Honor the Source; Venison and Potato Salad

Venison Potato SaladThe second left-over meal descending from Kenn’s gift of a venison loin (Honor the Source was the original and Thai Venison Salad the first left-over) is adapted from the Silver Palette cookbook. The original was made with beef tenderloin or rib-eye and an aggressively garlicky dressing.  Although I haven’t tried it with anything other than beef, I think this simple, hearty salad would work with almost any left-over, lean, grilled meat or poultry.

Ingredients, minus the peppers, mustard, vinegar and olive oil I forgot to put in the set up

Venison Potato Salad with garlicky vinaigrette dressing

6 oz (more or less to taste) grilled venison
4 medium potatoes, cooked and sliced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red, yellow or green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 tsp. dry mustard (or 1 tsp. Dijon style mustard) – optional
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar (or substitute malt vinegar)
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce (I use Col. Pabst All Malt Amber-Lager Worcestershire)
2 Tbs. top quality Extra-virgin Olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine the meat, potatoes, peppers and onion.  Toss gently to mix.

Gently mix meat, potatoes and onions

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, garlic, mustard (if using), salt and pepper.  Dress the meat and potatoes and toss gently to coat

Dress the salad and gently mix

A hearty simple salad for two.

Venison Potato Salad with garlicky vinaigrette dressing

 

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Honor the Source; Thai Venison Salad

Thai Venison SaladIn the original Honor the Source I pan grilled some medallions of venison loin I was gifted from my friend Kenn. And there were leftovers – on purpose. Today I’ll revisit the leftovers as Thai Venison Salad.

Thai Beef Salad is a staple of most Thai restaurants I have been in.  This is my version adapted from a cookbook called Thai Cooking Class, where it is called Yam Nua.  When  making this with beef I usually use a small piece of tenderloin but any good cut of beef would work.  I have also had versions of this in restaurants made with duck breast.  Today, due to my good planning I have two medallions of venison loin already cooked and ready to go.  If you were making this from scratch with beef or some other meat, pan grill the meat to medium rare then set aside to cool before proceeding with the salad.

Ingredients for Thai Venison Salad

Thai (style) Venison Salad

6 oz. (2 medallions)Venison loin, cooked medium rare
2 Tb. water
1 Tbs. fresh lime or lemon juice
1 Tbs. Fish Sauce (I use Red Boat 40˚N but Three Crabs is good too)
1 medium cucumber (or 2 of the small hot-house type), thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 fresh chili, seeds and veins removed, finely diced (or substitute 1/2 tsp. dried chili flakes)
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro leaf
2 Tbs. fresh basil leaf, torn into rough pieces
2 Tbs. (or more) fresh mint leaves (spearmint preferred)

Slice the venison across the grain into bit-sized pieces

Thinly slice the venison.

Mix the water, lime or lemon juice and fish sauce in a small bowl.

Toss, toss, toss, gently

In a large bowl mix the venison and all the remaining ingredients until everything is well distributed.  Add the dressing and toss until well coated.

Thai Venison Salad with rice, on the side, and a couple of pot stickers

Serve over lettuce leaves or rice.  Makes a light but satisfying summer salad.  Serves 2.

Another Turn of the Page: Short but Sweet

“When I got [my] library card, that was when my life began.”
Rita Mae Brown

Raise your hand…Who remembers the card catalog?

I sure do. I used it when I was a kid, a young adult and as an adult. I filed cards in it and looked through it to help my customers find a book when I first was a librarian. And I mourned its loss when we went digital. Don’t get me wrong, a computerized card catalog was so much easier to maintain and much more efficient than the old card catalog but it was just bittersweet. The loss of those warm brown drawers with all the handwritten, typed or printed cards was sad. If your library was old enough your card catalog had all three. Sometimes the cards had little handwritten notes like “third floor storage” or “rare books room.” That is mostly what I miss, that hint of an actual librarian making sure you could find this book. So there’s your little trip down memory lane.
Anyway we were a small group in March, just seven. Two other members sent me their book reviews from points south, so we ended up with nine titles to recommend.

