Monthly Archives: April 2004

Kerry Party Menu

OK, more or less got the menu sorted out for the kerry bash. Went with ease of production over other considerations, so it doesn’t match my previous expectations…


Crudites with fava bean hummus and cilantro romescu sauce

Grilled artichoke and garlic chicken sausages with mustard and cilantro romescu sauce

Asparagus, green garlic and fresh mozzarella pizzetas

Main Meal

Spicy baked ‘fried’ chicken with paprika and garlic

Grill-your-own bread

Grilled eggplant

Grilled asparagus

Slow-grilled butterflied leg of lamb marinated in red wine, coriander, ginger and pepper (alternative version marinated in honey, mustard and lemon)

Large green house salad

Vegetarian pasta salad in a nicoise style


Fresh Pineapple

Blackberry and strawberry trifle

kiwifruit tarts

That should do it…

May Day and Kerry Fundraiser

Well, we finally decided to do something, so we are having a fundraising dinner for John Kerry and/or MoveOn. We picked May 1st since it is a Saturday and since it has all kinds of good vibe associations to go with it.

Now comes the important part – picking a menu. I’m thinking about a mildly Spanish Mediterranean theme. We’ll need food that is easy to make, can reheat easily or can be cold and that will be attractive to a wide range of people. I’ll keep you all posted on what I come up with but for now the obvious things to include are some form of chicken dish, several interesting salads, some really good bread, a torta, sangria, homebrewed beer, asparagus, etc.

The pool is already ready. It is running at about 78 degrees with the solar panels and nice new automatic cover. I got it cleaned out and chemically balanced a while ago. We just replaced our ‘creepy-crawly’ (that’s what we call it) automatic pool cleaner with a new one and that is happily keeping things clean.

Expect a food update later in the week…

Photographs! (and ducks)

Today is a red letter day for Tomatilla! I am now able to upload photographs and so I will do so. I have already put in three pictures – one each of the pilau and red dahl mentioned in the last entry and then I put the glazed lemon cake from February in as well. But since you can’t wait, here’s one I took today.

Photo of Duck Family copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

Jan heard this family cheeping away from where she was working and tracked them down to where they were trapped in our narrow side yard. Since one of the neighbours has a murderous cat, she gently herded them to a safe spot and called me. I was picking up kids and running errands but eventually we all got there and working as a team neatly herded them all back down to the creek where they were a LOT happier…

Dahl-ing, How Fabulous!

We had leftover chicken. We didn’t want pasta – Saturday night we had friends over pre-theater and I made three kinds of pasta to keep the various permutations of children and adults and vegetarians and others happy. So no pasta Sunday night.

Since I had all the leftover chicken I instead decided to make more chicken and I made Maddhur Jaffrey’s grilled chicken from her Quick and Easy Indian Cooking, which is the best introduction to Indian cooking there is bar none. I have never ever had a failure from it and I have never ever even struggled to make the dish or find ingredients or anything. IF you’ve EVER wanted to make a curry, get this book and get started.

Anyway, I then decided on a whim that we hadn’t been eating enough pulses (beans, lentils, etc.) and since Grace is now a vegetarian, an extra special dahl was needed as an accompaniment. So I made one and it was fantastic – super fantastic. I also made a really nice simple onion-cardamom-coriander-fennel seed pilau to accompany it all.

Here are the recipes…

Red Dahl

Photo of Red Dahl copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

I thought about calling this Borscht Dahl since it has beets, but it only has beet tops and it isn’t really beety or red enough to qualify.

1 cup red lentils

1 tbsp turmeric

4 cups water

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 leek

1 green garlic

4 cloves garlic

1 large can (28 oz) chopped tomatoes (I used Muir Glen fire roasted organic but frankly anything decent will do)

1 small green chile

2 tbsp butter

1 piece of fresh ginger about 1 1/2 inches cubed

2 tbsp rogan josht paste (I used Pataks)

1 bunch beet greens (the tops from four red beets)

About 1 tbsp salt

Thoroughly wash the red lentils in a sieve, rinsing three times. Put the water on to boil in a large pot. Add the salt and the lentils and the turmeric. When the water boils, turn it down to a low simmer and stir occasionally.

