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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING:

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping. This book is about a young man, a young father also, who loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good guy friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). As a parting request, his wife asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. It became a monument, of sorts, a lovely garden too, and people became friends, heard their stories of the tsunami and watched as they approached the phone booth, entered, and began to talk solemnly to their loved ones. This book is just amazing. I found myself tearing up several times. Maybe not for everyone, but I can’t imagine anyone not appreciating the poignancy of this special phone booth. And what it did to heal people through grief. I sure could identify.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move. It begins when Grace visits Monaco for the Cannes Film Festival, and a few days later she meets Prince Rainier. Young Sophie becomes Grace’s friend, and actually, so does the relentless photographer. I can remember when Grace Kelly married the Prince – the fairy tale come true. It was quite the big news (I was in my late teens then). Definitely this story is a romance, but not the sappy type you may be used to. Loved the book.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

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 Desserts, easy, on August 2nd, 2021.

What is more beautiful than summer fruit topping a cake?

A post from Carolyn. This recipe has been hanging around in my to-try file for awhile. It came from Beth Hensperger from her book: Best Quick Breads: 150 Recipes for Muffins, Scones, Shortcakes, Gingerbreads, Cornbreads, Coffeecakes, and More, I don’t own the book and can’t find a reference online to this recipe, but it’s a keeper. I think I must have borrowed the book from the library and entered it into my MasterCook program. Her recipe only contained peaches. I had nectarines, and I also had about a cup of blueberries that were on the over-ripe side, so decided to add those in also. The other change I made was to substitute 3/4 cup of artificial sugar (I use So Nourished brand Erythritol Sweetener Granular – 1:1 Sugar Substitute, Keto – 0 Calorie, 0 Net Carb, Non-GMO). And then I rounded out the quantity with 1/4 cup of real sugar. Otherwise, I used her recipe. You know, of course, that baking is all about chemistry. You don’t want to adjust measurements of dry ingredients or wet ingredients, or you’ll throw off the chemistry of it all. I used less nectarines (or you can use peaches) but then added in the cup of blueberries, so it all works out.

Beth’s recipe had you halve the peaches (after peeling and removing the pit) and simply lay them on the top of the batter. I cut the nectarines into wedges instead (peel on) and sprinkled the blueberries all over the top too (first). Some of the batter baked up beside the fruit. Makes for a very pretty dessert. There at right is the photo of the raw batter with the fruit on top. I didn’t mind the peel on the fruit (isn’t it good for us?) and I thought it looked more beautiful that way. I love the color contrast of the blueberries nestled in amongst the nectarine slices.

See, I couldn’t decide which photo was better – the cake whole at the top, of this photo below of the slice of torte.

The dry ingredients include almond flour – her cookbook was published before the recent craze for all things non-wheat flour, so instead of grinding up raw almonds, I simply used almond flour from my big bag of Costco’s blanched almond flour that I keep in my freezer. There’s nothing low calorie about this cake – it has a cup of butter in it and 4 eggs as well. I served 3 pieces the evening I made this. The recipe said it’s best eaten the day it’s made, but I can say that the next day (left out at room temp, covered) it seemed fine. But for me, baked goods don’t like hanging around very long before they begin to stale, hence I froze the remains. I served the cake with some vanilla ice cream.

What’s GOOD: everything about this cake was good – very tender, tasty. Loved the almond flavoring and with peaches or nectarines in season, so delicious. It probably could be frozen whole – but the top of the batter is kind of wet (from the juice of the fruit). If you do freeze, reheat it briefly. Freeze what you haven’t eaten after 2 days.

What’s NOT: nothing at all, really. Pretty easy cake/torte to make. I’d definitely make it again.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peach or Nectarine Almond Torte with Blueberries

Recipe By: adapted from Beth Hensperger, The Best Quick Breads
Serving Size: 8-10

3 large peaches — about 1 pound OR use a 29-ounce can of peaches, drained, patted dry
1 cup blueberries — fresh
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter — room temp
1 cup sugar — (or substitute artificial sugar or part or all)
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. If using fresh peaches, fill a deep, medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add peaches and blanch them for 10-15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool under running water. Place on a cutting board, slip off the skins, cut peaches in half and pit them. Drain on paper towels. If peaches are very tart, sprinkle them with some sugar and set aside at room temp. If using nectarines, peeling is not necessary.
2. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan and set aside. Combine flour, almond flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
3. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add almond extract. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat well until fluffy, smooth and quite thick batter is formed. There should be no lumps or dry spots. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Cover surface evenly with blueberries, then add nectarine slices in a spoke pattern or place peach halves over the batter, with flat sides down.
4. Bake in center of oven until cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, the center springs back when gently touched, and a cake tester inserting into the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Let the cake stand for 10 minutes before removing the springform ring. Serve warm or at room temp, cut into wedges. This cake is best eaten the day it is made. It will keep for a day, covered, at room temp. After that, freeze. When defrosted, warm cake in a 200°F oven for about 10-12 minutes.
Per Serving (based on 8 servings): 547 Calories; 34g Fat (53.9% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 154mg Cholesterol; 108mg Sodium; 32g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 138mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 306mg Potassium; 257mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on July 28th, 2021.



More road trip from Carolyn. Whenever I dig out my suitcases, my kitty, Angel, is ever so curious. He’s blind, but hey, it doesn’t bother him one bit, he’s just as inclined to jump into boxes. He was all over this suitcase, pawing the corners, for bugs? Who knows what cats think sometimes.


These photos aren’t in any particular order, so I’ll just give you a little bit of commentary. I love big flower arrangements outside, this one at Big Sky, at the golf course restaurant.


Big Sky, Montana, is surrounded by mountains, these were on the east side.


Other than the scenery in Big Sky, on one of my days returning to California I drove from Klamath Falls to the north east side of Mt. Shasta. This was a view as I was driving. It was a gorgeous day, bright blue sky, and no fires or smoke anywhere to be seen there.


This was actually on my first day out, driving up the “old” 395 highway with a view of the Sierra Nevada. It was crystal-clear that day (and beastly hot too) but the views were beautiful.


At Big Sky, the small private lake there serves lunch from a food truck, with a small set of tables set amidst the sand. This beautiful group of flowers graced one side of that area.


At Powell & Karen’s condo, this picture hangs on the wall in one of the guest rooms. It just riveted my eye, how curious the dog was, about to sniff that lovely trout.


One of my favorite pictures of the whole trip, a view of the lake at Big Sky, through the trees. My grandson, Vaughan, went out into the lake in a kayak for awhile.

Posted in Chicken, on July 23rd, 2021.

The picture above shows the chicken in mid-bake – – – forgot to take a photo of the finished goods! When finished, the grapes were mostly wrinkled and had oozed some juice that went into a sauce.

A post from Carolyn . . . I’m back home from my 2 1/2 week road trip and haven’t had time to write another post about my trip – but this recipe was sitting in the drafts – something I made a month or two ago . . . . I had friends and family here for dinner. I served some various cheeses with crackers, this chicken alongside the layered salad that’s already been posted. I’d stewed some cherries, already on my blog, called Bing Cherry Compote, that I’d made a few days before, that were put on the top of some vanilla ice cream, for dessert. We opened an old bottle of red wine from the cellar and there was dinner!

There were 5 of us, and two of them hungry men, so I figured I’d best make two chickens. Probably I could have made do with just one chicken, but oh well, I’ll make soup or something with the remaining chicken. My cousin Gary is visiting as I’m writing this (although he’s driving back to the Bay Area in a couple of days) and he’s expressed interest in learning more about cooking. So I suggested HE make the spatchcocked chicken. I know I can buy already uncooked, but dressed/marinated spatchcocked chicken at Trader Joe’s, but those are seasoned, and I wanted to try this recipe. Besides which, I was happy to have Gary’s strong hands to cut out the backbone of those two birds. Sometimes I struggle cutting the largest bones. If you don’t know how to spatchcock a chicken, there’s a 1 1/2-minute video on youtube.

You know that when you flatten a chicken, it cooks more evenly. The breast meat and the thigh meat seem to cook to just the right temp without compromising each other. The recipe came from The Splendid Table, from Melissa Clark. It was described in a podcast I listened to and I promptly came to my computer to look it up. It’s a great recipe.

The essence of this recipe – the chicken is flattened on the baking sheet and a rub is added to it (EVOO, salt, fennel seeds, pepper and lemon zest) both top and bottom. I used two sheetpans obviously, as a flattened chicken takes  up a good part of the big pan. After the chickens rest a bit (sitting with the rub), they’re baked at high temp (475°F) for 20 minutes. Then you add the grapes (I bought a mixture of colors because they’d be pretty on the plate) which have been lightly tossed in EVOO and salt and pepper and a tiny sprinkling of sugar. The pans go back in the oven for another 20-25 minutes until they’ve reached the correct temp. Once they were removed, the chickens were put off onto a cutting board, and they rested under foil for about 15 minutes while we put the pan on the cooktop (without the parchment), simmered the juices there (after having removed the grapes) and then added a pat of butter and some sherry vinegar. What a lovely combination! The grapes and sauce were heated on the stove, poured into a pitcher and people drizzled the sauce over the chicken.

My friend Cherrie’s husband Bud carved the birds for me, and we sat down to eat. Daughter Sara had driven up from San Diego, as she wanted to visit with cousin Gary, so she came for dinner too. Anyway, we all went back for seconds on everything, I think.

What’s GOOD: liked the fennel flavor in the chicken, and oh gosh, the grapes were a genius idea to serve alongside chicken. Loved the flavored sauce and did I say how good the grapes were? Oh my.

