Monthly Archives: July 2007

German plum cake

plum cake slice
the plums they are a-plenty now, so it’s time to make plum cake. i was tempted to make it cobbler style but then i found this German recipe that has yeast and melted butter and egg. hmmm, could it possibly be an easy version of brioche?

answer: yes, it could be…it just needs a sweetish kind of custardy cream to bake along on top of the yeast dough and below the juicy plumminess.

the recipe is here from recipezaar. it’s amazing how the plums retained their shape when they were so juicy and sweet as i “semi” sliced them. Continue reading

The Face behind the blog

tagged by thess, (get ready tita theklay i will get even someday 😆 )

i’m supposed to show a never before seen photo of myself, tell about myself, and then tag other victims.

i’ve hardly shown my mug in this blog. you’d have to be very curious about me to see my fez anywhere.

no one has ever published any other photo of me in the blogworld as far as i know.

this naturally pessimistic and cynical old lady is married to an idealistic sunny ex-Peace Corps Volunteer who’s now a devoted social worker, and we have three superduper kids and two cats in a dilapidated but cozy old blue house.

i inflict my sorceryPsychology degree on all of them, from time to time.

(transferring from webhost three or four times over the course of 7 years has taken its toll on this post…broken and outdated links, malware, etc. sorry.–dRstel, 7 March 2013)

almost done…

page turning can’t stand it action can’t put the book down let the dishes and laundry pile up don’t forget to pick up babyboy from summer camp and sip a cold drink it’s too hot don’t forget the Face project and save a big KUROT for thess’ tag and get the vampire kids out for meals tell husband it’s too hot to cook but really just can’t put the book down….
pict0015.JPG

strawberry lemon bavarian cake


i don’t know why i have these sudden taste-memories that so get a grip on my conscious-awareness… so acute that if i don’t act on them i have trouble sleeping.”
[audio:troublesleeping.mp3]

i don’t even remember where i had this first…i think it might be a late summer’s light lunch in an outdoor New Jersey restaurant with my grandmother. whose birthday it is, today.

she would have been 105, but she’s been gone 21 years, and in all that time and space i still remember her voice and the sound of her footsteps and the feel of her hands as she caressed what she called my “palopalo” arms.

anyway, with strawberries flooding the grocery shelves–and they’re not even the bruised rejects! they’re the really rosy red juicy ones from California!–i made this dessert for the hot summer day that’s promised for tomorrow. it looks less daunting if you break down the recipe by steps; on a lazy hazy summer afternoon while waiting for your youngest boy to come home from summer camp you can make the shortbread crust;

while waiting for dinner to cook, you can chop up the strawberries; while the family is enjoying their dinner the creamy finished dessert can be chilling in the fridge, getting ready for its close-up.

recipe from epicurious.com

(reduce the amount of lemon juice from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup then add water to make up 3/4 cup…then proceed with recipe)

General Gao (Tso, Tsao, Zhao, etc.)’s chicken

or why we had Chinese (Mandarin) food (from the same restaurant!) for the two nights we were in Quebec City….

no one seems to agree on how it was so named after a General. it is a dark, spicy and tangy variation on sweet and sour pork, using dark soy and mild vinegar and chicken instead.

whatever it was, the version from Elysee Mandarin* (and perhaps the fact that we’d had enough of pasta, pizza, fast food burgers on the road) that we were famished for rice and saucy Chinese food.

there’s also a switch in husband’s brain that automatically turns on whenever we travel to a new and faraway place: find Chinese food.

my version, based on several recipes i found googling, isn’t quite there yet. i suspect that for this chicken dish, subtle is better, less is more. mine was too dark, too sour and salty.
General Gao's

deep fried battered dark meat chicken (marinated in soy sauce and white pepper), sauced with a finely balanced magic potion of dark soy, vinegar, sugar and rice wine.
dinner at the hotel

*Elysee Mandarin is on Rue St. Auteuil, just inside the walled Old City. we discovered it 17 years ago on our first visit with our first-born, and we were elated to see they’d maintained their elegant restaurant’s quality very well. (i huffed and puffed all the way up the steep street, husband dragging me along but it was well worth the breathlessness!)

taking the bitter with the sweet

the bitter:
my Saveur magazine arrived in the mail Saturday, and boy was i thrilled to see they’d featured Hmong cuisine, Andrea Nguyen writing about her visit to the farm of a Hmong family in the Central Valley of California.

this is the first dish i wanted to try, because somehow bittermelon has been insinuating itself into my consciousness over and over.
it is there calling out to me at the Asian grocery, and at my sweet sister-in-law’s for a take-out dinner to reunite our kids for a cousin get-together now that we are neighbors.
and there whenever i remember ma’s admonition to eat it as a cure for what ails most of us in her family.

bittermelon
i never touched this gourd at all until i was well into adulthood. the strong bitter taste is just too much for me.
but somehow last night i couldn’t stop picking them out, even, from the chicken pieces.
maybe a survival instinct of sorts, seeking a magical remedy?
maybe a renegade tastebud seeking explosively strong flavors?
ampalaya w/ chicken wings

the antidote: sweet pork, Thai style (moo wan)

meant to be a lovely “garnish” for
rice with shrimp paste or Khao Kluk Kapi Kua ….yeah right if you can resist the sweet and salty fish-sauce-braised, meltingly tender pork flesh falling off the bone and in need of sopping up with rice.

and yet another; because just a little bitterness in life makes you love the sweet even more.

fruit cocktail cake, which i found in obachan’s kitchen and garden balcony. it is something my ma would have surely made in the …decade we were growing up and when she was always baking in the kitchen.

i am glad she gave me her old apron, i would have worn it with a cocktail dress and heels. if i had either, that is.
fruit cocktail cake topped with coconut

it tasted like i thought it would, a lazy girl’s crema de frutas, almost! you can omit the flaked dried coconut, but do not, NOT, skip the creamy topping. substitute light cream for the evaporated milk if you like.

recipes for chicken wings with bitter melon and for the moo wan….coming as soon as i am able!

Northern Exposure

a thousand miles, roundtrip! and we are all still on speaking terms!
i guess my kids have gotten so used to car trips, that husband and i have started plotting out more of them.

husband mapped out our vacation in a flash….he’s always been an impulsiveno-nonsense and down-to-earth kind of guy, and he was able to book our accommodations in a whirlwind…. we were just happy to get out of our home town and see something different..
so the city folks became country bumpkins for two days. in a remote log cabin, far from the maddening crowds,
we highly recommend this place: a hidden treasure, well-equipped and deluxe even though we didn’t get the deluxe cabin; unobtrusive but hospitable hosts; scenic, peaceful,… and buggy (can’t win them all right?)
sterling ridge
Jeffersonville, VT

veal saltimbocca
mussels

Stella Notte restaurant, Jeffersonville, VT.
we were starving after the five-hour ride, punctuated by a flash storm where we felt like the car was underwater! truly harrowing and scary, i persuaded husband to stop for a while on the highway shoulder. then we took a little shortcut through a narrow mountain pass…not recommended! the road through Smugglers’ Notch is impassable during the winter, and i say, i never want to pass through there , ever! what can i say, i’m a lily livered spineless jellyfish….

we had to drive quite a ways to get to dinner–an Italian joint at the next town. food was so-so, a bit pricey, but we were really famished. and there were hummingbirds all around, too quick for me to photograph.
i want them in my garden! the special appetizer that night was mussels cooked in tomato and wine sauce….the kids had somewhat mediocre pasta dishes, and i had a veal saltimbocca with spinach and gorgonzola. quite belly-filling, anyway.

ben and jerry's tour
Waterbury, VT

ice cream
this was what gave us the idea for our family trip–a pilgrimage to an ice cream paradise. we thought that the kids would get a kick out of this. gimmicky, but fun nonetheless.
rainforest crunch
the flavor graveyard. i’m still grieving….

regrettably we only had two nights filled with fireflies and lightning shows.
we were off to the big, very foreign city.
poutine
poutine. in Quebec. well i just HAD to try. i’ve already been given ample warning by Tony Bourdain no less. i must say, i fully understand the role that comfort foods play in everyone’s psyche.
this one just didn’t do anything for me: freshly fried frites ruinedsmothered in a nondescript brown gravy then showered with cheddar cheese curds which squeaked in my mouth as i chewed them up. curiosity almost killed this cat….maybe i should have ordered it with all the extras (peppers, bacon, etc…) or maybe i should try it somewhere else.

bribe me first.

oui oui ooh lala
strolling the old City of Quebec, where there were festivals and street performers all around. we could see Los Lobos playing in the park, from our 8th floor hotel suite. #1 son watched Gogol Bordello from NYC play on our last night.

Canadian candy! Cadbury! it’s not quite up to the British Cadbury caliber, but not bad at all!

Moisan epicerie
Moisan, purportedly the oldest epicerie in North America, on Rue St. Jean which was right outside the hotel.
Baluchon
croissants
aaaaah. AAAAHHHH. i wanted to stay and eat and taste everything in this store, which would have been the death of me.
but what a way to go! i want this in my city. someone do this for my city! oh maybe i can do this for my city…anyone got money to burninvest?

we can’t wait to hit the open road again… :drive:immigration man
let us in,
immigration man….

from way up in the Green Mountains

notice: why is le froggy looking zo zmug et whimzical? zomething to do with hiz dinner…..(French accent from Quebec city, spectaculaire!!!! edited 11 Juillet)

city kids, meet country frog…and newts and pollywogs and fireflies and hummingbirds and cows and horses..now enough of the rain and thunder and lightning!

summer sangria


our fourth of July cookout was a washout, worse than last year. (this blog’s been very useful for remembering where we were at definitive points in time). cold, wet, windy… but we were truly determined to soldier on and have our cookout, dagnabbit! even if it meant holding up an umbrella over the smoky charcoal grill like Imelda Marcos’ blue-ladies-in-waiting.

we had our usual kid-favorites of scallop and sword fish and vegetable kabobs, pork sticks, lemongrass chicken wings, and lazy-sushi salad topped with surimi mock crab sticks.

i made a huge jugful of summer sangria, a tall cooling glass of wine-soaked and mint-topped fruit, made with rose wine, sparkling water, Grand Marnier, grape fruit juice, and diced up mango, peaches, strawberries, cantaloupe, and raspberries. simulating a hot and sweaty 4th of July fireworks-laden summer day was a bit of a stretch though…recipe based on Sheila Lukins’, at Parade Magazine.

a heatwave arrives next week in New England! but we’re escaping to the Northeastern Kingdom et La Belle Province so i say au revoir with this perfect summer cooler :lei:

gooey sticky buns

i’d much rather be shaking off fish scales than cutting off burnt hair ends.

yes i had a little mishap in the kitchen: the oven overignited on me and threw out a roar and a lick of a fireball. it now seems so comical (Tom-and-Jerry-cartoon-y even) as i recall how i looked immediately after. i sober up at the thought of how badly it could have turned out, say, if my clothes had caught fire or if i hadn’t put my hair up to bake these gooey sticky buns.

from the throwdown with Bobby Flay, televised July 1, and filmed here in Boston at Joanne Chang’s bake shop in the South End. Bobby Flay challenged her to a cook off, selecting her best selling sticky sticky buns for the duel, with a big bunch of Harvard students to cheer her on (Joanne Chang was an applied mathematics and economics double major who is now applying her Ivy League shine to the business of pastry and doubling and tripling recipes for her bakery).

it is the rich and eggy brioche dough rolled out thin, spread with butter and dusted with cinnamon, nutmeg, almonds and brown sugar, rolled up jelly roll style, sliced into pieces, and baked in “goo.”

it started growing as soon as it hit the “goo”

her recipe states that brioche dough can be store bought. huh? where? i’d be first in line every other day then.

instead i have to use Nancy Silverton’s recipe from Baking with Julia. i haven’t memorized it yet so i have the heavy book open like an instruction manual to get it just so…brioche depends on perfect timing and eyeballing the dough during the long spell in the mixer, to check for consistency, after all.

it takes me two days each time.

the “goo” that Joanne Chang calls for is quite luscious but i had to substitute almonds for my three little ones can’t stand pecans (or walnuts).

i won’t be baking again until this oven behaves! *sigh* :melodramatic:

Continue reading