Finely chop the leek, the garlic, the ginger and the chile (but keep them all separate) and coarsely chop the beet greens. Use the whole leek, including the green leaves but trim of dead and dried out parts and make sure you wash it thoroughly!

Heat the butter in a medium frying pan until it starts to turn brown and immediately add the chile, garlic and ginger and stir and cook until it all just begins to brown and clump together. Add the rogan josht paste, turn off the heat and stir until thoroughly blended.

After the lentils have simmered for about fifteen minutes, add the leek. and stir it in. If at any time the lentils start to dry out or begin to stick and brown from evaporation or thickening add another cup of water. After another five minutes the lentils should be beginning to really soften and come apart. Keep cooking until they are thoroughly soft, adding water if necessary. Now add the can of tomatoes and the tbsp of lemon juice and return to a simmer. Stir in the ginger-garlic-paste mixture and cook for another couple of minutes.

Then serve plain or with bread or rice or whatever. I like it served on rice with a little yoghurt or raita on the side. In this case I served it on the pilau (recipe below) and with a simple yoghurt sauce made from half a bunch of cilantro finely chopped and stirred into a cup and a half of yoghurt along with a teaspoon of salt.

Fennel Seed, Cardamom Pilau

Photo of Fennel Cardamom Pilau copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

This isn’t really a pilau because it isn’t cooked like one but it tastes like one and is really, really easy to make if you have a rice cooker. You DO have a rice cooker, don’t you?

2 cups basmati rice

3 1/4 cups water

1 tsp decorticated cardamom

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp whole coriander seeds

1 tsp salt

1/4 stick of butter

1 medium onion

Set up the rice cooker and start it heating with just the butter in the bottom. Dice the onion and add it to the butter in the cooker. Add the cardamom, coriander and fennel seed. Stir everything up and let it cook in the rice cooker until the rice cooker turns itself off. Add the rice and stir it so it is coated in the butter and onion mixture. Add the water. Restart the rice cooker, put the lid on and wait for it to be finished. The resulting rice is flavorful and great with all indian food (and lots of other things, too).

You can make it in a pot on the stove if you want. Follow the same basic procedure but just gently saute the onion and seeds in the butter on low heat until translucent, stir in the rice, add the water, bring to a gentle boil and reduce to a bare simmer, cover and cook as normal for stovetop rice from there on.

Is My Blog Burning?

This is the first time I’ve done this. But here goes. I would have written about Jan’s famous lemon cake but I’ve already written about that TWICE. Instead, I’m writing about a cake that my sister first made for us and which Jan and I both love. It is a Raspberry Cinnamon Torte. Here’s the recipe.

Raspberry Cinnamon Torte

Preheat oven to 360 degrees.

You’ll need

6oz butter

6oz self-raising flour (they don’t sell this in the US – instead use plain flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder)

6oz ground almonds

6oz granulated sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk

2 pints of fresh raspberries.

Blend all the ingredients together except for the raspberries in a food processor until it starts clumping together.

Line the bottom of a 9 inch flan or tart tin with a circle of baking parchment and butter the edges of the tin. Spread half the mixture over the bottom of the tin and a little bit up the sides. Place the raspberries in a single layer across the bottom of the tin and spread the rest of the mixture on top. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes and check to see if it is turning brown after 40 minutes. If it is, cover with some foil.

That’s it. No photos alas.

This is a surprisingly good cake and surprisingly easy. Give it a try sometime! It works well for brunch and for a dinner party – you can decorate it with designs made out of icing sugar, etc. In contrast with many of the other ‘Is My Blog Burning?’ cake entries, this is also a very simple cake. Novices should have no trouble and it is very straightforward and easy to make.

The entry is in

A couple of hours ahead of the deadline I got my entry in. I won’t put the recipe here yet because I’m not sure whether or not it is forbidden by the rules.

The final title for the recipe is: Chateaubriand and cilantro sauce with rosemary garlic mushrooms.

It is actually very good and tasted superb, but it is a very old-fashioned recipe and may not do anything for the judges. Plus the cilantro sauce is the best bit and they won’t know that. Oh well, what’s done is done and was done well. On the event I shall no longer dwell.

We have a lemon cake to make for an Easter Party this weekend (our traditional contribution). Lots of weeding and gardening and house cleaning and also helping do sets for Grace’s school play as well. So I expect to be very busy.

