Luisa Weiss, blogger and creator of The Wednesday Chef, wrote a pretty little memoir called My Berlin Kitchen. It's about finding her place in the world after an upbringing defined by movement between Europe (Berlin, Italy) and the U.S. (Boston, New York). And, yeah, okay, it's also a love story. But I think we all know how I feel about love around here. Yuck!
I particularly enjoyed reading her descriptions of German holiday traditions, from roasted goose to doughnuts with a little, um, surprise! The recipes featured in the book are lovely and span the globe. I've already made her German yeasted plum cake, spicy Mexican meatballs, and Italian tomato bread soup, the latter of which is a completely amazing way to treat the last of this summer's fantastic tomatoes.
Fans of the book and blog will want to head down to the Harvard Book Store at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 2, where Luisa will be speaking and signing books.
I'm too busy crumpling up my manuscript pages and flinging them in disgust to write a proper post, so here's something else. It's an actual e-mail exchange between Husband and one of his good friends, both of whom I'm quite sure have played their share of Dungeons & Dragons at one point or another.
For fans of George R.R. Martin, I offer you this:
This is no jape. I saw your smallclothes, chased in gold and dagged with crimson velvet, upon a gelded destrier as he was eating a feast fit for the Merling King: river trout roasted in almond milk, stuffed with figs. He was on his way to the Street of Silk.
As usual you are playing the fool, and you are undoubtedly festooned in the motley common to that of a court jester. Will you not caper about like a softheaded numbwit for our amusement?
On the morrow I shall be dining on garlic-rubbed garron, spitted and roasted, with much grease popping in the fire. You, ser, shall be supping on a thin soup of carrot and onion, with nary a rasher of bacon to be found at the board.
I expect you'll be sotted in a Fleabottom brothel as usual, your manhood festering with pus and foul odors.
Wow, Lord R is quite the charmer! I wonder who his lucky lady is?
A friend of mine recently commented that finding recipes on my blog is a pain in the ass. And it's true! I mean, it's one thing if you know exactly what you're looking for and Google it, but what if you just want to browse through some meat recipes until you find something you like? Or you want to peruse your vegetarian options but none of the posts actually contain the word "vegetarian" since I can't be bothered with search engine optimization? Wouldn't it be nice if you could find what you're looking for without digging through six years of recipes?
Some of you are nodding your heads in agreement and the rest are itching to click back over to Facebook if things don't get funny soon. Spoiler: They don't! (But if Facebook lures you away, please consider "liking" Food on the Food on your way over there by clicking the little icon of my face down there to the right. Don't worry. It doesn't hurt that much!) (Ow! My eye!)
So I went through and catalogued all of my best recipes over there on the left under Recipe Box. If you're in the mood for chicken, click on chicken and you'll be treated to all the poultry goodness I can dig up. Desserts? I might have a few! Check out the Favorites category, too. There was a lot of good stuff hiding in the archives, some of which even I forgot about, so thanks for the reminder, Self! Some of the older photos are pretty scary, but the good news is that I can see my skills have actually improved a little over time. Just a little.
I'm also working on creating print-friendly recipe pages so you don't waste paper printing out a whole post when all you want is the recipe. Forests are important to me, as you know. Future recipes will have that feature already embedded, though it'll take a while to go back through the archives. Please be patient. I'm on deadline. Not only does my editor need the next three chapters stat, but the kids are out of school in two weeks. Craaaaaaaap!
Anyway, let me know what you think of the list. Go on. Try it out! The search bar is still there, but on the left now. As for the blueberry cobbler above, you can find that recipe here.
Turns out that the shooting pain in my left wrist that I've been ignoring for the past month is some kind of tendonitis/carpal-tunnel-type situation. Which is fanTAStic news for me leading up to my first manuscript deadline.
I nodded obediently as the doctor told me the first stage of treatment: Advil, ice, wrist brace, and not using my left hand for three weeks. My left hand is my dominant hand, by the way. It's my writing, chopping, typing, whisking, stubborn-peanut-butter-jar-opening hand. Then I went home and had this conversation with my left hand:
Me: Hey. Listen up. There's one week left until my deadline so you better man up. This book isn't going to write itself.
Lefty: The doctor prescribed rest. You told her you would...
Me: Pipe down. You already had a week of rest during the big Norovirus Extravaganza. I get one shot at a book. ONE SHOT and you're not going to ruin it for me.
Lefty: Ice! I need ice!
Me: You'll get your bag of frozen peas in a minute. First type this stupid post.
Lefty: Why don't you ever make the other hand do any work? It's not like she has anything better to do.
(Right Hand is sunning herself under my desk lamp in a skimpy bikini and earbuds.)
Me: What? That useless thing? The only thing she's good for is helping to keep me from sinking to the bottom of the pool, and she can barely do that, frankly.
Right Hand: Whatevs. (Rolls over onto her other side)
Me: Do you know what would happen if I put Righty over there in charge of operations?
Me: Sure, you'd enjoy a relaxing convalescence, but you'd return only to find that all five of your fingers had been chopped off. Is that what you want? God, I can't even read her writing. Would you look at the draft for this post? Does this say "bloody stump" or "broody crumpet"?
Right Hand: Another margarita, please!
Suddenly, another week isn't looking so bad!
Here's a little music for you guys this morning because someone, I won't say who, was very excited to see Bret McKenzie win an Oscar last night!
For those of you who don't recognize the name, he is best known as one half of the New Zealand comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, also the name of their highly entertaining HBO series that ran several years back. (Bret won the Oscar for a song in the Muppets movie, which we haven't seen, yet, so please no spoilers!) Now we need an Oscar for Jemaine Clement, the other half of the duo, just to keep things fair. If you like quirky, independent, non-Oscar-winning movies about dysfunctional love, may I recommend Eagle vs. Shark starring Jemaine, in the plaid below.
Now, start channeling your inner Marvin Gaye and pay attention to any food-related references in the clip below so this post doesn't seem completely gratuitous.
Boy, have I been tired over the past week. I mean really, really, can't-keep-my-eyes-open tired. I thought about having myself hospitalized for exhaustion like my good friend Demi Moore, but, honestly, that whole process seems entirely more exhausting than it's worth. Can't I just be exhausted right here in my own bed and not have to go anywhere or explain anything to anyone? Yes? Oh, okay. Phew. Zzzzzzzzz.....
Looking back, I think it was the diarrhea that did me in. I mean, the feverishness sucked and the vomiting blew, but hour after hour, day after day of urgent diarrhea really takes a lot out of a person. Wait, what I mean to say is, it really saps your strength. I don't have a large body of experience around diarrhea, to be honest. Constipation, yes. Vomiting, well, let's just say that if Harvard gave out honorary degrees for that, I'd have a very impressive resume. I kind of thought diarrhea was just an urban legend. Some kind of cruel voodoo joke. It's no joke, people. It's all too real. I don't think anything was metabolized for four full days. Then, on the fifth day, my appetite suddenly came raging back. I tried to be dainty in my portions, but I was literally starving and things didn't go as planned. I imagine my digestive track resembling the narrow Spanish streets of Pamplona, with the bulls playing the role of my lunch, charging down the cobbled avenues goring anything in their path. But further on down the line, all systems were not go. Not by a long shot. Aerial views would show the Spaniards frantically racing away just ahead of the bulls in a confused, chaotic throng, some clinging to lampposts for dear life, others trapped in alleyways, with the vast majority spilling out toward the nearest exit. There may have been blood, I don't know. This analogy got away from me three sentences ago.
I really struggled (if you count struggling as not caring at all and then falling asleep) with how to account for my mounting, explosive calorie losses on my Lose It profile. It seems they don't have a category for persistent, uncontrollable diarrhea in their databases. Someone should contact their webmaster right away! In theory, I was very excited by this potential loophole since I haven't lost any weight since I started my regimen last month. In practice, however, it was too much work to even boot up my computer. Instead, I amused myself by trying to mentally calculate how many hours of sex it would take to burn off a full day's worth of calories so I could make an ironic ballpark substitution. Somehow I arrived at 16,000 hours per day before collapsing into a slumbering heap.
I'm feeling much better now. Things are progressing a little more as nature intended. I did weigh myself a few days ago to find out the impact on my bottom line, and do you want to know how many pounds I lost? Zero pounds. You heard me. Not a single one. My scale is now smashed against a tree in the backyard! I know I probably should have harnessed that day's energy for something more constructive, like a blog post better than this one or maybe a little work on my manuscript. But looking back with the wisdom one gains from perspective and a cooler head, it's clear that motherfucker totally had it coming.
Last week, while desperately searching for out-of-season quince, I brushed against a display of out-of-season strawberries. One of the plastic shells teetered, and then started to fall. Now, if I had just let the thing fall unimpeded, it probably would have landed intact, maybe even right side up. But, noooooo. I had to leap into action, bobbling the container to greater and greater heights, until, in a decisive lunge, I made one final, dramatic grab. And ended up accidentally spiking it onto the floor with such force that it detonated an explosion of strawberries and plastic shrapnel never before seen by the good patrons of Russo's. Apparently. Judging by the looks on their faces.
Where were these volleyball skills in high school gym class when I really needed them?
Meanwhile, halfway across the world in the tropics, my sister of Trish Barker Photography took this photo of a beautiful strawberry tart by Dolce, a boutique bakery on Maui. Doesn't that look good? Now that's the kind of strawberry explosion I can really get behind!
Do you like coffee? Do you like mushrooms? Well, have I got a giveaway for you!
Rao's Coffee Roasting Company, located in Hadley, MA, supplies direct-trade coffee beans to more than 100 Boston area restaurants, including Craigie on Main and Hamersley's Bistro. Rao's recently partnered with Ming Tsai, chef of Blue Ginger and host of public television's Simply Ming, to create a one-of-a-kind coffee blend that includes health-promoting maitake mushrooms. And you do remember the other name for maitake mushrooms, don't you? DON'T YOU??? It's my beloved hen-of-the-woods! Pay attention, people!
Mushrooms in coffee? Are you intrigued? I know I am. But since I'm not a coffee-drinker, you guys get to be my guinea pigs. Rao's is donating one 16 oz. bag of Ming Tsai's Maitake Coffee for Health (caf or decaf) to one lucky winner. Don't think I'm being 100% altruistic here. I want you guys to stop falling asleep during my mushroom posts. To be considered, leave a comment below about coffee or mushrooms. Comments will close at 10 p.m. EST on Saturday 12/17.
If you prefer your coffee untainted with mushrooms, know that Rao's also sells French Roast, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Guatemalan (organically grown), and a whole bunch of other coffees perfect for gift-giving. You can order them through their site or, if you're lucky, you might find some at Russo's (oddly, under the mushroom bins).
Hi All! Husband here. I related a story to Tammy the other day that she found amusing, so here it is in the form of a Special Guest Post.
If you are not acquainted with the sweet, crisp flavor of Fresca, then you need to go get some right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.
OK, now that you’ve agreed that it is the best grapefruit-based diet tonic in the land, we can start the story.
The other day me and my co-worker were working on Important Business at my desk. It was that time in the afternoon when refreshment is needed, and luckily the machine has a Fresca button on it. We got two Frescas, opened them with great relish, and got back to work.
About five minutes into Important Business we looked up from the computer screen and suddenly realized that our Frescas were sitting on the desk right next to each other. Although the quantities still left in each were different, there was no way to 100% without-a-doubt correctly associate each Fresca with its proper owner. We’re both engineers, so believe me, if there were a scientifically-achievable way to identify them, we would have been okay. But in this instance we just didn’t have time for DNA swabs and a testing lab.
A hush came over the office.
We stared at the Frescas, minds churning.
We looked at each other.
We looked at the Frescas.
We looked at each other.
We put the Frescas in the trash.
I found 8 shiny quarters in my pocket, new untainted Frescas were triumphantly acquired, and Important Business continued.
I stopped in at The Concord Shop the other day and found quite a few things I wouldn't mind in my stocking.
Whoa! It's clear I'm going to need a bigger stocking! Or at least one with a steel-reinforced toe.
This Thursday night (12/8) from 5 to 7 p.m., the Concord Shop will not only have great gifts to peruse, but some complimentary holiday fare provided by local business Bistro-at-Home. Graze on turnip and cauliflower bisque with candied chestnuts, blue cheese-stuffed poached pears, and black forest chocolate trifle with a gingersnap kiss. Holiday shopping demands high blood sugar! There's also a gift basket up for raffle, filled with baking supplies worth more than $200. To be entered to win, fill out a card in the store by noon on 12/8. There are lots of other shops on the block and around the corner worth checking out, too, including a wine and cheese shop, toy shop, and independent bookstore.
Just a reminder to support local businesses this holiday season.
I think I've mentioned my tendency to make overtly sexual comments without the slightest bit of awareness. Luckily, Husband calls me on it every single time. It didn't take me long to accumulate enough material for a post, even after limiting the location to the kitchen. In fact, it took exactly 36 hours. Here are a few gems:
Me: It was very long and very hard, but it was very good.
Him: That's what she said.
(At the dinner table talking about my swim that morning)
Me: It's too big to fit in here, but I'll make it fit!!!
Him: That's what he said.
(Trying to put a giant bowl of coleslaw into my overstuffed fridge)
Me: Things are a little woody in the core area.
Him: That's what she said.
(Coring a quince; also applies to parsnips)
And my personal favorite:
Me: It's very spitty over here so stay away from the meat.
Him: That's what she said.
I am now a card-carrying member of the Boston Mycological Club. It's about time. I've been torturing my friends and family with my mushroom obsession for years, and now I can consort among my own kind. I still bring my family out on walks, though. Don't think I don't. Here are some pretty mushrooms we found on our foray, as well as a few other things.
Violet cort? (poisonous)
Yellow fly agaric? (poisonous)
Milk caps? (poisonous, no doubt)
Frog! (non-poisonous, hopefully)
And let's not forget this interesting find:
Ah, yes, the envy of all the other trees.
And that concludes this edition of Forest Porn!
Thanks for the movie recommendations, you guys. Lars and the Real Girl got the most votes, so I'll be checking that one out ASAP and the others soon after. BTW, I rented Winter's Bone last week before I got your ideas, and that just solidified Husband's view that I'm not allowed to pick the movies anymore. It was good, don't get me wrong. Very good, but maybe a little bleak to pile on top of an already bleak workweek was Husband's point.
Speaking of movies, and especially speaking of movies filled with hope, there's a new documentary out about the resurgence of farming among young people in this country. It's called The Greenhorns, and there's a screening this coming Wednesday 9/28 at 7 p.m. at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square. The film will be followed by a moderated discussion with several young local farmers, the roster of which hadn't been finalized when I last inquired but which included the lovely Ellery Kimball of Blue Heron Organic Farm in Lincoln (the little farm by the railroad tracks on Rt. 117). Tix are $5 (cheap!) and can be bought at the box office at 40 Brattle St., Cambridge or here.
Hope to see you there!
Now that the kids are back in school, I really need to get going on this manuscript of mine. According to the schedule I drafted for myself, I need to develop 10 awesome dessert recipes each month to meet my deadline. That's 2-3 recipes finalized per week. *gulp*
I'm not panicking. It'll be a piece of cake. One hundred and twenty pieces of cake each month, if my calculations are correct, and that's not including pie and cookies! Which brings me to my next important goal: exercise. If I am to maintain my girlish figure in the face of constant sugary temptation, I need to do more than run once a week for a few months out of the year. I need a routine. Peer pressure, if possible. Hence, I've rejoined the YMCA after a 6-year hiatus.
