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Archive for the ‘Food and Drink’ Category

Like everyone else, I clamor for advice and aid from Google, and am an enthusiastic viewer of Youtube tutorials.
For instance, today I bought a new sprinkler for the garden area I am pleased to call my Lawn (which while it may not have the emerald lushness that characterizes my neighbors’ lawns is at least mostly covered with vegetation, much of which is grass).
So I brought the device home and attached it to the hose!
Nothing happened!
I went wailing to Google and discovered that my device did NOT look like the others of its kind. EVENTUALLY I found that the manufacturers had separated it into two bits, and clamped the one to the other with cunning black plastic joinery that looked EXACTLY like it was part of the machine. But it wasn’t, and once I acquired the courage to do so, I removed it and BINGO! Water spraying about in a wild and jubilant fashion!
The internet does not ALWAYS answer so well, however.
See, last night I presented my dinner guests with a lovely Pavlova–what is a Pavlova, you ask? An elegant dessert composed of meringue layers, whipped cream, and berries.

Making a meringue is not difficult, but the baking must be done just so. My recipe said to use parchment to line the baking sheet. But upon seeking further advice online I found that other recipes said NEVER use parchment, the meringue will stick to it! One of them even offered advice on sticking the shattered meringues together with whipped cream (“no one will NOTICE”)–reminding me of a recipe for quenelles (poached dumplings of pureed pike) in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which was immediately followed by a recipe called “In Case of Disaster: Fish Mousse.”

One wishes CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS when baking.
I decided to use the parchment– if the meringue was ruined, we could have M&Ms for dessert instead.
However, it wasn’t so we didn’t.

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The UK government is going head to head with the pubs, I understand–beer can only be sold to customers when associated with a “Substantial Meal.”
But WHAT, people would like to know, constitutes a substantial meal?
LAWYERS are involved, by the way.
Quote: “High-end crisps” served in “substantial portions accompanied with various elaborate dips” were considered a substantial meal in a 2017 Westminster City Council hearing, with the council congratulating the owner on “[creating] a ‘non-Walkers’ crisp offer and the desire to celebrate the great British potato at its peak and most hip”.

Which is all very well, but most people want to know–HOW ABOUT A PORK PIE? Substantial enough for you? Or a Scotch egg–does that suit?
One cheeky pub, so I understand, set up a fake tap for a beer called Substantial Meal.
Let me say, it is never a good thing to set yourself up against the pubs.

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Kindly Boss

Last night I was dozing off when the phone rang, and someone announced that she had just left my gift on the doorstep–I heard this through my faithful machine which knew I didn’t want to pick up the phone but carefully recorded what she said and let me listen as it did so.

So this morning a LARGE BOX sat by the door, and once I had fed the cats (who are very firm about rejecting any kind of delay to breakfast) I opened it up–WHOA! It was filled with a dainty assortment of comestibles including a large silver sack that said REFRIGERATE.

Which was filled with CHEESE and other Delicious Things. Directions on how to assemble a stylish cheese board were included.

RIGHT. Party this weekend.

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Food Art

I have just been looking at Lilek’s Regrettable Food book, a charming volume in the library of the Smallest Room in the House.

It made me think about modern day food pictures. Of which there are TRILLIONS. Each one more perfect, more adorably artless than the next. And the photographers are obviously DELIGHTED with themselves and their art, using many many visions of the same item.
Say you are seeking a recipe for lemon pie. YAY, THERE IT IS, you found it! And now start rolling down the page, looking for, you know, the actual recipe.
First, a dainty picture of the pie itself.

Then an artistic shot of a piece of the pie–then one with a bite taken out! haHA!

Then one of cream being whipped, then one of cream being applied to the lemon filling. Then another of the whole pie. Then just when you think perhaps the page is concerned primarily with the philosophical concept of lemon pie, there it is! The little recipe!

