Friday, November 30, 2007

The best spaghetti ever

Alec made the best spaghetti ever tonight for dinner. Sauteed red onion in olive oil and butter. Ground beef - free range and grass fed. De Cecco spaghetti. TJ's marinara sauce. All put together just right makes the spaghetti the best ever.

In Denmark, one doesn't talk about food at the table.

Succulent winter king salmon, grilled (a perfect BBQ night: crystal clear, in the 20s, no wind) to perfection, some oven roasted blue potatoes, steamed cauliflower and broccoli, a tossed salad, and a loaf of fresh no-knead bread (the recipe is on the right and works perfectly every time). An orange and cranberry upside down cake that will be better for breakfast this morning. Some Belgian beer (Saison Dupont), a delicious Barbaresco, some Hedges CMS. Delightful company, including two unsuspecting friends who dropped in to deliver a bottle of very special olive oil and found themselves with glass in hand seated at the table and a gentleman from Denmark, here to film a TV piece on the death of Vitus Bering, a Danish hero who died on a beach near here many years ago, and a good friend who was doing the filming. Conversation turned, as it usually does as soon as the ritual Rotary rants are over, to food: to comparisons of mayonnaises, to memories of odd things the children would and would not eat, to favorites from the past, to how at times your body just seems to want eggs or steaks. At one point the Dane stopped us and said that in Denmark one would never talk about food while eating. How interesting! What do they talk about in mixed company then?

This set us off on an exploration of cultural differences mostly centered around humour, and how what is funny in one country may leave the audience in another country waiting for the punch line. We amused ourselves by telling several jokes that just don't translate into funny in another language, which was funny in and of itself. I think we determined that golfing seems to be a fairly universally funny activity. There was this one about the businessman and the bishop who were out golfing....oh but you've heard that one! Then there is the one about the priest, who has led a good life, facing St. Peter and has to confess that once while golfing he used the F word....oh, you've heard that one too! And we brought up the famous three part joke originally told to us by a Danish doctor and which was our kids' favorite joke for years. If you've not heard it, they can tell it well.

So what was funny made us laugh, and what was not funny made us wonder, and another wonderful meal it was.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

For Mature Audiences only.

Friends invited us over to share yesterday's shrimp harvest and a selection of older, or as John would say "mature" chardonnays. The shrimp were perfect: denuded, lightly sauteed in olive oil with a splash of "mature" wine. Accessorized with bowtie noodles, and a Caesar Salad (dressed lightly in a homemade Caesar dressing with the perfect balance of lemon and anchovies). La Boheme on the stereo, and a selection of "mature" wines. Exquisite. Too bad us "mature" types had to toddle off to bed early!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mancini memories

Yeesh, my first post and it's not even about food, exactly. Yes, Henry Mancini composed the soundtrack for "Charade," and reading about it made me smile because he was my first "celebrity" interview back when I was a journalism radio intern in college. I shared with him my unending love for the "Pink Panther" theme and he was quite gracious and charming, even as I rambled on about doing an interpretive dance to the song for a grade-school backyard talent show. Well, I guess that's enough to start with. Made some great Moroccan-style lamb chops over couscous with garbanzoes and apricots while the kids were away, Casa Lapostolle Sauv. Blanc and candlelight, taking a page out of the DeCherney empty nest book.

Nostalgia Noodles

Pasta with Peanut Sauce was on the menu at the Fiddlehead Restaurant for a long time, and made it into the Fiddlehead Cookbook. We had a surfeit of last week's veggies, and this recipe uses up veggies, and so John stepped back in time and whipped up a batch. I tossed a lettuce and water cress salad with rice wine vinegar and oil, and all was well. Villa Maria on the table. Robert Bluestone on the stereo.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Yams with Marshmallows meets Fois Gras

I don't want to sound like I'm underappreciative of French cuisine,
but I tried duck fois gras today and I didn't like the smell at all. It wasn't altogether pleasant....

BBQ Pork Chops

Perfect BBQ weather (not blowing sideways and above freezing), so John put on a couple pork chops slathered with the Cherry BBQ sauce mixed with Hoisin sauce allowing him to claim the usual "Just the dad regular: Open frig, empty contents of the little tiny jars altogether." I am not certain where all these little tiny jars of stuff are coming from and why they are there partially used.

Anyway, tasty chops with steamed rice mixed with Forbidden rice, a particularly yummy tossed salad with watercress in it, and a plate of grapefruit and apples. The house white wine, Veramonte Sauvingnon Blanc.

Conversation turned to the movie we watched the other night, Bad Day at Black Rock, starring Spencer Tracy and a bunch of famous people and which I found to be two dimensional and wooden, as if someone used stick figures to act out High Noon, not to mention the fact that the set looked like the fake town in Blazing Saddles and there was only one female (young blonde cutie) living there who of course gets it in the end. John loved it, found it tense and suspenseful, very intriguing a lot like a spaghetti western. The music was by Andre Previn and indeed it was very atmospheric. Which led to a discussion of best movie theme songs: High Noon. Good the Bad and the Ugly. Third Man Theme. Shot in the Dark. anything by Henry Mancini. Charade. (is that by Henry Mancini?)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shrimp Piraeus

Sundays around Sapper Hall are fairly predictable. We have shrimp. Tonight we had one of our favorites, Shrimp Piraeus. We found this recipe in a Harrowhouse cookbook several years ago and it has become one of our top five favorites.

2 medium onions, chopped; 5+ garlic cloves (your tastes), chopped; 2.5 TBLS olive oil; 28-oz diced tomatoes (or 14.5-oz diced, and 10-oz regular Rotel); basil and oregano; s & p; .5 cup dry white; 1.5 # peeled, deveined shrimp; 8 oz feta cheese, crumbled. Heat oil, toss in onion/garlic for thirty seconds. Add tomatoes, basil/oregano, s&p, heat till boiling. Add wine, heat till boiling. Add shrimp, cook for 4-5 minutes, till pink/white. Add feta, mix, heat 4-5 minutes. Serve with chunks of rough country bread, rest of white wine and mixed green salad.

Doesn't take long and may very well become a short notice favorite. My advice is to keep a two pound bag of shrimp in the kitchen freezer anyway, ready to be thawed under running water in times of dire need. Repeat as necessary.

