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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Portuguese Turkey

I have been promising to post this. Eva, I don't think this would do well for goose, because goose is already fatty; this suits the blander character of turkey. Don't you think "Purity" is an odd brand name for sausage?

Marinate a 12-to-14- pound turkey for 1 to 3 days in a mixture of:

2 cups vinegar
2 cups water
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon pepper
2 dried red peppers, crushed

To cook turkey, stuff and roast at 325 degrees for 3 to 4 hours. Baste as desired with a mixture of melted butter and white vermouth.

Portuguese Stuffing

1/2 pound Portuguese sausage, diced
4 slices bacon
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 carrot, grated
1/4 cup chopped parsley
8 to 12 cups coarse bread crumbs

Fry sausage and bacon in large skillet. Add onions, celery, parsley, and carrot and cook until tender. Add bread crumbs and fry until lightly browned. Remove from heat and season with:

2 teaspoons dried sage
Poultry seasoning or a mixture of marjoram, thyme, rosemary (total 1 to 2 teaspoons dried, more if fresh)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Mix thoroughly, then moisten as desired with turkey broth. Use less broth if you are going to put the stuffing inside the turkey, more if you are going to bake it in a casserole.

I Promise I Will Shut Up About Collards After This

I wrote the Entertaining page again this month for Abode, the special home section that appears in this week's Free Times. Once again, it's not online, but if you're in Columbia, South Carolina, you should pick one up.

The main article is about collard greens. The auxiliary articles are about 1960s desserts and decompressing from holiday entertaining.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Slow Collards

It occurs to me that you might not yet have cooked collards the really long, slow, traditional way, Mom. The collards Dad has started growing are so tender, and our family isn't much for cooking vegetables for half a day. And besides, I didn't want to scare you the first few times I made collard greens for you, because Southern food was so foreign to us. But I think you should try it. I took a bunch of pictures on Sunday, so here's a pictorial guide.

I weighed the bunch of collards I bought before I left the store: 3.5 pounds. It was a large, compact bunch, and probably yielded 8 side-dish-sized servings.

I have made greens that were really tasty but totally ruined by gritty dirt. So you have to do exactly what all the recipes say: fill a sink or a giant bowl (or a cooler, as I discovered at Thanksgiving) with water, swish the greens around, and let them sit there for 10 or more minutes until the dirt has fallen to the bottom. Change the water once or twice. Collards seem less dirty in general than turnip and mustard greens, which you should wash even more thoroughly.

Don't dry the collards at all -- you're just going to add more water. Take several leaves at a time, roll or bunch them up a bit, and cut crosswise, across the stem. I don't discard much of the stalk -- only the thickest bit at the base. It all gets very tender and tasty, so why waste it?

You will need some kind of cured pork product. I probably wouldn't have chosen the chemical wonderland pictured here, but Lawson was good enough to do our Thanksgiving shopping and decided we needed 10 pounds of artificially flavored pork neckbones, so I will not complain. Ham hocks work well, too. Probably roasted pork bones of any sort would also be okay.

A closeup, perhaps?

I don't know what that is, either. I poked it, and it was flexible.

Next, get a big pot. The bigger it is, the less time you have to spend waiting for the collards to cook down so you can stuff more in the pot. You will probably still have to spend a while doing so...maybe 15 extremely unstrenuous minutes.

Turn the heat on to medium-high and put the pork in the pot. Begin adding collards.

This is still just the one bunch I started with. It took about 10 minutes to get it all in. I used this strangely shaped wooden spoon thing that Lawson picked up at a yard sale to stir and prod.

Once all the collards are in, add water to bring the level up to 4 or 5 inches. Some recipes call for more...according to a family cookbook, Lawson's aunt covered hers entirely with water which she then discarded (sacrilege!) but this is a good start. You may need to add more later. Slow collards should end up with plenty of what is usually called potlikker, a greenish vitaminy broth that is, for me, almost the entire point of slow collards.

Then simmer the whole thing, lid slightly vented, for 3 to 6 hours, stirring maybe every 30 minutes. The pork should cook down and the greens become first darker green then less green. Add more water if needed.

Here are the collards after about two hours. They've reduced but are still darker green and not yet completely tender. These took another hour and a half.

When they're finished cooking, salt the collards to taste -- you shouldn't need much if the pork was cured. Then add a few teaspoons or more of hot pepper vinegar. Ideally you have a jar of pickled chiles of some sort and can just use some of the juice. If not, maybe cider vinegar and Texas Pete?

