A philosopher-chef

I just read a beautiful article in this December's Food & Wine, by Anya von Bremzen (of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing), about the Italian chef Massimo Bottura, whom she describes as a "philosopher-chef" who "bridges...folklore and post-molecularism." He says in his book Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef that "a recipe is just a starting point of reflection, always evolving."

There are some beautiful previews of his book at his publisher's site, http://www.phaidon.com/store/food-cook/massimo-bottura-never-trust-a-skinny-italian-chef-9780714867144/ . On the cool site about the 50 best restaurants in the world! is his restaurant that's #3! http://www.theworlds50best.com/list/1-50-winners/osteria-francescana . That restaurant's site is cool as well: http://www.osteriafrancescana.it/ .

He's a very good human being as well as chef -- he's put together a soup kitchen for the upcoming Milan Expo that will use leftovers from other pavilions to make delicious dishes to feed the poor. Other chefs have agreed to join him, including Alain Ducasse and Mario Batali.

Holiday wisdom

In this part of the world, we're really heading into "The Holidays." I've been rethinking how to approach them...and just got some ideas from a great event planner, David Monn, in this month's Elle Decor: He points out that many, many people really don't have time to do all the traditional holiday stuff, but that he likes to choose to do one or two that are important to him.....He suggests looking at January and February as great times to spread holiday happiness, like celebrating Chinese New Year, or throwing a friendly "old-fashioned potluck" -- "we might even have a Jell-O mold" -- he also mentions that "old classic" dishes are back in fashion.

You might enjoy his site: http://davidmonn.com/webDev/davidmonn.php, which includes this photo of one of the many magical events he has designed:

Wishing everyone a peaceful, happy time in the months ahead, whatever holidays you do or don't celebrate.

November Potluck at I Heart Cooking Clubs

Joining up with the lovely people over at http://iheartcookingclubs.blogspot.com/ , who are featuring recipes from their chefs. As they say, "Oh, the possibilities!"

I have used more than once the ideas in Jamie Oliver's Save with Jamie for his Mothership Roast Chicken (what a name!) and its delicious side dishes. I have never had such delicious roasted potatoes! (Note that instead of boiling the cabbage I roasted it too, though added it later than the other items -- and have found that red cabbage works best, at least of the cabbage available in this area.)
...In fact, I'm going to re-use many of his ideas tomorrow for the American Thanksgiving! but with a bigger bird!

This Week's Cookbooks

Lots of clippings to try this week...a feast to make...another favorite retro cookbook for menu inspiration.

Another free raisin cookbook -- this one from 1923!

One of the first posts on this site (http://favoritefoodthisweek.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-cool-and-free-100th-anniversary.html) was about a lovely free raisin e-cookbook from Sun-Maid -- so it's only right that I also mention this one which I just discovered, also from Sun-Maid but from many years earlier!

A Versatile Eggy Vegetabley Casserole

Just made this up last night and it was delicious, especially in the midst of our first cold spell!

Versatile Eggy Casserole

serves 3 or 4

(Note you might want to plan to roast vegetables in the same oven.)

Cut into 1/4's 3 slices of whole grain bread.
Brush one side of each with olive oil.
Generously glug some olive oil into the bottom of a casserole dish and brush it up the sides a bit.
Put about 1/3 of the bread slices on the bottom of that casserole dish.

Sprinkle over some diced onion.
Sprinkle over a total of about 150 to 200g chopped vegetable(s) or eg tiny tomatoes, chopped sweet peppers, and/or sliced mushrooms.
(Surely ham, bacon type additions would also be delicious, but I didn't try that.)

Whisk together then pour over top of the above:
         6 eggs
         a very generous splash of milk (about 1/4 cup)
         salt, pepper
         about 2 tsp mustard
         heaping 1/2 tsp or more smoked sweet paprika
         1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
         a small handful of chopped fresh herbs eg cilantro, parsley

Sprinkle with about 2 oz chopped cheese eg Mozzarella

Put the rest of the bread on top.

Bake at 375 for about an hour.

Serve with a salad and/or roasted vegetables.

Inspired by the very different "Saturday Night Casserole" in the Casserole Cookbook of the McCall's collection from 1972.

Various Approaches to Easier Meal Planning, Part Three: The Budget-Friendly Grocery Store Method; Plus The Big Idea

I checked out this book from 1971,
but found that though the book is charming and useful in some ways, of course what was inexpensive to this book's editors 43 ! years ago is not inexpensive today where I live, especially because it calls for a lot of premade dishes like canned hash, plus of course some premades that don't seem to exist anymore....There are other books like this as well, as I'm sure you know, whose ingredients obviously worked for their authors but which are priced vastly differently where I live.....all of which made me realize The Big Idea, which hmm is actually Five Big Ideas (I don't mean ground-breaking big, but basic big):
I would probably do best with my food budget simply going to

the closest store with reliable fresh merchandise

that we like

and seeing what is the best price that day,

and getting the amount I know my family eats, and planning our meals around that --

using every bit of the food that I possibly can.
Some people -- like my dad! -- have memorized the ever-changing prices -- of many of their nearby stores! with the help of their sales flyers -- so could plan their grocery list a bit more specifically ahead of time. Actually, most of us could somewhat -- like, summer squash is often inexpensive in late summer here, winter squash in midwinter, so we can plan a dish around that, though be open to changing that if something happened with the store's suppliers and prices were unusually high.

"The amount I know my family eats" is based on nutritional stuff, which differs for everybody. We feel best with a huge amount of vegetables, for example, and plenty of olive oil.

Speaking of olive oil, some ingredients from certain brands are more expensive, but can be the only reliably tasty ingredients. Constantly experimenting with other brands can be more expensive, to say nothing of unpleasant and even wasteful if the other brand is truly inedible (like some "unclean" stuff that made us ill, from a store I now avoid). I simply get a lot of our favorite brand when I see it on sale, especially for olive oil, vinegars, and spices.

There are very helpful, much more timeless cookbooks that help with the last "bit" of The Big Idea, using up every bit of food --  cookbooks like Save with Jamie, which I've mentioned already, that give advice on using your whole chicken in many tasty and easy ways. Jamie's book even gives great ideas on using up your vegetable scraps.

Of course it's only fresh food whose scraps are useable -- so food "on sale" that's icky is no bargain, though a bruise or two to trim away is perfectly fine....

This Week's Cookbooks

I've already started this batch and am really enjoying using menu ideas from this cool 1939 spiral-bound Modern Meal Maker: 1115 Menus, 744 Recipes by Martha Meade.

It has an interesting page in it titled "Bringing Back the Good Old Days"! You can find copies of this that are still pretty reasonably priced, I just saw. Here are some more details about it from a very cool website: http://cookbookoftheday.blogspot.com/2012/03/modern-meal-maker.html .

Hmm, when I looked up that cookbook's title, I discovered a cool truly modern meal maker site! http://modernmealmaker.com/

I also enjoyed the other retro source here, the Fish & Shellfish booklet from this 1950s Good Housekeeping's Cookbooks binder. I got a fantastic deal on mine, though it's harder to get that nowadays, especially in good condition....

In fact, with the help of these retro sources, I'm very surprised and happy to have cut our food budget in half, which is crazy! and actually to have made my husband happier with the food itself -- he's into comfort food right now! which includes lots of inexpensive! fall vegetables and homemade bread but very few and often costly convenience products.

A 1950s harvest festival in New England

from this month's chapter in Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow Daybook, describing their harvest festival:

[It] is gay with massed greens in the big...bowl, with harvest vegetables piled in the old wooden dough tray, with red corn hanging...by the fireplace. Apples and raisins and nuts brim the bowls on the coffee table by the fire, the cheese board is decked forth with pale Swiss, bright Cheddar, and creamy Port Salut...

A favorite harvest-time picture of which I think Mrs. Taber would have approved, an October 1924 magazine cover....Of course this being a food site, we must imagine a wonderful kitchen inside this mansion...perhaps with a fireplace with one of those chimneys we can see? Hmm, a few people are selling this magazine online, but beyond my means....If anyone sees its articles inside, do let us know.

And you thought you had difficulty grocery shopping...

from the blurb for "A Continental Cuisine" autobiographical article by Jynne Dilling Martin in this month's Food & Wine:

In a frigid Antarctic kitchen, nine hours by plane from the nearest grocery store, writer Jynne Dilling Martin discovers Pad Thai, pear galette, and an astonishingly creative Thanksgiving dinner.

A Fabulous Breakfast-for-Dinner

-- unlike most menus I've tried for this idea, this one doesn't give one a sugar headache. And it was quite easy!

Cauliflower and Ham Hash (I found a recipe in a magazine but sorry am not sure which one; it's basically your normal hash browns but made with sautéed cauliflower florets, onion, then after those are browned you add chopped nitrate-free ham and I used Williams-Sonoma's amazing smoked sweet paprika which is by far the best paprika I've ever used, and a bit of freshly ground pepper, then I dropped an egg apiece on top and covered and cooked until the eggs were done; top with just a little freshly snipped parsley)

Vegetarian "Pork and" Beans (I livened up some bland homemade beans with natural brown sugar called sucanat, catsup, and a little bit of mustard!)

Apple Crisp (though I didn't want to turn on the oven so just toasted a serving each of oats, then walnuts, and set them aside; then stewed apples and pears actually with some brown sugar and lots of cinnamon and a glug of wonderful almond oil -- by La Tourangelle my favorite nut-oil maker by far, and topped them with the oats and nuts)

(I also tried serving pear liquour with this, but the one I got was ghastly; perhaps you know of a good apple calvados or something.)
This is a re-post from the pre-incarnation of this site, actually from when it was hot there, hence the oven reference.

This Week's Cookbooks

-- using (rather blurrily, sorry) ideas from my other post today...so aiming at shopping for 10 rather than 7 days, and doing more vegetarian and fish than I somehow had been very recently...

Various Approaches to Easier Meal Planning, Part Two: The Budget-Friendly Method -- Complete with a Grocery List!

After various (failed) experiments as detailed at http://favoritefoodthisweek.blogspot.com/2014/10/various-approaches-to-easier-meal.html and http://favoritefoodthisweek.blogspot.com/2014/10/food-on-budget-ideas.html , I thought I should combine ideas that are easy both on your energy and your budget. Once again, it is more to do with grocery shopping than actual meal planning. As usual, this is very idiosyncratic...and possibly very boring to somebody else!

from the 1930s:

Once a month (for a total of 3 shopping trips)
(note there's a general shopping list at the end of this that summarizes these ideas)
1. Have a Fill Your Freezer (etc) day featuring the least expensive (probably very seasonal) foods. (Plan at http://favoritefoodthisweek.blogspot.com/2014/10/filling-freezer-etc-day-general.html .) For that, in this area I need Whole Foods, in order to source safe and "humane" nonvegetarian ingredients (my closer favorite grocery store, Natural Foods, doesn't carry things like whole chickens). My favorite recipe plans for that at the moment are in Jamie Oliver's Save with Jamie. Try to make enough to help you skip one week of shopping this month.

2. Another week, load up on food from Natural Grocers, my by-far most budget-friendly shop in this area. Try making a master list based on ideas from the budget post, in which one doubles up with nutrient-rich foods, etc. Try to get enough from here that you can skip one week of shopping this month. However, if I must go shopping again this month, this would be where I would go.
   If you can swing it, do get one premade meal from here for this month, to reward yourself for your hard work, or maybe just one side dish or something else that appeals to you. In fact, there are a couple things I often get here whose raw ingredients cost more than the made dish they offer...and that made dish is ever so delicious!

3. Another week, pick up the staples and anything else required at the nearby grocery store that carries the olive oil, etc. we like and at lower prices than a gourmet shop. However, unfortunately I need to get as little as possible here, as their prices have gone 'way up and their freshness 'way down...but on the other hand it saves on gas, as unlike everything else that's one to three hours away it's five minutes away.

Here is my latest general menu and grocery list, cobbled together for this site since I don't know how to offer PDFs....I decided to start with a very general list that does not specify the above types of shops, so I could be reminded of what I needed on hand in general an average of every 10 days, to re-check the pantry etc. before heading out to a shop (and to cross out what I do not need). (This includes a couple of my favorite made-up-for-my-own-notes abbreviations: IN = If Necessary; IP = If Possible.)

Automatic, as required
Continue to have delivered the budget-friendly foods as detailed at http://favoritefoodthisweek.blogspot.com/2014/10/various-approaches-to-easier-meal.html -- for me, that's all the pet food from chewy.com and my coffee from amazon.com; they have those items at half the price of anybody else in my area.

Only when required and have a deal/sale/coupon
As detailed in the first part of this meal planning series: Williams-Sonoma for spices etc., the local wine shop for sherry during its annual sale.

The joy of playing with your food

A quotation from this month's Clean Eating magazine's editorial, by editor-in-chief Alicia Rewaga....It's a promising beginning to this issue, which I just picked up this morning at Natural Grocers:

I adore playing around at the market and in my kitchen because I'm tinkering with my health, boosting my immune system, energizing...

Jobs in the culinary and other arts

From Gerald Durrell's funny book The Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium, in the "Michelin Man" chapter, re his travels in France in hmm I guess the 1960s -- he says this was years before the book was published in 1973, and it's a veteran of WW I speaking, then in his mid-80s and running a restaurant and inn when Dr. Durrell met him and heard him say this:

 I found my true artistic métier was in the kitchen. However,...I tried to make a few francs by [painting] the odd portrait and pictures of people's homes....I enjoyed myself tramping through France, and if no one bought my pictures I did whatever job was offered. I have mended roads, picked grapes and cherries, and even been, for a short time, a snail farmer.

(I should probably mention that I didn't like the end of this particular chapter...though nonfiction is nonfiction!)

Huh. Google once again is reading my mind. When I did an image search for the above book, it very quickly gave me another book I have been reading in the last couple days! Patrick Leigh Fermor and the Duchess of Devonshire's delightful letters, In Tearing Haste.....(Twilight Zone soundtrack now playing.)

A Wonderful Quick Bread

(a re-post from previous incarnation of this site, when we lived in Hades, excuse me, somewhere dreadful overseas)

I had this as an extremely simple snack -- bread and water! But it's the best quick bread I've found so far that fits my needs: not sweet, and as close as possible to a yeast bread in texture and flavor. (I can't get good yeast here, and even when I import American yeast the flour doesn't work well with it.) It's an adaptation of my wonderful mom's wonderful bread!

Note: If you don't have a big strong mixer like a Kitchenaid standalone mixer, and you are not a big weight lifter, you probably would do best to halve the recipe, as the dough is very hard to mix, and also to mix the liquids separately before mixing them in. Also note that this quantity is the maximum that will fit into my mixing bowl without going everywhere.

The recipe (note I'm sure that different nuts and fruit will work):
Put into the big mixer bowl and stir by hand well:
  6-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or a combination of whole grains, though mostly wheat; if your whole wheat flour is very heavy, try just 6 cups of it and then 1/2 cup of some lighter flour)
  1/2 cup oats
  1 tsp salt (yes, that much)
  2 tsp baking soda
  1 cup raisins
Start preheating your oven and oil 2 big bread pans (or more of smaller pans) (I use lots of olive oil brushed on with a silicon brush -- and first pour a bit of olive oil into a 1/3 cup measure and swirl it around before pouring it into the baking pan so that the honey below comes out much better), because if you mix the liquids in too early the baking soda will lose too much of its strength before you bake the bread.
Then put into the center and just stir them a bit: 2 eggs
Then pour in and mix using the big mixer on a low speed just until mixed:
  1/4 cup mild vinegar (I use white or rice, but apple cider will probably be nice too)
  2-3/4 cups milk
  1/3 cup honey (preferably a strongly flavored wild-ish honey; preferably in a measuring cup that has been swirled with oil as mentioned above, so it comes out better)
Then mix in:
  1/8 cup flax seeds
  1/8 cup sunflower seeds (optional)
  1/2 cup or more walnut quarters
It will be a very thick dough, unlike most quick breads. Spoon (probably with difficulty, sorry) into well-oiled pans (I use a couple big glass ones). Bake at 375 for 1 hour for big loaves; test it at that point with a wooden toothpick to be sure it doesn't come out doughy (once my oven was a bit cool because of voltage fluctuations so I needed to bake it about 10 more minutes). Cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes, then remove. Let cool at least almost completely before cutting. Nice served with jam or (especially when a bit older and starting to dry out) drizzled with walnut oil.