I've made good use of the pool, so far. TeenNiece, who has returned to her island state, gave me lots of good pointers this summer. My strokes aren't breaking any speed records, but it's how I feel that counts, right? And, frankly, I feel like a goddamn mermaid. (Swimming laps adjacent to water aerobics for the elderly does a lot to boost one's self-esteem.)
I've also been tempted by several aerobics classes (non-aquatic) listed on the fall schedule. Zumba, for example, seems like just the kind of embarrassing dance- based workout I can really get behind. The more embarrassing, the better, I say! Then there's Pilates. I still don't know what that is, but I guess now would be a good time to find out. My friends think I should take yoga. Ninety-nine percent of them think yoga is the best thing ever. What kind of a person ignores the advice of 99% of her friends? A mule-ish one, I suppose. What can I say? Yoga goes against every fiber of my being with its core components: breathing, stretching, and peace of mind. Whenever I'm in a painfully awkward yoga pose, instead of maintaining a clear and focused breath, I wonder who invented this excruciating torture and how much I'd like to punch them in the face. That possibly defeats the purpose of yoga.
No, I've always been more of a martial arts kind of girl. Karate. Kickboxing. Kung fu. Controlled thrashing, but thrashing nonetheless.
Wait, what's this I see? Tai chi on Wednesdays? Slow, controlled thrashing in the form of an embarrassing dance routine?
I think we have a winner!!
P.S. The recipe for that cheesecake in the photo above (almond cheesecake with fig confiture) can be found here. You can bet that one will be in the cookbook!
On Monday, I went to make lunch for the 5YO and when I reached for a peach from the fruit bowl, I was surprised to find bite marks in not one, but all three peaches. Not human-sized bite marks, if you get what I'm saying.
I proceeded to freak out quietly while calling up the neighbor to come over and help me determine if this was a mouse we were dealing with or something bigger. We went with mouse simply so I wouldn't lose control of my bowels. I flung the peaches into the compost (painful since they were perfectly ripe and delicious), and then placed an urgent request for Husband to return that evening with mousetraps. We tried to go about our business as usual, but when I returned to the kitchen a few hours later, there was a big bite out of a plum!
I dragged the 5YO out of the house to the relative safety of the mosquito-and-poison-ivy-infested yard. I immediately updated the neighbors. The neighbor boy, also age 5, had a few possible theories about this. One was that one of our cats had come back from the dead with a hankering for the sweet taste of earth fruit. Not impossible, I said, but if it were Mr. Nathan, he would have done it in plain sight, dispensing with any complicated guerilla tactics in favor of guilty looks. And if the zombie cat in question happened to be Sidney, her bites would have been taken out of me. The second hypothesis was that Husband didn't want to go to work, so he hid in the basement all day until he got really hungry and had to come up for a snack. This was actually a very plausible scenario—except for the fruit. No, it wouldn't have been fruit, it would have been a spicy chicken sandwich.
So as not to tip off Husband in case he was indeed the culprit, I snuck off to the hardware store myself to procure all manner of traps and snares, then deployed them on the sly. The next morning, I was very relieved to find no husbands or partially decomposed pets inside. There was, however, a large, plump mouse (not a rat—it had a furry tail). I like to think she died quickly and happily, with a belly full of fruit and the triumph of her unexpected peanut butter discovery still fresh in her mind. I had a harder time reconciling the three smaller ones. : (
But, hey, that's life. Let that be a lesson to the rest of the vermin: Stay out of my fruit bowl. Now I have to go triple-sterilize that thing.
This print arrived unexpectedly in the mail, and it's going to look great in my lime green bathroom off the kitchen (it's also available for purchase here). If you find yourself in the Maui area getting married or vacationing and you want some pretty pictures taken, she's available for hire at Trish Barker Photography.
That concludes this public service announcement.
An old Italian woman yelled at me the other day in the citrus section of Russo's. She saw me walk away from the bin with two lemons in my bag when the sale price was 3 for $1 (regular price was 35 cents each, or 3 for $1.05). She demanded to know why I was only buying two lemons when three was clearly cheaper. Was I rich or just an idiot? I wanted to say, mind your own business, Old Lady. Who cares how many lemons I buy? Did I yell at you when you repeatedly left your cart in the middle of the aisle blocking everyone's path? (Yes, I did bring that to her attention, in fact, which is probably why she was so interested in the particulars of my shopping habits.)
But since she demonstrated the same outspoken stubbornness as another Italian woman I remember with fondness, I patiently restated my sale argument for what seems like the hundredth time. The argument goes like this: it's not a bargain if you buy something you don't need. I didn't need three lemons, therefore I would only be buying two. She looked incredulous. How could I manage not to use that third lemon? You put a little lemon juice in everything. Well, I said, I'm sure if I made it my mission to find something to do with all of the hundreds of accumulated sale-priced lemons I would own if she had her way, I could do it just to prove some kind of a point. But that's not the problem. The problem is that I forget about the lemons. I forget all about them, as well as the sale-priced limes, and, before you know it, there's one or more moldy lemons/limes in my fruit bowl threatening to swallow up all of the other fruit into their fuzzy, bluish-green maws. And then I wonder why I wasted the 33 cents on that extra lemon I didn't need.
