Friday, March 17, 2006

back from the south

Of Ohio, that is. I spent my time taking 107 pictures of my grandsons, reading a book about multiplying hippos to my grandsons, making brownies for my grandsons (although they only had a tiny bite each), and going to the mall with my grandsons where they rode on the merry-go-round and the vibating helicopter.
I did have some time to eat though, notably at Pizza Crossing, and at the auction I went to (with my grandsons, among others). Pizza Crossing is the premier place to eat pizza in Logan, Ohio, and in my opinion, the world, except for Italy. They do a thin-crust pizza, quite crispy, a not-too-sweet sauce, light hand with the cheese (which not everyone likes, I know, although I do), and a plethora of toppings. Check out their on-line menu. "We deliver," it says, but unfortunately, not to Cleveland.
Auction food is a whole genre in itself. I don't know if this phenomenon is peculiar to southeast Ohio, but at auctions down there, there is always food, and an auction is judged partly by the quality of what's on offer. At the auction I went to last week in Circleville, the women who was making the food was as much a draw as the glass and pottery. One couple told me they'd come just for the food and the fun--their own interests ran more to furniture and antique tools.

I was torn--I wanted to try the green beans, but I settled on Chicken and Noodles, a regional specialty I'd had before and couldn't resist. These noodles are more like dumplings made in a fat noodle-shape--very toothsome, with an eggy resistance, served in a chickeny stew, with bits of chicken. It's all about the noodles, in my opinion; you don't want too much chicken to overshadow them.
Auction food is also pie- and cake-centered. I have to admit I've never had auction cake, because auction pie is so good. A cherry/rhubarb pie I had at an auction two summers ago is still bright in my memory. That particular auction food was made by a church group raising funds for (I think) a new communion table, and I was lucky enough to get one of them to give me the pie crust recipe.

This time I went for the coconut cream pie, which was not too sweet, dense with coconut, and topped by a high and light meringue. I wish my photo could do it justice. I also bought a cut-glass vase with a pineapple pattern and a 14-inch glass candlewick platter. I had my eye on some George and Martha Washington salt and pepper shakers and a small but charming green vase, but the grandsons were not as enthralled with the auction as I was, so we left early. Just as well, for I heard later that the small and unremarkable green vase was Warwick (whatever that is) and went for almost $200.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

reading cookbooks

I used to think that it was weird that I liked to read cookbooks, but thanks tro the world of food blogging, I now know that if it is, it's a weirdness shared by many. Here's what I've been browsing (and sometimes drooling over) lately.
Pure Chocolate, by Fran Bigelow. 234 pp. of chocolatey deliciousness. Even the index sounds good enough to eat. I got this to look for recipes for my niece's shower, but I think I'm going to make some things ahead of time, for instance--Gold Bar Brownies (caramel, almonds, dark chocolate) and the classic Chocolate Wafers.
Egyptian Cooking, A Practical Guide, by Samia Abdennour. This and the next one I got from the library sale shelf for 50 cents each. I admit that I'm never going to make Gizzards, Baked with Bechamel, but I enjoyed reading about it. On the other hand, Chicken Stewed with Yogurt and Roasted Chicken with Sumac sound quite possible.
Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons, by Jessica B. Harris. This is devoted to the foods of Africa as they've been interpreted there, and in the newer world. The names are great: Akkra Funfun (bean fritters) and Potato Fou Fou (a kind of stiffer mashed potato dish). I've already made the Funfun, and they were great.
The Bontempi Cookbook, by Fedora Bontempi. This was a birthday present from my cousin J, who knows I love vintage cookbook. The Bontempis, Fedora and her husband Pino, had a weekly cooking show on tv in the '50s and '60s. It's mainly Italian, classic dishes adapted somewhat to American tastes--good, solid recipes.
Mangoes and Curry Leaves, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. This is very heavy, intensely illustrated, a very beautiful cookbook, with a lot of stories and context to the recipes--very novelistic. But the recipes seem to be as good as the photos and the reading. I've only tried a potato curry so far, but I like it so much that I'm thinking about buying it (I got it out of the library). You can only renew books so many times; and they don't like it if they come back with mysterious food stains either.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

dregs of the refrigerator

I got the idea for this post from The Accidental Scientist, who made a wonderful parmesan, broccoli and pine nut risotto from the dregs of the pantry in the last days before payday (see here). Coincidentally, I had done the same thing the night before. One of those what-shall-we-have-for-dinner nights, no desire to shop, and a disinclination for junk food (Taco Bell was mentioned and vetoed).
We decided soup was the thing, a mainly vegetable soup, with a chicken broth base. Here's what went into it, mostly without measurements--it was the kind of cooking where you put in a spoonful of this and a handful of that.

Clean Out the Refrigerator Soup
About 6 cups of chicken broth
1 parsnip
1 carrot
1/2 an onion
1/2 stalk celery
3 skinny stalks of fennel
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
Remains of a head of romaine lettuce (perhaps 6 small leaves)
1/2 glass white wine (remains of the Gewurtztraminer)
A bit of zucchini relish
Last 2 spoons of a jar of almond butter
Remains of a jar of smoky chipotle salsa (perhaps 1/2 cup)
Spoonful of garlic-ginger paste
Spoonful of horseradish
Couple of shakes of ancho chile powder
Large pinch of curry powder (hot)
Handful of cilantro leaves

Believe it or not, this made a wonderful soup--mildly spicy, a little smoky in flavor, slightly crispy carrot bites along with tender sweet potato cubes. I didn't do any sauteing or anything special, just poured in the broth and then added the rest of the ingredients, beginning with the carrots through fennel, then a pause to allow them to soften, then the sweet potatoes, another pause, and then everything else, ending with the yogurt after I'd turned it off. The cilantro was added after dishing out, since I'm a cilantro love and D isn't.
This is why I love soup.