Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The List

The blogs and sites that I have listed to the right contain some of the best writing and photography I know. They are sites that I visit often. Some are fairly well known and some obscure, but I enjoy them all and hope others will, too. Here's a quick overview of the current sites:

Cheap and Cheerful - this is the site of the fabulous Maggie - writer extraordinaire! The whole focus of her site is in the name - inexpensive things (crafts, books, meals, etc.) that bring a smile. I first 'met' Maggie at eGullet, where she is a regular contributor. Maggie writes beautifully - especially about food and she's been
published in the 'real world' in Gastronomica and Best Food Writing of 2009. Maggie is one of my online friends that I wish lived next door.

Cook's Korner - probably my favorite food site. It was started by folks who were involved at eGullet (see below), so the set-up is similar, but it is much more intimate and personal. We are a fairly small group of regulars, so we've gotten to know one another. There are some extremely talented cooks at this site and a lot of knowledge.

Dealing in Subterfuges - I think that I found this site from some website that was making fun of Sandra Lee. I don't do 'snark' much, but I laugh guiltily at it when it's funny and clever. This blogger is both funny and clever. I see her around the internet at some food/tv sites and her contributions are very personal and recognizable. She's obviously much younger than me, so I don't always get her cultural references or share her interests, but when she's snarking on Sandy or doing a hilarious recap of Top Chef, there's no one better.

eGullet - this is another food site, the first one that I really got involved in. It's a lot larger and sometimes less personal than cookskorner, but when I need help with something, it's nice to have access to such a huge assortment of folks. The other members include home cooks and professionals - from all over the world. If you need a restaurant in Singapore or a store that sells Skippy Peanut Butter in Paris, they can help. Looking at the pictures and reading the process of dishes is interesting to me.

Goodreads - This is a website for readers. At it's simplest, it's a place to keep track of what you've read. You can rate and review books, make a 'to-read' list, see what other people thought of the book. You can also join groups and have friends and get updates - like on a social networking site. Your level of involvement is up to you. They have Q&A's with authors. I just participated in one with Alexander McCall Smith and it was fascinating.

Kim's Cookbook - this is just my online recipe collection. By and large, if I've made it in the last 20 years, it's in there. There are more than 1000 recipes and they are mostly tried and true. I've put a few family recipes in there that were given to me that I haven't tried yet. The host site, The Recipe Circus, is a wonderful tool - free recipe storage, a search function and connection to their food website (Mimi's Cyber Kitchen at right), a fun and friendly community of home

Lawn Tea - This blog is a special, special place. I honestly don't know how to do Rachel, at Lawn Tea justice. She's the mother I dearly wish I had been, the grandmother that I pray I can be someday and the friend I aspire to be. Her writing can be hilariously funny, poignant, heartbreaking - but it is always compelling and captivating and TRUE. She started out as one of my 'invisible internet friends' (what I used to call The Child's online friends - I considered them one notch up from imaginary friends - people like Rachel and Maggie have made me reconsider that stance) on eGullet. I was irresistibly drawn to her writing and personality and magic. We connected on that shared food and country upbringin' Southern girl level (I was born in Washington DC and raised in suburban Alexandria VA, but spent every summer of my young life on my grandparent's farm in Reidsville NC) - she is Southern to the bone. We started trading emails back and forth, discovering even more shared interests and tastes. For Christmas 2008, Mr. Kim gave me a trip to see Rachel and we went out to see her and her family in the spring of 2009. This was one of the loveliest gifts I've ever received - both from Mr. Kim and Rachel herself. You know, it's kind of a weird thing that we did - traveling over 600 miles to meet people that you've never laid eyes on. Rachel and her husband, Chris could be excused for wondering who these odd, stalkery people were. Instead, they were the personification of generosity and hospitality. Chris spent time finding and investigating a beautiful B&B for us. He and Rachel planned and cooked and welcomed us into their midst like we were family. If you want to read about that wonderful trip, you can see my report and a link to Rachel's (MUCH better version) report here: . For me, the day that Rachel started her blog Wednesday, November 12, 2008 was like Christmas and Easter and Birthday all wrapped up in one wonderful package. I get an almost daily dose of the gentle, wry and beautiful writing and reminiscences that I so love. Of all of the sites that I visit and enjoy, Lawn Tea is my favorite.

