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Having nothing to say and no words.

Classes at the Pannery and Swedish Chefs have been going apace. I’m relatively happy but confused by my restlessness. I got an adjunct position for the fall (Yay!). But I don’t have much to say. It seems like the more I cook for others out in the big world the less I want to do anything at home involving food, which seems to include the blog of late.

Franka at Can Cook Must Cook seems to be having the same problem and as she gets paid to write, it is somewhat comforting. I thought I would have all manner of exciting things to talk about in our farm share CSA box but it has been so hot and dry this summer the pickings have been very slim and even I can’t eat two gallon bags of bitter greens a week or find something to make them interesting enough for me to eat by myself. Although the pie I made was tasty, Keifel and the Julian didn’t like it because they don’t like greens. I did make a Caprese salad with some of our tomatoes that was amazing. Love, love, love the fresh mozzarella and not having to actually cook anything when it is 100+ outside.

Victoria’s Greens, Lotsa Greens Pie
1 recipe for a double crust pie (especially the one made with oil from the 1940s Good Housekeeping)
a good glug of olive oil
1 small onion chopped fine
3 or 4 smashed cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 leftover raw bison burger pattie
Salt and pepper to taste
2 gallon bags of mixed bitter greens, washed and thick stems removed
1 tablespoon flour
a good glug of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup left over white wine, chicken stock or water
Handful of grated Parmesan, Grana Padano, Feta or what have you
1 large very ripe tomato
1 egg

Make the pie crust and line a round stone baker (mine came from Pampered Chef) with a little more than half the pie crust. You could also use a relatively deep pie plate.

In a very large sauté heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until the onions are translucent, add the red pepper and sauté another 20 seconds. Crumble in the bison burger and season the mixture with salt and pepper; cook until browned. Add the greens and sauté down until all is wilted but still fairly green. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 1 minute stirring to mix in. Add the vinegar and wine or chicken stock or water and cook just until the juices thicken a little.

Allow mixture to cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the cheese and fill the pastry-lined baker with the greens mixture. Seed and slice the tomato fairly thinly and lay over the filling. Top with remaining pastry and crimp the edges together and make three or four slits in the top for steam. Make an egg wash with the egg and 1 tablespoon of water whisked together. Brush over the top crust to help it brown. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees until golden brown. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers and eat cold or reheat for 25-45 seconds in the microwave (though the crust will go a little soft).

CSA box goodies, part 1

victoria —  May 24, 2007 — 1 Comment

It has taken me until Thursday, I know, but well. We were in Atlanta over the weekend and then I had the flu, or some brief horrible thing that acted as if it might be the flu and, well, it is difficult to cook when one feels as though one’s large muscle groups are be wrung out like a wet dishrag. So, tonight we really got down to the goodies in the box.

Our share for the week consisted of one dozen free-range eggs varying in size from teeny to Jumbo, a dozen radishes, a dozen large spring onions, a gallon bag of mesclun, a gallon bag of collards, and a gallon bag of kale. I nibbled on the mesclun all week. But tonight was the first night we cooked anything from the box. We had two pork tenderloins we’d cooked earlier that Keifel sliced up and stewed briefly just to reheat. I’d rubbed it with a mix of smoked paprika, coriander and cumin before roasting it.

While he worked on the protein, I frenched (doesn’t that sound salacious?) an onion and sautéed it in some olive oil with three fat cloves of garlic, chopped fine, until the onions were translucent. I sprinkled over about a half teaspoon of salt and deglazed the small bit of browned goodness with some white wine. I put the kale in first and let it wilt down enough to add the collards and let both wilt down enough to stir. Then just let it cook until it was still a pretty, bright green and tender. I hate bitter greens cooked to mush, but I also hate chewy collards. These were young and tender enough that you could almost eat them pleasantly raw, but not quite.

Sautéed onions and kale waiting for their close up before the collards join the party

I will be better next week about actually taking a picture of what comes in the box. Or at least I’ll try.

