This business of trying to eat more veggies and fruits, less fat, more olive oil and less butter, less carbohydrates, more fiber and complex carbohydrates, etc, etc can get to me. Sometimes, I throw up my hands and head straight for the meat counter for a juicy steak ... but they're always so big! The little voice in my head says, "Red meat is SO full of bad fat and cholesterol!" So ... I buy little slices of beef tenderloin. A little red meat is okay... right? Right! Moderation in all things is a good standard to live by... so, treat yourself once in a while to those dishes that may not not be great for your blood levels of 'this or that', but taste wonderful!
Tonight, I celebrated beef tenderloin ... in all its fatty and cholesterol-laden goodness.
Hello, Springtime fans! Today, I am suffering the typical Spring head cold ... which means I am never far from the tissue box, have opened the tin of chamomile and red raspberry tea (and left it open), and ... I made chicken soup. Now, I just made a batch of chicken and red lentil soup last week, and I know Silent Bob is going to roll his eyes, but I just can't help it. When I'm sick, I crave chicken soup. I bowed to SB's tender sensibilities and didn't make a terrifically spicy brew. It's just warm enough to get my sinuses clear and heat me from the inside out. I've already been leaning over a steamy bowl to breathe the fumes ... excellent therapy, indeed!
Sometimes a book comes along that takes you by surprise. I figured this book was going to be a tongue-in-cheek tale that gave you a bit of food history as it told a sweet love story... but Adam Schell has done much more here. What a witty guy! He manages to bring the whimsical, comedic atmosphere of a Shakespearean farce to us through his tale of love, hate, prejudice, honor, the history of the introduction of the tomato to Italian food culture ... and olives.
Our young hero, Davido is a young Jewish man heading straight for an arranged marriage with a scrawny young Jewess in 16th century Florence. This will take him away from the family farm in the Tuscan countryside and his beloved grandfather, Nonno. Davido can think of nothing worse than living in a dirty, plague-infested city with a woman he doesn't know or love unless it's returning to a city where Jews are restricted and looked down on. His passion for farming is all he wishes for in life... growing tomatoes, the dreaded ' love apples', and tending Nonno's farm so that it continues to prosper.
Mari is a young Tuscan woman whose mother is crippled and step-father is villainous. She holds the family olive farm and winery business together. She would dearly love to have more control of her life, but her step-father refuses to set her dowery, for in seeing her happily married, he would lose his free labor. Caught in society's snare, she plods on day to day, caring for her failing mother and growing and harvesting olives and wine that are known for their quality.
Mix these two characters' chance meeting, the politics of the Renaissance Catholic Church and the skullduggery within the Italian aristocracy, the societal suspicion and prejudice aimed at Jews, hilarious episodes in the villagers' everyday lives and you have a wonderful Italian stew of a story... an easy, fast, and satisfying read .
You will probably want to try some of the food that becomes central to certain events in the novel ... eggplants, artichokes, garlic, tomatoes, olives, and wine. They all get some delectable treatments that just might inspire you to ceate your own kitchen rhapsody ... salut!
Easter is the traditional time for the Lindquist house to produce a huge batch of piragi for the Easter church service fellowship hour. Of course, there are more waiting at home for our Easter dinner, too! Let me say something about making these piragi. I am not, by nature, a patient person when it comes to food prep. I like to get the slicing and dicing and stirring and cooking done, but making bread is an exercise in 'getting the right feel' on a dough and then waiting. With this piragi recipe, there's the added chop-chop, cook-cook, mix-mix and then wait and let the herbs do their magic. THEN... you construct the piragi. For me, it's like waiting for the freakin' stars to align!
That being said, these little filled sweet rolls are so very delicious that when you pull them warm from the oven and pop one in your mouth, you realize that some things are really worth all the effort. If you're looking for a wondefully tasty bread offering for a dinner party, this is really a rewarding recipe. Guaranteed!
I am agog... read on folks. An interesting article that will get you thinking ... or at least shaking your head at the ever evolving market mentality of 'corporate America' ... If Walmart can sell 'locavore philosophy' to the mainstream consumer ... is that a bad thing? If Walmart can help create a bigger demand for local food products ... say what? Perhaps supplying local food product could offset their inordinate amount of imported (read 'Made in China' ) merchandise. When you consider that there are far more Walmarts than Whole Foods Markets in the US right now and when you consider how much of a nutrition problem the American public has, perhaps Walmart's initiative to get into the organic, local produce, locally harvested meat market could be a good thing. Now, if we could just get them to ditch the plethora of junk food that dominate the end aisle displays... and push an initiative for healthier snacking...
