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Many thanks for the great suggestions and even more the great conversation about cookbooks to start with. We had such a wealth of options that I had to turn over the choice to the girl herself.  After reviewing the suggestions, she selected “How To Cook Everything.” When I asked why, she said “because I want to cook everything!” Good girl.  There was a little grumbling about lugging the book home (even in the handsome yellow bag, above), but lug it she did, called up her friend who taught her to make hollandaise the other day, pedaled over to the grocery store for ingredients and made gazpacho and chocolate mousse for lunch.  Chalk one up for Mr. Bittman. Now I just have to convince her it’s really better to buy butter than margarine, even if margarine is half the price and she’s spending her own money. All in good time.

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Help Wanted

With the latest cooking project around Maria’s household . . . The girl, thirteen, has expressed a desire to learn to cook.  She can actually already turn out a classic vinaigrette, microwave a quesadilla, scramble an egg and produce a tomato salad with basil picked from the garden (and she knows how to identify the basil plant) which is probably a better arsenal than that with which many college students are armed. And she has started to learn her way around a knife and has naturally good hands with dough, perhaps because of several years of “Clay on the Wheel” at the Ann Arbor Art Factory.  She has to be coached through the lighting of the gas burners, though, and has dropped a pan on the floor on occasion because the use of potholders does not occur to her and handles do, well, get hot. And we have been sadly deficient in some of the basics. She does not, for example, know how to cook up a pot of pasta, although, oddly she could probably get pretty far in making fresh pasta, having helped her father do so several times.

I’m of course naturally inclined to encourage this interest (the boy — four, next week! — knows he can con me out of almost anything by telling me he wants to be “a cooker” when he grows up). And  having read Michael Pollan’s NY Times magazine article last week about the demise of home cooking (with which I’m not sure I entirely agree — see  Michael Ruhlman for some kitchen-counter-thinking), I’m more determined than ever to get my kids into the kitchen. So, to the point, I want to get Naomi a good first cookbook and am struggling a bit with the choice. There are some nice looking teen starter cookbooks, a wealth of college survival cookbooks (and I remember my nineteen year old self poring over one such book in my first apartment — that and Laurel’s Kitchen ), and then there are the classics: The Joy of Cooking, The New York Times Cookbook, and, of course, the currently trendy Mastering The Art of French Cooking (which I myself have never cracked). I’m torn between the quick start that might be offered by inspirational glossy photos and simplified preparations and the last-a-lifetime value and basic education offered by the sturdy handbooks.  My early 1970’s Joy of Cooking is in three pieces now and sits next to my husband’s inherited 1961 Craig Clairborne’s NYT Cookbook annotated by his mother with helpful comments such as “ugh — do not make again.” Both books gets pulled out at least once every couple of weeks.

So I ask you, what books got you going as a cook? If you were thirteen and starting to plan a dinner for and with a friend, what would be your menu planning resource? I want something that will both inspire and last.  Thanks in advance for any suggestions. I hope the interest holds in the fickle adolescent mind, and we’ll have some early cooking adventures to report soon.

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Spring Cleaning

More on getting my kitchen mojo back . . .

The winter had its charms, but, as always, ended up deadening, enervating, driving me beyond necessary hibernation and into immobility. But now, I read the Zuni Cafe Cookbook and the weather warms (sunburn! In April!) and there are those greens in the market, and I wake once more into consciousness, That’s the thing really, the key to my pleasure in the kitchen. Being aware of my choices, of the thwack of the knife, of where the food comes from.

So I begin with the pantry. Reminding myself what’s there; taking out the bottles of oil, the vinegars, and wiping away the accumulated grime; throwing out the fancy little sauces and potions that are beyond possibility of use; making transfers from crumpled plastic bags to clean glass jars. A brief illusion of order.

The scarlet runner beans will pair well with the ham bone left from Easter. The can of Italian tuna in oil should move to the front and go into a salad “soon” (only a year or so after it entered the cupboard). I can not bear to discard the unopened and perfectly fine, if aged, jars of ginger preserves and orange marmelade, so they go back onto the shelf. I may become a jam eater yet, or learn to do clever things involving glazes, tarts and sauces. Right now, these are mostly decorative.

I confront the conflicting desires of abundance and minimalism. I want the pulses and legumes ordered in matching jars, promising delicious meals produced from air and a few staples, but I don’t want their silent reproach as they gather dust and that particular bean density that it will take days to cook to tenderness. How can I keep quinoa so I can say any given night that quinoa will be the perfect complement for the pork chops and at the same time not feel oppressed by the quinoa always on the shelf?

