Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's still ice cream weather

Last night I went out to dinner with some girlfriends for a birthday celebration, then we retreated to a member's house for make-your-own ice cream sundaes and a cupcake tasting. It was a very foodie day! I'll write another day about the restaurant and the cupcakes; today I wanted to post the recipes for the sauces I made for the sundaes.

The first is hot fudge -- a recipe that mother has made as far back as I can remember. I modify it a bit by adding more chocolate. The second, a butterscotch sauce, is a recipe that's new to me; I wasn't absolutely thrilled with the final result, but it was fine and my fellow sundae-makers seemed to enjoy it. Today I discovered that I misread the recipe and did not use nearly as much cream as the recipe called for. I'm sure it'll be better next time when I actually follow the recipe. :P

Ferrell Hot Fudge

1 can sweetened condensed milk (preferably NOT low-fat)*
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into several pieces
1/3 cup water
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Add water to the bottom portion of a double boiler and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium. Combine condensed milk, chocolate, water, and salt in the top portion of a double boiler. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted. Continue to stir until all ingredients are thoroughly blended and the sauce is smooth and of a completely uniform color. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter. Stir until butter is completely incorporated. Serve hot or warm over ice cream.

* Sweetened condensed milk is an area where the brand matters to me -- I always use Borden's Eagle Brand.

NOTES: If sauce is too thick, stir in additional water, a Tbsp at a time. Sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for several days. May be reheated in the double-boiler or the microwave -- heat gradually using medium heat and stirring frequently to avoid scorching.


Butterscotch Sauce

Everyday Food

1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

In a small saucepan, combine cream, butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over high heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Sauce can also be made up to 1 week ahead; cover and refrigerate in an airtight container.

TL's NOTES: This is a very thin sauce when hot. It is really best at room temperature. If you refrigerate it, bring to room temp before using.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's Up in the Kitchen

Other than writing about my adventure at the Viking cooking school, I haven't written about food or cooking lately, obviously. I wasn't cooking very much the last few weeks, partially due to being busy with other things, and partially due to being glued to the TV for the Olympics. One of the things I've been busy with is finally -- finally! -- making some decor decisions and getting started on some house-fixing. The other is that I had a landscaping company come look at the disaster of a yard I have and talk about long-term plans for improvements.

The property has basically suffered from benign neglect for a number of years and needs some serious work to look "nice." That's going to be a multi-year project with a list of to-do items as long as both my arms. To start with, though, I wanted someone to come in and do some serious cut-back of some jungle-like growth of vines and brush along 3 of the 4 sides of the property, as well as trimming some trees, cleaning vines off the garage and house, etc. etc. The landscaper -- Eric Cook, Greenway of Nashville -- was nice and his crew did a good job. It put a serious dent in my pocketbook, but things look a lot more controlled. Eric had also suggested adding something attractive in addition to clearing stuff away, specifically some small holly and spirea on either side of the front steps. I had planned to eventually plant some things in those areas, so I told him to go ahead. It does look nice and spiffs up the front a bit. If I could find my camera (it's SOMEWHERE in the study, just exactly where is undetermined) I would post a picture. When the camera is located one day when I remember to look for it, I'll do so.

P.S. I remembered another factoid from the knife class ... brown and pink shrimp are always wild-caught. White and tiger shrimp can be either wild-caught or farmed. So there is your Culinary Fact of the Day.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Here are a few additional things I remembered today from yesterday's class.

  • When buying an onion, always sniff it. If an uncut onion actually smells of onion, don't buy it -- that means that the onion has been bruised or otherwise damaged.
  • The name of the dice created by cross-cutting the julienne is brunoise. Whew!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gettin' Some Mad Knife Skilz

This morning I took a drive down to The Factory in Franklin to attend a cooking class at the Viking Store. Viking is the company that makes the huge "professional grade" refrigerators, stoves, and the like as well as cookware and gadgets. All but some of the gadgets are out of my budget range, but it's always fun to look around and daydream about that lottery win and the enormous white-tile kitchen that new fortune would buy.

