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Thank you, Alice

Tonight, Alice Waters shared her passion with me, my friend Ruth Holladay and 598 other guests.

Famed restauranteur and food activist, Alice Waters, came to Indianapolis and spoke to a sold-out crowd at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She shared her thoughts, joys and long, illustrious experience with the audience.

Ever the “teacup personality” described by David Kamp in The United States of Argula, she started out languid. Very, very slow.

I arched my back and sunk into the seat.

“We have to listen to this for a whole hour?

Then I saw them, the boots. Alice Waters was wearing cowboy boots, or rather, cowgirl boots.

I got it. Part of her is sing-songey-little-girlish dressed in drapey clothes. But her feet, clad in “no b/s” boots, tell us she has an iron-clad will.

Two words I’ll take away from this night. Seduction and compromise. That’s what Alice Waters told her audience. When people, or the system, wander in a direction you know is wrong, seduce them with food and kindness and love. Her advice to cullinary students-don’t compromise. Thirty years ago options were limited, now there are choices.

Thank you Alice. And thanks to the IMA, donors and IVY Tech culinary students for making this such a memorable night.

Speaking of shoes, Renee Wilmeth of our favorite Indy foodblog, FeedMeDrinkMe, had on the best pair of pumps I’ve seen in a long time. They were so good, I thought they might be vintage. But no, they were brand new.

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Written by Susan Gillie

December 2, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Barney the Turkey Boy

What is it about Thanksgiving? Why does a nation that eats out of cans go all out for an artificially created festival day?

When people ask me how they should prepare their Thanksgivng meal, I tell them, “keep the main meal simple and traditional. If you want to get creative, take it out on the appetizers or deserts.”

There’s a great saying, “take my advice, I’m not using it.” That’s me at Thanksgving. I’ve used flip cards, diagrammed the groaning table, and in my prime, set up separate, draped and tiered tables for all the bounty. I’ve marinated, brined and roasted at low heat and high heat. Every trendy, off-the-wall stuffing the food-entertainment industry cynically puts out just before the fourth Thursday of November, I’ve made.

This year, though, I decided to keep it simple.  Following Kim Severson’s The Pilgrim’s Didn’t Brine, I went old school. No salt-soaking, no deep-frying. I used only garlic, thyme and fresh sage in the compound butter. Checking my ’70’s edition of Joy of Cooking, I decided to cook the bird at 300ºF for 15 minutes per pound.

When I picked up my turkey on Tuesday, there was an instant connection. Barney was beautiful. He had shape and curves. His skin glowed. He deserved proper cooking.

Even though I roasted him in my kitchen, we were eating at my sister’s house south of Bloomington. We transported Barney, along with mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing, Wrapped first in aluminum foil, we placed him on a platter nestled in a cardboard box, then stuffed towels between him and the box. When we arrived at my sister’s, he went into the oven for five minutes. 

My fear was he’d cool down, dry out and lose flavor, but the boy was succulent and juicy.

And the dark meat? Poultry mousse. Even my mother, who doesn’t like dark meat, loved the custardy meat from the drumstick.

Dinner was a success. My sister made the salads, the side dishes and deserts. Simple really is better. There were no mishaps, no drama or exhaustion from overcommittment to elaborate food, just the comfort and companionship of family.

Barney and I almost missed each other. Not a fan of turkey, I’ve threaten to buck tradtion and roast a chicken. Then I wrote an article about holiday entertaining and recommended Gunthorp Farm’s turkey to readers. Waffling, at the last minute I ordered my turkey online from Goose the Market.

As good as Barney was on Thanksgiving, he’s even better as leftovers. Platter meat was bagged and given to family for sandwiches. I smoked the wings which I’ll use to flavor slow-cooked curly endive. The roasted carcass became stock for a big batch of white chili.

The best part of Barney? His wonderful skin, which I used to make cracklings and sprinkled them on salad. Crunch and turkey flavor and a hint of fattiness, nothing is better.

Barney didn’t change my mind about Thanksgiving–I’ll always like Christmas better–but he made me appreciate how delicious real turkeys are.

Written by Susan Gillie

November 30, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Posted in food as love

Ratatouille Ribeye

Ratatouille Ribeye is a culinary tromphe l’oeil, a vegetable replacement for hearty beef. As delicious as it is by itself, it’s even better with a few lamb meatballs.

Piperade

1. Roast vegetables. Thinly slice 2 medium-sized zucchini, 1/2 large onion and 1 cored, cleaned red pepper. Slice orange-gold tomatoes in thick (1/2 inch) sices.  Place vegetables on a cookie sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Slow roast in oven (200 degrees) for 35-40 minutes.

