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Hello Friends. Back on April 11, I posted on my personal Facebook page a very old Plucky blog post from 2011. The reaction was quite surprising. People seemed excited that this blog was becoming active again. As many of you know, I have been dealing with ovarian cancer since 2011 and find that the demands of “feeding” a blog became unsustainable. Enter my daughter Caroline. She persuaded me to partner with her on her own food blog. After a quiet trial and error, domain registration sorting, and other hiccups, we are pleased to announced Blue Willow Kitchen. We hope you enjoy reading as much as we delight in putting it together. I will be migrating content from this site to the new site and including updates! To subscribe, you can like our Facebook page or follow us on Instagram.

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Easter’s coming and it’s time for me and my mother-in-law to make pickled eggs for the holiday. This is a tried and true recipe that my mother-in-law got from her mother. Her family comes from a long line of Pennsylvania Quaker stock. I think you see these eggs at the Amish markets in the Pennsylvania Dutch country. You need to start these beautiful orbs 10 days in advance of the day you plan to serve them. So get your mise en place and start hard boiling your eggs!Pickled Eggs

Easter Pickled Eggs
12 hard boiled eggs, peeled
2 (14.5 oz.) cans red beets
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar

In saucepan, add beets and juice from cans, vinegar, sugar. Simmer until sugar is thoroughly dissolved.
Place eggs in large heat-proof glass jar. Pour hot mixture on eggs and fill jar completely. Tap to dislodge any air bubbles.
Cover and place in refrigerator for 10 days.
Cook’s Note: if you want to halve or double the recipe, the rule of thumb is to use 1/2 cup sugar for each 14.5-oz can of beets. You can also replenish the pickling juice with fresh eggs.

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I know I’m ten days early, but I wanted to share this foodie valentine with you. If you are not familiar with Anthony Bourdain, you should pick up a copy of his latest book, Medium Raw. Billed as, “a bloody valentine to the world of food and the people who cook,” Bourdain does not disappoint his readers, who know him as a bold writer that does not know the meaning of soft-serve.

After penning his best-selling Kitchen Confidential, which, among other things, instructed us as to why we should never order fish on Monday, Bourdain has spent the past decade as a television personality and food writer. I had recently finished Medium Raw when I happened to be watching a Top Chef marathon with my daughter. In one particular episode, Bourdain appeared with Justo Thomas, a Dominican seafood butcher of whom he writes about almost reverently in chapter 18.

Thomas is a virtuoso with a fish knife. I read with fascination as Bourdain described the machine-like precision in which Thomas cut between 750-1,000 pounds of seafood a day at New York’s acclaimed Le Bernardin restaurant. According to Bourdain, when Thomas takes a vacation, it takes three men to accomplish the same task while he is away. I had recently taken a cooking class where we saw a 20-minute demo of a 28-pound halibut sliced, filleted and portioned. Thomas can zip through a fish the same size in roughly eight minutes.

After the Top Chef segment was over, I encouraged my daughter to read (at a minimum) Bourdain’s homage to Thomas. She was immediately hooked. Like me, she couldn’t put the book down. When I could hear her laugh out loud, I knew it wasn’t just me; this book was a winner.

Bourdain isn’t for everybody. He has what my mother calls a “potty mouth.” For those with “clutch-my-pearls” sensibilities, I have to warn you; this book is laced with F-bombs. That’s just the way he rolls. For those who can get past that, Bourdain does not disappoint. His stream of consciousness style is deliciously descriptive–bordering on food porn. His opinion never fails to entertain. Bourdain is one of those writers who is blessed with the ability to write without filter. He freely gives his opinion on a variety of subjects ranging from the bastardization of the hamburger, why Alice Waters is out of touch, the villainous James Beard House, and a cootie-infested Ronald McDonald. Oh, and don’t disrespect your server…

It’s a can’t-put-down read for foodies. Bourdain, now the father of a two-year-old daughter, has mellowed. Like most of us who woke up wondering how the hell we got on AARP’s mailing list, Bourdain’s life experiences have given him a unique perspective on his passion and on those who are industry “leaders.” He’s shaken the demons of youth and is here to tell us exactly what he thinks about it. Bourdain’s latest is not merely Medium Raw, it’s well done.

