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Gloom, despair... How's your garden?

Well, the rosemary's doing all right. Here in Dallas we have such insane temperatures that even the chile peppers are wilting with daily watering. Long beans are yellow and producing no beans. Peas are stunted and again not producing. (They're peas. they're supposed to be easy and quick; Mendel used them for a reason!). The cilantro finally dies last week, the chives and basil are holding on but not growing. Oh, and we planted garlic, which seemed to be doing well until 2 days before I planned to harvest it, when I saw that the evil squirrel who digs in our pots had uprooted every last bulb and taken them away. I can only assume he fears the vampire squirrels. But yeah, we're using a lot more pre-cut herbs and dried chiles than usual this summer. I'm hoping for moderate temperatures in fall; we can't have insane miserable weather all year, right?

Help! Picky Boyfriend Challenge!

My husband and I started out with completely incompatible tastes. I'm Jewish and allergic to tomatoes, and like eating maybe 4 ounces of meat 2 or 3 times a week. He grew up on a working cattle ranch, ate loads of steak, bacon for breakfast, and thought that pasta sauce had to be tomato sauce. The first time I made us a dinner of paste alfredo with vegetables, he didn't understand that it could be dinner when there wasn't any meat in it. We still don't eat everything the same--sometimes I'll grill chicken and he'll smother his in a very spicy tomato-based salsa and I'll have mine with cilantro and black beans, often I'll have a vegetarian stir fry and he'll add shrimp to his--but we've both slowly learned to enjoy each other's tastes a little more. There was a time early in the relationship when I really despaired of ever getting him to eat a green vegetable, though; his mother literally boiled all vegetables until they were pale yellow and falling apart. He told me he hated vegetables of all kinds for more than two years, until I got fed up and made him try al dente green beans sautéed in butter. He loved them.He's now willing to try anything once, and I return the favor (well, as long as it's kosher and won't send me to hospital.) It's a slow process, but I've learned to love some things I never thought I would and so has he. No one will end up eating or liking everything, but if you're both willing to try new things, you find out that quite a bit of it is great, or at least way better than you'd have thought.

FYI - Pioneer Woman will have a program on Food Network

Wow. I agree most of her recipes aren't healthy, but none of the ones I've made have been in any way sub-par.Her pollo asado is delightful. As for not citing recipes, well, she often both mentions and photographs the cookbook she uses. Not that it's legally required; copyright does not extend to lists of ingredients, and the descriptions of the cooking process she provides are clearly her own. And the photography is lovely. I really enjoy the step-by-step pictures. I know it isn't necessary for someone who cooks regularly--most of us just need a list of ingredients and we could figure out what to do from there--but seeing every step laid out is a real help to beginning cooks like my sister who are intimidated by something as simple as having two different-sized frying pans. As someone who spends more time than I'd like on a ranch, I can say that her depictions of ranch life are not at all inaccurate, although her blog-personality at least has a far better attitude about it than I do. Now, all that said, you all still have every right to dislike her food or her blog or anything else about her, but try and remember that not everyone wants to eat modern cuisine and I doubt any of us want it every day. There's nothing wrong with rib-sticking down-home cooking, in all its traditional (uninspired, to some of y'all) glory. Sure, not healthy for every day, but great once or twice a week.

How many cookbooks do YOU have? (Have, not how many do you need!

@ Cobalt - I *work* at Half Price Books, and they put me in charge of the cookbook section. There was a brief period when I bought almost as many books as I put on the shelves, but I finally put a stop to that, sold a bunch back to the store, and am now hovering about 50 cookbooks again. However, a pastry chef just sold us 3 boxes of beautiful pastry and dessert plating books, so that number might double my next paycheck. I try not to buy cookbooks unless there are at least 30 recipes I definitely want to make, as I used to have multiple cookbooks that I only used for 1 or 2 recipes and they just took up too much space.

pie suggestions

Key lime. So easy, so good! Plus you serve it cold which is a blessing in this heat. Or blueberry. Or raspberry and apricot. Or lemon pie. There are so many delightful pies. . .

Where to eat in Atlanta

Wow, thank you all! I can't wait to try some of these!

Annoying Lunch Habits of Coworkers

I actually am one of the lunch commentors--y'all have me paranoid that I'm upsetting people now! I have two co-workers who love to cook as much as I do, and we sort of compete for cool lunches and swap recipes at the lunch table. I try not to comment on people's take-out or pre-packaged meals, but when the guy who microwaves fish then brings his microwaved fish over to the area we're trying to work in I can get a bit theatrical about waving him back. And when people complain about being broke while eating a $10 meal from Panera or some such, I try to bite my tongue, but that's more than my food budget for two for a whole day. And we eat really, really well.

For those of you who have worked with/served food...

Agreed--I shouldn't have named you in a general complaint about what I've observed others doing. I apologize. You did say "picky eaters should not go to fine dining restaurants," and I took some issue with that, but it's becoming apparent that you and I have very different ideas about how to define picky. I'm not trying to start any kind of battle here. Sorry again.

Annoying Lunch Habits of Coworkers

I had to give all the coffee mugs, plates, and bowls at my office to Goodwill after washing them for the 300th time. I got back from vacation and the unwashed dishes were growing actual mold in our sink. the other 22 people I work with all vehemently denied responsibility, nor did it occur to any of them that they could wash someone else's dishes to avoid our break room becoming a biohazard. I also clean the fridge weekly because no one seems to remember the sweet-and-sour chicken they brought for lunch and didn't eat until it starts to grow fuzz. And we have a soda thief. Steals every single Coke I leave in the fridge for more than a few hours. Next week we'll see how he/she enjoys a Coke bottle filled with Sprite colored with soy sauce; maybe that'll put an end to the thieving.

For those of you who have worked with/served food...

I believe most of those who love food enough to carefully craft a menu know what they're doing. I don't believe that the garnish of tomato is so important to the flavor that it's worth sending me into anaphylaxis for. Pavlov- Maybe a lot of diners lie about having allergies, but it's extraordinarily rude of a fine dining establishment (or any establishment) to simply dismiss an allergy and say a change to the dish would ruin the meal. A trip to the hospital would ruin the meal. I've been to restaurants where I literally have to snack on bread and a Caesar salad because not one entree was both kosher and tomato free and the staff were adamant about no substitutions. And going into a scenario thinking one's customers are simply assholes is a good way to get into that no-substitutions mindset. Obviously you don't have that idea about all or even most of your customers--you wouldn't have a job if you did--but deciding that all picky eaters don't deserve to eat out and eat well is a bit unfair. Almost everyone is picky about a few things, and at the end of the day, they're the ones who have to eat according to their restrictions, not you. It just doesn't seem worth getting upset over.

For those of you who have worked with/served food...

Pavlov-- You're a good example of why I avoid restaurants. Obviously there's a difference between reasonable and unreasonable substitutions, in terms of keeping a kitchen running smoothly. But the waiter or cook who informs me that a garnish of sun-dried tomato cannot be omitted because the genius who created the menu knows what's best, or insists that every steak in the restaurant must be cooked in herbed butter, is just ignoring the fact that his job is customer service and losing a customer. Permanently. Now, I wouldn't ask that a restaurant try to make a lobster bisque kosher, I just wouldn't order it. But will I order a steak medium and without dairy? Absolutely. And if a chef or cook at a fine restaurant can't cook that without making it tough, he's a less talented cook than I was at sixteen.

It's not really about food service, but I work in a bookstore and it makes me sad when customers won't leave the shelter of the "brand name cooking" shelf. I'm really tempted to pepper the shelves with tags explaining that cooking with ingredients is actually easier.

Eating at Someone Else's House

Cat owners can smell that. I have two cats, and clean the cat box daily and wash the cats every two weeks (much to their chagrin.) And yeah, they jump on counters. I knock them off, spray down the counter with cleaner, and get cooking. Pets aren't hygenic, but neither are children, and having either does not automatically make the kitchen gross. In my case I think it makes me more compulsive about cleaning--I clean the counters three to five times while cooking one meal!

Modernist Cuisine

I have never understood why people try to deny that cooking *is* a science. Chemical and physical changes due to application of heat and other chemicals is the difference between a raw hunk of meat and a perfectly tender medium-rare steak drizzled with balsamic vinegar reduction. Just a few degrees Fahrenheit are the difference between a pile of granulated sugar and delightful, smoky caramel. Yet no one on this forum would look at a cook making caramel and snort "science project". I don't know, maybe it's just that I'm math/science inclined, and married to a scientist, but I've always thought the science of cooking was great. I mean, (condensed milk + egg yolks + lime juice+ graham cracker crust)350F*15 minutes = lime pie. How cool is that? We may prefer to cook intuitively, but that doesn't mean that the act is any less an exercise in chemistry. And though I don't own Modernist Cuisine (that book costs more than my camera and my favorite lens together), i definitely see the value in it. I do own McGee's On Food and Cooking, which delves deeply into food chem, but sadly lacks the pretty pictures we all love so much in our cookbooks.

Do you like to cook or be cooked for?

I have to agree with BananaMonkey--it is a treat to be cooked for or even brought grocery store treats, even if it isn't the quality I'd make at home. I have no problem eating store-bought pies and cookies, and I use boxed chicken broth in my own recipes (I think that admission just got me banned from these threads). The fact that someone bothers to think, "Hey, I bet Cait would like that" is kind of sweet. Even if they turn out to be wrong, and make a proffer of coconut.

Do you like to cook or be cooked for?

