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#1 zoramargolis

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 02:35 PM

I've been asked to do a week-long blog, in the same vein as the ones on egullet, where I would document my dinner-related activities for a week: shopping, prep, cooking and serving. I've been encouraged to reveal, as the egullet bloggers do, intimate details about my kitchen. Don't worry-- I promise not to provide the same level of intimate details about other aspects of my life, related though they may be in the minds of many! While I am extremely flattered that there is this level of interest in the wherefores and how-to's of my culinary life, the prospect is rather daunting. In case you hadn't noticed, in the years I've been posting on food boards, I haven't included any photos in my posts. That's because I never managed to learn how to use our digital camera, and until this very minute, have had no clue about how to include photos in a post. As experienced as I am at food preparation, I am almost completely clueless about the world of computers, beyond the most basic skills. I can "boil water" on the computer, but that's about it. So I thought I would do a little test run, with a lot of help from more knowledgeable folks in the DR.com community, and my teenage daughter, who knows about digital photography and linking to websites, and finds my doofiness with these sorts of things completely exasperating.

The house we live in originally belonged to Jonathan's grandparents. When his grandmother moved into a retirement community, his parents bought it. The kitchen was very primitive, with crummy metal cabinets, and Jonathan did a complete renovation for his mother. It was the first kitchen he ever built. That was in the early 1970's. When we bought the house in 1996, there was an electric stovetop. I lived with it for a couple of years, until Jonathan got tired of my complaints about it and ran a gas line over and replaced it with this 5 burner Thermador. We're still living with his mom's avocado formica, however.
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I'm a kitchen tool and gadget junkie, but I don't have enough drawer space for everything. I got this thing at Ikea.
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I've got stuff hanging all over the place. These are my All-Clad pots that I use everyday, and my most used appliances: the microwave, the Cuisinart, the Vitamix blender and the espresso machine. I have very little counter space--just the little bit in front of these and about three feet between the sink and the stovetop.
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This was my mother-in-law's broom closet. Jonathan put in some shelves so that I could have more pantry space. The reason it's so neat is that I discovered the remnants of a mouse banquet and had to clean it out and discard lots of chewed open packages. Apparently, mice like Trader Joe's shrink-wrapped gnocchi--who knew?
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This is how I manage all of those gazillion different spices that I can't resist buying at the ethnic markets. No more room, however.
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Just in case you were under the impression that I am neat and well-organized, this'll set you straight.
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Yesterday at the Dupont Market, I bought some little chioggia beets and roasted them, wrapped in foil, then I peeled them and sectioned an orange, and dressed it with some of my homemade Meyer lemon olive oil. I added some goat cheese and we ate it last night. I should have taken a picture of the beets before I roasted them, but I didn't really get started with the camera until after I took them out of the oven.
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This is the maximum number of pictures I can put in a single post, so I will take the rest of what I've written and start a second post, which will be below.

#2 zoramargolis

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 02:36 PM

This morning, instead of discarding some week-old lavender flowers whose stems were starting to get moldy in their vase, I cut off the tops, and will dry them a bit more and save the flowers for culinary purposes. I bought them from an organic farmer at the Dupont Market, so I'm not worried about pesticide residue.
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I'm trimming up some fiddleheads that I got at Trader Joe's. The label said they were from Maine. I learned to love fiddleheads when we lived in Vermont. Jonathan doesn't care for them as much as I do, but once a year, when I can find nice ones. I'll steam them and add a little bit of lemon zest, olive oil and salt. the best way to eat them is with hollandaise, but we can't afford all those calories.
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I've got to do something with all of these berries and cherries today. They've been in the fridge too long. Not sure yet whether I'll make a mixed berry cobbler or some kind of dessert gazpacho, but I can't let them spoil and go to waste.
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I was going to take pictures of my cherry pitter at work, but my daughter has left the house, and I think I need her help again before I feel more sure of what I'm doing. So I'll put this up, and feel free to ask questions or make comments. I'm not sure yet when I'll start the blog for real, and actually go all the way through a complete dinner.

#3 JPW

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 02:41 PM

Superb, Zora!
Looking forward to your journey, especially having to prepare separate things for Veggieteen.

Joe
skewing old


#4 monavano

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 02:43 PM

Oh this is a great idea, and I'm glad you're kicking off the DR food blogs, Zora. I'm sure you'll set the bar high. I have my spices in a drawer as well which necessitated the purchase of a labeler. Also, I see your beloved blender on the counter!
I'm looking forward to you blog and am sure will have lots of questions for you.

#5 brettashley01

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 03:21 PM

Oh awesome Zora! I'm already intrigued by the fiddlehead ferns- they have taunted me at TJ's, but I've been hesistant to buy them as I have no idea what to do with them! What is the propper trimming procedure for these babies?

#6 zoramargolis

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 03:40 PM

Oh awesome Zora! I'm already intrigued by the fiddlehead ferns- they have taunted me at TJ's, but I've been hesistant to buy them as I have no idea what to do with them! What is the propper trimming procedure for these babies?

The stem end, where it's been clipped off, gets blackened and withered. Just trim that part off, and wash them well and steam them until tender. Their taste reminds me of asparagus. I love the idea of eating wild food. It's better when I gather it myself, but the type of fern that produces this tasty, edible fiddlehead doesn't grow this far south. Most ferns aren't edible. When out gathering and you happen to get one that isn't an Ostrich Fern, the powerfully bitter flavor'll knock you on your butt. Ostrich ferns have papery coverings that are usually peeled away when you buy them.

#7 Anna Blume

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 03:44 PM

So, so cool! What a perfect member to begin the tradition, not only because of your wonderful dinner menus that we all view with longing, but because of your dedication to local produce and obvious love of food gathering.

Of course, Zora, you realize, that part of the ritual is that we get to make requests and ask questions.

So, if the weather cools down to something endurable, I would love to know more about your garden if you're willing to show us what you grow yourself. At least I recall you mentioning herbs. If there are any plans for foraging out in the wild, that would be fun to witness, too.

You might consider what advantages you have in writing a local blog on a local message board where your readers are close at hand and/or especially capable of applying shared wisdom to their own culinary lives.

* * *
P.S. The dessert gazpacho sounds intriguing. I've always read about, but never made cherry and other fruit soups. Do you ever make ice cream?

#8 DLB

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 04:18 PM

Will there be pic's of the completed dishes?

#9 squidsdc

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 04:23 PM

Thank you for taking the time to do this, Zora. As a novice, I'm really looking forward to picking up pointers from you!

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"--The Great Oz


#10 zoramargolis

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 04:53 PM

Do you ever make ice cream?

Nope. I took other pictures of my crammed cabinets, but didn't post them. I don't have room for an ice cream maker. I have made granita, and also have used my Vitamix blender to make sorbet with frozen fruit. I suppose I could freeze the cherries and make sorbet, Hmm. Interesting idea. Now, do I have enough room in my freezer?

Will there be pic's of the completed dishes?

That's the plan, in any case. I'll have to exert considerable self discipline in order to take pictures of what I do. This is very new to me!

#11 ferment everything

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 05:05 PM

This is very new to me!

This is very awesome to the rest of us. Seriously, keep it up.
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#12 Barbara

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 05:10 PM

This is very awesome to the rest of us. Seriously, keep it up.

I believe her offer to "adopt" you is still on the table. A wise man knows when to . . . ;)

#13 The Hersch

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 05:31 PM

I'm trimming up some fiddleheads that I got at Trader Joe's.

They have fiddleheads at Trader Joe's??? Maybe if I think no sinful thoughts until tomorrow they'll have some at the West End store when I stop on my way home from work. I love fiddleheads, and don't remember ever seeing any around here.

Looking forward to your blog as it develops.

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#14 Xochitl10

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 06:59 PM

Count me as one of your devoted readers going forward! Your dinners always sound amazing -- it will be great to see them under construction.

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#15 Ilaine

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 07:21 PM

Your batterie de cuisine reminds me of Julia's kitchen as preserved in the basement of the Museum of American History.

BTW, the term "batterie de cuisine" always makes me think of the dinged, dented, and otherwise battered and well-used pots and pans in the aficionado's kitchen.

I'm just here for the chow.


#16 Barbara

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 08:01 PM

Your batterie de cuisine reminds me of Julia's kitchen as preserved in the basement of the Museum of American History.

BTW, the term "batterie de cuisine" always makes me think of the dinged, dented, and otherwise battered and well-used pots and pans in the aficionado's kitchen.

The thing I loved about Julia's kitchen was the OCEAN of counter space. I don't have much more space than Zora, and my feelings upon looking at Julia's kitchen was one of pure envy. Still, we all carry on, don't we? I say this as a real fan of Zora's cooking and postings.

#17 zoramargolis

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 08:50 PM

The thing I loved about Julia's kitchen was the OCEAN of counter space.

For a few years, we lived in a 3,500 square foot loft near the LA airport. It was basically raw space before we moved in, and Jonathan built us a kitchen--nothing elegant, I think we spent $2500. on materials, including appliances. What I did have was a formica-covered counter which was the size of an 8x12 foot sheet of plywood. It had barstools on one side, so people could sit and nibble and chat with me while I cooked, and big drawers and shelves with sliders, and a corner cupboard with lazy susan shelves, so that all my pots and pans and other equipment were easily accessible. I had room for all my appliances to be out--the Kitchenaid, the bread machine. I could easily have had an ice cream maker there. What a luxury counter work space is. Once you've had lots, it's really hard to go back to having very little.

#18 zoramargolis

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 04:14 PM

This'll be test drive #2, as I continue to get the hang of this process. I hope to start the blog officially with a trip to the Dupont Circle Farmers' Market on Sunday, but it'll be a raggedy start-up until then. I'm not cooking dinner tonight, anyway. We're going out to Vidalia, to celebrate our anniversary. We pretty much only go to fine dining places to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and the last time we were at Vidalia was for a birthday lunch years ago, before R.J. was the chef. I do vividly remember the lemon chess pie. And I'm really looking forward to tonight's meal. I have done some food-related things today, however, and since my dinners often involve things I have done in advance and have on hand, I thought I would do a little show and tell.

On Sunday, I bought some beautiful baby pickling cukes at Eli's stand. A lot of them still had flowers on them, that's how young and freshly picked they were. I hadn't planned to make pickles, but there they were--so, carpe cukem, as it were.
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I washed and sterilized a jar by boiling water in it, in the microwave, then put kosher salt, fresh garlic, coriander and mustard seeds, whole allspice, crushed red pepper and bay leaves into the bottom of the jar, and packed in the cukes.
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It's really important to pack them in tightly. I managed to get all but one of them into the jar--how amazing is that? I had some fresh dill in my refrigerator, so after I filled the jar with filtered water, I smooshed a bunch of dill on top.
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Then, I put the lid on tight and rotated the jar to distribute the salt.
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Afterward, I loosened the lid a little, set the jar into a bowl, and put it out in my little unairconditioned back porch on top of my dryer to ferment for a couple of days. If I hadn't loosened the lid, the bubbling CO2 that is part of the fermentation process might cause the jar to explode. Sometimes a bit of the brine exudes out of the top of the jar, which is why it's sitting in a bowl. The catbox is out there, too, next to the dryer. So in a couple of days there's going to be an interesting combination of aromas out there--fermenting dill pickles and cat pee. Sounds like a sauvignon blanc gone very, very wrong ;)

I also made a trip to Costco today, where I bought mozzarella di bufala, a big bag of lemons, some Turkey Flat Rose´and a New Zealand Pinot noir, a sack of Gilroy California garlic and a box of blueberries, along with other household miscellany. AND, two Copper River Sockeye salmon filets for $9.99 a pound. Since I'm not cooking dinner tonight, I decided to make gravlax. First thing is to make the salt and sugar cure mixture in the Cuisinart with kosher salt, brown sugar, coriander seed and pepper.
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And then rinse and dry the filets. My refrigerator is really crowded, so I need to choose a receptacle that'll fit, which will necessitate cutting the filets down to fit it.
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I spread some of the salt-sugar cure mix on the bottom of the dish, laid the filet skin side down, put another layer of the cure mix over the flesh and then added some fresh dill. Then I trimmed the second filet and covered the flesh with cure mix.
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Then the second filet was laid flesh side down, on top of the dill, more cure mix was spread on the skin, and I poured some Aqvavit over it.
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I wrapped the dish with foil, so that if the dish leaks--it's pretty shallow--it won't go all over my fridge. I put another platter on top and weighted the whole thing down with a foil-covered brick.
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I'll take a look at it in 24 hours and see how it's doing. I might try hot-smoking one of the two filets in my stove-top smoker.