That is all.

Turkey Noodle Casserole

John made a tasty mom-style dish last night: leftover turkey in a cream sauce baked altogether with egg noodles. He was aiming at tetrazzini, in a salute to a childhood friend of a good friend of ours, who, when invited to her home for dinner, apparently sat down at the table and announced that she only ate Chicken Tetrazzini. Chicken Tetrazzini is now code in their home for being a fuss-budget.

I am sympathetic, I recall being just a little wierded out by food at other people's houses, and I recall as a child I would only eat Breaded Veal Cutlets when we went out, much to my parents' chagrin. Not even sure where I came up with that, don't think my mom ever made it.

I think my brother and sister would only eat either spaghetti or hamburgers.

Our kids were much cheaper dates: They only ate plain cheese nachos, with a strawberry guava juice. The two of them could split a 1/2 order at the local Tex-Mex place and be happy little diners. Please don't sully the plate with sour cream, salsa, jalapeno or anything else. It was a real big day when Ren ate her first hamburger.

One of her little friends would pretty much only eat white food. Once she came over and we made a batch of plain (we thought it was plain) buttered spaghetti noodles for her. John sprinkled a teeny tiny bit of chopped parsley flakes in, and it was a remarkable sight to watch her carefully get each tiny flake off a noodle before eating it.

John's casserole was home cooking at its most comforting. I think all the kids would have liked it, even Miss Chicken Tetrazzini.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Double Celery Soup

John faced down the celery root in the frig yesterday, coming up with a delectable cream of celery and celeriac soup based on turkey stock. Feeling full of the holiday bonhomie common to the chronically well-fed, he invited the neighbors in and a couple of other good friends, so I came home to a table being set for five, the oven full of turkey pepper cranberry Provolone sandwiches, a big tossed salad and a friendly William Hill Estate Chardonnay, partnered with a Domaine Filliatreau Chateau Fouquet Saumur, and somehow dessert became a Roederer Estate 25th Anniversary Anderson Valley Brut, not sure how that happened, guess we were out of chocolate. (Charlotte, you left too early!) Delicious all the way around.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday - Inspiring, believe it or not

Hey, Wine-0s out there on the gene tree, have any of you ever given or received a really good "wine of the month" gift? I am thinking of giving a friend of mine a "WotM" for X-mas this year but don't want to give a "cheesy" one, if I wanted to do that I'd give him a cheese of the month.  Any recommendations? 


p.s. Happy Turkey Sandwich Day  

Post Thanksgiving Satori

When I had my first post Thanksgiving turkey sandwich (breakfast today) instead of any ordinary mayo I used Duke's.


Thanksgiiiiiviiiiiing a Paris

Who says you can't have thanksgiving in france? All the Smithies in Paris were invited to a thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant where a traditional thanksgiving dinner had been ordered for us. There were the requisite turkey (dinde en français), mashed potatoes and gravy (boullion en français) and the other dishes seemed to be what the french thought thanksgiving was about. Don't get me wrong, it was great, it was just kind of funny to see how a country that doesn't even have a verb for "giving thanks" interpretted the holiday. We started off with a fabulous pumpkin soup, bread and some beaujolais nouveau which was pretty fab as well. After that there was turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beens. Instead of slicing the turkey in thin slices, the turkey had been carved into hunks. Hunk-o-turkey for everyone. It was still delicious. Then there was this apple crisp thing that came with what I thought was vanilla ice cream and turned out to be "creme frais" which tastes like sour cream. Gosh but that was a fun surprise.

We also had a fun time explaining the holiday to our grammar professor who wanted to know all about what we ate. When we explained about mashed sweet potatoes and marshmallows, it was a bit too much for her french soul to handle and she looked a little ill, while explaining to us that it wasn't that it sounded BAD, she was just trying to imagine the tastes TOGETHER.

So while the french may be better at cooking the turkey, I'm not sure they really understand the concept of this holiday in its entirety. But I still had a good thanksgiving.


What is the best part of Thanksgiving?

Right now, I vote: THE PUMPKIN PIE FOR BREAKFAST THE NEXT DAY. With a little dollop of whipped that's the way to start a day.

I think John is voting: THE STUFFING. I'm hoping there will be some leftover come dinner tonight....

We had just four of us for dinner this year, a little unusual for us, but we cooked for 14 just in case.

We brined a turkey overnight, and stuffed it with a cornbread/challah stuffing fragrant with fresh sage, thyme, parsley, marjoram, lots of onions and celery, and a lifetime's ration of butter. I might have baked it just a tich too long, but it was fine.

Garlic mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, and my brother likes sweet potatoes, so a little side of those with bourbon brown sugar butter glaze.

A vat of gravy, I forgot that Ren, the gravy hound, is still in France. There should still be some left when she gets back in June.

Green beans, just steamed and topped with thin sizzled onion rings, a nod to "company green beans."

Waldorf Salad, with raisins plumped in bourbon. A tangerine and lettuce salad in an orange juice vinaigrette. At my sister's house apparently they have dispensed with any menu item that does not go with gravy, and in fact the Waldorf Salad is looking like a good alternative for lunch today, but I find the greens and crispness balances the palette and the palate at the meal, even if they are not at their best smothered in gravy.

Cranberry orange sauce.

Sharffenberger brut, Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, and Maker's Mark for the non-wine drinker.

A delumpshious velvety pumpkin pie made by Lynn, with whipped cream.

Conversation ranged from updates on work from all, book reviews (John just read the latest Christopher Buckley, Lynn is reading a Barbara Kingsolver, and Thad and I are reading murder mysteries), to the problems of the world, all the more vivid in contrast to the lace and luxury and over-filled plates over which we considered them.

At 7:30 it felt like 9, so we all toddled off to bed and slept soundly.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving dinner with Nance & John

Lynn and I hit the jackpot this year when we were invited up to Nance & John's for Thanksgiving dinner. We have just returned, and are convinced we won't have to eat again for at least a week. Absolutely superb dinner!! Turkey cooked to the perfect bronze hue, cornbread stuffing made with homemade cornbread, creamy mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, Waldorf and green lettuce salads, all of which we slathered with delicious turkey gravy! A Scharffenberger champagne was included, as was some Makers Mark bourbon for those of us who don't drink wine (thanks John). After a short rest on the couch to regain our focus, we topped it all off with some great pumpkin pie that Lynn had made. A wonderful evening!

