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Sara

Sara and me

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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.

One of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs.

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.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

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.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

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

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

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.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in Soups, on May 17th, 2020.

easy_buffalo_chix_soup

This isn’t a “wings” recipe. I know a lot of the world out there adore buffalo chicken wings. Nope, this is soup with the profile of “wings.” But made with just ordinary cooked chicken.

A week or so ago I baked a whole chicken. I’d tried a new recipe (why didn’t I go to my old favorite?) and knew I’d use the leftover chicken for several meals. With what was left I made this soup. And oh, is it ever good. I made it, and ate it every day until it was gone. Now I wish I had more of it.

Perhaps the best part is it’s SO easy you won’t believe it. As most of you know, I’m not known as someone who cooks easy and simple. But this one IS – easy and simple. The original recipe was even simpler, but I tweaked it just a bit  – I added celery, just because I like how celery flavors soup. I added a shallot because I had one that was about to go over the hill. And I added cabbage. Now, I know, any true wings expert will tell me cabbage has no place in the same sentence as buffalo anything. Sorry about that, but I had some roasted cabbage in the frig, and I wanted to use it up, so I added it in. And I loved it. You can choose to leave it out if that offends your wings-senses.

But, there’s one thing that you must have on hand . . . Franks Red Hot Sauce, 12 Ounce. Some markets here in my neck of the woods carry it, but it’s a bit hard to find. And they have a whole line of various sauces. This one is the original plain, but hot sauce. Not the wings sauce, not the thick, just the straight hot sauce. It’s a staple in grocery stores in many places (the South?).  You cannot substitute Tabasco – it would blow your head off. As it was, I scanted the 1/2 cup called for and am SO glad I did, as the soup was plenty hot. If you’re at all sensitive to heat, reduce it even more. But that hot sauce does make the dish. I would not advise eliminating it altogether. I also didn’t add the cayenne – because I tasted it before I was about to do that and decided it was plenty warm for my tastes. I also forgot to add the sour cream garnish. And I didn’t have any green onions. This sheltering in place thing is getting very tiresome. I had cilantro, and that might have been a nice addition.

The vegetables are cooked with oil and butter, then you add broth, the hot sauce, cabbage, cream cheese (which also gives it a lovely flavor and texture) and the small amount of cream. It’s simmered for a short time, then you add in the chicken. Done.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was. How delicious it was. I told you it was easy, right? My mouth is watering as I write this and look at the photo. It’ll be on my soup rotation soon. Really enjoyed the cabbage addition too. Any way to get in more veggies is a good thing in my book.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – unless you don’t like anything with some capsicum heat. And it might be just fine with the addition of tomato paste instead. Not sure . . .

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Easy Buffalo Chicken Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from Tasteholics blog
Serving Size: 6

3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
1 medium shallot — peeled, minced
3 stalks celery — chopped
3 whole carrots — chopped
3 cups cabbage — chopped (optional)
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce — (use less if you don’t want heat)
1 teaspoon thyme
3 cups cooked chicken — chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne — optional (it may be hot enough already)
Optional garnishes: sour cream, green onion

1. Heat large soup pot over medium heat and add oil and butter. When melted and bubbling lightly, add shallot, celery and carrots and saute at medium-low heat until vegetables are wilted, but not browned. Add chopped cabbage.
2. Add chicken broth, hot sauce, cream cheese and cream. Add dried thyme you’ve crushed between your palms.
3. Bring to a simmer, cover and set over low heat for 10 minutes.
4. Add the chopped chicken and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, when you’re ready to serve, garnish with sour cream and chopped green onion.
Per Serving: 416 Calories; 32g Fat (64.3% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 119mg Cholesterol; 291mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on May 13th, 2020.

masala_chai_concentrate_over_milk

This isn’t a repeat of the last post I did of something similar. I just liked the previous version enough that I tried this new one that’s a concentrate – –  – so you don’t have to make a new batch every time you want it.

We’ve been having some very warm weather of late. And I’ve enjoyed sitting outside in mid-day, and I always have some kind of beverage (ice water most often in my thermal flask) in hand. My iPad (with the Kindle app on it), my phone and I go outside to escape for a little bit of time. I read or talk on the phone which provides a change of scenery. Around my house I have hawks, crows, wrens, hummers, and a very persistent mocking bird that’s still singing to find a mate.

So, when I saw this recipe in a recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I whipped it out and made it tout suite.

masala_chai_concentrate_ingredients

It comes together very easily. You do have to whack or crack the cinnamon sticks and star anise – I used the bottom of a big iron skillet to do that. You also crush the cardamom pods, whole cloves and peppercorns too. I used the back of the skillet for that also. The spices are toasted in the pan slightly, then you add water, sugar (I used monkfruit sweetener) finely minced fresh ginger and salt. Those are simmered (in a regular saucepan) for 10 minutes, then steeped for 10 more, then strained. I will tell you, I used a plastic bowl to cool the tea – it’s a light golden color – the tea discolored the plastic bowl. Argh! Perhaps I’ll  use some bleach and water to see if I can get it out. So be forewarned!

tones_peppercornsA month or so ago I was watching an America’s Test Kitchen program and they did a taste test of black peppercorns. Well, they ground them up, but they started from whole peppercorns. Who knew that there could be such a big difference in the taste of peppercorns. They had the studio audience do the taste test too, and it was unanimous, they all preferred Tone’s Whole Black Peppercorns, 2.13 oz. (2 pack). Now, I’d never even heard of Tone’s. Have you? Perhaps it’s a regional thing – I’m certain I’ve never – ever – seen this brand in the West. But, amazon to the rescue, and for a very modest price I might add. So far I’ve used it only in this tea – once my pepper mill runs out of pepper I’ll add Tone’s.

