A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Years Resolutions


Last night we had a wonderful post Christmas feast of Scottadito- an Italian dish of grilled baby lamb chops. The chops are simply seasoned and grilled then a simple sauce of sautéed garlic, reduced wine is added and garnished with a bit of mint. I must admit it was nice to get back to this simple fare.

This week brings in the New Year. After our Christmas eave feast of seven fishes, Christmas day roast beef, and too many Christmas cookies, I begged for simple Japanese food for new years. I will tell you that the Christmas roast was excellent and the Yorkshire puddings were so awful I didn’t even serve them- next year I will stick with tried and true popovers.

In the year to come I hope to try cooking and eating new food items. While I love to cook what I consider to be French bistro fare, I hope to open my kitchen to more Mexican, and Rustic Italian and even Moroccan style fare. A good friend of mine is in the process of moving down south and promised to send some southern recipes to me for the blog.

Happy cooking in the New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Panettone Bread Pudding


Pannettone is a delicious Italian sweet bread studded with fruits and sometimes chocolate. It is most often found in Italian specialty stores around Christmas time. Enjoy extra Panettone toasted for breakfast or as a light dessert with champagne. Even people who think they don’t like bread pudding will enjoy this flavorful holiday dish.

½ of a 2 pound Pannettone (the other have can be sliced and frozen, although I just eat mine for breakfast)- so, take the half of the loaf or 1 pound of pannettone and cut it into ½” cubes set aside in a mixing bowl

In a second smaller bowl whisk together

1cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
6 egg yolks
Scant ½ teaspoon or regular sugar (not kosher)
Zest of 1 orange plus the juice from ½ orange (about 2 tablespoons of juice)

Whisk the items together then pour over the panettone. Let mixture soak into the bread for a moment or two while you butter a 10 ½” ovenproof dish.

Preheat oven to 325Fill a large roasting dish with a bout 1” water. Place in oven. Scoop the Panettone mixture, including the eggy batter into the baking dish, and then place the baking dish in the oven (inside the roasting dish) to bake for 1hour 15 minutes. (It seems like a pain, but the water bath will keep the mixture from burning or over cooking.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas cookies


This is a beautiful pre-Christmas day. Greeting cards have been sent, presents have been wrapped and now all that is left is the food, the most enjoyable aspect of planning. This past week I bought a new cookbook, well, new to me. The Way to Cook by Julia Child. I was intrigued by a method she used for cooking chicken, she used the broiler. She cut out the chicken’s backbone and flattened the chicken, a method used in Italian cooking for chicken under a brick. Then, Julia basted and broiled the bird. I tried her method yesterday morning and ended up with a beautiful looking, but undercooked bird. The whole thing resulted in me carving up the chicken anyway and sticking the raw pink meat back in the oven to roast. I hated to carve up the bird because it looked so pretty, put there is nothing worse than serving raw chicken meat. Perhaps there is another way. The final “roasted” bird was served with about 3 quarts of chicken stock simmered down to a thick juice and garnished with fresh herbs.

Yesterday afternoon was pasta day. We made grandmas Ravioli.

Last night was French onion soup. I made it and let it cool, today it will get popped in my freezer, because it freezes well, and will be served on Christmas day with Ravioli, roast beef and all of the trimmings.

Today is all fun. Its cookie day! Cookies get started a bit early because I make Biscotti, which tend not to go bad, as they are meant to be crunchy. The day before Christmas we will make Pizelle (you need a special Iron for these Italian treats) and French Madeleines. Which do you think Santa will like best?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shrimp and Chorizo Empanadas


Both children and adults love empanadas. Have them as an after school snack filled with cheese, chocolate or serve them before dinner stuffed with Spanish chorizo sausage and chicken or shrimp. I often make life easy for myself and buy pre formed Empanada dough. The dough that is sold by Goya works well for me because there is paper between each disk. The dough is often sold frozen, so if you don’t find it at your market you might ask them to carry it, or order over the Internet. Defrost before using.

2 packages of Goya Empanada dough
1 pound of shrimp, shells removed
1oz of chorizo sausage, thinly sliced and cut into bite size pieces
A pinch of salt
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Water or egg wash to seal the dough
Vegetable oil for frying

Place everything except the dough into a food processor. Pulse three or four times until the shrimp is “shredded or chopped” looking.

Place a heaping tablespoon or so of the shrimp mixture onto the center of each disk. Wet the outer perimeter of the dough with water or egg wash to help seal. Fold the top dough over the shrimp and seal with the bottom dough. (Empanadas may be made ahead – store on non stick surface tightly covered until ready to fry)

To fry –
You may fry in a deep fry or in a cast iron skillet filled halfway- if using skillet you will need to turn over the empanadas while cooking. Fry at about 300-320 for a few minutes until golden.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fish Finds


I woke this morning, turned on the end of a PBS cooking show and in my sleepy state; I thought I heard some fishmonger from Seattle saying something about Chilean Sea Bass/endangered. Nooo, I just had that for dinner Saturday night, could it be? I did a bit of looking into the matter on the Internet, and it turns out that in Seattle many Chefs have taken this fish off the menu. It appears as though Chilean Sea bass is not endangered though, and is fine to eat as long as you make sure it has been legally harvested. Or you could just switch and use another fish, which I will do next time.

Here’s the thing about buying fish, for a while last year some flashy chefs were all putting Diver scallops on the menu. I had planned a dinner party, and on my menu were seared diver scallops. I went to whole foods and was told by their fish department that they had stopped buying diver scallops all together. They prices had risen too high.

You have to be a little bit flexible when cooking fish. I think its best to go into the store with several possible recipes and then pick one according to what fish is available that day. If all else fails ask the man behind the counter. They often have great ideas for how to cook the fish that is in the case that day.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas menu

For the past week or so I have been fussing over a Christmas menu. Every year in early December I make the menu for Christmas day and then, by Christmas, the food selection has changed three or four times at least. The problem is that I want to make everything.

My obsessing over food selections is usually accompanied by the obvious unnecessary purchases of new cookbooks for my collection. Obviously unnecessary, because if you have ever tried to sit on the couch in my living room you know you need to push several cookbooks out of the way to find your seat. Every other spare spot in our house has also been filled by cookbooks. Yet, every December I feel the need to buy more.

Early this morning I woke up, sliced leeks to sweat, reduced a bottle of wine, and wrapped Chilean sea bas in paper thin potato slices which had been dipped in butter that I clarified. This afternoon I might make cake. Yesterday before 8 am I sliced up and packaged mis en place to bring to a friends house to make risotto. So, for me the problem with Christmas is not that I can’t cook, but rather, I love to cook and make way too much food.

This year I have sworn to keep it simple

To start- Pate, cheese selection, crackers, olives, Tapinade, a few hot passed
Hors D’Oeurve (I am thinking Italian rice balls and shrimp and basil wontons)

Once seated-
Cup of soup (sometimes I make tortellini en brodo and skip the pasta, otherwise a light soup in a small cup is a nice start to the meal)

Pasta- I make my own, from my grandmother’s recipe Tortellini or Ravioli

Main course- Roast prime rib, mine is no different than anyone else’s. I will make a nice Duxelles mushroom sauce with demi glaze for the prime rib and serve it with Yorkshire pudding or popovers, perhaps a cauliflower gratin and steamed asparagus.

Dessert- I bought some gelato from Ciao Bella, I might make crème brulee or a Yule log, and might also serve a fruit tart.

You now have my very precise Christmas menu, until I decide to change it about an hour from now.

Oh, I forgot smoked salmon and shrimp cocktail for appetizers. And Christmas cookies....

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Potato pancakes


(with Mascarpone cheese and pink peppercorns)

2 large baking potatoes (1 ½ pounds peeled and grated on large holes of grater)
¼ red onion grated
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup flour
1 egg
½ cup canola oil

Place potatoes in a strainer over your sink and press down to rid them of a lot of the potato water. . Place potatoes in mixing bowl and add in onion, salt, flour and egg to bind. Mix mixture with hands until combined.

Heat oil on med to med high in a heavy bottomed skillet. Test a piece of potato batter to make sure oil is hot enough to fry in. Scoop potatoes out in ¼ cups and place gingerly in skillet- flatten just a little. And cook 2-4 minutes per side or until golden- check frequently so as not to over cook.

Makes about 8 pancakes- you can make mixture a day ahead and fry at the last minute- the potatoes will have darkened slightly but will fry up fine. Alternately you can make these in advance and re-heat in oven although you risk eating them all before you need them. They are impossible to resist so I suggest you might want to make at least 2 batches.
Serve with applesauce, sour cream and caviar, or smoked salmon and capers.(or Mascarpone cheese and pink peppercorns)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chocolat Chaud


Hot Chocolate
(Makes at least 4 servings)

4 cups milk
6 ½ oz Bittersweet Chocolate, small chunks
1/3 cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar

Place the milk over medium heat – just enough to warm the milk. In a small microwave proof bowl combine the Chocolate chunks, Cocoa powder and sugar. Microwave on medium heat until the chocolate melts, about 3-4 minutes. Stir to combine mixture into a paste. Add the chocolate paste to the warm milk and whisk. Whisk the milk for a minute or so then serve, garnish with marshmallows if you like.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Post Thanksgiving


When people ask me how Thanksgiving was this year I immediately think how different, yet oddly the same it was from every other year. I spent thanksgiving at my parent’s country home. We all noticed how my mom seemed to not be doing so well. The chemo drugs and cancer have taken a toll. I think my mother is cut from a different cloth; perhaps it is a generational thing. All I know, is that if I were feeling as ill as she clearly dose I would close myself in a room and rest. Not mom. She sat on a chair placed smack in the center of the kitchen and directed every move that anyone made in the for the Thanksgiving preparations.

After the meal I asked her why she wouldn’t let anyone else carve the turkey since she can barely stand, she replied, “Because no one else can do it right.” I have been using Bobby Flays method of carving the turkey – where you lop off the entire breast then carve a chunk for everyone with a piece of the skin. I think I learned this from Bobby first show Boy Meats Grill. My mom doesn’t like that method, she prefers paper-thin slices.

I have spent the past few days busying myself in the kitchen. I have made Quiche, and Beef Bourguigon and homemade French fries. The Bourguignon turned out fantastic and I was pleasantly surprised by the Quiche (mostly because my kids loved it and ate it like pizza). The French fries were ok, but I was lazy and didn’t use my deep fryer. I think the pan just didn’t get hot enough, next time I will drag out the fryer. We also made blueberry scones.

I have been thinking a lot about appetizers, and Christmas dinners. I hope to post something a bit later in the week. Daylight and sunny skies seem to have given way to darker days and fewer bright hours with less sunlight. Photographing food in the cold is not enjoyable and the pictures are looking rather horrid. For some posts you may need to rely on imagination.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Roast Turkey


Nothing can replace a turkey on thanksgiving. Turkey meat is relatively inexpensive and which makes it a very viable choice for feeding large crowds. You may want to consider turkey an option for an open house, tree-trimming buffet, or as part of a more lavish banquet. Some people feel turkey can be a bit difficult to deal with because the white meat tends to get dry as the dark meat rises up to a safe temperature- if this worries you simply carve off the entire section of each breast and put the legs and thigh meat back in the oven to finish cooking. *Please note some people love to brine their turkeys- while I sometimes brine chicken parts I find turkey takes up too much room, some kosher birds have been bathed in a salt bath and will help eliminate the whole brining, turkey in your bathtub scenario.

1 Turkey- 12 pounds (remove any packets they have stuffed inside the cavity) and bring the turkey to room temp for 1 hour before cooking
1 recipe for classic stuffing (feel free to use any stuffing you like)
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temp or very soft
½ tablespoon kosher salt
1/8 tablespoon ground pepper
2 red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock


Preheat oven to 350

Take your room turkey and place it in a roasting pan with a v rack. In a small bowl mush the salt and pepper into the butter. Rub the butter all over the bird even underneath the breast skin, coating the breast meat with a good layer of butter. Stuff the bird with stuffing (any extra may be baked in a separated dish until warm). Add the sliced onions to the bottom of the roasting dish as well as the chicken stock. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. After 1 hour remove foil. Continue to cook until the breast meat is 165-170 and the dark meat is 175-180. (As I said I often pull the bird out when breast meat is 165 and cut off the two large chunks of breast meat then place the legs and stuffing back in the oven to continue cooking until the juices run clear). Total cooking estimated cooking time for a 12-pound bird would be 2 ½ to 3 hours.
Serve with simple pan gravy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Classic Stuffing


1.9 oz rustic bread (or 1 medium size round loaf), cut into a large dice, approx 1”
1 stick butter
1/3 cup olive oil
2 shallots, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
5-6 sage leaves, minced
1 small sprig rosemary, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup white wine


In a large 14” skillet (I am using non stick) melt butter and add olive oil. Once the butter has melted add in the shallots and cook shallots over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until transparent. Add in the sage, rosemary, salt, pepper and white wine. Cook for 1 more minute or less then add in the bread cubes. Turn heat to high, and toss and cook the bread until it is thoroughly coated with butter/oil, once coated allow the mixture to cool down a bit before stuffing the bird.

Please note- this will stuff a 12-pound turkey with about 3 cups of extra stuffing- the leftover stuffing can be warmed in an oven and served separately.











Monday, November 12, 2007

Cranberry Sauce


A designer who worked for me gave me this recipe. He came from the mid west and was home schooled by his mom. This cranberry sauce has become a favorite at our thanksgiving table.

2 bags fresh cranberries, picked over and stems removed
1 large apple, peeled and cut into a 1/4” dice
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup Grand Marnier
Zest of 1 orange (fine zest)
Dash of nutmeg


Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan (I like to use non stick for this) and cook on medium high heat for about 10-15 minutes or until at least ¾ of the cranberries have burst. Stir often while cooking. You can make this ahead it keeps well.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts with toasted hazelnuts


2 container of Brussels sprouts- 10 oz each
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup whole hazelnuts, with skin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425

Slice off the very end (brownish part) of the stem on each sprout. Remove any tough or discolored outer leaves. Slice the Sprouts lengthwise in quarters. Place the Brussels sprouts onto a baking sheet and drizzle on the olive oil. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper then toss the mixture together. Place in oven for 25 minutes tossing the mixture once or twice during cooking.

To toast the hazelnuts or filberts- Place them on a baking sheet and toast in toaster oven (or in a skillet) until fragrant. Once cooled the outer layer of the filberts will fall off with just the slightest touch. It is not necessary to remove the entire outer layer – a little left on looks pretty.

Toss the filberts in with the cooked Brussels sprouts and serve.

Thanksgiving

I am looking forward to the week ahead. Soon we will all be celebrating Thanksgiving. Most people have wonderful memories of Norman Rockwell-ish Thanksgivings. Memories that include huge roast birds, cranberry sauce, fall vegetables and pie. Love these items or hate them, they are part of our lives every year so the easiest path is simply embracing them. I enjoy to the crispy skin of the turkey, and the huge turkey carcass with which I make stock after the meal. Lace tablecloths and Grandmas fine china grace just about every home in America for one huge celebration and we may as well enjoy the feast.

Many cooks will try to alter the dinner with fancy sauces and exotic spice rubs. To be frank, as fun as it is to try out a few new recipes each year, people really seem to enjoy the simplistic nature of this holiday. Nobody wants duck in place of turkey on thanksgiving. I plan to post a few recipes that I hope you will try. All recipes simple enough that even grandma or grandpa (hopefully) will not realize that you have added a little extra spice or seasoning here or there!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Apple Butter (slow cooker)


4 pounds McIntosh/Red Delicious apples, Quartered- leave skin, stems and core on the apple)
2 ¼ cups apple cider
4 cups sugar
2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice

In a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven (at least 5 quart) combine the apples and the cider. Simmer, semi covered on med heat for 30 minutes until the apples are tender. Stir occasionally. Turn off heat and allow time for the apples to cool, and then pass mixture into a mixing bowl, through a food mill or a strainer (do not use too fine a strainer if you do nothing will pass through). What will come through the food mill into your mixing bowl will look much like applesauce.

Place the apple mixture into a croc pot/slow cooker. Add in the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Set heat to high and cook for 4- 41/2 hours. Stir one or twice during cooking. Mixture should look thickened. Place into Tupperware or pretty glass jars. Once the mixture has come to room temperature put it into your refrigerator. It will continue to set and thicken as it cools.
This apple butter is great on toast or even as a filling in tarts and pastry.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Apple picking trip




Like most people every year in mid to late October we go apple picking. We drive to a local farm, head straight out to the orchard and in only a few minutes manage to pick several bags full of apples. The rest of the time is spent drinking apple cider, eating freshly fried doughnuts and picking our pumpkins.



The problem of course is what to do with all of the apples once you get them home. I have made apple pie with a homemade crust. I hope to make apple butter later in the week. If you pick up a container of apple cider, my friend Michel suggested heating it and serving it spiked with a bit of Rum as you hand out candy on Halloween, that should make the evening a little more bearable for the parents!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Bake


The recipe that follows is perhaps a far cry from haute French cuisine. There are no long simmering sauces, seared fois gras, or truffle shavings. This is a quick, pull the ingredients out of your fridge/freezer dinner. Its so easy is almost effortless.

1 ¼ cups Texmati rice
1 Package of Andouille Sausage (I am using D’Artagnan)- ends of links removed and sliced into 1/8” thick chunks
1 ½ cups chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of fresh pepper
1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined (21/25)
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme to garnish
Serve with hot sauce (optional)


Preheat oven to 425

To the bottom of an 8x8” dish add rice, stock, salt and pepper. Layer on top of the rice, rows of shrimp then rows of sausage. (If you would like to skip the layering bit to make it even faster that fine by me- just mix the sausage and shrimp together then pour into pan). Bake for 17 minutes.

Cover the dish with parchment and aluminum foil to seal in then steam, then lower the heat to 250- Place the dish pack in the oven and cook and additional 40-45 minutes or until the rice has cooked through. Garnish with fresh thyme.

Food Essays

I have spent the better part of my week curled up with a book by one of Americas most famous food writers. I have been reading The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten. I cannot bring myself to put the book down, even for a moment. One of the most interesting essays was called Back of the Box. Do you know how many Americans use Campbell’s soup every night as one ingredient in their dinner? I could not believe what I had read!

I got to thinking that I should use up some of my household staples. I dug through my freezer and found some frozen shrimp. In my fridge was a package of sausage. This recipe is simple to prepare and the ingredients are easily kept on hand for last minute, speedy, cooking- something that apparently many Americans prefer.

Monday, October 22, 2007

MOJITO


(this came to me from Michelle B.)

INGREDIENTS:
4 mint leaves (I cheat and use about 8)
1 lime (for juicing)
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
2 ounces white rum (Bacardi is the favorite – and sometimes less, maybe 1.5 oz)
2 ounces club soda1 sprig of mint (for garnishing)
Crushed ice

PREPARATION:
1. Put the mint leaves into a Collins glass and squeeze the lime juice over them.
2. Add the powdered sugar and then muddle the mint,lime juice and sugar together. Add crushed ice.
3. Stir in the rum and top off with the club soda.

4. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mint Garden

I got a call this morning from Michelle, a friend of mine. Michelle said her garden had become overgrown with mint. Michelle had been using the mint all summer to make mojitos, but summer is over. What to do with all of the extra mint? I suggested a fantastic mint sauce. Chimichurri sauce is an Argentinean staple. I like to use this sauce with a pan-seared lamb or even on top of fish. Sorry there is no picture yet, I grabbed this recipe from my pre – blog recipe file. If you don’t have ancho powder, try using a small pinch of red chili flakes – or for a more mild version skip the chili altogether. By the way I am hopping to get the mojito recipe from Michelle!

Mint Chimichurri sauce


1 Bunch of mint (washed, leaves only, stems removed)
about 2-21/2 cups loosely packed

6 green onions or scallions trimmed of dark green top and bottom root
Roughly chopped=1scant cup
2 heaping tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh pepper
2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil

In mini food processor place all the ingredients and pulse about 16 times until a chunky sauce has formed.
This is great with lamb or seafood.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Farmers Market Vegetable Soup


This soup was inspired by my recent trip to the farmers market. What I particularly love about the hearty soup is that it feels, looks and smells like an Italian Minestrone. The only down side of a more traditional Minestrone (if there is one) is that once pasta is added to the soup it tends to swell up and soak up all of the broth. In this soup I have omitted pasta and focused on beans and farm fresh vegetables. If you cannot find baby chard simply substitute another hearty green such as spinach. Prepare to make Italian soups in advance – simply save the extra rinds of your Parmesan cheeses in the freezer. Throw the rind of cheese into soups for extra flavor.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
3 carrots peeled and chopped into a dice or bite size chunks
2 zucchini, diced
3-4 cloves of medium garlic, minced
10 leaves basil, torn to bite size pieces
1 large bagful of baby chard greens (about 3-4 cups, use any hearty green)
2 large tomatoes, seeded and cut into a small dice
1 can of cannelloni beans (19 oz)- drained
1 Quart chicken broth
1 Parmesan cheese rind
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Pepper to taste

To serve
Grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of great olive oil

Into a large Dutch oven, on med heat add the olive oil. Once the oil has warmed up add in the onion. Stirring occasionally, cook the onion on med heat for 5 minutes. Add to the pot the carrots and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Together add in both the zucchini and garlic then cook another 2-3 minutes. Add in the basil, chard, and tomatoes. Toss for a minute or two to wilt down the greens. Add in the beans, chicken broth, and Cheese rind. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add in salt and pepper to taste then simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers


Zucchini Flowers are a bit of a delicacy, try to find them in gourmet stores or farmers markets. Once you have them, rinse them inside and out under a soft stream of running water. The flowers are delicate, so carefully reach in the center of the flower and pull out the pistil/stamen. Remove any stems from the base of the outside of the flower.

12 or so, cleaned Zucchini flowers
Oil for shallow frying (I am using a combination of olive oil for flavor and canola oil)

Filling/stuffing
1 cup of cheese, grated (I am using about half Gruyere and half Provolone)
4 slices of Prosuttio torn into small bite size pieces
¼-1/2 cup of chopped pecans

Combine all of the filling ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until you are ready to tuff the flowers. You may stuff the flower several hours before you plan to cook them. To stuff the flowers place a scant table spoon of the stuffing in the center of each flower, after you have filled each flower go back and top off the stuffing with any remaining filling. Place in refrigerator until you are ready to cook and fry.


Batter
1 egg scrambled
1 cup flower
About a cup of seltzer water

Place the oil in a fry pan (I am using a large lodge Cast Iron pan) Turn the heat up to medium high. Quickly, place the egg and flower in a bowl and add in seltzer water a little at a time until a thick paste forms. It should be about the consistency of heavy cream. Dredge each flower in the batter and pinch the tops of the flowers together to close. Gently place the flowers in the warm oil and fry until golden on each side (about 2-3minutes per side) adjust heat as necessary.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with sea salt (optional).

Farmers Market


I must confess that there have been many occasions where my organic free-range chicken eggs have been delivered to me via pea pod truck. Not this morning (actually its coming later today-please don’t tell). This morning bright and early I packed everyone into the car and drove over to the local farmers market. I am infinitely pleased with my find. We quickly got out of the car (into the very chilly morning air) and headed over to the first table.

I found a beautiful array of vegetables and, low and behold a box, just one box of
zucchini flowers. I have searched high and low for these things all summer and finally they appear. I grabbed them up and started to plan their preparation. I will stuff the centers with cheese and nuts then fry them until crisp as they do in Southern Italy.

The next table we came upon had a wonderful array of freshly baked breads. We picked up a brioche and baguette. The baguette was crisp on the outside and soft in the center. I am quite finicky when it comes to baguettes and must tell you that this was one of the better – outside of Paris- baguettes that I have tried.

Then we passed buy a table with honey and fresh goat cheeses. The honey will make for a delicious French honey loaf of bread. There are hundreds, if not thousands of variations of the French honey loaf. Most are quick breads, filled with wonderful spices such as cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg. It is a perfect autumn bread and delightful any time of the year for small children at teatime.

The next table had tomatoes, apples, and pumpkins. With a bag of baby chard in my hand I headed home. On the way I thought of a big pot of farmers market soup for the chard. I will make it later in the day, tossing in tomatoes and cannelloni beans. For now though look forward to a piping hot pot of coffee and a buttery wedge of baguette for the perfect morning meal.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Latin American seasoning (rub) for steak-


¼ (scant) cup of sea salt
1 ½ Tablespoons sweet Spanish paprika
2 dried Pasila Chili, stems cut off and seeds removed
2 dried Guajiillo Chili, stems cut off and seeds removed
3-4 small cloves of garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon dried oregano

Place all of the above in a food processor and pulse about 10 times until mixture looks a bit like oatmeal.

Boneless rib eye for 2 with Latin American Seasoning


1 Recipe for Latin American Spice seasoning (rub)
2 boneless rib eye steaks total weight 1 ¼-1 ½ pounds

Pat the seasoning onto both sides of the rib eyes. Allow the meat to sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to pick up the flavorings of the rub. Allow meat to rest at room temp for about 20 minutes before grilling. Turn grill to medium heat and cook until med rare in the center. The thickness of the cut can often vary so you will need to alter cooking times depending on the size of the steak. Grill approx 4-5 minutes per side, but be very careful to check as you go and not over cook the meat.

Bobs request

Yesterday my husband was telling everyone around us about our Saturday night steak dinner. Our friend Bob laughed “are you going to put it on the blog?” I had wanted to put the recipe for the steak seasoning mix on the blog. The truth is that it had not yet been posted because up until now, the mix that goes on the steak I had been calling, Latin Spice Rub. Honestly, I thought the name might bring some unwanted traffic to the web page so I put off posting it until I could re-name it.

The second problem is that the mix is quite spicy (hot). If you love a spicy food this might just be the perfect mix for your steak. If you prefer more mild fare, go lightly with the mix.

