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Archive for May, 2008

I just received an email reminder from Mary at the Community Farm Kitchen about an event G3 readers might be interested in. She will be participating in a panel discussion on “Finding Local Food and Bringing It Home for Dinner: Supporting Our Farms” this Thursday, May 22 from 7 to 8.30 pm at the Ann Arbor District Library Main Branch (downtown—downstairs multi-purpose room).

From the Library’s website:  “This panel discussion features exemplary local farmers and food experts who will discuss what they’ve learned about growing food, what they see for the future of food and why Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms are so important to the community. They will also highlight the creative ways in which local people in our community are buying, cooking and enjoying food that is produced close to home.

Panelists include Richard Andres and Deb Lentz (Tantre Farm); Kris Hirth (Old Pine Farm); Mary Wessel Walker (Community Farm Kitchen) and Victoria Bennett (a parent who found new ways to shop for food because of her son’s severe allergies). Cosponsored by Slow Foods Huron Valley.”

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I’ve been making a real effort to get leaner and meaner around my household. The basement, at the moment, is, well, not pristine, but awful darn clean. I’ve been saying sad farewells to pairs of shoes that are no longer realistic for the life I have now. I’ve resolutely packed up dishes with chips and scratches and peeling finish (steeling myself against all sentimental attachments and fond memories of the meals they once held). And it’s been okay. Its taken a little teeth-gritting once in a while, but overall I’ve been shedding stuff at a rapid rate.

But the books man, the books. They’re hard. I did send off a couple of boxes of novels and old lit crit to my friends at Books By Chance, but there are some that I just can’t let go to strangers. They need a good home.

So here’s the deal. Below is a small selection of cookbooks that are out of my rotation. It’s not them, really, it’s me. I’ve actually cooked a lot of good food out of these books, but for some reason, I’m not picking them up anymore. And the cookbook shelves are, um, a little crowded. There’s also a couple of garden and house books that might be interesting to readers of this blog. If you want one of these, leave a comment claiming it. If you work somewhere on the UM Campus, I’ll put it in campus mail for you. If you hang around Ann Arbor, I can put it on my porch for you sometime when you’re in the neighborhood (I’m on the Old West Side, very close to the downtown Main St. area). If you’re a more far-flung reader, let’s talk a trade. I don’t want any more books, but if you put something nice and edible in the mail for me (sea salt? cookies?), I’ll put a book in the mail for you.

Take them, enjoy them, and enjoy my vicarious pleasure in that empty bookshelf space (hey, room to buy another cookbook!).

Salad Days: Main Course Salads for a First Class Meal by Marcel Desaulniers and Peter Johansky

Sweet Onions and Sour Cherries: A Cookbook for Market Day (Hardcover) — Taken!
by Jeannette Ferrary

Sheila Lukins All Around the World Cookbook by Sheila Lukins — Taken!


Luscious Lower-Fat Cooking

Great Good Food: Luscious Lower-Fat Cooking by Julee Rosso

La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio: Gangivecchio’s Sicilian Kitchen by Wanda Tornabene — Taken!

Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant by Moosewood Collective — Taken!

Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work by Mel Bartholomew — Taken!

Getting Ready for Winter by Stephen Bradley

About Your House by Bob Yapp

I also have a nice little book called “Creative Container Gardening” but I can’t find much about it in my usual sources (Librarything is down for maintenance, but there may be something there). Anyway, it’s got some nice ideas for small space gardening, and I used it a lot before I had some big space.

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My man done gone and left me and is gallivanting around East Asia. He’ll be back soon, or so he says, but meanwhile life around here is a lot of cheerios and nagging about piano practice and cajoling into pajamas and locating just the right pair of shorts to match today’s choice of flip-flops and washing the dishes at 9 p.m. and all the usual activities associated with riding herd on an almost-three and almost-twelve year old (but exponentially amplified because there’s no escaping it or shuffling it off onto my partner.) Phew.

As I’ve mentioned before, in one of the more emotionally chaotic periods of my life I decided that Dining With Dignity is an important component of maintaining solo sanity and self-respect. Of course, I don’t have to eat alone now, because I’m feeding my girl Naomi half the week, when she’s not with her mom, and the boy is my steady date. But still. There’s something to be said for enjoying adult company at the end of the day, even if it’s just my own. And I want to make sure not to let the spring slip by unnoticed while I’m preoccupied with picking up the great mass of toys on the kitchen floor, the great mass of clothes on the girl’s floor, and the great mass of dog hair on every floor.

