When my husband Scott and I moved to Copperopolis, a small foothills town on a lake located between San Francisco and Yosemite last spring, we had to take some time to adjust to the quiet of the country after living for 10 years in the thick of bustling Los Angeles. We both work from home and after a few days of nothing but frog and cricket sounds, I found myself in the car driving aimlessly around town, determined to visit all (25?) of the lovely small businesses in our 4000 resident town. Even with the peace and quiet of our new home, I guess I was craving the simple human interaction of having a plain and practical conversation face to face, the type of conversation I grew up surrounded by in small town Kelseyville, CA all those years ago.

My car needed windshield wipers and I noticed there was a sign for a Napa auto parts store – sandwiched between the McDillard’s Feed Store, a boat repair shop and a Baptist church – all housed in a blue metal warehouse type building behind the grocery store. As I pulled into the driveway, the skies opened and a warm spring rain started pouring down in a dedicated fashion. I ran quickly for cover into the Napa store – and entered a dimly lit, dusty but comforting version of an auto parts store. Ceiling high shelves were stocked with bits and bots, wires, bulbs, engine blocks, and shiny aluminum mystery pieces catching the light that made its way through sparkling specs of dust that danced beneath the skylights above.

Chandler Groves, Napa Auto Parts store owner, sat contentedly behind a chipped linoleum countertop piled with dog eared, glossy catalogues and directly in front of several local high school football calendars. A peaceful, contented type guy with glasses in a plaid western shirt and jeans, he had grease under his nails from hours of mechanical fiddling and fixing. Quiet but helpful, he immediately directed me to the right windshield wipers, which I purchased with a couple of attempts at friendly conversation. He seemed a little shy at first, but noticing that he must like football, I asked him about the calendars behind him and his face immediately lit up.

He walked to a shelf behind him and grabbed the schedule from “Last Fall’s High School Playoffs”, launching into a conversation about the Oakdale Team vs. the Sonora team, the BBQ available at certain games and how proud he was of his sons Chandler, Clinton and Cameron – all of whom had played (or were playing) football for the Oakdale High School so well. He went into detail about the most important games and told me animated stories of the most critical plays in each game – referring to the notes he had made on the program – which I assumed he had carried with him to every game, folded lovingly into a fleece lined pocket of a warm and well loved canvas carhartt coat. He and his wife Robin generously invited me and my husband to visit some upcoming fall games with them when the new schedule was made. He promised they would tell me which ones were most worthwhile.

I could barely shut him up about the football, but I didn’t want to either. I was loving it! This was exactly the type of conversation I was looking for – someone in MY town who took the time to talk about nothing critical, nothing business related, just a topic he was passionate about. Just a simple conversation for conversation’s sake. The type of conversation I had been missing from my life for a long time without realizing exactly what it was that I was craving. The kind of simply joyful interaction you can only gain when you slow down enough to take the time to ask questions, and to actually listen to people. I was so happy that day, in that moment because this was EXACTLY what we had moved to the country to find.

Standing there slightly perched on a stool in front of the counter, I chatted with Chandler and his wife Robin and I took advantage of the opportunity to ask him which mechanics in town I should trust and which to avoid – a conversation of unknown value that ended up saving me over $2000 later that summer. Through the course of the conversation, which probably lasted an hour, I even found a local source for fresh organic eggs – and got introduced by phone that very moment. Chandler’s wife Robin gave me Karen’s phone # and I ended up buying fresh eggs every week for $3 a dozen for the rest of the year from a delightful neighbor I might never have met otherwise. This is how I would become connected to my community.

After a while, the conversation comfortably ebbed, as did the rain. During a brief break in both, Chandler opened up the windshield wiper packages sitting in front of us on the counter and stepped out into the drizzle with no additional comment. I wasn’t sure if I was to follow…He walked over to my car, removed the old wipers and replaced them with the new ones with no fuss or expectation of anything else. I was so happily startled that I thanked him profusely, embarrassing him a little bit I think as I look back. I asked a question about a problem I had been having with another valve and without a word or a question, he opened up my hood, pulled out a pocket knife and a bit of mysterious tubing from his pocket and fixed it in about 2 minutes flat. I still, to this day, have no actual idea what he did, but it has worked flawlessly ever since.

