Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas success!

On Saturday, December 22nd, I seated and served 20 people in my small, midwestern home for an early Christmas dinner. Other than spilling part of a bottle of wine, the dinner was a complete success.

How did I do it? Mostly, I followed the advice of my previous blog post.

One, I delegated. I was only making the meat--turkey and lamb--and some dinner rolls. Each family member brought side dishes, salads, or desserts. My family was extremely gracious and helpful in making sure there was enough to go around.

Two, I kept clean-up to a minimum by using plasic plates and silverware. I found some nice looking stuff at the local warehouse store that didn't look paper-plate chintzy. I also rented some 8-foot tables to seat everybody, from a local rental company. I got 2 tables and 25 chairs delivered, set up and picked up for under $100--money well spent. I also used green disposable tablecloths, which complemented the red place settings nicely.

Three, I did a lot of the prep work and the cooking in advance. I brined the turkey and marinated the meat a few days before. I set up the tables the night before. I set the tables early in the morning. The meats were cooked nearly an hour before the first guest arrived. The roll recipe I used was also largely done in advance. All I had to do the day of was let the rolls rise, then bake them at the last moment.

I did break my rule and tried two new recipes, rather than one new recipe, for the event. I'd never cooked a leg of lamb before, and I'd never done homemade dinner rolls. However, I had a superb marinade for the lamb, and a good recipe in a cookbook that I trust. I also had kitchen thermometers in both meats, to make sure that I did not overcook them.

I did make a bit of an error with the thermometers, though. For both the turkey and the lamb, the thermometers said the meats were done when they still needed a good half hour to an hour more of cooking. Now, I know that each oven is different, and that cooking times in recipes are just guidelines. However, my cooking times were coming up a good 45 minutes to an hour short of the times in the cookbooks. Something was definitely off, and it was either the recipes, or the thermometers.

This is where having confidence in your recipe comes into play. I knew that I could trust both recipes, and that the cooking times shouldn't be more than 10 or 15 minutes off of what was listed. So, I reasoned, I must have made a mistake when placing the thermometers; I must have placed them too shallow. I jiggled the thermometers to place them a bit deeper into the meat, and, lo and behold, the internal temperature went down a good 20 degrees.

It's also about your confidence as a cook. Even if I wasn't so sure about the recipe, I would still have checked the thermometers, jiggled them a bit, or even pulled them out and put them in a different spot of the meat, to see what the problem was. If my second readings had told me the bird was done, then I'd have pulled the bird, even though the recipe may have given a longer cooking time.

The dinner rolls were more of a wild card. However, the recipe was from Cooks Illustrated magazine, another source whose recipes I trust. Rolls are also similiar enough to breadmaking--and I've done enough breads that I felt fairly confident with them. And, with all the other side dishes coming, if the rolls did not work out, no one would miss them. I confess, I was not 100% sure about the rolls until after they came out of the oven, and I palmed one and ate it under my breath. I still had time to shuffle them to the garage if they weren't any good. Thankfully, the rolls were lovely.

A huge thanks to my family for their hospitality and for coming out to my house, some of them for the first time. And a big thanks to my husband, who did a lot of the final cleaning and running to the store for me that day. It was a little stressful to plan, but the execution was beautiful, and the cleanup was a breeze.

Versatile meat marinade
Adapted from from Cooking New American by The Editors of Fine Cooking (The Taunton Press, 2004).

I got this marinade from a Splendid Table Weeknight Kitchen E-mail, and adapted it for my own use. I've used this marinade with great success on beef and lamb. It would also be good for a pork tenderloin. It's probably too strong for chicken, but you could try it, so long as you don't let it marinate too long.

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, crushed lightly
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Juice and zest of one lemon
Juice and zest of one orange
Sprigs of cilantro or mint

Lightly crush coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle, or by nesting a smaller glass inside a bigger glass and pressing gently but firmly. Stir all ingredients together, except for the cilantro or mint, until well blended.

If you like, reserve a few tablespoons of the marinade to drizzle over the meat after it's cooked. Reserve it before you add the meat.

Put your meat (beef, lamb pork) into a zip-top bag or shallow dish, and add marinade. Bruse the herbs by rolling them roughly between the palms of your hand like you are warming up your hands on a cold day. Add some herbs to each side of bag. Marinate for at least a day, two would be better, turning at least once. I like to turn it every few hours--before work, then after work, then before I go to bed.

Before cooking, wipe meat off to remove the coriander seeds and any bits of herbs that are hanging on. Cook meat in your standard way, whatever that may be.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Precious...

Santoku (San-TOE-Koo). noun. A general-purpose kitchen knife originating in Japan. The word santoku loosely translates as 'three good things' or 'three uses', a reference to the knife's multipurpose use with meat, vegetables and seafood. (From Wikipedia)

And it's mine, all mine! My Precioussss...

This was a Christmas gift from my parents. My parents are incredibly cool. Just look at this baby. Look at it:

The sleek, polished dark wood handle. Damascus folded steel. Elegant yet functional blade. And Alton says Shun knives are the sharpest he's ever seen. How can you not fall in love with this knife?

It's not my fault that I tend to covet kitchen gadgets like some girls covet shoes. It all started when I worked at Williams-Sonoma over a summer. They actually teach you a bit about good kitchen equipment, stuff like why 18/10 silverware is a good thing, and why you don't ever want to use knives on glass or porcelain. You've got to believe the hype so you can better sell the product, after all, and a 20% employee discount helped, too.

Yes, My Precious Shun may be somewhat extravagant and unnecessary, but so are Jimmy Choos. And let me tell you from personal experience--I'm talking several knife scars on my left index finger here--a sharp knife makes chopping and slicing easier, and safer. I never really plumbed the depths of my cooking ability until I got my first good knife--a Henckels Professional S--four years ago.

A good knife doesn't have to be an uber-knife like the Shun, but it must keep a sharp edge or you must be willing to have it professionally sharpened at least once a year.

Check archives of Cooks Illustrated or Consumer Reports for recommendations on good buys at a reasonable price.

