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Carolyn

Sara

Sara and me

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Recently finished Thomas Nelson’s The Hideaway. It seems like there are SO many novels out there about families finding, inheriting or otherwise going to an old house with memories. Especially ones on the water. With stories to tell. It’s a great way to introduce some light mystery to the telling of some other family story. In this case it’s Sara’s grandmother who was enigmatic in every way. And Sara inherits the run-down, ramshackle B&B on Mobile Bay. Cute story with lots of twists and turns.

Also just finished James Conroyd Martin’s Fortune’s Child: A Novel of Empress Theodora (Book 1 of 2). Theodora grew up the daughter of a circus performer, but then moved onto “the boards,” as acting was called back in Byzantine times (Constantinople, 6th century). She always had high expectations – she just “knew” she was going to accomplish great things. She was an occasional prostitute, a mistress, and then, behold, the son of Emperor Justin is mesmerized by her beauty, takes her on, and makes her his wife, amid much royal machinations. A young eunuch also plays large in the story too, a man hopelessly in love with Thea, but knows his love can never be returned or fulfilled. He becomes an historian to the Empress. Quite a story – much of it chronicles her early life and not a lot of it in Constantinople. But riveting story.

I’m doing SO much reading of late. Read this book in one day. The Glass Hotel: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Loosely based on the story of Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme), it tells a novelized version of a man with incredible power and charisma who gathers a group of willing partners. It’s about the people he cuckolded, and the people who took him down. At the beginning drugs come into play and I almost didn’t continue, but that was a very short section. Well worth reading. Lots to discuss if you’re looking for a book club read.

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline. Soldiers aren’t supposed to have any attachment to the stray dogs, let alone bring them onto the home base where he spent part of his time. His unit all fell in love with Fred, but Craig was obviously the dog’s first love. A very inspiring story; a few tears were shed here and there as I read it. Fred now lives here in the U.S. against all odds.

Also read Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy. There is joy, grief, a tiny bit of religion, and likely this book wouldn’t make you think much of pastors. They’re flawed as we all are. Quite a read, for one of my book clubs. I had hoped the book would paint a brighter picture of the profession (I have a wonderful pastor at my own church).

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment is Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also caring for their infant. He is a consummate humorist and can find chuckles in almost every task. I ate this book up in one go. LOL funny and interesting on all fronts.

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, centered around a tragic event in their small town in Minnesota. About how he reviews his memories as he grows old, looking at the people, the event, and his part in it.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century. Abigail Howland, who came to the house as a little girl, lives with her crusty but loveable grandfather. Her grandfather’s forbidden love life is an open secret, but long after his death it is Abigail who must pay the price for a love match Southern society could not abide. Lots of sub-stories. Very interesting read.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982. She once again leaves the home place to build a house for herself. As the foundation is poured and the walls go up, each of the hurtful memories are uncovered. Finally the mystery, left in the ashes of the burned home, is revealed. How could her mother do what she did? Very interesting read.

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.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 1 (A Gripping Historical Christian Fiction Family Saga from the 1900s to the 1950s) (Marta’s Legacy) by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

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.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

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.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee. Everyone should read this one.

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. DIdn’t like it much, but others do.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.

 

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 Beef, Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on January 2nd, 2020.

spicy_beef_tenderloin_cranberry_mango_chutney

What is there not to like about a whole beef tenderloin?

For Christmas Day I offered to buy a whole beef tenderloin for the family celebration. Sara said “yes, please.” So off I went to Costco to buy an already-trimmed (of extra fat and silverskin) tenderloin. I cut it in half (easier handling in the oven), patted well with the spice combo (not herbs, but spices, which were a type of dry rub) then it was tightly tied with kitchen twine. They went into plastic bags (or wrap well in plastic wrap so it doesn’t leak) and I let them marinate in the refrigerator for almost 3 days. The recipe, from a class with Phillis Carey, calls for marinating the dry rubbed tenderloin for 4 days.

