Izzy Eats: The art of raising a gourmand, one bite at a time

Stirring tales of eating, cooking and foraging in my never-ending quest to provide, great-tasting (local and organic whenever possible) EATS for me and my boy(s).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Izzy Tricked Me...




Into thinking that I could get away with one more year of no trick-or-treating. Up until today, he seemed thrilled with just the prospect of wearing his costume and handing out candy on our front stoop. This morning he asked if he could invite friends over to hand out the candy with him. I explained that his friends probably had their own candy to hand out at their houses. Then I regretted not having a small Halloween get together which I had contemplated but couldn't bring myself to do. After last year, I wasn't really in the mood.

Later on today, when school let out, we came home and prepared our treats. Then, with his costume on, we brought everything out to the stoop. We had organic lollipops, freshly popped popcorn and other organic candy. I also made the most adorable Halloween treat ever (leftovers available if you are in the neighborhood tomorrow!).


These ghosts will definitely become part of our Halloween repertoire. We will make them a tradition at our Halloween party next year.

There we sat, trolling for trick-or-treaters but few were coming our way. I could see Izzy would tire of this soon enough. Finally T., one of his classmates, came by and I decided it wouldn't harm anyone if we joined them to trick-or-treat at a few houses. My little bat boy flitted down the street, eager to ring bells and accept candy. After about a half an hour of this, he was ready to go home.

Once there, he promptly dumped out his loot and began to count it! He had over 60 pieces of candy. I explained to him that when I was little, my parents had the right to check over and discard anything that wasn't so good..like candies made in China, those with excessive food-coloring, the ones with sketchy labels.. He gladly handed over nearly half of the candy and was even on board with the one piece a week plan. Not bad for a first Halloween.



Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Does Manchego Smell Like?

1. Nutty

2. Creamy.

3.Like vomit.

Could it be the answer is a matter of opinion?

My friend R. sent her daughter to school with a snack of aged Manchego and crackers yesterday.

Today at breakfast her daughter M. said, "Mama, the teacher told me my cheese smelled like vomit. She said it was expired." R. could not believe her ears but her daughter repeated the same words. R. immediately called the school. It seems like someone at that school may need lessons in grace and courtesy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Granny Cart Expert

I have been using granny carts for years and do consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject. So when my friend S. complained of a sore back from lugging groceries home from the city, I offered to help her purchase a granny cart, just like mine. After all, my granny cart woes of last year ended when I purchased my trusty blue metal cart which has served me well.

We took the Path to 14th Street and headed for the hole in the wall shop where I have purchased a few carts. Surprise! It wasn't there. So we continued along to the second hole in the wall between 5th and 6th where I thought we might have better luck. I immediately spied a red metal cart that I thought would do, but upon further inspection I realized it was too wide and wouldn't fit through the Path turnstiles. The salesman tried to insist that it was a fine specimen. I shook my head no, as did my friend, who was deferring to me.

I don't know if I said it, or she did but someone said that I was a granny cart expert and at that very moment, as I wiggled my blue cart, one wheel popped off, right before our eyes!

Ah the irony of it all. So now we were both granny cartless, with high hopes of carting home loads of food from the market. We continued to walk towards Union Square, wondering where we would find granny carts in the neighborhood. We interviewed a couple of grannies along the way. The first one said hers was old and had no idea where it came from. The second one, inside Whole Foods, told us that she bought hers at Zabar's ages ago and that we should "Google It"...which somehow seemed awfully funny coming from a frail gray-haired woman who reminded me of my grandma (and my grandma had trouble wrapping her head around the concept of a tape recorder).

By then it was too late to travel for a new granny cart so we both just used our bags and tried not to purchase too much. Which leaves us..Desperately Seeking New Granny Carts!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hot Chocolate Season Has Begun

To inaugurate it, I tried a new chocolate from Zabar's, just like I did last winter. This time it was a Sicilian chocolate from Casa Don Puglisi, which I found in an eco-friendly brown wrapper. I actually thought it was an eating chocolate at first but when I sampled its granular texture, I realized it was more well-suited to making hot chocolate.

One square melted in about a cup of warm milk, made for a nice brew. Izzy and I enjoyed it thoroughly, though I can't be sure which one is tastier. It has been so long since last year's experiment, I think it is high time we had a hot chocolate tasting.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The New Penne? Trenne...


