Posts Tagged cooking

A Turkey of a Holiday

This year for Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I was sick.

Okay, that is a lie.

I mean, I was sick, that is true, but I was really pissed off about it.

Actually, even that isn’t true. I was so sick I wasn’t pissed off about anything. I was just blah. I was really blah, and as bummed as I could muster the energy to be, about being sick for Thanksgiving.

The week started out with a surprise sudden visit from my father, who sent me an email late Friday night while I was in Vegas (Vegas Baybee!) to say he needed to come down for business and would be arriving on Monday.

Hmm, maybe I should start back even farther. On Wednesday of the week prior to Thanksgiving I got the husband from the airport when he returned from China. On Wednesday night we had dinner with a friend. On Thursday morning we drove to Vegas. On Thursday night we hung out with friends in Vegas and ditto on Friday (more on that later). There may have been a lot of eating and booze consumption. On Saturday we expected to leave after lunch to head home. We did, but that ended up being almost 4 PM. Why were we heading back on Saturday instead of Sunday? Because we had a party to attend on Saturday night.

We drove into town, went home, ate a quick dinner and spoke to the teen monster, and said hello to all the animals, and then got cleaned up a bit, dressed and headed out to a party. We left when the police helicopter showed up. Don’t ask, I don’t know.

On Sunday we had somebody over for dinner (braised pork in a apple Zinfandel reduction). Then on Monday I picked up my father & co. at the airport and ate too much for dinner and dessert and stayed up late talking. Indy woke me several times in the night. It is always a crapshoot (sometimes literally) as to whether she sleeps through the whole nights, wakes me up once to go out, or wakes me up every hour for one reason or another.

My point is, that while I should probably not have been surprised to come down sick after all that, I was too out of it to notice that I was sick upon waking Tuesday morning. It wasn’t until I was about 50 miles into a 200 mile round trip with my father (decided to drive him to his business thing) that I realized I had a fever and all my skin hurt and my neck hurt.

By the time business was over (during which I napped in the backseat of my car) and we made it back home, my hair hurt, all my muscles hurt, my joints hurt, and my bones hurt. My stomach felt mildly gross, and I was too hot and too cold. I fell into bed and stayed there for many hours, until my stomach advanced to feeling incredibly gross, at which point I had to sometimes leave bed.

Around 24 hours later, I felt really, really bad, which was way better than I’d felt the day before. I decided I’d be fine to go pick up the teen monster instead of asking somebody else to do me the favor of picking her up (I’d already had somebody else take her). Clearly, I was still feverish and delusional, because I was in no shape to go pick her up.

I finally made dinner on Saturday night because it was the last night the people I originally invited for Thanksgiving could do it. I still didn’t really feel very good, so I had to scale back on a lot of things. I washed my hands A LOT, and tried really hard to be extra careful about everything, and used gloves a lot of the time too, but really, I worried that I was serving Plague Feast.

Anyhow – Menu (not overly traditional)

Caviar (with little toasts and creme fraiche)
Spicy Marinated Mushrooms, Garlic Stuff Olives, and Castelvetrano Olives (one my absolute favorites, even though my husband insists on telling the same lame joke every time I serve them. Frighteningly, some guests believe his joke.)
Salmon (with cream cheese, sesame toast rounds, capers, onions and lemons)
Cheese Plate
Sourdough Bread and Garlic Butter
Zucchini and Yellow Squash Salad
Cranberry Orange Sauce
New York Steak Cubes seasoned in salt, paprika and coffee, then wrapped in bacon
Turkey (prepared with a dry rub and the cooked on the BBQ grill with a Turkey Cannon filled with beer and garlic and oranges)
Rutabagas, Turnips, Parsnips, and Butternut Squash roasted in duck fat

I also made Egg Nog (and spiced rum) Ice Cream with Ginger Snap Cookies in it.

After I immediately made Turkey and Wild Rice Soup to send home with one of the guests. Mmmmnn, plague soup. Although he reported back that it was quite possibly the best soup he’d ever had, ever, and failed to come down with the plague. Maybe I just lightly seasoned it with plague. Kind of like eating perfectly prepared fugu, with just enough toxin there to feel it and remind you of life, without enough to kill you.

Anyhow, I did nothing at all on Monday, and did very little on Tuesday, and just tried to recover. I am finally feeling not too bad. Now I will post this, and finish making dinner, which is currently on the stove (and in the oven, and in the rice cooker).

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Keeping you in the dark, and feeding you shit.

So much going on; so little I feel like posting a word about.

Today I present a cheat post. I made soup for somebody, and they asked me for the recipe. I hate being asked for the recipe. I don’t hate it because my stuff is secret. I don’t hate it because it takes time to write something up. I hate it because it always makes me feel like a disappointment, because I don’t really have useful recipe information.

I have one friend who likes to watch me cook and try to write down a recipe for herself while I do it. She’s always asking me “how much” of something I used, or she gets distracted and misses a few steps and comes back and wants a recap. I just want to throw things at her (but I rarely do), because what I want to scream is “I DON’T KNOW!” which sounds pretty Alzheimer-y, since I just did it 5 minutes ago.

But I am usually working to feel, look, taste, or smell in the kitchen, so I am not paying attention to what I am putting into the pot, and the amount of it, I am busy focusing on what is already in the pot, and how it is changing based on what I do.

I rarely bake, because I don’t like recipes, and with baking, they are a lot more important.

Anyhow, I typed up something about the soup I made, that they requested a recipe for, so I might as well post it here too.

Mushroom Soup

I don’t like cream of mushroom soup, and never have, so this soup was not designed to be a cream-less cream of mushroom soup. I just wanted a mushroom-y soup.

I don’t cook with recipes and pretty much every thing I make is different each time I make it, because I try to use fresh ingredients. I design my menu around what I find at the grocery store, rather than planning my shopping list based on my menu.

So, I might know I’d like to make mushroom soup, go to the store and not find any mushrooms I think are fit to use, but usually I find mushrooms, it is just that the varieties that look best (or the price points) change which ones I want to buy. The qualities of the ones I end up coming home with, change what seasonings I use in the soup, since I am trying to enhance certain flavors.

So, the mushroom soup I made the other night, has the same basic idea as all my mushroom soups (mushroom + liquid blended together = soup), but the flavor nuances are totally different.

The other night was about a pound of crimini mushrooms (basically the common white mushroom, but slightly more flavorful), and one large grown up version, the portobello.

I sauteed a small amount of diced onions and 4 minced large garlic cloves in olive oil. I cleaned, sliced, and salted the crimini mushrooms, then tossed them in with the onions and garlic and drizzled more olive oil over it all.  Stir it up a bit then put a lid on it and turn it to low to sweat the mushrooms down.

Then I added some fresh rosemary. I don’t know how much, I do it until the pot smells like mushrooms and rosemary, but not so much that it just smells like rosemary. I can’t smell the onions at all, because I really do use a small amount, to enhance flavors but not make it at all onion-y. I could still smell the garlic, but it isn’t overwhelming the scent of mushrooms. Mostly it smells a lot like mushrooms.

Then I took it off the heat and begin adding chicken broth, which I often do from a box, but I happened to have made chicken broth from scratch recently and still had enough left.  I use an immersion blender to pulverize the mushrooms, and blend it all together into a thickened soup. I add the broth a little at a time, until I get the soup consistency that I want. I cook it in a much large pot than the amount of soup I want, so that I can do the blending without as much mess. It could be done in a blender too, but I have an immersion blender, so I don’t need to pour stuff into a blender and then back into the pot. I totally ❤ immersion blenders. I take it off the heat before I do this so that I am less likely to seriously injure myself when I splatter soup all over me. I always splatter soup all over me while using the immersion blender. Once it was the consistency I wanted, I sprinkled in a little paprika and covered the soup and put it back on low heat.

