November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving '09: A diamond ring & creamed leeks

Jerad was supposed to go duck hunting yesterday morning, but he was still in bed when I woke up a little before 7:00 am (he usually leaves around 3:30).

"Weren't you going hunting today?" I asked as I woke him up.

"Yeah, what time is it?" he replied.

"It's almost 7! Didn't you set an alarm?"

"Oh shit! I must have turned my alarm off. Can you turn on the light?"

I rolled over to turn on the lamp, and when I rolled back Jerad had a diamond ring in his hand.

"This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for you," he said. "Will you marry me?"


He never planned to hunt yesterday. Sneaky bastard! ;-)

I've known that Jerad had a ring for a while now; he asked me to go to the jewelers to get sized last month (He had the ring specially made). But, I didn't know when he was going to propose. He caught me completely off-guard yesterday. It was the perfect way to start the holiday.

I think I’m too much of a negative person sometimes; I tend to focus on my daily stresses, instead of on all of the good things in my life.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about what I am grateful for…

I am thankful for Jerad. He’s my best friend. I am lucky to have him in my life. He is very important to me. He calms me down, helps me focus on the important things, makes me laugh, makes me feel needed & wanted, takes care of the things I can’t (house chores like cleaning a dead possum out of the dryer vent & building new steps on the porch). Simply put: He’s awesome.

I am thankful for Gwen & Dick, Jerad’s parents. They have been so accepting of me and have generously welcomed me into their family. I am glad they live close & we get to see them often. I don’t feel so “motherless” anymore.

I am thankful for my friends, especially the Food Blogger Mafia gals (Kelli, Annie, & Steph): It’s nice to know a group of intelligent, funny women who’ve got my back. And for Ashby: I love that guy. And the Erins: I miss them both.

I am thankful for having a good-paying job, health insurance, a place to live, and the means to provide for myself.

I am thankful I am getting to know some of my co-workers better. It makes going to work a more enjoyable experience.

I am thankful for my job at Kitchen Conservatory, for all of Anne’s advice & guidance, and for knowing the wonderful women on staff there.

I am thankful for the opportunity to write for Sauce Magazine. My second feature article will be in the December issue!

I am thankful for Lewis the Beagle. Those big brown eyes and floppy ears melt my heart, even if he’s peed on the floor.

I am thankful that Mark from Bigelo’s offered Jerad a job. The bar is going to be open late on the weekends now, and Jerad will be bartending on Friday & Saturday nights (starting next weekend) from 9-12.

I am thankful I made creamed leeks with dinner yesterday. They were so good!

Creamed Leeks

photo & recipe from Gourmet

Serves 4

3 1/2
lb leeks, root ends trimmed
cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from a country loaf, crusts discarded)
teaspoon salt
teaspoon black pepper
stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
cup heavy cream
  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Cut each leek into an 8-inch length, measuring from root end, and halve lengthwise, then cut crosswise into roughly 1 1/2-inch pieces. (You should have about 8 cups.) Wash leek pieces in a large bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out and transfer to another bowl. Repeat with clean water, then drain leeks well.
  • Cook bread crumbs with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in 3 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp and pale golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Cook leeks with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 12 minutes.
  • Transfer leeks with a slotted spoon to gratin dish. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over the top. Pour cream slowly over leeks, then scatter bread crumbs on top. Bake until cream is bubbling and slightly thickened and crumbs are golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

1. Bread crumbs can be cooked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Scatter bread crumbs over leeks just before baking.

2. Leeks can be cooked and assembled in dish with cream (but not sprinkled with crumbs and baked) 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then covered & chilled.

November 21, 2009

Cranberry Sangria & Other Thanksgiving Favorites

I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving. I'm not ready for it at all! I think it's because we've had a much warmer--and wetter--fall than usual. It's just doesn't seem like the holidays to me. Then again, it is good that this semester has seemed to fly by. Only a few more weeks of school left until Christmas break!

Every year Jerad's family has lobster & beef tenderloin for Thanksgiving dinner. So, we've started a tradition of cooking turkey with all the fixin's at my house on the Saturday afterwards. This year we're deep frying a fresh turkey again (our favorite way to cook the bird) & I'm also making:

mashed potatoes & gravy
sweet potato-cornbread pudding
shaved brussels sprout salad
real pumpkin pie
(as in, I'm roasting & pureeing a pumpkin myself!)


Cranberry Sangria

1 48-oz bottle cranberry-raspberry juice cocktail
1 bottle dry, full-bodied red wine
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1 orange, sliced thin
1 lemon, sliced thin
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 cups champagne

Combine first three ingredients in a large pitcher. Add fruit slices & cranberries. Chill. Stir in champagne just before serving. Serve over ice.

Makes about 13 cups.

If you prefer a sweeter drink, add about 1/8-1/4 cup sugar to the first three ingredients, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Here are some of my other favorite Thanksgiving dishes:

Honey-Nut Glazed Brie
Roasted Carrot Dip

Soup & Salad:
Butternut-Cider Bisque
Chestnut & Potato Soup
Carrot-Raisin Salad
Grandma Martin's Cranberry Salad
Gingerbread Vinaigrette

Side Dishes:
Scalloped Oysters
Asparagus-Gruyere Tart
Spinach Gratin
Chestnut & Pancetta Stuffing
Potato & Mushroom Gratin

Whole Bird Alternatives:
Turkey Saltimbocca
Turkey Ossobucco

Pumpkin & Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Espresso Walnut Cake

November 16, 2009

Muffaletta with Olive Relish

When I taught middle school many years ago, the team of teachers that I worked with got along pretty well. We used to get together at each other's houses once a month or so to socialize outside of school, to get to know everyone's families. I am convinced it helped us to work together better.

So, in an effort to promote faculty bonding (something which we needed after a somewhat stressful & drama-filled beginning of the new school year)...AND because personally I needed to have some fun instead of working every day...I invited some co-workers (the Humanities Lunch Bunch--i.e. HuLuBu--and a few selected "VIP's") over on Friday for some food & libations.

John, Joni, & Bill: They're funny people!

Neely & Jesse: The "newbies"

I know that this crowd isn't all that adventurous (yet) when it comes to food, so I tried to keep the menu fairly simple. And, wouldn't you know it, the first things to get devoured were the popcorn and taco dip!


Assorted cheeses, crackers & olives
Veggies & curried hummus
Truffled popcorn
Muffaletta sandwich (see recipe below)
Roast duck-seasoned chicken wings
Spinach, tofu & black tea spring rolls with roasted tomato chutney
Trashy taco dip (by request)
Honey-lavender ice cream
"World Peace" cookies

I did manage to get Jeni, the self-professed anti-cook who requested that I include some "white trash" food, to help with some of the cooking. She volunteered to assemble the spring rolls. I think she just wanted to look cute in my apron! Nonetheless, she did an excellent job. There is hope for her yet!

Jeni looks so happy cooking!

My favorite recipe of the night was the muffaletta. Originating from Central Grocery in New Orleans, this monster of a sandwich is made on a huge round loaf of Italian bread with piles of salami, ham, mortadella, mozzarella, & provolone. It's dressed simply with a flavorful--salty & slightly spicy--olive relish.

Olive Relish (for Muffaletta)

1 1/2 cups pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
1 cup prepared gardiniera (pickled cauliflower, carrots, celery & pepperoncini), chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or jar, cover and let sit overnight or up to a week.

November 11, 2009

Lobster Thermidor

I learned a valuable lesson last night: Cooking French food is a HUGE pain in the ass, but it's worth it!

I was making lobster Thermidor, practicing Julia Child's classic recipe for my Girls Night Out class on Saturday. For the class, I've chosen all dishes from the Julie & Julia movie: steamed artichokes with lemon butter sauce, onion soup (in France, it's called simply onion soup, not FRENCH onion soup), lobster Thermidor, & chocolate cake with almonds.

Steaming live lobsters is actually much less traumatic in real life.

