Category Archives: Cook Books

Missing

I should have called it “tortured.” Old dog Zoe does not mind my husband, “the fun guy” being away for a week or weeks at a time on business. She apparently stands by the front door waiting for me when I go out for groceries or flowers.

Months ago I asked our personal assistant if it was OK to leave her as it was too warm to leave her in my car. She said no problem, she doesn’t bother me, just sits at the door waiting for you.

My husband says he is the fun one who plays with her on occasion, but I am the important one. He is home for a few weeks writing a book and I set him up a gorgeous desk in our bedroom with en suite bath. He only comes out for a walk or water or Dr. Pepper while in work mode.

Zoe doesn’t know where to go. If I take her to the prime work zone, she wants to be with me, especially near feeding time. But she lays in front of the bedroom door wanting to see him. I lift her (no hips) up to the bed and 20 minutes later she is at the door wanting to see me again and it’s five on a Sunday morning and he gets up to let her out and goes back to bed. Then she lays on the floor by the master bedroom door awaiting him.

Once the book is finished my husband has opportunities that may separate us for a day at a time or weeks at a time. I’m enjoying cooking for him right now as I rarely do so for myself when he is out of town. Does absence make the heart grow fonder?

I think so, as my husband has started to cook spaghetti and meatballs, and wash some dishes. There’s tomato sauce all over the walls and water splattered over the counters. I can’t follow him and clean everything magically but do it when he leaves the room. For over 15 years I would not let him into my kitchen except for water and Dr. P.

He didn’t even know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Now he wants to use my KitchenAid mixer to make fluffy pancakes with whipped egg whites, rich pasta with lots of egg and my hand-cranked pasta machine. I remember from cooking school 1,1,3,1,2,3,4,5. Then change to the cutter and there’s fettucini.

Today, for lunch I will make baby back ribs with a great rub from a wonderful book, Alton Brown style, and a bbq sauce that I love at the very end. Roasted or mashed potatoes and grape tomatoes.

Dinner will be chicken for him I made the other day, cold cucumber soup for me. German cuke salad for him, he loves it. Have a wonderful Sunday and July 4th weekend. Dee

Advertisement

Trying vs. Doing

A good friend of mine, my late father and my brother has been transferred to hospice care. I think a lot of what he meant to me in my life, getting me consulting contracts, being on the Board to support my views on the problems the organization was facing.

I remember, being retired, that looking for a job is far more emotionally exhausting than doing it. You get the job, have no idea of the subject matter you’re analyzing and give yourself a crash course so you can hit the ground running.

My first real job after college was as an assistant legislative analyst for the Speaker’s office. The analyst was off on maternity leave. I was asked if I knew anything about insurance. Well, I have car insurance.

Do you know McKinneys? Who is McKinney. Law books. No. That was a Friday. I started my new job on Monday and went to a bookstore and tried to cram over the weekend. All I could find was one hardcover book, brand new, with a guy in a pinstripe suit on the cover that was about insurance.

That book even had a chapter about Gerber Life insurance, which they’re selling on TV now. It was called “Like Taking Candy from a Baby.” Bosses and lobbyists did not like that book so I took it home and learned the real stuff at work.

I remember introducing an incentive for insurance companies to offer well baby care in the early 1980’s. They wouldn’t hear of it. Every bill report I made to the Speaker, everyone of my party in the Assembly, was sent to lobbyists and the opposition before the meeting as per FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), for which I was later responsible when I got a permanent job as analyst for another committee. For every such report the insurance industry said “Will Raise Premiums.” That’s it. I should have stuck with Gerber and the first book I read.

Everyone who has health insurance (soon to go away) has well baby care now and it is somewhat thanks to me. The insurance companies finally realized that well babies cost them less than sick ones, preventive care works, and as they never lowered premiums they could put their extra money into offshore accounts and reinsurance and the stock market. And be given billions of taxpayer money for being “too big to fail.”

