Tag Archives: cooking

Scoville Units

Growing up in the northeast in Medieval times we had no access to tacos, salsa or chilis. As I researched food and expanded horizons I learned about Scoville Units. That is the measure of heat in a chili pepper.

Yes, food is an art and a science. My husband thinks cooking is flowery fake science but I beg to disagree. Our favorite jalapeno is between 3,000 to 5,000 Scoville units. Serranos are higher. Habaneros are around 300,000 units. I’ve no idea where ghost peppers come in but do not wish to try one.

Years ago there was a restaurant in NYC that had a “three alarm chili” and the owner would stand behind a diner eating it with yogurt and a spoon. Few could eat the stuff. If you can’t breathe or turn red eat yogurt, drink milk or have a beer.

Habaneros are great. I used to go to a restaurant that had a dish with a habanero/peanut sauce that I never re-created. They went out of business, too bad.

Out west, they have roasters outside, open flames that char the greatly admired Hatch Chili. They have a very short season and I found a batch and charred them on the stove, steamed them, cooled them and placed them safely in the freezer. My eyes were watering when the steam came out of the bag then I peeled and seeded them. Chilis are a wonderful addition to certain dishes. Not veal stew or dessert.

I checked it out and Hatch have 1,000 – 9,000 SU’s. Mine are nearer 9. If you’ve a cold this will clear you out. Wait ’til next year and find them by googling Hatch NM. They will sell you canned but get fresh and do it yourself. It’s worth a bit of time and effort. Cheers! Gas stove or broiler! Dee



That’s Planning II, correct? My husband said he was glad to have an entire week with me and our old dog Zoe. He sleeps most of the time and works the rest. He does take a bit of time out to eat and to walk the dog, but all the time he is with the dog he is talking on the phone. She’s on a 16′ leash with him (never for me) so eats icky stuff.

At home he is on his headphones, on his laptop, or cell phone. “I enjoy spending time with you, dear.”  He prefers electronics.

So I made a list and emailed it to him. Breakfasts, dinners, sights to see. He offered me Europe and I said no. I need to plan that for us, where we want to go, what we wish to see and what we’ll do with the dog.  Of course, what kind of food we will eat……

He doesn’t know that most travelers do not schedule a three-day weekend in Europe for vacation due to travel time and jet lag. Then again he’s been sent to India for work. Two days travel each way, four days at work and he flew home to work, not to us, because the trip was shorter that way. I understand. No, I think it was abuse on the client’s part as my husband is very tall and said client said everyone flies coach, even after longer than an eight-hour flight.

I’m letting him sleep as much as he needs to do the transition. He’ll also be doing an opposite time change so when he visits weekends we can make sleep and meals work and ease into a new schedule.

Today I’m making chili, Pedernales Chili or my riff on Lady Bird Johnson’s 1962 recipe from near Austin TX. They served 5,000 including JFK that day. The recipe is on the LBJ Library’s website. That recipe was the most requested document from the White House until JFK was assassinated.

He gave me back the list of what he wanted to eat before going back to restaurant food. He also chose a museum to visit today. I took Zoe out before seven, then fed her. We’ll take her out before we leave. Oh, he decided to make fluffy pancakes yesterday. Goo (egg glue) all over. And the egg whites never puffed in the stand mixer because he doesn’t know how to crack and separate an egg properly. No yolks in the whites!

I love him and that he wants to use every machine in my kitchen. Yes, my kitchen, we made egg pasta with my hand-cranked pasta machine one day last year. That was less messy than the pancakes! Cheers and happy cooking, Dee


After I pay the bills I’m up for an adventure, an educational one for me and others. I go to the cooking store, my husband goes to the electronics store but yes, he does have four tool bags/boxes in storage.

He started to learn math and science from his uncle T who died of cancer yesterday, God rest his soul. T was a mentor that drove him to math and physics. He will be missed.

