Sunday, June 30, 2013


Lots of food words here...

Love it.

Also love the remember, know, cook, David, best section.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday, Link Day

Best Bacons!! Now that is my kind of article. Farmland makes #2, but my own have, Nueske's applewood smoked is nowhere to be found. That? That bacon should be #1.

A photographer's life...

I am thinking I need a logo. A brand. A friend introduced me to 99 Designs. AWESOME concept.

Cronuts. Need I say more?

So this article dissects the trick of levitation off a double decker bus in London, but I say skip the article and just enjoy the trick (as part of a Pepsi commercial, which you can see if you scroll down to the bottom of the story)--enjoy magic for what it is: an illusion.

Wine tasting anyone?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Shells...the start..

Today's efforts were short...rough morning. But it's a start and I like where it's going...It's interesting to me to see the painting next to the photo in this space...I need to learn something here, although I am not sure what it is (yet..).
What I painted (not finished yet!)

What was there...

Watercolor Friday: Vision of Things to Come

I am heading out to paint this morning and will post the results later...but in the meantime, I wanted to put this sunrise up for your viewing enjoyment.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Re-Post: Looking Back

The Blogathon links, forever for me, to my brother's death two years ago in May. There is still a hole in our family where he should be. On the upside, when Blogathon rolls around, I revisit the posts I made during that month and remember David. Blogging became one reliable thing for me and almost meditative. I want to repost two things today. One is the haiku from that month and the other is the post I made on the last day of the blogathon, because I think it always rings true:

Life Goes on

Simple routines get
us through the days. Moments are
now more difficult.

Looking back..

It is difficult even to think about what to say. In the middle of this very fun exercise of daily blogging, my brother died. I did my best to continue, and I did well every day except for the very day of his funeral--frankly, the routine of doing the blog helped. Every routine helped.

To those of you who visited and sent condolences, thank you so much. It means a lot, this little connection.

You didn't know David, but he was a quirky, smart, SMART guy. So smart that many of us didn't even understand everything he did and we all seemed to butt heads with him often. But when we did, short hours (minutes) later would find us contentedly sharing some of his bread, some extra-virgin olive oil that he likely hand-carried back from Italy in a suitcase of his own design, kitted out with foam padding and cut-outs for bottles of wine and cans of olive oil (I came across the design plans as I went through his papers this week).

He was famous among family and friends for the bread--he worked hard on those recipes and, in true science fashion, his recipes are really formulas--vast spread sheets with variables, equations, questions, constants...

He always made great bread.

So today, please go open a bottle of wine you may have been saving for a special day. Pitch the sliced bread and either bake a loaf or go get REAL bread, good bread. Drizzle out a bit of really good olive oil, and savor it all with family and friends. Because today is a special day.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Great Experiment...

Remember when I told you about Japanese Pizza, a.k.a. okonomiyaki? Last night was the experiment night...after reading a bunch of recipes, I settled on a basic plan--I would sauté shredded cabbage with onion and carrot. Coat it with a batter of flour and egg, salt and pepper. Fry it up, top it with green onion, hoisin and Kewpie Mayonnaise...Consume.

The general consensus? Mine was good, but not the same. My base was much heavier and not as crispy as the one we had at the sushi bar...and looking back at that photo in the link above, I can see how much more FRIED the one we had out was..

I aslo learned that in addition to the Kewpie mayo, there also exists okonomiyaki sauce. Now I must find both. (I made my own kewpie mayo from an online recipe here.)

Barb's Japanese Pizza (Refinements to come)

4 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 large onion, sliced thin.
1 tablespoon oil
1 carrot, grated
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Splash soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

6 eggs
2/3 to 1 cup flour
S and P to taste

Oil for frying.

Thinly sliced scallions
Chopped cilantro
Fried "crispies"
Kewpie Mayo
Hoisin Sauce

1. Saute the cabbage with onion in oil over medium high head. Add carrot and ginger and cook until cabbage is wilted. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce and sesame oil.
2. Whisk eggs with flour to relatively thin batter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Heat oil for frying in non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Drizzle in some of the batter to get the "crispies" to mix with scallions for the topping. Fry to golden brown and crispy. Remove from heat and drain. Crumble into bits.
4. Add cabbage mixture to batter. Stir to coat well. Heat oil again over medium high heat and place about 1/3 of mixture into skillet (about 9- or 10-inch skillet). Fry until bottom is golden brown. Flip pizza and cook second side.
5. Slide pizza out onto rack to cool slightly and drain any excess oil. Place onto cutting board. Top with scallions, cilantro, some sliced almonds
and bits of fried batter. Drizzle all with mayo and hoisin. Slice into wedges and enjoy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

5 More Things Everyone (You, I mean) Should Know How to Make

So I couldn't stop at just five essentials to make. Here are five more dishes I think can get you through
Perfectly Scrambled. I could eat this every day.

1. Omelett and scrambled eggs. This is a two-fer. I happen to think a perfectly scrambled is pretty..sublime. No, really. Soft, not dry. Pretty (yellow AND white, not overly scrambled. A touch of butter...Here. Have at it with this post. Perfect Scrambled Eggs. As for omelets, try Alton's recipe. What is better than a cheese omelet? (Alton's is a chive omelet. Pretty awesome..)

2. Pancakes. Okay, please. Pancakes don't come from a box. They don't come from a bottle that you just have to squeeze into a hot skillet. They are simple to make. So learn. I lean on Cook's Illustrated for their best recipe pancake. (For the record, CI is one of very few websites I pay for. Technique, ingredients..what a jumping off point...and pretty spot-on recipes.) If you can't find it there, google CI pancakes..You'll learn what you need to know.. Ps. You can make buttermilk by adding white vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk. "Clabbered" milk, but perfect substitution.

3. Chile. Okay, look. Party=Chile=Hit of the crowd. You can feed a crowd with chile. (a.k.a. chili)...I spent more than a decade in Louisville, KY, where I learned to love chili over spaghetti (Cincinnati Chili)...Lot's of cinnamon, plenty of GOOD. Here's a Food Network recipe for Cincinnati Chili.

4. Chicken Salad. Okay, here's the go-to: chicken. mayo. sour cream. Mango chutney. golden raisins. onion. celery. curry powder. garlic or garlic powder. S and P to taste. Cilantro. And if you love crunch (I do) toasted almonds. Not up for curried chicken salad? Leave out the curry powder and mix it up...

5. One Awesome Dessert--Pick your favorite and then go to town and be THE expert at it. My son once made a creme caramel that I remember to this day. I think should make that HIS go to recipe. Another friend turns out a fruit crisp without a second thought (can you say easy AND delicious?) you love pie? Memorize Dorie Greenspan's perfect pie crust and then work on the filling. Me? I like simple desserts, so I can make a killer brown butter shortbread and this awesome AWESOME Lemon Ginger and White Pepper Pound Cake from Maida Heatter. Or wait, how about Martha's Upside Down Cranberry Cake...I can't pick just one..What do you make?

Today I am working on perfecting my own Japanese pizza with a friend. I'll take photos and let you know how we do.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Blogathon 2013 Haiku: I Paint

I mix a color.
Brush to paint and to paper.
Not what I had planned.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

In Memory: Flowers Out to Sea

Flowers out to sea for Tea and her dad, my brother, David. They are missed.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday, Link Day

Ha. Classic statues dressed as hipsters.

Wow. This video of a moonrise brought tears to my eyes, it is that beautiful.

The ridiculousness of having a conversation with a 2-year-old.

I would like to find myself on this site one day. It will mean I was seen in NYC and that makes a lot of things right with the world. He is drawing "every person in New York..." Cool.

Do you love maps? Me too. Awesome special maps..

If you don't read Orangette yet, you should. Check out the cream cheese pound cake from her May 2, 2013 post...I am so making this

Friday, June 21, 2013

Watercolor Friday: Rooftops.

I continue to try, but...well. Practice practice practice...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Well-Stocked Pantry or Things You Can Make in My Kitchen with No Thought

Ina's Outrageous Brownies without the nuts...

I am a big believer in being prepared...I check my calendar. I plan. I make lists. And I always have certain things in my kitchen so I can make something with just a moment's notice. To wit:

1. Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies. Full credit to Ina for this awesome recipe, but bigger props to my friend Rachel for introducing me to that recipe. It is easy and it makes a gazillion brownies. So I always have on hand the unsweetened chocolate and the chocolate chips required for this one. (I usually don't add the walnuts. I'm a brownie purist like that...)

One half-sheet pan FULL of Outrageous Brownies

2. Spinach Artichoke Dip. This is relatively new to my rotation, but after making Alton Brown's spinach artichoke dip (five minutes to mix it up, tops) and getting raves on it, I always have artichoke hearts and chopped spinach (both frozen) and cream cheese on hand so I can make this. The other ingredients (mayo, sour cream, garlic powder, Parmesan) are always in my cupboard. I've altered the recipe slightly to use weight (see below) because I'm not saving ANY part of a box of frozen ...anything. This is open, use it all.

3. Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano. I try to always have at least one 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes. I just buy the whole tomatoes. I can make a  homemade sauce for deep-dish pizza or a sauce for Bolognese. I don't chop them or anything--add the can, use potato masher to pulp them up. Done.

4. Lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper--Pound chicken breasts (boneless, skinless), marinate them in those ingredients, grill, enjoy. This is a go-to meal for me.

5. Canned white beans. I love a simple bean salad of white beans (drained and rinsed), olive oil, lemon, garlic, rosemary and lots of black pepper. Thanks to my sister, Pat, for introducing me to this easy side dish (main dish if I am home alone)...change it up by adding finely diced red pepper or sliced green onion or a good handful of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese...or your own favorite add-in.

Spinach Artichoke Dip (Variation of Alton Brown's recipe)

1 10-ounce box thawed, chopped frozen spinach
1 14-ounce box thawed, chopped frozen artichoke hearts
9 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Extra shredded Parmesan for topping

1. Heat oven to 375F. Squeeze spinach with your hands to extract any excess moisture. Chop artichoke hearts roughly--don't go crazy. 
2. Place spinach, artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, salt and garlic powder into large bowl. Mix well. 
3. Spoon mixture into 9-inch pie dish. Smooth top. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan. Bake until bubbling and starting to brown on top. (You could also heat this for about 4 or 5 minutes in the microwave--get it good and hot.)

Serve hot with pita chips or bagel chips, sliced bread (a spoon! MMm.) This makes a lot--maybe even 4 cups. Promise I'll measure it next time I make it...It's good cold, too, straight out of the fridge. Or try it as a spread on a grilled/griddled panini with turkey, for example... This dip would make anything taste great. It's the bacon of dips...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Five Things Everyone Should Know How to Make.

So, we make sure our kids can write a check and balance a checkbook. (Right? Or is that moot in the era of online banking?)...We make sure, sometimes, that they can do their own laundry. That they learn to drive...but what do we do for them in the kitchen? Here are five things I think everyone should be able to do in the kitchen.

Learn to make great bread--it's easier than you think.

1. Make a good salad dressing. Look, I am sure there are some good bottled dressings out there. I used to be a big fan of Newman's Own Caesar--until they changed it some. To me, all bottled dressings taste the same...or there is a certain note (preservative? thickening agent?) that is common to all of them, and I really don't like it...So learn to make a great dressing. When I guest blogged the other day for La Belle Dame de Merci, I wrote about my little lettuce garden and gave a basic recipe for balsamic vinaigrette..

2. Learn how to make bread AND biscuits. Basic french bread? Flour, water, yeast, salt. A little muscle and a little time. Biscuits? Well, a few more ingredients, but none of the time for rising..Here's Dorie
Greenspan's recipe for biscuits and her tips on making flaky biscuits. For simple bread recipes, check out this NYT recipe for no-knead bread. And if you REALLY want to get into bread-baking in a big way, check out Tartine Bread by my friend Chad Robertson, co-owner with wife Elisabeth Prueitt, of Tartine  Bakery and Cafe in San Francisco.

3. Roast Chicken. To me, a great roast chicken is heaven. It needs salt. No, you don't need to "wash" it.  Add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and a cut lemon to the cavity. Roast away. Here's a basic roast chicken recipe from America's Test Kitchen (you'll have to sign up to read it, but sign-up is free). You should also check out the magic that is Marcella Hazan's Roast Chicken with Two Lemons.  (Scroll down that page for the recipe.)

4. Steak. Learn these things: Prime is best. Choice is second best. Pick one of those two. Get to know YOUR favorite cut. I'm a big fan of choice ribeye. I save a few bucks per pound and get a great steak. Look for even marbling (the light veins of fat that run through the meat), not too much. Talk to the butcher, yes, even the men and women behind the counter at the local grocery store. They DO know what they are talking about. Then use my cast-iron skillet method. I found this video of me cooking the perfect steak for Boca Raton Magazine. This is cooked to medium--the way my family likes it. Things that don't get said: pat the steak dry before cooking it (use paper towel). Season well. Let steak rest AT LEAST FIVE MINUTES before cutting into it. (And this: I'm a lot thinner Who knew what training for a triathlon would ego had to say that..)

5. Fish. Learn not to overcook fish. Educate yourself about what you like. Do you like flaky fish (think sole or flounder)? Meaty (tuna, halibut, salmon)? Same advice applies here about talking to the men and women behind the counters--they'll be able to tell you something. Pay attention to the Seafood Watch from Monterey Bay Aquarium- learn what fish is being overfished and which fish is safest (you probably have all read about mercury in fish already). Two of my favorite techniques are a simple sear in that black, cast-iron skillet I used for the steaks and cooking fish on cedar planks--soak the planks for at least 30 minutes, place on super hot grill, lower heat, place fish on cedar planks, close lid and let cook/smoke until done. When I do fish this way, I usually make up a spice rub with cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, paprika (sometimes smoked paprika), and a touch of sugar...Play around to see what you like.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Repost: Rules to Break

This post is three years old, but I still love it. And I still break these rules EXCEPT for the cast-iron pan. Now I heat it over a high burner until anything on the pan starts to burn away. I add oil and salt--the salt absorbs all that blackened "stuff." I wipe it clean and keep moving. But aside from that? Still breaking the same rules. 