I chopped up the portobello into little cubes and in a pan and sauteed those with olive oil, salt, and a little bit of garlic powder. I often do this with a bit of bacon too, but didn’t for this particular meal, because it wasn’t a *”fat” Tuesday.

Then I stir that into the soup, so that there is more variation in texture than the blended up soup mixture had on it’s own.

That’s about it.  I do a bazillion other variations on it.

* The friend I was cooking for does WW and has a weekly weigh in on Tuesday morning. There is traditionally much extra “healthy” eating on Monday to prepare for weigh in, and then Tuesday is celebratory gluttony. When cooking for this person, I try to make point friendly meals most days of the week, and make meals on Tuesday night that would leave the meeting leader rocking back and forth in a corner muttering gibberish.

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What’s Cooking?

One of my many happy things about being back in the Los Angeles area, is the food. I missed the restaurants, but I also missed the produce and the ethnic markets fiercely.

Lately I’ve been enjoying garden bounty: Squash from one person with an overflowing garden. Lemons from another with heavy trees. Tomatoes from a friend who is growing more than her household will eat.

It is such a wonderful thing. Because it is fresh, the flavor and nutritional values are higher. Because it is free, the financial benefit is awesome. Because it is what is available right then, it forces me to think of ways to make use of them, which often leads to meals I wouldn’t normally think to shop for.

Most of all, for me, food is so much about caring. When the ingredients are gifted to me through my network of human connections and interactions, it ties me to the positive. As I cook, I think of where ingredients came from. I think of whom they are going to feed. I think about ingredients loved by people I love. I think of the last time I prepared a dish, and who I fed that time, or of whom I would like to feed with it. I follow the threads in my mind as I chop and mix and sample.

Onions and cucumbers came from the CSA last week, and my daughter requested a cucumber salad. As I prepared it I thought back two summers to being in New York City, when a different CSA delivery led to a different cucumber salad. It was prepared by a dear friend as we worked together in the kitchen to create a feast from CSA items and food treasures collected at a nearby market. I know this is part of why my daughter wanted the salad too, because of her memory of that NYC salad, and because the friend was extra on our mind because she had a birthday this week. Every future cucumber salad will always remind both of us, of that one, and no other will ever be quite as good, because some food moments are so right.

With my bounty of tomatoes I made gazpacho, which is pretty much a perfect summer treat. It makes some use of the lemons as well. Lemons can be used pretty much daily in cooking, especially during the summer, which is the perfect time for multiple salads. Anything to stay cooler.

I’ve been cooking on the grill a lot lately, even things I wouldn’t normally cook on the grill (like banana bread). This is because it is fuck-all hot and I don’t want to heat the kitchen up further. The rest of the tomatoes I slow cooked into a delicious tomato sauce using the grill. I suppose all this unattended cooking out there could eventually lead to my house burning down, but whatever, in Southern California I can survive without housing longer than I can survive without food.

Half of the tomato sauce is in the freezer waiting for another use. The other half, I simmered ground and seasoned lamb patties in. Those I served over portabella mushrooms, stuffed with a mixture of spinach, goat cheese, extra garlic, basil, and pine nuts (and cooked on the grill, of course). The abundance of squash has been sliced up, lightly salted, spritzed with ACV and grilled. Everything gets grilled.

The heat has been leading to a desire for cooler and more refreshing cocktails as well. I brought home mint the other day so the bartender could make me mojitos. The peels from the cucumbers for the cucumber salad, I used to flavor vodka overnight, along with mint sprigs. Then that made cucumber mint spritzers the next night.

The heat wave finally broke yesterday, after a week of evil yellow ball in the sky trying to kill us all weather. It is still summer though. It will still be a grilled dinner tonight with refreshing cold side dishes and beverages, just with less lethargy and overheated misery.

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Squawk

If I was granted 10 wishes, I’d wish to be a nicer person.

Fuck you. No I wouldn’t. I was totally lying. You didn’t believe that horseshit, did you?

I would wish to be less obsessed with getting it perfect, and a lot more satisfied with getting it done.

