Sunday, December 2, 2012

Spicy 'Sketti Squash Patties with Cilantro Yogurt

I'm childishly in awe of spaghetti squash. It's almost magical how the squash so easily shreds into pasta-like strings. I can imagine an  infomercial with a very loud and aggressive host displaying the wonders of the squash and me, all wide-eyed and open-mouthed, gasping, "Wow! That really works! Looks just like spaghetti!  I'm really amazed"!

Like substituting mashed cauliflower for potatoes, spaghetti squash can be a great substitute for pasta, a perfect bed for just about any sauce. Like mushrooms, the squash happily accepts the flavor of whatever you choose to marry it with.

Still, I don't  make either of these substitutions very often because Mr. Rosemary remains a purist. (One of the reasons I love him, of course.)

When I have one of those "experimental whims" I'm  likely to test them out only  for myself. If they're a hit, I might share them. But usually, they're not.  Usually, I get a  "Not bad."

These squash patties met with that half-hearted blessing, too. Me? Loved them.  But I love curry. I love its lightly smoky sweetness. (I found a recipe for curry and cardamom cookies from The Spice House that I'm determined to make for Christmas.)

This is not, however,  an easy- to-do weeknight kind of dish. It takes time to cook the squash. Takes time to shred the said cooked squash. Time to mix the patties and time to cook them.  The good news is that they can be frozen without losing anything. Just a warm-up either on the stove top or in the oven, and they're ready again.

Spicy 'Sketti Squash with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
4 cups cooked spaghetti squash
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon curry powder

Combine all ingredients and mix till well-combined.
Heat a small amount of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Drop squash mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve with the cilantro yogurt sauce.

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Stir all the ingredients together, adding salt to taste. Chill to let flavors blend. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nuts to Soup | Roasted Chestnut Soup with Thyme Cream

ChestnutSoup3 ChestnutSoup3-1.jpg

I never imagined that I'd be making soup from nuts -- I always thought of nuts as an additive, a very nice additive, but not the main part of anything, except for snacking. (And maybe my favorite pistachio ice cream.) But I've learned that chestnut soup is a very traditional fall soup, and a staple at many a Thanksgiving table.

It's a great soup.  It's rich, smooth and creamy, without cream. It gets its richness straight from the sweet chestnuts, which, I also learned is low in calories and has all kinds of other good things going for them, like they're the only nut that has Vitamin C. And they're gluten-free.

The only bad thing I can say about this recipe is that roasting and peeling the nuts is a bit of a chore. But it's worth the effort and certainly can be done ahead of time.

We're lucky to have a neighbor who gave us a couple chestnut tree saplings that finally bore fruit last year.  This was not a good year for our own trees but our neighbor still shared some of his.

The original recipe called for bottled chestnuts, which I've never even looked for in a store.  But at this time of year, chestnuts show up in many produce departments.

I  first posted this recipe about a year ago when I guest posted at Eat Yourself Skinny.  And I realized I never posted it here. So here you go . . . .

ChestnutSoup-1 ChestnutSoup-1.jpg

Roasted Chestnut Soup with Thyme Cream
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 10 servings

3 cups whole roasted (or bottled) chestnuts
2 cups chopped yellow onion
3/4 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
5/8 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sherry (optional)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare the chestnuts.  Cut an X in the bottom of each chestnut. Place chestnuts on a jelly-roll pan and bake for 15 minutes.  Place chestnuts in large bowl and cool to room temperature. When cool enough to handle, peel the shells from the chestnuts.  (If you can find bottled or vacuum packed chestnuts, no need for this step!)

Prepare the puree.  Combine onion, carrot and oil on same jelly-roll pain.  Toss to coat the vegetables.  Bake for 1/2 hour or until tender, stirring occasionally.  Add the chestnuts in bowl and stir in broth.  Pour half the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour the pureed mixture into a large pot.  Repeat procedure with remaining broth mixture.  Or, if you're lucky enough to have an immersion blender, put everything into the large pot and puree it all at once in the pot.  Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Place pot over medium high heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add the sherry, if you like.

Prepare the whipped cream.  Place cream in medium bowl and beat with a hand mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  Add remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form.

Serve.  Ladle soup into bowls and top serving with about a teaspoon of whipped cream.  Sprinkle with thyme and serve.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sweet and Tart Cabbage Stew with Kielbasi

Cabbage gets a pretty bad rap, in my humble opinion.  It's often relegated to a back seat or it's dressed in a some kind of soupy disguise. Sometimes it's just filler. I admit it doesn't smell great when it's cooking, but its healthy attributes overshadow that one minor flaw.

But it's the star in a couple of my favorite comfort foods, stuffed cabbage and New England boiled dinner. And I love cole slaw, as long as it's not dripping in mayonnaise.  And Mr. Rosemary loves his pork and sauerkraut. 

Cabbage is a great veg in its own right.  It's high in Vitamin C, even higher than oranges! And loaded with roughage, and sulphur. It rivals kale for being a power food.

My sister gave me this recipe. She's a great recipe source; I know to trust her. She clipped this from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (I still clip recipes from newspapers, too. Do you?) The article said it came from The Splendid Table, but she couldn't find it on the website. She knows that I always try to credit the source here.

Although I knew Mr. Rosemary would like this dish, he would only view it as a side. There has to be meat somewhere for it to be a real meal.  So I added kielbasi. I cooked the kielbasi separately, browning it then adding about  a 1/2 cup of apple juice and deglazed the pan.

There's a lot of spice in this recipe; don't be tempted to cut back.

Sweet and Tart Cabbage Stew with Kielbasi
Adapted from a March 2010 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article and from “The Splendid Table Weeknight Kitchen Newsletter” 
Makes four generous servings
extra virgin olive oil
3 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small (about 1 ¼ lb.) green cabbage, thinly sliced
2 medium to large onions, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 generous teaspoon each ground coriander and ground ginger
2 tablespoons each sweet paprika and dried basil
2 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)
1/3 cup vinegar (red wine or cider vinegar)
1 cup vegetable broth or water
14 ounce can whole tomatoes
Water, as needed
1 pound kielbasi, sliced and sauteeed in a separate pan

Film the bottom of a straight-sided 12” saute pan with oil and set it over medium-high heat.  Once it is hot, add the carrots, cabbage and onions.  Sprinkle them with the salt and pepper and sauté the vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring them often, or until they’re browning.  This is where the stew’s depth comes from. Stir in the garlic, the spices and sugar.  Cook until the spices are fragrant, but no more than a minute.

