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Thursday, December 27, 2012


Blizzard!  That means we stayed home the day after Christmas.  Fortunately, I packed a big briefcase of work and kept plenty busy.  Late afternoon it finally quit snowing so Connie and the snowblower tackled the driveway.  I kept plugging away at one of my projects.  About 6pm I finally got around to thinking about dinner.  It was supposed to be one of those evenings that I made something complicated.  The plan was to get home from the office at 5:30 and dig in.   So much for that plan. 

On the way back from our Columbus, OH visit, I read a Saveur listing 101 iconic dishes.  It started wtih a Spanish tomato soup called Salmorejo.  I love tomato soup.  Whether it's plain cream of tomato or chunky tomato basil or gazpacho, I love the stuff.  This was a recipe I wanted to try. 

I'm not sure what time the blizzard actually started but it was well under way when I got my lazy self out of bed about 7:30 in the morning.  To make the Salmorejo I needed a baguette.  And, there was leftover corned beef that was begging to be made into corned beef hash.  (You'll have to check back for that recipe.)  But, I had no potatoes.  What I did have was everything to make the pumpkin goat cheese pasta I'd planned for dinner.  To battle the elements or not?  The grocery is half a mile away. 

Tomato soup and corned beef hash won.  Thank goodness because both were fabulous.  This is probably unlike any tomato soup you've ever had.  In some ways it's like gazpacho because of the sherry vinegar and the olive oil.  In other ways it's like a pureed panzanella salad because of the bread.  Then, you put the chopped hard-cooked eggs and pancetta on top and those take it way over the top!

While I was cooking and working Wee Mac was checking out the activity outside then snoozing my the register in the bookcase:

The end result was that this was dinner.  The pasta never got made that evening.  Actually, what happened with the pasta is a great story - for another day...

Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup


2 t kosher salt (the recipe called for 3 TABLESPOONS - no way I was putting that much salt in!)
28 oz can diced tomatoes plus the juice (the recipe called for 8 cored, halved and seeded roma tomatoes - which would be great if they weren't selling rock flavored tomatoes at the grocery)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 small yellow onion, finely minced
1/2 baguette (the recipe called for 10 oz, I winged it and used half of a good-sized baguette,) torn into pieces
2 T sherry vinegar
1 c extra virgin olive oil
3 hard boiiled eggs, chopped
8 oz diced pancetta, browned and drained


As you can see from the ingredient list, I took a number of liberties with the recipe.  That's nothing new.  I'm not one who believes in making it as is the first time.  For one thing, sometimes I have to substitute ingrediens (the pancetta was supposed to be ham or prosciutto) or I think an ingredient might be a big bully (the salt.)  At any rate, this is so easy to put together. 

You start by putting the salt, tomatoes and juice, garlic, onion and baguette in a heat proof bowl. 

Heat a pot of water to boiling.  Pour a cup of the boiling water over the mixture.  Allow it to stand at room temperature for an hour.  Put everything in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the vinegar.  Puree until it's smooth then gradually pour in the olive oil.  Use extra virgin olive oil as it's an important flavor in the soup.  Don't wimp out and either use too little (the bread flavor will win) or use regular olive oil (blah.)  Chill and serve topped with chopped hard cooked eggs and pancetta and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

adapted from Saveur

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tilapia Pecan

After a few evenings of not being home for dinner, I just want to be HOME!  I'd never make it as one of those road-warriors.  I like to cook dinner at my house.  This past week was one of those weeks where we were out more than we were in.  By Thursday (which felt like Friday) I was ready to cook my own dinner and enjoy an evening at home with my hubby.  The weather looked like it was going to be cold and snowy.  All the more reason to stay home.

And, a great reason for a fire in the fireplace.  Here's Wee Mac checking out the fireplace then enjoying the fire:

With the big party coming up in a few weeks, we've got to start stocking up on wine and beer.  And, we needed to do a Sauvignon Blanc testing.  That meant I needed to make something that'd go well with a crisp white wine.  Out came my trusty list of recipes to try.  Top choice?  Catfish Pecan from Commander's Wild Side.  This cookbook is rapidly becoming the most used cookbook in my collection.  And, with one exception, everything has been fabulous.