Oh, I pitted out the cherries last night. Here's a picture of my cherry pitter in action.
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I pureed and cooked the cherries with sugar, lemon juice and a few drops of almond extract and mixed them with the cooked blueberries and service berries. It's a little too seedy from the service berries, so I'm going to have to strain the seeds out. What I'll do after that is still up in the air: either cherry-berry gazpacho with the chopped-up strawberries, or else it'll get frozen and then made into a sorbet. I don't know how it'll turn out, but that's what's fun and exciting about making it up as you go along. It might be really good, but the potential for dismal failure is there, lurking on the edge of the horizon. :P

#19 squidsdc

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 04:23 PM

quick question--what are service berries? (Oh and Happy Anniversary-- Enjoy your dinner!)

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"--The Great Oz


#20 zoramargolis

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 04:28 PM

quick question--what are service berries?

They look like a large blueberry, but have larger seeds inside. I bought some at the farmers' market a week ago, out of curiosity. It's a wild berry I thought only grew in Alaska, and hadn't ever tasted. Turns out there is a Virginia serviceberry, too. I never got around to doing anything with them and didn't want them to spoil.

#21 laniloa

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 05:10 PM

I had room for all my appliances to be out--the Kitchenaid, the bread machine. I could easily have had an ice cream maker there. What a luxury counter work space is. Once you've had lots, it's really hard to go back to having very little.

I'm terrified that the gobs of space in my current kitchen is going to be a major problem when I move. Between the accrued gadgets, appliances, and pots and getting very used to counter space, anything else will be heartbreaking. That is unless I have a decent oven and range to compensate!

Thanks for sharing this with us.

#22 Barbara

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 09:13 PM

How interesting that you are going to Vidalia tonight. We went in May for our combination birthday/anniversary dinner. I thought that getting married on my birthday would mean that Dame Edna would have one less date to remember. NAH! ;) I have to remind him and get to pick the restaurant my own self. :P :) :(

BTW: this coincided with one of Jparrotts wine tastings. We had some lovely wine--gratis--and a lovely meal. Enjoy!

#23 zoramargolis

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Posted 21 June 2007 - 06:22 PM

When I checked the cured salmon filets at a little before noon today, they were looking ready. The combination of salt and pressure really drives the fluid out of the cells, and prolonged curing would only make the texture dry and leathery. It's really silky, with a mild flavor.
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I offered some to Veggie-teen for brunch. She's out of school for the summer now, and as teenagers are wont to do, she's been sleeping until noon. I sliced some off of one of the filets and gave them to her on toasted baguette with cream cheese. I got a thumbs up.
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I decided to hot smoke the second filet. I'm using cherry wood chips--actually more like sawdust. It came with the smoker.
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My smoker leaks a little, so I used the brick to weight down the cover and contain the smoke.
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This is what it looks like after about 25 minutes at low-moderate heat.
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The texture is completely different than the cured gravlax, once it has been cooked. The smoke flavor is really delicious.

I pureed and strained the berry mixture, and added lemon juice, chopped fresh mint and the macerated strawberries after I chopped them up. We all had some chilled cherry-berry gazpacho.
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Veggie-teen and I thought it was really tasty. Jonathan was lukewarm. So I put the rest into two plastic containers, about an inch deep in each, and put them in the freezer. Next step will be sorbet.

I took some of the two different cured wild Alaska salmon preparations over to a friend's house this afternoon, and we enjoyed them together with some creme fraiche on baguette slices and a bottle of wine. She told me that it made her very happy. I love being able to share my love of good food with friends, especially when I also make them happy in the process.

I got a striata at Marvelous Market and am planning to make sausage and pepper sandwiches with mozzarella di bufala tonight. I got the sausage from Bev Eggleston at the Dupont Market on Sunday. I thought Veggie-teen would be here--I was planning to make her sandwich with portobello mushroom and peppers. Sometimes I give her tofu and peppers. Although she is starting to eat a little bit of meat again (yay!), she draws the line at pork. According to her, pigs are too intelligent and cute, so she can't bring herself to eat them, even if they have had a happy life and a humane death. But, she decided to go hang out with a friend instead of having dinner with her boring old parents. Now that she has a driver's license and a car to drive, she is really enjoying her new level of independence. She knows she's going to be missing out on a good meal, but at her age hanging out with peers easily trumps dinner with Mom and Dad. That's okay. It's all good.

#24 Barbara

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Posted 21 June 2007 - 07:46 PM

Zora, I have the same Cameron stove-top smoker that you do. Mine leaks smoke, too; however, I wrap the top in aluminum foil. Dame Edna and I had to laugh at your foil-wrapped brick. Different strokes . . .

#25 zoramargolis

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Posted 21 June 2007 - 08:48 PM

Whatever works. Still getting the hang of taking pictures while I cook. Sausage and pepper sandwiches isn't usually a meal I would post about--and here you were thinking we eat complicated three-course meals every night. Not. My instructions about the blog were to include it all--even fast food burgers, if that's what we eat, So, sausage and pepper sandwiches are an occasional quicky dinner, worthy of "Thirty Minute Meals"--in that case, I suppose I should call them "sammies"... I make up for their mundaneness by using excellent ingredients: peppers, onion, garlic and olive oil
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Local, sustainable pork sausage from the farmers' market.
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Good crusty bread, buffalo mozzarella, reggiano parmesan and fresh basil.
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So, what's not to like? Oh, my pickles are starting to ferment. See the bubbles? There's about 1/4 cup of brine that's leaked out of the jar, in the bottom of the bowl.
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#26 zoramargolis

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Posted 24 June 2007 - 10:20 PM

I try to be at the Dupont Circle farmers' market before the bell rings every Sunday. I joke about it, saying that I'm getting my spiritual needs met at "Our Lady of the Farmers' Market"--but there is a grain of truth there. I am always happy to be there, and feel good having been a part of the weekly gathering of the faithful foodivores, locavores, organiphiles and flower people. And the farmers, of course.

