Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election eve quick supper

Last night we were very tired and it was getting late. I opened a package of mezzaluna ravioli and made a wilted spinach mixture while the pasta water heated to a boil. I chopped some onion and nearly caramelized it in some olive oil, added about 8 handfuls of chopped baby spinach , a splash of red wine, around 4 smashed and chopped cloves of garlic, a handful of raisins, and a heavy sprinkling of dried red pepper.  All this cooked fragrantly as the mezzaluna bubbled happily in their pot. I browned a handful of pine nuts. After the pasta was drained and resting on a little butter in its bowls, I topped with the spinach mixture, the pine nuts  and some shavings of romano cheese.

We were very happy with this simple dinner on election eve. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

a few thoughts on cake

Yesterday I made a german chocolate cake for a church thing on Sunday. That means that this morning there was a huge cake on our dining room table.  Well, it's been whispering to us since I frosted it last night: "try me, try me", so, as it is a gigantic two layer rectangle, I  guiltily sliced off about an inch from one end.

We happily ate most of this as our Saturday morning second breakfast.

Cake is so very special, particularly purloined church cake, I think it is best enjoyed on a plate with a fork. 

By the way, I used buttermilk in the cake batter. It makes it nice and tender.

Friday, October 10, 2008


 I remember when I was a young, poor art student in Maine. We would eat whatever fish was running at the time. We would buy bluefish, which was really cheap then, then  stuff  it with brown rice, carrots and season with tamari.  It was a great dinner to share with friends.  So today, when I saw bluefish at the market, I had to buy one and re-visit this often overlooked fish. 

 Yes, it is fishy. But that is not a bad thing! It is also inexpensive and full of Omega 3. So I selected a 3 pounder and had it headed and cleaned there. Here is how I cooked this fellow and what you will need;

a fresh bluefish
some rice, or you could use any grain actually
some onion
a nice fresh bunch of kale
a handful of mushrooms (not essential)
an apple
a garlic clove, slice into slivers
some lemon, soy sauce, wine

Please keep in mind you can use whatever you have around in this. I do, however, think a fresh green, like kale or swiss chard or even spinach or mustard greens are essential.

Cook some brown rice, not alot, about 1/3 cup.
Clean and cut up a bunch of SC kale. In a large frying pan, sautee 1/2 onion sliced, add kale, a little Slap Yo Mama (actually garlic salt and cayenne) and add a generous T or so of hungarian paprika. 
Slorp some red wine over, cover pan and cook til kale was done.

Meantime, split the fish open more so it opens like a book, and further clean him up: cleaning the cavity, removing the spine and ribs using needle nose pliers,  rinsing well. 
Rub cavity with soy sauce  and fresh lemon juice.

Mix the rice with the kale mixture, and add about 3/4 granny smith apple chopped up.

Now, there is too much of this to use in the fish. You can heat up leftover for lunch as is, or, add a little broth and make it a soup.

Back to the fish.  Stuff fish with veg rice mixture. Tie with a string in 3 places ot hold it together. Rub skin side up wiuth olive oil. Slash this side in 4 places and insert slivers of garlic.

Slorp a little wine (red or white, whichever) over filling to keep it moist.

Roast at 400 til done, approx 30-40 minutes. Serves 3 generously. Or more, if you buy a larger fish

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

rainy morning

We are finally having the rain we need. Rick came back from the barn with only one egg. Our chickens are molting and their output is much diminished. I decided a colorful breakfast would be great, and made a saute of a little onion, a few small garden tomatoes, a bit of garlic in a little olive oil. I added a handful of spinach after the other items had softened. While this was wilting , I boiled a fresh egg for 4 minutes. Instead of salt, I added just a little (about a tsp) of feta to the veg mixture when I put in in a smallish bowl. Dropped the shelled egg on top of.

The runny yolk combined with the veg to make a colorful, rich, delicious and filling breakfast. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

coq au vin for Thursday night

I found chicken quarters on special at my market today. I was not shopping for chicken but the weather is finally delightfully fall-ish here, so it seemed a good plan to make coq au vin. I consulted with Julia Child, and also with Ruth (Gourmet Cookbook and Magazine editor) Reichl.  Here is what I ended up doing. Most of this stuff you'll probably have around this time of year:

for 2-3 people
3 whole chicken legs (includes thighs)
2 carrots
some mushrooms
a large onion
at least 1 cup dry white wine ( if you don't keep wine around, buy a bottle of Noilly Pratt or other good quality dry vermouth and keep in your cupboard for cooking)
some chicken stock (please, not the salty cubes... canned at least)
sprig of thyme from the pots on your deck. Or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 cloves of garlic

Cut chicken into thighs and drumsticks. 
Wipe off chicken and remove any weird bits or extra skin. Generously salt and pepper each piece. 
Cut up 4 pieces of bacon into squares and put in a heavy bottomed pot, not a frying pan. Sides need to be at least 4" tall. Brown the bacon on medium heat. Put aside the bacon. Discard 1/2 of the bacon fat. 
Add a little olive oil to the bacon fat, and brown your chicken in this, about 6 minutes on each side.

