Thursday, July 28, 2011
Vicki, my sister, joined us for the birthday weekend and without her, the whole weekend probably wouldn't have come about.
You see, it was her idea to fly up for Mom's birthday. Then John decided to join us. And then David decided to come too. At that point, we figured a party was in order, so we invited thirty of Mom's friends in Evergreen to join us.....sent out invitations, and got to work.
Which is another reason that Vicki was invaluable. On the day of the party, Vicki was a tireless help in the kitchen. While John got the meat ready for the BBQ, Vicki helped me with the preparation of all the other dishes. (And yes, David helped as well with logistical stuff like setting up tables.)
Despite hours spent slaving away in a very hot kitchen, Vicki looked lovely at the actual party.
Her she is with the guest of honor, later that evening.
And to truly appreciate this picture, you have to look at the picture below. When I took my siblings on a scenic drive up to Echo Lake, Vicki got stuck riding in the third row......with Henry. Which is why she's looking a bit desperate and green around the gills in this picture.
As you can see, not only did Henry sit in the seat next to her, he kept trying to encroach upon her side of the car in an attempt to take over the entire back row. Vicki's smile shows what a good sport she is, however her pale skin also shows just how car sick she was getting between the wind-y roads and Henry's drool.
And yet, she emerged triumphant from the weekend, tamer of men and drooling dogs.
Monday, July 25, 2011
This week's recipe comes from Finland and is called "Cauliflower Rye Casserole" and comes with the caveat that you should appreciate rye and cauliflower if you want to enjoy this very rich dish. It is for all intents and purposes an egg strata, however, in texture and taste, it comes closer to feeling like a fondue. So rich you might want to have a nice dry white wine with it, yes, even for breakfast.
The good news is, it's very easy to assemble. So if you open the bottle before you start cooking, chances are better than average that you'll still come up with a viable dish.
1 cup of flat beer
4 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups of rye bread (toasted or stale)
1 head of cauliflower cut into bite sized pieces
2 Tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
3 cups of grated sharp cheddar
Saute cauliflower and caraway seeds in butter. Toss into buttered two quart baking dish with rye bread cubes and shredded cheddar.
Mix eggs, mustard, coriander, and pepper with flat beer. Pour of contents of casserole dish.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.
Serve for breakfast or for a light lunch or dinner with a tossed salad.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
My two brothers and sister flew up to help celebrate Mom's 84th birthday. It was a a wonderful weekend with a birthday party with 30 guests, a family portrait, and a trip to Vail. Over the coming week, I'll be sharing some photos from our weekend together, starting with these from Vail, which is one of my favorite places in the world.
On this occasion, we took the gondola to the top of the mountain where we enjoyed lunch and then a walk on one of the trails. To say the scenery was beautiful is an understatement.
The views of the Rockies are unbelievable, so it was an lovely afternoon.
I'm hoping that in this picture they were simply overwhelmed by the stunning scenery and not actually as bored as they appear!
Monday, July 18, 2011
It's hot outside, so who wants to cook?
After two weeks of daily rain that kept us nice and cool, the sun and heat have returned with a vengeance. Today it reached 90 F, and since most homes here don't have air conditioning, elaborate, heat generating meals aren't high on the to-do list.
Which is what inspired today's recipe of homemade pesto from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This cookbook, by one of the most famous teachers of Italian cooking, is actually an updated version of two of her previous cookbooks: The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Italian Cooking.
I actually watched a cooking demonstration by Marcella Hazan about fifteen years ago at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival, which as a quick aside, is an absolute must on the foodie's bucket list. (Although, to really enjoy yourself, don't go alone, go with a friend or partner who enjoys food and wine as much as you do.) And as much as I knew about Marcella Hazan, I'd never cooked from this cookbook, which like most of the others, has been in storage for the past fifteen years.
But I digress.
It's interesting that I picked pesto because in general I don't like the stuff. Or rather, I don't like the oily green stuff that comes in a jar on the shelf of the local grocery store. But I do love fresh basil...although, the closest I usually come to fresh basil is as a garnish in my vodka lemonade. yum.
Nothing says summer like fresh basil, with it's lemony green fresh flavor. And since I've been trying to incorporate more meat-less meals into our dinner routine, trying a homemade pesto recipe seemed to fit all the criteria....no cooking (other than the pasta), quick, fresh ingredients, and no meat.
In Essentials, Ms. Hazan generously presents the pesto recipe using two different methods: 1) using a mortar and pestle, or for those without, 2) with a food processor. While I used a food processor, I hope someday to own a nice heavy marble mortar and wooden pestle, so that I can appreciate the 'authentic' pesto.
Here are the basic ingredients that you'll need:
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin oil
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves
- sea salt
Assembling the recipe couldn't be easier. You begin by tossing the above ingredients into your food processor and then while it chops, drizzle in the olive oil in a thin stream until a coarse paste is formed.
And then here's where the recipe gets interesting....
Ms. Hazan instructs us to scoop the basil paste into a bowl and incorporate 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano and two tablespoons of romano cheese into the pesto. And then, two - three tablespoons of room temperature butter. BUTTER!!!!!!!!
Quite honestly, I'm not sure why butter is added, other than to add additional richness to the dish. But I'm not arguing with the doyenne of Italian cooking.
I used my pesto to top a batch of potato gnocchi that I started to boil before I assembled the sauce. The gnocchi, while store bought, were incredibly light and fluffy, just like homemade.
And the taste? Has completely changed my mind about pesto. What you taste with this recipe is the basil. Not the oil or garlic or even the cheese. You taste the lovely fresh basil, making it the perfect summer dinner. And given how simple and quick it is to make, literally five minutes from start to finish, buying pesto in a jar just doesn't make sense.....try it!
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
This week's recipe comes from THE SAVORY WAY by Deborah Madison, author of The Greens Cookbook, which we featured last week.
My choice this week was inspired by the simple fact that I had a bunch of tomatoes that needed to be used before they spoiled and so I went in search of an easy tomato sauce recipe.
This summer we've slowly been converted from using store-bought jar variety spagetti sauce to those we make ourselves. They are simple, require few ingredients, and we don't have to question the quality of the ingredients, or the amount of sugar or salt used.
Our previous ventures in sauce making required the blanching, peeling, and food processing of the tomatoes before reducing them into a sauce. I assigned the blanch and peeling to Mom, since I abhor that sort of delicate work which invariably tries my patience.
Which is why I was thrilled to read the Deborah Madison's recipe for tomato sauce which skipped these steps altogether. In fact, the recipe consists of little more than:
- roughly chopping the tomatoes,
- throwing them into a heavy dutch oven or pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, a couple garlic cloves, and a few sprigs of fresh herbs of your choice.
- Cover and cook over low heat for as little as 30 minutes (suggested in the recipe) up to a few hours (what I chose to allow the flavors to meld).
After two hours the sauce looked like this. We took it off the stove and after it cooled a bit, we passed it through a food processor to create a smooth, albeit still chunky, saucy.
As for the most important aspect, taste? Actually, this recipe produced the best homemade tomato sauce I've had. It had an earthy richness that was missing from the blanched version.
We've frozen bags of this sauce to use as a base for other spagetti sauces in the future. As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless simply by adding meat, herbs, vegetables, or using it as a base for lasagne.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
This week's recipe comes from THE GREENS COOK BOOK by Deborah Madison. And while the book's primary focus, as evidenced by the title, is cooking with vegetables, the really valuable lesson that I learned had to do with quiche.
I love quiche in all it's flavorful varieties. However, more times than not, the quiche that I made would produce an egg custard that was flat and dense.
Which is why I was so very surprised when I made this tart/quiche and received a light, fluffy, quiche that was so tasty that one of my tasters actually asked for the recipe! Which is why I decided to include it in this week's recipe.
So what made the difference? It appears to be in the dairy/egg ratio used in the recipe. Normally, when making a quiche I would use 4 -5 eggs and a cup of milk.
In The Greens Cookbook, Deborah Madison calls for two eggs, two yolks, and TWO cups of half and half (or 1 cup milk, 1 cup cream). This additional cup of cream/milk, seems to make all the difference and results in a delicately delightful texture. I can't wait to try this principle with my favorite Quiche Lorraine.
Spinach and Goat Cheese Tart
ala THE GREENS COOK BOOK
1 frozen pie shell
1 bunch spinach
2 scallions, shallots, or a small onion (optional)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves finely minced
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
pinch of sea salt
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
4 ounces soft goat cheese
2 cups half and half
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Prebake pie shell for 5 - 10 minutes. Take out of oven and let cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Sautee spinach and scallions, shallots, or onions and garlic in olive oil until just wilted. Season with salt pepper and grated nutmeg. Set aside.
Beat eggs, yolks, half and half together. Mix in about a third of the goat cheese and beat until smooth. Add a salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
Scatter spinach in bottom of pie shell, crumble remaining goat cheese on top. Pour egg mixture over top.
Bake tart at 375 F for 45 - 50 minutes, until custard is set and lightly brown.
Remove from oven and let the tart rest for 10 minutes.