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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grilled Fruit




Is everyone ready for the long weekend?  We certainly are.  My brother-in-law, Tom, heads here this evening.  He's a hoot.  One of these guys who's forgotten more about wine than most folks know.  He's a total fitness fanatic.  I think he got my share and Connie's share of the workout genes.  The best news for me is that unless you give him rare meat, he eats anything.  We'll visit the art galleries down on Mass Ave and go to a party at my brother, John's.  I've got a bunch of work to do so will have to spend a good bit of time at the office.  But, it'll be fun to see him!

My menu's almost done for the weekend.  I want to try a new spinach lasagna recipe.  Connie's requesting Thomas Keller's fried chicken.  My niece, Samantha, wants Casa d'Angelo salad.  My brother, John, wants three bean salad.  And, yes, he'd love some of the fried chicken.  So, I'll make a double batch and share.  Kate at Diethood made some incredible looking rosemary crackers.  I've been thinking about them all week and hoping I can make them this weekend.  There's a cauliflower and truffle soup in the Tavern on the Green cookbook.  Then, there's the garlic scapes and ricotta tart that's been on the menu for two weeks or more but hasn't gotten made because I keep heading to the office too early on Sunday.  Maybe this weekend I'll plan well so I can work on a project at home while it bakes...  Something that I'll undoubtedly make again is this dessert.  It was quick, easy and totally wonderful.  We've made grilled peaches with blue cheese and honey before.  This is that dish kicked up a few notches.  We loved it!!

Grilled Fruit

Ingredients:



1/2 peach per person
3 strawberries per person
2 t blue cheese per person
1 heaping T yellow raspberries perperson
honey
coconut balsamic vinegar (or other sweet vinegar like pear or fig)

Directions:

Cut the peaches in half and pit them.  Do not peel them.  Put the strawberries on a skewer.  Heat your grill.  Grill the peaches, cut side down.  Put the skewer(s) with the strawberries on the grill. 



When you have grill marks on the fruit, turn them over. 



Put the blue cheese in the centers of the peaches. 



When the blue cheese is well softened, take the fruit off the grill.  Put each peach in a bowl.  Drizzle some honey over it.  Top the peach with three strawberries and a tablespoon of raspberries.  Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Egyptian Cucumber Salad



I've said it before and I'll say it again, I LOVE our new CSA.  On Saturday, we picked up two zucchini, a cucumber, some garlic, a huge bag of new potatoes, a head of cabbage and two huge bags of basil.  Then, we went to the Broad Ripple Farmers Market and got some kale and komatsu from Seldom Seen Farms and a tomato from another vendor and a box of strawberries from another. 


Six entrees and ten sides were on the menu brainstorming list for the week.  But,they didn't all play together well.  So, I numbered all the entrees and lettered all the sides and started pairing them up.  The duck ragu wound up the a salad I'd made up with cucumbers, zucchini, red onion, cherry tomatoes, basil, feta, Sicilian lemon balsamic and extra virgin olive oil.  Then, I started reading Best American Recipes 2005-2006 and found the Egyptian Cucumber Salad.  It was very similar to the one I'd planned but instead of basil it had dill and mint.  That was an interesting twist.  And, one I wanted to try.  Not only that, it was originally from one of my favorite cookbook authors - Joann Weir and her from Tapas to Meze coookbook.

What did we think?  This was fantastic.  It's very refreshing.  The feta, lemon balsamic and evoo make an incredible dressing.  The dill and mint add such a different taste.  Since we'll probably get a lot of zucchini and cucumbers from the CSA this year, we'll undoubtedly be making this again.  Not only that, but it was equally good the next day for lunch.  I did make a couple of changes.  Shocking, I know.  I cut down on the herbs by half and that's reflected in the recipe below. I added the zucchini and switched Sicilian Lemon Balsamic from Artisano's for the lemon juice called for in the recipe.  If you don't have lemon balsamic, I'd use half white balsamic and half lemon juice to soften the edges a bit. 

Egyptian Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 T chopped fresh mint
1/2 T chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 T chopped fresh dill
5 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 T Sicilian Lemon Balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 T Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Mix the cucumber, onion, zucchini and herbs together well. 




Crumble the feta over the top of the vegetables.  Drizzle the vinegar and olive oil over the feta. 



Toss well.  A  lot of the feta will turn into a wonderful dressing.  But, don't toss the salad until all the little chunks of feta are gone!  Garnish with fresh lemon wedges and sprigs of dill.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fettucine with Duck Ragu



Don't you love the happy dance your tastebuds do when you've eaten something absolutely fabulous?  That's what happened with this dish.  Major happy dance.  Perfect balance of textures and flavors.  MMMM!!