There are some absolutes in a professional kitchen, some from home kitchens--things we do just because...well, we do... And some of them are great...and some simply don't work for me. So here you go...things that might make my first chef (Hi, Peter Hoffman, owner of Savoy in Tribeca!!) or my mom or my nana shudder...

1. I wash my black cast iron pan. Look, I get it--layers of flavor settle into the very being of the pan. Romantic. Flavors down the centuries. Blah blah blah.

No. Just no. Here's why. I might be cooking up onions and garlic one day...and then making biscuits for shortbread (sweetISH if not sweet sweet) the next. I don't WANT the flavors to be there.

So while I may not scrub with Dawn and a scrub brush, water always hits the pan after use. Mind you, so does a coating of oil and then I pop it into a still warm oven. It is pretty damn nonstick at this point and I love it. (Buy Lodge: Made in America....) But really? Wash it.

2. While we are on the subject of washing, I give my mushrooms a rinse. I was taught to patiently wipe the shrooms with a damp paper towel...washing them would make them act like sponges, I was told. Well...I'm not that patient. Now I toss them into a colander and give 'em a quick shower, shaking off excess water before popping them into a hot pan. Me? I don't think they suffer.

3. I cook ALMOST exclusively with extra virgin olive oil. I'm told it's a waste of money, but...hmm. I like the flavor...(sometimes, I know, I really DO want the non-flavor of vegetable oil and that is in the house..)...and it's what is at the side of the stove. And I like the flavor, did I say that already?

4. I don't buy expensive nonstick pans. Don't put your money into nonstick pans if that coating is on the inside of a $100+ pan. Heck, don't do it if the pan is $30+...I haven't come across a nonstick surface that lasts forever--not the way I cook, at least. And no, I don't use metal, I wash them by hand...but ultimately, I toss them and buy a new set of nonstick pans...once a year. And I don't spend a lot (check out Ikea)...(or do what I  plan to do and replace them all with cast iron eventually...cast iron that I WASH...)

5. I use skim milk almost every time they say milk, no matter what--yes, even in baking. This is another form of lazy, because unless I plan, skim is what's in the fridge. I've never had it not work...I think some things may lack some depth of flavor, but...not enough that the family notices.

6. I keep butter and some eggs always at room temperature. I have never used margarine, only butter--and I do not like rock hard butter...not at home, not in a restaurant (it's always a mark against a place if they bring be bread and rock hard butter...) Now this doesn't mean there's a pound of butter on the counter...At most, there's one stick in a covered glass butter dish. I guess if you don't have A/C, this wouldn't work in the height of summer, but other than that? Always there. Same goes for some eggs. I go through eggs relatively quickly, so this isn't a problem for me (although if my mom visits, we play the she-puts-the-eggs-into-the-fridge, I-take-them-out-of-the-fridge dance...until I snap and say: LEAVE THEM ON THE COUNTER. IT'S WHERE I WANT THEM..) Again, I used them up quickly and if I'm baking, I want eggs at room temperature...So if half a dozen are on the counter for a few days? No. Harm. (Again, YMMV if you live in a hot climate with no A/C)....

Bonus Item: SUBSTITUTE, PEOPLE, SUBSTITUTE!!! I have experienced cook friends and family call me now and then and ask: Can I substitute red onions for yellow? Can I use white wine if I don't have sherry? Can I use sherry if I don't have white wine? Chicken thighs instead of breast? Will bourbon work for whiskey? YES, OF COURSE YOU CAN AND OF COURSE IT WILL.
Again, these are some experienced cooks asking. No, of course sherry doesn't taste like white wine. (But onions DO taste like onions)--I can't begin to tell you the recipes I make...when I at times only have half the ingredients. Be bold. You really can't ruin it by subbing one veg for another or one wine for another. (Okay, so there's the time DH wanted a whiskey sour and subbed Scotch for the whiskey? That? THAT didn't work...) (Caveat: The same doesn't hold true in baking, as I bear witness to time and again in my rough attempts at baking...Baking is for is not!)

Monday, June 17, 2013


I will tackle making my own video (new video) later this month. For now, I am linking you to a couple of videos I hosted when I traveled Florida for VISITFLORIDA, the tourism arm of Florida...first one about the Seafood Festival in Apalachicola, Florida, one of my favorite parts of that state, then one about Florida Stone Crabs, an incredible, sustainable protein source...I arranged the whole thing, meeting the guy who sells the crabs and working with him to coordinate going out on the crab boat. It was an incredible two days (he also arranged for me to stay by myself on a houseboat in a rather lonely spot. I didn't sleep well that this day if I see the TV show "Chuck," I am taken back to that night because I watched Chuck to help me get to sleep. Over and over again.)

Have fun watching...and watch this space for my own production soon enough!

Wait! I forgot I made this video of my dog on the beach more than a year ago. Music and everything!

Gia at The Beach from Barb Freda on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Photo Sunday...Tango

Tango. It just makes me smile. Here's my Sunday Smile...this is definitely one of my happy places.
Try tango sometime. You'll like love it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday, Link Day

Oh, a fine piece of writing on memories in a kitchen from David Leite of Leite's Culinaria

What you want to know before you marry a chef and think you'll be eating gourmet food every day.

Our kids don't need much, truly they don't--our time, our love...not stuff. When we watch them participate in life, they should hear these six little words from us.

Party antics caught in slow motion. Awesome.

Ooh, imagine discovering a bomb shelter in your backyard, with everything still there from the day the previous owner built it...

Google doodle shows some love to Maurice Sendak.

I found these brief seconds of Anne Frank watching a wedding very moving.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Not Watercolor Friday..but Delicious Friday

I have no new watercolors to show you, so I wanted to show you some deliciousness. I got to have dinner with friends Pat and Rob last night...their house is filled with wonderful ephemera (that's the word for the day). Ephemera AND good food and good company. We had a lovely dinner of grilled pork chops and a salad dressed with some kinda awesome dressing: blood orange olive oil and cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar.

Back to the olive oil and vinegar: Sign me up for some more. This came from High Country Olive Oil in South Carolina. High Country is a tasting bar and bring oils and balsamics in from the world over. These? Pretty spectacular. These oils are supplied by Veronica Foods from California--worth a click over to read their story, too...

We had the dressing on a salad with strawberries...It was pretty much summertime heaven. Thanks, Pat and Rob! Great way to pass an evening.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

007: Only the Classics, Please

So a local bar (hi, Cowfish!!) has half off martini nights on Tuesday nights. Trouble for me is the martinis are all "cocotini this" and "berrytini that." In other words, sweet. I don't do sweet drinks. (Okay, the occasional swizzle. And once a year, mint juleps.)

In the past, I've asked after a "margarita-tini," which they used to make. Then they took it off the menu but the bartenders would still make it for me and honor the promotion. But last night, it was only what's on the menu.

007 it is, then. That's a classic vodka gin martini. Packs a punch, but I don't slurp it down. I sip sip sip sip (enjoy enjoy enjoy enjoy). I like mine dirty with those blue cheese olives. Mmmm.

Then the sun hit the drink and lit it up and I knew I'd picked well....

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Guest Post: Mikaela D'Eigh Bakes a Cherry Pie!

Let me introduce Mikaela D'Eigh, my guest poster today...It's cherries, folks!!

Can she make a cherry pie,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she make a cherry pie,
Charming Billy?
She can make a cherry pie,
Quick as a cat can wink an eye,
She's a young thing
And cannot leave her mother.
~ Traditional Folk Song

One of the best aspects of owning land is the ability to grow food.  Nothing beats the satisfaction that comes from walking out the back door, picking and eating fresh fruit and veggies.  Plus, with the current controversy over genetically modified crops and the effects of pesticides, I have the added benefit of knowing exactly what goes into the soil (organic compost) and on the plants (water and sunshine).  All it costs is the price of the plants and seeds, and “sweat equity.”  

And maybe a few bug bites here and there.

A few weeks ago, a thunderstorm brought down part of one of our cherry trees.  Although all the trees in the orchard have been crowned and pruned, they are still a tad higher than they should be.  So having part of a tree on the ground meant two things:  the fruit was easier to harvest, and I was able to get to it before the birds did!  

And when life hands you ripe cherries. . .make cherry tarts! (Although I could have made lemonade, because these cherries are souuurrr!)

Mama La Belle’s Gluten-Free Sour Cherry Tarts
2 cups millet flour 
½ stick of butter 
1 -2 tbs cold water

Cut butter into flour until crumbly.  Put in a spoonful of cold water at a time until dough forms.  Roll out to about 1/8 of an inch thick and cut into rounds to fit your tart dish.

