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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
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You may have heard about this woman, Marina Chapman . . . she was kidnapped at about age 4 in Columbia. She was eventually discarded in the jungle. This, just a few days after her capture. No humans. No help. She learned to survive in the jungle and was taken in by a large Capuchin monkey family. She had no language, much, except sounds she learned amongst the monkeys. She lived for some years in the jungle, all alone. Eventually she saw some humans and followed them, was made a slave. Terribly treated, nearly starved, and was being primed as a prostitute, but she escaped that too. Her story is harrowing, and yet uplifting. She did escape eventually, in her mid-teens and grew up from there with a kind, loving family in Bogota. Her adult daughter helped her to write the stories – most of which she wanted to forget. The book is The Girl With No Name: The Incredible Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys by Marina Chapman and Lynne Barrett-Lee. National Geographic highlighted her story awhile back, and she appeared on some morning TV shows when the book came out in 2014. The author is writing a sequel, about Chapman’s life after she was rescued. I’ll be watching for that as this book leaves you hanging – only knowing that she was rescued and went to Bogota.

Just finished reading a very unusual book, certainly not on everyone’s radar – Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life by Tass Saada. It’s about an angry young Palestinian. He felt wronged; he felt despised; his father didn’t understand him. He escaped his family’s plan for his life and became a PLO sniper. He killed many people. He killed Israelis and was elated. He was sent to the United States and big plans were in store for him, he thought. And then he discovered a new life as a Christian. It didn’t happen overnight, and he had many questions along the way. His family disowned him, yet he persevered. He met an American woman, married her, and had children. And he became an activist for change. It’s a fascinating story. He now speaks around the world, for peace and understanding about the Palestinian problem(s). It’s quite a book, and I’m glad I read it.

A publisher contacted me recently and asked if I’d like a copy of a new book called Book Cover Designs by Matthew Goodman. This might not be a book up everyone’s alley, but it certainly was mine. Since my career was in advertising, and graphic design, fonts and writing play important parts in that biz, I was very interested in reading the dozens of brief stories of many of today’s top book cover designers. It’s all about how they create and develop book covers that sell, or that give a tiny glimpse into the content of a book. This was as much about non-fiction books as fictional ones, and as you might expect, the designers obviously read or certainly heavily scan every book to find its core, and they go from there with the use of color, graphic art, photographs, and FONTS. I was interested in the use of fonts (I love different type fonts and am very limited here on my blog, unfortunately) and how they decided to use a specific one or more than one. Each chapter, about a specific designer, has a photo of the person, a brief background and then from their own words, how they come about the design of a cover. Then there are anywhere from 8-12 or so examples from that designer. VERY interesting book. If you have someone who has a design interest, is in the book biz, or graphic design, any of those, this would make a nice gift, I think. I really enjoyed reading all the stories and then examining each cover design they included.

Just finished reading a very unusual book, A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Frederich Bachman. Simply put, it’s a story about a curmudgeon. In fact, I think that word is used in one of the first sentences of the book. Ove, is a newly retired (unwillingly) Swedish man in his late 50s. He’s a stickler for the rules, things being “just so,” and most likely is a fictional example of OCD and the proverbial glass is half empty version of life. But OCD is never mentioned in the book. It takes awhile to figure out the story about his beloved wife, but it’s about his frustration in life in general, and about the relationships (or not) with his neighbors. It’s SUCH a sweet story if you can get over poor Ove and his over-the-top reactions to just about everything. I haven’t laughed out loud reading a book in a long time, but I did with this one. If you read it, don’t get discouraged in the early part – keep reading. When we discussed this at my book club, we re-lived some of the outrageously funny scenes from the book, and laughed again. And again.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Fish, Salads, on May 24th, 2016.

salad_nicoise

Is there much of anything more French cuisine than a Niçoise salad? I think not.

Recently, a good friend, Joanne (who used to be an employee of mine, way long ago), invited me to come visit her at her home in Rancho Palos Verdes. Those of you not familiar with the Los Angeles region might not have heard of it – it’s a 20+ mile long coastline south of L.A. that’s right on the Pacific Ocean – and about 90 minutes or so from my home further south. The area is big and encompasses several miles inland and is a world apart from the bustling city of L.A. It had been years since I’d been there. Wayfarer’s Chapel is there – a place that’s entertained many weddings. Once upon a time I attended a wedding there – so beautiful. See photo below.

But I was just there to visit with Joanne and her husband Larry this time. It was a beautiful Southern California spring day – warm in the sunshine, but still almost cold without a light jacket. When you drive to Palos Verdes, it’s all city for the approach to the crest of the hills, and then you arrive at the top and it’s suddenly all residential, meandering, curving streets, even some open land, which is hard to come by in our part of the state of California. They live on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It’s ever so peaceful there – no city noises, and no city to view, either. Just the ocean.

When Joanne came to work for the ad agency I owned with my business partner, she was a brand new bride. This was back in the 1980’s. They’d moved from Brooklyn to California where Larry had taken a new position. They’d moved into a small home and she was so happy to set up housekeeping, and to decorate her house. Joanne says that I was her inspiration to learn to cook (she says she didn’t know a thing about cooking when she got married), and indeed, I recall we used to talk a lot about recipes, restaurants, cooking techniques, etc. And probably where to source some ingredients now and then. I‘m sure I shared recipes with her. Her husband is Lebanese by heritage, and he grew up with his mother making lots of ethnic dishes. Joanne brought one joanne_hparticular salad to some of our potluck lunches we had – her recipe is already here on my blog, a Syrian Pita Bread Salad that I posted way back in 2008. I haven’t made that salad in awhile – it’s SO good – very lemony, and delicious with the crunch of toasted pita chips.

Joanne prepared a gorgeous lunch – this salad (recipe below), a fougasse (a yeasted savory bread) and an apple cake. You’ll have the other two recipes within the next week or so. At right is Joanne in her lovely kitchen. Joanne and her family spent many years living abroad – first in Amsterdam, then for several years in Paris, and most recently they lived for 4-5 years outside of Geneva. Their 3 children grew up attending private schools, and learned French for sure. Their twin boys have just graduated from college here in the U.S., and their daughter is attending a university here in California. Larry is retired (gosh, does that make me feel OLD since they were young newlyweds when I first met them!) and enjoying it. Since their children were born Joanne has been a stay-at-home mom.

