Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Gingerbread Cookies

Hi Elise,
When I visited Al, the boys and I decided to make some cut-out and decorate Christmas cookies. They decided on gingerbread which was a good choice.
I found a recipe on Epicurious that was described as "forgiving" and that sounded like the one.
We started with a pot of molasses, sugar and milk. Then added flour and stirred. Added butter and stirred.

The boys are good stirrers!
Then right away we rolled them out. No refrigeration required. I liked this recipe better all the time.

The dough was sticking to the board, so Henry suggested we put the spatula under the dough before cutting out the shape. Worked a treat!
They baked. The boys helped clean up.

Oh No! We forgot to get colored sugar. The three of us trundled down the hill to Real Food and found some "natural, organic, vegan, gluten-free" sprinkles. They would have to do. Luckily Alison had some real artificial food coloring, so the icing was vibrant.
Since there is no pastry bag in that house, never mind 5 of them,Chase suggested we put the icing in plastic bags and cut tiny holes in the corner. Brilliant!
They tasted as good as they looked and with the one-cookie rule, it is good we made a few really big ones.

Sam came home and helped us decorate and eat them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Southern Thanksgiving

Dear Alison, Abigail and Mom,

Since you've all asked how my Thanksgiving visit to Margaret was, I thought I'd do a mass update. We arrived on the Sunday before bc as Marg says, the pre-game show is the best part. She had made an amazing pot roast for us, in the oven bc her slow cooker insert is broken. Only she could wear out a Crock Pot, right? Chocolate cookies from The Grand Central Bakery Cookbook I gave her, and a beautiful gingerbread trifle with apples and cranberries.

We spent the next few days cooking, eating and exercising- you know, the way our family does. We did a bike ride in the pouring rain and came home soaked to the bone but were warmed by chicken curry, quinoa and braised cabbage. You might think that an unlikely combination, but somehow the indian, african and irish flavors all got along in a sort of We Are the World way.

Of course Thanksgiving was the highlight and we planned the menu with care. Not too complex, but special. Traditional but not slavishly so.
parmesan crisps - E
olives - M
turkey of course - Chris
stuffing - Debbie, traditional Tennessee recipe with cornbread and sausage
cranberry sauce - Debbie
gratin of winter greens - E&M
mashed sweet potatoes - E&M
pumpkin pie - E
butterscotch pudding with real scotch - M, made predawn. I think she likes an excuse to get the scotch out before breakfast
pecan pie - M
pumpkin cake - Debbie

But first, there was the hunt to see off...

There was even a group of 10 year old girls on little fat ponies that reminded us of our days hunting in CT.

After the hunt we were on to the big event. We were mostly ready, but the main attraction of the day, the moment we'd all been waiting for, the food without which no southern thanksgiving would be complete, the Deep Fried Turkey, was still to come. There had been a moment of panic the day before when it turned out that every grocery store in the township was sold out of peanut oil. Seems like peanut oil arbitrage could be a good business in November in Virginia.

Chris was in charge. Amos was his assistant. Kima helped where she could. There was beer. Coors Light.

Chris bought a propane powered deep fryer 3 Thanksgivings ago and is now the master of the deep fried bird. "Not my first rodeo" he declared when confronted with internet recommendations not to deep fry a bird over 14 pounds (ours was 19). "More art than science" he claimed when his friend suggested using a meat thermometer to measure doneness.

The dogs thought it was an extra special dog treat. Which in Margaret's house is not out of the question.

Here's how it went...

And here's how it came out...

A great southern thanksgiving.

lots of love, Elise

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Let's talk

Yes, you have to roast the meat and vegetables first, but you barely have to wash them, the carrots don't need to be peeled, the onions really don't either, and I turned my back on celery last year and haven't missed it. And everything roasts while you are out of the room, doing something more fun, like riding the bike trainer. Then it all goes into the pot or slow cooker, add your water, and again, you leave the room. I sometimes leave the house, even if it is on the stove, but then I don't leave the dogs in the house. If you are going to leave the house for the whole day, use the slow cooker. When it is done, you can lift the larger pieces out with a slotted spoon, so by the time you tip it into the colander, there aren't so many large pieces to splash all over. (psst- Apron) Set the colander over a bowl with a spout and handle. I eschew the whole cool and skim fat step. If it is really important to you to get rid of the fat, you can do that after it is frozen. Pour it into containers and freeze. Also, I don't obsess over every last drop. If there are a few tablespoons leftover, I give them to the dog.

