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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fettuchini Alfredo

I have been having trouble with my appetite and keeping weight on, which is not a typical problem for me.  So when I saw this recipe in Sam Sifton's column on what to cook in the upcoming week, I decided to try it.  Well, it is very rich and quite delicious.

  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 pound fresh fettuccine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Bring  salted water to a boil.
  2. While the water heats, melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; saute until fragrant and sizzling, about 2 minutes. Whisk the cream with the egg yolk in a bowl until blended; pour into the garlic butter. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir until hot but not boiling. Keep warm over low heat.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta, partially covered, until al dente. (The pasta will float when it's done.) Drain in a colander, shaking out excess water, but reserve a little cooking water. Pour hot pasta into the cream mixture and toss to coat (still over low heat). Add the cheese and keep tossing gently until cream is mostly absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. If sauce is absorbed too much, toss with a little pasta water. Serve in warm bowls.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Love and Mercy (2015)

This is a complicated movie about a complicated man.  The subject is Brian Wilson, who along with two of his brothers, a cousin, and a friend were the 1960's LA garage band phenomena of The Beach Boys.  Wilson was credited with the creative piece of the band, and the movie follows him at two periods in his life, when he was part of the Beach Boys and then later when he was being controlled by a psychologist and was quite dependent.

The movie does something that is risky--it has two actors playing the character at two different points in time.  Paul Dano is the young Wilson and John Cusack is the elder Wilson.  The movie pulls this off quite well, and while it is very hard to watch, it is not because of the acting.  Wilson had a very abusive father, both physically and verbally, and even though the band fired him as their manager, Wilson remained quite dependent on his father's approval, which he was never going to get.  He developed crippling anxiety and at some point slipped into psychosis, the reason not being all that clear, but options include drugs, personality, primary psychotic illness or a combination of them.  In any case, the story is well told, and the mid 1960's sequences are a glimpse of the music scene of the time.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tamale Pie with Brown Butter Corn Bread

Since I am not cooking much these days and my eldest son is doing a bang up job of it, I am taking a recipe he made this past week and putting it here--the brown butter is an inspired idea for the corn bread, so if you take nothing away from this but that, it is a win, I think.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 2-inch rectangles
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 whole sweet dried chilies like Costeño, New Mexico, or Choricero, stems and seeds removed
  • 2 whole rich fruity dried chilies like Ancho, Mulatto, Negro, or Pasilla, stems and seeds removed
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels from 1 to 2 ears of corn
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 Serrano pepper, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin (preferably from whole seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander (preferably from whole seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems, minced
  • For the Brown Butter Cornbread Crust:
  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) sour cream
  • 4 ounces (about 1/4 cup) cultured buttermilk
  • Sour cream, for serving

Directions


  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 300°F (see note above for pressure cooker instructions). Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until melted. Continue to cook, swirling pan gently until butter is nutty-smelling and solids are a toasty brown. Transfer to a heatproof cup or bowl and reserve for Brown Butter Cornbread Crust.

  2. Return pan to high heat. Season skirt steak generously with salt and pepper. Add to the pan in as close to a single layer as possible. Cook without moving until deeply browned on bottom side, about 6 minutes. When beef is browned (do not brown top side), transfer to a large plate and set aside.

  3. Meanwhile, place chilies on a microwave-safe plate and microwave until hot, pliable, and toasted, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup and add 1 cup chicken stock. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high power until gently simmering, about 3 minutes. Remove from microwave and transfer to a blender. Add remaining chicken stock. Blend until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.

  4. Return Dutch oven to high heat. Add oil to Dutch oven followed by corn. Cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is well charred in spots, about 4 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, and poblano pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes.

  5. Add garlic, Serrano pepper, cumin, coriander, and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chili purée and stir to combine. Return beef to the pot along with any drippings. Add olives and stir to combine.

