Archive for February, 2008

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WND – Oscars!

February 26, 2008

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A couple of years ago a friend and I were out to dinner and ended up discussing how much we both love to cook, and how that always makes people ask us if we’ve considered doing it professionally. At which point we both recoil with varying degrees of horror depending on how recently we’ve spent eight hours in the kitchen doing nothing but cook.

About twice a year I spend all weekend in the kitchen making the kind of things that if I was married to the French Ambassador I would make all the time to serve at luncheons, but since I’m not, I don’t. This is another way of saying that the Oscars were this Sunday and the Oscars are a big deal in my house.

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WND – Easy Dinners and Lazy Mondays

February 21, 2008

The complicated part about making dinner isn’t learning when chicken is done, or how to make rice, or even how to plan a balanced meal. The hard part is having everything be done at the same time.

Sautéed chicken
Corn pudding
Green beans
Salad

Most weeks I spend a little while on Monday evenings doing prep work for dinner on Wednesday. My roommate works late on Mondays so there’s no one home to distract me with things like conversation, and I find cooking in a quiet house is very soothing. Sometimes I listen to an NPR podcast, sometimes I dance around my kitchen while my cat looks at me like I’ve lost my mind, but most of the time I kind of let my brain go off line while I cook. Unless I’m trying to scale a recipe up or down, or do complex geometry to figure out how many individual tarts the recipe for a 9” quiche will make, cooking doesn’t demand much conscious thought. It’s not quite autopilot, but it’s different thinking skills than I use at work or in conversation. I can let my hands go on about the tasks of slicing and sautéing without much active thought being involved. It’s relaxing.

This Monday night I went out and had noodles and ginger cheesecake and saw a movie and that was relaxing too, but in an entirely different way. Since I knew I was going to go out and play on Monday night I planned a dinner that I have made so many times I could do it half asleep, and one that didn’t require any advance preparation. It doesn’t hurt that everyone loves corn pudding and I get greeted like a hero every time I make it.

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SND – Not your mama’s rhubarb

February 14, 2008

Okay, so my mama never cooked anything with rhubarb in it in her life. I don’t think. But rhubarb is something that you *hear* a lot about as a kid in the South even if you have absolutely no idea what a rhubarb looks like. 

BTW, it looks like a pink stick. The pinker the better.  

If you have access to decent rhubarb (God, I miss The Berkeley Bowl being 2 blocks from my house), this is the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert, especially if you’re not absolutely crazy about chocolate. And don’t get me wrong, I am. Sometimes I just want something a little different.

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WND – Spicy Coconut Chicken & Liberal Guilt

February 14, 2008

I am amenable to a good guilt trip in the right cause. Barbara Kingsolver tipped me over the edge to shopping at farmer’s markets and buying (mostly) seasonal food. Al Gore got me to buy a water filter instead of bottled water, and use cloth napkins instead of paper. I object to neither result, although it’s probably not going to stop me complaining about the inconvenience from time to time.

I sat down to read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life expecting to be guilted, but also expecting to be entertained. I like reading books about people going off and doing things that I find highly appealing in theory, but have no interest in actually doing (gardening, backpacking through Asia, refurbishing a house in a small French village . . . . ). I was predisposed to the particular brand of guilt trip that she was hawking. I believe in supporting small local farmers, and in food that tastes like food and not preservatives. On the other hand, she was occasionally so out of touch with reality that I found it hard to read, much less enjoy the book. Even supposing that I had the inclination to spend my summer canning tomatoes I bought at a farmer’s market, I don’t have space to store them. My pantry is full, and let’s not even talk about my freezer. Granted, I have no idea what it’s filled with half the time, but I know that I don’t have the space to freeze summer corn so that I can eat it in February.

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WND – Epiphanies & Beets

February 7, 2008

I don’t like beets. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them. They are, in fact, admirably true to their essential selves and remain stubbornly beetlike no matter how you cook them. This is great if you like beets, and disappointing if you are less than enthused by them.

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I keep wanting to like beets. I feel like I should like beets. When you read about beets they always sound enticing – earthy , soft, buttery, colorful, deep intense flavor. Doesn’t that sound like a vegetable you want to run out and try? And yet, upon cooking they remain unappealingly beetlike.

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