Let me introduce you to cocoPop rice cakes.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Let me introduce you to cocoPop rice cakes.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Traveling With Pomegranates is listed as a 'travel memoir', but don't be deceived by that simplistic classification. Sure, there's a bit of souvenir shopping, and wonderful passages that describe foreign locales, but there are other much more complicated journeys occurring in this book.
Sue Monk Kidd is approaching her 50th birthday and has entered perimenopause with a bang. Her daughter Ann, is about to graduate from college and enter the 'real' world. Each is crossing the threshold into the unknown and both are confused, and at times depressed, about the changes that are occurring in their lives. Trips through Greece and France bring direction and revelations, while their time spent traveling together renews and strengthens the mother-daughter bond that Sue fears may have diminished while Ann was away at school.
Early on, it becomes apparent that both women are also on spiritual journeys. Sue is continuing the trek she chronicles in her earlier works. Ann's is just beginning.
After reading the book jacket blurb, I fully expected to have a strong connection to Sue, considering she's my peer and the 'mother' half of the writing team. I was rather surprised to find that I was much more in sync with daughter Ann!
I lost patience with Sue's attitude towards menopause, and her search for her 'Old Woman'. She spends far too much time contemplating her own death, instead of embracing her new freedoms. About half way through the book, I also lost interest in her obsession with the Persephone-Demeter myth and her quest for the 'sacred feminine' through the Black Madonnas. I suppose that my religious background, combined with a 'Snap out of it already!' attitude are responsible for my irritation with Sue, but those are the reasons that I dropped this book to 4 stars. (Okay, I was a tiny bit sympathetic, but not enough to go for the full 5.)
(FYI: If you ever need a Greek Goddess refresher course, click here and bookmark. It will direct you to a very clever website that's an invaluable and fun resource.)
Before I explain my attraction to Ann's travelogue, I should mention the 'edibles' encountered in the book. Remarkably, little is mentioned about the food in France, although there is a funny hamburger scene. There are, however, several meals mentioned during the travels through Greece. This made me happy. This made me cook!
Of course there was the obligatory Greek salad as shown in the first picture. Always a delightful first course!
Next up...Moussaka. Ann experiences the Greek national dish while on tour with her college history class. I read. I salivated. I created.
And last, but not least...dessert. Baklava would have been appropriate, but Galaktaboureko was something I had been craving.
Now back to Ann, and why I was so taken with her version of the story. I was only a year younger than Ann when I found myself in Greece for 2 1/2 months. My closest friend and her mother were going on an extended vacation to visit family and asked if I would like to go. I hesitated, but like Ann, I heard, "If you don't go, you'll regret it." I listened. I went. It changed my life in a way that was very similar to what Ann experiences. The tour guide assigned to Ann's college group tells her that this life changing experience is called 'the Greek Miracle.' I didn't know there was a name for it. I just know that it happened to me.
Ann was a history major in college, and was researching a paper on Athena while on her first tour. She was hoping to see this relief in the museum at the Acropolis in Athens, but the museum was closed. She doesn't get to see the piece until a return trip a few years later. When she does finally get to view the real thing, her interpretation is different. Her life has changed. She sees the relief through different eyes.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
After she completes her studies, Kate seeks employment as a counsler with the State Police, which was Drew's goal, but there are no positions available, and she is ultimately employed by the Maine Game Warden Service.
Drawing on her skills, (she was already an accomplished writer), Ms. Braestrup chronicals her husband's death, her experiences as Chaplain to the Warden Service, and the trials of being a single parent. She does this with a very deft hand. She also explores the spirituality of death as it relates to her family and job situations, and the healing power of love. I truly admired the candor she displays in the telling of her amazing journey through difficult situations. Her honesty is at once refreshing and awe inspiring. How she manages to pack this all into a relatively short book is downright amazing.
Food vignettes in this book center around comfort food. Right after news of Drew's death reaches the community, a neighbor brings brownies to the family's doorstep. It's just the first of many such deliveries that will be made in the weeks and months following the accident.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Here's the cast of characters:
7 ounces rice stick noodles - 1 Tbsp. canola or safflower oil - 2 cloves of garlic, minced - 3/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped - 4 scallions, chopped - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sambal oleck (or one small red chili, seeded and finely minced) - 10 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, finely chopped - 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced - 1 large carrot, finely shredded - 5 cups shredded Chinese or regular cabbage - 4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice - 2 Tbsp. fish sauce - 1 Tbsp. soy sauce - For garnish, any of the following: pickled ginger, cilantro, fresh mint
1) Place rice sticks in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 15 minutes or according to package directions. Drain well.
2) Heat oil in wok and stir-fry garlic, ginger, scallions and chili for about one minute. Add chicken and stir fry for an additional 2-3 minutes just until it begins to brown.
3) Stir in the celery and carrot and stir-fry for another 2 minutes to soften. Add Chinese cabbage, then stir in the lime juice mixed with the fish sauce and soy. (Note: If using regular cabbage, you may want to cover and steam for a few minutes now. It takes a bit more cooking than the Chinese leaves. I also double the amount of liquid to accomodate the extra cook time.)
4) Add the drained noodles and toss to heat through.
Sprinkle with the garnishes. We use fresh mint from the garden in the summer and cilantro the rest of the year.
Here's a picture of the wok full of good eatin! It's also very tasty as a cold leftover next day.
For more recipes and a tour of what everyone has been cooking this week, please head over to Designs by Gollum. Michael Lee is our hostess for Foodie Friday, and she's got the tour bus, (Mr. Linky), up, running and ready to take you on a trip to some pretty wonderful food blogs.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
In honor of this momentous occasion, I've baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies and invited a few friends to help celebrate. You're invited too, as we thank Michael Lee, at Designs by Gollum, for a year filled with fabulous recipes and wonderful Foodie ideas.
Pull up a chair, grab a cookie, then hop over to her blog and join in the fun and festivities.And again, thank you Michael for a wonderful year of Foodie Fridays. I've met new friends, tried new recipes and learned much. I've had a ball, and I'm looking forward to year two!
Saturday, February 13, 2010
This post is being linked to Food for Thought. Please click on the icon to the right to connect to more "Edible Reviews."
In my little reading corner 'chick lit' always has its place. Sometimes I need a pick me up, or I know I'll have limited reading time. In those cases, I need a novel that's a quick read and not too thought provoking. But most frequently, I treat myself to this genre in between 'heavier' reads.
A good piece of chick lit can serve the same purpose as a sorbet served between courses in a fine restaurant. It can cleanse the mind the way the sorbet cleanses the palate. The very best chick lit can also stand alone as dessert, and that's where I would place Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that it's part of a trilogy, and the novel ends with unresolved story lines. A fifth star will have to be earned by books 2 and 3. (The second book, Brava, Valentine, was release last Tuesday and is on its way to me now.)
The main character is Valentine Roncalli, a 33 year old, single, Italian-American woman who abandons her career as a high school teacher to become an apprentice to her octogenarian Grandmother. Together they create handmade bridal shoes in their workshop/home in Greenwich Village. Along the way, Val has a proposal of marriage from her long standing boy friend, Brett. Here's her reaction:
"...I felt the great relief that comes with being alone. I needed to seek my own counsel, to think things through. So I made a dish of spaghetti with fresh tomatoes from this garden, olive oil from Arezzo, and sweet white garlic. I made a salad of artichokes and black olives. I opened a bottle of wine...Then I sat down to eat a glorious meal, slowly savoring every bite and sip.
I realized that my answer to his proposal, upon his return, would not be the great moment; the great moment had already happened. He had asked."
Valentine is a woman who enjoys good food and she's also a thinker.
I liked this book for many reasons. I've always loved New York city. I learned to love Long Island, (although it took a while), and I love Forest Hills where Val's parents live. (We actually have Italian family there.) We always go to Ferrara's in Little Italy for pastry, and we've been to a wedding at Leonard's of Great Neck. All of these places are exactly as Trigiani describes them. She writes with warmth, humor and great affection for her characters. You really can't ask for much more.
I love this Italian family and found it refreshing, and much more realistic, that they were portrayed as just a loud, large Italian family and not cast members of the Sopranos. The family members as written are people I've met. Gran is a very hip 80 year old, Valentine is the quintessential 30 something New Yorker, and Val's mom is the chic middle aged Italian matron that I've encountered several times over.
I also liked the fact that there were no shortage of food scenes in this book. If I illustrated them all, I'd still be in the kitchen! I even finally used the pasta machine and ravioli press that my husband bought me last year! Thank you Adriana.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
We started our meal with Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls accompanied by nuoc cham for dipping. Round rice wrappers, (banh trang), are soaked in warm water until softened, then filled and rolled like an egg roll. These were filled with prepared rice noodles, cooked shrimp, cucumber, carrot, scallion, snow peas, and fresh cilantro. They're a year round favorite here, but are especially nice during the summer when it's too hot to do much cooking. When the mint is over running the garden during the warmer months, we add that too.
Our main course was Thai Green Curry Chicken with Long Beans. Chicken is poached in a coconut milk sauce that is seasoned with Thai green chile paste, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, fish sauce, lime, and fresh basil leaves. This dish is packed with flavor, and can be mildly hot or very hot, depending on how much curry paste you add. We serve this over jasmine rice. The rice collects some of the sauce, which is very thin, and also mitigates a bit of the heat. This dish is simple to prepare. Finding 'exotic' ingredients is what consumed my time.