I remember I came home that day talking my head off to my husband about local football and fresh eggs, with probably more animated enthusiasm about a random conversation than I had ever previously shown.

Chandler Groves was the first person I ever met in Copperopolis. He was the first person I had a conversation with, and boy, he really took the time to talk to me that day and help me with my little car issues. He went out of his way for no reason, to welcome me to this lovely town of ours and made me feel completely assured that I was in the right place for the type of lifestyle I wanted to have. This brief interaction I had with Chandler reminded me of some important things. People are more important than money, people are more important than time, and that our joy and pleasure should be derived from life’s simple things – like watching a really terrific high school football game. He reminded me with his own passions, about how our greatest pride should be in our children, our families and our community.

Chandler Groves passed away last week after a brief battle with cancer. I only found out about it because I saw an announcement for his memorial service posted on the grocery store bulletin board when I went to buy a chicken for dinner on Thursday. I’m sad that I didn’t know him better but I’ll remember him at every High School football game and  think of him fondly every time I replace my windshield wipers.

That conversation I had with Chandler and Robin Groves, and his kind service to me on that rainy April day will stay in my heart. I plan to try to share that simple generosity of spirit with every new person that walks into my life. Thank you Chandler for making me feel welcome.

Memorial Link
Sincerely,

Ali & Scott Reynolds

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beautiful fresh salmon and trout carcass for fish stock

So I FINALLY got to go fishing for my birthday – a lovely and generous trip with a guide booked for me by my husband Scott. We launched the boat shivering with excitement in the early darkness yesterday morning onto New Melones Resevoir in Calaveras County with Monte from Gold Country Sport Fishing  , a terrifically knowledgeable local guide who has been fishing these waters all his life. More photos of our trip online here

We caught 5 Trout and 5 salmon

Chilling wind and bone shaking wake aside – I had an amazing time fishing for vigorous local rainbow trout and the young, pink fleshed, delicately boned Kokonee salmon that are currently overstocked in the lake (they don’t grow fat because there are too many of them.)  We caught our limit of 5 fish each by 11am and had them filleted and in ice by noon, which gave me the afternoon to research which recipes to cook for dinner. Click here to read the whole recipe

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Classic French Chicken Broth Recipe

I get sentimental when I cook. I think of friends, family, travels I’ve had and those trips I have yet to take. When I made this recipe, I dreamed of Paris. I have never been to Paris.

Still, dreamlike sequences, snapshots from movies, from photographs combined with stories from friends about the foggy mist making mysterious dark haired classic beauty that Paris transforms herself into at night…dazzling with the lights of her lean, long Eiffel. This is where I go when I cook.

This Classic French broth was inspired by a recipe from Saveur cookbook – because I consider them an authority on “getting flavors right” and from some personal taste tests I did over the course of a few broth experiments.  It consists of two parts – the first part is roasting some chicken in the oven to add depth of flavor. The liquid from that roasting gets added to the stock pot for part two – making the broth. Please try this recipe with the lights dimmed, music in the background, a candle lit and let the smell of roasted garlic lemon chicken draw you into your own dream. This clean and herby classic French stock makes a lovely neutral palate for painting any meal upon

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Polenta with Chicken Broth and sage...still lumpy

“What people and lumpy polenta have in common.”

Imagine you were a cozy, dry particle of cornmeal, awakened from slumber with the brutal act of being thrown into a pot of unfamiliar boiling matter…you’d probably want to clump together with the other grains of cornmeal wouldn’t you?

Food often reminds me of people. I had this strange observation when I was whisking Polenta the other night – annoyed by how long it was taking me to break up the cornmeal bubbles I had poured too abruptly into the chicken stock. In the last couple years, I have been observing and experiencing this phenomenon but I hadn’t really thought about it as clearly as in that moment.

