Miz Shoes

American Pie

Over in Ravelry the other day, someone started a thread about food memories. Here are mine…

One of my earliest memories at all is sitting in my high chair, and my mother (who was left handed) feeding me. I didn’t like the direction the food came from, and took the spoon from her hand, dumped the food out, refilled the spoon and announced “SELF”. The number of jokes in my family about how the twig is bent, yadda yadda yadda….

I remember being about 5, and my mother took me to see my Grandma D* in the big house on the river. She had made potato pierogi, and Mom was going to pick some up for us. She asked me to come in, but I didn’t want to get out of the car (tiny town in 1959, it’s ok to leave a child in an open car on the street). So she came back out and stuck this pasty, white thing through the window and said, “Try this” and before I could clamp my mouth shut or turn away, I had had my first taste of Grandma D*’s legendary pierogi. Mummy had to go back and get more. I still wish I could duplicate her recipe.

My father could only make one dish: fried kippers and onions. He’d make them on Sunday mornings for us. My mother found the smell repellent and would gag, but my brother and I adored them. Stinky, salty fish and almost burnt onions. Served for breakfast with garlic toast. When he was dying, he still insisted on making them for us when I would go to visit him. Only Star ever loved them like I did, and she’s Swedish.

My Grandma K* made rice pudding. Not all soft, and fluffy, but baked in a casserole, with a sort of layer of custard on top, and cinnamon, lemon zest and raisins all baked in. That I can duplicate.

And of course, the raspberries. My K* grandparents had a summer home in Newport, RI, and the whole length of their back yard had a double row of raspberry canes. We’d go out first thing in the morning, and pick all the ripe ones, and still have enough for Grandma to make jam. Then we’d go out in the late afternoon, and eat all the ones that had ripened during the heat of the day. Also in Newport, Grandpa would take my brother and me for a walk in the morning before the fog/mist burned off. We’d pick wild mushrooms, and Grandma would fry them up in butter for breakfast.

Other memories: the old Korean gentleman who had an Asian vegetable farm in the glades and would come to the store with a box of samples for my family. Yard long beans, and cukes and chinese cabbage. My uncle, who was a produce shipper would come from the glades with sugar cane. We could just strip off the outer peel and chew the canes. Sitting in my Grandpa A*’s lap in his packing house, watching the oranges get packed into crates. My father cutting a cone-shaped plug out of the stem end of the orange, so I could suck the juice. Picking Surinam cherries off the hedges and eating them. Climbing in the mulberry tree, and picking enough that I could eat them to my fill and still have enough for Mummy to make a pie. Daddy opening coconuts with a machete. Sitting double, bareback on the SisterGirlFriendGirl’s horse, so we could reach the REALLY big kumquats on the tree in her front yard.

There was an A&W drive-in in my hometown (the only fast food shop in the whole town, BTW) and it was always a huge treat to go there and get a baby burger. They had momma burgers, daddy burgers and baby burgers. And waitresses who’d hang a tray on the car window.

Learning to swim at the pool at the Anchorage Hotel, and the coke machine (cost a dime and you could watch the bottle roll down the ramp) had banana soda. Bright yellow, tasted like banana popsicles only carbonated. I LOVED it. Haven’t seen it in 45 years, but recently someone brought in soda from Haiti and it was that: banana soda.

Every year, when my grandparents returned from RI, they would drive home with bushels of apples from their backyard trees. And jars and jars of Grandma’s raspberry jam.

Driving up to RI, we stopped for lunch on the first day at Cape Canaveral, at a pavillion on the St. John’s River. We’d have hard boiled eggs, and my mother would have put salt into a little twist of waxed paper for us to put on the eggs.

Then, later, when we drove through Georgia, we would buy fresh peaches from the side of the road. They had the thickest velvet on their skins. You had to rub it off on a napkin to be able to eat them.

My dad showing me how to pull a heart of palm from a young palmetto and eating it. Then trimming a bigger frond to a point to stick hotdogs on and roast over the camp fire.

