My photo
, Wyoming
Thanks for visiting Sauce du Jour. Feel free to share a great recipe, leave a comment, or make me dinner. I'll bring hors d' oeuvres and the wine! To visit my website go to Thanks for visiting the Sauce ~Tammi

Dec 31, 2010

What I Know For Sure About Mooring

This is Part One of Who Knows How Many of “Really Important Things I’ve Learned While Living on a Boat.”
     Let’s talk about mooring, since it is appears to be a really big deal in boating circles. It involves The Big Guy driving the boat up super close to a little floaty ball, which I am supposed to lean over and catch with a hook that is attached to an expensive pole that can be anywhere from 3 feet to 30 feet long. Big pointed out that since this pole is aluminum, it is breakable, so to be careful when I laid it down. I think what he meant to say, was to be careful when I dropped it. Not taking any chances of falling overboard I stretched the sucker out to the full 30 feet, which meant I could barely point it at the mooring ball, which I had previously been instructed that I was supposed to do, as we were approaching it. Get this; not only was I to point the stick at the ball, but I was to use certain hand signals that told Big how close we were to it. None of those hand signals were supposed to include the middle finger. Mooring ball etiquette, I guess. Yeah right. By the way, he was doing the hard work of steering the boat.
     Well, and I shit you not, I hooked that ball on the first attempt. Beginners luck? I think not; I hooked it again on the second attempt, which by the way, was only minutes after my first attempt. Ditto on my third and fourth. I should mention that while I have no natural talent for actually pulling the fat, soaking wet rope out of the water, I am quite gifted at hooking it. Come to think of it, I may have even been born to hook a mooring ball!
     This is where it gets tricky, because it is not easy to carefully lay down a 30 foot aluminum pole when about 100 pounds of slimy rope is hanging off the end of it. It is much more efficient to just drop it and tune out any swear words that may be coming from the helm station where, did I mention, The Big Guy is busy steering the boat.
 Here are a few other things I’ve learned regarding mooring:
. It is probably best to not be wearing a really cute sun dress while leaning over the front of a catamaran trying to hook a mooring ball
. You will break a nail
. Skidding across the trampoline on your knees will leave a mark, and
. No matter how you tie up the mooring line, the guy steering the boat will re-tie it.
After all that hard work, I slacked and made us something easy for dinner; mushroom-swiss burgers, roasted potates with chives and truffle salt and fresh green beans with grape tomatos.   No recipe required.  I'll post one next time! 

Dec 22, 2010

Dream Big or Stay Home

So what do you do when your dream finally comes to fruition? I’ll tell you, but first let me back up about two decades.
     It was sometime in the early 1990’s when The Big Guy and I started on a visionary path that would lead us to December 2010. I even kind of remember the day, when out of the blue (because that’s how I pretty much roll), I came up with the crazy idea that we should someday buy a boat and start a vacation yacht charter business. Big didn’t immediately get on board. He gave me that look. You know the one—the one that says are you smoking crack?  So I put down the pipe and started feeding him the idea a little at time. I peppered it in with how we loved the Caribbean, reggae, rum punch, and scuba diving; not to mention the fact that we knew how to throw a damn good party. It was a no brainer in my book. Big eventually took the bait so I reeled him right on in.
     A few months later we began what has been an obsession with yachts, islands and duty free shopping. We went to Florida once or twice a year to the yacht shows and we hob-nobbed with mega yacht owners, like we actually had the money to buy one, when truthfully, in the 90’s we could have barely afforded to fill up the fuel tank. Yet we kept our nose to the grindstone and our eye on the prize.
     We spent the next ten years or so doing what I like to call, for tax purposes, "reseach". We traveled to the Caribbean every chance we got, took sailing lessons, went on couple of yacht charter vacations, drank some Painkillers and yes, bought a lot of duty free jewelry. We never missed an opportunity to bore our friends with our incessant plans to one day own our own boat. Had this been a poker tournament we were all in!
     Then one day the wind was let out of my sails when a friend said to me that she believed that we would never really buy a boat; that we just liked talking about it. Her prediction briefly rocked my little dream world because it had never before occurred to me that we wouldn’t someday, somehow, make this happen. It got me to thinking though, could she be right? Was this always just going to be something that we talked about and never did? The answer to that question was that it didn’t matter if we ever bought a boat or not. What mattered was that for 15+ years (or more than half of our married life), we shared a dream, and together we believed we were on course for it.  At night we lay awake and talked about it; together we looked at boats and made friends with yacht owners and brokers. In our minds we were always perusing it.
     So back to my original question...what do you do when your dream finally comes to fruition?  Well, in my case, I grab my swimming suit, sunglasses, Elvis, and straw hat and head to the islands. There is a rum punch with my name on itthe sun is going down and The Big Guy is already there waiting for me. I can see him now, he is sitting on the back ouf our boat, tying a bow on a dream. 

