Saturday, January 24, 2009


I've had a couple of cravings lately.

Years ago, there was a fabulous restaurant here in Lexington called Ed and Fred's Desert Moon. I used to sneak out the back door of Cafe Jennifer to get my fix of their Chile Lime Pesto Linguine. I'd devour it in the office, check my smile in the mirror for tell-tale cilantro, and then sneak back out front. That's one craving.

Soba noodles have also been on my mind lately. These hearty buckwheat noodles are a great option for those of us who aren't fond of whole wheat pasta (a taste I can't seem to acquire) and still want a healthier alternative to the white stuff.

I haven't been able to get my hands on the recipe Ed and Fred used (help would be welcome!), but I'm pretty sure they used regular linguine. However, I had soba in the pantry, cilantro in the fridge, a lime in the fruit bowl, and a little time on my hands. An experiment was in order.

I had a couple of little red peppers, some left-over pecans, and of course garlic. I gave it all a rough chop, and processed the heck out of it. I added salt and pepper, squeezed fresh lime juice, and drizzled in olive oil as it whirred around my machine.

Sorry -- I experienced a relapse here and fell back into the old habit of not measuring anything. Here are my estimates:

1 cup nuts (I had pecans, but walnuts would be delicious)
1 bunch cilantro, minus a bit for garnish
2 garlic cloves
Juice from 1 lime
Chiles -- I had these mild red peppers on hand, but I recommend using whatever you can take!
Salt, pepper, and olive oil (I used less oil than a traditional pesto because I wanted it kind of on the dry side.)

I had pulled some cod from the freezer earlier, so it was included in this experiment. I sprinkled it with salt and pepper and smeared some of the fragrant paste over it.

I originally set my oven to "broil", but soon realized that the nuts were browning much faster than the fish was cooking. I turned it back to "bake" and started the soba noodles.
I had fun making this up as I went. I didn't want to cook the pesto (surely that would soften that fresh bold punch), but I wanted the soba to pick up some kind of flavor in a saute pan.

So after boiling the noodles in salted water until just al dente, I tossed them with olive oil and sauteed scallions.

I tossed the warm soba noodles with the pesto, placed the fish on top, and we enjoyed a delicious and healthy meal.
I didn't quite capture the linguine from my memory, but that's okay. I'll just call this tasty adventure "Soba Experiment One." Now -- on to the variations!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lighting the corners of my mind....


Did you ever glimpse an image so simple yet strong -- an image which transplanted you instantly and completely back to another time in your life?

This simple image

stopped me in my tracks as I was washing dishes one night. This handy flat container was left behind in my fridge (thanks Jeremy!) after a very fancy dinner party which was an auctioned item at my son's school fund-raiser. The guest chef heard me lamenting about how I loved and missed those well-made, can stand up to a thousand commercial washings, just down-right practical containers. Once you're out of the restaurant business, they just don't come your way very often. Go to all the tupperware parties you can find -- you won't see this.

The funny part of this flashback was the frustration. Perhaps it's a rule -- maybe restaurant employees aren't supposed to remove the old masking tape label that might say, for instance, "chicken salad", when actually it's raw salmon. Or portioned sea bass. Or whatever.

Oh, if only I had a dollar for every strip of masking tape I've peeled off...

Cranberries -- Texas Style

If your family is like most, you have 1.5 members who actually like cranberries with all those holiday meals, and one person who eats fruitcake. My husband actually likes fruitcake. I know. I married him anyway. And my mother is our lone cranberry eater. Or rather, she was.

Christmas day (yes, it's a really late post), my mother laid out a spread of snacks to keep us from getting too famished (with all that unwrapping, and playing and so on). On that table was a glorious bowl of ruby red, glistening....something. With chips on the side. Could you resist?

We didn't. We dug in, and experienced a spicy, sweet, tangy concoction that was soon habit-forming. My mother had plates set out, but I didn't need one. I simply stood my ground by the bowl and dug in my heels.

My mom's friend Jackie -- a fun-loving blond from Texas -- made this glorious dish and shared the recipe. Try'll like it. Really! No holiday required.

Jackie's Cranberry Salsa (straight from Texas!)

1 package fresh cranberries; rinsed, cleaned and chopped in a food processor.

(I have an unofficial rule about using my food processor. If the job takes less time to complete than it would take to clean the food processor, I tend to use my immersion blender. Note to self -- break that rule next time.)

1 cup sugar

Mix together, and chill for 2-3 hours. Then add:

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 - 2 jalepenos, finely chopped

Mix it all up, and enjoy!

Okay -- confession time:

Mine wasn't as good as Jackie's. I called her up to chide her for keeping something from me -- or perhaps to correct a typo. Husband and I both thought that this post-holiday salsa was much sweeter than that the one we had originally fallen in love with. And no, it wasn't the margaritas.

Jackie and I surmised that my cranberries were riper. After all, mine were on sale (you now, the mad rush to rid the groceries of all holiday-related produce before it goes bad) and though I added a squeeze of lime to balance it a bit, it was too late.

Our advice to you -- add half a cup of sugar, taste after an hour, and then adjust as needed. And what the heck -- a margarita can't hurt!