28 October 2010

Pad Thai ...

I tend to go through phases in which I crave spicy foods. Last week, I started in on a spicy jag when Sara and I made a pan of garlicky chicken tapas and a hot and spicy dish of chiles rellenos. Then, I went the green route with that herbed pasta dressed with garlic, olive oil, and all those wonderful green spices. This week , though, I've been visiting my Mom and Dad who, at this point in their lives, don't know 'hot and spicy' from the man in the moon. Coming home last evening, the urge built for a good plate of Pad Thai.  I stopped and picked up the makings for this spicy, sweet-and-sour dish, then planned my kitchen attack the rest of the way home.

24 October 2010

Herbs and Pasta ...

I will admit that I am a junkie when it comes to pasta ... I love a good macaroni and cheese recipe. I love linguine with a white clam sauce. I love fideos and seafood. I love pot-browned noodles and four spice pork.  I love lasagna a kazillion different ways. I love tuna noodle casserole. I love spaghetti and meatballs. I love pastitsio. I love pasta e fagioli. I love penne and spinach. I love a minestrone soup with little shells floating here and there. Get it? I LOVE  pasta!

22 October 2010

Sweet Fennel Yeast Rolls

The hunt is on for a yeast roll that will grace the Thanksgiving table. Like most of us, I am beginning to set aside a small pile of recipes to be tested before the shopping and preparations begin for the family's Thanksgiving feast. This recipe was featured in this month's Country Living magazine. It is an egg-based sweet dough with a goodly amount of fennel seeds kneaded in, minimal rise time, and a dense crumb. The crusts are crunchy and chewy and the sesame seeds stick well to the egg glaze. The rolls baked up beautifully and the fennel flavoring is really tasty.

21 October 2010

Green Beans, Leeks, and Hazelnuts

I have really been trying to eat more vegetables ... in more varied ways! I find myself, though, always preparing them in the same way.  Let's face it, the tried and true recipes do 'get old' after awhile. So tonight I'm mixing it up a bit and trying a new take on green beans. The last of the fresh green beans have made their way into the markets and I couldn't resist one more dish. Next week, it'll be all about the broccoli, spinach, winter squashes, kale, brussel sprouts, and winter salads, but for now ... one last green bean crunch!

20 October 2010

Warm Soup ... Pasta e Fagioli

A year ago, I was just becoming proficient in using my Facebook account. I'd discovered 'Notes'  and would use the app to publish short pieces of poetry or rants for my 'friends' to read. I published the following note one morning as I contemplated a chilly day and our need for a steaming pot of soup. When my daughter, Sara read it, she commented , "Mom, you really need to start a food blog ... for realz."  Then she followed up with, " I'm serious. Get to it!"  I commented ,"Don't know how to do it..."

What followed was three weeks of hemming and hawing and then a visit from my older daughter Kate. She came home armed with computer know-how. She sat me down and helped me set up The Spice Garden ... and I haven't looked back ... until today.  I got up with a cold and thought ... 'Soup!  Must have soup!'.  As I soaked the beans, I thought of sharing that 'note'.  It's kind of eerie, don't you think,  that just about a year ago to the day, I was making this same soup ?  Read on ...

18 October 2010

Pear-Cranberry Mostarda

It must be the colors of the leaves out my kitchen window, or the pile of pears on my counter, but I figured that today was the day to make a batch of pear and cranberry mostarda for the winter pork roasts and broiled chicken breasts that will be coming along when there's a real snap in the air. Besides, I have a cold and need something strongly scented to get to my sense of smell. It seems non-existent right now. I've lined up most of the ingredients on the shelf and have pulled out my canning equipment, so let's get to it!

16 October 2010

Zwiebelkuchen und Riesling!

