Saturday, December 5, 2009

9 servings of fruits and vegetables PER DAY

Saw in the NY Times that we are all supposed to get nine servings of fruits and veggies per day.
Holy cats. (neither vegetable nor fruit) That's a lot. So I reviewed that situation.
1) Maybe some fruit at breakfast on the granola. Can we count the OJ?
2) Perhaps a lettuce leaf on the sandwich at lunch, maybe a tomato. Does that count?
3) Vegetable, salad, fruit at dinner. Hmm. Counting this way, we are at five. We need new math!
Further investigation reveals "they" mean 4 1/2 cups of veggies and fruits. OK. Now we are talking.
So for dinner:
One baked red potato, (lots of butter - dairy doesn't count) with sauteed mushrooms, garlic, and green onions, steamed broccoli, with some sauteed bacon bits, top it all with melted cheese, followed by a salad of red romaine, aruglua, avocado, tomato dressed with red wine vinegar, olive oil and a bit of basil, and then some grapes and 1/2 fresh apple. Can I count the wine? (CMS White by Hedges)
And Henry Mancini's Christmas album playing. Schmaltz, but the kind that is healthy in small doses.
I think we've hit the target. Now for a Hydrox cookie.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

John gets lamb

We celebrated our 28th anniversary on Saturday with Thad & Lynn, Ren & James. Consensus was, among those consulted, that roast chicken should be the basis of the menu.

Now, we had planned to have lamb racks for dinner a couple of weekends ago, and when John opened the packages as he prepared to put them on the grill, they were totally spoiled, stinky and awful (unusual for meat from Costco). So he has been in a lamb withdrawal mode for a bit, and we do usually celebrate our anniversary with lamb chops, it just seems so fitting some how. But the guest list inclined to roast chicken.

So we had roast chicken and dang good it was too, with a wild rice pilaf, breaded sauteed zucchini coins, carrots rapé, tossed green salad with homemade croutons, and a pear crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert. The wines were excellent - Scharffenberger sparkling to start, La Posta Malbec all dark and cherry-ful, Chasing Venus voluptuous sauvignon blanc, and A to Z Sauvignon Blanc crisp and full, and the evening was swell over all.

But John still held a yearning for lamb, and mentioned lamb several times to many of us in a way that made clear that he wanted lamb.

So, as an anniversary gift, I got him a nice little boneless leg of lamb for him to cook for dinner Sunday - which he did perfectly with mushroom sauce and the left over wild rice, even better today, some steamed broccoli, a tossed green salad, and a very nice Alexander Valley red.

I think he is happy now.

Tea. I love Mariage Freres

Also on the "must do" list: Have tea at Mariage Freres, just around the corner from Le Loir -
I had an Assam, and John had something completely different than he expected. It is a little overwhelming to be presented with essentially a Sears and Roebuck catalog for tea - floral and green. We split a chocolate mousse and fresh raspberry tart. Oh my.

Dinner for tourists

We spent a bunch of time later in the afternoon in Paris trying to figure out where to eat.
Notes in the side of the Paris maps from last time indicated "Les Deux Magots" in the area we happened to be, so we went there.
So cute! The waiter was so wonderful! Elfin, amused, attentive, perfectly attired in long apron etc.
John had lamb, I had a warm mushroom salad that was divine, and a Beaujolais Brouilly that was splendid.

Subsequently, Ren informed us that the place is only for tourists these days....

So good!

Right away to the Doormouse in the Teapot

Arrived in Paris about 8 pm, and managed to find our hotel, in spite of having to clamber over the turnstile in the subway late in the evening. We were right next to the Tour Eiffel, beautiful in the light at night.

The next day we meandered our way toward the Marais so that lunch could be at the Le Loir dans la Theiere, our fave from the last time we were here. It was crowded as usual, and we shared a table with a lady from Poland and her daughter-in-law, who also seemed to know of the place from previous visits.

John had beef and pomme frites with Bearnaise, amazingly good, and I had an exquisite tart with epinards and a goat cheese on top. Luckily they were out of the tarte limon. The Polish ladies had a Baba instead, which was substantial. We told them not to be disappointed, the tart limon was overwhelming too.


The last morning of our cruise, following the wonderfully deep sleep engendered by the hurricare conditions overnight in the Mediterranean between Nice and Barcelona, we went for breakfast in the Grand Pacific (?) dining room. I had a very nice traditional eggs etc breakfast, but John thought he'd go for something light and just have a side of bacon. This is a man who likes his bacon with his vitamin D on a regular basis.

The side of bacon actually was a SIDECAR of bacon. John had met his match, and is still recovering.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick, Quick, Slow, dinner in the time it takes to cook noodles

Here's what you need:
Have in the frig some green salad all washed with carrots, sprouts, roasted red peppers, Greek olives all made by Abby's Kitchen for the backstage refreshments for the concert on Tuesday.
Also have some delectable, freshly smoked, wonderful king salmon made by Pete, and brought by his wife on Sunday and if she thought we were sharing it at dinner, just forget that.
Some organic heavy cream because the bad things hide in the fat so always buy organic butter and cream.
A bunch of green onions.
1/2 of an acorn squash roasted last night with a bit of butter.
A perfect pear.
Fettucine noodles.
A nice bottle of wine, in this case, Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2008 Mendoza, Argentina.

