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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Devi Raju

I interviewed Devi, who runs the amazing Touch of India and Touch of India Express restaurants, and wrote a 650-word piece on her for this week's Free Times. I wish I'd had more space; she gave me a lot to work with.

Of the most interest to this blog was the fact that she doesn't taste the food she's cooking. Here's the relevant unedited section of the interview (I cut this way down for the article):


Eva: Do you keep notes about what you put in each dish, or do you have recipes you've written, or is it just all in your head?

Devi: All in my head. That's why it won't taste the same every time you eat it!
I don't have fixed menus because today it may be hot, tomorrow it may be cold, you don't know what...
And plus I don't taste my food.

Eva: I wondered about that, cause you're a vegetarian, right?

Devi: Even vegetables

Eva: So even the vegetables you don't taste...Why's that?

Devi: So that's what we practice in India. We used to offer food to the god when we cook some days, like prayers days. If you’re practicing sucking your fingers all the time, if you taste the food, that is not going to be good to offer to god.
That is the reason we practice when we are gone to mother in law's house, we don't eat food until we feed the family and we later.... Some days offerings may come, priests may come, someone come to eat, and that's why I never eat my food first when I cook.

Do you feel like that affects your cooking somehow?

Devi: No, I don't know, I don't know the taste because I'm cooking that much and I don't know the difference.

Like if someone is there, my son, my daughter in law, my husband there, they will check, they will taste for me. Me, no. I never taste my food.

Eva: So does it surprise you sometimes when you do eat it?

Devi: Nah. But I know when I cook, like the items, when I cook, it's going to taste good anyway. But the item...If I like, like if I do the okra, if I say oh, I like that okra, I like that okra because it tastes so good to me to eat that, then I'll eat afterwards. But not in the beginning.

It won't surprise me at all because I know when it looks good.

When you look you can tell the food usually. That's why I don't have to taste anything to know whether it's okay or not.


It reminds me of something you said to me once, Mom, about being able to smell when food has enough salt in it. Similar thing: Devi can can tell by looking whether the food is right.

I do find myself tasting the food I cook less all the time, but I still usually have to taste for salt. Maybe it's because I use different salting agents -- sometimes fish sauce, sometimes table salt or coarse-ish sea salt, and usually of varying brands, so always different. I don't know; I always have salting problems. Maybe I need to look and smell more.

By the way, Lawson has been a customer of Devi's for many years. He once told me that years ago he was eating some meat or poultry dish at Touch of India and Devi asked him how it was; she had never tried the dish, even though she cooked it, since she was a vegetarian. So that was one line of questioning I wanted to pursue in the interview, and luckily she wanted to go there, too.

This was the first in what will become a series of interviews with local food people -- restaurateurs, farmers, caterers, what have you...I hope they're all so much fun.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Mom, I keep meaning to direct you to this post on homemade spelt crackers. I want you to make some once your life gets back to normal and tell me how they are.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Tamales

This year I used my regular pork filling recipe, though I see now I forgot to use onion. It's missing that flavor base, for sure.

For the dough, this year I rendered my own lard instead of buying the sketchy shelf-stable hydrogenated stuff. I just put some chopped up fatback in the crockpot for a day on low; that worked pretty well. The lard was a little softer and meltier than other lard I've encountered, but mild and delicious.

With the tamales we had homemade beans and a sort of ad hoc cole slaw made from brussels sprouts, lime juice, yogurt, olive oil, salt, pepper, and toasted cumin seeds. I made a batch of classic red chile sauce to spoon over the tamales.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bûche de Noël

I'm not sure I'll ever do this again, but it sure looked cool.

a "hot milk sponge cake" from Joy baked in a jelly roll pan
Kahlua-flavored buttercream

chocolate buttercream
meringue mushrooms
powdered sugar
a rock from the yard
a pine branch with pinecones that I found in the street

The meringue mushrooms got gooey pretty quickly in the humidity.

