Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Stew

Are you ordering pizza tonight to scarf down while you pass out chocolate to the trick or treaters? Really? Lame. Really lame. There is still time to make something good. After all, it is Saturday, you have all afternoon to cook, because since you're a good parent like me, you have abdicated all responsibility for the young 'un's costumes to the young 'uns. It's good for them. Makes them use their little noggins to come up with something original using only duct tape and the leftover tulle from the wedding. Can you say "Mummy"?

So, while the little ones thrash about desperately trying to complete their costumes before sundown, pop this fun stew into the oven and you can pull it out just as the first little monsters show up at your door and demand protection money in the form of chocolate. And let's not even get into those of you who are too cheap to spring for anything better than a mini tootsie roll. Puhleeze. It's once a year. But then, who am I to judge? We live so far off the beaten path that I have never had a trick or treater darken my door. I have to go sit on a friend's porch, but not before we eat the traditional Halloween pumpkin stew. Grandma Foodie used to make it every year when I was a kid. But I'll bring a pumpkin roll and a bottle of wine with me to Priscilla's, so she'll be happy to see me. I might even bring her a bowl of pumpkin stew.

Pumpkin Stew

3 T vegetable oil
3 cloves minced garlic
2 chopped green peppers
2 chopped onions
2 lbs beef stew meat
2 chopped tomatoes
1 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 pkgs frozen corn
3 diced potatoes
3 smallish sweet potatoes, diced
2 C beef bouillon
8 peach halves
1 medium pumpkin (if you can find  a pretty large pie pumpkin, they are sweeter and not stringy)
3 T butter
11/2 tsp salt

In a large dutch oven, brown garlic, peppers, onions, and stew meat in oil. Add tomatoes and salt. Simmer 20 minutes. Add corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bouillon, and peaches and simmer 40 minutes.

Brush inside of pumpkin with butter and sprinkle with salt. Add stew and put lid on and bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until pumpkin is tender.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pork and Apples

So I probably haven't done enough rhapsodizing about pork, but I can't really think of anything too entertaining to say about it. I'll just give you another recipe instead.

Italian sausage with apples

Heat 1 T olive oil in a saute pan and add whatever amount of Italian sausage you want. Just make sure you don't crowd it too much. Brown. Reduce heat and add 1/2 an apple per serving. (For those of you who are math challenged: if you put in 1 sausage, add a half an apple, if you put in two sausages, add a whole apple. Now multiply). Cook until the apples are soft and the sausage is cooked through. Stir in 1 T cider vinegar. Eat. Preferably with soft polenta.

Soft Polenta
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Bring the water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, milk, butter, and stir until the butter and cheese melt. Makes a lot. You can cut in half if you want. You can alsocut the leftovers into slices (it hardens as it cools, so serve it immediately) and  fry in oil and serve with fried eggs for breakfast.

Monday, October 26, 2009


An old friend from high school recently posted a link on Facebook about how viruses incubate in pigs and then jump to humans. He suggested perhaps we have one last giant bbq and be done with them once and for all.

Wwwwhhhhaaaaattt? Be done forever with perhaps the world's tastiest meat? I shudder at the thought. (If not at the thought of influenza spreading hither and yon via the delectable porcine morsels.)

Pork has perhaps the most uses and versatility of any meat on the face of the earth. What would life be without bacon. Or prosciutto? Or the myriad number of sausages that can be made from pork? Just think about how integral small amounts of bacon can be to a simple dish like Brussels Sprouts pan seared with golden raisins and carmelized onions. The dish is simple to make, but without the salty smokiness of two strips of bacon it would be merely ordinary. Or the easy versatility of prosciutto. Wrap it around some melon or figs and pop open a bottle of Spanish Cava and you have a party. (You do have at least two bottles of some type of bubbly wine ready to go in your wine rack at all times, don't you? I do.)

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Golden Raisins

2 strips (or up to four if you really like bacon. But keep it to two and you won't feel as guilty)
1 Lb Brussels Sprouts, cleaned, trimmed, cut in quarters
kosher salt
1/2 C golden raisins
1 onion, sliced and carmelized in two T of olive oil
1 1/4 C chicken stock

Cut the bacon into lardons, (that is thin, matchstick sized pieces) and cook in a saute pan until crispy.  Remove bacon, but leave the drippings. Add the Brussels sprouts and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken broth and cook until reduced to a few tablespoons and the sprouts are tender,about fifteen minutes. Add the raisins and onions, cook a couple of minutes until heated through, season with salt and pepper.

And gee, we haven't even scratched the surface of the wonderful delights of pork. We still need to talk about all of the fabulous uncured cuts. And we haven't even mentioned ham. Here is another recipe, though to whet your appetite, for mustard glazed spareribs

Mustard Glazed Spareribs
1 rack pork spareribs
1/3 C brown sugar
1/4 C dijon mustard
3 T cider vinegar
1 T molasses
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard

Season both sides of ribs with minced rosemary, chopped garlic and salt and pepper. Wrap in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Combine brown sugar, dijon, vinegar, molasses, and dry mustard in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for two or three minutes.

Remove ribs from oven and baste with sauce. Finish cooking on the grill until lightly charred. Fight with your family over who gets the last rib.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Party Time

Today I am having a welcome home party for the Marine Foodie. Yes, he's been home about three weeks now, but not everyone has had a chance to see him. And he needed some decompression time first. So I cook. And the Foodette daughter cooks. And we decorate together. (OK, she has the "vision" I just get to execute it.)

I love having parties. I just hate the cleaning. I like when people come and have a good time and are totally impressed with me. Although I don't like gushing. I know they're impressed, why wouldn't they be? They don 't have to actually say it. I can tell by the eyes gleaming with joy. And the coming back for seconds. And the swooning.

Here is a picture of the pre-party preparations:


And what are we serving? Well, since this is a party for the boy, I mean man, we are serving Man food. Southern Man food, if you want a theme.

The boy's favorite, Buffalo wings
Lobster Cannolis (another one of the boy's favorites
Deviled Egg Spread with toast points
Black eyed pea dip (daughter is making, I don't know the recipe.)

Two bean chili
Sweet Pototo Casserole
Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon Lardons, Carmelized Onion and Garlic, and Truffle Oil
Apricot and Pecan Salad

And for dessert
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Banana pudding

Don't you wish you were coming? Well, if you live in Rochester, NY and would like to tell a Marine that you're glad he's home, you are invited. Just don't bring any food from a box to share, I'm not good at smiling and pretending I'm not appalled. And believe me, it has happened. Once, I had a party and someone brought those frozen cream puffs from BJ's STILL IN THE FREAKING BOX! I couldn't believe it.I tried my best to be gracious, not sure if I succeeded. It's fine if you don't like to cook, just bring wine instead, at least you won't humiliate yourself.

So here is the chili recipe, which is really good, but I'll admit once again, that I got it from Grandma Foodie. Still, you have to have a certain amount of panache and two kinds of chili powder to pull it off, dontcha? And I do.

2 1/2 pounds chuck meat,small dice                             
    1/4 cup olive oil                                              
    1 1/2 large onions,finely diced                                
    1  1/2  tablespoons garlic, minced                             
    3/4  cup dark beer                                             
    1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes                                  
    1-2 chipotle chilies, in adobo sauce, pureed                   
    1 tablespoon ancho chili powder                                
    1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder                              
    1 tablespoon cumin                                             
    2 cups chicken broth                                           
    3 cups black beans                                             
    6 tablespoons line juice                                       
    Salt and pepper                                                

Heat oil in a large dutch oven.  When hot add meat and brown, add onions and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add beer and reduce by half, add tomatoes, chipotles, chili powders and cumin.  Stir well and cook for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add the stock, cook until meat is tender 1 to 2 hours.  Add the beans and simmer 15 minutes more.  Degrease if necessary.  Add the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with avocado relish, cheese and cilantro on the side.  may be made 2 days ahead and reheated. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Julie and Julia

