffles

Hmmmmmmmmm...... Up until the waffles, I was thinking some sort of pizza thing. This one is tough. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking...

Waffles. Waffles. I could toast them and use them as a platform. I could see if I can dry them out in the oven like croutons. I could maybe roll them flat and get them really crispy somehow, almost like a tostata. I could cube and make a bread pudding with them. Or, possibly, microplane them while frozen to make powdery crumbs, which can be then toasted and used to make a crust, or as a dusty finishing touch, or mixed to make, um... uh... I don't know what.

Rhubarb. Raw rhubarb is supposed to be almost bitterly sour. Puckery. I've only ever had rhubarb with strawberries, that I recall. What about caramelized onions with the rhubarb in, like a chutney? I'm a little nervous to use it raw, although I like the thought of the crunch.

Plain yogurt could be used like sour cream... as a dressing base, as a moistener, as a finisher, as a dip... I could also use cheese cloth and make a kind of yogurt cheese out of it. That would have been good for the base of the chicken pizza. I might still make some use of it.

Hazelnuts don't scare me at all. They could crust the chicken, be sprinkled on top of salad or greens. I could try to make a hazelnut butter (like peanutbutter). Oh, a sort of thai spicy nut thing? Hmmm...

I will post as it occurs to me and take pictures for the final product. Yay!

Jeopardy and Chimmichurri

I have proof that my husband is one of the smartest men I know. First, there's his ridiculously high SAT score (somewhere in the 1500's, if I recall... he's a little shy to talk about it). Then there's the fact that he just seems to know all kinds of stuff, and gets things. There's the way he picks up smatterings of languages and can noodle on numerous musical instruments, the way he does complicated math in his head, and that he's currently in the contestant pool for Jeopardy. Any minute we could get the call, and WHOOSH he's on a plane to LA to battle it out with the latest Ken Jennings.

But if ever I doubted his intelligence, it was put to rest with Carnitas Empanadas with Beet Green Chimichurri. It's almost too hard to say, let alone come up with off the top of your head. However, three minutes or so after being presented with golden beets, country ribs, passion pear nectar, puff pastry shells and farmer cheese, this is what jumped to the forefront of his busy brain. I was, and still am, impressed.

The country ribs are boneless and pork, and I've looked at them in the store multiple times and just wasn't sure what to do with them. Darling Husband (whose real name is Adam) braised them for hours in the passion/pear nectar, which he had punched up with a can of chipotle in adobo. Once everything was falling apart, he pulled the pork with forks. Oooooh, let me tell you, that would make the most kick-ass pulled pork sandwiches!

Adam then baked the puff pastry shells, which end up looking a lot like the bamboo baskets in which they keep cobras in Indiana Jones-type movies. The pork mixture went into the shells, to be topped with some of the farmer cheese and popped under the broiler.

The beets? Well, apparently he considered just using the beet greens and not the actual beets, but was worried I might disqualify him for not really using the ingredient. The greens became a rockin' chimichurri that was drizzled over the empanadas. He used a mandolin to thinly slice the golden beets, then fried them like chips to serve on the side. They were, of course, amazing.

I wish I had a picture to post, because everything even looked scrumptious. The cheese on top of the pork, already a bit on the dry side, toasted to a lovely honey color and dried out a bit more like feta. The chimichurri was bright and herbaceous, the pastry was sort of sweet (the way bread can be sweet, but not sugary at all) and buttery and crispy/chewy all at once, the pork was spicy and smoky but balanced by the passion nectar. The cheese provided just the right counterpoint to cut through the sauce. The beet chips were savory and salty and yet with a bit of sweetness, too. All and all, it looked great, it tasted even better, and he clearly won this chopped round.

Bravo, darling honeybear. You can be my chef any time...


Apparently we did take a picture! It's not fantastic, because it was on a cell phone, but...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

They say it's your birthday...