1. The Keeper of Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter (1925) 528 pages. A classic by an author usually overlooked. Stratton-Porter was an amateur naturalist, a wildlife photographer and a writer of novels. In this book, her last, a Master Bee Keeper and his bees restore a severely wounded World War I veteran, Jamie McFarlane, back to health.

2. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (2018) 435 pages. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. His PTSD, an undiagnosed condition in 1974, takes a toll on him and his family.

3. Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly (2009) 374 pages. (Harry Bosch series #14) Harry Bosch is assigned a homicide call in South L.A. that takes him to Fortune Liquors, where the Chinese owner has been shot to death behind the counter in an apparent robbery. All signs point to the Hong Kong Triad. When Harry’s daughter disappears in Hong Kong, Harry must find out if the two incidents are connected.

4. The Enemy by Lee Child (2004) 464 pages (Jack Reacher series #8) Long before the events of the previous seven novels Reacher got involved in something while he was an MP Major and had to take a demotion as a ‘punishment’. This is the story of that one messy, tangled case that can shatter a career and put a man on a different path.

5. Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve (2001) 325 pages. This tells the story of intense love between Linda and Thomas who first meet as high school teenagers then as young adults and much later as adults just past their prime when both have established themselves in similar careers. A story of first loves and second chances.

6. Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio (1998) 320 pages. A tale of a young girl with Tourette’s Syndrome, growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky during the 1950’s.

7. The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn (2017) 384 pages. Dr. Rachel Katzman and her colleague, actor Liam Finucane, are sent back in time to find an unpublished Austen novel and, hopefully, to diagnose the illness that led to Austen’s premature death. They must not affect any history in any way that will change the future. ( Good luck with that). A nice mix of Connie Willis’ The Doomsday Book ( time traveling historians) and The Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury ( a short story tackling The Butterfly Effect).

8. Prince of Risk by Christopher Reich (2013) 369 pages. Bobby Astor is a fearless New York hedge-fund gunslinger on the verge of making his biggest killing ever. But everything changes when his father, the venerable chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange, is murdered along with the head of the Federal Reserve in a brazen, inexplicable attack on the South Lawn of the White House. Goodreads summary.

9. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (2016) 480 pages. Picoult likes to tackle hot-button issues and this book certainly fits the bill. About a year ago, the author read where a black female nurse in Flint, Michigan had been dismissed by a white supremacist patient over skin color. Picoult used that court case as the basis for this book.

Honor the Source

We have a dear friend, Kenn, who grew up a hunter in Northeastern Wisconsin. He long ago moved to Washington State but returns almost every fall to hunt for deer with his son and other relatives. Some years the hunt is better than others. Those years, when he is lucky, we are gifted with a piece of venison. This year Kenn appeared at our door on Thanksgiving day with a piece of loin, a prime cut.

The loin was about 1-1/2# and as beautiful a piece of meat as you could want. But what to do with it? I felt that however I prepared it, I should take care to honor the source – both the animal and my friend, the hunter.

A pound and a half of venison loin is pure meat. Aside from the silverskin, there is no loss to trimming. A pound and a half is also too much meat for two people to eat at one sitting. What ever I did would have to take into account the inevitable left-overs in an equally respectful manner.

This is the tale of the first meal from the loin. The two subsequent meals gleaned from the leftovers follow here;

Honor the Source; Thai Venison Salad
Honor the Source; Venison Potato Salad with Garlicky Dressing

Venison loin. Honor the animal. Honor the hunter.

I don’t get to cook venison very often and am always hesitant in doing so for fear of ruining it. It’s not like I can just go down to the grocery and pick up another loin if I screw this one up.  So it’s taken me from Thanksgiving until March to work up the courage and confidence to tackle this.  My plan was to cook the whole loin in the first pass in such a way as to leave myself some leeway in dealing with the rest in the second and third meals.  Rather than roast the loin whole, I cut it into thick medallions as a form of portion control (remember, there’s supposed to be left-overs).  To season the meat I chose a rub that promised to enhance the flavor of the meat without overwhelming it and without limiting too much what I could do with the remaining meat.

Pan Roasted Venison Medallions with Smoky Chipotle Rub

2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. smoked paprika
1 Tbs. sea salt
1 tsp. chipotle chile pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2# venison loin, cut into 6 portions
1 Tbs. duck fat

Mix the dry ingredients and coat the venison medallions well on both sides.  Set aside to rest for several minutes

Coat the venison medallions with smoky chipotle rub

Preheat a well seasoned cast iron skillet to near smoking.  Add the duck fat and tip the skillet to coat the bottom.

Sear the venison in a HOT cast iron pan

Quickly add the venison medallions, spacing them evenly in the pan.  DO NOT MOVE THEM AROUND.

Turn once a nice crust has developed

Leave them sear for 4 or 5 minutes to let a crust develop.  Turn each medallion over and continue to saute for an additional 4 – 5 minutes or until done to your liking – I was shooting for medium-rare.

 

Oops. I always get carried away and forget to take a picture of the finished dish until I’ve eaten half of it.

Remove the venison to a serving plate and let rest 5 minutes.  Serve with a vegetable and a starch of you choosing.  I chose crudites (cucumber, radish and carrot) with a lime dipping salt (2 pts. sea salt, 2 pts. sugar, 1 pt. lime zest – mix well) and purgatory beans cooked grandma style with sage and bay.

When done well, a small piece of venison is satisfying and I hope I was respectful of the animal that provided it and to the hunter who gifted it to us.  Thank you Kenn.

March 3rd – 3.14 – Pi Day

Yesterday was Pi Day. If you have no knowledge of math this may make no sense. But Pi or π is a mathematical constant. Originally defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, it appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics. Pi is 3.14159265359 or briefly 3.14. Get it?

But how to celebrate Pi Day, well of course, with Pie!

At the beginning of the week I informed my Sweetie ( the head chef in our house) that I wanted to make dinner on Wednesday.

“Okay,” he said. “What are you making?” “Never you mind,” I said.
“Do you need anything from the store?” He said. “No.” I said. “It’s a surprise and that would just give it away.”
“Does it have something to do with St. Patrick’s Day? Or, with the Ides of March? Sure, that’s it, something Roman, Italian.”  “No, no, and NO,” I said. “Just relax.”

Luckily he hadn’t thought of Pi Day. But geez, what a third degree. He really gets weirded out when I want to take over the (his) kitchen. Anyway I was making PIE. Chicken Pot Pie to be exact. And fruit pie for dessert. My pot pie was pretty basic except instead of pie crust I was using puff pastry which I think turned out way better. Here’s the recipe. I found it on the internet but did a few change-ups so this now my recipe.

Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry
serves 4

1 sheet of puff pastry ( I used Pepperidge Farm)
1 Tbls olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, cut into bite sized chunks.
1 cup diced celery
1 large potato, diced or just largish chunks
1 tsp fresh Thyme
2 cups chicken broth
4 Tbls butter
4 Tbls flour
3/4 lb cooked chicken, cut into 1 inch pieces
salt and freshly grd pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Butter your casserole dishes. I used two 5×7 pyrex dishes. Make sure your puff pastry is thawed enough to unfold. It should still be cold.
3. Heat olive oil in medium saucepan and add the onion, cook and stir 2-3 minutes until softened. Add carrots, celery, potato (if raw), and 1 cup broth. Add thyme. Bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer till vegetables are nearly tender. ( I think green beans, mushrooms, or peas would work well too).

My potato was cooked so I added it later.

4. Meanwhile heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and once melted, add the flour all at once. Whisk until combined. Then add in the other cup of broth and whisk till smooth. Cook and stir till the mixture thickens.
5. By now your vegetables should be tender so pour the sauce in with the vegetables and stir. Season with salt and pepper. If sauce doesn’t seem thick enough cook for a while longer, continuing to stir. At this point I added in my pre-boiled potato and my pre-cooked chicken. Stir to combine.
6. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dishes ( four 1 1/2 C dishes or in my case, two 3 C dishes).

