Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kitchen Revolution

The other night we were in the ER: A little too aggressive on the Christmas wrapping was my boy. The gash was not too serious, but bad enough to not want to wait until morning to follow up.

We waited for three hours to see a nurse. So did many others. People with emergencies brought on by cold, alcohol, neglect -- but many of them, it appeared, had illness caused by not eating well. Folks carrying pounds they needn't. With sallow skin, missing teeth and bowed spines. In this, the richest country in the world.

Shame on us.

People want to feel good. And it should be an inalienable right. But here and now, it is really hard. Just that night, we were trying to find something good to eat. Not a burger, not fries. We were in a relatively large town, for this part of the world. The closest we could come was Panera, and even they didn't have any plain bagels, just something called a "French toast" bagel --  the counter girl couldn't even tell me what was in it. The "vegetable" soup, which she told me was gluten free, was loaded with pasta. At least it was soup. Sugar and refined carbs are cheap -- and you can't even find a take-out joint that doesn't serve them if you don't mind the cost.

But the food industry's skimping on food costs is only creating a bigger bill for us down the road. And sadly, if we keep eating what they serve, we run the risk of sabotaging our genetic metabolism so drastically that even if future generations want to nutritionally manage their health, they won't be able to.

Scary, isn't it?

It doesn't have to be.

In the New Year, right here, I am going to research and give you a weekly tip to make your kitchen and the food you eat more healthy. Designed so that if you follow week by week, you'll have made a serious effect in a few months. And if you follow to the end of the year, imagine.

Let me know what you think. Argue with me. But above all, think about it.  And take back control.

Kitchen Reform. Coming in Janurary. Right here.

Make change happen. No one will do it for you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cranberry conundrum

Every year about this time I go into Cranberry stashing mode. For as much as the small red berry is touted for its health benefits (face brightening! cholesterol lowering! gum protecting!) it is  one of the few truly seasonal fruits, available in its whole form only in winter.

This is because the cranberry -- also known as the bounceberry because bouncing machines are used to test the veracity of the fruit -- needs cold weather to grow, and so is unlikely to be supplied by Mexico, though small quantities are grown in Chile. If you associate the bogs where cranberries grow up with New England, (as I do), be surprised: over half of all cranberries actually hail from Wisconsin, which is apparently why Cranberry Cheddar is such a good idea.

And as good as cranberry juice is (I'll definitely share my husband's rum cosmo this winter), I have to admit that a small dollop of cranberry sauce is the perfect foil for most winter meals. A venison roast, a herbed leg of lamb, even a butternut squash stew, is complimented by the sweet savory, like Bogie brightened by Bacall.

And this is where our dilema perennially occurs. What to do with the superfruit -- which on its own is not only sour, but bitter as well -- to enhance its star qualities and still let it take center stage? For the cranberry is not really a team player until it gets to the plate.

In my childhood home, this always meant three things: cranberry relish, cranberry sauce, and, of course, cranberry log. In order to appease the different cranberry appetites in the household, namely, her own, my mother's table generally hosted more than one form of the berry. Thanksgiving dinner was likely garnished by not only the ubiquitous Ocean Spray cranberry log, complete with the striped indents from the side of the can, but a cooked cranberry port sauce and a raw orange cranberry relish.

I don't generally have time for this. Friday night, when kids are coming in from lacrosse, filtering down from their rooms, hungry, to drag me from work for food, the last thing on my mind is preparing three cranberry dishes (even the log is a bit time consuming, as I must get it out whole). So I have taken the tastes of all and come up with one dish to suffice for everyday cranberry imbibing -- not, of course, to question the reign of those other dishes on the holiday table. (Though you should try this, Mom, it's really good! and quick!) And, with the addition of the orange juice, I can cut down on the amount of sugar in those other recipes, which is necessary to combat the sour fruit.)

Everyday Cranberry Sauce

One bag of cranberries
juice of two oranges
1/2 cup raw sugar (any sugar you have will do, brown sugar makes it really special and honey takes it to a whole 'nother level.)
cinnamon stick

Combine ingredients in a pan over medium heat and simmer, covered (cranberries are wicked messy when they pop, especially on an electric stovetop), for 15 minutes, or until fruits have popped sauce is of a uniform consistency. It will be shiny and thick, but berries will not totally disintegrate. Makes about 2 cups.

Can be stored in the fridge for up to a while, and doled out with each meal for a superfruit punch. If you hoard them, as I do, just throw the bag in the freezer -- industry sources say it will keep 9 months but I have used them after a year to no ill effects.

Enjoy! And Bon Sante!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Salmon

Our salmon arrived from Alaska, a shipment of pink, plump, vacuum-packed fillets that put our freezer to the test. It is so over-stuffed, with cherries and peaches from our orchard, beef from our favorite butcher up north, and now the fish, that we have to lock it to make sure the door stays sealed.

To allay the problem, I decided to cook salmon for 14 to celebrate a friend's birthday. Problem was, I didn't want to be cooking at the last minute, nor did I want my husband to be at the grill during the soup course (though truth be told that is probably his preference). So the week before, when he was traveling, I cooked salmon every night, to perfect a preparation.

I roasted it, pan seared it, sauteed it, broiled it -- everything short of poaching it in oil, which Mario Batali touts. In the process, I unwittingly followed the anti-wrinkle diet highly touted by Dr. Nicholas Perricone -- by the end of the week, my skin was glowing like a bulb, no lie. I was luminous as Cate Blanchett's Galadriel in Lord of the Rings -- and in fact, used to my ruddy, puffy complexion, a trifle embarrassed by the attention it brought.

Salmon, rich in omega-3s, which provide lubrication and anti-inflammatory powers to not just your skin but heart, brain and joints, really is a power food. In addition, it possesses DMAE, or Dimethylaminoethanol, a nutrient which protects the integrity of cell membranes, deterioration of which leads to aging, and prevents the formation of arachidonic acid, which causes wrinkling. It also reportedly elevates mood -- a study of cranky teens showed those eating higher levels of fish rich in omega-3s were less hostile, important not just to beleaguered parents, but because hostility is an early indicator of heart disease.

At the end of the week, I had perfected the recipe and my complexion, and now as I learn more about omega-3s, think it was not just the party but the dish that made everyone so happy. I roasted the salmon and topped it with a cilantro-walnut sauce made with flax oil (both walnuts and flaxseed are also high in omega-3s, cilantro removes heavy metals, lowers cholesterol and helps kick stubborn viruses).

So go ahead, eat your salmon.

Roasted Salmon with Cilantro-Walnut sauce
serves 8

8 salmon fillets, approximately 2" wide by 5" long and 1.5"thick
sea salt

for the sauce
1 bunch cilantro
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup walnuts, roasted
1/2 cup flax oil or walnut oil
sea salt

Roast the walnuts ( I do it in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until golden brown) and whiz them in the barrel of a small food processor with the garlic clove until pulverized. Add the oil and cilantro, with the stems cut off. Process until a thick sauce forms, if you would like the sauce thinner use more oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat broiler. Lay salmon fillets on an oiled cookie sheet, skin down, and broil for 5 minutes. Rotate and broil 5 minutes more.

Serve the sauce drizzled over the fillets.

Try with Mint and Cashew Green Beans -- easy!

Green Beans tossed with Mint and Cashew
serves 8

1 lb. green beans, cleaned boiled to the texture your family likes (we like them crunchy)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup mint leaves, shredded
2 T cashews, pounded to small pieces
sea salt

Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add mint, cashews and a pinch of salt. Toss with beans. May be served at room temperature -- but not too appetizing cold, as butter will harden.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Box of Summer

End of season at the Farmer's Market is sad. Gone are the Sundays of sampling fresh cantaloupe(July), peaches (August), then apples(September) from a table where you compete with bees. Gone the little last minute impulse buys that make your weekday routine a little happier, like a fresh-picked herbal tea or lemony soap. Gone the chance for a weekend morning social (maybe even accompanied by a few stragglers playing bluegrass) before heading back to the day's chores.

But for those of us who like to buy tomatoes in bulk, the future looks bright.

This past Sunday, I got a box of tomatoes that my 6-year-old could have fit in for $8. Not just the end of the crop, mind you, though there were a few rotten ones in there, especially since I waited until Wednesday night to make sauce. No, these were thick, juicy beefsteak tomatoes, smaller Romas and some rusty pink heirloom tomatoes, jumbled like one big happy family in their cardboard container, smelling like the last box of summer.

These ..
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Adapted from my mom

1/4 bushel of tomatoes, any variety
1 onion
3 heads garlic

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Chunk tomatoes into quarters, layer with slab chopped onion and slivered garlic on a roasting sheet.

Check every 20 minutes and stir in anything on top that is browning. Cook 1 1/2 hours total. Let cool 10 minutes. Mash with a potato masher until desired consistency -- I like it a little thicker but kids seem to not like chunks of tomato.

become this. yum.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Curry this

Healthy is a progression, at least it was for me. I learned to be concerned about my weight in 10th grade, when a friend convinced me we needed to go on a "diet." (We lived in London, and I am fairly certain we discussed this over bags of Maltesers, milk chocolate covered malt balls which are conducive to eating by the handful.) I am not sure what our "diet" was, except that it made the sweets all the more tasty -- her mother made a pistachio pudding cake with ginger ale (really!) that still rocks my mind.

In college, "dieting" was a two-day cleanse consisting solely of very large chocolate chip cookies heisted by the stack from the dining hall. In my first years of working, I would go to the gym before work, and to happy hour after, eating free appetizers and drinking wine spritzers to save calories (and money). Clearly I was learning balance.

 Of course I learned to eat salads, asking for dressing on the side. I made soups, leaving out the pasta. One of the first "healthy" cookbooks I got -- from my mother, I believe -- was Jane Brody's Good Food Book. While the high carbo style didn't do much for my body -- instead of the promised high kicks, I got what felt like a rock in the gut, diagnosed much later as gluten intolerance -- there are some of her recipes that I return to time and again.

It is only in the last ten years that I have kicked up eating healthy to eating locally, and this is the step that has truly made the difference. When I found this huge cauliflower (at the Farmer's market, not in my own garden as this photo might suggest), such a far cry from the cellophane-wrapped waxy white florets usually found in the grocery, I immediately thought of Jane. She makes an easy vegetable curry that will jolt your world. Try it.

Cauliflower Curry
adapted from Jane Brody

1 large cauliflower, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup broth
1/2 cup coconut water, or more broth
chopped cilantro and Greek yogurt, to garnish

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and stir until translucent. Add the spices and roast one minute.

Add the cauliflower and stir to coat with spice. Roast, stirring so doesn't burn, a few minutes then add broth and coconut water. Let simmer until cauliflower is done and sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes, depending on how big your cauliflower is. Add more broth or coconut water if you want more sauce or if it begins to dry up (again, depends on how big your cauliflower is).

***Spoiler alert!!!!!
Cauliflower is way healthy: high in fiber, antioxidants and vitamin K, it provides digestive support via an enzyme that provides protection to the stomach lining plus -- get this -- possesses the ability to prevent, and perhaps even reverse, blood vessel damage. By the way, the French like it too -- and have you ever met a French chef who chooses a food solely due to its health benefits? -- the chouxfleur shows up in François Pierre La Varenne's Le cuisinier françois, the original  French cooking, though it was not common until  Louis XIV introduced it to the table.

And so we are introducing it to ours. This is how we get our 5-year-old to eat healthy items: "No, don't eat that, I don't want you to grow up and be bigger than me!" (totally untrue, but totally works, by the way.) It occurs to me that might work with adults as well, so here goes ..... don't try this at home ...


Monday, October 11, 2010


Saturday night I was at a rocking party, thrown by friends of the Middleburg Polo Academy. It was a night in Casablanca, replete with tented outdoor banquets, henna tatoos and tarot readers. We met the polo ponies, sipped champagne, and ate lamb merguez. The men wore tuxedos and dinner jackets, the women gowns and heels, and we lounged on banquets tented in silks.