I have done many good things for people and animals in my life. This is not one of them. It was only four months and a “hazing” that landed me a permanent job doing the “grab bag” committee. Pick an issue, fill the bowl and let me in with the claw to pick up anything and I’ll learn it. Native American Rights, Veterans, Cable Television Franchising in NYC, Fire and Building Codes. Reapportionment, Legislative Ethics (?), how to raise and lower the American Flag, Human Rights, Civil Rights, Military Code, Sexual Orientation, holidays and non-holidays.

The biggest holiday to celebrate was MLK Day, the first, we all drove to D.C. and went to several services, the most moving of which was at the AME church where Coretta Scott King delivered a eulogy for her husband, with a choir.

The other holidays were more days of remembrance, such as Haym Solomon for financing the Revolutionary War, and Raoul Wallenberg for his heroism in WWII. It was an honor to do this for our country. Veterans was taken off my burden of a slew of bills before computers, by a veteran who sat next to me for several years. He saw stuff we never heard of from anyone, including him, in Vietnam and was mustered out to Texas for two weeks. They ordered him to go to Chicago for the 1968 Democratic Convention, as part of a military presence to suppress the people.

He refused. He said he’d do KP (dishes and kitchen prep) for the rest of his time but he would not fire on American citizens. He had been through enough. Now he is a leader in an anti-war organization made up of veterans.

I’ve had many experiences looking for work, but in the end if you interview the interviewer first, you’re better off if they offer the job. I flew in from the Rockies for a breakfast bagel at the Carlyle in NYC and was offered my own office, twice my salary. My new boss made me into a hamster going around a wheel. I left and spent my life savings to go to …… cooking school. I recently received photos from my aunt from our graduation dinner at the James Beard House, that I had framed.

Yes, I cooked at the James Beard House, and as our family was a large group they were upstairs in the loft where his bed had been under a mirrored ceiling. We cooked our hearts out that evening and everyone gave me the food they made so I could toy with it and make breakfast for 14 family members and 20 neighbors. They were proud of me.

Yes, I do read about cooking and have many books. I do cook. I do not do that much French anymore, more Italian or Greek. Normandy and Provence. Best ingredients, simple preparation. I’m only cooking for two a la minute.

Big storm coming in. Must get offline and check on my husband and old dog. Thanks for sticking with me over the years. I appreciate it. Cheers, Dee

 

It’s About Everything

Yes, that’s life, as Frank Sinatra sang it. Many people concentrate on one facet, whether it be sports, math or English literature.

Youth is, indeed, wasted on the young. Older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser but in my case, it works. I had a great family and was taught so much.

When every experience from being bullied to volunteering for a soup kitchen line to cooking school, helping feral cats and adopting four rescues over the past twenty years, I had an education that rivaled my formal education and career. Yes, I also credit my two favorite priests, Fr. Cap and Fr. John, both gone now.

They wove meaning into the fabric of my life. I learned about how history and traditions make us who we are, to accept people we don’t know and, above all, respect, appreciation and honesty.

Through my parents, relatives, teachers and friends I’ve learned much. And my husband teaches me physics lessons while listening to country music on the car radio on long drives. Do you know what’s coming out of that smokestack? No, dear. I can tell by the color……….

Also, having a pet can make a difference. There’s a real responsibility and I’m shirking mine now as I’ve taken her out for “last chance” and she is not by my side. She wants me to lift her up to the bed for her beauty sleep. She’s gorgeous and just turned 84 in people years. She has no hips so cannot jump up by herself. If I slept 20 hours a day I might look that good.

A pet is a grounding experience, especially without a child. So is music, the written word, writing a blog or Haiku or poems.

My husband’s gone for work but I still read cookbooks and make my own recipes and wish for him to come home soon to try them. Yes, my hobbies are cooking, writing and shelter pets/feral cats (spay/neuter). I have had perhaps my last shelter pet, hopefully not, because a dog gets me out to walk and meet people and other dogs. Zoe is old but fine.