I just started reading Julie and Julia and so far it is rather entertaining, if not just a little pretentious. Was it really necessary for her to tell us that she scattered her Pottery Barn flatware all over the floor? The thing that is slightly annoying to me is this: I started learning to cook out of Mastering the Art of French cooking before that girl was even born! I could have done this project! Why didn't I think of it first? But, at least I made Pommes Anna for dinner last night, along with the last of the tamales I put together from the leftover ingredients. I know, weird combination, but sometimes you have to go with weird, just because you can put a meal together from the disjointed bits you have in the fridge that need to be used up. So, Pommes Anna is a marvelous dish, potatoes and butter, salt and pepper. Nothing else. I can't publish the recipe, copyright issues and all, but here is what she says about it in her book:

"It was created during the era of Napoleon III and named, as were many culinary triumphs in those days, after one of the grandes cocottes of the period. Whether it was an Anna Deslions, an Anna Judic, or simply Anna Untel, she has also immortalized the special double baking dish itself, la cocotte a pommes Anna, which is still made and which you can still buy at a fancy price".

So look up the recipe in your copy of Mastering the Art of French cooking" And if you don't have one, get one. If you want to be a great cook. Although you still probably won't make too many of the recipes. More apple recipes tomorrow.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Summer's last Hurrah

You couldn't say that we are having Indian summer in any sense of the phrase. It is cold and windy. Did I mention cold?

I was starting dinner last night and was contemplating what kind of salad I should make. I thought back to the eldest daughter's wedding and the fabulous Green Goddess dressing we made for the dip for crudites. "Hurry!" I thought, "get the last herbs out of the garden before the damn frost gets them!" I grabbed my shears and headed for the bedraggled herb patch. I found just enough left of the herbs that I needed. I dropped them into the processor along with the other ingredients.

The brown squiggly stuff is anchovy paste. Yes, anchovy paste. Get over it. It is not gross, it adds a salty richness and subtle  depth to quite a few things, this recipe included.

I whirled the ingrdients around and in less than a minute had the lovely emerald green goodness that is Green Goddess.

Then I whipped up some homemade croutons, boiled an egg, chopped some scallions, and tore up some lettuce. (I keep lettuce cleaned and ready to go in a plastic bag in the fridge. Wash the lettuce, put in plastic bag and add a paper towel. It keeps for a week, but it doesn't usually last that long. If you buy salad in a bag, you're just stupid. Or lazy. Or lazy and stupid. Or lazy, stupid, and you have too much money.) Then I tossed it all together in a wooden salad bowl. You wouldn't use anything else, would you? It was marvelous and made me sad that summer has come to an end. Now run out to your herb garden (do I really have to say it? Just plant one) and gather up the last remnants. It'll  make you happy.
Green Goddess Dressing (Courtesy of Grandma Foodie)

1 C Mayo
1 C sour cream
1/2 chives
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T parsley
1 T Tarragon
3 T anchovy paste
1T chopped green onion

Mix. Serve on lettuce with hard boiled egg, homemade croutons, and scallions.

My mother, otherwise known as Grandma Foodie, makes some of the best croutons I have ever eaten. She takes white bread (they can be made with just about any kind of bread, though) and cuts it into cubes, then puts them in a SINGLE LAYER (can you tell that is the really important part?) in a saute pan in which enough butter has been melted to cover the bottom with a little olive oil and garlic powder has been swirled into it as well. Brown on one side, flip them and brown on the other side,m adding more butter as needed. Put them in a bowl, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (although leave this off for Green Goddess) and DO NOT LET ANYONE TASTE EVEN ONE! Because if you do, they will eat them all and you will have to make more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


If you are lucky enough to live in upstate New York, like I do, then you know we are full-tilt into apple season. If you haven't had the presense of mind to go to your nearest orchard in the last couple of weeks, you'd better get off your duff and do it soon. I have my own apple tree, which this year yielded enough apples for me to make six pints of apple butter. Yup, lots of small, teeny tiny apples. Lots of work. But worth it! Next year, I am going to spray the tree so that I get bigger apples. So this year, I am heading to the orchard. With some beautiful panoramic views of the valley below and the crisp fall air and some great chilled cider and fresh fry cakes, what could be better? So get goin'.