Eating the following fresh from the tree: loquats, kumquats, mangos, oranges, calamondins, mulberries, lychees, avocados. Eating fresh smoked king fish.

The day I learned “tongue” at the deli was exactly what it sounded like, and it wasn’t Yiddish for something else.

And buying fresh garden peas, and sitting on the floor in front of the tv shelling them into a colander. And eating them by the handful, raw.

Going to the cranberry bogs in Massachusetts. AND OMG!!! the pecan rolls at the Stuckey’s on the highway.

How about you? What are your early food memories?

Miz Shoes

Look At All the Little Piggies

What seems like years ago, but was really only a month, I joined the Cobaya Gourmet Guinea Pigs, and underground foodie affair here in Miami. I grabbed Star and the two of us signed on for the VIP (Very Important Pig) Roast, starring the culinary stylings of Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog. It was advertised as an Iron Chef-style affair, with a main course of roast whole pig and five other dishes made of various and sundry pig parts. Well, I am all about the pig, so I was first in line for that. Literally. Star and I were the second and third to arrive at Harvey’s on the Bay, a fabulous and undiscovered neighborhood bar housed in the back side of an American Legion Hall up on Biscayne Bay in the still-ungentrified 60s.

The feast began with chicharones, or cracklins as we call them in the Deep South. Rendered and fried tidbits of pig skin. In my culture, we do the same thing with poultry skin and it’s called grebenes. Same thing, different animal: fried heart attack on a plate.


The cracklins were accompanied by little cocktails made of organic cherry syrup, seltzer and moonshine. Tasted like Dr. Brown’s Cherry Soda, but left you face-planted on the concrete.


We then all trooped outside to meet the guest of honor, and watch as Chef Jeremiah prepared the caja china and loaded up the pig.



Back inside for some Chinese/North Carolina char sui bao. Chinese pork buns, but with a very un-Chinese bar-b-que style filling.


More like a Carolina, vinegar-based pork butt. Syringes of soy sauce were provided, and there were a couple of hot sauces as well. The prawn-chili sauce was particularly lovely.


These little guys were followed by something described as a Mexican/Viet Namese fusion. It was a soft taco, filled with the most gelatinous thing I’ve ever eaten. I was already started to head into a pork-induced coma, and so I missed the details. It was trotter meat or pork cheeks or something. Whatever. It was, taste-wise, one of the purest flavors of pig imaginable. This may have been my favorite dish of the afternoon, despite the icky mouth feel. The tacos were topped with a carrot and cabbage slaw, very sharp and vinegary and healthy splashes of those chili sauces.


After that, we moved on to pork bellies, and that is where I drew the line in the sand, pig-part wise. While I found the images of the pig nipples fascinating, and couldn’t shoot enough frames of them, the amount of fat and soft skin were beyond me to even attempt to eat. Chef J sliced up the bellies and made Cuban-style sandwiches, with pickles and mustard and crusty Cuban bread.



By now, the pig in the box was getting done, so we went out to check.


Yep, as the old Coppertone ads reminded us, it was Time to Turn. The pig got turned, coals were added and back we went for the next round of parts. Baby brauts or hot dogs? The skins were crisp and the meat juicy and the spicy mustard was a perfect compliment. I skipped the bun. Why waste time with bread when there is that magnificent pig roasting out back?


Finally, the pig was done. Chef Jeremiah brought it in and carved it up.


Plated, and with a side of sweet potato flan, this was the best roast pig, ever. (Except, and I’m sorry, Chef, but this is true, for the one that my friend’s father roasted all those years ago, on a set of old bedsprings, over a fire pit. Said piglet was the product of a wild boar getting to a domesticated female on a flower farm up in Stuart. That is the roast pig gold standard.) Still and all, I couldn’t have asked for more or better food and company. I’ll be back for more of the Cobaya Guinea Pig events. Next time, I’ll bring my own, titanium spork.


Miz Shoes

Be-Bop-A-Lula, Rhubarb Pie

The mangos are falling. The mangos are falling. There is fresh rhubarb in the grocery store. What to do? Make a rhubarb/mango pie, of course. I pulled out a vintage tin of cardamom seeds, and they still seemed to have some flavor. A vanilla bean. Some turbinado sugar. Lots of chopped mango. Chopped rhubarb. A pie crust. Bake and serve with a side of green tea ice cream.

Life is good.

Mango Mosaic

Miz Shoes

Someone’s In The Kitchen

Remember the poll about the Ile de France cooking contest? Well, a couple of weeks ago, RJ and MJ came over for a day in the kitchen. RJ whipped up a pink horseradish sauce and completely unrelated roasted vegetable and brie hogies, which were to die for.

Roasted Veggie Mini Hoagies

She entered them, and breakfast strata in the contest, and is raking in the stars. Deservedly so. But as I have so often asserted in this blog, cooking is a competitive sport in these parts, so while I applaud her efforts (and want more of those little hoagies), and urge you to vote for her too, I’m here today to beg for my own stars.

MJ was taking notes for us, transcribing our efforts as we cooked and offering advice for herbs and spices.

The Chicken Kiev/Chevre won my little poll, and I went ahead with my plans. We started with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and pounded them into scallopini. The chevre log was cut into quarters length-wise, then pressed into a thin rectangle, wrapped around three fresh, trimmed asparagus stalks and rolled in a mixture of freshly grated lemon zest and herbs de provence.


Those were then used a filling for the chicken breasts, which were wrapped and folded around the cheese like little burritos.


The pounded meat was moist enough that when I folded it on itself, it stuck shut.


Which was useful, because the chicken packets were then dipped in beaten egg, thinned with a touch of buttermilk, and then in panko. Placed seam down on a baking sheet covered in foil. Misted with olive oil and roasted until the panko was golden.

Served with a side of steamed asparagus.


So there it is. MJ sent me his notes, and I re-wrote them into a semblance of a recipe, and submitted it to Ile de France. Two days later, I received an e-mail from the contest person. Was that really the name of my recipe? Or did I want to change it. Why, I asked, what did I call it? And see, that was the one thing that we forgot. When we were cooking, we kept referring to my dish as Miz Shoes’ Chicken Fucking Something. And that’s what MJ had left as a title on the file. When I re-wrote it, and sent it to Ile de France, I had renamed the file, but I hadn’t remembered change the title in the document. My submission was titled “Chicken Fucking Something”. Yeah, I said to the rep. Probably should change that. If you head to the contest page, you’ll find Chicken Chevre. That’s mine, because I just couldn’t come up with a funny pun on Kiev.

Head on over and put some stars on me, it’s a competition here.

Miz Shoes

Cheeeeeeeeeeeeese, Grommit

A couple of years ago, when I went to the South Beach Food & Wine fest, I signed up for a lot of mailing lists. One of them was information about cheese from Ile de France. I love cheese. They’d send me e-coupons and everything. A month or so ago, they sent me a note, asking if I have a blog, and if so, would I like to get some free cheese. The only condition would be to eat the cheese and then write about it. DUDE! Free cheese and a free blog topic? I’m on that. I sent them a yes, please and the link to this page. Amazingly, unlike some people who read this as a sample of my work, they were not horrified, and in fact, accepted my offer. A week or so ago I received a big log of chevre.  I love goat cheese, especially, so I was really jazzed to get the package. But what’s this? There is a new wrinkle in the free cheese offer. Now they are asking me to develop a recipe using this chevre, and submit it to their contest. First prize? Five hundred dollars. Second and third prizes? More cheese. Hmmmmmm. Is there a bad prize? Can I get both money and more cheese?

Having given this some consideration, I am down to two recipes. The first is a sort of Chicken Kiev, but instead of butter, I will roll the goat cheese in the center of the pounded, breaded chicken breast. I have some herbs de Provence (lavender, thyme, lemon peel) to add. Maybe something green, like asparagus? Or sun-dried tomatoes? My second is a goat cheese quiche. I haven’t quite figured out what to use in it…maybe peas? Anyway, which do you think I should develop and submit?

Miz Shoes

I Feel GOOD!

I woke up today, tentative, sending my mind out into my body, ready to retreat at the first sign of pain. There was a little fuzz around the edges, but I quickly banished it with two full mugs of strong coffee. I took a shower, washed my hair and shaved my legs. I feel like a human being again for the first time in weeks. I have photographed my handspun, updated my Ravelry site, paid bills, and made the world’s best kale/bean/winter squash mole. And I still have time to make something else before the game starts. It may not look like it to you, but this is the best food ever.


Miz Shoes

RC Cola & a Moon Pie

I have been obsessed with a single recipe lately. I took it from 101 Cookbooks, and have been making it almost weekly since it was published. It is a perfect soul food for wintery nights, although wintery nights in Miami are like spring evenings in Rochester, New York. It is a dish that cooks in the oven, although a more accurate description would be that the ingredients are put in a pot where they melt over a couple of hours into this velvety, slightly lumpy melange of flavor and texture.

What is this miracle food that has me coming back again and again? A kale, red bean and winter squash mole. I have yet to put it over anything, because I’m too busy just slurping it down. I’ve used butternut squash, a blue hubbard and some other winter squash. I’ve used canned beans. I’ve added a couple of cocoa beans to the almonds in the grinder.

No matter what I do to this, it just tastes like some kind of heaven.

Don’t take my word for it, though, make a batch for yourself.

Miz Shoes

Customary Vices

Being a Nice Jewish Girl, dishes which include ham hocks (collard greens, hoppin john) are not part of my repertoire in the kitchen. On the other hand, being a Nice Southern Girl, they should be. So I make broccoli rabe instead of collard greens, or I make mustard greens, or other bitter greens that can be well-made without ham parts. But for New Year’s a southerner just has to have hoppin john (that’s black eyed peas with ham and stuff) for a year of good luck. Fortunately for me, my worlds collide on this matter, because there is a traditional Sephardic dish for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) which contains, not ham hocks, but veal or lamb. It’s muy yummy. You have the time, and you have been told about its good luck bringing qualities, so make yourself a mess of this, and have a lovely new year.

Lubyeh (from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 pound veal stew meat, cut into one-inch cubes

2 cups water

1 cup black eyed peas, soaked overnight in water

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1. In a heavy skillet with a cover, saute the onions and garlic lightly in the oil

2. Add the cubed veal and brown briefly. Add 1 1/2 cups of the water, cover and simmer slowly for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, drain and simmer the black eyed peas in water to cover for 20 minutes. Drain and add the peas, salt, pepper, spices, tomato paste, and the remaining 1/2 cup water to the veal mixture. Cover and cook over low heat for 1 hour or until the peas and veal are tender. If the stew dries out, add a little more water. Serve warm.

Yield: 8 servings

Miz Shoes

I Say Potayto and You Say Potahto

Long ago and far away, all of the Jews in my hometown lived in one house: my grandparent’s house. Then my parents moved to their own place, and a couple of years later, my cousins moved down the street from us. But in between, the old house on the river was the nexus of our family. My Grandma Dorfman lived with my cousins, too (she was my uncle’s mother-in-law). I remember the first time I ate one of her pierogis. I was maybe 4 or 5, and it’s really one of my earliest memories. My mother had driven to the big house for something…probably the pierogis… but I refused to get out of the car. Since this was the 50s and a tiny little town, I got left in the car while Mummy went inside. When she came out, she stuck her arm in through the car window and offered me a bite of some soft, warm, pale little dumpling thingy. I was uninpressed, and tried to refuse, but she managed to stuff it in my mouth anyway.

EPIPHANY! Oh. My. God. The taste! The melting quality of the feather-light dough! The fried onions and mashed potato filling! I immediately demanded to be taken out of the car and up to the kitchen for more of that stuff. Grandma Dorfman’s pierogis were legendary (and remember, the women in my family consider cooking to be a competitive sport, so there is stiff competition for that word… Grandma Kanarek’s cinnamon sticky buns…Mummy’s macaroni and cheese…Southern Cousin’s lemon bars… anything chocolate from the Girlcousin’s kitchen… Great Aunt Annie’s green beans and aphids (yeah, legendary in a bad way: she couldn’t cook for shit, poor thing)) Well, over the years, Mummy and my Auntie Em tried to get the recipe for pierogis, but Grandma Dorfman cooked by feel and taste. Measurements were “a handful” or “until it tastes right”, and even then, that changed. A handful might be deemed not enough later in the recipe and then another pinch or dribble might be required. Or might be required to come out, if say, the eggs were small and there seemed to be too much flour on the outside of the well into which they were broken.

So the pierogi recipe exists, sort of. I have, over the years, made them with butter, with goose fat, with yukon gold potatoes and Idaho Russets. I take them to Auntie Em for taste testing, and they always fall short of her mother’s ideal. I have searched and Googled, and explored the world wide web for years, and still can’t quite find the right recipe.

Here’s what it must have: a dough made with a boiled potato. It must be kosher. Although I thought the goose fat came closest in taste, Auntie Em says that it’s a dairy dish, and therefore, could not have been made with schmaltz. Butter, yes. Sour cream, oh hell yes. But it was a dish from the poor shtetl, so it had to be minimal and cheap. Flour. Water. Potatoes. Onions.

Can anyone out there on the interwebs help a sister out? I must have pierogies. Please. I’d even knit you a scarf.

Miz Shoes

My Happy Place

Miz Shoes

Bite Me, I’m Irish

So, why does everybody get so freaking stupid over St. Patrick's Day?

It's not like we all need another excuse to drink. Christ, I never need an excuse, I just need a bottle. And, maybe, a glass. Maybe not.

I mean, really. Cubans who, all year long, vie to out-Cubanisimo each other, show up on March 17 wearing green and "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" buttons.

People who don't know the difference between single malt and chocolate malt wear shamrocks and call out for over-cooked cabbage.

Where were these people earlier this week when it was Purim? Nobody offered me a cookie. Nobody wore costumes to work. Nobody got shit-faced drunk in public, even though that is a tradition of Purim, just as much as it is of St. Paddy's day.

Me? I just grouse and complain and quote Christopher Moltisanti: "Hell is an Irish bar where it's always St. Patrick's Day."*

*With apologies to RJ and MJ, who make wonderful Irish food, and throw great St. Patrick's Day parties, and I'd gladly go to another one. But then, RJ refuses to dye food green, and that, as we all know, is a Very Good Thing.
Miz Shoes

I’m Just Saying

The RLA was playing some Dylan this morning as we were getting ready for work, and I have to say, no matter what The Bob did, if he'd written "Sara" for ME? I totally would have taken him back.

Also? The very best sandwich in the world, and especially yummy for breakfast, is a BLT on white toast with a fried egg in it. I had one at my desk, just this morning.
Miz Shoes

Many Things Remind Me of Many Things

Last night I made a baby portobello mushroom and brocolli rabe risotto. It was magnificent, thank you very much, but that isn't the point. It was merely the starting point for a poignant train of thought.
I was prepping and preparing my "meez" and realized that my knife was dull. One of my crazy neighbors had just sharpened it, too, and so that led me to think of how my father could sharpen a knife so that it held a razor edge. Many scars on my fingers are proof of that.

The thought of my father and his knives led me quickly to a scene in the family kitchen, shortly before his final decline. I had gone up to visit and he made kippers for me and my brother on a Sunday morning. He could barely stand, but he insisted on doing this for us.

Fried kippers were a Sunday morning treat for most of my growing up time. It was Daddy's signature dish. Fried, greasy, fish-stinky and with lots of chopped onions, sauteed in butter until they were carmelized (if not slightly burnt) and eaten hot with garlic toast... for breakfast. My mother hated the smell. My cousins were appalled by them. The RLA nearly passed out the first time he saw/smelled kippers. In fact, in all the years of trying to share this delicacy with friends and family, the only person who ever warmed up to kippers was Star, and she's Swedish.

I finally managed to shake off the funk, and started sauteeing the onions and the baby portobellos. I added the arborio rice and started to think about my mother's cooking as I waited for the rice to become transparent.

My mother was a fine cook and an even better baker, but she was also a homemaker in the 50s and 60s. Even though she owned Julia Child's cookbooks, she was much more at ease with The Joy of Cooking. My mother never made a risotto.

Which thought then led me to her current state, and how the nurses at the home all think I look just like her. An assessment which is only right and fair. And that takes me back to a conversation with my mother maybe thirty years ago, when she told me that, not only did she believe in reincarnation, but she believed that I was her mother, who had died when my mother was only six months old.

That has always stuck with me, that I am my mother's mother. Now that she has Alzheimer's, she has regressed to a point where she thinks she's still in school. She talks about her father's store. And I am her caregiver, so in some sense, I am, in fact, her mother. And so why shouldn't I look just like her, or her me, since this whole thing is becoming a quantum singularity.

Now the rice is ready, and I must shake off all the ghosts, and continue my meal. But my mind? it is a weapon of mass distraction, and many things remind me of many things.
My GirlCousin and Star have, independent of each other, decided that I should do this.
That is the Martha Stewart Apprentice, of course.

And I gave it serious consideration for about fifteen minutes. Then it struck me: "What if I win the audition, and have to actually play the game?"

Granted, my twelve years at the hospital have given me super powers in the areas of toxic work environment, backstabbing and evil axis building, and granted, those could come in handy in a "reality" TV competition, but the bottom line is, I'd have to be on TV.

Eww. And ewwwwww. And maybe a retch or two. I don't want to be on TV. Ever. And certainly not in a situation where the editors have plenty of footage to cut together to make me look like an even bigger bitch than I can accomplish on my own. And let me tell you, I do just fine with that, thanks.

Reality TV series all have archetypes: The Bitch, The Bimbo, The Backstabber, The Nice One, The Smart One Who Loses The Game Despite or Because Of Being Smart. I have enough problems with my personality as it is, I do not need editing to accentuate the negatives.

I often say that I am like asparagus; people loathe me or love me and there is no room for indifference. Great. I should go on TV and try that phenomenon out with a few million people all at once.

Um, no.

Or worse, I could get on the show and actually last for more than a week. I could get into the show. I could want to win, and my naturally competitive nature could be unleashed. Bad idea. Bad idea for me, bad idea for anyone in my path, probably great TV. Ick.

So, despite urging from family and friends, and despite the fact that the whole concept of trying to be Martha's avatar appeals to some really dark part of my soul, (Oh, come on, be honest with yourself. Wouldn't you want to go out and abuse the gardeners? Stand around and complain that the exact shade of lilac you wanted the living room to be painted is not the one that is now on the walls, and they have fifteen minutes before air time to fix it...) I think that I shall have to pass on this chance for fame and fortune.
Miz Shoes

Today Is NOT Superbowl Sunday

A fact that everybody in the known universe seemed to know except me and the people who printed my calendar, where today has printed on it "Superbowl Sunday." This calendar has all kinds of holidays printed on it, and I am now wondering if any others of them are wrong.
So here I am planning a party and making menus and pestering the RLA to let me buy a widescreen, big screen, HDTV to watch the big game... a game where I am forced to admit I haven't a clue who's playing, but you need all that for the commercials.

It's next week. Next week. February. Since when does football season run all the way up to spring training?

Oh well, it just gives me that much more time to work on my menus.

I'm planning on making orange marmalade sometime this week, since the sour orange tree in the front yard has outdone itself with fruit this year, and I can only marinade so much chicken, and even my housekeeper is giving me the fish eye when I ask if she'd like any more sour oranges.

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