59-year-old woman who has always loved to cook and eat (the diary I kept as a child detailed each meal of each day). Editing is my day job. Fairly opinionated, but I try to be civil and value explicit communication and good manners.

  • Location: North Bay, California
  • Favorite foods: I could eat chicken every day (in various forms), must have coffee, tend to like spicy, bright flavors, love good, fresh croissants, greatly enjoy wine, and gin and vermouth, wish I knew how to get really good pastrami in San Francisco.
  • Last bite on earth: Would depend on my mood. Maybe potato chips?

Manner Matters: Crack Open That Bottle

As a host, I assume that my guests will know that I will provide beverages, and unless I have specified the meal, how can a guest know which wine would be appropriate? A recent guest brought a red and a white - only the white worked with the meal, so I suggested that we share that (followed by wines I had chosen, yes, less expensive ones because that is what I can afford). I drank the red a week or so later, gratefully. I echo the sentiment - if you as a guest want to drink the wine you bring, say so up front (but be aware that this is not a host/hostess gift, not that one is necessary). And please be kind enough not to imply that your host will give you inferior wine.

Manner Matters: The Knife-and-Fork of It

I eat at an average pace; spouse inhales and is inevitably finished before I am. I just hate to watch his plate being removed, leaving me in solitary splendor as the only one dining, and I invariably feel rushed. He leaves his silverware in a variety of positions, but they almost always remove his plate. When, on the other hand, I am eating with someone who is slower to finish than I am, I make sure to keep a piece of silverware in my hand at all times, leaving some small amount of food on my plate until my partner is ready to finish - this is the only way I can be sure that the server won't whisk my plate away (even then, they sometimes ask if I am finished, and I just gesture gently and smilingly with my fork and let them come to their own conclusions).

So You Think You Want to Open a Brewery...

Seriously well written.

I'm quitting the site

Uh, "avoidance." Sorry - type in haste, repent on publication.

I'm quitting the site

There was a vegan month? All I ever do is look at the recipes, and since I have no food limitations, I pay no attention to the ingredients in terms of animal/gluten/dairy/whatever aviodance - if they look good, I try 'em. Glad that all the kerfuffle doesn't apply to the likes of me.

Eat This Now: Chaufa Aeropuerto at Tanta

dinaofdoom, thank you! I'm guessing that the bowl is still warm when it is served, then.

Eat This Now: Chaufa Aeropuerto at Tanta

"It's all served in a stone bowl, which lends the rice on the bottom the same crunchy texture that you find in the best bibimbap." I find myself confused here - what is it exactly that lends that crunchy texture (surely not bits of the stone bowl)? Do they heat the bowl, which then cooks the rice a bit? Forgive my ignorance.

Tortilla Soup With Chicken and Avocado

It is helpful to say whether you are using ground or whole spices in your recipes. And yes, what about that chicken?

Seriously Delicious Holiday Giveaway: Thermapen Thermometer

Prime rib, of course (but I'd have to save up first after having one Christmas eve).

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Sometimes it's hard to find the small potatoes - can I cut up larger ones, or will that spoil things?

Crispy Cocoa-Nib Tea Cookies

I take it you mean rolled oats, the kind you make the soft kind of oatmeal with, right?

Tipping & Bad Service: What's Your Policy?

I tip normally and never go there again, because the ridiculous tipping custom involves me having to do a performance evaluation (which normally I get paid to do) on one person, reward him or her according not only to the service I receive but to the cost of my meal (which requires me to do percentage-related math after a couple of glasses of wine - not a good idea if you're on the receiving end, folks). The server then takes whatever I leave as a tip and divides it among other, equally involved people whose performance I have not evaluated, but who must receive compensation based on the server's perceived competence (uh, this is fair?). The whole scam is a bloody waste of time. It's the restaurant's job to pay a decent wage, perform employee evaluations, and provide me with food and service - and the cost of a meal with tip would be the same as the cost of a meal without tip if the staff were paid decently (please, folks, don't bring out that old saw about how service would deteriorate and costs would skyrocket if we eliminated tipping and paid properly - I've been to Europe and seen that this is not true). Rant over, and remind me never to work in HR again.

Food Ignorance Frustration

You must be young. Cafeteria/institutional food is seldom stellar, so bad pho should be no surprise; what's surprising is that you expect better. As to the pronunciation, I notice that many people sneer but do not provide an accurate or authentic (whatever that may mean) way to pronounce it that is phonetic (say that last word out loud and you will understand why people get exasperated with words that don't sound anything like the way they are spelled). Personally, I just order the soup because for some reason I can't bring myself to ask for fuh - the word just doesn't sound complete to me. Yet, I don't think I am a bad person. Steer clear of the cafeteria if it continues to bother you. Can you cook in your room?

Is it safe to cut mold off of cheese?

I'd eat it after I cut off all the mold I could see. I've done so before. Haven't died yet. But many would tell you not to. When you cut off the mold, don't slice more than once per side with the same knife; clean it between slices, or use several knives. I've noticed that if I slice more than once without cleaning the knife, it spreads the mold to the cheese beneath.

Ask a Sommelier: How Do You Find the Best Value on a Wine List?

Nothing useful for me here. I would expect sommeliers to suggest consulting the sommelier. And it is pretty elementary that a good value is not always the cheapest; I didn't need to be told that.

What's Your Go-To Company's Coming Dinner?

For a planned dinner: Spaghetti with big, spicy meatballs, Ina Garten's recipe (from Mario Batali, I think), with my own sauce (can't bring myself to spend $8 each on three jars of something I can make just as well myself). The great advantage is that I can make the meatballs early and cook them in the oven early - then just put them in the sauce, maybe roast some asparagus or steam some zucchini while the pasta cooks, and I have lots of time to spend with my guests.

do you have "good" china, silver, glasses??

Yup - scads of it. Inherited (uh-huh, only child). A set for eight of Minton china (my aunt's wedding china), and another set for eight of Wedgwood (Whitehall, with the difficult gold vines on the border, along with 22 cups and saucers [!?!]). And then I have yet another full set of cups and saucers that my grandmother, or somebody, hand painted (the china is not fabulous quality, but it's pretty). I do use them - since we sometimes have 16 for dinner at holidays, it works out fine, and I am determined to have a Serious Tea Party someday and use all those cups and saucers. We won't even talk about all the glassware. I love the feel of china, and I love the feel of silver (a good thing, since I have three full sets, all of which need occasional polishing, even the stuff we use every day). I don't much like the feel of either crockery or stainless steel, so I actually like to wash the good stuff. But since I really, really hate to break things, I use Dansk crockery for every day, and save the china for guests (and for tea-time - tea tastes better in a china cup).

Ask an Alcoholic: What's your biggest bartender pet peeve?

I was surprised recently when we ordered two (expensive) margaritas, which were great (the server/bartender made them himself), so we ordered two more, which were quite awful (somebody else made them), and instead of replacing our drinks after inquiring how they were and hearing that we didn't like them (I asked him to taste mine when we wanted to know what was wrong with them, but he couldn't), he brought us a shot of tequila to add to our icky drinks. I think he meant well, but we won't be back.

I just can't

Chicken, wine, pasta/noodles/any stuffed dough. I think these are the ones I would fight hardest against losing.

dbcurrie could use some help

I like being able to do something specific and useful for someone whose work I admire. Adam, thanks for bringing the opportunity to my attention.

Crimes in the Kitchen

Small children need to be out of the kitchen when someone is cooking in it, unless they are being instructed to cook, one-on-one. A kitchen is a dangerous place - sharp knives, hot oil, fast-moving cooks who don't need to trip over toddlers between the stove and the sink.

Cocktail 101: How Long Do Spirits Last?

Is there any danger in tasting the stuff first (if it hasn't hardened, that is - not the old Bailey's)?

Please help me fix my cast iron!

Because I can't bring myself to use oven cleaner or the self-clean cycle of my oven, for various reasons, I take the lazy, less-efficient way of dealing with problem cast iron. Basically, I wash it well in detergent and very hot water, dry it over heat, and when it is dry (still over heat, in my case my gas burner), I rub it repeatedly with a paper towel dipped in some bacon fat, not letting it get so hot that it smokes. Then I let it cool down, rub it out with a clean paper towel, and heat it up and rub with more bacon fat. Then I repeat the last sentence, over and over, until it seems that any bare iron has some seasoning.

If there is a serious and awful build-up of crud inside on the bottom of the pan, I use a steel spatula to scrub it off while I am heating the pan, and wipe the crud out with a paper towel and some bacon grease. I may have to repeat this process a couple of times if somebody really messed up my pan, and it's true that this process never leads to that beautiful, smooth lustre that shows in CJ's link, but I find that the pan regains its stick-resistance and works fine. Best of luck to you!

My strawberry shrub seems to have a mother in it!

Ooops - cancel the water part. I just used vinegar, sugar, and fruit - equal parts. Sorry to mislead anyone.

Shrimp and Chorizo Lazy Paella

I also want to know more about the rice - see above and let us know so we can try the recipe, please..

My strawberry shrub seems to have a mother in it!

I made shrub, the slow way, with a cup of strawberries, a cup of sugar, a cup of water, and a cup of vinegar, as (I think, if I understood the recipe) directed here for cold-process shrub. Turned out great. But now, I find what looks like a mother of vinegar floating around in the bottom. Has anyone else experienced this? Is it a problem? A blessing? Should I remove it, or just leave it to its ghostly little routine?

Never too late to learn - what is passata, and why?

I just bumped into a new (to me) ingredient: passata. I gather that it is some sort of tomato-base sauce, but my brief internet search brought up such a wide variety of things that I can't say I know what it is. I'm sure many, if not most (all?) of you are familiar with it, so please enlighten me (and let me know what to avoid if that's relevant). Thanks.

What to do with an embarrassment of parsley?

I have an unexpected bumper crop of parsley that must be harvested within a day or two (I need the space for something else). What can I do with it? I'm willing to make something freezable if that's what it takes, but I'd like to use up a lot of it while it's fresh. Thank you.

Save my sanity - help me find a decent kitchen timer, please!

My digital kitchen timer seemed like such a good idea, but now I hate it. It requires me to punch in the minutes and seconds I want to measure, and then to punch it again to get it to count down. The first part works fine, but so often I forget to do the second bit and I wonder why I haven't heard the timer go off just about the time I smell smoke. I have reverted to my wind-up one that measures only minutes but dings when I want it to without me having to tell it that that is what it is FOR (take that, digital timer), but I sometimes miss the single ding (if it happens when the doorbell rings, for instance). Does anyone have a timer that is truly lovable?

Confession: I can't cook rice any more, can you help?

I have lost my rice mojo - I used to be able to buy just about any old rice, cook it 2:1 water-to-rice by bringing the water to a boil, stirring in the rice, covering it, and letting it simmer on lowest heat for 20 minutes. Now, my rice comes out icky - fuzzy at the ends and sometimes with a crunchy center, while still sort of wettish at the bottom of the pot. For a while, I had luck with Trader Joe's white basmati, following the directions to wash it first and use less than twice the water. That stopped working. Then I tried my regular way, and that didn't really work either. Besides getting a rice cooker, can someone guide me?

I would like to be able to cook long grain rice so that the grains are separate and don't bloom at the ends (that is, split), and have the rice be tender throughout and no water left at the end of the cooking period. I just had some wonderful rice in a South American-style restaurant dish that reminded me of my painful inability in this area. Help, please!

Gluten free gravy, chestnut soup?

A friend who is celebrating TG with us has a gluten problem, but I'd like her to have some gravy to put on her turkey (I will not compromise my bread dressing). I will be making the gravy from scratch, so I'd like to make some gluten free for her. Any decent recipes?

Also, another friend is bringing chestnut soup; I don't know her recipe, but it would be nice to see if it could be gluten free as well. Any ideas from anyone who has experience here?

Why the tiny bit of music/noise?

When I scroll down on your main page (using the scroll bar), I very often get an annoying little splat of (probably) music that vanishes as quickly as it came. What is it, and how can I not experience it (I'd prefer not to have to shut off my sound just for this web site)?

Sesame wine

Having recently stumbled on an Assyrian myth regarding the gods drinking sesame wine the night before creating the world (and doesn't that explain a lot?), I am unable to stop thinking about what sesame wine would be like. Does anyone know? Has anyone out there ever had it or heard of it? Google didn't help me much, but perhaps I didn't ask correctly.

Creeping curry paste and soy sauce

I am confounded again by curry paste that somehow creeps up the side of the jar, slides through the seal created by the screwed-on lid, and slithers down the side of the jar to form a bright-orange ring of oil at the outside bottom of the jar.

My soy sauce does the same sort of thing; it slides up the inside of the bottle, through the plastic shaker, through the screwed-on lid, and down the outside of the container.

I have never been a kitchen neatnik, but I do make some effort, and these two ingredients seem bound and determined to undermine me. I do not think I am being paranoid about this. What gives?

Toasting pumpkin or squash seeds - is there a trick?

Okay, the time is approaching when I will once again probably try and fail to toast pumpkin seeds and achieve something edible. I can't list how many recipes I've tried, and somehow they all turn out dreadfully tough and woody. Is it really possible to make good roasted/toasted pumpkin or squash seeds at home? If so, how? Or is this just something that people say they eat and like, but nobody really does?

Marinating times - what is "overnight" anyway?

I find that I am increasingly confused when I find a recipe that specifies something like "marinate 4 - 6 hours or overnight." The only way that I can marinate something overnight is if I put it in the marinade the evening before cooking it (at the latest, at bedtime). Then, unless I am choosing to have my main meal for breakfast, it will continue to marinate until late afternoon the next day, when I prepare dinner: total marination time, approximately 18-20 hours. That's a far cry from the minimum 4-6 hours alternatively specified.

Has anyone encountered a more realistic convention, perhaps recommending that things be put into the marinade in the morning for late afternoon prep? I would like to suggest this to recipe writers, if there is no objection.

I know that this is not of earth-shattering importance, but it concerns me when the marinade I am using is strong, and might overwhelm the flavor of the marinadee (?) if left too long. For most things, the amount of time spent marinating above the minimum might not make much difference, but when I'm using a strong soy sauce or a lot of pepper, I can't help but wish for more specific guidelines.

The Obituary Cocktail

The Obituary is an intriguing spin on a gin martini, probably getting its morbid name from the inclusion of absinthe (though a pastis like Pernod can be substituted). The result is a completely new drink; the introduction of an anise-y flavor highlights the aromatics already present in both gin and vermouth. More

Lemon-Avocado Spaghetti With Shrimp From 'Pasta Modern'

Francine Segan calls the avocado sauce in this dish from her new cookbook, Pasta Modern, a healthy alternative to dairy-based cream sauces, but it hardly tastes like bland diet food. The buttery fruit gets a quick buzz in a blender with plenty of lemon juice, turning velvety thick. It melts into the hot, white wine-scented pasta, adding a flavorful coating to the red onion, and shrimp. A dusting of lemon zest enlivens the dish, making the spaghetti impossible to put down. More


Named after the two little peepholes that resemble reading glasses, La Boulange: Cafe Cooking at Home presents these lunettes, with two kinds of jam sandwiched between buttery cookie squares. More

Thomas Keller's Chicken Breasts with Tarragon

As tough as chicken breasts can be to cook—there's no fat or bone to help mitigate dryness—a pounded chicken "paillard" is as easy. It's a technique that becomes a no-brainer once you learn it, whenever sauteeing the old boneless, skinless standby. By pounding the breast into uniform thickness and watching carefully, you can turn out a surprisingly moist cutlet with plenty of caramelized surface area. Add a delicious pan sauce—this time, by one Thomas Keller—and it's a solid dinner, indeed. More

Dinner Tonight: Pasta with Green Meatballs and Herb Sauce

This recipe from the New York Times Sunday magazine argues for thinking of herbs not just as a garnish, but as the center of a great dish. We've all had pesto, but that's just one way to do it. An absolutely epic amount of chopped herbs (three cups by the end) are mixed into juicy meatballs and pureed with garlic and olive oil into a simple sauce. It's rich and meaty, fragrant from the herbs, and honestly one of the better recipes I've cooked in months. More

Cocktail 101: How to Make Brandied Cherries

Beginning in the late 1800s and continuing up until Prohibition, bar owners and commercial producers began to tinker with the basic recipe of cherries in maraschino. Other boozes were substituted; easier-to-find (and cheaper) cherries were swapped in. The process of eliminating the liqueur from the recipe began well before Prohibition, probably as a cost-saving measure, but once the Great Experiment started, the use of liqueur was doomed, and the DayGlo orbs took over. But cocktail cherries are easy to make at home, and you might find that it's fun to tinker with the recipe, adjusting it to your tastes and needs. More

Smoked Salmon Dishes

So I have a typical pregnancy problem: I have an unquenchable craving for smoked salmon, but smoked salmon is dangerous for pregnant people unless we cook it right before eating. The only way I've ever eaten smoked salmon is with... More

Lemongrass Pork Satays

These skewers come via Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and as you'd expect with his recipes, the flavors are complex but expertly blended. The bright sweetness of lemongrass leads, followed by all kinds of complex pungency from the fish and oyster sauces, rounded out with a little sugar, shallot, and toasted sesame seeds. More

Lime Meltways

Meltaways were one of the first cookies I made when I began my professional baking career. They're incredibly easy and their delicate, crumbly texture makes them terribly addictive. In this version, I made them with lime zest. But if you'd prefer another flavor—like lemon, vanilla bean or even black pepper—go for it. More

Homemade liqueur recipes

I want to get some ideas to make some gifts for Christmas. Liqueurs or cordials. I have a Kahlua that I make that turns out great. Any others would be fun to try. thanks... More