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Happy New Year!

Final grades are in. I’ve finished my first semester as an adjunct professor. It was much more work than I anticipated, but the ride was fun. I enjoyed working with the students and they’ve asked me to do it again next semester.

After my professorial hiatus, Plucky’s back. But I have to admit that it might be more apropos to call me the Plumpy Gastronome, as the months have taken their toll on my waistline. There’s a whole lot more of me to love and I’m gonna’ have to do something about it. The trick is to not let my weight loss aspirations throw a damper on my work here on the blog.

So suffice it to say, I’m back and plan on blogging without interruption now that I have the hang of grading papers and such. Thanks to those of you who pestered my mother for updates on my return to the blogosphere. She faithfully relayed all your words of encouragement.

It’s 2011 and time for a new culinary joyride!

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Well it’s been too long since I posted last. My teaching has proved to take up more of my time than I thought it would. This first semester is going to be a heavy load but after that, I’ll be able to do more cooking and photography.

In the meantime, I’ve opened up a Twitter account so I can still keep in touch, albeit more briefly. You can view my Twitter feed on the right side of this web page. I’ll post when I can, but in the meantime, I’ll be tweeting.

In other news: Mom’s coming for Thanksgiving! I’m gearing up to make the Faworki. Will we get it right this time? Stay tuned.

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Cookbook News!

September is here and I have news!  The cookbook is headed to the printer. Advance copies of Tea Time at Peachfield may now be ordered by visiting the Colonial Dames website. Delivery will be in early November. Your purchase helps support the Dames’ museum properties and educational programs.

In other news, I am embarking on a new adventure. I have accepted an offer to teach public relations at a local university as an adjunct faculty. I am looking forward to working with my students. I won’t be a stranger. Keep visiting!

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Runnin’ Down a Dream

Last weekend, my husband and I were invited to a very special party.  A colleague (in the words of Tom Petty),  is “runnin down a dream.” Saturday’s bash was a shakedown cruise for Damon’s new toy; an 18.5-foot custom-built trailer outfitted as a top-of-the-line kitchen.

If you are into kitchens, this thing is sweet. It’s got diamond plate throughout, refrigerator, freezer, triple sink, 750 bazillion BTUs of space shuttle range power, grill, fire suppression system and… (drum roll), a panini press. The thing is completely self-contained with power, potable and waste water, A/C and heater.  But wait… there’s more!  It’s even got a water closet for those times when a man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do.

Damon is a chef at the place I last worked. He’s been talking about getting this “nomadic kitchen” for months. No, he’s not giving up his day job; but Damon and his wife Terri are among those taking a pass at opening typical brick and mortar restaurants and opting for their own gourmet food truck businesses.  It’s the hot new trend in cities all across the country. Even the Food Network’s jumping on the bandwagon with their new reality food show, The Great Food Truck Race. The food coming out of these mobile kitchens is top rate. Before you know it, Zagat will be conducting reviews. Damon and Terri are now weekend food warriors.

Damon made all kinds of stuff for his guests.  One of my favorites is his red pepper panini with arugula, fresh mozzarella and balsamic glaze.  He also made a braised chicken with fennel.  I was two-fisting my way though the menu. I think I embarrassed myself.

It’s so nice to see my friends make their dream actually happen.  I wish them every success.

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I just HAD to share…

Just caught this video on Devour, the Cooking Channel’s new blog.  They posted it to commemorate Julia Child’s birthday this week. Watch closely and you can see Julia’s apron be-bopping along to the show’s intro. music behind the row of chickens…

Click and be prepared to SMILE!!!

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Today, I experienced what my brother calls, a “garden woody.”

After weeks of hovering, waiting and nurturing, I pulled a Yukon Gold potato out of my garden.

I am all verklempt.

This is a REALLY big deal as I am a potato virgin–horticulturally speaking. Everything I know about vegetable gardening, I learned from my dad. When he was in the hospital earlier this year, I passed the time with him by talking about my garden plans for the year.

For years, Dad had been after me to grow potatoes. The problem here in New Jersey, was obtaining quality seed potato stock. It is nowhere to be found. During my time out in Utah in between hospital visits, I visited a local garden center and picked up some Yukon Gold seed potatoes.

I gave Dad the run-down on my find and in between labored breathes, he gave me advice on potato growing technique. “When the plants start to flower, you know it’s time to start digging.”  That was the last gardening advice he would ever be able to impart. He died a few short weeks later.

Today it was time to start digging. The flower buds on my potatoes were just beginning to open. Like a kid on an Easter egg hunt, I thrust my hands in the soil and wiggled around until I found my firstborn: Yukon Jack.  All 7.9 ounces of gorgeous tuberous starch.

I whooped and did the Snoopy dance. I held Yukon Jack aloft as though he were the Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash. The neighbors must have thought me nuts. “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I HAVE grown THIS here potato.”

Then I did something very unexpected.  I sat on the garden hammock and wept. Normally I would be on the phone sharing my accomplishment. But that can no longer be.

I took Jack inside and washed him up. He now sits on my kitchen counter. Waiting. But the big question is what kind of honor can I bestow on this small bit of home-grown agriculture?

Michael Ruhlman recounts, in The Making of a Chef (Henry Holt 1997), a phrase his great uncle had used in a letter. His Uncle Bill had recently experienced a memorable meal in which the potatoes were particularly notable. He spoke of how the chef had “placed his skills as an artist in the service of the potato.” This phrase came to me as I was scrubbing the soil and root matter off of Yukon Jack.  How can I be of service to this special potato?

Do any of you have ideas? This potato deserves to go out in style. I’d love to hear your ideas.

In the meantime, I wonder, what would dad do?

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Unfinished Business

Last week I was surfing food sites.  My chef-friend Damon had recommended Michael Ruhlman’s page, which offers wisdom on all things food as well as some brilliant photography (ably supplied by his wife Donna). An accomplished author, Michael has rubbed shoulders with many culinary luminaries, including Thomas Keller and Anthony Bourdain. I’ve got his newest book, Ratio: The simple codes behind the craft of everyday cooking, on reserve at my local library.

This week’s post on Ruhlman.com invited comments on unfinished business.  The tie-in was Lee Kravitz’s new book by the same title, which was being offered as a giveaway. I felt inspired to dash off a few quick words (visit Ruhlman.com to see what I had to say). To make a long story short, yesterday, I received a note from the man himself  informing me that I had been selected.  I was delighted to be recognized!  Thank you Michael!

If you read my comment on Michael’s site, you will learn that I made the decision to retire early as my life’s priorities shifted after my father’s death. I had been working at an all-girl private school and felt I needed to save what was left of me to spend more time with my family and do what made me happy. Those around me applauded my “courageous decision” but in reality it was the easiest decision I ever made.

Not that it doesn’t have consequences. We are now a one income family and that takes a bit of getting used to. I can’t go to the specialty store and buy caviar on a whim.  But to say everyone is happy here at Casa de Plucky is an understatement.

So what are my plans?  My big kitchen goal is to master my great grandmother’s Polish faworkis. My mother is the only person left alive who has actually tasted them. My sister and I had tried but have not quite gotten them right (Mom says they are like munching on “sweet air”). I have to get them right before Mom passes away or part of my family’s culinary heritage is lost forever.

This summer,  I am working on a cookbook for a non-profit organization I belong to. It is about tea time and all that goes with it.  All the proceeds will benefit the organization and the museum properties it owns/supports. (More on that later.)

I am still playing catch up in my garden. The weeks away caring for Daddy put me way behind on things.  I am growing my own potatoes for the first time.  I learned a new technique to grow them in a container and the very helpful old guy in the garden center says he got almost 100 pounds of potatoes using this method. I also started my tomato plants from seed. I know they are a little late getting started but if I get JUST ONE tomato, it will be worth it.  If the weather starts to turn cold too soon, I will bring the container into the house and baby those little things along until Christmas.

That’s all the rambling for today.  Thanks again to Michael for the kind words. Stick around to see what’s coming out of Plucky’s oven. The next post has a cinematic tie-in!

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