Lagniappe: Skål! To Ina!

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One of my favorites of her cookbooks!  I want all my cooking done ahead of time.

Skål! To Ina! I’m thinking about last week’s blog and my Swedish grandparents.  And I’m thinking again about the very funny Instagram video – done on April 1st – of Ina Garten fixing a Cosmopolitan.  If you haven’t watched it, join the almost 3 million Instagram-viewers who have enjoyed it.  I think a lot of us can really relate!

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Highly-rated Absolut Vodka comes from Southern Sweden

For today’s Lagniappe blog we want to give you the down-sized version of Ina’s enormous cocktail, as well as one which another favorite food writer/blogger, David Lebovitz, calls the “next generation” Cosmopolitan – with more sophistication” – the Jasmine cocktail.

I’m wondering why David Lebovitz considers the Jasmine Cocktail to be more sophisticated.  Would having cochineal in our cocktail add that extra-special touch?  The Jasmine forgoes cranberry juice and instead relies on a red apéritif for its color.  And the red coloring in the fancy apéritifs being made in the U.S. right now are colored with cochineal, though Italy-based Campari quit using it over a decade ago – at least for sale in the U.S.

We first got interested in cochineal after a trip to Oaxaca, where it’s still sometimes used as a dye for their lovely textiles.  Scientific American has a good analysis of these useful little insects and Wired has another “colorful” article about them.  And, thanks to David in Albuquerque– who found it online, here’s the perfect video, explaining it all.

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from the Houston Museum of Natural Science

Even though Campari and Bordiga (another fancy Italian Aperitif brand) have quit using cochineal for their U.S. sold products, St George Spirits’ Bruto Americano (recommended by David Lebovitz), Leopold Bros’ Apertivo – based in the great state of Colorado! – and our local Sonoma Prohibition Spirits’ Spritz are using this natural coloring.

But whether you pick cranberry juice, Campari, or a squished-bug-colored apéritif,  gin or vodka, or Cointreau or triple sec, one of these cocktails is sure to provide a terrific toast to the end of another day of self-isolation.  If you’re alone, be sure to join up with someone via FaceTime, Houseparty, or Zoom.  If you have a mate sheltering with you, double – or even triple 🙂 – the recipe!  Skål!

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Ina’s Cosmopolitan

Ina's Cosmopolitan

Using cranberry juice cocktail – which is sweetened – works fine, but we prefer to use unsweetened cranberry juice and add a bit of simple syrup, if sweetening is needed.  We also try to limit our cocktails to about 2 oz of liquor, rather than the 3 oz many recipes call for.

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • about 2 tsp lime juice
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau (or triple sec)
  • 3/4 oz cranberry juice (I use unsweetened)

Add the vodka, lime juice, Cointreau, and cranberry juice to a cocktail shaker.

Fill the shaker halfway with ice. Shake for 15 to 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

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The Jasmine Cocktail with cochineal 🙂  Nice color, right?

Jasmine Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 oz gin (or substitute vodka)
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz triple sec (or Cointreau)
  • 1/4 oz bitter red apéritif, such as Bruto Americano, or Campari
  • 1 wide strip lemon zest, optional

Add the gin, lemon juice, triple sec, and bitter apéritif to a cocktail shaker.

Fill the shaker halfway with ice. Shake for 15 to 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a strip of lemon zest, if desired.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

 

 

Not My Mother’s Spaghetti

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The church in Ryssby, Sweden – where my grandmother, Anna Davis Carlson (Karlsson), grew up

Yes, my mother, born to parents who had immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden, fixed my brother and me spaghetti when we were growing up.  But I don’t remember having a jar of dried basil or dried oregano anywhere in our cupboard – or oregano and basil growing in our huge garden.  My mother’s spaghetti was pretty basic (but actually delicious).  You browned hamburger (as we called it then) and chopped green peppers and onions (no garlic – I never remember seeing a head of garlic in our kitchen), salted it all really, really well, added some canned tomatoes, and simmered it for a while.  And I’m guessing she browned the meat in lots of butter!  Surprisingly, we did always have a can of Kraft’s grated parmesan cheese on hand.  How fancy can you get!

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a 1960 Kraft ad

I adapted my mom’s recipe slightly and fixed it often over the years for our kids.