¼ cup cherries, or to taste
½ cup sugar

Put cherries and sugar in a pot and cook until it thickens.

Pour cherry mixture into small tart dish and place dough rounds on top of the dish. Sprinkle a little sugar on the top and bake at 400 for 10 minutes.  We used a small toaster oven.

Mikaela D’Eigh writes about art in all its mediums (paint, music, words, food, and hospitality) and the sometimes humorous side of starting a hobby farm at La Belle Dame de Merci.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cheerios All Around...or: Dinner!

You think food writers always eat awesome dinners? Think again (and just ask my family on those days I cry out "Cheerios!" in reply to the "What's for dinner" question).

Last night, my schedule conspired against me. I planned to check out a sports bar on my own, but I chickened out when I saw all the windows painted over and couldn't see into the bar. If I can't see in, I probably am not venturing into that place on my own. OTOH? The windows were painted over with the Steelers logo, so at least I would have been among my peeps.

Instead, I found myself at a nearby hotel's happy hour. Wine was served in plastic cups and the snack o' choice? Potato chips with onion dip and that Japanese rice cracker snack mix.

Two observations:

1. Onion dip: still awesome (you know the one: sour cream and Lipton's onion soup mix)
2. Sometimes? Sometimes snack mix and wine is all I really need.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday, Monday

Monday holds promise, doesn't it? I had a great breakfast with a great writer and friend yesterday and came away with ideas stewing in my head, ideas for writing more and working more, especially doing some cooking classes, which I do just love to do. The computer screen and I have a tough relationship. I prefer the company of real people, and giving classes does that for me.

Here's the thing--there are a lot of basics that would make for good classes. It doesn't have to be super fancy. I have friends who have asked about sauces and stocks, for example. That is a class right there.

I also love to make mozzarella cheese and pasta--both are so simple, it's worth it to make the effort. To that end, I have a tip for some of you who may be struggling to find good milk (not pasteurized to the point of being unusable for mozzarella).

The tip? Use the dry milk method on New England Cheesemaking Supply Co's website. It was quite the revelation after I wasted a gallon of milk and ended up with nothing but crumbling curds. In a nutshell, mix up a gallon of milk from powder. Remove 1 pint (a.k.a. 2 cups) of the milk (keep it for something else, right?) and replace that pint with a pint of top quality heavy cream. Then proceed as usual, with citric acid and rennet. The batch I made was one of my best.

For more mozzarella madness, here's a link to my post on my obsession with mozzarella when it first started..

What cooking classes have you taken, given or wanted to take? Let me know. I'll start compiling my list of classes to offer.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Sunrise

Quiet Sunday morn-
ing. Hot coffee. Feet up. Full
day ahead of me.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Saturday, Link Day

Here are great things I've seen this week...

This is an essay read on Splendid Table about the writer's father, a career waiter. What a great tribute by his daughter, Pascale Le Draoulec

Ooh, "sliceable bone broth" by frugal Kiwi. I am a total homemade stock nut...LOVE this idea...

Hoping this link still works...I met Sharon Millar on a trip to Nevis. She is a lovely person and a fabulous writer. She has really worked on her writing, and it shows. Here is her award winning short story, The Whale House.

This week's pick me up music? Chicken Fried by Zac Brown. Awesome...official video here and live performance at Red Rocks here. I don't know which I like better...

Leite's Culinaria posted its pink recipes. There are a few I'd like to make because they are just so pretty (watermelon sorbet, the cherries)..and then I want to take beautiful photos...

I am pretty much obsessed with every object I see on TouchofModern. Must. not. buy. stuff...but LOVE stuff!!

If you love and value the women in your life..Lean In.

Photo portraits of People with everything they own.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Watercolor Friday: Paint What You Know


They say write what you know. I find if I paint what I know (food) or love (vespas) I do not half bad...This is a friend's vespa. I gave the painting to her...wish she'd given me the Vespa in return...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Japanese Pizza

Who knew and where have I been hiding that I didn't discover this sooner? I was at a friend's house the other night for a rousing game of LOGO (The ladies lost to the men. Of course more than half of the questions were about cars, beers and tires/tyres, but there will be a rematch, and we mean to win. I digress.) when she passed around little wedges of comfort. Japanese comfort, apparently.
Close up of a "slice" of Japanese Pizza, a.k.a. Okonomiyaki

Japanese pizza. She'd brought it in from a local sushi place.

I went to that sushi bar yesterday and ordered one to share with a couple of friends--our job? To analyze and dissect and then to replicate.

It's a base of eggy-floury crepe/pancake that has shreds of onion, carrot and red bell pepper in it. That crepe gets fried to a dark golden brown in a generous amount of oil. The finished crepe is plated on top of hoisin sauce then topped with sliced green onions, panko bread crumbs (maybe??), a drizzle of sesame oil and an artful splashing of mayo.

Of course I got home and googled Japanese pizza--101 Cookbooks, one of the best (and earliest!) cooking blogs around, has a great write up. Heidi discovered it, too--it's got a real name: okonomiyaki. Her recipe uses shredded cabbage and I'm thinking maybe that was in mine, had a texture I couldn't place, and that might be what it was...(and in one of those weird turns of events, my Chowhound feed showed up in the in box yesterday guessed it, an article on the superior okonomiyaki at Doya Doya in Torrance, in LA.

I recommend finding one to eat yourself, then reading the recipes around the internet, then trying to recreate the flavors you love. (I MUST buy something I saw in the recipes, "kewpie mayonnaise" or "kewpie doll mayonnaise"--if for no other reason than that NAME.) When I recreate, I'll race back here with my own results.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Theme Day: My Five Favorite Apps

Unfortunately I lost my iTouch and all the apps I loved late last summer. Looked high and low for it. I loved that thing and the pages of apps I had on it. I've inherited my daughters HP Touchpad (Web OS? Pretty defunct), but the Kindle app is not as nimble on that. I may be breaking down soon and upgrading to a new iTouch. Or Kindle Fire. Or iPad. Or iPad mini. Or a combo of two of the above. (Advice and suggestions welcome!)

So the best I can do is list the apps I loved and some new ones I found while reading PC Magazine's top 50 free apps. I use all of these on my computer except for Dashlane, but I like the concept enough that I may start to play with it on the Macbook...then transition to the mobile app when I get my new toy. Soon.

1. Kindle app. I don't own a Kindle, but I love the app. I've read long books on my iTouch.

2. Dashlane is a great idea--it stores all your password info and so much more. Here's some of what PC Magazine says about it:
Dashlane is an elegant and secure app that acts as a digital wallet backup, password, password manager, and more. It can automatically save information from when you make purchases online, so you don't have to keep track of them via email confirmations. The data that Dashlane stores remains encrypted until you unlock the app,.... 

3. Dropbox. What a great way to send big files to people. Everyone should have it. Welcome to cloud computing.

4. This American Life Podcasts. I love this show--you get nearly hour-long podcasts of some of the best writing on radio. Perfect for in-flight listening and long car trips.

5. White Noise Lite I can't travel with my husband without this app without white noise for sleeping. Enough said.

Bonus for travelers: Sutro Essential Guides. Great mobile travel guides, especially the one for Charlotte, NC, which I wrote and maintain!

Okay--what do you love?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


What would I do without onions? I already gave you the Julia Child quote about onions and civilization. To me, the best smell from my childhood is of onions and garlic cooking slowly in oil (I would bet we didn't use olive oil. I grew up in Indiana, PA. There was probably plenty of olive oil in Pittsburgh, but I don't think it was making its way to Indiana on a regular basis. I digress). My husband plays a "game" (go ahead, roll your eyes. I just did.) where he asks what food couldn't you live without. Forever.

Onions are high on that list.

See? I can't do it. He always says ONE food.

Yesterday's dinner made me lean--yet again-- in the direction of choosing the onion as my one and only.

I made Susan Spungen's Caramelized Onion Bacon Tart--
Here's how: Cook bacon. Discard MOST of the bacon grease, but not all---because that is where you cook the onions. Lots and lots of onions, a touch of salt and a good dose of fresh thyme. Cook them until they are dark golden brown. Stir the bacon back (crumbled or chopped first) in (oops. Sorry, Susan. I didn't read carefully enough to remember to save the chopped up bacon to sprinkle over the top...).

Make Dorie Greenspan's all-purpose pastry crust. Once good and chilled, roll out and line tart pan. (You can find the recipe as part of this Dorie recipe in Bon Appetit. The crust for the Christmas galette is THE crust to make. Bar none.)

Mix 1 cup whole ricotta with an egg yolk, more fresh thyme (be generous) and a good amount of freshly grated Parmesan. Salt and pepper. Spread this over the tart shell. Top with most delicious onion and bacon mixture EVER. Top that with more Parmesan.

My only critique on this is of execution--I should have let it cook longer so the crust was more done...the next time I make this, I may bake it a bit to start with, too.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Standards and Pantry Staples

I'm always thinking about what I NEED in my kitchen. Here are five ingredients I cannot live without. I consider these things pantry staples, and you'll never find my kitchen without them..or if you do, you'll also find me on my way out the door to restock.

