Friday, June 30, 2006
As an incentive for members of the choir to be faithful, our choirmaster Dan prepares a 5 course, wine-with-every-course, meal for all who have attended 80% or more of the rehearsals and services throughout the year.
I have been fortunate to make the cut off each of the three years I have sung with this choir. Tim assures me that working in the kitchen (what some of the less than 80%-ers do as "penance") is just as fun... but I will continue to strive to reserve my seat at the banquet table.
This year's menu was a trip around the country, with several things coming from Dan's home state of Indiana. After our appetizer of pistachios and Left-Hand Sawtooth Ale from Colorado , we moved on to what will now be the famous fried biscuits from the Nashville House, in Nashville, IN. Umm, these are not biscuits, but much more like donut holes. They are crispy on the outside, soft and flaky on the inside (this sort of thing happens when you put the dough into an inordinate amount of Crisco!), and were served with the best apple butter I have ever had (and I am not a fan of apple butter). We had these not only as a first course, but served throughout dinner, which is a dangerous way to be served "bread".
The wines this year were perhaps my favorite in memory from meals past... the red from Spain particularly, (Codice Tempranillo 2003 – Rioja, Spain) and I was excited to see a bottle tucked into our stash of kitchen supplies to be brought home with us.
Other courses included a salad of romaine with raspberries, pecans, and brie, (mmm, brie) with a honey mustard vinaigrette, a fun curried shrimp couscous with peas (served with Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 2005 – Stellenbosch, South Africa), and the main course was coque-a-Dan, chicken marinated with both red wine and Jack Daniels served over brown rice and a healthy side of asparagus.
Dessert was a peach kuchen accompanied by vanilla ice cream, a recipe that Dan was given by a host mom when his college orchestra toured through Lancaster County, PA a "few" years ago.
18 of us made the 80% cut-off this year (out of a choir approaching 50 members) as well as the 10-or-so folks helping out in the kitchen... so Dan certainly breaks the bank each year to feed us. But I think he has figured out what strong motivation food can be.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
This is a recipe that Tim found on the Wild Oats web site, and it has quickly become our favorite version:
3 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
Juice of 1 lime
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic
4 dashed Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
salt to taste
Mash (I use a pastry blender) the avocados in a bowl, until slightly lumpy. Add the lime juice, tomato, cilantro, onions and garlic. Add the Tabasco, cumin and sugar and salt. Mix well and sample to add whatever you need (we often like more lime juice). Cover and let stand at room temp or in the fridge for an hour to let the flavors blend.
Here is our kitchen set-up while we were making this dip... as I say in our "about us" description, we set up on each side of the island with our own cutting boards and chop away.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Who doesn't like a good baked-fruit dessert? Well, my poor husband cannot eat berries, so when all those beautiful strawberries, blueberries and raspberries make their way to the farmer's market, I can only daydream about creating a raspberry pie or strawberry tart.
But, we both love peaches, especially in pie or crisp form. I had bought some peaches to eat this week for lunch, but then Whole Foods had Georgia peaches when we went to buy meats this Sunday afternoon. Not only were they Georgia peaches, they were soft and ripe... perfect to use that day. So a handful were purchased to be peeled and sliced into a crisp.
Place 4 cups of peeled and sliced peaches into a lightly greased 8" pan.
Top with a mixture of 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup quick oats, 3/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg (more if you like nutmeg--I am a nutmeg minimalist) and 1/3 cup butter cut into the dry mixture.
Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling!
Great for dessert...and breakfast the next morning!
Monday, June 26, 2006
When Tim and I started this blog he said, "does it have to be only about food, or can I post about music or Kingsley if I want?" and I thought, "of course... we can do whatever in the world we want to do!"
On the greyhound forum we read, they refer to the anniversary of your adopting your dog as their "gotcha" day.
We adopted Kingsley a year ago this past weekend. He was a broken-leg-dog, the injury which ended his racing career, and it has been amazing to watch his healing over the past year. When we first got him he would only walk on that leg, but now he uses it for everything from running to climbing stairs, and the muscles have come back to his right thigh.
He's still a shy boy, but is so much braver these days.
After having him in our life, we will always have a greyhound (or two, some day).
I had a painting done of Kingsley and this is him checking it out:
We love our dog!
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Today I officially accepted a job offer at Gene Logic in Cambridge, MA.
Along with our celebratory Champagne, Tim bought some cooked lobster tails from the Ipswich Shellfish Company and we had homemade lobster rolls. Butter-grilled rolls, with a mix of lobster meat, a little mayo, lemon juice and parsley.
Let the celebrations begin!
One of the editions of Saveur that we took from our stay at the Wayside Inn on the Cape had a cute story about a young man who went off to the University in Dublin, Ireland, and complained to his folks that the bread at school was bad and that he "would starve."
Dad suggested he bake his own bread and said, "I knew that every Irish student had a pint glass, which he's brought home from the pub, so I invented a recipe for the simplest bread in the world, one whose ingredients he could measure out with a pint glass. And I told him he could mix it in the wash basin if he didn't have a bowl. He didn't starve after all."
1 pint glass (2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
1 pint glass (2 ½ cups) whole wheat flour
Enough baking soda to coat the bottom of the glass (3/4 tsp)
Enough salt to coat the bottom of the glass (3/4 tsp)
Enough butter to coat the bottom of the glass (1 Tbsp)
¾ pint glass (1 ¾ cups) buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375.
Sprinkle 1tsp all-purpose flour on a baking sheet and set aside.
Combine flours, soda and salt in a large bowl and mix well with your hands to combine.
Add butter, breaking it up into small pieces with your fingers, and mix it into the flour mixture. Make a well in the flour-butter mixture and add the buttermilk. Slowly incorporate with your hands until a ball forms, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a neat ball (without kneading)
Transfer dough to the baking sheet and press gently to form a 7 1/2" wide round. Slash a cross 1/2" deep across the entire top of the loaf with a knife and dust top of loaf with 2 tsp flour.
Bake until bread is light golden and a tap on the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow, about 70 minutes. Wrap bread in a kitchen towel and prop against a window-sill and allow to cool for about 2 hours. Slice and serve at room temperature or toasted, with a slathering of Irish butter, if you like.
The dough did not come together like I thought it would... it was quite sticky, yet adding additional flour just caused it to separate which made it difficult to form into one cohesive ball without some kneading (which he warned me not to do). It baked in less than 70 minutes. It produced a dense, but not too-dense bread, which was great toasted with a little butter or peanut butter. While definitely different than a yeast bread, I would consider making this again (and see if I can get it to come together better)
Monday, June 19, 2006
This is one of the few actual original recipes you will see from me. I always say that I am not a chef, cause I don't create my own recipes... I just try a lot of other's, so that I have a good stash of worthwhile recipes.
I am a big fan of orange marmalade. I'm not sure when I developed a taste for it...I assume through my mother who has always been a big fan of toast and good fruit preserves.
I'm also not sure when I was first prompted to put orange marmalade on fish and bake it... but I know I did it even back in my single-days in Savannah. I dollop a generous amount of marmalade onto the top of any white fish (haddock, cod, scrod), and then sprinkle chopped garlic on top of that. Bake at 350-375. It yields a sweet and spicy combo when it's done.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
When Tim and I spent a weekend at the Wayside Inn in Chatham, MA we took some complimentary issues of Food & Wine and Saveur from their library. This recipe came from the February 2006 issue of Food & Wine, and we made it as a decadant dessert to serve after our light and summery meal of pasta with smashed peas.
This is the recipe as I made it, which is an alteration of the original recipe:
First you make a chocolate cookie crust:
4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
8 oz chocolate wafer cookies (from a 9 oz package - enjoy the other ounce as a snack), finely ground (2 cups)
Preheat the oven to 375. In a medium glass bowl combine the chocolate and butter and microwave at high in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is melted. Stir well, then stir in cookie crumbs. Press mixture over the bottom and 1 1/2 inches up the sides of a 9" springform pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, or until set... the crust will continue to firm as it cools.
Meanwhile, make the peanut butter filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup well-chilled heavy cream
Beat the cream cheese with the peanut butter, sugar and vanilla until blended.
In another bowl whip the chilled cream until firm.
Fold one-third of the cream into the peanut butter mixture to loosen it, then fold in the remaining whipped cream.
Spoon the filling into the crust, smoothing the surface. Sprinkle lightly with salt and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
Make the chocolate topping:
4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate with the heavy cream and microwave in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is melted and the cream is hot. Stir the chocolate mixture until blended, them let cool to barely warm, stirring occasionally.
Spread the chocolate topping over the peanut butter filling and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with shopped peanuts. Carefully run a shrp knife around the edge of the pie crust to loosen it, them remove the springform ring. Serve pie chilled, or slightly cooler than room temperature.
When making slices, run your knife under hot water between each cut.
In the original recipe they want you to use chunky peanut butter for the filling, and then you add another 3/4 cup of chopped peanuts to that mixture. I did not think I wanted a chunky texture to my pie filling, so I used creamy peanut butter and did not add any extra peanuts to the filling. I did like the chopped peanuts on top of the pie though, so wonder if I would like them in the filling... might have to try that next time.
The pie's consistency was much softer and creamier than I expected... it does not get hard in the fridge, so we did like it colder than room temperature. We and our guests kindly tested both temperatures for you, our blog reader's interest!
Monday, June 12, 2006
The April 2006 edition of Real Simple had a recipe for pasta with smashed peas and ricotta cheese. It looked pretty... yellowy noodles with white ricotta and bright green peas and chives... and it sounded like a nice summer meal. Well, last week we had one day reach 87 degrees. Tim brought up the fans from the basement, and Kingsley had one aimed at him all day. Within 2 days the rains came back and the high for Saturday was 57 degrees!
Unfortunately during the meantime between summer arriving, and winter returing, we made dinner plans with friends who are getting married at the end of the month. Thought how nice it would be to have a light, summery meal with a fruity riesling.
Well, we put on our layers of clothing and had our summery meal, despite the cold rain outside. I thought this was a very yummy, light meal, and it will definitely be made again as the summer acutually progresses.
Since this is a recipe of few ingredients, I made homemade pasta to serve with it, as there is something extra-special about homemade pasta.
Pasta with Smashed Peas, Real Simple April 2006
1 lb pappardelle, tagliatelle, fettuccine or linguine
1 16 oz package of frozen peas, thawed
3/4 cup ricotta
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped chives
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, pulse the peas in a food processor or blender until chopped but not pureed. Add 1/2 cup of the ricotta, season with salt and pepper, and pulse to combine. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the pea puree and reserved pasta water and toss. Divide the pasta among 4 individual bowls. Top with the remaining ricotta, a sprinkle of chives (which I found to be a crucial flavor addition), and a drizzle of olive oil.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
"Why in the world does she have a photo of an aerobic step in her kitchen at the top of this post?!?"
"Ah, the better to knead your pasta dough!"
I am not a tall woman... I think they say my 5 foot 3 inches is kinda average, but I know I shop in the petite department as much as possible, and have to use a step stool to reach things in the cabinets above the stove, which Tim can just reach right in and retrieve.
I had the brainstorm after making pasta one time that it would be so much easier on my shoulders if I had a lower table at which to knead... or if I could be taller... and my conveniently adjustable aerobic step called my name from upstairs.
Since adopting Kingsley a year ago, I no longer work out, but take him for walks, so the step has been underutilized as of late... so how convenient to be able to use it as a safe way to make myself about 5" taller and lead to much easier kneading of rubbery pasta dough.
I suppose I should leave you with a recipe if you'd want to make your own pasta, but I fear that I have never made it the same way twice! I have a Marcella Hazen book, and her measurements are in grams, so that has never been what I turn to except for the pictures and recipes for sauces, as we do not own a kitchen scale (yet). The back of the semolina flour bag I have has its own recipe, which I think yields a too-dry dough, but at least it is in "cups". I also vary the types of flour I use. All semolina is too dry and rough, all white flour is ok, but 2 cups white and 1/2 cup semolina is kinda my regular for egg pasta. To the flour add 3 eggs and warm water if needed. I mix my pasta in a food processor to bring it together, then knead it for a full 10 minutes.
I've also made whole wheat pasta, which requires extra moisture but made what I thought was a pretty tan dough.
Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling it out and cutting it.
Oh, and while they say you can roll and cut by hand... I cannot imagine doing so... use a pasta maker... or just go buy some fresh pasta from the supermarket!
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Over Memorial Day weekend Tim and I made a stand-by recipe for blackened salmon sandwiches. While it did not dawn on me to blog about them (which I will have to do, as that is a super sandwich) I am going to tell you about the salad we made with the leftover arugula.
Now that we've had arugula in the house for the past few days, I think it may need to become a household salad staple. It has such a great peppery flavor that adds so much dimension to an otherwise plain ol' salad.
We knew we did not want the leftover arugula to go to waste, so Tim perused at least three cookbooks and left them open for me to review to three arugula-based salads. We chose one from Frank Stitt's Southern Table which was for arugula (and other lettuces) with grilled red onion, parmesan, and a shallot vinaigrette. Since we had all that was required in-house, and it sounded like a yummy combo, that was the salad-experiment of choice.
To arugula and other greens (we used bibb lettuce), you add a grilled red onion slice and drizzle with a simple vinaigrette of balsamic and red wine vinegars with olive oil and a minced shallot, add a shaving of parmesan over the top and there you are. It was tart dressing and peppery salad and sweet onion... a good combo all around.
This went well one night with left-over steak and a second with left over spinach and ricotta tart along with a nice Shiraz.
From Frank Stitt's Southern Table: Arugula Salad with Red Onion and Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 shallot, minced
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, sliced into rings about 1/2" thick
2 large bunches arugula, trimmed, washed, and dried
1/2 cup each of watercress, Bibb lettuce, and frisee, trimmed, washed, and dried (optional) (we just used Bibb)
4 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved into shards with a vegetable peeler
To make vinaigrette, in a small bowl, combine the shallot with vinegars, a pinch of salt, and pepper to taste, and let macerate for 15 minutes. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, taste and adjust seasoning.
Heat a medium skillet over high heat until hot. Add the onion and cook, turning once, until charred and just tender, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Combine the arugula, mixed lettuces, and charred onion in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Toss with the vinaigrette and divide among four salad plates. Scatter some of the Parmigiano over each serving.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
It was Tim who first flipped to, and wanted to try, her Chinese chicken salad. The first batch that was ever made at our house, for a time when my parents were visiting, was made completely by Tim. We have never made her full recipe (as she claims it serves 12--- probably more), but have found we like to halve all the ingredients except the asparagus, since you can never have too much asparagus!
We put this together one evening before having a house guest for the weekend. Tim roasted the chicken in the morning before he went off to teach lessons, then that evening he shredded the chicken and sliced the peppers while I boiled the asparagus and made the dressing. We added the scallions and sesame seeds when we served it, as nobody likes wilted scallions!
Sorry there is no photo of the end product... we were too occupied eating it to remember to snap its photo!
This is great on its own, served over lettuce, or even in a sandwich.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Up until that point, while I always enjoyed a lemon poppeyseed muffin, I had never made them myself. I did a google search and found a recipe from the 1802 Bed and Breakfast in Maine which included lemon juice and lemon zest, so I figured it should have a great lemony flavor.
This recipe creates a muffin with a distinct lemon flavor, and they last well stored in an air-tight container, so a batch of 12 can last as long as you can refrain yourself from eating them all at once with a pot of tea.
The recipe calls for half & half, and while I used that the first time I made the recipe, I have since just used milk. And the 15 minutes in which they think they should bake, has never been enough time for mine... so you'll want to watch them.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Tim and I have been learning more about wines over the past year or so. The music director of the Bay Colony Brass, a brass choir in which Tim plays (shameless plug -- come to our free concert Sat. 6/10 -- see the website for details), was shocked to learn that we were so "in" to food, yet ignorant about wines. Fortunately for us, that has led to Jerry bringing us bottles to try as well as making recommendations for us.
Due to the excellent service and weekly wine tastings at our local wine shop, we have become much more adventurous and willing to try new things. Living in the northeast with its 8-month winters has allowed us the time to try many bold reds which warm the body while the wind is howling. In February, Tim and I spent a weekend at the Wayside Inn on Cape Cod. The wine special the evening we ate in their restaurant was a 2004 Shiraz from The Wishing Tree, a winery in Australia. We each enjoyed a huge glass by the fire in their dining room.
A few weeks ago while at Beverly Wine and Beer, we saw they had the Wishing Tree Shiraz so we bought two bottles. We opened one this weekend to serve with the spinach ricotta tart and steak. It was so good and smooth and easy to drink, despite our starting to enter spring/summer. We think this is a Shiraz which can be enjoyed year-round, not just on cold winter nights.
I am so glad we have a second bottle to enjoy... maybe even tonight when we have steak and tart left-overs!
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Over the Memorial Day weekend, our friend Anna from Minnesota came for a visit -- she's another friend from Spoke Folk, a music and bicycling ministry. Before coming, she had "demanded" to be guinea-pigged while she was here, and we chose to test a spinach and ricotta tart from a recent issue of Cottage Living magazine.
This was my first time using puff pastry, and I was not as pleased with its "puffiness" as I had expected. I know that too much handling can have this effect, but I'm quite sure this wasn't the problem -- perhaps I was overly gentle with it. But, the sides did not puff up as much as was necessary, some of the tart filling leaked out while it was baking, and the bottom crust was not cripsy. Maybe this is "the nature of the beast" since I did put very moist filling on top of it, but I also wonder if it would stay crisper if the oven were hotter than the recommended 350 degrees (which, to me, seemed too low to make pastry puff appropriately.)
The end product was fine...we all thought it needed some more "oomph" and felt that some sauteed onions would be a welcomed addition, as would some additional pepper and/or another herb. I also would consider making this in pie-dough-type pastry instead of the puff pastry, and seeing if that gave me a more desired crust on the bottom of the tart.
We had the leftovers for dinner last night (with a soon-to-be-blogged-about arugula salad), and it was much better -- perhaps because it aged gracefully, but more likely because we reheated it on a pizza stone, which we probably should have used the first time.