Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Muses Dine and Discuss "The Forgers"

The Muses met last evening to discuss The Forgers by Bradford Morrow.  The book takes the reader into the dark side of the rare book world.  The story opens with a reclusive collector, Adam Diehl, being found in his home with both hands cut off and missing.  Adam never regains consciousness so he cannot name his killer.  Soon, Adam's sister Meghan's lover (a "reformed?" literary forger) starts receiving threatening letters that appear to be written by long-dead authors.  Alas, my "reader" let me down and wouldn't allow me to finish the book.  I will have to replace it or borrow the book from the library.  Others in attendance liked the book but had mixed feelings, especially regarding the narrator.

It was like being in a snow globe traveling to our hostess' home.  Grassy areas, then snow-covered, looked as if that snow had been scattered with glitter.  Five of us made it safely and missed those who couldn't attend.  One Muse was on her way home from Florida.  One Muse was on her way to Florida.  One Muse was watching Northwestern beat Indiana University.  One Muse was ill.  One had to work late.  We missed them all.


Our hostess, Vicky, had an appropriate table setting
around which to discuss the book
and other myriad topics.


How clever is the glove representing the severed hand?
Note the forger's pen in hand 
and ready.


What else but a glass hand to hold lemons for our water?

We dined on a delicious vegetable lasagne, mixed green salad and, for dessert, a fresh peach pie.
Vicky has promised me the recipe for the pie to share with you.  It is quite unusual and I think you'll enjoy having it when fresh peaches are available.  


Last, but far from least, we all came home with beautiful soft and warm mittens that Vicky had made from wool sweaters for each of us.  Backtracking a bit here, a few weeks ago, she dropped off a pair of these mittens for Andrew to wear when walking Oliver.  He loves them!  I knew mine were coming and here they are.

VICKY, THANK YOU FOR A WONDERFUL EVENING.  TO THOSE MUSES WHO WEREN'T WITH US, WE MISSED YOU ALL.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Paella Soup and The Academy Awards

We haven't watched the Academy Awards in years.  I did enjoy catching up this morning on who wore what, who won what and realized that we've only seen two of the movies and probably won't see more

This paella soup is award winning!  I found the recipe in Sunday Soup by Betty Rosbottom.  Betty has long been one of my favorite cookbook authors and teachers.  She has never let me down in anything I've tried.  The recipe serves four.  As you can see, I divided the base and froze it for another day.  The other half, we had that evening.  I served the rest when two friends came for lunch later.  It was still delicious!  I did make a few changes.  One was substituting half and half for heavy cream.  Traditionally, paella also has chicken.  I had none and left it out this time.


Admittedly, the saffron is a bit costly.  I had just a few threads left from last year--enough for the soup.  It adds a distinctive flavor and I'd hate to have you skip it.  Saffron keeps for quite awhile.



Paella Soup inspired by Sunday Soup by Betty Rosbottom

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup roughly chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup roughly chopped carrots
1/2 cup roughly chopped celery
1/4 cup long grain white rice
1/4 tsp saffron threads, crushed
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste if needed
1 pound large uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 ounces chorizo sausage, cut into thin rounds
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped parsley for topping if desired

1.  Heat oil in a heavy pan over medium heat.  Add onion, carrot and celery and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes.
2.  Add rice, saffron, wine and stock.  Bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat, cover and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.
3.  Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor and return to the pot.  Stir in the half and half.  Here, I divided the soup and froze half.
4.  To the other half, I brought to a simmer and added little more than half of shrimp and half the chorizo (for the two of us) and all the peas.  Simmer until the shrimp have turned pink, about 3 minutes.  Taste and season with salt if needed.
5.  Ladle into warmed bowl and sprinkle with chopped parsley and/or chopped green onion tops.

ENJOY!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fettuccine With Prosciutto

We have heat upstairs!  Oliver is back up there on his cushy doggie bed situated in front of a heat vent.  I'm back to poking around the refrigerator, freezer and pantry finishing up the fall clean out.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I had planned to follow Nathalie Depree's lead in doing both a fall and spring clean out.  As usual, I got distracted!  I have whittled down my pasta collection though.  There was just enough fettuccine to make a dish for two.  Small pieces of Gruyere and Parmesan were in the cheese drawer.  Peas were in the freezer.  Cook's Illustrated arrived and there was a recipe that sounded delicious (don't they all?).  I picked up some prosciutto and made this platter of goodness.  While I'm sure the original recipe would be heavenly, I did alter it a bit.  Halving it for two, I switched out half and half for heavy cream, sliced the shallot instead of mincing it and added the garlic.  It is not diet food by any means.  In the dead of winter, however, one (or two) needs a special treat once in awhile.


Fettuccine With Prosciutto inspired by Cook's Illustrated

For 2

4 ounces thin sliced prosciutto
1 Tbsp butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup half and half
1/2 pound fettuccine
1 cup frozen green peas, defrosted
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
Freshly ground pepper

1.  Shred the prosciutto into bite-sized pieces.  Melt the butter over medium-low heat, in a heavy skillet large enough to hold the pasta at the end.  Add the shallot and stir, breaking up into rings, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes and add the garlic for another minute.  Stir in the half and half and the prosciutto.  Simmer, stirring often, until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover.
2.  Prepare the pasta according to package directions.  Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
3.  Stir the peas and cheeses into the cream mixture.  Stir in the hot pasta water.  Add the pasta. Toss to coat completely and serve immediately.

ENJOY!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Furnace, Car Window, Furnace

I believe I told you that our furnace upstairs went out last month--on one of the coldest weekends of the year.  The repairman came out on a Sunday and, well, repaired it.  Last week, while running errands, the driver's side window on my car lowered itself and wouldn't budge to go back up.  It was the second coldest day of the year and I was driving around town with the window down!!  That got repaired on Friday/Saturday.  This morning, the furnace upstairs isn't working.  The repairman will be out this afternoon.  Do I want your sympathy?  Yes, please!  In the meantime, what is a cold dog to do?


This is what I found after my shower this morning.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Salmon and Spiced Lentils


Do you go out for dinner with your Valentine?  Stay in?  We've opted for staying in for quite awhile.  Rather than getting a reservation, getting dressed up and heading out into the cold, we share the making of a favorite meal and settle in by the fire.  There is usually a romantic old movie on TCM.  This year, though, we may just catch up on episodes of The Americans.

I'm not privvy to what The Baker will be making for dessert.  I have pulled out this favorite recipe because I have two nice pieces of Copper River salmon in the freezer.  I haven't strayed far from the original recipe that I found in one of my favorite Williams-Sonoma cookbooks, Seasonal Favorites.  The spiced lentils could, and have, stood alone for us a number of times.  When paired with the salmon, they create a special entree.  The original recipe is for six.  I, of course, will do two salmon filets.  However, I'll do the whole recipe for the lentils and we'll have leftovers for another day.

Whatever you do on Saturday, I hope you have a wonderful day!



Crispy Salmon with Spiced Lentils inspired by Williams-Sonoma's "Seasonal Favorites" 

1 1/2 cups lentils (I used green French lentils)
8 whole cloves
1 small yellow onion
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (I used a 14-ounce can of diced  tomatoes, undrained)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp each ground cumin and ground ginger
3/4 tsp each ground turmeric and sweet paprika
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper 
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley 
Fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

2 salmon filets, 5 to 6 ounces and about 3/4" thick

1.  Pick over lentils, rinse and place in a large saucepan.  Add water to cover by two inches.  Stick cloves into the yellow onion and add along with the bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until tender, 15-20 minutes.  Drain and discard the onion and bay leaves.  Set aside.
2.  In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm one tbsp of the oil.  Add the red onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, tomatoes, chicken stock, and all the spices.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft, about 3 minutes.  NOTE:  Because I used the canned tomatoes and their juices, I cooked this down a bit until reduced by about a third.  Add the parsley and lentils and cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, or until most of the tomato juice is reduced and absorbed.  Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Keep warm.
3.  Preheat a ridged pan or a cast iron skillet (I don't have a ridged pan) over high heat until "screaming" hot--about ten minutes.  Brush the salmon with the remaining oil and place on the pan.  Cook until golden and crisp on one side, 4-5 minutes.  Turn over and sprinkle with salt and pepper and continue to cook until opaque throughout, 3-4 minutes longer.  
4.  Heap some of the lentils onto a plate, top with the salmon and serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Picnic Under TheTrees (Vegetable Cream Cheese Spread)

Last Saturday, I made an errand list and accomplished every item on it before the snow started falling.  I also had an inside "to accomplish" list just in case of a weather event such as we had.  That would be snow, ice, wind and snow.  Let me say that I am not counting the days until spring.  I like winter.  When one knows what to expect, it is easy to prepare for and accept.  So far, we've had one of the furnaces go out.  Super Bowl Sunday brought a power outage.  Now the back walkway from the house to the garage would challenge a gold medalist speed skater.  Jan Karon, Rosamunde Pilcher, Tamar Adler, Jeanette Walls and Diana Abu-Jaber are here to keep me company.  We'll be fine!!

In rummaging through the freezer, I found four lovely slices of a seeded pumpernickel bread.  I pulled out cream cheese and what vegetables were in the crisper and made us picnic fare for lunch.
When I looked at the photo, it reminded me of eating outside on a sun-dappled cloth under a tree.



Vegetable Cream Cheese Spread

8 ounces cream cheese softened
Mix of green onions, sweet red pepper, carrot and celery, about 1/4 cup each, cut in small dice
(or use your own combination)
Onion salt and garlic salt to taste

Cut the cream cheese in 1/2 inch chunks and scatter in food processor
Scatter the vegetables over the cream cheese and process to your desired consistency

ENJOY!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Blizzard of 2015 and Pumpkin Soup

In the deep mid-winter, when a blizzard comes to call....soup is best of all.  

I didn't intend for that sentence to rhyme!  Being snow-bound has brought out the poet in me.  According to news sources, we had a weekend blizzard.  I'm surprised at this.  By this time last year, I'm sure we had at least several more feet of snow.  It didn't all come down at once,  but it was all on the ground at once.  It was a real surprise to wake up Sunday morning with no electricity.  It wasn't particularly windy and the snow was not yet heavy enough to cause outages.  All ended well when the power came back on around 7:30 a.m. and I had my first (second and third) cup of coffee.  

During the outage, my mind raced thinking about how to use up food in the refrigerator and freezer in case it was a long event.  I figured we could just haul everything outside since the temperature was in single digits.  The soups in the freezer could be heated on our gas cooktop.  I decided that the lone container of pumpkin soup would be our lunch.  It is such a good soup that I wish there were more containers for the next blizzard.  Fortunately, around here one can purchase canned and frozen pumpkin year around.  


Winter Pumpkin Soup

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and rough chopped
1 cup onion, rough chopped
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups pumpkin puree (can used canned)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup half and half or whole milk (or, be really decadent and use heavy cream).

1.  In a large pot, heat the butter and oil.  Add the onion and sauté until it is translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté another minute.  Add the carrot, stirring well.
2.  Stir in the broth and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cover and simmer until the carrot is tender, about 15 minutes.
3.  Add the pumpkin and taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper as desired.  Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
3.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.
4.  Puree until smooth using an immersion blender right in the pot.  Or, puree in batches in a food processor.  Return to the pot and stir in the half and half.

ENJOY!