At the same time as I toss out, I plot new acquistions, think about the need for oatmeal and more dried fruit, wonder why there are no roasted red peppers in the cupboard, debate the wisdom of having only jasmine rice.

I know I’m absurd. If I want to create and maintain the perfectly ordered pantry, the perfectly stocked larder, I would have to die because I would have to stop eating (or just go out all the time . . . there’s an idea). Really, after all, both the tyranny and beauty (the terrible beauty) of food production is that it never ceases. Two, three times a day, it is demanded of us that we step up to the plate, belly up to the bar, start chopping. Again. There’s always another chance. Damn. Hallelujah.

No matter how tidy we are, cooking is always kind of a mess. We run out of things, we make do, there are always left-over odds and ends that dog us until we abandon them and move on or, on a lucky day, combine into something new in moment of inspiration and grace.

From the highest shelf, I have pulled half a box of bow tie pasta left over from a Christmas gift basket. There are unevenly cut scraps of ham still lagging from Easter dinner. They might be redeemed with a careful dice. I have two beautiful trumpet mushrooms, each bigger than Nick’s fist. I know the ratio for an Italian cream sauce, learned in the restaurant where I put in my time between college and Europe: 1/2 cup warmed cream, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, I T butter, per serving, all in a pan swirled over a medium flame. The jar of artichoke hearts rescued from a dark corner of a bottom shelf has potential. These things together might be a dinner. Or they might be a disaster. If so, tomorrow brings yet another chance for redemption.

Photo by Timothy Valentine; used under a CC license.

Spring Cleaning Supper: A Variation on Paglia e Fieno

Amounts are person, multiply as necessary and possible given ingredients on hand:

Farfalle pasta (or other reasonably surface-rich pasta to hold the cream sauce)

Butter for cooking

1/2 cup diced ham

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

2 jarred artichoke hearts

1/2 cup cream

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 T Additional butter to finish sauce

Traditional Paglia e Fieno is made with egg and spinach fettucini (thus the “straw and hay”) and with prosciutto. But I am sure thrifty Italian homemakers would not be ashamed to use farfalle and ham.

Prepare about a quarter pound of pasta per person according to your standard method or the package directions. While cooking, melt a few tablespoons of butter in a saute pan. When the butter is melted, add mushrooms and saute until soft and lightly browned. Add ham and diced artichoke hearts, stirring until warmed through. Pour in the cream and let bubble over medium heat until slightly thickened (about five minutes). Add an additional T of butter per person. When it has melted, toss in Parmesan cheese. Although I learned to do this on the heat, it works just as well to turn the flame off and add cheese immediately. Salt and pepper to taste (a healthy grind of black pepper perks this up quite a bit). I also drizzled some of the oil from the artichoke hearts on top to intensify the flavor a bit.

Take out to the deck and enjoy, with company, while marveling there’s still light out at supper time.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that while the sauce was quite satisfying, the farfalle had probably been hanging around in my cupboard for so long because it was pretty low quality and wouldn’t cook evenly (mushy wings and chewy centers). And the scarlet runner beans are on their 12th hour of cooking and are still hard. But, hey, tomorrow is another meal. And the kitchen smells good.

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I’ve long wanted to write a post about how to shop at Zingerman’s on a shoestring budget. At times, this felt like trying to write about how to fill your closet with Manolo Blahniks while working at Target.

Now, however, they’re making this task very easy for me: for the next 20 or so weeks on Fridays from 11am – 7pm, Zingerman’s is holding a Warehouse sale at 610 Phoenix Drive [Google Map] in order to move some inventory at generous discounts, which you may have already heard about it in The Ann Arbor Chronicle.

Tomorrow — Friday, March 20–everyone who stops in will receive a free gingerbread coffeecake. And best of all: there will also be a free gift–with a purchase–for readers of this blog. Just mention that you heard about it on Gastronomical Three.*

Ann Arbor, our affordable gourmet-grocery-dreams are coming true.

The stock will be different each week, but to keep up with what’s on offer, you can send an e-mail to warehousesale@zingermans.com.Here’s what will be available tomorrow for purchase:

  • English Farmhouse Cheddar – C-EFC – reg. $38/lb, sale price $20/lb.
  • St. Marcellin – C-STM – sale price $5 each
  • Jowl Bacon – M-JWL – reg. $10, sale price $5
  • Marina Colonna Orange oil – O-COL-ARA – reg. $25, sale price $12
  • Moutere Grove olive oil – O-GRO – reg. $35, sale price $15
  • Vosges Mini Book of Bars – P-9VS – reg. $35, sale price $15
  • Anchovy Paste – P-ANP – reg. $7, sale price $5
  • Mathei Biscotti – P-BIS – reg. $14, sale price $5
  • Michel Cluizel 85% bar – P-CLU-85 – reg. $9, sale price $5
  • D. Barbero Torrone – P-DBT – reg. $60, sale price $21
  • Al Dente Land & Sea pasta – P-LSP – reg. $9, sale price $5
  • Tutto Calabria Miscela Esplosiva – P-MIS – reg. $15, sale price $8
  • Bagna Cauda Warmer – P-MKR – reg. $15, sale price $10
  • Il Mongetto Spicy Marmalade – P-MSM – reg. $15, sale price $8
  • Pomodoro Chivaso Jam – P-OMO – reg. $11, sale price $5
  • John Macy’s Cheese Sticks – P-PUF – reg. $6, sale price $3
  • Keemun Tea – T-KEE – reg. $24, sale price $12
  • Zing label Horseradish Mustard – sale price $3 each
  • Rustico Red Pepper Cheese – $7/lb

*G3 is not benefiting from this promotion in any way; we’re just spreading the foodie love. We will always be transparent about relationships between local businesses whose food and services we’re promoting.

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And boy is my stomach tired . .

You know, there just weren’t enough meals in the day. Places to go, food to eat . ..

Armandino Batali’s Salumi. Forty-five minutes to get to the front of the line and worth every one of those minutes. Cured meat heaven, bottles of wine on the table for glasses poured on the honor system, and the porchetta . . . big, fat succulence. The best part was actually the juice-soaked, crusty roll. I couldn’t stop eating it. A 1.5 pound finnichiona salami came home tucked in suitcase.

Breakfast (twice!) at Le Pichet. Quintessentialy French, sunlit, spare and lovely. With killer coffee to boot. I wanted to live there. Right there in the cafe. This European style yogurt with honey and walnuts was just the right lead in to fresh bread, butter and jam.

Lunch, sadly only once, at The Baguette Box which serves French-Vietnamese style sandwiches. Pork belly with hoisin sauce anyone? In this case, the sweet unctiousness cut a bit by fresh cilantro and cucumber. Just right with a locally brewed ginger ale.

Also, it was spring. Which may have contributed to my dazed euphoria as I wandered around town. That or the Le Pichet coffee. Well, both.

But I was glad to get back to Ann Arbor where it turned out it was also spring, and I was glad to find local chard, kale, beets and spinach at the Co-op. And there were a few people (and one dog) waiting that I was very glad to see. I’ll let them live at Le Pichet with me.

Other lovely Seattle eating experiences, sans photos: Boat Street Cafe where I devoured an entire pickle plate by my own self and Assiago Ristorante where the staff is much given to hugging and the brussels sprouts were a revelation. Yes, four people shared a brussels sprouts appetizer and fought over the last one.

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booky
I’m on a bit of a tear lately to organize my digital life. I’m really into the social bookmarking site, del.icio.us, which is where I save and tag all manner of things relating to my work: reports about scholarly communication, blog posts about ebooks and e-readers, links to open source publishing tools, and other such geekery. I tend to keep that space pretty much free from cooking- and food-related distractions. Instead, I’ve been saving recipes I’d like to try to a folder called “eatme” in my Firefox browser bookmarks. But you know what? It ain’t working. I bookmark and forget. And I haven’t yet come up with a plan B.

So while I figure out what to do with my bookmarked recipes to make them more useful and available to me, I figured I’d clean out that virtual folder and share them with you. I even categorized them for ya, because I’m feeling so darn organized. Perhaps working with in a library for the past three years is rubbing off on me.

In the comments, I’d love to hear how you organize the recipes you find online.

Breakfast

Breakfast Polenta
Apartment Therapy – The Kitchn

Dessert

Red Velvet Cake
The New York Times

Chocolate Swirl Gingerbread
design*sponge

Hamantaschen
Smitten Kitchen

Oven Crespella with Nutella Sauce
Epicurious

Chocolate Chip Cookies
The New York Times

Poached Pears with Asian Spices
Bitten Blog – The New York Times

Brandied Dried-Fruit Bread Pudding
Gourmet

Fish

Steamed Cod with Coconut Chutney
The New York Times

Meat

Smoked Paprika Roasted Chicken
Simply Recipes

Guiness Braised Short Ribs
The Jewels of New York

Roasted Marrow Bones
The New York Times

Mock Porchetta
Married With Dinner

Mustardy Braised Rabbit with Carrots
The New York Times

Pork Belly Sandwiches
Bitten Blog – The New York Times

Veg

Beet Chips with Curried Sour Cream
Gourmet

Fennel and Celery Salad
The New York Times

Noodles

The Best Pad Thai
Seattle Post Intelligencer

Addictive Mac and Cheese
Bitten Blog – The New York Times

Rice Noodle Salad
The Wednesday Chef

Brothy Shrimp Noodles
Last Night’s Dinner

Snacks

The Union Square Cafe’s Bar Nuts
Nigella Lawson – The Food Network

Halloumi Cheese with Chiles [Youtube]
Nigella Lawson

Drinks

Cocktails (General How-To)
New York Times

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Photo by <a href="http://relish.myraklarman.com/selma-cafe-march-6-2009">Myra Klarman</a>

Photo by Myra Klarman

Well that was fun.

