Thursday, August 28, 2008
When I was growing up, parsley was a tough, curly thing that sat on your plate. It was to make your plate look pretty, not to eat (though sometimes I would occasionally hear that chewing it would freshen your breath). I had never even heard of Italian flat-leaf parsley. My how times have changed. Now, I buy a bunch of fresh parsley every week. Parsley can be pretty much tossed into anything towards the end of cooking to add a fresh flavor, and it is still useful to make your plate look pretty. A little fresh parsley sprinkled on a dish before serving makes me feel like a chef (though mine somehow never looks as pretty as those on TV, it must be an acquired skill).
I buy organic parsley, which is a tad bit expensive (a least compared to non-organic), so I really hate to let any of it go to waste. So, there I was, with a bag of parsley in my fridge, needing to be used up, and a new cookbook. Yeah. I bought a new cookbook. I couldn't help it. It was at Book Gallery and it was only $8.99 because it had a torn page. And it has stickers on the front...it won James Beard Foundation Kitchenaid Book Award and an IACP award! I am especially smitten with cookbooks with award stickers on the front. Anyway, it's Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, The by Peter Berley. Now, I am not a vegetarian, modern or otherwise, but I cannot pass up a good deal or a good cookbook. I am really happy with this book and have marked several recipes to try. One that caught my eye was the parsley pesto. I followed the recipe and froze portions of it in an ice cube tray. After they were frozen, I stored them in a plastic bag in my freezer. This is so good, and I have such plans for it: spooning over grilled or roasted fish or chicken, stirred into pasta or grains, spread onto pizza dough...really the options are limitless!
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts
4 cups packed, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt
Using your metal blade of your food processor, gring the walnuts to a fine meal.
Add the parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Slowly pour int oil and process until the mixture is smooth. Mix in about 1 teaspoon of salt and taste, adjust if necessary.
You can freeze it like I did, or store it in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks after covering it with olive oil and sealing it tightly.
This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by one of my favorite food bloggers, Katie at Thyme for Cooking.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I have decided that Tuesdays are garden photo days. Why? Because, I can. There are so many things in life that I can't control: my students, my regular ed teachers, my husband, my daughters, my emotions (I cried over a dead possum on the way to school the other day...yes, I cried over roadkill), heck I can't even tell my cats what to do. So, certainly you will not begrudge me this one little thing that I can have some say over.
When I saw this cute little guy on some mystery plant (I planted it last year and forgot to label it), I had to take his picture. Don't you love the way they look at you? They follow you with their head, which is kind of cute and kind of creepy at the same time. OH..and for those of you that saw my picture on my Not-so-purple-coneflower , I have an update. First of all, I had big plans for this coneflower. I was going to save the seeds and then show the plant to some plant scientist. I would wow them with my newly created hybrid, which they would name after me, something like Pamicus Amazingus Coneflowerus. I would make millions. This blog would change from a blog about recipes that I cooked, to recipes that my personal chef cooked for me. Oh, I had high hopes. But guess what??? It has a disease!!! Not only am I not going to be a millionaire or have a plant named after me or have a personal chef, but I have to go out and pull up all my diseased plants.
Monday, August 25, 2008
I subscribe to Fine Cooking magazine (hmmm...no surprises there. Me subscribing to a magazine, imagine!) One of the bonuses of having a subscription is that they email me when it is about time for them to publish one of their special issues. All I have to do is make a few clicks and sometime in the future another magazine will arrive in my mailbox. The beauty of this is that I often forget. So, that several weeks later, when this magazine arrives, it's a special little treat for me. A lovely surprise. And really my life has too few of these lovely surprises.
So, when the Spring issue of Fine Cooking's Fresh arrived, I was immediately entranced by the cover recipe. Grilled Chicken with Fresh Herbs and Farfalle. It looked so good, and sounded like a great way to use fresh herbs. I didn't quite have everything that I needed, so I made a few substitutions - watercress for the arugula and fussili for the farfalle.
This was wonderful. So fresh and healthy tasting! I was kind of lazy and didn't really stem my parsley and cilantro very well. Next time, I will make more of an effort. And this is one salad that holds up well. We had leftovers for lunch the next day, and it was still good!
