Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
|Christmas Eve dinner|
|Jesus's birthday cake|
Dinner on Christmas Eve with our friends next door was far more outstanding than our efforts the following day. Our friend, Paul, prepared a prime rib roast for 10 of us to enjoy. We’ve been sharing Christmas Eve dinner with these friends for many years. Paul cooks Christmas Eve and we cook Christmas Day. When Elyse, my daughter-in-law, first joined us for holidays, she was thrilled that our friends bake a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus as part of their family tradition. She had never encountered anyone other than her family who celebrated Christmas with a birthday cake.
|Elyse and Andrea - Christmas 2002|
|Andrea, age 3, in the wedding|
|Christmas 2010 - Andrea, age 8 and Isaac 5 mo|
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
It's an exciting day for me. My essay was published on Smithsonian's great blog, Food & Think. I've been an avid reader of this blog for quite a while. Once a month on Mondays, they select a topic and ask readers to submit an essay. They publish reader submissions on the subsequent Mondays. I wrote the first draft of my essay just after 3:30am the other morning when I couldn't sleep after our little earthquake. I got so busy with work, I almost forgot to finish it and submit it by the deadline. Here's the text, but you should really go check out the The Heat Goes On to see it on their website.
For this round of Inviting Writing, we asked you to tell us about “first tastes”—interesting initial encounters with a particular food or drink. Today’s selected writer, Judy Martin of Cupertino, California, tells us about her first taste of hot peppers. Judy works for a medical device company and blogs about food at Tastemonials.
In the charitable season of the spirit, we’ve extended the submission deadline a few days! Send your stories to FoodandThink@gmail.com by Wednesday morning, Dec. 22.
The Heat Goes On
by Judy Martin
When I first moved to California in 1984, I had limited experience with ethnic cuisine. My Chinese food repertoire included fried rice, egg rolls and Chung King chow mein from a can. The new town where I moved had a main street that was like the United Nations of dining, so it wasn't long before I began to explore the unknown foods there.
Chinese food seemed approachable, and there was a restaurant where my husband and his coworkers ate lunch frequently that he thought I would enjoy. It was owned by a friendly couple who spoke very limited English. We began to dine there at least weekly and work our way through the menu. Before long, I was ready to tackle the items marked with their HOT symbol.
But as with ethnic food, I didn't have much experience with spicy. (I was raised mostly on canned and frozen food.) One night I ordered Hunan beef. It was beautiful dish, featuring a rich caramelized sauce sprinkled with little red pepper flakes. I took a bite that included some of the beef, rice, and what I thought looked like a mushroom. Right about then, the chef/owner came to our table and saw me eat the first bite.
"NO EAT PEPPER!!! " he said waving his hands wildly. "FLAVOR ONLY!!!"
Well, it was too late. I had bitten into the hottest pepper I'd ever encountered and my mouth exploded. I had never experienced such a sensation. Sweat began to stream from every pore. I grabbed my glass of water. "NO WATER!!! RICE AND SALT!!" he urgently advised and demonstrated cramming my mouth full of rice.
I survived my first hot-pepper encounter thanks to that restaurant proprietor, and rather than being daunted, I was intrigued. I returned many more times to enjoy his cooking. Hunan beef became one of my favorites, the spicier, the better. I began to explore the flavors of peppers and developed a love for heat. Give me habaneros or Brazilian malaguetas any time; I'll cook you a spicy dish that will make you sweat!
My son was five or six years old at the time of the pepper experience, and for a long time refused to eat Chinese food. The owner and his wife would come out and try to entice him with little treats, usually with no success. Once, after they had made a routine friendly visit to our table, our son asked us their names. I was embarrassed to admit that I didn't know.
"But it's on the window," my son said. I didn't understand what he meant. So he took us outside and pointed to the front window of the restaurant, which read: "Mandarin and
After that, we always referred to them as Mr. and Mrs. Cuisine. The restaurant eventually closed and they moved away, but we still remember them and their food fondly.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
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Sunday, December 12, 2010
|Lunch at Los Martincitos daycare for the elderly in Villa El Salvador, Peru|
From the time I was responsible for selecting my own Christmas tree (I was first married at 19), I have obsessed each year over finding the most perfect tree. Sometimes I visited 10 tree lots before selecting just the right one. And you guessed it – often it was back at the first lot. No tradition of cutting down a tree in my family, because I must have a Noble fir and they don’t grow where I’ve lived.