Leave it to Izzy to choose this unusual pasta from the bulk pasta bins at Murray's Cheese..Yes, bulk pasta, in interesting shapes and sizes. I have never come across bulk pasta before and I love the concept. Why? Because a pound is never quite enough to serve the three of us dinner and still have enough leftover for Izzy's lunch. In case you haven't heard, leftovers for lunch are key.

But back to the pasta. I simply sauced it with several cloves of minced garlic, 3/4 can of fire-roasted tomatoes, two tablespoons of black olive tapenade and a handful of basil chiffonade.

There was plenty to go around, even after a hard day's work on Izzy's new bed. Yesterday we all helped to paint it and it is partially assembled right now. More to come shortly.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Little Boy Blue

Izzy revels in the rare indulgence of a blue lollipop. Giddy with delight, isn't he?

Never you mind that the very idea of blue food makes me cringe. But if Mama doth protest too much, there is that awful chance that my dear boy might begin to covet blue foods.



He fished this lolly out of a bag of party loot that has remained tucked away in a cabinet since last weekend. When I remarked that there was too much candy for him to possibly eat he generously offered to give out the rest as Halloween candy. I could barely believe my ears. Maybe he doesn't love the stuff all that much after all.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Butter At Balthazar: The Wholesale Bakery

On a recent trip to Englewood, N.J., on our way to dinner with my family at Baumgart's, I had the driver stop at the Balthazar Bakery store, actually a wholesale operation with a retail shop.

We were greeted by this impressive mound of butter, evidence of the large scale operation going on beyond the glass window. Here they churn out a huge variety of impeccably made French bread pastries, along with their excellent breads. Everything is so wonderfully fresh and delicious it is always impossible to choose. Izzy and I love to peer into the back and watch the dough in motion.

Our taxi driver, who decided to hop out and shop for himself (after I raved non-stop about the place), had so much difficulty choosing that he left the store with an armload of goodies. We were more judicious, a few croissants, some madeleines and a sourdough bread.

If you find yourself in Northern New Jersey, this place is most definitely worth a detour, for that matter, it merits a special trip!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The New French: West Village Restaurant

New but not exactly French, this cozy comfort food restaurant boasts delicious frites, spicy pho and some rather tasty-looking sandwiches. And if you live in Jersey City, the location, right near the Christopher Street Path Station, couldn't be more convenient.

This semester, Izzy is taking a mixed-media art class on Thursdays, in the West Village and naturally I am always looking for cozy places to dine afterwards. A. tried Mussels and Frites while Izzy and I had the Beet Salad and Brisket Pho...I eyed the Pulled Pork and Brisket Sandwiches, wondering what I might order next time.

The menu is certainly eclectic, perhaps a tad pricey. I ordered the $16 bowl of pho, thinking that Izzy and I would share it. We did but both of us were still hungry. This certainly won't be the last you hear of The New French as we will definitely return. We just won't make it a weekly habit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Have You Ever Lost A Bra While Food Shopping?

Well guess what..I did!

What I would most like to know is where I left it. Did I leave it with the Sheep Lady while purchasing my fix of Brebis Blanche? Or was it left hanging by the egg stand? Did some fortunate Greenmarket shopper come across my lovely, lacy black number and wonder what to do with it? If not, perhaps it is resting by the checkout counter of the Whole Foods on 14th Street.

If you have any information leading to the recovery of my lingerie splurge, wrapped neatly in a bag from Journelle, please do let me know. If not, I urge you to check out this store yourself for a truly sublime lingerie-shopping experience. They have robes to wear and disposable thongs so that you can try everything on... Whatever you do, don't lose your bra on the way to the Greenmarket, which is around the corner!

n.b: If you needed yet another reason to go to check out Journelle, aside from the fact that they have gorgeous bras (sexy nursing ones too!) this is it: I sent them an email with a link to this story and the owner herself replied with these generous words:

That is a charming - and sad - story! We frequent the greenmarket a lot, too, but we didn't happen to see your lovely bra. We do, however, have one more in stock, and we've put it aside for you, our compliments. You can come pick it up anytime.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Goat Cheese In A Brownie? A Tangy Surprise



Last week Farmer Rich surprised me with a windfall of spreadable goat cheese, something akin to cream cheese but with a goaty tang. We smeared some on bread, made a few sandwiches and then in my new attempts to eliminate waste, realized that I'd better come up with some way to utilize the rest of it before it started growing fur.

