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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rum Runner

Hello, everyone.  This is Connie taking up the mantle to write the Sunday evening cocktail post.  With no particular idea in mind or recipe in hand, I grabbed The Cocktail Hour by Ben Reed, from Ryland Peters and Small, 2002.  Nice little book with great photographs.  It features mostly standard recipes with only a modicum of exotic ingredients.  I opened it, turned a couple of pages and settled on the Rum Runner.  Easy recipe and, as it turned out, fairly delicious.  Great balance of fruit flavor and not an alcohol bomb. 

But that's not the story for today.  The story is how we came about having one of the particular ingredients.  Kate has told you about the annual holiday party that we have hosted for the past eight years.  We invited 1,600 people last year (full well knowing that most people will never come) and we average, depending on the weather, around 160.  Last year it was closer to 180, but as I said, it depends on the weather.  And they never are all there at once.  People come, eat, have a drink or two and leave.  It's a great way to thank all your friends for their friendship and to celebrate making it to a new year. 

Year 6.  The party is in full swing and I am standing in the garage with our friends Mark and Chris.  The bar is set up in the garage and our bartender, Marti, mans (womans?) the bar for us.  As the three of us are talking, a couple comes in and asks for some wine. 

A little background here.  I am terrible with faces and names.  So bad in fact, that I have been known to forget people's names in meetings when they reported to me when I was in banking.  I'd look at someone whose annual review I'd be writing, and draw a blank.  I'd remember later of course, but wow!  So bad in fact, that I rarely got my children's names correct on the first attempt.  I'd yell David!, Gregory!, Matthew! When I was looking squarely at Matt.  In my family, we called that the Nana's.  My grandmother did the same thing.  I have no idea how many times I heard Stephen!, Eddie!, Connie! My uncles' names finally followed my me, the only other person in the room.   

Anyway, when the couple went up to Marti and asked for wine, I turned to Mark and said, “I don't know those people, I don't think they were invited.”  The couple were three feet from us and when they got their wine, they turned to us and said hi.  Mark is quick.  He immediately took up from what I said and returned the greeting and said, “Are you a friend of Kate's?”  “No.”  “Then you must know Connie.”  Here I am, playing Mickey the dunce, saying nothing.  “No.”  “Well how did you end up here?”  “We live just down the street, we saw all the cars, so I asked Megan if she wanted to stop.  She said no, but I stopped anyway.  She wouldn't come in, but I did.  I took a look around and it seemed like a nice, friendly party, so I went back outside and told her it would be okay.  Then we came back in.” 

Party crashers!  Bless us and save us!  Mark pressed on.  “So, what about the hosts, are you going to say something to them?”  “Well, I'd love to, but I don't know who they are.”  I told you Mark was quick.  “Here's one of them right here”, pointing to me. 

Now, I have been known as straight forward, maybe even blunt.  It's an east coast thing.  Lots of folks from other parts of the country tend to be more round about.  Not Bostonians.  We find it best, generally, to set the rules so everyone knows what coming.  Darren, Megan and I introduced ourselves.  I then set about making the rules.  “Darren, do you know how many people are here tonight?”  “No.”  “About 150.”  “Do you know how many people it takes to have the cops come?”  “No.”  “One!  Now are you that guy?  If you are that guy I want you to leave right now.  If you are not, one more person in this house will make no difference.  We have plenty of food and drink, and you are welcome.  So, are you that guy?”  “No, I am not.”  “Then fine, go get something to eat.” 

They went off into the house.  To be fair, I didn't leave the affair there.  I told three or four friends what was going on and had my posse tailing them.  I also let Kate know.  Later, when I had determined Darren had had enough to drink, I politely, but firmly, asked him to leave. In doing so, however, I also told him he had behaved well and if he would provide me his e-mail address, I would invite him the next year.   

So Darren and Megan showed up in year 7 with a lovely bottle of ice wine.  He told me that he never thought that I would actually send him an invitation, but I did.  I may be blunt, but I mean what I say.  This past year he showed up with a bottle of rum, The Kraken.  This was totally uncalled for because: 1) we ask for no gifts (people don't listen), 2) we serve no liquor, only beer and wine, and 3) this was a little more expensive than most hostess gifts (certainly more expensive than the well-meaning couple who showed up with a bottle of Charles Shaw (3 buck Chuck?  Are you kidding me?  They should have left it in the car, sparing me the embarrassment of actually having to thank them.). 