Ok, so, there are A LOT of steps to making lobster Thermidor...which is basically just lobster meat mixed into a cream sauce with mushrooms, then topped with cheese & baked. Here's a general break-down of the steps:
  1. Steam the lobster in broth of white wine, water, onions, celery, carrots, bay, tarragon, pepper, etc.
  2. Stew sliced mushrooms in butter & lemon juice.
  3. Remove the lobster & drain the broth.
  4. Strain the mushrooms & add their liquid to the lobster broth. Reduce.
  5. Cook butter & flour together, then add the lobster broth.
  6. Strain the lobster's guts (the coral & green gunk inside) and mix with egg yolk, dry mustard, & cream. Add the broth to this mixture.
  7. Add more cream to the sauce, cook until thickened.
  8. Remove the lobster meat from the shells. Cook in butter, add cognac.
  9. Mix the lobster meat with the cooked mushrooms and some of the sauce.
  10. Spoon in the empty shells, top with more sauce & grated Parmesan.
  11. Broil until bubbly & browned.
Half way through all this straining, mixing, & reducing I thought to myself, "There's got to be an easier way! I could have just made a mushroom cream sauce to mix with the lobster. This is RIDICULOUS!" I think Jerad felt the same way; he was getting a tad frustrated after I'd dirtied nearly every pan in the house and gotten lobster juice all over the counter.

But, I was determined to follow the recipe.

An hour and a half later, as I was eating the creamy & richly-sauce lobster, I had an epiphany. THIS is why people are so smitten with French food! I finally understood that all those steps--all the straining, mixing, & reducing--is necessary to create all those LAYERS OF FLAVORS. A simple cream sauce wouldn't have tasted like that. No way. Even Jerad is now a French food convert.

A few notes:
  • Julia's recipe calls for steaming the lobster for 20 minutes, cooking the meat in butter for 5 minutes, and baking the assembled dish for another 10-15 minutes. I think this is WAY too long to cook lobster. I didn't want rubbery pieces, so I steamed the lobster for only 8 minutes (just long enough to kill it and start cooking the meat). I finished cooking the meat in the butter, then just broiled the final dish for a few minutes to heat it through & brown the cheese.
  • I think I'll steam the lobster for a couple minutes longer next time. When I cut it in half, there was green gunk EVERYWHERE inside. I didn't get much to add to the sauce.
  • Cutting the whole lobster in half to use the shells for serving was more trouble than it's worth. I plan to serve this in scallop shells at my cooking class.
  • I found the sauce to be TOO thick, so I added much more cream (and white wine) at the end.
  • While it turned out good in the end, I think part of the trouble was that I was trying to make only a third of the recipe. I'd do either HALF a recipe or the whole thing.
Lobster Thermidor
from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

So many steps are involved in the preparation of a really splendid lobster Thermidor, no wonder it costs a fortune in any restaurant! But it is not a particularly difficult dish to execute, and everything may be prepared in advance and heated up just before serving. This is an especially attractive recipe for lobster Thermidor because the meat is stirred in hot butter before it is sauced, and turns a rosy red. Buy lobsters weighing a good 2 pounds each, so the shells will be large enough to hold the filling.

A Note on Dealing with Live Lobsters: If you object to steaming or splitting a live lobster, it may be killed almost instantly just before cooking if you plunge the point of a knife into the head between the eyes, or sever the spinal cord by making a small incision in the back of the shell at the juncture of the chest and the tail.

Serves 6

Kitchen Supplies:

* Covered, enameled or stainless steel kettle with tight-fitting cover
* Covered, enameled or stainless steel saucepan
* enameled or 4-cup stainless steel saucepan
* 1/2-quart enameled or stainless steel saucepan
* Wooden spoon
* Wire whip
* 3-quart mixing bowl
* 12-inch enameled or stainless steel skillet
* Shallow roasting pan or fireproof serving platter

Steaming the Lobster:

* 3 cups dry white wine or 2 cups dry white vermouth
* 2 cups water
* 1 large onion , thinly sliced
* 1 medium carrot , thinly sliced
* 1 stalk celery , thinly sliced
* 6 sprigs parsley
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/4 tsp. thyme
* 6 peppercorns
* 1 Tbsp. fresh or dried tarragon
* 3 live lobsters , 2 pounds each
* 1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
* 1 Tbsp. butter
* 1 tsp. lemon juice
* 1/4 tsp. salt


* 5 Tbsp. butter
* 6 Tbsp. flour
* 1 Tbsp. cream
* 1 Tbsp. dry mustard
* 2 egg yolks
* 1/2 cup whipping cream
* 4 to 6 Tbsp. more whipping cream
* Pinch cayenne pepper

Sautéed Lobster Meat:

* 4 Tbsp. butter
* 1/3 cup cognac

Final Assembly:

* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Swiss cheese
* 2 Tbsp. butter , cut into bits

Steaming the lobsters: Simmer wine, water, vegetables, herbs, and seasonings in the kettle for 15 minutes. Then bring to a rolling boil and add the live lobsters. Cover and boil for about 20 minutes. The lobsters are done when they are bright red and the long head-feelers can be pulled from the sockets fairly easily.

