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Monday, March 13, 2017

Eat Your Books!

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.  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!  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  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
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Crushed rosemary
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


Pork tenderloin
2 cloves fresh garlic per 2 lb tenderloin
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper (about 1/2 tsp for a 2 lb tenderloin)
Apricot jam


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
olive oil
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: