Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mouth Wide Open ... for Bagna Cauda

A little something about a traditional Italian peasant dish that is perfect for cold weather ... from John Thorne's Mouth Wide Open at Forgotten Classics podcast.

As well as a couple of Christmas podcast highlights.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Granola

From The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham, this is the simplest and most delicious granola I have ever made, or indeed, eaten. It has wowed those who have sampled it. The kicker is that it is fairly inexpensive to make. Unlike those store-bought granolas!

If you don't have easy access to mixed flakes, just use regular rolled oats (don't use quick oats though).

I have changed the flavoring around in various ways. The nutmeg seemed too perfumey to me so I switched to cinnamon. Equal parts of ginger and cinnamon have been quite tasty.

I always add the nuts with the flakes, just making sure to stir enough so they don't burn and they haven't yet. I've tried almonds, walnuts, and pecans. Almonds are my favorite nuts for this granola.

Granola
(about 5 cups)

4 cups mixed flakes (oats, rye, barley, wheat, rice)
Salt to taste (I never use any)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Put the flakes in a large bowl and sprinkle with a little salt and the nutmeg. In a small bowl, stir the honey into the butter and blend well. Pour the honey syrup over the flakes and toss until they are well coated.

Spread the mixture on foil in a single layer on a baking sheet with edges. (I don't bother with the foil.) Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the flakes begin to look golden, turning the cereal every 10 minutes with a spatula or spoon. Be careful not to over bake. The flakes will seem a little sticky when done, but they will crisp up as they cool. (I stir occasionally while it is cooling to keep it from sticking.) Store in plastic bags or an airtight container. Use within a month or store in the freezer.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Happy Hour Duo: Garnet and X.Y.Z. Cocktails

Actually we had these separately. The Garnet cocktail was tried out last Saturday with Hannah and a friend who came home to attend a wedding. The X.Y.Z. Cocktail was the one thing about watching the Cowboys' game last Sunday that we found enjoyable.

The Garnet lived up to its name as pomegranate juice lent it a ruddy hue. It was one of those drinks that you have to be careful about. The alcohol is not very obvious perhaps until one has had one too many.

The X.Y.Z. is a classic seeming "sour" cocktail and, as such, would naturally be one that Tom and I would really enjoy.

Garnet

1-1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Triple Sec
1 ounce pomegranate juice
1 ounce grapefruit juice

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

X.Y.Z. Cocktail

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 ounce Triple Sec
1 ounce light rum

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Amarcord: Marcella Remembers ... the good, the boring, and the bad

It is really too bad that Ms. Hazan didn't have a talented grandnephew to write Amarcord as did Julia Child in her fantastic memoir, My Life in France. As with Child's memoir, when Hazan focuses on the big picture, not just the food, it is very interesting. I didn't expect Hazan's many fascinating memories of survival in Italy during World War II, first from Allied bombings and then from authorities who suspected them of assisting the resistance. Hazan's reminiscence of school and her mother's survival cooking took us to a different world than now exists. Likewise, after Hazan has married her American-born husband and moves to New York City as a non-English speaker, we are still interested in her immigrant experience.

The bad news is that once Hazan has a food-oriented career, the big picture melts away and only food becomes the focus. As well, she tends to focus on the celebrities she has met and I found most of those stories to be fairly boring. I was especially put off by the way she justified her final break with Knopf by entering her book that compiled old recipes into an awards program designed to honor new books over the publisher's protests. She seemed to think that the fact that her cookbook won was justification enough when all it proved was that her celebrity made others overlook what the publisher very properly recognized: it was an old cookbook in new format. This perhaps typifies my biggest problem with the last half to third of the book which is that Hazan takes on a slightly complaining tone about most things which I found annoying.

This is not to say that Marcella Hazan fans will not love the book, and she does indeed have many fans. To be fair, I did not come to this book with strong feelings one way or the other about Marcella Hazan. I have her Essentials of Italian Cooking as who does not who was buying cookbooks in the 1990s. It never inspired me to do much Italian cooking although the recipes I used from it were uniformly excellent. I like a bit more personality with my cookbooks and I think that is part of my problem with this book. Hazan didn't have the advantage of a talented writer to back her up as I mentioned earlier that Julia Child did. It is hard to fault her for not being a riveting autobiography writer. However, as we can see from the beginning of the book, it is possible for her to write interestingly when she has the material. Perhaps the fault here is in the eyes of the editors who did not redirect Hazan so that her reflections about her career were not as myopic as they seemed to me.

Recommended with the caveat that one is a Marcella Hazan fan.

If one is not a Hazen fan, I can definitely recommend the first half of the book. As for the second half, that depends upon the taste of each reader, I have a feeling.

This review was made after reading a copy provided by the publisher.