Now what do you do with all of those bushels of beauties once you have them? Well, there are countless things, of course, like the apple butter I just mentioned. But if that is too much work for your lazy butt, here are a few simpler, quicker ideas.

Apple Sauce
Yes, I know you probably already know how to make applesauce. You peel and core a random amount of apples and put them in a pan with a little water. Then you cook until they are soft and mash them with a potato masher so that they retain some chunkiness. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla to taste and put on top of potato pancakes. REALLY good.

Apple crepes
I serve apple crepes a lot. I cut and core apples (no need to peel) and saute them with butter until soft. Then I add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and serve them inside freshly made crepes and top with whipped cream. Yummy.
3/4 C flour
Resift with:
1 tsp salt
3 T sugar
1 3/4 tsp baking powder

2 eggs
3 T melted butter
1 to 1 1/4 C milk
Mix the wet ingredients quickly into the dry. Cook by swirling 2T batter into a hot, well- greased 7" skillet or crepe pan. Or adjust the amount to fit the size of your pan. You just want to swirl the batter around in order to get the thinnest possible crepe. Cook just until top is set, then flip and cook for about 5 seconds on the top side.

Apple cake
This is my mother's recipe and a family favorite. Pretty simple to prepare

2 C sugar
2/3 C oil
2 C flour
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt C chopped walnuts
5 green apples, thinly sliced

Beat eggs and oil until foamy, Add rest of ingredients. Bake in a greased 9 x12 pan 45 min. at 350 degrees.


Beat 2 C powdered sugar. 3 Tsp melted buter, 2 tsp vanilla and 6 oz cream cheese. Frost cake. Eat. Enjoy, Then eat another piece.

And here is a fabulous recipe from the Original Pancake House. Make it. You will never regret it. Except that you waited this long in your life to eat this.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cheesy Grits

This northern girl, born and raised in California, emigrated to Upstate New York, has limited experience with grits. I know, you're shocked. "I thought June knew everything there is to know about food," you're thinking. Well, no, I don't. But here's the thing that I think makes me a good cook and a good foodie: I am not afraid to try anything. I think where everyone gets off track and in a slump and thinks they are a bad cook is because they are not willing to try new things. There is a woman I know, however, who should not try anything new unless I am there personally supervising her. She once tried to make the butternut squash soup recipe I posted some time ago. The problem was, she forgot to roast the garlic and thought she could speed it along by microwaving it a bit. Ah-hem. Do I really have to say it? NO!!! My eye started twitching uncontrollably when she told me what she had done. Not good. And then she couldn't understand why her family didn't like it. I think she should try again while I supervise her with a cosmpolitan in my hand. And after two cosmos, I'll just take over and make it myself. And she knows it, too. Anyway, trying new foods and new recipes is a great way to keep your perspective fresh, keep your mind interested, and enjoy your life. So, about a year ago I had grits for the first time. They were good. I had always thought of grits as a vile, slimy, not-as-good-as-oatmeal paste. Not true! Which demonstrates the need to keep an open mind. Grits are creamy and smooth, warm and delicious. I ran across a recipe for cheesy grits and I decided to try it. It was fabulous. I served it with some pan-seared shrimp, making that southern classic, shrimp and grits, although I could happily eat just the grits.

Cheesy Grits

3 C Water
2 C Milk
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 C Grits (not instant)
2/3 C sharp cheddar
Scallions (optional)

Bring the milk, water, onion, and garlic to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Add the grits and cook, stirring often, until the grits are thick and creamy. Add the cheese, salt and pepper, and scallions. Eat!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Well-Stocked Pantry Chapter Four

I still am working on the comprehensive list of pantry items. It may well take me into next year. But here is a dissertation on salt. Now, you thought all you needed in your kitchen was a carton of iodized Morton's, right? WRONG, you neanderthal!

