"Bacon is the candy of meat."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Something to ponder

During these dark days of winter, in this quiet time between Christmas and New Year's, it's nice to have a weighty philosophical question to consider.

If you had to choose, would you pick the slices of roast duck to eat right away, or a container full of rendered duck fat, for use in bringing glossy ducky dishes for months (OK, maybe weeks) to come?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reading about food is like dancing about architecture

Sort of. Anyway.

Best. Edition. Ever. Of the New York Times Dining In/Dining Out section yesterday. In addition to a fairly customary (but good) piece on holiday cookies, there was a fantastic, tempting article on Caribbean black cake that calls for not just rum-soaked fruit (such as, say, Boozy Cherries) but more rum for soaking the cake and more rum in a glass on the side. Then there was a brilliant companion to Mark Bittman's list of summer dishes that take less than 10 minutes to make -- 101 appetizers, each at less than 20 minutes. There is a whole section on things wrapped in bacon. Swoon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What I had for dinner

Just so you don't get the idea it's all homemade pesto and gourmet ice cream and grass-fed beef around here.

Dinner #1 (pre-Cirque de Soleil): pint of Bass

Dinner #2 (after show, back at home): 2 slices leftover pork roast, eaten with fingers; brownie

Monday, December 10, 2007

Eat this. Seriously.

Just run to the store right now and pick up some of this. I'm serious. Maybe a spoon, if you are feeling dainty.

I also note the presence of this. Haven't tried it yet, but if it evokes the Honey Vanilla of yore, I'm in.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Recent eats

Yeah, yeah, I know, I suck. It's been ages since my last post, and even longer since regular posting was going on. Honestly, I've just gotten really busy and tired and not that interested in eating anything that someone else didn't cook for me.

However, I have somehow managed to continue taking in sustenance, and, unsurprisingly, pork products have figured in heavily. For example, tonight I made one of my favorites, inspired by a Donna Hay dish from her excellent cookbook Off The Shelf. This is a pork roast which you simply slather with whole-grain mustard, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with oregano. You can salt and pepper it, you can roast it on a bed of carrots and parsnips, or you can leave it alone, as I did. With that I made some roasted cauliflower with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and though everything was kind of beige, it was delicious. What I love about this dish is the only prep tool that gets dirty is a knife to spread the mustard. You don't even have to dirty a mixing bowl.

Some other good stuff I've eaten lately:

  • at Mr. Gateau's office party -- buffalo "sliders" with smoked cheddar and bacon, on brioche buns
  • breakfast of two microwaved eggs (I do these in little Pyrex dishes, 29 seconds each for a runny yolk) topped with Chilean hot sauce my friend Dave gave me and several strips of bacon on the side, plus tea
  • breakfast of steel cut oatmeal with cinnamon, brown sugar, and a little vanilla sugar
  • barbecue brisket and pulled pork, plus bacon-studded collards and baked beans at a new place that opened near my home, praise the lord
  • buddha's delight (tofu skin stuffed with mixed vegetables and deep fried, with vinegar sauce) at the shockingly wonderful Chinese restaurant near my office, plus excellent steamed pork buns
  • cranberry-fig-port-rosemary-balsamic vinegar sauce I made for Thanksgiving and could eat with a spoon
  • brandy-marinated dried cherries (aka "Casey's Boozy Cherries") I made a while ago and just discovered in the pantry. If I keel over from botulism, you'll know why

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lazy But Hungry

Several friends have asked whether everything is OK, since they haven't seen a post here in a little while, and the depressing answer to that is that I've just been too lazy to eat much of interest, much less post about it. But I figured I'd take advantage of this lull to post some of my favorite Lazy But Hungry dishes (TM chow.ind). This is sort of an homage to Mark Bittman's awesome 101 Summer Dishes that Take 10 Minutes to Cook article but less, you know, classy.
  • Spaghetti tossed with a little chili-infused olive oil and parmesan, with or without frozen peas thrown in during the last few minutes of cooking
  • Pasta with pesto and parmesan
  • Salad (from a bag) topped with crumbled blue cheese (from the supermarket) and bacon pieces (from a jar), with vinaigrette (from a bottle). I like the Brianna's brand with the artichoke on the label. If there is leftover roast beef or chicken, I can throw that in too
  • Which brings me to steamed artichoke with Brianna's vinaigrette for dipping the leaves
  • Slices of hot soppressatta, chunk of Stilton, Granny Smith apple cut in slices
  • Sourdough or country bread, or split baguette, with a little dijon mustard and gruyere cheese on top melted under the broiler
  • Pita chips and hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki, taramasalata, etc.
  • Tuna mixed with a little olive oil (if not packed in oil), balsamic vinegar, tarragon, and a little garlic powder, with either whole wheat bread or crackers
  • Sardines packed in spicy oil with crackers
  • Any of the above with steamed edamame tossed with smoked paprika salt (or plain salt)
  • Order in

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Granny knows best

You know why Yorkshire pudding always goes with Granny's roast and potato dinners? Because Yorkshire pudding is awesomely delicious and dead easy to make. I'd never made them before, as I was rather intimidated due to all the special popover tins you see in kitchenware places, and popover mix, and restaurants acting like it's a big giant deal when they bring them out.

Here is how you make them. Spoon a little of the drippings from the roasting pan into the cups of a muffin tin. Keep it hot in the oven. Make a batter out of a cup of flour with a little salt, into which you mix a cup of milk you've beaten with 2 eggs. Pour this about halfway up the muffin tins, and bake for 15 minutes. Done. Beef drippings in the making, and can be used to sop up whatever falls on the plate, my kind of breadstuff.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

File under F for Fast and Fab

Just had an awesome quick dinner of rotini (specifically, that new breed you see around that's partly whole wheat, but with enough white to make it smooth and not crumbly) with Miss Cake's leftover pesto. Oh, and a martini.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Soup is good food

I have always been rather terrified by recipes calling for a can of Cream-of-Something soup, and for good reason. However, I will reveal that the one dish that probably makes me happiest in the world -- my mother's beef stew over broad egg noodles -- does in fact take both an envelope of Lipton's Onion Soup Mix and two cans of Campbell's Tomato Soup. This is added to browned cubed beef (and it's great to make this with a good cut, not generic stew meat), a little Worcestershire sauce, a touch of wine vinegar, carrots, peas, and sliced mushrooms, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder. Simmer that away and take it from me, the onion soup and the tomato soup blend with the seasonings and the meat juices to form a very rich brown gravy that has just a hint of sweetness, enrobing meat that falls apart with a fork.

Thanks for bringing that over tonight, mom!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Watch this space

You voted (well, about three of you did), we delivered. Yesterday, Miss Cake and I went on a rampage in the frozen foods section of my local Stop & Shop, and performed a taste test on a big spread of frozen hors d'oeuvres, enlisting the tastebuds of Mr. Gateau and the general assistance of Young Master Gateau. Miss Cake is currently tabulating the results, and we will be back soon with a comprehensive report, as well as pictures.

We also have pictures of the real dinner we made -- lemon-tarragon roast chicken and spaghetti with fresh pesto. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 14, 2007


My friend Pam has done it again. This time the awesome hospitality was extended at the new apartment she and her husband moved into this year, by far the most beautiful New York apartment I'll probably ever see. But never mind that, we need to talk about the jerk pork, which was marinating happily away when we arrived. The flavor was amazing, with just enough heat for a pleasant slow burn, while not alienating the small Gateaux. Also soft and juicy. And as if that weren't enough, there was chocolate angel food cake with ice cream and strawberries. Well, played, Pam!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What I am Drinking, Fall Edition

Somehow, the boozy fruitiness of my summer cocktails just doesn't seem right in October, even if the weather only just came down from its heights in the upper 80s about a week ago. So I have returned to my standby, the dirty vodka Martini with olives. Much as I love briny, salty things (see bacon photo), I don't like it when the bartender dumps in a big glug of olive juice. It wants a splash, and it wants a little more Vermouth than the dry Martini fanatics endorse, to balance the brine with a little mellowness. I'm liking these Sable & Rosenfeld "Tipsy Olives" I get at the supermarket, which have a little Vermouth in the marinade. They're huge, with pimientos, and because I am my own best bartending friend, I allot my drink with two of them, one to eat when halfway through, and one to enjoy at the end.

This personal perfecting of my Martini no doubt explains why I am falling asleep on the sofa every night instead of posting on Cookiestuffs, but I know my faithful readers appreciate a good cocktail, too, and forgive me.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A plea to our readers (all 3 of you)

I know, I know, I haven't been posting much, but honestly, what I've been eating is so boring if you tried to read about it you'd fall asleep so fast your head would hit the desk and leave an unsightly blemish.

But my friend Jim was nice enough to nominate us for a blog award, so click here and scroll down and click to vote for us. Vote often! And while you're at it, check out the parenting nominations and vote for the first one, I Think This World is Perfect.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I scream, etc.

I have just returned from a business trip/junket to San Francisco, where I learned about marketing law regulatory issues, saw lots of friends, enjoyed amazing hospitality, and ate the best ice cream I'll probably ever have. Bi-Rite Creamery. Go there. The nice people will let you taste whatever you want, and feel free to do that, but once you've tasted the gorgeous Strawberry Balsamic and the Brown Butter Pecan, and maybe shared a crisp chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich filled with Mint (and I don't even like mint ice cream), just do yourself a favor and pick up a pint each of Honey Lavender and Salted Caramel and hide yourself away in a closet where nobody can find you (so you don't have to share) with a spoon. Nirvana.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Snack Report Update

I have a deep need to report on two excellent developments in the snack area.

First, the fine makers of Pirate Booty (a staple if you're a yuppie parent of small children, like myself) have come out with Cocoa Booty, which tastes like Cocoa Puffs, only you can eat it by the bagful and pretend it's good for you.

But second, and even better, Snyder's pretzels have come out with Buffalo Wing flavored pretzel pieces, and this is simply the best snack food ever developed, or at least since Wasabi Peas. Broken pieces of sourdough pretzels (obviously repurposing factory waste, but who cares! it's recycling!) coated with spicy, vinegary Buffalo Wing flavored stuff. Seriously, they are the best thing ever.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Grande Fatbomb Italiana

Last night we headed down to the beach in our town for our annual pilgrimage to that celebration of fat and sugar, the local Grande Festa Italiana. They've got all the seedy carnival rides that make you wonder about inspection certificates and general liability policies, even as it's kind of thrilling to ride up on the Ferris wheel, bumper cars, you know, that sort of thing.

But the real purpose of going to the carnival is to eat all the horrible stuff that you aren't supposed to enjoy eating any more, but will never disappear because it's effing awesome. I speak, of course, of the corn dogs, the steak and mozzarella sandwiches on garlic bread, the candy apples, the blooming onions, the giant platters of red-sauced Italian dishes at the Sons of Italy tent, and of course, the greatest pleasure of all, fried dough, here in the form of the zeppole.

We limited ourselves to one bag for three of us, but it was hard, I tell you. If I'd gotten near the cappuccino/espresso tent, I am certain I would have been forced to get another bag. Not to mention the funnel cakes. And the "fried oreo zeppole," god help me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My Kind of Restaurant

The two young Gateaux and I spent the long weekend with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and their kids in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, where my parents have a house. It's a decent size group, even with Mr. Gateau stuck at the office all weekend, and now includes four people under the age of six. Fortunately, my parents recently happened upon Jack's restaurant, in the tiny old mill town of Housatonic, Mass., which has in the last number of years developed a small but sort of hip gallery and loft scene in the old factory buildings. Jack's is the kind of place that has old Life magazines in the waiting area and shelves crammed with old toys, lunch boxes, figurines, and so on, though neatly displayed and not dusty, as these things so often are. Very family friendly, with big tables and ample space. Young Master Gateau was quite taken with the electric railroad suspended from the ceiling, and was thrilled when we were being seated to go behind the bar and operate the train whistle.

I was more taken with the fact that the menu includes comfort food standards made with good local ingredients, like pot roast with garlic mashed potatoes, chicken pot pie, meatloaf, and the ultimate appetizer: pigs in blankets with two kinds of mustard. They offer several of these dishes served family style, and the dessert menu (if you have any room left at all) includes chocolate pudding and other homestyle treats. There is a whole list of $13 wines, and they make two kinds of sangria by the glass or carafe. I had the sparkling white wine version, and it was delicious and not too sweet.

I will note that the women's bathroom was decorated with old photos of babies and children, while the men got to have vintage pinups and movie stills of Elizabeth Taylor in a slip. Not fair.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tonight on Masterpiece Theatre, Upscale Downscale

Just back from a nice weekend with the family in Philadelphia. Since we were with kids, we didn't get to check out the exciting places in the Philly food scene, like Morimoto or The Fountain at the Four Seasons, but we did very well with places specializing in upscale versions of downscale food. Saturday night, we went for very tasty BBQ at Devil's Alley, which had a great old industrial vibe and a fun atmosphere. I shared a platter of St. Louis style ribs with Young Master Gateau, which came with two sides (excellent beer battered onion rings and cole slaw were my picks), while Mr. Gateau had a turkey burger (buh?) with bacon and blue cheese, and the baby had a nice cheese quesadilla with good fries (note to New York area restaurant owners: there is no reason on earth why a child's entree should cost more than the $3 or $4 or $5 pricing we encountered in Philadelphia, and portions should be scaled to match. Also, put the regular menu food on the kids' menu, not just endless fried nuggets. I saw a menu for a place there that offered an English cut prime rib for kids, for the love of pete). Mr. Gateau talked me into sharing a whole pitcher of ale with him, which proved to be a good move, as it was excellent (from the Yard's brewery, which apparently has just disbanded).

On Sunday, we avoided the misery known as the "free, cooked to order" hotel breakfast and went out for a fun brunch at the Continental Mid-Town lounge, which had a groovy retro-future look and a terrific menu reminiscent of the great Norma's at Le Parker Meridien in New York. Mr. Gateau had a good cheddar and bacon omelette, I had poached eggs with smoked salmon hash, with exceptional coffee and a Bellini, which was just what I needed, and we ordered "The Big Bang" platter for the kids to share, which included a short stack of pancakes, scrambled eggs, toast, applewood smoked bacon, very flavorful turkey sausages, and probably the best breakfast potatoes I've ever had. These were just what you want in a potato side -- well seasoned, and cut into thin ovals that we potatoey and tender in the center, but crispy everywhere else. This more than adequately fueled a long walk around the historical sites, and then an endless trip home fighting the Jersey shore traffic/certain people's repeated failures to read properly the instructions displayed on a certain person's GPS device that a certain person's spouse gave him for Father's Day.

All in all, Philadelphia did right by us.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Foodie Musing

Listen, I know it's all horribly foodie and bobo and privileged to be all "darling, simple dishes using the best possible ingredients is the only way to eat" but I got a really good dinner together last night using that method. I'm fortunate in that we have this great, weird independent supermarket in town that carries local produce, lots of weird European and Latin American imports (jams! oils! spices! rose water! fruit nectars!), and a great homemade take-out area, with everything from 6 flavors of hummus to complete entrees. So I got some pita chips, tapenade, and spicy feta dip from there, and made a Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella made there (still warm when I got it), some of my own basil, and two giant amazing tomatoes I bought for a king's ransom at the Saturday farmer's market. I topped that with the good California extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's someone had tipped me off about ($6 a bottle, and could have been over $20; I got 4) and some fig vinegar that was $12 a bottle, which I hadn't noticed until after I got it home. Good thing, or I would never have bought it.

I asked Mr. Gateau to grab some red wine from the basement, and I never can keep track of what's good and what's table wine, but I suspect he opened a bottle of the good stuff. Which is fine with me, why save it only for dinner guests?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gimme a Break

I finally had a little time this weekend to dig into a recent addition to my cookbook collection, Eric Gower's The Breakaway Cook, which is a gorgeous and inventive cookbook emphasizing full flavors from around the globe and a pantry stocked with unexpected ingredients that quickly become staples. I've already become addicted to his flavored salts, which take about 30 seconds to make in a spice or coffee grinder (sea salt blended with lavender, dried tangerines, smoked paprika, or Japanese green tea powder).

Yesterday I made a chicken dish that is basically marinated and then sauced with a pureed mojito, with the addition of some onion, garlic, and cilantro, and was just succulent and wonderful. This morning I followed his instructions for fluffy herbed scrambled eggs, where the tip of the day was to use a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt where I otherwise might have used milk. Delicious. Even my picky husband and kids ate with gusto.

Friday, August 17, 2007

School Daze

Young Master Gateau is about to start kindergarten, so yesterday in the mail we got the information packet that included things like lists of the numerous school supplies we are expected to provide for the use of the whole class (apparently, they no longer hand out crayons; each kid is expected to contribute two packs each to the collective supply -- woo hoo! all those anti-school budget folks who carried on about having their taxes raised in some Communist plot to educate someone else's kids had no idea they were fostering this kind of socialist crayon distribution collective).

Anyway, among all the lists and directives was the instruction that we're to provide a "healthy, not sugary snack" and a drink each day, along with lunch (the school cafeteria does not sell food until the end of September, WTF? God, I'm cranky.) Since YMG does not eat fruits or vegetables, or half the other things normal kids eat, such as yogurt, string cheese, Goldfish crackers, etc., I'm not quite sure how I'm going to deal with this one. So far I have come up with:

pita chips
fresh mozzarella balls
bread with butter
um, probably something else if I try really, really hard

Oy, and school hasn't even started yet.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Saturday Morning With the Gateau Family

One of the drawbacks of having kids, as everyone knows, is that they get you up early seven days a week, which for a lazy layabout like myself, was probably the hardest adjustment I had to make. However, on the upside, this means that you get an awfully lot done in the morning during time that would otherwise have been spent lounging around in bed.

By 8am today, Young Master Gateau and I were ready to hit our small local farmers market. We usually get there closer to closing, and though we can usually find plenty of nice stuff, getting there just after opening was like going to an entirely different market. There was bounty. Our purchases included two pints of my favorite Sungold cherry tomatoes that I eat by the handful, blackberries, blueberries, zucchini, peaches, several kinds of heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, a yellow watermelon, and multicolored beets. Combined with what is coming out of our little garden, we should be getting our fruit and vegetable servings this week.

After that, we stopped at the supermarket for some other essentials, and learned that in their bid to compete with outlets like Whole Foods, our big chain supermarket now has a featured microbrew section. It sits opposite the bacon section, so that's great, one stop shopping.

When we got home I cooked an entire package of hickory-smoked bacon (why orphan three slices in the refrigerator, I figured) and I made a triple batch of pancakes -- mostly chocolate chip, but I made myself a big blueberry one and a big blackberry one. We all shared a big pot of Earl Grey tea, and now I'm ready to go back to bed, if only the kids would let me.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ted Allen is right and good

On this week's Top Chef, guest judge Ted Allen had this advice for the chef contestants:

"If you want to make people happy, give them bacon."

