Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Los Barrios Family Cookbook" - Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Meatballs - National Hispanic Heritage Month

Date I made this recipe:  October 24, 2016:  Better late than never to observe National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15)

Los Barrios Family Cookbook – Tex-Mex Recipes from the Heart of San Antonio by Diana Barrios Trevino, foreword by Emeril Lagasse.  "Los Barrios, named one of Esquire's Top 100 New Restaurants in America."
Published by Villard (registered trademarks of Random House)
ISBN:  978-0-375-76097-6; copyright 2002
Purchased at Moon Palace Books, Minneapolis, MN
Recipe:  Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Meatballs (Fideos con Albondigas) – p. 147-148

Two words:  Toasted pasta!

Reader, who knew that toasted pasta would bring out so much flavor in this dish?  No I! (En Espanol:  Yo no!)

So as you can see above, I missed the window of opportunity to observe National Hispanic Heritage Month during its designated time, but I had this book queued up so I decided to run with it.

You should see the pile of "For your consideration" cookbooks I have on deck each week.  The cooking events for which I could use a book in my collection far outweighs my ability to use them.  I consider the fact that I made this recipe a week later a win.

The book itself is not unfamiliar to me as I often see it displayed as a "face out" (i.e. put on the shelf so you can see the cover) or an end-cap (shelves at the end of the aisle), but I never bought it.  And then I had occasion to visit Moon Palace Books in south Minneapolis and this time around, it came home with me.  Timing is everything.

Los Barrios is not only the title of this cookbook but a 30 year-old restaurant in San Antonio serving Tex-Mex recipes.  In the Acknowledgments section, the author notes that Random House approached them to write a cookbook when it's usually the other way around.  I commend them for their foresight.  Plus, even though Tex-Mex cuisine has been popular for some time, it was just starting to get a toe-hold in 1999, when this book was optioned.  Now, of course, there are many, many Tex-Mex cookbooks as well as cookbooks from several other "Hispanic" countries such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, South American, Central American and of course, Mexico.

When I delved into this cookbook, I was in the mood for something light and this fit the bill.  I also wanted to avoid a lot of spices, specifically chiles, as I don't have the taste buds for that.  Still, a full recipe of this soup calls for six serrano chiles.  You put them in the soup whole but I still held back on the amount lest my tongue start on fire.

The author notes that this soup – Vermicelli Soup with Meatballs "eats like a meal" which is one of the reasons I made it.  And she was right.  I used both a fork and a spoon to eat this delicious – and easy – soup.

So back to the toasted vermicelli---even though the instructions were pretty clear (heat oil, toss vermicelli back and forth until golden brown), I still had this niggling feeling that I was missing a step like say, cooking the pasta first.  Cooking it didn't seem right, but I have been burned before (no pun intended) by missing or incomplete instructions.

Enter YouTube:  you can find instructions on how to make just about everything on YouTube and there were several videos on how to make this soup.  And yes, Virginia, you do indeed toast the pasta uncooked for several minutes until it is golden brown.  And then when you finish blending your tomato mixture, you add it to the pasta and let it simmer for a few minutes so that it cooks.  Brilliant!

The only thing I changed up was that I split my pasta in half before adding it to the pan.  But if I made this dish again (and I might because I quite enjoyed it), I might add a bit more everything to it except the chiles.  I would have liked a bit more cumin and garlic powder and a tad more tomato puree in the soup but otherwise it was great and easy to make.

This cookbook, like the restaurant, serves up a wide variety of recipes, including breakfast.  I was tempted by a few of the breakfasts, then changed my mind and thought about making some salsas and some enchiladas before deciding that soup was good food.  There's a recipe in the book for soup without the meatballs but I love meatballs and so I went with the full meal deal.  And let me tell you, this recipe really is a full meal deal because half a recipe easily filled my 3-quart saucepan.  I cannot imagine what a full recipe would look like.

So there you go, my "better late than never" homage to National Hispanic Heritage Month.  Enjoy!  ("Disfrute!"

Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Meatballs – (Fideos con Albondigas) – serves 6 to 8 (Ann's Note:  generously!)
For the meatballs
1 ½ pounds ground beef
¼ cup white rice
2 eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
For the soup
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
One 12-ounce package vermicelli
½ onion, sliced
½ green bell peppers, sliced
6 serrano chiles with stems
3 tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon pepper

To make the meatballs, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, combine all the meatball ingredients in a bowl, mixing well.  Form the mixture into meatballs the size of a golf ball.  Add the meatballs to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the vermicelli and toss back and forth with 2 spoons until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes; do not allow the noodles to burn. Add the onion, bell pepper, and chiles and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, the 1 tablespoon salt, the cumin, garlic powder, and pepper in a blender.  Add 1 cup water from the meatballs and blend until smooth.  Add the tomato puree to the vermicelli, stirring well, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the meatballs and their broth and season with salt.

Author's Note:  Leaving the stems on the chiles prevents them from bursting during cooking, which would release their seeds – the source of their heat.  To make individual servings spicier, simply serve a child to anyone who wants one, so they can open the chile and stir the seeds into their soup.

Ann's Note:  I made half the recipe but used only one serrano pepper because I am a wuss.  I don't know how that translates in Spanish but there you go.  Three (half recipe) would have been asking for it; six for a full meal – in my opinion – is dangerous!

"Extreme Brownies" by Connie Weis - Birthday treats!

Date I made this recipe:  October 19, 2016 – Happy Belted Birthday to me – dessert!

Extreme Brownies – 50 recipes for the most over-the-top treats ever by Connie Weis
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4494-5032-8; copyright 2014
Purchased at Barnes and Noble
Recipe:  Holy Heavenly Hash Brownies – p. 37-38

My birthday was a few weeks ago but I didn't really get my birthday cake.  Oh sure, I had cake and ice cream for dessert at Spoon and Stable, but it wasn't really "birthday cake" birthday cake which is to say it didn't have frosting.  It was "fancy" cake  - a lovely honey cake with sweetened condensed milk ice cream and caramel and...stuff.  It was the type of dessert for which restaurant pastry chefs win James Beard Awards. The presentation was spectacular, it tasted divine, but it wasn't "cake" cake.

