Wendy’s recipe file: cranberry orange relish

November 21, 2017

I like contrast in my Thanksgiving menu.  Too often the palate palette remains the same:  sweet, mushy, and buttery.  With all due respect for the traditional carb fest, some bright crunchy notes make us appreciate the mashed potatoes and gravy all the more.  This uncooked cranberry relish, based on a recipe in Joy of Cooking, is a family favorite, and making it takes hardly more time than opening a can of the mushy stuff.

RAW CRANBERRY ORANGE RELISH

1 12 oz bag fresh cranberries

1 medium orange, unpeeled but with seeds removed, cut into eighths

1 cup sugar

1) Place half the cranberries and orange in a food processor outfitted with the steel blade and mince (do not puree).  Transfer to a bowl, and repeat with the rest of the fruit.

2) Mix in sugar.  Allow to chill and let flavors blend before serving.

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Blogging for books: Nourished, by Lia Huber

November 12, 2017

This memoir takes the reader on a wild ride through Huber’s life, tracing at a dizzying pace innumerable changes of locale, employment, health status, and spiritual focus.  The one constant is good food, lovingly and lyrically described by Huber, who eventually found a calling as a food writer.  Each chapter is followed by a recipe–perfectly good ones–but don’t mistake this tale for a cookbook.

My favorite chapter is the first, set on the isle of Corfu, where Huber, at twenty, falls in love with the handsome owner of a beachside souvlaki stand, and ends up spending the summer with him.  She eats eggs fresh from the chicken at his family home as waves crash on the cliffs below, and a gentle herbal breeze caresses her skin.  I’m ready to get on the plane now.

Underemployed at the State Department

November 10, 2017

Trump is such an unremitting disaster both as President and as a human being that it’s easy for me to give members of his administration too much of a break for not being totally insane.  Rex Tillerson is one of those people.  In his capacity as Secretary of State, he always seems to be rushing about cleaning up Trump’s foreign policy messes.  And hey, he doesn’t believe in nuclear war.

But check this out…according to new date from the American Foreign Service Association, the professional organization for America’s diplomatic corps, since Tillerson took the helm, the number of senior foreign service ambassadors has gone down by sixty percent.  They are being laid off, or quitting, and are not being replaced.

I grew up in the DC area and many of my friend’s parents, and my parent’s friends, were career diplomats in the State Department.  These were highly intelligent, sophisticated people, many with a military background.  In most cases they had lived overseas and were intimately familiar with the languages, culture and government of the countries they worked with.  My mother worked for American University, supporting a team of researchers that wrote detailed books on all these countries, for the use of  this diplomatic corps.

This is the expertise we are now missing.  While it didn’t prevent major policy bloopers (like the Vietnam war!) it did help the US present a generally knowledgeable, respected face to the world.  In many cases, sophisticated diplomacy did promote peace.

In an interview, Trump dismissed the need for any State Department staff at all.  “All that matters is me,” he said.

Be very scared.

Wendy’s recipe file: Mediterranean Lamb Stew

November 8, 2017

Lamb stew can be a pretty dreary affair, but this Mediterranean version, adapted from a recipe from my 80’s go-to cookbook, the Silver Palate, is truly delicious.  It’s similar to a Moroccan tagine but contains Italian elements. Serve with steamed couscous, though.  (I am partial to the larger Israeli kind)  The gradated addition of ingredients is important–it keeps all the flavors separate and bright.

MEDITERRANEAN LAMB STEW

1 cup orange juice

4 cloves garlic, minced

5 T coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves

4 T olive oil

1 T dried oregano

1 tsp ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 T unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 1/2 cups chicken broth (I like Imagine or Pacific brands, or homemade)

2 T tomato paste or tomato jam (check archives for my tomato jam recipe)

2 cups carrots sliced in 1 inch rounds

1 14 oz can white beans (cannellini or butter)

2 cups diced plum tomatoes (you can use high quality canned–such as San Marzano or Muir Glen–out of season)

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives

zest of 2 oranges  (if you wish, separate out the orange wedges and use those as well)

1.  Combine the orange juice, garlic, 2 T of the mint, 2 T of the olive oil, oregano and pepper in a large bowl.  Toss well with lamb cubes.  Marinate for at least 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350.

3.  Remove the lamb from the marinade with a slotted spoon, reerving marinade.

4.  Brown the lamb in a dutch oven over medium high heat, in small batches.  When all the lamb is browned, discard any excess oil and sprinkle flour over the meat.  Cook, stirring, over medium heat for 3 minutes until lamb cubes are crusty and brown.

5.  Add the reserved marinade to the Dutch oven, along with the wine, broth, tomato paste or jam, and carrots.  Cover the pot and bake for 40 minutes.

6. Add the beans and bake for another 15 minutes, uncovered.

7.  Add the tomatoes, olives, and orange wedges if using.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Cook for another 10 minutes.

8.  Remove the pot from the oven and stir in remaining mint and orange zest.

 

nowhere to hide

November 7, 2017

I looked over my site analytics yesterday and my recipe posts are more popular than my political rants/cultural commentaries by a factor of about three to one.  If I was a computer algorithm rather than a human being I’d stick with creative uses for Trader Joe’s products and stop blabbing about Democratic party corruption or technology run rampant.

I love to eat and love to cook.  Leafing through magazines looking at recipes is one of my favorite things to do.  My recipe collection fills two large bookcases, with some overflow.  But I am a person, a mother and a grandmother, and every day I read headlines relentless in their ugliness.  It seems like one hurricane or mass shooting or truck terrorist makes the headlines, only to be supplanted by another horrific event the next day.  The Republican and Democratic parties seem equally corrupt. I try to be diligent in my political involvement but every call to a congressperson seems like no more than a drop in an abyss.  When I see my 17 year old son read these things as he heads off to school it hurts my heart that this is the world he is leaving home for.  I do not want to become inured to this.

Last weekend my son Lukas really wanted to see an indie film, The Killing of the Sacred Deer, but none of his friends could make it, so my husband and I accompanied him.  I like serious, moody movies, as does Lukas.  I’m not going to get into the details about the plot  but suffice it to say we regretted spending our Saturday night this way.  It was one of the most profoundly disturbing movies I’d ever seen. It was excellently written and acted, but it did not protect its characters (and by extension its audience) in any way. No heroism, no redemption, no altruism.  Nothing to aspire to, nothing to make us comfortable, nothing that allowed us to dismiss it as entertainment .I f  What was especially striking was the bland, affectless way the characters reacted to a horrific situation.

I fear that is the kind of numb society we are becoming. In my novel, (published in 2016) Wrong Highway, and in the novel I am currently writing, It’s Always 9/11 , I try to address the darkness that lurks underneath the routine of our ordinary lives.

Pain and joy ultimately stem from the same root, which is openness and vulnerability.  There’s not one perfect way to deal with the crises we are facing in our country.  In fact all the possible ways seem far from perfect to me to me right now.  Everybody needs to act as their conscience directs them.  But to accomplish anything at all you first have to see what is all around you. That is the first step and we have to keep walking. I’m going to keep my eyes pried open, and  keep ranting in between the recipes.

 

Wendy’s recipe file: Thanksgiving onion soup

November 6, 2017

I’m going to let you in on a secret.  Next to the turkey, this soups is our family’s most sacred Thanksgiving tradition.  I first made it in 1983, and have cooked it every time we’ve hosted Thanksgiving since (all but 3 years I believe).  I even made it in Florida once, though I think it’s more of a match  with wind and rain than sun and swimming pools.

THANKSGIVING ONION SOUP

1/4 olive oil

2 T butter

12 onions, thinly sliced (food processor is good for this)m

1/2 tsp sugar

3 T flour or cornstarch

4 cups chicken broth (I like Pacific or Imagine brands, or, of course homemade)

4 cups beef broth (same)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tsp Dijon mustard

freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups grated Swiss cheese

French baguette, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds

1) Heat butter and oil over very low heat in a large saucepan.  When melted, add the onions and sprinkle with sugar.  Continue to cook over very low heat until onions are carmelized.  This means soft and golden brown and it make take up to two hours. Be patient.  THIS STEP IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL FOR OPTIMUM TASTE.

2) Sprinkle flour or cornstarch over onions, stirring until it is completely dissolved. Transfer to a large soup pot.  Add stocks, wine, and mustard and blend well.  Cover partially and simmer 30-40 minutes.  Taste and season with pepper; add more broth if needed.

3)  Meanwhile, lay baguette slices out on an oiled rimmed baking sheet.  Top with grated cheese.  Bake at 350 until cheese is melted.

4)  Ladle soup into individual serving bowls.  Top with cheese baguettes and serve immediately.

a little too late

November 3, 2017

Anyone who follows this blog will recognize the basic issue I’ve raised all along re the Hillary Clinton campaign:  Who anointed this woman?  What gave her such a tremendous sense of entitlement that the Democratic nomination–indeed, the Presidency itself–was hers by right?

Former DNC staffer and Obama campaign manager Donna Brazile gives us the answer in her upcoming book.  (for anyone that’s been hiding in the closet for the past day check out the following link)

http ://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-brazile-hacks-2016-215774C

Clinton believed she was entitled to the Presidency because she bought it.

Brazile details how Obama left the DNC 24 million dollars in debt.  Hillary Clinton’s campaign co-opted the party apparatus by paying off most of that debt. Almost one hundred percent DNC money intended for other potential Presidential nominees as well as down ballot candidates.  While Bernie Sanders managed to match the money gush due to his popularity and fund raising prowess, his grass roots campaign was no match for the machinations of the Democratic Party establishment.  As Elizabeth Warren now directly admits, the game was rigged from the start.

The Presidential primary season is a grueling process designed to identify  the strongest candidate possible.  That candidate was Bernie Sanders.  By subverting the primary process the Clinton campaign left us with Trump, the most unbalanced and unqualified President in history.  She victimized the American public for her ego and ambition.  She degraded the moral standing of the Democratic party, and left it an easy target of conservative media.  Trump can now legitimately divert attention from his multiple failings by once again attacking “crooked Hillary”.

Where were Donna Brazile and more notably, Elizabeth Warren last summer when these revelations would have mattered?  Warren’s endorsement would have given Sanders a crucial victory in Massachusetts, which he lost by less than a percentage point. Their support could have given Sanders the nomination and we would now be in a very different position as a nation.  They are as complicit as Jeff Flake and John McCain on the Republican side.

My only hope at this point is that this whole corrupt structure comes tumbling down and that something better rises out of the wreckage.

 

 

Wendy’s recipe file: great pumpkin cookies

November 2, 2017

Last Tuesday was Halloween, time for my traditional great pumpkin cookies.  I have been making these cookies since my children were little. My youngest son (17) and his friends devoured almost the whole batch while watching horror movies.  (my husband’s band finished up the rest the following night) They are better than candy.  I think I found the recipe on a can of pumpkin.  I used to use M and Ms for the chocolate component–and you still can–but chocolate chips are a little less sweet and devoid of food colorings.

GREAT PUMPKIN COOKIES

2 cups flour

1 cup whole rolled oats

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

  1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Cover 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt
  3. Cream butter with an electric mixer.  Gradually add sugars, beating until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla; mix well.
  4. Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Drop heaping teaspoons of batter onto the parchment paper (space widely–dough tends to spread).  Bake until firm and lightly browned, approximately 10 minutes.

 

what a difference twenty five years makes

October 31, 2017

I woke up this morning to the news that Portland is one of the least affordable housing markets in the country, when you compare income to housing prices.

When we first started house hunting in Portland, 25 years ago, the market was astoundingly cheap.  Our nice but unremarkable development home in the NYC suburbs traded up to a big house in the West Hills, with a little money to spare.  Houses on the East Side, where we live now, were going for a fraction of that….but we were warned (astoundingly incorrectly) not to live there.

So what happened?  Here’s some thoughts.

  1. Portland got trendy, attracting people who would move here first, and figure out how to afford it later.
  2. The urban growth boundary outlawed cheap sprawl.
  3. Our city government promotes urban infill–there are cranes all over the place–but only of a certain type.  They seem to think all Portlanders are  couples with dogs for children   who commute by bike, and have the income to pay a premium price for a glorified dorm room.
  4. Our tax code favors renters over property owners.  All those bonds that support the libraries, schools, children, parks?  They are paid by property taxes.
  5. There are no laws regulating who can buy a property and how many they may buy.  So corporations swoop down and buy multiple inexpensive homes to use as rentals at prices new homeowners cannot match, driving up the price in crazy auction-like scenarios.

I think there are limits to how much social engineering city government can do.  Change is inevitable and will to some degree follow its own path.  All social engineering can have unintended consequences.  Nonetheless, if the city continues to price out young families and those without yuppie jobs, it will pay a price in lost diversity and vitality.  I suggest the following actions:

  1. The urban growth boundary necessitates infill and the acceptance of a certain degree of density.  This is fine.  We still have a lot of underutilized urban space–parking lots, empty warehouses, ugly fast food restaurants, etc.  But lets make this infill more family friendly.City government should mandate a certain percentage of new construction be  family size apartments –two and three bedroom, with family amenities such as shared green space and playgrounds.  this has been done with great success in Vancouver BC.  More urban infill townhomes of similar size would be good too.  Stop giving tax abatements to luxury condos!
  2. Find a new method of taxation that spreads all these education/library/parks payments equally amongst all denizens of the city.  We all take advantage of them, right? We all should have an equivalent stake in the well being of our city.  Using property tax exclusively assumes that property owners are wealthier than renters when this is not necessarily the case.
  3. Prioritize home purchases for individual homeowners.  Make purchase of multiple properties (say, over 3) illegal.

trader joes pelmeni saute

October 26, 2017

Here’s another super-easy recipe using a Trader Joe’s product.  Pelmeni, for those of you who don’t know, are Russian ravioli.  While the Trader Joe’s variety is not as light and fluffy as your grandmother made or that you might find in a Russian restaurant like Portland’s Kachka, for a quick-cooking product out of a plastic bag they are pretty damn good!  This version incorporates sautéed cabbage and mushrooms for a one-dish meal.

1 package Trader Joe’s chicken and mushroom pelmeni

1/2 average sized savoy cabbage, thinly sliced into ribbons

1/4 lb cremini, mushrooms, sliced

olive oil

1/2 tsp tarragon or a few sprigs fresh

1/2 tsp sea salt

  1.  Bring water to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté cabbage and mushrooms in olive oil at a medium heat in a large flat bottomed pan. You may find that the veggies soak up a fair amount of oil; add enough to keep them from burning (around 3 T).  Add salt and tarragon.
  3. When water is boiling, cook pelmeni according to package directions.  Drain.
  4. Add pelmeni to vegetable sauté, and cook quickly to combine flavors, adding a little more oil if necessary.