Aga in the Kitchen – Fabada Beans and an Aga to Weather the Storm

September 1st, 2011 / comments 3

With the river roaring and bridges failing in Vermont, it was a treat to get a letter from my friend Char Gardner. Years ago we cooked together, taught nursery school together and owned a weaving and spinning shop together. She and her husband live in Baltimore and although we haven’t seen each other in years we have reconnected with the help of technology. Char has a wonderful story to tell about the technology in her kitchen – an Aga cooker that I am delighted to be able to share with each of you. From Char:

My Improv Partner in the Kitchen

I was well over fifty with a lifetime of cooking under my belt before I ever had the opportunity to choose a cooker from scratch. All those years accepting whatever stoves came my way, in sixteen moves to apartments and houses, city to country and back again, not counting temporary quarters in makeshift kitchens from the Middle East to the Baltic, I was never conscious of pining for any particular brand or model. But when finally faced with an irreparable stove, I surprised even myself by declaring that all I wanted was an Aga.

Aga  Aga in the Kitchen   Fabada Beans and an Aga to Weather the Storm

Had I been influenced by a constant diet of British novels? … read more

Quinoa Salad – A Middle Eastern Dinner Salad

August 17th, 2011 / comments 2

Quinoa is the seed from a plant related to beets, spinach and tumbleweed. Who knew? Tumbleweed makes me think of Gene Autry singing ‘… rolling along with the tumbling, tumbleweed’, but quinoa originated in the Andes Mountains where it has been an important food for more than six thousand years.

A gluten free, complete protein it was called the ‘mother of all grains’.

With all of this to recommend it, I decided to add it to my pantry. My first quinoa creation was a resounding failure – a mushy mixture that tasted like wet laundry, (Actually, I have never eaten wet or dry laundry, but that’s the best description I can come up with). … read more

Sesame Noodles & Ginger Sauce

July 14th, 2011 / comments 3

adirondack chair l Sesame Noodles & Ginger Sauce

Watercolor painting by Carol Egbert

Saturday, white puffy clouds danced across the cobalt blue sky, the grass was freshly mowed and my Kindle was giving me that ‘come hither’ look. It was a day to make one of my favorite (nearly) no-cook, (almost) zero effort dinners. This dinner has four steps:

  • Determine menu
  • See what’s in the pantry and fridge
  • Go to market for what isn’t
  • Pull dinner together

Charles and I decided to split the tasks. I decided we would have roasted chicken with pink ginger sauce, sesame noodles and a nectarine salad. I found soy sauce, cayenne pepper, vinegar, canola oil, garlic, honey, sesame seeds and sesame oil in the pantry and mayonnaise, sour cream, catsup and pickled ginger in the fridge. Charles went to the market to get a rotisserie cooked chicken, a box of pasta, scallions, fresh ginger and some nectarines. I got lost in my book and snoozed a bit.

When I woke up, I put a large pot of water on the stove over medium heat. In less than half an hour after Charles returned from the market, we sat down to an Asian inspired summer dinner. Here’s how we did it:

… read more

Lentil Soup – Soup with a taste from the East

May 17th, 2011 / comments 2

In Vermont, even in the third middle of May can be cool enough to have a fire in the wood stove, a perfect night for a soup and toast dinner.

lentil+pot+copy Lentil Soup   Soup with a taste from the EastThe dark pink lentils in my pantry, labeled either as Red or Egyptian lentils in the market, don’t have a seed coat so they will disintegrate into a smooth puree as the soup cooks. Here’ s how I made it.

… read more

Hamburger a la Julia Child

April 27th, 2011 / comments 9

As I was reaching for my copy of  Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, a book written by Julia Child and published in 2000, I started to think of food before she came into my life.

thyme Hamburger a la Julia Child

Before Julia, salad was a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with bright orange salad dressing poured on top. Cakes, either chocolate, yellow, or spice came as a mix. Mayonnaise was not something one ‘made’. Onion soup was a brown powder to be mixed with sour cream as a dip for potato chips. Cheese was American, Swiss or cheddar. Seasoning consisted of salt and pepper and perhaps a decorative sprig of curly parsley that was pushed to one side before whatever it was decorating was eaten. Shallots, capers, garlic, leeks, fresh herbs, and olive oil were exotic ingredients found in foreign kitchens.

