Monday, July 29, 2013

Call it Salad

                I went to the farmer’s market on Sunday. Our farmer’s market should really be called the vendors who drive up from commercial operations in NC market. The fruits and vegetables are conventional, to use Whole Food’s delicate term. Maybe a little fresher than I might get at the store, but no better.
                However, there I was and the cupboards were bare and I had had nothing but protein shakes for two days, so I forged ahead. I found two eggplants and some small yellow tomatoes. No basil to be had. Basil scented soap? Basil scented candles? Dried basil in a cunning little wreath tied up with raffia and adorned with small wooden discs painted to resemble genetically modified tomatoes? Yes, Yes and Yes. Fresh basil? No.
                I had chosen one white eggplant and one traditional purple eggplant. I have always shied away from the white ones. As with those spooky white asparagus, they look like something that has spent so long underground in solitary confinement  that they have certainly developed a dangerous psychosis and are best avoided. No eye contact, no sudden movements, reach slowly for the purple eggplant and sidle away.
                But now the colorless globes in their Aryan brotherhood get-ups were all around me. I had to take one. I cooked it as soon as I got home, before it could be a bad influence on the purple eggplant. I cooked them together so I can’t say if one tasted better.
                This is what I did. Cut the eggplants into bite sized pieces and spread them across a sheet pan. Doused them with olive oil and salt and roasted them in a 450 oven. I pretty much CTSOOTF*. When they were browned and nearly crispy, I took them out and let them cool. Then I tossed in some halved cherry tomatoes, some basil I had found at the store, a splash of balsamic, more salt and a few grinds of pepper. 

                This is what I remember of a recipe that I got from a friend’s cousin in Millbrook NY of all places. It is marvelous. The eggplant is soft, oily and salty, the balsamic is sweet, and the tomatoes are there so you can call it a salad.
                Love, Margaret

*"Cooked the shit out of the fuckers."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Dear Marg,

I feel like I'm always posting about rhubarb. Actually, come to think of it, as much as I like it I'm surprised there aren't more rhubarb posts. I made rhubarb lunar cake that I thought I'd written about but don't find. Hmm, another opportunity.

Anyway, I wanted to share my Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with you. I make at least one every year, so I was some what concerned when I couldn't remember what recipe I used. I knew I had a good one that I had used over and over, but couldn't find it in all my usual spots (Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts, Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book nor Mrs. Bentley's). Some frantic searching led me into the back-up stash of cookbooks in the living room where I found it in Christopher Kimball's Dessert Bible. Whew. I'm way too young and way too fond of this pie to have that kind of mental lapse be permanent. 

The book is in Seattle and I'm in Idaho so can't tell you much about the recipe. When you google 'dessert bible rhubarb pie' you get some very strange results. Like this one from

A mean rhubarb pie or 'Ethics What you make of life from the leftovers after the main course of salvation has been served.'

It's a basic fruit pie - fruit, sugar, thickener, a squeeze of lemon juice. It's thickened with tapioca. In my experience, tapioca works well as a thickener for fruit with a lot of juice and these Skagit Valley farmers market strawberries certainly qualified. 

I used the pate brisee recipe from Martha's Pies and Tarts. I pretty much always use that one. 

Up with rhubarb!

love, Elise

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rib Ticklin' Good

Dear Marg,

I made ribs when Mot and Kevin came to visit. They are both big meat eaters so this seemed a good time to experiment with falling-off-the-bone ribs. Usually I just grill the ribs from raw and put the sauce on at the last minute. Flavorful, but an extra dental work-out. I wanted to learn how to make those tender morsels and their visit gave me the push I needed.

After a very quick perusal of Epicurious I setlled on Orange and Soy Glazed Baby Back Ribs. I'm a lazy hostess as you know so didn't spend hours researching recipes and certainly didn't do any test-runs. Just lit on this one that sounded good, read the reviews and went with it.

The recipe wants you to broil them but I wanted the grilled flavor. And there's my one piece of advice - watch them like a border collie watches a tennis ball or they'll burn up dead. I learned over the course of the weekend that Kevin is a passionate, committed griller. Unfortunately I didn't discover this until after he took over from Amos The Absentminded. I think he couldn't stand the black smoke boiling out of the grill.

Nonetheless the ribs were a-mazing. Truly. Beyond amazing.

 And because it was Mot there was chocolate cream pie.

Wish you could have been there!

love, Elise