While the lobsters are steaming, stew the mushrooms slowly in the covered saucepan with the butter, lemon juice, and salt for 10 minutes.

The sauce: When the lobsters are done, remove them from the kettle. Pour the mushroom cooking juices into the lobster steaming juices in the kettle and boil down rapidly until liquid has reduced to about 2 1/4 cups. Strain into the 4-cup enameled or stainless steel saucepan and bring to the simmer.

Cook the butter and flour slowly together in the 1 1/2-quart saucepan for 2 minutes without browning. Off heat, beat in the simmering lobster-cooking liquid. Boil, stirring, for 1 minute. Set aside. Film top of sauce with the cream.

Split the lobsters in half lengthwise, keeping the shell halves intact. Discard sand sacks in the heads, and the intestinal tubes. Rub lobster coral and green matter through a fine sieve into the mixing bowl, and blend into it the mustard, egg yolks, cream, and pepper. Beat the sauce into this mixture by driblets.

Return the sauce to the pan, and stirring with a wooden spoon, bring it to the boil and boil slowly for 2 minutes. Thin out with tablespoons of cream. Sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon fairly heavily. Taste carefully for seasoning. Set aside, top filmed with a spoonful of cream.

Sautéing the lobster meat: Remove the meat from the lobster tails and claws, and cut it into 3/8-inch cubes. Set the skillet with the butter over moderate heat. When the butter foam begins to subside, stir in the lobster meat and sauté, stirring slowly, for about 5 minutes until the meat has turned a rosy color. Pour in the cognac ("Off the heat!" says Kelly. "You don't want to set your kitchen on fire!") and boil for a minute or two, shaking the skillet, until the liquid has reduced by half.

Final assembly: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fold the cooked mushrooms and two thirds of the sauce into the skillet with the lobster meat. Arrange the split lobster shells in the roasting pan. Heap the lobster mixture into the shells; cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. The recipe may be prepared ahead up to this point and refrigerated.

Place in upper third of 425-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until lobster is bubbling and the top of the sauce is nicely browned. Serve immediately on a platter or serving plates.

November 3, 2009

Mirrasou Wine, Mia Rosa, & Polenta Fries

As a blogger, I often get emails asking me to sample products or inviting me to restaurants for dinner. The implication of such offers is, of course, that I'll write something nice about it on my blog. While I have accepted a few free products to try (like Amano chocolate, Fig 'n Ginger Chutney, & Country Bob's sauce) and given away a couple free cookbooks, most of the time I turn down these invitations.

This summer, a fellow food blogger asked me what I wanted to "get out of blogging." I was confused by the question. I don't want to get anything. While some people nearly make a living out of pimping other people's products, that's not what I want my blog to be all about. Sure, I like free dinners, but I am simply not going to sing the praises of any chain restaurants or big corporate breweries.

However, when I received an invitation to attend a wine dinner with Mirassou Winery at Mia Rosa, a local Italian bistro, I jumped at it. Here was a chance for me to not only score a free dinner but to also give props to a local chef and a family-owned winery.

Mirassou Winery is owned by the country’s oldest winemaking family; they recently celebrated their 155th anniversary. To celebrate, David Mirassou (6th generation) visited six cities in the country where he hosted wine dinners for bloggers and media folks. As part of the tour, he also unveiled an online cookbook--Taste & Toast--featuring recipes from the restaurants that housed the wine dinners.

David told us an interesting story about the start of his family’s winery. In 1854, Pierre & Henrietta sailed to California from France with their prized grapevine cuttings. They were reprimanded by the ship’s captain for using too much water to keep the plants alive, so Pierre purchased all of the potatoes onboard and inserted the cuttings into pieces to keep them alive.

The wine dinner was held at Mia Rosa (4501 Manchester). The rustic Italian restaurant is manned by chef-owner Philip Noe (who also teaches cooking classes at Kitchen Conservatory). Chef Noe took time to prepare dishes that actually paired with the wines.

Our menu for the night consisted of six-courses with seven wines:

2008 Pinot Grigio

Roasted Garlic & Roma Tomato Flat Bread
2008 Sauvignon Blanc

Gorgonzola Polenta Fries (recipe below)
2007 Chardonnay

Smoked Scallop Carpaccio
Pinot Noir

Warm Beet Salad with Goat Cheese on Spinach

Veal Medallions on Garlic Mash with Tarragon Broth
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Zeppole with Chocolate Sauce
2007 Riesling

The food was absolutely amazing and paired quite nicely with the wines. My favorite dish of the night was the smoked tender & flavorful. Another favorite was the polenta fries. I could have eaten those all night! All in all, I was very happy with the food. I look forward to going back to Mia Rosa for dinner sometime soon.

As for the wines, I started out the night taking detailed tasting notes but after a few glasses (ok, SEVERAL glasses), I either neglected to write stuff down or my handwriting was too ineligible. Here’s what I do remember...

The sauvignon blanc was smoother and more “buttery” than the pinot grigio.

The chardonnay had a “cleaner” mouth feel than a typical chard, mainly from being partially fermented in stainless steel.

Then I wrote something that looks like a pound sign next to the word “merlot.” At least, I THINK that says merlot.


Gorgonzola Polenta Fries

(photo courtesy of Mirrasou Winery)

Makes 8 servings

2 cups water
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
6 cups canola oil
  • Bring water, cream, garlic, salt & pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal.
  • Cook over medium-low heat until the mixture begins to thicken, then stir in the cheese. Cook, stirring vigorously, for about 5 minutes more or until mixture is a thick as bread dough.
  • Spread mixture 1/2-inch thick on a baking sheet & refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Cut into 1/2-inch strips resembling French fries.
  • Heat oil to 325 degrees in a large, deep pan. Carefully cook fries in hot oil until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

November 1, 2009

Upcoming Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's new schedule went live online today. Here are my upcoming classes:

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: FROM BEER TO SUSHI ETERNITY - Friday, Nov. 27 @ 6:00-8:30 OR Friday, March 12 @ 6:00-8:30

Jerad Gardner, beer guru for Amalgamated Brewing, joins me in teaching this hands-on class. Enjoy salt-and-pepper edamame & spicy cucumber salad, then learn to prepare sticky sushi rice and make a variety of hand-formed nigiri, and rolled maki, including spicy tuna rolls, California rolls and Philadelphia rolls -- all served with Japanese beers.


This hands-on class will prepare beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, then enjoy local lager with spicy Sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake and vanilla ice cream. Jerad will be bringing the beers to pair with each dish.


This hands-on class will shake up a ginger gin & tonic and blood orange margaritas. Then we'll create a dazzling spread with cheddar straws, tomato bagna cauda fondue with vegetables, bacon-wrapped dates with green olive dipping sauce, tequila-lime shrimp skewers, mini chorizo corn "pups," & chocolate-orange palmiers.

MATCHMAKER - Tuesday, Dec. 29 @ 6:00-8:30

In this demonstration class, 'll show you that it is not which wines to match with food, but rather how to prepare your food to perfectly balance with your favorite wines! We'll start with buttered popcorn to highlight the butteriness of Chardonnay, then I'll make aromatic sauteed lemongrass-lime shrimp paired with Riesling, seared beef tenderloin with Cabernet, blue cheese with Port, plus a fabulous flourless chocolate-red wine cake with rosemary ganache served with red wine.

DINNER AT MY "HOUSE": KELLY'S KITCHEN - Sunday, Jan. 10 @ 1:00-3:30

I'll be cooking my favorite at-home dishes for you in this demonstration class. The menu includes grilled romaine with classic Caesar dressing, chicken thighs with garlic-lemon sauce, fresh fettuccine with Alfredo sauce, and rugalach for dessert.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU! - Saturday, Jan. 16 @ 6:00-8:30

This is my "anti-Valentine's Day" menu: I'll start the demonstration with "Heart of Darkness" cocktails, chocolate-passion fruit martinis. Then, I'll prepare feta crostini with sour citrus relish, "broken hearts" salad with artichoke hearts & hearts of palm with garlic vinaigrette, and squid ink pasta with lobster in a spicy tomato sauce. Dessert is bittersweet: a bitter chocolate tart with a pretzel crust.

SUSHI ROCK AND ROLL - Saturday, Feb. 12 @ 12:00-2:30

Wrap and roll your favorite sushi in this hands-on class. Enjoy salt-and-pepper edamame & spicy cucumber salad, then learn to prepare sticky sushi rice and make a variety of hand-formed nigiri & rolled maki, including spicy tuna rolls, California rolls and Philadelphia rolls.

HEIR AND A PARENT: WIZARDS IN THE KITCHEN - Sunday, Feb. 21 @ 12:30-3:00

Attention all Muggles! Experience the world of Harry Potter and make magic in the kitchen in this hands-on class as you and your child prepare delightful dishes described throughout the J.K. Rowling series, including The Three Broomsticks's butterbeer, ham & cheese pasties from the Hogwarts house-elves, Mrs. Weasley's potatoes with bechamel sauce, and Aunt Petunia's individual berry & pudding trifles. Before you apparate home, we'll make edible wands to help ward off He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

Pumpkin-Molasses Barbecue Sauce

I love Halloween. I mean, I LOVE it. When I was married, my husband and I had huge "tarts & vicars" parties for Halloween. We'd go all out for our costumes. Over the years, I went as a Hooters girl (with an official uniform), a Moulin Rouge dancer (with a custom made skirt that had layers of ruffles underneath), Dr. Frank N. Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (I put together an outfit that looked identical to his in the movie), Princess Leia in the slave bikini, and Eve (as in "Adam and").

Our parties got so wild that they partially caused two divorces (including ours). So, I laid off on the Halloween parties for a few years. Last year, I went to an 80's prom party; my costume included a horrifically awesome dress complete with peach lame, black velvet, black lace, AND black beading, a banana clip, & a big neck hickey. Costumes are all about the accessories.

When I was invited to a dead celebrities party this year, I couldn't pass it up. Coming up with a creative costume was a bit more difficult than I expected. I figured there would be a ton of Michael Jacksons & Farrah Fawcetts (though, there were NONE of those!). I considered going as Sylvia Plath (but I'd have to buy an Easy-Bake Oven) or Jon Benet Ramsey. I finally decided to go as Joan Vollmer, the wife of William S. Burroughs. My costume consisted of a flowered 50's-ish dress, apple, and gunshot wound.

Here's the story: William S. Burroughs (famous author during the "beat" movement, he wrote Naked Lunch) & his wife Joan fled to Mexico in the early 50's to avoid drug charges in the U.S. At a party one night, while drunk and most likely drugged out (he was a morphine addict), William tried to shoot a glass (though, the story has since evolved into his using an apple) off of his wife's head to prove what a good shot he was. He missed. To avoid murder charges, he had to flee back to the U.S.

Of course, very few people at the party knew who I was. But, that was ok with me...I like obscure literary references. My favorite costumes at the party were Helen Keller (she wore two different shoes, a nice touch!) and Fred Sanford & his wife (they played the Sanford & Son theme song when they came in. I love costumes that come with soundtracks!).

Anyway, I also celebrated Halloween on Friday night by teaching a Girls' Night Out "zombies & 'wiches" class at Kitchen Conservatory. This was my favorite recipe of the night...we served it on a sandwich with grilled salmon.

Pumpkin-Molasses Barbecue Sauce

2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into large pieces
4 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 3-inch-diameter slice white onion (1/2 inch thick), separated into rings
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 thick-sliced country white bread, crust trimmed
3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
3 1/2 cups chicken (or veggie) stock
1/4 cup molasses
4 canned chipotle chiles
1 cup canned pure pumpkin

1. Heat a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add chile pieces; toast until aromatic and lighter in color around edges, pressing with potato masher or back of fork and turning pieces, about 2 minutes. Transfer pieces to medium bowl & cover with hot water; soak until soft, about 30 minutes.

2. In same large pot, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion rings and garlic. Sauté until brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to processor, leaving oil in pot.

3. Add bread slice to pot; cook until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer bread to processor (reserve pot). Add tomatoes to processor. Puree mixture until smooth. Transfer tomato puree to small bowl (do not clean processor).

4. Drain ancho chiles and place in processor. Add 1/2 cup stock, molasses, & 2 chipotle chiles. Puree until smooth.

5. Add 1 tablespoon oil to reserved pot. Heat over medium-high heat. Add chile puree; cook until puree thickens and darkens, stirring often, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add tomato puree. Simmer until thick, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Whisk in pumpkin and 3 cups broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until sauce thickens and reduces to 3 1/3 cups, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt.