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

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


(this came to me from Michelle B.)

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

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)

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.

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.