29 July 2010

More Summer Pasta ... 'Dilly Mac'

Last evening's dinner fare tasted great, but did not make it aesthetically. Tonight's easy meal is a return to a safe, 'tried-and- true' summer salad. This dill macaroni salad goes from picnic to grillfest BBQ to luncheon plate with ease. Let's face it. Macaroni salad is a staple of summer; it's right up there with watermelon, hotdogs, and zucchini!

This dilly mac salad is always a guest in our house at this time of year because Silent Bob always plants WAY TOO MANY cucumber plants! I always plant a big patch of dill. There are always those staples - celery, onions, eggs, and macaroni in the house. Grab a jar of mayonnaise and some salt and pepper and that's all there is to it!  It's simplicity is its beauty.

28 July 2010

Summer Pasta ... Albeit Veggies Are the Stars

Tonight I am craving crusty bread dripping with olive oil and black pepper, a big bowl of pasta in a creamy white vegetable sauce, a glass of good Pinot Grigio, and a salad to round things out ... I'm wishing I could be walking down Hanover Street in Boston's North End smelling the wonderful smells coming from the various Italian trattorie and listening to the neighborhood chatter. I'm wishing to linger over capuccino and a small piece of tiramisu. And finally ... a small snifter of Strega.

 I might as well wish for the moon ... the North End is NOT in the budget this month.

So what's a girl to do? Make my own Italian food fest ... so, here we go! I have some beautiful green beans from the garden, a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, some lovely pinenuts to toast, some fresh basil,  fresh white mushrooms,  butter and cream to round out this sauce. I've got fettucine nests to boil al dente.  Hell, I even have a decent bottle of Pinot Grigio and some fresh rustica bread! This evening may just turn out fine!  The tiramisu and capuccino are still haunting me, but I'll get over it. As for the Strega ... no one in New Hampshire seems to know about it.

26 July 2010

Two Words ...

Beer Can

25 July 2010

Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

Silent Bob and I took a little trip to Brattleboro several weeks ago to run some errands, which gave us a good excuse to have lunch 'out'. We happened upon a small deli/bakery business just outside the city limits and stopped in for a quick sandwich. As we were ordering,  the baker/owner brought a plate of bite-sized samples of a lovely cake and plunked it down on the counter beside the cashier. She called it Mexican Chocolate Cake. Of course, we had to sample and oh ... it was so delicious! I swore that I would research recipes and make one for the next party that we attend or host. I've been all over the Web and asked numerous blogging friends and relatives about buttercream icings and Mexican Chocolate Cake versions and I think I've made the jump!

22 July 2010

Green Beans ... Two Ways ...

Imagine,  if you will, a stick of  butter that has languished in the heat of a hot New Hampshire afternoon. It holds its shape, but just barely. The garden has given up a colander full of crisp green beans, waiting on the counter top. There's fresh 'butter and sugar' corn, peeled and ready for the hot water bath. A couple cucumbers have been sliced and are sitting in a rice wine vinegar and ice cube bath.  The first garden fresh tomatoes are sliced and wait for knoshing on a plate with a dollop of mayonnaise and some chopped basil. Dinner awaits!

21 July 2010

Beach Read ... The Sugar Queen

What person hasn't eaten to comfort themselves at some point in their lives?  I think we all have  'been there, done that'  to an extent. The Sugar Queen  explores the idea a bit further, though.  What if eating some illicit goodie was your way of rebelling against authority, of taking ownership of your day-to-day life, of going to a place that no one can control or schedule ? This is the life of our protagonist, Josey Cirrini. Josey lives a North Carolina resort town - in a big house with all the creature comforts and very few of the emotional ones. She is the caretaker for her elderly mother - a Southern widow with an embittered past and an iron will.  Josey and the housekeeper maintain the home to Margaret's strict standards, but at a cost. Poor Josey needs to 'get a life'  ... and as the story unfolds, she gets one in the most magical fairy tale way.

20 July 2010

Lobsta' Mashed Potatoes !

SB and I went, several years ago, to Charleston, South Carolina for a brief romantic junket.  Mmmmm ... Charleston is one beauty of a city ... a walker's paradise, a historian's treasure trove, and a foodie's fix. We ate really well, walked it off on the oceanside promenade, and got our fill of  Colonial and Civil War history.  One of the jewels that we brought back was a recipe for Lobster Mashed Potatoes ... a buttery mash of Yukon Golds with big chunks of steamed lobster and flecks of green herbs that is wonderful alongside a steak .

Fast forward, if you will,  to this past weekend. SB and I had old friends visiting and thought a good old-fashioned Lobster Boil would be a fun ending to a Saturday of antique fairs and flea markets. We stocked a cooler with good (and not so good ...) beers, some cold white wine, left a batch of three bean salad marinating in the fridge, bought fresh corn from 'the guy down at the Depot', and hit the Lobster Pound that has just opened up the road.  My goodness, what a great big old messy time we had! I broke tradition and slapped pads of paper towels on the dining room table ( how gauche!)  and a big bowl in the middle to accept the remains of lobster claws and tails, spent corn cobs, and wet towels (double gauche!).  We ate to our hearts' delight, topped it off with Cherry Garcia ice cream.  Then ... more beer and wine, not that we're total lushes ( OH NO!), and went on to chatter and Red Sox baseball. Talk about a perfect weekend!

Enter, Monday ... well, THAT was fun, but now, I'm looking for something a bit more 'refined'.  Oh, gee!  That recipe for Lobster Mashed Potatoes came up in conversation.  J&N left us with a nice bottle of red wine. I have two little tenderloin steaks in the fridge and an urge to have more lobster, so ...

For your enjoyment:

Lobster Mashed Potatoes


1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and boiled
4 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
Enough milk to make the potatoes the preferred consistency
1½ lb. boiled lobster, tail and claws removed and coarsely chopped

Mash the potatotes and add the herbs, butter, and milk. Fold in the lobster chunks and serve immediately.

Note:  Tarragon is a really strong herb. If you have not had it before or if you prefer just a hint, go easy on the tarragon measure in this recipe. You can always add more, but you can't take it out - wisdom from my mother.

17 July 2010

Two Words ...

Blueberry Frenzy

Getting Ready

Jamming Jars

Pop! Sealed!

Leftovers! Yum!

16 July 2010

New Salad ... Hurray for Fresh Summer Produce!

I got local Romaine lettuce today for 70 cents a head. There were beautiful apricots mounded up in the fruit section of the super and I plucked four from the pile. Green peppers are here at last and they are so pretty - shiny and crisp- looking. I am thinking of a salad ... a sweet salad to go with some baked cod and here it is! A psychedelic treat ...

14 July 2010

An Early Morning Project ...

Lately, I have been suffering from a wicked bout of insomnia. My husband says it comes from having too much on my mind, my mother says it comes with the territory called  'empty house syndrome', my friends blame being a certain age. Platitudes, all. I am resigned, but resentful.

Rather than fight it, I have tended to get up and move around the house until I feel drowsy again. I usually pick a mindless task to do while I make some chamomile tea - folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, tidying up, reading or flipping through cook books. You get the idea. One morning last week, I found a recipe for Dorset scones and decided to make them for a warm something with my tea. It took the rough edge off a very early morning.

13 July 2010

Spice Garden Poetry ... Gardener's Couplets

Today, the children from up the street came to play with our new little Corgi girl. We had fun dragging a stick around for Mimi and throwing a Frisbee for Pete the smart Corgi. While we were visiting, we started a rhyme game and it just took over when SB brought veggies up from the garden ...

09 July 2010

Experimental Empanadas ...

Nowhere can I find an empanada dough that  I can get excited about! So... I'm taking the bull by the horns and playing with flours and tanginess. Vinegar? I don't think so ... lemon juice for me. Shortening? No, no, no! Olive oil. I shall combine the best from all the recipes I've researched and go for it!  Oh... and I may get messy. Get ready!

08 July 2010

Gram Lindquist's Blueberry Cake with Vinegar Sugar Drizzle

Hurray for blueberries! As we speak, Silent Bob has gone off to Gap Mountain to pick wild blueberries! This week, there will be blueberries for jam, blueberries for muffins, blueberries for salads, blueberries for yogurt topping, and blueberries to munch like a handful of peanuts. Today, though, it is still quite warm, so I'll make us a quick and easy blueberry cake that SB's mother always made with the first of the berries. I'll save making jam for tomorrow morning ... early ... before the heat builds in the kitchen.

03 July 2010

Saturday's Farmer's Market ...

SB and I made the round of the farmer's markets and roadside stands today ... a hot Saturday called for another ride with the windows down. By the time we came home, there were new potatoes and new corn to add to our Swiss chard bumper crop. I have been thinking that escalloped potatoes made with some garlic cheddar that I bought at the Grafton Village Cheese Company the other day (on another road trip) would be just the ticket to knosh while we watch the Red Sox game this lazy Saturday evening.

02 July 2010

A Study In Light and Space - Hancock Shaker Village

It's not often that I jump up in the air and come down with my feet spinning off on a tangent, but today ... today! I just returned from a spontaneous day trip with my son, Eric. We are both history buffs and so I called him yesterday and asked if he'd like to drive down Massachusetts-way to Hancock Shaker Village. He's very interested in museum work and so he was happy to go with me.

The day was beautiful, I packed us a picnic, and off we went bright and early this morning. I have to say the day was perfect and I'm going to let the pictures speak for themselves. At the end of the day, I happened into the museum shop and picked up a cook book of Shaker-inspired recipes and a bottle of rosewater ... what follows is one of the recipes that grabbed me.

Try it and see what you think. In the meantime, enjoy a virtual tour of the Village and the craftsmanship of the Shakers...

Summertime Bellini Cocktail

I fell in love with Italian cooking long ago. Along with a passion for pasta, I have discovered these lovely, refreshing summertime dessert, 'by the pool', or brunch cocktails. Take your pick where you'd serve them. I think they are so light and refreshing that they go well in varied situations.

When I sipped them by the pool, I would pour them over crushed ice to make the drink last longer ... do what you will with them! I also play fast and loose with the 'peach scnapps' ... I like apricot brandy instead, a smaller amount of lemon juice, and a bigger dash of peach nectar ... all combined just before pouring in the Prosecco. Mmmmmm! I get excited for this special treat just thinking about it!

01 July 2010

Sprout Sara Sends A Post!

Hello Spice Garden readers! We have a new look – did you notice?! My mom, the gardener here at the Spice Garden, was once dubbed the Nettard because she couldn’t figure out a computer to save her life. Look how she’s grown! I think she deserves a big round of applause, don’t you?!

We’ve officially entered summer, and here in Boston, it’s been brutal. My second floor apartment, with no air conditioning to speak of, has become the African Sahara. Needless to say, the mere thought of turning on the stove to cook up some dinner makes me start sweating bullets!

I don’t know about you, but when it gets hot like this, my appetite likes to take a vacation. It becomes very difficult to stick to my breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner routine. The only things I can even muster the energy to enjoy are cold meals, and because of this, I’ve been on the hunt for new cook-less recipes! I’ve found and created a few that have become staples in my weekly rotation. The latest - which I whipped up last night - is what I’d like to share with you today. There’s nothing incredibly special to it; no tricks in preparing or secret ingredients. The only importance is that you use fresh ingredients. That’s it!