Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And Speaking of Gifts that Keep on Giving

Hey Mom & Dad!  This one's for you.  Cause you got me a gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma for my birthday, and I was like a kid in a kitchen store. 

I thought you might like to see what I bought.  See that timer in the middle?  No more burning things!  I mean really, how silly is it to have to use my cell phone to time things like pies and quiche?  Well no more.  Look at that sleek and beautiful timer.

And speaking of quiche and pie, I finally got a utensil with which to serve them.  And the first thing I did was make a quiche, of course!

Would you believe I've never bought a good bottle of balsamic vinegar in my life?  Until now, that is.  Thanks, parents!  This bottle is aged 25 years and it's so thick and sweet and luscious.  I can hardly wait till later in the summer when I can drizzle some of this nectar over fat, ruby red slices of organic tomatoes.

I also got some yummy sauces and spreads - I've mentioned the tomato-vodka sauce here previously - it's definitely worthy of your favorite pasta.  And the artichoke-spinach-parmesan dip is addictive, pretty much right out of the jar.  And I couldn't pass up a condiment that contains two of my favorite things - hot peppers and preserved lemons!  I can't wait to make a spicy chic pea stew using this Moroccan Harissa dip as a flavoring.

So thanks, Mom & Dad!   The only thing that would make these gifts better would be if you could come over for dinner and enjoy every last bit of it with me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Gifts That Keep on Giving

Boy do I ever love a good cookbook.  I probably have more than I need, but I can't seem to stop accumulating them, in part because every year people buy me more cookbooks for my birthday. Lucky me!  There are so many great ones, and a few that I keep going back to again and again. I continue to enjoy the Dona Thomas cookbook, a wonderful gift I was given on my 38th birthday. I've been LOVING their chilaquiles recipe, which features this beautiful, robust, spicy guajillo sauce...

... which begins by toasting, soaking and grinding guajillo chiles.

When I made this recently,  there was plenty of sauce left over and we couldn't possibly waste one drop of it, so later we sauteed shrimp in it, and that made for one delicious taco feast.


And what taco feast would be complete without icy cold margaritas?  Let me tell you, you 
never appreciate a margarita so much as when you have to painstakingly squeeze each individual lime for what seems like hours, until you have enough juice to actually make a drink.

Of course, since it was my birthday, I didn't have to squeeze the limes!  I was too busy making tortillas and roasting peppers and barking orders for assistance in making the chocolate peanut butter ice cream, because naturally this was the most important part of the meal! 


So thanks to all my loved ones for great birthday celebrations year after year, and for all the really cool gifts.  I'm not done talking about the gifts yet, because I got some fantastic aprons this year too, but more details about that later.  Ciao for now!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Further Adventures of Life Without Coffee

It's been about two months since I stopped drinking coffee, and recently I haven't given it much thought, or missed it very much. And in fact I've been very pleased with the fact that all of my stomach and digestive issues have completely disappeared, and I can't help but attribute it, at least in part, to the fact that I'm not drinking coffee anymore. That's a pretty strong motivator to keep me from missing it very much!

Last night I had a revelation. For several years now, I've had this problem with my voice, wherein basically I become hoarse after singing for a half an hour, or even from just talking too much. It's been disturbing to me, seeing as I am a singer and also just a person with a big mouth who loves to talk! I kept thinking that it must be my technique, something I have been doing wrong in the way I use my voice. Acoustic gigs especially would be a nightmare, because although I could always get through the set, my voice would be mostly gone afterwards.

Well last night I was rehearsing with El Mirage in my living room, with three guitars, bass and a full drum kit, and my voice didn't even get tired. And the night before, I had sang two sets acoustically without a problem. That losing my voice thing seems to be a thing of the past now. The only thing I've done differently is to stop the coffee. Amazing! I've been battling this problem for a long, long time now and it's incredible to me that this one little change has made such a dramatic difference.

Am I the same person who once wrote in this blog "I'M NEVER GIVING UP COFFEE AGAIN!!!"? Never say never, I guess.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Janice Ian Knows

I've been meaning to write about this video ever since I first saw it. This performance of Janice Ian singing "At 17" absolutely takes my breath away. Actually I first saw her perform it on the pilot episode of Saturday Night Live (which I watched recently, that is, not back in 1976!). I can't seem to listen to this song without having my hair stand on end. I don't know if it's because she's singing about a topic that so many women can relate to, or if it's the cool, confident manner in which she delivers the message. She is stunningly beautiful and powerful and magnetic. That voice! Those guitar playing chops! That depth of wisdom at such a young age! All I can say is, those dummies in high school didn't have a clue. Watch it and enjoy. I'll be back with some more food porn before too long!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

You can only be young Once....

... but you can be immature forever!

Oh, there is so much to report. So far I'm really enjoying being 39, and the fun just goes on and on. I am so very grateful to my wonderful friends and family for being so good to me. And boy do I ever have food pictures to post and report about!! But hell, I'm old now, and tired, so the best I can offer tonight is this picture of me enjoying the ice cream I made (or rather, what was left of it!) as part of the FIRST of my birthday dinner celebrations over the weekend! Yep, here's to being immature FOREVER!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Almost time for Limoncello

I don't know if I've mentioned Food Groupies in any previous posts, and that is a major oversight! We're a small group of friends who are obsessed with food. We meet once a month, each time at a different person's house, and that person leads the whole group in making something delicious and completely from scratch.

One time, John and Scott and I showed the group what we know about wild fermentation, and we made our own sauerkraut and pickles, and I swear the stuff we made is some of the best I've ever tasted!

Other sessions have found us making biscotti (of course!), Brazillian cheese biscuits and Brazillian fish stew, and last month, Kathleen taught us all how to make meyer lemon and orange marmalade, and Limoncello - a truly intoxicating Italian liqueur.

First, you peel the citrus very carefully, making sure not to include any of the white pith, which would make the final product bitter. We made one batch with oranges, and one batch with lemons.

Then, you soak the peels in grain alcohol for 13 days, shaking the jar every day. Later you remove the peels and add simple syrup to the alcohol, and set it aside for another 2 weeks or so, again, shaking it every day.

Next, you bottle it and put it in the freezer, where its color transforms into a very creamy, but still very bright orange or yellow. And then, it's ready to drink!

You serve it in very small, chilled glasses. And believe me, you want the glasses to be small because this stuff packs a punch! And it's easy to drink too much because it goes down soooooooooo smooth.

Our Limoncello won't be ready for another week or so.... not QUITE in time for my birthday! But since I plan to enjoy a week-long celebration (at the very least!), I will certainly get to make a few birthday toasts with it.

And speaking of birthdays, the celebration begins today. I'm headed back to Gualala to enjoy a bit of gluttony in the company of a few friends and a few dogs. Of course I've packed the essentials - cookbooks, knives, tortilla press, ice cream maker, and ... tequila. No doubt I'll have many fine food pics to post next week! So stay tuned...