And here they are, all finished and delicious, with plenty of potlikker and a little of the meat that fell off the neckbone. Do not be dubious, even if you prefer vegetables that aren't overcooked...these are a special case. Lawson eats them cold out of the refrigerator for dessert -- they're that good.

Southern Italy and the Southern US

On Sunday I made:
  • Tuscan Baked Cannellini Beans with Rosemary and Garlic. The recipe came from the Jack Bishop Italian Vegetarian book you gave me for my birthday. It was awesome, although next time I will probably use the crockpot instead of the prescribed Dutch-oven-in-the-oven, because I would like my beans a little bit moister.

  • Fennel and Orange Salad with Mint and Olives, also from the Bishop book. The taste was phenomenal, but I didn't like the size and shape of the orange and fennel pieces as dictated by the recipe -- the oranges were in big rounds, beautiful but hard to handle, and the fennel was in weird chunks.

  • Piadina, a Roman flatbread I have probably mentioned before.

  • Collards cooked for five hours with some smoked pork neckbones.
I liked the way the collards fit right in with the three Italian dishes. A very balanced meal, all in all.

More on collards very soon...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Supper for Friends

I made a nice cozy supper for three last night:

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread
Pan-Seared Tuna with Herbs
Salad of Baby Greens with Feta Cheese
Little Bowls of Fresh Raspberries

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 cups diced potatoes
2 cups diced zucchini
1 cup sliced green beans
2 cups shredded cabbage

Heat olive oil in large soup kettle over medium-high heat. Sauté onion for three to five minutes, or until slightly browned. Add carrots and brown in the same way, then celery, potatoes, zucchini, green beans, and cabbage, browning and stirring each time a vegetable is added.

6 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
1 one-pound can cut tomatoes
1- 1/2 cups white beans, cooked or canned

Add broth, tomatoes, and beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for about three hours or until thick (or simmer in crock-pot all day on high).

Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese.

Pan-Seared Tuna with Herbs

1/2 cup sliced red onion
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oil and gently brown the garlic and red onion. Turn the heat to medium-high and add

12 ounces albacore, red tuna, or swordfish, cut in 1/2-inch by 2-inch slices
(this is one recipe where frozen fish works pretty well. Thaw just before cooking and pat dry with paper towels if necessary)
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, etc.-- a mixture is best)
Salt and pepper

Sear the fish quickly on both sides, sprinkling with herbs, salt, and pepper. Remove the fish to a plate and keep warm. Add to the empty pan:

1 or 2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1/2 cups pitted Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

Boil up to deglaze pan. After a couple of minutes, add the fish back in and stir for a minute or two. Don't overcook. Stir in more fresh herbs and serve at once. This is also good cold the next day for lunch. I speak from experience.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Green and Red Tomato Pizza

This was a Viana La Place idea: make a pizza with all the tomatoes you have to pick the day before the first frost, both red and green. In our case, they were green, yellow, and red. She suggested leaving the cheese off, but I added some fresh mozzarella and herbs, and it was delicious. The green tomatoes were tart and very good.

I have a number of longer posts planned for the next few days; I just wanted to get this up.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pie for Breakfast

I never have room for pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving day; fortunately it makes an excellent breakfast the next morning. Here is the menu from yesterday's meal for six:

Tapenade* with Crackers
Cherry Tomatoes, Green Onions, and Radishes from Dad's Garden
Black olives from Raymond's tree which he cured himself!


Portuguese-Style Turkey with Linguisa Stuffing and Pan Gravy
Mashed Potatoes with Garlic
Sweet Potatoes from your recipe--very popular yesterday
Chunky Applesauce
Port Wine Cranberry Sauce
Scalloped Corn


Pumpkin Pie
Mince Pie

*This is James McNair's recipe. It was a perfect appetizer because it was sharply flavorful rather than rich and bland. Easy to make ahead, too.

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup basil leaves
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Chop first 5 ingredients in food processor, then add olive oil and lemon juice to make a smooth paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Ho

I just wanted to post this reminder to myself and everyone else that we won't be eating gravy and butter-based dishes forever. Someday, maybe around the middle of next week, we will again eat lightly sauteed greens and pork-free beans and shiny golden beets and things like salads and whole wheat tortillas. Onward to the future.

