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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pesto Risotto

Every once in a while a cooking contest will have the contestants schmoosh two recipes together.  Usually it's a pretty darned weird combination.  In our case, we combined risotto and pesto and got a pretty darned GOOD combination.  Good enough that I can say I liked this better than pesto and pasta.  Who'd have ever thought that????

Let's start with the pesto.  About 30 years ago a friend of mine named Monica gave me a pesto recipe.  I wrote it on the back of one of those pink phone message slips.  And, that's still what I use...  It's dog-eared as all get out.  But, it's still the best pesto recipe I've ever found.  Her secret is that you can do everything but add the butter and the parmesan and freeze the sauce.  We freeze a couple of pints of that every fall.  Then I thaw enough for each recipe and add the appropriate butter and cheese and we're good to go.  Just in case, I always keep a jar of Trader Joe's pesto in the pantry.  It's ok as a back up.  Here's the link to the post with the pesto recipe:

And, now, risotto.  Our clean up the kitchen for two.   Over the years I've posted several recipes for risotto.  But, it appears that I've never posted our basic recipe.  So, here goes:

Kate's Basic Risotto


1 T olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 c Arborio rice
1/4 c white wine (Chardonnay is usually best)
2-3 c chicken or turkey stock (keep warm in a saucepan)
1 T butter
1/2 - 1 c grated Parmesan


In a medium saucepan, saute the onion in the olive oil until it's softened.  Pour in the rice.  Saute until it's a teeny, tiny bit brown.  Maybe I should say beige?  Although, Connie insists there are actually only eight colors and they can be found in the basic Crayola box!  So, once the rice gets a bit of a suntan, pour in the wine.  The rice will slurp it right up.  Ladle in about half a cup of stock and stir and stir and stir.  It's the stirring motion that causes the rice grains to release their starches and create the creaminess you want.  When the rice runs dry, ladle in another half cup.  And stir. And, so on until the rice is the right texture.  You don't want it al dente nor do you want it dry nor do you want it mushy.  It needs to have creaminess with texture.  If you've run out of stock and your risotto still isn't the right texture, toss in some water.  It won't hurt a thing.  Now, if you're planning on adding anything, this is the time to do it.  Whatever you add in should have been cooked in advance and should be nice and warm.  We put whatever in.  Mushrooms, peppers, shrimp, chicken, beef, zucchini, beets.  Like I said earlier, risotto is clean up the kitchen for two for us.  Ok, you've added in the extra and now it's time to plop in the knob of butter and the Parmesan.  Mix it all together and serve.  You can add more cheese on top as well as some fun crunchies.  We particularly love nuts.  But, French fried onions are equally good. 

Now, you've got the pesto made and the risotto made.  Mix in the pesto until you get a flavor you like.  For our pesto risotto, I browned some pine nuts.  They added the crunch and pizzazz I wanted.  We gave this one a five out of five!

As you'll note, there's a salad in the photos.  It's one of our favorites.  I had dribs and drabs of veggies to use up.  Celery, a small zucchini, a roma tomato, some radishes...  All of that tossed with some homemade blue cheese dressing and a sprinkle of dill and we were in business! 

Here's the link to the blue cheese dressing we love:  I will say as time has gone on, I've upped the amount of dry mustard.  We love the tang it gives the dressing!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Roasted Strawberry Cobb Salad

While we were on vacation I had a couple of salads with strawberries strewn across the top.  It is that season, after all.  When you get the ripe, juicy perfect strawberries.  And, not the Styrofoam things that look like strawberries but taste like, well, Styrofoam!  While on our way home from the office on Sunday I suggested to Connie that we stop at the stand down the street.  First I checked out the bargain table.  Each box is $1.00.  I scored two heads of perfectly fine iceberg lettuce in one, four bell peppers in another and a mountain of peaches in yet the third.  Then, the clamshells of strawberries were buy one, get one free.  Score!  $6.00 and I had everything I'd need for dinners and lunches this week.  That's in addition to my Imperfect Produce box that had a couple of roma tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, kale and a bunch of other goodies. 

The first dish that came to mind was a wedge salad.  We love my version of blue cheese dressing:  mayo, sour cream, dry mustard, cider vinegar and loads of blue cheese whirred through the bullet.  That and the duck breasts with cherry sauce I'd been wanting to make.  But, until we went to Jungle Jim's I couldn't find duck breasts.  We bought four there and since we split one for our entrée, we're good to go for a couple of months.  Ok, that was dinner Sunday. 

