Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Before you fork out dough for more walks for the cure and pink ribboned paraphenalia . . . think about the industry you're supporting. Cancer is big business. Why is all the money and emphasis being spent on detection and cure? What ever happened to seeking PREVENTION? Why are women not being educated as to how they can prevent this deadly disease instead of waiting to be diagnosed with it and then looking for a cure?
A pharmeceutical pot o' gold, and we all buy into it year after year. Shame on us.
Researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Denmark studied 500,000 women to determine the results of breast cancer screening programs. They found that for every one woman helped by breast cancer screening, ten were harmed through false diagnosis or unnecessary treatments that devastated their health. Check it out. . .

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Little Tom Tucker
Sings for his supper;
What shall he eat?
White bread and butter.
- Anonymous
This white bread is made with lots of butter -- brioche dough shaped into loaves instead of the traditional round bread with the big knot on top. I prefer this shape as it's easy to slice for toast and the leftover (when there is any leftover) is the perfect shape for French toast. Frustrated with not being able to buy croissants or brioche made with simple pure ingredients with no additives, I decided to make my own. It isn't difficult, just requires a block of time to allow for the various risings, especially the overnight one in the fridge. But with a little planning, it's a piece of cake. Hmm, slice of bread?

The Bun Also Rises
Swedish Saffron Pretzel Buns
After my successful experience with the brioche dough, I was in the right frame of mind to move on to more yeast dough projects. As I browsed through the new King Arthur flour catalog, the picture of the Swedish Saffron Pretzel Buns jumped off the page at me. Reading through the ingredient list and the simple steps, I just had to try them.
I didn't shape the dough into pretzel shapes, as you can see. Just made my usual sticky bun configuration. The buns, with no icing as they appear above, are fine plain, but you might like to slice them in half, butter and lightly grill in a sauté pan over medium heat. They become the perfect canvas for a spoonful of St. Dalfour's preserves or better yet, a dollop of raw, unfiltered orange blossom honey. My neighbor surprised me with a jar straight from the hive yesterday so I put it right to work. I used the simple almond icing suggested on a half dozen and sprinkled crushed almonds over the top. It's hard to eat only one.
Almond Icing and Crushed Raw Almonds

I used King Arthur Select Artisan, 100% organic, all purpose flour for the buns and the brioche. Publix carries several basic varieties of King Arthur flours. If you enjoy baking, King Arthur is the go-to resource for all your baking needs. Check out the recipes online and request a catalog. Baking is such a satisfying undertaking and learning to work with yeast dough is very rewarding. I'm particularly pleased with the results of the buns above. Not only are they lovely to behold - - they taste wonderful, too.

Calling all non-cooks. . .

I haven't forgotten those of you who don't cook, don't want to cook, have no time to cook, etc. I didn't feel like cooking last night, either. I really wanted to save some of my daily calorie budget for a bun! A quick salad filled the bill. Some crisp hearts of romaine, thinly sliced Vidalia onion, a vine ripened tomato, a couple of slices of bacon and a little crumbled gorgonzola with a lacing of homemade Ranch dressing provided a plateful of fresh, fast, tasty food. With plenty of room left over for an almond bun.

Bacon, Gorgonzola and Ranch Dressing



Hilma Wolitzer - The Doctor's Daughter

Michael Connelly - Echo Park

David Baldacci - The Collectors

'till next time . . . Keep On Cooking!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Food For The Soul
I read a letter to the editor in the Orlando Sentinel, from a reader in Apopka, who bemoaned the prospect of money being spent to build a new performing arts center. Her cry was "What good will it do me?"

If she were to ask me, I'd say, "Lady, get off the couch, turn off the boob tube and take advantage of the wonderful opportunities we have to enrich and broaden our horizons.
Go out and experience the joy, the excitement and the fun often coupled with thought provoking moments that add depth, dimension and meaning to our lives.
Then just think how much greater that will be when we have better facilities to accommodate more groups, more performances and are able to offer more young people exposure to drama, dance and music. An opportunity to reach into their hearts and souls, to buoy them up, to let their spirits soar, piquing their imagination, adding another dimension to their learning experience.

We All Benefit.
Think how much better our society will be if young people are engaged in positive uplifting activities. Having a multi-use Performing Arts Center will provide an opportunity and a place for many of our young people to take part in music programs, dance lessons, acting classes, and many will develop skills, gain confidence, and build character as they work behind the scenes.
Or simply being a part of the dynamic of a live audience, feeling the spark of engagement between actor and patron, artist and guest. This is a magic moment that's found no place else.

At A Price We Can Afford
The letter writer went on to say, the average middle class family couldn't afford season subscriptions to the Performing Arts. I have nowhere near the income she cited, yet I've been a subscriber and supporter of many of our performing arts groups for years and have bought innumerable individual tickets to many more performances. With the new center, I look forward to many more exciting entertainment options.

