Monday, June 18, 2012
Secret Recipe Club snuck up on me this month. I didn't expect moving Mom from her condo to independent living to take nearly as much time and energy or I'd never have signed up for a post this month. On top of that, we're up to our necks in a huge project at the office. I've barely had time to sleep much less cook or read blogs or anything else. This too shall pass!
You probably remember Secret Recipe Club from prior month's posts. It's a group of bloggers where we're assigned another blogger's blog and we make a recipe that appeals to us. Each Monday of the month a group reveals their secret recipes. I wish I'd had hours and hours to read Veronica's recipes. She has some wonderful ideas from homemade vanilla extract to vanilla sugar. And, wonderful recipes. I'd chosen chicken wings. Browned, sauced and looking gorgeous. The problem was that Connie got one box of chicken wings. My family would not be amused if I showed up on Father's Day without LaBrea Tar Pit chicken wings. Actually, that's one of my recipes that was chosen for a SRC reveal. Ok, plan B. There's always a Plan B, isn't there?
How about Chinese Tea Eggs? After all, they'd be much quicker than deviled eggs. Ok, fine, I'd still make deviled eggs too. What is a good barbecue without deviled eggs? But, I'd make the Chinese Tea Eggs too.
What did we think? The first batch was undercooked in spite of my following the instructions to a T. And, peeling the eggs was a bear. Well, that's not quite the word I used... I'll leave that to your imagination. As you can see from the photo one barely had any whites left. So, I made a second batch. I used my trusy egg cooker and heated the leftover soaking liquid. Once the eggs were done, I picked them up one at a time with a pair of tongs and dropped them onto a cutting board until the shells were nicely cracked. I felt kind of like the gulls we see on Cape Cod. They drop their finds on the parking lots until their shells crack and the gulls can get to the sea critters. Into the hot soaking liquid went the eggs. The heat beneath the pan was off but the liquid steamed for a good fifteen minutes. Then, I put the whole deal into the fridge and left it overnight. Ah, success. This morning for breakfast, we finally had our Chinese Tea Eggs. The flavor is a bit delicate but oh, so good. I love the marbled look. Now, I'd love to figure out a great dipping sauce for these guys. I'm thinking five spice powder and Connie's thinking wasabi... We'll have to leave that for another day.
Thank you Veronica! I'll be back to visit and try more fun recipes :-)
Chinese Tea Eggs
1 1/2 c water
2 black tea bags
3/4 c teriyaki sauce
1 cinnamon stick
1 t sugar
zest and juice of one tangerine
t 2 Worcestershire sauce
Place the eggs in a medium pot and pour in the water. Make sure they're covered by about an inch and a half of water. Bring the water to a boil. Allow it to boil for a minute then remove the pot from the heat and allow the eggs to sit in the water for 18 minutes. Take each egg from the water and gently tap it just to crack the shell. You don't want to remove any shell, just crack it. Add the tea bags to the water and steep them for about 8 minutes.. Remove and discard the tea bags. Add the rest of the ingredients to the water, stir well then put the eggs back in. Put the eggs and soaking liquid into a storage container and refrigerate them overnight. Shell the eggs and serve.
adapted from My Catholic Kitchen
Sunday, June 17, 2012
We love our home. If I had the time to type and you had the time to read I would tell you the hysterical story of how we came to buy it. Suffice to say we did. Now, this house is darned near perfect for us. It has a big screened porch, a basement, room for gardens (flower and vegetable - although not as much room as we'd like,) a fabulous entertaining floor plan, doesn't require left turns against bad traffic to get out, is close to a well-plowed road in the winter... You get it. It's just a fabulous house. Except for one thing. The heating and cooling system. In spite of our best efforts, there's a fifteen degree difference between the basement and the second story on really hot days. Like we've been having.
I don't sleep well when it's 80 degrees. Neither does Connie. So, he took the bull by the horns and figured out a way to make the pull-out couch in the basement sleepable. Is that a word? Well, it is now :-) Every quilt in the house was piled on the old, rickety, uncomfortable mattress and turned into a secondary mattress. I contributed one thought and that was the old chaise lounge pads in the garage. The ones that have been on the top of the shelving unit since we moved in here and that we've both threatened to throw away umpteen times.
You remember the story about the princess and the pea? That's what the couch feels like now. Except we both kind of rolled to the middle since we had the seam between the cushions to deal with. But, a pillowy v-shaped bed is preferable to 80 degrees.
Now you know why when Connie asked about a cocktail I responded as I did. I knew what I wanted immediately. I described it as ice cold, not sweet, and it was a Dirty Martini. Not a problem!
Now, we know what a Dirty Martini consists of. We've had them before and other than the fact that there's salt in the brine, they're definitely the type of drink where you feel like you can have a couple or few (no driving). A conference type drink. Someone else is paying, call for the top shelf and knock yourself out.
