And I Can Cook, Too

Friday, August 31, 2007

There is only one person in the world who will find the following even remotely funny. But she needs a laugh, and will find it funny enough to make boring everyone else worth it.

"If you want a baked potato, we can do that!"

August 31, 2007


This morning with my coffee I enjoyed the smooth deliciousness of a custard apple, a name also applied to the cherimoya and sweetsop, and also know as a “bullocks heart.” This tropical fruit is a native to South America, but is now cultivated in the West Indies, South East Asia, South Africa, and, you guessed it, South Australia. When ripe, the white flesh has custard like texture, and tastes of vanilla, cinnamon, and banana. Some people find the custard apple too sweet, but I think it’s even better than a persimmon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

August 20, 2007

Two Drinks In One

The rum berry (rumberry) is also know as the orange berry, the guava berry, and my personal favorite, the gin berry. The rum berry is a small edible fruit found in Southeast Asia and India. It is used in Hindu medicine, mostly to relieve bilious disorders and worms, which again makes me wonder why Timmy is asking about it.

On the plus side, it leaves in ones mouth the aftertaste of sharp, spicy gin, so maybe the worm is worth it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

August 3, 2007

Top Ten Reasons Not To Eat At The Inn At St. Peters Village

10. You will be seated at 7:30 and enjoy listening to the waiter talk to the table next door about their daughter’s soccer teams until you are finally allowed to place a drink order at 7:25.

9. After taking your dinner order but before giving it to the kitchen you will then spend ten more minutes listening to same waiter talk to a different table next door about the weather and whether or not it is going to rain.

8. The amuse bouche will taste overwhelmingly of unflavored gelatin, a phenomenon previously believed to be impossible.

7. You will be asked if you are ready to order wine 20 minutes after you’ve already ordered it.

6. The wine will finally make its way to the table, but it will take five more minutes to find a glass to put it in.

5. Your father’s beer will never come.

4. At 9:30, when you ask the waiter where your dinner is, he will tell you that if he asks about your meals again the chef will throw food at him.
3. When you ask to speak to the manager you will be told that he is busy and will be with you shortly, forcing you to say the word “now.”

2. When your food finally arrives at 10:00, it will be colorless, cold, and flavorless.

1. When the smarmy in absolutely stupid looking “I’m fabulous gay man and what are you going to do about it” glasses food throwing chef approaches your table, he will start the conversation by positively cooing “…and how is table 34 doing tonight?” He will then explain that you waited 2-1/2 hours for your food because his assistant made it wrong and he himself had to re-make it to make sure it was perfect for you. When you tell him that were a chef and it sounded to you like he was passing the buck, he will haughtily ask you why it is you are a chef no more. When you explain that it is because you are at Le Cordon Bleu, he will assume an offended tone, tell you that he is taking full responsibility for the error and what more do you want him to do, and hightail it back into the kitchen.

The Only Reason In The Whole Wide World To Eat At The Inn At St. Peter’s Village

1. There’s rockin good chance it’s gonna be free..
August 19, 2007

Billy Goat’s Gruff

The Billy Goat Plum, also known as the kaduku and murunga plum, is a bush fruit native to that great land down under – Australia. Eaten by Aboriginals for thousands of years, this bush tucker has the largest concentration of vitamin C of any known plant in the world.

Although it is entirely edible, and still harvested in some Aboriginal communities, the Billy Goat Plum is now most often used in cosmetics, in fortified drinks, and for alternative medicine. On a more or less interesting side note, Billy Goat Plum Essence is purported to cure self-loathing, shame, and disgust. It is also rumored to alleviate sexual revulsion, which makes me wonder why Timmy is asking about it…

Saturday, August 18, 2007

August 17, 2007

Visions of Beach Plums Dance in My Head

Also known as a “shore plum”, a beach plum is an edible fruit native to the America Northeast. It has been found on the coastline of Canada’s New Brunswick all the way down to Virginia. For reasons unknown, the plant loves normally unsustainable soils like sand dunes, hence the name. Like the common plum, the fruit can be red, purple, or yellow, and ranges in flavor from very tart to very sweet. It is often used to make jelly.

One place that the beach plum used to be common is Cape May, New Jersey, where someone who can cook, too, recently spent a week vacationing.

August 3, 207

Just Peachy

A friend recently asked “What the bejesus is a donut peach anyway?” At the time I was feely cheeky, and responded in kind. I’ve since had some time to calm down.