My cousin Gary and I drove to Sara’s and John’s (in Poway, CA) on Christmas Day and the meat went into the frig until about an hour before we wanted to begin cooking them.

spicy_beef_tenderloin_ready_for_ovenAfter the dry marinating time, the two pieces were seared on all sides with EVOO, then placed on a rimmed baking sheet and into a 400°F oven. The recipe said 20 minutes, but ours took about another 3-4, I think, to reach 130°F. Actually both reached about 133°F when we got them out of the oven. In case you’ve never done one of these, let me just warn: the last 3-8 minutes are crucial – monitor the internal temp frequently. The internal temp rises quickly once the meat reaches about 120°. Be forewarned. The last thing you want is an overcooked tenderloin. Some in our group wanted more medium and we got that perfectly with the smaller piece.

A few days ahead I’d made the spicy_beef_tenderloin_restingchutney, a kind of cooked relish of fresh cranberries, orange juice, sugar, dried mango chopped up and a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger.

So, there’s a photo of the finished pieces. Note one is larger – it went in the oven for about 5 minutes before we added the 2nd, smaller piece. So they both came out of the oven at the same time.

The meat was lightly tented with foil for 15 minutes, then carved in thin slices (recommended) and served. The recipe says to roast to 135°. I’m hesitant to go that high, so I took them out early. They continue to cook during the resting time anyway.

JUST WATCH THE TEMP CAREFULLY. When you pay $114 (that’s what this one was) for a hunk of good beef, you certainly don’t want to ruin it by overcooking. Just so you know, if you overcook beef, it gets tough.

What’s GOOD: loved the seasonings –  the beef was “hot” because of the quantity of pepper. If you’re sensitive to it, reduce the pepper from the mixture below. Loved the spices on it. AND loved the chutney. It’s perfect with a big hunk of beef. I had two small pieces, and after feeding 12, there was nothing but a small handful of beef tidbits left over. I think everyone went back for seconds, just about.

What’s NOT: if you’re sensitive to pepper, take it out of the recipe altogether, and if you are turned off by spices patted onto meat, reduce the quantity of the spices. Obviously, if cost is a factor, pass on this one as it’s an expensive entrée.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spicy Beef Tenderloin with Cranberry Ginger Mango Chutney

Recipe By: Cooking Class with Phillis Carey, Nov. 2019
Serving Size: 12

2 tablespoons black peppercorns — scant (or a mix of black and green peppercorns)
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar — packed
2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 garlic cloves — coarsely crushed into slivers
5 pounds beef tenderloin — tied as a roast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil — divided or EVOO
CRANBERRY MANGO CHUTNEY:
12 ounces fresh cranberries — about 3 cups
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup dried mango — chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — minced

1. Grind peppercorns in an electric spice grinder (or clean coffee grinder) to a medium grind. In a small bowl, combine pepper, brown sugar, salt, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, coriander, cardamom, and cloves; whisk to combine. Rub meat sparingly with crushed garlic slivers, then rub all over with spice mixture.
2. Cut tenderloin crosswise in half. Wrap each half very tightly with several layers of plastic wrap (so that it looks swaddled), put in a rimmed pan, and refrigerate 4 days.
3. Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large frying pan (not nonstick) over high heat. Add 1 piece of meat and sear until well browned on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking pan and repeat with remaining oil and beef. Transfer baking pan to oven and cook meat until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 130°, 20 to 30 minutes. (Halves may not cook at the same rate; after meat has been in the oven 20 minutes, begin taking temperature of both pieces of meat every 1-2 minutes.) Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest 15 minutes. Remove kitchen twine.
4. Cut meat into very thin slices (less than 1/4 in., if possible) and serve warm or at room temperature, with crusty rolls and chutney.
Per Serving (you won’t eat all of the chutney): 747 Calories; 46g Fat (56.0% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 134mg Cholesterol; 1350mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on December 31st, 2017.

cranberry_apple_sauce

So good. Not quite as tart as regular cranberry sauce, but more mellow. Milder, I guess I’d say.Very easy to make and would keep for awhile. Serve alongside any kind of meat.

I have a package of cranberries in my refrigerator right now, and I’m going to make this in the next few days. It’s really easy to do – start to finish in about 20 minutes, I’d say. The hardest thing you do is peel and chop the apples. There’s just enough sweetness to this to make it easily edible, but just enough tartness from the cranberries, to make it a good side for meat.

