Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Moroccan cooking class

Almond Baklava

It's got to be my new favorite dessert. Below, you can see me and my new friend Vivian rolling some "cigars" as our Viking chef/instructor called them.

Joe drove us down to Franklin, Tenn. yesterday after work for a "Salute to Morocco" class at the Viking Cooking School. In addition to the baklava, we made some intensely tasty lamb meatballs, and fall-off-the-bone lemon chicken tagine.

I learned a number of things this time to hold a very sharp knife, how to avoid getting splattered with hot oil, and how an expensive rubber spoon-tula can keep Ras al Hanout and onions from sticking to a saucepan-- thanks to our quirky instructor. To see more pics click.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The inquisitive turkey

And other creatures at the LBL nature station.
Friday we had a picnic at Land Between the Lakes and caught a presentation on eagles at the nature station. The turkeys were very cute and seemed to like hanging out by the edge of their enclosures to be near people. If they only knew...

I also enjoyed watching the nuthatches, titmouses, wrens, cardinals and downy woodpeckers at the feeders.

And I wanted to take this bobcat home, he was acting very much like a big Pooky (my former pet cat). As you know, my other passion, besides food, is nature. I could have stayed there all day (or at least until the next time my stomach began to rumble).

Tilsch Parrino Thanksgiving

As you might have guessed, there was a whole lot more cooking and eating going on in my house than picture taking and blogging this weekend. So now I'm beginning my feeble attempt to make up for it.
Here's my dad opening a bottle of sparkling grape, while the rest of our dinner waits on the table. We had an early dinner... everything was ready by 12:30. At the top is a Boston cream pie, which we won at the Turkey Trot raffle. Jack and Joe placed second and third, respectively. Go Parrinos!
Apparently there was a pumpkin shortage this year, so unless you had one sitting on your front porch leftover from halloween, you wouldn't have been able to make pumpkin dolma.
So we improvised. Mom and Dad Tilsch were looking all over for pie pumpkins last week. Instead, they found these festive looking acorn squash.

We really are blessed...
We feasted on turkey with sage from the patio garden, ham with brown sugar and mustard glaze, spinach salad, roasted veggies, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed squash, green beans with country ham, herb mashed potatoes,bacon wrapped mini hotdogs (pigs in a pig), rolls and pumpkin pie from Schlabach's bakery, Tofu pumpkin pie (Mom made it without lumps! yay!) and homemade pizzles from Grandma G. and chocolate from Malley's in Cleveland. Too many favorite things at once.
Was having trouble posting all my pics, but here's an album.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thanksgiving at the New Era

Today was our KNE Thanksgiving lunch. I borrowed Joe's camera to take these cool pics at the table. It was kind of a depth of field experiment. Pictured is my plate: green beens, mini potato, two kinds of stuffing, black bean salsa, corn, turkey, ham, pasta, collard
greens... I cleaned my plate! Reminded me a little of Thanksgiving Wong style (see food column below).
Ah, he notices me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This week's column...

Thanks for giving
me so many choices

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 11:55 AM CST

Taste bud travels Emily Parrino

Growing up with Chinese, German and Swedish relatives has always been fun and a little confusing. My mom’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from Canton, the province where Hong Kong is located. My dad’s side of the family, many generations back, came from Germany and Sweden.

When my parents and I stand in line at a store, the cashier often thinks we’re separate customers. And I regularly mark the “other” bubble when filling out the ethnicity question on a form because there’s no Asian-Caucasian choice.

But growing up multiracial had plenty of perks — like regular trips to Chicago’s Chinatown and Andersonville neighborhoods for dim sum or potato pancakes. Along with the food adventures, my family gave me an adventurous appetite for food. Whenever my parents travel, they seek out the region’s specialty. Vacations, I’ve learned, are for finding the best foods a place has to offer, and buying inordinate amounts of them.

Naturally, holidays in my family center on a smorgasbord of everyone’s favorite foods.

For the last decade, the Thanksgiving holiday hub has been my Aunt Susie Wong’s house; where sticky rice, deep fried shrimp chips, and turkey drenched in a soy sauce marinade are standard. Chinese barbecued pork and crunchy won tons filled with crab are equally festive in our family.

Beginning to think this meal is a little unorthodox? Just wait. No tasty treat is out of season or off-limits in our minds. At our Thanksgiving, an extra cheesy lasagna and a bucket of KFC for the kids’ table are not uncommon.

The Wong Thanksgiving also involves plenty of pre-meal munchies. Potato chips, cheese curls, bacon-wrapped cocktail franks and spinach dip are ready and waiting so grazing can begin well before and continue long after the turkey is carved.

Though my clan craves an unconventional variety, we’d feign turn away the traditional staples. Ham, stuffing and both sweet and plain mashed potatoes are welcome at our table, as are Jell-O salads in several shades. My mom and I like to bring roasted autumn vegetables and a spinach salad with warm bacon dressing.

After we’ve eaten until we think we couldn’t possibly begin dessert, Aunt Susie will insist we try just a tiny sliver — from each of four or five pies. Then she cracks out the early Christmas cookies from several different tins and buckets. Coffee, Chinese tea and soda pop chase it all down. We leave languid from laughter and drowsy from digestion, but alert enough to take home a sack of our favorite leftovers.

Emily Parrino is a New Era copy editor. Her column runs once and month. Tell her about your family’s Thanksgiving traditions at

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Emily's test kitchen strikes again

A little strange?
It's sort of like if Picasso put his version of a gingerbread man's face on a pie that wasn't a pie but a big stack of crepes alternating with layers of pumpkin pie filling. I'm going to call it Pumpkin Crepe Pie. To make this weird dairy-free, no-bake dessert, (or is it breakfast?)make one batch of crepes. You could follow this recipe for Emily's Being Lazy Lowfat Crepes, or you could follow this recipe, which is more like the way my dad makes them.
1 cup flour
1 Tbs oil
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cups milk (I use Vanilla Silk)
a dash of lemon juice for zip.

Use an electric mixer to blend all that stuff together and get rid of lumps. (Adding a little liquid at a time helps).

To spread between the layers: 1 1/3 cups pumpkin pie filling (from a can), reduced on the stovetop, set at medium low heat as you make your crepes. Let everything cool before assembling, starting with a crepe and ending with a layer of pumpkin. Add funky decorations by using a cookie cutter on the messed up crepe that is too ugly to use in its entirety.

Salt & Vinegar Chip Soup

It started out as a lentil soup... somewhere along the way I got distracted and it became this.

1/4 cup lentils, soaked
2 smallish potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green onion
several cups of water, I'm sorry, I forgot to measure.
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp lemon pepper
2 Tbs white vinegar... or to taste.
1 tsp sugar
Dillweed to taste

Boil lentils until tender, then add everything else. Boil until mushy, but still intact. Dump everything into the blender and blend until smooth. Add water if it seems more like baby food than soup.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Patio views

I thought soggy weather deprived autumn of its peak. But this morning I noticed there's plenty of color in my own backyard. Blueberry bush (below) with wildstrawberry squatters (right) and one of the many stealthy Sivley farm cats (above.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bash on, girl!

Today was yet another KNE farewell lunch, this time for our education and courts reporter, Jenn Basham. She chose El Bracero as the venue... home of very crunchy chips and drippy salsa, yummy fajitas, tasty chicken soft tacos and firey pico de gallo. Jenn followed her beau, Brent, to Hoptown when he was stationed at Fort Campbell, and now she follows him back to her home state of Virgina.

Matt, I think she's out cheesed you in these pics.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Swishin' by myself

Shabu Shabu

Tonight I made myself a little hot pot... one of my top 5 foods I think everyone should try in their lifetime. With a fondue pot, or just a pot on the stovetop, it's a very simple dish to make. Start with boiling water or chicken broth. Add a dash of teriaki or soy sauce. Drop in cabbage leaves, lettuce leaves, onion, garlic, green onion, tomato, mushrooms, tofu, corn on the cob, taro (or potato if you, like me, cannot get taro).

I used chunks of catfish tonight. But true Shabu would use thin slices of beef. One you've got your pot full of goodies, go fishing. Then dunk your catch in an addictive sauce of rice vinegar, soy sauce, 1 clove garlic, sliced green onion and a tsp of sugar. At the end add noodles and drink a soothing soup. Good stuff.

Monday, November 06, 2006

China King

Despite the fact that we have to drive to Tennessee to eat there... and that they put cream cheese in some of their sushi, China King Buffet in Clarksville is an OK place. I like to load up on the seafood and their kim chi cucumbers.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Haddock's Grocery

Sometimes the best food comes from hidden places. This is a Haddock's Teriyaki chicken with mustard and tomatoes on white bread so fresh it shows my finger prints. We've been monthly customers since former Hoptown Mayor Wally Bryan introduced us to this inner-city grocery.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Food Quiz #7 answer

Yay, Julie... they are indeed whole wheat crepes. (And go Rachel for guessing the whole wheat flour right off the bat.) I like mine with bananas and peanut butter. As an experiment I tried cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar... Tastes good. Looks ugly. Can't always have it both ways I guess.

My dad often made crepes for my mom and I when I was growing up. I liked to fold them in fourths and nibble them into edible snowflakes, kind of a craft and a snack all at once. Now that I'm grown up I don't do that (when anyone is watching).

I've only recently started making my own crepes... inspired by a whole grains cooking class at the Mettler Center in Champaign, Ill. that I attended as a last ditch effort to get a story for my Reporting 2 class. It didn't work because I was one of two people that attended the class and the other gal was really annoyed that I kept asking questions. Anyway. Here's a recipe adapted from the class:

Whole Wheat Crepes
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups liquid (I like vanilla Silk)

If you want, add 1/3 cup sugar. Or 2/3 cup sugar. Or a pinch of salt.
To avoid nasty flour lumps, stir a little of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients at a time. Add a little oil to a skillet just to season it and turn the heat to medium. Pour about 2 or 3 tablespoons of batter and then quickly rock the pan in a circular motion to spread the batter as evenly as possible. Try to get the batter slightly up the sides of the pan. When the edges of the crepe begin to look crispy and lift from the pan, it's done. Use a spatula to peel the crepe from the pan. Repeat, fill and eat!

If you missed my wonderful mystery picture in food quiz #7, click here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

trick or pie

I was hiding out in the kitchen last night, while Joe answered the door. I let him deal with the crush of little people crowding our stoop, smooshing my potted mum, demanding candy... 'or else!' as one of them even said.

I had an excuse for staying away, my hands were knuckle-deep in sliced apples and crumble-topping crust as I made my first apple pies of the season... er, first ever actually. Joe had promised Mr. Morris a pie a few weeks ago, for letting us plunder his garden all summer.