Jerusalem

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We want to start this blog on a high note.  And we have another quiz: what does “Jerusalem” have to do with the 1936 film San Francisco? If you give up, listen to this clip from the film.  Actually, we’re urging you to listen even if you got the answer.  It’s that great.  Then contrast that with the song (song?) that Andy shares with you on Andy’s Corner.

And, you politely inquire, what’s the possible connection between the film, the song about Jerusalem, and this food blog???  Well, sometimes things just gel when you’re a blogger (and have nothing else going on in your life to dwell on), so read on.

Because I do lots of internet reading about food and cooking, I see the name Yotam Ottolenghi popping up everywhere.  He’s the Jerusalem-born London chef and food and cookbook writer, famous not only for his unusual recipes but for his view that food can bring differing folks together.  With a sense of adventure, I first tried his “Cauliflower Cake” recipe after seeing rave reviews from several of my favorite bloggers.  It was indeed beautiful.  It’s questionable whether I’ll ever make it again.  Even my Bestie, Deb, who loves almost all things vegetable-y, didn’t seem enthused, nor did our cat.

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Choco Latte, the Cat Who Doesn’t Like Cauliflower Cake

I decided I needed to move beyond the vegetable recipes in Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty.  I ordered Jerusalem: a Cookbook, written by Ottolenghi and his cohort Sami Tamimi in 2012.  

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Immediately,  the song “The Holy City,” with its powerful refrain of “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” started going through my head (apparently Ronald Reagan wanted “The Holy City” sung at his funeral but called it “Jerusalem” and he got the wrong song sung).  A quick YouTube search turned up the version linked above.  It’s Jeanette MacDonald, a favorite of my dad’s, with her gorgeous soprano voice singing the refrain “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” in the 1936 film San Francisco which starred Clark Gable and was set just after the 1906 SF earthquake.

Now back to Jerusalem, the cookbook, and Ottolenghi, a most interesting chef/celeb.  I don’t think I’d want to try every recipe in a cookbook as Julie Powell did in Julie & Julia: My Life of Cooking Dangerously, where she cooked 524 recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  But devoting a dinner party to the cookbook Jerusalem was perfect.

Here’s my take – and your opportunity to get some Ottolenghi recipes that are a little more approachable – without buying his beautiful book or searching online.  I’ve slightly adapted all of the recipes.

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Salmon & Carpe Diem

Is there any fish more maligned than carp or more loved than salmon?  Right after our Go Fish blog went up yesterday –  with Andy’s Corner devoted to musings on his dad and fishing – Gayle and Bob C, friends from grad school days at Colorado State U more than 46 years ago, rolled in for a visit. When the subject of carp came up, Bob talked about his army days in Germany in the early 1960’s where he was shocked to see little Bavarian restaurants whose specialty was – ta-da – CARP or “Karpfen.”  Bob had apparently been brought up with the notion that carp was a fish no civilized person would eat. I did a little research and discovered that in Germany and a few other European countries serving carp at Christmas is a special tradition…and (mind you – I’m only repeating what I read; I don’t know this for a fact) – the carp may be “housed” in the family’s bathtub for awhile before it meets its demise.  What a tradition.  Loving and hating carp reminds me a little of the relationship Scandinavian-Americans have with lutefisk.

Carp Illustratio

But on to a much-loved fish:  Bob and Gayle, who focus on eating healthy foods, routinely buy frozen salmon at Costco.  That shows how important it is to have friends.  I hadn’t even thought about frozen salmon, especially frozen wild Alaskan salmon, which Bob and Gayle buy in quantity and defrost pieces as needed.

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Slow-Roasted Salmon from Picnics by Sara Deseran

Here’s our all-time favorite AND Super Simple salmon recipe from Sara’s 2004 Picnics cookbook:

Super Simple Slow-Roasted Salmon

  • Servings: 4
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Adapted from Sara Deseran and Picnics

Ingredients

  • 1 filleted side of salmon, skin on, 2-3 pounds, about 1 1/2″ thick with the pinbones removed – or use 4 fillets that are about 5-6 oz each and reduce the roasting time.
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Rub both sides of the salmon with the olive oil.  Place the salmon skin-side down in a roasting pan.  Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over the flesh side (figure about 1 tsp kosher salt/pound).  Roast uncovered 30-40 minutes for the whole fillet or around 15-18 minutes for the 5-6 oz fillets.  The salmon will look undercooked on the top, but if it flakes when gently pulled apart with a fork, it’s done. Remove from the oven and serve, either warm or room temperature, adding a topping such as lemon and capers if desired.

Our friends suggest sprinkling pepper- based Jamaica-Me-Crazy seasoning on top and grilling the salmon for 8 minutes on a medium hot grill, without turning.  Sara suggests a Cucumber Raita to go with this, and we second that.  Recipe brought to you by Sara Deseran and BigLittleMeals.com.

