Search This Blog

Friday, April 22, 2016

Deconstructed Pesto

Morels are finally in season.  In years past, we trudged out to the Mansfield Mushroom Festival.  Once to find they had virtually no morels.  Not fun when it's a couple hours drive from Indy.  Then we discovered a place close to home called Locally Grown Gardens.  They're very reliable about having morels.  We were in business! 

Early this week we thought it was about time AND we were going to be home for dinner - one of four evenings in April that we were scheduled to be home alone together for dinner.  Connie called Locally Grown Gardens and they were out.  BIG pout on my part!  But, they said they'd have more later.  We were scheduled to head to Civic Theatre on Friday for Fiddler on the Roof.  Typically we'd eat at Divvy or Matt the Millers or someplace on the way.  But with morels in the picture we decided to stay home.  Now, the fact that we'd not been to the grocery for two weeks and there wasn't much fresh in the house didn't dissuade us.  Not at all.  I figured something would present itself.  After all, when I finally got home from my Greenwood office at 7:30 on Thursday Connie managed to make a fabulous cheese and pickle plate to go with a bit of shrimp cocktail. 

On the way home from the office I thought about the options.  Mom's noodles with parsley and cheese came to mind.  That'd go just fine with morels.  Then, when I got home and realized the basil from Bradley's herb crepes was still fine two weeks later (who'd have thought that!) I changed plans a bit and decided to make deconstructed pesto.  There wasn't enough basil for real pesto and I didn't want to deal with the blender and the mess.  So, into the simmering water went two servings of whole wheat thin spaghetti.  Then, in a small skillet I put a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter.  About a quarter of a cup of pine nuts and a tablespoon of chopped garlic followed. 

I let the pine nuts and garlic get nice and brown then tossed the cooked and drained spaghetti with them.  Dry.  I added a tablespoon of butter.  Better but I'd still have preferred regular spaghetti.  Into the mix went about half a cup of finely grated parmesan and an equal amount of chopped basil. 

I tossed the whole deal and served it then added more grated cheese at the table.

What did we think?  Morels are just so sublime!  It would be impossible to top them.  But, the deconstructed pesto was very good.  Something that I'll make again once we have our own fresh basil.  And, yes, that will be soon.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Homerun Dinner

When an eight year old requests herb crepes with ham and cheese and hollandaise sauce, Grammie makes the dish.  We had headed over to Columbus, OH to celebrate grandson Bradley's 8th birthday.  Because we were going to get there late on Saturday and then spend all day Sunday at various sporting events, the only cooking I'd done was a worm cake.  More on that later...  Saturday evening went as planned.  Dinner at the Dublin Village Tavern.  Home of the incredible Village Chowder that I've semi-successfully duplicated.  And, the Irish eggrolls with corned beef.  That I can only wish I could duplicate!  Sunday morning was a hockey game.  Fortunately that was inside since the weather was more than a little nippy.  Said weather meant that part of Sunday's activities were cancelled.  That also meant that we'd be at the house for long enough for me to fix lunch.  Bradley confessed to Grampie that what he really wanted was the crepe dish I'd fixed when we visited for Rosie's birthday.  That morning I'd made the crepes for the adults and strawberry pancakes with cake sprinkles for the kids.  Bradley and his mama traded plates and both were VERY happy.  Herb crepes necessitated a trip to the grocery.  Thin sliced ham, Dubliner cheese (gruyere works,) butter and eggs for the hollandaise, and five packages of fresh herbs: oregano, thyme, basil, chives and rosemary.  I made Mom's blender hollandaise to nap them.  And, on the side a salad with baby kale, spinach, chard and beets topped with tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms and a Greek vinaigrette.  Dessert was the worm cake. 

Here's the short version of how to make the crepes...  Assemble your herb batter.  I've used two different recipes and the first was the best.  That's the one I can't put my hands on...  The second was Bobby Flay's recipe.  It was good.  Just not as good.  Put the batter in the fridge to rest for an hour.  Grate a good pile of sharp cheese.  I used Dubliner this time because I didn't see Gruyere.  Lay the thin sliced ham in a skillet.  Make the blender hollandaise and set it aside. Once you start making the crepes, turn the heat on the skillet to VERY low.  You just want to warm the ham, not cook it.  As the crepes come off the heat, sprinkle each with about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and top the cheese with a slice of ham or two.  Roll the crepe up and set aside.  As you serve them, nap each crepe with hollandaise.  Photos were scarce thanks to a tight timeline and lack of sous chef :-)

So, I promised I'd tell you about the worm cake.  I made a pound cake in a tube pan.  Once it was turned out and cooled, I cut it in half and arranged it on a foil-lined platter.  Then, I frosted it with a butterscotch ganache.  For the ganache I used butterscotch morsels and made the ganache stiffer than the chocolate ganache on the mounds bars.  Then, I made some buttercream frosting, dyed it green and drizzled it over the cake.  Gumdrops went on as did some licorice stings and M and M's for eyes. 