1) Race out to walk the dog in the howling wind and rain, gosh isn't this weather swell. Accuweather says the temperature is 35° F but feels like 11°F. Remind me why we live here.
2) Dash in and clean the kitchen from last night when you were too tired to do so.
3) Run upstairs and clean the bathroom, which you haven't been able to get to in days.
4) Build a fire, because you know that the 60 mph winds with sleet are going to take out some power pole somewhere.
5) Put the water on to boil for the noodles. Note that the box says a serving size of fettucine is 2 ounces, but discard that information as probably wrong. It's coming on winter, we need to bulk up. Once the water boils put the noodles in to cook. While that is going on:
6) Wash and slice up the green onions.
7) Pull the acorn squash out of its shell and cut into largish chunks.
8) Unwrap the fish and try not to eat the entire piece this minute.
9) Put a pot on medium heat with a lump of butter, when melted and bubbly, add the green onions, stir around, and add the squash chunks. Add what's left of the salmon. Stir around gently.
10) Add a goodly dollop of heavy cream and begin to reduce it.
11) About this time the noodles will be done, so strain them, reserving a little bit of the pasta water, and add to the salmon and squash mix. It might need more cream. A shaving of Parmesan cheese is nice, and if the waiter comes by to ask if you need freshly ground pepper, say yes.
Toss gently to mix and put on the plate that already somewhere back there has the salad, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar added to it.
Pour a nice glass of the wine, sit down, and relax. The weather outside is frightful, but we've got no place to go, so let it snow....or sleet, or downpour....

It's OK to read at the table when there is no one else there, so Travis McGee joined me. Haven't seen him in a while, so good to get reacquainted.

ps The box was right, a serving size is 2 ounces. Lunch tomorrow....

Thursday, October 29, 2009


What's not to like?

Pisa, a cautionary tale

The second part of our stop was a visit to Pisa.

On the way, the guide cautioned us repeatedly about not purchasing things from the "Illegals" saying that police will fine you for doing so.

Oh my. All that she had warned us about did not prepare me for the onslaught of vendors and beggars. The Tower area itself was an infestation of souvenir booths and vendors and people and madness. South Franklin take heed!

We got the heck out of that area as fast as we could, and wandered into the town proper, much better.

Along the way, hot and tired, we found a lovely pastry shop, and decided to just sit down and have a little afternoon refreshment. I've been on the lookout for cannoli as good as those at Cafe Aurora in Poughkeepsie, and this little two-bite size version was perfect. With a glass of Prosecco....a lovely afternoon, away from the maddening crowd.

PS note the little Halloween treats in the window. Italy seems to celebrate Halloween too!

Not lost in Lucca

Our good friend Susan lived for a bit of time in Lucca, which was one of the options for our stop in "Florence", which is actually a stop in the port of Livorno with shore excursion options to Florence, Pisa, and Lucca. Susan suggested skipping Lucca in favor of Florence or Pisa, but looking at the time spent on buses vs the time wandering in the sunshine, we chose a Lucca/Pisa excursion.

Lucca is wonderful! What was she thinking? a graceful, quiet, old walled community, with very distinctive architecture (the guide was fond of pointing out that the towers in Lucca did not tilt....) and a very pleasant wide park atop the walls, a lovely stroll/running/dog walking place for the whole town. We had a bit of time on our own for lunch, and stopped at a little sidewalk cafe for pizza. Our guide advised us that the fresh mushrooms were in season, so I ordered my pizza with funghi, and John got his with eggplant. A different sort of pizza from the Neopolitan Margherita, but still, light, crisp, and yes I easily ate the whole thing....

Dining on Board

Visiting Rome, we spent time walking through the city with an old friend (a fellow Servas member who had visited us back in 1994 or some long ago time like that). It was very pleasant to visit the spots that he particularly liked, and he left us off at a place that specialized in salads for lunch. I had a really wonderful mixture of potatoes, green beans, capers, spinach, and a light dressing.

We had early on on the cruise determined that eating in the cafeteria "freestyle cruising" on the boat was just not our style, and pretty much stuck to the white linen, wonderful waiters, Grand Pacific dining room. That night we decided to try the smaller slightly more contemporary in decor Magenta dining room, and ended up being seated with a delightful family from Grenada. John and I had the roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.

What I enjoyed about the cruiseship food, aside from having very capable and gracious wait staff bring me stuff, was that the portions were small enough to be satisfying without leaving you feeling overstuffed. That plus the miles of walking every day, lost, from one city to the next. The food was all well prepared, and fresh. Quite good, really.

Lost in Naples

Before we left, John asked one of his Italian wine people from Naples what to do there. The gentleman was not too encouraging, but did suggest that the original pizza place was just off the wharf and we could go there, being careful of pick pockets, and get real true pizza. Somehow lost the directions, but how hard could it be?

We did sign up for a shore excursion to visit the Herculaneum in the afternoon, and thought we'd toddle over to the Museum of Anthropology, purported also just 15 minutes from the dock (probably the same 15 minutes that the pizza is) in the morning.

An hour later, still walking, we finally asked someone, and discovered that we had far overshot a critical corner...we did find the Museum, with barely 30 minutes in which to absorb all we could, so we stuck to the Pompeii and Herculaneum stuff, simply amazing. Next time, spend more time there.

Asked the guard on the way out for the shortest way back to the boat, and indeed, it was just straight down the hill with a right hand turn at the waterfront.....on the way down, we looked up a little alley and espied two competing pizza places, both looked and smelled great. We popped in and ordered up one each (they're about 6 inches in diameter) @ 1€. So good! Instant and fast. Directly out of the big oven, the crust a combination of crispy and chewy, just plain tomato sauce, a slice of mozzarella in the center, and a bit of basil leaf on top of that - the traditional Pizza Margherita, named for the Queen.