There are a couple of things that are unclear. If you are using a copper pot heavy enough to break your wrists, how are you ending up with 2 cups of broth? I put a carcass, left over from roast chicken, in a 2 qt pot, scrape everything else out of the roasting pan--browned bits, onions, herbs--cover with water, cover and simmer for 4-6 hours and I end up with 2-3 cups of broth. One carcass. Although I have saved all the bones.

I think you could try a few alternatives. If you want to use the heavy pot and make a lot, use Mom's recipe with the three whole chickens that go in raw with your veg and simmer away. You can remove the breast meat after an hour and use it for something else. This is a production, but you should end up with several quarts of stock. It is a Contessa recipe, but still pretty good.

Or you could do the slow cooker method. If you make the slow cooker beef broth one time, I don't think you would ever go back to canned.

Also too? The broth is not masked in the stew, it makes the stew. It elevates it from Whitman Sampler to Maison du Chocolate. I actually think the final stew is so much better than just the broth alone. I'm never tempted to drink the broth. But the dogs think I should rub it on my body.

Friday, November 4, 2011

can we talk about this?

So here's my issue with homemade broth for stews and soups. It takes For Ever. Maybe I am doing much more than I need to, so I'm going to run my process by you.

First I roast the chicken parts if I've bought backs and necks, if not skip this step. In the pot go the chicken parts, the frozen carcasses I've saved up for a few months, some onion, celery, a bay leaf and some pepper corns. Water to cover, then cover the pot. Simmer, simmer, simmer. Add more water. Simmer more. By this time I have to leave the house or go to sleep so I turn it off and let it sit. Come back or wake up - simmer, simmer, simmer. Usually about 6 hours of simmering all told.

Off the heat, cool til handle-able, then set the colander over a bowl, break my wrists lifting the giant copper pot and trying to pour the soup out of it. Bones teeter at the angle of repose and then SPLASH down into the broth ruining whatever I am wearing. Push the bones around in the colander trying to get every precious drop out of them. Set soup in fridge to chill. Set colander over plate and let it seep for 20 minutes or so and add the last tablespoon of liquid to the bowl.When soup is set scape the fat off the top.

By this time I've invested easily a day and half and I just can't see wasting this nectar in a stew that is going to completely mask its lusciousness. I want to drink it by thimblefuls, or rub it on my skin, or save it so I can gloat over my incredible good fortune at having  a cup of the ambrosia.

Which brings me to my second beef. All this work, all that chicken, and I end up with at most 2 and a half cups.

Is this how you make it? And you still use it to cook with?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Slow Cooker Love

I'm in love with my slow cooker. He spends all day cooking me dinner. If I'm late, he keeps it warm for me. Whenever I walk into the house, it smells like someone has spent the day slaving away over a steaming cauldron. But not someone I have to talk to.

There is some front-loaded labor--the chopping, browning, sauteing, deglazing--but by 9AM all that is in the rear view mirror, even the dishes. Like an early workout, you sleep through most of it.

I know you have had a troubled relationship with your slow cooker, some disappointments and dashed expectations. (Expectations are resentments under construction)

I think there are a few reasons I feel such deep and enduring love for my slow cooker. (Love, not Stockholm syndrome) Not to bring up a sensitive subject, but I always use home made broth. (The slow cooker is a great way to make that broth, and it is an easy outing that can foster closeness and trust.) I rarely measure and usually add more of everything. (In yoga, more may not be better, it may be just more, but in cooking, more is always better)

And he is the only one who ever cooks me dinner. The dogs are great company and always willing to share the deer guts or horse manure, but they are hopeless with a saute pan, and I don't let them near the immersion blender!

Beef and Barley Soup

Cautionary Tale

We have a guest blogger today. My friend, Wynne, writing about her daughter.

This is what happens to little pregnant girls who leave an immersion blender plugged in while trying to get something out of it. 12 stitches in the emergency room,and can't take pain pills!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Science of Tollhouse

Hi Margaret,

I made myself stop surfing the net, so I was surfing the TV and found this show.

