Tag Archives: recipe

Lasagne with Béchamel and Spring Vegetables

I’ve been trying to write something here for days now.  I approach the task with the best intentions but know that it’s really only my conscience goading me.  No words come.  I scrounge for a memory worth sharing, then wonder if it’s one I’ve already written about and catch myself wanting to waste time sorting through archived posts to make sure.  It’s an old procrastination ruse, so I’m onto it most of the time.

Photos of recipes I’ve tried and liked are accumulating, waiting for something to be said about them, or the ingredients they were made with,  whether they’re in season, local, organic….or not.  Because you know, that matters, right?

I can’t muster up the energy because it all sounds so trivial.

I’m like an ostrich avoiding reality.  I’d rather edit photos (which qualifies at least as legitimate procrastination), or sprawl on my bedroom floor in front of the big windows on this blustery day watching the storm come in off the Pacific — probably the last we’ll have until next winter.  Mother Nature seems to have gotten March all wrong this year, with its entrance more like that of a lamb’s and its exit resembling a lion’s — at least in San Diego.

I could grab a book and lose myself for a while or think again for what seems to be the millionth time about whether the windows need drapes, and whether I should make them myself — except I’m not sure which closet that sewing machine is in and even if I did, my heart wouldn’t be into it.

A walk in the rain would also be nice, but the force of the wind is rattling the skylights and whistling down the chimneys.  I’d make it out the door and realize how silly a decision it was since I’m nothing like the thin woman clad in white who just sprinted past my window, nor like anyone the Brontës might write about, a thin figure whose dark dress is flapping about her ankles on the hauntingly beautiful Yorkshire moors and proof of a pained existence etched across her brow.

So ridiculously unfocused and thinking none of it really matters.

I’ve been thinking about perspective quite a bit this past week.  Counting my blessings.  Thinking about life, loss, what I take for granted (see foolish exhibits A, B, C, and D above) and what others in the world right now have lost and may never, ever recover.  I’m watching it on the news, in the photos that stream through a variety of websites, and can’t begin to understand.  How can anyone not actually experiencing the magnitude of such devastation understand?  I’m weighing the pettiness of any complaint, feeling short with others for their narrow mindedness, and all in all just very sad and angry.

It’s overwhelming.

So on this first day of spring and all it traditionally represents with respect to birth, new growth, and renewal, I hope the best for people in so many places on Earth right now devastated by things beyond their control.

If you’re someone who has thought about donating to a relief fund for Japan’s recovery, you may be interested in this piece by Stephanie Strom from the New York Times, “Charities Rush to Help Japan, With Little Direction.”

Donations can be made directly to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

More information about other ways to help are listed in “The Lede” at The New York Times“Japan Earthquake and Tsunami:  How to Help”

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Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Basil

<img alt="Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Basil"/>

Grapefruit finds its way into my basket when I’m at the market.  I always have good intentions when I grab one or more of the pinkish-orange orbs of bracingly sweet tart fruit imagining that I’ll eat one a day.  We all know that imaging something doesn’t quite make it happen, so once home, the grapefruit are wedged to the back of the bin in my refrigerator by other seemingly more important orbs of wonderfulness or left to gather dust and sunlight each morning on the top level of my “other ingredients” rack.  Looks beautiful for a while, and then, well, it becomes yet another science experiment.

What is wrong with me?

If I had to line up citrus in the order it’s been a factor in my life, oranges would be first on the list.  This can’t be significant because my mother put them in my lunch box on most days.  She’d score the skin to make it easy to peel and I always thought that was pretty cool.  Sometimes, she’d quarter them, sprinkle them with salt and seal them in a baggie, making them extra juicy by the time lunch rolled around in my school kid day.  Makes me want an orange with salt just thinking about it.  For the sake of contrast, my sister would have lemons first on her citrus list because she ate them like oranges when she was little, right from the rind.  I still haven’t figured out how she could do that.  I’d suck on a lemon, too, but it had to be dipped in the sugar bowl first, and that was risking certain death if my mother found out about it.

Tangerines had to be next on the list because how much effort does it take to eat one?  Zero, thanks to that peeling, and seeds or no seeds, the sections come right apart.  Having lived in a beautiful place with two tangerine trees once upon a time, I am lucky to have memories of eating them sun-warmed right from the tree, and images of my youngest, still in diapers, sitting with my mother on the hill where the trees grew while she taught him to peel them.