Monday, August 6, 2007

The best thing to serve with bacon is.......bacon

We spent the weekend visiting with friends who are thoughtful enough to rent a beautiful summer house in the country each year so that their un-summer-housed friends can come to visit. Thanks, guys! This visit was a rousing success, if only because Young Master Gateau did not start vomiting upon arrival, as he did a few years ago. There was swimming, there was grilling, there was kid interaction, there was sitting around on the deck with alcohol, all the necessary components of a fine summer weekend.

And there were blueberry pancakes and THREE KINDS OF BACON, provided (and cooked) by Mr. Gateau. Sadly, this year we were not able to pick up the super thick-sliced uncured bacon that had handily won comparison with Niman Ranch's bacon two years ago, but we got the thinner version of the same, the Niman Ranch, and some nice peppered bacon. We meant to do a scientific study and determine a winner based on taste, appearance, and meat-to-fat ratio, but basically we were all so fried from the kids waking us up before the crack of dawn that we forgot. And ate it all. Without pause. So much for science, but HOORAY FOR BACON!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eating Vancouver, Part the Third

OK, so Lumiere. Once per trip, Mr. Gateau and I try to treat ourselves to a really special evening out, and often that means we go to the lovely and thoughtful Bishop's in Kits. However, Mr. Gateau had often spoked glowingly of the vegetarian tasting menu he'd eaten years before at Lumiere, which as far as I can tell, is basically the French Laundry of Vancouver.

Even fine dining in Vancouver tends to the west coast casual, though Lumiere is the tiniest bit more dressed up in atmosphere. Still, you would not feel out of place in jeans, and there is not a whiff of pretentiousness, even though everyone there knows that Rob Feenie can cook the pants off of most anyone.

They offer an a la carte menu, a seven-course chef's or vegetarian menu, and the total decadence overload of the ten-course "signature" menu. At $180 a person, plus the fact that we thought we might explode if we attempted it, we decided to go for the more than enticing chef's menu, and wisely skipped cocktails and went right for the wine, a local Chardonnay. While we were kicking these important issues around, we were served a dish of lovely gougeres. I will note for the record that of the six on the plate, Mr. Gateau "forgot" that he was only entitled to three, and took one of mine.

Then we began. Because a mere seven courses plus gougeres might leave us starving to death, we first were served an amuse-bouche of heirloom tomato soup, which was more or less the best cup of tomato juice you ever ate. Then our first official course arrived: scallop tartare with a tiny amount of fresh jalapeno and caviar. We both agreed that this was utterly divine, even though Mr. Gateau is not a huge shellfish fan.

Next up was a ravioli stuffed with luscious short rib of beef, in a wild mushroom and truffle consomme. You'd think this would be a little heavy for midsummer, but it was just meaty enough, while remaining light in texture and tasted of the woods. Phenomenal.

The fish course was a knockout -- pan seared Arctic char with grainy mustard risotto, peas, morels, and a red wine reduction. The skin on the fish was incredibly crispy and the risotto is something I now dream of (I'm going to attempt it tonight, though what I really need to do is buy Rob Feenie's cookbook in the hope the recipe is in there).

Instead of duck or red meat in the meat course (both duck and lamb were on the signature menu, and that was what really tempted me about it), this menu has a combination of butter-poached lobster and Redbro chicken breast cooked two ways, with parsnip puree, caramelized cauliflower, candied walnuts, and truffles. I wasn't that excited about this, and still don't quite see how the lobster and chicken work together, but every element on that plate was perfectly prepared. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a piece of chicken so much.

By then we could see our limits in sight, but next up was cheese. Each of us was given a little form with the available cheeses listed, with short descriptions, and told to pick three each. We decided to pool resources, and I think we did a great job, especially as we tend to go for the more pungent offerings, but we tried for a good range of styles. That was served with paper-thin chewy slices of fruit-studded bread.

For dessert, the menu offered a chocolate and beet fondant with pepper ice cream, aged balsamic-macerated strawberries, and beet raspberry coulis. That was ideal for the chocolate fiend Mr. Gateau, but I had my eye on one of the signature menu offerings, and they had no problem making the substitution for me: apricot and lavender millefeuille with vanilla poached apricots, almond pastry, manjari chocolate and lavender parfait. That was killer. Those flavors came together just perfectly for me. That, and an espresso capped it.

But wait! God forbid we stop eating, a two-tiered display of creative, beautiful, and delicious candies and petit fours were presented. So we did our best, but sadly we had to leave some over. Human beings have their limits. I can't imagine how anyone completes the signature menu, but I aim to find out some day.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Eating Vancouver, Part the Second

On Monday we joined friends at the Parkside restaurant in the West End. The restaurant, which features slightly Italian-inflected modern cooking, offers four courses, and you can choose prix fixe options of all four courses or any three. After pretending that we might be delicate flowers, we gave up the pretense after a cocktail and went for the four course option. We were seated outside on the lovely patio, though we had to move inside for dessert due to noise regulations barring occupancy of the patio after 10pm. So civilized, those Canadians.

For cocktails, I chose not to go fruity, for once, and had their Buckeye Martini, which is a nice take on the Dirty Martini. This is frozen vodka served in a glass rimmed with lemon salt, and served with a side of "gourmet" olives. There was also wine, but frankly I drank too much of it to remember many of the details.

My first course was seared scallops with pea puree, sherry vinegar caramel, and micro greens. Mr. Gateau had the foie gras terrine special, which was introduced as the chef's "signature dish." I followed with a lobster and sweet corn risotto and got to taste the wonderful gorgonzola ravioli that the friend next to me had. For a main course I had a superb New Zealand veal chop that was lemony and flavorful, which also marks the first time I've ever chosen to eat veal in the presence of Mr. Gateau, who usually spoils the mood by rolling his eyes and sighing ostentatiously. He was seated at the other end of the table, and by then it was dark anyway.

For dessert, we decided to share several options, including the cheese plate. We also had pink grapefruit sorbet with grapefruit sections and vanilla sauce, and poached apricots with almond cake and cinnamon ice cream.

On Tuesday evening we unloaded Young Master Gateau on his grandma, and we were hankering for sushi, so we decided to take Mr. Gateau's dad and stepmother out to thank them for all their babysitting help. We had always enjoyed Octopus' Garden in Kitsilano, but it's become a bit of a family joke that every year when we visit, they are somehow closed when we want to go. This time we made it, and we had a delicious meal, but it wasn't what we had expected. Sometime in the last few years, they have changed their menu from traditional sushi to the trendy "Japanese tapas" with an emphasis on order the chef's omakase, which as far as I can tell from eyeballing the table next to us just means they serve you basically all the dishes on the regular menu.

For the table we ordered: the special miso soup (which I did not have, opting instead for a sunomono-style seaweed salad), foie gras nigiri (which was delicious, but I'm not sure entirely worth it), tempura "fish and chips" with yam fries, spicy tuna mango roll (excellent), a "risky business" roll of smoked and fresh sockeye salmon with asparagus and avocado, and a fancy version of a California roll, plus probably something I'm forgetting.

As I said before, this was all really good, but it adds a level of fussiness and foodieness to food that at its best leverages pure simplicity to let the tremendous quality of the ingredients available in B.C. to take center stage. This is the second of our favorite traditional sushi places in Vancouver to go in this direction, and we're a little at sea with respect to knowing where to get plain old regular, but good quality, sushi in Vancouver with a pleasant ambiance.

Next post will tell you all about one of the best (and most expensive) meals I've ever had, or probably ever will have: Mr. & Mrs. Gateau unload their kids and go to Lumiere.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Eating Vancouver, Part 1

On our first weekend in Vancouver, we began eating and basically never stopped. We were aided in this by a lot of rainy weather, but really, it would have happened anyway.

We started on the first evening with Greek tapas at our favorite Greek Town restaurant, Ouzeri. Ouzeri is one of the first places Mr. Gateau took me to on my first visit to Vancouver, and we always head there whenever we're in town. They used to make absolutely the best lemon roasted potatoes either of us had ever eaten, but these have slipped to ordinary in the last few years. Everything else remains good, so we ordered up a good spread of dips (hummus, olive, and feta-spicy pepper) with fluffy hot pita, saganaki cheese, vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, fried calamari, spanakopita, and some chicken souvlaki skewers. Along with Mr. Gateau's dad, we polished off a pitcher of sangria with it.

The next day, in case our bodies were close to having digested the Greek food, we headed to possibly the best dim sum restaurant anywhere. I certainly haven't encountered better in dim sum eating that has taken place elsewhere in Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, and Hong Kong. The restaurant is Sun Sui Wah, and it is clear from the crowds and the commendations on the walls that this is the favorite for many people. They specialize in seafood, so we ate plenty of shrimp and squid, but they have an extensive list of vegetarian dim sum as well as meat-based dishes. Young Master Gateau held out for everyone favorite, the barbecue roast pork steamed buns, which he called "Fluffy Buns," and ate a whole order himself.

That afternoon, we attended the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, which has a terrific area for food vendors. My meal of fish tacos with local halibut, chipotle sauce, basil sauce, radish sprouts, and papaya salsa with hot sauce and lime, plus and ear of roasted corn with butter and lemon salt, and a fresh lemonade, eaten at the beachfront site just before sunset, hit the spot perfectly.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Summer Cooking

I was going to name this post something really stupid like "Hot Tips for Summer Cooking" but decided to spare us all.

I'm sure this is getting linked to all over the universe, as it's the #1 most emailed post on the New York Times website, but it's really worth it. 101 great ideas.

