Reader Appreciation!

Woot! I’m thrilled that my new writing buddy Kristina Perez passed the Reader Appreciation Award to me for my blog!

Kristina and I met during WriteOnCon, a fabulous (and free!) online conference for writers, and she’s already given me great feedback on my ms and shared the beginning of one of her intriguing mss with me. Maybe even cooler, I loved the fact that she’s jumped out of a plane! (one of the Things on her Seven Things About Me list)

On that note, Seven Not-Previously-Shared Things About Kip:

  1. I haven’t jumped out of a plane, but I took flying lessons for a while. My favorite skill was the touch-and-go, where you come in for a landing and then take off again right away. So fun!
  2. I’ve also driven a tank, flown in a helicopter, and fired some interesting weapons. ***
  3. My parents didn’t allow me to have Barbie dolls. Instead, I had the “Sunshine Family,” complete with hippie van.
  4. My idea of a fun night is to make a meal from a book, like the pommes à l’huile with fresh bread and a tall, cold beer from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and read the scene out loud to unsuspecting diners. 
  5. I would feel very uncomfortable living anywhere that required a car. I have a car, but I like to be able to get around without it.
  6. I didn’t learn to swim or speak Spanish until I was a grown-up, but I do both quite well now.
  7. ***I was in the Army! For reals. It feels like another life, though.

As outlined in the rules for this blog award, I’m now passing it on to 5 other writers whose blogs I adore.

Michelle Mason

Elodie aka @commutinggirl

Angelina Hansen

Shari Green

Bethany Smith

The full Rules of the Game (for those I’ve nominated):

1. Identify and show appreciation to the blogger who nominated you.
2. You must add the reward logo to your blog.
3. Tell your readers 7 things about yourself.
4. You must nominate 5-10 of your favourite bloggers for this award.
5. Inform you nominees that you nominated them.

It’s a cinch, right?

Ceviche

We had our first heat wave in Boston this week, so it was time to throw together one of my favorite cold dinners: ceviche.

Ceviche is a great dish because it’s so quick and easy to prepare, refreshing and delicious, and actually good for you. The only caveat: you have to do your preparations far enough in advance that your citrus has the time it needs to “cook” the seafood.  I usually prepare it in the morning to eat that night (6-8 hours later).

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of seafood (my favorite to use is sole, but flounder, tilapia, shrimp, and calamari work well too), cut into thin, small pieces
  • the juice of 7 limes and 1 lemon
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

The instructions couldn’t be simpler: just slice the seafood in small pieces, chop the vegetables and cilantro, juice your citrus fruits, then throw everything together in a big bowl and put it in the refrigerator to cook.

I usually serve it with tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole, along with a nice cold beer, mmmm. Hope this is a refreshing break on a hot summer night!

The Quiche to End All Quiche

I have to admit it: I adore quiche.

I’ve been making it for years with relative success, but I’ve fallen in love with it again after turning to Julia Child’s master recipe.

In her book THE WAY TO COOK, Julia gives recipes for several types of quiche. Spinach, Lorraine, etc.

I started with her spinach quiche, and I’ve found that I can use the basic ratio she outlines there for any veggie quiche. Well, except for one twist, with the cheese. I like a lot of cheese in my quiche. Here’s the how-to:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375.
  2. Get out your pillsbury dough boy pie crust and place it in a pie pan. If you can make your own crust, by all means, go for it. Julia Child has a great recipe for that too, and so does Michael Ruhlman in RATIO. I haven’t ventured there yet, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll like it and have to do it every time.
  3. Eggy mixture. This is Julia’s no-fail ratio. Beat three eggs and add enough milk to get to 1.5 cups of mixture. I mix it right in my four-cup mixing cup.
  4. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Nutmeg is that key flavor you need, like in a good bechamel.
  5. Chop your veggies, anywhere between 1/2 cup and a cup. Spinach or broccoli are good stand-bys. A recent experiment I tried came out great: parsley and shallots. Mushrooms and scallions might be my next experiment.
  6. Do a super-fast sautee of your veggies in butter. You don’t want to cook the color out of them. Even thirty seconds is enough for some veggies.  Throw them in your mixing cup or bowl with the eggy mixture.
  7. Grate about 3/4 of a cup of cheese. I like a flavorful cheese like gruyere or emmentaler. Throw about 1/2 cup of the cheese into the mixture.
  8. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and then top with the remaining cheese.
  9. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes (Julia says 35, but mine seem to need more – could be my oven, so check after 35).

It’s been coming out perfect every time for me! How does this work for you?

Ensaladilla Rusa

I’d have a hard time picking a favorite tapa in Spain – so many delicious ones to choose from! But ensaladilla rusa – “little Russian salad” – is definitely up there on my list, especially because it’s slightly different in each bar you visit, but always delicious.

Another bonus: you can pretty easily get most of the ingredients in the US to prepare it at home. It’s also fun to prepare with kids. You can do all the prep work and chopping, and then each child can add in some of the prep bowls of ingredients and help with the mixing.

What you need:

  • 2-3 large potatoes
  • 2 small or 1 large can of tuna in olive oil (spring for the good stuff from Spain if you can)
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 cup of peas (frozen ones – defrosted obviously – hold their color well)
  • 1/2 of a small sweet onion
  • 1 can/jar of white asparagus
  • 1 can of anchovy-filled olives (you can usually find the Goya ones)
  • olive oil to taste
  • sherry vinegar to taste
  • salt to taste

1. First, get going on the prep work. Peel and slice the potatoes into small cubes, and the carrots into small slices.

2. Boil the potatoes, eggs, and carrots (in separate pots), and heat up the peas in the microwave. When the eggs are boiled, cut them in half, reserve the egg yolks, and finely chop the whites.

3. Finally, finely chop up the onion, and set aside in a small dish. Open the cans of tuna, olives, and asparagus, and finely chop half of the olives.

4. Ready to combine! Begin with the potatoes in a large bowl, and then add in the carrots, peas, tuna, onion, chopped egg whites, and chopped olives.

5. Add dressing and season. You’ll need a ratio of about 3/4 olive oil and 1/4 sherry vinegar. Pour it right into the bowl along with a couple of pinches of salt, and then continue to add whichever of these three you need to taste.

6. Spoon out the mixture into a serving dish or platter, then top with the remaining full olives, white asparagus, and crumbled egg yolks.

¡Delicioso!

Tortilla Española

In honor of Spain making it to the World Cup final (¡que viva la roja!),  I made a few tapas for us to nibble on during the game.

Every time I make a tortilla, I am amazed how six of the most simple ingredients in the world can come together to become something so delicious. All it takes is:

  • potatoes (3 large)
  • eggs (8 large)
  • onion (about 2/3 of a medium-sized one)
  • garlic (1 large clove)
  • olive oil
  • salt

Not only is it made up from simple ingredients, but it’s pretty quick and super-easy to prepare. The only challenging part is the flipping. We’ll get to that in a minute.

The first thing to do is to prepare the potatoes. Peel and wash them, and then cut into small thin slices. With a large potato, cut it in half lengthwise, and then cut each half in half lengthwise (so you have 4 long quarters), and then just start slicing away.

Start heating up a pot of olive oil on high temperature when you start slicing the potatoes, so that it’s hot and ready as soon as the potatoes are. The oil has to be deep enough to cover the potatoes, so make sure your pot is deep enough.

Get all the potatoes in the pot, and then carefully scrape the bottom of the pot so that things don’t start sticking right away. You’ll need to do that every few minutes to make sure all your slices are evenly cooked and that none of them are sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Once they’re on the stove, dice your onion and finely chop your garlic. Your’re ready for your nonstick frying pan now. The size of the pan is important here too – I use a 10-inch pan, which is perfect for an 8-egger with the proportions listed above. Grab about 2 tablespoons of olive oil from your potato pot (reuse, recycle), and coat the bottom of your frying pan, and set it on medium-high heat. Throw in the onion and garlic, and just give the pan a shake every now and then to make sure it’s not burning. Don’t forget about checking on the potatoes!

Things are starting to come together now, so it’s time to prepare the last 2 ingredients. Crack your 8 eggs into a large bowl, beat them with a wisk, and then add a good heaping teaspoon of salt. This is a little hard to judge at first, since you can’t taste it in the raw eggs, and you can definitely adjust to taste the next tortilla you make, so make a not of how much you put in if you are the sort who measures.

By now, the potatoes and onions/garlic should be done, so carefully spoon them all into the egg mixture (use a straining spoon for the potatoes so you don’t take the whole pot of oil with you), and stir up your mixture a bit before pouring it into the pan.

Add another 2 tablespoons of your potato-oil into your frying pan, and then pour everything right in. Give it a stir or two with a wooden spoon and then pat it down to settle it into a good position. It should still move slightly at the edges when you give it a little shake – this will be important for the flipping. Start it off on medium-high heat, and then reduce it to medium once you flip.

And the flip! This is pretty much the only time when you can mess up your tortilla, so good luck! Once you start to see browning at the edges or smell cooked potatoes, you know it’s time to flip. You’ll need a fairly light plate that is the same diameter as your frying pan to cover the pan. Place the plate over the pan, and flip the tortilla right onto the plate. If all went well, you can place the pan back on the stove, add a bit more oil if you have a free hand, and then slide in the flipped tortilla, uncooked side down in the pan.

However, there are times when things can go terribly wrong:

  • You could get burned by the pan, oil, or tortilla. To avoid this, you can place a towel on the top of the arm holding the plate. It definitely helps with minor accidents.
  • Tortilla on floor, stove, or everywhere. Sigh. This happens to everyone from time to time, especially if you are on the tiny side and your tortilla is heavy. To avoid this, you can ask a bigger friend to help you out. This is the one part I ask my Spanish husband to help me out with often. Additionally, you can normally repair missing chunks of tortilla by sliding them back into the pan underneath the main chunk of tortilla.
  • Huge chunks of tortilla on floor, stove, or everywhere. If the above doesn’t help, you can quickly beat up another egg and use it as glue to pull the chunks you’ve gathered back together in the pan. Obviously this should only be attempted if you have a very clean stove or floor, or if you don’t really like the people you’ve invited over.

¡Buen provecho!

Julie and Julia and Kip

Ha, before I saw Julie and Julia, I was thinking how cool it would be to try out all the recipes Julia Child did on her show. How original!

Anyway, I’ve since seen the movie, and done quite a few recipes myself, most notably Boeuf Bourguignon and Trout Meuniere. Plus I’ve been working with Bernardo on the madelines, yum. Interestingly, the recipe on the show is not quote the same as in the cookbook. Hmm. Yes, hmm.