I realize it is too much to ask for the recipe first, but how about a little link, allowing us to cut to the chase? Would this be too wounding to the baker’s artistic spirit?

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Just when it seemed we were emerging from our National Nightmare, we are struck another blow–riots rampaging through the cities. The murder of George Floyd was horrible, and Derek Chauvin is rightfully charged with murder, fired from his job, imprisoned. I admit I am somewhat taken aback to find that smashing and looting stores is considered a reasonable response. But it’s summertime! In America! Laissez les bon temps roulez!
Let us hope that peace will be restored soon.
Meanwhile, by way of seeking comfort, I have returned to a show I watched 4 years ago–Montalbano! He is the sly Sicilian detective, who swims in the turquoise sea every morning, and adores his dinner–often a dish will bring tears of happiness into his eyes. There is one which which actually features as a plot device in one of the stories: arancini. Delicious little items, his housekeeper is making them for New Year’s Eve, and he finds a way to stay in Sicily to enjoy them rather than spend the evening with his girlfriend in Paris as he had promised. NOTE: he is something of a jerk to his girlfriend. I can’t but think that it was his passion for the adorable fried rice balls that pushed them onto the menu at Whole Foods–where I have seen them on occasion and resisted the temptation. But I found a recipe and might be forced to make them if the news doesn’t get a little cheerier this week.

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My Instacart order has once again been delayed, and my house is empty of CREAM. So what, says the internet–you can substitute coconut cream! It whips like a dream, and tastes mighty fine!
Well, I had some on hand–bought to regale a colleague who is allergic to dairy–so I chilled it and whipped it up, added a little sugar and vanilla.
Guess what?

YUCK.
IT TASTES LIKE SOAP.

It has NO relationship to whipped cream.
Reminds me of Henri’s bathroom cream.

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A colleague nipped in and out of France last week–had a lovely ski vacation and managed to get out before the shut down. He and his wife almost had the whole plane to themselves on the way home. They returned with MANY treats for us, AND news of a lovely dish they had enjoyed, a delectable Alpine specialty: TARTIFLETTE! Ravished by the description, I made it the next evening, first stopping by the store to get the cheese–had to make do with a Chaumes as there was no Reblochon to be had (not even for ready money).

Tartiflette Recipe
2 lbs of yellow potatoes (6 or so)
3 tbsp butter
1 large onion thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic
6 oz sliced pancetta or bacon
4 oz dry white wine
4 oz whipping cream
1 Reblochon
1 clove of garlic
salt and pepper
***
Preheat oven to 375

  • Boil the potatoes in salted water until just cooked. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large frying pan, sauté the pancetta, garlic, and onions in a tablespoon of the butter until it begins to brown. Then add the wine and continue to cook until it has mostly evaporated and onions are caramelized.
  • Remove from heat, stir in the cream.
  • Chop potatoes into little cubes, saute in 2 T of butter until golden, add salt and pepper (or, skip this part and add directly to onion mixture).
  • Put it all into large pie pan.
  • Cut the cheese in half horizontally, lay the halves , skin side up, over the top of the onions and potatoes,.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until brown and bubbly.

This is a VERY DELICIOUS TREAT, and should help you forget your troubles. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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I am not and never have been a sports fan, but every once in a while I glance at the Wall Street Journal’s sports page–the writers are excellent in that section, as they are in every section of that excellent newspaper.
Yesterday there was a story about the Rugby World Cup, taking place in Kobe, Japan–now through November. Some 36 thousand fans are flooding in from Ireland, Scotland, England, South Africa–and they are THIRSTY FOR BEER. A LOT of beer. The Kobe tourist bureau organized seminars, sent out information packages, got the word out–they did NOT WANT their city to endure the ghastly shame of running out of beer. As happened at Yokohama two years ago! Bars and distilleries have risen to the challenge, and the country is on full alert. Japanese beer drinkers might drink 2 beers a night, but these foreign fans drink many times that much–and faster. Also, they need bigger glasses than is typical in Japan.
And good heavens, the serried ranks of extra porto potties!

