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Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday, I was a cooking fool. Started in the garden and collected dozens of ripe tomatoes. Then, it was on to the green beans. I'd identified several recipes to try and started in once Connie got back from the grocery store. He is the world's best sous chef. Keeps the dishes washed and all the stuff chopped. Ten hours later, we'd cooked our way through about a dozen recipes. Needless to say, this might be a long post :-)

Let's start with the canning. I only did the heirloom tomatoes. The mountain of romas is still sitting on the counter awaiting their fate. Yesterday, we had Cherokee Purple with their green shoulders. Black Krim. Black Brandywine. Lemon Boy. Pink Brandywine. Several whose names escape me. We'll pull the tags up and make sure we reorder most of them. The Black Brandywine's are absolutely the best tomato I've ever eaten. Took Mom a couple today when I went over to pick her up for an eye doctor's appointment. When I took them out of the bag she waxed euphoric about the first batch I took her. No wonder, they're the perfect balance of flavor, acidity, sweetness. YUMMMM! The drill is carving an "X" into the bottom of each tomato, dunking it in boiling water for a few seconds, moving it to an ice water bath, then removing the skin, coring it and chopping it. Those tomatoes that didn't work for canning in chunks were tossed into a large saucepan. I added onions (chopped,) a few cloves of roasted garlic, a couple of bay leaves, salt, pepper, fresh oregano, crushed red pepper, a smidge of sugar and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice (to adjust the Ph so the sauce was safe to can - make sure you read up on the rules if you're going to can the stuff!)

Next was tomato pickles. This inspiration for this recipe came from Herb Companion. We'll know if we like these in a couple of weeks!

4 large heirloom tomatoes, unpeeled, cut into 6ths
6 cloves roasted garlic, sliced
3/4 c basil leaves
3/4 c cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs kosher salt
1 1/2 c cold water
1 lime, juiced

Cut the tomatoes and put into three sterilized pint jars. Make sure they're no more than 75% full. Boil the vinegar and salt until the salt dissolves. Add the cold water and lime juice. On top of the tomatoes, stack the basil leaves. Pour the liquid over the tomatoes leaving adequate head room.
Next was corn relish. For once, I almost followed a recipe. This came from the McCormick's web site. Their recipe calls for adding cornstarch to thicken the relish. I didn't think it needed that so omitted that step.
Corn Relish
6 cups cooked corn (9-12 medium ears)
1 1/2 cups diced red bell pepper (1 large)
1 cup diced green bell pepper (1 medium)
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp mustard seed
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Chop and mix the vegetables. Mix vinegar, sugar and seasonings in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Ladle into sterilized jars. Cover with lids and secure with rings. Will keep in the refrigerator for 3 months - although I doubt it'll last that long around us because this stuff is REALLY good!

Even though the recipes from Sunday aren't done I"m going ahead and publishing... More later :-)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Smoked Trout

Smoked trout. Something I'd never thought to buy. Found it at Trader Joe's and thought why not? So, as I've been clipping recipes, I've clipped a few calling for smoked trout. It's now right up there with tuna fish as a necessity of the pantry. This morning we had a wonderful breakfast...

Open Faced Smoked Trout Sandwiches

2 slices hearty grain bread
4 Tbs Alouette, herb and garlic
1 tin Trader Joe's smoked trout, crumbled
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes, chopped
salt & pepper
olive oil

Toast the bread. Schmear the Alouette on the toast. Top with the smoked trout, then the onion. Toss the tomatoes with the salt, pepper and olive oil. Serve on the side.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Eggplant and More Eggplant

We've got two eggplant plants and keep getting them from the csa. I've made ratatouille, fried eggplant, grilled eggplant... So, it was time to come up with something totally different. Eggplant and pasta. Thus was born Eggplant a la Medici.

Two small or one large eggplant, cubed. Do not peel them.
3 Tbs olive oil
3 crushed garlic cloves
1 tin flat anchovies
9 small tomatoes (roma works)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 Tbs. capers
1/2 ricotta cheese
1 chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 pound penne, cooked

Halve the tomatoes. Put them in a baking dish cut side up. Sprinkle with the sugar. Roast at 450 for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool and peel. Saute the eggplant in the olive oil. When it's close to done, add the garlic and the anchovies. Stir until the anchovies melt. Add the roasted tomatoes, olives, capers, chicken and ricotta. Serve tossed with penne and topped with fresh basil.

One of the other new and different ways I've cooked eggplant is involtini. Also known as rollatini. It's pretty easy and looks fabulous. And, yes, tastes as good as it looks. The measurements will depend on the size of the eggplant and how thinly you slice it.

One medium eggplant, sliced thinly lengthwise
olive oil
2 eggs
finely shredded parmesan or romano
shredded mozzarella
tin of anchovies
jar of good pasta sauce (Rao's is my favorite), heated through.

Dip the eggplant slices in egg then in a mixture of panko and parmesan. Saute in olive oil. Blot with paper towels. Lay the slices out and sprinkle mozzarella on them - about 1-2 Tbs per slice. Top with an anchovy filet. Roll up and secure with a toothpick. Put the involtini in a baking dish and bake at 350 until the mozzarella melts. Serve on a puddle of pasta sauce.

Tomorrow we're having another new eggplant dish. I sent Connie to the basement to check for things we need to finish up. Red bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash. And, of course, eggplant. Oh, yes, a ton of tomatoes. I've made a stuffing for the peppers...

Eggplant & Lamb Stuffed Peppers
4 red bell peppers
2 ground lamb patties
1/2 cup brown rice
3 large tomatoes
1 medium eggplant
1 Tbs. olive oil

Hollow out the bell peppers and set aside. Crumble the lamb patties. Brown and drain the meat. Cook and drain the brown rice. Peel and cube the tomatoes. Cube the eggplant. Saute the eggplant in olive oil. When it's close to being done, pour in the tomatoes and cook until the juice has practically cooked away. Mix lamb, rice, eggplant and tomato. Stuff into the peppers.

Grilling Season

We've grilled out for the last 5-6 meals. Tonight was no exception. The weather's perfect - cool and sunny. The hummers are visiting their feeder right by the table on the screened porch. The fountain is burbling away. Perfect for grilling. We love the frozen fish from Trader Joe's. Corn from the farmer's market. Tomatoes and basil from our garden. Lots of herbs.

Grilled Swordfish
Two swordfish steaks
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 tsp dijon mustard

Mix the marinade. Marinate the swordfish for about 90 minutes. Grill on medium heat for 4 minutes per side.

Herb Bread
6" piece French bread, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp lemon juice
4 shakes Tabasco
2 stems flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 stems tarragon, leaves removed from stem
10 chives, chopped

Mix the herbs, lemon juice and Tabasco into the softened butter. Toast the bread on the grill cut side down. Spread with the butter and put back on the grill cut side up until the butter melts into the bread.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


How many of you have actually eaten Moroccan food? We had a great restaurant here in Indy that closed about a year ago. One of the belly dancers was actually a physics professor in her real life. We've enjoyed the food every time we've had it, so I decided to try a bit of Moroccan cooking. Sunday evening was actually a mixed bag of Moroccan, Asian and American influence. The chicken breasts were rubbed with a brown sugar spice rub, the carrots were cooked with a spice mix, the eggplant was brushed with and Asian sauce and the potatoes were just plain American sinful!

For each chicken breast, I mixed about a tablespoon of brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander and garlic powder and some salt and pepper. I used skinless breasts but left the bones in because they stay more moist when they're cooked that way. They were baked at 400 for about 50 minutes. A couple of the bigger breasts weren't quite done at that point and needed a few minutes more. The breasts wound up with a hint of spiciness and a lovely almost crust. We rated these a "four" and have enjoyed the leftovers for lunches this week.

The carrots were inspired by Melissa D'Arabian's spiced carrots on I used the same brown sugar blend that I used for the chicken and mixed it with chicken broth, water and some cumin. Once the sauce cooked down to a glaze, they were ready. Her recipe called for adding lemon juice and parsely at the end but we skipped that step because we rated the recipe a "five" as it was.

Nota Bene:  We've made the carrots half a dozen times since then and I've used a really easy version. 

1 c carrot pieces
1 t cumin
1 T butter
1 T brown sugar

Cook the carrots in water til they're done.  Drain them and plop in the butter.  Once it's about melted, add the cumin and brown sugar.  Mix well and serve.

The eggplant was brushed with olive oil, sesame oil and grated ginger. It was relatively bland. I'd not make it again this way.

Melissa came through again with the potatoes. She made a potato torte on her first show. Instead of the double crust, I merely layered the potatoes in a pie plate and covered the "torte" with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking time. Then, the last 20 minutes I uncovered it to allow the top to brown. We rated this a "four."

