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Everything posted by Abra

  1. Awesome idea - I've got to try this!
  2. Brilliant idea, to ask to be added to the email list. Me too, if anyone's willing, pretty please.
  3. We ate at La Bodeguita last time we were there, and stayed at the Hotel California. We really enjoyed it, and their mojitos rocked.
  4. First off, I want to show you a couple of yummy afternoon snacks. Gorgeous and sweet island-grown figs and no, those are not crystallized cat turds! That's the Thai chili-tamarind candy, which I find utterly addictive, and the amazing glass-like seeds that you have to spit out. I get lots of great-looking stuff today when I picked up my basket Corn, a tomato, squash, onions, beans, cucumbers, broccoli, and flowers. My last blog dinner is so....me. I mix all sorts of foods and traditions together - please, I mean no offense to your favorite ethnic foods. I just like to combine, and I'm sorry if purists cringe. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and pan-Asian is in my blood. The Alaska sockeye salmon is placed on a cedar plank, salted and peppered, then painted with a sauce of maple syrup, tamarind concentrate, and Thai chili sauce with soybean oil (more about that later.) The huge sweet onion and the broccoli get sauteed with a little Shao Xing wine, nuoc mam, and ketjap manis, while the corn parboils in the background. I finish the corn on the grill while the salmon is cooking. The salmon is done and looks perfect. The bottles in the background are the things I used in the dinner. If you can read the Thai, or just recognize the sauce, please tell me the name of the Thai sauce, in Thai. I use it a lot, and it really bugs me not to know how to pronounce its name. We sit down to our last blog dinner. Beer is great with all these assertive flavors. The chocolate chip cookie ice cream while it's fresh and soft and after an hour or so in the freezer. A tired but happy blogger bids farewell. It's been a privilege and a pleasure to share my life with you all this week. And Riley thanks his personal chef for a week of custom meals.
  5. I like Demerara sugar because it's in big crunchy crystals that stay that way when baked. I think it's a nice finishing touch to rustic baked foods. CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. I get my veggies from Persephone Farm, and I pay for them in advance in the Fall. You are essentially an investor in the farm, paying the farmer upfront to grow stuff, which you get when it's in season. There will be salmon as a part of our CSA later in the year, but for tonight, it's from the fish counter. I got a lot of nice stuff in my basket today - if the camera's recharged, I'll show you the loot. Whereas I would have said that the vinegar mother is a mat of bacteria and yeasts, Googling it produced this little tidbit " "Mother" is actually cellulose (a natural carbohydrate which is the fiber in foods such as celery and lettuce) produced by the harmless vinegar bacteria." It grows as a mat that sort of floats on top of the forming vinegar. But as you saw in the pictures, squeezing it gently gets lot of vinegar out of the mat itself. You add new wine on top, and more layers form from the top of the vinaigrier, so that the furthest-down mat is the oldest. Personal Chefs Network helps you to get clients in the sense that when people do a web search for a personal chef, the PCN website pops up. Every member has a little free web page on the PCN site, and there's a geographic locator as well. I personally haven't gotten any clients that way, but many members report that they have. I think most people find that it takes about a year to get known in your community for what you do. Personal cheffing is also new enough as a business that you have to do education with each person that contacts you. Besides my van and my website, I'm in the Yellow Pages, and I talk about my business whenever and to whomever seems appropriate.
  6. I do like Indian, and thanks very much, bong, for the link to the threads. I don't normally read this board, and it would have taken me a while to zero in on these.
  7. Would you believe that I found myself in the store again, with no camera? I must have blog-brain. Anyway, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. I've been having a kind of honey-do morning, making treats for my husband. He loves chocolate chip cookies, and ice cream, so I created an ice cream for him that tastes like chocolate chip cookies. Basically it's a French vanilla custard, but made with brown sugar, and then with toasted pecans and mini chocolate chips added. The custard needs to chill for a couple of hours before I freeze the ice cream. And then, various breakfast treats that he loves, both based on puff pastry. Since we're not in the pastry forum I can admit to using frozen puff pastry, just like 99% of you do, I'll bet. And I can't get an all-butter one here on the island, so I use Pepperidge Farm. These are almond puffs. Rolled out puff pastry coated with a marzipan goo (I use the filling from the Pain d'Amandes recipe in The Village Baker's Wife), then dusted with lightly toasted sliced almonds and some Demerara sugar. The other sheet of puff pastry gets a little roll-out, then a bit of almond goo and a pain au chocolat stick. I know, pain au chocolat doesn't have almond goo in it, really, but hey, it's good this way! Here they are, done in a jiffy and smelling great. A group of friends is taking me out to lunch for my birthday - the birthday that never ends, seemingly. On the way home I'll pick up my CSA basket and we'll see what's for dinner. On Wednesdays I don't know in advance what we'll be having, since it largely depends on what my beloved farmer Rebecca brings me. But I know there'll be salmon, and I think I'll grill it on a cedar plank, since that's a very Northwest thing that you might be interested in seeing. And vegetables. And ice cream.
  8. The mother is slippery and flexible, just as I'd imagine a placenta to be. It's a lot like clotted blood, in fact. This is a red wine mother, and only makes red wine vinegar. I did try to use some to make white wine vinegar once, but it always stayed pink. That said, I have certainly been known to feed it some white wine on occasion, with no ill effects. And speaking of sourdough starters, mine are looking feeble. It's time to feed them again and see if they'll perk up, but amazingly, I'm out of flour. So now I have to run out to the store, and this time I will remember to take the camera.
  9. Although I used to live on the Peninsula and be up on restaurants there, now we only get down from the Seattle area about once a year to visit my ancient father. He's too old to keep up with the restaurant reviews anymore, and I know I'm missing out on some nice new places when we're down there. On our last visit we ate on Castro a lot, but where else might we want to try when we come down in a couple of weeks?
  10. Believe me, I'd give vinegar mother to anyone who's interested! No trade required! It's getting it to people who are not in Seattle that's the problem. It needs oxygen, so it can't be shut up tightly for long periods, it smells like vinegar, and it sloshes around because it has to stay in liquid. It seems like the Post Office would take a dim view of it.
  11. Multi-tasking like mad, I prepare dinner before tackling the mother project. Here we see the turkey broth cooling, veggies that I'm sauteeing for the humans, and ground beef that I'm sauteeing for, ulp, the dog. Yes, folks, our dog has a personal chef, and he really loves it! I cook some meat for him a couple of times a week, as a change from dog food, even though I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it. I combine the sauteed veggies with ground turkey breast, start the burgers on the stovetop, and finish them under the broiler. It's a WW thing to do, add veggies to any possible dish. In this case they really help the meat keep from being hopelessly dry. Dinner is served. I'd rather have some Cabrales on my salad than a bun for my burger, so I do. That's a very WW thing too - since all foods are "legal", we're always choosing between favorites. Those are red onions pickled in red wine vinegar. When you have so much vinegar, you have to use it a lot. I eat most of my turkey burger wrapped in basil leaves with a bit of pickled onion. The flavors are very wow. Ok, now for the vinegar. This is our vinaigrier, a vinegar-making pot that we brought back from Provence a few years ago. It used to have a nifty wooden spigot embedded in a cork. In fact, it used to have two of them. But the acidity ate them away so that they leaked, and lately it's just had this cork, which, as you'll see, presents access problems. That's cheesecloth under the lid. The little fruit flies are mad for this stuff, and you have to fight them off. I pull the cork and right away the vinegar starts to go all over the place. Some even goes into the measuring cup I have in the sink to catch it. I pour the captured vinegar into my vinegar bottle. If I'd realized that I would be so visible in these pictures I would have put some real clothes on and combed my hair. Try to ignore me. Now for the scary parts. I start to remove the layer upon layer of mother from the pot and gently squeeze out the vinegar. I don't do this every time we need vinegar, but this time we have to get the vinaigrier completely empty, because my ingenious husband thinks he has found an alternative to the nuisance cork. If you're easily grossed out, just scroll down fast. All the mother is out of the pot. It's quite appalling looking, isn't it? Just like a placenta, which is probably why it's called a mother. The new spigot fits, and is installed, and I feed the mother some fresh wine, to help her revive after the trauma of being squeezed. My husband has a great idea - I put some of the excess mother into jars, label them "Courtesy of Rolling Bay Gourmet", and take them down to the special wine store. The owner can give them to foodie customers, and I'll type up a little instruction card to go with it. Vinegar mother is a lot like Friendship Cake - you have to keep pushing it on everyone you know, or just use it as drain cleaner. And last, here's how the sourdough starters are doing this evening. On the left is the milk-based cyber starter, the grape starter is on the right. They both appear to have some mild interest in coming back to life. If anything, the cyber starter looks a little more alert, but time will tell. I'll let them rest overnight in the sink, in case they go nuts, and I'll feed them again in the morning.
  12. I did make the starter myself, a number of years ago. It's fun to make - a real science project. It's a great starter, makes a superior bread, and it keeps in the fridge for years. It's dormant in the fridge, so you only feed it when you want to use it. Supposedly you should also just feed it occasionally, if you're not using it much. It seems to keep in the freezer, too, since I'm starting to see a few bubbles. To revive it you feed it flour and water, or milk, in the case of the cyber-starter.
  13. Ok, the jam is done. You can see how much it cooked down. I'll use these for little holiday gifts. Then to get the turkey taken care of. I've had enough of long, slow simmering for one day, so this baby's going into the pressure cooker with some onions, carrots, fennel stalks, and a sprig of thyme. I love my pressure cooker! Now, the final moment of blueberry madness. I already have at least 10-12 pounds frozen for winter muffins, so I decided to try something that would actually be useful to my business, if it works. Unfortunately, we won't find out during the life of this blog, but I see no reason in the world why it wouldn't be just fine. I mixed the berries with sugar and a little cornstarch, then made a soft cobbler dough. I set the dough atop the berries, gave it a dusting of Demerara sugar, wrapped it up tight, and popped it into the freezer. Has anyone done this before? How long will it need to bake when frozen? This would be a really great little personal chef thing, to be able to leave people a nice cobbler they could bake "fresh" for themselves. Now for a little break, then to roust out my husband for vinegar mother assistance. It'll go better with two people, one whose hands aren't all goopy who can hold the camera.
  14. Most of those herbs are in their third year, but I keep them cut back because it's already more than I can use. Marjoram is a wonderful herb for vegetables, especially corn. It's mellower than oregano, with less bite. I just planted the angelica and haven't used it yet. I've seen several recipes where the candied stems are used in desserts, and also some liqueur recipes call for it. I'm not sure if the plant will get big enough to use this year or not, but I seem to have enough projects on hand at the moment without it. For example, I did a turkey on the Weber about a week ago, and now I need to make broth with the carcass, plus those dratted blueberries, and then the vinegar mother, and the sourdough starter...and believe it or not, I even have other things that need doing. This blog is really pointing up how crummy I am on follow-through. Now that you see how much I've let get piled up, my inner Martha is shrinking in mortification. Off to get that jam into jars and the turkey bones into the pot. Good thing I don't have to work this week!