Remove chicken from pan , and drain off a lot of the fat. Cut up a large onion, or 2 medium onions into quarters. Cut up 2 carrots into 1" lengths, and cut the fat end in half lengthwise, so it is more like the other pieces. If you have celery, you could add a rib, also cut up.

Add to veg to hot fat, cook over medium heat til browning, stirring once or twice. 

When vegetables are starting to brown,  add the chicken,  and the bacon pieces back in, a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme (a small amt. of dried tarragon is good, too,  about 1/2 tsp.) and nearly cover the chicken with 1/2 chicken broth and 1/2 white wine. Also, I added 4 peeled and smashed cloves of garlic, because I love garlic. Scrape up the browned bits in the bottom of the pan and stir into the liquid. 

Cover the pot and turn burner to low. Cook for about 45 minutes-1 hour. Remove chicken and veg and put on platter. Now as for those onions, you can plate them with the other veg, or just forget them.  Take the cooked garlics and mash against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon. Stir into sauce.

You will want to thicken this sauce after you put the chicken on a platter. Make a buerre manie, which means mash up some butter (approx. 1T) and twice as much flour together(2T) and add this to the sauce. Cook uncovered, on med high, stirring. If you have cognac or brandy, it would be good to add a couple of T of this as well.

In a smallish frying pan, brown your mushrooms quickly over high heat in a little olive oil, add to pile of chicken. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

As for me, I am not sure if I will thicken the sauce. I may serve the chicken, veg and unthickened sauce (perhaps will add 2T heavy cream) in soup bowls with hunks of good bread, or maybe steamed yukon potatoes.  

And a nice little spinach salad dressed with lemon and olive oil. 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

putting food by...

I'd forgotten how satisfying it is to actually can stuff. In the 
past few years, I'd moved from canning to freezing. Freezing is efficient and pretty easy. 

Canning requires time and planning and... gear. 

In our family, there is a goofy tale my husband created for his girls when they were small: The Lonesome Doorknob
It was based on a doorknob someone found that had been lying around undiscovered for many years. Surely my canning pot had achieved Lonesome Canning Pot designation, after languishing unnoticed and unappreciated for over ten years in our garage.

Anyway, I had a really good recipe from Alice Waters for a tomato sauce that I'd modified somewhat. And I'd already used up the batch I'd made and frozen earlier this summer. As I was thinking about making more, I decided it was so good I would give it as gifts this Christmas, which meant canning, not freezing.

Well I had to buy jars, I'd recycled my old collection. And scrubbing the canner, first empying out several dead crickets.

 This morning I actually got to the canning part. I'd made the puree (which this really is, rather than a sauce) yesterday : 30 pounds of good tomatoes,  some onion, and a ton of fresh garlic.

Oh the joy of the thunk of the jar lids and they start to cool after their boiling water bath! 
Oh the glistening jars, lined up on the cooling rack.
I've captured summer in a jar!

Friday, September 26, 2008

za'atar continued

So, I had a light dinner before a meeting recently with several Woodlands Garden friends, and Genia brought pita stuffed with za'atar, a spice blend used as a condiment.  Genia directs a foundation that provides microcredit to small businesses in the Middle East, and she has traveled and lived there.

She sent me several recipes for za'atar and then I did a little research. It is made from dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac and salt. 


 Sandra Bowan, at "...A Pinch of..." explains that sumac comes from rhus corania,  a tree that grows in the Middle East and in parts of Italy. The condiment,  za'atar, is used as a meat rub, as a spread when mixed with olive oil, or it can be sprinkled on hummus. 

I would describe the flavor as warm with a twist: the combination of the toasted sesame seeds and thyme contrasts with the sumac's pleasing piquancy that then finishes with a salty tang.

You can make it more easily than I can describe it:

2T dried thyme (be sure it is not merely flavored dust, get a new jar)
2t sesame seeds, toasted (or more if you are fond of them)
1T sumac (you can get this at a middle eastern market or on line at Penzey's)
1/2 t salt


I found it premade at the Dekalb Farmers Market this morning..

Anyway, have fun with this. It is a nice change from our usual palate.

(and thanks to Liz, for the picture of Cairo)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

earlier this week

The weather is cooler here in Georgia. The garden still has tomatos ripening, and the kale I'd bought was still good and needed to be used. Here's what I put together:

bunch of kale, washed, ribbed and cut in smallish medium pieces
3 garden tomatoes, cut up
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
 1 tsp. pimenton

I browned the onion in a pot til it was golden but not yet darkly caramelized. Added the tomatoes ,garlic and kale, the pimenton, a pinch of cayenne, a little water, covered pot and let it cook on med. heat. Checked every so often to assure moisture, added a little water. 

When the kale was tender, I set this aside and cooked a couple of pieces of mahi in the oven.
Served fish on top of kale, along with pitas I'd stuffed with a wonderful middle eastern spice Genia shared with me: zatar. More on that another time...