Category Archives: Misc

A perfect Christmas gift

When I was a child, I used to listen to stories about how my dad and his mom would make candy. Divinities and fudge mostly. I have always loved the idea of making candy but found I had little talent for it.

Until now.

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Filed under American, Misc

Perfectly crispy potatoes

This isn’t much of a recipe but I think it is a tip that should be spread. Here is me doing my part!

When home alone, I tend not to make anything too elaborate for dinner. If I have nice tomatoes, it is likely going to become a bruschetta. I’ll brush the bread slices with lots of olive oil and put them in a pan while I chop up my tomatoes. Flip the slices, add tomatoes, top with a pinch of salt. Or maybe pasta with Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Or these potatoes with ketchup.

Carbs are my favorite food group and no one will ever convince me that I shouldn’t eat them!

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I swear I don’t only make sweets


Except that maybe I do.

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Filed under British, Misc

Crispy, Golden Polenta


My family has very strong opinions about polenta. It’s one of the foods traditional to the valley I was born and holds an important spot in my mother’s food identity. Goodness forbid you try to serve her a quick-cook polenta or something out of those vacuum packs. She will have no mercy.

For her, polenta is cooks for a full hour., over low heat with occasionally stirring. I remember a vacation in which we went skiing with some friends. One of the adults was a professional chef. After a long day outside, we can back to find him whipping polenta in the kitchen. I thought my mother was going to have a conniption.

This is not my mother’s polenta.


Don’t get me wrong: I love her polenta. It is creamy and rich without the aid of butter, cream, or cheese. But this is a quick dinner polenta. Delicious with a pile of sauteed mushrooms and a Caesar salad. Crisped up in a pan. Since it is so fast, it works in the early summer too. It would be fantastic topped with fresh tomatoes and cheese or perhaps sauteed zucchini with garlic.

Crispy Polenta
serves 2 as a main

1/2 c course ground cornmeal
2 c water
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium pot, bring water and salt to a boil. Once boiling, whisk in cornmeal. Return mixture to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Stirring occasionally, cook 10-15 minutes until the mixture has thickened.

Preheat a skillet pan with some olive oil. Pour hot cornmeal into skillet pan. Fry 2-3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Flip and fry on other side. Slice and serve.

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Filed under Italian, Misc, Rice & Grains

Quince Quandry

I should start by saying my mother is a wonderful person. For no reason other than that she knew I wanted to play with them, she bought me a hefty bag of quince. A year ago, I wouldn’t have known what to do with them. Now I can’t wait for them to appear in the quick-sale basket at the grocery store.


Because of these.


These deceptively rosy things are caramels. Quince caramels. And their flavor is out of this world. Fruity, rosy, sweet, slightly lemony, and very very addictive.

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Filed under British, French, Jams & Sauces, Misc

How to Make Vanilla Extract

How such tiny specks contain so much flavor I shall never know!

Old book smell is amongst the favorite smells of all bibliophiles. When I came across this article in the Smithsonian, I was surprised to learn that old book smell is chemically similar to the smell of vanilla and cut grass, which I also love. Both evoke such homey memories.

A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness, this unmistakable smell is as much a part of the book as its contents.

While I can’t think of any way to incorporate the scent of cut grass into food, vanilla has a myriad of options. My favorite is a lovely vanilla rice pudding or cream. I love the combination of cream and vanilla. I stumbled across Simon Hopkinson‘s enchanting cookbook, Roast Chicken and Other Stories, in the discount pile at a bookstore. Instantly, I was hooked. He describes food so beautifully that it truly is as much a storybook as it is a cookbook.

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