In order to thoroughly warm our new casa, we had a Cinco de Mayo housewarming/Vic’s culinary school graduation party. We knew we wanted to have the party about a month after we moved and we wanted it to be on Saturday, and it turned out May 5th was the first Saturday in May. My love of themed menus took over and ta da, Cinco de Mayo housewarming party. We were very lucky that my mom stayed on a week after the move. Unpacking in such a short time would definitely not have happened without her and without CSG and J helping me unpack the kitchen that first night.

To celebrate our new digs and the fabulous friends we have, I planned a vegetarian-friendly with carnivorous option menu:

Sugar and spice peanuts
Jícama salad
Green, white and red salsas (tomatillo, chayote with honeydew, and pico)
A giant corn pudding with roasted pablano peppers and serrano ham
Saffron and black bean tamales
BBQ chicken tamales with chipotle crema
Roasted squash salad with green beans
Goat cheese and chorizo quesadillas with carmelized onions
Chocolate and pepita shortbread
Almond cinnamon cookies
Dulce de leche cake
A store-bought case of Jarritos sodas in various flavors like tamarind, mango and guava
Friends also brought lots of Mexican beer and lawn chairs to warm up our back yard

Friends from culinary school came and brought goodies as well. M brought a slow cooked pork shoulder and spicy cornbread, both of which were amazing and disappeared quickly. I know Keifel and The Carpenter were really happy to see the pork shoulder.

It appeared a good time was had by all, our house felt absolutely toasty after being warmed by friends near and far. And though I was feeling all over protective of my shiny new floors, clean up was a snap the next day, even outside. We still have two bags of tamales in the freezer and I keep finding little bits of leftovers in the fridge. I haven’t quite perfected the art of not over cooking. In fact, I was still worrying there wouldn’t be enough food right up until people were arriving. Silly me.

Chayote Salsa (adapted from Mark Miller’s Great Salsa Book)
1 chayote squash, peeled and diced
3/4 cup, about 1/4 of a large, honeydew melon, diced
3/4 cup fennel bulb, diced
2 teaspoons fennel frond, chopped
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
juice of two limes
pinch of sugar
salt to taste

Combine everything in a non-reactive bowl and chill until ready to serve. This is especially good as an accompaniment for fish but was interesting just with chips. The original recipe also called for some heat in the form of green habanero chile sauce. That or a fresh pepper of your preferred heat would be good. I needed a mild to nothing salsa to go with medium and scorcher salsas.

Goat cheese and chorizo quesdillas waiting for the corn pudding to appear on the hot pad next door

Jicama salad with spicy peanuts in the background

Roasted squash salad with a corner of the salsas peeking in

Guacamole in my molcajete (say that three times fast)

Blurry green, white and red salsas… I need to work on this photography thing

Blurry cookies as well, erm. Hrmph.

When the Raschke-Agostinis first moved to Nashville (aside from the fact that the Agostini part was still out of the country) we were amiably sharing a kitchen (and a house) with the Cajun Scorpio Girl. When we rented our own place, I was excited to move back into my own kitchen. I really missed my space in Knoxville. Even though it was tiny, it had a certain kind of charm. I could hang my pots and pans, and best of all there was a big window that poured light into my workspace.

The kitchen I have lived with for the last three years is a derelict 1970s leftover. A drop in stove that is vintage to the structure (1978), crammed into shotgun space with no window to speak of as the kitchens in the duplex are on a facing wall. I have often said that anything successfully prepared is a personal triumph over the cattywampus stove and temperamental oven which could be off as much as 75 degrees either way.

Exhibit A

The kitchen in the house we are buying is a little bigger and much more open. All of the appliances are new and under warranty. I might not have chosen black, but they all match. I would have loved to have gas, but there isn’t a gas line to the house, yet. The cabinets are original to the house and have a 1950s charm. There is also a window over the sink, from which I can see the road and the line of trees beyond. I am so excited, almost giddy, as the best thing about this kitchen is that it is mine all mine.

Exhibit B the day of the open house (the drawer was being repaired and painted)

Another amazingly full buffet table, I might add. We had a few less people than we had really expected but we did run through some of the big dishes. The orphan food was rather minimal (and trust me, Keifel and I really wanted there to be leftover paté). Everything turned out exactly as I had imagined and wanted. That always makes me feel wonderful, and we all know that that’s why people (okay, me) become chefs. It’s all about the mmmm factor and the validation.

We followed the menu as planned for the most part. Though I jimmied and tweaked based on time constraints and budgetary considerations, also on having forgotten a couple things in the transit from point A (my teeny kitchen) to point B (J&J’s lovely abode). The champagne flowed though we did manage to get through fewer bottles this year. We held a ballot competition to get everyone involved with fabulous non-cash prizes for the guest with the most right guesses and the guest with the least right guesses. The most winner received a choice of two wines from the cellars of J&J and the least winner received a DVD our choice (the name of the movie will be reserved to protect the not so innocent parties that chewed up the scenery).

A cheese tray with a snaking line of fig salami

Chicken liver and proscuitto paté with pistachios (yum)

My favorite picture of the night: bagna cauda with veg

A little smoky fish with accompaniment

A big smoky fish with accompaniment

Whitefish caviar on blini

Salad cups on J’s lovely basket weave platter

The big buffet in situ

The desserts. The thing you can’t see here is the people in room cheering the brownies and trying to steal them on the way to the table.

All in all I was pleased. Imagine me, Ms. Super Self-critical, saying I’m pleased, could be a breakthrough.

This week in food

victoria —  February 17, 2007 — Leave a comment

The coming week is a great one for cooks and eaters alike. Tomorrow (Feb. 18) is Chinese New Year and the first day of the year of the Golden Pig. Tuesday is, of course, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival Tuesday, or Pancake Day. A day for revelry and feasting, originally to use up all the meat, fats and sugar before 40 days of Lenten fasting. Our somewhat planned menus are a weekend of pork dinners (Trini-style stewed pork tonight and Coffee-ancho rubbed pork tomorrow), King Cake, and big, fluffy American-style pancakes on Tuesday. We aren’t Chinese or practising Catholics but these days are a part of our American melting-pot culture. And, you know me, any excuse for a themed menu.

I wish my ability to whip up Trini food was a little more developed as I know my honey is missing all the fun in Port of Spain over the next few days. In that small way I might be able to alleviate a little of the longing for things from home. Holidays have a way of making us nostalgic. It is in fact their purpose, to commemorate, to honor, to remember those people and events important to who we are as culture today. They serve as mile posts for our personal development as well. They aren’t always happy. For every person with a warm memory of a handmade Valentine from a grade school crush and a harmonious family meal, there is a person with a painful memory of a drunken parent on Christmas day or an envious Easter morning with everyone else in new clothes. Most of my holiday memories are happy ones. I’ve been fortunate. I am also married to a man who respects my love of ritual and my need to make those rituals our own and therefore meaningful.

I hope my son looks back at his childhood holidays (those widely celebrate and those, perhaps oddly, honored by our small family) with fondness. I know there have been times when we didn’t have the money to do things in a big way but we have always tried to make it special. I think those things may mean more to an adult looking back than to a child immediately wishing for that big birthday or Christmas gift that wasn’t there.

Right now in our little corner of the world, snow is falling very softly outside and our house smells of cinnamon and nutmeg from the King Cake in the oven. Keifel is on his way home from work and we will make dinner together in our tiny kitchen, as he is the better “stewer.” We’ll sit at our small table, a family hand-me-down, and eat together. Not to be too cheesy, though I expect it is too late for that, but I think that is a celebration in itself. We have each other, this place, this food, this moment to be together.

Happy Leftovers Weekend!

victoria —  November 24, 2006 — Leave a comment

Keifel, the Jules and I had Thanksgiving yesterday with J&J and J’s folks, Ms. Te and her newly wed husband. It was lovely. Roast beast, roast bird and lobsters (I alwaya say it in my mind now in the British accent of the child who plays First Lobster in Love, Actually), sides galore including roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts, mashed potatoes, vegetable tian, and cornbread dressing. Mmmmm. I brought a frozen mocha mousse cake and Ms. Te brought delightful pumpkin oatmeal cookies.

Today, I was a little woozy, despite the fact that I only had a glass of champagne and a glass of wine with dinner. I think I may be having mild reactions to shellfish. I hope not but it has happened the last time or two when I have eaten shellfish. Bummer.

I still managed to get it together, had lunch with Jules and Keifel at Brontë in the mall (Keifel was working or I wouldn’t have ventured anywhere near the mall). We then scooted over to the grocery for the items for Thanksgiving at Mom’s on Sunday. I have a few things to put together tonight (pie crust dough) and some things to put together tomorrow (pecan tartlets, decorated turkey cookies, cranberry sauce, cucumber sandwiches — those actually have to be done at Mom’s — and a fruit tray with lime dip). But before all of that I threw together a little Thanksgiving dinner redux for the three of us (mostly so I would have leftovers to play with).

I roasted a turkey breast (though I didn’t bother to brine it), roasted asparagus with boiled and roasted Danish potatoes, cranberry sauce, pan gravy, and wild rice chestnut stuffing. No dessert, as we will be in dessert up to our eyeballs at Mom’s. It was quietly lovely. We even ate on the good plates.

Mmm. Crispy turkey skin. has a few recommendations for leftovers. I have a couple tea bread suggestions for leftover cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole. My personal favorite is toasted bread with thinly sliced warmed turkey, a little warmed stuffing and a big dollop of fridge cold cranberry sauce.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and safe travels to and fro.

Well, at least we are having a few dry runs. J., my new partner, her hubby. Keifel and I are doing all the busy work to get us all legal so we can be official without spending what little savings we have. We do have a housewarming this month and the business meetings and maybe some cooking classes as well. It’s kind of taken me by surprise but I do like the idea that I will be doing what I set out to do and taking a stab at it before there is even ink on the diploma.

The 33rd birthday was lovely. Julian, the boychick, made me pancakes and syrup from scratch for my birthday dinner all by himself. He had some frustration but he can already flip pancakes like a pro. They were tasty, tender and blonde which is how I like mine much to my mother and father’s chagrin when I was a girlchick because you have to stand right over them or they get dark. They do tend to taste a little more raw than pancakes cooked to a toasty brown, but we all have our quirks. Over the birthday weekend I did get a little bit of a surprise, that has nothing to do with cooking, in that I found my first gray hair glinting back at me in the mirror. The initial shock has passed but it made me feel the whole birthday thing a little more acutely.

Back to things culinary, despite the fact that the temps are still in the 70s and even 80s this week, I made the first pot of chili for the fall. I find I deviate more from the sacrosanct recipe every time. This time I used a whole can of Murphy’s Stout for the beer portion and it made the chili have this deep note that it was lacking with the switch from beef to ground turkey (dark meat, please). I also added a late season pepper that was green but turning red. To my knowledge Dad never added bell pepper but it was a welcome addition as well. My supply of contraband Mexican powdered chiles is dwindling so I am either going to have to bribe my aunt to ship more or just head to the mercado and blend up some mix of my own. That sounds more appealing in that I will know exactly what’s ground up in there and I can play with the fruitiness v. heat ratio.

This is also the week when we will get fruits soaking for black cake (much later than we had planned, c’est la vie). I will also start laying in butter for the outrageous brownies and other holiday treats. We are planning on having the Boxing Day open house again this year, despite the fact that it’s on a Monday which is generally not a holiday here in the States. I’ll post the menu when it’s firmed up. We decided to make it an afternoon into evening thing for those poor souls who have to go back to work the day after Christmas. At least they can stop by on the way home for black cake and punch.

It’s so nice to be busy but not buried like last year.

X: a dinner party

victoria —  September 9, 2005 — 1 Comment

Julian, our boychick, turned 10 this week and for his birthday requested a seven course dinner party for him and a few of his closest friends.

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Crepes for Wizardress

victoria —  April 19, 2005 — Leave a comment

use the recipe out of my workhorse edition of The Joy of Cooking. It’s the one for basic sweet crepes, though I make a few adjustments occasionally.

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