Monday, November 27, 2006

Two years ago I had the most perfect salad on the most wonderful day in Isle Sur la Sorgue, a town known for its antiques in Provence. We were with our good friends at a nondescript sidewalk cafe and I have a life transfroming salad which I recently replicated for my sisters. It was a Sunday afternoon in mid-May and I remember it with such fondness that I can tell you where all eight of us sat at the table. That was a great trip, with great people, and I'll always remember it fondly, as it was part of our extended farewell to Europe.

Jane's Twist on Salade Lyonnaise (Serves three)

1 lb. chicken livers
1/2 lb. best quality bacon you can find, cut into bite size pieces
2 heads frisee or other hearty lettuce or greens
3 good Italian rolls, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 T best quality red wine vinegar
2 T dijon mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 poached eggs

1. Clean and dry the chicken livers. Remove any spooky bits.
2. Put a few tablespoons of butter in a saute pan and melt it under medium to high heat. Add the livers and cook till rosy inside. Do not overcook!
3. Meanwhile, cook the bacon till crispy and remove.
4. Put the bread into the pan with bacon drippings, add salt and pepper to taste and fry till crisp.
5. Make a vinaigrette of the olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Tear the frisee into pieces and toss with the vinaigrette.
6. Poach eggs (don't ask me how, my sister did them PERFECTLY!)
7. Compose each salad separately with frisee on the bottom, then a layer of bacon, croutons, and livers. Top with poached egg. Serve with salt and pepper.
8. Enjoy!
One word Meme, Stolen from The Knitting Frau

1. Yourself: Happy
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend (spouse): Wonderful
3. Your hair: Dirty
4. Your mother: Nurturing
5. Your Father: Kind
6. Your Favorite Item: Books
7. Your dream last night:Germany
8. Your Favorite drink: Brunello
9. Your Dream Car: Mercedes
10. The room you are in: Office
11. Your Ex: Over
12. Your fear: Loneliness
13. What you want to be in 10 years?: Happy
14. Who you hung out with last night? Chris
15. What You're Not?: Conservative
16. Muffins: Blueberry
17. One of Your Wish List Items: Thinness
18. Time: Disappearing
19. The Last Thing You Did: Walk
20. What You Are Wearing: Trainers
21. Your Favorite Weather: Snow
22. Your Favorite Book: Austen
23. The Last Thing You Ate: Cookie
24. Your Life: Happy
25. Your Mood: Good
26. Your best friend: Loved
27. What are you thinking about right now?: Cooking
28. Your car: Volvo
29. What are you doing at the moment?: Hanging
30. Your summer: Hot
31. Your relationship status: Together
32. What is on your TV?: Nothing
33. What is the weather like?: Chilly
34. When is the last time you laughed?: Recently!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I’m absolutely devouring The Kitchen Diaries, A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater, a beautifully written book that chronicles, daily, or almost-daily, Slater’s cooking life. I’ve liked him since I lived in Germany and had English satellite television. I found his recipes to be easy and natural. This book stresses “right food, right place, right time”, a principal I agree with 100%. He wrote a beautiful memoir, which Chris gave me for Christmas a few years ago, called Toast, The Story of a Boy’s Hunger. Chris was especially drawn to it and felt that Slater’s memories and experiences were somewhat in step with his own British childhood.

Some of my favorite other cookbooks and books about cooking are:

1. Anything by the late, great Laurie Colwin, whose novels are some of my favorite ever, and whose treatises on food and cooking are legendary among real foodies. I have loved her since her great and charming novel Happy All The Time, which my sister Gina and I used to quote continuously. Beautiful book. Her writings on food far eclipsed her amazing novels, in my mind. Simple, perfectly charming and written with true love, they still hold up many years after her premature death. I can’t really do justice to Laurie (and to me she is Laurie, and was my friend, even though I never met her), but here’s one nice appreciation from the Washington Post, and another from a blogger who totally voices my feelings. If you like cooking, have a generous soul and open heart, read Laurie’s books. You’ll wish you’d known her too.

2. Anything by the Barefoot Contessa. When I first came across Ina Garten, I really wanted to despise her because I was dead jealous of her, but the truth is that she’s wonderful, warm, knows that nurturing and feeding is synonymous with love and something I believe in totally. I think Ina and Laurie would have gotten on well. Plus, Ina’s recipes are wonderful, always a success and do-able.

3. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which was used by my mom and the “new edition” edited by Marion Cunningham was given to me as a gift twenty five years ago, is falling apart and a bit dated, but I still consult it regularly.

4. Mark Bittman’s books are all great – love the Minimalist Books and How to Cook Everything and look forward to his Wednesday New York Times Column every week. Mark’s never let me down.

5. Anything by Patricia Wells, but especially Trattoria and Bistro Cooking. She’s great. Bistro Cooking has a lot of great recipes from great spots throughout France and Chris and our European friends were tickled when I replicated L’Ambassade d’Auvergne’s classic chocolate mousse for them. I actually remember one of our friends licking the bowl.

There are many books I have failed to mention and which I use and love very much, left out, but I’ll update my list as the days pass.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A really chilled out relaxing weekend here in Haddonfield. Friday night, cooked up a storm, Thai Fish Cakes with a stunning dipping sauce, and a lovely shrimp curry, both from Nigel Slater's new cookbook, about which I will write in a day or two. It was a really fun night - some of the usual suspects were in attendance, namely us, Melissa, Bill, Tom and John. Tom's birthday was last week and Melissa's is this week so when she volunteered to bring a dessert, I was really amused when she walked in with a beautiful birthday cake that had "Happy Birthday Melissa and Tom" written on it! Very funny! Here's a not so hot shot of the cake and a very funny photo of Missy and Tom blowing out the candles together. Silly night, lots of fun!


I've made four batches of pasta this weekend. I overworked the first batch and tossed it out. The second batch looked beautiful, so tempting that Roon ate the entire thing off our kitchen table. This morning I woke up and made two more batches, which we are serving to my family along with a classical Bolognese sauce I made yesterday afternoon. Right now, I'm exhausted after what feels like hours of kneading, so I am going downstairs to pour myself a nice glass of good Italian wine and am going to settle on the couch (if I can get the dog to move over) with the Sunday Times.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

After Tuesday's election results, I am as happy and giddy as I have been for months. Maybe my fellow Americans are finally waking up. For the record, I've been against this war from Day One and knew it would devolve into its current mess. I can't imagine what we can do to right this terrible wrong, but I am trying to keep an open mind.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall when Bush and Nancy Pelosi have their sit down. They despise one another. I sincerely hope they can find some sort of way to work towards a bipartisan resolution of their differences, but I don't hold out much hope.

But, still - the House and the Senate back under some sort of sane control- it's great!

Also thrilling to see Rick Santorum ousted in such a big way!!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ten Things on My To-Do List

1. Get started on Christmas shopping
2. Pick a paint color for our bedroom and get cracking on that
3. Hang the paintings I had framed this summer
4. Finish unpacking my stuff that was in storage when I moved to Germany
5. Bug Chris about a little trip I want us to make
6. Finalize my mother’s estate (which I am doing now!)
7. Get together with some old friends I haven't seen in ages
8. Get a cute card for Jack’s tenth birthday
9. Organize my pantry
10. Get a new air conditioning/heating system
It’s Election Day here and I cannot remember a non-Presidential election year with so much drama. All the pundits are saying it is a referendum on Bush and Iraq, and the Republicans appear to be in real hot water, finally, but my fingers are crossed. The Democrats can always implode at any time. John Kerry’s gaffe last week is a case in point.

I went in and voted for our Democratic Senator, Bob Menendez, only because to me he is the lesser of two evils. He’s commonly perceived to be crooked, but there was no way I could vote for the Republican, Tom Kean, Jr., who is against everything I believe in.

The big issue in our town is the Open Space Trust Fund, which although it may hike our already insanely exorbitant property taxes even higher, is something I think the town ought to be seriously considering and acting upon. It’s all about keeping the land on which the Bancroft School now sits out of the hands of developers. Here’s an article which explains it better than I am able.

In other news, we have a mouse at our home, which I discovered late yesterday afternoon and provoked much hysteria. Tom and Catherine came by and practically dismantled the kitchen. We put some poison down and I am hoping that’s the end of that. We shall see. These old houses have a million nooks and crannies.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

We've had another great weekend. Lots of dog walking and hanging out at home and a fair bit of socializing as well. Last night we went to Raw, a great sushi place on Sansom Street in Philly with a cool vibe and very good food. We went with our usual sushi suspects, Lisa and Mike and Matt and Kay. I had a couple of dirty Ketel One martinis which I think go brilliantly with sushi, nice, crisp taste that doesn't compete with the clean taste of raw fish. Yum. We usually eat an enormous amount when we do sushi with them and last night was business as usual. Their special rolls are beautifully done and absolutely delicious. We had a lot of laughs. Afterwards, I convinced everyone to go to Ludwig's Garten, a German place a few steps away from Raw. I've been missing Munich and the beer something fierce lately and wasn't going to be happy until I had a few pints. Everyone hung out awhile, but then they all decided to go home leaving me and Chris and a stunning assortment fo German beers on tap. We had a lot of fun listening to an original jazz band, drinking and talking. I had him talked into a quick December visit to see our friends and enjoy the Christmas markets, but now in the cold sober light of day, he's wavering. Who ever thought Chris would be the voice of reason?

One thing we have been enjoying is Sunday dinner with either family or friends, mostly friends lately though. We've had a bunch of people here and have been to Joanna's recently. Lisa and Mike often host as well. Tonight it's Melissa and Bill hosting and we're looking forward to it. I am bringing an appetizer, which Bill specfically requested. this used to be a regular in my repertoire but I thought people were sick of it so I retired it, only to have several peoplre request it ercently. Suzanne asked me to bring it to Evans' party and I did and it got scarfed up! So it's back... Here's the recipe and a photo of the finished product.

Saucisson Paysanne (Country Sausage, after a recipe by Sarah Leah Chase in Cold Weather Cooking)

1 smoked kielbasa, about a pound
1 cup dry white wine
3 or 4 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons good Dijon mustard (I like Temeraire)
2 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons fresh parsley (mine looked lousy so I omitted it today)
freshly ground pepper to taste.

1. Cut the kielbasa into 1" slices and then cut into quarters. Put into a heavy skillet and add the wine. The kielbasa should be in a single layer.
2. Bring the wine to a boil and cook, uncovered, until it is almost evaporated and has teh consistency of syrup.
3. Add the brown sugar, mustard and brandy and cook for another minute or so.
4. Add pepper to taste and parsley to garnish. Serve hot or at room temperature with toothpicks for spearing and hunks of crusty bread to dip in the yummy juices.