Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year! We went to Costco and spent $140 and then $70 at Whole Foods, so I think that we're pretty much set for a week or so. (Jesus, I hope so!) Many many treats in store this week (so glad that I can cook to my heart's content with no school for a week!) (Also, we rented SIX movies!)

Tonight we had some plain old shrimp as an appetizer, with cocktail sauce and remoulade sauce (we've been indulging a lot lately, and some lean protein sounded delicious) and I'm making Stephen Cooks's wild mushroom lasagne for dinner (with a dried cranberry/walnut/spinach salad and a tangerine vinaigrette) and crusty baguette on the side. (Of course, we also bought a bottle of chardonnay, which we've already drunk, and TWO bottles of champagne!) (Boy, there was a crush around the champagne aisle in Costco today!)

Monday, December 26, 2005

What a great Christmas (although I did have one crying jag in the car on the way over because it always takes us about three times as long to get packed up and go as we think it will, and because I had been wrestling with recalcitrant baked goods alone in the kitchen for three days.) (MY poor husband - I am going to make a great academic, because I fret and stress about things being perfect all the time.) But once we got there all was well.

I got TWELVE PLACE SETTINGS of Fiestaware! Hooray! (Some were duplicates and have to be returned, but I ordered the missing colors off the internets today and they'll be here in about a week!) I got one in every color that's not discontinued right now. (Except boring old black and white, and I didn't want ugly cinnabar but I got it anyway so I'll use it.)

Man they're vivid and gorgeous! I think the scarlet and the peacock and the shamrock are my favorites (also got tangerine [which is lovely], sunflower yellow [ditto], cobalt, plum, and the aforementioned blecchy cinnabar.) My cabinet looks like a little rainbow right now. Once all the colors come (I ended up being missing periwinkle, sea mist, turquoise, shamrock [came with the wrong cup!] and persimmon, and also I just wanted one of those little cream and sugar on a cute little tray things, so I ordered that in yellow) then I will be even more thrilled! AND my mother-in-law got me the cutest pitcher in the scarlet!

And my husband got me all the glorious stuff I posted about last week and also a HUGE (I mean HUGE) 12 quart cast iron Dutch oven to replace the one I lost. (Don't ask me how you lose a thing that weighs like 20 lbs and rarely leaves your stovetop - I certainly don't know. But I was pissed - I bought it at an estate sale and it was all seasoned and beautiful, and I had it for years. I must have lost it in a move somehow, or taken it to somebody's house to cook and had it stolen. Assholes.)

And also I got a nice fuzzy fleece jacket and 2 warm outdoor hats and a scarf. And probably a lot of other stuff that I"m forgetting right now in my entrancement with the Fiestaware!!!

From now on anybody who wants to get me a present? Can just get me stuff like butter dishes and salt and pepper shakers and teacups and saucers and stuff in every color of the rainbow! (That will make it easy on my husband!)

I feel so lucky and so spoiled right now. And so ready to turn out some good shit in our kitchen - it is stocked and colorful! Expect many posts about Lucullan delights (except not for 3 days while I'm at MLA - which I need to go pack for.)

Bye internet!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Royal icing tastes bad. My cookies are ugly. I am depressed.

I'm...still....baking....cookies. Argh. I think the last 2 cut out batches are cooling in the fridge right now - thank god. Now I just have to make all that different-colored icing and pipe them all and decorate them all and.....sigh.

So for dinner (had to be quick - the kitchen is still knee-deep in flour and cooling racks) I made this Brazilian chicken with oranges and olives - I added a chiffonade bunch of kale at the end of the cooking time to make it a little more veggie-ish, and threw the orange sections in as well. This was pretty good, actually - I'm not sure if it was my olives or the extra orange zest I put in, but there was a hint of a bitter undertone. (Or maybe it was the kale?)

I feel exceptionally boring today. I'm trying to read Dr. Gura's book but I'm so not school-y that I can't DO it (it's pretty intense historical stuff about the early radical Puritans - not exactly the type of thing I find most gripping, so that might have something to do with it too.)

I'm much more excited about Menand's The Metaphysical Club .

We have liftoff, people. The second batch of dough actually came out star-like. (Well, starfish-like. But whatever. Maybe I'll decorate one to look like Patrick from Spongebob.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Now I will learn how to post photos here. (Well, unsuccess with this as well, and I'm too frustrated to mess with it more. So for your delectation I will provide links to my horrible malformed Frankenphotos!)

Here is a picture of my beautiful, beautiful Christmas cookies. Don't you know a star when you see one?

And these are obviously trees.

I hope you enjoy these pictures more than I enjoyed making these cookies. or trying to figure out how to get the pictures ON here or setting up my Flickr account. Which was NOT AT ALL.

God damn Christmas cookies. Every year I think this is going to be a fun process, and every year I forget that every surface in my kitchen gets covered in flour and cooling racks and sticky bowls of icing and dirty dishes.

And every fucking year I forget that every fucking Christmas cookie recipe I have EVER tried has spread into a vaguely scalloped kindergartener's flower shape instead of whatever I hoped it would be based on the cookie cutter shape.

Does anyone have a Christmas cutout cookie recipe that will actually retain sharp-ish edges? I'm not asking for much - just a couple of stars and snowflakes and Christmas trees.

Bah humbug.

Next semester's teaching.

We have the head of our bed up on cinderblocks (Robert's acid reflux) and I woke up this morning with my head halfway down the bed, all squshed up in a small little ball, with all the weight of the covers having pulled them off the end of the bed onto the dog.

At least I didn't get up till 11! I don't know how I'm going to start getting up to teach at 8 again in 2 weeks - I so quickly slipped onto the Sleep Schedule of Satan!

Skip this part if you're not fascinated by the inner workings of the academy and, in particular, freshman composition classes. No food here! Go away!
I'm really excited about my English 12 class next semester. Our second-semester required freshman comp class is themed "Writing Across the Disciplines" - you know, where they write themselves into the university by learning about writing for the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. A new rhet/comp professor pointed me toward the Center for Healthy Student Behavior (a subset of Student Health) for some natural science unit ideas (because, really, what do I know from science? I'm in English!) and things took off from there.

We're working with the CHSB through the whole course, providing actual student-collected data on student nutrition and it's been declared a service learning class as well! Unit 1 will be them actually seeing what students eat in the dining halls (and doing statistical analysis of it, and writing it up in lab report format); unit 2 will be them checking students' perceptions of what they're eating and their awareness of good nutrition guidelines through interviews, etc (and presenting a poster presentation of their findings at a mini-conference!); unit 3 will be them actually designing and producing a TV, radio, or podcast Public Service Announcement, hopefully to be actually run on Student TV, the campus radio station, or the local public-access channel, or podcast through the CHSB website.

The big finale is them pitching their ad campaigns to a group from the CHSB, who will choose a couple of the campaigns to be run with their sponsorship in preparation for the Healthy Campus 2010 Initiative.

I know it's totally nerdy, but isn't that exciting? I'm really looking forward to this semester's teaching!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


We went to Kitchenworks today. It was the best hour of my life. I got a new 12 inch Wusthof Grand Prix!! And a silicon french-style rolling pin! And three new silicone hot pads in gorgeous colors (yellow, spring green, aqua)! And a pie chain! And 2 new gel food colors (white and turquoise!)

I am feeling very well-equipped and very, very spoiled. Thank you Robert! You're the BEST HUSBAND EVER!!

Fooding frenzy!

Chock-full of food days. I will just brag a little - I haven't had time to cook crazily all semester, so I got a little wack for the dinner party. Monday I started the sponge for the sourdough, made the gingerbread cake, stuffed and marinated the pork loin. Tuesday day I baked the baguettes, made the cranberry coulis and cranberry ice cream, roasted the brussels sprouts and the sweet potatoes. AND I found a fabulous new wine that I loved and Robert hated, that I drank alone while cooking (Robert was in the studio all day.) It was a Spanish rose cava - called Loxarel 999 cava rosat. It was brilliant - really subtle and kind of coy - definitely not begging for your love, definitely the pretty girl at the party - a little indifferent yet endlessly fascinating. (Sorry - that was bad.) It's like a sparkling pinot - not sweet at all. LOVED it - I got it at Whole Foods for $12.99/bottle. (And this was not your pussy kind of blanc de noirs - it was full on pinot-red.) I can't find very many web references to it in english, so I'll let you google that one for yourself.

Planning ahead made this dinner party so easy! I've never been so relaxed day-of. Everything was fabulous (the brussels sprouts were my favorite) - except the cranberry ice cream with the gingerbread thing was a little too much. (although the ice cream was fabulous on its own - it was just too many flavors going on at once with all the other stuff.)

We took a few pictures (Robert did - his pictures always come out better than mine.) I'll try to learn how to post them tomorrow, along with a recipe for the pork loin (because it kicked major ass.)

Today I worked on Christmas present stuff - finished the limoncello (not finished it, just finished making it.) It made 12 quarts!! Also made 30 eggs worth of lemon curd (that was a lot of stirring, let me tell you) and started 10 pints of lime marmalade (zested the limes, ribboned the peels, juiced the limes, stripped out the pulp and seeds, and started it marinating till tomorrow.) And made a double batch of cookie dough for decorating tomorrow - it was such a big batch that it didn't fit in my KitchenAid's bowl and I had to hold my biggest mixing bowl under the beater my own self. THAT was annoying as hell. The dough is all chilling in the fridge (you know, just hanging out rapping with its homies) until tomorrow's cutouts and baking. I'm TRYING to replicate lex culinaria's knockout cookies - I'll take pictures, come success or come failure. All the gel colors and icing tips and bags are out on the table waiting with the cookie cutters.

Wish me luck!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Today's our 2 year dating anniversary (1 year wedding anniversary is in 5 days!). I spent most of it cooking and piddling around on the internet and sleeping - but we also drank a bottle of some Spanish cava rose (999? I'll look when I get up) and it was weird but good. Tasted like bubbly red wine. Also we are working on another song for the Christmas record - we are doing "White Christmas" sort of Ramones-y. So we were rocking out in the kitchen together. (He's recording the guitar track right now.....shhhhhh!)

Dinner was quick b/c of all the other stuff going on - a kale and fontina and garlic/shallot/pesto pizza. Oh man was the crust crispy - the roof of my mouth feels like I've been eating Captain Crunch. It was really good, but I think that 500 is too high. I think about 450 or 475 is the highest we can go without ending up with matzo pizza.

Happy Anniversary to us! 2 years ago tonight we were eating shrimp in front of the fire at Robert's old house, playing Scrabble, drinking MUCH wine (making a wine run dressed up in old Halloween costumes at 9 pm!! I wore the tiger suit!) and then smooching like crazy. I love you, honey!

Ok, here's what I'm making: (I'll post recipes after tomorrow night, just in case some things don't turn out good.)

Chicken liver pate and sourdough baguette slices
Honey-hoisin marinated pork loin with dried apricot, mushroom, blue cheese stuffing and blue cheese cream sauce
Mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized onions
Broccoli gratin with mustard and cheese streusel
(more sourdough baguette as needed)
Gingerbread with cranberry-poached pears and cranberry coulis.

On William James

"James's is the first effective American voice raised not only against the genteel tradition of the Victorians, but against the long dominance of Platonic Idealism and its later, even more insidious Renaissance formulation--Cartesian dualism. James argues--and here he is the first American voice of phenomenology and of existentialism--for the primacy of actual human experience, by which he meant the real world is the world we experience. Our experience is all we can know, but no experience--of our own or of others--can be left out. Reality is not a fixed theory or a fixed place. It is not an abstract, eternal ideal either, but a process, the process of something or someone becoming real, just as truth is not a fixed thing, but the process of trueing, of becoming true. Reality and Truth are verbs, just as Mary Daly says God is a verb. Every day is the day of creation, every day is the day of judgment, and each step we take is a step on our own true path. So watch where you put your feet."