So, today I turned 30! Between the Prosecco and the pre-dinner Long Island Mango Tea, I'm afraid I'm not in a place to be writing much of anything. But I'd love to write about the wonderful dinner my husband made me... he called from work and said he was stopping at the store and making me dinner. Wooo! Roasted pork tenderloin with spicy golden raspberry glaze, creamy parsnip puree and roasted brussell sprouts, triple cream brie and tiramisu. Oh, Lord, yes. What a meal! And he brought me pretty tulips, too. Turning 30 isn't so bad... particularly with triple cream brie.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thanks, Julia, but I got it covered

You know that really suave pan flip thing chefs do? The food all flies in the air and folds back on itself? Julia Child suggests trying this with a pan and some dry beans while standing in the yard. I've never felt brave enough to try it, in kitchen or yard, but this evening I did, out of necessity. I was sauteing some onions and was trying to peel a couple of cloves of garlic before the onions went too far. I didn't have a cooking utensil and the garlic skins were fighting back and I was doing too many things at once (a bad habit) and so only had one hand to use. How many pieces of buttery onion flew from the pan and gobbed onto my stove top? None. HA.

I might just be a ringer, though, since I have been flipping crepe with the same motion for upwards of 25 years. (oh, Lord, please tell me I'm not old enough to say that...) It's a French tradition on Chandleur, or February 2nd, a Catholic celebration of Candlemas. On this day, you hold a gold coin in your non-dominant hand and use the opposite hand to flip the crepe. If it lands perfectly in the pan, you will not want for money in the coming year. It's very important that you hold the gold in your non-pan-holding-hand, otherwise you risk melting the gold or marring the coin. I don't think it's part of the original tradition, but it occurs to me that destroying a gold coin isn't going to help your financial situation either. Of course.

It's a fun tradition, and a tasty one, too. You can serve them with sugar, jam, or Hershey's syrup, but I tend to like mine hot and bare. (That's the start of a terrible line, isn't it? I like my crepes like I like my women...) I recreated the crepe flipping for my now husband on one of our first few dates. When I re-met my husband (we dated briefly in high school but lost touch until after college) we had our first date on February 18th. Chandleur was fresh in my mind and I thought it would be way fun. My mom had to make the batter for me, since she couldn't give me a recipe and I didn't know what it should look like well enough to wing it. Plus, the batter thickens as it sets, so making it much in advance isn't a great plan unless you are prepared to fix it at the last moment. The evening was a success... and I have to say I think I have a habit of attempting to secure his love through food. He once told me he'd marry me if I made homemade bread. Oh, I made it, all right. It was dense as concrete and about as flavorful, but I tried like hell...

Baking isn't my thing. I don't like to measure and I don't like having to use specific ingredients. I like to cook by instinct, using what I have, what looks good and what I whimsically feel like throwing in. This does not make for good bakery items. My mom doesn't use recipes, either, but my sister almost always does. Hence, my sister makes fantastic baked items and I do not.

Come to think of it, my mother once made what in family lore has become known as Bird Killing Bread. It was a loaf so dense and inedible, they put it out for the birds to eat. The way my father tells it, the birds ate it and then were unable to become airborne, instead hopping around forlornly, ballasted by the bread. He's been known to exaggerate.

Dinner tonight was a simple, 15 minute type meal. We had cube steaks dusted with cayenne with a side of tortellini that I threw into a saute with onion, garlic and dandelion greens. My darling husband cleaned the greens while I fed our little girl banana apple pear puree. (Store bought. I try to make her food, but some nights it just doesn't happen. And she doesn't like the bananas I make. She prefers the stuff you buy, which is more like banana pudding.) I like eating dandelion greens... they have a clean, fresh taste, a little bitter but not like some greens, with a fair amount of crunch even after being wilted. Plus, it makes me feel like a kid sitting in the school yard eating grass. I never did this, but I feel like I'm doing it now.

I realize I'm about to sign off without addressing the cliff hanger of my husband's chopped dish, but I've babbled on a bit tonight and will need to save that for a different post. Suffice it to say, it was awesome and I'm totally jealous for not thinking of it myself. But I was really happy to have eaten it and I'll talk about it soon. I should warn you, though, tomorrow is my birthday so I make no promises that it will be my very next post...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

faith and begorrah

A little note to mark the day...

St Patrick's Day is a strange holiday, celebrated in a drunken marathon binge by green clad college students (and those 21 at heart) with dyed green beer and carnival beads. At 7:45 this morning, on my way to work, I drove past some of these people, already bar-hopping and looking a bit jovial with drink. One had on shockingly green corduroy pants and a spangly top hat. But can anyone tell me, why the carnival beads? Anyone?

