Subscribe

Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:

Archives

Currently Reading


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

My reading of late has been short and fitful, somewhat like my sleeping pattern, ever since my dear husband passed away. I’m still in 2 book clubs, though, and have wanted to keep up with the reading for those.

When I started reading The Divorce Papers: A Novel by Susan Rieger, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. Initially, it brought back too many unpleasant memories of my divorce in 1979-80. But I kept reading and soon was engrossed in the unusual approach. It’s about Sophie Diehl, a young criminal attorney who gets roped into working on this very messy divorce taken on by her law firm. The entire book is written via letters, documents and email messages between the pertinent parties in this divorce (the couple divorcing, their daughter, both attorneys, her boss, and one of Sophie’s best friends). It’s a clever book. As I write this, I’m about 80% through, so I don’t even know how it ends, but I’ve enjoyed the read so far.

Recently finished Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline. It’s about a little known period of time (1854-1929) when orphaned children were loaded onto trains on the East Coast and sent to the Midwest to be adopted by families who needed or wanted children. Some were adopted by people who were unfit; some of the children were lucky and found good, loving homes. This is the story of one of the girls, Vivian Daly and her journey. Woven into the story is a much later period of Vivian’s life when many facts of  her earlier experiences are revealed. A very, very interesting book; there’s a love story in it too.

Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste as I'm cooking.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Uncategorized, on September 28th, 2014.

Roux – that ubiquitous mixture that forms some of the great flavor in gumbo. Photo, by the way, is from wikispaces.com. In  the October ‘14 issue of Saveur Magazine, a little photo illustrated the making of a roux in the oven. Yes, really.

The method is Alton Brown’s. Heat the oven to 350°F. In a large 8-quart Dutch oven or deep iron skillet, mix equal parts canola oil and all-purpose flour. Whisk it, cover it, put it in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it’s deep brown. Move the pot from the oven to the stove top and make the gumbo from there.

Quicker Cooking of Beans – Had never heard this recommendation – soak dried beans overnight in water with one teaspoon of baking soda added per quart of water – and the beans will take much less time to cook, in nearly half the time. It has to do with the alkalinity (the soda) breaking down the cell walls of the bean. This was also in Saveur, but the info comes from Harold McGee’s book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

Removing Red Wine Stains from Linen or Cotton – In the same issue here’s a recommendation about removing red wine stains – forget the salt, seltzer or baking soda . . . this one says apply a high-enzyme liquid detergent or stain remover (look for the word enzyme on the label). Work that mixture into the stain with a brush, pour boiling water onto the stained area and allow it to soak for 30 minutes. The advice came from two women who have a laundry product line called The Laundress – www.thelaundress.com

Very little cooking is going on in my kitchen. I’m now getting around in an orthopedic boot (meaning my plantar fascia IS torn, not just stretched). Must wear it for 3 weeks, then graduate to good, solid athletic shoes with good arch support, doing exercises very gingerly at first. I’m off pain killers (a good thing) but only because the boot kind of rocks my foot forward so I don’t land on the heel (where the major pain is). The boot isn’t uncomfortable exactly. Just cumbersome. I can’t stand for more than a minute or two, then my heel starts to hurt. All that to say that I can’t begin to stand at my kitchen counter to prepare a meal. Forget it! So I’ve been eating out more than usual. Am eating some stuff from my freezer too.

I still can’t believe it’s been 6 months since my darling DH passed away. How can it possibly be 6 months ago. My cousin Gary is visiting me and I asked him, yesterday, to drag out of the closet two pumpkin_flowersbig storage boxes that say “Fall Décor” on them. In my dream last night I came home from somewhere and saw that Dave was putting out Christmas décor in the house (stuff he usually didn’t do anyway – he did outside stuff, not inside stuff). I was just going toward him to tell him no-no-no, honey, not yet,  wrong holiday, when I woke up. I wanted so badly to fall back into that dream and have a conversation with him, to hug him, to kiss him, but alas I couldn’t seem to do it.

My cousin has been so helpful – he’s visited because he had a family wedding to go to over the weekend. I had him work on a TV-cable-tuning-adapter-Tivo problem and he finally, after several hours, one trip to the cable store and multiple phone calls to both Tivo and Cox, to get it fixed for me. He’s moved some things around for me, and he’s very fun company.

I had my first cataract surgery 11 days ago. It was cinchy easy. You’re awake all through it, but it wasn’t scary. It didn’t hurt at all. You can’t actually “see” them do it. My vision out of that new lens is certainly better than it was – brighter colors and more clear – but I can’t wear my old glasses. I wore trifocals, had been for years, and this interim time between now and mid-October when I have the 2nd eye done, is really hard – eye strain and poor vision. A friend finally suggested I buy two pairs of readers, with different magnification and put them together in one glasses frame. I’ve done that. I can barely see close-up stuff through the new lens through the readers. The other eye, well, that one’s awful. Can’t see a thing. I can’t wait for the other surgery. Then I must wait another month before they’ll test my eyes and see whether I need to wear glasses or just readers. I suspect I’ll need glasses for mid and close range. I’m having an awful time reading the computer during this in between time. And music – it’s hard being in choir and barely being able to read the music. My Kindle has an adjustment for type size, so I am able to read that fairly well.

Posted in Salads, on September 21st, 2014.

pea_bacon_panzanella_corn_arugula

I’m a sucker for anything “bread salad” or “panzanella” which means bread salad in Italian. And add bacon to it? Well, I’m in. Because it’s so carb-centric, I try not to give in to eating them very often, but salad was what I wanted for a hot summer night, and this recipe just jumped out at me. And it was ever-so good and pretty on the plate, besides!

My girlfriend Donna was coming over. We had talked about going out to eat dinner, but I decided on a Friday night, a hot Friday night, maybe we should eat in instead, and not battle the restaurant crowds. Besides, we’d have more fun conversing here at my house.

The recipe started out from one at Food52 – called Pea and Bacon Panzanella with Warm Vinaigrette. Well, I decided to improvise a little. I love the addition of fresh corn, cut off the cob, to panzanella. And how can you have a panzanella without any tomatoes? The juice from the tomatoes is also what flavors a panzanella. So I added a couple of small tomatoes too. And I always like some greens. I could have used some Romaine, but arugula sounded good to me, so that’s what I added.

A week or so ago I bought some fresh English peas at Trader Joe’s. We just hardly ever see fresh peas in our markets. They’d been in my refrigerator for over a week and some of them had begun to sprout roots (ya think I let them sit too long?). I dug those out and tossed them away, but I still had plenty left. Yet I wasn’t sure how they were going to taste. I had some peas in the freezer, so I knew if these fresh ones never got tender, I’d toss out the whole thing and use the frozen. The fresh ones  took way too long to get tender, but eventually – after about 10-12 minutes of slowly cooking in butter and then steaming with some water added, they got mostly soft. But I actually think they’d turned to starch. Like corn used to do in the old days – every day you didn’t cook them they got more firm and sometimes you could never get them tender. But the peas were definitely edible and added a different texture component to the salad. Next time I’d just use the frozen.

I had defrosted 4 thick slices of apple-smoked bacon and they were probably the star of the dish. What’s the phrase? Everything tastes better with bacon. Yup! I bought a small sourdough boule and cut it up for the bread. I sprinkled the cubes with seasoned garlic salt and sprayed them with olive oil spray and baked them for about 10 minutes in the oven until they were quite dark on the toasted side. But it was still tender enough in the middle. You don’t want to use bread that gets so hard that you feel like you’re chomping down on a jawbreaker. Better to toast the outsides of the bread and still have it slightly soft in the center.

The dressing was easy enough – it uses just a tiny bit of the bacon fat (what’s left in the pan after you cook up the bacon and pour out any puddles of grease, so there’s just a “slick” of bacon fat(. You add a shallot and later some garlic, then sherry vinegar (stand back and don’t breathe it in – you literally can’t breathe), then you pour it into a jar and whisk in the Poupon mustard and lastly olive oil. I didn’t use EVOO on this because I was convinced you couldn’t tell the difference with all the other flavors hitting your mouth sensors – like the bacon, the corn, the crunchy bread, or even the astringency of the vinegar in the dressing.

With everything ready ahead of time, I didn’t re-warm the salad dressing. Why? I didn’t think the dressing would be all that warm anyway (in the original recipe) since you added a bunch of oil to it and that would have cooled it off to about room temp. I doubt the dressing was even “warm” when poured on the salad.

Anyway, toss everything together and pour in 1/4 cup of dressing first – mostly on the bread if you can do it, then taste. Mine required another 1/4 cup, and it might have been able to handle just a little bit more, but not much. The bacon is put on top along with some fresh mint. Serve immediately! No lollygagging around – put it right on the table and dig in.

What’s GOOD: loved the salad. Be careful and don’t use too much bread – gauge your own appetite – both Donna and I left bread on the plate. I think for an average appetite you’d want to eat about 1 1/2 cups of bread per person. But if you have a husky man eating this, maybe more. Loved all the textures and the bacon was the star. I’d have liked more in it, but there was enough to flavor it all. I might have left a bit more bacon grease in the frying pan to help flavor the dressing some more, but that’s up to you. The dressing makes way more than you’ll use – if you don’t want leftovers, cut the dressing recipe in half.

What’s NOT: only that there is some prep work, but not a whole lot, really. Cut the corn off the cob at the last minute. Don’t overcook the peas. Don’t forget the mint!

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pea and Bacon Panzanella with Corn & Tomatoes

Recipe By: Adapted from a Food52 recipe, 6/2014
Serving Size: 2 (maybe 3)

3 cups white bread — cubed (stale is fine)
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
Olive oil spray
4 slices bacon — thick sliced (use double if regular bacon)
1/2 cup vinaigrette — (see recipe below)
1 cup frozen peas — rinsed in hot water to defrost
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ears corn — cut off the cob
2 medium tomatoes — chopped, including all the juices
2 cups arugula — coarsely chopped
1/2 cup mint — finely chopped
VINAIGRETTE SALAD DRESSING:
2 small shallots, peeled and diced
2 large garlic cloves, smashed or finely minced
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil (may use EVOO if deisred)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. If the bread is fresh and hard to cut, toast it for a few minutes to crisp it up. Place cubes on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt and spray with olive oil. Toast in the oven until they’re crisp all the way through, about 8-12 minutes. Taste one to know for sure. They can brown a bit but turn the heat down if they start to burn. Take bread cubes out of the oven and set them aside.
3. Chop up the bacon and cook on medium heat in a medium-sized cast iron pan. When it’s crisped up to your liking, remove bacon and place on a paper towel. Pour out all but 1 teaspoon of the bacon fat (basically leaving behind only an oil slick).
4. To make the vinaigrette, place the pan back on low heat (the pan will still be super hot). Toss in shallots. Stir for one minute, scraping up the bacon goodies. Add garlic. Stir for 30 seconds. Pour in vinegar. Turn up to medium heat and boil for 20 seconds. (Be careful and don’t breathe in the vinegar steam.)
5. Take off the heat and pour mixture into a jar that will hold up to 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Whisk in mustard. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Whisk vigorously until it emulsifies. Set aside.
6. Into a large bowl place the bread cubes and add about 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette (stir it vigorously just before measuring). Toss well. Taste it and see whether you need more dressing. If needed, add another 1/4 cup. Letting it sit for 3-5 minutes will help as the liquid soaks in. Add more vinaigrette or salt if necessary. You want the vinaigrette to permeate the bread cubes but they shouldn’t be soggy.
7. Cut the corn off the cobs and add to the salad. Add tomatoes and arugula. Toss again and add more dressing if needed. Taste for seasonings.
8. Garnish with bacon (if you cooked this ahead, put it in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds to heat through) and mint. Eat immediately.

Posted in Soups, on September 19th, 2014.

cantaloupe_gazpacho

Well, I can’t seem to stop blogging. I made this soup the other day and I just had to share it with you. It’s awesome. Trust me.