  15. I'm way behind on a ton of food projects, so I'll share my housekeeping efforts with all of you. First, I have two packages of sourdough starter that have been lurking in the back of my freezer since August 2001! I've taken them out and will see if they can be revived. One is the Nancy Silverton grape starter, and the other we call cyber-starter, because it's been passed around between various online friends (via the mail, before the mails were suspect). The cyber-starter is milk-based, and makes a less-sour, fluffier sort of bread than the grape starter, which is my favorite.. While it's thawing I'm making blueberry-lavender jam with the last of the blueberries and this lavender: I'm an old-fashioned jam maker: equal amounts of sugar and fruit, and nothing else, although I do include the lavender in this case. While the jam gets going, we have lunch The Weight Watchers among us should breathe a sigh of relief - for me it's leftover turkey, a little beans and tuna from last night, and a big bowl of tomatoes. The burger is for my husband, who had half of his breakfast spirited out from under his nose by our sheepdog Riley, 95 pounds of eternal hunger and creativity. Oh, and about those blueberries in the photo...it was wishful thinking that the jam would finish my blueberry life for the summer. These are still left, and I need to make something else with them today, before it's totally too late. And then I also had a bowl of slightly over-the-hill lychees. If you haven't seen them fresh before, those brown pod/ball thingies in the photo is what they look like before you peel them. The jam is still cooking, an hour and a half later. Should be done soon. The jars are sterilizing in the oven, and I'm trying to think of what to do with those blueberries. I adore lovage! I love it best snipped into salads, but I also put the leaves on sandwiches, and just eat it plain, as a breath-freshener. Thanks for the compliment. I've been having so much fun doing this that I too wish it could go on - can't figure out how to get to be a highly-paid blogger, though.
  16. Fiori di Sicilia is a fantastic flavoring that, so far as know, is only available from King Arthur Flour. It's been described as a cross between orange and vanilla, or as Creamsicle-flavored, and it adds an indefinable floral note to sweets that's quite addictive. I'd add a link, but their website seems to be down at the moment - it's www.kingarthurflour.com. We drank a Liparita Chardonnay. I am normally an ABC wine drinker (Anything But Chardonnay), but this one is made by the brother of a friend, who gave me some, as well as some of their very nice Cab. It's got a little oak, which I normally do not want to taste in a white wine, but with the smoky flavors of last night's dinner is was quite nice. And the acidity was just right for the mellow oilive oil and bean concoction.
  17. Oh, I meant to add links to the recipes I used last night, all from Epicurious. Grilled Tuna with Herbed Aioli Cornmeal Cake with Sweet Rosemary Syrup and Blackberries Grilled Tomatoes Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Sage
  18. Ok, here we go with the blow-by-blow on last night's dinner. Since the theme was fresh herbs, we have to start in the garden. This rosemary tastes great and is big enough for a 95 lb dog to lounge under. It's hard to pick out the individual herbs, but from front to back, roughly, there are oregano, chives, lemon thyme, sage, thyme, tarragon, angelica, and marjoram. This is what I picked to use for the dinner, but later I had to run back out for more basil and more sage. I'm going to have to make pesto today or tomorrow - this basil is getting huge. So, first to get the beans going. Those corona beans take at least two hours to cook. Here they are, simmering with a little garlic, a sprig of sage, and a couple of fennel stalks. Next I started dessert. The cornmeal cake was supposed to be in an 8" round pan, but I decided to use my little springforms instead. They're too big for an individual serving, but in this case I wanted cake wedges anyway. Then there's the marinade for the ahi and some of it stirred into mayonnaise for the sauce The beans are finally done and draining Armandino used Italian tuna in oil, but I used a local tuna packed in nothing but its own juices. I had to add a lot of olive oil because of this choice, but I used a nice one and it was delicious. Armandino didn't use capers, either, but I wanted some in there last night. I mixed shallots, green onions, and basil with goat cheese to stuff the tomatoes. The tomatoes drain a little prior to being stuffed, as does the fried chopped sage that'll go on top as a garnish. I cut the corn off the cob and the onions and fennel caramelize slowly while the corn has a little rest. The tomatoes are stuffed and the tuna and the cook are marinating. We have appetizers The beans with tuna and crostini were polished off, lickety-split Between bites, I get the grill going Here the tomatoes and ahi are almost ready Dinner is plated This picture isn't the best, but the food was awesome. The sauce on the ahi, while not real aioli, was absolutely killer, and the tomatoes were beyond juicy and savory. Oh yeah, and the corn was excellent too. You wouldn't have thought we'd have room for dessert, but we did, oh yes we did. I sneaked a little Fiori di Sicilia into the whipped cream, and with the rosemary syrup that soaked the cake, it was wonderful. The cornmeal was a little coarser than I'd imagined, so the cake had a slight rustic crunch to it. So all in all it was a fun afternoon of cooking, and a lovely evening of eating. Wish you'd all been here!
