Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Food E


My Mom and I were having a conversation that we had already had many times before. "No, no, no you and Remi are real cooks," I insisted. "You both are unafraid to try anything, no matter how complex and you make it look soooo easy. Me, I am a lazy cook." "No, you're not. You cook all the time!" she responded without losing a beat.

I thought about that for a second. And to the corn-pepper quesadillas that I had whipped up to go with the last dregs of my chili for lunch. Dinner was already forming in my mind. I knew that I had to use the zucchini and so would probably shred it in a sauté with shallots, cumin and curry. That would go on top of teriyaki salmon (I am big on layering stuff in bowls) and topped with some sort of tahini sauce (it ended up being tahini, soy, lemon, olive oil). So maybe Mom was right (and isn't she always?).  But then again, all of this is super simple to do. There are no "techniques" involved, no themes, no recipes.

And while I do own some fine cookbooks, I usually read them like novels in hopes that something will filter down to my Swiss-cheese memory (one aside about my memory problems and food--my Mom will back me up in that I may not be able to remember the name of the movie that I watched last night but I will be able to recall exactly what I ate the first time I was at say, Uglesich's, more than twenty years ago--Muddy Water Trout with anchovies and jalapenos, easy).

Instead, I usually just look at what I have and make something up. That is why I tend to call myself a lazy cook and not really a foodie, which implies not only encyclopedic knowledge but derring do. But I do love to eat, I do love my wine.

So perhaps instead I am a Food E as in Food (that's) Easy.


Somehow things that come over the internet seem to strike me in a more immediate "Oh, I need to have that now," type of way and so, looking over what I brought back from the market today (plus a bag of oysters and another of mussels that were immediately put into the fridge), I can see that I would like to make:

Sharon Santoni of My French Country Home's mind-bogglingly simple roasted tomato soup
David Lebovitz's Moules Frites (happening tonight)
Saveur's Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce, link found via their newsletter
Gallivanta of silkannthreades' Crostata (I am so not a baker--luckily as I already eat my weight in cheese--but this looks tempting)


Other food goings on that caught my attention around Ye Olde Webbe?
-- The hilarious NK of Bread is Pain has launched (after many of us begged) a new blog, Bread is Pain FoodThis recipe for leeks and pancetta pasta was delish.

--By chance, charming Jeanne at I dream of just posted today about her recent experience at the outdoor markets in the ancient Kingdom of Bhutan. Take a look-see, it is fascinating.

-- Now, this doesn't quite count but my friend Jennifer of the Gustia blog has mentioned that she hopes to do a post on the recent olive harvest and pressing that happened recently at her house in Menton. I am still tapping my wristwatch on this one. Maybe if we ask her nicely? "Oh, Jenniferrrr...."
*UPDATE: Yay! A new post from her hot off the press: From Ventimiglia to Pigna*

-- Do you remember when I made a link to a lovely blog that I had stumbled upon while researching Hotel Crillon Le Brave? That is Map and Menu and it is a delight. Meredith is an extremely talented lifestyle photographer and her honey, Michael is a charming web developer so they make a great team. They love to travel and their enthusiasm is infectious. Plus, they take their huge black Lab, Orvis, with them whenever they can, so seriously, what is not to like? I can't wait to hear about their trip to New Orleans (and Edgar, if you see this, they just came back from Sonoma).

--Speaking of puppers, well, I can be a little slow on the uptake and so just noticed that the beautiful (inside and out) Kristin Espinasse has a few videos on her epic blog, French Word-A-Day (I also just noticed that she has 42,085 readers. Yes, you read correctly). Now, if you pop over there right now, you can see photos of a young Smokey (one of her two insanely lovable Golden Retrievers--shh, don't tell Ben and Kipling) but you can also watch a video of Kristin making cake with Smokey's Mom, Braise here:


--To toot my own horn (woot! woot!), you can read my post for the Tuesday Dinner series on Ann Mah's blog here. In it, I probably whine about being lazy some more but give a good recipe for a Provençal tart. Now, I realize that it was published some time ago so why bring it up? Because this week's participant of the series is none other than Patricia Wells. Me. Patricia Wells. Same series. I nearly fainted. (And yes, Ann's book is absolutely as great as I said it was. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll become seriously hungry).

