Onion Soup and Sadness

Recipe: Rustic Onion Soup

All things end. But I don’t have to like it.

That’s what I wrote the day it became clear that my Cousin Helen’s cancer was both terminal, and progressing quickly. She was just short of eighty;  she lived with humor, grace, passion, and an undercurrent of strength.

My best friend called me last week to say her Dad is dying. I’m never ready for this news, always brought short by the inadequacy of words.

I took to the kitchen for my own comfort.  This soup is one to make on dark, cold days – be that the external or internal forecast. It’s not fast, but you can cry as you slice the massive amount of onions, and then, as they roast in the oven for two hours, you’ll start to pull it together as their earthy aroma permeates the house.

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Tuesday with Dorie: Best-Ever Brownies

Sometimes, it takes chocolate to turn things around.  A brownie recipe labeled as the ‘Best-Ever’ should have that game-changing power.  And I needed these brownies, the subject of today’s Tuesdays with Dorie challenge to lift me out of a black mood.

The day started at 5 a.m. when I managed to break a spindle on the stairway. Later, I realized, at the half-way point, that I lacked the most important ingredient in an expensive recipe- an ingredient that can only be ordered online. Then I walked to the ATM machine to find it out of order, locked myself out of the house, and burnt my arm reaching in the oven. And I lost one of my favorite earrings.

It’s fair to say I was skeptical that these brownies would be the best ever.  But I had enough faith in Dorie to give them a try.

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From My Bookshelves: Matthew Kenney’s Mediterranean Cooking

From My Bookshelves is an occasional book review series – featuring my cookbook collection. A few years ago, I pared my burgeoning cookbook shelves back to just the essentials. It had to happen. No one likes a hoarder. If I recommend a book, it’s because I’ve cooked from it and love it – not because someone’s given me a free copy.  Occasionally, I may review other types of food writing too.

Recipe: Bitter Greens with Spiced Almonds

Want to be a hero among your friends? Always volunteer to bring the salad. Much of the time, green salads are an afterthought – but they can be so much more.  Salad opens the palate at the beginning of a meal, or provides a refreshing respite at the end.

My go-to salad evolved from a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks.

My friend Lisa gave me Matthew Kenney’s Mediterranean Cooking for Christmas back in 1997, the year it was published. The book focuses on the flavors of the Mediterranean rim – in addition to recipes from Spain and Italy, the countries represented here include Morocco, Egypt and Turkey. Kenney states in the introduction that his recipes aren’t necessarily traditional in technique, or even ingredients. His goal is to bring traditional Mediterranean rim flavor profiles to American home cooks. And how did he succeed, at least in my kitchen.

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Rosemary Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Recipe:Rosemary Caramel Apple Pie

Every year, beginning in August, my CSA starts inundating me with apples. It’s November now, and they are still coming; apples of every shape color and kind.  And, I’ve got an apple tree in my back yard, which drops its fruit long before fall officially arrives. So along with making apple sauce, apple jam, and apple crisp, I’ve been working on a new apple pie for Thanksgiving. A pie based on the idea that apples, salted caramel and rosemary have to lead somewhere good.

A quick web search will lead you to believe that Kraft invented the caramel apple in the 1950s. I don’t buy it. I’m not even buying Slashfood’s take it on it, that caramel apples originated in the late 1800s. Humans have been caramelizing sugar for thousands of years. Surely someone dunked an apple in the stuff, long, long ago.  Just because they didn’t do market research doesn’t mean they didn’t recognize a good thing when they tasted it.

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Pineapple Chicken And Food For Thought

Recipe: Pineapple Chicken with Kale and Barley

It’s cold this morning. Today was my first dog walk wearing a heavy coat and gloves. And how nice it was to return to a warm, dry house, electricity, plumbing, and privacy; all the comforts of middle class infrastructure.

Just a few of the things that many of those hit hardest by Sandy last week are still doing without. When Barbara at Creative Culinary and Jenn at Jenn Cuisine sent out a call last week for the food blogging community to step up for Sandy’s victims, donate to the Red Cross, and to blog about comfort food, I knew I had to be a part of it.  Join us – read the posts, follow the hashtag #FBS4Sandy on twitter, and most importantly of all, please give to the Red Cross.  Last night a nor’easter rolled into the tri-state area. It wasn’t as severe as originally predicted, thankfully, but imagine facing a winter storm a week after your home and life washed away. Or even just without power.

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Muffins? Again? Cranberry Orange Mini Muffins for Tuesdays with Dorie

I almost skipped today’s Tuesdays with Dorie challenge. Buttermilk crumb muffins just don’t sound that enticing to me – especially since I still have a half dozen pumpkin muffins stored in the freezer.

Also, a plain muffin, with a trace of cinnamon and nutmeg for flavor, made from vegetable shorting and buttermilk? Not so much. But I really want to get back on the Tuesday with Dorie bandwagon, so when I saw the first harvest of cranberries at the market last week, inspiration finally took hold.

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Happy Halloween!

Recipe: Pecan Caramel Popcorn Balls

It’s not too late to make a special treat for Halloween. I know homemade goodies are off limits for traditional trick-or-treaters, but, popcorn balls are always welcomed by anyone on door duty, and you can offer them to the neighbors you know when they ring your bell.

I love Halloween; the only holiday where we celebrate the kindness and generosity of strangers.  The history of trick-or-treating is  predictably, a marketing primer – even I can remember the days back in the ‘70s when not every house gave away candy, but it was a mix of treats and the kind of toys we all think of as party favors now.

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Smash that Pumpkin

Recipe: Blueberry Pumpkin Muffins

I’m not going to make excuses for my blogging hiatus. Well, okay one. We had eighty days of pretty much straight sunshine here in Seattle. Really. Hardly any rain fell from mid-July through to the second week of October. Friends visited, trails were hiked, kayaks were paddled, day-trips were taken. And, I cooked of course – this year I really took my canning seriously – tomatoes, pickled peppers, creamed corn, and ketchup.

And I am, still delighted to be home. Delighted by everything I already take for granted in the is house, again, from the morning light, the 10 minute walk to Kerry Park, and the swing on the porch to the duel fuel stove.

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Homecoming Pie

I should be packing. We’re a few days away from moving home. In spite of boxes and painting projects, all the endless detail arrangements, I still don’t really believe. But every so often, I get close. Like the day I took the dogs over to play in the backyard and saw sheer joy in their body language.

Or when I realized that this week’s Tuesday with Dorie recipe, for Blueberry Nectarine pie, was contributed to the book and TV show by Leslie Mackie. It’s not only that Mackie is based here in Seattle, but her bakery is four blocks from my house. Macrina’s second location opened on McGraw Street in 2001. K.M. and I moved into the neighborhood in 2003.

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Remember Biscotti?

When did biscotti become invisible? All the rage in the early ’90s, there is still a jar of these twice-baked Italian delights in nearly every coffee shop —some good, some bad, but nearly all just fine after a few seconds in a shot of espresso. But until this week’s Tuesday with Dorie challenge, Hazelnut Biscotti, I hadn’t tasted one in years.

I’m never going to let that happen again. If you leave the hazelnuts out of the equation, biscotti are easy to make. Make the dough – shape it into logs, bake it, cool it (I refrigerated mine overnight), slice it and bake again. The hands-on-time is way less than the average chocolate chip cookie, I promise.

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