Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cookbooks are Like Shoes






Cookbooks are like shoes. Last week I broke one of my rules (One of these days I’ll have to put together a list of my rules); I bought a pair of shoes without first clearing out a sorely neglected pair. Think of my joy when I went to my granddaughter’s Zumba (or whatever it is—looked like calisthenics set to music) recital and, as the price of admission, I got to donate old shoes. My bag overflowed and the labels on the soles of most of the shoes were still intact. Empty slots….I’d better go shopping.
Cookbooks are another story. My collection, over 200 last time I counted, has moved with me from a little house to a big house to a big condo to a little house to another condo to another house. I may never use some of them, but I really do know what lies between the covers.  My recent trip to the Miami Book Fair yielded about 20 pounds of cookbooks. No, I don’t have room for them, so they are piled up on a table in front of the TV. They are waiting for me so when I take a break to watch a recording of Glee or The Big Bang Theory, I’ll have something to do. Reading cookbooks has always been one of my favorite diversions.
People Food for Pets, or whatever it ends up being called, will be my first venture into actually writing my own cookbook, although the book of recipes I taught from while I ran my cooking school is, I’ve been told by many of my former students, their go to cookbook. Someone contacted me on Facebook and asked for a recipe for ruggelach that I had demonstrated so many years ago. No way did I recognize the person, but the ruggelach, I can still taste them.
I’ve been reading Dianne Jacobs’ Will Write for Food in which she mentions one of my often used recipes from long ago, Marcella Hazan’s pork cooked in milk. Marcella Hazan’s two classic Italian cookbooks have always been on my list of favorites. Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and other Good Foods from Morocco is another. Believe it or not, I was once crazy enough to make couscous from semolina flour. It was OK, but what a waste of time. This year she wrote a follow up that has been favorably reviewed, but I haven’t seen yet.
Cookbooks are fun to read and the pictures are really enticing, but, of all my 200, I actually use only a few recipes from only a few. The New Yorker in me and the fresh paper at my door every day led me to collect the New York Times cookbooks, and I still use them. Craig Claiborne’s International Cookbook has always been my first source for foreign cuisines. His recipe for Peking Duck brings back so many memories. Hanging the ducks to dry in my kitchen really fooled my Dobermans; I didn’t think they were dumb until they barked like crazy at the swinging ducks. 
     
Then there was the night when a friend called me in a panic to ask about sewing up the holes left after the wings were removed. Her problem was that her husband, a surgeon, insisted in using his best medical technique to sew up the ducks and she really was getting impatient. 
  
I could go on and on about the virtues of Craig Claiborne’s International Cookbook, but there are more New York Times cookbooks: Heritage, Original, Chinese, and another that Craig Claiborne wrote with Pierre Franey. How I miss those little 2 or 3 inch daily columns in the Times, so many of which are stuck between the pages; one of these days, I’ll shake out all the books and assemble them.
I have some more favorites: Beard on Bread, The Joy of Cooking, everything by Julia Childs, Diana Kennedy’s Mexican books, I know there are others…….which cookbooks are your favorites?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oatmeal, My Newest Obsession

I have to admit that I’m guilty, guilty of food obsessions. I’ve been through handmade pancakes for Peking Duck, homemade sausage in real casings, ravioli in all forms made from fresh noodles and bread, bread, bread…you get the picture.
  
So how did this latest obsession come about? I concluded that the entire universe of healthy eating couldn’t be wrong about the benefits of eating oatmeal, so I set out to figure out how to make it somewhat palatable. And at the same time, I knew it could be canine-friendly.
The instant variety with all the pretty pictures on the boxes just wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, I am a strict follower of the “if it comes from a box with colorful pictures, I can’t eat it” rule. Shiny, colored pictures equal instant headaches in my world and surely must contain stuff that Mikey, my king canine, can’t eat.
On to more varieties. There are thick rolled, old-fashioned, quick oats, instant oats, and, in the shiny metal tin, the steel cut oatmeal that takes, perish the thought, half an hour to cook. After I went through them all, I had to try the John McCann's (not McCain) Irish oatmeal. The results can only be compared to the differences between Minute Rice and basmati or risotto. 


Minute Rice and converted rice fled the confines of my kitchen when I discovered the complex flavors of the varietals. Now I’m trying to decide how to use up the three pounds of five minute oats occupying valuable real estate in my pantry--oatmeal cookies and who knows what else.

The McCann oatmeal is different. It has bite. The others are as unreasonably mushy as overcooked pasta. Even my Jewish mother, 70 years ago understood the virtues of al dente. Isn’t it a shame that Italian restaurants still think they can save time by reheating pasta? In New York no one reheats pasta. In Miami, who knows?


We’ve been playing with our very slow cooking oatmeal, eating it with dried apricots, dried cranberries, nuts, grated apples, butter and brown sugar, raisins, and combinations of the above.

Even Mikey likes it. Of course, he can’t have the raisins or much sugar, but wow, with leftover meat stirred in, he couldn’t get enough of it. After a few days, even Mikey was willing to eat the oatmeal with very few accompaniments. 

Now I have to try it out on my granddaughter and her friends. How about oatmeal sundaes: chocolate chips, whipped cream, strawberries, raisins. I don’t even have to experiment. I know I can mainstream oatmeal if I present it right.

My only problem has been my husband. He thinks I’m trying to turn him into a horse, albeit a healthy one.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ruggelach (Not for Pets--Just for You)


Someone found me on Facebook and asked for this recipe that dates back to my cooking school days from the 1970’s. If she remembered it from so long ago, I figured it might be worth taking the time to get it down on the screen. (No, this isn’t for your dog, sorry, Mikey.)

 The proportions for this recipe are small so it can be made in a food processor. If you want a larger recipe or have a large food processor, repeat it or double it.  I don’t remember where this recipe came from. I think the basics were from my mother, but the use of the cinnamon and sugar in place of flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the board was my idea. (I guess I didn’t care about calories then and I don’t now. If you are going to eat ruggelach, eat fewer pieces, but make sure they are worth eating.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the Dough:
·        1 C all purpose flour
·        ¼ pound (1 stick) butter (unsalted)
·        ¼ C cottage cheese

Process in a food processor just until a ball of dough forms on the blades. Don’t over process or you’ll end up with dough that is too elastic and tough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

Fillings:
1.  Golden raisins plumbed in apricot brandy and mixed with chopped nuts and cinnamon and sugar.
2.  Apricot or strawberry preserves mixed with flaked, dried coconut and chopped nuts.
Cut the dough into 2 or 3 pieces and roll each into a circle on a board sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Brush it with melted butter. Sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar, cut it into wedges like a pizza, spread one of the fillings to within ½ inch of the edge, roll each wedge from the perimeter to the center of the circle and place on a buttered baking sheet, point down. Brush with butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

 Because there is sugar covering the baking sheets, there is potential for the sugar burning, so watch the ruggelach carefully. Burnt ruggelach are very disappointing.

Alternatively, you can roll the dough into a rectangle and use the strawberry filling to make mock strudel. Roll the strudel like a jellyroll, brush it with butter, score it, and bake it for about 30 minutes.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Someone thinks like me

I came across this blog entry and had to reply:
You sound like me. My bookshelves are stuffed with over 200 cookbooks and the collection keeps growing. Do I use them all? Of course not, but I know what each one contains, because I too read cookbooks like they are novels.
    
 Finally, after cooking for family and friends, I’ve decided it’s time to cook for my fuzzy son, Mikey. I’m working on a people-dog cookbook and having fun trying to adapt my tried and true recipes so their ingredients are all dog-safe.
 My cookbooks have a history; some of them are stuffed with clippings from the New York Times and tons of magazines, others with faded bindings as a result of years of living under skylights. There are the new ones that are still on my living room coffee table and old community cookbooks with crumbling plastic bindings. I may not remember the stories in the novels I read in the last month, but, somehow, I remember what’s in each cookbook.

Could I ever throw any of them away? I don’t think so because each one is a living thing, having lived through years of abuse on my kitchen counter and next to the sputtering frying pan. I’ve tried to resort to using cookbooks on my Kindle and recipes from the Internet, but they’re not the same. Cookbooks have to be fully dressed; they can’t be squeaky clean and simplistic.
I’m hoping my cookbook will be fun and practical and interesting. In its infancy, you can see it on my website: http://www.peoplefoodforpets.com.

To Smoke or Not to Smoke, What a Stupid Question

I found this link on my Facebook feed this morning and decided to mount my favorite, albeit very worn soapbox. Believe it or not, I have never, no, not ever, held a lit cigarette in my hand. No, I’m not some sort of angel, I just hated my mother for making me wash her stinky filthy ashtrays.

Watching old movies, the ones I love, the ones from the forties and fifties, I now understand, sort of, why my beautiful, savvy mother smoked. It was sexy and made her look smart and modern.

They even smoked in my very favorite Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the movie I watched three times a few months ago in preparation for a bridal shower that I was supposed to attend looking like Holly. The frustration factor of trying to turn my curly blond senior self into Audrey Hepburn would have been awful even thirty years ago, but…

Our super clean house (my crazy mother made me dust the furniture  the morning before we left for each vacation) really smelled bad but, fortunately, the smelly smoke doesn’t come through when I watch old movies. In addition to my mother’s cigarettes, Marlboro, I think, my father smoked cigars. Yuck. 

When my daughter Elisabeth was very small, I remember her saying to my mother as she smoked, “Nanny, you’re going to die tomorrow.” I guess I got through to her. Fortunately, none of my children smoked, so I may have gotten through to all of them. If you ask my son why he never took up drugs, his interesting answer “I was afraid of liking them.” 

My mother did eventually quit smoking cigarettes and my father quit smoking cigars. One day my brother in law, who was a pediatrician and lived two doors from my parents, arrived at my parents’ house and ceremoniously placed on my mother’s kitchen table a jar containing a lung from a patient who had died of lung cancer.  That was all it took.

The cigars took a bribe. My father quit smoking cigars after my mother gave up drinking scotch. 

It sounds like I grew up in a dysfunctional family. No, they weren’t drunks or addicts. My mother only drank at social events and wasn’t even a chain smoker. My father’s cigars only came out during his weekly card games. 

The cigar smell drove my mother so crazy that one night she collected every alarm clock she could find and set each one a minute apart, starting at 11 PM, hiding them in drawers, under pillows, under furniture, just enough to drive my father and his friends crazy. How long it took her to amass the ten or so alarm clocks, I have no idea, but the story made the rounds of our town for years.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner for All of Us (Mikey too)


We had our first Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night. A turkey was thrust on me so I figured I’d better take the plunge and do Thanksgiving. I’m working on my People Pets cookbook so I seized the opportunity to experiment with only dog safe foods.

So I consulted the list, (it’s at the end of this post) and got to work. It was a bit of a challenge—I never cooked for Thanksgiving without garlic and onions and tomatoes and mushrooms…..But I think I succeeded. Everything tasted good, in spite of the omissions.

This also turned into a migraine free Thanksgiving. When I eat like a dog, I don’t get headaches. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. I cast aspersions at people who treat their dogs like people, but Mikey has taught me how to eat. Could it be that he treats me like a dog?
 


Bad for Dogs
Bad for Migraines
aged cheese
aged cheese
alcohol
alcohol
bananas
bananas
beer
beer
caffeine
caffeine
chickpeas
chickpeas
chocolate
chocolate
citrus
citrus
corncobs
corncobs
eggplant
eggplant
garlic
garlic
ketchup
ketchup
mushrooms
mushrooms
mustard seeds
mustard


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Please Check This Out--This article upset me

I just found this website. I was especially interested in and frightened by the article about chicken jerky, Mikey’s favorite. Time to do some more cooking for Mikey and to convince my husband that just because Mikey Likes It, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s OK. This week I’ll be working on Thanksgiving for the whole family, including Mikey.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Someone Really Thinks Like Me

I came across this Blog Post and had to reply:

You sound like me. My bookshelves are stuffed with over 200 cookbooks and the collection keeps growing. Do I use them all? Of course not, but I know what each one contains, because I too read cookbooks like they are novels.

Finally, after cooking for family and friends, I’ve decided it’s time to cook for my fuzzy son, Mikey. I’m working on a people-dog cookbook and having fun trying to adapt my tried and true recipes so their ingredients are all dog-safe.

My cookbooks have a history; some of them are stuffed with clippings from the New York Times and tons of magazines, others with faded bindings as a result of years of living under skylights. There are the new ones that are still on my living room coffee table and old community cookbooks with crumbling plastic bindings. I may not remember the stories in the novels I read in the last month, but, somehow, I remember what’s in each cookbook.

Could I ever throw any of them away? I don’t think so because each one is a living thing, having lived through years of abuse on my kitchen counter and next to the sputtering frying pan. I’ve tried to resort to using cookbooks on my Kindle and recipes from the Internet, but they’re not the same. Cookbooks have to be fully dressed; they can’t be squeaky clean and simplistic.

I’m hoping my cookbook will be fun and practical and interesting. In its infancy, you can see it on my website: http://www.peoplefoodforpets.com.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oh, To Be Color Blind


Every year, in early November when my father’s birthday approaches, I think about his legacy. Yes, he really was color blind--he couldn’t tell the difference between green and gray—but, way more important—he was philosophically and morally color blind.

Too frequently something happens that brings him back to life. When Jimmy Carter said that he blamed the opposition to President Obama on anti-black sentiments, explaining that he was from the South and was qualified to recognize prejudice, we understood. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/seeing-in-color/200912/prejudice-and-obamas-opposition-0. Why did someone shut him up? Why didn’t he every repeat his thoughts?
Isn’t it time we all faced the truth? If you live in the morally isolated northeast or northwest, you may find it easy to insulate yourself.
I remember a business trip to Richmond, Virginia. I entered a large store and felt almost at home. The street was clean, the stores were familiar. Then I left the store through the rear exit. All I could think of was that I had been transported to downtown Newark (before it was somewhat gentrified). No, there weren’t signs to tell us who could drink out of each fountain, but it sure felt like a different city.

We spent many weekends in the Lake Okeechobee vicinity in central Florida. When we asked the locals where we could get some good barbecue, they suggested two restaurants. So we proceeded to try each. Why were we the only whites in only one of them? South Florida may be like New York south, but the rest of the state, not so much.

 I really must be naïve. I thought that my father’s lessons and attitudes were heard by more than just me. He was a real pioneer. He was the president of the local Brotherhood Council for years while I was growing up. I never knew who would appear at our dinner table: the local Catholic priest, the Methodist minister, a member of the NAACP, his doctor friend from India. I still doubt that my mother accepted my father’s friends without question, but she was smart enough to keep quiet.
Where did my father, who would be 99 on November 7 of this year, learn? He grew up in Brooklyn, but served in the Army during World War II. Could it be that when you have to depend on someone for basic survival, you become color blind? Or was he just a good person?
When the time came to vote in the last presidential election, we chose to vote early. We selected a polling place where we knew we would wait in line for hours with the local Haitian community. I just wanted to experience pure joy and excitement. There were people distributing drinks and chips and cookies, and it felt like a block party.
 When Barack Obama won the election, I felt the euphoria of my freshman year in college, when we stayed up all night to see John F. Kennedy elected. Will we ever feel that way again?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Guess I'll Have to Eat Like a Dog

Mikey's teaching me how to eat.

When I began my research for People Food for Pets, I found many lists of doggie “no no’s.” I consulted list after list; the foods on the lists began sounding familiar.

I’ve been suffering from migraine headaches for as long as I can remember and have been researching the food triggers. Most, but not all, of the migraine “no no’s” have been problems for me. No one has demonstrated whether the foods have a cumulative effect; that could explain the seemingly random headaches, but I know I’ve been the target of each one at some time.

Yes, migraine headaches are the enemy. The enemy seems to sneak into my bedroom at three in the morning and shoot me in the head, usually only on one side, leaving me incapacitated. Then we begin our dialogue: “What did you eat yesterday? Did you eat lunch, breakfast? What time did you come into bed last night? Yadda yadda yadda”

Here’s a curious list:

Bad for Dogs
Bad for Migraines
aged cheese
aged cheese
alcohol
alcohol
bananas
bananas
beer
beer
caffeine
caffeine
chickpeas
chickpeas
chocolate
chocolate
citrus
citrus
corncobs
corncobs
eggplant
eggplant
garlic
garlic
ketchup
ketchup
mushrooms
mushrooms
mustard seeds
mustard
onions
onions
processed meats
processed meats
raisins
raisins
raspberries
raspberries
red grapes
red grapes
red plums
red plums
soy sauce
soy sauce
tea
tea
tomatoes
tomatoes
uncooked yeast dough
uncooked yeast dough
walnuts
walnuts
wine
wine

All these migraine triggers have been on my list for years. Yes, I do give in and eat pizza or sausages with peppers and onions, but at three AM I regret it.

I’m working on a cookbook with recipes for pet food made from the same ingredients that I use for my people food. The first thing I had to find was a list of foods that were dangerous for dogs, ingredients I could never use in my dog food.

If I couldn’t use the ingredients in the dog food, I certainly couldn’t include them in my people food recipes. We’ve been eating the people food without the problematic ingredients for two weeks, and I haven’t had a single headache, not one. Could I have conquered the enemy?

Now I have to figure out how to cook without wine, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and mushrooms. If eating like Mikey will cure my headaches, I may have to start to bark, or teach Mikey to read (He already talks.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Surprising


This recipe might sound ridiculous, but I found it in my favorite Italian cookbook, Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook, published in 1976. I made some changes, have been making it ever since and it still surprises anyone who tries it.

You should get about four servings from 3 pounds of pork, but I used a 2 pound roast and couldn't believe we ate the whole thing. If I had any leftovers, I would have combined them with some grated raw carrots in a food processor and I know Mikey would have liked it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zucchini—Healthy?—Not always—But so good


The four medium-sized shiny green zucchini talked to me this morning. They kept repeating “Zucchini Bread” until I resurrected a recipe left over from my cooking school days. Even then, in the early 70’s, I was sneaking whole wheat flour into cookies, cakes, and breads. The trick was always to fool my family, and I usually succeeded.

The Zucchini Bread was loaded with vegetable oil and sugar, but it did have zucchini and whole wheat flour. And it tasted really good.

All morning, the zucchini bread that I made, I’ll have to admit, just for me, keeps calling me back to the kitchen. If shiny zucchini talks, zucchini bread shouts. I haven’t stopped sampling it and had better freeze some of it or I’ll eat it all.

After mixing the zucchini bread in my old faithful Cuisinart machine, I used the same ingredients and messy tools to create some dog biscuits. Does Mikey really like them? The jury’s still out, but my parrots can’t get enough of them.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Dog Food Migraine Connection?



Could it be? Who knows?
I’ve been working on recipes for dog food made from the same ingredients as people food. That has meant:
·        No onions
·        No garlic
·        No tomatoes
·        No grapes or raisins
·        No avocado
·        No wine
·        No grapes
·        No macadamias

     It was a challenge. Creating a decent beef stew without my onions, garlic, and wine didn’t seem possible. But, I did it. I used lots of Italian seasoning mix, some pepper, dry mustard, smoked paprika, and a little salt. I took what I thought was going to be a serious risk, chicken broth that claimed to have no MSG (monosodium glutamate).
     I was under the impression that glutamates were created from cooking meat and poultry for a long time, so I ate the beef stew and took a chance—I didn’t even take a small dose of my migraine medication (Imitrex and Advil), something I might have done because I was so afraid of the 3 AM wake up call—the migraine attack. (Why do they always come at three in the morning? I haven’t figured that out yet.)
     It’s tomorrow, I slept all night (All night to me means the 4 AM alarm.). No headache, not even a minor one.
     Could it be that the same foods that are not safe for dogs have been contributing to my headaches? Might be true.
     Although we have had access to piles of avocados this season, I’ve been smart enough not to eat them. I never drink red wine, but haven’t yet made the red wine, red grape connection. But I haven’t been willing to give up the rest of the list. I have always cooked with an overabundance of garlic, onions, tomatoes, and wine and haven’t yet been able to control the 3 AM monster.
     Today might be the first day of the rest of my life—I’ll just eat like a dog.
To be continued….