As Joanne put together the lunch salad, the Niçoise (that’s pronounced nee-SWAZZ), we talked. She mentioned that here in the U.S. sometimes restaurants will serve a Niçoise with seared ahi. Well, that is absolutely a no-no to the French purist, from whence this comes. It’s canned tuna. Period. The components of the salad must be prepared ahead – the green beans must be cooked al dente, the salad leaves cleaned and dried, the dressing prepared and allowed to sit for just a little while, the tomatoes chopped, the potatoes (a waxy type only) cooked and cut, eggs hard boiled, peeled and cut, all artfully arranged either on a large platter for everyone to help themselves, or on individual plates as Joanne did this day. She lightly dressed the lettuce with a bit of the dressing, and passed a pitcher of the dressing at the table. Ideally you’ll have Niçoise olives – they’re a black somewhat bitter olive, but so traditional in this salad. Capers are usually added too, just sprinkled on top. The salad is so satisfying – all good-for-you things. The dressing is piquant and so-very-French (it’s a French shallot vinaigrette) that will keep for a few days.

The recipe came from one of Joanne’s favorite cookbooks, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. Joanne has prepared many of the recipes in that cookbook and had raves for each and every one. I own the cookbook too – I don’t remember if I’ve shared any of the recipes from it or not. It’s a beautiful cookbook – almost worthy of a coffee table book, but it’s a practical and entertaining guide to many homespun recipes, the kind the French would eat any normal day, not necessarily for entertaining. I love to read Dorie’s headnotes – the stories she writes about the origin of the recipe or about the ingredients.

What’s GOOD: all the mix of ingredients are sublime – the potatoes even, the tuna mixes with everything, and the dressing just brings it all together. It’s a keeper of a recipe for sure. (Thank you, Joanne.)

What’s NOT: the only thing is the time it takes to prepare some of the ingredients – cooking the potatoes, the eggs and the beans and giving them time to chill. The dressing is easy enough, though. Try to prep the potatoes, eggs and beans the day before.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Salade Niçoise

Recipe By: Around My French Table, Dorie Greenspan
Serving Size: 4

12 small potatoes — scrubbed
2 cups haricot verts — green beans
4 hard-boiled eggs
8 ounces canned tuna — packed in oil, drained
5 cups salad greens
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes — or regular tomatoes cut into chunks
1/2 cup Nicoise olives
1/4 cup capers — drained and patted dry
8 small anchovy fillets — rinsed and patted dry
DRESSING:
2 tablespoons wine vinegar — red, white or sherry
1 shallot — finely minced
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
a few pinches sea salt
fresh black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil

1. Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Cook until they are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, 10 – 20 minutes. Scoop them out of the pot and put them in a bowl to cool.
2. Blanch the green beans in the potato water until they are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the beans and put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain, then pat dry.
3. Make the vinaigrette: Add vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt, and pepper to a small glass measuring cup or jar and let sit 10 – 15 minutes to mellow the shallot. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking constantly.
4. Assemble the salad, on one large platter, or individual plates: salad greens, halved potatoes, green beans, halved eggs, tuna, tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and drizzle with the shallot vinaigrette.
Per Serving: 629 Calories; 22g Fat (31.7% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 76g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 236mg Cholesterol; 813mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on May 20th, 2016.

choc_dried_cranberry_cake

If you’re a chocoholic, well, this cake is right up your alley. Light sponge cake with only 2 T. of flour in the whole thing. A little bit of pecans ground up to give it some substance (but not much – the cake is as light as a feather), folded with whipped egg whites and loaded with good chocolate and dried cranberries soaked in bourbon.

When I write up these posts, usually I have some reason I’m baking a dessert. Someone’s coming to dinner; or I’m making something to take to a friend; or most often, I’m serving dessert to my bible study group. This time, there was no reason whatsoever. Do I need a chocolate cake to serve 10? Absolutely not! Did I need chocolate cake at all? Nope. But for whatever reason, my head said I should bake something. My bible study group is coming here in a few days, so maybe tomorrow I’ll freeze it and defrost it then. There’s plenty!

The recipe came from Tarla Fallgatter, a caterer and cooking instructor here in the county where I live in California. My friend Cherrie and I have taken innumerable classes from her, but she’s only teaching private group classes these days. Maybe we’ll wangle an invitation to one of them. Occasionally, Tarla posts a recipe on her website and that’s where I got this one.

choc_dried_cranb_cake_sliceThe cake was really easy to make, although you do have to grease and parchment-line a 10-inch springform pan (or a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom). Eggs must be separated and yolks added to brown sugar. Chocolate and butter must be melted and cooled slightly, then mixed in with the eggs. The whites are beaten to firm, with sugar, and gently folded into the chocolate batter, along with the flour/ground pecan mixture. And the dried cranberries. It bakes for 25 minutes, rests briefly, then is removed from the pan and cooled a bit more on a serving platter. I ate a slice warm with sweetened whipped cream on top (see photo). Oh gosh – did it ever satisfy my chocolate cravings. I will tell you, however, it dirties up a whole lot of bowls, pans, measuring cups and spoons. I’ve set them to soak in my sink and will wash them tomorrow . . .

What’s GOOD: the ultimate in chocolate (use good chocolate) and the sponge-factor. I prefer light, spongy cakes anyway (lighter) so this certainly satisfied my cravings. And I almost never turn down chocolate. If you’re going to serve 10, you’ll be serving fairly small servings – just so you know. Loved the texture and the flavor. Altogether delicious. It is a fairly thin cake – just enough, really, as you can see from the photo.

What’s NOT: the only thing I can say is that it uses a lot of dishes, bowls and pans. Maybe I’ll pile them into the dishwasher and be done with it! But, there’s nothing to dislike about the taste of this cake. A keeper.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Bittersweet Chocolate Dried Cranberry Sponge Cake

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, 2015
Serving Size: 8-10

1 stick unsalted butter
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate — chopped
1 cup dried cranberries — or dried cherries
1/4 cup bourbon — or water or brandy
1/4 cup pecans — toasted
2 tablespoons flour
3 large eggs — separated
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar — (for the egg yolks)
2 tablespoons sugar — (for the egg whites)
sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream — beaten with a little sugar and vanilla

1. Place oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350F. Line a 10-inch round pan with a removable bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Pulse pecans and flour together in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.
2. Simmer cranberries in the bourbon in a small pan over low heat until cranberries are tender and bourbon is absorbed – about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl set over simmering water until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
3. Beat yolks and brown sugar until thick. Add the chocolate mixture and fold in. Beat whites until soft peaks, add sugar and beat until fairly stiff. Fold one third of whites into chocolate mixture along with the dried cranberries and pecan mixture just to lighten; fold in remainder gently. Turn batter into prepared pan and bake about 25 minutes or until firm. Let cool slightly. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan. Remove the ring and transfer cake (off the parchment paper) to a platter. Dust with sifted powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream.
Per Serving: 337 Calories; 28g Fat (70.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 105mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on May 16th, 2016.

pasta_alla_trapenese

Oh my goodness, was this stuff delicious. Mostly it’s eggplant (see it on the bottom?) – with tomatoes, almonds, garlic, some good Italian cheese and crispy bread crumbs. Lick the plate good! It’s vegetarian (no protein) and the eggplant is the star of the show.