He takes the basic tollhouse recipe and alters it to make them thin, then puffy, then chewy, and explains the science behind each variation. It's really interesting.

here are the recipes

Pretty cool.  

Love, Elise

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Once a year dinner

This is a James Peterson recipe. Scrape out the pumpkin seeds, layer in bread and Gruyere cheese, a few thyme leaves, then pour a broth and cream mixture in and bake for 2 hours. It comes out of the oven looking like the above. Then you scoop it all out and serve it as is, sort of a yummy, porridge-y mush, or you wait a day because by the time it has baked for 2 hours it is past 8PM and time for bed. The next day you put it in a casserole, sprinkle a little more Gruyere on top and bake it.

I only make it once a year, but it is goo-ood.

Then I was buying fabric, and chatting with the designer who was selling the fabric and talk went to pumpkins, the way it does, and she just made a french stuffed pumpkin. It is stuffed with sausage and vegetables and served in wedges. I asked her where she got the recipe and she said, "a french cookbook."


The sub title for this post is Why don't you live here??
There is a pie contest the last Saturday in October. Since I wasn't able to do my bike race and since I can't even ride a bike for another week, there was a vacuum and you know how nature feels about that. I've set my sights on the pie contest and I've started to train. Really, that just means I make a lot of pies.
From my experience in the chiffon cake contest, I've learned that looks matter. If your entry isn't attractive, you will not win, no matter how ambrosial and otherworldly (in a good) it is. Given that, and the fact that I can't make an attractive roll-out pie crust--mine are always misshapen, sagging off one side of the pan while retreating from the other, uneven, irregular and goiterish--I have to make a pie that can take a cookie crust or at least a press-in-the-pan (PITP) crust.
I started with a brown butter butterscotch pie. It very nearly made me give it all up as a misbegotten whim. The recipe called for a lot of corn starch and the resulting custard was the consistency of wallpaper paste that had been left too long with its lid askew. But the flavor was amazing, so I rallied and persevered.

Note the sad crust.

I decided to see if I could work a little more on the coconut cream pie, the project we started 3 years ago when you visited me after I had back surgery, coconut having magic healing properties. The last time I made the version we had settled on, I thought it lacked a distinct coconut flavor. I thought I could try reducing the coconut milk, the way we do for the coconut birthday cake, and then using that as a base for the custard. Sounds like a good idea. There's a reason no one else has come up with it. The custard was not only way too thick, the oil separated as I heated the custard and it was like a large ball of slimy wet leather rolling around in some off colored grease. Also, the 2 cups of coconut was too much and only added to the hopeless thickness of it all. I chilled the results and then scraped off the hardened fat, spread it in the crust (which had its own issues*) and then topped it with whipped cream. I had a piece and threw the rest away. Not even worth eating. Not even when the only other dessert was a handful of raisins and some old chocolate that was 82% and had bloomed.
* I had made a PITP crust and added some coconut to the dough. When I prebaked the crust, the coconut overcooked and imparted a bitter, scorched flavor. This would have been more disappointing, except next to the disgustingness of the filling, it was a mild flaw.
I thought about the pudding that I like so much and it only has eggs to thicken it. I read recipes for pastry cream, and they all use flour. I read recipes for custard pie and they all use corn starch. I tried to read recipes for cream pie and all that comes up on a Google search are x-rated sites. Who knew?
I tried a recipe that uses a very small amount of cake flour, (flour and cornstarch, why didn't I think of that?). I reduced a can of Lite coconut milk from 14 oz to about a cup and then I used another cup of half and half. I used 4 egg yolks and one egg. I added one cup of coconut. There is some sugar in there too. It was creamy and light with a distinct, but not pronounced, coconut flavor. The PITP crust was fine. Next time I'm going to leave out the whole egg and use only yolks. And maybe you can walk me through a roll-out crust. We'll see if I can make something that doesn't look like it grew out of a tree.

Then, because I have a lot of time on my hands, (is this what people who don't bike do with their week-ends?) I made a lemon cream pie.

This was entirely my invention. Start with a PITP crust. Make a lemon curd, I used Martha Stewart's recipe. Make Bell's lemon souffle. Take 1 cup of heavy cream and boil it with a TB of lemon zest and let it cool overnight. Pour the curd in the prebaked crust, top with the lemon souffle and let that set up overnight. Then whip your lemon cream and spread that on top.
Pretty good. I made 1/3 of a recipe for the lemon souffle. It calls for 3 eggs, so halving it was beyond the abilities of my small brain and clumsy fingers. Next time I'll make 2/3 of the recipe and just top it with plain sweetened whipped cream. The lemon cream is too close in flavor and color to the souffle and I wanted 3 distinct layers. But it is worth working with.

Back to the contest. I am concerned that I'll get points off if my entry isn't "seasonal." The announcement doesn't specify seasonal, but judges are only human (very often blind humans with the taste buds of a radish) and at a fall festival they might just feel more partial to a fall pie. I'm going to try again with the butterscotch, at least it is a fall color.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Dear Marg,

Last Friday we went to Bob and Erin's for dinner. As often happens at their house, the guest list grew quickly. First, her parents stopped by so her Dad could fix the outdoor chairs he made years ago, and then (as often happens when dinner time gets near) their children started dropping by. We had dinner with 3 generations of Erin's family and it was great.

Erin has been perfecting Paella on an outdoor fire for almost a year now, and I think she's got it wired. She started by browning chicken legs in olive oil, and then added sausage and chopped onions. Sorry no pictures of that part. Then come the handfuls of rice. I forgot to ask if it's a special rice or not.
Pouring in warm chicken broth with saffron and smoky paprika in it
Stirring and turning the legs.

Simmer, simmer, simmer....

Clams, cherry tomatoes, and squid (or was it octopus?)
The cook

The dinner
It was delicious!! Smoky and savory and full of robust flavor. You would have loved it. (you could eat around the clams).

Love, Elise

Friday, September 2, 2011

What to cook after 2 days and 170 miles

I rode my bike for two hard back-to-back days as a "race rehearsal" for the Everest Challenge. Two days, 170 miles and nearly 20,000 climbing feet. Bliss. The second day included riding through the outskirts of Hurricane Irene; wind, mist, rain, bright orange leaves flattened against shiny wet pavement, hardly a soul around. Day of a lifetime, I was delirious.
The next day, my close friend Christiana, and her mother were coming for dinner. I was exhausted. Feeding the dogs sent me back to bed. But I was eager to see them so I had to come up with a meal. I wanted to make several things, all simple and delicious, plentiful and easy. You suggested hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and ice cream. That sounded like a lot of work, so we decided to substitute potato chips for the potato salad, skip the hamburgers and boil the hot dogs. Simple, easy and plentiful were covered. Delicious? Not so much.
I made the corn and tomato pie. Yum! I made a spinach and bacon salad. Had better. I made a caramel cake. Yuck!
In an effort to keep the focus on the negative, let's discuss the caramel cake. First of all, it was a misnomer because the topping was butterscotch sauce, not caramel. Then it was plain and too dry and crumbly and blandly sweet. I'm growing concerned that I overbake things. I've had a few bad experiences with cakes that weren't cooked through, and I think it has sent me too far in the other direction. When I think about how the cake could be improved, I imagine a bowl of ice cream with butterscotch sauce. There, that's an improvement.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Value of Pie

I needed some way to lure Margaret out for a visit, and knowing her fondness for long distance bike riding and her genuine desire to share this "pleasure" with others, I agreed to do a fundraising ride. At first I set the goal of 70 miles and diligently trained for that for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks it became apparent that neither I, my butt, nor my life where suited for anything near that length so I settled on a 30 mile goal. I waited until she'd bought her plane ticket to break the news.

We were raising money for the cancer research at the Livestrong Foundation and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and in order to truly motivate ourselves (and our supporters) we named the team, The Value of Pie. With that development, Amos joined the team. In exchange for a blueberry pie, my friend Ross designed a logo for us.

The ride was fun, the weather was beautiful and we raised $1,500! Thank you to everyone who supported us and these 2 great causes.

After all that there had to be pie, right?

Thanks for coming out, Margaret!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

At last! Margaret's fitness secret unveiled!