The prudent fan comes prepared.

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My adorable grandson turning three–how to adequately observe this important event? Well, the youthful celebrant modestly indicated that SPIDERMAN CUPCAKES might fill the bill, and his fond mama indicated that a party of possibly 30 revelers would be taking part in the festivities.

Let us say, 4 dozen confections.

Making them: not a problem.

Transporting them to Brooklyn: MAJOR PROBLEM.

But this stout-hearted granny relishes such challenges! Two weeks in advance of the day, I borrowed a 2-dozen cupcake holder to stand beside the similar device I owned. Then, I inquired of Amazon if it might have a set of wheels to move these mighty double carriers about on the earth and particularly in the train station. YES! Such an item was obtainable, and not very costly either. I ordered it, together with 4 dozen Spiderman candy decorations.

Then, my oven blew up.

Which is to say, I had put in a sheet of cookies (pecan sandies, if you must know) and the oven decided to thermoblast them so that they melted into a sort of cookie lava, coating the oven floor and running onto the kitchen floor.

ARGHHH.

Here is a bit of hard won wisdom for those of you encountering the same disaster: do NOT press the Oven Clean button. Doing so will produce an eye-watering cloud of smoke which will fill the house with a bitter long lasting stench. Sigh.

So, once the smoke had dissipated:

  • I scrubbed away the repellent muck;
  • I REBOOOTED the stove computer;
  • I bought an oven thermometer and tested the stove. Seemed fine!
  • I cautiously tested it with a pan of Magic Cookie Bars;
  • Completely fine!

So then I baked 4 dozen cupcakes, iced them, laid the little Spiderman decorations on each and prepared for my demanding journey!

All went well, though the carriers did NOT hold all the cupcakes upright and allowed some of them to tip sideways, breaking my heart. The trip was long, and the train (as usual) was FREEZING COLD; I bought a sandwich made of pressed sawdust filled with orange laminate: lunch! With a bag of Pnut M&Ms for dessert. Once in NY I took a taxi to Brooklyn–thus actually seeing the marvels of the city under which I usually pass within the roaring subway–and enjoyed the time with my charming family. The party was the next day, in a park, with hordes of exhilarated children bouncing about.

Afterwards we all went home and had a nap, and then I took the train back to Washington. With an agreeable feeling of a job well done.

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Remember General Tso’s Chicken–that sweet and spicy staple of Chinese restaurants? The kids used to love it and I used to call it meat in jam sauce. Which it is, basically–but recently I found a recipe for it and have made it a few times. And what do you know, it’s really tasty. YES, a certain amount of work, but worth it. That dark spicy sauce, those crispy little nodules of chicken!
So yesterday was easeful Saturday and I thought I would ORDER OUT–something I do very rarely, but which the kids do all the time–and I bade Grubhub fetch me some of that tasty General Tso’s chicken from a local establishment. Alas, NOT a success. The restaurant version–or at least, the quotidian restaurant version–is indeed meat in jam sauce, an insipid sauce which is neither dark or spicy, but rather a sickly red syrup.
Well, I managed to choke it down, but have come to realize that either 1) I have to try this dish from some more distinguished restaurant, or 2) continue to make it myself. Or of course, 3) stick to the old curries and pasta standbys.
And, SPEAKING of General Tso’s chicken, remember that ghastly but irresistible movie called Legend, starring Tom Cruise as a wayward whimsical WOOD ELF kind of chappie, and Tim Curry as a spectacularly horrid Lord of Darkness? Tim Curry’s outfit had him glistening as if he were covered in red syrup–one couldn’t help but instantly picture him as a toothsome nugget in that delectable dish. This unfortunate image has persisted in my mind for over 35 years….

NOTE: There was also a UNICORN and a PRINCESS in the movie. It was exquisitely dreadful.

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