Coach

•2012.01.19 • Leave a Comment

I hadn’t planned to post this, but since Coach has chosen not to respond to my email I’m making it public. It’s my email response to their order cancelation email, with a few inserts and a correction on the year (I’m still thinking 2011).

I was extremely pleased that Coach FINALLY sent me offer that could be applied on-line versus all previous offers that required a visit to a store. I assume someone at Coach woke up to the fact that not everyone lives in New York where there are multiple Coach stores and that people actually do shop online. Anyway, I knew exactly what I wanted, went to the web site and ordered it. It took a day to get an order acknowledgement (that’s a painfully slow email system you have). It took another day to get an order cancelation (to my great surprise).

I find it pathetic that your web site is not connected to your inventory. You do realize this is 2012, correct? This situation reminds me of the Best Buy debacle of Christmas. Not a situation that invites a complementary comparison.

So what are my takes aways here? The obvious one is that Coach has serious information systems issues [and thus customer service issues]. The not so obvious one is that even though I have a Coach wallet and check book… and that I bought a Coach handbag for my mother for Christmas, [along with the thousands I have spent over the years]… I’ve probably spent my last dollar on any of your products.

Linguine With Clam Sauce

•2011.12.26 • Leave a Comment

Clams have never been high on my list of seafoods, so its rather strange that I have fallen in love with this recipe. Bottom line: its simple and good, the two things I like when I’m cooking.

Ingredients

32 Littleneck clams, cleaned and rinsed [My clams come from Whole Foods]
2 fat garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 clove, crushed
1/2 cup dry white wine [I use Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay]
1 dried chile pepper [roughly chopped or cut up]
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound linguine [1 box/package]
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Before I move on to the procedure, you need to make sure you have a nice sized pot for cooking the clams. I use my pasta pot, but any deep pot will do. If you’re wondering why such a large pot since there is so little liquid and so little clams, try it in a smaller pot and see what happens (enjoy cleaning your stove top).

Procedure

1- In a separate pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and red chile flakes. Cook for approximately 30 seconds, stirring constantly (do not burn the garlic). Add the can of tomatoes. When the tomatoes start bubbling, cut the heat back to a simmer (about one notch). Stir occasionally.

2- In the deep pot add the wine, crushed garlic and dried chili pepper.

Turn the heat to high. The wine will come to a boil quickly, so have your clams ready-to-go. Add the clams to the pot, spreading evenly, and then cover with the lid.

Shake the pot occasionally. Cooking time of the original recipe is stated at 4 to 6 minutes, but for me its closer to 4. You can time it, peek, or simply wait until the liquid bubbles out (not recommended). You’re looking for the clams to open (opening equals done). Once they start opening, use your tongs to remove them one at a time leaving as much liquid in the pot as possible. Don’t fret if all the clams don’t open. Its typical for one or two to remain closed. Give up on those and toss them in the trash (not fit to eat). The last thing you want is for all the liquid to burn away. If it does, you’re screwed.

3- Drain the remaining liquid from the deep pot into a bowl, straining though a fine sieve or cheese cloth. Set aside.

The liquid might look like the dregs of a session of dish washing, but you would be mistaken. It’s the flavor of the recipe. It’s the gold.

4- Remove the clams from the their shells, rinse briefly to remove any sand and then roughly chop. Set aside.

5- In the deep pot add enough water to cook the pasta and a couple of pinches of salt (follow the pasta box instructions if you need specifics). When the water comes to a boil add the pasta.

6- Add the strained liquid from the clams to the tomato sauce.

7- About a minute before the pasta is ready (al dente), add the clams to the tomato sauce and turn the temperature for the tomato sauce to low.

8- Drain the pasta and plate accordingly (the original recipe states a serving size of four, but for me its two).

9- Garnish with the parsley. Enjoy!

Baking Bread (part four)

•2011.06.19 • Leave a Comment

Part four. Best Part. Time to eat.

Left rear plate has the sliced bread. Right middle plate has freshly roasted garlic. Left front plate has a mix of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 1.

Break off a piece of bread.

Step 2.

Using a butter knife smear some of the roasted garlic on the bread. If you don’t feel like cleaning a knife, just grab the garlic bulb with your hand and squeeze some garlic onto the bread.

Step 3.

Dip the bread in the olive oil mixture. Swirling is absolutely permitted.

Step 4.

EAT.

Step 5.

Repeat until half to loaf of bread is gone.

Note: To really do this you need a glass of red wine, but I had way too much to do today to include that enjoyment.

Note: This bread is ideal for any soup, chowder, etc. It’s what’s known as a “crusty” bread.

Baking Bread (part three)

•2011.06.18 • Leave a Comment

At the end of 60 to 90 minutes (60 for me), you should have dough that looks pretty close to what you see above (and thus ends the second rise). So what’s next?

Remember that hot cast iron pot in the oven? CAREFULLY remove the pot, uncover and ease the dough into the pot. It doesn’t hurt if the dough is not perfectly centered. Replace the lid and slide the pot back in the oven for one hour.

At the end of an hour CAREFULLY remove the lid and continue baking for 15 more minutes. From a baking standpoint, this is the most judgmental part. 15 minutes is a good estimate, but you need to start checking on it at around the 12 minute mark.

In this instance, this loaf stayed in about a minute too long for my taste (I got distracted).

Once you pull the pot out of the oven you should immediately remove the bread from the pot. You can use spoons, spatchulas or your hands if you are using oven mitts (which is what I do). Set the bread on a cooling rack for ONE HOUR. Yes, one hour. That’s actually the hardest part of baking bread — waiting the hour to eat it.

If you’ve stuck with me through parts one through three did you notice that there was something missing from this process that you should have expected? Think a minute. Where was the kneading? THERE IS NONE. Not with this technique. Sweet, huh?

So what’s in part four? How to eat it.

Baking Bread (part two)

•2011.06.18 • Leave a Comment

Before I get back to the bread, there is one piece of hardware that is absolutely required (besides an oven). You need a cast iron pot. For me its a Lodge pot that cost all of $27 from Amazon. You can use a Le Creuset pot, but its only going to get black from the baking so why fight it. Lodge is also much, much cheaper (ding, ding, ding, winner!). The only maintenance this pot requires is the occasional wipe down with a little olive oil.

So its been about 14 hours (anywhere in the 12 to 18 range is good) and what’s pictured above is the result. This ends the first rise.

For the second rise, you must transfer the bread onto a tea towel. Prep the towel by scattering a fair amount of wheat bran, cornmeal (my choice) or additional flour onto the towel.

Using a spoon, scrapper or hands slowly work the dough onto the towel. Don’t beat it up. It will fall onto the towel as you work it out with the spoon.

I must confess I gave it a bit of shape for camera esthetics, but in general this is the result.

Cover with the towel and set it aside for another 60 to 90 minutes.

At the 30 minutes into the 60 to 90, set an oven rack in the lower third position, set the covered cast iron pot on the rack and set your oven to 475°.

This ends part two.

Baking Bread (part one)

•2011.06.17 • 2 Comments


While most of you have a social life, us single folks must find something to do to occupy our time on Friday nights. Since I live in Burlington, there aren’t many alternatives… well… none actually. Therefore, I figure its time to blow the cobwebs off the blog and return to kitchen.

Tonight’s post is part one of four on baking bread. Now I’m not talking about buying Pillsbury pre-packaged dough and popping it in the oven (disgusting). I’m talking about starting with flour, yeast and so on.

Panicking yet?  I figured as much. Well, don’t. This is so simple you’ll wonder why you ever thought it was a big deal.

