Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kitchen musings

You know how most pictures of kitchens showcase the spacious layout and fancy appliances? You won't see that here. My kitchen is ridiculously small: 8' x 14'--and it's supposedly "eat-in." Needless to say, I do not eat in it, although I do have a small table in which I deposit the day's detritus. It doesn't have a dishwasher, which made me realize what dishwashers are actually for: hiding dirty dishes. I do not mind washing dishes, I just wish I didn't have to do it so often in order to get rid of the spectacle of dirty dishes.

Nonetheless, it is just me and it's not like I'm catering large dinner parties. Working with limitations (space, as well as--gasp--an electric stove) is not always a bad thing. One adapts. The ability to adapt is a good thing, right?

This is not my kitchen; it's a restaurant in Prague. But I loved their utensil sign, and it made me appreciate my little utensil rack more...

And lest you think there is no color...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Seven Layer Bars

This recipe has been around forever. I have also seen these called Magic Cookie Bars and Hello Dollies. I loved the recipe as a kid: both the fact that you could make it all in the pan, and then of course how good it was, especially if you like super sweet things!

You can see from the recipe card (why oh why, was margarine--or in this case "olio"--in all my recipes from the '70s??) how we used to make it. Today I'd use peanut butter chips instead of butterscotch...though the recipe is obviously open to a myriad of variations!
  1. 1/2 cup (one stick) butter - can be melted right in a 9" x 13" pan!
  2. 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  3. 1 cup coconut
  4. 12 oz. (one package) chocolate chips
  5. 12 oz. (one package) peanut butter chips
  6. 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  7. 1+1/2 cup chopped (not "shopped") nuts
Bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes.

A corridor of chips (I made this in my zig-zag pan) before adding the sweetened condensed milk.

Monday, May 10, 2010


For many years I didn't really care for hummus and finally I figured out why: tahini sauce does nothing for me. Lots of people use it, and they can continue to do so. But when I first made my own hummus I didn't have any on hand and didn't feel like driving to the grocery store to get some...and I liked the hummus so much more! Another difference with this version is preserved lemon. I realize preserved lemons are not the most common ingredient, but they are very easy to make (though it does take about two months curing time)--just google them and you'll come up with dozens of recipes. Anyway, I almost always have preserved lemon on hand ever since I came across this incredible roast chicken recipe. I can't say that I make it that often, but it is--truly--so wonderful that it is worth having preserved lemon on hand for that recipe alone!

But back to hummus, I think the salty lemony-ness of preserved lemon works perfectly here. The other key ingredients are garlic and cayenne. I happen to like a fair amount of these, but you can add to your taste. (Turns out the lemon-garlic-red pepper triumvirate is also significant in my favorite pasta recipe!) Last but not least, I once read on someone else's blog that processing olive oil makes it turn bitter. I have no idea if this is true--I need some scientist out there to do some testing & analysis! In any case, I usually use a glug or two of peanut oil when I'm processing, then stir in a bit more olive oil at the end.

15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained but liquid reserved
2-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons preserved lemon, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil
pinch or two of cayenne pepper
olive oil

Process the first four ingredients, adding a few tablespoons of the chickpea liquid back in to moisten. You may also need to add more peanut oil to get the consistency you want. Empty to a bowl or storage container and stir in the cayenne and a drizzle of olive oil.