And who would have thought, really, that black pepper ought to be added to masala chai tea, for that matter.

The tea mixture is cooled and chilled, then poured over cold milk with ice – or you can make it for hot tea also. And I suppose you could use alternative milk – almond milk?

On those warm spring days I enjoyed the tea over milk and ice as I sat outside and soaked in the outdoors. I’m very fair skinned, so I always sit under an umbrella, but I enjoyed sipping the tea and reading.

What’s GOOD: the various flavors that roll around on your tongue as you sip this. Altogether lovely. Whenever I get a yearning for more masala chai tea, I’ll definitely make the concentrate. It keeps in the frig for several days.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Takes half an hour or so to make.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Masala Chai Concentrate

Recipe By: Cook’s Illustrated May/June 2020
Serving Size: 8

3 cinnamon sticks — 2″ long
1 star anise
15 whole cardamom — pods
2 teaspoons whole cloves
3/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
5 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar — packed (or monkfruit sweetener, golden)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — finely minced
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons black tea — Assam is recommended
Milk, for combining with concentrate

1. Place cinnamon sticks and star anise on cutting board. Using back of heavy skillet, press down firmly until spices are coarsely crushed. Transfer to medium saucepan. Crush cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns and add to saucepan. Toast spices over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
2. Add water, sugar, ginger and salt and bring to a boil. Cover saucepan and reduce heat; simmer mixture for 10 minutes. Stir in tea, cover and simmer for 10 minutes more. Remove from heat and let mixture steep for 10 additional minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove all spices and tea leaves. Let cool completely (don’t use a plastic bowl for this as it will stain) and refrigerate for up to a week.
3. SERVING: For hot masala chai, use 1/2 cup concentrate and 1/2 cup milk; heat over low heat until desired temp (or combine in mug and heat in microwave). For iced masala chai: use 2/3 cup concentrate, 1/3 cup milk over ice in glasses, stirring to combine.
Per Serving: 73 Calories; 1g Fat (11.7% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 29mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, on May 9th, 2020.

choc_banana_bread_whole

Ever made just enough for a mini-loaf? I wish I’d put something in the photo so you could get the perspective of the mini size. 

In all my years of baking, I’ve never – ever – made just enough batter to bake something in one of those little mini-loaves. Normally I don’t even use those mini-loaf pans except at Christmas time when I’m baking breads, or my Bishop’s Bread favorite. Since I’ve been a widow, however, I make just one loaf of that bread at Christmas. One regular loaf.

But when I saw this recipe, over at “I am a food blog,” it resonated with me. I had one over-ripe banana, I had chocolate, and best part, making a small loaf would keep me from eating so much of it. So I dove in and had a loaf done in no time. I won’t count the extra time it took to measure salt twice, measure baking powder twice, flour twice, etc. I should have brought all the duplicate ingredients out and left them out. I didn’t think about it, as I made the chocolate batter first, and it’s poured into the little loaf pan while you make the second batter.

choc_banana_bread_slicesNeither batter was hard or time consuming – mashing up the banana was the most wrist action I did. Then you pour that batter in on top of the chocolate batter. Into the oven it goes. I guess the chocolate batter rose first, hence it wound its way up the sides of the pan, then the banana batter began. The circle of chocolate was apparent at one end of the loaf and not at the other. But it’s kind of charming, in a way. NOTE: I’ve included gram measurements for the flour in both batters – it’s important that you measure because making a small loaf like this, it’s critical to be accurate. The chemistry in a small loaf wouldn’t be so forgiving.

A few days later my son stopped by my house to deliver something to me and he asked “do you have anything I can snack on, Mom?” I said of course. I made him a plate of cheddar cheese and goat brie with crackers, a cut-up apple and two slices of this bread. As it happened, he devoured it all as he stood 6 feet from me at the front door. I offered some water – he said no. Actually I think he said heck no, because “do you know how hard it is to find a public restroom now?” I didn’t. Hadn’t even thought about it.

What’s GOOD: everything about this bread is good. I’d definitely make it again. Loved the small portion it made. As I’m writing this, there is still one small slice in the refrigerator. I had a slice for dessert tonight with a little cream poured over it. But it’s a lovely snacking bread.

What’s NOT: only that you need to have an over-the-hill banana to make this. You’ll have very little flavor if you try this with an eating banana with no black streaks on it! Did you know that you can freeze a over-ripe banana in its skin? Then defrost and you’ve got mush already, perfect for going into this little bread.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate and Banana Bread – Mini Loaf

Recipe By: From the blog: I am a food blog
Serving Size: 4

CHOCOLATE LAYER:
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar — or sugar substitute
1 tablespoon cocoa — plus 1 teaspoon
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
BANANA LAYER:
52 1/2 grams all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground cinnamon
57 1/2 grams sugar — or sugar substitute
1/2 large egg — whisk and measure out
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons banana — ripe, mashed
1 1/2 teaspoons sour cream — or Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

NOTE: Do use the gram measurement for the flour and sugar. Making a small loaf requires precision in measuring.
1. Lightly butter and flour a mini loaf pan (6×3) inches or a pan that holds 2 cups liquid. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Prepare chocolate batter: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Mix well, then make a well in the center and pour in the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Whisk until blended. The batter will still be lumpy. Pour into the prepared mini loaf pan and set aside.
3. Prepare banana bread batter: Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and set aside. Beat together the sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking, taking your time. Stir in mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Mix just until combined and no flour streaks are visible.
4. Pour this batter on top of the chocolate layer and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200°F when an instant read thermometer is inserted into the center. The cake should be golden brown on top and the cake will spring back when you gently press it and a skewer comes out clean. Cover top of bread with foil during baking if the top begins to brown too quickly.
5. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then upend the pan into your palm and place on cooling rack until it’s reached room temp. Or until it’s still slightly warm. Use a serrated knife to slice.
Per Serving: 323 Calories; 12g Fat (32.1% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 27mg Cholesterol; 229mg Sodium.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on May 5th, 2020.

roasted_sw_potatoes_parm

Why is it we never think to pair Parm with sweet potatoes?

Is it because sweet potatoes are sweet that we think they don’t pair well with something umami and savory as Parm? I don’t know – but this combo is really fabulous. It’s weeks since we celebrated (albeit at home) Easter – that was my Easter dinner plate. A little bit of ham, fresh green beans and garlic and these potatoes. My plan had been to eat half of the potatoes and save the remainder for another meal. The ham wasn’t very good – it had been in my frig altogether too long. It wasn’t spoiled, but it didn’t taste good, either. I had two bites and tossed the rest. So that left me with green beans (devoured) and sweet potatoes (also gone in a flash).

While I was eating my dinner I zoom-ed with my family who live about 40 miles away, so we were sort of enjoying our Easter dinners together. In between bites of food we visited.

Usually I buy the yellow fleshed sweet potatoes, not the orange. But beggars can’t be choosers when your neighbors are doing the grocery shopping. So orange was what I got! I peeled the one large sweet potato, cut it into cubes, tossed it with a bit of EVOO and melted butter, fresh garlic, Italian seasoning and the grated Parm. So very easy to do. Onto a parchment lined baking sheet it went, with a bit of salt and pepper and it roasted for at max about 20 minutes. Depends on how big you cut the cubes. My sweet potato was long and skinny, so I did smaller chunks. When I took it out of the oven, the sheet pan was bubbling hot. Such a sweet sound!

You could easily vary the flavors here – use all EVOO if you’d prefer. Use a different seasoning than Italian if that’s not your preference. You could also use less Parm if you’re trying to keep it more “light.”  I know I found this recipe online somewhere, but the source got lost in translation somewhere between the online recipe and my downloaded one.

What’s GOOD: sweet potato in any way shape or form is fine in my book. This one was super easy, delicious and oh, those little crispy bits that caramelized on the pan? Yum. Definitely a keeper recipe.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Sweet Potatoes Parmesan

Serving Size: 6

3 cups sweet potatoes — peeled, cubed 1″
1 tablespoon butter — melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Chopped parsley for garnish

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with tin foil or parchment paper. Very lightly spray the tin foil or parchment paper to prevent any sticking. It’s important to spray – the potatoes WILL stick.
2. Place cubed sweet potatoes into a bowl. Add in the remaining ingredients and stir together until all sweet potatoes are coated. Pour onto prepared cookie sheet and evenly spread out so potatoes are in a single layer.
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes (less if you cubed the potatoes smaller than 1″) stirring the potatoes at least twice during cook time so that all sides can get crispy and roasted.
4. Serve warm and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Per Serving: 129 Calories; 7g Fat (45.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 200mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on May 1st, 2020.

chix_poblano_soup_joanna_gaines

You know Joanna Gaines? From Waco, Texas, with the Magnolia empire?

A year or so ago, I was very sad when Joanna and Chip Gaines decided to quit their TV show on HGTV. But she had her hands full – I got that – having another pregnancy in the middle of their very hectic lives with rejuvenating their town, creating a restaurant or two and remodeling homes too. But then I got a little rumor somewhere that they would be back eventually. She’s written a cookbook, and now a second one. A few weeks ago she did a “special” as a forerunner of a cooking show she’s decided to do. But oh – on their own network. Ah-HA! That’s what they had in mind, and I’d heard a rumor about that too. This special she did – I had to laugh – the filming of it was so cute – one of the daughters was in charge of the camera due to the sheltering-at-home. And she did a great job, with Joanna sometimes holding the youngest baby on her hip. None of the recipes she demonstrated (I think there were four) are ones I’ll be making, but that’s okay. Chip breezed in a time or two as did the other children.

Joanna writes a blog, if you didn’t know, also part of the Magnolia empire. And this soup popped up some weeks ago. As you know. sometimes the story itself is what makes me decide to prepare something. This one did. When Joanna and Chip were dating, they drove up to Dallas one weekend and ate lunch at a restaurant there. My guess is it might have been Dean Fearing’s, but that’s really a stab in the dark. Somehow, when the restaurant closed Joanna got the recipe – or maybe she just made her own version – and has been making it ever since.

poblano_peppersPoblano chiles are a favorite of mine. They have such a unique flavor. There is some unusual compound (almost a minerally tinge) to them. So I was all over this recipe when I saw it. My biggest hurdle was getting poblano chiles, and that got accomplished by the high school students at my church who are doing shopping for us seniors. When I talked with the young woman who was supervising these shopping-kids, I asked, “will they know what a poblano chile is?” She said yes, I’ll make sure. Sure enough, I got exactly what I asked for.

