It's my own version of the red carpet treatment...
Saturday, February 26, 2011
We put that passion on hold for many years while we raised our sons – the time and mental commitment was more than we felt we could give. And now that we’re retired, we are back on the tournament scene. But even at a bridge tournament, I can’t seem to get away from food and other foodies.
A couple of weeks ago, we were about halfway through an open pairs session, and as we sat down to face a couple of women, one of them said something about lemongrass.
“Lemongrass?” I said. “What do you know about lemongrass? I’ve been looking at some recipes that call for it, and didn’t know what sort of taste to expect.”
“It’s a citrusy taste,” she said. “So, if you like food,... do you like arugula?”
I pronounced myself an avid fan of arugula, whereupon she pulled out a giant bag of the stuff from behind her chair, and gave me a big bunch!
I love arugula almost as much as I love tournament bridge. In fact, I grew some in my garden last spring, and ate off it for ages. I took this photo after I decided to let some of the plants flower.
It’s a great time of year for arugula salads – the greens are a lot like spinach only more peppery, so your salad can have many of the same ingredients. (In the summertime, I go a completely different direction and toss it with tomatoes, shaved parmesan, and a simple vinaigrette. But I think I’ve said enough about my feelings in regard to winter tomatoes. )
For a winter salad, I remove the toughest stems, tear it into large-bite pieces, add fresh orange or grapefruit segments or diced pears, toss in sliced almonds for some extra crunch, and drizzle on a honey-lemon salad dressing I discovered years ago. If I’ve got goat cheese or feta, I’ll crumble some of that on, too. It’s easy to experiment with salads, and arugula is a great start.
Here’s the dressing.
Honey-Lemon Salad Dressing
3 Tbl fresh lemon juice
3 Tbl honey [Kitchen Goddess note: I prefer acacia honey, but it’s not always easy to find, so just look for the lightest color honey on the shelf. They're the ones with the mildest flavor.]
½ tsp salt
½ c olive oil
fresh ground pepper
Whisk together the honey, lemon juice, and salt. Add the olive oil in a stream, whisking constantly as you pour. Add the pepper and adjust the seasoning to taste.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
My computer beeps at me for the usual variety of reasons – hello or goodbye, mail arriving, browser stops working, a program won’t load – that’s not news to anyone. But our house is only two years old, so most of the appliances operate with some sort of system that I’m sure the manufacturers believe is helpful. Some days, however, I go almost crazy trying to figure out which one of them is calling to me and why.
– The washer beeps when the load is out of balance, like if I don’t put enough other stuff in when I wash the bathroom rug.
– Ditto the dryer. And both of them sing a little song when their cycle is over. You can hear it almost anywhere in the house.
– The microwave beeps when it’s done, and again every 10 seconds after that if I haven’t removed whatever I was heating.
– The coffeemaker beeps twice when it has finished brewing, and again 20 minutes later to tell me it’s turning itself off.
– The oven beeps when it reaches the right temperature.
– The refrigerator beeps when the door is left open.
– The land line phone beeps when we have a message. Or when it needs recharging.
– And my cell phone beeps when I get a voice mail or a text message, or when the battery is fading. i could probably change some of that, but am a bit technologically challenged.
– Ditto my husband’s phone. Or maybe it’s the alarm on his watch, which beeps in a tonal range that he doesn’t hear, so that I have to let him know when it goes off. And then again 10 minutes later when it wants to tell him he forgot to turn it off the first time.
And if that wasn’t enough, in my car yesterday, I almost had a wreck as competition ramped up between the Garmin lady and the car phone lady.
Back when I was shopping for many of these appliances, I watched a cooking demo at the Wolf/Sub-Zero showroom, and they prepared an amazing flounder casserole with fennel. I love fennel, so I took the general idea and produced this dish which is terrifically easy, and the flavors of fish, fennel, and tomatoes blend really well together. I serve it with rice and a salad or some deep green veggie like steamed broccoli.
Lee’s Fennel Flounder
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl butter
2 large carrots, diced
1 med onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 ½ pounds flounder filet
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
tomatoes – about 2 c chopped [Kitchen Goddess note: Fresh tomatoes are best, but at this time of year, tomatoes that taste like tomatoes and not rubber balls aren’t easy to find. Try a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, drained..]
Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat and add carrots, onion, and celery, stirring frequently for 7-8 mins. Spread mirepoix on bottom of a casserole dish. Arrange half the fish in one layer on top of the mirepoix, and sprinkle with half the fennel. Arrange the rest of the fish in the next layer and top with remaining fennel. Spread tomatoes evenly on top. Season with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Bake, covered, at 400º for 30-35 mins, then remove cover and broil until the tomatoes get slightly toasted. Serves 4.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
I don’t always read the book. This time I didn’t even buy it. My book group picked The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, a 425-page tome that by many accounts is an enlightening philosophical treatise on Tibetan Buddhism. I looked it up on amazon.com, and after reading the five pages that were available with the “Look Inside!” feature, I felt as if I’d been transported back to the 1960s.
I know I sound shallow and closed-minded, but I believe that everyone doesn’t have to read every book we choose, and this was one I chose not to read. Instead, I caught up on my New Yorker backlog, and put in some quality time with Q is for Quarry, a Sue Grafton mystery I somehow missed in the run to her latest, U is for Undertow. They’re in a category I refer to as “brain candy.”
That said, I love my book group. We had such a lively discussion, it didn’t even matter whether anyone read the book or not, and, in fact, a couple of others were in my camp. We read a mix of fiction, history, narrative nonfiction, and classics, and not everyone loves – or reads – every pick. But as a fan of nonfiction, I appreciate the group for getting me to read quite a few fiction titles (including Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Help, and The Sun Also Rises) I might otherwise have skipped.
The meeting was this week, during the second blast in Austin’s Winter of Our Discontent. Cold, cold, and more cold. Which is NOT what we expected when we moved here. So, naturally, I made soup. Again. This one has the great advantage of taking almost no time at all, and has a mysterious flavor that comes from the melange of vegetables and fruits, accented with a dash of curry. I served it occasionally at my New Jersey soup parties, and it was always a hit. Now when I serve it for dinner, I just add a green salad.
(from Gourmet magazine, December 2001)
1 large boiling potato (½ lb), peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 celery heart (stalks with leaves), coarsely chopped (½ c)
1 large apple (preferably Granny Smith), peeled and coarsely chopped
1 firm-ripe banana, coarsely chopped
1 pt chicken broth
1 c heavy cream [Kitchen Goddess note #1: Light cream works equally well, if you’re counting calories, and who among us is not?]
1 Tbl unsalted butter
1 rounded tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
Chopped fresh chives for garnish
Simmer vegetables and fruits in broth in a 3-quart heavy saucepan, covered, until very tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in cream, butter, curry powder, and salt and heat just until hot (do not boil).
Purée soup in a blender until smooth (be careful when blending hot liquids). Thin the soup with water if desired and serve sprinkled with chives. Makes 4 to 6 main course servings.
Kitchen Goddess note #2: You can make this soup ahead and reheat to serve (do not boil). It has a tendency to thicken in the refrigerator – just add water to reach a consistency you like. And it’s equally delightful hot or cold.