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

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Grandma's Birthday

In a final flurry of entertaining, we had Grandma's birthday party today. First Ron and I played a recital of a Mozart duet sonata, the Chopin two-piano rondo Opus 73, and a jazzy Gershwin arrangement. With champagne.

For lunch I made salad plates consisting of a layer of lettuce on which I placed a mounds of curried chicken salad*, curried lentil salad, grapes, and glazed pecans. I made a batch of blueberry muffins to serve with the salad.

For dessert I made a French chocloate tart.

*I read in a catering book years ago how to prepare chickens in bulk for various dishes. You put whole chickens in a roasting pan with an inch of water, then tent them loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and 45 minutes. This keeps them moist but has a lot more flavor than poaching. I used two chickens and then made broth with the carcasses in the crockpot. Last night we had some of the chicken broth in Red Chile Sauce, which I served over thick Sonoran masa cakes.

South American Food

Sam and Grace came over for dinner on Friday. We sat outside for the cocktail hour, with wine, fresh veggies from the garden, and Swiss chard empanadas which I baked outside.

For the main course we had Argentinian chicken, a quinoa pilaf, and zucchini cooked with corn. And Easy Almond Tart for dessert. I make this tart so often--it's not enormous like my other tart recipes, and so easy, and everyone loves it. I am reporting here that Sam ate two pieces.

May Breakfast

Berries have been wonderful this year. We had these yogurt bowls for breakfast last week. There's a layer of bananas underneath.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Foods from Elsewhere

I hope I never lose my curiousity about what people eat in other parts of the world. Tonight I tried the most unlikely-sounding combination from the Claudia Roden book: meatballs, spinach, and garbanzos (our variation included buffalo meatballs and swiss chard), browned and simmered together for half an hour, with fried garlic and coriander added at the end. It tasted wonderful.

With it I served a salad of grated carrots from the garden, and a plate of sliced tomatoes with olives, feta, green onions, and basil. Here is the salad recipe.

Indian Carrot Salad

2 cups grated carrots
1/4 teaspoon salt

Toss carrots with salt.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds

Heat oil in a small skillet, toss in mustard seeds, and remove from heat as soon as seeds begin to pop. Pour over carrots.

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Add lemon juice and toss. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Oh by the way, I bought a small electric skillet for cooking outside and have made several things out there next to the toaster oven, saving the house from cooking heat. It works pretty well.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pappadums in the Microwave

This was fun. I had fried Indian papad disks (made with garbanzo flour) in oil before, but it was messy and caloric. Somewhere I read that they could be microwaved, so I searched the web and found many forms of advice. Here's one: http://www.geocities.com/rananegro/papad.html

I made a few at 23 seconds per side, and Dad cooked the rest. They were a delicious and exotic alternative bread with our meal of Shanghai tofu salad and snow peas stir-fried with mushrooms.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Vegetarian Southern Food Again

Mark returned for a short visit, this time with his awesome new wife, and I made a vegetarian Southern meal the last night they were here. It was semi-successful.

The grits were fine, nothing fancy -- you can see them soaking on the right side of the picture. Just soaked, simmered for a few hours, and finished with half and half.

I made black eyed peas -- I browned onions and garlic and flour carefully but quite a bit, then added some sherry and a lot of vegetable stock and some fresh thyme and cooked it all down for an hour and a half. It was a nutty brown, very rich and good.

I quickly sauteed garden collards with some red pepper flakes, finishing them with vinegar.

Florida okra and tomatoes have started appearing in stores, so I made stewed tomatoes and okra. Very simple: just sweated half a Vidalia onion in some butter, then added the okra (stems cut off) and a few chopped tomatoes (seeds and some skin removed) and cooked it all down for 15 minutes, covered.

And I made strawberry rhubarb cobbler.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Restaurant Review: One and Three-quarters Thumbs Down

We ate last night at Sur Real, an upscale Latin-themed restaurant on Skyline Drive near La Costalotta. Reviews have been good, and the promise of Cuban flavors excited us. I knew we'd made a mistake when I couldn't hear the hostess welcoming us because of the loud "Latin jazz" band that overwhelmed the room. The band did sound vaguely Latin, although the only tune I really recognized besides The Girl from Ipanema was The Days of Wine and Roses with the rhythm distorted.

The partial thumb up is because it was South of the Border wine night, and all the South American and Spanish wines were $5 a glass. I had a Spanish garnacha and an Argentinian white I can't remember the name of, and Dad also fared well. They were all delicious.

Because of the band and the cheap wine, the bar was filled with younger people, and they were having a good time. It was definitely a mismatch for us--all the old people like ourselves in the place (Tucson is full of them, they're everywhere) had strained expressions on their faces, and were frowning and cupping their ears when the waiter spoke to them.

But, the food: We had acceptable empanadas for an appetizer, filled with chicken and sweet potato. I ordered paella and should have been alerted by the mention of arborio rice. Indeed, it wasn't a pilaf at all, but a leaden risotto dotted with little shrimp, cubes of chicken breast, and some salami-like sausage chunks which I swear were flavored with Liquid Smoke. Small clams sat on top. The thing weighed a good five pounds--its remains sit in the refrigerator as I write, like a doorstop. Dad's a good sport and will eat it for the next several lunches. Pray for him.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cinco de Mayo

We gave a nod to Cinco de Mayo yesterday. I made spinach enchiladas, beans, and salad. Of course I cook Mexican food two or three times a week, so the coincidence was not that startling.

I have eaten spinach enchiladas at a couple of restaurants, but never made them at home. Dad picked the rest of the spinach crop for this spring, so the time seemed right. The recipes I found on the web just didn't seem very authentic--in fact, I was suckered in to using nutmeg in my filling, and I should know better! Anyway, I made a filling of browned onions, spinach, and crumbled cotija cheese.

I tried a new method of preparing corn tortillas for enchiladas: brushing them with olive oil and microwaving them--okay, but traditional pan-frying feels more satisfying. Then I made a light cream sauce with a chicken broth base and some chopped canned jalapenos added. I rolled up the enchiladas with the spinach filling, poured the cream sauce over, and topped with some grated mixed cheese. I baked them in the outside oven for 10 or 15 minutes.

Salad consisted of fresh garden greens with lots of avocado slices.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Weekend of Cooking and Picnicking

Friday evening I pan-braised a little pork tenderloin with mustard and vermouth sauce. With it we had focaccia with blue cheese, sage, and walnuts; and carrots and snowpeas.

Then Saturday we took the leftovers with us to visit the Amerind museum. It's just off of I-10 at Texas Canyon, where we turned off to go to Cochise Stronghold. The museum was wonderful, but the picnic area was a truly special place, with huge granite boulders and live oak trees. We had a memorable picnic. Afterwards we drove to the east side of Saguaro National Park and, after an hour's drive on a washboard road, took a 3-mile hike through the woods to the wilderness boundary.

Today we began with a breakfast of a grilled cheese and green chile sandwich, and finished with Grandma and Walt for dinner. I served Italian chicken with red wine and olives, raw broccoli salad*, and Piedmont peppers. Grandma made bread. I had leftover ice cream pie from last week's recital, which I served with fresh blackberries.

This broccoli salad is very strange but satisfying.

Broccoli Salad

1 pound broccoli
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup cashews or other nuts

Cut broccoli into small florets, or chop. Combine in large bowl with bacon, raisins, red onion, and nuts.

1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup non-fat yogurt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar
Salt and pepper

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream, sugar, and vinegar to make a smooth dressing (or use bottled ranch dressing). Toss with broccoli mixture. Chill at least one hour.