In a Le Creuset Stock Pot, bring 6 cups of chicken broth to a boil.

People group together, they lump up into carefully chosen clumps of familiar and stick together stubbornly. It’s nothing new, its been happening for centuries and I know i’m not the first one to notice it or write about it. Usually its written in the context of  people grouping up against “the other”, such as cultural groupings segregating within other cultures…coming together to hold onto who they are and survive while living among strangers.

I have yet to see the comparison written in food terms and that may be why it struck me so obviously…I relate to food, I relate food to the world, it helps me understand things in terms I can grasp and visualize. Maybe people think I’m obsessed with food. My behavior – cooking constantly, photographing and writing about it – could certainly suggest that. They might be surprised to know that it’s not really about the eating, although that absolutely has its distinct pleasures and benefits. My obsession is the making of food.  It’s about what I learn and observe in the practice of blending, mixing, stirring, basting, broiling, poaching, tasting, adding and subtracting. It’s where my mind freely, takes me and the thoughts I have about the world, realizations I have about people, things I discover or remember…and sometimes the things I decide to let slip away when I stand vulnerably barefoot in my kitchen kneading sourdough with sticky fingers while sage butter sizzles in a pan. Click here to read the whole recipe

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We were married in Punta Pescadero, Mexico in June of 2008. We had decided to have a smaller more intimate wedding with our family and closest friends. Part of our motivation was that my sisters live in Canada, Germany and my honorary sister lives in Norway, and we needed a way to get everyone to come. What better way than to make the setting irresistible?  The other part of it was that we wanted to trap everyone in  a quaint, relaxing environment free from distractions for a few days and make them get to know each other.

Sand Castle Building Contest the Day of Our Wedding in Mexico

Both of us come from a line of jobs in the wedding business – Scott was a videographer for many years and watched the faces of brides and grooms as they tied the knot night after night.  I was a florist, server, caterer, DJ, wedding planner and rental equipment saleswoman (in a long, weirdly connected line of event jobs and not in that order). We have both seen our share of meltdowns, bad behavior, drunken brawls, disasters and disconnected empathy at wedding parties and were determined that we would see none of it at our own but would instead create an environment that embodied the sense of adventure, joy and lightheartedness we felt about committing to each other for life.

To do that we had to take the “American wedding” out of the wedding and the players out of the country. Fortunately, they were all amenable to the plan and so we were off! We couldn’t have picked a more remote town – Punta Pescadero – 2 hours north of Cabo via narrow, spotty dirt road along the ocean, is a sleepy but enchanting fishing village discovered only by windsurfers, Marlin fisherman and Millionaires who have built custom homes and an airport on a narrow strip of beach front cliff top.  Our wedding “week” was perfect, as the customary mayor of the town and his family owned the shuttle company, the fishing boats, the taco stand and worked at the hotel bar. He organized everything and helped us rent two beautiful homes for the families (the amazing houses we rented are available on VRBO.com), arrange ATV rentals, brought daily meals, created an unbelievable night at the taco stand (complete with a cigarette smoking, break dancing DJ), startling wedding Fireworks, a VERY authentic, perfectly timed Mariachi band and a Tamale making class and family wide competitive sand castle building contest on the morning of our wedding. It was truly amazing and we can’t wait to go back on our 5th anniversary with friends and family new and old (who ask us about when we are going back all the time).

Mexican cuisine is close to our hearts for many reasons, and we are staunch Rick Bayless cookbook fans and cook Mexican cuisine quite often.  For me, taking a bite of a perfectly spicy tamale or a shrimp taco always takes me back to the night before our wedding at the taco stand where chickens, dogs, people and atv’s blurred together in the dusty sunset under a single mesquite tree drinking sweating coronas from the cooler and dancing until 2am on the dimly green lit basketball court of the local schoolyard.

This recipe is one I created. It was inspired by a Rick Bayless recipe and mixed with my craving for some poblano action that evening. It turned out better than I imagined it would, spicy, creamy and not too hot. Texture of corn tortilla and spinach laden poblano cream stretched with melted cheese and tender chicken bits on my tongue. Its more of a casserole than actual enchiladas, but you could make it either way you please and the flavors are still terrific. I encourage you to give it a try!

The final perfect plate

Ingredients

  • 20 corn tortillas (handmade) use 3 cups masa and 2 cups water to make tortilla mix. You can substitute fresh bought corn tortillas if you wish.
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • 3 poblano peppers roasted, de-skinned, seeded and diced
  • 4 yellow tomatoes or green tomatillos
  • 2 white onions chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 lb spinach rinsed
  • 1/2 lb rainbow chard or collard greens
  • 3 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 10 oz goat cheese
  • 12 oz chicken – meat cooked and diced (we used leftover meat from boiling a chicken to make stock)
  • cilantro 1 cup chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup monterey jack or other melting cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp lard
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tsp tomato paste

You will need a tortilla press and a griddle or a cast iron pan to make tortillas.

Poblano Cream Sauce

Instructions

For ease of organization, I have divided the steps out into stages.

First – roast your poblano peppers. You can do this a few ways – either sitting directly on a burner on your stove top, under a high broiler in your oven, or in your woodstove (like we do).  Check out this link to learn more about how to roast and peel peppers.

Poblano Cream Sauce

Once they are roasted, cooled and peeled – drop them into your food processor. We have a cuisinart that works VERY well and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Easy to use, wash, etc.

Add the sour cream, 1/2 cup of whipping cream, 2 cloves of garlic and blend on high with poblanos. When thoroughly mixed – taste it and add a bit of salt as needed. It should taste so good that you should want to keep eating this off the spoon.Empty from food processor into a bowl with a spatula. Rinse food processor for use in next step.

Preheat your oven to 350

Enchilada Sauce

Throw tomatoes or tomatillos, sliced and seeded jalepenos, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, salt, pepper into the food processor and blend on high until mixed. Empty into a bowl and set aside.

Filling

In a skillet, warm lard with onions until onions are slightly carmelized (about 15 min). Add carrots and chicken broth and cook until tender. Add 2 tsp of tomato paste and mix to incorporate. Simmer 5 mins. Add Spinach and mix until wilted and blended into broth. Add pre-cooked shredded chicken and mix together. Simmer on low while you make tortillas.

Tortillas

If you have never had a handmade, homemade tortilla – shame on you. Now is your chance to redeem yourself and try one of the most tasty and simple treats you can make for PENNIES! All you really need is a tortilla press, or a cutting board and a flat bottom pan you can use to press a ball of dough into a circle. One GREAT trick I learned from watching the women make tortillas in Mexico for our wedding – cut a gallon sized zip lock bag at the seams, place one side on each side of the press and place the dough between the two pieces of plastic before pressing it – it is MUCH easier to remove the flat sticky tortilla from the press and place it on your griddle if you use this trick.

In a bowl, mix together 3 cups of masa flour and 2 cups of water. It should be like thick cookie dough. season with a little salt. Roll into small balls (about the size of a medium cookie dough ball).

Heat your griddle or cast iron pan on the stove until barely smoking. Turn to Medium High Heat and adjust as needed throughout cooking of tortillas (if they are burning, turn the heat down, etc).

Press your tortillas one at a time in your press and place them in stages on the griddle – let it sit on the first side for at least one minute.

 

On the griddle - they firm up and are easy to flip

It should grow stiff enough that you can easily flip it over without it falling apart. Each tortilla will cook for 3-5 minutes – until dried and firm. You will want to taste test a couple for doneness to get the hang of how long they should cook. I rotate my tortillas from the front to the back of the griddle as they cook to keep track of which have been cooked longest.

Store them in a bowl with a plate over it to trap in steam and help keep them moist until they are all done cooking.

Assembling the Enchiladas

In a 13 x 9 Casserole dish, spread a thin layer of your enchilada sauce. Cover with a layer of flat tortillas. Spread your moist chicken and vegetable filling and dot with goat cheese.

Enchilada Filling dabbed with goat cheese

Spread poblano cream over the top and sprinkle on a layer of cheese. Repeat until you have used all ingredients. You may need to do another small pan. Place on a sheet tray and cook for 30 minutes until bubbly, melty and golden on top.

Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, it will be easier to “slice” into pieces and plate. Enjoy with people you love!

Let me know if you have any suggestions, additions or your own version of this recipe, I love to try new things.

Assembled enchiladas ready for the oven

 

 

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"Come to butthead..." - Butthead from Beavis and Butthead

One of the favorites dishes in our household is also one of the most simple recipes we make. We start with a trip to “Italian Disneyland” otherwise known as Roma Italian Market, in Pasadena, which you can read about in detail on my other blog alilovesla.com

Roz is the Cheese Wiz of Roma Italian Market

You stand in line and blissfully taste the cheeses and meats that Roz slices for you that day, gather your pink parcels in laden arms on the way to the register and finally stop in front of a small well lit freezer full of pastas, sauces and truffly amaretto desserts – plucking from the misting shelf a clear gallon bag filled with plump cheese filled pasta that is tied up with a twisty. On your way out the door you may grab a fresh fig or a handful of pastel Jordan almonds, or if you’re like me, you’ll be sipping coke from the glass bottle and looking forward to the fresh Italian sandwich wrapped in oil smeared paper that burns its way into your soul and sears itself forever into your salami scented memory.

But its the Tortellinis that you bought that are the focus of this missive.

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”
― Sophia Loren

slippery Tortellini love

They are truly lovely and they cook up so tenderly in broth of any kind, kissing your tongue on the way down the hatch with their silk smooth slipperyness. They don’t get all weird and dough chewy like other frozen pastas I’ve had and for some reason, even though they are simply packaged in a not special bag, they hold up really well in the freezer.

Easy to make, delightful to eat and craved in all seasons, this recipe will become a staple for your family.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag (16 oz) tortellini from Roma Italian Market (or from another good local purveyor of fine Italian foods)
  • 2 quarts chicken broth recipe here
  • 1 red pepper – roasted, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese and Italian parsley to garnish

Instructions

You really can’t screw this one up.

Roast your red pepper, either on a burner or in the oven under a broiler – until the skin is black and peely. You can also do it in your woodstove if you have one like we did here

Slice pepper and shallot and throw with olive oil into a dutch oven (you can invest in a Le Creuset one give 5 out of 5 stars by 47 Amazon.com users, or get any basic one with 4.5 star rating from the same source at Amazon).

Add capers and allow to roast for 5 minutes. Then add broth, thyme, red pepper flakes. Stir and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Add tortellini and cook for 8 minutes or so until they are al dente and floating on top of water. Pull one out and test it for tenderness, you don’t want them to be too mushy or too firm.

Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with fresh cheese and parsley and serve with a side of delicious homemade french or sourdough bread.

Nutritional Information

 

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We use roasted peppers frequently in our cooking. If we are BBQing we do it on the grill, occasionally I do it on a burner turned on high or in the oven under the broiler.

Recently we did it in our woodstove.

Roasting Poblanos in the woodstove

Ingredients

Tongs, Heat Source, Peppers, bowl, Water

Instructions

Step 1: Stick peppers in, under or on top of heat source.

Step 2: Roast them until the skin is black and peely all over the pepper.

Step 3: Remove with Tongs and place in bowl of cold water – or under running water in the kitchen sink.

Step 4: Holding pepper between both hands, use your thumbs to peel back the skin from all over the pepper. Open pepper and rinse to remove seeds and pull off stem.

Peeling in water

Step 5: pat dry with a paper towel, slice and use!

You can store them in oil in a glass jar or in a baggie in the fridge.

