Ignominy of Defeat

During the ridiculous war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, our son and I were evacuated to Ireland.  We lived in the Dublin Blackrock neighborhood,  he attending the French Lycee in Blackrock while I worked at the American Embassy.  The Embassy was about 4 stops on the train but I arrived home 2 hours after our son.

He was usually ready for a snack after school and I would make a variety of Betty Crocker mix muffins to freeze so that he could reheat them when he got home.  One of his favorite flavors was lemon poppy seed.

I don’t know how I convinced myself that I could make these from scratch.  While not terrible, they lacked character, flavor and a reason to exist.  My husband is coming home tomorrow and he will be pleased 😀

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Char Sui Lamb Chops with Turnips


This past week of snow and below freezing temperatures has pretty much put paid to the herb garden this year 😦   However, the sage and rosemary are still fighting the good fight and I admire them for it, but they’re going down 😀  Winter has just begun and it looks like it’s not playing around.

I found 2 lamb chops in the freezer labeled generically, “U.S.A.”  Vague and questionable provenance I call it.  Because I haven’t s-hooked anything in a long time, I thought it would be a challenge to try this with the chops in an overnight char sui marinade.  Would they “char” without overcooking and drying out?  Of course I didn’t expect pink, but hoped for maybe only 1 step above that.

S-hooking is such a cool method of hanging pieces of meat from the oven racks.  My husband invented it 🙂

I wavered between a high broil or a very hot oven and finally went with the broil.  Good choice.  The meat did char, the fat was crisp and the meat was still juicy though not pink.


I briefly wished for Japanese hakurei turnips but the variety I found was local, not too big and just fine for my purpose.  This was a good opportunity for me to use the leftover 1/2 bell pepper and saran wrapped packages of partially chopped onion.

I adore turnips prepared like this but I also adore onions, garlic and bell pepper 🙂

Lesson learned?  You can probably s-hook anything 😀


Char Sui Lamb Chops

Lamb chops

Char sui sauce in a jar

Thickly slather the chops with the sauce, place in a zip lock bag, add 2-3 tbsp water and squish around.  Refrigerate overnight.  Reserve the marinade sauce.

S- hook the chops, on the top rack in the oven with a pan on the bottom rack to catch the fat and juices.  Broil on high for 15 minutes, basting half way with the reserved marinade.

Sauteed Turnips

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

4 medium sized turnips, peeled and cubed

Salt and pepper

1/4-1/2 red or green bell pepper, diced

1/2 medium onion, chopped

Dab of butter

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp chicken broth

2 bay leaves

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet, add the turnip cubes, salt and pepper and lightly brown.  Remove the turnips and set aside.  Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the pan with a dab of butter and saute until the vegetables are soft.  Stir in the turnips, rice vinegar, chicken broth and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, cover and steam for 5 minutes.



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I Disrespected the Yeast

There are a few things that I successfully bake from time to time to please and shock the family; gingerbread, peach cobbler and cinnamon roll cupcakes.

I had sort of a bad day yesterday; de-snowing/icing the car, running up and down the road trying to find a debit card with a code I knew and suppressing a blood curdling scream when my fingers got tangled in the dog’s run line and she nearly tore off my hand.  I had gone out to bring her in the house because I thought the weather was a little too inclement even for a dog with a good undercoat and insulated dog houses at each end of her run.  Unappreciative,  she bounced into the house, knocked my tripod with camera over twice, barked and whined until I had to leash her to the doorknob and put the bark-o-later around her neck.  She sulked on her couch after throwing the cushion to the floor.

It always feels as if baking messes up the kitchen more than “normal” cooking does.  It’s probably not true, but I feel that way.

I’m usually on friendly terms with yeast.  Before using it in a recipe, I proof it in a little warm water stirred together with a pinch of sugar.  I learned this in West Africa where there were no dates on the yeast cans.   Good yeast will start to bubble up in large brown clumps like an underwater swamp monster assembling itself on the surface before slithering off to engulf something large and edible.  Before it slithers, I add the other ingredients, flour last.  This time I just stirred warm milk and sugar into the yeast and didn’t care.  I don’t why I did this, but I do know that although the dough did rise, it didn’t rise as it should have.

I imagine that all serious bakers have baking rulers or something professional to measure the size of the rolled out dough.  I had my husband’s handy dandy steel measuring tape that I attached to the edge of the island.  Worked.

