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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tuscan Ribs

I'm the sauce girl.  Salad dressing, gravy, barbecue sauce.  You name it.  I love it.  So, for me to eat ribs without barbecue sauce you have to be talking about some seriously good ribs.  I ate these with NO sauce. 

A few weeks ago I dredged three cookbooks out of the bargain bin at the grocery store.  They sell closeouts at wonderfully low prices.  This cookbook I bought because of a recipe called Hoosier Lamb Chops.  As I browsed through it I found loads of recipes I'd like to try.  Ribs sounded good.  Tuscan Ribs sounded fabulous.  And, I thought it'd be a great weekend meal.  Make the rub and slather them on Saturday.  Smoke them on Sunday.  Well, no, the recipe didn't call for smoking the ribs.  But,we love to smoke just about anything on our grill. 

We made these a couple of weeks ago and absolutely devoured them.  And, cut the other racks into serving size pieces and froze them.  For evenings when we get home too late and don't want to cook.  Tonight was one of those nights.  We pulled around the corner to our house and both of us went WOW - look at those!  

Crocus that were open and stunningly beautiful.  And, one little iris:

So, we spent about an hour wandering the yard and chatting about what we'd like to accomplish this year.  I wish I'd taken a notebook outside and started a written list of what we need to/want to buy (yeah, that's the financial planner coming out - distinguish between your wants and your needs...)  Here are some of the fun things we saw:

The old hellebore (aka lenten rose) has a couple of flowers open.  Rather buried int he leaves but open.  And, tons of buds.  The newbie from last year looks like it's going to do really well. 

No signs of asparagus in the garden but the srawberries are coming back nicely.  There are a few daffodils on the south wall of the house that are about to bloom.  The golden raspberries have loads of buds as does the wisteria.  The daylilies all over the yard are just going crazy.  As are the surprise lilies.  We'll have to divide those this year.  And, we really will have to divide our siberian iris.  All 25 have now gotten empty spots in their centers.  We'll probably have a LOT of those to give away.  If you live in this area and would like some starts, please let me know.  We've got plenty to share!

Now, it was time to head to the south side of the fence.  A total riot of crocus!  And, soon to follow, an equal number of daffodils.  This year we're hoping to put a path through here and mulch the rest.  Too many of our neighbors don't understand the theory that you've got to let the daffodil leaves die down to store nutrients for the next year...  With mulch instead of grass we'll not have to worry!

Finally, we were off to the herb garden.  The sorrel is starting to come back.  The blueberry bushes, small though they may be, are growing.  And the lavendar, thyme and marjoram look great.  Ok, so they need a bit of trimming.  But, to spring-starved eyes, they look fabulous!

Now, did I mention that we're supposed to get 6-9" of snow tomorrow?  LOL.  I guess I ignored that.  The good news is that snow is an insulator.  It's much better for our plants than fifteen degrees.  So, we'll enjoy what will hopefully be the last snow of the season and look forward to seeing our flowers again soon.

Now, on to our recipe: 

Tuscan Ribs


2 T olive oil
2 T rosemary, chopped fresh or 1 t dried
1 1/2 T kosher salt
1 1/2 T fennel seeds
2 t freshly ground pepper
2 t fresh chopped sage or 1 t dried
2 t fresh thyme, chopped or 1/2 t dried
2 t paprika
1/2 - 1 t crushed red pepper (how much heat do you like?)
1 t ground coriander
1/2 t ground allspice
6 lbs pork ribs
3 T balsamic glaze


Mix all the herbs and spices with the olive oil to make the spice paste.  Smear the spice paste over the ribs, cover and refrigerate overnight.  The original recipe called for roasting the ribs at 325 for two hours the broiling them for two minutes with the balsamic glaze drizzled over them.  Instead, we smoked ours for a couple of hours at about 325.  We used cherry wood. 

adapted from Fix It and Enjoy It

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Moroccan Chicken

Preserved lemons.  Have you ever had them?  We both clearly remember the first time.  We were in Chicago and went to a Moroccan restaurant up by Clark St.  We were on the way to see The Blue Man Group.  We looked at each other and said, "WHAT was THAT???"  It was love at first bite. 