Cooking Contest Part 2

OK – stage one testing complete. It is a fine main course considering I have only been at it for 5 hours. I have a vegetarian alternative, too. But I’m not sure it is good enough to win. It is after all steak. Even if it is a heavenly steak.

What am I talking about? Oh – see the post just below.

I’m tired. It’s late. I have to do it all again tomorrow but this time with New York steak and with a few modifications – try putting the lemon zest in the butter, try flipping the mushrooms, try longer, slower cooking, etc.

Americas Best Home Cook Contest

This was too good to pass up – even if I am handicapping myself a lot. Today, while browsing around I found this: Americas Best Home Cook Contest.

By now you may have gotten to know me a little. The fact that I read this at 8PM PST on April 8th in no way put me off even though the deadline is 11:59 PM EST on April 9th. By 10PM I had ingredients. As I write this at 11:30 I have finished prep work on the first test of my entry. I will have something to try in about an hour. Then tomorrow, I’ll do it again with a few refinements and try to get my entry in by the deadline…

So what am I making? Probably pan-friend chateaubriand, shallots and mushrooms cooked with rosemary garlic butter accompanied by a cilantro garlic sauce. But I reserve the right to change things around slightly. Or a lot.


Has already arrived here in the Bay Area. It is hot. The sprinklers are running. Plants are tripling in size practically overnight. We are going to need to get air conditioning of some kind.

But despite my dislike of heat and sunshine in general (once that would have meant anything over 75 degrees, now it means anything over 90) there are many upsides to the season. The pool is already ready and grilling time is upon us. Hopefully I can add a couple of burners and enlarge the grill itself for this summer (or at least make it two-tiered).

But most importantly, we start to get the real benefits of living in Northern California – the produce. Our vegetable box had two kinds of asparagus (regular and purple), arugula, grapefruit, lemons, carrots, green garlic, leeks, almonds and kiwi fruit this week. Artichokes are in the stores. We are still getting reasonable winter greens (collard, mustard, kale, chard). Sometime soon we will get strawberries and lettuces and then spring onions and tomatoes and corn and cherries and…you get the picture.

Back from vacation. Georgia, New Orleans and Crawfish perfection

Sorry about the break. We were on vacation in Georgia and New Orleans. Now Georgia was pretty much a culinary wasteland apart from eating fantastic Iranian food at the in-laws. That was at least expected. New Orleans on the other hand was a disappointment. Many people keep saying that the best food in the country or some of the best food in the country is in New Orleans. I completely disagree. I think New Orleans is the ultimate food destination for people from the South and the Midwest – and for someone from Georgia, I can see how it would be considered the best food in America. But in five days I only had two meals that would be considered good by my fresh Californian standards and one of those was again a home cooked spread. Now, admittedly we didn’t go to places like the Commander’s Palace, but nowadays EVERYWHERE has good expensive restaurants. What I did notice was that below the top tier and on down, the comparison with Bay Area restaurants lost out everytime. For an example, if an entree costs more than $20 then I should at least feel I would have trouble making it myself. Instead I felt I would have trouble NOT doing better.

Crayfish at the Royal Grocery copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

So, of course, the best meal we had was in fact the cheapest. Walking past the Royal Grocery on Royal in the French Quarter we spotted a crayfish boil nearing completion. It had clots of bay leaves, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and lots of other spices. It had whole oranges, lemons, onions. It had corn and potatoes. It smelled very good. It was $3 per pound and each pound came with half an ear of corn and a tater. Beer was in the refrigerators. The ambiance was gritty and real (aka rather dirty and intercut with things like homeless people haggling for food and carriage drivers running in to get cigarettes and crayfish to go. And the crawdads? They were sublime. Spicy enough to tongue- and lip-tingle. Salty, full of flavor. We, including the kids, twisted, sucked and pinched to our hearts’ content. For drinks, five pounds of crayfish, corn and potatoes and tip we paid $25. As Grace said, ‘that’s cheaper than McDonalds!” It was not only the best meal we had all trip, it was the healthiest.

Back in the Bay Area we inhaled some fresh vegetables and felt the rendered fats beginning to drain from our system. I also cracked the beer which is MUCH richer than expected but probably the best I have made. More on that later