In 1967, newly married and living across the road from The French Market, in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC, I considered lunch from the French Market a treat. It might be a sandwich on a crusty baguette with rare roast beef, salami, brie, or pate, with butter, or Dijon mustard. Some days I chose an assortment of salads – mushrooms a la Grecque, carrots in mustard vinaigrette with fresh dill, marinated green beans with olives, and potato salad in lemon vinaigrette. I was hooked.

I loved the scent of garlic, lemon rind and parsley that the market’s butcher minced for the lamb roasts he skillfully turned into perfect replicas of duck decoys that waited in the meat case until clever cooks roasted and served them.

Another man prepared escargot. He pushed cooked snails into shells and then filled them with a mixture of sweet butter, garlic, parsley, and ground almonds. I knew I was a foodie, an term that did not exist in 1967, when I bought two metal snail pans, two small forks, and two snail holders, metal tools that looked like eyelash curlers gone wrong. Snails were easier than macaroni and cheese.

Other than snails, I cooked simple dinners, familiar fare – pork or lamb chops, hamburgers, or chicken breasts, boiled, baked or mashed potatoes and frozen corn or green beans. The only cook book I owned was a paperback called Cook Book.

Then, on September 27th, 1967 Julie Child came into my kitchen when a friend gave me Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Until that moment, I hadn’t occurred to me that I could cook the sort of food that came from the French Market. I began reading and discovered that I had already met the first requirement – I was indeed “servantless”.

I read ‘Mastering’ as if it were a novel, struggling with the weirdness of spelling and pronouncing French words such as pâte à choux and crème pàtissèrie. I discovered that vegetables could be carefully cooked, and sauced, and read about complex desserts with amazing names.

I decided that bifteck hachè à la Lyonnaise would be my first Julia dinner. Yes, I was feeling bold, but after all, its English subtitle was Ground Beef with Onions and Herbs. French hamburgers!

Here’s how I did it. … read more

Traveling In Trapani & Pesto

March 30th, 2011 / Comments 0

It’s been a week of travel, discoveries, Vermont connections and, of course, food. More on the Vermont connections in my next post. On Saturday, we traveled by bus across the mountainous center of Sicily to Trapani. Military jets, headed for Libya, flew over my head as I explored the salt museum.

Windmill salt pans1 Traveling In Trapani & Pesto

Windmills Power Pumps Sea Water into Salt Pans

I saw saltpans along the shore of the Mediterranean where harvesting sea salt has been a tradition since the 8th century BCE when the Phoenicians established Motya, a small island off the coast a few miles south of Trapani.

salt tiles Traveling In Trapani & Pesto

Tiles Ready to Cover Harvested Sea Salt

Sea salt obtained from solar evaporation contains a variety of minerals that make it more soluble, more easily absorbed by food and add flavor – all good reasons to use it.

We visited Erice, a medieval village often in the clouds near Trapani.

erice street 01 Traveling In Trapani & Pesto

Every street in Erice is paved with with stones set in this pattern.

crest Traveling In Trapani & Pesto

Crest on a Wall in Erice

erice old and new Traveling In Trapani & Pesto

Old and New in Erice.

On Tuesday, we visited the fish market. It bustled with cooks choosing tuna, swordfish, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, mackerel or smaller, unfamiliar fish. Rather than ordering pasta or couscous with seafood for dinner that evening, I ordered pasta with Trapani style pesto. I hadn’t expected the pesto to be red but it was delicious. Donna, the cook, invited us into her kitchen and with Charles as the translator, she shared her recipe and explained that she used a food processor but a mortar and pestle was more traditional. Here’s how she did it: … read more

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