Friday, February 26, 2010

Can you say cassoulet?

(Not my photo!)

Sure, that was easy, but have you ever made one?

The first time I tried this hearty winter dish was many years ago at La Coupole in Paris. Filled with pork, lamb, confit d'oie (preserved goose) sausage, beans, beans, beans, topped with a hot browned bread crumb crust, I was felled with one spoonful.

So I thought I would share the recipe with you all: Julia Child's, strategically trimmed, is better than anything I've had at restaurants out here; but then I paused. Am I crazy? No one I know is going to make the French version of pork and beans. Not a single person. Really.

If you are that anomaly, run out and buy or borrow the Art of French Cooking, and I'll give you a coupla tips. In the mean time, I've got to find some lamb bones to crack and braise in the oven. Because I have a craving for this dish and wonderful red wine, the perfect combination to warm you up on (what here in southern California passes for) a cold, cold winter night.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


A decade back Fox's opened its Backside, serving terrific coffees and cappuccinos that were redolent with the scent of Italy.

Now, even a restless chef gets tired of doing the breakfast dishes. I stopped here recently. I don't mind (too much) the need for re upholstery, the faint sound of tv coming from the kitchen. And it's clear that the Backside is no longer the must stop coffee place it was when the daughter-in-law was running it. But this time when I ordered my double cap, it was mostly milk. Hmmm. (Consistency, people, is the reason people return to Starbucks!) After ten minutes of trying to sip it I asked the waittress for a shot of espresso. "Yeah," she said, "I kinda thought I didn't put enough coffee in the machine." I guess she kinda thought I wouldn't notice? That maybe I deep down really wanted a latte? Minus one dollar off the tip, lady. (I tip large, like most former recovering waitresses. But there were other infractions, trust me!)

To the point, to the point, to the point.

Local people, where in the heck do you go out to breakfast? And get a decent coffee? I mean, when you want something besides a sweet roll or croissant? Help! I mean it, really!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Little bites

This caught my eye, just as the writer says, for those days when you're having lunch at your desk.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Prescription for a Rainy Afternoon

The post here and the ensuing comments got me thinking of the pleasure of classic movies. My daughter has watched over and over again "A Streetcar Name Desire", "The Third Man", and "Night of the Hunter". Soon, very soon, I hope to introduce her to La Dolce Vita, with its marvelous echo of "Marcello, Marcello, Marcello," and its bouyant, bubbling music as it heads towards a somber climax.

Menu recommendations:

For Marlon and Tennessee, the movie set in New Orleans, you must must must whip up Edna Lewis's gumbo.

Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten grapple with moral terpitude and a gorgeous woman. Wait, set in Vienna? Wienerschnitzel. I promise to post a recipe soon.

Game, of course for the only film Charles Laughton directed. Robert Mitchum stalks, and those kids run like a couple of startled rabbits. Lapin a la chausseur.

Ah, La Dolce Vita. Start on your veranda with a small aperitivo. Follow with anything Italian.
Anything at all.

Let me know how your rainy afternoon goes--

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fast Food Fridays

What kind
of wine snob are you? Must your white wine always be refrigerator cold, and your red wines dry?

Well, I've been around the block, once or twice. And even though my first sip of fermented grape juice was something pink from a jug by Gallo, I believe there's room for lots of different things. Like chilled, slightly bubbly, slightly sweet red wine, called Lambrusco. You can find this particular bottle at Trader Joe's for under $5. It's fruity, deep purple, low alcohol, and just fun. Grape juice for grown ups. Stock up and stash one in the fridge. Then, on that night when you've got nothing ready, swing by your favorite Italian deli for prosciutto, olives, assorted Italian cold cuts, chunks of Pecorino. Display it all fetchingly on a platter and you've got dinner. Fast. And delicious.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Food Rules

Michael Pollan's come out with a new book. Apparently he's got 64 rules for us mortals to follow. Sheesh, God herself limited it to 10. All I can say, Michael, is that's about 61 more than I can follow.

You can read more here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eating Crow

Yup. I can pick 'em. TED (Technology Entertainment Design) just awarded Jamie Oliver $100,000 to help him in his pursuit of educating (scolding, although benevolently) Americans in healthy eating. Want to see his 20 minute talk? Well, instead of shelling out $6,000 and heading down to Long Beach, you can watch it right here.

Or, you can click here, then scroll down to find Jamie in a much less dignified role-I think he impersonates all the Village People, in this video promoting his UK series--

Friday, February 12, 2010

How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth...

Posts here here and here got me thinking about children's capacity for inspiring within us tender emotions. My own sweet thing is headed off to college in the fall, and it dawned on me that she would be living on her own.

Our conversation:
"Guess you'll have to learn to cook."
"Yeah! Quick things, healthy things, and not too expensive, either."
"Well, I've got lots of recipes on my blog, and I can post things for you."
"I'm not going to read your blog!" intoned with the scorn only a teenager can produce.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mud slides? Mud pie!

(No, this is not my photo)

Okay, so the title may be in poor taste, the the dessert is not!
You will need:
20 Oreos, crushed. To that add half a stick of melted butter, and a tablespoon of coffee grounds. Mix well and smear it across the bottom of a buttered glass pie pan, making your cookie crust.

One quart chocolate ice cream ( I do love Breyer's) slightly softened. One tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water, now cooled. Add the coffee mixture to one large container of Cool Whip, or similar synthetic topping. Mix in gently.