On a recent Saturday morning, I was part of the audience who enjoyed a fabulous hour of enlightenment and entertainment with the world famous Brentano String Quartet, part of the Fred Rogers Concert Series designed for families on Saturday mornings, featuring the visiting artists from the Bach Festival. Ticket prices for adults and children for this series are quite affordable.
The quartet is technically talented but it was their verbal interaction with the group that showcased the first class act they really are. The audience included senior citizens, many of us on a tight budget or who no longer are comfortable attending evening events, families with children, from quite young up to teens, some co-eds, and the current group of Outward Bound students - we all ate it up! The dialogue, the questions and answers and the amazing performance held us spellbound. How wonderful to be exposed to and enjoy this level of world class entertainment for the few dollars that amounted to little more than a visit to a fast food place. A new Performing Arts Center would provide many more such opportunities.

Based on my previous sales experience, I'm well aware that the bottom line in any sales transaction, isn't price. It's successfully answering the very question the writer posed, "What will it do for me?"

We, who so staunchly advocate support of the arts in greater Orlando, must stand up to the reality that exclusiveness will not win the day. We need to introduce, educate and encourage participation by all members of the community, lest we live up to an elitist label. Reach out to a friend, relative or neighbor. Invite someone to join you at a concert, play, ballet or opera. Let's broaden some horizons and enrich some lives. Let's swell the audiences of our current venues while developing a new audience and the next generation of theater- goers to fill that new Performing Arts Center. Let's answer that bottom line question: What will it do for me?

Saturday, October 21, 2006


My friend, Joyce, (coincidence that we share the same first name) and former associate, contacted me suggesting it would be helpful, as well as fun, to exchange ideas, look for solutions to problems and solve cooking challenges. She quickly approached the plate with the first conumdrum:

Dear Gourmet Joyce:
I would like to “ask Joyce” about what I can serve for dinner on Saturday evening for a couple who are coming over. They invited us over for dinner a few weeks ago and I am reciprocating, but am having “cooking anxiety”. They have traveled the world extensively and they made some elaborate vegetarian dishes for us! I am not a cook – I am great at opening a bag of frozen food, toasting some frozen garlic bread, making a salad, and buying dessert from Fresh Market – plus serving enough wine or beer to keep their mind off dinner! What can a “non-cook” serve to these “gourmets”?
Thanks for any thoughts you have!!
Always not cooking,
“Anti-gourmet” Joyce S.

Unfortunately, my answer for 'easy' was a bit more ambitious than the writer intended, she informed me by return e-mail after receiving my suggestions. But she did say she would hunt down the ingredients, give the suggested dinner a whirl, and let us know about the results. I love people who rise to a challenge, don't you?

My suggestion was to wow the world traveled guests with the sophisticated yet simple roasted beet salad with goat cheese, (March Archives) then follow with a simple penne with home-made marinara sauce, (August Archives) purchased rolls and a nice red wine. The apple crumble with vanilla ice cream (September Archives) for dessert would put the meal over the top, reciprocating in kind with a meal that the best of cooks would appreciate.

So, Foodiefumblers, what say you? Was this too ambitious an undertaking for a professed non-cook? Let me hear from you and let's start a little spicy dialog! Comment below or send an email: jwia@cfl.rr.com.

Joyce S, we hope dinner went well. Let us know what you decided to serve!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Some Things Are Worth Waiting For
One of my favorite sandwiches is tomato and avocado. But each has to be perfectly ripe. A lovely lopsided tomato sat on my kitchen window sill. Each morning, the rising sun warmed the lovely red fruit, and each day it ripened a bit more. Meanwhile, across the kitchen, a Haas avocado sat, hard, dark and dimpled. Slowly, with each passing day, it began to soften. And today, each had arrived at that moment of great anticipation. Like an annual vacation or great sex, in which anticipation plays a major role, so, too, with my little sandwich.
Just thinking about it, day after day as I awaited the right moment, had my mouth watering. I'd gently feel the avocado to determine its degree of ripeness and sniff at the tomato as I turned its face to the sun. I waited patiently for each to reach perfection.
This exotic combination of flavors and textures calls for a bread worthy of its company. The freezer held two large center slices from a loaf of marble rye I had saved expressly for this purpose.
I lightly toasted the bread and spread half of the creamy avocado over one slice of toast. Then layered on slice after thin, juicy slice of the perfectly ripe tomato, seasoned generously with sea salt and freshly ground Szechuan pepper. I slathered the top slice of rye toast with mayonnaise. A soft moan escaped my lips as I sunk my teeth into that first succulent bite. Too long anticipated; too quickly gone.
It will probably be a long time before I have another sandwich with a perfectly ripe tomato married to the rich, opulent creaminess of a perfectly matured avocado. Such a fine treat. Tomatoes are going out of season and only a vine-ripened, picked-from-the garden specimen is fit for this ultimate taste treat. If you get the opportunity, try it! But don't rush it, be sure each component is perfectly ripe and be sure to use a hearty bread to hold your treasure.
'Till next time . . . keep on cooking.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Spicy Bite That's Sure to Delight
Cold chicken breast w/Salsa Verde, Oven Roasted Cauliflower
and Pan-Seared Fresh Corn w/ Garlic, Shallots and Thyme

What's for Sunday lunch? Easy, when you've a cooked chicken breast (For cooking instructions see What's In Your Chicken - 9/30) waiting in the fridge and a couple of interesting veggies to accompany it. The cold Murray's chicken breast was a great candidate to accompany the fresh tomatillo and chipolte salsa I whipped up the other day.

A trip to the Farmer's Market on Sunday morning reaped a couple of fresh ears of corn that I de-cobbed and sautéed in olive oil with a minced garlic clove, a small shallot and a pinch of thyme. One of the supermarket veggie bargains this week was cauliflower. It cooks up quickly in a hot oven (425°) with a light spray of olive oil and a dusting of Italian bread crumbs. To add a little extra kick, I sprinkled on some Aleppo pepper flakes as I plated it. (Complete instructions for cooking corn and cauliflower in post of 9/4/06)

It was an easy meal to prepare and a delight to eat, particularly since I opened one of Tim's great finds, a bottle of Michael Sullberg Cabernet Sauvignon to complete the meal.

If you've a yen for a fresh green salsa try this:

Simple Salsa Verde5 -6 medium tomatillos, one onion, 2 -3 cloves of garlic, 3 chipoltes in adobo sauce, juice from 1/2 lime and a generous handful of fresh cilantro, leaves only.

Rinse the tomatillos and then roast them on a hot, dry skillet. Rotate them often so they have nice charred spots but don't completely blacken. They should be soft in about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Meanwhile, mince the onion, garlic and chop the chipoltes (no need to rinse, leave some sauce on them) pulse in food processor. When the tomatillos are soft and have cooled, chop and add to the work bowl. Pulse to combine, then add lime juice and cilantro and salt to taste. Store in covered jar in refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups.

This was an easy, flavor packed lunch. With the chicken and salsa done ahead it was fast, too. The short, waterless, cooking technique for the fresh vegetables left them tender - crisp, full of flavor and retaining most of their nutrients.

'Till next time . . . keep on cooking!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Carne En Su Jugo

I have to thank Steve at Rancho Gordo for steering me to this wonderful meal of steak and beans and bacon with a piquant beef broth spiked with chipoltes en adobo and garnished with fresh cilantro to perk up the flavor along with a squeeze of fresh lime and a few slices of jalepeno. Wow.

This is a simple preparation providing comfort food with an ethnic twist for a satisfying Saturday lunch or a Fall weeknight supper.

The anasazi beans in their pot liquor are amazing on their own. But when you add them to a little sliced up sirloin steak, some crisp bacon and a zingy broth, you'll want to be sure to have some crispy crusted bread to soak up every last drop.

I kept the leftover beans separate from the broth and meat so they wouldn't absorb all the liquid. You can heat the beans and broth separately, same as the initial preparation, or just put a little of each in a bowl and give it a quick nuking. (Not my choice - but I'm willing to concede some things - gently heating in a saucepan over a medium burner would be my option).

You could use canned beans if you don't want to cook your own beans, which by the way is easy. Rinse the dry beans, picking out any debris, cover with cold fresh water and let soak 4 - 6 hours or overnight. When ready to cook, sauté some mirepoix with garlic (dice up an onion, a celery stalk, a couple of carrots and a couple of cloves of garlic) in a little olive oil until soft. Add to the pot of beans and soaking water, bring level of water to about 2 inches above beans. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until done.

Cooking time varies depending of the variety and age of the bean. Taste testing is the best gauge. Anticipate one to two hours of cooking time, depending on the bean.

Don't salt the beans while they are cooking. The salt will prohibit softening and will actually harden the shell. But by all means, season to taste once tender. If you use canned beans, please be sure to rinse off all the goop before proceeding with the preparation.

With cool weather coming, this is a wonderful dish to add to your repetoire. Follow the easy instructions under RG Cooking, open a cold beer, and enjoy.

'til next time . . . keep on cooking!

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Light, Rich, Buttery Croissant

This is one of my favorite treats, slightly warmed, washed down with a cup of full- bodied French Roast coffee, made even more indulgent with a serving of St.Dalfour's Wild Blueberry preserves. But short of whipping these up myself, a labor intensive project, where can I find a croissant that contains just the six ingredients it takes to make this flaky roll?
The croissant is nothing more than flour, yeast, milk, butter, salt and sugar.
Incorporating the butter, cooling the dough, rolling out, proper turning and folding are the tricks that transform these six simple ingredients into a regal bun with layer upon layer of buttery pastry. A technique that requires patience as well as much practice.
Unfortunately, Orlando lacks a true French bakery, a pâtisserie, where one can indulge in brioche, croissants, or madeleines to name just a few heavenly sweets made from fresh, wholesome, whole ingredients.
I found lovely looking croissants in the bakery department of my neighborhood supermarket. My mouth watered thinking of tearing one apart, slathering wild blueberry preserves on the jaggered buttery morsel and the satisfying pleasure as it melted on my tongue.
And then I looked at the ingredient list.

Enriched flour (wheat flour) ascorbic acid, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, fungal enzymes, folic acid. Water, butter (cream with natural flavor) Sugar, yeast, eggs, dairy additive, whey protein concentrate, nonfat dry milk, salt, dough conditioner, guar gum, datem, dextrose, canola oil, malt flour, natural butter flavor.

Do you read labels? Food companies incorporate so many additives into the processed food on grocery store shelves. Most of them are toxic. The faster and easier it is to prepare, the more likely it is, that it contains an ingredient list that is as long as your arm, filled with words you can't pronounce and your digestive system cannot begin to process. Take a look and pass the Tums, Mylanta, Prilosec, etc. Would it were just heartburn or acid reflux that is the result of eating all those chemicals. Unfortunately, what we put on our plates or what we neglect to put on our plates, is far more dangerous to us than Bin Laden and associates.

We each have a responsibility for taking care of our own health and those of us with families have additional responsibilities. It's a sad fact that most people take better care of their cars than they do of their bodies. Using the right oil and the right fuel in the car is imperative to keep it running. Do you think our bodies are any different? Our bodies need the right oil and the right fuel to remain in peak operating order and to prevent the modern day diseases that are mostly all food related. You owe it to yourself to do a little research.

A little food for thought.


Book Nook

Ellen Crosbey - The Merlot Murders

A phone call at two thirty in the morning is never good news. Lucie Montgomery's semiestranged brother, Eli, calls her in France to tell her their father, Leland, has been killed in a hunting accident on the family's five-hundred-acre Virginia vineyard just as the fall harvest is about to begin. By the time he calls, Eli has already made funeral arrangements with what Lucie argues is indecent haste." "It is an emotional trip home - the first since an automobile accident two years ago, which left Lucie disabled and dependent on a cane. Her family's once elegant home and winery are now shabby and run-down, thanks to her father's penchant for fringy business deals. Eli, also cash-strapped and desperate to support his new wife's extravagant lifestyle, has already convinced their rebellious younger sister, Mia, to sell the debt-ridden estate and reap the profits from the valuable land it sits on, overruling Lucie's protests." "On the eve of the funeral Lucie's godfather, Fitz, a partner in the family business, tells her Leland's death was no accident. Whoever killed him was motivated by the potential sale of the vineyard. It is the last conversation she will have with Fitz. Now the lone holdout preventing the vineyard sale, Lucie realizes she's next in line for another "accident." With her greedy brother, hell-raising sister, and a seemingly cut-rate vintner hired by Leland just before he died, all the suspects axe disturbingly close to home. Unsure whom she can trust, Lucie must uncover the truth about the deaths of her father and godfather - and oversee a successful harvest to save the vineyard she loves."--BOOK JACKET.

Lynn Hightower - High Water

A suspenseful and chilling tale of a family undone by a mother's mysterious death and a father's startling secrets. Beaufort, South Carolina, is home to the Smallwoods, a family that appears close-knit but is in fact deeply at odds. The youngest sibling, Georgie, is consumed with anger at her father, Fielding, an unforgiving ex-marine, whose involvement in a notorious scandal many years earlier cast a shadow over his career and the Smallwood name. A fierce patriarch, Fielding neglects Georgie's mother; belittles her brother, Ashby; and denies her sister, Claire, the financial support she needs after a trying divorce. When her mother dies suddenly and of mysterious causes, Georgie immediately suspects that her father was somehow involved. As she works to convince Ashby and Claire of her suspicions, however, their father is murdered, and Claire is implicated in his death. Georgie desperately attempts to piece together both her family and her personal life, but the evidence of their father's betrayal and the secrets of his past threaten to leave the Smallwood family in ruin. As affecting as it is suspenseful, High Water infuses a harrowing mystery with an intensely personal study of the delicate, complex bonds that define a family. Lynn Hightower's most successful book yet, High Water, packs a powerful combination of intrigue and insight.

'Tis the reader that makes the book good. . . Ralph Waldo Emerson

'til next time . . . keep on cooking!