Jack o'Lantern x 5

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Happy Halloween!!

Baked in a Pie

We went apple picking this month and got 1/2 a bushel of apples. It seemed like a lot, but it's already gone! We picked at least 5 different varieties, including "good-eatin'" Macouns as well as some gigantic sweet Mutsus. I think there were some Honeycrisp and Gala in there too. (We went to Alyson's Orchard in Walpole, NH. While we were riding through the orchard behind a giant tractor we saw an idyllic fall wedding being set up next to a small pond. There were 4 trees there, the only ones around, and they all had flaming orange leaves. The wedding site and chairs were set up under these trees--it was really gorgeous.)

Here's our fruit crisper with some of the bounty.
I've already removed several special apples for making an apple pie.

Here are the several, peeled and ready for slicing.
The monster in the front left is a Mutsu.

Sliced. I took some extra time to slice them extra thin.
Totally worthwhile, as the resulting pie had many tender layers.

Pie dough ready for filling--seasoned apples to the left.

Ready for the lid! (Or whatever you call it.)


Baked! I fell prey to an urge to brush the crust with milk,
as a result it was way too hard. Lesson learned.

I like to do a little five-point star in the middle of my apple pies,
in homage to the star in the middle of an apple.

I like to eat my apple pie with a hunk of sharp cheddar. Is that weird? Other family members seem to prefer ice cream or whipped cream. I'm already craving another pie--it's a wonderful thing to have lying about for when you need a little after-dinner (or midnight, or morning, or midafternoon) something.

Spice is Nice

I would like to review an important aspect of eating healthy and well (for me). It is the application of HEAT, as in, spicy hot. Even if (especially if!) you are living on rice & beans and trying to save money, it's worth it to invest in some hot sauce so you can spice up your life and alleviate taste bud boredom. Here are my favorites:

Mali pepper sauce
I'm not sure what this is made of or what it is actually called, but it is DAMN HOT. We got it at the Brattleboro Farmer's Market from the Malian food vendor, Dieneba Macalou. Just a small dab of this sauce is enough to heat up an entire plate of food. We usually have it at the farmer's market with a plate of Beef Saga Saga and white rice. I thought it would be good to stock up for the winter though, so picked up this jar. This sauce is pretty much just pure heat.

Black Bean Sauce with Chili
This is the next hottest sauce, in my opinion. It's a fabulous way to enliven a packet of ramen. It will also kick up any stirfry. I only add half a teaspoon to a stirfry, and that's quite adequate to set our mouths on fire. It has a fermented bean flavor, besides being very hot.

Tabasco sauce & Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
Both these sauces have a particular flavor I think, besides being hot. Tabasco seems a bit vinegary. I like it in a salsa situation, meaning if I use salsa, I'll use Tabasco (to enliven tacos, for example). I also like Tabasco in soups. I know there are other types of Tabasco sauce out there but have never tried them. I go for the red regular every time. As for the Sriracha, it tastes like Thai food to me, maybe because I always use it on Pad Thai. I've also used it in fish dipping sauce.

Hot pepper flakes & Cayenne
Hot pepper flakes are for pizza. Also good on a garlic & oil pasta--like maybe bowties with garlic & oil & pine nuts & fresh broccoli & parm. Mmm! I put "HOT!" on the cayenne because I recently thought I was grabbing the paprika and seasoned a batch of chicken tenders with cayenne, making it inedible to our smallest family member. Oops! I generally use this in making healing toddies or as called for in recipes.

Cut Mango Pickle
This stuff is AMAZING. It's spicy but doesn't burn or hurt. It's super-salty. It's also made with garlic, so has a nice depth of flavor beyond the salt & heat. Served with Indian food and some cooling raita, this is truly a treat. I could almost eat it by itself, but that would be wrong. Thanks to my parents for introducing me to this strange and magnificent condiment at a tender age. (Note: Does not taste like mango! The mango seems to just be a vehicle for the other flavors. It gets all tender and oily in the jar.)

After some recent experiences with habanero sorbet and a habanero salsa, I no longer think of jalapenos as being particularly hot. (A habanero? Now that's hot.) Anyway, I dice fresh jalapenos to add a bit of zest to tacos, quesadillas, nachos--basically anything that involves melted cheese, corn chips or tortillas, and salsa. I have no difficulty eating a whole diced jalapeno sprinkled over whatever is on my plate. I don't like the canned jalapenos, but other family members do. Someday I'd like to make a healthy version of jalapeno poppers, if there is such a thing!

Cooking Julia Child

The title of this post is kind of a joke. It's intended in the spirit of Julia Child, who said on one of her shows "We're having vegetarians for dinner! Well, we're not going to EAT them."

I am no Julia Child expert, but I do respect her work and her legacy. And I loved the movie Julie and Julia. (Thanks for a great afternoon, Ma!) My knowledge of Julia Child is limited to that movie, plus a few cooking shows I borrowed from the library. I have also cooked just a few recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (written with Louisette Berthole & Simone Beck). Even with this limited knowledge of her work, though, I find Julia Child inspiring. She has a marvelous attitude, which seems to be something like, "Do it right and use the best ingredients, unless you have to do something else in a pinch." I also love her firm support of butter and salt. We watched her program on how to cook vegetables a few years ago, and noted that the key to cooking most of them was to add plenty of butter and plenty of salt. And it works! On another show she remarked to her celebrity chef co-host that if people are trying to cut down on butter, we can simply add cream instead. Wry and hilarious.

Before the movie came out there was a rash of press that a food-blog addict couldn't help but notice. bon appetit devoted a piece in their August 2009 issue to the movie's release and Julia's August birthday. The recommended recipes included pissaladière, a savory tart made mainly of onions with anchovy and olive garnish. I imagined I would have to make this at some point, so when I saw anchovies on sale, I snapped them up!

The anchovies had to wait a few months though. I finally had an occasion to cook some Julia Child recipes this past weekend, when an honored guest was in town and ready to try something new. Since she was from the West Coast, I decided to make 2 "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" recipes, plus something involving a Gilfeather turnip, to represent a taste of Vermont. Here's my menu:

Gilfeather turnip soup with sea legs

Pissaladiere (Onion tart with Anchovies and Black Olives)

Clafouti aux Pruneaux (Plum flan)

Green salad

Sliced baguette


Here are a few photo highlights:

The annual Gilfeather turnip, with onion for scale. Read other posts about my Gilfeather soup recipe from 2008 and 2004. The soup was a hit. I didn't add the onion this time, since the main course was mostly onion.

I didn't have a flan mold OR a spring-form pan for the tart shell, so I used a square cookie sheet instead. (A pretty poor substitute.) After the dough is ready to bake, one must cover it with buttered foil and dried beans to keep it from puffing up. (Pie weights are also acceptable.)

The tart filling involved 2 pounds of onions, chopped and cooked for an hour, plus olives and the anchovies.

I only put anchovies on half since I correctly surmised that not everybody would want to eat them. Some slices of the finished product:

The plum clafouti was a variation rather than a main recipe--the regular recipe calls for cherries. I liked the plum version though because it calls for soaking the plums in brandy or liqueur for an hour. (They must be briefly boiled and then peeled before soaking.)

Above is the soaking, and below the baked clafouti. It actually turned out to be even better the next day, served cold and covered with the leftover soaking liquid. Amazing!

Black Velvet if you please

When the weather changes, so do my beer needs. Instead of the taste of crisp clean hops, I want warm dark coffee and spice. Hints of fruit are good, too. Instead of light and clear, I want dark and creamy. In the past month or so, I have settled on the perfect drink for fall 2009. And because it contains Guinness, it's good for you.

For several weeks I was calling my drink of choice a "Snakebite," confusing bartenders everywhere. What I wanted was half hard cider, half Guinness. Turns out this concoction is actually called a "Black Velvet," or maybe a "Poor Man's Black Velvet" for those who think the former is Guinness and champagne. (A Snakebite is actually lager & cider. Or a shot of Yukon Jack with lemon juice, depending on your source.)