Goat cheese and chocolate pair quite well together, especially in David Lebovitz's Cheesecake Brownies Recipe. I simply substituted goat cheese for the cream cheese. Nobody could put their finger on the "secret ingredient" and most thought it was citrus. When I told them it was goat cheese they all commented upon the tanginess. The goat cheese seems to temper the sweetness of the brownies.

Although Izzy enjoyed his, these may appeal more to grown-ups. A friend's child, while eating one, politely whispered to his mama, "I don't like the top part but the bottom is yummy." She kindly licked off the goat cheese and returned the rest to him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just Singing A Little Song About Our Yucky Dinner

You know its bad, really bad, when you hear your child singing in the other room:
(To the tune of "Mary had a little lamb")

Yucky dinner yuck yuck yuck, yuck yuck yuck, yuck yuck yuck, yucky dinner yuck yuck yuck, yucky dinner is yuck yuck..

It was supposed to be a fragrant, herby, chicken pot pie. I had made it many times before. This time I had to improvise as I was trying to make use of what was on hand. You see I had roasted a chicken last night, using a recommendation (I shall not name names so as to protect the innocent) from a friend whose cooking I have never tasted. The chicken, in and of itself was no prize but I thought I could surely do something with the leftovers.

Perhaps the chicken simply wasn't meant to be. So many things went awry and what emerged from the oven was not at all what I had in mind. It might have helped if I had mixed the dry ingredients, instead I added wet to dry, without incorporating the salt or baking powder. I also used coarse cornmeal and then undercooked the whole thing, even though I kept it in the oven far longer than the recipe had indicated.

Served along with some severely undercooked acorn squash, the dinner evoked pained looks all around. We all ate some of it, for what else could we have done? Order Chinese?

And so I am left with half of this chicken pot pie with cornmeal crust, wondering if a night in the fridge will help its case and if I could manage to serve it to my friend D. for lunch tomorrow. Maybe if I serve it with some cheesecake brownies I plan make, she won't notice the main course at all.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Perfect Timing, Puppetry, Pizza, Pinata Piercing: Notes From A Birthday Party

Party invitation for Sunday at 1:30 p.m. How perfectly civilized and highly unusual. No need to suffer from the Sunday night "We ate too much at the party but are still a little hungry" blues. We were able to have lunch first and be in perfectly good spirits, eat cake and sweets at snack time and still have room for a real dinner. Parents (me too!) take note..this is a great time for a party. AND you don't even need to serve copious amounts of food (which today's gracious hosts did..there was wonderful-looking pizza and penne but Izzy and I did not partake as we were still full from lunch).

The party was centered around a rollicking puppet show, with time for pumpkin decorating and pinata piercing. The highlight for Izzy (and others)was the pinata. He scooped up handfuls of candy, grabbing more than enough to keep a few dentists in business.

Later on he requested an "empanada" at his own party. Now you know how much I adore these things, which always seem to bring out the best in the little guests. But today something seemed different. The children were less frenzied..perhaps a result of the good timing of it all?

Could I actually stomach the idea of a pinata at Izzy's party? Well might be able to manage since I discovered that I could actually fill the pinata with goodies of our choosing. The idea seems more appealing than I had previously imagined. Organic lollipops? Fair trade chocolate..anything is possible.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Singing The Lunchtime Blues...

Sandwiches coming home untouched, pasta barely eaten, Izzy's lunchbox was coming home in a sorry state. Something was surely amiss in the lunchroom but I knew not what. So I adjusted his lunch and instead of the usual two to three items, I put one measly sandwich or a small amount of pasta and vegetables.

Gone were any notions of packing a lunch like Albert's (including a whole array of delicacies) who is a character in one of our favorite story books, Bread and Jam for Frances. Instead I resigned myself to packing a paltry lunch for Izzy and then having a snack fiend arrive home from school at three o'clock and eat non-stop until dinner.

The reason for this odd eating behavior (which has also afflicted many of Izzy's schoolmates): a change in lunchtime. Lunch is now eaten at 11:30 instead of noon. After eating breakfast at 8:30 and snack at who knows when, it is no wonder that Izzy is not quite hungry for lunch at 11:30. Haven't they heard of elevenses?

