Musing with Max

Musing with Max

June 17, 2011

Waiting for Summer

It's almost here! In the meantime we'll watch some flowers bloom:


Mock Orange


Stella D'oros

and we'll lie on the grass in anticipation

aaahhhh, can't wait!

June 16, 2011


No that is not my age...though I could pass, ahem. It is the amount of years Frank and I have been married which usually shocks people; not because they think we're too young (which they usually do...really!) but because it's 29 years and that's a long time. Does it feel that long, does it feel long at all? Heavens no, I don't even know how you measure that, I do know it feels like it's exactly where we should be.

So today I read on the internet where 33% of divorced women knew they were making a mistake when walking down the aisle, and they still went through with it? How desperate are some people? And clearly the guy standing there at the end of that long walk wasn't this one!
And what did we do to commemorate this momentous occasion? Well since we're a couple of old fogeys; we had a bottle of champagne (or 2) and I made my husband's favorite dinner, after all 29 years doesn't just happen overnight.

Roast rack of lamb-adapted by me

1 rack of lamb, Frenched
salt & pepper to taste
2 to 3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
1/4 cup (about) of extra virgin olive oil

Season the lamb with the salt & pepper. Mince the garlic in a small food processor, add the mustard and olive oil and combine thoroughly. Spread the mixture over the lamb and between the chops. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Roast in a preheated 350F oven about 25 minutes. Breadcrumbs should be toasted and lamb should be pink on the inside.

Mashed potatoes with garlic cream- adapted by me

4 or 5 red potatoes or 2 or 3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
4 or 5 garlic cloves peeled
3 to 4 tablespoons of butter
1/4 to 1/3 cup cream, half & half or milk
Freshly ground black pepper

Put potatoes and garlic cloves in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and add salt to taste. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook at a simmer until potatoes are soft. Drain the water and mash the potatoes and the garlic. Add the butter and mash that in; add the cream or milk and mash until the desired consistency. Cook over low heat stirring until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt if needed and freshly ground black pepper.

Creme Reversee au Caramel - adapted from Le Cordon Bleu at Home
4-cup mold

Preheat oven to 350F

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Combine the sugar and the 1/4 cup of water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over low heat stirring to dissolve the sugar. Raise the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the syrup turns a light caramel color.
Remove from heat, pour the caramel into the mold and quickly tilt the mold so the caramel coats bottom and sides. Put mold aside and let cool.


2 cups of milk
1 1/2 tspns vanilla extract
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar

Put the milk and vanilla into a saucepan and bring to a boil; remove from heat. Combine the eggs and yolks in a heatproof bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in the sugar, gradually add the hot milk whisking constantly but gently so the mixture doesn't become frothy. Pour the mixture into the cooled mold. Put the mold in a deep baking pan and pour hot water into the pan to go about 2/3 up the mold. Bake in the oven 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into custard comes out clean (more like 60 to 70 minutes)

To serve run the tip of a small knife around the top of the custard to loosen. Invert a serving platter over the mold and quickly reverse the two. Remove the mold. Voila!

And we didn't have to get all dressed up

and Max just wondered, "why are they so happy? must be cause I'm here!"
Gee, my Mom looks 29.

June 15, 2011

Julia et moi

Being unemployed I have a tremendous amount of time on my hands. In fact I find the best thing about it is how time passes so slowly; the days don't just fly by like they normally due and then we find ourselves saying "wow, where did the week go?". This also has it's drawbacks, since I don't have a job or many foreseeable prospects in this crappy job market I can't really enjoy all that slow moving time as much as I'd like to. I find myself worrying a lot, which takes up a lot of time. I also find myself looking for things to do, namely all those things I've always been wanting to do when I'm at work and wish I could do if I had more time. Yes, this is quite the conundrum. So being that it's Summer, I thought I would spend more time out in the garden but the truth is the garden pretty much takes care of itself; I do most of the needed planting in mid May and then it just sort of grows and blooms and so forth. The only work needed is the occasional weeding and trimming which doesn't take up that much time and the weather has been kind of all over the place, too hot to be outside, too rainy to be outside or I'm to "worrying" to be outside being frivolously gardening. Since my real favorite thing to do is cook I decided the best way to pass the time is baking. But then it occurred to me that if I bake every day in about a week we won't fit through the door; unless of course I bake bread. I love baking bread, I love the process, the kneading, the rising, the punching, the second rising...Most of the breads that I've baked in the past are focaccia, English muffins and a yummy braided olive bread that we'll talk about some other time, on occasion I've made challah. So I decided it was high time I made the ultimate of breads, the french baguette. And that's where Julia comes in. As most people of my generation the first cooking show I ever watched was  The French Chef with Julia Child.  This was way before the Food Network came along and the term celebrity chef and all those idiots who wear the title. Julia, first and foremost, was a cook (I'll also give kudos here to two other "cooks" from PBS: Pierre Franey and Jacques Pepin ), celebrity was not in her vocabulary. And what a great cook, also a bit of a kook, she was. As a lot of people learned from the movie Julie and Julia she specialized in French cooking so where else could I possibly turn that to that book
Mastering the Art of French Cooking. There are two of these, volumes 1 and 2, and I have owned them for close to twenty years. I am embarrassed to say that I have NEVER EVER made one single thing out of either book. While I adored watching Julia and sometimes emulating her, her recipes in these books are daunting. She explains and explains and explains, and what she's explaining a lot is French cooking technique; a tad overwhelming to say the least. My hat goes off to this Julie person for attempting to make all the recipes, she clearly had more time then me. However I plunged in and seven hours later I had made two very decent French baguettes. I will not copy the recipe for two reasons, one I may get sued by a big powerful publisher for copyright infringement and two, it's six pages long (see what I mean?) I will post pictures instead:

The dough, ready for it's first rising:
the shaped baguettes, ready for it's third rising before going in the oven
The baguettes just out of the oven

The baguettes cooling

The Max waiting for a piece of bread, his absolute favorite food in the whole wide world  
I think I'll try Brioche next.
Bon appetit!

June 7, 2011

Crash and Burn

So my computer just up and crashed one day a couple of weeks ago...just like that, kaput! Everything...and I mean everything, gone. Depression ensued and total aimlessness. What to do? So I pulled out my old little itty bitty Sony Vaio which frankly sucks and I'm using that until I decide what to do. It goes off-line and back on somewhere between every ten or twenty minutes...who knows why. Then  I discovered it has no card slot for transferring my photos, which by the way I've had to start from scratch because did I mention my computer crashed and EVERYTHING is gone; so Frank has to transfer them (the new batch) into his computer and save it on the server which is what I should have been doing so I can get at them. Rivers rise in other places. Then that same week it just started to rain; after a lovely first and second week of May when it was warm and sunny and just plain lovely the temperature dropped and the rains came just when I was getting really into the gardening; bad couple of weeks there. Max was forlorn
he couldn't go outside to play

so he just stared out the door...wondering

until he got depressed too

As for me...I had to figure out how to pass the time. I know! I'll bake bread! Or better yet....

Herb Focaccia with caramelized onions adapted from

  1.  3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  2. 1 cup (packed) minced yellow onion
  3. 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  4. 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  5. 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  6. 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  7. Freshly ground pepper
  8. 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105° to 115°)
  9. 1 cup lukewarm milk (105° to 115°)
  10. 1 scant tablespoon table salt
  11. 2 teaspoons plus a pinch of sugar
  12. One 1/4-ounce envelope dry yeast
  13. About 6 1/2 cups bread flour
  14. Cornmeal, for dusting
  15. Coarse salt, for sprinkling
  16. 1/4 cup ice water
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to low and cook until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the herbs and a generous amount of pepper and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in 1 cup of the water, then the milk, table salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.

2. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and the pinch of sugar in the remaining 1/2 cup lukewarm water until creamy and starting to bubble. Add to the onion mixture. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, just until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With the help of a dough scraper, knead in only as much additional flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Knead the dough until smooth, supple and elastic, about 5 minutess.

3. Generously grease a clean large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn the bowl to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. If desired, label the bowl to remind you when to punch down and shape the dough. Set aside in a warm draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

4.Punch down the dough. Re-cover the bowl and let the let the dough rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Brush olive oil over the bottom of a 17-by-13-by-1-inch black steel or heavy aluminum baking sheet. Sprinkle cornmeal on the pan, then tap out excess.

6.Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a cornmeal-dusted work surface. Turn the dough over and over to coat lightly with cornmeal and shape into a rough rectangle. Lift the dough and place in the prepared pan. Gently pull, push and pat the dough so it fills the baking sheet. Let the dough rise uncovered in a draft-free spot until billowy, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

7.Preheat the oven to 450° and position a rack in the bottom third. If using a baking stone or tiles, place on the rack and heat for 30 minutes.

8.Dip your fingers in flour and make many deep indentations in the dough. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.

9.Place the baking sheet in the oven, toss the ice water on the oven floor and bake the focaccia for about 30 minutes, until the edges are crisp and a deep golden color. Using a long metal spatula, slide the focaccia onto a large rack to cool. To serve, cut into pieces with a serrated knife.
Notes Lauren Groveman is the author of The I Love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends.

I feel better now.