Monthly Archives: October 2003

NaNoWriMo

What a weekend!

We had a busy Saturday. The kids’ soccer team kept up its string of games without loss. We had a fancy dinner cooked by a chef who is thinking about writing a cookbook and is trying out ideas on our friends and we got to go eat as well. It was very good – two kinds of stuffed pimento peppers – one with goat cheese, anchovies and other things, the other with rice and pinenuts and currants and so forth. Then we had a wild mushroom lasagne with a wonderful bechamel sauce and a homemade tomato sauce on top. It was fantastic. The essence of porcini oozed from every bite.

Main course was a grilled pork loin that had been stuffed and rolled with pancetta, garlic and herbs, served with a dish of roasted butternut squash and green beans and homemade french bread.

But even before that we also went to the NaNoWriMo East Bay kickoff party where we met about 30 other co-novel writers and got encouragement for our efforts.

Sunday was quieter except that we had a pile of pre-teens over in the afternoon. They headed down to the creekbank while I made

Mango Cream Pie

This wasn’t a total success, but here goes. I made a crust out of 11 graham crackers crushed up with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and five tablespoons of melted butter. I mashed it down to coat the bottom and edges of a pie tin. (Tip – make it go higher than you really want – it shrinks) and baked it in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.

While that was going, I blended together (with a spoon) 4oz of creme fraiche, half a tin (12 oz) of mango pulp, 4 oz of mascarpone, about two tablespoons of ground cardamom and about two tablespoons of lemon zest. Then I whisked three eggs and a quarter cup of cornstarch together, put it on the heat and slowly added in the mango mixture, whisking constantly. I kept that up until a little before it would have boiled, just as it started to seriously thicken. Then I let it cool for about ten minutes while the pie crusts cooled and poured it on in and stuck it in the fridge. Then I shaved a bunch of strips of lemon zest over it before serving. It was seriously good, but I have to warn you that the quantities for the filling aren’t quite right. I inadvertently went too far with the cornstarch and then added more mango to thin it out at the end.

Building materials

Youch! Maybe I should have been a contractor. After all, I DO tend to be sloppy, slow to finish and think I can do just about anything. Anyway, I am putting up new fencing all around our house and today I went and dropped a bundle on grapestakes, fence posts, rails, etc. I couldn’t believe how much it was and that was with me shaving over $1000 off of the anticipated materials cost.

Tonight I get to put together the simple, delicious and straightforward tomato, basil and mozzarella salad. All ingredients are available at Trader Joe’s.

Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Salad

Get a bowl. Slice 8oz of fresh bocconcini mozzarella into a bowl. Slice a pound of fresh tomatoes in. Tear up about half a bunch of basil leaves into small pieces and toss them in. Pour on two tablespoons of virgin olive oil. Pour on two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Toss it all together. Enjoy!

Pork chops, novels and automobiles

It’s been a strange week. I’ve been negotiating about the value of my now-totaled Camry. It’s still drivable, but since you can’t open the rear passenger doors any more and you can’t close the trunk anymore, there is clearly a lot wrong with it. Perhaps not the $6000 the bodyshop quoted to fix it, but that was enough to make the insurance company write it off.

Now they want to give me $2200. I can’t get a Camry for less than $2900 no matter how I look…

That’s the automobiles part. The novel part is more interesting. I’m going to try taking part in National Novel Writing Month, along with Jan, Amelia and Grace. I’m going to try to put my work in progress on a blog. It’s called The Shooting Match.

Pork chops – not worth a recipe. They were good, but only good and all I really did was rub them with salt, pepper, thyme, sage, rosemary and garlic powder, then paint on a little oil, let sit in fridge for several hours and then grill on high for a total of 15 minutes both sides, adding a little applesauce on top for the last three minutes.

Work is going badly, too, just like everything %[email protected]^ else. We’ve lost money again, share price is down, layoffs are imminent, yada, yada, yada. Just like everyone else in the Bay Area.

Salsa!

Now that I have a real site it is time to celebrate its name properly by introducing my recipe for salsa. Not surprisingly, this involves tomatillas.

Salsa Cruda

You need a food processor or an electric chopper or some way to chop things up over a bowl so you don’t lose the juices. Standard recipe involves two pounds of tomatoes, one pound of tomatillas, two serrano chiles, a head of garlic, two lemons, two teaspoons of salt, two large bunches of cilantro.

Peel the garlic. Then the easy way is to chunk up the tomatoes and tomatillas so they fit nicely in the chopper or food processor, add the garlic, chiles, cilantro and chop everything roughly so that it doesn’t all end up exactly the same size. hard way is to do the same thing by hand. Then mix in the juice of the two lemons and the salt. Taste and adjust flavors with more lemon, salt or even tabasco.

Serve with chips or almost anything else.

It’s Alive!

Wow! This stuff really works! And it was easy! And cheap. Now I have to put in a plug for my ISP. ICDsoft provided me with domain name registration and hosting for a YEAR with decent storage and lots of control options for $65 for everything. That’s all of it – getting the domain, registering it, hosting it, etc. I applied for all of this les than 24 hours ago and it is already up and running. Yahoo!

Oh Frabjous Day

I’m in the process of getting hosting and a real URL! www.tomatilla.com! Hopefully within two days I will have this site and my other sites hosted from there and I can start adding in images and other fun stuff!

Titles

I added titles. Seemed like a good idea. The biggest hit in terms of cooking was on last Friday when I made an impulse purchase – sand dabs – and decided to surprise the kids with homemade fish and chips. It was a big success. I got told that it was the best meal I had ever made them(!). On to the details…

Fried Sand Dabs

It isn’t worth filleting most sand dabs – they are basically a very small flounder relative from the Pacific and you lose too much flesh if you fillet them. So I washed them and left them to sit in a little lemon juice (I had four of them – about a half pound each). Then I heated about half an inch of olive oil in a cast iron frying pan until it was just beginning to get smoky. In the meantime I made a flour dredging mixture of about a cup of plain flour, a tablespoon of salt, a teaspoon of pepper and sundry fish herbs and seaweed flakes (Ok, OK – thyme, parsley, seaweed flakes and garlic) – total about 3/4 of a teaspoon. Mix it all up and then drag each fillet carefully through it so it is well coated. Drop them into the pan and leave for three minutes or so until clearly starting to turn brown on the downward side. Flip and cook again – three minutes or so until just starting to turn brown. Serve with wedges of lemon and either peas or salad. And of course,

French Fries

Slice up about a pound and a half of potatoes and then cut the other way lengthways to make a big pile of shoestring potatoes. Put them in a bowl of water to soak and heat up a frying pan with about 2/3 of an inch of a even mixture of olive oil and vegetable shortening (palm oil in my case). Let that get hot almost to smoking. Dry the potatoes off on several kitchen towels and fry rapidly in batches stirring frequently. You’ll probably need six batches for all the potatoes and cook them until they just barely show any brown color. In the meantime get a couple of cookie sheets ready and heat the oven to 350 degrees. As the potatoes come out spread them out on the cookie sheets and put them in the oven. Let the last batch of potatoes cook a little longer until clearly starting to go brown. Add them to the rest of the fries that you remove from the oven. Salt to taste and serve with lemon, vinegar and/or ketchup.

It’s funny. I kind of liked Schwarzenegger (at least until the sexual predator stuff came out) but how can anyone think he could make a decent administrator for the fifth (sixth now?) largest economy in the world? The most amazing thing about how he got elected however is the unbelievable lack of depth that has been demonstrated on all sides in the whole affair. The media has barely gone below the surface in ANY coverage. They certainly haven’t even vaguely tried to look at the issues in any real way. The candidates don’t seem to know how to summarize information in a coherent form.

Is everybody in the US just losing all ability to think critically or for themselves – or even think at all???

Ugh! Schwarzenegger for Governor. Time to move.

A bit of a food weekend. I got on a roll, thought I’d be enthusiastic. Little good it did me.

Anyway, I did come up with a KILLER recipe. We had a lot of really nice heirloom tomatoes laying around from our organic veggie box (we’ve been getting it for almost TEN years (with a two year hiatus when we lived in Sea Ranch)) and I thought back to those lost days of Summer in the South of France when it was always warm and sunny and in the evening you’d wander down to the town square and if you had the money you’d get the prix fixe tourist menu. An appetizer – usually onion soup. Followed by bifteck au poivre, frites and staggeringly good grilled tomatoes. Dessert was creme brulee by the way and you drank the house red by the carafe.

So I decided to take a shot at recreating those tomaters. And I did…near enough.

Fantastic Grilled Tomatoes

Heat the oven up to about 350 degrees. Get out a baking tray and slice your tomatoes in half – whatever quantity it is you want. I’d suggest to big or three small per person. You’ll be lucky to have leftovers.

Then get a chopper/food processor/blender. Either dump in about a cup of breadcrumbs, or put in about a quarter of a loaf of stale bread and MAKE breadcrumbs. Then peel eight cloves of garlic and throw them in. Get about half a cup of fresh herbs – any kind. I got some thyme and oregano from the garden. Put them in too. Add about a quarter cup of ground parmesan. Whiz all this together until it is well blended. Divide equally on top of the halved tomatoes. Drizzle each tomato with about half a teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle all this with sea slat to taste.

Cook in oven for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Turn up to broil and finish under the broiler until dark brown on top – about two minutes. But watch this – all depends on distance from broiler and your oven, etc.

Take out, serve, accept compliments. (Or if eating alone, dwell in satisfaction on your food)