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The Dinner Party

hosted by Christine Potter   //   Friday at 4p est

"I'm just a gal who likes to mix things up: music, strange cocktail ingredients, and a swanky Nick & Nora ambiance with old school free form rock and roll radio.  It's no secret that I'm a little obsessive about all things Robyn Hitchcock, but my husband's OK with it.  Besides, I end every Cocktails with Chris by standing next to one of the world's great pipe organs for a few minutes and subjecting my listeners to the sometimes-deafening results.  I promise you a tasty cocktail recipe every week, along with music that starts with The Comedian Harmonists, careens through psych and prog rock, and often smashes into the shoals of roots and jazz.  Not to mention a sprinkling of indie pop, and Brit folk. Join me high atop the Potter building, in a swanky neighborhood near you." - cp


Why You Should Make Cheese Fondue Now

Here are the reasons, and at the end is a link to Melissa Clark's NY Times recipe.  It's very similar to the one in the last Joy of Cooking, which is also just fine.  The Joy suggests just bread as a dipper; Melissa Clark has some more inventive ideas.

But here are the reasons why you should make the stuff:

1. It takes about fifteen minutes, really.

2. Melted cheese is the best thing ever, but it's better while the weather is still cold.

3. Some studies are actually coming to the conclusion that cheese is GOOD for you, although I am not going to pretend that this is not an indulgent meal.

4. You have to do something with that bottle of kirsch that you bought two years ago when you made the stuff for a party.  You don't need to wait for guests to make cheese fondue.

5. It will make the people who eat it happy.  If it's just you and your mate, it will make him or her happy.  You can play that game where the person who drops his or her chunk of bread (or whatever) into the fondue has to kiss everyone at the table.  Even if there's only one everyone!

6. You will drink the rest of the wine from the bottle you cooked with, and then it will make  your nightly viewing of Rachel Maddow much merrier.

Reasons enough?  Here's the link! 

See you on the air at 4!



So, last week I was all about the proto-Paleo health food that wasn't really so healthy (but wasn't really outrageously bad for you, either).  This week, I'm all about a meal that is good for you, tasty, and (if you keep whole wheat couscous in your pantry) can be on the table in twenty minutes or less.  AND is also endlessly adaptable to what you have in the fridge.  It'll feed four or five hungry people.

All Purpose Couscous

What you always need:

2 and 1/4 cups of whole wheat couscous

One big onion, chopped not too fine

a couple of tablespoons olive oil

a good tablespoon of cumin

a teaspoon or two of ground coriander

salt and pepper

one quart (one of those boxes from the market) of good vegetable or chcken broth.

One baseball-sized summer tomato, diced (or use a handful of cherry tomatoes or a ripe kumato in the winter)

A big handful of chopped fresh parsley--or sub out about half of it with cilantro if you like it.

Variations--use some or all.   You'll want at least the squash and the chickpeas if you don't use the chicken:

about a pound of chicken thighs, skinless and boneless, cut into bite-sized pieces (can use more)

a small can of chickpeas, drained

Two small summer squashes, green or yellow (or the light green Mexican ones) chopped not too small.




Start with the chicken thighs, if you're using them.  Saute in olive oil in a large, high-sided pan and when they start turning color, add the onions and cook until the onions are soft. You can put in the squash now, too, and saute until they turn color and are tender-crisp. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, cumin, & coriander.  Add the couscous and stir. Put in the chickpeas  if you are using them.  Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.  Give the dish a stir, and add the chopped tomato and herbs.  Cover tightly, and in five minutes, uncover and give it another stir to fluff up the dish.  Magic will have occured.  You will have a mostly grain-based dinner, tasty, low in fat, high in fiber, and quite filling.  Serve with a green salad, perhaps with a yogurt-based dressing. 


See  you on the air at 4 today!



Salisbury Steak--Not Just A Frozen Entree Anymore

If you are of a certain age, you ate a TV dinner, in front of the TV, and it was probably Salisbury Steak.  It was in an aluminum tray, and it tasted like aluminum, but maybe your mom had gotten the special dessert-included Salisbury Steak dinner, and there was a napalm-hot molten square of apple crumble goo up in the right hand corner, which was the pay-off for the whole experience. 

But Salisbury Steak exisisted before Swanson TV dinners.  It was actually Civil War era health food, named for Dr. JH Salisbury, not the city in England. Dr. Salisbury was a Paleo/Atkins sort of guy; he was the first to limit carbs for weight loss.  And he believed that humans should eat meat thrice a day!  In WW2 America, when we were shunning German names for things, folks used the term to mean hamburgers sometimes.

Here's a recipe from a 1950's all-steak cookbook my husband dredged up at a yard sale somewhere.  Best recipe in the book, too!  This is simple, tasty, and I like it with a little mashed butternut squash and either spinach or brussels sprouts on the side.



1 lb high quality lean ground beef.  I recommend grass-fed.  Get sirloin or round, not chuck.

1/2 to one teaspoon kosher salt

several generous grindings of fresh black pepper

2 tablespoons heavy cream  (Yes, really.  Have some faith.  This is good.)

COMBINE all of the above.  You can use a rubbermaid spatula or your cleany-clean hands.

FORM gently into four large hamburger-shaped patties.

NOW--pour a couple of handfuls of dried bread crumbs into a dinner plate.  Commercial ones are fine for this; I like Cento.  Gently coat the patties with crumbs.

HEAT a large skillet coated with a splash of olive oil.  A non-stick pan, if you have one, makes this recipe a hundred times easier.  You want the pan medium-hot throughout--but not hot enough to burn the crumbs.  Cook the patties, turning them four or five times.  You're going for a nice brown, and you do want to cook them through--but not dry them out.  REMOVE the patties to a warm platter.  Dump the fat (there will be a fair amount) out of the pan.  Pour in about a half cup of water, and let it bubble, scraping the browned bits into it.  When it has just started to reduce a bit, WHISK IN two tablespoons of butter and pour over the patties.  You should have just enough to give each of them a bit of a bath.

This takes doing it a few times to get it right, but it's worth the practicing.  A perfect weeknight dinner, and feeds three or four easy.  Or two absurdly hungry piggy folks :).

See you on the air at four PM today! 



Spaetzle makes it all better

There is comfort food and there is comfort food.

And then there is spaetzle.  Spaetzle is little wee dumpling/noodle stuff, a total pain in the ass that will mess up your kitchen and for which you really and truly need a one-purpose kitchen tool: a spaetzle-maker, natch.  That said, you need to know how to make this stuff.  It makes people insanely happy.  It is carb-y and buttery and not something that you should make more than a few times a year.  It is German food, from Alsace, really.

One serves spaetzle with stews, or alongside wurst or by itself buttered or with a cheese sauce.  I like it as a side dish, browned in a little butter.  Here's how.

One note: the merciful part about spaetzle is that you can make it in advance and hold it with a little oil over it in the fridge.  I strongly suggest you do this.


NEEDED: a spaetzle maker.  Don't even attempt this with a colander.  Amazon has them.  Buy the kind that looks like a cheese grater, not the kind that looks like a potato ricer or a colander. 

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup flour

3 eggs (large or extra large)

1 cup milk

a good large pinch of kosher salt

several good grindings of black pepper

some freshly grated nutmeg--maybe 1/2 teaspoonish

Whisk the flour, pepper, nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs.  Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and combine with a whisk or a rubber spatula.  You are going for a pancake batter consistency--not too thick, and don't overwork by beating it.  You may need a drop more milk.

Bring a large pot of salted (as if for pasta) water to a boil.  I use a wok-shaped all-purpose Calphalon pot I cook everything in because it is wide, and I can get about a quarter to a third of the batter in at a time.

Set your spaetzle maker over the water, and spoon or ladle about a quarter to a third of the batter into it.  The batter will probably drip right through, but you may need to move the little batter-container part back and forth a few times to get all the batter into the water.  Little wee round noodles will first sink to the bottom of the pot and then bubble right to the top.  Let them cook until they rise to the top and puff up a bit.  Pull one out and taste if you're not sure they're done; it takes only about a minute or two.  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl of ice water.  Repeat with the rest of the spaetzle batter until you've cooked all of it. 

Drain the spaetzle from the ice water and put it in another bowl with a little oil drizzled in.  If it's a few hours before dinner, cover with plastic film and pop it in the fridge until you brown it in butter for dinner.  If you're about to serve dinner, melt a good knob of butter in a non-stick pan.  Brown the spaetzle over a medium to medium-high flame, tossing in some chopped parsley or chives at the end of the cooking process.


I told you it would mess up your kitchen.  But the stuff is delicious, and when you need comfort, there you have it.  I've held it overnight, by the way, in the pre-browned state, and it's been just fine. 

See you on the air at 4 PM!




Our Democracy Came from Greece--so did this recipe


Actually, it came from the NY Times, and it's Greek-inflected more than authentic, but it's weeknight-simple, utterly delicious, and really healthy: chicken thighs, black olives, cauliflower, tomato, and onion with cinnamon and garlic.  And feta cheese.

Click here if you want the link.  A good thing to know: The NY Times keeps its recipes out in front of its pay wall. In these days of tough times, it's a good thing to pay for your online papers, and I suggest a subscription to the Times for their non-food journalism, too.  But if you're hungry, their recipes are all free. Classy, yes? My kind of newspaper! 

I'd recommend serving it with some brown rice, maybe cooked with chicken broth and a little sauteed onion.  Or just plain brown rice.  And a green salad--dark greens.  Maybe baby kale and white balsamic dressing?  A little dillweed?

I'm on the air with songs as cheery as this dish at 4 PM today.