30 August 2014

Roll Tide Bruschette

(We would like to take this opportunity to reflect upon those readers who don't care about football.  We are sorry, but for the next few months, you will have to endure many a post about the SEC.  Mostly on Saturdays.  You have been warned.)

Today is the first Alabama game.  A bit saddened that is against West Virginia, as EVERYONE I met today has on their yellow and blue.  I laid low, only changing into the BAMA shirt when I got home.

Last night I started cooking some beef cheeks for the game.  I used a winter chocolate spice blend, then braised them in beer  for 14 hours and we are pretty excited dig in.  We harvested our crop of Mexican cucumbers and we are going all in cucumber on the gin and soda.  Cucumber gin, cucumber soda, and a cucumber garnish.

Pre-game snacks include our Roll Tide Bruschette. 
This is a more upscale homage to 5 or 7 or 9-layer dip and chips.  I admit it, I was that kid who didn't want their food to touch! So layered dip is a bit problematic.  While I like the idea, I have to admit that after the first few chips, it starts to look like the bottom of my compost bucket.

So gearing up for football season, we got some University of Alabama jello molds.  No jello here, we made a spicy aspic.  (An aside about molds...They never actually look as good as they do on the "artists" rendering on the package.  One would be hard pressed to actually read the lettering on the University of Alabama mold, though the "A" does last for a brief second.   As for the elephant, he is there if you have a bold imagination.  but now that I have told you what you are looking at....)
We went very simple and small.  We put our layers in very tiny ramekins to avoid the overt mess.  Here's what we did.

One thin layer of goat cheese, thinned with a bit of milk.

One layer of herbs and scallions, finely chopped.

One layer of avocado.

A final layer of the goat cheese.

An aspic topper.

We toasted some slices of bread and dug in.

 Almost game time...Roll Tide.

28 August 2014

Woodcuts by Loren Kantor

I have always had a fondness for woodcuts.  The stark contrast of the black and white leaves no room for error.  When I saw Loren Kantor's Virginia Woolf, it was all the more evident that this medium reveals just enough of the subject to be familiar, but it withholds as much as it reveals. 

You can look at Tom Waits and hear the rolling gravel in his voice.

If you have never been to the Canyon Country Store, if you have never heard Jim Morrison sing about the "store where the creatures meet," you might just want to visit after seeing this.

Check out Loren's website for more of his woodcuts.

27 August 2014

No Fuss Veggie Sorbet

How many times has this happened to you?  You are sitting on the settee in lounging pajamas reading Photoplay and eating bonbons when the hubby calls and says he is bringing home the boss for dinner.  What's a girl to do?   Come on, that never happens unless you watch reruns of I Love Lucy.

But what if you do need a quick and easy dish for company?  Here's our newest favorite.

Let me begin by saying, I love a long complicated recipe.  Two days, three days, I once attempted a glacé fruit recipe that took 8 days.  Don't ask!  

If a recipe calls for some new piece of kitchen paraphernalia, I am all in.  But sometimes, a classy no-brainer is a great thing.   So here is a quick and easy recipe that involves no cooking and will make you a culinary star. 

This is a sorbet that you can use as an appetizer, a salad, a palate cleanser, or dessert, depending o on how you dress it up.  I like it best as a salad, it is after all, veggies, and its much more fun than that bag of chopped radicchio.

Lucinda's Salad Sorbet

1 bottle Naked Berry Veggie juice
1 ice cream maker

Pour juice in ice cream maker.  Process about 25 minutes.  Place in a container in the freezer till ready to use.

Plain is fine, but for a salad course, try serving it with a few vegetable chips, some candied carrots or beets, or some pickled blueberries or grapes.

Not to mention there are tons, tons of fruit concoctions out there just dying to make and appearance on your table.  Kale Blazer is my next fave sorbet.   Think about it a bowl or raw, chopped kale or wine glass of kale sorbet?  

As a dessert add some macerated berries with a bit of sugar to boost the sweetness.  

Go on, use your imagination and be sure to send photos!

22 August 2014

Famous Food Friday -- Georgia O'Keeffe

O'Keeffe's Kitchen Sink, Ghost Ranch, 1975  by Dan Budnik  
Just when you though you had seen "everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to Georgia O'Keeffe -- we give you Georgia O'Keeffe's kitchen sink.

When she was 24, Margaret Wood met the 90-year-old Georgia O'Keeffe.  She was hied to be Miss O'Keeffe's companion, staying with her at night and preparing her evening meal and her breakfast.  Alas, Margaret Wood was not much of a cook at the time, so Miss O'Keeffe taught her.  Years latter Wood compiled recipes that she cooked into A Painter's Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O'Keeffe
As one might expect from an elderly woman living in the middle of nowhere, the recipes are simple, filled with natural ingredients.  An avid gardener, O'Keeffe was an early adopter of the writings of Adelle Davis who's book Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit was a huge bestseller.  With all of her care for nutrition, making her own yogurt, milling her own flour, and growing her own vegetables, she never shied away from good steak.
Each recipe in the book has a headnote memory of O'Keeffe; food they ate, books they read, stories of travel and friends.  O'Keeffe had an old Chambers Stove from the 1940's.
Photo from the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Like so many houses, the kitchen was the focal point of the house, with three different rooms radiating off the kitchen.
Photo from the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
During the waning light of fall, O'Keeffe spent a lot of time pouring over recipes, she seemed to be a big fan of Prevention magazine.
Photo from the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
She was always reading about vitamins, minerals and natural foods.  She had a real love of nuts and grains.  This recipe featured several different kinds of nuts wrapped into a single muffin.

Atomic Muffins
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup soy flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons brewer's yeast (optional)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 cup safflower oil
2--3 tablespoons honey
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop the almonds, cashews, pecans, and sunflower seeds (or other nuts of choice). Combine the flours, brewer's yeast (if desired), baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  In a smaller bowl, beat egg then and add the oil, honey and milk. Add the liquids and nuts to the dry ingredients and mix just until blended. Grease a muffin tin and fill to 2/3 full.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until nicely browned. Serve with butter/oil and fruit preserves. Makes 1 dozen muffins.
Generally, we are not big fans of "nuts in our food" but we might just make an exception in honor of Georgia O'Keeffe. 
If you are a fan of O'Keeffe, this cookbook is a perfect addition to your collection.

21 August 2014

With A Grain of Salt

Edit this sentence:

The best finishing salt in the world is from Maldon.

Correct?  No, incorrect.  It should read:

The best finishing salt in the world is from Malden.

Malden, West Virginia, not Maldon, England has the best salt in the world.  There is documentation to prove it.  In 1851 at the Crystal Palace Exhibition, J. Q. Dickinson salt was named the "Best Salt in the World," under the watchful eye of Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin, Samuel Colt, Lewis Carroll, Alfred Tennyson and Charlotte Brontë. It would take another thirty years before the Maldon Salt Company would produced their first bag of salt.

For over 100 years, J. Q. Dickinson produced a beautiful salt from the Iapetus Ocean, an ancient sea trapped under the Appalachian mountains about 600 million years ago. In the 1980's the J. Q. Dickinson company closed for a while until siblings and seventh-generation salt makers, Nancy Bruns and Lewis Payne revived the family business.

Now J. Q. Dickinson salt is popping up in fine dinning restaurants, trendy home shops, and on my tomatoes.  While there are many ways to use it, during these waning days of "fresh tomatoes from the garden," there is no better use that on fresh tomatoes.  Come fall... salt caramels, salted chocolate truffles, who knows.

Find out more about J. Q. Dickinson Salt Works here, including great places to buy their salt.

19 August 2014

Lisa Elmaleh Photography

Jim's Porch, West Virginia, 2013

We have been seeing a lot of Lisa Elmaleh's photographs lately.  That's a good thing. 

In the age of selfies, pixels, and intagram, Elmaleh has gone all 1800's on her photography. She produces her images with a wet-plate colloidan process that was used in the mid 19th century.  Instead of film, a piece of glass is covered with a sticky layer of toxic chemicals.  The sticky glass plate is placed in a camera and when exposed, the glass becomes the negative.

It is the same photographic process used by Mathew Brady during the Civil War.  Elmaleh has outfitted her truck with a portable darkroom and has taken it on the road.  Our favorite collection of photographs is from a series called American Folk, portraits of folk musicians in Appalachia.

Hogslop String Band. Harpeth River, TN, 2010.
In the last few month's Elmaleh's work has been featured in several major publications and shows are popping up around the country.  You can keep up with the news at her site, Lisa Elmaleh Photography.  Give it a look, you won't be disappointed.

Ralph Roberts, West Virginia, 2012

15 August 2014

Pickled Champagne Grape

It is an oft told story, but worth repeating.

Once upon a time the great food writer, M. F. K. Fisher, found a copy of Catherine Plagemann's Fine Preserving.   Fisher loved the book and used it so often that she made notes in the margins commenting, changing recipes, and picking favorites.  Her favorite recipe was an easy and wonderful Pickled Grape. 

Twenty years later, Fine Preserving was reissued with Fisher's notes printed in the margins.  Several years ago we wrote about the two volumes at Cookbook Of The Day and included the recipe.  Kevin West in his exhaustive preserving book, Saving The Season, also features the recipe.

Last week we found a gorgeous container of champagne grapes.  What better way to preserve these little beauties than by making spiced grapes.  We changed the recipe a bit, substituting long pepper for cinnamon and adding thyme instead of the onion, even Fisher didn't like the onion.

We are giving them a week or two to mature and then...

13 August 2014

People We Never Knew, But Wish We Had

The cool thing about having a blog is the ability to reach people, who live in cities, towns, hamlets, and godforsaken hell holes, who share your interests.  Yes, there are always people in New York City who are cool and cutting edge and share your interests, but really, if you live in NYC it is kind of a requirement.  Those people just love to pat themselves on the back for beings so hip and "withit' but truth be told, there are way-cool people in every corner of the universe. 

Unfortunately, we don't always hear about them until it is too late.   Take June Fore Shaw.  Here is a woman we wanted to party with.  All those years she was just up the road in Birmingham, a fellow Pisces, a Yellow Dog Democrat right there, just ready for us to meet and we never did.

Here is her obituary:


On July 15, Dr. June Fore Shaw of Birmingham ended her lifelong fight against conventionality. Her loved ones are fairly certain of two things: she was ready, keys in hand, the night before, and, that when she screeched up to her final destination in her royal blue Porsche, she demanded to speak to the woman in charge.

June was born in 1930 to Wilna Hicks Fore and Claude Harvel Fore, police chief of Montevallo and later sheriff of Shelby County. As a child, she and her brother loved to hang around the county jail in Columbiana for "fun." As a teenager, she adopted dungarees as her all-time favorite apparel. When she eloped at the age of 16 with a local young man nearly a decade older, her parents were downright distraught. That first marriage, like numbers two and three, didn't last long, but it did produce one adored daughter.

As a determined single mother, she enlisted her parents in the care of her toddler and enrolled in college. She then astounded them by declaring her intentions of becoming a physician, going on to graduate from the University of Alabama College of Medicine in 1960--with only a handful of other women--and completing residencies in both clinical and anatomical pathology. At the height of her career, publishing prolifically, she was the director of both the blood bank and the tissue-typing lab at the University of Alabama Hospitals in Birmingham and was a founder of the American Association for Clinical Histocompatibility Testing. All this, and sitting atop her desk in miniskirt and go-go boots, she lectured to med students too.

The drive that propelled June through her medical career was equaled only by her passion for what she believed in. Of course, there were her less weighty interests: her 1964 Ford Mustang and her 1970 911S; competitive tennis, through which she met her dearest friends, Della Huber and Melinda Powers; music of all kinds, but particularly the Grateful Dead; late-night games at the pool hall; and then, when she had more physical constraints, duplicate bridge. But what June most strongly cared about were justice and compassion for all humankind, and especially the rights of women and minorities in the white man's world. She was known for clearing out many a holiday table arguing impatiently over just these matters with her brother and male cousins. As an early member of NOW, a proponent of the ERA, and a self-proclaimed Yellow Dog Democrat, she would have been elated at our prospect of another chance to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Though she grew feeble after surviving a stroke and, more amazingly, pancreatic cancer, she continued to play bridge and read mysteries as long as she could. Toward the end, she lived as comfortably as she did because of the unwavering care she received at Greenbriar at the Altamont, supplemented by the special attention of her longtime friend and devoted caretaker, Alinda Miller, who had a gift for helping out when June was being her prickliest self. But for the last tender ministrations, it was New Beacon hospice nurse Josie Millican who eased her peacefully on to her next destination.

In awe of her fiercely independent and sometimes outlandish life, June leaves behind: daughter Trinket Fore Shaw (Joellyn Beckham); brother Claude Harvel Fore Jr.; niece Sharon Fore Napier and nephews Claude Fore III and Kevin Fore; cousin Lyn Wood Loyd; and a host of amazed friends and bewildered strangers with whom she crossed paths over the decades. We're certain that she would be the first to suggest that we skip the church service, throw on our jeans, and begin the eating and drinking. Please join us for that celebration on Saturday, July 26, at 11:00 a.m. at the family residence in Forest Park. June loved flowers, but would have also loved donations to your favorite nonprofit or her favorites, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Birmingham Ministries.

Reading about Dr. Shaw, I couldn't help but think of another Pisces, Liza Minnelli.  Once upon a time, she heard a story about a woman who lived in a large apartment building in New York.  She told the story to John Kander and Fred Ebb and they turned it into a show stopping song for her review, Liza With a Z

The song was "Ring Them Bells."  It's about a women who can't find love in NYC, so she gathers her savings and goes on a European vacation.  In the unlikely locale of Dubrovnik, she meets the man of her dreams.  As fate would have, he had been her next door neighbor for years.

Well, I don't care that much about love, but do love a good partner-in-crime.  As Liza tells us, they might be next door, or in the grocery line, or walking their cat, or sitting alone at a cafe in Denver or Decatur or even Dubrovnik.   Introduce yourself.  Say hello.  Yes, they might think you are crazy.  Yes, they might be a serial killer.  But maybe, just maybe, they might be June Fore Shaw and think about how much more fun you life would have been if you had only known her. 

11 August 2014


One of life's ambitions was to go to school --forever and die with millions of dollars in student loans.  Alas, they capped student loans and my plan was thwarted.  Still, every year when we are flooded with back to school ads, I become nostalgic.

I just love pencils.  So in the spirit of back-to-school, I got some new pencils.

These pencils come from a cool design group in Nashville called Hester & Cook.   They make wonderful kitchen paper and now they make uber-cool pencils.

The pencils have zippy names.  Old Hickory is a red carpenter's pencil.  Bridge is a round small circumference pencil for keeping score at your bridge game, or simply writing lovely thank-you notes. The West End is nice fat, first-grade style pencil.  All in all there is a size and shape to fit any hand or writing task.
So why let kids have all the fun!  Find yourself some cool, new pencils.
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