So now I save that money because 2 pennies and a moldy lemon are worth less to me than 33 cents on a parking meter. That's a solid fifteen minutes in some parts of town. Fifteen minutes that I, for the record, just spent arguing with an old lady about lemons!
I've been borrowing my friend's P90X workout DVDs to try to get myself into some kind of shape for the summer. Three nights a week, I go to bed in my workout clothes, set my alarm to "catapult," and the next morning, at 6 a.m. sharp, I'm launched into the spare bedroom for an hour of whatever P90X Guy wants to inflict on me that day. By the time I'm fully awake, my workout is done.
I was excitedly touting the benefits of working out while asleep to Husband. How the self-satisfied jabber of P90X Guy doesn't get to me at all while I'm still firmly entrenched in dreamland, how I emerge from the room wide-eyed and chipper at 7 a.m., which is quite unlike the usual state of affairs, and, in fact, I don't even remember working out at all! It's like it never happened, except for all of these weird muscles.
Husband, for his part, speculated that what is actually happening each morning is that, after sleepwalking over to my laptop and inserting the DVD, I promptly slump over onto the guest bed and fall asleep again. I was prepared to work myself up into all kinds of outrage over the accusation, but then I thought about it. There's no actual proof that I work out. Nobody sees me do it, and my own memory can't be trusted. There's the occasional BOOM! the children tell me they hear from the next room as I land ungracefully from one of the airborne maneuvers, but, really, that could just be me falling out of bed. Maybe I'm dreaming the whole thing? Maybe my cheery, wakeful state is more accurately explained by the extra hour of sleep I just stole? Husband claims to see no muscles at all.
Anyway, I bring this up because I made a carrot cake on Saturday to be auctioned off at my farm's fundraiser that night. It was a large, double-layer carrot cake with extra cream cheese frosting and chopped pecans. I had to deliver the cake right before the event, so I packaged it up in a large box, complete with the circular cutting board it was resting on and a heavy, glass cake dome to prevent anyone from sneezing on it at the auction. Sneezed-on cakes tend to generate smaller bids than non-sneezed-on cakes.
I parked in the closest lot, which was just across the river. I carried the cake over the footbridge and down the much-longer-road-than-I-remembered to the Charles River Museum of Industry building where the event was taking place. If it was a quarter-mile walk, that would be generous. But let me tell you, people, by the time I arrived at the building, taking pains not to tip the box at all so the dome wouldn't slide into the sides of the cake, struggling to open the door one-handed, my arms were shaking. Once I navigated the halls, ramps, stairs, mandatory small talk, and made my way over to the cake's resting place on the far side of the room, my arms were like jello. I could barely lift the thing out of the box. Also, I was really hungry for carrot cake.
The following day, my arms were sorer than they've ever been after P90X. So either Husband is right and I'm sleeping through my workouts, or I've just stumbled across the best upper body regimen ever. Gingerly carry a carrot cake a quarter of a mile in any direction, and when you get to your destination--and this is the important part--don't eat it.
I look forward to my royalty checks!
I got my knives sharpened recently, so don't mess with me.
Patti Small (aka The Knife Lady) of On The Edge Knife Sharpening in Bolton has been a fixture at the Wayland Winter Farmer's Market all season. Last month, I dropped off a box of knives and, by the following week, she had managed to convert my dull pieces of scrap metal into razor-sharp blades of death! Now I can cut cleanly through a head of cabbage like butter and mince herbs without transforming them into a blackened mash. Hooray!
Sharp knives really make a big difference in the kitchen, not just in terms of control and ease of use, but also in the resulting texture of the items being sliced. You want to cut cleanly through the cell membranes, not crush them. Sharp knives are also safer than dull ones, believe it or not. You don't need to apply as much force (risking slippage), nor resort to a desperate sawing motion. Just be extra careful the first week you get your knives back. It's like going from a car with a sluggish accelerator to one that is sensitive to the slightest touch. It takes some time to adapt and you'll want to keep all your body parts attached in the meantime.
Patti agreed to set down her knives for a minute and answer some questions:
TD: How do you sharpen knives?
PS: I use a machine called an Edge Pro, which is an upside-down whetstone. The stone moves on the knife instead of the knife moving on the stone. When it can cut through a piece of paper with no resistance, the knife is done.
TD: Once you sharpen a knife, what is the best way to keep it sharp for as long as possible (besides not using it)?
PS: Store it carefully. A knife block is good. A magnet is good. Unsupervised in a drawer is bad. Do not cut on glass. Hard surfaces will cause early demise of an edge. Bamboo is a pretty good cutting surface.
TD: I heard that the dishwasher dulls knives. Is that true? Because I have this irrational fear that I'm going to cut off my arm while washing my knives by hand (also goes for spoons, forks, cups, and plates).
PS: The soap used in a dishwasher is more caustic than handwashing soap. Also, when the knives are in a dishwasher they move and tend to bump into other objects, thus accelerating dulling. I wash my knives in the dishwasher. No big deal for me--I can sharpen them whenever I want!
TD: Those pole things that come with knife sets, what are they called?