What’s NOT: nothing other than you need spatchcocked chickens to make this. It’s a relatively easy recipe otherwise.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Spatchcocked with Grapes and Sherry Vinegar

Recipe By: Melissa Clark podcast
Serving Size: 4

1 tablespoon kosher salt — plus more as needed
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds — lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper — plus more as needed
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 whole chicken — spatchcocked (backbone removed, flattened to break the wishbone) patted dry with paper towels
12 ounces seedless grapes — stemmed (1 1/2 cups) [I used multi-colored grapes]
2 teaspoons EVOO
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar — or more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1. In a small bowl, combine the salt, fennel seeds, pepper, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Rub this mixture generously over the chicken. Place the chicken, skin-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet and let it stand for at least 1 hour.
2. About 15 minutes before you are ready to cook the chicken, heat the oven to 475°F.
3. Transfer the chicken to the oven and roast it for 20 minutes.
4. In a small bowl, toss the grapes with the remaining olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Scatter the grapes around the chicken, and roast until the chicken is just cooked through and the grapes are lightly caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes. Test the chicken for internal temperature. Breast meat should be at least 160, and thigh meat 165. The chicken will continue to cook as it rests.
5. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest. Tent with foil and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes.
6. Spoon the grapes into a bowl and set aside. Place the baking sheet over two burners on medium-high heat. Add the vinegar to the pan juices and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the baking sheet. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and warm it over medium heat. Whisk in the butter. Do not boil as the butter will separate.
7. Carve the chicken and top it with the grapes and a spoonsful of the sauce.
Per Serving: 641 Calories; 48g Fat (67.5% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 145mg Cholesterol; 1880mg Sodium; 15g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 45mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 590mg Potassium; 356mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on July 16th, 2021.

Snapshot I took of the Sierra/Nevada mountains (California) as I was driving.

Last year, my son and his wife Karen bought a condo in Big Sky, Montana. They’d vacationed there for several years, and decided they wanted to have their own place to ski and summer vacation. For the month of July Karen and grandson Vaughan are here, with Powell flitting in and out when he can get away from work. So, several months ago when they invited me to come visit during July, I said yes. And I’d make a road trip out of it. Having never been to Big Sky, I didn’t really know what to expect, other than photos I’d seen. Big Sky is located about 1 1/4 hour drive south of Bozeman, and about an hour north of the western gate to Yellowstone. Set nestled in between very tall peaks and valleys.

That picture was taken from the restaurant at the golf course near the Big Sky Resort. As you can see, there is smoke in the air, but we enjoyed a really nice lunch, sitting outside.

As I’m writing this, I AM in Big Sky, and have been for several days, enjoying the alpine location (7200 feet), the wonderful pine tree smell that pervades, the good food (both out and at home). And not enjoying the altitude sensitivity I have. I won’t be here long enough to acclimate to the altitude, so I’m just being careful by not exerting myself too much. I had a low grade headache for the first two days, but that finally went away. Walking much at all is out of the question as I get winded. But going in and out of various restaurants is certainly do-able!

That’s the view from their living room window. Ski slopes abound in every direction and that ramp you can see on the right is a ski-on, ski-off way to get down the hill to the ski lifts.

And again, as I write this, I’m having to re-adjust my itinerary as my next stop was going to be in Lolo National Forest (near Missoula, Montana), which is currently under fire evacuation orders. So, scratch that long day trip of driving in the Bitterroot Valley. In a few days I’ll head back to Coeur d’Alene, where I’m staying with my friend Ann (you’ve seen photos of her when she visited SoCal over several winters for a week in Palm Desert with me – we couldn’t do it that last Jan/Feb because of Covid, but hopefully this next winter she’ll be able to fly south).

My plan is to do some wine tasting in Walla Walla, Washington and if I find anything I really like I’ll have it shipped to home. I don’t want to cart cases of wine in my car trunk through hot summer weather. I have encountered lots of high temps on this trip (over 100 degrees, driving up the old 395 highway along the eastern edge of California). I had just driven through the area that was hit with a 5.9 earthquake that tumbled boulders down onto the highway. And yes, my car tipped left and right – I thought it was an uneven road . . . no, it was the earthquake! I stayed at a hotel nearby and was awakened several times during the night with aftershocks. Good thing I’m used to those kinds of tremors.

Once I arrived in Idaho it was about 100 degrees every day. Oh my goodness, is that ever hot! During my drive in California I encountered one day at 109 degrees, but I was comfortable in my air conditioned car, thankfully! I enjoyed the three days of driving to get from Southern California to northern Idaho, and I’ve been listening to a couple of books as I go. I’ve subscribed to Chirp, a discounted website for audio books. They don’t offer very many books at the lower prices, but I’ve found a few to keep me entertained. My car doesn’t have a CD/DVD slot anymore (my newest car that’s now 1 1/2 years old and still had less than 10,000 miles on it because of Covid) so I can’t use books on CD anymore from the library as I’d done in the past.

FYI, last night I made those vegetarian enchiladas that were posted about a week ago. Karen and Vaughan really enjoyed them, and me too. That recipe is a real keeper. I’ll post again in coming days if I have time.

Posted in Vegetarian, on July 8th, 2021.

Utter deliciousness. Is that a word? Should be if it’s not.

A post from Carolyn. You will want to make these. They’re actually quite easy. My granddaughter Taylor has moved in with me because she’s in nursing school at Concordia University here in SoCal. When she finishes her 13-month accelerated nursing program she’ll have her second bachelor’s degree, this one a B.S.N. (nursing). Her first B.S. is in hospital administration. She drove down from NorCal with her good friend Quinn, to keep her company, and I wanted to have dinner for them before Quinn got on a plane to fly home.

