Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas, We Hardly Knew Ye!

I took my dogs out at noon today for a Christmas walk at Percy Warner Park, and on the drive home passed the old model airplane field where Nashvillians dump their Christmas trees so the city can shred them into mulch.

How strange it was then to see a large pile of trees already discarded by people whose main mission on Christmas morning was not sitting around opening presents or eating brunch or looking at the pretty lights, but was instead pulling down the tree, stuffing it in the car trunk, and tossing it on the pile at the park.

How does a holiday so anticipated and so all encompassing end so abruptly at midnight on Christmas Eve? What happened to the Twelve Days of Christmas?

Of no interest to anyone these days- for the presents have been given and the shopping, except for the returns, is done for. And was not the shopping the point?

Tomorrow morning the music, which I feel is the true glory of the season, will disappear. The dumpsters will overflow, and Christmas 2012 will slip into the quicksand of forgetting.

Enter then the top ten lists for the past year, and the roll call of dead 2012 celebrities. Soon to be followed by wall to wall info-mercials for exercise machines.

And so Christmas ends- not with a bang, but a whimper-

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Blog Fatigue

One of my favorite bloggers is shutting down her blog. She is Nan, from "Letters from a Hill Farm". I will miss her. Her blog was six years old. In a world where blogs die young, this was longevity.

I often wonder if blogging is worth it. How discouraging it is to see that most of one's readers are Ukranian and Russian spam computers, who are not readers at all.
To never have an audience of more than a handful of readers,( though Nan was far more successful with this than I).

The Internet is clogged with blogs. Many are abandoned. Others not worth reading. Others obscure, and written for an audience that does not exist. At first one runs on hope, wishing for luck, but over time hope wears away and luck never comes.

Mark Twain said that if, after writing for 3 years no one has offered to pay you for your words, you might as well go back to cutting wood for a living.

I will miss you Nan. I hope you will send me your email address so we can write each other.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Estate Sale Diaries- Before Christmas Edition

There is a major estate sale starting on Wednesday and continuing through Saturday here in Nashville. This looks like one of the biggest of the year. Because of work I will not be able to go, and instead of downnloading pictures from the estate sale company site into this post, I am linking to it. Only by seeing all the photos can one get a sense of how important this sale is. This estate is that of Francis Preston, "a well known executive in the music business". The sale is on Woodmont Boulevard.

The paintings and furniture are of great interest-


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Old Farwell School in North Charlestown, New Hampshire

All of us over thirteen have a foot in two centuries, though some of our foot prints are further back than others.

Far enough back to remember this old two room schoolhouse that still stands beside the main road in the little town of North Charlestown, New Hampshire. I was a student there for a few years in the early 60's, after our father moved us from suburban Connecticut to a hill farmhouse above the Little Sugar River in North Charlestown.

Behind the school, and beside it were apple orchards that went all the way back to the Connecticut River. Looking out the school windows we could look west towards the hills of Vermont, and on the playground, in spring ,we played for keeps for precious marbles.

I doubt each classroom had more than 15 children. First through third in one room, and fifth and sixth grade in the other.

Our house was miles from school, and every weekday a red van came to collect me and other children out from town. In later years it would drop us off at Farwell, and then off on buses we would go again, south to the junior high school in Charlestown.

The village of Charlestown was once an outpost on the New England frontier. Old Fort Number 4 still stands there, for the Abnaki Indians threatened. Indeed one day many decades ago, my sisters and I found an old Abnaki axe in a cornfield torn into by outgoing ice on the Connecticut River.

What bucolic, innocent days those were!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Estate Sale Diaries- The Second Hand Kitchen

I have written in the past about how sorry I am not to see young people at estate sales, for they are the very people who need them the most.

Imagine you are a young person standing in an empty kitchen in your first apartment. Your mother has give you a few old pans, an oven mitt, a set of flatware. Everything else-you must find yourself. Imagine how delightful a search this would be if you lived in Buenos Aires or London or Paris. Think of the old shops, the flea markets-

But let us come closer to home and farther from dreams. Let us pretend that you are a young professional woman- a Registered Nurse- and you and a friend decide to splurge on living and to rent an apartment in The Gulch in downtown Nashville. An exciting zip code with nightlife and restaurants, and not more than a few blocks from the Hospital district.

