The School of Essential Ingredients - Chocolate Fondue with Pineapple

 Our current Cook the Books Club selection is The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister.  A charming tale of  intertwined  lives, brought together through a cooking class, with careful character depictions and individual stories, well thought out, and woven seamlessly into the whole novel.  I truly enjoy reading good fiction, especially that which also triggers creativity, and fires my culinary enthusiasm.  I won't go into great detail and spoil it for those of you who haven't read this wonderful book yet.  Just go out and get your copy!

The story of the Restaurant owner, and chef-instructor of the evening classes, Lillian, and her childhood relationship with her mother, reminded me a bit of Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone, Growing up at the Table.  Especially the cover photo of a young Ruth, standing at the stove cooking.  I loved that book. I loved this one too.  So, why did I have such a hard time trying to decide what to cook?  Everything they prepared in the cooking classes sounded so fantastic, I want to make it all. And, I will!  Being as the idea here was the importance of simplicity and the best of ingredients, I asked myself, what is just about your favorite ingredient - an essential, in other words?  The answer would have to be chocolate.

I have my own tree, process the cacao and incorporate the product into my cooking occasionally.  Though mostly I just use it for a morning cocoa drink or homemade truffles, since buying the equipment necessary to get cacao nibs to chocolate factory smoothness, is not going to happen.

Another essential ingredient for me would be whatever delicious fruit is happening, fresh and ripe at the moment.  That right now would be our fabulous Hawaiian white pineapples.  Must really be tasted to appreciate fully. Stop by, and I will let you try some.


Kealani and the Giant Zucchini

Possibly many of you zucchini growers out there have raised bigger ones, however this was the largest to ever cross my personal threshold.  The lovely people from our CSA sent it over, and we heard it grew to this size in one day.  The kids had named it Daily.  Nevertheless, Daily was destined to be stuffed.  I was looking forward immediately to the challenge.
I think I've mentioned she's a Drama Queen.  Don't be so sad, you will enjoy eating him.  Just watch.
First we simmer our victim in boiling water.  Had to use my biggest roasting pan, and turn halfway through, as it couldn't be completely covered with the water.
 I simmered Mr. Daily about 10 minutes on each side.  Then cooled on a rack, before splitting down the middle, lengthwise.  After that, pretty much followed the directions for Drop Dead Delicious Stuffed Zucchini at Food.com.  Where it calls for meat or fish, I used a bit of left-over ground veal, which had been stuck in the freezer awaiting the Apocalypse.  Now I don't know what we'll do when that event happens.
Topped it all off with a nice sharp cheddar cheese before baking.  The little ceramic dish is to prevent that half from slipping over on its side.  Baked for 30 minutes or so, and removed to tremendous appreciation.  She polished off several helpings.

I would recommend this recipe to anyone wanting to stuff their vegetable of choice actually.  It made for a very savory meal, as well as a positive salute to heroic effort on the part of a zucchini this humongous.


World Cup Green-Chile Pozole

This was my salute to the World Cup winners.  Not, that I'm a soccer fan, mind you, but it was blaring on the TV from early on Sunday.  And, as I was fixing a Dutch Baby for breakfast, Bob said there needed to be something Spanish on the menu.  So, I had a Sangria with mine, made with Alto del Carmen for the Brandy, I might add, and a Spanish red, so what more could anyone ask?  Well, dinner I guess, in honor of the World Cup winner.  It was going to be Green-Chile Pozole. New Spain, to be sure, but still....

I was in the Dr.'s office Friday, waiting for my x-ray, and read the recipe in Martha Stewart.  So, I was intending to make this before ever the Soccer Cup was in my consciousness at all.  Also, the ingredients duly noted down, were purchased before Sunday.  And, as I had assumed, the recipe was available on Martha's handy site, so no need to purloin the waiting room copy.  Not that I would, heh heh.

There didn't seem to be any dried hominy available locally, so I used the canned, which worked out fine.  It was a hearty, comforting and delicious dish.  Topped with cubes of fresh avocado, cilantro and thinly sliced onions, diced tomato if desired.  It is one of those dishes that cook slowly, filling the house with tempting smells all day, while you lay about relaxing and watching World Cup Soccer, or not.  Thank you Sunny, for pulling all the pork.  Yea Spain!


Nancy's Banana Splits in Waffle Cups

This Fourth of July dessert was so awesome, I felt it deserved its own post.  I'm still resting my bum, the technical name being "Piriformis Syndrome rehabilitation", also known as sciatica, pinched nerve.  Not to complain or anything, still painful.  But regardless, wanting to have a few friends over, decided to delegate a lot.  To my rib eyes, for which I actually made the marinade, were added corn on the cob and a salad, courtesy of Sunny, Bob did the BBQ thing, and Kealani made an appetizer (with a bit of my help), which was lovely puff pastry salmon mini-quiches.  Good job, Kealani!  The killer was dessert by our newly crowned "Dessert Queen", Nancy.
Here, topping off her waffle cups (lined with dark chocolate), and filled with banana ice cream, are fresh strawberries, and a bit of whipped cream.  Tooo good.  Per Nancy, the directions:


For Chicken Fanciers

I finally got my daughter to videotape their Silkie rooster doing his famous chicken dance.  I've been hearing about it for ages.  Apparently he does it quite often for Kealani, who is here encouraging him, or egging him on, more like it. Somehow I was expecting something a bit more complicated, but hey, what can you really expect from a bird?   And, we don't call him Fricassiee, Tajine or Adobo, he's too precious for that.