These shots make it look a little campy, but indoors, in person, it looked quite pretty and log-like.

It tasted merely okay -- the cake was a little bland, and the Kahlua buttercream not quite perfect. The lemon meringue pie I also made for Christmas Eve dinner was much tastier.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Somewhat Chinese Smoked Turkey Noodle Soup

With the leftover Thanksgiving smoked turkey I made some stock and used it to invent a soup.

I simmered together:
  • broth from smoked turkey
  • onions
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • five spice powder
  • soy sauce
After a while I added:
  • carrots
After ten more minutes I added:
  • green onions
  • soba noodles, partially precooked
  • spinach
  • sesame oil
And I served it just like that. Leftover turkey meat would have been good, but we didn't have any.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

After the Open House

We attended a very nice open house party in the neighborhood last night from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. There was lots of wine, a spinach quiche, crostini with tomatoes and cheese, and little quesadillas.

Returning home, we were in a supper quandary--we needed a little more food and drink, but we couldn't exactly start from scratch. We settled on a having a scotch and soda, followed by a light meal of brie, crackers, brussels sprouts with mustard and lemon, eggplant caponata (which I had made for food gifts earlier that day), and some blackberries. It was just right.

I like to make food gifts this time of year. For the end of 2008 I made lemon curd, caponata, chocolate chip cookies, and tomatillo salsa.

Sour Cream Enchiladas

My restaurant mainstay as a vegetarian child in the Southwest, sour cream enchiladas don't sound like they should work...but they do.

I'd never made them before, but we happened to have all the right ingredients around.

The filling was sour cream spiked with a little yogurt and a little Herdez salsa verde and a sprinkling of grated mozzarella.

The sauce was my regular New Mexican red chile sauce.

I used James Peyton's advice to roll the enchiladas loosely, which kept them from unrolling.

I covered them with the sauce, baked them at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, and served them with a cilantro-red pepper-bean salad similar to the one described here and here.

Please forgive our messy table and the Old Milwaukee.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back to the Stove

I cooked last night, Manhattan in hand, and felt immeasurably better.

I made a vaguely Thai stir fry of pork, tofu, onion, garlic, purple cabbage from the garden, red bell pepper, green beans, cilantro, and rice noodles. I marinated the pork first in sugar and fish sauce. For sauce I used a blend of fish sauce, chile-garlic paste, and water. Not bad. The whole thing was slightly greasy, but at least it was homemade and home-chopped and very therapeutic to make.

I don't know how it got to be late December. Fortunately, I get to spend the next week cooking. Should be fun. A buche de Noël, lemon meringue pie, tamales, huevos rancheros, Anasazi beans...I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lunching Out

With Grandma in rehab (that's physical therapy, for those of you who don't know her), the last few days we have fallen into a pattern: we visit her in the morning and take her the paper; we visit her in the afternoon; and in between we go out to lunch. This will have to stop. Thursday we had trendy Italian; yesterday we had Greek (a grilled eggplant sandwich for me--Eva, we must find out how they do their grilled eggplant!); and today a Guatemalan restaurant called Maya Quetzal.

The place is completely uninspiring when you look in the cash register, linoleum floor, and plastic chairs. But if you go through to the back patio, it's pleasant. We were with Mary Ellen, so we could order three different things. She had pork in an amazing pipian sauce, Dad had chiles rellenos containing spinach, walnuts, and more, and I had the divine vegetarian plate. There was a turnover made of a thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese, walnuts, and spinach; black beans; and then instead of the "Spanish" rice the others had, my plate had a side of white rice cooked with corn, sour cream, and cheese. It was really the best rice dish any of us have ever had.

Now I am going to drag you to that restaurant when you visit, and I'm also going to try to find that recipe.

We went to the local street fair two days in a row, once to look at woodworking vendors with David, and once on a Christmas shopping expedition. The Greek and Guatemalan restaurants were in that district, so we walked to lunch both of those days. It's been in the 70's at midday, with clouds and sunsets in the evening.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Summer Pasta

It's mid-December, so all our garden herbs are dead except mint and parsley...so I made pasta with mint and parsley. I do what I can to feel alive during the winter.

Cook very slowly in a big pan until light gold:
  • 3 or more cloves garlic, sliced
  • Several T olive oil
  • some vermouth
  • a can of diced tomatoes
  • red chile flakes
Cook slowly until flavors blend, but don't let tomatoes get that cooked flavor -- maybe 12 minutes?

  • 1/3 cup ricotta
  • a handful of chopped fresh mint
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • lots of pepper
  • salt
The ricotta should be just enough to make the sauce a little thicker and richer -- it shouldn't be a cream sauce.

Don't put on as much Parmesan cheese as Lawson did above.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Smoked Turkey, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Lawson and I invented this dish several years ago after Thanksgiving, and now we make it every year. It's a product of our particular Thanksgiving, which usually involves a turkey smoked by Lawson's brother; we always have a bag full of leftover smoked turkey meat.

We call it Signature Dish. I take no pictures of it because it is a casserole. Instead, here are pictures of the cat trying to help me fix my speaker cabinet:

***Signature Dish***
First, you have to make a batch of classic Southwestern red chile sauce.

At the same time, you have to roast two whole sweet potatoes at 400 degrees until they soften and collapse a bit.

Then you compile the following:

Layer 1
black beans
roasted sweet potatoes, peels removed and innards gently sliced

Layer 2
a few cups smoked turkey meat
a cup of sour cream
several green onions, chopped

You will also need:
corn tortillas
a little bit of cheese for the top

Get out a pan, grease it lightly with olive oil, and pour some sauce in the bottom. Add a layer of corn tortillas. Add more sauce. Then add the beans and the sweet potatoes, evenly distributing them. More tortillas. More sauce. Then carefully spread/dab the turkey filling on for the second layer. More tortillas. More sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Here, I made you a picture. s=sauce, t=tortilla, c=cheese.


It's more than the sum of its parts, this dish. We actually smoked a chicken once just so we could make it.

If I were trying to be fancy, I might make individual plates of stacked enchiladas, New Mexican style, but it's so good left over that I prefer to make a big cafeteria-looking pan full.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Getting over Thanksgiving

Like you, I have had to overcome a mountain of calories (and, by the way, leftover gravy, due to my advance gravy binge) and get back to my true cooking roots. In this house, that means seafood, tofu, and vegetables.

Last night we had curry-seared scallops, a very quick treatment. I especially like to use this with huge scallops cut in half horizontally so they sear quickly.

Curry-Crusted Scallops

12 ounces sea scallops
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder

Rinse scallops. Dry thoroughly on paper towels. Dredge all sides in curry powder.

1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat a olive oil in a skillet and cook the scallops for 3 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper, remove to a bowl and keep warm.

2 tablespoons apricot or other jam (I used plum)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons sliced scallions

Deglaze skillet with the jam and a little water or wine. Add cream and boil briefly.

Serve sauce over scallops and garnish with scallions. I served mine with brown rice.


By the way, I think I should get some kind of honorary degree in Southern cooking. I made pimento cheese from scratch because I couldn't find any here. I used pickled sweet peppers from the olive bar.


Yesterday at the grocery store a college-age boy was standing in the produce section looking confused. When I smiled at him he stopped me and asked me to help him. "I'm supposed to get parsley and rosemary," he said, "but I don't really know what I'm looking for."

It might have just been a line, but he really did seem confused. I showed him the (hideously expensive) prepackaged rosemary, labeled "Rosemary," and he said "Oh!" and nodded. But when I pointed out the parsley, he furrowed his brow. He reached out for a bunch, then drew his hand back. "This is cilantro right next to it," I said. "Don't get that." He looked at me, then back at the parsley. "Thanks," he said.

When I left the produce area he was -- I kid you not -- holding a bunch of parsley in one hand, staring at it, and scratching the back of his head with the other hand.

I wish I'd asked him what he was making (or who he was shopping for). Maybe he'd been told to get flat-leaf parsley, and they only had curly. Maybe he was high.

At a time when gourmet cooking and food snobbery is pushed on even the unwilling, it was kind of neat to remember that not everybody knows the same things. You and I could tell cilantro from parsley at fifty paces. That kid could not. So what? I wish I could make him dinner.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Late Fall Food Doldrums

My cooking seems to be suffering lately, and I don't know why. Maybe I haven't adjusted to the shift in seasons. I know I'm still in mourning for fresh chiles. I haven't been to the grocery store as often these last few months. I'm oversalting, a kitchen problem I have that goes in cycles.

We eat takeout Thai food and Pizza Palace large pies with Genoa salami, mushrooms, onions, and peppers more often. My whole cooking habit is in need of some repair.

I illustrate my lameness with a picture of last night's dinner: leftover Thanksgiving macaroni and cheese and slow-cooked green beans, well executed but straight off any Southern buffet, alongside a grilled Italian sausage. Everything tasted fine, but it was all kind of fatty and bland and uninspired. Midwestern winter food. It wasn't Eva food.

I'll hit the grocery store tomorrow seeking inspiration.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Shrimp Tortilla after Thanksgiving

I somehow managed to not take one single photograph through four days of eating, cooking, and talking about food with Lawson's relatives. We were all socked away in a house in North Carolina miles from anything. In a classic liberal-conservative/Target-Wal*Mart split, Lawson and I worked on the new trail we're cutting up there, while almost everyone else stayed inside or rode ATVs in a circle around the yard.

After all that eating, though, we needed light food yesterday. We saved some leftover shrimp from Saturday night's oyster roast and shrimp boil, so I made a tortilla espanola with them: an onion and four cloves of garlic, sauteed very slowly for about 40 minutes until golden, followed by a diced roasted red pepper, about 15 big cooked shrimp, a handful of parsley, 5 beaten eggs, and salt and pepper. I cooked it in the pan for a few minutes more, then browned the top.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

We had a wonderful turkey this year, a free-range bird from Sprouts weighing just under 19 pounds. I soaked it in a light brine overnight, stuffed it traditionally with bread stuffing, and rubbed it all over with my usual paste of salt, paprika, and olive oil. I roasted it at 325 degrees for five hours. It was really dark brown and much more done than usual--falling apart, actually, so it didn't carve too neatly, but it had so much flavor. Yum.

Another highlight of the meal was the trio of pies Kathy brought: pecan, pumpkin, and apple crumb.

Looking back, we had a completely conventional menu. I did my sweet potato chunks with butter and maple syrup. I mixed my advance gravy with the turkey pan juices and a little more flour and water and the final product was great. We had eleven people but I seem to have cooked enough for twenty-two. Look at my refrigerator:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Here is my big Free Times story on Anson Mills and grits.

Fun fact about the dead tree edition of the story (which I will send you next week, Mom): those grains on the cover aren't actually grits. Looks to me like some kind of wheat berry or other grain. Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills showed us a bunch of different grains, but I don't have notes on which grain that was, nor do I know how it got on the cover.

There's also an incorrect caption. But small embarrassments aside, the article is up and I'm happy.

Here is a dish I made last week: yellow grits topped with a very simple sauce made from pancetta, canned tomatoes, garlic, and lots of parsley and salt and pepper.

I cooked the grits in the crockpot for a day and a half with just water and salt. They were amazing.

A Breakfast Quandary

For the next several months I'm on an assignment in a different building than usual,and they're having a holiday breakfast next week. I'm the last person to sign up. Here are the other items on the list:
  • Egg casserole
  • Egg casserole (yes, TWO egg casseroles. I look forward to finding out what egg casserole is.)
  • Waffle batter and waffle maker
  • Fruit and whipped cream for waffles
  • Grits
  • Scones and biscotti
  • Surprise
I feel like bacon and cantaloupe would round out that menu best, but it's not melon season, and bacon doesn't travel well. Ideas?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tostadas, Etc.

Susan turned me on to these--she said they were much better than laboriously baking or frying tortillas at home for tostadas--and she's right. They are uniformly crisp and just strong enough to support lots of toppings.

This casual tostada meal had beans, shredded pork, cheese, and the various toppings pictured here.

And these are tangerines from our tree. We got about three dozen this year. They are seedy and hard to peel, but very sweet and flavorful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Impromptu Sonoran Enchiladas

There was a bit of leftover tamale sauce in the fridge, a mediocre, tomato-enhanced batch I made a few weeks ago to go over the last of the 2007 Christmas tamales from the freezer. I used the rest of it to make some Sonoran enchiladas. I added some of Lawson's carrot-habanero salsa (the orange stuff) for heat and brighter flavor.

Sonoran enchiladas are a good thing to know how to make: instead of making a whole bunch of corn tortillas, or dealing with the flabby bland excuses for corn tortillas available in Columbia grocery stores, you just make a few Sonoran corn cakes and you can have homemade enchiladas.

My recipe varies. Sometimes I make them partially out of grits, which I soak first to soften; sometimes they're all cornmeal or masa harina. Here's the basic recipe, adapted from James Peyton:

1 1/2 cups masa harina or cornmeal
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 egg
up to 1 cup water

I don't measure very carefully. These can get too wet easily, so be careful with the water.

Form into 4 cakes. Pan fry over medium-high heat until browned. Set on paper towels. Assemble enchiladas.

This particular batch was part northern New Mexico, part southern Arizona, and part Central America: I topped the Sonoran cakes with chopped white onion, leftover Anasazi beans, a fried egg (all Four Corners/New Mexico traditions) and some white cheddar. Equal parts gringo-style red chile/tomato sauce and Belizean carrot-habanero sauce made this quite the ethnic blend. It was also a pretty good finger in the eye of the idea that there's some monolithic thing called Mexican Food.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Advance Gravy

I read a brilliant idea this week in the New York Times. The writer suggested roasting some cheap turkey parts and making a batch of stock and gravy a few days before Thanksgiving--the point is to take the pressure off when the turkey comes out of the oven and you have a houseful of people. That way if the pan drippings are not suitable, or you just can't handle it along with everything else, there will still be gravy. And even if you manage to achieve perfect on-the-spot pan gravy, you will have extra to go with the leftovers.

I was fascinated by the Louisiana woman quoted: she cooks her roux for an hour! In another article, lost to me now, a woman confessed that she measured her roux-stirring time in glasses of wine (one hour = three glasses of wine at 20 minutes each).

Well, I went this idea one better and made roasted turkey dog food. I roasted two drumsticks and two thighs (cost--about $3) until they were a medium brown. I deglazed the pan (Emily was unaware of this step), then simmered everything with water until I had a rich stock. I picked the rather used-up turkey off the bones for dog food and saved the very lovely broth to make gravy tomorrow.

Emily's dog food for the week consisted of turkey, rice from a take-out Indian meal, and one Mexican grey squash. She seems to like it a lot.

And, yesterday we ate some of Dad's fresh lima beans. Neither of us had eaten fresh ones before, and they are worth all that trouble.

Pot Roast

I made pot roast in the crockpot again. It took maybe ten minutes of prep work. I browned a small chunk of beef, then put it in the crockpot with chopped carrots, onions, and mushrooms. I added salt, a bay leaf, and cheap wine and turned it on low for 20 hours. I served it with egg noodles.

Pot roast feels like wartime food, food for a recession, food for hard times. It also feels like food for winter; it's going to be 20 degrees here overnight. I did not move to the South for this.

I just finished a few big projects I had going, so I should be cooking and posting more. I'll have Thanksgiving plans up soon; we're going to try to shop for ingredients early this year instead of Wednesday evening.

We're going out for fancy Thai food tonight.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Outrageous Desserts

Nobody says "outrageous" any more. Very dated. I may have gone overboard with my dessert buffet at yesterday's recital. After all, the eight students played for only about 35 minutes (everyone's grateful for a short program, no matter how much they think their kid is a genius). Then there's a flurry of dessert-eating mixed with mutual congratulations and feelings of relief and pride. About 25 people attended, crowding into the room like that famous etching of a Schubertiad.

I make important desserts because I want a feeling of celebration. We had two 16-inch tarts--French Chocolate Cream and a Fruit Tart. I also made a bundt cake based on a mix (sorry) with the addition of dried cranberries, grated orange rind, and slivered almonds. And Cashew Cookies with Browned Butter Icing, and a bowl of grapes. Most things got devoured, along with some coffee and punch.

I delivered some desserts to Grandma this morning. I announced myself as the Calorie Fairy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spicy Indian Kohlrabi

I bought some kohlrabi recently for the first time. I wrote to ask you about it because I remembered you and Dad used to grow it in Alaska. And while I want to try it the simple way you told me about -- boiled, with butter, salt, and pepper -- we were in the mood for something spicy. Also, it's easier to approach a new vegetable when garlic and chiles are involved.

So I was pleased to find that kohlrabi is used in Indian cooking a lot. This is a combination of several recipes I found.

  • 3 kohlrabi (kohlrabis? sputniks?) with greens
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A few garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 small hot chiles, fresh or dried -- I used a fresh immature tabasco and a few chiltepins
  • 2 t ground coriander
  • 1 t cracked black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 T fresh lemon juice
Peel the kohlrabi and cut it into fat matchsticks, about 3/4" per side. Roughly chop the greens.

Heat the oil and saute the bay leaves, garlic, turmeric, chiles, and coriander, being careful not to burn them. Add the greens and saute for a few minutes. Then add the chopped kohlrabi and salt and pepper. Saute a few minutes more.

Add water, cover, and simmer until tender. Some recipes called for as many as 40 minutes, but I think we had some very young kohlrabi, and it was extremely tender in about 15 minutes.

Let the water cook away and add the lemon juice. Serve.


Lawson was quite charmed, and I think he is going to grow some kohlrabi now.

In the back there is a half-invented chicken-rice dish. Lawson said it was like an Indian chicken bog. It was okay, but not perfectly balanced. It contained onions, garlic, cardamom, saffron, a cinnamon stick, ginger, almonds, yogurt, jasmine rice, chicken thighs, and some other stuff I can't recall. Nice idea, one I'll try again, but with some modifications.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Accidental Gourds and Other Garden Happenings

I apologize for the hiatus. I got busy at work. Our fridge was broken, too -- technically it still is, though it'll stay cold for a few more days until the defroster (which is burned out) ices over again and seizes everything up. The part is on order.

But Lawson fixed the oven, so things are looking up.

While Lawson and I have been working too much and eating takeout food, his small fall garden has been taking off, what with heavy rains and benign neglect. The cabbages and collards should be ready for eating soon.

And look: we think this is a gourd.

It's definitely a cucurbit of some sort. When it first came up we thought it was a rogue late-season cucumber, because of the leaves and the vine growth pattern. Then it flowered, and the flowers looked exactly like zucchini blossoms, all trumpety and orange.

But then we started looking more closely at the vegetables below the flowers, and they have this beautiful duotone thing going. A weird squash hybrid? But Lawson remembered that I bought some ornamental gourds last year from a roadside stand in North Carolina, and that when fall was over I composted them. I spread some of that compost around this year's fall garden...and hey presto, a gourd plant. I hope it lasts through the upcoming freeze.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Simple Anchovy Pasta

Speaking of anchovies, as you were a couple of posts ago, I made an anchovy pasta from Kathleen Sloan's Rustic Italian Cooking yesterday.

Cook pasta for two. Meanwhile (such a loaded word in a recipe--"meanwhile", kill and dress a chicken and harvest and grind some wheat), heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and saute 3 cloves sliced garlic for 2 minutes. Stir in 6 canned anchovy fillets or rolls, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook a couple of minutes more. Mash with spoon. Add to drained pasta, toss, and season to taste with salt and pepper. I topped it with Parmesan cheese.

We also had Brussels sprouts with mustard cream, and a tomato salad.

Monday, November 10, 2008

South American Dinner

Maybe the Republicans are right, and the country will lapse into moral decline now the Democrats are in power. Starting with us--this was the second morning in a week that we woke up to unwashed dishes and the multi-bottle litter of entertaining.

I served a South American dinner for six. The menu:

Sweet potato chips (purchased)
Basque sheep cheese
Shrimp Cebiche
Vegetable Cebiche (hearts of palm, broccoli, mushrooms)
Homemade Bread
Chicken in a Red Chile Sauce with Peas and Olives
Quinoa Pilaf
Pickled Onions
Fruit Tart

The loaf of bread pictured above contained 1 cup unbleached flour, 1/2 cup spelt flour, 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup coarse cornmeal. I used molasses for the sweetener.

The tart was pretty with mixed berries, all on sale this week!

Remember we wondered how to make pickled onions like Santos? I found the method in The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac.

Peel a medium red onion, cut in half, and slice into paper-thin half moons. Cover with hot water and soak 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add the juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the onions, mix well, cover, and let stand at room temperature for three hours or until they turn pink. Best served the same day.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crockpot with a View

I have used Peruano beans a few times lately. They are a lovely pale yellow-green, shaped like Great Northerns but they cook slightly faster and are less gassy. I can buy them in bulk for a dollar a pound.

Tonight I cooked them with ham hocks, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaf, and a sprig of fresh thyme. (I covered them with water by one inch this morning and boiled them for 10 minutes, then turned them off and went for a walk. Then I put them in the crockpot. Most of the year I use the crockpot outside so the house doesn't heat up. Soon it will be winter and I'll plug it in inside.)

We had them with cornbread and a salad of tomato, avocado, and olives.


I love them. I didn't mean to buy rolled ones, since they're for cooking and will just end up melting away anyway, but I thought these were beautiful. I put some in a pasta dish the other night, but I've been eating the rest on crackers.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Okra and Greek-Style Cod

Can you believe that we're now harvesting okra? This is our second batch. I steamed them following your method and they are wonderful.

I also cooked Greek-style cod last night. Of course you can use any flaky white fish in this recipe (I don't think firm types like tuna and swordfish would be quite right).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I got a pretty kitchen scale for my birthday.

I have of course read a lot about spaghetti alla carbonara, but I'd never tried it. Never knew quite what to think. But Emile was selling pancetta at the farmers market the other week, so we bought some and made spaghetti with pancetta and eggs and cheese.

I have to say, it wasn't my thing. Even with tons of parsley, which Lawson said correctly was key to the dish, it lacked any redeeming green-ness. It was too intense. Lawson, who has made it many times before, didn't like the pancetta as much as the plain old bacon he's used before.

I have used the pancetta since in other ways, and it's glorious. I cooked it with some collards last week. But maybe not so much with the eggs and parmesan and pasta.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post Election and Post Meat

Reality set in this morning. Obama won, I'm ecstatic, but there's so much work to do! Likewise, at our house, we partied last night but there was a big mess in the kitchen and throughout the house.

Also, we happened to eat meat ("flesh" is a way better term, kind of Biblical and guilt-inducing) for the past several days, which makes us wish for fish and veggies. We had a wonderful pot of Chile Verde containing both beef and pork on election eve, can't complain about that.

Tonight I made a tofu and vegetable curry accompanied by tomato and cilantro chutney and garnished with peanuts and Thai basil, followed by fresh pineapple.