Ingredients:
3 cups bread flour (preferably King Arthur; Whole Foods carries it).
1-1/4 teaspoons of table salt
1/4 teaspoon instant or other active dry yeast (store in the freezer)
1-1/3 cups cool water
wheat bran, cornmeal or additional flour for dusting

Okay, let’s begin. In a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt and yeast. Stir those together.

Note: Apologies for the plastic mixing bowl. Its not the most visually appealing bowl, but its all I have. Food TV this isn’t.

Note: I’m using Kosher salt in place of table salt because I never stock table salt. Rocky, who supplied this recipe, the source book and who knows way more about cooking than I every will, said I should a wee bit more salt since Kosher salt has larger granules than table salt.

Add the water. Using a spoon (my choice) or your hands (assuming they are clean) mix everything together until you have a sticky dough. What’s pictured above is not a sticky dough even thought it is the stated amount of water. What both Rocky and myself have found is that it takes more water. What you want to do is add water by the tablespoon until the mixture becomes sticky. For me that is somewhere between 3 to 4 tablespoons.

This is sticky dough (apologies for the whacked out color). By sticky, I mean that when you touch it with your finger and pull your finger away the dough remains in contact with your finger (almost like gum).

The last step of part one is to cover the bowl with a tea towel and place the it in a cool place (no sunlight) for the next 12 to 18 hours.

Hot Cha Cha

•2010.12.25 • Leave a Comment

The creative writing thing is just not happening today (it is Christmas), so I’m going to keep this simple.

Hot Cha Cha. Love.

Four women. As opposed to four men.

Cleveland-based. It can be cold.

Exit Stencil Recordings. Also love and so should you.

Traffic video. Please watch and be entertained.

Fantastic Static EP. Purchase please. It stimulates the economy. It makes Exit Stencil happy. It makes Hot Cha Cha happy. It makes me happy. Let’s all be happy.

Smoothie

•2010.12.19 • Leave a Comment

A smoothie. A quick-n-dirty breakfast. A mid-afternoon snack (today). A saviour in the hell known as airport terminal food choices.

There are dozens of ways to make a smoothie, but the recipe I follow came from Martha Rose Shulman at the New York Times. I choose it because its simple and I like simple.

1 ripe kiwi, peeled, cored and quartered
1/2 cup (3 ounces) fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled
1/2 to 1 banana (to taste), preferably frozen
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon flax seeds (optional)

Place all of the ingredients in a blender, along with a few ice cubes if the bananas have not been previously frozen, and blend until smooth.

The only “gotcha” of a making smoothie is that you need a blender or a food processor.  In my case, its a food processor (thanks Rocky!).

If you want to skip the measuring cups then go with:

1 kiwi. Slice off each end, peel the skin and cut into five to six chunks.
6-7 frozen strawberries depending on size. If they’re larger go with six; smaller go with seven.
1 banana. That ugly black thing in the top photo is a banana that’s been in the fridge for a while (it’s perfectly fine). Slice off both ends, peel it, then slice into 1/4″ to 1/2″ chunks.
1-2 oranges.  One orange will usually do, but it depends on the amount of juice you can squeeze out of it.
3 spoons of vanilla yogurt (preferably Greek style). This is an eating spoon, not a soup spoon.

I omit the flax seeds (I’m not a bird). I also omit the ice cubes because the strawberries are frozen, the banana was refrigerated and my ice maker is on the fritz.

Don’t worry about being neat because it all goes into the blender/food processor. Run the food processor until there are no large, fruit chunks remaining.  If you measure correctly, it should fill one glass with no leftovers.

Drink up.

Blue Cheese Scallion Biscuits

•2010.10.31 • Leave a Comment

Halloween. Scary times. Baking. Biscuits to be precise. Scarier times.

Baking always feels like a crap shoot. First, there is little room for mistakes. You flub the measurements, you either end up with something that that can be used for spackling compound or something hard enough to be used as a stepping stone. Second, there are many things in baking that are assumed, but not stated. Sift the flour. Let the butter warm to room temperature. These are not absolutes, but they can have a profound affect on the result.

