Friday, November 27, 2009

Week 1

I began this journey because I wanted to expand my taste as well as my cooking skill and the first recipe in Women of Great Taste challenges me with black olives and capers, foods I no not like. Olives if encountered are easily picked out of foods and I have only tried capers once before. Capers are pickled buds of the caper plant, and to me taste similar to the olive.

The recipe, Aegean Salsa named after the sea between Turkey and Greece, is a base of eggplant, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and celery, flavored with wine, Worcestershire sauce, black olives and capers.

This week I also prepared the second recipe, Pita Crisps, and the third, Hummus.

My adventure began at the grocery store looking for items I never use, olives, capers and tahini sauce for the hummus. After 20 minutes I resorted to asking for help and a nice woman, busy with the Thanksgiving crowd found each item I needed and even recognized me when I returned the next day for more food.

Preparing the salsa was a time consuming job of dicing vegetables. Several weeks ago my daughter, Kate, and I took a knife skills class at The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square. We learned how to hold a knife properly and how to dice different vegetables. It was a fun class and I did learn a lot. The idea behind dicing vegetables is to get uniform pieces to make the dish look attractive and to allow for uniform cooking. The eggplant was suppose to be diced into 1/2 inch squares. I got out my ruler and measured. What I had forgotten until I got about half way though the egg plant is that you have to cut 1/2 inch rectangular planks first. This requires wasting a large portion of the eggplant since eggplants tend to be round and not square. A serious chef saves all the rounded pieces to make vegetable broth. Needless to say my "cubes" were not uniform but in the end probably made little difference because of the length of cooking time. Even though having taken the class I am a faster and more efficient chopper the whole process took a considerable amount of time. The ingredients reminded me of the ratatouille that my niece, Lyndy, and I made when she was staying with me.

The second recipe was simply toasted pita bread cut into triangles for using with the Aegean Salsa and the third recipe Humus. I do eat humus and enjoy it on occasion. I found the preparation very easy and an excuse to get out the mini Cuisinart that I had to have a couple of years ago but have used maybe once. The only real challenge in this recipe was toasting the pine nuts. I had earlier in the day ruined some almonds I had tried to toast but Kim, my roommate, talked me through it and they came out fine. Fresh humus is very different from store humus, much better. My problem now is that I have a whole jar of tahini. I looked up on the Internet to see what else tahini is used for and other than a fish recipe only hummus came up. But I could do worse than making hummus once a week. I may try adding different spices.

The Aegean Salsa turned out wonderful even with the olives and capers. Kim agreed and even Charlie, Kate's boyfriend, said he liked it. The initial face he made he said was due to the fact he was expecting something hot instead of cold. Both also enjoyed the humus and toasted pita bread.

This was the first Thanksgiving since moving to Chicago that I have cooked and shared with others. After my separation and divorce in St. Louis, my friend, Phyllis and I would go out on Thanksgiving and I have a picture of the two of us on one occasion in a frame on my refrigerator. My daughters always spend Thanksgiving with their father's family. But this year, Kim and I cooked a fabulous meal of turkey, lamb, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, cranberry almond relish (minus the almonds),from Women of Great Taste, salad, pumpkin pie, brownies and of coarse Aegean Salsa and Hummus on Pita Crisps. Charlie joined us and we had a very nice meal and conversation.
Hi all! This is my new blog about cooking and maybe about life. How many of you guys saw the movie Julie and Julia? A very fun movie. In the movie Julie decides to cook her way through Julia Child's French cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not a small feat.

I have decided to do something similar but with the cookbook my sister, Jane introduced me to many years ago, Women of Great Taste by the Wichita, Kansas Junior League. Thank you Jane. I am going to do this for several reasons. Even though Women of Great Taste is really the only cook book I ever use and has most of my favorite recipes, I have only cooked about a hand full of recipes from the book. I am very set in my ways about what I cook and more importantly about what I eat. I want to expand my skills and palate. I love to cook and I love to write. So I thought I would combine the two.

Unlike Julie who gave her self a year, I am going to take a little longer. I am only going to prepare two recipes a week. And I am going to start at the beginning and go through to the end. It should take a little over 3 years. Lots of writing and cooking.

A little background. Women of Great Taste was published in 1995. Twenty thousand copies were pinted that year and another 20,000 copies the following year. I do not know if there has been further printings. You are still able to get the book both through and from the junior league itself. Women of Great Taste won the Midwest regional Tobasco award the year it was published. The Tobasco company judges community cookbooks from all over the country. The books have to be part of a fundraiser for the community.

Junior Leagues all over the country publish cookbooks. Most of them are high quality hard back books like Women of Great Taste. Incidentally, Chicago's junior league published a cookbook last year call Peeling a Wild Onion, which won the Tobasco second place nation award. Chicago is the Native American word for wild onion. We were beaten out by Morehead City's A Little Taste of Heaven Since 1857: The Morehead City Heritage Cookbook.

Publishing cookbooks is still big business. Here is a link to an interesting article. Apparently the best selling cookbook of all times is Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

I hope you will join me through my adventures.