So, dinner. My other granddaughter, Sabrina, got me onto a new (to me) blog called Half Baked Harvest. Tieghan is a very gifted and prolific food blogger – she puts together the most interesting combinations of food, and the photography definitely intrigues my taste buds. The impetus of my version was her post about these vegetarian enchiladas. I made some changes to her recipe, however. I added a sweet potato and a yellow squash to the roasted veggies. I didn’t add chipotle (I like chipotle, but thought the mixture had enough heat from the pepper jack, which was quite hot). I didn’t add honey, either. I also used more cheese. And I totally forgot to add all the garnishes (avocado, sour cream for instance). Tieghan is a wizard with garnishes.

The vegetables are roasted – I didn’t buy fresh corn – I used frozen, defrosted – so they aren’t showing up in the photo. I forgot to halve the poblanos. Next time I wouldn’t keep the onions intact as they needed to be separated once adding to the enchiladas, but you can do what you prefer. Really, these enchiladas could be called calabacitas enchiladas, but for sure some Southwestern cooking gurus would lambast me since calabacitas is a vegetable dish, not a Mexican enchilada . . . oh well. Do you ever have these kinds of conversations with yourself? Like my head was going . . . if these are made with flour tortillas, then they become a burrito, don’t they? instead of an enchilada. Corn tortillas = enchiladas; flour tortillas = burritos?? Or the one about calabacitas maybe I should call this calabacitas enchiladas. Or, no, calabacitas burritos. Oh dear, never mind. (telling my brain to be quiet!)

Prepping the veggies was easy – a bit of EVOO, salt and pepper and into a hot oven they went for about 30 minutes. I skinned the poblanos, chopped them up, grated the cheeses and I was in biz. I used a brand of thick salsa verde – a bit is poured into a baking pan/dish, then you make the enchiladas. Now, I used flour tortillas (I prefer them to corn) but you can use either. The veggie mixture with the cheese is put in the center of a tortilla and rolled up, seam side down in the pan. More salsa verde is spread on top (not a lot – just enough to moisten all of the top of the enchiladas), and a little more cheese and back into a hot oven they go. I baked them at 400°F for about 20 minutes (because the veggies were cooled to room temp when I constructed them). If the veggies are still hot from the roasting pan, you could probably bake them less time.

This version made 7 enchiladas. My guests ate two per person; I had one. I suppose it depends on what size tortillas you use. More hungry appetites will want two per person, so keep that in mind if you make this. If your family is sensitive to heat, use regular jack, not pepper jack.

As I said, utter deliciousness. Everybody’s plate was slicked clean.  I served it with a green side salad. I was a bit alarmed at the calorie count on this, AND the sodium. It appears it comes from the flour tortillas, as I had no choice on size. So I hope these really aren’t this high in both.

What’s GOOD: cheesy and veggie goodness. Quinn thought she might be able to fool her growing boys with eating more veggies. You could add some chicken to these if you wanted protein in them. I loved the flavors from the veggies – and the smoked paprika. And the poblano – I love the depth of flavor from that variety of chile pepper. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing really – it does take a bit of time to roast the veggies, but it was a relatively simple dinner to prepare once that was done.

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Roasted Poblano Corn and Squash Enchiladas with Cheese

Recipe By: adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup corn — or use fresh corn
2 whole poblano peppers — halved
1 small zucchini — chopped
1 small yellow squash — chopped
1 yellow onion — cut in wedges
4 whole garlic cloves — peeled
1 small sweet potato — peeled, 1/2″ cubed
3 cups salsa verde — store bought, chunky
1 chipotle chilies in adobo — optional – chopped (or 1/2 tablespoon chipotle chili powder)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 cup fresh cilantro — chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil — chopped
7 flour tortillas — or corn tortillas, 8″ size
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese — grated
1/2 cup pepper jack cheese — or regular jack, grated
Garnishes: avocado, yogurt or sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. Arrange the corn, poblano, sweet potato, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then toss with your hands. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables have a light char.
3. Remove the corn kernels from the cob, de-seed the poblano peppers and chop, along with the onions and garlic. Add everything back to the baking sheet and toss with 1 cup salsa verde, the chipotle, paprika, half the cheese, the cilantro, and basil.
4. Reduce oven temp to 400°F.
4. Pour a cup of the salsa verde into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Tip the dish to cover. On a plastic cutting board or plate, place tortilla, then spoon the vegetable-cheese filling down the center; roll and place the tortillas, seam side down, into the baking dish. Pour the remaining salsa verde over top of the enchiladas. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes, OR until the cheese has melted and just beginning to get golden brown. If vegetable mixture is at room temp, baking may take longer. Top with various garnishes and serve.
Yield: “7 enchiladas”
Per Serving (sodium and calorie levels seem exceedingly high – probably from the tortillas – even though I specified the size, it doesn’t recognize that part): 647 Calories; 37g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 53g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 2047mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 553mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 859mg Potassium; 511mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on July 2nd, 2021.

Another biscotti variation, this one adapted from Giada . . .

A post from Carolyn. If you’ve been reading my blog of late, you’ve seen a bunch of biscotti recipes. I’ve been on a roll with biscotti. It’s something I can make for myself and since I use fake sugar in it – truly I can’t tell the difference (from fake sugar vs. real sugar). They are quite low in calorie and fat (although some do have quite a bit of butter).

