Monday, December 22, 2003

Saturday night I made what my people call potato pancakes. For Jeff, for Hanukah, they were latkes. I love a holiday that celebrates the fried foods. I also love that the Hanukah truck drives through our neighborhood. Last week I'd never heard of the Hanukah truck, now I love it. Anyway, I used Deborah (Not a Jew) Madison's recipe from Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, which was much like any potato pancake recipe. Two suggestions of hers- keeping the cooked latkes on a plate in a 200 degree oven while you finished the batch, and grating the potatoes into a bowl of cold water- were real winners. If you've ever had half your potatoes turn green/gray/black while you finish grating the rest, you will appreciate the water bowl trick. And if you want to sit down and eat the pancakes as a meal, the oven is the way to go (I hardly ever do that for anything else- regular pancakes stay warm on a plate with another plate on top of it. Potato pancakes are liable to lose their crisp that way.).

Then I got back into some old habits on Sunday- baking bread, making mayonnaise, going to the Farmer's Market. I should always check the potato guys out first, since this week they had the most beautiful carrots and I had already bought carrots elsewhere and I hated telling them I didn't want any. Because I did. (The potato guys, from Weiser Farms, sell the most amazing potatoes in the world, for one- potatoes which are a right and a privelege of living in Southern California, one of the best things about this region, potatoes you should be shamed for not buying if you can- also have other things for sale which, from their tomatoes in the summer to their squash in the winter, are usually excellent.)

Wheat bread, which is a pain to knead by hand, is a joy in the KitchenAid, like everything else. Pizza dough is a pain to knead by hand because it takes a lot of kneading. Wheat bread is a pain because it is sticky and shaggy and messy. You would think that some of the pride would dissipate, having done less work to make it, but bread baking with or without a stand mixer is a rewarding business. Bread you made yourself, smeared with mayonnaise you made with eggs bought that day from a farmer you trust and a good safflower oil and mild olive oil and tarragon you grew yourself? The best. The absolute best.

I made eggs benedict for breakfast. I've really gotten hollandaise down, finally. I messed up the first batch of poached eggs- if you haven't done it in a while, you may forget how important it is that the water be at a slow boil and you crack the eggs open as close to the water as possible. Don't. It was delicious- still some of the best eggs benedict I've had in town, and at much less than $8.75 or whatever the going rate is.

For dinner we had the baked goat cheese salad from a recent issue of Cook's Illustrated. The last time I had a warm goat cheese salad, it was Sally Schneider's from A New Way To Cook. Y'all know I love that cookbook more than anything, but her dieter's vinaigrette is ass. The dorky Yankees at Cook's rolled the goat cheese in herbs, a dijon egg wash and melba toast crumbs and then freeze before baking. The dijony bready crust complimented their decidedly non-ass mustardy red wine vinaigrette and the warm, oozing goat cheese was beautiful. It would be a perfect dinner party salad, too, since you can make the goat cheese rounds in advance and freeze and keep frozen until just before you pop them in the oven.

For Christmas dinner we're having ham, mashed potatoes, a spinach and artichoke casserole and glazed (non-Weiser Farms) carrots. I can't wait.