With a withering cantaloupe on my kitchen counter, I knew I couldn’t eat it all – not even half. Since I made that so-delicious watermelon gazpacho a couple of weeks ago, I was open to using the cantaloupe in a cold soup. I searched on the ‘net and found this recipe. Gazpacho is defined as a cold soup usually made with raw vegetables, but there are variations, obviously. And we mostly know of tomato-based gazpacho. Which is a lot of work unless you use canned tomato juice (which I never really liked – too salty).

I altered the epicurious recipe some from the original because of the comments left by a couple of people. I added rice wine vinegar (not the seasoned type), and used a lot less salt. The recipe calls for some red onion. I had a nice big, fat bulb-ended green onion, so I used that instead. Either would be fine, I’m sure. I used about 1/2 of a fairly big hothouse cucumber (it called for a small whole one). So, use your own judgment about the quantities. I could barely taste the cucumber (nice) and was aware there was some raw onion in it, but it was quite subtle. As you make it, start with less onion, and/or cucumber – you can always add more. Taste as you go. I didn’t feel like going out in the dark to find mint in my garden, so I served it plain. Am sure the mint would have added a nice touch. The flavor is so smooth and just plain “nice.” If I had another cantaloupe right now I’d be making another batch. Do use a RIPE melon.

Just make it, okay?

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cantaloupe Gazpacho

Recipe By: Adapted by me based on reading comments from the recipe at epicurious
Serving Size: 4

1 medium cantaloupe — (peeled, seeded, chopped) – I used a Tuscan melon
1/2 hothouse cucumber — (peeled, chopped)
2 tablespoons red onion — chopped, or 2-3 green onions (white part)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (not seasoned)
Thinly sliced fresh mint for garnish

Notes: Will serve more than 4 if serving in 2/3 cup servings.
1. Purée cantaloupe, cucumber, onion, salt until smooth. Add a tablespoon or so of water if the melon doesn’t puree well.
2. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil; season with salt. Serve gazpacho chilled, topped with thinly sliced fresh mint.
Per Serving: 215 Calories; 18g Fat (73.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 248mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on September 17th, 2014.

minted_watermelon_feta_salad

A couple of days ago I decided I needed to do some administrative housekeeping for the blog. There were a lots of photos from the last couple of months. Some I’d meant to update on the blog – photos from a long time ago (pictures that were barely worthy of posting). I keep all the photos (the ones you see and the ones that I start with, the mega-pixel ones that I crop and adjust to fit within this blog width, etc.) but every few months I transfer them off to CDs.

Anyway, I’d taken a photo of this salad and was going to update it here on the blog and realized that technically speaking I’d never actually posted the RECIPE. I’d included a link to a Martha Stewart page, which I discovered isn’t even THERE anymore. So, obviously I needed to give you this post because this salad is one of my Favs. It’s so incredibly easy. It’s seriously delish and off the charts when watermelon is in season. My DH adored this salad – it has the sweet (watermelon) and the savory (feta cheese) and the hint of mint. Do use fresh mint. I mentioned it last week when I told you about what I’ve eaten lately. I don’t even use a recipe – you can adjust it to  your tastes – it’s just watermelon, feta crumbled up and some mint. That’s IT.

So, how am I? The last week has been pretty good. I’ve been very, very busy, and as a widow, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t leave me much time to mope around. I’m definitely still grieving, and by saying that it doesn’t mean that I don’t still have plenty of time to consider my new single-ness, my widowhood. I think about that every day. I’m writing this on Monday. Yesterday (Sunday) I was invited to my/our son’s home (actually his sister-in-law’s) for dinner. I had a lovely evening with them and a delicious dinner of Pasta Bolognese. And when I got in the car to drive home, well, it was dark, of course, and I just remembered all the times Dave and I had driven home from their home. It made me cry. Sometimes the car is where I cry. There was no one to hear me. I wasn’t crying so hard I couldn’t drive, but I just re-lived good memories, but they still, at this point in my healing, make me sad. I wanted Dave to be beside me in the car.

I’d taken a bottle of Chianti for the dinner. Before I went, I’d gone down into the wine cellar and looked over the choices in the Italian section. There weren’t a lot, actually, but one was a gift and I knew Darci, who had given it to us in 2006, wouldn’t have chosen a blah or cheap wine. It was wonderful. Dave had written notes on the back label – the fact that it was a gift from Darci in 2006. I enjoyed it and had some with dinner. I wished Dave had been there at the table. He’d have been all-over that wine, talking about it. It had no harsh edges at all. It was 11 years old, which is probably OLD for a Chianti. In the car, he and I would have been talking about the dinner, about the antics of our grandson, Vaughan, and his cousin Sebastian, about Julian’s Bolognese and Janice’s fabulous beet salad that often graces their dinner table. The two boys have just started school, so there was some discussion about that. Vaughan has just lost two teeth (his first) and was visited by the international tooth fairy. He’s received Bermuda dollars and Israeli shekels. He feels quite special that he’s being visited by an international tooth fairy. Dave and I would have chuckled over that part. I’ve promised Karen I’ll dig around in my travel drawer and find the big envelope of international money I have so she can be prepared when he loses his next tooth. I know I have some Egyptian money, some Turkish too.

So, I cried. And felt sorry for myself. Which is altogether normal. But I just tried to change the subject in my head. Thinking about this week. About the things I need to do today. I’m having cataract surgery this week, and again a month from now on the other eye. My friend Cherrie has broken a bone in her foot. She was going to take care of me, maybe with me even staying at their house overnight, but she can barely get around, so my friend Joan is taking me. These days cataract surgery is so easy – a few hours after the surgery (back at home) I will remove the patch (to use special drops) and at that point I can leave the patch off, except at night (so I don’t accidentally nudge my eye somehow). I’m participating in a clinical trial for eye drops that are supposed to enhance healing. I’m using these drops every day, twice a day. Then I have 3 other drops that must be used 4x a day. I may be receiving the placebo – I’ll never know. But for the participation, I get $800. I have to make 4 extra visits to the eye clinic to do this. But hey, that’s many really nice dinners out. And once I’m done with both surgeries, I may be able to not wear glasses the rest of my life! Since I’ve worn them since I was about 18, that’s pretty darned special. I may have to wear readers.