-Bob Richardson

Good morning!

Mmmmm - I slept in this morning until about 11:00. I actually woke up about 9:00 when Robert's mom called about something, but I was right in the middle of an interesting dream, so I buried my head under a pillow and shut out the noise. (I wanted to find out what happened to that fish. Not to worry, he un-beached himself when the tide came in!) I woke up much later, and looked out the little chunks of window I can see from the bed over my grandma's white cafe curtains embroidered with little birds and flowers, and the sky was so blue. Not that whitish washed-out blue from summer, but that deep periwinkle/cornflower blue that means it's really winter now. And the tree limbs (which, oddly, still have most of their leaves on them) were all golden against the sky, and it was glorious. And the covers were very, very warm and heavy, and I wiggled my toes underneath them and looked out at that sky and thought about my fish dream. And then I got up.

And we made zucchini and squash hashbrowns (they're still not perfect - I'll tell you about them when they are!) and steamed kale and omelets filled with the leftover shrimp from the shrimp and grits yesterday.

And now I'm sitting here drinking strong sweet English Breakfast tea and chatting with you, internet. And today I get to plan a small dinner for friends that come tomorrow, and start leisurely prep. I will tell you about it later once I decide exactly.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Phyllo dough can blow me.

That is all, actually.

(It cracked and tore and got soggy from the spinach stuff. It damwellbetter taste good, cause it annoyed the shit out of me.)

Watching The Muppet Movie and drinking rum with homemade ginger syrup (spicy! delish!) and soda water and lime. (It's not very holiday-appropriate, but it sure is good!)

Hooray for me!

I figured out how to add stuff to the sidebar!I totally edited my Blogger template!I am doing a little happy dance around right now!

Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks?

And now I have some of my favorite food blogs in the links to the left. These are the ones I check almost every day. My procrastination partners. The people who have helped me fill my computer recipe file so full that it overloaded the database and I had to open a new library for it.

Now I'm feeling really ambitious. How in the hell do I figure out how to link to all the fabulous food blogs out there? I can't figure out all this template/sidebar/ HTML crap that Blogger wants me to do. Isn't there some sort of easy Mac zen way to do it?

PS, my head hurts.

Link successful!

Okay, I figured it out! Here's the link for the shrimp and grits recipe mentioned in the last post.

Wow, I AM smart! (I take back the nasty things I just said about Frequency. It rules.) (Except for the post title thing. That still sucks.)

oh yeah...

That blog poster application thing? Not so great, actually. It *seems* like everything's going to be easy - but it's not. I can't figure out for the life of me how to insert a link. Though it LOOKS like it will be a piece of cake (mmm, cake!) the link never appears. And I certainly can't figure out how to make the link look like something else (ie, put the address of the recipe in the last post but have it appear to the reader just to say "delicious! delicious!")


Srhimp and Grits and sleeping late.

My God. I got up at 7 to go let a friend's dog out (and man was she happy to see me!) and then came home and went back to bed...and didn't get up until 11:30! I never sleep that late!

So I got up and we made a lazy breakfast of shrimp and grits. I based it on a recipe I got off of delicious! delicious! that Caryn got from the Market St. Cafe (6 degrees of recipe separation?), but made tons of changes, so it can't even really be called the same recipe anymore.

I poached the shrimp in their little shells first, then peeled them and made stock with the shells. I came out with about 8 cups of shrimp stock, so I reduced 4 cups of it to about 1/2 cup and made the grits with the other 4 cups of stock instead of water. The reduction I added a little blurp of cream to, made a roux with butter and flour and a splash of white vermouth and added that, and cooked the whole thing down. It was too tight and I had used up all the yummy liquids I had on hand, so I added some water to loosen it up - next time I'll reserve some stock for that, b/c that really reduced the intensity of the sauce. I threw great handfuls of asiago into the grits and plated it up. Warmed up the shrimp in the sauce, poured it over the grits, and covered (mine) in green onions.

See, the problem was that Robert isn't supposed to eat onions or peppers right now (acid reflux) - and the recipe sort of demands both. So yes, put jalapenos in your grits (and use cheddar!) and definitely put chopped bacon in it and green onions! Have extra shrimp stock on hand and use that to thin your (what amounts to) fancy gravy!

So here's my imaginary recipe that I will use next time:
Cook bacon, saute mushrooms in bacon grease with garlic. Drain and use bacon grease to make roux. Pour reduced shrimp stock into roux to make fancy gravy (that cracks me up every time I type it.) Make grits with shrimp stock instead of water; add minced jalapeno (maybe even a tiny hint of chipotle?) and aged cheddar. Warm shrimp in sauce, pour over grits, cover with bacon, mushrooms, green onions.

That is totally yum in my imagination. I can't wait till R's stomach is better! (What we had was pretty darn good, just subtle. And I'm not much for subtle - I like big bold punchy flavors.)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Home alone.

I made the most beautiful sourdough baguettes today - I used the King Arthur classic sourdough recipe and let the sponge work overnight in the refrigerator as per Nancy Silverton's advice - then I let the dough rise all day on the counter, where it is cold (we're keeping the house at 65 for the power savings, so I think that counts as a cool rise, don't you?) and then again for 3 more hours after I formed the loaves.

I didn't spray them with water or do any of the steam-creating techniques but man were they good!! The crumb was incredibly tender and buttery and deliciously sour, the crust was a little chewy but not overly so - we ate one whole baguette hot from the oven with nothing but butter. Uber-yum. (Robert was pissed off at the bread, though, because it was a two-day process and he's impatient - but once he tasted it he changed his tune.)

So I'm sitting here by myself on a Saturday night, skipping a fabulous 60's Christmas party, because Robert is playing his last show with Walrus tonight and I don't want to go without him. So I rented Spongebob Christmas, James adn the Giant Peach, and Last Days (fictionalized biopic of Kurt Cobain.) And I am damn well going to make myself a cocktail with the limoncello I have curing in the utility room.

Finished it!

It's 26 pages long. I think it's pretty good (although the moment I read it over after emailing it off to both professors, I noticed 2 run-on sentences and a couple of typos in the first page - sigh.) I think maybe it's pretty good, but I'm known for my delusions of grandeur, aka rosy glasses. One professor read it already and liked it (but then, he's the kindest man in the world) - I have to wait and see what the other one (exceptional critical reader and no-bullshit lady - my idol! and also my thesis advisor) has to say about it.

We went out to Southern Season for a bottle of champagne and delicious little appetizer snacks to celebrate. We had a sun-dried tomato/artichoke/spinach dip with homemade sesame and herb crackers, some bechamel-bound crab cakes with cold corn relish, and a goat cheese mousse with duck confit. The mouse was actually boring as hell - the confit was awesome, but didn't seem to go with the mousse (which was nothing but plain young goat cheese whipped with probably plain old cream cheese) and serve with rather tough and chewy buttered baguette slices. (There was some deep red lingonberry-colored sauce drizzled sparingly around the perimeter of the plate, so I theorize that it was something fruity to complement the duck, but there wasn't enough of it to taste.) What WAS good, though, was the matchsticked veggies on top of it - I don't know if they were fennel or something else but they were crispy and clean-tasting and small.

Artichoke dip = good, but an unexpected terra-cotta color. (The artichoke flavor really came through - this was probably the big winner.) The crab cakes = interior creamy and deliciously flavored, meltingly creamy, subtle...the outside? Plain hard-fried raw-tasting flour. I wanted to scoop the insides out with a spoon. Corn relish was good - pickled-tasting and sweet at the same time, with a little bite.

And a bottle of Cava for $19, and a dingy but sweet waitress. Oh yes - and an eggnog creme brulee. Not enough crunchy topping but the custard was grand, and oh so eggnoggy.

Yay me. I'm done! (Until next semester and my dazzling array of courses taken and taught, of which...more later. I'm a tad drunk and sleepy and not sure if I need to go let out my friend's dog or not.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I can't believe I read the whole thing.