You have a car loan. You have student loans. If you cannot pay the former a wrecker comes for your car. If you do not pay the latter you lose your nursing license. These are non negotiable expenses.

No matter, you think, you can go to Bed, Bath,and Beyond or Target and use your credit card to put together a working kitchen. That is you could if you had a decent amount left to charge after going to the Coach handbag counter and the upscale shoe store.

Or, if your credit card has reached your limit, you may have to send your money to China- by buying at the dollar stores.

And you will get what you pay for.

Do not dare tell me you are too tired to go to Friday morning estate sales because you worked a 12 hour shift all night in the ICU. You are 24 years old! You stay up to go out with your friends for breakfast and mimosas. Or you might stand in line at The Pancake Pantry. Or stay awake till noon so you can get a second look at those shoes you saw at Nordstrom's.

Get in your car, drive to West End or West Meade, then once inside the sale, head to the kitchen. Buy the Kitchen Aid vegetable peeler for 50 cents, and the Pyrex measuring cup for a dollar. Kitchen towels, soup ladles, can openers. A buck apiece. Grab that food processor for $30 and that old Waring Blender for $5. Look under the table where you will see a big slow cooker. Yours for $12. Those stainless steel skillets beside the cooker- Emerilware. Made by All Clad. Take them home for $8.

Whisks, mixing bowls, useful knives. A coffee grinder. Remember that you cannot stir soup with a high heeled shoe or bake in a handbag.

Buy that battered copy of "The Joy of Cooking" you see in the bookcase over the counter.

Spend $100 on what would have cost you many hundreds more new.

Unless of course, you never intend to cook. Perhaps you will be like one of my old neighbors here at the apartments. She was a federal judge who kept rooms in Nashville and a house in Knoxville. She did not cook, could not open a can because she had nothing to open it with, and she kept her legal files in her oven. She did not even own a microwave, and she ate every meal out.

I doubt any young person will read this post, since my rather limited circle of readers are most likely over 40. But some of you may be the mothers of young women in first apartments. Perhaps you could pass on my advice.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Estate Sale Diaries-Friday December 7th

At 7;45 this morning I was cursing myself for getting caught up in Green Hills traffic just to go to an estate sale on Estes Road. But the sale had looked more intriguing than a second sale in my home suburb of Bellevue, so I went to Estes first.

Congestion, thy name is Green Hills. Narrow road shoulders. No parking in the cul-de-sac where a smallish line of people waited outside a pleasant brick home. I was lucky to find a spot out on Estes that was not blocks away.

When I saw the front and side garden I knew my trip was worth it. How I wished that the estate sale company was selling the hardy primroses whose crinkled winter leaves lined the front walk. How rarely are primroses seen blooming here in spring! The garden had a nice shrubby St Johnswort and a forest of Hellebores, or Lenten Roses. The foundation planting was bright with nandina berries. Someone had loved this garden.

At 8:30 the doors opened and the line shuffled in. "More stuff upstairs!", said the estate sales lady, and we had to agree, for inside the stuff did not end. I confess to not going upstairs to the obligatory Crammed with Christmas Decorations Room, a constant at Nashville estate sales. I went right to the kitchen, where I had no competition.

And there, for 12 dollars I found the pan of my dreams-a 13 and 7/16 inch cast iron skillet.

There was more cast iron. A nine inch and a 6 inch skillet. I did not need them and passed them by, but they were soon gone to someone smart. Left behind was a set of overpriced Calphalon( a 55 dollar dutch oven) and a big set of vintage All-Clad too scratched and aged to be worth 250 dollars.

For a few dollars I bought a tri- cornered glass canister, a tiny sieve, a fancy peeler, and an oven mitt still wearing its store tag. Also two small steel beating bowls, and a nice cluster of measuring spoons (for who can have too many).

There was a stamp collection in a back bedroom, and boxes of old LPs, which always bring collectors. On the coffee table were seven or eight antique books from the mid 19th century. On top was a Dickens with an inscription on the inner cover in spidery 1858 handwriting. I saw no more, for the book started to fall apart in my hands, and my curiosity evaporated.