So, Connie loves to sit down and check his drink cookbooks even though we know that it's gin (or vodka) vermouth (or not, mostly not in a dirty) some olive brine, shake with ice, strain and garnish. Nice and easy. He pulled out six of the cocktail recipe books and nary a Dirty Martini. Whoa!
Finally he pulls out The Bartender's Black Book by Stephen Kittredge Cunningham. Not only does Stephen have the Dirty Martini, he has the Dirty Martini 2, the Dirtier Martini, and the Dirtiest Martini. Way to go, Stephen! Dirty? Pretty much as above. Dirty 2? Crush some olives into the mix. Dirtier? Add some onion juice into the Dirty mix. Dirtiest? Crush both olives and onions, add both their juices, ROCK and ROLL!
So, guess which one we tried? That's right, the Dirtiest Martini! It was very good - a 4 on our 1 to 5 scale. Connie says he is going to add a half of a pickled jalapeno slice to the muddle and use gin instead of vodka the next time due to the aromatics in gin that are absent in vodka. This was a VERY nice drink - we'd recommend it.
The Dirtiest Martini
Mash 4 olives and 4 cocktail onions in a mixing glass
(we used jumbo olives, so only used 2)
Add a dash of onion juice (we used it from the cocktail onions)
Add a dash of olive juice (again, from the olive brine)
1 oz dry vermouth (we used Martini and Rossi extra dry)
6 oz vodka (we used Smirnoff's)
Shake, shake, shake
Prepare a garnish, on a toothpick, with a cocktail onion, an olive and another cocktail onion.
It says to strain in to a short glass. Being non-compliant, Connie did not strain it rather, poured it into a rocks glass with ice (I told him that I wanted it ice cold, so I guess he was marginally compliant).
Regardless, he shook, shook, shook and poured. Added the garnish, and we both kissed the one we love and enjoyed. Please do the same.
from The Bartender's Black Book
Friday, June 8, 2012
One of the tasks I actually finished over the last couple of months was scanning in my great-grandmother's recipe box. What a joy to see her writing, my grandmother's and my mothers. What a shock to see the actual recipes. A few of them came from the days after canned food became available to the masses. Salads were mostly gelatins. Vegetable recipes were virtually non-existent. My guess would be that the vegetables cooked were in season and plainly seasoned. Or, doused in butter and bread or cracker crumbs.
As I recall, my maternal grandmother was a pretty darned good cook. My paternal grandmother was a fabulous country cook. Lemon meringue pie. Chicken and dumplings. Rolls. All the things you read about and think good farmhouse cooking. This recipe box has given me insight into how my great-grandmother cooked. Pretty plain stuff for the most part. One of the really cool things I own is one of her old baskets:
Only a couple of recipes actually piqued my interest. How would they taste made as written? Made to our tastes?
This past week was a bit chaotic. We left for Chicago on Tuesday morning and got back late Thursday afternoon. With most of last weekend spent moving Mom from her condo to independent living, we'd not had an opportunity to go to the grocery. One of the first things we did was plan a menu and write a grocery list. But, neither of us had any desire to go shopping.
Friday wasn't a horribly busy day - at least when you looked at my calendar it didn't look terribly busy. But, the phone didn't quit ringing and emails were once again stacking up. Oh, and we had the great bbq taste-off. You see, the end of July we're finally going to have our shredding/bbq party at the office. I've been threatening to do this for several years. This is the year. We ordered pulled pork, beef brisket, mac and cheese, baked beans, cole slaw and potato salad from three of the barbecue joints nearby. I made a rating sheet. One of them quickly lost - Garrett's. The brisket was kind of like beef jerky. The cole slaw was watery. The mac and cheese was gummy. I'm sure you're getting the picture here :-) We were disappointed because we've had a couple of good sandwiches from there. Next up was GT South's. They're a perennial favorite. Their pulled pork sandwich is incredibly reasonably priced. And, they're about halfway between my friend Patti's office and mine. Perfect. The pulled pork was very good. So was the beef brisket. The green beans were straight out of a can. The mac and cheese was good as was the cole slaw. The baked beans were totally blah. They were in second place. Time for Black Diamond BBQ. Let's just say that we rated each dish on a 1-5 scale. Black Diamond beat GT South's by TEN points. You read that right. The baked beans were amazing. The beef brisket was the best I've ever had. The pulled pork and sauce were wonderful. The only clinker was the potato salad. It was ok but not great. We went there for the first time a couple of months ago and declared they were our new favorite bbq place. A taste-off proved that.
Do you think Reta's ready for the taste-off?
Well, now, back to Friday. We escaped at 6:00. And, once again neither of us wanted to go to the grocery. I could make Ina's weeknight bolognese. But, I needed broccoli for the chicken and rice and potatoes for the cabbage and bacon torte. I also had everything on hand for Katharine's baked sandwiches. Actually, it's a recipe that my grandmother gave to my great-grandmother. Here's a copy of the front of the card:
What did we think? Connie and I tasted as I went and found the basic recipe to be very blah. Some spicy rub went into the tuna. A bit of sherry and pepper into the eggs and a good pour of sherry and a can of mushrooms into the sauce. Once the sandwiches were out of the oven and onto our plates, I wasn't too sure about them. There was a lot more egg salad than tuna salad. I was concerned that the egg would overwhelm the tuna. That was kind of the case but not totally. We really enjoyed these sandwiches. While not something that I'll make with regularlity, they're a good go-to with mostly pantry ingredients.