Grilled Chicken with Fresh Herbs and Pasta
(modified slightly from Fine Cooking)
12 oz dried fusilli
10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Fresh ground black pepper
7 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley (leaves)
1 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup lightly fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
1 cup fresh watercress (or arugula) (stems removed)
Lemon wedges for serving
Bring salted water to a boil, and cook your pasta according to directions. Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Cool the pasta in the refrigerator, while you assemble the rest of the dish.
Heat outdoor grill or indoors heat up a cast iron grill pan. Brush chicken breasts with one tablespoon of the oil, and salt and pepper. Cook (or grill) until golden and cooked through (about 5 minutes per side). I actually ended up grilling them for about 3 minutes per side and they were perfect, but my grill was really hot! Let the chicken cool and then slice on the diagonal into thin strips.
In a large bowl, whisk together 8 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice, the garlic and the cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the cooled pasta, the chicken, the herbs and the watercress. Toss to mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with fresh lemon slices.
This will be my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Nights , which is being hosted this week by it's talented creator, Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Today's herby entry does not contain a recipe. Rather, it contains two things that I recently discovered about basil. The fact that I recently discovered them makes me very saddened, disappointed and disillusioned in myself. Basil is one of my favorite herbs. Well, actually it is tied for first place with cilantro. So, the fact that I just recently learned two very important things about my top favorite herb, two things that will greatly enhance my enjoyment of basil, is kind of sad. And if you already knew these things, please act surprised. It will help me with my self-esteem issues.
One...in the latest issue of Fine Gardening, there is an article on harvesting herbs. Being an avid herb harvester myself, I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know. Nope. It says to harvest your basil once a month during the growing season. Once a month! Cut it back to it's two bottom set of leaves! I just snip on as-needed basis through the summer, and then right before school starts I do one big harvest. I had no idea that I should have been harvesting regularly. No idea. You picked a fine time to tell me this, Fine Gardening! Why couldn't you have mentioned this..oh say...back in May..when it would have been more useful??
Second..basil roots like nobody's business!! I've read the hints and tips about storing your basil in a glass on your counter, rather than in the refrigerator. But I never listened. When my CSA started including a few sprigs of basil with my veggies, I put it in a plastic bag in my refrigerator, only to find it several days later, an evil, limp, black mass. So, my last sprig, I sat, dutifully, on my kitchen windowsill in an old tupperware cup. One week later, my basil had rooted like crazy. Look at that picture, that is after only one week! Now, just imagine...if you combine this tip with my first tip, and rooted a few of your harvested sprigs and planted them back in your garden, by the end of the growing season, you could have a mass of basil. If I had known this back in the spring, I could be awash in basil plants right now!!!
These two bits of basil wisdom will be my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Srivalli at Cooking 4 All Seasons.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Cheese is good. Hot, gooey, melted cheese is even better. So when I saw the cover of Donna Hay's magazine issue #37, I knew that I had to try it. I had everything that I needed to make it except for preserved lemon. I've searched all over for some preserved lemon, but alas, it is not to be found in my neck of the woods (or at least not found by me) and I haven't the time to make any right now. I finally decided I wasn't going to let that stop me, since I had lots of frozen lemon zest and some juice, maybe I could just use that and see how it worked out.
I have conflicting things to say about this recipe. First of all my skewers were kind of thick, and when I speared the cheese, it started to split. Then when I began grilling, it started falling off the skewers. The cheese was ready before the chicken cubes were. I was able to gather up the melted blobs of cheese and pile them on my bread. I was so sad, because this was the first time Donna Hay has ever let me down. But then I tasted it, and immediately she was back on the pedestal that I have her firmly placed on. This was so good. So amazingly good. The freshness of the lemon, the richness of the cheese, the chicken, everything, fantastic. I did make fresh bread (naan), which I served with it. I had forgotten how easy and tasty naan was. The recipe does tell you to use a nonstick frying pan or a barbecue hot plate, and I tried grilling it, which was my main problem. I think next time I will use my grill pan, so that I don't risk losing any of the glorious cheese. Also, I didn't serve it with the spinach leaves (didn't have any), instead I just grilled some eggplant for along side it.
