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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Novel Review and Menu: Jesse Browner

Over the years I have become an afficianado of Jesse Browner's work.

One of the most mesmerizing works to combine culinary and fiction in his novel, The Uncertain Hour, Mr. Browner brings us to visit and partake in the intense last hours and Roman feast of Titus Petronius. The tense narrative moves through saffron fields, Lucanian sausages, and an Umbrian boar with a stuffed belly of Chian figs and moist chestnuts. Delicious, no? (Think I am putting this on my bed table again!) But be warned the story is not all sweetness and light. Petronius is, little by little, ending his life as the feast and his lovers and friends swirl around him.

His most recent release Everything Happens Today gives us Wes, a poetic and distraught 17 year old who has had quite the day but is thus preparing a dinner he hopes will heal his disparate family. We watch while he presses and preps an elegant old world specialty- Ris de Veau, or Sweetbreads, or otherwise known as veal thymus glands.

Perhaps due to a European upbringing Mr. Browner creates worlds of culinary forays, intricate preparations in all their social and cultural realms. Mr. Browner entices a very intoxicating sensuality; and isn't this connection wrought with the most sublime and fragile emotions; yes, food! warm and flowing sauces brings us all to the door; opening to the kitchen or a banquet of words, I am there!

Accras de Morue, Fritters of Salt Cod from the Arles market
and from the C’est si Bon! kitchen

These fritters of spices and salt cod are so delicious you’ll be transported to the ancient streets of your choice. my inspiration are the hot little amuse bouche that call, their scent pulling me through the very raucous and Romanesque market in Arles.

1/2 pound skinless boneless salt cod, cut into 2-inch pieces and rinsed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. each cumin and coriander seed, toasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
a 4-inch-long fresh hot red or green chili, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
3 scallions, chopped fine
vegetable oil for deep-frying

in a large bowl let the salt cod soak in enough cold water to cover it by 3 inches, changing the water several times, for at least 8 hours or overnight. 

drain the salt cod well in a sieve and in a food processor purée it. add the flour, the milk, the egg, the baking powder, the ground cumin, coriander, thyme, and the garlic and blend the mixture well. 

transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the chili and the scallions. 

in a deep fryer or large deep skillet heat 1 1/2 inches of the oil to 360°f. on a deep-fat thermometer and in it fry teaspoons of the mixture in batches, stirring and turning them occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they are golden and cooked through. 

transfer the fritters as they are fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. 

they are best served immediately and warm. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cook With Me: Friends For Dinner is Like Las Vegas, Part Deaux

Read Part One: Having Friends For Dinner is Like Las Vegas

(As we left the previous episode I was listening to "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas's" Raoul Duke's immortal suggestions, while mid-way into preparations and contemplating a nap before our friends come for dinner.)

Eureka! Putting away the leftover lentils I had for lunch, I spy a bowl of fresh beets in the fridge, cooked, and ready! These are Gold. Not golden beets, but gold in terms of having something delicious to turn into another small plate. Or, is this, could this be the unknown appetizer?

Rule # 6 Don't Let Things Go Till the Last Minute

The beet red juice overflows when I add vinegar and honey, staining the wood floor and my toes. Great, now I have beet feet.

"It's okay, I don't mind, " I tell my husband, Rich. "And, alright if I use some of your hard-boiled eggs?"  He keeps a stash of our hens eggs, hard-boiled in the fridge for lunch.

"Some?" He gives me "the look" as he wipes up the red juice with a white side towel. "How many is some?"

I quickly peel and add half a dozen these into the bowl of beets and tart/sweet liquid.

"You love pickled eggs!" I swing over at him, hoping to dissolve "the look," that's getting more and more

Rule #7: Remember Not Everyone in the House Shares Your State of Culinary Dogma*

*Culinary Dogma is a state of everything funneling towards one existence. Dinner. Or in some cases, Casse Croute- Snacks.

I peek in. The eggplants in the oven have not yet collapsed and neither have I, though I should. In order to set the table I dig into the tangle of just washed napkins, aprons, chef jackets, tablecloths and side towels from the recent Team Building on the Dining Room Table. Then.... I lay out the placemats, dishes, glasses and silverware so its all ready for the guests to set the table.

Rule # 8 Ask Your Guests to Help! No, Really. They Want To.

