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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Foods I don't like.... so far #4Whole anchovies

Anchovies add a terrific taste to many food items.  Where would Caesar dressing be with out that anchovy tang? Where would Worcestershire sauce be without anchovies?  I bet many people did not even know there were anchovies in it.  I read labels for fun....seriously, I read all food labels. They are hidden gems or curses depending on how many are added.  They are little fish with minuscule bones that are supposed to be healthy for you.  I'm all into health and eating well, but I just can't eat a whole anchovy.. I can pretty much eat any food stuff I don't like with a hint of lemon, but I just can't get around to the anchovy-lemon bit.

My first memorable experience with a whole anchovy was when we traveled as a family to Europe. My parents, brothers, and I are all ready and willing to eat whatever the locals eat when we are travelling.  We had eaten wonderful Kale soup from Portugal, delicious onion soup at Montmartre in Paris, the best seafood and oranges of my life in Spain, and now we were in England.   We had tried all of the items we'd not heard of on the menu to expand our palates.  We still do it to this day with awe and wonder in our eyes to experience what the locals call "comfort foods". They are indeed comforting. I now have quite a collection of international cookbooks so that I can experience home cooking from other countries at home.

Anyway, it was lunch time and we were looking for some where to eat.  There are so many restaurants and bistros that have outdoor seating. That is my favorite way to dine. Al Fresco!! Although it was probably 45 years ago, I can still visualize that cheese pizza.  I just wanted something familiar after all of the unfamiliar foods we had enjoyed over our two week jaunt through Europe.  Here it comes, the individual size pizza of my very own.  That was quite a novelty back then, though they are quite the norm now.  Wow! My own little cheese pizza on a plate. I liked my pizza loaded with everything then as I do now, but I just wanted a simple, not so filling lunch. Here is my cheese pizza with what? A sardine? I liked sardines, so I wasn't thinking too much of it.  I took one bite of the pizza and the entire pizza was permeated with fishy salt.  It pretty much ruined the pizza for me. Ever since that day, I will get a pizza with everything in the world on it: broccoli, pepperoncini, artichokes, meats, seafood, chicken, potatoes, squash, mushrooms, olives of every color and sort, but by gosh there had better NOT be an anchovy on it!!

Those little bony fish can show up in the most unsuspecting places.  If I use anchovy, I will purchase the paste. Just a little can add flavor, a lot can ruin a dish for me.  Read your labels, have fun! Discover the joys of "finding anchovy" (kind of like finding the little boy in a red striped shirt when my sons were little).  This photo is from a jar of peanut butter with added omega-3 for health conscious parents.  Anchovy and Sardine oil kind of makes me think it wouldn't go well with strawberry jam.  I didn't try it!  If you try it, let me know how it tastes. Until then, I'll be reading all of my labels on the hunt for that little pesky fish.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Foods I don't like..... so far #3 Blue Cheese

It's really all about cheese isn't it?  Just ask any person in France.

Let me start by saying that Swiss cheese is one of my favorite cheeses.  Gruyere, Emmental, anything that closely resembles Swiss is always a "go to" cheese.  A plate of melted raclette (a type of cheese that has it's own named melting devise), boiled potatoes, and tiny pickles with a huge slice of crusty French bread is a lovely winter meal. The laughing cow cheese, with it's triangular shape wedges has a special spot in a refrigerator drawer.  Such a quick thing to throw in the lunch box.  I also like the little Gouda cheeses with the red wax. Something about unwrapping it makes it like a little cheese gift during the day.

Though I try not to eat processed foods (just don't put a bowl of M&M candies near me), I do find that the lovely square American cheese,  that comes individually wrapped,  has graced more than one grilled cheese sandwich or hamburger in my lifetime as well as the lives of my children.  My youngest even wanted to be a "grill cheese cooker" as his chosen profession.  Ok, he was only five or six years old, but mama was teaching him how to cook.  There is just something child-like about cutting that sandwich in half and trying to see how far you can pull it apart before the cheese melts.  The melt-y cheese clothesline of hot lunches. As an adult, I use different kinds of cheese for my grilled cheese, but I would absolutely eat one made with the individually wrapped cheese.

Greek cheese!  According to many of my American friends, Greek cheeses are strong in flavor.  I like the strong scent and crumbly texture of many of the cheeses of Greece.  It's a link to my past. We had feta and tomatoes with our eggs for breakfast when I was a little girl. Chunks of feta, olives, and bread could keep us at the table snacking and talking before our huge family Sunday dinner.  I'm so glad it is so popular now as I love it on pizza!

Italian cheese is pretty much known everywhere. Freshly grated cheese is so good on pasta.  Fresh mozzarella cheese is so different than the ones in the stores.  I purchase it by rounds or slices and dress it with basil and olive oil.

I enjoy most any kind of cheese except the ones with any kind of visible mold that is a delicacy to many. When I was in France, I heard a girl yell at her sister that she had taken all of the blue of the cheese!  Some things one never forgets.  While in France, I tried to find the perfect Camembert and Brie.  I was trying so many that I would just save the round cover from the cheese box so I would not have duplicates.  Of course my favorite was the kind with the most percentage of fat.  The petite suisse French cheese was one that captured my heart as a breakfast cheese. Creamy, tart, and ready to be eaten with a spoon was a joy to have for breakfast.  I could go on and on about French cheeses, and I have tried so many.  I have tried so many of the blues and the "greens" and just have never developed a liking for them.

I have found that going to many parties and "pot luck" dinners, that I must be in the minority. I cannot count the times I have put food on my plate, or being served a salad and thinking, "please let this be feta, please let this be feta" (when the crumbles are so tiny, they lose the "blue"). When my niece was about 2 or 3, we were at a restaurant. Being that Greeks eat salad with just about every meal, she wanted a salad. When they asked her what kind of salad dressing she wanted, that sweet little voice said: "Blue cheese please".

Included in the cheeses that I do not like are the "no-fat", "low-fat", or "veggie cheeses". In my opinion, those are not truly cheeses, but a way to trick the mind into thinking that it is.  It didn't work for me.

So if you are ever at my house and you are served a hearty ziti dish with the aroma of cinnamon and crumbled cheese on top, remember that it will be Greek feta cheese and not blue that adorns the dish.

This is a photo of my summer "Chicken Parmesan". Instead of tomato sauce, I just used fresh garden tomatoes.  It was delicious.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Foods I don't like so far........ #2 Beets

Beets..... oh how I despise them!  Huge innocent gigantic radish (which I like) looking things that will stain everything red. Who wants that to happen? Avoid ruining your white clothes and napkins and ban beets once and for all.  

When I was a little girl, I ate just about everything.  Beets were not served at our house, but I secretly think my mom ate them.  After all, she ate tomato aspic on the frilly white edge plates at some of the "wear white gloves, a sailor dress, and go to a southern lunch with the ladies" type place. Mom worked full time when I was little so she probably had them at a cafeteria down town. I'm sure that there was an assortment of southern items to try her Greek-Cypriot-Irish-Chesapeake Bay palate. I just know that on some occasions beets had to be served either pickled, or steamed (that thought makes my stomach turn). Anyway, back to my days of "sure, I'll try a beet".  What were the southerners thinking? "Oh, a beet will make this salad look sooooo pretty". A beautiful color red disc on a salad looks so bright and cheerful.  How can one little circle taste so grassy, dirty, and un-appetizingly earthy?  I gave it my best shot and drank a lot of coke to chase the flavor. To be tolerated, as in "oh my gosh, I've got to be polite here and eat this horrid beet" it has to be pickled in wine vinegar, lots of wine vinegar. I still don't like them, but will eat enough so my hostess thinks I do!  Bring me a salad with beets and blue cheese and it becomes, as I so fondly call it: "hell on a fork".  If you ever serve that to me, on any occasion, please look at other diners when it is served, and make sure your dog is conveniently in the dining room.

