Monthly Archives: July 2013

Episode 1: The man who cooks in triplicate

Having been raised in a fairly “non-traditional” family — at least for the 50s-60s, my husband learned his way around the kitchen at an early age. His dad often cooked — in fact, his fried potatoes are legendary. Technically, they’re probably called rosti, which is a Swiss concoction made with coarsely grated potato, either cooked or raw.

Pies, on the other hand, were his mom’s specialty. When we first married, I was confused by the fact that these pies always arrived at the table with a very thin sliver missing. And she always delivered them to the table with the same disclaimer: “This is the worst pie I’ve ever made.” Her adult children rolled their eyes and in fact, often spoke the words at the same time or tried to beat her to the punch.

About 10 years ago, the hubs embarked on his own pie project — baking a different kind every Sunday. By this time, our daughters were off at college and since I don’t like pie, he knew he wouldn’t offend anyone if one failed. My mom happily joined him in the tasting/rating process.

A few weeks after the failed attempt at vinegar pie (I’m serious) he said he was completely out of ideas and asked ME to suggest something. I knew we had applesauce so suggested he attempt to create something from that. He was so pleased with the result that he developed a whole new attitude toward baking and, subsequently, cooking. He became Invincible Man in the Kitchen.

Sunday has become baking and cooking day in our house. A few weeks ago, I asked what his plan was. His response was that he “likes to cook in threes.” How could I pass this up? Fortunately, he’s a good sport and went along with the deal.

So….that day began a series of “The man who cooks in triplicate.” Most weeks this includes a variation on granola, which he began making after I raved too many times about my mom and dad’s granola, which they began making in the 70s after reading Francis Moore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet.” Someday, I’ll share his recipe — if and when he actually creates one.

The first day in this series included granolaIMG_0169[1], a simplified version of eggplant Parmesan,IMG_0170[1]                                                       and blueberry pie. Each year we buy a case of blueberries from Michigan and he freezes them in small amounts. The new case was due to arrive so he needed to use up the leftovers from last year. IMG_0168[1]

His explanation is SO much better than anything I could duplicate, so here it is. Understand that he — and sometimes my mom, a daughter, a significant other-in-law, a niece or nephew, or some other lucky guest — are the testers and rarely do his pies see the public eye.

Blueberry Pie
The recipe calls for 2 cups of blueberries. I like pies to be really tall, so I put in about 4 cups. That’s probably why is was runny. Just added 2 tbsp. of corn starch. Plus had had to get rid of the blueberries from 2012 to make room of the 2013 batch.

Basic fruit pie recipe for me is:

Fruit
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup sugar (I don’t like to put too much in)
Sometimes corn starch
Crust (sometimes homemade from whole wheat flour — which is all we have; usually made from oil, not butter or lard; sometimes purchased.) On this day, he got really creative and used phyllo dough which produced a top that resembled corn husks.

Bake at 350 until I’m hungry.  Sometimes the pie is overdone, sometimes underdone, sometimes just right.  Sometimes I add a top if I have enough pie crust left.

Editor’s note: Yep, it looked this strange. Apparently, it was perfect.

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Weekend sightings: snapping turtle, geese and — maybe — blackberries

Yesterday before the onslaught of rain arrived, the water in the creek near our house was still low enough to see whatever creatures were swimming. That’s when I saw a HUGE snapping turtle, his lumbering body swimming upstream. Of course, I had no camera, not even my iPod, but the body (not including the neck and head) was roughly the size of the horseshoe crab I found on Tybee Island earlier this summer.IMG_0514[1]

Later we went by to see if he might be hanging around but the creek was full of muddy, rushing water. We did see a cute little frog who appeared to be riding the rapids on his back.

Today, I was ready with my iPod. No turtle, but the geese that hang out at the local quarry seemed to tolerate my presence far longer than usual. One of them began a halfhearted attack but even he seemed to agree that a Sunday morning stalemate was called for. Phew. Hissing geese can be a little scary!
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Leaving the geese to hiss at the next innocent passerby, I headed off to check on my blackberries. Here’s the thing. They’re not really mine and I’m not really sure if they’re blackberries. Are they black raspberries? I’m not sure…maybe someone out there can identify these for me. They grow wild on low-growing bramble bushes and are just slowly turning black.
Oddly, I’ve never like raspberries or blackberries until recently when I discovered some wild patches  on one of my running routes. I brought some of the raspberries home and my husband — who likes them — was hesitant to eat them. I think he thought I was trying to poison him.
Anyway, last year I decided to try the blackberries, which are huge and tart. I love to eat them off the bush — especially when I’m really thirsty on a hot, sweaty run.
So…who knows what these are? Please tell me!
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One bad apple didn’t spoil this applesauce

As a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with this tree — or at least one of its predecessors. It’s a transparent apple tree, which stands in the exact same spot it stood when I was a child. If it’s the original, it’s ancient.

Last week, my running partner and I discovered that the tree was full of apples but no one was picking them. We got permission from the owners to pick the apples, so carefully picked our way through the grass which was littered with rotten fruit. Which brings us to the hate part of my relationship with this tree — rotten apples draw bees. Not a summer went by that one of those bees failed to embed its little stinger in one of my feet.
IMG_0142[1]As for the love part…well, my mom made the best applesauce with those apples. They tend toward worminess but she spent hours cutting them up, cooking them, mashing and straining them through the ancient Foley Food Mill before canning or freezing the resulting sauce.

Fast forward to 2013  — the apples still tend toward worminess but we each managed to pick enough to make us both happy.
IMG_0140[1]For a few days, my husband and I avoided the apples, thinking maybe the applesauce fairy would deal with them. But…as luck would have it, a few days later, we lost power so with nothing better to do, we lugged the apples to my mom’s home, where she cheerfully helped us prepare the apples — in exchange for keeping some for herself.
IMG_0148[1]While cooking them, I forgot to add sugar until the sauce had already cooled. Which just proves that sugar is highly overrated — it didn’t even need sweetening!

Since we’d sold our canning equipment long ago — after remembering exactly what we hated about helping our parents can tons of produce every summer — we froze the sauce. A few whirls through the Cuisinart and it was ready for the containers.
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Farm to table: Cucumber yogurt salad on ours

Farm to table” is one of those buzzwords that is a bit irritating in that those who live in farming communities or small towns where large gardens are the norm, have been eating “farm to table” or garden to table for generations past. But in the sense that it has suggests a growing movement that promotes sustainability even in urban areas, it’s a good thing.

My brothers and I grew up in the same small town where I live today. Our parents had a huge garden which helped to feed the seven of us year round. Our basement (dusty cellar is a better description) had shelves lined with canned vegetables and fruit, jellies, ketchup (the real stuff), and later, a large chest freezer filled with more vegetables and fruits.

When we weren’t swimming or playing, we were snapping beans, shelling peas, husking corn, and peeling apples. This was not always done with a smile, but some resignation. Looking back, those chores taught us to be hard workers. Today all five — even the two in Tucson — have some sort of garden.

Because of time constraints, my edible garden consists mostly of lettuce, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and herbs. Instead, I lean heavily on the local farmer’s market, as well as several farm stands, to eat “farm to table.”  Yesterday’s stop at the farmer’s market produced this take:

IMG_0136[1]Sweet corn, yellow and green sweet peppers, seedless cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash of several varieties, white carrots, tiny red potatoes, green beans and brown eggs.

This will hold us for at least a few days until my own cukes and tomatoes are ready or I have to hit up the farm stand.

Yesterday, while figuring out what I wanted for lunch, the cucumbers produced a memory of a favorite salad. In the 70s, my mom began making her own yogurt, which became the basis of a dressing for cucumber salad. IMG_0146[1]

It’s still a favorite, and the fresh dill in my herb garden adds the perfect touch. I vary this, depending on what kind of vinegar is handy. Yesterday it was rice vinegar. Slice the cukes very thin — best done with a Bluffton (Ohio) Slaw Cutter, but a knife or food processor also works. This is a small recipe — perfect for one or two, but you can double or triple as necessary.

Cucumber Salad
1 long seedless cucumber, sliced thin
1/3 c. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. (or more) rice vinegar
1/3 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh dill to taste

Whisk together the yogurt, vinegar, and dill and pour over the sliced cucumbers. Mix, then add salt and pepper to taste. If you can wait, refrigerate for an hour. It’s also really good a day later — if there is any left over.

Variations: Add chopped sweet peppers (any color) or onions.

Inside this restaurant are big breakfasts, a bus, Edsel grille and upside down bicycle

IMG_0440[1]How can you not love a restaurant with a bus AND a fishing boat inside and an airplane outside the front door? Who can resist eating a hearty breakfast inside the bus or boat? And then there are all those other quirky items like the Edsel hood behind the reception desk, an Elvis statue, a bicycle hanging upside down, a toilet seat mirror in the restroom, tire chandeliers, and countless classic vintage tin signs.IMG_0437[1]

Sadly, our daughter’s stint at Kent State is ending — well, actually, that part is good, except it means no more regular visits to Mike’s Place Restaurant, just outside Kent, Ohio. IMG_0436[1] IMG_0438[1]

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On a recent visit for brunch, we ordered an eclectic assortment of food items. Just beware — according to the menu, the chef is not fond of special orders and IF you are brave enough to try, expect a somewhat skeptical, dour glare from your server. Guess they know best anyway, because everything was scrumptious.

French toast

Broccoli and spinach omelet with home fries