--An apple a day? Laoch at Counterintuitivity recently provided this link to a TED talk with William Li about foods that starve blood vessels feeding the growth of cancer cells and one of his readers gave a link to a list of foods that do so. It can be found here.



And I hope that this epic post (my longest posts are always about food, what does that say?) stirred some happy hunger out there as well. I will just finish by thanking my Mom for cooking for us from scratch every night of my childhood when I was growing up. Yes, it was considered outright wacky that she made such 'exotic' foods as "lasagna" and "chicken curry" in the 1970's Midwest of the U. S. of A but she did it anyway and gave me the lifelong gift of a love of food because of it. Merci, Maman! 




So do tell, what kind of cook are you?

43 comments:

I Dream Of said...

Thanks so much for the shout out, Heather. And you did succeed in making me very hungry even though I just finished breakfast! Your photos are delicious. I always admire cooks like you who can just "whip things up" with ease. Most of the time I need the "step by step" of a recipe to follow - although there are a few that I can do now without looking and I am getting to the point where I'm more comfortable with improvising. I do agree that simple is best, especially when food is fresh! And aren't we lucky to have had mothers who taught us well in the kitchen! XO

Laoch of Chicago said...

This post made me smile. Although I believe you underrate yourself.

breadispain.me said...

Lovely post - those olives at the end made me hungry! Thanks for the shout-out to Bread is Pain Food. :) I knew all along that you were a fabulous cook and just saying that you weren't. Never a doubt in my mind.

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

i am a slapdash cook! but i live near a street with the best takeout so hardly cook though i love food and food shows and blogs - do you know the blog manger? it is sublime - i think you would love!

mademoisella coquine. said...

My question to you is how often did you cook when you were living in New York? For me, it was never...take out all the way! France has turned me into a little cook (and like you, creating recipes with what's already in the house, not to waste food) and I think this lovely place has worked its magic on you too! Even if it's a simple dish, you are still creating which is way more effort than dialing out!

Heading over to Ann's blog now to check out your Tuesday dinner!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh we are! Although mine was by example only--when I moved to NYC I didn't know how to make pasta!!!

And I think this is a case of "the grass is always greener" Jeanne as I never get recipes right. I forget an ingredient or get distracted and over-cook something and under-cook something else!!! I am so in admiration of folks who look at a recipe for something like "verveine creme caramel" and are like "no problem!"...

Heather Robinson said...

Glad it made you smile but you are mistaken! Feel better please...

Heather Robinson said...

Oh crikey, I feel the backlash building! :o There is no waaay that I could make say a New Orleans style feast for example? But one of these days I am going to beg you to make one for me. And ps. I am munching on those exact olives right now. Yes, they are as tasty as they look. hehe

Heather Robinson said...

Oh my goodness, I have banned myself from leaving comments on Manger because really? They get embarrassing. So yes, I read and love it and dream...
And me oh my good takeout how I miss thee!!! It is simply not an option in this small town. Voila. So no matter how tired we are, one of us has to cook.

Heather Robinson said...

Yay! Thank pretty one. And you know what? I DID cook in NYC because for most of it, there was no way I could afford takeout. I remember a period when coffee from the corner deli was a splurge! At 65 cents!! Once I found a fifty dollar bill in Central Park and I CRIED. But oh, at the end...the glorious ease of hitting speed dial to Westside Cottage II and a bowl of hot and sour soup, moo shu pork with a free serving of sesame noodles would arrive without fail in ten minutes at my front door. Sigh.
In Paris, the only delivery we ever did (we were in the boondocks) was a very rare sushi order and it was a special splurge. Have things changed since the ye olde days?

Jo-Anne said...

Your recipe on Ann Mah's site looks FABULOUS! I have only recently discovered the joys of frozen puff pastry (and I'm 63!). Thank you for all your lovely photos and comments. You're very special. :)

Gustia said...

Aren't you a sweetie mentioning little old me. Merci. OK, I get the hint. I promise I'll write about our olive harvest - after I get back from London. XO

Judith Ross said...

Because of you, I'm going to have to try puff pastry. That tart looks amazing! I, too, am an E-cook, though not as imaginative as you are, and not nearly as motivated. I'm too lazy. The running joke here is that if Paul went away for a couple of weeks I'd starve to death. But seriously, the summer and fall are the best for me because our local organic farm is open and brimming with all kinds of inspiration.

George Snyder said...

I'm a terrible cook. I am only good at the simplest of preparations. Toast. Coffee. Eggs. I do a passable breakfast. But I do set a lovely table.
Your pictures make me hungry. Delicious looking! Bisous

silkannthreades said...

Oh, I must be a Food E too, although I am usually lost without a recipe. I would probably use take-out or bought food more often if it were better quality. I can't abide dining out, or buying in, and finding that the food is not as good as I can make. Irritates my pocket book and my taste buds! That sounds like I think I am a super ace cook, but I do not think that is the case at all. However, like you my family heritage has given me a love of good food, so I would gladly dine at your place (am I invited?) Thanks for mentioning my humble crostata :)

Unknown said...

Heather, being able to "just look at what" one has and "make something up" that tastes good is the mark of a very good cook. (And one who is able to do that using the ingredients you mention above is a great cook!) While I can follow most recipes (always with at least one unanswered question), I cannot take what is on hand and turn it into something delicious. That takes a particular type of creativity and skill. (Which means I rarely cook unless I have obtained each ingredient in a recipe ahead of time. Fortunately, my husband has some of your cooking skills...) So please, realize that it is only your cooking talents and skills that allow your way of cooking to seem lazy or easy to you. Now, to start exploring every link and reference in this bountiful post! With great admiration for the way you cook, Leslie in Oregon

Suze said...

Every image of the apples made my heart leap. That must mean something, yes? A delectable post all around, H. And your passion is quite evident, Food E. It read with extreme fluidity and verve.

La Contessa said...

Definitately FOOD E..............as you defined it!
xoxo

La Contessa said...

Tis one of my favorites!

Mumbai said...

You are not an E cook you are a creative cook and what I like is, that you don't wast food and use the remnants for an other delicious one. As I got my dream kitchen I had to be a cook. Hence I tried first with easy receipts and it has succeeded. This encouraged me to try more and more and the result is that I don't leave the kitchen for many hours. Now I'm brave enough to try every new food secret and consider to arrange all my receipts in a book , called
"tell only your best friend" (and the book is really only for my friends...still not good enough to go public).

breadispain.me said...

One of these days!! Speaking of, excellent Uglesich's shout-out! You know, I lived in New Orleans? Went to Uni there - never go more than 3 years without a visit.

david terry said...

Oh, Heather?....so, you didn't know how to make pasta at one point in your life? Just for the public, blogosphere record?.....my mother was raised in an orphanage (a very pleasant and nice one, to be sure, but she still never even entered the institutional kitchen) until she was 13, at which point she was adopted by a wealthy couple who kept a chauffeur, gardener, housekeeper, cook, etcetera.

The upshot was that, when she married my father at age 21, she knew NOTHING about any cooking whatsoever. She'd never even SEEN anyone cooking,between the two extremes of her upbringing.

Then....she found herself in military housing at Keesler Air Force base in Biloxi, Mississippi. Her first dinner, EVER, was made in honor of her visiting mother-in-law (my grandmother, obviously). Louise decided, for some reason, to make "spaghetti" (not that she'd ever actually had it or seen it, growing up in rural, 1940's-50's East Tennessee). She bought several cans of Ragu spahetti sauce at the PX store, broke up up a boxful of spahetti, tossed that into the pot (she didn't know that you had to boil it first), added pound of raw hamburger, put "cheese" on top of that (probably Velveeta, since that was all we could get back then in Mississippi), turned the stove-eye on high, and took her happy, suddenly confident, pregnant-self for a far-too-long walk along the beach. She wasn't really aware that you had to TIME food while it's "cooking".....and the stuff just raged and burnt away for a couple of hours.