So I found ten minutes to stop by the market this morning and buy some asparagus. And tonight, with Naomi safely ensconced in the maternal home and Nick safely ensconced in his crib, clutching his field hockey ball and Tigers cap (tonight’s objects of desire), I pulled out an egg, some cheese, a bit of prosciutto and made myself a luxurious spring supper in about ten minutes flat. I didn’t eat until 9:00, but it was worth the wait.

May Supper for One

A half dozen or so fresh asparagus

1 egg, maybe two

Several shavings of Parmesan cheese (I use the vegetable peeler to shave the cheese)

A slice or two of prosciutto

Lemon, butter, salt and pepper to taste

Set a saucepan of water on to boil — make it big enough to poach as many eggs as you want to eat.

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and put in a skillet with a little water. Set to simmer for about five minutes (until bright green and tender — but not too tender — to a fork).

While the asparagus is cooking, poach an egg or two (regular readers will note that I’m now an old hand at poaching eggs). I thought three minutes was just right.

Lay the asparagus out in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Dot with butter. Squeeze juice of perhaps half a lemon on top and roll it all around a little to combine. Scatter cheese and prosciutto around the asparagus, then slide the poached egg on top. Finish with a grinding of black pepper.

Make sure that you sit down to eat. Put on some music. Have some bites that include all the the ingredients and then try them in different combinations. It’s nice to have some crusty bread with which to mop the plate. At some point stop to marvel that there is still light in the sky and think about how this is the time of the year in Michigan that makes all that winter worth it.

This recipe is for one, but can easily be multiplied upwards to feed as many as you desire. But remember, sometimes just one is good.

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We, the ladies of G3, spend a lot of time in the kitchen; readers of this blog know this well. We also spend a lot of time online. At some point most Mondays, one of us writes the other two to ask “eat anything good this weekend?” We’ve been having a version of this conversation for nearly a year and a half now, and we thought we may as well invite you behind the scenes and follow yesterday’s chatty summary of our weekend eats. [Scroll down for recipes and more photos.]

Shana:

Happy Cinco de Mayo, ladies. I just had pozole at le dog — it’s only there today and tomorrow. Pretty delicious – I recommend it. I also sampled some posole at zingerman’s this weekend, which was much more unctous and spicy — and was made with tomatillos rather than tomatoes.

Any good eats this weekend? Here’s my rundown:

Friday night we feasted, but in a simple, I-live-in-a-tiny-apartment-with-no- dishwasher” sort of way. First course was marrow bones like Maria and I ate them at Prune — so easy! so delicious! Main course was bucatini with clams and mussels in wine, garlic, parsley and crushed red pepper. Little chocolate souffles for dessert.
Roasted marrow bones
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Saturday was too many mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby party, followed by dinner at Zola. We split octopus, a salad, and a lamb shank, and ran into my therapist. Splendid.

Last night I made larb chicken salad from Hot, Sour, Salt, Sweet (the book, not the blog), and a green shrimp curry with shrimp (TJ’s, frozen), eggplant, and cherry tomatoes. My typical (loser) method is prepared curry paste and coconut milk and stock and veggies and protein. This time, I used a prepared green curry paste, but doctored it up with lots of ginger, garlic, lemongrass, tumeric, and cilantro — really brightened up the flavors.

In all, a pleasing parade of dishes.

Maria:

Indeed! That’s quite a Friday night line-up. Where did you get the marrow bones? Ours was grilled burgers — portabello and stilton for me and John, plain for the kids, and these oven-roasted fries I’ve been making lately that are quite good if not up to the deep fried standards of the Jeff.

Saturday we had a little antipasti plate of red leicester, city goat, smoked trout from Tracklements, cornichons and olives, followed by home-made angel hair with a little pesto from the freezer, and then a grilled pork loin marinated in garlic, mustard, sage and olive oil with some asparagus in balsamic vinaigrette on the side.