2. Prepare stew. Chop up the remaining 1/2 onion and 4-6 medium sized zucchinis. Saute in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. When vegetables are translucent, add 1/2 cup of water or chicken stock, 1-2 finely minced gloves of garlic. Stew while other vegetables are roasting.

3. Combined stewed and roasted vegetables. Add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, salt to taste and simmer over low heat.

Eggplant Ribeye and Onion Rings

Cut thick slices of eggplant and onions (9 1/2 inch). Soak for in buttermilk, refrigerated for 1-2 hours. Roll eggplant and onions in Panko breadcrumbs (or seasoned flour if you don’t have Panko) and deep fry or pan fry until golden. Sprinkle thyme or oregano on eggplant. Salt onion rings and eggplant to taste. Place on rack to drain.

Mediterranean Potatoes

Wash and dry small fingerling potatoes (4-6 per person). Cook in 2 quarts of near-boiling chicken broth. plus 1-2 cloves of smashed garlic for 8-10 minutes. Drain potatoes and drizzle with 1/4 cup of lemon juice and salt to taste.

Plating Ratatouille Ribeye

Spoon piperade onto plate and layer 1-2 slices of eggplant. Garnish with onion rings and potatoes.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCZ4eaQi8Jw&feature=related

Written by Susan Gillie

September 6, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Pasta Salad

Two of my favorite food writers are Sara Dickerman and Kim Severson. So much food-writing is over-the-top, lifestyle fluff that has nothing to do with the joy, sorrow and glory of real cooking.

Not with these two women. Dickerman was a professional cook; Severson started her journalism career covering school boards in Oregon and cops in Tacoma, Washington before turning to food.

They go wherever there are good stories.

Just last week, I gave up on pasta. I’d purchased a high-priced bag of it, cooked it lovingly, tossed it in aged. artisanal cheese and adorned it with fresh herbs. It tasted okay, but for the price I paid, I could be eating lamb chops.

I thought, I just don’t like pasta anymore. Maybe if I went to a restaurant in Italy and somebody else made it for me and had to wash all those pans, I’d like pasta again, but otherwise, I’m done. Cross pasta off the list.

Then I read Sara Dickerman’s article “The Pasta Salad Manifesto” in Slate magazine.

Just in time for the 4th of July and summer picnics, she walks us through twelve easy steps to rescue that chronic underachiever–cold pasta.

As always, her article is power-packed with practical advise. Cool the noodles quickly, use oil not vinegar as the main element, choose the right noodles, limit textures, stay away from mayo and balsamic vinegar, use tender herbs, and above all else, stay away from the “festive” look.

I perked up–I’d only used half the bag of pricey pasta and had a bunch of asparagus that needed roasting. Maybe I could resurrect my love for pasta. I put the pot of water on the stove to boil and started rummaging through the refrigerator and freezer. Along with the asparagus, I found a red pepper, some shrimp and a red onion.

The asparagus, shrimp and pepper, doused with a dash of olive oil, got roasted. The pasta got cooked al dente and cooled exactly as the Manifesto dictated.

Now all I needed was a sauce, some tender herbs and cheese. The pasta has a creamy quality so I decided to skip the cheese and fresh chives grow in pots on my front porch. That left the sauce.

I wanted to follow Dickerman’s advice and use preserved lemons, but I didn’t have any. They take a week to prepare, so that was out. Then I remembered the quick standby for preserved lemon’s, John Ash’s Roasted Lemon Salsa.

Roasted Lemon Salsa is a great recipe. It’s the recipe equivalent of five greatest songs ever written. It’s simple, it’s uses inexpensive and easy-to-find ingredients, and even though you have to let it marinate for a few hours, it’s much faster than preserved lemons.

Don’t get me wrong, Roasted Lemon Salsa is not the same as preserved lemons, but it’s a good substitue.

So this morning, I tossed everything together–pasta, roasted ingredients and lemon salsa, sprinkling it with chopped chives. I’m headed to Bloomington to spend the 4th with my family.

Before I put the salad out, though, I’ll remember the last piece of advice, taste it one last time before serving because you’ll need more salt. I tucked a small bag of kosher in the picnic basket.

Happy 4th of July to all of you.

Roasted Lemon Salsa

  • 2 large lemons
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or green onion (white parts only)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons losher or sea salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 400 degrees F. Cut the lemons in half and pick out the seeds. Lightly coat the lemons with a tablespoon of the olive oil. Place the lemons cut side down in a baking dish and roast uncovred for 25 minutes. Remove, cool, and cut the lemons into 1/4 inch dice.

In a bowl, combine the lemons, the remaining olive oil, shallots, sugar, and salt and stir gently. Cover and set aside for at least 3 hours so the flavors can marry and mellow. Initially, the lemons may seem a little harsh or bitter but as they sit the flavor changes markedly. Taste it a couple of times throughout the rest peiod and you’ll see. Adjust the seasonings with additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Store covered in the refrigerator for up  to week.

John Ash, Cooking One on One, Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher.

Cook’s note:  Instead of halving the lemons, I quarter them. It makes it easier to discard the seeds. Also, I use honey instead of sugar.

Written by Susan Gillie

July 4, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Use It or Lose It

 

Aspic.

It’s old, old, old. It’s so old it’s not even old-school. Aspic, (AS-pihk) “a savory jelly, usually clear, made of clarified meat, fish or vegetable stock and gelatin,” is a whale-bone corset to our Spanxx food culture.

Aspic isn’t out just because it’s old. It lost favor with a feminist-oriented labor force who turned their noises up at genteel feminity. Aspic is white-glove and garden parties. It’s Junion League. It’s southern belle. Bygone food for bygone womanhood.

In our rush to judgment, and in our haste for new and better, we misjudged aspic. Though it’s reputation is fussy and snooty, it’s practical. It’s cool and crisp, perfect for hot, summer weather. It’s an easy way to prolong the life of delicate, delectable vegetables such as cucumbers and radishes.

Victoria Wexler has a post on her blog, Going Local, about the loss of diversity in our food. We’re losing on two fronts–types of produce and traditional preservation methods. 

Although old, aspic needs to make a comeback. It’s perfect for busy lives. This morning, I used local radishes purchased Wednesday at the farmer’s market to make aspic. It took all of twelve minutes to make a week’s worth of fresh salads.

Aspic lends itself to improvisation. Jalapeno, habanero or bird’s eye chili’s give this recipe more fire, a Matcha tea or vegetable broth gives it a new twist.

City Market Radish and Green Onion Aspic 

  • 1-2 bunches of radishes coarsely shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 3-4 green onions, finely chopped (green parts only)
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 packet of unflavored gelatin, mixed with 1/2 cup of cold water
  • juice of one lemon

Shred radishes, chop green onions and garlic and mix together. In a small bowl, dissolve gelatin into the cold water and let sit for five minutes.

Heat chicken broth until it simmers and remove from heat. Stir in the gelatin and completely dissolve. Stir in lemon juice and vegetable mixture.

Pour into a greased 9″ x 9″ Pyrex dish and chill for at least four hours.  Cut into squares and serve. (Or, you can pour mixture into greased custard dishes or gelatin molds if you want a more dramatic presentation. )

Written by Susan Gillie

June 16, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Happy Mom’s Day

This primary election? Whew, heady week in Indiana. For a good read on Hoosier culture, click on Nancy Nall Derringer’s Op-Ed in the Washington Post. Sure beats Matt Tully’s “I’m In Love With Myself” column in Saturday’s Star.

If your’e a political junkie, and who isn’t in this election, check out Robert Kennedy’s campaign manager’s description of the 1968 Indiana presidential primary.

My time this week wasn’t consumed by politics. No, the culprit was a cake. Not just any cake, but the Ultimate Lemon Layer Cake, cover photo for The Best of America’s Test Kitchen Best Recips and Reviews 2008.

I try to stay away from the best, perfect, ultimate. For left-brain, analytical types it’s the equivalent of crack cocaine. This cakes takes us far, far beyond food porn to cake nirvana.

It started out as a pitch-in for Cinco de Mayo, morphed into a Mother’s Day’s treat for co-workers and now sits in the frig, wrapped in Saran Wrap. It’ll have to wait another day because I ran out of eggs to make the icing.

Which brings me to Mother’s Day. Professional cooks work on weekends and holidays and today, even though I’d rather spend it with my family, I’ll be cooking for sick children and their moms. We’ll have a special dinner and give mothers bouquets of tulips.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms, grand-moms and great-grand-moms. Thanks for your dedication, preservenance and patience.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 11, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Bob

Bob Sumney Jr. was born January 18, 1956.

Oldest child and only son of Alyce and Bob Sumney, Sr., he had two sisters, Robyn and Shelley. Bob’s parents moved their children to a bi-level in Crestview on the northside of Ft. Wayne.

Young Bob claimed the neighbohood as his own.

Across town, red-haired Janet was born February 16, 1958. The youngest of Bob and Barb Gillie’s four children, her family moved into a tri-level in Westmore Park.

Janet conquered the neighborhood and surrounding Times Corners.

Bob graduated from Northrop, married, had two children, Shawn and Kelley. Janet graduated from Elmhurst, went to college for a couple years, then flirted with a dead-end job, spending all her money on make-up, jewelry and T-shirts. Fed up, she decided to grow up. She crafted a career, learned finances and bought a dollhouse-sized bungalow on Pleasant Avenue.

Things weren’t going well in Bob’s marriage and he and his first wife divorced. Janet dated a series of men-from-hell.

Bob’s sister Robyn arranged a blind date.

That date was Friday, January 23. 1988. The following Tuesday, Bob asked Janet to marry him. She accepted, on condition he provide proof he was divorced.

Janet, a girley-girl when it comes to make-up, expensive jewelry and high heels, has no patience with fluffery. She intended a traditional wedding, but the expense, the trivia and hassle was too much. Instead, she found a dress on clearance, my mon crafted a veil for a vintage hat from the Salvation Army.

The wedding took place April 8, 1988. Money saved went toward a downpayment on a bigger house she and Bob needed.

The courtship happened so fast, my sister Dana and I didn’t meet Bob until after the wedding service. We walked into Westminster Presbyterian Church on State Street with a cynical attitude.

A man recently divorced, with two young children, a work history driving a beer truck followed by selling chewing tobacco, did not bode well for a stable, loving marriage. Besides, Janet didn’t have the best track record.

My parents sat in the front pew of the church; we sat in the last. During the vows, Dana leaned over and whispered to me, “has anyone checked his credit history.”

Our concerns vanished at the reception. Even though the couple had known each other less than three months, the two families knew each other for decades.

Grandma Sumney was a friend of Grandma Gillie. Bob’s parents went to high school with my dad. My aunt and uncle socialized with Bob’s family since he was a small child.

The reception was a wonderful, warm party with delicious food. Fancy appetizers, comfort food, shrimp cocktail, wedding cake you wanted to eat, it had the right amount of alcohol and cheer. Bob and his buddies planned it.

Bob fixed up Janet’s little house. They sold it, moved to Pepperwood and had their youngest child, Jessica, December, 1990.

Bob loved his children, his home and he loved Janet.

Friends say Bob “breathed her.” He not only loved her, he got her. He valued her bossiness, stubborness, energy, and perseverence. He cherished the joy, the comfort and good fortune she brought to his life.

As with any marriage, not all was wonderful. Bob’s kids had a hard time incorporating a stepmother into their family equation. Toddler Jessica was high maintenance. One time, Janet packed Bob’s bags for a business trip to Muncie; problem was Bob had just returned from the trip.

Work stalled as Lincoln Life shifted operations out of Ft. Wayne. Bank of America offered Janet a position, they packed up and moved to Charlotte, NC. Bob quit his job to become a househusband.

Last year, Bob had a sore throat. Doctors diagnosed cancer, and thought they’d caught it early. The surgeon couldn’t remove the entire tumor without Bob losing his voice, so Bob had radiation. Radiation didn’t work, the surgeon removed the tumor and Bob’s larynx.

Bob spoke with a vocalizer. Treatment seemed to work for a while, but suddenly cancer spread to Bob’s lungs. Bob signed “no recessitation” paperwork and went home.

He was fifty-one years, nine months and six days old when he passed, October 23, 2007. He died at home, Janet and Jessica were with him. Kelley and Shawn came to see him the week before.

Janet held a memorial service in North Carolina. Two weeks later, with Jessica, Bob’s niece Lindsay and family, Janet flew to Indianapolis. Kelley and her fiance, Shawn and his family, and Bob and Janet’s friends drove down from Ft. Wayne.

On a quiet, Sunday afternoon, we honored Bob and celebrated his life with a dinner at the Rathskeller. Sauerbraten, Hot Wurst Plattes, Kassler Ripchen, Schnitzel, braised red cabbage and German beers were our memorial.

It’s never easy to lose a loved one, and Bob died too young and too soon.

Bob didn’t get to walk Kelley down the aisle when she married in December. He didn’t get to plan Janet’s 50th birthday party. He didn’t get to celebrate his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife

Before he died, Bob had difficulty speaking, but he scribbled a note to Janet:

Cremate me, keep me near you, do not forget me.”

We do not and cannot forget Bob Sumney. He lives in his children and he lives in Janet.

That night twenty years ago, when my sister married Bob, we not only gained a brother-in-law, but a gracious host who knew how to entertain and make his guests feel wanted and comfortable. He gave the best parties, dinners and buffets we’ve ever known.

He wasn’t an accomplished cook. A picky eater who refused to touch a green vegetable, he served what his guests liked. When someone overindulged themselves at his bar, he’d steer them to a bedroom to sleep it off, then drove them home after the party ended.

He was organized and could set up tables and chairs for 50 in his basement. He collected people and brought them together.

One Easter dinner, Janet brought out a heaping platter of Jello Jiggler eggs. We took one look at it and an egg fight broke out on the deck–Mandarin Orange vs. Blueberry.

Afterward, Bob quietly pulled out the hose and rinsed down the sugary mess, never complaining that the stains wouldn’t come out of the deck he’d built with his own hards.

Written by Susan Gillie

April 21, 2008 at 12:58 am

Posted in food as love