Monday, June 13, 2011

Dear Grill, I Love You.

The reasons I love you are plentiful. You fill my backyard and half the neighborhood with the intoxicating, smoky smell of food cooking over a flame, you provide me a reason to be playing outside when I would normally be holed up in the kitchen, and you gift me with a dinner that looks like this:

You bring the possibility of smores and bananas-stuffed-with-yummy-things-grilled-in-tin-foil for dessert. In short, you are awesome.

And although I have cited reason enough to adore you, my love for you is based largely on one fabulous fact: If you are fired up, someone else is cooking. In fact, I'm probably not even allowed near you. You are his territory, his smokin' hot baby- and if I play my cards right and act like the nights we use you are a bit of an inconvenience to me, when I relent with a little sigh he feels triumphant and loves you all the more. As do I.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Move over, La Brea.

I DID IT!  True, I scorched a cake pan, set off the smoke alarm and caught a kitchen towel on fire in the process...

(Sorry, towel. 'Twas a noble death.)

but I DID IT!

Ciabatta bread from scratch.

Even though it was a little bit too brown, flirting a bit too enthusiastically with being burned (cringe), it was good- full of big holes and great flavor.

I will definitely be making a second attempt soon, putting the lessons of last time to use (don't put a nonstick pan in the oven to preheat, genius) and, I'm thinking, doing a little modifying.  Roasted garlic and rosemary ciabatta anyone?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Presentation is Everything OR How to Sound Like A Ninja in the Kitchen

If you're like me, most of the food you're making at home isn't all that groundbreaking. I've never made a foam (well, not intentionally), or a gelee, or bacon-and-wasabi-and-chocolate ice cream. (Ugh. Bacon.) But guess what? Nobody needs to know that. NOBODY. It's all in how you frame it, folks, and we're gonna frame it in awesome.

Ever notice how at a restaurant things almost always sound much more delicious and complicated, even if it's the simplest thing in the world to make? That is because restaurateurs know that they've gotta sell you on the dish before they can sell it to you, and we're going to take a cue from them. I will illustrate thusly: Perhaps my daughter asks me what we're having for breakfast. I could tell her "pancakes and fruit", or I could tell her "fluffy, warm whole grain pancakes with a drizzle of maple syrup, accompanied by a selection of local seasonal fruits". She's five, so it might not have the desired effect on her, but I know which breakfast I'd choose. Lunch could be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or it could be "Creamy all-natural peanut butter paired with apricot preserves and generously slathered on two slices of soft whole wheat bread". Tonight, you're not having spaghetti for dinner, you're having "spaghetti imported from Italy enrobed in a rich, sweet marinara sauce".

Or maybe you don't want to describe the dish. Maybe your kids will roll their eyes or your husband's eyes will glaze over before you can even get going. That's okay, I've got you covered, too. Let's just rename the dish, since someone is bound to ask what you're making for dinner. If you're going to rename the dish to take it from "okay" to "ninja", I've found it's important to name several ingredients as well as two or three key flavors, and if you can, a state, country or region of the world. For instance, in our house, we eat a certain noodle dish a lot. I could just call it peanut noodles- that sums it up and my family knows what I'm talking about- but it sounds infinitely better if I call it Chinese sesame-peanut noodles with cucumbers and cilantro. I could make tilapia, lemony rice and green beans (eh), or I could make talapia in a lemon dill sauce with citrus-scented rice and steamed fresh green beans (ninja). You get the idea. Now, go forth and make yourself sound like a kitchen ninja. Perhaps they'll be so impressed someone else will do the dishes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Mouths of Babes

I have been blessed when it comes to my child and food. As far as three-year-olds go, she's not exactly a picky eater, unless you count the fact that she doesn't like white bread and can taste when grilled cheese has been prepared with processed cheese food as opposed to real cheese (She calls it "weird cheese" and then says it's gross and won't eat it. And, for the record, only her father heaps this cruelty upon her, because I think the stuff is repulsive, too). And she has a pretty advanced appreciation for things like vegetables and savory foods. In fact, in the grocery store today she pleaded with me to buy squash. We were already checking out, so the answer was not right now, but it was very hard to say no- when a preschooler asks for squash, the answer should always be yes, yes, ABSOLUTELY!

Over the years, several of my friends and acquaintance have commented on my daughter's eating habits- amazed when she wolfs down tomatoes and fennel and, yes, squash. (Don't get me wrong, she still loves candy and ice cream and such, she just likes the other stuff, too.) They want to know how I get her to eat these things and my answer is always the same: she's always eaten them. From the time she started eating solid foods, we've given her whatever it is we're eating. I'm convinced that has a lot to do with it, but I'm not sure it's the whole reason. In some ways, I'm pretty sure she just came that way. There are probably some kids who would refuse to eat at all if they were subjected to seafood and beans and oatmeal and mountains of produce from the very beginning. Hell, my 30-year-old brother would refuse to eat if I subjected him to that. But when it comes down to it, I think we parents really do shape and inform our children's palettes. If we start them out with lots of processed "kid" food, they're going to flip out when we put a pile of sauteed spinach on their plate. If we teach them to want salt and sugar and fat and grease, they're going to want that. (Not that there's no place for those things in a well-balanced diet. I really believe that there is, just in a limited way.) But if we teach them to eat well from the beginning, I really believe we have a much better chance of getting them to do just that.

What do you think? What have your experiences with kids and food been? When you were a kid, what did you eat and how does that affect you as an adult? When I do have another kid, am I destined to have one who will only eat things in chicken-nugget form? Because I'm leaning toward yes on that. WIll my daughter's teenage dietary rebellion involve daily trips to McDonald's and deep-fried Oreos? Discuss.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

As a child, I never thought much about where my food came from. Clearly, it came from the store. Except for the stuff that came from our family garden. (Like the bazillion apricots and plums and almonds and pomegranates we had to clean up off the lawn all spring and summer long. Did I mention I grew up in Las Vegas? Where the summer lasts for about six months? Oh, how I hated cleaning that stuff up.) Even as an adult, I never put too much effort into thinking about the origins of my meal. I've always been most concerned with the final product, the flavors on my plate.

The last several months, however, I've thought about it more. A lot more.

When we lived in the mountains of Utah (see how I said "when'? Because we have had the great fortune of leaving Utah behind, hopefully forever.) and my husband was fishing for our dinner a few days a week and bringing home big, luscious rainbow trout and bass and happy little perch (okay, maybe they weren't so happy anymore), it was the first time I'd ever been so intimately aware of where exactly my entree came from, and the effort exerted to catch it and kill it, and what exactly was involved in the process of cleaning it and preparing it to be prepared. Sure, I'd thought about it in very vague terms before, but I'd never experienced it. I'd never sat on the edge of the river/lake/reservoir/pond hoping that my husband would catch a good one and looked around and been able to observe exactly the conditions and surroundings that contributed to my dinner.

Before this summer, I'd never shelled peas fresh from my uncle's (or anyone else's) garden. I'd never taken seeds directly from a flax plant. I'd never tasted a radish before it was all spicy and bitter and weeks away from its growing spot. Oh, and, radishes straight from the garden? Completely different than radishes from the store. Just wash, salt and eat. Gooood.

When we moved to the East Coast in the late summer, I was lucky enough to become fast friends with Ruth, who introduced me to the joys of going out to pick raspberries and apples, and who then schooled me in the art of making jam. Lots and lots of jam. Ruth also has tomato plants taller than her backyard fence and pots and pots of plants growing everything from strawberries to jalapenos. Needless to say, this girl with a black thumb is going to learn a lot from Ruth.

All of this oneness with my food and the harvest and whatnot has gotten me thinking more about not only where my food is coming from, but about my kid. And how I want her to understand that food doesn't come from a store. That someone cultivated and harvested those fruits and vegetables and those grains, and that the meat or fish on her plate had a face, it was a living animal, and we should respect that. I want her to understand that someone somewhere worked very hard so she could enjoy the bounty. I want to instill these things in her, create more of an appreciation for good food and the having thereof, but I don't want to make it a killjoy, either. Hopefully someday we'll have our own little plot of earth in which I can try to teach her these lessons very literally, but in the meantime, it seems there is much thinking to do. And eating. Because really, that is the whole point.

My Roots Are Showing

Once upon a time, I started a blog as an outlet for my obsession with food. Somehow, over time, I became delusional and started to think all I could do with that blog was post recipes. Which is dumb, because I very rarely create my own recipes. And you know, reviewing recipes is all well and good, but there are 85,000 recipe-reviewing sites out there. Plus, it bores me, this reviewing of recipes. Really, what do you care if I, who couldn't even identify a green onion not so many years ago, like a recipe or not? You don't. But you must like food because you're here. And if you've actually read a couple of my posts and you're still here, you must REALLY like food.

So kids, this blog is going back to its roots. From here and forever more, this is my place to talk about food in whatever way I so choose. Oh sure, occasionally I'll share a recipe that I think simply must be tried, but mostly not. Because there is so much more to food and endless pleasures thereof than recipes. And just as the pleasures of food are endless, so too are my thoughts and feelings and opinions and- brace yourself- issues regarding it. And lucky, lucky you, you get to hear about it all.

Hey, where did everyone go?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crumble

A few weeks ago, I bought a half-flat of strawberries (I love spring) with grand things in mind. I was thinking jam, freezer jam, pie, strawberry-topped french toast, perhaps an attempt at homemade turnovers (never mind that I only had half a flat and not an entire pallet), but as is usually the case with strawberries, by the time I was ready to begin my culinary escapades 36 hours later, they had almost all been devoured, because really, what better way is there to eat strawberries than fresh out of your hand? I was, however, able to steal a pint from my husband and daughter. Soon thereafter I stumbled upon this recipe from, and it just so happened that I had some rhubarb in my freezer. It appeared we were in business.

Aside: If you've never had it before, don't be afraid of rhubarb. Think of it as a strawberry's tart little friend. The two were made for each other, I'm pretty sure of it.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crumble from
(Did I mention that I got this recipe on and didn't create it myself? I did? Oh, good.)

For the filling:

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the crumble topping:

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon cranberry or apple juice

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl, mix ingredients for filling. Transfer the mixture to a shallow 1.5 quart baking dish or deep-dish 9-inch pie plate, pressing down on the fruit to form an even layer.

In a separate bowl, combine oats, 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, butter and oil. work the ingredients with a fork or your fingers until mixture is crumbly. Stir in the juice until the mixture is evenly moistened.

Distribute topping evenly over the fruit. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden, 35 to 40 minutes.