Whatever it's called, I've been ordering the drink all around town with varying degrees of satisfaction. One bar usually floats the Guinness on the cider just right, but then a newish bartender poured me a pint that was a muddy, layerless mass. It tasted different. It also had a disturbing opacity, like a Guinness that was feeling unwell. Another bar with Guinness but not cider on tap gave me (at my request) a pint of Guinness with a bottle of cider on the side. I mixed them by taking quick sips of each--interesting experiment, but definitely not a Black Velvet.

Maybe I could just learn to make my own? Yes let's! Memory suggested and Google confirmed that the only special equipment I needed was a spoon. First I assembled my ingredients.

Happy 250th, Guinness!

Here's my first try at pouring a Black Velvet--it worked!

Some of the Guinness crept back down the handle of the spoon while I was pouring (see puddle). But I'm impressed at my pretty layers. I believe bartenders use a dedicated spoon that has an extra kink in it to prevent the spilling issue. Guess I could get out some pliers and kink a spoon if I'm going to keep this up. If you like beer & cider, give this simple drink a try! I hardly need to give directions--pour half a pint of cider, then slowly pour half a pint of Guinness (use the kind in the can, because the widget will make it foam up more like the draught version) over the back of a spoon so it floats atop the cider. Deeelicious.

So, is this really called a Black Velvet in your book? What other beer mixtures do you like? (I kind of want to call them "beertails," cuz the beer is both the booze and the mixer...)

How I Got to Be a Low-Power DJ

It was because of John Corbett's character on Northern Exposure. Chris Stevens was a total fox, but he was also an intellectual, which is its own kind of sexy. I loved his long long readings from battered paperback classics, his on-air musings, his gently lowering the needle on the record. If I couldn't marry him, I wanted to at least Be Like That--the small-town DJ. Stacks of music. Esoteric themes of my own choosing. Being so close to the community that listeners can hear the same siren both through the radio and through their own window. Poetry and parkas and LPs. That's what I wanted out of radio.

So I joined radio free brattleboro in early 2003. My first show was that February. It was on Thursdays at lunchtime and called the Mixed Tape Revue. I used to pull out tapes that people had made me years before, play some of the songs, throw in segues to other songs, reminisce about my life and the other person's life at the time of the tape. It was a fun show. My most memorable episode (besides the inevitable ex-boyfriend show) was the day before the war started. It was the first day of spring and "we" were getting ready to blow up Baghdad. I'd been reading about Eleanor of Aquitaine all week. I got pretty emotional talking about Louis VII's torment over incinerating a churchful of people in Vitry, and how he then went crusading in the Middle East to somehow make himself feel better. (Will these damn crusades ever be over?) Then I played Non Nobis Domine from the Henry V soundtrack (the Kenneth "No-lips" Branagh version) and felt very gloomy and mortal.

Then I got a full-time job that required me to work on Thursdays at lunchtime. I moved my show to Tuesday nights from 10-midnight, and rechristened it Makin' Candy. Makin' Candy was wicked fun! At rfb, late night (after 10pm) was considered "safe haven" time, so if I played a song or a poem with colorful language in it, it was OK. I didn't like swears on the air, but it's hard to vet every single word in every single song and they sometimes slip in. My favorite f-bomb on that show was Allen Ginsberg reading "America." I played it with a bunch of other poems to celebrate National Poetry Month. ("America when will we end the human war?/ Go f**k yourself with your atom bomb / I don't feel good don't bother me.") Memorable shows from that era were when Bobby Short died (I played 2 hours of him singing Cole Porter), election night 2004 (Beastie Boys back-to-back-to-back) and the Hunter S. Thompson Memorial Show.

My last edition of Makin' Candy, and also the last show ever aired on rfb, was on the first day of summer 2005. I did a summer theme, ending with Vivaldi's "Summer" from The Four Seasons. A little after midnight we drove home down the dark country road. A small bag of something in the middle of the road turned out to be, after we stopped to examine it, a noisy baby raccoon who seemed very determined to stay in the middle of the road. We ushered his squalling little self into a nearby cornfield by shepherding him with a Bananarama album. (Cruel Summer.) The next day we learned the FCC had raided our radio station first thing in the morning and taken the equipment. That was the end of rfb.

