Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Marshmallows and Smores and Grandbabies Galore!

Well, this is the week the grandbabies came to visit Grama Max and Grampa Don in our San Francisco apartment. We're adjusting nicely thank you kindly! But of course you're going to get lots and lots about this visit- nothing livelier than a 2 year old to add a bit of pizazz- and certainly our 2 year old is lively.
But first- OUR COOKING ADVENTURE. This month's Bon Appetit just happened to have this fantastic columnist- Molly Wizenberg- "Cooking Life". Her piece this month was "Fluff Piece". A "how to" on homemade marshmallows. How timely! And right before the Grandbaby. Molly writes a blog- "Orangette"- and so if you read a person's blog- very regularly I might add -you rather think of her as a friend- someone you know- not just an anonymous writer of a column in a food magazine- in a magazine I often never even notice the name of the author- but blog's are personal- and I know Molly- and it was rather like a new friend said- "Hah- have you thought about marshmallows?"

So "we" (note that the plural form of the pronoun is being used, but I don't remember reading Molly's blog or having any say what so ever about making marshmallows) decided to make marshmallows- with Reeder- in San Fran- in the apartment kitchen. But first we had to get in a "G,Gs" (Reeder talk of pajamas, PJs). We even rather matched!

You start with 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of your heavy duty countertop mixer
I will add here that if you do not own a countertop mixer then you better just skip the details of the recipe- this is one recipe that can't be done with a hand mixer- I promise you- it just won't work.

So in the bowl of the mixer you put three packages (1/4 oz packages) of gelatin and the 1/2 cup of water and it just sits- all the water will be absorbed by the gelatin. It takes 15 minutes for this to happen- but trust me- you have plenty of time.

Combine 2 cups of sugar, 2/3 cup of corn syrup, 1/4 tsp of salt. I forgot the salt and everything tastes fine- so don't think it's that critical if you happen to forget- we had lots of help- so it isn't too difficulty to see how we might have forgotten. Just imagine how much effect 1/4 tsp of salt is going to have in 2 and 2/3 cups of sugar. I'm not sure why they even put it in the recipe.

The reason there is plenty of time for the gelatin to absorb the water is that you have to heat the sugar slowly up to 240 degrees while stirring.

And we start to stir and stir and stir and stir and stir and stir and stir and stir and stir and stir and stir...
Reeder finally grew weary of the work and left to watch "Micky" on TV- but I continued to stir and stir and stir and stir...

Waiting for the temp to get to 240 degree. Molly says this takes about 8 minutes- but I was afraid of burning the mixture and it took me about 20 minutes- to stir and stir and stir...

Now the fun begins. And Reeder was back. You turn the mixer (with the whisk attachment) on at low speed and pour the hot sugar (Grampa Don is in charge of pouring) into the gelatin mixture.

And you gradually increase the mixer speed until it is on high (it is very, very noisy at this point so Don closed the windows because he was afraid the the neighbors would get annoyed and call the police)- so you mix for 15 minutes- And the miracle happens- it turns into marshmallow cream right in front of your very eyes- from clear sugar syrup- to white, marshmallow fluff. Amazing!

You pause the mixer and add 2 tsp of vanilla extract and then mix again for 30 seconds- and then the work begins. This glob of sticky thick sugar has to be transferred from the mixing bowl into a cake pan so that it can be spread out flat and allowed to cool.

And Reeder is helping????
And then it just sits- in a 13x9x2 metal baking pan that has been lined with foil and then coated lightly with nonstick spray.

And it just sits for 4 hours at room temperature- while it gets hard. And then you turn onto a flat surface larger than 13x9 that is covered with a mixture of potato starch (1/2 cup) and powdered sugar (1/2 cup). and coating a knife coated with nonstick spray (Don used a large chopping knife- while I was napping) you cut into squares.

You might note that there is no "we" included in this note about cleaning up this mess. That's because cleaning is not a "we" function. It's strickly a "Don" function.

And then you toss in in more starch/sugar mixture.

Ahhhhhhh, now time for the real test- how do these marshmallows do with indoor smores-

We used a graham cracker- and a tiny bar of Ghiradelli Chocolate- and topped with a homemade marshmallow- into the microwave for 12 seconds (watching this is a real treat)- And- DRUMROLL PLEASE- you have a SMORE!

Need I say more!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Max's Summer Parmesan Chicken

Summer time is the time for cooking with fresh produce. Also, in the summer you can buy a tomato that really tastes like a tomato. So tonight was the time to use some simple, readily available summer "stuff".
Now I'm really pretty proud of this dinner- it is an original- now it's not like I wasn't heavily influenced by my incredibly large library of recipes (how about that "google it"). But I was in the kitchen while Don was trying to fix my printer to get a recipe- and I just cooked. So here it is.

Of course there is prep- and this time I did my own- Don was working on my computer.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees!

1 pint of cherry tomatoes- halved
1/2 cup of kalamata olives- pitted and halved
2-6 cloves of garlic depending on taste (we tend to go for the more)- crushed
1 cup of chopped basil
1/4 cup of chopped oregano leaves
(By the way- look at all the kitchen "tools" I was able to use in the "prep".)

I really couldn't believe this oregano- like little flowers.

1/4 cup of olive oil- mix with oregano and half of the garlic in a bowl. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Chicken breast-1-2 (2-4 pieces)- pounded to about 1/4 inch thick (I loved this part- talk about a de-stressor- you just pound and pound and pound)
Dip the chicken in the olive oil/oregano/garlic mixture. Then dip in grated Parmesan cheese (the cheese didn't stick well so I dropped enough to cover after I put them on the cookie sheet)

Mix the tomatoes, olives, 1/4 cup of the basil. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Spread the tomato mixture on the other half of the cookie sheet.

Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes.

Slice the mozzarella cheese.

I boil the water for the pasta at this point- I can always turn it off- and it will be hot to start.

At 10 minutes top the chicken with the mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes.
Cook the pasta. I always add olive oil and a bit of salt to the water.

Drain the pasta and mix in the remaining olive oil/oregano/garlic mixture. Salt and Pepper to personal taste.

And then it's done!

And here are the pictures of the final project- dinner.

But of course it was a little bit late- just a little bit!?!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer in the City - A perfect day in July

It's July in San Francisco. Most of you in the rest of the world know what it means to experience July. July happens to prepare us for August, the month that in Cincinnati we just stay in doors to escape the heat, the humidity, and the mosquitoes. July is supposed to be hot, a time to enjoy summer at the pool, watch the gardens grow and enjoy the sweet corn and tomatoes that ripen this time of year. A song by the Lovin Spoonfuls that Max quotes below(are we showing our age?) says it pretty well.
"Hot town, summer in the city; Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty" Well maybe not exactly what we are experiencing here. I think a better quote is attributed to Mark Twain- "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco." We're back to appropriately seasonable San Francisco summer- foggy, damp, and cold enough for a jacket and scarf on most evenings!

But Mark Twain also spent some time in Cincinnati and his comments about that city were not so much about the weather, but rather about when things happen in Cincinnati as Max describes.

Consequently I hope to to return to Cincinnati before the end of the world at least by a day or so -for about Cincinnati Mark Twain says-""When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times."

But it is summer in San Francisco and out in the central valley where they grow all of those fruits and vegetables it really is July with temperatures up in the 90's. And that's weather for growing those tomatoes that are wonderful- they actually taste like tomatoes!

So we started this wonderful summer day that we both had off from work with breakfast at home! And tomatoes! And bacon! And fried eggs!

And the most wonderful biscuits in the world- I finally have the recipe right for my version of angel biscuits- I'm going to test a couple of more times- and then you'll get the perfected version on this very blog! Ever since we have been here, Max has been trying to make biscuits that matched the ones we often have at Cathy & T.H. Milby's house in Norman. When we visit they always made these delicious biscuits and Max asked for the recipe. But getting the recipe is one thing, making the same biscuits is something different. As in lots of recipes, there is the formula and then their is the art of doing it. You can't write down the art, it has to be developed by trial and error. Max's biscuits are really wonderful, so I'm not so sure what else she needs to do to improve them.

And then broiled peaches! Not just broiled, but broiled with honey on them.

The absolute best breakfast ever!

And then off for an afternoon walk! You might have noted a time aberration here. How does an afternoon walk follow breakfast? Well, it does if you don't actually get to breakfast until around 11:00, but that's all part of the "perfect summer day".

But we had errands to do as well as just pleasure in our walk. We are in the prep stage for the BIG VISIT! The grandbabies arrive soon- to this not quite 2 bedroom apartment- on the top of a hill- that seems not at all the haven for children (we hardly ever see children here- I think they live somewhere else- not sure where- just not here)- so we are getting ready- trying to at least.

But there are no Targets or Walmarts or ToysRUs etc here, at least not close to us. There are just hardware stores- Mom and Pop hardware stores- so we set out.

Most of you out there are too young to remember the 5 and 10- not me- I remember- when a nickle would actually buy you something- But even though this particular 5 and 10 costs a bit more it does capture the spirit. Actually this is a 5 and 10. For in San Francisco its not 5 and 10 cents, but rather 5 and 10 dollars. And it really is a "hardware" store, but I suppose that could include puzzles, books, markers, and stickers.

There is one aisle of "kids" stuff- we shopped!

Don's going back for "stuff"- coloring books, markers, books, stickers..... I did go back and get them and they were priced at 5 and 10 dollars.

And of course there was an aisle just made for Don- "guy stuff"! But this was not a guy stuff day. We had just started our walk and had only gone about a mile. We still had 4 more miles to go and a cliff to climb. You don't carry guy stuff on a walk.

And then it was a walk through the Presidio...

And I always feel close to my dear friend, Linda LaCharity, from Cincinnati who lived here on the Presidio when she was in the Army (a colonel I think?!).

And then down to the Marina to watch the wind surfers and the kite surfers and the boats! To put the following pictures into perspective, the temperature was really pretty warm this specific afternoon (note the fog has burnt off). It was approaching 70 degrees, but the water in the bay stays somewhere in the high 40's to low 50's. These folks are all wearing serious wet suits. All of those kites over the water are attached to people who are riding "surf" boards (actually they are more like giant snow boards made out of very light weight but strong materials.

Below are wind surfers, not to be confused with kite surfers.

I never realized how much I would love the Bay- it's not like there isn't something exciting about the crashing of the waves of an ocean- or the quiet laps of the edge of a lake- or the babbling of a brook- But I love this Bay- it takes my breath away- to watch the ships- the waves- the sailboats- the fog- the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance- the wind surfers- the kite surfers- I just didn't know how magical watching the Bay would be. And I will miss it forever! We did bring our binoculars so we could get a good view of the activity in the bay. I think I was watching a fishing boat drift by. The sea bass are active right now in the bay and charters tend to drift with the wind down the coast of the bay.

But by now I was feeling hungry so we found a Jamba Juice- and Peach of course is my choice! Not sure I ever saw a Jamba Juice anywhere but California. It's part of the "natural, organic, healthy" fast snack out here. It will probably make it to Cincinnati in about 20 years.

And now to the next local Mom and Pop- hardware store- actually my favorite- because this one has kitchen "stuff"!

And this one has a bench- and dog for Don! The bench was standard issue, but the dog was made of plaster. But given my choices, it was the best dog around. In fact it was the kind of dog my Mom might have actually put up with - no barking, no licking, no getting on furniture, no feeding.

And the "kitchen aisle" for me...

It was here that I bought the candy thermometer to make homemade marshmallows with Reeder! I have a feeling that might be a blog all by itself.

And now to home- and dinner! A summer dinner! And maybe Barbecue! But then we don't have a backyard. Or a grill. But that didn't stop us (Don always goes along so it is an us- a we).

So we did SUMMER!

Corn on the Cob! Peaches! Tomatoes!

And Baby Back RIBS!

We did a spice rub- and then used the oven- to mimic the backyard- and- drum roll please....

Looks like summer to me! Now I'm still working on the ribs- have a couple of ideas- and will practice again when Clint (with Marianne, Reeder, Hayes) are here- so if it works I'll give the details for the blog. I'm going to try to turn up the heat- was a bit too mild for the barbecue- so wait for the final verdict- But I'm working on barbecue ribs!

And how do you finish celebrating a summer day- well with a ballgame- of course!

So we finished this perfect summer day- with a great game by the Cincinnati Reds! This game thanks to MLB Extra Innings so we can actually watch Red's games, and the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) so we can record these games instead of watching them when they are actually played in the early afternoon out here on the left coast. This game was one that they actually won.