Friday, September 29, 2006


Nannie Blackwell's Grape Pie

So get this.

When I showed up in Florida last month, (the sunshiney state my parents decided to move to when they retired) I asked my mother if she had a "family heirloom recipe" we could make.

Trouble was, she only has one...

The infamous "Nannie Blackwell’s Grape Pie."

Which has subsequently been renamed the "Once in a lifetime pie"

Why infamous? Why "Once-In-A-Lifetime?" Well, because, just reading the directions (as typed out by my Great Aunt) it’s obvious it is the most insanely labor-intensive recipe ever.



And yet, we made it anyway and you know what? SO worth it! And seasonal!

See, when it comes to actual, tedious, repetitive work, I’m not exactly a "Hey, that sounds like fun!" kinda girl. (And people wonder why I don’t tell potential employers about my blog…) and this recipe takes the cake (or, you know, pie,) in the "work" department. Which leads me to suspect my great-grandmother might have had some helping hands when it came to making this delight...

So in that grand tradition, I somehow rallied my sweet mother (bless her heart) to peel the grapes (yes kids: Peel. The. Grapes. All four cups of the juicy little suckers.) and I just did the rest, and you know, made the crust.

What? Like that isn’t work?

I am supremely thankful to my darling mother, since she was quite the good sport about this whole she-bang. Nannie, on the other hand, well, I suspect she is somewhere laughing herself silly.
Now, should you be prone to thinking peeling grapes sounds like an idyllic way to spend an afternoon (and trust me, it will take the better part of one, if you choose the wrong type of grapes, like I did) this really is an amazingly tasty pie and worth every moment of dedicated time. Or, you can do as Nannie indicated and use Concord grapes (if you can find them), which I just learned are of the "slip-skin" variety and therefore, most likely, very-easy-to-peel. Unlike the Thompson seedless that we used.

Truth be told, it was just the best thing ever, taste wise. We all adored it because it was not only lip-smacking good, it was made with a touch of history and a whole lot of love. (Though in all seriousness, book an appt at the nail salon for first thing the next day. Your fingernails are going to be so black – for a week otherwise, you will want to shed those big fat, super-wet tears.)

Bright and zippy, vibrant and delicious, I recommend it for someone who has hours to spare and a sense of, um, what’s that word? Oh yes, insanity – about them. Or household staff. I think they may be the real key here.

Either which way, I do encourage you to try this (at your own risk) and I guarantee, you will enjoy. It is a classic indeed. (Though, as you can see, I updated it a bit too...)

4 cups grapes (Concord work best)
1 cup sugar (more or less as needed)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Your favorite pie crust
Milk for glazing

Remove the skins from the grapes and reserve.

Preheat your oven to 450F.

Put the pulp in a saucepan and simmer until soft. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any seeds. (We did this step even though we used seedless grapes. If you use seedless, you can skip the peeling and just simmer)

Combine the strained pulp back with the skins.

In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice and corn starch mixing well to create a slurry. Add the the grapes along with the sugar. Stir, taste and add more sugar as needed.

Pour the grape mixture into a pastry-crust lined pie plate, cover with top crust and bake for 10 minutes at 450F on a foil lined baking sheet. Remove the pie and brush the top crust with milk. Return to the oven at 350 for an additional 30 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

Makes one pie.


Pureed grapes are cooked with sugar until thick, or “jammed” together. A grape jam patent was first issued to Paul Welch in 1917 for the pureeing of grapes. He called the product “Grapelade.” The initial quantity was purchased entirely by the U.S. Army and shipped to France for consumption by the troops during World War I. The product was then demanded by the troops when they returned to civilian life. -

The average American eats six slices of pie per year.

Three out of four Americans overwhelmingly prefer homemade pie, while 13 percent enjoy pie from a bakery or pastry shop, and only one percent said they head to the diner for their favorite slice.


Thursday, September 28, 2006


Chicken In A Pot

This is a chicken, in a pot.

Amazing, right?

The worlds simplest dish, and still, not something people make very often.


Easier than roasting, tastier than boiling, and it's all made in-one-dish! Is that ideal? I think so!

Without much work you can have a chicken in a pot in a little over an hour and a half. Wouldn't that be nice? So nice.

And if you like make-ahead dishes, or leftovers, again, this is it. The way to go. Chicken in a pot.

The name really says it all. Simple, flavorful chicken. In a pot.

So try my sweet peaches, and enjoy. (And bonus! You can do this in a crock pot! How awesome is that!)

1 large chicken
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon butter, oil or margarine
1 lemon, quartered
Fresh herbs if you have some
1 onion, large slices
1 potato, large slices
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, large slices
1 stalk celery (you guessed it!) large slices
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375F

Wash your chicken in cold water. Remove anything in the cavity. Trim any excess fat. Pat dry and smear the chicken skin with the butter. Fill the cavity with the lemon, some of the onion and the herbs if using.

Put the chicken, breast side down, into a pot that is oven proof and has a lid. Add the wine and salt and pepper. Top with a nice sprinkle of the paprika.

Cover and bake for 1 hour 45 minutes. Check to see if it is done by inserting a knife into the meat. If the juice runs clear it is done.

Let rest in the pot for 10 more minutes.

Remove from the broth, section and serve with the veg and broth.

Serves four to six


Tibetans, Mongolians, and people in parts of western China put salt in their tea instead of sugar.

In 1978 the average French meal lasted one hour and 22 minutes. Today it takes about 38 minutes. - Enjoy

In Australia, n
o hormones have been fed or otherwise administered to meat chickens for at least 40 years.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Bitter Potatoes

And now something for those of you following my love life…

You know things are over between me and a boy when photos of his (stylized) cupboard end up posted here

I should have known things weren’t going to work out with me and Boston Boy the first time I saw his kitchen. It was really quite grimy, brimming (nine bags worth and three boxes full) with "recycleables" that he never managed to recycle. It featured a leaky fridge and a cupboard full of cream of mushroom soup and…canned potatoes. Not the markings of a foodie. But I was willing to give it a go. He was/is pretty darned cute afterall.