John went back for a second one.

The visit to the Herculaneum was fascinating and amazing. And our guide shared a recipe for zucchini - add a bit of mint to zucchini sauteed in a little olive oil with red pepper and salt.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stinky Cheese Man

We managed to get to the Norwegian Gem by mid afternoon on Oct 9, and checked into our stateroom to find a platter of chocolate dipped strawberries on the bed, and shortly the room steward came by with a beautiful platter of cheeses, crackers, and bread, sent by our excellent travel agent (and sister) I confess that we did not eat the extremely brown and smelly round lump of cheese, but the rest was perfect.

4 Gats

Immediately around the corner from our Pension, in fact almost right under our window, is El 4Gats, opened in 1897 and famous because people like Picasso used to hang out there. It is sufficiently touristy now, but still quite charming.
When we arrived, our hostess had told us there was a good cheap breakfast place right around the corner that she recommended (which we did not find until searching for an ATM machine just before leaving and in fact it is just across the street and around the corner. Boy did we find a lot of things by being lost.) but we couldn't find it, and decided, touristy or not, we'd eat in the 4 Gats.
Elegant maitre d nicely dressed in a suit seated us, flicked his beautiful white cuffs, and whisked off to get tea and croissants, coffee for us, and indeed, the morning started beautifully. Tea in nice teapot, the china all imprinted with 4 Gats logo, hotel silver forks and knives, lovely. On the table a little advertisement for hot chocolate. We were invaded by a pod of German tourists but never mind, we are finished....
The second morning, rather than search fruitlessly for the recommended place, we decided to just go back to this place. This morning, Sunday, it was more casual, not the same maitre d, no teapots. John decided to go for the hot chocolate, which turned out to be a mug full of something similar to dark Hershey's syrup. John did his best before surrendering and requesting some steamed milk. (Same thing happened to the couple at the table in the corner.) And there were lots of children coming in. They have Sunday morning puppet shows for the kids! Delightful.

Dancing in the Dark

While wandering around in the Barrio Gotico looking for a restaurant listed in our old Lonely Planet, we came upon a large square in front of an old Baroque cathedral filled with people dancing traditional Catalunyan dances to music played by a small symphony. It was quite delightful, and the very nice symphony volunteers came around collecting money to support the symphony. We got little "symphony supporter" stickers so that volunteers didn't ask again (maybe that would be a nice plan for Concerts in the Park?)(Relatively funny story about how we found the dancing again the next morning after a visit to the Picasso Museum and gave them our next last Euro, not realizing that we needed 2 € each to take the bus along the waterfront to the ship and had to buy Euros from some passers by...). When it was over, we continued our zig zagging through the neighborhood, and finally came to the conclusion that the Talia Tapas, recommended by DJ as being the best choice, had replaced the place recommended by the Lonely Planet. Tired from about 9 hours of walking, we decided to eat there. Well, it was OK, but not worth a photo. DJ is right, it was hard to find good places to eat in Barcelona, without walking for miles.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lost & Found in Barcelona

OK so this is where not reading and not paying attention really pay off.

We rose up after the 11 hour beauty sleep with a plan of spending the day seeing various Gaudi buildings and Park Guell. Wandered up Las Ramblas finding office buildings and what not, over to the cathedral, and then took the subway in the general direction, we thought, of Park Guell. We missed by miles. Took the wrong train (yes our hostess had written all the instructions on the map she gave us....) and ended up somewhere in the French Alps I think. We would point to the map and say "Park Guell" and the people would shake their heads and look puzzled.

Barcelona is not a flat city, and it was quite hot and sunny that day. We walked the better part of 4 hours, seeing interesting parts of where ever we were, but not the park. Finally, hot, thirsty, footsore (oops I forgot to mention that last night, as we were out looking for dinner restaurant, we thought we'd pause for a little light libation and some tapas. I thought John had the cash with him, he thought I had the cash with me....I had to run back through the streets to our pension to get cash, leaving John at the bar....and got blistered feet in the process. The bar owner was quite gracious about the whole thing.) and bordering on peeved, we spotted a local pub doing a good business, with outdoor tables. A beer! Wine! We took a table, ordered the beer and wine, and then noticed that the table next to us had some gosh darn good looking plates of stuff that smelled delicious. We ordered the little fried squid - chopitos......wonderful.

And then the waiter figured out where we were on the map, and set us off in the right direction. Park Guell is magnificent (we got lost getting OUT of the Park too....) and the trek to find the little squid worth every mile.

Barcelona Afternoon

Our hostess told us there is a wonderful food market just off Las Ramblas, just around the corner from the pension. We got there just before it closed, too late for tapas but still time for the wonderfully refreshing fruit drink/frappe for 1 €. Perfect.

We spent the rest of the afternoon rambling in and around Las Ramblas, through the Barrio Gotico, looking, smelling, and planning dinner. The hostess recommended avoiding dining on Las Ramblas as the prices would be higher than other places.

We found a popular, fairly touristy but nice place, La Fonda. We fell for the tourist menu (gazpacho - a creamy version garnished with hardboiled egg, and paella - way too much, and not as tasty as we hoped) but the people at the table next to us had wonderful fish and other things. We got to talking with them, ended up sharing another bottle of wine with them over dessert (or was that dessert) before toddling home to sleep for 11 hours.


American Airlines vs Easy Jet:
American Airlines was tight even for me at 5 ft 3. John was miserable. The steward hated us. Let's try to avoid that flight ever again.

Easy Jet is spacious, friendly and casually fun, although with odd ideas about efficient check-in procedures. We did not check any bags on AA, but Easy Jet Charles DeGaulle felt that we should so here's the deal: You check in and the check-in person gives you a slip of paper saying how much you owe for the luggage so you leave her podium and go to another wing of the airport to pay the fee, and then come back, butting into the line to hand her the slip of paper and get your bag tagged and checked in. Then you go to the boarding area and wait, boarding by group.

Oddly, in Spain, Easy Jet does it differently, and took a different view of the luggage situation - we did not have to check the bag.

32 Hours later, we landed in Barcelona, sunny, gorgeous, warm. Found the bus to Plaça de Catalunya, managed to locate Pension Nevada on Portal del Angel, and I managed to stay awake while the very gracious and lovely hostess welcomed us and marked all the important spots, with bus and train connection numbers, on the Barcelona map. M.P. dozed off during this conversation, with dire consequences later.

Les Vacances de Monsieur Paree

John and I, aided and abetted by my sister Randa at the Travel Connection (, booked a Mediterranean cruise and got out of town on Oct. 7. Somehow, we did not make the Air France flight direct from Seattle to Paris and instead ended up taking an American Airlines flight Seattle to Dallas and on to Paris, with connections on Easy Jet to Barcelona, a 32 hour expedition.
On the upside, Dallas is a nice enough airport to spend 6 hours in, they have very friendly and helpful visitor information folks all around, there is nice artwork, I had time to get my toenails painted (at 1/3 the cost it would have been on the ship) and we got to have some pretty decent pre-airplane food in a Tex-Mex restaurant. John went for the fajitas with iced tea.
There was a pretty good bookstore there, luckily, since I had not had time to get a bunch of trashy novels at Friends of the Library before leaving.
Picked up Maytrees by Annie Dillard, the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Dust by Martha Grimes, Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blueberries, Ginger, and Lemon

Our friend Sue reported that she had made the blueberry pie recipe from the Fiddlehead Cookbook and really liked it, so another day just cooked up the blueberries according to the recipe. She had noted that there was a suggestion in the sidebar to add a bit of candied ginger to the whipping cream on top of the pie, so, because it was her daughter's birthday and ginger is her favorite flavor, topped ginger ice cream with the blueberry sauce. Apparently it was incredibly delicious. (Wild blueberries make all the difference. Domestic blueberries just don't have the same "flavor profile" as John would say. Get free range blueberries for this.) Sue actually went up to Eaglecrest and picked a little pot full and gave them to me!

So, I had one of Mrs. Rizzo's Almond Cakes (Let me know if you need the recipe for this), all ground almonds, lemon, eggs and sugar, in the freezer. We had the family over for Sunday Dinner (now that Ren has moved out, we decided to try to have a regular family night dinner just like the good old days). I cooked up the blueberries, and we poured them over the cake, topped with vanilla ice cream, shaved a bit of candied ginger on top, and served. Pretty dang good. If I do say so myself.

Go now. I think there are still blueberries out there. Let me know, I'll email the cake recipe.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Remembering Brown Rice Salad

John has this dish he calls "Open Frig, Cover with Cheese, Bake" which is a tasty way to use up leftovers.

The other day, I got home first, so dinner was my task. In the frig: yesterday's Dominican Republic Chicken (an old TimeLife Cookbook recipe that involves rum and is pretty tasty), some rice, some tomatilla sauce (goes well with the DR Chicken), lettuce, and some patty pan squash.

Scott Miller developed this wonderful Brown Rice Salad at the Fiddlehead, and the recipe is in the cookbook. (favorite memory of this is some coworkers at UAS ordering one to go, opening it up and enjoying the better portion of it before realizing they'd forgotten to put in the rice). For some reason, a Brown Rice Salad seemed like the way to go.

In place of the green peppers: Squash.
In place of the tofu: slices of chicken.
Added to the vinaigrette: Tomatillo sauce.

So. Sprinkle the lettuce with a bit of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Sauté the squash and some diced onion untill wilted. Stir in the chicken slices, add the tomatillo sauce, and some salt and pepper. Stir in the rice, and cook until heated through. When John walked in, put the rice and chicken mix on top of the lettuce, top with grated cheddar, and eat.

Fruit salad, and wine.

We hadn't had Brown Rice Salad in a while, and John requested it again on Saturday, using the leftover bottom round. It is a tasty and flexible way to use leftovers.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

International Bacon Day

In honor of International Bacon Day, we had Spaghetti Alburezzia tonight. Pretty darn simple:

3 Tblsp olive oil
1/2 cup fatty bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2/3 cup chicken stock
1 Tblsp parsley, chopped
4 leaves Basil, chopped
S & P to taste
2/3 cup Pecorino cheese, grated
fettucini pasta

Heat oil; Add bacon and onion, Fry gently, five minutes; Add stock, parsley, basil, S&P; Cook gentle simmer until slightly reduced.
Cook fettucini in boiling salted water until al dente; Drain well, place in warmed serving bowl. Add sauce and cheese.

Started with homemade avocado/lime juice/garlic/salt/salsa dip on Kavli (ultrathin crispbread). Manhattans.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Precious Ravioli

Henry invariably orders ravioli when it is available on the menu, and invariably is disappointed. Yes they are exquisitely delicious, delicately formed, artisanally wonderful, but there are three, count them three raviolis on the the plate.

Yesterday, Ren cooked - raviolis, she announced, in a tomato sauce with garlic and basil. There will be a tossed salad, and sauteed pattypan squash. She called us to the table, and presented us with our dinner.