Unload and reload the dishwasher. Wash pots and pans. How did all that take an hour? I was having fun though. 

During theses times of folding, loading, and washing - my mind conjures and rearranges bits and pieces of the menu. The scent of sauteed garlic and onions, bay leaves, and crushed tomatoes simmers on the stove. So far I am one step ahead of time. Sweet. Maybe I can take that nap after all.

The eggplants come out of the oven. Rich turned off the vacum, but left it in the middle of the Great Room. Looking Not So Very, you guessed it, Great. Fish, he muttered. I think. Then the kitchen door closed behind him and he backed out of the driveway to scuttle on down to Carrboro's Fishmonger. Should I text him what kind, exactly? No, I was a Professional. I can handle whatever he decides. Gulp.

Rich texted me to chill bottles of Sancerre, Chablis, and Rose.

I chewed a dried fig carefully and thought over the years. Then another fig. And another.

Rule # 9 - During Pre-Event Hours Don't Eat Anything That Will Be a  Digestive Disaster, Later!

My style of entertaining had changed completely; from doing it all and being everything. As if I even could. I gave up the notion clutched in my hot little paws that because I was a professional chef I didn't have to be human. In the early days of inviting people I thought it was a given that I must put on a show.  They were coming to see cooking, real cooking with flames and drips and butter and witty repartee at the same time! When I shut the door amidst a flurry of good-byes I was exhausted and not that happy, not happy at all. Were my guests? Maybe, but the key is if I was not relaxed maybe they were not either.

Rule # 10 - Relax. Your Guests Take Their Cue From You.

Then, my style morphed into the Mom mode. I would be everyone's Mom at the table. More water, yes. Another plate of pasta? I'll toss it for you! Of course. I nurtured everyone into a stupefying trance.

But I was circling the conversation, not joining in. Hovering. And I found out I didn't want to be everyone's Mom, (I had two lovely young boys with friends of their own, who kept me quite busy!) I had other things to contribute.

These days I keep any last minute show to sauteing shrimp, pulling a pan of focaccia from the oven, going to the garden with my friends for fresh herbs, or whipping cream for the dense chocolate cake. I give them a job too; snipping chives over the salad.

Rich pushes open the door. He has tuna.
"Tuna?What kind?" I had been focusing, a sort of distant mind-willing for him to buy shrimp with the heads on.

"I know you. But this is the Not-Shrimp kind of Tuna."

He had made a bold move.

As our calico cat, Gabby, stretches out her paws from the nearby sofa, I am reminded of a Tigress, and a lazing in the sun feline ambiance creeps over me.

After my nap there will be time to empty vases at the kitchen window of their spent flowers and replace them with....I don't know yet, something. What, Dorette, think! Maybe from the garden. Tarragon's yellow flowers.

Rich tucks the tuna in the fridge and I stretch my hands towards the sofa. Just for a little.
The tiniest smidgen of a nap. Two hours to go.

And as I dreamt of Raoul Duke in Las Vegas. I heard him say You Must Remember This:

"The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride." 

Rule #11: Take a Little Breather. Stop and Smell the Tarragon of Life.

I'd like to say dinner turned out fine. Just fine. And it did. The tuna steaks got pounded and stuffed. Sent off to the Grill. They are great cold, as are the bottles of Sancerre, Chablis and Rose. But none of it matters around the table. By the time you get there, everything else falls away. But the Eleven Rules of Entertaining are worth posting. What are your rules for entertaining?

Eleven Rules of Entertaining

Rule #1 - Be Organized
Rule #2 - Shop in Advance
Rule # 3 - Know Your Limits
Rule #4 - Ask if Your Guests have Special Diets
Rule # 5 - Be Flexible and Roll With It

Rule # 6 - Don't Let Things Go Till the Last Minute
Rule #7 - Remember Not Everyone in the House Shares Your State of Culinary Dogma*

*Culinary Dogma is a state of everything funneling towards one existence. Dinner. Or in some cases, Casse Croute- Snacks.

Rule # 8 - Ask Your Guests to Help! No, Really. They Want To.
Rule # 9 - During Pre-Event Hours Don't Eat Anything That Will Be a  Digestive Disaster, Later!
Rule # 10 - Relax. Your Guests Take Their Cue From You.
Rule #11 - Take a Little Breather. Stop and Smell the Tarragon of Life.

I hung up my apron, sat down and joined our friends.

Thin Sliced Tuna rolled and stuffed with Broccoli Rabe and Garlic 
(Braciola ‘I Pisci Spata)

When I see braciola in a recipe title I automatically think “beef” but in this case the beef is Sicily’s beef, from the sea. Most of the recipes I’ve seen for this rolled and stuffed fish dish, call for swordfish.  I made the switch primarily because my husband, Rich, loves tuna. This recipe actually makes enough stuffing for 8 slices or if you prefer to have extra stuffing on your plate or to save for another dish, such as stuffed chicken breasts.

makes 4 stuffed rolls with extra stuffing  or enough for 8 stuffed rolls

4 thin slices tuna, sliced less than 1/4 “ thick
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves spring garlic, minced
4 anchovies rolled with capers, minced
1 bunch broccoli rabe, finely chopped
1/4 cup marsala
4 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
1/4 pound mild provolone, shredded
bamboo skewers or toothpicks soaked in water for 10 minutes

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and when it’s hot add the onion.  Saute until the onion begins to brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, minced anchovies, and the broccoli rabe and continue sauteeing until the rabe is bright green, add the marsala immediately and cook another minute or two. Remove from the heat and add the fresh bread crumbs, stir well, and then add the shredded cheese.  Allow to cool before rolling and stuffing the tuna.

Lay the slices on a flat surface.  Place 1/3 cup stuffing on each of the four slices. Roll up the slices so the edges meet.  Secure your fish with bamboo skewers or tooth picks or tie with cotton butchers twine. Brush or massage olive oil onto each one.  These are perfect outdoors on the grill. Try these, and let me know how you like them.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Write With Me: City of Ladies, Wins Anderbo Prize!

In 2011, when I was looking for a nice and beautiful sunlit maison for my novel, then entitled City of Ladies, it won first prize in the Anderbo Novel Contest!

I did not take this lightly and am still quite honored to remember the day.

Many Merci's to Rick Rofihe and all of the Anderbo staff for this distinctive honor and unique contest that brings forth many talented writers. Just take a gander on the following writers...

Contest Finalists (Whole Novel-Manuscript) were:

"ADRIFT IN THE SOUND" by Kate Campbell, Sacramento, California
"HALLELUJAH" by Liz Shine, Olympia, Washington
"PROSPECTS OF JOY" by Charles Holdefer, Brussels, Belgium
"THE HOLLOWING MOON" by Aida Zilelian, New York City
"HERE IS A GAME WE COULD PLAY" by Jenny BitnerSan Francisco, California

Stay tuned for more tales of France, as I revise.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cook With Me: Friends For Dinner is Like Las Vegas

It's the Holidays, and you might well be scurrying about: Friends are coming to Dinner!

Or is Social Updating limited to Twitter and Facebook. Do you invite people over? Do you get nervous and then mad? Wish you'd never invited them? Throughout my years of teaching I have listened to many stories from friends and my students. Fear. Loathing. More Fear.

You'd think entertaining was like Las Vegas with Johnny Depp. And in the immortal words of Raoul Duke-

"There was madness in any direction, any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning."

Okay, this is before you get started, right? The evening beckons and promises to be beautiful from afar, elegant, mysterious, and powerful. But just turn your back for one minute.....

So, I've come up with a set of rules that I follow.

I recently too extended an invitation and immediately my mind luxuriated in the ambiance of the whole scene. No, I don't do psychedelic drugs like Raoul, but there was a flurry of sparks and a universal glow in the sky! I closed my eyes to the aroma of sauces reducing. Even the pile of dirty pots and pans, could not dissuade me. I love them all! (Truly, I do love washing dishes.) And I pictured in a moment of triumph the last moment, as I hang up my apron by the refrigerator and sat with my friends at the table, tucking my leg under me. Candles flickering, wine is sipped. Spoons lift soup from bowls.

"Let's keep it simple this time," I said to my husband, Rich, as I sat down to make a list.

Eleven Rules of Cooking For Guests

Rule #1 - Be organized

He rolled his eyes at me, if you can imagine.

Glancing at the clock showed there was still six hours till our friends arrive. PLENTY of time. Oodles in fact.
"I know what you're thinking. Have you no faith that I can change?"