As you know if you’ve read my blog for a long time, I don’t post pasta recipes very often. Not that I wouldn’t like to, but I convince myself that pasta’s not good for me when I’m trying to eat lower carb. But then, a month or so ago I posted a delicious recipe for linguine with cauliflower and peas. It was SO good too. Now, here I am, a month later and I’m craving pasta.

Rachael Ray prepared this on her show. I’ve been recording her show for awhile now, and I glance at the show notes to see if the recipe looks interesting, or the guests. Half the time I delete before I’ve even pressed the “play” button. This one, though, I watched to get to this recipe. Rachael explained that this is Sicilian (her heritage). And it’s not only prepared a bit differently, but it’s also served differently. The PESTO isn’t pesto like we know it – ground up mushed stuff – no, the “pesto” is just a cooked mixture of fresh tomatoes, herbs, almonds, and garlic. And oil, of course. But first, you prepare the eggplant – Rachael specifically mentioned that you need a very FIRM eggplant, so I sought out one. I used more eggplant than the recipe indicated – I wanted this to be more about the eggplant than the pasta. The eggplant is cut into small bite-sized planks – about 2” long by 1/2” wide, and browned in just a tiny bit of oil, it was just cooked through to the soft, silky stage. The other difference in this dish was the serving – you put the eggplant into the pasta bowl first, then the mixed up pasta on top, then garnished with cheese and toasted bread crumbs.

From the photo, you can hardly tell the pasta was mixed with anything – there isn’t much sauce, as we might be used to. Almonds are toasted (she used whole almonds – I used slivered ones) and set aside, bread crumbs are toasted and set aside, then you cook some fresh tomatoes with olive oil, herbs, crushed red pepper flakes and basil. The almonds are added back in and cooked briefly – THEN you add in some of the cooking water from the pasta – it helps spread the flavors of the tomato almond pesto. Next time I make this I’ll add in more tomatoes. Rachael’s recipe calls for 4 plum tomatoes – I just think it needs a bit more than that.

But, you see, as an American, I probably like the sauce more than I like the eating of the pasta. Italians eat pasta to savor the flavor and texture of the pasta itself. The sauce is an aside! Only there to slightly enhance the pasta. This dish has quite a bit of eggplant in it, however, so since you serve it with the eggplant on the bottom of the bowl, it seems more likely the eggplant is the star of this dish. It sure was for me. I didn’t have any Pecorino cheese – only Parmigiano – but they’re very similar.

And whatever you do, don’t eliminate the bread crumbs. I used panko, and they were toasted in olive oil and they add such a different dimension to the dish. No flavor particularly, but with every bite I got a little bit of crunch. Loved it all.

What’s GOOD: As I said – I loved the whole dish. Love-loved the eggplant. Wanted more of it, so next time I will nearly double the amount – just cuz it was so delicious. The whole dish came together in about 30 minutes, even with the cooking of the eggplant and heating the water for the pasta. I also loved the crunch of the toasted panko crumbs.

What’s NOT: There is a bit of chopping and mincing, and brown this, and brown that, removing, setting aside, etc. But IF you have everything set out and ready when you start, it comes together very quickly.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Pasta alla Trapenese with Almond Pesto and Eggplant

Recipe By: Adapted a bit from a Rachel Ray show, 2016
Serving Size: 4

1 large eggplant — very firm, cut into planks then pieces 2-inches long by 1/2-inch wide (see NOTE in directions)
1 tablespoon salt — to sprinkle on the eggplant
8 plum tomatoes — or vine tomatoes [I prefer double this amount]
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil — divided
1/2 cup panko — or homemade breadcrumbs
3/4 cup almonds — peeled
4 cloves garlic — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves — chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup basil leaves — torn into small pieces
3/4 pound strozzapretti — or other short-cut pasta [I used penne rigate]
1/4 cup Pecorino cheese — freshly grated
1/2 cup starchy pasta water — saved from the pasta pot

NOTE: I prefer more eggplant – the original recipe called for a medium one, but the eggplant shrinks a lot – so use more is my advice. Don’t eliminate the bread crumbs – they give a lovely crunch to nearly every bite.
1. Salt eggplant and let drain on a kitchen towel for 20 minutes; press off excess liquid.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Score the tomatoes on the bottom with an X and blanch them for 30 seconds; cold shock and peel. Seed the tomatoes and finely chop. (You may also use canned tomatoes, drained and hand crushed if you prefer.). [If using smaller tomatoes, cut them in half, then scoop out the seeds, then chop – this method doesn’t require the blanching.] Reserve pot of blanching water to cook the pasta.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggplant until golden brown, turning them at least once, about 10 minutes, remove and reserve. Add another tablespoon of oil to pan and toast breadcrumbs to golden; remove and reserve.
4. Add nuts to the skillet to toast; remove and set aside.
5. Add final tablespoon olive oil and garlic, and stir 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Stir 2 minutes.
6. Add almonds to the tomato/garlic mixture. Stir in chili flakes, basil and EVOO, about 1/4 cup.
7. Turn the heat back on under the pot of blanching water. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water and add it to pesto. Drain pasta and toss with pesto.
8. Arrange the eggplant in shallow bowls and top with pasta. Combine cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over pasta to serve.
Per Serving: 921 Calories; 57g Fat (54.1% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 88g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 1646mg Sodium. (This is high in sodium because of the salt on the eggplant; most of that is wiped off. But Pecorino is also salty.)

Posted in Desserts, on May 12th, 2016.

ricotta_souffle_pudding

Lovely little cups of pudding made with ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar and cream. Then garnished with a strawberry sauce (fresh strawberries, please) that has some strained sauce and some strawberry pieces.

A dear friend is just recovering from dreadful surgery, chemo and radiation of a tumor on his tongue, but deep down in the throat. He’s only just begun to be able to swallow again. For weeks he couldn’t even do normal swallowing at all, and when I made this a couple of weeks ago he was just beginning to be able to eat puddings and soft, loose things like oatmeal and smooth soup. So I promised him, and his wife, that I’d bring them a pudding of some sort. I kept out two little cups (the above photo) so I could taste it myself. Since he’s lost a lot of weight through this, I thought it would be good to give some kind of protein substance to the pudding I’d make, so I found this old recipe for a ricotta pudding, but lightened up with a soufflé-like preparation.

This definitely is not a custard – you know what I mean – the kind that is almost silky in the mouth – this pudding has much more mouth-feel than that, but it’s not chewy. It’s light (because of the egg whites mixed to a peak, then folded into the pudding) yet the pudding does have substance to it. Hard to explain.

The strawberry part can be made really easily if you bought frozen berries, defrosted them, then just pushed them through a sieve (or whizzed them up in the blender, then drained them through a sieve). My friend has difficulty with acidic things (they still sting his healing, but tender throat tissues) so I made the sauce two ways – part of it whizzed up completely with pulp and all (the liquid part you see in the photos) and then some added small pieces of berries added in. I cautioned them to add some more sugar to the sauce as I thought it was way too tart – and especially for him with his tender throat. I suppose the sauce depends on how sweet the berries are. We should be mid-season with strawberries now, but in this case, the ones I had, although sweet enough for me, didn’t taste so sweet in the sauce. So you can use your own judgment with the addition of more sugar.

pudding_in_waterbathThe pudding itself was simple enough to make – I used full-fat ricotta which has quite a bit more flavor. As an aside here, I just watched a program on TV today, as I’m writing this, about diets and “low fat” or “lower fat” and the nutritionist on the program said don’t bother buying low fat milk, or low fat ice cream, or low fat cottage cheese, because the amount removed is so minor and it drastically changes (lowers) the flavor. I’ve been buying full fat for quite awhile because I’d read this a year or so ago. Anyway, so you mix up egg yolks, ricotta, sugar (only 1/4 cup for the entire batch), heavy cream, salt and vanilla. How easy is that? Then you fold in beaten egg whites and pour the mixture into ramekins or a baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes in a water bath. Do fill up the dish or ramekins all the way to the top – it doesn’t expand; in fact, once removed from the oven, the pudding deflates a bit – it was quite noticeable in the ramekins – so much so that I only had one worthy of photographing. You can see the 2 ramekins in my photo – and one of those deflated so much it only had about 2 bites of pudding in it. Perhaps it was mostly egg white.

The sauce is comprised of fresh strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Be cautious about using too much lemon juice – that will also make the berries too tart. That may have been my problem too, since I didn’t measure – I just guessed as I squeezed. If your eggs are large – like really large – the resulting pudding could be pretty sturdy – in which case you might want to have a little pitcher of pouring cream (half and half) at the table.

What’s GOOD: this is a bit of a different pudding – it has a different texture for sure with the ricotta cheese in it – and it’s very mild in flavor. Makes a pretty presentation. It’s comfort food, for sure, and the nicer the strawberries, the better the overall pudding will taste.

What’s NOT: nothing really – it’s pretty easy to make and tastes quite nice. No negatives.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Ricotta Soufflé Pudding with Strawberry Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted just slightly from a little cookbook, Puddings A-Z by Marie Simmons
Serving Size: 6

PUDDING:
3 large eggs — separated
15 ounces ricotta cheese — full fat, at room temp
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt — added to the egg whites
STRAWBERRY SAUCE:
1 pint strawberries — rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons sugar — or more if needed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice — or lime juice

1. Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the lowest position. Heat a kettle of water to boiling. Lightly butter a 1 1/2-2 quart souffle dish or other round casserole dish. Set the dish in a larger baking pan and set aside.
2. Beat the egg yolks, ricotta, cream, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with a whisk or electric mixer until well blended.
3. Beat the egg whites and salt in a clean bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add a spoonful of the whites to the ricotta mixture and fold to lighten. Add remaining whites, gently folding until incorporated and no streaks remain.
4. Transfer mixture to the souffle dish. If using ramekins, fill almost to the top as the pudding doesn’t expand. Place the baking pan in the oven. Carefully add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the souffle dish.
5. Bake until the pudding is puffed and golden and a knife inserted just off center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool in the water bath. Serve warm or chilled, with berry sauce.
6. SAUCE: Slice enough berries to equal 1 cup. If berries are large, halve them first and then slice; set aside. Quarter the remaining berries and place in a food processor with the sugar and lemon or lime juice; puree. Transfer the puree to a sieve set over a bowl and, using a rubber spatula, press the solids through the sieve. Scrape the juices from the underside of the sieve into the bowl. Add the sliced berries to the strained juice, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. If the sauce gets too thick, thin with cold water, adding about a tablespoon at a time. Taste the sauce to make sure it’s sweet enough – the pudding has very little sugar in it, so you may want more sugar in the sauce, depending on how naturally sweet the berries are. Makes about 1 3/4 cups. Alternately, you can just whiz up the quartered berries, sugar and lemon juice in a blender until the mixture is pureed, and serve as is (with the seeds and pulp, obviously). If you want an easy alternative, defrost frozen unsweetened berries and whiz in the blender, then strain to get a clear juice. In all methods, just add the sliced berries for serving.
Per Serving: 295 Calories; 19g Fat (58.1% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 125mg Sodium.

Posted in Books, on May 8th, 2016.

Visiting the library some weeks ago (getting books on tape to play in the car while I took a 5-day road trip to Northern California to visit family) I decided to look at new books on the shelves. And here was this book with an unusual title, The Thousand Dollar Dinner: America’s First Great Cookery Challenge by Becky Libourel Diamond. She’s a journalist and food historian.

On Saturday evening, the 19th instant [1851] thirty gentlemen sat down to a dinner at J. W. Parkinson’s, South Eighth St. below Chestnut [Philadelphia], which for magnificence outvied anything ever seen in the United States. . . . Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, April 1851.

Perhaps the richest, most elegant, elaborate and poetical entertainment ever gotten up in this country, was achieved in this city last week by the accomplished confectioner and caterer, James W. Parkinson. . . . American Courier, April, 1851.

At 6:00 am, the morning of April 20th, the satiated group of men finally decamped. It had been an extraordinary evening, with 17 courses served. [I can’t imagine sitting down for an all-night eating of that many courses.] It had come about as a bet, a wager, that no Philadelphians could possible prepare as sumptuous a meal as New Yorkers (the guests were half from each city).

1 – OYSTERS – Raw,  on the half shell – Nearly every first class dinner back then started with oysters, and the Philadelphia area was loaded with oyster reefs. They would have been served with bottles of sweet Sauternes. Since the early to mid-1900s, as many of you know, the oyster business disappeared. So very sad. My DH’s (dear husband’s) family was from Bivalve, New Jersey, (also Mauricetown, pronounced like morris-town) which was one of the hubs of the oyster business back in the day (20s, 30s and 40s). In the 1950s the oyster population developed a deadly parasite called MSX, which wiped out nearly all the oyster business in the Delaware Bay.