Both my ex- and Larry (who has survived 27 Christmases with me) exhibited enormous patience with my Christmas tree obsession. Then came the year with two trees. Then the year with four! My obsession had grown. After about 10 years in California, we realized that we often bought the trees from the same family-owned lot, where we really like the people. Or had I just become more rationale? Then the lot disappeared. Now what? Back to 10 lots? Larry had his own solution.
We woke up to a rainy Saturday for tree shopping. Larry announced we were going to Home Depot for the tree. I refused. I swore. I pouted and sulked. I knew we’d never find the perfect tree there. But Larry was patient and ignored my behavior. He was prepared with gloves and tools so he could unfurl the trees for viewing – no waiting on busy clerks. And after about an hour of whining, I agreed to a tree. It was actually pretty nice.
The next year, same scenario, less sulking. I had to admit they had nice trees, and cheaper, too. This year we set a new record. After many errands, we arrived at Home Depot 10 minutes before closing. This was asking too much. It couldn’t be done. A perfect tree in under 10 minutes?
Over the years, Larry has developed the magic skill of tree selection. He cut the twine off a couple and there it was! The perfect tree! A Noble fir, 6 feet tall and full, but not very wide- perfect for our space.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butter Sauce on I Don't Cook, But My Boyfriend Does! It looked relatively easy and very tasty. Check out her recipe, but I'll tell you a few changes (and mistakes) I made. I meant to halve the recipe, so I used half the squash. I cubed it and sauteed it in a pan, rather than baking it. I've used this method before- it's a little faster than baking and works just as well. Unfortunately, I was a little distracted, and forgot to halve the rest of the ingredients. It was still really good! Just a little cheesier than intended. And since I cooked the entire box of shells and I only used about a third of them, I wasted quite a few.
My shells turned out a little tough and crunchy. I haven't made stuffed shells in years, but I think I should have cut down on the boiling time of the pasta since it really needed the 30 minutes in the oven to melt the cheese. It was still really good!
This would make a fine meatless dish as originally published, but I had pancetta in the refrigerator begging to be used. Pancetta is my new addiction. Once I tasted the filling, I knew I needed to broil a couple of thin slices and crumble to go on top. Also, I don't like candied walnuts (except on honey walnut prawns), so I toasted chopped pecans to sprinkle on top. Toasted pepitas would also be a good choice.
Now if I could just get some decorating done.....
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Food is for him and he is for food. When he sees the spoon coming, his mouth opens wide, anxious like a baby bird. No spitting it out or messing with it. Although it does still seem to go everyhere. "Bring it on, Mamma!" he'd shout if he could talk.
We haven't seen him for a month, so our first weekend back in the States, we headed for SoCal to see how much he's changed. He must be at least six inches longer. And he's balder. But he is much more vocal and can roll over back to front (sometimes). AND HE LOVES FOOD! He was definitely born into the right family for that. His mom and dad are food and wine lovers, so I can trust they will bring him up properly. With my help, of course.
Still trying to grasp the last vestiges of autumn, we are dining nightly on the remnants of our pseudo turkey feast from Tuesday. The weather is freezing and the neighbors have their Christmas lights up, but I refuse to let go of fall food just yet.
Sweet Potato Soup with Pancetta and Croutons – 4 servings
(adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine)
1 3oz pkg thinly sliced pancetta (I only used half this much)
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1 c thinly sliced shallots (I only used ½ cup chopped)
1 ½ tsp fresh rosemary, minced, divided
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and mashed
3 ½ c low sodium chicken broth
1 c ½” cubes sourdough bread
Saute pancetta in large heavy saucepan over medium high heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels.
Add 1 ½ Tbsp butter to drippings in the same pan, add shallots and reduce heat to medium. Saute until shallots are soft and golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp rosemary, mashed sweet potatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Puree soup in blender or processor. Salt and pepper to taste.
Melt remaining 1 ½ Tbsp butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes and remaining ½ tsp rosemary and sauté until croutons are crisp and golden, about 3 minutes.
Ladle soup in bowls. Sprinkle crumbled pancetta and croutons on top of soup to serve.