October 27, 2003
Baked Mac n Cheese

For heather and all who love cheese... I no longer measure these ingredients cuz I make it all the time. However, you can find a simlar receipe by Alton Brown on

About 1/2 lb. of pasta (i like little shells; rigatoni or elbow work great)
Milk (about 2 cups)
Finely diced onion
Sharp cheddar (or a combination of cheddar/swiss or whatever)
Salt & pepper
Panko or bread crumbs tossed/toasted w/butter

Roux: 3 T flour + 3 T butter + 1 T ground mustard
Melt butter; whisk in flour/mustard for about 5 minutes. Add onion, milk, paprika simmer for about 10 min. Add cheese.

Pour into casserole dish, top with bread crumbs. Bake @ 350 for about 30 min. Let it sit for a bit.

Posted by carol on October 27, 2003
October 26, 2003
a zoo-ish picnic

It's been a long in the planning, but today i finally got to go to the zoo with Aimee, Soph, Heidi, & Patrick. I planned a picnic for us all. Perfect for a warm October San Francisco afternoon....

Apples & Pears
Herbed D'affinois & Drunken Goat cheeses
Sweet 'n' spicy pecans

Assorted little sandwiches
- smoked salmon & cucumbers & Mt. Tam cheese
- Somerset apples & Pt. Reyes Blue
- proscuitto & chévre & butter lettuce
- paté & cornichon & arugula

Molasses-ginger cookies
Cinnamon créme brulée

Posted by shock on October 26, 2003
October 23, 2003
brian says we eat a lot of fish

More comfort food! From the October 2003 Cooking Light again.

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon
Baked sweet potatoes with brown sugar-pecan butter
Broccoli spears

The salmon was reminiscent of that recipe I got addicted to a year ago, but with a nice wasabi-like bite from the Chinese-style hot mustard. CL says you could sub in Dijon or a teaspoon of a dry mustard like Coleman's if your supermarket is diversity-challenged. I toasted the pecans ghetto-style on a paper plate in the microwave.

For the salmon, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce, 4 teaspoons Chinese-style hot mustard, and 1 teaspoon rice vinegar in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Place 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick) on a foil-lined jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler.

Brush sugar mixture evenly over salmon; broil 3 inches from heat 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Yield: 4 servings.

For the potatoes, pierce 4 (8-ounce) sweet potatoes with a fork. Microwave at HIGH 12 minutes or until done. Combine 2 tablespoons softened butter, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans. Top each potato with about 1 tablespoon butter mixture.

Posted by astraea on October 23, 2003
October 20, 2003
cheese on toast

On a snackish forage through the fridge after my ride back from the bakery (and work, but the bakery part is relevant later), I discovered a small piece of Brie in need of eating. Brie for one!

I think I may have created the perfect indulgent snack:

Take the end of a fresh loaf of bread, thickly sliced.
Cut last bit of Brie into slices, cover bread in cheese.
Place in toaster oven, set to Broil.
Broil until toasty.
Drizzle fig marmalade over melted cheese.

I suppose, if fig marmalade is unavailable, any other not too sweet fruit preserve would be acceptable.

Fig marmalade!

(too bad i didn't notice the wee bit of open gewurz. in the fridge, or we'd have had a perfect complement)

Perhaps we ought to have a category for toaster oven indulgences...

Posted by naomi on October 20, 2003
October 18, 2003
cooking repertoire challenge

By way of an introduction to my queries about people's personal cooking repertoires, I'm going to include a few excerpts from chapter 22 of the book I reviewed earlier, Cooking for Mr. Latte:

A few months ago, when visiting Tad's parents, I noticed one of his mother's cookbooks lying on the kitchen counter. It was opened to a recipe for slow-roasted turkey.... Over the years, Elizabeth had kept a record of her efforts to refine the recipe: "1977," one note read, "12 lb. turkey took 4 hours including 1/2 hour browning." Another note read, "make tent of foil over all."... I mentioned this to Tad. "I hope someday to have recipes like that," I said. "You know, ones that I'll return to for years and years." Tad nodded. "It's a good idea. You don't really seem to have a repertoire." He was right. Although I have a few favorite dishes, I rarely make them... When you make a dish again and again, altering it to your liking, it becomes an expression of your aesthetic, of your palate, of who you are. ...People used to learn to cook by making dishes in their mother's or grandmother's repertoire. But now that cooking is no longer a necessity, very few people do this, which is probably why many young people may never cook. Without a handful of recipes to start you off, cooking seems overwhelming. There are too many choices. ...Having your own stash of recipes also allows you to travel anywhere and cook in anyone's kitchen. If you can roast a chicken, make a salad and bake a simple cake, you will be a prized guest.

(Note: Confusingly, the author's fiance is named Tad - as is my husband. My mother-in-law's name is Marilyn - and she's never cooked a slow roasted turkey for us. -rl)

In chapter 24, the author goes on to discuss futher refinement of her own repertoire and the handful of recipes that made the cut: her mother's chocolate cake recipe and her mom's peach tart recipe, a greek tagliatelle recipe she got from a book she was reviewing, a linguine with arugala and Meyer lemon recipe she adopted from a friend.

All this talk of cooking repertoires made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, because I have been contemplating this very concept for the past couple years. I have been methodically collecting recipes for years and finally have a huge accordion folder full of recipes in addition to a nice little selection of cookbooks; however I recently realized that I only have a small handfull of recipes I make repeatedly and have commited to heart and can reproduce at a moment's notice. And most of them are cookie recipes, which is not quite the well-rounded repertoire that I would love to have as my 'cooking arsenal.' If I were to list my own repertoire now, the list would only contain chocolate chip cookies, Gingerbread Tiles, different variations of my Impromptu Beef Salad, and basic pasta with lemon and olive oil; definitely nothing to merit 'prized guest status' quite yet. I think I'd like to add at least one main roast course, and at least one or two basic cooked veggie dishes for the vegan husband to enjoy.

So here are my challenges to the Gastonome Collective:
* What is in your cooking repertoire? How did you find the dishes?
* What do you wish could be in your repertoire? Is there a dish you would like to become more proficient at?
* Want to share a recipe from your own arsenal? Why not post it to Gastronome, then leave a link in the comments on this post, so we can follow the thread?

Posted by rebecca on October 18, 2003
October 17, 2003
imperfect sunday dinner

beef1web.jpgLast weekend, Naomi & Rene came over for dinner. It was lovely to meet Rene, and i'm always happy to spend some time with Naomi. While dinner was tasty, i wasn't entirely thrilled with the execution of everything. Read on for my breakdown in gory detail.

starters: cocktails, Red Hawk, crackers & olives
app: Chantarelle, d'affinois & persillade pizzas
entree: boeuf a la bourguignonne
dessert: Tarte tatin

The cheese and pizzas were perfect. The new baking stone did its job nicely. The fall chantarelles are lovely, right now.

I was a little disappointed in my beef - the sauce was silky and wonderful, and the potatoes were right on, but i should have let the beef cook for another 40 minutes. I guess that's what i get for getting started late. I always forget how long it takes to cook that dish. The meat wasn't egregiously tough, but it certainly wasn't falling-apart-tender, either. Argh.

The tarte tatin was a spectacular failure (but it wasn't inedible). I picked up my favorite new apples - Somersets - and thought to use them. Naomi correctly predicted on slicing that they were going to melt (wrong for pie!). When i turned the tart, i found that the thick caramel coating was really a thin caramel-apple sauce - and the apples were shrunken and way too soft. The whole wheat flour in the pie crust might have been ok if it hadn't been completely drenched and soggy with the excess syrup, but overall, it was weird. With some butter pecan ice cream on top, we all still ate it - but it was wierd. Not at all what i was looking for - Naomi convinced me to serve it, anyway. Reminder: DON'T MESS WITH PASTRY FOR GUESTS. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS preflight it.....