But after our two kids had grown up and moved away I decided that Asian noodles were way more “my” thing than pasta.  And so I quit cooking it.  Poor Andy.  He never shared my sentiment.  When – during the pandemic-filled March of 2020 – I saw the empty shelves at our local market where the pasta should have been, I realized that my eating habits aren’t in sync with the rest of the country’s.

And then that same week in March our daughter, Sara, called in a panic and said the grocery stores in San Francisco were also stripped bare of spaghetti and orecchiette and fettuccine and penne.  I offered to mail her some of our unused (and dated 2/05/2017) pasta.

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Brown Rice Lasagne Noodles – all that remained on a SF grocery shelf (thx, Joe, for the photo)

Clearly, I thought to myself, I have underestimated pasta and folks’ love of it – and I need to add recipes to the BigLittleMeals’ list!  So I decided to go to three very famous food writers (bloggers would be a misnomer; they’re way fancier than that!) and find out what some of their most popular pasta recipes are.  Then – much to Andy’s delight – we tested the pasta recipes and are reporting back.  In today’s Andy’s Corner Andy is puzzling over pasta!

For my food writers I chose Ina Garten (aka The BarefootContessa) and Melissa Clark and Alison Roman because all three are incredibly popular online.  And because they are from different generations and I thought their recipes and approach to cooking might reflect that somewhat.  I’ll admit that it’s odd that they’re all living in or near New York City.  Is that the hub of the U.S. food scene (as well as the coronavirus)?

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Ina Garten

Ina is just a little younger than I am.  Her cookbooks and writing seem to revolve around her life in the East Hamptons, her gorgeously set, formal dining table,  her perfectly manicured shrubs, and her husband Jeffrey, whom she met at the age of 15 and married at 20 (I still haven’t forgiven her for releasing a cookbook called Cooking for Jeffrey).  Her recipes are usually about as perfect as her life seems to be.  (A funny update: an April 1 Instagram video by Ina – which has “gone viral” – shows her fixing a g-normous Cosmopolitan and pouring it into a g-normous martini glass – all apparently for herself.  Plus, she looks shockingly normal – i.e., maybe a little weary?).

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Ina’s life

 

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Melissa Clark

Melissa Clark, a 1990 graduate of Barnard, is middle-aged. Her life appears to be a little messier and normal than Ina’s.  She’s divorced and remarried; she has a child still at home who requires her attention.  She seems unpretentious.  But, as with Ina, we know that if Melissa puts a recipe out there on the NYTimes, we can be pretty sure it’s going to work.  If you want to know more about her, here’s a nice article in The Columbia Magazine (Melissa received a Master’s degree in writing from Columbia).

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Alison Roman

Alison Roman is the millennial of this three-some.  She’s in her mid-thirties, single, living in a normal, modest-looking Brooklyn apartment with a teeny tiny kitchen.   Though she dropped out of UC Santa Cruz (same university our daughter graduated from) she’s gone on to be tremendously successful in the world of food (not to say our daughter isn’t also tremendously successful in the world of food! 🙂 ). One of Alison’s cookbooks is Dining In – the very name we use for our BigLittleMeals’ dinner parties (though our name came from the Vietnam-era military dinners, not from Alison’s cookbook).

The Cut – an online-magazine dedicated to “Style, Self, Culture, Power”- has called Roman “the domestic goddess of the apocalypse.”  Pretty impressive!  Her Twitter page shows she has 38,000 followers.  But, to be fair, Ina Garten has about 172,000 followers of her Tweets.

Yes, the pasta recipes from these three talented ladies are a far cry from my mother’s spaghetti.  Ina’s bolognese takes the basic ground beef and tomatoes recipe to a way fancier level, while keeping it all easy and quick to put together.  Melissa’s corn and pasta is probably not very Italian, but it works.  And when Alison caramelizes shallots and then dumps in some anchovies, the result….well, it has her Twitter followers going Tweet crazy!

I know you’re all dying to know which food writer’s pasta we loved most.  Andy picks Alison’s and I pick Melissa’s – but we both liked Ina’s too.  It’s a win win all the the way around.  Now if you can just find some pasta on your grocer’s shelves! Continue reading

Lagniappe – The Sour and The Sweet

“Please, God,” wrote The Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan on Twitter the other day, “someone do a sport so my boyfriend will stop talking about his sourdough starter.”

I can relate.

Admittedly, here in Glen Ellen, we’re looking at husbands, not boyfriends.  And Andy, the husband of this family, is not a sports fanatic; he’s a bit of a bicycling fanatic, and as long as the riders limit the numbers to a group of 3 or fewer (I love ya, Buck and Chris!) – bicycling is still allowed in Sonoma County.

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Travis’s Country Bread

But we’re still pretty restless around here, and, yes, the men in the family have taken up sour-dough bread baking with a lot of help from Chad Robertson and his Tartine Country Bread recipe.  Travis in Brooklyn has got it nailed, after approximately 20 loaves.  And with his help, Andy is beginning the – very long – process.  Here’s his starter, as it looked today:

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Andy’s sour dough starter – bubbling away (sort of)

Now it’s Andy, the bicyclist/baker writing here: While I am waiting for my starter to kick in so I can make bread, which I understand could take 4 or 5 more days of “feeding,” I have to continue my household breakfast-making obligation. Our mandatory shelter-at-home status has dramatically increased the pressure on me to come up with new and inspiring simple breakfast ideas.  I am pretty sure I am not suffering such anxieties alone. 

Hence, as a service to all breakfast makers during this purgatorial time I am offering a sweet, simple, and delicious suggestion to help reduce breakfast planning anxiety: Ginger Scones.  I’ve made them many times – which makes me the reigning expert on these guys in our household.  Though I’m best known for my biscuits – at least in the family – these scones are in a class of their own.

GINER SCONES WITH DATE SYRUP

Andy likes to add a drizzle of date syrup on his ginger scone; Ann likes hers with lots of butter, period.

Ginger Scones

  • Servings: makes about 18 scones
  • Print

Adapted from a Nancy Silverton recipe published in the NYTimes in 2000

  • 2 c flour – plus 1/4 c for processing the ginger
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) cold butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 1/2 oz candied ginger (about 2/3 c)
  • 3/4 c cream, plus extra for brushing the tops of the scones (half & half works too)

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, and baking powder, and pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the lemon zest and butter, and pulse on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Chop the ginger into 1/4″ pieces and then mix the 1/4 c flour into it to keep the pieces from clinging to each other.  OR better yet – put the ginger with 1/4 c flour in the food processor and pulse until you get 1/4″ pieces.

Stir the ginger into the flour/butter mixture. Make a well in the center and pour in the cream. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead a few times to gather it into a ball. Roll or pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut out the circles (I used a 2″ cutter), cutting as closely together as possible and keeping the trimmings intact.

Gather the scraps, pat and press the pieces back together, and cut out the remaining dough. Place the scones 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush the tops with the remaining cream.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the time to insure they bake evenly.  They are ready when they are golden brown – you want a little crunch on the edges. 

Leftovers freeze nicely.  Reheat frozen scones wrapped in foil at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.   Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Forecast: Cloudy and Cold – Followed by Sun and Warmth

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The irony of her holding a “Health Insurance” card is not lost on us.  Maybe they should have stayed in Mexico?

Ahhh to be a bird in flight to somewhere else at this moment.  Except we’re not sure where that somewhere would be.  Definitely to a sunny, warm (healthy) spot!

March is always such a bittersweet month – and even more so this crazy March of 2020.  The Snowbirds who winter in Mexico will soon start flying north, at least if they’re allowed to cross the Mexican border!  Speaking of Mexico, our Brooklyn kids just returned from a week split between Mérida in the Yucatan and Campeche on the Gulf Coast.  They highly recommend both.  And, fortunately, their flights home were without issue – but very very empty.  Speaking of kids and warmth, our daughter, Sara, just posted a touching blog about how the warmth of one customer helped ease the pain, as their Tacolicious restaurants were forced to close.

And speaking of flights, this interactive website from The National Geographic about birds’ migratory patterns is both lovely and fascinating.  Western Tanagers should be heading our Northern California direction about now.

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The Western Tanager

Our non-flying pet dogs and cats – who are currently cuddled up on warm wool blankets by toasty fireplaces – will soon be sprawled out in the summer sun.  And Andy, who is happily spending copious amounts of time in our warm basement – see today’s Andy’s Corner – will soon be happily gardening and fixing our drip systems (if you believe that, I have another funny story).

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OnoMoore and ChocoLatte are hanging out near each other ONLY because there’s a fire in our wood stove.

But for now, there’s still time to put another log on the fire and curl up next to it…or, if you’re a dog, take a romp through the snow.  Hope that seeing Rosie – a Bernedoodle who happens to live in Boulder, CO, with our friends – enjoying her wintry life might bring a smile!  Be sure to watch the very short video.

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Rosie and friend in the hills outside Boulder, Colorado

Our chilly weather last week here in Northern California inspired us to enjoy a bowl of chili.  Being wild and crazy and adventurous (and largely stuck in our house), we tried out a pound of Beyond Beef – which we found in a cooler near the fresh vegetables at Whole Foods and also frozen at our local Sonoma/Nugget market.  The resulting chili, quite frankly, was delicious…probably better than the burgers which we fixed with Beyond Burgers.

That cold spell was quickly followed by a 75 degree day.

Even in Colorado – some days this March have reached the high 60’s.  That’s warm enough for asparagus to start growing.  What could be more symbolic of spring for us food fanatics.  Andy and I have vivid memories of “stalking the wild asparagus” back on the Colorado farm where we lived when our kids were born.

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Stalking the wild asparagus – in Colorado!

So whether it’s chilly where you are – or warming up, we’ve got you covered.  For those frigid days, try today’s Beyond Beef chili recipe or one of our other super-duper chili recipes: MountainWestBob’s, Lamb and White Bean, Vegetarian Black Bean, and Not Your Mother’s.

In addition to today’s d-lish chili recipe, we suggest you to make a quick, hand-sanitizer-activated run to your market and pick up a bunch or two of asparagus.  And, believe me, after years of steaming or boiling asparagus, I can assure you the best possible way to fix it is neither of those.  Instead do this!  And once you’ve got a double-batch cooked (we KNOW you’re hoarding a little), make this salad.  If you want something more substantial, try one of these pasta or noodle recipes, which make great use of spring’s asparagus. Continue reading

Keep Your Pecker Up

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I’ve told you before about my favorite pet I had as a youngster – a rooster whom I named Pecker.  My mother tried to discourage that name but didn’t go into any details as to why.

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Pecker and me

Pecker’s involvement in this blog is a bit convoluted, but here goes:  as we all experience the impact of the spread of the coronavirus, Andy and I wanted to send out an extra blog – just hoping to offer something upbeat during this unsettling time.  We both thought of the expression – “Keep a stiff upper lip.” And then we both wondered how that expression came to be.

Lo and behold, the first thing that came up in a google search was this from a UK site: If you try to hold your upper lip stiff your facial expression will appear aloof and unsmiling, betraying little of any feeling you might be experiencing. That demeanour is the source of ‘keep a stiff upper lip’. The phrase is similar to ‘bite the bullet‘, ‘keep your chin up‘, and (to the amusement of many Americans) ‘keep your pecker up‘. 

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Our photograph of Queen Anne – in St. Paul’s Churchyard, London.  Anne ruled England from 1702-1714.  Andy says, “she managed to keep her pecker up through some rough times.”

This brings me to Janet, our English friend who lives in London.  Janet and I were emailing about the virus and checking in to see how everyone was holding up.   So it was easy for me to verify with her that even today in England – especially from us older folks – “Keep your pecker up!” might be offered as a bit of encouragement.  No blushing or giggling here; it’s just that “pecker” is the English slang expression for your chin  – or mouth or even nose.

So there you are – and that’s what Andy and I hope y’all can do.  Keep your pecker up.  And we hope thoughts about Pecker (RIP) will make you smile.   Out of respect for Pecker, we will avoid mentioning all of our good chicken recipes, but we will remind you of our appropriately-named Longevity Noodle recipe (which happens to have chicken in it – but also has shiitake mushrooms, which are supposedly helpful in fortifying your immune system).

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We ventured out long enough to replenish our stock of immune-helpful food items – including shiitake mushrooms.

And, in case you need another smile, be sure to read today’s Andy’s Corner.  He too is having a bit a snicker, remembering a canal trip we took in England a number of years ago.  And he’s the recipe-provider today!

Do your minds sink into the gutter when looking for humor in our lives  – and when stuck in the house 24/7?

Now carry on.

 

 

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