Saturday, July 8, 2017
I felt like I was a contestant on Chopped. Except all I had to cook with was the contents of my basket. And, it was a pretty darned empty basket! We'd gotten home from Alaska the night before at 2:00. It was supposed to be 1:00 but weather delayed an incoming flight to O'Hare so we were delayed. Once we got home we unpacked. Well, we unpacked what we could since Connie's primary suitcase never made the Seattle to Chicago to Indy connection. Five cookbooks, a glass piece with fireweed, a bronze moose, a couple of switchplates and a couple of zipper pulls. We didn't go nuts on the mementos, just the photos.
Needless to say, we slept in. Then, we went to the office. We were still pretty darned tired when we finally got home about 6:30. I'd done a decent job of cleaning out the fridge before we left. Except for some mushrooms that smelled to high heaven! And, neither of us wanted to go to the grocery. Besides, we'd not made a list so that would've meant two trips. Not happening. In my back pack I had two apples and two small bags of almonds. I'd tucked them in in the event we had a quick transfer and missed lunch or dinner. In the fridge I had some celery and a bit of blue cheese. And, on the counter there was a bowl with one weak and wobbly red onion and three shallots. Shallots that were also pretty weak and wobbly. There was a big container of basil. First thing I did this morning when I got up was deadhead the basil. That we had plenty of.
I decided the smartest move was to reach my hand into the freezer and we'd have whatever it was. LOL, it was a container of five cups of chicken stock. Ok, then. We were having chicken stock.
On the way back from the office I'd seen a recipe for a roasted red bell pepper and basil soup. That sounded really good but the apples were going to be a salad. Connie is not a fan of either fruit OR soup. Both for a meal was pretty much overkill! Unless, of course, I made risotto to go with them. Since I wound up making my own soup recipe up, I'm not crediting the original inspiration... We were off to the races!
I really can't tell you which I liked best. All three were fabulous and I'll make them all again.
Deconstructed Pesto Risotto
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 c Arborio rice
2 - 2.5 c chicken stock
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
3 T butter, divided
1/2 c pine nuts
3/4 c shredded Parmesan, divided
8 large fresh basil leaves
Saute the red onion in the olive oil. Once its softened, add the garlic. Don't let any of it brown. Add the rice and let it get nice and warm. Then, start ladling in the chicken stock one ladle-full at a time. Let the rice absorb the stock before you add more. And, remember, to be nice and creamy the rice needs to be knocked around a bit to release the starches. So, stir and stir and stir again. When the rice is about half cooked, toss in the chopped basil. Then, just as the rice finishes, add a tablespoon of butter and 1/2 c of the shredded Parmesan. While the rice is cooking, melt the other two tablespoons of butter in a skillet that's large enough to hold the eight basil leaves. Let the butter get nice and brown before adding the basil. Cook it until it's nice and crisp. Brown the pine nuts in a dry skillet. To serve, mound the risotto in the middle of your dishes. Sprinkle with the additional Parmesan, then the pine nuts. Top that with the fried basil leaves then drizzle with the remaining brown butter.
Blue Cheese and Apple Salad
2 apples, diced (I'd use Gala)
3 ribs celery, diced
1/4 c toasted almonds, chopped
1/4 c blue cheese, crumbled
2 t lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 c mayonnaise
Mix it all together and serve.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Basil Soup
2 shallots, diced
3 T softened butter, divided
1 jar roasted red bell peppers, plus the juice
2 - 3 c chicken stock (I used about 2.5 c because that's what was left from the risotto)
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
2 T flour
4 oz jalapeno cream cheese
4 T sliced fresh basil
Saute the shallots in a tablespoon of the butter. Chop the red bell peppers and add them along with the juice from the jar. Add the 1/2 c chopped fresh basil. Add the chicken stock. Cook for a few minutes just to blend the flavors. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Mix the other two tablespoons of butter with the flour and slowly add that to the soup. Stir well and allow it to thicken. Stir in the cream cheese. Once the cream cheese is melted, serve and top with the sliced fresh basil.
Monday, June 12, 2017
The best laid plans of mice and men... We were going to go see Alton Brown's Eat Your Science. We had an hour to either fix dinner and eat or go someplace and eat. My mind went to a great pasta dish from Michael Symon's 5 in 5. Sausage and kale pasta. I was thinking I'd put some goat cheese in. It'd be super quick and so much less expensive than eating out. Got home and put the water for the pasta on. Cut open the sausage and crumbled it into a skillet. Fed Wee Mac the cat. Took off my jacket. Headed for the fridge to get the kale. Ewww. A slimy mess. And, the power greens were at the office. Ok, plan B. Let's go for Arriabiata sauce from Trader Joe's. Drain the sausage, add about 1/4 c of red wine to deglaze the pan and pour in the pasta sauce. You know, that goat cheese still sounded good. So, 4 oz of goat cheese went in and happily melted away. Then, to round the flavors off I added about 1/4 c of cream and about a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. Served with small shells and we had a five! Oh, and we had no photos...
So, let's talk about some food that we have photos of! Or, as my mother would say, food of which we have photos... LOL, isn't it funny how our language changes?
We went to Cape Cod for a few days. Drove out the south route and stayed in Harrisburg, PA. Had a decent dinner at a great restaurant and bar. Actually, it was the deck that was killer. It was huge, had a bunch of fire pits and a wonderful covered bar. But, alas I can't even remember the name... The next day we drove the rest of the way. It was a bit unnerving to go through a tunnel in NYC behind the flashing lights of a bomb truck.
But, all was safe in the tunnel. We got to Cape and headed straight to Salty Lou's. He's our favorite lobsterman.
Turns out we literally got the first chicks of the season. Chicks are the nickname for lobsters of a certain weight - like 1.5 lbs. We headed to Auntie Barbara's house for a lobsterfest with the kids. YUM!
The next day I went shopping. Barbara had been planning on renting out the Cape house so she'd cleared it out. The rental had fallen through. We needed all kind of things like washcloths, dish detergent... A LONG list was in hand. After the shopping we were to go up to Boston to see Auntie Kay. It felt like everyone from Boston was heading south to Cape and everyone from Cape was heading north to Boston. On top of that there was a grey, steady rain. Miserable traveling. About the time we should have been arriving our navigation system said we had an hour and 11 minutes go to. UGH! So we plodded along. And, half an hour later it said we had an hour and 14 minutes to go. We were going backwards! Needless to say we bailed and went up to see Auntie Kay another day.
A couple of days later we drove around Cape for about half a day looking at condos for Matt. Just the outsides to see how well maintained they were. At one point we headed toward the water. And, saw a juvenile red-tailed hawk. He wasn't particularly concerned about the humans taking photos. He was just interested in finding lunch!
Now, the good news is that with all of that time in the car I got some old cooking magazines read. There was one recipe that I saved out of the pile of recipes to try. For a shredded carrot salad. From Cuisine at Home. We finally got to the grocery so I actually had all of the ingredients in hand. It was good the first day but better the second. The carrots softened a bit. Which brought out their sweetness. This is one we'll make again!
Carrot and Cranberry Salad
1 t minced lemon zest
3 T fresh lemon juice (I used 2)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T grated fresh ginger
1 T honey
salt and pepper to taste
1 bag shredded carrots (10 oz - about 3.5 cups)
1 c dried cranberries
3/4 c chopped walnuts, toasted
1/3 c each chopped fresh parsley and minced scallions
Make the salad dressing by combining the lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger and honey then whisking in the olive oil. Toss it with the carrots, cranberries, walnuts, parsley and scallions. This is wonderful left over so you may want to make it the night before...
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Connie isn't terribly fond of fruit. Soup, fruit and corn. That's pretty much his no-go list. I could live on soup. Mom's minestrone in particular. But, I also love fruit and corn. So, tonight when our cart at Costco looked like a Fruitopia, he wasn't amused. Pears, peaches, cherries, clementines and red grapes all came home with us. What are you going to make with all of that??? That was the question of the evening.
I'd decided to make the cherry tabouleh I made last year. But, we got home and didn't have cucumbers or parsley. Most of my herbs are producing well. Except for the parsley. I'd bought a rotisserie chicken thinking I'd just go ahead and slice some to go with the tabouleh. How about chicken salad with cherries instead? Off to eatyourbooks.com and I found a plethora of such recipes. Many called for tarragon. Which I don't have. A few called for dill. Which I have in abundance. I read all the ingredients in all the recipes and decided on my own recipe. Which was fabulous if I do say so myself!
Cherry Chicken Salad
makes 4 good-sized sandwiches
1 large chicken breast, cooked and chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1 cup cherries, pitted and quartered
3/4 c walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 shallot, minced
1/4 c sour cream
1/2 c mayonnaise (or more to taste)
2 fronds fresh dill, minced
onion buns or bread, toasted or not
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