Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wrapping up the Summer Chill-Out Dinner

I also made the beet salad that I posted a while back, baba ghanoush, and gazpacho. The gazpacho recipe follows. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of it but cold, red soup is cold, red soup.

Green and red pepper
Green onion
Salt & pepper
Bottle of V8
Dice veggies and herbs; toss them all in a bowl. Put about a third of the ingredients in a blender and puree. Add back to bowl with other ingredients. Stir in a bottle of V8. Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Let sit at least a couple hours; overnight is better.
I learned recently that most recipes for gazpacho include EVOO. I’ve never used it and think it would weigh down the light, fresh veggies.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kitchen Sink Salad

This is one of those dishes where I am embarrassed by one of the ingredients but I love it and everyone who's tasted it, agrees.

I call it Kitchen Sink Salad because I throw in whatever I've got around. The constants are the sauce, green onions, cabbage, carrots, and almonds. Then it's time to clean out the 'frige and throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Make this salad well enough in advance for the noodles to soften.

Kitchen Sink Salad

Break up two packages of ramen noodles in a bowl. Save one flavor packet; discard the other. (This is the embarrassing part -- I mean really, RAMEN?)

In a saucepan, bring to a boil:

o Equal parts rice vinegar and cider vinegar to total a little more than ½ cup

o Equal parts sesame oil and olive oil (or whatever’s on hand) to total a little more than ½ cup

o Tablespoon brown sugar

o One Ramen flavor packet

o A few shakes of soy sauce

o Garlic powder and anything else that strikes you. I used cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and hot sauce

Pour boiling sauce over noodles; stir occasionally and let cool. Noodles will soften but will not be completely cooked and some may even be a little hard.

Here’s where the ‘kitchen sink’ comes in. Add veggies, dried fruit, nuts, etc. to the salad. I always use:

o Green onions

o Green and red cabbage

o Slivered almonds – toasted

o Grated carrots

This time I also added:

o Dried cranberries

o Celery

o Sugar snap peas

o Cucumber

Other times, I’ve substituted pine nuts or sesame seeds for the almonds, added granny smith apples, green and red peppers, tomatoes, … you get the idea.

Wish I had a Cute Name for this Salad

The primary ingredients are orzo, spinach, and grilled salmon. There's also radicchio, pine nuts, and sun dried tomatoes (and S&P of course). I topped it with a lemon/garlic vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan cheese.

A few ingredients I thought adding but didn't:
  • capers
  • black olives
  • tomatoes
This took more effort than I expected but I think I may have gone overboard when I trimmed the stem from every leaf of spinach before tearing it into the salad.

I think this might be good with grilled tuna or chicken, too.

Summer Chill-Out Dinner

My friend, Suz, trusted me enough to prepare food for a dinner she was hosting for about 12 other women. Nervous as I was, I think it all turned out pretty well. Here are a few of the dishes ...

Caprese on a Stick. The presentation could have been a little more interesting, but I like the idea of the skewer. Nothing simpler and fresher than tomato, basil, and mozzarella drizzled with EVOO.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Grill Marks

Yesterday, my daughter Maya told me she promised a young man that she would make a home-cooked meal for him the night before. Instead, she went to a place that sells prepared food, brought it back to her apartment and put it all in pots and pans to look like she had made it herself.

All was going well until the young man asked her how she got the grill marks on the chicken!

Here's a tip: Don't try to pass off prepared food as home-cooked if you couldn't have made it at home! :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I'm feeling good about joining a CSA and supporting local farmers. Also looking forward to preparing some dishes for my friend Friday night.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saw Julie & Julia

I cry a lot in general. I always have and don't expect that to change any time soon. There are movies at which I start crying during the opening credits - "Akeelah and the Bee" comes to mind. I went to the AFI Silver theater today to see Julie & Julie. I started crying BEFORE the opening credits and proceeded to laugh and cry heartily throughout the movie. I'm glad I was alone; I didn't have to worry about embarrassing myself in front of people I know!

I heard it in the trailers but it escaped me until watching the film that it is based on BOTH "The Julie/Julia Project" AND "My Life in France". Meryl Streep captured the Julia Child I remember and Amy Adams was the Julie I imagined when I read her book. Nora Ephron blended both women and their stories like [insert some cute cooking term].

If you've read "The Julie/Julia Project" and "My Life in France" you will not be disappointed by this movie. Each book contains much more than what is included in the film, yet the film captures the best of both. All three are wonderful.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Greek Chicken Burgers

Day three of electricians and I’ve got power back! I’m told that the bedroom and two bathrooms are all on one circuit (?) because 40 years ago builders didn’t think about a single room with a TV, cable box, clock radio, and a computer, not to mention halogen lamps, and bathrooms with blow dryers, electric toothbrushes … you get the idea.

Busy day, too. Emergency run to the Motor Vehicle Administration with my birth certificate to prove a connection between my daughter and my mother. Mom’s giving up her car and we had to prove the family relationship. With three different last names, it’s not easy, but it’s done.

Matt‘s coming for dinner, and in between trying to get some work done from home, I made two trips to the grocery store for ingredients but still had to ask Matt to pick up a cucumber. I remember scanning one at the store but it escaped between there and home.

