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

Friday, August 31, 2007

Concord Grapes for Dessert

Have you eaten Concord grapes? They're everything kids don't like about grapes--tough skins, big bitter seeds. The flavor is so intense and wonderful that one grape takes a long time to eat and consider. Also, they are one thing that hasn't been hybridized to extend the growing season. They are only available in the late summer, as they should be.

We were Italian vegetarians last night:

Mushrooms with Tomatoes and Mint
Fennel au Gratin
Lentils with Wine, Onions, and Tomatoes
Homemade bread

The fennel was sliced and parboiled for five minutes before tossing it with bread crumbs and grated Asiago cheese, then baked for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Raw and Roasted Summer Pasta

Oh, this was so good. I made a raw tomato sauce out of:

- 10 medium and small ripe garden tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped
- a few tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper

I combined all that and let it blend for about an hour on the counter. Meanwhile, I tossed together:

- 1 zucchini, cubed
- 2 small Japanese eggplant, cubed
- olive oil
- salt

I put all that on a baking sheet and roasted it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Then I boiled some gemelli and tossed everything together with:

- 1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed
- grated Parmesan

It tasted like summer. We ate a lot of it with some really cheap and fairly crummy Merlot. It even made the wine taste good.

Breakfast Burrito

Last night we had Zucchini with Bacon (and onions and tomatoes) from Rustic Italian Cooking, roasted potato wedges, and salmon patties. The squash was okay, but not as wonderful as the title sounds. But both the squash and potatoes had new life this morning in this sensational Breakfast Burrito.

Saute together leftover squash, leftover cooked potatoes, and green chiles if you have them.

Add 2 eggs and cook until scrambled. Toss in whatever cheese is in the house; in my case this was feta and white cheddar. Roll in a big flour tortilla and top with salsa.

Be satisfied.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus was a vegetable I learned to love all on my own, as an adult. When I was a kid I always had to choke it down with my nose plugged (actually plugged -- was I ever sly about that, or was it just obnoxious?), and now I mourn all those missed asparagus meals.

When I first lived on my own I would buy one new vegetable each time I went to the grocery store. I could be something exotic, or just something I'd never cooked by myself. Asparagus was one of my early conquests, and the first recipe I tried is still my favorite.

Roasted Asparagus
Heat oven to 500 degrees. This is a good side dish to serve with pizza or broiled fish or something else requiring a very hot oven, because it feels wasteful to get the oven so hot for something so quick and easy.

Snap or cut the bottoms off of one bunch of asparagus. For this recipe, the thinner the stalks are, the better. Spread on large rimmed baking sheet and toss with two teaspoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Roast for 5 to 9 minutes or until the tips are crackly and brown but not burnt.

Toss with lemon juice, pepper, and a little more salt. The asparagus is best after about 15 minutes, slightly above room temperature. The tips take on a sort of candied quality that is rather amazing.
The tray in the picture is a recent gift from Brittany, the world's greatest houseguest. She bought it in Sweden.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Tonight, tofu with spicy Indonesian sauce. I made this up years ago. This baking process is my usual way of prepping tofu for recipes.

Tofu with Spicy Indonesian Sauce
1 block tofu
Vegetable oil

Slice tofu 1/2 inch thick, drain well, and pat dry. Brush both sides of slices lightly with vegetable oil and place on baking sheet. Bake at 400º until golden and firm, about 15 minutes per side.

1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons fresh or pickled jalapeños
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon molasses
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons peanut butter

Mix next ingredients in blender or food processor to make a smooth dressing. Set aside.

Bean sprouts or chopped lettuce
Chopped peanuts
Green onions
Cilantro or mint

Arrange tofu on a bed of lettuce or bean sprouts; pour dressing over slices and garnish with peanuts, green onions, or cilantro. Serve at room temperature.


Friday night we went over to the neighbor’s house for a swim with snacks and wine, then progressed to our place for dinner, at which we ate:

Slow-Rise Bread
Italian Pork Stew (from Rustic Italian Cooking) on whole wheat noodles
Sweet and sour leeks, served at room temperature
Chocolate Pudding Cake with Dulce de Leche Ice Cream and Fresh Raspberries (How Much Am I Supposed to Capitalize?)

Last night Grandma was here for Sunday night supper. We had:

Portuguese Scallops
Roasted beets with walnuts, parsley, olive oil, and vinegar
Green Bean Salad (see August 20th post)
Roasted sweet potato cubes
The same chocolate dessert leftover from Friday—somehow we had the willpower to save it.

We also watched a baseball game. My passions these days pretty much boil down to cooking, piano playing, baseball, and road trips.

