30 April 2012

A Classic Pear Tart

The Bosc pears were just so perfect this week ... and pears will be gone for the summer very soon. My sweetheart has not had much in the way of sweet treats of late, so I made him a tart ... a classic French pear tart.

28 April 2012

Albóndigas de Jalisco - Diana Kennedy

Sometimes a love of a culture will change a person so dramatically that their life's work becomes a mission to encapsulate the best of the culture in their everyday lifestyle ... and they end up becoming the ultimate ambassador for that culture. In the world of food, we have seen numerous such ambassadors as we've investigated Gourmet's 50 Woman Game Changers - Julia Child and her love of French culture and cuisine, Elizabeth Andoh and her passion for Japanese philosophy and cuisine, and now, Diana Kennedy and her immersion in Mexican culture and cuisine.

25 April 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Yummy ...

Here comes the asparagus! Being on a diet is tough, but when the new vegetables come into market, life is so much easier! We scored beautiful asparagus spears yesterday and the simplest thing to do was to snap the ends, slice them on the diagonal, drizzle them with good olive oil, sprinkle them with Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, toss on about two teaspoons of fresh lemon zest and roast them under foil in the oven for about 20 minutes in a hot oven (400 degrees F). Took the foil off and let them finish for another five minutes to dissipate some of the steaminess ... and then, we gobbled. It was so good!

24 April 2012

Provençal Bourride and Making Aïoli ...

There are certain foods into which patience is mixed and mixed and mixed ... the results are spectacular when you get it right or crushing when you don't. Perhaps that's because of the specificity of traditional technique, the thought put into the making of the dish, the multiple steps that are best timed carefully, the little trick techniques that ensure success, the nuance of textures that must be achieved, and ultimately ... the gut feelings that a sure cook understands they must listen to and act on. I had plenty of time to come up with this idea last evening. I thought of mastering soufflés, rolling and cutting pasta, constructing a finely decorated cake, perfecting a classic paella, making an exquisite buttercream, tempering chocolate, designing beautiful petit-fours, hand-dipping bon-bons, rolling the perfect pie crust, and in my case, making a perfect aïoli. All require patience and attention to little details.

22 April 2012

Eric's Birthday Cake ...

Birthdays are the perfect occasion to bake a cake, right? The problem in our household is that I am trying to diet, SB doesn't want cakes that last all week long, and our kids are not sweets eaters. This weekend when I made a birthday dinner for our son, the request was made to have a light cake ... nothing over the top.

Okay ...

21 April 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Ghosts of Home

Long before we called these woods home, there were others. Their farmhouse sat above a stone cellar hole. Cattle or sheep meandered their way along this country farm lane. Cups and saucers clatttered in a wash pan, the used water splashing a kitchen garden. And the view across the pond soothed a farmer after a long day. They say the largest crop that New England has is rocks ... that's a hard and bitter harvest for many a hardscrabble farmer.

Pete and I walked in the woods this week and came upon the ghost of someone's small farmstead ... it was haunting and humbling to see the rocks cleared and walls created, the stone cellar hole, the remnants of an animal pound and grown up fields, a collapsed well, and that old wash pan. It looked as if the last thing the farm wife did before leaving the old hill farm was to wash the dishes and dump the water against and a fallen tree. Then, she and her family moved on ...

To participate in Alyce's photoshare, visit her here. Use an original snapshot of your own and write a bit about it. Then link it and leave a comment on Alyce's Saturday Snapshot letting her know you're in on this week's offerings. Enjoy browsing everyone's pics ... there is such creativity and fun to be shared!

20 April 2012

50 Woman Game Changers - Oh, Nigella!

Nigella says that these high airy scones look like they have cellulite ... what do YOU think ?

Nigella Lawson's book, How To Be A Domestic Goddess - Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking, is certainly a book on which to build one's reputation. Nigella Lawson has done that and moved on to perfect the naughty nuance and 'meaningful glance' on camera, pulled all the stops out to build whole episodes of her show around 'guilty pleasures', 'late night knoshing', and 'posh dinner parties'. For all her posturing, though, Nigella has the chops to brag on. She consistently comes up with excellent recipes, has a devil-may-care-attitude when filming her cooking procedures that gives viewers the confidence to 'throw together' their versions of her dishes, and gives good solid advice on technique and ingredients. For these reasons, she has made the cut and is included on the 50 Woman Game Changers list that Gourmet posted on-line last Spring.

19 April 2012

Two Words ...

so fresh ...

18 April 2012

Spring Ham!

Yes, yes! I know I'm a bit behind the times what with Easter gone by a couple weeks. I didn't make a ham then, as we were getting ready to leave for our trip to Toronto, the kids were all busy and not coming home for an Easter feast, and my goal was to leave an empty fridge when we set out on our road trip.

Now, though, I have plans for a sweet roasted ham with a pretty apricot glaze. I can just imagine all the little leftover tidbits being used for omelettes and gratins and soup and empanadas! Oh, a ham is such a tasty and  economical grocery buy, don't you think?

Of course, when I make a glazed ham at this time of year, the meal also includes the beginnings of Spring vegetables ... simple roasted asparagus, the first good cherry tomatoes on the vine roasted with bread crumbs and herbs, a simple potato gratin ... there are daffodils for the table and fresh light white wine or a pretty rosé for the wineglasses.

I think I need to invite some friends by for dinner and leave the windows open so we can hear the windchimes and birds that are full of Spring riot! Yup! Spring fever has hit the grey cottage on the hill ... I hope your Spring is popping out all over too!

