Friday, November 27, 2009

Happily At Home

Hey all, how was your Big Thursday?
Mine was great.
I made 2 kinds of stuffing, Cathy made 2 pumpkin pies and the cranberry sauce, Michelle mashed the potatoes, and Heather even helped stuff the bird! But Mom was still the anchor- cooking the turkey, coaxing the gravy, throwing together the salad. And Dad too- he carved and then got through the lengthy task of deboning afterwards. So many tasks, so much food, so much cheerfulness! No wonder we can only do this a few times a year!
Oh, and I am taking a break from the regularly scheduled updating of cooking processes to fool around with Google Wave- a bit confusing, but I really want to have some fun with it. :-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another Argh

(My oh-so-proper cookbookstand)

So, quite a while ago now, I went to the home of some friends for dinner, and they served this amazing mushroom soup. I think it has since starred in some of my dreams. It was delicious, rich, simmery, tasting full of flavor while not being chunky. So I thought I'd try my hand at a mushroom soup.
I knew I wasn't following following a similar recipe, but I thought I'd break myself in easy to the mushroom: start stew-style, with a combination chicken-barley-mushroom, and get a feel for the ingredient. Well.
I had bought a large container of dried mushrooms a few days before from Costco, while the plan was already simmering in my head, and thought I had just to follow the directions to rehydrate them and incorporate them into the Daily Soup recipe I had (also the first time I'd used one from their book). Unfortunately, I needed to dash to the Giant across the street to get the parsley (an inconsequential and unwanted flavor here anyway, it turned out), and due to the less-than-fabulous service there, the mushrooms ended up sitting in the water for 30 minutes instead of 20. Perhaps that was the fatal flaw. Or maybe they were just bad mushrooms. Or maybe, as my mother confessed to me when I told her of the ordeal, the cooks in my family just can't do dried mushrooms.

(doesn't it look good?? ah, the agony!)

Whatever the problem, I didn't realize it until I got to the very end and sat down with a chunk of warm, crusty bread on top of the stew, and took the first shocking bite, which lasted longer than it should, needing as I did to chew, and chew, and chew. So before the next bite, I picked out all the mushrooms from my mushroom-chicken-barley soup. Argh.

Gingered Sweet Potato Pie

I can happily say that I am returning home to California for Thanksgiving, which will be awesome. In view of this, and my status now as an actual adult in the family, I volunteered to take care of stuffing/ vegetable for the day. I very clearly said No Gizzards, because I am a No Gizzards type of gal, at least for now.
So I was gleefully planning to test some of Bon Appetit's cornucopia of stuffings, but instead got completely sidetracked, and wonderfully so, by this Gingered Sweet Potato Pie recipe by Rachel over at Coconut & Lime. I was helped in this also by finally having tasted the sweet potato pie of my neighborhood baker, Ms. Debra Chatman. I think it won the Best Of DC award in 2007, and I had never made it to the bakery while they still had it in the case until a few weeks ago- it went fast, I guess!
So I made one myself, albeit in a storebought crust, so I could concentrate on the filling: boiling the sweet potatoes, then skinning, then mashing. It's a nice, productive, yet not too taxing pastime. Kind of like all the preparations that go into butternut squash sauce (post to come). If you want to experiment and taste what the recipes are talking about, you have to cut, slice, peel, roast or boil, cool, chop, &c, &c. And you just accept it and keep going, instead of railing against "Why, oh why me???" as we are sometimes wont to do in other cases. It is refreshing.
(Rachel did her pecans in the shape of the mathematical symbol of pi, so I had to do something similarly creative- Behold, 'Tree':-)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Picturesque Newark, NJ

October 27, I traveled to Newark, NJ by train at another ungodly early hour for work. But this time, I traveled by train. I liked it better. As a whole however, I wouldn't consider the trip a success, since it rained, I became sick during the course of the meeting, my coworker and I had to wait over an hour for our train because the meeting ended early, and I didn't go out to see anything in Newark, but stayed in the mini-mall above and below the train station platforms, which seemed to have been designed to offer as little seating as possible in covered areas.

So it seems as though New Jersey is living up to its reputation.

(Top Left: View from the state government building where the meeting was held, to the train station where we arrived; Right: Old-style, Quaker-like Meetin' Seatin')

Friday, November 20, 2009

Like fuschia?

Well, that's the color that red cabbage turns when you cook it like this! I felt like reaching for my heretofore-usually-silent German roots for some cabbage and sausage a few weeks back- something sauerkraut-y without the canned shortcut. So I bought the red cabbage at the farmers' market and set out to create. I added a tart apple, onions of course, rice vinegar (since this wasn't an excuse to get yet another type of vinegar; I was trying to make do), and cloves- a little dab'll do ya (I only used 2, as per the recipe, but man did they add some verve!).

It came out nice and sweet-tart, and very homey-tasting. I made mine the first couple times with a cut-up beer bratwurst sausage from Trader Joe's and a dollup of dijon mustard, since my French roots were most likely from the east close to Germany anyway... ok, ok, I'm twisting it up a bit. It suffices to say that it paired well. However, it didn't keep very long, which surprised me, so: ye are forewarned-- scarf it down!

Second Beautiful Fall Walk

Near the Tidal Basin, beautiful colors everywhere

Red light, green light!


House of Usher trees???


Thursday, November 19, 2009

She discovers okra

Much as I am loathe to post about things that I didn't like or that didn't go well (after all, I'm so POSITIVE!), I promised to put up my effort with okra. I tangled with it, and lost. After passing it up many times at the farmers' market, I decided to just give it a whirl and fry it up. However, I only learned afterward that okra secretes a mucilaginous fluid when broken down; in other words, it made everything look and feel ('mouth-feel') a snotty mess. Flavor was ok, but I will have to try again with more and better advice in hand. But at least I did try! :-) I combined it with some peppers and spices, thinking that might be its natural habitat, but it didn't help
**Note the wholesome evening activity background: a puzzle! Ah, recessions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Almost one month ago- last of the galettes!

Well, maybe not the last, but definitely the last that will use summer fruit for a good long while. This was with the last of the yellow peaches, my favorite. I used this crust recipe, as 'usual' (if you can say usual when I've made it 3 times), which I was directed to by the Leftoverist. She has a more 'usual' pie crust recipe, made with cornmeal and sour cream-- which I bought last weekend to specifically try!-- and which I hope gets made before the s.c. goes bad...
But anyway, this was yummy. Good fare. So the edges were a little singed. That's the peaches' wild streak, is all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Abandon all order, ye who...

"And so, abandoning all semblance of order, she decided to throw things up, wil-he, nil-he."

I made these. Some time ago. Here was my result:
Pretty good, right? Well, they do kind of look like dried fish hopping about, but still. I was just watching Mark Bittman video clips, which I find truly funny, because silly, and thought to myself: "He really does do things that are dead easy, but require some knowledge to put together." I would not have thought of this as a way to dispose of the 16 sheets of plain, dried nori I got with my Teaism Afternoon Tea had I not seen him do it online! Bravo, I got to enjoy these succulent morsels instead of assigning them the dustbin because they were tasteless. :-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009


As a confirmed tea drinker, this quote from The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, jumped out at me:

"Tea and mangas instead of coffee and newspapers: something elegant and enchanting, instead of adult power struggles and their sad aggressiveness."

I like her.

Oh, and I will try to get motivated to catch up on my backlog of posts, truly. They include a few about cookies and a failed mushroom soup endeavor. Expensive mistake. :-(