I celebrated this evening with a Reuben, a Guinness and a bowl of Potage Parmentier (potato leek soup). Comfort food, made by my mom, who is only just recovering from food poisoning and has very little appetite but has an ingrained need to feed those who are around at dinner time and an iron will that believes, just a little, that if she tries really hard, she won't be sick anymore. I don't take after her at all. Riiiight.

I love her all the more for this, and I love her cooking. I also love this house, and love the fact that I can pack up my baby and my kitten and deposit myself and my menagerie on their doorstep after work to stay the night because my husband is away on business and my nearly 100 year old house feels lonely and sad without him. My parents are the epitome of hospitable, and even though my room was actually demolished to make a sitting/dressing room off their master bedroom (punched through the wall and put in french doors and everything), it's still home to me, too. My sister even stopped by after bar hopping, as my plans altered and I couldn't meet her out, and we watched Will Ferrel's HBO special on George W Bush.

I'm writing this with my kitten curled in my lap, listening to my daughter snore in her pack and play. Life is good. Faith and begorrah, indeed. Happy St Patrick's Day, everyone.

Fennel, scallops, gorgonzola and... insects?

I was allowed to go back into the store to shop for whatever else I'd need for dinner. I have to say, it was a little intimidating. Probably the biggest problem for me was I had too many ideas, felt torn in too many directions. Making decisions is not my strong point. Then, there's the fact that I'm not a huge fan of blue cheese.

I started off by simmering some of the dates in white wine. Dry, they looked like petrified burgundy olives... but also somehow sweet, like hard candy. I had high hopes for them. Softened, I thought they'd look like, well, like burgundy olives. Plump, firm, dark and dusky, I thought. I was not prepared to peek in at them five or so minutes later to see they had turned into bloated, sickly cockroaches.

Not actually cockroaches, of course, though they might as well have been. All the skin had peeled back from the hole where, in an olive, a pimento might be jauntily tucked. The flesh itself was a weird, pinkish, sort of... well, let's put it this way. It looked like actual flesh. I cannot tell you how unappetizing these things had become. I tried stripping off the skin with a knife, and it came off in stringy, broken segments that clung to knife and fingers like scotch tape. Great, I ruined dinner before it's begun. Where the hell am I going to stash these things?

I turned my attention back to the other ingredients. Fennel, frankly, scared me. I had never prepared it before, and vaguely remembered not liking it as a teen. At the same time, I felt a frisson of excitement, of a road not taken. I very bravely sliced it thinly and was quite pleased when I tasted it. It tastes like licorice, which ought to be gross in a vegetable, but it isn't. It's good the way Sambuco is good. Sauteed with apples, onion and sage sausage, it's phenomenal. I poured the date infused white wine into the pan with the fennel mixture and let it braise.

Then I used the renderings from the sage sausage to sear the scallops, having first dusted them in searing flour. (I got it from Wegman's--their own brand. Amazing stuff.) I put the crusted scallops over a watercress salad with Gorgonzola and diced apple.

The cockroaches? I mean, the dates? I was too freaked out to use them as I had originally intended, stuffed with Gorgonzola. Instead, I chopped them up and smeared them on the cutting board with the edge of my knife until the dates formed a paste, which I whisked into olive oil and apple cider vinegar as a dressing for the watercress. They tasted almost sickly sweet, so it was a nice pairing with the sour vinegar, the peppery watercress, the rich cheese and the sweet scallops. I served the fennel/apple/sausage mixture on the side. It was all lovely, even if I do say it myself.

I had a couple of left-over dates, sitting forlornly in my tiny saucepan, huddled together for company. I didn't save them.

So our first Chopped experience went well, and we were encouraged. It was my turn to pick out ingredients for my darling husband. A protein, a veggie, a flavoring, a curveball...

Pork country ribs (boneless)
Golden beets
Passion fruit nectar
Puff pastry sheets
Farmer cheese

I'd like to say he was stumped, but he had his dish in about 3 minutes...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chop Shop

There's a show on Food Network called Chopped, and it's one of my new favorites. In it, four contestants get a mystery basket full of ingredients (it's a wicker picnic basket that looks like it's been spray painted black) and they have to make a dish. After each dish, a contestant is eliminated. Four people make an appetizer, and the worst one is "chopped." The remaining three make an entree using a new basket full of ingredients, then the last two standing make desert. The whole point of the show is that the chefs have to use some of each ingredient in the same dish, no matter how strange. They have access to a pantry and a fridge full of things, although the producers of the show have been known to dick with people and omit the very ingredient they might desperately need. Oh, and they have only a half hour to make the dish. And yes, that includes contemplation time.

