Wednesday, August 31, 2011

here's that recipe i was telling you about

for guacamole. found it in new york magazine some years ago.
you should try it. there's no garlic in it (which is where so many guacamole recipes go wrong for me), and plenty of cilantro. cuz cilantro can make even chicken livers taste good. wait. i LIKE chicken livers. i think i meant to say, oatmeal. yes, i bet cilantro could make even oatmeal taste good. you let me know.

The Bar @ Etats-Unis’ Guacamole

4 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups fresh cilantro leaves, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon jalapeño, finely chopped (for medium-hot)
Sea salt to taste
3 ripe Hass avocados
Juice of one lime

In a medium-size bowl but preferably a molcajete, mash together the onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and salt to taste into a paste. (1) To pit the avocados, hold 1 in your hand and, using a chef’s knife, cut lengthwise around the seed. Twist the halves to separate. (2) Using a chopping motion, stick the knife firmly into the pit and twist it free from the avocado. (3) Scoop out the avocado flesh with a large spoon and add to the molcajete. Add the lime juice, and crush the avocado with the other ingredients until smooth but slightly lumpy. Serves 4 (or maybe just 1).

Monday, August 29, 2011

the last of the tomatoes

goodbye summer. goodbye flavor. goodbye sweetest of vegetables that really isn't one after all.

goodbye tomatoes.

i will always remember our last night together....pancetta, sausage, crushed red pepper, shallots, basil, cream, garlic and parmigiano reggiano....served over tender grilled polenta. 


for angie: not penne, and a plum

Sunday, August 28, 2011

dashboard dining part one - where the "d" is silent

i love to travel, just so i can eat at new restaurants. the local gems. places where the parking lot and counter are never empty. 

now with the advent of yelp and chowhound (and armed with mom and dad's early edition of jane and michael stern's road food) it's easy to find these places, as one exists in nearly every small town across america. and sometimes, more than one. 

but since i've never perfected the art of dining alone, the consumption of these savory meals is typically relegated to the car...where i can take a bite as big as the boys and let the juices drip down my chin and onto my shirt without worrying that someone might be watching. 

one of my first such premeditated (and documented) dashboard dining experiences was at the claudville cafe -  pronounced "claw vool" (rhymes with "raw wool")  and yes, the "d" is silent -  located just north of mount airy in claudville, virginia. and what was it i ordered? why a cheeseburger with tomato and slaw of course. cuz that's what neil told me to order. and neil should know, seeing as he grew up just down the street from the silent d cafe.

the burger: it did not disappoint.

today is sunday. yesterday was saturday. and so was the day before.

no, i'm not  channeling rebecca black, just realizing how i typically approach each day of the week (or weekend at least) with a particular mindset or attitude. and this week, it was different. because i took friday off.  so friday was like my saturday. and saturday was like a bonus day! and i took full advantage.
you see, in our house, saturday is "chore day". it's when we make up for all the time lost during the week and try to get the house back in order and the laundry caught up. our kids imagine the rest of the world understands the term "saturday chores" as much as they do "monday night football" (please don't tell them otherwise).  so time for getting creative or proactive on projects around the house is difficult at best, because by the time we get through the chores, everyone just wants to relax and veg out for a while. 
imagine my delight, when this weekend i got a REAL saturday - my second saturday. 

friday (my first saturday) was spent doing all of the necessary catch up. i even threw in some homemade buttermilk pancakes (sans maple syrup - shame on this vermonter) for breakfast. the kids wondered what had gotten into me....


a pancake breakfast (easily the best pancakes i have ever made (or consumed). want the recipe? :
some of the ingredients:

followed by CHORES (no pictures available) where i (as opposed to the kids) attempted to make up for the neglect the house and garden had seen during the week. i gave it 5 solid hours while the kids were at school, ran a few errands (finally got the paint for our bedroom AND found the perfect fabric to cover the cushions for those mid-century lounge chairs i scored on ebay) and cleaned out the car before calling it a day...not feeling like i'd gotten as much done as i'd have liked, but hey, i still had another saturday ahead of me to do just that....

with the chores done, i was free to focus on something a bit more proactive and creative, which led me to this.....

a piece that my folks bought back in the late 70s up near clark's trading post in lincoln nh (a frequent stopping spot on our treks to visit grammy and gramps camp on peacham pond). it's an old washstand (we called it a commode)...with the mirror missing. needed a facelift. and i was ready.
here you can see step one. the "botox" injections (elmer's wood filler).

and then while that dried, i headed to the kitchen and whipped up a batch of fresh tomato sauce for our supper (we had some tomatoes from the garden that needed to get used SOON.)

while the sauce simmered, i headed back out to sand and prime the commode (kilz is the bomb), then back inside for supper's final prep - cook pasta, grate cheese....

 and serve:

now that everyone was fed and happy, i could head back outside to apply two coats of "map yellow" paint....wait a bit before installing new hardware....wait some more....then put the piece back in its spot in the corner of the cubbie. 

all in all a pretty good saturday(s)....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

a pantry in jars



i'll admit that it helps to have at least one offspring who shares your OCD tendencies, if you want to complete this transformation in a single afternoon.

one major drawback to this new arrangement is the legitimate excuse you will be giving all the other household members who never really wanted to help in the kitchen in the first place.  because now when you plead, "hey, can you grab me the baking powder? my hands are really messy." they'll tell you they can't find it, because the yellow box with the bicep on it is nowhere to be seen...a small price to pay for visual peace and continuity.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

summer supper salad number three

it's got everything. beef, potatoes, onions, cheese and greens.

although we've made and tasted many variations over the years, this steak salad's a keeper for us as it contains enough filler material to keep everyone's tummy content until breakfast.

but if you want to make a version that's more "ladies-who-lunch" friendly, simply omit the potatoes and add sliced asian pears and some toasted walnut pieces. voila!

this is how we worked it in our kitchen (30 minutes from frig to fork):

while crisping up about 6 slices of bacon (cut into 1/2" pieces),
you can assemble the dressing using:
4oz bleu cheese. i like maytag (probably more for their quaint logo that hasn't changed in years and is still applied via a foiled sticker to their business envelopes - as much as for the taste).
1/3 c sour cream
1/3 c buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
2 t red wine vinegar (quality matters)

then slice up a scallion or two and add it to:

a platter of torn romaine leaves

drain the bacon (it's been about 7 minutes now) on a paper towel-lined plate and add some yukon gold or fingerling potatoes, cut in slender wedges to the skillet. cook until soft and crispy-browned on both sides (should take 10 - 12 minutes) then transfer to another paper-lined plate.

season a 1" thick sirloin steak (1.5 lbs fed our family of five) with s&p and cook in same skillet over med-high heat (5-7 mins per side for medium-rare).

let meat rest for 5 minutes while you assemble the salad.
slice the meat thin and add to greens and bacon along with the potatoes:

then dress (see photo at top of page) and enjoy.

ps  leftovers go in a pita for lunch the next day. of course.

Monday, August 15, 2011

mapping the walls

one of my all-time favorite color trios is red, turquoise and yellow. they provide instant cheer and a sense of fun. just look at the packaging of another favorite, animal crackers:

(which i've also used to cover my phone):

but i digress. this is a post about WALLPAPER not animal crackers (one of the few food items in america, by the way, that has not altered its packaging form or materials since its inception...the white string....wax paper liner...don't you just want to run out and buy a box right now?)

anyway....another place that magical trio often appears is in ROAD MAPS (with a little pink thrown in for fun). so when it came time to update the plum-colored walls in the cubbie*, and we knew we wanted to use something other than PAINT, papering with road maps became an obvious option. they were cheap, large, quickly becoming obsolete, and could serve as a reference for the places we've lived as well as the places our friends and family now live. ebay was my main source for the maps (using the word "lot" in the search title, as the "cheaper by the dozen" rule usually applies on ebay), focusing on those produced between the 30's and 60's as those were the years map colors were the most garish, and the illustration styles, most playful.

if you're not that into maps or geography, but like the idea of using something a little different to cover your walls - based on a hobby or interest of yours or your family's;  you could use the kids' many pieces of school art, or pages from novels by your favorite author, sheet music, dollar bills (there was a customer at the bank i once worked at who asked for two new one dollar bills with every paycheck he cashed. when asked the reason for this one day, he informed us that he was papering the walls of his bathroom.) brown kraft paper, dress-making patterns...any other ideas??

 here's how it turned out:

and a close-up of one of the many chicago maps (where three of our kiddos now live):

the one near the corner on the left with the "SEND HELP" panel is one of my favorites. although it was originally intended to serve as a sign one could place in the car window during a roadside emergency, it now serves as a mantra prompter whenever it happens to catch my eye.

let me know if you decide to try this yourself as i have quite a stash of leftover maps sitting in the shed. mostly of places like idaho and latvia as we don't yet know anyone who lives in either. do you?

*our son dubbed the room thus shortly after we moved in; determined to call it something other than "den" or "family room". we liked it and have called it that ever since.

Monday, August 1, 2011

radio silence

sorry folks. but my real job is about to swallow me whole (just call me 'guppy') so the kitchen and i have become virtual strangers, i'm afraid.

just let me get through these next two weeks of photo shoot mayhem and then i hope to be back here again with recipes and rants a-plenty.
in the meantime, a few scenes from the past couple of weeks. there's no plot or story line here - just random notes and a gentle nudge to get yourself to a deli by the name of rossi, up in poughkeepsie ny, just as soon as you possibly can.

one of the highlights of these past weeks was the friday my favorite brother (pictured below. more or less) graced #619 for an overnight visit. which meant i fried the obligatory doughnuts on saturday morning. for some unknown reason i used a recipe other than grandmother's, and the doughnuts were barely edible - and certainly not photogenic - which is the reason i have no pic to share. but i will share with you the screen shot of the offending recipe (at least they spelled 'doughnuts' correctly) so that if you ever come across it you will remember these are the ones you do NOT want to make, and will instead come back to this blog and search for the version lani's grandmother made.
the screen shot:

the (anonymous) bro, toasting my doughnut-frying efforts:

six days - and 92 work hours - later, i headed to ny in a seat with this view:

then spent the next few days staring at this sort of stuff:

during which time i was also fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of this sweet lady:
...and was somehow able to convince her to come back to north carolina with me.

but the biggest thrill derived from spending a few days in ny, was discovering this little gem of a deli in poughkeepsie    (here's a map):

and a link:

rossi is a deli like no other. in the whole wide world. forever and ever amen.
i first arrived at rossi's on a blazing hot sunday afternoon - weary and hungry from the day's travel. outside the shop i noticed an older man bustling in and out the front door and then around to the back. he was topless but for the bit of red apron that covered the mid-third section of his gray-haired chest. shorts and shoes were his only other garments. i entered his dimly lit store and quickly realized it was not open for business. mr. rossi appeared from the back and announced "we're not open come back tomorrow!" "but i came all the way from north carolina",  i protested. so he brought me over to the beverage frig and said, "you need a drink. pick something, what you want?" so i allowed as to how a gatorade might be just the ticket for a day such as we were experiencing, and he pulled it from the cooler for me. when i went to reach for my wallet he said, "no, no. you don't pay me. you just come back tomorrow!" so i did. and the day after that and the day after that. and i told him i would move to poughkeepsie just to be nearer his shop. he laughed.
if you are ever within 90 minutes of this place, YOU MUST STOP IN. they bake their own breads for the paninis, made with meats and cheeses like you've never had. artichoke hearts the size of avocados and breakfast sandwiches that leave you unable to think of anything else the rest of the day. no pics. so shoot me.

after a week away, i came home to a couple of surprises.
the first:
and the second:
poor, poor Duckie. struck in the wee hours of the morning while resting peacefully on the street in front of our house. the offending driver left the scene without a word (or his right rear fender!) such is life.

until next time......