First off, I didn't even know potatoes came in a can, and second, well, there is no second. It should just leave you shaking your head in wonder after "first off."

In fairness, it's not that it wasn’t first. He brought me to lovely restaurants, trotted out his dogged eared copies of Gourmet Magazine and talked about the best pizza in his home town.

But sometime along the way, that all stopped and I suddenly found myself eating in greasy spoons on a regular basis and showing up at Sports Bars at 10 am to (pretend to) watch some televised event I couldn't care less about.

Of course, I really should have ended it when we went to visit my friend who runs a farmers market and he actually uttered the following statement.


"I just don't get it. You do know they sell fruit at the supermarket, right?"


So here is a post I am dedicating to him, (And he is a sweet guy, and for some girl, perfect, I'm sure. Just not me.) a recipe for Potatoes A La Can.

Delicious? No. Slightly bitter, yet informative and socially responsible?

Heck yea...


A many cans of potatoes as you can muster up, generic or store brand works best

Using your best can opener, remove the tops of the cans. Pour the contents into the sink if you have a disposal, and the trash if you don't.

Rinse the cans, and recylcle.

Alternatively, you can donate the full cans to a homeless shelter or food bank.

Serves, one. Me.



Other veg in a can one should avoid: Carrots, onions, mushrooms and at all costs, peas (sorry Brits)

Excellent and otherwise restaurants we frequented: Cafe 50's, Nook, Clay Oven, The Hump, Tokyo Fast Food, Titos Tacos, Benitos Tacos, Sosayaya and (cringe again) Houstons.


Coddled Eggs

It isn’t so very often that I post a recipe for a breakfast item, is it? I mean, sure, who doesn't like breakfast, but it’s not exactly when the most inspired cooking takes place. (Okay, that's not entirely true now is it)

And yet, here I am about to chatter about coddled eggs. My newest mostest favorest (revisted from childhood) thing ever.

I have always been outrageously fond of a nice, soft boiled egg. Its just such a blissful morning moment. Crack it open, dip in the toast and imbibe in natural perfection.

Or so I thought.

But somehow I had forgotten over the years about that oh-so-chic little porcelain cup called an egg coddler (available for very reasonable prices on line from Royal Worchester, or at your finer department stores) in which you can basically soft boil an egg…with the addition of butter, and any and all flavorings you choose, gently infused into the egg! It’s so good, you may weep with happiness.

See? Thrilling variation on a seemingly tired theme. Is that not the best?
So tell me, and don't be shy, how do you like your eggs? With chives and parsley? How about doctored up with something roguish like anchovy and capers? Too strong for first thing in the day? Well, what about a nip of congac and some shaved truffles? Delightful decadance!

With a coddler, all these can be yours. The variations are limited by, well, what's in your larder I suppose (I am SO excited I just got to use the word 'larder' by the way, you just have no idea. I mean, first 'coddled' and then that...coo)

The set of coddlers (how much do you love that term! I love it! Coddled eggs. Awwww…..) I have were purchased in 1951 by my dashing father.

Just imagine a sophisticated young American man in London, there for the first time alone, sauntering into a little shop and purchasing these delicate items.

They are just so beautiful and make such a great dish, it's really no wonder he could not resist. The man loves two things, (other than his family of course!) birds (ergo the pattern on the coddlers) and eggs for breakfast. That is why they were an ideal purchase all that time ago. And lest you think they were mearly decorative trinkets one he got home, think again. He used them for years and years, until I spirited them away. (With his permission.)

And that I have them now makes me glow with happiness. Every time I coddle an egg, I have him to thank. And now (assuming you have run out an purchased your own) you can make them too!

I am including the most basic recipe for you to try, but should you be feeling ambitious, try separating the whites and yolks, then whipping the whites with the additions (whatever you choose, but salt and pepper at the very least) then adding the unbroken yolk back in before you coddle. Should that be too involved, try this, and enjoy!

Required equipment: 2 double egg coddlers

4 eggs
1 pat butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 small anchovy, minced
1 teaspoon capers, minced

Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the coddlers. Bring the water to a boil.

Meanwhile, lightly butter the inside of each coddler, and fill with two eggs each. Top with anchovy and capers, salt and pepper. Screw on the top tightly.

Gently lower the coddlers into the boiling water and let boil for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the water, wipe off, remove the lid and serve with buttered toast.

Serves two.


Happy Birthday Daddy!

An egg coddler is a porcelain cup with a lid. They have been manufactured by Royal Worcester in Worcester, UK since at least the 1890s, and were probably invented there.

People in the UK eat
10 billion eggs a year; that's 26 million every day, which placed end to end would reach from the earth to the moon.

White shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and ear lobes. Brown shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. -


Monday, September 25, 2006


Greek Style Pasta Salad

When it comes to making a dainty lunch...I tend to fail. Sure, sure, I can create breathless salads and shimmering soups, light as a feather and just right for a warm summer day or as dinner after a late lunch, but I never seem to be able to stop with making just one thing, you know? It's always three soups, two salads and a few desserts...just in case...(In case of what? case someone doesn't like one of the first few things? In case they have allergies? See? In case...)

Luncheon at my house may be lighthearted, or even enlightening, but I have yet to have a guest go home saying it was just so light, they ate just enough...over the top baby, that's my gig. I fear I may be a gluttony-enabler.

And potlucks are no exception. Ask me to "bring a dish" and you will have unknowingly sent me into a miasma of options. What to bring, what to serve? What is in season? What is simple, yet refined? What will coyly shame every other dish off of the table? What will leave them begging for more?

Should you too have this dilemma, may I suggest my recent solution: Greek style pasta salad. All the flavors of a Greek salad, but with a twist.

Scrumptiously delicious. A kaladiscope of vibrant colors. A medley of peppy perfection. And bonus! Quite balanced nutritionally, and low in fat. Bravo!

Serve it for lunch and see how filling, yet light, it really is. Ideal indeed.

Try it, and enjoy!

1 cup semi de melone pasta (or orzo) cooked in heavily salted water
3teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly minced oregano
1/4 cup minced parsley
10 kalamata olives, pitted and minced
1 small red onion, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 large flame roasted red pepper, diced
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

When the pasta is just finished cooking, drain and rinse with cold water to prevent it from cooking further. Let drain in a fine mesh strainer (the pasta will slip through a common collender.) then pour into a bowl and toss with the vinegar, then the oil. Let absorb a few minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste and serve.

If you want to make it ahead, leave out the fresh herbs until just prior to serving.

Makes enough for four


Semi de melone [ say-mee day may-LOH-nay ] Italian for "melon seeds," culinarily term describing tiny, flat melon-seed shaped pasta

The word feta comes from the Italian word fette, meaning a slice of food. The word oregano comes from the Greek, meaning “joy of the mountain.”

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Thursday, September 21, 2006


Carrots with Honey


I just love the idea of symbolic foods. Black eyed peas warding off the Evil Eye, chicken for happiness or Eels to build stamina in the summertime.

The connection between the foods we consume and our spiritual health really intrigues me. The idea from somewhere in the mists of time that food does indeed have power. That simply eating something can have more than just a tummy filling affect.

Tonight, is the start of the Jewish High Holidays, a perfect example of a time when people look to food for growth, health and prosperity. There are a lot of interesting foods associated with happiness in a New Year. And no matter what your beliefs or philosophy, I personally am all for taking whatever oppurtunity is presented to better my life through the consumption of a dish.

This simple, delicious dish is to bring prosperity. And I figure that is something we can all use a little bit of! Why carrots? Well, the Yiddish word for carrots - merren, means "more" or "increased." And when the carrots are sliced into coin-shapes, they represent the desire for prosperity and good fortune for those we know and love. Combined with honey, to bring sweetness to your life, this side dish is a wonderful thing indeed.

So grab some carrots, slice them up and may wealth and happiness find their way to your doorstep. Try this, and enjoy.

4 carrots, peeled, sliced into rounds
Salted water, just enough to barely cover the carrots
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)

In a sauce pan, simmer the carrots with the water, on high, until the water is almost evaporated. Add the honey and caraway. Stir to combine and serve.

Makes enough for six.


McDonald's said Wednesday that it is testing a new kitchen system to greatly enhance the choices customers have no matter what time of day. That means customers may be able to order hot cakes and sausage for lunch, an egg McMuffin in midafternoon or a breakfast burrito in the evening.

McDonald's last major kitchen overhaul was in 1998, when it introduced the 'Made for You' system, where sandwiches are only prepared after customers order them. Across the chain, McDonald's replaced bins of pre-made burgers with freshly made sandwiches. It cost around $400 million to implement. The overhaul was considered a flop. Restaurant operators panned 'Made for You' as a slow, labor-intensive system that offered slightly better quality sandwiches at the cost of speed. They said it drove up costs because more workers were needed to make it run efficiently. The system has been tweaked over the years, but never fully replaced. - Chicago Tribune

Carrots were first cultivated in Afghanistan in the 7th century, and they started with yellow flesh and a purple exterior. It was the Dutch who developed the orange carrot, and the French in the 17th who most likely developed the elongated carrot, ancestor of the ones we eat today. The English brought the carrot to the New World. -Food Facts

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Sonoma Chicken Salad

Mmm. Chicken salad.

Sonoma style.

What makes it Sonoma style? Well, other than the name, I think it’s gotta be the grapes. I really can’t think of any other reason it’s called that. Sonoma is grape growing country after all. The addition of walnuts and tarragon, well, you got me on that one…

Of course, this being my blog - purportedly a venue for recipes I have devised - I should be a touch more in control of said recipes…and yet…well, I’ve been feeling a bit out of control lately, so it's no big shock its poured over into my cooking.

And really, what better way to regain control than to eat something that comforts. That brings happy memories with every bite, something that soothes the soul and tummy all in one.

Which, my dears, is how I managed to stir up a bowl full of memories. Sonoma chicken salad.

This is a recipe I kinda-sorta vaguely recall from a brief but glorious stint, way back in the day, as counter girl at an adorable deli in San Francisco (which, btw, I suspect is under new ownership. Anyone been there in the last few yaers? Any good?)

I'm not entirely sure what it was about that salad that I glammed on to it so tightly way back then, but I have been making my version of it for years, and it never fails to cheer/ground/entice me. Not my cooking mind you, the somewhat unexpected combination of perfect flavors. Smoky chicken, strong sharp tarragon, the crunch of walnuts and just a tiny amount of mayo to bind it all together in lunch-time salad bliss. Try it, and tell me you don’t agree. Enjoy.

½ pound chicken meat (Deboned. I use thighs and breasts.)
¼ teaspoon olive oil
3 drops liquid smoke
1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper
1 heaping tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
1 cup red grapes, halved
3 tablespoons toasted walnut pieces

In a medium (non-stick) saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken and brown. Turn and continue to cook until, uh, cooked. Add the liquid smoke and cook for another few seconds. Remove from the pan and allow to cool thoroughly.

Shred or dice the chicken.

In a large bowl, stir together the mustard, mayo, salt and pepper and tarragon. Add the rest of the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serves two.


There are 350 Certified Farmers' Markets throughout the state of California.

Yum Brands Inc; the parent of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC fast-food chains, said Monday it expects to post a two per cent decline in third-quarter U.S. same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year. – AP

There are approximately 4,400 wine-grape growers in California and 3000 commercial wineries in the U.S., 1,300 of which are in California. More than half of the California wineries sell fewer than 5,000 cases annually. There are 191 wineries in Sonoma county California alone. All 50 states have certified wineries.

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Monday, September 18, 2006


Five Things To Eat Before We Die

Five things to try before you die.

Now isn’t that such a fantastically indulgent daydream? To actually try all the items compiled by a multitude of foodies at the request of Melissa of The Traveler’s Lunchbox?

Where to begin? Let's see…first let’s all eat a juicy ripe peach off of a tree in Georgia, or a fig in Italy, have some coffee in Hawaii, then go to Maine for some blueberries, and Seattle for some salmon but don't forget to jaunt off to England for clotted cream. Next stop Cambodia for some beer and Turkey for some kebobs.

Not only will our mouths and stomachs be satisfied but our minds endlessly thinking of the next food that simply must be tried. It is a long list after all.

What a lovely fantasy! I could spend all day just reveling in it.

Now shall I add my little thoughts? Shall I tell you what I deem worthy of this monumental list?

First, I must point out that I think all of the previous entries sound totally awesome. Full tilt good times. So these are my additions, and that is not to say I think a vine ripened tomato is less important (because frankly, they are supreme) or that I don't think everyone should try caviar or Wagu beef, I am just making sure these little delights are included in the roundup too.

So on with the show!

Truffled French Fries. Heady, salty deep-fried soul-touching splendor. I recommend the Hotel Bel Air bar’s version…but obviously you should get them where ever they are available in your area. A combination divined from above.

A Cheese Blintz. What is a blintz? It is a golden crepe filled with light as air whipped cheese, and topped (more often than not) with fruit syrup. The best are made at home, because anything made with care by someone who has done it more times than they can count, is worth trying. For many people it is a standard, for many, many more, it will be a whole new treat.

A Slice of Pizza from Fieros Pizza in East Hampton, NY. I only make it out to visit East Hampton once a year, but in between I dream of this thin sliced slice of perfection from my childhood. On rainy winter nights I wonder, can it really be as good as I remember? And every time I bite into a slice, I am reminded that yes, it really is. Thin crust, slightly crackled and just this side of charred, the red sauce is thin and the cheese gooey. What more could a person ask for?

An Authentic Fish Taco. Eaten out of hand from a thatched hut on a sun drenched beach (why is all food better by the sea?) someplace in Baja or on the way home from a baseball game, it doesn't matter which. It is my favorite food, and I cannot imagine a life where I couldn’t eat them.

Wedding Cake. I don’t know what it is about weddings that I love so much, but the simple act of two people making such a profound commitment in front of the people they care most about, to me, is amazing and beautiful (even the tacky ones in Vegas) …and that it ends with cake, well, all the better. White cake from a box, or a nine-tiered fantasy, it is all the same to me…symbolic of a sweet life and therefore the best thing indeed.

So why these things out of all the things people can eat? Why not dinner at Nobu or fish stew in the South of France? Well, those things are all great too, but like I said, I wanted to add a few that hadn't been mentioned and the things that mean the most to me.

Had my list been longer, it would have included: A Chicago style hot dog, steak in Argentina, my Spanish sister-in-law’s gazpacho and a real Danish Smorrebrod . Not to mention, an Italian-American Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas eve with people you love, soda sipped through a straw made out of a red vines licorice, (preferably, at the end of a dock with your feet dangling over into the water) popcorn at The Sunset Five movie theater, lunch at The French Laundry, Tahitian vanilla scented beurre blanc poured over a freshly caught and grilled fish in Bora-Bora, Tatertots in a school cafeteria, Falafels: anywhere, a picnic at The Hollywood Bowl and of course, cocktails on the roof of a building at sunset.


The San Francisco-based beer He-Brew, a company that started out as a joke is celebrating ten years in business. Founder Jeremy Cowan says that starting out, he and his friends just thought it would be fun for Jews to have their own beer. Ten years later, with 2 million bottles sold, it's not a joke anymore.

In Germany, there is a monument to the potato with the inscription "To God and Francis Drake, who brought to Europe for the everlasting benefit of the poor – the Potato."

Danish cuisine still contains elements harking back to the time before industrialization, i.e. the time before c. 1860, the age of storage housekeeping with a cuisine based on beer and rye bread, and salted and smoked pork and herring. - The Danish Embassy Website

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Thursday, September 14, 2006


Key Lime Curd with Coconut Biscuits

When you think about the cuisine of Florida, what comes to mind? Early bird specials? Cuban food? Nuevo Latino?

For me, it’s a few things. Spiny rock lobsters, crabs, hush puppies (not exclusive to the area, I know, but still prevalent), giant smooth-skinned avocados, conch, hearts of palm and of course, the most enticing of all the local ingredients, key limes.

(Now in fairness, if you truly wanted to make any of the above "Floridian," they must be served as dinner, but at 4pm. You know how the Seniors like to dine early!)

There just is nothing more fantastically-abundantly local than key limes. (Okay, you can get sweet potatoes and okra too, but they just aren't nearly as glam, now are they.)

Delicious, sour, super-juicy key limes. And just the other day, they were selling 4 lbs for $2. (Not in LA, I'm still in Florida. You may have missed that.) That came to about 50 limes and/or 2.5 cups of juice.

Have you ever had a key lime? Smaller than common limes and much juicier, they are also packed full of pits. The skin is super thin and the color is more yellow than green, which is their distinct marking. They don’t travel well, which is why they are hard to find outside of tropical areas, but if you do come across some, you should pick out a few nice specimens and bring them on home. Even if you don't get enough to make a pie or this recipe, they are worth having on hand as a slight change of pace from common limes, (Which I shouldn't disparage, since I adore them too!) they are much more sour and have a slightly less acidic aftertaste.

Now I could have gone and made a traditional key lime pie with my heaven-scented bounty, but then, you can find a recipe for that pretty much anyplace.

No, I wanted to make something a little different. Something a little more fab, but still retaining a classic southern feel and that would really capture what makes key limes so special. I am also prone to choosing tart over cloying desserts any day, so this fit the bill...

So what did I make?

Key lime curd with coconut biscuits. Thats right baby. And don't you wish you had been here!

The biscuit recipe is a little different than anything I had done before, but still basic. And with the addition of coconut milk to give it a smoother crumb and additional sweetness to cut the bright-tart lime curd. Utterly sublime.

This entire dessert (or breakfast if you are so inclined) comes together pretty swiftly. The curd needs to cool and set for at least 20 minutes, and you want to time that so that it is set when the biscuits come out of the oven. Light as air they are also great alone, but for my money, I wouldn’t want to put this curd on anything less.

The combination is beyond words.

Try it, and enjoy. (And of course, you can make this with any citrus, don't limit yourself to key limes!)

1 1/2 cups lime juice
1/4 pound butter
6 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar (more to taste)

Combine all the ingredients in a double boiler, or in a large metal bowl set over a sauce pan with simmering water in it. (Just make sure the bowl isn't resting directly in the water, it needs to be above it) Taste and add more sugar if needed. Whisk constantly until it begins to thicken, about six to ten minutes. It will thicken more when it sets, right now you are looking for it to resemble thick custard.

When done, strain through a fine-mesh strainer and refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes. To prevent a skin from forming on the curd, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Will keep for two weeks.

For the biscuits:

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon shortening
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut milk, plus additional for glazing
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Line your baking sheet with heavy foil. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat your oven to 450F.

Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl and work with a fork to combine. There should be no large lumps of shortening.

Stir in the buttermilk and coconut milk. It should be just thicker than a batter.

Pour the AP flour onto a plate. Drop a mound of the wet dough onto the flour and using your hands, make sure it is coated with flour. Shape it into a circle, pat lightly and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Brush the biscuits with coconut milk and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove from the oven, split and serve with the lemon curd.

Makes eight.


The large, green, seedless lime found in your supermarket is the Persian Lime, a hybrid developed in the early 20th century.

The California orchards that produce nearly all domestic olives (a $59 million industry) were hammered by harsh weather this year, leaving growers with the smallest harvest in 25 years. - AP

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Wine Bloggin' Wednesday - Lovely Jubbly Bubbly

Wine Blogging Wednesday, eh?

Sounds good to me!

And what did Super Sassy Sam of Becks Posh Nosh (this month's WBW hostess) set forth as the challenge? Choose a bottle of Champagne (do I need to remind you that the product Champagne only comes from the French region of Champagne and that all other grape based tiny bubbled beverages are called sparkling wine? No, didn’t think so) and then drink it.

(Not much of a challenge though, if you think about it. I mean, everybody loves Champagne! It's a party in a bottle!)

Which is what we did.

Quite well too, I think. We made it our business to rise to the occasion.

I chose a (vintage) Millesime 1992 J.B. Michel Brut Champagne.

Considered an "artisan" Champagne, I thought it would be excellent to try. I think "artisan" in this case means, small, independent producer. (The maker of this fine Champagne, Bruno Michel, is a member of Vigneron-Independants de France after all.)

And my darling peaches, I do so delight in my bubbly, so it was no effort at all to partake in this particular ($50) bottles rare luxuriousness.

Nope, it was actually my distinct pleasure.


(Did you get that? Mmmmmmmmm.)

"Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles) In the wine (in the wine) Make me happy (make me happy) Make me feel fine (make me feel fine)..."

And to eat?

We had it with caviar. Of course. Classic, decadent.

Beautiful, shimmering-black, briny-smooth perfection.

Could anything be better?

No. Nothing is better. Mmm.

Champagne and caviar.

"Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles) Make me warm all over With a feeling that I'm gonna Love you till the end of time..."

For a girl without a job, I sure do live well, don’t I ? (I swear I was born under a lucky star...)

I hope you do too.

I wish it for us all.

(Cheers to that!)

"So here's to the golden moon And here's to the silver sea And mostly here's a toast To you and me..."

Oh, and as for the Champagne, it was simply wonderful. Really a rare treat. Obviously made by craftsman who care.

Minute bubbles, beautifully dappled-sunshine-yellow hue. Sublimely brut, (dry) as advertised. Flinty - in a good way, and supple.

Made from chardonnay grapes and partly aged in oak.

I am mad, Mad, MAD for this Champagne!


Available at fine wine purveyors worldwide.

Find some! Buy some! Enjoy!

"So here's to the ginger lei I give to you today And here's a kiss That will not fade away." (Tiny Bubbles, Words and Music by Leon Pober, Sung by Don Ho)


Dom Perignon is the prestige cuvée of the giant Moët et Chandon Champagne house. It is named after the famous monk, who was the most important early influence in the development of Champagne into the sparkling wine we know today. the first recorded production of bottle fermented sparkling wine is dated a century before Dom Perignon's birth, in 1531, at the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire at Limoux in southern France. - Wine on the Web

Vigneron-Independants de France: The movement of the Vine growers Independent of France is the trade union of defense of the trade of independent vine grower.

I know, I know, I have GOT to figure out a better way to post mulitiple pics on a page. This looks shameful! I just got so excited. Sorry...

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Cajun Style Boiled Peanuts

Have you ever wondered how you really know you’ve landed in the American South?

Well kids, never fear: I’m here to tell you, and it’s quite simple. The big clue? Easy to spot roadside stands selling boiled peanuts.

I’m not sure about the origins or history of this delicacy - or exactly how popular they are, but in my humble opinion, they are one of the worlds greatest treats, and they are only found on the highways and biways deep in the heart of Dixie.

So what are they and how do you find them? And more importantly, how do you make them in your own home?

In answer to the first question, they are peanuts (still in the shell) that have been boiled in (very) heavily salted water. That's about it, although, as a bonus, they also come in Cajun style, a simple and elegant refinement to the original, which is a near perfect foodstuff. The difference between regular and Cajun? Jalepenos, pickles, and Cajun spice mix. Seriously. Whoever came up with this should be awarded a prize. A big, huge, shiny prize. Preferably monetary.

The peanuts come out of the water soft and salty, with a touch of nuttiness still in tact. They really don’t taste like any thing else I have ever had, but heavens, they taste good.

If you haven’t already, you should add them to your "Foods To Eat Before You Die" list. Since I’ve had them, they aren’t on my list any longer, but I’ll say this, they certainly are in my permanent repertoire.

Okay, so I really am being a touch too academic about this whole thing, but that’s just my style, I should just point out they are awesome. Try them, and see for yourself.

1 pound raw peanuts, in shell
1/2 cup salt
1 gallon water
¼ cup dill pickle slices, with brine
1 small jalepeno pepper, sliced
1 tablespoon Cajun spice mix

Note: Raw peanuts means they are not roasted.

In a large pot, combine the peanuts, salt, water, peppers and spice mix. Bring to a boil.
Simmer over low heat for a minimum of four hours (really, they will be fine.) Add the pickles and continue to boil for 3o more minutes. Test one and see, they should be soft.
When ready to serve, scoop from the pot and enjoy.

The peanut stand shown in the photos above is Jamie's Boiled P-Nuts on Route 27 in Clermont, Florida. Jamie is just about the cutest thing ever and her peanuts are the best. If you are in the area, stop by and say hello!

The peanut plant originated in South America. It is not a nut, but a legume related to beans and lentils. They are sometimes called goobers or groundnuts.

Two peanut farmers have been elected president of the United States - Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter - National Peanut Board

Did you hear about the two peanuts walking in Central Park? One of them was a salted.


Monday, September 11, 2006



It is the eleventh of September again. There just isn't a whole lot I can say...

Please visit this site, and remember the people who were lost, five years ago today.

Until tomorrow,


Sunday, September 10, 2006


Oh Dear, This Is Not Saag Paneer!

Good day my sweet peaches!

This is a recipe for something that isn't Saag Paneer. Which means, it isn't spiced spinach with Indian style cheese.

Which of course, it sort of is. But isn't either.

So what is it? Why, it's Spinach with not-Indian-style cheese! And just because I know you're wondering, the non-Indian-style cheese in question is good ol' cottage cheese, available most anywhere. Unlike paneer, which I couldn't find in Florida. (Where I am right now.) Sigh. Oh, and it's made with yogurt too. Which may or may not be an ingredient in Saag Paneer. I forget.

Whatever it is, or isn't, it's outrageously yummy, so all is good. Even if it isn't what I set out to make.

Sour and cool, spinachy (Yes, I said's my blog, so I can make up words, okay?) and spicy it is a low fat, highly good-for-you in that Mom-loves-when-you-eat-food-that-is-good-for-you kinda way.

Try it, and enjoy.

6 cups fresh spinach, washed and drained, but with water still clinging to it
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup large curd cottage cheese
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Salt to taste

In a large saute pan, heat the oil and add the garlic. Saute until just fragrant. Add the spinach, clamp on the lid, reduce the heat to low and let reduce for two minutes.

Remove the lid and stir in the remaining ingredients.

Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Serve immediatly.

Makes enough for four as a side dish.


Paneer is the only type of cheese indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. It is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting Farmer Cheese that is similar to fresh mozzarella, except that it does not have salt added. Unlike most cheeses in the world, the making of paneer does not involve rennet; it is therefore completely vegetarian. - Wikipedia

Archer Daniels Midland Co., has acquired Liverpool-based chocolate producer Classic Couverture. – Chicago Sun Times

Spinach originated in Persia where it was known as "aspanakh".

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Saturday, September 09, 2006


Anise Flavored Wine Cookies with Muscat Poached Peaches

It was nine am this very morning when my amazing step-father, Pops, suggested we go to the local winery to check things out and (why the heck not) maybe learn a thing or two. He had been before and said it was a pretty location and the wine was "interesting." Me? I was highly skeptical but then again, curiosity ruled the day so I had to join in. Why was I skeptical? Because Pops lives in Florida. You know, that lush, tropical place best known for oranges and avocados, but so much (in my mind) for their fine viticulture.

That said, we hopped in the car and wound our way up (or over, heck, I don’t know) towards the Lakeridge winery. Me and my Pops, we chatted, we laughed, I Googled "bourbon distillery tours, Florida" in hopes there may be a diversion should the Sunshine State's finest wine turn out to be a bust, (Result? I learned there is no bourbon produced in this state. The rum factory tour on the other hand, is slated for my next visit…yee-ha!) and all in all, had a grand old time.

Right here, I really am going to have to again point out that Florida and wine are not words that normally find themselves in the same sentence. Unless its about how someone ordered a great bottle of French wine, while on vacation here. Just wanted to reiterate.

As we pulled up to the lovely Spanish Mission style building (built in 1988) Pops pointed out that the Space Shuttle was about to launch about 60 miles away from where we stood. Well, I have personally never beheld such a sight, so we hung out in the excellent picnic area to catch a glimpse. When it appeared (to NASA's credit, directly on schedule) as a fiery blaze shooting up into the sky, it was really thrilling. I loved it. (That picture over there is the best I could do…see the top of that white streak? That’s it.) It was just so…cool.

The tour started promptly after the shuttle had disappeared behind some clouds, at which time our fearless and amiable guide, Shep (I kid you not) began with some startling inaccurate facts about Charles Shaw wines, the climate in Napa and the quality of football played on the West coast (not that I follow sports, but bashing my hood is unacceptable) before launching in to their fantastic spin about the Florida wine business and their fine products. (Upshot, oak is bad, sweet wine is good. Aging wine is pretentious. Uh…sure)

Turns out (brace yourself, this may be a shock) according to our guide, wine grapes don’t like the weather in these parts. For the most part, they can’t actually even grow here. Muscat grapes can, but they don’t make very tasty wine. Heck they don’t even make very tasty food in general. That fact, unfortunately, seems to have made people here grumpy, so they got their finest institution (the University of Florida) to develop a hybrid grape or two (Muscadine blanc dubois and Stover grapes – the spelling on those may be wrong, sorry) and they set about pulling up orange groves and planting vast swaths of vinyards. (There were 117 thousand acres of orange groves in the area in 1987. There are less than 20 thousand acres now – this according to Shep) On the bright side, because of the (scorching hot, outrageously humid) climate in the area, they actually harvest in July and can have bottles ready to purchase within 6 months. (Again…uh, okay.)

Now the largest winery in Florida, the good folks at Lakeridge produce 10 varieties. After the tour which took us past their crusher and bottling rooms, we saddled up to the tasting bar and tried seven. (Two were sold out.)

I was interested to see what an area that seems completely at odds with the winemaking climate (warm dry days, cool nights) could produce. Now, I know there is something for everyone, and I really did keep an open mind, but my notes included a lot of comments such as "Tastes like alcoholic grape jelly," "Musty river, with hints of orange blossoms," "Sweet, roses and honey." None of which sound good. Because in all actuality, to my taste, none of this wine was good. It was dreadful. Then again, if you like sweet wines, they were quite interesting indeed. I would say if you have a bottle, chill it to 52 degrees and drink it with pizza, down it with pasta that has been smothered in jarred sauce or swill it with a burger and fries. That way, it will taste…good?

To me, it was all just too cloying and it all had a weird musty flavor – mostly due to the muscadine grapes, I think. Have you had one of these? Find one in your local market if you can and smell it. They are…musty sweet. Like, dusty purple grape juice mixed with essence of swamp. They have their place in the world, but not my mouth. And certainly not in bottles.

Of course, I didn’t want to seem too cruel (though I admit that the Diet Coke I guzzled right after actually acted as a palate cleanser…) and I put my mind to finding a use for the bottle I felt obliged to purchase - the eight dollar Sunblush (yes, really.) "A delicate pink [my notes say orange] hue offers flavorful intensity and concentration of bouquet, while remaining cheerfully light bodied and refreshing. Try it with a wide variety of finger foods, rice dishes and pasta."

Look, I don’t mean to sound like an ingrate here…it was an awesome day and I am thankful for the time Pops and I spent together, (oh and the tour was fun!) but this wine was just not to my taste. And when they boasted that they bottle a million plus cases a year, it kinda made me want to cry. Who is drinking this stuff?

AND YET…despite all this, it was my culinary quest to find a recipe that could make that Sunblush blush…and lo and behold, I outdid myself (back-pat, back-pat)…though should you want to recreate it, I suggest using a dessert wine and not this particular brand (sorry!)

I had purchased some smallish Georgia peaches yesterday at a road stand and thought they would make a great match to the wine, which is so intensely floral. The peaches were really just glorious orbs of juicy-ripe perfection. Then the Italian style hard cookies (that I adapted from this recipe) with their anise flavored bite and flaky texture worked as an ideal foil for the sweet peaches and doctored up wine. Dip them in, mash them over the peaches or eat them all separately, it doesn’t matter, it’s still divine.

Serve this as an afternoon treat. The recipe is a delicious and light indeed. You will love it. Try it, and enjoy.

Anise Wine Cookies

¼ cup sweet wine
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon anise oil (optional)
2 cups white flour
Pinch of salt
4 oz olive oil
1 teaspoon anise seeds

Preheat your oven to 300F. Lightly oil a cookie sheet and set aside.
Combine the wine, sugar and anise oil, stir to dissolve the sugar and set aside.
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine.

In a small pan, heat the olive oil and anise seeds until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Pour the warm oil into the flour and stir to combine. Add the wine mixture and knead to combine.

Roll the dough into golf-ball sized pieces. Press your finger into the center to the bottom to create an indentation. (This is done because the cookie is so dense it will not cook all the way through before it burns unless you make the dent) Place on the cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

For the peaches:
4 large peaches
½ cup sweet wine
2 bay leaves
2 large basil leaves
pinch of salt
¼ cup sugar
½ cup water

Blanch and peel the peaches.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan. Add the peaches to the liquid and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, turning once or twice, until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the bay and basil leaves and discard.

Remove the peaches from the liquid and slice. Serve with the cookies and syrup.

Makes enough for eight people.


Muscadine grapes have been used for making commercial wines dating back to the 16th Century in Florida. Today, there are vineyards throughout the Southeast vinting muscadine wines. The typical muscadine wine is quite sweet and is therefore oftentimes considered a dessert wine although some drier varieties exist. The term scuppernong refers to a large bronze type of muscadine originally grown in North Carolina; it is also used in making wine. – Wikipedia

The first peaches grown in Georgia, in the late 1800s,were the Elberta variety. They were highly successful on the northern markets because of their exceptional color, size and quality. Although Georgia is called the Peach State, it actually ranks third in United States peach production behind California and South Carolina.

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Monday, September 04, 2006


I Heart Cookbooks

Oh wow. I had a doozy of a nightmare last night!

At four a.m. my somnolent mind decided to conjure up a harrowing tale in which all of my cookbooks were stolen. Eek!

It was chilling indeed. Not only would this imagined tragedy leave my bookshelves quite bare, I feel it would be akin to severing a limb. I love them so. Inspiring, funny, beautiful, daunting, silly and nostalgic, each and every one gets picked up, read and referred to with alarming frequency.

Waking up in a panic that they truly were gone, I spent the next five or six minutes staring at them with adoration and noticing a few things I feel like sharing. So here goes. Random facts relating to my cookery book collection:

Total number of cookbooks: 268
Total number of books related to food (without recipes): 47
Number of books dedicated to Japanese cuisine: 12
Number of books dedicated to Italian: 2
Books on Classic Irish cookery, Turkish Food or Russian Cuisine: 0
Books entitled "Vegetables": 3
Hardcovers: 146
Books on vegan /vegetarian cooking: 17
Books about steak: 2
Number of books by Food Network Chefs: 0
Number that are a "companion to the television series": 9
Restaurant books: 7
Books written by monks: 1
Single subject books: 23
Mushroom cookbooks: 4
Books (solely) by women: 159
Oldest book, published in 1919
Most recent, published, 2005
Published by Chronicle Books: 20
Books by Julia Child: 2
Books I have never cooked from: 43

So there you go. Random facts indeed. And now, considering that last stat, I think I’d better stop typing and get cooking!

Until tomorrow,


In a 6oz. Cup of coffee there are approx. 105mg of caffeine; tea, 35; in cola, 50mg and hot chocolate, 4mg

Supernacular: adjective - a description of wine that is so superlative that is drunk to the very last drop - proved by upturning the empty glass upon one’s fingernail and ensuring not a single drop forms thereon. - G. Saintsbury, 1920

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Sauerkraut and Bacon Strudel

When I was a small girl, I asked my mother where her family was from, as most children are apt to do at some point. Her very specific answer was that she grew up in the Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Being quite young at the time, (though precocious, I’m sure) and not really clear on what that meant, I figured we were Dutch. (For clarification, the Pennsylvania Dutch are Germans. Apparently back in the day, Americans couldn't figure out why Germans called themselves Deutsch, which is German for German, so the Americans assumed they meant they were from the Netherlands...get it?) A fact I held on to despite all indications otherwise until I was roughly 21 years old, when it dawned on me one day that there was just no way we could be Dutch.

How come? Well, for one, there were no Dutch foodstuffs or traditions in our house, there is no visual indication we hail from there, we own no wooden clogs and the biggest give-away? My mothers maiden name is German.

On the other hand, the signs pointing to the fact she is of German ancestry is glaring. Mommy loves Klosterkaese cheese and liverwurst, has been known to indulge in pickled pigs feet and makes vats of sauerkraut every year. She lingers over strudel and sauerbraten and cannot resist a thin slice of German Chocolate Cake. That old Dutch favorite, Kabeljauw met kaaskorst on the other hand, never once appeared on our table.

The upshot here is that I’m not Dutch. But hey, that’s okay by me. You can’t be everything, right? And it does make for a telling story, doesnt it? Giggle. (Telling that I am a space cadet perhaps?)

That all being said, it is no surprise that when I first heard of Sauerkraut Strudel I knew I had to try it. It simply called out to my mostly neglected inner German, begging to be made.

Yes, it's more calories, fat and salt than one person should consume in a day, let alone a sitting, but it sure as heck tastes amazing.

While it may not be the most glamorous looking dish, it sure makes up for it in fantasticness. Cabbagey (in a good way! And I do love my cabbage!) with the sharp bite of the caraway seeds, and the salty meatiness of bacon, balanced with the potato and the sweet onion, it is a delight. Of course, I don’t recommend having it too often unless you are a marathon runner , but every here and again, it is a sheer delight and will make you silly with happiness. I didnt have the patience to try strudel dough, so I made it with phyllo, but of course either works. Try it, and enjoy.

2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
6 thick cut slices of bacon, diced into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, large dice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon whole caraway seeds
2 cups sauerkraut, drained
4 sheets phyllo dough
3 teaspoons butter, melted
Sour cream for serving

Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and mash lightly with a fork, leaving some large pieces.

In a large pan, saute the bacon, onion and bay leaf until just browned, about 6 minutes (drain the pan of fat half way through if it is pooling deeply)

Remove the bay leaf from the bacon mixture. Add the bacon mixture to the potatoes, along with the pepper caraway and sauerkraut. Stir to combine. You can keep this in the fridge for up to 24 hours if you want to stop at this point.

Lay out one sheet of your phyllo and brush with the melted butter. Continue to do that with all four sheets. Do not butter the top sheet.

Pile the bacon-sauerkraut mixture onto the phyllo and roll it up like a log and seal, making sure the seam is on the bottom. If you need to, use a bit of extra phyllo to cover the ends so the insides are not exposed.

Bake on a baking sheet for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving. It will be a bit soggy, but never fear, its supposed to be. I am not sure how it would be with real strudel dough, but my guess is, less soggy.

Serve with sour cream.

Makes 8 servings


Klosterkaese is a surface-ripened, German cow's milk cheese with a velvet-like texture and a mild taste.

Sauerkraut is German for "Acid Cabbage." Americans consume 387 million lbs (one billion servings or approx. 1.5 lbs per person) each year, with a quarter of all households purchasing it.

According to a new study, 31 states showed an increase in obesity this year. Mississippi continued to lead the way. An estimated 29.5 percent of adults there are considered obese. That's an increase of 1.1 percentage points when compared with last year's report. Colorado remains the leanest state. About 16.9 percent of its adults are considered obese. That mark was also up from last year's report, but not enough to be considered statistically significant. Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and Montana also recorded adult obesity rates of less than 20 percent. The only state that experienced a decrease in the percentage of obese adults was Nevada. The five states with the highest obesity rates -- Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana and Kentucky – also exhibit much higher rates of poverty than the national norm.

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Friday, September 01, 2006


Drink of the Week: Cucumber Martini. Hard Boiled.

It was another hot night in LA-LA Land. Me and my two best dames were out on the town, knockin’ back some hootch and inviting danger to come in a little closer.

When we were ready to scram, the Queen of the Valley suggested a hip new joint for us to case.

20 minutes later, we made the scene, only to spot lurking in the doorway, a bouncer big enough to box a gorilla. In no mood to lay out the cabbage to hang out with the palookas, we zotzed that plan and high tailed it back to Ms. McGees to cool our heels and bump gums.

What with the heat creeping up off the flagstones, the only solution for our giggle-juice jones was an icy martini, straight up. Not some fruity concoction they sell to the kids these days. Something real, and real fast.

I think is was McGee who pulled the drink together. Glacial chill, with a hint of something different. It went over big.

So try it doll face, and see how it treats ya.

12 thin slices cucumber
6 oz. Ice cold vodka
1/16th oz. Vermouth

In a cocktail shaker, combine 10 cucumber slices, the vodka and the vermouth. Shake to braise. Pour into two glasses and garnish with additional slices.

Makes two large cocktails


Phyllis: I was just fixing some ice tea; would you like a glass?
Walter Neff: Yeah, unless you got a bottle of beer that's not working.


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