Cooking 101

Cooking 101

In these days of pandemic and self-isolation, I received an email from a friend, suggesting we add a twist to an old idea — the recipe exchange.  It’s called the #QuarantineCooking recipe exchange.  What fun!

The most saved shows on my DVR are cooking shows.  I love to cook, and for a “home cook,”  I’m not so bad.  However, looking back on my initial kitchen encounters, I wasn’t adept when it came to food preparation.

One of my first attempts involved surprising my parents – and I must admit, they were surprised.  I came up with a plan to fix “breakfast in bed” for mom and dad.  The menu wasn’t complicated.  It consisted of toast with jam, coffee, and juice.  I was old enough to manage the toaster, and pouring juice was no particular problem.  It was the coffee that got me!  I didn’t know how to work the electric coffee pot.  How many grounds should I put in?  How much water?  Does it really have to heat up?  My parents were grateful for the attempt, but it was their first taste of chewable coffee.

My second foray into cooking involved baking.  Baking requires precision.  One must have exact measurements, cooking times, and temperatures.  I loved Toll House cookies, and the instructions were on the side of the package of chocolate chips.  The recipe called for 1 tsp baking soda.  I looked in the cabinet with mom’s pantry items and found baking powder.  I couldn’t find baking soda, but I’d seen it before.  It was a white powdery substance.  I opened the Baking Powder.  It was white and a powder (hence the name).  I figured they must be the same.  Of course, I was wrong.

It’s also helpful to understand the terms used in recipes.  Why do they call it “creaming” the butter?  How much cream should you add?

But I digress.  What was I going to use for #QuarantineCooking?   When you’re isolating and limiting trips to the grocery store, you hopefully have a pantry filled with staples and spices.  I generally have some meats or fish in the freezer.

A couple of weeks ago, on the Food Network show, “The Kitchen,” the cast did a segment on Quarantine Cooking.  Jeff Mauro presented his recipe for Crispy Skin  Salmon Provencal with a Red Cabbage Salad.  https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jeff-mauro/crispy-skin-salmon-provencal-with-charred-red-cabbage-salad-8553405

It looked outstanding.  The salmon part of the recipe had a total of six ingredients:  salmon, olive oil, butter, herbes de Provence, Dijon Mustard, and lemon.  I had everything for the salmon.  I didn’t have cabbage in the house, but I did have brussels sprouts (aren’t they like little cabbages?).

Check out Jeff’s recipe.  If you aren’t interested in the crispy skin, remove it.  You don’t have herbes de Provence.  Try using dried thyme or Italian seasoning — you can rename it, Salmon Italiano.  My sister-in-law doesn’t like mustard.  If I would fix it for her, I’d simply swap mayonnaise for mustard.

Brussels Sprouts do very well when roasted.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut off the woody ends of the sprouts, and tear off any dried outer leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil, making sure the oil is on all of the sprouts.  Place on a sheet tray (cover the bottom with foil for easier cleanup), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning them once about halfway through.

So there you have it with suggestions for “swaps” if required.  Follow Jeff’s recipe for the salmon and mine for the side dish.  Voila — you have dinner.  If you’re doing the Provencal version, “Bon appetit,” or the Italiano version, “Buon appetito.”  Whatever.  ENJOY!

 

 

 

MY BFF IS GONE

MY BFF IS GONE

Once upon a time many years ago, two little girls were growing up in a magical place called “Chicagoland.”

They were friends throughout elementary and high school and, although they went to different colleges in different states, remained close.    After college, they returned home and began working.  One day Rina asked Shari, “If I can get a job teaching in California, would you move there with me.”  CALIFORNIA!!!!  OMG!!!!  And so the adventure began.

Rina was offered a job and a few months later a caravan of three cars, Rina’s mom and dad in one, Rina in her Mustang and Shari in her Barracuda headed to the girls “promised land” — Palo Alto.  They quickly found an apartment not far from where Rina would be teaching.  It was nice, but renters downstairs, didn’t like them walking around after 8 pm, so they ventured out and found The California Oaks, in Mountain View — their new home.

The Oaks was great.   All the residents were in their twenties or thirties, as were hundreds of renters up and down California Street.  Yep, Mountain View was the place to be.  Every weekend there was a party somewhere.  And, when the girls weren’t in town, the two nomads traveled to Monterey, Santa Cruz, Napa Valley, Pebble Beach, went sailing at the UC Berkeley Yacht Club, and were spectators at the Laguna Seca races.

A favorite for them was Nepenthe in Big Sur, where they could be found  sitting outside at the fire pit,  enjoying a spectacular view of the Pacific.  And then there were the people!  Once, Rina pointed out a woman knitting a little chin cap for the man with her (yes, that was a little cap that fit over his chin!).  He was dressed in leather and appeared to be directly descended from Eric The Red.  At one point, he stood up, looked out to sea and bellowed, “The sea is calm.”  No one knew why, no one cared, it was part of the charm that is Nepenthe.

Their first party at the Oaks was nerve wracking.  It was, as all the weekend parties, BYOB.  The party started slowly.  They  wondered if people would show up.  However, within moments of that thought, they were surrounded by a huge crowd!  Where did they all come from?  The one-bedroom apartment was large, but OMG….there had to be over 75 people in there.  The girls didn’t have a clue who they were, and they were everywhere….in the bedroom, on the deck, in the kitchen.  You  couldn’t walk through a room without everyone having to shift.  Finally the party began to thin out.  Their first question was, “where are the knobs to the TV?”  The second was, “why would someone take the knobs to the TV?”

The next day they  found the TV knobs in the bedroom, and enough bottles of liquor (hidden in cupboards and closets throughout the apartment) to open their own bar.

Just up the freeway, there was the beautiful City by the Bay –  San Francisco!  They listened to bagpipers at the Edinburgh Castle, while drinking beer and eating Fish and Chips from Old Chelsea’s ‘round the corner; or had dinner at Ghiardelli Square, afterward heading to the Buena Vista for Irish Coffee.

During this time, Rina met a Navy lieutenant, Matt,  from nearby Moffett Naval Air Station.  After a couple of years, he was transferred to NAS Pensacola, Florida and shortly after moving, he proposed.  The girls adventure was coming to an end.  Rina left for Chicagoland where she and Matt were married. Shari went back briefly,  then went on to Europe before returning to California.  Later they flip flopped, with Matt and Rina going back to the Bay Area, and Shari moving to Miami, Florida.  In spite of the distance, a telephone call was all it took to start up just where they left off — which is how it works for best friends.

As you may have guessed this is, in part, my story.  A few weeks ago, Rina passed away.  There are so many places, people and events that have been tucked away in my mind which are flooding to the surface. I recall the little girl, the teenager, my “roomie.”  Mostly, I’ve found loosing a BFF leaves an overwhelming hole in ones heart.  Fortunately I’ve found magnificent memories to fill it.

So to my Best Friend, “Thanks for the Memories.”