The Nashville / Franklin store is one of a handful around the country that offers cooking classes, and is by far the most successful program in the whole company. The type and style of classes vary considerably. A few years ago I was part of a small group that did a demo-style class where the instructor/chef did most of the work and we could jump in and help as desired. That was fun, but I've been wanting to take a hands-on class for a long time. I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a couple, and today's was the first. Called Basic Knife Skills, 10 of us spent 2 1/2 hours learning about using a chef's knife the right way while preparing our lunch -- chicken & shrimp fajitas with a variety of vegetables and from-scratch salsa. We made julienne (1/8 inch strips), batonettes (1/4 inch strips), and then dice of the same, which had French names I can't remember. :P (Also, I think I remember from previous readings that there is a cut called baton, which I think is 1/2 inch.) We also did mince of garlic and cilantro.

I'm pretty good with a knife and know a few things, but here are two really fundamental things I didn't know:
  • I've been holding the knife incorrectly, both for the basic chop and the two-handed mince
  • There's an "Italian" way to slice and a "French" way -- I've been using the French way
I've seen a number of techniques done on TV but never tried them, and today I did:
  • Sharpening a knife on a stone.
  • "Breaking down" a bell pepper using the rolling technique, which was a LOT easier than you might think, and WAY cool.
  • Boning a chicken breast.
  • Holding down the vegetable with the fingers curled under. When I tried it before I always found it awkward. In class I made a more determined effort to try it, and found a little success. One tip I picked up that helped a little was to anchor the tip of the thumb at the back of object being sliced. So ... Practice will make perfect, I hope.
  • Peeling a tomato by dropping it into boiling water (after scoring a light cross in the top and the bottom), then dunking in an ice bath. The skin just slipped right off.
One of the best parts of these classes is that you always pick up tips and information not necessarily related to the topic of the class.
  • 3 drops of bleach in a couple of quarts of water is enough to sanitize non-porous surfaces -- i.e., your knife. I've always used a ton more.
  • Stock is made from bones only. Broth is made with bones and flesh. Skin, fat, and organs should never be used when making either.
  • Also: When making chicken stock/broth, add vegetables only for the last hour of cooking, and don't saute them first. For beef stock, the vegetables can be sauteed/roasted first since it's a heartier concoction.
When everything was cut, chopped, sliced, mixed, and cooked (where appropriate), we sat down at a long table in the kitchen and ate the fruits of our labors, along with a small pour of wine for those who wished. It was good -- I won't say that the recipes were anything out of the ordinary, but it was tasty and fun to see those wee nearly-perfect cubes of vegetables in the salsa.

When I signed up for this class, I also enrolled in a class on tapas that will be in late September. I found out, though, that there is also a "Knife Skills 2" class that will be in early September. I signed up for that as well, using the 10% discount I had available for taking today's class. So watch out ... I'll be dangerous!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oh Brother, Part 2

My other brother Dale and his business partner opened a restaurant a few months ago. Their specialty barbecue wings have already won an award, and have garnered a mention in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution .If you're in the Atlanta area, head on down to The Square in Newnan and check out The Gridiron Grill. The name sounds like a sports bar, and it IS UGA red-and-black inside, but the food is definitely a step above your typical sports bar fare. The chef has a background in Lousiana cooking, so the focus is Cajun/Creole, but with New South, Old South, and plain ol' American casual food. (I had a regular hamburger and it was just what a burger should be.) Tasty, reasonable, and the square is a picturesque setting, inviting a pre- or post-meal stroll. Check out the menu, get a coupon, and learn more at They also have a MySpace page at

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oh Brother, Part 1

A few years ago my brother Paul and I made a dinner for a crowd. We picked a Louisiana theme -- the food was very tasty and the meal went over well. He'd lost the recipes and asked for them today, so I thought I'd post them here.

The first is a really good way to use some of that summer corn.

