Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish Recipe

Actually from a 1959 NYT recipe by Craig Clairborne (cf. comments at the article linked to the title of this post), this is a perennial favorite among the O’Cayce family, the (hyper-)extended in-laws, and friends & acquaintances near, dear, lost, and forgotten. The first time SWMBO heard it, she knew she would make it. She loves her some big, bold flavors. So, at long last, I’m stealing it for here.

N.b. that you have to make this at least a day ahead of time to allow for freezing thawing, which are crucial to the texture and the flavor blend.
  • 2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
  • 1 small onion
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar (“red is a bit milder than white”)

  1. Grind the raw berries and onion together. (“I use an old-fashioned meat grinder,” says Stamberg. “I’m sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind — not a puree.”)

  2. Add everything else and mix.

  3. Put in a plastic container and freeze.

  4. Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. (“It should still have some little icy slivers left.”)

  5. The relish will be thick, creamy, and shocking pink. (“OK, Pepto Bismol pink. It has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. Its also good on next-day turkey sandwiches, and with roast beef.”)
Makes 1 ½ pints.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Basic Marinara

I admit that I am using the term incorrectly. Actual marinara is usually heavily seasoned, but this is just the basic tomato sauce to use as your palette. Also, you’ll note the non-Italian mixture of fresh basil and garlic (at least, I assume that it’s non-Italian since I never see these two wondrous flavors together over there).

For each person, have:
  • ½ onion (I prefer red onion in the sauce)
  • (optional) 2 stalks of celery
  • ¼ head of garlic
  • 1 medium large tomato
  • ¼ c. packed of fresh basil leaves
  • (optional) 1 T. fresh oregano
  • (optional) 1 T. fresh thyme (my usual rule of thumb when using all three spices is 3 parts basil, 1 part oregano, 1 part thyme)
Choose a good, thick-bottomed sauce pan, pour in some EVOO, and turn up to medium heat.

(Option: for an earthier flavor, heat the oil up a bit higher and sear the oregano and thyme before adding the onions. Be careful that these spices don’t burn before the tomatoes are added.)

Roughly chop the onion (and optional celery, cross cut so that the strings are short) & add to the pan. While performing other tasks, stir occasionally to keep any onion from sticking or burning.

Roughly chop the garlic. When the onions have almost clarified, add to the pan. Continue stirring occasionally until the onions have clarified and are on the verge of starting to brown.

Roughly cut the tomatoes. When the onion/garlic mixture is ready, add the tomatoes. Stir occasionally. Cover the pan between stirrings.

Roughly chop & add the basil (& oregano & thyme if you want them and haven’t already seared them). Guess what you should do from time to time.

That’s right. Stir occasionally until the tomatoes are completely tender. (N.b. that I use the whole tomato, including peel & seeds. Some people prefer to seed and or peel the tomatoes, but I have no problem with either.)

When the tomatoes are limp & tender, use an immersion blender to purée the sauce. Simmer down to desired consistency, with the lid askew.

When you start to simmer, this is the time to add anything you want in the sauce. Try to vary the textures for interest’s sake. A decent meal should include tactile pleasures as well as those of taste, smell, and sight.

A few recent variations:

The best sauce I have done recently (and I’ve done it a few times) has been a puttanesca arabiata (minus the anchovies, which SWMBO can not digest). Add pitted & halved kalamata olives, rinsed capers, and a healthy dose of red pepper flakes. Yummers.

Just last night, on a whim, I did the sauce with sundried tomatoes (julienne cut) and capers. It was a hit. I may go warm up the leftovers now.

I frequently use baby portabellas. When I do, I like to pull ut the stems and add them to the marinara with the garlic before I purée it, and then cut the caps into half-bite-sized pieces to add afterwards.

A lovely and simple sauce I had in Rome not long back was an arabiata with bacon. In fact, over Winterim 2011, I ran into this sauce twice. Tasty!

The point is, use the basic sauce as a starting point and play. It takes no time at all and is SO much tastier than anything from a jar.

Basic Salmon filet

I cook salmon with many different seasoning combinations. My favorite is plain served over low-country grits with some ginger, blueberry chutney on top. I’ve also done it with basil & mint (inspired by the Thai flavor palette and the need to clean out the fridge) and, for large groups, broil whole sides with Alton Brown’s citrus glaze. But for plain & simple, this is the ticket.