7. Cut your puff pastry sheet to fit. A pizza cutter works really well. And you can piece your pastry if it won’t fit your pans exactly.  At this point folks, my Sweetie certainly knew what was happening and of course, couldn’t help but insert himself into the kitchen. The ruler and the pizza cutter were his ideas so I didn’t complain…too much.

8. Top each dish with puff pastry. Note the extra piece on the right dish. It is just lying on top, no wetting the pastry underneath to make it stick.

9. Put the dishes on a cookie sheet to catch spills. Transfer to oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until pastry is puffy and golden brown. Once done. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

It turned out really good and we had one whole dish leftover for the next day. Also if you have any scraps of pastry left once you cover your dishes, bake them too. My Sweetie tied one strip in a knot and the other piece he sprinkled with coconut sugar. They baked for the same time.

pastry scraps

And for dessert…store bought fruit half pies. Choice of blackberry or strawberry rhubarb. I went with the strawberry rhubarb, had the blackberry for breakfast.

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Another Turn of the Page: No Romance for February

“Even though February was the shortest month of the year,
sometimes it seemed like the longest.”
Lorraine Snelling

When you think of February do you think of hearts and candy and flowers and romance? Or is it more like, ‘Another winter month to struggle through, thank the gods it is short’. And then after snow and ice storms and numerous days of below zero wind chills, you start saying, ‘Will it ever end?” If you live in the upper Midwest it is more like the latter. That one day in the middle of the month doesn’t really save the rest of the days. So what to do? Well reading is high on my list. My group, however, is not one for romance and sweetness in their choices of books in the dead of winter. We are more the adventure, war, spies, illness, death and thriller kind of people. How uplifting. Sounds like Finnish Noir. Toss in a few escapist novels and some stories about penguins and elephants and you’ve got the February book offerings. Maybe March will be lighter. Ha!

1. Three Day in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier (2017) 368p. Bret Baier, the Chief Political Anchor for Fox News Channel and the Anchor and Executive Editor of Special Report with Bret Baier, explores the extraordinary yet underappreciated presidency of Dwight Eisenhower by taking readers into Ike’s last days in power.

2. Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River by Peter Heller (2004) 336p. The author of fiction books: Dog Stars, The Painter and Celine, takes on a true life adventure.He joins an elite kayaking team and chronicles their travels from from the banks of the river to the insane portages up neighboring mountain passes. The Tsangpo falls through one of the deepest gorges in the world and a fabled waterfall on its course gave rise the legend of Shangri-La.

3. Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose by Joe Biden (2017) 272p. When Beau Biden, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and his survival was uncertain, he told his father, Joe Biden, “Promise me, Dad, Give me your word, that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe gave him his word. In this book, he chronicles the year following leading up to his son’s death and his decision not to seek the presidency. A tearful memoir.

4. George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade (2013) 235p. This is the incredible true story of six spy’s who helped win the American Revolution. I have heard the AMC series: Turn: Washington’s Spies is better than the book. Maybe you should tune in first.

5. Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke (2014) 368p. After serving in the army in the 1920’s, Billy Williams goes to wild, undeveloped Burma to work with elephants. The book is part biography and part nature treatise. Working with the elephants becomes his life’s passion. The book also highlights the many extremes of life in a British Colony: the bugs, the snakes, the malaria, the heat.

6. Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell (2015) 229p. The author’s story of his time 40 years earlier as a house counselor in an Argentine boarding school. While on a trip to the Uraguayan coast, he comes upon hundreds of Magellan penguins that have all been killed by an oil slick – except for one lone penguin, covered in oil, but hanging on to life. He decides to take the penguin back to Argentina and nurse it back to health. 

7. Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (2018) 427p. A mixture of “Girl on a Train” and “Rear Window.” A pulpy, fast-paced thriller. Not deep, just a page-turner for another one of those long, cold winter days.

8. Tips for Living by Renee Shafransky (2018) 332p. When Nora’s husband, Hugh, announces he is leaving her for his pregnant girlfriend she vows to start her life again and not be dragged down by this terrible situation. Three years later she is working as a newspaper columnist in a small town, when her ex and his now wife move into the same town. Nora’s pain and anger return to her all over again. When her ex-husband and his new wife are found dead in their home, clues seem to point to Nora.

9. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (2017) 505p. A historical novel based on a real-life female spy unit, The Alice Network, that operated in France during World War I.

10. In a Dark House by Deborah Crombie  Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James Series #10 (2005) 384p. Just one book in this series of British Police Procedurals featuring Scotland Yard investigators, Kincaid and James. Our reviewer highly recommends this series which begins with A Share in Death.

11. Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan ( 2017) 288p. A unique story about a man who keeps and catalogs the lost things that he finds. His story and the stories of the others who have lost the items intertwine as the book progresses.

Plan in Place, Dinner Party in Action

Dessert cakes were done the day before. Morning of dinner, butterscotch sauce was made. Corn soup with Indian spices finished before noon. Brioche pudding in oven.

By 1:00 PM we had a strong start on what would be five courses. Guests were due in five hours.

I am sorry to say actual pictures will be few since we got so caught up in cooking and greeting and serving that the camera was forgotten. So I will use some pictures from the cookbooks. Our food looked exactly the same (smile).

The appetizers are pretty self-explanatory. Suffice to say once we decided on the Chicken Livers with Sherry Glaze we found a ton of recipes on the web. It was more common than we thought. So just Google it. Once guests arrived we quick grilled them and the Pears and Prosciutto.

Dinner began with Corn Soup w/ Indian Spices from David Tanis Market Cooking. The spices included garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, black mustard seed and cayenne. It had a wonderful tang over the creamy corn flavor. It may be the first time we’ve done a soup puree but it turned out quite nice. A tablespoon of whole milk yogurt and some chives topped it off. The yogurt in the photo seems to have cayenne in it.

photo from David Tanis Market Cooking

The Fennel, Radish and Mushroom Salad was from the same book. The lemon/olive oil dressing had been made ahead and the vegetables were all cut so it was any easy job to combine, plate and serve. We used watermelon radishes which looked so nice with the pale fennel and mushrooms.The main course was from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Nopi. The original recipe was Chicken Supremes with Roasted Garlic and Tarragon Brioche Pudding. We substituted duck breast. Because the brioche pudding is so different from anything we have made before I am including the recipe here. If our guests read this I think the ingredients may surprise them. It is very rich.

Tarragon Brioche Pudding

2 heads garlic
1/4 C olive oil
4 eggs
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp grd cinnamon
1/2 oz. finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
14 oz. crustless brioche loaf, trimmed and cut into slices
Sea salt and Black pepper

Cut off the tops of the garlic cloves, place on a square of foil. Drizzle w/ 2 Tbls olive oil, sprinkle w/ salt, wrap up the bundle and roast for 35 minutes. Once done and cool to the touch, squeeze out the insides of the garlic and crush to a fine paste.

Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk. Add cream, nutmeg, cinnamon and tarragon with 1 tsp salt and a grind of pepper. Put aside.

Lightly grease a 9″ x 4″ loaf plan with butter and line with parchment paper. Brush a bit more butter on the paper then layer the bottom with brioche bread. Spread half of the garlic puree on top and pour over a third of the cream mixture. Another layer of bread, pushed down so it gets soaked in the cream. Then spread the rest of the garlic, pour another third of the cream and top with the last layer of bread. Finish with the remainder of the cream. Lightly press down and set aside for 30 minutes.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Should be brown on top and a knife inserted should come out clean. Once it is cooled and removed from pan it looks like this.Cut off the end edges and slice into six pieces. Just before serving, fry the slices in a bit of olive oil over a medium heat. Here is what it looks like when served with the duck and the peas & tarragon au jus.

Brioche Pudding: photo from Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi

It was yummy but alas the recipe serves six so there were no leftovers.

After some time of talk and laughter and wine we served dessert which was described as Sticky Toffee Puddings but in reality looked like little cupcakes with butterscotch sauce and whipped cream on top. They didn’t look great but tasted good.

So with thoughts of an early Spring I had daffodils and green napkins and a floral runner on the table. (My hopes were high but as I write this, two days later, rain turning to sleet and ice is carrying on outside.) It doesn’t matter the dinner was a success.

Afterward: It only took us till noon the next day to clean up. But being exhausted we did sleep in a bit. However it is always a high doing it and we hope your next gathering is as fun. Bon Appétit!

Dinner Party Prep or A Month of “How about this?”

We are planning a dinner party. Yes, we have done it before, many times, but it is always the same craziness and seemingly endless decision-making. The problem lies in the attitude of the two hosts. Me, who wants everything decided and organized at least a week (2 weeks would be ideal) before guests arrive and He, who says we have a whole week yet before guests arrive. Now you may think that this is because He doesn’t do the actual cooking but He is the main Chef. I’m the time, date, invitations, house cleaning, table setting and dessert person. In other words, Management.

All of this starts at least a month before the actual event. Once we settle on who we wish to invite, the dance of dates begins. We are retired but not everyone we invite is retired and everyone, whether retired or not, has a million other things they are involved in. So at least 6 dates are emailed out to guests before an actual invitation is sent and, fingers crossed, at least one works. That is the easy part. Now, what to serve?

We do a lot of talking and suggesting and mulling but finally a day comes when the cookbooks come out and a decision on the main course must be made. Once an agreement is reached, another afternoon is needed for h’ordeuvres, salad or soup or both and dessert. This time I got things started by suggesting a chicken dish we had a couple of months ago but neither of us really could remember where it came from so I just started going through some books and marking other possibilities. Most of my suggestions get rejected…but he doing the cooking so that’s OKAY, at least we’ve started looking. However this usually gets him to mark a variety of dishes and together we whittle this down to the MAIN. This time Yotem Ottolenghi’s cookbook Nopi, was the winner. (that’s it on top of the post). A day later He called an audible and substituted duck for the chicken.

NOPI -Yotem Ottolenghi

I had already found a dessert, like three weeks ago, so we were set there. He rarely questions the dessert choice and even after throwing out a few other ideas we both went back to my original dessert. This came from the Fall 2017 issue of Sift magazine.

After a lot of dancing around other course ideas for awhile, yesterday, a week before the dinner, the cookbooks came out and decisions were made.Even Martha was consulted, but she didn’t make the cut.The winners eventually were NOPI: main, DAVID TANIS MARKET COOKING: soup, PLENTY: salad, SIFT: dessert and a surprise entry, Mallmann ON FIRE: appetizer. Francis Mallmann is a culinary pyromaniac from South America. We will modify his recipe since he usually specializes in large portions.

pears and prosciutto

So now the store list gets made, I start attacking the house clutter, tableware is chosen and a plan of action for cooking day is developed. Hey, we’ve got a whole week. Ultimately it is all about food and friends and we enjoy every minute.

PS: Post dinner I will write about our successes and near misses.

Still Got the Sourdough Starter?…Revisited

In the post where I gave you the recipe for the Apple Cinnamon Flatbread I mentioned that this flatbread would also make a great savory dish. Well instead of just saying that I thought I’d try it. I followed the recipe for the bread exactly. But when it got to the part where the toppings go on I used raw chopped onion, cubed pancetta ( you can cut your own or buy it like I did; Volpi makes a great product) and chunks of fresh mozzarella. I just tore off pieces and placed them evenly on top. Then a sprinkle of dry oregano and basil and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Onion, pancetta and mozzarella topping, ready to go into the oven

I baked it at the same temperature (425) and time (25 minutes) and it came out great. I was a little nervous, thinking that a high heat and a long time (a normal pizza is about 15 minutes) the cheese would burn but not so. But depending on your oven, watch it.

Hot, out of the oven.

We served it with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. So yes! This bread is great savory or sweet. Now I want to try mushrooms and olives and red onions and garbonzos and…..

Another Turn of the Page: A New Year

“She remembered one of her boyfriends asking, offhandedly,
how many books she read in a year. “A few hundred,” she said.
“How do you have the time?” he asked, gobsmacked.
She narrowed her eyes and considered the array of potential answers in front of her. Because I don’t spend hours flipping through cable complaining there’s nothing on? Because my entire Sunday is not eaten up with pre-game, in-game, and post-game talking heads? —- Because when I am waiting in line, at the gym, on the train,
eating lunch, I am not complaining about the wait/staring into space/admiring
myself in reflective surfaces? I am reading!
“I don’t know,” she said, shrugging.”
Eleanor Brown, The Weird Sisters

I know, that’s a long quote. (And don’t you just love the word, gobsmacked?) But for the beginning of the year when we all start making resolutions for losing weight, getting organized or taking a class on candlewicking –  reading more, is usually the only one that I can keep. I belong to Goodreads, a site where you can keep track of the books you have read. Every year they offer a “Reading Challenge”, where you set your own personal goal for the year. In 2016, I said I would read 50 books, I read 51. In 2017 I challenged myself with 60 books, I read 66. Surprised myself. This year I got conservative again. We have a lot of travel planned and I just wasn’t sure, so for 2018 I have set 55 as my goal. I think I can change that as the year rolls on, so we shall see. But the reason some people can read 50, 60, 70..100 books in a year is just what the gal in the quote says, she reads everywhere. I always take a book with me to doctor’s appts. hair appts, waiting for the oven to heat up, waiting for the clothes to wash, long rides on planes, trains, cars. I have even read while also watching TV. Not easy, and the book has to be light fiction and the TV show has to be light as well. But it can be done. So set a goal and start reading, it’s only the end of January, you’ve got 11 more months. ( Btw, I am signed up for a candlewicking class).

Here are the books my group read in January:1. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (2017) 307p. When Michael Wright, a black lawyer from Chicago, stops in the small East Texas town of Lark, he never makes it back home. His body is pulled out of the nearby bayou, and his fancy car has disappeared. A short time later, the body of Missy Dale, a local white woman is also found dead. The possibility does exist, considering how small this town is, that the two deaths are connected.
Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger, currently on suspension because of a different case up in Houston, is asked by the FBI to casually check out the incidents and see if they are related. A compelling mystery.

2. Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch #20) by Michael Connelly (2017) 417p. Harry Bosch is back as a volunteer working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department and is called out to a local drug store where a young pharmacist has been murdered.

3. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works – A True Story by Dan Harris (2014) 256p. After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris decides to make some changes and investigates research that suggests meditation can help the body and mind recover. More a memoir than a discussion of meditation.

4. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (2008) 555p. A “biographical fiction” tale of the life of Laura Bush. This cannot really be considered historical fiction since names and places have been changed. (Note: The author Curtis Sittenfeld is a woman)

5. The Runner by Christopher Reich (2000) 512p. Set in Germany immediately after the end of WWII, this thriller concerns an ex-Olympic sprinter, who is awaiting a war crimes investigation. He finds himself sprung from the POW camp where he is incarcerated, to join a plot to assassinate both Churchill and Truman on Russian territory.

6. Unbelievable: My Front-row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur (2017) 291p. Tur lived out of a suitcase for a year and a half, following Trump around the country.  She visited forty states with the candidate, made more than 3,800 live television reports. This is her account of how America sent a former reality show host to the White House. It’s also the story of what it was like for Tur to be there as it happened, inside a no-rules world where reporters were spat on, demeaned, and discredited.

7. Personal History by Katherine Graham (1997) 642p. This is the autobiography of Katharine Graham, whose family owned the Washington Post. She was the publisher and President of the Washington Post Companies from the 60’s through the 80’s. A very timely book considering the recent release of the movie, The Post, which covers the newspaper’s involvement in publishing the Pentagon Papers.

8. The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash (2017) 384p. This novel is based on the true life of Ella Mae Wiggins, a poverty-stricken mill worker at the Loray Mill in North Carolina, 1929. She helped to try to form a union, especially an integrated union, in a time when people didn’t accept blacks.

9. There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon (2017) 320p. This is a novel about an American woman’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, the lessons she learned, and how her story will shape her granddaughter’s path.