And I did find it curious that such a well-equipped kitchen had only one major cookbook. No surprise though that it was "The Joy of Cooking".

Here are some pictures of what else was for sale from the estate sale website.

And here- is my big find of the day, found at the Bellevue sale. Birding binoculars for $26 dollars. My binoculars broke last spring, and until today, I was without. Perhaps they are not top of the line, the latest thing, or a birding status symbol, but they are mine for a good price, and they will do.

Some pictures from the estate sale website for the Bellevue sale follow.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Learning From The Best-Richard Olney

One night, in the nurses' break room, in the hospital where I used to work ,I overheard a young woman, a respiratory therapist, talking about her boyfriend, who after many suppers at her place, had blurted out "Can't you cook anything besides pasta?'

She couldn't, and I felt sorry for her, for her mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins had left her rudderless in a culinary sea, with her only life jacket a pot of spaghetti and a big jar of bottled sauce.

Some might think she could have looked for teachers on TV, on one of the food channels. Mario Batali would have taught her, had his show been on consistently and at a watchable hour-. Or she could have searched for Sarah Moulton, whose show is now lost somewhere on PBS.

If this young woman could afford it, she could have signed on to the cooking classes over at The Viking School in The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee.

Had she asked me for advice ,I would have told her to buy a few good cookbooks to study. Perhaps Mark Bittman's "How To Cook Everything" if she insisted on something contemporary. But no books by the latest Chef Of The Moment with his stunt recipes from his stunt restaurant. Far better to trust in the late Richard Olney, and his fine cookbook"Simple French Food".

Olney, who was something of a bohemian, escaped Iowa as a young man and fled to France to become an artist. He bought a broken down hovel in Provence and restored it to liveable, all the while making fast friends with his neighbors Lulu and Lucien Peyraud, who owned a farm and a winery nearby. And he began to cook.

Olney loved simplicity. I could not imagine him spending hours making a spun sugar helmet for a cake, as Julia Child did once on an episode of "The French Chef". A gratin of turnips, garlic,and Gruyere cheese. The pork chop recipe that follows. This was Olney's style of cooking.

One note. Olney added dry white wine to this recipe to deglaze the pan after browning the pork chops. I omitted this. I added prunes, which sometimes sneak their way into pork dishes in provincial France. Olney did not use them in this dish. The following is my version.

3 or 4 apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced thinly

1 tbs butter

4 pork chops,no more than 3/4 inch thick

Salt, to sprinkle on the chops before browning

1 cup heavy cream

2-3 heaping tablespoons of Dijon mustard. To taste.

Pepper, to season the chops before browning

Spread the apples on the bottom of a lightly buttered gratin baker that is large enough to place the pork chops in side by side. Bake the apples in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
While the apples are baking, salt and pepper the chops, add a little butter to a saute pan, and brown the chops for 7 minutes each side over medium high heat. Then place the chops on top of the apples in the gratin dish. Add some prunes along the sides of the baker. (If your digestive system rebels at sulfured prunes you might want to omit these!)

Next pour 1 cup of heavy cream into a bowl, and add the mustard a little at a time to taste. Then pour the mixture over the pork. Olney advises that you the shake the gratin pan side to side to allow the cream to seep down into the apples. Then return the gratin pan back to the oven and bake at 400 degrees for another 15 to 20 minutes.

This should serve four or five. And I think it would impress any young woman's boyfriend-

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Estate Sale Diaries- Weekend of December 1st- The Ones That Get Away

I regret missing several sales this past year, and I regret missing this one. But I had to work this weekend, and money is tight. And even if I had had the time to go, the logistics would have been difficult, for this sale was in Green Hills, a pricey suburb where estate sale signs are often banned and parking is non- existent. The latter is a problem for anyone with bags full of loot, for who relishes a three block walk to their car?

How I would have loved that green enamel cookware set or the two green topped tables. I am certain they were gone in minutes. There may have been vintage clothing as well. Just look at those mink coats. They look like something Doris Day would have worn in "The Thrill of It All." or in one of her romantic comedies with Rock Hudson.

