Monthly Archives: June 2010

Plaintains as a lunch snack

A stop at a roadside soda for lunch near La Fortuna. Salad with palmito (hearts of palm) to start, followed by ceviche and patacones con guacamole (fried green plaintains – savory and salty). Watched the World Cup with the locals.
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What’s on your cookbook shelf?

Many years ago in my newspapering days I interviewed a woman who researched cookbooks throughout history.  She had hundreds … and as many stories to share from Medieval Times to the current century.  A look at someone’s cookbook shelf does give you some inkling of how they eat, don’t you think?

I’m running out of room for cookbooks.  I wean a few every year or so but like most people, I have a handful of faithfuls that I turn to.  Here’s a look at those standbys – The Basics. Nothing very fancy but always rewarding. And that black binder at the bottom? It’s used more than all the rest — hundreds of clippings collected over the years.

How about you?  What are your favorites?

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Favorite Cookbooks I - The Basics


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Ceviche – perfect starter for lunch

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Fabulous fruit platters for breakfast

Fresh plaintains from our innkeeper’s garden were a special treat at our B&B in Drake Bay. All of our breakfasts in Costa Rica have featured a plate of sliced fruit. Pineapple, papaya, mango, starfruit, watermelon, banana. This is a habit I need to bring home!
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Casado – a “marriage of foods”

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One of my favorite meals in Costa Rica is casado, a popular plated lunch or light dinner of black beans, rice, salad and meat or fish. During our five days in Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, we ate in a “soda” or small family restaurant every night. Because the location is remote, supplies are delivered by boat or in limited quantities by truck.  Casado is a simple and fresh menu feature of every soda in town. And it’s healthy. I know because my beach pants are fitting looser than usual – a good sign!

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Vacation break

We’re (way) south of the border for a family vacation. Stay tuned for tales of Tico cuisine!

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Male insight – just in time for Father’s Day

I recently downloaded an audio book on “The Male Brain” in an effort to better understand the goings-on in my testosterone-dominant household.  The cat and I are struggling to tip the gender balance in our direction.  Our two pet female rats don’t help much. I figured a little insight wouldn’t hurt in dealing with a husband and two boys. I could have saved myself the effort, I suppose, if I had turned first to a small cookbook tucked away on a high shelf: “Dishes Men Like.”

I’m not kidding – that’s the title. Published in 1952 by Lea and Perrin Worcestershire Sauce. My mother passed it along at some point, with a check mark inked beside the “mystery cheese ball” recipe.

As you might expect, the premise behind this little jewel of a cookbook is that Worcestershire sauce is that magic bullet that lures men to the dinner table.  Indeed, I remember the L&P bottle was a definitive fixture on the table whenever my mom served steak. L&P makes an appearance now and then beside our stove to add a little pizazz to routine recipes, but never had I considered making Worcestershire sauce the starring attraction. Hmmm, could it be the culinary equivalent of a pheromone to bring the menfolk running to the table? Maybe I should think again.  Let’s consider the introduction:

If you have husband who likes to cook, pamper him! You are lucky indeed, even though you find yourself only a fetch-and-carry handmaiden while his genius glows. But men are wise, not one in a thousand really wants to take over the job. They usually have a few specialties to produce on occasion and leave the rest of the cooking to us.

So, what to do? It goes without saying that most women choose dishes men like.

While the recipes may be worth a second look, it’s the images that are truly entertaining.  Apparently grainy black-and-white photos coupled with Jetson-like ink drawings were the trend in food styling in the ’50s and ’60s. The blog Eat Me Daily features plenty of examples if you want to take a look. (Consider lingering a while to enjoy a cynical and critical take on food, media and culture.)

A focus on Dishes Men Like — Worchestershire Sauce or not — makes a lot of sense in this household.  That’s why you’ll see this blog moving, literally, in that direction this summer.  Stay tuned for further details!