A donut peach, also known as a Saturn peach, is a white peach that is originally from China. It began being grown in the U.S. in the 1800’s, but all but disappeared when industrialized farming standardized fruits and vegetables to be picked young and transportable. Its recent resurgence makes it an “heirloom” fruit. It has a tiny little pit and much less acid that it’s cousin, the common yellow peach, and therefore is sweeter.

Oh, and if you punch the pit out with your thumb, it looks like a donut. That is also a peach.

August 2, 2007

Practically Perfect In Every Way

Want to improve on my already perfect Dijon-Truffle Mac? Add a lobster!

Friday, August 17, 2007

August 1, 2007

Say Cheese!

My friend Kim has survived four months on Fake!Mars in part by providing edible meals for herself and her crew. One of her clever discoveries was her ability to make homemade cheese. I decided that if Kim, PHD, Pilot, Fake!Mars Scientist, Artificial Intelligence Expert, and part-time NASA employee could do it, so could my seven year old niece. I purchased a beginners cheese making kit from New England Cheesemaking Supply, bought a gallon of whole milk, instructed Frannie to pull a stool up to the kitchen stove, and we were off. We started by dissolving 1/2 teaspoons of rennet in a cup of water. We then poured a gallon of whole milk into a large stockpot, added 1-1/2 teaspoons of citric acid, and turned on the heat. We needed the milk to come to 88 degrees, and after explaining to Frannie what happens when milk gets to hot and comes to a boil, she was insistent that we check the temperature every 45 seconds.

She is one bright kid. The milk heated a lot fasted than I expected it to, and we quickly stirred in our rennet water and set the timer for 8 minutes. During those eight minutes, the curds separated from the whey and our mozzarella had begun.

We sliced the curds into chunks and, using a slotted spoon, transferred them into a bowl. We then pressed down on the curds to release more whey, and drained it off. We then went through a series of re-heating and re-pressing the curds until they had congealed into one large lump and were starting to resemble cheese. It was time to pull. Treating the curds like taffy, we stretched and pulled them until they transformed into a shiny string of mozzarella. We then kneaded the string into a ball and submerged it into ice water to cool. A resounding 45 minutes after turning on the heat, our mozzarella was done.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

July 31, 2007

Drowning Aunt Kristin

With forty-seven children in tow, Sister Megan and I figured the best was to keep them all occupied was to take them to the pool and throw them in. The two oldest had recently passed varying degrees of swimming tests and were more than capable of fending for themselves in the water. The 3-year old was fiercely independent and able to fend for himself in water wings. That left the 11-month old, who for some ridiculous reason pretended that she didn't know how to swim, and insisted on being constantly held. For reasons I can't explain, the scene often looked like this:

Monday, August 13, 2007

July 30, 2007

I Got Crabs

On our adult’s night out in Cape May, we’d tasted a dish of Lemongrass-Crab Soup that was simply to die for. Naturally I thought I could do better. A quick trip to Newark, Delaware’s fabulous yet confusing Asian-Mexican market yielded the necessary ingredients, and of course I proved myself right.

Lemongrass-Crab Soup

12 oz. Lump Crab Meat
4 tbsp. Lemongrass, minced
1 Sweet Onion, sliced very thin
3 Cloves, garlic, minced
1 tbsp. Ginger, minced
6 Green Onions, white and green parts, sliced and divided
2 Qt. Chicken Stock
12 oz. Clam Juice
Drops Fish Sauce
Salt and Pepper
8 oz Rice Vermicelli
1 tbsp. Butter

Fill a large bowl with hot water and submerge the rice vermicelli. In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and the white part of the green onion and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the lemongrass, garlic and ginger and sauté for two minutes more. Add the chicken stock and clam juice and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add a few drops of fish sauce. Taste. If you like, add a few more drops of fish sauce. Do not under any circumstances add fish sauce by any more than a few drops at a time! Fish sauce is very strong, and in the words of my brother-in-law, if you add too much you will die! Shortly before you are ready to eat, remove the vermicelli from the hot water and add it to the soup. Add the lump crabmeat and stir. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Top with the green part of the green onion and serve.