For the nonce, my lust for elite kitchen gadgets has finally been sated. I started with a Waring Blender, got the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer of my dreams (black with flames painted on the side) and now my precious Shun.

Excuse me. I've got to go chop something.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday cooking rescue guide

"'twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house
The turkey was burning
And so was my blouse..."

Just some quick last-minute tips for those of us who are a little fearful that our Christmas meals won't come out quite right.

1. Relax. Take a deep breath. It will all be ok. Put on some music that you like while you are cooking, something to chill you out and calm you down.
2. Delegate. I had 20 people in my smallish house for christmas. I did the meats, and everybody else brought the side dishes. Took a lot of the stress off my hands.
3. If you can't delegate, use shortcuts. There's lots of great prepared foods out there, especially for desserts, that work really well. There's even great roasted chickens at most grocery stores. Take the garbage out, and no one will be the wiser. Your family will probably want to help in some way. Let them.
4. If you have time, do a dry run. I cooked my first Christmas turkey two weeks before Christmas, to make sure everything came out OK. A good thing I did, too, because it took more than twice as long to thaw as the package said it would.
5. Don't do more than one new recipe. Go with old standbys for most of your meals.
6. Read through the recipe several times before you start. Look for anything that is confusing to you or doesn't make sense.
7. "Mise in place" is your friend. Have everything cut and measured before you start. You can do this well in advance for most things, and you won't run frantically around the kitchen as much.
8. Have a backup plan. That way, if your item doesn't come out, you can have something to serve to your hungry guests. Frozen ravioli may not be traditional, but it's filling, can feed a crowd, is easy to make, and pretty much everybody likes it. Also, Find the number of the Chinese place nearby that will be open on Christmas Day. If things are unsalvagable, give them a call.
9. Don't start drinking until affter the bulk of the cooking is done. Okay, maybe a beer or one glass of wine, but no more. You may think that drinking will help to relax you, but drunk cooking is sloppy cooking, and leads to injury and disaster.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cooking Goofs for the Soul - Contest

(Update: Some great goofs coming in. I've decided I can't decide on a winner, so I'll be putting up a Poll. Look for that soon!)

I'm working on a blog post about how to recover from cooking goofs, just in time for the Christmas season. In the meantime, I'm going to run this blog's first ever contest!

Submit to me your worst cooking frack-up in the "Comments" section of this blog post. The person whose story I like best will get a dozen sugar cookies, from yours truly, mailed to their home! You have until the end of 2007 to comment. Multiple embar...entries encouraged.

I won't spare myself any embarrassment here. I'll share some of my worst cooking disasters, too.

* Served an inedibly tart apple cobbler at a dinner party.

* Dropped a creme brulee as I was taking it out of its water bath and putting it onto a cooling rack. Hot, liquid custard shrapnel splattered all over my wall and my couch.

* Accidentally made gummy, gross dumplings in a soup when I tried to thicken it by sprinkling flour directly into the soup as it was boiling.

* I burned two cups of onions to my favorite (and at the time brand new) saucier pan. We're talking near chemical adhesion. Better than teflon. It took two weeks of hot water and soap boilings over the stove, plus regular vinegar and baking soda scrubbings to get the pot back in working order.

*Put a whole 4 ounce can of chipotles in adobo in a chili I was making. It was so hot it was inedible. No amount of sour cream or cheese could tame the fire.

* Another kitchen shrapnel story. Chestnuts exploded when I tried roasting them in the oven. You're supposed to carve a big "X" into the skin so this doesn't happen, but apparently my "X" wasn't deep enough.

* Yet another kitchen shrapnel story. Spewed hot blueberry soup all over my mother-in-law's kitchen and my hand because a. the lid wasn't on the blender tight enough and b. hot liquids tend to expand when you puree them (the steam is still escaping).

Good luck!

Monday, December 17, 2007

And the award for Sugar Cookies goes to...

Me? Wow!

Baking a successful batch of sugar cookies is such an honor, and a surprise! I want to thank my mother-in-law. Without her guidance, and shadowing her a couple times as she made them, I wouldn't have been able to competently bake a batch of cookies.

I'd also like to thank the Children's Television Workshop, for providing the original recipe for Cookie Monster Cookie dough that my mother-in-law uses as her recipe.

I would be remiss if I didn't thank my mortgage lender, for getting us the loan for a house with a kitchen big enough to actually bake cookies.

Then there's Williams-Sonoma. Without having worked there, I would never have gotten exposure to the world of foodies. Also, the 20% employee discount helped me to afford kitchen staples that I wouldn't have otherwise.

And, last but not least, I want to thank my black Kitchen-Aid Professional mixer with flames painted on the side. It really came through for me when I needed it to mix up a double-batch of cookie dough, without seizing up or overheating.

You'll like them! You'll really like them!

Cookie Monster Sugar Cookies

3/4 c. softened butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Directions (note, you can also use a stand mixer or an egg beater to mix the dough.)

Put the butter into a bowl; measure and pour sugar over the butter.

Squish the butter and sugar together with a fork or pastry blender until totally blended.

Gently break open each egg, and pour each into mixture in bowl.

Measure and add vanilla; blend mixture with fork again.

Measure and add flour to the mixture in bowl. Measure and add baking powder and salt, and sprinkle each over the top of the flour in the bowl.

Mix it alllll together with the fork, or with Very Clean Hands ;-) Chill the dough for at least an hour (up to 3 days).

On floured surface, roll dough 1/4 " thick and cut into shapes.

Ordinary-sized cookies bake at 400 degrees F for 6-8 minutes.

Nom nom nom!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hops Shortage! what to do?

If you don't drink beer, or you haven't heard, there's a pretty bad hops shortage brewing this year.

Read about it here

Some smaller breweries, regional breweries, the ones I love because their beer has flavor, may go out of business over this. Partly because prices are going up, and partly because they might not be able to get hops at any price.

For me, price is not as huge an issue. I like good beer, I'm willing to pay for it, and as my dad pointed out to me, the most expensive beer is, ounce for ounce, cheaper than a halfway decent bottle of wine.

But, before the brewmaster's start turning off their taps, maybe they should think about brewing without hops.

Now, now, hear me out. One, there's no requirement that beers sold in the US have to have hops in them. Unlike Germany, we have no Reinheitsgebot

Two, there is historical precedent for brewing beer without hops. In fact, Charlie The Beer Guy over at Speaking of Beer says that hops are very much a modern addition to beer--well, the 16th century, at any rate.

Before hops, the big preserving agent was Gruit. Gruit is basically a secret blend of eleven herbs and spices--well, a bunch of spices at any rate, and each brewmeister had his secret recipe.

Why can't the brewmeisters go back to gruit-based beers, rather than shutting off their spigots? Isn't the microbrew-drinking populace enlightened enough to be willing and able to forsake the ultra-hoppy beers in fasion right now, and try something unique, but no less tasty?

It'd be really cool to see them try.

There are a few of these old-school beers out on the market, like Fraoch Heather Ale from Scotland, which I've tried. I really liked it: It had some of the floral character of a wheat beer, but none of the wheatiness, which I sometimes find overpowering..

I also see that Dragonmead, a regional brewery, also has a Heather Ale, brewed with heather flowers rather than hops, on its beer list.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Apple Pie in a bottle: sweet, sweet success

I was at a holiday party last night, a potluck party, where I got to try some amazing food from a new group of friends. There were some scalloped potatoes to die for, redolent with chicken broth, rosemary, and cheese. A delicious cheesy, crunchy, crab dip. Two great salads--a tomato, mozzarealla and balsamic, and a spinach strawberry. Roasted vegetables. Smoked turkey. Edamame, steamed and sprinkled liberally with sea salt. Sweet and sour meatballs.

What did I bring? Apple Pie in a Bottle. Jayne's Apple Pie in a Bottle to be exact, a recipe I got from Big Damn Chefs. I was, ostensibly, testing the recipe for a recipe review I do for The Signal Podcast, but I was pretty confident in this recipe's ability to shine. The ingredient list includes: vodka, butterscotch schnapps, vanilla schnapps, apple juice, and spices. What's not to like?

This recipe is sweet, smooth, and very, very strong. It was quite the hit at the party. I made a double-batch, so I hope to have the leftovers at my Christmas party this year--I wonder how they'd be heated? Probably pretty toasty (pun intended).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Leave fondue alone!

Do people make fun of fondue anymore? Really?

I don't think so. Most people have finally realized the truth of fondue: It's cheese melted in wine! If people want to shun it, fine: more cheese melted in wine for me!

Also, there is the social aspect of fondue. It's great for a party because it feeds a fairly large number of people (I'd say up to a dozen, comfortably), and it's a very social way of eating. For a three-course fondue meal (hot oil, cheese, and dessert) you can easily spend an hour or more hanging out at the table.

I've pretty much been a fondue fan my entire life, and was making fondue from my mom's fondue book from the 70's. So I've never thought fondue to be out of vogue. But here's my advice if you are throwing a fondue party.

1. Skip the hot oil fondue. Stick with cheese and chocolate. Deep-fried pieces of lobster and fillet might sound good, but you've got a lot of other issues to watch out for--like splattering oil, and raw meat which can cause cross-contamination. Also, if you really want to make the most of your hot oil fondue experience, you need to make lots of complex sauces and batters. It's a lot of work for a small reward, in my opinion. Besides, you can do lobster and filet in many other ways that aren't nearly as time-consuming.

2. Don't overdo it on the dippers or the fondues. Have maybe two or three dippers for each fondue. Even if you're serving a crowd, have only two cheese fondues, and two chocolate fondues, at most.

3. Buy most of your ingredients, vegetables especially, pre-cut, or in bite-sized portions. Most grocery stores have bags of pre-cut, pre-washed vegetables, and baby carrots are the perfect size to dip into cheese. You want to do as little prep as possible for the fondue.

4. Prep your ingredients before guests arrive, or ask them to help. Most everything in fondue can be prepared in advance, and then you combine it all right before you want to eat. Even if your guests aren't terribly handy in a kitchen, most people can chop things into large chunks.

5. Consider doing a non-traditional fondue. Traditional fondue uses swiss cheese and sauternes (a white wine). Most of my friends aren't fond of swiss. So our go-to fondue is cheddar based, and uses beer or hard cider as the alcohol. For dessert, a white chocolate or chocolate-raspberry fondue can be very nice.

6. Electric fondue pots are better. For cheese fondue especially, you need precise heat control. You can get away with a sterno fondue set for chocolate fondue, but you may need to blow out the flame if it gets too hot.

7. Borrow the fondue pots. If you don't have a fondue pot, don't go out and buy one right away. Almost everyone married from 1972 onward recieved a fondue pot as a wedding gift. And, sadly, they probably haven't used it since 1973. So ask your parents, aunt, or friends if you can borrow their electric fondue pot for the occasion.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Chili time

(EDIT: for the record, I had my Chili blog post planned waaay before today's Yahoo feature on Lamb Chili. So they're the copycats, not me.)

Hm. Weather Channel says today's High is 26. It's snowing a couple times a week now, and the days keep getting darker for about another month.

It's way past time to post some Chili recipes.

Joey's Chili - very, very spicy
2 # ground beef
large can of your favorite salsa, the spicier, the better.
Brown ground beef, drain. Return to pot, add salsa, simmer for 30 minutes.

Everyday Chili - mild
1 # ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 28-oz can stewed tomatoes, with salt
1 16 ounce can beans
1 packet pre-measured "mild" chili seasoning from the grocery store.
1 can beer (optional)
brown beef and onion together. Drain. Return to pot, add chili seasoning, beans, tomatoes, and about half the beer. Drink the other half. Simmer for about a half an hour.

Savory Chili - mild to medium. This is my favorite chili, adapted from an old cookbook recipe.
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound bulk Italian sausage - NOT breakfast sausage
2 cups shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Chili powder1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
4 cups canned beef stock
1 small can tomato paste
1 small can tomatoes
cayenne pepper to taste

Brown beef and sausage with garlic and shallots. Drain, then return to pot. Add spices, and tomato paste, and stir for a few minutes to let the spices get fragrant and to let the tomato paste brown a bit. Add the beef stock and tomatoes. Simmer for at least a half hour.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Saving the world - through tea!

