Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Along the Potomac River Near Alexandria, VA

A merlin had caught a songbird, and a group of birdwatchers had caught the merlin in their binoculars.
Merlins, they told us, are unusual here at the Belle Haven Marina near Alexandria.

It's a warm day, though foggy, and there is still quite a bit of fall color here, as well as many birds.

This woman seems to have befriended a particular goose. She says she's worried that it's not eating enough.
She was feeding it a few handfuls of Cheerios.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Very Useful Diagram

From The Washington Post today, this very useful picture showing the traditional way to set a table:

In my own life, I don't always set all of the utensils, glassware, and china out at the same time, as it takes a lot of room. I rarely invite enough guests to make place cards necessary. And I don't often serve both red and white wine so that both glasses would be needed.

In particular, I wait until we are ready for dessert to put out the dessert utensils because somehow a helpful guest always seems to clear them away with the main course setting! However, I was carefully educated about the placement of napkin, fork(s), plate(s), knife (knives), and soup spoon going from left to right as shown here.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Two Museums and Zaytinya

In Washington, D.C. today we spent some time at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), looking at art from the American West. I've been wanting to see some of the western landscapes and portraits of American Indians that I read about recently in the book The West of the Imagination by William H. Goetzmann and William N. Goetzmann. (I blogged about it here.)

American Indian portraits by George Catlin (1796-1892) which I particularly wanted to see.
Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) -- "Archelous and Hercules"
"Archelous and Hercules," detail.
Works by Georgia O'Keeffe and Arthur Dove.  
One of several large landscape paintings by Thomas Moran (1837-1926).
After our visit to SAAM we went to lunch at Zaytinya, a delightful restaurant quite near the museum.

After ordering, you are served puffy pita-type breads.
Dipping olive oil with a "Z" written in pomegranate vinegar.
Foreground: tarama salata. Background: İmam bayıldı (eggplant with walnuts).
We also enjoyed shakshouka with smoked duck.
Fish -- bronzino -- with walnuts, water cress, pomegranate seeds, and other flavors.
In the open kitchen -- legs of lamb roasting on spits.
Another view of the kitchen.
In the afternoon we went to the "Nature's Best Photography"
exhibit at the main Smithsonian natural history museum.
We've enjoyed several earlier exhibits of this annual contest.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Family Favorite Recipes

Our family has been getting together for Thanksgiving dinner for many years. My sister and I tried out many recipes when our children were young. The turkey with stuffing is very much the way our mother made it -- a classic bread stuffing. Yesterday we celebrated together with her son, my daughter, their spouses, and their children. We wish my sister's other son could have made it from California with his family but it's too far! Also our brother and sister-in-law, who sometimes have joined us, are spending the year in Ireland which is way too far!

Over time, we've included many side dishes that are different from our childhood favorites. For the past 10 years our location has often been the home her son Joel and daughter-in-law Aparna in Pittsburgh, which I've documented here on my blog -- yesterday I posted a photo with a list of everything we had for this year. Here are recipes for a few favorites.

Joel's Carrots with Ginger & Cliantro.
Next to the carrots: beets in a bowl that once belonged
to our grandmother/great-grandmother.
Carrots with Ginger and Cilantro
From Mark Bittman. New to our table this year.

About 1 pound carrots
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1⁄4 cup chopped scallions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Unless you’re using baby carrots, cut the carrots into spears about 3 inches long and 1⁄2 inch wide. Toss them with 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil on a baking sheet and roast them, shaking the pan or turning them occasionally, until tender and browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, mix the ginger, scallions, garlic, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt together in a heatproof bowl. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan or skillet over high heat until smoking. Carefully pour the oil over the ginger-scallion mixture and mix well, mashing a bit with the back of your spoon. (The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days if you’re not using it immediately.)