Divine, darling, simply divine.
July 30, 2007

It’s All Greek To Me

In addition to salmon, Megan had zucchini, onion, red bell pepper, tomatoes, and a bag of frozen meatballs. I noticed that she also had flour and butter on hand, and I developed a plan. “Whatcha making?” Megan asked as I sautéed the vegetables and deglazed the pan with a little balsamic vinegar. “Moussaka.” I told her. “Where’s the eggplant?” she asked. “Well, it’s not exactly moussaka, it’s more like a mock-saka.” At dinnertime we didn’t care what it was called. We just ate it.


1-1/2 lbs. Frozen Meatballs
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Zucchini, medium diced
1 Sweet Onion, medium diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, Medium Diced
1 12-oz can Diced Tomatoes
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
¼ C Balsamic Vinegar
½ stick Butter
1/2 C. Flour
2 C. Milk
Salt and Pepper

Brush the bottom of a large baking dish with olive oil. Line the bottom of the dish with the meatballs. In a large pan, sauté the zucchini, onion, and bell pepper in the remaining olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute more. Add the tomato paste and the tomatoes, including the tomato liquid. Allow to simmer until the liquid is almost completely reduced. Add the vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan. Allow to simmer until the vinegar is almost completely reduced. Pour the mixture over the meatballs.

In a separate pot, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk to form a paste, and allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Whisking, add the milk a little at a time. Allow to come to a rapid simmer (do not boil!) to thicken. Taste, and add nutmeg, salt and pepper as desired. Layer on the top to the meatballs and vegetables. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes, until meatballs are heated through.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

July 29, 2007

Chef Frannie

Sister Megan’s husband was out of town for the week, and I was staying at her place in Delaware to help out with her forty-seven kids. One of the few ways I knew that I could be of assistance was to assume some responsibility for mealtimes. We raided the freezer and constructed a menu for the week that utilized things she had on hand. Sunday was Salmon night, and much to my surprise, my 7-year-old niece was keen to pitch in. She pulled a stool up to the counter, and as I supervised she slathered a one pound salmon filet with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, painted on blue cheese dijon mustard, and topped the whole thing with seasoned bread crumbs. We popped it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, and it was done. Delicious!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

July 28, 2007

Mr. Celery, Revisited

Last year, my two year old nephew could talk of nothing but Mr. Celery, the mascot of his favorite sports team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks. This year said nephew, another year older and another year wiser, has abandoned his constant chatter of celerycelerycelerycelerywoohoo!, to more sophisticated dialog including phrases like “Daddy we go Blue Rocks?”, “No! Blue Rocks not home! Blue Rocks Away!”, and my personal favorite, “Daddy look! Mr. Celery is a kite! Go Blue Rocks!” When I heard there was a home game this Saturday night, naturally I couldn’t wait to get tickets. Shortly after we were seated, my brother-in-law received a phone call from his good friend the food and beverage manager of the stadium. Moments later we were seated in a skybox and the waitress was taking our orders. While we were waiting for our hot dogs and beer, there was a knock at the door. We opened it, and in walked two Hooters Girls carrying a large bucket of tennis balls. “Would you like to buy launcher balls for a dollar?” they asked. We asked them to explain. We were informed that at the end of the game, multiple hula-hoops would be placed on the field. We would then be instructed to throw our launcher balls as hard as we could, and if one of our balls landed in a hoop we would win a nifty prize. “Is this for any benefit other than the Blue Rocks?” I inquired. “Yeah, it’s for the Children’s Hospital.” Hooter number one replied. “Which one?” my sister asked. “The children’s one.” Hooter two confirmed. I reasoned that although the odds of any one of us actually getting a ball to the field from the sky box were remote at best, we could at least revel in the joy of hitting total strangers on the back of the head, and we each purchased a couple of balls. We enjoyed next few hours watching the Blue Rocks show the Indians just what a Blue Rock is made of (Woo Hoo!), and at last it was time for the hula-hoops. After laughing as my niece and nephews launched their balls as far as their little arms could muster (about 2 and ½ feet) I sent my first ball soaring over the railing. And promptly smacked a woman in the first row. As she rubbed the back of her head and looked around to spot her assailant, I sent my second ball flying. And promptly smacked the same womans son in the back of the head. Unlike his mother, the son was unconcerned where the ball came from. He simply picked it up and tossed it on toward the field. Where it promptly landed in a hula-hoop. And won me a nifty prize.