I’d also wish for world peace, via having a large number of people (think REALLY LARGE) shift to an alternate reality that they were not sharing with me. I don’t care about an end to war, I just need more peace for me, personally.

I don’t have the top 10 all mapped out, but somewhere in there, I’d want to be able to consistently peel a boiled egg perfectly.

I’ve read hundreds of web tips, watched videos, explored techniques and looked at gadgets. I still peel a mutated fucked up dented, chipped, and gouged egg as often as I peel a perfectly smooth egg shaped egg.

I fucking hate slop in the kitchen.

I have a boiled egg almost every day, unless I am eating breakfast out, have run out of eggs, or… I don’t know, am too busy puking my guts out or something (see the 2nd week of July), so it isn’t as if I don’t have a lot of practice peeling eggs.

I like deviled eggs. I LOVE good deviled eggs. I make a damn good deviled egg, but I never do it because the process of trying to peel that many eggs drives me fucking mad. I haven’t made a batch since before my kid was born, and she is old enough to get her driver’s license now.

The last time I made them it was because I asked people I love what I should bring to their house for a party, and they replied “Your deviled eggs!” I made eggs for the party. There was a lot of screaming and swearing and a little crying (and a lot of rejected eggs) and people at the party loved them. I never asked those friends what I should bring to their house again. I just told them what I could bring.

Yes, I know, some people would make deviled eggs with slightly fucked up, or even very fucked up eggs, but I am not that person.

Wait, scratch the egg peeling skills wish. If I am wishing, let’s just wish big. I want ultimate egg skillz, yo. No fishing egg shells out of mixing bowls. No breaking the yolk on over easy eggs. No fucking up an omelet while trying to flip or fold it. No curdling while making a custard. No accidentally having one roll off the counter and break on the floor while I am busy grabbing some other ingredient. You get the idea.

Clucking chickens and their little packages of kitchen stress.

Yes, I know. If you are paying attention and are the kind of asshole who likes to point shit out, you might be itching to type something about how if I was less obsessed with getting it perfect and more obsessed with getting it done, I’d just bring ugly tasty deviled eggs to parties, and I’d be a lot more likable. Fuck you. I don’t want to be likable. I just want to quickly peel eggs without having chunks of white stick to the shell, and I want to do with without resorting to raising my own chickens in an effort to feed them perfectly and have the eggs be as fresh as possible.

If there were less people I wouldn’t need as many eggs to serve deviled eggs at a party.

My morning breakfast peeled perfectly this morning. It won’t tomorrow. I don’t even know which is worse.

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Random Chatter About Today

Today was good. Indy continued on her road to recovery, so the weight on my shoulders from yesterday, eased. It was kind of a rough night, and I will probably be spending a second night downstairs, but, really, things are MUCH better. Still, rough night equals not enough sleep, which is just no fun.

Watson’s playdate got canceled, but I was able to get somebody else to bring a good natured Golden over for a romp on the deck. She was a little too good natured, and she didn’t do enough reprimanding of Watson being a booger, but still it was a fun evening, and included sharing a bottle of wine with her owner. Plus, the Golden got Indy extra alert and best of all created a bunch of wagging, which had been missing since surgery.

Red fox sighting today! So cute. I’ve seen foxes a couple of times before in the area, but today was the first daylight one. Actually, my mother saw a fox while walking Watson today, and then we all saw one from the back deck. I don’t know if it was the same fox, but it seems likely. It’s about the right time for kits. I wonder if there is a den nearby, filled with cuteness.

Lamb burgers with feta cheese for dinner. Lamb is good food. Perhaps I could lure a fox with some of it.

I also have some fresh strawberries in the house and have been experimenting making whipped cream with liqueurs. Last night was Disaronno and tonight was Grand Marnier. This also led me to thinking I was to try making a Limoncello ice cream this summer.

Thunderstorm tonight, time to find out how Watson feels about thunder. Hopefully he’ll be as easy going about it as all my other dogs have been.

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