He unpacked the bags from the farmer's market.

Rule #2 - Shop in advance

"Ok, just what is up with your eyes?" I ask.

A deluge of rain began outside. And my eyes were already closing, so melodic is the pitter patter of drops.
So I plan my strategy over an early lunch at my computer; a bowl of warmed leftover chicken piccata and lentils, I assembled my list to assess just how expertly matched were my ambitions and my time.


Rule # 3 - Know your Limits

Appetizers - Unknown (something will surely show itself)
Roasted Broccoli Salad
Another Veg
Home-Baked Focaccia
Fish - Whatever Rich "Catches"
Flourless Chocolate Cake - Already Baked, Yay!

What could be simpler, I asked? As I stepped up from the office, piercing and tumbling two eggplant on another pan and opening the oven to the scent of roasting garlic and a nicely crisp broccoli, I pondered. The sublime image of going to the garden with our guests to pick some herbs and lettuces. Ouch. Now my hand was burnt. With ice on my hand, dripping on my list. Whatever came after "Another Veg" gets blurry. Okay, now I remember. Done. I cross off Focaccia. My guests  voices boomed in my head: Let there be No Carbs. Okay! Okay!

Rule #4 - Ask if Your Guests have Special Diets

Rain poured - it shooted in fact, out of the downspout. Rich had not yet cleaned the leaves out of the gutters.

But before I could snap into a nap I set down to wait for the two eggplants. After they cool, a simple chopping with capers and they'll climb in with the burbling sauce of tomatoes, garlic, celery, onions, and peppers on the stove. I'll stir in some broken shards of 85 % chocolate. This version of Sicilian Caponata is a favorite and hails form Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table. Spicy, sweet, and salty from capers and aromatic from our fresh bay leaves.

Turning the heat to low, the computer dings in the office, and demands that I answer a few - just a few- more emails. Good thing as there was an email from the folks coming.

She begins, "Did I mention he's allergic to garlic and onions? But he can "eat around" anything you make. He'll be fine," she concludes.

What? I say to myself? Everything has garlic and onions.

Rule # 5 Be Flexible and Roll With It

Oh, well. I won't put any more garlic and onions in anything -- its fine.

And surely while I am in this chair its efficient to update Twitter and Facebook, too. Then I can really relax and enjoy the afternoon and evening!

With Social Updating complete, I push away from the desk. But it nags at me, a little, isn't that what dinners are? Social Updating? Or were, I say, before we all got so social that we never see each other anymore.

Come back for the conclusion of this story, and feel free to leave a comment.

Do you do Social Updating by have friends over for dinner? And how do you manage it? What happens in your kitchen?

Sicily’s Caponata
from the C’est si Bon! kitchen revised from Papa Andrea’s Sicilian Table written by Vincent Schiavelli (who you might remember as the Subway Phantom in the film, Ghost.)

Believe me, there is enough written about this Sicilian dish to keep you entertained for weeks, and as many recipes to try. This dish epitomizes the Sicilian propensity to mix all the culinary influences pushing at its shores. North African influences add the sultanas, (raisins) almonds, and bitter chocolate.

2 large eggplants, roasted til they collapse, then chopped in ½” pieces

Tomato Sauce
6 cloves garlic, salted and minced
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 cup large green olives with pits, if possible
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup red wine, more if needed
1 32 ounce can italian plum tomatoes, crushed
1/2 cup sultanas or raisins
2 teaspoons honey
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
½ tsp each cracked black pepper and smoked paprika

Add Later:
3 ounces of dark (85% cocoa) chocolate, broken
balsamic vinegar

Remove the pits from the green olives by smashing them between rocks from your Sicilian estate. If that’s not possible, just use your wooden cutting board and smash them as you would garlic, with your chef knife.

Pierce and roast the eggplants at 350 for about 45 minutes or til they collapse. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Chop as directed.

Mince garlic. Slice celery as directed.

Assemble remaining ingredients for the tomato sauce.
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a pan deep and large enough to stir the tomato sauce.

When the oil is hot begin by sautéing the celery - about 5 minutes. then, add the garlic and olives. Keep stirring and tossing til golden deglaze with the wine and reduce the heat to medium low and add the tomatoes, sultanas, basil, sugar or honey, paprika and pepper. simmer for 30 minutes. taste for seasoning. adjust.