Suffice it to say that, when my father arrived after picking up his mother, they all went to a restaurant off-base. Mother's learned a lot since then, of course.

Similarly?....Herve tells of the first time his mother left the two very young boys alone with their father (A physicist, oddly enough, given what happened). Jean Claude, flummoxed by the directions she'd left behind, simply decided to make toast and boiled eggs for his sons. Herve swears that it's true.....his father didn't know that you had to put water into the pot before adding the eggs. You can guess what happened.

So, don't feel too bad about your own supposed ignorance.....lots of folks are worse-off.
----david terry
www.davidterryart.com

simpleimages2 said...

The simplest way of cooking and with freshest ingredients make the best food.
The salmon, trout, and oysters you mentioned cooked and the dinner course you plan on cooking are welcome on any table.

Those brioche, bread, and pastries certainly I will not refuse.

I went to Michael and Meredith's blog and am impressed with their visit to Sonoma.Mrs. Abstract and I have been to some of the places they mentioned and we have to visit the others. Healdsburg is a little more than an hour from Napa and we visit often. Sonoma and Healdsburg are exquisite little towns northwest of us. Thank you.

Lastly, you and Jeanne (I dream of) showed a good mixture of colorful fruits and vegetables which a dietitian said I should eat for my health. She said I only like greens (spinach,string beans, bitter melons) and gave me a list with other colors.

I cook a little, mainly soups and noodles but Mrs. Abstract does most.I don't know how to bake, she does.

Loree said...

I am definitely a lazy cook. Except when it comes to making desserts and baking bread. I love to do both. And I think that you are a much better cook than you give yourself credit for.

Rambling Tart said...

I just found your blog through Lisa at Renovating Italy and I so enjoyed this post. :-) I read cookbooks like novels too, more for inspiration than actual recipes. :-) I love all the tidbits you shared today. I just woke up on my Australian farm and am very, very hungry. :-)

Sara Louise said...

I'm a follow a recipe while making my own adjustments kind of cook. I love to cook, absolutely love it. I love the time to myself in the kitchen, I love the searching and planning for a meal, I love setting a table and watching people enjoy what I whipped up. Food is without a doubt one of the great loves of my life :)

Heather Robinson said...

And I bet you actually cook the recipes too! See? Foodie!!

Heather Robinson said...

I know that people swear that there is such a huge difference between homemade and readymade but again, I am lazy and it tastes mighty good with storebought dough!
Thank you for your kind words and the smiley too...

Heather Robinson said...

Yipeee!!! See? Peer pressure works!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh we are so on the same page! And yes, when Remi goes away I go on a peanut butter sandwich diet. :)

Heather Robinson said...

As breakfast is everyone's favorite meal (isn't it?), I think that is all that matters. However, I hope that you won't mind if I offer to cook lunch for you if ever we do meet (and oh my how I would love that too happen although it seems quite far-fetched) as I happen to know that you serve your breakfast at an hour that I rarely see...Although I would love to come for tea on day, just to see your beautiful china and stare at all of your books!
Bisous right back.

Heather Robinson said...

Oh yes, you are most certainly invited. Be warned, Ben will follow you around hopelessly doing his slow tail wag and offering you his favorite toy, Remy from Ratatouille. It smells like dog spit. But otherwise I can promise a lovely evening.

And Remi is the same as you--and so we never go out to eat! Especially in Provence, he can cook anything that most of the restaurants serve save for the super fancy ones that we can't afford!! And there has been a recent phenomena of --gasp! -- frozen food being served, so unless we know it is fresh and awesome, we aren't going.
PS. Anyone who bakes a crostata and cooks recipes by Ina is a foodie. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Uh hello? YES I know that because one of these days you ARE going to make me that New Orleans feast (I am still sad that I wasn't there for that one)! That was no subtle hint, that was an order!
Map and Menu that I mentioned just put up their post on their visit--be warned, it will make you homesick!!!

Heather Robinson said...

