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Posts tagged “Cooking

Dance and chew gum

The very good news is that despite a very messy kitchen, we are very good cooks. And, we eat very well. Looking at the gallery: savory fruit salad (we had watermelon sitting around); stuffin’ en slow cooker; dry turkey (done too soon); roasty toasty peanuts (a non sequitur); butternut squash soup (a la Silver Palate cookbook); brown sugar and butter (what doesn’t go good with that?); and, an empty table waiting to be laden. When I opened the oven to baste the turkey, I discovered the done sensor had already popped. Darn? I guess it was the roasting pan that cooked the turkey faster. The breast was still moist despite the wings and drumsticks overly done and dry. (We don’t eat them, anyway.) The brown sugar and butter turned into candied sweet potatoes. There is always extra stuffing. The crock pot was brilliant. (Colleen’s idea!) We can not only clear space, but, we can cook! (Well!) The downside? No one else was there to enjoy the meal with us. Dinner alone with your wife, priceless! As I wrote elsewhere, she hummed the whole meal through. Mmmmmm!


Lemon curd

Ok, I have never officially made lemon curd. I make a lemon tart but it’s not quite the same? Really?! Eggs, butter, lemons, no one really tells you much more than “large” lemons or “large” eggs. I had what I had. I zested and I juiced the lemons, and was prepared to add bottled lemon juice as needed. Nope! That was not a problem. The problem lay in knowing what it looks like when it thickens. I was uncertain my mixture had reached the correct doneness. Would it be runny and fail to hold between layers of puff pastry later on? It was hell. I cooked and stirred way beyond what was recommended in the recipe. Imagine all those eggs and lemons and time gone to waste. Ha! As you saw in yesterday’s post, it was a spectacular success. If not, I wouldn’t be posting and there would be no pictures.


Assembly required

Food photography is not my forte. Far from it, I have read about food stylists who add shine and steam. Often lard will stand in for… not all is real in food imaging. Alas – it’s my new favorite word – some things need help… Leftover turkey makes great pot pie. Where’s the pot? Ha ha? I have to admit we adpated our own container. Pot pie for two, it’s not an easy to task to find the right vessel. We tried to be simple, not overboard, This is comfort food. I browned the mushrooms. Yeah, yeah, it’s not a component. Well, it is, in mine. Sauce – cheating? – yes we used – cream of chicken, no, cream of mushroom. In the end it’s about what you like; there’s nothing set. And the grocery store frozen brand stuff has nothing on us. This was piping hot and as good to eat as it looked. Sorry, no steam effect.


Chicken parm

I have been chasing this dish since I left Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). The Filippos could cook it like no one else. Romano’s Macaroni Grill opened an outpost there shortly before I left. The chicken was thin breaded crisp and perfect accompanied by piping hot angel hair pasta covered with marinara. Ok, no big deal?! But I disagree; the dish in Jeddah was the best I ever had. I’ve since tried many attempts that fell woefully short. I have been to several Romano’s places in the US. Nope, their poor attempt was disappointing. I have mentioned this before. Lately I was in Touch of Italy. They are funny. Their signature dish features chicken as large as a large dinner plate. It’s American – too large to eat. I suppose that has an appeal but the chicken lacks tender moist taste. Oh well, I had given up. Then, I cooked up a batch during the Corona lockdown. It’s a work in progress. Good? Yes! Very! It just doesn’t look good. It’s not photo-worthy. Yet. However, I also learned on this occasion that hiding the dish under red sauce and lots of cheese will hide many cooking sins. And I know what to do to make the next try a winner. That’s progress!


My little dumpling

Dumplings. My mother thought of this alternative. Smart lady. Biscuits. A lot of Chinese cooking adapted to what ingredients were available in the market. This is a neat trick. The biscuit will rise when steamed. Fill it. Done. And good! I don’t work with a recipe. Have I ever? You may imagine any filling. I have my own. Colleen loved them.


Cooking in place

… a riff on sheltering in place. St Pat’s, we cooked. What else? Corned beef and cabbage. No green cabbage – there was a run in the grocery – red will do. It turned my carrots and potatoes purple. Purple was the color of the day. Gluten free cake with pecan coconut icing, are you hungry yet? Corn meal biscuits, yum! Colleen likes canned corn beef – cold. Oh well, the rest of us ate the good stuff. And, we were all virus free and hoped to stay that way.


Slow day

We’re home. Not much doing, so what to do? Cook. Oh, we got TP! Gotta have the essentials. Biscuits, from a Red Lobster gluten free mix, imagine that. We got that stuff in Walmart. It was an unlikely place (to find it). The real surprise was that the biscuits were really good, as in, I would buy a mix again (if I come across it). Asparagus, it’s a little early for the big thick ones. So, I peeled the tough skin with a potato peeler. Add vinaigrette and it’s pretty near to perfect without too much effort. Bacon anyone? Yeah, unhealthy. This was two pounds (fresh cut) on sale – ½ price. Wow! I just hit it, lucky. Yup, it cooks down to practically nothing. But good! And, crab cakes, fresh made and delicious. No picture. Colleen ate it before I could … yes! A good time was had by all. If they had told me, “Make a post about bacon…”


Sharp

Don’t do this at home. This is a mandolin. Years ago, Lisa forbade me from using one. Ha! Is it sharp? Yup, very! I’ve been cut before. Never so badly… Two of my assistants in Saudi managed to cut me with a scalpel. That was harrowing. And, stupid… very, on my part. In all my years as a surgeon I was never cut before that. Now, I’m cut again. If you are squeamish, I, at least, did not show you gore. It was pretty bloody. Nothing to be done if you shave off your finger nail and part of the nail bed. Ugh!! The bleeding stopped. “All bleeding stops.”  – operating room motto. How? It was an unforced error; I was momentarily distracted by Colleen. She is now on a short distinct list. I won’t forget her. Ha!

Epilogue: The nail has grown back, almost. I cringe to think of the wound. I not only forgave Colleen, I married her. The ham dinner was a success. Only one guest, Kathy, noticed I was cut.


Stylin’

Summer farmer’s markets beckon and we are helpless to refrain from buying gorgeous produce such as grape tomatoes. Taste! Freshness! It the time of year. How can you go wrong? A few days later and you are left with a lot of tomatoes and nowhere to go. Pasta! Simple – garlic, basil, olive oil. It cooks up fast and tastes great! My photos don’t do the dish justice. It’s gluten free pasta. So, the pasta tends to stick to itself. Hence, it is not easy to blend the ingredients and distribute it evenly into the pasta. Add grated parmesan. You are good to go.


Jane

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We have Jane. Actually, there are a couple in the family now. But this Jane has laudable though interesting thinking. I’ve been to her house many times now. She doesn’t have a single dish that matches another. She has good dishes. You never use the “good” dishes every day. So, we got her a set of plain white – service for eight. It’s not like we spent much at the thrift store. Serviceable and actually quite attractive. They matched! She got home, unpacked them, and promptly donated a set of four to the goodwill near her. ?? So, others would benefit, too. Ok!?!? But then she told us her bridge club was coming. She runs two tables. That would be eight people. So, I guess they will eat and wash and eat. Oh, she was going to make gazpacho when she was here. They are getting the soup. I got bupkus again. Laugh! I am. Gotta love her.


Paul Revere

Revere ware. It’s the pots I grew up with. My mother had a set. I had some too. Then I lost them. Don’t ask. I’ve been collecting them again – thrift stores are a great place to find things. I have a lot of mismatched pots at this point. And among them are Revere pots. But this latest find was from the later copper clad collection. It was used and abused, found in the discard pile at the thrift store the other day. It would sell in the antique store for real money. Here, it was a steel (sic). No, silly! Copper.


Food

What’s the best time to photo food? During prep? Before baking? After? When you cover your food and all you see is melted cheese, I think it’s hard to understand how great the pizza looks, but rather, you know from shared experience the taste that lies beneath the cheese. Sure!

Stuffed peppers? Same. I’ve been cooking. I always cooked, but never so much as now. Retirement leaves me with lots of time. Oh boy – gaining weight fast too. Edible art. Fun. No leftovers. No worries. And then there are my “ten percenters.” When I was between jobs back in 2006, I gained 10 lbs because every time I ate Nellie (dog) got ten percent of the meal. She’d eat anything but broccoli. And, so I started cooking a little more. Now my cats congregate on the dining table. They like pizza too, except, they draw the line at gluten free crust. It’s still a work in progress, ‘cause I think gluten free crust is bad s’t too.(Shhh… the gluten free (crust) is off to the side.)

Lastly, banana bread. It’s an inside joke. We’ve been watching the Great British Baking Show. The loaf has a glorious crack on the top! Go, honey!


Gnocchi

I made these! Ha! I’m happy, almost giddy, even now. Jules taught me how simple it can be. I had considered it a task that was beyond my (interest) skill. We made butternut squash gnocchi. They are irregular to emphasize that they are homemade. Ha! The photography lags way behind the taste and smell of a fresh dish covered in parmesan. Yes, we’ve been eating well at my house.

 


Food Photo

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I don’t style my food photos. I do some minimal staging. And the lighting is whatever. It occurs to me that there’s a lot to be said to improve my technique. Still, it’s a good remembrance of what I have cooked though pictures hardly do justice to the taste and smell. That said, I do pay attention to light and background. It seems that I see food and extrapolate taste and smell.


LA

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We have been on a long journey to California and back. The estimate was 5500 miles point to point. The actual miles turned out to total 8200. Yeah, you never go in a straight line. This was the turn around. We spent a weekend with Jules. She can make gnocchi! I helped. It was great fun! And delicious.

There were cupcakes for dessert. I’d do it all again. In case you cared, I don’t really eat icing… too much sugar. I gotta watch my sugar. And I’ve been avoiding high fructose corn syrup too. So should you.

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Hey! We got Jeff that hat in Moab. He actually wore it immediately. I usually wear my new stuff about a year later. I bet you didn’t know that either. Alas, my new jeans and new shoes had to be worn almost immediately. It’s inside info except for those who know me.


Mushroom Thing

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It’s what I called it. Everyone else calls it that now too. Huh? Well, I’m sure there’s a more appetizing official name I could think of. But it’s kind of cute. There’s a lot of flash and bang for your (visual) buck in this concoction. I first had it at a friend’s house. I think it was Nannette. She was pretty creative. I didn’t work with a recipe. Hey! It ain’t baking. I just gather the general ingredients and then wing it. It’s phyllo wrapped around mushrooms, onions, and feta cheese. Go figure. It’s a big hit every time out. We still call it the “mushroom thing” and so far the name sticks.

 


Dutch Baby

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I did this! It’s dead simple. I failed in my first attempt. (Note to self: “Read the freakin’ instructions.) … as in I did not turn up the oven to the right temp. It was good to eat but it looks much more impressive if you follow the instructions. It’s called a Dutch baby. I don’t know why. It was a hit both time I made it. That’s all you need to know.


Burnt

I’ve struggled to open and peel chestnuts for decades. Yup, decades! It’s not a hard task. It takes time and patience. My current technique – about five at a time one minute in the microwave. Don’t forget to make a slit. Otherwise your chestnut could explode. This year it all worked like a charm. No complaints! For a few stubborn chestnuts an extra 40 seconds did the trick.

I was distracted… I looked up to see the microwave smoking! The lone chestnut inside was aflame. I mean it was on fire! The smoke was thick and rose to the kitchen ceiling along with the awful smell of burnt chestnut. It was charcoal! I mean it was black charcoal. I realize the pics are not great. Just concentrate on the story and have a fine laugh on me. Oh! The smoke? Vacuum cleaner! Yeah! That worked. Thanks Ginny.


Samosa

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Have I mentioned that every culture seems to have a dumpling or equivalent thereof? Perhaps there is an Indian cuisine influence in Jeddah. But the samosa is a popular food here. I first saw this in great abundance during Ramadan last year. In my wandering up and down the aisles of the super market, I chanced upon the frozen dough section. You can get puff pastry and phyllo dough. And there are spring roll and egg roll skins. So I decided to experiment with samosa skins. First off, they are frozen. Defrost and then you find they are brittle, tend to dry out, and they are very greasy. Folding up the triangles takes a bit of skill. At the ends there are holes. So deep frying is going to get oil inside. With all the grease in the dough, the samosas fry up dry in my non-stick pan. I just don’t put the usual meat or cheese and use a mix meant for wontons. But there are no wonton skins around. And, what pray tell, do I do with puff pastry? I have never really come across puff pastry too much in NY. So now what? Sweet or savory? My imagination will have to bring me to the internet unless someone tells me a good suggestion.


Chicken

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Swell! I can cook. It’s just that I’m used to more spice and a larger selection of pots and pans. But the vegetables are fresh. There are two types of carrots – local and from elsewhere. Stay away from local, they’re limp and lifeless. And I’m used to fresh and firm. Depending on the day the eggplant or the cauliflower are not edible. So you make do with what is good and bide your time that good egg plant and so forth will eventually show up. This dish really didn’t need the flavors I brought back from NY. But until they were available, I didn’t have any incentive. I just wanted a white sauce here.


Cooking

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Well, I ate out for six months. Really! The most I did was cut some cheese, maybe a sandwich from cold cuts. But really the stove was pristine. And the oven has known no heat. At Xmas when I visited NY, I took the opportunity to return with soy sauce, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce. Olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and some basil, you’re good to go. I had all manner of things in my suitcase on the return trip, including a down quilt, king sheets, and Paul Deen frying pan. Don’t ask. I was in Target and it was an impulse buy at the right price. The bottle of soy was the kicker. Coming through Saudi customs on the way in, I had all manner of vitamins and pills with me. I had ordered a year supply from NY. They started to tear apart the luggage and sailed right past the pills/drugs. Something on x-ray had the agent in a frenzy. After I was pretty much unpacked, he pulled out the paper bag with the soy. It’s in English and Chinese so he asked what it was. And then I realized he meant to confiscate it for alcohol. Ha! Well, you can see he let me have it.