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Best sauce recipe for bland, mealy tomatoes?

Often plum tomatoes aren't very tasty fresh (low seed and water content -- it is the gel around the seeds that makes a fresh tomato juicy and tasty), but really shine when cooked.

I would skin them, chop coarsely, and cook them into sauce. I think you will be surprised how flavorful they become once cooked.

Aug 20, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

1950s Atrocities

I missed the 50's (born in 1957), but I can tell you that Grasshopper pie is great! I don't know if you can even get the ingredients any more, but we used to make it in the 60's, and it was truly delish. Make a ground oreo cookie crust in a spring form pan (I think about 24 cookies ground up, mixed with melted butter, and briefly bake). Let cool. Mix a jar of marshmallow creme (7 oz?) with a quarter cup of creme de menthe (I think). Whip a half pint of heavy cream, fold in. Mound in the spring form pan, top with chocolate leaves (or some of the reserved cookie crumbs), freeze.

I know it sounds revolting, but it tastes like mild mint chip ice cream, but better!

Jelly came out like syrup?

I would add that sometimes jelly "sets up" as it ages, so all may not be lost.

Also, jelly that doesn't set makes great pancake/waffle syrup. I have even tried to make it some years, but it always sets when I don't want it to!

Aug 07, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Salsa recipe for canning?

I agree with sparrowgrass about food safety and canning. Because I don't like really high acid salsa either, I bought a pressure canner the other year. I use the Blue Book guidelines for timing, and my own preferred salsa recipe, knowing it will be safe if I process it properly.

Aug 06, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

What to do with a bunch of sliced havarti cheese?

I make a polenta casserole from the Greens cookbook that calls for sliced fontina (I think). You layer triangles of firm polenta with the sliced cheese in a gratin dish, top with a tomato sauce and some blue cheese and bake until bubbly. I would think the Havarti would be a good, melty substitute.

Jul 23, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Electric Skillet and Toaster Oven - Justify Purge?

I have had a toaster oven in my kitchen since before I had a kitchen (college dorm room). I couldn't live without it, although I just replaced my last DeLonghi with a Breville, which I guess is actually a mini oven. I use it for everything I used the DeLonghi for, plus I can actually bake in there. Which is really nice, because the 1984 Wolf oven, while great in the winter, is virtually unusable in the summer because it heats up the entire house.

My mother gave me an electric skillet she inherited from someone (she already had one) about 20 years ago, and I truly don't think I have ever used it. May try some of the ideas in this thread!

But, as others have said, if you don't use either, get rid of them. I should take my own advice on the skillet!

Jul 20, 2015
dkenworthy in Cookware

Growing Black Beans...who knew?

If you want black beans for the pot, you will need to let the bean pod mature (you should be able to see the seeds clearly).

You can eat the beans now as fresh green beans, but I don't know how tasty they will be.

If you want to grow them for black beans, let the mature pods stay on the plant until they are brown then pick them. You can dry them in the pods until you have enough to make it worthwhile to shell them. They should take much less time to cook than commercial black beans, so you will need to experiment with cooking times.

Jul 20, 2015
dkenworthy in Gardening

Substitute for cilantro?

I like cilantro, but my mother hates it. When she is visiting, I have a tendency to just leave it out, or substitute Mexican Oregano (smaller quantity because dried). Fresh mint can also work in some recipes if you like mint.

Non-ketchup meatloaf recipes needed

I was not a meatloaf fan as a child because I hated the grease/gelatine goo that seemed to go with baking a meat loaf in a loaf pan. Julia Child's recipe from The Way to Cook was a revelation to me (necessary because my husband would rather have meatloaf than just about any other kind of beef).

I have tweaked it to suit my taste, but I think the key factors are that she browns the onion (I add minced celery, and sometimes, minced bell pepper) before adding it to the meat mixture. Also, rather than cook it in a loaf pan, she makes a free standing loaf and cooks it on a sheet pan (with sides) or a 9X13 pan. All the grease and goo drains out, and three quarters of the loaf is nicely browned rather than just the top quarter. Not tomato products of any kind in her recipe.

Jul 15, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Bastille Day Potluck

We are all pretty light eaters. Other folks brought salads (both starchy and vegie) we had lots of bread and gooey cheese, and people loved the pissaladiere. Even have a few small pieces left over. And the Roederer bubbles went down nicely with it all!

Bastille Day Potluck

Thanks for all the great suggestions!

I decided to go with pissasaladiere, as I can do most of it ahead (it is a work night), from a recipe a dear friend gave me that substitutes frozen puff pastry for the pizza dough. I also bought some ooey gooey cheese and will get a great loaf of bread from Della Fattoria tomorrow.

It is a potluck so others will bring dishes as well. Although I am the only one who is thinking French, probably, since the book we read was set during the London Blitz.

Jul 13, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Bastille Day Potluck

I am hosting my book club on Bastille Day and am responsible for the main dish (others will bring sides). I am looking for something quintessentially French to make that is summery. Not Salade Nicoise, because I made that the last time I hosted on Bastille Day. They won't remember, but I do.

