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Hope your winter holiday is the loveliest of lovelies, whatever you are celebrating.

Smiling, even though I will be eaten.

Smiling, even though I will be eaten.

Get out there and vote today. Obama, McCain… doesn’t matter who for, just go to the polls and voice your opinion.

It’s another post that finds me mourning. This is something I feel I have had to do too much of this year. Family members have died. Friends have died. Today my grief comes in the wake of a violent act that has shaken me to the foundations of my faith. The shooting yesterday at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was a transgression of the highest order. A man walked into a building with the intent to kill all those present because of their beliefs. Obviously, mental illness must play a part in this. I can’t believe that anyone in their right mind could be capable of levelling a shotgun at men, women and children in the sanctuary, sanctuary, of a church.

I know this is supposed to be a blog about food and cooking and culinary school. All those things are big part of my life. But at the center of that is my desire to feed and care for people and at the center of that need is my faith and what I feel called to do in this world. I am a Unitarian Universalist. I have been for more than fourteen years. I started going to a UU church in college and then when I moved home when I was pregnant with Julian, the women’s group at the UU church in Oak Ridge embraced me and my new baby when he arrived. When Julian and I moved to Knoxville we joined Tennessee Valley UU and found a safe place there after the events of September 11, 2001. When we moved to Nashville we, now as a family with Keifel, found a new spiritual home at First UU. My UU family has been there for me through some remarkably rocky times and I have always felt a sense of connection and peace at the heart of this loving, progressive faith. Yesterday, someone did what I could never imagine happening. I am sick at heart and grieving for those who died. Greg McKendry died shielding children and other church members from a shotgun blast. I believe that is an act of heroism. Other church members rushed to tackle the shooter and saved more lives. These men are to be commended as are the men and women who acted quickly and calmly to get others to safety.

In the aftermath of all of this, people of many faiths and denominations have sent messages of love, hope and healing to TVUUC and to Unitarian Universalists as a group. Knowing that has given me hope that all peoples of all faiths can stand together against bigotry and violence. On the flip side of this coin, there have been those who have said that it isn’t a “real” church and, in so many words, those liberal heathens got what they deserved. These words are another act of violence and can only serve to foster more acts violence. Unitarian Universalists believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people, yes, even the man who came into the church to kill and, yes, even those who would use careless or pointed words to do further damage. My prayers are with the families of those murdered yesterday and those who were injured physically, mentally and spiritually. I am also praying that my church family at TVUUC can return to their sanctuary again very soon and feel safe there once more. I am also praying for the perpetrator of this crime and for those who can’t see past a difference in beliefs to the human being on the receiving end of those words of hate.

If you came looking for a recipe or a foodie witticism, thank you for reading this far. And whatever you might believe, or not believe, please hold these people, this church, this community of faith in your thoughts and prayers.

We’ve moved!

victoria —  June 26, 2008 — Leave a comment

You wouldn’t notice of course because the internet elves (i.e. Keifel) did all the packing of electrons and shuffling of whatnots over to our new hosting service. The people we had before got bought up by another company and the new owners were, um, not very nice.

In addition to moving we got a cat, which of course you also can’t see. I’ve never had a cat before and Orion is good for hours of entertainment. This could explain the current dearth in posts. But it doesn’t really. I just haven’t had much to say because I’ve been alternately over-scheduled, on vacation, stresses, bummed or pleasantly diverted. It’s complicated.

On a foodieporn related note, I have a new favorite magazine. Australian Gourmet Traveller. It covers travel destinations I won’t be able to afford in the next 20 years without some help from the lottery and Australian restaurants in which I won’t be eating, at least not this week. But… but… the photographs are absolutely gorgeous and I have actually attempted some of the more complicated dishes. The recipes work (I have a scale that has metric and imperial — which helps). I highly recommend it if you need some new exciting foodieporn.

I am still cooking and eating and travelling. I am also just really, really busy. ‘Tis the time of year and all that. As soon as I get a moment, I’ll post our pictures from New York. We dined well, if fairly cheaply.

The European tour class is going like a house afire though my numbers have dwindled, unfortunately that means my budget has as well. You can imagine the pouty chef here as you choose. Still, it is fun, though more work with the brain-twisty, food-budget maneuvering. We were in Russia, Belarus, Georgia and the Ukraine last week. The menu is marked to help decipher which dish is from where.

A Western Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Georgian Menu

Yaitsa po-minsk
Beet puree
Kartoshka po-moskovsky
Lokshen kugel

Yaitsa po-minsk
Eggs Minsk – Belarus

10 hard-boiled eggs
1/3 cup soft butter
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons paprika
salt and black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
3 tablespoons grated cheese
anchovy filets, soaked and halved

Peel the eggs and cut each in half, carefully preserving the white to be stuffed. Remove the yolks and set the whites aside on a tray or plate. Place the yolks in medium-sized mixing bowl and add the butter, mayonnaise, cream, herbs and paprika. Mix and then taste for seasoning, adding the salt and pepper according to your personal taste.

Chop four of the egg whites very finely and fold them into the yolk mixture. Fill the remaining whites with the yolk mixture, mounding the mixture attractively.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix the bread crumbs and cheese together. Lay the anchovies in a crisscross across the yolk mixture on each egg half and sprinkle with the crumb and cheese mixture. Brown for ten minutes in the oven and serve hot.

Beet Puree – Georgia

1 pound raw beets
2-3 cloves of garlic
½ cup shelled walnuts
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon ground coriander
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425°F and wrap the beets in foil making a lose parcel so air can circulate but seal the edges well so stem can build up in packet and soften the beets. Roast the beets until soft, this can take up to 2 hours depending on the beets. Check after an hour to see where they are on the road to tenderness. Carefully open the packet and pierce with the tip of a sharp paring knife. There should be little to no resistance. Allow the beets to cool completely in their parcel before you proceed to the next step.

Peel and chop the garlic and add to a food processor and pulse to mince. Add the walnuts and salt and pepper and process again until everything is a fairly fine rubble but not pasty. Peel and roughly chop the beets (wearing gloved to avoid being dyed beet purple) and add the chopped beats to the processor with the herbs and the ground coriander. Continue processing until you have a fine paste. Add the red wine vinegar, pulse to mix and taste. You may need more vinegar if the beets are very sweet. You want something that approaches a relish with a balance of sweet and sour. Decant the puree to a glass bowl (to avoid pinking any plastic containers, but avoid metal because of the vinegar) and refrigerate for at least to hours up to overnight to allow all the flavors to marry.

Kartoshka po-moskovsky
Moscow Potatoes – Russia

2 ¼ pounds medium-sized potatoes
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 small onion, very finely chopped
5 tablespoon sour cream
salt, to taste
2 oz. red caviar (salmon roe) (we used yellow North American lumpfish roe)

Peel the potatoes, though if you have well-washed new potatoes you can leave the skins on. Bake in the oven at 350°F until they are almost soft. While the potatoes are baking, sauté the onions in a small amount of additional butter until meltingly soft. Set aside. When the potatoes are ready, cut a “lid” off the top of each potato and hollow out the centers using a melonballer or small teaspoon. Mash the lids and centers with the melted butter, the sautéed onions and the sour cream. Season the mashed potatoes to your taste with salt and pepper. Place the mashed potatoes in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and fill the potatoes hollowed out potatoes mounding the filling just slightly. Place the filled potatoes shoulder to shoulder in a baking dish and place under a hot broiler just until the ridges of the mashed filling begins to brown. Remove the potatoes from the oven, sprinkle with the caviar and serve immediately.

Beef stroganoff – Russia

1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and black pepper to taste
2 pounds of beef filet (or other tender cut), cut across the grain into thin slices
1 pound mushrooms
1 pound of onions
16 ounces of sour cream (full fat, to avoid splitting the cream)

Mix the mustard, sugar, a pinch each of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of water together into a thick paste and set aside. Give the mushrooms a good rinse and slice them about ¼” thick. Peel and julienne the onion into ¼ inch strips. In a skillet large enough to hold all the final ingredients, heat enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan and sear the strips of beef in batches, setting aside on a clean plate.

After the beef has all been seared, add a small amount of additional oil and brown the onions and mushrooms, cover them and cook gently for about twenty minutes. Uncover and allow any accumulated liquid to evaporate. Add the meat back to the pan with the mushroom and onion mixture. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and add the mustard mixture. Cook until mustard mixture has coated all the ingredients in the pan and seems to have slightly thickened. Turn the heat to a bare simmer and add the sour cream. Stir gently until the cream has warmed through. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the cream will break and become grainy. If this happens the stroganov will still taste wonderful, it just won’t be quite as attractive. Serve immediately with hot, buttered egg noodles or boiled potatoes.

Lokshen kugel
Noodle bake – Jewish Ukrainian

Generous 1 pound of ribbon noodles made with egg
Salt to taste
4 eggs
7 tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons honey
7 tablespoons butter
1 ¼ cups raisins, soaked in hot water for 15-30 minutes
1 cup walnuts or almonds, roughly chopped
butter for the baking dish

Boil the noodles in lightly salted water according to the package directions. Drain them and rinse under warm water. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and the softened butter. Mix well. Fold the noodles into the egg mixture with the raisins and walnuts. Place in a greased ovenproof dish and bake in a 350°F oven for 45-60 minutes. Can be served either warm or cold according to personal preference.

Variation: The bake tastes even better (I know it’s hard to believe) with a finely chopped cooking apple added to the mixture with the raisins and nuts.

2008? Already?

victoria —  January 4, 2008 — 1 Comment

I am sitting here on my couch (love, love wireless) and watching The Martha kit out a craft armoire. As if. My house is the size of a perfectly cozy postage stamp. I have a craft gift bag shoved in a closet near the sewing machine about which Keifel likes to remind me that I never use. Be that as it may, I am pondering how it got to be 3:30 on a January day when just yesterday I was busting my behind trying to get all my orders done for Thanksgiving and then Christmas.

I have been insanely busy but happily so. Classes are about to ramp up in Murfreesboro and then the following week here in town. I have a day job lined up in February and work on a new project that I am really excited about and will let you know about here when it is ready to go out in public.

Many people find January depressing because the fields are long brown and spring seems a long way off, but I love the winter (though I am not crazy about the cold feet my new house offers). It is an excuse for long cooked things when you don’t care that the oven has been on all day heating up the house. I love wintery salads with bitter greens and oranges and the exotic fruit that shows up in the market. Blood oranges, meyer lemons and other unique citrus fruits are in their brief seasons. It’s a good time to plot summer gardens and projects for the year. It’s also a good time for lighter fare after the excesses of the holidays.

Admittedly the holidays don’t have to be excessive, they can just be nice. Here’s a photo retrospective of some of what I got up to for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Boxing Day.
A big little turkey, some pumpkins and leaves packed for a trip
A non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner with a pork with mole, pablano corn pudding and avocado salad
Christmas cookies getting ready to go to Keifel’s work

A winter wonderland birthday cake for CSG’s work buddies and my first use of edible glitter
Boxing Day spread
Boxing Day dessert spread

Best Wishes to everyone, whichever winter holiday you are celebrating. I say celebrate them all : ) Have a wonderful long weekend with nearest and dearest and eat fabulous food and drink fancy drinks (but not too much). Love love.

Foodieporn will be back next week with pics of what I’ve been up to.

I have some pictures I took that I wanted to include in the blog and just haven’t gotten around to it. So here is a mish mash of the Foodieporn/Ars Culinaria summer experience.

We took a little vacation the week of the Fourth and went to Des Moines to see some old friends with a newish (she turned two while we were there) pumpkin whom we had not yet met (I know, bad friends we are, but Iowa is far). While we were there O and I went to the justly famous Des Moines farmers’ market. Such beautiful produce and organic meats and breads and all kinds of goodies.

I bought an herbed lemonade and some Raspberry Chipotle Sauce from this stand.

I bought amazing pecan raisin bread from here.

In my journey I also bought some Dutch letters (big, cinnamon filled S cookies), some plain chevre and something else that escapes me at the moment. If you get the chance to go, go. It is big (several blocks) and there’s everything from cut flowers to lamb chops. Seeing friends and this market made driving through corn for 6 hours so worth

We got another new digital camera which Keifel was playing with and took these shots of my dinner a few weeks ago. It’s just a Boca burger on a toasted bun with lettuce and tomato and grainy mustard.

There is almost something sinisterly shiny about this one… too much flash.


And finally, a shot of our basket two weeks ago. This week we got tomatoes and cucumber. Lovely.

In fact I seem to be up to my eyeballs — writing lectures, going to the grocery four times a week for classes and for us, ferrying the child hither and yon. But it’s a happy busy and when I get a longer minute I will catch up with the blog. Sorry for the bumpiness of late.