Friday, August 10, 2007

July 27, 2007

What’s Leftover

When the whole clan gathers, it’s a crowd. In the interest of avoiding any one person feeling like the scullery maid, my mother, sisters, and I each pick a night that it is our turn to cook. Usually we each take the opportunity to show off, but last year I ended up last in the rotation, and rather than bring more groceries into the house was asked to figure out a meal based on what was leftover from the week. Little did I know a tradition was being born. Last years leftovers were fairly cut and dry – lots of vegetables, loads of garlic, and ample salady things. Everyone’s reading pasta here, right? This years leftovers were a slightly larger challenge. The list looked like this:

Green Beans
5 Bags of Bread Heels and Squashed Hamburger Buns
Flat Leaf Parsley
A tupperware of something White, Sweet, and Runny
½ Pint Heavy Cream
½ Can Smoked Almonds
¼ Bottle Peach Schnapps
Heel of Parmesan Cheese
Half squeezed lemons and limes
A Shallot
Olive Oil Flavored Cooking Spray

I weighed my options. “Can I buy some seafood?” I asked my mother. She allowed scallops. The menu looked like this:

Scalloped Scallops
Green Beans Amandine
Blueberry Crush

Scalloped Scallops (for 15)

5 Lbs. Sea Scallops
All the leftover bread in the house and some tortillas that have been crushed too small for dipping
A barely used bunch of parsley
All the leftover garlic
A heel of parmesan cheese
Olive Oil Flavored Cooking Spray
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Slices of lemons and limes

In a food processor, mini-chopper, blender, or just using your knife, chop the bread, tortilla chips, parsley, garlic, and Parmesan cheese into fine, seasoned breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Spray the bottom of a large baking dish with the cooking spray. Divide the breadcrumbs into thirds. Line the bottom of the baking sheet with the first third. Add the scallops in a single layer placing them very close together. Tell your mother you knew that baking dish wasn’t big enough. Discover that it is the only baking dish in the house. Cover the layer of scallops with another third of the breadcrumb mixture. Add another layer of scallops. Squeeze them all very tightly together to make them fit. Top with the last third of the breadcrumbs. Melt a stick of butter in the microwave, and drizzle on top. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until done. Serve with slices of lemons and limes.

Green Beans Amandine (for 15)

6 lbs. Green Beans
1 Shallot
½ can Smoked Almonds, crushed in a food processor, blender, or with a knife.
½ stick Butter

Tell you mother to string the beans. While she is doing that, thinly slice the shallot. When your mother finishes all the beans and two gin and tonics, toss the beans into the largest pan or wok you can find with about 1 cup of water. Bring the water to a boil, and steam the beans, turning periodically, until the water has almost completely dissolved. Add the shallot and the butter. Allow the rest of the water to dissolve and the butter to melt. Add the almonds, and stir to coat. Taste, and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Blueberry Crush (for 14 because your nephew doesn’t like blueberries)

About a quart of Blueberries
¼ bottle Peach Schnapps
½ pint Heavy Cream
A tupperware of something sweet, white, and runny.

Put the tupperware of something sweet, white, and runny on the counter to bring to room temperature. Using a hand mixer or a whisk, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Chill. In a food processor, blender, or with a knife, crush the blueberries. Add the peach schnapps. Prepare to fold the blueberry mix into the whipped cream and remember that there are children in the family. Put the blueberries in a pan on the stove and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes to evaporate all the alcohol. Put the pan in the freezer to chill. Take the whipped cream out of the fridge, and using a rubber spatula fold in the something sweet, white, and runny. When the blueberries are completely chilled, fold them into the whipped cream. Serve it in wine glasses to the grown ups and plastic dishes to the kids. Simply grin when your sisters announced their plans to conspire to ensure that next years leftovers are impossible to pair.
July 26, 2007

Martini Madness

It was “adult kids night out” in Cape May. My mom and dad took charge of their grandchildren, and the sibs, spouses, and I were off for dinner. We went to the Martini Grill, famous for its drinks but chosen for the Lemongrass Crab Soup. We were seated, and sister Megan promptly asked for the drink menu. “We’ve left the children at home.” she excitedly told the waiter. “Congratulations!” he replied, “I hate children!” We took a good long look at the martini list and promptly decided to drink our way though it. We started with a Red Door, with pomegranate juice, The Hunk, with pineapple liquor, a Dirty, with blue cheese stuffed olives (causing sister Megan to shout “My taste buds have instantaneously matured!”), a Blue Lagoon, with Blue Curacao, and a Tickle My Pickle, complete with a pickle. While we sipped, our tapas arrived – above mentioned soup, escargots on portabella mushrooms, lobster mac and cheese, charred asparagus with beet salad, steamer clams in white wine, yum, yum, yum. It was all delicious, but what impressed us the most was the pickle.

