Musing with Max

Musing with Max

October 30, 2011

Yes its Fall

At least that's what the calendar says, and it's supposed to look like this
and this

instead we got this

and quickly went from this
to this

and Max gets to play like this

and it was big and wet and heavy so we went for a walk

and encountered this
and this

and this

I'm generally not one of those people who go around complaining about Winter all the time. I do live in a place that has four seasons which makes it a lot more interesting than living in a place that has one, sorry Miami, and Winter happens to be one of them and that equals cold and snow and all those lovely postcard settings...just NOT IN OCTOBER. Sorry. There are two things I try hard to accomplish every year (yes, I know two things is pitiful but I try not to set myself up for failure), and those are: no heat or air conditioning during the entire months of May and October. Otherwise known as the 5 and 10 rule. Well, guess what? Thanks to this freaky little storm I have failed. Ugh! Sigh. And the only way to feel better is--comfort food!

Fall Nor'easter Beef Stew by Me.

All these measures are approximate.

Slab bacon cut in chunks (about 3/4s of that big slice)

1 2 lb. (approximately) chuck roast, cut in 2 inch pieces then seasoned with salt pepper and herbes de Provence

About 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
pearl onions-about 1/2 lb. (I use frozen ones from Trader Joe's- half pkg)
5 or 6 garlic cloves unpeeled
2 tbsp tomato paste
half cup of red wine
1 1/2 to two cans of beef broth
2 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 325F

Heat olive oil in a large oven proof dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon and saute about 10 minutes until it begins to brown. With a slotted spoon remove bacon to a plate. Raise the heat to medium high, add the beef chunks in batches so as they don't touch and brown well on all sides removing to the plate with the bacon as they brown
add carrots, onions and garlic to the oil and bacon fat and cook stirring for about 5 to 10 minutes
add tomato paste and wine, stir until tomato paste dissolves then bring up the heat and scrape the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.
Add the beef and bacon along with any juices accumulated on the plate. Pour the broth over the beef just to cover, add bay leaves and bring mixture to a boil.

Cover and place in oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
If there is too much liquid once the stew is cooked, remove lid and place over high heat on the stove until some of the liquid boils down a bit.

Serve over white rice...or not.

and try not to look out the window at this

October 28, 2011


One year ago yesterday I started writing this blog. I needed to vent; clearly I still need to. Never thought I'd still be here, in the blogging world I mean.

Happy Anniversary to me!
and Max

and Frank

year two begins.

October 26, 2011


No, I'm not channeling Eddie Murphy
but who doesn't love ice cream? I can't think of anybody.
This is a two part story:

Part 1. When I was a litle kid in Cuba every once in a while we'd all go out for ice cream and I always ordered "mantecado", what is that you say, well it is the creamiest custardiest butteriest most delicious concoction ever and it's not chocolate. Then when I came to the US it was impossible to find. Its an ivory color and vanilla is too bland so I always tried to come close with French Vanilla much to my disappointment, bland!

Part 2. Yes, Max is rapt with attention!
When we started going to the farmer's market this Summer there was the lady with the delicious gelato and the amazing flavors so Frank started talking about getting an ice cream maker and making our own since clearly it can be done. Mind you this isn't the first time that we've had this conversation. The ice cream maker discussion has been brought up many a time...and dropped. Not this time, after much research and consideration, I ordered this:
So the next thing we had to decide which ice cream to start with, and after much deliberation on that topic we opted to start with the simplest.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream adapted from Cuisinart

Makes about 6 cups

Freeze freezer bowl by placing in the freezer for 16 to 24 hours.

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
Pinch of salt
1 whole vanilla bean. halved and seeds scraped
5 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tspn, pure vanilla extract

1. In a medium sized saucepan set over medium-low heat, whisk together the milk, cream, half the sugar, salt and the scraped vanilla bean (including the pod). Bring just to a boil.

2. While the milk/cream mixture is heating, combine the yolks and remaining sugar in a medium bowl. Using a whisk, beat until mixture is pale and thick.

3. Once the milk/cream mixture has come to a slight boil, whisk about 1/3 of the hot mixture into the yolk/sugar mixture. Add another 1/3 of the mixture, then return the combined mixture to the saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture constantly over low heat until thickened slightly and coats the back of a spoon. DO NOT BOIL.

4. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer (discard the pods) and bring to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or overnight. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead).

5. Turn on the ice cream maker; our the mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 20 minutes.

The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Remove about 15 minutes before serving.

And lo and behold, just like that, Voila! Mantecado. We're gonna get fat.

October 20, 2011

Max muses

On my first day in my new home I jumped on the couch. For some reason my new parents went, no, no, get off...bad boy, they said, and got this
hmmm, not crazy about it. Then they got this
which is definitely an improvement...and we travel with it

but I'm not settling, so I gave them this look

and soon enough the porch couch was mine

1 down, next TV room couch, yummy
library couch

not my favorite, something called leather but still its progress. Next the guestroom bed

where we all sleep together sometimes :), the window seat

the ottoman

the chaise lounger

and here's the big one...the one where I used to eye them as they left

their very own bed

but not while they're on it, except in the morning, blah, blah, blah. Not bad for three and a half years. I guess patience is a virtue as they say, and I guess it doesn't hurt to be cute and have the look, and to have the best human parents ever. There's still a no though, but I have my eyes on the prize

...but wait a minute...WHAT THE HELL, he doesn't even live here


October 12, 2011

Tradition Shmadition

Ok so my Tuesday pasta was a repeat from 3 weeks ago. Instead you get this.
and this

and this

the possibilities are endless.

October 9, 2011

Upper Crust

When I was in high school going from my junior year into my senior year I had a credit which I needed to make up, for reasons which are nobody's business, and it had to be done during Summer school, yuck. Summer school was odd, it had all those kids that had to go all day cause they just plain failed and those like me who had to make up a credit for reasons that are nobody's business. If you had to make up a credit for reasons that are nobody's business you had to pick a class that wasn't offered during the normal school year which was the same rule they had if you had to make up a credit for reasons which are nobody's business during the school year and had to go to night school, double yuck. Yes, I know this rule sounds bizarre but after all it was Miami which qualifies as another country if not another galaxy. The choices weren't many but they did have something I loved; the class was called "International Cooking" which made it different than the regular HomeEc (yes HomeEc, I'm old) cooking class by virtue of the international aspect. It was a 6 week class and since it was a shorter than usual semester each class was 2 hours. The class was divided into 5 groups each consisting of 5 girls, yes girls no guys took HomeEc, and each group picked a different country hence each week a different country was featured. Whatever group's country was being featured did research on that country and its foods, put a report together and a menu for a full meal which would be cooked by all the groups. Each week every group rotated the duties of each member, i.e.: one girl would be in charge of chopping another of preparation, another table settings another as sous chef and another as chef. On Mondays the featured group would give a presentation on the country, Tuesday a presentation on the food and featured menu, on Wednesday the teacher would show up with all the ingredients and the schedules would be set, on Thursday preparations would begin and whatever could be cooked ahead would be and on Fridays the cooking would be completed and we would sit down and eat. Needless to say this was the best class of my entire high school career. When the last and sixth week came around all the groups had completed their rotations so the teacher announced that it was a free week and we could choose whatever food topic we wanted to cover. The class before ours, regular HomeEc, had made apple pies the week before and we decided that was what we wanted to make. It turned out that it was my turn to be HEAD CHEF and I wanted to make a cherry pie. I had never made a pie before let alone from scratch which was the only way we were to make it here so I was responsible for making the crust rolling it out, etc. The whole nine yards. My pie came out beautiful, the crust was absolutely perfect, everyone raved. I was ecstatic. I then became a profuse pie baker, cherry, apple (double crust), pumpkin...for about two months. Years passed before I made a pie again, and except for one Thanksgiving when I baked a lovely pumpkin pie, the crust was a disaster. It was either too sticky and gummy or too dry and crumbly and impossible to roll out in either case so I stopped even trying. That hasn't stopped me from drooling at pies and tarts and collecting recipes of everything involving a crust and wanting to try it again. So I finally decided to jump in with both feet, or hands, and try a galette since the crust is more forgiving.

Santa Rosa Plum Galette adapted from The New York Times

Total time 45 minutes plus chilling

For the crust:
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, chilled and cut into small pieces
For the filling:
  • 1 1/4 cups (4 ounces) blanched, sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 ripe Santa Rosa plums, pitted and sliced
  • Sugar for sprinkling
To prepare dough, in a food processor, combine flours, sugar and salt and pulse a few times. Add butter and cream cheese. Process until mixture just comes together.
Turn dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, press it into a disk, wrap it well and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece between sheets of plastic wrap into 1/8-inch-thick rounds (about 6 inches in diameter). Place pastry rounds on one or two baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or nonstick liners. Chill rounds while preparing filling.
For filling, in a food processor, combine almonds with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Pulse until mixture becomes a fine meal (avoid over-processing). Add butter, 2 eggs, flour, vanilla and salt and process until combined.

In a bowl, beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush this egg wash over prepared pastry rounds. Spoon about 2 tablespoons almond filling in center of each pastry round and spread it to within 2 inches of the edge.

Arrange plum slices in a spiral over filling. Sprinkle raw sugar generously over plums. Fold edges of tart dough up over edges of plums. Dough will overlap.

Bake tarts until pastry is golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes.

***Note: This calls for eight tarts, I wanted to make one large one but the dough is too much for that so I wound up making two.

I also toasted the almonds in the broiler for a few minutes before hand because I love the taste
I don't know what Santa Rosa plums are, I used black plums I found in the market; I only used six. It took 40 minutes to bake, I started with 20 minutes and then added intervals of 10 minutes until it was golden. Maybe this had something to do with it being two tarts instead of eight.
Max keeps wondering what the heck I am doing with all this doughy stuff

and why I don't concentrate on things he can and wants to scoop up off the floor or counter when no one's looking