It kinda feels like dancing with the devil, but... what if they are on to it for real? I'm still a cynic.
Silent Bob and I had a new friend come to dinner last evening. She insisted that I not make a fuss, so it was beef stew and baking powder biscuits, a little green salad, and a pot of tea with a little pear tart for dessert. We sat over that pot of tea and dessert and got to know each other a bit better ... what a nice evening.
Did I tell you that I got a new camera? I L.O.V.E. playing with it, but am realizing that I need to have a tutorial ... maybe I should take an adult ed class in digital photography. Hmmm... the beauty of being retired is that I have time to do such things... I'll keep you posted.
When I was a kid, my mother would tell me to clean my plate and not play with my food. Why, I wondered? Of course, after having children of my own, I get it. You're busy, dinner is a pedestrian affair most times when your kids are young, and you have about a million different things on your mind and your schedule... a kid playing with his/her food can send you 'round the bend'. BUT I'm all grown up now and the kids have beat it to their own worlds. Now, I have the time and the inclination... and a new camera. I also have Spring fever and want food with color... so, I give you color and flavor.
I am pleased to introduce you to our first Spice Garden Sprout ... Sara Lindquist, my exceptional daughter, who learned everything she knows about cooking at my knee ... just kidding, Sara! Seriously, I am so happy to be sharing space with my girl! She is a wonderful cook with a good eye for food and a discerning palate! Without further ado....
A Sprout Grows In Boston!
It's officially Spring! The temperatures in Boston are well into the 70's and the finches are happily gossiping in the bushes outside my window. Swaths of people are passing by my apartment, basking in the sun's appearance after quite a few days of heavy winds and rain. I'm feeling slightly better after battling a persistent head cold the past three days, and have decided that I cannot tolerate another day on the couch. I spent the morning reading outside the coffee shop in Davis Square, then ventured back to the apartment to clean off the deck in preparation for what I hope to be the official return of warm weather. With the roommates away for the weekend, I decided it would finally be a good time to break out the baking ingredients and make a mess of the kitchen. I rarely, if ever bake for two reasons: my mid-section doesn't need it, and I rarely have people to share the creation I've made. I do like baking though, and this weekend I decided to throw my cares out the window (which I just scrubbed down) and just go for it! First, some background...
Last week, I was cruising my fave foodblogs and found a sushi recipe for scallops with Thai mayonnaise and spicy dressing on this site. Now, I like sushi sometimes, but I'm not confident of my ability to get sushi-grade fishes from our rural markets in NH. I, therefore, order sushi in more urban settings and rely on my daughters, who are sushi fans, to take Silent Bob and I to the best places for an excellent sushi experience. But, I digress... I love scallops and this recipe of Triss's called out to me... so last night I tweeked it to make a similar, but simpler and different dish.
I have been wondering what rice folks prefer. Silent Bob went shopping with me last week and gave me a hard time about the cost of rice ... particularly the basmati brand that I prefer. I asked him what rice he would buy and he went straight for the domestic long-grain made by a certain gentleman with Uncle in front of his name. Now, there's nothing wrong with domestic long-grain white rice, but it's pretty plain. I like basmati because of the subtle nuttiness it has. Is nuttiness the right term, I wonder? It will have to do ... maybe earthiness, maybe fiber ... nuttiness! Yes, that's it exactly. Whatever the descriptive adjectives, basmati is my 'go to' rice of preference. I tend to cook our rice just until it has softened... no mushiness allowed in our house. I also tend to add things to our rice ... veggies, a sauce, spices. Because of that practice, I think basmati holds up better and carries its own when blended with other ingredients... most times. Which leads me to today's recipe ...
I follow several excellent foodblogs. I am a cookbook junkie. I recently found another book of Spanish cuisine on Trissalicious . Movida Rustica is not only an excellent source for traditional Spanish recipes, it is a gorgeous book to look at. It has beautiful graphics and gorgeous photography. It has anecdotal stories of how Chef Frank Camorra came to include the recipes he's chosen, stories about his travels in Spain's different regions, and educational entries on various regional foods. I love it and will be making many recipes from it. The only thing it doesn't have are 'scratch-and-sniff' patches on the photos. Enough said.
Corned beef and cabbage... the American wink and nod to the Irish palate. I was reading somewhere that true Dubliners think we Americans are a crazy lot to be boiling our corned beef and peeling our taters and carrots. Apparently, corned beef and cabbage isn't that popular a dish in Ireland... period. Having said that, I will still make it every St Patrick's Day... or within a few days of the day. It is something that I have always done ... right up there with belting out 'McNamara's Band' and 'Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder' on the morning of St. Pat's Day ... just ask my kids.