Today’s baking was Blue Cheese Scallion Biscuits care of the wonderful Smitten Kitchen. The recipe is as follows:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick or 3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in blue cheese and scallions. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.

Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet, or one lined with parchment paper. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 16 to 20 minutes.

There is no tinkering here (baking, remember?) so follow the above as stated.

Sift your flour. You can find one of these pain-in-ass sifters in just about any grocery store. It looks pretty safe, but you’d be surprised the number of times I have cut myself on this contraption. I would not hand it to a child. Load it up with flour and start sifting. No measuring? Correct. You measure what comes OUT of the sifter, not what goes in.

With the flour and other dry ingredients mixed, cut and portion the remaining ingredients.

Time to get your hands dirty. As stated in the recipe blend the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers. What I do is work in the butter until there are no large chunks remaining. The result should resemble the following. Whether this is how “course meal” looks, I do not know.

Combine in the blue cheese and scallions and then finally the buttermilk. You’re not mixing paint here so go easy and stop when the ingredients have come together, like so:

Notice that its not one big wad of dough. Its more like Play-Doh that’s been in-n-out of the can a few times. You’re now ready to make your biscuits, but DON’T forget to grease the cooking sheet (parchment paper works too).

I make my biscuits like snow balls, forming a ball of dough that is larger than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball. Place the ball on the sheet and give it a little mash. They are far from perfect, but the taste will make up for the appearance.

The recipe states 16 to 20 minutes for baking time. The first time I baked these I erred towards 20 and ended up with burnt biscuit bottoms. For subsequent bakings, I’ve pulled them out at 15-16 minutes and they’ve been fine.

If you can only eat one, you have issues. I had four.

Pimento Cheese

•2010.10.24 • 1 Comment

Beaufort Grocery is one of the best restaurants in NC and just might be my favorite place to dine. This past spring they released a wonderful cookbook, Closed on Tuesdays, that features some of their most desired recipes (buy it). Personally, I was after the recipe for Aunt Marion’s Apple and Onion Salad (great salad), but today I’m covering one of their lunch time favorites, pimento cheese.

The recipe, known as BCG Pimento Cheese, is as follows:

4 cups (16 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or spicy mustard
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine the cheese, roasted red pepper and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, hot sauce, salt and pepper and mix well. Store in the refrigerator.

The only deviation I take from the original is I cut the garlic in half.  I love garlic, but the first time I made this it was just a bit too much. It could have been bad measuring on my part, but subsequent preparations have been just fine.

Some of you may notice that pimentos are not listed as an ingredient. Technically, you would be correct. Based on what I read on Wikipedia, there is a difference between a pimento pepper and a red bell pepper — “The flesh of the pimento is sweet, succulent and more aromatic than that of the red bell pepper”.  Traditionalist may scoff, but its hard to dismiss the taste of a roasted red pepper. It has a flavor all its own and I think its an excellent substitution.

As for the preparation, there are a couple of ways to attack the cheese. You can be a slack ass and buy pre-shredded cheese…

Sidenote:  In the last few days I heard on NPR that shredded cheese was originally developed as a way to deal with the scraps from producing block cheese. The cheese companies initially dismissed the idea. So much for what they know. Its turned out to be a big winner and the companies now make more money from the shredded cheese than they do the blocks.

… or you can shred your own, either by food processor or with the Wes Craven hand shredder (my choice). If you get a little blood in the cheese, no big deal. The juice of peppers will hide it.

For those hoping for some gore, sorry to disappoint. This batch turned out to be blood free. Now all that’s needed is to mix in everything else.

I could eat this straight from the bowl, but its best served between two slices of thick bread that has had a sadistic session with Mr. Panini press. You know its ready when the pimento cheese is oozing out the sides.

The only thing missing was a pickle on the side.