This time of year is called Goldener Oktober in Germany. It's a time when the first snap in the night air turns all the grape leaves a gorgeous golden and every hillside is painted shades of green, yellow and gold, as the vineyards give up their grapes for the Fall press and the vines drop their golden leaves. It's a beautiful and fun time to be in the Pfaltz or along the Mosel or Rhine Rivers because every little village has a vintner who is putting out his wares for tasting. Places like Bad Durkheim have huge wine festivals from the end of September right into October ... it's your chance to taste all the wares and buy up new wines. Oftentimes, there will be small snacks to knosh at wine tastings - Wursts and Zwiebelkuchen are the most common treats to be had. Zwiebelkuchen  is a yeast-based doughy bread -like cake topped with onions and speck (salty ham cubes)  that have been tossed with eggs, cream fraiche, white pepper and either cumin or nutmeg. This kuchen is baked at a high temperature until it is golden and crunchy crusted and then served just warm with a chilled glass of Riesling. So delicious!

14 October 2010

Two Words ...

chocolate ... butter

12 October 2010

April's Tortière

French-Canadian tortière is one of those dishes that I always think of when Fall comes around. I think I'm reminded of it because there were always these Fall foodfests up along the Canada-US border (where I was born and raised)  that celebrated the locals'  French-Canadian roots. Folks would knosh on these small meat pies while walking around watching all the action. There were artisans making snowshoes, woodworkers carving wooden bowls and spoons, lumberjacks showing their prowess with axe and picks, fiddlers playing Quebecois folk music. There were sometimes canoe races on the St Lawrence River. Women baked bread in the outdoor clay ovens, fried beignets for those with a sweet tooth, stirred potage on open fires. It was always fun to go to one of these events. And over it all, there was the smell of the spicy meat filling that was so intoxicating! It would draw you into the line for 'just one more'.

My father worked with a couple Frenchies on the telephone company line crew ... he would sometimes come home with a meat pie around Christmastime. It is a typical holiday dish in French-Canadian households, made in huge batches ... warm and spicy with a crunchy crust. So delicious! We counted ourselves lucky that his friends shared their Christmas tortières with us ...

07 October 2010

Marguerita Cake

I have found another gluten-free cake recipe that I simply must make ... a sponge cake made with potato starch and eggs that have been whipped into a frenzy. The original recipe calls for a chocolate rum frosting, but I tried it and it was WAY to heavy for this light cake, so I'm topping today's version with a mocha whipped cream . I'm going to dust the top with confectioner's sugar, a bit of cocoa powder, and shaved chocolate. Then, I'll chill it until we're ready to have dessert. Now, THAT'S my kind of cake!

I have a dear friend who is unable to eat glutens of any kind, so finding fun desserts that will surprise and please him is always fun. Silent Bob and I will be taking this cake to Harold 'for his approval' this evening. I'm really thinking that he's going to love it. I tasted the mocha whipped cream, as I was frosting the cake, and it is really light and tasty. Perfect for the cake... I love it when an idea works well!

Marguerita Cake is an Italian cake from Marguerite Buonopane's cook book, The North End Italian Cookbook. I have adapted the directions somewhat to fit my taste. You play with it too! Surely there are fruit toppings or other whipped toppings that would complement this light sponge cake. Get creative!

05 October 2010

Potatoes Gratin With Garlic and Thyme

A while ago, Sprout Sara called to say that she'd made this potato recipe that I'd included in her family cookbook. She was complaining a bit because this recipe has a looser sauce than another escalloped potato recipe that we also make here at the grey cottage. Poor dear, she made the wrong recipe for her cheesy potato yearning and when I reminded her that there are two gooey potato recipes, she whacked the side of her head and said, "Dang!".

Well, I've been thinking about this recipe and last night I played with the measurements and got a better sauce for my  little sprout ... because I love her and don't want her to dis this recipe just because of a loose sauce.  While I was making dinner, I was also thinking about a blogger on the Web who had commented on the fact that she eats a lot of potatoes and would welcome ideas for cooking them, so here you go, Brownieville Girl !

Potatoes Gratin - printer friendly

03 October 2010

Kabisuppe ... Because It WILL Snow One of These Days!

You may think me crazy, but I promise you that this is my gift to you. This soup is a soup for a day when the snow comes down and you have to shovel or you want to go out and go sledding or you've been out Christmas shopping and want a nice warm bowl of goodness when you stagger back into the house.

Simplicity is the heart of this soup. The ingredients are right out of the peasant's tradition - cabbage, onions, rice and cheese, a chicken stock and just a bit of spice. But, oh! The combination is so tasty, heartwarming ... and satisfying! There is nothing sexy about this dish. It's just a case of slicing and gathering the spices, measuring out some broth, doing a gentle fry of the cabbage and onons, and then simmering and stopping the cooking process so that the spices can meld with the vegetables and broth.  Having a tangy cheese like Gruyere or Swiss finishes the experience. So yummy!

02 October 2010

A Nod From A Blogger Friend !

The past week has seen me casting around to different blogs all over the world. I've been looking at how different cultures approach a change of seasons, what new foodie issues are resonating with people, looking at new ways of presenting dishes and styling posts, and finding inspiration. There are sooooo many different and interesting places to explore out there in foodie cyberspace!

If you look down the sidebar at The Spice Garden, you see places that I have returned to over and over to get inspiration, garner feedback, share a comment or joke, or collaborate over a cooking quandry. These are folks who I have come to respect. So, when one of them gives me a nod by sending on a cyber-award, it's a big deal to me! I logged on the other day and Eric over at My Hungry Tum had received this Versatile Blogger award. I was so pleased for him, as his site has given me new knowledge of so many different countries and cuisines. Reading on, he explained that he was passing the award onto others. What a nice surprise to see The Spice Garden on his list of versatile bloggers! Thank-you, Eric!

It's a small thing when you give someone feedback, when you acknowledge their efforts, when you look at their body of work and recognize the different facets of the whole. It's a small thing,  but it means so much to that recipient. Blogging can be a lonely endeavor sometimes and getting acknowledgement that what you're doing is read, thought about, and appreciated can mean the difference between a blogger becoming discouraged and fading away into cyberspace or continuing to grow and develop their concept.

Punchline: Pass it on ... give encouragement ... and be an active partner in this thing that the Web has offered.

So ...  my current list of versatile bloggers include:

Apricosa - Erica Sommermann has a beautiful space in which she shares the freshest of California cuisine, explores her interest in Asian dishes, and gives us the most clean and crisp photos that capture the essense of her posts.

Belleau Kitchen - Dom creates the most fun and happy posts from his home in Lincolnshire, UK. His humor and joie de vivre come through in every post.  One never knows whether he will be posting about a cooking competition, recounting a trip to a London restaurant with pals, telling about a rainy day dinner shared with his friends, or groaning about a hard night at the local pub. It's all done with panache and a recipe shared ... I love it and have come to look forward to all his posts!

Darjeeling Dreams - Joyti aka Indie.tea has created a space that is ethereal in look. She showcases incredible photographers and their work, creates light and airy dishes that inspire her - all with an eye for design that is unparalleled. I always feel refreshed and brightened by her site ...

Noble Pig - Cathy is one busy lady. Between a growing vineyard and her family she manages to put together a really fun blog that showcases the foods she's prepping for family and friends. I love the positive energy of her blog - and the wacky fun things she does that make kids happy to come to the table.

Orangette - Molly Wizenberg has a way with words. Her posts can be about everything from her musings on media to her memories of her grandmother's recipe box to her whirlwind experience with opening a restaurant in Seattle. Go to her site and soak up all of it like gravy on bread.

Serendipity - Kate ditched the life here in the States and ventured to Belgium several years back. There, she teaches  English to business folk, travels to gorgeous locations, takes beautiful photos, shares the best recipes that come her way, and writes about all of it!  Her zest for life in and all around Europe is a tonic for the armchair tourist!

SmittenKitchen - Little kitchen + creative cook + excellent tutorials delivered via photos and text = excellent blog. Bonus? Witty and clever writing that always brings a smile to the reader.

01 October 2010

A Fall Treat - Iced Pumpkin Cookies

I haven't made cookies in quite a while and SB has been asking for a batch. Of course, this rainy day has been a perfect time for going through the old blog posts and when I looked at the cookies I've posted, I was surprised that these pumpkin cookies hadn't 'gotten press'. It's Fall; it's time for pumpkins and squash taking center stage, so here you go!

I love the random patterns that the glaze makes on these pretty little cake-like cookies. They remind me of the soft molasses drop cookies that my Great-Aunt Verna made whenever we visited her and Uncle Winn. They are delicious ... try them!