Posted by shock on October 17, 2003
October 15, 2003
opah, glass noodle & carrot soup

soupthumb.jpgI made this soup for lunch over the weekend - it was very simple, very tasty, and only took a few minutes. I think you could substitute any firm white fish for the opah, and any sort of veg you particularly like. I definitely liked the play of color the carrots gave the soup, as well as the crunch and the flavor. (Click the picture for a full view.)

Serves 2.
1 packet (2 oz) bean thread/glass noodles
1 packet (2 servings) instant dashi
1 tbsp yellow miso paste
0.5 lb opah, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
1 carrot, cut into half-inch thick slices
1 dash hot sauce
sushi sprinkle or shreds of seaweed for garnish (optional)

1. Put a pot of water on to boil. Cook bean thread noodles according to instructions. Drain them when done and set aside.
2. Dissolve the dashi in 2 cups of water. Add hot sauce to taste (this is for flavor, not for super heating the soup). Bring the broth to a simmer.
3. Turn down the heat, and add the fish. Poach gently for 4-5 minutes, or until the fish is done. Add the carrots in the last minute or so of cooking.
4. Divide the glass noodles into two bowls. Top with each bowl with half of the fish and carrots.
5. Stir the miso paste into the broth. Fill each bowl with broth. Top with sprinkle or seaweed, and serve!

Posted by shock on October 15, 2003
October 12, 2003
cooking for mr. latte

Cooking for Mr. Latte; A Foodlover's Courtship, With Recipes is probably the closest thing to a 'summer Foodie beach book' that I can think of. Written by Amanda Hesser, a food writer for the New York Times, the book follows the courtship of the author and her beau (writer Tad Friend - the titular Mr. Latte) with relevant recipes included. The author is a fine writer, and although I found her somewhat saccharine spin on things to be a little too sweet at times (how could someone who worked the line in so many kitchens still be so... prissy?), I really enjoyed the book overall. My favorite parts of the book were the ecclectic assortment of recipes at the end of every chapter, all respectfully presented with notes from the author (or the friend or family member who was the source of the recipe).

Although much of the book's 'action' revolves around stories about the progression of the author's relationship with Mr Latte (dubbed 'Mr. Latte' for his uncouth habit of ordering a latte after dinner - for shame!), lots of the chapters branch out to focus on dinner parties with friends and family, as well as foodie get-togethers and dining experiences. Although the author's passion for good food comes through every step of the way, by the end of the book I was very sure of several things.

1) I never want to be a foodie, live with a foodie, or eat marathon meals with professional foodies. I like food. I enjoy quality food prepared well. I think I would be an extremely boring person if my life revolved around my meals, and I think I would rather kebob my eyeballs with skewers than talk about the merits of a single dish for hours and hours.
2) I would never want to prepare food for a food writer or food critic - my hat is off to all Amanda Hesser's friends who rose to the challenge.
3) Even food writers goof up too, and I appreciated all the honest accounts of dishes gone awry that the author herself couldn't make come together. I also liked the fact that almost every time she cooked for anyone else, she expressed fear about her dishes not coming out. Given I also feel panicked that my skills will fail me when put on the spot, I connected with the author when she shared her own 'performance anxieties.'
4) I loved that for all her food snobbery, the author included many much-loved recipes from friends or family that definitely couldn't be classified as pretentious or elitist (old family recipes that eschew butter in favor of Crisco, for instance).
5) I'm definitely copying a bunch of the recipes out of the book to try later; probably the highest compliment you could pay to a book like this!

Note to mass transit readers: because the book was written in installments for the New York Times Magazine, the short chapters are great for reading on a train or bus on the way to work! This is not a book that will change your life or your approach to food; it might inspire a couple good meals, though! A nice light summer-feeling read.

Posted by rebecca on October 12, 2003
October 09, 2003
fall comfort?