Tarla Fallgatter made this at a recent cooking class and served it alongside a whole host of holiday side dishes. And my fork dipped into it with the dressing she made, and with the potato/parsnip mash she made. I wished I’d had more on my plate! It will be used several times over the holidays as I serve chicken, or turkey, or even beef or pork. As I mentioned above, I don’t think this would go with fish – although salmon might work. Try it and see!

Tarla recommended Braeburn apples as her first choice, but Gala works too. Do not use a tart cooking apple like Pippin or Granny Smith. It gets peeled and finely chopped. In a pan you combine apple cider (or juice), sugar, the apple, cinnamon and cloves. Once brought to a boil you add the fresh cranberries and simmer it for 10-12 minutes or until the berries burst and the sauce begins to thicken. See? Easy. Then you add in a teaspoon or apple cider vinegar. Let it cool and it’s ready to serve. Put it in an airtight jar and it will keep for a week or so. For longer storage, freeze it.

What’s GOOD: the lovely fruity flavor, mellow with the addition of apples. So pretty. You could eat it straight, I’m telling you!

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cranberry Apple Sauce

Recipe By: from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2017
Serving Size: 10

1 cup apple juice — or apple cider
1/2 cup sugar
1 Braeburn apple — or Gala, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1. Place cider (apple juice), sugar, apple, cinnamon and cloves in a pan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Bring to a boil. Add cranberries and simmer 10-12 minutes, or until berries burst and sauce thickens. Stir in vinegar. Let cool to room temp.
Per Serving: 76 Calories; trace Fat (1.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Miscellaneous sides, on December 26th, 2012.

winter_fruit_salad

You know what those little bug-like things are? Star anise. Not commonly in every kitchen, I suppose. I don’t use them very often, but when you need them in cooking, they’re essential. They wouldn’t normally go on top of the salad, but I wanted to get your attention.

For a brunch a couple of weeks ago I needed some kind of fruit. I have a wonderful Spiced Fruit dish I’ve made for years – it’s great for a morning kind of thing. Spiced Peaches also go well with a vanilla_star_anise_syrupbrunch, but this time I thought I’d try something new. I’d just read the recipe in The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century. My go-to cookbook these days. This is actually in the dessert section of the cookbook, but it says it’s great with breakfast or brunch. It’s flavored with whole vanilla, some lemon zest and the star anise, all soaking in a simple syrup kind of sugar and water concoction. The other good thing about this is you have to make it the night before – so the fruit has time to marinate in the tasty syrup. There above is the mixture before I brought it to a boil.

vanilla_star_anise_syrup2Here at left is the mixture after I brought it up to a boil – the sugar is dissolved and hopefully the heat will have opened up the flavors of the vanilla, lemon and star anise. The recipe calls for Bosc pears, fresh apple, dried figs and dried apricots. I added some dried Braeburn sliced apples I had in my box of dried fruits in my pantry. The syrup is mixed up with the vanilla bean (sliced in half to release all those lovely little tiny beads of flavor), a few strips of fresh lemon peel and the star anise. It’s brought to a boil, the sugar gets dissolved, then you pour that hot-hot syrup over the fresh fruit. You let it cool to room temp that way, then cover with plastic wrap, poke a couple of holes in it to ventilate it, store in the refrigerator. By pouring the hot liquid over the fruit, it almost “cooks” the fruit, but not really, and not quite. The fresh fruit still has texture, and the dried fruits and pleasantly toothsome. I liked the combination a lot.

When you serve it, you’ll want to remove the star anise, the vanilla bean halves and the lemon peel. So you’re left with the nice bowl of mixed fruit. I had ample left over and it’s still tasty some days later. The pears probably won’t last – as I write this (about 5 days after I served it) I still have left overs and the pears are not so nice in texture anymore, but all the remaining fruit is fine. So probably you could make this a couple of days ahead if you needed to.

What’s good: it’s make-ahead easy. Nice flavors, considering it’s all winter-type fruit. Went well with a brunch (an egg dish) and left overs were very nice for several days. Try not to make more than you’ll eat at the one meal. I made the recipe below and could have served about 10 people, I think. Keep that in mind, unless you’re feeding fruit fanatics! Save the syrup – you could use it to flavor and sweeten iced tea (or hot tea) or pour over other fruit. Strain out all the fruit dredges first, though.
What’s not: only that you must plan ahead – it’s got to be made the night before (or maybe 2 days before) you want to serve it.

printer-friendly recipe (CutePDF)
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

* Exported from MasterCook *

Winter Fruit Salad

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from New York Times, 2001 (Amanda Hesser)
Serving Size: 8
NOTES: The recipe assumes you will eat/drink all of the sugary syrup. You don’t, so it is not as caloric as the recipe indicates.