3. Remove the carrots from the oven and toss them with the ginger-scallion mixture. Serve warm.

The Sweet Potatoes.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro
Joel's Recipe

2 pounds sweet potatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup sour cream
3 T fresh cilantro, chopped
3 T butter
1 t salt

  • Prick potatoes with fork, bake until tender, about 1 hour at 450.
  • Scoop out insides.
  • Saute garlic in 1 T butter (or just heat in microwave)
  • Mash potatoes with garlic, sour cream, rest of butter, and salt.
  • Fold in cilantro.
  • Can reheat in microwave before serving.
Candied pecans. Background: home made cranberry sauce.
Candied Pecans
This simple favorite originated with a dish from years ago of carrots with candied pecans. After a while we realized that we preferred to eat the pecans without carrots!

Here's my original candied pecan recipe:

1 tbs. butter
2 tbs. maple syrup
2 tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. pecans

Spread 1 layer of pecans in small baking pan. Place in 250 degree oven for 5 minutes. Simmer other ingredients for 5 min. Then pour over the pecans and continue baking at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Immediately remove from pan, separate pecans, cool on a buttered plate.

This year Elaine changed it by increasing to 3 cups of pecans, 4 tbs. butter, 8 tbsp. maple syrup and sugar, and 1 tsp. cinnamon.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

... and Dessert

Eleven of us at the table, ready to eat dinner. Unlike most families we don't watch sports on TV.
Left to right: apple pie, lemon-raspberry cake, pumpkin pie, chocolate pie with whipped cream. Very challenging after
our huge plates of turkey etc.

Turkey Time

Gravy making and general prep.

Gravy makers: Miriam and Len. 
Carving the bird.
New recipe this year: carrots with scallions & ginger.
Old favorites: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, corn pudding, sweet potatoes with cilantro, garlic mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry bread, candied pecans, beets, and more.
We've eaten our turkey etc. accompanied by Beaujolais and Viognier, and now are about to have two or three kinds of pie and a large cake. More photos later!

Thanksgiving is Today

We arrived in Pittsburgh just after the turkey went in the oven.
And the cranberries were cooking. 
Miriam, Alice, and Delia are ready to celebrate! First lunch. Later turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2016

René Magritte, born November 21, 1898

Since this is the birthday of surrealist painter René Magritte (1898-1967), I thought I would celebrate. Here are two of his well-known paintings that include apples and pears. I don't think he considered these to be food paintings, but I still selected them as somewhat related to my search for interesting examples of food in art.

Magritte: The Son of Man, 1964.
A quote from an interview with Magritte about this painting:
"At least it hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It's something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present." -- Wikipedia citation: Radio interview with Jean Neyens (1965), cited in Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, trans. Richard Millen (New York: Harry N. Abrams), p.172.

Magritte: The Memory of a Voyage, 1952.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Culinary Historians' Christmas in November

Christmas desserts: irresistible!
The dessert table at the participatory dinner of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor (CHAA) this afternoon was all the proof I needed that many people do their most wonderful baking and cooking for this holiday. A ginger and orange layer cake, a raspberry-and-cream trifle, cardamom-and-rosewater-flavored rice pudding, figgy pudding with custard sauce, and several types of cookies were all remarkable. I tried almost every one! My photos below capture only a fraction of the many festive appetizers, meat dishes, and vegetables that were on the three tables.

Gravlax garnished with dill sauce was one of the appetizers.
Our contribution: in honor of the famous Jewish custom of going out for Chinese
food for Christmas we brought dumplings from a local Chinese restaurant.
Everyone seemed very amused at this slightly irreverent choice.
Cranberry cornbread with butter. At far right: citrus salad.
Beef brisket with mushrooms and cranberries, often a dish for Chanukah. Two different brisket preparations were on the table!
People gathered, arranged food on the table, and then each of us described the foods we had prepared. The theme was Christmas and other winter holidays around the world. Most of the dishes were national or family Christmas foods such as Danish-style red cabbage; Swedish gravlax; Canadian pork spread; duck with cranberries; and rice pudding that's a dessert, but in Denmark often precedes the Christmas dinner.  We learned that a very strong tradition in modern-day Japan is to order Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas -- we were grateful that our friend Howard decided instead to make a delicious Japanese Christmas dish of chicken slow-cooked in Saki.

Preparing the saki-chicken.
Describing the desserts.