Meandering - This is the blog of one of my dearest friends from high school. Jeff majored in botany in college and runs his own company - Jeff Minnich Garden Design. He's a wonderful designer and writer - funny and wise.

Pioneer Woman - one of the first bloggers that I started following. Ree, the author is an amazing person - a wonderful writer, cook, photographer - the list goes on and on. She's someone that I would hate if I didn't love her so much. Following the story of this city girl turned ranch wife is fascinating and laugh out loud funny.

Suck Out All the Marrow - The Child's blog. She is a wonderful writer, with smarts and wit and a thoughtful quality to her writing that slays me. She has, however, only posted one message on her blog since she started it in March this year, so perhaps not as prolific as a mother would wish :^).

The Spamwise Chronicles - This blog writer is someone that I 'met' on both eGullet and cookskorner. He lives in NYC (one of my daydreams) and is a wonderful, healthful, and imaginative cook. Just reading this blog will make you want to run out to the nearest farmer's market and get busy. He's truly inspiring.

Whenever I read a really crappy book (since I am a voracious reader this happens rather a lot), I marvel that stuff like that gets publish and people make money from it, yet these amazing writers that I've mentioned above write for free. By the click of a button, we have access to smart, funny, incredibly talented people. Gratis. And then, when I'm feeling discouraged about the state of our culture, finally, someone in the publishing business noticed Ree at Pioneer Woman and she has a book out now, with the possibility of more soon. There is hope, after all.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

We Have Guests

Look what appeared just beside our front door yesterday:

There is even a wee key on the top for absent-minded fairies:

We’ve apparently been approved by the FHA (Fairy Housing Authority). We are humbled by the honor. (Well, I am – Mr. Kim and The Child seem bemused, at best.) I first heard of angel doors at Rachel’s blog:
This charming post and pictures made me long for a visit from the fairies.

The story and pictures at Urban Fairy Operations:
a wonderful site full of the fairy doors of Ann Arbor, Michigan (apparently a hotbed of pixie activity – who knew?), made me dare to hope for a fairy door of mine own.

Ours are presumably top drawer and sophisticated wee folk, judging from the formality of the door and the brass fittings. What they found attractive in our slapdash and unkempt home is a mystery. But I’m just glad they did.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday Breakfast

Breakfast this morning was a lamb hash recipe that I developed with help from a roast beef hash recipe in Saveur magazine. We had some leftover lamb from Mr. Kim’s last smoking project and he suggested making hash. I am really glad that he had that thought.

My mise:

Chopped lamb and potatoes.

Finely minced onion and garlic.

There was also some chopped Benton bacon, Penzey’s Lamb Seasoning (I LOVE this stuff), nutmeg, S&P, Italian parsley and those weirdo plastic wrap poached eggs.

The bacon is slowly rendered and then set aside. I sauteed the potatoes in the bacon grease until browned:

Added the onions and let them get soft and browned.

Then lamb, Penzey’s, a couple of scrapes of nutmeg and salt and pepper, to taste:

Good, huh? I’m not finished yet. I forgot to say that there is also 1/2 a cup of heavy cream. I really like gilding the lily.

Put the cream in and let it reduce and make a nice crust on the hash. Serve topped with poached eggs:

We also had CSA cantaloupe, CSA Hanover tomatoes, cherries and some good seed bread that we got at Whole Foods:

This was a Big Fork meal. So good. The lamb has such deep, rich flavor and then adding the bacon makes the taste really BIG! You can find the whole recipe at:
(copy and paste - I STILL haven't figured out how to make the link icon work)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sunday Brunch

We hosted a brunch Sunday for friends and family. The guests were Mr. Kim’s parents and our good friends the McMahons. Momma and Ted planned to come up this weekend, but just couldn’t manage the drive. We all missed them so much – they are very popular with the Richmond crowd.

It was a very win-win occasion. I got to have a cooking orgy on Saturday and Sunday, my house got clean (we are terrible about using company as an excuse to finally do all those chores that should be done weekly) and everyone got a good visit and a good meal.

Daddy and Katie gave me a subscription to Cuisine at Home magazine, a publication I really love. They have no ads, the recipes are well explained and clear and I’ve had success with every recipe I’ve ever tried. I found an issue in my magazine stack from April 2010 that I don’t remember seeing before and it had a lot of interesting looking brunch recipes. Lots of what I did for Sunday was from this issue.

Lots of pictures of this day – so Momma and Ted can feel like they were here.

The table:


We started with a pitcher of Lemonade Sangria:

Really refreshing. Mr. Kim accused me of pulling a Sandra Lee with ‘choking hazards’ in my drinks!

Doughnuts from the new doughnut shop near us, “Daylight Doughnuts”:

They were pretty good, but nowhere near as good as Country Style in the East End. Plus the fact the Daylight Doughnuts is a chain and Country Style locally owned.

Benedict Baskets w/ Julia Child’s blender hollandaise:

These were great. English muffin baskets with eggs, Swiss cheese, spinach and tomato. Everyone loved them.

Breakfast kebabs:

Bacon, sausage and ham kebabs glazed with pecan-maple syrup, apple jelly and cinnamon.

Genius! Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of THIS before. Pork sticks!!!

Steamed shrimp w/ cocktail sauce:

Mike’s smoked leg of lamb and Yogurt-garlic-mint sauce:

Hanover tomatoes:

Marinated cucumbers:

Fruit salsa and pie crust chips:

I confess that the geometry of the chips was a challenge to me. The directions said, “Cut into 8 wedges. Cut each wedge into 4 triangles.” I almost cut each wedge into LONG, SKINNY wedges. But then I realized that I needed to cut off the tip of the wedge to make one triangle and cut the bottom of the wedge into the other three triangles. This will be obvious to a person of normal intelligence, but I felt extremely proud of myself

Hot potato salad:

Tiny red skinned potatoes baked in a sauce of cream cheese, Cheddar, buttermilk and herbs. Another popular dish – everyone wanted the recipe for this one.

Purchased mini croissants:

Dessert was Pots du Crème and Limeade Pie w/ Tart Cherry Sauce:

I’ve done this recipe a couple of times before. It’s a Pioneer Woman recipe and amazingly good and easy. It’s all done in a blender with super hot milk or coffee. Incredibly smooth and rich.

Really rich and creamy and refreshing. The cherry sauce was too thick – I misread the amount of cornstarch!


Once we were replete, the rest of the afternoon stretched out with quiet conversation and FOOTBALL (real, actual Amurican football – NOT that shortpants girlie-boy stuff they play ELSEWHERE) since the wonderful, amazing cableguy, Kevin, came by to install the HD on SUNDAY morning. It was NFL reruns, of course. But that will do until August. (My writing style relies WAY too much on commas and dashes.)

We missed you Momma and Ted! And I wish Daddy and Katie had been here, too! I miss all my parents.

A Delicious Birthday!

Friday, July the 9th was my 51st birthday. I am now closer to 100 than I am to zero. Gah. I have noticed an odd obsession lately. I don't know if it's because I work with so many old patients or because I have been anticipating tripping over that 51. I notice how old people are and at what age they die. I get very cheerful when a couple in their 80's comes into the office. But notice and feel anxious when someone is widowed in their 60's. We watch/listen to one of the cable music channels on TV when we go to sleep at night. Our station of choice plays swing - mostly 30's and 40's music. They put little blurbs about the artist on the bottom of the screen and when I'm not quite ready to shut my eyes, I'll read them. Often, because of how old the music is, the artist will be deceased and they will give the dates of his birth and death. I will be lying there idly reading/half dozing and do the math in my limited little brain. Now I know that jazz musicians are not the best demographic group to check for longevity. They weren't the healthiest living folks on the planet - all that travel and bad food and late nights and COCAINE took it out of them. But it still gives me mental hives. Fats Waller died at 32 and Chick Webb at 34! Jack Teagarden died at 59 (only 8 years older than Mr. Kim and I - though Mr. Kim would hasten to point out that HE is still only 50 and will be until next month) and Gene Krupa at 64. Louis Armstrong and Erskine Hawkins were old men at 70 and 79 respectively. This is not a healthy habit for me.

