A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Sunday, April 29, 2007


This weekend I decided it was time to start composting again, but that I was sick of the abandoned, messy, unscientific compost heap in the corner of the yard. I did some research, then went for a walk around the neighborhood to think about what kind of compost bin to construct. I was imagining a wood-and-wire box, was even planning what to buy at Lowe's to ineptly build it myself, when I happened upon a large old wood-and-wire birdcage someone had set out by the street. It was beautiful. I went and got my car to haul it home. As I was loading it into my car, an old man came out of the house I was in front of and asked if I needed help. "I had some lovebirds in there," he said, "but I didn't have much luck with them, so I let them go. Decided to let them fend for themselves."

I'll bet those birds are toast. We have at least one neighborhood hawk whom I have seen in the very graphic act of killing a smaller bird.

I pried the top of the cage off with a crowbar and pulled out all the perches and feeders and mirrors. Then I hosed the whole thing down and installed some hinges and a handle on the top. Today I gathered together dry leaves, weeds, a few days' worth of vegetable parts and coffee grounds, ashes, and some other things (okay, diluted urine) and built a starter heap inside the cage. I'm hoping it'll heat up in the next few days and be more productive than my usual halfhearted composting efforts.

So, compost's not food, but it directly contributes to food. Here are spinach and parsley from Lawson's garden:

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dad Cooks

Dad made a couple of delicious meals this week: the Red Snapper Veracruz and salad (home-grown) pictured above, and Lahmajoun.

The Lahmajoun is a sort of Middle Eastern lamburger. We used that ground lamb Lawson bought at the Caravan market, which was very lean and wonderful.


½ pound lean ground lamb
½ onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Mix together and spread on:

4 whole wheat pita breads

Top with:

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup pine nuts

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley. We served these with a dill/yogurt sauce on the side.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Self-Portrait with Soba

Yesterday was Lawson's birthday. I knew I wanted to make him some carrot cake, because I only recently found out he is a big fan of it (who knew? I have always thought of carrot cake as really lame.) So I made some carrot cake and decided that homemade, with lots of nutmeg and trustworthy raisins, it's pretty okay, though still not favorite-worthy.

Anyway, at the grocery store Saturday I bought some wonderful fresh tuna. Good fresh fish is so rare here that I rearranged all birthday meal plans in order to cook it right away. And I knew exactly what I had to make with it: soba noodles. From scratch. I might have gone a lifetime happily buying soba noodles from the store, but my friend Ken (the one who works at the mill) gave me some soba flour last month, and I had to use it for something. I swear, these grain gifts from Ken force me into overambitious food experiments -- I suppose that's a good thing.

We do not have a good Japanese cookbook. I looked up soba noodle recipes online and learned that I'd need to use part wheat flour and part soba flour -- buckwheat has no gluten -- but never found an authoritative recipe. I ended up using 1.5 cups of wheat flour, 1.5 cups of soba flour, two eggs, salt, and water. The dough was nice and easy to roll out, but the noodles were a little firm and bland. So next time I think I will use a larger proportion of soba flour.

I tried to cut the noodles by hand according to some instructions I found online, but I abandoned that pretty quickly and pulled out the hand-cranked pasta maker.

Ronnie pulled down a noodle and ate it:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tomato Toast

Here is this morning’s version of Tomato Toast, a breakfast I make almost weekly with whatever is in the house. Today’s layers: whole wheat toast, Brie, sliced tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, and Parmesan—all broiled until melty and brown.

Last night we had a simple meal of salmon, baked potatoes, and home-grown Swiss chard with garlic and jalapenos, followed by fresh strawberries and a piece of dark chocolate. Fresh wild fish is getting more rare and expensive every day. I have concerns about farmed fish and I don't know where to get any accurate information about safety--everything on the web about it seems to be written either by industry advocates or fringe food alarmists.

Tonight I’m going to experiment with a rolled, boned, and stuffed turkey breast. The stuffing will have bread and spinach, and I think it’s roasted on a bed of vegetables which are then used to make gravy. I’ll let you know how it is.