Now comes the tricky part: Using a hand mixer, soften further the ice cream, then hand fold in the Cool Whip/coffee mixture. Spread into your pie crust. Top with thick chocolate syrup and chopped walnuts, if you like. Place in freezer until the filling has set (an hour or so). Serves one happy family. (They're all alike, you know).

Monday, February 8, 2010


Okay, starving readers, it's been a year. I'm reposting this recipe, because it goes so well
with the cold weather. Enjoy!

My first, and favorite, recipe for brownies was taste-tested, over and over again in a beautiful adobe home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I spent the summer there, between my freshman and sophomore year, and Frances, my friend who dished ice cream cones with me at Swenson's (remember them?) happened to be best friends with Judy Blume's daughter, and staying in their home over the summer. Whew! That was a tortured sentence. I never did meet the famous author, or the daughter, but I did make batch after batch of delicious brownies, during thunder storms, in a kitchen whose color scheme and size matched the Rothko hanging in the dining room.

Years later I found the recipe, Craig Clairborne's, in the New York Time Cook Book.

So, when it threatens to rain, why buy a box mix, complete with that odd preservative aftertaste when you can make them in (almost) as little fuss? I mean, even with a boxed mix you'll have to add at least two more ingredients. For these you will need:

Two eggs beaten into one cup of white sugar.

4 squares (or ounces) unsweetened chocolate.

This is where I'm afraid the foodies in the audience will be advocating Valhrona or Scharffenberger, or some other unpronounceable elite treat, which, come on, is today's declaration of palate and class warfare. I stand by my humble box of Baker's unsweetened chocolate and its homey beginnings.

1/3 cup butter (or 5 tablespoons)

Melt the two gently together. Remove from heat when both ingredients are completely mush.

Swiftly stir in the egg and sugar mixture. Fold in 1/2 cup of flour (yes, that's all, just ONE HALF CUP of flour).

A pinch of salt for contrast, a teaspoon of vanilla for that alcoholic kick. Pour into a greased 8 or 9 inch square pan and bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees.

Did you know that glass pans bake at 25 degrees hotter? Lower that thermostat!

Warning: these brownies provide quite the caffeine jolt. Devour with a cup of coffee to kick start your morning.

Friday, February 5, 2010

For Local Readers

I've become a great fan of Colorado Wine Company in Eagle Rock. There's a stylish dark room in the back where you can swirl and sip by the glass. Once or twice after work I've stopped by to pick up a bottle, and if it was one of their wines on offered by the glass I was given a sample before purchasing. (Those are the taste tests I appreciate most.) Not to mention the fact their featured wines often run under $10, and on Fridays there's an additional offering of nibbles.

My sister and I recently dropped by to buy a bottle and paid a corkage fee of $5 (waived on Wednesdays). We thought we'd stop at a glass a piece. Instead we worked our way through Cazar's Pinot Noir and left the place suffused with even more sisterly love and devotion.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ah, humanity

Even if I've never seen him in the buff, I do enjoy the Naked Chef. Imagine my surprise when I read that he was going to proselytize in Huntington, West Virginia. Yes, that's right, white colonialism is a hard habit to kick. He's going to rescue us from ourselves.

Doesn't he realize it's our God given democratic right to waddle to the grave?

Health food?! That's for rabbits and other strangers.

Doesn't he know what happens to people who challenge a society's basic belief system?

The series starts in March, and promises to be fraught. Tell me, who enjoys being told they're wrong, wrong, wrong? Oliver's not a scold, not at all. It's just that none of us enjoy being challenged on our most basic way of living. Not by an outsider, not by a local.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gaga O la la!

Bouef bourguignon is apparently making audiences swoon; but there are other menu items, too. If you love Julia Child her bouef a la catalane is much more interesting: aromatics, tender beef stewed at the end with rice and parmesan cheese; divine. If you pine for protein and wine, I am gaga over coq au vin, but not Julia Child's recipe. I find it much too fussy! Blanching the bacon, cooking the onions and mushrooms separately...

Here's a typical recipe, modified to my taste.

Julienne four strips of bacon. Render them in a dutch oven or oven ready covered casserole dish, until cooked, not crisp. Remove. Normally I prefer dark meat, but for coq au vin I like taking two whole (four half) chicken breasts with bone and skin and cutting them into thirds, skin, meat, bone. Briefly brown the chunks of chicken in the rendered bacon fat, on high heat. Remove to the dish with the bacon. Take half a pound of thawed frozen pearl onions and brown in the bacon fat. Remove to dish. Pour in an inch of $2 Chuck (your choice, Shiraz or Cabernet) and deglaze your casserole dish. Pour in the rest of the bottle. Add two minced cloves of garlic, two sprigs of parsely, half a teaspoon dried thyme, a sprig of basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cooked ingredients (chicken, bacon, onions) and simmer ten minutes, lid askew. Add one pound rinsed and quartered mushrooms. Simmer another 25 minutes. Add a tablespoon cognac. What?! No cognac, Armagnac or Calvados hanging around? A splash of brandy will do. Simmer another five minutes.

As the mixture simmers boil as many peeled potatoes as you see fit. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a small sauce pan, mix with 2 tblsp flour. Mix. Gradually add a cup of the cooking sauce into the saucepan and mix until smooth. Pour back into the casserole dish.

Serve over the potatoes, with plenty of sauce. Finish it up the French way? Mop up the sauce with crusty bread, and have some wonderful cheese to mop up the crusty bread. O la la!