I also needed tortilla chips. A whole package of ready-made chips would have been eaten in total by me, so I nixed that idea. Fresh tortillas were the answer and I’d make my own chips. The smallest package of corn tortillas, however, was 36 of them. Chuckle. It’s been a month since I made this soup, and I still have 30 of them in the package. One day soon those telltale black spots will begin to appear and they’ll get tossed. But at least I had them to make the chips for the garnish of this soup.

This soup is a cinch to make – butter (oh, lots), onion, celery, carrots (which gives the soup a more warm color), garlic and the chiles. Seasonings go in, some broth and heavy cream in abundance. Once it’s simmered a bit, you whiz it up in the blender, or use a stick blender. I wanted a super-smooth texture, so I used the Vita-Mix. Then you add in the cooked chicken, pour into bowls and garnish with radishes, the chips, cilantro – and I added some diced avocado. I used chicken thighs that I cooked up, but she recommended using rotisserie chicken to make it easy.

What’s GOOD: the silky smoothness of the soup part, and the crunch of the garnishes. Altogether delicious, but then, what wouldn’t be good with a whole cube of butter and 2 cups of heavy cream? I think I used 6 T butter.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. This recipe is a keeper.

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Creamy Chicken Poblano Soup from Joanna Gaines

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Joanna Gaines
Serving Size: 7

8 tablespoons unsalted butter — [I used less]
2 cups onion — diced
4 stalks celery — chopped
3 carrots — chopped
2 cloves garlic — minced
3 medium poblano chiles
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
8 cups low sodium chicken broth — (see note below)
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups cooked chicken — shredded cooked chicken breast (home-roasted or rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Tortilla chips and sliced radishes — for garnish
1 whole avocado — diced, for garnish [my addition]

NOTE: Suggestion: Add about 3/4 of the chicken broth and taste the soup for consistency – next time I would use less broth to make a slightly thicker soup.
1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and poblanos and sauté, stirring often, until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and thyme and sauté until caramelized and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
2. Add the broth and cream, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 15 to 20 minutes to meld the flavors.
3. Use an immersion blender to carefully blend the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, let cool slightly and, working in batches as necessary, process in a stand blender until smooth, filling the blender no more than half full and removing the lid slowly after blending. Pour the soup back into the pot.)
4. Add the chicken and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes to meld the flavors to your liking. Stir in the cilantro.
5. Serve warm, garnished with tortilla strips and sliced radishes and avocado.
6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Per Serving: 601 Calories; 46g Fat (66.9% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 180mg Cholesterol; 1104mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on April 27th, 2020.

salmon_simmered_orange_sauce

Luscious, moist salmon in a simple creamy orange sauce

Salmon is one of my favorite fish. And I didn’t have any in my freezer arsenal, so I asked my neighbor to buy me a chunk. Sometimes I buy wild caught, but more and more the fillets are thinner and I truly do enjoy a thicker piece of fish. Plus, the wild is so very expensive! But thick pieces cook better, more evenly. So this one  was farm-raised. As I write this we’re still in the midst of the lockdown – maybe by the time this posts we’ll be somewhat out the other end (gosh, I hope so). I cut the chunk into 3 pieces, froze one that I vacuum sealed, cooked the two with this recipe, ate one and will have the left overs of this (above) for my dinner. And you can see I had it with asparagus (recipe up soon) with a maple pecan vinaigrette on top. Just a lovely dinner.

As I scanned through recipes I’d use, I was limited with what I had on hand – no running to the grocery store to buy leeks or mushrooms, or fresh ginger, or limes, so I decided to adapt a Phillis Carey recipe that’s already here on my blog (from 2008). Technically, I suppose this recipe doesn’t quite qualify as a “new” recipe, except that I did change it – I used green onions instead of the leeks called for in the other recipe, and I substituted orange juice for the white wine. I also reduced the amount of cream since so much of it rolls off of it, even when serving. You want to lap up that sauce, though!

As I was on the phone that afternoon with my friend Linda T, who lives about an hour south of me (we’ve been friends for 30+ years) she told me the original recipe was/is one of her favorites. She often makes it for guests. I haven’t made this recipe for a long time. I did have a fresh orange on hand, so it seemed destiny that I’d make this recipe with the adaptations.

All of it is made in a saucepan in lickety-split time. Really – you make this in less than 20 minutes if you have everything ready to go. The green onions (both white and lower green parts) are gently sautéed in butter. The asparagus took almost more time to make than the fish, but I did them simultaneously. The fish is added to the green onions, then you add the orange zest, orange juice and the little dash of cream. Bring it to a simmer, cover and let it gently cook until the salmon reaches 135°F. With my handy-dandy instant read thermometer, I checked the temp until it reached about 132°F, then turned off the heat while I finished the asparagus. By the time I plated dinner, the salmon had reached full temp and the sauce was ready.

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first and foremost. So very tender fish, flaking easily with a fork, with the orange sauce (not much – but enough to give it all super flavor).

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

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Salmon Fillets with Orange Scallion Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from an old Phillis Carey recipe
Serving Size: 2

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 green onions — halved, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1/3 teaspoon sugar
1/3 teaspoon fresh thyme
8 ounces salmon fillets — cut into serving pieces
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/8 cup orange juice — or white wine
2/3 tablespoon fresh chives — cut in 1-inch lengths

1. Melt butter in heavy, large skillet over medium low heat. Add green onions and sprinkle with sugar and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Saute 2-4 minutes until onions are limp but not browned.
2. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Arrange atop green onions and sprinkle with orange zest. Add cream and orange juice. Spoon some of the sauce over the top of the salmon. Cover pan and cook over low heat until fish is opaque, about 10-12 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer and do not cook the fish past 135°F in thickest part. Transfer fish to plates and keep warm.
3. Boil sauce until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed. Pour sauce over fish. Garnish with chives.
Per Serving: 277 Calories; 18g Fat (58.7% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 105mg Cholesterol; 89mg Sodium.

Posted in Vegetarian, on April 24th, 2020.

mushroom_masala

A vegetarian Indian entrée. Full of meaty mushrooms and sauce.

It’s not news here that I enjoy Indian food. So, lacking the ability to go visit a restaurant these days (although take-out is certainly an option), I took the problem into my own hands and tried something new in my own kitchen. As I write this (actually about 3 weeks ago) I’m having others go grocery shopping for me. My neighbor went to Costco and I asked for mushrooms. I got a one-pound box. Lots. More than I’d usually use. But instead of making a vegetable side dish and mushroom soup, I had this recipe in my head. I found the original recipe online and adapted it to my somewhat limited Indian-spiced kitchen. And oh, this was wonderful. The original was made in the instant pot. I chose not to; no particular reason. I just thought a longer, slower cooking would provide more flavor.

What I didn’t have was Kashmiri red chili powder. No-can-do. But I had New Mexican chile powder, which has really rich, deep flavor. I also didn’t have dried fenugreek leaves. My little bottle of fenugreek is likely 15 years old, and it’s not leaves anyway, so that got left out altogether. I didn’t have cashews, either, so instead of a cashew-cream to drizzle on top I used yogurt mixed with milk. And a little sour cream. Probably not authentic. Oh well. In these times of self-quarantine, we do the best we can, right?

Ghee was melted in a big pot, then onion was added and lightly sautéed until translucent. Then I added fresh ginger and garlic. The mushrooms were added then, but as expected, the mixture was quite dry. I stirred it a bit, added the turmeric, then the fairly big jar of passatta tomatoes (a kind of puree). That gave plenty of liquid. I added the chile powder, stirred, then the garam masala and salt. After cooking just slightly, I put a lid on it and put the pot in the oven for about 2 hours at a low-low temperature. I thought the mixture was too thick to cook well over the heat of a gas burner – the oven provided gentle but all-around heat.

Meanwhile, I made a small pot of rice in my instant pot. I’ve read that if you slightly undercook rice, it doesn’t get absorbed so much as a carb. And that if you make it ahead and refrigerate overnight, it also allows less absorption. Sounds good to me. Making rice in the instant pot is so incredibly easy – if nothing else, I want you to remember this part:

Instant Pot Rice: add 1 cup rice (I used basmati), 1 1/4 cups water or broth, a tablespoon of fat (combo of butter and EVOO) and a big pinch of salt to the Instant Pot. Cook on pressure for 3 minutes. Vent immediately, remove lid and allow to cool.

I made this masala the day before I ate it  – kind of like soup – always better if allowed to chill overnight. I have nothing but time on my hands these days, so that was no big deal. The next day it was so simple to scoop out a bit of rice into a bowl, spoon an ample portion of the mushroom masala on top, then heat in the microwave for 2 minutes on high. Meanwhile I made the yogurt cream to drizzle and chopped up the cilantro. Done. As I write this, it’s been my lunch for 3 days in a row and I’m not at all tired of it.

What’s GOOD: oh, the flavor for sure. Mushrooms have umami, one of those enhanced flavor profiles, and it comes through in spades here. Very satisfying. The rice (made as paragraphed above) was still just slightly chewy which I liked, and the mushroom mixture was just so good. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. A bunch of cutting of mushrooms, but that’s all.

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Mushroom Masala

Recipe By: Adapted from Ministry of Curry blog, 2020
Serving Size: 5

1 pound mushrooms — rinsed, blotted dry and sliced
1 tablespoon ghee — or EVOO
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 large yellow onion — minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated
2 teaspoons garlic — minced
1 1/2 cups tomato puree — or same amount of peeled fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 tablespoon red chili powder — [I used New Mexico, though that would not be traditional]
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon milk — or half and half
Cilantro leaves chopped for garnish
INSTANT POT RICE:
1 cup basmati rice
1 1/4 cups water — or broth
2 teaspoons ghee
2 teaspoons EVOO
2 pinches salt

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. In a large pot (that has a good fitting lid) heat ghee over medium heat. Add onion, stir and saute over low heat for 4-6 minutes until onion is translucent. Add ginger and garlic and continue stirring for about a minutes.
3. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir well, then add the tomatoes. Add turmeric, chile powder, garam masala and salt.
4. Put lid on pot and bake for about 2 hours. Remove from oven, cool and allow to refrigerate overnight, if time permits. Reheat over low heat until bubbling.
5. INSTANT POT RICE: To instant pot add rice, water/broth, ghee and EVOO. Pressure cook rice on high for 3 minutes. Vent and cool. May be served immediately or chill overnight. To serve: Scoop about 1/3 to 1/2 cup rice into each serving plate or bowl, then top with ample portion of mushroom masala.
5. Meanwhile, mix yogurt with milk and drizzle on top, then add chopped cilantro.
Per Serving: 324 Calories; 15g Fat (39.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 776mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on April 20th, 2020.

caulif_soup_golden_raisins_capers_pinenuts

Oh my goodness, is this soup fabulous. You’d almost not know its base is cauliflower.

There’s a story to go along with this post. Last month before the virus had ramped up, I took a one-week trip to our California central coast. I had a fabulous time – by myself – visiting wineries, window shopping, used book stores, stopping at coffee shops here and there. I thoroughly enjoy driving and I meandered – I was in no hurry to get anywhere so I could enjoy the views. Visiting with old friends in San Luis Obispo, we went to a local hotel (the San Luis Obispo Hotel) for lunch. Cauliflower soup was featured that day – I quizzed the waitress if it was good. She waxed glorious about it – whenever the chef made it, she said she had some – and that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

So here’s what the restaurant’s soup looked like, at right. cauliflower_soup_san_luis_obispo_hotelI think the menu said it was garnished with a sage leaf, but that wasn’t a sage leaf – looked like basil to me. But on top was plenty of the balsamic glaze, toasted almonds, capers, some plumped up raisins (can’t really see those) and a few little pieces of caramelized roasted cauliflower.

Upon my first sip, I swooned. It was SO good. I insisted my friends needed to try it – they agreed it was sensational. My thoughts as I ate it – the golden raisins added so much – they were plumped for sure. The nuts added great texture, and so did the few little pieces of cauliflower. There was no discernible cauliflower flavor to the soup itself. So I decided it probably wasn’t made with caramelized cauliflower. Plus, the soup was super smooth. When the waitress returned I quizzed her some more about the soup – she knew it contained cream (check), and yes, it was balsamic glaze (check), and toasted almonds (I used pine nuts, check) and she knew the raisins had been cooked in something (check). And yes, they used a Vitamix to puree it until very smooth (check).

Soon after returning home I went online to google such a soup. No soup came up, but a bunch of results showed a vegetable dish (from the New York Times, I think it was, plus epicurious) of roasted cauliflower with toasted pine nuts, capers, golden raisins and balsamic glaze drizzled on top. My first thought was that the chef had perhaps made a monstrous batch of that for the dinner service, didn’t serve it all so he created the soup with the leftovers. I don’t know, of course. And it doesn’t matter – I created the soup with what little I could discern.

As I’m writing this post, I’m going to have it for the 2nd day, for my lunch. I have all the garnishes except the roasted cauliflower pieces. And I used pine nuts, as I mentioned. No basil or sage leaf, either. I added more parsley. I tried to make the soup with white onion, but my neighbor who is doing my shopping couldn’t find white onions. So yellow it was. I added celery for flavor, chicken broth, cream, and thickened it a little bit with flour. All of it was whizzed up at length in my Vitamix. I let it whiz for a long, long time  – and truly it resulted in a silky-smooth texture. I added a drizzle of sour cream (not on the restaurant soup), but you could easily use a little drizzle of EVOO for appearance or a tiny drizzle of heavy cream.

caulif_soup_with_cozyLunch at my house is often soup of some kind. There’s a photo of my bowl sitting in the microwave soup cozy (several artisans make them on Etsy). The soup bowl is sitting off center only because I wanted to show you the cute fabric on the back side of it. I have flat bags and bags of various soups in my freezer. I think this one will get eaten in total with none for the freezer. It’s that good. Do try to make this a day ahead of serving – as with all soups, they taste better once they’ve chilled overnight.

What’s GOOD: all the flavors produce an outstanding soup. The garnishes absolutely “make” this soup. Don’t skimp on them – in my opinion they’re all needed.

What’s NOT: a bit more prep with all the garnishes, but really it’s not a difficult soup to make.

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Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Golden Raisins, Pine Nuts, Capers and Balsamic Drizzle

Recipe By: Loosely based on a soup I enjoyed at a hotel restaurant in San Luis Obispo, CA, March 2020
Serving Size: 6

SOUP:
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large white onion — chopped
2 stalks celery — chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
1 head cauliflower — chopped (no leaves)
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
Salt and WHITE pepper to taste
3 tablespoons all purpose flour — or cornstarch
2/3 cup heavy cream — or half and half
GARNISHES:
4 tablespoons golden raisins
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 tablespoons pine nuts — toasted, or slivered almonds
2 tablespoons capers — drained
2 tablespoons sour cream — drizzled on top, or EVOO Drizzle of balsamic glaze
4 tablespoons parsley — minced

1. SOUP: In a large soup pot warm the butter and EVOO over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes until onion is soft. Do not burn or brown. Add celery and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, then chicken broth, then the cauliflower. Simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are cooked through. Allow mixture to cool for 20-30 minutes, then pour (in batches if necessary) into blender and puree for a long time – until the soup is super-smooth. Add the all-purpose flour during one of the whizzing sessions. Pour all the pureed mixture back into the soup pot, add cream and bring to a simmer again and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, as it thickens, watching that it doesn’t burn. Cool and refrigerate overnight if possible.
2. RAISINS: Bring golden raisins, water and vinegar to a simmer and cook over very low heat for about 5 minutes, then set aside to cool, while the raisins plump up. Drain.
3. SERVING: Pour reheated soup into individual bowls and garnish with any and all variety of the garnishes. The raisins are a must, as are some kind of toasted nuts. If you don’t have pine nuts, use slivered toasted almonds. If you don’t have balsamic glaze, you can make it by cooking down about 1/2 cup of regular vinegar until it’s thick and syrupy. Or, in a pinch drizzle soup with a TINY amount of regular balsamic. If you don’t have sour cream, drizzle with EVOO. If you feel particularly creative, sizzle the capers in a little olive oil until they burst and crisp up.
Per Serving: 291 Calories; 21g Fat (63.1% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 46mg Cholesterol; 491mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on April 15th, 2020.

indiv_choc_pavlova_choc_pastry_cream

The prettiest little dessert ever. Chocolate.

At a cooking class awhile back, Phillis Carey made these gems. Would I ever make them? Probably not – I think they’re a bit too fussy for my dessert-making tastes, but Phillis assured us they weren’t that difficult. However, she’d made the meringues that morning, and prepared the chocolate cream filling the night before. She’d put the meringues in a sealed container. So, really, all she had to do at the class was assemble them. That part’s really easy. But, if you don’t mind the making of meringues, or the chocolate cream, then go for it.

The recipe down below looks more than intimidating, I’d wager, for even the more experienced cooks out there. Some folks get turned off by anything more than about 5 ingredients in a recipe. Definitely more complicated than that.

Making meringues can be off-putting to some, but Phillis’ instructions are quite straight forward. You do have to make 4” circles on a big piece of parchment paper, then you turn it over so you don’t absorb graphite into the meringues, but you can still SEE the circles through the other side of the parchment. And, you’ve got to whip the egg whites for at least 8 minutes. Advice: set a timer when you begin, because you’ll think you’re done at about 5 minutes. No, a full 8 minutes.

The chocolate cream is easy enough, although  you do need to prepare an ice-water bath for it. Once made, and it’s hot, of course, you set the bowl into the ice water to cool it down until it’s fully cold. So, do make the meringues the day ahead (store at room temp, sealed up in a plastic, lidded box) and make the filling up to 3 days ahead. Then it’s only a matter of whipping the cream, shaving some chocolate curls and assembling it. That part’s very easy.

What’s GOOD: loved having chocolate pavlova – that was a new taste treat. If you want to make it a bit more decadent, make MORE of the chocolate cream – the chocolate flavor really comes from that and as the recipe is now, it doesn’t give any serving very much of it. I think I’d double it.

What’s NOT: only that you’ll want to plan ahead – make meringues day before – make cream at least a day or 2 ahead of time. A little bit fussy to serve, but not overly so. If everything IS made ahead, it’s not difficult in the least.

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Individual Chocolate Pavlovas with Dark Chocolate Cream

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Phillis Carey, 2020
Serving Size: 4

PAVLOVAS:
2 large egg whites — at room temperature
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup heavy cream — whipped (garnish)
chocolate curls (garnish)
CHOCOLATE CREAM:
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream — + 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces dark chocolate — finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. PAVLOVAS: To make meringue, preheat oven to 275°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Draw four 4-inch circles on parchment, flip parchment over (so you can see the pencil marks but it won’t be absorbed into the meringue). Mix egg whites, sugars, salt and vinegar in a mixing bowl, set over a bowl of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugars dissolve and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk on medium-high speed or hand mixer until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Set a timer if that helps – you do not want to under-beat this meringue. Beat in vanilla.
2. Sift cocoa powder over meringue and fold until barely any streaks remain. Using an offset spatula or a large spoon, spread meringue onto parchment, using the circles as a guide. Be careful not to spread out too much as the meringue will spread some during baking. Form a small well in the center of each meringue, being careful not to spread the meringue too thin in the center.
3. Bake meringues until dry to the touch, about 40-45 minutes. Let cool on sheet pan on wire rack. Meringues will keep in a tightly covered container for up to one day. Remove to a sealed container.
4. CHOCOLATE CREAM: Prepare an ice-water bath.
5. Whisk egg yolks and half of the sugar in a medium bowl. Bring cream, milk, salt and remaining sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Pour a THIRD of the hot cream mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking until combined. Pour yolk mixture into pan with hot cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture coats the back of a spoon – this will happen very quickly.
6. Place chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Pour hot mixture over chocolate. Whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Strain through a sieve into a medium bowl, then set bowl in ice-water bath, stirring often, until chocolate is cool/cold. Stir in vanilla. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of chocolate cream, cover and refrigerate for up to three days.
7. ASSEMBLY: Spread chocolate cream evenly in the center of each meringue, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the outside. Spread whipped cream over chocolate cream. Garnish with chocolate curls and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 465 Calories; 28g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 170mg Cholesterol; 330mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on April 12th, 2020.

broccoli_spaghetti

This recipe has such an interesting story. I hope you’ll read it to learn why it’s called “Stop Trying So Hard” Broccoli Spaghetti.

Reading other blogs is a favorite pastime for me. And Food52 is one of them, with the staff there posting sometimes 4-6 stories a day. And perhaps because I had so much time on my hands the day I read this story, I read more of them than usual. I might have breezed by it just because I don’t eat much pasta. But I did click through (and am so glad I did, as the story is just so fun) and read the short saga of a young chef, James Park, who moved away from his home in South Korea to New York City. Some years had past and he hadn’t made the time to fly home to visit his family. Finally, his family decided to visit him. He went into semi-panic mode. He lives in a tiny, tiny Manhattan apartment and he needed to house them (his mother, father and brother) in the space. And he needed to cook for them. As the arrival became closer he mapped out what he would do with them, partly being tourists and he thought he’d take them to some of his favorite restaurant haunts, assuming they’d be impressed not only with the food, but with his now-prodigious knowledge of food. Uh, no. It didn’t happen that way. They didn’t want American food at all. They wanted to eat Korean food.

The chef never mentioned how difficult it must have been to sleep everyone in his small home space, but he did mention the various restaurants he took his family to, encouraging them to order particular dishes that were his favorites.

But I’ll back up. Arriving at his apartment from the airport with his family in tow:

“. . .per my mother’s request for pasta, I made my signature dish of penne, rosemary-infused oil, charred Italian sausage, and lots of Parmesan cheese—a weeknight go-to for me. This pasta was, in many ways, a reflection of various flavor-building techniques I had learned in culinary school. I wanted them to taste it, to see what their new chef son had learned during our years apart. Aiming to impress, I plated the pasta with extra Parm and garnished with fried rosemary, a flourish of freshly cracked black pepper.”

Her response (he obviously wanted, desperately, to impress his mother) was that this certainly wasn’t what she had been hoping for. She took a bite and said this is good, but she wanted that “other thing.” The one that was white and creamy. She said, you were eating it once when we were FaceTiming.

“. . . To many older Koreans, especially those of my mom’s generation, “pasta” is a dish with long noodles, pretty much always spaghetti, drenched in either tomato or cream sauce. Koreans love their cream pastas. Now that I think back on it, oil-based pastas, like the one I had just made, were not something my family would’ve ever associated with pasta.”

So, on their last morning there, he dug into his memory and tried to recall what he might have been eating during that long-ago phone call and pulled ingredients from his pantry and frig. His mother took a bite and made a satisfying sound of contentment. Yes, this is it, she said. It rated a 10 out of 10 in his mother’s eye. So Chef Park named this Simple Stop-Trying-So-Hard Broccoli Spaghetti, obviously referring to his wanting so hard to impress his family (mother) and finally resorting to something he threw together.

broccoli_spaghetti_cookingWith that kind of story, the recipe had been percolating in my head for the last 2 weeks or so. I had a big bunch of broccoli. I had some thin linguine (my fav). I had milk. And I had lemons. (My Meyer lemon tree is absolutely drooping from the weight of so many lemons.) This recipe is kind of incongruous – adding milk into a pot full of broccoli and onion? Doesn’t even sound good (oh, but it is).

Really, the only change I made was to double the amount of broccoli, and I also cut some of the stem to add in as well. So mine had more broccoli per serving. Not a bad thing.

What’s GOOD: how easy it is to make as long as you have broccoli. This is a dish you could throw together in less than 30 minutes. I don’t buy frozen broccoli, but I’m sure you could make it with that as well. Good flavor, although it’s somewhat bland (just know that if you make this) – with the only highlight the red chili flakes that give this a little zip. I think I’d try to make more “sauce” if you can call it that. When you add in a bit of the pasta water, usually it helps thicken some of the liquid, but mine didn’t do that very well. Since I’m into comfort food these days, this definitely filled the bill, so to speak. The milky consistency was actually quite good. Next time I might add just a tetch of chicken broth granules to the milky broth, but it wouldn’t be a necessary thing. It’s good just the way it is.

What’s NOT: not a thing as long as you have broccoli, pasta, lemon zest and milk. Everything else will likely be in your pantry already (onion, red chili flakes, Parm, garlic powder, butter, oil, fresh garlic). I noticed the leftover pasta had soaked up all the remaining milk, so I may need to add a bit more for reheating.

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Simple Stop-Trying-So-Hard Broccoli Spaghetti

Recipe By: James Park, NYC chef
Serving Size: 4

8 ounces pasta — like spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic — half sliced and half crushed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 medium onion — sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon lemon zest — or more
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. When butter is melt, add sliced and crushed garlic and red pepper flakes until they are fragrant. Stir occasionally to make sure garlic and red pepper flakes don’t get burnt.
2. Once they are fragrant, add sliced onion and broccoli florets. Season them with salt and pepper. Toss everything until onions are translucent and florets are tender but still firm, for 3-4 minutes. Add lemon zest at the end and quickly toss everything again until it’s fragrant.
3. Add whole milk to the pot with salt and garlic powder and let it simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in heavily salted water, occasionally stirring, until very al dente (2–3 minutes less than package directions). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
5. Using tongs, add pasta to milk broth. Cook everything over high heat and bring everything together with pasta water and Parmesan for a minute, or until the pasta is cooked when you taste, “al dente” if you can.
6. Serve pasta with freshly cracked black pepper and more grated Parmesan cheese.
Per Serving: 391 Calories; 13g Fat (29.6% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 28mg Cholesterol; 404mg Sodium.

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