 

Go Fish

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Fishing for trout, crappie, and blue gill: Andy with his dad, Gus, his sister, and her friend – Big Bear, California around 1953

Have you been bemoaning the fact that BigLittleMeals hasn’t blogged about any (ZILCH) recipe with seafood? There are several good reasons. We’ve been trying to give you recipes that freeze well and reheat well, and most recipes with fish or shellfish don’t do that. And really good, not-frozen seafood is both hard to find (unless you’re on a coast somewhere) and expensive. Also, given the complexity of trying to eat what doesn’t greatly harm the planet, it’s tricky knowing what seafood to enjoy and what to avoid – and whether to eat “farmed” seafood – or not.

In thinking about all of this, we realize how much we miss Louisiana and its readily-available crawfish and oysters and shrimp. I wouldn’t even begin to try to make my own Oyster Po-Boy here in California, nor would I order one out. You just can’t replicate that N’awlins’ favorite anywhere else….not even in Baton Rouge.  A shrimp and sausage gumbo is undeniably delicious but is awfully time-consuming for our keep-it-short-and-simple goals.  And every spring we think about having crawfish shipped to us, but we know it wouldn’t be the same.

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Loving our crawfish dinner on Centenary Drive, Baton Rouge, LA – around 1985

Without further adieu and without breaking the bank, or ruining the planet, or planting yourself in the kitchen for hours, here are a few suggestions for a simple fish dinner.

With Louisiana still on my mind, I’ll start with catfish.  Fresh, farm-raised USA catfish. Out of the three grocery stores we frequent (Whole Foods, Olivers, and the Sonoma Market, for those of you in our area),  two of the three regularly have fresh catfish filets on hand and Whole Foods often gets some in on Tuesday (don’t ask me why Tuesdays; weird). Our recipe for Summery Baked Fish can be made with catfish, cod, tilapia, or any nice firm fish filet.  The recipe is made in a nano-second and can be grilled or baked, depending upon your druthers.  It’s “summery” because fresh, juicy tomatoes are essential.

My Bestie in Los Altos, Diane, provided the Best of the Besties: Honey Garlic Shrimp. Diane is known for whipping up appetizers for 100 or so folks without batting an eye, doing cooking classes on hors d’oeuvres, and is offering to cook a Provencal French dinner for 10 – to be bid on at a charity auction to help abused women.   Diane knows and appreciates easy, delicious food…..plus, she’s pretty amazing.

For the Honey Garlic Shrimp use frozen shrimp that are NOT farm-raised and ARE peeled and deveined.  Better yet, buy fresh shrimp in the shell (not farmed) and peel and devein them; it’ll take a little time.  Read more about what to look for in purchasing shrimp in Consumer Report’s article in Food for Thought.

And if canned seafood is your best option, you’re going to love “Mom’s Tuna Noodle Casserole.” A trip down Memory Lane, if you’re of our generation.  It’s a little time-consuming to make, but unlike most fish dishes, it freezes well and reheats well.

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Grill, Baby, Grill!

 

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Grilling on a Char Broil Grill (and enjoying a glass of wine) at my parents’ house in Ft Collins, CO, 24 years ago.

Sarah Palin may have goaded us with “Drill, Baby, Drill,” but Andy’s battle cry for all of our blog buddies is “Grill, Baby, Grill” – and it rubs off on me. We are such BBQ fanatics that when we feared Andy’s favorite Landmann Barbeque (Charcoal) Grill might be discontinued, we ordered another one as a back-up and it sat, boxed, in our garage for a couple of years. And we’re using it now. Hmmmm, makes me think I should get another one on its way, just in case.

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Two Steaks for One: 1st Lt Andy in Vietnam 1969

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Grill-Master Face-off between Andy and my brother; Fort Collins, summer of 1993

Yes, we grill at least 3 times a week, come rain, sleet, or snow, or being stationed in Vietnam; and it’s almost always for just the two of us. But in thinking about this blog, I’m having trouble validating why the time is worth it for “just us.” Which reminds me, a number of years ago Sara and I promoted a mother/daughter cookbook which would have been titled “Just You; Just Me; Just Us” – geared toward one and two family households.  Andy and I intend for our blogs to be somewhat of a continuation of that theme.

Not “For-Men” Only

Enter into the blog picture the George Foreman Grill. Our 87-year-old Baton Rouge friend, Katie, has always been the Hostess with the Mostest.   And the meals she served always matched her hostessing skills.

When we visited Katie in April, we had long talks about what foods she fixes for herself, now that she’s living alone. I mentioned grilling, and she whipped out the George Foreman grill she had found at a garage sale a few years back. She was adamant about how handy it was for her and how good the meat was that she fixed on her little electric grill. Then just a few weeks ago my brother, who just turned 80 – and is still practicing law – received a Foreman grill from his legal assistant, who feared he wasn’t eating well and needed encouragement to cook for himself.