Tickle My Pickle

1-1/2 oz. Top Shelf Vodka
Splash Dry Vermouth
Baby Gherkin or Baby Dill Pickle

Fill both a cocktail shaker and a martini glass with ice. In the cocktail shaker, add the vodka, and stir to completely chill. Dump the ice out of the martini glass. Add the splash of vermouth to the glass, and swirl. Dump the vermouth out of the glass and into the sink. Drain the chilled vodka into the glass. Make a cut into the end of the pickle. Spear the pickle onto the martini glass in a manner that allows the pickle to jut out toward the drinker. Make a crack to the server about adding cocktail onions on either side of the pickle and just being done with it and giggle as he pretends

a) to be mortified beyond repair and,
b) not to have heard that one before

Thursday, August 09, 2007

July 25, 2007

Happy Birthday

It was my mothers birthday, and my 11 year old nephew has spent the last year teaching himself to cook. He announced his intention to make his grandmothers birthday brunch, and he was off to the kitchen to cook for ten people. An hour or so later, he rang the bell that hangs in the dining room, signifying that breakfast was served. We stuffed ourselves on plain pancakes, peanut butter pancakes, peanut butter and chocolate chip pancakes, eggs with ham, bell pepper, and cheese, and loads of crispy bacon. That 11 year-old is one kid after his aunts heart.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

July 24, 2007

Nacho Best Nachos

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Mexican food is not one of the things that makes Australia great. Along with laulau and a decent hamburger, it was one of my top three food cravings that I hoped to fix in the U.S. I arrived in Cape May - tired, disheveled, and slightly drugged up - just in time for dinner, and we were off to Carneys, one of the Capes most popular joints. The most Mexican thing I could find on the menu (okok I was too much of a wreck to see past the appetizers) were Nachos, and I decided that beach side pub food had to be better Mexican than anything I could get in Oz. Our food arrived, and the waitress set a plate of naked tortilla chips in front of me. "Are these my nachos?" I inquired. "Yep." she informed me. "We serve the topping separate from the chips, so everyone can scoop what they want." With that she placed on the table a dish on fonduy looking beans and cheese. I grabbed a chip and dug in. It was like that spinach or artichoke dip you see on menus all over the country, but with salsa. Sigh. At least it didn't have lentils.

Friday, August 03, 2007

July 23, 2007

On the Way to Cape May

My weekend in Hawaii went fast – after a fabulous massage on Saturday I dolled myself up and met Jen for a dinner at the new Roys – delicious! were the Martini’s that followed at La Mer. Sunday was lunch at Mariposa with Jan, and Monday with Maggie I finally got the Kalua Pig I’d been craving for months. Monday night, I hit the catamaran for one last sunset, swung through the hospitality room for a shower and a change, and hailed a taxi for the airport. Thankfully it was another uneventful flight. My father met me in Philadelphia the next day, and I was on the way to Cape May.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

July 23, 2007

On the Way to Cape May

My weekend in Hawaii went fast – after a fabulous massage on Saturday I dolled myself up and met Jen for a dinner at the new Roys – delicious! were the Martini’s that followed at La Mer. Sunday was lunch at Mariposa with Jan, and Monday with Maggie I finally got the Kalua Pig I’d been craving for months. Monday night, I hit the catamaran for one last sunset, swung through the hospitality room for a shower and a change, and hailed a taxi for the airport. Thankfully it was another uneventful flight. My father met me in Philadelphia the next day, and I was on the way to Cape May.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

July 20, 2007

Honolulu City Lights

After a blessedly uneventful flight, was back on Oahu for the first time in over five months. I was neither entirely sure how I’d feel about being back on-island, nor who exactly whom I would see while there. I arrived at my hotel hours too early for check in, and used the courtesy room to rinse off and prepare myself for a day on the beach. After months of Australian winter, the sun washed over my skin like chocolate, and I could smell the achingly familiar flowers in the sea air. I lunched at the Shorebird (ahi, ahi, ahi!), got myself checked in to my room, and realized that I was destined for an early bedtime. Despite being on a tight budget, I decided that I would end my day on a much loved and missed sunset catamaran sail. The sun set over the water, the city lights came to life, I looked towards the Koolau’s and couldn’t believe how good it felt to be home.