Lucky dog Emily will also get a turkey meal tonight. I’m sort of enjoying making dog food, since she so obviously relishes it. Bon appetit, Emily.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More tapas shots

I don't have much to add to what you posted below...just the only two pictures I managed to take. I had fun, though I admit I had a brief meltdown when I realized I had neither milk for the pudding nor sesame seeds for the cucumbers, and that the beets were not softening even after almost two hours of roasting. I recovered; I'm just not used to cooking in new places and after a large martini. I'll work on that.

Thanks for all the wonderful food you made during our visit!

Sunday, April 15, 2007


While Eva and Lawson were visiting us we decided to have a tapas evening, with everyone contributing one or two dishes. There were a few times during the day when it threatened to escalate into an Iron Chef competition, but we got through that.

We started out on the patio with fresh garden crudites (baby carrots, radishes, and snow peas) by Dick, served with aioli. Grandma brought a plate of cold sliced sausages garnished with grapes.

Next was Grandma’s homemade bread spread with aioli (homemade garlic/olive oil mayonnaise) and topped with sauteed mushrooms seasoned with sherry.

I’m beginning to forget the order here—but I think next was my squash-filled empanadas with chimichurri sauce. At the same time Eva presented two brilliantly colored salads: sliced baked beets dressed with orange juice beside marinated cucumbers with sesame oil and lemon.

Just when we were beginning to flag, Lawson served his Vietnamese shrimp cakes, made with shrimp, chickpea flour, and lots of ginger, and served with two sauces: one Thai sweet chili sauce and one yogurt-cilantro. These were beautifully plated with a dusting of herbs and a painting of the chili sauce.

For dessert we had Eva’s vanilla pudding, cardamom-infused and made with heavy cream!

There was constant cooking and dishwashing throughout the evening. We had a great time. I am recording the empanada dough recipe here, because it was spectacularly easy to make and handle. It’s from the February 2007 Cuisine at Home magazine.

Empanada Dough

2 ½ cups flour
½ cup butter, chilled
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar

Pulse together in food processor until crumbly.

1/3 cup cold water
1 egg

Add water and egg and pulse until dough forms ball. (I rested the dough in the refrigerator for an hour, but the recipe doesn’t call for it).

Form into 6 balls. Roll each into a 7-inch circle. Fill, fold in half, and seal with a fork. Brush with a little beaten egg and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until golden.

Friday, April 6, 2007


Our friend Mark lives in Kyoto and must be fed pizza when he comes to visit the US. The lower one is pepperoni; the upper one is herbs, anchovies, and mascarpone.

I'll be in San Francisco with no computer for the next four days...and then I'll be in Tucson! I promise we will post something together.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Vegetarian Reaction

We had a four-pound pork stew last night in honor of the visiting aunts and uncles. That menu was: Italian Pork Stew; Grandma's scalloped potatoes with tomatoes and onions; Grandma's salad with apples, glazed pecans, and Gorgonzola; freshly baked whole wheat bread; and Kathy brought a rum cake.

The general porkiness of that sort of meal, however delicious, turns me into a vegetarian for several days afterwards. So tonight we had vaguely Persian things, including potato and egg kuku, Dad's collards with olives and lemon, bulgur and walnut pilaf, and tomato/herb relish. Very restorative.

Lawnmowing Lentil Lunch

For lunch yesterday we came in from planting and digging and lawnmowing and were accidentally vegan. We had a spinach salad with almonds, orange bell peppers, and some bitter greens from the garden, and we had lentils. This was a made-up lentil dish, and it was so good:

Saute half an onion, then two cloves of garlic, in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 teaspoon each of cumin seeds, salt, and chile powder (pure, not prepared). Add 1 cup dry lentils and mix them in for a minute or two, then add a whole bunch of water. I think I used twice as much as the basic recipe on the bag. Simmer with a wooden spoon stuck under the lid until the liquid is absorbed and eveything is creamy, maybe 2 hours, maybe more.

It's good to remember that hard work does not always require country ham, biscuits, and a four-egg omelet.