Everyone looked gorgeous, dancing under the stars until way too late. We are in general, perhaps, a healthy bunch out here, living outdoors, many working with animals or land daily. One neighbor in particular, though, just radiates health -- her name is Holli Thompson, a nutritionista working hard to get the news out about a healthy lifestyle. And it's clear she practices what she preaches: It's hard not to come away from an encounter with her wanting to emulate her glow, and her lovely calm.

So yesterday, a bit drained from lack of sleep and champagne, and inspired by the fresh spring onions at the Farmer's Market, I made her Pineapple-Cucumber Gazpacho for a pick-me-up. My husband loved it. The zest of the pineapple combined with the smoothness of the cucumber, crunch of ground almonds and zip of cilantro is perfect, on its own or as a precursor to curry, which is how we approached it. It is loaded with vitamin C, healthy fat and antioxidants; the addition of the almonds makes it not only yummy but cholesterol-lowering. Cucumbers are a great way to add fiber, as they come packaged with the water extra fiber intake requires. Try to buy organic, or at least the baby ones without wax on them, as the skin contains nutrients best consumed without any chemicals that might be trapped in the wax. 

Cucumbers are an ancient food, going back some 3,000 years in Western Asia. The Roman Emperor Tiberius was said to have cucumbers on his table every day no matter the season. Roman gardeners invented greenhouse methods to grow them year round, such as a raised bed in a frame on wheels that moved to optimize the sun. Can you imagine being the one guy solely responsibility for making sure the Emperor's cucumbers were in full sun? Time to move the cucumbers...

Thanks Holli! 

Pineapple-Cucumber Gazpacho
adapted from Nutritional Style

4 cups fresh pineapple, cut into pieces
4 cups cucumber, cut into pieces
5 scallions
2 tbsp lime juice
2 inches ginger root, peeled
1 tsp celtic salt
1 handful cilantro
2 tbsp avocado oil
1 1/2 cup raw almonds-ground
1 Tbsp organic apple cider vinegar

Add all above ingredients to high speed blender and blend.
(Be sure to grind the almonds first.) 
Garnish with cilantro, and drizzle with avocado oil to serve. 


Plays well with whipped cream

We have a new toy. Once again breaking my vow of no one-trick ponies, I bought an apple peeler. We love it. It makes processing apples like playing for my 5-year-old, who loves the neat spirals that come off the apple. It peels, cores and slices in about a minute, and you don't even have to wash the apple.

So I guess that makes it not a one trick pony.

Our apples, and again I have to admit that I do not have any idea what variety they are, have just the right sweetness for me. Pan-fried in butter with gobs of cinnamon, I can them for later use in pies and crisps, or just solo. This is so easy, I have started to do it in the slow-cooker (in about half the time as applesauce) and can in 1 quart jars, thinking I'll get a pie a jar. This recipe fills a slow cooker, which makes about 3 quarts. Which is all I can can at a time (yes, I meant that), so it works out. The apples are just cooked, soft without falling apart, crusted with cinnamon but not soupy.

Pan-fried apples with cinnamon

basket of apples, perhaps 2 dozen, or to fit your pan or slow cooker

Peel, core and section apples. Melt about two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet, or in the slow cooker. Pile in the apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover and let cook for about 30 minutes at low, stirring to incorporate the cinnamon and keep from sticking to the pan, but not too often; I like the sections to stay firm and together. In the slow cooker, I leave for three hours on low, stirring just once after about an hour to distribute cinnamon.

May be canned in jars the size you wish, or just consumed, in a pie or just with a spoon.

Plays well with whipped cream.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Presto Pesto

Each spring, I have been lucky enough to get beautiful 10-inch pots of basil from our local IGA grocer, who gets them from local growers. They each have roughly 6 stems of basil, and when I put them in the ground are already substantial plants, reaching in excess of 8 inches in height. I have an area of my garden that is bare year 'round, except for basil season, and I plant them 3 feet apart, as they bush out like mad if you give them space.

And then I leave. I go off for ten weeks and they are occasionally watered by a loyal friend if there is drought -- although they seem to like it dry. When I come back, they have expanded to fill their half of the garden, reaching for the sun in all directions, contorted around each other like a big game of herb Twister, the leafy stalks more than two feet tall. If I leave them too long,  the ends can go to seed fast,  the leaves nearest the stalk brown, or, as this year, become bug snack.

But it almost never matters, because there is so much basil that I generally cannot get it all in before the frost. Green basil, purple basil, Thai basil -- each with its distinctive leaf and smell -- to grind into pesto or chop on tomatoes that are also clamoring to get off the vine.

When I do cut, I cut back from the bottom, half the plant at a time. Luxuriously, I am able to pick only the finest leaves from the stalks, the leaves that are whole and healthy, not marred by blight or bugs. I nip them off just at the bottom of the leaf, leaving the stem and unworthy leaves for the compost. They collect in the barrel of the salad spinner until it's full, rinsing occasionally, and then I spin the water off, as dry leaves make better pesto.

This is a recipe for a very dry pesto, with about the same spreadability as peanut butter, which I freeze in 4-ounce canning jars. For a few reasons: I like to have the pesto spreading texture for sandwiches, paninis and rubs. It is easy to thin down if necessary: with water from the cooked pasta to make a sauce, with vinegar and or oil for dressings and marinades.

There are a lot of theories on how to keep pesto green. From the chef at Sistina in NY, I learned that mixing a small amount of parsley in will keep the pesto from turning. Others swear by a few drops of lemon juice. Nothing ever works for me. The pesto does turn where it is exposed to air -- but stick in a knife and there is fresh green pesto beneath. I find the turning does not affect the taste one bit.

Like most of my standards, this recipe is one that I adjust each time I make it. I don't measure, I ballpark, and then I taste. Sometimes it needs salt, sometimes pepper, sometimes nothing. When you like it, it is ready for your kitchen. The recipe below makes about 2 cups; I generally double it in the same food processor and just keep feeding in the leaves.

