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Friday, May 31, 2013

It's All Goop

I like Gwyneth Paltrow.  She doesn't quite rise to the level of Ina Garten, but I do like Gwyneth.  She always seems as though she'd be a nice person, albeit, not really like the rest of us.  I mean, come on.  I do not curate my wardrobe, nor do I have ten trillion followers on my website.  But I do like Gwyneth even if I don't really understand her.

We do have things in common.  Gwyneth likes to cook and eat and she writes cookbooks.  I also like to cook and eat and I have this food blog.  There is it.  Gwyneth and I do have something in common.  We both like to write about what we cook.

Unfortunately, Gwyneth has a thing for ingredients like gluten free flour and brown rice syrup.  These are not items you will find in my kitchen.  I am not actually sure what xanthan gum is or what it does, but Gwyneth uses it with abandon.  Nonetheless, there is common cooking ground for the two of us.

This recipe, with a few alternations, is a good example of that common ground.  Of course, Gwyneth makes her own sriracha, so we'll just skip over that whole part for now.  Needless to say, I buy sriracha, preservatives and all.  But this is a really good recipe, with or without the homemade sriracha.  It's fresh and easy.  And, it's good enough to serve to guests, especially if you were trying to dazzle them with your familiarity of all things Gywneth.  (You could throw in a line like "I got this recipe from Gwynnie" -- and of course you call her Gwynnie because you're so close.)

A nice side to the salmon is Gwynnie's recipe for brown rice with nori.  Honestly, even with the brown rice, which I do not eat for the taste, but because it really is better for you than white, this is a winner of a side dish.

Recipe:  Salmon with Sriracha and Lime
(Adapted from It's All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen)


Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons tsp sriracha sauce*
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 1/4 lbs pounds salmon fillet, skin removed
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro


Heat oven to 425°. In a bowl, whisk together juice, zest, syrup, sriracha and salt. Place salmon in a baking dish lined with parchment paper; pour lime-maple mixture over top. Roast salmon until cooked through and flaky, 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve.

Recipe:  Brown Rice Stir-Fry with Nori and Black Sesame
(It's All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen)


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups day old cooked brown rice
Coarse sea salt
2 sheets nori seaweed
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted black sesame seeds
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced


Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet set over high heat.  Add the rice, along with a big pinch of salt, and cook, stirring until warmed through and just barely beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.  Using scissors, shred the nori finely and add it along with the remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine and serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Enchanted Evening

Sending Kate to an all girls school certainly has had its benefits.  She got an excellent education.  She made wonderful friends.  And we avoided much of the boy related drama that comes with going to a coed school.  All in all, I'd say it was a good choice.

But then there's Kate's position on the whole subject of an all girls school.  Yes, she agrees that she got a great education.  And she agrees that she made friends that may well last a lifetime.  But on the subject of boys, or the absence thereof, well... not so much.

Let's just say that for a teenage girl, an all girls high school can be a little, shall we say, socially limiting.

It's not that Kate doesn't know any boys.  She plays tennis with boys.  She knows boys from "around", and she knows lots of boys from before she went to her all girls school.  But what she hasn't had much  of is the big high school dance thing.  Let's face it, if you go to a school with 43 girls in your class, there's a limit to how rip roaring a school dance is going to be.

But alas, a very nice guy asked Kate to his prom.  Said nice guy goes to a big public high school, and not unexpectedly, big public schools are the masters of things like proms and homecomings.  Needless to say, she had a wonderful time.

Since I am a mother first and foremost, and mothers do things like show pictures of their kids, here are a few from Kate's evening at the prom.

The obligatory Pittsburgh in the background shot.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Break Out the Barbeque

It's Memorial Day and that means that summer grilling season is officially underway.  Nothing is quite as satisfying as a nice piece of grilled fish or a steak, cooked to perfection -- outside.  There's nothing I enjoy more than not having to scrub a pot or a pan.  Let Ted use his grill brush and clean the barbeque.  It's summer.  I should get a break.

Ted is the self proclaimed Master of the Grill.  From Memorial Day through to Labor Day, Ted wears his eau du barbeque with real panache.  Honestly, there are nights when he gets into bed and I think I'm sleeping in a smokehouse.

But I digress.  Now that the summer grilling season is upon us, I thought it only appropriate to start out with something light, summery, and oh-so-delicious.  This recipe for swordfish with rosemary and lemons is a surefire hit and an easy start to the lazy days of summer.  I'm also including a recipe for couscous with apricots and almonds that's perfect alongside the swordfish.

Happy grilling!

Recipe:  Grilled Swordfish with Rosemary and Lemon
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mediterranean)


6-8 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
4 swordfish steaks, each 6-8 ounces and 1 inch thick


Juice enough of the lemons to yield 1/3 cup.  Thinly slice the remaining lemons into rounds about 1/8 inch thick, discarding the ends.  Set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk together the lemon juice, the olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.  Sprinkle fish generously with salt and pepper.  Place in the marinade, along with the lemon slices, and turn to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Prepare your grill.

Using a slotted spatula, lift the fish from the marinade and arrange over the hottest part of the fire or heat elements.  Discard the remaining marinade.  Grill the fish, turning once, until opaque throughout but still moist looking in the center when tested with a knife, 8-9 minutes total.  Grill the lemon slices alongside the fish, turning them once, until they are browned and soft, 1-2 minutes on each side.

Transfer the fish to a platter and arrange lemon slices over each piece.  Serve at once.

Recipe:  Couscous with Apricots and Almonds
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mediterranean)


2/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups couscous
1/3 cup dried apricot halves, slivered
2 2/3 chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dried currants
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
Freshly ground black pepper


In a large bowl, drizzle the olive oil over the couscous and toss to coat thoroughly.  Scatter the apricots over the couscous.

In a small saucepan, combine the stock, salt, and turmeric.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then pour the stock mixture over the couscous.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand until the couscous is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap and fluff the grains with a fork.  Stir in the almonds, currants, orange zest, lemon juice, and mint.  Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Serve warm.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

How To Boil An Egg

I've never actually mastered boiling eggs.  Sounds simple enough, doesn't it.  But the perfect hard boiled egg is an illusive thing.

The truth is that, up until a couple of years ago, I didn't even like hard boiled eggs.  I didn't mind hard boiled eggs in things, but as a stand alone food... well, not so much.  I liked the whites just fine.  It was all about the yolk.  I didn't like the yolk.  Needless to say, my yolk avoidance was a little limiting.

Added to the somewhat gluey texture of the yolk, the color bothered me.  The yolks always looked gray and muddy to me.  Who wants to eat gray food anyway?  Where were those lovely vibrant yellow yolks that I saw in cookbooks and cooking magazines?

Well, the answer was simple.  The vibrant yellow yolks were there all along, but they had to be coaxed into full bloom in the cooking process.  Yes, it mattered how the egg was boiled.  Who knew?

Hard as it was for me to believe that there was an actually best way to cook an egg, and that those yellow yolks weren't just the work of a food stylist, I decided to investigate.  And do you know what I found out?  I found out that the best way to boil an egg involves very little boiling and a lot more waiting.

Yup... You boil and then you wait.

The best way to boil an egg is to cover the eggs in cold water and then bring the pot to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes.

It turns out that I'm still not a lover of the yolk, but they look so much prettier as I transfer mine over to Ted's plate.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tulip Time

There's a lot to love about the spring.  Back when I lived in California, I didn't appreciate what it meant when the weather turned from cold to cool, to warm, and then finally to hot.  For the most part, the temperatures teetered somewhere between warm and hot, with brief interludes of cool.

Now that I reside in a four season climate, I live for the change of the seasons.  By the time we hit the end of the winter, I'm desperate for sun and warmth.  And after a hot and humid summer, I welcome the cool weather of fall and yes, I even look forward to the cold winter.  (Take note: I do not look forward, nor do I enjoy, the gloomy skies that generally accompany the cold weather.)

But I have to admit that my absolute favorite time of the year is tulip time.  Spring is the best season of all.  In my neighborhood, tulips are de rigueur.  Perky tulips line the walkways leading up to every front door.  It's almost as though there's a tulip clause written into every contract to buy or sell a house around here.

Back when we first moved here, I didn't know about the whole tulip thing.  It was only because I hired a gardening service that had been servicing our neighborhood for a zillion years, that I found out that tulips were an absolute must.  I'll never forget when I got the call from the gardening service:

Gardening Service:  "What color tulips would you like?"
Me: "Huh?"
Them:  "Tulips.  What color would you like?"
Me:  "Tulips?  I don't know.  Yellow?"
Them:  "Thanks."

And then, as though by a miracle, yellow tulips sprung to life the following spring.

And thus began my tulip education.  Now I know much more.  I know that I like to mix some white in with the yellow, and I know that I like the really tall tulips.  I also know that we have the best tulips in Squirrel Hill.  People have told me that, so it must be true.

Rhubarb is another thing I love about spring.  And rhubarb stewed with strawberries and raspberries is even better.

Happy spring!

Stewed Rhubarb & Red Berries 
( Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten)


2 pounds fresh rhubarb cut in ¾-inch-chunks (6 to 8 cups)
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pint fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced
½ pint fresh or frozen raspberries
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Triple Sec liqueur, optional
Heavy cream or vanilla ice cream for serving


Place the rhubarb in a large saucepan, add the sugar, salt, and 2/3 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender and starts to fall apart. Remove from the heat, stir in the strawberries, raspberries, lemon juice, orange juice, and Grand Marnier, if using, and allow to cool. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold with a drizzle of cream or a scoop of ice cream.