"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bellinis, and Shellfish Watermelon Ceviche, Take One

Oh, you were perhaps looking forward to Bluefish with Green Tomato and Watermelon Salsa? Well, so was I until I looked at the recipe again and saw that it called for sea bass, not bluefish. They don't taste anything like the same, so I cooked the bluefish with the Lemon Caper Brown-Butter Sauce from the Gourmet Cookbook. Mighty fine! But these green tomatoes aren't really going away very quickly so stay tuned--seriously.

So--I effed up the Shellfish Watermelon Ceviche. How, you may be wondering? Argh--really through my own arrogance, which is just so aggravating sometimes.

Here's what happened. Actually first let me tell you how it is that I first found out about ceviche--many many many moons ago at a friend's wedding I had ceviche for the first time. I was amazed when the technique was explained to me--the shellfish wasn't cooked with heat, it was "cooked" with the acidity from limes and lemons. I could go into a long explanation about denatured protiens but it's really kind of boring--the end result is something that has the same basic mouthfeel of fish that's been cooked with heat.

So, that's what I always thought--that ceviche was in essence, raw seafood cured with citrus juice, with some other stuff thrown in. And when I took a look at this recipe, I saw that it called for some poaching of shellfish--the scallops and the shrimp--and the lobster you've bought already cooked. The reason? It "eliminates any food safety concerns", according to the head notes.

Feh! I live in one of the most amazing seafood locations in the world, and I should have food safety concerns? I think not!

So I merrily chopped up my raw scallops and shrimp and mixed them in with the lobster and other ceviche ingredients, and waited for the magic to begin.

And waited.

And waited.

And stirred the ceviche.

And waited.

And 24 hours later came to the conclusion that perhaps there might have been a reason why poaching is called for.

And did a little research.

And discovered (thank you o font of information, Wikipedia) that in every country where ceviche is served (think places with hot weather), the fish is put in raw, but the shellfish is poached.

Also, for those daring enough to drink the ceviche "juice", it's considered an excellent cure for a hangover.

Good to know! But that didn't really help me with my quandry, which is that I had a bowl of mostly raw shellfish, cooked lobster, and ceviche stuff.

Hmm. So I picked out the lobster, and put the bowl in the microwave...and zapped it for one minute, four times in a row, stirring each time and finally coming to the sad conclusion that perhaps it was time to admit defeat and start afresh at a later date.

So I did.

Here's a picture of what it will maybe look like, at this aforementioned later date--and thanks to Anna Williams, who took this picture that's on Epicurious:

Doesn't that look good? We'll get there, promise.

OK, on to happier subjects! Bellinis!!

So this is yet another tasty entry in the Drinks chapter of Gourmet Today, and it only has two ingredients--peach puree and Prosecco. Of course, you have to make the peach puree, and the recipe calls for white peaches but I had some super ripe local peaches that needed doing something with so non-white peaches it was.

Here's what you do--put three quartered peaches in a food processor with a crushed vitamin C tablet (seems weird but prevents browning, and if you think that's odd believe it or not I have a bread recipe that calls for vitamin C too) and some sugar and lemon juice.

You might not be surprised to hear that I didn't read the directions super-carefully and put everything in my blender instead...

...which, I know, does essentially the same thing but with chunky stuff the food processor doesn't mess around and with the blender there is much stopping and stirring and pushing down and trying again before you get enough liquid to really get the party going in there.

But finally I had a puree going...

If you're serving six you're supposed to put this (strained) puree in a pitcher and then the Prosecco (oh and by the way if you're wondering what Prosecco is, it's sparkling white wine from Italy), pouring gently to avoid volcanic foam action.

But if you're making individual portions, it's 1/4 cup per glass, and then the Prosecco. It sure does foam up!

When she was getting a refill, my friend Moira combined them backwards--Prosecco first and then a splash of peach puree--and...no foam. So if you try this at home, try it both ways, just for the sake of experimentation. Why not?

The taste! Well, what do you expect? If you like Mimosas, you'll surely like this--it would be a brilliant drink for a Sunday brunch.


Hey, don't forget about my Win a Double Signed Copy of Gourmet Today contest! Right now Fran has it locked up because she's the only one who's entered. You're not going to let her get away with that now, are you? Give her a run for her money! Contest ends in two weeks so get your entries in!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cantaloupe Cooler (Agua de Melon)

One of the things I love about both of the Gourmet cookbooks are the recipes that use ingredients or a technique that I've never heard of and never could have imagined. THAT'S when I feel my mind expanding and I get so excited I just can't keep my mouth shut.

As a result, a LOT of people now know about Cantaloupe Coolers. Why? Because the main ingredient isn't cantaloupe, as you might suspect, it's this:

Yep--cantaloupe seeds!

This is what you do: take the seeds of one cantaloupe, 1/3 cup sugar and two cups of water and whiz them up in a blender, like so:

Strain into something (I used a jar) and add a third cup of water:

And you're done! Well, not quite done. You want it to be cold, so put it in the fridge. The recipe says to use very cold water, but I just made it several hours before I knew I'd want it so it would be nice and chilled.

Ah, over ice, so refreshing! But being me I'm always thinking about how to make things even better, so I thought I'd add a little:

...but the Rose's overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the cantaloupe. So when my writing group came over, I suggested a squeeze of:

...and that was truly delicious! But THEN Ruth said, boy, I bet this would be good with rum. And I thought, aha. I bet it would be perfect with:

...which I just happened to have kicking around in a cupboard somewhere. A little teensy splash in each glass, and Let the Writing Group Begin!! Yes, I love my writing group, and not just because they are all perfectly fine with the idea of drinking Malibu rum in the middle of the afternoon!

This recipe can be found in the new beautiful Gourmet Today, and for those of you despairing that I'll never swim out of the Drinks chapter and into something else--fear not! I've got the ingredients for the bluefish recipe with the green tomato and watermelon salsa. So stay tuned!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pesto, Colcannon, and Next-Gen Blogging!

Next-Gen Blogging? Quoi?

Yes. What that means is that my son, O'Malley, has decided to pick up the pen and dive into the world of cook-through blogging.

This may not come as a surprise to you (thinking, probably, genetics + environment), but it certainly does come as a surprise to me since I remember all too well about a decade + of my child refusing to eat practically everything that I cooked. I can't tell you how maddening it is to plan, shop and prepare a meal, only to have it rejected out of hand because it contains SQUASH. (missed that memo, apparently!) Or don't I know that he hates STEW?

Yes, it's a wonder I'm not bald. From pulling my hair out.

So about half a year ago it was with no small amount of amazement that I went to pick O'Malley up at his dad's so we could go to karate class...and found him making spring rolls. And then not too long after he informed me he was cooking dinner for his girlfriend's family...and he made pho. And then he called me on the phone to ask my advice about baking hamenatashen.

Do you notice all of these cooking adventures are taking place in places other than my house? Yes, I did too, and I protested vigorously (but MOM, he said, we already have a gourmet chef at your house!). But that night he invited his girlfriend over for dinner and in less than three hours produced not only a beautiful Chinese soup but dessert as well (Cherries in Snow)--recipes he just pulled off Epicurious and executed without thinking twice.

The next weekend (at my insistence) he cooked again, and this time from The Gourmet Cookbook, and tackled Pot au Feu.

It was right about in here somewhere that he started talking about wanting to do his own cook-through blog, and the book he wanted to do was one that he's already been cooking out of--Sundays at Moosewood.

This book has a lot of meaning for me because I consider it to be the book that really started me on the road to having the potential for being a chef.


Well, I was a vegetarian for 12 years, and had really explored what was on the shelves at the time for vegetarian cooking--which was pretty much locked up by Mollie Katzen and the Moosewood restaurant folks unless you wanted to access older tomes and go for the brown rice-stuffed zucchini boats and dense hockey puck-whole wheat bread of seventies vegetarian cooking.

So, The Moosewood Cookbook. And shortly thereafter, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. They were my companions and teachers, and when Sundays at Moosewood came out I cooked through that book just as ardently...and in the process learned about vegetarian cooking from every corner of the globe. It's because of that book that I know what injera is--and dashi--and I still think that the best trifle recipe EVER can be found in the British Isles section. I discovered rice noodles and ghee, and it's also because of that book that I confidently strode into the kitchen of a restaurant in Bar Harbor and told the chef (who was seeking help) that I would be just the person to assist him in his quest to put Japanese food on the table.

Now keep in mind all of this cooking went on before O'Malley was even born, and by the time he was a toddler experimenting with eating food I was on to other books--Fields of Green, for example, learning how amazing seared mushrooms are in a grilled cheese sandwich. And finally I gave the book away to a friend who wanted to cook vegetarian--it's filled with my notes--with nary a pang.

And yet, here it is again. O'Malley's dad bought a new copy at some point, and O'Malley has found it.

This will be fun for me. I can't wait for when he gets to the trifle. And you'll be able to find his blog here. Won't you stop by and welcome him to the ranks?


Pesto! Colcannon! Italy and Ireland, since we're talking about round-the-world cooking today!

Actually, I asked O'Malley to make the pesto because I wanted to harvest the basil on the deck--and he jumped on it. This is a basic pesto recipe from the Sauces and Salsas section of the book, and it's nothing new--your standard basil, pine nuts, parm, garlic and olive oil blend. I thought it seemed a little loose but it will certainly be a luscious topping for the fish I'll be getting this week from the fish share.

The colcannon happened because I was searching for a cold-weather way to use cabbage--seems too chilly now for coleslaw. Boiled dinner seemed too BIG--stuffed cabbage rolls seemed too FUSSY--and colcannon seemed just right.

What is colcannon, you might ask? Basically, it's mashed potatoes + cabbage. And it's super easy--just boil you some peeled russets, and in another pot simmer 4 cups of chopped cabbage with a cup of milk and a stick (yes, a stick!) of butter. When they're both done, put them together and mash in a happy marriage.

My big surprise (and vexation) with this dish was discovering anew that even the tiniest cabbage contains far more cabbage than one would think. Seriously--the cabbage I used was about the size of a large grapefruit--let's say a pomelo. Four cups there, right? Even quartered and cored, it looks like it's gonna be four cups.

Start chopping, and baby, it's like clowns coming out of a clown car. My tiny cabbage gave me TEN CUPS of chopped cabbage. Forget the loaves and the fishes--I'll bet Jesus was making coleslaw.

Why is this vexatious? Because I'm trying to get RID of this stuff! And now I have more! Now what?!?

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Another refreshing alcoholic beverage, courtesy of Gourmet Today! Oh Gourmet Today, with your luscious, lime-green cover, is there any need you can't fill? I await the next version, which perhaps will have a chapter on food and intimacy, and then I'll never have to leave the house again, except perhaps to resupply.


A stunningly simple drink that is fantastically delicious if you love the components, which I do--gin, and Rose's lime juice. It's said this drink was invented by the British Navy in the 1800s as a way to convince sailors to take their daily ration of scurvy-preventing lime juice. Very innovative! Makes me look kindly on the British Navy, who also by the way preserved Admiral Nelson's body in a barrel of rum so they could get him home in shape for a state funeral. The things you can do with alcohol!

Should you be likewise inclined to prevent scurvy in your house, here's the recipe for 2 gimlets: 1/2 cup gin, 2 tablespoons Rose's lime juice. Shake shake shake in a cocktail shaker, and either pour over ice into a rocks glass or strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

You may have noticed, by the way, that although I stated earlier that I'd be blogging about Drinks, Vegetarian Main Courses, and Grilled Dishes, I haven't really explored the other two. That's because when I come home at night I don't say, Man, I could use a Tempeh Burger!

But I will! I'll get there, it just won't be as quickly. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Orecchiette with Cauliflower and Lacinato Kale

You know, I'm not really much of a pasta girl. I don't feel that I've ever fully understood it, or appreciated its value. I never order it at restaurants because the mountain of pasta that arrives seems ridiculous (and in fact according to a former co-worker, the serving size at the Italian restaurant he once cooked at was ONE POUND of pasta per person). I tend to enjoy it as a wrapper of things--like ravioli, or sandwiched in lasagne--but that's about it.

But I have always had this nagging feeling that I'm missing something, and I have a fantasy about going to Italy and eating pasta in small towns and saying OHhhhhhh--THIS is what you're talking about!

I doesn't help that the new book (Gourmet Today if you're slow on the uptake) has Ruth rhapsodizing about pasta in the intro to the pasta chapter. I mean, really showing some love, as in if she could eat one food only for the rest of her life it would be pasta.

That's serious appreciation. And it made me feel bad about neglecting the Pasta, Noodles and Dumplings chapter, which has (according to the labels on my sidebar) been cooked out of only 7 times during this grand and luscious cook-through experience of mine.

I chose Orecchiette with Cauliflower and Lacinato Kale because my farm share has lots-o-kale every single week. A read-through of this recipe is interesting, and since it's not on epicurious I'll just tell you basically what caught my eye.

One, it's based on a country dish that, although meatless, uses anchovies in the sauce. Two, it's Italian by way of Australia, where Thai influence led the chef (Karen Martini) to use fresh serranos instead of the more typical red pepper flakes. Since the dish is now by way of me, I used the jalapenos that were also in my farm share. Three, it calls for fresh coarse bread crumbs. A lot of them. Which made me wonder, but I pressed on anyway.

And just fyi, the recipe says that it takes 1 1/4 hrs to make, but it only took me about 40 minutes, mostly because I combined some steps.

So here's how it goes--you toast the bread crumbs in the oven until they're golden brown. Check.

Cook both the cauliflower and kale in boiling salted water for 8 mins til done. This is where I saved some minutes--instead of cooking them one after another for the exact same amount of time, I cooked them together. Der. Don't bother with the directions of pressing to remove water and the next paragraph will explain why.

Saute anchovies, garlic and chilies for about a minute, then put in the veggies, 1/2 cup parsley, and 2/3 cup reserved vegetable cooking water. Bring to a boil, season w/ s&p and take off heat.

At the same time presumably you're cooking your pasta (in salted water, please). Marry the pasta and the sauce in whichever pot is largest and stir in 3 oz grated parm and another 1/2 cup chopped parsley.

You may have been wondering where the bread crumbs come in, and it's now! You serve the pasta drizzed with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Really? Yes. Bread on top of pasta! And you know what? That was probably one of my favorite features about this dish--the contrast of the crunchy bread crumbs with the soft pasta, and that olive-y perfume from the oil.

As for the rest of it, it was good! It made a nice meal, and I've been eating it in small amounts as a side dish all week.

And Ruth, we'll have to get together and eat pasta someday. I still feel as if I need educating and I suspect you're the gal to do it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Contest Announcement! Win a double-signed copy of the new Gourmet Today!

Double-signed? What's that, you may ask.

Signed by Ruth Reichl, and signed by me. Actually, I haven't signed it yet. I might do something more elaborate. Perhaps an essay. Or a dirty limerick! A dirty limerick about cooking...or blogging...hmmm.

There once was a blogger named ______
Who liked to put _____in her _________
But one fine spring day
She saw it THIS way
and since then has used it as ___________

Well, anyway.

There's a nice pretty copy of Gourmet Today here, and I'm holding a contest for it.

What are the rules? Boy am I tempted to hold a dirty limerick contest, but what I'm hoping is that you'll use it to write your own cook-through blog...and with that hope in mind I'm asking you to send me a blog post for a recipe that you've just done. Could be anything--pie, pot roast, lemonade.

And what I'm looking for is style, baby! Anybody can give a blow-by-blow--what I want is your writing voice shining through. Post your post in the comments section below, and I'll announce a winner on October 14.

Sharpen your pencils, and begin!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spiced Milk Tea, or Stop Grousing about the Raw Weather and Get Warm

You know what? This is a tough time of the year for some of us.

I'm not talking about you people who suffer all summer long and thank the gods when the weather drops into the 60s and 50s.

I'm talking about people who tend to be chilly anyway, even in the summer. People whose feet are blocks of ice in bed, who complain about the air conditioning being too low, who press their cold nose into your neck and say OH YOU'RE SO WARM and sigh with happiness at being around somebody who is throwing off some heat.

Ring a bell?

I know many readers have found my blog (thank you google analytics) because of the post Curried Greens with Golden Onions and Cashews, or Melissa Gets Eastern and that means there is a lot of interest in ayurveda and how it relates to cooking--in fact that post is my second most popular of all time.

So I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about Vata, and how the fall is a BAD TIME for Vatas, and specifically how Masala Chai (Spiced Milk Tea) is freaking AWESOME for Vatas and anybody else who is feeling vulnerable in that department.

Out of the three doshas (that's body types), Vatas will usually be your wiry, thin folks--quick-witted, funny and creative. Vata can also be a secondary type, so you may be a Pitta (world-beater) or a Kapha (nurturer) but have a lot of Vata characteristics. When vata is unbalanced, a lot of things happen...dry, flaky skin; anxiety (or even paranoia); scattered energy/concentration; quick fatigue; constipation, insomnia, and cold hands/feet.

The fall season, with the temperature drop, the chilly winds and the increasingly raw weather is double trouble for Vatas, and by the way if you want to figure out what your dosha is, check out any of these sites and take a quiz: What's Your Dosha?, Deepak Chopra's Dosha Questionnaire, or Holistic Online.

So what to do if you're a poor Vata in the fall (and I don't mean a sunny apple-picking day, I mean a day like today when it's gloomy and raining and just really freaking depressing and your hands are turning white in patches because you can't get warm no matter how many cups of coffee you drink and your feet are cold and you have to go digging around for some warm socks).

Two things, Vatas. Exercise and spices. And fat. OK, three things.

Exercise gets the blood moving--especially into your extremities--and raises your energy levels. Fat...does some magical thing that warms you up. No, I don't mean by giving you a subcutaneous full-body insulating coat (though that does work too)--somehow it makes you warmer than low- or no-fat food. Feel free to explain the magic. And spice--well, that's a no-brainer if you've ever tried to eat kimchi or foods of that ilk.

So, you're asking, is this EVER going to turn into a discussion of Spiced Milk Tea?

Why yes, it is! Right now, in fact.

Spiced Milk Tea (Masala Chai) is Indian. You might have had it in an Indian restaurant, you might have had some variation at a coffee bar, you might have even had some from a supermarket box of tea. Masala Chai is AWESOME for a vata imbalance because it's hot, it uses whole milk (there's your fat) and it's SPICY. Here is how you make it for real, at home.


Take these whole spices: 8 cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 peppercorns, a pinch of fennel seeds, and grind them in a spice grinder. I use our handy dandy Magic Bullet.

Bring two cups of whole milk to a simmer, and whisk in the ground spices along with a scant 1/4 brown sugar, a tiny pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp. ground ginger. At the same time, bring 2 cups of water to a boil and throw in 5 tsp. of loose black tea. I went hunting around in the market and actually found some, much to my surprise.

That's nice! Ever since I discovered whole leaf tea I can't believe that bizarre stuff in tea bags--ground-up powder of some sort.

Boil the tea for one minute, then strain it into the spiced milk, which is simmering for three minutes to get the full spice effect.

And that's it, baby.

I drank two cups of masala chai and was happy as a little fuzzy puppy, though I must warn you that the dregs of your cup will have clumps of spices--I decided to strain my second cup. Here is what is the most awesome about this recipe--the black pepper. The recipe actually calls for white peppercorns if you have them, and I didn't, but still--that element of heat just hit my stomach and radiated outwards.

And Vatas--here are a few fall menu tips from a paisano:

--leave off with the cold cereal and/or protein shakes and eat oatmeal or eggs. Any hot breakfast.
--in fact, leave off cold foods altogether until next summer. Trust me.
--stews and soups are your friend. Make a big pot and enjoy all week.
--grilled cheese sandwiches
--leftovers, heated. Forget the lunch salads for now.
--fat is OK. Go ahead and eat the chicken skin.
--hot drinks! Check back here for my reports on Spiced Milk Tea with Saffron and Pistachios, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Irish Coffee, Hot Buttered Rum and Mulled Red Wine.
--Spicy foods. Seriously--get fired up.

--and...if you are sitting in front of your computer, freezing your ass off, get up and move around--run around the block, do some pushups, go to a kettlebell class...the world is not going to fall apart if you detach yourself for an hour. And you'll be so happy! And warm!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Slow-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta, Classic Martinis and Something Cool about the New Cookbook!

What is cooler than Classic Martinis, I hear you ask?

It's this--here I was, sitting out on the deck, drinking black coffee and eating fried rice (thank you Ruth for that great suggestion, and don't be sad peeplz--it's not mysterious, it's just leftover rice w/ an egg, scallions, and dark sesame oil and it's great for breakfast) flipping through the new cookbook...actually really READING it instead of flipping through it, when this caught my eye:

Do you see that? A free subscription to Gourmet! I love free things! That's how I got into karate--two free months and now look at me--a brown belt, almost as dangerous to others as I am to myself. I have to admit I've never subscribed to Gourmet (I was always more of a cookbook gal) but how can I pass this up? I can't. And frankly I'm curious to see how it's changed under Ruth's editorship.

Cool stuff!

OK, on to the featured recipes...

My friend Elizabeth (she of the kittens and the Bombay gin) got even more ambitious with her backyard garden this year and added twice as many raised beds, and as a result has been awash with vegetables...some of which she has sold at the farmer's market, but many of which have found their happy way to my kitchen. And when we were invited to a Labor Day potluck, I thought--here's the perfect opportunity to help Elizabeth move some of those tomatoes out of there--every time I walk in to her house (hello kittens!!!) she has bushels and pint boxes and pie plates of plum and cherry and heirloom tomatoes hanging about--by making Slow-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta.

Lots o tomatoes!

Cut them up and distribute them on two baking sheets and drizzle with 5 tbsp olive oil + 5 minced garlic cloves, salt and pepper:

Roast in a 200 oven for 6 hours. Yup, six hours! When they're done, they'll look like this:

See that bread? When I took the picture I was toasting slices of it in the oven, which is how I served it at the party.

And people FLIPPED over this dish. So simple! I must have told ten people how it's made (including my mother, who called this morning to write down the instructions). And by the way, this is from The Gourmet Cookbook, not Gourmet Today, should you be looking for this one (it's not on Epicurious either).


I told you last post that we couldn't decide between Gin Rickeys and Classic Martinis, and tonight we went with the martinis. In the intro to the chapter, Ruth writes that the food editors spent a ridiculous amount of time counting how many times they stirred drinks, testing different types of ice cubes, etc--only to discover that the devil really IS in the details or rather that very small differences make the difference between a good cocktail and a great one.

So I paid close attention to things like how much ice, noted that the martini was stirred, not shaken (sorry James Bond) and put the glasses in the freezer ahead of time to get them nice and chilled.

And, it was good! But I'm thinking that those bartenders at bars must keep some gin in the fridge or something--I would have liked it colder and ended up putting in some of the ice from the shaker. And I put a little olive juice in mine too, which makes it a "dirty" martini (not too long ago I had a Hot and Dirty Martini at Alchemy, which was a damn good martini!!)

I noted that the bruschetta was from The Gourmet Cookbook--the martini is obviously from Gourmet Today, the new book. I'm going to have to think of a way to state that elegantly in the future without going to the bother of typing out the titles over and over. Hmmm. Thinking....

Saturday, September 5, 2009

From Gourmet Today: Cosmopolitans and Gin Rickeys!

You had to know it would only be a matter of days before I explored the Drinks chapter of the new cookbook! And before I embark upon this post I just want to make clear that it is NOT my ambition to add Gourmet Today to my cook-through blogging quest. Good lord. I MIGHT do the three subjects that aren't in the original book...grilling, vegetarian dishes, and drinks...but that's it. Well, I might do some of the cookies. And cakes. But that really is where I will be drawing the line.

Really. And don't say, Famous Last Words.


Being a cocktail enthusiast I had a hard time settling on which drink recipe I would try first. Something in the gin dept.? A champagne drink, perhaps? Punch for 50...don't need that right at the moment! Finally I just shut my eyes, flipped through the chapter, and pointed...and landed on Fizzy Sour Cherry Lemonade, a vodka drink that involves fresh or frozen sour cherries, which are not to be found right now. So I went to the recipe above, and the winner was...Cosmopolitans! Hooray!

Thursday also being CSF day (Community Supported Fishery) I invited our friends Elizabeth and Mark over for dinner to help us eat the fish and try out the Cosmos, and they were more than happy to say yes--impromptu dinner party! Hooray!

The notes for this recipe say that their version uses regular vodka rather than lemon-flavored (thank god, I think that stuff smells like cleaning fluid) and replaces lime juice w/ Rose's. Here's my mis en place...

Just so you know, I never use booze that's more than 80 proof, because anything more just knocks me on my keister. And I would like you to admire those lemon twists! Those of you who have witnessed even some of my many, many incarnations will not be surprised to hear that at one point I was a bartender, though that was a long time ago. Before Cosmos were invented in the mid-90's, so that should give you some idea.

Hello, cocktail shaker that I hardly ever use! Hello martini glasses which seem so appropriate now that we're finally watching Mad Men! Add ice, 1/4 cup vodka (THANK YOU whoever made the decision to translate ounces into cup/spoon measurements!!!!) 2 tbsp triple sec, 2 tbsp cran juice, 1 tbsp Rose's...shake shake shake shake shake shake shake, and.....

Isn't that pretty? Tasted great too! It's worth noting that as I was pouring I was saying, that's it? That's two drinks worth? If you are a habitué of bars where martini glasses are filled almost to the brim, now is the time to tell you are probably drinking two drinks worth of booze per glass. Super-sizing strikes again!

I'll confess to slurping two of those down before moving to wine halfway through dinner and I had a partner in Elizabeth--the guys declined Cosmo #2, finding it a touch too sweet for them. And the next time I try these, I might sub out the Rose's for regular lime juice, just for the sake of experimentation.


Whenever Mark and Elizabeth go away and I take care of their cats, Elizabeth thanks me with a bottle of Bombay gin. So in return for having the privilege of cuddling two kittens last weekend, I got high-end gin...what a great deal! Mark and Elizabeth, go away any time!

So last night I asked Don if he wanted to try one of the gin recipes and although Classic Martinis were a strong pull, Gin Rickeys won out because neither of us had had them before.
This one was pretty simple--gin, lime juice and soda or seltzer. Again, the cocktail shaker! I love that thing! The only sad part of this drink-making experience is that I opened a small bottle of club soda and finished off the drink--only to realize belatedly that it was flat. Phooey! It must have been opened and closed, or it was really really really old. Probably the first one.

So I dumped a little out and poured in some Poland lime-flavored seltzer, which my husband consumes like crazy. I felt like I was cheating a little, but what are you going to do?

This is a really refreshing drink, and if you're one of those folks who would rather not taste the booze, just have the effects creep up on you, this is one of those. You feel the gin more in your stomach than taste it going down.

Is it weird to be so enthusiastic about drink recipes? I AM mindful that booze is a drug (legal, but still a drug), and with a 16 yr. old son we are certainly talking on a regular basis about the All Things in Moderation philosophy. But...I suppose the same thing could be said of food--not that it's a drug, but that it's best enjoyed with moderation. I guess what it all comes down to is how you approach it! Gosh, I could get all philosophical here but I think I'll save that for another day and instead I'll just say have a happy (and safe) Labor Day Weekend! Those of you who are actually laboring, we'll drink one for you. ;-)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Melissa Gets a Surprise!

Do not adjust your color settings, people--that pretty green cookbook is the younger sister of our dearly beloved Gourmet Cookbook!

Yup--hot off the presses and into my hot little hands and OH GOURMET WHY DIDN'T YOU WAIT TIL I HAD MASTERED SPACE AND TIME????? Not fair at ALL to come up with such a sexy book when I'm only half way through the first one--LORD I'll be cooking this stuff in the nursing home! I need to be able to bend three-dimensional reality to fit in all of my ardent desires so send me a manual next time, will ya?

Oh puleez, I hear you cry--stop complaining and get on with the descriptions already...ok, ok...here it goes:

Our new little sister cookbook has three new chapters, which is to say that basically the layout is the same (Adam/Teena/Kevin if you're still with us/Annie you too--you will recognize the chapters...grains and beans, fish and shellfish, fruit desserts, etc.)...but with a few additions. And they are:

The chapter I am possibly most excited about, Drinks! Yes, before I sat down to write this post I did a quick survey of our poorly-stocked liquor cabinet and a quick skim of the Drinks chapter and determined that I have NO INGREDIENTS (except for the basic vodka/rum/tequila/random liquor assortment) so you can be sure I will be remedying that in record time.

Grilled Dishes...and can I just say where were you Gourmet when we got our grill a few years ago and I embarrased myself charing hamburgers? Sheesh.

My friend Georgia! And Eve! And Leigh and Monique and Paula and May and all of you other dedicated vegetarians, look! A cookbook that has cocktails AND vegetarian food. The two are not always to be found in the same book, but here you have Fennel, Telaggio and Cardamom Tart...Buttered Barley and Onion Soup...Rolled Omelet with Arulula-Goat Cheese Filling...and cheek by jowl with Sangria and Gimlets and Bloody Marys. Really now...could life get any better? I think not!

What else about this alluring young thing...well, all of the recipes here are supposedly do-able in less than a half-hour of active time, and that will be a pleasant surprise for folks who are actually busy (and who among us is not?) Not tested one jot by me, and it behooves us to be skeptical so WE SHALL SEE...(bwah ha haaa)

But my real surprise? Was this:

and this!

How many of us can say that they got a note from Ruth Reichl saying, "From one cod to another" and "I hope you like this book as much as I like your rate!" ? Oh Ruth...it's ok...just don't try to do the Molly Katzen/handwritten cookbook thing or we'll all be wandering lost in the wilderness. And let us raise a glass to the gods of word processing...my glass which is filled sparsely with Mt. Gay and lime juice and ice, which really is not a bad way to toast those particular gods.

And a little birdy told me you were asking about my phone number which I assume is to discuss which director will direct our movie. Will it be Woody Allen (Woody is married to you, has an affair with me, we all sing about it)...Quentin Tarantino (you and I set up a secret espionage unit at Conde Nast and scalp certain executives who want to shut down Gourmet)...or perhaps Nora Ephron (a heartfelt movie about two women who make their separate ways through the world of food and food writing and find themselves and satisfaction with their lives and impact each other in ways neither could have imagined)?

Stay tuned, readers! Oh, and the book--get it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Smoky Black Beans, or Melissa Takes Liberties (Again)

Well, it must be the season of j'en sais quois. Or perhaps it's the season of je m'en fous! Whatever it is, I have clearly thrown caution to the winds with my recipe following and have gone madly, madly astray.

Think I exagerate? Read on, ardent friend.

What better dish to bring to a summer picnic than Smoky Black Beans? It's not potato salad, it theoretically pairs nicely with steak and/or chicken, and this particular recipe seems pretty low key and easy to make.


Let me just note that the recipe on epicurious differs ever so slightly from the recipe in the cookbook, which is to say that our esteemed editors want you to use FRESH orange juice, and someday I will tell you all I know about supermarket orange juice and then you will never want to drink it again but for the time being let's just say TAKE THEIR ADVICE and cut open a few juice oranges for this dish.

So I know you, readers, you're looking at this recipe on epicurious and thinking, well, where could she really have gone that far astray? Vegetable instead of olive oil? White instead of black beans? It's a simple recipe, after all!

Here is where: see that point where it says take 1 canned chile in adobo, minced? And add it to the beans?

Well, I was doubling the recipe, and also understand that I really have an aversion to saving things in cans (or de-canning them and freezing them or whatever) and so instead of fishing out TWO of the chilis in adobo (it really is a small can, kind of a mini-can) I just decided to use the whole can.

And actually there were really about 8 chilies in the can. All told. More or less.

But at this point I had taken the bit between my teeth and was convinced that 8 chilies would be not so different from 2, but in retrospect actually that's not quite correct. 8 chilies are hot!! This is how hot they were, in the dish--they made me cough, which did not however make me not appreciate how good the flavor of the fresh orange juice complemented the whole thing.

So at this point, readers, I had to make a decision...I could scrap this as a potluck offering and bring it into work (many hungry peeplz w/ adventuresome taste buds), or I could give it a try at the BBQ (and the hour was growing late).

I opted for the lazy way out, and brought it along with MANY warning about the heat level...and was rewarded by seeing lots of plates left around with tiny little mound of beans on them.

Hey, what can I say...this is New England.

BUT--it was not a total loss, since my husband (Italian/Jew from Long Island) came home from work and devoured a plate of this stuff with sour cream. Granted, this is a man who brings hot sauce to the table so it's not that unexpected, but it still made me feel as if although I was immoderate with the chilies, perhaps the target diners were too moderate with their palates.