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Improvisation

March 07, 2006

The ultimate carrot recipe for kids: copper pennies (my way)

Someone I know was looking for carrot recipes that "even the most finicky kid would eat" today, which brought to mind one of my "not quite a recipe" dishes: Copper Pennies

My first memory of Copper Pennies comes from The Dunes restaurant in Grayland, WA. The Dunes, marked on highway 101 by only an eight-foot tall statue of an...ahem, erect...Geoduck, was unpretentious, serving whatever had been caught that day, and only that, prepared in one of several ways (fried, baked, sauteed in butter), with the same couple of not terribly inspired sides for every meal. (have you looked at the Geoduck yet? if not, go...now. I'll wait. tick tick tick Did you look? Worth the click, huh? Now imagine it eight feet tall. And going there at sixteen on a date.)

I am sure that by today's sometimes haughty standards, it would be considered quaint...or worse, but it was fresh, honest food that traveled only a few miles to my plate. I like my fish that way: live this morning, and dinner tonight.

And the pies. Oh. My. Goodness. The pies! It was like having Sunday dinner with company coming at Grandma's house, if your Grandma happened to have fishing boats delivering daily and a staff of prep cooks. (and if yours did, I am totally jealous!)

Although the place is now, sadly, gone in a fire, I can still recall, however, sitting at one of those window tables nibbling on the chilled, sweet and sour carrots while waiting for the freshest seafood and the good-enough-to-be-mandatory blackberry pie, made with the tiny wild blackberries that I'd seldom bother to pick myself but coveted when others did the work for me.

I haven't looked but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a thousand recipes for Copper Pennies. They are sweet and just the right size for little people's hands, yet they don't really have a lot of added sweetener. It's more like the vermouth in a good dry martini, where (according to one of my favorite descriptions) "the word 'vermouth' should merely be mentioned loudly enough to make the gin cringe." I think that holding the brown sugar open near the pan of cooking carrots is almost enough.

Okay, I take it back, I just looked and apparently the "classic Copper Pennies" are made with canned tomato soup and marinated for days in the refrigerator. Now I am sorry I looked, I am sorry I even wondered. No, I am not going to link to any of them, it's all too disillusioning.

I've found that these are readily adaptable to whatever seasonings are on hand and sounding tempting. They are also great for encouraging kids to experiment with flavors. Carrots are pretty forgiving and cheap enough that if you create something really disgusting you can toss it without feeling wasteful.

(recipe after the jump)

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February 11, 2006

a pound and a half of chocolate pastry filling

Cherryblossoms3 Those cherry blossoms were out in Seattle about two weeks ago. In January. In one of the rainiest Januaries in a really, really long time. I barely got the picture between squalls. It has little reason for being here, no attachment to the rest of the post, it's simply a lovely cntrast to the rest of what I've been looking at lately. Like the kitchen.

The kitchen is littered with brown golf balls. Puffy, irregular, cracked, chocolate golf balls. Looks like a chocolate Easter bunny played 9 holes before getting distracted and wandering off. A dozen or more — actually a lot more — discarded chocolate-espresso puffs, mostly torn to reveal gummy insides (gasp) cover much of the counter. What's left is either smeared with chocolate filling or dusted with chopped praline. Except for the pile of drying orange zest. I'd take a picture, but I'd just get the camera dirty.

When I made the big batch of the Mud Puffs yesterday, I guessed at the actual quantity of filling that would be needed. Apparently I guessed high. Quite a bit high. Leaving me with a pound or two of disgustingly rich chocolate orange pastry filling pressing need to make it go away to a place that doesn't make my jeans tighter.

What to do. What to do.

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February 05, 2006

mud puffs v.1

Mudpuffs031evenTinierTown's roads look a lot like the contents of the Cuisinart. Although it is notably missing the rocks and trees.

Today is the seventh day of the slides. Road-blocking, life-rearranging slides. The state's web site says "road closed until further notice," which doesn't sound all that bad, it's only one road, after all, you can always choose another route. From here, that involves a ferry, followed by an hour's drive through another state (on another road that has issues) and a bridge back across the river. Or I could drive "around," that being an extra three hours over roads that have had water over them at times for the last week or three. Because the hour and a half out of the way "around" is closed due to the road buckling a few weeks back. Unless it's like the other day when the road was closed in all directions within a couple of miles from my house.

But I digress.

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February 03, 2006

homemade sweet potato chips

Today was the day to go through the kitchen and use up odds and ends of food stuff, starting with a solitary sweet potato. Part of it went into a beef stew, because we're on day bazillion (or is it a bazillion and one?) of the rain and it cried for something to fill the air with the fragrant promise of slow cooked food.

Swpotatochips The other half of the sweet potato was peeled, sliced (with a 2mm Cusinart blade, but a mandoline or a sharp knife would do fine), parboiled for ~3 min, briefly plunged into ice water, dried on a paper towel, fried in just enough peanut oil to float them until lightly crispy, then sprinkled with salt mixed with a bit of very smoky spanish paprika.

It makes a very tasty bite, particularly if you get to them while they are still warm. I could see these being a hit at parties, especially if you have the kind of friends who would enjoy gathering around the stove to take turns frying small batches.

This was going to be a scientific experiment wherein I refrigerated some of the parboiled potatoes to determine how far ahead of serving you could effectively prep them. It was a great theory, but they sort of disappeared. Quickly.

January 15, 2006

Black Lentil and Pork Stew



Smbayhail
Day 26. No, day 27. I could be writing the flood journal companion to Mrs D's flu journal. The rains came. And they stayed. Seattle  has a over a foot...so far. Down here in evenTinierTown, we're easily at double or triple that — we got a foot in 3-4 days a week or so ago. Not much blog-worthy food happening here, it's too dark to take pictures, so I keep putting certain dishes on hold for a sunny day.

As if.

Case in point: Just as the sun was starting it's slide behind the Willapa Hills ridgeline to the west, the clouds broke enough that it was visible. I doubt I've actually seen the sun on any of those 26...no, 27 days. I scurried to grab my camera and scurried back. Took maybe 90 seconds. Two minutes max. Hurried and scurried. To take this picture of the bay tree. See those white blotches? Hail. Yep, hail.

All of which puts me in the mood for comfort food. Some of which would be hard to come by around here right now — one side effect of all this rain is flooded roads and landslides so it's been a while since I went to a grocery store. Luckily, some of my comfort foods leans heavily towards warm, spicy, earthy soups and stews paired with homemade bread.      

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January 03, 2006

amaretto and apples and almonds, oh my!

Applecakestuff

If one subscribes to Kevin's theory that the first meal you eat in the new year sets a sort of precedent  — and it seems like a great belief as it excuses many an indulgent meal on the first day of the year  — then my year is off to an excellent start. Some good friends called and invited us up for impromptu "pizza and whatever else was handy" dinner.

Armed with a few hours lead time, I turned to The Breadbaker's Apprentice for a quick pizza dough (my usual one takes a starter, thus more than a couple of hours). The dough wasn't my favorite, it was a pain to shape and tore far too easily for me to adopt it as a standard recipe. Then again, it was the first time I've used that recipe so I really should give it another chance. My ever-trusty freezer yielded some marinara sauce (which I make a vat of every few months and freeze) which went on two of the pizzas (the other had a pesto sauce) along with a collection of lightly sauteed veggies and some excellent pork sausage that the other guests brought.

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September 27, 2005

Fish Tail Soup

This one's for Shauna, just because she's making soup and I really want an excuse to use this photo. I've been collecting things in the freezer lately and needed to clear out some space so I thought I'd start with the largest single item I could lay my hands on: the remnants of a 40 pound sturgeon. I made a very simple fish stock, partially because it offers the widest range of options if it's made without lots of additional flavors and partially because I had a lame selection of vegetables in the house. This will end up as the base for some sort of fish stew shortly.

Fishtailsoup2

Recipe:

  1. Take one sturgeon, butcher, toss head and tail in garbage bag and freeze.
  2. Remove from freezer and realize that it's huge and won't fit into any reasonable sized pot.
  3. Sigh deeply and pull out canning pot.
  4. Fill with gallons of water because the fish must be at least mostly covered.
  5. Add fish parts, leeks, onion, bay, thyme, lovage and salt.
  6. Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally while trying not to notice the fish's baleful stare from its watery grave. (be glad I am only posting a picture of the tail)
  7. Shudder.
  8. Strain liquid into largest stockpot in house.
  9. Grab second stockpot because first is aboout to overflow.
  10. Search desperately for bag to hold the now disintegrating fish head and tail.
  11. Stick bag with fish in canning pot and slap lid on quickly in futile hope of containing the smell just a bit.
  12. Realize that everything will actually fit into one pot. Add second (or is that third) stockpot to ever-growing pile on counter.
  13. Simmer stock to reduce to some reasonable quantity, thereby releasing approximately a gallon and a half of highly aromatic fish-water into in-house atmosphere.
  14. Look at clock, realize it's closer to dawn than midnight, turn up heat on stock, enhancing the olfactory experience.
  15. Open kitchen window to vent smell, while turning off kitchen lights so the flying things that are smaller than the screen won't get any bright ideas. turn up heat some more.
  16. Decide that this is going to take longer than it seems like it should. Prepare ice water bath for stock, making as much noise as possible in the process so as to annoy the sleeping person.
  17. Cool stock and stick it in fridge to deal with in the morning in hopes that the oil on top will solidify a bit and make it easier to skim. (note to self: fish oil is liquid at pretty much any temperature you can hope to produce in the typical kitchen)
  18. Fall into bed in total exhaustion just as the dawn light begins twinkling in the eastern sky.
  19. Next morning, decide to get started on cleaning while water is on to boil for first cup of tea and remove lid from canning pot, totally forgetting about the fish that's been in it at room temperature for the last 12 hours.
  20. Shudder...no, really shudder...

(this recipe has been included in And They Cook, Too, a fundraising cookbook for Doctors Without Borders...check it out for both recipes and amusement...)

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