31 August 2011

" A Joke And A Pickle For Only A Nickel..."

One of the things that I love most about food blogging is the exchange of ideas about food preparation. Of course, I say this because I just have had a message from a fellow New England blogger about a question I asked of her concerning pickling. What a help it is to have friends 'in the know' to turn to for guidance when you're stepping out into new territory - I have made bread and butter pickles in the past, but they have not been the very best! Perhaps this year, I will get it right!

Pickling has always been a skill that I've wanted to hone. Silent Bob always plants cucumbers and beets, you see. When they start coming on from harvest, the counters are full and there is a basket with beets and their greens draping over the edges of the wicker. We eat our share for dinners, but there is always more that could be used! Hence, pickling.

My bread and butter pickle recipe comes from my grandmother via my mother. Mom always made pickles and they were always crispy and tart. I have struggled with processing time, as she always put them in a water bath to seal the jars. Hmmm... is it necessary, I wonder? There is an awful lot of salt in the intial brine that the cucumbers soak up. The sweet and tart spicy brine that goes in with the cucumbers and onions is cooked on the stovetop and then poured over the brined vegetables. I wonder if that's enough heat to get a good seal on the jars.

It's clear that I need to do more research in order to get a good result. My other big question is the variety of cucumbers used for pickles. Our cucumbers are larger, dark-skinned, and relatively smooth. Are they the right cukes for the job? Hmmm ... so many questions!

As for the beets, I had some gorgeous pickled beets at a haying party picnic a few weeks ago ... I'm going to see about getting that particular recipe. Stay tuned on that adventure!

In the meantime, it's been a long day of cleaning and dusting around the corners of the grey cottage and I'm going to watch an old movie ... about pickles ... well, kinda. 'Crossing Delancy' is popped into the DVD player. Popcorn and a movie ... see ya!

28 August 2011

Libyan Spicy Pumpkin Dip ...Random Recipe

What do YOU see in that flatbread profile?

Having a hurricane come sweeping past your door forces a certain amount of hunkering down. In my case, the electrical power has remained intact (so far), the rains have been deluge-like, and the winds have been gusting. All morning long, I've watched the rain blow against the porch jalousie windows, creating drips that slide back and forth like so many abacus beads. I've also had the radio going nonstop, just because I like the background noise. I stay away fom the television because I'm really not a fan of all the drama. Cooking has kept me busy ... the kitchen is a warm and cozy spot for me to hang and watch the storm pass.

27 August 2011

From Lidia's Table ... Polpette di Verza

Lidia Bastianich is such an inspiration! Her roots may be in Europe, but she has embraced the American dream whole-heartedly. Her family came to the United States after WWII, sponsored by Catholic Charities, and worked hard to establish themselves. Lidia married, raised a family, apprenticed in restaurants to learn her cooking craft, and built her career step by step. She has maintained a tight family that works together to establish critically acclaimed restaurants, run cooking classes, host television shows on Italian cuisine, and develop the family name 'brand' through cookbooks and affiliation with various commercial ventures. Now THAT'S fulfilling the American dream, huh? Right on, Lidia! 

26 August 2011

Hey There! Lookee!

I always said that I'd make big deal about reaching the 100 follower point ... and I'm just so glad I was on-line when that 100th person showed interest ... so, Reeni from Cinnamon Spice & everything nice , thanks, dearie! My little measure of success has come my way and you helped it along ... gosh, while I was paying attention! I'll  be sending you a special thank-you gift ... just a little something that's from me to you!

But... there's more ... I have never had a give-away, but it's time! Get in touch, leave a comment, join the followers, if you are so inclined, and see what sweet little something from L.A. Burdick's Chocolates comes your way if your name is drawn from the basket ... comments close on September 1st, so get busy if you're interested in grabbing some artisanal chocolates and celebrating with me the growth of The Spice Garden!

Woot! Woot!

Chocolate ... always good for celebrating! Look at some of the beautiful chocolates made by L.A.Burdick's! Why L.A.Burdick's? Well, first of all, Burdick's is a local company that has made good in the specialty chocolate business niche. Second, they have a thing going in Grenada that you should take a look at ... I love it when small companies get an idea that can help make a positive change and then work at that idea until a concrete action grows from that seed of an idea ... and third, I love promoting products and food items that I love and I LOVE Burdick's chocolates. Walking into their Walpole store is like walking into an art gallery. Everything is gorgeous to look at, presented beautifully, and lit in the most intimate and cozy way. The staff is friendly and accessible, the chocolates are always so perfectly made, and there are always some for the sampling ... yum! So, I think you will be pleased with their product too!

And THAT'S cause for celebration too! Woot! Woot!

An aside - did you know that the O.E.D. has added 'Woot' to the dictionary lists?

23 August 2011

'Tatters and Rags' - Lobster Pie a la Hannah Glasse

This post is inspired by Hannah Glasse and her cookbook called The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. Hannah Glasse was one of two women featured as Game-Changers # 10 a couple weeks ago, but life was too busy for me at the time. The idea of her lobster pies stuck with me, though.

21 August 2011

Penne and Spinach in Cream Sauce

What could be more basic? This is my 'go-to dish' for nights when I don't feel like cooking, but want a good vegetable and some easy pasta.

The recipe comes from Jeff Smith's The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian. Poor Jeff ... consigned to the back shelf (Google the scandal if you're curious). I still say he was a hoot to watch and he made some really good dishes. Okay, that's been said ... RIP, Jeff.

20 August 2011

Shaker Switchel ... and Pot Roast

This post is about this pot roast, but it's really about more than that ... maybe some nostalgia, a fun adventure, hanging with my son, and re-creating an obscure piece of food history. All that and dinner in the deal ...

Switchel Braised Pot Roast with Sage and Mushrooms

... a tablescape in the kitchens at Hancock Shaker Village

18 August 2011

Who on Earth is Patricia Wells?

Sorry, Patricia! I have never heard of you! What rock have I been under? What channel have I not been watching? What foodie magazine have I missed in the check-out aisle? What newspaper have I been ignoring? I wonder ...

This 50 Women Game-Changers thing has given me so much new information and so many new people to research!  This week, Patricia Wells is the lady in the spotlight. She has a reputation for bringing Provençal cooking techniques and recipes to mainstream foodie culture. She is an internationally known restaurant critic, author of several cookbooks, a NYT journalist. She has branched out to Bistro cooking, other French fare, vegetables and salads as her fame has spread.

Pfft! Could've fooled me ... NOT that discovering her isn't a good thing!  Book after book can be found at Amazon ... she obviously travels in circles of which I've been blissfully unaware!

Sooooo ... I went to the Internet and found an easy, fast, and healthy pork dish that Wells submitted to Food & Wine. It uses various peppers, onions, a pork tenderloin, and hotter than Hell chipotle chiles ... wahooooo! Seems like this must come from her bistro phase ... it's fast, uses summertime vegetables and an easy approach to meat treatment, minimal spices, and a hot pan ... what I associate with a hot and noisy bistro kitchen environment. I prepared a steamed basmati rice, steamed summer vegetable (wax beans and buttered herbs) and plunked it all on a plate ... yum! Good on you, Patrica Wells! Nice to meet you!

15 August 2011

Three-Seed Whole Wheat Bread

I have been reading Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible ... and the more I experiment with her breads, the better I get at judging when bread dough 'is just right', when the loaves are perfectly done, how much flour to add as I knead, all the little things that help you get a better loaf of bread! It's so exciting!

...when you only have three seeds ... guess what the post becomes?

I have also made the pilgrimage to the King Arthur store in Norwich, VT and to a couple area foodie stores to pick up such things as bagette loaf pans, a bread molding basket and a liner to go with it, and some stellar flour to use for various loaf types. I also hit a tile store and bought thick terra cotta tiles to place in my oven. These tiles create an upper and lower block of solid heat when I preheat the oven and allow for a really hot start to the baking process and then a steady temperature during the bake time.

12 August 2011

Braised Chicken Thighs and Oven Vegetable Risotto

Dom, my ever interesting and fun blogging friend from the UK, posted a chicken recipe over the weekend that made me sit up and take notice - an obscenely easy and delicious take on risotto with braised chicken to accompany. My goodness, I thought ... what a nice dinner for our guests on Sunday. Dom's recipe used legs and thighs - bone in, but I had skinless and boneless thighs, so I played a bit with his recipe, but not much!

10 August 2011

Two Words ...

Warm Peaches

Wild Blueberries

Sweet Dumplings

Sugary Sprinkles

Peach Cobbler

06 August 2011

Rainier Cherry and Plum Clafouti

I almost threw this out. I mean, reallly. Look at this dish of baked ugliness. Think back to other food blog posts that waxed pathetic on the 'ugly food' dilemma. Think back to good recipes in cookbooks that forego a glossy photo of the finished dish. Yes ... there is ugly food in this world. So, in this case, I closed my eyes and took a deep sniff ...

Earlier, my thoughts were centered elsewhere ...

04 August 2011

The Joy of Cooking ... Swedish Meatballs!

...a classic at so many cocktail parties and church suppers ...

Thank you, Irma Rombauer!

Irma von Starkloff Rombauer
1877 - 1962

Her claim to fame - the reference cookbook for so many American households and college apartments that the numbers are truly staggering. One statistic I found claims that more than 18 million copies have made their way onto the shelves of cooks world-wide. Amazing, considering that the cookbook was originally self-published by Rombauer and her daughter, Marion. It might have disappeared into the annals of lost publications had it not sold amazingly well in its self-published phase. It caught the attention of an established publishing house and the rest is history.

Over the years, there was some acrimony and bickering between the Rombauer family and the publishers, who changed the book up, losing the 'voice' of Irma's original text. No loss of sales, though. Recently an edition has come out that restores much of the original recipes, text and Irma's 'voice', as interest in vintage recipes have become more attractive to foodies. And if you're REALLY a cookbook collector, you can have a first edition copy of Rombauer's self-published tome in 'like new' condition for a mere $5,800 at Alibris.com. I'm happy with my 1975 edition, though. It's a keeper.

02 August 2011

Zucchini Tart ... Easy as Pie!

Two zucchini recipes within a week? Well, it IS that time of the summer! Every time I think I have the zucchini mound on the countertop wittled down, another batch comes through the back door ... and it is SO shiny and smooth and fresh that I just have to do something else with it! So yesterday, I made two zucchini tarts and shucked some corn to have a nice Meatless Monday supper.

This is an easy tart to make, but there are a few different steps (read- more dirty bowls). It's light and less 'quiche-y' than other vegetable/egg tarts. Look at the recipe and you'll see what I mean. My friend Gundel shared this recipe with me when she visited us from Germany. Her method of wringing the moisture from the grated zucchini saves the tart from being soggy. The addition of the crumble topping is brilliant, too. It adds just the right amount of crunch with just a hint of Parmesan tang atop the more subtle salty Feta in the filling below. A good use of zucchini!