Now, the moral of the story is that I had five packages of leftover herbs.  Herbs are expensive.  I hate to waste them.  That meant figuring out a way to use them up.  My first thought was an herb salad I'd made a couple of years ago.  It was fabulous.  But, it called for mint which I didn't have.  Then, I started thinking about herb pasta.  Then, inspiration struck in the form of a cookbook I'd picked up at Goodwill.  On Thursday three appointments rescheduled.  One fellow had to drive to Huntsville, AL.  Another had a mother-in-law who was on the verge of being hospitalized.  And, the third works PRN and got a gig.  All of the sudden I was free to run three errands on the west side of town.  So, I headed west.  As I was heading from Mom's to The Garden Center I spied the Goodwill.  And, I couldn't resist.  Among several cookbooks was one titled The Frugal Foodie Cookbook.  It was a paperback so it was 99 cents.  Sold.  Friday morning I started leafing thru that one on the way to the office.  Connie drives.  I read cookbooks.  Nice deal, huh?   One of the first recipes I saw was garden salad with lemon herb dressing.  Friday we actually escaped the office for lunch.  Turns out we needed to deliver something to Mom's CPA and they're a hop, skip and a jump from Caplingers Fish Market.  Our go-to for anything fish or seafood.  We stopped and got cod sandwiches for lunch and a flounder fillet for dinner.  And, smoked tuna salad for Saturday's lunch. 

We got home Friday evening and debated.  Yard or house?  We'd worked our fingers to the bone in the yard on Thursday evening.  Our neighbor, Christina, had (totally tongue in cheek) come over and said, "I thought you guys were going to plant some bulbs?"  Here's what she was looking at when she said that.  LOL. 

Connie wanted to get the gladiolas planted.  I wanted to get the house straightened.  So, since we'd done yard the day before, we worked on straightening the house and fixing dinner.  I pulled out Mark Bittman's FISH cookbook and hunted for something simple for the flounder.  Broiled flatfish with mustard and thyme sounded perfect.  The rosemary would be perfect with red potatoes.  And, the rest of the herbs would go into a salad dressing.  But, I wanted to use hearts of palm and not bell peppers, carrots and the like.  What would complement the hearts of palm and the herb dressing?????  Ah, yes, beets.  Connie found a can of julienne beets.  We were in business.  I started the potatoes, then made the dressing and tossed the vegetables in to marinate.  Then, I made the sauce for the fish and worked on cleaning up the kitchen while the potatoes got happy.  As soon as the fish went under the broiler, I shredded, rinsed and dried some romaine lettuce.  That was topped with the marinated vegetables. 

What did we think?  We loved the fish.  The sauce was the perfect complement.  Not so much that it overpowered the fish but enough that it added some pizzazz.  The dressing, too, was perfect.  The Dijon and sugar took the edge off the citrus but still allowed the herbs to shine.  I will say that the original recipe called for dill, tarragon, cilantro, parsley and green onion.  I used oregano, thyme, basil and shallot.  Connie was a bit scandalized at my wanton substitution but it worked just fine. 

Lemon Herb Dressing

4 T fresh herbs (I used basil, oregano and thyme and because they're so strong used 3T instead)
1 T green onion or shallot
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
3 T lemon juice
1 t sugar
1 t Dijon mustard


Mince the herbs and shallot.  Mix with the other ingredients.

Broiled Flatfish with Mustard and Thyme


2 lbs flatfish fillets (flounder, plaice, dab, sole)
1 T oil or melted butter ( I omitted this)
1/3 c Dijon mustard
1 T sugar (sounds like a lot, trust me, it works)
1 t minced fresh thyme
1 T fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat your broiler.  Mix the mustard, sugar, thyme and lemon juice.  Put the fish on a broiling pan.  (I couldn't find the rack so mine went in sans rack...)  Slather the fish with the oil or butter or omit that if you'd like.  Slather the fish with the mustard sauce.  Broil for about 6 minutes or until the fish flakes.  The recipe says you can also bake it at 450.  I loved the little bit of caramelization that the broiling caused so would recommend that over baking...

adapted from FISH by Mark Bittmann