I went searching around on the ‘net to read more about biscotti. Way back when, biscotti were developed by Italian nonnas as a little sweet something that had to be dipped/dunked into hot liquid (obviously, espresso) in order to make them edible. Probably it was at a time in history when fat was precious, whether it be butter or olive oil. Earlier versions of biscotti had no fat in them. None. And truly, they were little, rock-hard nuggets; hence they sliced them thinly and when you dunked them, you could eat just the part that had been dunked. It would break off where it has softened. And there was a trick to how long that little slice was dunked. Too long, and it would fall off into the coffee. Ever had that happen? I sure have! In fact it happened to me recently, with one of my biscotti I’d made (that did have butter in it). As I said, there’s a trick to how long to dunk. If it has little fat in it, maybe a second or two longer. With fat, less time.

After I made the last batch of biscotti, I got to thinking. I had a bag of macadamia nuts. And I’d been thinking about buying some fresh dried apricots. As I thought, I conjured up a biscotti that had candied ginger (minced up finely), apricots (also very finely minced) and the macadamia nuts (also minced). But what spice to put in it? Vanilla? No. Anise? No, as I’ve done anise in all my recent biscotti. Cinnamon? No, that didn’t sound good. The more I thought, the more I thought I should use a savory herb – and bingo, rosemary. And goodness, I loved the flavor combo.

Using the Giada recipe I’d used most recently, I merely swapped out the add-ins for the apricots, macadamia nuts, crystallized ginger and a little pile of finely minced fresh rosemary. They baked up easily and I made a double batch.

During the two weekends I spent with Karen, teaching her how to post on the blog, we had some very intense sessions together, with her doing photos, staging some pictures here and there, and getting her acquainted with the back-end of posting. And I took a bag of the biscotti. The family seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. I’d definitely make this again. The only thing I might do differently is to use slivered almonds instead of macadamia nuts. The latter are so expensive, and their flavor is quite subtle. I think they were kind of lost as an ingredient in a flavorful biscotti. But if you love macadamia, by all means use them. I just felt you couldn’t really taste them as much as eating them out of hand.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavor combination. Loved the rosemary. Who knew that rosemary would add such a nice, gentle flavor in a cookie?

What’s NOT: nothing really – easy to make. Only caution – once they’re finished, with the really-firm dried apricots, it’s a “hard” cookie – – don’t break a tooth. I freeze all of my cookies, and when I grab one out of the freezer, those little nuggets are very hard. Advice: let them defrost 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Apricot, Macadamia, Ginger and Rosemary Biscotti

Recipe By: Adapted from a Giada de Laurentiis recipe
Serving Size: 48

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar — or sugar substitute
1 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary — very finely minced
1/2 cup crystallized ginger — minced
1/2 cup macadamia nuts — chopped (or slivered almonds)
1/2 cup dried apricots — minced

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended.
3. Into the bowl with the flour mixture, add the chopped apricots and mix. Separate any pieces that are sticking together. Add the nuts, crystallized ginger and rosemary.
4. With mixer running, slowly add the flour mixture and continue until all the flour has been incorporated.
5. Onto a floured board, pour the dough out, mix 4-5 times, pulling any stray pieces of apricot or nuts. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Gently roll or flatted the dough pieces into about 12-14″ lengths, flattening the top slightly.
6. Bake the biscotti for 30 minutes, rotating and changing the pans after 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes (no longer). Gently place each baked dough form onto a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, gently slice, on the diagonal, into 1/2 inch or less pieces, carefully holding each end as you saw, so the ends won’t break off.
7. Place cut slices back onto baking sheet, flat sides down, return to oven and bake for 7 minutes. Exchange location of pans, and turn them around and continue baking for about another 10 minutes. If you prefer the biscotti to be uniformly golden brown, turn them over after 5 minutes so the other side browns. Remove from oven, cool, then package into containers. They will keep at room temp (sealed) for several days. Ideally, freeze them, and remove 10-15 minutes before serving, as the apricots can be extremely firm when frozen. You don’t want to break a tooth!
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 5g Fat (41.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 26mg Cholesterol; 54mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 28mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 47mg Potassium; 54mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on June 26th, 2021.

These used to be called 7-layer salads? Remember them? I’ve seen several recipes recently, so I guess there’s been a renewed interest in them.

The layered salad is supposed to be made in a glass bowl so you can SEE the layers. Other than a trifle bowl I didn’t have a clear glass bowl so I needed to use my etched glass salad bowl. You can sort of see through the various vegetables silhouettes etched in the outside of the glass. I was making the salad to serve 5, so the various veggies didn’t exactly line up in layers because the bowl is quite wide. But, oh well, it was the idea that counted. The recipe I’d read recently was a Keto version, but I’d already decided I wasn’t going to make it a keto salad anyway.

Really, you can use ANY vegetables you want to in this kind of salad. Supposedly, it’s the colored layers that make it so pretty. Try to have some dark green (I used arugula on the very bottom), some light green (Romaine, sugar snap peas and green onions), some orange (carrots and yellow/orange baby peppers). Mine also had a layer of corn, just sliced off the fresh cobs. Red is another nice layer (tomatoes for mine but red bell peppers would be good too). You don’t want to put two green layers next to each other, so put in an orange layer or a red one in between. In the old-time salad there was always a layer of frozen peas put in as the last veggie layer. Instead I added 3 hard boiled eggs that had been chopped up. Then you spread the dressing (used to be just a big glob of mayo) on top and add a generous layer of shredded cheddar cheese to the top. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. See photo at left of the top view.

It’s great for taking to a picnic or a shared gathering or a backyard barbecue. The dressing I made was an equal quantity of sour cream and mayo, then I added about 1/2 teaspoon of dill weed (in the jar because I don’t have fresh) and just because . . . I added about 1/2 teaspoon of blackened seasoning. No real reason – just that the packet was already opened and you know that mixed seasonings don’t last. That was spread over the top layer and the grated cheddar was added last.

All I’ll tell you is that everyone at the dinner table went back for seconds on the salad. Me too.

What’s GOOD: that it can be made the day ahead. Just takes a bunch of chopping and layering. Loved the dressing mixture with the dill and blackened seasoning. Altogether refreshing salad, and yes, I’d make this again exactly as I made it this time. It was a good combination.

What’s NOT: only that it requires a bunch of chopping and mincing, layering, and it’s best if prepared the day before serving. I made it about 8 hours ahead, which was fine too.

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Layered Salad

Recipe By: An old-old recipe, updated with different veggies and a new dressing
Serving Size: 6-8

3 cups romaine lettuce — chopped
1 cup baby arugula — chopped
2 large carrots — chopped or shredded
1 bunch green onions — chopped, including tops
3 ears corn — kernels removed, cobs discarded
1 cup grape tomatoes — halved
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas — trimmed, chopped
3 eggs — hard boiled, peeled, chopped
2 cups cheddar cheese — grated
DRESSING:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon blackened seasoning

1. In a glass bowl with 3-4″ sides, add in the Romaine and arugula. Add carrots next, with the corn. Add sugar snap peas, then halved tomatoes, placing more of them around the outside edges (for color). Add a layer of green onions. Add more greens if you prefer (arugula and Romaine) then add the chopped up hard boiled eggs.
2. DRESSING: Combine in a bowl the sour cream, mayo, dill and other seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste, then spread the dressing all over the top of the salad, spreading it out to the edges as much as possible.
3. Sprinkle the grated cheddar all over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to 24 hours. When serving suggest your guests dig deep into the bowl to reach the bottom layer with only a small amount of the dressing and cheese in each scoop.
Per Serving (6): 538 Calories; 37g Fat (60.6% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 184mg Cholesterol; 721mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 655mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 783mg Potassium; 547mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on June 19th, 2021.

A vegetable-laden soup with chicken, plus croutons and a spicy sauce (it’s French).

A post from Carolyn. This soup recipe has been in my repertoire for a long time. Just now I looked at my MasterCook soup file and see that it contains 458 recipes. That’s both soup recipes I’ve tried and those I haven’t. This one came from a Phillis Carey cooking class many years ago – I’m guessing 15. And why I’ve not made it more often, I don’t know (maybe because of the extra steps to make the sauce?), because it’s full of good flavor.

Bouillabaisse (pronounced boo-ya-bess) traditionally is a fish and seafood soup. So why not adapt it to chicken, eh? What sets this one apart is the use of saffron and the spicy rouille (pronounced roo-eel). And it contains some bread to thicken the sauce (baguette, to be exact) and does involve that extra step to whiz up the rouille in a blender. I changed the recipe just a little bit – I like celery in soups, not only for flavor, but for texture. I had a whole red bell pepper and decided I wasn’t going to roast it (too much trouble) so I merely used some in the soup and some in the sauce. The recipe called for potatoes – I didn’t have any – and I’d usually leave them out anyway, but they are traditional. There’s also a strip of orange peel in the soup. That is unusual, too. Up top, in that picture, you can’t see the little baguette slices – they’re underneath the rouille that I dolloped on top. The rouille adds a TON of flavor to this – don’t even think about making this without doing the sauce. And you can drizzle the rouille all over the soup – not just on the little croutons – the soup is enhanced so much with the garlicky flavors from the sauce.

The sauce, the rouille, contains saffron too, along with lots of garlic, Dijon, mayo, oil, salt and a dash of cayenne. But you start with some of the broth from the soup – first you add that to a shallow bowl, add the saffron (so it will develop its unique flavors in the warm liquid) and the garlic, then the bread – so it soaks up the liquid. You let that sit for awhile and the garlic sort-of cooks a little (barely), then the batch goes into the blender container, along with Dijon, the red bell pepper, mayo, 1/2 cup of EVOO, and some salt and cayenne to taste. The bread gives the sauce a little bit of substance, a thickener, of sorts. Do blend awhile to make sure it purees the way it should and it emulsifies.

You can make the sauce while the soup is simmering. You’ll likely have more sauce than you need for the number of soup servings, and I recommend you use the leftovers as a drizzle on roasted or steamed vegetables – like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans – even potatoes! The sauce is SO good. The garlic predominates, obviously.

What’s GOOD: so many layers of flavor – the sweet from the onions, the nuance of the saffron, the texture from the celery and chicken. And then there’s the rouille – the star of the show, in my opinion, which is very garlicky.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Maybe that it takes a little longer to make, because of the sauce, but you won’t regret it once you’ve whizzed it up in the blender. I have broccoli in the refrigerator now, which will be enhanced with some of that great leftover sauce.

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Chicken Bouillabaisse with Spicy Garlic Rouille

Recipe By: Adapted from a Phillis Carey recipe
Serving Size: 7

SOUP:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 whole onion — finely chopped
1 cup celery — diced
8 whole chicken thighs, without skin — boneless
14 1/2 ounces diced tomatoes — canned
2/3 cup red bell pepper — diced
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup vermouth
2 whole garlic cloves — peeled
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 strip orange peel
1 whole bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon saffron
2 medium potatoes — White Rose (optional)
4 whole carrots
14 thin slices of baguette, toasted
Salt and pepper — to taste
ROUILLE:
1/4 cup liquid from soup pot
1/4 teaspoon saffron — crumbled
2 whole garlic cloves — parboiled
3/4 cup French bread — crustless, cubed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red bell pepper — diced
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

1. SOUP: heat olive oil in a large pot and sauté onion for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add chicken pieces, cut in 3/4 inch cubes, and toss for 2 minutes to brown, but not cook through. Add canned tomatoes, broth, wine, garlic, saffron and herbs. Then add carrots, bell pepper and potatoes (if using), season to taste with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Lower heat, cover and cook until chicken and vegetables are cooked through, about 30-45 minutes.
2. To serve: place 2 toasted baguette slices in each soup bowl. Ladle soup on top and then drizzle with the rouille.
3. ROUILLE: During the soup cooking time, ladle out the 1/4 cup of soup liquid into a 2-cup bowl, then add the saffron and garlic. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add the cubed bread and let stand for at least 10 minutes to allow bread to soften and absorb the liquid. Place mixture in a food processor and puree. Add the mustard, red bell pepper and mayonnaise, then puree again. Drizzle in the oils until an emulsion forms. Season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of cayenne or to taste.
NOTE: You’ll have leftover rouille, most likely. If so, drizzle it on hot broccolini, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or potatoes.
Per Serving (this seems high – perhaps some of the ingredients aren’t reading the nutrition correctly): 617 Calories; 34g Fat (49.7% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 156mg Cholesterol; 742mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 78mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 1088mg Potassium; 420mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Appetizers, on June 13th, 2021.

What? I’ve never posted this recipe on the blog? That needs to be rectified as of now!

A post from Carolyn. Where this recipe came from, I’m not sure. I thought it was from Evan Kleiman, but having gone on the ‘net to look, my recipe isn’t quite like hers. Similar, but not the same. I suppose ALL caponata recipes are similar – containing eggplant, onions, celery, capers, tomatoes and olives. I’ve been making this caponata for well over 40 years.

So, what makes a great caponata? It’s Italian. It’s a combination: chewy of some textures (eggplant, olives and celery), softness of others (onions), a meld of sweet (a tiny bit of sugar and the tomatoes) and sour (some red wine vinegar) and for sure, a burst of fresh flavors. I know caponata can be purchased ready-made, and I’ve done that from time to time. But I’m here to tell you, there is nothing quite like home made caponata.

Know from the get-go that you need a couple of hours to make this. There’s a goodly amount of chopping going on (eggplant, onions, celery) but first you have to peel most of the eggplant. You can peel all of them if you prefer, but the recipe I have suggested leaving the peel on some of them to give the finished caponata an additional layer of color. Japanese eggplant are called for here (they’re supposed to be sweeter), and it’s a bit tedious to peel 2 pounds of them, I’m just sayin’.

The tomatoes need to be peeled and seeded, too, which of and by itself isn’t that much trouble, but it takes time to heat a pot of water, dunk the tomatoes in there, then remove the peel, cut them just so to remove all the seeds, then to chop up finely. The eggplant likes to sit awhile – with salt – to extract a little bit of the liquid. I have to say, maybe I got a tablespoon of discolored liquid underneath the colander after sitting for about an hour. Not much. The onion (both a yellow and a red), celery and garlic were simmered for awhile with some olive oil, until tender. All that was removed to a big bowl and then the drained and blotted-dry eggplant was added to several successive batches to be briefly browned. Finally, everything is added into the pot – along with some parsley, tomato paste, the red wine vinegar plus some water, and the little bit of sugar. That whole mixture was simmered for about 10 minutes. You do NOT want the vegetables to break down to mush – the flavor would be fine, but you want the texture of all those various ingredients to be seen and sensed on your tongue.

Taste it for salt (I ended up adding just a little) and pepper. A tablespoon of sugar was all the batch needed, and it makes about 3-4 cups when you’re all finished.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a wine tasting event at my home (a fund-raiser), with two other friends co-hosting with me, and we served several appetizers to go along with the variety of wines. I made a special trip to go buy Cloudy Bay’s sauvignon blanc, which is a favorite of mine – if I’m going to drink white wine. Mostly I drink red. When my DH Dave and I visited New Zealand, we fell in love with Cloudy Bay wines, but particularly the sauvignon blanc. I asked the guests to taste the wine with the various appetizers, though the caponata goes better with red wine. I still have about 200 bottles of wine in the wine cellar – nearly all of them ones Dave bought – and he’s been gone for 7 years now. I gift them to friends when they invite me over, and I’ve done several wine tastings. The reds, mostly, keep for  years, although I have had to pour out a few bottles of reds that didn’t cellar well. Pinot Noir and Cabs keep well. Italian reds not so much.

My friend Lois made shrimp cocktail which went well with the whites. Linda made my Crostini with Pea Puree and Yogurt & Mint. I served some cheeses, some lighter, some heavier, and the caponata will be served with pita crackers (Trader Joe’s are great). With a can of smoked albacore on hand, I also made a favorite EASY appetizer, Smoked Albacore with Red Onion. And I’ve already posted the recipe for the Outrageous Brownies which were served with the last of the darker reds. I offered to open a bottle of after-dinner wine if our guests wanted some, but everyone was topped up. The cellar has about 10 after-dinner bottles and I just don’t open those. Except for a party, I guess!

So, once you’ve made the caponata, do chill it for a day if you can spare the time. Caponata improves with a day or two of chilling – letting those flavors meld. Caponata keeps well – I’d guess it’ll keep in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks. You could freeze it, but my guess is once thawed, the veggies would turn to mush.

What’s GOOD: the flavors are just so special. Nothing unusual in this – but the combo? Oh gosh, yes it’s good. Keeps for a couple of weeks, though eating it within 3-5 days would be best. Good to make it ahead. In fact, it’s better made a day or two ahead.

What’s NOT: only the time spent – there’s a lot of chopping and prepping of vegetables. You’ll be at or near the range for about 1 1/2 hours for sure.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Italian Caponata

Recipe By: unknown
Serving Size: 10

2 pounds eggplant — Japanese type
1 pound Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion — chopped
1 medium red onion — chopped
1 1/2 cups celery — chopped
1 large garlic clove — minced
1/4 cup parsley — minced
12 whole olives — Mediterranean, pitted
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper — to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts — toasted

1. With a sharp paring knife, peel 2 eggplants; leave other eggplant unpeeled to add color and texture to the dish.
2. Cut all eggplant into 1-2-inch cubes; place cubes in colanders over paper towels, salt well and mix eggplant with your hands. Allow to drain about 30 minutes, preferably 1-2 hours, while preparing other ingredients. Peel the tomatoes by dipping a few at a time in boiling water for 5-15 seconds and then into cold water. Carefully remove skins and cut tomatoes in half. Remove and discard seeds, then dice tomatoes.
3. In a large, heavy skillet heat about 3 T olive oil and add onions. Cook about 8 minutes, until onions are soft, but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add celery, garlic and mix thoroughly. Continue cooking until all vegetables are soft and tender, about 5 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove vegetables to a large Dutch oven or roasting pot. Pat eggplant dry with paper towels to remove salt and liquid. In the same skillet, cook a single layer of eggplant, adding olive oil as needed and stir constantly for about 8 minutes, until soft, tender and slightly browned. Remove eggplant to Dutch oven and brown succeeding batches, adding oil as needed. Add diced tomatoes, parsley, olives and capers to cooked vegetable mixture in skillet; mix well and cook over low heat for a few minutes.
4. In a bowl combine the vinegar, water, sugar and tomato paste and stir until sugar is fully dissolved. Pour mixture into Dutch oven and stir thoroughly. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring often. Be careful not to break up mixture to a mush; the vegetables need to retain their shape and texture and not become soupy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Remove from heat and refrigerate, covered, for at least one day to let all the flavors mellow. To serve, spoon mixture into a salad bowl or plate (wood is recommended) and garnish top with toasted pine nuts. Serve with toasted pita triangles or baguette slices or crusty Italian bread.
6. TO TOAST PINE NUTS: Place nuts in a single layer in a dry Teflon coated skillet over low heat and toast until lightly brown, stirring and WATCHING CONSTANTLY.
Per Serving: 176 Calories; 13g Fat (65.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 137mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 42mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 459mg Potassium; 63mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on June 9th, 2021.

A short post from Carolyn. No food in this post . . . just a little catch-up regarding the blog. Finally the blog platform is working the way it should, and those of you who have been long-time subscribers have been added to the new website that does subscription forwarding. It’s called follow.it, and they – of course –  are an online marketing website and offer a variety of tools to a user (like you) to “follow” various websites – news, or whatever. It’s up to you whether you utilize any of their other services besides the one you’ll get from the blog. You should receive an email in your inbox whenever there is a new post from tastingspoons. If you don’t get them, please email me – go to the contact page for how to reach me directly, or you can leave a comment on this post. I’m hoping they won’t be loading you up with more emails about their services – hopefully you can opt out of various notifications if it becomes a nuisance.

 

Chart above from flowingdata.com. If you want to see more charts describing changing food habits, click on See How Much We Ate Over the Years. It’s a fascinating article with multiple charts similar to the above. The one for vegetables was also very interesting. Are we surprised (the chart above) to note that chicken has taken over top spot for protein? Look where chicken was (on the left) back in the 70s and how it’s leaped up and up and up. Beef has moved into 2nd place, and pork into 3rd.

 

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