Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Moving Plants to Center Stage

Recipe: Cold Carrot Soup with Chilies and Avocados

The first time I tried vegetarian cooking, it was a trial by fire. My mother-in-law was coming to visit from India, and at that time was a full-fledged vegetarian.  This was in 1996, in East Central Illinois; a place where a grocery clerk once asked K.M. why he was buying fresh spinach, when you could “get that in a can.”

I had no idea what I was doing. We muddled through, eating a lot of pasta.  Eating out, in that time and place was nearly impossible.  People actually would say things like, “Well, it’s nearly vegetarian. You can pick the bacon out.”

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Take This Sausage and Stuff It

Recipe: Blazing Hot Turkey Sausage

Failure is always an option. The Mythbusters slogan, coined by Adam Savage, is meant to show the value of failure in science – as long as you get good data no experiment is a failure. In cooking though, sometimes failure is just failure. Most of the time failures get eaten anyway; but not every time.

My duck sausage for this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was a spectacular fail. Fifty dollars’ worth of duck, three days in the making; it had the texture of overcooked cornmeal, and tasted like cardboard – with a hit of orange.

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One Sticky Bun To Rule Them All

Common sense should have kept me from trying to adapt  a recipe for pineapple pie. You’d think I’d know by now that if it is crucial to the outcome of a recipe that the ingredients thicken properly  the best thing I can do is stick to the original version.

But then, you’d also think that I’d know by now that nothing good happens when I put too much hot liquid in the food processor or the blender.

What I do know is that if your food processor shoots hot pineapple-mango custard all over the kitchen, the two most important things to do are to a) get out of the way, and b) thoroughly clean up the mess, no matter how upset you are. Should the custard harden on the base of the food processor, or say, on the side of your refrigerator you’ll not only be disgusted  every time you see it, (and you will never be able to get it off) you’ll also be haunted by failure.

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Going Whole Hog

Salmon and trout, cured and smoked.

The parking lot was dark and deserted. I’ve already been waiting 10 minutes, with my engine and headlights off when the beat-up white van pulls up. I get out of my car. A man dressed in black clothing, wearing a black ski mask gets out the back of the van; in his hands my six pounds of pork belly.  I handed him my cash and he gives me my meat. No words are exchanged.

For the sake of Charcutepalozza, I’ve found my way to the world of underground meat.

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And Down Went My Uncle Sol*

I added a new species to our menagerie last week. In retrospect, it’s very clear that  I just took another step towards micro-farming.  My new dependants aren’t cute or cuddly,  and unlike the chickens I hope to bring home one day, I have no plans to try clicker training with them.  But I’m totally smitten.

Run out of guesses? I’m talking about a half pound of Red Wiggler worms.  Their job is to eat as much of our food waste as they can; hopefully everything but meat and citrus fruit. Worm composting is an efficient way to keep your houseplants thriving and your food waste out of the landfill.

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Gateway Duck

Charcutepaloozais making me nervous – both on a practical and philosophical level. A year-long project conceived and organized by Mrs. Wheelbarrow, and the Yummy Mummy,  Charcutepalooza is a blog challenge, all about learning to smoke, preserve and cure meat. All the bloggers signed up will cook their way through Michael Ruhlman‘s  Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.

I haven’t eaten red meat deliberately in more than 12 years. So why did I sign up?

Two words: Duck Prosciutto – the inaugural challenge and something I’ve wanted to make for years. Prosciutto is literally Italian for ham, traditionally made from dry cured, uncooked pork. It is typically sliced paper thin and served raw. It’s an incredible flavor, and one I’ve missed on our no-mammal diet.

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An Old Favorite, For A New Friend

I haven’t met many new people yet in our new town. That’s what happens when you work at home, and have shy personality.  I’m starting to meet a few people and I’m taking an a season-long intensive gardening class starting in February, which will certainly help me center in my new place, literally and socially.

So I was really touched when a neighbor knocked on our door Christmas Eve, with a plate of homemade treats. She apologized for not stopping by earlier (we’ve only been in this house a month), and then invited us to join her family for Christmas dinner.

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Life measured in Coffee Cups, Plastic Packaging and Plain Brown Paper

I loved having our house packed up professionally a few weeks ago for the move to Boise. The movers were courteous, professional and tidy. They worked while I surfed the internet and ran errands. But on arrival, I quickly figured out the downside.

While the boxes were all labeled, I still had no idea what was where. Finding books from the living room mixed in with kitchen utensils, was one thing, but discovering that this thorough crew had unpacked things that had been packed for 20 years – my father’s model trains; someday I’ll have the space to display them again, I am sure of it – and mixed them in with other items, was both annoying and emotionally disconcerting.

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It’s all about the Ice Cream

Two great things were waiting for me when I got back from Boise last week. The garden’s last efforts: tomatoes, chilies, and sugar pumpkins, and a copy of David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop: ice creams, sorbets, granitas and sweet accompaniments.

The later was a lovely surprise, a birthday gift from K.M.’s thoughtful cousin, Chotu. I’ve read Lebovitz’s memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris, and I follow his blog. And I’ve coveted his ice cream book for quite a while now. Finding it waiting for me after the eight-hour drive home, as I was facing up to the prospect of another few weeks of marriage-by-Skype was a much needed boost, and I can’t thank Chotu enough.

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Ready for Revolution

I’m not planning to write about Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.   (For a great discussion of the series check out  Cook Local‘s  recent post.) Oliver’s effort in West Virginia may be doomed, in spite of his success in his native country.  I’m no lunch lady — Didn’t everybody call them that?  Even before the Simpsons? — but I’ve shown a lot of resistance to changing my own eating habits.

I first read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma in 2007, and it really resonated with me; I admired the reporting and research that went into the book, and enjoyed Pollan’s writing, as I had in The Botany of Desire.  But more than that, I was appalled and saddened by what I read, and left with a feeling of hopelessness.

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