While this is cooking, chop your cooled eggplants.
To the tomato sauce add chocolate, stir til melted.
Remove from heat and add eggplant. mix well together, gently.
and taste. It should have a sweet sour salty taste.
Adjust with balsamic vinegar.

Great served cold or hot. With bread and friends!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Write With Me: Is Food a Pilgrimage?

I'm interested to hear what you think of the whole Spanish avant garde Culinary Movement.

And in the same vein, is Ferran Adria a God? Can food stir your emotions?

Take a minute to get back to me on this.

I love how these three circles begin. And perhaps like a stone thrown in the pond, rings of pondering emerge.

1. A unique series of talks inspired by those culinary border pushing Spanish called: May I Have Your Order? which entertains the notion that you can Taste Words.

2. But here's a nice little cultural twist. It's happening at the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin. Yes, Ireland. What connects Dublin with Spain?

3. The first talk concerns Cooking Ideas and Dreams and features the ideas of two chefs, Iago Pazos and Marcos Cerqueiro, who began an avant garde Galician gastronomic concept, Abastos 2.0, in the wholesale food market of Santiago de Compostela, the end of the well-known Camino, or St. James Pilgrimage.

Is Food becoming the message about something more? How do you see it?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Read With Me: Guilty of Clutching Proust

Proust you devil. I can never react the same way to life again. You've changed everything, and what's more ~ I am sure you know and wished for this effect!

Well, good! I hope you are happy now, Marcel, for you got what you wanted. 

I don't have the exact quote, but basically at the very end of Proust he questions whether or not he can produce the monumental work he envisions  and whether it will achieve his intent. His intent is that as you read Proust's great undertaking, that you will not only get a chance to understand others, accept them for all their foibles -- but also to be able to read yourself. 

Old Wenger's Bakery, Reading, Pa.

It is chilly cold on my fingers as I type this. A hot coffee mug might help. But, there's no time for that. The fall vista of golden oaks and red maple trees won't last. They won't. I've seen it time and time again. And I am guilty of trying to hold on. Being here, but wishing I was either ahead or behind. 

A couple of weeks ago I good-bye to my 90 year old Father. 

Jackie, Me, Dad: Spring 2010

Bud Geiger was a simple and wonderful man. To many, many people -- and to me he was a cross between Santa Claus and Burl Ives, Mr Green Jeans and Mr Kangaroo.My sons, when they were little, knew him as The Giant because he would love to chase them around a big old oak tree in his front yard on Elizabeth Avenue. When he caught them they would squeal and he would growl like a bear and hug them. I believe they were all equally  and simultaneously terrified and delighted. My Dad treasured my two sons, but he never mentioned how he had had to do the unthinkable and identify the body of his own son, Jeremy, after he had drowned at 18. I was often heartbroken by his never speaking of Jeremy, but this was Dad's way of handling it for himself. 

A Reading Staple

As a little boy my father learned about life very early. He (and his family, who is as yet unidentified) was out on the streets by the time he was 9 or 10 years old. it was the Great Depression and he says that often there was just jelly bread for days on end. One of his first jobs was for a Pennsylvania Dutch-Amish-Plain People-Mennonite Poultry Farmer. He did all the unpleasant tasks one might imagine and he helped deliver the harvested birds to the Reading Market on Penn Street. 

Ninth and Cherry Market in Reading, Pa. 

Kissingers Market in Reading, Pa.

He worked for the Reading Railroad for 13 ears and served in WW II in the Navy. His ship the USS Cowie traveled to Normandy for the invasion, then various shipyards in England for repairs before heading to Russia and the Baltic Sea. From there they headed back to England for more repairs and then slipped through the Panama Canal to Long Beach, California before heading back out to Sea and the waters of Pearl Harbor, Okinawa and Japan at large. When he returned he worked for the Railroad again and then as a Produce Manager for the Acme Market. Before and after he retired he was a groundskeeper for the Hilbert estate off of the Pricetown Road. 

One of Dad's Favorites. Tripe, Anyone?

Dad loved Ships and the Sea, and downstairs in the Den there is a painting/picture of a sailing ship called quite simply, The Fantom. 