 Having a dream is just as important 
as fulfilling a dream.
Come on down to the British Virgin Islands for some fun, sun, sailing, diving and boat drinks! Book your trip now and we'll give you the Friends & Family discount, PLUS we'll waive the nuisance tax!  You're all invited...what are you waiting for?
(12/22 ~ ♥ Happy 32nd anniversary, honey! ♥ Thanx for making it happen! ♥ Put some champagne on ice, I'll see you soon.♥)

Dec 15, 2010

The Dumplin Eater's Spoon

I see my great grandmother’s hands.  She wears a gold band on her ring finger.  It’s loose and worn thin, having been on that finger for almost 70 years, even though her husband has been dead for nearly 60 of them.  Her skin is paper thin, with blue veins bulging at the surface.  Brittle nails with white ridges running vertically, are filed to a point.  There is no dirt underneath.  She stands over a pan—a knee is bent to compensate for the pain in a previously broken hip.  Her hand is wrapped around the handle of a long wooden spoon and she stirs, non stop, for hours.  The aroma of apple and cinnamon, and maybe cloves, fill the small kitchen, as piles of apple peels and cores fill newspapers that cover a kitchen table.  She is making apple butter.
     I see my grandmother’s hands.  Plump fingers, with sheer pink colored nails and no jewelry, save for a wedding ring that looks to be two sizes to small and seems to be permanently embedded into her ring finger.  Her husband has been dead longer than I’ve been alive.  She stands over a stove, her ankles are thick and her legs sturdy.  This woman can walk five miles in one afternoon, carrying two brown paper bags loaded with groceries, and never tire.  What she can’t do is put more than three ingredients together.  She drags an old wooden spoon through a pan of macaroni.  No cheese, just ketchup is stirred in.
Chicken & Dumplins
My mom's recipe
     I see my mother’s hands.  Inherited, strong and busy hands—hands with short fingers and even shorter finger nails—hands that wear too many chunky turquoise rings and not enough sunscreen.  They are hardworking, but soft and soothing, all at the same time.  One hand wraps around an old wooden spoon, as it stirs Koolaid and berries into a something that will become jelly.  Then later in the day it mixes flour and water, just to please a granddaughter with an insatiable appetite for chicken and dumplins.
     I see my own hands.  Diamond rings mark anniversaries, making me look privileged; chipped nails, dry cuticles and cuts from dull knives tell the truth.  An old wooden spoon goes around a pan of polenta, couscous or that the women who held this same spoon before me, have never heard of, much less stirred.  Food that the chicken and dumplin eater won’t touch.
     This old wooden spoon once belonged to my great grandmother and I can't picture one without the other.  They are both family.  It’s worn down to a nub from more than 5 decades of stirring.  After my mom died I thought that my dad had the spoon, in fact I was certain that I had used it many times while cooking for him, when I was at his house.  The day after he died I cleaned out his kitchen, never once giving the spoon a thought.  Most of his utensils where yellowed plastic or old metal, with a little bit of rust thrown in.  I boxed them all up to give away.
     Weeks later I thought about the spoon and cussed myself for not remembering to keep it.  Was it in the box with the jumble of whisks, spatulas and wooden spoons, that had been given to Goodwill by my sister?  I asked her about it but she had no recollection of any specific item, just to say that there were a lot of wooden spoons and other utensils in the box.  This one was different I told her, and I described it to her; long round handle, spoon part worn down, lopsided. She had no idea.
     A few months passed and my sister came for a visit so that we could sort through a bunch of our parent’s belongings, which I had been storing.  As we sorted through the tubs I again mentioned the spoon, saying that I had wanted that spoon and that I couldn't believe that I had tossed it out while cleaning Dad's kitchen.  I told her my memories of our grandmothers’ and our mother, cooking with it.  While rambling on I stuck my hand in a tub of miscellaneous junk and wrapped my fingers around whatever they touched and pulled out that very spoon!  It should be noted here, that my mom has been gone since 2001 and I have sorted through those tubs at least 3 or 4 times over the past 9 years.  Also in those 9 years I have cooked countless dinners for my dad and I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that the spoon was at his house, and that I had used it many times.  As I held it up, my sister and I stood there, our mouths hanging open, wide enough to catch flies and starring at each other in disbelief, as if the good Lord himself had just handed the spoon to me.
     The spoon was going around a pan of risotto the other day, when I held it up and showed it to my daughter, The Dumplin Eater, and told her the story.  I promised to give it to her and she promised to pass it on to her daughter one day, along with the story, thus making six generations of us who have stirred a pot  with this very special old wooden spoon.

