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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Omelets

It seems like yesterday, I was a student in Paris!  I was fresh out of high school and it was a summer to remember.  I grew to love Paris as home. I loved it so much that 4 years later, I studied there for a year.  During the year stint, I lived with another family and again with the lady I lived with the first time.  I missed my then boyfriend and family, but I couldn't allow anything to interfere with my once in a lifetime dream.  If  love was meant to last, surely it would.... and it did (for 16 years). I took every opportunity to visit every museum that was in the city, eat at "hole in the wall" places ("hole in the wall" in Paris?  NO!), shop the local markets, and enjoy the adventure.   

Mme... lived in the 16th Arrondissement, which is quite the oh la la place to live. Looking at the old address, I see that her 5 story, 7 bedroom town house had been converted to separate apartments.  Anyway, it was a single residence when I was there and my room was on the top floor!  Oh how I loved my view out the high window overlooking the rooftops of Paris.

Mme. was a wonderful cook and she took every opportunity to tell me the correct (French) way to eat foods.  Never cut the lettuce with a knife and don't cut off le nez (nose) of the cheese triangle!  She made wonderful lamb (which I ate at home about once a month anyway), cakes, fish, vegetables, etc. If it was classic French, she made it (and I ate tripe but not too fond of it). She had an old crock in her kitchen where the last bits of wine from the bottle were poured.  This was for making vinegar.  

Her meals usually had an appetizer, entree, salad, cheese, bread and sometimes a small dessert. She knew that I had a sweet tooth. Even if it was fruit, that would suit me fine.  Many times, I was able to watch her prepare food right before serving.  This is where I learned to emulsify the salad dressing (my Greek family never emulsified it), and make an omelet.  It's difficult to write down the process, but there is one that she used.  It's quite an arm workout to do it properly.  

One of my secrets is to have one pan that is totally designated to making eggs.  Nothing else gets cooked in that pan.  Start with 4 eggs and beat them well, adding herbs if desired.  Put a pat of butter in the bottom of a hot pan, not so hot that the butter browns though.  Add the eggs all at once, and with the flat part of the fork against the bottom of the pan, shake the pan as you mix the eggs.  This will make it where there are no large chunks of egg in the omelet (that would be a country style omelet... which is good too), but it is velvety smooth.  After mixing the egg, tilt the pan so that the egg goes to one side of the pan, add extra cheese, and invert onto a plate.  

A more rustic way to cook an omelet, which is easier in my opinion, is to add the eggs into the hot butter (yes, use butter not oil or bacon fat), pour in the eggs and as it starts cooking, gently slide the outside portion towards the center of the pan, keep doing this until most of the egg is cooked, yet still runny in the middle, if that makes sense.  Add cheese, veggies, and meats if desired, and tilt out onto a plate.  In either case, I remember that she did not brown the omelet as is sometimes done. I think the key is not to fully cook the egg before you plate it, let it be just a little "soft" in the center.  I think browning the omelet toughens it somewhat.  This may not be the "Classic Method" taught at cooking schools, but it was classic at her house.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Croutons

A day doesn't go by where I don't eat a salad. Some days, I will eat salad for lunch and one for dinner. Green salad, grilled shrimp salad, old fashioned lettuce wedge, grilled chicken salad, taco salad, and many others too numerous to mention. We had salad every night for dinner when I was a child and the tradition continues.  How one of my sons doesn't like salad, I don't understand, but that's ok!  Salad is a comfort food for me, especially with olive oil, vinegar, and lemon as a dressing. I had to acquire a taste for creamy Italian and Ranch style dressings over the years.  It was Greek salad dressing every night without fail when I was a child.  That's still my favorite.   Hot summers in Georgia are just made for the enjoyment of salad.  We have the local farmers market to purchase home grown tomatoes and cucumbers which really make the salad extra delicious.  It's amazing how a garden tomato can taste so differently from those purchased in the grocery store.  Salad and bread are a great combo.  Being of Greek heritage, one naturally doesn't want the lovely olive oil dressing to sit in the bottom of the bowl.  Yes, I'm heavy handed with the dressing as I like to dip hearty bread into it after finishing my salad.  That's called rustic eating at its finest!  I love any kind of bread, but especially hearty bread like a chewy ciabatta , French, or Italian bread when I have salad.  I have no less than 4 kinds of bread at my house at any given moment (right now it's pumpernickel, pumpernickel rye, croissants, ciabatta, and whole grain wheat... in case you were wondering). Since there are usually only two of us here, and I eat more bread than anyone, it sometimes gets a little stale.  When I made my salad the other day, I saw some ciabatta  bread that was one day past prime for eating without heating.  I cut off some of the crust, (who doesn't like crust? ... apparently most children I see as a table monitor during lunch at an elementary school), cut the bread into cubes, and gently saute until golden brown.  I like to cut the bread into substantial size cubes so they can be individual bites, not a minuscule cube.  A lot of packages of ready made croutons can be purchased at the store.  Seriously, how difficult can it be to cut bread and saute it in some oil or butter? The homemade ones are so much better.  I'm not going to post a recipe for croutons because YOU CAN DO THIS WITHOUT ONE! Even people who don't think they can cook without a recipe can make toast! Right? That's what it is basically... just toast.  Put a little olive oil, butter, or a mixture of both in a frying pan (my preferred method) and saute over low heat until golden brown.  Cut the bread into cubes, drizzle with olive oil and gently saute.  I'm sure you could bake the pieces in the oven too... I just like frying things. You can put a fresh garlic clove in the butter after it has melted and stir it around until the flavor is infused, or chop it and add it at the last minute.  I've also been known to add lemon pepper seasoning too.  Plenty of sea salt and freshly ground pepper finish off the croutons.  It makes an every day green salad just jump for joy!  Once you make them yourself, you will never (yes- never) purchase them at the store.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Summer

Ah.... There is nothing like Summer time.  Staying up late and sleeping late in the morning. The staying up late is easy, but my dog has other ideas for me sleeping late in the morning.  I must admit, he will sleep late sometimes too.  My eating schedule is way off during the summer.  At school, when the children eat breakfast, I become hungry. Then there is snack time, lunch time, and snack time after school if I help with after school activities.  Oh, and let's not forget the birthday cakes (for monthly birthdays) and little candies and gifts brought to us by the students.  How can one refuse to eat candy when a little one has just presented you with a bag full of all of their favorites? Yes, candy is a breakfast food!!  Hopefully, I will get myself back on track weight wise during the summer. Just a few pounds that can be easily dropped with a slight change in eating habits.   I will admit that I do eat salad almost every day at school, but I eat more often during my work day.   It's now almost 4pm and I've not had a thing to eat today.  I'm not hungry, so I don't eat.  I'm sure I will eat a huge salad tonight for dinner.  I found some lasagna in the freezer that I made about a month ago, so just trying to clean out the freezer. My sons will enjoy that!  There is a frozen cheesecake and ice cream in there too which will also get my attention.

During summer break, there is nothing more enjoyable than going out for an occasional breakfast.  Oh to sit down and enjoy a breakfast at a leisurely pace is so much fun. Sometimes, I can get my eldest son to join me for breakfast.  Both of my sons have such busy schedules that if one wants to sleep late, by all means, he gets to sleep late.   So many places close to our home to enjoy. I'm so used to coffee or hot tea in a thermos at work.  Eating quickly before the children come to class in the morning, eating while getting ready for the day, is fine and good during the work week.. A piece of fruit or a cheese, ham, and butter sandwich suits me fine during work. My trusty thermos keeps my coffee or tea hot for hours, so that is great! Sure coffee tastes the same if it is in a paper cup, bone china cup, or a heavy mug, but I do enjoy it in a fine bone china cup though.  It just goes with the relaxation of the meal.  Paper cups, plates, etc... usually designates that one is in a hurry and can't sit and linger.  Even the coffee shops only have paper cups now.  We live in a fast paced world where people don't take time to sit and enjoy the simple things.  Oh to sit at an outdoor cafe in Paris, relaxing with a cup of coffee watching the hustle and bustle of the city.  That's my kind of day.  Since I'm not in Paris.  I will enjoy eating a delicious strawberry doughnut, drinking coffee out of a paper cup and relaxing outside my local doughnut shop.  No where to go...... a favorite book or local newspaper close at hand allows me to linger and enjoy my breakfast time.  Only better thing is to enjoy it with family and friends!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Birthday Cakes

My mother was not a baker at all.  If there was any baking in the house, it was by me.  My cooking skills have grown from mud pies in the back yard (baked in the sun in a chicken pot pie aluminum pan...remember those?), gourmet Easy Bake Oven chef,  making simple box pizza, bologna and cheese sandwiches ( for my brothers) to making homemade eclairs. Cooking has been so much fun for me.  People never understood that it was fun to sometimes make my own birthday cake.  It was fun for me to try different recipes.  I fondly remember making a Paris Brest cake, Sacher Torte, or Black Forest Cake, to name a few of my favorites..  Needless to say, birthday cakes have had many different varieties in our house.  My sons are not big cake eaters, so we have had the famous doughnut stack birthday cake, brownies, ice cream pie, pizza and my sponge cake (real sponges frosted for my son's 21st birthday) and the case of Red Bull drink that I frosted for my eldest son when he turned 21.  We are a unique family that doesn't have to have everything "status quo".  We step outside the "cake" box most of the time in many things we do.   Being a native of Atlanta, GA, my sons both know that I drink no other soft drink except the best!  I love Coca-Cola and will never willingly purchase any competitors products except for water or Jones Soda (Coke just doesn't make the flavor combinations of Jones Soda...yet!.  For some reason, it tastes better out of the smaller bottles.  This is my birthday dessert which was purchased for me by my son.  My favorite drink, my favorite fruit, and a delicious chocolate cake with chocolate mousse between the layers.    It was the perfect birthday dessert!

The next day, a friend of my other son, came over with a beautiful birthday cake for me.  What a treat!  Two birthday cakes.  This looked like a frosted cake, but when she said it was fruit salad, I'm sure my eyebrows came together and a look of utter confusion crossed my face.  Yes, it was shaped like a cake, but it was actually fruit.  A small round watermelon (seedless) was cut, frosted with vanilla yougart, topped with fruit, and the sides were coated with almonds.  It was so refreshing and and sweet.  No, the birthday fun did not end there...... At work, the two April birthday girls in the kindergarten hall had chocolate cake and Key Lime pie for a dessert treat!  Wow!! Four different birthday desserts to enjoy.  I must say this was a record in my book.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cooking Disasters!!

While having lunch with a group of ladies yesterday, we started talking about our kitchen disasters.  I thought my faithful readers would like to hear of a few of mine........and believe me, I've had plenty.

Banana Pudding disaster:   Bananas are the only fruit that I absolutely do not like.  I will eat them in a bread or muffin, or even if someone serves any dish.  I just don't like them.  I'd rather eat lima beans for my potassium any day than eat a banana.  That being said, I usually make the best banana pudding ever!!  My dad loves banana pudding.  I was hosting a family Easter celebration and decided to double the recipe as there would be a lot of people at my home.  This pudding is made from scratch using my Yia yia Maria's recipe.  You can't really make it too far in advance as it's better fresh, so naturally, I was being rushed.  As anyone knows, you can't rush making custard.  I stirred and stirred the custard thinking it was just right to take off of the flame and into the refrigerator to thicken upon cooling.  It looked great with the homemade meraigne on top, toasted almonds, browned under the broiler until the perfect shade of golden brown.  Into the refrigerator.  A few hours pass, lamb is cooked and relatives and friends are bringing their Greek specialties to the all day event.  Thank goodness there were plenty of desserts and Greek cookies in addition to my banana pudding.  Now, we are a family who laughs together, cries together, and just has fun together.  My brother was the first to try my oh so famous recipe.  He didn't say a word, but grabbed a drinking cup, put the banana pudding in the cup and announced that it was the best banana pudding he ever drank!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas Tea

Several years ago, I would go to the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta and have afternoon tea with some friends.  Sadly, time gets away from us, work schedules change, and people move out of the area. so no tea for years.  That hasn't stopped me from having my morning or afternoon tea at home though.  Sandra is like a sister to me.  We both enjoy drinking our hot tea and chatting the afternoon away....... We are certainly overdue to have a day of talking, giggling, and sharing our joys and concerns of the moment.  There are about a handful of people that I could just sit and chat with all day.  You guys know who you are, because we've had chat marathons!!  Back to the discussion of tea.  When I went to England, I was with some classmates studying in Paris, and prior to that with my parents and brother.  None of those times did I have an official "high tea" or any other specialty tea. No, I just had a "cuppa" tea with my breakfast.  One day, I will venture to the United Kingdom and have a "real":proper tea.  Perhaps I can find some long lost relatives in Ireland.  Anyone know any "Coulters"?

I have been off of work for two weeks for Christmas break.  Being at the ER Christmas day with my dad, and helping him during his return home, has made me realize that I could easily get used to working from home (perhaps a writer?).  I especially enjoy the afternoon cooking meals that aren't so rushed.  Nonetheless, time has flown by and now I need a vacation to relax.  Why does stress and worry make one so tired?  After spending the day with him, doing chores, or taking care of Christmas cards and shopping, there is nothing I looked forward to more than a cup of tea.

Sandra (remember her....at the top of the post?) and her husband went on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Oh, it sounded like a wonderful time.  Guess what she gave me for Christmas?  I opened the bag and saw a beautiful box, so elegant in black and gold........... TEA!! Tea from Provence.  Now, I've had many different kinds of tea, out of elegant bone china, Chinese tea cups, bowls, and mugs.  I've had loose tea where several strands of tea manage to sink to the bottom of my cup. Everyday, ordinary, tea bags that come in the box.  This tea, oh my, this tea was really something special.  Each individual tea bag was made of a cotton cloth. Each was tied individually with a little string wound around the top very precisely so that no tea could escape the hold.  I read all about the tea on the container.  I read the French first to keep up my rusty French from my days of study long ago.  I then read the English just to be sure...... Lavender and hints of rose and citrus.  I was thinking it would be too strong like a strong Earl Grey with bergamot, but it was simply delightful! I was instantly transported back to the time I visited Southern France, closing my eyes for a second, I could smell the fresh lavender coming through the huge open double windows of the hotel where I was staying.  Transported back to one of the most special times of my life; a traveling student seeing as much of Europe and France while trying to learn the French language.

It was probably the best green tea that I've ever had. Any tea that can take you out of your "hectic" day and take you thousands of miles away, is one that I will enjoy only when I can take the time to relax and enjoy it.  This tea will not see the travel mug, nor could I drink it out of a stoneware mug. .No, I will use one of my bone china cups that my next door neighbor brought me from her hometown of the Lakes District in England, or my fine wedding china from years ago.   French tea out of an English cup..... Let the friendship begin!!

Labels

Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
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