Fried Fish Sandwiches, Fairgrounds Market

In a nutshell, to say my Dad had a lifelong appreciation for food would not be an understatement. Perhaps it stemmed from his having so little when he was little. He was always generous and the table was no exception. I remember a family barbecue where he kept me busy eating one chicken leg after another. I realize now how I relished all his attention for that moment! There was Mack and Manco Pizza on the boardwalk at Ocean City, New Jersey, where he roared when I ordered a beer, then winked to the waitress and said "root beer, please." There were always fried fish sandwiches at the Green Dragon Market in Lancaster, Pa. Back in the 70's he brought us a very strange fuzzy fruit for Christmas. It was green with black seeds inside and  now well known; kiwi.  

So, in getting back to Proust, I might ponder if my father achieved his intent in life? Dad was not the contemplative sort, and even if I ever asked him something so preposterous he might bellow at me as if I was unappreciative in even wondering. 

So, it's really not for me to say or decide. But I saw he was good and honest and generous and kind and loved life. Survived disasters and being in the war. 

What I can do is stand under the great trees of Autumn, their leaves flying all around me,with the sky as blue and crisp as the ocean, and let go of wishing to learn the unknown, uncover the mysteries that composed this gentle good man known as Bud.  

Dad, let's just go have another slice of pepperoni. 

Pizza at the Fairgrounds Farmer's Market

Saturday, October 1, 2011

French Travel Tales: La Belle Gasconne, 2006: A Story Part 3

Read the first and the second episodes of the story of La Belle Gasconne.

We now pressed on to Le Maison de canard for foie gras, driving deeper into Nerac. Marie-Claude worried about parking. I pulled at the scarf around my neck, it was getting warmer. We had at least three more stops to make before noon. Bread. Poulet back in Mezin. Creme and butter flour and eggs at the grocery. The bells chimed in the square near St. Nicolas. I prayed that time would give us a break, stop with a generous soupçon for both shopping and dejeuner.

Shopping in Nerac

Le Masion de canard was a cool and calm shop. The owner greeted Marie-Claude as if he had calculated our exact arrival time. He pulled out two fat livers, ready and wrapped for us. The color was perfect and golden. Marie-Claude exclaimed with joy.

The moment of the salad was upon us. She asked if I wouldn't like some saucisse sec for aperitifs. Bien sûr. Of course. At the time I couldn't imagine the actual cooking of the meal consuming much more than a couple of hours if it was streeeetched out. I thought a spicy and a cêpes (porcini) flavored saucissse would be a nice thought.

What a Laitue Selection!

Bells rang, both of the shop door and of Nerac, as we left, foie and saucisse in tow. Time pressed in, even onto Marie-Claude. She thought it might be best if we could split up.

Constance and Cathy decided they would go off into Nerac to trinket shop and then to lunch. Mary and Glen wanted different agendas, Jon wanted lunch! And as we all gathered, all in some great circle, clutching at what we wanted, every moment slipped away.

One coherent force, Erick, swayed to action. He knew the inner tickings of the chef. We still had to butter and to egg, and to chicken. Shopping was still very much not over.

Half-Timbered Houses of Nerac

Samantha happily snapping shots of cafes and petite Nerac, we separated, promised to meet at five for the class back at the millhouse. We made for the supermarché at the outside of town when suddenly it occurred to us that the lettuce was safely and warmly tucked in the trunk of: Constance's car. They would not return till it was time to don aprons, swill and cook!

Rue de la Langue

Erick ran down the rue de La Langue of old Nerac, chasing Constance and Cathy into the quarters of the tanneries--Samantha chasing Erick, her camera bouncing at her hip.

Petite Nerac

Stay tuned for La Belle Gasconne Part Four!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

C'est si Bon! Travel Tales: One of Our Teen-Chefs: Sam

I recently learned of the sudden passing of one of our dear Teen-Chefs, Sam Vincent. 

Sam was exuberant and passionate about Cooking!  

He joined us in Provence in 2005, and so loved it that he was invited 
the following summer to do a stage with Madeleine and Erick Vedel. 

Sam continued on the culinary path and was cooking in a restaurant near Berkeley, California. 

We will miss your smile and your charming allegiance to the kitchen.  

And Merci, Sam, Merci pour tout.

Join us on snapshot tour of our time with Sam. 

Following the photos is Erick Vedel's recipe for Soupe de Poisson

Watching Goats, Watching Cheese 

The Most Wonderful Fromagerie

Meatballs in the Style of Apicius

Coquille St Jacques in Arles

Aileen and the Dishes

Soupe de Poisson, To Be

Sam and the Fish

Stuffing the Vegetables

The Aioli, Madeleine, and Sam

Sunset Over the Camargue

Soupe de Poisson (from Marseille based on local fish)

for many of the Teen-Chefs, this was the first time that they had been invited to see and prepare such a variety of whole small and interesting fish.

preparation takes about an hour and a half, cooking also takes about an hour and half and in the end makes enough for 4 persons

for the fish:

4 cleaned scorpion fishes
4 cleaned stingfish
4 slices of conger
1kg cleaned john dory

6 potatoes
20 slices of bread
1 clove of garlic
salt and pepper

for the soup:

1kg of rockfish
2 leeks
2 onions
1 clove of garlic
6 branches of parsley
6 stalks of anise
4 tomatoes
4 large spoonfuls of olive oil.
2 sheets of laurel
a piece of orange zest
1 cayenne pepper
2 knife points of saffron powder

for saffron and basil rouille:

2 minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1 tablespoon white wine
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 cup broth from soup or clam juice

to make soup
don’t scale the rockfish, simply wash them, gut the biggest ones. wash and cut the leeks. peel, wash, and chop the onions. 
peel and mash the garlic.

wash and drain the parsley and the anise, mash the tomatoes. put the vegetables, the olive oil, the laurel, the zest of orange, and the chilli in a stewpan. cook the preparation for 15 minutes. 

add the rockfish and season. 

keep on the fire for 15minutes, then add 3 liters of boiling water. 

cook it for ten more minutes.

remove the stalks of anise and the zest of orange after taking the stewpan off the fire.

press the rest in a vegetable masher, then add the saffron.

rectify the seasoning before serving.

peel, wash, and cut the potatoes into big cubes. cook the potatoes by covering them with as much soup as water in a large stewpan.
salt and pepper.

make the aioli in the mortar and pestle.

grill the slices of bread, then rub them with a clove of garlic.
to serve place the bread in a soup bowl and set aside.

boil the rest of the soup. 
put the fish inside starting with the tough-fleshed ones.

cook them on a soft cooking temperature for 6 to 10minutes. 
put the potatoes in a big plate, add the fish over them.

pour the “soupe de poisson” on the grilled bread in the soup bowl.

serve with the aioli in the mortar.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Write With Me: "Recipe as a Poem" Challenge!

My friend, Jeremy Salamon, of Jeremy Cooks, called with a request. He asked if I would like to participate in a recipe poem challenge. Jeremy has been a summer intern for both Teen-Chef and Kid-Chef programs at C'est si Bon! for about five years now. His other "day" jobs include being a senior in Boca Raton, Florida, maintaining a blog that offers recipes, videos of cooking with friends, interviews he's done with Famous Chefs (think the likes of Jamie and Giada) and then there's his three to four day a week stint in the kitchen of a local French Restaurant. As if that wasn't enough, Jeremy is working on a Memoir that chronicles his dream of becoming a Chef; from age 9 (which he announced from the back seat of the car to his astonished parents) till he graduates and heads to the Culinary Institute of America. Needless to see Jeremy has already carved out 
quite a little Chef-dom of his own. 

Jeremy and Dorette, 2008

Both of us also being writers, I thought the Poem Challenge sounded like great fun. It might exemplify the crazy action in the kitchen. Writing recipes in the "cookbook linear" fashion requires the chef to primarily use one side of the brain to follow certain rules. Ingredients must appear in the order they are used, and steps must logically dole out and explain the how (and not as often the why, that must appear in the heading notes) of the cooking technique to be carried out. A lot of this writing recipes has changed over the thirty some years I have been a chef. One cannot use technique terms willy nilly because not as many people know what it means to saute

Jeremy at the ACF Student-Chef Competition in Atlanta, 2011

One important detail is that according to recipe writers; those people who test recipes, magazine article writer people or ghostwriters - who couldn't have fun with a story about a ghostwriter and a chef, but that's another story - they wince and complain that Chefs are the worst recipe writers in the world. That is true. 

