Friday, January 29, 2010

Chocolate caked

A fascinating piece on NPR suggests that we can only handle so much rationality or reason in our pathetic brains, as evidenced by the people who consistently chose chocolate cake over fruit salad when given a complex number to memorize. When we hit fill tilt, apparently that hungry bear inside us all starts roaring.

After listening to that piece, I felt a bit lighter. No wonder I could be a rational human being at the work place, and totally devolve at home. Too much reason apparently burns itself out.

Bring on the Chocolate Cake!

Chocolate cake,
Chocolate cake
that's the one
I'll help you bake
Flour soda salt
are sifted
butter sugar
cocoa lifted
by the eggs
then mix the whole
grease the pans
I'll lick the bowl
Chocolate caked
chocolate caked,
that's what I'll be
when it's baked.

---Nina Payne

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Red, red cabbage

Braised red cabbage is a delectable side dish, marvelous with meat or fowl or on its own. The trick? Long, slow cooking, and don't get upset with me for saying 4-5 hours in the oven. This is adapted from Julia Child.

In your dutch oven, or similar covered baking dish, add a tablespoon or two of your cooking fat of choice: vegetable oil, lard, chicken or goose fat. Add half a cup diced onions, two carrots peeled and sliced, two slices of raw bacon, slivered. Turn heat on, stir until everything is slick with the fat, and cover. Simmer on very low for ten minutes.
As it simmers slice your cabbage to shreds. 6-7 cups worth. Add to the vegetables in the pot, stir until covered with fat, and cover. Simmer on low again, for another 8 or so minutes.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.
To vegetables add: 2 cups red wine, two peeled and minced tart apples, one crumbled bay leaf, one crushed clove, two cups water, two mashed garlic cloves, salt, pepper and two teaspoons instant beef bouillon. Bake.

I check every half hour or so to see if there's enough liquid. I keep adding more.

Three to five hours later, (full disclosure, last time I made this I baked it for 3 1/2 hours) when its scent is driving you wild, when it's cooked, everything will be so tender and flavorful you will swear you've added sugar, or vinegar. But, no. It's just the essence of the cabbage and aromatics, brought out to their very best.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Soup Days

Fans of James Marshall and teachers of young children know that Martha loved making split pea soup for her friend George, and George, not wanting to hurt his dear friend's feelings, when she was out of the room, poured the soup into his loafers.


Unlike George, I am a great fan of split pea soup. If your package of dried split peas doesn't have directions for it, like my last package of them didn't, here's a recipe for you. In addition to the ingredients, will you will need cool weather and a little patience.

Rinse one pound of split peas (why do we rinse these? Is it a call back to a darker, less hygenic era?) and place in a soup pot. Add: one diced onion, two peeled, diced carrots, one longish stalk diced celery (leaves add flavor, too) 1 1/2 to 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil and simmer on low. Add water as necessary.
After an hour add a teaspoon dried thyme. Cook until the consistency of your favorite bowl of split pea soup. Add pepper to taste, and 1 tsp to 1 tbls salt. You can throw a smoked ham hock in, if you like, or dice up some ham and add right before serving. My personal favorite: a dollop of sour cream on top.

And what of George and Martha? After Martha offered him an 11th serving of the soup, he finally came clean. Martha promised to whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Hmm, that suggests a future post.

PS: Inspired by AH, here's a link to Flanders and Swann, and their take on hippopotami...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Slow Food

Anyone who follows my current addictions on the right has probably noticed "slow scrambled eggs." I wanted to post it just before the weekend, when I hope things slow down a bit for you, so you too can discover their marvelousness. Hmm. Lusciousness? I think they are amazing.

Have three eggs at room temperature. (I've tried making this with fewer eggs: disaster). Beat them with implement of choice. Add a pinch of salt. I also like to add chives and tarragon. Over your pilot light or very low heat melt one tablespoon butter in a nonstick skillet. Pour your eggs in, and with the heat on low, continuously stir the eggs, scraping the bottom of the pan. (I like to use a silicon spatula). Slowly, slowly they will turn from liquid to a light custardy texture. And then they're ready to serve.

For the original recipe by Frances Lam, click here.

CO, this photo's for you.
AH, ask and you shall be answered...

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's back--

Dine LA! Once again, check out three courses at the swank or trendy, lunch from $16, dinner tops out at $44. The week runs Jan 24th to Jan 29th, and Jan 31 to Feb 5th. Maybe this time I can swing lunch at Angeli Cafe. I haven't been there in at least a decade.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fast food

Although, some times it's hard finding the right proprotions.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cultural Confusion

The moment he wants to kiss a woman, he wants to kill her. She watches and aids her husband kill the dirty old man who had taken advantage of her as a teenager. When the two start canoodling, murder and sex commingle and steam up the pages...

A Dexter episode? Nope. Try Emile Zola's La Bete Humaine, The Human Beast. I turned off Dexter (for good, this time, I think) and picked up this novel to edify myself, or prop up my self-image, and was shocked by its lurid bits. Wow. How tame and provincial the English writers were in comparison.

Sorry, no recipe today. I think my delicate sensibilities just took a tumble.

Jean Gabin and Simone Simon in Jean Renoir's "La bete humaine"

Friday, January 8, 2010

Of moles and pozoles

The other day I made pollo en mole verde, which, among other things, includes sesame and pumpkin seeds, romaine, swiss chard, cilantro, parsley and on and on and on. Diana Kennedy says it's mole for aficionados. An hour later, after the chopping, grinding, pureeing, stirring, it was done, and I loved it. My children looked at it like something emerging from a toxic waste dump.


This pozole recipe is from my grandmother, a Mexican American version, simple and uncomplicated. (One day I'll have to try my hand at that wonderful stuff they serve in New Mexico. ) My kids actually enjoy this version, and I hope you will, too.

Cover a cut up chicken and a pound of pork neck bones (optional, for the squeamish) with water, along with a sliced onion and a couple of peeled garlic cloves for flavor and simmer until tender, along with a drained can of hominy (small or large can, your choice). An hour on a low simmer should do it. Salt the broth to taste. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with lemons, oregano, sliced radishes and lots of sliced cabbage.

The secret here is the pork which adds a depth to the broth, and the crunch of the raw vegetables against the hot soup.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Poetry Corner

Do you carrot all for me?
My heart beets for you.
With your turnip nose
And your radish face,
You are a peach.
If we cantaloupe,
Lettuce marry.
Weed make a swell pear.


This post is a result of mulling over turnips for too long. For stronger poetical stuff, try here.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Think you can't cook? Resolved to learn how this year?
You've got nothing on them.

Feel better now?

I, for one, will never look at a turnip in the same way. Or pineapple.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year?

New year's resolutions, to me, seem an opportunity for self-loathing, debasement, and guilt resulting from when you ultimately wrestle free of them. So I don't make them, and have a horror of elementary and high school teachers who assign them. If you do, however, like starting the year with guidelines, here's a book that discusses our cultural phenomenon of obesity, what may contribute to it, and what you can do to battle it.

If you'd like a different lens through which to ponder the new year, to nourish the psyche, I recommend this one. I found its tips insightful and humane.

By the by, drop me a line if there's a particular recipe or dish whose aroma or memory is haunting your palate. I'll try to dig a successful one up. Or is there something you'd like to share here? Lemme know!
Here's to a healthy and prosperous new year, to hungry and loyal readers.