I would have made Thai Black Rice Pudding for dessert, but in my travels to local food stores I've yet to find the special rice. As a substitute, my husband requested my regular rice pudding. It's a perfect finish to almost any meal, so I'm including the recipe that an Aunt gave me years ago.
Cook 3/4 cup long grain rice in 1 quart of water. Don't let dry out. When the rice absorbs most of the water and looks creamy, add 1 quart of milk and bring back to a boil.
Thoroughly mix together 2-3 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, a dash of salt, and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. (You can also add a cup of raisins now, if desired.)
Using a whisk, whip the egg mixture into the boiling rice mixture. Stirring constantly bring back to a boil. Pour into a large serving bowl. Chill before serving. (Note: Pudding thickens as it stands.)
Thursday, February 4, 2010
One of our favorite dinners is a Japanese steak house style plate. Mushrooms, zucchini, and rice are the mainstays. We use beansprouts if we have them, and then we complete the meal with chicken, shrimp, scallops, beef or lobster. This past week we chose chicken, because I had some in the freezer.
While the meat or fish and vegetables are certainly delicious served as prepared, they are tremendously enhanced by the addition of ginger or mustard sauce. Years ago I stumbled upon the recipes for both. I make them well in advance of preparing the rest of the meal, so the flavors mellow a bit.
Japanese Ginger Sauce
1 small onion , sliced 1 small piece of ginger cut into small dice
1/2 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix at high speed for 2 minutes, until ginger and onion are finely chopped. Just before serving, strain if desired.
Japanese Mustard Sauce
1 Tablespoon dry mustard 2 Tablespoons hot water 1/4 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted 3/4 cup soy sauce 3 T. whipping cream, whipped
In small bowl, combine mustard and water until smooth. Place in blender and add remaining ingredients except whipped cream and blend on high until smooth. Remove to bowl and stir in whipped cream.
BTW: You don't need a hibachi table to prepare this meal. Any griddle or large flat fry pan works just as well.
Please go visit our hostess, Michael Lee, at Designs by Gollum for more Foodie Friday surprises. She'll have Mr. Linky up and ready to take you on this weeks culinary tour.
Foodie Friday Extra!!!
Restaurant Week is drawing to a close in NYC. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this event, participating restaurants charge a reduced price for full course lunches or dinners. This year the lunch price was set at $24.07. Reservations are snapped up quickly, but this year my son was able to get one for lunch at Nobu, chef Nobu Matsuhisa's trendy restaurant in Tribeca. He's wanted to go there forever, but the budget of a family of four didn't really permit the luxury. To say he was excited would be a total understatement. He kept sneaking pictures of the food with his phone and sent them along after each course! Here's the email he sent when he returned home...further proof that some Foodies are born into the fold. (BTW: He's a really good cook, too.)
The food was simply outrageous. It WAS the best meal I've ever (and probably will ever have) eaten. The portions were proper, too. We left satisfied, and didn't have to make an emergency stop at Grimaldi's on the way home (that was our contingency plan should they give us teeny-tiny bites of really nice food). If they do it next year, I want you and Dad to come - he would've been in heaven between the Rock Shrimp Tempura w. Creamy/Spicy sauce and the Beef Anticucho. The sauce on the Anticucho was brilliantly spicy with Peruvian peppers, and required the provided sticky rice to temper the heat - right up Dad's alley. You probably would've chosen entree #3 - almost every diner around us did - the broiled Black Cod with Miso. It smelled heavenly, and the fish was flaking off of everyone's chopsticks. It looked perfect.
The Sashimi Salad was pan-seared tuna with pepper crust, two large pieces, over mixed greens, with Chef Nobu's personal dressing, the best variation on a sesame-ginger I've ever tried. I tasted equal parts ginger/garlic/onion, and had a low acidity point, as to not further cook the fish. The sushi was fantastic - every piece melted in our mouths, not like what we get at places around here, which is tasty but requires some work. These were all "like butter!" M shared two pieces of her tuna roll with me, as well as the maguro (tuna) and cooked shrimp sushi. She polished off three different pieces of white fish (looked like sea bream, yellowtail, and smoked salmon), salmon, salmon roe (I identified it for her - she loved it), and 4 pieces of the tuna roll.
Dessert was Tofu Cheesecake! I was worried we'd get some variation on green tea ice cream, but they totally came through - light, fluffy, and absolutely delicious, it was served with a lemon-orange sauce, a spoonful of syrupy diced apple, and a crispy chip seasoned with cinnamon and cardamom. It made for a perfect finish to a perfect meal.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
My husband and I like thin, crisp crust, so first we roll the dough out with a rolling pin on a large, very lightly oiled cookie sheet.
It goes into a hot oven for a few minutes to crisp up a little,