This just in from Pennsylvania

Our niece just created this splendid chocolate birthday cake for my sister! I wonder if she takes orders?

26 years and still standing

John and I celebrated our 26th anniversary with a lamb chops, Forbidden Rice, steamed broccoli, and, mysteriously, an inedibly salty tossed salad. Of course a plate of fresh fruit. Marqués de Cáceres Rioja, ("elegant, just like you, dear"). Served on our wedding china, which also mysteriously, we have never used before. It is lovely. I'm hauling the rest of it out for Thanksgiving dinner, why not, what are we saving it for?

We realized that in our old age, we can no longer remember where we spent our first Thanksgiving, it might have been Victoria BC on our honeymoon. I do recall my brother's first Thanksgiving with his now wife whom he had just met: Frantic calls about how long can you leave turkey out, and French toast entered into it, and I discreetly leave the rest to your imagination.

So how about you? Where was your first Thanksgiving with your loved one?

It always seems to me that when you spend Thanksgiving with your significant other's family, that is a portent of wedding bells to come. Worked for me anyway.

And now John has meandered off muttering about how he can't cook anything, there was the pie shell disaster, the disaster of mythic proportions involving a perfectly roasted Christmas prime rib and too much wine and a dullish carving knife, and now the disastrously salty tossed salad.....Like the rest of us have never had a disaster....a certain poached pear dessert comes to mind for example, or the day the Baked Alaska overflowed and set the table cloth on fire. Or a turkey dinner that became French toast for some reason....These are the things of legend that keep families together.

So: Out with yours!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Another late night

And we had spaghetti with peas and peppers. Left over green beans. Tossed salad. Oranges, apples. The Can Fiexes. Discovered a delightful recording of Vivaldi's La Cetra. Fussed about the day's tiny aggravations, ignored the really big ones.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What to do with leftovers.

OK. So you have leftover roast chicken.
Leftover potatoes gratin (scalloped potatoes + 50¢)
Left over green beans & mushrooms.
Leftover Villa Maria.
Leftover Prosecco (what, do these people not drink?)
Whattya do for a late after work dinner?

John made swell chef salads. Boiled a couple of eggs, cut little batonnets of cheese, laid it all out just like in a diner on the plate, the eggs over here, the chicken slices over here, the cheese over there, the tomato wedges here.
Prosecco for an aperitif, Villa Maria for dinner.
All good.

What would you have done?

(and there is again the portion control thing since the kids are gone.....+4 for dinner is really not all that many!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Creating Sunday

My crafty friends and I try to meet every month or so to do arts 'n' crafts, although of late, we have not been able to all be in the same town at the same time so the crafts have been malingering in drawers untouched.
AHA! Sunday afternoon!
Usually, this is a ladies only sort of deal, but John volunteered to make dinner for the ladies and their gentlemen following the crafts, so the crafts portion included one of us knitting on delicate little needles a lovely gift of fingerless mitts, one of us adorning a charming Scottish tam with ribbons, one of us attempting to make a piece of log cabin knitting look better with some embroidery, and another of us making Tlingit armor.

John, for his craft, hoisted the cocktail flag, and it works like a charm. The neighbors joined the group en route to watch a (what I understand was miserable) football game. We popped open a bottle of Zardetto prosecco and John whipped up a pile of tapas shrimp matched in tastiness only by the participatory messiness involved in eating them.

Meanwhile, chickens roasted, potatoes scalloped, salads tossed, and dinner appeared on the table completed by a loaf of the no-knead bread (it works!) and a spectrum of wines from Argiolas Costamolino, to Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, to Marietta Old Vine. Conversations rambled from rat rods (near as I can figure, pimped out Juneau-body cars, there's a future for Henry's Honda) to Beowolf, to the problems of how to wean the country from its over consumption of energy and water. I believe some reminiscing about the good old days when Alaska, and we, were young, and youngsters of 29 were attorney generals and even younger folks were working out oil deals for the state, came along about the time the pear crisp (sadly not as fully baked as we'd like it) and some super chocolate chip cookies (Henry, your title as Best Cookie Baker is severely challenged and a couple of bake-offs may be in order) made it to the table. Ah, those were the days! But I think we eat much better now.

How was your Sunday?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Meatloaf

Thad is making meatloaf. I have been lobbying for baked potatoes but I think we are getting a pasta side dish. I have some of the chianti left and may drink that, or I may just stick with The French Connection, my new favorite. Amaretto & cognac over ice with a twist of lemon.

Yorba Wines

Some cousins of ours have a winery and this is the first year they have offered a wine for sale under their own label: Yorba, in honor of our common ancestor, a soldier in the army of the king of Spain who came to California in 1769. Lori ordered a case and it arrived yesterday. Not wanting to let it get dusty, we had a couple people over for dinner to try the Syrah and the Tempranillo. We didn't go all out on the meal- in fact, both of us were already so tired that the frozen diGiorno pizza was looking pretty good. I did lift a finger to thaw a Mortons marinated steak- those ones from Costco. I mean, how tough can it be to BBQ a pre-marinated steak with the Morton's moniker? Turns out, darn difficult if the BBQ is acting more like a blow torch than an even mannered cooking machine. I guess I have to admit- I should have listened to Lori's advice last summer when she pointed out that the burners were rusted out. Even at the lowest of low heat settings, Morton's finest was a grease ball of fire. I finally took it off the Q, brought it in and sliced it- it was more like steak Tartar. Always the optimist, I suggested that everyone liked very rare steak, right? I got a lot of blank stares. Andy came to the rescue- he suggested we take the slices and finish them in the same pan I had caramelized some onions in. I threw some rosemary and a little more olive oil in the pan with the nice caramelized onion residue- 20 or 30 seconds on a side and I had a great little steak dinner. Thanks, Andy!

Anybody know where you can get cast iron burners for those big Costco BBQ'a they were selling a few years ago?