Hot beverages, actually.

Maybe it's my Italian Grandmother genetic heritage, but anytime something big happens, to me or to others, food is one of the first things I reach for. When a baby is born, I make the mother two nights of frozen dinners. When somebody is in distress, I usually offer something sweet, or a pot of tea...

I was reminded of this today when something very bad happened to a stranger in need, and in the process of helping her, I wound up serving her tea.

Many psychologists and dieticians say that emotional eating is bad, even though we all do it, but, I've found that hot beverages, like coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, can be just as comforting as a bowl of ice cream, but without the caloric drawbacks.

Hot beverages provide tangible physical comfort. Tension in muscles is eased by the heat of the liquid. Nasal passages open up from the steam, and cold symptoms and congestion are relieved. The entire body is warmed by the liquid. And the aroma, flavor--and sometimes texture--of the beverage is enjoyed and improves mood.

Other cultures--ancient cultures, know this. When a world-weary visitor shows up on a doorstep looking for rest, they're given a place to sit, a meal, and a lovely beverage.

We would all do well to remember these ancient rituals of hospitality this holiday season, and try to put them into practice when we can. Not only for our friends and family, but also for strangers, enemies, or people we simply don't like all that well.

Here's a cute little article about Tea and Hospitality that I found on the web. I sincerely hope you all enjoy it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The downside of Slow Food...

is that it's slow.

Seen scrawled on the bottom of a sheet pan, somewhere in the Midwest:

I'm a Slow Food slave, trapped in the Ark of Taste! Roasting an uncarved pumpkin so it does not go to waste.

I've been wanting to do the sustainable, locally grown, heirloom/heritage thing for a while now, and this summer, I really got into it with the CSA that I joned. And, I've also scored a great fresh meat supplier--my friend's parents. The meat is so fresh, that I've met the turkey that I'll be serving at Christmas.

But it's really, really hard to 1. source all ingredients locally, and 2. take the time to cook every single night. I believe that in the next 20 years, we'll have no choice but to cook local, sustainable food in season--or pay much, much more for the exotic, out-of-season, and convenient. The "local infrastructure," so to speak, is already building. Local Harvest, farmer's markets, and CSAs will only become more popular.

But that means our society needs to radically slow down for this to work. And that's the part I'm not sure will happen. Food takes time to cook--even the 30-minute meals.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

I like Thanksgiving; I really do. But this year, I'm already consumed with preparations for Christmas. I'm having the family over this year for Christmas in my new house. They're bringing potluck items, but I'm in charge of the meat and the logistics of seating 25 people in a somewhat small space.

This year, Thanksgiving will be pretty low-key. We're going to visit the in-laws, so there won't be too much for me to do. My mother-in-law usually makes her sugar cookies on this weekend, so I'll probably help with that.

Otherwise, I get to eat turkey, drink wine, sit out and look on the bay and read a bunch of foodie/home/life magazines. It'll be my last relaxing weekend of 2007.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chicken Agumba #1

Chicken Agumba ("a-GOOM-bah") is a meaningless Italian-sounding word my dad made up one day when he was cooking dinner. In my family, it's come to mean "improv chicken dish."

It's the recipe you throw together when the frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts are on sale, you're tired of the same old chicken meal, but you're too tired to seek out a recipe.

Chicken Agumba can be fried, baked, sauteed, roasted, poached, or whatever. Nothing is measured, and you never make it the same way twice.

Here's my chicken Agumba from Thursday night.

4 chicken breasts
1 cup brown rice (I did measure the rice)
2 cans cream of tomato soup
about a cup of frozen corn
1 can of green beans
A little less than a green bean can full of white wine
2 small red bell peppers, large dice

In the morning, before you go to work: Put chicken in crockpot. top with rice, and add all the other ingredients. Add pepper to taste. No salt needed because of the soup. Cook on "low" setting for at least 6 hours. Eat when you get home, with a dollop of sour cream if you like.

This is not terribly sophisticated, but tasty. And, presumably, good for you, with the fiber and the veggies and all. I'm not a huge brown rice person because it tends to be too chewy, but in this recipe, it became smooth and creamy after the long cooking time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The LAST tomatoes--a fitting sendoff

Roma tomatoes
I roast and puree for sauce.
The end of summer


My first season of gardening went fairly well. However, as I've learned is the case with most tomato growers, I had a ton of green tomatoes on the vine before the first frost. After experimenting, with mixed results, with fried green tomatoes, green tomato pie, and green tomato batter bread, I came across some good news.

Apparently, you can ripen fully green tomatoes off the vine!

Of course, I should have realized this, because that's what the commercial farms do--it's why grocery store tomatoes taste so bad. But I never made the connection that it was something anyone could do at home.

So, a little under a month after I picked my green tomatoes, more than half of them are red, and ripe for making into roasted tomato sauce (pun intended).

This is based off of Alton Brown's tomato sauce, and from the Too Many Chef's food blog. but with my own spin. It's less a recipe and more of a method. I rarely measure out amounts.

This sauce comes out as thick as tomato paste, but flavored like tomato sauce. I especially love it because I don't have to seed or peel tomatoes, and it makes a larger quantity of sauce from the same amount of fruit. I tried this recipe after doing traditional tomato sauce three or four times this summer. I'll never boil another tomato sauce again. Roasting is the way.

End of summer roasted tomato sauce
As many ripe tomatoes as you can lay your hands on
Fresh or dried herbs
olive oil
some kind of alcoholic liquid (I use vermouth)
fresh garlic
salt and pepper

Slice tomatoes about 1/2 an inch thick. Estimate--thicker is OK. For small Roma tomatoes, just slice them in half lengthwise. Dump into large baking sheet, or 9X13 pan, whatever you have that's oven safe and large enough to hold your tomatoes. Season tomatoes liberally with salt and pepper. Add herbs, peeled garlic (leave whole). Add some olive oil and a little bit of alcohol.

Bake in a 350 degree oven, stirring every half hour or so. It will take at least an hour, closer to two, but the liquid will evaporate and the tomatoes will cook down to a dark, rich sticky mess. If it's taking more than two hours, turn the oven off and leave the tomatoes in there overnight, and proceed with the rest in the morning.

Remove tomatoes from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes. Scrape into blender or food processor. If you put whole herbs with the stem in, make sure to pick out the stems.

Blend tomatoes together, seeds, skins, and all, stopping to scrape the sides of the blender if you need to. Have a little water (or alcohol) handy to add to the blender if the puree is too thick.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How to get good food in the middle of nowhere?

Make it yourself. As much as I love going to restaurants, I've found that the best quality food is the food you make at home.

No matter how isolated a place is, there's still some great food. Jane and Michel Stern's Road Food column and Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt have pretty much proved that.

But you may not have access to classic French cuisine, American Fusion, decent Tex Mex, or mad scientist foam emulsions.

Sometimes, the only way you can get a good fancy meal is to make it at home.

As much as I complained about not finding Halibut in my last post, I can actually get most ingredients, or reasonable equivalents, within a 20-mile radius.

Now, I still can't get many specialty things, for there is no Whole Foods or Nino Salvaggio within my horizon. But 95% of the time, I can be flexible with the ingredients, find an appropriate substitute, and produce the dish I want to make, no matter how complicated or classy.

(Cooking in season also helps, but that's a topic to leave until Spring.)

Going back to my ceviche example from my last post: No halibut, but plenty of tilapia, and salmon, and tuna. Any of those could have stood in for the halibut. I went with the tuna because it is more similar in muscle structure to the halibut, and I know that it works great raw or near-raw. I'm not very familiar with raw salmon, and I know nothing about tilapia.

I have to substitute a lot. I do it so much it's almost automatic for me. For the pepper-encrused steak I made last night, I didn't even try to find the pickled green peppercorns. I knew it was a quixotic task--not even Williams-Sonoma would have them. But I knew I could find capers at the grocery store within walking distance. And capers are very similar in size, taste and texture to capers--salty, briny and green.

Substituting is pretty simple if you think about it--

Good Idea: capers instead of pickled green peppercorns.
Bad Idea: eggs instead of cheese.

Good Idea: oil instead of butter for a pancake batter.
Bad Idea: oil instead of butter for a pie crust.

Good Idea: applesauce instead of eggs in a browine batter.
Bad Idea: applesauce instead of eggs in a quiche.

Good Idea: semi-sweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
Bad Idea?: cocoa powder plus butter instead of milk chocolate.

That last one--using cocoa powder in place of chocolate--might not be a bad idea. If you are cooking something that needs just a little bit of chocolate, or doesn't rely on the cocoa butter for texture, like a mole sauce, this trick is fine. If you are cooking something that is chocolate heavy and relies on the cocoa butter for a smooth texture, like chocolate-coated berries or mousse, it will be a disaster.

It may seem difficult to swap out ingredients, but the more you cook, the easier it will get. The key is to cook and have fun. You'll have pride in your dish, will get many dishes you won't find or can't afford, and it'll be a whole lot cheaper. And don't be afraid to make mistakes. I know what doesn't work in large part because I've tried it, and it failed.

(p.s. I have to mention one thing about seasonal produce. Please, I emplore you, do NOT get fresh berries out of season, especially in the winter months. Please. Just get frozen, or forsake the berry dish. They will taste like wet cardboard. No amount of sugar, vanilla, or vodka in the world will help. The same goes with tomatoes, though if you have to, get vine-ripened or roast them.)

Spoiler Alert: The Next Iron Chef is...

Symon wins! Symon wins! Symon wins!

Just got done with an informal birthday party which ended with watching The Next Iron Chef.

I love the melodrama involved. For the winner, it wasn’t just an announcement—the winner’s picture was unveiled on the Wall of Iron Chefs.

I was a Symon fan since the episode where they had to cook outdoors on the grills. I loved his simple approach, his family-style plating, and, most importantly, his ability to defend his decisions on why he cooked things the way he did. A couple of the judges thought his squab was too well-done (they wanted it rare). But Symon said that cooking the squab medium was an intentional decision. It was a well thought out and articulate answer when the other contestants were saying “um, well…”

Also, he has a tattoo that says “Born To Cook” on his leg. I wish I could think of a cool tattoo idea…

I wasn’t sure he could beat chef Besh, though. Chef Besh’s technique was much more refined. Also, Chef Besh was a Marine. In my experience, you don’t bet agains the Marine.

It was clear, however, that Symon had the job locked up after the tasting. Awesome, awesome finish.

Update on crappy food selection in my neck of the woods. I decided to do some fancy yet simple cooking for this birthday party, and tried my hand at ceviche. The recipe I was working from called for Halibut. No way I was going to find Halibut more than 700 miles away from the seashore—not even frozen. Checked three stores.

Finally settled on some decent fresh tuna bought at (shudder) Sam’s Club. Other than adding a little too much hot sauce, the Ceviche was a great appetizer. I’ll definitely make it again—very simple, but clean, complex flavors.

Until next time: Summon Sea Cucumber!

(Anyone know the reference? Post a comment and I’ll send you a prize!)

Friday, November 9, 2007

A rant

My friend took a joke to its logical extreme the other day. Working from the premise "bacon makes everything taste better," he decided to test this hypothesis, up to and including putting bacon on ice cream. His report was "it doesn't make it better, but it didn't really make it worse."

Ha ha. Except, on the Next Iron Chef the other day, one of the chefs MAKES a bacon ice cream. And the judges find it UNORIGINAL. The quote from one of the judges was something like--make sure you read this with the proper tone of elitist disdain--"This isn't the first time we've had a bacon gelato, you know."

On the one hand, how pretentious can you get? But, on the other hand, a statement like this makes me start to second-guess my tastes. I'd love to have had the chance to try some bacon ice cream, but where I live these days, the innovation in going out to eat is severely limited. Even if I did live in a more cosmopolitan metropolis, I'd still be limited by what I can afford.

I really do feel like an uncultured hick some days. Never been abroad. Never been to New York. Never been to LA. When I went to Chicago, the closest city of any real culinary chops, I went to the fondue place (and I'll defend that decision to the day I die, but it's not terribly innovative).

The art of tasty leftovers - the stuffed potato

"Leftovers make you feel good twice. When you first put them away you feel really intelligent: "I'm saving food". Then, after a month, when hair is growing out of them and you throw them away you feel really intelligent: "I'm saving my life!" --George Carlin

It's nothing personal against leftovers. But most things taste worse the next day. So you don't want to eat them, and they sit and mould over.

Luckily for me, my husband is fine with leftovers, and will actually eat them stone-cold. (This is a trait I hope our future unborn children do not inherit.)

But I'd still like to be able to save money and food by taking yesterday's Beef Stroganoff to work for lunch, or have it a second night in a row, and also get a modicum of pleasure out of it.

There's a couple ways to do this. One, is make food that tastes better the second day--Chili is the classic example.

Another way to go is what those girls on the Food Network like to do: make extra protein (meat, fish, whatever) and use the extra protein in another dish. Not technically leftovers, per se, but you are using meat you cooked from the other day, and saving some time in the kitchen.

Then there's the strategy of maksing the old leftovers by pairing them with something new and very tasty. Pouring cheese sauce over broccoli is a good example, or the stuffed potato.

My husband introduced me to the stuffed potato, and he, in turn, was introduced to it from his mother. Although the stuffed potato tastes better when you stuff it with leftovers that keep well, there's something about a hot, fluffy baked potato with crisp skin that makes yesterday's tuna casserole a bit more tenable.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Improv recipe: Mint hot chocolate

Cold day. Wanted hot chocolate. Came up with this recipe.

1 cup milk
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I prefer semi-sweet)
1 large spring of fresh mint

bruse the mint by rubbing it around in your hands until the leaves are smoooshed and you can really start to smell the mint. Add mint, chocolate chips, and milk to a microwave-safe mug.

Microwave for 1-3 minutes, stirring after every minute. When the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is hot, let sit 3-5 minutes to let the mint steep.

The more you bruise the mint, the more minty the flavor will be.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Improv recipe: Layered raspberries and cream pancakes

Had a workplace brunch today. Was going to make stuffed crepes, but ran out of time. So I put together this recipe instead.

UPDATE: This went over very well at work. Everybody loved it!

You will need a crockpot, a strainer, a saucepan, a non-stick skillet to cook the pancakes in, and two bowls. A couple spoons and something to flip the pancakes would also be helpful.

If you don't like raspberries, any kind of frozen berry could fill in here, though if you were going with strawberries, you'd probably need to cook them for longer.

The pancake batter
2 cups biscuit mix or self-rising flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons oil

The raspberry sauce
1 bag frozen raspberries
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup sugar

The sweetened sour cream
1 16 ounce container sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Optional: 1 apple, sliced thinly, drizzled with lemon juice to prevent browing.

Mix all ingredients for the batter, and let rest. Add more milk if needed. Mix ingredients for the raspberry sauce in a saucepan, bring to boil. Let boil for 5-10 minutes. While raspberry sauce is boiling, mix ingredients for the sour cream.

Cook pancakes, and place on plate.
Mix cornstarch with water. Take raspberry sauce off the heat, add cornstarch slurry. Cook over medium heat for another couple minutes until the sauce thickens. Pour sauce through strainer to try to get most of the seeds out.

Put a pancake in the bottom of the crockpot. Layer with part of the sour cream mixture, spreading over the surface of the pancake. Put some apple slices on top, if using. Place another pancake on top. Layer with part of the raspberry mixture, spreading out. Add apples. Repeat, alternating layers of sour cream and rasperry sauce, until you run out of pancakes. On the top, finish with raspberry sauce and any leftover apple slices.

Keep warm on crockpot on "low." This tastes OK at room temperature, too, but is better if it's warmer.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Candy candy candy candy candy!

Got my loot! Noteworthy items included:

lots of kit kat, twix peanut butter cups;
Cheese and cracker snacks;
Mini microwave popcorn;
Sugar cookies with halloween frosting;
ghost-shaped cupcake with frosting and choc chips for eyes
Famous Amos cookies
Nerds, dots, jolly ranchers;
Pixie stix!
Sour patch kid gumballs

A bit of a dearth on snickers, but I did get a few. Most of the loot was quite excellent.

I love Halloween.

T-minus 15 minutes to candy

Every year, my work does trick-or-treating, where each worker who wants to can bring in some treats. All of us who participate get to go around the office at 8:30AM Halloween morning to trick-or-treat.

We have 60 people participating today. It's going to be oh, so sweet.

I was going to make something from scratch to bring in, but got busy, and didn't have time to make enough for 60 people. So instead I brought in Capri Sun drink pouches. I figured it's still sweet, but just a little different from the normal things to eat.

I shall post later today with the highlights of my goodie bag.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Master of the London Broil

London Broil is one of my husband's comfort foods. And tonight, after 3 years, I finally mastered cooking it "just like mom used to." I figured I'd share my triumph by sharing the recipe.

2-3 pounds London Broil roast
Lawry's Adolph's meat tenderizer
pepper and onion powder
A broiler

Heat broiler. Prick roast with fork. Sprinkle both sides with meat tenderizer, pepper, and onion powder. Do not add extra salt--the meat tenderizer has salt in it. Broil 5 minutes per side, turning once. Then broil another two minutes per side, turning once. Let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain, on the bias. Enjoy some perfectly medium-rare to rare london broil. Yummy.

Taking requests

I've had some requests from friends for good topics/recipes to post here on the blog, which I will be doing over the next two weeks. So look for features on hot chocolate and chili during this spurt of cold weather we're having.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to ask you, dear reader, to suggest topics if you feel so inclined. I'm open to pretty much anything, from recipe ideas to cooking questions.

Hope to hear your ideas soon.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Part 2 of How to use up 50 heads of garlic in 3 months

As promised.

Garlic soup – Toasting the bread before simmering it gives the soup a richer flavor. This is very soothing when you are sick, and surprisingly easy on the stomach. Serves 2.