It was delicious.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Salmon Quiche

It's a variation on John's "Open frig, put in casserole, cover with cheese, bake" dish, and one that for some reason it seems I haven't made since 1983.
We've had company lately, been grilling fresh salmon and halibut and the frig was full of really good leftovers, but for some reason leftover salmon is not my favorite. And for some reason, I was hungry for butter. We had lots of eggs and heavy cream: Quiche.

Buzzed up a nice buttery pie crust in the Cuisinart, rolled it out (enough for a spare crust to freeze for later, hooray!) and lined pan.

Flaked the salmon and halibut, and put it in the pie shell. Topped it with lightly sauteed thinly sliced zucchini.
added a little chopped chives. Topped with grated cheddar cheese (not enough according to Ren). Poured in the eggs and cream, and baked. Put together a tossed salad with pretty purple carrots and celery. Made a strawberry cherry blueberry fruit salad.

It was a big, 10 inch pie, that would have, back in 1983, fed at least 8. The three of us (John's away) must have been hungry.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bye Bye Bubbles

For a while there, we used to invite folks over once a month on a Sunday for Champagne and cookies, and then we'd all make a contribution to a local non-profit organization - an opportunity to learn about the good things going on in town, enjoy each other's company, and have a lovely Sunday afternoon. We called this Bubbles for Bucks.

Haven't been able to do that of late, unfortunately. And worse news, we discovered that one of the couples who regularly participated is moving, after 31 years in Alaska, to Seattle to be around grandchildren, on Tuesday. We thought this called for one last bottle, essential for every major life change.

We invited other Bubblers, just back from Greece and England.

John grilled flank steak marinated in Trader Joe aioli, red wine, scape pesto (our new favorite condiment) and some other stuff. He whipped up a big bowl of buttery mashed potatoes, went whole hog and made both green beans with walnuts, dried tomatoes, and shallots, and steamed asparagus. There was a big tossed green salad with the garlic olive oil and fig vinegar, and homemade applesauce. Ren baked Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. There was J Champagne, a wonderful Ridge, and Zenato Valpolicello. There were dog farts. There was more wine in there someplace. There were stories and laughter about mishaps and trips, iPhone applications, bears, college, streaking and being on the Johnny Carson Show back in the day, dog farts, and we mostly kept the conversation above ground, at least mostly. The dog did fart a lot, and was, as you see, inconveniently located right within sniffing distance under the table.

Well, who doesn't enjoy a good fart joke? And a foot warmer under the table?

All good memories, and all good fun, nice to be able to send off our friends, even though it is just, as they say, to a suburb of Juneau, Seattle, well fed with wine, food, fun and laughter.
Happy trails. Until we meet again.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Too Much Crab? Iron Chef....Crab Cakes!!

Before we went on our current crabbing craze, we had to empty out the freezer of the last few vacuum packs of Dungies. Greg and I wanted to make crab cakes, and we have pretty strong opinions on cooking, so we decided to duke it out, and make competing recipes the same night, ala 'Iron Chef.' I used the New Alaska Cookbook recipe as a guide, and made a roasted red pepper sauce, and served mine over a bed of baby spinach, drizzling the sauce on top with my secret weapon squirty bottle, very fancy! Greg enlisted our 11-year-old, who googled up a great aioli recipe, supplemented by roasted jalapenos, and also put roasted corn in his crab cake recipe.

We invited the next door neighbors to judge, plus, they had fresh caught king salmon as a backup. They did the kitchen stadium countdown and commentary...fueled by our current favorite Oregon Pinot Noir - Benton Lane - and the winner was...everyone!
While my crabcakes looked prettier and were perfectly cooked, they were a bit bland. Greg and Duncan grilled asparagus spears tossed with olive oil and balsamic, and Duncan artfully plated crossed spears, topped by a crabcake, drizzled with the jalapeno aioli to look like a pirate skull and cross bones. They were fiery, but arrrgh, good!
The king was simply grilled, sigh, what more could you ask for from the Gastineau Grocery?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We've got crab legs....

So I'm sitting in my office yesterday struggling with a NEA grant due today, and some sort of fairy person with a garbage bag full of Dungeness crab flitted in and said, "Here, we're crabbed out" and left me holding the bag.


We had already plans for the Symphony conductor and wife and child to come to dinner, as well as my cousin the AK Airlines pilot who happened to be in town overnight, and John was planning to grill some chickens using something we call the Dominican Republic marinade with a lot of rum and lime juice involved, topped with tomatillo sauce.

Sounds like crab cocktails to me.

The initial plan was for me to come home midafternoon, do a much needed housecleaning, make a rhubarb pie and launch the grant.

The reality was that at about 5 pm, completely glazed ("Are you OK? You look terrible.") I ran home in time to make a rhubarb crisp and start picking crab. Luckily James was also there pitched right in. We picked until dinner time, made some garlic butter, and sat down to a table filled with family, friends, chicken, snap peas, crimini mushrooms, rice, tossed salad, watermelon, beer, wine, water, and more. I think there was a Rosemary Wells book involved, and there was a point where the dog wouldn't sit down and be quiet. Finished with rhubarb crisp and vanilla ice cream. It was a swell evening.

And there was crab left!
A little bag of pick-it-yourself to James this morning, and then this evening:

Romaine Salad with the garlic lemon dressing from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, with add-ons on the side: sliced Dominican Republic chicken breast for Ren the Anti-Crab, a pile of crab for the rest of us, blanched snap peas, fresh carrots, tomatoes, the never-ending plate of watermelon, and a vat of Dry Creek Fume.

Can you believe I had to tell John to try and look happy?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Perfect Day

One of the rare gem-like days in Juneau - clear, sunny, and a day off.

