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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

I love to cook as much as the next foodie, but sometimes I get bored. You know the drill – you’ve planned meals, gone food shopping with a list and as you get to the end of your perishables, you find you’ve lost the love for the lonely broccoli in your fridge or frozen sausage you bought on sale.

I like to have some backup food in my pantry for those less-inspired, less hungry, too-busy nights. A can of beets can become a quick salad with oil, vinegar and sliced onions. Pasta with some marinara in a jar can be a filling meal, especially if you mix in some defrosted chop meat.

Prepared food in a box is usually so filled with preservatives, corn syrup and unrecognizable words that I try to avoid them. I will admit, though, that Trader Joe’s has some good prepared options with a limited list of ingredients. If I can pronounce them all, I’ll try it out. Their canned chicken noodle soup is good to have on hand when you get the sniffles and don’t have the energy to make yourself Mom’s recipe. Their microwaveable Indian specialties are really flavorful, quick and tasty with whatever rice you have in the pantry or backup frozen Trader Joe’s naan.

The key to this is having back-up food in the freezer or pantry. I love shopping and stocking up when there’s a good sale or coupon.

We have some frozen (Michigan made!) pirogues that will probably find their way out of the freezer tonight. Boiled and then quickly fried in olive oil with some sliced onions, we’ll be filled up and quickly cleaned up, too.

What are your favorite quick meals?

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I first came across Maitelates (my-tay-lah-tes) at Comet Coffee  (in the Ann Arbor Arcade) with a friend who had spent some time in Chile. She had a huge smile when she saw the chocolate dipped alfajors. She said she’s never seen them available in the USA.

I had never tasted anything like these treats. The caramel-filled shortbread-like cookies are delicate, sweet and delicious. You can buy them on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market in Kerrytown or online at Foodzie.

My parents were recently visiting and they were kind enough to buy us a sampler box. My favorite flavor – so far – is the Michigan cherry.

For more information about the cookies and the woman who makes them, Maite Zubia, I encourage you to visit her online diary.

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cookbook

**I wanted to remind everyone about this opportunity to share recipes for a good cause. I submitted three recipes the other day. Have you submitted yours yet? **

Debbie Green is calling for recipes and tasters for a second cookbook to support the Greenview Hepatitis C Fund, a nonprofit. The Fund raises money for Hepatitis C research at the University of Michigan.

As avid writers and chefs, I thought I’d share this with you. 

The cookbook will focus on special diets (think: allergies, glutton free, low carb., etc.) I look forward to contributing some corn syrup-free recipes for dishes that are impossible to order in a restaurant without being saturated in it. The first two that come to mind are pecan pie and meatloaf, but I’m sure I’ll think of more.

When you are thinking of recipes to share, keep in mind that Debbie prefers recipes that are easy to prepare and don’t have too many hard to find or unusual ingredients. Also, she prefers things that are made from scratch. 

To submit your recipes, send them in a Word document or regular email to Debbie(at)hepcfund(dot)org or mail to:

Debbie Green

2773 Holyoke Lane

Ann Arbor, MI 48103 

Be sure to include and check:

1. correct measurements (T=tablespoon, t= teaspoon, c=cup)

2. oven temp.

3. cooking time

4. nutrition info if available

5. clear and precise instructions

6. ethnicity of dish

7. if this dish is for a special diet (gluten-free, vegetarian, allergy, etc.)

8. any suggestions for accompanying dishes

9. your name and contact info

10. any comments you wish (Try to keep comments to 4 lines, unless it’s a really good story!)

Through the Fund, Debbie has raised a total of $30,000 so far. One of her best fund raisers is her first cookbook, Cooking Around the World, which sold over 1,000 copies. (This cookbook, along with a few free recipes, is available from her website.) Help make this next cookbook just as, if not more, successful!

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My father is an amazing chef and Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. We usually cook a number of dishes together, from the father-daughter cranberry sauce (fresh cranberries cooked with fresh orange juice and secret flavoring) to the bread stuffing. I love sharing the kitchen with him and learning from each other.

I shy away from the turkey. As a former vegetarian, I still get the willies when I think about touching raw meat. Dad is the one who lifts it into the brine and stuffs it. Last year, I decided I should at least learn how to carve the turkey. (You can see Dad offering advice in the picture.) 

My mother usually makes the “primo” – either a pasta or a soup. This year we’ve decided on homemade pumpkin gnocchi that I made recently and froze. Mom is going to be responsible for a few sides, escarole and candied carrots.

Planning the menu this year, my husband and I are working on forming our own traditions. (While that will probably happen naturally, I am neurotic enough to try to plan them.) He loves ginger and we are integrating it into the yams and pumpkin pie. We aren’t straying too far from my family’s traditions, though. The cranberry sauce and bread stuffing are here to stay.

We have some family recipes and I’ve been reading about others in the Joy of Cooking, Epicurious, and the website hosted by the Ginger People company.

I’m excited to cook, but I’m really excited to eat! Let the feasting begin!

What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes?

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No matter how much you love to cook, sometimes you need a little inspiration.  

I have a absurdly large collection of peeled lemons in the fridge. I made one recipe that called for a hefty amount of lemon rinds and now that I have recovered feeling in my hand after all that peeling, I need to find something to do with the naked lemons.

I usually start with Epicurious when I need a recipe. This website combines recipes from Gourmet, bon appètit and more. I type in an ingredient and peruse a list of recipes. For my pesky lemons, it has offered me pasta sauces and coffee cake. I might try a lemon chicken in the next day or two. 

I’m not a neat enough chef to dare bring my laptop into the kitchen. I know you can log into the site and save your recipes, but I prefer to print them out and keep them in a binder.

Of course, I also love my cookbooks. I have shelves of them and a few out from the library, too. I take notes in the ones I own and remind myself of what went well, and what didn’t, in the various recipes. I even date them to remember when I first made them.

To prepare for our Greece trip, I’ve been experimenting with Greek recipes. My favorite cookbook is Vefa’s Kitchen, which is an encyclopedia of Greek cooking. It was published by Phaidon, who also published the amazing translation of the Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon. According to the index, there are some lemon recipes in there, but they seem to call for more food shopping. They might have to wait for a bit.

A friend recently told me about Tastebook. It comes recipes with social networking. You can collect your favorite recipes and even self-publish and share cookbooks here.

Where do you find your inspiration?

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Italian home in Montale, Italy (PI)

I teach Italian through Ann Arbor’s Rec and Ed program. Next semester I will be teaching Italian I and Italian II on Wednesday evenings. Recently, students have been asking me for more local resources. I thought I’d share a few with you:

The Dante Alighieri Society offers children’s language classes and various events, like an annual spring film festival. Last year I enjoyed a few free movies hosted by the University of Michigan.

The Michigan Italian Tribune  is published weekly. I enjoy reading about local events, from religious festivals to cheese sales.

These two restaurants in town that have some language-related events:

Silvio’s Pizzeria  – look for Silvio, the chef and owner from Abruzzo. Don’t miss the Sweet Dreams dessert pizza (a stuffed pizza with nutella and cream. Wow!)

Paesano’s Restaurant  – see Isabella, the chef from Venice. She periodically gives cooking presentations through the Ann Arbor library. You can also pick up a copy of her cookbook and try the recipes at home.

 

The University of Michgan’s Language Resource Center pairs tutors and conversation partners via the internet. This is a great resource.

If you are interested in private tutoring, please contact me directly (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.)

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Sparrow Meat Market Dinner fifth courseSparrow Meat Market Dinner fourth courseSparrow Meat Market Dinner third courseSparrow Meat Market Dinner second courseSparrow Meat Market Dinner first courseSparrow Meat Market in Kerrytown (Ann Arbor) hosts a semi-secret monthly feast. They take over the supermarket and Sweetwaters Café area with long tables covered in white tablecloths. They serve multi-course meals and guests share their BYOB wine with each other. The entire complex is closed except to those who made a phone reservation and know to enter through the only open door (closest to the parking lot.)

I’d seen flyers for it when I looked for it on meat counter after browsing the Saturday Farmer’s Market outside. There are no ads and no mention of it on the Sparrow website. Friends have raved about it, but mostly because they heard great things, not because they’d ever gone. 

After eating in the packed rooms filled with the aromas from the five dishes and the live music by Douglas and Andrew Brown, I understand why they don’t advertise. They don’t need to. Through word of mouth, this dinner is “legendary,” as one friend described it to me in an email.

Here was the menu:

1st course

Baby spinach with dried Traverse City cherries, toasted pecans, crumbled blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. 

2nd course

Marinated tomatoes and zucchini served alongside a selection of Italian salamis.

3rd course

Seared scallops with cream sauce over roasted garlic and pumpkin polenta. 

4th course

Pork loin stuffed with fresh herbs, garlic, and grated pecorino cheese slow cooked in marinara served over braised escarole greens.

5th course

Fresh prepared Amaretto cannolis.

My favorite part of the meal was the pumpkin risotto. I don’t care much for scallops in general, but this polenta was perfectly seasoned. It wasn’t sweet or spicy. The pumpkin flavor was appropriately slight and complemented by the creamy sauce. This is something I want to try to recreate at home. Minus the cream sauce, this Epicurious recipe sounds about right.

The fresh basil on the zucchini in the second course helped to bring out the fresh flavor of the vegetable. The salamis were room temperature and their fattiness (a positive!) was offset by the light vegetables.

The salad dressing on the first course was a bit heavy for the light baby spinach leaves and the pork loin would have benefited from just a bit more spice (salt and even hot pepper), but considering the large numbers of people being served, I don’t think it should be held against them.

This dinner was something we’d like to repeat. And repeat.

If you need more convincing, you might enjoy this review on AnnArbor.com by Jennifer Shikes Haines. 

The menu changes according to the seasons. Be in “the know” and check out the flyers on the meat counter. The cost for the five course dinner is $45.00 and you can call for reservations/information at 734-761-8175.

 

 

Thanks to the Ann Arbor Chronicle for linking to this article.

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