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

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…

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Plum Tart Tatin, for a friend in the Hamptons

I have often made tart tatin with apples, as is the traditional way. Using small Italian plums add a bit of tang and eliminates the all of the work because usually all of the apples in tart tatain are peeled, the plums are not.

1 sheet store bought puff pastry rolled – you will need to roll it large enough to fit the diameter of your pan plus an extra inch all around that will be tucked in to the pan.
6-7 Italian plums halved and cored
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water

Preheat oven to 400
In a 10” skillet or tart tatain pan place the sugar and water. Heat on med- hi heat until sugar turns a medium brown or golden color, swirl but do not stir mixture. Remove from heat. Place the plums skin side down in the pan and place the puff pastry over the top. Tuck the extra puff pastry into the dish and snugly around the plums. This will form the outer crust to hold in the sauce.

Place in oven and bake until puffed and golden- about 15-20 minutes

Once cooled just a bit you may invert this onto a plate.

Please note- this calls for Italian plums for a reason. Regular plums are too juicy and a bit too tart.

Monday, June 25, 2007

If you are cooking along...

It was terribly noisy in the neighborhood this morning. Unseasonably cool for this time of year. I had made the mistake of leaving the windows open last night. My thought was to enjoy the cool air as I buried myself under blankets then, awaken to the blissful sounds of chirping birds. I grew up in a rural area and find that nothing is quite as pleasant in the morning as the beautiful sound of birds fluttering about. Unfortunately, what I heard instead was shrill like laughter, barking dogs, and SUV doors opening and closing. There were twenty or so people scattered about making last minute calls on cell phones, as they were about to embark upon some sort of group camping trip, to get back in touch with nature. I heard it all.

We had a beautiful dinner last night with butter poached lobster. It turned out quite well. I poached the lobster then served it with seasonal vegetables and drizzled it with a bit of butter poaching liquid. Perhaps just as good as the meal was the wine. Our wine goblets were filled with Licia, a white wine that comes from a part of Spain know as Galicia. Licia is an inexpensive wine which dose not taste of oak like many California whites, it is also not sweet like a Riesling. Though I enjoy all types of wine I really like the simplicity of this particular white, and the price is right.

After dinner I sipped wine and contemplated this blog. I’m a tad hesitant about the whole thing. I might not have started it at all, except last week when my mom was visiting I showed her my recipe collection and she suggested that I try to get it published. I suspect that may be a bit of a far reach for someone who has not been to cooking school. So, as I was contemplating the blog thing and asking myself if anyone would be remotely interested in my ramblings, the Naked Brother Band came on TV. The watchers of channel 33 were fast asleep but I left it on out of pure laziness. I didn’t feel like getting up to get the remote. I must be getting old because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the show. After a year of watching spongebob I am proud to say I think I have finally gotten the hang the crusty crab. My point is that if people find The Naked brother band fascinating, what’s wrong with reading a blog entry once and a while? I felt better.

This morning is laundry day. I’m doing whites first and during the last rinse cycle I put a few drop of lavender oil in the machine so the sheets and towels have that sweet smell of summer. Sundays are a time to relax and get organized for the week. It is when we take time for a leisurely breakfast, perhaps pancakes with sausage and fresh juice. I was lucky enough to pass by a tag sale this morning and find a whole bin of miniature dinosaurs. I can’t help but think that they would look fantastic on top of cupcakes. Perhaps I may get to that this week. I’m also planning on cooking Chicken Francaise for an easy weeknight meal.

I don’t know if anyone is actually visiting this blog, or planning to visit it regularly, but if there is anyone planning to cook along, I’d best let them know a few things. All eggs are large and organic, all salt is Kosher except in baking, all salad salt is French sea salt. All butter is unsalted. All olive oil is good but the very expensive extra virgin stuff I save for salads. I will try to give the measurements as best I can but sometimes, like with herbs I will give approximate amounts any you will need to use your best judgment. The same thing applies to the use of salt and pepper. I like to heavily season meats before I cook them but I understand people are on more restricted diets. You will have to do what’s best for you.

Well laundry being cleaned, and my menu for the week set I suppose now is a good time for swimming….

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Strawberry jam

2 1-pound packages of strawberries
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
2 ½ cups regular sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
Zest and strained juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ to ½ cup)

Cut the green tops off of the strawberries and cut them in half. Place all of the ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Turn heat on medium high and stir. The mixture will turn liquid then come to a boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce heat to medium low and carefully mash strawberries with a potato masher. This process will take almost five minutes. Return heat to medium and simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon for almost 10 minutes. Mixture will thicken just slightly. Turn off heat and skim pink foam from the top of the jam. Allow jam to cool, then place jam in a serving bowls and put into the refrigerator to set further. Will last at least 1 week in fridge.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thoughts on summer

Yesterday was the beginning of summer. At this time of the year it is easy enough for those of us who like to cook, or just like to dream about wonderful feasts, to take on a few too many projects. Peaches, plums, strawberries, it seems as though everything has ripened at once. What to do with it all? I become greedy at the market and grab bundle after bundle of fresh produce, knowing my good fortune will not last forever.

Once home I start to make a mental list. Eggplant Rollatine with homemade sauce, strawberry jam, and muffins are on the top of the list. How will I get to it all? Having made a promise to make butter poached lobster for dinner tonight I am running low on time. The lobster would be nice with a potato leek sauce, humm.

It is just a bit after dawn and first on the list is Rollatine. A simple sauce from canned tomatoes will work well. Tomatoes are just beginning to show up in my garden, however they are still green and will not be at their best until late August. The current thought running through my mind is grilling the eggplant before stuffing it with cheese and toasted pine nuts. We’ll see how it goes.

The strawberry jam is simple to make and there is no hassle involved because I do not can it. So tasty and sweet, the jam keeps in the fridge for a week or so with supplies diminishing daily. It makes for a luscious breakfast when served with croissants and a deep rich coffee.

When there is time to relax a book from the library awaits me. I picked up a copy of The Cook And The Gardner by Amanda Hesser. No doubt, it will be relaxing to dream of the perfect French county garden as my own becomes increasingly neglected.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summertime Lemonade

Juice of 7 lemons, strained of pulp
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
24 ice cubes

In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium to medium high heat bring water and sugar to a boil, then simmer until sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool. Place the lemon juice, ice and cooled water/sugar mixture into a pitcher and stir.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tahoe baked brie

4 oz of Brie
1 Cup sliced almonds
3 oz Scotch

apple wedges and water crackers to garnish

Preheat oven to 270

Mix brown sugar, scotch, and almonds in a small bowl. Place the Brie in a baking dish. Pour the sugar mixture over the Brie. Bake Brie until it is heated through (about 10 Minutes) then broil until the sugar is melted (3-4 minutes).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


1 Pound pitted olives

Juice of 1 lemon

3-4 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons capers

1 Tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard

1 1/2 Tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons Cognac

2/3 cup olive oil

1/4 Teaspoon Kosher salt

Place all of the above in food processor and pulse 5 or 6 times until just combined.