In cooking I always take advantage of what is available to me from feed stores to hardware stores. I use a curry comb to scale fish. There is a set of needle nose pliers that is only used to pull pin bones from something like salmon. As of yesterday I’ve wire cutters to trim woody flower stems. Of course he has them, in storage. I need a clean one for cooking.

The gist is that my husband has as many tools for fixing things as I do for making things. Nothing with grease on it gets into my kitchen, and my tools are not used for shop work. He knows about the needle-nose pliers. Peace, good food and a good home, who could ask for anything more… Dee


It’s always great to have a good hardware store nearby. Dad’s dad was a carpenter/handyman and left him great old tools that I played with as a child. I took Dad to his first “big box” hardware store and he was amazed.

He was like a kid in a candy store. “Look at all these bins with nails and screws!” Me, I prefer a smaller store with older folks who know what they’re doing. There’s one a few miles away we’ve been to on occasion, and another opened up two blocks away, just a few weeks ago.

We went to the neighborhood store because the hose and sprayer we’ve had in the guest bathroom (now home to dog Zoe and me) had malfunctioned after ten years of use. The hose kinked and the sprayer’s spring broke. So went to find a new hose and sprayer. I use it to wash my hair so we had it fitted out.

They also have a kitchen section, so I had to pick something and it was two teflon mats on which to place pots, pans, dishes. Today I walked there by myself. I bought us a broom/dishpan because we only have a straw broom that’s old and has been used to sweep the garage and take down cobwebs. This one may actually pick up dog hair and would only be used indoors.

Mis en Place

Yes, that’s French for everything in its’ place. My mother never let me cook as a kid. At age eight I was allowed to assemble cakes with my younger sister for our much younger brother’s birthdays. Oh, we had elaborate parties, kings and queens, pirates.

After cooking school when I visited my family I wasn’t allowed to cook much. Mom said my mis en place used every dish in the house and she didn’t want to clean them.

So, today at the new hardware store I bought a broom/dustpan with special features that will capture dog hair. Herb plants were on sale so I bought two to fill the place of the thyme and sage I killed, involuntary plant-slaughter.

Plus, I got four small Pyrex ramekins for mis en place, shirred eggs, ice cream with my blueberry sauce…. Hardware stores are great to have nearby, but dangerous when Dee is around! With mis en place, I do the dishes but was trained by the best and do things right.

Blueberry Sauce

Blueberries were on sale yesterday, three pints for $5. Now they’re two for $4. And this is an expensive grocery store. I got my three pints, rinsed them and placed them in a pot with the zest and juice of a lemon, 1/4 cup light brown sugar (use any sweetener, to your taste). I prefer mine tart. Cook it down until it is the consistency you desire. Or barely cook it, save a bit of lemon juice and mix into a slurry with cornstarch, add it, let it come to a boil and take it off the heat and allow to cool.

Mine was runny but I never used cornstarch and after being in the frig it’s solidified to a perfect state for me. Not for my husband who would spill blueberry all over his dress shirt! How I love that guy. Cheers! Dee

Crazy Shopping/Epic Culinary Errors

This morning I drove down a one-way street to a particular grocery store, parked in an alleyway behind it (not much is free parking-wise here) and the alley was blocked by two trucks, each way.

Thank goodness, because the produce section was bursting with freshness and deals. I’ve just rinsed a pint of strawberries that I’m planning to take downstairs to share with the staff who keep me alive every day. Once they dry I plan to add a bit of Meyer lemon zest, juice, and a sprinkling of raw organic sugar. From Dee.

I was supposed to get berries and cereal for my husband, who returns tomorrow from a business trip, two weeks. I got the berries, two pints for $3 so am keeping one. No cereal. I found Lyle’s Golden Syrup, nobody carries that these days. It was my mother’s favorite, on toast. I use it in marinades and will do so today, chicken wings.

Then I found mincemeat. No, it’s not meat, it used to have suet in it. Mom made mincemeat tarts every year for Christmas. I now make them and they are a staple on Nanny’s 50-dessert table every Thanksgiving. Actually my mother-in-law makes the pastry and I fill the tarts and cut out little Texas stars and hearts for the tops. I have “hot hands” that are good for unmolding cold things, but if I even look at chocolate or butter, it melts. Don’t even talk to me about copiers.

So I started grabbing a few things not on my list. Check out mincemeat on the blog. My brother, in NYC, went everywhere to try to get mincemeat, and was even told to get a taxi to New Jersey! He looked it up online and what was the first thing that popped up? Cooking With Dee. He never knew I had a blog or wrote about mincemeat. I called Amazon and got two jars sent directly to Dad so my brother wouldn’t have to carry them on the plane.

As I could not leave because the alleyway was still blocked, I dropped off groceries in the car and headed across the street looking for two bottles of brown ale. I did find them, called Old Brown Dog from New Hampshire and showed the proprietor my card that sports a photo of my old brown dog! What a morning.

* * *

As to the ale, I’m making Beef Carbonnade for my husband’s return. Usually Friday night is Pizza Night but that’s too much last-minute work and he’s only home for the weekend. Beef in the style of the charcoal maker: beef; onions; bacon; and beer. I brown everything starting with bacon, onions, then beef, all separate (beef is tossed in seasoned flour beforehand). Then add the beer and simmer on the stove or in the oven for about three hours, stirring every once in a while. I serve it over pappardelle noodles that just need a few moments to cook. It’s one of his favorite dishes and the weather is feeling like fall.

I think I’ll write epic failures on another post. You must be snoring away already! Dee

Sugar and Spice, and Herbs

At lunch time my major concern is that window washers are coming down and there are ropes hanging. Our poor old dog doesn’ know what to do so I’m awaiting their arrival and introducing them as our friends, as I do every year.

I cannot go out or get lunch anywhere until they are below us and friends.

Today my husband went out a new adventure. Part of it is attending a wedding for a young cousin. Brava! We sent her one gift this morning, no, two. I had the opportunity to teach the bride and her cousin cooking classes, two years at Thanksgiving, when she was just a little girl. I heard that she and her future husband  like to cook together.

All I’ll tell you about the first gift is that it includes reference works (how romantic) plus the same spiced nuts I place on Nanny’s table every year for 14 years come next week. The spiced nuts were not sent to the bride, but to her mother, to calm her nerves and know everything will be OK. Don’t stress! Nanny and I are there in spirit for you. Just place the nuts on the table, take a breath.

Of course for Thanksgiving I never would have tried to do pies or cakes. First, I do not bake. Second, you couldn’t imagine the tastes up there on that Thanksgiving table. Forget the table after being satiated by turkey, ham, brisket and numerous side dishes. Feeding 50+ with just desserts, one must use windowsills et all!

I thought a lot of fresh spices and herbs would complete our wedding package so ordered it from Penzey’s this morning and it will arrive before the wedding as well. I remember when the bride’s youngest brother climbed off his mother’s lap and insisted on kissing me goodbye. He’s grown now and would hate to hear that story. I’ll keep it for blackmail!

For the bride and groom come common herbs, chilis and cinnamon sugar, sugar and spice. Congratulations, newlyweds!

In the beginning I  concentrated on two things and knew no-one left much on the kitchen table. I brought my homemade boursin and crackers, plus spiced nuts and just left them on the table. During The Game all the ladies congregated in the Kitchen and I hope I had a part in that. Next year I gave them spinach balls but left that recipe to a new bride in my new family.

Mincemeat tarts, Brussels sprout and cauliflower vegetarian (but rich and sinful) gratin. I don’t remember the rest at the moment, only that the boursin and nuts always are on the kitchen table and after all the good dishes are cleaned and replaced that’s where we go to relax before the next round. Yes, there’s a next round after The Game and it entails plastic cups and paper plates.  That’s why I wanted cousin the MOB to have the nuts on the kitchen table in a bowl, or wherever she wants them. My husband flew them south this morning and will take another flight and car to the wedding.

