Saturday, February 28, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #195

Rosemary Sniffing

Patchouli taking time to smell the roses....uh, rosemary.

This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Sir Tristan Tabbycat Longtail. Be sure and check it out, there is a very thoughtful post about pets and these times of economic crisis.

Friday, February 27, 2009

And the Oscar Goes To.....Me!

For best sad face during a very happy moment.

As a special education teacher, I make an effort to like, care about, and enjoy all of my students. Some of my students make it easy, and some make it very, very difficult. One student in particular comes to mind.

This is the student who when asked to please raise his hand before speaking, replies that he thought it was a free country.

This is the student who while during a test, pretends to have the hiccups. Very loud and obviously fake. When asked to stop, replies that he can't help it, while turning his head to hide his grin.

This is the student who when the hiccups stopped getting enough attention, began to say the answers loudly, but under his breath. When he grew tired of that, he began to hum.

This is the student who when you turn around to write on the board, calls you the b-word. Loud enough for the students around him to hear, but not you. When questioned, he replies that he said he had an itch.

This is the student who when being told that he was assigned detention, replied that his mamma ain't gonna make him go. He was right, his mamma didn't make him go.

This is the student who came up to me and told me that he was moving. Moving, to another state. And as I bent down to talk to him, an appropriately sad look on my face, inside I was dancing. A tap dance. A gleeful dance of joy.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Berry-Brioche Bread Pudding with Lemon Fondant

Bread Pudding


Well, this is my third dessert from Tyler Florence, and I have to say that he is batting a hundred, or batting a thousand, or whatever it is you bat when you are really, really good. Because this was...really, really good.

Bread Pudding


I bought a bag of organic frozen mixed berries from my grocery store because they were on sale. I had no idea what to do with them, but I'd been reading about all the great antioxidant properties of berries. When I saw this recipe, I thought, well why not??

Bread Pudding


I didn't have any Brioche, which to my understanding, is a rich, buttery bread. What I did have was some already stale cubed bread in my freezer. Anytime I have a loaf of bread that is not going to get used up before it gets moldy, I cube it and toss it in a bag in my freezer. I then pull them out to make fresh bread crumbs, or croutons for a salad, or bread pudding like this!

The combination of the sweet berries and the eggy bread pudding and the sweet, but tart lemon fondant sauce is to-die-for. Lovely! The recipe is also listed on the Food Network website, but it's slightly different. I am using the version from Tyler Florence: Stirring the Pot.


Berry-Brioche Bread Pudding with Lemon Fondant
Serves 6 - 8

6 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 12-14 oz loaf brioche (see my note above)
2 cups mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
1 recipe lemon fondant (see recipe, below)

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and egg yolks, the milk, cream, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. Tear the brioche into large pieces; layer with the mixed berries in a deep 9-inch pie dish. Pour the egg mixture over the top and press down gently on top with the flat side of the spoon so that bread soaks up the liquid. Set in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle the bread pudding liberally with granulated sugar. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until pudding has puffed up slightly and the custard has set. (If it gets too brown on the top, tent it with foil while baking.) Serve warm bread pudding with a drizzle of Lemon Fondant.

Lemon Fondant - Thoroughly combine 2 cups confectioner's sugar, the juice of 2 lemons, and 2 teaspoons lemon zest in a bowl. (If necessary, add a splash of water to achieve a drizzling consistency.)

This will be my entry for this week's Tyler Florence Fridays! Be sure and look for the round up sometime Friday afternoon!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

La Cloche - Not Essential - But Nice!

Bread


When I first got into baking bread, I spent hours on the King Arthur Flour website. I joined their "Baking Circle" group, which allowed you access to their forums. I read each and every post. I signed up to receive their catalog and lusted after all the accessories for bread baking. I am big on accessories, from that cute scarf that just makes an outfit, to a gorgeously coiled bread rising bowl. A girl can't have too many accessories.

La Cloche


One of the things that I really wanted was a hearth oven insert. It basically turns your oven into a classic brick oven - great for pizzas and bread. But at almost $200 it was not going to happen anytime soon.

Ready to Rise


What I found instead was the Sassafras La Cloche Brick Oven. It basically creates a little brick oven for your loaf of bread.

Risen



Is it a necessity? No. Does it make a perfectly gorgeous loaf of bread, every time? Yes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Penne with Wilted Arugula and Salami

Pasta with Salami


Do you ever buy something and have absolutely no idea what you plan to do with it? I rarely do, because I am a big-time planner. I have to know what I'm going to make for dinner the whole week, or I sit and fret about it during the day, when I should be sitting and fretting about how to make my students do their work. I have plenty of normal everyday fretting to do without adding dinner to the mix. So, when I was lured into buying some salami, it sat, and sat, and sat in my fridge. Finally, it was nearing it's expiration date, so I sat down to gather ideas.

In serendipitous fashion the first book I looked through was Off The Shelf: Cooking From the Pantryby Donna Hay. I have already spread the love about this book, so I'll spare you any more gushing.

And to what to my wandering eyes should appear?? A recipe for Penne with Wilted Rocket (Arugula) and Salami. So, I added arugula to the grocery list, and a quick, weeknight dinner was planned. Mission accomplished. This was good, and oh-so-easy. The crisp salami married well with the bitter arugula and the creamy tang of the goat cheese.

Penne with Wilted Arugula and Salami
Serves 4

14 oz Penne
10 oz sliced salami (or chorizo)
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
7 oz arugula, stems removed and leaves halved
7 oz goat cheese, sliced
Fresh ground black pepper

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water per directions on package and drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the salami and cook for about 4 minutes until crisp (stirring). Add the capers and the garlic and cook until fragrant about a minute. Add the arugula and toss until it just wilts, then remove from the heat. Toss the salami mixture with the pasta. Serve, topped with the goats cheese and fresh black pepper.


PPN

This will be my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Theresa at Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell



I just finished Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, and I am sorry to see it end. I can't believe that I am saying that about a book about history. History was my most unfavorite subject. I dreaded it. Me, a solid, straight A student, only struggled in my history classes (well, that and geometry).

So, anyway the fact that I loved this book is amazing. Here is the description from Amazon:

What do you get when a woman who's obsessed with death and U.S. history goes on vacation? This wacky, weirdly enthralling exploration of the first three presidential assassinations. Vowell (The Partly Cloudy Patriot), a contributor to NPR's This American Life and the voice of teenage superhero Violet Parr in The Incredibles, takes readers on a pilgrimage of sorts to the sites and monuments that pay homage to Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, visiting everything from grave sites and simple plaques (like the one in Buffalo that marks the place where McKinley was shot) to places like the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where fragments of Lincoln's skull are on display. An expert tour guide, Vowell brings into sharp focus not only the figures involved in the assassinations, but the social and political circumstances that led to each-and she does so in the witty, sometimes irreverent manner that her fans have come to expect. Thus, readers learn not only about how Garfield found himself caught between the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds, bitterly divided factions of the Republican party, but how his assassin, Charles Guiteau, a supporter of the Stalwarts and an occasional member of the Oneida Community, "was the one guy in a free love commune who could not get laid." Vowell also draws frequent connections between past events and the present, noting similarities between McKinley's preemptive war against Cuba and the Philippines and the current war in Iraq. This is history at its most morbid and most fascinating and, fortunately, one needn't share Vowell's interest in the macabre to thoroughly enjoy this unusual tour.

I have to acknowledge that I listened to this, and I'm not sure how much of a difference that made. It is read by Sarah Vowell herself, and her deadpan, sort of nasally voice, is perfect for it. I think that added a lot to the enjoyment, but that is offset by the fact that I don't have a book to flip back through and reread the funny lines that I want to quote to people!

I highly recommend this if you are looking for a funny, entertaining look at history.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #194

Smudge
Smudge waiting impatiently for the catnip to come back.

This is my herb bed. My herb bed, which of course, has a section filled with catnip. This is Smudge sitting in front of his section of the herb bed. He has heard me say that a "watched pot never boils." There is a possiblity that this applies to catnip. He looks right, he looks left, he looks down again, hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the sudden growthspurt of his beloved catnip.

Where's the catnip?


See all the little grassy type plants coming up all over. That is not grass, it's chives. Remember when I talked about not cutting off my flower heads and letting the pretty heads go to seed. This is what happens.

This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Amar and Luna at Catsynth.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cilantro Salsa

Cilantro Salsa


I feel really sorry for you people that don't like cilantro. I remember the first time I tried it, several years ago, I thought it was horrible. I got the whole "soap flavor", really, it tasted like dishwashing liquid. I couldn't understand the attraction. But then something happened, the next time I tried it, I loved it. Isn't that weird? What I'm saying is if you don't like it now, don't give up, try it again sometime. Now, this doesn't work with everything...lima beans...still bad, they will always be bad. So, if you don't like lima beans, I give you permission to never let those fat, weirdly flat beans cross your lips again.