There are no less than five ESSENTIAL kinds of salt that you must stock in your well-stocked pantry, along with some optional ones. If you stock the optional ones, you may even rate a pat on the back from me, instead of one of my over-the-top-of the-of-the glasses-how-can-you-be-so-stupid looks.

Here is a picture of all of the salt currently in my kitchen. I am out of two kinds: Fleur du sel, and canning salt.

 They are:

Quick cure: meat curing salt, for the Canadian Bacon I AM going to make. Soon. Optional.
Sel du gris, for sprinkling on foccacia before baking, or adding to soup. It dissolves quickly.
Regular iodized salt: I've had that carton for a very long time. Never use it. Regular salt has a metallic taste from the iodine. I use kosher salt instead. Must stock, mostly for emergencies, when you run out of other kinds of salt or need to put out a grease fire if you're an idiot.
Kosher Salt, I keep it in a little bowl (in the foreground) and use a little spoon to sprinkle it on everything. Generously. Must stock. Not optional. It is the work-horse of salt.
Sea salt. Great flavor, can pretty much be used interchangeable with kosher for everyday salting. Must stock!
Smoked Maldon Sea Salt. A red salt, the best salt ever for bringing out the flavor of tomatoes and other raw vegetables. Use in salads, crudities, sandwiches. It's not optional for me, but I'll let you slide. I just won't respect you as much.
Popcorn salt. I actually make my own by pulverizing kosher salt in the food processor. Not optional, if you  like popcorn. Which I do. A lot. But not that vile microwave stuff. I pop my own on the stove, in the wok, which is the perfect shape, and dress with unsalted butter, popcorn salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. And then I eat it while sipping champagne.
Canning Salt. You read my post on making pickles, right? Right? Not optional.
Fleur de sel-  a fine grained finishing salt. Sprinkle it on pastas and grilled meats after they are cooked.Optional, but you're a heathen if you don't have it.
Hawaiian Red Sea Salt- another great finishing salt. Adds a touch of color and a unique flavor to cooked veggies and grilled foods. Optional.

Now, I am NOT going to debate whether or not you should use salt, or cut back on salt, or anything related to the amount of salt we should eat. Read this and decide for yourself if the science behind the anti-salt campaign is valid or not. I'm coming down on the side of not, but you decide for yourself. And don't bother trying to lure me into a debate about it. I'm right, you're wrong. End of story. Or my head might just explode and then where would you go for good food advice?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A bag full of produce

A friend of mine stopped by yesterday with a bag full of assorted veggies from her veggie co-op. "I can't use all of these," she said. "I thought maybe you could do something with them." I thanked her and she went on her merry way. I opened the booty to see what I had. The bags contain: an eggplant, some cilantro, some chilis, two heads of lettuce, a red cabbage, and a green cabbage.

So, what to do with all of this? Tonight, we are having a family dinner with my daughter and her husband and my son who is freshly back from Iraq. Will I be able to incorporate some of the odd assortment? You bet. Not to say that I will use it all tonight, but certainly the eggplant will become Napa Valley goat cheese and eggplant ravioli for a first course. The lettuce will become the base for the carmelized pear salad that I wrote about not long ago. We will also have cedar-planked salmon, sauteed leeks, and butternut squash risotto. For dessert we are having a pear and maple crumble. Don't you wish you were coming here for dinner?

The cabbage presents a little more of a dilemma. It's a lot of cabbage. People are not always fond of cabbage. What shall I do? Wait! I have it! Last year, my sister-in-law made a really simple, yet wonderful Russian Piroski. She made a basic rich yeast dough, and filled it with cabbage which she sauteed until nicely browned. I think she added onion and dill. It was really good and the kidlets liked it a lot. (Big surprise. Kids and cabbage? It was that good.) I think I'll call her.....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Well-Stocked Pantry, Chapter Three

I had been working on a comprehensive list of the entire Mendon Foodie's well-stocked pantry, as per Hope's request. But alas, it is taking a REALLY long time, and I am pretty sure I can only do it if I leave out half of the items I currently have. (Really, I have five different kinds of chili powder and three kinds of paprika.)

