March 2010

I Declare Myself Master of the Bread Universe!

Okay, that may be a little premature.  I've only made five loaves without the help of my beloved bread maker, after all.  I guess it takes more than that before you can declare your mastery over a skill as cryptic and arcane (and squamous, if you want to get Lovecraftian about it) as making bread by hand.

Nevertheless, I did things a little bit differently with the last loaf, and the results were OUTSTANDING.  Luckily, I was taking notes.  I can't recommend this highly enough for new bread makers, by the way.  Always take notes, even if it's just a few scrawled jots on a scrap of paper.  You always think "Oh I'll remember what I did," but then you never ever do.  So take notes.

The Microwave is Getting a Makeover

When I was in Jr. High, I went to a Micro-wave cooking class with my mom- I am not kidding. It was sponsored by whatever company she had purchased our very first microwave from.  We attended for the sole purpose of gaining ourselves the necessary cooking cooking skills for our new favorite appliance. As you might guess, the class failed to teach us anything beyond how to press the new-fangled buttons on the futuristic-looking machine.

Everyone was buying microwaves at that time, but I have to agree with my Grandmother’s assessment of the microwave- she called it the most expensive bun-warmer that she has ever had.

Julie and Julia

Even though the film Julie and Julia came out in 2009,

I've only just now seen it. Written and directed by Nora Ephron, and based in part on the blog Julie Powell started in 2002 at Salon. I liked Julie and Juliavery much. Meryl Streep is fabulous, (as usual), so much so that now I have to double-check to make sure I'm looking at images and video of the real Julia. Stanley Tucci is wonderful as Child's spouse Paul Child. I wish there had been less of Julie the cooking-blogger (though she is well-played by Amy Adams) and more of Meryl Streep as Julia Child. As much as I admire Nora Ephron's work, I think a film about Julia Child would have been even better.

Great Meals in Unexpected Places

Many foods are rightly associated with geography. It's nothing to expect excellent tomato sauce in an authentic restaurant in Tuscany or top-notch sushi in a trendy Shibuya bistro. Real culinary adventures happen in odd corners of the world. When a memorable meal happens in an unassuming place, the sheer surprise and novelty can make the experience that much better. It's often downright surreal to find an amazing flavor in some middle American gas station or behind some forgotten door in a foreign country where it has no earthly business. Here are three stories of my own weird food finds around the globe.

Asparagus Time!

Even though we have gone to a culture of year-round produce, thanks largely to growers in South America, asparagus is one of the few seasonal hold-outs.  I have seen asparagus for sale out of season, but it always looks absolutely wretched, and costs a fortune.

These delicate spears say "springtime" better than anything else in the produce aisle.  The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board calls asparagus "one of nature's most perfect foods," and while admittedly that may be a biased opinion on the part of the MAAB, I have to agree.  

NYT Decries "Index Finger Cooks"

The New York Times has a delightfully elitist article about the latest in kitchen gizmos and baking technology.  For example, much is made of the "pizza bump," a semi-circular appendix on the side of microwaves and toaster ovens so that you can bake a frozen pizza in there.

As intrigued as I am by the "perfect turkey" button on a stove, I think most of us can agree that these extra buttons and doo-dads are mostly useless.  With very few exceptions, I doubt that most people use 85% of the options on their microwaves or ovens.  


Well did you ever make colcannon,
made with lovely pickled cream
With the greens & scallions mingled
like a pitcher in a dream
Did you ever make a hole on top
to hold the meltin' flake
Of the creamy flavoured butter
that our mother's used to make

Even if you aren't Irish,

you might know the song "Colcannon," popularized in the U.S by Mary Black. In the song, the joys of Colcannon, a dish made of mashed potatoes, cabbage (or kale), scallions, and butter (lots of butter!) are celebrated. Colcannon was a staple for rural Irish families, since it used ingredients that were local and readily available, and quite affordable. If you were lucky, you might have a bit of good Irish bacon to saute with the scallions and serve to season the dish.

Cooking Sour-Cream Salmon

For my cooking adventure yesterday, I chose to prepare some pasta with salmon because I was tempted by the mouth-watering picture in the cookbook. Unfortunately, my memory of which items I actually had in stock in my kitchen was a little lacking, so I didn’t quite get the chance to make exactly what I had anticipated. (underlying meaning: it’s tough to make pasta with salmon when you don’t have any pasta in your cupboards).