As I mentioned last week, we put on another Selma Cafe, a Friday morning volunteer-run local foods breakfast salon. You can read all about it over at the Repasts blog, but let me just say that Scott cooked up a hell of a breakfast and Garin was my partner in serving crime. Lisa made waffle and granola magic. Matt is all over Selma Cafe 2.0. Aubrey wins the the miracle kitchen worker award. And Jeff hosted and podcasted like no one’s business.

Myra Klarman documented it all exquisitely. I mean — wow.

If you didn’t have a chance to make it last week–or, if you did–I hope you can make it to the next installment of the Selma Cafe on March 13, when Jeremy Lopatin of Arbor Teas will cook omelets to go with our regular waffle and granola breakfasts. I understand that Michigan Mushrooms and hoop-house baby spinach will be among the fillings.

Selma Cafe continues every Friday morning 6:30 to 10:00 am; full details are on the Selma Cafe site. And we’re looking for local-food-loving folks like your-good-selves to keep it going. Interested in helping out? Drop me a line or leave a comment. Or, if you or someone you know needs to be relieved of a 110v commercial pass through toaster, let us know. Thanks!

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2009

Happy 2009! I hope your holidays were full of love and good cheer and delicious food. I know mine were. They have also been blessedly peaceful weeks, slow weeks, full of days that revolved around meal-planning and sharing food with family and friends whom I care deeply about. We break bread and pass the serving dishes and laugh and eat and reminisce and ask for seconds and talk about what we’ll be eating at the next meal. We are connected by a love of good food, thoughtfully prepared; we share a meal, and we are drawn closer together. It is a wondrous thing, that we sit at the table and eat together and are nourished and fortified in so many ways.

I find myself approaching 2009 with an aspect of gratitude for these moments, but also for (among other things) the gastro-community I am so lucky to be a part of in Ann Arbor — for the people whose food I buy, and for the people with whom I share meals and cooking ideas. Since I am fed, literally and figuratively, by so many of you, I want to begin this blog-year by taking a moment to reflect and appreciate.

Thank you to Tantre Farms for the plenitude of your harvest, which I have enjoyed this year and last as a member of your CSA. I look forward to what 2009 will bring.

Thank you to Ann Arbor’s sundry food entrepreneurs, who are striving to improve the gastronomical quality of life in Ann Arbor: Everyday Wines, John Roos, Shannon Brines and the lot of merchants at the AA Farmer’s Market, A Knife’s Work, Locavorious, Bob Sparrow, Mike Monahan, T.R. Durham, the Zingmerman’s businesses, Jean Henry, Morgan & York, the People’s Food Co-Op, and many, many more.

Thank you to Eve Aranoff, whose drive and determination inspires me–both in the kitchen and in life.

Thank you to the many food bloggers in southeast Michigan who contribute so much to the conversation about food and life in our area.

Thank you to the readers of this blog, for your comments and your assuring presence.

Thank you to Anne and Maria, my co-bloggers and kitchen-muses, who have made my life richer in ways that are too numerous to count.

Thank you to Eric, for sharing a table with me, praising my cooking to anyone who will listen, and doing the dishes with nary a complaint.

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One of my favorite procrastination techniques is to start on another, preferably food-related project, in order to put off whatever it is I’m really supposed to be doing. This weekend, I should really be focused on my own holiday gift shopping. Instead, I’m hanging out at my friend’s place, eating leftover noodle kugel, drinking coffee, reading stuff on the Internets. Soon, I’m told, there will be Bloody Mary’s. So, hmmm, maybe shopping can just wait a bit longer.

But perhaps you’re more disciplined than I am and are already half-way through your shopping list. Maybe you’re wondering what to get the food-obsessed friend or sweetie or family member on your list. And here’s where my food-related diversion project comes in: amidst sips of coffee and bites of kugel, we’ve been brainstorming about good gift ideas from the Zingerman’s Mail Order Catalog, which is where my friend works. (Read: we’re fantasizing about what kinds of things we’d love to receive. Hi, mom!) And what better way to assuage my guilt about putting off my holiday preparations than sharing some ideas with you all — or, better yet, sharing my Zingerman’s friend’s picks. To make it even a bit sweeter, they’re sharing a 20% discount offer for friends & family with readers of this here little blog. Sometimes, procrastination pays off.

Here’s the skinny: check out the online catalog–that is, if you don’t have a paper copy handy–or browse our picks below. If you find something to your liking, enter the code word PARSNIP when prompted for a discount code.

Here’s the fine print:

  • Ship anywhere in the USA, or pick up at Mail Order
  • Only good at Zingerman’s Mail Order — cannot be used at any other Zingerman’s businesses
  • Last date to order for standard shipping rates in 12/17.
  • You can order after, but S/H might be more expensive.
  • Last date to order for pick up on 12/24 is 12/22.
  • Expires 12/31/08.

With all of those formalities out of the way, here are our picks in various categories and price points. Enjoy browsing, and enjoy the discount!

Sweets and Beautiful Gifts

$12
Askinosie Bars from Missouri

$14
Antonio Mattei Biscotti

$16
Fruit Jellies from Northern Italy

$24
Hot Cocoa Coffeecake

$25
Preserved Figs from Calabria

$30
Béquet Caramels from Montana

$45
Candied Chestnuts

$50
Cunesi Rum Truffles

$55
Robert Lambert’s Rare Citrus Fruit Cake

Meat

$60
Finocchiona Salami

Spice

$12
Urfa Red Pepper Flakes

Marash Red Pepper Flakes

$30
Wild Fennel Pollen

Oil

$25
Roi Olive Oil

$25
Marina Colonna’s Citrus Oils

$29
Zingerman’s Peranzana Olive Oil

Vinegar

$19
Vecchia Dispensa’s 6 Year Aged Balsamic

$28
Agrodolce White Balsamic Vinegar

$75
PX Sherry Vinegar

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img_74031

Well, we made it: a post everyday in November. I was skeptical, but we did it. [Raise glasses, *clink*!] Thanks to my fellow bloggers and to you all who checked in on our progress. Even though challenges such as NaBloPoMo are a bit of a contrivance, I have found that they do put into place a necessary structure and shape for blog posts. In order to ride this wave of blogging productivity, and to capitalize on the current obsession with all things related to the economy, I’ve been planning a series of posts this month about cooking, eating out, and entertaining on a budget, focused mostly (though not exclusively) on the Ann Arbor area. If there is something you’d like to know about on this topic–where to find the best selection of local products, who has good deals on sparkling wine, etc.–feel free to send us an e-mail at gastronomical3@gmail.com, or leave a note in the comments and we’ll do our best to track down some answers. We look forward to hearing from you.

To kick us off, let me share a note from our friends at Everyday Wines, apprising us of new offerings and services, as well as upcoming deals and events.

75 years ago, on December 5th, the collective consciousness of this country heaved a sigh of relief and reached for its corkscrew. Yes, Prohibition was repealed and we are celebrating that glorious moment this Dec 5. We will be open till 10pm (yes, it’s Midnight Madness around town, we know) and we will give you 15% off all the wine accessories in the shop.

In the immortal words of the Home Shopping Network: But wait! There’s more! All through the month of December, our loyal everyday-wines bag-toting customers will also get 15% off case purchases (that’s 12 bottles to a case). What’s that, you walked here and can’t carry a case home? We’ll deliver it for you. You want all the whites chilled before we drop it off? We can do that too, talk to us.

We have flowers now. Yes! Fair trade roses from Ecuador, Amaryllis and Ranunculus (totes, dude!), all manners of bouquets. All of this from Lisa Waud of Pot & Box. Come in, take a look, a sniff, a rose. Until you do, go visit her at htp://www.potandbox.com
.

And a big thank you from A Knife’s Work to all you for your support, feedback and encouragement. They are now featuring weekly desserts, along with the soups, sides and entrees. And, for the month of
December, you get 50% off your second entree Sundays and Mondays. Check their weekly menu at http://www.aknifeswork.com.

Of course, there’s always something new and interesting (like a Champagne taste-off coming up) that slips between the email cracks, so do visit us and say hello.

p.s., You might notice a couple of new items in the right sidebar. Gastronomical Three has been listed in Alltop’s Food listings, as well as on the Delightful Blogs directory. They are both great ways to find out about other blogs, so if you’re hungry for new blogs, check them out.

p.s.s. Not all posts this month will follow this theme — just be on the lookout for a collection of such posts on these pages!

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