Out to the freezer to collect catfish, peppers and pecans.  I had cod, flounder, tuna, shrimp, scallops and tilapia.  No catfish.  Hmmp!  Tilapia would have to do.  What to serve with it?  Quinoa would be perfect. A bit nutty but nothing that'd overwhelm the fish.  And, more of the fantastic asparagus we'd had the other evening.  From yet another bargain bin cookbook. 

What did we think?  Fabulous.  I'd make it again tonight.  Make sure your pan and oil are really hot so you get a great crust on the fish. That was the best part!  Since I was only making two small tilapia filets, I didn't make a whole recipe.  The recipe below is as I made it.

Tilapia Pecan


for the fish:
1/4 c pecan halves
1/4 c flour
2 t Creole seasoning (we use Emerils)
1 egg
1/4 c milk
2 tilapia filets
1 t Creole seasoning
2 T olive oil

for the Olive Oil Meuniere Sauce:
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c minced bell peppers (I used green and orange)
1 T minced shallot
1/2 c pecan halves
1 t thyme
1 lemon, halved
5 shakes Tabasco
1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t Creole seasoning


In the bowl of a food processor, combine the 1/4 c pecan halves, flour and 2 t of Creole seasoning.  Process until it's smooth. 

Put the pecan flour in a wide, shallow bowl.  Whisk the milk and egg together in another wide, shallow bowl. 

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil to shimmering.  Sprinkle the filets with the 1 t Creole seasoning.  Dip them in the milk/egg mixture then in the pecan flour.  Saute until they're nice and brown on both sides.  Remove the fish from the skillet and wipe the skillet clean.  Put in the extra virgin olive oil, bell peppers, shallots, pecan halves and thyme.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add in the leftover pecan flour.  There shouldn't be more than about a tablespoon of that left.  Cook that for a couple of minutes.  Finally, squeeze the lemon halves into the pecan mixture.  Add the Tabasco, Worcestershire and Creole seasoning. 

Serve the sauce over the fish.

adapted from Commanders Wild Side

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Connie's Salad

The other day I bought fresh broccoli at the grocery.  For the stems.  LOL.  Now, you think you have proof that I've really lost my mind, don't you?

Until a few years ago, broccoli stems were cut off and tossed.  Then, broccoli slaw became popular.  I've been tossing the peeled and sliced stems into salads ever since I discovered how good they are - and how good FOR you they are. 

Our dinner menu was a meat, a salad and sweet potato.  I can't even remember what the meat was to be...  Ah, old age is a wonderful thing!  Connie said a salad and the entree would be enough for him.  I still wanted some sweet potato.  On top of that, I had some leftover broccoli stems to use up.  And, some canned whole beets.  And, some spiced pecans.  Now, in my opinion, blue cheese and beets are soul mates.  Rather like Connie and me :-) 

Fine then.  I'd make a salad and include sweet potato.  How to do so?  My mind immediately went to croutons.  How about shredding a third of the potato and frying it in some vegetable oil?  What's the worst that could happen?  It'd taste horrid.  I had a plan.

What did we think?  Connie says he has a new favorite salad.  I've opened another can of beets and bought broccoli for the stems.  And, we're working our way through the sweet potato.  We loved the combination of flavors and textures.  This is one we'll make regularly!

I didn't measure as I went but will give you a rough idea of what I did...

Connie's Salad


shredded lettuce
sliced canned beets
peeled and sliced broccoli stems

crumbled blue cheese
spiced pecans
Emeril's seasoning or other Cajun seasoning
brown sugar
fried sweet potato shreds
olive oil
red wine vinegar
finely minced shallot


Make the dressing first and set it aside. 

Whisk together about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, a heaping teaspoon of dijon mustard, a finely minced shallot and about a half a teaspoon of sugar.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Next, make the spiced pecans.  In a small skillet melt about a tablespoon of butter.  Add a handful of pecans and allow them to brown.  Toss in a couple of teaspoons of dark brown sugar and Emeril's seasoning.  Once the sugar has caramelized, remove the pecans frm the heat.  (Remember - these were leftovers so I don't have prep photos...)

Now, it's time to fry the sweet potato shreds.  In a small, sturdy saucepan, pour about 1/2" of vegetable oil.  Heat it until it's shimmering.  While it's heating, peel about a third of a large sweet potato and shred it on the large holes of a grater. 

I did not pat it dry in paper towels.  Once the oil is hot, add half the sweet potato shreds. 

Stir them occasionally and keep a REALLY good eye on them because they'll go from perfect to burned in a heartbeat!  You want to get them nice and brown and crispy.  Drain them on paper towels.  See the cool tool I scooped them with?  That's one of the things Mom didn't take along when she moved to her independent living apartment.  Lucky me!

It's finally time to assemble the salads:

Start with a big handful of lettuce. Top that with beets, broccoli stems and blue cheese.  Drizzle with the dressing.  Sprinkle over the spiced pecans then top with the sweet potato shreds. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pulled Pork Reuben's

We made a new recipe for pulled pork.  It was supposed to be in the slow cooker but instead we did it in the pressure cooker.  No matter.  It was pretty darned blah.  And, there I was with three pounds of pulled pork...

So, for lunch I mixed some barbecue sauce and blue cheese and made bbq sandwiches.  Good.  A decent second meal.  Now to come up with something interesting for a few more...

How about pork chili?  Sounded good but probably needed more cooking time than I was interested in on a weeknight.  I was thinking black beans, onions, carrots, beer, chilies and some assorted spices.

Ok, so how about pork manhattans?  We had beef manhattans almost weekly in my grade school cafeteria.  I'm sure I've had some that were better but I certainly don't remember those. 

Finally, I settled on pork reubens.  I could double or triple the pork by adding in bacon or pancetta and some sausage.  Or not.  My one concession to the fact I was dealing with pork and not corned beef was to add some chopped green chiles to the thousand island dressing.  And, because I was dealing with pulled pork and not pork slices, I decided to chop it and mix it in with the sauerkraut when I heated it up.  Now, that was a lucky break.  The pork absorbed some of the sauerkraut flavor and stayed VERY moist.  In fact, I think I'll do the same next time I make a corned beef or turkey reuben. 

What did we think?  Very good sandwiches.  The sauerkraut certainly stood out more than it typically does with a reuben but that was fine with us since we love the stuff.  The thousand island dressing with chilies was a great addition.  I'd not change a thing!

Since I didn't get photos taken when we had these for dinner, I used the leftovers for lunch the next day...  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Here's how you put these together:

Toast your bread or bun
Slather it with 1000 Island Dressing with some chopped green chiles tossed in
Mix pulled pork with a can of Bavarian sauerkraut and simmer it in a medium saucepan until it's warm
Squeeze the moisture out of the pork mixture before putting it on the bun
Top the pork mixture with thinly sliced Swiss cheese
Broil until the cheese melts
Either top with another slice of bread/bun or not


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Curried Turkey Salad

There's bee a lot going on around our house.  Much of the chaos is due to one Wee Mac Connelly.  Much to Connie's chagrin he joined our family in August of this year.  He was a stray at the office and made it clear he'd like to go home with us when he beat me to the car!  Now, Wee Mac is in the process of learning good cat manners.  We have a bottle of NO water in about every room.  It's just a spray bottle full of regular tap water.  But a good squirt or two and a loud NO work wonders.  He's managed to learn that kittens do not come in the dining room while their humans are eating.  The one exception was the time he was lolling in the sunshine at the far end of the dining room.  He announced himself when we came in the room.  The meow was translated as, "Please don't make me move, this sunshine feels so good."  We let him stay and enjoy.  Then, there's the Mom, cat, bed game.  Who gets to sleep where?  George prefers my pillow.  Oh, I get a little bit of it but he gets the majority.  Gracie likes my feet.  And, Wee Mac loves the crook of my knees.  Makes turning over very interesting!  A couple of days ago he had his first experience with the oil from a can of tuna.  My but that was a wonderful cat treat!

George is pushing 18.  He's had kidney disease for eight years now.  And, for eight years I've made him his own food.  Here's a link to the recipe:  George food.  Over the years George has had his blood tested every year.  It's not fun and I don't blame him for yowling a bit.  This year, I took the old guy in for his checkup and found that he'd GAINED 1/10th of a pound.  Amazing.  Doc about danced.  I did too.  George just wanted to get in his carrier and go HOME.  He probably never noticed that Doc didn't check his blood.  I was glad that he didn't have to get stabbed once again.  But, first we had to check out. He was not amused when Trixie came up to say hi.

Ah, the life of a cat around our house!  Pretty cushy job, eh?

Well, now, on to cooking for a minute.  I know you'll be shocked to hear that we had leftover turkey.  I turned it into Curried Turkey Salad.   And, no, I didn't measure.  I was just happy to throw together something good that used up the turkey. 

Curried Turkey Salad


toasted pecans
lemon juice


Mix the mayonnaise, curry powder, lemon juice and mustard to make the dressing.  Toss it with the rest of the ingredients.  I topped it with the toasted pecans so they'd not get soggy in the leftovers.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Garlic Spaghetti

Years ago I read that there were four types of food people.  I can't remember much about the article but it boiled down to the fact that I crave pasta and butter.  In fact, if forced to choose one category to eliminate from my diet it would be sweets.  Fortunately, Connie feels the same way.

Both of us felt lousy today.  Sore throats, achy, runny noses.  I made it almost through the day then came home at 4:30 and took an hour-long nap.  Connie spent most of the day on the couch at the office.  We were both in the mood for comfort food.

Then, I opened an email from my friend, Shelley, asking for the recipe for garlic spaghetti I'd talked about at our last meeting.  That sealed it.  Garlic spaghetti for dinner.  Shelley, this one's for you!  Just wish you and Bill were here to share!

This recipe is actually Connie's.  I remember the first time he made it for me.  We'd been dating for a few weeks.  He had a rare weekday evening in town and came over to my place and cooked for me.  I know, is he a snag or what?  He wasn't accustomed to keeping leftovers.  I was.  The leftovers went in the fridge for the next evening much to his chagrin.  But, I was oh, so happy to have them and not have to cook that evening! 

Along with the garlic spaghetti, I made one of our favorite salads: Romaine Hearts with Haloumi Matchsticks.   Since the garlic spaghetti is not exactly good for you, I added hearts of palm and beets to the salad.  I think that's going to be a permanent change!

This is one of those super flexible recipes...  Just put it together like you like...

Take butter and melt it.  I used four tablespoons for two of us.  Chop a couple of cloves of garlic - VERY finely please.  Toss them in the melted butter.  Add olive oil.  Not EVOO but the regular stuff.  Add as much olive oil as you've used butter. Then, add in whatever kinds of garlic you've got around the house.  We typically have an open jar of Trader Joe's crushed, garlic powder and garlic salt.  If you don't have crushed garlic,  you might roast some and squish it in.  Now, leave that on very low heat and let it get happy for about half an hour. 

Get your pasta water ready.  And, get some parsley chopped.  And, some cheese grated.  We use whatever's around - or a mix thereof.  Parmesan, romano, grana padano, gruyere... 

Cook your pasta and drain it.  We prefer thin spaghetti but you can use anything you want.  Add the pasta to the garlic butter and toss it well.  Pile it in pasta bowls and top with some parsley and cheese.  Inhale the fabulous aroma.  Nothing like it, is there?  Time to eat :-)