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The moral to this all MAY be that every older person living alone needs a George Foreman grill. OR it MAY be that grilling – be it electric, gas, or charcoal – is a fun variation on the kitchen cooking theme – for all ages and all numbers. We pick the latter.

Choosing just 4 recipes to include was a daunting task. We decided that we wanted something that was both prepared and grilled quickly, on a Foreman (electric), gas, or charcoal grill, had fairly basic ingredients, and was a bit out of the ordinary.  Here are the winners: Margarita Chicken – we’ve made it for years and never tire of it, Mediterranean Grilled Chops, Grilled Steak with Ginger and Soy, and SuperSimple Grilled Corn – because we wanted to include this picture of Moss, our grandson 🙂

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No, this is not a recent photo of Moss; it was taken about 11 years ago, and no, he wasn’t eating corn from our Grilled Corn recipe.  BUT our recipe is just that droolingly (I’m sorry; sometimes I just can’t help myself) delicious.  And, yes, Moss still experiments with both eating and cooking new foods – but now with a little more enthusiasm.  He started 7th grade this month and got up at 6 am on the first day of school to make homemade tortillas to bring to a school friend – in exchange for cookies she promised him.  And he and his mama just made (under the M&M brand name – Moss and Mama) Blueberry Chia Jam.

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Butter, Eggs, Apples, Avocados & Rotisserie Chicken

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Yes, we’ve all heard it by now.  On Monday Amazon/Whole Foods will lower the prices on organic butter, eggs, apples, avocados – and rotisserie chicken and “responsibly farmed” salmon – but they’re not delivering – yet – by drone (thank god)!

Here’s the BigLittleMeals take on how to best take advantage of this deal (yes, there’s just a teeny bit of jadedness in our use of the word “deal!”)  We’re going to pass on the salmon, since we’re still very very confused about farmed seafood.  Happy to know we’re not alone in that – see the article we posted in Food for Thought.

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Use your butter, eggs, and apples to make German Apple Pancakes – for breakfast OR dessert.  The recipe comes from our Boulder Bestie, Danielle.  Danielle’s been considered part of our family since she and our daughter Sara were UC Santa Cruz roommates….a long time ago.  This is Danielle’s grandmother’s recipe; we’ve adapted it just a bit.

Avocados are almost all you need for this quick and easy guacamole from T-lish – the affectionate name for Tacolicious, Sara & Joe’s restaurant group.  If you’re making it several hours before enjoying it, here’s a helpful look at how to keep guacamole green.

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Guacamole Wannabees

Then we suggest you use some diced up rotisserie chicken and some shredded cabbage with the guacamole in a taco – or  use your organic eggs and diced chicken in our Breakfast Lunch and Dinner Fried Rice.

Best of the Besties: Baked German Apple Pancakes

  • Servings: 2-3
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This recipe is easily made Super Simple by omitting the apples.   Just heat the 2 T of butter in the skillet, add the egg/flour mixture to the hot skillet, pop it in the oven, bake as stated, and serve with the lemon sauce. We love it that way too!

Directions

  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 c whole milk
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 tart apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • an additional 4T melted butter and 2T lemon juice mixed together to pour over the baked pancake
  • powdered sugar – to dust on pancake just before serving.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix together flour and salt in a medium bowl.  In another small bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together until frothy and light.  Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture, just to blend.  Do not overbeat.

In a 10″ cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the apples and brown sugar and saute until the apples are tender, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the nutmeg.

Pour the egg/flour batter over the apples and place the pan in the oven.  Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Danielle’s grandmother, Margaret, warns that you must not be tempted to look at the pancake in the oven before the 20 minutes are up! Remove from the oven and drizzle with about half of the melted butter and lemon juice mixture; then dust generously with powdered sugar. Serve immediately – directly from the skillet – and pass the extra butter and lemon mixture around at the table.

Brought to you by Danielle in Boulder and BigLittleMeals.com

D-lish T-lish Guacamole

  • Servings: makes about 2 cups
  • Print
If you’re making this for just one or two, the recipe is easily cut in half. Adapted from Tacolicious by Sara Deseran

Ingredients

  • 2 c gently mashed avocados (about 4 big ones)
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 T diced yellow onion
  • 1 T minced jalapeno (use your judgment)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Place the avocado in a bowl and add the garlic, onion, jalapeno, cumin, lime juice, cilantro and salt.  Smash everything with a fork – but don’t oversmash; you want it a little chunky.[/recipe-directions]

Don’t save the guac just for chips.  Make a taco with your leftover rotisserie chicken and some shredded cabbage.  Yum. Recipe brought to you by Tacolicious and BigLittleMeals.com.
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