Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Last post of the year. Just a few thoughts on what has passed. I'll have more thoughts about what's to come in the posts next year.

From the 'sphere:

Thank you to CeF. More traveling and less fretting this year. I'm a fan.

Thank you to TGWAE. Like I said in my note, been there once about 14 years ago. Didn't understand the food I was missing. Thanks for letting me see the side of that city I like to hope I'd see if I lived there.

Thanks Michelle, for not stopping the smackdowns in the face of crap part of a year. We need your friggin' frigs in the 'sphere.

Thanks Lisa for doing food and local and for finding fun ways to bring the two things together.

Thanks to Stef for another year of beautiful food and pushing the envelope in the kitchen.

From my world:

Thanks to Mom and Sally and to Dad and Beth. Some of the best memories of the year are at the farm or the new house in Annapolis sitting on a stool or a step-ladder while good food happened right in front of me.

Thanks to Bec and John. It's always good to have a big sister and her hubby. Especially when it's these too. Gorgeous new house John. Thanks for building it and making me feel welcome there.

Thanks to all my pals who kept me alive through another campaign. Can't name you all because I'm just too damned blessed with 'the family you get to choose.'

Thanks to Chez for lettin' me be one of the macaronis.

Thanks to G for steppin' up and doing it real big.

Thanks to Julie, Wendy, Molly, and Traci for including a kegger hanger on.

From my blog:

Here are my tops from the year. Not an exhaustive list of what I think I did right but the posts that stand out as I look back over the year. They may have been gorgeous food, or they may have been the post that indicated a direction I'll take in the coming year.

Lazy Man's Supper. Read that cattle call e-mail again and realized that's about as close to how I feel about feeding people as you can get. Good food. Zero pretense.

Easter Supper. It was just a beautiful meal.

Waverly. Travel. Food. Local. Shades and hues of a neighborhood. A good friend. A great market.

Gettting Back to Cooking. A late spring day. My favorite summer recipes for a cookout. Video of Pearl. It's all there.

UGK. Ah, yes. The side-project of the year. The Underground Kitchen. Poured a lot of my soul into that project. Turned out to be four gatherings this year. Not sure on more since all three of the front of the house people have moved (Ashland, Pittsburgh, and Chicago). We'll see what else I can get into that involved food and hordes of people. Have faith.

44 Years. A rebirth of family and tradition and food and health and a future with fewer complicated days and longer hours on porches.

Crust and Steam. Getting over a phobia in the kitchen and finding that there is absolutely no substitute for homemade. There really was a moment when the bread came out of the oven and slid right out of the pan onto the cooling racks that my knees got a little 'one cocktail too many' wobbly.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

His Own Heart Laughed

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

-A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
There was too much food, and Dad and Beth are leaving today for Paris. So we were sent home with food. This morning, I made a frittata with sliced shitakes, potatoes, and onion. Sprinkle of cheddar and sprinkle of parmesan.

It just struck me that I was simply keeping Christmas in my heart one of those "all the days of the year" that Dickens talks about. The connection of part of my meal coming from family, the remembrance of the more ornate and still more intimate meals that we shared together on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Wherever you are today, and tomorrow, and 192 days from now; Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a tasty year to you.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

I made the annual Brussels Sprouts for Christmas Eve dinner. Beth made the new to us ham for the holiday. Pops requested the spiral cut in a fit of nostalgia for his youth. We'd always done Turkey on Christmas day when I was a child (with the occasional foray into everyone gets a game hen, or roast beast). There wasn't a Christmas Eve big dinner too.

These days, there's a doozy of a dinner on both days. Christmas dinner is roast beast that Beth always pulls out of the oven at the perfect medium rare moment. There will be horseradish. And for the second year in a row there will be Potatoes Dauphanoise. Gruyere-y, potato-ey goodness.

More pictures soon I'm sure. If you can't find it here, check the flickr Christmas group.

Friday, December 19, 2008


It should surprise no one that my 200th post is one of random food. It wasn't saved so the the first loaf of bread was Number 200. It wasn't a grand dinner party with oodles of friends (though there will be one of those with roast beast and root veg tomorrow).

It was a lunch that just happened. I just walked into the kitchen and put an acorn squash in the oven. Butter, brown sugar, honey, heat.

But that wouldn't be enough. It was small so I'd need more 'stuff' for my belly.

Enter the broccoli and the carrots that would only last another day. Enter the couscous. Dash of onion, pinch of garlic, dribble of chicken stock.

A simple meal that took five minutes to make.

I wonder what 300 or 400 will be...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Sweetest Thing


Thanks Mom for the cooling rack.

Thanks Bec for the mixing bowls.

Thanks Chez for needing to go to Big Lots last weekend.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Crust and Steam

I heard the hollow sound. The sound they told me to listen for when tapping the bread in the oven.

That there was bread in the oven was a miracle in and of itself.

But I HEARD the deep hollow wrap-wrap-tapping back at me after about 50 minutes in the oven.

Pulled out the loaves and just stared at them.

There wasn't anything else for me to do.

My first yeast breads ever had just arrived.