  • Preheat your convection (toaster) oven to 350°F.
  • Wash & pat dry the salmon filet(s). Set aside for a moment.
  • Put some EVOO into a shallow ceramic (glass, glazed Terra Cotta, porcelain) baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with dill & paprika. Feel free to add crushed garlic if the mood takes you.
  • Smear the fillet(s) around in the oil & spice to thoroughly coat the top(s), flip, and coat the bottom(s) as well.
  • Pop the dish into the middle of the oven.
  • Pull it out in 12 minutes. Let it stand for a few moments while you pour a glass of decent wine. It will flake all the way through but still be very moist. (I have no idea how many minutes to add if your oven is not convection.)
  • Enjoy with whatever sides you care for this evening.

Augustine on Learning a Foreign Language

Usually, when I quote Augustine, it is the simplified epistemological statement “credo ut intellegam” (I believe in order to understand; yes, while confessing that both faith and reason are necessary, I am, at heart, more of a mystic than a rationalist.) But in honor of the birth late last evening of Blaise’s younger brother Augustine Peter John Broadbent, the language teacher in me wants to post this.

What is the proper pædagogical model for second language acquisition?

“Nulla enim verba illa noveram, et saevis terroribus ac poenis, ut nossem, instabatur mihi vehementer.”

(For I understood not a single word [of Greek], and was vehemently threatened with cruel terrors and punishments so that I would learn.) Confessions 1.14/23

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Exercise in Proper Punctuation and Intonation

every lady in the land
has twenty nails on each hand
five and ten upon her feet
all this is true without deceit

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Swedish Apple Pancake

We had a similar recipe but lost it right when a gaggle of nieces & nephews were coming for a sleepover. SWMBO did a quick web search and liked the looks of this recipe. We made two on Saturday morning (for two adults and five kids from teens down to grade school) and two more on Sunday for brunch (for seven adults and one toddler). On Sunday, a couple of people asked if the recipe was on my blog, so I suppose that means it’s a success. It will doubtless get some tweaking in the future; the apples & brown sugar tend to go past caramelizing and into hard crack stage where they touch the the cast iron pans we use, and the whole pancake wants to stick to the bottom of the pan; these things need fixing. But for future reference, here’s the base recipe (linked to the title of this post).

Swedish Apple Pancake
  • 3 Tablespoons (2 + 1) unsalted butter
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 lemon wedge, for squeezing
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

2. In a large ovenproof skillet (preferably with curved sides)

2.a. melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.
2.b. Add the apple slices and cook, stirring, until tender, about 10 minutes.
2.c. Add 2 Tablespoons of the brown sugar and stir to combine.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, milk, and flour.

4. Pour this batter over the apples in the skillet, transfer to the oven, and bake until puffy, about 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the cinnamon and remaining 2 Tablespoons brown sugar.

6. Cut the remaining Tablespoon of butter into pieces.

7. When the pancake puffs, remove from the oven, dot with the pieces of butter (from 6), sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (from 5), and return to the oven to bake until browned, about 10 minutes more.

8. As the pancake comes out of the oven, squeeze the lemon juice over the top.

9. Serve in wedges right out of the pan with maple syrup.

I had mine without syrup and it was great.Those who had it with the syrup seemed to like it as well.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

SWMBO's dietary restrictions

Here is a little note SWMBO once put together about her non-Levitical Dietary Restrictions. It is, I hope you'll note, modeled on a piece by Ian Frazier that once ran in Atlantic Monthly and became somewhat infamous. The original here is available from a link to the title of this post.

And here is herself’s solipsistic version, dated 20 June 2001:

~~~Begin Quote~~~

“Comments” concerning food and drink

Of the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air and the beasts of the field, of those clean and unclean, I may not eat.

Of the milk of the cattle and the sheep and the goat, whilst in the form fore-ordained by the Creator for the young of each species, I may not drink.

Of the milk hardened into cakes for only a moment's time, and of the especially smelly young milk-cakes I may not eat.

Of the lumpy cheesy concoctions, high in fat and masquerading as food for penitents and mendicants, I may not eat.

Yet, of the skim and one percent milk, or the regular milk BAKED into dishes, I may eat. And of the low-fat or non-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, I may eat, but not too much. I may eat of the low-fat or non-fat ice cream, although these are vile and loathsome in Michael's sight.

And of the hard and aged cheeses, yea even those sharp, pungent and gratable cheeses, I may eat, especially when cooked onto a pizza.

Of the radishes and bell peppers and cucumbers, and other offerings of Cain which cause the belching in one's innermost being, I may not eat.

Of the lettuce, Bibbed or iceberg, and of similar textureless and tasteless fillers, I may eat only a small portion, lest I return the abomination that is iceberg lettuce to the depths of the earth.

Yet of the spinach, cooked or raw, or nicely seasoned with lemon and olive oil, I may eat and give hearty thanks.

And although I may not partake of the raw cucumber or the barely pickled deli-cukes, I may enjoy the produce of the cucumber vine when fully briny or fully sweet (I may even “relish” the dish.)

Of the cooked vegetables I may eat, although it is of a truth that it is said that squash is an offense in my sight. I will endure it as Job endured boils, though, when it is the only non-meat item on a menu and is served as part of a “vegetable melody.”

What more shall I say? Shall I sing the praises of grilled eggplant or of the asparagus quesadilla? Shall I tell of chutneys and of spinach enchiladas and “Not Dogs” and of broccoli fried rice? Of tomatoes, cooked into garlicky sauces and served over pasta, or sliced and served with basil and mozzarella, or cooked into creamy soups, or even sliced fresh and red-ripe and served with salt and pepper? There is not time to tell the worth of lemon meringue pies or crescent roll pandowdy or ice milk or Diet Dr. Pepper or iced tea, yet I glory in these even as they remain constantly with my hips, withersoever I shall go.

Should I prepare meals, I may, like Peter with Cornelius, set aside these laws to prepare sustenance; although, like Moses on Mt. Nebo, I may not partake of that which is reserved for others.

(Apologies to Ian Frazier)
Michelle L. Myer, AKA: Nursing Goddess
House of Chez Casa
Durham, NC

Sunday, June 05, 2011

There’s nothing like a shovelful of dirt to encourage literacy.

What people remember isn’t the book itself, so much as the furor: ministers in church denounced it as obscene, not only here; the public library was forced to remove it from the shelves, the one bookstore in town refused to stock it. There was word of censoring it. People snuck off to Stratford or London or Toronto even, and obtained their copies on the sly, as was the custom then with condoms. Back at home they drew the curtains and read, with disapproval, with relish, with avidity and glee—even the ones who’d never thought of opening a novel before. There’s nothing like a shovelful of dirt to encourage literacy.

Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin, ch 3, "The Presentation," p. 39 of the 1st Anchor Books edition, Sept. '01.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Toni’s Easy Spinach Casserole

We got this recipe from our friends the O’Briens (of VooDoo Prayer fame) back in the 80s. They got it from a vegetarian Seventh Day Adventist friend from their hippie days. Her name was Toni. We have passed the recipe along countless times over the years, and one of the people to whom we gave it was another Toni (Graham née Booker), who submitted it to the Mesquite’s Eats cookbook from which I copy it now. Toni to Sally to us to Toni to MBC cookbook back to us to the web.

This is fast, easy, and always a big hit. We normally end up making a double recipe, as we did tonight for our Small Group.

Preheat oven to 350F.
  • 2 Tbsp butter (¼ stick), cut into small squares
  • ¼ lb. sharp cheese, cut into small squares
  • 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, cut into small squares
  • 2 eggs, cut into small squares (just kidding)
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 12 oz. carton cottage cheese
1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Put in a buttered baking dish (I prefer a 9 x 9 glass pan for one recipe, a 10 x 13 glass pan for a double; a single recipe works well in a large pie pan, too.)
3. Bake at 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until well-browned.

Serves 4-6, who will love the way it smells.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Robertson Davies

In the header to this blog I quote Robertson Davies (from whom I have stolen... adopted the phrase “ornamental knowledge”), but I am shocked to find that I have not quoted him here to any degree. So here I make a poor attempt to remedy that oversight.

It used to be that we did our e-mail using hard-drive resident programs known collectiviely as “e-mail clients” and that it was common to set up a standard signature to go out at the bottom of all our e-mails. Very quaint, I know. I have just opened my old e-mail client and pulled up all of my Robertson Davies sigs. These run from 1994 to about 2005. There are far more quotations marked in the hard copies of Davies that I own, but search/copy/paste is so much easier than opening all those books and typing.

N.b. that in plain text e-mails, sent in lower ASCII, the convention was that text surrounded by underscores indicated italics, and asterisks (stars) indicated bold text.

“...the most strenuous efforts of the most committed educationalists in the years since my boyhood have been quite unable to make a school into anything but a school, which is to say a jail with educational opportunities.”
-- Jonathan Hullah, M.D., F.R.C.P., narrator of
Robertson Davies’ _The Cunning Man_, I [4]
“It is so easy to plan lives of humanitarian self-sacrifice for other people.”
-- Jonathan Hullah, M.D., F.R.C.P., narrator of
Robertson Davies’ _The Cunning Man_, II [13]
Welsh rhetoric is part of me, and my curse is that the world is full of literal-minded morlocks who don’t understand, and think I’m a crook because their tongues are wrapped in burlap and mine is hinged with gold.
-- Robertson Davies, _The Lyre of Orpheus_
Canadian National Prayer according to the omniscient narrator of Robertson Davies’ _The_Lyre_of_Orpheus_:

O God, grant me mediocrity and comfort; protect me from the radiance of Thy light.
“Oh, I wasn’t suggesting that we *do* anything,” said Maria. “I was just suggesting that we *talk* a little more compassionately.”

Robertson Davies, _The Lyre of Orpheus_

There is a point in a man’s undressing when he looks stupid, and nothing in the world can make him into a romantic figure. It is at the moment when he stands in his underwear and socks.
-- Robertson Davies, _The Manticore_
And in the Middle Ages, how concerned people who lived close to the world of nature were with the faeces of animals. And what a variety of names they had for them: the Crotels of a Hare, the Friants of a Boar, the Spraints of an Otter, the Werderobe of a Badger, the Waggying of a Fox, the Fumets of a Deer. Surely there might be some words for the material so near to the heart of Ozy Froats better than shit? What about the Problems of a President, the Backward Passes of a Footballer, the Deferrals of a Dean, the Odd Volumes of a Librarian, the Footnotes of a Ph.D., the Low Grades of a Freshman, the Anxieties of an Untenured Professor? As for myself, might it not be appropriately called the Collect for the Day?

Professor the Reverend Simon Darcourt, musing in _The Rebel Angels_
- by Robertson Davies
It was in dealing with stupid pupils that his wit was shown. A dunce, who had done nothing right, would not receive a mark of Zero from him, for Hector would geld the unhappy wretch of marks not only for arriving at a wrong solution, but for arriving at it by a wrong method. It was thus possible to announce to the class that the dunce had been awarded _minus_ thirty-seven out of a possible hundred marks; such announcements could not be made more than two or three times a year, but they always brought a good laugh. And that laugh, it must be said, was not vaingloriously desired by Hector as a tribute to himself, but only in order that it might spur the dunce on to greater mathematical effort. That it never did so was one of the puzzles which life brought to Hector, for he was convinced of the effectiveness of ridicule in making stupid boys and girls intelligent.
Robertson Davies, _Tempest-Tost_
“Oho, now I know what you are. You are an advocate of Useful Knowledge.”
“You say that a man’s first job is to earn a living, and that the first task of education is to equip him for that job?”
“Of course.”
“Well allow me to introduce myself to you as an advocate of Ornamental Knowledge. You like the mind to be a neat machine, equipped to work efficiently, if narrowly, and with no extra bits or useless parts. I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt. Shake the machine and it goes out of order; shake the dustbin and it adjusts itself beautifully to its new position.”
-- “Cobbler” Humphrey challenging Mackilwraith in chapter five of _Tempest-Tost_, book one of Robertson Davies’ Salterton Trilogy
“Curiosity killed the cat,” said Hector....
“I deny that,” said Cobbler, “the cat probably died a happy martyr to research.”
Robertson Davies, _Tempest-Tost_
“She herself was a victim of that lust for books which rages in the breast like a demon, and which cannot be stilled save by the frequent and plentiful acquisition of books. This passion is more common, and more powerful, than most people suppose.”
-Robertson Davies, _Tempest-Tost_
“...nothing is more fatal to maidenly delicacy of speech than the run of a good library.”
-Robertson Davies, _Tempest-Tost_
The third book of the Salterton Trilogy (_A Mixture of Frailties_) centers on a young girl from a very conservative protestant sect who earns the opportunity to go to England & Europe to study music. There’s quite a bit of good grist over the clash between her upbringing, her own moral standards, and the shockingly loose morals of musicians. There comes a great moment where she is given advice that includes the lines “If you’re living in what is pompously called sin with Revelstoke, you’d better be sure you are enjoying it, or you will soon find that you have neither your cake nor your penny.... the biggest mug in the world is the sinner who isn’t getting any pleasure from it”. And the first book (_Tempest-Tost_) has one of the world’s most pompous teachers as a main character, so you KNOW I enjoyed that.
“[Coincidence is a] useful, dismissive word for people who cannot bear the idea of pattern shaping their own lives. [It] is what they call pattern in which they cannot discern something they are prepared to accept as meaning.”
-Robertson Davies, _What’s_Bred_in_the_Bone_
Much may be learned about any society by studying the behavior and accepted ideas of its children, for children...are shadows of their parents, and what they believe and what they do are often what their parents believe in their hearts and would do if society would put up with it.
-Robertson Davies, _What’s_Bred_in_the_Bone_

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blender Hollandaise

A good hollandaise can be very fussy to make right. (Wait! My egg yolks are scrambling! (or curdling with the lemon.)) So when a colleague dropped the May 2011 edition of bon appétit (the Italy issue) on my desk, this little gem from Eric Ripert caught my eye. I think I’m going to pick up some asparagus on the way home this afternoon.
  • 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, plus more
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fill a blender with hot water; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Remove pan from heat. Drain blender and dry well. Put egg yolks and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice in blender; cover and blend to combine. Working quickly and with blender running, remove lid insert and slowly pour hot butter into blender in a thin stream of droplets, discarding the milk solids in bottom of the saucepan. Blend until creamy sauce forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and with more lemon juice. Serve immediately.

If you go to the original recipe at the magazine’s page (linked to the title of this post), you can watch a video of the procedure.

(Eric Ripert’s video is gone for now, but here’s another one.)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Green Beans with Balsamic Red Onion

The original of this recipe is from the June 2010 issue of Diabetes Forecast. That article is linked to the title of this post. Over the last year, I have greatly simplified the procedure for quicker cooking and fewer dishes to clean. The trade off is a slight reduction in texture differences. I normally cook this for two people and so merely eyeball the amounts. You will need:
  • Green beans
  • red onion
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • almond slivers
  • salt & pepper
SWMBO prefers her green beans softer than I do. I can eat them raw; she hates when they squeak on her teeth. If you prefer crisper beans, you can skip steps 2 & 3 and just add the beans after the onion has been cooked.


  1. Choose a good, heavy skillet with a lid. Warm it on the stove.
  2. Put a shallow layer of water in the skillet, add the green beans, and simmer/steam them until they are almost cooked to your preferred level of crisp/soft.
  3. Remove and set aside the beans, dump the water, and let the pan dry / rewarm on the stove.
  4. Make sure the pan isn’t too hot, as olive oil smokes at a low temperature and is nasty when it does.
  5. Put a bit of olive oil in the skillet.
  6. Add one thick, quartered slice of red onion for each person.
  7. Sauté the onion to desired level, stirring frequently. I like it when it just clarifies, SWMBO prefers it caramelized, so I usually cook it until it has clarified and the edges and thinner bits are browning.
  8. Splash in some balsamic vinegar, add the green beans, stir, and cover for a couple minutes.
  9. Check, stir, recover as needed.
  10. Salt and pepper to taste, toss on some almond slivers, stir, and remove from heat.
  11. Serve it up.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Limerick

The bustard's an exquisite fowl
With minimal reason to growl:
He escapes what would be
By the grace of a fortunate vowel.
--George Vaill

(I am forever forgetting the first adjective, mistaking a tense, and forgetting who wrote this, so here it is.)