Satay Triple Threat and Indian Okra II

I like when one meal feeds another -- when something left over can be used again in a new way. There are lots of brilliant examples of doubled meals: spaghetti sandwiches, your post-Thanksgiving turkey chowder, rice pudding.

It wasn't quite so magical as those examples, but the peanut dipping sauce I made Saturday to go with Lawson's shrimp-vegetable kebabs and stir-fried noodles became the dressing for Sunday's salad: another iteration of the Thai watermelon salad. This time the salad had hard-boiled egg, raw red pepper, watermelon, arugula, and Thai basil. I served it with Indian curried okra.

We still have some peanut sauce left. I don't know what's next for it -- a topping for chocolate ice cream? In a burrito with lettuce, black beans, tomatoes, chiles, and pumpkin seeds?

Anyway, yesterday I was happier with the okra. Here's my modified version of Madhur Jaffrey's Sweet and Sour Okra.

Indian Curried Okra

Mash in a mortar and pestle to form a paste:
-5 cloves garlic
-1-2 small dried red chiles
-1 teaspoon coriander seeds
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 tablespoon water, if needed

(Jaffrey had me pureeing garlic and chiles and 4 T water in a blender, but getting such a small amount of liquid out of my blender was awful. Plus, then the blender smelled like garlic and red chiles. With cleaning and scraping factored in, the mortar and pestle took less time.)

Stir in:
-1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Heat over medium in large skillet with lid:
-3 tablespoons oil

When hot, add:
-2 teaspoons cumin seeds

When they seeds begin to sputter and fry, turn down heat, add the paste, and stir, letting it fry but not burn for about a minute.

-1 pound okra, rinsed, tops chopped off and pods sliced into 3/4" pieces
-1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-1 teaspoon sugar
-a few tablespoons of water

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until okra is tender. Add more salt and lemon juice if necessary.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

More Artisan Bread, and Chicken Stew

I continue to work on slow-rise bread (see August 17th). I find that good equipment is so important. Pictured here is a Marie Callendar pie tin, which I’ve been using for baking round loaves (and toasting nuts, and roasting sweet potatoes, and everything else) ever since you worked at Marie’s in high school.

I have tried proofing the loaf directly in the pan, but I’m not getting enough oven spring because the skin of the loaf gets too dry. So now I need to go back to letting it rise in a bowl and using the soft underbelly as the top of the loaf. I'll report back later.


I made a wonderful chicken stew this week. It was similar to several Mexican recipes I’ve made in the past, but this was a cookbook-free endeavor

Mexican Chicken Stew with Tomatillos

Brown thoroughly in olive oil:
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half

Add to pan:
1 thickly sliced onion
4 cloves garlic
and continue to brown.

Then add:
1 pound husked tomatillos, cut in quarters
1 small can ranchera-style salsa (that’s the dark, hot one)
Water or chicken broth to desired consistency
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt, pepper

Simmer, partially covered, about 1 ½ hours or until tender.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Summer Weekend Lunch

I wish I could eat lunch at home every day. For one thing, food on a real plate is so much more appealing than food in a plastic container, even though I like leftovers. For another, I'm a very utilitarian morning person -- I take about 20 minutes from bed to shower to car -- and don't much want to think about food at 7:30 A.M. And it's more fun to have an array of fresh foods to choose from. So lunch is just one more reason to treasure weekends.

Anyway, this post is mostly a note to let people know we have an RSS feed, which is handy since we update often but not on a set schedule. We also have a new About page and a dedicated email address for the site. If there's anything else you'd like to see, let me know!

Tuna Melts

I really love canned tuna. I make tuna salad with curry powder and pecans and grapes, or cubed raw apples and red peppers, or balsamic vinegar and walnuts and parsley -- it's good all kinds of ways. But I think tuna melts should be more basic, and until last night I hadn't made one I was totally happy with.

For the tuna salad:
- 2 cans tuna. I think water-packed chunk light Starkist is A-OK.
- 1 tablespoon mayo
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- a few teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon mild coarse grain mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- lots of black pepper

Mix together and spread on:
- Homemade bread or other thick, serious bread. I used some half-whole wheat half-white long-fermented bread I made the day before (more on that soon).

Top with:
- 2-3 thin slices of sharp cheddar
- a small handful of grated mozzarella

Saute for one minute in olive oil, then move entire pan to under broiler until cheese is bubbly and brown.

I garnished it with tarragon for no reason other than that it's hard to find uses for tarragon. And as with nearly every summer meal, we ate it with fresh chiles, sliced tomatoes, and steamed okra.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Okra Indian-Style

We ate a lot of meat over the weekend: Genoa salami on pizza Friday, burgers and salmon Saturday, bacon for breakfast Sunday. By Sunday night I was ready for a meatless dinner, and I wanted good Indian food after an overly rich and generally disappointing Indian restaurant experience the week before. So I made:
  • Lentils with spinach and onions -- no particular recipe, just lentils boiled and then sauteed in with onions, garlic, spinach, and a bay leaf
  • Cubes of sweet potato roasted with salt and olive oil -- one of the world's best foods
  • Madhur Jaffrey's sweet and sour okra -- turmeric, cumin, coriander, garlic, dried red chiles, lemon juice, and okra
The Jaffrey recipe was a bit cumin-heavy but otherwise glorious. I predict that some variation of it will become one of my favorite okra recipes. I'll tweak it a bit and post it soon.

Monday, August 20, 2007


We had commercial take-out pizza Saturday night, and it made me rededicate myself to cooking fresh, unsalty things. It was horrible. Rubbery cheese, doughy crust, and salt—help, I’m obsessing about this pizza! I’m going to have nightmares!

Now, on to the antidotes. Tonight we had a little fillet of fresh silver salmon from Alaska, caught by our neighbor on a fishing expedition. I prepped it with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, then spread on a mixture of sambal and brown sugar before broiling. With it we had a thoroughly baked sweet potato—soft, unctuous—and this wonderful green bean salad from the Jack Bishop cookbook.

Green Bean and Tomato Salad

Lightly cook enough fresh young green beans for 2 to 4 people. Drain and cool.

Then mix:

2 ripe tomatoes, cut in ½ inch dice
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Black olives
Minced parsley
Chopped walnuts

Add green beans and top with
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

The night immediately following the pizza incident we had the vegetable curry pictured above, with a cucumber/green onion/rice vinegar salad and brown rice, followed by champagne grapes. We’re feeling better now.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tomato Gravy II: A Recipe

Tomato gravy is one of those Southern foods for which there are hundreds of different recipes. I, of course, believe Lawson's recipe is the best. It's how he won over my parents, after all.

It's a simple recipe, but it requires lots of fresh tomatoes in season, and they're supposed to be peeled. I suppose one could make it with canned tomatoes, but since the fresh, bright tomato flavor is the whole point, I would advise against it.

With so few seasonings, the tomato flavor is brassy and acidic and not sophisticated at all, but it's wonderful.

This recipe serves 6 to 8 people.

Saute until crispy but not too brown:

- 1 package bacon

Drain on paper towels and set aside. Pour out all but 2 or tablespoons of the bacon fat, if there is extra. Saute:

- 2 onions, preferably Vidalia, diced

Add and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes:

- Several pounds of fresh tomatoes (~10 medium?), peeled, seeded, and chopped

Add salt and pepper to taste. Crumble the bacon and add it to the sauce. Serve over grits, garnished with parsley if you like. A fried egg on top is good. Sauteed shrimp are good. If you wanted to be really South Carolinian, you could top it with a thin fried pork chop.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Artisan Bread

I read the "Easy Riser" article by Jeffrey Steingarten you sent me. I love the idea of his slow-rise bread but he used white flour, and I prefer to use whole wheat for all my bread. I tried it with these proportions:

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon gluten flour
2 scant teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 5/8 cup water
1/2 cup white flour

I skipped his ideas about shaping the loaf and dusting wheat bran all over the place. I just mixed the ingredients briefly in the food processor and let it sit on the counter 18 hours. The next day I added 1/2 cup of white flour and processed lightly, then shaped a round loaf.

I put a flour-covered towel in a bowl, put the loaf in upside down, and let it rise for two hours, covered. I preheated my 5 1/2-quart Circulon dutch oven in my large oven for half an hour at 500 degrees, then transferred the loaf to it and baked for 30 minutes covered and 20 minutes uncovered.

It is so flavorful and chewy! Next time I'm going to use my bread machine for the first steps, and just unplug it for the 18-hour rise.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Succotash Pizza and a New Knife

It had to be done, right? Right?

I love okra. I love pizza. We have many fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes, okra, and corn go together brilliantly. It was natural that I would want to put all these things together. But I couldn't shake the memory of the pizzas served from carts on the street in London: soggy and unbrowned, cluttered with greasy cheese and all the wrong vegetables. One of those pizzas had corn on it. It seemed to have been dumped right out of the can onto the pizza.

To avoid the yucky canned corn effect, I roasted loose kernels of frozen corn ahead of time. After 10 minutes at 425 degrees, they were nutty and gently browned, and much more appealing. I roasted the okra a bit, too, but I needn't have. Fresh tomatoes, a little mozzarella, one sliced poblano chile, and grated Asiago and Parmesan pulled all the flavors together quite well.

I also made a classic pizza Margherita to balance things out.

Our friend Mark is visiting from Kyoto and gave us this amazing knife, shown here with the poblano:

It's made by a company called Aritsugu, which I'd never heard of but have enjoyed reading about. Lawson's and my names are carved in the blade (on the other side -- this side says Aritsugu). It's beautiful.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Roasting Green Beans

When we visited David and Susan in Texas, they served a perfect dinner for weary travelers: grilled salmon, pink beans, cole slaw, and roasted green beans. I actually woke up in the middle of the night and wished that I had more of those green beans.

Susan says she roasts them at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. I did the same, with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, but mine were not especially wonderful. I bet that's because she grew the beans herself and they had just been picked the same day.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

Here's my favorite breakfast, made by Lawson: Grits with Tomato Gravy. The gravy contains bacon, onions, and tomatoes. Lawson uses coarse grits, and accompanies each serving with a fried egg.

Caprese Corn Salad and More

Katherine made us a version of Caprese salad with the addition of grilled corn cut off the cob.

She served it with this fabulous platter of pork tenderloin wrapped with bacon and grilled by Greg; a bed of fried noodles; and chimichurri sauce.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Insalata Caprese

It's famous because it's so good.

In August I feel like I get most of my protein from mozzarella cheese. Caprese salad is just such a perfect expression of tomato flavor.

I like it with balsamic vinegar. Lawson likes it with just tomatoes, salt, olive oil, and basil. I make it with alternating slices of tomato and cheese with whole basil leaves, and Lawson makes it as shown here. Unsurprisingly, it's good both ways.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Roasted Tomato Soup with Rice

This is roasted tomato soup, another recent recipeless creation. With a sunny side up egg on top, it made for a light but complete meal.

I destemmed about 12 tomatoes and squeezed the seeds out into the compost bucket. I then roasted them under the broiler, holes down, until they got blackened and juicy. Meanwhile I sauteed a Vidalia onion, then added the tomatoes and their juices, some chicken stock, some fresh basil, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. After it was heated and the flavors had mingled, I pureed it in the blender, then added some big basil leaves. I added cooked white rice to each bowl and put an egg on top.

The soup would have been better with some more interesting, less classic spices. Basil was fine and summery, but I think cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder, and cilantro would be good, especially with the rice and egg.

It continues to be unbearably, record-breakingly hot here. The last night my parents were here we made a vaguely herby-noodly Vietnamese dish, another infinitely adaptable Lawson specialty: cold rice noodles, grilled scallops, mint, cilantro, Thai basil, red onion, cucumber, and red pepper, all sliced in a bowl and dressed with fish sauce, cider vinegar, and chopped peanuts. We passed the fresh herbs around on a big plate and drank a lot of wine.


About Cooking Habit:
We are a daughter (Eva) and mother (Kris) writing to each other about food and cooking.

We are not food snobs, though we care deeply about what and how we eat. We are not professionals, either, though Kris at one point taught some cooking classes and did unlicensed catering out of her home kitchen, and Eva does some freelance food writing. We just cook, and cook often, for ourselves and the people we love.

It may seem like our audience is each other, but you're our audience, too, so please feel free to join in the conversation. Our posts are full of halfway-explained dishes and freely adaptable recipes and are thus geared toward more experienced cooks, but if you're a beginner with a question, don't be embarrassed to ask.

About Us:
Kris lives in Arizona with her husband (Eva's dad). She teaches piano, plays the piano, and drives around the country reading brown signs and camping in beautiful places.

Eva lives in South Carolina with her boyfriend Lawson. To make money she writes everything from business proposals to articles for the local alt weekly. She plays in two punk rock bands and goes for long walks.

Check out Eva's column Chew On This! every Wednesday in the Free Times. Her résumé and work details are at EvaLMoore.com.

Review Policy
  • We will accept review copies of cookbooks.
  • We will review some of them. However, we do not guarantee that any particular cookbook will be reviewed or even mentioned, except on this page.
  • When we do mention a cookbook, we will always note if we received it for free.
  • The freeness of a cookbook will not unduly influence our opinion of it.
Books Received

Monday, August 6, 2007

Pork Feast

My brother, his girlfriend, and my parents are all visiting us here in Columbia. For the first big meal, Lawson smoked a pork butt and some pork ribs. He went to work; I took the day off, and we all monitored the smoker all day. With the pork we served sliced garden tomatoes, steamed okra, white corn grits, and Lawson's homemade mustard-based barbecue sauce.

We ate outside. It was hot, and we were supplied with the other usual South Carolina outdoor hazards: here is Russell picking a fruit fly out of his wine.