Life is about everything and how playing touch football on a dead-end street or softball in our back yard was so special as a kid. The neighborhood kids called on us early and asked for Dad. Mom said they had to wait until the end of dinner. Dad’s only rule was that everyone got to play and play fair. I remember one kid picking up his little brother and running him from first to second base, a tree, and home (we didn’t have that much space) and everybody won because were all the home team. Even toddlers got to play on Dad’s team.

Honesty, integrity, a sense of fairness for everyone, life is about everything. Cheers to you and your family, Dee

New Cooks

I don’t care if you’re 11 and want to become a chef, or if you’re about to be a new bride who can’t boil water for tea.

Sit at a dinner table with your parents. Listen to their day, politics and how to ease the tension as it goes to dinner and kids. The family dinner was a given in my immediate family. Now, yesterday, my 12 year-old dog stole food from my plate while I was eating. That’s a big NO!

When my family went on vacation somewhere we usually met other family who brought food for “room picnics.” Dad hated this but I thought it an unusual endeavor that I’d be able to do as a grown-up.

Then we started talking about food at every meal. That really irked Dad. What are we going to eat next?

I went to two cooking schools, one in NYC and one in Italy. Dad always made us pancakes after Mass. He now cooks Italian food. My brother and I taught him how to learn to cook. It is probably the best gift I’ve given both.

It is a pleasure to put Dad on record for learning to paint and cook after age 80. I love him dearly. Dee

Culinary Inspirations

While I wait for the cream to get cold and mixer bowl and whisk for a trifle layer to deliver to an early dinner this evening I think of things. No room in the freezer but it’s 20 degrees outside so that’s where they are. Don’t worry, the cream is in an insulated bag.

Happy New Year! We’re all a year older and hopefully wiser.

I saw two episodes of “At The Table With…” that resonated with me. The first was Daniel Bouloud. He was a young chef when I was in cooking school and demonstrated his fish wrapped in thin layers of potato and pan-fried. He was remarkable. That was 28 years ago.

The next was Norman van Aken, a chef from Florida who started cooking early and rose through the ranks. He was a reader of literature, one chef said he had to read cookbooks, and cookbooks are literature to me, check my list. Start with James Beard, and he did. I cooked for our final exam at the James Beard House with family upstairs in his bedroom. Chef van Aken’s first cookbook was James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking.

I have that in my library, lent it out and never got it back. I bought another. This out of print book is my gift to every young couple as a wedding present.

Knowledge is power. That’s why I tell my husband the difference between baking soda and baking powder. Today as I prepare trifle for a dinner this evening as a host gift I told him about cream/cold, egg whites/no fat, clean bowl and room temperature.

He’s a physicist so understands science. I will also leave him Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking and my culinary library. In the past few weeks he’s learned pancakes, spaetzle and homemade fettucini. He loves science and machines. Even the hand-cranked pasta machine.

After James Beard House, since I had family in town they gave me all the leftovers, which I happily re-heated, revamped and served at a large family and neighborhood get-together brunch.

Dad always said we spent too much time talking about food. He had good food prepared by women. It is a staple of life. That it is tasty and healthy for all concerned is my job at home. Cooking school just helped me get there. Dad cooks now, and not just pancakes on Sunday. Cheers and Happy New Year! Dee

Sidelined

It’s been a difficult few weeks. I’ve been ill, my husband has been away for longer than ever, and the dog, while I am keeping to her schedule, has been sick but is OK even though she sleeps by the door either waiting for him to come home or to keep me from leaving too.

But I’ve a job to do and a two week trial period.