Mental hives not withstanding; I had a fabulous, food-filled birthday. The one disappointment was that Momma and Ted weren't able to make the trip. They were just not up to the drive. They were supposed to be here for the whole weekend, so we missed them a lot. Mr. Kim was off work and I got off at noon, so he took me to lunch at Secco - a wine bar in Carytown. I'd been hearing about it and read a wonderful review on the blog River City Food and Wine, so I was looking forward to it.

Really nice looking place and friendly, helpful staff:

We even saw one of our favorite servers from Cafe Rustica.

Mr. Kim and I started out with a glass of 2008 Boulay Sancerre Loire, France. Described as: "quintessential Sauvignon blanc with bright florals and citrus aromas underscored by mineral laden texture":

Lovely wine - my favorite for the past year. We shared an assortment of cheeses and meats:

The two preserves are kumquat and rhubarb.

Caromont Old Green Mtn. - a wonderful Virginia goat cheese with a strong herb tang.

Truffetto from Italy. A truffled semi-soft sheep and cow cheese. This was a truly rich tasting cheese.

Valdeon - a cave aged Spanish bleu. This was my favorite. Amazingly rich and stinky and deeply flavored.

Two hams:

Prosciutto San Daniele DOP Italian 14 month cure. Probably the best prosciutto I've ever tasted. So much deli prosciutto (even good delis) is sticky and stringy and this was positively NOT. Moist and tender and full of flavor.

Jamon Serrano - Spanish 18 month riserva. Salty and sweet and rich and perfectly cured.

Gorgeous and delicious.

Our server brought us a piece of the schiacciata (a foccacia-like Tuscan flatbread):

Really nice crumb and BIG pieces of sea salt that just burst into wonderful saline goodness with each bite.

We also shared this:

Pork confit, kumquat preserves and blue de causses on a crusty baguette. Great sandwich with a really rich porkiness. The preserves were just perfect with it. I suspect that they accidentally left off the cheese, though. We didn't even remember that it was supposed to be there until we reread the menu at home and neither of us tasted it. Even the little toss off side salad was perfect. Intensely fresh and incredibly balanced between sweet and bitter greens. It was dressed with the lightest vinaigrette - almost not there, but perfect.

With the sandwich, Mr. Kim had a glass of Gamba di Pernice, a dry red wine from the Monferrato region:

A big, complex wine.

I had:

A glass of 2008 Jose Pastor Lamilla, a Spanish red from the Alicante region. I'm not knowledgeable about wine, especially reds, but this was delicious with the pork confit.

It was a long, leisurely, chatty, nibbly lunch - just the kind I like. We had nothing to do except go home and get ready for dinner out, so we could take our time and enjoy our afternoon.

Mr. Kim and I are quite ignorant about wine, but really interested in learning more. Secco seems like the kind of place that would welcome helping us learn, and would be good at it. And not just to sell us some wine. They all seem sincerely excited about what is going on there. While we were there, a former coworker of Mr. Kim's stopped by for lunch. He was alone and sat at the bar, obviously having a comfortable chat with the staff. He might have heard Mr. Kim mention my birthday, because in a lovely gesture, he dropped a bottle of wine off at our table. We'll be back to Secco. If we lived close enough, we would certainly become regulars.

