Sunday, July 29, 2018

Avocado Toast and Other Idiocies

While flipping through today on Twitter, I found this retweet and it made me see red.  

This person paid $22 for avocado toast to be delivered.  Yep, you read that right, and this is what she got.  Really, anyone who can't toast bread, and mash an avocado deserves this.
Avocado toast as a darling of the in-crowd showed up in Australia in 1993 on the menu at Bills. You can thank Bill Granger in Sydney for the phenomenon, and then Nigel Slater decided in 1999 that avocado toast was worthy of his acknowledgement.

Anyone who has ever toasted bread, and smashed a ripe avocado has had this before 1993, and the fact that it became a "thing" is beyond me.  It is like the friend who said her husband invented the double cheeseburger when he put two cheeseburgers on the same bun.  Tell that to In-N-Out Burger and they'll turn on the laughing machine.
Which brings me to cooking in general.  There are no real new recipes, there are distinctive shifts in eating patterns, and seasonal produce that will create interesting and sometimes trendy dishes. For the most part, the avocado toasts of this world are just that, a piece of toasted bread with a smashed avocado on top that people decide is the next best thing to eat, and if you don't think so you're definitely not in with the in-crowd.
And of course, avocado toast has morphed into the ubiquitous poached egg on avocado toast, radish garnished avocado toast,  cheesy avocado toast and a plethora of other toppings.
All of this is fine, but here are 2 simple suggestions:
Just because you've made avocado toast a "thing" you are not Escoffier, Thomas Keller or any other chef
Never order take-out avocado toast.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Everyone Knows Your Name: Identity Theft

This is going to be a bit of a rant; so hang on!  Above you will see my Slow Cooker Cookbook, which has sold very well on Amazon, and at other retailers, including the cooking schools where I teach. 

This is a cookbook written by someone else, using my name, and claiming to be the "highly successful author of best selling Amazon cookbooks".  Sound familiar?   The worst part of this is that the recipes are terrible, with little instruction, and even less flavor. AND, I've gotten ugly reviews from readers who had bought my other books, and thought they were buying a new one written by yours truly.  And when you click on the author at the top of the faux Slow Cooker page, it goes to my author page on Amazon. 

Look familiar?  I know people are looking for a bargain, but what they are getting is 25 really bad recipes, with my name on them.  So, this is just a rant about how the publishing industry is the wild west now, with anyone writing a cookbook, or e-book, and authors have a terrible time keeping their integrity when other people are stealing their work without attribute, and stealing their name to make a buck. 
With that said, I'll be back with some happier news tomorrow.  Wishing you all a good night.  Diane

Tuesday, May 1, 2018



Editor's Note:  I try never to post anything political, but this event is historic and with so many not even knowing why Korea is divided, I felt the need to write about my own experience and why this event is so meaningful. 

Last week, I watched as the Presidents of North and South Korea shook hands, and crossed into each others' countries for the first decades.  Historic, and poignant and most of all encouraging to me.  I have many South Korean friends, and I also was born during the Korean conflict.  
Hunters Point, CA, we lived in a Quonset hut
As a matter of fact, I didn't get to meet my dad until I was about 4 months old since he was on a battleship involved in the conflict; you see it wasn't called a war back then, it was just a conflict, and there was no peace treaty, there was only an armistice.  Armistice is defined as "temporary stopping of open acts of warfare by agreement between the opponent."  So in essence, the Korea's have been at war since I was an infant and that's a lot of years.  

The Seoul Hilton
When our family was living in Japan one of our favorite destinations was South Korea; we loved the people, amazing food and the countryside was breathtaking.  Plus, the shopping was awesome!
On one trip to Seoul, as we were getting ready to go out in the morning, the housekeeping crew came to our rooms, and took away the flashlights, and informed us there would be a black out that night, and that the room shutters would be taped closed at all times during the black out.  Yes, they were practicing for war.  

Black out in Seoul
At 9 p.m. that night sirens blared in the city, and all activity in the city stopped.  Lights in our rooms went out, and the entire city was enveloped in darkness.  Our children, then 5 and 9, were curious to see "what it looked like" outside, so we peeked out from behind the shutters, and the scene was dark, and eerie.  Taxis and cars stopped, with no signs of life anywhere.  This went on for 1 hour. Being in the dark for 1 hour with no signs of activity on the streets or in the hotel gave us an idea of of what life was like on the Korean peninsula
Last weeks' historic meeting gives me hope that the Korea's can live in peace with one another and eventually those from the North and South can travel freely between each country to see their relatives.  I'm not naive enough to think that this will be easy, or will happen overnight. For now we are witnessing history in the making, and that gives me hope for the Korean peoples as they watch their leaders and hopefully move forward towards peace. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Who Needs Crust?

I love pie, and a great pie crust is something to savored.  Crisp, buttery and contrasting with the sweet filling, it's one of my favorite things. But give me a savory pie, and I'm really not all that enamored with the crust.  I feel like it gets in the way of the savory filling, adding nothing to the final product.  Quiche Loraine is a favorite of mine, but I've never been all that jazzed about the crust, it gets in the way, sometimes soaks up the filling in a not so pleasant way, so when I make quiche I usually make a crust-less quiche, this probably wouldn't make the French happy, but I'm happy and it's really all about me, right?
Today one of my dearest friends came for lunch and I made two different kinds of individual crust-less quiche, and they were awesome if I do say so myself.  The custard part can be made ahead, then plopped into muffin tins, and baked.  If you under-bake them a bit (by about 2 to 3 minutes) you can cool, then freeze them to reheat.  They really are a great lunch or brunch dish and there isn't any crust to make.

Bacon Wrapped Spinach Quiche
Makes about 12

12 slices thick cut bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 pound baby spinach, washed and spun dry
salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
8 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (or imported Swiss)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment, aluminum foil, or silicone.  Put the bacon onto the baking sheet, and bake until the bacon has rendered its fat, but is not crisp.  Drain on paper toweling.  
  2. Coat the inside of  12 muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.  Arrange the bacon in the muffin tins so that it lines the muffin tin.  Set aside.  
  3. In a skillet, melt the butter, saute the shallot, for 3 to 4 minutes until the shallot is softened.  
  4. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and nutmeg.  Saute until the spinach is wilted.  
  5. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.  
  6. In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, cream and cheese.  Add the cooled spinach and stir to combine.  Using a portion scoop, scoop the mixture into the muffin tins inside the bacon ring.  
  7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed, set in the center and golden.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before removing from the muffin tins.  
Artichoke, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Quiche
Makes about 12
These delicious quiches can be made into mini muffins, and served as an appetizer--just one bite.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
One 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
8 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
4 thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, finely chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of 12 muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray. 
  2. In a skillet, heat the oil, swirl the garlic in the pan for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add the artichoke hearts, zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Saute for 5 minutes, until the artichokes are dry.  Transfer to a cutting board, coarsely chop and allow to cool completely.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, and goat cheese.  Add the artichoke mixture, and prosciutto, stir to combine.  Using a portion scoop, fill the muffin tins and sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed, golden and set in the middle.  Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

And so, this is what they look like when they come out of the oven.  I didn't take any photos while making these since I didn't think I'd be posting this, but the power of Facebook and Instagram had me promising recipes for these little gems.   Not only are they simple and easy to put together, the custard part can be made the day before, refrigerated and then scooped into the muffins tins just before baking.   With the holidays coming at you, these little gems are a great recipe to keep in your repertoire.  Feel free to substitute your favorite vegetables (think cooked butternut squash for the artichoke hearts, or broccoli for spinach) in the quiches.  
As I write this, San Diego county has wildfires burning 15 miles north of us.  People have lost their homes, pets, and livelihoods.  If you are feeling generous this holiday season, donate to charities of your choice to help those less fortunate who have endured natural disasters this year.  Ciao for now.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hot Enough for You?

Dr. C. and I are living in a rented apartment in a palazzo at the top of the hill in Spello.  It is beautiful, with a gorgeous terrace, and yard, frescoes on the ceilings, and huge bedroom.  At the beginning of October, it is legal to turn on the heat here in Italy...don't ask.  So our landlord who is a heck of a nice guy came over, and programmed the thermostat.  But that night, no heat.

So we told our rental agent, and she told the landlord, he came back again, but this time with a hammer, and he hammered on the furnace (I couldn't look) and we got heat that night, but the next morning, nothing.
This little dance has gone on for about 2 weeks, with our landlord coming over, hammering on the furnace, and saying, speriamo, meaning, "we hope".  So far nothing had worked, we'd get heat immediately after the hammering, but then nothing in the morning.  Dr. C. decided it was the pump in the furnace that was bad, but that got lost in translation.

On Monday we were promised we'd have heat, a technician was coming, and he had the magic solution (hammer).  I wasn't home when they came, but Dr. C. said there was a lot of hammering, and there was heat when I got home that evening, and the next morning it was so hot in the house, I had to open up the windows.  The thermostat was set at 24 degrees C, that's about 78 degrees F.
So, we have heat, and now we have to figure out how to tell the landlord, we don't need that much heat!  Every day here is a new adventure, with interesting predicaments, and solutions.
During our no heat phase the landlord said he'd send over the gardener to mow the lawn.  So a guy came and pushed the lawnmower through OUR LIVING ROOM, and out to the yard.  And, yes, he pushed it out through the living room again, since there is no other access to the yard.  This is life here, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Ciao for now.