This is what I’d like to do if I had all the time and money in the world:

Make a perfect Simca Beck cassoulet for my father;

make a sublime beef bourgionon for my husband a la Julia Child;

give my aunts a smoker and make some killer ribs and brisket together;

help my in-laws finish their new place and finally get the recipe for M’s potato rolls.

find my mother’s Viennese Chocolate Pecan Torte recipe and share it with my siblings;

have every copy of James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, because I love his method and think most cooking instructors are frauds, of course you know I give TPGC as wedding gifts and they’re out of print; and

know that I stopped this blog at 1,000 posts and now have over 2,000 and I need to keep cooking. Tonight as J is away I get to make a vegetarian pizza.

Dough is 1.5 c Italian 00 flour with 1/2 cup warm water, you know the drill. It’s on the blog. I’m going to roast some garlic and saute some spinach and add a bit of goat cheese and artichoke hearts. There’s no guy here so no need for pepperoni on the pizza! I’m eating fish and veg. Cheers, Dee

 

Texas

and the South, of course. Of late I’ve availed myself of other than my treasured cookbooks, gone back to at least my husband’s old favorites and become in a cooking rut.

I love to learn new-to-me recipes from people like Trisha Yearwood and Ree Drummond as they seem to really cook and have a passion for new and old family recipes. My husband is born & bred Texas, a farm boy who loves his meat and potatoes.

He was sick last weekend and recuperating after a long week so I’d like to make him a surprise. Yesterday I tried Trisha’s biscuits and though I’m a trained cook they didn’t turn out so well. They taste great but I had to use buttermilk powder and that may not have worked. The flour and veg shortening came together well but I had to add extra milk. They kind of looked like hockey pucks.

Immediately after they cooled I placed them in a sealed bag in the freezer. What I plan to do for breakfast is a toasted (unfrozen) biscuit with a sausage patty and egg, with cream gravy.

Thanks to this morning’s show with Ree I know making white gravy is as easy as falling off a horse – I know because been there, done that. And I make bechamel a few times a year, but hopefully “Pickles” is finally gone now after decades and throwing me across a creek then tossing me into a sandbox and running home, sending a dinner party to see if I was OK while only my pride was struck, and I never rode again.

A lifelong animal lover who worked over 20 years in shelters and spay/neuter clinics horses sense my fear. I did get over it this past year in part, petting the largest horse I’ve ever met, a Percheron. Percherons were sent into war because they were so large and intimidating. Next is getting me to ride a horse. Perhaps this year.

Hopefully my husband won’t read this today because we have to get two things today, a utensil (under $5) that I’ve wanted for years, and raw frozen dog food. OK, then I’m going for groceries alone.

For dinner, I’m taking him back to TX with my first-ever chicken fried steak, my garlic mashed potatoes, and perhaps an arugula salad with grated black beet on top with a vinaigrette to be named later. Ree, let me hit a home run on this one.

A tip for cooks everywhere. You’ll probably see staff in the produce department. Ask them questions. Get to know your butchers (I can’t get to know my fishmongers because my husband is deathly allergic to anything that swims so I can’t even cook fish at home). If there is a cheese department get to know them and your shopping will be easy. You’ll only have to go into the inner aisles for things like olive oil, rice, soy sauce, jam, flour and sugar.

For those who celebrate Easter, and every reader, enjoy this day. Dee

 

Len Deighton

Someone with a how not to do things piece (I hate those titles) talked of mayonnaise in July 4th potato salad being disgusting. I disagree and responded that mayonnaise is only an acid, egg, oil and seasoning. Its taste depends on the quality of the ingredients. I would use lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

For the formula in a nutshell, I contacted Len Deighton via print. Yes, we actually have books.

I learned of Len Deighton through his spy novels, primarily Spy Hook, Spy Line and Spy Sinker. Years later I find that in 1965 he published a cookbook entitled “Ou est le Garlique?” That means, where is the garlic.

It is not in print, nor is the English version “Basic French Cooking.” It is years of Julia Child and other dear cooks’ writing tomes which I have and love, distilled into a compact paperback book.

This book is remarkable for its simplicity and elegance. Mr. Deighton’s personal illustrations give incredible lucidity to complex formulas and directions and are art in their own right. I would love to have one of his illustrations near my desk for inspiration but will not cut up one of his books.