Pour the vinegar into the pan and boil it down as you scrape up any brown glaze from the bottom of the pan. When there is no liquid left, stir in the broth or water, and the tomatoes and their juice, crushing them with your hands as they go into the pan.  The vegetables should be barely covered with liquid.  Add a little water if necessary.

Bring the liquid to a gently simmer, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes (check often for sticking) or until the carrots are barely tender.  Uncover the pan and turn up the heat so the liquid is at a fast bubble.  Cook off excess liquid, stirring the stew often to protect the vegetables from burning.  You want the sauce to be thick and rich tasting with a sweet-tart balance.  Add more sugar, vinegar, salt and/or pepper, as needed.
Add the cooked kielbasi.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ketchup and Mustard for Fall | Tomato Bacon Jam and Shasha Sauce

A local radio station says, "Summer ain't over till we say it's over!"  Same goes for my garden.The leaves are turning, the days are shorter, the air is brisker, but the garden was still churning out a few tomatoes and peppers.

But all the tomatoes and peppers have been sauced, pureed, chopped, jarred, jellied, frozen or consumed. Just a few stragglers were left. These last few tomatoes and peppers needed to get dressed for fall. So instead of summer's ketchup and mustard they became tomato bacon jam and shasha sauce.

Don't get me wrong: There's absolutely nothing wrong with ketchup and mustard.  There's nothing more All American than squirting good gobs of the yellow and red stuff on a hot dog grilled on an open fire.

But come fall, it's time to warm things up.  Both these sauces are great condiments and very versatile  They can dress up a hot dog or hamburger -- or a steak. They can be spread on a sandwich or toast or be part of a crudite platter.

Side by side, they're a great pair of hot and sweet.  The mustardy shasha sauce is very hot, especially when I used the last of the serrano peppers as part of the mix along with jalapeno and bell peppers. And the tomato bacon jam is smoky and spicy.  Just like fall.

I first learned of the shasha sauce reading Pass the Sauce.  This saucy blogger was inspired by Michael Symon's recipe. So mine is a combination. Both recipes used Hungarian banana peppers, one canned, one fresh. I just used the variety of "leftover" peppers from the garden, including my serranos and some banana peppers.

The tomato bacon jam came from sister. Sorta. It's actually a misnomer because the recipe she gave me included apples and was meant to be served with feta on crostini. (Although she confessed to me that she subbed bleu cheese.) But crostini-with-tomato-and-bacon-and-onion-and-apple-jam-with-feta is a mouthful, a pretty tasty mouthful. Anyhow, what doesn't bacon make better?  (Maybe bleu cheese.)

The recipe my sister gave me also included apples and used canned tomatoes, but since I had the tomatoes (and no apples) this is what I came up with.

Before the recipes, let me share with you a couple pictures of the garden's guardians this summer.

My neighbor shared my garden this year with me and fashioned these great scarecrows. They must have done the trick because, although we had a very dry summer, we still had a pretty good bounty.

They're stored away in the barn now, in hibernation before they have to go on duty again next spring.

Now that I've made you look at my scarecrows, here are the recipes . . . .

ShaSha Sauce
inspired by Pass the Sauce, inspired by Michael Symon
12 fresh Hungarian peppers or a jar of banana peppers (or, like I did, their rough equivalent in volume!)
4 cloves garlic
1 cup yellow ballpark mustard
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour (optional)
Process peppers with the garlic, mustard and vinegar until pureed.  Add puree to a hot saucepan and add in sugar. Simmer 30 minutes.  Add a slurry of flour and water to thicken if desired. Simmer for another 20 minutes or so. When cool, pour into glass jars and store in the refrigerator up to a month.

Tomato Bacon Jam
inspired by my sister and from Better Homes and Gardens, September 2010
½ pound smoked bacon
about dozen (1 1/2 pounds) tomatoes, mixed variety, chopped
1 cup sugar
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp. ground pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is just browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain excess fat.  Crumble or cut into small pieces. 

In a large saucepan, cook the chopped tomatoes on medium heat until they're softened and their liquid cooks down, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes.  Add the, sugar, onion, vinegar, salt, pepper and bacon.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring often for 12 minutes or until most of the liquid is reduced. Store in fridge up to a week.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Spoonful of Secret Sugar | Pistachio Ice Cream

I've been keeping a secret: All summer long I've been making ice cream, almost once a week. (And, believe me, I have the extra poundage to prove it.)

For Mother's Day, my daughter Amy gave me the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer and I've had a ball experimenting. I think of all the desserts in the whole wide world, ice cream -- well, well-made ice cream -- has to be the best treat. Really. Forget my other favorites: cheesecake, apple crisp, German chocolate cake, pecan pie. All very good, of course, but nothing beats really good ice cream.

To assure myself of success right out of the chute, the first ice cream I made was straight out of the manufacturer's book. It was caramel nut ice cream. And it was very good.  How could it not be? It had sweetened condensed milk, cream, dry pudding mix and a jar of caramel topping in it! (Now you understand the weight gain!)

Then I tried a plain vanilla ice cream a couple times, using pretty much the same recipe. But I was getting a mite bolder and decided to add my own touch -- a bit of cinnamon and some chocolate chips to one batch. That didn't suit Mr. Rosemary. After one bite he said, "What's that funny taste?"  Not "Hmmm. That's good. What's in there?" No, something funny. 

But the grandkids ate it. (And it was good.)

And then I made cookie dough ice cream from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook.  An indubitable success. Outstanding.  Everyone liked it. Me. Mr. Rosemary. And the grandkids.