I'll be out of town for a few days but will return with many stories of the way other people eat. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pies and Pielets

Monday I made pie dough (after hollering about James McNair's cookbook in an earlier post I used his butter crust recipe); Tuesday I made a pumpkin pie; and today I made a mince pie using a meatless Joy of Cooking recipe. I used great restraint and didn't eat all of the mincemeat filling with a spoon; it is a wonderland of apples, raisins, lemon rind, spices, and brandy.

I love pie filling, but often leave the crust because it's too rich. I am going to work on pielets*: little individual ramekins of filling with elegant precooked pastry cutouts floated on top. I do like a bite or two of pastry if it's flaky and wonderful. Probably I could bake up the filling until it was bubbly, then put on the pre-browned pastry cookie, and heat everything together for five minutes. This is such a great idea that I'll probably become famous for it. I'll be asked to autograph pielets.

*Linguistic notes: Pie-ette is a better name, but hyphens are a pain, and it sounds like a brand name. Pielette is a problem homophone--I immediately got tangled up with pielettes and boats of pastry. Pielet is closer to piglet, so it works for me.

Planned Side Dishes

It's important to plan over a healthy breakfast.

Lawson and I are assigned the side dishes for his big family Thanksgiving again. We are going to be much less ambitious than in years past, so I am feeling pretty good about it all. Here's what we're making:

- Collards, traditional Southern style. This involves a ham hock and several hours of simmering with plenty of water.

- Green beans, traditional Southern style. This involves a smoked turkey neck and several hours of simmering with plenty of water. Are you getting all this?

- Spinach-rice. Because the turkey is smoked, it isn't stuffed, and every year Lawson pores over stuffing recipes and spends hours making it and nobody eats very much. His stuffing is good, but I don't think it's a stuffing-eating family. So we're going with rice and spinach this year.

- Macaroni and cheese, which I have noted in the past is the weirdest of the traditional Southern Thanksgiving foods. We will be using the absurd Macaroni and Cheese Supreme recipe of the illustrious David Wade, TV chef and object of my scholarly and acquisitional interest. I can't wait. The recipe includes 2 cups of sour cream. It will clog arteries from 8 yards away.

- Cranberry sauce. I adore the extremely tart raw cranberry-orange relish we make every year with the hand-cranked meat grinder, but I'm going to try plain cooked cranberry sauce this year to see how it goes over.

- I may make some gingerbread.

So, all in all, it should be pretty low key. The only bad part is that we have to procure all our groceries tonight, along with the rest of the city.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Flu Shot Soup

Lawson got a flu shot Friday, which always makes him feel crummy and sleepy and flulike a day or two afterward. That's not supposed to happen, according to what I've read, since the virus in the vaccine is dead, but he says it always does, so whatever.

Anyway, yesterday he felt bad and I invented this soup. It's somewhere in between chicken-noodle soup and Nina Simonds' cinnamon beef noodles. And it's so much healthier and more satisfying than regular chicken-noodle soup.

We had a carcass left over from last week, when I roasted a whole chicken. I made a stock using the carcass, an onion, a few carrots, and a number of turnip stalks. I threw in a few bay leaves but otherwise kept it pretty unseasoned because I didn't know at that point what I was going to make.

After the stock had simmered for hours and was good and rich and drained and cooling off in the refrigerator, I sauteed a chopped onion, a big clove of garlic, a few chopped carrots, and a potato. I added a little sherry, then some chopped turnip greens (maybe half of a medium bunch -- not so much that the soup was overwhelmed). I then seasoned the soup with salt, star anise, cinnamon, and coriander and simmered everything for about 35 minutes, until the potato was soft. I took out the star anise and added some shredded chicken left over from the roasting -- about one breast and one leg's worth -- and a cup of pasta stars, and let it simmer for 10 minutes more. All it needed then was black pepper.

Stock is just not very pretty.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Coucous and Friends

Couscous: "The Quickest Cooking Starch" or "Carbohydrate in Five Minutes." I used to feel guilty about couscous but now it's available in a whole wheat version (I'm probably not the only one who thought couscous was a whole separate grain. Actually it's little teeny balls of pasta). My Aunt Betty and Uncle Mario lived in Morocco for years, and we visited them there, and of course couscous in Rabat was not the modern five-minute kind. It was steamed in the top of the couscouserie while the stew cooked below.