Eating to Oblivion

The Gateaux and I have just returned from our annual vacation to Vancouver, where we did little other than eat everything in sight. Without going into excruciating detail right this minute, I will say that we covered the gamut from dim sum to sushi to a seven course tasting menu to Greek to Mexican to family dinner at home.

I will note that Vancouver has incredibly good food, but the dining trends seem to run a few years behind New York and L.A., and when they fall for a trend, they really commit. So it's gotten easy to find Japanese "tapas" with things like foie gras nigiri, tempura "fish and chips" and mango-spicy tuna rolls (all delicious, by the way), it's getting harder and harder to find nice traditional sushi. And our formerly cheap vacation has been rather undermined by the decline of the U.S. dollar, so you're paying top price for those bits of rice and fish. Even the local bars tend to tart things up in a foodie sort of way. Not that it's bad that there's all this attention to good eating, but it did make me long a bit for a plain old burger or steak.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Green beans

Isn't it sad to see how those beautiful purple beans turn ordinary green after cooking? Oh well, I squeezed some lemon over them, opened a can of the good Italian tuna, put a little more lemon and some sundried tomatoes from a jar, a bit of sea salt, and call it an impromptu salade nicoise.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Great Indoors

On Friday, I went out and bought a bag of marshmallows, a box of graham crackers, and a bar of Hershey's Milk Chocolate, since A CERTAIN PERSON was going to make s'mores with me, but THAT CERTAIN PERSON had to run to get her train, leaving the s'mores unmade. So I took this opportunity to experiment with two types of indoor s'mores.

For the first s'more, I placed a marshmallow on one half of a graham cracker, put a block of the chocolate on top, and put the other half of the graham cracker on top. I then placed the whole shebang in the toaster oven, set at 300 degrees, and baked for around three minutes. I must say, the result was no fun at all -- the chocolate melted and made a gooey mess; the graham cracker burned my fingers; and worst of all, the marshmallow didn't melt, but rather just got a wee bit soft. In sum: totally unsatisfactory.

For the next s'more, I put the marshmallow on a long fork, turned on the stove burner, and toasted the marshmallow. (I have a gas stove, but I used to toast marshmallows over my parents' electric range when I was a kid.) The only problem was that toasting a marshmallow over a gas stove makes the marshmallow hotter than when you toast it over a bonfire, presumably because the marshmallow is closer to the flame, so that the marshmallow kept bursting into flames. But all was well, as I quickly lapsed into the old Girl Scout trick of blowing the marshmallow out. Once the marshmallow was toasted to a nice black/brown, I put it between the graham crackers with the chocolate. Mmmmmmm -- nearly perfect s'morey goodness.

The verdict: the stove method wins, no contest.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Just picked

Just picked from my garden, purple string beans! Later in the summer we're hoping for red carrots and yellow cucumbers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Things Learned at a Birthday Party

On Sunday, Baby Gateau and I had our first joint birthday celebration. He turned one and I turned, well, something older than that. We had a bunch of friends and family over for a backyard barbecue, kept pretty simple with hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta salad, fruit, and cake. This being my house, I also set out a well-edited cocktail bar with fixings for margaritas and gin & tonics, but I also happened to have quite a lot of the limoncello I'd made two Christmases ago.

So the first thing I learned: you can make a really nice cocktail with limoncello. To wit: a big glug of limoncello, over ice, topped off with lemon-lime seltzer (I guess you could use Sprite if you want something sweeter), lemon wedges, and a sprig of mint.

Second, I didn't want to fuss around with making dips and such, so I bought a big container of spinach dip at Costco. It's really good, at least as good as the one you make with frozen spinach, sour cream, and a packet of that Knorr vegetable soup mix. So go ahead, save yourself the hassle and just buy some. It's really good with Stacey's "Simply Naked" pita chips.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I become obsessed with the fruits of the season

For days I have been thinking about blueberries. The only thing that crossed my mind when I thought about our family's upcoming trip to Vancouver is that we'll be there a little early for the best blueberries. And I'm not even all that crazy about blueberries, actually. I mean, they're fine, but they can't hold a candle to, say, a nice ripe mango or some perfect cherries or a Honeycrisp apple. Yet: blueberries. On my mind.

At the supermarket, where I dashed in to buy an ice cream cake for Young Master Gateau's last day of preschool, I noticed pints of blueberries, 2 for $3. So I grabbed two. They're not special blueberries in any way (not organic, a little mushy) but had good flavor and decent snap and I've now consumed an entire carton (along with the dregs of a bag of wasabi peas) before dinner.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mary Sternberg Memorial Mandelbrot

3 eggs
1 cup corn or vegetable oil
1 scant cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts)
4 tbs. cinnamon sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg. Line cookie sheet with foil and coat with oil.

2. Beat eggs. Add oil, sugar, vanilla, and baking powder and mix well. Stir in nuts. Add flour in increments and mix well.

3. Divide dough into four parts and shape with your hands into loaves on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake 35-40 minutes.

4. After baking, slice crosswise while still hot. Lay the slices back on the cookie sheet and bake another 10 minutes. Cool.

These freeze well. Grandma always had some in the freezer for expected or unexpected company.

I miss you already.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Best Laid Plans

I was all set to meet my father, along with the two little Gateaux, and possibly Mr. Gateau, at a local sushi place, which was exciting because (1) my love of sushi knows almost no bounds and (2) I'm always up for getting out of the house and having someone else do the cooking, serving, and cleaning up. But right before we were supposed to leave, I got word that instead my father was turning the car around and heading upstate where my sister, after three weeks of prelabor misery, has finally started the real deal. My nephew will be arriving sometime later tonight or early tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Benjamin Alexander arrived yesterday afternoon! He's adorable. My sister reports having eaten a turkey sandwich, a grilled cheese with bacon sandwich, and some rather dry scrambled eggs. Ben shows interest primarily in nursing, but I'm sure we'll get him hooked on bacon before too long.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Marshmallow Menace

Hold onto your hats, folks -- marshamallow diner food seems to be overtaking the New York greater metropolitan area. Yes, that's right, tonight I was in Garden of Eden (Garden of Eden! Supposedly a gourmet store!) when what to my wondering eyes should appear but an entire display of marshmallow foods. Not only has some sick mofo (or mofos) made marshmallow fries, but said sick mofo has also unleashed upon the world marshmallow hot dogs and marshmallow burgers. I couldn't bring myself to buy amarshmallow hot dog -- my sense of public service does know some bounds -- but I did manage, with shaky hands, to buy a Burger Mallow.

The package proudly announces that the Burger Mallow contains three flavors: vanilla (the bun); banana (the cheese); and chocolate (the meat pattie). (The package helpfully provides a diagram for those who might have trouble assigning a flavor to a faux item.) Sadly, the Burger Mallow's various parts appeared to be glued together with some sort of marshmallowy adhesive so that one can't pull the components apart and eat them separately. It seems that the sick mofo who came up with this idea is a sadist in more ways than one.

Anyway. To be quite frank, the Burger Mallow was nowhere near as horrifying as the marshmallow fries I wrote about some weeks ago. First of all, the Burger Mallow didn't come with any fake sour candy ketchup, and this omission alone constitutes an improvement. Second, I have to admit, the Burger Mallow is, well, kinda cute; damn me if the little bugger doesn't really look like a McDonald's cheese burger. Third, it tastes mildly unpleasant, what with the fake banana flavor, but the consistency was rather nice, and the overriding taste is just plain sugary, like any garden variety Jet-Puffed marshmallow you know and love from your childhood. (Come to think of it, what the hell is a "jet-puffed marshamallow," precisely? Jet-puffed? Not only does it intrinsically make no sense, but it's one of those phrases that if you say it over and over again it sounds really weird and loses all meaning. Try it, you'll see what I mean.)

So on the whole, I once again suffer for Cookiestuffs, but I suffer less grievously than last time. I'll accept my reward in cash, thank you.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Mojito is not a gum

Orbit, my favorite gum, made a new flavor -- Mint Mojito. Yes, folks, mojito madness has overtaken us such that we now have gum purportedly flavored like mojitos. Those of you who are old enough will remember the unspeakably vile "soda" flavors of gum, as well as chocolate gum. This new mojito stuff has surpassed even that. It doesn't taste like a mojito. It tastes of some vaguely mint-flavored stuff mixed with lime crayon. Also it's a weird consistency. It's just not right.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A nice piece chicken

Made totally kickass roast chicken last night. Roast chicken is one of those things that once upon a time was considered dead simple to make, and then everyone turned into a foodie and was like "Oh, making a perfect roast chicken like the French do takes special knowledge, skills, and equipment" and soon the labor-intensive One True Roast Chicken recipes came flying -- you must cook it breast side down first! you have to roast it on high and then turn it down! baste it! brine it!

But I consulted the Minimalist Cooks at Home last night, and Mark Bittman is very old-school about it. Roast at 400 degrees and turn the pan in the oven a few times so it heats evenly. Basting with a liquid containing some form of sugar is nice and gives a dark brown skin. And that's it.

So what I did will take longer to write out than the actual work entailed. Stuffed the cavity with half a lemon, half a head of garlic, and a big sprig of tarragon. Stuffed under the skin a few more sprigs of tarragon and some butter. Drizzled a little olive oil on the skin and sprinkled with sea salt. Threw into the pan around it some baby Yukon Gold potatoes (my favorite) and some halved mushrooms, and the other half of the head of garlic, and made sure those got a little salt and pepper. When it was done and I left it to rest before cutting it up, I squeezed the lemon from the cavity over it. The pan juices were wonderful, all over the potatoes and mushrooms. And now: leftovers!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Note to Self

Self: eat peanut butter sandwiches more often. They are really, really good.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Eggs-cellence (yeah, I know)

That effing tarragon is still growing faster than I can use it, but I put a few sprigs to use this morning. First, I scored a good cup of coffee off my next-door neighbors, who rock in so many ways, providing me with coffee and cold beers being only two of the most recent. Thus fortified, I made myself a lovely pan of fluffy scrambled eggs with tarragon, and sprinkled with the fleur de sel I keep on a special shelf for my own personal use (so that the rest of the household does not waste it on items that are not worthy). This made for a lovely early lunch, before I headed off to my first-ever guitar lesson.
Remember all the hysteria about not eating eggs because of the cholesterol? I think that was around the time of the Great Oat Bran Craze of yesteryear. Boy, am I glad we all got over that, because eggs are one of the most useful things in the kitchen. And I'm not just talking about how you have to use them for their magical binding, rising, and other cooking properties. You can do them in so many ways as the center of a dish and they're really delicious and also dead easy.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Late-Breaking Cocktail News

In tonight's continuing coverage of Mlle Gateau's cocktail concocting, we have this update just in. Blood Orange Mojito. Yes, we can confirm that a Blood Orange Mojito has been made and is being consumed at this time. Please stay with us for updates throughout the night.

There are plenty of fish in the sea

We really don't eat enough fish. I mean, for one thing, it's really good for you, and another thing is that it's ridiculously easy to cook. I was all intimidated about cooking fish for years until Miss Cake finally got me over that. The reason we don't eat enough of it is that you pretty much have to buy it the day you cook it, and with my crazy schedule, I almost never have time to stop at the market on my way home from work.

But last night I did, and so I bought us each a nice rainbow trout filet. Here is how you must cook it (Trout a la Miss Cake):

1. Rinse and pat dry the fish filets.

2. Mix together some cornmeal with salt, pepper, and, if desired, some cayenne. Dredge the filets in the cornmeal mixture on both sides.

3. Heat up some olive oil in a skillet. A non-stick is nice. Put the fish in the hot oil on the fleshy side and cook until golden brown. Flip and cook until the skin side is brown too.

4. Put on plate (optional) and eat.

This whole thing takes about 10 minutes from start to finish.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In which we kick off the summer eating season

And so Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone. It strikes me that whooping it up in celebration of traffic jams on the way to the beach and the consumption of fine processed meat products may not be exactly what was in mind when a holiday to remember the fallen soldiers was conceived, but far be it from me to put a damper in it.

I spent the weekend in western Massachusetts visiting with my parents and my sister and her family. Mr. Gateau joined us briefly, but mostly I had to cook in between handling the little Gateaux, who are not all that relaxing to deal with, frankly. Still, we managed to eat.

Saturday dinner -- my friend Sarah gave me a recipe for tarragon grilled chicken, which came out very well. You smush together some tarragon, garlic, and olive oil, and let the chicken (which you have salted and peppered) sit in that for a while, then grill it, and serve it with a fresh tomato sauce you make by sticking tomatoes, garlic, tarragon, olive oil, S&P, and balsamic vinegar in a food processor. You don't even cook it. I like this in a recipe. We had that with corn, salad, and string beans, plus some nice chilled Greek white wine. For dessert we had the best effing cherry pie I have ever had. Even by the excellent standards of Taft Farms where we buy our pies, this was spectacular. The cherries were sweet-tart and really juicy, the filling was not at all gummy, and the tartness was balanced by sugar sprinkled on top of the incredibly light and flaky crust. And then I was an ass and turned down taking the leftovers home because of some misguided notion that I am actually on a diet.

Sunday started off with excellent bagels and lox from the Great Barrington Bagel Co. which has not only the best bagels and lox in the Berkshires, but among the best bagels and lox you can get anywhere. These are old fashioned bagels, about half the size of what you get in NYC these days, and custom-smoked fish that is just incredible. The whitefish salad is basically mashed smoked whitefish without much more.

Sunday night we did flank steak, and I was in a fajita kind of mood, so I organized all the accoutrements, including some red beans I cooked up with a bunch of spices and half a bottle of dark beer for good measure. This was a good idea. Also grilled a number of veg, including rings of Vidalia onion. My father made sangria under my exacting supervision, which involved saying things like "Now dump in the bottle of wine. Good, now toss in a glug of brandy. Oh come on, don't be stingy."

By Monday we were all exhausted, and so went out for brunch. Dinner was hamburgers and hot dogs with the leftover grilled vegetables and some organic brand of baked beans. Not as good as the regular supermarket kind, but they were adequate. The meats were good, the location was spectacular, and the company didn't suck either.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Born to hand chive, oh yeah (hey, you try dreaming up these titles)

Ok, here's another brief recipe. Sort of a recipe. Anyway, I got these garlic chives at the Union Square Greenmarket, mostly because I love anything garlic (including the garlic ice cream I once had at The Stinking Rose in San Francisco) and I'd never had them before. Acting pursuant to my theory "When in doubt, saute," I chopped them up (after washing them, of course), sauteed them with red pepper flakes until they were slightly crispy, and salted them. Put them over white rice. Pretty good.

Because we are not that normal, Mr. Cake and I had them for dinner, but for those of you who are more normal, they'd make a nice side dish.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Red Globes

Here's what I enjoy:

Take red globe radishes. Wash and slice into thin slices. Take a nice crusty baguette of some kind. Slice as though you're going to use it to make a sandwich. Spread a bit of butter on it. Sprinkle with nice salt -- I like Maldon sea salt. Place a bunch of the radish slices on the salted and buttered bread. Eat.

Ok, it sounds weird, but I swear it's totally yummy.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My Green Thumb

My garden is a thing of, well, chaos and insanity. I like to plant and grow stuff, but I don't much care for reading about all the little things you're supposed to obsess over, like amount of sunlight, soil quality, deadheading, and generally coddling the little tender shoots. I like to plant the stuff and occasionally water it, and yank out the weeds when I remember to. I have a small kitchen garden with herbs and a few kid-friendly vegetables like cucumbers, string beans, and peas.

So far this year, the tarragon I planted last year is coming back in force, way better than it was at any time last summer, and it's only spring. I love tarragon, but I'm having trouble thinking of ways to use this bounty. So far my ideas are:
  • Stuff it into a whole fish and grill
  • Put it in chicken salad
  • Put it in salad dressings
  • Add it to Mark Bittman's vinegar chicken recipe
  • Mash it up with shallots and olive oil and make a sort of pesto to spread on chicken and fish

I once had a cocktail (at this fancy cocktail bar in Vancouver that made a big fuss about using fresh fruits and herbs in all their drinks) that used fresh basil. I wonder if there is a way to incorporate fresh tarragon into a drink.

So if anyone has any brilliant ideas for what to do with a lot of tarragon, post them!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Soft Pretzels: Food, Craft, or Both?

Mr. Gateau is constantly working late or going on business trips, leaving me with the two petit Gateaux to care for, entertain, and amuse. Thus, finding ways to combine nourishment with fun is a win-win for this exhausted mother (the other win-win is the website I found containing scans of all the local take-out menus). It occurred to me that it would be fun and tasty to make soft pretzels. And I was right.

Pretzel dough is great because, although yeasted, you don't let it rise until you've shaped them, so there is a lot of instant gratification, if you want it, along with getting to squish it with your hands and/or punch its lights out, which is a nice perq, if, for example, you spent your entire week at work saving your clients from themselves. If you don't want to shape them right away, you can stick the dough in the fridge overnight. Shaping them is like working with springy clay, and the more you squash it and squeeze it, the more integrated and workable it becomes, which is excellent with a five year old. Also, you get to use a pastry brush to paint them with egg wash, and sprinkling happens. We just used coarse salt, but you can get all fancy with parmesan or sesame seeds or cinnamon sugar if you want to.

I had only a cup of white flour left in the house, so it was 1/3 white and 2/3 whole wheat, which turned out fine, and I feel less diet-guilty for cramming them into my mouth at regular intervals since they came out of the oven last night. Which means we'll have to make more soon. Real soon.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Things I Do for Cookiestuffs

Ok, folks, it's time to close down the blog, because I have found the most disgusting candy ever in the history of mankind. It's called Mallow Fries, and that's right, it's marshmallows (or, rather, "marshmallows") in the shape of french fries in a McDonald's-looking sort of container. See in that photo where it says "Great Tasting Marshamallow"? It's a venomous lie from start to finish. The "marshmallow" is like nothing you've encountered on earth, unless perhaps you're a chemist working for the UPS Store trying to develop new types of packing peanuts -- it's sort of sub-Circus Peanuts-grade stuff that reminded me of that chemical foam you use to fill in spaces when you're installing pipes. Ew.

Plus! It comes with candy ketchup! Yes, that's right -- candy ketchup. Sour candy ketchup. I mean, WTF? Who puts sour anything on french fries? Anyway, it's basically sour Karo syrup with red flavoring. I really don't even like to think about it.

I ate this stuff. For you people. It was even embarrassing to buy -- I'm pretty sure the Walgreen's girl was sort of averting her eyes and biting the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing her ass off at me as she rang it up. I hope you feel duly guilty.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cocktails: The Entire Point of Warm Weather

I've been hitting the cocktail shaker again, now that it's reliably warm and I'm not pregnant. Here are some of the hits so far:
  • Sunny Blue Sky Cocktail (vodka, Hpnotiq, pineapple juice)
  • Blood Orange Cosmopolitan (vodka, Cointreau, Rose's Lime Juice, blood orange nectar)
  • Mojito (with fresh garden mint)
  • Pretty Dirty Martini (vodka martini with Kalamata olive juice and olives, touch of vermouth)
  • Tropical White Wine Sangria (fruity dry white wine, assorted frozen fruit, such as pineapple, mango, peaches, berries, touch of fruit juice, touch of soda, good glug of brandy)
  • Pink Grapefruit Margarita

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Sensible Advice

When Mark Bittman is on the money, he is on the money, and today he devotes his Minimalist column in the New York Times to excellent advice about how to equip a kitchen quite adequately for $200, $300 if you want to add some nice-to-haves. I myself always fall for the good looking/prestigious temptations, and yet I reach for my old Farberware over my All-Clad more often than not, and get tons of use out of the sheet pans we got at Costco 9 years ago.

Contrary to Bittman's view, a bread machine is nearly indispensable in my house, because Mr. Gateau has perfected his whole wheat bread recipe and hasn't missed a week in at least five years. I know Bittman insists you can just as easily learn to make your own bread by hand, but with our non-freelance-writer schedules, there is a big difference between dumping some ingredients in and letting a machine do the rest, and going through kneadings, punching-downs, and baking.

And once in a while I do pick up nifty equipment recommendations from watching TV chefs. After watching Nigella Lawson quickly mince herbs with a mezzaluna, I got one, and find it incredibly useful for herbs, garlic, and other items I may want in a fine mince (such as shallots for Mark Bittman's awesome vinegar chicken recipe).

Top tips from today's column: get a good pair of tongs (I love tongs!) and don't bother buying more than one pot lid, as it's a hassle to hunt down the correct size one and you can just use the same one or a plate or whatever anyway.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Not just for hippies anymore

Listen, I know yogurt isn't the most exciting subject on earth. In fact, I think most yogurt is highly overrated. The increased availability of Greek-style yogurt (especially the Total with a little compartment of honey) and whole milk varieties are good developments, but most yogurt is either insipid or overloaded with food coloring and other junk. If you're feeding your kids blue yogurt with candy sprinkles because you think it's "healthy," you should really consider switching over to something sweet but honest, such as Kozy Shack pudding, which kicks all kinds of ass (especially the rice pudding and chocolate varieties).

However, there is one yogurt that I seriously crave, and apparently so does my entire town, because almost every time I go to the one store in town that sells it, they are fully stocked in all flavors except for the one I want. I speak, of course, of Emmi Swiss Premium Lowfat Yogurt in the amazing Pink Grapefruit variety.

It's lowfat but really creamy, has a great grapefruit flavor with little flecks of fruit in it, and comes in a pretty pink container. I'm sure the other flavors are good, but I don't even care to try them. Seriously, if you can find this stuff, you should buy as much of it as you can find on the shelf. And then send it to me.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Dogs on the Grill

It was another beautiful weeked, and that called for grilling. On Saturday, I put together some really tasty chicken kebabs -- the chicken marinated in lots of lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, rosemary, and basil, and I used small whole tomatoes, zucchini, red onion, yellow pepper, and mushrooms to make the kebabs. It's a one-dish meal, and also gets us to eat more vegetables than certain ones of us otherwise might.

Yesterday we just did up some beef hot dogs with toasted buns, but I also threw some hot Italian sausage on, and it was great. I wasn't sure what to dress it with, so I had it plain, but I think some sauteed onions would have been nice, or even maybe an aioli.

I also concocted a ridiculous girlie cocktail out of vodka, a bit of Hpnotiq blue liqueur, and a tiny splash of pineapple juice, which came out a beautiful sky blue color and was tasty.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Thanks, Storck!

Kelly Cook of Storck USA, L.P. noticed our post about Riesen some time back and sent us a bunch coupons for Storck products. Thanks, Kelly! (Thanks also to Michael Phillips, who sent me a very nice letter.)

I myself am probably going to use my coupons to buy Toffifay, the best candy ever next to Riesen. I mean, they're these little cups! And each one has a whole hazlenut inside! Also, the packaging is ultra cute. (Years ago, they had a pretty funny ad with this motorcycle cop standing around eating Toffifay and singing a song containing the lyrics, "Toffifay/it's too good for kids!" I couldn't find the motorcycle cop ad, but there's another one from the same campaign, with the song, here.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Baconbaconbacon mmmmmm BACON

In order to counteract the distressing news about high bacon consumption, it has become necessary to create an open thread for the purpose of posting inspirational stories of bacony goodness. Please, share.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Come on Baby, Light My Fire

This title is for Miss Cake, because I know how much she loves the Doors.

Tonight, Chez Gateau, we inaugurated the grilling season. It was a stunningly gorgeous day, finally, after a couple weeks of rainy cold spring misery. Young Master Gateau requested that we barbecue, and he was very insistent that we have corn on the cob, and that it be cooked in a pot of boiling water, not in the obnoxious way his mother likes to do it, which is on the grill in its husk, and served with a mixture of olive oil, lime juice, and hot chilis. He is a butter and salt man, dammit, and he would not be thwarted.

I picked up some corn, figuring it would be barely a step above cattle feed, but to my surprise it was sweet and tender. No doubt Whole Paycheck is trucking this stuff in from Florida and bunring insane amounts of fossil fuels to bring this to their "natural and organic" produce sections, but WHATEVER. Along with that we had some good beef hotdogs on buns and some burgers made from the beef I bought with Mr. X. I also had a pint of some vegetable-and-grain salad with pesto vinaigrette from the store that was pretty good. Because I tended the grill, the burgers were a perfect medium-rare (Mr. Gateau tends to overcook, the poor dear), and we had them with crumbled blue cheese and a little ketchup. I think this will be this summer's obsession.

We started out with guacamole and chips and some marinated olives (Y.M.G. had mozzarella balls, which is one of the few things he eats), with a Brooklyn Lager for Mr. G. and a pink grapefruit margarita for me. I'd had my first beer of the day earlier, I must admit. And it may not be my last.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Perils of Bacon?

Horrors, just stumbled across this article in the BBC News.

And there I had nearly convinced myself that bacon is so good, it's practically health food.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hot hot hot

Today, during the giant storm, I made some nice popcorn, which is a whole grain, and put cayenne pepper on it instead of salt because More Magazine said cayenne was an anti-inflammatory or some such thing. It was weird, and Mr. Cake rejected it entirely. I think maybe next time I'll try a Penzey's Bangkok Blend instead, as Mr. Cake brought some home last week. It has cayenne, but also ancho chile powder and so forth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

1 box + 3 packages + 1 jar = dinner

Here is one of those recipes that is measured in containers of things from the supermarket that comes out deliciously tasty. Also, though it uses various packaged goods, none of them has disgusting, unpronounceable ingredients. I think it was my sister who came up with this.

2 tbs. olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1 package boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 3 breast halves)
1 package sliced prosciutto, cut into thin short strips (probably about 1/4 pound)
1 jar vodka sauce
2 tbs. chopped fresh basil or 1 tbs. dried
1 box penne
1 bag frozen peas (about 9 oz.)

Get a big pot of water going and start making the penne. When the penne is nearly done, pour in the frozen peas and cook all together until everything is finished.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is translucent. Cook the chicken in the microwave and slice into chunks (you can cook it in the skillet if you want, or use leftover cooked chicken, or poach it, it really doesn't matter). Add the chicken and prosciutto to the pan and stir until everything is cooked and intermingled. Reduce the heat. Add the vodka sauce and the penne and cook until everything is heated through.

When the pasta and peas are done, drain in a colander and return to the big pot. Add the skillet contents and toss well. Serve topped with grated Parmesan.

This dish also does very well doubled or even tripled if you are feeding a crowd, and it reheats nicely.

And speaking of matzo....

I recently learned of the most spectacular thing you can do with matzo. I'm not kidding, it's incredible, decadent, and delicious. Our invisible online friends refer to this as matzo crack. Check it out. I made a double batch the other day, and I'm not sorry. My hips will be, but that's another story.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Matzo. Oy, Matzo.

Cooking with matzo, not to put too fine a point on it, sucks. For passover, I tried to make this matzo kugel. (For those of you not in the Tribe, "kugel" is basically a pudding -- not a milk pudding, but a pudding in the style of Yorkshire pudding or bread pudding.) Well, it was pretty much a disaster -- basically came out like some pieces of matzoh with some apples and raisins sitting there, sort of barely bound together with egg and honey. No fun at all. Everyone just sort of nodded at it and didn't say a word, which was very polite of them considering the fact that it was a horror. If we had had a dog, they would have scraped it under the table for him, where he would have proceded to ignore it if he had any taste whatsoever.

Moral of the story: don't cook with matzo, except for matzo brei, and even that's questionable, to be honest about it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Cultural Learnings of My Mother For Make Benefit Glorious Comfort Food

I should start by saying that it helps that my mother is not that normal.

For Passover this year, she bought $150 worth of standing rib roast, but had no idea how long to cook it. I hauled out my copy of Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" and got excellent, clear instructions, that mandated the use of a meat thermometer. Foolproof! Of course, she didn't trust me, and the meat, though succulent, did get a teeny bit overcooked. Anyway, it was good and we all enjoyed it, but she had way overbought, which is appropriate for a Jewish mother cooking a holiday meal.

So today she made the world's most expensive pot roast out of the leftovers, with kasha for the mushroom gravy, and invited me over with the little Cupcakes. I am telling you, this was comfort food to the nth degree. In fact, I highly recommend going a little nutso with your prime rib purchasing, just to enable something like this.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Is there a Mrs. Softee? And if there is, who does her hair?

I had my first Mr. Softee of the season today. (Mr. Softee, for those of you who don't live in or around the New York greater metropolitan area, is merely the best ice cream truck company in the world ever. Yeah, Good Humor can kiss my ass. You can read more about Mr. Softee here. You can also listen to the music at that link, but I'm afraid I can't say you'll be happy you did. It's a notorious earworm, and was also the subject of a somewhat nasty battle last year between Mayor Bloomberg, who said the sound constituted a nuisance, and the Mr. Softee guys, who, predictably, said it didn't.)

The first Mr. Softee of the season always makes me happy for several reasons: first of all, the ice cream is really pretty good. It beats the stuffing out of frozen yogurt, which doesn't have that same velvety mouth feel. Second, it means spring is finally here. Third, I get to flirt with the Mr. Softee boys, who are often cute. Finally, with Mr. Softee, I can eat ice cream without my cat standing next to me giving me sad eyes because she wants to lick the spoon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tell me something good

Well then, since you asked, here is something good: Chocolate Riesen. I'm not a huge chocolate person. I mean, it's great and all, but it's not usually the first thing I crave. These are killer, though, and since you can buy them at the supermarket, you can have them whenever you want. Mmm, chewy chocolatey goodness. What Milk Duds should be, if they didn't taste like wax.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Eat Licorice. Just eat it, for gods' sake.

Many people do not care for black licorice. These people are deluded. I can sort of get my mind around not caring for the salty kind, as it makes no sense, but how the hell can you not like Twizzlers? (I'm not talking about that pansy-ass red shit. I'm talking about black Twizzlers. Chocolate Twizzlers are adequate, but chocolate licorice is problematic on several levels beyond the scope of this post.)

In any event. I did a comparison of two types of licorice products: that old standby Good & Plenty, which, according to the box, is artifically flavored, and Panda Licorice, which, according to the wrapper, offers "the real taste of licorice," which presumably means it is not artifcially flavored, unless there's some sort of linguistic hanky-panky going on that I don't understand.

The Good & Plenty, since it's candy coated, offers a nice crunch that the Panda doesn't -- a fine thing in a snack food. But for flavor, the Panda kicks Good & Plenty's ass. While Good & Plenty has a mild molasses sort of flavor that's fine if you have a licorice jones going on, the dominant taste is of sugar and corn syrup. (Quaintly enough, sugar and corn syrup are the first ingredients on the label. Fancy that.) Panda, on the other hand, has an unmistakable earthy, molasses kick. The consistency of the Panda is also worthy of note -- sort of al dente, with a smooth feel when you chew it.

Good & Plenty has the advantage of being available at many fine newstands on subway platforms. Panda you have to get at Whole Foods and tony places like that. (Although the nice gentleman who runs the newsstand on on the downtown side of the R/W stop on 23rd Street, when asked whether he carried Good & Plenty, replied, "Good & Plenty? No no no no no. No, we don't carry Good & Plenty. No, no Good & Plenty" and then he offered me Sunkist Fruit Gems instead. Nope, I don't get it either.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

For medicinal purposes only

Because I am aging rapidly, even as I type, it took me well over a week to get over a sore throat, and that was with some heavy-duty antibiotics. During that time, I am afraid, I wasn't all that interested in food, but I did learn a few things. For example, that chicken noodle soup is mostly boring as hell. Here are some things I ate that surprised me in that they went down so nicely:

--chocolate chip pancakes
--baked potato with sour cream and crumbled bacon

Hm, these things do have something in common, and that is that the Carb Police will no doubt be after me very soon.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Silk Purse of a Sow's Ear, Hors D'oeuvres Division

I was too lazy on Saturday to do my grocery shopping at multiple stores, so I made do with the Stop & Shop. We had friends coming over to dinner on Sunday, and I was doing a simple menu -- marinated London broil (from my recent share of a grass-fed side of beef), roasted asparagus with Parmesan, rosemary roasted potatoes, and salad with olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Young Master Gateau really wanted to make red velvet cake for the guests, so we got the stuff to do that as well (actually, we had to go back to the store again because I'd forgotten buttermilk and white vinegar, and I skipped going yet again after I could not find the cake pans at zero hour, so we made cupcakes instead, and relied on nonstick spray and prayer to ensure they'd come out of the tins, because we also had no paper liners).

So as to have something to soak up the cocktails, I got some mixed olives and plain miniature mozzarella balls from the mediocre appetizing bar. Here is how I turned them into something actually tasty:

I dressed the mozzarella with olive oil and one defrosted garlic-basil cube from my freezer. Added sundried tomatoes and let this sit a bit to mix.

The olives were pretty tasteless until I dressed them with a little olive oil, a teaspoon each of crumbled dried thyme and rosemary, and shredded lemon zest.

And now for the best hors d'oeuvre you can make from the supermarket, straight from my parents' 1970s dinner parties: get a container of the nice, cut-up pineapple chunks (the fresh, not canned). Get a package of decent bacon, such as Boar's Head. Wrap each pineapple chunk in a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Broil these for a few minutes, until the bacon is cooked. Drain. Serve. No matter how foodie your guests, nobody can resist the combination of sweet pineapple and bacon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Right round, baby, right round

Yes, the theme of this post is "round." Round, as in the shape of the little tiny meatballs I made for dinner. Round, as in the circumference of each strand of spaghetti. Round, as in the shape the tomatoes were before they were pounded into submission. Round, as in the shape of my distended belly after I ate a gigantic bowl of the stuff.

Here is how it went down: my friend, Mr. X, organized the purchase of a side of grass-fed beef, and invited me to participate. The dividing up took place over the weekend, but as I was otherwise occupied drinking too much and eating foie gras bread pudding with Meg and Pam, I had to pick mine up from Mrs. X last night. And what a haul -- all the meat that's fit to eat, all delicious and nicely wrapped for the freezer, about 40 pounds of it. One pack of hamburger started to thaw on the way home, so I set that aside to eat today. At first I thought I'd make just a Nice Juicy Hamburger (as my mother would say, when she was trying to sell us the concept of going out for a nice simple dinner on the nights she'd worked and didn't feel like cooking when she got home). But as we were out of buns, ketchup, tomatoes, onions, and probably a million other things, I decided to do meatballs and spaghetti.

These are good -- they're based on Nigella Lawson's recipe. Of course, she makes her pasta by hand, which will happen around here approximately when hell freezes over. They're a little fussier than my usual midweek cooking, but somehow I managed to get it done, even with Mr. Gateau at work late and the mini-Gateaus (Gateaux? cupcakes?) engaging in their usual chaos. I happened to have in the freezer a couple of Ziploc bags of roasted tomato puree I made last summer after I bought a ridiculous amount of tomatoes at the farmer's market, so I was able to use up one of those. There is something incredibly appealing about a bite-sized meatball, even if they are kind of a pain to make.

Delicious as these are, I've been craving sweet-and-sour meatballs of the sort this friend of my parents used to make when we'd go visit them in Philadelphia. I suspect that they won't taste quite right until I break down and use grape jelly as the sweetening agent. Stay tuned -- there is a lot of meat in my house and I intend to use it.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Totally Hypothetical Question

If anyone is actually reading this, please weigh in on the following very important query:

If you had to choose an entree on the basis of the side dish, and the side dishes were gorgonzola "tater tots" with bacon-studded spinach, or foie gras bread pudding with pancetta-wrapped asparagus, which would you pick?

Not that it's really required, but it seems likely that these are the leading contenders on the menu.

Well, the food was a good as it sounded. We started with a cocktail (this followed the leisurely downing of a bottle of Pinot Grigio and numerous gossip magazines) -- I had a blood orange Cosmopolitan that was fantastic, and also pretty. For dinner, I went with the tuna tartare, which was wonderful -- very meaty and flavorful with plenty of ginger and cilantro, plus wasabi sauce on the plate. For the entree I just could not turn down the promise of foie gras bread pudding, which tasted heavenly, though it was so rich that I couldn't begin to finish it all. The duck breast was very nice, and though there was a dried cherry sauce, not sweet at all. Pancetta-wrapped asparagus gave me my daily bacon requirement. Meg was good enough to share her gorgonzola tater tots, which were basically the Platonic ideal of potato croquette. Must try making those some time.

By the time dessert rolled around, all I could manage was a latte to try to cut through the massive amounts of alcohol (by this point, we'd also managed to put away a bottle of Zin) and tastes of Meg's chocolate beignets and Pam's warm chocolate cake.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

In Which I Confirm An Age-Old Truth

Never tiring in my quest to make vegetables, well, interesting, I hauled out the roasting pan and threw in a headsworth of cauliflower florets. A couple teaspoons of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a 475 degree oven later, I had deliciously browned healthy vegetable chunks that miraculously smelled like French fries. But wait! what these bad boys needed was a good sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and another minute under the broiler, and suddenly I found myself pounding back a meal's worth of hot vegetable goodness with my fingers. A couple nights later, I did it again, this time with a whole bunch of asparagus.

The key principle here, and one I ignore at my peril, is the time-tested truth that Fat is the Best Tasting Thing.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Crock Pot Chronicles, Part Deux

I was deeply in need of beef yesterday, so I figured I'd give the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook the old college try. Although, as I've mentioned below, I'm a little dubious of getting all gor-may and fancy with the Crock Pot, they did have a terrific brisket recipe.

Now I will digress and note that my mother is adamant that good old Jewish brisket should be flavored with onions and wine, and should not have a hint of sweetness. She makes all kinds of remarks whenever anyone serves a sweet and sour brisket when we're invited over for a holiday dinner elsewhere (after we leave, I should note, not in front of the hosts). I myself happen to love sweet and sour foods, so on this point (along with countless others) I buck the parental preferences.

This recipe struck the balance perfectly. The brisket is well seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika, then given a good sear on both sides and set aside. In the same pan, you then fry up a good amount of slivered onions. The brisket is slathered with a mix of tomato paste, garlic, brown sugar, dry mustard, cider vinegar, and worcestershire sauce, and sandwiched between layers of the onions in the Crock Pot, then cooked on low for 5 hours. The result is oniony, tangy, and flavorful, with a surprising amount of gravy, considering no significant liquid is used. You could add more sugar and raisins to make it sweeter, or leave out the sugar altogether, though I really enjoyed it as is. And look forward to eating a sandwich of the leftovers tonight, on a Kaiser roll I bought for this exact purpose. The beauty part: will not have to share with mom.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Yes, I have no life

Today is the happiest day of my life because I went down to my office cafeteria to grab a late lunch, despairing of what would be on offer, and found that it doesn't matter any more what I eat, because I will be able to wash it down with an icy cold COCA-COLA CHERRY ZERO. Yes, friends, the good people at the Coca-Cola Company have taken the best diet soda this side of Fresca and added cherry flavor to it (and not that nasty cough syrup-like Cherry Vanilla nonsense they've been pushing lately). It tastes like a real cherry Coke.

Friday, February 16, 2007


From time to time, we will update you on our current food fixations. In the past, these have included Now 'n' Later candies, dried pineapple slices, Rice Krispies treats, bacon bits, and the Great Wasabi Pea Obsession of 1997 (A Happy Gift From the Earth).

Currently, I am going through a snack phase that centers on Trader Joe's Chili Spiced Mango. It's slices of dried sweetened mango, pretty well crusted with paprika, sugar, salt, citric acid, and cayenne. They're sweet, tangy, salty, and hot all at once, and I have been going through bags of them at a fairly steady clip for a couple of months now.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My life does, indeed, have meaning

Young Master Gateau, as faithful readers will learn, is not of the great eaters. So I was pleased this evening that he said for dinner he would be happy to have a scrambled egg, toast, and tea (yes, my five year old drinks tea, has since he was a baby). I asked if he would also like bacon. Oh yes, he would. How many pieces would he like? "Oh, just one, two, three, four, five." I suggested he have two. "Two to start," he concedes.

My child is immoderate in his desire for bacon. If I never impart any other moral fiber, I can feel at least that sense of accomplishment. (Also, since I was firing up the frying pan anyway, why not a few pieces for myself!)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lazy dinner, two versions

The Foodie Version:

I cooked some organic whole wheat penne with flaxseed, then tossed with some organic extra virgin olive oil, julienned sundried tomatoes, and some pesto made from the basil in my garden, frozen since late summer. The taste of summer in February.

The Cookiestuffs Version:

Mr. Gateau was working late, and the two mini-Gateaus were driving me insane. But I knew I would not tough it out until after they went to sleep without eating something, so I managed to cook some pasta, and while that was cooking, defrosted in the microwave a cube of pesto I'd made in September with the herbs from my garden that had gotten so overgrown while I was pregnant and on maternity leave that the place looked like an international weed museum. In the five seconds I had without a kid in my arms, I hacked up a few very dessicated sundried tomatoes, and pulled the olive oil out of the pantry, where it had gotten too cold against the uninsulated wall. Discovered that we are, in fact, entirely out of Parmesan cheese. Managed to drain the pasta and toss this all together while holding the baby, then dumped it into a dish and ate it whenever I didn't have somebody drooly hanging off me.

Either way, it actually was quite tasty.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Great Grape Soda Experiment

Miss Cake and I went away for a weekend not that long ago, and in addition to demolishing way too many Cadbury caramel eggs, Rice Krispies treats, and "natural" Cheetos, we also performed an important taste test comparison on grape soda. The contestants were:
  • Diet Rite white grape
  • Classic Welch's
  • Stop & Shop house brand grape soda

These were the varieties available in cans. We also got a six pack of Dr. Brown's diet black cherry, just so we'd have something reliable to drink.

The results:

The Diet Rite white grape is excellent. It looks like ginger ale in color, so it's not embarrassing to drink in public. It's a little drier than other grape sodas, but still pretty grapey. And they use Splenda, so diet aftertaste is diminished.

Stop & Shop beat out Welch's on color, taste, and sweetness. Welch's is more artificially purple and a lot sweeter. And the Stop & Shop comes in cute little half-size cans, plus there is a diet variety.

Now you know the ugly truth.

My Crock Pot: A Love Story

It took me approximately three thousand years to get around to doing it, but I finally got myself a Crock Pot. Not your generic "slow cooker," but an actual, bona fide Crock Pot-brand slow cooker. It's even got a black round pot insert and a brushed aluminum outside, so it doesn't look ridiculously out of time alongside the food processor and the stick blender and what have you. See, isn't it pretty? I think they are still making these things in Goldenrod and Avocado with the little line drawings of vegetables and flowers on them, and so on. You know, like the one over there:

So I got the thing home and realized that I had no idea how to use it. The little instruction booklet comes with recipes for basic chili and pot roast, and warns you that liquid doesn't evaporate like it does with stovetop and oven cooking, so you have to adapt your recipes properly. I went out and armed myself with a couple of Better Homes and Gardens slow cooker cookbooks. There turns out to be a lot of good stuff in there, though there is a higher percentage of recipes calling for things like a can of Cream of Mushroom soup than I'm used to dealing with. I do love the simplicity, though, of recipes for barbecue ribs that call for:

1. Ribs
2. A bottle of barbecue sauce

Instructions: stick in pot and cook for a bunch of hours.

My first effort was a batch of baked beans. They turned out fairly tasty, but a little dry. So much for underdoing the liquids. They also had a little too much molasses flavor, and not enough bite. Next time I'll use some brown sugar with the molasses, and put in more mustard.

A North African beef stew was awesome. I set up the pot the night before, which really only took a few minutes, then stuck it in the cooker before I left for work. This was a labor-intensive Crock Pot recipe -- it required stirring in some dried fruits at the last half hour of cooking, so I did that when I got home, as well as did up some whole wheat couscous in chicken broth (fr0m a box, plus a dash of allspice) in the microwave. It came out wonderfully -- tender beef chunks, sweet and tangy sauce from the dried fruits and sweet potatoes. Mr. Gateau, naturally, sat there and picked out the dried fruits. Young Master Gateau scraped off all the sauce. Oh well, at least I ate heartily.

The next effort was also easy, and this one pleased everyone. I cut up some pork shoulder into chunks (this was the most labor intensive part of the dish), stuck it in the pot with a cheesecloth bag of garlic, oregano, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaves, and put it in the fridge. In the morning I poured a box of chicken stock over, and put it in the Crock Pot on low until I got home from work. That evening, I took out the meat with a slotted spoon, shredded it with two forks, and dressed with lime zest and lime juice. We ate it stuffed into soft tacos, with some guacamole and roasted tomato salsa from the supermarket, standing up at the kitchen counter before we ran out to catch a movie. The remaining pork (I had cooked 4 lbs. of it) disappeared in days, as Mr. Gateau, the babysitter, and I all dipped into it regularly. I think it would be really good for a fun group dinner.
Next thing up is going to be a sort of cassoulet adaptation using chicken, navy beans, and kielbasa.
I got one of the fancy new-wave slow cooker cookbooks that is I guess supposed to make hipsters and foodies feel cooler about using their Crock Pot, but honestly, I'm kind of digging the good old-skool BH&G one better. First of all, the slow cooker is for times you want things to be simple and easy, and very homey food suits that mood. Second, the more fashionable recipes try to expand the range of what the slow cooker can do, so they tell you to use it to do things I'm not convinced you really need it to do -- like most of the fish dishes, sauces, and things like poultry stuffing. If you have to cook for an hour at one temperature, do something to it, and then cook for another 3 hours at another temperature, what's the point of using a slow cooker? Ditto things that require a bunch of stovetop sauteeing and browning before they go into the pot. (Though I can see the benefit of giving meat a good browning before it goes in for a long braise). One thing I do want to try, though, from the "gourmet" book is risotto. Even with the sauteeing of stuff to get started, I bet the slow cooker is a great way to have the risotto slowly cook, while you make the other parts of the meal, especially if you have a lot of people over and want to hang out with them, instead of stirring a pan for 45 minutes.
Anyway, if it comes down to it, I think I would leave my husband for my Crock Pot.
UPDATE: Made the chicken/kielbasa cassoulet and it came out way better than I'd expected. I was skeptical all day that the beans (that had been quick cooked in advance) would actually cook evenly, and that the sauce would have enough flavor. Everything came out great, though the sausage lost a lot of its texture.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A few words about Cookiestuffs

So, we are the Cookiestuff bloggers, or as we like to call ourselves, the Ladies of Cake. We are Mlle Gateau and Miss Cake, two old friends who have been blathering about food together for more years than we care to think about.

What you will not find here: advice about where to find the freshest, tiniest heirloom baby vegetables; rhapsodies about the very latest hottest restaurant; our very exclusive foie gras purveyor; or fusion recipes involving 56 ingredients, 50 of which can only be found at specialty stores in two cities in America.

What you will find: hot food chat about our favorite things, things that might be slightly embarrassing to talk about, were we not completely comfortable with our particular food vices. We will embrace the lowbrow. We will cook from supermarket shelves. We will consume copious amounts of bacon.

We hope you enjoy.