Lunch Monday was the next issue.  Salad with strawberries.  How about a strawberry vinaigrette on top of the strawberries?  I used and hunted and hunted. Finally!  On closetcooking by Kevin Lynch I found it.  Roasted strawberry vinaigrette.  It sounded perfect.  And, it was.  Given that we had an avocado to use up and I'd fried bacon for the wedge salads and we had rotisserie chicken at the office, it sounded like a strawberry Cobb salad was in order. I added in some bourbon basted pecans that I read about in one of the cookbooks I bought on vacation.  Tried going back through the indexes and couldn't find the recipe listed so I made it up...  It drives me crazy when some cookbooks don't separately list the recipes inside the recipes.  Oh, well, at least I can usually recreate!

Roasted Strawberry Cobb Salad

lettuce, chopped (I used iceberg because that's what we had.  You can use spinach, romaine...)
avocado, diced
strawberries, diced
bourbon basted pecans
blue cheese, crumbled
chicken, diced (I used slices of breast meat from a rotisserie chicken)
bacon, cooked and crumbles
roasted strawberry vinaigrette

Bourbon Basted Pecans
Toss a handful of pecans with about a tablespoon of bourbon.  Allow them to sit until the bourbon is absorbed.  Toss the pecans with a knob of butter (I used about a tablespoon) and a good sprinkle of seasoning (I used Emeril's but many would work.)  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes stirring regularly.  You could also do these in a small skillet.

Roasted Strawberry Vinaigrette
makes enough for four salads
1 c strawberries
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t honey
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Time for a Vacation!

Connie and I do vacations pretty much the way we live our lives.  Pack as much in as possible then collapse and sleep and get up and do it all over again.  With everything going on over the last year, we’d only had four days totally out of the office.  And, that includes Sundays.  So, yes, we were overdue for some fun and games.  We got our favorite traveling partners to come along with us and off we went.

First stop, Huber Winery.  We’ve been there umpteen times and are always so impressed with what they’re doing down there in Starlight, IN.  A wine tasting, a trip through the cheese shop (green onion Havarti anyone?) and a quick visit to the farm market and we were on our way to Huber Family Farms.  Home of our favorite fried chicken livers.  We split a dinner and there were still enough for me to have those for breakfast the next morning.  We always get the cole slaw as one of our sides.  It’s the sweet and sour – read sugar and vinegar – kind.  And, it’s frequently the one I pull out the Huber cookbook and make at home.  This time we tried the chicken and dumplings as another of our sides.  A bit too salty and not enough like my grandmother’s.  Next time I’ll go back to the green beans.



From Huber we headed south to Falls of the Ohio state park.  Fabulous.  The interpretive center takes you from 450 million years ago when that area was 30 degrees SOUTH latitude to now when it’s 38 degrees north.  It walks through the formation of the New Albany shale and how the fossil beds came to be at the bottom of a lake and are now part of a river.  Totally fascinating science there. 

Yes, one of us HAD to put his feet in the river...


Next stop was the George Rogers Clark homestead.  Interpreters were there so that made it much more interesting.  Can't believe I didn't get ONE photo!

Finally, we headed into New Albany and drove around a bit to see where we were going the next morning.  And, to investigate the restaurant we’d decided on for dinner.  Hull and High Water was the name.  And, it was closed.  Bummer.  On to our second choice.  Closed.  Ok, so our third choice was OPEN.  We checked in to our hotel and freshened up then headed out for dinner.  What a dinner it was.  Enough food to feed an army.  And, it was wonderful food.  I had an appetizer – tots and Bourbon BBQ beef – along with a spinach salad with strawberries.  Connie had a burger and mac and cheese.  We’d eat at The Exchange regularly if it wasn’t so geographically undesirable. 


Day two.  Up early and on to the Culbertson Mansion.  Caitlin gave us a fabulous tour.  At one-point Mr. Culbertson was the richest man in Indiana.  The house was a wedding present for his second wife.  His first had died and he married a widow.  Connie and I both responded that our favorite thing of the entire trip was the ceilings in the Culbertson mansion.  I’ll let the photos do the talking…


Time to head south to Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill.  We got there in time to grab sandwiches and eat a picnic on the grounds.  At 1:00 we had an introductory tour thanks to Andrew.  Then, at two we had a farm tour and tasting.  They’re using all environmentally sound practices.  We met some interesting ducks and got to see piglets and chickens and one magnificent rooster!  Then it was off to the gift shop where we scored some switch plate covers!  Our last activity at the park was on Shaker Music.  A retired Methodist minister named Holly Wood led the lesson.  Now, we truly understood why they were called Shakers.  Last but not least we took a ride on a paddle wheel boat up the Kentucky River.  Saw a few turtles and a couple of fish jumping but it was mostly about the great scenery. 


see the turtle?


On to Beaumont Inn.  My folks used to go there regularly.  It was my first visit.  I, of course, told Mom it was as magnificent as she remembers it being.  In actuality, the food was average and we weren’t thrilled that the advertised rocking chairs weren’t on our porch.  Oh, and we didn’t like the full ashtray that WAS on the porch.  I was torn between being glad I finally got there and being sorry it wasn’t what I’d imagined I’d find…  Isn’t that often true of life!



Day three.  I know, it feels like we packed four days into the first two!  Up and at ‘em and on to Fort Harrod.  It’s a living history museum so we got to learn about broom making, weaving, basket weaving and how the fort’s residents managed to hunt despite the Indians.  Well, sometimes they succeeded and often they never came back…  Over to the side is a pioneer cemetery.  Some of the info is tough to read but it is fascinating.  Up front is the cabin where it's believed Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were married.  Very well protected inside a red brick building!  It’s a very well done site.



Next stop – Berea and Squire Boone’s Tavern for lunch.  Chris and I both got the fried green tomato salad with chipotle dressing.  YUM!!!  I’d have that again right now!!  Lunches were served with spoon bread.  


We meandered down the street and checked out the artisans.  Most everything was expensive so we passed on everything we wanted.  It’s about experiences and not stuff!  Well, unless it’s cookbooks.  Which I did buy a few of…  Then it was on to the artisan village.  Intermittent rainstorms and more expensive stuff for sale.  But, it was a lot of fun to see it all. 

Time to head for Covington, Kentucky.  We’d made reservations at a hotel overlooking the Ohio River and downtown Cincinnati.  Our GPS took us over the river and through the woods to get there.  We finally figured out it was trying to get us exactly to the front door instead of the parking lot.  Once we got the car unloaded and checked into our rooms (on the 12th floor!) we decided more traveling that evening wasn’t a great idea.  So, up to the 18th floor we ventured.  May we see a menu please?  18 is a steakhouse that revolves.  It takes about two hours for a full revolution.  We decided we’d go downstairs to our room and have a cocktail then eat a bit later.  About 7:00 we went back upstairs and got a perfect table at an outside window.  Dinner was good.  Not amazing.  Just good.  Of course, I’m spoiled by St. Elmo’s and Berns and Bones.  So it’s tough for a steakhouse to measure up!  Back downstairs we watched the activity on the bridge, river and in the city.  And, watched the evening turn to night.  It was lovely and relaxing. 


Chris was thrilled because we could “rise naturally” on Thursday.  That’s a term we learned at the Culbertson Mansion.  The women in the family were all allowed to rise naturally.  We were still on schedule to head to a cathedral down the street for it’s 10am opening time so I set an alarm.  Good thing because I got a few chigger bites at Shaker Village so I was up half the night itching. 

Day four.  The Cathedral of the Assumption was our first stop.  More stained glass than I’ve ever seen in one place.  And, incredible mosaics on the walls.  Connie explained that they are the stations of the cross.  I’m not certain how many photos I took but I really went over the top!   

From there we headed downtown to the Underground Railroad Museum.  They suggest at least two hours to tour it.  We really needed six to eight but finally gave up after four and a half.  Fortunately, they have an in/out policy so we were able to take off around lunchtime and go next door to Taste of Belgium.  I do wish they’d open a location in Indy!  Connie and I split a mushroom crepe and a pig and fig crepe.  The mushroom was absolutely outstanding and the pig and fig was close behind it.


During our museum visit we all learned a lot.  And, all of us got very depressed about what the white folks have done to the Native Americans and the African Americans.  We only got through the major gallery and our two specialty tickets – one for the Rosa Parks Experience and another called the Color of Money.  We’re going to need to go back to finish.  It’s absolutely worth a visit.


As we got in the car the rain and the wind started.  Stoplights were swinging parallel to the ground.  It was ugly.  We debated the intelligence of heading to Spring Grove.  It’s a cemetery and arboretum.  Finally the consensus was the storm would blow through by the time we got there.  It did.  There are three paths to follow.  We took all three.  Saw turtles on the first two and a groundhog on the third.  And, more downed branches than you can count.  And, two downed trees.  And, TONS of interesting headstones.


We had a bit of time to kill before dinner so found a Goodwill where I could check for cookbooks.  Found two.  That put my total for the trip at six.  I’ve already used three of them and love them.  Have a ton of recipes bookmarked to try. 

