Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
To begin with, this is a fall/winter dish. It is one of my go-to fall and winter dishes. I don't know why I felt like making it now. The dish begins on the stove and then finishes up in a hot, 450 degree oven, which heated up my kitchen. It's not filled with bright summer flavors. It calls for dried thyme and oregano, which without even thinking, that is what I used. Even though my garden is awash in fresh thyme and oregano. Well, it's awash in oregano, apparently thyme has issues with my clay soil, but still manages to give me a sprig every now and then. And again, I have no problems with the recipe, it was just not the right time for me.
The other problem was that I cleaned my stove just 2 days ago. I have strong feelings for my stove. If there was a fire in my house, I would try to carry out my stove. My stove feels like my fourth child, only it never misses curfew or dates boys who think it is okay to just pull in the driveway and honk for my daughter. My stove does everything I ask of it, it tries very hard to please me. It's not in the best shape, all three of my daughters learned to cook on it. And the idea that a spill needed to be wiped up immediately before it became cooked and baked on, just never really sunk in with them. But I do try to keep it clean and shiny.
So, anyway, 2 days ago, I cleaned it, I mean really cleaned it. You know, where you take off the knobs and soak them, and bring out the heavy duty stovetop cleaner. It was beautiful. And then, tonight's recipe called for browning chicken thighs on the stove. Chicken thighs with fatty skin. Do I need to say more? Do I need to describe the droplets of grease everywhere? The burn splatters on my arms and face? I got so mad, halfway through it, that I began trying to take off the skin. I finally got the skin off. But, by removing the skin, I removed the attractive browned part of the chicken, but by then I was hot and sweaty, burnt, and totally over the thighs. I was supposed to brown the potatoes, but I just tossed them in the fat in the pan, added the thighs back in, and popped it in the oven. It was good, but it could have definitely been better. Don't you hate when you have a bad cooking experience? Cooking, normally, simultaneously relaxes and refreshes me, but not tonight.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Tonight belonged to Giada. With a boatload of squash from a friend, I opened up Giada's Family Dinners and searched for squash. I found:
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The other evening, I found myself in an unusual position, no one home for dinner...but me. I love to cook, but cooking for one is just not appealing to me. When all 3 of my daughters were home, I had to stretch recipes that made 4 servings to serve 5. I became used to cooking lots of food. Then as each daughter moved off, it has been my husband and my youngest daughter and I for the last 2 years. Cooking for 3 is really easy, most recipes serve 4 and there was usually enough left over for our lunches. Now, she will be going away to college in a few weeks..gulp! And I will be cooking for just 2. Since I take a lunch to school everyday, I'll probably just continue to make 4 servings and have some for lunch, but still cooking for 2 is not as much fun as cooking for 3. But cooking for 1, it hardly seems the bother to dirty a pot and the stove.
So, anyway there I was, trying to decide what to eat for dinner. I had been craving french toast ever since I saw the wonderful looking french toast on Peter's site Kalofagas in Pursuit of Delicious Foods. I had a loaf of french bread that I had made a few days ago, so it was nice and firm. I have to agree with him, french toast must be made with baguettes. If you haven't had it made with baguettes, I urge you to try it. It makes all the difference in the world, the uneven holes absorb the egg and somehow make it heavy and fluffy at the same time. Now, my french toast doesn't look as good as his, I didn't sprinkle it with powdered sugar, and I didn't have any lovely berries to make it look even more enticing, but I did have real maple syrup. A great dinner for one (though next time I might bake some bacon), ready in about 10 minutes!
Monday, July 23, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
But my searching for beet recipes can stop. I have found my beet recipe. It is from Donna Hay Flavors.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The recipe from these ribs comes from my favorite smoking book, Smoke & Spice: Cooking with Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. What I love about this book is that it includes instructions for people who use an electric water smoker, most books only give instructions for those using charcoal. My smoker is a Brinkman and even though it was relatively inexpensive (under $100), it has lasted, and continues to make fabulous food.
