Sunday, November 2, 2008


I have been cooking all sorts of things, but nothing that Mark has been writing about. Hmm.

When my co-blogger was back in the green state a few weeks ago, we were celebrating at our favorite watering hole, when the restaurant's supplier of locally foraged chanterelles walked in with a LARGE container of fresh chanterelles. A bunch of us went gaga, and he managed to supply each of us with two to four pounds of chanterelles at $5 a pound. I got two pounds. It was like a drug deal was going down. People were so excited and when the "dealer" thought he ran out, I was afraid there might be fisticuffs!

I was excited to write my mushroom post, but alas, was too late, and Mark had a post about them too! Dammit. I simply sauteed mine with olive oil and garlic. They were fab. Some I included in a quick quiche that I made the other day. I had some leftover roasted delicata squash which I used too. Here is the rough recipe:

Preheat oven to 400.

In a bowl mix:
1 1/2 previously roasted delecata squash scraped out of the skin.
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 cup cream
3 eggs
Pinch of cumin

Mix well together, then add sauteed chanterelles that you have roughly chopped, about 1 1/2 - 2 cups. Mix well.

Add salt and pepper.

Pour into a pie shell (I bought a frozen one since I can't make pie crust worth a damn).
Grate parmesan onto the top.

Cook about 30 minutes. Check periodically. Once the top of the quiche has risen a bit and the sides of the crust are nice and brown, it is probably done. If you are not sure, you can stick a knife into the center and peek in, making sure the eggs are cooked.


Remember, this is a rough recipe from memory. I just used whatever I had on hand (leftovers rock). Quiche is a great vehicle for leftovers, especially if you don't have quite enough for a whole meal.

I am sorry to note that my co-blogger is unwell. I suspect that it is the smog and grime of LA, and that what she really needs is a dose of rain and a deep breath of the scent of decaying leaves. Then all will be good.


Friday, October 31, 2008


sick i am

last week's couscous almond milk thingy is still the only thing i really want to eat, even if my teeth are all back where they should be.
oh misery, thy name is sinus infection. it makes everything taste the same, and not even the roasted chestnut stir-fry prepared in succulent bittman fashion this wednesday can rouse much interest from this congested, teary eyed mess.

but thanks for giving me hope and inspiration mark - as soon as i am sick no more, i'll be all over your stir fried chestnuts.

wait a second. that didn't sound right.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

forgive me, for i have genericided.

i am guilty as charged - hoover qualifies for any vacuum, sprite is any lemon soda, and i call couscous everything from the pasta grain itself to the dish with the tangy tomatoey broth, and have even referred to tabouleh as couscous with parsley (although I wonder if that is actually the opposite of genericide).

in any case, let me second S; hurrah for dessert couscous! yum to the nth degree, this is just the thing for a rainy oregon afternoon. or a warm LA evening - especially if you are nursing sore teeth and sporting temporary crowns.

share much? well yes, but it all matters when lauding the qualities of a dish! the day you find yourself unable to chew properly, somewhat uncomfortable yet ravenous, the almond milk cooked coscous will bring you back to life, or something resembling it. let it cook past its usual point so it gets very soft, add more almond milk so it is doesn't get clumpy, omit the apricots (remember the painful fargile teeth) and add some slivers of ginger, or a bit of cinnamon, or add a few canned tangerines (slippery soft yet sweet and cool, providing a nice contrast to the couscous).

no pictures again from me, but trust us, this one is a keeper.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Couscous, velcro, kleenex.

Hmm. Genericide. I wasn't aware of this problem. I mean, yes, I refer to all soft drinks as "Coke" and then get more specific, "Sprite please!". I am grateful for this moment of enlightenment, although I have to say, with the economy tanking, winter around the corner and a presidential election happening in a mere matter of weeks, I don't have any energy left to stand up against genericide. I hope that Mark will forgive me.

Sweet Almond Milk Couscous. I had a little extra time this afternoon, and decided that this would make a great after-school snack for my girls. I served it warm, minus the lemon zest. Huge hit. We all agreed that it would make a great breakfast dish too! Next time however I will add a bit less sugar, and a bit more rosewater.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

I am so sorry.

The swordfish recipe last week really threw me for a loop. I mean, I live one measly hour from the great Pacific Ocean, and it is really hard to find decent fish here. Yeah, yeah, I can get all the salmon and halibut I want. Crabs are easy to come by as well. But anything different and I have to go to the giant Asian grocery store an hour away with my cooler and schlep it home that way.

Ok. I will be honest. It is not just the swordfish that caught me off guard. It is life itself! My cooking time has diminished to toasting english muffins for breakfast and making sandwiches for school lunches. We don't even eat dinner! Not true, but my dinners have not been noteworthy.

I resolve to make more of an effort this week. I will not let presidential debates, a poor economy or the rain interfere with my need to cook. Check back soon.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

PB&J on the road, without MB

i just got off the freeway, 987 miles south of my beloved pacific northwest. i haven't had time for anything but driving, and haven't see today's video yet.

but this is can say: peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are the best road food ever. you can eat them while driving, they taste good with tepid water, canine companions appreciate them AND, best of all, the longer they're in the car, the better they taste, so that as you get wearier and wearier, and the road gets longer and longer, the sandwiches keep getting better and better.

but beware: this is not an occasion to be too generous with peanut butter or jelly. excess in this regard can be if not fatal, certainly very messy. and you NEED sandwich bread. crusty bread will get soggy, which is what make the sandwich great, but would make a crusty bread revolting.

what can i say, 987 miles in a straight line leaves a lot of time for thinking, and i had a lot of PB&J sandwiches to contemplate.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is this vaawwdvill???

With S off at some boring conference and me back for a short while, I feel it is my duty to offer a timely, if not pictorially enhanced, post.

The title is, as those of you who have already checked MB's video on, entirely inspired in one of the memorable lines of this Wednesday's contribution. The recipe doesn't look half bad either, sort of an East Asian version of my grand-mother's chicken soup, but it screams for lime, or chili, or something acidic, don't you think?

And on that note, here is my grand-mother's chicken soup recipe:

Soupe the poule

1) buy a hen, preferably an old hen. apparently hens have way more flavor. Iwouldn't know how to tell a hen from a chicken or a rooster. Ok, maybe a rooster is obviously different, but once they're headless and featherless - how can you tell? You can tell by the flavor says my grand-mother, deaf to the circularity of her reasoning.
2) put the hen in a large pot, cover in water and add a bouquet garni and salt. Set to boil, then cover, lower the flame and walk away. The hen, being old, also needs to simmer for a verrrrry long time.
3) about an hour before you think this hen is done, add chopped vegetables : leek, celery, carrots, turnips, peas, green beans, whatever you have (forgive me, but this is literally how my grand-mother cooks - she has no recipes, it's all in her head, and she thinks it's silly to do it any other way. In her words, if you know how to cook, you just know. I know this doesn't help you, dear reader, but it's all I got).
4) once that hour has passed, take the hen out of the pot and let it cool, and set the covered pot out on a windowsill (these are the precise instructions) and let it cool, skimming the fat off the top as it congeals.
5) shred the hen
6) the next day, after you have skimmed as much fat as you can off the broth and added the hen back into the pot, reheat, and enjoy. You can add cooked rice (which is how today's MB recipe enters into this) or cooked short pasta (like orzo, fideo, or alphabet noodles).

I don't know if it's the hen or the windowsill, but if there is one thing this grand-mother does well, and does better than anyone else, it's chicken soup. Maybe one day MB can confirm the hen issue.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying the weather. We are having a prolonged summer in the Pacific Northwest - not exactly chicken soup weather - and how happy am I about that!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Too much fun.

Usually towards the end of July, my husband and I lament our busy social lives (party, party, party) and look forward to the quieter month of August. Since we live in a part of the country with capricious weather, July is generally a big party month because everyone can host large gatherings outside, virtually guaranteed to be rain free. This year, the parties continued into August. Sunday mornings, recovering with coffee in hand, we start eyeing September as a possibility for some respite. This year, this is not to be had. With a late harvest, winemakers are just getting all the partying in they can before their hands turn purple. Am I telling you this to make you jealous about all the fun we are having? No. Really, I just want to apologize to our two readers (hi out there!) that there will be no review of Mark's vegetable soup this week. Maybe later on in the week when it is supposed to get cooler. But for the next several days, when the mercury is going to reach into the 90's, we will continue to party like it is July.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Belgian fries and spice grinders, oh my!

This was dinner on Friday. This and the Tête de Moine cheese, and the cullatelo ham, and the heirloom tomato salad with buffala mozzarella. Accompanied by a Chateau Margaux eventually, but what you see there is a lovely Chablis, if memory serves.

It was dinner at midnight on Friday, because fries of this order are not a rapid affair.

First, you wash and peel very specific potatoes. In Belgium - where these divine fries were made a consumed (and the reason why I have been absent from the blog is because I was in the lovely flat land for a week)- the only potato for the occasion is the bintje. It's a big spud and I will try to find out what its American counterpart is.

Once washed, you peel, slice and chop to make fries - not too thin, not too thick. Then you rinse these raw potato strips until the water runs clear - you are getting rid of as much starch as possible.

In the meantime, heat your friteuse, a basic implement of any Belgian kitchen. I fear it will be a bit harder to find the simple electric deep fryer my brother-in-law has. I also haven't found the blanc de boeuf, or beef tallow or suet that apparently creates the optimal frite.

So here in the US, you might use shortening in a deep fryer, and wait for the oil to reach approx 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oil is hot, gingerly deposit the potatoes in it - but make sure they have been drained and dried!

Leave in the hot oil for about 5 minutes, or until the edges of the fry are getting dark blond.
Take out of the fryer, and let rest for a minute, until the oil reaches between 350F and 370F.
When the oil has reached that temperature, put the fries back in.

This double cuisson is the secret of great fries. Fry the fries (!) for another 5 minutes or so, then take them out, place in bowl and sprinkle with fleur de sel and eat as soon as possible. Within ten minutes the fries will have lost their crunch, and trust me, this is the crunch of ages, the crunch that connects you to the essence of the potato and the brilliance of those Walloon or Flemish peasants* looking for something else to fry than small fish, and who thereby stumbled, magnificently, on the frite.

There is more to Belgium than fries, and I will share some of that in another post, but the fries, especially late at night and with home-made mayonnaise, were epic.

As for MB's spice grinding issues, I have two things to add.
First : brilliant idea of S to have two coffee grinders for these purposes. I will acquire second one asap.
Second: if you don't have rice, or if like Mark (and I) you are occasionally a bit spastic in the kitchen (how I loved his clumsiness this week!), a broken up slice of bread will do just as well, and you may save yourself the back-of-the-fridge / between the cabinets vacuum episode...

* as you know, or should know, the French did not invent the French fry - there is some legend about Waterloo and soldiers etc, but essentially, my flat-land compatriots fried potatoes since well before Belgium was Belgium, and if things continue as they are, they'll be making frites well after Belgium ceases to be Belgium. But the frite never was and never will be French. Flemish maybe, but not French.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chick-Pea Salad and spice grinders

So on yesterday's video, Mark had a "technical malfunction". He couldn't figure out how to make the coffee grinder work on his cumin seeds. It was a nice light moment in the video (not that these are traditionally terribly heavy pieces of film). I giggled a little, but could relate. I must disagree with MB, spilling some of the rice is absolutely crucial to getting this right! At least they didn't edit it out! This is one of the many things I love about Mark Bittman and his videos. He is self-deprecating, which is always appealing. I can't say I loved the new intro, but was happy to see Mark back in his old kitchen. Even if only for a while. I also really enjoyed Mark's translation of "voila" - who knew!

On to the food. Years ago, we received two coffee grinders as gifts. We kept one for coffee, and the other as a spice grinder. I am always glad that I did this. Of course, it took me a few years to get smart enough to label the one for spices. There were several instances of grinding coffee and not being sure of what had been in the grinder before. Roasting your own spices is very easy, and I probably don't do it enough. Ok, I'll be honest, I almost never do it. But, I am now a reformed woman! I will endeavor to roast most of my spices. Happy?

I didn't have any yellow or orange bell peppers in the house, so I used some great heirloom tomatoes that I got in my CSA box (shout out to Oakhill Organics!). The cilantro in my garden had BOLTED! The nerve, so I had to run down to the Mexican market and grab some. I also had some japanese eggplant in my garden that I roasted, peeled and chopped and added. It was dee-licious. I ended up adding more cumin and lemon juice too. Almost forgot to mention the jalapeno, also from our CSA that was grilled and chopped up for the salad. The tomatoes gave it some nice juices as well. I had some leftovers on a bed of spinach for lunch today. It too was delish.

So not exactly Mark's recipe, but we are not sticklers for accuracy, right?


Monday, September 1, 2008

Pasta with Shredded Vegetables and Lavender or: It Felt A Little Like Fall Here

Wednesday morning when I watched the video of Mark making shredded veggies and pasta, I had a hard time focusing. I remember thinking, this is not the kitchen that he used to cook in. The other kitchen had a better layout, especially for filming. In this kitchen, the stove is behind him when he stands. This makes filming awkward - and not terribly effective, which is probably why I was distracted. Also, I found this dish to be really uninspiring. I mean here we are, at the peak of our fresh vegetable season, and all he can use is zucchini, bell peppers and carrots? What about tomatoes, eggplant, beans, fresh berries, other greens, all this great stuff that is in season now? I realize that these vignettes are probably filmed all at once sometime earlier in the year. In fact, I believe that he referred to that in a posting somewhere. But come on, lets use some more interesting veggies!

That being said, when one goes out to the garden and peers between the overgrown leaves and sunflower plants only to find that her zucchini plants have been possessed by some invisible steroid, one must deal.

Plus, on Saturday, the weather here was sort of crap. It was cool and had a real feeling of fall. That made a pasta dish sound good, but after a day clearing out the ginormous plants in the garden, being creative in the kitchen just wasn't in me. So Mark's pasta dish got a test.

I actually added half of a white onion (Walla Walla) to the chopping party. I also included some oregano. My question is this: what if you have several different types of lavender growing in your garden, and you are not sure which one to eat? Two of mine looked vaguely like what Mark had in the video, so I took some leaves from one of them, chopped 'em up and tossed them in. Overall, it was a tasty dish. We did grate some asiago cheese on top. My picky daughter even liked it (after I threatened her with no dessert!) I will probably use this recipe as a base for other shredded veggie dishes.

Now, does anyone have any suggestions besides zucchini bread for my XXXL zukes? We have been slicing them up and grilling them with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, but I can only do that for so long....

And, yes, I have tried to palm them off on unsuspecting friends and neighbors.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rustic Peach Tart

Summer has been a bit late in arriving this year. This explains why I can still get fresh local peaches at the end of August. A friend called a potluck together in honor of another friend who is visiting from New Zealand. I offered to bring dessert. I thought a rustic tart would be good, and the peaches are so lovely right now they make the perfect filling!

All this may seem a bit strange coming from someone who doesn't bake. Let me give you my very loose recipe.

1. Get your husband, or some other competent baker to make you a pie crust.
2. Blanch 6-8 peaches. Remove skin and slice them up into a bowl.
3. Dig around in fridge for the tablespoon sized piece of ginger you know you have. Peel and grate into bowl of sliced peaches.
4. Liberally sprinkle ground nutmeg on top of peaches. Roughly a teaspoon.
5. Sprinkle about two tablespoons of brown sugar onto peaches. Lick fingers.
6. Stir peaches to incorporate ginger, nutmeg and sugar.
7. Roll out prepared pie dough and place it onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
8. Using ground hazelnuts that you found in the freezer, make a circle about 1/8 of an inch thick on top of the rolled out dough.
9. Place peaches on top of hazelnuts, then fold the edges of the dough over the peaches.
10. Brush dough with water and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 425 for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Then reduce heat to 350 for another 20-30 minutes. Eyeball the tart every once in a while to see if it looks done. I usually pull it when any juices that have run out are caramelized on the parchment.

Eat it while it is just barely warm. Yum.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tomato Jam

After Mark's video was posted on Wednesday, I immediately bought the ingredients to make the Tomato Jam. It looked easy and yummy! I had made some sour cherry chutney earlier in the month (will post recipe later) and we were loving it with grilled pork loin. This tomato jam would make another great condiment to have in the fridge.

It took me until last night to make it. Before I started, I perused Mark's Bitten blog and read some of the comments from readers. Some had already made the jam and suggested more salt, less salt, less sugar, don't change a thing. There did not seem to be a consensus, so I just followed the recipe. I did however add two cloves of garlic.

Generally speaking, it turned out well. I think that as an accompaniment to pork it will be great. However, I do agree with one of the posters that it is too sweet. Also, mine is not as translucent as Mark's. I could have probably cooked it longer, but I had it going for about and hour and a half. I was drinking wine while doing this and got to the point where I was afraid I would just forget about it on the stove and burn it to bits!



Later, I was hungry and was reminded of the batch of brown lentils that I had prepared the day before in the fridge. Into a bowl went some cold lentils, a bit of olive oil, salt and tomato jam to taste. YUM!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

i love MB but hate the buffering on

haven't been able to watch this week's video cast because the "buffering" makes it impossible... what IS buffering anyway? sound vaguely naughty, and straight out of "the Riches".
very annoying. and in light of said buffering problems, there is no review/analysis/completely biased opinion of MB's weekly show.

but i love love LOVE this thing:

it is a corn stripper. not the kind that dances on tables. it strips corn off the cob.
now i usually scoff at this sort of unnecessary kitchen implement. i can be a snob, and this just reeked of amateur. anyone who knows her way with a sharp knife knows how to cut the kernels off the cob. why clutter the kitchen drawers with one more useless thing. like the egg slicer, the pineapple corer and the apple peeler.

let me tell you why: because unlike the video cast, this thing works! this little thing does it all without sending kernels flying into the crevasse between your counter-top and the your range, you can do it carelessly and you'll still have lovely kernels, and it holds them all lovingly until you are ready to roast them quickly before serving them at a taco-fest for 8. and the left-overs tasted oh-so-good in tonight's ice-cold gazpacho.

that is all.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Avocado Toast

A few years ago, we hosted an intern from New Zealand. "K" was lovely to have around. She lived with us for four months while working crush at one of the local wineries. We learned many things from K. How to swirl every beverage in your glass as if it were wine. How to say "baanaanaa" with long a's. How to have a sense of humor when you are dead tired from doing midnight punch downs. One of the only food items she would make for herself was avocado toast, every morning for breakfast. At first I thought it was a bit odd, but then I realized that I was probably being provincial. Then I tried it, and was hooked. I just got a craving for some avocado toast and thought that it might be time to share the news.

1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted
1/4 (or 1/2 if you are feeling decadent) ripe avocado

Spread avocado on the toast. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Devour.

Healthy, yummy, and nothing to it!


Friday, August 8, 2008

Chard stuffed with risotto - not a review, but a renewed interest

With 40th birthday parties, throngs of family from afar and kids descending upon us lately, there's been no time to cook, no time to blog. But things are calming down now - 40 has happened, and I am still standing; the family members have started to trickle home; and there is something resembling normalcy hovering in the air.

AND - I got chard from my farmers this week! Which means that the probability that I will test this week's recipe are extremely high. This is a good thing, because I am eager to get into the kitchen again, especially for a recipe that relieves the wonderful S from approaching rice-making again...

I'll take this one!

Stay tuned for reviews soon (I hope).
Chard on!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Rice Salad - kinda blah.

Saturday night, at a lovely party hosted by the fabulous J, I admitted my inability to make rice. Let me clarify, I can make rice, but it doesn't actually taste like or have the consistency of rice. You know, where each kernel is its own individual? Not in my rice. If I have not produced a glob of stuff, then I have severely undercooked it and we are all crunching and chewing away. A few years ago, my husband suggested that we get a rice cooker. I am not a fan of appliances that do only one thing, but I was convinced that this was maybe a good time to break my rule. Even with the rice cooker, I cannot make good rice. I follow the directions meticulously - acting very scientific - and still, mushy rice. Thank god for take-out.

So, with our left-over rice from Thai dinner on Friday, I made the rice salad. Adding coconut milk, peas, fresh cilantro, salt and curry powder. It was unremarkable. Possibly due to the mediocre quality curry powder I had on hand. The consensus among the family (they were all over here again for dinner) was that it was ok. We agreed that it would make a good vehicle for other leftover vegetables, but as a stand alone dish, we were underwhelmed. I agree with J, MB himself didn't seem too thrilled with the salad.

Oh, I cannot make pie crust either.

For the record, I can make lots of other things.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

wednesday video blog - july 30th - review by J

Umm, excuse me. Rice salad? And that glob of coconut milk? Yuk.

It is redundant to mention, esp. in this blog, that I love MB, but this Wednesday's recipe was a dud. even MB was suspicious, esp. of it's less than appealing demeanor, and I doubt very much he actually liked the glob of "salad" he produced.

So no, this critic will resist the antics, and even the mock self-deprecation embedded in his "sometimes I surprise myself" comment and deem this to be one of the least appetizing recipes MB has presented lately.

I wonder, will S try this one out on her family too?

Monday, July 28, 2008

the minimalist theory tested - J

Those of us (of you) who have been following Mark Bittman's tenure at the NYT since whenever it started (I have cut outs of his recipes that are yellowed and brittle, that tells you something) are, I suspect not just following his recipes. We are following his tenets. The Minimalist, as his column is called, is about paring down complicated recipes to an essential truth, a basic ingredient, or technique which renders the dish miraculously approachable to even the novice cook.

The amazing thing about the minimalist approach is that even as you delevop skills, initiative and preferences in your cooking, you are doing it the minimalist way. At least I do. As much as I love to cook, I like to keep it simple. Presentation matters, but not as much as flavor. Organization matters, but it is more important to have fun in the kitchen than to keep it clean. And recipes are important, but ingredients set the tone. The same way that an historian lets the evidence write the story (only bad historians look for the evidence to prove their story), in minimalist cooking, one ingredient, if it is all you have, may suffice.

Last night was one of those nights.

In the fridge: one small cabbage, one old apple, a 2 lb hunk of parmesan.
In the house: one very tired vegetarian boyfriend, who had been up for the last 72 hours with barely 8 hours of sleep in between dinners, wine tastings, lunches, brunches, seminars, discussions and much shmoozing.

I have been making a lot of slaws with the cabbage I get from my CSA (using Mark's suggestion to salt the cabbage for two hours and then rinsing - it cures the cabbage in the most wonderful and edible way without needing to blanch it), but this was not a cole-slaw night.

I dug in my minimalist repertoire, and I wish I had a picture of the summer cabbage soup over parmesan polenta I made. I shredded the cabbage with a onion I had lying about and sautéed them in heated olive oil in the cute yellow Belgian cast-iron pot I found at Goodwill (score!). The cabbage and onion became translucent and I braised it all with a drop more of olive oil and some sea salt. When the mixture started to brown, I poured three cups of water over it (no broth in the house), and added a bit of cayenne, but just a smidge, grated the apple into it and let it simmer.

In the meantime, a cup of polenta (a well stocked pantry saves the day), 3 cups of water and in the micro-wave it went. 15 minutes later, more olive oil and a heap of grated parmesan folded in and we had our comfort food. The polenta was a fragrant and mushy, the thick cabbage soup was lightened by a vaguely ciderey broth.

It was the best dinner we had all week-end.

ps: i feel perhaps unjustifiably vindicated by S' review of the no-bake cheese cake. while my review was merely an opinion masquerading as analysis, the indomitable S actually tested it, and confirmed that sometimes less is just less.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No-Bake Cheesecake Bars, tested.

So most of my family is in town for a few days, and I offered to host dinner this evening. Along with grilled tri-tip, local corn salad and potato salad, I decided to make Mark's No-Bake Cheesecake Bars.

I like cheesecake, but don't love it. I think that I was spoiled at a young age by my mother's Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake, with something like four pounds of cream cheese in it and a chocolate wafer crust, nice and thick. No other cheesecake has ever compared. I even tried cheesecake at Junior's in Brooklyn last year, and while I thought it was good, especially after a red-eye flight to JFK, my mom's still kicks-butt.

But the No-Bake Cheesecake Bars intrigued me with the "no-bake" part of the title. And, it looked ridiculously easy. I mean, the man didn't measure anything. As a rule, I don't really like to bake because it requires a fair amount of precision and does not encourage adaptation along the way. I am not a precise chef. I am working on it, but I view recipes as guidelines, and change them as needed. I bake so rarely, it took me fifteen minutes to locate my Kitchen-Aid, which I use only for baking and couldn't remember in which hidey-hole I had shoved the bowl and mixer attachments. Notice the layer of dust on the Black Wonder.

I mixed the graham crackers with hazelnut powder, (a nod to our northwest location) and probably didn't add enough butter since I was roughly doubling the recipe. I also added raspberries from my garden with the blueberries. It is in the fridge now. I will report back this evening with the results.

Results positive. Family oohed and aahed over dessert. I thought that it was fine, but not fabulous. Suspect family is hiding their true feelings because they are just grateful that they didn't have to make anything. I thought that I put too much ricotta in the cheese mix part and not enough melted butter in the crust. Also, I think that a little bit of powdered sugar in with the cheese mix wouldn't have hurt. The honey was a bit too subtle. The fruit here hasn't had enough sun to get really sweet, so a little sweetness in the cheese mix would have balanced the fruit a bit. Off to make whiskey-sours.


Friday, July 25, 2008

A sense of humor.

Self-deprecation can be a sexy thing, when used wisely. Mark has it down. Not too much, but just enough to show that he doesn't take himself too seriously. He seems to be a real no-drama kind of guy.

I really appreciate his cooking style. The recipes are simple with little or no fuss. He is reasonable with his suggestions for ingredients, and offers alternatives when available. His book, How To Cook Everything is the go-to cookbook in our house. We use it all the time. It gets perused at least twice a week. It serves as a basic reference guide, as well as a jumping off point for inspiration. Got baby artichokes at the farmer's market - what to do with them? Just turn to page 533 for a great starting point, and move forward from there. You will notice in the photo above, the placement of HTCE, with its bright yellow spine, is within easy reach for emergency references.

As a bookseller, this is the cookbook I recommend the most. Forget Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens. I am always trying to steer people to Mark's book as a better alternative to those two. I think that sometimes the older generation is perhaps put-off by the brightness of the cover. I know that people have recipes that they grew up with and want to pass on to younger generations. But sometimes I wonder when was the last time that grandma actually made that gelatinous pies she recalls so fondly, and if she would still enjoy it now.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The cheesecake no-bake recipe video review, by J

Mark Smash! Mark Love!

Undoubtedly, the best thing about today's video is Mark acting like the cookie monster. Mark Smash! - he grunted while he destroyed a bag of graham crackers. Mark Love! - he moaned after taking the first bite out of his cake. Adorable.

I have a feeling his crust would have held together a bit better if he'd stuck it in the oven for 15 minutes, and the cream cheese concoction might have appreciated a bit of gelatine to help it congeal, but this is Mark's show, and it was a good one.

I particularly like the supporting role of the pink cuisinart blender. Tres chic monsieur Bittman, je vous adore.