Back to cilantro. The love of my life. I always have cilantro in my fridge. I don't always have tomatoes or tomatillos, so my quick and easy go-to salsa is a simple cilantro salsa. I used a recipe from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman, which I modified to not use ginger (he does).

Cilantro Salsa
makes 1 cup

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (I just used the juice from one lime)

Combine the cilantro, garlic, chile, and oil in a blender or food processor. Puree. Add more oil if necessary to make a smooth paste.

Spoon into a bowl and stir in the lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until use (keeps for about a day in the fridge).


Weekend Herb Blogging


This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging which is hosted by Susan from The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Apple Tarte Tatin with Red Wine Caramel and Fresh Thyme

Tarte Tatin


Once again, I turned to the dessert section for this week's Tyler Florence selection. I didn't have far to go, just a few pages past last week's Ginger Cake, I found Apple tarte Tatin with Red Wine Caramel and Fresh Thyme in Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen: An Indispensable Guide for Anybody Who Likes to Cook.

Out of the oven


What can I say about this...it was the most ultimate apple pie. An apple pie for grown-ups, if you will. The red wine caramel sauce is unbelievable. Really. I have no words to describe it.

Tarte Tatin


The only thing that I might do differently is just use one sheet of puff pastry. Tyler says to overlap them, but they overlapped by about 99 percent! Really one sheet practically covered my whole skillet, and I'm not sure if a double layer of puff pastry is really necessary. Because this dish is really about the lovely apples and the incredible sauce.

Apple Tarte Tatin with Red Wine Caramel and Fresh Thyme
Serves 8 to 10

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup red wine (I used a malbec)
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped (I used 1 teaspoon extract)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
7 Granny Smith apples, peeled, halved, and cored
2 sheets puff pastry, 1 box - about 1 pound
Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs for garnish (I forgot!)

Preheat the oven to 350. Place the butter and sugar in a small pot and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the sugar has melted and caramelized, about 8 minutes. Remove the pot form the burner and add the cream. It will bubble and spit, so be careful. When the sauce has calmed down return to the flame and add the wine slowly while continually stirring. Add the vanilla scrapings and lemon juice.

Add half the red wine caramel sauce to a 10-inch cast-iron or regular ovenproof skillet. Place the apple halves, cut side up, making sure the apples are snug. Cover the top of the pan completely with puff pastry by overlapping the two sheets. Snip off the extra dough with scissors to create a circle that just fits inside the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the puff pastry has risen and is golden brown.

Let the tarte rest in the pan for 15 minutes; then place your serving platter on top of the pan, and carefully flip it over. Lift the pan aways from the tarte; the beautiful apples will now be on top. Decorate the dessert plates with the remaining sauce, add a slice of the tarte, and garnish with the thyme.

This will be my entry for this week's Tyler Florence Fridays!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sausage-Stuffed Portobellos with Spinach

Portobellos


Since it warmed up this weekend, I decided to do some grilling. It's silly that I only wait till it's warm because I have gas grill and it's on a screened-in porch, so it's not like I have to spend time coaxing a charcoal fire, while being exposed to the elements.

Even though it was a Saturday, I turned to Cuisine at Home's Weeknight Grilling - Dinners from grill to table in 30 minutes. This worked out perfect because by the time I finished all the chores and errands I had to do on Saturday, there wasn't much time for dinner! As a side note, are you one of those people who has relaxing weekends? How do you do it? Between doing the laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, picking up cat hairballs, granola making, bill paying, and plant watering, there is not much time for relaxing.

Action Grilling Shot


So, anyway, back to my easy weeknight grilling on a weekend. It was fantastic! Really and truly fantastic. One of those recipes, where as you are eating it, you are planning when to make it again. You know the kind. As the mushrooms grill, they release their liquid and it really makes the filling even more flavorful. The only thing I would do differently is to just dot the cheese on the top before putting on the tomatoes. When I put it in the pan with the filling, it almost immediately started getting stringy and clumping. So, I spent some time separating it and trying to make sure each scoop had equal portions of cheese. We are all about equal portions of cheese in this house.

Sausage-Stuffed Portobellos with Spinach
Serves 4

topping
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt

stuffing
1 lb bulk Italian sausage (I only used 2 links)
1 cup onion, diced (I used one onion)
1 cup yellow bell pepper, diced (I used one pepper)
1 tablespoon garlic minced
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 bag fresh spinach (10 oz)
1 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed

Salt and pepper
4 portobello mushrooms (cleaned, stemmed, gills removed, and seasoned with salt and pepper)
3 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced (I used 2, but mine were big)

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Combine the ingredients for the topping and set aside.

Saute the sausage in 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Cook until the sausage is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and saute for another 5 minutes.

Deglaze with the sherry and simmer until it is almost evaporated. Add the spinach and mozzarella (see my note above), and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon about 1/2 cup of the stuffing mixture into each mushroom. Gently press down on it to flatten it slightly and top with the sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Grill until the cheese begins to melt and the mushrooms are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse


Until I get a better lens for my camera (which is probably not going to happen until after I win the lottery - which, by the way, lottery people, I am not getting any younger you know), my photos of birds end up looking more like a "Where's Waldo" picture. Can you see him? Do you spot the Tufted Titmouse?

I, of course, had no idea what a Tufted Titmouse was until I looked him up in my Field Guide for Tennessee Birds, which I bought especially for this past weekend's birdcount. I practically fell over in excitement at the thought that I had taken a picture of a Tufted Titmouse. As you can tell, I really like saying Tufted Titmouse and plan on using it profusely in all future conversations.

Tufted Titmouse


He came over to my fence post, as if to say, here will this make taking a picture easier?? My reply, "yes, it does, thanks, but my lens is still bad. You don't by any chance have some sweet numbers for the lottery, do you?"

P.S. If you are a bird guru, and this is not really a tufted titmouse. Please do not burst my bubble, unless it has an even funnier name.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara


Sometimes you just gotta have a little bacon. And sometimes you just gotta have a little eggs with that bacon. And sometimes you want some pasta with that bacon and eggs. Thank goodness someone many moons ago came up with Spaghetti Carbonara. What's not to love: pasta, bacon, eggs, and cheese. I don't have it often (for obvious reasons), but when I do, it's a little bit of love right on my plate.

You don't even really need a recipe for this, but to make sure I kept my proportions in check (bacon makes me slightly crazy), I turned to The Best Recipes in the Worldfrom Mark Bittman.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced bacon
1 pound linguini
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. In a small saucepan, combine the oil and the bacon and turn the heat to medium. Cook until the bacon is nicely browned about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until tender, per package directions. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water before draining.

In a warmed large bowl (I just sat mine by the pasta pot) beat 3 eggs. Add the Parmesan cheese and the bacon and it's juices. Toss the still hot, drained pasta and toss with the egg mixture. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems too dry.

Serve with freshly ground black pepper and a little extra Parmesan cheese.


PPN


This classic dish will be my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Nights, which just had their 100th post celebration! It is hosted by Wiffy at Noob Cook.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook



I think bread making is magical. To think that, for the most part, you take four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt and make something so utterly wonderful as bread. I could seriously live on bread alone.

Unfortunately, I don't really like kneading bread, I like eating bread. So, to the rescue is the bread machine. My bread machine,Zojirushi BBCCX20 Home Bakery Supreme Bread Machine, is quite possibly my favorite appliance. I know that it is one of the more expensive brands, but it's reliability and wonderful customer support set's it above the rest for me. My machine (most do) has a dough setting, which is what I use the most. I dump the ingredients in and check back in about 2 hours. I remove the dough, shape it, let it have it's final rise, while I preheat the oven, and bake.

So, to go with this wonderful bread machine, I needed a wonderful bread machine cookbook. I have two favorites that I turn to, one of them being, The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger.

This is a huge book, with 300 recipes! The chapters are as follows:

Daily Breads: White Breads and Egg Breads
Earth's Bounty: Whole Wheat, Whole-Grain, and Specialty Flour Breads
Traditional Loaves: Country Breads and Sourdough Breads
All Kinds of Flavors: Breads Made with the Produce of the Garden, Orchard, and Creamery
Circle, Squares, and Crescents: Pizzas and Other Flat Breads
Sweet Loaves: Chocolate, Fruit, and Other Sweet Breads
Express Lane Bread: No-Yeast Quick Breads
Jams, Preserves, and Chutneys in Your Bread Machine
Bits and Pieces: Crumbs, Croutons, Crostini, and Toasted Appetizers
To Eat With Your Bread: Spreads, Butters, Cheeses, and Vegetables


I have loved each and every recipe that I have tried, from Country White to Honey Whole Wheat, from Roman Bread to Pain de Maison sur Poolish.