The wine was a hit. Check out I am a big fan of those heavy meaty reds, and the Syrah I really enjoyed. It reminded me of the wines my dad used to serve in the 70's. The Tempranillo was really good too- like a spanish rioja, perfect way to honor our spanish ancestor.

Secret Pleasures

When there's no one home but me for dinner, I get to fix myself something on the short list of things that they don't like and I adore. Last night, Ren was in Paris (as John would say, "It sucks to be Ren"), Henry was in San Francisco (probably overdrawing his account), and John was pouring wine at someone else's house in the name of Rotary.

Cheese and mushroom soufflé. Perfect, puffy, well browned and crispy on the edges, creamy and smooth, flavorful on the inside. Tossed salad with beets in balsamic dressing, a just ripe Bartlett pear, Villa Maria Sauvignon blanc, and Dave Brubeck. I light the candles when it is just me too. Why not?

Followed by a hot bath and The Snack Thief, a funny Sicilian mystery thriller by Andrea Camilleri. Recommended for foodies:
"Then eight pieces of hake arrived, enough to feed four people. they were crying out their joy - the pieces of hake, that is - at having been cooked the way God had meant them to be...."Do whatever you want, but don't talk. I'm telling you as a brother, for your own good. Don't talk for any reason in the world. If you interrupt me while I'm eating this hake, I'm liable to wring your neck."

Hake is another name for ling, and I believe we had that joyful fish just the other day.

But I digress. The question is: What do you eat when there is no one else for dinner? Please don't say pop tarts.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pizza night

We always used to have pizza and a movie with the kids on Friday nights. One half, for kids: black olives only, no mushrooms. The other half, for adults: mushrooms and black olives. God forbid that mushrooms should somehow insinuate themselves to the Kids' Side. Last night, it was sweet Italian sausage, mushrooms, black olives, extra cheese all over the WHOLE thing! An incredible red wine: Zenato Valpolicella, rich, dark, with overtones of licorice and roses and other yummy stuff, Anna-Sophie Mutter's "Carmen" on the stereo. Since I can only make pizza in one size, and we were two down, there is pizza left over for breakfast this morning! Yahoo!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rockfish is the best

And much cheaper than halibut these days.
John breaded it, and fried it lightly on op of the stove and then finished it in the oven. Served just with salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Rice, tossed salad, steamed broccoli, kiwi apples and pears. Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc.

iTunes featured the new Dave Brubeck "Indian Summer" yesterday, and it is a wonderful solo jazz piano CD. Recommend it.

Rotary is continuing to give John reason to live: He's been in this organization for longer than he's been a father, and it's always something. I think he must like the complex interplay of human pettiness that seems to be part and parcel of club dynamics.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It was a crab and stormy night

People here have their preferences: King Crab vs Dungeness Crab, and you'll have your diehards on either side of the argument. I like them both, but I will say this: Dungeness are just a little more "picky" than King. Smaller bodies. Takes a bit of work to get the meat out.

So I picked a bunch of Dungeness last night, while waiting for John to get home from his Rotary Board meeting of no fun.

We received fennel bulb in "the box", also green onions. I've always thought that the faint licorice flavor of fennel goes very well with seafood. So:

Put on a pot of brown basmati rice.
Slice up the fennel bulbs (take off the stocks to use in stock, halve them, cut out the little hearts) into slim slices.
Cut several green onions up into similar lightly longer pieces.
Melt a 1/4 cup of butter in a big sauté pan over slow heat (it is going to be a LONG board meeting) and begin to wilt the fennel in it.

Prepare a salad of frisee, Napa cabbage, and mixed greens, marinate the leftover broccoli from yesterday in balsamic and olive oil.

Slice up a crispy delicious apple and a perfect Bartlett pear.

Sit down with a glass of Lindemans Bin 95 sauvignon blanc and do a little embroidery, while waiting for the "en route" call.

When it comes, add garlic and butter to a small pan to reheat the beets from yesterday.
Bring the fennel and butter back up to a hot temp and add a good bit of the freshly picked crab and sautee to heat through. Add the green onions and a splash of wine.

Hand John a glass of wine.

Put the rice in a bowl and top it with the crab mixture, put the beets in a lovley pink bowl, light the candles and dinner is served.

conversation about previously mentioned least fun ever board meeting. Has anyone read Tastings by Nigel Slater? it was left in our book exchange at the Arts Council, maybe I'll read it.

To bed, but alas not to sleep: The house was slammed by gusts of wind all night, and the general anxiety from the day would not be allayed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One of the things Alaska does best

John likes to get fresh prawns from a fishing boat down in Harris Harbor, but yesterday, they were all out when he got there. All they had was fresh Dungeness crab. Oh darn, I hate it when that happens.
Apparently, it was something like a Costco package or the Chinese restaurant thing, with 6 you get an eggroll: That is a PILE of crab in the frig.
So last night, just fresh steamed crab (I can't believe I ate the whole thing), steamed broccoli, a tossed green salad with freshly made teeny tiny garlicky oily croutons (sorry Lynn!), oven fried potatoes, and really excellent apples and kiwi. A lovely Fume Blanche sauvignon blanc by Lurton, a mix of music ranging from Sharon Isbin to Itzhak Perlman, and conversation about who we we'd like to have over for dinner. You'll be getting a call. Not sure there will be any crab left.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fortune cookies

Last Friday I was in Ketchikan. Quite often when I am there I spend most of the morning and early afternoon calling on accounts so many of the usual venues for lunch are not open by the time I am free.

So I was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fuks. I was gonna get big dish of Beef Chow Mein.

Sorry, I have always been a big fan of the late Warren Zevon.

Anyway, one place that is always open for business is the Thai restaurant. It is cheap, quick and friendly.

After the meal I got a fortune cookie and it reminded me of a section of Penn and Teller's book "How To Play With Your Food." Among the tricks it includes is a fake fortune that says "The chef spit in your food." as well as some rather darker ideas.

I always read my fortune but I never believe them because, as Penn and Teller say, I don't believe in the precognitive power of pastry.

I have heard that dumb joke that all fortunes are funnier if you add the phrase "in the bed" at the end of the fortune but that doesn't do anything for me.

There are bakeries that will do fortunes for you; so I am assuming that you can get anything you want within reason. Wouldn't you love to see the look on the face of your fellow diners if they got something other than the usual "fortune"?

As I was sitting there I thought about what might be funny to put in a fortune message. The first two things that came to me were "Your so called best friend is going to stick you with the check again" (that must have come from my father, alev shalom) and the other one I thought of was "Your dog hates it when you do that".

Okay, so I have heard lots of you say that you don't cook but I'll bet all of you out there can come up with some better fortunes than that.

We want to hear from you.

5 minute pork chops

Still we had pork loin chops from the Costco escapade, so pork was on the menu again. I found a recipe on line that got rave reviews from many who claimed their mothers used to make this all the time and they had fond memories of it. I can see why the mom's made it: 4 ingredients, and prepared easily in the 5 minute limit:
Turn on the oven to 350.
lightly oil a baking casserole, one with a lid is ideal.
put your pork chops in the pan, single layer, lightly salt & pepper.
top each with 1/4 inch slice of onion, enough to cover the chop.
top with 1/4 inch slice of lemon.
top that with 1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce (I used American Spoon Foods cherry grilling sauce).
Cover and put in the oven.
Bake for 1 hour. I did remove the chops from the casserole and reduce the juices in a sauce pan when they came out, but basically, I can see why moms of yore might have made this often. Pretty dang quick and tasty.
I put some beets in the oven too, made a salad from the last of this week's greens (lettuce, spinach, and arugula, tomatoes, little carrots) and put on some Forbidden Rice. Also perfect Bartlett pears. Dry Creek Fume. Talked about scifi books we've never read.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This just in

From a person who does indeed need to sign on for the blog:
"Hi Nancy:
I’ve got to join the dinner blog, last night was a great debate at our house over how much is too much re: brandy in French onion soup. My 7 year old asked, “Why don’t I have a normal family?”


1) We use sherry for some reason, but I see no reason why brandy and quite a bit of it wouldn't be just grand in FOS.

2) Normal, hmmmm.

Squash Risotto

Back from the heck that is called "The Greater Seattle Area". Found a tavern in Snohomish that carries 112 single malt whiskys, about 15 micro-brews, and has the best Scotch Eggs ever. (A Scotch Egg is a meal in itself: one hard boiled egg, wrap in sausage, roll in bread crumbs, deep fry.)

Anyway, once I got back home and after the Veteran's Day observations here in Ketchikan, we used up some of the squash from the box. Made an acorn squash risotto in the pressure cooker. I adapted a recipe to use in the pc and it came out very well. Creamy texture, lots of flavor with the squash, nice sweetness.

I'm looking forward to trying an Autumn stew (squash, carrots, parsnips, onions) in the next day or two.

Sunday Pot Roast & Ratatouille

My brother called yesterday to invite us to dinner: Of course! We love dinner! What's for dinner, what shall we bring? Spaghetti: Excellent. We'll bring red wine.

Evidently there was a note in that "Excellent" that was not quite as enthusiastic as I'd planned, and Lynn called back to ask if we'd had spaghetti last night (apparently she is not subscribed to this dinner log! Perhaps not last night, but for the last several days for lunch....and there's still more if you are hungry for some) and to say they'd surprise us with something...maybe a Caesar salad or something.

We arrived promptly at 6 pm with a bottle of Scharffenberger in tow to celebrate the grand opening and dedication of the new Juneau Arts & Culture Center, which went off festively if I do say so myself, to delicious aromas wafting through the neighborhood. A delicious pot roast, succulent, moist, with yummy fingerling potatoes and carrot sticks and onions all cooked in there and full of flavor, and the Caesar salad, multi grain bread, Ruffino Chianti (I think it was Ruffino?). Perfect for a Sunday evening.

After dinner: chocolate truffles, more champagne, and we watched Ratatouille, which we all agreed was cute, but nonetheless still about rats.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pork loin chops

Went to Costco yesterday and came away with a large vat of pork loin chops, knowing that John gets lonely for pork frequently. Went down to the JACC to get stuff ready for the concert last night and the Building Dedication today, and Ren's young man's parents were there working very hard to get the box office desk put together, and a bear it was too. So I invited them over too. No way John and I, even lonely for pork, could eat all that meat. I marinated it in the tamari/ginger stuff then grilled it (came out OK, but not great), made some way too salty oven fried potatoes, sauteed some delicata squash, a tossed salad with marinated cucumbers, and put a big bowl of clementines out. We also finished the last of the big chunk-o dark chocolate. James played the piano, we drank Farrai Carano Siena, Los Cardos Malbec, and Yalumba Viognier, and chattered on delightfully.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shoes & Supper

Last night John was away, in Ketchikan. My favorite shoe store had a late shopping night for their customers complete with wine and discount coupons.....what can I say? I met my good friend Joan at the store, and our good friend Lori was purchasing these fabulous shoes in BLACK and lo and behold they also came in a very swell RED.....I wore them out to dinner with Joan. We went to Zephyr, one of a couple of newish places with a good wine selection. Decided to split a dinner salad (the Zephyr, mixed greens with grilled asparagus, fried pancetta, and a nice balsamic vinaigrette, quite tasty) and a plate of pasta (the Aegean, with dried tomatoes and olives in goat cheese I think, also very good) and a bottle of Zardetto Prosecco. This often happens when I go out with Joan. We had a lovely dinner, got caught up on her kids, our kids, etc, except I got rowdy and was shouting across the room to another friend who came in on crutches, consequently disturbing the conversation at the dinner table between us. I blame the shoes.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Vegetable Sauté

Delicata squash, baby carrots, fennel bulb, sweet onion, cauliflower, stir-fried in peanut oil, add the left over spaghetti squash and chicken breast. Splash in a bit of white wine and soy sauce, serve over steamed brown basmati rice, topped with grated cheddar and chopped almonds. Side of sautéed beet greens with plenty of garlic, and luscious Bartlett pears. Wine: J. Lohr Chardonnay (interesting nuances of whiskey) and another Spanish Morgadio Albarino Rias Baixas (no we didn't drink both bottles, these were leftovers from the tasting John did at the Island Pub the night before.) Trickling harp music on the stereo. Dang I feel healthy.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Today I was walking past a glasses store and noticed some lenses for kids that were in the shape of little fish. Tres mignon.

More Spaghetti I Say

(One of our kids' favorite children's books)
Had a dinner time board meeting last night and since we now have a kitchen in the new space, I decided to make spaghetti for them, as an experiment in the 5-minute recipe collection. Came close on getting the sauce all onto the stove in 5 minutes, and would have if (key teachable moment) I'd had a sharp knife and all my tools where they belonged.
Anyway, made vats of spags, and others contributed some really good salads, including a tasty and interesting radish (fresh from the Santa Monica Farmers Market), mint, and Montrachet cheese salad, and a delicious zucchini and green olive thing, also a couple of green salads and garlic bread. The board didn't eat but a half of it, so we are going to be seeing spaghetti again soon.
The really exciting news on the food front is that when I went to the store to get the ingredients the first boxes of satsumas were in. I bought a box and took one into my coworker, who is from Norway, and she breathed in the aroma and said with satisfaction, "it's winter". I guess the little oranges at Christmas phenomenon is world-wide.
Those of us who grew up in Alaska have very fond memories of the mandarins that came from Japan about December every year, in little wooden boxes, each orange wrapped in a bit of orange tissue. After you ate all the oranges (and unless mom was there to intervene that could take about 10 minutes) the boxes made swell treasures in an of themselves. Now we get them from California, and they are almost as good, in fact the quality of the Japanese ones is sometimes disappointing of late, although they no longer come in the wooden boxes, and then 'tis the season.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


We always get at least two heads of beautiful lettuce in our bag. What else do you put in your salad besides lettuce? Lately, our salads have been just lettuce with dressing. Rather boring.


Last night John made chicken breasts, sauteed in butter with herbs and wine to finish it, baked spaghetti squash which went very well with the really garlicky sauteed spinach, a big tossed salad, and fresh fruit. Wonderful! The wine was one that he says we'll be seeing frequently around the house, Can Feixes (can fishes), a WONDERFUL wine from Spain that had been on the wine list of the now sadly closed Ludvig's in Sitka. I am sorry about that situation, but now I am not as sorry as I was....I think it was Viveza on the stereo, and conversation turned to why on earth we work so hard. Why?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Baked spaghetti

John read in the blog that baked spaghetti is a childhood favorite of mine, and so that's what he made for dinner. Yummy on the first snow day of the year! Steamed cauliflower with basil, tossed salad, kiwis and apples, Geyer Peak cab, Italian arias.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Vertical to horizontal

Yesterday we were invited to dinner to celebrate a good friend's selection to the judgeship in Sitka. Unhappy to see him move from the neighborhood, but delighted to see him make this move professionally. Steaks and a vertical tasting of Kathryn Kennedy cabernets, 1995 to 1999. A delicious pumpkin soup, perfectly done NY staks with a gorgonzola walnut butter, warm tabooli-like grains, and perfectly done green beans, followed by a sumptuous raspberry chocolate torte. There was Roederer champagne mixed in there somewhere and a 1971 sherry, and a delicious white wine that I didn't catch the name of, and amusing conversation, and a swell view, and then we had to go to bed.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Costumes for Cocktails

At the Amelie café, Ren reports that they offered free cocktails for folks who came dressed in Halloween costumes. She heard much whispering and murmuring "buzz buzz Halloweeeeen giggle buzz" on the bus on her way for the free cocktails.

Mashed spuds, frozen peas and pressure cookers

A few things...

Mashed potatoes. When I made the mashed potatoes for the Shepard's Pie the other night I realized how much I remembered from what they taught us at Culinary and how it differed from how most people cook at home. I guess that is not such an amazing revelation given the Teutonic population of the staff, so they were pretty strict on the mashed potato thing. Germans strict about potatoes, go figure.

I don't think that they taught us this but I always put down a piece of newspaper and peel the potatoes over that so it's easy to clean up.

What they did teach us at school was that you leave the potatoes whole when you boil them. The more surface area that you expose to water, the more water is going to be absorbed and thus the more watery the end result. You also are supposed to wait until the water has come to a full boil before putting the potatoes in the water.

When the potatoes are done you drain the water and put the pot back on the stove very briefly to get more starch out of the potatoes. Then I mash them by hand and add lots of melted butter, salt, a couple of drops of hot sauce (this is in lieu of white pepper which is what they used at school) and hot milk or cream.

I don't know if this makes them significantly better that doing it any other way but it's really the only way that I know how to do it.

Frozen peas

Man, I love frozen peas and I try to make sure there are always some in the freezer. One of our favorite quick pasta dishes is fettucine with peas, bacon and onions. My mother, alev shalom, had two vegetable dishes that she made for company; "Party Peas", peas with bacon and pearl onions and "Company String Beans", the casserole glop with mushroom soup and the canned freeze dried onion rings.

My father's , alev shalom, favorite vegetable was peas and carrots and he didn't tell this to my mother until he was in his late sixties. I remember her telling me how surprised she was to find this out. Using snow peas or snap peas and carrots with butter and a little sesame oil is a nice deviation from the regular peas and carrots.

Frozen peas also came in really handy in the restaurant business. We used to keep a couple of bags in the freeze at the Fiddlehead in case of emergencies. Mostly this would happen on an unexpectedly busy Saturday night if you ran out of fresh vegetables and needed something to serve.

If you are thinking to yourself "how could you run out of vegetables in a restaurant" remember that when Nancy and I first moved here there was only barge service to Juneau once a week and you had to plan your orders for the restaurant two weeks in advance because of the lead time that you needed with your suppliers. This is mind boggling to people who come from the Lower 48 and are used to next day delivery with their suppliers. Trying to predict the future with a perishable inventory naturally led to occasions when you simply ran out of stuff.

Or it may have happened because a certain Norwegian general manager of the restaurant had refused to let us by more vegetables since it would have meant going over the 2% food cost that she was able to maintain. This is meant as a compliment. Our friend Susan was the general manager of the Fiddlehead at the time and she was one of the best bosses I ever had until Shawn and Gary at Specialty showed up.

Every time I used frozen peas I made sure I thanked the woman at the company that we bought them from. She worked for a company called K and N meats in Seattle. Her name was Donna and she was one of the best sales people that I have ever had, hopefully I learned something from her. She was very pleasant, extremely reliable and boy did she ever know her product. Whatever cut of meat she recommended for industrial size pot roast worked perfectly.