But community radio rose again in Brattleboro. Now we have a licensed low-power station, WVEW. My show, Beef Jerky Time, has been on every Wednesday night since September 2006, when WVEW took to the air. I guess that makes it my longest running show. Beef Jerky Time is shorter and rather more tame than Makin' Candy. It's 1 hour instead of 2, and also there is no swearing allowed EVAR. At that hour of the day, I also feel more responsible about providing a quality show rather than free-form Chris Stevens rambling. Lately I've been actually promoting music and artists that I love or find interesting. I guess Prof. Kitty is growing up. I'm honored to have a voice here, even if it's just a small one for a few minutes a week. Thank you Brattleboro for helping with my DJ dream!

Beef Jerky Time "Radio DJ" playlist, 9*30*09
  • cdj: Pizzicato 5
  • FM: Steely Dan
  • Roadrunner: Modern Lovers
  • Great DJ: The Ting Tings
  • Panic: The Smiths
  • On the Radio: Regina Spektor
  • Radio Gaga: Queen
  • Radio: Black Cherry
  • My Radio (AM Mix): Stars
  • On My Radio: The Selecter
  • Video Killed the Radio Star: The Buggles
  • Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: Indeep


At the beginning of September I was having some strange abdominal pains. I still don't know what they were exactly. Since I am my own health-care provider (in my mind), I started eliminating variables. First I thought maybe it was an electrolyte problem. I drank a bunch of gatorade, and also got some of those fizzy packets that are specifically for boosting electrolytes. ("It's got electrolytes—it's what plants crave!")

This didn't really help. My next step--eliminating carbonation. Maybe all the seltzer that I drink every day (plus occasional beers and sparkling cocktails) was actually causing some sort of gas thingy. So I stopped drinking all those things... no dice.

How about my main squeeze coffee then? Was that the problem? I stopped drinking it just to see what would happen. Two days later I felt great! Pains were gone, and so was the occasional dizziness I was starting to feel. I just missed my morning beverage (and did not relish caffeine withdrawal headaches). The Saturday Farmer's Market offered the solution. CHAI! What I once heard described as "a hug from inside"--yum!

We're lucky to have a local chai producer, Chai Wallah, offering his wares (both the chai blends and chai itself) at the farmer's market. Chai Wallah blends are also available at other places around town. I stopped by the booth and got a quick lesson in making my own chai!

Here's the deal: First, heat 50-50 milk and water. I use soymilk just for the heck of it. I measured how much my travel mug will hold so I use 3/4 cup soymilk and 3/4 cup water. While the liquid heats, prep the chai blend in a small container. I mix 1 tsp blend (I use the spice only--you can also get it already mixed with tea or rooibos), 1 tsp loose black tea (I use Irish Breakfast), and 1 tsp sugar.

When the liquid starts to boil, throw in the dry ingredients and stir. I find that it WILL boil over, so you need to stand by to lift the whole thing off the heat when that starts to happen. I turn it way down but still try to simmer it. Just 2-3 minutes of simmering makes the perfect infusion. (Chai Wallah said that boiling it longer will make a sweeter mixture--and also darker.)

Finally, strain the hot chai. Here it's going into my favorite mug. Amazing how I can do all this AND take a photo, eh?

Travel mug ready for lid and then the car cup holder.

Obviously there are lots of ways to make chai. I'm just starting to learn about it and I like the Chai Wallah blends just fine. I've dried the black tea mixture and the Spice Only mix. I find the latter a lot more gingery, though that's not a problem. (Perhaps when it's cut with tea it's just not as strong.) I'd like to try the rooibos but I'm too in love with black tea to do that anytime soon...

For a completely different take on chai, check out this ArtJournal post--http://lucylou.livejournal.com/575537.html.
It has draw-rings!