  19. Squeat - the organization part is something you can learn. If you're already cooking for other people, and making them happy, you're half way there. I really encourage anyone who dreams of being a personal chef to check it out. It's a pretty neat thing to do. Mags - I did decide, but not in the way you recommend. What I did was to leave her a voice mail saying that normally I don't give out my recipes, because I hope people will pay me to prepare them. However, in her case I was going to make an exception because a) I put the dish together just for the party she attended and had never made it before, b) I might never make it again, shrimp and rice salad not being a much-requested item, and c) it seemed a shame that the recipe might sit forever untouched when she had enjoyed it so much. I haven't heard back from her with her address, so maybe she was embarrassed by her faux pas, or maybe she just doesn't get her messages very often.
  20. The dinner was awesome, and the pictures are pretty nice too. I've got them all formatted, but have drunk too much wine to stay up late writing everything up. First thing in the morning, I promise. At first it used to throw me, the strange kitchen thing. But I always have my own spices, knives, food processor, rice cooker, and sometimes pressure cooker, and the rest falls into place. There are only so many ways to stock and organize a kitchen, and I pretty much have gotten used to them all. If i know that a client has really terrible stuff I'll schlep a lot more of mine, but usually I try to use as much of their stuff as possible. For one thing, the schlepping is a pretty big deal anyway, with all the groceries and whatever I do bring, and for another, I can leave their stuff washing in the dishwasher when I leave, whereas all of my stuff has to be hand washed before I can leave. I'm off to bed, totally pooped. Back in a cyber-flash.
  21. I'm hoping you all don't think I'm setting a terrible example with my blog, since it's so un-strictly following WW right now. I have times like yesterday, when we celebrated my birthday, or today, where I've been keeping my points low all day, but I know that I'm having guests and won't be restricting what I eat tonight. I did plan a menu for tonight that's semi-points friendly, which is progress for me, since often I just bag it for the day. I do think about points every day, and almost every meal, and I journal at least 80% of the time, maybe more. What I don't do is stay within my points range every single day in a consistent way, which is undoubtedly why I've been maintaining for so long and not losing.
  22. As a matter of fact, my cats have been known to walk on the counter, and that's exactly the example I give when explaining to people why I don't do it. Nearly everyone will happily eat one of their own cat's hairs, and gag at the thought of foreign cat hair contamination. Here's lunch Up until now I haven't really emphasized one of the WWer's main dilemmas - what to feed other family members. Often it's mostly the same meal, with some additions. But in this case I'm having a tamale pie (looks terrible, tastes quite good) and a Boca Original Vegan Burger sandwich. It's just about the best and most filling 4 points there is. However, no way my husband will eat that, so he gets pastrami and swiss. I finally settled on a menu for tonight, assuming that it's going to get up to 82 like they say it is. Unfortunately, right now it's only about 65, so it's hard to imagine this warm weather dinner being appropriate, but I'm trying to have faith in the forecast. The theme will be fresh garden herbs, since I have so many that need to be used up. I'll show you how they grow, and what I do with them. Here's the menu: Corona Beans with Tuna and Basil, with Crostini Grilled Ahi with Fresh Herb Aioli (well, the recipe calls it aioli, but really it's made with mayo) Grilled Tomatoes Stuffed with Sage and Goat Cheese Corn off the Cob with Caramelized Fennel and Marjoram Cornmeal Cake with Sweet Rosemary Syrup and (you guessed it) Garden Berries The only recipe I've made before is the beans, and there's actually no recipe for them. A bunch of Seattle eGulleteers have been gathering to eat at Salumi, an amazing little place run by Armandino Batali, Mario's Dad. When I was there he served us a dish of Corona beans with some excellent canned tuna and olive oil. I've played around with the combo a couple of times, and am still trying to work out the right balance of flavors. Today I'm going to try adding a basil chiffonade, and probably some lemon zest. There's no recipe for the corn, either, I'll just create it as I go. But I love corn and marjoram together so I'm sure it'll be good. I do a lot of recipe testing as part of my business. Although I do cook untried recipes for clients all the time, I like to try as much new stuff as possible, and I'm always thinking about what clients would like the dish, how well it would freeze, and so on. And yes, I know there are two tuna dishes on the same menu. I just feel like tuna! I'll take pictures as I cook, so there'll be quite a few, but you'll be able to see the works in progress as well as the finished meal.