I posted my mom's Chicken and Dumplin Recipe back in June, with the Hello Baby ~ Good-bye Money, post.  You can find it there.  
     This is my great grandmother's apple butter recipe. Ironically, I never knew that I had it, until just a few days ago. While looking for a receipe, I came across it, written out in my mother's handwriting, with the top line of the card simply stating, Grandma's Apple Butter.  While I've never personally made it, I do recall my granmothers hand placed over the top of mine, as we stirred up a batch together. Growing up it was always on our table, that is until 1984 when my great grandmother died at the ripe old age 90.  Go to the "Misc. Recipes" tab at the top of this page to view it.

Dec 9, 2010

Flavor Tripping...The Results

This is Part 2 of 2, about Flavor Tripping.  For the full story see the previous post.
The Daughter-No honey, there is
nothing in your teeth, really.
 We all swallowed our miracle berries, signed the autopsy authorization forms, and got set to do some flavor tripping.
     We began by biting into lemons, that surprisingly didn’t even produce so much as a pucker.  Unbelievable, is the only word that comes to mind!  Limes were tart, but sweet and strawberries were strawberries.  Grapefruit was sweeter than normal, with no trace of tartness or acidity.  Dr. Lexus thought he tasted vanilla.  Whatever.
Mrs. Lexus-going for the wasabi
Yes, all the cool kids were trippin!
     We moved on to the cheeses.  I won’t name names, but my daughter, the one who has never tasted goat cheese in her life, rose to the occasion and sampled a bite, only to declare that it tasted like ass, while the rest of us thought it tasted more like cream cheese frosting.  The Big Guy (her father) pointed out that I am an expert at eating ass, so I would know if that were true or not.  (The verdict?  Oh no it di'int.  It tasted more like frosting.)  Feta cheese was mild, even bland and lost its subtle sourness.  Cottage cheese was flat and Gorgonzola completely gave up the blue vibe and was mild, making this pungent cheese nearly impossible to identify.
    We had vegetables to sample, so we moved on.  The tomato!  OMG, the tomato!  It was to-freakin-die-for!  Never have I tasted such an amazing, sweet, tomato ~ unless it was one just plucked from the vine…in late August…in Italy…by an Italian Stallion…ahhh...but I digress.  Brussel sprouts were still brussel sprouts, no matter how you sliced em (go figure) and dill pickles were the same, while sweet pickles were even sweeter.  Just give me more tomatoes please and put some balsamic vinegar on them, which by the way, turned sweet and syrupy, with no acidity whatsoever.  It was so good that you could have poured it over pancakes, kicked Mrs. Butterworth to the curb and saved yourself a whole lot of calories.  The champagne vinegar was another story, somehow tasting stronger than normal, at least to my highly trained palette.
That would be Friskies she's sampling
Tastes like chicken!
     By this point all semblance of order was thrown out the window and we were tasting with abandon and looting the refrigerator like there was about to be a flood in the kitchen.
      Mrs. Lexus and I loved the way pickled ginger turned sweet and mellow, but we couldn’t decide if it or the tomato was our favorite.  Blondie thought pickled ginger tasted like Pledge—yes, the furniture polish.  Hmmm, wonder what that girl’s been sniffin?
The pepper-wasibi-sriacha line dance
We moved on to the hot stuff, biting into hot peppers that didn’t bite back.  They still packed a punch, but tasted much more mild than usual.  We decided to up the ante and get out the big guns, beginning with wasabi.  It still had that distinct flavor but didn’t make your sinuses head south.  Sambal Oelek was sweet and hot at the same time, but we couldn’t taste the garlic.  Sriracha was still hot, but didn’t linger.  Dr. Lexus put some wasabi and sriracha on his hot pepper and we all cleared the area in case he spontaneously combusted, but he didn’t even break a sweat.  Said he thought he tasted a hint of vanilla. Whatever.  Son-in-law followed suit, and if it hadn’t been for the singed eyebrows, you wouldn’t have even known there had been a fire.  Langfield and The Big Guy, were not about to be outdone, so they manned up and did the pepper-wasabi-sriracha dance too, while I stood by ready to pull the pin on the fire extinguisher.  No worries…hot is still hot without the heat, if that makes sense.
The Tequila Snob
     We decided to cool the party off with some drinks.  I’ll start by telling you what NOT to drink while under the influence of the miracle fruit:  wine.  Yes, the best way to ruin a good glass of Chardonnay, short of finding a fly in it, is to drink it while under the influence of mberrys.  Moving on…I love Guinness beer but I love it even more when it tastes like chocolate—and it did—vaguely.  Then I remembered that I had a Chocolate Stout pushed into the far corner of the fridge, so I busted that out.  I’ll just tell you that little move may have been one of the smartest things that I’ve done all year! It was like swigging melted chocolate and who doesn't love that?  My advice, skip the Guinness and go straight for the Chocolate Stout.  With more work to do, we trudged on…Red Bull was sickening sweet, even for Daughters unusual liking of the already sickening sweet stuff.  Our tequila snob friends, the Langfields, brought cheap tequila and surprisingly, cheap tequila smooths out and tastes like really good, cheap tequila.  I’m not a gin drinker, but I thought my top shelf gin tasted pretty dang good.  The Dr. and Mrs. Lexus, who are world renowned gin drinkers and who are in the know about all things gin, agreed that, yes, miracle berries and gin could make a tasty martini. The Doc thought he tasted a hint of vanilla.  Whatever.
The Gin Know-it-alls
By the end of the hour the miracle berry's effect had worn off and our taste buds returned to normal.  We sat down to a dinner of lasagna, something I love but only make about twice a year.  It’s an all day affair and I have no concise recipe, so I wing it as I go.  The only constant is two sauces (Béchamel and Bolognaise), three meats (beef, pork and Italian sausage), four cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and one other), lots of herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, marjoram, fennel, bay), and the best canned Italian tomatoes that money can buy (like San Marzano or Muir Glen). 
      I simmered the sauce for a couple of hours and then stacked it all up.  When it came out of the oven we said ciao to a pan of pure goodness.  I tasted comfort.  Dr. Lexus said he thought he tasted a hint of vanilla.  Whatever.

My lasagna recipe is all about the sauce.  The scent and texture tell me when it's done, and there is just no way to put that in writing.  Simmer, stir and season.  When it's deep red, thickened and fragrant, call it a day and put it all together.  Go to the "Pasta" tab at the top of this page to view it.  (Note: Since I don't use an actual recipe, all quanites are approximate.  Feel free to adjust as necesarry.)

Picture of Lasagna - Free Pictures -

Dec 4, 2010

Flavor Tripping 101

As soon as I put my credit card info on the form and hit the “submit” button, I felt that familiar shopper’s rush.  You know the one.  The little high you get when you buy something expensive and exciting.  The one that is immediately followed by that other familiar feeling—buyer’s remorse.  Yep, that's the one...and anytime I spend as much on shipping as what the actual item costs, it gives me pause to think:  A) is it legal, B) how good does it have to be if it’s not legal, and C) how much time before I’m out for good behavior.  It wasn’t like I was buying blood diamonds or anything, but judging by the cost per weight, it was pretty much the food equivalent of blood diamonds.    
     What I’m talking about here is miracle fruit, (or Synsepalum dulcificum for you scientific types), a plant that is native to West Africa, but which I totally bypassed and got from Puerto Rico.  In this tiny red berry is a protein called miraculin, which causes a reaction when it parties with the taste buds, which by the way, is just before the real fun begins!  So here's how it works...this little gem comes in contact with acids and acts as a sweetness inducer, thus turning sour to sweet.  That’s the technical business of it, but hey, I was in it purely for the fun.
     So before I went looking for a dealer, uhhh, I mean a legitimate vendor, to purchase these little jewels from, I consulted my peeps to see if they were up for some flavor tripping.  Mrs. Lexus, suspicious nature that she has, immediately asked if they were an illegal substance, and if we were really going to be tripping on LSD?  Hellifiknow, I admitted, checking to make sure she wasn’t wearing a wire.  So then I asked another friend, Blondie, who asked no questions whatsoever, just said if I was having a party and if there was food and tripping involved...well, to sign her and the Mister up.  The Big Guy came up with an unlikely excuse (like work) and RSVP’ed with regrets, of which I wasn’t having any part of.  The Minute Rice family, who hate everything, unless it comes in a cellophane wrapper, actually wanted to come and try foods that they would never have otherwise been inclined to try.  Dr. Lexus said to count him in and offered to perform autopsies for free, if need be.
Some of our samplings, and yes I know this picture is upside down

     With everyone willing to let me screw with their taste buds, I placed my order from an online company called mberry.  I’d like to take just a second to tell you that their VP of Sales, a Mr. David Fong, (contact here) demonstrated the best customer service that I have probably ev-ver experienced.  A SNAFU with the USPS caused my highly perishable berries to arrive late, with some looking a little worse for wear.  Mr. Fong not only refunded my shipping, but he also sent me a free pack of mberry tablets to try. (Note to self: if you plan to have your own flavor tripping party, I highly recommend ordering from this company.)  
So here’s the lowdown. We each popped a Miracle Berry into our mouths, rolled it around like it were an atom in a super conductor, then we bit into it and swished the little bit of pulp around in our mouths. It was pleasant enough tasting, semi-sweet with a typical berry texture and a small seed that was edible, although a little bitter. I felt no weird hallucinations happening in my mouth. No déjà vu from the 70's, no miniature aliens taking over..nada…nothing…hmmm.
The food was laid out ~ let the games begin!  
This is Part 1 of 2 about Miracle Berries and Flavor Tripping.  Stay tuned for the results of our tasting!

Nov 21, 2010

The Popover Queen Rules Again!

I’ve mentioned before that I have teensy touch of Food OCD. For the most part I manage to keep it in check...that is until I go to a great restaurant and eat something so divine that I can’t stop thinking about it. My brain temporarily stops pinging off the walls and gets serious about channeling Iron Chef Batali, and I think to myself, I bet I can make__________ (insert whatever divine food that I can’t stop thinking about). To make matters worse, The Big Guy is an enabler. He’ll say the words out loud, Honey, I bet you can make__________ (insert whatever food that he bets I can make).    
     That’s how my love/hate affair with the popover began. It was an obsession that lay dormant for years, finally erupting more than a dozen years after I had eaten my very first one, which by the way was at the airport in Billings, MT in 1977. Why I even remember that little tidbit of information probably qualifies me for a private room in the Dr. Phil house. Anyhow, more than a decade would pass before I would eat another one, but I never forgot the velvety bread...the doughy, hollow vat, perfect for holding melting butter.
I don’t recall where or when I ate the second popover of my life, but the dreaded thought that spewed from my brain was that I could learn to master the popover. 
     I bought the pans, pulled a recipe out of the Union Square Café Cookbook and went to work. Approximately an hour later I was staring into my oven and staring back at me were towers of golden brown, buttery perfection. The Big Guy and the kids approved and we became  popover junkies. I wowed my friends with my popover prowess and passed out popover pans along with my recipe, as gifts.
     Then one day I opened my oven door to find little brown, deflated, rock looking things glaring back at me. What the...??? No biggie right? Throw em out and make a new batch. No problemo for a Popover Queen like me, right? Well you're all dead wrong!
     I made batch after batch, night after night for a couple of weeks, and every night flat little bullets taunted me.  This was a serious food 9-1-1, so I enlisted The Girlfriends to make popovers to see if it was just me or if our whole nation was under a popover curse. The reports rolled in…their popovers were all popping over. I begged them to make another batch, just to be sure. Yep, sure enough, it was just me who had somehow managed to piss off the Popover Gods.
     I switched recipes and methods; hot oven, cold oven, preheated pans, cold eggs, room temp eggs, whole milk, low fat, electric mixer, hand whisk ~ but the varied methods all yielded the same drastic results. I kneeled by the oven and prayed that when I opened the door I would be welcomed by 12 perfect, golden pieces of doughy heaven, but time after time I was greeted by flat, hard lumps, looking like hell.
     When my family heard the scream, they knew to duck their heads and avoid immediate eye contact with me, lest they risk being hit with one of my flying popunders (as they had renamed them).
     I give! Uncle! I cried, while curled up in the fetal position in front of the stove. I sobbed to the Popover Gods, you win, I quit! 
     Picking myself up off the floor, I declared that "popover" was a four letter word and anyone caught mentioning the “P” word in our house would be put out on the street with nothing but my failed, miserable popover pans.
Note the ghostly whiffs. That's the Popover spirits leaving the building.
 It took a few  years for my popover shame to pass, and then one day out of the blue it happened again. While at some restaurant I ate a really great popover and thought that evil thought, you know the one…I bet I can make…The Big Guy, evidently tired of his popover exile, baited me with the dreaded words, I bet you can make a popover this good. No way was I touching that one, I thought. That ship has sailed!
     Until the other night that is. I was home alone when I got up the nerve to blow the dust off my popover pans. Inspired by a new (old) recipe from 1966, I decided to break some eggs. I put two pans in the oven, set my timer and poured myself a stiff drink, just in case I was going to need it later. Fifty minutes passed and I opened my oven doors to reveal 12 towering, golden brown, air-filled puffs of heaven! I shook my fist at the Popover Gods, Take that!, I yelled at them. The Popover Queen is back!