We have Servas guests from the DC area so a drive to the Mendenhall Glacier, or what is left of it, and a walk out to the waterfall, followed by lunch at Eagle Beach. Then a stroll around the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, and then the Shrine of St. Therese.

Back home to bake the first rhubarb pie of the season. A short session of deck sitting, and then John grilled some flank steak, roasted some potatoes, steamed asparagus, and our good friends Mary Claire, sans Pete, and Dick and Candy in the little red surrey with the top down, arrived (thank you Mary Claire for the wonderful guacamole and chips!). The conversation got a little raucous, enough for John to forget the salad and the fruit, although reminded....

There was wine involved: Zenato Valpolicello, Salice Salentino, Kris, Los Cardos Malbec.....

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Secret Pleasure

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce. All alone for dinner - need something fast. Freshly steamed asparagus dressed in silky smooth buttery rich lemony Hollandaise. Oo la la.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Mother's Day, It's my birthday, It's a SUNNY Day!

Every so often my birthday coincides with Mother's Day, something I am sorry about, Mom.
This Mother's Day, it was a gorgeous sunny day, the first day all the snow melted from the front lawn and the street side of the drive, and a day off! Got up early, and got a bunch of stuff done that has been snarling in the corners like cleaning up the kids' rooms in anticipation of their return, repotting root-bound plants. Cleaned the deck of the two rotted planters. Refilled the hummingbird feeders. Put the lawn furniture out. Weeded the strawberry bed. Uncovered and weeded the roses & perennial bedss. Cleaned the bulb beds. Potted up the geraniums, petunias, herbs, and other annuals and arranged them decoratively on the deck. Put out the summer flag. Rested on my laurels and read (Assassination Vacations by Sarah Vowel, quite funny in a macabre way, loaned by Jeanine). Walked the dog. Came home to a big bouquet of Asiatic and Calla Lilies, a chilled bottle of Nicholas Feuillatte champagne, and John bustling about making an incredible meal:
Charlene's Salad (see the Fiddlehead Cookbook, bacon fried in olive oil with garlic, walnuts and chevre over Romaine and lemon juice)
Lamb Roast with Mustard glaze, served with a fabulous dark and intense Merlot
Homemade Parsley pesto pasta
Shitake and Snowpeas
and a dessert of homemade mango sorbet, dark chocolate, and vanilla ice cream topped with macerated strawberries.
And he did the dishes.
I slept well.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Homemade Pizza

Threw caution to the winds and made pizza tonight. Fresh dough, sauce, toppings.
Used a recipe that made it pretty easy. I've stayed away from doing any kind of baking for the last several months. Don't know why, just have not felt the need for working dough. This crust was easy to assemble. My year old yeast still foamed up, so I really had no more excuse not to make the pie.
For the sauce, I used an 8-oz can of tomato sauce, added 1.5 tablespoons of grated Parmesan, and a variety of spices, red pepper flakes, and two pressed garlic cloves. Spread that over the dough, covered it with prosciutto, onion, and chopped tomato, mounded with mozzarella.
425 oven for about 14 minutes.
Yowzah, that's some good eats.
And a nice Alexander Valley cabernet.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shrimp Fried Rice

Fast and delicious - We used to make fired rice frequently when the kids were little and we needed food in a hurry. Open frig, chop up what you find, and sauté it up and dump in cooked rice.
Last night the frig had cooked rice, the rest of the cocktail shrimp, some pea pods, celery, carrots, 1/2 an onion, green onions, zucchini, baby bok choy. Ginger root.
First to the fruit salad: mango, kiwi, blood orange.
Then, slice up all the veggies.
Rinse the shrimp adding a bit of soy sauce, just to cut the fishy taste a bit. Drain them.
In a sauté pan (could use a wok...but, for just one person?) in a bit of peanut oil, over medium high heat, saute the onions, carrots, and celery, just until they begin to "sweat". Finely grate a bit of ginger root over, add some smashed garlic, and the rest of the veggies. Toss to coat with oil. Add the rice, a dollop of Chinese wine or sherry (or both! tra la la!) (Open the Oxford Landing GSM!), a splash (but not more) of light soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, and toss until mostly heated through. Add the shrimp, toss until heated, but just, and sit down to eat. With restraint, there is enough for lunch.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chicken and Gorgonzola salad

The JACC's been bustling since about 7 am with Folk Festival events, people polka dancing at 9 am, a comfortable hubbub of music and friendly folks (let's have them over again, they left the kitchen immaculate!) throughout the day. All nice people, good friends, and nice to see everyone but somehow I missed the folk music gene. So Coco and I holed up in the office to write grants, due this afternoon.
After a day like that....go right for the rest of the Villa Maria Unoaked Chardonnay. Yup, it's cleared off and is a lovely evening.
Fruit salad, still excellent from last night.
Butter lettuce dressed with a bit of heavy cream, salt and pepper, and fresh lemon ( a bit of zest too) and some Gorgonzola cheese. On a plate. With some carrot slices and avocado.
Bone a chicken breast and save the bones for stock. Put the meat between plastic and pound out until about 1/4" thick. Dredge in a beaten egg and bread crumbs and sauté on both sides over medium heat in butter and peanut oil, not too much.
Remove from the pan, add a dollop of butter and of lemon juice, and swizzle around to make a nice sauce. I love this sauce - so easy and so refreshing. Drizzle over the chicken.
Slice and fan out over the lettuce.
Enjoy the peace and quiet.

Fettucini with winter king, cocktail shrimp, mushrooms, and spring vegetables

The title says it all.
John's still away, there is the bit of left over winter king salmon.
Arrange the spring flowers. I think it is time to get the hummingbird feeders out. Poor little buggers are going to be cold, tired, and hungry.

Toss a butter lettuce salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar, add some slivers of carrots and a fan of avocado. Make a nice fruit salad with a mango that looks like someone took a machete to lingering in the frig, some kiwi, an orange, and a banana.

Pour some Villa Maria Unoaked Chardonnay.
Put the fettucini on.
Slice some crimini mushrooms, what turned out to be baby leeks, garlic, and sauté them in a bit of butter and olive oil. Added the salmon, toss in last night's steamed broccoli, and a dollop of the wine. Then a nice big dollop of heavy cream. Allow it to reduce a bit, and add the (drained) noodles.
Light the candles, and enjoy a late supper.
Decide to have a bath with Kniepp Valerian and Hops in hopes of sleeping soundly through the night, to be awakened at 2 am by cat barf. Some people are able to get back to sleep after that. I've heard.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Leftovers. The Twit.

We've been eating pretty well lately - fresh winter king, lamb of God (a wonderful roast), ham of God (Jerry's meats, they make the best), and now poor John is sent away to Paso Robles to drink fabulous wines all expenses paid, what was I thinking with this non-profit arts gig?
So, Alaska Folk Fest holding no charm for me (Hunter? Deb? Are you here?) I came home and faced the frig.
I think it's the leftover potato/sweet potato/red pepper melange that Lynn made for Easter that was DELICIOUS (went well with H.O.G.), the last bit of lamb roast on a bed of sauteed eggplant with garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice and a hefty grind of black pepper, the left over red butter lettuce salad - there is nothing better than sourdough croutons soaked over night in garlic vinaigrette, and the rest of the fruit salad from last night: apples, grapefruit, bananas, mango, blood orange and strawberry. Whew. Was that one sentence? Luckily, the absent wine pimp left 1/2 bottle of Veramonte - so it isn't red but it is delicious.
I am still "struggling" through the Stoneridge Creamery vanilla. Just add mini choco chips.
Tomorrow? Probably winter king with capellini, the official chick pasta. Maybe some baby bok choy. A raid on the warehouse for provisions for the week.
I'll Twitter about it.
What did you have?

Friday, March 27, 2009

so much food, so little time

Poor John is stuck in the hinterlands, first Anchorage, now Fairbanks, due to the volcanic eruptions. So it's me, the cats, the dog, and frig full of food.

Last night I managed to take two hours to get from the bottom of the driveway to the kitchen, high centering myself again, unstucking myself, and then backing down the driveway into the snow berm on the edge of the drive. Thankfully, brother Thad was still in town and available for a tow out. Any way....

Needed something quick and tasty.
Steak salad. It was so good I repeated it tonight.
Pile up some lettuce on a plate and dress with a mustard aioli vinaigrette (Trader Joes aioli).
Slice up left over steak and fan decoratively around the lettuce.
Fan 1/2 an excellent avocado to set next to it.
Carefully slice up some chevre, roll in fine bread crumbs and broil for a couple of minutes. Fan those out around the lettuce.
Top with a dollop of olive tapenade, so handy to have in the frig.
Slice up a terrific yellow mango, perfectly ripe.
Pour a glass of Malbec.

Tonight's version involved slicing the less done end of the flank steak, salting and peppering well, and sauteeing in butter, and a less perfect mango with strawberries.

I'm a fan.

Tonight's wine was Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, just a glass, and the remainder of a nice Italian.

At the store the other day, saw a new brand of ice cream: Stoneridge Creamery. Got some vanilla, and did a taste comparison between it and Haagen Daz vanilla. Haagen Daz. I mean, I'll finish the Stoneridge. But I'll buy the Haagen Daz again.

And THEN! tucked in the garage door, the mailman delivered an incredibly aromatic package filled with fresh lemons and rosemary. The house smells divine! I am feeling some lemon/rosemary shortbread or poundcake coming on....I'll keep you posted.

There is nothing like eating well.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Alone with meat.

John's in Anchorage for the annual trade show and Symphony of Wines. Henry is en route back to Eugene. It's me, the pile of snow in front of the garage, the dog, and the cats.

The pile of snow serves as an excellent appetizer, whetting the appetite through vigorous exercise shoveling trying to avoid the high centering issue that preempted breakfast this morning.

Having conquered, at least for now, the snow stack: In the frig we find a flank steak, some fresh mushrooms, a delicously ripe mango, and miracle of miracles, both white (Yalumba unoaked Chardonnay, currently second runner up for favorite house wine) and several red wines, including Doña Paula Los Cardos Malbec, a favorite for Board meetings because it has a screw cap, is inexpensive and yummy.

Tidy up the kitchen, cut up the mango and add to last night's fruit salad of apples, strawberries and oranges. Pull out a white onion, some garlic, and two little red potatoes. Heat butter and olive oil in a little sauté pan for potatoes cut in 1/2 and sliced thinly, slice 1/2 the onion into 1/2 inch slices. Wash some romaine and tear it up and put on the plate. Dress it with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Put the potatoes in their pan to begin browning and then put the onion slices in their pan. Decide for some reason to tournée the mushrooms, perhaps just to see if I still can. They "turned" out pretty well if I do say so myself.

