Monday, March 13, 2017
Connie's sister has been visiting. I have a new toy. And, it's almost spring!
As it turns out, we eat fashionably late. Barbs eats dinner at 5:00. Usually at 5:00 we're still at the office and haven't even thought about heading home. By the time we get home at 6:30 or 7:00 we're ready to start cooking. And, if we eat by 8:00 we're lucky. She's been laughingly telling us we're starving her to death. Lucky for her we've got some wonderful smoked nuts to snack on. And, smoked cheese.
We went to a great party the first evening Barbs was here. Then, we ate at home for two evenings. Then, a last evening out at one of our favorite restaurants - with my mother joining us. Early in the week before she got here, I got my new toy. Eatyourbooks.com. For years now I've had a draft of a program I wanted to have written that would manage recipes. And, would manage a pantry. This does the recipes but not the pantry. And, it does a fabulous job with the recipes. You can start out with their library and enter the name of a cookbook or the author's name or the ISBN number. Then, you click a button and add it to your bookshelf. If it's already been indexed, all of the recipes are listed by name and ingredients and course and recipe type. The measurements and instructions are not included. You've got to go to the actual cookbook for those. It's funny how I had a total mental block on my cookbooks when I first signed up at the office. I started with Ina Garten and added several of hers to my bookshelf. Then, Cat Cora and Michael Symon. And a few others like the Joy of Cooking and The I Hate to Cook Book. EYB also indexes cooking magazines, blogs, online recipes and personal recipes. You can hunt multiple different ways. For example, cookbook recipes that I've marked "want to try" that have peaches as an ingredient.
That evening I went home and looked at my menu for the week. We were supposed to have penne alla vodka. I had three versions to choose from. Then, I thought about the sweet potato that needed to be used up. And, the asparagus that was getting old. Ah, ha! Time to test out eatyourbooks.com! I typed in sweet potatoes and a bunch of recipes came up. By a bunch I mean like a dozen. Now that I have 132 cookbooks entered, more than 200 come up!!! One with rosemary and orange caught my eye. From a Cat Cora cookbook. It's super simple and fabulous. In fact, we gave these a five. From there I hunted for asparagus recipes. And, up came a recipe for asparagus carbonara. Sold!
The menu for dinner the first evening Barbs was here was pretty much stolen from a friend. We went to dinner at their house a few weeks ago and the dinner was so good I told them I was going to make it for my sister-in-law. Of course, I made some changes but that's just the way I roll... The pork tenderloin was exactly like Al made it. The peas and mushrooms with thyme had a little extra thanks to our favorite mushroom recipe. And, the hasselback potatoes were made with sweet potatoes instead of russets.
The second evening I knew I wanted to make chicken thighs and kale salad. Barbs had talked about her aunt's au gratin potatoes so I knew I'd make my mom's version. For the other two I was back to eatyourbooks.com. About a dozen great recipes for chicken thighs were in the list. But I needed one that'd be great with au gratin potatoes. One from Giada's Weeknight Cooking with white wine, mustard and tarragon would work perfectly. And, a kale salad with pomegranate dressing and pomegranate seeds (replacing those with Craisins) would be a great side dish.
Sweet Potatoes with Rosemary and Orange (serves two)
One large sweet potato
Salt and pepper
One large orange
Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Score them lightly in a cross hatch pattern. Rub them all over with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and crushed rosemary. Roast them at 400 for about half an hour. While they're roasting, zest the orange. Then, cut it in half and juice it. Once the potatoes come out of the oven, put them on the plates and pour the orange juice over them. Sprinkle on the zest and serve.
adapted from: Cooking from the Hip by Cat Cora
Al's Pork Tenderloin
2 cloves fresh garlic per 2 lb tenderloin
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper (about 1/2 tsp for a 2 lb tenderloin)
Cut small slits in the top of each tenderloin. Cut the garlic into small slivers. Put a sliver into each slit. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne. Bake uncovered at 350 until the pork reaches 135. If you like your pork well done, you'll want a higher internal temp. But, we like our pork pink. Remove the pork from the oven and slather it with apricot jam. Put it back in the oven and bake it until it reaches 145. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. You may need to broil it for the last 5 degrees so that the jam caramelizes.
For the peas and mushrooms, I made our favorite mushroom recipe then added some frozen peas and a good shake of thyme.
Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
one large sweet potato
2 T butter, softened
crushed rosemary (about 1/2 t)
chipotle chili powder (about 1/4 t - more if you like more heat)
lemon juice (about 1t)
Put either chopsticks or pencils along both sides of the sweet potato. Cut them into very thin slices. Like an eighth of an inch. Rub them with olive oil and pour a bit into each cut. Roast at 400 until done (usually about half an hour.) While they're roasting, bring some butter to room temperature. Then, mix it with crushed rosemary, chipotle chili powder and lemon juice. Mix well to make a compound butter. When the potatoes come out of the oven, put about a quarter of a teaspoon of the butter between each slice.
Chicken Thighs with White Wine, Mustard and Tarragon Sauce
8 chicken thighs (bone-in and skin-on)
4 T flour
salt and pepper
1/4 c olive oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c dry white wine
2 c chicken broth (I used Better than Bouillon)
1/4 c chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 c Dijon mustard
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When it's sizzling, lightly flour the chicken thighs and put them into the oil. Brown them on both sides. Remove them to a plate and add the sliced onion. Saute it until it's lightly browned then add the garlic for about 30 seconds. Stir in the white wine and get the fond off the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth and tarragon. Put the chicken back in the pan. Cover and cook on medium for about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate (wash it in between if you use the same one!) and add the mustard to the pan. Mix about 2 T of the flour with about 2T of water. Stir that in and cook until the sauce is thickened - about 5 minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over and some more chopped tarragon on top. This would be wonderful with either rice or a grain on the side to help sop up the sauce. But, that being said, without either helping, all of our plates were clean! Alas, this disappeared quickly with nary a photo to be had. Great excuse to make it again, don't you think?
adapted from Weeknights with Giada
Kale Salad with Pomegranate Dressing
2T white wine or champagne vinegar
2t pomegranate molasses
1 shallot, minced
one bunch fresh kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 c Craisins
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c chopped nuts (I used a mix of smoked almonds, pecans and walnuts)
2 oz. ricotta salata, shaved
Mix the vinegar, molasses and shallot. Allow to sit for five minutes. Toss in the kale, Craisins and olive oil. Massage the dressing into the kale leaves. Serve topped with the nuts and the ricotta.
Since my photo was so lousy, here's a link to the original recipe on Bon Appetit: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/kale-with-pomegranate-dressing-and-ricotta-salata
Monday, November 14, 2016
Life has been busy. Taking care of my mom, my aunt and a dear friend who had a house fire. A vacation to Montreal and Quebec. A couple of business trips. A LOT of work in the office. I'm behind. Seriously behind. So, let me without further ado introduce you to the French 75.
We first had this drink in New Orleans. And, loved it. Then, we made it at home. Meh. Fast forward to Ina Garten's new cookbook - Cooking for Jeffrey. Several drink recipes but this was the one we had all the ingredients for. This time it was a five. Just as good as New Orleans. It'll go on our short list for sure. Right up there with my beloved Boss Tweed!
makes four cocktails
4 ounces VS or VSOP Cognac
4 ounces simple syrup
3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 cups ice cubes
1 750 ml bottle good Champagne, chilled (we used Prosecco)
4 long strips of lemon zest
Put the Cognac, simple syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with the ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Pour into four Champagne flutes and top them off with the Champagne and lemon zest.
from Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Our friends Raquel and Steve and Toodie came over for dinner. They brought a bag of red potatoes and onions from their garden. YUM!
We loved the dinner that evening. Sherry cream shrimp on Texas toast, a roasted carrot salad and cherry tabbouleh. All make agains. You'll need to trust me that the cherry tabbouleh was gorgeous. For some reason I didn't get a photo of it.
Then, the next night I started in on those amazing potatoes and onions. The first thing I made was a lamb hash. It was pretty basic. Brown potato cubes, sauté onions and peppers, brown and drain ground lamb. Add some salt and pepper. Mix it all together. So easy and SO fabulous!
