We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Saturday, August 29. 2015
Friday, August 28. 2015
Friends have just returned from a week in Ravello, While there, the whole family (all 5 of them) took a full-day cooking class with Mama Agata. Despite their other holiday pleasures, they all agreed that was the high point of their trip. Mamma Agata (click on cooking classes - reservations required).
They stayed at Hotel Villa Cimbrone, which they recommend.
Sunday, August 23. 2015
In 2 weeks it will be time to harvest my peach crop. I have a neighbor pal who likes to get into the tree with me, and shares the harvest. Mrs. BD will make us a couple of peach pies (my favorite pie), and I will can 10-12 jars of peach chutney.
Some peach jam too.
I don't bother spraying, so my fruit are not picture-perfect but neither am I.
It's an abundant crop this year - note branch broken by the weight of the peaches. I'll let it hang and see what happens.
For cooking, best to use peaches before they are ripe for eating.
Saturday, August 22. 2015
I had a little spare time the other morning, so I did one last harvest from my rhubarb patch to make another batch of Rhubarb-Hot Pepper Jam. Golly, it is delicious and tangy. For the pepper component, I used chopped sorenos, jalapenos, and some sweet red peppers too just for their flavor. A little lemon juice and a dash of salt. Rhubarb is not to everybody's taste, but I love it.
I use one cup of chopped peppers per 3 cups of chopped rhubarb. I'll use up the rest of my chopped peppers to make ordinary hot pepper jelly. Sometimes I make it like a sauce, sometimes like a firmer jelly. Regardless, it is a bit too hot for some people.
My peppery special jams and jellies go well with cheese, cream cheese, pork, chicken, scrambled eggs, or anything else. Available at your specialty food store never. Photo is hot pepper jelly with cream cheese, but goat cheese is better. Any cheese, really.
Sunday, August 16. 2015
Tuesday, August 11. 2015
A Southern friend told me the menu she was cookin' up for a 25 person outdoor backyard party tomorrow:
Fried squash blossoms
Cheap, simple, delicious, and fun. American (mostly), I could see this for a country wedding menu.
Monday, August 10. 2015
There's nothing more refreshing than a cold Borscht. A family member handed me an old recipe for it yesterday.
There are countless ways to make it, all from eastern Europe. I think I like it best with chunks, and with a dollop of sour cream on top, but the one pictured is excellent too.
Here's another Bird Dog favorite: Cold Zucchini Soup
In their list, this silly newspaper omitted cold Borsht and Zucchini Soup.
What are your favorite cold summer soups?
Thursday, August 6. 2015
Wednesday, August 5. 2015
I like to soak sweet corn in the husks, and grill them in the husks. Three ways. Boiled corn is boring and it's summertime so you are grilling your food outside anyway.
I just had to get a new vegetable grilling basket from Amazon. Nice. Fewer of them fall through the cracks that way.
Tuesday, August 4. 2015
Sunday, August 2. 2015
Even people who hate vegetables find pickled vegetables to be a treat. You can pickle anything - onions, summer squash, cauliflower, peas, beans, peppers, beets, carrots, turnips, cabbage, peaches - you name it. People will eat it before it is fully pickled because it tastes good. Here's Perpetual Pickles for you with gardens.
Vegetables (like fruit) are nutritionally borderline-useless, but they can be made to be tasty. Thus far this summer I have produced many half-pints and a couple of quart jars of hot pepper jelly, and about 12 quarts of dilly beans. Waiting for my peaches to ripen to make Peach Chutney. I did not grow cucumbers this year. I forget why.
Here's quick and easy Crisp Pickled Vegetables
Here's Canning and Pickling. It's a labor of love and makes no damn sense at all.
A pal has been traveling across the US with family in an antique camper. He reports that they had possibly the best dinner they have ever had in the US at The Windsor Hotel in Del Norte, Colorado. Not likely that you would be passing through there, though.
Here's a book: Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat Moon. Fun book.