Before I got too cocky and posted this, I whipped up a second batch and sure enough they were thee most perfect popovers that I have ever made! Who'd a thunk that a recipe dang near as old as me would be the one to bring me out of the funk? It was originally printed in the NY Times, in 1966 by that Baking Goddess Maida Heatter, who is my hero for the moment and the first and REAL Popover Queen. God Bless ya, Ms. Heatter! Go to the "Misc. Recipes" tab at the top of this page to view it.

Nov 6, 2010

Confessions Of A Not So Secret Shopper

Attention Grocery Store Checkers: I am not a secret shopper and have never been one. However, it is no secret that I am a shopper, and considered by many to be a professional, but secret? Nooo. I came out of the closet many years ago, or at about the time my credit card limit exceed my age by at least three zeros. 
     Still, about once a month as I go through the checkout line, I get accused of being a secret shopper. The truth is, I don’t even know what a secret shopper looks like, and to my knowledge I have never met one but to the trained eye of a Checker, they must look exactly like me.
Some of the produce that's chillin in  in my fridge today--herbs, leeks, zucchini, poblanos, jalapenos, ginger, radicchio, shallots, shitakes, tomatos...
     I usually manage to slide a few benign items across the scanner before Checker Girl gets suspicious. Since my OCD causes me to categorize my groceries, all goes pretty smooth until she gets to my produce. It’s likely she will hold up a small head of radicchio and ask “is this thing a purple cabbage?”, at which time I have to make a split second decision whether to lie or not. If the next question is, (as she studies my leeks) “are these just really big green onions?”, I will play by the Two Strikes and You're Dumb Rule, and lie through my teeth and say, “yes, ma’am that’s a cabbage”, or “yep, thems some big ass green onions.”  If she rings up my shallots for garlic, I feel like I hit a homer and have to contain my urge to high five the Bag Boy!
The beginning of risotto
     It’s about then when the first eyebrow is raised, which is followed by an accusation of, “hey, are you a secret shopper?”    
     I will deny it and go about my business of reciting my produce in a monotonic way like I’m some weird vegetable-possessed alphabet teacher: arugula—crimini—ginger—habanero..
     Somewhere between the fennel and the tomatillos, Checker Girl will wave a parsnip under my nose and say, “are you sure you’re not a secret shopper?” 
Almost finished risotto
    Checker Girl will frantically look up the codes and eyeball me simultaneously to see if I am taking notes so that I can write her up in my next Secret Shopper Report. I may appear to be doing just that, but I’m really just making up my next grocery list, while she tries to find jicama under the 'h’s'. 
     “It’s under the 'J's,"  I say, tapping my pen on the homely root vegetable. 
 “I knew it! You are a secret shopper, aren’t you?” Checker Girl will accuse me again, pointing a handful of mushrooms at me. 
    “Shitake,” I bark.
     “Gezuntheit,” Checker Girl says, “you really should get that checked that out.”
    I lean in, like I'm about to share a real secret with her. "If you hurry,”  I tell her, “you can still catch that turnip truck."

This recipe is for a Risotto with Shitake Mushrooms, Leeks and Truffles.  Trust me when I tell you that there is not a black truffle within a 500 mile radius of me, so I finished this dish with truffle oil, which is the next best thing and about $100 per ounce cheaper.  What made this risotto special, was that the shitakes and onions were oven roasted rather than sauteed, which gave them great flavor and texture, and the leeks were simmered in heavy cream. Both were then added at the end. Oh, and the secret: do not, I repeat, DO NOT forget to go a little wild with that drizzle of truffle oil! Go to the "Soups-Salads-Sides" tab at the top of this page to view it.   

Oct 28, 2010

Family Secret: Seizure Salad Dressing

Last night I was whipping up some Seizure salad dressing, and I thought, "you know, this stuff so freakin good that I need to post the recipe on Sauce du Jour and share it with my readers both of them." 
     But then my daughter, who will be referred to as "The Blackmailer" in this piece, said, "Mom, you can't share that recipe...that'd be like giving up the goods. Can't we have just one family secret?"
     In case you haven't figured it out yet, I’m really talking about Caesar salad dressing. While I decide if I'll spill my guts (or not), I'll give you the back story: several years ago The Blackmailer thought the actual name for Caesar Salad was Seizure Salad, and she said it... out front of all of us, and at our house if you say something dumb like that, believe me, it will stick for a really long time, like maybe forever.   
  So before I give up the goods, (or not), I will tell you this: the original recipe was from Bon Appetit, circa 1990 something. Since then it has either been long lost or died a splattery death, I’m not sure which, but I’ve adapted it to the version I'll share here, (or not). I'll swear on its grave that every time I make this salad dressing, people come out of the woodwork to beg me for the recipe. 
     Unless there is blackmail involved, I'm not normally a recipe hoader, in fact I'm quite generous with sharing great recipes, but just as I was making the executive decision to put it out here, The Blackmailer brought up the other family secret. Perhaps she has a point. Maybe I shouldn't give out this recipe after all. At our house saying something dumb may stick, but blackmail always trumps secret recipes. So it is with regrets that I'm not going to be able post the reicpe for what just may be thee best Seizure Salad Dressing ev-ver! *  
*Sssshhhh...If you want the reicpe leave me a comment or e-mail me and I'll give it to you. (Note: The Blackmailer doesn't have to know, she is probably busy digging up some more family secrets anyway.) Here's something that you should know about this recipe: make up a triple batch and give a little jar to your kids and/or friends. They’ll love you for it and worship you like you are some kind of a Salad Dressing Goddess! 

You can make your Caesar salad however you dang well please, but this is how I like mine:  romaine, shaved parmesan cheese, thin slices of red onion, and fat, homemade coutons*. Spunk up the romaine with some fresh squeezed lemon juice just before you dress it up all pretty with the Seizure salad dressing.  

(*Croutons: Melt equal parts butter and olive oil in large bowl. Add herbs de provence, minced garlic and coarse sea salt.  Add cubed bread pieces and toss to coat. Either bake in 400 degree oven or saute in pan, until toasted) 

Oct 21, 2010

The Jet-Setting Squash

I confess — I have a little criminal bone in my body. About 15 years ago ,while dining at an Italian restaurant in Orange, CA, I did a bad, bad thing — I jacked a squash. This particular squash was a little orange and green Styrofoam thing that was part of a centerpiece on our table.
     My BFF, RK was an unknowing accomplice. She carted it right out of the restaurant—clueless that I was using her as my mule in the heist. The next day she found it in her purse and wondered how it had gotten there. We had a good laugh over it and I never gave it another thought, until a few days later, when I got home and was unpacking my suitcase. Yep, there it was, tucked in a corner amongst the dirty clothes. So began the story and the life of the squash.
     On our next rendezvous together, which was in Phoenix, I sweet talked the desk guy at our hotel into giving me a key to her room, where I tucked it nighty-night in her bed. Another time, when we met up in Las Vegas, I found it in the glove box of our rental car.
    RK really one upped me in Puerto Rico, when our room steward handed the squash to me just as we were debarking on a Caribbean Cruise. For the life of me I could not figure out how she had gotten it onto the ship. My brilliant daughter finally solved the mystery by declaring, “oh my gosh, she must be on the cruise too!” 
     Then about five years later it went on a Mexican Rivera cruise, where it was presented to me on my dessert plate, dipped in chocolate and looking good enough to eat. In fact the squash turns up in our food quite often. RK found it in her gnocchi, while dining at Oliver’s, in Sheridan, and then several years later it made it’s way back to Oliver’s and turned up in my pizza. This jet-setting squash has been to the Stone Crab festival in Florida and to wine tastings in Napa.
     My personal best passing of the squash was in Sorrento Italy, where it took all of my powers of persuasion to convince the chef of the 5 star Hotel that we were staying at, to serve it for lunch. It wasn’t exactly something that he wanted to send out of his kitchen, especially since we were there for a week of cooking classes. When the white gloved waiter removed the silver dome off of her plate and revealed nothing but the squash, RK about fell off her chair. The chef may have turned his nose up at my shenanigans, but I could tell that the waiter wanted to secretly high-five me, as he stood at our table wearing a tuxedo and his best poker face. 
     When our little squash isn’t turning up in our food, it’s quite often swimming in our drinks. The bartender in Negril, Jamaica looked guilty of nothing as he served it up in RK’s Grey Goose dirty martini—and on more than one occasion it has been seen lounging in one of our wine glasses.
     When it’s not in our suitcases, it’s hanging out in our houses. The squash has been left in her freezer, her bra (not while she was wearing it.), her desk drawer and her shower. I’ve found it in my shoes, my shopping bag, my coat pocket and my car. Our kids, husbands, friends and complete strangers have been recruited to occasionally help in the covert operation of hiding or transporting the squash. They have done reconnaissance work—allowing the squash to turn up in the least expected places.
     After all these years it is starting to look a little worse for wear. RK’s dog cut his puppy teeth on it, and it’s been frozen, cooked and wet. As of this very moment, the squash is perfectly happy hanging out in my produce bowl on my cutting board.
     But get this;  I really intend to one-up her in the end! (RK if you are reading, STOP here) The squash has been bequeathed to her in my will, in the event that it is in my possession at the...ummm, you know…the time. Now that would be the ultimate passing of the squash torch! 

This recipe is for Acorn Squash with Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta. I got it from my sister, who happens to be one of the four real life vegetarians that I know.  It makes a great side dish or a vegetarian entree. Go to the "Soups-Salads-Sides" tab at the top of this page to view it. 

Oct 12, 2010

Have You Met Our Other Daughter?

Our Family-circa 1992
Yes, that's Honest Abe & me
rockin the mall bangs!
 The year was 1992, Daughters #1 and #2 (who shall be referred to as Sulky and Spoiled Rotten in this piece) were 9 and 5 years old, and I wanted a #3. I was thinking adoption and The Big Guy was thinking when pigs fly out my…well, never mind, he was thinking no way in hell.     Then I saw an ad in the paper. “Host families needed for Exchange Students,” it said. Big thought this was the perfect solution; we could have another daughter, but we wouldn’t have to keep her. In other words, she wouldn’t be a package deal like the first two were, who came with college tuition contracts and wedding payment plans. He figured when the year was over and it was time to send her home, well…the whole wanting another child thing would be out of my system. Yeah right...who did he think he was kidding? I already knew what a pushover for daughters he was, but I played along anyway.
Julia, Sulky & Spoiled Rotten
in Yellowstone Park
     So, we poured over the bios and looked at pictures and finally we chose Julia—a 16 year old German girl—horsey, with two younger sisters. Hmmm, a perfect fit for our Montana redneck family we reckoned. 
     But wait a sec, if you are thinking this arrangement was straight out of a fairytale, think again. The new baby smell wore off shortly after Julia’s arrival, and Sulky, who wrote the book, How to Aggravate a Teenager, pulled out all the stops, and the two of them had some very sisterly moments. Spoiled Rotten did her best to maintain her role of The Annoying Baby Sister, purely by existing. The only fairytale I was channeling was Hansel & Gretel, because I could totally see how adorable children could end up in an oven. 
The Blue Girl Group
Before long, everything settled down and the kids all found their roles in the family without being forced to breathe any oven fumes. Sulky did suffer from middle child syndrome for the better part of Julia’s stay, but snapped right out of it without any therapy whatsoever. Spoiled Rotten remained spoiled and rotten and annoying, but all in all the three of them found that sister kind of love. 
     Julia spent 10 months with us and we showed her Yellowstone Park, the Black Hills, the Arizona desert, a Mexican border town and the glitz of Las Vegas. She turned us on to German Gummy Bears and marzipan, earned a high school diploma, got her driver’s license, and won a car. She got to experience things that other foreign exchange students likely never did, like riding a Harley, carrying the American flag on horseback in a rodeo, and spending a couple of weeks roughing it at a cow camp with Grandma Di and Grandpa Coyote. She gave us a Christmas tradition, stole our hearts and went home.
     Over the next two decades we kept in touch, remembering birthdays and holidays and we got together in 2005, for Christmas in Mexico.     
     Fast forward to 2010; Sulky is no longer sulky. Spoiled Rotten is no longer…well never mind that, let’s just say all three girls grew up to be smart, lovely, productive adults. Julia is now a Doctor—successful and beautiful and a dead ringer for Heidi Klum.         
     She came back to the U.S. this past August for Sulky's wedding, and just like a real sister and best friend, Julia signed the marriage certificate as the witness. It was a gesture that was meaningful for both of them.
     We spent two fun weeks together time that was bittersweet. We were happy that Julia had been here to be a part of such an important day for our family, and we are proud of the amazing person that she has become. Not knowing how much time will pass until we see her again makes us sad and causes us to miss her even more.
     For me, seeing the three girls bridge a gap and be devoted to each other like real sisters, makes me swell with motherly pride. She and The Big (soppy) Guy are still as tight as if he had birthed her himself, and we love her like she’s one of our own. As it turns out she wasn’t just an exchange student because there is no one that we want to exchange her for. No, she’s our girl, as much as if our name was on her birth certificate, and yep, she is stuck with us. Julia is family.  
I'm including Julia's recipe for Marzipan Mousse, which is so addicting that it should be illegal. I don't have a picture of it because someone forgot to take one when she made it for us. Go to the "Desserts" tab at the top of this page to view it. (Warning: Baker beware, this stuff jumps out of the bowl and immediately attaches itself to your thighs!)