When it comes to cake, it seems to me that people are either "cake" people or "frosting" people, but not normally both.  I am a frosting person.  Final answer. Cake is okay (my husband likes cake) but I am all about the frosting.  ALL about.  The more the better!  My favorite is Seven-Minute Frosting, a frosting my mother favored for the angel food cakes she made for all of us for our birthdays, but it would have been unseemly for me to make and then eat an entire bowl of it, wouldn't it?

So, I punted.  Instead of making or buying a cake, I, for the first time ever, had birthday brownies.

I love brownies.  I love brownies better than cake.  Maybe it's because brownies are a lot more dense and the flavor stands out more.  Or maybe it's because brownies are portable:  I cannot tell you how many times I stuff a cling-wrapped brownie into my purse for "sustenance."  (Cookies get the same treatment).  Cake is much harder to transport and of course, frosting, nearly impossible!

And folks, were these brownies ever good.  Really good. Plus, and I am chuffed to say this, my brownie looked exactly like the brownie featured on the cookbook cover – exactly!  That almost never happens.

But I have to tell you, I am not sure I can take credit for this success because it was a matter of following directions. Granted, there are many steps involved in making these but I was patient and I also made them over the course of two days.  I started the brownie layer one night but then ran out of time to do justice to the other layers so I started anew the next afternoon.  Sometimes taking a leisurely approach has its benefits.

Since my cookbook collection is ever-growing, I often box up and store cookbooks once I have used them but not this time around.  This time around, there's potential for reuse because of all the scrumptious recipes found in this book, of which today's featured brownie is one of them. 

And I'll just say that if you cannot find a brownie to suit in this book, it's because you are not looking hard enough.  There are "chip" brownies, fruit brownies (like raspberry), coffee brownies, mint brownies (ew), candy brownies and cordial brownies.  And then there are blondie brownies with all kinds of flavors and toppings, such as apple walnut and lemon coconut and even fruitcake blondies.  I love both kinds of brownies but I had to go with chocolate and happily, there are several other delicious chocolate brownie recipes that I might have to double back and try.

So.  Things to know about this recipe for Holy Heavenly Hash Brownies are that you'll use several kinds of chocolate and chocolate chips (bring it on!) and also a small amount of chocolate extract.  Let's discuss this last ingredient.

I tried to find chocolate extract before I made these brownies, but after trips to three different grocery stores (a few that were upscale), I didn't find it and wanted to get these brownies baked before I aged another year.  It would figure then, that about a week after I made them (and we inhaled them), I stopped at Penzy's (spice store) who didn't have them but referred me up the street to the Golden Fig Fine Foods.

I've mentioned the Golden Fig before; it's a specialty foods shop on Grand Ave in St. Paul. And sure enough, they had chocolate extract and a few other extracts that might come in handy.

Since owner Laurie McGann Crowell was there that day, we had a little chat about the extract and how it just adds a nice, smooth, subtle chocolate flavor to baked goods.  Plus, it had an expiration date of 2018 so that was in its favor; longer is better.  It's a little pricey compared to other extracts, but I think it was worth it. And of course, it gives me another reason (as if I needed one) to make these brownies again.  Sold!  By the way, you can mail order this item if Laurie's store is not in your neighborhood.  The brand is Nielssen Massey and you can find it online.  Pricewise, Sur La Table is the "best" of the online bunch, coming in at $8.00.  My bottle cost $6.95 and looks like that was a steal; Amazon's price is $14.99 – yikes!

Now I'll warn you that the ingredient list looks long (and hopeless) but it's really not.  If you bake at all, you likely have three-quarters or more of the items you need already on hand.  And I must confess to leaving out the almonds.  Much as I like almonds, I just didn't want them in my brownie.  And since it was going to be my birthday brownie, I got to do what I wanted. 

One other tiny confession:  I did not freeze the brownie layer for a short time period as directed.  Since I made the brownie base the night before, I just wrapped it up and let it set out.  In hindsight, I might have wanted to at least refrigerate it for a bit.  The brownies were a little squishy (but in a good way) and they probably would have benefitted from firming up just a bit.

Finally, these are very rich, so you might want to consider making a half a batch like I did and then cut yourself a tiny piece a day until they are all gone.  And remember, as with the mini meatloaves I made earlier in the week, there are next to no calories in mini bites. 

Birthday or not, you need to make these!

Ann's Note:  you'll notice the author gives you the ounces needed for each ingredient. Since I have a kitchen scale, I weighed most of mine (but not all) but if you don't, you might want to eyeball some of them because 1 cup is not always 8 ounces. For example, notice that 1 cup of sugar = 7 ounces, not 8 but you will use a full cup (8 ounces) for your light brown sugar but not a full cup for your flour (use 4.5 ounces).  Bakers like to weigh things!

Also, page xvii contains her tips for measuring, baking, whisking and whatnot.  If you have the book, you might want to take a look-see.  That said, I have the book and did I look there?  Nope [insert sheepish look here].

Holy Heavenly Hash Brownies – makes 12 large squares or 24 smaller bars
Brownie Batter
Vegetable shortening for pan
2/3 cup (3 ounces) roasted salted whole almonds
½ cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup (6 ounces) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 packed cup (8 ounces) light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4.5 ounces) bleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder

Chocolate Nougat
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
¼ cup (2.2. ounces) evaporated milk
7.2 ounces (1 ½ cups) marshmallow creme, such as Fluff
½ cup (3 ounces) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure chocolate extract (Ann's Note:  Naturally, I didn't purchase mine until after I was done with the recipe.  I couldn't find it before then.  If you don't have it, you can leave it out.)