TD: Yeah, steels. Is it really necessary to use them? If so, how often?
PS: Whatever steel you use, it should be really smooth. Over 1000 grit. The purpose of a steel is to realign the edge, not to sharpen. If you use one every time you use your knife it should help the edge hold.
TD: How often should people get their knives professionally sharpened in a perfect world?
PS: It depends on how many knives you have and how much they are used. When they can't slice a tomato there is a problem.
TD: What about in an imperfect world?
PS: When you can't slit your wrist there is a big problem.
TD: Touché! Why don't electric knife-sharpeners get my knives as sharp as you do?
PS: Electric sharpeners take more metal off than I do. The machine itself doesn't have eyes to look at the edge. I have one that I used once about ten years ago and ruined a knife.
TD: How much does it cost to sharpen a regular-sized chef's knife? What about a small paring knife?
PS: A small knife is $5 and large is $10.
TD: We just brought the kids to the Higgins Armory in Worcester. Do people ever bring you swords to sharpen? Knights or ninjas, say?
PS: Yes, someone called me with a sword. I sent him away. It takes way too long and I do not have the equipment. It was a samurai sword. I do know someone who will sharpen them though.
TD: What's your favorite kind of knife?
PS: Right now my choice of knife for chopping are two eight-inch Wusthof chefs knives that I hold together and use at the same time. I think that Adam Simha, a knifemaker in Cambridge, is going to make me a knife that will be two blades with one handle to achieve the same effect.
TD: Wow, that's cool! Thanks, Knife Lady!
The Wayland Winter Farmer's Market has closed for the season, but Patti travels often to other farmer's markets in the area. She can also be found some Sundays at Formaggio's Kitchen in Cambridge and some Thursday evenings at City Feed in Jamaica Plain. Her calendar is here, but always check ahead of time to make sure she'll be there. If you're not local, seek out a professional knife-sharpener in your area. I'm telling you, you'll fall in love with your knives all over again!
This is an actual menu from our local pizza delivery place. They've updated their offerings, it looks like. Some of the new flavors are a little out there, but, you know, sometimes you have to take a few risks. It's called the culinary "arts," after all. For example, with regards to their "Sweat Marinated" chicken pizza, I give them an A for originality and an A+ for honesty. At last, the secret ingredient in their special marinara sauce has been revealed!
But, I don't know, is anyone else feeling like Indian tonight?
Online parenting site Babble just named their top 100 food blogs written by moms all over the world, and I was very honored to be included on their list. Food on the Food was ranked #49 overall, and #10 most fun to read. I thought that was pretty sweet!
Going through the list, I came across a number of cool blogs that were new to me, and I thought you might like them, too. I mean, we already know about Smitten Kitchen, right? So here are a few I thought were especially worth checking out:
Perhaps now I can get back into a good blog-reading routine after some time away. Any other new favorites you can recommend written by moms and non-moms alike?
I was going to tell you all about a recent bad restaurant experience we had where four reasonable adults and two children unanimously decided to walk out. But, instead, I'm devoting the space to calling out my 10 favorite restaurant meals of last year, because I feel like sharing the love, not the hate.
These days, most of our socializing tends to take place at friends' houses since our budget doesn’t allow for a lot of restaurant outings. But we we do think it's important to head out into the open world once in a while to make sure we don't lose what social graces we have left, if any. There are a few cheap lunches here and there, the odd special occasion splurge meal, and sporadic outings with friends usually involving drinks and appetizers. This list isn't intended to be trendy—just to point out where we went to enjoy each other's company over some great food and drink. So, without further ado, here were my most memorable restaurant meals of 2010 in no particular order.
Ponzu, Waltham, MA: Salt and pepper calamari and funky assortment of maki rolls (e.g., Dragon, House)
Sofra, Cambridge, MA: Turkish breakfast with soft-boiled egg and phyllo nest, fried feta, thick yogurt with fruit chutney, marinated cucumbers, and olives. It's hard to really understand why it's so good until you taste all the different components on one plate. The desserts are amazing, too.
The Local, Newton, MA: Fried pickles, macaroni and cheese. Local means local: some of my favorite regional products are featured on the menu.
Taqueria Mexico, Waltham, MA: Tacos pastor, El Presidente (one chile relleno, one chicken enchilada with salsa verde, one taco, plus rice and beans), and pastel de tres leches (cake of three milks!!!)
The Brewster Fish House, Brewster, MA: lobster bisque and pretty much any of their fish dishes.
The Gallows, Boston, MA: Bloody Mary, pumpkin butter on corn muffins, pork belly.
Garden at the Cellar, Cambridge, MA: The spring meal I have in mind had some kind of rhubarb concoction with pickled ramps and doughnuts. Sounds weird and it was, but in a fantastic way. Lots of local farms represented here, too.
Sunrise Rang-Dong, Dorchester, MA: Vietnamese catfish clay pot with caramelized garlic and steamed rice (especially delicious after some urban peach-picking)
The Library Restaurant, Portsmouth, NH: Food and books: what could be better? Despite it being a steakhouse, I found their lobster roll delightful. (My dad was paying—thanks, Dad!)
Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA: Get the #2 cocktail: Maker’s Mark, amaretto, sorghum syrup, and two boiled peanuts. That drink is my favorite drink in the whooooole world. Also, you can't lose with the corn bread with sorghum and anything else on the menu involving shrimp or grits or kohlrabi.
So, tell me, what were your favorites?
Look at the new lunchbox I got for Christmas! I’m super-excited because maybe now I won’t look like such a loser at school.
That's right, I’m back at school. It’s like one of those horrible dreams where you forgot to take a test, so you have to go back to your old classroom and pass the exam retroactively or they’ll render your very expensive college diploma null and void. And so you wedge yourself into one of those old-fashioned desks with the ink wells and the attached chairs, even though they totally had pencils and separate furniture back when you were a kid, and all the 10-year-olds in the classroom point and laugh because you’re old and too fat to fit behind the desk, and it’s the wrong school anyway and it’s almost test time, so you attempt to sprint down the street in the direction of your old high school, which now bears a striking resemblance to a place you used to work, but your legs won’t move correctly and you keep falling down stairs. Over and over you get up and attempt to run as fast as you can, but stairs keep appearing and you keep hurtling down them, prom dress tucked into your underwear, old-fashioned desk still girdled around your waist.
Just kidding, I didn’t go back to school to take any tests—I went back to give the tests. It’s true! I now hold the esteemed position of on-call substitute teacher for an MCAS-challenged school district. My specialty is run-on sentences. And sentence fragments. Can you believe that the public schools would let someone like me teach our nation’s children? Me neither. Such is the state of education in this country.
Since I started back in September, it has been a very enlightening experience. Let’s just say that I have my good days and I have my bad days. The good days are marked by an incredible sense of well-being and purpose, like the euphoria you feel at the end of every single inspirational teacher movie ever made (Dead Poets Society, Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, etc.). Other days? Well, other days the janitor arrives in the late afternoon to find me spackled to the white board in a hardened, partially soggy papier-mâché body cast of spitballs. The only things visible are my dead eyes. Sometimes the janitor makes me watch him sweep up the disaster of a classroom before he scrapes me down, because, apparently, my day hasn’t been bad enough.
But I am excited about my new lunch bag. Lunch is my favorite part of the school day, for it is then that I may enjoy my hastily cobbled-together, room- temperature leftovers undisturbed, after I’ve had a chance to gingerly remove the thumbtacks from my asshole.
Those tacks are mine now. Take that!
I was in line at Russo’s the other day (our nearest quality produce market), and I was suddenly overcome with seething rage and not for the usual reasons. I mean, yes, Russo’s is always a nightmare unless you get there between 8 and 10 a.m. on a weekday, which I hadn’t, and the cashier was slow, and my line had no bagger, and my kid was restless. But those were not the direct reasons for my anger. No, I was mad at the person in line in front of me who wasn’t bagging her own stuff.
Isn’t there some kind of unwritten rule about that? That if there is no bagger present and you have two functioning limbs, that you should go ahead and starting placing your groceries into bags? Even if you merely start the process, open the bag, toss a few things in, then let the cashier take over once it’s time to punch in the debit card info, shouldn’t you at least make a token effort? A half-hearted show of being a good citizen?
But no. The obviously-new cashier was taking 15 excruciating minutes to tabulate the bill and this woman, who was possibly younger than me and from my vantage point quite able-bodied, was just standing there waiting for her to finish so the cashier could then begin the mounting task of (slowly) placing each thing into a bag. No motion was made to help a sister out.
I find this kind of thing infuriating and, so, to try to calm myself down, I began speculating about the possible reasons why one wouldn’t put their own groceries into a bag. Was she foreign? Do they not have grocery stores in other countries? Nope, I’ve definitely seen grocery stores in other countries. Was she not aware of the bagging situation? She brought her own reusable, recyclable bags, so she seemed to have some level of bag-related awareness. She didn’t seem preoccupied with watching the prices as they were rung up to make sure no calculation errors were being made. That might have been a reasonable excuse. Maybe. Was she going through some kind of divorce, job loss, health issue, complicated child-rearing situation, bereavement of any kind? Impossible to say, but she didn’t seem anxious about anything at all. She looked perfectly Zen and at ease with the world. Does she simply enjoy spending her time standing in lines? Is that her “me” time?
It seems moderately petty now that I’m recounting it. Surely more egregious crimes of conduct have been committed at Russo’s, including but not limited to smashing your cart into someone’s Achilles tendon, maybe by accident, maybe not. I’ve seen elderly women nearly get into fistfights over tangerines. Clearly I was in an impatient mood, but I’m telling you, I was one step away from sidling over to the bagger’s station and, without breaking eye contact with Zen Woman, dropping her things into bags from a higher-than-necessary level.
Well, now. I thought cancer was supposed to make you a better, more forgiving person. Guess not!
My photography is still hit or miss these days, but I have to give props to a site that has improved my finished photos a good 50-300%. It’s Picnik. Have you heard of it? My friend Barry Foy dragged me out of my cave to show it to me (the light, THE BLINDING LIGHT!!!).
Picnik is a photo-editing web site that allows you to download your own image files, manipulate them in a simple, user-friendly way, and then store them back on your own computer. It’s great if you don’t have Photoshop and/or the will to learn Photoshop. I have yet to really explore the finer points of what Picnik has to offer, but what I use all the time is the auto-fix, wherein I upload a photo, click a button, and major problems are identified and magically corrected. Things like exposure. And contrast. So far, it hasn’t improved composition, but I suppose there’s something to be said for artful cropping.