So there's the story.  The dark rum tonight in the Rum Runner was none other than Darren's The Kraken.  Which, only to add a little irony to the tale, is my daughter-in-law's name for my grandson.  She writes regularly on Facebook about him and while I am doing my best to prepare him to terrorize the world, he really doesn't seem to need my help. 

Rum Runner

(for one.  Normally we show drinks for two, but since this is a larger than normal drink, it doesn't fit into the cocktail shaker when made for two.  A little patience is involved.) 

1 oz white rum (we use Bacardi's)
1 oz dark rum (we use The Kraken)
juice of 1 lime
a dash of sugar syrup (we use 2:1)
6 oz of pineapple juice 

shake all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker for 30 seconds 

Strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. 

Toast the one you love, and enjoy!



Monday, July 22, 2013

Celebrating Summer!

About a month ago I started keeping a food journal. For years I've made my menus on the back of our grocery lists.  They'd get lost.  I'd get frustrated.  There was no way to go back and find recipes I'd wanted to try but hadn't.  What my eighth grade drafting teacher would've called a mell of a hess.  Turns out one of the reps had brought me a journal.  A blank journal.  Perfect.  Now, when there are photos that I can't quite figure out I can go to the journal.  I can also keep a list of the things that need to be used up.  For example, today's list was:  chicken stock, bbq pork and beef, peaches, cabbage, corn, pesto potato salad, fresh mozzarella, panzanella salad, pickled beets, eggplant involtini, pesto, grilled zukes, rhubarb, chanterelle mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet cherries in port, meringues, eggplant spread and asparagus.  Quite the collection, eh?  I've got four dinners to plan from that.  Plus six lunches.  We'll be eating well, won't we?

Now, the other great thing about the journal is that when I make up a recipe I've got a place to record it without having to actually write a blog or create a document in Word.  Saturday evening is a great example.  Eggplant involtini was on the menu.  It's one of our favorites.  Turns out there was an old eggplant in the fridge downstairs.  It was on its last legs and there was no way I could use it for involtini.  So, I created an eggplant spread.  First I peeled and cubed the eggplant.  Then, I tossed it with olive oil and roasted it for about 25 minutes.  After that it went into the food processor with about 2 T of tahini, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 t of lemon juice, 1/2 t of cumin.  That all got processed.  Then, I drizzled in 2T of olive oil.  It was fabulous on some nice crackers but would be equally good on fresh veggies.  Or, on a sandwich...  It wasn't much too look at but made up for that in taste!

About the same time, I thought about the sweet cherries in the fridge.  They really needed to be used up.  And, I had two leftover egg whites.  Those got whipped with a smidge of cream of tartar and enough sugar to make a nice meringue.  I piped that mixture onto a baking sheet and baked it at 250 for 25 minutes then left them in the oven with the heat off for another hour. 

The cherries were stemmed and pitted then cooked down in a couple of teaspoons of butter. 

Once they'd softened nicely and released a bunch of juice, I added some sugar and port.  That was thickened with corn starch and served over the meringues. 

Without the journal I'd not have a clue in a month how in the world I made those.  As I type this my favorite hot curried peaches are simmering on the stove - with the addition of a couple of cups of chopped rhubarb and a bit more brown sugar to offset the tart rhubarb. 

Shredded cabbage is draining for cole slaw.  I'm not sure if we'll be trying a new recipe or going back to one of the old faithfuls- Mrs Huber's slaw or barbecue slaw.  Mom got me a cookbook titled, "How to Cook a  Porcupine" at the church rummage sale and there's an interesting slaw recipe there so I may have to try something new.  (nb - it wound up being new/old with a regular creamy cole slaw and a 4oz jar of pimentos tossed in)

Connie wants leftover eggplant involtini for dinner.  I kind of wanted to do just bbq favorites.  But, we can do both within reason. 