Rub the steak with a little olive oil and salt and pepper it well. Heat the cast iron skillet over moderately high heat with butter/olive oil, the garlic clove, and the mushrooms face down. Once the garlic is looking pretty cooked, flip the mushrooms over, add the steak. Brown well on both sides. At some point, move the mushrooms over to the now on low heat onions. Cook the steak a few minutes on both sides until it feels done-ish (drat, one end is a little too done, the other too rare. Oh well.) remove from the pan and put on a plate and add a dollop of the red wine with a bit of butter. Shake until nice and saucy and pour over the steak. Slice it thinly and arrange nicely on the plate. Top with the onions and the mushrooms. (Who ever thought of tourneeing mushrooms in the first place? How odd.) And the potatoes. Pour a glass of wine.

Get a text from John saying he misses me and wishes he was home. I sent him a picture of dinner and said ditto.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dinner with the Robertsons

Our good friends asked us over for dinner last night while the two college kids are still in town so we can all see each other. We arrived through the official first day of spring snow storm to an intoxicating aroma. There was a plate of innocent, simple looking little home made cheese crisps. My goodness. Charlotte comes from Charleston area, and her grandmother contributed this recipe to the really wonderful Charleston Receipts, the oldest Junior League Cookbook in print and one I recommend you get even if only for the Ice Box Cheese Wafers. OMG.

I ate quite a few accompanied by Veramonte - a wonderful buttery crisp balance.

There was also a wonderful stew with pearl onions over egg noodles, fresh asparagus (spring!) and a tossed salad, all accompanied by Chasing Venus sauvignon blanc (yes!), and Januik Syrah (*****) and Cabernet Blend (also very good) and finished with an apple crisp and vanilla ice cream. Conversation wended its way to Wii fit, and some of the party wandered off to work off the crisps with a bit of Wii fun, but I note a comment on Facebook about beer and balance problems.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chicken & Waffles

Henry came home for spring break yesterday and he said, in an email, that he'd like chicken and waffles for dinner when he got home.

OK then.

If you haven't ever been to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles in southern CA, it is a must do.

I made my best effort to replicate this wonderful stuff.

Fried Chicken - I can do.
Waffles - can't find the good recipe. Used NY Times.

1) Make a fruit salad with navel oranges, kiwi, and strawberries.
2) Cut the chicken into parts, dip in buttermilk, and roll in flour seasoned with salt & pepper, with a bit of baking powder.
3) Fry in peanut oil in the big cast iron pan, until each piece is browned on both sides.
4) Put in the oven at 350 to bake until done, about another 1/2 hour.
5) Make a romaine and arugula salad with oil and vinegar dressing.
6) Get out the old stove top waffle iron that makes heart shapes, since you are so happy to see the young scion home. Clean it, get it warmed up.
7) Make the waffle batter.
8) Cook up the waffles.
9) While you are doing that, take the chicken out of the pan and hold in the oven warming, while you make pan gravy from the drippings. Where did all the milk go that was in the frig this morning? Oh right, the young scion is home. Oops. Thick gravy.
10) Glare at said scion when he says "Are you actually making waffles?"
11) Glare at John when he comes upstairs and says "Are you actually making waffles?"
12) Serve it all up.
No one ate waffles but me, and admittedly they were not big crispy delicious ones like you get at Roscoes. the fried chicken was pretty good though.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Linguine that would make a sailor blush

John saw the sign: "King Crab at Auke Bay" so headed out.

A king crab feeds more than a few, so he called in recruits - our friends Candy and Dick with their exchange student Christopher from Denmark. Called some other friends, but they were having king crab at their house already....The way it goes in Alaska.
So he cooked it off (debate: Do you cook it whole and then de-yucky it, or do you tear the shell off, empty the yuck out and then cook. At our house, the latter.) and picked it.

I made a Granny Smith Apple pie and picked up some vanilla ice cream.

John made a dipping sauce, blanched broccoli for an appetizer. Made a big pot of linguine, steamed off some snow peas, fresh carrots, roasted a red pepper and sliced that up to add to the pasta. Made a tossed salad. Wines included Can Feixes and a yummy Chardonnay I can't recall. For some reason, conversation became spiced with language that might seem a bit inappropriate for dinner table including the under-aged and ostensibly lady-like, but there was laughter all around, so perhaps it fit the menu.

At some point, the subject of peanuts came up, don't ask. We happened to have a bag of roasted organic peanuts in the shell from Washington. Although one and all had eaten crab and cream linguine, salad, and apple pie with ice cream, there was something about the saltiness and crunchiness of the peanuts that just hit the spot.

What a night, and so nice to have dinner with friends, it has been a while.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rockfish in Cava and Caper Sauce

Home alone late, John over at the "Green" Home Show pouring organic and other wine by the buckets for four hours, so dinner alone. As always, cappellini is in order for short order.
The only wine in the house is a split of Codorniu Cava, not chilled, so necessary to get the ice bucket out and fill it with cubes and water for a quick chill.
There's a bit of fresh rockfish, a bit of orange cauliflower (!) a fresh carrot, some salad, and some great croutons.
Put the water on to boil for the noodles, chop up the veggies and start them to gently steaming in another pan. Toss the salad. and put in on the plate. Slice a really good crispy apple.
Lightly flour the rockfish slices, and sautee them over moderate heat in butter with a bit of olive oil. Turn them to the second side and add a goodly spoonfull of drained capers. Squeeze a meyers lemon over it, and splash in some of the Cava, but no too much, leave a little for dinner. Drain the noodles, add a bit a butter, put on the plate, top with the fish. Add a nob of butter to the pan, with a splash more of wine, swizzle it around until it is nice and saucy, and pour over the fish. Fill the champagne flute, take a picture, and chat with friends on line. Delicious.