This year, we're having a guest for dinner... I'll let you know if I suddenly come into some gold...
If you've followed this blog at all, you know that I have been on a mission to find a good local source for rabbit meat... I'm still looking, but who knew I'm not the only person looking. Today's Internet reading brought an article on the upsurge of demand for rabbit meat, nutritional info, some preliminary advice for the backyard farmer, and harvesting advice. Looks like I may be scoring local rabbit soon, if this article is savvy. In the meantime, I'll be looking around for likely recipes...
I never enter contests... but I have entered two in the past week. You see, I really need some good knives and I really want a large hard working Dutch oven a la La Creuset. I didn't win either contest. It is not my way, damn it! So, I'm moving on to shameless begging. I have three wonderful children and I am hoping that they remember that Mother's Day is coming in May... and that the power of three could fulfill a humble cooking mother's desire (insert pregnant pause here).
OMG! I can't believe that I have stooped to Internet begging! I can't help it, though! After thirty years of cooking, one's kitchen implements give out and one is reduced to desperate measures ... consider this kinda, sorta like it was when we were all kids and it was Christmas time and we were making our wish lists for Santa.
Poor Silent Bob! His cookie jar has been empty for the past two weeks because I have been feeding him cake. You would think that this is okay, that a trade-off was in play, but no. When the cookie jar is empty, Silent Bob sulks. He passes through the kitchen on his way from doing lumber work to putting a log in the woodstove and rattles the cookie jar lid. Did cookies miraculously appear, I wonder? No, it's just a hint. He mopes as he opens cupboard doors and looks for something sweet, some little something to jump out and into his hand. Nope, nothing there, but rough ingredients. There's always a little half-audible sigh and then he goes for a processed granola bar that is always held in reserve for the hiking backpack. Ahhh... an empty cookie jar is a sad, sad thing!
Funny thing happens when the Spring weather comes our way! We crave greens and look for new ways to wake up our tastebuds to what's coming soon from our gardens and the area Farmer's Markets! I don't know about you, but I am just 'champing at the bit' to buy fresh asparagus that has come from an area farmer's asparagus bed for a light and tasty Spring salad, go out to our garden and break off baby greens for a fresh walnut and feta salad, look for local watercress for a creamy soup ... come on, Spring!
Today, I have some beautiful little mandarin oranges that I found at the market when the produce manager balked at breaking up a box of clementines for smaller orders... shame on him! Oh well... I remembered this light salad that I found years ago and have made whenever I have a citrus salad urge... this recipe came out of Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Funny... When you look back at older cookbooks, you see just how silly we were as consumers way back in the day... this recipe calls for canned mandarin oranges ... horrors! Yuck, yuck, triple yuck! Those little white-spotted, limp, pieces of citrus can't hold a candle to a small bowl or fresh, juicy, mandarins. So... I have altered Betty's recipe to make it fresher and to do a fast-forward for today's (meaning mine) palates. I took out the iceberg lettuce and substituted baby spinach greens ... dark greens are tastier and better for you! I like raspberry vinegar and walnut oil in dressings, so they're in there. I love almonds, so I doubled the amount. I've decreased the salt by half because, hey, we have WAY too much salt in our diets these days.You may want to take the salt out altogether and add it to taste after shaking up the salad dressing ingredients.
I have a little roaster chicken that I'm going to stuff with a stabbed lemon, rub with some herbs and bring to a golden brown crispy goodness in the oven. I also have a beautiful bottle of Brancott's Reserve Sauvignon Blanc getting cold, cold, cold in the fridge. I'm thinking dinner will be light, simple and delicious.
Cakes... I've been into easy cakes of late. After the last Tex-Mex feast, I served this easy little cake of humble origins. I dressed it up with a guava cream topping that had a hint of lime in it. Since we were having company for dinner, we put a good dent in it. That's a good thing, as Silent Bob and I love sweets, but ... a whole cake for the two of us? Ridiculous!
So... the history of this cake goes WAY back. When I was a little girl, living in the northern New York border town of Massena, my mother shopped at the Acme Supermarket. She bought store-brand cans of all the basics, applesauce being one of them. This cake recipe came from the label on the back of the can. It was one of the first recipes that Mom let me make unattended. I have three brothers and a sister ... together, we would mow through an entire 13" by 9" cake at the end of a family meal. It always satisfied the whole crowd!