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I have the makings of a number of really good meals. I was especially pleased to find chanterelles at a merely exorbitant price, not the astronomical one I usually encounter. Another special find was black raspberries. I'm thinking about using them in pancakes or scones. I bought a fresh chicken at Cibola, and some fresh bone-in pork chops. And two quarts of sour cherries, for a pie.
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I also got lettuce, basil, chard, sugar snap peas and a loaf of pumpernickel raisin bread.

Those chanterelles were calling to me, so I decided to feature them in a pasta dish with homemade ravioli. I bought organic whole milk at the Takoma Park Co-op and cream from Trader Joe's to make homemade ricotta, and dimsum wrappers from the Safeway to make the ravioli. If I'm going to make cherry pie, I can't make homemade pasta, too. The ricotta is really simple: a quart of milk, a cup of cream and a teaspoon of salt. Have a muslin lined colander set into a bowl.
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Bring it to a boil and add two tablespoons of white vinegar and after letting it sit for one minute, stir for one minute, and the curds begin to separate from the whey.
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Then drain the curds in the colander. I like to hang it for twenty minutes, to expedite the process.
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In no time at all, you've got fresh cheese.
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For the ravioli filling, I used the ricotta, some mozzarella di bufala, a little roasted garlic, some porcini powder and reggiano parmesan.
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I've run out of room. The post will continue below.

#27 zoramargolis

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Posted 24 June 2007 - 10:40 PM

:P ;) I had almost completely finished the next installment -- made the cherry pie, the ravioli and the sauce, the finished dish. I was posting the last picture, and something went horribly wrong, and it all disappeared. I'll be able to reconstruct it, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow morning.

#28 legant

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 07:09 AM

OMG! You make your own ricotta!!!

I bought organic whole milk at the Takoma Park Co-op and cream from Trader Joe's to make homemade ricotta, and dimsum wrappers from the Safeway to make the ravioli.

That answers my next question... ;)

If I'm going to make cherry pie, I can't make homemade pasta, too.

I'm still stuck on the ricotta: the process sounds similar to homemade paneer... which I still haven't made... except for the addition of the cream. Can any acid be substituted? Vinegar for lemon juice? How long does it keep?

#29 Pat

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 07:42 AM

OMG! You make your own ricotta!!!

There's a discussion of it in this thread.

#30 zoramargolis

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 09:00 AM

Okay, I've had a night's sleep and a cup of coffee, so I'm ready to try this again.

It’s really easy to make ravioli using dim sum wrappers, either the small or larger size. The larger size eggroll wrappers were all I could find today. Each wrapper makes two ravioli. First you brush on beaten egg—that’s the glue that’ll hold it together.
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Then you spoon on the filling, fold it over, press the seams tight, and cut it in two.
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The ravioli need to dry for a while, so they don’t come apart in the pot.
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I made pie crust from the Mark Bittman How To Cook Everything flaky piecrust recipe. I use the Cuisinart to mix the flour, sugar and salt and cut in the butter. Then I dump it into a bowl and stir in the water with a spoon. I’ve found that if I do the whole process in the Cuisinart, the pastry is tough. Which is too bad, because it’s a lot more quick and convenient to do the whole process in the Cuisinart. But pie crust has been a source of discontent in my marriage—pie is sacred food to the Pennsylvania Dutch. While I am a much better cook than my mother-in-law, her pie-making ability was always held up as an Everest summit I would never attain. With Mark Bittman as my Sherpa, however, I’ve recently established a base camp, and am gearing up for the final assault on our own little world’s highest peak. While the pie crust was chilling, I pitted out all the cherries, chopped them up a little, and macerated them with sugar, a little almond extract and tapioca starch.
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Since I have little counter space, I set up a board on the dining room table, rolled out the bottom crust and fitted it into a deep dish pie pan, and put that in the refrigerator to chill. Then I rolled out the pie dough for the lattice top crust and cut it into strips.
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This weekend, we’ve been dogsitting for a friend’s two dogs, one of which is an adorable 7 month-old Australian Shepherd puppy. While I was retrieving the pie pan from the refrigerator and filling it with the macerated cherries, the sneaky pup put her front paws up on the table and managed to scarf down half of my lattice dough strips before I caught her. :P So my lattice crust was minus a bunch of the strips that I had planned. ;) I re-rolled the scraps, assembled it as best I could and put it into the oven while I finished the ravioli. It came out after not quite an hour looking good enough to eat.Posted Image

#31 zoramargolis

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 09:01 AM

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The chanterelles are beauties, very fresh and fragrant.Posted Image
I sliced and sautéed them in olive oil and butter, with chopped shallot and sliced summer squash.
Posted Image I added white wine and cream, some fresh sage and reduced it for a while. Then I stirred in grated reggiano parmesan, and topped the finished dish with chiffonaded basil. The pasta was tender, the ricotta filling was fresh and sweet, and the sauce was decadently delicious.
Posted Image
Since there was no meat in the dish, it wasn’t necessary to make a different entrée for Veggie-teen. Chanterelles, like porcini and portobellos, are “meaty” mushrooms. Something like a veal meatball might have been really good with this, but we were happy with it just as it was.

We had salad with Meyer lemon vinaigrette Posted Image
and 2005 Pascal Jolibet Pouilly Fume´, which was fresh and crisp and had enough acidity to cut through the rich parmesan cream.
Posted Image
We were all pretty full, and the pie needed time to cool, so we had cherry pie at about midnight.
Posted Image

#32 zoramargolis

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 09:25 AM

I'm still stuck on the ricotta: the process sounds similar to homemade paneer... which I still haven't made... except for the addition of the cream. Can any acid be substituted? Vinegar for lemon juice? How long does it keep?

Lemon juice can be a gentler and less predictable acid than white vinegar. There is such a thing as lemon cheese, however. If I wanted the ricotta to have a lemony tang, I think I would add grated lemon peel afterward. I haven't tried making paneer, but I suspect that the process is similar, with the additional step of forming and pressing the curds. Commercial ricotta has an enzyme added to it that maintains the freshness for a long time. I imagine that home made ricotta will keep in the fridge for several days, but the purists say that it should be consumed the day it's made. The whole process takes less than half an hour.

#33 Drive-by Critic

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 10:55 AM

Questions:

1. As you are buying key ingredients, say at the Farmer's Market, that are more-or-less spontaneous (yes, you know what will be in season, but not if they will for sure be available on a given day, or if available, that the quality will be suitable), how do you then know if you've got everything else you'll need to fix whatever dish you have in mind? I always end up having to run out again to buy one or two things that I thought I had in the house (or didn't even know I needed - this being far more common, since I don't have the basic ingredients of most dishes in my head).

2. Is the timing just a matter of practice? That's always so baffling to me - how to get everything to come out at the same time. Some aspects are obvious - such as doing all the chopping, slicing, dicing, separating, bringing-to-room-temp kind of thing.

Maybe the PA Dutch pie crust was so good because they used lard rather than butter?

I think we need a ZoraCam!

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#34 Anna Blume

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 11:53 AM

Will you look at that mound of green beans in the photo of Spring Valley Farm's early morning set-up?!

Thank you for including shots of the farmers market. I wonder if Costco allows photography--for the sake of equal representation of all your sources of food.

As for the cooking demos, I must say you're inspirational. I've always heard that making ricotta is an easy process, but never tried it myself. I tend to buy a French feta made from sheep's milk to stand in for sheep's milk ricotta, but it might be interesting to try to make some from scratch (ewe's milk at WFM? ;) ) even if the cream would have to come from cows.

Ditto re the finished dishes. The chanterelles are exquisite as is the pie. So glad the puppy only got dough scraps!

#35 TinDC

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 12:19 PM

Zora- You have inspired me to make homemade ravioli using egg roll ( ;) ) wrappers. After they dry a bit, do you boil them in water as you would any ravioli? How long do they take to cook?

#36 DonRocks

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 12:21 PM

Zora- You have inspired me to make homemade ravioli using wonton wrappers.

As opposed to wanton rappers.

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#37 zoramargolis

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 12:53 PM

1. As you are buying key ingredients, say at the Farmer's Market, that are more-or-less spontaneous (yes, you know what will be in season, but not if they will for sure be available on a given day, or if available, that the quality will be suitable), how do you then know if you've got everything else you'll need to fix whatever dish you have in mind? I always end up having to run out again to buy one or two things that I thought I had in the house (or didn't even know I needed - this being far more common, since I don't have the basic ingredients of most dishes in my head).

2. Is the timing just a matter of practice? That's always so baffling to me - how to get everything to come out at the same time. Some aspects are obvious - such as doing all the chopping, slicing, dicing, separating, bringing-to-room-temp kind of thing.

Maybe the PA Dutch pie crust was so good because they used lard rather than butter?

I usually have an idea about what to buy based both on what is in season, and what my family's likes and dislikes are. I see lots of things at the farmers' market that I would love to cook and eat, but I don't bother because I'm the only one who likes it. Nothing worse than having expressions of dismay as the response to my telling them what's for dinner. And I think about what I cooked last week--Heinz was selling cardoons again, but I cooked thm last week, and I knew that cardoons two weeks in a row was not going to be a good move, even if I prepared them differently. Still just a little bit too exotic. So I know my customers, is part of the answer.

I have a pretty well stocked pantry and refrigerator. But I often run to the store or make special trips for ingredients I need.

Timing is a matter of experience. Things that take a lot of time get started first. Things that can hold for a while, like salad, get made next. Last minute preparation happens after the call to the table goes out, and while they're finishing the chapter, finishing the e-mail, going to the bathroom, etc. I love it when someone dawdles about coming to the table, then complains that the food's not hot enough...

My mother-in-law probably used Crisco or margarine for her crusts. Maybe butter. Definitely not lard.

Zora- You have inspired me to make homemade ravioli using egg roll ( ;) ) wrappers. After they dry a bit, do you boil them in water as you would any ravioli? How long do they take to cook?

Yes. Boil in a large amount of salted water, so they don't get all glommed together. They take a little bit more time than fresh pasta noodles, because the ravioli are a double thickness of pasta. But, five, six minutes max. And remove from the water carefully, because they are fairly delicate.

#38 zoramargolis

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 01:08 PM

I've always heard that making ricotta is an easy process, but never tried it myself. I tend to buy a French feta made from sheep's milk to stand in for sheep's milk ricotta, but it might be interesting to try to make some from scratch (ewe's milk at WFM? ;) ) even if the cream would have to come from cows.

Wow, I would love to find a source of sheep's milk. I have made ricotta from goat milk, and it's really good-- some Whole Foods branches (P Street and Tenley) carry goat milk that has not been ultra pasteurized, which is what you want for cheesemaking. Also, I just discovered really nice goat milk from Vermont at Halalco in Falls Church.

#39 zoramargolis

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 09:43 PM

The first culinary activity of the day, after breakfast (triple cappuccino and a piece of cherry pie) was making a batch of herb brine for the pork chops and the chicken. Posted Image
The ratio of salt-sugar-water is 1/3 cup each of kosher salt and turbinado sugar to six cups of water, I simmered the brine with a shallot, a piece of celery with leaves, a sliced carrot, Italian parsley, sprigs of thyme, tarragon, fresh bay leaves and a teaspoon of dried lavender flowers. After about 10 minutes, I turned off the flame and let it steep and cool for a couple of hours. Then I strained it and poured it over the pork chops and the chicken, which had been removed from their packages, rinsed and put into zip-lock bags.
Posted Image
These went into the fridge. The pork chops are thin, and they’ll be adequately brined after a couple of hours. The chicken will stay in the brine solution for 24 hours, then air-dry in the refrigerator. How long it’ll dry will depend on whether I decide to cook it tomorrow or wait for a day or even two. I’m going with the pork chops tonight, though.

