Friday, September 25, 2009

Mom's oatmeal cookies

When I was young, my mom did things differently from the other mothers. When the other kids were eating sugary cereals, I had to eat Uncle Sam. When the other kids were drinking milk shakes, I had to drink raspberry kefir. And when the other kids had smooth, flat store-bought cookies in their lunch boxes, I had chunky, lumpy homemade oatmeal cookies that looked like golf balls.

Appearances aside, I loved these oatmeal cookies as they were spiced with brown sugar and dotted with chocolate chips. But they looked strange, definitely not like the other kid’s cookies or something you’d find at a bakery. And when you’re in elementary school, appearances mean everything.

In the fifth grade, we had assigned seats at our lunchroom table. I was seated next to a boy named Vance. I knew him from our country club as we had taken tennis lessons together that past summer, but over the course of the school year we became better friends and he asked me to “go with him.” I thought he liked me because I was cute and lively (my nickname was Spaghetti Legs) but in time, I realized the truth.

Once I became Vance’s girlfriend, he told me that what was his was mine and vice versa. So I got to eat his Oreos and he got to eat my mom’s cookies. I thought that I was getting the better end of the deal and he was just being kind.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bacon jam recipe: make it at home

“Bacon jam tastes like the love child of pulled pork and pate!” said one friend. “I am now officially in pig heaven,” said another as I shared tastes from the jar of Skillet’s bacon jam that had just arrived in the mail.

Bacon jam? Yes, indeed—it is good stuff. And so good, in fact, that I decided to figure out a way of making my own bacon jam at home so I wouldn’t have to rely on someone else for this smoky, pork-rich treat.

Over the past few months, it seems that you can’t escape the topic of bacon jam. Skillet’s rendition has certainly excited people, but at heart bacon jam is simply a potted meat, something that has been gracing battlefields, picnics, high teas and nursery suppers for hundreds of years.

For most, the term potted meat conjures up images of mystery meat in a can, but traditionally potted meat was made at home from meat scraps, herbs, spices and maybe an acid or a spirit, such as vinegar or brandy. Making potted meat was a preservation method, meant to extend the meat’s life just a few more weeks. Nothing mysterious or scary about its contents at all! Matter of fact, when made from quality ingredients, potted meat is as satisfying as pate, though it’s far easier to make. And like pate, potted meat can be either elegant and smooth or rustic with chunks.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Molletes with homemade bolillos

Do you love refried beans and cheese? Do you love a crusty yet soft roll? Then allow me to introduce you to a superb Mexican dish: molletes.

Earlier this summer, I traveled to Mexico City. It was the rainy season, which means that every afternoon it would rain for an hour or so. By the time I landed from New York, however, that day’s shower had passed, leaving the air clear and the streets clean.

I knew I wanted to stay in the Condesa neighborhood and I found a delightful place called The Red Tree House that was filled with light and trees—two things often in short supply here in New York City.

My agenda for the trip was precise: eat well and take photos. On the first morning, I woke up early with the plan to go to El Mercado Merced, the largest market in Mexico City. Before leaving, I walked through the dining area and saw a lavish display of pastries, fruits, juices and yogurt. The owner asked I wanted to stay for breakfast. The cold spread was indeed gorgeous, but I wanted something hot—namely refried beans—and so I declined and left the house.

This pattern continued for the next two days. As I was leaving, the owner or manager would ask if I wanted breakfast, and I would politely decline the pastries because I wanted to eat beans.

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