1 ½ cups (2 ounces) miniature marshmallows
¼ cup (1 ounce) roasted salted whole almonds
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips

Chocolate drizzle
1 tablespoon (0.05 ounce) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon (0.02 ounce) light corn syrup
¼ cup (1.5 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon very hot water

To Make the Brownies
To make the brownies, adjust an oven rack to the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Prepare a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil as shown on page xvi.  Lightly great the foil in the pan.

Cut the almonds in half widthwise and place in a small bowl with the semisweet chocolate chips.  Set aside.

Cut the butter sticks into 1-inch slices.  In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter pieces over the lowest setting.  While the butter is melting, chop the unsweetened chocolate into ¼-inch pieces and add to the melted butter along with the bittersweet chocolate chips.  Use a small whisk to speed the melting process.  When the chocolate is melted and completely smooth, turn off the heat but leave the saucepan on the burner while proceeding with the recipe.

Using a large whisk, lightly beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Place the sugars and salt in a separate small mixing bowl, then whisk into the eggs just until incorporated.  Briefly whisk the melted chocolate mixture, then gradually whisk into the egg mixture until just combined.  Briefly whisk in the vanilla.  You can set aside the saucepan – no need to wash it – to use for the chocolate drizzle.

Place the flour and baking powder in the small mixing bowl; whisk together to combine.  Sift through a medium strainer directly onto the batter; stir in with a silicone spatula until just combined.  Sprinkle the almonds and semisweet chocolate chips over the batter; fold in until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a small offset spatula. Bake for 28minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, then transfer the pan to the freezer to chill the slab while preparing the chocolate nougat.

To Make the Chocolate Nougat
Cut the butter into ½-inch thick slices.  Place the butter, sugar, and evaporated milk in a medium (1 ½ to 2-quart) saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula, until the butter is melted and the sugar is completely dissolved.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to the lowest setting and boil gently for 5 minutes, without stirring.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the marshmallow creme until very well incorporated, then add in the chocolate chips, salt, and extracts, stirring vigorously until the mixture is well blended.  Dollop the nougat over the chilled brownie slab and spread evenly with a small offset spatula.

To Add the Toppings
Evenly place the marshmallows over the nougat, gently pressing to slightly embed them.  Cut the almonds in half, then embed them in the nougat; repeat with the chocolate chips.

To Make the Chocolate drizzle
To make the chocolate drizzle, melt the butter and corn syrup over low heat in the reserved saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate chips; stir with a small silicone spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Stir in the hot water to think it out.  Use the spatula to drizzle thin, random stripes over the top of the brownie slab.  Let the slab sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then refrigerate pan for 7 to 8 hours or overnight.

Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Ann's Note:  I mentioned above that I did not freeze the brownie slab for the allotted time, nor did I put the mixture in the refrigerator for 7-8 hours.  I mean come on—after all the work of making them, you want me to sit this out for another 8 hours?  Don't think so!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Meals in Heels" and "She Cooks to Conquer" - Mini Meatloaf and Peas Penelope--the perfect birthday dinner!

 Date I made these recipes – October 16, 2016 – Happy (Belated) Birthday to me!

Meals in Heels – Do-ahead dishes for the dinner party diva by Jennifer Joyce
Published by Murdoch Books
ISBN:  9781741965520; © 2010
Purchased at The Bookcase (now closed), Wayzata, MN
Recipe:  Mini meatloaves with roasted tomato thyme sauce – p. 91

She Cooks to Conquer by Robert H. Loch, Jr.; Illustrated by Laura Jean Allen
Published by Wilfred Funk, Inc. New York
© 1952
Recipe – Peas Penelope – p. 44

So my birthday came and went and it was good which should not surprise me but it always does because for a long while, I was on a bad birthday streak.  It happens.  This year, Andy and I dined at a newer but extremely popular Minneapolis restaurant, Spoon and Stable, and I got a reservation for us without having to put up our home as collateral, huzzah!  And the dinner was not only great but it didn't cost us an arm and a leg.  Hand claps all around.

Still, this birthday gal likes a homemade birthday dinner and since I don't have family around to make one for me based on my requests, I had to do it all by myself.  And I'm happy to report that "myself" did a pretty good job! (Pats self on back.)

I must have been feeling all "woman power" when I selected these books – Meals in Heels and She Cooks to Conquer (a play on words of the play, She Stoops to Conquer, written by Oliver Goldsmith that premiered in 1773.  As a former English major, I knew all this which was why I bought the cookbook years ago.) And I think those titles are pretty spot on given my interests and personality, to wit:  I love shoes, and I do like playing to my strengths both in business and in cooking.

So, the shoes:  I am a frequent DSW shopper, following in the footsteps (pun intended) of my mother who also adored shoes.  My summer shoe collection although vast, contains fewer heels than it used to since I now like a flat, summer casual shoe (and adore flip flops). Come winter though, I switch to boots although anything that has a heel that looks like a toothpick is out. I'm now getting to the age where a slip and fall on high heels on the ice is a recipe for a hip replacement and I kind of like the hip I have.

I'm also probably getting to the age where I should purchase and use, one of the large gel floor mats that chefs use but dang, they're expensive and so I wear flats when cooking.  Heels, like the "heels" in our title would kill me and my back while preparing all these recipes.  But as soon as I'm done cooking and commence entertaining, I'm back in the spike heel game, baby!

This Meals In Heels cookbook is fun but it was written by a Brit and published in England so you'll see metric recipe measures first and then the American equivalents.  Always a total give-away, those metric numbers (that I still don't understand because I don't want to)! No matter, I coped as best I could although I have to say that dividing ingredients whether metric or not, can be challenging for me; "kitchen" math is not my forte (nor is "music" math and most especially "law math" i.e. billable hours).

The table of contents is divided into "Getting Started;" "Canapés;" "Starters;" "Mains;" "Stews & Roasts;" "Barbecue;" "Sides;" "Sweets," and "Basics."  Each section has a decent amount of delicious-sounding recipes.  My meatloaf recipe came from the "Mains" section (p. 91).