Thai-phoon Baby Backs
(from Smoke & Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison)
1 1/2 cups curshed pineapple form a 20-ounce can
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, preferably, or soy sauce
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
2 slabs baby back ribs, preferable 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 stalk lemongrass, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
remaining canned crushed pineapple
3/4 cup white or cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red chile flakes
1 to 2 tablespoons minced cilantro (optional)
At least 2 hours before or preferably overnight, puree the marinade ingredients in a food processor. Marinate the ribs.
At this point, how you proceed depends on your kind of smoker and the book goes into very nice details on this. I took the ribs out about 30 minutes before I was ready to smoke, to bring them to room temperature. While, they came to room temperature, I prepared my smoker. They smoke for 3 hours, and with an electric water smoker, I don't mop or baste them. When they're finished, let them rest for 5 - 10 minutes and then eat!!!
This was the first time I had made the dipping sauce, and it was wonderful! The meat was so tender, it was easy to pull it off and dip it in the sauce. The dipping sauce could be used with all kinds of other grilled or roasted meats. As I was eating it, I was thinking that it would be a great sauce to serve along side a roasted pork tenderloin, which I think is pretty bland without a nice sauce. As a matter of fact, this whole recipe would probably be good with a pork tenderloin.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Beets, do you love them or hate them? It seems that people have very strong feelings about beets, you either like them or you don't. There are not many wishy-washy people when it comes to beets.
Growing up, I loved beets. Or, I should say I loved the beets that my mother and grandmother used to make...pickled beets. I'll have to check with my mother, but I'm sure the beets were from a can, tossed with some red onions and a vinaigrette. I loved them, I even sort of liked the onions because they were turned almost beetlike, with a pretty pale pink color. I probably wouldn't have even known what a fresh beet looked like.
With the beets, I served, Cooking Light's Chicken Tetrazzini. This was one of those recipes that makes 2 big 13x9 inch pans. I made 2 of them back in April, gave one to my daughter and put one in my freezer. It was nice to pull out an easy all ready made dinner, though I don't go into that whole freezer dinner thing. It was good, but after all the light thai cooking that I've been doing lately, it seemed really rich and heavy. I probably should have waited till fall, when it would felt comforting.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I like the cottage style of garden, with lots of lots of flowers. Hoping that lots and lots of flowers means little or no room for weeds. In this bed, I was trying for predominately purples and yellows, with some pinks thrown in. The pale lavender flowers at the top is russian sage, the deeper pinkish purple spires in front of it are purple liatris, in the foreground are pink coneflower and pink wedding phlox.
The yellow flower, I believe is a type of rudbeckia. I just planted it this year and it is wonderful, all through the drought, it just kept on blooming. And right in front is walker's low, a type of catmint. It is low growing, spreads wonderfully and has soft lavender blooms. I love it!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I made a bold move last night and switched from the cookbook that I've been cooking from all week, to Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World.
Red Snapper or Other Fillets in Red Sauce
(adapted from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World)
4 small red chiles, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped (I only used 3)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 shallots, roughly chopped
one 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 1/2 to 2 pound fillets of red snapper, sea bass, grouper, or halibut, skinned and cut into 2- inch chunks (I used red snapper and forgot to cut it into chunks!)
2 tablespoons corn, grapesee, or other neutral oil
2 tablespoons Tamarind Paste (he lists a recipe the making of Tamarind Paste)
1 teaspoon nam pla, plus more to taste
2 scallions, trimmed and chopped for garnish
Place the chiles, garlic, shallots, ginger and tumeric in a food processor and process until pasty (I used my immersion blender and it worked pretty good). Spread this on the fish (you can cover and refrigerate for a few hours - I did).
Heat the oil (preferably nonstick skillet) over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the fish fillets and cook until the fish is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Combine the tamarind paste with 1 cup water and add to the pan; bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, stirring gently once or twice, until the fish is cooked through (about 5 to 10 minutes). Season to taste with the nam pla, garnish with scallions and serve.
What you might be noticing is that my fish sauce does not look very red. I didn't follow his instructions exactly on making the tamarind paste, since I didn't need such a large amount. I think that I ended up making it way too weak. But even with the weak tamarind sauce, this was excellent. The paste on the fish gave it just enough heat. I served it over jasmine rice with a little cilantro stirred in. I will definitely make this again. It's a nice change from the fish curries that I usually make.
With this, I served Cooking Light's Asian Cucumber Salad. I left out the red onions because, one they were in the basement, and I was too lazy to walk down the stairs, and two, I am not that crazy about raw onions.
It's still good without the onions. Besides in my house, you pretty much eat what I like. That means you will not be served lentils, lima beans, summer squash, or raw onions very often. And you will never, ever be served liver. Does anyone still eat liver anymore, anyway?
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
It doesn't look too bad, does it? But it was just a little too much black bean sauce for me.
On another note, we got our first CSA pick-up today. The was the farm's first attempt at running a CSA, and they picked a horrrible year to begin. First we had freakishly warm weather all winter, everything startd blooming and growing. Then we had 4 days of freezing temperatures in April, which killed alot of vegetation. Then finally once everything started growing again, we have a 5 week drought! So, needless to say, the pickins were slim. We got 2 beets, a handful of arugula, a handful of mustard greens, 1 turnip, 1 tomato, 1 yellow squash, 1 small bok choy, a head of garlic, and 2 daikon radish roots. I feel like one of the chefs on Top Chef and I have to do a quickfire challenge with these few, unrelated ingredients. Any ideas, anyone?
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Last night we were invited to a winetasting party at our friend's house, Brian and Madeline (herafter referred to as B&M). I dutifully took my camera to record the event glass-by-glass. But I completely forgot until the party was over! We were the last to leave, and I was able to snap a few photos (most of them are blurry). It seems that everytime we go to B&M's we are the last to leave. I wonder why that is. We are certainly not the life of the party. Maybe we get out so little, we want to get our money's worth. Maybe we just don't know how to take a hint.
The food was good, everyone brought an appetizer. And in the tradition of good appetizers, they all went together well.The little cucumber sandwiches were wonderful. If you notice the white bowl still practically full. That was what I brought, my bean dip, well not my bean dip, Giada's Bean Dip. It was a tough crowd for the bean dip. Last time I brought bean dip to one of B&M's parties, it was scarfed down completely. This time, it was barely touched. I'm not sure what happened, Madeline is so sweet, maybe last time, she carefully bit-by-bit scooped it into the trash, so I would think people were eating it. Maybe this time, like me forgetting to take photos, she forgot to dump my bean dip. Last time when I made it, I used 2 cloves of garlic, and my husband felt that the garlic was too pronounced. This time, I only used one. I never listen to my husband, especially when it comes to food, I don't know why I started now.
The wine tasting was offered from Riverside Wine and Spirits. It was very well done. We tasted 10 wines, 2 of each in the categories of sparkling wines, sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot noir, and syrah. We were blind tasting and instructed to mark which we thought was the most expensive in each category. I just marked the one that I liked the best and hoped that I was wrong, because that meant it was the cheapest. My favorites:
- Sparkling - Domaine Carneros, California 2002
- Sauvignon Blanc - Craggy Range, New Zealand 2005
- Riesling - Wente, California 2006
- Pinot Noir - Le Grand, France 2005
- Syrah - Belle Crozes-Hermitage, France 2000
Saturday, July 7, 2007
I am continuing with my quest for mastering thai cooking. I realize that having the fork and the chopsticks in the picture is a little overkill, but I was getting ready to snap the photo, when my daughter said "wait" and she ran and got the chopsticks. It looked great, but I forgot to take the fork away! Oh well. Actually after seeing how pretty it looked, we decided to eat with the chopsticks. It was nice, it kind of slowed the meal down and gave it a more authentic feel. Though towards the end, we were sort of shoving it in our mouths, and trying to hold onto the slippery mangoes took some practice.
Anyway this meal was a huge hit! Again, it came from the Perfect Thai cookbook, which I was finally able to locate a picture of.
The recipe is simply called Fish Curry.
juice of 1 Lime
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp. Thai soy sauce
1 fresh red chili, seeded and chopped
12oz angler fish fillet, cut into cubes (I used cod)
12 oz salmon fillets, skinned and cut into cubes (I used tilapia)
14 fl oz coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 lemongrass stalk (white part only), chopped finely
8 oz cooked jasmine rice
4 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Combine the lime juice, half the fish sauce, and the soy sauce. Add the chili and the fish, stir to coat, cover and chill for 1-2 hours or overnight. (We did just an hour, because I think fish becomes too mushy if marinated for too long).
Bring the coconut milk to boil in a pan and add the lime leaves, curry paste, the rest of the fist sauce, and the lemongrass. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.
Add the fish and the marinade and let simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Serve hot with the cooked rice with chopped cilantro stirred through it.
We served it with Mangoes in Lime Syrup also from the cookbook. It was so good. I am in the process of cleaning out my freezer, so I used whatever fish I had in there. But angler fish certainly does sound good!
Thursday, July 5, 2007
I love thai food. I love the flavors it and it's inherent simplicity. If you have fish sauce, limes, chiles, and cilantro, you can make a lot of thai dishes. I am cooking practically nothing but thai all this week. I would like to get good at it, so that I can whip up a thai dish, without even thinking about it. I am very much like Other People's Food, in that, I pretty much need a recipe to follow. I cook step-by-step. I'm never afraid of a recipe, but I don't like cooking without a guide. It's not that I don't think that I can cook without a recipe, but why do it, when someone else has all ready taken all of the guesswork out of it.
Anyway, tonight's dinner was Curried Noodle with Shrimp & Straw Mushrooms. It is from the cookbook "Perfect Thai", which I would post a link to Amazon, but I can't find it there. I got it from Home Goods, one of my favorite places to look of for discount priced cookbooks. It has 100 thai recipes and it was $4.99!!!
This dish is really simple, you begin by sauteing shallots and a red chili pepper.
You add curry paste and lemongrass
Then you add shrimp, mushrooms, fish sauce, and soy sauce. I'm sorry, but my picture of that came out way too yellow. At the end you serve it over noodles.
It was supposed to be garnished with fresh cilantro, which I think would have added a nice fresh flavor, but unfortunately I was out! It was very good. It was almost a little too hot for me. It was right at the top of my heat threshold, even though it was only one red chili and one tablespoon of red curry paste. I think it was because I didn't seed the chili pepper. It was my first one harvested from my teeny tiny garden, and it was pretty tiny. If you look in the first picture, you can see it sitting on the page of the cookbook. It was so tiny, I figured it couldn't be that hot, but when I started sauteing it, it took my breathe away.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
I use this blog to keep a list of the books that I've read so far this year. I also have that list beside my bed in a reading journal. Writing it down, making a note, it's all so reinforcing to me. And with this blog, I've discovered another reinforcement, the changing of the "what I'm reading now" link, and the adding of the completed book on my book list. Think about all the things I do now when I finish a book: write it down in my journal, delete the link to Amazon from my blog, add it to the completed books list on my blog, and then create a new link for whatever book I've decided to start next.
What about you? Do you need lists, little procedures that you do to show you've completed a task?
Monday, July 2, 2007
See, lots and lots of mushrooms. I know what your thinking, your thinking, "Pam, where are the fowers, I only see mushrooms?" This is a new bed that we just started this year. So we have some plants scattered in clumps throughout it, but for the most part we are building it slowly and letting our clay soil get nice and enriched.
Also, this morning, I was admiring my cleomes. If you don't have any of these wonderful flowers in your garden, I suggest that you get some. They are annuals, but they reseed freely, too freely, I find myself pulling lots of them up, but they are so worth it. They have unusual flowers, that remind me of fireworks.
I will leave you all with a parting shot of one of my daylillies. I just added daylillies to my gardent this year, actually last week! My husband found a lovely couple who raise (grow?) daylillies, I believe that they even breed (whatever it's called for plants!) them and create their own hybrids. This one opened up this morning, looking absolutely stunning!
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine
I used the recipe for Pain de Champagne, which begins with the making of a poolish. First the flour, water, and yeast go in the pan.
You run that through the dough cycle and you get a wet, yeasty smelling dough, which sits in the bread machine pan overnight.
The next day you add the rest the ingredients, and process on the dough setting.
Then comes my favorite part. You take the dough out of the machine, shape it, and let it rise. After it's risen for about 30 minutes, you slash it and pop it in the oven.
No, wait, did I say shaping it was my favorite part! No, it's taking it out of the oven and looking at this.