I love your stories, David. I have two: my Dad couldn't cook to save his life (save for chili, which was good) and once when he had moved to a new city ahead of us, he called my Mom in a panic, unsure of what he had done. Well, he had tried to bake something very simple, fish sticks but they came out charred as charcoal. It turns out he had put the oven on self-clean! :o

And the first time that I made scrambled eggs was for my older Nietzche-quoting boyfriend. I cracked the eggs in the pan with nary an oil or butter first and then used a fork (I must have seen that in a movie) to shake them up. Yeah, he shamed me a bit for that one...

Heather Robinson said...

Oh, thank you Leslie but it is just different! Not better! And your use of "creativity" probably has something to do with it--as in "Help!! What can I make of this!!!" I don't think that I emphasized enough that there is so much I can't do...like poach an egg or make mayonnaise for example...

Heather Robinson said...

Oh hooray! I love to write about food. As a travel writer, I used to say that it was the best gig in the whole world...execpt for being a food writer!! hehe And those apples are super tasty. Nice and crackly.

Heather Robinson said...

Sorry Madame but you and Giampi are TEXTBOOK definitions of foodie and I can prove it!!!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh my goodness, you are so inspiring!!!! I love imagining you in your dream kitchen (though I have no idea what you look like or how old you are and have forgotten where you are too) and just patiently working to get better and better and better. I bet your book is amazing!

And as I said to Leslie, I love that you both mentioned "creativity"--that makes me super happy and yes, a LOT of it is fuelled by a wish not to waste as wasting food is something that is simply NOT DONE in France!

Heather Robinson said...

Edgar, while I am thinking of it, you might enjoy taking a look at Michel's blog. He has a house in Sablet about 45 minutes north of here and writes about it when he isn't in Sonoma. There he is co-owner of a restaurant in Occidental. Now, knowing how much Michel loves food and wine, I can bet that his restaurant would definitely be worth a visit. And plus, although we haven't met yet, he just is one of the nicest bloggers in this area. Here is the link: http://sablethouse.blogspot.fr/

At the very least in your colors to try: red! So very good for men's health especially.

And trust me, I am SO grateful to have such inexpensive fresh, fresh ingredients. Oysters, which used to cost me $3 a pop in NYC are 3,20€ a DOZEN here because they only come from an hour away.

Heather Robinson said...

My Sister is an awesome baker and I just don't get how she does it!! My brain just doesn't work that way and thank goodness because if I started baking my own bread I would eat it all!!!!!

Heather Robinson said...

Oooh, Hello to the Other Side of the Planet! :) So amazing to think that you are heading into spring now--I am so jealous of all of the edible tasties that await you!!! And I can't stop thinking about Lisa's post. Obviously, I need to KEEP thinking about it since it made me cry so hard. Whew.
Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for stopping by!

Heather Robinson said...

You are such a foodie, Sara. I want to be like you when I grow up! Seriously, if I lived closer you would find me just showing up on your doorstep with a bottle of wine in hand. Your Honey, Fifty and Food--not a bad life, if I do say so meself!

david terry said...

Oh, Heather.....I wrote previously of how my mother landed up on Keesler Air Force base for four years (1960-64) and knew NOTHING about cooking? the ONE thing she did learn was from the elderly next-door neighbor (whose husband was a post-WW2- Sicilian immigrant). My 75 year old mother (who was rasied in the moutains of East Tennessee and had never even seen the ocean before then) still beams and laughs when she tells of she learned to walk down to the docks each morning (two babies by the hand and one in her belly), and buy 5-gallon (I kid you not....these were BIG) plastic buckets of absolutely fresh shrimp, oysters, and crabs.....for FIFTY CENTS A BUCKET.
The neighbor lady (who is one of my earliest memories) taught my 24 year old mother how to thorw a pack of Zatarin seasoning (It's made in New Orleans and taken for granted back down there) into a pot....and just boil the f**k out of everything wriggling in there. Apparently, that's how my mother fed my father and her three sons (one still gestating) for several years. We all loved it, of course. Oddly enough, I grew up to become mostly vegetarian ( I should emphasize that I cook meat all the time for guests/friends, but I rarely eat it).
-----uncle david
www.davidterryart.com