My birthday dinner was at Bouchon, a fairly new French Bistro that Mr. Kim and The Child had had lunch at. It was the three of us and Mr. Kim's parents. Unfortunately his stepmom had a bad headache and couldn't join us. I liked the food a lot and everyone else seemed to like theirs, too. The service was good and the restaurant was attractively decorated. It was very dark, so my pictures aren't worth posting. I started with the escargot. If snails are on the menu, I'm going to get them. And the fact that the restaurant is a French bistro just enforces that. My main was skate w/ spinach. This was just beautiful. The texture and flavor were perfect. I love skate, but don't often have the opportunity to have it. My dessert was a wonderful little chocolate pate. A deep, rich little rectangle of gooey chocolate perfection with a meringue on one side and a puff of whipped cream on the other. In the center was a perfect slice of candied orange peel. It seemed almost dehydrated - really interesting. I'd like to figure out how to do that.

The Child started with Mini Comte Cheese Raviole w/ Cream Truffle Sauce - Beautiful tiny pasta pillows filled with cheese and the truffle sauce was so deep and rich. Her main was Veal Tenderloin w/ lemon garlic, hot pepper, rosemary, white wine and potato gratin. I thought this was very good and that the gratin was one of the best I've ever had. My father in law had the same main course. These dishes arrived at the table cold. They very nicely returned it to the kitchen and brought it back hot, but it was a slip. For dessert she had the creme brulee. Unfortunately not very successful. It was too thin - in both meanings of the word. It was not as firm as it should have been and not deep enough. It should have been served in a smaller and deeper dish. Also the brulee was overdone in most places and there was an unpleasant burnt flavor.

Mr. Kim and his mom started with a cream of chanterelle soup that even I liked. It was just a beautiful soup - smooth and rich and deeply flavorful. They both also had the same main course, Grilled Arctic Char w/ white wine, artichoke, onion, carrot and pistou. This was delicious. Mr. Kim said the fish was so good that he didn't even need the artichokes.

It was a lovely, lovely day. Even though I am a suburb dweller, I am by nature a city girl. All of my favorite restaurants and shops and neighborhoods are in the city. I can remember being utterly broke in college and as a young wife and mother, but still loving living in the Fan. I always hope that the people who do live there truly appreciate just how fortunate they are. To live in a home that has architectural interest and integrity. To be able to walk to little food stores and shops and restaurants. And I am lucky to live near enough that I can experience it whenever I want.

The lovely day didn’t end there. When we got home The Child and Mr. Kim gave me my presents. A 10X lens for my camera and a laptop! Now there is no excuse for me not becoming a powerhouse blogger (well, except for that tendency towards indolence and a lack of writing talent).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cucumber Time!

Marinated cucumbers are a summer staple of every Southern refrigerator I’ve ever known. Mr. Kim came home from the farm stand with a pile of cucumbers Saturday, so I knew it was cucumber time.

Sliced cucumbers:

I use the little pickling cukes – the skin is a little tougher, but they hold up better and are less wet than regular salad ones. I confess that one thing is missing from this ‘tutorial’ – onions! I did these in between making a bunch of things to take to the Independence day celebration we attended and somehow they got left out. I didn’t realize it until this morning and will go up and slice up some onions and dump them in.

LOTS of pepper:

These need huge amounts of freshly cracked pepper. That might not be enough.

Then dump on sugar (or in this case Splenda):

Lots of sugar, too.

Cover with vinegar:

I have always used cider vinegar, but some of my eGullet friends use white vinegar or rice wine vinegar. I’m going to try a small batch of rice wine vinegar cukes this year. I love radishes done that way.

I’ll taste these every day for a week and adjust the sugar and pepper – you never add enough at the beginning. Slowly they “pickle” and turn into a sweet, sour crunchy addition to a nice dinner plate of corn, tomatoes and some meat (meat and threes, indeed!). Every week or so I’ll add another sliced cucumber and maybe some onion, and finally at the end of the summer, we’ll eat the last one and sigh for the loss of them on the plate, but by then our appetites will be running to stews and braises and casseroles! These cucumbers, along with tomatoes, corn, crab and grilled meat and fish just mean summer to me.