And I had no idea what to do next.

The recipe stopped after "Remove bread from pans immediately; cool on wire racks."

But could I slice into it right then?

Is there some baking equivalent of letting a roast rest to redistribute the juices so you don't have all the flavor sloshing around on the cutting board?

No, no. I've heard of people slicing into fresh baked loaves of bread. They usually are remembering a farm house kitchen, or recounting a tale of a mid-20th century grandmother.

So I knew I could do it. And I was literally bouncing around in the kitchen with a goofy grin on my face. Like the one on my face in the picture of me circa 1981 when I'm climbing over the fence at the farm. Or the goofy grin when I got Bec in trouble at age 9. Or November 4, 2008 when I realized that in 77 days they really were going to have to call him "Mr. President."

Goofy. Giddy.

Proud and not caring if anyone else ever realized how proud I was.

And then the knife sliced through the crust and the soft interior. The steam rose from the first slice. The intensity of the yeasty aroma burst out at me.

It was unbelievable. And it damn well may have been transformative.

I just opened up a fairly large door of things to do in the kitchen that I had mentally blocked off.

Shopping and Baking and Cooking, Oh My!

I just spent $146.73 at my local grocery. With the exception of 8 cups of shredded cheddar and a package of sliced American cheese, there were no processed foods involved.

I'll sacrifice having processed food in my cart for breakfast burritos and quick grilled cheeses. Especially since a good chunk of the bill was flour, baking soda, powder, eggs, and butter to start baking my own bread, biscuits, and cookies.

Corn bread I do. I make Date Nut Bread at the holidays from Grandma's recipe in Mom's script on the faded index card she pulled out and put on the kitchen counter when I was little. I got to help mixing 'potions' for her. Sifting the flour and the baking powder.

I should really make biscuits too. I love biscuits. Mark just gave me a mason jar of his family's apple butter from this year's harvest. So there's buttermilk in my fridge now too for the biscuits.

And I have the Aunt Ida Cookie Cookbook that Aunt Margaret put together. And I love cookies. And I found Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips for dirt cheap at the Big Lots. If you have a Big Lots near there. Dry goods and cheap pantry items.

And I read this yesterday. So I'll be starting in on loaf number 1 shortly. Details to follow.

Now there's a pot of lentil soup on the stove bubbling away. The onions, celery, and carrots sauted in bacon drippings. Then I added in the water, tomato paste, sweet and hot italian sausage, the chopped bacon, and the lentils. After 15 minutes the potatoes went in. After another fifteen the chopped parsley went in. The thyme and bay leaves have been doing their job the whole time.

UPDATE: The dough is covered by a damp cloth and rising in a warm place as we speak (er, I type).



Sweet Jebus, I'm BAKING!

Reading Today

Monday, December 8, 2008

Osso Bucco

gremolata classic. lemon zest. parsley. garlic. nothing else. you always think it looks too dry. then you remember the saucy, unctuous, melted fatty, braised goodness on which you'll be sprinkling it.

visiting pops and B for the first time since july-ish. dad's brain moves in mysterious ways. so he suggested osso bucco. he couldn't tell you why, but he knew i liked it and B made it well. those two things were enough.

he didn't remember the pile of bones on my plate last christmas as i collected everyone's leftovers to spread marrow on toast. had to cut more rustic baguette. just for marrow. as it should be.

dad's anti-carb these days and serious about it. six inches gone from his waist serious. working hard and getting results serious. so there's baked asparagus. this is okay in my mind because a) i love asparagus, and b) i will love asparagus in my frittata tomorrow morning too!

the main event was delicious. i helped by keeping B company while she cooked and by stirring risotto. and stirring. and discussing whether to leave the grains a bit al dente with some liquid left in the pan (which would get soaked up by the melting cheese added off heat at the end), or whether an extra ladle or two and several minutes of stirring to get completely cooked grains and no liquid left at all was the 'preferred' way. my vote's for method one. B's is for method two. either way, you're getting something damn don't complain.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


My next post is more family, which may become a theme as it's holiday season. Here's the teaser photo. Tell me what I'm having for dinner.

As an added bonus, tell me what 'Milanese' dish I'm having with it.

Trust me, I'll be telling you how fabulous it was shortly, and I'll have pictures.

Need a clue? A second-meal use for this dish involves Bourdain's death row meal from before he ate with Fergus...(yes, I am THAT dork. Deal, you love me or want me to cook for you, or both).

Monday, December 1, 2008

44 Years

It had been 44 long years since a holiday dinner was served at the first house on the left up Douthat's Creek Road outside of Minnehaha Springs in Pocahontas County.

Nestled against the Monongahela National Forest and a few short miles of WV Route 39 from the Virginia Border and Bath County, the family farm house was built in the winter of 1884-1885. 44 years ago, after retiring from the ministry, my Grandfather and Grandmother were back at the farm house built by Ella and Preston Rexrode (my Grandmother's parents).

Mom came home from college for Thanksgiving that year.

After that, Grandma and Grandpa moved to Ravenswood in Jackson County on the Ohio River to live near my Aunt and Uncle.