(side thought: remember back before the reality show explosion, when game shows were actually games? I distinctly remember sitting in my grandmother's house in France somewhere in the mid-80's and watching a show about Japanese game shows where they had to do gross things, and I had a culturally chauvinistic moment of, "ewww, weirdos!" Turns out, they weren't so much weird as decades before their time. Or are we decades behind? Oh no... has anyone checked on what the Japanese are doing on tv lately?)

But I digress; back to Chopped. My husband and I watch the show, and play along with Einstein-esque thought experiments. Once they unveil the ingredient basket, we pause the show and discuss what we might do with it. Sometimes we're on the same page as some of the contestants, but the whole fun is that these ingredients are absolutely bonkers together and, therefore, boggle the mind. Sardines, watermelon and pepperjack cheese make for a pretty messed up appetizer. The show's writers also fond of throwing in savory curveballs in the desert basket, like bacon. And then they spend time slumming it, with canned creamed corn or boxed mac & cheese. (Come to think of it, it's sort of a snobby thing to do, isn't it? Sort of a snooty, tongue-in-cheek ingredient to make foodies cringe and feel superior to the people who eat boxed mac & cheese. Like putting a plastic flamingo in your yard to be ironic is cool, but if you're serious it's tragic.) The chefs' skill is to take bonkers ingredients and make them into something you might actually eat.

Ah, yes, but these people are professionals! Mere mortals could not possibly do this, of course!

...or could they?

Valentine's Day was our first foray into Chopped. We had arranged a babysitter for our beautiful angel in order to go on an unconventional date to a local, indoor waterpark. Said waterpark seems to be run by fascists who favor those who stay in their absurdly overpriced hotel and only allot a couple of tickets daily to allow the local peasants access to Valhalla. Not having fully realized this, we ended up all dressed up and nowhere to slide down a huge waterslide in an inner tube, so the saying goes. What did we do?

We did what husbands and wives do when they're pushing thirty and have a babysitter for their 7 month old. We ran errands. Sigh.

But then my brilliant husband had a brilliant idea. I dropped him off at Wegman's (a place of tranquility and joy and, incidentally, the best grocery store ever) and he chose my ingredients. When I picked him back up, he proudly handed me a shopping bag with...

Sea scallops
Dried Dates

What did I make? Go on, try and guess. See how much fun this show is? Think of this as the commercial break. Tune in next time, gentle readers...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Welcome to the World

You know that old cliche about how you either eat to live or live to eat? Well, I think I live to cook. Don't get me wrong, I'll happily chow down on something you made, too. But all the while I'll be thinking about how I can shamelessly rip it off, what I might have do differently. Depending on who you are, I might also be composing snarky little missives in my head which I will one day post on a blog (I think I just nixed any future dinner party invitations with that little one). I have a perfectly healthy obsession with Food Network. I read and re-read cookbooks--but I don't follow recipes. Cooking is a hobby and a way of living for me.

I'm also a first time mom, a wife, and a full time counselor. So while I love to cook, and delight in new ingredients and techniques, there's a definate part of me that wonders why dinner has to come so inconveniently every single night! I'm fortunate to have an understanding husband with an adventurous palate and a love of cooking as well. When we were first married, we cooked together a lot. Now we are more likely to take turns, as our baby girl has strong feelings about her own dinner, her playmates (read: parents) and cuddle priorities. Sometimes she'll sit in her exersaucer and watch mommy and daddy cook, but it's a work in progress.

So why am I blogging, when I so clearly have very little free time and a pile of undone laundry? That's simple, gentle reader. I have this wonderful BA in English (magna cum laude)just languishing away on the shelf, I'm a compulsive communicator, I type absurdly fast and, like most cooks, am enamored with the culinary genious dripping from my ears and pooling under the kitchen table.

SO... here I am, world. I'm rolling up my sleeves and preheating my oven. I don't know exactly what this will be, but only that it will be. We'll take it a step at a time and figure it out as we go along. Feel free to comment, you fabulous people you, because I like to know there's someone out there. For tonight, that's all; be well and I will be back soon.