  23. It's probably safe, although it does sound a bit unappetizing. I'll bet that if you called Farmer George they'd just set aside some for you, no? Next year you'll know to feast on those scapes. I love to roast them with asparagus spears - yum!
  24. Amazingly enough, just 2 blueberry plants have provided over 45 pounds of blueberries this summer. I think the bushes are pretty old. They were here when we bought the house, and are quite large. There are a couple of methods of rendering lard - either on the stovetop or in the oven. I do it on the stovetop, because I like to keep my eye on it. First I call the butcher and beg for pork fat. It usually takes them a couple of days of trimming to collect enough fat to make it worthwhile. I like to get 3-5 lbs of fat. I cut it up into big chunks, then place it in a Le Creuset Dutch oven with a cup of water. I bring that to a boil, then simmer until the water evaporates. When the water's gone, I reduce the heat to a fast simmer and just let it go, stirring occasionally. It takes a couple or three hours for all the fat to render out. You'll know you're done when all you have left in the pan is the clear melted fat and a pile of crispy brown bits. Strain it through a fine cheesecloth or coffee filter, and there you have it. It's a completely different thing from those nasty blocks of lard you buy in the store. Your own will be rich and sweet-smelling, and incomparable used in pastry. It keeps in the fridge pretty much forever. Here's a picture of the view from our deck, taken earlier this summer when we had made pizzas on the grill. Oh - those curly things in the bowl are roasted garlic scapes. I was totally addicted to them this year, and ate them every chance I got, even with pizza. I'm going to do the vinegar mother tomorrow as a demo, with pictures. It's quite a sight! Remind me next time I see you to bring you some mother - it's an inexhaustable resource. No cooking or prep at home at all, period, the end! It's strictly against County health regulations, and I follow them to the letter. There are lots of caterers here that do cook at home, and I lose a fair amount of business because I won't do it myself. It's a tough situation - sure, I could rat them out to the County, but it's a small community and we all live here. All I do is explain to potential clients who call why I don't cook at home, and that anyone who will cook at home and deliver food to them is doing so illegally, but I still lose business over it. In the end, though, my conscience is clear, I can look my insurance company and a County inspector in the eye, and I know I'm on the high road, even if my bank account suffers as a result. Geez, does that sound really dorky? I'm working on my menu for tonight, and will take some pictures at the grocery store. So far all I have decided on is dessert. Bad girl!
  25. My exclusion of Atkins, and actually I guess I'd exclude South Beach induction too, although nobody's asked for it, has to do with my perception of what's healthy. For example, I don't cook with margarine, because I worry about trans-fats. I advise my clients not to microwave in plastic containers, because I worry about plasticizers leaching into foods. I cook with organic foods whenever my clients will agree to pay for them, which is surprisingly often. I like to feel that my food is contributing to the health and well-being of those for whom I cook. Of course it's controversial, the various pros and cons of low carb eating. There are legitimate-sounding arguments on both sides, and all one can do, until there's a lot better and longer-term evidence, is exercise one's own best judgement. While I know that many people try low carb, and some do stick with it and swear by it, it's very counter-intuitive to me. I appreciate that you aren't trying to strike up that debate here, NulloModo, and I don't want to fuel it either. Suffice it to say that I'm just not comfortable offering it as part of my service. There's a whole industry out there catering to low carb eaters, and I don't think they need my help.
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