Cajun Corn Maque Choux
Adapted from Southern Living, DECEMBER 2001

1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen, thawed)
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Sauté onion and bell pepper in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat 8 minutes or until tender. Add corn and tomato; cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Stir in green onions, salt, and pepper; cook 5 minutes.

Makes 6 servings


This recipe makes a LOT -- 12 servings. Obviously, you could scale the recipe down if you're not feeding a mob. This dish uses the tasty Holy Trinity of Louisiana cooking: Onion, celery, and green bell pepper. The addition of a healthy amount of parsley is pretty standard, too, not to mention the roux.

Grillades and Grits

Grillades (gree-YAHDS) and grits, like salt and pepper or bread and butter, are an assumed pair in New Orleans. It sounds like dinner, and sometimes it is, but brunch is the most popular menu spot for the Creole dish.

4 1/2 pounds round steak (we used petite sirloin, pounded)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
Vegetable oil
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 bay leaves
2 cups water
Cooked Grits

Cut meat into serving-size pieces; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour 1/2 cup oil into a Dutch oven. Fry steak in batches in hot oil over medium-high heat until browned (about 2 minutes on each side.) Remove to platter, and repeat until all meat is browned.

Measure pan drippings; add enough oil to drippings to measure 2/3 cup, and return to Dutch oven. Add flour; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 10 minutes or until roux is caramel colored.

Stir in onion and next 5 ingredients; cook until tender. Stir in tomatoes, next 3 ingredients, and 1 cup of water, stirring well.

Return meat to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve with Cooked Grits.

Yield: Makes 12 servings

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weekend Food Exploits

Lately I've gotten back into the routine of going to the grocery store every weekend. Stocked pantry/fridge = meal flexibility and a lot fewer restaurant meals. Late spring through early fall I also stop by one of the produce stands run by Howell's Farm. They specialize in tomatoes, but also grow a nice variety of squashes and eggplants, peppers, and corn. Yesterday's trip was a little different -- I started my day with a visit to the Nashville Farmer's Market.

The FM has traditionally been a disappointment; few farmers and lots and lots of resellers. The interior market has had some interesting shops and restaurants, but that's somewhat in flux now. Half the facility is taken up with a flea market that is 99% knock-offs and mass-produced cheap, gaudy junk. There's an effort underway to renovate and reposition, including trying to get more actual farmers selling more actual local product. The effort has been surprisingly controversial ... but more about that another day.

I went to the FM hoping to score some decent peaches, and was also interested in seeing what the general selection was like these days. One seller had some peaches from KY, which counts as local. None that I inspected were really ripe; I've got four on my counter and hope they'll be worth eating. I also picked up a loaf of whole wheat bread from what I think was a Mennonite couple who had a table of baked goods. Made a Bradley tomato sandwich with it for lunch -- it was good, soft bread for all of it being whole wheat. I saw a huge variety of squashes and peppers, including cute pint baskets of cherry-tomato sized, mixed-variety heirloom peppers. I was hoping for fresh onions or garlic, fresh herbs, maybe some strawberries, and ... exotica. I was disappointed, but did go to Howell's stand there and pick up some things I usually get from them -- zucchini, eggplant (small white and Japanese), Bradley tomatoes (low-acid and thin skin), cherry tomatoes mentioned in yesterday's post (which I discovered today are called Black Cherry), plum tomatoes, Peaches-and-Cream corn, some pickling cucumbers, and some red potatoes. A goodly haul.

Sundays have become a cook-for-the-week-and-the-freezer day, and today was no exception. I used the pickling cucumbers to make a quart of refrigerator bread-and-butter pickles, using kind of a hybrid of several recipes. I'll write about them in a couple of weeks, after the first tasting. With the eggplants, plum tomatoes, zucchini, and previously-purchased purple bell pepper and Vidalia onion, I made Cooking Light's Gardener's Ratatouille. I've been making this every summer since the recipe was first published in 2002. The unconventional colors of some of the vegetables (purple pepper, white eggplant) made it even more colorful than usual. Delicious, too!

I was going to link to the recipe, but it's no longer available on the Cooking Light web site, so ... here it is. (Note: It's also in the Cooking Light 2002 Annual recipe book.)

Gardener's Ratatouille
Cooking Light, Aug 2002
Robin Taylor Swatt

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 cups chopped plum tomatoes -- (about 1 pound)
2 cups chopped eggplant -- peeled (TL note: I've never peeled them)
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic -- minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add tomato, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, and garlic. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in oregano, and remaining ingredients; cook, uncovered, 5 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: approx 3/4 cup).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pasta Salad for Supper

A few months ago a pasta salad presented on PBS's Everyday Food caught my eye. It used a pasta shape I really like (cavatappi) and two of my favorite things -- goat cheese and asparagus. What made this dish unusual was that the dressing was made just of the goat cheese and some of the hot pasta cooking water. The hot water turned the crumbly cheese into a creamy sauce. I have made the salad as written a couple of times, once for a potluck. But I knew that, more importantly, I'd be storing that goat cheese technique in my back pocket for future use. (See the full recipe here: Creamy Goat Cheese Pasta with Roasted Asparagus).

So, this afternoon I was contemplating supper, and remembered that I had some goat cheese in the refrigerator I needed to use. The problem was that had gotten really strong, and as much as I like goat cheese, eating this stuff straight wasn't going to be all that pleasant. I was trying to think of a way to dilute it, when it hit me to make a salad similar to the Everyday Food recipe, but just add some mayonnaise to smooth out the flavor. I didn't have asparagus on hand, but did have broccoli. No chives, but yes green onions. So ... I cooked some Barilla Plus Pasta Elbow Macaroni.

Side note: Barilla Plus is my pasta of choice these days because I'm trying to eat whole grain whenever possible, and as much as I love brown rice, whole wheat bread, etc. I just. Don't. Care. For. 100%. Whole. Wheat. Pasta. (That doesn't make me a bad person, does it? Didn't think so.) Barilla Plus is a nice intermediary pasta with the advantage of a little protein boost. It doesn't come in cavatappi (at least in my store) but the elbows also have little ridges like cavatappi and do have a little twist to them.

Anyway, back to the pasta salad. During the last few minutes of cooking the pasta, I added a good fistful of broccoli florets. Drained and rinsed the pasta/broccoli, reserving a little of the water. Put the goat cheese in a bowl, added the hot water and stirred until smooth. Small plop of mayo (reduced-fat, of course), squeeze of lemon juice, sliced scallion. Added the pasta and broccoli along with just a little slivered leftover grilled chicken, along with some quartered Cherokee-purple-type cherry tomatoes fresh from the farmer's market this morning.

I was very pleased with the end result, and will definitely be doing this again.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cook for your family -- or else!

You may not know about one of the best video satirists out there right now. She's not on The Daily Show or SNL, but is a contributer to a web site called Current. She's Sarah Haskins, and she produces a series of short video essays under the banner Target Women. She takes on advertising and marketing aimed at women, and is insightful, articlate, and hilarious. The most recent essay looks at the amazingly persistent idea that a woman's first duty is to prepare food for the family, and thanks to the dreck put out by the fast- and processed-food industries, she can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, as they say. Thankfully, like Sarah, I'm single and free to cook ... or not ... without the risking the censure of society and the enmity of family members. Enjoy!

To see more of Sarah's videos, visit

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A "Grate" Way to Use Summer Vegetables

Mark Bittman, the NY Times columnist and cookbook author, has been doing a blog for a few months. I generally enjoy his columns and recipes, although he sometimes displays a foodie-elite attitude that gets on my nerves. (For example, one blog post focused on his trying to find good uses for microwaves, an appliance he previously disdained. At least he was tryin'.) One recipe he posted in the blog (cleverly named Bitten) has been a repeater in my house the last few weeks. It can be made with just about any gratable vegetable, but I've just used zucchini so far. I can see lots of potential for riffs and variations with herbs, seasonings, toppings, and vegetable mixtures. As you can see from the ingredient list, these don't burst with strong flavor, but simple flavors are OK sometimes. I really like the fact that they are mostly a vegetable dish rather than a batter-heavy true fritter. A larger serving is hearty enough to serve as a main course with several additional sides. You could also use them as a base under something like a piece of grilled fish or chicken. I LOVE to top mine with a little dollop of reduced-fat sour cream or whole milk yogurt. A squeeze of lemon is lovely too.

Italian-Style Vegetable Pancakes

Mark Bittman, New York Times

Yield 4 servings

About 2 pounds zucchini, eggplant or turnips, peeled if necessary
1/2 onion, peeled and grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten (I use 4 egg whites)
1/4 cup flour or plain bread crumbs, more as needed (I tend to use more)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 4 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil (I use cooking spray in a non-stick skillet)

Grate vegetables by hand or with grating disk of a food processor. In a bowl, mix together all ingredients except the butter or oil. The mixture should be fairly loose but not liquid; add a little more flour or bread crumbs if necessary.

Put the butter or oil in a large skillet and turn heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot, put large spoonfuls of batter in the pan. Cook, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides, 10 to 15 minutes total. Serve hot or at room temperature.

The full blog post is here: Italian-Style Vegetable Pancakes

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mahogany Glazed Tofu

Today I made an interesting recipe from another Blog, Enlightened Cooking. Camilla is professional, a multiple contest winner, cooking instructor, etc. Her food always looks very tasty and is healthy and light as the blog name implies. I've been enjoying her writing for several months but this is the first recipe of hers I've made.

I can't say I ever crave tofu, but as I mentioned previously I'm trying be more "flexitarian." So, I've been looking for tofu recipes where the tofu isn't the dominating element. Even though this recipe has very few ingredients, the glaze is the star. Mahogany Glazed Tofu is a very quick dinner that has some strong, interesting flavors going on. Because I was just cooking for me, I only made one serving rather than the full four. I made one major change in that I added cubed baby eggplant with the tofu, and then used enough glaze for 2 servings. I will definitely make this again!

The blog I linked to originally is now invitation-only. So, I've added the recipe here. It really is good!

Mahogany Glazed Tofu with Scallions & Rice

from Enlightened Cooking, now invitation-only

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained (fresh tofu, not vacuum-packed)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
4 thinly sliced scallions
Hot cooked brown or white rice

Combine the vinegar, lime juice and brown sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 18-20 minutes until reduced by about half to a thin glaze. Whisk in the hoisin sauce and mustard. Cover and keep warm.

While glaze is simmering, cut the tofu into 24 large cubes and pat dry with a paper towel; sprinkle with salt. Place the cornstarch in a medium bowl; dredge tofu triangles in cornstarch to coat. Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the tofu to the skillet and stir-fry on both sides until golden brown.

Toss tofu in the saucepan with the glaze and serve immediately over rice, garnished with green onions. Makes 4 servings.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Previous Week's Kitchen Adventures

I've been been waiting for this blog to get "crawled" so my Amazon list and other widget-type things show up on the page, and ... well, I'm still waiting. So, despite my feeling the site's incomplete, I'll post a bit more.

This week I did some exploring of my latest cookbook purchase, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman. Bittman writes a weekly cooking column in The New York Times. As the title -- The Minimalist -- implies, he focuses on dishes that are easy for the home cook to prepare. They are not dumbed-down, Sandra-Lee-esque, bland middle-American fare, but full of flavor, quality ingredients, and sometimes a bit of ethnic adventure. He's written numerous cookbooks and even has a PBS show or two under his belt.

So anyway ... HTCEV made it onto my shelves for several reasons. I'm not a vegetarian, and never will be, but I enjoy vegetarian meals and never feel meat is obligatory. I enjoy a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, etc., but wanted to prepare more of them at home. I'm trying to cook more in general, and I definitely need to regain control of healthy eating habits that had slipped precariously in the last year or so. A new cookbook would help get me jazzed about all of this, and HTCEV was selected because it wasn't just a collection of recipes, but like most of Bittman's writing, went to lengths to explain, present the logic or tradition behind something, provide variations to encourage your own explorations, etc. This book is also much-discussed and praised by cooks whose opinions I trust. (More on that on another day.)

I've made two things so far. (For me to make two new, real, actual recipes in a week is pretty remarkable -- day to day I'm a throw-something-together-that-sounds-good kind of cook.) The first was Whole Wheat Couscous with Cauliflower and Almonds. In this dish, shallot and finely chopped cauliflower are sauteed, then combined with the couscous, stock, and a hefty amount of smoked paprika to simmer. At the last minute parsley and chopped almonds are added, then grated Manchego cheese is used to top the dish. Because I'm counting calories, it's not something I'll make as written a lot, but I was glad I made it. A serving is well over 400 calories, and if you make it as a main dish, the amount of food isn't huge. I did reduce the almonds and the oil called for, and was judicious with the cheese. It's too tasty to not make again, so next time I might reduce the couscous and increase the cauliflower. You could also omit the cheese to make it a more reasonable side dish. I also think I will increase the amount of liquid to give it a little more smoothness. I made my first mail-order purchase from the famous Penzey's to get the smoked paprika for this. This was the "stretch" for me for this recipe, and it was worth it. It gave the dish a beautiful color, and the aroma was mouth-watering.

The second item I made was fresh cheese. I'd read about this several times before, and had seen Michael Chiarello do it on his old PBS show Casual Cooking. I'd wanted to do it for a long time, just never did. Having a very simple recipe in a book I wanted to make use of talked me into it. Basically, you heat milk until it starts to bubble (providing you are at sea level), then add buttermilk and continue to heat. The mixture will break into curds & whey (shades of Little Miss Muffet), and you scoop up the curds, strain through cheesecloth, and squeeze the moisture out to make a ball or disk. I used 2% milk and lowfat buttermilk, and did add some salt. Honestly I will probably add more salt next time -- I like salty cheese. The flavor is very mild, but delicious for all that. I had some for dinner with home-toasted whole wheat tortilla wedges and a salad. There are other methods for easy fresh cheese -- Chiarello mixes the milk & buttermilk at the start. Some use milk and either lemon juice or vinegar. Etc. So, I can see that this will be an area for experimentation for me. Then, watch out -- I will be mailordering special cheese cultures, and a press, and .... Well, let's just see if I make another batch of fresh cheese first, hmm?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One small step for blogdom

In the spirit of, "Well, everybody else seems to be doing it, why not me?" here's my first stab at a blog. At this point the main focus is going to be on food and cooking (hence the title) but meandering is definitely a possibility. A lot of food blogs I've visited have lovely, high-quality pictures of dishes the authors prepared, and I'm not there yet. So for now, text will have to do. :D

To start, I'll launch right in and talk about today's menu. Last weekend I'd made some black bean soup, portioned into individual servings for the freezer. This morning I decided to have some for supper, but didn't want just "soup." I had pureed it and cooked it down to a pretty thick consistency, like thin refried beans, and thought it would be good over something. I made a pot of polenta, using fat-free half-and-half for part of the water, then poured it into a small loaf pan and put it in the refrigerator to chill. At dinner time I sliced off several slabs of the polenta, gave them a dusting of flour, and pan-fried until golden on both sides. I plated the polenta, then the warmed black bean soup was poured over. Topped with thinly sliced scallions and a dollop of sour cream made a hearty, warm, comforting entree. The side was a tomato-onion ragout, picked up on a rerun of Everyday Food today. Tomato-Onion Ragout (with Flounder).

I was pleased with the outcome, but next time I'd use polenta that was made with just water, and chilled for a longer period. It was cold but still a little soft. The ragout was excellent and I'll definitely be making that again as well!