Dinner: Greek chicken burgers, corn on the cob, and grilled baby zucchini and asparagus.

For burger:
Ground chicken
Diced red and green peppers
Minced onion
Chopped kalamata olives
Feta cheese
Grill seasoning

Top with:
Fresh spinach
Red onion

Whole wheat bun

Yogurt sauce to spread on bun:
Seeded diced cucumber
Shake of dill

It's best if you make the yogurt spread in advance so the flavors have time to come together. Due to late arrival of the cuke, mine was a little blah but not bad.

I find that buns these days are just too big. I cut the bun in thirds, using the top and bottom for the burger and save the middle for fresh breadcrumbs.

Propane ran out on the grill, so I used a cast iron skillet for the burgers and veggies. Would have preferred the grill but the skillet came in a strong second place.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Embarrassing but True - I Love Bacon

It arrived in an inauspicious USPS Priority Mail cardboard box -- socialized bacon -- bacon for the masses. Bring them your tired, your poor, your vegans! They boast a zero calorie, zero fat, vegetarian, and kosher seasoning that makes everything taste like bacon.

And yes; I even ordered the bacon lip balm. Mmmmmm.

Life is good.

Here are some links for the fearless:

Here's a tip: If you hate bacon grease splattered all over your cooktop: Lay strips of bacon on a cookie sheet and cook it in the oven. Perfectly cooked and no mess.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Friends are Inspiration and Support

I've been feeling down about my day job (my pay job). I love preparing nourishing meals for people I love but it doesn't pay the bills like the CEO job does!

So I'm sitting in my room getting ready for bed and I clap my hands to kill yet another MFing fruit fly. At that moment, the electricity in my room goes out. This wouldn't be so bad except that it tops off four days of pleading with the toilet in my bathroom to flush -- just one more time -- PLEASE.

No, flipping circuit breakers doesn't work.

I'm pissed and feeling like the world is pissing on me so I decide to move my laptop and bedding out to the porch.

No sooner do I power back up when this appears in my inbox. (I had recently asked family and friends to describe my cooking style.) Thank you, Jean. I needed this:


I've never seen anyone cook like my friend MP. She cooks with ease, grace and style. She is clearly at home and happy in the kitchen, preparing meals with joy.

I think the most remarkable thing about MP's cooking style is that she is an incredibly intuitive cook. I'm not talking about improvising - anyone can do that. It's like she has this magical ability - akin to those brainiacs who solve complicated algebraic equations in their heads - she just knows what to do, how to do it, which ingredients to use that happen to be on hand, and voila, a little of this and some of that, and what results is a perfect dish or all-out meal that simply astounds me. And I can see that this makes her profoundly happy from deep inside . . . which in turn makes the food taste even better!

I'm a good cook. But I'm not necessarily a happy one. I fret about it, I can't stay calm.

After spending a week observing MP in the kitchen, I was truly inspired. I came home. I cooked straight from ingredients on hand and tried things I wouldn't normally try. I'm not the best at improvising and I have none of that intuitive power that I mentioned before. Man, you should have seen me go! I had a ball in the kitchen! I cooked with joy. I stayed calm and happy. I just kept seeing MP, that look of love on her face, the towel over her shoulder, her face a bit flushed, a women so totally in her element.

I often find myself asking "WWMPD?" (What would MP do?) when I come across a cooking dilemma. The answer usually involves another sip of wine and look at my spice rack. She taught me a lot about spices. Luckily, MP is at home in anyone's kitchen, so she will come to my house and cook when I need a refresher or a shot of inspiration. I've thought many times how wonderful it would be if she had the opportunity to share her joy and knowledge and style with a wider audience.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saving Money on Lunch

I was in the kitchen for most of the afternoon. I realized that I'm spending too much money on lunch food at work, so I decided to come up with some interesting, portable lunches. I made a delicious baba ghanoush and this very tasty beet salad.

To a food processor add roasted beets, lemon juice, garlic, a little onion, some cumin, salt & pepper. Pulse several times. Add chick peas and tahini. Pulse a few more times. Chop parsley and walnuts to top the beets. Eat with some warm pita.
Here's a tip: Out of tahini? Add a little peanut butter and a drop or two of sesame oil.
In the past when I've decided to take lunch, I get to mealtime and decide that whatever it is that I brought in ISN'T what I want to eat. I'm hoping that if I bring in several different dishes, I'll have enough variety to keep me out of the restaurants.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Okay. I can't wait until tomorrow.

Here are some other responses I received:

Cooking style – relaxed and comfortable in the kitchen – pulls together unexpected and diverse ingredients to make savory dishes.

A recipe is just an outline (or proposal, or suggestion). Easy-breezy in the kitchen but not run of the mill.

All of these describe me.

Naming My Cooking Style

Naming and defining my cooking style turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be. So following my modus operandi in other areas, I asked for help. I put the call out to my family and friends, and their responses surprised and humbled me.

As you see from the name of my blog, I settled on Exotic Meets Comfort Food. Thank you to my wonderful niece, Kim, who described my cooking as drawing influences from different countries and cultures, yet always ends up feeling like the comfort food mom made.

(All my relatives are wonderful, by the way.)

I'll post some of the other takes on my style tomorrow.