Monday, July 30, 2007

Alone in the Kitchen...

Recently I was inwardly lamenting the fact that I am cooking for two. Just two. For years I cooked for groups! I always cooked for our family of five, then you add a couple of portions for missionaries or drop-in guests. Then there were the large gatherings of 100 or more. The large group was my favorite. I had become so accustomed to cooking for huge groups of hungry people, when our home cleared out, and the groups went home, I was at a loss. I did not regret the grown-up daughters I had, or the empty nest. I knew they were there in spirit, and just a phone call away - I love technology - and we could be together wirelessly!

Yet, inside my inner cook groaned. Why cook I asked myself? Why? Well,for one, my husband worked hard and a nice meal at the end of the day would be nice. But I must admit, it has been difficult at best, to even run to get the grab and go dinners at a local market. I know many of my friends are now saying really???? You???? Yes, I hate to admit it publicly, but yes. I could barely stand to walk into the kitchen.

Just as I thought the despair would be an insurmountable hurdle of my life in walked Jenni Ferrari-Adler. I was given an advance copy of her new released book "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant". I have been given new breath! I will once again go into the kitchen and cook. I will attempt to master the ability to cook for two. Just two. I will not be one bit intimidated by my husband's abilities to produce swoon worthy food every time he cooks, no I won't. Time for me to join the ranks and cook small.

Jenni has compiled a cooks collection of essays on eating alone. I devoured the book, and am so glad to have been given a copy! It will be a permanent part of my cookbook collection. However, I must say cookbook reluctantly, as the essays are worthy of being deemed literature and be welcome in my literature collection. Each essay is a glimpse in the personal life of individuals living and eating alone and doing it no different than most of us.

As I read, I found a familiarity with each author. They took me back to those college years. The single dweller of a space made for squirrels it seemed. Oh the memories, the meals, the silly things we did back then. I remembered the summer of the watermelons, the winter spaghetti and then the pregnancies begun with nothing but a soda cracker. The triumph gained by making singularity work. The satisfaction of determination to not crumble under the weight of being alone and eating. Recognizing the person within and feeding them.

Jeremy Jackson will forever be welcome in my home, even if I am not there he will find fulfillment in the pantry. I will forever carry a pound of angel hair pasta with me in the bottom of my purse in hopes of meeting Ben Karlin and convincing him to make me a plate of Salsa Rosa. Colin Harrison and I will share opposite ends of the counter and nod a welcome to each other as we savor the food and companionship only known to the single diner. I will pair Marcella Hazan's and Beverly Lowry's dishes together for an evening meal. Each could be a meal in themselves, but pairing just seems right for two. There are so many other stories to tell and if I ever meet Courtney Eldridge I will demand a few from here, what wonderful stories she must have! And Phoebe Noble, I'm meeting you in Michigan next May!

I could go on and on. But I won't. Do yourself a favor and go now to Amazon and pick up a copy of this book. It is a perfect read for late summer and you never know who'll inspire you to re-claim the kitchen or that single table in your favorite restaurant.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

What a nice gift!

Meyer Lemon Bud

I was recently the recipient of a wonderful gift. I have been wishing for a Meyer Lemon tree forever. I just wasn't sure I would want to plant it here and then leave it when we move to Arizona.

Well, my wonderful youngest daughter saved me from my dilemna. She sent me a dwarf Meyer Lemon tree that I could pot and have on the patio. Then when we move, we'll schlep it along with us. Yay! Thank you!

I am very late in posting about this gift. But I am ever so grateful. I can hardly wait until I can harvest a lemon or two from this tree!

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Neat! Gale Gand coming to a hotel near you! Maybe.

This story in the Chicago Business News has me jumping for joy. I know it will not be in this century that I find myself in Chicago. I don't know anyone there, and I cannot see attending a conference there anytime soon, so I thought I would never get a chance to eat at Tru.

Well, according to the article Gale Gand and Rick Tramonto are taking the show on the road, so to speak. They are talking to several hotels and exploring the option of opening Tru at several locations through the U.S. Neat! Maybe I'll get to go to one in my own neighborhood!

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Just a reminder!

The True Food Network is a blog that works in conjunction with the Center for Food Safety. If you haven't checked them out, please do.

There is so much you can easily learn and it will help you be more informed and it will keep you abreast of the news that is important to keeping your food supply healthy. What I like is that they have a "take Action" section that reminds you to contact your political representative, and the FDA, to let them know what you will or won't tolerate in the food supply.

It is important to become involved. It is important to stay imformed and then let those around you know what you have learned. Eating will become a much more enjoyable thing when you understand whatyou are eating and how it may possibly affect you in the future.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Fresh and Easy - an update

This is the first story I've seen with any concrete information about Tesco's first foray into the US market with their Fresh and Easy Concept stores. 30 stores by Christmas huh?

I know there's one in our neighborhood opening, but the cloak of silence is so large over it, I'm not sure I'll know anything more than what this article states until it opens.

I'll be following it with interest.

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While I was away...

I found a new book, ordered it and am now recommending it to others. The Center for Food Safety has published a new book entitled "Your Right to Know". The book is a comprehensive guide to food, shopping and what you need to know before venturing to your local grocer.

It includes a pull out guide to the aisles in your grocery store, what to avoid, what to look for and how to shop to keep you family's food sources pure.

I highly recommend it along with Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and Vandana Shiva.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Good Snack

One of the things that got me thinking recently about all those GMO products is snacking. How does one enjoy a snack without indulging in a GMO product? It is near impossible if you buy processed foods. Especially in the snack arena. So what to do?

I turned to my favorite foods. When I was but a wee girl my grandmother made the best cookies on the planet. They were sugar cookies. But not your ordinary sugar cookies. She took the regular sugar cookie dough, cut a round, place a dab of a date mixture on the round and then topped it with another round of dough. She pierced it with a fork in five places and baked it off. Once out of the oven, she would dust it with granulated sugar and be done. They were delicious.

I was out shopping a couple of Saturdays ago and could not resist the Medjools at the farmers market. They were plump and ripe.

The biggest misconception with dates is that they are a dried fruit. Actually dates ripen on the tree, are harvested and go to market. No drying involved. However, Deglet Noors, and other varieties, do stiffen up a bit when stored. The sugars solidify and give the date a drier texture. So when you purchase California grown Deglet Noor dates they are usually hydrated.

Hydrated is the process wherein the date is passed through a steam tunnel. No more, no less. Other dates can be hydrated but usually aren't unless they've "sugared". The hydration process melts the sugars and the dates are softer to use.

Okay. So now you have your dates. Split them open and remove the pit. The pits are like rocks, you don't want to bite on one! Also when you're pitting the dates, check for organic material. Organic material??? Yes, bugs. Dates, just like any other fruit, grow on trees which attract bugs and occasionally one eats more than his fair share. The growers try to catch this type of problem before it goes to the store but hey, you can't win them all. Also, if you do find a bug, don't get all bothered by it; It's not mouse droppings!

So now you have your dates pitted, grab a handful of walnuts and get out your food processor. You can choose to use pecans if walnuts are not your thing.
Medjools and walnuts

Oooo! Doesn't that look good. Now you're going to put the dates in the food processor and macerate them. That's a fancy word for beating them to a pulp, turn them into a paste or whatever you want to call it.

macerating the dates

A few quick pulses should have them looking like this:


Now add your walnuts. Give them a whirl, a good few pulses should get the walnuts chopped up and mixed with the dates.

Medjools and walnuts

They won't completely mix together. Just dump them out on the cutting board and mix them up by hand.

all together now

Now roll them into a log and wrap it in plastic. Let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours or even up to a week.

date walnut salami

Once it has chilled well. You have what I like to call a date and walnut salami. ;-) What do you do with it now? Well, my husband (and I have to admit myself) love to slice it off and eat it just as it is.

Slice it up

But here is another idea.

Make up a quick shortbread recipe: 1 stick of butter, a 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of all purpose flour. Three simple ingredients. Cream the butter until smooth, add the sugar and whip up. When blended, add the flour until it is just combined. Roll it in a log and chill well for at least two hours.

Put on top of cookie

Slice it and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Add a slice of the date log to the top. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes until the cookie is done. Cool down and eat up!

All done!

Notice that there is very little difference between the baked cookie and the non-baked. The use of dates is key. Dates have a high tolerance for heat and do not begin to separate like other fruits do in the oven. That is why using dates as a base for other baked items is a good thing. You can add dates to another fruit without changing the mouth-feel or flavor and give it less opportunity to run out of your pastry.

Why I go to the effort. Because in less than thirty minutes I can everything mixed up and in the refrigerator. And, this is the most important part, I use ingredients that are natural, organic and real. I use only cane sugar. I use only non-GMO flour. I use organic dates, and unsalted butter. So rather than take thirty minutes and run to buy a treat that I either don't know what the ingredients are or can't pronounce half of them, I'll will continue to make treats like these. You can even add a drizzle of your favorite chocolate if you'd like. They really are good! Oh yes, if you don't gobble them all up right away they need to be stored in an airtight container!

serving suggestion

With chocolate drizzle

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Hiatus over!

I am back! New post coming this afternoon. I am waiting for something to come out of the oven then I'll post it here. A summer treat!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

FDA, again not keeping up

We've talked about the FDA closing offices. On the heels of that story follows this story:FDA Inspections Lax, Congressional committee reports read the headline. The full story can be read here.

In short it talks about the fact that the 13 offices currently being used by the FDA is just not getting the job done. They have a loosely woven net being used to filter all the imported foods through, instead of a good sturdy canvas. Food gets through that shouldn't because the net is full of holes.

Maybe back in 2003 they shouldn't have closed the five offices they closed. Now they want to close 7 more? What are they thinking? Imports are double what they were in 2003, bad food is getting through, and the FDA is not getting the job done.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

On Hiatus

I'm going on hiatus with the food chronicles. Trying to decide which direction to pursue. See you soon.

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