Once we got home, we set about making a batch for ourselves.  That batch got used up and we never got around to making more.  Until the kids gave me a tagine for Christmas.  David did a fabulous job of researching the models available and found the Flame model by Emile Henry to be the most versatile.  It's good with any heat source.  I've used it in the oven and on the stove top.  Our first dish was Moroccan Lamb Stew.  Which, hopefully, someday I'll get on the blog...  Our second was Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives. 

Someplace I saw the recipe.  Some cookbook or magazine or someplace.  If the stack of recipes to be scanned in and tried wasn't a foot tall I'd have gone through it.  But, hitting Epicurious was far easier.  And, the recipe sounded almost exactly like the one I'd seen. 

I expected the dish to take a long time so had planned on making it on Sunday evening when there was ample time to cook and drink a glass of wine and chatter away with Connie.  Then, in about ten minutes everything came together and all I had to do was put the lid on the tagine and let everything simmer for about 15 minutes and we were done.

So, what did we think?  This will be a regular for us.  I managed to stretch four chicken thighs into five meals.  I added a can of chickpeas to the couscous to up the texture and nutrition.  The only change I might have made would have been to add a bit of crumbled feta cheese.  Kate, a fellow food blogger from Northern Indiana loves feta and blogged about all of her feta recipes in the last Secret Recipe Club posting.  I've got to say I concur and will be heading to her blog to try a few.  Here's the link to her SRC post: Avocado Feta Salsa.

We served this with Melissa's Carrots and Roasted Cauliflower.

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives


4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, patted dry, salted
2 T olive oil, divided
1 large onion, sliced 1/4" thick
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 t cumin
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and diced
1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 c dry white wine
16 pitted green olives, halved
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 c couscous, uncooked
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
1/2 t cumin


In a dutch oven or tagine on the stovetop, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil.  When it is shimmering, add the chicken thighs. 

Saute about three minutes per side until they're nicely browned.  Remove the chicken thighs from the pan.

Add the other tablespooon of oil and the onions, garlic and cumin. 

Saute until the onions are translucent.  That will take 8-10 minutes. 

Add the pepper, preserved lemon, chicken broth, white wine and olives. 

Cover and simmer for about twelve minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

When you start simmering the chicken, put a cup of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to boiling.  Add the couscous and the garbanzo beans.  Stir well, cover the saucepan and remove it from the heat. 

Serve the chicken over the couscous with the sauce ladled over the top.

adapted from Epicurious.  Originally from Gourmet

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fried Mozzarella Sticks

There is more than a bit of irony in the fact that a couple of steaks were sitting on my counter when I went in to the computer to look for a recipe.  While there I hit my work email and got my March Secret Recipe Club assignment.  A vegan blog.  Called We Heart Vegan.  OMG what would I do???  Of all things, I am absolutely not vegan.  Have no desire to ever cook vegan.  But, the whole idea of the Secret Recipe Club is to meet other bloggers and hopefully try things you'd not have tried on your own.  So, I soldiered on.  Read the recipes.  Looked at the photos.  And, realized all Brittany was doing was substituting vegan ingredients for the everyday ingredients I use.  I could do this.  I could substtute my everyday ingredients and take a vegan recipe and turn it into something I'd make regularly.  Reverse engineering if you will. Now, please don't get me wrong.  I understand why some folks are vegan and vegetarian and pescatarian and etc.  I'm just not one of those folks. 

I printed half a dozen recipes.  The Roman Style Artichoke Hearts looked amazing.  But they were a SRC post.  Bummer.  Ditto the Basil Pesto Hummus and the Chipotle Kale Chips.  Ah ha!  Fried mozzarella strips.  My kind of food.  One of those things I had in the freezer when I was single.  A jar of pizza sauce and a few fried mozzarella strips and I had dinner.  How much fun would it be to make these for myself?  Oh, you mean I need to share with Connie?  Ok, fine.  You're right.  I do love him.  And, I do try to share.  I've even showed him where the box of mint meltaways from Marianne is. 

The first batch was very good.  Not much to look at but very good.  I decided to freeze the second batch overnight and see how that worked.  Well, not so well.  I think two things happened.  One, my oil wasn't hot enough to start with and two, I put too many frozen mozzarella sticks in all at once.  I think next time I'll use a saucepan and fry just a couple at a time and deep fry them.  The flavors were FABULOUS!  The photo though tells the tale.  Way too melty.  Brittany's photo is so much better.  Here's where you can hop over to her blog and see her original recipe:  Mozzarella Sticks.