Now about cranberries.... What do cranberries have to do with beets? Is there some famous recipe that will combine the two?  Not to my knowledge...... So, here is my train of thought.  I love cranberries: dried cranberries, fresh cranberries, cranberry juice, and cranberry holiday gelatin that Sandra makes once a year. My mind is starting to drift to those yummy orange cranberry scones and muffins, so I had better get back on track.  Jellied cranberry sauce can be purchased in a can. When the cylinder comes out of the can it has the lovely imprint of the can ridges on the side.  It jiggles like gelatin, and is fun to slice.  One of those childhood things I still enjoy (along with poptarts).  It's not a turkey dinner unless the slices of cranberry sauce are jiggling on a plate.  Bring on dad's fresh cranberries and oranges, but have the canned nearby.  One day, for reasons only known to my mom, she had sliced beets on a plate at the table.  We used to eat in the dining room every night as we couldn't all fit in the kitchen.  Platters of food would adorn the table where mom, dad, Papa (my Greek Papou (grandfather), Johnny, Jimmy, myself, and a various cousin or neighbor would eat.  My childlike mind did not comprehend why we were having cranberry sauce slices since it wasn't a turkey dinner, but I was excited. I didn't notice that it did not jiggle and wiggle on the plate as there was probably too much conversation going on at the time.  Low and behold, those were the worst cranberries I had ever had!  Beets, so close to the color of cranberry (through a child's eye) that that there should sell warning labels to put on each beet slice!  Nothing worse than thinking you are taking a bite of cranberry and have it be the beet.

Then there is beet soup. Who in the world would eat beet soup?  No one that I know. Ah, but let's call it another name to make it more elegant. Borscht, good ol' borscht, chunky or smooth, it still is a soup for which I have no desire to eat again.  If you have the best borscht recipe EVER, I'd give it a try. Hopefully, there will be enough sour cream, and wine vinegar to go in it if I don't like it initially. Then I would have pink soup. The only soup that should be pink is cold strawberry soup. Now that I could eat.  

And finally, why on earth, in mainly rural country stores,  are there huge jars of pickled eggs? Do people really purchase them? Do fishermen and hunters have them for breakfast or lunch? Did someone brilliantly think: "what am I going to do with all of these fresh eggs?, I know, I'll pickle them."?  I guess to make the eggs pretty, someone got the bright idea to toss in some beets and onions so that we could have yet, more pink food.  Beets, like liver, are easy for my palate to detect no matter how hard someone tries to hide them.  If you are like me and don't like them, you have no worries when you are invited to dinner at my house.  They will not be on the menu.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Foods I don't like....... so far. Number 1: Liver

As a child, we were not given a choice of what we wanted for dinner. The food was put on the table and we ate it!  End of story! I think this is why my brothers and I will give most any food a try.  Luckily for me, liver was not a mainstay at our home.

Liver and onions, Aunt Tassie's Thanksgiving rice and liver dressing, French goose liver pâté, liverwurst, etc... My dad happens to like liver, but we never had it at our house.  He tells a story of going to a coworker's house for lunch and the mom served liver.  His friend had told my dad that his Jewish mama made the best liver and onions in the world. Well, if someone makes the "best" my dad wants to try it.  Off they go to a special lunch.  Dad eats his steak rare (as do I), but he has never had liver steaks cooked rare.  How did the mom cook them you may wonder?  ...very rare. For once, my dad was at a loss of what to do.  Being taught to respect elders, eat what you are served, etc... he did what anyone would do. He ate a bite of the liver, told his mom it was delicious, and when she left the room, promptly, gave it to his friend who had already polished off his serving with gusto.  HAHA!  Yes, that's my dad.  I may have not told the story verbatim, and I may have embellished it a bit, thoughtfully omitting his descriptive "blood dripping off of every bite" and the like comments, but nonetheless, my dad can tell you in his own words if you just ask.  