I can't believe that I just read a Derrida essay and more or less understood it. Am I getting smarter? Or just indoctrinated into the discourse?

(But don't worry, I'm still totally lowbrow - I'm listening to Dan Fogelberg sing about meeting his old lover in the grocery store right now.)

All about my new widget (practically food-free post!)

I got this new widget, you know - it's not even a widget, it's a desktop blog client or something like that (I'm a Mac user, I don't know these things.) (But see, it also lets me format it just like Word does! I just highlighted and clicked a button that said "i" on it, and that put in the html for italic!) Anyhow, I actually PAID MONEY for it ($20!) so I'm going to post, like, a lot. Several times a day, probably. Brace yourself, dear reader.

Except for the fact that I don't have much interesting to say today. I was thinking about the idea of food writing as I waited in the freezing rain for my husband to come pick me up. What makes good food writing good? The tactility of it, the visuals, the imagined sensuosity - the readerly participation in it, in other words? Because I'm certainly a good academic writer - it's what I do - but I'm not so sure if I'll be food at this food writing thing. It seems qualitatively different.

Practice makes perfect?

Anyhow, something delish tonight, but I'm not sure what. I'm thinking some variation on spring or egg rolls - I bought some rice paper wrappers the other day on impulse, and lord knows we have plenty of cabbage and cilantro and carrots and shrimp and pork on hand, along with Asian schtuff (fish sauce, hoisin, dried umeboshi plums, etc). I'll play around and see what happens.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Oh. My. God.It damn well better work - I had to frickin' pay $19.00 for it!!

I'll be posting more, you betcha.

Almost done

with the semester - one more long essay to get in (that SAME one I've been stressing over since last spring.) But it's coming out good. It's got an awful lot going on, but I *think* I can pull it together.

We're watching Edward Scissorhands right now - I've never seen it before, but it's a good cozy winter night before Christmas movie, sez my husband. So far, so awesome. It makes me want a topiary. Our neighbors down the street have a little teapot topiary with a leetle cup topiary right beside it.

I couldn't stop eating all day today. I made a healthy-ish version of eggs florentine for brekkie - i briefly sauteed some fresh spinach in olive oil and stirred in some really good young, soft French goat cheese, then poached a couple of eggs and toasted a slice of homemade wheat and honey bread. Then for lunch we made a pizza with some eggplant and pappers and zucchini and onions that I had roasted yesterday evening, and threw on some ricotta and mozzarella - that was pretty awesome.

I was writing all day and I'm kind of bummed out and lazy tonight, so I threw together a quick fennel and potato soup, to use up the fennel and the chicken stock which were languishing in the refrigerator. Very soothing and warming. (If you want the recipe it's on epicurious - I don't know how to make the linky. I wonder if that worked? If anybody ever happens to read this post, and you know how to html a link, let me know, huh?

Um, soon comes the holiday baking and cooking frenzy - we're doing gift baskets this year. There's limoncello mellowing in the laundry room, we're making lemon curd and lime marmalade, and some kind of chutney (not sure whether I want to do mango or pineapple - I guess it depends on what Costco has a lot of when we go next week.) And we'll tuck in recipes and a couple of little bags of cookies and homemade crackers in each one. Don't you wish you were friends with us?

So I turn in the essay on Saturday to both profs and then I'm DONE! I turned in my grade rolls today - most of my kids got what they deserved, although some of them disagree. (I had two that were 0.6 points away from an A, and they were disappointed.) And I'm honestly not sure some of the didn't get slightly HIGHER grades than they deserved, but whatever.

I'm co-teaching a really COOL english 12 next semester with Melissa and Leslie - we're working with the Center for Healthy Student Behaviors people - it's going to be a service learning course where the kids are doing research on nutrition among the freshmen. It will rock! I'm actually kind of excited about it!

Um, that's all. I'm posting more from now on, btw. I'm going to uninstall and reinstall my widget so all will be peachy and easy again!