This is a great tool in the kitchen. It’s not a meat cleaver but a vegetable cleaver. Clever? Yes. It has more heft than a chef’s knife, but not as heavy as a meat cleaver so those chopping jobs don’t get too tiring. It’s great for slicing vegetables and smashing garlic, or for slicing through that frozen chub of breakfast sausage or venison that a friend gives you (hint). And it’s $12.99 at Ikea. (Ikea has since updated the cleaver so this photo is not representative of the actual cleaver but I have bought the new style and it is just as good.)
I know it’s been some time since I last posted on this blog. Well, there’s a couple of reasons for that: time, motivation, and depression. The first two are self explanatory I think, but the last, depression, is due to my recent trip to Italy. The food was so good there that I knew whatever feeble attempts I tried in my kitchen would fall woefully short of the food I dined on in Italy, and I didn’t have the heart to face my rather large inadequacies in the culinary arts. That and it was summer in Dallas and who in their right mind wants to heat up the kitchen?
So with summer in it’s last stages and the memory of Italy a bit faded, I took up pan in hand and had at it. I threw caution to the wind for two reasons: I didn’t have a thing in the cupboard that was called for in the recipe, and therefore if my attempt failed, I had a reason to point to if my attempt was inedible.
So on my recent day off due to my birthday, I spent part of it at Central Market doing a little grocery shopping. I spied some Key West pink shrimp and ordered from the fish monger my usual amount-“grab a handful”.
That night I had an excellent birthday dinner with friends at Capital Grill which included among other delights a perfectly cooked (for me medium rare+) aged sirloin with a Kona coffee and cocoa rub. Melt in your mouth…so I decided to cook the shrimp the next evening. Pondering what direction I wanted to go with the shrimp- simple, sauteed in a little butter, or cooked with a tomato pasta sauce, or with a cream sauce. I opted for cream sauce, as I had some basics on hand, mainly milk and butter.
Looking through an old autographed cookbook that was mother’s, “Ann Clark’s Faboulous Fish”, I scanned for a cream sauce that would go with the shrimp and pasta I had pre set my taste buds on. I had almost nothing on hand the recipe required but I had what I thought were enough reasonable substitutes to make a daring and edible attempt.
Let’s see, the recipe called for:
a) 1 leek and 1 shallot…nope, I have some mild onion and some dried chives-close enough
b) butter…ok, got that
c) shrimp…ok, still good
d) dry white wine…how about a cheap sweet wine a co worker gave me last Christmas?
e) fresh basil…how ’bout dried?
f) heavy cream or creme fraiche…yeah, right, how about fat free milk and some butter
g) salt…sea salt (fancy! score one for me)
h) freshly ground white pepper…um, forgot to refill the pepper mill so with a nod to my mother who used lemon pepper in almost everything but ice cream, I used some of that
i) Moutarde de Meaux or other grainy prepared french mustard…Does an old jar of a grainy mustard that all the vinegar had evaporated out of work for ya?
j) freshly chopped chives, dill, tarragon…gunna use the dried chives again
I boiled some water for the pasta, and while waiting for it to come to a boil that was enough time to make the sauce. I’ve gotten a bit lazy lately as I don’t even drain the pasta water anymore, I just scoop the pasta out of the pot to reserve the pasta water in case the sauce needs a little extra moisture.
Here’s the final plating with the wine and the yellowed cookbook that paved the way.
It turned out pretty good. I thankfully used only half the mustard called for in the recipe as the mustard was evident in the sauce, but not overwhelming. More of a “what’s that flavor?” as opposed to “wow, that’s some spicy mustard”.
I’ll post some quick comments about my recent Italy trip. I took notes on the go, on trains or in hotel rooms. I’ll probably edit these heavily unless there is a hue and cry to post my notes in a fuller form, as most of my notes were not necessarily about food and wine.
Been up for 38 hours straight. Connecting flight delayed 2+ hours for hydrolic leak to landing gear. A hard piece of luggage fell on my head from the overhead and my head is still sore!
All very tired but in good spirits. Had a nice Margarita pizza and 1/2 carafe of red house wine at a pizzeria near Porgeza hotel in Roma for € 15,50, not bad. Sat outside, nice and cool at night. Very good, just what we needed to end a long day. The house wine in most of these places is quite good.
If you’ve ever read any of Ian Fleming’s James Bond thrillers, you know of his attention to detail. From the type of cotton in 007’s shirts (Sea Island cotton) to the camera equipment (“an M3 Leica, an MC exposure meter, a K2 filter and a flash holder.”) he used to entrap Auric Goldfinger cheating at Gin Rummy.
Also the food James Bond dines on is noted with detail: “When in London, Bond maintains a simple routine. Sitting down to The Times, he breakfasts on two large cups of “very strong coffee, from De Bry in New Oxford Street, brewed in an American Chemex” and an egg served in a dark blue egg cup with a gold ring round the top, boiled for three and a third minutes. There is also wholewheat toast, Jersey butter and a choice of Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam, Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade and Norwegen Heather Honey from Fortnum and Mason, served on blue Minton china. Breakfast is prepared by May, his Scottish housekeeper, whose friend supplies the speckled brown eggs from French Marans hens.”
Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade, Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam, Bay’s English muffin, small “bangers”, (sausages), and an egg cooked over medium dusted with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt.
I will most likely never drive an Aston Martin DB5, but I can sure have the same brand of jam and marmalade 007 dines on! On a whim, I purchased a jar each of Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam and Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade. I should stifle my whims in the future. Neither of these condiments are available domestically so I had to purchase them from British suppliers along with the subsequent shipping costs (uh oh). The Little Scarlet Strawberry jam is a limited run, as there is a limited supply of the type of strawberries used in this jam. The strawberries are one fifth the size of regular strawberries. The jam is not as cloyingly sweet as the regular strawberry jams you find at the grocery store. Not tart, but a nice balance of sweetness.
The Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade is tart, and has none of the sweetness that domestic orange marmalade exhibit. In the marmalade are very large strips or chunks of orange rind that impart the tartness to this toast topping.
When duplicating my breakfast of an international spy, instead of whole wheat toast, I used as a base for the jam and marmalade a Bay’s English muffin (shown in background of photo). If you like English muffins I urge you to try this brand found in your grocers refrigerator section. I believe they are unparalleled in taste and texture. Much larger nooks and crannies in these muffins to hold melted butter or the condiment of your choice.
Just a quick shout out to Debz for the wonderful brunch she had on Mother’s day. I got to take home a goody bag of leftovers. Here’s the last piece of french toast (she went to 5 different stores to find the right bread). Over the toast is a homemade raspberry sauce that when no one was looking warranted licking the plate, along with homemade whipped cream and pecans. Yes it was worth every calorie. Thanks, Debz
On the advice of my trainer (that sounds so official as if I’m bulking up, not) I bought some AÇAÍ juice that he recommended. It’s $7.99 for a 32 oz. bottle at Albertsons where he recommended I could find it. I’ve subsequently found it cheaper at Whole Foods and Central Market.You can study all the good things it will do for your body here: http://www.sambazon.com/products/juice_original32
I like this flavor the best of the two I tried. Your taste buds may vary. It’s quite good and refreshing and has a smooth almost oily mouth feel. That sounds weird, but don’t let it be off putting as this is really good juice. It tastes a bit like chocolate covered blueberries but not as tart.
Go get healthy with a little bit of the Amazon in your fridge.
I received a coupon in the mail the other day for a free cup of oatmeal from Starbucks. If you patronize Starbucks on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to get one of their refillable cards to register and make purchases with. If you pay by cash they don’t know who the hell they are dealing with other than the first name you give them to call out when your 5 shot venti, 2/5th decaf, ristretto shot, 1 pump Vanilla, 1 pump Hazelnut, breve, 1 sugar in the raw, with whip, caramel drizzle on top, free poured, 4 pump mocha is ready. Pay by Starbucks card and all that info goes into their sinister data base where it periodically spits out some free swag delivered to your door by a member of a century’s old institution dressed in a snappy uniform formerly led by Ben Franklin.
The oatmeal comes “undressed” but comes with little individual packets of raisins, nuts, and raw sugar to dress as you wish. I dumped the contents of all the packages along with some decadent half and half to nullify any of the healthy aspects derived from eating oatmeal. It, along with their other attempts at breakfast foods, are worth a try after you work up an appetite ordering your tongue twister morning beverage.