Sunday after the Burns Park run we went to Zola (that kind of weekend, I guess) and did a four-way share of the salad sampler (egg, chicken, tuna — all delicious), a waffle, a Kobe burger and fries. Although this may sound odd, every one was deeply satisfied. A basic margarita pizza for dinner with buffalo mozzarella and, to celebrate Naomi’s run, I made chocolate pots de crème — not perfect, although very tasty. I think maybe I let them cook too long. Shouldn’t pots de crème be a little jiggly? Mine were quite solid — almost fudge-like. I’m inspired to try again though.

Lovely image of apple blossoms by Maria

Shana:

Marrow bones were from sparrow. So ridiculously cheap — 3 of them for 3.50.

That all sounds delish. The pots de creme at eve sometimes were fudge-like. I always thought it was because they were too cold. Maybe overcooked . . .

Maria, does Naomi know about M.I.A.? I was thinking of loaning you guys her new cd for the post-dinner dance parties chez vous:
http://www.last.fm/music/M.I.A

Maria:

I don’t think she knows M.I.A. — I’ll pass it on tonight.

I did read later that it’s best to take the pots de crème out of the fridge about half an hour before serving. Maybe that’s the secret.

Anne:

M.I.A. is playing in Detroit on Thurs. I wish I could go but I think it will be too late and I have all these meetings Friday morning.

We ordered from Lotus Thai on Friday night. I don’t know why I order from them. Maybe it is better if you eat there. We had summer rolls (totally blah) tom yong however you spell it spicy soup (ok) and thai salad (icky and cost $6.50!) and pad thai (eh).
Kind of a disappointment.

Sat we were going to cook/bbq but then it was really windy and got cold so we ended up going to Grizzly and I was really wanting a buffalo burger but they didn’t have them. I swear I had one there before and said from now on I will always order this. Did they have them at one time? Where did I have the awesome buffalo burger? Anyway I ended up having this pear and ricotta ravioli and I ordered the spring greens soup but they forgot to bring it and then they brought it later after the ravioli but it was cold and the ravioli was just warm. But the taste was still good and I ate most of it. Lenny got a Caesar salad with tons of anchovies, which was a good thing and their lettuce is always super fresh. But he also ordered the mussels and he was kind of saying they had a strange taste and then I started eating them and agreed and we told the server and she didn’t charge us for the mussels or the soup and said call if Lenny got sick, and he did get sick yesterday so that kind of sucked. We called and they said they did stop serving them. I guess that stuff happens.

Luckily Lenny recovered enough by end of day so we could carry out the Sat plan. We got a whole mackerel from Monahans and I stuffed it with lemon slices and parsley and tarragon and sprinkled w/lots of sea salt and drizzled w/ olive oil then we tied it back together and grilled it. We also did asparagus on the grill, and roasted potatoes, and wild mushrooms (the morels were too much – it was like $10-12 for just one little container of them at Produce station) and fiddlehead ferns sauteed in butter and olive oil.
Anne’s grilled mackarel
Anne\'s grilled mackarel

So one out of 3 good meals – at least the best one was the one we made ourselves.

Maria:

This reminds me of one of my favorite food moments of the weekend. I was buying buffalo milk mozarella at Trader Joe’s and one of the overly chatty cashiers said “if you like this, you’ll LOVE our buffalo burgers.” No I won’t! They have nothing to do with each other. She also told me that the really great thing about them was “they’ll fit on ANY bun.” Fancy that.

This is a good email. We should blog it.

Recipes
Maria’s oven fries
Shana’s roasted marrow bones

More from Shana’s Friday dinner:

Bucatini, mussels, clams
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Finis – almost
IMG_5865.JPG

Little chocolate souffles
IMG_5892.JPG

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Growing up, we had special meals on nights when my dad was away on business. The one I remember most vividly was kielbasa, sliced and pan-fried; noodles with butter and cottage cheese (sounds gross, but is delicious — trust me); and raw carrot sticks on the side and maybe some dill pickle spears to snack on. At the time, I thought this meal and ones like it were special treats for us kids. Now that I’m older, wiser, and more seasoned in the kitchen, I realize that this was quick comfort food that my mom served us because she was parenting on her own for the night. And because my dad would never have eaten the stuff.

This was my first lesson that the appetite of a grown man is, well, different from mine. Lest I be accused of sexism of the belly, let me profess my love for a juicy triple at Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger and my adoration of the Chicago Dog at Red Hot Lovers–boy food if I ever knew it. I have even been known to polish off a Reuben sandwich and fries at the Fleetwood Diner after the bars have closed. Let me also say that I have loved boys who were vegan (ok, one boy–it never went anywhere) and once had an unrequited crush on a dedicated vegetarian. I have been on dates where I order the braised short ribs and the guy orders salmon. I even eat marrow bones, for chrissakes. Brothers and sisters, I am equal opportunity when it comes to matters of appetite.

While I won’t be an essentialist about gendered ways of eating, I can’t ignore where I came from and what I observed growing up–nor can I ignore the difference between what I cook for myself versus what I cook for the fellas. While my brother and I devoured our kielbasa and noodles with cottage cheese during our formative years, as we grew older, our appetites diverged. A cross-country and track runner, I stuck with the lean, white meats. Lunch was typically a turkey sandwich on marble rye, some pretzels, fruit, and some cookies; dinner was a grilled chicken breast, rice, vegetables. Josh, an offensive lineman on our high school football team, might also eat grilled chicken, but he’d eat about 4 chicken breasts, plus pasta, plus salad, plus bread, plus whatever else was in sight. He ate bowls of chicken noodle soup for breakfast and about two lunches a day. And to this day, my father, a man who easily logs more hours a week at the gym than I do in a month, and who recently came to terms with the fact that, at age 58, he will never be a linebacker (his words, not mine), still orders an extra order of grilled chicken when we eat out. (At home, my mom always knows to prepare extra for him.)

Yes, there are times when I love excess, but when I’m cooking for myself, I’m likely to prepare something a little lighter, eat smaller portions, keep things a bit more simple. Not because I’m in the thrall of the diet industrial complex–any reader of this blog should know that I love good food too much for that–but because sometimes a girl just needs to eat girl food, in girl-sized portions.

Spicy Chickpeas with Ginger (Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

3 T vegetable or canola oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T (or more) grated ginger
2 t ground coriander
2 t ground cumin
1/4 t ground cardamom
14 oz canned tomatoes (if whole, puree them a bit in the blender or food processor)
2 15 oz cans chickpeas, rinsed
juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, about 12-15 mins, until golden. Lower heat and add the garlic, ginger, spices, some salt and pepper to taste, and the tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes until well combined, then add the chickpeas. Simmer until liquid is the consistency you like, at least 10 minutes. If you want it to be brothier, add some water. (I like it pretty thick.) Season with lemon juice.

Taking a cue from Kate at 4 Obsessions, whose recent post about a favorite rice bowl dish inspired this one (“If you are feeling fancy you can drizzle it with a little sesame oil and sprinkle on some sesame seeds, but really, if you were feeling fancy, you probably wouldn’t be making this”), I’ll offer some ways to fancy it up. You can garnish with some chopped cilantro or parsley if you like, but you needn’t do so. If you have some yogurt in the fridge, I’d stir it until smooth, and add some lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic, and some cumin and cayenne (or other hot flavor), and then spoon this over the chickpeas. If you have some bread, toast a hunk of it and use it to scoop up the chickpeas and yogurt–or you could easily serve this with rice or other grains. If you’re serving it to a carnivorous boy, you could sneak in some chunks of chorizo. Or you could just serve him three bowlfuls to your one.

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I’m spending a lot of the time these days at my house and in the car to and from daycare working on counting. It usually goes like this. One, two, eight. Eight is very popular. Sometimes it’s “one, eight, two, eight, seven, mama say twelve now, say twelve.” And so, in this numerological spirit, here’s my counting exercise for the week.

One Thank You:

A special thank you for Warda for hosting a beautiful lunch in the sun. A chance for good food and good conversation.

(And just for Warda, I will risk my rusty French)

Un remerciement spécial à Warda pour accueillir une belle déjeuner au soleil. Une chance pour la bonne nourriture et la bonne conversation.