Also included are menus that are divided into seasons -  "Spring," "Summer," "Autumn," "Winter," as well as "Celebrations," and within that group, theme parties.  Sample menus are:  "Spring – Indian spice trail and French brasserie;" "Summer – American barbecue and Scandinavian summer;" "Autumn – Italian make-ahead and Movie night;" "Winter – Chinatown feast and Mediterranean dreaming," and "Celebration – Christmas holiday and Black-tie canapés."

And yet with all that, I narrowed down my choices to lasagna or meat loaf.  I know, I know, but it's the comfort food and the birthday food I crave and I am used to.

I hate to say, but the lasagna lost out at the last minute because of two things:  kale and béchamel sauce.  Over the years, I have expanded my lasagna horizons to include vegetable lasagna or even spinach lasagna but I draw the line at kale.  I know it's good for you and I'll eat it in a salad, but it is a crime against humanity to put it in a lasagna.

And as discussed numerous times in this blog, white sauce (béchamel) is not the sauce of my people and does not belong in a lasagna and so there went that.  And so...meatloaf!

My mother's recipe came straight from the back of the Quaker Oats canister and I loved it.  But it is a basic recipe and I was looking for a little more for my birthday meatloaf so I chose today's recipe - Mini meatloaves with roasted tomato thyme sauce.  Plus, you put the word "mini" in front of me and I'm in like Flynn.  I mean think of it—you get a tiny bite instead of a big one, and everyone knows that the word "mini" is synonymous with "less calories," right?  Unless, of course, you eat a "mini" portion(s) equal to a regular-sized one which is allowed under culinary rules when the first "mini" portion is so mini as to not be satisfying, in which case more minis are necessary!

Why do I suddenly feel like Bridget Jones here?

At any rate, that was the meatloaf saga.

As to the veg, these are my  two auxiliary rules regarding meatloaf:  1) it must be accompanied by potatoes of some sort and 2) it must be accompanied by peas.  Meatloaf + potatoes + peas = my perfect comfort/birthday meal.  Who says I'm not good at math—well, besides me?

But careful readers will have seen already that I did not include a potato recipe so what's up with that?  Simply, I did not like the potato recipes I found in the books I used for the other dishes and I did not have time to go routing around for another potato recipe.  And so, dear reader, I bought some "Fingerling potatoes with sautéed leeks," already prepared, from Whole Foods deli where I shopped for the meatloaf meat.  I must confess though, that I was hoping to buy some mashed potatoes from the hot bar buffet but did they have any potatoes that day?  No, they did not, dammit! That said, they had some mac and cheese and so I took a little bit of those.  They are not potatoes but they will do in a pinch.

The peas recipe came out of the other cookbook I used – She Cooks to Conquer – which is a play on a play She Stoops to Conquer.  The play is about a guy (gotta have the guy) who sets out to "conquer" a gal (gotta have the gal) only she outwits him and manipulates him until he falls for her instead of "conquering" her (whatever that means) because that is how these things are supposed to work out. It's your basic "rom com" formula and one that obviously stood the test of time because the play was written by
by Oliver Goldsmith and premiered in 1773.  Yes, you read that right.  I think it's reassuring to know that while many things change in life, this plot framework still works and works well.

Side note:  As an English major, I have always known of this play and author, yet I cannot recall whether or not I actually read it during my studies.  After a while, all these books and titles start to blur.  I can tell you though, that I have read Jane Eyre a million times (slight exaggeration), Antigone several times, all of Shakespeare's works too damned many times and Moby Dick twice when "none" time would have been sufficient.  I hope we can all agree that six hundred pages about a whale is a bit much.

Anyway, this concludes all I know about She Stoops to Conquer and other "good reads."

As to She Cooks to Conquer, here is what the dust-jacket said which is totally laughable in this day and age:  "Now, for the first time, the kitchen sorcery of Circe, that semi-divine enchantress of classical times, is used to bewitch, bewilder*, and enslave the male animal.  Here is a collection of the most man-appealing, taste-titillating recipes for the successful feeding of the MAN who comes to dinner." ( *I can't believe the author didn't include "bother" when he said "bewitch and bewilder" as Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered is a wonderful song by Rodgers and Hart (1940), a song I've sung several times over the years at various musical events.)

My reaction to those statements, you ask?  "Hahahahahahahaha...."  I think I particularly like "enslave the male animal." All I can say is recall that this cookbook was published in 1952 when women's sole job was to get married then stay at home to raise babies while the "MAN" went out to work...and hunt and trap food for the family. 

And so to help the enchantress "enslave" her man,  recipes are divided into chapters as follows:  "Even Had Only Adam but Circe Really Had'em';" "Initiating the 'Vessel Virgin';" "The Portable Primer for Your Man of Extinction;" "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (also the title of a play by George S. Kauffman and Moss Hart, 1939); "Dinner Quartet;" "Midnight Eatiquette;" "The Man Who Stayed for Breakfast," and "Homeric Recipes in English Translation."

I'll just let you ponder those titles for a minute.  Done?  Okay.  Once again, let me just remind you it was 1952.  Still, is there any excuse for this title – "Initiating the Vessel Virgin???!"

This is one of the few cookbooks I have where every recipe is illustrated.  The artist on this endeavor was Laura Jean Allen who illustrated everything from New Yorker covers to books such as Mr. Jolly's Sidewalk Market, Lots and Lots of Candy, A Dragon in a Wagon and The Thirsty Camel

In this cookbook, she broke down all the recipes and steps into illustrations/icons.  The front inside cover contains measurement drawings, for example a drawing of a big spoon which translates into a tablespoon; a half spoon for a ½ tablespoon; an illustration of a coffee cup for a cupful and so on.  And then for the recipe itself, she's drawn ingredients (like a box of peas for my recipe) as well as salt and pepper shakers and so on.  On the one hand, this method was unique – sort of like a kids' cookbook.  On the other hand, I found these instructions to be lacking in detail and I like details!  "Details, details, details...."

