Archive | September, 2010

Guest-in-the-Kitchen

28 Sep

 

Rebekah, and her lovely mom.

I have a special guest today. Rebekah, and her family, are dear friends of ours. And a real foodie, too. In fact, her mom and sister, like Rebekah, are terrific cooks. We’re always swapping food stories.

So, when Rebekah sent me some lovely pics she took of salads she and her sister, Elizabeth, had made, I just had to show them off.

Grilled Chicken Salad w/ Olive Oil dressing

Salad Greens w/ Sunflower Seeds, Tomato, and Feta--Yum!

Aren’t they perrrrty?

Excellent work, young grasshopper.

Japanese Spanish

27 Sep

Violin girl and I had been to the local mall today.  Used to be we had to drive an hour to shop at one of these. Now that our drive is one-tenth of that time, we rarely visit. But today was different.

We had decided to visit the ubiquitous food court full of the standard fast food fare. We split a #1 deal. She, an American-sized pizza slice and a root beer; I, a small American version of a Greek salad–dressing by the packet. Dessert was extra. We shared a decent carrot cake–no, not the whole cake, just a slice. As we sat at our table, facing the Japanese kiosk, a curious site permeated my brain.

Those brightly, lit picture menus ,where the food looks deceptively fresh, were entitled in English–with Spanish subtitles. Perhaps you’ve forgotten? I live in West Virginia. We’re not known around these parts as having a large population of Spanish-speaking residents. We border Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Not exactly Spanish-speaking hotspots.

Ironically, three of these states, WV included, are homes to large, Japanese auto manufacturing plants.

I wonder if their cafeteria menus display Spanish subtitles?

How Sweet Is Your Potato?

25 Sep

We're So Sweet!

Kaukab loves sweet potatoes. She bakes them and dresses them like their Idaho cousins. Distant cousins, most likely.

Well, never abiding by Kaukab’s methods, I took to making sweet potato fries. Except, they weren’t fried. I roasted them, instead.

We're Not Kaukab's Type

Here’s all I did:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

I peeled 5 or 6 large potatoes and cut into thick “fries.” 

Sweet Potato Sticks

Then, place on baking sheet. Drizzle, heavily, with olive oil, sea salt, and 3 or so pinches of cumin. Mix to coat, using your hands. Spread out on pan. Place in oven for about 45 minutes.

Ready to be Oiled and Roasted

These end up tasting sweet and full of roasted flavor. I think the cumin adds an interesting flavor note to the “fries.” And…it’s with that that I would sacrifice Kaukab’s blessing. According to Kaukab, “No,we dond use cumin. Only the Palestinians do dat!” So much for diplomacy, Hillary C.

Poached!

23 Sep

Poached Pears w/Gorganzola

Finally got to the Farmer’s Market! Had been far too long. Forgot my camera, so missed out on the many great photo ops. Ginormous pumpkins stood guarding perfectly aligned rows of mums, and so many beautiful fall produce. So, I did the next best thing. I took some of my bounty when I got them home.

Awaiting Tomorrow's Mini Pork Roasts

Sweet Potato Fries Potential

Cute Little Pears, Ready For Poaching

 

I’ve always wanted to try poaching pears, and when I saw these little cuties, I just had to jump. I decided to make a balsamic bath and then once tender, boil it down to make a syrupy reduction. I love the idea of pairing pears with a sharp cheese, like gorgonzola–which I did.

A light, but satisfying dessert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 You can find my recipe in the ‘Table Menus’ section. By the way, I had an unusual  visitor for dinner, this evening.

Thirsty Bugger

Quite Thirsty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing Up

Hate To Drink and Run

Enough With The Musical Fruits!

22 Sep

Tonight was drum class night. It had been some time since I had heard food counts and, although I had resigned myself to the idea that there may never again be any mention of cherry pie or coconut, I wasn’t all too surprised to hear them return to this night’s gathering.

Violin girl and I had been to the local McDonald’s (I know, I know…Please don’t hate me.) and I suddenly had a craving for the pretty picture of a teeny, rectangular-shaped cherry pie. Where else can you get two pies for a buck, right? (Yes, I’m aware they aren’t REAL pies.)

Arriving back at drum class, I fish for the cherry pie. In true fast food efficiency, I pull out a…wait for it; wait for it…APPLE PIE!  How is it that the word, “cherry” sounds so much like, “apple?” Deflated, but hungry, I ate it–protesting to the very last bite.

Meanwhile, violin girl and I begin to hear their drumming instructor spew out a running list of fruit pies: cherry pie, apple pie, blueberry pie, huckleberry pie–enough to fill a bakery case. Then, coconut, cocoa, and chocolate. Once, I heard “one-ee-and ah two-ee and ah…” I thought he had said, “andouille.” 

Feeling inspired (and bored), we began adding our own grocery items to the list: macaroni, pomegranate, canneloni, mashed potatoes and gravy….

Anything, but fruit. Um, with the exception of pomegranate.

A Thousand Views

17 Sep

Just turned over my first thousand-view mark! Who knew Kaukab had such a following? I wonder what she’d have to say about that?

Possible Answers:

1. You don’t know noteenk!

2. Ah, What de big deal?

3. It need more lemon!

Thank you, for reading my little ‘no big deal’ blog.

Apron Lady

16 Sep

A Gift From My Soul-Sista

 

I’m beginning to feel like the old lady with a thousand cats. But, what could I do? My soul-sista, Sandy, saw this number and immediately thought of me. Have I grown such an obsession as to create others resorting to supporting my habit? Gosh, I hope so. Because, frankly, I really like aprons.

Happy To Be Hangin' Out!

 

You, know…I can’t recall Kaukab ever wearing them. I’m not sure why? I think I’m going to have to ask her, next time we visit. You may wonder, ‘Why not just ask her the next time you talk to her?’ As reasonable as that question implies, it wouldn’t allow me the full measure of Kaukab’s response. So much goes into it. I want to be present to feel the full brunt of her words. Plus, I’ll be rewarded with bonus Kaukabisms just for asking, what will surely be, a ‘stupid’ question. Trust me. I know what I’m doing.

In the meantime, I shall enjoy my new addition. I might even wear one in Kaukab’s honor!

This One's For Kaukab! Clink!!

A Zaatar Update

14 Sep

Zaatar has an interesting history. It’s actually a plant. In the South of Lebanon, you’ll find zaatar farmers growing large parcels of the stuff. It grows wild in the mountains, as well.  So, zaatar is both the mixture (zaatar, sesame seeds, and sumac) and the main ingredient.

When I saw the picture of it, I soon recalled the plant. My mother’s table had been no stranger to it.

Look away, now.  I think I’m blushing.

Kaukab’s Zaatar Pizza

13 Sep

Pizza at our house, growing up, wasn’t quite like the American version of the Italian pizza. Ours had its roots in the Middle East.  Kaukab would make a huge metal bowl full of pizza dough. I’d sit on the floor nearby and watch her swift hands make good on fifteen, or so, personal-size pizzas. She’d quickly dust them with a dried herb and seed concoction of sesames, oregano, and others I still am unsure of, called Zaatar. We kids liked to smear a bit of ketchup on them, hot out of the oven, to give ’em some extra “pizza” flavor.

Zaatar!

Until today, we’d always wait to make a trip up to her kitchen to have these, since I’m not comfortable working with dough. But my hubby decided that we’d be up for the challenge.  He’s the baker in the family. And a good bread maker, at that. Years ago, he scoured countless recipe books and online recipe sites wanting to make pita bread. He came very close to making a respectable one that Kaukab would have approved. (She likes him very much.)

Calling me into the kitchen to “look” at his dough balls–restrain yourselves–I found myself actually making the pizzas. My hands seemed to recall, rather instinctively, the way Kaukab had pushed her fingers into the dough, spreading it outward to a thin sphere. The zaatar heavily dusted atop, with olive oil drizzled and massaged into it so that it would become a part of the dough.

Hubby's Dough Balls

Pizza-Shaping

We made several pizzas in our endeavor to attain the result that would be worthy of Kaukab’s approval.  Here’s what we learned:

Pizza # 1 was too fat and the zaatar was too dry. That’s because we didn’t spread out the dough enough and didn’t drizzle any olive oil atop the zaatar.

Too Fat For Kaukab

Pizza # 2 & 3 improved somewhat, in that we attempted to thin a bit more, and drizzled olive oil atop the zaatar.

Getting There, But Still Not Good Enough For Kaukab

Pizza #4 proved successful–at least in our eyes. We spread the dough out even thinner and not only drizzled olive oil atop the zaatar, but gently massaged the oil into the zaatar, which melded into the dough.  SUCCESS!

I Am Worthy!

We all ate some and decided that it was good enough for us. We bagged the remaining pizzas for tomorrow.  Afterward, we engaged in a discussion of possible pizza toppers that could be added to them, once out of the oven. Here’s some:

1. Caramelized onions

2. Feta Cheese, black or green olives (or both)

3. Dressed Greens w/tomatoes

Make sure to dip your hands in olive oil before you pat out the dough. This will give the crust a nice start. Use the hottest oven you have–I had 550 degrees. If you don’t want to make your dough, you can use frozen bread dough–thawed, of course. Don’t worry, that’s Kaukab approved. She started using these years ago to make quick time of it. I figure, if it’s good enough for Kaukab, it’s good enough for you. Hubby used a bread dough recipe from his very old Betty Crocker book–the ugly, bright orange one.

Zaatar- Thyme-زعتر on FoodistaZaatar- Thyme-زعتر

Gypsy Ways

12 Sep

Bacon, The Old-World Way

The family had been to a cookout last night.  The lead singer (and creator) of my daughter’s band–The TurnAround–shameful self-promotion, duly noted–had booked a gig for what he had mistook as last night. Evidently, right day; wrong month. So, what else does a band without a gig do for laughs?  Why, throw an impromtu cookout.

Band leader grilled loads of hot dogs, hot dog sauce (a West Virginia staple), and baked beans. Walmart chocolate chip cookies and s’more fixings rounded out the picnic table offerings. Notice, no fancy food here.  All, but two–namely me and the hubby–spanned the following demographics: teens, Gen X’s, and barely thirty-somethings.  

No dishes spawned from strange ingredients requiring subscriptions to Bon Apetit and Cook’s Illustrated. If  you can’t open and throw onto a grill or plate, then it won’t be on this band leader’s table.  He’s old school. West Virginia born and bred.  

Like a Gypsy, he roams the state by day–an environmental engineer. By night, he’s a musician’s musician, roaming the state (and a few others), spreading the Gospel through contemporary music to our youth, hungry for something/someone positive in their lives. 

And…like a Gypsy, he likes bacon. Apparently a food staple in the Gypsy pantry throughout Hungary. While we were roasting our pleasant, and ubiquitis, s’mores, band leader approaches the campfire with a long stick. Unlike our sticks–oozing with white, squashed cylinders–his was wrapped with something strangely familiar to the rest.  Bacon. One slice of the piggly-wiggly, wrapped tightly around the top eighth. He held it in the fire, turning it slowly, telling us the ‘tale’ of  “Gypsy Bacon.”  Taking much longer than roasted marshmallows allowed for the ‘tale’ to be told as only a native West Virginian could.

Violin girl was intrigued. (She’s the grasshopper to his musical sensei.) In true Sensei fashion, band leader gently instructed her in the ways of Gypsy bacon wrapping. After several attempts, violin girl was ready to roast.  We stared intently upon the Gypsy stick, marvelling at bacon’s fat rendering abilities and wondering if violin girl had it in her to sample the result. Like a true West Virginia girl (adopted, really), she savored every last morsel.  Gypsy Sensei nodded approvingly.

When I got home, I couldn’t help myself. I had to know. Was there really such a thing as “Gypsy Bacon?”

Sadly, yes.

Worse, still…I can’t get Cher’s song out of my head. “Gypsy, tramps, and thieves…”

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