Also, we just picked up the Marine Foodie last night. This morning I made him homemade Eggs Benedict, (made everything myself except the Canadian Bacon.) You'll find the English Muffin recipe in an earlier post and the homemade Hollandaise is from the Joy of Cooking. It is hard to make good Hollandaise from scratch. You'll need to follow the directions very carefully and ruin several batches before you get it right, not that I did that, but you will. Here is a picture of the happy reunion:

Tonight I made him his favorite dinner: Roasted Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo with pan-seared scampi.

So, I thought since I don't have time to finish my pantry post, I would post a some pictures of my pantry so that you can see what I am up against: Keep in mind this is only the top half of one of my pantries. I also have a pantry the size of a hall closet, but it is slightly messy, so I'm not posting a picture of it.

I'll try to post some of these recipes and a list of pantry items by the weekend.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Well-Stocked Pantry, Chapter Two

So, we have already established that you can probably call me up to come over and borrow almost any arcane ingredient. Dried shitake mushroom? Yup, got 'em. Tapioca starch? You bet. But what about less arcane ingredients, what do I keep on hand in the way of, say, oil?

In my pantry right now I have: extra-virgin green olive oil, pure olive oil (I know, you're shocked. I'll get to that in a moment), canola oil, sesame oil, pumpkin seed oil, walnut oil, chili oil, and peanut oil.

Pumpkin seed oil is great swirled into a squash soup at the end. It is strong and bold. It is also great by itself as dressing on a salad of mache. Walnut oil is a must when making a salad with apples or pears, or apricots and pecans. Chili oil is great for adding heat to asian sauces, while sesame oil gives them depth and a nutty flavor you can't get with anything else.

The uses for extra-virgin olive oil are of course endless and you don't need me to point out to you the best uses for it. I have always used it for cooking. I recently, however, became a convert to using pure olive oil for pan-searing. I can hear you gasping, collectively. "But, June, how COULD you?" Some of you are probably swooning right at this very moment, your faith in me shattered. You are thinking that you may never be able to trust me again.

Well, get over it! I attended a class on pan-searing with my mom, just for fun. (Not that I had anything to learn, mind you, but I like being at the top of my class.) I nearly sneered at the chef in disgust when she used pure olive oil. She convinced me, however. When pan-searing, you want to get a nice crust on your food, searing it quickly to seal in the juices, keeping a nice even temperature. Pure olive oil has a higher smoke point than extra-virgin, and in a dish where you will be finishing with a sauce, pure olive oil will do just fine. You can also get the higher smoke point with grapeseed oil or canola oil, but the pure olive oil will give a deeper flavor to the dish. Just don't let me catch you using it in sauces, dressings, pastas, or sautes. I will berate you mercilessly. And you know it. Don't tempt me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Well-Stocked Pantry, Chapter One

You can read a lot about what you should keep on hand to have a well-stocked pantry. I won't bore you with telling you to keep canned mushroom soup and dry bouillon. If you like to cook you probably keep the things around with which you like to cook. In my case, that does not include canned mushroom soup. There are a few canned/processed convenience foods I keep around, but for the most part I stock my pantry with things you can use to make stuff. It's not exciting: flour, pasta, sugar, rice, etc. But what kinds of things might you find in my kitchen that are not in yours, you ask?

Well, how about ten different kinds of vinegar? Yes, I have at least ten different kinds. Maybe more. I stock the ordinary white, which mostly gets used for cleaning things rather than cooking with, but I also keep apple cider, red wine, white wine, champagne, two kinds of balsamic (one cheap, one expensive, sherry, cassis, rice, and Chinese black. Vinegar is of course a necessity in salad, but it also adds depth of flavor to soups, sauces, and fricasees. It is the base for beurre blanc, an enhancer in bordelaise, there are so many ways to use it I'm sure there must be a book about it. I just haven't read it.