Here's how to make them:

Mozzarella Sticks

1 10oz block mozzarella cheese
vegetable oil for frying

for the batter:
1/2 c flour
1/2 c water
1 T cornmeal
1 T cornstarch
1/2 t garlic powder

for the bread crumbs:
1 c panko
1/2 t salt
1/2 t parsley
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t Italian seasoning
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t dried basil
Marinara sauce for dipping (we use Rao's because it's the best in our book)


Combine the batter ingredients and mix well. 

You'll want the mixture to have the consistency of pancake batter so add water accordingly.  Use a wide, shallow bowl.

In another wide, shallow bowl, combine the bread crumb ingredients.  Mix well.

Cut the mozzarella into sticks.  About 1/2" per side is good. 

Dip the sticks into the batter then roll them into the crumbs.  Lay them on a baking rack.  Once all of the sticks are coated, pop the rack into your freezer for at least an hour.

Heat your oil.  It has to be REALLY hot and you don't want to add too many sticks at once.  Fry the sticks for about six minutes then flip them and fry until they're evenly browned. 

Serve with marinara sauce.

Adapted from We Heart Vegan.  Thank you Brittany for such an enjoyable recipe!  I'll be back to try the others :-)

Now, if you'd like to see what the other folks made for Secret Recipe Club, here's where you start:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Beggars Purses, Hoosier Lamb Chops, Cheddar Pear Pie

Fire Drill!  That's how I've been describing the last week.  My email has built up to horrid levels.  I've got mountains of files on my desk.  My sleep is punctuated by dreams of paperwork.  It's tax season.  It's like this every year and every year I forget how tough it is.  Friday I had a massage.  Got back to the office about 5:15 and worked til a bit after 6:00 then came home and cooked.  It was time for a complicated meal that took 100% of my attention and didn't allow me to think about the office.  This meal succeeded.  It prettty much kicked my butt.  Exactly what I was trying for.  And, best of all, we rated two dishes a five and one a four - on a scale of one to five.  Well, actually, as I type this the fourth dish is cooling it's heels on the bar.  That would be the cheddar pear pie.  You see, Connie loves pears.  And I saw a bag of pears at Costco last weekend.  They finally hit perfection so we've been eating pears in salads.  It was finally time for my sister-in-law Linda's famous cheddar pear pie. Probably our favorite pie ever. 

Jessica's Biscuit had a $5 sale.  That's $5 per cookbook for a list about a mile long.  I ordered a few.  We won't talk about how many, ok?  Let's just say I"m having fun with new cookbooks.  Oh, and remember that I hit the bargain bin at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and got three cookbooks.  Hmmm, my bedtime reading will be cookbooks for a time.  Home Food is the cookbook I'm currently cooking my way through.  It's a cookbook of what 44 "great American chefs" cook on their day off.  It was published a LONG time ago so I'm finding some of the photos humorous.  Rick Bayless looks VERY young.  So do a lot of the other chefs.  Then, there are a bunch I've never heard of.  I need to sit down with Google or Wikipedia and find out what's happened with these folks. 

Well, the first recipe that caught my eye was Beggars Purses of Basil Crepes with Garden Greens and Warm Lemon Sauce.  I'd seen the Hoosier Lamb Chops in Fix It and Enjoy It from the grocery bargain bin.  The makings of a great dinner.  Turns out we had a bag of kale from last weekend's shopping expedition.  A jam-packed vinaigrette with a grilled pear half and some feta cheese would go well with that.  And the salad would go well with the  Beggar's Purses and the Hoosier Lamb Chops.  Yup, that's the way it worked.  The salads and Beggar's Purses were fives.  The lamb chops were close but had to fall back to a four.  Now, a word of warning.  I didn't follow the directions totally.  Shocking, I know.  But I was out of space and burners...  So, I'm going to give you directions the way I made the dishes with notes on how I differed from the recipes.