Basil Pesto

1 cup Parmegiano, Reggiano or sheep's milk Pecorina-romana if you are lactose intolerant, grated
1 cup pine nuts
10 cups basil leaves, rinsed and dried
4 cloves of garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper

Toast the pine nuts until they are golden brown. In a food processor, process peeled garlic cloves until smooth, then add pine nuts, process until smooth. Add parm, process again. You may grate the cheese  in the food processor as well, but do in a separate step or they all clunk together in a lumpy mess. Been there.

When your base is as smooth as smooth peanut butter, start adding basil. Pack the barrel with leaves and start grinding.  I generally add about a Tablespoon of olive oil and the lemon juice to keep the leaves processing.

Now taste. If it is bitter, that generally indicates you need salt, despite the massive amount of salty cheese. Go slow, a pinch at a time, and process in completely before making another decision. Freeze in small batches for later use, but be sure to leave one in the fridge for current use. We always have a jar open, just next to the butter. And we probably use it just as much!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Beef Satay

This summer, even into fall here in Virginia, has been hot and muggy day after day, ending in the kind of evenings meant to be spent in wet bathing suits. I have said too many times that we've had more summer this past two months than the past six seasons combined, but it is true.

And so it is that our tastes have strayed towards Asia, over and over. The kind of meals you can cook in the morning when it is still cool, and eat at room temperature when it suits. The kind of crisp, clean tastes that take well to seasonal produce, and local meats. The New York Times dining section, which we peruse each Wednesday for ideas, is similarly inclined towards Tamari and ginger this summer, giving us credence.

This recipe, though, is one we love from Mr. Steven Raichlen, a man among men, according to my men friends, who has elevated BBQ to an actual art. Combine his marinade with the marinating machine (though, as usual, I assure you that a plastic bag will work just as handily) and you have perfection.

Singapore Beef Satay
adapted from Steven Raichlen

1.5 lbs rib-eye steak, 1/2 inch thick, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, including the fat
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons ground coriander
1 Tablespoon tumeric
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
3 Tablespoons fish sauce or tamari
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Place meat in a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar, coriander, tumeric, cumin, pepper, fish sauce and oil. Marinate the beef for 20 minutes in marinator or 2 to 12 hours in the fridge.

Drain the cubes of beef and discard marinade. Thread the beef onto bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for 10 minutes. Leave the bottom half of each skewer bare for a handle and 1/4 inch exposed at the pointed end. Alternate between one piece of lean beef and one piece of fatty beef for the best flavor.

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill. Over high heat, brush the grates with oil. Fold aluminum foil by thirds like a letter and place over the grill as a rest for the exposed skewer ends, so they do not burn. Grill the sates until cooked to taste, about 2 minutes a side for medium.

Serve with cucumber relish, and rice dotted with toasted coconut. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chicken with Fennel

Last spring I planted two rows of fennel, and as usually happens in that circumstance, all of the sudden there is plenty to go around. Fennel is easy to grow, stores well, and is versatile and original, with its soft anise undertones.

This is an easy, fast comfort food fix, that is easily timed to arrive from the oven hot for dinner. The fennel caramelizes under the fennel, which is a soft counterpoint to the moist chicken. When you stab the chicken the clear juice melds the dish.

A crusty baguette, chutney and a salad with green goddess does the trick. Dress it up with a nice bottle of soft Pinot Noir and it can easily carry a weeknight dinner party.

Roast Chicken with Fennel
adapted from the NY Times

1/2 cup olive oil, or as needed
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 lbs chicken thighs, skin on
chopped fresh parsley

Preheat over to 450 degrees. Drizzle bottom of a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet with a tablespoon or so of oil and cover it with a layer of fennel. Drizzle another tablespoon or so over fennel and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add to casserole skin side up, covering the fennel. Spoon some juices up from bottom of pan over the chicken. Roast 15 minutes then baste chicken with pan drippings and rotate the pan. If necessary, adjust heat so chicken browns without burning.

The chicken will be done in about 30 minutes. Serve each piece with some fennel and pan juices; garnish with parsley.

Serves 8


Friday, September 10, 2010

Apples everywhere

My apple trees are like those in the Wizard of Oz, fairly throwing fruits at me as I pass ("It was a drive-by fruiting!")

My 5-year-old brings them in by the box and wants to make goods for a bake sale. I am concentrating on getting them put up before the bees get them.

SO here's the easiest recipe ever, except that you do have to invest the time to peel and core them. (And if anyone knows what kind they are, please let me know as we inherited the trees. They are sweet and just a little soft, but perfect to eat and need no sugar in baking. I toss them with butter and cinnamon for breakfast. We dice them with raisins for lunch. And yesterday, I canned applesauce that needed not a single thing but water. It was rosy pink and sweet-tart, a little chunky. Going to the store for more jars.....

Slow cooker applesauce

20 apples, or however many you need to fill the cooker
1 cup water

Peel and core apples, put them in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.

To can:  fill clean Mason jars, leaving half-inch of headspace. Put in a large pot and cover with water, making sure to cover by at least an inch. Boil 20 minutes.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

A few years ago, my husband ordered a new grill. He researched the purchase for months before deciding on the B.A.G. (Big Ass Grill, a technical term coined by his buddy Dan). With this huge appliance came another box, decidedly small compared with the BAG, but large none the less.

Now, I am one who likes small appliances, or at least those that multi-task, and machine in the box did only one thing, marinate -- a task for which I had previously used a plastic bag and gravity. And it was a large machine at that. The following weekend was Father's Day, and when my father came to visit he promptly was presented with the large marinator.

The Reveo Marivac Food Tumbler, as it is called, is rather like a vacuum-sealed rock polisher. Meat and marinade are placed in a large plastic cylinder, and a reverse vacuum sucks out the air. It is then  placed on a rolling carriage and tumbled until the marinade becomes one with the meat.

The good people at Reveo obviously subscribe to the theory: If you only do one thing, do it well.

With the gift of the Reveo, my mother has become the queen of marinating. If there's a last minute supper, for maybe 10, she pulls out the marinator and heads out to the herb garden. On this day, a pork tenderloin; the Amish farmers also had a fresh picked romaine, and Wegman's a tub of new figs. And she, obviously, had been listening to Simon and Garfunkel.

The pork, grilled on a hot BAG, becomes juicy on the inside, and crispy out. The marinate, not confined to the outside of the meat, subtly infiltrates the entirety, making it fresh and rich and buttery soft from the soft pummeling of the machine.

Herbed Pork Tenderloin

2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped sage
1/4 cup chopped rosemary
1/4 cup chopped thyme

2 pork tenderloins

Chop herbs and garlic in food process, add oil and wine. Pour marinade into marinator (or use a plastic bag!) and marinate for 20 minutes if using machine. If using a bag, massage marinade into meat through the bag and put in fridge as long as you like, from overnight to 2 hours. Bring meat to room temperature and grill on a hot grill, to 160 degrees.

Fig Salad

Shaved parmesean
Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Half the figs and place on a cookie sheet. Place under a heated broiler and roast until soft, about 5 - 7 minutes.

Using your hands, tear lettuce into small (2") bits and place on separate plates. Top with shaved parmesean and drizzle with balsamic and olive oil. Put the figs on each salad.

Needless to say, I am now wanting my own marinator. As large as it is, when you do one thing as well as this does, you earn your place in the kitchen.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tomato Wars

Every July my uncle John comes to visit. He brings coolers of produce: beets, peppers and beans in abundance. And, if we are lucky, one tomato. This tomato is to represent all the tomatoes grown in Indiana that my father (who grew up in Indiana) will not be eating come August. This tomato is not yet as red as poppies, nor as sweet as summer rain, but it signals potential.

We wait for the lunch that we will slice up the tomato and taste it, (my father generally does this without announcement, and later adds that we should try a slice when just the end is left).

But these past two years this has not had to be our only chance -- my uncle wraps the tomatoes, nearly ripe, up in tissue and careful cardboard packaging and sends them via FedEx. This year he marked them with numbers and sent along a small menu with the varieties: 1. Keepsake, 2. Goliath, 3. Sun King, 4. German Pink, 5. Raad Red. And they are very good.

Of course, the tomatoes here aren't bad either. Fresh from the farm stand they are a sweet and yielding fruit, juicy and yearning for sea salt. Good with just a hint of fresh basil.

The point is, this is a family that cares deeply about tomatoes. I am not going to say that Indiana tomatoes are better, or New York State tomatoes. In fact, I am pretty sure that when I finally return to my garden, there will be some lovely Virginia tomatoes that have ripened in my absence. I am not that discerning -- though I guess I am picky enough, because when tomatoes are not in season, I will not eat them at all. (Though I do cook with them out of a can, I am very picky about that also.)

At the top of the season, I just cut a tomato and salt it. I do this every night and sometimes for lunch. My mother does things with them: delicious things that make us smack our lips when we are walking through the kitchen. Things that make my stepdaughter jump up and down when she finds they are for dinner.  This for instance, from the cookbook Lost Recipes, by Marion Cunningham, who revised the Fannie Farmer cookbook and works with James Beard. Lost Recipes is an ode to cooking, a lament to a generation of cooks lost because they have not the time or the inclination to cook. Lost because immigrants wanted to blend in, to taste the commercial foods of their new land, to buy foods at the market that said they were part of this society.

I think my generation does a little of both, making the food we eat uniquely ours. We've hopped over boundaries and embraced many technologies and products which allow us to stick to our food philosophies without spending so much time in the kitchen.

That said, this is an easy recipe you will never get anywhere but in the kitchen. Even if you had a market that would make this, it is the just out of the oven melding of the tomatoes, butter and breadcrumbs that is irresistible. It is very forgiving and no time will be the same -- depending on the tomatoes -- it may be soupy or thick.

Just like real life. You'll find it all good.

Tomato Gratin
adapted from Lost Recipes

3-4 lbs. tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Coarse sea salt
Black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups gluten-free breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Layer the tomatoes in a 11" casserole or oval baking dish. Salt and pepper after each layer.
Melt butter in a skillet and mix in breadcrumbs. (Ms, Cunningham recommends adding 2 t of chopped thyme at this stage. I am sure this would be fabulous; we like the simple flavor of the tomatoes. Your choice.) Spread evenly over tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for an hour, or until nicely browned.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Basil, Brown Sugar and Peaches

So just writing that makes my mouth water. Two things we have in abundance just now, that I might not have thought to put together only I was looking for a recipe to adopt for the Adopt a GF blogger event and saw this on Shauna's site, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. Seems she loves the Wednesday NYT almost as much as we do around here: this one originated there. I think it is a beautiful thing that these recipes get new life and sometimes new tricks when they are spun up for another time around on the web, though this one needs no spinning at all to be absolutely fabulous. Just look!

Peaches Roasted with Brown Sugar and Basil

3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened 
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a small bowl, mash together butter, sugar, basil, cinnamon and salt. Spoon mixture into cavities of peaches.
Bake until the peaches are soft and butter is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Thanks Shauna.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Corn Sweet Corn

We are inundated by corn. Every 1/2 mile down the road there is a hand-lettered sign, on plywood and painted in red spray paint: "FRESH CORN". Four dollars buys a baker's dozen, and the locals know to select the smallest ears, as they are the most tender. The real picky peel back the husk of each ear before it goes in the bag, to make sure it is light in color, with small, crisp kernels.

Around these parts, the stars are heirloom varieties, Butter and Sugar, and, later in the season, Silver Queen. In line at the Post Office folks compare corn stand notes. Some farmers sell from bushel baskets on the side of the road, some are pre-fab log fancies (these usually also feature pies and jellies, and sometimes even fresh flowers), others are shacks hastily thrown together with boards and nails. The man down the road just completed a large, well-crafted shed for his corn stand, and decorated it with pumpkins. But everyone knows it is not the shack that determines the corn, it is the field. And, the variable from year to year: the weather.

