Housekeeping

Time to tidy up around here. I’ve got some disparate thoughts, photos, and experiences to collate and/or discard. Thank you to The Minimalists. Your philosophies are slowly affecting every aspect of my life.

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Happy birthday, little blog. Cookbook Wall turned three years old last week. If you’re a regular reader, thanks for spending time here. Your presence keeps me coming back, too. If you’re a first-time visitor, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll click my way again!

By the numbers: Most visitors here are from the U.S., followed by Brazil, Canada, and the U.K. Most viewed post so far is Possum Pie, followed by Ham and Green Pepper Quiche, Turkey Legs, and Shortbread Linzer Cookies.  Least viewed recipe post was Hot Cross Buns, seen nine times by a stalwart few. Next Easter, check it out! Hot Cross Buns are divine!

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BuzzFeed shows up often on my Facebook wall. That’s how I learned about XXL Watermelon Jell-O Shots, which I brought to dinner last month at the home of my friends S and J. The boozy wedges didn’t exactly coordinate with J’s delicious ropa vieja, but what are good friends for if not to wade with you periodically in cheesy pop culture excess? We had no need for 30 vodka-packed wedges, so I made the shots with a very small watermelon and cut the ingredient amounts in half. The result was cute, bland, and rubbery, landing solidly in the category of Food Novelties We Won’t Try Twice. But it was fun. Luckily, J’s delicious ropa vieja awaited, and no one minded when my husband and I heaped our plates a second time with that Cuban delicacy.

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I rinsed out my very nice 35-mm camera in the kitchen sink, then I threw it away. Catharsis achieved. Don’t do this to yours unless your experience mirrors mine, which I wrote about  in 2013. Click here for the post.

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I could tell my palate was being assessed for its adventure quotient last month when a waiter paused after I ordered freshly-made squid ink pasta for lunch. “It’s considered very seafood-forward,” he said, a hint of warning in his voice. No problem, I thought, I like seafood. That’s fine, I assured him with a bright smile. Well, aquarium-forward would have been a more accurate description. I picked out all the mussels and tomatoes, leaving a tangle of swamp-flavored, jet-black linguine on my plate. Wish I’d ordered the lasagna.

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Yep. My lunch.

Squid Ink
(Photo from Food52.com by James Ransom)

Look what you can buy at Food52.com: Squid ink (500g) for $48.00!

(I’ve cooked dried squid ink pasta several times in my home kitchen. The taste has been that of simple egg and flour pasta, with the only notable aspect being the color, which is a stunning foil for shrimp and tomato sauces. I’d eat that version again in a heartbeat.)

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Hatch chile season is upon us. These New Mexican peppers were sold at a local grocer already roasted, so all I had to do was peel them and take the seeds out. Many years ago, my family lived next door to a man who used to work at a well-known steakhouse in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He showed my husband how the restaurant made one of their most popular dishes. Rib eyes or New York strip steaks are rubbed with black pepper, salt, and garlic powder, then marinated for several hours in Worcestershire sauce with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Grilled over hot coals until nearly done, the steaks are then covered with strips of roasted Hatch chiles and topped with slices of Monterey Jack cheese. The grilling continues until the cheese melts, then the steaks are removed to a platter to sit, covered, for five minutes before serving. I think they’re delicious.

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Hurry, make another caprese salad before the last vine-ripened tomatoes disappear from your local farmers’ market!

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It’s especially good drizzled with a nice quality balsamic vinegar that’s been reduced to a glaze. Making your own balsamic vinegar glaze is so easy. Heat a small saucepan or skillet for about a minute over medium heat. Pour in 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vinegar is reduced in volume to about 1/4 cup. It will be dark and syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool. Drizzle with care; this stuff is wonderfully potent.

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Above: Another day, another caprese salad, but this one was drizzled with a store-bought balsamic reduction (sugar added), made by Alessi. The flavor was weak, and so was the color. Don’t waste your money.

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Thanks again for reading. See you at the dinner table.

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