Before the kids were born Nancy and I went to Seattle and visited the K and N plant and it was very interesting. We met Donna and took a tour of their meat cutting facility which was immaculate. The manager took a minute to visit with us and I told him that we were a little embarrassed because they had taken such lavish care of us and we were such small customers. He told us "All our customers are important to us, we built our business on small customers" and he was obviously not giving us a line.

What was telling about this is that we went directly from K and N to our other meat supplier which specialized in organic meat. At the time we were their biggest restaurant customer and not just a rounding error like we might have been at K and N. They were alarmingly casual to the point where one person was sitting on one of the cutting boards. When we pointed out the maybe he should not have been sitting on the cutting table he just shrugged it off. I don't know about you but when I place a meat order I usually don't ask them to shove the beef tenderloin up their ass before they send it to me.

Pressure cookers.
My mother had a pressure cooker and whenever she used it it scared the bejusus out of me. It would bounce around in the kitchen with that little whistle thingy rattling all over the place and I was convinced that we would be blown into our component molecules and spread over Mrs. Oberholtzer's bougainvillea that bordered our kitchen.

Hunter and Debi Davis use their pressure cooker frequently. Keep in mind that Hunter Davis spent the better part of his career in the military in ordinance. Stuff blowing up was his daily bread and butter for awhile which, to me, explains his comfort with pressure cookers. I remember sitting in his kitchen drinking wine while he used the pressure cooker and Sapper ran amok through the house. All the time I was thinking, and I am borrowing liberally from Dave Barry here, "Say, Hunter, wouldn't you feel more comfortable across the street in the fetal position and wearing a football helmet?". But it all worked out for the best.

Thursday is Hunter's birthday and I will be in Ketchikan on Friday to help him celebrate.

In the meantime, time to take the chien for a promenade.

Saturday we see Three Musketeers

We have two excellent productions in town coming down to their last performances here, so John and I decided we better pack them in this weekend. Last night, we went to see Theatre in the Rough, a wonderful Shakespearean troupe of very talented local folks, perform Three Musketeers, in an adaption written by Aaron Elmore, one of the founders. We shall be saying "filthing this" and "filthing that" for days now. His epithets of the "pigsucking dog vomit lying pox on a backside" sort of 17th century Chris Rock-ian Porthos and dashing sword-play and intrigue made for a swell evening's entertainment.

I'd been working down at the Armory all day, where men with power tools and genie lifts were doing exciting things with long poles and squads of volunteers were organizing, cleaning, and putting things up, and so I was a bit fatigued. We decided to go out for dinner, choosing the Prospector, where in fact the service is quite good. I was tired and hungry and consequently had a menu malfunction, somehow getting a steak sandwich covered in grilled onions and mushrooms (so far so good) and that kind of brown gravy that you get sometimes (ehhhhh) with a big pile of (crispy and fresh) French fries, but somehow not passing along the info that I wanted a salad too. John had a salad and steamers. The bread was fresh and warm from the oven, and we sat by the window overlooking the channel with our glasses of (John: Alaskan IPA, Nancy: Kendall Jackson Chardonnay) and chatted, mostly about you.

The steak sandwich reminded me of a summer years ago when my folks left me home alone for a month or so (I do not think that this is the summer that Thad and I put off mowing the lawn until the day before they were due back, but they came back a day early....) and left the freezer full of minute steaks, frozen French Fries, and packets of gravy mix. I was in heaven.

This afternoon we are off to see the very poorly titled Yeast Nation, a premier by the Urinetown folks offered by Perseverance Theatre. It was John's idea to do the matinee, now he is going to miss "the very best football game ever." The play is supposed to be hilarious: We'll report back.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


As much as the Frenchies irritate me with their old fashioned thinking, I must say, they do get microwave dinners right. My host father is visiting friends in Normandy right now and my host mother left this afternoon for Morocco, where she's going to walk in the desert for a week, so I'm tout seul in the apartment. Whenever I'm left alone in the apartment, my host mother stocks the freezer with microwavable dinners. At first I was skeptical, but I've never been let down. Tonight I had pasta thingies with cream sauce and bolognaise sauce. It was pretty rocking. She also bought me some french fries too, after I told her that sometimes when my mother left home when henry and I were little, my father would get french fries. She also bought two fondants au chocolate for us today. She's tres cute. She also insists that I eat salad and tomatos and clementines for vitamins. She's very concerned about my vitamins.

Later supper

I got home before John did last night, about 9 pm after a long day that started with the the boiler at the office being out with 50 people arriving for a day-long meeting, the coffee makers overflowing and blowing the electrical circuits, and Fed Ex not delivering the photos scheduled to be shown in the Gallery for First Friday at 4:30 until 3 pm, followed by our first "Rent Party" which actually went nicely until the children started throwing stuffed pumpkins at the basketball hoops (outta here Monday!) necessitating a firm "Time to go home now". Home and to walk the dog ever so briefly.

Normally, this would be a scrambled eggs night. I opened the frig to get out said eggs, and lo and behold there was a fennel bulb. Hmmm. How would that be? Maybe in some pasta....

Put on the fettucine, sliced up said fennel bulb into slim 2 inch pieces, also some green onions and the leftover asparagus, some mushrooms, and there were some walnuts in the toaster oven that I had forgotten to add to the fuyu salad the other day. Grated a big pile of Parmesan cheese and smashed about three garlic cloves. I scrambled some eggs and set them aside. Sauteed the veggies in a generous lump of butter and olive oil, tossed a quick salad, drained the noodles, and stirred in the veggies, the scrambled eggs and most of the cheese. Voila! There is John with CHAMPAGNE left from the Bra-Dazzler auction! Such a deal. He thought the YoYo Ma Appasionato was too downbeat, so we moved to some tangos, and had a lovely late supper. A little prosciutto would have been nice in the pasta, but what are you going to do. It was good as is, anyway none left.

Friday, November 2, 2007

this just in from France

Yay champagne!

Nov. 1

Dinner yesterday started out a little anxiety fraught on my part, probably partly working too long, and then trying to deal with the airline snafu from last year, and misplacing the all-important file with all the notes about it.