Picnik isn’t really a substitute for actual photography skills, but it might allow one to buy a little extra time while such skills develop. You know, if four years doesn’t happen to be enough. (But look where I started!) You can also make collages like what you see above. Between that and correcting my ever-present lighting issues, it’s done wonders to make my brand new "professional" web site look more, er, professional. Come see!
As you know, Food on the Food likes to support the local community. I regularly feature ingredients from local farmers, fishermen, and artisans. I like to share news of book releases from local authors. I often publicize local food-related community events. Now, I’m announcing a friendly venture with a local family-owned business: The Concord Shop.
If you’re not familiar with this culinary hardware store located in historic Concord, you’re in for a treat. It’s jam-packed with all kinds of practical kitchen tools, from the requisite whisks, spatulas, and wooden spoons to electronic scales, cookie cutters, teapots, Lodge cast irons skillets, table linens, candles, baskets, and all manner of bakeware, not to mention cookbooks. I’m not one to indulge in unnecessary kitchen gadgetry, but I do need to replace some stuff every once in a while (smashed candy thermometers, for example) and The Concord Shop hasn’t let me down. The selection is extremely practical without being stodgy. Besides, it’s the cutest little store you’ve ever seen. My pictures don’t do it justice. It’s small, square-footage-wise, but it would take a serious time commitment to peruse the entire inventory bursting from the hand-labeled jars and bins, and hanging from the ceiling.
I got the idea to approach owners Meghan and Bob Prestidge about teaming up because of all the unsolicited inquiries I get everyday from people asking me to cover products on my blog that have nothing to do with my blog at all. Like: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Huh? Who told them to take the butter out of my butter? Put it back! That got me thinking. What if there were a place—a magical place—where all the stuff in the store were stuff I wanted and would happily buy if given half a chance and some cash? AND it was supporting a small, local, family-owned business. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Naturally I figured it wouldn’t work out. I mean, they'd probably turn out to be jerks, right? Well, they’re not jerks!!! They're soooo nice, in fact. And somehow I was able to suppress my own jerk-like tendencies for the whole length of the meeting, so I think we were all happily surprised!
Our evolving partnership goes something like this. They let me borrow some of their stuff for my photos (plates, bowls, random utensils), and I let you know when the stuff is theirs. That might give you a much-needed break from seeing the same white plate in every single solitary picture I post. It might also give me some creative inspiration. Furthermore, if I see something that I like in my travels to the shop, I might mention it here. Like the amazing potholders and smock-style aprons they carry, which are handmade by a friend of theirs in Quebec. And the rectangular French tart pans I covet. And the paring knives with bright, citrus-colored handles that match my kitchen curtains. And who doesn’t dream of having their very own pizza peel instead of sliding their pie onto the baking stone with parchment paper and just letting it burn away!! I’m telling you, this store is a gem.
So this is what I think. The next time you’re in the Concord area, stop by. Surely you’ve snapped all the handles off of your wooden spoons by now. Or make a special trip to Concord Center. There’s also a wine and cheese shop, toy store, and book store all within a block, and mere minutes away are the year-round farm stores of Codman Farm, Verrill Farm, and Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds. Know that when you’re supporting The Concord Shop, you’re also supporting this blog. And if you’re not in the area, please patronize your own local businesses.
Now back to work, people!
I promised to give you more background on that wonderful fall harvest salad I featured in my last post, and so I shall. It came from a great new cookbook called Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget written by local blogger and fellow poor girl, Amy McCoy. Given the current economic climate, I can’t imagine a more timely and relevant topic. McCoy knows that cutting back doesn’t have to mean eating poorly. It might mean eating less or eating differently, but it shouldn’t have to mean eating crap food.
On the contrary, McCoy makes cooking on a budget look like great fun, which it is, as well as downright classy (note the back section on budget wines). She convincingly demonstrates that by planning and cooking your own meals, you really can save money and eat better (read: healthier and more enjoyably). She even breaks down the estimated costs for you. Orzo, sun-dried tomato, and walnut salad with feta: $2.61 per person. Chicken, sausage, and kale soup: $3.28 per person. Honey mustard- and cider-marinated pork spareribs with thyme-roasted carrots and buttery mashed potatoes: $3.05 per person. She also offers realistic pointers for conserving some coin, like buying meat on the bone, shopping at ethnic markets, and buying fresh vegetables in season. Warning: She seems to really like squash.
Poor Girl Gourmet is one of my favorite new cookbooks of the year and, as such, Andrews McMeel has agreed to donate two copies to be raffled off to you Food on the Foodies. Can I call you that? No? Not even if I give you a free cookbook? Okay, fine. To be considered, simply leave a comment on this post about your own favorite “poor girl/boy” meal. Doesn’t have to be fancy—peasant food is welcome, encouraged even. And if you don’t win (and, let’s face it, most of you won’t), it’s a solid gift idea for any upcoming birthdays or end-of-year holidays that shan’t be named. In the meantime, you have until Wednesday or whenever I feel like shutting this down.
Ready, set, go!