Friday, July 31. 2015
How anybody can drive up Route 91 through Vermont without stopping at Curtis' place (just west off the Putney exit (Exit 4), next to Ron's gas station) for some authentic Mississippi barbecue is beyond me. Curtis is a Mississippi-born and bred barbecuemaster, but he spends spring to fall in Putney, VT (of all places), cooking over hardwood smoke all day long, with his pet pig and dog following him around the smoky pit. Now he sells his own Curtis' Root Beer and Barbecue Sauce too - but only at his place.
Here's his delicious menu
He is a busy old codger, but he will chat with you if you have anything worth saying to him. It had better be interesting, though.
You do not see many places like this in New England.
Tuesday, July 28. 2015
It's a new form of cheese to me: Burrata. It's a gooey variant of Mozzarella (a cheese which I do not like, even Buffalo Mozzarella. Flavorless and rubbery). Burrata, like Mozzarella, is a fresh cheese.
I'd be willing to try Burrata with sliced tomato. They may have it at our gourmet Italian market, and I am told Whole Foods carries it sometimes. I hate Whole Foods on principle, but they have always had a fine cheese department. Me love cheeses with fruits, nuts, jellies for dessert.
A good tomato platter might be sliced tomatoes, sliced mango or peach, a chunk of oozing burrata, a handful of chopped fresh basil, and a balsamic dressing.
Monday, July 27. 2015
These are a favorite summer treat around here. Yes, you can do it with pumpkin blossoms too. Use the male blossoms, on the stalks. No reason to waste them.
A simple recipe. Do not wash the blossoms. Serve hot, with salt.
For a fancier antipasto, fried blossoms stuffed with goat cheese. How good does that sound?
Saturday, July 25. 2015
Most foods have little resemblance to their natural origins. They have been domesticated and are "unnatural." Human genius defeating a cruel nature.
A book I'd like to read: Maize for the Gods: Unearthing the 9,000-Year History of Corn
Wild maize is a grass, with the fruit/seed about an inch long. Were it not for those ancient Central American genetic engineers, we'd have neither grits nor polenta.
Photo is teosintas, ancestor of domestic maize
Thursday, July 23. 2015
Scarpetta. Give it a try. As a matter of fact, she is taking a BD daughter to dinner there tonight after the new Annie Baker play. (They are Annie Baker fans after loving Flick a while ago.) She says their pastas are amazing but our advice is to always skip pasta in good Italian restaurants. Why dine on starch, when there are so many other better flavors in antipasti and secondi?
I'll make exceptions for Pappardelle al Funghi with wild mushrooms, or Fois Gras Ravioli with Black Truffle.
Looking back, thus far, for Italian, we have also recommended Barbetta, Giovanni, Macelleria, - and Bar Eolo for genuine Sicilian. Only Barbetta is a jacket and tie joint, but for Giovanni a jacket is appropriate.
Tuesday, July 21. 2015
Sunday, July 19. 2015
Saturday, July 18. 2015
Mrs. BD asked me to fix up a batch of rhubarb compote to splash on some Haagen Dasz for a fancy dinner party we are attending tonite. My guess is that nobody there will have had it before. It's a North country treat. Lots of people do not care for it much. Their loss. It's tangy. I always use half the sugar.
We are the Rhubarb People. A racial identity group and a much-abused and/or neglected one. Maybe we all originated in Yorkshire. Who knows?
Since my own recipe for hot pepper jelly (served with cheeses and cream cheese) was such a hit at a fancy cocktail party in NYC that I have been urged to produce a line of it, I decided to branch out into Spicy Rhubarb Jam. Maggie's Farm Produce, or something. All-organic, meaning grown in pig and cow shit.
Mom always grew her sizeable patch right outside the barn. We would just pitchfork some fresh horse poop and horse straw on top of it when cleaning the barn. Worked well. A rhubarb patch likes to be fed.
A good patch takes a couple of years to establish itself. How do you harvest rhubarb? With a sharp yank on the stalk. Not with clippers.
My rhubarb plantation, stolen from my Mom's garden, is overwhelming. Had to use some more of it. We'll make some pies too (never with strawberry), but I invented my own recipe for Spicy Rhubarb Jam - chopped rhubarb, lemon juice, sugar, chopped fresh red chilis and chopped jalapenos, some chopped green peppers, a little salt, and I threw in some pectin for the heck of it. No pressure canner.
Is cooked rhubarb red? Almost never. People add food coloring but I don't bother. You only get a little red from the young thin stalks.
Yes, the jam tastes like spicy rhubarb. Quite tangy. I like it. Might be good with pork or chicken. Not sure. Definitely good with cheese especially goat cheese. Not on a toasted bagel. I am no expert food canner but I just boil the heck out of the Ball jars for about 15 minutes and hope for the best. Botulism is not wanted.
Next stop might be Spicy Cranberry Preserve. Why not? Any poultry is improved with some cranberry on the side. And for those who can enjoy a tart now and then, for dessert any little rhubarb or cranberry tart is nice.
Sunday, July 12. 2015
My Mom always put up tons of these pickled string beans from my Dad's garden. When you take some out, people eat them like popcorn. You can not can too many of these.
The good olde internet: How to Fix (or Remake) Jam or Jelly That Turns Out Too Soft or Runny
We wanted to make a ton of Rhubarb jam on Saturday but we ran out of sugar and Mrs. BD needed to control the kitchen for a double family birthday party. Poached salmon, etc. Anyway, people gnawed on my raw Rhubarb stalks. Delicious and stringy. The Rhubarb I salvaged from Mom's garden is going great guns and, racially, we are the Rhubarb People.
Saturday, July 4. 2015
Happy Independence Day! If you're like me, you're with your family and being independent together (h/t to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer).
If you're like me, you're probably having hot dogs and hamburgers, potato or macaroni salad, soda or beer, or other kinds of foods which were purchased at a store after being shipped from some other part of the U.S. or even another nation.
If you're like me, you probably don't spend time worrying about the details of how your food reached your table. But you may know people, as I do, who think the whole "eat local' idea will save our health and economy. We have a restaurant here which is excellent, but very expensive, and always booked. We need to make reservations several months in advance to get a table. They only serve locally grown foods (I believe it's a 50 mile radius), and it's BYOB (so I guess they're OK with bringing French wine to go with the Jersey Tomatoes).
Normally I don't go in for faddish trends, and I really don't buy the whole "local food" movement. But this is a good restaurant and just because I don't agree with it doesn't mean I'll avoid a good meal. Good food is good food. There are reasons why I don't necessarily think the local food movement is ever going to change how we live, and it certainly is not going to make our lives better.
As this video (45 minutes long - so be prepared) points out, most nations with small farms have economic problems. This doesn't intrinsically mean small farms are impoverishing those nations, but there's no doubt being a food exporter (and the U.S. is by far the largest) is an indication of economic strength through size. This video also points out the hypocrisy of our nation's politics and its 'solutions' to perceived problems. We have deemed some banks "Too Big To Fail" and willingly subsidize their moral hazard, while at the same time pointing to large agricultural firms and saying they are "Too Big To Succeed" and impose excessive regulations on them while subsidizing failing small farms. So the policy of the U.S. that we subsidize failure, and engage double standards wherever we see fit.
The Jungle is often touted as an example of what would happen if we did not support regulation of the food industry. Unfortunately, this novel was a work of fiction designed to draw attention to the plight of the working man. It was the lies of Upton Sinclair about the Chicago Packing District that stick in people's memory, however. By and large, most food businesses provided healthier foods than smaller firms. It was in their best interest to do so. One does not win new consumers by killing or injuring those you have. In fact, most of these businesses wanted regulation as a means to raise barriers to entry against their smaller competitors, and to prevent foreign foods, which had raised trade barriers, from being too competitive.
Friday, July 3. 2015
Small beer has a long history. Basically, it's an innocuous daytime beverage which produces no buzz. Pretty good for driving and boating.
Like horse piss? I wouldn't know but I can say that Bud Lite is not the tastiest beer in the world even though it is America's best-seller.
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