Now that's fresh from the field!

I am not kidding about this. Sometimes, we buy a half dozen from different corn stands, to compare.

Corn is serious business.

(This corn color is just about perfect, but the kernels are a little too big and puffy.)
We also eat our corn down the row, not around. Once, when I had just met my husband, we were at a party and I was saying, incredulously, that he ate corn not in a row but a -- "you mean like a mo-ron?" interjected a very Southern friend. I neither confirmed nor denied.

Of course, all this corn snobbery earns us a lot of uneaten ears. We freeze it, fry it, put it in chowders, relishes and salads. But the star turn for the unused corn is the pudding.

We've tried many, and this is the recipe we always come back to, one of Ina's, tweaked to our own taste. But we've also collected many more, and one day will knock them off, one by one, with tasting notes. Until then ..

Corn Pudding
Adapted from Ina Garten

1/4 lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter
5 cups fresh corn kernels off the cob (6-8 ears)
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
4 extra-large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half
1 cup cottage cheese, pureed in a food processor
3 tablespoons chopped chives and garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar, plus extra to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease the inside of an 8- to 10- cup baking dish.

Melt the butter in a very large saute pan and saute the corn and onion over medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Cool slightly.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and half-and-half in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the cottage cheese. Add herbs, salt and pepper. Add cooked corn mix, cornmeal and grated cheddar, pour into the baking dish and sprinkle the top with more grated cheddar.

Place dish in larger pan and fill bottom pan halfway up the sides of the dish with water. Bake pudding for 45 minutes until top browns and knife inserted into center comes out clean. Serve warm. Serves 8.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Peaches and Cream

When the peaches came in in July (early for this far North NYS) we'd buy a basket and savor it for days. Now, though, they are ripe on the shelf, and need to be separated and consumed as fast as we can. We  take them outside, stripping the shirts off the small ones so that the peach juice doesn't stain their clothing (if anyone knows an antidote for peach juice, please share) and holding our chins away from our chests as we bite in.

Still we can't stop eating them. Whole, cut and peeled, in cereal, pancakes, ice cream, or topped with Greek yogurt and coconut. They are so good fresh we haven't bothered baking with them -- until now, as they ripen by the tens on the counter.

So as a parting gift to my step-daughter, who reads this blog from her food-challenged University with her stomach growling, I made a peach pie, her request. The addition of the cream and cornstarch make a smooth base for the peaches, and the crust is infused with creamy almond flavor as well. Make ahead long enough to cool most of the way, and the crust can harden up like a crumbly cookie.

Peaches and Cream Pie

1 package Mi-Del pecan shortbread
1/4 cup browned butter

8 ripe peaches
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 Tablespoons rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt

In a small metal pan, melt the butter and cook until brown foam forms on top; off the heat if any solids begin to separate. Whiz cookies in a food processor and add butter. Pack into 9-inch pie pan.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop the peaches in for 1 minute each, this will make the skins slip off as easy as Hugh Hefner's panties. Working over a large mixing bowl to catch the juice, slice peaches in 1" wedges to the pit and discard the pits. Add the rest of the ingredients and bake at 400 degrees for 55 minutes. Check the pie towards the end of the cooking time and if the crust is browning too fast make a small rim of aluminum foil to protect it from direct heat.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Lighthouse Steakhouse

Sometimes, in summer, if you have a good butcher, all you need is a steak.

Luckily, we do. Just down the road is a little market called the Lighthouse. It is legend around here, for its fresh meat, home-baked breads -- banana or zucchini bread that crisps up when toasted and hit with butter -- and the piles of fresh produce that farmers deliver each morning. Corn in the bushel by the door, baskets of ripe peaches on a makeshift well-weathered shelf that has, by some miracle, been bearing its sweet load as long as I can remember.

The market is pervaded by the smoky smell of roasting chickens, for the Lighthouse had a rotisserie long before Whole Foods and Harris Teeter decided it was trendy, and they occasionally throw on a brisket, or a turkey, for good measure. At lunch the line for fresh-made subs is a community sounding board. And if, when you are paying, there is a bunch of asparagus, or a basket of yellow plums, by the checkout, grab them.

But the star here is meat. People from places far closer to "civilization" (ie bigger and more plentiful markets) come here with coolers when their summer stay comes to an end, to load up on Norm's flank steaks and NY strips, perfectly trimmed filets and tender  ground beef, not too fat nor too lean.

All you need is salt, and a grill, and you've got a meal.

Grilled Filet Mignon

The filet is the most tender cut of meat, as it is taken from a non-weight bearing muscle in the cow that is rarely exercised. It is also the most expensive, as there are only 4-6 pounds in the average beef; you can use this basic method for any cut of steak.

Choose steaks that are 1-1/2 inches in thickness. Bring them to room temperature by taking them from fridge 45 minutes before cooking.

Fire the grill up to hottest possible temperature. Using tongs, put meat on the grill and leave it at least two minutes to sear in the juices. After about 5 minutes, flip; longer for medium or well. Test the steak after a couple more minutes; purists hate to pierce or poke meat so use the thumb test instead. A thumb in a rare steak will leave an indentation; if medium will give but leave no mark, and if well will be firm. If you use a thermometer (we do) grill to 130 degrees for rare, 130-140 for medium-rare, 140-155 for medium, 155 to 165 for medium-well, 170 plus for well.

Purists also extol the virtues of salt at the end of the process, saying it bleeds the juices if applied before grilling. Let the meat sit at least 5 minutes to let the flavors develop.

Try this easy mushroom to ground the plate, and you've got a steakhouse at home. The Portobello is the filet mignon of mushrooms, a grown up crimini, dense and meaty.

Portobello Stuffed with Spinach
serves 4

4 Portobello mushrooms
1.5 lbs spinach, fresh
3 cloves garlic, slivered
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I use a toaster oven: spread on the sheet and spray with olive oil, toast until golden, about 5 minutes.)

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and add garlic. Cook until golden. Add spinach in handfuls -- it will wilt and as it does, stir up the garlic to combine.

When spinach is completely wilted, take a slotted spoon and fill tops of cleaned Portobello mushrooms.

Sprinkle pine nuts on top and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until mushroom is tender.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pickles, sweet and sour

This summer has been wonderful for produce: the warm, rainy New York State spring made everything pop early, the flavors rich and pure. From the Amish families that trot their offerings to the farmers' market, we procure crisp Romaine, corn still warm from the field, and this year, small pickling cucumbers, which my mother has been pickling every which way.

My mother has not always made pickles. Growing up in Indiana, there were always homemade pickles in her Mother's refrigerator, gifts from neighbors or bought at the fair. Corn, onions, radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, anything from the garden was fair game. Here, pickles sold at the summer farmer's market were mostly canned. About five years ago, she saw a recipe in the paper for dill pickles, and it looked easy. That first batch attracted kids in our house like her canister of M 'n M's (ok, not quite, but still, for a small, sour, crunchy vegetable, they go well here).

Homemade Garlic Pickles
5 lbs. pickling cucumbers
1/2 gallon and 5 cups cold water
1 1/3 cups kosher salt
2 T mixed pickling spices (available in the spice section of your supermarket)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 large sprigs fresh dill
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 T sugar

Wash cukes well. Put in glass or stainless bowl. Combine 1/2 gallow water and 1 cup salt. Stir until dissolved. Pour over cukes, cover and let stand overnight.

Drain and rinse cukes and discard brine water. Pack into clean gallon glass jar along with spices, garlic and dill.

Combine remaining 5 cups water, 2 cups vinegar and 2 T sugar. Bring to a boil and pour over the cukes.

Cool, cover jar and refrigerated. Pickles are ready to eat as soon as they cool, but better if left overnight. Will keep in fridge to 2 weeks.

Traditionally, our summer fridge contains a tall canister of dills, but this summer, with the cukes so plentiful, she's been experimenting with varying degrees of sweetness. We weigh in as they ripen, spooning them out of the jar into dishes for lunch, snacks and dinner.

This summer, the sweet pickle recipe is the winner, large praise from my mother, whose motto is: "I never met a pickle that I didn't like."

Sweet Refrigerator Pickles
7-8 cups thin sliced pickling cucumbers (3 lbs.)
1 sliced onion, big
2 sliced peppers, red green or yellow
1/8 cup salt
1 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed

Place vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/8 cup salt and cover with ice water -- leave for 2 hours.

Drain and place in jars. Boil vinegar and rest of ingredients and pour over pickles. Store in fridge for up to two weeks.

If you can keep them around that long!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

How to Roast a Lamb

I have a friend who loves cookbooks the way other women love new clothes. She falls for one fast, bringing the conquest into her kitchen and making it at home, fawning over its pictures and marking promising recipes with Post-Its. She brings it to tea and boasts of its merits, even leaving it for a while if she is not cooking something from it that very night.

So needless to say, when she champions a book it is very hard not to fall for it too.  Such was the case with Michael Psilakis' How to Roast a Lamb, which I had to buy myself as the first week she owned it, as she brought it over to share what she was currently cooking, then left with it as there were too many tempting dishes to try to leave it even for an hour. After two minutes with it, I was hooked.

Psilakis is Greek, a culture for which I have a tremendous penchant. His father, when they left their native land, brought seeds from the family garden which he perpetuates year after year. When a food is fresh and growing, that is the best time to eat it, seems his philosophy, and so finds simple yet enchanting new ways to keep the food central. He doesn't obscure with too much technique, lengthy ingredient lists or precious spices. Yet to survive in the Manhattan restaurant scene, he must spin tradition into his own generation. These are all foods we know of and love, prepared as his mother taught him, and beyond.

I started with the eponymous recipe; there will be more in these pages as time goes on. The night I made this we had a dozen for dinner, a common summer occurrence, so I doubled the size of his lamb leg, but had plenty of stuffing. We still had left overs, which made killer panninis when pressed with melted sharp cheddar.

Roasted Leg of Lamb
adapted from "How to Roast a Lamb"

1.5 cups large, sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
leaves from 3 small sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
15 cloves Garlic Confit (recipe follows)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
cracked black pepper

5 lbs boneless leg of lamb, butterflied and some fat trimmed off
kosher salt and black pepper
olive oil
1 1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2-3 cloves Garlic Confit
3 large sprigs rosemary
3 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all stuffing ingredients in a food processor and puree to a smooth paste, about 1 minute. Reserve about two Tablespoons of the mixture.

Lay the lamb out with fat side down. Season with salt and pepper and spread stuffing mixture over it, pressing it down in all the cracks and crevices of the lamb. Drizzle with olive oil and roll the lamb up, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Wrap a string around the lamb several times and tie off, or tie in 3-4 spots crosswise and 1-2 lengthwise. Ideally allow the meat to sit on a rack in the refrigerator over night, to allow the  flavors to develop.

Bring lamb to room temperature while preheating oven to 375 degrees. In a small roasting pan, whisk reserved stuffing, water, mustard, garlic and rosemary. Place a rack in pan over the liquid. Season lamb with salt and pepper on all sides. In a large heavy skillet heat oil to very hot, then sear lamb well on all sides.

Roast seam side up over pan liquid, basting every 15 minutes. When the meat is medium rare, a thermometer inserted at the thickest point will register 140 degrees. Let meat rest for 15 minutes. Use pan juices for saucing, or peel and half some roasting potatoes in the pan and roast while meat rests.

Garlic Confit
3 cups garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leafs
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper
2 cups oil

Put cloves in a heavy, covered braising pan, add bay leaves, thyme and a scant tablespoon sea salt, 15-20 black peppercorns. Barely cover with the oil. Cover and braise in 300 degree oven until pale golden and tender, about an hour. Cool to room temperature. Keep in jar in fridge and use liberally in sauces, vinaigrettes, on vegetables and sandwiches.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Beautiful South

I have heard that some people dispute that Virginia is really the "South," but I, who have lived everywhere but before moving here, beg to differ.