Grapefruit was always last on the list, requiring a sprinkle of sugar to ward off the tartness just like that wedge of lemon. When I saw them in the house, I remember thinking my mother was on a diet more than it was fruit destined for me.  Thankfully I figured out how to eat grapefruit without sugar at some point in my life.  I’m thinking it was when I started teaching.  Anything that could be eaten on the run worked and became a habit because there was no time during the day to think about food — ever.

Ruby Reds probably had quite a bit to do with my learning to eat a grapefruit like an orange because they’re so sweet, but I have more time on my hands now, so can actually take the time to enjoy them with a fork and knife on a plate with avocado and a few other salad ingredients instead of having to clean up the juice that inevitably runs down my arm when I eat them from the peel.

If you’re someone who feels salad isn’t appealing at this time of year, don’t deny your body the flavor or nutrition this salad packs.  Get yourself warmed up with a cup of soup first, then dig into the salad.

No excuses.

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Basil and Lime

about 1/4 grapefruit and avocado per serving

fresh basil leaves

a bit of thinly sliced red onion

crumbled goat cheese

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

squeeze of half a key lime

sea salt & cracked pepper

This salad works best on a plate for me.  Large pieces down first, then add the basil, onions, and cheese.  Lime juice before the olive oil.  Perfect with Maldon sea salt.  I like to cut it up to mix the flavors and make sure each bite has a bit of everything.

Recipe Notes:

  • Try it with cilantro or arugula instead of basil.  Substitute Feta or Cotija for the goat cheese.  Give hazelnut oil a go instead of olive oil, or maybe a bit of chili oil.  Better yet, add some very nice thinly sliced roasted red jalapenos to get beneficial capsaicin as well.  Don’t have limes?  Lemons or oranges will also taste well squeezed over this salad.  Want more of a crunch?  Add some sliced cucumbers.  Need some protein beyond what the cheese provides?  Add a bit of proscuitto.
  • This salad is amazingly good for your body.  Grapefruit — especially that Ruby Red — is full of that amazing phytonutrient, lycopene (like tomatoes — especially cooked tomatoes) which is known to help fight oxygen free radicals. They’re also packed with Vitamin C.  Read more about the nutritional wonders of grapefruit here.  Avocados do contain a high percentage of fat and we know that fat is fat as far as calories go, but it’s monosaturated fat — just like the fat in the olive oil.  However, the avocado oil is thought to increase the absorption of the lycopene, increasing its benefit.   Read more here.
  • To help with the “salad isn’t winter food” dilemma, make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.  I don’t like cold salad even on hot days so always serve salad at a reasonable room temp.
  • In other news, I just treated myself to a dwarf Meyer lemon tree for my patio.  It’s loaded with blossoms and I have just the spot for it where, when the windows are open, I will be able to smell the intoxicating fragrance.  Can’t wait.  Clearly, I’ll have even more to say about lemons than I have.

Grilled Pancetta Wrapped Salmon Skewers

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written here and I’d like to say it’s because we’ve stopped eating — our waistlines would most likely appreciate it if we had — but sadly, that is not the case.  With my youngest son’s last year of high school recently drawn to a close and my own reinstatement as par-boiled domestic engineer coinciding with that of my son’s accomplishment, I’ve been distracted.  I’ve spent 31 years raising my children and had a busy career for much of it, so one might think that with endless amounts of time to look forward to, I’d roll up my sleeves and get on with whatever I’d wanted to do when time didn’t allow.  Instead, I’ve been involved in perfecting the fine arts of avoidance and procrastination.  Meals I’ve prepared have been relatively simple and those I’ve experimented with and taken the time to shoot have had photos languishing on my hard drive waiting for even the tiniest hint of motivation.  It seems that impending empty nest syndrome is alive and well in Paradise.

My son will be off to college late in August and so I’ve spent quite a bit of time taking stock of our lives.  Sounds heavy, doesn’t it?  Somewhat like pushing away from the table after a huge holiday dinner vowing never to eat again — unless it’s light and healthy, of course.  From a non-food perspective, this would mean we’re taking things lightly this summer — the summer before we’re sans children in residence.  The summer before we look at one another and say, “Where did all those years go, and how did we get to be this old?”

Time flies.

It seems that light, uncomplicated, and nutrient packed food is in order — like salmon.  Maybe we can dupe our bodies into thinking they’re spry again.  It’s a start, right?

This recipe is quick, tasty, and requires little or no prep.  Perfect for warm weather and relaxing times.

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Hot Wings with Gorgonzola Sauce

Hot Wings with Gorgonzola Sauce

I’ve often accused my husband of being a fair weather fan of our local sports teams, yet it couldn’t be farther from the truth.  No, I’d qualify for the position far more than he ever could given the amount of time he spends cheering and, yes, jeering about their wins and far too frequent losses.  As much as I’ve been right there in the excitement of recent years of Super Bowl possibilities, watching the resident menfolk high-five one another after a good play, and engage in exuberant chest bumping when the Chargers squeaked out a win, this year, I just don’t have it.  Sure, the game is on each Sunday and I usually can be found in the kitchen about that time, but I’m sadly just not interested.  I’m whispering, mind you, because you just can’t say that very loudly around here.

The best I can do is think about what to cook for the “occasion” knowing that I’ll have a small group of men interested in food when the action on the field isn’t going our way — and it often seems not to.  Although they’re often subjected to my routine experimentation, I do occasionally treat them to food that is more in line with what one may want on game day.

Like Buffalo Wings — or more accurately — Hot Wings.

My husband loves Gorgonzola, so guess what’s in the sauce?  And then there’s the crazy Asian hot sauce.  Mmmm….

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Demi-glace: A Mother of a Sauce

At some point when you've got as much time as I do on your hands, you get around to cooking something that caught your eye years ago when time was quite the precious commodity.  But years have gone by since then and time does a good job of layering all the possibilities life tosses in our path, so the urge was buried until I saw the December issue of Saveur last year showcasing traditional meat sauces such as charcutiere and bordelaise — sauces I've made before, but with purchased demi-glace.

There was no reason not to try the demi-glace recipe since time seemed to be the biggest requirement, and it wasn't even focused time.  Thankfully.  How hard could it be to roast a few pounds of bones and then simmer them for a few hours?

Twenty hours, to be exact, and that's just the simmering time.

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It's not often that I see meat bones in the case at the grocery store, so when I saw a couple of packages, I tossed them in the cart wondering just how many I'd need to make my own demi-glace.  A second glance at the article after I got home informed me I'd need about ten, so I put the bones in the freezer knowing it may be a while before I saw more.

You're thinking I should have gone to the butcher, right?  Yes, I believe I know where one is thanks to a very good friend who purchases lovely cuts of meat there for special occasions.  I still haven't been there myself, however, so the idea of actually picking up the telephone to call and inquire about whether they'd have some bones for me at some point in the foreseeable future appeared far more organized than my serendipitous self seems to be these days.

It's a very sad state of affairs.

But I did happen on a few more packages of beef bones in the next few weeks, so decided that I'd give the recipe a go.

Although there seems to be a bit of variation on how one goes about making demi-glace, essentially, it's made from roasting bones with a small amount of vegetable and tomato, then slowly simmering the bones in a good quantity of water for hours before straining, then reducing.  Some versions require a Sauce Espagnole to be made first, which requires a thickener such as flour, and then that sauce blended with beef stock before reducing.

In consulting Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, there is no simple recipe for demi-glace.  Instead, here is what can be found:

"The classical French brown sauce starts out with a long-simmered brown meat stock that goes into the making of an equally long-simmered, lightly thickened sauce base called an espagnole.  The espagnole is simmered and skimmed for several hours more with additional stock and flavorings until it finally develops into the traditional mother of the brown sauces, demi-glace. But as we are concerned with less formal cooking, we shall discuss it no further." (pg. 66, Vol. I)

Evidently, to some, however,the addition of the thickener is sacriledge and far be it from me to sway from a purist perspective on this.  Besides, making an espagnole first would require additional ingredients and steps — not something I was interested in. No, I'll save that one for another time.

To make the Saveur recipe, I'd need:

  • a very large roasting pan;
  • a very large stock pot;
  • a chinois; and/or
  • a fine meshed strainer.

And I'd need to not mind the scent of roasting beef permeating my house for two days.

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