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The Macaroni Forger

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Hello, readers and eaters! I took quite the holiday break, eh? Over my blogging vacation, I went wheat-free. So, from here on out, there will be less bread up in here. Luckily, my beloved pasta can be wheat-free, so, without further ado-

The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro, is a book very artist should read. Every art historian as well. I do mean amateur, as well as professional- there is so much food for thought (see what I did there) in this book. I found myself repeatedly setting the book down to google images, ideas, and equipment. It was like taking a class in advanced oil technique, only with a suspenseful subplot, which none of my college classes ever have.

The plot centers around a disgraced but tremendously talented painter, Claire. She has a History with the art world that has reduced her to living illegally in her tiny studio, spending her afternoons at a bar she can’t afford to drink in.

When a very attractive, successful dealer offers her a deal that will end in a triumphant comeback, she takes it. Her end of the bargain is to copy a Degas, which will be passed off as an original to a foreign buyer. The first catch is that the original she is working from is stolen. The second catch is that Claire begins to suspect the “original” is itself a forgery. Intrigue and twists ensue.

Claire, when making her first dinner date with Attractive Dealer, tells him she normally eats mac and cheese. To be cute, he makes her a gourmet version for their first evening together, with herbs, mushrooms, and fresh tomatoes.

The Macaroni Forger

1 lb macaroni
2 12 oz cans evaporated milk
4 Tb butter
2 lb assorted grated cheeses
(I used Brie, Parmesan, and white cheddar.)
4 oz cubed cream cheese
1 egg

8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 cup red wine
1 heirloom tomato
1 stalk fresh rosemary

Hm, I misordered those. Put the last four ingredients in a small pot and allow to simmer whilst you prepare the noodles.

Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the macaroni 2 minutes less than the directed time. Drain it and return to the pot. Add the milk and butter to the pot as well. Add the cheeses a bit at a time until melted.

Remove from heat, and cool for a few moments until you can add the egg without scrambling it. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into a 9 x 13 and bake for 1/2 hour. Top with mushrooms, which you have kept separate in case you have guests like Ashleigh Nelson, who flout excellent taste in favor of childhood prejudices.

Serve with more wine and a salad.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Gone Crepes

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I literally don’t know what to say about Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Not because it wasn’t totally amazing and tightly paced and twisty-turny wtf-y- because I don’t want to give away a single thing.

Here’s what I can safely tell you- Nick and Amy’s marriage has begun to deteriorate. She disappears, under very mysterious circumstances. Despite most of the novel being told in first-person, from Nick’s POV, you seriously cannot tell if he was the one who killed her. It’s a marvelous trick for Flynn to have pulled off.

The other POV is from Amy’s diary. The more you get to know her, the harder it gets to know she’s (haha) gone. That is really all I can say, except that when you finish, WE CAN FINALLY SPEAK FREELY.

That and, the meal Amy was making for Nick the morning of her disappearance was crepes. I top mine with strawberries, which comes up late in the narrative. And if you are, like I was, super intimidated by the idea of crepes- guys. They are sooo easy. Enjoy!

Gone Crepes

1 c flour
2 c milk
1 Tb sugar
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
3 Tb melted butter

Ricotta

Strawberry preserves

Combine first six ingredients in a blender while you heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high. Just blend for 30 seconds-ish, actually, you don’t really want the eggs to get airy. Once the pan is heated, pour a small amount in and swirl til it covers the bottom. All the butter in the batter keeps it from sticking. Just experiment a tad with the amount you pour- I found I preferred thinner, but my daughter liked them thick. When the edges start to brown, flip it. When both sides are golden, remove to a plate, spread ricotta on half, fold into quarters, and top with preserves. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you’d like.

Serves 4-6, just add coffee and psychopathy.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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One Amazing Pie

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Chitra Divakaruni is probably best known for the fluffy story Mistress of Spices, made into a movie starring Ashwarya Rai. This book, One Amazing Thing, is not fluff. When an earthquake hits, nine people are trapped in an Indian visa office. The situation quickly becomes dire- parts of the building keep collapsing, water is coming in, there is almost no food. (Yeah, I know. I’ll get to that.)

The book begins with Uma, a grad student in Literature, ignoring her Chaucer to make up stories about the people in the waiting room. After the quake, when people are beginning to understand the very real possibility that they will die here together, Uma makes a suggestion. Each person will tell a story from their life, about one amazing thing, Canterbury Tales-style.

Each person’s amazing thing is somehow linked to sadness. Each story explains what brought them to the office, to the dream of India. One woman, Mrs. Pritchett, recalls the beginning of her story several times. It starts with a peach pie, flaky and sweet.

This pie is as good as any memory. Perfectly sweet, with a hint of Indian spices, you won’t want to stop eating.

One Amazing Pie

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tb sugar
2 sticks of butter, cold and cubed
1/2 cup cold water

7 large peaches
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 Tb cornstarch

Cinnamon-sugar

First, the crust! Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor and whaz it. Add the butter cubes and pulse them in. Finally, add the water and watch the dough form a ball. You know, most pastry chefs will tell you that you should grate in frozen butter and use ice water. I totally don’t do that. Its a hassle. Your dough will be fine. Wrap it up in Saran wrap and stick it in the fridge. Let it chill for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350. While that’s heating up, peel your peaches. Again, you could blanch them to slip off the skins, but I didn’t feel like it. A vegetable peeler works fine. Halve the peaches, take out the pits, and thinly slice them. Combine them in a bowl with the other filling ingredients.

Divide the dough in half. I chose to roll mine thin and just use a single crust folded over like a galette. You could use your second half to make a normal top crust, or even a lattice. Or, freeze it and make another pie later like I am. Whatever you decide, get a crust in a pie pan! Dump the filling into your crust. Brush the top crust with water and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for an hour, or until golden and bubbly.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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In Noodlesville

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I’m not going to write out the first paragraph of Jo Ann Beard’s In Zanesville for you, but it might be my new favorite intro. I re-read it at least four times before moving on, just giggling to myself. In Zanesville accomplishes the rare feat of being told from the point of view of a 14 year old girl while still being an entirely adult book. In fact, I’m not sure most young adults would be as amused as I was. It rings almost TOO true.

In the book, the main character (whose name you can figure out by paying close attention!) and her best friend Felicia navigate the sticky world of freshman year in 1970- something. There is babysitting, boys, obnoxious siblings, and popularity to be dealt with. This is difficult enough, but both our heroine and her best friend have a few home issues as well. Being as entirely self-centered as most teenagers are, they are typically more concerned with the food situation than anything else.

Felicia’s mom always makes junk food from packages, and this is seriously irritating to the main character. She wants that. Instead, HER mom makes homemade noodles and yells when they aren’t properly appreciated. There is also a scene involving a butcher relative presenting the family with an unconventional dinner that our recipe harks back to.

A couple notes on the recipe: I used a pasta roller, but a rolling pin and a pizza cutter work just fine. I also chose to use pork jowl in this recipe because a., the reason above, and b., it is just as tasty as pork belly at a fraction of the cost. My Farmer’s Market meat guy actually just gives them to me. I am positive any day now he will discover what I am getting away with.

In Noodlesville

2 cups flour
3 eggs

1 pork jowl (can sub shoulder)
1 onion, sliced
1 apple, diced
1 sprig rosemary
1 Tb fennel
2 Tb salt
1 beer (lager)
1 tomato, diced

Start with the pork. I used a slow cooker, but you can use a Dutch oven. Lay the onions along the bottom of your cooking vessel, and place the pork on top. Add the apple, salt, and herbs. Pour the beer in. Fill the bottle up with water. Pour that in too. Simmer for 6 hours.

Remove the lid, but don’t turn down the heat. Grab a potato masher. Smush the pork. It will fall apart and become pulled pork with zero effort on your part. Add the tomato. Let the liquid reduce, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. When it starts to thicken, turn the heat to low.

The pasta is outrageously easy. Stick the flour and eggs in a food processor. Process until a clump forms. Wrap it in Saran wrap for 15 minutes to rest. Roll it out and cut it into any shape your heart desires. Boil for 2 minutes, drain, and toss with the pork.

Serves 4-6. Make Jello for dessert, and enjoy a beer.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Annabel Confit

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In a small town, it’s awfully hard to keep a secret. Of course, some do, and get away with it. A stolen item here, an affair there… But in Kathleen Winter’s Annabel, the secret being kept is that young Wayne Blake was born equally female and male. The secret is even kept from him. Wayne has never known why his father is so disappointed Wayne isn’t interested in his traditional Labradorian lifestyle. He has never understood why his mother secretly allows him to buy a girl’s swimsuit.

There is an air, right from the beginning, of something surreal about the small town of Croyden Harbour and its inhabitants. Each character is both there and not there. For Wayne, it’s his conflicting identities. For his father, it’s the irresistible call of the Canadian wilderness. For his mother, it’s the wistful dreams of her young adulthood in St. John.

She prepares duck her husband brings home, with vegetables and berries from their garden, while dreaming of all she left behind. After eating this dish, though, you’ll only dream of the next time you cook it.

Annabel Confit

2 duck legs
3 Tb olive oil
1 Tb tarragon
Smoked salt

1/2 head red cabbage, chopped
1 cup blueberries
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
2 Tb red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Rinse and dry the duck legs. Using a small knife, prick the skin all over. Do it carefully- you don’t want to poke holes into the meat itself- work at an angle. Sprinkle the salt liberally all over the duck, followed by the tarragon. Now let them dry-brine for at least half an hour on the counter.

Next, find a small casserole dish- you want the legs to be nestled against the sides. Pour the olive oil in the bottom, and snuggle the legs in. Put the dish in the oven before turning it on to 300 degrees. Begin checking the progress towards crispy-skin after two hours. When it looks like it’s just about there, turn the heat up to 375 for about twenty minutes.

Now put all the cabbage ingredients into a skillet and begin the braise. Start with medium heat, and stir occasionally.

After removing the duck from the oven, let it rest while you boil some potatoes. Mash them with the fat from the bottom of your casserole dish, a splash of milk or cream, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2, generously.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sisters Steak

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Ok, I admit it. I root for the bad guys a lot. I’m a Slytherin, through and through. I love Dexter, and Hannibal Lector. (Although, really, who doesn’t?) So The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt, is right up my alley. Eli and Charlie Sisters are renowned killers-for-hire, working exclusively these days for a mysterious man called the Commodore. And when I say these days, I mean smack in the middle of the Gold Rush Wild West. Eli, our anti-hero, narrates their latest charge: to track and kill a man in San Francisco. Their journey begins in Oregon, and lacks for no adventure along the way. Whiskey and women feature prominently. As you would gather, there is a lot of hearty, manly food as well. There is one exception, when the hapless Eli decides the ladies would prefer he slim down, and he eats a miserable meal of roasted carrots. So here is my take on campfire food, Sisters style. A whiskey-marinated, coffee-rubbed, bacon-fried steak. With roasted carrots. I cooked mine on the stovetop, but bonus points if you get authentic with an open fire!

The Sisters Steak

4 8 oz sirloin steaks (or any cut, really)
1 200 ml bottle of whiskey
2 Tb brown sugar
4 chopped cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tb ground coffee
8 slices bacon

8 carrots, sliced into sticks
1 Tb olive oil
Salt and pepper

Mix the whiskey, sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a 9 x 13 pan. Put the steaks in, then turn them over to coat with the marinade. Leave them for 20-40 minutes, depending how much you like the taste of whiskey. Also, preheat the oven to 450 and toss your carrot sticks with the oil and salt.

When they are close to ready, start cooking the bacon in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. You may wish to do this in 2 batches. When the bacon is about 3/4 done, remove it. Sprinkle the coffee over your steaks, adding additional salt if desired. Put them in the pan to cook in the bacon drippings. Put the carrots on a cookie sheet and roast for 15 minutes.

Important! Cook only for 3 1/2 minutes each side! You don’t want to ruin all this work by making jerky! Mom, I am talking to you!

After you have flipped your steaks, place 2 pieces of bacon atop each one. When they are done, let them rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Just about then, the carrots should be ready.

Serve with biscuits and cold beer.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Ella Minnow Pea Soup

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Remember in school, probably when you were quite small, learning about Nevin Nollop? Me either. But you probably remember learning his famous alphabetical phrase, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” In Mark Dunn’s charming novel “Ella Minnow Pea”, that phrase is near-worshipped by the citizens of Nollopia. Set on a fictional island off the coast of South Carolina, the story follows the eponymous Ella in her alphabetical adventures. The island’s inhabitants are quite infatuated with their single famous citizen- they have a gigantic statue inscribed with his phrase in the town square of the capital city. When the glue holding the letters on begins to fail, dropping one letter after another from the phrase, the High Council decrees they also be deleted from the islanders’ lexicon. The letters disappear from the novel as well. It’s sweet and silly, and a clever poke at what happens when radicals seize power and people stand by idly. So in homage, here is an alphabet soup, filled with chickpeas and green peas and all the glorious letters:

Ella Minnow Pea Soup

4 cups (1 box) vegetable broth
1 chopped stalk celery
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup dried chickpeas
2 Tb tomato paste
1 c frozen green peas
1 c alphabet pasta

Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add peas and pasta, bring back to a simmer, and cook til pasta is tender.

Serve with bread, and while speaking the longest words you know!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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