From time to time, a close young person or adult will come to me for help in learning how to cook. For the younger ones I give them Mr. Deighton’s book after I know they really want to learn.

For the older ones and for weddings for younger brides and grooms I give James Beard’s “Theory and Practice of Good Cooking,” also out of print. That book teaches techniques, not recipes. If you go to an upscale cooking store for a Valentines’ Day demo for your gal, they’re only selling their book and three recipes. It’s OK as a date, but it’s not cooking school.

Check out my cookbooks section for references. This is not a monetized site and I did a lot of research to help me and you learn what is important.

I only collect the best! And I’m no longer a lending library because no-one brings anything back. All my best pet health care books are gone, too. Lending no more.

There’s a photo of Len Deighton teaching Michael Caine how to crack an egg on the filming site of the Ipcress File. I’ve enjoyed Len Deighton’s novels but consider Basic French Cooking a charm and reference for a lifetime of cooking. Cheers! Dee

ps I’m certain I’ve read The Ipcress File but will talk to Dad and brother to find out and get the movie asap!

Blackbird, Bye Bye

Pack up all your cares and woes,

Here I go, singing low, bye bye blackbird

…… blackbird, bye bye.

Last post, they’re selling my posts. I never wanted or got a nickel from them, I will be removing them from WordPress.

I don’t know how to do this as I’m a writer and not a techie, that’s probably why they allow people to steal my words and sell them.

To my readers, I salute you and will be back on other than WordPress. Thank you for being with me and inspiring me these few years. The grandmother who died before I was a year old sang that song to me, to get me to go to sleep. It’s that time. Dee

 

Re-Making

It took me a while. My mother died four years ago and I have a few things of hers, like her Lenox china for ten. I also have Nanny’s (my husband’s grandmother) setting for eight. We have service for 18 in an apartment that’s 1,248 square feet and a dining table for four. Fabulous!

A while ago my sister sent me an envelope with recipe cards from the early 1970’s. Every one, hand-written, brought back a memory. It was difficult, emotionally, to put them into context.

I talked to my brother the other day and he has her Hungarian Coffee Cake recipe, a bread we ate early every Christmas morning. I traded it for our aunt’s Piquant Meatballs and threw in BBQ Beef for good measure (because I mentally tortured him as a young child). That is a joke, dear reader, it’s just that he drummed on everything, especially on 14-hour car rides and drove me up a wall.

Taste and smell memories are awesome. Just making Mom’s pot roast brings back memories and it’s such a simple dish.

The BBQ Beef calls for three pounds of beef chuck. I haven’t made it in decades. I remember it being delicious, our homemade version of that supermarket stuff. When I looked at the ingredients I went to one of the cookbooks I have online (in the Cookbooks section, silly) and thought I might substitute a true Texas BBQ sauce while cooking the beef. The book is by Jeanne Voltz and entitled “Barbecued Ribs, Smoked Ribs and Other Great Feeds.” Publisher is Knopf, the same company that was smart enough to publish our beloved Julia Child.

It’s a wonderful cookbook (I’m not paid a cent to say this) and her regular rub, rib rub, peppery barbecued rib sauce and fresh cucumber relish are out of this world. I have over 200 cookbooks, and don’t cook every dish in every one!

I’ll let you know how this new, old family favorite turns out. My husband is having cold pizza at a seminar tonight so it’ll have to wait. And I was going to try chicken-fried steak tonight! He’s a Texan and his dad runs a ranch so I thought I’d try to wing it but that will have to wait as well.

There are many dinners (I hope) to come for us and family and friends. It’s great to be cooking for two, these past eleven years, instead of a toasted peanut butter sandwich over the kitchen sink for the 20 before. Don’t worry, my husband of nearly ten years and dog of nearly nine are not spoiled at all. Ask anyone! Right….. Dee