John had taken some halibut, which some good friends had given us when they visited last summer, out of the freezer and he'd breaded it in crumbs and fried it, served just with fresh lemon, some mashed delicata squash seasoned liberally with butter, and a Mizuna tossed salad. Of course the apples and kiwi. Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Music rambled from this to that and ended up with us shopping for the Blasters on iTunes. Go figure.

We will note also that the correspondent from University of San Francisco has apparently taken to heart the good training at table he received from his family and has eaten his way completely through his meal plan 6 weeks early and required an infusion of cash. He tells me the upper classmen had told him that no one ever uses up their meal plan, not to worry, but there it is. A big ZIP-O on the account. So he has done what all resourceful college kids do, gotten a job with a caterer. Food will be served.

Tonight is First Friday and the first of our "Rent Parties" that the arts council is having in order to pay the rent and for the repairs on the boiler, which went out again yesterday. John has a wine tasting, the auction of the Bra-Dazzler entries to benefit Cancer Connection. The Nicholas F champagne brassiers give me an idea for next year....Anyway, no dinner for us tonight!

This really has nothing to do with food.

Seeing as yesterday was all saints day, which meant no one has to go to school or work, Kaden asked if anyone would like to go to Disneyland Paris. WOULD ANYONE LIKE TO GO TO DISNEYLAND?! Hell yes I would like to go to Disneyland! So off Kaden and I went on the RER to Disneyland (which is pronounced Diiiiisnaylaaaaaaand here). I hate to admit it, but when we saw the sign that said "SORTIE Parc Disneyland" we both squealed in a very immature fashion. The entrance is in this big building that reminded me very much of the Hotel del Coronado. After buying out tickets, we found ourselves in Main Street USA and more squealing happened. It was fabulous. Little victorian buildings everywhere, lots of people, cinderella's castle, lots of crap to buy, it was great. So we headed off to Frontier Land to go to the Phantom Manion becuase Kaden loves old houses. It was fun because it was all decked out for halloween, which isn't really a big deal here, I don't know why, because you get the next day off, so why not party? The mansion was fun, it looked like an old new england home, so that was fun. Then we went to ADVENTURE land and went to Davy Jone's locker and did the pirate thing. The line for Pirates of the Carribbean was excruciating and a fat french woman told her children that I was one of those people who didn't respect lines and then she hit Kaden in the stomach. I guess the up side is that I UNDERSTOOD what she was saying about me. (!) Pirates was definitely worth the wait, but then we were hungry so we went to get something to eat. I had what was probably the worst pastrami sandwhich ever, but I will note that the pizza was in the form of a micky mouse head. cute cute. Then we were off to Dumbo the Flying Elephant! The line for this one moved rather quickly, but there were a lot of parents who kept hitting Kaden with their children. Odd. But the ride was fun and I was surprised at how high you could make dumbo fly. There was a lot of happy shrieking on my part. Then we went to Snow White, which was kind of lame. Then, just to please my father, we headed off to IT'S A SMALL WORLD. And I now understand why my uncle was ready to maim me after making him ride it with me when I was 7 for three days straight. Sorry. By then it was really dark out, but I wanted to prove to myself that I was a big girl, so we went off to Thunder Mountain. It was definitely worth the 50 minute wait. It was so much fun, though I have to admit that I held on to Kaden's arm and smashed my face into her shoulder for most of it. But it was still fun. We decided that we are definitely much tougher than we thought and maybe we could handle some of the rides at Park Asterix, which is where we want to go next. On the ride back I was looking through my pictures and Kaden said "we haven't even gotten back to Paris and you're already looking through your pictures nostalgically! Disney does this! I don't know how!" and it was true! I don't know why I had such a fun time, I spent hours standing in line being hit by small children, but I had a fantastic time! Yay for disney. The best part is, we're going to see if Smith will reimburse us for some of the ticket price because it was a "cultural experience" because it was in french...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Quickie, anyone?

Title is from an early GWB joke, still believable.

Dinner tonight is a quiche, or as someone who shall remain nameless (JD) described them, "...whatever is in the refrigerator or vegetable bin is fair game." So tonight, beef/chanterelle/parmesan quiche. The beef is from the pot roast from last night. I was so taken with the descriptions of the DeC's pot roast, I had to make one myself. Not having the patience to actually roast one, I used the pressure cooker. So an hour later, meat is fork tender. Put the potato, onions, garlic cloves, and parsnip in the juice, five minutes later pull them out, and make gravy out of the pan juices. All done while the roast sits quietly for about 15 minutes. Perfect.
A Hogue Lemberger in the pot, drunk while cooking, and violah...dinner last night and tonight.

Starting another thread, who is your favorite author. You know the one I mean, the one who puts a meal on the table in their fiction and you have to put the book down and go cruise the shelves and refrigerator. Best foodie FICTION writer. Me, I hold out for Mayle. I have learned not to read his books on an empty stomach.

Here is a good example

of fine jackolantern carving!

This just in from Thad and Lynn.
I bet they got lots of trick or treaters.
I kind of like the evil twin one, and the jolly guy has a certain chuckly charm too.


OK, so we didn't have a jack-o-lantern, and now we have a bag and a half of candy at our house. (Martha: Leftovers for dinner....shall we?) The street was crawling with adults in SUVs and kids running wildly from door to door shrieking

(Snarky Editorial comment: Most in no costume, a few in something they bought at the store, what is up with that, ok I understand parents being too frantic to get a costume together for the kids, but gee whiz, in MY + paper grocery bag + crayons and glue = Halloween costume.)

but only three groups came to our door, and the last group was teen boys (OK, they were at least artfully made up and costumed) who yanked the screen door handle off, so with that, I turned out the lights and went up to read. I guess, without the time honored beacon, even though all the outdoor lights and the living room lights were on, kids felt it was not likely to be worth the effort to come up our drive way.

John made a delicious Shepherd's Pie, with left over pot roast and pork roast, (We are still hoping DeeDee will weigh in with her recipe.) a tossed green salad and fresh delicious apples & kiwis. We finished the Falesco and started on a Lindeman's Bin 50 Shiraz. Il Giardino Brandenburg Concertos on the stereo.

Whatever it was, I slept like a lamb for the first time in ages.