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After a big meal this light cake still disappeared easily. If you don't have spelt flour and you don't mind having a little gluten, substitute cake flour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Separate 6 eggs.
Beat yolks for a minute.
Add 1/3 (to 1/2, depending on your taste) cup sugar, and 3 Tbls. powdered sugar
Add the zest of one lemon
Juice of that lemon
3/4 cup mild olive oil.
Mix together, and use the residue of olive oil in your measuring cup to grease a 9-inch (24-cm) spring-form pan.

1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup almond flour

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks are formed, and minimally fold them into the batter.

Peel a tangerine and place it under a glass placed lip down on the bottom of the pan. Pour all the finished batter around the glass. Remove glass. Bake in prepared oven for 45 minutes.  Turn off oven, open door and let cake cool completely.  You may glaze the cake when you serve it, but it's not necessary.

BikeSpeerColfax.jpgHot days. So many tomatoes.

 tomatoOpalkaSm.jpgI picked the first few plum tomatoes. We have nine (4  San Marzano Redorta; 5 Opalka) plants in all and we hope they will make enough paste to last us all year. We've never grown the Redorta, and the Opalka were grown from seeds I saved from last year, so I wanted to try them before I bothered to store the lot. This first batch of plums, I made into gazpacho.

Sunday afternoon gazpacho for after the U.S. Pro Cycling finale in Denver August 28 - a perfect excuse.

We'd had a few Sierra Nevada beers up at the race finish, but were all pretty hungry after riding around to find the best race viewing positions. The food at the event looked good, but there wasn't that much shade, and besides I had the gazpacho made.

gazpachoMeal.jpgHere's what I did on the day before: dropped six tomatoes in boiling water. Turned the heat off below them, and pulled them out one at a time. Removed the skin, which I put in a stainer over a bowl. Then, I opened the tomatoes and scooped out the seeds, which I also put in the stainer. I cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and put them in a bowls with a chopped green (somewhat spicy) pepper, a garden-fresh cucumber diced, a red onion, a few tablespoons of basil, 3 small minced garlic. The tomatoes were making a juice while all the other chopping was going on, and I went out to the garden to see if there was something else.

chinesecucumber.pngFound a Chinese cucumber that is a cross between a zucchini and a cucumber. (This vegetable must be peeled because it has a fussy skin of little hairs all over it's exterior. My friend Sandy brought these seeds back from Chinatown last winter.  We grew them not knowing what they would turn out to be.)

To all the chopped vegetables I added about ¼ cup of olive oil, 1 cup water, 2 Tbs of dry white vermouth and the water that the tomato seed and peel made.  Just before I served it I added about a dozen ice cubes and let the gazpacho sit out at room temperature.

Martha was assigned the wine for this afternoon, after-race meal, and found that gazpacho is the wine pairer's nightmare. She brought a couple of Spanish reds (a Rioja and its cousin, a Tempranillo) and they were perfect.

CherryPeppers.jpgWe started with some previously marinated eggplant (with parsley/garlic/red pepper) and some green bean marinated in rice wine vinegar.  

We bought a pizza crust from a local pizzeria, Abo's, on the ride home. Stretched it into several pieces and grilled them. First on one side, then flipping them, and adding some chopped garlic, basil and rosemary from the yard. Then we grilled some eggplant rounds. When they were marked well on both sides we piled on cheese and a tomato slice. These were the garnish in the gazpacho that we served with the grilled pizza crust. Enough for six people. There were six of us and we had to share two pieces of leftover piece of semifreddo. It was cold and very frozen, and felt great on this hot afternoon.

Steak au poivre -- steak with pepper doesn't need to be a great cut of meat or a huge one. So it can be elegant, and inexpensive.  It's quicker and easier than making a hamburger, high in protein and good for the blood and a cold - last frost of the year - kind of night.

pepper_grindingDSC_6513.JPGGrind pepper, or crush a mix of peppercorns, which you can buy from Savory Spice Shop, in a mortal and spread out on a plate. Dry the steak and lay it on the pepper, press and turn. Press again and let it rest until you are nearly ready to eat. Julia Child suggests a half hour or three.

xHeat 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tsp. of butter in a saute pan on medium high heat. The pan is ready when the foam of the butter starts to subside. Cook the steak for three or four minutes per side. Moderate the temperature between medium and high so that the butter/oil doesn't burn.

The meat is medium-rare when it feels slightly springy.

What does this feel like, you've probably always wondered. I heard a great analogy.

 steak-au-poivre.jpgRelax your hand, palm up. Poke or pinch the fleshy part at the base of your thumb. This is what raw/rare meat feels like. Now, press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb (make a little ring with those two fingers). Relax and poke or pinch the thickness of your hand at the base of the thumb again. This is what medium rare feels like. Press the thumb-tip to your first two fingertips and that's what too done feels like.

Keep the saute pan warm and add a little more butter if you can handle it, and then a little bit of cognac or good sherry. Serve the steak on a warm plate and while one of you is serving the rest of the meal, stir the sauce and finally pour over the steak.

Daube_ProvencalDSC_6810.JPGBeef Bourguignon is Steuart's all-time best, never-fail crowd pleaser, but he makes it all the time. Poor me.

For a Sunday night dinner with a couple of friends, he wanted to try something different. But thwarting him was a big piece of beef- the last of our cow from Pure Wyoming Beef -- waiting, thawed in the refrigerator.

Daube de Boeuf a la Provencial.
Marinate 3 lbs of beef cubes in 1.5 cups of dry white wine, or a light red, 2 T olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, mashed garlic, 2 cups of thin-sliced onions, 2 cups of thin sliced carrots.  At least 3 hours (refrigerate if you're going to leave them longer).

Noon on Sunday: Preheat oven 300 F.
If your bacon is salty, boil it for a few minutes to remove salt. Chop 1lb of mushrooms and 1lb of tomatoes. Drain the meat in a sieve. Line bottom of casserole or LeCruset with bacon, add a layer of marinade and newly chopped vegetable  in the casserole, roll the beef cubes in flour and layer them on, add another layer of bacon and repeat until casserole is full or ingredients are exhausted. Pour the marinade and some beef stock over it all until liquid nearly comes to the top of the casserole.

Cook for about 4 hours.daube-provencal.jpg

Skim the fat of the top with a baster.

Using a fork mash ten anchovies and 2 T. capers to a paste. See first photo. Then add to  3 t. wine vinegar, 2 closes of garlic mashed, 1/4 cup minced parsley.

Add this to the casserole and put back in your low temp oven until ready to serve.

It's amazingly different from the rich beef stew from Burgundy.

We served it with roast potatoes, peas and a green salad. Plenty for everyone and left overs, too.

Wine to go with:  an Argentinian Malbec was incredible. We also tried a durif from South Africa -- not so good. Hearty was surprisingly better. The third bottle, a Zinfandel, went down just fine too.

For dessert -- a gluten free coconut cake. Now that's another story.

onion-soup-banner.jpgIt's a weekend and my husband is working on a project elsewhere, so I can take some time to make a few things for the workweek. One is French Onion Soup, which is better if left to meld in the frig for a day or two.

onion-soup.jpgCook 5 cups of sliced (long thin wedges) onion in 2 Tbs butter and 2 Tbs olive oil in a covered saucepan on low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to medium stir in 1 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. sugar and cook for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently until onions have turned an even deep golden brown.  (If you're making another dish for the week. You can prepare it here, while you're giving the onions the occasional stir.

When the onions are brown, sprinkle on 3 Tbs flour and stir for a few minutes.

Off heat, pour in 2 quarts of boiling brown stock (if you want a lighter tasting soup you may use a lighter stock like chicken or vegetable stock, but a beefy one is what is traditional). Add 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth. Simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes or more. then set aside until ready to serve.

It will taste better the next day.

You've arrived home from work on a crisp evening, and you put the soup pot on low to warm. And turn on the oven. (Another reason this meal satisfies in March or those last persistent wintry, not quite spring nights.)  

Cut a couple slices of french bread per person, bake the slices in the oven for about 1/2 hour while you're reheating the soup. Brush with olive oil and turn half way through the cooking if you want, and just a minute or so before mealtime, grate Parmesan cheese on top and toast under a broiler until deep golden brown. Place the cheese toasts on top of the soup as you serve it.

You can also make biggish croutons by cutting bread in 1 inch cubes and baking them until they dry out, brushing these with olive oil, rubbing with  a crushed garlic if you like garlic. Put these cubes on top of the soup in the bowl, or a soup tureen if you serve soup en mass. Grate cheese on top and then toast under the broiler for a few minutes until golden brown. Use hot pads to serve the soup bowls and set each on a place mat because it will be hot.

Well-made cheese is exceptional - shouldn't become usual. It's expensive, high in fat, but pleasantly high in calcium and protein, so it's not junk food. I like to think of it as a special treat, and serve it as the French do, after the main meal. If it's served as hors d'oevres, I can devour cheese like a bag of chips and neither one is very good for me.

Think of each cheese as one of the tiny items on the Tasting Menu at a swank and trendy restaurant. Select three cheeses that are similar but have subtle differences. The smallness of these difference will hone your attention to the unique qualities of each cheese. An ordinary cracker can carry the cheese to your mouth, but these crackers reformat your palette between bites.

Tasmanian Pepper Black Cocoa Crackers:
2 cups flour (spelt is good if you don't want wheat)
1/2 tsp. baking powder (very little is needed at high altitude)
2 Tbs. black onyx cocoa (Savory Spice)
1 cup water
2 tsps. Tasmanian Black Pepper, crushed. Reserve for the rolling
1 tsps. good salt. Reserve for the application just before baking.

Mix dry ingredients (reserve the salt and pepper) together with a wooden spoon and then add water until the mixture forms a dry ball. Some bits might not join in, and some flour may still not be absorbed, so sprinkle a few more drops of water on those and pull everything together with floured hands. You may not need all the water or you may need a touch more. The dough should be moist but not sticky. If it's too sticky add a little flour to the bowl and roll your ball in it. It's okay to move the dough firmly to pull it together and work it a little to even out the texture, but you won't do your crackers any good by kneading them. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit. The cracker dough is happy to have a rest while it heats.

cracker-rolling.pngcrackers-uncut.pngI remember when someone first told me they were making crackers. The whole process felt burdensome, and I sometimes have that feeling, again, when I'm asked to make them. My crackers are so incredible that I am asked this often. But really the whole mixing process takes less than 5 minutes.

Rolling the dough is fun, and I divide this quantity of dough into four parts and roll the dough very thin, tossing on the pepper when I'm almost at the final thinness and rolling it in. Then I put the slab of dough on a cookie sheet. It you can't handle the dough - if it's really thin or delicate - just slide it onto the back of the sheet with a big spatula. The thinner the better the cracker, I think.

I spray the surface with a mister and sprinkle on the salt, then cut the dough in pieces with a pizza cutter.

Into the hot oven it goes, set timer and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Roll out the next ball of dough. You can make several flavor by changing the topping at this point if you want. The cracker has backed long enough, if they will break apart easily. You will come up with a thickness and a doneness that you prefer as you make these and other crackers. After you've served them once, you'll want to make more.

crackers.pngServe warm, if you can, but they will last for days, just like any other cracker.

The cocoa is unsweetened but works to grab your attention with a subtle, lovable chocolate flavor. The special quality of the Tazmanian pepper is that it numbs the mouth. So, Taz pepper works as the perfect palette cleanser, but also forces you to slow down to enjoy all the other subtle tastes offered by the cheese, the wine that accompanies it and the starchy cracker. So, isolate the bits. Instead of trying to get a sample of each thing in one mouthful. This is a course to be enjoyed with small bites in separate parts. A drink of wine after finishing the end of a cracker. Eating the cheese off the top. There is satisfaction with getting the combos right, and each bite is a new experience.

Oatmeal, Cheap and Tasty

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oatmeal-banner.jpgRolled or Steel Cut - Organic oats from Whole Foods are $1.69 per pound. The rolled style are cut, then steamed before being rolled. These cook slightly quicker and have a creamier texture than the ones on the right that are just cut. Neither one of these has any resemblance to the  cardboard and sugar taste in a package of instant oatmeal. Both are far cheaper than any convenience food.

oatmeal-measured.jpgOrganic oats from Whole Foods are everyday priced at less than 9 cents per ounce. A package of oatmeal on sale and in 30-package quantities can be as little as 30 cents per packet, which contains less than an ounce of oats, sugar and manufactured flavorings - 4 to 5 times the price of bulk organic any day of the week.

Read my toasted oatmeal recipe if you want some tips about how to make oatmeal, where I've added some ways to save time or fit the breakfast making into your schedule, so that you can see that making oatmeal from 'scratch' takes little more time than boiling water and ripping open the bag.  And much less time than making an extra stop at Target, after searching flyers and weekly specials, to nail the the best price.

I serve my warm cereal with the absolute finest Bulgarian Pro-biotic Yogurt, (White Mountain Bulgarian), the sweetest blueberries available in winter - Whole Foods 365 brand, frozen wild blueberries and organic milk. And my breakfast is still CHEAPER than packaged instant oats. Look at the breakdown, below: Cost of Packaged (Instant) vs. Home-made (Mine).

Ingredients in roughly equivalent quantities Instant (cents) Mine (cents)

Oats: 2 packets, 8/10th of an ounce at best (46 grams)

          Organic steel cut oats: 8.7 cent per oz. (46 grams)

ORGANIC WINS: everyday price nearly 4x cheaper



White Mountain Bulgarian Yogurt: 2 Tbs   11.53
Frozen Wild blueberries:   1/2 oz.   21.5

sugar and additives: .85 oz. in flavored packets; guar gum, salt, calcium carbonate, caramel coloring, Vitamin A palmate, reduced iron .4 oz. in traditional oats.

non-dollar costs?

none added; no total cost

Milk, 1/2 cup (reg for instant; organic for mine) 5.86 11.29
My breakfast with ORGANIC MILK is still CHEAPER

oatmeal-blueberries-yogurt.jpgThe argument for organic food is that it's better for the environment. Everyone agrees. Everyone can also agree that organic is not worse for our bodies. The usual argument against organic food is that it is SO DARNED EXPENSIVE, but look PACKAGED OATMEAL is the bloated one. Shall we calculate this out for a family of 4, 6 or 8? The savings over a year's time? Or a lifetime?

Someone is selling Americans, particularly the poor, the idea that they can't afford good food. What they really can't afford is processed food, the extra cost of which goes not to farmers but big companies. 
Instead of just voting once every four years for the candidates I think might help improve the food supply in this county, I vote every time I go to the store. I vote for organics.

Just imagine how the price of organic food would come down if that was how everyone grew food.

Clear Beef Stock

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Clear beef stock in easy to use cubes. That's the final product of a long process -- not a hard one -- that is the basis of some many great recipes, and that's beef stock.

stock.pngPlease feel free to read the post I wrote last winter about making beef stock for more details on the process, but essentially it's this: roast beef bones in a hot oven until they are brown. Cover them with cold water and vegetables and simmer without boiling for hours. You want every bit of flavor to leave your solid ingredients.

Strain out the solids from the broth and let the stock cool without covering.

clarification.pngYour broth is ready to save at this point, or you can clarify it with egg whites. Harold McGee explains how to make the stock clear. Pour in two egg whites into 4 quarts of cold stock, heat to a simmer for at least fifteen minutes while the egg whites collect into a raft and put all the particles left in the stock on board. It's a cool process and really fun to watch in action. Look at this stuff go.

clear-broth.pngJust skim the raft off and you have a beautiful clear consumé. It's easy to do. We just used a slotted spoon. Because we had cooked the beef broth down to a very concentrated level - less bulk in our freezer - the final product was dense and very concentrated. If you're isn't so dense McGee suggests you cook your stock with some new additions of meat and bones for about an hour before your clarify it.

broth-cubes.pngHere's our secret for storage. Let the clear stock cool a little while you clean and ice cube tray. Pour it, or unclarified stuff, into the trays and freeze. Use whenever you want.

This might seem like a long process, but we do it once a year and have stock cubes all year long. And once you do this, you can't go back to cans.

Schlosser & PHO

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Pho - in Denver is - cheap. Pho is beef broth, rice noodles, nearly raw meat, chili, bean sprouts, lime and a mounded pile of green-leaf herb, usually Thai basil and a saw-toothed cilantro.

Fast-Food-Nation.jpgEric Schlosser wrote about our desire for cheap food in Fast Food Nation. He spoke at Denver University last night as part of the Denver Post Pen & Podium series. I was one of the many believers who filled the auditorium to hear Schlosser talk about how fast food has killed our food supply. How Ray Kroc made a fortune making our food Uniform, Cheap and Fast. I wouldn't be caught dead in a fast-food place, but I do find myself willingly going out for a PHO.

One taste worldwide. That's what Schosser said was McDonalds slogan. The thought of that, he said is 'really creepy.'  And I'm feeling proud of myself for being an adventurous eater dining at local-ethnic places. I won't conform; I want to eat everything and I want it different every time. I breath in the Pho broth that I slurp up with a horde of other diners who are less discerningly dumping in chili sauce and other strong condiments. I try places with nice ambiance and those where we're packed in on cheap cafeteria tables. I form an opinion that Pho79 has a much more balanced and aromatic broth than Pho95 just down the block on S. Federal.

Then Schlosser said another creepy thing: one fast-food burger patty born in 2011 can contain meat from up to 100 animals. He reiterated what we, the audience, already knew about how long the scare of an outbreak of food-borne illness can last. Problems are hard to contain because of mass distribution, we can't easily trace trouble to a source and then correct the cause. Take for example, the salmonella eggs last summer. Think of mad-cow disease.

pho.jpgThen, I thought about my Pho restaurants. I don't ask where the beef broth comes from. Or the beef. Of course, there's the language barrier. I don't speak Vietnamese. Maybe what I want is ignorance, and it's accompanying bliss. Maybe that's what the food industry has been trying to provide for me and the fat people walking into McDonalds. Ignorance and bliss.

A woman in the audience at DU asked, 'I'm a vegetarian so I don't have to worry about what you're talking about, but what do you think about alfalfa now being Genetically Modified?'

Alfalfa, he answered, is a perennial. (I didn't know this or that it's now GMO) The concern, he continued, is that once a genetically modified perenial is introduced, it will propagate. No reining it in when we decide we don't want genetically-modified alfalfa. And yes, he said 'when.'

Because as Schlosser pointed out our food system changed without our knowledge over the past 40 years. We didn't debate it, vote for it. It changed without our knowledge because industrial food suppliers didn't, and still don't, want us to know what's in our food - it would scare us. So, slowly local butchers became rare, tomatoes became tasteless, one-off diners disappeared and mcRestaurants propagated. Behind the curtain was the industrialization of fruits and vegetables and cultivators turned to assembly-line workers. Until we started demanding organic and local. And this is why Schlosser thinks we are on a path to change the food system back to something better.

But the organic food movement is being criticized, Schlosser said, being called 'Elitist' by Sarah Palin. Yes, organic, non-processed food is more expensive, he said. "Right now it's only 1 percent of our food production, but calling it elitist is like calling seat belts elitist. The wealthy will always had access to good food. It's the poor who are suffering most (from the change to cheap, uniform and industrial food.) Just look at obesity rates, he said: 1 in 3 nationwide; of the poor: 1 in 2 people are obese.

If I'm an elitist because I support organic food, someone will probably also assume I'm a liberal - because I am open mind and will order tripe and tendon in my Pho.

But I'm Conservative - that's what I really am - Schlosser pointed out, saying that he, and I, want to conserve the land, keep our resources clean and uncontaminated, and we want people and animals treated with respect. The big-business pork lots and corn- and soybean-subsidy funded industrial farms are UnAmerican.  I'm the true American.
This American makes a Fresh Dinner: I look up the recipe for Pho.  If I want that taste must I go out where the beef isn't guaranteed to be organic or decently treated.

'Rock candy. Buy Pho spices in a packet. If you've read any of my blogs or articles you know I hate recipes like this. Corn syrup is not necessary for my health, but I'll bet it's in the rock candy and maybe the spice packet, too. And I can't read non-Roman characters even if the ingredients are labeled.

I know Pho is generally made with beef stock, and instead of opening a can, I use homemade beef stock from a cow whose previous address I know. Added to that are a couple of star anise, a nutmeg, clove, cinnamon stick, white pepper, (from Savory, my local spice shop), an onion outer layer, a slice of fresh ginger, sage from the garden and a tablespoon of local honey. And some anchovy paste. Anchovies are what fish sauce is made from, and I know that my tube of anchovy paste is made in France where they have regulations about what they put in food. I'm not so sure about the fish sauce. It's minor, I know, but I'm on a mission tonight. To make a cheap meal in a pure way.

The rice noodles ingredient are rice flour and water. They're the extra large variety, meaning wide, and so they need to boil for 8 minutes. Yes, the package came from half way around the world, and I'm looking for a better option.

pho-ingredients.jpgRaw beef (flank steak, organic) has been in the freezer and it is cut thin. Bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, slivers of fresh red chili pepper and lime are brought to the table. I substitute more lime and chili slices to avoid using the bright red chili sauce that we can't resist buying in the Asian market. The particular chili I'd bought just wasn't very hot. That's the trouble with natural produce - it's just not as consistent as "One Taste Worldwide."  But it was hot enough for sinus-clearing and smell enhancing. We slurped our soup and thought about what spice I'd used too little, and which one I'd used too much.

At one point, I squeeze in another wedge of lime and 'wow' it was zinging. Perfection. Right there in my bowl. Later, I ladled in another few spoonfuls of the left overs, I realized again how perfect it had been. The next taste is not much worse, but is constantly changing. I get very subtle new impressions with every bite. I want more of this. I want different basil options next time, my own cow's tripe and tendon. I want to make chili sauce. I want my little elitist arugula sprouts to get bigger so they can join in the PHO.

Super Bowl Special

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football-fries.pngFrench Football Fries:
These fries are so French. They're exactly like the wonderful fries we first appreciated at a French ski resort. Out in the cold, you come in for a steak and frites, and it's heaven. Then you find out these heavenly potatoes have been fried in beef fat. We decided they'd be perfect for the Super Bowl when every dish suggested seems to be filled with fat and other stuff not so good for anyone.  

Fries-For-Football.pngWe've been making beef stock, so happen to have beef fat around -- organic beef fat -- and we brush it on our organic Colorado potatoes. They're baked not deep fried. (Is this like shaving pennies from the national debt?)

It's Super Bowl Sunday, so we've cut the potatoes and shaped them into little footballs. Brushed them with beef fat and baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until they were golden brown.

We played around with variations on the onion lacing theme. And, of course, added the best French sea salt.

Great on their own or served with the Boeuf Bourguignon made yesterday for a hassle-free, après ski, Super Bowl dinner.

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