Any ideas?

Jul 10, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Superior recipes from Cook's Illustrated et. al.?

I like the Beef Stew with tomatoes, orange zest, and olives; the manicotti made with no-boil lasagne noodles; pasta with tomatoes and almonds recipes, and make them frequently. They also got me over my fear of pie crust with the vodka added recipe.

I agree with others about technique over recipes, though. Satisfies the geek in me that they try so hard to "perfect" a recipe when I mostly I just wing it in my daily cooking.

I also like Epicurious, but often the comments make me crazy. I once read a review that panned a recipe after listing all the changes (about 10) they made, including the main ingredient. Another favorite was a review of Corned Beef Sandwiches that the reviewer panned because they don't like corned beef! I mean, why would you make a recipe when you don't like the main ingredient?

Jul 09, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Basil Bugs? Gardening Question.

Sounds as if it might be some kind of sharpshooter leafhopper. You might want to contact your local Master Gardener office for help identifying the bug and with control measures.

Jun 30, 2015
dkenworthy in Gardening

is there a place where I can find some reliable Sonoma wineries itineraries?

I live in Glen Ellen, and I can't drive to Healdsburg in 35 minutes even during non-commute times.

That said, Healdsburg is a great destination, lots of shopping, restaurants, and the "buckle" of Dry Creek, Alexander, and Russian River valleys.

But Sonoma Valley, where the OP is staying, is also really nice. I think it would be easy to spend 2 days in Sonoma and Sonoma Valley, maybe with a foray into Carneros, and have a great time.

While staying in Glen Ellen, remember to pick up a nice bottle of wine and take it to the Fig Cafe (no corkage), nice casual vibe.

Freezing cooked Mexican black beans and cooked pinto beans (Cafe rio type)

I don't know anything about Cafe Rio (is it a restaurant?), but I freeze cooked beans all the time. I put them (and their pot liquor if I have it) in containers or zip lock bags (if not too wet). I thaw overnight in the fridge, or just put them in a slow oven while frozen with a little additional liquid if no pot liquor left if I want them plain. If I am adding them to chili or soup, I just throw them in frozen or thawed on the counter while I prep the rest of the ingredients. They are very forgiving!

Jun 30, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Petaluma / Santa Rosa for July 4th

We used to live in Healdsburg, and really enjoyed the show, but we could watch it from our roof, so very chill. I think they have seating at the High School stadium. The whole town used to turn out, so it is probably pretty crowded, but I suspect less crazy than Sonoma.

There is probably also a show at the Fairgrounds/Vet's Building in Santa Rosa, where there is lots of parking, so that might be an option as well.

Petaluma / Santa Rosa for July 4th

Hi, Robb, well, to be honest, we always go to friends who have a great view of the fireworks and BBQ there. Sonoma is pretty flat, so you can drive around and see the works from many places. Or, you can park and walk to General Vallejo's house, the field of dreams, or the plaza. Traffic gets super snarled up downtown.

I wonder if Rossi 1906 would be a good bet? They have a huge beer garden, but not sure if they are doing anything special for the 4th. And they are off the main drag. You might want to call them or check out their Facebook page. I think that the Depot Hotel and Ramekins often have a special event that includes fireworks viewing, but they will be on the pricey side. Good luck!

Petaluma / Santa Rosa for July 4th

I strongly recommend the town of Sonoma for the 4th. Fun parade in the morning, and great fireworks at sundown. Lots of places to seem them from various spots in town.

Banh Mi in Sonoma County

I am certainly no Banh Mi expert, but I enjoy the version at Divewalk cafe. Only open for lunch Thursday through Saturday (I think). Good vegies, good flavor, but the meat is a chicken meatball type thing. I like it, but not sure if it is "authentic" enough for some.

Dipping sauces for steamed artichokes

I like mayo mixed with Spanish Smoked Paprika. Or, cold with a mixture of mayo and Italian style vinaigrette. Or just plain mayo spiked with a little lemon zest and lemon juice.

Jun 20, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Sack lunches for little kid, no fridge

I may have missed it in this (long) thread, but back in the day my mother sent brown bag lunches with us, and we didn't have insulated bags or refrigeration available. One trick she used was to put vegies (carrot sticks, celery sticks, radishes, whatever) in a baggie (before zip lock, she closed them with a twist tie) with a few ice cubes. They were still cool and crunchy come lunch time, we just tossed the little bit of water in the bag.

"Only cook with wine you'd drink." Really?

I know this is a really old thread, but nobody seemed to mention the "elephant in the room" as far as I am concerned, which is sugar content.

Since Americans have an inordinate fondness for sweet beverages, many less expensive wines in the States are noticeably sweet. If you reduce them in cooking, they can add a distinct sweetness to the finished dish. This is fine in some recipes, and some traditional sauces like Marsala, Madeira, and Sherry are also sweet.

But, traditional recipes like Boeuf Bourguignon or Coq au Vin did not evolve with sweetness in mind, but rather expected wine to deliver wine flavored acidity to the dish.

So I try choose my wines to cook with that have an appropriate level of sweetness for my taste, and find that 2 Buck Chuck and Yellowtail are simply too sweet to cook with.

It is also important to avoid wines with extreme defects to cook with if the wine will be reduced. Defects like cork taint and Ethyl acetate (acetobacter spoilage -- smells like nail polish remover) get even nastier when reduced. Defects like oxidation don't usually cause a problem, since heating is a fast way to oxidize wine anyway, so if we have a little leftover wine that starts browning I usually am happy to cook with it rather than toss it out. I am betting that avoiding defective wine was one of the main points in Julia's advice to only cook with a "drinkable" wine, along with avoiding cooking (i.e., salted) wine.

Fortunately, modern industrial winemaking (cheap or jug wines) seldom have true defects nowadays, so, once you figure out how sweet you want your dish to be, you can usually use a very inexpensive wine and get good results for cooking. But always smell/taste it first to make sure before you waste your precious ingredients and time!

Apr 08, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

polenta - home made

My husband is the polenta maker. He mixes cold water and Bob's Polenta (or coarse grind corn meal) and a little salt in a slow cooker. Cover, set on high, come back and stir about every 15 minutes until it starts to thicken. Then turn to low and cook about 3 or 4 hours, stirring about once an hour. Finish with butter and Parmesan to taste. We do 2-3 cups of raw cornmeal at a time, I love the leftovers and it keep pretty well in the fridge.

This can be served soft the first meal, leftovers I pour in a glass loaf pan and refrigerate. This can be sliced and either pan fried or made into a casserole.

He likes the fact that he doesn't have to pay much attention to it and can do paper work while it cooks, but doesn't feel he can leave it unattended, although the originator of the idea, Anna Michelle Jordan leaves it slow cooking overnight with no attention, if I recall correctly. But no polenta volcanoes!

Apr 07, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Anyone been to Carneros Inn for lunch lately? [Napa]

We had late breakfast/early lunch there about 6 weeks ago (they don't serve breakfast all day so we had the breakfast menu, but could have waited 10 minutes for the lunch menu). I really like their breakfast, it's been a long time since I had lunch there. But they have many "plain" options, a friend of mine loves their hamburger. I "like" their lunch, but I "love" their breakfast, always have green eggs and ham. Good coffee and good Bloody Marys also.

Need suggestion for a week day lunch in southern Napa

It is pretty easy to get to the Oxbow Market from the south (take Imola exit, drive north on Soscol. Don't have to navigate the 1 way streets in downtown Napa, lots of food choices, lots of parking.

I like the Fremont Diner and also the Boon Fly Cafe at the Carneros Inn. Easy to get from if coming from the Golden Gate or Richmond Bridge, but probably farther than Napa if the come up from the East Bay.

Can you suggest easy dinners for a stressful month?

Every year I have a 2 month long grape harvest when I work 12-16 hours most days. Some tricks I have learned to eat as well as possible during this period:
Stock the freezer with quick thawing meats like boneless chicken thighs (single layer) and breasts (remove the supreme and consolidate for quick sautes) and good quality smoked sausage. Also artisanal bread, sliced and stored in a freezer bag so I can pull out just enough for dinner. Thaw on a rack in the toaster oven, or toast.
Stock the pantry with canned tuna, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, various kinds of potatoes and pasta.
Make use of the gas grill on the back porch.
Make use of the salad bar at the local expensive grocery to get prepped vegies (at ridiculous expense, but I hate discarding food that goes bad before I get to cooking it).
Keep the fridge stocked with eggs, long lasting vegies like cabbage, long lasting fruits like apples, and a good variety of cheeses, especially Parmesan.
Always cook enough for another meal 2-3 days later.
Use the pressure cooker, not only for beans and whole grains, but also simple stews and stews. I like Lorna Sass recipes best.

Most importantly, remember that I won't get scurvy, ricketts, or die of malnutrition if I don't eat a perfectly balanced meal 3 times a day every day. In other words, lower my standards and be gentle on myself. Good luck!

does freezing corned beef ruin it?

I cooked my last corned beef at a slow simmer for about 4 hours. So, give it some more time. I wouldn't think freezing it raw should hurt it.

Mar 20, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Authentic Cajun Cookbook

I really enjoy Eula Mae's Cajun Kitchen. She ran the commissary at Avery Island for years, and is a charming lady. I love, love, love her Jambalaya recipe, Sauce Piquante, and a cabbage/pork dish I can't remember the name of.

Mostly, I just enjoyed getting to know her a little bit reading her book.

Mar 18, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Picadillo: Capers or Raisins?

Picadillo is also made in most parts of Latin America. My "Mexican" version doesn't have olives or capers, and but does have raisins (I use Zante currants),chopped tomatoes, vinegar, sweet spices (cinnamon and cloves), and cumin. No chiles or anything picante. I usually add toasted slivered almonds at the end for a little texture. And I serve it with fresh corn tortillas and black beans and rice on the side, although it could also be a filling for chiles rellenos.

Mar 17, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking