Monday, August 3, 2015

Pickling Summer--Beets and Beyond

My mother didn't have a pantry or cellar filled with jars of colorful canned fruits and vegetables.  While I have fond summer memories of mother and nanny "stringing" green beans, those beans were for our next meal.  They went into a pot rather than a jar for our winter's dining.  However, there were several aunts who did preserve food by canning.  When we visited, we usually came home with a jar or two of something that had recently been "put up".  My favorite was beets.  From an early age, I loved those beautiful roots!  Bell's Blue Book of Canning is a part of my cookbook library--has been for years.  Many times I've pulled it out fully intending to preserve something of a summer garden.  So far, that hasn't happened except for pickled things.  Things that can line up on the refrigerator shelves.  I have tried many pickled beets recipes and have liked them all.  Here's the one I use most.

Easy Pickled Beets

1 bunch of red beets
1 bunch of orange beets
(8 good-sized beets total)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
salt to taste
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 tablespoon sugar

Wash the beets and place, unpeeled, in a saucepan, cover with water, add 1/4 cup of the vinegar and salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Simmer 30-40 minutes until tender.  Remove from the heat, add the garlic to the pot and allow the beets to cool in the liquid.

Remove the beets and the garlic from the pot, reserving the liquid.  Peel the beets and cut each into wedges.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar and the sugar.  Stir to dissolve and add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid from the beets.  Toss with the beets and the garlic.  Refrigerate for at least two hours and up to a week. 

Serve cold or warmed.

And, delicious on sandwiches and in salads, 

Pickled Red Onion

1 large red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
3 Tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
5-6 whole allspice
4 whole cloves

1.  Place all ingredients except the onions into a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a simmer.
2.  Add onions and simmer, stirring occasionally for about ten minutes.  A bit of crispness should remain.
3.  Pour all into a jar.  Cover and refrigerate for up to a month.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Plum Tart

The Baker is a faithful user of the Chicago Tribune for recipes.  This plum tart appeared earlier this month and is the creation of Leah Eskin.  Neither of us has ever had a failure when using one of her recipes and this was no exception.

Click here Chicago Tribune to meet Leah and get this delicious recipe.

It was perfect straight from the oven 


it was a celebration so we added 
a few sparkly stars 
and vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Baked Garlic Cheese Grits with Roasted Shrimp

I can't think of a better example of comfort food than grits.  Plain or fancy, grits are right up there with the best of them!!  I've mentioned before that, even though I grew up in the south, I never had grits until I was an adult.  The starch at my family table was potatoes--baked, boiled or mashed.  Grits were never on the menu.  Rice only appeared once or twice a year and always in the form of pudding.

When I worked at The Pentagon, Colonel R. (an aide to our Lieutenant General H.) had a cup of instant grits first thing every morning.  He kept single-serving packets in his desk drawer.  One day, upon finding out that I'd never tasted the grain, he prepared a cup for me.  I found them tasteless and they dropped from my culinary list.  They stayed off that list until we arrived in South Carolina where grits are almost as common as rice.

We had cause to celebrate last weekend.  A dear friend had a birthday coming up and we wanted to fete him.  When one is born toward the end of July, cool weather dishes are usually on the menu.
While this dish needs oven time (turn the ac lower), it is perfect for guests since it requires baking and resting.  The cook can enjoy a glass of wine in the meantime.

As soon as the dish comes out of the oven, raise the temperature to 400 degrees, toss the shelled shrimp with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread in an even layer on a baking pan and pop into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes--until pink and curled.  I used two pounds for four people.  We had enough leftover for a light supper the next day.

Baked Garlic Cheese Grits 

4 cups water
1cup regular grits
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 green onions finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
Chopped fresh parsley

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan; add grits and salt.  Simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until grits start to thicken.  This will take 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, butter, onions and garlic.  Cool about 15 minutes.
2.  Whisk the eggs and milk together and stir into the grits.  Pour into a buttered 2-quart casserole.  Bake until golden and bubbly--about an hour.  Let sit for 10 minutes while roasting the shrimp.
3.  Spoon into large bowls and top with oven-roasted shrimp and sprinkle with parsley.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Cauliflower Salad

Did I mention that summer arrived late last week?  It did--and, with a vengeance!  We went from cool days and even cooler nights to hot days and still cool nights.  Along with the high temperatures came stormy evenings and humid days.  I call them the "salad days of summer".

Our new community had a picnic on Sunday (an indoor picnic).  Hamburgers and brats, along with all the trimmings, were provided.  Side dishes and desserts were requested from those attending.  Since it was our first time, we took a salad and dessert.  The Baker did a beautiful and delicious plum tart.  In my haste to pack up and get to the site, I completely forgot to photograph it!

When we arrived, there were tables set up and decorated in red, white and blue cloths--very festive.  The tables were already laden with delicious-looking salads and desserts.  The Baker soon disappeared!!  I found out later that he was helping man the grills.  Really?!!  Grilling is the one thing he doesn't do at home.  Actually, I think it was more man talk around the grill than anything else as most of the men drifted off to that area.  The ladies preferred being inside and cool.

It was a delicious way to meet more neighbors.  I found out that one should be a Bears' fan and root for Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana U in football and basketball.  I'm not sure how that works out when any of the teams play each other but will find out seasonally.  Several people were talking about
the Chicago Street Theater's production of Hamlet the night before so there's interest in Shakespeare.
First and foremost, there was interest in good food and fellowship!  We are in a good place.

Since I had a nice head of cauliflower, I decided on a salad using the same recipe I use for potato salad.  It was a hit!

Cauliflower Salad

1 medium head of cauliflower cut in florets
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup of fresh (or frozen) green peas
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp juice from sweet pickles
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Blanch the cauliflower and carrots (I did them together) in boiling salted water for three minutes.
Drain.  Add the celery and green peas (uncooked).  While still warm, stir in the remainder of the ingredients.
2.  Chill for at least two hours to overnight.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Settling Into and Exploring Valparaiso

We've been in residence in Valparaiso for five weeks now.  The boxes are all unpacked.  Most everything has been put away.  There needs to be some tweaking still.  I've found my way around the grocery store of choice (thanks, Jane, for the locator map).  How nice to find it has a sushi bar!!  I still need to find my way to the State License Bureau to change my address.  I need to register to vote.

One thing that I need to check off my list is causing me more of a problem than I thought it would.  Getting a library card!!  It's not that the card will be hard to get.  All that's needed is a piece of mail showing my address.  What it really means is tossing out my old library card.  The library that I had the joy of being on the Board of Trustees that approved the building and watched it rise from the north end of the Crown Point downtown square.  That card is on my "list".  It may be the last thing to be crossed off.

Andrew and I have done a bit of exploring.  Although we'd spent quite a bit of time in the area through the years, we always seemed to visit the same part of the city.  Now, at our leisure, we are taking "the road less traveled".  A few weeks ago, we came upon this gem of a nursery.  Horses Nursery (Horse is the nickname of the owner and I don't know why they left the apostrophe out) is tucked into the countryside as one heads west on Lincolnway.

We picked up a hydrangea and a clematis.  Next time, I might take some lemonade and a book.  Those chairs were very inviting!

Hope you all have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Shrimp and Cucumber Salad With Dill

It has been unseasonably cool in the midwest.  I'm not complaining!!  Neither are the cucumbers and tomatoes but....they are having a hard time with their growth.  Lettuces don't seem to mind.  Like pansies (which keep raising their pretty heads, now well into summer), the lettuce crop is happily producing tender leaves.  

I love the lineup of fresh vegetables that we bring home from the farmer's market.  Mostly menus are preplanned and ingredients organized to maximize their freshness.  Well, that's how it used to be.  Lately (since the move which I'm blaming every annoyance in life on) I seem to misplace everything I lay down.  I finally found the checkbook yesterday.  I'm still looking for my personal calendar, the jewelry bag containing my "everyday" earrings, the paper cocktail napkins (which we needed last Sunday) and the recipe for this shrimp and cucumber salad that I copied out of a recent food magazine while waiting for a haircut.  In the meantime, there were cucumbers, tender lettuces, tomatoes and dill waiting.  From memory, here's how I put this plate of deliciousness together.

Shrimp and Cucumber Salad For Two

1/2 to 3/4 pound boiled and cooled shrimp
1 medium sized cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium vine-ripened tomato, sliced and quartered
Lettuce for plating
Zest and juice of one lemon
Olive oil
Parmesan, freshly grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh dill

1.  Place the shrimp, cucumber and onion in a large bowl and sprinkle with just enough olive oil to lightly coat.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.
2.  Arrange the lettuce on a plate and top with the shrimp mixture.  Add the tomatoes and sprinkle with the fresh dill.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Tuesday's Market Yields and a Green Meadow Soup

I donned a warm raincoat before heading out to our Tuesday market.  The night temperature had fallen to 60 degrees and there was a gentle rain.  In fact, we haven't had one summer day with the temperature above the mid-80s--and few of those even.  And rain, rain and more rain.  Some days, I feel that we are living in coastal Oregon.  Actually, that would be fine with me as far as the weather is concerned (along with the seafood, etc.).  Back to reality here--some vegetables are slow in maturing with some even drowning!!

A sink "still life" of various kale leaves.

Lettuces and radishes.

I've found that if you strategically place 
pitchers of pretty posies 
amidst a cluttered kitchen counter,
one's eye will be drawn to them!!

Some of those lettuces went into our favorite soup, served in my favorite cup 
while The Baker holds out for a bowl!!

Potage Vert Pre

6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup minced green onions with tops
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 head Boston lettuce, shredded
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whipping cream (I've used half and half)
3 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 cup cooked fresh or frozen peas

1. Saute onions in butter in large pot until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour; cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Add 3 cups peas, the lettuce, spinach, sugar and salt. Stir in 6 cups stock. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Simmer covered 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Puree vegetable mixture 2 cups at a time in blender or food processor until smooth.*

2. Beat cream, egg yolks and pepper in small bowl until smooth. Combine with pureed mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until soup is hot. Do not boil. Stir in 1 cup of peas.

NOTE: Soup may be prepared in advance up to this point*. Refrigerate. Heat to simmering before completing recipe.