2 – SOUPS – Green Turtle and Potage a la Reine [a type of French chicken soup] – The book goes into much detail about the purveyors of turtles (mostly the Caribbean) and in what high demand they were. Over-fishing also nearly ended turtle soup as a delicacy except perhaps IN the Caribbean. Some restaurants in Philadelphia still offer turtle soup made from a local snapping turtle harvested on Pennsylvania shores. The turtle soup was usually served with sherry or Madeira; Parkinson apparently served both soups with Cognac.

3 – FISH – Fresh Salmon with Lobster Sauce and Baked Rock [a striped bass], a la Chambord – the salmon came from Maine. The bass was caught by privately hired anglers who were sent to Virginia the day before and rushed the fish back to the restaurant; it was stuffed with forcemeat, larded with bacon, braised in white wine and seasoning, finished off with decorative skewers of fish quenelles and cooked crawfish, then served with a rich Chambord and Espagnole sauce. Apparently James Beard described this recipe as one of the most elaborate dishes in all of cookery. This course was served with a Riesling from the area of Steinberg, Germany (founded by Cistercian monks mostly).

4 – BOILED – Turkey, Celery and Oyster Sauce; Chicken and Egg Sauce; and Beef Tongues – Much of this chapter of information was about the early-times methods of cooking meat (boiling), even tracing back to the Pilgrims. This course was served with Champagne, Haut Brion and Cote Roti.

5 – COLD DISHES – [this one’s a lot to read . . .] Galantine de Dinde a la Gelee; Jambon Decore; Salade a la Russe en bordure de Gelee; aspic huitres; Boeuf a la Mode; Mayonnaise of Lobster, Salad de Volaille, a la Mode Anglaise; Aspic de Volaille aux Truffles. What all that most likely says is: tenderloin of beef garnished with vegetables, boned turkey and capon, ham stuffed with pistachios and truffles, aspics, pates and terrines of all kinds, foie gras, smoked tongue well glazed and dressed in pyramid form, chicken mayonnaise, ducks’ livers a la Toulouse, young rabbit a la mode, and salad a la russe. Everything was sculpted and presented in high form (mostly prepared by the young chefs), and prepared some in advance. All these were served with an Amontillado (pale sherry) from Spain.

6 – ENTRÉE #1 – Filet of Beef with Mushrooms; Vol-au-vent; Veal with Tomato Sauce, Lamb Cutlets; and Chicken Croquettes – Although it was designated as an entrée, meals back then weren’t what we’d would call an entrée (the main course) but a side dish, really. And they probably weren’t served with anything else – maybe just a bite of two of each with its own sauce or gravy.

7 – ENTRÉE #2 – Braised Pigeon with Madeira Sauce; Lamb Chops Milanaise; Chicken; Turtle Steak, Chicken Fricasee; and Calipash, a presentation of turtle hearts and livers – most often all the entrees served all together, but Parkinson veered off course here. Wines served with both of these entrée courses was champagne by Moet.

8 – ROAST – Spring Chicken on Toast, Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce – it seems that all the food up to this point was leading up to THIS, the most important course of all, the roast! The meat was likely roasted on a spit. Wine served here was a Moselle from Scharzberg, Koblenz.

9 – PIECES MONTEES and VEGETABLES – [elaborate sugar sculptures served alongside garden vegetables] – seems very odd to our modern sensibilities, but it was all high art of the time

10 – COUP DU MILIEU – Sorbets – made from nothing less than Hungarian Tokaji wine. It was a sorbet never eaten before, Parkinson’s idea, and was noted as quite magical by the diners.

11 – GAME – Jack Snipe; teal duck, woodcock, plover, rice birds, celery hearts and Saratoga potatoes – all the small game birds were done on an early version of a rotisserie, and they’d have been studded with lard. This course was served with a pale rose wine.

12 – DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN – the terrapin was a common enough turtle found in brackish waters along the Eastern Shore. They were also called “bay tortoise.” It was probably a sort of stew with a creamy sauce. And it was served with roasted potatoes. This course was again, served with Amontillado sherry from Spain.

13 – PASTRY – Puddings, Pies, Meringues, Cakes, Creams and Cookies – too many to name here. Parkinson was quite fond of both lemon pudding and coconut pudding, both served at this meal. There are pages and pages in this chapter about the style of preparing and serving all kinds of special sweet treats from that era. The sweets were served with old, mellow sherry, Madeira and Port.

14 – CONFECTIONERY – Mint Drops, Raspberry Balls, Chinese Almonds, Nougat, Cream Candy, Burnt Almonds, Port Wine Drops, Sugar-Coated Celery Seed and Brandy Drops – all things to showcase Parkinson’s skill in the kitchen.

15 – ICE CREAMS AND WATER ICES – Biscuits Glace, Caramel, Harlequin, Lemon, Buttercream, Vanilla, Strawberry, Orange Water Ice, Champagne Frapee – all innovative items (so the book says) from Parkinson’s kitchen. He was most definitely ahead of his time

16 – FRUITS AND NUTS – Apples, Figs, Walnuts, Pecans, Orange, Raisins, Almonds and Filberts – some of the explanation in this chapter is about the etiquette of eating fresh fruit at the table. Kind of hilarious, really. The wines served here were Rhenish Marcobrunn and a Medoc (highly tannic).

17 – CAFÉ NOIR – Black Coffee, Maraschino and Curacao (liqueurs) – back in this time, in a fine restaurant, only really strong, robust coffee was served using a French Press (still a highly prized method – I had some that way just last week). It was thought that a strong cup of coffee at the end of a meal enhanced digestion.

When it was all said and done, the diners smoked cigars, probably groaning, and were eventually escorted to their carriages and off to their homes or to a local hotel to sleep off the calories. Oh my.

A really interesting book – each of the courses comprised a chapter in the book, and each chapter is about 5-12 pages long, depending on the complexity of it. You learn history, the how and wherefores of acquiring such food then and now, and about the presentation itself. Astounding meal for sure!

Posted in Chicken, on May 3rd, 2016.

chix_breasts_santa_fe_style

As I keep saying, I never have enough recipes for chicken breasts, making them some new or different way. I have dozens and dozens of tried and true recipes, but I get tired of repeating them. So, here’s a new recipe for a boneless, skinless chicken breast stuffed with Boursin cheese, then oiled, coated in Panko and baked. Then served with a really high-profile sauce or salsa.