Sunday evenings are typically reserved for the most time consuming dishes.  That's because I usually quit working about 4:00 and actually have the time to spend several hours cooking.  One of my favorite things to make is pasta.  The difference between homemade pasta and store-bought is just light years apart.  I got an attachment for my KitchenAid mixer several years ago and have used it on a regular basis.  Yes, it was a bit expensive but it's worth every penny to be able to create wonderful pasta.

I'd cut this recipe out of a magazine and put it in the try now envelope.  But, I knew if I was going to make it, it'd need to be on a Sunday,  No wasting duck confit on store-bought pasta!  This week, the recipe finally made it to the menu.  It'll make it to our table at least once a year - if not twice.  And, my friends, anything I'd make twice in a year is REALLY good.  There are just too many new recipes to try to be repeating things.  I know there are a lot of folks who have a list of regular dishes and just rotate them.  But, I'm not one of those folks.  That'd be way boring!!

Well, you already know what I think about this.  So, what did Connie think?  He loved it as much as I did.  In fact, he said this would be a great dish to make for the kids.  I think as long as I don't tell my daughter-in-law it's duck, she'll be fine with it.  And, she's a good sport anyway.  David, he'll absolutely love this.  I did a couple of things differently than the recipe directed.  The original recipe called for four duck confit legs.  For one, they're pretty expensive.  And, we've never even attempted to eat a whole duck confit leg per person.  I used just one and it was plenty of meat.  Two would be fine but more in my opinion would be overkill.  The duck fat is just too good to waste, so half of it was used to saute the vegetables.  The other half replaced part of the butter added at the end.  I took the skin and crisped it in the second half of the duck fat, then served that on top of the dish.  The recipe also called for pappardelle.  One, my pasta attachment doesn't have a pappardelle setting and two, I like fettucine better.  So, there you have it!

Fettucine with Duck Ragu

Ingredients:




1 duck confit leg
2 T duck fat
1/4 c minced carrot
1/2 c minced onion
1/4 c minced celery
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 T fresh rosemary leaves
12 kalamata or nicoise olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 dry red wine
2 c chicken stock or broth
2 T duck fat
4 T butter, melted
1/2 c parmesan or romano, finely grated (plus more for serving)
1/2 lb fettucine

Directions:

Start your pasta water.  Drain the duck fat from the confit.  Shred the confit and set it aside.  Put two tablespoons of the duck fat into a large skillet.  Heat it to sizzling.  Add the onions, celery and carrots. 



Saute on medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and start to brown. 



Turn the heat up to high.  Add the olives, rosemary and garlic.  Cook for about one minute until very fragrant. 



Pour in the red wine to deglaze the pan.  Turn the heat back down to medium.  Add the shredded duck confit. 



Add the chicken stock and simmer until the liquid in the pan is reduced to about 3/4 cup.  Depending on whether you're using store bought or homemade pasta, you'll want to toss it in the pasta pot either early on while the chicken stock is simmering or close to the end of the time.  If you'd like to make homemade pasta, here's a link to my recipe:  homemade pasta.  Cook the pasta only to al dente.  Drain it and toss it with the sauce along with the shredded cheese and the butter. 





Season with freshly ground pepper.  Depending on how salty your duck confit is, you may or may not want to add additional salt.  We didn't need to add any - to the pasta, the sauce or as we served it. 
adapted from Food and Wine

Monday, June 27, 2011

Maple Glazed Pork Chops



Many years ago, Connie and I were in Atlanta for a conference.  Actually, I went to the conference and he flew in to meet me on the last day so we could spend a couple of days goofing off.  He was working a consulting gig out of town and the deal was that they'd fly him home or wherever for the weekend.  Bonus!  Free travel!!  We met my brother, Pete, for dinner at his favorite steakhouse - Bones.  Both Pete and I ordered the bone-in filet.  It's not a common cut of meat and he said it was wonderful and he was not kidding.  Amazing.  Connie thinks I'm nuts because I remember what I had at so many meals.  Guess that's part of being a foodie, eh?  The next evening, Pete suggested we go to another of his favorite restaurants, Canoe.  Let me tell you, my brother knows his restaurants.  And his wine.  Talk about incredible food.  This is one meal that I can't remember in its entirety.  I had a fabulous pea salad.  Kind of a twist on the pea, waterchestnut, bacon, mayo dressing salad.  I think I had Georgia Trout also.  Connie had quail.  The waiter suggested a rose for the wine.  Hmm?  Not a wine I'd typically drink at that time. 

Now, if you're of a certain age, ah, shall I say older than the typical blogger... you'll probably think back into the far reaches of your memory and pull out Mateus Rose.  I think we all came of age drinking some of that.  Blue Nun, Mad Dog, ah, those were the days.  Cheap moose piss as my dear "adopted brother" Vic would say.  Vic who survived Indiana University with me.  Who joined me in drinking a bit of that moose piss :-) 

Yes, I was hesitant.  Very hesitant.  But, like I said, Pete knows his restaurants and his wines.  And, he wasn't going to send us someplace where they served crummy wine.  So, we ordered the rose.  It was in a beautiful bottle.  The winery was Pax.  And, it was heavenly.  Oh, and best of all it was perfect with both of our meals. 

When I got home, I did a bit of research and found Pax.  We couldn't find their wines in any of the local liquor stores.  But, I did sign up for their newsletter.  Over the years they've sold one winery and opened another and asked if I really wanted to stay on their email list because I'm not ordering anything...  And, yes, I did want to stay on the newsletter list.  And, that's how I came to have this fantastic recipe!  Don't you love how the threads of our lives weave together?

What did we think?  This is sweet then hot.  But, it's just a little bit hot.  A perfect amount.  I used bone-in pork chops cut an inch thick.  The idea was that we'd have leftovers for lunch the next day.  Dreamer.  I even finished mine.  Absolutely a five out of five.  The recipe is from the Donelan Wines newsletter and gives credit to Food and Wine Magazine. 

Maple Glazed Pork Chops
2 servings

Ingredients:
1/4 c pecans
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1 T cider vinegar
2 t grainy mustard
1/4 t Siracha or other hot sauce
1 2" rosemary sprig
2 1" thick pork loin chops
vegetable oil, for brushing
salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Toast the pecans in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until browned and very fragrant. 



Mix the maple syrup, vinegar, mustard, Siracha and rosemary sprig in a small saucepan.



Simmer until it's reduced by about a third.  Heat your grill.  Rub the pork chops with the vegetable oil.  Season with salt and pepper. 



Grill over direct heat.  After you've grilled the first side for about four-five minutes, flip the pork chops.  Divide the glaze into two bowls, reserving the second for serving.  Brush the pork chops with the glaze.  When you've grilled the second side for about four minutes, flip the chops again and brush the second side with glaze.  Serve with the toasted, chopped pecans on top.  Drizzle with the reserved sauce. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Critters and Gardening and Apricot Compote



For folks who live in the middle of the city, we see our fair share of wildlife.  A couple of weeks ago on my way home I saw a coyote sauntering down a yard toward the rail road right of way.  Not a scrawny, hungry looking coyote, but one who'd found his fair share of prey.  Annie was not amused.  Of course, Annie is never amused by anything - animal or human - intruding into her space.  And, that space includes MANY feet around the vehicle in which she's traveling.  We went up to Lafayette to visit our friends Donna and Phil and took Annie along.  She went nuts over the cows and horses along the way.  Wooof, wooooof, wooooof.....  Annie, pipe down!  Like that'd help :-) 

A couple of days ago we saw a line of cars stopped at the same rail road right of way and I was puzzled.  It's normally only used for the state fair train so why was everyone stopped?  Turns out there was a large snapping turtle heading across the road.  Lots of folks were leaning out their car windows taking photos.  



Then, on the way home we saw a line of traffic stopped on one of the really busy thoroughfares we cross.  Mama Duck and about ten ducklings were hustling to the other side of the road.  Now, you'd think with all of that going on that we'd have problems with deer nibbling our hosta.  Hang on while I knock on my head... Ok, now I can say it.  Thus far we've had no issues with deer.  Now, wouldn't that send Annie into a tizzy - lol. 

So, you have to picture this.  I have two boxes of paperwork on my back seat.  They are between Annie and one of the windows.  Out of the window Annie can see another dog.  OMG, it's in her territory!!!  Alert!!  Onto the boxes she goes to get as close as doggly possible to the offending critter.  Woof, woof, woof!!!  Whew, it went away.  Or, maybe we got far enough away that she can no longer see it.  Now, she's stuck in the box.  And, terribly embarassed.  What is a dog to do?



As I'm typing this, there's a whole line of cars on the parkway waiting for a line of Canada geese to wend their way across the street.  What most drivers don't realize is that if you just keep moving forward the geese will move.  I'm convinced the geese consider horns honking to be a great sport.  Ah, that car's trying to sound just like me they say!  They have figured out that Annie WILL eat a goose and that she is not scared of their hissing and spitting.  She's not actually scored a goose (seeing as how they're a protected species, we discourage it) but she has gotten a mouthful of feathers when they've charged her.  And, there is no longer goose poop on the front walk of our office building.  They see either of our cars and they all take off. 

On another note, we've had some gorgeous flowers in the garden recently.  I thought I'd show you a few photos.  The yucca made it to the top of the window.  I think it should be called a tree rather than a plant!  Connie's 5'10".  Look how much taller this plant is than he is!!



A small start of the cactus came with me from my old house and was divided again two years ago.  The new batch is just incredibly happy. 



The lilies were planted in the wrong spot and were transplanted and are pretty daggone happy now.  They're ready to be divided this fall - again...



My favorite lily has buds that are fat and about to burst forth with color.  The hosta are getting ready to bloom - and a couple already have. 



A few daylilies are blooming but we'll have a riot of color soon. 





The astilbe looks wonderful as do the bachelor's buttons. 


Love the bee on the bachelor's button! 




Then, there's the yarrow and the coneflowers...



What does all of that have to do with apricot compote.  Absolutely nothing.  I just wanted to chat about the other stuff.  The apricot compote was one of those recipes I kept meaning to try.  We saw some lovely apricots at Jungle Jims so I bought half a dozen. 

What did we think?  Well, this was ok.  It's probably something I'll never make again though.  There are too many other recipes out there to try.  I mean I could just use my friend Liz's blog for dessert ideas and never run out.  I make dessert about once a month.  Maybe more like once every two or three months.  When I do make a dessert odds are about even that it'll be fruit of some sort.  Cakes are merely ok.  Cookies are nice.  Pies are a notch better - particularly if they're fruit.  What I really loved about this was the rosemary honey.  Now, that I may put on some grilled peaches with a little blue cheese crumbled into their centers.  That's my idea of a perfect dessert!

Apricot Compote Yogurt Parfaits
2 servings

Ingredients:
1/4 c honey
5-6 ripe apricots, pitted and coarsely chopped
3 T water
pinch coarse salt
1 T honey
2 T Greek yogurt

Directions:

Simmer the honey, apricots, water and salt on medium heat until the fruit is nice and soft.  It'll take about 10 minutes. 




Remove from the heat and pour the compote into a heatproof bowl.  Refrigerate until it's well chilled.  Serve with a big dollop of Greek yogurt and a good drizzle of honey.

adapted from Everyday Living

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mediterranean Chicken in Grape Leaves



We're both really tired of the chaos in the house. As they say, progress is messy. Messy indeed. The best news of the day is that we almost have the screened porch back. The moldy orange carpet is now a lovely blue - see Mo glowering at me for disturbing his cat nap?



And, the glass and metal bookcase that I rescued from a friend's Goodwill pile eleven years ago has been replaced by a baker's rack. Tomorrow, I can hang the few things that go on the walls. The only "big" project out there is to paint the bench navy blue. I inherited it from a former roommate back in 1979 and it's still the same blue she had it painted. Can you tell I'm a bit frugal about these things? LOL. It's true. I'm one of the original reuse and recycle folks. Didn't buy my first piece of new furniture until I was 29 years old. Thanks to growing up with thrifty parents, I learned the lesson. Now, what does that have to do with food? I made Big John's pork tenderloin and had half a jar of grape leaves left. Actually, two-thirds of a jar. That meant I really needed to find a use for them.  We absolutely loved the This Little Piggy Pork Tenderloin.  So, it made sense to use the grape leaves with another meat and see how that worked. 

What did we think?  This was a bit salty and I'm not sure where it came from.  I used chicken thighs since I was making cat food and we bought boned thighs instead of the normal bone-in.  I figured there was more meat there than usual so grabbed four thighs off the stack before it went into the stock pot on it's way to feeding my buddy George.  the stuffing had olives in it so that may have added some saltiness.  But, my guess is you really need to soak the grape leaves before using them.  I did when I made the pork tenderloin but not this time.  Next time, I will.  Other than the saltiness, this was great.  It's kind of fun to give everyone their own little packet for dinner.  And, we loved the stuffing.

Mediterranean Chicken in Grape Leaves
serves 4


for the stuffing:
2 oz cream cheese
6 oz smoked goat cheese
1 t capers
1 t chopped sundried tomatoes packed in oil
6 greek black olives chopped




for the rub:
oregano
crushed rosemary
crushed red pepper
parsley
garlic powder

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
grape leaves
1 lemon

Directions:

Soak the grape leaves in a couple of cups of water mixed the juice of a lemon for about 20 minutes.  Mix the stuffing ingredients. 






Divide the stuffing between the chicken thighs.  



Mix the rub ingredients. 



Roll the chicken thighs in the rub. 



Wrap them well with grape leaves.  Secure the grape leaves with oven-proof bands. 



Grill on direct heat until the chicken is 10 degrees from your target temp.  Remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.  Serve it with the grape leaves