I have to give this 5 out of 5 stars, because seriously, this has everything and more than you could ever want to try!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #193 and Great Backyard Bird Count

Patchouli
Did St. Francis really preach to the birds? Whatever for? If he really liked birds he would have done better to preach to the cats - Rebecca West

Patchouli would like to remind you that not only is it time for Weekend Cat Blogging, but it's also time for the Great Backyard Bird Count.

I have been looking for an excuse to buy a field guide to birds. Other than robins, cardinals, and blue birds, I'm pretty lost at knowing what I'm looking at. So, take the time to follow the link above and help count the birdies this weekend. Patchouli is already hard at work.

Also be sure and check out Weekend Cat Blogging, hosted by Gree and Othello.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Those Who Collect

Figurines


Some of you know that I like to divide people into categories. Another one of my categories is people who collect things and people who don't. I gaze with admiration on all those gloriously simple and austere photos that adorn the pages of decorating magazines. Alas, that is not my house. Because, I am a collector. I find something. I like it. I look for more. That's how I roll.

Silver Salt and Pepper
I said I collect them, I didn't say I polish them.

Back in the caveman days when there were hunter/gatherers. I would have been a gatherer. My cave would have been the one with the rock collection artfully arranged out front.

What about you, are you a collector? If so, what strikes your fancy?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ginger Spice Cake - Tyler Florence

Ginger Spice Cake


I decided to change things up a bit and try a Tyler dessert. I chose Ginger Spice Cake for a simple reason, I had everything I needed to make it. When I spent some time organizing my freezer a couple of weeks ago, I was kind of stunned to see that I had 7 packages of cranberries. "One never knows when one might need cranberries." Who said that? Someone famous, I'm sure, or maybe it was just me.

So, anyway, this Ginger Spice Cake was calling to me because it is served with a Warm Cranberry Sauce. Tyler..Tyler..Tyler, you have done it again. The ginger cake was amazing (as was the aroma in the house as it was baking), but what set it over the top was the cranberries. It was sweet, tart, deep and earthy all at the same time. Fabulous!

I found this in Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen: An Indispensable Guide for Anybody Who Likes to Cook.

Ginger Spice Cake
Serves 8

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk

Warm Cranberries
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups water
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup whipped cream for garnish (I didn't garnish)

Preheat the oven to 350. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the pan bottom and place it inside; then spray the paper. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg, molasses, sugar, and melted butter until thick. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat for 1 minute after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the cake's structure. Mix until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth down the top of the batter until level. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, combine the ingredients for the cranberries in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing it from the pan, then slice it in wedges. Serve with the cranberries and whipped cream.


This will be my entry for this week's Tyler Florence Fridays! You are participating, aren't you?? All the cool kids are.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani


When this month's Regional Recipes was announced, I slumped back in disappointment. I don't like Indian food. I know, some of you are probably gasping in astonishment, like I would be if you said that you didn't like Thai. I tried to like it, I spent a fortune at Penzey's and bought curry powder (hot and mild), tumeric, garam masala, fenugreek, and more that I can't think of right now. Even with all my special ingredients, I didn't like it. It tasted "powdery" to me. I tried an Indian restaurant, I can't remember now what I ordered, but it was so hot and spicy that I only ate a few bites in between huge amounts of the yogurt sauce.

I faced Indian food with trepidation and considered skipping this month, but I am a trooper. So, I turned to my man...no not David Lebovitz, my other man...no not Tyler Florence...my other man, Mark Bittman. Not just any Mark Bittman, but The Best Recipes in the Worldto be exact. I chose that book because in the back, there is a section where the recipes are organized by regions. I turned to India and chose the very first chicken recipe in the list. Easy peasy.

Not only was it easy to find the recipe, but the recipe itself was easy. And guess what!?!? I loved it. I didn't just like it, I loved it!! It goes on my to-be-repeated-many-times list. It kind of reminded me of a chicken and rice dish that I used to make in college, only much, much better. I used boneless thighs because that it was I had. I served it with lentils on the side.