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Dinner in 20 minutes or less

Real Simple magazine is oh-so-clever. Near the back of the magazine is a page of perforated cards with highlights from various articles.  One is always a recipe.  This one caught my eye: “What’s a good go-to chicken recipe that’s ready in under 20 minutes?”

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Real Simple delivers with Chicken, Proscuitto and Zucchini

The answer: Chicken with Prosciutto and Zucchini. Score! Mondays are always hectic.  At 5:55 I realized I’d lost all sense of time and the boys needed to be out the door in less than an hour.  I don’t know about you, but it takes me a few minutes just to get acclimated when I walk in the kitchen.  Twenty minutes of cooking is more like the cardio segment of a workout routine. I need a few minutes to warm up and then a cool down period as well. Nonetheless, Real Simple’s quickie chicken dish worked like a charm for a busy Monday night.  With a side of buttered egg noodles, dinner was done in a flash.

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At-home dinner date caps a hectic week

While I generally avoid the kitchen as the week wanes, it was not so long ago that Friday nights were set aside as regular at-home dinner dates. When the boys were young, my husband and I would retreat to the kitchen after their bedtime. At-home dinner dates were a way for us to catch up, without interruption, and to enjoy meals designed for adult palates at the end of a busy work week.

Last Friday was a good time to revive the habit.  The boys were away and I was yearning for a decent meal vs. the quickies thrown together all week. Long hours at work meant my husband and I had shared maybe one meal in the past week. It was a good time to catch up over an at-home dinner date.

We kept it simple: Sockeye salmon fillets with a Tom Douglas Rub With Love spice rub. Israeli couscous made with a recipe on the Trader Joe’s box.  A green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette offered by a friend and reader of this blog (see her version below). Simple. Tasty. Plenty of time to reconnect with the Main Man.

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Sockeye Salmon "rubbed with love" thanks to Tom Douglas

Friday Night Date Dinner:

Grilled Sockeye Salmon “rubbed with love”

Israeli Couscous with pine nuts & parsley

Green salad with Lisa’s Vinaigrette

Lisa’s Vinaigrette. “We use it on cold raw or cooked vegetables of every sort, as well as salad.”

1/2 cup olive oil (best you can find)
1/3 cup Elsa (brand) balsamic vinegar  (this is the “secret” ingredient.  Seattle Olive Oil “18 yr. traditional balsamic” also works, but cut the added sugar)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence, crushed
2 teaspoons granulated sugar (+/- according to taste)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon dry ground mustard
2 to 3 cloves garlic, smashed
fresh ground pepper


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“The ultimate haute dog”

The New Otani Hotel - Tokyo

The Ryotei Gotenyama - Kaiseki cuisine in a tranquil Japanese setting

I first ate Kobe beef  in Tokyo nearly 10 years ago. A client treated me to dinner at a picturesque Ryotei restaurant serving kaiseki cuisine, the most formal of all Japanese dining experiences. The highlight of our meal was a serving of the highly prized marbled beef about the size of a deck of cards. We shared it; the tab for the meal was well into six figures.

My second time was last week — with a hot dog. A frankfurter billed as “the ultimate haute dog.”  I picked up a pound of American-Style Kobe Beef frankfurters as part of a grand opening promotion of Metropolitan Market (a dreamy grocery store with lofty prices off-set by value-priced teasers like fancy hot dogs). The marketing ploy worked.  I felt compelled to tee up our hot dog dinner with a certain flair:

“These hot dogs are made with a special style of beef called Kobe Beef.”

“But isn’t Kobe Beef in Japan,” Son #1 asked.

“Yes, but this is American-style.  And they’re using it in foods like hog dogs.”

“That’s weird,” Son #1 noted.

And not all that different from any “premium” hot dog, from what I could tell.  But the Kobe effect did inspire me to take the sides up a notch beyond the usual baked beans and coleslaw.  This time we opted for Trader Joe’s Cuban black beans over rice plus diced mango.  It worked.  Clean plates all around.

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Kobe beef "haute dog"


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