How chocolate can help your workout

Dinner in 30 minutes or Fewer

Dear Elise,
Remember those Penzey's spices I bought when we went to the Penzey's Spice Shop as part of our Foodie Tour of Seattle? Well, I used some tonight. (Not the Cake Spice that you disparaged as containing all spices that you already owned so why would you need the mix?) I had a Sweet Curry Powder and a Vindaloo Curry Powder and I wanted to sample and compare.
And it was 7 by the time I had walked and fed the dogs. I make a chicken curry with tomatoes (I substitute V8 juice for the tomatoes). It is really a curry chicken salad but very often I leave out the yogurt and eat it hot. The Sweet Curry Powder went into that one.
Then I make a curried spiced chick pea dish, a maje fave. The recipe calls for individual spices, (right up your ally) and I used the Vindaloo blend for that.
Both were good, but the Sweet one was not as complex and nuanced as the Vindaloo. And the Vindaloo was much hotter.
I also used coconut oil for both. I have read, or maybe just heard, (maybe true, but perhaps not) that coconut oil is the new best thing, very healthy and so forth. It was good. Better with the chick peas, lost in the chicken curry. (I want to try it in brownies.)
Everything was better with the chick peas. Maybe I just prefer chick peas. And since I didn't have to open, measure out, close and put away 6 different spice bottles, everything was ready before 7:30. Suddenly Dinner!
For dessert? Dark Chocolate, as we read in the paper today (so it must be true), mice who consumed dark chocolate for two weeks performed 50% better on an endurance test than mice who didn't get any chocolate. Preaching to the cocaophiles maybe, but I'm sold.
Love, spice blends and dark chocolate, Margaret

Monday, July 4, 2011

Power is the Greatest Aphrodisiac

Dear Elise,
As you know from the endless stream of anguished texts, my power was out for an excruciatingly long time. The sink was stacked with teetering towers of dirty dishes, the counters were strewn with all manner of crumbs and debris. Tmi, but I hadn’t flushed a toilet in 16 hours. The refrigerator was as warm as the air which was as warm as a dog's breath, and the freezers were dripping red tinged effluvia. Finally, I spotted the Power trucks at the end of the road. About time!
The power is back on, (cue the chorus) and I have every appliance going. The dishwasher is churning, the washing machine is sloshing, the freezer is refreezing my popsicles, I hope into some edible shape.

And the oven is baking a lemon poppy seed cake. The recipe called for whipped white chocolate ganache as a frosting, but I hate white chocolate. Not as much as I hate waking up at 4 and worrying that I am going to have to throw out all the meat in the freezer and wondering if I should put it out in the woods for the foxes, or if it would rot and grow bacteria and then the foxes and their babies would all die and the coyotes might also eat it and die, but just the babies, because coyotes are scavengers and must be able to tolerate a certain amount of bacteria, and so maybe I should just throw the meat away, but I can’t let it sit out in the trash bin in this heat (95 feels like the Lut desert), which means I’ll have to take it to the dump, but it’s the Fourth of July and the dump is closed. Rotten meat, dead baby foxes, and I’m wide awake. I hate that more than white chocolate but just a little.

I told Chris that I had a hard time falling asleep the other night bc I was consumed with a very vivid worry. When I had walked the dogs, Turtle had gone down into a stream bed and barked and barked. The last time he did that, he had a ground hog cornered and he wanted the other dogs to come help him dispatch it. I am trying to discourage the killing, so I didn’t let the other dogs go help him, and he stayed there and barked for 45 minutes. I didn’t think about it again until I was trying to fall asleep that night, and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t a ground hog, maybe it was a person who had fallen and was injured and Turtle was doing the whole Lassie thing, getting help, or at least trying to, and I had ignored his pleas and the poor victim was trapped, injured, possibly dead already, his hopes having soared when Turtle discovered him and then sunk away to despair when it became clear that Turtle’s exhortations were going to be written off as just some varmint harassment. I worried and fretted and considered driving back down there to see if possibly the poor man was still alive and still awaiting rescue by spaniel. When I told Chris about this, he said, “What kept you awake, the fact that that entire scenario was actually in your head?”

