Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Green Bean, Tomato and Onion Salad

I had great plans for Sunday dinner.  The Saturday market had been full of fresh vegetables and the kitchen counter had still life displays of summer squash, tomatoes, green beans, corn, knob onions and beets.

Visions of childhood Sunday dinners kept tapping into my memory bank.  Tables laden with at least seven vegetable dishes, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, crisp golden-brown fried chicken, roasts of beef and pork and hot cornbread slathered in freshly churned butter.  The ladies in the kitchen bustling about.  The men on the porch discussing politics or sports or when dinner would be ready.  The children playing croquet (no rules and usually no wickets), chasing each other and hoping for an extra slice of chocolate pie.  Oh, I failed to mention the dessert table laden with a pound cake, a fruit crisp and the chocolate pie.

Since there was no one to bustle about the kitchen with me, I had to take a more doable approach.  This green bean salad did provide three vegetables.  I steamed some corn making it four.

Maybe I'll try again later in the summer.


Green Bean Salad

1 pound fresh green beans
1 cup of quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
2 green onions, finely chopped

1.  Place the tomatoes in a bowl and salt to taste.  Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes.  The tomatoes will give up some juice to add to the flavor.
2.  Snap the ends off the beans.  You can leave them whole but I prefer to break them into smaller pieces.
3.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the beans, cover, lower heat to medium and simmer for about five minutes.  Test.  You want them to be a bit crisp.
4.  Drain the beans and immediately add the tomatoes and the viniagrette.  Mix well and cover.  Let sit at room temperature until cool.  Refrigerate.

Vinaigrette Recipe (or, use your favorite)

3 Tbsp oil (I used olive oil)
2 Tbsp vinegar (I used white wine)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Shake!

ENJOY!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Aunt Lizzie's Quick Pickled Beets

It is a known fact that I love beets.  Roasted, pickled, in hash....!!  As soon as they appear in our farmers' market, they appear on my table.  I've used a number of different recipes that were very good.
  
A few weeks ago, I was thumbing through a cookbook and found a recipe card that had not seen the kitchen light in a very long time.  It is my handwriting but says it is "Aunt Lizzie's Beets".  Any recipe that I can attribute to her, I use.  She was a most excellent cook.  This recipe suits me well as I am not a canner of any note.  Truth is, I'm not a canner at all.  

Here is my aunt's recipe and it is worthy of carrying her name.


Simply Pickled Beets from Aunt Lizzie

8 medium sized beets, remove leaves but leave about one inch attached.  Don't cut the root off.  Wash well and enclose in aluminum wrap.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes or until tender.  Cool, slip the peel off and cut into wedges.  Place into a container large enough to hold them and the liquid.

Pickling solution:

1/4 cup water
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (or, your choice)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
tsp pink (or black) peppercorns
2 small bay leaves

Bring all to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt are incorporated.
Pour the hot liquid over the beets, cool and chill.  They keep for about a week.  The longer they marinate, the better they taste.

ENJOY!


Monday, July 14, 2014

L'Escoffier, The Beverly Hilton and Fresh Pea Soup

Many and many a year ago, back in the time of dating, Andrew took me out to dinner at L'Escoffier  in the Beverly Hilton Hotel.  I was awestruck although we didn't see a single famous person that we recognized.  It was enough to be in that venerable old hotel on the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards.  The dining room was elegantly staged with white tablecloths, deep purple napkins, and roses in low vases.  The lighting was low.  Candles flickered in crystal holders on the tables.  My menu had no prices listed.  When the sommelier brought our bottle of wine, he showed Andrew the label and discreetly asked me the year of my birth.  Taken aback and thinking he was going to compare the date to the age of the wine, I hesitated slightly.  Hesitated enough for him to ask to see my driver's license!!  All was well and we sipped a marvelous vintage red with our dinner.

The meal was delicious!  We started with a pea soup that has never left my memory.  Through the years, I've tried to duplicate it without ever quite getting it right.  I always assumed the base was split peas.  An "aha" moment came when I found fresh peas in the market.  Of course, we've had fresh peas many times but the thought of using them for that particular soup never came to mind.

Here is my first attempt and it is very near the original.  Even Andrew agreed.  I wish he had prepared a dessert cart like the one we chose from that evening to finish our meal!!


Fresh Pea Soup as I Remember It (Almost)

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium-sized sweet onion, such as Vidalia, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, mashed and chopped
2 large leeks, halved and cut into 1/2 inch pieces with some green included
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
5 cups of chicken stock
3 cups of fresh green peas (can use frozen)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of heavy cream (it's o.k. since it serves 8)

1.  Melt the butter and oil in a large soup pot.
2.  Add the onion, garlic and leeks and sauté for about 4 minutes, until soft
3.  Stir in the potato.  Add the stock and cook on high heat until it reaches the boiling point.  Lower the heat, cover lightly and simmer for about 25 minutes until the potato is softened.  Add the peas, cover and simmer an additional 10 minutes.
4.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  
5.  Add the cream and simmer an additional minute.
6.  Puree the soup using an immersion blender or a regular blender.
7.  Adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Scones, Plain and Simple

It's 7:30 a.m. here in the midwest.  Have you had breakfast yet?  If not, you could whip up these scones in a trice.  Since I'm not sure exactly what a trice is, I'll just say you can have them table ready in a little more than thirty minutes.  This is a very simple recipe that is delicious.  Even The Baker was impressed!!

A few days ago, I had an early morning meeting at a friend's home. "Come hungry and I'll have something to nibble on with coffee" she said.  Shortly after arriving, she pulled a pan of scones from her oven.  They were delicious.  "So simple" she insisted.  I insisted, well I politely asked, on having the recipe.  In reading it over, I thought she'd left out something--namely butter.  "No!"  

I couldn't wait to make them for The Baker.  When he and Oliver left for their early morning walk, the kitchen was pristine.  When they came back, I was pulling the pan of scones out of the oven and the kitchen was still pristine.  There was no flour on the counters and floor--or me.

An added bonus:  They were just as good the next day.





Scones 

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 cup heavy cream, well chilled

NOTE:  I sprinkled the top of mine with sparkling sugar crystals before baking.

Preheat over to 350

1.  Combine the dry ingredients in a mixer bowl.  With the mixer stopped, pour in all the cream and mix on low speed for 10 seconds.
2.  Remove to a lightly floured board and quickly pat into a round about 3/4 of an inch thick.  
3.  Cut into six equal triangles then quickly form each into a rough round.
4.  Place on a lightly oil sprayed baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Rotate the pan halfway through.
Makes 6

ENJOY!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Israeli Couscous, Beet and Spinach Salad

When I was in Rhode Island in the spring, I picked up several lunches at a delicious little place called The Pantry.  It shares space with the wonderful Seven Stars Bakery in the old Rumford Baking Powder factory in Providence.  There is a small eat-in space and, in warm weather, a few tables are scattered about outside.  Mainly a take-out place, they offer an ever-changing variety of salads and entrees.  I had this tasty salad one day and knew it would be a big hit at home as well.

Here is how I think it was prepared.


Israeli Couscous, Beet, Spinach and Feta Salad

2 cups of cooked Israeli couscous
5 medium sized beets, roasted or jarred, cut into 1/2 inch
  pieces and any juice collected with the beets
A handful of baby spinach, fresh (it will wilt as it chills)
Feta cheese

1.  Prepare the couscous according to package directions.
2.  Stir the beets and spinach into the warm couscous, let sit for ten minutes.  Chill.
3.  When ready to serve, sprinkle with feta to taste.

ENJOY!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Independence Day!


Wishing you all a
happy 4th of July!


We'll celebrate our freedom sitting on the porch
waiting for the parade.



Enjoying the shade of ferns
and
this beautiful, but messy, member of the
begonia family.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Grape Tomato and Feta Tart

I've known Betty Rosbottom for a long time.  We met, via her Cooking School Cookbook about twenty-five years ago.  It is one of those cookbooks on my shelf that is stained, dog-eared and notated.  Such notes as:  "Jim loves this sweet potato recipe and he doesn't even like sweet potatoes" and "the boys really like this cranberry chutney".  While Betty and I have not actually met in person, she has played a big role in my kitchen.   It's a well-known fact that The Baker loves a good breakfast/brunch.  Imagine my delight when I found a new (to me) cookbook from Betty entitled Sunday Brunch.  I thought it would be a perfect small gift for him (me, as well if you get my drift).  As it turns out, I was the first to make use of the book.  Betty's recipe for this tomato tart kept calling to me.  I made several changes since I wanted to experiment with making the crust ahead of time and freezing it.  That worked well.  I used feta cheese.  Betty used bleu cheese.  The feta was delicious and I'm sure the bleu cheese would be as well.  I must note that I'm not a pastry crust expert but this was so easy to prepare.  We enjoyed it while watching one of the World Cup games (yes, Oliver got fed on time in case any of you are wondering).  I think it will be perfect for a ladies' luncheon.


Grape Tomato and Feta Tart inspired by Betty Rosbottom

Crust:  
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 ounces of cream cheese, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 stick butter, chilled and cut into 8 pieces
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

375 degree oven
Use a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom
1.  Place the flour, cream cheese, butter, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal and starts to come together.
2.  Place the mixture on a lightly floured board and knead until smooth--just a few turns should do it.
3.  Press into the bottom of the ungreased tart pan.  Do not press up the sides.  Smooth out evenly with a flat bottom measuring cup.
4.  Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or, if making ahead, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer.   When ready to use, defrost in the refrigerator for a few hours.
5.  Bake until golden brown--about 30 to 35 minutes.  Remove and cool for five minutes.

Topping:
4 oz of feta cheese
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
1.  Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the warm crust and top with the tomatoes, cut side up.  Drizzle with the olive oil and then the vinegar.  Sprinkle with salt to taste.
2.  Place in the still hot oven and bake until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are hot--about 15 minutes.

Chop together a couple tablespoons of parsley and 2 green onions.  Sprinkle over the tart and serve warm or at room temperature.

ENJOY!