Chicken Biryani
Serves 4

4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
large pinch of saffron threads
10 whole cardamom pods, preferable 5 white or green and 5 black (mine were all green)
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon peeled and minced or grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 3 to 4 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces or 2 1/2 to 3 pounds parts
1/4 cup slivered almonds, optional

Put 2 tablespoons butter in a deep skillet. Turn the heat to medium high and after about a minute add the onion and some salt and pepper. Cook the onion until it is soft, for about 5 - 10 minutes. Add the spices, stir and cook for about an another minute.

Add the rice and stir until the rice is glossy and all the ingredients are mixed (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add the stock, chicken, and some more salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce the heat until it is at simmer.

Cook for 25 minutes. Check that all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and chicken are both tender.

If you are using the almonds (I didn't), melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and brown lightly. Pour this over the biryani, re-cover and let rest for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Be sure and check all the Indian recipes at this months Regional Recipes on the 20th, hosted at Blazing Hot Wok.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Bluebird

Bluebird


It finally warmed up enough this weekend that I ventured outside to spend some time with my feathered friends.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pasta with Anchovies, Currants, Fennel and Pine Nuts

Pasta


While eating this, I impulsively exclaimed to my husband, "I love pasta." I really do. I could eat pasta ever single night of the week, and for lunch too and never get tired of it. I wish I liked whole wheat pasta more, since I know they have stripped all the nutrients out to make my lovely white flour pasta, but I don't. I like white bread better than whole wheat too, these are my issues, and I'm working on them.

Whenever I get a new cookbook, I invariably turn to the pasta section first. While I occasionally find the same old, same old, I am always struck by the infinite combination of ingredients that can be tossed into pasta. Like this dish for example, Pasta with Anchovies, Currants, Fennel and Pine Nuts. I just happened to have all of the ingredients that I needed to make this, and no, I don't usually keep fennel bulbs around, but I had one from some recipe that I decided not to make. This was wonderful and easy. The fennel and the onions cooked together made a sweet combination, pairing beautifully. The recipe calls for toasted breadcrumbs, which I toasted with a little of the olive oil in the skillet before beginning the rest of the recipe.

I got this from my (I know you're tired of me saying this) new favorite cookbook, The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh, but you can also find it on-line by following the link above and I've included it down below for you. I am nothing if not accommodating.

Pasta with Anchovies, Currants, Fennel and Pine Nuts
Serves 4

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 anchovy fillets
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
1 large fresh fennel bulb, trimmed, halved, very thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup dried currants
3/4 pound linguine
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add anchovies; mash with back of fork. Add the onion, fennel, and red pepper. Sauté vegetables until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, pine nuts, and currants. Reduce heat to low and cook 5 minutes to blend the flavors; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Add saffron to reserved liquid and stir to dissolve. Return pasta and saffron water to pot. Add tomato mixture; toss over low heat until sauce coats pasta. Mix in breadcrumbs and transfer to bowl.


PPN


This will be my entry for this week's extra special Presto Pasta Nights, it's the 100th round-up celebration, and of course, it's being hosted by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington


If you think the title of the book sounds interesting, wait till you see the full title: Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake-Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia. Um, yeah. Snake handling.

This is not a book that I would have chosen for myself, it was given to me by my very favorite language arts teacher at school. She thinks that she read it for a non-fiction class in college. We like to give each other books to read, so far, I've enjoyed pretty much everything she has given to me, too bad it has not been reciprocal. On the last book I gave her, she didn't care for the "character's voice." See, I learn so much from her. I plan on using "Character's Voice" in my next book review.

Back to Sand Mountain. I was interested in this book because, one...I'm fairly close to Sand Mountain, GA, about 40 miles away, and two...hello...snake handling.

The back of the book:

Glendel Buford Summerfod, pastor of the Church of Jesus with Signs Following, was convicted of trying to kill his wife with poisonous snakes. As Dennis Covington covered the murder trial, he discovered the bizarre, mysterious, ultimately irresistible world of holiness snake handling - a world of unshakable faith, where people handle poisonous snakes, drink strychnine, speak in tongues, lay hands on the sick, and, some claim, raise the dead. As Covington explored the lives and beliefs of the poor white Southerners who practice this strange form of religion, he gradually began to explore his own soul.

If that sounds interesting and intriguing, then this is a pretty good read. He really gets in with these people and becomes emotionally involved, so it's has more of a story feel, and not so much a documentary.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #192

Smudge


This picture can be titled "Smudge likes to play outside in the woods" or "why I have to buy a new vacuum cleaner every couple of years". You chose.

This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Mr. Tigger and the M-Cats Club.