  6. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop, cover, and transfer to the oven (see note above for pressure cooker instructions). Cook until beef is fall-apart tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove from oven.

  7. Set oven temperature to 425°F. Stir Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, and cheese into stew. Return to stovetop and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened to a rich, stew-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 12-inch cast iron skillet or a 9- by 13-inch casserole dish.

  8. For the Brown Butter Cornbread Crust: Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine eggs, sour cream, and buttermilk in a second bowl and whisk until homogenous. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in reserved browned butter. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until homogenous.

  9. Using a large spoon, place small dollops of the cornbread batter mixture on top of the beef filling, then use the back of the spoon to spread it into an even layer. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until pale golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cornbread comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

  10. Let cool 15 minutes, then serve with sour cream.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Great Patriotic War Anniversary in Russia

 The Great Patriotic War is otherwise known as World War II by other nations, but I soon learned to not call it that while in Russia.  I was there in May, which was the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

Russia and England bore the brunt of WWII resistance in Europe to the German war machine.  They were ill prepared for it, largely by their own making.  Stalin purging the best of the military did not help, and then there was the general chaos of totalitarianism that seems to inevitably follow catastrophic regime change and revolution.
The remarkable resistance of St. Petersburg was one of the most lethal in world history. It lasted for 900 days, from September 1941 to January 1944.  Russians say that Troy fell, Rome fell, but not St. Petersburg.  Somewhere around a million people starved during the siege, and it was a bitter long fought battle, one that exemplified the resistance that the Russians put up.  That and their vast frontier made them unconquerable, and they are justifiably proud of their WWII record, even if all the credit cannot be laid at their feet.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mr. Holmes (2014)

Ian Mc Kellan is a great actor and while he plays roles that are separated by 30 years in this movie, they are of a 60 and a 90 year old man, which we as society see pretty much as about the same age, so not too difficult to pull off.  He is fighting not an ancient foe, but the one we all fight--mortality and the ability to think clearly until the end.  The elder Holmes has retired to his country estate, where he tends to bees and is working on writing his own account of a case that has haunted him for years.  He has a close relationship with his housekeeper's son and between them they manage to figure out the real end to the case, and also what it means for Holmes himself.  It is a wonderful period piece that is interesting, well acted and very much worth watching.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Wintry Mix

There are very few parts of me that harken back to the years that I spent in California, but on a day like today, where the weather predicts rain going into sleet or freezing rain, followed by snow that I am reminded that despite the 25 years that I have spent in Iowa, and an additional decade on the East Coast that I am still a woman who prefers that the ground be free of ice.  That goes for the roads, the sidewalks, you name it, keep the ice away.

The mid Atlantic seaboard had lots of snow over the weekend, and all my friends and family seem to have fared well in the face of new record snow fall.  While I wouldn't say that I yearn for snow, I do envy them a bit of the white stuff, as we have had a gray and largely snow free winter, but I am just as happy to be inside today, not having to contend with a wintry mix of precipitation.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Appearances

I have never thought of myself as a particularly vain person, and so when I was diagnosed with cancer and knew that one of the chemotherapy agents that i would receive would cause my hair to fall out, I wasn't particularly worried.  I had very little time between my diagnosis and my initial surgery, but in those few days I got my hair cut, bought a wig that matched my new hair cut and bought several caps and scarves for the six months ahead.  It was going to be winter in iowa and I needed some head coverage, but I wasn't worried about my appearance.

Then I thought some more about it, and I get why people worry.  It is not so much how you perceive yourself as how others perceive you.  That is the rub.  If you go with the caps and the scarves or the au natural look, there is going to be knowledge about yourself that is conveyed instantly.  Is that what you want and can you handle it?  I have been grappling with that of late, and it is a lot more complicated than I gave it credit for.  I opted for the wig when I met with my boss recently, and while I am still trying to wrap my head around it (so to speak), I did get three compliments of my new "haircut".  More on this as I experiment with various looks, but it is a new phasse of illness for me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Foyle's Cold War (2015)

I have been very fond of this series from the beginning, which was set in England during WWII.  The premise is that while many men went off to war, there were those, who for various reasons did not join up or were not chosen, who stayed behind, and Foyle is amongst them.  He is a cop who very correctly points out that crime continues even when war rages on.  Now the series is in the post WWII period and Foyle is part of the Secret Service, what we now think of as MI-5.  He continues to have his same irreverent attitude, and his unconventional methods of solving crimes and mysteries.  He is not one to stand on pretense, and he won't cover something up because it is convenient to do so.  The series continues to have elements of danger, but the fact that it is so satisfyingly steeped in the period is what I like most.  England lost quite a lot in WWII and all of that is on display in this series.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Greens and Cheese Enchiladas

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  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1-3 jalapenos or other fresh green chili pepper, to taste, seeded
  • 1.5 pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed and halved (about 10-12)
  • 1 cup bean cooking liquid or vegetable broth (see above)
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream, Mexican crema, or thick Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large bunches Swiss chard (enough to completely fill a produce bag)
  • 1 medium white onion, medium dice
  • 10 oz. Monterey Jack cheese (or one of the Mexican melting cheese)
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan (or better yet, queso anejo)
  • 1/2 large red onion, cut into rings
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves
  • salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Combine the garlic, jalapenos and tomatillos and 1 teaspoon of salt in the blender and puree until smooth.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat 1.5 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the puree, and cook down (reduce) until about as thick as an Italian tomato sauce, stirring frequently. Don't let it scorch. Add the broth, and reduce heat to a simmer. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and stir in the sour cream. Taste, and add more salt, and the sugar if needed. If it isn't thick enough, simmer some more. If it is too thick, add a bit more broth. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
  4. To prepare the chard, strip the leaves from the stems and cut in a rough chiffonade (ribbons, about 1/2" wide). Rinse in a full bath of water at least twice, because gritty enchiladas will be nasty! Remove the toughest end of the stems, and chop the remaining part finely. Rinse the stems thoroughly too.
  5. In a large saute pan with a lid, heat the remaining 1.5 tablespoons of oil on a high flame. Add the white onion and fry for 30 seconds. Add the chard stems and fry for 1 minute. Add all of the chard leaves and toss. If they don't fit all at once, wait a minute until the first part wilts, then add the rest. Add 1/4 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of salt, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly wilted and tender. Remove the lid and cook off remaining water until fairly dry.
  6. In a bowl, combine the chard and onion mixture with three quarters of the Monterey Jack cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  7. Wrap the tortillas in a clean, moist dish towel and microwave for 2 minutes to soften.
  8. To assemble, ladle about 1 cup of sauce in a 9×13 casserole. For each tortilla, dip it in the remaining sauce and then lay it in the casserole. Fill it with about 1/4 cup of filling and roll, then push to one side, seam side down. Twelve will just fit snugly lengthwise in the pan.
  9. Pour maybe another cup of sauce over the top, then top with the remaining Monterey Jack and the parmesan.
  10. Bake about 25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted. Raise the heat to a broil and carefully cook a couple more minutes until the cheese is browning a bit. Remove from the oven and top with the onion rings and cilantro sprigs.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Suddenly Sick

As 2015 closed out, I had been feeling pretty good.  I managed to have a good holiday season, despite getting my fourth round of chemotherapy, and on the day in question, I had been up and about, worked, ate, and was about to enjoy an evening movie with my family when everything quite suddenly went south.  Fast.

At six o'clock I started to throw up, by seven I couldn't stop, and by eight I started having a fever.  By ten o'clock I was in the Emergency Room and there were two clues that things had gotten very bad very fast.  One is that my husband, a man trained in the art of intensive care, was both looking very anxious and being very demanding.  The second was that I was so dizzy in the triage area that I did not think I could keep from passing out, and the bench I was sitting on wasn't quite wide enough to completely lie flat on so I seriously thought about lying on the floor.  Of the Emergency Room.  Then I knew I was sick, and made a greater effort to get flat on the bench I had.

Things went swiftly from there, and within an hour I was in the ICU with several people calmly working on me while I had lots of fluids  and antibiotics flowing freely.  It took some time to turn the corner and for me to get out of the hospital again, but it made me very hesitant to get too far from a good Emergency Room until chemotherapy and it's attendant risks are behind me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

This is a very good movie if you have liked the other movies in this series.  That means that you have to accept a few leaps of faith about espionage and the inner workings of government, the combined level of omniscience and paranoia that drive the plot and have to be accepted without question in order to enjoy the movie, and if you can do so, you will be happy with the outcome.  If not, skip it immediately.

Everyone meets their expectations in terms of character, starting with Tom Cruise, and including the wonderful Simon Pegg, who is his usual leavening influence on an action movie, and he is a nice addition to the team.  Sit back and enjoy the action, and don't think too deeply while doing so.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Chipotle Cream Shrimp

  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1/2 of a14.5-ounce can tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted), lightly drained
  • 2 to 3canned chipotle chiles en adobo, removed from their canning liquid, seeded if you wish and roughly chopped
  • 1tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 2/3cupMexican crema, creme fraiche or heavy (whipping) cream
  • 3/4teaspoon (or more) fresh black pepper
  • 1/2teaspoonMexican oregano
  • Salt
  • 1 1/4pound medium-to-large shrimp, peeled and (if you like) deveined, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 warm corn tortillas
Instructions
Roast the unpeeled garlic in an ungreased small skillet over medium heat, turning from time to time, until completely soft and blackened in places, about 15 minutes; cool and peel. In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, tomatoes and chipotle chiles; blend to a smooth puree. In a medium (10-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the puree and stir until reduced to the consistency of tomato paste, 5 minutes or so. Stir in the cream, pepper and oregano, reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for several minutes for the flavors to come together. Taste and season with salt, usually 1/2 teaspoon. Add the shrimp and stir until they are just cooked through (just losing their translucency at the center), about 3 minutes.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

'71 (2015)

I have watched quite a few movies about the struggles between the Irish and the British in Northern Ireland over the years, but this one is a very different way to tell the story.  Other movies, famous ones like 'Michael Collins' and 'Bloody Sunday', tell the story in sweeping strokes, whereas this movie is told in a very narrow way.  It is dark and gritty, and to my mind, a much better way of conveying all the complexities and divided alliances that were occurring in 1971 in Northern Ireland.

The story follows green British troops who are led by inexperienced leadership.  they are thrown into a powder keg of resistance and anger on the streets of Belfast and in the midst of the chaos, a soldier gets separated from his troops, and is left to fend for himself over night.  He doesn't know who to trust and who to fear, and the movie aptly shows the shifting alliances and rivalries between those who you would predict and those you wouldn't.  Gritty and difficult but very good.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pushkin and the Russians

I am not well versed in Pushkin beyond 'Onegin', but he is the sriter that Russians identify most with.  He was primarily a poet, and evidence of his universal reverence are everywhere.
He was born in Moscow on 6 June 1799 into a cultured but poor aristocratic family, with a long and distinguished lineage. On his father's side, he was a descendant of an ancient noble family; his mother was a great granddaughter of Gannibal, the legendary Abyssinian, who served under Peter the Great. Pushkin's mother took little interest in the upbringing of her son, entrusting him to nursemaids and French tutors. Pushkin got acquainted with the Russian language through communication with household serfs and his nanny, Arina Rodionovna, whom he loved dearly and was more attached to than to his own mother.  He was afforded an excellent education, and while he angered the tsar at one point, but managed to get beyond that error.
He married well, but it led to his demise in the end--he was wounded in a duel over his wife's honor, and died a young man.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Thai Rice Soup with Pork Cilantro Meatballs

My spouse made this for me after I emerged from a hospitalization that left me hungry and debilitated.

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Jok, also called congee, is a rice porridge that’s like the oatmeal of Asia -- a soft, soothing, filling breakfast that can be sparked with add-ins and toppings for flavor and crunch. Before dawn in Bangkok, jok vendors begin the battle to make the juiciest meatballs, the tiniest ginger matchsticks and the liveliest pickled fresh chiles. This recipe, which also makes a great lunch on a chilly weekend morning, is adapted from two cooks: Leela Punyaratabandhu, author of Simple Thai Food, who makes a vendor-style, puddingy jok; and Chrissy Teigen, the Thai-American supermodel, who makes a simpler version, adapted from her mother Vilaluck’s home recipe.

For the meatballs:

  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro roots or stems
  • ½ teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

For the soup:

  • 1 cup jasmine or long-grain rice
  • 6 cups light chicken stock (see note)

To finish:

  • 6 to 8 eggs, optional
  • Red chile powder (preferably Thai, but ancho or Aleppo will do)
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • Fish sauce and sriracha, for garnish

Preparation

Make the meat mixture:

  1. Pound or grind the garlic, cilantro and white pepper together into a coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl and add the pork, oyster sauce and soy sauce. Mix well, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Make the soup:

  1. In a large heavy pot, combine the rice and stock and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping up any starch from the bottom to prevent scorching. Add 2 cups hot water and simmer 30 minutes more. Add another 2 cups hot water and simmer 20 to 30 minutes more, until the rice begins to fall apart in the soup.
  2. From the refrigerator, remove the dumpling mixture and the eggs, if using. Heat your serving bowls. Adjust the heat under the soup so that it bubbles gently. Pinch off pieces of the meat mixture to make bite-size balls, dropping them one at a time into the soup. When all of the meatballs have firmed up and turned opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes after adding the last one, the soup is ready.
  3. To serve, scoop a ladleful of soup into a bowl. Crack one egg, if using, into the bowl. Gently ladle more hot soup over the raw egg, covering it completely. After about 4 minutes, the eggs will be softly cooked. Dust each bowl with chile powder and sprinkle with ginger, scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately, passing fish sauce and sriracha at the table. Each diner breaks the egg yolk and scoops up the egg with the soup. Note: Use a very light-bodied chicken stock. If using prepared or canned broth or bouillon cubes, dilute with water until the salt and chicken flavors are very mild.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Shaun the Sheep (2015)

This is one of the nominated movies for Best Animated movie this year, and since I always watch those, this was a given.  The very best part of this movie is that the entire movie has no dialogue, written from the perspective of the sheep rather than the people who populate the story.  The claymation is excellent, the story is about what you have come to expect from this series of films, and it is entertaining in a diversionary kind of way.  But not amongst the best that the genre has to offer, in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cyrillic and the Russian Experience

This summer was my third time in a country that uses the Cyrillic alphabet (Serbia was my first and Ukraine was my second).  Each time I have been confronted with Cyrillic I have had two main thoughts.  The first is that it seems like a language that I should be able to decipher, followed immediately by the realization that I am always immediately stumped by the pronunciation of the very first word, and give up.  Helpless surrender comes very quickly.

Third tie was the charm for me.  One reason is that I actually bought a dictionary and spent some time before I went thinking about Russian and the letters, and the fact that it is a phonetic  language, so that if I could pronounce the words, then I could actually read maps and menus and try to make some progress in just getting around.  Finally, once I tried on a consistent basis, it got easier and miraculously, many of the words were in English, so once I cracked Cyrillic, I was much more able to figure things out.  Just another joy of traveling!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Baguettes

This is the best baguette that the Kline men have produced in quite a while.

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Makes four baguettes
  • 90 grams sourdough starter, 100-percent hydration, made with equal parts of water and flour by weight, fermented for 7 to 10 hours. To make this starter, I use 25 grams ripe and active sourdough, 50 grams flour and 50 grams water. After it ferments, I then use 90 grams of it in the bread and refresh the rest for future doughs. (I've also posted a video here that explains how to make sourdough).
  • 420 grams water
  • 590 grams flour (King Arthur Organic All Purpose Flour, Whole Foods 365 brand Organic All Purpose Flour or King Arthur All Purpose Flour are ideal, though King Arthur Bread Flour might be easier for a beginner)
  • 10 grams whole wheat flour (Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 13 grams sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast (such as SAF Instant Yeast), though I cut this back to 1 teaspoon in the summer.
  • Olive oil to grease bowl
  • Cornmeal or semolina to dust cutting board
DAY 1
Pour starter and yeast into bowl and add water, mixing until the starter breaks up a bit.
Add flours and mix for a couple of minutes. The dough will be heavy and shaggy. Make a slight pool in the top of the dough and add the salt, with 1 teaspoon of water. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes, covered with plastic (I put a plastic tray over my bowl). 
Optional: Put a little olive oil in your palm and oil the counter so it has a very thin sheen of oil on it. The oil should keep the dough from sticking. Do not flour the counter. (This tip on oiling comes from Dan Lepard, but I find it's not absolutely necessary for the kneading).
Use a scraper to move dough onto the counter and begin to knead by stretching and folding dough, trying to use your finger tips, and incorporating the salt. Tip: Click here to see a kneading video by Richard Bertinet on Gourmet.com, though he is demonstrating on a sweet dough.
After kneading for 3 minutes, scrape mass into a clean bowl or plastic bin. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
Oil the counter again if necessary and remove dough to counter. Stretch it until 1-inch thick then fold top and bottom in thirds like a letter. Do the same left to right. Click here for the Wild Yeast blog video of this technique.
Put in bin, cover, let dough rest 20 minutes.
Remove from bin, fold again, and put back in covered bin for 20 minutes.
Remove from bin, fold again for the third and final time. Clean bin, oil lightly (with 2 tsp olive oil), and put dough back inside. Cover and place in refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
DAY 2
Put baking stone in middle of oven. Place a thick rimmed cookie sheet or cast iron pan on oven floor or lower shelf. Preheat oven to 470F (245 C).
Put a little olive oil in your palm and oil a 20-by-20 inch (1/2-by-1/2 meter) section of the counter.
Then remove dough from container. Cut dough in half. Put half back in container and into refrigerator.
Cut dough into two rectangular pieces (about 250 grams each) and gently stretch into rectangles 5-by-7 inches (13-by-18 cm) with the long edge facing you. 
Be careful not to press and destroy all the bubbles inside the dough.
Cover with light towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
While dough is resting, cut parchment paper large enough to fit your baking stone. Dust paper with flour. Roll up 3 kitchen towels tightly. Set aside. (Or if you have a couche, dust it lightly with flour).
Shape dough into a log by folding top and bottom of rectangle toward middle and gently sealing the seam with thumb. Then fold top to meet the bottom and seal seam. You should have a log about 1.5 to 2 inches thick (4 to 5 cm). Gently roll and stretch into a 14-inch loaf (36 cm) or just under the size of your baking stone. Don’t worry if it’s uneven. Here's a good video of the technique, along with scoring the loaf.
Place each loaf on parchment paper about six inches apart, seam side down. Place one rolled up towel underneath the paper between the loaves and one under each other edge, supporting their shape. Tip: Leader describes this in his book. (Or place on couche, with loose pleats between the baguettes).
Cover with light kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
BAKING
Put 2/3 cup water in measuring cup. (I boil the water).
Remove towels from under the parchment paper and carefully move the paper with the loaves onto a flour-dusted overturned cookie sheet or cutting board. Dust top of loaves very lightly with flour. (If you used a couche, carefully lift loaves with a bench scraper and place on parchment paper on a cutting board). Use a bench scraper to gently adjust the loaves and straighten them out. 
Make four cuts on the top of the loaf with a razor blade, 1/4-inch deep, running lengthwise on the dough. A swift slash at a sharp 20-degree angle works best (see previously mentioned video).
Take cutting board and slide parchment paper with baguettes onto hot baking stone. Shut oven door. Open door, and carefully pour 2/3 cup water onto cookie sheet or cast iron pan. Be very careful if using boiling water. Shut door. Do not open the oven again while baking.
Check baguettes after 18 to 20 minutes. They should be dark brown and crusty. If pale, continue baking for 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes on rack before eating. They are best eaten within 6 hours.
While baguettes are baking, form the remaining dough into loaves or leave for up to 24 hours and make fresh loaves the following day.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Le Chef (2012)

There are a lot of good food oriented movies streaming on Netflix right now and this is one of them.  I have not been cooking much since my recent cancer diagnosis--kind of a mistake because times of illness are when you should probably focus more rather than less on what is going into your body, but the truth of the matter is that it is just hard getting through some days without adding yet another expectation on top.
None-the-less, this foray back into food movies was a good one.  I do love a one Michelin star restaurant, but am not so keen on the three star places, so a movie poking a little bit of fun at that tier of dining suits me well.  Jean Reno plays the chef, Alexandre Lagarde at his famous restaurant Cargo Lagarde and he is burnt out.  He happens upon a true disciple of his, a difficult to work with out of work chef named Jacky, who not only has memorized Lagarde's recipes, he has taken it to a new level and over the course of the movie they manage to save each other, all the while serving fantastic food in the true French tradition.  A fun and farcical movie that I highly recommend.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ode to the One Holding Down the Fort

It has been a long and tumultuous end of the year for me, but in a lot of ways it has been harder for my spouse.  He has had his health, which is a big plus, no getting around that, but that has it's own price.  While I have been sick, he has been left to do literally everything else.  even the occasional load of laundry which is most certainly my bailiwick, even at the worst of times.  I can definitely see myself rising from the worst of illnesses to put a load of laundry into the dryer.  It is the one thing that I do no matter what.  Except not always.  Like when I am in the hospital for a week, for instance.  Or there are laundry intensive events going on.
So I want to take a moment to say that no one gets through serious illness alone, at least not if they want to look the least bit graceful doing so, and it is often the spouse who bears the brunt of making that happen, often with very little fanfare or recognition.  Not to mention shouldering the emotional burdens of a sick loved one, which I know from personal experience can be crippling in and of themselves.  So hats off to my spouse today, as he begins another trip around the sun.  Hoping for all our sakes that it has joy and laughter  to remember it by.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ceviche Veracruz

Jake made this for our most recent family and friends dinner at our house and it was an outstanding appetizer.  He made it with farm raised Chilean Sea Bass.

  • 1pound “sashimi-quality” skinless meaty ocean fish fillet (halibut, snapper and bass are great choices), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • About 1 1/2cups fresh lime juice
  • 1small white onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno pepper stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4cup green olives, preferably manzanillos
  • 1large (about 10-ounces) tomato cored, seeded (if you wish) and diced
  • 1/4 small jicama, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Marinade the fish in the lime juice. In a large stainless steel or glass bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion. The fish should float freely in the juice; if not, add a little more. Cover and refrigerate until the fish is as “done” as you like: An hour or so for medium-rare, 3 to 4 hours for “cooked” all the way through. Tip off the lime juice—sad to say that it’s fishy tasting at this point and can’t be easily used for any other preparation.
  2. Flavor the ceviche. In a food processor, process the green chile and olives until finely chopped (or finely chopped by hand). Add to the fish along with the tomato, optional jícama, cilantro and olive oil. Stir well, then season with salt (usually about a scant teaspoon) and sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve—preferably no longer than an hour or two.