Take some good bread, cube it. Saute it in a saucepan large enough to make some soup, with some olive oil and several whole peeled cloves of garlic. You want the bread toasted and crouton-y, and the cloves can get a little toasty too.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water. Simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.

Chicken and cloves – Easiest recipe ever, and it always impresses. Serves 4.

Put 4 chicken breasts in baking dish, and season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Peel 4 to 5 heads of garlic completely. Cut off any woody or bruised areas. Add a lot of olive oil, enough to come up the baking dish at least a third. Scatter garlic around chicken, so that most cloves are in the olive oil, and some are on top of the chicken. Cover and cook at 350 degrees, for at least 30 minutes. (If you use frozen chicken, make it at least an hour). Serve with crusty bread on the side. Smoosh roasted garlic on bread and use bread to sop up the garlic oil.

If you are cooking this for more or less than 4 people, estimate 1 head of garlic, 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, and at least 1/4 cup of olive oil per person.

Garlic Dill pickles – the recipe I use is Alton Brown’s refrigerator pickle recipe, with extra garlic and lots of fresh dill springs thrown in.

Parmesan garlic dip - A dip I first created because powdered parmesan doesn't get enough respect.

1 16 -ounce container sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ c. Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind from the green shaker)
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1 teaspoon salt
white pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate. Serve with crackers and a bag of pre-mixed, pre-cut vegetables. This dip is especially good with snow peas.

Chocolate covered garlic – this isn’t as strange as it sounds, really. Then again, it’s not a recipe for everybody…because most people are too chicken to try it. The garlic is poached in wine, sugar, and spices, which makes it very mellow and sweet. It’s really not all that different than eating a chocolate-covered cherry, or a pretzel.

Since this recipe is originally from The Garlic Book, I can’t really post it without permission. However, since it’s apparently out of print, I will give the general procedure and ingredients for the recipe.

Peel a head of garlic. Simmer cloves in wine, sugar, lemon peel and spices, until soft. As cloves are cooling, melt a high quality melting chocolate. Dip cloves in chocolate using a toothpick, and lots of waxed paper to keep the mess down. Sore on waxed paper in a sealed container. These do not keep well, so eat within a day.

How to use up 50 heads of garlic in 3 months

To those of you who have complained that there's a dearth of garlic on this blog (which being named "Garlic is Love," should really have more garlic), I offer this post:

We had an Iron Chef party in June for my friend's birthday. We were given three options on what the secret ingredient might be, and it turned out to be "Battle Garlic." (Woo-hoo!) I won, but only by one point (a very close battle indeed).

The Chairman, the birthday girl's husband, wanted to dramatically rip the cover off the theme ingredients to reveal them, just like they do on the show. Which he did, by buying about 50 heads of garlic.

As the two chefs cooked, it slowly dawned on the "Chairman" that he had bought way too much garlic (The boy doesn't cook much). Even with my dishes of individual roasted garlic, we went through fewer than a half a dozen of the heads.


We wound up splitting the difference, and I went home with about 25 heads of baby garlic, mexican garlic, and elephant garlic (which is actually a leek).

Thus, why I scrambled to find new ways to use up the leftover garlic this past summer.

Here's what I came up with:

* Anytime I was sauteeing anything, I added one clove of minced garlic. (1 clove per recipe)
* I made lots of dips that use a lot of garlic, like tsati..tzaz...cucumber garlic dip...onion dip with garlic, herb dip with garlic, hummus, and so on. (1-2 cloves per recipe)
* Garlic bread (1-2 cloves per recipe)
* Garlic dill pickles. (4-5 cloves per jar)
* Garlic soup. (1 HEAD per recipe)
* Chocolate covered garlic--no, wait, no one lets me cook that anymore... (1-2 HEADS of garlic per recipe, theoretically)
And, the mother of all garlic dishes when you have a ton of garlic...
* Chicken and 40 cloves of garlic (4-5 HEADS per recipe!!)

Armed with this phalanx of garlic recipes, I got through 25 heads before Labor Day, and even found myself using so much garlic that I had to go out and get a bunch of fresh stuff in bulk at the farmer's market.

I'll post the recipes separately.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Last week of my farm share :(

Today was the last day for the weekly farm share, which I've been participating in since early Spring. For about $15 a week, I got between 5 and 15 items freshly and organically grown on a farm within 25 miles from me.

The farm share is also known as CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agricultrue. I like "farm share" better, because it needs less explaining. We are a family of two, so I got a half share.

The experience was pretty good. It definitely got my husband and I to eat more veggies, and I was able to use nearly all of the produce I recieved without it spoiling. There were a couple squash that I let sit too long, and some swiss chard, and that was pretty much it.

It was, at times, hard to tell if I was getting my money's worth from the CSA, especially with the early season being droughty and the late season being floody, the reverse of what is ideal for farming. But, overall, it was a great experience, and I'll probably do it again. It did mean that a lot of days, I had to cook even if I didn't want to, or else my produce would spoil.

I'm lucky that there are several CSA's in my area, and I think next year I'll try a different one to see if I like it any better. After I've shopped around a bit, then I'll pick the one I like best.

If you are wanting to get into the local food thing, and you enjoy cooking on a daily basis, I highly recommend CSA's as a good way to start. And the fresh garlic that I got was very, very nice.

Look for a longer post about local food sometime soon--meat and veggies.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Northern Michigan Wine Extravaganza

It's a Michigan thing--go up north, see the fall color, and do wine tastings at a half a dozen vineyards or so. The Leelanau Peninsula, also known for its cherries, is becoming more and more recognized for its wines.

There's several dozen wineries up there, including one run by Madonna's Dad. No way to see them all in a day, really, so you have to pick just a few and find yourself a designated driver to really enjoy the experience.

The leaves were great. The wine experience was mixed.

If you never been wine tasting, the first thing to know is each tasting room has a different vibe. Some, like Shady Lane, are rather elegant, with a backyard patio for you to enjoy your tastings. Some, like L. Mawby are hip and edgy, with witty sayings plastered all around and irreverent wine names, like Sex. (Insert your own sex joke here)

I can't forget to mention Boskydel winery, which is run by a curmudgeon who makes some mighty fine, yet inexpensive, wine, that he sells out of a shop a little bigger than a dorm room.

Black Star Farms, one of the more famous wineries in the area, is the exact opposite of Boskydel. To accommodate the large volume of tasters that come in, the tasting room is one big bar, and the floor is easy-to-clean concrete. Then they have a smaller, carpeted tasting room for the "good stuff," ciders, ice wines and fruit cordials.

And that, right there, sums up the problem with wine tastings in Michigan these days. Two years ago, when I went on my first wine tasting, nearly everything was free. Black Star was the only place that charged you for your samples. The other places assumed let their wines speak for themselves, and that you would buy something you liked. They assumed you cared

Now, everybody follows the Black Star model, or something similar. At Black Star, you pay for your own glass, for $5, and you get to taste the basics. Once you have the glass, you get to keep it, and can come back next week, or next season, for free. However, you have to pay extra for their "good stuff," as I stated above.

The other model is the "wine flight" model. You pay between $3 and $5 for four wines (give or take) and a little snack on the side (usually crackers with goat cheese or fish pate).

Now, I'm all for snacks with wine, but a wine tasting it is not. And it kinda ruins the real experience for people who actually like to learn about wine and taste different things.

My first wine tasting ever, was more than five years ago at a place called Bel Lago,. We got to try as much as we wanted for free, and the person pouring actually talked about what the wine tasted like. This Riesling tastes like flowers, she said, and I could taste the flowers (and hated them, but at least I could taste them). Now, compare and contrast this oaked Chardonay with this one that was fermented in steel barrels. Taste the difference? What do you like? What don't you like?

With the new model, it's all about economics. They figure most people aren't serious wine drinkers--they're just up there to get trashed and to have a good time. They don't value you as a consumer, so they can't trust you to buy anything, thus the paid tastings. No one tries to educate you about the wine--they only tell you the name, and any awards its won to try to impress you. And nobody spits.

And I didn't spit either. I wasn't up there for a fine wine experience--I was up to see some old friends and enjoy the company and the weather. But even though I enjoyed it, I still need to criticize the lesser points of the day. I'd like to see more places go back to the older model, where they actually teach you something about wine, and trust you, instead of being focused on the line-out-the-door-of-the-tasting-room and their own Bottom Line.

Whitefish pate be damned.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dude! "The Chairman" is on Stargate Atlantis!

This is totally sweet. I saw the guy who plays the Chairman on Iron Chef America, Mark Dacascos, on a preview for an upcoming Stargate: Atlantis.

This is one of those days I wish somebody actually read my blog.

Click below for more info on the actor--he's a bit of a Renaissance Man...and he actually does martial arts!

Interview with Mark Dacascos

Mark Dacascos IMDB Page

Mark Dacascos' Web Site

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Next Food Network Star versus Next Iron Chef

Finally, a competitive reality show that I can get behind.

I had been boycotting "The Next Food Network Star," because I felt that they constantly misrepresent that show. The commercials for the show suggest that YOU could be the next winner! Well, unless YOU just happen to be a professional chef...not so much.

Yes, I submitted a demo tape to them eons ago, and it's not that I'm bitter for not being picked. I'm bitter because they gave people like me false hope that average Joes and Janes who like to cook might just have a chance.

Now, the Next Iron Chef show has no such pretensions. It clearly states that its contestants are "The best, of the best, of the best, sir!" So far so good. And, the emcee of the show is Alton Brown. Even better.

So I gave it a chance. Loved it.

Each episode has two challenges--one that is not judged, but gives the winner some kind of advantage (usually picking first ingredients for the next challenge), and one that is judged , which determines who stays and who goes.

First off, the contestants have lots of personality, and their interactions during the cooking challenges are very real, and (fairly) uncensored. That is, swearing is bleeped, but you still know they are swearing. Even the sweat that drips off the contestants as they scramble to finish each challenge adds to the realism (and is kinda gross).

Second, the challenges are really cool and varied. The first challenge that they did was "simple" food prep. They had to cut up a whole bunch of meats and veggies--salmon, chicken, lamb, oysters, coconut, and radish.

The other really neat challenge was when they got to play with all the gadgets--like an anti-griddle, that freezes instead of heats, and liquid nitrogen.

The show is only in its second week, and it looks like one contestant gets booted off each week, so I guess it will be a 7-week miniseries.

The only thing I didn't like is that they are trying too hard to show that "the chairman" is the one masterminding everything. It's pretty clear to me that a phalanx of Food Network producers, possibly even Alton himself, were the ones who designed the challenges. But I can forgive the dramatic structure, because, hey, we're supposed to have the cheese factor, or it's not Iron Chef.

The other thing that kinda sucks is that the only two female competitors have already been voted off. It would have been nice to see more female contestants, or see them do well. But, for the second week at least, I can't really disagree with who they voted off or why. Bummer.

Either way, it's gotten my interest back up for Iron Chef, and I've definitely got my favorites who I'm rooting for.

Whose recipe is it anyway: squash soup

Much like Whose Line is it Anyway is/was a show based on Improvisation, my "Whose recipe is it anyway" will be a repository of improvised recipes.

Yesterday, I made a very nice free-form squash soup for lunch. I used up a bunch of leftovers-- squash, roasted peppers, and a half a carton of heavy cream I had in the fridge.

Small saucepan
stick blender or regular old blender

1 roasted squash, cubed (this was something I picked up from the farmer's market. I can't tell you what variety it was)
2 roasted bell peppers, cut into strips
1-2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1-2 Tablespoons of curry powder (more or less to suit your tastes)
salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer squash, peppers, and chicken broth until heated through. Add heavy cream. Turn off heat, add curry powder, salt and pepper to taste.
Puree mixture in the blender, or use a stick blender. Puree less if you want it chunky, more if you want it smooth.

This was pretty tasty. I should have pureed it smoother, because the squash chunks were a tad stringy. The curry powder I used was very mild. Idea was based on something from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa show on Food Network. Adding the curry powder I got from a different squash soup recipe in a newsletter.