Parents have voiced their concerns but since the lunch hour was changed as a result of various park issues, the lunch hour is likely to remain as is. It is up to the parents to come up with solutions.

Some mentioned serving smaller breakfasts, which I am opposed to doing. Isn't breakfast supposed to be the most important meal of the day? Other ideas that might prove more effective are: limiting snack portions, offering lighter snacks such as fruit, and allowing access to lunchboxes after park time.

An early lunchtime is certainly not ideal but neither is school lunching in general. If only we lived in France, where many school children still go home for lunch..

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mama's In The Kitchen: Cat Update


Mama cat is becoming a part of our morning routine. Before we eat breakfast, we feed her. Problem is, once we feed her, we have to tiptoe around the kitchen or else she bolts out the door. I want her to eat inside so that she gets more accustomed to us...for the day is almost here when we plan to capture her and her kitten.
She and Baby continue to nest in our neighbor's yard and I check on them a couple of times a day. Baby, now two and a half weeks old, is beginning to move around a bit more and is not constantly nestled next to Mama. I hope Baby does not move around too much as I hope to be able to capture him without a trap.
In the meantime, we are getting Mama used to the carrier. I placed her food in it today and she ventured inside to eat. Question is, will I be able to shut the door quickly enough? The plan is to trap her and have someone catch Baby immediately. We will take both to the vet for vaccines and Mama will be spayed. Then I will confine them to one room of my house and attempt to tame them...
Stay tuned...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bagel Buttons Anyone? First Day Of Hebrew School/Sukkah Decoration



I guess Hebrew school is a fitting place for a first encounter with a bagel button. In my day, we just ate the whole bagel, hot from the oven of the nearby bagel shop. Eating that bagel was an integral part of my Hebrew school experience. Will the bagel button be a regular part of Izzy's? That shall remain to be seen.

As I sat watching Izzy and his classmates snack on bagel buttons and juice, I had to ponder their very existence. Are they akin to the Dunkin Munchkin? Do all bagel shops sell them? Meanwhile back to the other Hebrew school food oddities...

This was no ordinary Sunday at Hebrew school for we were also there to celebrate Sukkot, a harvest holiday, and decorate the sukkah.


The sukkah is a hut-like structure, decorated with fruits and leaves. It is traditional to eat inside it, throughout the holiday. We expected to have our lunch inside the sukkah that afternoon. I had no idea what would be served but as you might imagine, I feared the worst.

We were all milling about outside when a stack of pizza boxes arrived. I was certain it was a joke but then it quickly dawned on me that this was the reality of a Reform Synagogue in a multi-cultural city. Pizza and salad? I could certainly manage that it was the beverages that had me in a tizzy. I tried to ignore the giant plastic bottles of soda set out nearby, instead plying Izzy with far too much grape juice.

When the festivities were over, Izzy and I took a nice long walk down Kennedy Boulevard, to the Journal Square Path Station. On our way, Izzy started asking about his teacher Yoni, and was already looking forward to next week's class. And perhaps the bagel buttons. It was an auspicious beginning.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Using Up Odds And Ends



In my latest attempt to curb food waste, I tried to become inspired by what was in my fridge. With the odds and ends I discovered, I managed to make two satisfying meals.

The first dish made use of some leftover roast chicken, red pepper, onions and tomato from my CSA, sour cream on the cusp of turning, a half zucchini destined for compost and some vintage tortillas.

The recipe couldn't be simpler.

Chicken Tacos

Ingredients

1/2 small roast chicken, meat torn or cubed into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion,
minced1/4 red pepper diced
1 medium tomato diced
sprinkling of oregano
cilantro to taste
corn tortillas, warmed in a small skillet

1. In a few tablespoons olive oil, saute onion and red pepper 10 minutes, add tomato and cook until onions are soft and slightly browned.
2. Add chicken and oregano. Stir and cook until heated through.
3. Sprinkle with cilantro and fill tortillas.
4. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and a side of rice.

The second recipe used up half a red cabbage. I simply cut lengthwise and crosswise into small pieces, sauteed briefly in olive oil and drizzled with soy sauce. This made a perfect side dish for some bean curd, garlic, and chives. I generally slow cook cabbage but now I have a new option.

