Tag Archives: vegetables

Cookbook Night

12 Sep

My good friend Tiffiny Federico is a great cook. She’s a better cook than I, frankly. Tiffiny is also a schoolteacher. When in school, she has very little time. About 5 or 6 years ago, bemoaning our inability to spend quality time together, we came up with an idea: have a cooking day where we could hang out in the kitchen, cook some food, drink some wine and catch up. 

We decided if we were going to cook all day, we might as well try all new recipes. Tiff and I give each other cookbooks at Christmas. One of the cookbooks we exchanged that year was The Gift Of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Neither of us had cooked from it, so we decided to cook solely from that cookbook. Because we were going to end up with a lot of food, we invited some friends over that night for a casual dinner. Everyone could try out the dishes we’d made for the first time.

“Cookbook Night” was born.

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View from the backyard into the kitchen.

It was such a hit, we did it again. And again. We now do it once or twice a year and have cooked our way through some wonderful books such as Sunday Suppers with Lucques, The Mozza Cookbook, At Home in Provence, etc. Once we land on a cookbook, Tiff and I get together a week early (and make dinner, natch) to pick our recipes from the book we want to explore. Usually we pick 4-6 recipes each, choosing a good variety from appetizers, entrees, sides and dessert. We do some prep before the actual event, then the day of Tiffiny comes over in the morning, we cook all day and have people over that night to sample. There is no fear of anything going wrong, every dish is new and no one cares how it all turns out. We’ve had some incredible dinners, however.

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I highly recommend this, it’s a fun way to try a bunch of dishes, adding new winners to your repertoire. And you can have a great time with good friends. We now open the kitchen to everyone late afternoon in case anyone wants to sous chef or hang out with us as we cook.  The rest show up around 6 and we dive in. The entire day and night is a blast.

It also creates one hell of a mess. But that’s fun, too.

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This summer we actually had two cookbook nights. We started in June with Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Jersusalem

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Preserve Me A Lemon!

21 Jun

I have two bountiful lemon trees in my backyard. I love these trees and what they provide. While I use lemons most every day – in drinks, in marinades, in salad dressings, as a flavor enhancer in all kinds of dishes – I still get overrun with crazy lemons! As weird as it may seem in other parts of the world, when you live in Southern California, it gets hard to pawn off fruit. People show up to work with bags and bags of lemons, oranges, etc and usually everyone just yawns.

plums

Monday at work, from someone’s tree… these were amazing plums.

Given my lemon bounty, I started looking for ways to use the extra. I discovered my favorite a few years ago: Preserved Lemons. Preserving lemons is so easy, and the result so wonderful, there is always a big jar of preserved lemons in my fridge. Besides extending the life of the fruit, preserving lemons make the entire lemon edible. In fact, the rind becomes the best part to use, though everything in the jar, once preserved, is terrific for cooking. Preserved lemons keep nearly forever, so you don’t have to rush to use them, a wonderful perk. But use them you will, I assure you.

I’ve tried many methods for preserving lemons. The easiest I’ve tried, which is also the best, is from Patricia Wells, a wonderful woman about whom I wrote last year. I was able to spend a week with her in France a couple of years ago, a week that remains a highlight for me. During the trip I cooked once on Julia Child’s original stove from her home in France. No, seriously, I did.

I thought we were talking about lemons…

Use this method, it’s perfect. I usually double the recipe, given I am constantly overrun, but this will give you plenty to start. All you need is a pile of lemons (8-10), some course sea salt, and a container with a non-metal lid:

Preserved start

For the recipe and more info, click:

 

“Never, Ever, Ever….” Vol I

7 Apr

According to The Internet, which is never wrong, salad dressing probably kinda/sorta came into being about 2000 years ago when the lovely people of Babylonia began to use oil and vinegar to dress lettuce. I’m glad someone started the trend. See, I’m a rabbit: I not only love salad, I love just lettuce. All kinds of lettuce, every kind. I even love iceberg lettuce, such great texture, what a wonderful crunch. While I love eating all kinds of lettuce naked, I also love a good salad dressing. This leads to the first in a series subtly entitled “Never, ever, ever!”

Never, ever, ever buy salad dressing in a bottle. Ever.  

There’s only one reason to think you should buy salad dressing in a bottle, which is ease. Come on Tom, seriously. I don’t have all kinds of time. It’s so easy. I pick it up at the store, I crack open the bottle, I pour it on some lettuce, instant salad. 

Um, No.

With a little initial prep, almost the same amount of ease gives you a dressing that is much healthier than anything you can get in a bottle. So making it at home makes much more sense. Plus, it tastes infinitely better. Trust me, do this once and you won’t go back. You have to go to the store to buy the bottled dressing. Instead, while at the store, buy a few of products to have on hand for prep and you are ready, anytime, to make your own dressing. Eventually, you won’t even be able to use a bottled dressing as you’ll begin to taste the chemicals and processing. Making your own salad dressing, along with broth, an upcoming post, and tomato sauce, an upcoming post, are the easiest first steps to transforming your cooking, kitchen and eating habits. Plus, I’ll say it again, homemade dressing tastes so much better. You don’t have to love cooking or being in the kitchen to ease your way into your own dressing. And my homemade vinaigrette is, well, incredible. And versatile… it’s great on it’s own but you can also use it as the basis for a number of other dressings. It’s so easy. Here we go:

Click here for the how to!

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