If after the cinnamon rolls have been cut, placed in the pan, covered and left for a second rising, they look like the picture below, you have disrespected the yeast.  They should have doubled in size and puffed up in an aggressive, belligerent manner.  The baked roll should  rise from the papers, resembling a mini mountain with a road winding up from New Jalpaiguri, India to it’s destination of beautiful Darjeeling at the top.  You could imagine the toy train, that does exist, making this journey as you bite into the buttery, cinnamon flavored, pecan crunchy roll and dream of white tigers, water buffaloes, spicy curries and the man who lights the fire in your room and places a hot water bottle between your bed sheets before you retire.  Or not.

It’s sort of sad 😀



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Japanese Donabe Steamer

A Japanese donabe is an “earthenware pot made from special clay for use over an open flame.”

It came with a pretty cool steamer insert and can be used as a steamer and/or hotpot cooker.  I’ve had this one for quite a while but have never used it.

Why?  Because the instructions stressed that the hot pot must be “seasoned” before it’s first use to prevent cracks.  Then they went on annoyingly about how I should make a “rice porridge” by filling the pot up to “80% with water” and adding “a bowl of cooked rice”, then heating the mixture on a “medium low” flame to boiling, reducing to simmer and continue cooking until the porridge is “ready.”  WTF!  I did this today because it’s snowing again and I thought I’d take the challenge.  It was as hellish as I thought it would be, the pot would not boil and when I turned it up, it boiled over, losing a “percentage” of the water.  I finally got something that resembled thick Cream of Wheat.  I smeared the hot stuff over the uncovered surfaces that the porridge didn’t reach.  That will have to do.

I knew I didn’t want to do this!   They should have included a tiny Japanese person in the box to supervise!  Well we’ll see.  I’m using it soon!



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Let It Snow

My husband has started to claim that he’s not retired but retiring.  That’s why he left on Sunday morning for a consultancy and Christmas shopping boondoggle in Senegal.  About 30 minutes after he left, it began to snow and has been at least flurrying every day.    Undaunted and secure in the knowledge that our pantry and freezers would allow the dog, cats and I to survive a 10 day blizzard without ever leaving the house or lifting one shovelful of snow, I went to the door to answer the ringing bell.  Outside stood a young man with a shovel who asked if I would pay him to shovel my walk.  I told him I sure would and asked him to also clear a path from my kitchen back door to the garbage cans and the car in case I lost my mind and thought of driving in the snow and ice.  He did an excellent job and we were both pleased 🙂  He’s been showing up after any snow build up.  Yesterday it snowed all night.

On Tuesday I was invited to Anne and Bob Lynch’s house for a potluck get together.  Their house is about 4 houses away and usually within walking distance.  However, I had to take the car because I was carrying a hot, vegetable gratin and was afraid I’d slip and fall on the ice.  I reasoned that if it was too icy after the party, I would just leave the car and walk home empty handed.

I like to make this gratin because it’s easy, can be made ahead and you can vary the vegetables according to what you have.  This one has steamed cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potatoes.  I took this opportunity to use my new $15.99, two level steamer that I found in an Asian supermarket in Allentown.  I love it!

I covered the steamed vegetables with a cheese bechamel sauce and sprinkled the top with cracker crumbs before baking.  Bread crumbs will work also.

One of the reasons I don’t like to bake is that the measurements must be so exact for success.  Measurements should be joyful and free flowing, like this cup of cheese for the bechamel.  The extra cheese on the board went in too 😀

When I’m “home alone”  I try to avoid standing and eating directly from the refrigerator because that’s so depressing!  I put the left over duck and zucchini in a bowl with boiled eggs, sat down at the table and ate it for breakfast like a cold salad.  Tasty and pretty.

I’ve never understood why my husband nor M. Parret dislike yellow wax beans!  M. Parret ate them grudgingly, whining and complaining after each bite.  I couldn’t wait for wax bean season in France because I like them and I adore serving them to Le Parret 😀  My husband won’t complain but he looks so sad that I don’t serve them often.  But when the cat’s away….

Smoked pork chops cost the earth at the Alpine butcher but are so good and perfect with the beans.

The bamboo has such a hard time during the winter.  I’m always afraid that it won’t survive but it does and is green and beautiful again each Spring.

Udon noodle soup is always good but especially comforting after a hard snow.  I had some sliced pork belly (I don’t know why they sell it like this) from the Super Duper supermarket and rediscovered aged but edible udon noodles from the bottom of the refrigerator freezer.

My husband still believes that nothing can ever go bad in the freezer, no matter how long it’s been there.  It’s pointless to argue.  The udon noodles had lost some of their chewy texture and broke down a bit in the soup, but the soup base that came with the noodles added that Wagamama flavor 🙂

I browned and crisped the pork belly with a little olive oil for a crunchy texture.

I didn’t have much in the way of soup vegetables but appreciated the red bell pepper, the handful of mushrooms and a little spinach with garden green sprouts.

Pork Belly with Udon Noodle Soup

1 tbsp olive oil

1lb pork belly, skin on, sliced

1 tbsp peanut oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

1/4 large red bell pepper, diced

1/4 large onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 slices fresh ginger, chopped

5-6 brown mushrooms, sliced

2 packets noodle soup base

1 tsp garlic chilli sauce

3 cups chicken broth

2 packets udon noodles

1 -2 handfuls spinach/garden greens

Scallions, sliced

Brown and crisp the slices of pork belly with the olive oil in a large pot.  Remove and slice into bite size pieces.  Set aside.  Wipe out the pot with paper towels.

Heat the peanut and sesame oils in the pot, add the bell pepper, onion, garlic and ginger.  Saute until the aromatics are soft.  Add the mushrooms and continue to saute for about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in the soup base and the chilli sauce.  Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, add the reserved pork belly and simmer for 5 minutes.  Bring the broth to a boil, then add the noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes or according to package instructions.  Remove from the flame and stir in the greens.

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with the scallions.

















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Creole Duck Breast with Warm Broccoli Coleslaw

Got a big winter haul of duck from the farm in New York; breasts, legs and a little “duck ham.” Now that I have a freezer, sky’s the limit 🙂  I rubbed this duck with Emeril’s essence before searing.

A fellow shopper told me that broccoli slaw was made from the stems of the vegetable.  Looked good to me.  I sauteed it with onion, garlic and wilted spinach.  Very good and I will buy this again.





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Aubergine and Paneer Curry

Disgusted with digging in the refrigerator’s freezer bottom drawer, hunting things we remember buying but can’t find but discovering freezer burned meats, poultry and fish that we don’t remember buying but obviously did, we finally bought an upright, stand alone freezer.  We’re slowly relocating neglected, specialty items to the new freezer.  That’s how I discovered a frozen block of  Indian paneer and some oldish ground beef.

What to make, what to make?  Well, there were those withering Japanese aubergines, dried out shallots and ginger, okay garlic and totally non-photogenic tomatoes.

Curry?  Well sort of.  Indians don’t eat cows, they consider them sacred and worship them.  Some of those cows I saw in New Delhi looked pretty tasty!  They are fed the best food that both rich and poor Hindus have to offer and the steaks must be succulent.  But we’ll never know  😉  However the Bangladeshis, who are not cow worshipers, creep across the border yearly for a midnight cattle rustle.  The cows are like pets and practically follow them home.  Of course this creates problems between the governments and causes shots to be fired over the border, resulting in not a few deaths.  Still it happens every year as Bangladesh is an extremely poor country whose land is located on a shifting delta that is incapable of supporting it’s 163 million population.  Which has nothing to do with my ground beef curry but I thought you’d like to know 😀  You can make this more authentic with ground chicken or lamb.

Aubergine and Paneer Curry

2 tbsp olive oil

1 block of paneer cheese, cut into cubes

3 Japanese aubergine, halved vertically and thickly sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

4 shallots, finely chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 lb lean ground beef

4  S&W Golden Curry Sauce blocks, coarsely chopped(mild, medium or hot)

2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

3 cups chicken broth

Brown the cubes on each side in the olive oil.  Remove and set aside.  Add the aubergine to the skillet and lightly brown.  Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil to the skillet and saute the shallots, ginger and garlic until just soft.  Add the ground beef and cook until the pink just disappears.  Stir in the chopped curry blocks until they are melted and blended with the meat mixture.  Add the tomatoes and heat for a minute or two.

Stir in the browned aubergine, then the broth, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the cooked paneer and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.




Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Indian, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments