Absinthe (makes the heart grow fonder?)

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Our version of a Sazerac calls for one jumbo ice cube

A Lagniappe edition, and how apropos.  We could use a strong drink about now.

I just finished the novel A Gentleman in Moscow, feeling like I’ve revisited my days as a college English major, reading the classics.  But Amor Towles’ novel isn’t one – yet.

I loved the segment where the delightful main character, Count Rostov, requests some absinthe at his hotel’s bar.  And, of course, that made me think of Louisiana and Sazeracs.  And, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know why I’m craving a fennel and clam bouillabaisse.

You might want to sip a Sazerac and watch 1942’s Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman before reading the novel.  And then, just as you’ve finished reading the next-to-last chapter – fix yourself another Sazerac, curl up (maybe by a fire, as long as it’s in a fireplace), and, sipping your Sazerac, read “Afterword,” the final chapter.  It’s a marvelous ending.

Perhaps you should start your evening with Sondra Bernstein’s delicious and simple Pernod-scented Mussels recipe – similar to the Count’s bouillabaisse.  Better yet, come to Sonoma (if you aren’t already here), and enjoy the dish at Sondra’s restaurant, the girl & the fig.

“Keep Sonoma Strong.”

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Sazerac’s special ingredients: absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters

Sazerac

  • Servings: 1 cocktail
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A simple syrup is made by combining equal parts water and sugar, popping in the microwave until boiling, then cooling.  It makes sense to make more than 2 teaspoons.  If you combine 1/2 c water and 1/2 c sugar it will provide enough for numerous cocktails – and will keep in the refrigerator. If you don’t want to make the syrup, take either 1 tsp sugar or 1 sugar cube and muddle it very well with the bitters and rye.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp absinthe
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (or use angostura bitters)
  • 1 1/2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 jumbo ice cube
  • a 2″ long lemon peel

Put the absinthe into an old-fashioned glass and swirl to coat the glass, then discard the absinthe (or use the remaining to swirl in a 2nd glass).

Add the ice cube, simple syrup and the bitters and rye whiskey to the absinthe-coated glass and stir until mixture is well chilled.

Rub the lemon peel around the rim of the glass and then twist it and drop it into the cocktail.  Serve.

You can leave out the ice cube and you’ll get a more-traditional (and more potent) drink.  Just be sure you stir the drink with ice cubes when you mix it and then remove the cubes before serving, since you want it served very cold.  Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

Pass-along

 

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Painting by Marion Perlet, purchased in San Miguel de Allende

Most of you know why we’re a little late with this blog post.  Glen Ellen, where our home is located, was hit hard by the Sonoma County wildfires which broke out on Sunday night, October 8.  The devastation throughout the area is mind-boggling.

Though our house was not burned, Glen Ellen was under mandatory evacuation orders for almost 2 weeks. During that evacuation time we spent one night with a Sonoma friend, Lynne, and then a week in San Francisco with our daughter and son-in-law.  They also took in our 2 Siamese cats, Ono Moore and Choco Latte,  and our Aussie, Oakley.  How fortunate we are to have such supportive friends and family.

When we got ready to leave our house, not knowing what the outcome would be, we opted to take the painting above as the piece of art we most wanted to save.  And it’s not even an original.  But somehow it speaks to the occasion.

And now that we’re home, the blog post that we were almost ready to send out – “Pass-Along” – seems more important than ever.  When push comes to shove, what is it that we most want to preserve and pass-along?  Worth thinking about.  See Andy’s Corner for what he brought with him that Monday morning when the fire was approaching us.

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Butterfly weed – and a Monarch to boot (photo from Missouri Botanical Garden’s wonderful Plant Finder website)

Until the year 2000 I had never heard of the term “Pass-Along.”  But I didn’t grow up in the South.  That summer, in Baton Rouge, my neighbor Katie brought me a butterfly weed – Asclepias tuberosaas I’d have called it in my MiniBlooms days.  It was from her brother Joe’s home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Pass-alongs are plants which thrive in old Southern gardens and, because of their hardiness, are easy to give to others.  They’re usually not sold in nurseries because they may be too common or too weedlike.  Well, that’s not quite true.  In Northern California today everyone is trying their best to help out the Monarchs and you can find butterfly weed almost everywhere.