I’m going to make a cream cheese frosting. I’ll add some lemon zest and lemon juice. I’m pretty excited.

I’m also going to make a summer squash casserole. That is going to be recreated from memory. I made one once, and it had summer squash and onion and garlic and perhaps an herb and perhaps some broth and then it was topped with lots of crunchy, buttery bread crumbs. I can’t find the recipe, but how hard can it be?

This is what happens when you don't harvest for two days. I'm seeing zucchini bread.

Love, Margaret

Monday, June 27, 2011


Hi Marg,

We have gone from no strawberries, to a few tasteless ones, to 4 different vendors at the market offering taste tests, each claiming to be "the best berry in the market". Extensive sampling led us to settle on The Berry Dude, in spite of his oft repeated motto - there's lots of berries but only one Berry Dude.  Honestly, that almost had Amos asking for his money back.

Speaking of which, I'm all about supporting local ag as you know, but $72 for 2 flats of berries? Really? are the gilded?

They are delicious, and we made two batches of jam and are still pigging out on the fresh berries. I tried to convince Amos to have strawberry rhubarb pie for his birthday but he wants gingerbread. None of this seasonal eating for him!

We made jam the way I've been making it for years - Sure Jell low sugar in a box. The low sugar part seems a bit of an overstatement since you use 4 cups of sugar to 6 cups of mashed berries. Amos' job is to stem and mash the berries, and hand me things and set the timer when there's a pot of berry pulp at a full rolling boil and I'm trying to keep stirring it while not dripping sweat into it. Team work!

The jam came out great and I made bread today so we are Set. The good part of working from home.

Love, Elise

PS and now? the strawberries in our garden have decided to get ripe!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Days of Heat and Salad

Dear Elise,
This is what it said on the news today.


The thing is, it has said that for the past three days. The only reason they call the Heat Advisory off at midnight is that the day is over. The new Heat Advisory starts at 12 AM tomorrow.
It is suddenly salad days. (Do you remember Suddenly Salad!? It was a pasta salad/dressing mix combination that was sold together. You cooked the pasta and mixed the dressing pack with oil or mayo and presto, Suddenly Salad! I liked the ads bc the woman always looked so pleased and surprised by the suddenness of the salad.)
I made a tuna salad from The Barefoot Contessa, (yes, I know how you feel about her, but she suits me. I very often don't know how much mayo and celery to add to the shrimp to make shrimp salad and it can start to feel like Sudoku, one mistake cascading into many more until I have to delete the whole thing or throw the salad in the trash, and peeling and deveining a lb of shrimp is about as tedious and tiresome as those wild stabs in the dark when there are too many empty boxes in Sudoku.)
This salad had rare seared tuna which we really shouldn't be eating. There are as many reasons not to eat rare seared tuna as there are ingredients in the salad. 1. it's endangered, 2. it could be dosed with radiation from Japan, 3. it is FULL of mercury, 4. it could contain parasites, (mom's friend's son just got two different parasites from eating sushi and they so compromised his immune system he has had to undergo repeated hospitalizations and now has chronic fatigue syndrome.) 5. the dolphins.
Tuna, lime juice, avocados, wasabi, scallions, tamari, Tabasco. OK, two more reasons not to eat tuna, 6. carbon foot print, 7. it's gross.
Actually, it wasn't gross. It was really good. I served it with a sushi rice salad, many of the same flavors and also pickled ginger.
I served it to friends and they loved it. I was busy with entertaining anxiety (entertaining my social anxiety) and didn't think to take a picture.
Then, the same friends came over and we were still having a heat advisory, so I started obsessing about watermelon salad.
Watermelon, oil, lemon juice, cayenne, salt, mint, olives, feta, sweet onions. Suddenly Swirly!
It was good but in a troubling way, watermelon and olives are just so far apart that one is made uneasy by their miscegenation. So even though it was very tasty, and everyone voluntarily had seconds, I ended up throwing away the leftovers. By the next day I was just too unsettled by the whole thing. And I'm not in a hurry to make it again. Unless I'm invited to a party by people who I don't like but still want to impress. And really, that never happens. Those people never invite me anywhere. But perhaps if the Heat Advisory continues, they'll come check up on me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When in Rome

Hi Marg,

We've been having a great time in Italy, and have fully adapted to the Italian practice of eating late and consequently, rising late. Last night we went out to dinner with Clare and didn't even leave the house to begin the half hour drive to the restaurant until 8. And that seemed normal. Dinner usually takes at least 2 hours, so we rarely get home before 11:30 on the nights we go out. We are on vacation so we can sleep in, but how do the Italians do it? I can't imagine.