Since there was no insulation, no HVAC system, and little else in the way of modern convenience; the farm house stood vacant from October to late-March every year since. The water shut off to keep the pipes from freezing in the winter.

I spent summers there, sometimes two-week vacations, sometimes for seven weeks at the camp in town with the occasional night at the farm when the family was visiting.

We'd walk the road down to Max and Rene's on Saturday's to watch cartoons, passing the milkweed pods along the way.

Now I was back in late November, with the milkweed along the creek giving up it's wispy seeds to the wind.

Cold air and a little snow higher up the hillsides on the drive in to the house.

There were Winterberries at the edge of the high field by the barn and down from the old orchards.

Brilliant red against the muted greens and yellows of the winter hay field. A bed and breakfast for the deer, providing shelter from the wind and a ready meal in the mornings and evenings.

We cooked our meal on Friday this year, a slight twist to the traditional day so that Bec and John could spend Thursday with John's family in Morgantown.

John had finished building their new house a few short months ago. The radiant-floor heating and concrete kitchen counters. The back deck and the little-brother suite.

It's nice, I'll blog food from there soon.

As we waited for them to arrive, Mom sauted a bit of Buffalo sausage from the Dupont Circle farmer's market in DC.

There will probably be more local food as the years go by. There's a crew of young people who have come back to Pocahontas County after years abroad in our land for school and work, to build families, and to do what young West Virginians are supposed to do, go somewhere else to live.

But that's changing. Sarah and Joe Riley are raising beef, lamb, and pork at Stamping Creek Farms. Mom picked up a sampler box after I left. I'll be driving over to get a box of swine sometime soon. Greco will like it...

In addition to the sausage, we had a gorgeous salad, and some friggin' incredible sharp cheddar on wafer crackers with a small dollop of cranberry chutney.

And after that, we started putting together the real meal. I made a cornbread that morning for Mom to use in the cornbread, sausage, apple stuffing. Used a much coarser grain corn meal this time.

The bread had real 'teeth' to it. A much stronger corn flavor, and it held up very well in the stuffing.

Yes, stuffing. We put it in the bird. Like people have been doing for YEARS. No one's dead, and the thing was delicious.

Mom had S buy the turkey and asked her to get one somewhere between 12 and 18 pounds.

Bear in mind there were five of us for dinner.

So the 16 pound monster, while technically in the range, was definitely a conversation piece as well as a source of protein. And it was stunning.

There's video of the carving at my YouTube. There's also video of cows, travels up the road, hurling rocks off cliffs to the ice on the creek below. A few more photos at Flickr.

Back to food.

There were mashed potatoes, the last fresh green beans of the year cooked with bacon, our family's cranberry sauce heavy with orange zest, and rolls with which to butter and sop gravy. Or you could go the raspberry preserve route. Or both.

And there were the yummy little cabbages!

Yes, dear reader, four of the five diners here were lovers of the Brussel's sprout.

Trim them. Blanch them. Shock them. Render Applewood smoked bacon until halfway cooked. Add sprouts. Saute. Add two tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper. Cook until the bacon's crispy. Serve hot.

When you cook them right (and yes, I cook them right), they are not stinky cabbage. They are crisp, bright cabbage with a chew. More than a hint of bacon flavor. And a GREAT way to prove your foodie superiority! (Smile, that was sarcasm...sort of...)

I got lazy with the camera at this point.

One quick shot of the spread at a bad angle.

But you can see the gallon of gravy, the taters, the turkey, and the gorgeous china.

It was a classic family meal with smiles and toasts and remembrances of past meals, and missing members of the family.

I think it was especially joyful for Mom to be able to look around that table and see family in that room again. A rebirth of a meal held for decades without pretense.

The remains of the turkey already bubbling away on the stovetop in the kitchen while we ate.

A walk the next afternoon along the entire property line in the fields.

Down to the bend in the creek that wasn't there when we were kids, the flooding that sometimes ravages the area creating a new view in a familiar place.

It was a warm day on Saturday, and we were taking off layers as we walked.

Along the eroding creek bed to the old swimming hole. The clay bank we used as a slide long gone. The visions of Willow trees along the bank to hold back the erosion well-formed in the minds of Mom and S.

We finished the walk and headed back to the house for a bowl of soup before Bec and John headed back to town. They knew where the white pines were growing so they could take a few in the spring for their new house.

Mom had located some ground pine for the Christmas decorations.

I had fixed the wireless at the house so we could all sit by the fire in the living room and connect with the rest of the world when the mood struck us.

It was everything I possibly hoped the holiday could be.

Herb took one look at me when I got back and declared I hadn't looked as relaxed and happy in months.

He's right. In part because of the four days I spent there.

In part because I am keenly aware that it won't be the last holiday at the Rexrode Farm.

We'll have more turkeys, more fires at night, and more walks up the road.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


There's that magical moment. That delicious instant in every cook's life. That particular second when your entire apartment or house smells like what you created.

It's meatloaf. Classic 2/3 beef and 1/3 pork. Half sauteed onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and half is fresh (minus garlic). A little surprise of Swiss and cheddar in the center. Oregano and basil. Bread crumbs. Glaze is tomato paste, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce.

And my whole damn apartment smells like it.

Let me tell you, in a small apartment like mine, that's a LOT of beefy, porky, loafy goodness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Catching Up and a Quesadilla

Lot's to catch you up on. Quick hits will have to suffice for now.

New Gig

Started working at Sam's to put a few sheckles in my pocket. My first shift was in the kitchen.

Yup, first time in a commercial kitchen. And I didn't kill anyone or myself.

The first rush was an 8 item delivery order with several fryer bits and several sandwiches. Greco helped out with the timing of what to start when.

Second rush was three delivery orders, four tables, and a couple things for the folks upstairs. It took me a while, and I damn near swallowed my tongue when I looked up and saw nine tickets.

Start the first two, get the third prepped. Plate the first, move the second, start the third, prep the fourth.

$328 in food sales from 6pm to 2am, average price of $6.50.

Used my one mulligan on a Samburger that didn't get cooked all the way through.

Road Trip

Greco and I took a trip up to Philly. He was picking up a car that a local attorney had purchased from a guy up there. We picked up Six-Pack on the way through Mo-Town. 5 hours up, get the car, eat a cheesesteak, five hours back.

Y'all should stop in at Nino's Pizzarama if you get the chance. Delicious cheese steaks, clean spot, friendly people.

Cheese steak specials with peppers, onions, banana peppers, and sauce. Fresh bread, made to order sandwiches, scads of pizza options including a white pie with garlic, and a pie with rigatoni and sauce under an avalanche of cheese.

And zepoli. Tasty fried dough dusted with sugar. Save room, or take some with you.

Six Pack decided he needed the Wedding Soup too, and the half loaf of bread that came with it.

I brought Big Seester a cheese steak back. She ate it for breakfast at 9am. Atta girl!

Dang Quesadilla

Made this for lunch today.

Half an onion, diced
4 minced cloves of garlic
1 chicken breast, diced
1 can Rotel tomatoes with chilies
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 flour tortillas
1/2 T oregano
salt and pepper
olive oil
green onion for garnish

Saute the onion, garlic, chicken. Add the Rotel. Cook off the liquid. Tortilla, cheese, chicken, cheese, tortilla, bake.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cookstr Comes to Town

Received an e-mail this morning from MW (with whom I'll be dining at the Taiwanese wonder - Lavender Cafe in Morgantown - tomorrow). She forwarded on this story from the New York Times about a new website called Cookstr.

Cookstr, which will be supported by advertising revenues, will aggregate recipes from published cookbooks. All of the authors will have their own pages, with biographies, links to recipes and books, and in the case of restaurant chefs, links to their locations on Google maps.

Visitors to the site can search for recipes using a wide range of parameters, from the more obvious — ingredients, season, occasion — to more specialized criteria, like lactose-free, kid-friendly or requires-only-one-pot-to-cook. The site will start with 2,500 recipes, most likely to increase to 10,000 within a year.

I am by no means a copyright expert. But I gather there has been a fairly large subset of food blog conversations about whether and when it is appropriate to publish a recipe from a cookbook on your own blog. My take has been to link to it if it's online somewhere else, or to source it appropriately if I've changed the recipe enough that it really could be considered a new dish.

I wonder if Cookstr will clear up the mess about recipes online or confuse the issue more.

The Terms of Use state:

You are hereby granted, subject to these terms and conditions, a limited, revocable, non-exclusive, non-transferable, fully-paid, royalty-free license solely to view the screens and materials on the Web Site and to print only such limited number of hard copies of discrete excerpts of those screens and materials as is needed for your own internal, non-commercial, non-public use in order for you obtain information presented on or through the Web Site (the “Web Site License”). Permitted access to and use of the Web Site is limited to your viewing the Web Site solely to access information displayed thereon. You are not permitted to download any Web Site Content. You are also not permitted to copy/paste any Web Site Content from the Web Site for use in any manner.

So Cookstr is saying keep your grubby, Internet-Tubey paws off the Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V keys while you're on our site. But go ahead and print it off so you can keep using it personally forever.

Here's the my blog personal use or commercial? I mean, have you heard me gloating about GoogleAd revenue anytime recently? Or anytime?

And if I took all the AdSense and Google Search ads stuff off the site, does that remove and legal 'commercial' aspect to my site?

I was heartened to read two of the quotes from authors.

Mollie Katzen, author of “The Moosewood Cookbook,” said she was not worried about the site’s pre-empting book sales. “There’s a whole lot more than the sum of its parts, a kind of presence and ambience that a book has that isn’t just a critical mass of recipes,” Ms. Katzen said. “A lot of the feedback that people have given me on my books is that they like to curl up in a chair with it.”

You're right Mollie. In fact, I did that just yesterday with my well-worn copy of Low-Fat Favorites. So Mollie's on board with the good cookbooks being so much more than a collection of recipes.

My all-time favorite example of that notion is The Daily Soup Cookbook, where the authors are witty like Ace of Cakes on a page. If you're not into that humor, then forget it. But the stories of customers reactions to soups in the margins of the recipes, the periodic table of soups, noting that the tongue is a required utensil in cooking soups, and recommending listening to any Menudo song while preparing and eating their Yucatan Chicken Lime soup.

And I digress by pointing out that you really can "read" a cookbook like a novel. If it's the right cookbook.

Joan Nathan, the author of “Jewish Cooking in America” and “The New American Cooking,” said she suspected that the current ubiquity of recipes online had diminished sales of her most recent book. But she hoped Cookstr might still attract new buyers.

“Who knows?” Ms. Nathan said. “I guess I hope for something wonderful. The worst-case scenario for me is that people use my recipes.”

And finally, let that sink in. Perhaps, just maybe, people who cook and write books understand more than others who "X" and write books about it that while they may be selling copies, they are also giving something. That admission probably just got Ms. Nathan one more sale. I'd like to make the food that comes from the heart of the person who thinks the worst thing that could happen in the tubes is that someone gets the gumption to actually cook her recipes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

Coffee with a touch of sugar and half-n-half I didn't worry about smelling first because I actually went to the store yesterday.

Fluffy scrambled eggs with green onion tossed in right before I wrapped in the tortilla. Shredded cheddar.

Greatest bachelor cooking implement, the toaster oven, for 5 minutes.

Pretty tasty.

Damn You, Wendy's

I mean, I love you and all. But, really, how can one delicious double-pattied goodness be so DAMN TASTY.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spaghetti Squash with Veg and Feta

I was stuck. Completely frozen by recipe overload.

I was staring at a half dozen cookbooks trying to figure out what to make tonight.

Then, the internet happened.

I told Chez I was cooking (she was excited...cause really, it meant grub for her!) and that I couldn't figure out what to make.

We chatted over stir fries and making sure I ate vegetables today.

Then she got crafty with the Google and came across this.

And because I had company (haw!) I needed an appetizer too.

Slice baguette, add a wedge of brie and a sliver of sun dried tomato on top. Bake at 375 for 12 minutes. Sprinkle three or four toasted pine nuts on top.

I was missing something here. I mean, the sweet sun dried tomato and the gooey brie was delicious with the crusty baked bread underneath.

Maybe some marmalade or honey?

Chez is probably right, I was just trying to recreate my baked brie with fruit preserves in bruschetta format.

I ad-libbed a bit from the recipe online to get more veg into my body and included some diced yellow squash and zucchini.

Since I'm usually anti-olive, I nixed those from the recipe. I also probably cooked the tomato more than the recipe folks had in mind.

Fah on them I say.

The feta really creamed out the dish into a velvetty texture. The squash had just a hint of chew left to it, and the basil and cooked tomatoes offered a familiar sweetness that was perfect with the salty brine flavor the feta gave.

Cake in a Mug

Go Here.

Hat tip to Miss_Sociable for pointing it out.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jamaican Meat Pie Party

So Wendy and I threw a dinner party. Started simply enough. We were out at happy hour talking about the nothing I was doing with my life and how much I enjoyed it.

We decided it was high time we reprised the Easter Supper feast from the spring and invite all sorts of buddies over for an informal night of wine, Red Stripe, and food.

It turned into a spread of:

Curried Pork Pies with Cilantro Chutney and Mango Yogurt Sauce

Dirty Rice with Black Beans and Ham

Red Cabbage/Pineapple slaw with Cilantro, Mint, and a Citrus Buttermilk Dressing

Lime Sorbet Raspberry Layer Shots

Wendy popped the swine into the crock pot with some Jamaican Curry rub, broth, and quartered onions for the day.

Then she made the curry paste with some prepared curry powder, fresh ginger and garlic, and other bits she'll have to tell you about. It was HEAVEN.

I showed up about 3:30 to start making the sauce, slaw, and rice.

Take a blender, pour in mango, milk, sugar, yogurt, and mint. Blend. Refrigerate.

Really, you could also pour it into a glass and call it a smoothie. Damn tasty stuff.

About this time I decided it was time to the Jamaican Hand Grenade of a Red Stripe. Friggin' tasty beer. Do what Dave Thomas taught me one day and throw a lemon wedge in there. Better than lime in a Corona.

Then shred the cabbage, dice the pineapple, chop some red onion, dice a Granny Smith apple, shred a few carrots, and rough chop cilantro and mint. Dressing was buttermilk, mayo, orange juice, lime juice, lime zest, and salt. Dress it about 45 minutes before dinner to get the juices flowing and soften the cabbage just a bit. The citrus keeps the apple from discoloring, so you're safe there. Fantastic crunch and sweetness.

Greco was there. You're not surprised.

You're also not surprised that I have video of karaoke happening. What will shock you is that I don't intend on posting it.

I like having friends AND keeping them.

About 35 minutes out I started the dirty rice. Dice a Spanish White Onion, saute it in some oil and add some prepared sofrito, add in the rice and stir through to develop a bit o' starch. Add in the veggie broth and the ham, bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and walk away.

When it's all done, remove the ham, dice it, and throw it back in. Add in the black beans with a bit of their liquid, and stir through a bunch of chopped scallions.

Plating was aided by some chopped flat leaf parsley.

Wendy made the dough. It was simple and delicious. And we didn't pay attention to sealing the meat pies.

So we had meaty dough clams. A dollop of prepared cilantro chutney and a spoonful or two of mango yogurt suace on top.

A spoonful of dirty rice, a pile of slaw, and a fork complete the plate.

Dessert was originally going to be lime sorbet on coconut tarlets with raspberry puree. The sorbet didn't set, so we improvised and put Greco in charge. Triple layer glassed with lime sorbet on the bottom, raspberry puree in the middle, and a splash of chilled Grey Goose floating on top. Really flippin' delicious.

And the coconut was chopped up and treated like bar peanuts instead. Sweet, chewy goodness. I think Ed and I polished most of it off.

Recipes later y'all.

UPDATE: More Photos HERE

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sweet Potato Bacon Hash

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I cooked AGAIN today. In the MORNING. Without benefit of stimulants other than caffeine.

Completely random day. I wanted to get up since I'm cooking an uber-meal for about 10 folks tonight...hint, the pork has been cooking overnight on site.

But I digress, to tasty breakfasts.

Take what's in your kitchen (in my case onions, sweet potatoes, garlic, broth, and a cream of some sort). Put them together in a pan. Put an egg on top.

Serve one plate to your neighbor who knocked on the door at JUST the right time.

Serve one to yourself.

Wonder what toasted Challah bread would have added to the mix.

Talk for just a minute about the perfect heat, creamy texture, and sweetness of the potato and for just a minute more about subbing some of the fresh cracked black pepper with some ground white pepper.

Think out loud about wanting something green (scallions would be AWESOME) to scatter on top.

Get on with the eating. Reheat your coffee cup.

Sweet Potato Bacon Hash

1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, cut into small cubes
6-8 small rounds of canadian bacon, diced
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup half & half
salt and pepper to taste

1. Saute onion and garlic with a small pinch of salt in olive oil until just starting to sweat.
2. Add the sweet potato and saute for three minutes.
3. Add the chicken stock and the bacon, stir through and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover for 8-10 minutes. Add more broth by the tablespoon full if the pan begins to dry out before the sweet potato is cooked.
4. Remove the cover and stir in the cream. Leave on low heat until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Serve with an egg on top (go poached if you're really feeling it).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Even sam's can "uptown" it right

Prime rib with o-rings, garlic butter au jus, rolls, and a greek salad

Baked Mostaccioli Alfredo with Chicken and Broccoli

Take this tasty little Epicurious recipe from 1995. Read several of the comments and recognize that the addition of garlic when sauteing the veg and mushrooms of the cremini flavor were roundly accepted as required 'fixes,' invite over several friends, and make sure there's wine.

This was a fantastic little ditty for me to use as the first meal cooked in the kitchen post-election. There were chopping steps, stirring steps, multiple pots but not all on the burner at the same time, cheese, baking, and creamy goodness.

It even forced me to do a hasty little bit of cleaning so I could entertain Chez, Jer, and Ms. Krista.They all seemed to enjoy themselves.

Had to do wine in coffee mugs since I think all my wine glasses are still tied up in UGK storage.

Funny, it still tasted pretty good to all of us.

I was hoping the pasta would be a warm dish for a cooling autumn night. The cream sauce was light enough that it was more a remembrance of summer than anything else. Still damn tasty.

Chez, Krista, and I all agreed that the chicken was tasty, but this was a dish you could remove the meat from.

If I do this again, I'll keep the cremini's chopped and also add some 'meatier' chunks of portabellos to the mix.

A bit more of an earthy undertone would really be a nice addition.

And of course, I went heavier on the cheese and cream for more sauce. The breadcrumbs on top were a nice crunchy edition as well.

Because they were on top, I lowered the oven temp and baked it for about 20 minutes instead of the 3 minutes under the broiler in the recipe. Worked pretty well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

30-Mile Roadtrips

Greco does not often have enough time to just head off on a day trip. I never have until my current blissful unemployment.

The ostensible purpose was to get to the closest Best Buy so G could potentially get himself a computer. I was technical support and general Day-Lackey for Mr. Greco.

The real purpose was to go to the closest Sonic to Charly-West. And let me tell you, G and I were excited enough that we parked the car and walked to the picnic tables at the front of the Sonic because there was no way we could fit all the food we wanted in the car.

I was also excited enough to forget there is a "Park" on my shifter. Caught myself, and the car, about 4 feet into a slow roll backwards.

Fear not intrepid reader o' mine, G was fine.

One Chili-Cheese Coney with Tots and a soda for each of us, a SuperSonic Jalapeno DOuble Cheeseburger and Butterfinger Blast for Greco, and a BBQ Cheeseburger Toaster (yes, with bacon AND onion rings on it) and Cherry CreamSlush Treat for me.

The waitress came out with the tray, looked at me as I said "Yeah, that's just for us," said "WOW," laughed and walked off.

Here you can see the joy inspired by this trip.

The joy that caused Greco to text DT every mile on the interstate to let him know we were one mile closer.

The joy that permitted us to fit all of our food into our bellies.

What, you don't believe me?

Trust me, I wanted to make sure you believed me, there's photographic evidence.

There was, sadly, one lonely tater tot which had fallen off the table unbeknownst to us. I saw it as we were leaving and realized we had LONG ago passed the five-second rule.

Although I also must admit that speed was our ally in finishing the food. Total time from food brought to us through food all in bellies could not have exceed 15 minutes.

Don't worry Mom and Dad, this is NOT what I do everyday. Or even once a week. Maybe once a month. And usually with much better ingredients and less processed schtuff.

Speaking of which, I have menu planning to do for a Saturday night dinner party. It came together in the bar last night. There's pork, jerk, and mango involved. Check back next week for the goods...

I am SO back Really?

You people seriously need to consider an intervention, because this website, combined with what I ate yesterday, is really not on that eat healthier after the campaign ticket.

Monday, November 10, 2008

East and West

My first cooking in three months. One standard I know works and one simple riff on something my mother used to make.

I added radishes and red onion to a sweet sesame cucumber salad mom used to make. Guess I should have asked Dirt if he was down with the had a pile of radish crescents and red onion straws on his salad plate.

East - Cucumber and Radish Salad with Sweet Sesame Dressing

1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into thin crescents
2 cups radishs, halved and sliced into thin crescents
1 medium red onion, halved and sliced into thin ribbons
1 T dark sesame oil
1 T sugar
1 T olive oil
1 T white vinegar
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper

1. Place all the veg in a bowl.
2. Add the dressing ingredients and toss well.
3. Let marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

West - Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant and Italian Sausage

Look at the gooey cheese. Get lost in it. Know that there is MORE underneath it mixed in with the fresh marinara and holding those rigatoni together.

My first crack at it, with a link to the recipe here.

The Mountains Were Painted in Rust

Driving up to Canaan on Friday for the post-election crash at the boss's place I was sad at first that we'd missed the peak foliage. We'd missed the last of the brilliant green clashing with the first maple to explode Christmas red. There weren't any yellows and oranges left that hadn't faded and muted.

But after the weekend, on my drive back, I realized that wasn't a problem. I was driving on top of the ridge line between South Weston and Burnsville and realized I saw the top of the world and it was painted in rust. Even through the slate grey November sky spitting a drop and a flurry here or there.

So those were the first and last thoughts about the trip I took to relax and reconnect. Last time I spent much time up there I ended up with a double-spiral fracture. Better results this time. Calmer results. Results not requiring my mother to stop at the hospital ER in Oakland, MD after a McDonald's drive thru because I was not having anymore of this leg in ice on the way back home.

Sorry, stream of consciousness is entirely possible since my writing has been so infrequent.

Here's the view from the deck at Dirt's place. Straight down the open gulley to the east ridge of the Valley. Back over to your right would be Timberline. You can see it from the resort's lodge.

Dirt and I got there about 2:30 on Friday. Dinner was set for 7:30.

So I poured generous glasses of Woodford Reserve and we watched our boss give his first press conference as President-Elect. Around two hours after that, we were officially off payroll and unemployed, but still...

I forgot to take pictures of Friday's dinner because I'm so out of practice at all this. I didn't even have my camera until I picked Dirt up at his house. Clint had taken both my cameras to use for the campaign. And he did good work with them.

Dirt cooked Friday. He made some damn tasty filets on the grill with nothing but seasoned salt. I'm usually a 'more fat is more flavor' cut of meat guy. You know this. But a perfectly cooked choice filet is never something I'll walk away from. The man steamed some asparagus and baked sweet potatoes to go along with it all. Did I mention the steaks were grilled perfectly?

Yeah, I could taste smoke, fire, and beef. That was it. Delicious.

We had a couple of Dirt's friends over for dinner on Friday. Picked apart the Presidential race, some statewide races, and the general sense of the world we all had. Red wine made for smooth conversation.

Even better was waking up Saturday morning. When, I awoke to a fresh pot of coffee...and this...Handsome man isn't he? You can see why Michelle has stuck with him for all their years.

Little ditty from the weekend as Tom's cooking bacon and making eggs to order. Breezy, Clint and I asked when Michelle was cooking breakfast. She said the first weekend they were married Dirt asked what was for breakfast. Michelle replied "My Dad always cooked weekend breakfast. So it's whatever you cook when you get into the kitchen. What are we having?"

Dirt's been cooking weekend breakfasts ever since.

Michelle also tells a wonderful story of her father, her husband, and her son in the kitchen together making pies. Apparently, there just were not gender stereotypes getting in the way of this family at all.

Still haven't had a pie, but I have Dirt's cell phone and directions to the cabin at Canaan. I'll report back soon.

Friday, September 5, 2008


You may have noticed the lack of posting since early in my Denver travels. And so have I.

Here's the deal. 18-hour days in campaign offices and running around West Virginia as staff on the Obama campaign is not conducive to eating, reading magazines about food, and especially cooking. So tragically, the posting will continue to be sporadic for the next 61 days.

I'm not willing to 'suspend' the blog because I will continue to eat, and there will be that day when a volunteer brings in some tray of awesomness I need to share; or G will grill and I'll be able to sneak out of the office for an hour; or I'll go shopping and *gasp* bake so I don't go insane.

So you'll here from me, but not often.

Some things to look forward to:

1) I'll be so pent up with cook-now rage by the end of this that November and December will be blog-tastic;
2) I'm spending a week or so at the new farm house after the election so there will be rustic farm meals galore;
3) I'll probably be spending a chunk of holiday time at my sister's new place so her gourmet bad-ass can be the feature for a while;
4) There is WAY to much sarcasm in me to stop doing this for any great length of time.

And now, as a parting holdover, I just read my good pal Dan's no-knead bread post. He's not a full on food blog, he's more well-rounded than me (haw, yeah right, i have the market cornered on ROUND).

Anyway, read it. It's good.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Hip little joint near Coor's Field here in Denver. Steph never leads me wrong when she has a restaurant in mind. Snooze has her favorite Huevos Rancheros ever, and it's a damn tasty one for sure. Three tortillas, perfectly over-easy eggs, crisp, fresh salsa and avacado, creamy black beans. It gets filed under 'did not suck.'

I went for the "Pulled Piglet Benedict." Yeah, you knew I was going to order that. According to Snooze, it's "Slowly braised pulled pork and avocado atop a toasted English muffin, covered in our smoked cheddar hollandaise & served with house hash browns on the side."

According to my taste buds and my belly, it was just frickin' awesome. Smoked cheddar hollandaise makes me happy. Crispy hash browns soaking up yolk from perfectly poached eggs makes me giddy. Pulled pork with all of that? Yeah, I was definitely a member of the clean plate club.

Snooze on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 25, 2008

Buffalo Bolognese

Dinner Saturday night in Lakewood at Cafe Jardano. Fantastic neighborhood Italian joint.

PG talks about this dish non-stop. And I know why now. Sorry for the cell phone picture. But what you have here are three thin buffalo steaks with a bit of crispy breading and a MASSIVE amount of cream sauce. I mean seriously, this was a cream and cheese good day. Cream, not half-n-half, not milk.

Crispy Eggplant Sammy

First lunch in Denver yesterday with a gaggle of WV Young Dems. We found a spot called the Appaloosa Grill on the 16th Street Mall.

I went for the Crispy Eggplant. Fried 'cutlet' style pieces with a bit of cheese and some tangy marinara on a hearty, chewy roll. A good start to food in Rockies.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Omnivore's 100

Okay, I'll bite.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras (thanks Steph!)
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (for the first time last month)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I get 75. Not bad.

Clearly I'm realtively Asian-food-deficient. On it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


My pal Krista's mom went to India for surgery recently. She got a new hip, and I got a jar of garam masala and a pouch of turmeric from India.

I want to know what to cook with it.

I can reprise my Baingan Bartha.

I can pull out my copy of The Curry Book by Nancy McDermott and make Kashmiri-style Lamb Curry.

I can make something really weird. What can I make? Tell me, tell me, tell me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

wv pork ribs w/ grilled red chilli corn

i know i talk about it all the time, but really, go to the bluegrass kitchen. new chef and neighbor gary is OUT OF THIS WORLD. bbq pork ribs with grilled red chili corn. and BAM. the man is a brilliant chef. great to chat with about food too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wild Mushroom and Broccoli Risotto

Packaged pre-spiced turkey tenderloin is a relatively cheap way to get some lean protein. There were some words I couldn't readily pronounce, but there were also a lot of just plain food ingredients. Plus, I ran into Randy in the produce section and he suggested them as fairly tasty...

Randy is a smart guy.

Plus it lent itself to the addition of Sriracha.

And then I got to cook, fairly intensely for a Wednesday night, by making a wild mushroom and broccoli risotto.

No cheese. My bad. Made up for it with creamy butter.

1 medium red onion, diced
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil
3 cups wild mushrooms, sliced
1 cup risotto
1 cup white wine
1 box chicken stock, in pot warm on stove
1 large head broccoli, chopped and lightly steamed
1 T butter
salt and pepper

1. Saute the onion and garlic over medium high heat until just starting to turn translucent.
2. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook over medium high heat until the mushrooms have given up most of their liquid (10-12 minutes).
3. Add the risotto dry and stir through for 1 minute.
4. Add the wine and stir until absorbed.
5. Add the stock, 1 or 2 ladles at a time, stirring constantly, until each addition of liquid has been absorbed.
6. Somewhere after 15-18 minutes, when you've added liquid between 6 and 8 times, the risotto is likely close to ready. Check by tasting it...really. If it's still to crunchy, keep adding and stirring. Test after each ladle is absorbed from here on out.
7. Steam broccoli. I nuked for two minutes covered with plastic in a bowl. Whatever gets you hot, crisp tender, bright green broccoli.
8. Add the broccoli and the butter to the risotto, remove from heat and stir through. Serve hot.