Thursday, October 31, 2013

Asia ahready

This the food served in the lounge. Make your own yaki soba. Drink til you drop. All for the price of a business class ticket - or a zillion miles.


We are off to Bangkok! I'll send a picture of pad Thai.


Love, Elise


Testing 123

Dear Marg,

We are in the Star Alliance lounge in LA waiting to board and I'm testing to see if I can blog from my iPad.


Meatless Monday II

                You visited on a Monday and we went meatless. Or mostly meatless. There was the beef broth, but that had been made on a Wednesday and had been in my freezer for months. Of course, if that’s permissible, can I eat the beef stew that has been in my freezer for months? Probably not. What if the broth were made with a carcass, something that would otherwise have been discarded, will that get it a pass?
                This whole meatless Monday thing isn’t as easy as it sounds. WWMBD? (what would Mark Bittman do)
                For our meatless Monday we had to decide between curried vegetable swamp and mushroom ragu over polenta. We settled on the mushroom ragu because it was a different sort of vegetable swamp. And I’m easing out of the Paleo lifestyle so polenta sounded good to me.
                Armed with two pounds of mushrooms, we commenced.  
                Sweat some onions and garlic
                Add the mushrooms and sauté until most of their liquid has cooked off


                Add some red wine and your unforgivable beef broth



                At this point we diverged from the recipe.  Instead of layering the mushroom ragu with the polenta and some mozzarella cheese, three layers of each, we just served the ragu over the polenta, one layer each, and eschewed the mozzarella altogether.

                Under other circumstances, it would have been disappointing. We probably should have cooked it a little longer and allowed the sauce to concentrate and become syrupy. We probably should have followed the recipe.  
                Meatless Monday concluded with a unambiguously meatless French Apple cake. This dessert is made up of three parts apples to one part cake. Really the cake is only there to seep into the few small spaces between all those chopped apples. I liked it. We had it with whipped cream, which covers a multitude of sins from the mortal—too much fruit to be called a cake—to the venal—bland.  


             I guess the dessert was also a little disappointing. I didn’t really notice. Having you here made everything shine like the top of the Chrysler building.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ribs again

Dear Marg,

It's been a braised pork month. Pork shoulder two weeks ago and ribs this week. The usual soy and orange ones from Epicurious. I add fresh ginger. Usually I add cornstarch to the sauce at the end - just mix a tablespoon or two with some sauce and then stir that back into the simmering pot - but this time the cupboard was bare of cornstarch. How a person uses up an entire box of cornstarch is beyond me.

The sauce was very liquidy and consequently didn't sit on top of the ribs when I grilled them but rather ran off the sides and threatened to douse the flames. Not as successful but we managed to choke them down. 

Served them with kale from our vacationing neighbors never ending CSA, joining the masses worshiping at the redemptive shrine of this woody vegetable. I felt like Grandma Grace when she learned that cottage cheese was thinning and began adding a serving of it to every meal.

Love, Elise

Friday, October 11, 2013

Simmer once, Simmer twice, It's a night for cozy rice

                Cold rain, 48 hours of it and another 48 predicted. Tis the season for gruel.
                I decided to make Sue’s lamb and rice casserole. Both you and Mom informed me that for this I’ll need leftover lamb, leftover lamb gravy and rice. I have rice.
                I needed to create a simulacrum of the other two. Brown some ground lamb, sweat some garlic and onions, well, shallots bc my onion had turned. Combine it with the rice and a few cups of that homemade chicken broth I have in my freezer from last week’s roast chicken. Toss in some rosemary bc I remember that part from Sue’s version and some fennel seeds bc that sounds good. Then let it simmer to reduce the liquid. It simmered while Riley had a brief elimination walk. The timing was perfect.

                It wasn’t Sue’s casserole, but it was cozy, warm and soft on a night that is cold enough for all the dogs to need blankets. 


                Love, Margaret

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mea(t) Culpa

Dear Marg,

Meatless Monday, less meat, more whole grains and beans, better for your body, better for the planet - everyone knows the litany. Granted, not everyone cleaves to it, or even wishes they cleaved to it. But on some level I buy it. I get that (in general and excepting athletic animals raised strictly on pasture that is too steep and rocky to support anything with less than four legs) meat production requires more resources than plant production. And I believe that variety is the spice of life and moderation in all things is best and countless other aphorisms that seem inane only bc we've heard them so often that we've blocked out the fact that the reason we've heard them so often is bc they are true.

All of which is a very long winded way of explaining my forays into vegetarian cooking. Trouble is, I suck at it. I don't have the instinctive feel for how to make vegetarian meals that I have for meat based meals. I understand braising and browning, how long it takes, what the meat should look like, how it should sound when it's almost done, and how it should smell. I've learned over the years which spices go with pork and which with lamb (curry or rosemary, for example, but not both). But put me in front of a CSA box and I'm stumped.

In my mental cookbook, vegetables get steamed, sauteed or roasted. Usually alone, sometimes with a close friend and some spices. And almost always as an accompaniment to meat. Excursions outside of this realm usually result in what Amos refers to as Vegetable Swamp. Healthy, dammit, but no one's arguing over the leftovers. There are always leftovers.

Last Meatless Monday witnessed another attempt, and shockingly, it was really good. Even the leftovers didn't last long.

I started with small green and brown lentils. I didn't have enough of either so I mixed them. Same size, same bean, same, same. I'm not so sure. One of the things that was great about this dish was that the lentils didn't cook into a homogenous mass. I'm wondering if one of the varieties took longer to cook than the other and so retained it's shape.

Sauteed some onions, garlic and fresh ginger. Added curry spices, then lentils, coconut milk and water, cooked a while, then added chopped sweet potatoes and right before lentils were done, chopped  zucchini.

Served it on a bed of rice topped with chopped fresh kale, then lentils and then fresh corn (leftover from a traveling neighbor's CSA box).

It was a tasty Monday. Today is Sunday and I'm making braised pork shoulder. Mea culpa.



  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 T finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t ground coriander
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1 t salt
  • about 1/2 of a  fresh serrano chile, finely chopped, no seeds or white parts
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried lentils
  • 1 (14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 medium zucchini cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato cut into 1/2 inch chunks
Saute the onion in the OO until soft. Add garlic, chili pepper and spices and cook a minute or so until fragrant. Add lentils, water and coconut milk. Cook about 5 minutes and then add sweet potato. Cook another 15 minutes and add zucchini. Cook another 5-7 minutes until zucchini is done and keep your fingers crossed that the lentils and sweet potatoes are on somewhat of the same time schedule.

Serve over brown rice with some finely chopped kale on top of it. Top dish with leftover corn if you have any laying about.