The dried chilies I have used were all delivered to the house via ups from the Mexican Grocer- the link is on the web page so there is no need to run around to a million stores.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cranberry and Pistachio Couscous Salad


The small Moroccan couscous often found in braised dishes is not what I have used here. Instead, I have opted for the larger (peppercorn size) couscous. This variety, made of semolina wheat often goes by the name Israeli or Middle Eastern couscous. Look for it under both names – it is often sold along side the bins of other grains at gourmet markets or ethnic stores. This dish is a perfect for a ladies lunch, picnic, or as part of a light dinner because it may me made in advance and served warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry and pistachio couscous salad

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of Israeli/ Middle Eastern couscous
3 cups chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup raw pistachios (look for these in your local gourmet store as well- they are greenish in color)
1 tablespoon very good olive oil
(Additional salt, such as sea salt, and pepper to season after cooking)

Into a medium size non-stick saucepan I place my olive oil. Turn the heat to medium /medium high. Once the oil is warm, add in the Couscous. Toast the couscous stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until golden. Add in the stock and the kosher salt. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook coved, for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for another 20-30 minutes covered. Remove cover, stir to fluff the couscous and then add in the cranberries, pistachios, and very good olive oil. Re-season with additional salt and pepper if you like. Toss and serve. This salad goes wonderfully with a nice baby arrugula salad.

Spa Time

When one of my little angles first entered school, a calendar was sent home, on which a special date was marked for eating dinner with your family. I laughed. We ate dinner together every night and most often with candlelight and music. Marking one day a year on the calendar to eat dinner with your family seemed silly. As children grow older there are an increasing number of meetings to attend, sports schedules to keep, after school events and business dinners. Dinner by candlelight becomes harder and harder to maintain daily and becomes a great treat.

Often we are so busy we even forget to eat a proper lunch. As we become more pressed for time it is increasingly important that we take time to nourish our bodies. Sometimes it’s as simple as a beautiful scent in the air. I like the woodsy aroma of Patchouli Sweet Orange Mist (whole foods). Or maybe there is an extra 20 minutes for a quick warm bath. Perhaps a quick trip to a farmers market. This week I have a great “ladies” lunch salad for you. It is so simple to make and can be left in the fridge for you to nourish yourself with whenever you are feeling in need of that “spa” moment during the day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Baklava (chocolate with pistachio nuts)


2 sticks and 3-4 tablespoons melted butter (its always good to have at least 1 stick of extra butter around when working with filo dough – sometimes you will use a little more sometimes less depending on how dry the dough is)

20 sheets of filo (buy 1 box – you will have extra but that ok)

1 large pinch of sugar for every filo layer, so have at least 1 cup of sugar handy

Filling-
1 cup raw pistachios
1cup walnuts
¼ cup sugar
1teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt

Place all of the above in a mini food processor and pulse about 12 times, move mixture to a bowl and add in 1 cup mini chocolate chip morsels

Start by thawing the filo dough overnight in refrigerator. To begin creating the baklava have handy a 9x12”pan or baking dish. Have ready the filling and melted butter as well as a pastry brush and sugar.

Baklava is simple enough to make- brush the pan with melted butter- add 1 layer of filo, brush the liberally with butter then sprinkle a large pinch of sugar over the dough – repeat this until you have 5 layers of filo. Top the fifth sheet with butter then add on 1 scant cup of filling and spread evenly over the pan.

Repeat process starting again with filo then butter and sugar- do another four layers for a total of five- then top with the filling.

Repeat process until you come to your last batch of filling then top with a final layer of filo –

Please note- the filo will not fit exactly in the pan – you may either trim it down or leave it – trimming it to fit the pan looks a little nicer, but I rarely have the patience for doing that, and it still comes out fine…you may also use extra layers of filo as you go- 5 layers is a guideline but 6 will do no harm. – Do not stress if some sheets get torn, once its baked you will not be able to tell at all.

Preheat the oven to 350

Once you have finished the top layer you must cut the baklava (before cooking) into square or diamond shapes – a small-serrated knife works best for this.


Place the baklava in the oven to bake for 45-50 minutes

While the baklava is baking you can make the syrup.

Syrup-
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon

Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil- remove from heat and strain out the zest-
Once the baklava has finished cooking – remove from oven and let cool. After it is has cool for about 2 hour pour the syrup over the baklava. Let the syrup soak in for at least a few minutes before serving

Searching for Baklava

Searching through piles of books and magazines can be fun. Coming across old lost treasured recipes often remind us of the people with which we shared a meal. Though, not finding that old recipe can be quite frustrating. I spent hours this past week looking for a great recipe that I had for Baklava. Baklava is a delicious Greek dessert made with layers of filo dough, brushed with butter and filled with nuts and honey or sugar syrup. The best recipe that I had for it came from Cooks Illustrated.

One bite of that delicious baklava sent me straight back to the Greek fairs of my childhood. My parent’s friends, who were Greek, would often make and donate the baklava for the local Greek Church fair.

A little love of mine had developed the same fondness for baklava just recently, after a visit to a local Greek restaurant. I keep all of my magazines from Cooks Illustrated magazines neatly stacked in a certain spot but the baklava recipe was nowhere to be found- so I decided to go it on my own.
I bought and defrosted a package of filo dough, then, melted what seemed like a pound or so of butter. I remember the Cooks version called for clarified butter so that the filo would become more golden rather than brown. I went with the regular melted butter instead. In place of some of the nuts I also decided to add an element of chocolate. Mini morsels seem to work out the best. Everything worked out quite well. I hope you will enjoy my new recipe for baklava. The main thing to remember is not to get worry about the filo dough. People seem to get all worried about weather or not it will tear. Just try to work quickly and have plenty of extra butter handy in case you need to melt more.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Grilled fresh figs with Gorgonzola and honey


1 package fresh figs stems removed and sliced in half (about 8-10 figs)
1 package of Gorgonzola cheese
Honey

This is another appetizer that is so simple and delicious when fresh figs appear at the market (about September near me) – on high heat simply grill both sides of the figs for just a minute or two. Place the figs on serving plate and place a slice (or small chunk) of Gorgonzola on top of each fig and drizzle with a drop or two of honey. This cam be made for a large crow or plated individually- leftovers are great with crusty French bread.

Place a decorative toothpick through the figs to hold them together for easy serving

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Al Fresco

Autumn is in the air. This week is a bit cooler than last, and there is a soft gentle chill at the top of the morning and again at dusk. As the weather changes so do my culinary needs. I was at a friend’s house for lunch and I fell in love with her flatware. That may sound a bit weird to some people, but its how my mind works. If ever they need someone at Martha Stewart who can hunt down unusual items for photo shoots, I would be well qualified for the job. Having only glanced at the flatware, I knew I needed to find the source. The lovely shades of brown in the handles would be just perfect for a fall table setting. Like I said, I know its odd, but after waking up at 6AM and spending several hours on the computer searching, I finally found what I was looking for.

Last night we had friends over for dinner al fresco. As per my husband request I tried to reduce my work level in the kitchen by buying pre-marinated steak. It was actually a great help because it allowed me to fuss a bit more over the appetizers and table setting. Before the evening started I threw together a grilled fig with Gorgonzola plate, a Bruschetta, a goat cheese and arugula quesada and a cheese plate. It all worked out well. So relaxing it was to sit and sip wine under the stars on a cool crisp evening.
Our guests brought a wonderful bottle of “Super Tuscan” wine. So, this morning I feel left with the challenge of cooking something to go well with the Le Serre Nuove 2004. I found an old recipe for Chicken with Pomegranates that I might try….

Monday, September 10, 2007

Jumbo Shrimp with Harissa or Citrus marinade, grilled


Serves 2

1 total pound of jumbo shrimp, shelled and de veined

Hot and spicy shrimp-
I marinate ½ of the shrimp in
2 Teaspoons of Harissa sauce- (you may buy store bought or make your own, Harissa is a sauce from the area of Morocco/Turkey. I often make my own but I have bought jars of it as well. You can find it at both sur la table and on amazon)

Citrus Marinade
I marinate the other ½ of the shrimp in

1 teaspoon olive oil
Zest of 1 orange plus 2 teaspoons of the orange juice
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 clove of garlic minced
1 teaspoon of fresh basil, torn to small pieces or lightly chopped

Heat grill to med or med high heat. Grill both shrimps for 2-3 minutes per side.

Back to school pie

This past weekend was probably the last blast of summer heat. We took advantage of the warm weather to grill outside. On Sunday night we had a very easy grilled shrimp dinner with salad. The cooking time for jumbo shrimp on a hot grill should be just a few minutes. We however, waited almost 20 minutes for the shrimp to cook because the grill ran out of gas. I’m just glad it did not happen with guests over.

I have to share with you another wonderful cooking experience that I had this past week.
I rang the doorbell of a friend’s house and when the door opened the entire house smelled of William Sonoma on the day before Thanksgiving. Sweet cinnamon aromas filled the air. With one whiff I was transported back to my Grandmas thanksgiving dinner table. My little love proceeded inside for a play date and I ran to the local store. I rummaged through the candle section scratching, smelling and whiffing my way through every candle there. What had made her home smell so lovely? I left the store empty handed because every scent I had tried had come up a bit short of duplicating exactly that wonderful smell.

When picking up my little love, my friend Carol invited me inside. As we walked through her kitchen I saw two beautiful pumpkin pies sitting atop her countertop. “Carol”, I pressed, “what are you doing, your have about five kids over here, and you are also baking pumpkin pies?” “Yes” she replied, “ It’s a tradition, on the first day of school I always bake pumpkin pies”.

Carols and I and sat and chatted about the stress of the first week back to school. But all the stress diminished, for parents and children, by the soothing aromas of spices, which filled the air. I plan to make Carols tradition part of the Pardo family traditions next year.

Thank you Carol.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Guest Cook Karen Cardillo


Chicken with mushrooms and artichokes from Karen Cardillo

My friend Karen lost her mom to breast cancer when she was only three years old. Her dad, and her Italian Grandmother raised Karen and she learned to cook at her grandmother’s side. This is one of the Cardillo family’s favorite dinners. I am posting the recipe as it was given to me, however, when I made the dish I needed to make a few simple substitutions such as the grape tomatoes for plum tomatoes. I will note these substitutions along side the original ingredient called that was called for.

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package of chicken breast tenders (about 1 to 1 ½ pounds) cut into 1” pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
5 Italian plum tomatoes, diced (I used 1 pint grape tomatoes whole)
4 oz of sliced mushrooms, cut into smaller pieces (I used 12 oz baby Bella mushrooms quartered)
2 (6oz) jars of marinated artichokes, reserve the liquid from one of the jars
1 (8oz) can of Delmonte tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup of white drinking wine
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder (I couldn’t find garlic powder in my mystery spice cabinet so I did substitute 4 medium cloves minced fresh garlic)


In a large skillet over medium heat sauté the onion in the olive oil. Once onions become translucent (after a few minutes) add chicken and garlic powder or fresh garlic. Cook chicken for just a few minutes on the first side until the chicken is just a little golden in color then turn the chicken over and cook on the second side for a few minutes. Add in the tomatoes and mushrooms. Sautee for 1 minute then add in the chicken broth, wine, tomato sauce and oregano. Simmer for about 5-7 minutes then add in the marinated artichokes and their reserved liquid. Cover and simmer for about 5-10 minutes longer or until the chicken is cooked through. Karen suggests serving this with rice.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Cahallah “French” toast


About ½ to 1 whole loaf of Cahallah bread sliced about ¾” thick – if you can not find Cahallah use Brioche bread

7 eggs
1/8 Teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ cup heavy cream
1 Teaspoon Peach Schnapps, optional
1 Tablespoon sugar
Butter to fry in (about 1 tablespoon per batch- with a large skillet I made 2 – 3 batches)
Confectioners sugar to garnish

In a large shallow bowl or gratin dish, scramble the eggs then add the salt, cream, Schnapps, and the sugar. Mix all of the ingredients together with a fork or whisk. Dip each slice of bread in the mixture to coat the bread, then set each piece aside on one plate or platter. After you have coated all of the bread slices, drizzle any remaining eggy batter over the bread. Let sit for a few minutes, now would bee a good time to prepare a sauce or warm up pure maple syrup.
After the bread has rested for 5 minutes or so warm up a large skillet or griddle. I like to use a non-stick 14” skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet and place on Medium high heat. Once the butter has melted, add in a few bread pieces without overcrowding the pan. Cook about 2 minutes per side or until golden. Repeat with remaining bread adding more butter to fry in if necessary. Top with syrup- I like blueberry.

Blueberry syrup

1 Pint fresh blueberries
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons water


Place the blueberries in a saucepan with sugar and water. Turn heat to high and simmer on high heat for 4 minutes. Serve over Pancakes, waffles or French toast.

Family Time

This morning I am a bit sleepy. I spent the past week visiting my parent’s house. As always, we had lots of wonderful wines. Admittedly, I had grown a bit weary from a very long summer of playing mom, teacher, camp counselor and short order cook. I was looking forward to a quiet week in the country, then to the start of school.

Today’s blog was supposed to be a back to school (thank god) snack. Instead, what happened was, on our way to my parents my husband got a phone call. A woman he used to work with (who had several small children) was in the hospital dying from stomach cancer. What can I say… I met her only once, but of course the situation hung over our entire vacation. Every day we would receive reports of her declining health. This in turn, caused me to stop and think about the value of time with family. We take an awful lot for granted when everyone is well.

Today I plan to post a simple French toast for a family breakfast. The French toast is made with a Cahallah bread. If you cant find Cahallah, any eggy bread such as Brioche will do. What makes this “French” toast fit for an extra special breakfast is the topping of homemade blueberry syrup. I do have in hand a recipe from a guest cook, my friend, Karen that I will make this week and hopefully post later in the week.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Summer Pesto Sauce


1 bunch fresh basil leaves, stems removed (about 2.5oz)
4 medium cloves garlic peeled
½ cup pine nuts toasted
½ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese grated
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup olive oil


Place the basil leaves in a mini food processor and pulse two or 3 times to chop the basil- add in remaining ingredients and pulse several times until thick and still a little chunky in texture. I often freeze this and use it throughout the winter months.

Sharing food with friends-

After posting the bit about How to make Gnocchi, I realized that I hadn’t yet shared with you with my Classic Pesto recipe. One of the most wonderful things about the end of summer is turning homegrown basil into pesto. I freeze the pesto in ice cube trays then place all of the cubes in one large bag. I reach into that bag all winter long to add a breath of new life and summer flavors to chicken dishes and pots of soup. Believe it or not it is a huge timesaver to have this luscious pre made garlic basil sauce already made and stored.

In the spirit of sharing recipes, my friend Karen, who is an avid cook, is working on main course dish for the blog. I can’t wait to try it myself. I have already pre-ordered the ingredients on peapod.com and I must say the recipe is inexpensive, simple and very straightforward. I’m sure that you will enjoy it. Look for it in a September blog post...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Classic Gnocchi


2 pounds baking potatoes
1 egg beaten
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 - 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat slightly, let the potatoes simmer for about 45-50 minutes or until a fork can easily be inserted into the potato with little e resistance. - Drain potatoes and set aside to cool. Once cool peel the potatoes then pass them through a potato ricer (into a large mixing bowl) using the metal blade with the smallest holes. – Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the egg, kosher, salt and olive oil. Make a well in the center of the potatoes (I like to keep them in the mixing bowl while I do this but I’m sure traditionally it was done right on a work surface) with a fork mix in the egg mixture then add a cup of flour at a time, switching from the fork to using your hands to kneed the dough. Scatter some of the flour on a work surface. Divide the dough into 3 balls. Roll out each ball into a long log 3/4” in diameter (using more flour as needed). Cut the logs into little Gnocchi about 34”wide. You may stop here, but traditionally the Gnocchi are then rolled on the back tines of a fork.

If rolling on a fork- place a fork upside down on a cutting board place the Gnocchi at the top and use your finger to gently roll the Gnocchi down the fork. This is done because it creates a way for the Gnocchi to hold the sauce. Its very easy once you get the hang of it.

At this point you may cook the Gnocchi or place each Gnocchi, NOT touching each other on a well floured baking sheet or plate and place them in the freezer to harden- once frozen they may be transferred to a plastic bag

To Cook: Place the Gnocchi in salted (about 1 tablespoon), boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a skillet and continue to cook for a minute with the sauce (I am using pesto but tomato sauce is fine, sometimes people just like butter and cheese)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Heirloom Tomato Salad


1 - 8oz chunk of Feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 ½ pounds of mixed Heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
Basil to garnish
1 Batch Basil Dressing

Place a grill pan on high heat. Brush the feta with olive oil then grill for less than 1 minute per side. Remove from heat with tongs.- sprinkle on a little fresh pepper. Set the feta on a platter and surround the cheese with fresh Heirloom tomato slices. Garnish with fresh basil and basil dressing.

Basil Dressing

1 cup loosely packed basil (about 30 large leaves)
3 cloves of garlic
6 tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until combined- (about 6 or 7 times)- Pour over tomatoes.

The end of August


Well, we are nearing the end of august. The weather is noticeably cooler and breezy this morning. I welcome the change in season but realize there is a lot to be done before the end of the month. Winter items need to be brought from storage and laundered. Checking must be done to see if items still fit, which is always a tough task when you have little friends. Also, I start to think about planting bulbs. In my garden space I always look forward to the arrival of spring bulbs popping up out of the ground after a long winter.

In keeping with my attempt to simplify cooking this month, I would like to post a photo of my potato ricer. It’s a great tool for making mashed potatoes as well as Gnocchi. Yesterday, I actually did make gnocchi. It is by far one of the simpler pastas type items to make. All you really need to do is rice the potatoes, mix in the ingredients and form the gnocchi. I am serving them with pesto sauce. By the way, it is a great time to make and freeze pesto for the winter months.

A week ago, someone was asking me about olive oil. Olive oil has become a kitchen basic and so I thought I would post some of my findings about buying and tasting olive oil.(look for the post All about Olive Oil)

Finally, my Heirloom tomatoes have ripened and I will be posting a recipe for Heirloom tomato salad. If you do not have Heirlooms, simply substitute the best tomatoes you can find.

All about Olive Oil

There are many questions with regards to olive oil. What is extra virgin? What should you cook with? Hopefully this will answer some questions.

In Europe Extra Virgin oil is extracted in cold conditions – The lack of heat helps to maintain the spicy and fruity smells and tastes of the olives, as well as a lower amount of acid in the final product

Regular olive oil- There is heat used in this process of extraction and sometimes olive oil is a blend of extra virgin and olive oil so you will get some fruity tastes with the longer shelf life of a regular olive oil

Is it a fruit? – Yes. It is a fruit grown on trees

What about color? Well, in taste testing oils color should matter little- test for taste instead. The color can depend on the variety of olives harvested as well as the time of harvest. Olives harvested early and green will produce a darker, greener olive oil. Black olives harvested later may give a lighter golden color. There may be some nuances in flavor; the early harvest greener olive oils can be a bit fruitier in flavor.

Storing oil- Olive oil should be stored in cool dark places and will typically last about 15 months.
Is all olive oil Italian? - No, Olive oil comes from a lot of Mediterranean areas, Italy, Greece, Spain, France.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Leek and Shallot broth


2 pounds leeks (weigh before trimming) – cut of the tough green tops off of the leeks about 3-4”. Slice the leeks in quarters lengthwise then slice off the brown root. – You will need about 3 large leeks. Soak the leeks in water to remove any hidden dirt.

Once soaked, thinly slice the leeks
1 pound of shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh pepper
1/3 cup sherry
1 Quart chicken stock
1 Quart water

Place the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot (I an using a 7 quart). Turn heat to Medium High. Once oil is warm add in the leeks, shallots, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Add in the sherry, turn heat to high and reduce liquid for 1 minute. Add in the chicken stock and water. Bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Amaretti Stuffed Peaches

2 ripe peaches cut in half and pits scooped out
12 Amaretti cookies
2 Tablespoons water
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla extract
1 Teaspoon Marsala wine


Preheat oven to 400

Place the peaches in an ovenproof dish skin side down, cavity side up. Place the cookies into a plastic baggie and pound lightly with a meat pounder until cookies are just broken up but the chunks of cookies are still large, not fine like powder. Place the cookies into a mixing bowl and add in the water, heavy cream, sugar, Vanilla, and Marsala. Stir to combine.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Slim Down Week

The past week was all about relaxing. Isn’t that what summer is for? I made my way over to my parent’s house, and spent several days there. In Massachusetts this is peach season. Its finally here, the peach festival. There is a delightful small town feel as you wander the fairgrounds eating corn dogs and funnel cakes. The local Boy Scouts set up shop in the center of the fairground with fun outdoor challenges. Some locals (no one I know) are big fans of colonial re-enactments. If you like, a woman in colonial dress will show you how to cook the food of colonial times. Yes, in case you are wondering, there is also a peach queen. All this makes me think of cooking of course. Not of colonial cooking, but of my home cooking and what in the world should I do with the local peaches? I have a peach dessert recipe to share with you. It is simple, sweet and very easy.

Unfortunately, the past week and a half has been all about excess. A period of time when I have eaten and drank far too much for my own good. We were out to dinner often, and at the end of every meal, my dad who loves wine, would bestow upon us a bottle of California Zinfandel or a Chianti Reserve or Spanish Rijoa. Sometimes it was an old Bordeaux from before I was born (very old). One never knows what he will serve and he often makes us guess. So I must now, force myself into a few days of slimming. I plan to make leek soup for a few meals.

I checked my garden and my heirloom tomatos are starting to ripen. Since I can eat no more food, I am now liking the original tomato salad concept a bit more.

A friend of mine just called. She said she had been on the blog. She called to ask where she could find some special cooking ingredients. “D” we will call her, has been making a lot of healthy food lately. She mentioned a recipie that made me think of greek yoghurt dip. I love it. Maybe I should make that as well. “D” and few other people have all given me blog comments via phone or e-mail. I am sorry to say, when I originally set up the blog I clicked a button so only registered usurers could post a comment. I have re set it – I think-so now anyone who wants to post a cooking note about something they have tried, want to try, or an ingredient they need to find, can all post comments. Sorry about that. Chat away…

Yes, I know things all sound very healthy this week. Do not fear. Tonight I am having Alaskan king crab and baby spinach salad, to start a kir royal and then a nice bottle of a French white wine. Nice start to my slim down week!

Monday, August 6, 2007

A challenge for the week

I wandered around my small garden yesterday and was quite happy. My heirloom tomatoes are starting to look nice and the chili plants are flourishing. I’m thinking about what to make once they ripen. Heirloom tomato salad, heirloom tomato salsa, I’m not sure what to try but I have some time to think about it.

Heirloom tomatoes are beautiful in color. Some are variegated green, some deep ruby, almost purple, some yellow, orange and red tones. I hate to cook them to long because the bright colors of the fresh tomatoes are so beautiful. One summer a few years ago, I made the mistake of trying to keep them for winter by turning them into a sauce and freezing them. The sauce wasn’t bad in taste, but the beautiful rainbow of color was gone. Mine are not ready yet though; I have a few more weeks to decide their fate. If you don’t grow tomatoes, you will still find Heirlooms in many general supermarkets around this time of the year. I couldn’t believe how many places carried them last year. Heirloom tomatoes seem to have become mainstream produce.

Zucchini flowers are not as common. Having learned this the hard way, I will have to remember to plant a few zucchini plants next year. I want to make stuffed zucchini flowers, but cannot find the flowers for sale, even in the most upscale markets. Shame on me. I was lazy and should have planted some with my tomatoes. My regret of summer, no ricotta stuffed, deep-fried zucchini flowers.

This week I read an interesting article in Gourmet magazine. O.K. I admit the article was from the February issue of 2007 and I’m just getting to read it now. I’ve been busy, give me a break.- The article, Pot of Gold, was about a beautiful Le Cruset Dutch oven and how it inspired author Jane Smiley to make a variety of meals from one pot of Soupe a l’oignon, done the Julia Child way. I own a few Le Cruset items and they are expensive, but an absolute joy to cook with. What amazed me was the way the author took one initial dish, and inspired by her beautiful cookware, transformed the leftovers from the first recipe to make a variety of meals for the week. Brilliant idea. I’ll have to try it myself.

Reading up on wine has also become a recent obsession. I love to drink wine but rattling off names and vintages has never been for me. Rather, my new interest is in finding and stocking up on $20 and under wines. Yes, I know, it’s a bit weird that someone who is willing to spend lot of money on French cookware is infatuated with less expensive wines. What can I say, sometimes it fun to find a good bargain.

My challenge for the week for you is this, can you find a Julia Child recipe and cook it? Can you find a nice wine under $20 to go with the dish?

Let me know how it goes…

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Ratatouille

Typically the vegetables are sautéed put together and served. I chose to roast them all together. The garlic add tremendous flavor.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ large zucchini cut into 1/8” thin slices
1 medium sized eggplant sliced into 1/8” thin slices
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/8” thin slices
2 ripe tomatoes cut to 1/8” thin slices
Juice of half a lemon
6 or so torn fresh basil leaves
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh pepper

Topping
½ cup Breadcrumbs (I am using Panko, Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ cup grated cheese such as Parmesan, Gruyere or Romano

All vegetables above can be sliced to 1/8” or thinner using a chef’s knife or Mandolin

Heat oven to 425

Brush the bottom of a casserole dish (about 9X13 or Medium-large oval dish) with olive oil. Layer the vegetables around the dish as best as you can, alternating vegetables to give a uniform look. I like to start layering from the outside and work in, but do as you like. Do not fret about being so precise- this is a rustic peasant dish after all…

Tuck the cloves of garlic and the basil into the layers of veg. Drizzle the stock over the casserole. Season the top with salt and pepper. Cover the top of the dish with a layer of parchment paper then a layer of tin foil.

Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and parchment, and roast another 30 minutes- in a bowl combine the breadcrumbs and cheese then sprinkle over the top of the vegetables. Roast another 10 minutes or so until cheese has melted.

Cooking in August

This is the first week of August. Of course its about one hundred degrees out and I decided that now would be a good time to post some dessert sauces for a ice cream party. I made raspberry sauce, strawberry sauce and caramel sauce. All was going smashingly well until it was time to photograph the sauces on the ice cream. Humm. I guess I didn’t think that one through. Have you ever tried to photograph ice cream when it almost 100 degrees out? Fortunately for all involved, the photo aspect of this went quickly, leaving many a mushy but delicious Sunday to be eaten. I would have liked to provide a recipe for Ice cream as well; I do have an ice cream machine. The problem is then is not a spot of room left in my freezer and the bulky base of the machine needs to be frozen before it will work. Sorry, you’ll have to buy the ice cream for now.

August is also a great time to try some new vegetables out on your family. Zucchini are plentiful as well as eggplant and tomato. I have made ratatouille many times before (one of my collage roommates was a vegetarian). I love it, but it wasn’t until a recent movie came out that I thought perhaps children might give it a go.

Spaghetti squash is another one of my favorites. Children love to see how it goes from being a “yucky” veggie to looking like pasta. The hardest part is cutting it open, so just be a little careful. I roast it than serve it with tomato sauce.

In chatting with a friend the other day she mentioned that this blog looked beautiful but she still was unable to make some of the recipes because they involve fresh garlic rather than garlic powder, “what am I supposed to do with the fresh garlic?”. Ahh, I guess I kind of figured that most people knew what to do with garlic. Then, I couldn’t help but laugh a little, as I thought back on one of my youthful cooking lessons. A meal I was making required 10 cloves of garlic. I bought 10 bulbs. In August I hope to make cooking more user friendly, even if it means reviewing some basics.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chicken Francaise

2 pounds boneless, skinless thin cut chicken cutlets
Kosher salt and pepper to season the meat
3 eggs scrambled and placed in a shallow dish
¾ cup flour (if you like you may also season the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper) place flour in a shallow bowl or breading dish
1 stick of butter
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 large shallot peeled and minced, (about 4 tablespoon of shallot, you may substitute onion if you don’t have shallot)
Chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons caper berries


Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dip the chicken in the egg then into the flower to coat. Repeat with all of the cutlets. Set aside on a plate.

Heat 4 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan. Heat to medium high. (Alternately you may use clarified butter as I often do). Fry the cutlets for about 2 minutes per side or until golden and cooked through. Fry in batches adding another extra tablespoon or so of oil as necessary.

Once all of the cutlets have been cooked clean out the sauté pan. Place the clean pan back on the heat . Add in a dash of oil, just enough to coat the shallots. Add in the shallots and cook on low heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add in chicken stock (1 cup) and white wine. Reduce over high heat for about 5 minutes.

While the stock is reducing combine remaining 4 tablespoons butter plus 4 tablespoons flour. Mush this together with your fingers to form a paste.

Once the stock has cooked 5 minutes add in the butter and flour paste to thicken the sauce. Whisk to combine. Add in the heavy cream and caper berries. If sauce is too thick for you, add in additional ½ cup or so of chicken stock to thin the sauce. Serve over the chicken cutlets.

Shopping

I’ve just finished my shopping. I always feel a bit sad after I’m done. There is always so much to choose from at this time of the year. My refrigerator now looks like the produce section. Every time I open it a bottle of ketchup falls out because there is no room for it to fit inside. I throw it back in and close the door quickly, knowing full well that there will be another ketchup victim later. It tends to land on your bare feet when it falls from the fridge.

Tomorrow is Saturday night dinner. Often this is a dinner, which is a bit more fancy than the usual weeknight meals. It may mean a special trip to the butcher or fishmonger. This week that dinner is Nicoise salad. I plan to use fresh grilled tuna rather than canned, as is typical in France. Often this classic salad includes radish, leafy greens, olives, and French green beans.

For the week I plan to post a chicken dish.

I found an old copy of Julia Child, The French Chef Cookbook. That has become my reading for the week. I want, at some point, to tackle Bouillabaisse. The first time I had fish stew was in Italy; actually they call it Zuppa di Pesce, similar in nature but served with pasta. It was one of the best things I ever ate. Back in the states I tried to find recipes to duplicate the dish. Apparently, Bouillabaisse can only be made in the Mediterranean because of the type of fish found there. Often, here it is called Mediterranean fish stew to avoid getting caught in a heated discussion of what makes up a proper bouillabaisse.
Whatever you call it its delicious; I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Boston Baked Beans

You might think, “baked beans, what’s the big deal?” but have you ever made Baked Beans them from scratch? The aromas fill the house all day while they simmer away. Totally easy – throw everything in the pot and let them cook themselves. All the ingredients straight from the regular grocery store!

1 pound navy beans, soaked overnight
1 Red onion, diced
12 oz salt pork, tough outer rind removed and discarded- cut remaining pork into lardons (thin strips) or dice
8 oz ham steak, outer casing removed and diced into bite size pieces
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Molasses
½ cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry ground mustard (found in grocery stores with the spices)

Drain the beans of the soaking liquid. Place the beans in a slow cooker/crock pot. Cover the beans with fresh water (about 1 quart or enough to cover the beans by an inch or so). Place all of the remaining ingredients in the pot and stir to combine. Turn the heat to high and let beans cook for about 5 hours. Turn the beans to low and cook for another hour or more if you like. Serve with hot dogs.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hungry Hill cooking

I posted the cake, look this week for the baked beans...

Hungry Hill

We were sitting around chatting about summer reading and a remark was made. It went something like “In order to write a memoir you must be from an alcoholic family or poor, if you had a normal upbringing forget it”. Well, I just finished reading Hungry Hill by Carole O’Malley Gaunt, and she was both.

I spent my share of time on Hungry Hill. My mom’s family was from the Irish section of Springfield, Mass. as well. In fact, I recognized the picture of Carol on the front cover of the book because she was a bride’s maid in my moms wedding and I have seen her picture in wedding photos around the house.

Carols story is a page-turner. When Carol is thirteen years of age her mom dies of cancer and Carol is left will all of the responsibility of raising her brothers. Her dad, grief struck, turns to alcohol.

Hungry Hill is an entirely different memory for me. I spent my days there as a young child while my mom worked. My Grandparents took wonderful care of me. Though my grandparents were far from rich, my grandma made wonderful meals for me. She loved Julia Child. My Grandfather hand a very small but beautiful garden in the yard from which he would always cut fresh flowers for the kitchen table. There were concord grapes growing on a trellis and the smell was delicious when they ripened. Saturdays were always baking days and the tins were filled with oatmeal cookies and banana and Irish soda breads.

As I mentioned my grandparents weren’t wealthy, so may parents were always shocked when they would pick me up at the end of the day and hear that my Grandma had fed me lamb chops for lunch. Everyone should be so lucky.

One thing served both in Carol’s family and in my moms, was baked beans. This was a traditional Saturday night dinner served with hot dogs. My mom suggested it was light work for the cook to prepare, allowing extra energy to be saved for the traditional Sunday roast dinner the following day. If you have a sweet tooth then a slice Mrs. Metzger style chocolate cake will complete the meal.

Chocolate frosting

1 ½ cups butter (3 sticks)
6 oz chocolate melted (I am using dark)
1 ¼ cups corn syrup
1 ¾ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon espresso powder
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 cup Dutch process cocoa


Place the butter and chocolate in a microwave proof bowl. Heat in microwave for 3-4 minutes on medium power. Stir to combine then place in stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

In a saucepan in medium high heat combine corn syrup, cream, sugar, espresso powder grand Marnier, and cocoa. Whisk for 2 minutes on med high heat to combine. Pour into stand mixer.

Blend the ingredients on high speed for about three minutes, (fitted with whisk attachment) to combine. Allow mixture to cool for an hour – it should come to room temperature. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours until it thickens enough to spread on cake. Will make enough for a double layer cake.

Chocolate cake for a double layer cake

Butter and flour for pans
3 cups flour
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup Dutch process cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting of your choice

Preheat oven to 350

Butter and flour 2- 9” round cake pans – use parchment paper on the bottom of the cake pan if you feel more comfortable just make sure to butter and flour it also…

Sift together all of the dry ingredients.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream, canola oil, water, eggs, and vanilla. On low speed slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until all ingredients are combined. Divide between 2 cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. Ice with your favorite frosting.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Italian Mac n Cheese

1-Pound pasta cooked according to box instructions (I am using ziti and cook 8-10 minutes)
2 tablespoons butter
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic peeled and minced
1 piece of ham steak, casing removed and diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of fresh pepper
1 ¼ cups grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
½ cup heavy cream
1-8 oz container for fresh mozzarella balls – the tiny ones, but NOT marinated, sometimes called bocconcini, I have found then in regular grocery stores under many different names – look in both the fresh mozzarella section as well as in the area with the prepackaged cheeses. If you cant find them use 1”chunks of fresh mozzarella instead

Topping
¼ cup extra breadcrumbs
Extra olive oil


About 2 minutes before the pasta is done cooking start to cook the rest of the ingredients. Place a large Dutch oven or stockpot on medium heat. Add the butter and the olive oil. Once the butter has melted add the garlic and ham, cook for 1 minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Add salt, pepper and cooked pasta. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, heavy cream and mozzarella balls. Butter a baking dish about 9x13” and add pasta to the baking dish top with extra breadcrumbs and olive oil. Serve as is or refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Preheat oven to 350 and cook, covered with foil, for about 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Lazy Week

This was a lazy week for me. I haven’t been feeling well, something like a summer flu. My parents did brighten my weekend though. Saturday we all had lunch together. Mom and dad brought over fresh native corn plucked from the fields in Massachusetts. Corn much sweeter than anything from a grocery store. We wait all year for this native corn to appear at the local farm stands. Dad and I shucked it and then it was boiled in a big pot of water and served with butter and salt. Simple fare. With it we had BLTs with arrugula, fresh tomatoes and a huge bowlful of watermelon.


Along with the gift of corn was a book. I have spent much of my weekend reading it. It is a memoir about the Irish neighborhood in which my mom grew up. I hope that next week my cooking is inspired by it. For this week though, I am working on a few dishes. Italian mac and cheese is the one I hope to post first. I am aiming for a simple make ahead dish that everyone will enjoy. Mild enough to feed to children sophisticated enough to have with a glass of wine.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Italian Sausage simmered with Cannellini Beans

2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 Red onion, large dice
1 sprig rosemary
3 cloves garlic minced
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 pound hot Italian sausage
2, 1 pound 3 oz (19 oz cans), drained Cannellini beans
1 ½ cups white wine
1 Teaspoon Kosher salt or sea salt
Fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 400

Place olive oil in a Dutch oven. Turn heat to medium then add in the onions. Cook onions for about 10 minutes until tender.

With a fork poke holes all over the sausages so the flavor of the sausage will simmer in with the beans. Set aside.

After ten minutes add into the Dutch oven the rosemary and garlic. Cook 1 more minute. Add in the beans and the sausage, layering or stirring to combine. Pour in the wine, and sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top.

Place in the oven for 1 hour.

Topping
Once cook you may eat as is or thicken the mixture by adding ½ cup parmesan and ½ cup store-bought breadcrumbs to the top then run under the broiler to cook for a minute or so. Drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil then serve.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Kitchen Gift

My aunt arrived at my doorstep yesterday with a big basket of strawberries. Sadly, it is July 7th and the last week of strawberry picking in New England. Over the past few weeks’ entire families join together and get down on hands and knees to pick berries. The berry fields are hot but the prices are cheap. Perhaps you are wondering as I often have, what is done with all the berries. It remains a mystery to me.

My Aunt went berry picking at least three times this week. Armed with a big floppy hat and layers of suntan lotion, it relaxes her. You might be thinking she makes wonderful things with the berries. Jam. Tarts. Salads. No. It is her preference to give the bags full of berries away as gifts, leaving the final destination up to the recipient. Such a thoughtful gift it makes, I have made a fruit crisp this morning with my batch. Well, what is left of my batch.

The berries are luscious, plucked straight from the warm earth. They are really nothing like store-bought berries neither in taste nor in texture. The skin is much softer and the flavor so sweet it is like eating pure sugar. Even thoughs who think they don’t like berries will find them irresistible, served simply with freshly whipped cream.

Out with strawberries in with peaches. Perhaps we are not yet in the height of peach season though I look forward to their arrival. Part of the beauty of growing up in an agricultural area is that every season to this day remains marked by celebration. We look forward to the annual peach festival later in the month.

This is going to be a week of a heat wave, or so they think. There are Italian sausages in my kitchen ready to be cooked. I plan to braise them with rosemary, rich olive oil, and white beans. I made Italian Tuscan bread early in the week and now have the flavors of the region on my mind. If the dish turns out well I plan to share it. Both inexpensive, and uncomplicated, it would make for a wonderful family dinner.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A celebration of hope

The phone rang yesterday. For a week or so I had been mulling over in my mind, ideas for a July 4th dessert. It’s the time of the year when one really isn’t tin the mood for a heavy cream cheese laden kind of thing. Nor, was I about to suggest a trifle. Trifles, though often light and airy, are for the most part, associated with English cuisine. Perhaps not the best choice for celebrating July 4th.

The phone call was from my parents. They had wonderful news; it appears as though my mom’s chemo treatments might be working. I truly felt like celebrating this weekend. The goal for dessert became a sort of celebration cake.

I woke this morning with one thing in mind. The desert would be called hope cake. I wanted to use something pink because that has become the color symbol for Breast cancer awareness. I also wanted a basic foundation for the cake. Something simple and light. Decisions were make and the base of the cake became one of the most famous of American cakes known as a 1,2,3,4 Cake. The pink reddish color would come from strawberry jam because I prefer a natural color rather than tinting the frosting with food coloring. The light as air “frosting” would be a simple sweetened whipped cream.

As I made the cake my thoughts were on how far things have come. Many doctors and nurses work so hard ever year to help those with cancer. Every year thousands of people donate time and money to raise awareness of and fight against breast cancer. Medicines are available to my mom, medicines that years ago didn’t exist. When I think of the millions of American who have come together to fight this disease I am hopeful. Please make a hope cake and celebrate with me.

Cream Frosting

This is simple frosting that will frost the tops only (not the sides) of two 9” cakes. So simple it is, that a recipe is hardly needed but only to serve as a reminder to the cook of how good simplicity can be.

2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
small pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar

Place all of the above in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until stiff peeks form.

Hope Cake

Cake
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
plus extra butter and flour for the cake pans


Filling
2/3 cup strawberry jam

Frosting
1 recipe for cream frosting

Please note- I am using old fashioned cake pans that have a built in metal piece which runs along the bottom of the cooked cake to ease the cake out once it is cooked. If you are worried about getting your cake out, you might line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper or use a springform pan instead.

Preheat oven to 350

First butter then flour two 9” cake pans and set aside. Into a large mixing bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add butter. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add in the sugar then beat on Medium speed for 1 more minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Place on high speed for 1 minute and scrape down the bowl as needed. Alternately add scoops of flour mixture then of milk until all is combined. Divide batter between the two pans. Bake on middle rack of oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan.

Place 1st cake on a plate then smooth 1/3 cup of jam over the top of the cake. Add ½ of the whipped cream frosting and with the back of a spoon gently spread the frosting out over most of the jam. Add the second piece of cake on then repeat with the jam the rest of the frosting.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Gazpacho

3 large ripe tomatoes, core removed and cut in half (about 2 ½ -3pds of tomatoes)
1 red onion, peeled and cut in half
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 cucumber peeled and diced (remove seeds with a spoon before chopping)
1 large clove of garlic minced
8 fresh basil leaves julienne
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic, or sherry vinegar
Extra olive oil
Croutons for garnish

Preheat oven to 400

Place tomatoes and onion on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil- Roast in oven until tomatoes skins start to brown a little about 10-15 minutes.

Once the tomatoes are cooled add them to a food processor with cucumber and garlic. Process until almost smooth (or chunkier if you like) Season with salt and pepper. Swirl in olive oil and balsamic vinegar once the soup is ladled into bowls. Garnish with fresh basil and croutons.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Easy fast food

The door slammed shut and startled me. I wasn’t used to the breeze, though I had grown used to the hot humid air clinging to my skin like sticky sweet jam to toast. The breeze was a relief from the hundred-degree heat hanging over all of New England. Perhaps I should be more resilient but I have grown accustomed to air-conditioning, which was not working now due to a power failure. Neither were lights or my electric stove. As the thunder crashed around the house and rain pelted down upon the roof I thought about our modern conveniences.

What did people eat every night when they had no stove? Honestly, PB&J might be fine tonight but what about the past… Perhaps Gazpacho, a Spanish tomato soup would be nice (if you had roasted tomatoes). One could also dine quite happily on Spanish Tapas, even if it were all gathered from jars and cans. Oil cured olives, roasted red and golden yellow peppers, Chorizo sausage soaked in wine, melon salad.

There are some Italian delicacies I have grown to love as well. Fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, Panzanella salad (bread salad) sun dried tomatoes, and there is much to be said for canned Italian tuna fish.

We are approaching July 4th and I cannot think of anything I would rather have to celebrate than a lobster roll. The lobster will be cooked at the store to save myself from a messy kitchen. We are often fortunate enough to spend time on Cape Cod during the summer time. We order lobster rolls and French fries for almost a week straight from a local lobster shack. Pair the meal with a few glasses of wine and a beautiful view of cape cod bay and there is no place we would rather be. The meal captures the spirit of summertime and I often make efforts to duplicate it a t home.

I suppose there really is no excuse for not eating well even when the weather is warm. It may be too warm to spend hour upon hour in a hot kitchen, but it is rarely too hot to dine well.

With the image of savory little mouthfuls of Tapas on my mind I set my menu for the week. Hopefully my stove will be working because I do plan to cook a little. Maybe Spanish meatballs, Empanadillas, olives, chorizo, shrimp, and of course the delicious Spanish, sweet, egg custard known as flan…