My weekend was spent at our church nearly the entire time at a choir retreat. It was grueling. I don’t know exactly how many hours we rehearsed music – probably about 11 hours, I think. My voice is still raspy today. It started Friday night at 5:30 and ended on Sunday at 1:30. Food was provided for Friday dinner, 2 lunches, plus snacks. I’m just glad it’s over with!

So, back to this salad. Do make it. Do use really tasty, ripe watermelon. If you open the watermelon and it’s somewhat blah, don’t bother – this salad won’t be all that good. The recipe is already listed on my Favs list, but I’ll now update the link so it actually comes to THIS post. And I’m giving you the MasterCook files and a pdf.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Minted Watermelon and Feta Salad

Recipe By: Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Living, 7/08
Serving Size: 4

2 1/2 pounds red watermelon — seedless
2 ounces Feta cheese — crumbled
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
3 tablespoons fresh mint — sliced

1. Using a sharp knife, cut off rinds from watermelons. (You should have a total of 2 pounds peeled fruit.) Quarter each melon, and then cut into 3-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick slices. (Or cut into any shapes you’d prefer.) Arrange slices on a serving platter.
2. Crumble the feta over watermelon. Sprinkle with salt and mint, and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 39 Calories; 3g Fat (69.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 426mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Lamb, on September 12th, 2014.

mini_greek_style_meat_loaves

Dinner needed in a hurry? This is a great make-ahead meal that requires very little time in the oven. The salad with cucumber provides some vegetables and the Greek tzasiki-type sauce on the meat just makes it perfect.

A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend with daughter Sara and her family. And Sara wanted to spend part of Sunday doing some make-ahead meals for her family. Both of the kids are in sports, so weeknight mealtimes have to be jammed into what little time Sara can carve out of the late afternoon or evening. Sabrina drives herself mostly, but John the younger sibling is just 13, so he must be delivered and picked up and often John Sr. stays and watches his practices. Anyway, this is one of the meals we put together and Sara was kind enough to give me a portion so I could make it meat_loaves_ramekinsonce I got home. I baked mine in 2 ramekins (just easier for my single portion).

The recipe came from Cooking Light. Since making this Sara and I both agreed on a couple of things: (1) we would switch the amount of lamb and beef – we both wanted a more lamb flavor; (2) the baking time was not enough. So the recipe below has been changed. We also used full fat yogurt, but you don’t have to. We also thought that if the meat loaf was just slightly bigger, we could have eaten just one, so if I did this again, I’d do just that – I’d mound the meat loaves in the muffin tin or ramekin. You’d need to up the baking time if you did that. Lamb is rich, so halving the 2-meat loaf portion would cut down the calories significantly. The original recipe called for 10 ounces of beef and 5 ounces of lamb. That’s been switched, just so you know.

The other problem I had was that the meat loaf wasn’t really done well enough at 7 minutes baking and 3 minutes broiling. I did another 3 minutes of broil, and still the meat was really rare when I ate it (note blood-rare juice coming out of the left meat loaf in the photo). So I’ve upped the baking time to 9 minutes and 3+ minutes broiling. Do check the internal temp if you can – it should be about 160-165°F. The other things could be that pressing the meat into the muffin tin allows contact on the sides with the meat – maybe done that way it cooks in the shorter time. Just use a meat thermometer and gauge accordingly. In ramekins they didn’t quite touch the sides, so that may be why they weren’t quite so “done.”

The sauce was easy enough to make – it’s the standard kinds of ingredients for tzasiki sauce and was made ahead. On the recipe below I’ve also included instructions for freezing the meat – make them into mounds that will fit in a muffin tin or ramekin, place on a parchment or plastic wrap lined baking sheet and freeze, then package them for longer freezer storage.

If you added vegetables to the salad (it already has cucumber in it, but you could add bell pepper, for instance) you’d have a complete meal with the meat loaves, sauce and the salad.

What’s GOOD: these were tasty. Not necessarily off the charts, but not every meal can be that way, anyway. I would like them better next time with more lamb, hence the change in the recipe below. They were certainly easy to make and very quick for a weeknight dinner – providing the meat loaves were defrosted. The sauce is really good – don’t skimp on that part as I think it makes the dish.
What’s NOT: nothing, really. Altogether a good dish and easy.

printer-friendly CutePDF
Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mini Greek-Style Meat Loaves with Arugula Salad

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Cooking Light, May 2013
Serving Size: 4

5 ounces ground sirloin
10 ounces ground lamb
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup red onion — grated or VERY finely minced
4 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/8 teaspoon salt — divided
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves — minced
1 large egg — lightly beaten Cooking spray
YOGURT-FETA SAUCE:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or use nonfat if preferred
2 ounces feta cheese — crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice — divided
SALAD & DRESSING:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups arugula leaves — [or combo with spinach]
3/4 cup cucumber — (1/4-inch-thick) diagonally sliced, seeded, peeled

NOTES: If you want to make these ahead to freeze, form into shapes that will fit into a muffin tin or ramekins, place on a plastic-wrap lined baking sheet & freeze solid. Then package and seal for longer-term storage. Sauce cannot be frozen. Each serving is 2 of these patties.
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. MEAT: Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon mint, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, allspice, and next 3 ingredients (through egg). Press meat mixture into 8 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. (if you have more empty muffin cups, fill that half full with water during the baking.) Bake at 450° for 8-9 minutes. Turn broiler to high; broil 3 minutes. If top isn’t starting to brown, continue on broil for another minute. If using an instant-read thermometer, bake until the center of the meat loaf is about 160°-165°F which will still be just past pink in the middle. Cook longer if you prefer it more well done.
3. SAUCE: Combine yogurt, feta, 1 tablespoon juice, 1 teaspoon mint, and 1 teaspoon thyme in a mini food processor; pulse 10 times to combine.
4. SALAD: Combine 1 tablespoon juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a bowl; stir. Add arugula and cucumber; toss.
Per Serving: 463 Calories; 34g Fat (66.4% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 147mg Cholesterol; 534mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on September 9th, 2014.

When I mentioned last week that I’ve been fixing some of my old, tried and true recipes, I thought I’d just tell you what those have been. I haven’t made all these in the last week, but over the last 2-3 months, really. There’s one new recipe near the bottom. I’m not writing up a post about it – it was really good, King Arthur’s Classic Peach Cobbler. I liked it.

Thank you, to all of you who have left comments or sent me email notes. Your very kind compliments warm my heart and lift my grieving spirits. Today, as I write this, I’m feeling pretty well. On that grief-scale of 1-10, I’m at about 5 1/2, I guess. Maybe a 6. I had a bad patch a week or so ago and sunk down into the abyss, but after several days I crawled back up into normal-ness again. I functioned – I went to things, kept appointments, but in between I was wretched. Crying for no particular reason. And it lasted for days. I cooked because I had to, and made things to take to gatherings because I’d promised I would. This grief thing is so very unpredictable. Someone told me the other night that grief experts say the 2nd year is the worst. Oh my, I can’t imagine it being worse. Heaven help me if that’s true!

I’m busy, which is a very good thing. I need to be busy. I actually sat outside on the patio last night and ate dinner. I turned up my Sonos speakers in the house, tuned into the Pandora channel I created with classical music, mostly by John Rutter. Lots of choral music comes up on the channel that keeps evolving when I tell Pandora I like a particular piece of music.

Here in Southern California we’ve had very hot weather this summer – so hot that 13 out of every 14 nights when I’m ready to eat dinner it’s still in the 80s outside with very high humidity, and that’s too hot for me. I had left overs from the dinner I did the other night when I invited 9 women friends over, most of them widows. We had a very nice time that night. I started the dinner right at sunset and God granted a lovely one that night. My new outdoor patio and kitchen looked lovely bathed in the soft light and candles, along with some regular lights too. I’ll post photos of the kitchen one of these days. I promised I’d do that and I need to honor my promises, right?

Minted Watermelon and Feta Salad – so refreshing, while watermelon is still in season.

Watermelon Gazpacho – I just posted this last week, but I’ve made another batch of it. Love this stuff.

White Sangria with Tuacaso refreshing! It’s great for a warm summer evening. I served this at the dinner.

Creamy Garlic Blue Cheese Dressing – my old standby salad dressing that I go back to over and over and over again.

Garlic VIP Dressing – my other go-to salad dressing. I made this for the dinner the other night and served it over mixed greens (sturdy type) with cauliflower bits, Feta and toasted almonds.

Marinated Tomatoes – when tomatoes are in season, this is a favorite. Looks pretty too.

Meyer Lemon Grains Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheese – such a great salad to take to a potluck lunch or dinner.

Pasta a la Puttanesca – this was my main dish for my guests for the dinner the other night. I served the pasta hot with the Puttanesca sauce, room temp, on top.

French Hamburgers – Julia Child’s recipe. Such good comfort food.

Syrian Pita Bread Salad – I took this to a potluck on Labor Day. It’s a favorite of mine (thank you, Joanne, again, for that wonderful recipe!).

Garlic Green Beans – these are a regular now. I can’t tell you how many of my family and good friends now claim it as their own too. SO easy.

Purple Plum Torte – this was the one from the New York Times.

Dario’s Olive Oil Cake – a real favorite with 1 1/2 whole oranges in it and made solely with good EVOO, pine nuts and rosemary.

King Arthur’s Classic Peach Cobbler – I made little tiny cobbler biscuits for the topping because I knew the women would take small portions, so everyone got a little bitty sugar-topped biscuit.

Chocolate Syrup – I make it in a double batch so it’s always on my refrigerator shelf. Ice cream is so comfort food for me when I crave a little bit of sweet, I top it with this syrup and a few chopped nuts.

See, I told you my old recipes are what I’m cooking lately. I’m still augmenting my diet with ready-made food, something I generally (in the past) just didn’t do. I had Trader Joe’s frozen Chicken Tikka Masala the other night and it was delicious. The link is to my recipe, which is wonderful, but since I didn’t feel like cooking, heating up TJ’s tray was great. I’ll be back in a few days with pictures of my kitchen and patio. Tonight I’m having my DH’s and my bible study group here at my house – that’s why I baked 2 desserts the other night – knowing I’d have left overs. So I don’t have to make or bake anything today. I have peach cobbler and the orange olive oil cake to serve.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on September 8th, 2014.

grilled_shrimp_polenta_cakes_corn_salsa

Don’t be confused that this is shrimp and grits. It has similarities, but it isn’t. The polenta is made ahead and cut into squares (the big shrimp at the top center is sitting on a square polenta cake), but this is a very soft cake with corn in it. Then you make this great corn and green chile salsa to go with it, and with the grilled shrimp. Delish.

Another winner of a recipe from my recent Phillis Carey class that was all about corn. There is a bit of prep to this recipe – you do have to make the polenta ahead of time – an hour or so. It’s a soft, creamy polenta that’s poured into a flat pan and allowed to set. Sort of. It’s still soft, so when it comes time to grill the polenta squares,  you must be very gentle – use a nice thin spatula to pick up the squares then gently place them in a big skillet, or on a flat grill. Then there’s the corn and green chile salsa. Not hard to make, but you do want to grill the pasilla (poblano) pepper and chop it up. You do want to grill the corn, just barely, and mince up the red onion. The shrimp does get marinated briefly in a lime-juice mixture and grilled. So you do have to do some work with each of the three elements. But much of it can be done ahead. If you have someone to do the grilling (the corn first, early, then the shrimp at the last minute) that helps, while you gently brown the polenta cakes just before plating everything.

poblano_peppersPoblano chiles have a unique flavor. It’s a deep, earthy flavor that I love. As I’m writing this I just had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and I ordered their stuffed poblano chile. Delicious. If you’re not used to buying them, it’s so worth it for this dish. Photo at right came from www.specialtyproduce.com

What’s GOOD: the combo of the corn salsa (and particularly the roasted poblano chile in it), polenta cake and the shrimp – a little bit of each in every bite. Well, just delicious. I think the lime juice contributes a lot to the flavor. It would make a beautiful company dinner – might be a bit much for a weeknight dinner unless you feel like doing a bit more work than usual. It’s all worth it, though. A great dish.

What’s NOT: only thing I can think of is the time it takes to make it all, but that’s it. Flavors are wonderful.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Shrimp and Polenta Cakes with Grilled Corn and Green Chile Salsa

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 8/2014
Serving Size: 4

SHRIMP:
12 extra large shrimp — cleaned, tails on
1/4 cup grapeseed oil — or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cilantro — chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
POLENTA CAKES WITH CORN:
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or vegetable oil, plus a bit more for cooking the cakes
1 cup onion — finely diced
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup yellow cornmeal — or polenta Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 ears of corn — perfectly grilled (with grill marks) kernels removed
RELISH:
6 ears of corn — perfectly grilled (with grill marks) kernels removed
2 whole poblano peppers — roasted, peeled, seeded, diced
1 small red onion — finely diced
2 whole limes — juiced
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup grapeseed oil — or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cilantro — finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. SHRIMP: Place shrimp in a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes (MAXIMUM). Remove from marinade and thread shrimp on banboo skewers which have been soaked in water for 30 minutes. Grill shrimp 3-4 minutes per side. Remove shrimp from skewers and keep warm.
2. POLENTA CAKES: (Do this several hours ahead if possible.) Oil the bottom and sides of a 9×11 inch baking pan (if you have a nonstick pan, use it)
and set aside. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the wine and cook until completely reduced.
3. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, stirring so it doesn’t clump and cook until it begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium, switch to a spatula or wooden spoon and continue cooking, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and soft, about 8 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, stir in some water, but it should be a pourable consistency.
4. Stir in the grilled corn kernels and pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly (it will be thin). Cool to room temp, then cover and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. May be made a day ahead. Cut the polenta cakes into 4-inch squares.
5. RELISH: Combine the grilled corn, diced chiles, onion, lime juice, honey, oil and cilantro in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let the relish sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes before serving. It can be made up to 8 hours ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temp before serving.
6. FINAL PREP: To cook the polenta cakes, heat a stove-top grill or griddle over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Brush the cakes on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the cakes until golden brown (still on medium heat) until they just barely get golden brown and very slightly charred on each side, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove to hot serving plates and top each cake with shrimp and some of the relish.
OPTIONS: Add some grated cheddar cheese to the polenta cakes, or Cotija cheese. You may also make the polenta soft, keeping it pourable as you make it and pour some onto each plate then add the shrimp and relish.
Per Serving: 747 Calories; 40g Fat (44.2% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 87g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 32mg Cholesterol; 109mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on September 4th, 2014.

watermelon_gazpacho_feta_crema

All the superlatives I could possibly use – they all apply here. Fantastic, delicious, yummy, amazing, off the charts. The kinds of words that people who advise bloggers to NOT use because they’re over-used . . . well, I’m using them anyway. The other thing I say is: MAKE THIS NOW!

The recipe came from this month’s issue of Bon Appetit. It intrigued me immediately because: (1) I love gazpacho; (2) it uses mostly watermelon (which is a whole lot cheaper than buying several pounds of ripe/heirloom tomatoes); (3) it’s definitely different. Here on my blog there’s another fruit-based cold soup – strawberry gazpacho. But gosh, buying a bunch of strawberries just to make cold soup is also an expensive proposition. But watermelon – hey – it’s relatively inexpensive.

I bought a small seedless watermelon and surprisingly, you don’t use all that much – I didn’t even use half of it to make the full recipe. There are a few tomatoes in this brew, but they don’t predominate – it calls for one large beefsteak. I didn’t have that – I had 2-3 smaller ones and a handful of yellow grape tomatoes. All were ripe and had good flavor – that’s all that matters. The soup mixture goes into a blender – the watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, jalapeno (use a small one or half if you’re at all sensitive to heat), sherry vinegar and salt (I didn’t add any). That gets whizzed up until it’s a smooth puree. Easy. Chill.

Then you make the garnishes – some chopped up watermelon and cucumbers. The first time I had this I did as the recipe indicated – chunks of both. The 2nd time I cut the garnish into very tiny little chunks (see photo). I think they were easier to eat that way. I also added those things on TOP, so you could see them. The crema stuff is nothing but crumbled Feta (I use Trader Joe’s sheep’s milk one in the blue & white box), some yogurt (or sour cream) and some milk to thin it out so it’s just about pourable. That’s IT. You can make everything ahead – a day ahead even.

I’m going to have to make this again before the summer is gone – it’s just that good. It’s NOT all that sweet – you’d think it would be, but it’s not. Trust me on that part.

What’s GOOD: everything about it is good, plus you can make it the day ahead. The watermelon has a subtle flavor – you don’t really realize it’s watermelon – you might think it’s all tomatoes. The Feta Crema was particularly good – you stir it around in the soup eventually. Altogether wonderful. Do note that it’s 161 calories per serving!

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Crema

Recipe By: Bon Appetit, 8/2014
Serving Size: 6

1 pound watermelon — seedless, rind removed, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 large beefsteak tomato — coarsely chopped
1 whole hothouse cucumber — peeled, coarsely chopped
1 whole jalapeño — seeds removed, sliced (small)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar — or red wine vinegar
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup almonds — sliced
2 ounces feta cheese — preferably French sheep’s milk, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or sour cream
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 cups watermelon — seedless, finely minced
1 cup hothouse cucumber — peeled and finely minced
Olive oil (for serving)
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Purée watermelon, tomato, cucumber, jalapeño, oil, and vinegar in a blender until smooth. [If you're sensitive to chiles, use a very small or half of a jalapeno.]
2. Transfer gazpacho to a large bowl; season with kosher salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.
3. DO AHEAD: Gazpacho can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
4. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 7–9 minutes. (Alternatively, you can do this step in a dry small skillet over medium heat.) Let almonds cool, then coarsely chop.
5. Mash feta into yogurt or sour cream in a small bowl until mostly smooth, then whisk in milk.
6. Divide watermelon and cucumber among bowls and pour gazpacho over. Top with crema and almonds, drizzle with oil, and season with sea salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Crema can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. When I served this, it made about 9 small servings. I forgot to add the olive oil (it wasn’t missed).
Per Serving: 161 Calories; 11g Fat (59.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 118mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on September 2nd, 2014.

It won’t come as any surprise to most of you – my regular readers – that the last 5+ months have been very hard for me. Losing my husband has been and still is just devastating. We had a wonderful, loving partnership and marriage for over 31 years. The first 3 months after his death are kind of a blur. There was SO much to do. So much paperwork I needed to prepare for the trust attorney (and still is ongoing each month until the estate files a final tax return early next year). For a long time I had trouble concentrating on anything, and until my doctor gave me a prescription, I was hardly sleeping, which left me struggling each day, when I’d had but 4-5 hours of sleep the night before. That’s improved with meds, but I can’t take those forever. I’ve tried to not take them and I just wake up 6-8 times a night and in the morning I’m not rested and not altogether here. I miss my husband so very much. He was my partner, my best friend, my helpmate in everything. We shared so much together. The silence in my (our) house was deafening at first. That part is better now, thankfully.

Cooking was the last thing on my mind in those first few months, and to tell you the honest truth, it still isn’t very important in my daily grand scheme. When Dave was alive, I cooked for him. He was – as I tell people – my greatest fan. He was my fan club at the dinner table. He loved whatever I prepared. He selected wine to go with the dinner and occasionally I’d have some. About 10 years or so ago I kind of suddenly lost my appetite for wine. I still drink it very occasionally – and usually only if it’s a good bottle and it’s red. I’ve never had more than a glass of wine, hardly. Maybe a glass of champagne and then a very small glass of red with dinner. That was/is a lot for me. I have a huge wine cellar full of wine – probably 400-500 bottles. I can’t sell it because it’s health has been compromised twice in recent months when the A/C quit and the temperature in the cellar hovered at about 76-80° for days and days waiting to be repaired. That can be a death knell for wine. Several bottles I’ve opened, or guests have opened, have been bad and we’ve had to pour them out.

I’ve still done some cooking here and there. Not every day. I meet friends for lunch frequently, and often I have left overs to take home. Some nights I simply have no will to cook. I’ll make myself a scrambled egg, or I’ve even eaten cold cereal, though that was only once. I’ve cooked when I’ve had houseguests, but my heart isn’t in it. What I crave is comfort food or my old favorites, recipes I’ve posted here before. Or I go to a local Mexican place to have a taco. Or I pick up something at Trader Joe’s or Costco and eat on it all week. I still enjoy eating. I just don’t enjoy making it.

The house has required a lot of care – numerous projects have needed doing. I now have a regular electrician who identified a couple of very dangerous issues with the wiring for the big pool and the jacuzzi. About $2,000 each to replace and get them working safely. I now have a handyman who is working on a long laundry list of things for me, and I’ll be having him come now and then to help with other things. The junk in the garage is daunting. It’s not stuffed full by any means – there is room for 3 cars – but the built-in cupboards are full of things I know little about – tools, equipment from or for the boat, and boxes and bags of bolts, screws, pieces of plastic pipe, wires, etc. All things that need going through and disposing of, or giving away. My cousin Gary is going to help me with that, I think.

I haven’t even been able to face doing anything with Dave’s clothes. Sometimes I still go in there, to his walk-in closet, hunting for his scent, but I can’t find it. I have no will to sort and go through it. Not yet anyway. Our/his sailboat has not sold, and it sits at our yacht club, costing me about $500/month just to float at the dock. So far it hasn’t needed repairs, but then it’s not being used.

My outdoor kitchen is done, and I do hope I’ll have ongoing interest in entertaining. Right now it’s almost overwhelming thinking about it – to invite people over and to prepare a big meal without Dave’s help with planning, doing the grocery shopping (remember? he loved to buy all the food), getting the patio all slicked up and with him at the kitchen sink washing all the piles of dirty dishes I make when I cook, drying them and putting them all away. I owe dinners, or thank-you’s, to many couples who have invited me to dinner at their home, or done something special for me. I’ve written over 200 thank you notes – oh my – was that ever a big job. I just finished that a few days ago. Somebody told me there is a 6-month window to do the thank-you notes. I got it done under the wire.

All this to say that in a few weeks I think I’m going to stop blogging. It’s been 7 years. It’s just too big of a burden for me now. The blog will still be here for awhile – how long, I don’t know. And maybe once in awhile if I cook and make something really wonderful, I will put up a post about it. Maybe I’ll tell you about a movie or a book. I just need a rest. And maybe a permanent rest from blogging. The writing of my posts is fun – that’s what I enjoy the most. It’s therapeutic for me, I think. But for now, cooking isn’t, and that’s what this blog is all about.

The other thing is that my readership has gone down. WAY down. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve written more posts about my grieving, although I’ve really done very few. Google’s search engine doesn’t work the way it used to, either. So when someone searches for something – a recipe – my blog doesn’t come up hardly at all. I have about 400-500 readers. And that’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not very good in blogging circles. I’ve appreciated all of you – especially those of you who write me notes or post comments. You’re my blog fans. Thank you for being there. Thank you for giving me words of encouragement which I’ve desperately needed, especially in these last difficult 5 months.

My life is really about the same as far as my activities – I do meet friends for lunch frequently. I’m still in 3 book clubs. I’m in a women’s bible study group that meets weekly and takes several hours of homework each week. I’m continuing the bible study group Dave and I started in 2013 as we read through the entire bible in a year. Our small group is going to begin meeting again in about a week. I’m also going to return to singing in our church choir. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a big choir (about 120 voices at the moment) and our choral director has a PhD in choral directing. She’s extremely good at what she does, but being in the choir at our church is a big responsibility – a promise to her of our attendance and attention – and rarely does she select easy music to sing. Each week we have several hours of rehearsal and singing in two services on Sundays. Then there are weekend retreats (one coming up very soon) to get a jump start on singing in the fall months. A couple times a year we have an all-day workday, it’s called. And twice a year there’s a big choir performance of one or several pieces of classical music. C-o-m-m-i-t-m-e-n-t.

Being busy is good for me. I need to keep busy or I fall into a deep emotional valley. It’s a sad place and not easy to climb out of, I’ve found. I trust in God, though, and my continuing prayer, when I’m having a tough day is “lift me up, Lord.” Usually he answers. I’m so grateful for my Christian friends, local and far away. They’ve buoyed my spirits when they flag.

Who knows, maybe in another 6 months I will decide I want to blog again. I don’t know. I just feel that I don’t want to blog right now. I need a rest from it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my writing, and mostly my recipes. If you have recipes you want to download, start thinking about doing it. I’m sure I’ll leave the blog up and available for another year. It does cost money to keep a blog running like mine – under $200 a year, approximately.

If you want to email me privately, it’s ctndt (at) cox.net

Carolyn

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on August 31st, 2014.

cajun_rubbed_steak_maque_choux

You know what “maque choux” is?  Kinda sounds like a sneeze, but no, that’s a French phrase that’s actually Cajun and Native American. Pronounced it’s “mackeh-choo,” sort of. Corn isn’t part of either word. Wikipedia doesn’t exactly define the French words, so I had to go look it up just cuz I’m curious. More literally translated it means “messy pairing,” but in common parlance it’s that corn mixture above. In the American South “everybody” knows what macque-choux means. Phillis Carey made hers with bacon and some heavy cream. I don’t know that those things are traditional. But hey, it absolutely works here and it’s SO good.

In the cooking class, Phillis prepared this with top sirloin steak. Not my most favorite cut. She mentioned that you could use ribeye or even flank steak (I’d marinate the flank a bit in something to tenderize it first – not anything very highly seasoned – then still use the Cajun rub on it too). But with a tender ribeye – oh yes, that’s what I’d use. If you decide to use top sirloin, do cut the slices thinly.

You can barely see that there’s a tiny bit of cream in the corn relish. Mostly I think the cream got boiled down, or maybe my serving just didn’t get all that much. But in any case, the maque-choux is just the best part of this dish. It’s made with fresh corn (if at all possible), bacon, onion, garlic, red bells, green onions and cream. Quite simple. And you can make it the day before if that helps you with timing.

The steaks must be at least 1 1/4 inches thick. That’s imperative for making this dish work. The rub on the steak was also really easy. Below is a recipe for making it, but you can also just buy it. I think Paul Prudhomme makes one, but Phillis recommended the one by Spice Hunter if you can find it at your local store. If you make up a small batch from the recipe, make double, but just use it within a month or two as it doesn’t keep all that long. Be sure to blot the steak well with paper towels before you start. Phillis talked to us about seasoning the steak – usually I would oil the meat then sprinkle on the seasonings. She said no, that’s the wrong way to do it – pat the spices on first, THEN gently spread on the oil. She says the seasonings stick better that way. Who knew?

The steaks are grilled – use whatever method you prefer – allowed to rest for 5 minutes then served with the macque-choux spooned over the center or at one end (i.e., don’t cover the steak with the corn). Phillis also said this dish is just fabulous served ON a bed of mashed potatoes. Hmmm. That sounds really good and I may do it that way next time.

What’s GOOD: the relish is the best part. Get fresh corn if possible, but frozen will work. The corn relish elevates this dish to something very special. The Cajun rub was also very good – I’d use that again on chicken perhaps.
What’s NOT: nothing at all – it’s a fabulous dish.

printer-friendly CutePDF
Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cajun-Rubbed Steak with Maque-Choux and Bacon

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 8/2014
Serving Size: 5

MAQUE-CHOUX (Corn):
4 ounces applewood smoked bacon — finely diced
1 1/2 cups white corn — or yellow, freshly cut from about 2 ears
1/4 cup onions — chopped
1 tablespoon shallots — minced
1 tablespoon garlic — minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup red bell peppers — diced
1/4 cup green onions — chopped
STEAKS:
2 pounds steak — preferably ribeye, may also use top sirloin (cut 1 1/4″ thick at minimum), or flank steak
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or canola
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning — see recipe below, or buy Spice Hunter’s
Flaky salt to taste
2 tablespoons green onions — chopped (garnish)
2 tablespoons red bell peppers — chopped (garnish)
CAJUN/CREOLE SPICE MIX:
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder (not granulated)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoons black pepper

Notes: Phillis made this with top sirloin and served thin slices (1/4 inch) but I’d recommend using a ribeye instead. Do not make this with filet mignon.
1. MACQUE CHOUX: Cook bacon in medium skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Add corn to the skillet and saute for one minute. Add onions and continue cooking for one more minute. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper; cook one minute. Stir in the cream, red peppers and green onions and simmer until the mixture is heated through. (Sauce can be made ahead, even a full day – just reheat before serving.)
2. STEAKS: Preheat grill. Sprinkle each steak with the Cajun spice, season with salt and brush or dab on the oil. (Yes, season first, then dab on the oil.) Grill steak 4-7 minutes per side for medium-rare to medium. Let steaks rest 5 minutes, tented with foil. Cut steaks across the grain into 1/2-inch slices and set on a HEATED serving plate. Spoon the corn mixture over the steak slices (down the center or at one end); do not cover the steaks with the corn. Garnish with onions and red bell peppers. Can be served plain or on a bed or mashed potatoes.
Per Serving: 805 Calories; 67g Fat (74.3% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 186mg Cholesterol; 719mg Sodium.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...