But the ice cream flavor I really wanted to make was pistachio.  My all-time favorite ever since I was a little kid and had my first one at the Howard Johnson's, or HoJo's. 

After I hunted a few recipes, I put the one I finally made on the the refrigerator door. I kept it there for a couple months to daily tease me until I finally made it.  I was intimidated by the thought of curdling the eggs. Or maybe by not cooking the custard long enough. Or too long.

The more likely truth about why I procrastinated was that I didn't want to shell all the nuts. Plus, it was hard to keep a bag of nuts around.  Mr. Rosemary and I both love to snack on them.

But I finally kept a stash hidden, shelled them and made a batch. And it was everything I wanted. Except the &*%$^# stuff is really difficult to photograph! So you'll just have to believe me. It was really good, really worth it.

And  -- dare I say? -- even better than HoJo's. 

Pistachio Nut Ice Cream
from Brown Eyed Baker
Makes about 1½ quarts

1 1/3 cups shelled pistachio nuts
¾ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Grind the 1 1/3 cups of pistachios in a food processor until finely ground, but not to a paste. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the ground nuts. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for at least 30 minutes.

Strain the warm nut mixture, pressing on the nuts to extract as much liquid as possible, and discard the solids. Return the milk and cream mixture to the saucepan. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract and stir until combined.

Refrigerate until cold. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Once finished churning, fold in the ¾ cup pistachios with a rubber spatula.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Headed to Maine | Blueberry Cheesecake Pie

We'll be leaving for a Maine vacation shortly and I'm very excited about it. I've never been there and it's a trip that's been on my bucket list. (So is Italy -- Tuscany, Naples, Amalfi, Palermo, I don't care. Soon.)

And is it just coincidental that in recent weeks a couple blogs I frequent wrote about their trips to Maine? Joy the Baker enjoyed a schooner trip (and lobster) and Karen at The Back Road Journal posted about Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park and Rockport.  And after I commented on Karen's blog, I heard from Linda, another Maine blogger, who gave me some great insider information.  If my appetite wasn't whetted before then, it sure is now.

And although the scenery is the biggest attraction, food comes in at a very close second.  And I don't think there's anyplace that has two foods more synonymous with its name than lobster and blueberries, is there?

I don't have lobster very often so I'm anxious to wrestle a couple. Blueberries I get plenty of, since we have 10 bushes of our own. I know Maine blueberries are different: they're wild, low bush berries, mine are the cultivated, high bush. Supposedly Maine berries are sweeter, but I'll reserve judgment, since I like my own pretty darn well.

In the meantime, if I wasn't ready already, this pie helped put me more in the Maine frame of mind. I made  pie filling with my frozen berries and it was just great. I make a pretty darn good traditional cheesecake, if I do say so myself,  but this pie is less cheesecake, more blueberry and it's a very nice change of pace from my usual blueberry sauce topped cheesecake.  Would it be any different with Maine blueberries?

Blueberry Cheesecake Pie
makes about 10 servings
adapted from Eagle Brand

1 recipe blueberry pie filling (see below)
1 unbaked pie shell -- your own pastry or purchased
1 8 ounce brick of cream cheese, softened
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Combine 1 cup of the blueberry pie filling (reserve the rest for topping) and pour into the pie crust.  Bake 15 minutes.

In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  With motor running, gradually pour in the sweetened condensed milk, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla.  Pour into partially baked pie.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. and bake an additional 25 minutes or until set.  Cool. Chill. Spoon the remaining blueberry filling over sliced pieces as you serve them.

Blueberry Pie Filling
adapted from
2 pints (4 cups) blueberries, fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Combine 1 cup berries with 3/4 cup sugar in pan on stove. Simmer on low heat until sugar is melted and mixture is very liquid, about 5 minutes.  Combine cornstarch and water in a bowl and then add to the pan with the blueberries.  Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil and is clear and thick. Pour hot mixture into a large bowl and let cool until warm.  Fold in the remaining 3 cups of blueberries, lemon rind  seasoning s and butter. Let cool before adding to pie crust or using in the cheesecake pie recipe above.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Loneliest Cookie | Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bar

Who leaves just one cookie on the plate? What difference is that little bitty piece of sweetness going to make to your waistline when you've already had more than your share? Who leaves just one cookie!?!

Mr. Rosemary does.

An incurable late night snacker with a sweet tooth, he is. He's mindful of what he eats all the rest of the day, but late at night, catching up on whatever golf, tennis, football or hockey event he'd DVR'd, he'll go on the prowl for something sweet. Sometimes it's something salty he goes after. Sometimes it's sweet before the salt.

Sweet or salty, listen to my story:

I had made these chocolate peanut butter cheesecake bars for my brother-in-law's birthday party. My SIL was making a cake, but to make sure there were plenty of sweets all around, I volunteered to bring something extra: these cookies.

I didn't leave myself enough time to photograph any before we left the house, so I sneakily held a few back, and put them in the fridge.

The next day, when I went to get the cookies out for their photograph, I found one lonely cookie, left in the container and put back in the fridge, snugly lidded and all.

He wasn't in the house when I found them. Had he been, he swould have heard me scream -- just a little.

Yikes, how can I take a picture and post it? One little bitty cookie. And I have nothing else ready to post!  And it's been over a week since I put up anything new!

Guess I'll just have to tell the truth.

And the truth is he was saving the last piece for me.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
Makes 24 Bars
For the Crust:
2½ cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
For the Peanut Butter Cheesecake:
16 ounces cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Glaze:
6 ounces milk or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons vegetable shortening 

1. Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add the melted butter and toss together with a fork until the crumbs are all evenly moistened. Press the crumbs into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13-inch baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack and cool.
2. Make the Cheesecake Layer: Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, peanut butter and flour on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Slowly pour in the milk and then the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
Pour the cheesecake batter over the crust and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cheesecake layer is set around the edges and still appears slightly soft Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
when the pan is wiggled. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
3. Make the Chocolate Glaze: Combine the chopped chocolate and vegetable shortening in a small bowl and microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the cheesecake layer. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then cut into squares and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Tomato and Zucchini Pie | Not-so-original-but-oh-so-good

It seems that everywhere I've looked this past week or two I found yet another version of a tomato pie -- with corn, with bacon, with ricotta, with spinach, with cheddar, with mozzarella. They all sound wonderful.

I'm up to my earballs in tomatoes and I've canned many a pint (perfect for a twosome) of a roasted tomato sauce and eaten many a tomato sandwich. (Or "sammich" as my friend insists on saying.)

Still, I wanted to find new and different ways of using the tomatoes that are ripening faster than I can pick 'em.

Although I've been wanting to make a tomato pie for some time, I avoided it, mostly because I knew I'd end up eating it myself. (Unfortunately, I don't live with a tomato lover! Doesn't he know we call tomatoes "love apples"?)

But I wanted to make one so much I decided to go ahead and portion myself out slices and freeze them for quick lunches for a taste of summer later. And so I did.

So although it's not original, here's my tomato pie. What makes it special to me is that so much of it came from my back yard -- the veggies from my garden, the eggs from my neighbor, the basil from my back deck.

(If only I could {would} make puff pastry!)

Enough to make you feel like an authentic homesteader!

Tomato and Zucchini Pie
adapted from Pepperidge Farm
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 medium green onion, chopped
2 small zucchini, sliced into rounds
4 Italian plum tomatoes, sliced into rounds
2 eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Unfold the pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll the pastry into about a 10 inch square. Snip the corner to make a circle. Press the pastry into a 9 inch pie pan and fold the excess edges under to make a rim.
Layer the cheeses, onions and herbs in the pan. Arrange the zucchini and tomatoes slices in concentric circles on top.
Beat the eggs, half-and-half and black pepper in a medium bowl with a whisk. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Sprinkle with the 1/2 cup Parmesan.
Bake for 45 minutes or until set.  Let cool for 20 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Cook's Note:  Although the concentric circles of veggies looked very pretty, actually cutting the pie into pretty wedges wasn't so.  Next time I'll chop most of the vegetables and make a pretty arrangement of just a few slices on top -- just for pretty.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Apologies to Julia Child (And Lessons Learned)

Dear Julia,

So sorry I missed the big party.  Looked like quite the celebration! I meant to come, but life got in the way, Blogger has been giving me fits, and, well, I just couldn't make it.  There were so many lovely tributes I read, though, I knew you wouldn't miss my not being there.

Still, your 100th birthday!  That sure is something. I was remiss in not returning my RSVP.

I loved watching your shows, loved reading your cookbooks.  You made me believe that what I always thought was "fancy" cooking really was not only quite doable, but also quite fun.  And you seemed so approachable.  Even though I know you must have had high standards, you always seemed to have plenty of room for mistakes.

And despite the fact that you were very tall and had a unique voice, you were very feminine, not in a girly-girly way but in a very womanly way.

I feel I would have admired you as much in person as I do from a distance.  I would have loved to be at a dinner table (or the kitchen) with you. From what I've read, you were not only a wonderful cook and teacher, but a witty conversationalist, well-read and opinionated and blessed with a wonderful sense of humor, able to laugh at yourself.

If I had made it to the party on time, I would have wanted to tell you what I've learned from you, and it's not all cooking:
  • It's never too late. You didn't start really cooking until you were in your thirties; didn't start your first TV show until you were 50.  And your "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was years in the making. As I approach (another!) decade birthday, I am heartened to know that I can still believe there's time to do the things I want.
  • There's nothing like a good man.  I love Mr. Rosemary to pieces. (Even when we irritate each other! He calls our disagreements "spatulas.")  From what I've had glimpses of, you were very much in love with your Paul, on every level.  It reminds me very much of my aunt, the one who inspired me to cook.  Like you she married later than most, never had children, but shared a love of food and travel and the finer things in life with her husband, who adored her.  And she him.
  • There's also nothing like a good knife. I have a couple really good knives; most of them are so-so. But I remember you every time I have recently sharpened my best knife and use it.
  • One good thing leads to another. Your delight in good knives was what led you to one of your greatest friendships -- with Avis DeVoto -- and your connection to getting your work published. I devoured, "As Always, Julia."
  • Letter writing is a good thing. Your letters back-and-forth to Avis are simply delightful. A collection of your e-mails and tweets would not have been the same.
  • It's okay to make mistakes. Your famous line about dropping the lamb when you're alone in the kitchen ("Who's to know?") always makes me smile.
  • Be flexible.  It's good to have a plan, but you need to be able to shift gears if the situation changes, or you run out of cream.
  • Be passionate and persistent. Whether in marriage, friendship, or cooking, nothing really great comes of half-hearted efforts.
  • Butter is good.  All things in moderation is a great motto.  Who can not smell butter melting and not know good things are coming?
  • So is bourbon. The fact that you enjoyed wine and liquor, either cooking or imbibing, wasn't a secret. Nor was the fact that you didn't think much of my favorite cuisine, Italian, especially when compared to French  (You thought  Italians just shopped well.) I love the story Mary Ann Esposito tells of the time you cooked with her on her show making fritattas and omelets side by side. When Mary Ann asked what you would  have added to the fritatta, you said, "Bourbon."  (I prefer scotch.)
The hoopla has died down now, and I think it was a wonderful celebration. Thank you for sharing your love of cooking, your love of life. It's infectious, just like your laugh.



Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fire and Ice | Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad

There are few  things that scream "August!" more loudly than corn and tomatoes.  They're ripe and plentiful and at their absolute best at this time of year.  Is there anyone who doesn't love biting into a freshly cooked ear of corn?  (Excluding those wearing braces on their teeth.)

For me, the same goes for tomatoes. While I was picking the first of my new tomatoes in the garden the other day, I really just wanted to bite into one right then and there, no salt required. Always reminds me of the time my younger sister and I  -- at about the ages of  5 and 7 --  snuck off with a peck basket of tomatoes my mother had just bought at a farmer's stand that day and ate nearly half of it ourselves.  We were a bit sick, but my mother was so amazed, she shook her head in awe more than she was angry with us.

Although I can exercise better restraint these days, I still relish the freshness of corn and tomatoes. Only lately have I started to enjoy grilled corn, either on the gas grill or on a gas stove burner flame or from an outdoor campfire. And I'll eat a tomato hot or cold, peeled or seed, or not.  Just love 'em.  Any kind.  Any size. The combination of the roasted corn with tomatoes and cucumbers and jalapeno really needs no more than a drizzle of olive oil and a generous squeeze of lime.  But the addition of smoked paprika adds a nice bit of spice to this super combination.

 I obviously like to combine corn with other veggies (and fruit!) in a salad because I've done it a time or two before.  The corn and blueberry combo above was from a previous post, as was this corn and red pepper salad.  It's the jalapeno, though, that makes all three of these special.  (And the lime juice.  And th cilantro.)

Joy the Baker's salad included bacon and avocado, which I know would be deliciously perfect.  And she made it as filling for a a lettuce wrap.

I have to admit:  I've never been much of a cilantro fan, but I grew some this year and have begun to love it (I also grew jalapeno peppers for the first time this year.)  And I also have to admit it, along with the smoked paprika, the cilantro was the perfect finish to this fire and ice salad. Come to think of it, though, wouldn't cumin be nice?

Roasted Corn & Tomato Salad
makes about 4 cups of salad
adapted from Joy the Baker
3 ears of roasted corn
1 or 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded (for as much heat as you want) and minced
juice of one lime
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
chili powder
smoked paprika
fresh cilantro

Roast the corn your favorite way.  (I used the gas grill, placing ears of corn still in their husks and soaked in water for several hours.)  Let cool before husking and removing the corn from the cob.

Combine the corn with the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and jalapeno in a large bowl.  Sprinkle the juice of a whole lime over all and drizzle with olive oil.  Add chili powder, paprika (or cumin) to taste and toss.  Taste and adjust as you like. Sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro over all and serve.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Toasts -- and a Winner!

These elegant appetizers are in the "impress the boss" league. The fact that they're so easy to prepare puts them in the "no brainer" category, too.  A double whammy.

It was hard to resist eating them as I was assembling them, and it is much more an assembly job than a bona fide recipe. Smoked salmon is a rare treat for me and something I usually reserve just for company. I have to admit, it was a spontaneous purchase -- when do you find smoked salmon on sale? -- and a luxurious indulgence for just me and Mr. Rosemary.

It was really just a good excuse to have a private little cocktail party on the back porch. These pretty little appetizers were perfect for a the steamy afternoons we've had this summer. But then again, I think they'd be perfect any time.

By the way, I didn't tell Mr. Rosemary that these toasts had goat cheese spread on them.  For some reason, he doesn't like it.  But when I told him it was just herbed cream cheese, well, that was okay. Go figure.

I got the recipe from Simply Recipes, adapting it ever so slightly.  Elise Bauer advises that it is the little sliver of lemon atop the toasts that makes all the difference.  She's right.  Don't be tempted to do without it.  (It won't look near as pretty either!)

I did make the herbed cheese myself, just by adding dill and grated lemon peel.  Elise used rosemary and thyme.   But you could also just buy already jazzed-up cheese making these bites even easier.  I also used pumpernickel bread and it didn't overpower the delicacy of the salmon as I feared.  Elise used a French baguette.  Either way, a definite winner.  Anyhow, I  liked the color contrast with the dark bread.

Smoked Salmon and Dilled Goat Cheese on Pumpernickel Toasts
slightly adapted from Simply Recipes

8 ounces soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
30 slices toasts
12 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
thinly peeled strip from one lemon, cut into tiny slivers*
extra dill for garnish, if you want

* Use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel wide strips from a lemon, Probably just one half  of a lemon will do.  Take a metal spoon and scrape any white pith away from the skin.  Then slice the peel into tiny, thin slivers.

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.  Mix the goat cheese, dill, lemon zest and pepper and set aside.

Brush oil over the bread and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Bake until the bread is just crisp about 5 minutes on each side.

Spread the cheese mixture over the toasts.  Top with pieces of salmon. And garnish with the lemon peel and a tiny bit of dill.

And, now   the winner of  The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook Susan of Create Amazing Meals.  Congratulations, Susan.  I know you'll love the book . . . and I'm pretty sure I'll be posting more cookie dough recipes here!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cookie Dough Lover? Win the Book!

One of my secret indulgences -- and one I know I share with better than half the world! -- is chocolate chip cookie dough.  Any cookie dough. It's a childhood affliction I've never outgrown.

So I was a very easy mark when it came to falling in love with "The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook" by Lindsay Landis. Imagine -- an egg-free cookie dough that you can eat raw (practically) guilt-free!  Heaven!

And it's not just cookie dough, although that alone would be fine with me.There are tons of very creative concoctions that take cookie dough to new gastronomic heights. There are brownie recipes, frozen treats marshmallows, cakes, pies. . . . . you get the idea.
The cookie dough all by itself was a delightful treat but I had to try one (or three) of the new creations. First I made the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles.  Out of this world good.  My next treat was a little twist on this truffle.

I made chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough, flavored it with almond extract instead of vanilla and then coated the balls with white chocolate.  Very tasty, but not very photogenic, at least not in my hands.  I'm going to have to practice more to get a nice even chocolate coating on the truffle balls. I'd show you the pictures but they were pretty pathetic,  more like "a kindergarten art project,"* than the delicate confections in Lindsay's own photographs.

I also made chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, which practically disappeared before it was spooned out.  It was also one of my first ventures with my new Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment. (Thanks, Amy!) I'm already addicted to making ice cream, an addiction my hips tell me I must overcome.

There are so many tempting desserts and treats made with the cookie dough. imagine Cookie Dough Stuffed French Toast (would have been perfect for Bastille Day), Cookie Dough Cream Pie, or Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars: shortbread, caramel, cookie dough and chocolate, all in one treat!
I love the spiral bound layout of the book and Lindsay offers very helpful  step-by-step advice and delightful head-notes, too.  A practical and fun book.

It's pretty surprising that I would part with my review copy of the book from Quirk Books in a giveaway. (Thanks, Quirk.) But I'm not.  That copy got a couple spots on it that wiped away pretty well but I still didn't feel right about giving that one away.  So you have a chance at a totally clean, smudge-free, brand-new book I bought myself. As I say, I couldn't bear to give my only copy away, but I'm perfectly willing to share the wealth, spread the word and any other cliche I can think of.

For your chance to win the book you can:
  • become a Google follower here (If you already are, I know who you are! And you're enetered once)
  • make a comment here
  • Become a Facebook fan
  • Follow me on Twitter
  • Follow me on Pinterest
The winner will be drawn randomly at 7 a.m. EST Friday, July 24, 2012.  Please be sure to leave me a way to contact you by e-mail so I can notify you if you win.  Good luck.  Trust me; you'll love it!.  And if you haven't already, be sure and check out Lindsay's blog, Love and Olive Oil.  There's so much more than cookie dough!

*a description I loved from Jennifer Reese's cookbook Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Competition and Blueberry Salsa

There's nothing like a good healthy competition.  (Ask my online Scrabble buddies.) But I know for sure I'm losing the battle for the blueberries with the birds. They're definitely winning. And no strategy I can think of -- not even Mr. Rosemary's BB gun -- is keeping them away. It's a race and the early bird is beating me to the berries.

We've tried netting, but we didn't do it the "right" way and build frames and then attach netting to that.  We simply draped flexible fence material over it. We've also tried fake snakes and draping old garden hose -- so that they look like snakes.  Still, there are birds beating us to the harvest.

Our latest attempt was one of those fake owls.  The little tag said to place it "before the fruit ripens."  We were too late.

We're lucky that the former owners had the foresight to plant a couple different varieties among the ten blueberry bushes we have because they ripen at different times making it manageable. Except for the birds.

And despite the birds' tenacity we usually end up with more than enough for ourselves and plenty to give away.  I just have to wonder how many quarts they're eating.

The only problem is coming up with different ways to use them. I freeze a lot, but the fresh are so good! Mr. Rosemary loves to eat them plain, maybe lightly sugared, but especially mixed with a variety of berries.  I loved the corn and blueberry salad And he likes my blueberry muffins but that's only a once in a while treat. But he didn't really like the blueberry strata  And although I love blueberry pie, he doesn't, and I don't need to eat the whole thing.  I should try hand pies.

So to satisfy my need to experiment and explore I found this blueberry salsa and it was pretty good. Just pretty good. Keeping some of the blueberries whole is pretty but not very practical because they're hard to keep on a tortilla chip or a cracker. The solution? Spread some creamy cheese -- goat, mascarpone or just Philadelphia -- on a cracker, then top it with the salsa. Kinda defeats the purpose of eating a light fruity salsa, but it's good that way. I didn't try it along side a grilled meat, but I'm sure a plain piece of chicken or pork would love to be accessorized with it.

In the meantime, I'll keep exploring blueberry recipes, and keep after the birds. Wish me luck.

Blueberry Salsa
adapted from Southern Living

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh blueberries
1 cup whole blueberries
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 whole Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1.2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Mix all together in a large bowl.  That's it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Watermelon and Feta Salad

When I first had this salad a few years ago, I was so intrigued.  "Combining watermelon and feta and olives and onions and mint!!  Wow!  That's different," I said to myself. Or maybe I said it out loud.  Either way, I found it unique.

It was my stepdaughter who brought the fixings for this salad for a visit one weekend.  She had just got a new cookbook by Nigella Lawson and was anxious to share this salad recipe..  "Unbelievably good," she declared. She was right. And Mr. Rosemary agreed, too.

Nigella's approach to food is very sensual.  She clearly loves to prepare food and enjoy it herself and with others. Her recipes are delightful to read and she is just as delightful to watch on television, especially as she sneaks into the refrigerator at night in her bathrobe to sample a bit of today's fare.

But I didn't copy the recipe when Renae brought it, so when I decided to make it, I had to search it and found that there really are lots of version of this salad.  Paula Deen adds red wine vinegar and doesn't include olives and Ina Garten adds arugula, orange juice and honey.  (I'm sure I'd like that, but my arugula isn't quite ready yet.)

In the end, I went back to Nigella's.  But I couldn't resist making my own little tweak and added blueberries, since I am once again blessed with a bounty.

I really love this combination of flavors, and it's so pretty.  Wouldn't it be a great Fourth of July picnic addition?

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Olives and Onion
based on Nigella Lawson's
Serves 4
1 small red onion
2 limes
4 cups cubed watermelon
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
bunch fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
bunch of fresh mint, chopped
1 cup small black olives
1 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Slice the red onion thinly and chop.  (Or as Nigella describes, "cut into very fine half-moons.") Place in a small bowl and toss with the juice of two limes.  (This helps to cut the pungency of the onions.)  Meanwhile, cut the watermelon into chunks and place in a large bowl.  Add the onion, including the lime juice. Add the feta, whole leaves of parsley, the chopped mint, the olives and the blueberries.  Drizzle with the olive oil and toss gently to cover.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Meatballs Bolognese with Lemon Cream

Some people love to make bread as a great stress reliever.  They wax poetic about the feel of the dough, the smell of the yeast, the rhythm of the kneading.  It's not that I don't believe them but I'm not a very successful bread baker.  Just ask Mr. Rosemary.  But cook I can.  And I get what I imagine is that kind of bread-making nirvana (is it like a runner's high?) from making meatballs.

I love digging my hands into the fresh, seasoned mixture of meat and bread crumbs and then shaping (mostly) round orbs and seeing my artwork grow geometrically on my parchment lined-cookie sheet. (I make designs as I go.) There's garlic, freshly chopped onions, Romano cheese and fragrant parsley wafting in the air.  I get into the rhythm of rolling the balls, concentrating only on making them all the same size, and letting myself drift into a lazy daydream about whatever floats into my head. Soothing. Comforting.