Here in the boondocks of New Hampshire, I have yet to find a restaurant that can serve a chiles rellenos dish that tastes and feels like the real thing. I have friends who spent their college years in Colorado, other friends who lived for years in Arizona, still others who spent their early married life in southern California. They all agree that a plate of good chiles rellenos is a wonderful thing, but as Deni says, "You just can't get a good chili east of the Mississippi." ... well, I'm trying here. If you're a chiles rellenos fan, I'd appreciate you trying this particular recipe and getting back to me, because I am on a quest to get it right!
I had my first 'real chiles' when I visited a friend in Phoenix. The soft roasted pepper was a revelation ... I had never roasted peppers before and thought they were only used from a jar or can to supplement taste and add color in a dish that had another 'star'. The crisp coating of flour and fried treatment was so wonderful! Add a cheesy filling and I became a fan for life. Of course, getting the authentic Mexican cheese back in New England would be a challenge, but there had to be a way to duplicate that wonderfully crispy, cheesy, soft flavorful pepper experience.
A simple salad for a sunny day when Silent Bob and I are dreaming of our own vegetable garden and what we will be growing this summer ...
We've been opening the doors and letting a cool Spring breeze into the house this morning. Everything looks horrible in the yard, all brown and mucky, woodchips all over the path from woodpile to porch door, deadfall branches littering the grass, empty seed shells under the birdfeeders, last season's grass tufts, matted and splayed. Sounds depressing, huh? But no ... because if you stand quietly and wait for the breeze to die down, you hear the water percolating in the soil, the branches with buds just beginning to take on that reddish blush clicking together, the Spring songs of the chickadees and titmice, and a subtle crunching sound of the grasses and plants drying out and loosening up as they get ready to send up new growth. Really ... go out in your world and listen to Spring. It's there!
Coming in for lunch, I'm eager to have an easy 'throw together', so this salad is perfect. I made those spiced almonds last week and still have a cup set aside. I've been eager for fresh greens of late, so I have the ingredients for a wonderfully fresh and crunchy salad with a tangy shallot dressing. I made this salad last week for a luncheon with three of my pals. Unfortunately, Silent Bob missed out on lunch that day, so I'm making it up to him today, by making this salad for the two of us... and it's meatless so I'm staying with my pledge to the Meatless Monday movement. I hope you enjoy this bit of green!
Up here in the New England boondocks we have mixed feelings about 'mud season'. For a few weeks in March and April, any Yankee living on a dirt road knows they better have a well-stocked larder, propane or oil in the tank, and a stack of books from the library or bookstore to keep them occupied for that time when the frost goes out of the gound, the snow melts fast, and the mire of mud on the roads quickly becomes a thing of mucky, sucky, yucky wonder. Yup, 'mud season' can be a real pain in the neck, but... it heralds Spring, and that means bringing gardens back from the dead, the first crocuses and daffodils, forsythia and pussywillows!
I've been on a Mediterranean kick for the past week or so. It all started with a new 'old' cookbook that I found in a used bookstore a while ago. Matthew Kenney's mediterranean cooking is a pretty little book that has some nice 'nice and easy' recipes. To boot, he tends to use ingredients that I have readily available in my pantry. That's a good sign when you're looking at cookbooks, I think. Kinda like seeing a cute guy in the same aisle of the bookstore you frequent and just knowing that you'd be compatible ... but I digress.
I got said book home and have found several recipes that I'm eager to try. However, before I do, I must prepare some of the specialty ingredients. Pepper-infused olive oil and spiced almonds are a good beginning. Today's project came out wonderfully! Now, I just have to wait a few days for the oil to cure. Then, I can dive into some of those new recipes.
Bread and I have a checkered past. There have been times when I have been wildly successful making herb and anadama breads, pizza doughs, cinnamon raisin bread, and oatmeal bread and then... there have been dismal failures. I just won't go there with you.
Last evening, I tried making a new type of bread that has been around for millenia - flatbread. I found a basic dough recipe in a cookbook on Mediterranean cuisine and then cross-referenced with a couple bread cookbooks that I have. Then, I looked at my rosemary topiary that needed a bit of a trim and thought I'd kill two birds with one stone. The result was a bread board with four flatbreads topped with kosher salt, black pepper, fresh snipped rosemary, olive oil, and freshly grated Parmesan.
I can tilt my head back and feel the ache
from the sudden cold swallow.
I squint and see the distant Sierra Nevada
through the icy fumes rising
from that citrus nectar – all this,
all this before my kitchen counter.
- Susan Miller-Lindquist
I am intrigued by the idea that scents induce such strong memories that one can be completely transported sensually back across time and space to a particular point in one's experience.