But times have changed, and now we can buy instant whole wheat couscous, quick and nutritious. Here's an infinitely flexible recipe. Last night I needed something green, so I substituted frozen peas for the chickpeas, and it was just fine. This can round out any meal. It's from a faded newspaper clipping, so I can't give credit where it is due.

Couscous with Chickpeas and Carrots

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 can chickpeas, drained

Saute garlic in olive oil in a saucepan for about 2 minutes. Add carrot and chickpeas and cook 2 or 3 minutes.

1 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water

Add broth and bring to a boil. The stir in:

1 cup instant couscous

Cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir and fluff with fork. Garnish with:

Chopped parsley or cilantro

Birthday Dinner Party

We had some friends over Thursday for a pretty simple meal: grilled salmon, ginger-scallion noodles, and steamed sesame broccolini. And because it was a birthday dinner, and the birthday boy (what's the adult equivalent of that term? Birthdayed one? Birthdayee?) can't eat dairy, for dessert we had a dairy-free chocolate mousse cake with lemon sorbet and raspberries.

I made the cake the night before, and everything else was pretty easy to fix after work, so it was a good stress-free night. I wish the food had been a little more interesting, but we had fun. It went well with beer and Jameson.

Every time I take a picture of food, Lawson tries to stick his finger in the frame. So I'll give him this one. Let's hope it doesn't encourage him to greater heights of interference.

And as promised, Mom, here is the beautiful platter you and Dad gave me piled high with noodles. I love it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Good Things in the Kitchen

I did some good things in the kitchen yesterday. I made a batch of pear chutney. I also browned a small, tough beef round steak along with carrots, onions, and celery, then simmered it all afternoon to make beef stock. I made the meat into dog food, and tonight I'm going to make French Onion Soup with the broth! I feel very self-congratulatory about this planning ahead.

Dad picked some beautiful greens for tonight's salad. Salad and soup will be enough, because we ate an Italian lunch in downtown Tucson while attending the Tucson Art Museum Art Fair. The restaurant was odd: they had a very limited menu, just ravioli, linguini, or rigatoni, but it was excellent, and the delicious wine was served in the most elegant tall glasses. The building was about as old as you'll find in the West, very thick old adobe.

Holiday Mashed Sweet Potatoes

The annual Thanksgiving lunch at work was today. I brought sweet potatoes. Most sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving tables are really gross -- either chunks boiled in sugar syrup, or a casserole dish covered with colored marshmallows. I wanted to make a compromise dish, one that people would eat but that I would also eat, so I added a pecan topping to my usual recipe.

This is a plain roasted sweet potato, not the recipe described below.

The key, as always, was baking the heck out of the sweet potatoes, which I think brings out their natural sweetness way better than boiling or steaming them. Here is the recipe as I wrote it in an email to a coworker who wanted the recipe.

Bake 5 or 6 whole sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 1 to 2 hours, until the skins collapse slightly and the potatoes are soft. Let cool until you can handle them and remove the peels. Mash with a potato ricer. Add and mix thoroughly:

1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 scant teaspoon lemon or orange zest

All of the above are approximate -- taste and keep adding as needed. Sometimes I add a few tablespoonsful of bourbon, but I didn't today.

The mixture should be really fluffy, almost soufflelike. Spoon into baking dish and sprinkle with chopped pecans. You can sprinkle on some brown sugar if you like. Toast under broiler for just a minute -- those pecans will burn SO FAST, as I was reminded this morning when I had to scrape off a layer of blackened pecans and start over again. Twice. I had to throw away a lot of bitter, charred pecans, and I was sad.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Thanksgiving turkey probably involves more advice, worry, clucking, and carrying on than any other meal in our culture. It's not that hard to roast a turkey! An added plus is that the Thanksgiving feast is so excessive that you don't have to cook for several days after.

My very simplest and best method for turkey is to brine lightly for 2 or 3 hours (soak in a solution of cold water with 1/4 cup of salt*); drain turkey and then rub all over with a mixture of olive oil, paprika, and salt. Stuff if desired. Place breast-side-up in a turkey roaster or baking pan. Pour 1 cup white wine or vermouth around it, and then bake at 325 or 350 for whatever the label says. I usually have a 12-pound turkey, stuffed, and it takes about 3 1/2 hours. It's not done until the dark thigh meat is done. Usually I cover the turkey for the first half, but it depends on the pan available, the oven, the company, etc.