Even in vacation mode, it's sometimes nice to eat at home, on the early side. The agriturismo (rental on a farm) where we are staying doesn't have an oven or a grill so we are limited to the stove top. I turned some lovely looking pork chops into shoe leather before deciding there's a reason why pasta is so big here.

I've made a few pasta dishes, all of which seem remarkably similar. Variations on a theme - pasta, cheese (ricotta, mozzarella, parmigiano), fresh tomatoes, and something green (arugula, zucchini, basil, etc). Depending on the green I either saute it in olive oil with a little garlic or just toss it in with the hot pasta at the end.

Here's the general idea:
Cook the pasta, reserve some pasta cooking water.
Toss the hot pasta with the greens, tomatoes (diced) and cheese.
Add a bit of the pasta water and some olive oil, salt and pepper and stir until it's combined. Add mroe pasta water if necessary.
Leave the kitchen and let your dinner companion do the dishes.

Works every time.

Love, Elise

Saturday, May 14, 2011

check this out

Dinner on the L train to Brooklyn - wow!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

NY Times Article on Sugar is Toxic

Hi Elise,
OK, the NYTimes Magazine published an article called Is Sugar Toxic. And we agreed not to read it. But then The Ethicist was inane (actually the ethicist said that something very similar to something I had done, was, in fact unethical) and Frank Rich is no more and the sugar article was #1 on the list of Most-E-Mailed Articles so I started to peruse it. Apparently sugar, in sufficient quantities, is toxic and I had to read the entire article to determine just what the sufficient quantity is, or really, what the insufficient quantity is. I want to know the maximum amount of sugar I can consume that will still be insufficiently toxic.
The writer doesn't say. More research is apparently needed. At one point, he says that health experts would be thrilled if we all returned to the good old level of 40 lbs a year. Sounds like plenty, right? Pass me those mini-eggs. Actually, 40 lbs a year is only 200 calories a day. That doesn't sound like very much. I guess I'll only have 2 mini-eggs.

If I'm going to limit myself to 200 calories a day, well, I'm going to need to ease into this, start slow, cut back over time. And I'm going to have to figure out how many sugar calories are in everything I eat. That chocolate cake for instance, how many of the calories come from fat? I would have to look at the recipe, do some math, how many tablespoons in a cup, how many cups of sugar in the cake? In the frosting? Then divide that number by the number of pieces I'll eat in one day. And what if I want to have just a sliver before bed, two bites in the morning. That's a lot of math. Then I would have to do that for everything I baked. And if there were chocolate chips in the cookie, that would require research (how many sugar calories in a chocolate chip ? In 3 oz. of bittersweet chocolate? I guess I could start baking exclusively with unsweetened chocolate) and even more math. I'm going to need a few more mini-eggs before I get started.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chocolate Cake

Amos: don't you want to document it before I cut it?
Elise: no, it's just a chocolate cake.

Actually, no. This is cake nirvana. Cake bliss. Cake ecstasy. Cake heaven. Cake ambrosia. Cake luxury. Cake silk. Cake cashmere. Cake vicuna.

This is cake that makes you wish you had a hole in your stomach so you could just keep putting more and more in without getting full. But cake that is so amazingly good that you don't want to eat more than one piece because you don't want to spoil the perfect memory of it. Cake that makes you think dark thoughts about your husband when he walks anywhere near the side of the kitchen where it is. Cake that makes the newly gluten-free masses curse their mothers and throw their better selves overboard as they reach for a forkful, just another forkful.

Cake: Rosie's Famous Sour Cream Cake Layers from Rosie's All Butter, Fresh Cream, etc, etc

Frosting: one of the ones from the white Silver Palate - chocolate chips, butter, heavy cream and powdered sugar. I made two batches and used the leftover to make fudge.