1. Wine. I always have a glass of wine with dinner, but I also cook with wine a lot. I love the acid notes that you only get when you deglaze a pan with wine, cook it down til it has almost evaporated, then move on to make the rest of the dish, whether it is a sauce, soup, stew or just cooked vegetables. Yes, you could deglaze with stock,'s just not the same. Well, and nothing replaces a glass of wine with dinner. It's just civilized, right?

2. Chocolate Chips, butter, brown sugar, vanilla--the ingredients for a great chocolate chip cookie. My favorites are Martha's "cake" chocolate chip cookies, although my daughter prefers her chewy chocolate chip cookies. (Which do you like? I also like the cookies cold/room temp at least, so the chips are hard...)

3. Lemons. You can make everything better with lemon juice, even water. But I keep it to squeeze onto vegetables, over lettuce before I add a splash of dressing. If I'm really on the ball, I use a Microplane grater to zest the lemon before cutting it to squeeze it. The zest can go into a baggie and into the freezer. Use zest in baked goods (those chocolate chip cookies? Hmm...maybe...definitely in banana bread, for example) or whatever you're cooking. Give it a try. Can't hurt, might help.

4. Extra-virgin olive oil. I use this for almost everything I cook--roasting vegetables, cooking onions and garlic, even when I'm sautéing meats. I like the flavor, I always have it...I like the flavor (did I say that already?)...I don't deep fry much, but maybe I wouldn't use it to deep fry since that can be expensive...but besides that? Olive oil is what I reach for first. I could have a bottle of non-extra-virgin oil on the counter, but that would take up too much extra-virgin it is.

5. Onions and garlic. I put those two together, because they go together. I don't like it when this house runs out of onions or garlic. What's the Julia Child quote? "It's hard to imagine civilization without onions."

Can I add bacon? Because that is pretty much always on hand...just thought of it because I am SO making this bacon onion tart  from Oprah's website for dinner tonight...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday, Sunday...Blog Roll--Visit Some New Sites Today

So it's all pretty exciting--the blogathon has started and already I got two visitors (welcome back!!)--As the month goes on, we all tend to start visiting each other's blogs, and I know I find new favorites.

First some of my own old favorites--start with yesterday's visitors, Jan Udlock's Blog--she is one of the people who help Blogathon happen, and she's discovered a new career in it, a career as a virtual assistant. Who knew? 

Two Hands and a Road Map always makes me smile.

Bike with Jackie inspires me.

I "met" Van on last year's Blogathon--he was my second guest poster (he had already committed for the Blogathon, so posted for me in June) and talked about foraging and cooking...he had a "failure," but I wanted him to post it anyway, because I have failures in the kitchen, too (please see: Epic Fail). Blogathon and Van's Speed River Journal helped him find his way back to professional freelance writing.

I read Annie Logue because she makes me smarter.

The list is long...I plan to visit all the blogs this year, and I'll feature different sites once a week--link-back love, as it were..

Let me hear your favorites.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Ready, Set, Blog.

My Mother's Day Effort
It's blogathon time again, that time of year when I try so hard to blog daily--and I do--I have succeeded three years running, but as soon as it is over? Bam. The wind goes out of my sails.

This year one thing I'm going to do is try to establish a pattern for posting...Theme days, if you will. And I'm expanding the scope, as I started to do a year ago--"Feast with Me" means to enjoy life with me...sample the food, test a new recipe, try a new skill (why, yes, I am still in love with tango), explore something new...

So on day 1, June 1, 2013, I want to ask you: what new thing have you done lately?

I'll go first.

If you were reading a year ago, you know I started painting watercolors. I just love it. I even sold a couple of pieces and have painted some things on request. I am honored to be asked.

Recently, I joined a group of professional artists and other amateurs (although no one as beginner as I am) on Sunday mornings for plein air painting--painting outdoors.

When I first decided to join the crowd (all are welcome), it took me about three weeks before I actually showed up. It took some courage for me to show up. But since the first week, I have missed very few--I like it so much. We spend a few hours painting, then we reconvene and have a critique--a critique from the pros. The first week, my comment was, "They were very kind." They remain kind, but it is so helpful--I feel as if I am getting a masterclass in watercolor for free. The price? Just show up.

It's a challenge, and I've had weeks where I thought my work looked like a kindergartner's work. One week I didn't want to even put my work up, but as one of the organizers said, you come, you show. There are no exceptions. And even that week, when the painting looked like a five-year-old did it, I got helpful critiques.

It's a craft. I'm trying to get better. I've even considered a new blog of "a painting a day" for a year to really see and track my change.

Ha. We'll see. Let me get through June first!

Now it's your turn. What new challenge have you met recently?