3-4 servings.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nigella Speaks...


And my friend R. and I stopped in at Tea and Sympathy beforehand, to fortify ourselves with full English breakfasts so as not to be drooling at all her talk of rich food. For those of you who aren't familiar with full English breakfasts, they consist of eggs, toast, bacon, sausage and often beans and of course tea. An absolutely filling way to start the day

Nigella Lawson's talk was another in the New York City Wine and Food Festival Times Talk series. We were in the second row so we had an excellent vantage point at which to view her quite bosomy, voluptuous body..

The focus of the talk was simply to showcase her passion for food, both cooking and eating it.

The highlight of the event was the audience question segment. One participant asked about what a perfect day of eating would include for her.

She said that she never begins her day without two mugs of tea and she then needs to wait an hour before breakfast. Her perfect breakfast was a piece of wholemeal toast with good butter and an Italian soft-boiled egg (why Italian is what I want to know. Wouldn't any fresh egg do?). This would then be followed by a lunch of linguine with clam sauce (with not a speck of tomato) and then a dessert of zabaglione, chosen in the interests of keeping the meal light! Dinner would be a roast chicken with some type of fried potatoes (I can't remember) and also some rare steak. Chocolate pot de creme for dessert. There may have been another item but whatever it is now escapes me. Were there any vegetables included? It may be my memory failing but I'd have to say I don't think so.

Nothing earth-shattering here, just a few hours spent in the presence of this lovely personality who has the good fortune to have made such a successful career out of eating, cooking and writing about it.

p.s She signed my food-stained copy of Nigella Bites ( with love..).
I asked her how she managed not to eat everything she baked and she said, by never depriving herself of anything. Why doesn't that trick work for me. I certainly don't deprive myself but have still been known to eat one scone too many.

Friday, October 10, 2008

According To Alice Waters

Who spoke at the Times Center tonight as part of the first annual New York City Wine and Food Festival; if schools taught eco-gastronomy according to her Edible Schoolyard model, we could turn our children into little eco-gastronomes.

It was wonderful to be present for her discussion and hear her answers to the thoughtful questions from the audience. There were many schoolteachers and others who hope to improve the public school cafeteria situation. Unfortunately her answers always led back to the same thing: the federal government needs to step in to add extra funds to improve the breakfast and lunch programs in schools, ultimately saving money in the long run , when children grow up healthier as a result of eating better.

At the end of the discussion there was a wine and chocolate tasting and we had a chance to have her sign our books. My friend L. asked her what she did on airplanes and she said she would never eat airplane food and always has something with her so that she doesn't have to (glad I am not the only one).

When it was my turn to have my book signed, I told her how I was raising my own little eco-gastronome and she said "Bravo. Keep it up." Which, of course, I will continue to do.

p.s. She looks awfully good for someone I imagine is in her 60's. It must be all of the local, organic foods she eats!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bagels For Break-Fast


Izzy rejoices in bagel decadence: butter and cream cheese together.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

No Food For Me...

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement has arrived. Not only is this a time to fast but it is also a time to reflect upon what and who we have done wrong during the past year. Tonight, after attending services (at least part of them, since Izzy joined me and we couldn't stay for very long), I came home to clean out my fridge. After all, as I cleanse my body through fasting, I figured my fridge could use a thorough cleansing as well.

As I dug into the depths of my crisper drawer, I came face to face with one of my major failings in the past year...


Moldy tomatillos, mushy onions, wilted par-cel and sodden eggplants were only some of the vegetables I encountered which were destined for fridge compost. All of this wasted food is a terrible shame, on so many levels. What an awful example I am setting for Izzy. Surely I can change. But how?

If you have overcome fridge compost issues, do send tips as I pledge to do better next year.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mr. Picky Pants Rears His Ugly Head

I do love nothing more than to regale you with tales of my snail-slurping, octopus loving, tongue-eating child. Indeed nothing gives me greater pleasure. But let it be known that it isn't always so rosy chez Izzy.

Indeed every so often, Mr. Picky Pants shows up at my dinner table and I must struggle to handle the situation appropriately, so as not to squelch his interest in all kinds of food.

Take tonight. I roasted up one of Izzy's favorite vegetables, butternut squash. But instead of serving leaving well enough alone, I combined it with some sauteed red onion and fresh ricotta cheese, and tossed it with bowtie pasta. I was convinced it was a culinary masterpiece. Izzy thought otherwise.

He ate a few bites of the squash and pushed it away. Then he started eating the bowties and began to complain. "I don't like squash this way. I don't want cheese all over it. It doesn't taste good. I want it the old way." And on and on the litany of complaints went. He only ate about half of the pasta and almost none of the squash before claiming he was done.

I told him he would not be having dessert unless he ate some more. He protested and continued to whine about it. I told him he needed to eat two more bites which he finally agreed to do. He giggled as I teased him a bit about the strange picky eater who landed at our table.

What do you do when a picky eater lands at yours?


Monday, October 6, 2008

The Lonely Only Kitten

One of the first things that A. did upon his return was to go out into the yard and check on Mama. Since he is taller than I he had a much better vantage point from which to peer through the vegetation. He immediately noted that there was only one kitten curled up beside her. I had been hoping that others were hiding beneath her and I wasn't quite ready to believe him. I don't even want to think about what has befallen the others, I guess a similar sad fate as the one we tried to save.

I finally called up one of the Jersey City cat mavens to discuss how to proceed. She advised me to wait until the kitten is about 3-4 weeks old before I attempt to capture it and the mama. We came up with a tentative plan, provided nature doesn't take over. Meanwhile I am to continue feeding Mama and checking on the whereabouts of the baby.

So imagine my surprise upon finding this little gray bundle*, left solo this afternoon, snoozing away in this discarded fish pond. Where has Mama gone? She didn't stop at my kitchen. I checked for about an hour and then it became too dark. How long can that tiny creature remain alone? Let's just hope that Mama has made it back home by now, otherwise that poor thing will freeze.

* Excuse the blurry image as I had to balance myself on a slab of stone and position the camera amongst the leaves.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

When Birthday Cake Won't Do: Pear Tarte Tatin


Oh what to make for the husband who lacks a solid sweet tooth? For one who isn't a huge fan of cakes or sweets in general? I could have gone the ginger cake route (btdt) but wanted to come up with a different birthday cake replacement.

So I looked around my kitchen and found myself with a windfall of pears from my CSA. They were begging to be used and since I have actually seen A. order Tarte Tatin in restaurants, a Pear Tarte Tatin became the obvious choice. It is simple to prepare. It can hold candles and we would all be happy to eat it.

It would also be the perfect dessert to accompany the bistro birthday dinner I had planned to prepare: Roast Leg of Lamb with Olive Tapenade, Zucchini and Leeks, Sweet potatoes roasted with honey/rosemary/olive oil, Cheese platter..and dessert.


Pear Tarte Tatin (Caramelized Upside-Down Pear Tart)
Adapted from Patricia Wells, Bistro Cooking* (Workman Publishing, 1989.)

Ingredients


6 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 to 8 firm pears (about 2 1/2 pounds, preferably bosc or anjou), peeled, quartered and cored
1/2 cup sugar
1 recipe Pate Brisee (below)
1 cup creme fraiche or sour cream for serving


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Melt the butter in a tarte tatin pan (or deep skillet) over medium-high heat. Add pears and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, for 20 minutes. Increase heat to high and cook for 15 more minutes, until pears turn a deep, golden brown. Watch carefully to avoid burning the fruit.

3.If you are baking the tarte in a separate dish, pile pears into that dish. Otherwise, remove pan from heat and roll out pastry slightly larger than baking dish. Place pastry on top of fruit, tucking in along edges and down into dish.

4.Place tarte in center of oven and bake until pears bubble and pastry is a deep golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes.

5.Remove the tarte from the oven and immediately place a large, flat heatproof serving platter on top of the baking dish or pan. Invert the pan and give the bottom a firm tap to release any pears that may be sticking to the bottom. Slowly release the baking dish so that the tarte falls evenly onto the platter. Serve warm or at room temperature, passing creme fraiche or sour cream.

Serves 8 to 10.

Pate Brisee

1 to 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (do not use unbleached)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ice water

1.Place 1 cup of flour, the butter, and salt in a food processor. Process just until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. Add the ice water and pulse just until the pastry begins to hold together, about 6 or 8 times. Do not let it form a ball.

2. Transfer the pastry to waxed paper; flatten the dough into a disk. If the dough seems too sticky, sprinkle with additional flour, incorporating 1 tablespoon at a time. Wrap the pastry in waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

* Definitely one of my favorite cookbooks, worth adding to your repertoire.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

How Much Chocolate Is Too Much?

My grandfather's penchant for sweets seems to increase with age. He has had a sweet tooth his entire life but lately it has been getting way out of hand. He seems to keep the local chocolate shop in business with his weekly orders and the last time I visited him he requested four pounds of raspberry jellies.

When he first started buying chocolates from Birnn, he bought one pound. This quickly increased to two which seemed to last more than a week. Now he goes through at least two pounds a week if it is on hand and has been known to go through four.

While visiting him a few weeks ago, he asked me to pick up four pounds for him and I refused. I figured if he had less he would eat less. Does anybody really need four pounds of chocolate a week?

Yet when I tell this story most listeners have the same reaction: He is 99 and doing well..Let him eat what he wants.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Picky Eaters: A Most Amusing Take On The Matter

For a good laugh after the droning debate:

The Yummy Mummy tackles one of my favorite topics and much hilarity ensues...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Can't Get That Cat Out Of My Mind

Where was "Mama" after giving birth? Shivering somewhere, huddling with kitties? Hungry? I had no idea. So at midnight last night, I went out into my cool, dark yard, calling softly for "Mama", who I hadn't seen since Saturday.

"Mama cat. Mama cat. Mama cat." My soft pleas went unanswered as I made my way around the periphery of my yard. I don't like to be alone, outside in the dark but I had to do it. I headed inside and locked the screen door and finished puttering about the kitchen. Less than five minutes passed and then, lo and behold, she appeared by the door! My heart was aflutter. Sweet Mama had returned, sans bump, her girlish figure intact.

As soon as I opened the door, she entered the kitchen and set to eating, quite ravenously at that. She then explored the kitchen, peered into the living room and dashed out the door. I tried to see where she went but she sped away into the darkness.

Come this morning, I called for her again, while we were eating breakfast. No sign but she appeared after I dropped Izzy at school. She came in and ate quickly. This time I watched as she disappeared into my neighbor's yard, overgrown and jungle-like, it seemed the perfect hiding place for kitties, but I saw none.

Later on I went back to look for her. I just had to find her. I climbed up my back wall (mind you I am not the most agile of creatures and this was in flip-flops) to gain a better vantage point. Still nothing. I came down and walked along the wall, peeking into the vegetation through the chain link fence when quite surprisingly, I found myself face to face with Mama. I had never been that close to her before and she didn't budge. For a moment I thought I had found the wrong cat since I expected her to jump. She just sat there, immobile as I looked at her, wondering where the kittens were.

I couldn't quite grasp what had happened. Why was she sitting there, so still, with no kittens? Then, as I saw something dark wriggle, I realized she was practically sitting on top of them. I didn't want to frighten her so I left.

All day long I pondered ways in which I could help her.

Come dinner time I was yakking on the phone when I noticed her sitting on the porch of her cat house. I could only hope that the kittens were inside. She came in the kitchen to eat and I saw the house was empty. After her meal I watched as she made her way up the fence back to her nesting spot.

So far the general consensus is to leave her and her babies be, for at least a few weeks. When the kittens grow stronger it will be easier to get them and less stressful for Mama. I want to take them all, Mama too. I have two potential takers for the kittens and I want to keep one kitty and Mama (who will probably remain an outdoor cat, but a fixed one who can visit). If there are more kittens, any other interest?

Local Dinner: Venison Salami

My cat preoccupation has left me scant time for thinking about food. Good thing the Hamilton Park Farmer's Market was open today. There I found the fixings for a no cook meal, completely local save for the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I picked up a hunk of venison salami*, definitely worth the $8 donation to Upper Meadows Farm, along with some mozzarella from Hoboken Farms. I added lettuce and tomatoes from my CSA, along with basil from my garden and bread from the local bakery. I drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the cheese and greens and voila, our dinner was made.



*I generally don't think of salami as a virtuous food but this salami is altogether different. It is neither greasy nor too salty, having been made with naturally lean venison meat, without any preservatives.