I rarely experiment too much with meatballs. And I rarely consult a recipe.  I've made meatballs so many times, I can easily eyeball everything, or use whatever is on hand or need to use.

And "using up" some celery and carrots is what inspired this version I decided I might as well call bolognese.  That may not be the authentic use of the term but since it included the veggies, it seemed to make sense to christen this creation bolognese.

I love the slight crunch of the carrots and celery, which were cooked only when baked in the oven. I never used to bake meatballs.  My mother taught me to saute them in oil on the stovetop.  But I always had trouble keeping them nice and round, and ended up with triangular-shaped balls.  So I began to bake them, turning them once during a roughly half-hour baking in a moderate oven.  And if I put them on a rack, then I can drain any extra fat, too.

I do poach little meatballs in chicken stock when I make wedding soup and a friend recently told me that her husband, the cook in their family, poaches meatballs in beef broth before adding them to a tomato sauce.  And I know lots of people who slow cook meatballs right in the simmering tomato sauce. Meatballs are so versatile, aren't they?

When I make meatballs I usually make a lot more than I need and freeze some; they're very handy for a quick meal.  I freeze them on a cookie sheet then seal them in plastic bags.  Very handy and quick thawing for a fast food meal at home.

A couple things make this not-your-average meatball:  I mixed hot sausage with lean ground beef (half and half) and added fair amounts of carrots, celery and onions.   The lemon cream sauce was a nice surprise with the meatballs; they simmered just a couple minutes while in the sauce, just long enough for the cheese to delicately infuse it.

Bolognese or not, it's a new "recipe" to be repeated.

Meatballs Bolognese with Lemon Cream
For Meatballs:
1/2 pound hot sausage
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup each finely chopped carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
For Lemon Cream:
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If sausage isn't loose, remove from casing.  Mix the meats together in a large bowl and add the bread crumbs, egg, half and half, vegetables, cheese and parsley.  Mix completely, but don't handle too much.  Take golf ball sized hunks of the meat mixture and shape into balls.  (I like to use a small ice cream scooper --  the same sized one to portion chocolate chip cookies.)  Place meatballs on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet and cook for a total of about 25 to 30 minutes, turning once halfway through. Makes about 20 meatballs.
To make sauce, heat half and half, chicken broth and lemon juice to a simmer.  Place cooked meatballs in sauce to coat. Top with lemon zest.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

..: Walleye-palooza 2012 :.. Featuring Bacon, Vidalia Onions, Potato Chips & Mayo

I can't take credit for the title of this post; that flash of creativity comes from Parsley Sage of The Deep Dish and her comment on my last post when I announced we were headed for a week of fishing in Canada, catching, cooking and eating walleye every day, for seven days in a row.

She christened it Fishapalooza and I loved it.  And so it shall now be.

Fishapalooza 2012 was unlike any of our other 14 trips to Ontario. The weather was extremely mild, so unlike other years when we've had to pack parkas and long underwear for our annual end-of-May sojourn.

This year, we had weather in the 70's and 80's, which would have been great if we were headed for the beach. But the warmer than usual temperatures beckoned black flies and mosquitoes who are Rosemary aficionados.

Thanks to the Internet, however, we were able to outfit ourselves appropriately, though, with pretty reliable 10-day forecasts under our belts.  So instead of headbands and mittens, we packed bug spray, sunscreens and tank tops.  

And, I'm pleased to announce, yours truly caught the most fish in our little foursome.  That's really not bragging because Mr. Rosemary thinks it's high time I became a respectable fisherman, since I've been under his patient tutelage for many a year now.

And, with my sister-in-law Lori, have also become pretty creative at cooking the fish, too.  The men like to boast that we have seven different ways of cooking the fish.  That's pretty much true, although really they're just variations on the same theme:  
  • Pat the fillets dry with paper towels. (remember they were swimming only three hours beforehand) with paper towels.
  • Preheat the broiler.
  • Line a broiler pan with foil, punching holes through the slots.  
  • Spritz with vegetable spray.
  • Sprinkle with dry seasoning of your choice.
  • Dot with butter.
  • Broil for 5 to 7 minutes.

We have grilled outside, too, but after a day on the water, we find the bug-free solace of the cabin comforting.

Here are some of the different ways we've seasoned the walleye:
  • Cajun seasoning
  • on a bed of sliced lemons
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette, then sprinkled with Romano cheese
  • bathed in teriyaki sauce
  • smothered with bacon and vidalia onions
  • dipped in egg then mixture of seasoned bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese
  • pan-fried in butter after a dip in egg then pancake mix
The bacon method has become one of everyone's favorites, but my personal fattening favorite (the fish is healthy eating, right?) is slathering mayo over the fillets and then pressing crushed potato chips over them.  (This is vacation!  And I worked hard for that fish!)
We have some pretty nice side dishes, too:  rice verde, pasta carbonera, haluski, fried potatoes with green pepper and onions, carrots in raspberry sauce, steamed sugar snap peas, roasted asparagus, cowboy salsa.  Good hearty eatin'.

Here's what one of our plates looked like:

Yeah, I know it looks bland, but stashing fresh parsley and food photography props with our gear wasn't part of the deal. Those potato chip crusted fillets were great.

I think I've had my fill of fish for a while, though.  A juicy hamburger along with a crisp salad sounds real good.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Week of Walleye

When I return from our annual fishing trip in northern Ontario, I'll be sharing some more pictures like this.  The big difference is that I'll be taking them with my new Canon Rebel,  (I'll add a recipe or two for walleye, too.)

Nothing like fresh catch of the day, every day. For seven days in a row.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Blueberry Breakfast Strata

What do you get when you cross  bread pudding with french toast and throw in a cheese blintz?  If you add some blueberries, you get this Blueberry Breakfast Strata.  She wasn't the prettiest girl at the prom, but she had a good time.

An overload of both bread in the pantry and a freezer full of blueberries from last summer's bounty inspired me to find something to do with them.  Although I really didn't plan to use them together, it was a serendipitous marriage.

There are a couple few things I would do differently next time around -- and I think I can see the grandkids liking to wake up to this for breakfast:
  • I'd use whole cream cheese.  The neufchatel didn't melt as much as I wanted. 
  • I'll toss the frozen blueberries with both a little sugar and flour, because, believe it or not, it wasn't quite sweet enough for me.
  • I'll leave out the blueberries in the syrup topping.  (I love blueberries; I just think plain maple syrup would be better.  PP = personal preference.)
It was a good experiment nevertheless.  And I'm happy to have put the bread to good use, even though the birds may have liked it.  I'm writing the recipe as I did make it, not like I will when the grandkids come.  I can picture studding it with dried cranberries or maybe sprinkling some almonds on top and putting some almond extract in the custard.  Possibilities!

Blueberry Strata
adapted from Kraft Foods
makes 12 servings
8 cups firm (preferably stale) white bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, divided
1 tablespoon flour
1 8-ounce package neufchatel cheese, cut into small cubes
8 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup maple syrup, divided
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Toss the blueberries with  the flour.  Spread half the bread cubes onto the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with 1 cup of the blueberries, scatter the cream cheese pieces and the remaining bread over all.

Whisk the eggs, milk and cinnamon together until blended.  Add 1/3 cup syrup and sugar.  Mix well and pour evenly over the bread.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, remove strata from fridge and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake strata covered for 1/2 hour; then remove cover and bake for another 30 to 45 minutes or until center is set and top is slightly browned.

Bring remaining syrup and blueberries to boil in saucepan, stirring constantly, simmer on medium-low stirring constantly about 1 minutes, stirring constantly.  Serve over individual servings of strata.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Is This a Red Pasta e Fagioli?

Although I don't think I've ever met a soup I didn't like -- at least, not yet! -- my two all-time favorites are wedding soup and this soup, pasta e fagioli.  When I learned that Mr. Rosemary also loved pasta e fagioli, I was in heaven. I think part of my affection for it is that it just sounds so very authentically Italian!

He told me that it was his favorite lunch at a restaurant he often went to back when he was working in the city.  In Pittsburgh, an Italian restaurant close to his office was (and still is I guess) Costanza's.  He and his friend Rich (always at Rich's initiative, I'm sure; fast food would have kept Mr. Rosemary content)  would often walk the half-block (!) to this cozy little restaurant and always have pasta e fagioli.  I'm sure it was also Rich's suggestion that got Mr. Rosemary to try something like this.

Mr. Rosemary raved about it.  So, of course, I made it at home. The first time I made it, it was too brown and not thick enough.  I tried again.  Still, not the same.  So I'd quiz him.  It was close to an interrogation under a naked light bulb.  I'd fire away:   did it have white beans or red beans, what kind of pasta, did it have meat, any veggies.  I'd try again.  Closer, he'd say, but it wasn't quite "red enough."

Now I ask you -- is the soup in this picture red?  Although he said it was good, very good, it was just not the same.  So I'm torn:  shall I continue on my quest to duplicate his memory?  Or just be satisfied that I had made a very good soup that we both liked?  (Yes, I know the answer.)

I'm especially glad that I made this yesterday, because there's a big spring snow storm coming overnight and this will be ready for us.  And I thought maybe this was too much for spring!

Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from Rachael Ray
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices bacon
2 whole sprigs rosemary
1 whole sprigs of thyme
2 sage leaves
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 medium carrot, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
salt and pepper
2 15 ounce cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup tomato sauce
1 quart chicken stock
12 cups cooked small shells
shards of Parmesan and chopped Italian parsley to garnish

Heat olive oil in a deep soup pot over medium high heat and add bacon.  (If I  would have had pancetta, I would have used it.)  Brown the bacon and add the herbs, chopped vegetables and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.   Cook the vegetables until softened.  Add the beans, tomato sauce and stock and reduce heat to medium low.  Let simmer for about five minutes.  Remove the stems of the herbs and add the cooked pasta.  Ladle into bowls and top servings with cheese and parsley.  Makes about 6 servings.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pretty in (Sorta) Pink -- Cranberry Cole Slaw

Have you looked at The Food List Challenge?  Just a fun little game to see how adventurous a food enthusiast you really are.  I thought I was, and I guess I am, if you compare my "stats" to the average joe.  I've eaten 64 out of the 100, but I sure never would have put some of them on my personal food bucket list!

Some of my answers were borderline; for instance, I've eaten rabbit, but not rabbit stew.  Some of the foods I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole!  Crickets? No, thank you.  Frog Legs? Yes.  There's nothing about urchins that attracts me at all, but I would like to try dandelion wine. Fugu sounds far too risky and haggis  just makes me want to gag, with or without a spoon. (I have, happily, sampled sweetbreads, however.  Go figure.)

All this is a roundabout way to talk about this very simple cole slaw, which I doubt would ever make it to anyone else's Top 100 anything list.  It's everyday fare, jazzed up just a tad.  A simple side that could just as easily go along side -- or in -- a sandwich as a hunk of steak.  It's on my Top 100 "everyday food made a little fancy" list.

It's neither overwhelmingly sweet nor tart.  But it has a nice crunch, both from nuts and cabbage.  And the cranberries provide a nice, sweet change of texture in the midst of that crunching.  

Although you can't tell it from the picture, I prefer to cut cabbage into fine, fine slivers for this slaw with a knife, instead of shredding with a box grater, or a food processor.  (That is, until I use my school teaching extra cash to buy a mandoline; and a new camera!)

The dressing for this is vinegar-based making it ideal for a buffet table or an outdoor picnic -- no mayo to spoil!

Cranberry Cole Slaw
adapted from a Recipe from Nancy Nicholson,
via Penzey's Spring 2012 Catalog
6-8 cups shredded cabbage, preferably a mix of red and green
1/2 large red onion, very thinly sliced
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon whole celery seed

In a large bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, onion, cranberries and almonds.  Whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Pour over the cabbage mixture and refrigerate several hours (or overnight) before serving.  Makes 10-12 servings.