As to the recipe, it was good but I tell you what, if you are trying to watch your waistline, this is not the recipe for you because it calls two tablespoons of sugar and one stick of butter. I have to confess that I could not in good conscience add that much so I skimped, adding a lot less of each and I don't think it made any difference to the flavor.  It's rare that I venture off the recipe but I didn't want to end my week-long birthday party with a heart attack!

In conclusion, I got my meatloaf, I got my peas, I got my shoe fix on (boy did I—DSW offered me a birthday coupon and who am I to pass it I bought two pairs!), and I cooked to conquer.

It was a grand birthday.  Until next year!

Mini meatloaves with roasted tomato thyme sauce – makes 6
Prep time 20 mins/cooking time 1 hour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
10 ½ oz minced beef
10 ½ oz minced pork
¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs
2/3 cup tomato passata* (Ann's Note:  see explanation below)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
7 oz mini roma (plum) tomatoes, halved
3 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar, for sprinkling

*Passata is a pureed tomato sauce.  Internet research though, showed a wide variety of recipes and definitions.  The most basic ones just contained pureed tomatoes with a bit of salt.  Others wanted you to cook the sauce, adding basil and other spices, which to me says "spaghetti sauce."  I decided to use Pomi Strained Tomatoes "straight up" and think it worked okay.

Preheat oven to 325F.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes or until softened.  Remove and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the beef, pork, breadcrumbs, half of the passata, Worcestershire sauce, egg and half the thyme to the bowl, season with salt and pepper and gently mix with your hands until well combined.

Divide among six 4 x 2 inch-sized ramekins and spoon over the remaining passata.  They'll seem very full but will shrink during baking.

Top each with a handful of tomato, ½ teaspoon sugar and season with salt, pepper and remaining thyme.  Bake for 50 minutes or until sauce is thickened.  Top with thyme sprigs to serve.

Peas Penelope – serving size not listed but easily served 4 or more
Ann's Note:  As I mentioned above, the ingredients for each recipe are illustrated rather than listed in the traditional way (e.g. 1 10-oz box frozen peas) and so I had to guess at the peas. 
1 box of peas, frozen
1 large clove of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons sugar (Ann's Note:  wow, this seemed like a lot!)
1 stick butter
¼ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon tarragon

Cook the peas according to directions on package (use minimum of water).  Ann's Note:  I have to say, I wasn't sure what to do here:  use the amount of water according to the directions or to skimp on that amount so as to use a "minimum amount of water?"  This puzzled.  So I used the amount of water listed on the package and then split the difference and drained some out!  I'm not normally that indecisive!

At the same time you are cooking the peas, add the clove of garlic that has been speared on a toothpick.  Also add the spices and then the butter.  Cook the peas a few minutes longer than the instructions on the package, then remove the garlic and serve.

Ann's Note:  Although this dish was good, I have no idea what the end result was supposed to look or taste like.  But hey, play with it and make it your own!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Dutch Culinary Art - 400 Years of Festive Cooking" - Carrot Soup in honor of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge's trip to the Netherlands

Date I made this recipe:  October 13, 2016 – Duchess Catherine visits the Netherlands

Dutch Culinary Arts – 400 years of festive cooking by Janny de Moor, Nico de Rooij, and Albert Tielemans
Published by Dutch Culinary Art Foundation
ISBN:  90-902442-6-3; copyright 2009
Purchased at the Strand (Bookstore), NYC, 2013
Recipe:  Carrot Soup (Wortelsoep) – p. 64

Unlike the Queen of England, I am often easily amused.  This week's amusement, and the reason why I cooked from this "Dutch" cookbook, is because the foreign media went nuts reporting on this "breaking" news:  Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (married to Prince William), took a solo trip to the Netherlands for the day.

I know, right?  Breaking!  Riveting!  How did she do it!  Travel by herself?  The hell you say!

The stated purpose of said solo trip, I think, was to meet with the King of the Netherlands and to take in the sights of The Hague and Rotterdam, which included visits to art galleries.  Catherine has a degree in the history of art, which is not to be confused with a degree in Art History which is what we "heathen" Yanks call it, and so traveling to art galleries makes sense for her, does it not?  It does.

The "unofficial" purpose of this trip was to see if she could hold her own without other royal family members around to support her.  Guess she passed and that is a good thing:  I was so worried for her. ;)

But who are we kidding?  We may be interested in art, and she may be interested in art, but the press and the public are pretty much only interested in "Who is she wearing?"

I would hate to be her.  I would hate to have every outfit I wear, every hairstyle I adopt, and every accessory I choose be evaluated and found wanting.  I mean, on any given day, I can be a walking wounded when it comes to looking presentable but I am not a Duchess am I?  Nay, I say!

That said, I cannot, in good conscience, move on to talking about the cookbook without noting a few of my "go-to" celebrity websites I visit for all the dirt on what our gal, Catherine, is wearing.

  • – These two guys, Tom and Lorenzo, crack me up with their biting wit and spot-on commentary about celebrity fashion of which they consider "Cathy Cambridge" one.  And "Bill (William)."  In general, they like her outfits but do wish she would give up the ghost on her beige pumps which she wears with just about everything.  I agree.  Other royal women have branched out in the shoe department so why not her?  Anyway, Tom and Lorenzo's commentary –some might say bitchy sarcasm – cracks me up but at least they do have enough sense to treat "Cathy" with respect even if they wish she was wearing something else.  (A recent posting:  "Cathy Cambridge's Dusty Roses" where they discuss a rose colored flowered dress she wore last week for an outing with "Bill.")

  • People Magazine –   People magazine has been discussing royals and royalties since their founding, yet from the get-go, People has insisted on referring to the Duchess as Princess Kate and despite outraged comments from readers, they don't seem to be too inclined to refer to her as anything else.  (Not that the other side of the pond is any better:  The [London] Daily Mail continues to refer to her as "Kate Middleton." Sigh.)

For the record, she is not a Princess.  I mean technically yes, but if I may, let's walk through the British monarchy and play "What's in a name?"

In England, if a non-royal (Catherine) marries a royal prince, she could adopt his name and be known as Princess William.  I don't know why that is but it is and good for her for not going that route because it's...silly.  As an example, Prince Michael of Kent is the Queen's cousin.  His wife is known as Princess Michael of Kent, even though her first name is Marie Christine.

Quite often, when British royalty marry, the new couple is granted another title like Duke [of Earl!] or the Earl of "Earldom" in which case, the women are known as [first name], Duchess/Countess of "Whatsis."  So even though William is a prince, he is also the Duke of Cambridge and Catherine is known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.  William's Uncle Edward (Prince Edward) was given the title Earl of Wessex when he married and so his wife, Sophie, is Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Uncle Andrew (Prince Andrew) is the Duke of York and former wife, Sarah Ferguson, was Sarah, Duchess of York. (Great—now I have that classic song, Duke [Duke, Duke, Duke] of Earl on my mind!)

And so in conclusion, dear reader, given all that, Princess Kate is not Princess Kate and shall never technically be Princess Kate (or Princess Catherine) and that's that, and People is wrong for doing so! Bother! Moving on...

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, toured some of the Netherland's finest art galleries while on her solo journey, and much was made of the fact that she wore the "same" earrings as the woman in Johannes Vermeer's famous paining, The Girl with the Pearl Earring (which was also a title of a movie with the same name starring Scarlett Johansson).  The very same as in "what freaking [royal] nerve!"  Or perhaps the opposite -  a nod to her hosts, the Dutch, or she was simply feeling in a pearl kind of mood that day, we don't know.  We do know though, that she saw many more works than just the pearl earring painting and it was probably fun for her to see these things up close and personal instead of in a textbook.  In fact, the next time I'm in the Netherlands, I'd like to spend some time touring art galleries as I haven't had the chance on other trips.

And so speaking of art (You see, we got here eventually!), this cookbook, Dutch Culinary Art, showcases all kinds of artwork related to food and includes paintings by the masters as well as posters, cookbook covers, advertisements and the like.  It also includes some photos to bring us a better historical perspective.

The book is also divided into time periods that add to our overall understanding of Dutch culinary trends and Dutch history.  It starts with "Two very old dishes," and then breaks out into "Ten recipes from 1900-1909," and then "Ten recipes from" subsequent decades all the way until 1999.  There are also two special menus from 2000-2009 when the book was published.

Today's carrot soup recipe is from the chapter: 1920-1929 – The end of lower-class cookery.  The book it came from is De Vegetarische Keuken Door or, The Vegetarian Kitchen Door.  Color me surprised that a vegetarian cookbook existed that far back.  I learn something every day!

As you might expect, the chapters from the 1930-1939 and 1940-1949, are all about economizing during both the Depression and World War II.  I always remember Anne Frank's account of dining while hiding from the Nazi's, and all the challenges they had in obtaining food in her book, The Diary of a Young Girl.  As a side note, I toured the Anne Frank House while in Amsterdam many years ago but had a severe migraine and only remember wanting to just lie down someplace with a cold pack on my head.

By the time we get to the 60's and 70's, other countries' cuisines started to creep into Dutch restaurants and kitchens and so in these chapters are recipes for Spanish and French food.  There's even a recipe for "Creole Lobster Tail" although I have to say that none of the ingredients resembles anything close to an American Creole dish.

Hilariously, "Kate's Mustard Soup" recipe can be found on page 140.  It's a simple dish but I passed on making it as that would have been too obvious, right? Plus, the recipe didn't interest me at all.

Neither did all the recipes for eel – practically a Dutch national dish – or the recipe for "Jellied cured side of pork."  Pass.  A recipe for "mild sauerkraut soup" sounded tempting for about two seconds but didn't make the cut.

Several recipes that might have made the cut also fell at the last minute because I would have needed to find and then used "double cream."  I Googled this item and found that not only is it difficult to find in the US, but heavy whipping cream is not the best substitute as it is too light which sounds crazy but is true.  Heavy whipping cream contains about 36% of butter fat, but double cream contains 48-60% and I just didn't know a way to "fix" this.

Since this soup recipe called for a mere two tablespoons of double cream (or one tablespoon since I made half the recipe), I didn't think I would ruin it by using heavy whipping cream and I didn't.  Problem solved! Plus, and I am so chuffed about this, the recipe called for carrots, potatoes and leeks, and I just happened to have just enough of all three for this recipe.  I feel like such a thrifty chef!

I must confess that my first taste of this very easy soup was rather bland and I wasn't sure the final dish would be any better, but you know what?  It grows on you.  I also wasn't sure that adding cream to a dish containing lemon juice would work either, but I was once again wrong.  Andy declared it quite delicious which is always a relief as he would tell me if I flunked the day's cooking attempts.

And so we had ourselves this Dutch carrot soup and it was good.  Because it was a pureed soup, it wasn't necessarily filling, but we managed as we always do.

As to the cookbook, I think this is a fun book to have on hand if you like a) the Netherlands, b) cooking art and c) cooking.  This one ticked all the boxes and I learned a few things to boot, including all things Dutch, and hopefully after playing "What's in a [British royal] name,"  you learned some things as well.  Can't beat that, quite, quite, quite.

Carrot Soup – serving size not given but half the recipe made several cups
9 oz carrots, scraped (Ann's Note:  I put them in a mini food processor)
7 oz potatoes, peeled
1 ¾ oz white of leek
4 cups water
Salt and pepper
1 tabelspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons double cream (Ann's Note:  use heavy whipping cream)
Cubes of stale white bread, fried or grilled

Cook the chopped carrot, potato and leek  in the water with a little salt and pepper until very soft.

Sieve the soup, mash the vegetables, stir the puree into the vegetable broth and season well with salt and pepper (or if you like soy sauce, marmite and salt, no pepper!)  Keep hot without boiling.  Just before serving stir in lemon juice and cream, and sprinkle generously or sparingly with parsley.

Top with fried or grilled bread cubes.

Friday, October 7, 2016

"Fork in the Road" - Michigan Culinary Adventures From the Emmy Winning PBS Series" - Michigan Double Sweet Corn Chowder

Date I made this recipe:  October 5, 2016

Fork in the Road – Michigan Culinary Adventures from the Emmy Winning PBS Series [Fork in the Road] with Eric Villegas
Published by Huron River Press (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
ISBN: 13: 978-1-932399-17-2; © 2007
Purchased at Canterbury Book Store in Escanaba, Michigan on a trip back to my home state
Recipe:  Michigan Double Sweet Corn Chowder- p. 98; Roasted Garlic Puree – p. 88

Last week, I returned to my home state, Michigan, to have an early birthday celebration with my Aunt Mary, who will be 95 years old next week. My birthday is the day before hers and we have always been thick as thieves so it was great to see her to "pre"-celebrate.  She rode shotgun with me on trips to into town as well as one longer one to Traverse City to deal with a rental car issue.  Make that issues, plural, but that's another story for another day.

And while we were traversing Traverse City (and greater Traverse City), we stopped to eat and had a nice chat with our server who said that he was originally from "The Soo," which translated means "Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan" (or, but not in this case, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada). 

The Michigan "Soo" is located in the Upper Peninsula.  Although Aunt Mary has lived "downstate" (i.e. the lower peninsula) for many years, she was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula as was I.  We informed our server of this cosmic connection, and it is cosmic in that it a rare thing to find three people hanging out "downstate" who can all lay claim to having Upper Peninsula roots.  So that was fun.

Anyway, I was hoping to have time to scrounge around for a Michigan cookbook to commemorate this trip, but I did not and so I pulled what I think is the last of my Michigan cookbooks off the shelf and set to work. 

This cookbook is based on the PBS show, Fork in the Road, and is all about Michigan.  The author, who is also the show's host, showcases Michigan foods by regions and then makes recipes using these foods.

As a native to the state, I am very familiar with some of these "native" incredible edibles such as whitefish, cherries and blueberries.  Naturally, the author suggests using "Michigan" ingredients for many of these dishes but that was pretty impossible.  For one thing, I am not hauling whitefish on a plane with me (plus, you'll mostly find it in Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula) and it was way too late for blueberries and cherries.  You should know that the area I was in, Traverse City, hosts the National Cherry Festival every July (1st part) and you cannot turn around in that town without spotting a cherry "whatnot," regardless of whether or not the festival is in full swing. In fact, I am quite enjoying some hot coffee in my "Traverse City – Cherry Capital of the World" mug as we speak! 

The book is broken out into recipes by region:  "Freshwater;" "The Fruit Belt;" "Middle of the Mitt" (i.e. the lower peninsula); "The Thumb" (the area along Lake Huron's lakeshore, home to such cities as Port Sanilac and Port Huron (I've been to both); "The U.P." (my home turf), and then "Great Lakes Pantry," which features side dishes, spices, vinaigrettes, and other items used in cooking.  That said, I'm not sure these are necessarily native to Michigan but we'll run with it.

Recipes from these regions are as follows:

  • Freshwater Whitefish Chowder with Bacon, Potatoes and basil – p. 15
  • Smoked Whitefish Nachos with White Cheddar, Smoked Tomato Salsa and Cilantro – p. 19

The Fruit Belt:
  • Balaton Cherry and Michigan Maple Crisp – p. 50
  • Barbecued Pork Ribs with Blueberry Chipotle Chile Rub and Blueberry Mop – p. 55

Middle of the Mitt:
  • Grilled Ears of Michigan Sweet Corn with Black Truffles – p. 95
  • Michigan Beer Bread – p. 96
  • Michigan Double Sweet Corn Chowder – p. 98 (featured recipe)

The Thumb:
  • Maple Sage Breakfast Sausage – p. 140
  • Michigan Steamed Brown Bread with Dried Cherries and Walnuts – p. 144
  • Maple Corndogs – p. 147

The U.P.:
  • Beef and Pork Pasty with a Classic Suet Crust – p. 166
  • Michigan Maple Spice Rub – p. 157
  • Maple Chocolate Truffles – p. 169

A few of these sections need an explanation:

If you live along Lake Superior (in either the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or the Duluth area of Minnesota), then you probably know that Whitefish is considered the poor man's lobster.  I am not fond of fish so I don't eat it, but the rest of my family loved it.  There is hardly a restaurant in these regions that doesn't have it on the menu.  Even though many of you won't be able to get your hands on Whitefish, you might want to try some of these recipes with a comparable fish from your area.  Check out Google for a home-turf equivalent.

Another wildly popular food from the U.P. (if not the most popular) is the Cornish pasty (pronounced pass-tee).  The Upper Peninsula (and northern Minnesota) is big into mining (of iron ore) and immigrants came from all over to work the mines.  The Cornish pasty was popular in the mining community but then caught on throughout the region. Today, you will find pasty shops everywhere and if you are traveling the area and find one, give it a try.

The crust for this recipe (which I did not try) is  made with a traditional suet crust but I've eaten plenty in my day that were made from vegetable shortening or lard and all was well.  Where disputes arise is the filling (rutabagas or not) and whether or not a pasty should be eaten with gravy, ketchup, or plain.  We were always a "ketchup" family as a pasty is really like a meat and potato casserole/meatloaf, wrapped in crust. 

Then there's the "Fruit Belt" of the lower peninsula.  The area I was just in, Traverse City (and environs) is the cherry capital of the world.  Also found in the "Fruit Belt" (as well as the U.P.) are blueberries and maple trees that yield maple syrup.  My dad used to tap the trees on our property to make syrup, and we also went blueberry picking several times when I was a kid.  Rounding out the fruit selection are recipes featuring Michigan apples.

As to the corn chowder I made, of course the recipe suggested using Michigan sweet corn, but alas, I used up some Iowa sweet corn brought to us by friends this summer.  I am no corn connoisseur but I doubt anyone could tell the difference.

So, with cheating on my mind (!), I set to work making this dish and I have to tell you that it failed because I failed.  The chowder itself is really flavorful and very good but I screwed up the corn situation and it was basically inedible. 

Here's what happened:  twice now, our Iowa friends have given us corn (Thanks, Doug and Emily!) and twice I've frozen it on the cob.  Methinks I should have blanched the corn or something but I didn't because what do I know? And so twice it ended up being soggy when I thawed it – no surprise, right? 

So this time around, I decided to try to dry the kernels by spreading them on a baking pan and setting my oven to 275.  When that didn't work, I thought maybe I should roast the kernels and so I put them in the oven at 425 just for a short period of time but by then, it was too late.

I was bereft.

Naturally, I should have looked online to see if I could find instructions, but I thought my solution would work.  It didn't.  As Andy said "Well, this is how we learn."  Ha!

So here's my advice to you if you make this dish (which you should because everything else was delicious):  1) if you use sweet corn (and the dish calls for you to add the de-kerneled cobs to the  chowder), do it when the corn is fresh, period, end of discussion. 2) if you cannot do that and want to make this dish, use frozen corn (proportionate to what you would remove from the cob) and cook it as directed.  And this is because 3) even though the recipe says to pour the hot chowder broth over the raw kernels to cook them, I am not sure that will happen unless you are using fresh kernels.  That said 4) the only ingredient in this chowder's "broth" is cream.  That's it.  My cream simmered nicely but it also thickened which is fine for the end result, but not so much to cook the kernels – at least in my completely inexpert opinion, emphasis on the "in."

I found I wanted to add chicken broth or water to the chowder so it was less thick but did not as I almost always stick to the recipe and the recipe said to use cream (and only cream).  You might want to tinker with it.

Finally, this recipe calls for you to use 1 tablespoon (less, if you make half the recipe as I did) of Roasted Garlic Puree, found on page 88, but you have to roast a lot of garlic for that 1 tablespoon and I didn't want to deal with it.  So here's what I did instead:  I caramelized one small onion along with some sliced garlic cloves, then pureed that and added it to the dish.  Worked just fine without the added fuss of roasting garlic.

And so kids, if you rework the recipe for either fresh corn or frozen (but cooked) corn, I think this might work. Heck, you could probably even use canned corn because who's going to know? 

After we picked our way around the corn, Andy suggested that maybe I could try again but I am not that fond of corn that I wanted to do so and so I passed.  Besides, I know where I sinned and shall now say the kitchen equivalent of  five Hail Mary's and move on.   And if you don't want to make corn chowder, there are plenty of other delicious recipes in this book with fabulous photos to boot (I am so hungry right now).

This concludes "Michigan, My Michigan," a look back at my home state and the fond memories I had of living and touring it.  As an aside, many people (including me) think that "Michigan, My Michigan" is the name of our state song but it isn't. According to Wiki, the state song is just "My Michigan."  I can see why there is confusion though, as the lyrics say "Michigan, my Michigan..." over and over but details, details.

Michigan Double Sweet Corn Chowder – serves 4
4 tablespoons unsalted sweet butter
1 cup white onions, peeled and diced
½ up leeks, white part only, diced
1 tablespoon Roasted Garlic Puree (recipe below) Ann's Note:  or substitute caramelized onions and garlic – see below
½ pound red skin potatoes, washed and sliced
*9-10 ears ultra fresh double sweet corn, preferably from Michigan, shucked, kernels removed, reserving "bones" (ears) *Ann's Note – Important see notes above and below about the corn situation
3 ½ - 4 cups heavy cream
Sea salt, to taste
Clancy's Fancy Hot Sauce, or similar, to taste
½ small lemon, juiced

For the roasted garlic puree – makes about 1 cup (of which you need ½-1 tablespoon)
1 pound fresh hardnecked garlic, whole heads or similar
½ cup extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
Fresh rosemary sprigs

And if you want to skip that, you can caramelize one small onion and a couple of garlic cloves (sliced) and then puree that.

To make the garlic puree:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Peel the outermost layers of skin off the heads of garlic leaving an intact whole head free of any scrap.  Split the heads in half (horizontally) opening the cloves.  Put the heads, cut sides up, in a small baking dish and pour the olive oil over them.  Season with salt, pepper, and top with the rosemary.

Cover tightly with foil or lid, place in the oven, and roast until about three-fourths cooked, about 45 minutes.  Uncover and return to the oven until the cloves begin to pop out of their skins and brown, about 15 minutes.

When cool enough to handle easily, squeeze the roasted garlic into a small bowl.  Press firmly against the skins to extract as much of the sweet roasted garlic as you can.

Add the oil from the baking dish and puree with the back of a spoon or in a small food processor until a paste forms.

Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.

To make the chowder:
In a 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter; sauté the onions and leeks over a moderate heat until translucent and wilted, about 10 minutes.

Add the Roasted Garlic Puree (Ann's Note:  or pureed caramelized onions/garlic mixture or skip this all together!) and the sliced red skin potatoes.  Cook for another 3 minutes or until the potatoes are warmed and completely coated in the butter.  Add the heavy cream, "corn bones" and season with the salt and hot sauce.

Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the "bones" have released their flavor.  Remove and discard the "bones."

***Place the rest of the raw corn kernels in the bottom of a soup tureen and pour the hot soup base over all, season to taste with the lemon juice.  Serve immediately.

***Ann's Note:  Since I screwed up the corn portion of our program, let me just remind you that to achieve the results above, use fresh corn otherwise, frozen but cooked corn is probably your best bet.  I just didn't think the "hot soup base" was hot enough to cook the corn but that's just me.  I also think the base was too thick and needs more than just cream but that's not what the recipe says!

If you get the corn right though, this chowder will be a home run instead of a slight swing and a miss.