Sorry I will not be there. I did go off the bride’s gift list but then again, I taught her cooking when she was a little kid and her cousin K said my first year (before marriage) that “Nanny has shoes like that.” Ouch! Love these gals and it makes me feel really old to see one getting married. To Bride and Groom! Dee

Kitchen Semantics

In cooking schools and in life, in a kitchen one knows to say “behind” or “hot behind” to keep a fellow cook from getting hurt or ruining your sauce.

One person on a cooking show I saw recently yelled “MOVE!!!” That is the antithesis of “behind.”

Behind lets one’s colleagues, competitors in this case, know that you’re running behind them with a new ingredient and not to step back. “Move” is a hostile comment that will get you pummeled by your fellow cooks a block away until you agree to an attitude adjustment.

The French brigade is legendary and how many chefs (see Ratatouille, based on Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry restaurant) are in the kitchen. There are rules. If one is washing dishes and dreaming of being on the line, behavior matters. So do tattoos (I don’t have any) but that’s another issue.

No matter what your career path, respect your elders and co-workers and people who work for you. No-one can ever go wrong with that philosophy. Everyone has their own job to do. Now MOVE, people, I’m coming through! No, in Italian it is “permesso.” Would you permit me to pass? I like that language better than MOVE! Cheers, too quiet around here and awaiting husband at midnight. Dee and Zoe


It is everything. Just as with a restaurant it’s location, location, location. Growing up, marrying, having kids in the right school district.

When it comes to cooking for guests, I’ve somewhat of a complicated menu. Simple, really, not seven courses or anything made for an international competition. But I time it. It includes a time for “turn oven to 350.”

I go back from serving time on a sheet of paper from when guests arrive to drinks, appetizers, seating, dinner, salad, dessert, coffee or tea. I bring it back to the roast and its accoutrements, everything in five minute intervals.

I like that it’s both old school and kind of strange and don’t do it for dinner with my husband, that’s just in my head. With guests everything has to be perfect, the menu and execution and friendship. Just a thought. Dee

ps People ask if I cook this way every night for my husband and he says, enthusiastically, “Yes!” Then they say he is a lucky man. I can only do it in my head because it just comes from the heart, and not after a day of cleaning the house and ironing the napkins and getting flowers and prepping and cooking and figuring out what to wear. Yes, for family meals I plan menus in my head as well, usually while walking through a good grocery store and seeing what’s fresh and knowing how to make the most of it, like garlic scapes, all fresh fruits and veg then to the butcher and afterwards, round it out. D


We have people here who make our lives easier and more safe. I don’t believe they make much money for this duty, so when I’ve more than we can eat I often make a plate at night or cook something for the whole crew by day.

Last night the plate was grilled ribeye with a compound butter inspired by the herb garden I inspired! With scallion, basil, thyme, parsley and a bit of lime juice. I chopped and mixed the herbs, lime and butter and rolled it into a log in wax paper. Just twist the ends. Take off as much as you need at a time. After I used two medallions I just twisted it back up and placed it in the freezer.

I served it with simple scalloped potatoes, two russets peeled and sliced with heavy cream, salt and pepper (butter only if I make them with 2% milk). Also, a jicama and heirloom carrot grated slaw with lime juice and a bit of roasted poblano chile that was toasted on an open gas flame in the kitchen.

My husband leaves at noon today but will be home mid-week and work from here. It’s a blessing to have him home, but not 24/7. And I love cooking for him.

For the gent who received last night’s plate, he asked my husband “do you always eat like this?” He said yes. “You’re a lucky man.” For some reason, the simple, tasty food I make is miraculous to some.

I could never compete on a cooking show but love Top Chef and Top Chef Masters, and even Chopped when master chefs and judges are at bat.

In college I once made brownies from scratch for my roommates and several asked how I could do that because theirs were always from a box. Then I was awarded the title of “chef” because no-one could cook. I figured I’d never have to set the table, wash a dish or shop. Wrong on the last one. I sent them to find a 50# bag of potatoes and they said cans were on sale for $.20 apiece.

NOOOOOOO! I’d never had a canned potato in my life. I had five roomies and often there were several more for dinner so I cooked for an army, usually 12. Mostly healthy, inexpensive meals from scratch so after their first foray to the store Aunt Dee made a list and pushed the cart while they “fetched” what our $120/wk. grocery budget would buy. If a few dollars left, we could get ice cream.

One dish I remember from my mother. I must have changed it and haven’t made it in years. It’s just pasta with ground beef and onions, canned tomatoes and my roomies loved it and couldn’t believe it was not out of a box.

We had cheap pots and pans from the college apartment but I made do. And I only masterminded the meals, shopped the outside aisles except for rice and tomato sauce, and never set the table or washed a dish.

The only difference years later is that I want the freshest ingredients possible, do not usually have a master list, shop alone, have a pantry full of great herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, soy sauces, and many other ingredients I never would have gotten my hands on (especially Italian OO flour for my pizza dough) back then.

We have a “tech center” next to the kitchen. It looks at a blank wall. We have a wonderful view. I placed my desk by the view and we used the blank space for a huge open pantry. It’s organized by sweet, savory and other stuff and even has a power strip for a spice grinder and a molcajete for grinding stuff.

Once I asked how much to tip the staff here over the holidays and was told, “Don’t you feed them all the time? That’s more than enough!” These folks watch over me when my husband is away, if I have to take the dog out in the middle of the night. Nobody cooks, don’t worry, Aunt Dee is here. Cheers! Dee

Potato Salad

Yesterday, I gave an employee here some potato salad, and a shaved salad of cucumber and carrot with a light vinaigrette. He said he always wanted to know how to make potato salad.

I couldn’t believe that an adult, male or female, does not know how to make a potato salad and this is disturbing… until I realized that my husband knows how to make toast but not how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, or potato salad. When I first made him a tasty potato salad years ago, he said potato salad is only for funerals! It made him feel sad.

I’m going to make a pretty plain potato salad tonight because I boiled un-peeled Yukon Gold potatoes yesterday. If I were to dress them up I’d add a chopped scallion, two slices of cooked bacon, crumbled, 1/2 of a red pepper, charred, peeled and seeded. Perhaps some ancho chile powder and celery seed. That’s just how I’m feeling today. Some folks use pickles and hard-cooked eggs and miracle whip. I am not of that school. Talk to me tomorrow and I may have some new ideas. Right now it’s just salt, pepper, mayo and scallions.

Today I was introduced to (haven’t tasted yet) a local version of a French hard apple cider. I added some fresh sage and rosemary and dried thyme, salt and pepper and drowned two pork tenderloins in the hard cider to marinate.

I found gorgeous Saturn peaches and will make a peach, honey, chili and rosemary glaze to crust the pork. Also said potato salad and a green salad with my husband’s favorite, ranch dressing. Please. A hundred vinaigrettes come to mind and he wants bottled dressing. Last night he slightly overcooked two NY strip steaks, breaking in the new grill brush (what we need is a new grill). Then after I seasoned it perfectly he went to the frig and placed ketchup on his plate.

Luckily our old dog has taught me to perfect “the stare” that has served her so well in life. I gave it and he said, “I don’t plan to use the ketchup.” I even made a maitre d’hotel butter for the top and he chose ketchup. Why are we married? So I could create a food snob/snubber of haute cuisine?

No-one, including him, puts ketchup on Dee’s steak. The next morning, with leftover steak & eggs, he can use a steak sauce. That’s the way it is in Dee’s kitchen. How about yours? Dee