See the serving from Saturday?  Two eggplant rolls...  For our bbq dinner we each had half a roll.

Tomorrow we'll have Caprese salad and pesto pasta for dinner.  Lots of basil.  Reminds me that I saw a fun basil butter corn recipe on Food 52.  Might try that tonight...  Then again, maybe not. 

Now, before I post this, I've got to add that the Caprese salad was fabulous.  In addition to the usual suspects of sliced tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze, I added a smidge of lemon salt.

Along with the salad we had some pesto pasta, sautéed mushrooms and some onions from our garden.  I've never had better onions!  They were sautéed with butter and salt and stole the show.  We each ate about half of our pasta but cleaned up our onions!

Parmesan Tilapia

It's been so crazy this summer that I almost opted out of this month's Secret Recipe Club.  I'd marked "no" then thought, you know what, there's ALWAYS time to make one recipe.  And, I'm very glad I did.  This month I got introduced to Chelsy at (  She's a Texan of Italian heritage so she loves a great mix of food.  Her enthusiasm is downright contagious. 

A couple days after I got assigned her blog we were set to have fish for dinner.  So, I started hunting for fish recipes.  Way back in 2010 she made a tilapia recipe.  It'd be perfect!  I'm always hunting for a great, quick fish recipe.  And, best of all, I'd be using Chelsy's favorite ingredient - parmesan cheese.  Don't know that I've mentioned it to you all but Connie says that was one of the things that he loved most about me when he first met me - my meat and cheese drawer in the fridge was packed with every kind of cheese imaginable.

So, what did we think?  We really enjoyed this.  It's super easy to make and delightful to eat.  I did wind up adding some mayo as the Greek yogurt alone was just a bit too tangy for our taste.  We particularly enjoyed the crushed pistachios in this recipe.  They just go perfectly with tilapia.  Here's where you go to see the recipe on Chelsy's blog:  Parmesan Tilapia.  Now, let me mention while you're still here - Chelsy LOVES to bake so you'll find some scrumptious baked goods here.

And, if you want to see a bunch of great recipes from other bloggers, hop over to the Secret Recipe Club and take a look. 

Parmesan Tilapia

1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan, divided (1/4 + 1/4)
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1 T butter, melted
juice and zest of one lemon
1 t Italian seasoning
1 t dried tarragon
1/2 t onion powder
2 T crushed pistachios
salt and pepper
2 6-8 oz tilapia filets


Toast then crush the pistachios.

Mix all of the coating ingredients. 

Be sure to set aside the 2nd 1/4 c of grated parm.  Coat the fish the sprinkle with the last 1/4 c of parmesan.  Chelsy calls for baking these at 350F for 20-25 minutes.  I chose to put them in a grill basket and pop them on the grill since everything else for dinner was getting grilled...

adapted from Mangia Blog

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fried Green Tomato BLT

I'm shocked that Connie ever lets me go grocery shopping.  Not only do I come home with things we really don't need but I also tend to dive into the bargain book bin and help them clear their inventory of cookbooks.  That means I now have in my possession yet another bargain book ($6.97 to be exact) that I could pretty much cook my way through.  I'd passed on this book several times.  Mostly because someone was with me and his foot was tapping.  Mr. Patience.  LOL.  I love him dearly.  He is the guy who can dink around forever then say, Well are you ready???  When I've been ready for half an hour...  He's the man who gets in and out of the grocery in record time.  If it isn't on the list it isn't in the cart.  Me on the other hand....  I like to see what's new.  Browse.  Other than groceries and hardware stores and cookbook sections in bookstores I really don't care for too much shopping.  I'd rather stick pins under my fingernails than spend a day (or an hour) at the mall. 

Before I tell you what the cookbook is, let me tell you that I don't pay much if any attention to music.  I can usually recognize songs when they're being performed as a part of a musical but that's about it.  So, for me to buy a cookbook by a music star.  Well, let's just say that it HAD to be the recipes because it certainly wasn't the music.   Actually, a couple of the recipes caught my eye.  A fried green tomato BLT was the primary one.  As luck would have it I bought asparagus and zucchini the evening I bought this book.  They happened to be the stars in a recipe I found while waiting in the checkout line.  And, made the minute I got home...  We've now had two recipes and have four more on this week's menu.  Just amazing food. 

Turns out that Sheryl Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and decided she needed to start eating healthy.  She hired a chef by the name of Chuck White.  This cookbook is theirs.  Now, it does have some recipes that are way out of our comfort zone.  Neither of us likes tofu.  We tolerate it in hot and sour soup but spit it out otherwise.  And, on occasion they use seitan.  Not something I'm in the least bit interested in using.  But, 90% of the recipes are great.

Let's talk first about the fried green tomato BLT.  I'm a huge BLT fan.  Not a huge fan of fried green tomatoes.  Our friend Chef Joseph Martin at 18 on the Square in Shelbyville is converting me gradually.  He serves his fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese.  Fab-u-lous!  So, I decided to try making them myself.  This dish was a major success.  We both totally loved it.  I made a couple of changes based on things we needed to use up and things that I thought needed a bit more oomph.  But, for me I stayed pretty true to the recipe.

Next the quinoa with the roasted vegetables.  With many thanks to my friend Mary for getting me to try quinoa, let me say that this was as fabulous as it was healthy.  I didn't let it sit in the fridge overnight like the recipe called for.  And, I won't since we didn't like it as much the second day.  It was still very good.  Just not spectacular.  I'll post that recipe another day since the BLT one is so long...

Fried Green Tomato BLT


for the roasted garlic aioli
2 large egg yolks
2 T chopped roasted garlic (the recipe called for 2 teaspoons - it wasn't enough for us)
2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 t Dijon mustard
1 1/4 c light olive oil
1/2 t black truffle salt (I added this)
1 T capers (I also added these)

for the tomato emulsion:
1/2 c seeded and diced very ripe tomatoes
salt and pepper
2 t truffle oil
1 t extra-virgin olive oil

for the sandwich:

8 slices pancetta, bacon or salami
2 c unbleached flour
salt and pepper
4 large eggs
3 T milk
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 c cornmeal
2 t Emeril's seasoning (or, any good Cajun seasoning - my add)
Eight - 1/4" thick green tomato slices
light olive or canola oil for frying
baby spinach or mix of baby greens


for the roasted garlic aioli
Add the egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice and mustard to the bowl of a food processor.  Process just until mixed.  With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Once the aioli has thickened a bit, stop processing.  Stir in the black truffle salt and capers if desired.

for the tomato emulsion:
process the ingredients just until blended.

for the sandwich:

Heat through or cook the pancetta, bacon or salami.  Pour about 1/4" of oil into a wide skillet.  Heat the oil.  It's hot enough when it shimmers.  Set up three dipping bowls. 

is the flour, salt and pepper.  Second is the eggs and milk - whisked together well.  Last is the flour and cornmeal.  When the oil is hot, start dipping the tomato slices.  Remember that adding too many at once will cause the temperature of the oil to drop rapidly.  So, fry just a few at a time.  Once the tomato slices are fried on both sides, remove them to a folded paper bag to drain. 

To assemble the sandwiches:
Start with a tomato slice.  Schmear it with a bit of aioli (1-2 t). 

Drizzle on a bit of tomato emulsion.  Top with a slice of pancetta, bacon or salami.  Top that with some greens.  Add another tomato slice.  Repeat steps.  Add a third tomato slice.  Schmear with aioli and drizzle with tomato emulsion.  Serve warm.  And, you can give the leftover egg/milk mixture to the furry kids...

 adapted from If it Makes You Healthy

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Smoking up Peppers, Goat Cheese and Corn

Long time no chat with.  Busy is an understatement.  Not only are we working on moving our office - yes, we're down to eight file cabinets from twenty four but they do all still need to be scanned in and the new scanner is not dependable... - but a lot of my clients have been sending their friends and family my way.  I can't think of a higher compliment.  Maybe if it was preceded by, "Gosh, you look like you've lost a lot of weight, I need you to talk with my sister..."  LOL, I can only wish those first words were coming out of people's mouths.  At any rate, it's been a wonderful crazy busy around the office.  By the time I've gotten home and fixed dinner I've been way to chatted out to chat some more.

Pepto Bismol and I were very good friends today.  Tonight was supposed to be dinner with my friend Vicki.  She's one of those friends you are SO lucky to have.  You can tell her ANYTHING and she never breathes a word of it.  She listens to whatever you need to say.  She's the bestest.  I was bummed. We were to head to Bravo's.  Italian food absolutely wasn't a good idea.  Turns out she felt as crappy as I did.  So, we rescheduled.  I had a bag of rotisserie chicken in the fridge at the office.  That came home with me.  Comfort food was on  the menu.  Cousin Polly's Chicken Elegante.  Let me digress here for a minute.  Isn't it funny how you can have a bad belly and something that normally wouldn't be on the recommended list for said condition is perfect?  Yup, that's the way with chicken elegante.  If you get a chance to go back and read the original post I talk about when I fixed for my ex.  Every time I fix it for Connie, he says, "Jim Hutton was an idiot.  This is FABULOUS!" 

Along with the chicken, I thought I'd reheat some of the corn on the cob from the other evening.  Except it was smoky.  REALLY smoky.  I'd reheated some Jack Stacks ribs by smoking them on the grill and at the same time had made some killer peppers (yes, I'll tell you about those in a minute.) The corn on the cob got thrown on the grill at the same time so it got smoked.  The last pieces got left on the grill with the lid down while we ate.  They just positively soaked up all that leftover applewood smoke.  What in the world could I do?  To my collection of recipes.  I scan in way too many recipes.  Just like I have way too many cookbooks.  This time it served me well.  There was a recipe from Fine Cooking for maple, mustard, thyme butter for corn on the cob.  Maple is frequently in bbq sauce.  It'd play well with the smoke. 

I made a sample batch.  Connie got back from Lowe's and I handed him a cold ear of corn.  "Is this ruined?"  Wow, that's smoky!  "So, what do you think of it with this on it?"  The maple syrup plays well with the smoke.  That'll work.  Indeed it did.  I'd use this on any corn on the cob - smoked or not!

As promised, the killer peppers.  A few months ago a friend of mine ran into a friend of his.  She asked if he worked with anyone on his planning and he gave her my name.  She called, she and her hubby came in and we discovered we'd met kindred foodies.  Now, we start our meetings by comparing menus!  Love working with folks like them :-)  At any rate, Al had to stop in last week so he brought two recipes to start with.  One was for Tri-Color Peppers with Goat Cheese from  I HAD to try it.  Soon.  I was drooling reading it.  And, I'd decided that I'd also smoke the goat cheese since that's something we love. 

What did we think?  The peppers were amazing.  Hot and cold.  Instead of cutting them in chunks, I cut them in half so the goat cheese wouldn't leak out.  Since I'd smoked it, it was runny, not crumbly. 

Now, my friends, I have two of the easiest and best recipes in ages to share with you.

Tri-Color Peppers with Goat Cheese

bell pepper - red, yellow or orange - or mix thereof
4 oz goat cheese
olive oil
fresh basil cut in ribbons (ok, I confess, I was barefoot and didn't want to walk to the garden so left this out... it was still fabulous)
1 T olive oil (dressing for one pepper, increase as needed for additional peppers)
2 t balsamic vinegar
1 t brown sugar


Cut the pepper(s) in half and remove all the seed and membranes.  Brush them with olive oil and either grill them or smoke them.  Put the goat cheese in a grill safe pan and drizzle it with olive oil.  Smoke it until it's bubbly.  Mix the olive oil, vinegar and brown sugar.  Serve the goat cheese in the pepper halves drizzled with the dressing. 

adapted from, thanks so our friend Al!

Corn on the Cob with Mustard, Maple, Thyme Butter


1/4 c butter (I used 2 T and not 4T)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t grainy mustard (I used almost a tablespoon)
1 T maple syrup
1 t fresh thyme (reduced from 2 t in the original recipe)


The original recipe called for making a compound butter.  I decided to melt the butter instead.  That worked perfectly.  The butter was melted and I whisked in the other ingredients.  We served it in Mom's old copper skillet and drizzled it onto the corn.  Fabulous!

adapted from Fine Cooking