I have a few liver stories of my own.  I have many friends and relatives who are Jewish and liver seems to find its place on many tables at several occasions.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard: "she makes the best chopped liver in the world". By gosh, if it's the best, I want to try it.  Try it I do!! I must have tried the "best" liver hundreds of times, yet I still don't like it.  

While living in France, I stayed with a wonderful lady who wanted me to experience all of the traditional French foods.  Tried them all with the gusto of a world traveling gourmand until..... the beautifully presented pâté de foie gras. Goose liver!  There it sat on a plate, sliced from the perfect rectangular mold, mocking me as I stared it face to face.  I knew I would like the French bread...that's a given, but the liver? Oh my... I'm sure I was asked if I liked liver. "Biensur" (of course) I like anything BEFORE I try it (unlike many children who say "I don't like it" before they have even tried it) and I had not had homemade pate before.  In the back of my mind, the haunting of other liver episodes reared their ugly heads into my conscious mind.  I tried it and there it was, the unmistakable liver taste that I just can't bring myself to enjoy.  The old adage of "try something three times and you will like it" just hasn't worked with the liver. I've tried it so many times, I've lost count.  One thing that I do enjoy, which at first glance, looks like a rustic "oh my gosh, not again!" liver pâté is pork rillettes.  It was an occasion, where to be polite, I was going to HAVE to eat that darn liver. What a pleasant surprise, when it wasn't liver, but pork! Yes, good ole pork.  I could eat that all day with French bread and little cornichons.  It's made of all things pork except for the liver.  If the liver is there, I certainly would taste it.  Another liver adventure...... 

My aunt Tassie makes a traditional Thanksgiving stuffing using giblets, liver, and rice. Since it's a family tradition, I will always eat some.  Yes, it has bits of liver in it, but also cinnamon.  The cinnamon saves the day. Those specks of liver and gizzard are discretely hidden on my plate, or sometimes, I can tolerate them, barely though. It's an interesting combination to say the least. My eldest brother would always have a pot of it to take home since he loved it so much. He would forgo the turkey and just eat the dressing I do believe. 

The photo that goes with this story, was taken at a restaurant in Chamblee, GA.  I saw "rabbit livers" and a few of my friends were saying that they like liver.  Me, on the other hand, had visions of liver and onions sitting in the line of a southern cafeteria, crackers with liverwurst, baguettes with pate, chicken livers sold in little margarine-like tubs with a happy chicken on the container (why is it happy, it's missing it's liver?) and I quickly remember that I don't really want to spend $$$ on something that with all probability I won't enjoy. I had the risotto with vegetables.... including BEETS! Oh my gosh, it's another food that I will eat to be polite.  Beet stories for next time. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Time to Write

It seems that I've not written in quite some time.  Being that I don't measure my ingredients when I cook, I find it quite difficult to remember to measure ingredients for the blog.  So I may start writing like one of the tv chefs that gives her measurements by a pinch of this and a dash of that.  That's just my preferred way to cook.  Even if I am following a recipe, I will adjust it sometimes. I have so many food related stories that I can share that don't really have recipes included.  So,  I decided to write a few posts as yesterday was surrounded by food.

 Yesterday was Father's Day.  My dad never knows what he will get from me, but it will probably be something edible.  At least I know he will use it.  Dad has always been the "fun" shopper.  If it's unusual, he would buy it, we would eat it.......well, most of the time. That tin of steak and kidney pie stayed in the pantry for years!  It became a novelty.  I went to my local Whole Foods store knowing that I would find some wonderful fish.  Red snapper has always been my dad's favorite fish and I can't say that I blame him.  It is fabulous! We ate it a lot as kids. I'm guessing it wasn't as expensive back then as we had a lot of people to feed that had enormous appetites.   I purchased enough fish to feed an army as well as some jumbo shrimp, Greek cheese, and lemon (knowing full well dad has a bowl of lemons on the counter, but just to be safe).  Dad, at 86 still cooks up a storm every day.  His refrigerator is packed to the gills.  We had a great afternoon visit and I heard some stories that had us both giggling and laughing.  As I was leaving, dad said: "wait, I have a cookbook for you and a cooking magazine"!  He knows I love cookbooks and I will gladly share them with my sons. Our family share a love for food. We read about food, talk about food (I think there is "the great omelette debate on here somewhere), cook food together, and finally enjoy food.

On the way home, I decided to go to a farmer's market near my dad's house. Buford Hwy Farmer's Market is 100,000 square feet of wonderful, glorious, and unusual foods.  It may become a weekly visit.  I have never seen a market that was so huge!  Aisle after aisle of specialty foods.  Part of the store was devoted to Asian foods and other aisles were devoted to other areas of the globe. African, Scandinavian, Eastern Europe, Holland, Russia, and of course a lot of the store was for Hispanic cooking. Huge Asian and Hispanic populations in Atlanta are well represented here.  I was like a kid in a candy store....figuratively and literally speaking!  I purchased some Russian cookies, Dutch sprinkles for toast, espresso coffee, Swedish crackers, French mustard and some Mexican spices.  They had an entire row, which is much longer than your standard grocery store aisle full of nothing but Ramen noodles.  To be healthy, I did purchase some ginger and carrots that were yellow, purple, and orange.  I can't wait to try those.  I'll have to get the purple potatoes another time.  I'll skip the "white dirt" which is kaolin from GA and people actually eat it.

Later that evening my dad called to tell me he cooked the snapper for dinner.  He told me that he prepared it  with butter, lemon, and oregano. He hasn't changed in his 86 years! I knew already how he would make it.  He broiled it like he did when we were children.  I would probably prefer it grilled as that is my preference.  He said: "That must have cost you a fortune, you bought so much.  I had so much that I have enough for breakfast tomorrow!" Yep, that's my dad!  Fish, eggs, slice tomatoes, Greek cheese
and a hearty bread for breakfast!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tortillini soup with vegetables

Record lows are expected in Georgia this week.  My first thought is warming soup.  Trying to keep on a budget after the holidays, I decided to use most of what I already had in the house.  Being that snow/ice is predicted for Georgia, I had to make a trip to the grocery store for something. I think it's an unwritten law in Georgia to get milk (which I only use for coffee) and bread. Ha!  I didn't purchase either. Coffee is my main concern for a snow day!   I had planned on making spaghetti with vegetables, but after I returned home I decided that soup would be more warming.  I usually don't measure anything when I make soup, but I do remember all of the ingredients and how much I added. 

Tortellini soup with vegetables

1 32 oz container of vegetable broth (Beef or Chicken would work too) Of course, homemade broth is best but I didn't have any!
1 Onion diced
3 yellow squash, cut in chunks  I purchase the little tender ones
1 thin zucchini, cut in chunks
1 fresh tomato - large beefsteak
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic
basil, parsley, and oregano to your taste (I don't measure, but probably 1 tsp each)
Frozen package of cheese filled tortellini
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
red pepper flakes and lemon pepper to taste

Cook the onions and mushrooms in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil until onion is tender.
Add the garlic (minced). and heat just a little, but don't brown it.  Add squash, zucchini,  broth, seasonings, and tomato paste and cook until veggies are almost tender. I don't like them over cooked.  In a separate pot, cook the tortellini as directed on the package.  Go ahead and cook all of it, you can always have a pasta salad the next day with the ones you don't use.  Also, you can make antipasti sticks with tortellini, mozzarella cubes, cherry tomato, black olive, salami chunks and marinated mushrooms put on a skewer.  Serve with Italian dressing.  That's for another blog post, but just thought I'd mention it in case I forget.   After the pasta is cooked, add as much as you desire to the vegetables.  I also added some of the pasta water to the soup.  It all depends on how much pasta you add, and how thick you like your soup.  Use your own judgement.

Serve in a bowl with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and lemon pepper.  I would have put artichoke hearts in the soup too, but I didn't think of that when I was at the store. Next time, that will be an addition to the soup.  Serve with garlic toast, and a nice green salad.  I used the cheese filled tortillini, but I bet the other fillings would be just as delicious.


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