Fall is, hands-down, my favorite season. The crispy San Francisco air, the alternating mist and fog with clear cold sunny days, the fall apples and mushrooms hitting the markets, and the beginning of the glorious rain - there's more than i can begin to describe. When the weather starts turning, i definitely shift modes, as well. I want to go out less - instead, i want to welcome my friends into my home. I want to cook for them, sit around candles with a glass of wine or an irish coffee and chat, late into the night. It's a social season for me - but a quietly social season. What are some of the things you cook in fall? Your autumn rituals? I'll share some of mine - and would love to hear yours...

In the fall, i tend towards cheese courses over dessert. With a tasty dessert wine or a rich red. I love to cook soup for the beginning of every meal - my menu planning starts falling back into soup-entrée-salad-cheese again. I start thinking about beef bourgignon, chantarelles with persillade, and butternut squash soup. (In fact, i made a transitionary contribution to a potluck last weekend - my first pot of butternut squash soup, a fall food - and a lemon-raspberry tart, with the last of the summer berries.) I want to bake - pizzas and bread, cookies and coffee cakes, tarte tatin and savory brunch tarts. Cinnamon buns to share with neighbors on a cold morning.

I start wanting to send out paper-based invitations to dinner parties - i focus on the creative things that are nice to look at, and lovely to touch. I pay more attention to my space, keeping things tidy, ready at any moment for guests to drop in. I tend to keep food on hand in the fridge in anticipation of feeding people when they drop by - a tidbit of this, or a morsel of that. I start thinking about menus for Thanksgiving, for our annual tree-trimming, for birthday dinners and special meals for dear friends. I even start musing on the theme for NYF. I tend to journal more - re-reading my menu-journal, i see i have many more entries in the autumn and spring than the summer and winter.

So - do tell - what are your autumn habits, rituals, and comforts?

Posted by shock on October 09, 2003
October 02, 2003

Laura's pregnant! I just found out tonight, while I was cooking this meal for her (and for Mikko and Wayde and myself) from the October 2003 Cooking Light. My womanly intuition has been twanging for two months now, it was good to get a confirmation. And this comfort food menu was perfect for the occasion:

Pork Loin Chops with Cinnamon Apples
Buttered poppyseed noodles
Green peas

The pork and apples together made me feel like I was eating an apple pie with a delicious meat crust. Granny Smiths + brown sugar = yum! Apparently Braeburns would work well too. God I love fall. I used a vegetable peeler on the apples to try to speed prep up a little, but it still took forever to peel those suckers.

For the pork loin chops, combine 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and sprinkle over 4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick). Heat 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove the pork from pan. Cover and keep warm.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter in pan over medium heat. Add 4 cups (1/2 inch) slices peeled Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium), 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and dash of salt, and cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Serve the apples with pork. Yield: 4 servings.

For the noodles, cook 8 ounces of wide egg noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Place noodles in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons poppyseeds, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss to combine.

Posted by astraea on October 02, 2003
October 01, 2003
Sunday Brunch

Last Sunday, Tammy & Todd came over for brunch. I really hope these will become more frequent - i love cooking for them, and seeing them Sunday morning is such a lovely start to the last day of the weekend. Todd doesn't eat mammals, and Tammy doesn't eat avians or mammals. Here's our brunch menu from the weekend - i'm particularly proud of how health-minded some of the cooking techniques were.

Coffee with cherry-blueberry oat bran muffins

Potato pancakes with asparagus pesto & smoked salmon
Mixed greens with fig balsamic vinager
Canteloupe and pear fruit salad with minted simple syrup and orange zest

The potato pancakes were baked on a silpat - so the became golden and crispy on the outside. The muffins had banana in them to replace a bunch of the oil, and were moist and tangy. And i've never put pears and canteloupe together, but they tasted great, and were visually pleasing next to one another.

I'll call this one a success!

Posted by shock on October 01, 2003