April 27th, 2011 / comments
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.
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
September 29th, 2010 / comments
When I was twenty-four, I met Julian. She was an enthusiastic artist from Holland who bragged about all things Dutch.
I was intrigued, I had never been to Europe, I was living on my own, in my first apartment, hoping to become a sophisticated cook able to make elegant food. She talked about and promised Dutch Soup at every opportunity.
When she finally invited me to dinner, I was shocked. Rather than being served Dutch Soup, she served meatloaf – Meatloaf! She called it DUTCH MEATLOAF – but it was meatloaf. It was tasty and filled with lots of vegetables and unexpected spice but it wasn’t the international delicacy I was hoping for. She shared her recipe and promised that one day she would make Dutch Soup for me.
Julian was a creative and energetic artist and cook. Her pantry was her palette and each meatloaf was an original. It might be an all beef meatloaf, or it might include sausage, ground veal, pork or chicken. Day old bread, crushed crackers or rolled oats might be substituted for breadcrumbs. Once she added grated raw potatoes instead of carrots to the mix and occasionally she slathered the meatloaf with that classic Dutch condiment, Heinz catsup.
I realized that, at least to Julian, everything that was labeled Heinz was Dutch when months after the meatloaf party she relented and invited a group of friends to dinner for Dutch Soup. When we arrived, she opened a couple of bottles of wine, not Dutch, and set out some cheese, Dutch, and crackers, origin unknown, and disappeared into her kitchen. She insisted on privacy in the kitchen while she cooked. In about fifteen minutes, we were called to the table and she proudly served the Dutch soup. It was thick, brownish-greenish-red and had lumps. It was steamy hot and tasted terrible. I had managed to swallow a few spoonfuls and politely asked if she would share the recipe. She was pleased, delighted to be asked and generously explained how to make this Dutch classic.
I will share her recipe with you but only if you promise not to invite me to dinner when you make it or tell anyone where you got the recipe. Here’s how she made it: Into a large pot, it need not be a Dutch oven, dump one can of Heinz Tomato soup, one can of Heinz Split Pea soup, one can of milk, half a can of water, half a can of dry sherry, two cans of cocktail sausages and one large can of vegetables, peas, corn or tomatoes will do. Heat until steaming, serve and try to figure out why she called it Dutch Soup. I never have – figured out its name or made it.
I used Julian’s recipe last Saturday as the centerpiece of a cozy, traditional American supper for two. Here’s how I did it:
… read more
May 19th, 2010 / comments
Friday, we celebrated homecomings – our return from Sicily and the return of two other couples from Australia. We were all delighted to be back and decided to share a meal. I offered to bring roasted pork tenderloin and asked if I could cook it in my friend’s oven while we enjoyed appetizers and shared travel stories.
When tenderloins were on sale, I stocked up. I prepared them for roasting by removing the silver skin, a shiny membrane that is attached on one side. I slipped the tip of a sharp paring knife under the silver skin and removed it in long strips. If it is not removed, the silver skin shrinks, becomes tough and makes the tenderloin curl when it is cooked. It took less time to do than to describe and the reward is succulent roast pork without a tough piece of silver skin attached to each slice. I put the trimmed tenderloins into individual re-sealable plastic bags.
The next step was the preparation of the marinade. A marinade is a liquid, similar to a salad dressing, used to flavor and tenderize meat. It is a mixture of an acid – citrus juice, vinegar, or wine; an oil – olive, grape seed, or vegetable; flavorings – herbs, spices, citrus zest, flavored oils; something sweet – brown sugar, honey or maple syrup; something spicy – garlic, ginger, chili, mustard, or horseradish; and, something savory – soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or fish sauce. A marinade can be as simple as vinegar, oil, salt and pepper or a complex mixture of many flavors. Measurements need not be precise. Generally I use half as much oil as acid, and no more than two tablespoons of sugar or honey for each 1 cup/240 ml of liquid. Creating a marinade is fun and an opportunity to experiment. I taste as I go and keep notes, the possibilities are endless. I’ve found that it takes about 1/3 cup/80 ml of marinade for 1 pound/500 gr of meat.
I create marinades with combinations of ingredients that suggest particular cuisines. I have used white wine, olive oil, thyme and parsley when I wanted something that tasted French. When I was wishing I were in Morocco, I mixed pomegranate molasses, orange juice, cinnamon and grape seed oil. Vietnam came to mind when I used lemon grass, fish sauce, lime juice and green chilies. The tenderloin I took to the party had been seasoned with a bold, spicy Korean marinade. Here’s how I made it: … read more
December 7th, 2009 / comments
My week was busy, a couple of evening meetings and we had tickets for a play. I decided to make a chicken tagine that would serve six or in my case two people three times.
With preserved lemons and a combination of spices that would added flavor, a bit of heat and the warm glow of Morocco, I had all I needed. Here’s how I did it:
… read more
October 5th, 2009 / Comments
My son Matthew has been a foodie since his first restaurant meal. It was a Thai restaurant and he was about a year old, so it is no surprise that on September 21 he and a fellow foodie, Alison, were married in Siracusa, Sicily.
They were married in the Borgia del Casale, on the Piazza Duomo, in Ortigia and guests were given a cookbook filled with their favorite recipes. This fresco is on the ceiling of the room were dinner was served.
Here is a sample page.
… read more
July 4th, 2009 / Comments
Today is the thirty-fourth consecutive day with a rain shower, I spent the morning at the farmers’ market, setting things up, hiding from the rain, setting things up, drying things off, setting things up, running from a thunder storm and heading home.
The plan was to celebrate the Fourth at a potluck picnic with friends. Having run out of time, I decided to ‘cheat ‘ by doctoring canned baked beans. At the grocery store, I picked up a rack of spare ribs and and small head of cabbage along with the beans in case the picnic was the victim of yet another downpour. I got ready while the beans where baking, (heating) in the oven. You don’t need a recipe to doctor canned beans but here’s how I did it: … read more