But what if, as Jeremy proposed, a recipe was written like a poem? Each ingredient rhymes and folds intuitively towards the next step. And how could it not happen that the poem tells more than mere ingredients? Through the lines and rhymes, a story intertwines. Whether the story is inspired by imagination or a first hand experience. I was honored to be approached by Jeremy, and as often happened in the kitchen while we were cooking, that an idea becomes a delicious dish with no recipe in sight. 

Starting today, you (our loyal readers) can participate in the Recipe Rhyme challenge. By September 25th we are asking for a submission of your recipe in the form of a poem. Here are the guidelines

   Use as many words and stanzas as it takes
   It can be of any length
   The recipe can be yours, from a book, tv, or online
   It can be in the form of a traditional poem, haiku,soliloquy, sonnet, ballad, prose you name it!
   Please provide a title and your name
   If you are able to, we would love to see pictures along with the poem
   Measurements are not required. We should be able to interpret what your making.

You may submit your poem through email here at Planting Cabbages or at
Below is my example of a recipe rhyme. You can also find Jeremy's example on his blog as well.

The three most outstanding poems will be featured on both Planting Cabbages and JeremyCooks. Remember submissions are due September 25th so start your stoves and get rhyming!

If you have questions please feel free to email me or Jeremy.   

Shadow Snover

For Shadow, Who Loved Chutney on Meatloaf

Thought I would put them all in a pot
Turn on the heat and get what I got.
Alice said no, why don’t I come over?
It’ll be you and me and the Shadow of Snover.
Why we’ll have a fine time,
Making a chutney of ginger and apples and lime.

Up with the crack, we know it as dawn
Sprint from the house, across the lawn.
It’s darker than coffee, there’s got to be time
Alice is coming, but not before 9.
My plan is no secret, at least not to me.
I’d like to be done, by a quarter to three.
Done with the burbling, done with the bubbling,
Done with the canning, that part is so troubling.

One Apple, Many Leaves

Two fawns and a buck cross the stone patio. Boo.
Looking for grass and perhaps tomatoes x 2.

The door slides wide open. I enter the school
Without turning on the light, and trip over a stool
Perched on the shelves, only now waking,
Pots and bowls and vinegar, shaking.

Back to the house, back to the kitchen
My arms loaded down, while my nose starts an itchin’.

Too many things swirling about in my mind
Now what did I do with that ginger and lime?

My upturned apron turns them all out
"Only 8 twenty five," to my Shadow I shout.
Onto the counter goes allspice with lemons.
Mustard seeds, garlic and onions, oh heavens.

So Many Apples

My back to the window, so I can stay busy.
Fingers on lemons, can fingers get dizzy?
Halve all the limes, Off with their zest
“This mise is all wrong,” I sing to Shadow in jest.

But she only lay quiet, and carefully watching.
"What do you care, you are alone.
Without even a turkey, a ham or a bone."

"But Shadow!" I cried to my hound of reknown,
"There’s meatloaf for dinner, and rice that is brown."

She perked right up at the mention of meat
While the apple under my knife, escaped to my feet.
A paper towel flew to the cut oh so deep.

Alice where are you?” but there was no peep.

The deer looked up when to the school, back I went.
For aids of the band type, but you know what I meant.

A glove over my thumb, I’m a Tom Robbins cowgirl
Should I hit the road, go in search of a world
Where chutney is made only on Monday
With apples of Eve, and apples of Adam
And 50 more apples (still) than I can fathom
Apples with spots, apples with blotches
That quarter and core as easy as squashes.

Shadow lay back dreaming of dinner
While I got fat and she only got thinner.
Black Seeds from the cores getting lost in my hair,
In my nose and eyelashes, and everywhere
An earwig in the bowl makes me all twitchy,
It drops to the floor and gets squished in the kitchy.

Cayenne Peppers, Not in the Poem but in the Chutney 

The hand of ginger, all shiny and glossy
Says “now put me in.” Why are spices so bossy?

Just as the pestle grinds the coriander.
Who should to the kitchen, at long last just wander.

“Hey Alice” I cried – and the chutney so chimed,
My hound, Shadow, yawned, smiled, and added a rhyme.

Seared Chicken with Chutney and Okra, Over Sweet Potatoes

"How often do we make jam out of ginger
And spend the day chopping and topping off fingers
With band-aids while mustard seeds
Roll on the floor."
Not very often.
And not any more.

Sunset Over Lake Hogan on September 9

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