The only dish that didn't "go" with the others was the potatoes. I just wanted to 1)try the recipe and 2)use up the rest of the CSA potatoes that looked so good.

Last evening was Devour Downtown at Dunaway's with some good friends. It was our first visit there and won't be our last. The food was very good and the service was also. Their building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Connie and I usually order two different dishes so we can split and share. But, he doesn't care for salmon and we've been eating chicken for several meals, so that left us with the beef on the Devour Downtown menu. Grilled shrimp over a mango salsa, caesar salad, grilled beef over corn salsa and a dessert sampler of creme brulee, caramel flan and chocolate souflee.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Marion's Slices of Happiness

As Emeril says, "Pork fat rules." Particularly when mixed with cheese. My sister-in-law, Marion, is one of the BEST cooks around. She's a master of getting the flavors, textures, colors et al to mesh perfectly. She's a mom to two small kids and one grown-up kid (my brother, Matt.) Plus she works full-time. So, she's also had to master the yummy and quick dish. This is one of those. Mom, John (brother,) Tom (nephew) and I went down to their home last Thanksgiving. Marion served us these for breakfast one morning. Couldn't wait to fix them for Connie when I got home. The toughest part is learning where in the world your grocery store stocks the Old English cheese!

Marion's Slices of Happiness

2 sleeves of sausage or 2lb of freshly ground sausage
3 jars of Old English cheese
2 package of English muffins

Lay English muffin halves on a cookie sheet. Brown and drain the sausage. Stir in the cheese. (Nota bene: We always double the recipe so we can use three jars of Old English cheese.) Keep stirring until it melts. Remove the pot from the heat and schmear the mix on English muffin halves. Pop them in the freezer overnight. The next morning, stack them in the sleeve the muffins came in and pop everything back in the freezer.

When you need a slice of happiness, put it in the toaster oven on 350 for about 15-20 minutes. It is indeed a slice of happiness!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Julie and Julia - what an inspiration! Thus far, I've not boned a duck. But, Connie is requesting a turducken so that may be in the cards this year. Guess I'd be boning a turkey, a duck AND a chicken for that adventure.

This weekend has been another adventure in good eating. Saturday morning we picked our cooler up from the CSA at the Binford Farmers Market. It was loaded with lettuce, eggplant, beans, cucumbers, melon, herbs and corn on the cob. I got some additional corn on the cob and some blueberries while we were there. Connie was a bit disappointed that Terry Knudsen of Viking Lamb (the BEST lamb!) didn't bring the son he normally brings. That little fellow usually hits him up to buy some lamb jerky by saying, "Hey Mister, ya got a dog?" Connie's always ready with his five spot. And, Annie's certainly ready for her treats!

Late afternoon we took a bag and went shopping in our garden. Lots of tomatoes. We stood there and ate a perfect Black Brandywine. Juice was dripping down our chins. Now, Connie understands why I wanted that plant so badly. Two Asian eggplants. A handful of red-veined sorrel. Most of our green beans were pretty healthy sized so they're much more suited to longer cooking. But, there were some that were very thin - tasted almost like candy. I took four at a time and wrapped a small piece of salami around them. Then, while the corn on the cob and the eggplant toasties were grilling away, I grilled the beans. The salami got all crunchy and the beans about melted in our mouths. The eggplant toasties were slices of eggplant brushed with olive oil and grilled, then layered with chutney and slices of fresh mozzarella on whole grain bread. The outsides of the sandwiches were schmeared wtih butter before grilling. Then, when the cheese was all melty and gooey and the bread was toasty with gorgeous grill marks, I took the toasties off the grill and added tomato slices and a salad made with basil, arugula, olive oil, lemon juice and a scoosh of crushed garlic.

Sunday brunch was smoked trout and potato hash topped with poached eggs. The only thing that could have improved that dish was some hollandaise sauce. Alongside, tomatoes with a cheese topping. A bit of mozzarella, parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper mixed into Hellmans mayo then schmeared on 1/2" thick tomato slices and broiled until the tops were all brown and bubbly.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Heirloom Tomato Season

The heirloom tomatoes are finally ripening. What fabulous eating! Tonight I steamed some green beans from the garden, chopped up some tomatoes (Black Krim and Pink Girl) and made a dressing with olive oil, red wine vinegar, shallots, dijon mustard, capers and fresh tarragon. Scrumptious!