I made a trip to Balducci’s on New Mexico Ave. this afternoon to look for copies of the July issue of Washingtonian. I’d already bought four copies at the local Safeway, and didn’t want to buy all their copies. Why buy so many, you wonder? There’s a feature article about my +1, starting on pg. 54, with a full-page picture. I need to send copies to all of the relatives. While I was there, I saw some Mission figs and some fragrant apricots, both from California. Not local, I know. But they didn’t have any quinces, and I wanted to make a sweet-sour compote for the pork. Apricot and fig’ll probably be very tasty. I stopped by Ace Beverage while I was in the ‘hood and said hello to Joe Riley. While I was there, I picked up a couple of bottles of rose´.

Back at home, I started cooking the sugar snap peas for chilled pea soup, which is going to be our first course today. I sautéed some leek and onion, then added the peapods, some white wine and some frozen homemade chicken stock and water.
Posted Image
I blanched and peeled the little onions I got from Heinz, and while I was at it, shucked and blanched the fava beans for tomorrow. The apricots and figs went into a casserole with Meyer lemon oil and honey drizzled over them and a little Moscato vinegar and lemon zest sprinkled on. Posted Image
These went into a fairly hot oven with the onions, which were roasted with some olive oil and salt. After twenty minutes or so, I drizzled some balsamic vinegar on the onions and also on the apricots and figs, and left both casseroles in the oven for another ten minutes or so.

The pea soup was ready to be pureed, so it all went into the Vitamix blender with a heaping tablespoon of crème fraiche, some salt and white pepper. Posted ImageIt was still really hot, and I wanted to serve it cold. I was thinking about how I was going to chill the soup in short order, when I had an idea, which turned out to be brilliant. While the hot soup was still in the blender, I added some frozen peas, and blended on high. This blender has a motor strong enough to run a table saw, so a half cup or so of frozen peas was not at all difficult for it to handle. After it was pureed on high for a while, I sieved it to get out any stringy pulp, and put it into the refrigerator. It was still kind of a tepid temperature, so I put a small zip-lock bag full of ice cubes right into the soup, to cool it more without watering it down.
I started the swiss chard and the new potatoes.
Posted Image
The roasted onions came out of the oven.
Posted Image
So did the apricot-fig compote
Posted Image

Continued below...

#40 zoramargolis

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 09:44 PM

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I went out to the herb patch to pick some marjoram, thyme and rosemary for the pork chops, and some mint for the pea soup, and I was about ready to pan-sear the pork chops. The call went out to Veggie-teen to set the table, and a heads-up to Jonathan out in his studio. And I chose some wine for the main course. The first bottle I opened, a gamay I got at Arrowine had no nose and no flavor. Bleh. I bought it on their recommendation, and I might take it back. Even with a little air, there was no there there. I opened a 2003 DuBouef Julienas Cuvee Prestige instead. Better. I like Beaujolais or pinot noir with pork. Posted Image
I had an open bottle of Turkey Flat rose´ in the fridge, and had a glass while I was cooking. I decided that would be fine with the chilled pea soup with mint.
Posted Image The soup was a big hit. The frozen peas added an extra dimension of pea flavor. Seconds were requested.
Veggie-teen got some sliced mozzarella di bufala in lieu of a pork chop, with the sautéed chard, roasted balsamic onions, new potatoes with roasted garlic, and apricot-fig compote.Posted Image

The pork chops got a little splash of dry Marsala to deglaze the pan, and a drizzle of fresh chopped herbs. The herb brine gave the pork an extra dimension of flavor, and they might have been dry without it. Posted ImageThe Julienas was a good choice, medium bodied but with a lot of fruit and acidity. It balanced the pork, herb and fruit flavors on the plate. A cotes du rhone would have worked, too.

We were all too full for dessert. But in case anyone wants some later, there’s cherry pie left over from last night,

#41 Ferhat Yalcin

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 06:04 AM

Educational and entertaining. Thank you Zora for doing such a thing for us. Im a fan.

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#42 thistle

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 02:05 PM

Zora, this blog is great-everything looks so delicious! & don't you hate it when you type it all out, insert pictures, think you've posted it & it disappears into the ether? I love the pickles, I've just started to harvest some cukes off 2 of my plants, but we love to eat them fresh, in a 'quick pickle' of rice vinegar & salt (the smallest one will not allow pepper, can even spot white pepper), I don't think I'll ever have enough for pickles.

I know this is a food blog, but what are you reading & viewing these days? I've just started watching Top Chef, Hell's Kitchen, & the Next Food Network Star on tv (now that the children have ceded 1 tv to me) & I'm already hooked, although they are all bad in their own way. After watching HK last night, I ran out to the library to pick up Gordon Ramsay's bio & although it said, 'on shelf', it was nowhere to be found (almost as irritating as losing your post online). Now that I'm not working my p/t job during the summer, I'm rereading old cookbooks & working in the yard. Looking forward to your next installment...Thistle

#43 zoramargolis

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 10:23 PM

After reading about garlic scapes here this morning, I went looking in my vegetable drawer, to see if my memory was accurate. Yep. I had a sackful. While I was rifling through the packed drawer, I unearthed a bag of tomatillos, beautiful ones, still in good shape. I only vaguely remember buying them—I think I got them at H Mart close to two weeks ago. But, realizing that they wouldn’t be in such good shape for very much longer, I decided to make Mexican food tonight, so I could use them. That happens to me a lot—my decisions about what to cook for dinner are driven by what I need to use up before it spoils. That’s because I tend to shop without a plan. I often buy things that look good, fresh, or are unusual, with the intention of finding a way to use them, rather than deciding on a recipe I want to make, and then shopping for the ingredients for that dish. Sadly, there are vegetables, and sometimes dairy products that spoil before I get around to making something with them, or using them up. I feel a little bit guilty throwing food away, but it hasn’t made me change my behavior :P

I made a trip to Costco this morning, to get a new kitchen faucet filter to replace the one that broke yesterday. And I forgot to take the camera with me ;). While I was there, I picked up a Copper River Chinook salmon filet and a container of mozzarella di bufala, and a bottle of Feudi di San Gregorio falanghina. Salmon isn’t my first thought for a Mexican meal, but I decided that grilled wild salmon tacos with roasted tomatillo salsa sounded like a good meal for a hot night. I also picked up a four-pack of rib eye steaks. As hard as I’ve tried, I can’t convince Jonathan of the deliciousness of grass-fed beef. He likes the flavor of corn-fed meat. We share a steak about once every ten days, and I try to eat locally raised meat and sustainable seafood, as much as possible the rest of the time.

I dropped in at Arrowine in Arlington on my way home—Doug Rosen very graciously took back the bottle of gamay that one of his salespeople had recommended, but that I found very disappointing yesterday. And he gave me a Beaujolais (2005 Jacques Charmetant) that he thought I would like better—an even swap, even though the replacement bottle was $3 more than the one I was returning. A very classy thing to do. I don’t buy that much wine there, but I felt like a valued customer, which makes me want to give him more of my business. They have a really good cheese shop, too. I bought a piece of Cashel Blue, a mild creamy Irish blue that’s just about my favorite blue cheese.

When I got home, I started a pot of beans by sauté-ing an onion in homemade lard. As long as the meaty flavor isn’t too overwhelming, Veggie-teen will tolerate beans made with lard, or soups made with chicken stock. If I were living with a doctrinaire vegetarian, I think I’d shoot myself.
Posted Image
The tomatillos went onto a baking tray, along with onion, jalapenos, garlic cloves and garlic scapes. I drizzled them with olive oil and put them in a 425 degree oven to roast, for fifteen or twenty minutes. Here’s the before and after.
Posted Image

Posted Image
I have a sack of charcoal-roasted poblanos in the freezer, so I pulled one out to add to the mix, seeded the chiles and tossed all the veg into the blender with cilantro, salt and lime juice. I tasted it, and thought it was a little too sharp and sour—too many high notes, so I blended in a couple Ts of honey, to give the flavor some balance on the bottom. Much better. You don’t really taste that there’s honey in it. It just tastes balanced. I learned that from watching Bobby Flay—he uses honey a lot.
This is what the salsa looked like when it was finished.
Posted Image
On the spur of the moment, I invited a friend of Veggie-teen’s and the girl’s parents to stay for dinner. We had Boodles G&Ts, and I made some guacamolePosted Image
which we had with chips Posted Image
while I pureed the beans
Posted Image
made some yellow rice and salad and grilled the salmon. I used Moctec tortillas that I got at the Takoma Park Co-op, which are made from scratch and are very authentic-tasting.
Posted Image
We had a bottle of muscadet with the food. And grilled peaches with lime juice for dessert.
Posted Image

#44 DonRocks

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 10:59 PM

While I was rifling through the packed drawer, I unearthed a bag of tomatillos, beautiful ones, still in good shape. I only vaguely remember buying them—I think I got them at H Mart close to two weeks ago.

To put this in perspective, I can probably remember every grocery-store trip I've made in the past five years, but if you ask me to name the restaurants where I've dined in the past week, I'm like, Ummm ... ummm ... ummm ....

I dropped in at Arrowine in Arlington on my way home

I was there tonight also ;)

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#45 eating out

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 09:20 AM

Zora - this blog is delicious and inspiring. I'm a total newbie to cooking, but want to get going - still need to get one good pot, one good pan, a good knife, and a stable of good and easy recipes. I'm wondering how you came to be such a fabulous cook, with such a voluminous catalogue of recipes in your head? Any recommendations for someone just starting out? Thanks so much for taking the time to share your meals with us!
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#46 zoramargolis

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 11:47 AM

Zora - this blog is delicious and inspiring. I'm a total newbie to cooking, but want to get going - still need to get one good pot, one good pan, a good knife, and a stable of good and easy recipes. I'm wondering how you came to be such a fabulous cook, with such a voluminous catalogue of recipes in your head? Any recommendations for someone just starting out? Thanks so much for taking the time to share your meals with us!

I grew up in a family that appreciated food. My mother was a good cook, and we went out frequently to ethnic restaurants. But I didn't do any cooking at all until I left home and was on my own. It was partly out of necessity--I couldn't afford to eat out very often, and I also didn't want to eat convenience or frozen foods, which were also expensive and tasted crappy to me. I knew what good food was supposed to taste like, even if I didn't know how to cook it. And also, I enjoyed entertaining my friends, who were all "starving" young actors, like me. I started simply with a couple of basic pasta dishes, and "hamburger helper" -type dishes. My mother gave me a few of her recipes. I bought a couple of cookbooks--_Joy of Cooking_ was my mainstay. I made lots of mistakes and learned from them. If there had been a Food Network and the plethora of cooking classes available now back when I was first on my own, I would have had a much easier time learning to cook. I was a Julia Child fan, and I watched her show and sometimes wrote down recipes as she made them, and tried to re-create them. As many aspiring actors do, I worked as a waitress, and I hung around in the kitchen some, watching the chefs and tasting what they cooked.

By the time I met Jonathan, I was already a pretty good, if limited, cook. He was living on Mrs. Paul's frozen fried clams and Bird's Eye frozen chocolate pudding, so when I invited him to "C'monna my house" for dinner, et al, he was very agreeable. Having an enthusiastic consumer of my culinary efforts had a lot to do with my development as a cook. He had grown up in a family that was very conservative, food-wise. I was eager to introduce him to some of the ethnic cuisines that I appreciated. This led me to try cooking Indian and Chinese and Mexican dishes, along with French and Italian food and the Jewish-American comfort food I grew up eating. When we moved to Vermont together, I started organic vegetable gardening. I worked for a summer as a waitress in a fine dining French restaurant, tasted more good food. I met people who were into wild food-gathering, who had monthly potluck dinners. I worked as a cook in a health food restaurant. A fellow cook and I started a catering business--we did some small weddings, social club lunches and receptions. When she got a job as Executive Chef at a "continental" restaurant, she brought me in to be a prep and dessert cook during the day and a waitress at night. We lived for a couple of years in a group house with three other people, where we shared meals and chores. My job, one summer, was growing a big vegetable garden and putting food by for all of us--my first experiences with canning, freezing, pickling and preserve-making. The other woman who lived in the house, Nancy, was a very good cook, who'd grown up in an Italian family. We had a wonderful tradition of "Sunday dinnah" -- an elaborate meal that she and I prepared, with some help from the guys, which we served at two in the afternoon. Friends were often invited. After "dinnah," in the summer and fall we'd play volleyball or badminton, and in the winter, we'd go cross-country skiing or sit around the woodstove playing pinochle or backgammon. These were idyllic times, and food was always the centerpiece. (A couple of years after Jonathan and I moved to California, Nancy started catering, and had quite a thriving and highly regarded business for ten years. Then she got tired and sold it to one of her employees.)

Soon after we moved to Los Angeles, in 1978, I signed up for the first series of cooking classes at a new cooking school called Ma Cuisine, that had been started by the owner of the trendiest restaurant in L.A. at the time, Ma Maison. There were two classes, about ten weeks each. I took them both. The cooking class was taught by the young head chef at Ma Maison at the time--Wolfgang Puck, who was then in his late-twenties (as was I). Mark Peel, now the owner of Campanile--married to Nancy Silverton who started La Brea Bakery--was Wolfgang's commis during the class. He was 18 or 19. The other class I took was a pastry class, taught by the owner of a French bakery in nearby Beverly Hills--Michel Richard. They are both huge celebrities now, but at the time, they were just talented, hard-working chefs. Both were very good teachers. I learned a tremendous amount from them. My skills increased enormously. I can't emphasize too much the value of taking cooking classes from good cooks who are also good teachers. I cook all the time, almost every day since I was in my late teens. Do it. Make simple things at first, learn basic skills, and then build on them--tackling really complicated dishes before you understand basic principles will leave you feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. Don't worry about screwing up--it's inevitable. It doesn't matter. You do it better next time. That's all. Gotta go now. ;-D

#47 zoramargolis

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 12:49 PM

do you start your beans from dried beans to make refried beans or are those pre-made (either from dried or can)?


I got that query as a PM, but I think it's a good question that deserves a public reply. Those were dried pinto beans that had not been pre-soaked. Since I had decided to cook a Mexican meal just yesterday morning, I didn't have an opportunity to do an overnight soak. I usually only do that for dried garbanzos, which literally take forever to cook if they haven't been pre-soaked. I did start the pintos in the early afternoon, and let them cook on low heat for several hours--adding water periodically as it reduced down. If I were in a hurry, I do have a pressure cooker I could use. But it's way in the back of a cabinet above the oven, and a major hassle to retrieve. For last minute meals or impulse burritos, I try to have canned La Costeña brand refried beans in the pantry. I think they are very authentic-tasting, and I don't hesitate to use them if I don't have time to cook dried pintos from scratch. IMO, the use of dehydrated, packaged "refried" beans that you just add water to can only be justified if you are going backpacking. Its only redeeming quality is that it doesn't weigh much--that stuff is nasty.

#48 eating out

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 02:54 PM

I couldn't afford to eat out very often, and I also didn't want to eat convenience or frozen foods, which were also expensive and tasted crappy to me. I knew what good food was supposed to taste like, even if I didn't know how to cook it.

That's what I'm dealing with, and why I'm ready to get started. Thanks again for sharing - you've led an amazing culinary life!
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#49 lackadaisi

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 03:27 PM

To echo what others have already said, this is a great blog! Thank you for taking the time and effort to let us all learn from you and live vicariously through your amazing endeavors.

"Well, it's business drunk. It's like rich drunk, either way it's legal to drive."-Jack Donaghy


#50 zoramargolis

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 11:03 PM

The chicken has been out of the brine, drying in the fridge for 24 hours.
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My plan is to either roast or grill it in the Weber kettle tonight, and surround it with some Middle Eastern-inspired side dishes. I’ll do a grilled, stuffed Portobello for Veggie-teen.

V-t and I were out in Rockville, getting haircuts, and ran in to Trader Joe’s to get milk. I spotted goat milk yogurt, which I hadn’t seen at TJ’s before. I like Greek-style, thick yogurt—also known as labneh—and this stuff is pretty watery. So I’m draining it in a muslin cheesecloth-lined colander overnight in the fridge, and tomorrow it’ll be nice and thick.
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I like to do repetitive tasks like pitting cherries and peeling favas, in front of the t.v. Heinz’s favas were expensive and I didn’t buy that many. I shucked and cooked them the other night, so it didn’t take very long. I mixed them with olive oil, roasted garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt.
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The carrots were peeled, chopped and boiled and then mashed, for spiced carrot puree with dukkah, The carrot mash was mixed with olive oil, wine vinegar, cumin, ginger, salt and harissa. I had some dukkah left over from the last time I made this dish. It’s a nut-seed-spice mix, made with toasted almonds, sesame seeds and coconut and Middle East five spice. The carrot puree is spread on a slice of baguette and the dukkah is sprinkled on top. It’s really exotic tasting and has big flavor. I made a watermelon and feta cheese salad with fresh mint Posted Imagecucumber in yogurt with sweet onion, tabbouleh with pine nuts, basil and mint. And olives and hot peppers.

I oiled the chicken and dredged it in some spice rub I make with Spanish paprika, cumin, oregano, ancho chile powder, salt and pepper. I use it on steak, too. I sprinkled some of the spice rub inside a Portobello, and then stuffed it with mozzarella and sun-dried tomato.Posted Image
About five or six minutes before the chicken was ready to come off the grill, the stuffed Portobello went on. I split the chicken and grilled it, because my timing wasn’t quite right to roast it. I put everything out on the table at once, so we could graze.
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This was a tasty plate of food with big flavors, different temperatures and textures, if I do say so myself. With it, we drank a bottle of falanghina, a crisp, refreshing Italian white.
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