Unfortunately, for the rabid estate saler, life intrudes. My money must go to fixing up my truck, which just failed Metro Nashville's emission testing because of a faulty oxygen sensor. How dismal life can be.

We crave old linens and antique plates. End tables and cutting boards.

Instead we face a 300 dollar bill at Firestone Complete Auto Care.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Must Read

Arts and Letters Daily, that very best of web sites, has an article tonight from the New English Review by one G. Murphy Donovan. It is titled "The Culture in Kitchens", and here is how it begins-

"There are four clear threats to the modern family, and possibly civilization: cell phones; video games;the Internet; and junk food. We allow the first three because they are cheaper than tutors, private schools, or nannies. Indeed, games and gadgets support a kind of electronic autism where neither parent or child speaks to each other until the latter is old enough to drive".

Anyone who can write or think like this gets my attention. An accomplished satirist. A sort of 21st century Twain. Here is more of the painful truth:

"Grazers are families who eat separately at home where preparation, menu, or timing is irrelevant. Grazers usually feed their kids like pets-on demand from cans and packages".

This I can also appreciate, as I feed a beagle on demand, and as everyone knows, the beagle, like the Great White Shark, is one of Nature's Eating Machines.

I like to think that if I had a family I would feed them at table, at one time, and feed them well. Alas, I am a misanthropic hermit without husband or child, but I do feed myself well, as though I did have a hungry family.But I get to eat all the cherry chiffon pie. Unless the beagle begs for a piece-

Who among us has not seen and been appalled by "electronic autism". I used to see it nightly in the nurses' lounge where people ate in silence whilst twittering, texting, and watching "House Hunters International". In the old days conversation at the break room table could be entertaining, for we talked about who was quitting, who had been "written up", and who our night staff supervisors were dallying with in empty rooms. No more. Even gossip has met its match and been wrestled to the ground and throttled.

A threat to civilization indeed!

*This article is in the November issue of the New English Review.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Aside from my two dogs, these cabinets are my best possessions. I bought them several years back at the Bellevue Antique Mall. They brought a bit of France to my apartment, even though I am certain they were painted by some folk artist here in Tennessee. He or she must have been French at heart. Who knows who owned them before. Were they in a farmhouse? Or did they come from one of the wonderful vintage homes down off West End Avenue? A mystery.

But this I know- only death could have separated them from their owner.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Breakfast Chili

Several years back, when I had more money to travel than I do now, I would drive over to Reelfoot Lake in extreme north west Tennessee to stay at the Blue Basin Cove Bed and Breakfast, owned by Mrs Nancy Moore. I went to bird watch and fish, and I went to walk the dirt roads atop the great levees.

Landside, I looked out over fields of sorghum and cotton. Corn fields born of the farmers' ethanol dreams and rice paddies flooded to attract Snow Geese and ducks as they left the North Country for the Mississippi Flyway, that immense avian migratory river.

And if I turned as I stood, if I turned my back on the farm fields, I would look down onto the flood plain and over at the Father of Waters- the Mississippi River.

Wide in high water and narrowed by sandbars visible in drought- no matter what season it was, no matter if it was spring with sweet songs from Baltimore Orioles in the cottonwoods or winter with wintering bald eagles in the trees, the Great River was always carrying the barges relentlessly up and down. So travel the goods of a nation.

Nancy Moore told me one day about the cooks who signed on for lengthy river trips and fed the bargemen three squares a day. And had I not been locked down by dogs I thought I might run away and become a barge cook-

When I made this chili con carne this morning with country breakfast sausage as the meat, I thought about the bargemen, for this is just the kind of food they would eat as they came southward past the sandbars and eddies and dangerous sunken trees-

Fried eggs, hash browns, corncakes, pancakes, biscuits, bacon, sausage- food for the working man with a long ,and at times, anxious day.

Breakfast Chili

1 pound breakfast sausage, crumbled

1 medium yellow onion,diced.

2 tbs olive oil

One 28 oz can good quality diced tomatoes

Two 15 oz cans kidney beans

Salt to taste

Chili Powder to taste. I used about two tablespoons

1/2 teaspoon Adobo seasoning(optional)

A few drops of Yucatan Sunrise or some other Habenero hot sauce(Optional)

Saute the onion in the olive oil until it is golden and soft. Then add the sausage in pieces, and as it cooks break it up with a wooden spoon. Do this over medium heat.

When the sausage is cooked through add the kidney beans and the tomatoes. Do not drain the beans, but add the bean liquor to the pot.

Stir well, then begin to add the seasonings. This dish can absorb a lot of chili powder, and only you know how little or much you want.

The same can be said of how much salt you add. Add the adobo and hot sauce if you like. Lower the heat to low medium and allow to cook another fifteen minutes or so.

This should serve at least four.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Thanksgiving Post Mortem Post

I am out of the habit of holidays. For during my forty years as a registered nurse I have never had more than a handful off. In the years when it was not my turn to work Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve I worked the holiday anyway, filling in for people to whom these days meant more than they did to me.

But now my job does not require I work holidays at all, and the regular staff is not allowed to replace themselves with an " as needed" worker as expensive as I would be making time and a half.

I had two sweet invitations to dinner, but I turned both down. I am not much for mandatory merriment, and I loathe turkey, so this gave me a quiet day to cook garlic chicken and listen to Aaron Copland and George Gershwin on WQXR on-line. It was one of the best holidays I have ever spent.

In the flush 80's when the Catholic hospital I worked at was successful, the nuns gave out turkeys during the holidays. I always gave my bird away. Alas that hospital, now deep in the red, no longer even offers cafeteria service and hot meals to its night staff. A heartless and pointless decision. In my opinion.

But I digress, for the subject was turkey. How much better a holiday Thanksgiving would be with a pork loin or a pot roast or a nicely browned roast chicken.

For the problem with Thanksgiving is that people who never cook or do not know how to cook think that they have to, and the turkey is not a roast for amateurs to inflict on family or guests. Even I, who have some culinary skill, would not attempt to roast a bird the size of a bulldog and expect to produce something edible.

How I remember my last family Thanksgiving. My aunt cooked the turkey, and the men folk announced to the table how relieved they were that the turkey was not too dry. Faint praise indeed, for a dutiful meal. At this point one of the male family comedians might have made a joke that the turkey tasted like chicken.

But even they could not get away with that. It did not taste like chicken. It tasted like paper towels.

Stuffed with food we felt too guilty not to eat, we would then settle in front of the TVs, where there were two options for holiday viewing- Football and "Tora! Tora! Tora".

"Touchdown!" yelled one screen. "Climb Mount Niitaka!" screamed the other. Entirely too much bellicosity for the women, who went out for a late walk along a wood road in the forest up the hill.

And since I have years of Thanksgivings ahead of me(I hope), I will opt for lighter, tastier fare, cooked by me, and enjoyed by me and my two hounds alone if necessary. I will be sufficiently thankful for that.

Yet out of the past I can still hear Admiral Yamamoto's voice booming from the TV screen.

"I am afraid that all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant", he intones.

Yes, we have.

It is The Great Turkey, Charlie Brown, and no one knows how to cook it-

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cozy November Days Indoors

Nashville had its first hard freeze last night, which makes it even cozier to stay inside.

The Estate Sale Diaries-November 23 and 24, 2012

This photo is from the Patterson Estate Sales website, and it shows some of what was for sale yesterday at a moving sale in West Meade. I went to the sale, which I thought had a whiff of New England about it. No Nashville Plantation Style here. Everything in the plain style. Braided rugs. Grandma Moses like primitive paintings. Simple furniture and lots of stoneware. Antique quilts that attracted a crowd. There were few books,only a handful of ladies'club ring binder cookbooks, but some real finds in the kitchenware department. For a few bucks I bought these. When I saw them I was no longer a 62 year old woman, but an 8 year old in my mother's Southington, Connecticut kitchen squeezing butter ccokie dough onto baking sheets. My mother had the same set. The press I bought yesterday had to have been at least 50 years old. The cake decorating set looks even older. I would guess it dates from the forties. No zip codes on the boxes and "cookie" spelled "cooky". Made in America, as well, back when America made things.

I also found this set of blue and gold glasses, with their elegant diamond and gilt motif-

And this decorative lidded pot-

And this stoneware baker in an unusual shape.

The second sale I went to was in senior housing near the neighborhood Catholic church. Despite finding a handsome Berndes 7 inch sauce pan (retail $99) for three dollars I found this a dispiriting sale for the house had the worst kitchen I have ever seen.It was as though the builders put up the house, then looked around and noticed they had forgotten the kitchen. "Oh, well",they must have said "We'll just stick it over here in this closet".
Cramped and windowless. An insult to food, to life ,and to the old person who lived there . Why do old people need to cook anyway was what this miserable little space seemed to say. They are just waiting around to die.
I could not get out of this sad place with its evil faux kitchen fast enough.
How heartbreaking these senior ghettos are-

Here is the saucepan-

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Thanksgiving Chicken

This recipe, from the incomparable"The Old World Kitchen-The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking", by Elisabeth Luard, is a classic of French country cooking. It is simple. Simple enough for any novice. Indeed if some young person wanted to invite friends for dinner but found herself fearful of her skills, she would find this foolproof. Luard's recipe calls for a whole chicken cut up and cooked for an hour at 350 degrees in a tightly covered casserole or Dutch oven. The chicken keeps company for that hour with some sprigs of rosemary, a few shakes of Herbes de Provence, a wine glass of olive oil, and twenty cloves of unpeeled garlic.

I did not use a whole chicken. I used the drumsticks of three chickens, a half cup of olive oil, 10 garlic cloves, and the herbs already described, and then added salt to taste. Then I drizzled a little more oil over the chicken. And in an hour, it was done. I fished the chicken out with a slotted spoon, then looked down into a golden pool of olive oil suffused with herbs and garlic and chicken fat.

I needed a side, so out came the chef's knife and potato peeler and into the Dutch oven went three Yukon gold potatoes, sliced. An hour later they were done. Had I had a bigger Dutch oven, I could have added the potatoes in the beginning for a one pot meal. Nor would carrots have been a mistake, had I decided to add them.

One fire. One pot. One meal. That is how the peasantry ate. No eight burner twenty thousand dollar stoves, no Ruffoni or All-Clad cookware.

Luard collected classic recipes and tramped around in places such as the Carpathian Mountains talking to shepherds' wives about their chicken in sour cream recipes. The book's geography spans Scandinavia all the way to the Balkan states once threatened by the Ottoman Empire. It is history, culture, ethnography. In short-it is literature, which 99.9 percent of cookery books are not.

And as for Garlic Chicken, kings could not eat better.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Necessity is the Mother of Breakfast

An exotic sunrise led to an interesting breakfast made from a lone banana and 2 ounces of canned green diced leftover chiles I wanted to use up. I decided to make a frittata.

A frittata starts as an omelette, then ends up in the oven.My cast iron skillet can cook on stovetop and in the oven, so I used it for this dish.

Had I added more eggs my frittata would have been fatter, but I was satisfied with my results with two eggs. This was very easy to make, with most of the work done by the food processor. And it was delicious.

Two eggs

1 tablespoon of dulce de leche or just plain sweetened condensed milk

2 ounces of canned diced green chiles

1-2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar or plain sugar depending on how sweet you want it-

1 banana

Put all in a food processor and blend till foamy. Pour into a lightly buttered hot cast iron skillet and leave on medium high heat till the eggs begin to set. Then transfer to a 375 degree oven for five to eight minutes or until the frittata is set.
Remove, allow to cool slightly and garnish slices with guava jam.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Beef Stew with Fruits

When I find stew beef marked down I buy it,for I prefer my beef as a nugget in a stew rather than as a slab. I like a good conventional stew with carrots, onions, and potatoes, spiced by a little vinegar, some tomato paste and garlic, and bound together by flour, a corpulent fellow who thumbs his nose at long winters.

But this afternoon's recipe would regard flour as a fat man who tries to sit too close. This stew I think would be for cold nights in a brief winter, for it incorporates two fruits not from cold country- the pomegranate and the orange- and only one friut of the North- the apple. After that the other players are the same old crowd.

The apples go into this stew in chunks, just as the beef does. The pomegranate arrives as molasses, and the orange comes as a little juice, and some slices that some might eat, but that some cooks might discard before serving.

The ingredients list-

Four or five small red potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 diced up yellow onion

Two carrots, peeled and cut into half moons

Two whole peeled garlic cloves

Two apples, peeled and cored and cut into chunks. I used small Jonathan apples from an economy bag and not those individual giant apples in rows with the little stickers on them as though they were prize steers at the county fair.

One tangerine or orange cut into three unpeeled slices.

One liter of chicken stock

One pound of stew beef .

Sea salt to taste

A one inch chunk of butter for the stew and a sliver to use to brown the beef in a cast iron fry pan.

A tablespoon of white wine vinegar to deglaze the cast iron pan.

A shake or two of Herbes de Provence

Three tbs of tomato paste

Two tablespoons pomegranate molasses-do not substitute pomegranate juice

Two tablespoons of orange juice

One bay leaf.

Saute the onion in butter right in the soup pot until it is soft and golden. Season with sea salt to sweat it. Remember that undercooked onions are a sin against soups and stews. Put them in raw and they will stay raw proclaiming to the world that you, the cook, are either careless or an amateur.

Brown the beef in a lightly buttered cast iron fry pan. When they are browned, and if the onions are ready add them to the soup pot. Deglaze the cast iron with the vinegar and scrape it in with the meat. Now add the chicken stock, and everything else.

Cover and simmer over over medium low heat. Do not boil this. This stew is not instant. Plan on a slowcooked two hours. Then remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce by a third. Remove the bay leaf. Leave in the orange slices for someone, intrigued, will eat them. Add more salt to taste.

This recipe should serve four.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Estate Sale Diaries

The needs of my aging Toyota preclude estate saleing now, but when I saw these pictures I had downloaded from the estate sale company's email to customers I decided I had to post them. The sale was last summer, and I bought my Hall Pottery mixing bowls there.

The owner had collected mixing bowls and glassware, and I think her collection was stunning.

One of the best estate sales I ever attended!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Homage to Fred Astaire

Watching a Fred Astaire movie is better for a bad mood than an anti-depression pill. His graceful style and his dancing feet and the wonderful gowns on his leading ladies. Tonight I am watching him on Turner Classic movie station in "Three Little Words". Turner Classic is a a national treasure, and we are lucky that they show films all the other channels have put on the back shelf.
There is an elegance to these older movies, to the musicals, and the old westerns  To the black ties and the polished shoes. When was Fred ever disheveled? The carnation in the pocket, the black tie were always perfect.Nothing vulgar, no entire sentences composed of four letter words .Back then"gosh" was the closest  thing to an expletive heard on the screen .
And now Mr Astaire, dressed in a cranberry colored bathrobe is reading a newspaper ,and listening  to the radio. He is talking to his wife in person, not text messaging or playing on a computer, not watching football  on a big screen TV.This movie was released in 1950, the year I was born.
Ah, the fifties. They were a different world-There will never be another Astaire.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"I know there's a chicken in here someplace!"

You may need a timer to remind you that your chicken is still braising in the oven, but your beagle never forgets!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gingerbread Muffins with Chocolate and Cherries

Monday is my Baking Day, and yesterday I made buttermilk rolls, two loaves of potato bread, and muffins.

I had a box of gingerbread mix in the cupboard, and I decided to experiment with it. I wanted something sweet and fruity that would go well with the day's last cup of coffee, taken at the kitchen table while looking out at the north wind stripping the yellow leaves from the maples. Pretending, perhaps, that I was in a cafe in Paris or at a coffee house in Prague.

One box of gingerbread mix

2 eggs

1 1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 cup pitted black cherries. I used Morrelo cherries from a jar I bought at Trader Joe's

3/4 cup of chocolate chips

Put the gingerbread mix in a bowl and stir in the water, then the eggs. Add the cherries and the chocolate chips and mix well. Spoon the batter into muffin tins sprayed with canola cooking spray or greased with butter. Fill each muffin cup three quarters full. These muffins are dense and do not rise to the height of more conventional muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for twenty to twenty five minutes. This recipe makes about 18 medium sized muffins.