Dinner was at the Incline Public House.  Where we saw another engagement!  Two in two nights!!!  All of our dinners were fabulous.  Fish sandwich, smoked brisket grilled cheese, hamburger, and soup and salad.  The view was great too.  Back to the hotel to collapse.

see the white bridge on the right?  behind it there's a tall, round building.  that's our hotel!


Up early Friday morning to head to Holtman’s Donuts.  Oh, yeah.  Best donuts I’ve ever had.  Connie loves chocolate cake glazed.  Those were better than his beloved Dunkins.  I had a maple bacon yeast that was so good my mouth is watering just typing about it.  Good thing that shop in in Cinti and not Indy or we’d be regulars.


Last stop, Jungle Jims.  Virtually no room in the car other than the cooler so we had to be judicious.  I had a few things on my list that I can’t find in Indy.  Duck breasts (probably at Kincaids but we’ve not been across town to check,) goetta, pink peppercorns, champagne vinegar…  We found a few more treasures but mostly enjoyed window shopping.  If you’ve never been there, you need to go.  I think it’s the size of a couple of football fields.  There are side rooms for specialty ethnic foods.  Ireland, France, Spain…  And, shelves and shelves for others.  I took a ton of photos of interesting food.  And, of the décor.  Gotta keep looking up or you miss half the fun!  Lobster was on sale so we got a couple of them.  One to split for dinner Friday and the other for lobster rolls on Saturday.  Rather threw off my dinner menus, but that’s ok. 


Ok, homeward bound.  On the way home, Chris started talking about a great restaurant in Columbus that I’d never found.  Homeboys.  Well, that became our lunch destination.  Fried chicken and fish bites.  YUM!  Green beans with real seasoning and great mac and cheese. Well worth the wait. 

On to Indy and one happy doggie!!! 

Back to reality.  Time to cook dinner was upon us.  Lobster and what else?  The imperfect Produce box was the standard one since I never got online to customize it.  Apples, oranges, red potatoes, carrots, kiwis, kale and a few other goodies.  I pulled out two small red potatoes and the kale and started looking through my new cookbooks.  And, Giada’s Italy which I’d taken along to read.  Found a couple of great recipes.  

Saturday evening we were heading to the theatre.  Dinner had to be quick.  Connie actually found split top buns for our lobster rolls.  I saw a recipe a while back for lobster rolls with browned butter instead of the usual mayo or the usual butter – depending on which state you’re in!  I decided to mix mayo and browned butter and see what happened.  Well, let me tell you, yumminess happened.  I grabbed some fruit from the produce box and threw together a fruit salad that wound up being a total winner.  Here’s how our meals came together:


Bourbon Balsamic Kale

Serves 4

4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 bunch kale, stemed and torn into large piecesK
Kosher salt and black pepper

Brown the bacon in a large skillet.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the skillet then pour off all but two tablespoons of the bacon grease.  Sauté the garlic, scallions and red pepper flakes.  Pour in the balsamic vinegar and cook until it’s a bit reduced.  Stir in the kale and keep stirring for four to six minutes until it’s wilted. 

Adapted from Tasting Kentucky by Maggie Green 

Giada’s Parmesan Potatoes

Serves 2

2 small redskin potatoes
Olive oil
1 small sprig rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
½ - ¾ c shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 425.  Cut the potatoes into quarters.  If they’re larger, eighths or sixths will work.  Toss them with olive oil.  Put them in a baking dish and sprinkle them with the rosemary.  Roast them 20 minutes, tossing a couple of times.  Then, sprinkle the cheese over and roast them another 10 minutes, tossing them once. 

Adapted from Giada’s Italy by Giada DeLaurentis

 Kate’s Lobster Rolls

Serves 2

serves 2
One 1.5 lb lobster, cooked, picked and chopped
¼ c mayonnaise
1 T browned butter, warmed
1 large or 2 small celery ribs, finely diced
2 split top buns
1 T butter

In a skillet, melt the last tablespoon of butter.  Brush it over the bottom of the skillet.  Open the buns and put them in the skillet cut side down.  While the buns are getting nice and brown and toasty, mix the rest of the ingredients for the rolls.  Stuff the filling into the buns and devour.

Tropical Waldorf Salad
Serves 2

1 apple, cored and chopped
2 kiwis, peeled and chopped
¼ c browned and chopped pistachios
¼ c mayonnaise
1 T Malibu rum

Toss it all together and serve.