My husband and I both cook, which means we both get nights off from cooking. When i host a dinner party, I make everything, but I wouldn't say no if a guest wanted to bring a side or dessert. With big family events with my non-kosher in-laws, I can get really nervous if the MIL asks me to just bring dessert. I usually bring at least a filling side as well so that I know there will be something savory at the table I can eat. These Texans use bacon an awful lot!

Things to eat while reading a book

I use a cookbook stand to hold my book open at the office and eat whatever the heck I want! It's easy to turn pages with one hand and hold the fork or chopsticks with the other. My problem is that I have a bad habit of reading cookbooks at work, and my reheated salmon stir fry just doesn't seem as appetizing as anything in the Italian cookbook I'm currently reading through.

When reading and eating at home, I usually stick to a bowl of grapes, or lately a pile of toasted pumpernickel with havarti. Nothing greasy or crumbly allowed; my books are precious!

I *did* eat it as a kid...and I never stopped!

Oh my goodness, Cheetos. I don't eat processed snacks. I make my own potato chips and french fries, for goodness' sake. But my mom used to make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a side of Cheetos whenever I had a really bad day at school as a kid, and that's still my #1 comfort food. Even if the PB&J is now on seeded rye with unsweetened blackberry jam.

The association doesn't hold with the Frostie, which I recieved every time I got my braces tightened. I haven't had braces since I was 14, and just thinking about a Frostie makes my teeth hurt.

Bake the Book: 'Miette: Recipes from San Francisco's Most Charming Pastry Shop'

Crepes for You here in Dallas. Maybe I just obsess over Japanese style crepes, but I keep going back to this place almost weekly.

Best of the odd combinations?

My husband stuffs popcorn into pickles at the movie theater. I put a teaspoon of matcha in my hot chocolate in the mornings. He puts salt and pepper on his cantaloupe. I make cheddar, potato chip, and ketchup sandwiches. He crumbles cornbread into a glass of milk (and says that's the only way to eat it). I spread cornbread with butter and jam (I say that's the only way to eat it). And finally, we snack on uncooked pasta dipped in peanut butter. Crunch!

Fruit on a Sandwich?

Apricot (fresh, not dried) with marscapone. Om nom nom.

paperless waitstaff: how do you feel about memorization?

I would like to point out that there can be consequences to a messed up order. Not "damn you, you ruined my date!" consequences, but having to be driven to the hospital gasping for air because a waiter thought you were lying about that tomato allergy, or forgot to write it down. And people are pretty rude about allergies. I've been told (by co-workers and the like, not waitstaff) "oh, just don't eat at Italian places." Okay, great. Or Indian or Thai or French or American or really anywhere else; the little nightshade is one of the world's most popular ingredients. I've started showing my Epi-pen to waiters I'm unfamiliar with and saying "There cannot be any tomatoes, sun-dried or otherwise, in my food. If there are, I am going to have to use this and you are going to have to call an ambulance." It makes for uncomfortable silences, but better than having my pesto pizza sliced with the same pizza cutter that sliced someone else's normal tomato sauce pizza and ending up in the hospital. I do wish I could just order something, say no tomatoes of any kind, and leave it at that, but experience tells me that it just doesn't work.

Do you have a food craving that you wish you didn't have?

Salt. My Dad actually gave me a salt lick (like for luring deer) when I was a kid. I carried it around like a posicle until my mother took it away. Now I sneak pinches of kosher salt in the kitchen while cooking. The weird part is I have freakishly low blood pressure (96/60) and my doctor doesn't believe me that I eat at least three times as much salt as anyone else I know.

The French Macaron?

I don't much care for macarons. or macaroons, which are the chewy coconut cookies my Mom was so fond of making. I guess I just don't appreciate nutty flavors that much.

Also, I know eight different people are about to jump down my throat for being to naive for the Internet, but why do so many of these talk threads get nasty so fast? I thought we were here to talk about food, not yell at each other?

your priciest meal?

We can't usually afford to eat out at all (I tend to believe that if I can't bring myself to eat out at a nice place and tip well, I'm better off cooking at home), but we occasionally splurge at Lavendou in Dallas for about $150 for the two of us with wine. Best roast duck I've ever eaten, and I cook my own duck very well.

Then there was Kaiyo on Islamorada, where we went for our honeymoon. We asked them to serve us whatever was fresh caught and good, got a couple of bottles of sake, and ended up with a bill for only $75. I swear my jaw hit the floor; I was expecting to pay twice that much, as a lot of the fresh fish didn't have a price listed on the menu, and I think Mr. B ate a whole octopus.

Weekend Cook and Tell: Freezer Cuisine

I always make double the amount of pie crust or pierogi dough I need, and freeze the rest for next time. It means that I can often throw together a quick chocolate or banana-caramel pie for unexpected guests, and fry leftover pierogis for a quick dinner after working late.


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