Here's what we made:

Beggars Purses of Basil Crepes with Garden Greens and Warm Lemon Sauce


for the filling:
2 T olive oil
2 c red onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c diced cremini mushrooms
1 lb fresh spinach
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 c fresh basil, minced or 2 T dried
2/3 c grated Gruyere cheese
whole chives or thin strips of leeks for tying purses

for the crepes:
1 c water
1 c milk
1 1/2 c flour
4 large eggs
3 T olive oil
3/4 t salt
5 T minced fresh basil

for the lemon sauce:
1 1/2 c vegetable stock or chicken stock
1/2 c dry white wine
3 large egg yolks
5 T fresh lemon juice
2 T minced chives (I was out of energy and forgot these...)


for the filling:

Saute the onions in the olive oil until they've just softened. 

Add the mushrooms and basil and cook until the liquid is gone. 

Add the spinach and cook again until the liquid is gone. 

That will take 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. 

for the crepes:

In the bowl of a food processor, mix all the ingredients. 

Puree until smooth.  Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for an hour.  Lightly oil a crepe pan or nonstick 10" pan.  Heat it until the oil shimmers.  Pour in 1/4 c batter and swirl until it covers the bottom of the pan.  Cook for about a minute. 

The bottom will be lightly browned.  Flip and cook for another 30-60 seconds until the other side is browned.  Remove to a cooling rack. 

Repeat until the batter is gone. 

for the sauce:

Whisk the eggs and lemon in a small bowl.  Pour the stock and wine into a small saucepan.  Cook vigorously until reduced by half.  That will take 8-10 minutes.  Slowly, whisk the stock/wine reduction into the egg/lemon mixture.  Once it's combined, pour it all into the saucepan and simmer until it's thickened a bit. 

To assemble...

Now here's where what I did REALLY differed. The recipe calls for tying the purses up with strings of chives or leeks.  Instead, I made little folded purses and drizzled the sauce over.  MUCH easier and tastes just the same, don't you know.  My directions:  Lay a crepe out on a plate.  Put a generous 2T of filling on the crepe.  Fold up the bottom, in the sides, down the top and roll it over.  Drizzle it with sauce and serve.  YUM!

Adapted from Home Food

Our next dish was pear salads.  First, I made a vinaigrette with black currant-raspberry jam, dijon mustard, pear vinegar, tarragon, sugar and extra virgin olive oil.  Then, I tossed baby kale in the dijon vinaigrette and left it on the counter for an hour.  That softened it and took the bitterness out.  Right before serving the salads I halved and cored a pear and had Connie add it to the party on the grill.  When it came off, I plated it with the kale, then the pear, then the rest of the dressing, then a bit of crumbled feta cheese. 

Last, but not least, the Hoosier Lamb Chops.  We buy fabulous lamb from a local guy by the name of Terry Knudsen.  I've always loved lamb.  Terry's is the best I've ever had.  It was the Hoosier Lamb Chops that got me to buy the Fix It and Enjoy It cookbook.  Instead of making it as the recipe directed, I made a marinade then grilled the lamb chops and drizzled them with the sauce.

Hoosier Lamb Chops


four large or eight small lamb chops

for the marinade:
1/4 c black currant jam
2 t dijon mustard
1 T olive oil

for the sauce:
1 T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c black currant or black raspberry jam
1/4 c Pinot Noir
1 T fresh mint, chopped


Mix the marinade ingredients and slather it on the lamb chops. 

Heat your grill.

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Saute the onion until softened.  Add the other ingredients and simmer while the lamb chops are grilling.  Serve the lamb chops drizzled with the sauce. 

Last but not least, Connie's favorite:

Cheddar Pear Pie


4 large pears, thinly sliced
1/3 c sugar
1 T cornstarch
1/8 t salt
1 unbaked 9" pie shell

for the topping:

1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c flour
1/4 c butter
1/4 c sugar
1/4 t salt


Preheat your oven to 425.  Toss the pears with the other ingredients.  Pour the pears into the pie shell.

In a small bowl, mix the topping ingredients.  You want the mixture to be crumbly. 

Crumble the topping over the pears.

Bake at 425 until golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes before serving. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Old Favorites and A Newbie

Cooking time has been short for the last few weeks.  Connie played in a bridge tournament so was gone for three evenings.  There was a wine tasting dinner.  A couple of business related functions.  A couple of social things.  We'd not been to the grocery for two if not three weeks.  My refrigerator was about as empty as it gets.  Apples, some straggly carrots, a head of romaine, a box of mushrooms and a couple of ribs of celery that'd seen better days. 

Friday night Connie was playing his last game of the tournament.  I got an email from my dear friend Sue letting me know that she and Doug were going to be in Indy Friday evening.  Would we like to go out to dinner?  Of course I'd love to!  I got home a few minutes before their scheduled arrival.  They are fellow sushi lovers so I had high hopes that we'd head up the street to our favorite sushi restaurant - Tomo.  Then, they walked in the door and it dawned on me.  They'd left Florida several weeks ago and driven to California and now back to Indiana.  They'd eaten out for too many meals to count.  So, my first question was eat here or out?  Sue's eyes lit up and she said home cooking would be wonderful!

Off to the freezer I went.  What would thaw relatively quickly and be easy to cook?  Pork tenderloin would do nicely.  Then, I reached for a sweet potato.  Ummm, no.  It'd seen better days.  Better days a long time ago.  Into the compost bin it went.  Jane's Rice.  It's a pantry staple and SO easy.  A salad with apples and blue cheese and a mustard vinaigrette.  Then, our favorite new sauteed mushrooms.

New sauteed mushrooms?  How in the world do you improve on a knob of butter and a bit of garlic and maybe a splash of wine in your sauteed mushrooms?  You go to Epicurious and find Gourmet's old recipe published in 1999.  It was probably a Cooks Illustrated where I'd read the article about the best sauteed mushrooms.  Remembering the password for that site wasn't happening.  So, I hopped on Epicurious.  And, we tried these mushrooms.  And I declared I'd never again make plain sauteed mushrooms. 

I now had a plan for dinner.  Thaw the pork.  Slather it with Andria's Steak Sauce.  (Here's a link to my post about Andria's.) Grill it.  Make Jane's Rice and sauteed mushrooms.  Toss a salad.  Serve with red wine.  Best of all?  We have leftovers for Monday's lunch!

Saturday morning the four of us were off to our favorite breakfast hole-in-the-wall, Keystone Deli.  As usual, Connie and I both ordered the smokehouse breakfast and didn't touch our extra crispy home fries.  Those are for blue cheese potato salad for dinner tonight and lunch on Tuesday... 

Tonight we're trying Tuscan Ribs from a new cookbook.  They're slathered in this incredible rub and soaking it up in the fridge.  The blue cheese potato salad should be perfect with them.

Saturday late afternoon we headed to Costco and Marsh.  We were in the liquor aisle (shocking, I know) and we both looked at the Tanqueray.  Did we need some or not?  A couple walking by joined in the merriment of what's the worst that could happen?  We'd have TWO bottles instead of one.  We started talking about good drinks and Donna told us about one they make called a Calypso Cooler.  Neither of us could remember the measurements but Connie did a fine job of making a wonderful drink!  Connie promises he's going to get caught up on his drink posts.  I'm not going to make the same promise about all of my recipe posts...  That'd take more hours than I've got these days!

Back to Costco:  While we were there, Connie picked up a bag of fresh artichokes.  Now, I love artichoke hearts and artichoke bottoms.  But, fresh artichokes always feel like a lot of work for very little reward.  But, Connie wanted to try them so we did.  I pulled out my go-to vegetable cookbook - Greene on Greens and looked at a couple of other cookbooks and decided I'd poach them in water, lemon juice, white wine, crushed red pepper and peppercorns.  Then, I was on to the dipping sauce.  Garlic butter didn't appeal.  Green tapenade did.  Another Bert Greene recipe.  But, this time from The Store coobook. 

Along with the artichokes, we had another new recipe.  But, you'll have to come back to see that since it's my Secret Recipe post for the 18th.

So, are you ready for a recipe??

Sauteed Mushrooms


1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 T soy sauce
1 t sugar
2 T olive oil
10 oz mushrooms, quartered (I used cremini)
1 T unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced


Mix the lemon juice, soy sauce and sugar and set aside.  Pour the olive oil into a 10-12" skillet.  Heat it to shimmering.  Add the mushrooms and saute until they're nice and brown.  That'll take 5-10 minutes.  Add the butter and garlic and stir well. 

Once the butter is absorbed, add the lemon juice mixture.  Stir well.  Allow to cook for a few minutes so the liquid is absorbed.

adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious