(im)perfection

IMG_8448So many times I hear how perfect my food always looks & tastes, how perfect my technique is etc. Well, I’m here to tell you that it just isn’t so.

Having been gifted this beautiful bowl and the citrus in it I decided that I needed to bake – one of my favorites – olive oil, lemon, poppy seed cake. This is a winning recipe that I’ve developed over the years, but not to be deterred by perfection already achieved I decided to tinker a bit more. Fatal error #1 not making notes before I started. Cut down on the sugar even further than in the past – sure why not just a bit. Replace some of the flour with almond meal – sure, go for it. Swap out some of the olive oil for lemon juice to get more citrus punch – hell yes!

Everything was looking good, but something tasted off in the batter as it went into the oven. (Yes, I’m a batter licker) One piece in the recipe kept picking at my brain: “Sift dry ingredients”, but there had been nothing to sift. Then I looked back at the document still open on my iPad – 2½ teaspoons baking powder!! Oy! There was a doubled batch in the oven – a cup and a half of good olive oil, some pretty pricey local milled flour, etc. NOT a cake mix from the 99¢ Store…

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So back into a bowl went anything that had yet to start to cook (I caught this 5 minutes into the bake). Added the missing baking powder and beat it for all I was worth. Into fresh pans and back it went into the oven.

IMG_8459Not too bad after all, but just as a kicker, the baking powder had a June 2014 expiration date* on it so though the loaves rose it was a bit sad. The cake is delicious, crisp at the edges and moist. Just don’t ask me to duplicate it because I can’t.

*Baking powder really does loose its oomph, so if your baking seems off check that.

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Stocking up for the winter

I can’t speak for the rest of the LA area, but the eastern San Fernando and western San Gabriel Valleys are experiencing a run on chicken feet. Yup, that’s right – feet. In my book, they make the very best stock. My standard procedure is as follows: whenever I roast a chicken I carve all the meat off the bones, bag the frame and put it in the freezer. When there are 3 or 4 bags, I buy a couple of pounds of feet, maybe some necks and back and make a pot of stock. I add all the usual suspects: bay leaves from the tree down the courtyard, sage, thyme, and parsley from the garden (sorry, no rosemary here), celery, carrot, and onion. Hours and hours later I strain it and reduce it to take up less room in the freezer. I boil it down to at least double strength, but this time I’m going to go all out and make some chickeny chicken bombs a la my fellow blogger Conor Bofin.

None of these prize winning birds went into the pot!

None of these prize winning birds went into the pot!

But back to the run on feet (pun firmly intended, both here and in the title) – On January 2, with 3 bags of bones on hand and realizing that all the jars in the back of the freezer were turkey stock, I decided to stock up. Off I went to Whole Foods for their lovely organic feet, only to find a big empty space in the butcher case. Apparently, someone was waiting for the doors to open at 8 AM and made off with the 17 pounds of feet that were in the store. The butcher told me not to bother checking the other Pasadena store as the next two people (who wanted 10 pounds each) had chased across town to clean out that store too. I called the Glendale store only to have the butcher there ask me what the hell was going on. I figured that I would just go to the store early on the 3rd as this could not possibly repeat. Wrong wrong wrong. This time I called Glendale and was told that yes, they did indeed have feet. I promised to come over straight away. By the time the man I spoke with hung up and walked over to package my poultry parts they had been bagged by some other shopper! No delivery on Sunday, so I was out of luck until Monday. I was on the phone to the store at 7:55, before the key was turned in the door, My feet were safely bagged up with my name on the package waiting to be picked up after work.

HA! I feel so much more prepared for February now, and every neighbor who passes my kitchen window stops to ask what I’m cooking. The uniform reply is “FEET?! EW!!!” They don’t know what they’re missing!

For dinner tonight – avogolemono with Swiss chard, peas, and carrots. Oh, la!

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Thanks for teaching us that one, Demitrius!

 

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My Food Waste

Well, dear readers, some of you knew this was coming on New Year Day, perhaps even looked forward to it. On January 1, 2014 I made plan to record all the food I wasted for the entire year and report back today. I’m happy to say that I did better than I expected and better as the year progressed. Knowing that if I bought too much or just changed my mind about cooking what I had purchased I would have to fess up and would be embarrassed in front of myself and eventually in your eyes as well.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, we waste as much as 40% of the food we produce in this country. Some of that is what’s called field waste, the inevitable portion that doesn’t even get harvested. While we will never bring that number to zero, we can do far better than we do. In California, the US’ largest agricultural producer, the California Association of Food Banks started working with the Central Valley Growers Association over a decade ago to recover food that would rot and be plowed under. They have grown the effort to farms throughout the state and now about 20% of the food they distribute is fresh vegetables and fruit. Food Forward, an organization that was founded by volunteers, has recovered over 6.5 million pounds of food from backyard trees, small farms, and farmers’ markets. It’s astounding what we can do when we set our minds to it.

But, as individuals there is so much we can do. For starters, quit thinking that the date on a package means it will kill you that afternoon! In the spirit of continuing this effort, tonight, I chose my dinner based on what’s on hand and most needs to be cooked – Brussels sprouts, a few small potatoes and a handful of oyster mushrooms that I will dredge in flour and fry. Nothing fancy; just a way to pledge to the year ahead that I will go to my list even less often. It boggles my mind that the average American consumer discards as much as 20 pounds of food EACH MONTH!

Just like keeping a food diary can help one lose weight, keeping a food waste diary can help us become better consumers.

So here it is with occasional notes:

  • 2 pears that came as gifts
  • Half a bunch of radishes
  • A small pear
  • A Meyer lemon
  • 1/2 a 1 cup yogurt which went moldy
  • about a cup of quinoa salad
  • 1 oz feta cheese
  • 1” piece of ginger root
  • Beet greens that could have been cooked
  • 1 cup of soggy Greek salad
  • 1/2 a carton of almond milk that went moldy
  • a small lemon
  • some 5 year old cocoa nibs
  • A small serving of fried rice
  • About a cup of soggy pre-dressed salad
  • A cup of tomato juice that went moldy
  • 2 oz chèvre
  • 3 cups of almond milk! buy small boxes from now on
  • 2 eggs purchased early for Passover so they would peel. I threw them away when they were just too old
  • A lemon that went green and fuzzy
  • 2 small yellow squash that I didn’t get around to cooking
  • A beautiful farmers market tomato that was liquid inside its skin
  • A failed rice pudding experiment to use up a young coconut and some leftover rice
  • Letting go of items in the refrigerator or freezer that had stuck around far too long – citron syrup from candying, bread for bread crumbs, one gigantic matzo ball that wasn’t very good
  • 4 slices of moldy bread
  • About 1/4 of a bunch of dill – give away half of every bunch; dill goes slimy too fast!
  • 1/4 lb fresh pasta that went fuzzy
  • 2 pitas
  • One pickled cherry pepper
  • 1/2 head of romaine
  • Box of shelf stable whipping cream waaaaay past code
  • Another tomato that was liquid inside its skin
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 frozen crepes that were freezer burned beyond use
  • 1 cup of quinoa salad
  • 1” nub of fresh ginger that I tried to root which didn’t
  • A satsuma because I got too excited and bought too many
  • Red onion that sprouted to far to save
  • 2 more satsumas…
  • A quarter of a delicious sandwich because we just ordered too much (but it WAS delicious!)
  • About an ounce of fontina cheese because I neither rewrapped it in more breathable paper nor used it soon enough

AIMG_6265 doctor once said to me that cardio-vascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US. He then asked if I really wanted to be “average”. There are so many ways that we can do better than average!

This be-a-utiful almond/cashew milk cappuccino – I didn’t waste a drop!

Happy New Year to you all – Onward into 2015!!

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Pies of the week, previous pies and two gifts for better pie

So, good readers, if you have been following along, you know that there has been pie! Thanksgiving meant pies for a few friends and their families – Cranberry Tart, Pecan Pecan PECAN Pie and Deep Dish Apple Pie.

The following weekend the holiday parties began, and there was Pate Pie. Leftover savory caraway rye dough became 3 tart shells for Scrambled Egg Breakfast Pies and the this weekend – – –

IMG_6316Artichoke Hearts, Oyster Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pie for another party and the pie of my dad’s heart – shared with friends here at Bowen Court – home brew Mince Pie. I made the fruit / nut mix on Sunday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend and let it stew in its own juices for two full weeks.IMG_6310 It went into a pecan tart shell and was topped with hazelnut gelato. Oh, tr-la-la-la-la!

Do any of these appeal? Need something to serve during the holidays but don’t have time to do it yourself? Click on the ABOUT tab or email me – let’s talk

The gifts? My neighbor’s daughter is going to medical school in Granada and brought me several of the prettiest, shiniest nutmegs I’ve ever seen – I have a feeling that I’m going toIMG_6312 find out that I only thought I knew what fresh grated nutmeg tastes and smells like. But best of my big brother made me a 4” high platform to stand on when rolling pastry. It tucks neatly away and it is going to save my back! So, this is what the world is like for the rest of you? Pretty cool!

Happy pie month!

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Holiday tarts? Personal chef?

Be sure to check out the items I made for Thanksgiving and shoot me an email if you’re interested in any of them happening in YOUR home! Hummus? LATKES? I’m afraid the little girl is not available…

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