 

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Souffle rising in the oven

A Souffle is an important dish to add to your culinary repetoire whether you are a beginner or a skilled cook. The wonderful thing about souffle’s is that they can be easily modified to be savory or sweet, for a whole range of different ingredients and flavors and the basic technique stays the same.  No, the recipe doesn’t include chicken broth, but I made it as a side to a main dish that did, and I thought it was such an important dish for a cook to know, that I included it on this chicken broth site.

This Gorgonzola souffle is a richly flavored, slightly pungent version influenced by the cheese flavor itself. It goes very well with prime rib or a pork roast. Some more subtle souffle’s, like this recipe for a Parmesan Spinach one I like to make, can fit easily into a menu of any kind as they are not as strongly flavored.

Learn the dish, master it and memorize it and I guarantee it will come in handy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus softened butter for the ramekins
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • dash of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 ounces gorgonzola cheese
  • 5 large eggs, separated

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375.

Separate egg yolks from whites and keep both in separate bowls. If you’ve never done this before – watch this quick video on how to do it!

Shred or crumble your preferred cheese. This recipe uses gorgonzola which is more crumbly and sticky. I also like making this Parmesan spinach souffle recipe.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt your butter and incorporate flour, whisking until a thick paste forms. Add milk and whisk until a smooth, creamy mixture forms, continue to whisk over heat until it bubbles- about 5 minutes. Add cayenne, nutmeg and salt and whisk in. Add cheeses and mix until they melts into the cream. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer – whip your whites until fluffy, stiff peaks form.

Whip it good

Add your egg yolks to the cooled cream mixture and blend them in until it is a solid golden color.

Blend Yolks into Warm Bechamel Cream Mixture

Gently fold your whipped whites into this mixture and stir. You don’t want to knock all that nicely whipped air out of it, so just blend it together.

fold whipped whites gently into creamy yolk mixture

Butter 8 small ramekins or a souffle casserole dish.

With a spatula, pour batter into dishes until about 2/3 full. You want to leave room for the souffle to rise without spilling over the edges.

Place your dish or ramekins on a flat sheet pan and place in the oven. For a large souffle – you are going to bake for about 35-45 minutes until puffy and golden brown on top. For small ramekins, bake for 20-25 minutes until puffy and golden brown.

Tip: If you pierce the souffle with a knife or fork – it will fall and will not puff back up, so don’t do that until you are ready to serve it and have already impressed your guests with your amazing skills.

 

 

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Generally, the idea of “Valentine’s Day” makes me gag like a Scandinavian spoonful of lukewarm lutefisk as I consider it a “manufactured” holiday designed to make women feel lonely, men feel abused, and to help restaurants, candy stores, florists, jewelery marts, card makers, makeup manufacturers and diet plans experience the cash infusion they so need after the post-Holiday glow has worn off. But I realize that not everyone sees it this way.

Let me call you meat heart

Every Year at this time, as I take stock of “the body situation” before receiving more delightful Valentines Day chocolates, it always seems there is more of me to love…and that’s really quite ok with me for a couple reasons.

1.) I feel truly cared for by a generous, creative, brilliant husband who creates food “filled with love” that he cooks and serves me on a bi-nightly basis. 2.) He likes my curves and I don’t mind them as long as I can still fit into my favorite jeans and tie my own shoe laces. NO, my favorite jeans are not the stretchy “pajama jeans” you may have seen of late on insomniac TV but I do wish I had been the one who thought of that idea first

If you are clever enough in this season to find yourself dating or falling in love with someone who knows their way around the kitchen, or maybe they have a modest interest in LEARNING, or they are just smart enough to have a decently stocked bar sans plastic red cups… you are a momofuku. It’s not a bad word, look it up mom.

If you are a food lover finding yourself in this situation, take the opportunity to explore any sort of culinary bent or talents you see emerging and help selflessly develop them so that you may eventually selfishly reap the benefits of their future skills and knowledge. Then invest in a treadmill or eliptical machine to work off calories while watching your nightly favorite food porn a la Bourdain, Zimmern or Iron Chef America.

An Added Bonus to the Culinary Gift: For all the ladies who may be reading this and are in a relatively new relationship – getting a guy a gift related to food will be much less threatening to him than anything implying a too intimate too soon “love” situation…and will be much less awkward for you if he doesn’t reciprocate. Even in this day and age – the way to a mans’ heart is still through his stomach. Start there and gradually work your way into his more vital organs like some sort of buttery, irresistible cholesterol with breasts. Make like a fantastic, prime, thick cut, rare ribeye steak – classic, simple and satisfying – and you will “meat” your match. (Insert groans here). But really, it works.

"You had me at tallow"

As a lady who ended up with an amazing guy, I have softened my skeptical view on Valentines day over the years and now generally view any opportunity to express my appreciation to him worth exploiting. I have found that either tools, books or kitchen supplies are the best gifts for my man, as they are actually used and appreciated (whereas even the nicest cashmere sweaters usually end up hanging on my side of the closet in short time).

Eventually, as time goes on and your lives intertwine, you will find yourselves even more on the same page regarding food, and that will translate to smoothing out other areas of your lives as well. This year at Christmas, I laughed out loud as I opened my gifts and realized he had bought me all the items I had considered for him: a potato ricer, a gnocchi board and the culinarily inspired song collection by One Ring Zero published in the book “The Recipe Project” . In return, I had purchased him the sausage making attachment for our Kitchen Aid Mixer, and the “Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing and Sausage Making” as well as the new Ferran Adria Biography “Ferran: The inside story of El Bulli and the man who reinvented food”.  Our love and our passion is tied to the food we make that we feed and nourish each other with. It’s a spicy, exciting, always evolving sort of love life to have.

Finding "the one" is offal nice

Seriously, all puns aside, you might ask “How does one start this process?” and to that end I have written down the perfect Recipe for falling in love in the Kitchen.

Step One: Peruse a selection of non-traditional, Kitchen Oriented Valentines day gifts starting here with  this selection available at a discounted rate on Amazon.com .  Skip the heart shaped girly stuff and move directly to knife sharpeners, a great knife, a boos block cutting board, grilling or pizza making accessories or some alder planks for salmon. Get a gift that makes him feel like a man – he doesn’t want to bake heart shaped cookies.

Step Two: Buy the gift (order it today!), make your first meal together (give him room to be creative don’t dominate) and sit down at the dining table with one lit candle and eat it together. Talk about what you like and what you would both want to improve. Plan the next meal.

Step Three: During dessert, be like a sweet and savory custard. Not too sugary, not too salty – he needs to want more. Keep your ankles crossed and be a lady but kiss with abandon. Repeat.

Don’t fuss over the details too much and in short time, love will bloom like a righteous souffle given the proper amounts of fluff, heat and space.

 

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For those who appreciate the sweet and the savory sides of dessert, this orange custard is a terrific light solution to ending a lovely meal.

Orange Custard garnished with Star Anise

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 cups milk
  • Grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 5 large eggs
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Combine ¾ cup of the sugar and the water in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, brush down the sides of the pan with water, and boil for 6 to 7 minutes, or until caramelized. The sugar will be fragrant and a deep amber color when it is caramelized. Working quickly, divide the hot caramel among 10 ramekins, swirling each ramekin so that the caramel coats the bottom and half way up the sides.

Preheat the oven to 325˚F Combine the milk and orange zest in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer. Whisk together the eggs, salt, and remaining ¾ cup of sugar in a medium bowl. Continue whisking while adding the hot milk in a thin stream. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Stir in the vanilla and skim off any foam from the surface. Divide the mixture among the ramekins and place them into a roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come half way up the sides of the ramekins and bake for 38 to 42 minutes, or until just set. Remove from the water bath and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or until firm.

To unmold, run the tip of a paring knife around the inside of each ramekin and invert onto a dessert plate.

Serves 10. Good any time of year, but especially in the winter when citrus is in season. You can tell that the flans are done when they jiggle like gelatin. Flans may be baked a day or two in advance and kept covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Unmold just before serving.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

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