Great-Grandmother Katharine's Baked Sandwiches
1 can tuna, drained
2 T mayonnaise
2 t minced onions
1/2 t spicy rub (I added this to the recipe)
3 hard-cooked eggs
1/2 c cream of mushroom soup mix
2 t sherry
balance of the can of mushroom soup
2 T sherry
1 4 oz can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1-2 T milk
6 slices of bread
3 T butter
Mix the tuna, mayo, onions and rub. Set aside. Finely chop the eggs and mist with the 1/2 cup cream of mushrrom soup, 2 t sherry and pepper. Set aside. Mix the remaining mushroom soup, 2 T sherry, mushrooms and milk in a small saucepan. Heat gently on low heat. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Trim the crusts offs the bread.
Dip the edges in the melted butter. Leave the remaining butter on very low heat. Put together the sandwiches. Put two slices of bread in a baking dish (Iused a 9x13 cake pan) and top them with the tuna.
Add another slice of bread to each. Top with the eg salad.
Top with the remaining bread slices. Brush the bread slices with the rest of the melted butter.
Bake the sandwiches at 325F for 30 minutes.
Serve topped with the mushroom sauce.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Where did you get this recipe? Connie'd watched me dirty almost every pan in the kitchen while I made dinner. Now, we were on the screened porch with a table glowing with candlelight finally getting an opportunity to relax. It'd been a long week. Mom's finally moved to her new apartment at Hoosier Village. She's in the independent living area. My grandmother, her two sisters and my father were all at Hoosier Village. Actually, Aunt Alice was one of the first residents. She was a neat lady. Early on she started going blind and was taken out of school. She always regretted that. One of my most prized possessions is her old table. It sat next to her chair. She kept her record player there - the one she used to play books on record. The scratches are still there from her pulling the record player out to change the record.
Ah, I digress. I'd not planned dinner. The refrigerator downstairs yielded an eggplant that needed to be used up. Connie'd like eggplant involtini. I'd like my mom's eggplant casserole - which is very similar to ratatouille. With the eggplant casserole it'd be easy to make pork saltimbocca. We had gorgeous sage leaves. They're like so much green velvet in the herb garden. Well, now, that's when my brain started in... What if I made eggplant saltimbocca? We really didn't need a meat slab. An eggplant steak would be perfect... Next up, eggplant saltimbocca over ratatouille.
What did we think? We both ummmmm'd the entire dinner. This had all the flavors we love. Tomatoes, some salty romano cheese, nice meaty eggplant steaks, crispy crunchy sage leaves, browned bits of prosciutto. Oh, my, but this was SO good.
Eggplant Saltimbocca over Ratatouille
for the eggplant:
4 eggplant steaks, peeled and cut about 1" thick
4 slices pancetta
4 sage leaves
1 c flour, mixed with a spicy rub
3 eggs, beaten
1 c panko
1 c finely grated romano
for the sauce:
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 end slices egplant, diced
4 slices prosciutto, chopped
1 slice pancetta, chopped
3 basil leaves, minced
1 garlic clove minced
1 t italian seasonng (or fresh basil, rosemary and oregano)
for the topping:
8 sage leaves
shredded parmesan romano cheese
2 anchovy fillets
This is going to feel like a three ring circus...
Slice and salt the eggplant. Put it in a colander for 10-15 minutes.
Next, start the sauce. Saute the onion, eggplant, prosciutto, pancetta and zucchini in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Just as they start to brown, add the garlic clove. Cook for about a minute then add the diced tomatoes, anchovies and herbs.
This needs to simmer for about half an hour. You may want to take a potato masher and smash some of the tomato pieces. Make sure you cook this down or you'll have a lovely ring of water around your plate when you serve this.
While the sauce is simmering, prepare the eggplant. Rinse the slices and dry them well. Line up the flour, eggs and panko/cheese mixtures in three wide bowls. Dip the eggplant first in the flour then in the egg. Top each slice with a sage leaf then a slice of pancetta.
Re-dip it in the flour and egg then coat both sides in the panko/cheese mixture. Fry the eggplant in olive oil.
When both sides are browned, remove the eggplant from the skillet and put it in a baking dish. Bake it at 425F for 10 minutes.
While the eggplant is baking, make the sage leaves and crispy prosciutto in the same skillet. Add more olive oil to the skillet. Saute the sage leaves and prosciutto until both are brown and crispy.
To plate, puddle some of the ratatouille in the center of each plate. Top with two of the eggplant steaks. Then, top those with the crispy prosciutto and the sage leaves. Sprinkle wtih the shredded parmesan romano.