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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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 Soups, on August 17th, 2017.

eat_your_greens_soup

Oh my goodness. This. Soup. Is. So. Good. And healthy.

Yes, I know, it’s not hot soup weather. But as a food blogger, sometimes we have to take inspiration when it comes, and this one required me to act on it immediately. My decorator, Darci, has been working with me for well over 20 years. Maybe 25, actually. We’ve become friends, although she’s young enough to be my daughter. The other day I offered to go to her house to see some fabric for drapes, since she’s got a pesky, painful ankle. I took along a little portion of the Cantaloupe Gazpacho for her to taste. After that, she brought out her latest obsession. This soup. I was in heaven it was so gosh darned good.

The recipe is her own concoction – she must have had spinach, broccoli and cilantro in the refrigerator that day, and she’s become a convert to the wisdom of using bone broth instead of regular broth. She buys it at Sprouts (this soup uses beef bone broth) and likes it because each cup contains 9 grams of protein. She rattled off how she made it. The next morning I shopped for the ingredients, came home and made it immediately, even in our summer heat. It also has curry powder AND Thai green curry paste in it. That’s what gives it some zing. Coconut milk gives it a more subtle flavor.

eat_your_greens_closeup

On top of the soup you add 3 things: (1) a drizzle of good EVOO; (2) a drizzle of fresh lemon juice; and (3) a little sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I added the cilantro leaf when I made it, but that’s just for fun. If you don’t like cilantro, you won’t like this soup – but I suppose you could make it without the cilantro.

Image result for thai kitchen green curry pasteIt takes little time to make the soup – and once the vegetables are cooked, you puree it in the blender then cook down the soup a little bit to make it thicker. I made a double batch and will be freezing at least 2 big bags of it for another day. And I have enough for a couple of dinners AND a bag to give to a good friend.

Earmark this recipe, or at least print it out so you can make it once it’s cool enough to do so. I know I’ll be making this over and over. It’s addictive. Honest. And thanks, Darci, for sharing the recipe and saying “yes” to putting it on my blog!

What’s GOOD: it’s silky smooth and full of bright, citrusy flavors (from the cilantro and the lemon juice). It’s healthy. Really healthy. But you’d never know it. If you want to cut corners, don’t put hardly any cheese on top, and do a little bitty drizzle of EVOO. It’s very low calorie. Last night I served myself one bowl (about a cup), but just had to go back for more. Just know, I told you it’s addictive. Maybe that’s a negative (ha)!

What’s NOT: nothing really, except maybe finding bone broth. Everything else in it is easy enough.
printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Eat-Your-Greens Soup

Recipe By: From my friend, Darci G
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons EVOO
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
2 whole garlic cloves — diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
4 cups fresh spinach
2 quarts beef bone broth
14 ounces coconut milk — (full fat)
3 cups broccoli florets — stems are fine too
3 cups cilantro — including stems
Salt and pepper to taste
GARNISH:
A drizzle of EVOO in each bowl
A drizzle of fresh lemon juice in each bowl
8 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese — sprinkled on each bowl

1. Saute the onion in EVOO, and when it’s softened, add the garlic to cook gently for just a minute or less.
2. Add the curry powder and green curry paste, stir in well, then add the spinach. Saute gently for a few minutes, then add all the bone broth and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, then add in the broccoli. Simmer the soup for about 20 minutes, then set aside to cool slightly.
3. In batches, puree the soup in a blender, adding in a large handful of cilantro and the stems and blend until the soup is silky smooth. Repeat with remaining soup. Return to heat and cook gently for about 45 minutes, until the mixture has thickened some.
4. To serve: pour hot soup into a serving bowl and drizzle with EVOO, lemon juice, then sprinkle shredded Parm on top.
Per Serving: 215 Calories; 17g Fat (66.9% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 135mg Sodium.

Posted in Essays, on August 13th, 2017.

Image result for apples

 

For the last year or so I’ve subscribed to Reader’s Digest. They have some really interesting articles in each issue, and this little 2-page article was so fascinating I thought I’d share the salient facts. The article brought much of its facts from a book: The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites, by Libby O’Connell but the article was written by someone at NPR and was heard there in 2016.