Now, about hams. Folks have their techniques, but mine is a lazy cook's way. I buy pre-cooked hams and because they are quite salty, I wash them well and put them in a kettle of cold water. I bring them to a slow boil. When the water begins to skim up with a bit of salty foam, I dump the pot, rinse the ham and place it meat side down on a rack that sits in a foil-lined roasting pan. I make a glaze, score the outer 'hump of the ham' in cross hatches, poke whole cloves, slather a thick layer of glaze, cover it and let it absorb some of the sweetness in the crosshatches for about two hours. Then, I slow roast the ham in a 325 °F for about 15 minutes per pound. Midway through the roasting time, I add just a bit of water to the bottom of the pan to keep the glaze from burning ... then in the last 20 minutes, I slather more glaze on the ham and let the caramelizing stickiness work to make a coat of shiny sweetness all over the pork. When the roast is placed on a platter, I spoon some of the pan juices into the remaining glaze to loosen it up and serve it in a warm pitcher for drizzling over slices of warm ham. Yum!

Oh! Almost forgot the glaze! I use an adapted recipe from Darina Allen's apricot jam glaze ... so easy! One cup of apricot preserves, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tbsp. whole grain spicy mustard, 1 tbsp. honey, zest of half an orange, juice of one orange ... mix, mix mix, slather, slather, slather!

That's it! Spring ham!

17 April 2012

Swedish Meatballs and Sweet Braised Cabbage and Cranberries

When I first married SB, I came to the our kitchen (and the marriage!) with a goodly number of recipes in my cache. Over the years, though, he has told me that he cannot get enough cabbage. The other day, I was browsing Diana Henry's cookbook, roast figs sugar snow - winter food to warm the soul, and came across a recipe for Swedish Meatballs. Now, I have a perfectly good recipe for Swedish Meatballs, but what got my attention was a side cranberry relish that Ms. Henry suggested would go beautifully with the dish. So... I took her suggestion and played with it a bit.

15 April 2012

Random Recipe - Chocolate Raspberry Sandwiches

I made the prettiest little cookies today! So subtle and not overly sweet ... think chocolate shortbreads with seeded raspberry jam and those sprinkled top layers with a peek-a-boo to tempt you. That's it ... in a nutshell ...

14 April 2012

Saturday Snapshot - The Long and the Short of It

This past week, I spent some time in Toronto. What a nice city and what nice people! SB and I stayed with friends at a small B&B in Old Cabbagetown, a neighborhood in the south central area of the city. We walked all over the place, finding market neighborhoods, a brewery area, the theatre district, many historic buildings and tourist magnets, and various wonderful restaurants.

Our beloved Boston Red Sox lost to the Toronto Bluejays, but we still had a great time at the game. The artwork of Canada's 'Group of Seven' inspired me as I wandered the galleries in the Ontario Art Gallery. The CN Tower awed me, as I walked the perimeter of the building and then whizzed to its observation deck for a dramatic view of the city. I was excited to meet and have dinner with Brenda, a blogging friend with whom I've chatted lots of times online.

The long and the short of it is that we will return to this beautiful city and its people ... four days is not long enough to get to know the Canadian way of life and the city by Lake Ontario!

This Saturday Snapshot joins many others on Alyce's weekly photo share. Visit her blog at home with books to view others' Saturday Snapshot submissions! There's so much to see in this big old world!

13 April 2012

Moroccan Vegetable Salad

How can you NOT love a salad with all these colors? I fixed these as an accompaniment to a roasted leg of lamb when I made our Easter lunch. This is a salad that packs a lot of punch. There are strong citrus, garlic, and hot chili flavours ... little pockets of huge pizzazz that hit your tongue in different ways with each bite. They were perfect with the mellow spiced lamb and roasties. And the colors ... so cheerful!

07 April 2012

Saturday Snapshot -

'Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.'  - Mark 14:25

One of my favorite places to go for a quiet walk is in Cornish, New Hampshire. It is the summer home and workshop of Augustus St. Gaudens ... and a place of quiet contemplation in a spot of incredible beauty. Today is the perfect time to contemplate and this picture spoke to me with such simple symbolism.

04 April 2012

Beef Noodle Soup

Another day ... another lunch! I am on a mission to use up all the little bits of things that I have in the fridge and this soup does the job admirably! A warm nod to a brisk afternoon, this soup has Asian overtones - earthy dried mushrooms,  garlic, ginger root, soy sauce, and dry wine added to a beef broth. Lean strips of beef are stir-fried in just a bit of peanut oil. Carrot and scallion strips are then stirfried with the garlic and minced ginger. The fortified broth is added and simmered to bring out the flavours and finish the dried mushrooms. Then spinach ribbons and Ramen noodles are added to finish the soup. Everything simmers until the beef is tender and the noodles have the perfect 'bite'. Yum ... it was a slurpy, savory affair!

03 April 2012

Roasted Tomato Tart

Hello, lunch! Nice to see you!

02 April 2012

Roasted Swordfish with Ina's Caesar Dressing Sauce

I have been really enjoying Ina Garten's cookbook, how easy is that?, since I checked it out of our little public library here in the backwater. Last evening, I made her recipe for Caesar Roasted Swordfish. Other than going a little heavy on the sauce, this dish was a real hit! The dressing is delicious and would be worthy drizzled on traditional Caesar salad makings. In fact, that would be my recommendation. Make the full amount of sauce, cut the amounts for marinating the swordfish and drizzling over the finished fillets in half, and save it for a 'next day salad' lunch. The recipe calls for frizzled capers as a tangy garnish, but we passed, as we're not fans of capers, but they sure would pack an extra flavour punch!