This recipe has been residing in my to-try file for a long time. I changed it up just a little bit, but only to make it easier, I think. The original recipe was given to me by an old friend, Karen B, and she found it in a Sacramento Bee article in 1988. So, see, it’s “old.” As I read the recipe, I concluded that maybe Boursin cheese didn’t exist in 1988. You think? I don’t really know, but instead of using soft goat cheese and making the herb and garlic filling with freshly bought or harvested herbs and minced garlic, I just bought one of the little round discs of Boursin (the garlic & herb one) and used it! To make 4 servings (4 breasts) you’d use the whole 4-ounce container. I halved the recipe, and actually I ate only half of the chicken breast pictured above, so will have 3 more meals out of the 2 breasts.

First you need to make the sauce, or salsa, so it has time to marry the flavors. It was easy – chopped up fresh tomatoes, basil, cilantro, green onions, red wine vinegar, EVOO, salt and pepper, and a little bit of minced jalapeno chile. To give it some zip. I didn’t refrigerate it – but you could easily make it a few hours ahead. I have some left over, but am not sure the cilantro will last very long sitting in the sauce.

The chicken breasts are boneless and skinless. I removed the chicken tenders for another use (no, I don’t know what – maybe I’ll treat my kitty-cat to some in his dinner). The breasts then were flattened (pounded) gently, between pieces of plastic wrap, until they were uniformly about 1/4 inch thick. I cut the Boursin cheese to fit down the middle, lengthwise, of the breast, and folded it on itself, kind of pinching the edges together. If you’re concerned – or have difficulty – fork-whip an egg and use it as glue on the edges to hold them together. I also lightly salted and peppered the interior of the chicken.

santa_fe_breasts_stuffed_rawThen, I lightly oiled the outside of each of these sort-of rolls and gently dipped them into a bit of Panko crumbs. I didn’t truly coat the outside, but used just enough to give it some crunch. Then I placed the rolls on a rack on a baking sheet – see photo at left – (lined with foil, although there weren’t any drips – but there could be and it might not be very easy to clean up). Put the seam side up and gently press the ends in so the cheese doesn’t ooze out the ends. Into a 375° oven it went and baked for about 30-40 minutes. The chicken didn’t slump or open up at all – I was almost surprised, but it didn’t. I tested the chicken with an instant-read thermometer, and once it reached 155° in the thicker part (inserted into the chicken, not the cheesy interior) I removed the pan and let it rest for just a couple of minutes.

Since each breast was rather large (the Costco ones are pretty big), you could slice the chicken on the diagonal and fan them out onto a heated platter (but then the cheese would ooze out, I think) or serve a half of one, or a whole one to hearty eaters, with the sauce spooned over the top. It made a lovely, juicy, cheesy (but not overly so since there isn’t all that much cheese in each portion) entrée. I loved the sauce – wish I’d had more of it. Next time I’ll probably make more, so I’ve increased the amount of sauce in the recipe below, just so you’ll have plenty. If you know you’re going to have leftovers, my suggestion is to hold out the cilantro and add it only when you’re ready to serve, and only use enough of the sauce that you’ll use at that meal. That will preclude the cilantro from becoming gooey in the sauce if you keep it a day or two.

What’s GOOD: A lovely presentation. Very juicy, as long as you don’t bake it past 155°F. Loved the sauce/salsa. I liked the crunch of the little bit of panko crumbs on the outside. Easy to put together, easy to bake. Would be nice for a company meal.

What’s NOT: pounding the chicken is really very easy, although not to everyone’s taste. It does take just a bit of fussy work to get the cheese down the middle, sealed, oiled and panko-crumbed. But only a few minutes, really. Worth doing according to me! IF you check the temperature while baking the chicken, you’ll be assured of a juicy entrée. If you don’t, it could very easily get over-cooked and dry.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Chicken Santa Fe Style

Recipe By: Adapted from a newspaper article, 1988 (Sacramento Bee)
Serving Size: 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
4 ounces Boursin cheese — garlic & herbs type
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil for coating, and panko crumbs
SAUCE:
3 large tomatoes — peeled, seeded and chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 green onions — minced, including some of the tops
2/3 cup cilantro — chopped
1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper — minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

1. SAUCE: Combine ingredients and chill. Taste the sauce for seasonings. If it seems too tart, add a smidge more oil. If too bland, add a smidge more vinegar. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. CHICKEN: Remove tenders if attached to chicken breast and use for another dish. Place each breast on a flat surface with a piece of plastic wrap under and on top. Using a pounder, gently flatten the chicken at the thicker end only so it measures 1/4″ thick and about 5″ across (and about 6″ long). Do not pound so thin you make a hole anywhere as you need the breast to remain intact to retain the cheese filling. Cut pieces of the Boursin and place a narrow rope of it down the middle. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Pull both sides together and they should more-or-less hold their shape, with the seam at the top. It will be approximately round in shape. If desired you can rub the seam-edges with beaten egg to help them hold together.
3. Drizzle the outside of each breast with olive oil, then roll the breasts in panko crumbs, without allowing the seam to open up.
4. Place stuffed breasts, seam side up, on a rack on a baking sheet lined with foil.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until an instant read thermometer, inserted into the meat (not the cheese) registers 155°F. Let cool slightly. You may slice the chicken diagonally and fan the pieces onto a hot serving platter or serve the rolls individually, spooning the sauce over the top.
NOTE: If you’re making more than you’ll eat at one meal, I’d advise not adding the cilantro to the sauce, and only use part of the sauce. Cilantro, once exposed to liquid, tends to get slimy, so add it in just before serving. Alternatively, you could sprinkle it on the finished dish, or pass cilantro at the table and people could add their own.
Per Serving: 524 Calories; 41g Fat (69.2% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 102mg Cholesterol; 288mg Sodium.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on April 30th, 2016.

indian_spiced_cauliflower

Can I see frowns on your faces? Curry? Oh, I don’t like curry, you say, skip this recipe. Well, you’ll be missing out if you don’t at least try it. There is so little curry in this you can’t exactly identify it. Yet it adds a very elusive flavor.

A couple of weeks ago (when I made this) I’d just gotten home from a 5-day trip to Northern California to visit Taylor, my granddaughter who’s attending Sonoma State, and my daughter Dana and her family near Placerville. Once home from the trip I knew I needed to use up some things in my refrigerator and a head of cauliflower was first on the list.

And actually, when I threw together a dinner the next night (you know how it is – you get back from a trip – there’s laundry to do, phone calls to return, mail to go through, bills to pay) and I didn’t have much time to cook dinner. And it wasn’t even in my mind that the recipe would be worthy of a post here on the blog. I just needed a quick dinner and I’d get back to the things that needed doing.

