Saturday, October 1, 2016

Pickle 'em while you can...

I started pickling and canning vegies and fruit at an early age. Mostly, as a "keep her busy" project with my least I thought. Now, that I'm older what I thought was an attempt to keep me out of trouble was actually the passing down of family recipes and secrets to a child who showed interest in the culinary arts.
Unfortunately, Daddy has passed on and until recently I didn't know how complicated pickling, jarring and canning was. It's m me a year to capture the sweet tangy taste of homemade pickles we shared, until now.
The secret? Most recipes call for a combination of apple cider vinegar and white vinegar to the liquid. But, much to my surprise after adding most of the ingredients to the pot which was already starting to boil I reached for the white vinegar ... and the cupboard was bare.
What to do... what to do? I thought plain ole water will have to do. It was risky at best and could possibly dilute the already simmering  pot of sugar, apple cider vinegar and pickling spices.
I did what most artist do ... I tasted the brew to see if it made a difference. Actually, it didn't in fact I think it might have helped a little.
After the initial boil. And then the second boil I placed the sliced cucumbers and onions in three separate containers. Poured the pickling liquid into each one and prayed for the best. Now, at this point I should say, fill/pack your jars to the brim. Pack the pickles tightly into the jar. Otherwise, as shown the pickles will just float in the liquid. It isn't really a problem, but it does make for a better final product.
A day later the pickles were sweet, tangy and spicy. Just the way Grandma made them. And the onions weren't half bad either. I took a jar to my friends and fellow foodie's house. She thought the pickles would be best served with hot dogs and hamburgers. That's music to a foodies ears.
Pickling does a heart good. Next time you reach for a jar of relish or pickles at the supermarket. Look at the price and ask yourself is it worth $3.99+ or more. Then, venture on the wild side and make your own. There a tons of recipes to follow for pickling so ... grab a onion, cucumber and make some magic.
Cooking with love makes any recipe taste better ... and possibly the spirit of my Grandmother was watching over me with love, too.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer garden fresh salsa

The countdown to the end of Summer has officially reached ... zero. But, Summer doesn't have to end in the kitchen with the bountiful goodness at your nearest Farmer's Market and your imagination.

Mine, imagination that is,  hit into high gear this past weekend with some ripe tomatoes and recently purchased items at the Farmer's Market and spontaneous "Taco Sunday" purchases for dinner with my Man. So, don't throw away those ripe tomatoes ... bring them to life in a salsa.

My secret ingredient is not just any ole tomato. I'm into the Summer tomato favorite the Early Girl. Never had one? At the peak of the season they have a crisp outer skin and tender flesh and when cut, sprinkled with salt and nothing else burst in your mouth and taste sweet and juicy.

5 Early Girl tomatoes
1 Roasted jalapeño
1 Small bell pepper
3 Small garlic cloves
Handful of cilantro
1/2 Red onion
1/2 Fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. Pica de Gallo seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste.

Not much prep work involved for this accent to any meal, expect for the roasted jalapeño. Roast the pepper in the oven, on the grill, in a cast iron skillet... any way ya wanna. Allow the peel of the pepper to blister and char, typically about 5-8 minutes being sure to turn the pepper on all sides. Let the pepper cool. No need to remove skin or seeds.

Chopping. Not much just enough to help the processor along. Big chunks are just fine. Chop and dump is my motto. Pulse the ingredients a couple of times, then squeeze a half a line, salt pepper and pica de gallo. Whirl two pulses... and taste for additional seasoning. Keeping in mind once chilled the flavors meld and bloom. You can always add salt, but never take it away.

Serve with chips. On top of roasted chicken. Drizzled over room temperature cream cheese and chips... or just by the spoonful. The flavor is slightly sweet from the tomatoes, red onions and red bell pepper with a hint of spice.

The hot days of Summer have come to and end .... at least outside, but in the kitchen keep it sizzling with cool, crisp, sweet salsa from garden ingredients. Remember, cooking with love makes any recipe taste better.

Lady E

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

BONUS ARTICLE: Galette season? Oh, yay!

How did my Culinary blog journey begin? It started with cocktails and then graduated to Crostata and then elevated to my favorite all time recipe ... the Strawberry Galette. Fresh fruit Galette are the best to highlight at the peek of the season. And the light flaky crust of a Galette are to die for. Before the fresh season ends... run, don't walk to the nearest Farmers Market and buy, buy, buy strawberries. You can freeze them, roast them to chewy candy but make a Galette to share, give or eat with friends and family.
What do I like about Galette so much? The ingredients are simple: flour, salt, butter and sugar with ice water. Yep that's it. I've posted over the years several different recipes but never with powered sugar to top off the finished Galette.
This bonus article was brought to you by my Sweetheart who demanded, yes... demanded a Strawberry Galette after I made one for my Mother.
Both were made with love ... so, as we say in Lady E Cooks kitchen, the recipe tasted so much better. Off to make my second favorite Galette... Blackburn ... or maybe peach! Yaazzz!

Monday, August 1, 2016

MISSION: Vanilla extract, possible?

For those avid Lady E Cook readers you noticed I posted an article about  making your own vanilla extract. Well, I felt a little like a herblorist or alchemist while making this necessary and essential ingredient in my arsenal of baking "must haves". The ingredients for making your own vanilla extract are simple and easy... the worst part is something that my Sweetie says, I don't exactly have an abundance of... patience. Daily shaking for almost two months for two different bottles was fun and even taking a whiff or two in the process. At the end of the 60 day waiting period was the payoff worth while? Well.... kinds of.
Before I jumped right in and started baking I thought let me investigate a couple of things on the internet. 1) Should I filter the extract before diving in? I found no mention of filtering out the remnants of vanilla beans even though my guy at the Oaktown Spice shop said it's a step I might want to add. 2) Should the vanilla actually sit for a while longer? If so ... how much longer? A few websites said... 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, etc. No recipe was the same. Lastly, should the vanilla have a certain color? All just said caramel brown. Duh.
Anywho, the only way to find out the vanilla was ready ... was to try it. The good news is the extract had the right color, scent and texture. The bad news was something I didn't expect. Instead of sweet vanilla extract with NO hint of booze, what I tasted was Kentucky Bourbon with a hint of vanilla. Even filtered it wasn't similar to the extract I buy at the spice shop. All I could say, was "Bummer". But, being the Culinary Explorer I am ... I decided to go ahead and make whip cream. And, maybe... just maybe it would taste different. Nope. Not a chance it was more like bourbon whip cream dolloped on Jenny Craig Triple Chocolate Cheesecake. Not exactly the expected results. Tasty, but not what I want for my own chocolate chip cookies.
So, what's a woman to do? Try again. I used the batch of Vera Cruz vanilla beans bottle. Too bad it didn't work out as planned. The Vera Cruz beans smell delicious and most likely would be a welcome addition to a bourbon sauce or Bananas Foster over ice cream. It won't go to waste.... trust me.
Back to the drawing board with the Madagascar vanilla extract and possibly give that bottle just a few more months. What did I do with the left over Vera Cruz vanilla beans? I decided to dump them in the left over bourbon bottle and just see what happens. Nothing to waste, as my Daddy used to say.
This Culinary Explorer will try again... maybe call a friend or two and see what they've discovered.
Either way ... love will continue to be the main ingredient and I know one day my vanilla extract will make every recipe taste better.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


What an awesome day in Yountville celebrating Bastille Day with locals, travelers and visitors from foreign countries. I have so many photos to share. But for now....enjoy la jour!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Celebrer le jour Bastille!

Yesterday, all around the world was the celebration of Bastille Day for those in France, French enthusiasts and descendants all around the world and those who embrace the rich heritage of France.
We in San Francisco flock to restaurants, bookstores, venues and oceanside to join in the celebration to a country we hold dear to our hearts. My intent is to venture north to the City of Yountville this weekend to have some summer time fun with friends at Chef Hubert Keller's event at my favorite restaurant Bouchon Bistro.
However, today our hearts are heavy and in sorrow for lives lost and suffering injuries at the hands of terriosts who continue on their quest for revenge against innocent citizens.
Although our hearts bleed and are in mourning for the beautiful City of Nice, France... I am reminded that our hearts are resilient under any attack or storm.
See additional posts on

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Go BIGGER or go home...

Ever wonder how they make those larger than life cookies without drying them out or burning them? Well, me too! And to boot my Sweetheart asked, very nicely, "...could I just have one big fat cookie instead of 2 or 3 dozen of the small ones...?"
Well, being a loving person I said, "Sure, Baby... whatever makes you happy!" While at the same time I was thinking to myself ... How the heck am I supposed to do that? Will the edges burn before the center is done? Will the cookies be raw? Will the cookies still have the chewy texture he loves? What if? If I've learned anything from my Sweetheart in the past months, it's "face your fears" and I decided to dive deep and figure it out with a quickness.
First, I researched anything on the internet about large cookie dough recipes. There were a few recipes, but none had the end results I was looking for. Others were just a little too complicated for a cookie. So... I just used my standard cookie recipe and hoped for the best. The recipe I consistently use is Ina Gratin's Chocolate Cookie recipe found on Food Network. I prefer this recipe because it uses a larger quantity of brown sugar in the recipe than most. The molasses in the brown sugar adds that rich smoky flavor we love ...and also creates a chewy texture.
With recipe in hand, I just decided to take a chance and divide the raw dough into four parts, dusting them with All Purpose Flour, Ina's recipe has a tendency to be wet. After the dough was molded into rounds and dusted with flour I left the rounds in the fridge for over an hour just to firm them up a little before baking.
Actually it could have been longer... we went to the movies, Top Dog and the Marina for a while. When we got back the rounds were firm to the touch but pliable.
I flattened one for the first test recipe and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes. The smaller cookies take 8 minutes, so I figured that 15 minutes would be more than enough time.
Watching them closely, I noticed the cookies edges weren't burning, The butter melting as normal. The cookie spreading out to a uniform size ...forever now know as, "Damn, Babe that's one LARGE cookie!
End results, the cookies were perfect! Still chewy. Still rich in flavor, especially butter and the nuts were roasted ... all the pecans, almonds and walnuts. Yep, he likes his cookies full of nuts.
True to form ... cooking with LOVE makes any recipe taste better. And, in this case a some big ole cookie love. Thanks for the challenge, Babe.

New article posting on August 1, 2016 .. Mission: Vanilla extract, possible?