12 cups dry bread crumbs (don't buy seasoned bread crumbs. Save old bread in the freezer for the month leading up to Thanksgiving and break it up in the food processor).

1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter

Cook the onion in the butter in large Dutch oven. Add bread crumbs and cook a little to toast lightly. Then add:

2 teaspoons dried sage
A little each of thyme, rosemary, and marjoram
A small handful of finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Chicken or turkey broth to taste--our family likes very dry stuffing, so we just add a half cup or so. It will get wetter if it's cooked inside the turkey.

It's important not to overseason at this point. The flavors will develop as the turkey juices soak in.

You can also cook the stuffing in a casserole (30 to 45 minutes in medium oven), in which case you can be freer with the amounts of seasonings and broth. I usually put some inside the turkey cavity and the rest in a casserole.


It's good to boil the turkey neck, onion skins, and any other spare parts for a couple of hours ahead of time to make broth. You can use it in both the stuffing and the gravy.

Once the turkey is done, remove it to a platter and let rest a little before carving, while you make the gravy. Assess your roasting pan: is there still some fat and liquid in there? If there's a lot, pour it off into a blender, add about a third or half that amount in flour, and blend. Put back in roasting pan and cook the paste (roux) until it's not raw anymore. You can make it as dark as you want the gravy to be. Then gradually add the broth, stirring constantly, until you have gravy. You could use about 5 cups of broth per cup of flour, I suppose, though I never really measure. Boil gently and stir. Season with salt and pepper. If it's too thin, boil more to concentrate. If it's way too bland, add some chicken bouillon granules. If it tastes "flat," add just a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.

If your roasting pan has baked dry, you can put in a quart of water and boil it up to get the flavorful broth out of there. Pour off, make a roux using 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup flour, and use some of the broth you just created to make gravy.

Whenever you get gravy that's not as smooth as you like, puree it in the blender. No one has to know.

*Brining is easily accomplished in an ice chest. Throw in some ice cubes to keep everything cold. And--here's a great thing I discovered once when the turkey got done a whole hour ahead of everything else: preheat the ice chest with hot water, then drain. Put the cooked turkey in and it will stay very hot for a long time while everything finishes cooking.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This is my favorite way to eat collard greens: cut into strips, with the ribs chopped up small, and sauteed in the fat from one or two pieces of bacon. Garlic and a dried chile are optional. It's halfway in between the traditional ham-hock-and-eighteen-hours recipe and the lighter stir frying in olive oil...both of which I write about in a November piece for the Free Times which will be published the week after Thanksgiving.

Oh, man, I love collards.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew

You could say this is the meal that got Cooking Habit started, although we never posted it here. It was the first recipe I discovered and told you about, Mom, instead of the other way around...which is when we started to form the give-and-take that led to this site (though I still get most of my cooking ideas and knowledge from you).

The site is coming up on its one-year anniversary in five days, so this is appropriate.

I found the recipe in the 2000 Joy of Cooking. It looked tasty, except that it called for ground turkey or beef, and zucchini, both of which I omitted. It turned out to be delicious -- highly addictive, very warming, very filling. And here's where this story became part of family lore: I told you to try making it, but I forgot to mention what I'd left out. You came up with the exact same modifications, and you loved it, and then Russell made it and he loved it, and it became a family standard. I believe even Isaac, who might as well be a family member, identified the correct modifications independently of us.

It's basically a thick, rich stew made with garlic, ginger, assorted bell peppers and hot chiles, sweet potatoes, and peanut butter. I always serve it over couscous. It's the most satisfying completely vegan meal I've ever had.

I forgot to take a picture of it when I made it this week, so instead here is an old picture of the first table I ever ate it at, in one of my old apartments.

Here's the recipe with my/our modifications:

Saute in 1/4 cup oil until translucent:
-1-2 onions, chopped
-1-2 bell peppers, any color (I prefer red)
-1-2 fresh chiles, minced

Add and saute for a minute or two:
-4 cloves garlic
-1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

Add and saute for one minute:
-1 tablespoon chili powder
-1 teaspoon cumin, ground or whole
-1 teaspoon whole or crushed dried red pepper -- scale up or down depending on heat of other chiles used

-2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
-1/3 cup tomato paste

Cover with water and simmer for 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, until sweet potatoes are sweet and soft. Stir 1 cup of the broth into a bowl with:
-1/2 to 3/4 cup peanut butter

Then stir the mixture into the large pot. Salt to taste. Serve over couscous.

I've actually tried it once with some ground beef, and I didn't like it at all. Let it remain vegan, zucchiniless, and perfect.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Impossible Pumpkin Pie

How can this be so good? It's a recipe throwback from the seventies, first seen on the back of a Bisquick box. It's not really a pie--more like a pudding. Easy and delicious.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Bisquick or other biscuit mix*
1 16-ounce can pumpkin
2 tablespoons soft butter
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix all ingredients in a blender, or beat in a bowl, until smooth. Pour into a 10-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

*Here's a healthy alternative to Bisquick:

Light Baking Mix

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup dry milk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Mix thoroughly. Store, tightly covered, in cool dry place. Use in place of Bisquick.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Spiced Lamb Meatballs and Yellow Chard

It was hard to get a pretty picture of this meal, but boy did it taste good. I bought ground lamb and made a Claudia Roden recipe in which the lamb was mixed with allspice, cumin, and coriander, and then formed into meatballs. I sauteed the meatballs with some onions and garlic, and added tomato paste to make the whole thing into a stew. We ate it over rice. It was a great recipe for a busy night in which I wandered in and out of the kitchen a lot -- sort of time-consuming, but easy and spread out.

The chard was actually the tops of some golden beets I bought over the weekend. It looked kind of tough, but ended up being tender and really mild -- Lawson said it tasted like turnip greens, and he was right. I sauteed the stems in olive oil first, then added the leaves and some red chile and garlic and a bit too much salt.

I'll be going on about greens a lot over the next several days, as I am working on a piece about collards for the Free Times. I even interviewed a local organic farmer yesterday about them. Oh, I love collards.

Monday, November 5, 2007

November Miscellany

Here are our first tangerines of the year (we had eight.) They are hard to peel and a little on the fibrous side, but have a delightful tangy and sweet flavor.

I am not reviewing this cookbook, just complaining about it. I bought a used copy of James McNair's Favorites (1999) at a library sale for $2.50. It is beautiful to look at and has some lovely recipes. However, it has the worst index I've ever come across: I finally found a spinach recipe under R for "Roman-Style Spinach" and eventually figured out that the vegetable recipes are more or less alphabetically arranged--okra, potatoes, spinach--but they are included in a long section titled "Accompaniments," which also includes salads and grains. I wouldn't be so disappointed if I didn't love McNair's Pizza book, which got me started down the path to years of wonderful pizzas.


On a less bitchy note, here is a wonderful salad that our neighbor Mary Ellen brought to the neighborhood picnic last weekend. It is just the perfect combination to sit around on the buffet table and still be delicious, whether chilled or at room temperature.

Greek Salad for Two
2 tomatoes, cubed
1/2 cucumber, sliced
12 Greek olives
1 slice red onion, chopped
1 16-ounce can garbanzos
Feta cheese

Make a dressing of oregano, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar (two parts vinegar to one part oil). Add salt and pepper to taste. Lettuce is optional.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Brussels Sprouts

We've had many beautiful green and leafy things lately, with the fall garden in production and fall vegetables in the markets. This Brussels sprouts recipe modified from one by Jack Bishop is so delicious:

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup minced onion

Brown the onion in the butter for about 3 minutes. Add:

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered
1/4 cup evaporated milk or cream
1/4 cup chicken stock
Pinch of salt

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender. Add a little liquid if necessary to keep from sticking. Before serving stir in

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

With these we had barbecued Cornish game hens (first marinated
Portuguese-style in vinegar, garlic, and chile pepper) and roasted new potatoes.

Pasta with Italian Sausage

No, we didn't eat the dog. We adopted her, and that's why I haven't posted much this week. I've been exhausted and, I'm sorry to say, eating nothing very interesting -- pizza from our local Greek pizza joint; lettuce with salad dressing and nuts; cereal; grilled cheese sandwiches. I'm ready to get back to cooking more.

A few nights ago, though, I made a pasta sauce with Italian sausage, red peppers, onions, oregano, basil, and tomatoes. On Lawson's recommendation I added fennel seeds, some dried red peppers, and parsley. It was good. I love sausage because I love the idea of meat as seasoning rather than giant chunk of main ingredient.