1  1/4 cup sugar
3 star anise — (I would add 4 of them next time)
1 vanilla bean — plump, split in half lengthwise
2 long pieces lemon zest — (2 inch) preferably Meyer lemons, (peeled with a vegetable peeler)
3 Bosc pears — firm
1 apple — tart type, firm
8 whole dried apricots — Turkish, if possible, cut in half
4 whole dried figs — quartered
2 ounces dried apples — (optional – not in original recipe)

1. Fill a medium saucepan with 5 cups water. Add the sugar, star anise, vanilla bean and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, and cook until all the sugar is dissolved. Then shut off the heat. Meanwhile, peel and core pears and apple. Slice thinly lengthwise and place in a large heatproof bowl. Add apricots, dried apples and figs. Pour hot sugar syrup on top, making sure all the fruit is covered. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; poke a few holes in plastic. Chill overnight in refrigerator.
2. The next morning, remove the star anise, lemon zest pieces and vanilla beans, then use a slotted spoon to ladle fruit into a serving bowl and serve. Store left overs in a sealed container.
Per Serving (inaccurate – assumes you drink all the marinating syrup): 528 Calories; 1g Fat (2.2% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 136g Carbohydrate; 16g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 21mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Desserts, Miscellaneous sides, on September 12th, 2011.

grilled_pineapple_nutella

Every once in awhile we grill pineapple to serve with a dinner outdoors. To go with a pork roast, for instance, or pork chops, or grilled chicken. Or grilled fish. This time as I was flipping through recipes in my to-try pile (actually it’s in a 3-ring binder, 1 of 2 that I have, and recipes are slipped inside clear sleeves, maybe 3-4 to each side) this one sounded like it might be fun for a brunch. Indeed it was.

nutella_scoopIf you’re not familiar with Nutella, you should be. In writing this I went to Nutella’s website and found out a whole bunch of info about it. It was first developed in Piemonte (the NW region of Italy). It’s pronounced new-tell-uh. What’s available here in the U.S. of A. is manufactured in Canada. It’s gluten-free. And kosher. And peanut free. They’re meticulous about that. And they use non-hydrogenated palm oil to emulsify it. Each 13-ounce jar contains about 50+ hazelnuts, sugar, skim milk and a tiny bit of cocoa. It all got started in the 1940’s because Mr. Ferrero, a pastry maker, couldn’t afford to pay the high (war time) taxes on chocolate – and because hazelnuts grow in abundance in Piemonte, it was a natural for him to devise a new spread. In the 1960’s Ferrero’s son started marketing it to consumers. It’s quite similar to the guianduja (an Italian product that’s 50/50 hazelnuts and chocolate) which you often see as a gelato flavor (it’s my favorite gelato).  Its most popular use is spread on toast (sorry, I don’t care much for Nutella that way – it’s too sweet – but most consumers disagree with me there). One of Nutella’s benefits is that it should not be refrigerated, although you do want to use it up within soon time frame – there is a use-by date on each jar. If you want some other options for using up the Nutella, there’s a website devoted just to World Nutella Day (February 5th).

Originally this recipe came from Giada de Laurentiis way back in 2004. Then, I took liberties with the recipe, but it’s still generally Giada’s design. I think this would make a great dessert with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle. And if you want to make it Giada’s way (with mascarpone instead of the crème fraîche, and adding vanilla and some whipping cream) then click over to her version. Mine is just a bit simpler.

If you want to serve this as a dessert, you’ll likely use all of the Nutella mixture; but as a brunch side dish I didn’t overwhelm any of the pineapple slices with too much Nutella. So I ended up with leftover Nutella. Not a bad thing, but I don’t eat Nutella in other things. However, I will say when I was craving just a tiny sweet something after dinner the other night I stuck my spoon into the leftover Nutella mixture. Mmmmm, good.

What I liked: this was SO easy to make as long as you have a little tub of crème fraîche on hand and the Nutella, of course. It’s very pretty too.

What I didn’t like: not a thing, really, Just don’t use too much of the (sweet) Nutella mixture; you want to be able to taste the pineapple!

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Grilled Pineapple with Nutella

Recipe By: Adapted from a 2004 Giada De Laurentiis recipe
Serving Size: 8
Serving Ideas: This can be served as a dessert – with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream nestled in the center, with a little tiny dollop more of the Nutella mixture on top, with more hazelnuts too. Or, serve at a brunch. Use a limited amount of the Nutella mixture in that case – this would be served as a side dish (not dessert) so you don’t want it to be overly sweet. You’ll have leftover Nutella in this case.

1 whole pineapple — peeled, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices and core removed
1/3 cup crème fraîche — room temperature
1/3 cup Nutella — or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
Canola oil for brushing on the grill
1 1/2 tablespoons hazelnuts — chopped toasted

1. Lightly oil an outdoor grill. Grill the pineapple slices until heated through and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes per side. It’s important to leave the pineapple on the grill, untouched, to create grill marks.
2. In a small bowl combine the Nutella and the crème fraîche and set aside.
3. Transfer pineapple slices to a serving platter and spread a little bit of the Nutella mixture on each piece.
4. Sprinkle tops with toasted hazelnuts and serve while still hot.
Per Serving: 120 Calories; 7g Fat (50.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 15mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, easy, Miscellaneous sides, on December 18th, 2008.

spiced-peaches

It’s a good thing I enjoy reading, because I get to do a lot of it keeping up with just some of the food blogs out there. And I keep adding more, and very rarely deleting any. More and more people have discovered the fun of writing food blogs, so there are more and more of them. I can’t keep up with them every day, so I work at it every few days, trying to read as many as I can.

spiced-peaches-bowlOne such blog that is very prolific is Al Dente (an Amazon.com sponsored food blog showcasing recipes from foodie authors). In this case it was Nigella Lawson. I used to watch her show on the Food Network (but I don’t think she has a show anymore; at least I haven’t seen one). This recipe came from one of her cookbooks (not the one I own). She was recommending the spiced peaches as a hot side for a Christmas ham. Sounded good, but I had a different use in mind. I wanted to serve them as a breakfast side dish.

I have one recipe that I’ve used for years for spiced fruit. But it makes a rather large quantity (since it utilizes cans of different fruit), so when I spotted this recipe that used just one large can of peach halves, aha! It’s got many of the usual ingredients in spiced fruit (cinnamon, cloves and a bit of vinegar) but also some more unusual things (sliced fresh ginger, chile flakes and rice wine vinegar instead of regular). The best part? It was EASY. QUICK.  Took about 5 minutes total start to finish. I highly recommend it. To accompany holiday breakfasts, or as a side for ham (served hot).
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Spiced Peaches

Recipe: Nigella Lawson, Nigella Express
Servings: 8

28 ounces peach halves in syrup
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar — or white wine vinegar
2 short cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes — crushed [maybe less if you don’t like plenty of warmth]
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorn [I happened to use grains of paradise]
3 whole cloves

1. Empty the cans of peaches into a saucepan with their syrup.
2. Add the vinegar, cinnamon, sliced ginger, chiles, salt, whole peppercorns, and cloves.
3. Bring the pan to a boil, and let it boil for a minute or so, then turn off the heat and leave in the pan to keep warm.
4. Serve the peaches with a hot ham, letting people take a peach half each and some of the spiced juice. Or serve it as part of a brunch, as I did. Any leftovers can (and should) be stored in a jar and then eaten cold with cold ham.
Per Serving: 91 Calories; 1g Fat (5.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 130mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on July 24th, 2008.


balsamic onion marmalade
Have you ever heard or read about how hard it is to photograph brown and beige things? Hope you can even figure out this is onions! I had to balance some of the onions on a fork with my left hand and try to hold the camera steady AND click the shutter with my right hand. All to show some added depth to the photo. And although this may not look all that appetizing, it’s actually very good. Would I kid you?

After just stating yesterday that I didn’t have any posts waiting in the wings, I looked, and oh yes, I had this one. I hadn’t posted it because I made the onion pepper relish to go with the beef sliders for the 4th of July, and thought the two were too similar. This one is less sweet than the relish – more suited for a slab of grilled meat probably, than the burgers and accompaniments. I still have some of this in the refrigerator (as well as the relish from the 4th), and assume it will keep for another few weeks since it’s “pickled,” so to speak, with the vinegar. Hope so, as it was delicious and very suitable for some meat things. I used it on a sandwich last week too.

We had some friends over for dinner a few weeks ago, and with the pork roast we did on the rotisserie (that I’d brined) I wanted to serve some kind of sauce or salsa, or something. Found a recipe for a pork rib roast with this onion marmalade. It was just a perfect fit. And oh-my-goodness deliciousness. It’s not difficult, although it does take some time (total cooking time about an hour) to sweat down the onions, then to continue to cook them down to a jammy consistency. If you started this first (when about to make a dinner) it would be done by the time you were ready to sit down).

The recipe came from Food & Wine magazine, May 2008. If you want to do the pork roast, just brine it, bake or rotisserie it until it reaches an internal temp of about 133 degrees (still pink in the middle). Remove and let sit for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving with this cold, room temp or hot onion topping. The leftovers will keep for several weeks.
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Balsamic Onion Marmalade

Recipe: Food & Wine, May ’08.
Servings: 8

4 whole onions — peeled, sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pinch ground cloves
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot (large enough to barely hold all the onions) heat the oil until it starts to shimmer. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 20 minutes. Do not let them burn or brown.
2. Season the onions with the ground cloves, salt and pepper. Add the brown sugar and cook over moderately low heat until the skillet is dry, about 10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and orange zest and continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade is very thick, 30 minutes. Transfer the marmalade to a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, if you prefer it hot, just before serving, or serve cold, or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 65 Calories; 2g Fat (23.0% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 5mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on May 4th, 2008.

mango and strawberry salsa

Wow, is that not a gorgeous photo? If I do say so myself. Must be the colors, the mango, and the strawberry against the black bowl!

Sometimes recipes bear repeating. And sometimes when you change a part of a recipe it makes it different enough that you, my readers, need to know about it. Originally this recipe was for pineapple salsa, but one time years ago I didn’t have pineapple, and I did have mango, so made it that way instead. It was the same recipe, just different fruit.

The Pineapple Salsa was posted last year. However, I didn’t have a photo because that was just after I’d fractured my foot. Now we’ve got a photo, at least of this version! The other night I had some super thick pork chops from Niman Ranch (ordered online, and on sale some months ago). I brined them for a couple of hours, DH grilled them with our tried and true method (mark them over direct fire, then off to the side, reduced heat, until they reached 150 in the center) and served this salsa on the side. I didn’t have red bell pepper, so substituted strawberries. Delish.

If you click on this link for the Pineapple Salsa, just substitute mango and strawberry for the pineapple and red bell pepper.
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Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on April 19th, 2008.

yucatecan pickled onion relish

In our local area, we happen to frequent a Mexican restaurant called Jalapeno’s. Now, my DH isn’t all that crazy about Mexican food (he was raised in Ocean City, New Jersey, so what does that tell you – New Jerseyites don’t know from Mexican food – at least not the ones born prior to about 1980), but since I am a native Californian, Mexican cuisine feels like part of my DNA. I know it’s not, because I’m blond and blue-eyed, but tacos and enchiladas were part of my growing up, so at least in cuisine, I’ll claim it as part of my DNA. My parents and I craved Mexican food at least once a week, without fail. When we’d go camping every summer for two weeks, we were deprived of our favorite out-to-dinner menu, and usually the very next night back home, we were over at our favorite restaurant in San Diego, called Aztec Dining Room (it’s been closed for about 6-7 years now), enjoying our regular stuff. I still crave Mexican food on a regular basis.

We do have lots and LOTS of Mexican restaurants in our area, but not many that I consider fabulous. This little place, Jalapeno’s, is family-run, and you have to stand in line to order at a counter, then they deliver the piping hot food to your table.

Once in awhile I can get my DH to go there, but really not very often. So, when he spends a night on our boat in San Diego, unless I have other plans, I zip down to Jalapeno’s for dinner. I order a chile relleno, or maybe their delicious shredded beef tacos, or a cheese enchilada. They make their own chips and fresh tomato salsa. And, they also make a fabulous marinated carrot relish. It’s made in huge vats, it’s that popular, and all I’ve ever known was that it contained what you can see in it: carrot coins, garlic, onions, bay leaf and hot chiles. Oh yes, vinegar. We know the recipe is the family matriarch’s prized recipe. They won’t share it. Even our local paper requested it, and they refused. They sell the carrots, but they’re gosh-darned expensive, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to make them. Since I don’t cook Mexican food much, I’ve had a hard time finding any recipes for them, but then I’ve always been looking for a CARROT relish.

So, when I read an article by Steven Raichlen in Bon Appetit Magazine (May 2008 issue), it mentioned this pickled ONION relish, from the Yucatan. So, I definitely had to try it. It’s not difficult – you simmer the onions, garlic and salt in water for just ONE minute. Drain off the water, then add some white vinegar, bay leaf, allspice, pepper, oregano, cumin and water, then bring that to a boil, turn off the heat, cool and serve.

Nearly a year ago I posted a recipe for stacked enchiladas (a vegetarian casserole type dish with black beans) with an onion relish on the side. I’ve made it a couple of times because I love the onions as a garnish on sandwiches, but since this new recipe contains some of the ingredients I know are in Jalapeno’s carrots, I needed to try this.

They’re good – not by themselves, of course – but they didn’t taste like what I expected. They’re great on a sandwich and as a relish, but they’re quite piquant, tart, by themselves. I did sprinkle in some Splenda to the vinegar solution (after they were cooked), and I like them better. Perhaps when Jalapeno’s makes it with carrots – because they’re so sweet – they lend a general sweetness to the mixture on their own. I didn’t have any carrots, otherwise I would have added some to the onions, just to see how they would work. Because these are so easy to make, I’d definitely make them again, probably adding more garlic and perhaps sugar. Or, I may go to my previous recipe and add some spices to it, and see what that tastes like.
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Yucatecan Pickled Onions

Recipe: Steven Raichlen, Bon Appetit, May 2008
Servings: 10

6 cups water
1 large red onion — cut in 1/8-inch-thick slices, rings separated
2 whole garlic cloves — quartered
1 tablespoon kosher salt — coarse salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 whole allspice
1 whole bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano — preferably Mexican
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 packets Splenda (or sugar) [my addition]

1. Combine 6 cups water, onion, garlic, and 1 tablespoon coarse salt in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then boil 1 minute. Drain off liquid.
2. Return onions and garlic to same saucepan. Add vinegar and all remaining ingredients. Add enough water to saucepan just to cover onions. Bring to boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover, and cool. [Add Splenda at this point, if using.]
3. Transfer onion mixture to bowl, cover, and chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled. Drain onions and serve.
Per Serving: 14 Calories; trace Fat (10.1% calories from fat); trace Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 570mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Miscellaneous sides, on September 7th, 2007.

sicilian-sauce_1.JPG

My friend, Sue, another of my friends who is a very good cook, served this sauce one night several years ago when we dined at their home. It was served as a major condiment on pork chops, I believe. And was it ever good! She told me the recipe came from a cookbook she’d purchased after hearing Lynne Rossetto Kasper talk about it on NPR. I tried to find the recipe online, but had no success at all. So, of course, I had to go buy the book too. Amazon being my good friend, it took no time at all to get it. I enjoyed reading it, The Italian Country Table, all on its own. The author includes lots of fun little stories about the different dishes, about the foodstuffs of Italy, and hundreds of little cooking tips. The sub-title of the book is: Home Cooking from Italy’s Farmhouse Kitchens.

The recipe suggests this can be served with almost any grilled meat. It would be wonderful with grilled Italian sausages, over chicken, or even served as a side to a pork roast. It has a jammy consistency. In fact, Kasper even mentions it in the recipe write-up, that’s it’s more like tomato jam than a tomato sauce. So, this isn’t a sauce for pouring over pasta. This is a tart and sweet reduced (side) sauce that will mound high on a spoon because it’s so thick and goes WITH a protein. Or maybe grilled onions. Or grilled portobello mushrooms. And one of the best things is that this sauce will keep for several weeks. The recipe indicates a week or so, but I’ve kept this much longer than that with no problem. You could also freeze it in small quantities too. I always double this recipe because we use it on lots of different things. Being this is the end of tomato season, you probably could make this with fresh tomatoes too; it just so happens that the author uses canned ones.
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Siciliana Sauce

Recipe From: The Italian Country Table, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Servings: 4-6
COOK’S NOTES: Sweet, tangy and tart all at the same time. Absolutely the best using San tomatoes from Italy.Spread this on grilled lamb or tuna, thick slices of grilled onions or portobello mushrooms. Or, daub it on bruschetta.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion — minced
1 1/2 inches rosemary sprig salt and pepper — to taste
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil zest of one large orange
1 large garlic clove — minced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup canned tomatoes — drained, generous cup

1. In a 10-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, rosemary and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Saute until the onion begins to color, then add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spatula as sugar melts and bubbles (taking care not to burn), the finally turns pale amber, while the onions remain light-colored. 2. Immediately add the herbs, zest and garlic. Standing back to avoid splatters, quickly add the vinegar. Stir and boil down until the vinegar is a glaze, coating the onion and barely covering the bottom of the pan. Continue to scrape down the sides, to bring the developing glaze back into the sauce. Watch for burning.
3. Stir in tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as they go into the pan. Boil, scraping down the sides and stirring, until the sauce is almost sizzling in its own juices. It should be a thick jam that mounds on a spoon. Finish seasoning with a few grinds of black pepper, turn out of the pan and cool. Serve at room temperature or warm. Store covered in the refrigerator.
Per Serving: 62 Calories; 2g Fat (32.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 61mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous sides, Salads, on August 1st, 2007.

pepp-pecans
I suppose seasoned and/or sugared nuts have been around for a long time. Nut companies surely try to devise any way they can to entice us to buy more of their product. And I’ve tasted a variety of caramelized nuts, either walnuts or pecans, that go onto different dishes, most often salads. I’ve even tried the packaged ones from the grocery store. Didn’t like them. Too sweet.

So when Cathy Thomas, the Food Editor of our local daily newspaper, The Orange County Register, gave a cooking class at Sur la Table several years ago, I signed up. I’ve taken several of her classes – she’s fun and entertaining. She even leads food tours in our local Vietnamese community a couple of times a year. I’ve done that too.

But this particular class she prepared some kind of salad with THESE nuts. The only thing I remember about the salad is that it had sliced pears and blue cheese crumbles in it. But I’ll tell you, my taste buds were all over these nuts. You know the word addicting. Addiction: at dictionary.com it’s explained as the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.Oh my. That’s me with these nuts. If you can stay out of the nuts, you’re a better person than I am.

I’ve made them dozens and DOZENS of times. I usually start out with the original recipe size, thinking oh, these will be enough to last for several salads. DH loves them too. We’ll enjoy having these for a week or so. WRONG. After I’ve made them I have to taste them to make sure they’re not too hot (what kind of lame reasoning is that for snacking?) Usually I’m cooking other things, making the salad. You know, the usual kitchen detail for any dinner. One more nut. Set the table. Another nut. Maybe two. Start the vegetable. Another nut. Measure out the 1/4 cup I think is appropriate for the salad and leave the rest to continue to rest on the foil. Another nut. And so it goes. I think you’ve got the picture.These are not overly sweet, although they surely do have some sugar in them. The pepper is what’s a bit different. Addicting. Spicy. Lovely. And I highly recommend you double the recipe!
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Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC – 14 contains photo)

Peppered Pecans

Recipe: Cathy Thomas, Food Editor of the Orange County Register
Servings: 8

1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper — coarsely ground
1 cup pecan halves

1. Place a baking sheet or jelly roll pan next to your range before you start.
2. In a small bowl combine sugar, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
3. Heat a large wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add pecans and toss until pecans are warm, about 1 minute.
4. Sprinkle pecans with HALF of the sugar mixture and toss until the sugar melts. Add remaining sugar mixture and toss again until sugar melts, then IMMEDIATELY pour out onto the baking sheet. Spread nuts out and allow to cool. These will keep, stored in a plastic bag, for about 3-4 weeks. (They’ll never last that long.)
Per Serving: 115 Calories; 9g Fat (67.4% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 235mg Sodium.

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