I drizzled some canola oil into a frying pan and then added a bit of butter too. While it was heating up I quick-like sliced and chopped up the cauliflower. The pieces that I sliced were the ones that had more of the caramelization, so I’d vote for doing a lot of slicing rather than floret-ing. I grabbed my bunch of cilantro and twisted off a little chunk to mince. Once the pan was just about smoking (be careful as the butter could burn, and you don’t want that) I threw in the cauliflower, turned the heat down just a bit, turned on the overhead fan and let those pieces caramelize. It doesn’t take long – there is a fine line, though, between hot and burning. It took very little time to get those pieces of cauliflower to brown. I tossed and stirred, along with the bit of dried thyme I sprinkled over it. Once browned to my liking, I added some water to the pan, on went a lid and I let it steam for about a minute. Just a minute. Then I sprinkled on the curry powder, salt and pepper. I tasted a piece because I did want the cauliflower to be done. Oh my goodness was it delicious – so into that little bowl it went – and I took a photo.

As it happened I only cooked a half of a head of cauliflower, but shall I just confess? I ate it all. Every single bit. Does that tell you how wonderful it was? In my defense, I will say that it was a small half head!

What’s GOOD: If you read my last sentence, I ate a half of a cauliflower when I made this. The entire amount. It was that good. The curry powder (I use Madras because I like that type, but you can use any curry powder) isn’t predominating by a long shot. In fact, you can hardly taste it. If you want to make it more special, throw in some pine nuts. Toast those in the frying pan during the last minute of cooking. You could add some turmeric too. If you don’t like cilantro, add some Italian parsley (it was as much for color as anything else). If your family doesn’t much like cauliflower, they might like it this way. The vegetable almost tastes sweet – caramelization or roasting does that to a lot of vegetables.

What’s NOT: not a thing. I love cauliflower, so it was a no-brainer that I’d enjoy it. I just didn’t know how MUCH I’d enjoy it!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click on line to open recipe)

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Indian Spiced Cauliflower

Recipe By: my own concoction
Serving Size: 4

1 tablespoon canola oil — or olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 head cauliflower — cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon dried thyme — crushed between your palms
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder — slightly heaping
3 tablespoons cilantro — minced (garnish)
salt and pepper to taste

NOTES: As you cut up the cauliflower, it’s fine to cut some into slices, because they will lay flat in the pan and caramelize easier than florets. Just make them small, bite-sized. I advise you not to wash the cauliflower just before making this as it really will spit at you while cooking.
1. In a saute pan large enough to hold all the cauliflower in one layer, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat until melted and almost spitting. Toss in the cauliflower and the dried thyme and maintaining fairly high heat as you brown (caramelize) the cauliflower. Use a spatula to turn the cauliflower periodically so browning occurs over all the surfaces. Watch the pan carefully so it doesn’t burn, and turn down the heat as you need to. Once all the pieces are nicely caramelized, add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover for just a minute or two to cook the cauliflower through.
2. Sprinkle on the curry powder and toss in the pan. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 68 Calories; 6g Fat (80.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 11mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on April 26th, 2016.

My friend Darci told me about Pinterest about 3-4 years ago, I’m guessing it was. And I’ve been hooked ever since. My gosh, you could just get lost following links and finding new and different boards, everything from home décor, DIY projects, travel photos and obviously, FOOD. I’ve been posting some of my blog post pictures on Pinterest for a couple of years. Most of the time I pay little attention to what, amongst my own recipes/posts/pictures are being re-pinned, but the other day I decided to really look. I get an email every day informing me what items have been re-pinned, but to add them all up is very interesting. So, I thought I’d share with you the most popular pins.

The one that has created the most re-pins is:

I call them French Hamburgers. It’s a Julia Child recipe, and as I explained in my post, back in 2007, that these are a family favorite, one of my favorites, and even worthy of a company meal. You don’t serve them with hamburger buns – this is a much more formal kind of burger – it has a luscious wine/butter sauce poured over it, and you eat it kind of like a meatloaf, I suppose, but you do cook it in a skillet, just like a hamburger.

This recipe, as I write it up today, has been re-pinned several thousand times. That’s a LOT! I think. If you’ve never made these, you’re depriving yourself of a treat. Do buy good ground meat.

The next recipe that gets re-pinned a lot, is this salad dressing:

lime_cilantro_salad_dressing

This dressing, Lime Cilantro Dressing, was posted in 2013, from a new cookbook I’d been given. As I recall, I was making a very Southwestern type meal for guests, and thought this dressing sounded so different, and good.

The only really important thing to remember is that is must be used within 24 hours, as the fresh cilantro doesn’t hold up well in a dressing. As we know, cilantro wilts when it gets wet, and even though it’s suspended in a dressing, it also dissolves, sort of.

This picture has been re-pinned about 1400 times, as I write this, anyway, and somebody re-pins it almost every day.

 

 

And another one that’s also extremely popular is:

mashed-potatoes-crockpot

If you stabilize mashed potatoes with cream cheese, they’ll keep at low heat for a long, long time. That’s why this recipe for Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes works so well. It’s was a regular on my Thanksgiving Day menu for years and years. Since my DH passed away, I usually go to one of my kids’ home for that day and I bring vegetables or dessert. If I ever need a whole bunch of mashed potatoes for a gathering, though, this is my go-to recipe that I posted back in 2007. It’s been re-pinned several hundred times.

 

Another favorite on Pinterest is this concoction:

Supposedly, this recipe comes from Rachael Ray. I got it at a cooking class many years ago, and even just now I searched amongst Rachael Ray’s recipes online, and it’s not there. So, who knows the origin. At any rate, it’s a cross between a soup and a stew. It’s thick. It’s easy peasy – ground beef and some pasta with a creamy sauce (from cream cheese added in at the end) and tomatoes and kidney beans. You can throw it together in no time flat. My mouth is watering . . .

Beef & Cheese Macaroni Stoup

This recipe hasn’t been re-pinned all that many times (like the ones above), but enough to make me notice!

If you’re not a regular on Pinterest, you might want to check it out. It’s fun. Addicting. Very interesting. Start your own “board,” and you save things to it, kind of like your own bulletin board at home, but it’s online. Create categories that suit your interests (like hobbies, reading, travel, etc.). I have a board for Zentangles (an art form) and yesterday I must have pinned 20 new Zentangle art pieces to my own board. You can visit other people’s boards, and you can “follow” specific people on boards also. It’s all about the pictures!

Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on April 22nd, 2016.

pea_radish_sugar_snap_salad2

How much more Spring-y could you get for a salad than with green peas? A very simple salad of peas, radishes sliced super thin, some sugar snaps and a light olive oil and lemon juice dressing. AND with fresh mint and parsley.

As it happened, I had a small dinner for Easter with son Powell and his family. They had just returned from skiing in Colorado that day, so we had a simple dinner at my house with leg of lamb, roasted root veggies, this pea salad, and a lemon dessert. sliced_leg_lamb_bonelessI prepared the lamb in my sous vide. After 10 hours in the 134° water bath, it was cooked well, although I’d have liked a little bit more pink. It was barely so. Good though. I’m not going to share the recipe since I doubt that many of you have a sous vide. If you do, and want the recipe, email me.

Since I’m retired and home during the day if I’m not out and about, I do occasionally watch daytime TV. The week before Easter I watched an episode of The Chew. It was their pre-Easter show and this salad just jumped out of the TV screen at me. Although, I did change it up a bit. I tried it Carla Hall’s way, but it just didn’t have any zing (to me, anyway), so I added in some lemon juice and some sliced sugar snap peas.

pea_radish_sugar_snap_salad1Carla’s recipe called for fresh peas, and although they had them at my local markets, I just don’t trust them – frozen peas are SO much easier and reliable. So I merely defrosted some. Radishes were sliced on the mandolin and dropped into ice water so they’d crisp up. Sugar snaps were de-stringed and sliced. Mint and Italian parsley chopped fine, and at the last minute I tossed it all together with good extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. It seemed to lack something, so I added in some lemon juice and more salt and it was ready. The leftover salad lost some of its color (from the lemon juice) and didn’t have much appeal.  The radishes had lost all of their crispness and the herbs were totally wilted. I sent the family home with enough lamb, veggies and salad for them to have another meal. I have at least one meal for myself too.

What’s GOOD: I loved the “fresh” part of a pea salad. It was easy to make, though there was a bit of slicing and mincing. But most of it could be done ahead and the salad combined just before serving. Adjust the lemon juice to your taste. I used Meyer lemon juice, which is sweeter, so if using regular lemons, taste before adding too much. It was a great side for lamb.

What’s NOT: not so good for leftovers – the green peas lost some of their color with the acid in the dressing. And the salad was kind of sad – wilted and not very zippy as leftovers. Eaten right after making it, it was a stellar recipe.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

Posted in Desserts, on April 18th, 2016.

lemon_pudding_cake_ATK

This kind of baked dessert isn’t new to me, and hopefully not to you, either. A batter is poured into ramekins, it’s baked in a water bath and when you dip your spoon into it there’s a nice pudding layer on the bottom and a sponge cake layer on the top.

Sometimes the chemistry of baking baffles me – I should go into my food chemistry books to read exactly how or why a pudding cake actually does the separation during baking. Because when you pour it in, it’s all one batter. I’m just thankful that it DOES work. I served this a few weeks ago, on Easter Sunday and I sent my family home with the leftovers. I’d watched a recent episode of America’s Test Kitchen, and they’d made this recipe. What’s different about their preparation is the effort to bring out, bring in more lemon flavor. How that’s done is by warming the milk and cream with lemon zest, allowing it to steep a little bit, then the zest is strained out. Otherwise, the recipe is nearly identical to any other pudding cakes I’ve ever made. I usually make it in a baking dish (and this one can also) but I decided to do the ramekins this time.

The baking process is also slightly different here – usually when using a water bath, you pour hot-hot water into the pan. With this, you pour COLD water into the pan around the ramekins. I think they said it provided a more gentle baking process.

With plenty of lemons in my yard, I’m always looking for new ways to use lemons. Do use an instant read thermometer when you make this, as you don’t want to over bake it – then it gets dry and too brown on top (mine was slightly over done). The recipe said to not let it bake higher than 172-175°F.  I “fixed” that by serving it with a sauce of melted vanilla ice cream. If you’ve never done that before, gosh, it’s SO easy – just scoop out some into a bowl and allow it to melt and pour it into a nice pitcher. No one will be the wiser and they’ll think you slaved over making a vanilla sauce. It’s a lovely, thick creamy vanilla sauce. Very pourable and was a perfect accompaniment to the pudding cakes.

What’s DIFFERENT: soaking the lemon zest in warm milk, and then using cold water in the water bath.

What’s GOOD: the lovely lemony flavor. I’m a sucker for lemon anything, so I loved it. Was it better than any I’ve ever made before? Not really sure – I guess I’d have to taste them side by side. I have another lemon pudding cake (lemon sponge pudding) here on my blog and my recollection is that it was marvelous. It’s very similar, but also contains butter, which gives that one a bit more richness and it’s got plenty of pucker power. But this one was really good too. Try them both and see what you think?

What’s NOT: really nothing other than the more elaborate preparation with whipping up the egg whites. Not a difficult dessert at all, though.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click on link to open recipe)

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Lemon Pudding Cakes with Vanilla Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen, 2016
Serving Size: 6

1 cup whole milk — (must use whole milk)
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs — separated
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup sugar — for the egg white portion
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
VANILLA SAUCE:
2/3 cup ice cream — melted completely

NOTES: To take the temperature of the pudding layer, touch the instant read thermometer tip to the bottom of the ramekin and pull it up 1/4 inch. The batter can also be baked in an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Serve at room temperature, but it can also be served chilled (the texture will be firmer).
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°F. Bring milk and cream to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove pan from heat, whisk in lemon zest, cover pan, and let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, fold dish towel in half and place in bottom of large roasting pan. Place six 6-ounce ramekins on top of towel and set aside pan. (When I made this, it made 8 ramekins – they sink once they cool.)
2. Strain milk mixture through fine-mesh strainer into bowl, pressing on lemon zest to extract liquid; discard lemon zest. Whisk in the larger amount of sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in second bowl until combined. Add egg yolks, vanilla, lemon juice, and milk mixture and whisk until combined. (Batter will have consistency of milk.)
3. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually add remaining sugar and whip until glossy, soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Whisk one-quarter of whites into batter to lighten. With rubber spatula, gently fold in remaining whites until no clumps or streaks remain. Ladle batter into ramekins (ramekins should be heaping-full). Pour enough cold water into pan to come one-third of way up sides of ramekins. Bake until cake is set and pale golden brown and pudding layer registers 172-175°F at center, 45 to 55 minutes. Do use an INSTANT READ THERMOMETER.
5. Remove pan from oven and let ramekins stand in water bath for 10 minutes. Transfer ramekins to wire rack and let cool completely.
6. SAUCE: Meanwhile, allow ice cream to melt at room temp (about 20-30 minutes), pour into a pitcher and serve with the pudding cakes.
Per Serving: 310 Calories; 12g Fat (34.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 46g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 110mg Cholesterol; 168mg Sodium.

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