Case in point, a dinner party we went to recently. Some friends had gone down to Mississippi to hunt, and brought back a mess of quail to cook up. (208, to be exact.) These guys have been shooting together since boyhood; they join another friend who's moved further south for a weekend hunt each year. The quail are dressed and frozen and toted home in bags for a party.

This summer, they set up a skeet shoot down at a pond on their farm, far enough from the house to be safe, but within audible range. It was 100 degrees that day, but merely a precursor to summer. Those not shooting gabbed on the veranda sipping ginger margaritas and cranberry refreshers to the sound of gunfire, while the others went back and forth in pickups and mules to shoot.

Seemed pretty Southern to me.

At the end of the day, all 208 quail, plus the odd steak, were put on the grill, having been marinated with olive oil, whole garlic and jalapenos. Salad, tomato pie and Silver Queen corn, the first of the season, straight from a Delaware field.

We sat at the long table, sucking juicy meat off  bones best picked up with fingers made tangy from the garlic and jalapeno, washing it down with red wine, jabbering long into night. When we were full, trays of dark chocolate, dried apricots and walnuts appeared, along with cherry and peach pie.

One of the longest nights of the year, well spent.

Grilled Quail

Olive oil
Jalapenos, cleaned and sliced
whole peeled garlic cloves
salt and pepper
Quail, 2-3 per person, dressed

Marinate quail in the other ingredients, preferably over night. Grill on a medium grill until skin is golden and internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, 5-7 minutes a side.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big Fish

Salmon was this year's whipping boy in the health food wars, taking the heat off caffeine, eggs and hooch.

Scientists tantalized us with findings -- the omega-3 fatty acids swimming around in fish's vibrant flesh can protect  against cancer, amp up  brain power and protect against its decline, make hair shine and skin glow, fight depression and lube aching joints. They may even, as one study of prisoners who became less aggressive when feasting on the pink fish might be spun to suggest, have a role in world peace. To reap these benefits, diners were encouraged to imbibe in fatty fish such as salmon, halibut or tuna twice weekly.

But other studies show levels of PCBs, dieldrin and toxaphene (fire-retarding chemicals and pesticides now banned but still residual in our marine environment) are higher in farmed salmon, which last year was 69 percent of market, due to their diet of  fish meal and fish oil.  Scientists concluded that eating farmed salmon more than once a month potentially increased risk of cancer along with other risks (to the neurological and immune systems). Groceries hastened to label their fish "farmed" or "wild" -- but many still do not know the fishes chain of custody, or who actually caught the fish.

Good fad gone bad?

A 110-lb halibut caught by a sport fisherman from Virginia Beach, Va

Pelican harbor
Enter small fishermen and entrepreneurs like Deb Spencer, who has built a traveling fish processing plant hubbed in the tiny fishing village of Pelican, Alaska, population 80. The main drag of Pelican is a boardwalk built on a cliff above the tide line, which rises and falls up to 24 feet twice a day.

Eli and Kimber pick
Kids wear life jackets when they leave the house for school or play; they readily show visitors how to find the tasty wild salmonberry. The town's only automated vehicles are mules. The dock that hosts their fishing fleet and the occasional visiting vessel is also the airport, from which visitors (many sport fishermen who charter from the port) and the mail fly to Juneau.

Spencer and her husband, Keith, spend the summer fishing with a small crew (all women!) in the Gulf of Alaska. They process their fish and that which they purchase from others in Pelican, cleaning and flash-freezing for shipping right on their barge.

In an e-mail from Deb, she details how to order from them:

"I don’t really have an order form – something to do… Basically we have king and coho salmon, fresh and frozen. Fresh fish come dressed (whole and gutted) with or without heads. Frozen fish are vacuum sealed and can be custom packaged from 6 to 8 oz. portions to whole fillets. My standard package is 1 to 1.5 pounds and is perfect for 2-3 people with leftovers for lunch the next day. It is most cost-effective to order a minimum of 40 pounds to get a better freight rate.

King salmon is fattier and the biggest of the 5 types of Pacific salmon; they range in color from white (marketed as Ivory) to deep red. Coho is the second largest and is a deep reddish orange; it is milder in flavor than king salmon.

Prices vary with the dock price (amount paid to fishermen). We only have king available now and they are a bit pricier than normal. Coho fishing will open in July.

Here’s a ballpark price list:

Fresh king:  $15/lb for head off/delivered/40-lb minimum
Fresh coho:  $9/50/lb for head on/delivered/40-lb minimum
Frozen king fillets or portions:  $19/lb/delivered/40-lb minimum
Frozen coho fillets or portions:  $13/lb/delivered/40-lb minimum"

Contact Deb Spencer  at We'll have a package coming to Virginia soon and will report...


Cross Sound Fisheries barge

Thursday, July 15, 2010


After a night in Shag Cove, we (or, rather, the Captain and my husband, while the rest of us dozed to the white noise of the engine) pulled anchor early and used the tide that previously postponed our entry into Glacier Bay to coast out, doubling our speed with the current's push.

We reached Inian Cove, where the natives had put up a welcome sign. and my husband immediately set about catching supper. But after about an hour, our resident 5-year-old called it as it was, chanting "No fish, no crabs, no luck."

 The day was gray, and the fishing was unimpressive. My husband's determination did attract one odd creature, which we suspect was a rosy-lipped sculpin. He earned his freedom immediately.

 The snacks, however, were to die for. I found this recipe in an old Sunset magazine recipe booklet, which was brought aboard for its sheer minuteness. With a small tweak, these macaroons were ready for prime time. That is to say, the otters were interested.


Chocolate Macaroons
adapted from Sunset

1 cup whole almonds
1 cup semi sweet chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 egg white
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grind chocolate and set aside. Grind almonds, sugar, cinnamon and salt in food processor. Add egg, egg white and almond extract, process then stir in cinnamon. Moisten hands and roll into 1 inch balls, place on buttered cookie sheets and flatten with the back of a spatula. Sprinkle with chili powder.

Bake until the tops are puffy and the centers are chewy, about 12 minutes.