Friday, March 27, 2009

My methods

I just got home from an author talk at our local public library. The author, Molly Wizenberg, has a well-known food blog, Orangette, and has recently published the book "A Homemade Life : Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table". While having my copy of the book signed, I talked to the author about how she cooks and bakes, her methods, and realized that I cook and bake in a way that is so linked to my personality. (That IS to be expected.) I know that I am not a measurer, I'm inexact and somewhat impatient, even disdainful of cooks who read recipes as though they must be followed right down to the perfect measuring of the last ingredient. I don't think I ever cook or bake anything exactly by recipe, nothing! But then I also realized that I am a process oriented person and the end product is not as important to me as the feeling I have as I am making something. Before I start a food project I imagine the flavors, sometimes not just imagining but also sniffing different ingredients separately and together to see if they seem 'right'. In that way, I do not think I am particularly imaginative, fusion of very unlike flavors is not my forte. While I'm creating in the kitchen, I turn the music up loud, sometimes dressing up for the occasion, look around my kitchen at the things I appreciate and begin. And I am not a great cook, I don't even cook often but when I do it's a creative process that sometimes turns out exactly how I imagined it and just as often flops.

We were talking, as Molly signed my book, about writing recipes, and I told her that I wanted to write my family's cookbook and had started by giving my children a booklet of recipes that I had written. I seemed to add my own commentary to the recipes. See the recipe I sent to my son for Valentine's Day last year, full of not just recipe, but me:

Sam's Valentine Cookies

1 stick butter (basic)

½ cup organic cane sugar (basic)

½ cup brown sugar (basic)

1 egg (basic)

a splash of vanilla (basic but oh so good)

1 ¼ cups flour (basic)

1 tsp of baking powder (basic)

1 cup rolled oats (for health)

½ cup coconut (for dreams)

gratings of fresh ginger (for love)

Mix the first three, then add egg, ginger and vanilla. The dry stuff gets thrown in and mixed with the less dry stuff. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.

Love you, Sam! Happy Valentines Day. They're in the oven right now. I will be mailing them today, expect them Saturday.

Tu mama

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hierba Santa

While I was in Oaxaca in 2005, I took a cooking class at the language school I attended, the Instituto Cultura Oaxaca. We used an herb that I knew nothing about before the class. The common names include hierba santa and hoja santa, the Latin name is Piper auritum. Hierba santa is an herbaceous plant, approximately 4 feet tall, with large (about 3 inch by 5 inch) heartshaped leaves. The plant pictured here was growing in the garden where we stayed but I saw it growing everywhere, a native plant or weed?

The leaves have a pleasant anise flavor. We used it in a black bean paste for memelitas, small handmade corn tortillas covered with the beans and freshly made salsa.

This is the recipe from Berta, mi maestra, for the black bean paste for the memelitas:

Preparacion de la pasta de frijol:
Se asan 5 hojas de hierba santa junto con 3 chiles

En una licuadora:
Se mezclan la hierba santa y los chiles con medio kilo de frijo, previamente cocido.
Se licua con el agua necesaria.
Se vierte en una cacerola puesta previament al fuego por 5 minutos con cucharadas soperas de aceite.

El frijol se frie por 20 minutos.

I have not yet been able to find a source of seed or plants of hierba santa but would like to find one and try growing it in my garden.

I think this blog is more food than books. I should rename it!