It’s an article about the lineage of the apple pie (which must be one of the 100 bites):

1. CRUST: As we know it now, it started in Britain where they made airtight pastry shells called “coffyns,” filled with savory ingredients. We refined the pastry by using some German techniques (think strudel) and began using up imperfect fruit to fill the pastry, where those imperfections didn’t show. (Ingenuity, I’d say!)

2. APPLES: The only native apple here in the U.S. is a crabapple. We don’t see those very often (at least I don’t where I live). Apples (generic) came from Kahzakhstan. The fruit migrated west, then the Romans crossed a sour apple with a sweet apple, and many hundreds of years elapsed before Johnny Appleseed Chapman brought those to America and planted them all over. (Thank goodness!)

3. WHEAT: Archeologists have found ancient wheat that dates to at least 9000 years ago – from Iran, Iraq and much of the Middle East. Eventually it wended its way into Europe, and here to the New World, but the crops failed. It wasn’t until later that Russian immigrants brought a more hardy wheat variety (Turkey Red, it was called) to America, which worked (our climate must have been similar to the part of Russia where it grew – who knew?)

4. FAT: Lard was likely the original fat (from pig ancestors in Asia), then Christopher Columbus brought pigs (for their meat and fat) and cattle (think dairy products) to America. (Good thing!)

5. CINNAMON & SUGAR: Did you know that sugar originally comes from Indonesia, China and Papua New Guinea? Yup. And cinnamon originates from an evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka.  The other spices we use in apple pie include nutmeg and cloves, which came from Banda Island in Indonesia. Magellan helped spread those ‘round the world when he brought back 50 tons of the precious spices on a trip he made in 1522. (Imagine that – we just take it for granted that we have the spices in our pantries!)

6. THE PIE: According to researchers, the earliest apple pie recipe dates from the 1300s, but it didn’t hit the “big time” here in North America until the 1600s. John T. Edge wrote in his book Apple Pie: An American Story that both Union and Confederate soldiers collected apples on their marches and forays, and commandeered local hearths to make them into (probably, my guess) hand pies (turnovers) they could carry with them.  In 1902 the New York Times said pie had become “the American synonym for prosperity.” During WWII, a catchphrase spread that the soldiers were fighting for “mom and apple pie.”

———————————————–

Here on my blog, there is one recipe for apple pie, from my friend Debbie. It’s a crumb top one, and it’s super wonderful. Even the pie crust is easy, which is made with vegetable oil.

Posted in Desserts, on August 9th, 2017.

danish_dream_cake

An easy cake to make with a kind of caramel coconut and brown sugar topping.

A couple of weeks ago I hosted one of my book groups here at my home. In this particular book group, the hostess chooses the book herself and leads the review of it. I had several books in mind, but then my friend Janet showed me a book she was given on a recent trip to Denmark, It’s called The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. (By the way, hygge is pronounced hoo-ga.) Janet’s son Eric lives in Copenhagen and married a Danish woman, a physician. He speaks fluent Danish (he works for a Danish world relief organization) and he gave the book to his mom, and pointed out a photo of himself in the book (he’s friends with the author). I was enchanted with the book.

Image result for danish book of hyggeDid you know that the Danes are the happiest people on earth? So researchers say. This little book, a kind of handbook of sorts, tells you how and why that’s so. As an example, the first chapter is about candles. So, for my book group, I decided to veer away from reading a novel (our usual format), and have them read this book and so we could talk about the ideas in it, and to make some Danish goodies. I knew I’d be making Almond Puff (recipe up soon), but I wanted something else to serve along with fresh fruit, as we discussed all the different things that make the Danes so happy. And I invited my friend Janet to come to the meeting and share some of her experiences as they have visited their son and his family over the last decade or so.

In case you’re as enchanted with the book as I was, I just want you to know that the American edition (link above) is an slight alteration to the U.K. edition which contains dozens and dozens of photographs. I was sad to see that my copy didn’t have the photos. It’s in color with illustrations, but doesn’t contain the photos. Janet brought her copy and passed it around so everyone could see.

So, this Dream Cake. I found the recipe online (there are dozens of them). You make a very ordinary yellow cake batter and pour it into a 10×14 glass baking dish, bake the cake, and just before taking it out of the oven you make the hot butter/brown sugar/coconut topping that is poured over the top. It hardens as it cools (to a kind of chewy caramel consistency), then you cut it into squares and serve it. It’s REALLY good. Easy to make, and might even be a kind of Snacking Cake, except that in Denmark, this is like their “national” cake. Everyone makes it. It’s in all the bakeries and you can find it everywhere, apparently. They serve this to guests, and it’s also a staple in every Danish kitchen.

What’s GOOD: it’s a simple dessert to make, and the topping is the thing that puts it over the top – makes it so very good, chewy, sweet. Altogether good. It freezes well, too, though I wouldn’t do it for a long time. I made this a couple of weeks before I had the event at my home, then very slightly heated it in the oven before serving.

What’s NOT: it’s a little bit hard to cut – I finally used a sharp-edge spatula to cut through the caramel. Once I got the first piece out it wasn’t quite so difficult. You might try a sharp knife – that might work better.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Danish Dream Cake (DROMMEKAGE)

Recipe By: Nordic Food Living (website)
Serving Size: 16

CAKE:
9 ounces AP flour
9 ounces sugar
2 ounces unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar — or vanilla (liquid)
TOPPING:
4 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk
7 ounces light brown sugar
3 1/2 ounces coconut flakes — unsweetened

1. CAKE: Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add milk to the butter. Add to the bowl of eggs and sugar. Add liquid vanilla, if using.
3. In a separate bowl mix the AP flour, vanilla sugar (if using) and baking powder. Mix with a whisk, then add it to the egg mixture and whisk to a smooth batter.
4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 10×14″ glass baking dish with butter (or line it with parchment).
5. Pour the cake batter into the dish and smooth it out to the corners. Bake for about 20 minutes.
6. TOPPING: About 5 minutes before the cake is done, melt butter in a saucepan. Add milk and brown sugar and let it boil for about a minute.
7. Add coconut flakes and mix well.
8. Remove cake from oven and pour topping mixture evenly over the cake, using a knife to spread it evenly.
9. RETURN TO OVEN and bake another 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Cut into squares to serve.
Per Serving: 302 Calories; 13g Fat (37.9% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on August 5th, 2017.

grilled_chile_chix_strawb_salsa_lime_crema

That photo doesn’t do justice to this easy grilled chicken dish. This chicken was very easy to put together and was so nice with the strawberry salsa and the lime cream on top.

On the spur of the moment I invited 2 widow friends over for dinner and asked if we could do a potluck. One brought a nice green salad (with mandarin oranges and sliced almonds in it) and the other friend brought a tiny little chocolate cake (made from a Duncan Hines boxed mix that comes with the frosting). I had some cream of cucumber soup that I’d made the day before, so after having a glass of Trader Joe’s peach bellini and a few bites of Brie, served with my Roasted Figs that I’d kept in the freezer, I grilled this chicken.

A few hours before I made the marinade (easy), the strawberry salsa (easy) and the lime cream (super easy). The chicken was in the marinade for about 2 hours total. I am still learning how to grill, since my DH was the grillmeister in my house. I’ve had to learn. My most trusted tool is my instant read thermometer, and it was spot on with this, when the chicken reached about 152°F. I served the two condiments so my guests could add what they wanted. I sliced wide strips of the hot grilled chicken and piled them onto a very hot plate. Dinner was lovely. The company was fun and happy. We laughed and enjoyed the view outside my dining room windows. As I write this, it’s been stinkin’ hot and humid (so much so that we’ve been having tropical showers), so we had to eat inside. A couple of days ago it was nearly 100°F, which is very hot for July. My A/C has been running nearly 24/7. As much as I hate keeping the air on nearly all the time (it’s expensive first of all), I have decided I want to be comfortable. End of story.

I’d definitely make this again. It’s a recipe from a 2005 cooking class I took with Phillis Carey. I changed just a few things from her recipe. I used jalapeno chile instead of serrano (serranos are hotter); I cut down on the quantity of chile in the marinade and the salsa (because I didn’t think my guests would want so much chile-heat). I used strawberry balsamic vinegar (because I had some) in the salsa, and I used sherry vinegar in the marinade instead of raspberry (straight) vinegar (because I didn’t have any). We DO have to improvise, right?  I pounded the chicken breasts to an even thickness of about 1/2”, and they grilled perfectly in about 4 minutes per side on a medium-heat grill. The only mistake I made was not oiling the grill grate before starting, so the chicken stuck a little bit. No big deal, though.

What’s GOOD: the chicken was super tender and juicy. If you remove it from the grill when it reaches about 150-152°F, you’re sure to have juicy chicken. Past 155°F and it’ll be more dry. I loved the strawberry salsa – so “summer” and picnic-y if there is such a thing. Next time I’ll add more lime zest to the cream (I doubled the amount in the recipe below). It made a lovely presentation.

What’s NOT: nary a thing, really. You do have to make the salsa and the crema, but neither one takes much time to do. Even the chicken marinade took very little time.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Chile Chicken Breasts with Lime Crema

Recipe By: Adapted a little from a Phillis Carey class, 2005
Serving Size: 6

CHICKEN:
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 whole serrano chile — minced (or jalapeno)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar — or sherry vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
LIME CREMA:
1 cup Mexican crema — “Cacique” brand (green lid) or sour cream
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
STRAWBERRY SALSA:
3 cups fresh strawberries — diced
3 tablespoons fresh mint — minced
3 tablespoons sugar
1 serrano chile — or jalapeno
1/2 cup red onion — minced
3 tablespoons strawberry balsamic vinegar — or other fruit balsamic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. CHICKEN: Trim and pound breast to an even 1/2 inch thickness.
2. In a ziploc plastic bag add chile, garlic, chili powder, vinegar, olive oil and S&P. Add chicken, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours. Remove from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Rub an oil-soaked paper towel over the grill. Grill chicken 3-4 minutes per side to cook through. Chicken breasts are done when they’ve reached about 150-152°F.
3. CREMA: Stir lime zest and juice into crema. Refrigerate a few hours, or up to 4 hours.
4. SALSA: Place strawberries, mint and sugar in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Add chile, onion and vinegar; toss together lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Let salsa rest at room temp for at least 20 minutes before serving. Spoon over chicken and top with lime crema. Note: Serve with black beans or cilantro rice.
Per Serving : 390 Calories; 23g Fat (53.8% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on August 1st, 2017.

twice_cooked_cabbage_bacon

An easy side vegetable, could be made ahead.

Back a week ago I’d purchased a package of pre-sliced green cabbage at Trader Joe’s. I’d intended to use it in a cole slaw, to go with some Italian sausage I’d defrosted. I didn’t, so needed to find a recipe for cabbage. Searching through my recipes I came across this, a Kalyn’s Kitchen one. I had everything except Mozzarella, so I substituted Cheddar. And I needed to use up a red onion (so I substituted for the yellow onion). I had a package of thick-sliced bacon in my refrigerator that needed to be opened and rolled up and packaged for freezing, so it was an easy decision to make this recipe. Kalyn’s adheres to a South Beach diet, and this one qualifies on all counts. My DH would have loved this casserole.

I used just one skillet – I cooked up the bacon and removed it to a paper towel. There was very little fat left in the pan, so I used that plus a tad of olive oil and sautéed the onion until it was wilted, then added the cabbage. That needed to be stirred frequently or only the cabbage touching the pan would have been cooked, so as I prepared other parts of my dinner, I just tossed the cabbage several times until it was about 2/3 cooked. Then the bacon is put back in and stirred a minute or two. Then that mixture went into a deep pie dish (I made a smaller version of Kalyn’s recipe). Sour twice_cooked_cabbage_bacon_casserolecream was haphazardly spread on top, then I grated the cheddar and sprinkled that all over the top. Into a 375° F oven it went and baked for about 18 minutes. If you make a larger casserole, it likely will take longer to bake, to get the cheese all bubbling and beginning to brown here and there.

I scooped out that big spoonful onto my plate and had my dinner. I needed to let the cabbage sit a few minutes because it was tongue-burning hot. Thanks Kalyn, for a easy, tasty recipe!

What’s GOOD: I loved the flavor of the cabbage, onion and bacon. I mean – – – really, what’s there not to like about that? Surely this qualifies as comfort food with the ooey-gooey cheese on the top. I could easily have had 3 servings. I don’t suppose I would say this dish knocked my socks off, but it sure was satisfying. Easy. Tasty. I had enough for 4 dinners for myself. If I’d been making this for eating in one meal, I’d have left the cabbage mixture in the cast iron skillet and just added the sour cream and cheese and served the whole thing on the table. Minimal dishes! It’s also very low calorie.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Takes a bit of preparation, but not much.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Low-Carb Twice-Cooked Cabbage with Sour Cream and Bacon

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Kalyn’s Kitchen, 2016
Serving Size: 4

2 slices thick-sliced bacon — cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon olive oil — or bacon fat
1/3 cup yellow onion — finely minced
1/2 head cabbage — core cut out and cut into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream
3/8 cup cheddar cheese — grated (or mozzarella)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F/190C. Slice the bacon. Cut the core out of the cabbage and cut it into thin strips. Mince the onion.
2. Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat, add the strips of bacon, and cook until the bacon is browned and very crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels.
3. Heat olive oil (or use the bacon fat that’s in the pan, if you prefer) in the frying pan, add the minced onion, and cook over medium-high heat until it’s barely starting to brown. Add the sliced cabbage, season with paprika, salt, and pepper, and cook just until it has softened partly, stirring frequently. Then add the crisp bacon pieces, stir to combine with the cabbage, and cook 1-2 minutes more to combine flavors.
4. Spray a glass baking dish with olive oil or non-stick spray. Pour the sauteed cabbage in the casserole dish and spread the sour cream over, then sprinkle with the grated cheese.
5. Bake about 20-30 minutes, or until it’s bubbling hot and the top is nicely browned. Serve hot.
Per Serving: 159 Calories; 14g Fat (77.5% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 185mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Uncategorized, Veggies/sides, on July 28th, 2017.

pasta_abrazzese_salad

A pasta salad – served at room temp – with an unusual type of pasta, like little twigs. The salad is all about tomatoes.

It’s been about 6 weeks ago I went to a cooking class – I’m now attending a relatively new one for me, with a group of homemakers, offered in a home, and my friend Cherrie and I have been invited because the chef is our friend, and because the group has room to grow a little bit. Tarla Fallgatter is the chef, and we can always count on a really delicious meal to enjoy whenever she cooks.

This salad was really big on tomato flavor – it has what’s called a confit (kan-fee) added to it, which means a method of cooking food in fat, oil or a water syrup at a low temperature, usually cooked down to a soft pulp. Most commonly it refers to goose or duck, but in this case it’s about cooking and softening the sun-dried tomatoes and dried tomatoes both, in a flavorful mixture that coats the pasta well (see the orange/red color). What was unusual about this dish, though, was the pasta. Tarla passed around the bag of pasta – one of those more expensive, imported-from-Italy types.

The pasta shapes look a lot like pale twigs, and the only thing I’ll say is that it’s important to cook them to the right consistency. If you sample one of the tiny twig ENDS, it might be done, but the thicker center of the twig pasta will still be too firm. So test it by eating the center, thicker part. And when it’s done, the narrow ends are actually overcooked, but it can’t be helped.

The confit is easy enough to make – the two types of sun-dried tomatoes, shallot, basil, some spices, olive oil and red wine. You could easily make this ahead and set aside. Toast the pine nuts and set aside and cut up the little heirloom tomatoes to add in later.

Cook the pasta – you can use any kind of pasta you want, but Tarla thought this abrezzese was just so very fun (and different). Otherwise, orzo would be good with this too. Cook it, drain it, then add the tomato stuff, add the chopped tomatoes and pine nuts. Donabrazzeze_pastae. Taste for seasoning. Make this as a side dish for an outdoor dinner, or a potluck lunch. Whatever.

What’s GOOD: this has a different flavor – intense with the sun-dried tomatoes in it, but also because of the pasta shape. Delicious salad. Nothing extraordinary, but really good nonetheless. Easy to make – takes a bit of chopping here and there, but not hard.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Don’t stress if you can’t find the abrezzese pasta – just use orzo.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pasta Abrazzese with Sun-Dried Tomato Confit

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2017
Serving Size: 6

2 cups cooked pasta — abrazzese or orzo
SUN-DRIED TOMATO CONFIT:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 whole shallot — peeled, diced
1 teaspoon spice rub — Blackened, Cajun or your choice
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed — drained and julienned
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 large basil leaves — julienned
1 cup tomatoes — heirloom, mini-sized, quartered or halved
1/3 cup pine nuts — toasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in saute pan; add shallot and cook until translucent. Stir in spice rub. Reduce heat to low, then add oil-packed and regular sun-dried tomatoes plus the red wine. Simmer until wine is reduced by about half. Add balsamic vinegar and basil leaves off the heat.
2. Place hot, cooked pasta in a medium bowl and stir in the tomato mixture, then the fresh tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. Garnish with minced Italian parsley, if desired. Taste for seasonings. May need additional salt.
Per Serving: 169 Calories; 8g Fat (41.6% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 78mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 24th, 2017.

amaretto_ice_cream

Oh my goodness, was this ever delicious! Homemade (simple) vanilla ice cream with Amaretto added and some almond extract too.

Having been invited to friends for dinner, I asked what could I bring – Joan said an appetizer or dessert. I opted for dessert. Since peaches are in season (and oh gosh, are they delicious this year!) I thought I’d make a peach cobbler. I used the recipe I’d made a year or so ago – Peach, Blackberry & Almond Crisp but I used just peaches. The brand “I AM RIPE” from Costco was the perfect choice for the peaches – gosh are those peaches wonderful. I made a big 11×14 pan of it (without the blackberries). So then, knowing I needed to serve whipped cream or ice cream with it, I thought I’d make some Amaretto ice cream. I researched recipes, but knew I didn’t want to make the longer-prep one with eggs or egg yolks. I wanted the simple stuff (cream and 1/2 and 1/2, sugar, flavorings). Found a recipe online and just altered it a tad. I wanted a more pronounced almond flavor, so I used less vanilla then added almond extract. This recipe uses quite a bit of Amaretto (more than some ice cream recipes); hence the ice cream doesn’t ever get totally hard. Made for easy scooping, I’ll say that for sure.

There’s nothing to this, providing you have an ice cream machine. I didn’t even chill the cream/half-and-half mixture because it was already cold. All I’d added to it was sugar and flavorings. This recipe makes about a quart.  Into my ice cream container it went (that long red thing you see in the back of the photo) and I froze it for about 3 hours. The peach crisp was still slightly warm when I served it. I had enough to give extras to Joan and Tom, and to take some to my friends Gloria and Grant, AND to have 2 servings of it myself. And I’ve got exactly one scoop left of the ice cream as I write this. It’ll likely get eaten today. Right out of the container!

What’s GOOD: the Amaretto flavor is very pronounced (I liked that part) and it was super easy to make. A keeper of a recipe. I’ll be making this again for sure.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. It was really delicious.

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

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Amaretto Ice Cream

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from allrecipes.com
Serving Size: 8

2 1/8 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/16 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup amaretto
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

1. Using a whisk, mix heavy cream, half-and-half, and sugar in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add amaretto liqueur and both extracts.
2. Pour milk mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until ice cream reaches ‘soft-serve’ consistency. Transfer ice cream to a lidded container. Freeze at least 2 hours before serving. Note: this ice cream won’t ever be super-hard because of the liquor in it, so serve it as soon as you scoop it!
Per Serving: 367 Calories; 27g Fat (68.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 99mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on July 20th, 2017.

chile_spice_rubbed_roasted_salmon

This recipe really needs to be titled “Citrus Marinated Roasted Salmon with Chili Powder and Other Spices.” But whew. Can’t call it that!

Originally this recipe was titled “Barbecue Roasted Salmon.” It’s an old recipe from Cooking Light (2001) but they totally misnamed this one. It’s not barbecued, nor does it contains typical “barbecue” spices. So I dubbed it Chili-Rubbed Roasted Salmon instead. You’ll see why shortly. And don’t let the Cooking Light source make you think this is  not all that good! It’s fabulous.

IMHO, the pineapple juice/lemon juice marinade is the secret to this recipe. It makes it SO very juicy and tender. It doesn’t need to be marinated all that long, either. Periodically I buy a 6-pack of pineapple juice in little baby cans. Sometimes they don’t last (the cans bulge and you know the juice has gone bad). I threw away 2 cans before I found one that was still okay. My recollection is that I can’t buy just one of those tiny cans of pineapple juice. I don’t drink it ever – it’s only used for cooking. But I certainly didn’t want to have to go grocery shopping in order to make this. Fortunately I had everything on hand.

Am sure I’ve mentioned it here before .. . . even though I’m a family of one now, I buy the big slabs of farm-raised salmon at Costco, cut them up into fillets and pack two to a bag and vacuum seal them for freezing. It takes less than an hour to defrost one of those bags and it gives me two meals.

salmon_foil_ready2bakeSo first, the salmon fillets went into a ziploc bag with the juices. Into the refrigerator they went for about an hour. It’s very possible that left in the marinade any longer the fish would have begun to disintegrate. Pineapple juice is a powerful marinade in that it contains enzymes that break down food. Which is why it’s often used in a meat marinade, to give it tenderness. This one, though, is really meant just for flavoring, I’m guessing, since salmon doesn’t need tenderizing! Pat it dry, then you put the brown sugar and spices (chili powder, lemon zest, ground cumin, salt and a pinch of ground cinnamon and salt) on the fish. I made a foil “tray” for the fish and roasted it in my toaster oven for only about 10-11 minutes (the fillets weren’t all that thick) and they were plu-perfect! Ideal cooked internal temperature of a salmon fillet is 135°F. I garnished with a lemon slice or two, more lemon zest and a sprinkling of mint, and onto my plate it went. In the background of the photo at top you can see the watermelon/feta/mint salad and some roasted vegetables I’d made a few days before. Wonderful dinner. And then I had the second fillet to re-heat a few nights later. It was still wonderful, although reheating it dried it out just a tad.

What’s GOOD: so very tender and juicy salmon – loved the spice combo on it. Very easy to make too. A winner of a recipe. I’ll be making this again. The calorie count for one serving is 235. Yea! And that assumes you’ve consumed (drunk) the pineapple and lemon juices, so it’s actually less than 235! This could easily be a company meal (it’s certainly fancy enough) but can also be an easy weeknight dinner too. Don’t marinate the fish more than an hour, though.

What’s NOT: Do use thicker salmon if you can – it will roast better with no tendency to dry out. No down side to this recipe at all.

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

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Chili-Rubbed Roasted Salmon

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Cooking Light, May 2001
Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets — (6-ounce each)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Lemon slices (optional)
Chopped mint for garnish
Grated lemon zest for garnish

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a zip-top plastic bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning occasionally. (Don’t marinate longer or it will begin to break down the fish.)
2. Preheat oven to 400°.
3. Remove fish from bag; discard marinade. Pat dry the fish with paper towels. Combine sugar and next 5 ingredients (chili powder through cinnamon) in a bowl. Rub over fish; place in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lined with foil. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork (done internal temp should be 135°F). Serve immediately with lemon slices, and a sprinkling of fresh, chopped mint and lemon zest.
Per Serving: 235 Calories; 6g Fat (24.8% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 408mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on July 18th, 2017.

creamofcucumbersoup_larger

It’s summer. It’s hot. Who wants to COOK in a warm afternoon kitchen?

Back in 2008 I posted this recipe, and it’s as much a winner of a recipe now as it was then. It’s a recipe from my friend Jackie P, and I’ve made it numerous times over the years. It’s easy to make – do it in the morning when it’s cooler, chill it down and serve it for lunch, or before dinner. I made a big batch of it last week, and am still enjoying it, down to the last little bit of it. I took new photos (gee, my photography had a long way to go when I was first a blogger) so have inserted a new one into that old post. If you want to make it less caloric, substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream. It tastes just as wonderful.

The original post is HERE. Just go there and make this soup, okay? I garnished the soup with toasted sliced almonds because I didn’t have any fresh dill (I used dried dill to flavor the soup too) and I really liked the crunch of the almonds to give some texture to the soup. It makes a lovely first course, or for me, it WAS my lunch a couple of days last week. Altogether refreshing.

Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, on July 16th, 2017.

watermelon_haloumi_salad

The best halloumi I’ve ever had – grilled and served with watermelon and arugula and mint, plus pine nuts and a balsamic glaze drizzled over the top.

My only experience with Halloumi (see Wikipedia info here) has been at a local Greek restaurant, where they serve it fiery hot in a small pan with some bread. My take-away (that one and only time at least 20 years ago) was that it was so salty I couldn’t eat it. Since then I’d never tried it! What I’ve learned is that people in the “west” prefer a less salty version. I suppose the Greek restaurant serves it the way they do in Greece where it’s aged and cured some, so the salt content is more pronounced. (FYI: the 4-ounce package I bought when I finally did locate some shows an ounce of Halloumi contains 673 milligrams of sodium. A lot. Some brands contain less sodium – look for them if you can.) My guess from my reading is that if you buy a U.S. made version, it will likely be less salty. You might check the sodium level before you buy it. Halloumi is usually made from a mixture of cow and sheep milk.

sub_zero_wolf_showroomRecently my friend Joan invited me to a cooking demo at our local Wolf/Sub-Zero Demonstration Kitchen. I said SURE, I’d be happy to go along. We had much fun with seats right in front of the chef. She was a fountain of information (mostly about Wolf kitchen appliances, though they also have Sub-Zero refrigerators and freezers – the two companies are merged somewhat). My Sub-Zero freezer (separate unit) and refrigerator (also separate) are models that date back 15 years or so. Newer ones have lots of new features not available when I had to replace the ones in this house I’m in (that was in about 2004). When we remodeled the kitchen in ‘06 I kept the two, obviously, since they are very pricey! Though I’m very happy with them – I’ve been a fan of Sub-Zero since I bought them for our previous house when we remodeled it in 1990.

Anyway, Joan and I watched as the chef took out nice little rectangles (measuring about 3” x 3” by 1/4”) of halloumi and placed them on the olive oil greased Wolf flat grill. (I was very impressed with the grill – wish I had it in my kitchen – it kind of looked like a mini-restaurant flat grill). My stove top is made by Dacor and then I have 2 Dacor matching ovens under my kitchen island. I’m not in the market for any new appliances, but Joan is, as she’s about to remodel her kitchen. (If any of you are considering remodeling your kitchen, I’d recommend  you at least look at Wolf – their appliances are pretty darned amazing and you can attend a cooking class in their demonstration kitchens without having purchased any of their units.)

haloumi_grilledhaloumi_grillingThe chef grilled the cheese at a very low heat, so it just barely bubbled and sizzled and got just gorgeously golden brown (see photos). The Wolf grill top can be set to a specific temperature (nice) which was 375°. She prepped the salad first by laying the little strips of sweet watermelon on the plate, then the little mound of arugula and mint which she dressed with a bit of olive oil. Then she just placed the hot halloumi on the side. Then she sprinkled the toasted pine nuts on top and drizzled it with balsamic glaze (I buy it at Trader Joe’s, but you can make your own if you want to – you can find lots of recipes online for how to do it).

The cheese was just outstanding – I wanted more, it was so good. I’ve been looking for halloumi at my local markets since this class and so far have not found it. I’ll need to go to a more upscale market or a Whole Foods or Bristol Farms to find it, I suppose. I want some!! It keeps frozen for months and months.

This dish could easily be a light entrée and if you served it with more of the cheese, it could be dinner, for sure. In this case, at the class, it was a first course as we were served fried chicken (done in the Wolf deep fryer) and delicious mashed potatoes. Then we were served a fresh peach half with a bread crumb, nut and brown sugar topping on it (done on convection bake in one of their numerous Wolf ovens). All delicious. But this salad won the day for me. I’ll be making this if only for myself.Perhaps you live in a location where there is a substantial Greek population and Halloumi is very popular. I don’t, so it’s a bit harder to find. Seek out a store that carries a goodly selection of world cheeses.

What’s GOOD: if you find the less-salty halloumi, this is a winner of a recipe. All prep-able ahead of time, so easy to serve with just a few minutes of arranging and drizzling.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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

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Watermelon and Halloumi Salad

Recipe By: Wolf Demonstration Kitchen, 2017
Serving Size: 8

4 cups watermelon — cut in 3″ long batons
8 ounces halloumi cheese
1/2 cup fresh mint — chopped
6 ounces arugula
3 tablespoons EVOO
1/3 cup pine nuts — toasted
4 tablespoons balsamic glaze
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat griddle or flat pan to 375° F.
2. Cut thin rectangles of Halloumi cheese and gently brown the pieces on the flat grill or pan for about 3-5 minutes per side, or until the cheese is golden brown.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the arugula and mint. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
4. On each plate, place two slices of watermelon side by side. Mound the arugula on top, but allow most of the watermelon to show. Place hot cheese leaned up against the arugula, then sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Drizzle salad with balsamic glaze and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 219 Calories; 17g Fat (70.2% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 361mg Sodium.

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