Last night I added a tablespoon of cider vinegar to a saute of Italian sausage and apples. It just livened up the apples. Rice vinegar makes a nice dressing for sliced cucumbers when you add a sprinkling of sugar. Chinese black vinegar is fabulous as a dip for pan-fried dumplings and champagne vinegar is the base for the aforementioned beurre blanc. Add some sliced basil, diced tomato and cucumber and it is divine over baked or pan-seared salmon. I use a moderately expensive balsamic to dress the ubiquitous caprese salad, which no matter how ubiquitious is still one of my favorites. The cheap balsamic is reduced to make balsamic glaze, a trick I just learned from my mother. Why use pay $7.00 for a little bottle when you can make your own? I like the cassis vinegar on a salad with anything sweet in it: pears, blue cheese, walnuts. I usually use it very sparingly and in combination with red wine vinegar, just to add a hint of sweetness, in place of adding sugar to the dressing.

Which vinegar is my favorite? At the moment I would have to say that the 7-year old Spanish Sherry vinegar is tops. It makes a lovely, exceedingly smooth dressing with no harsh bite.

Sherry Vinaigrette
2 T minced shallot
2 T aged Sherry vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 C Extra virgin olive oil.

Soak the minced shallot in the vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the oil, slowly, until emulsified, season to taste. Toss field greens with just enough vinaigrette so that they glisten. Do not overdress your salad. Generally, people drown their salad in about twice as much dressing as needed. Let the sharpness of the dressing enhance the delicate nature of the lettuce, not completely mask it. Take my advice. I'm always right, aren't I?

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Fall is here and no, I do not want to hear your complaining about how long it has been since I have posted. The Mendon Foodie was very busy this summer planning and executing the Gates Foodette's wedding. (That would be my daughter.) Here is a picture. We didn't cater the wedding, but we did do the cold hors d'oeuvres, with considerable helper from Grandma Foodie. We served: Carpaccio of Beef with fried capers and parsley oil, shrimp cocktail shooters, endive stuffed with salmon spread, crudites with homemade Green Goddess dressing, salumi with assorted olives, some damn fine but very expensive cheese, and a cascade of fruit. You'd have to see it to believe it. It was truly amazing. If you're nice to me I might invite you to wedding hors d' oeuvres reenactment day, which we are planning on having for the Marine foodie, who missed the wedding and is returning home this week from Iraq. Oooh Rah. Leave a comment and I'll consider inviting you. If you promise not to bring any food.

Now that I have made your mouth water with food that nearly impossible for mere mortals to prepare, I will deign to grant you a fabulous recipe that anyone (almost anyone, I have a friend or two who shall remain nameless, L, who would still probably find a way to mess it up.) It is pretty simple and straightforward, yet sophisticated enough to impress all of your guests. It uses the ingredient that I cannot get enough of this time of year: pears.

Caramelized Pear Salad

3 Bartlett pears
3 T sugar
1/4 c butter
4 oz prosciutto
olive oil
butter lettuce
Balsamic glaze (you can buy or make. To make, boil balsamic vinegar until it is thick and syrupy.)
crumbled blue cheese (if you use anything other than Maytag or Point Reyes blue or a similar quality you are a heathen and shouldn't be allowed to cook.)

Peel, core, and cut pears into medium thick slices. Toss them with the sugar. (If you want to slice them ahead of time, drop them into a bowl of water with some lemon juice in it.) Heat a saute pan and melt the butter. Add the pears and cook on one side until they have nicely caramelized. Turn them over and cook the other side, adding more butter if necessary to prevent the sugar from burning. Remove the pears to a plate and let cool slightly. Wrap each slice with prosciutto. Toss lettuce with olive oil to coat and arrange lettuce on individual serving plates. Arrange 4-5 pear slices on top of the lettuce and sprinkle with blue cheese. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and start drooling, cause it is REALLY good.