An International Menu With Local Flavor:

  • An array of crostini-type bites with pesto, sun-dried tomato and brie, by Shane of Fruitcake or Nuts
  • Lamb tagine with cous-cous so fluffy they floated above the plate, by our hostess Warda of the 64 Sq Foot Kitchen
  • An Uruguayan I think it was Uruguayan — blogger women, correct me if I’m wrong — dish whose name I’ve forgotten that resembled a savory bouche-de-Noel; filled with bechemal, tuna and sardine paste, by Gina-who-does-not-yet-have-a-blog (but will, I am confident)
  • Salad of local greens and fennel by G3’s own Shana
  • A loaf of olive bread from Avalon Bakers and a bottle of Sex, brought by yours truly, who didn’t have time to cook that weekend
  • Mango tart, by Christine of Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. And Umami. She — I suspect some obsessive tendencies here — complained a lot about the tart cracking. The rest of us ate with great pleasure.

Two meals worth considering:

A dinner that’s quick and easy enough for Friday after work but feels pretty special:

Risotto with a tomato-saffron broth, topped with seared scallops. I had never made a tomato broth before. It was a very pleasing process of sauteeing some onions and saffron, adding garlic and tomatoes (both fresh and canned) along with a little fennel seed and orange zest. I let this meld for a few minutes, added a couple of cups of chicken broth and let simmer for half an hour before passing the whole thing through a chinoise. Delicate and flavorful. Pour a nice puddle of it around the risotto and lay some scallops on top. (I wanted monkfish but none had arrived at Monahan’s that day).

A dinner that’s fast enough to prepare between a toddler’s dinner and his bed time, but impressive enough to serve to friend’s on a Saturday night:

Fennel rubbed, grilled pork chops (there are some nice Berkshire, heritage chops for sale at Sparrow’s these days) with a lemon-sage vinagrette, courtesy of Bobby Flay (olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, honey, shallot and a bunch of fresh sage given a whirl in the blender), served with braised fennel (suggested by Shana and guided by Molly. Listen well to the recipe’s advice to “gild” the fennel before popping it in the oven; it’s well worth the wait). We started with some individual goat cheese souffles suggested by The Kitchen Diaries and finished with some expensive dark chocolate. Very nice indeed.

Eight Three books you might want to spend some time with:

The Taste of Country Cooking: 30th Anniversary Edition . Edna Lewis, Knopf, 2006.

I wasn’t expecting to like this. I know Southern cooking is like all authentic American, and I’m as big a proponent of regional foodways as the next earnest food-blogger. But, really, even though I lived for a while in the South, I’ve never quite cottoned to its food. Sure, I can eat fried chicken and biscuits as happily as any other Yankee, but greens in pot liquor (licker?), grits, and all manner of smothered foods? Pass the baked beans and brown bread, please. But Edna Lewis’ prose is so charming and evocative of a lost time when life was lived close to the seasons and food marked each important event of the year, that I was entirely seduced. I’m threatening my family with fried shad with roe and ham with heavy cream for breakfast. I’m getting out my five gallon pot to raise some biscuit dough over-night. And I am definitely, definitely starting my next Christmas morning with a little snort of bourbon.

Chez Panisse Vegetables. Alice L. Waters. William Morrow Cookbooks; 1996.

A book that will be helping me make my way through the farm share this year. Just what you would expect. Reverence for the integrity of the ingredients, some simple preparations that are more about basic skills than recipes, and the occasional flight of Chez Panisse fancifulness that makes you think “not in my kitchen, not in this millennium.” Because it showcases vegetables, and vegetables have a somewhat intractable vegetable nature to them, there’s a lot less of those flights than in some of the other C.P. books I’ve looked at. This one works well for the home cook. I think the next few months are going to have some gratins in them. Alice likes gratin.

Simple French Food. Richard Olney. Wiley, 1992.

Like Chez Panisse Vegetables, this was a recommendation from Matt Morgan. I was prepared to love it and thought I’d be spending some time hunkered down with it in my favorite reading chair and then in the kitchen. My verdict, after two attempts? Unreadable. Uncookable. Not simple. Very French. Nothing that leads me into the recipes. Still. I suspect that I am the problem, not the book. I’m simple-minded. I want stories. I want to become part of a whole world or way of living through my cooking. This books seems much more rigorously about the food. Maybe I’m just not ready for it. Or for lettuce custard. Or for Sauteed Lamb’s Hearts and Liver A La Provencal. Seriously, I do think it’s probably a good book. Just not a very readable one.

Say twelve now. Say twelve

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