Chicken, Haloumi and Preserved Lemon Skewers
2 chicken breast fillets, trimmed and cut into cubes
16 oz haloumi cheese
1/4 cup of lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil (for marinade)
2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon, flesh removed and the rind rinsed (I used lemon zest)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch of oregano
pita bread for serving
baby spinach leaves for serving
lemon wedges for serving
Place the chicken, haloumi, lemon juice, olive oil, preserved lemon (or zest), garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to combine. Cover and place the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan or grill plate over medium heat. Thread the chicken, haloumi and oregano onto skewers and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with the pita bread and baby spinach leaves and lemon wedges.
This will be my entry for this week's Bookmarked Recipes, which you can find the roundup at Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
My flower garden is a lot like my house...cluttered and overflowing. But that's how I like it. I love a cottage garden with flowers that are free to reseed and fill up every nook and cranny (less weeding!). One of my favorites is purple coneflower. It readily reseeds and hardily sends up it's lovely purple heads through rain, drought, whatever. Everyonce in awhile, I get a really strange sort of mutated coneflower. Like this one. Instead of the large purple petals, it has smaller greenish ones, and then there are these weird baby coneflowers growing out of the center. You can see the normal purple coneflowers sort of blurried in the background. I just love the little surprises of nature!
Monday, August 18, 2008
You know, I was about to say that pasta is the working girl's best friend. But that's awfully sexist isn't it? It would work okay in my house because my husband cooks probably, maybe two times a year. He makes chili. It's good chili, but really, I think he needs to expand his repertoire, don't you? So, back to pasta being a working person's best friend. Pasta is the only thing that I can comfortably completely wing on my own. It's perfect for cleaning out the fridge and it's perfect for when there is hardly anything in the fridge. So, when I got the cutest (and yummiest) basket of cherry tomatoes in all shades of red, yellow, and orange, a quick tomato pasta dish practically assembled itself.
Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 lb your favorite pasta
2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon roasted garlic (if you are lucky enough to have some, otherwise just a clove or two of minced garlic)
1 small red (or white, or yellow) onion diced
3 tablespoons (or more) chopped basil
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Start a pot of salted water to boil for your pasta.
In a skillet heat of couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes until crisp tender. Add cherry tomatoes and garlic. Let tomatoes simmer for about 20 minutes while you finish cooking the pasta.
When the pasta is al dente, scoop it out of your pot and into the skillet with the tomatoes. This allows a little of the pasta water to help form a sauce with the tomatoes. Add the fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a green salad and some bread and you are all set!
And this will be my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Nights hosted this week by Kitchenetta of Got No Milk.
Oh,and for those of you still reading, your reward is you get to hear me whine and complain some more. Yes, school is stressful. I get that. But guess who's computer decided to crash this weekend??? Yep. I spent all day Saturday and most of Sunday trying to copy over what I could. You know what's hard (besides trying to figure out Windows Vista)? Trying to remember all my saved passwords!!! I have things that I probably haven't typed the password in almost five years!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
You know what I love about Donna Hay's recipes? They are the kind of recipes I would make up, if I could make up recipes. But since I can't make up recipes, I'm pretty much brain dead by the time I get home from school, I make her recipes. What I also love about her is that if you keep a few standard ingredients in your pantry and fridge: lemons, limes, chilies, and parsley or cilantro, you can always find something from one of her books to make.
This recipe came from her Magazine issue number 37. I changed it up a bit, in that she calls for slicing the chicken and tossing it with everything. Since the chicken doesn't really brown (or at least mine didn't), that probably makes it look more attractive. Because my chicken kind of looks like a beached whale or something, not very pretty. Everything tasted great, and I'm not even a big eggplant fan. Plus it was insanely easy. Everything roasts together in one pan, and if you're like me (lazy), line the pan with parchment paper and you don't even have a pan to clean!
Coriander Chicken with Roasted Eggplant and Chili
From Donna Hay
2 tablespoons sea salt flakes
1 tablespoon ground coriander
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 long red chillies
12 baby eggplants, halved (I only had 4, not so babyish, and I quartered them)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups cilantro leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 390. Combine the salt and ground coriander and sprinkle the mixture over the chicken. Brush the chicken, eggplant, and chillies with half the olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for about 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
Chop the eggplant and chillies, roughly. Place in a bowl with the rest of the olive oil, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Slice the chicken and serve with the eggplant mixture.
This will be my entry for this week's Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Ruth at Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Well, do you?
It's edamame! All fresh and still dirty from my CSA. As someone who has only seen this shelled and frozen in a bag at my grocery store, this was quite they eye opener. First of all, they are kind of hairy. Who knew?? Second of all, I all ready knew that I liked them, but OMG! Fresh, they are amazing. I was reading somewhere that they are a favorite bar snack in Japan. They like them with a little salt and a beer. Think about that. What is our favorite bar snack? Buffalo chicken wings, fried pork rings, chips...I don't know. But whatever it is, it is certainly not good for you like edamame. They are so easy and so yummy. To eat, you kind of place the pod between your teeth and strip out the seeds, or you could just pop open the pod with your fingers and toss them in your mouth. But be warned, these are completely addictive. I didn't get any pictures of them cooked, we ate them too quick!
Bunch of fresh edamame (or frozen)
sea salt flakes
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the beans and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until tender.
Drain well, sprinkle with salt flakes to taste, and toss together.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Sorry no time to post anything really. I just wanted to give you something different to look at, other than my tarragon vinegar!
School is really, really stressful. I am so far behind, all ready, that I am almost catatonic. Is anyone else like this? You have so much to do, that you are kind of in a daze, and you end up sort of doing nothing! Let's just say that I am well aware of the fact that there are 180 days of school left. 180 school days before I can post my happy, jubilant, summer entry.
So, anyway, for something different to look at, I offer you Scrappycat. But, hey, she is laying on a Donna Hay magazine, so that's foodie, right? Though, I am sorry to say that she doesn't really look all that impressed.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Last week, I showed you a honey herb vinegar that I made with thyme. This week, I am showcasing an even easier vinegar to make...tarragon vinegar. This recipe is the basic herb vinegar recipe from, again, The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round by Ellie Top and Margaret Howard. You can find several different methods and ideas for making a basic herb vinegar, but I like the one in this book because it's the easiest. What??? Me, take the easy way out!? Um...yeah, whenever possible.
I did a search and found some recipes using tarragon vinegar, which sound great! How about Chicken with Tarragon Vinegar Sauce or Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Sandwiches with Tarragon Mayonnaise or Tarragon Shallot Egg Salad Sandwiches? If these don't make you immediately leap to your feet and run into your kitchen to make tarragon vinegar, well, there is nothing else that I can do.
2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 cup of fresh tarragon
Bring vinegar to a boil.
Crush or bruise the herbs. Place the herbs in a clean jar and fill with the warm vinegar. Cover and let steep for 2 weeks. (The book states in a sunny place, I just stored it in my pantry).
Taste occasionally and when it's the desired strength, strain vinegar and pour into a clean jar. You can add a fresh sprig of the tarragon at this point (if you want it to look pretty, I didn't really care), and store in the fridge.
This wonderful, simple tarragon vinegar will by my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Divya of Dil Se.... Be sure and check there for the round up!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I'm not sure when I discovered Mary's blog, Feeding Groom. But I can remember exactly the feeling I had when I started reading her posts. And then I read more, and then more. You know when you stumble on a blog, and you love it so much that you actually go back and try to reread all the posts?! I started bookmarking. And then I realized that I was bookmarking practically every single recipe. I even emailed her and said something like "who are you, and why are you making every single thing that I would want to make?"
One of the recipes that I bookmarked was, Sugar Rubbed Wild Salmon with Grilled Silver Queen Corn Relish, and one day, when all the planets aligned, and I had all the ingredients, I made it. Now, I am not sure if I had silver queen corn, but I had some lovely, fresh corn from my CSA, and since Mary is only about 2 hours away from me, it was possible that I had the same kind of corn she was talking about. All I can say is that the corn relish was amazing. My proportions were kind of wrong (I didn't have as much corn). Even though it called for three ears and that is exactly how many I had, I think I ended up with much less corn. See, it was three organic ears of corn. Organic corn = worms. Or at least it does in my CSA. When I pulled back the first husk, a big, plump worm, fell right on my counter! He was so big, he even made a loud plopping noise. After I screamed, and ran from the kitchen, I slowly made my way back. I'm not really afraid of worms, it's just I wasn't expecting to see one right at that moment. So, then I figured out that they were at the tip. So the next ear, I decided to cut a couple inches of the tip off before shucking, and ended up cutting a big worm in half!!! EWWWWW!! This whole corn relish thing was getting pretty dramatic. So, needless to say, I ended up with not that much corn after cutting off all possible worm infested areas, luckily I compost and this was not as wasteful as it sounds! At least I found out that farm living is probably not for me. I also thought the rub was a little strong, but it was only after rereading the directions, that I realized that you were only supposed to put the rub side on one side. I put it on both. So, I don't think I can be a judge of the rub, it was good, but I used too much.
As I had this bookmarked, it is a perfect candidate for Bookmarked Recipes at Ruth's Kitchen Experiments. I'm not going to post the recipe, because I think everyone needs to go to Mary's blog and check it out. Be ready to start bookmarking!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
What's your favorite pizza? I don't like heavy, zillion-topping pizzas. I like them very simple with few ingredients. I think it's because I like bread so much, and really what's pizza other than bread flattened out with some stuff on top. One of my favorites is pizza margherita. It's perfect in summer when your tomatoes are flourishing (well, if I grew tomatoes, I bet they'd be flourishing) and your basil is flourishing (yay, mine is!)
Pizza margherita is so simple, it really doesn't even need a recipe. You take your pizza dough, top it with extra virgin olive oil, sliced tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake in the hottest oven you can find, for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle fresh chopped basil on top, while it's still warm. Eat.
The only thing I do differently is that I usually heat up about 1/4 cup olive oil, with a clove or two of minced garlic, and that is what I use to brush over the pizza before adding the tomatoes and cheese. Yum.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Unfortunately this is going to be a short post. Why? Because yesterday I cut the tip of my left ring finger, while slicing onions. I was having one of those bad days, all ready stressed from school, and I was kind of mad, and not paying attention. All that adds up to nothing good. Really, when I am in the kind of mood, I should not pick up my knife. I cut it pretty bad, probably needed stitches, but after the day I had, I was not going to add sitting in the emergency room for hours to my list of crappy things. I really need to learn how to do that cool cutting thing with your fingers bent and out of the way. Believe me, I am going to practice it.
So, anyway today's post is just a tip. (Ha, ha...get it..tip..I cut the tip..oh, never mind). I have started buying organic. One of the things I buy, regularly, are lemons and limes. Lemons and limes are expensive to begin with, and when they are organic, wow! To help get every last little bit of use of them, anytime I need just the juice for a recipe, I use my vegetable peeler to peel off the zest. I store this in the freezer. The zest can be used in any recipe that calls for zest. I love it finely chopped with parsley and garlic and spooned over grilled pork, chicken, or fish.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I am a complete pushover for cute things. I have to force myself not to buy Hello Kitty things (after all I am a rapidly aging woman). I am thinking about getting a cute bento box to take my lunch in, and I know that I will be unable to resist the cute little accessories. It will be completely out of my control, I understand this, and accept it. So expect ridiculously cute lunch photos sometime in the future. Where was I going with this...oh yes, cute things. When I saw the title of these cupcakes in Donna Hay's The New Cook I knew that I had to try them. If for no other reason than to say that I made Patty Cakes.
I made these for my oldest daughter's birthday. She turned 23 (gulp) on July twenty-first. She is pretty picky about what she eats, she keeps everything healthy and simple. So, I wanted to make something really simple and filled with good organic ingredients, just the basics, flour, sugar, butter, cream...it's all good! After you bake the cupcakes, the recipe suggests filling them with whipped cream or lemon curd. I really want to try to make some lemon curd sometime, but I haven't yet, so it would have to be whipped cream. Now, most of you know, I don't bake. I don't like to bake. I also don't whip cream. My mixer instruction book said to whip until creamy peaks form. I don't know. Mine kind of looked like a rocky coast. Have I mentioned that I hate baking?? But these were good, and really not all that difficult (even for me) and with a name like Patty Cakes, who could resist?
Slightly adapted From Donna Hay's The New Cook
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 oz butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
whipped cream or lemon curd
Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk and vanilla in a bowl until well mixed. Continue to beat until the mixture is light and creamy. Spoon the batter into cupcake tins lined with paper liners (the recipe calls for using patty-cake cases), until 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cakes are a lovely golden color. Test with a skewer for doneness. Cool on wire racks. Using a teaspoon, scoop out a round of cake and fill the hole with whipped cream or lemon curd. Put the little scooped out cake back on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
I've had this recipe bookmarked forever, just waiting for the perfect opportunity. This will be my entry for this week's Bookmarked Recipes at Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.