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Long story short: the only plant I’ve ever had long enough to be considered tough enough to be a pass-along is the hoya, a houseplant, that’s sitting on our back porch. The plant came from my dad’s first law partner, Mortimer Stone – who went on to become chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court – in 1953.  When Judge Stone passed away in 1978, my mom and dad inherited his hoya.  When my dad passed away in 1998, I got it. My brother is demanding a cutting from it as we speak.  And I’m thinking I’d better root a few cuttings for my kids.

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Mortimer Stone’s Hoya

I’ve decided that since Pass-along plants generally seem to elude me, recipes will be my Pass-along – something easy and special to give to others.  Selecting Pass-along recipes to share on BigLittleMeals was a piece of cake (not to say there are going to be cake recipes!). It had to be Swedish Pancakes from my maternal grandmother, Annie Carlson, Pumpkin Pie O’Brien and Cinnamon Bread from Mom Hill, my paternal grandmother, and Sloppy Joe’s from my mother.  Sorry there are no recipes from the men in my family. Until we got to Andy, male cooks in the family were few and far between.  How times have changed.  Moss and Silas, our grandsons, pictured below, started cooking early!

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Moss enjoying Silas’s cooking (though now – 11 years later – it’s more likely that Silas is enjoying Moss’s cooking)

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Pass-along hand-written recipes – even more meaningful in this computer  age.  But what if you can’t read cursive?

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World Peace Cookies

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How ironic that this is the lagniappe blog we had scheduled for this week.  Read on:

What an approachable topic: World Peace.  And how easy to tie it into food.  Right! If you believe that I have another funny story to tell you.

After thinking about our last blog on Jerusalem – and its authors who believe hummus may be a food able to unify diverse groups, I got interested in Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies,  formerly known as Sables Korova.  I like the idea of world peace.  And I like a commenter’s comments found on Greenspan’s blog better than I like the official reason Greenspan changed the name: “The difference in the dough each time you make it is teaching us to be patient and accepting.  If we do that, everything turns out right in the end, just as the cookies do.”

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Patience is required

World Peace Cookies

  • Servings: makes about 36 cookies
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Dorie Greenspan’s recipe is meticulously detailed; I’ve tried to simplify it all a bit so it doesn’t seem quite so intimidating.  But beware, the recipe’s famously annoying traits may still exist – that is, crumbling instead of sticking together as you try to blend the ingredients and dough.  Just be accepting.  And patient.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably not Dutch process)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 T butter at room temperature (11 T total)
  • 2/3 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 c mini chocolate chips – definitely “mini”  Don’t even think about using regular sized – or you’ll not be a patient, happy person when you see the outcome.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Measure the flour by spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling it with something straight-edged like a spatula.

In a medium bowl, put the flour, cocoa, and baking soda and mix it together well with a whisk.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft, then add the brown sugar, white sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, carefully blend in the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking soda.).  Then beat again with the mixer for about 30 seconds.  You don’t want to overbeat.  Add the chocolate chips and mix in well with the spatula.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, gather it together into a ball, and divide it in half.  Shape each half into a log, about 1 1/2 ” in diameter.  It may be crumbly.  Be calm and carry on, pushing the crumbs back into the log as necessary.  Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours (or freeze them for later).  When you’re ready to bake, with a sharp knife (yes!) slice the logs into rounds which are about 1/2″ thick.  (Note: this is where my patience was tried.  The chocolate chips seemed to make the cutting difficult and I had lots of pieces of dough everywhere, rather than nice round slices.  As Greenspan suggested, I just gathered up the pieces and squeezed them back into something resembling a cookie.  I was at peace.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Arrange the cookies so there is about 1″ between them.  If you want to bake the whole batch of cookies at once, use two baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes (or 13 if your cookies were and still are frozen).  Put the baking sheet on a cooling rack and let the cookies cool until lukewarm before removing them.

Be prepared to eat more of them than you know you should.  We had to freeze ours quickly to make us stop snitching – and I don’t even like chocolate that much.  On top of that, we discovered they’re really delish when you sneak one out and eat it frozen!
Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

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.

 

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