Then, I made roasted potatoes with sage and garlic. And, forgot to put the garlic in. Those were a five anyway :-)
There was yet another five out of the potatoes... Long story short Mom had a cookbook called Juicy Miss Lucy. I have a copy. We'd made some of the same recipes but not all. I've copied all of my notes into hers and am in the process of copying her notes into mine. Then, I can give my copy to my niece since Mom's cooking is very limited these days. Long before they were called Hasselback potatoes, JML published a recipe called Potato Fans. I've got to wonder if they were the originals? These are super easy. Put chopsticks on either side of the potatoes and slice them about 1/8 - 1/4" down to the chopsticks. Drizzle them with melted butter the roast them for 30 minutes at 400F. Remove them from the oven and baste them with the butter. Sprinkle cheese between the slices. I used a wonderful blue called St. Agur but you can use pretty much any grated cheese that suits your fancy. Now, the recipe called for also sprinkling them with chives and bread crumbs. I skipped those and just sprinkled on some kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. These were baked for an additional 30 minutes with a bit of grated parmesan added at the end. Here's what the steps looked like:
Last but not least, I made a pork loin (really small one) with roasted potatoes and shallots. Another winner!
Now, you have to see who "helped" while I was typing... We're turtle sitting for a friend's turtle while she recoups. I let the turtle have the run of the desk and all she wanted to do was hide behind the monitor...
Sherry Cream Shrimp
4 T butter
1/2 lb sliced white mushrooms
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 T flour
1/3 c sherry
3/4 c cream
a few grates fresh nutmeg
2 T chopped fresh tarragon
1 T Evoo
20 large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
juice of one lemon
4 slices Texas Toast (the recipe actually called for good quality white bread, toasted, buttered and halved corner to corner. I thought the recipe was screaming for Texas toast...)
In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they're just a little bit brown. Add the shallot and sauté until it's softened. Then, add the garlic and sauté for about a minute. Stir in the flour. Allow it to cook for a couple of minutes before you slowly add the sherry. Once that's in and the sauce has thickened, slowly add the cream. Once the sauce is thick, stir in the tarragon and nutmeg. In another skillet, heat the olive oil to shimmering. Add the shrimp and cook on both sides until they're pink. Add the lemon juice and mix the shrimp into the sauce. Serve over Texas toast.
adapted from Rachael Ray
Ludo Lefebvre's Roasted Carrot Salad
for the carrots:
1/2 t ground cuming
1 1/2 lbs small carrots, scrubbed clean and tops trimmed (I used the mini-carrots)
1 bay leaf, fresh, scored
1 head garlic, cut in half
5-7 sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 c EVOO
salt and pepper to taste
for the blood-orange vinaigrette
2 blood oranges, juiced (they weren't in season so I used navel oranges)
1 T white vinegar
1 T granulated sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
1/3 c EVOO
for the cumin crème fraiche
1 c crème fraiche
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 t ground cumin
pinch kosher salt
for the salad:
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 T almonds, roasted and roughly chopped
2 blood oranges cut into supremes
1 T finely chopped fresh parsley
1 T finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 T finely chopped fresh chervil
1 T finely chopped chives
Tired yet? Me too! This looks tougher than it is!
Start by roasting the carrots. They need to go into an oven that's been preheated to 400F. While that's preheating, you need to toast the cumin in a small skillet. Divide out what you'll need for the cumin crème and add the rest to a 9" square baking dish with the rest of the ingredients for the carrots. Toss them then roast just until the carrots start to caramelize. It'll take 30-45 minutes.
While the carrots are roasting (and you can do them well ahead,) make the cumin crème and the dressing. In both cases, you just combine the ingredients.
To assemble the salad, smear the cumin crème on the bottom of the serving bowl or platter.
Top that with the carrots - not the aromatics they roasted with, just the carrots. Then, sprinkle the carrots with the rest of the salad ingredients. Top everything with the dressing.
adapted from the New York Times
1 1/2 c pearl couscous
1/3 c EVOO
1 t orange zest
3 T orange juice
2/3 lb cherries, pitted and quartered
3/4 c each chopped fresh parsley and mint
1/2 c finely chopped red onion
2 small Persian cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 c shredded Swiss chard (optional - my add)
Cook the couscous according to package directions. Drain and rinse it. Toss it with the other ingredients.
adapted from Rachael Ray
Roasted Potatoes with Sage and Garlic
1 1/2 lbs small creamer potatoes, halved
1/3 c flour
1 1/2 T vegetable oil (I used light olive oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced (ooops, can't believe I left this out!)
1/4 c chopped fresh sage leaves
1 T unsalted butter
salt and pepper
12 whole fresh sage leaves
1 T unsalted butter
Preheat your oven to 450F. Put a large heavy cast iron or other pan or skillet that's oven proof into the oven as it preheats. Put a large saucepan with salted cold water and the potatoes on the stove on high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the heat. Simmer the potatoes for another five minutes or until they almost cooked through. Drain them and dry them on paper towels. Then, roll them in the flour. You just want to coat them, not drench them in flour.
Remove the HOT pan from the oven and pour in the olive oil. It'll sizzle like all get out, so be careful. Put the potatoes in in one layer, skin side up. Roast them for about 15 minutes, remove them from the oven and turn them over. Sprinkle with the sage leaves.
Roast them for another 15 minutes. Add the garlic just before you pull them out of the oven. That is if you want to use the garlic. Immediately on removing the pan from the oven, add the butter. It'll brown as it melts.
While the potatoes are roasting, fry the sage leaves in butter. You'll need to be very careful when turning them not to break them.
adapted from The New York Times
Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Potatoes and Shallots (Or Green Onions...)
8 medium red potatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
8 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise or a bunch of green onions
3 T olive oil
1-2 lbs pork, either tenderloin or small loin - I used the small loin and loved the bit of fat it added
1 t dried thyme
1/2 c sherry vinegar
3 T dark brown sugar
1 T coarse grain mustard
Preheat your oven to 400. Put the potatoes into cold, salted water in a medium saucepan. Bring them to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer them for about 5 minutes until they're almost done. Cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet or other oven proof pan with the olive oil. Put the potatoes in in one layer. Cook them over medium heat until one side is browned. Flip them over. Brown the other side. Remove them from the pan. Salt and pepper all sides of the pork. Brown it in the same pan. Remove it from the pan. Add the thyme, vinegar and sugar and scrape up all the fond. Put the potatoes back in one layer. Add the green onions on top of the potatoes. Then, the pork. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast in the oven until the pork reaches 130F. Remove from the oven. Put the pork on a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes. Put the potatoes and onions in a bowl and cover with the foil. Add the mustard to the sauce in the pan and mix well. Serve the pork sliced thinly with the sauce over.
adapted from one of the Cooks Illustrated magazines - can't tell which one...
Saturday, July 9, 2016
A rare Friday evening at home. After a totally crazy week. I'd had a dinner idea earlier in the week, didn't write it down and lost it. Until after I had another dinner half done. Of course. That's the way my brain works these days. Thank goodness for being a good note taker at the office. I feel like ideas and thoughts are just popping out of my ears every time a new one enters my brain... Usually dinner is planned well in advance. For some reason I failed miserably to get this one totally planned. So, I opened both refrigerators, checked the pantry and the counter and looked to see what I needed to finish up. Cantaloupe, peaches, bacon, cherry tomatoes, naan bread and avocados. Ok, then, how about grilled guacamole naan bread pizzas? What could possibly go wrong?
And, this time nothing did. We've always kept a Boboli pizza crust on hand for last minute dinners. That will now change. I will keep naan bread in the freezer for a last minute pizza. And, I will continue to grill it. Actually, I'm going to have to put it in the freezer to keep it from flying onto the grill and into my mouth! What a magnificent treat!
So, here's how it went together... I chopped up avocados and cherry tomatoes and some little sweet peppers. Really, any kind of pepper would work here. Whatever you like or have on hand. Then, I very thinly sliced half of a red onion.
The vegetables all went in a bowl and got tossed with olive oil. Then, they were put in a grill basket.
The naan bread was put on a half sheet and brushed with olive oil. The veggies went on the grill just a couple of minutes before the naan. Once there were good grill marks on one side, the naan got flipped. And the veggies got tossed about.
Now, I'd cheated and cooked the bacon too. Once everything came off the grill I turned it off and closed the lid. Closing the lid is critical here folks. The naan got slathered with pizza sauce (we love Rao's or Trader Joe's.)
Then, I sprinkled the cooked bacon on. You could use shrimp or sausage or pretty much anything here. Or, leave it off and go vegetarian. And, speaking of vegetarian, many veggies would be good here. I might add some eggplant next time. Or broccoli. On top went the veggies.
Covered with Italian five cheese blend. Then, the pizzas went back on the grill with the lid closed until the cheese melted. And that, my friends, was dinner.
Now, for a quick tour of our yard... A friend from high school and I were chatting back and forth the other day on Facebook about connections with our families and friends. How recipes, cooking utensils and plants create such connections with those who have gone before us and those who are still with us. That's the way it is in my yard. I wander around and see the friends who've given me plants or inspired me to buy a certain plant. Here's the tour:
Connie with our reel mower. No gas. No electricity. Just nice, sharp blades. Much better for the environment!
A double daylily from the old house. This one was the only one that I wanted to make sure to bring a start of. I was thrilled when it bloomed!
Dave and Mary Ann's bee balm. He died a few years ago just after they sold their lovely home. That land is now a cookie cutter subdivision. And, this is the plant that soldiers on and reminds me of them!
Coreopsis. Have never been able to successfully grow it til now!
Political statements aside, you can see the iris in the background with horseradish and sage nearer and then the pot up front with a collection of surprises.
Penny McHenry. Founder of the Hydrangea Society. Was memorialized in Southern Living when she died. Got her first hydrangea when her daughter was murdered. Such a sad story with such a wonderful ending. She was a delightful lady. Last time I was in Atlanta at a conference I called her to see if we could get together. But, photographers from yet another magazine were there to take photos of her garden. So, we had a lovely last chat. I think this is the only plant I brought all of.
Swiss chard. This plant will feed us wonderful leaves and stems all summer.
A new rhubarb. The starts I brought have not done well so I added this one.
More horseradish. Yes, we love the stuff. And, the plants are stunning!
Red-veined sorrel. I brought a couple of tiny starts and finally have enough to pick some. YAY!!
Daisies and coneflowers in the top bed. Some from the old house, some from Tom and John. The salvia down below is from Tom and John.
Gaura. I couldn't divide the plant at the old house so I bought a new one. The old one was white. As you can see, this one is a fabulous pink!
Looking down the south wall at the cannas. They bloomed all summer and most of the fall last year.
Mint, thyme and sage. I'm letting the violets take over the mulch in the herb bed. It'll be cooler and will give the critters flowers in the spring.
A pot of variegated pineapple mint, variegated sage and lavender. YUM!
Dill in front, followed by parsley, basil and peppers, kale and eggplant, rosemary and tomatoes.
A tomato we thought we'd lost is coming back. Along with a very happy basil plant.
Kale and eggplant. Due to very limited planting space I was trying to cram too much in...The eggplant is suffering big time. Fortunately the eggplants in the pot just behind are doing well. We have about half a dozen eggplants coming on. And, this kale plant will keep us in kale all summer.
Rosemary. What can I say other than it's an amazing herb!
Black Brandywine tomatoes thanks to the awesome folks at The Garden Center. They grow starts for me every year.
Pineapple sage. Can't wait til this starts blooming.
Geraniums and lavender. With mint in the background.
Cherry tomatoes that got really leggy...
Shade bed. And, there's Connie!
Volunteer sunflower by the bird seed. LOL. Not an uncommon occurrence.
Bugloss from Steve, George and Ellen. Love the leaves on this.
Volunteer tomato by the hellebores. I left it just to see what it'd do... So far no buds.
Housewarming gift from Barb and Dave. Right by the steps so I see it when I zip out to cut herbs.
A lone coneflower that was in the shade garden. The previous owners had little knowledge of sun vs shade plants so I've been moving a lot of plants. This one will move up front to the sun garden.
Hostas and more hostas. I've got an area set aside for my favorite hostas that I either need to get from the old house or from the friend I originally got them from. Fortunately, the folks who bought our house are wonderful!
Solomon's seal. These things will eventually fill in the back of the shade bed.
One of the prettiest blooms on a heuchera this year.
The shade garden below the living room window. We call it cat tv because there's a hummer feeder and bird bath right there with a suet feeder and regular feeder not too far away. Wee Mac sits in the living room window and chatters away.
Daylilies from my friend, Cindy. She let us dig while they were blooming so I'd know I was getting pink and light yellows. Next year, the Stella d'Oro's will go. I'm not fond of their dark yellow.
Suet feeder, gazing ball and more hosta and daylilies.
End of the astilbe. For the first year I was amazed at their blooms. I also put bleeding hearts and some other partial shade plants in here.
The flag in the middle of the herb garden. We've got a solar powered light on it.
Connie and the rose of Sharon. Once the volunteer tulip tree right beside it gets big enough this will go. And, then, the honey locust can go too. And, by that time I'm sure the pear will have gone since they're usually only good for 20-25 years and this one is probably about 19 years... That's ok though since I'd much rather have a tulip tree!
So, there you have our front yard. In a couple of years we'll have eliminated most of the grass in the back yard too. We're firm believers in trying to do what's best for the environment and NOT having a bad for the environment yard full of grass...