Friday, October 14, 2016

Wild Mushroom Soup

After an early fall of moderate temperatures and sunny days, we got a heavy rain earlier in the week and the temperature fell thirty degrees overnight.  While I like fall and winter (really, I do), I don't like jackets and coats--especially coats.  It was time to organize them into a more convenient space though.  But first, I made soup.  After hunting and gathering the dried wild mushrooms from Williams-Sonoma, the rest was easy.  Delicious!

So far the fall color is slow in coming.  The large maple out back has one small area of red showing.  The cooler temperatures should tease more color out soon.  

Wild Mushroom Soup

1/2 cup of wild rice
2 cups of boiling water
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Rinse the wild rice and drain.  Place the rice into a pan and add the two cups of boiling water and the salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.  Cover and cook without stirring for 40 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.  Keeping the pot covered, remove it from the heat and set aside to cool.

1/2 ounce of dried wild mushrooms
1 cup of boiling water
8 ounces of fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2.  Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour the boiling water over.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving the liquid.  Strain the liquid thorough a fine strainer and set aside.

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery chopped
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of heavy cream or half and half

3.  Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir in the onion and celery and saute, stirring from time to time, until they are soft, about 10 minutes.  Raise the heat to high and stir in the wine and cook until the wine reduces to about 1/4 of a cup.  This will take about 5 minutes.

4.  Add all of the mushrooms and saute over medium heat until they are softened, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5.  Raise the heat to high and add the stock and the reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes more.

6.  Add the wild rice and the cream or half and half and simmer for another five minutes.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Muses Came to Discuss "The Summer Before the War"

It was a dark and stormy least that was the weather forecast.  The intrepid Muses decided that would not stop them and over they came to discuss the book by Helen Simonson.   We had enjoyed "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" a few year's ago and weren't disappointed in this one.  The setting is the town of Rye in East Sussex.  It is 1914--the idyllic summer before the war.  Beatrice Nash arrives to teach Latin.  She finds colorful characters, resistance to a female teacher, love and much more.

Lisianthus and hydrangea from the patio garden.

Veggie chips to start.

Chicken salad with dried Montmorency cherries.

Fresh mozzarella and heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Plum tart made by The Baker.
Recipe here:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cucumber Soup

The calendar says two more weeks of summer.  Already the shadows grow longer.  The days are taking on a golden light.  I will be happy to welcome fall.  However, two weeks is plenty of time to enjoy this chilled cucumber soup.  And, if we're lucky, an "Indian Summer" would be a perfect time to serve it more than once.

I invited a few ladies for lunch this week and one, my friend Jane, offered to bring chilled cucumber soup.  Oh my, it was delicious!  I had just harvested the last of the nasturtiums the day before and had enough blossoms to add to each serving.  We've enjoyed their peppery addition to salads all summer.

Most of the blooming plants were taking a rest the day of the lunch so I asked The Baker to gather up some herbs for the table--parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme would be good.  He clipped them and brought them in to the vase that I'd put out.  Just before the ladies arrived, I took a look at the arrangement and found parsley, sage, rosemary and OREGANO!!  I guess he had forgotten the words
to Scarborough Fair.

NOTE:  The four of us ladies were a little surprised to find that our luncheon had been a four-hour affair!!

Cucumber Soup


1/2 medium red onion, small dice (1 cup)
1Tbsp Champaigne vinegar
2 lbs. European cucumber, peeled and seeded
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb. green grapes (1 1/2 cups)
1 c. plain organic yogurt (whole milk)
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh mint
6-8 mint leaves, bundled and thinly sliced for garnish


Bring small pot of water to a boil.

Drop in the onions for 20 seconds, drain and toss in small bowl with vinegar,
      set aside.

Finely dice 1/2 of the cucumber, season with pinch of salt and pepper and 
      set aside.

Coarsely chop remaining cucumber and place in blender; add grapes, yogurt, chopped mint, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper and puree until completely smooth - about 5 minutes. 

Transfer to large container, stir in diced cucumbers and onion and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in chilled bowls or wine glasses.

Garnish with sliced mint and if you're lucky enough to have them, a single edible nasturtium!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Chilled Soup for a Hot Day

We're having a heat wave!  Mid-summer has arrived with a vengeance.  If I didn't know better, I'd think we were back in Charleston where the summers were long, languid and drippy with humidity.  Even with air conditioning, I'm reluctant to heat the oven and roast anything.  While I'd rather have coq au vin, we're having cold soup.  Well, I'm having cold soup.  The Baker is not particularly fond of this recipe.  For me, it is a comfort having it in the refrigerator.

A friend served this at a luncheon on one of those hot Charleston afternoons.  A few of us asked her for the recipe.  She wasn't forthcoming and I'd forgotten about when I got an e-mail from her.  There was the recipe and the suggestion that I might like to share it on the blog.

Chilled Vegetable Soup from Anita 

1 46 ounce can of V-8 juice
8 oz of plain yogurt

Whisk until well blended and chill.
With Anita's blessing, I added a dash of Sriracha and the juice of a whole lime.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Blueberry Muffins

Some folks go by the vernal equinox or the autumnal equinox.  Me, I go by when asparagus is ready to be picked.  Ditto the blueberry.  Most especially the blueberry!  I have a file folder filled with recipes for the luscious purple blueberry.  They are the only fruit I pick (though not of late) and the only fruit I preserve.  Just in case you want the "preserve" recipe, here it is.  Pick, put in freezer bags (I do two cups to a bag) and freeze.  Use frozen.

The blueberry season is now for us.  The farmer's markets are featuring them in abundance.  Our first few purchases are usually just left on the counter to be eaten as is--out of hand, on oatmeal/cereal or in salads.

I always pull this recipe from the "blueberry file" for our breakfast treat.  It has been a mainstay for decades.  I no longer remember the source.  The only notation on it is "easy".  That it is!  Time it to come out of the oven when the coffee has perked and the newspaper has been delivered.

Make the neighbors happy by dropping off a few muffins for their breakfast treats as well.

Blueberry Muffins

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
12 Tbsp melted butter,  slightly cooled
zest of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 cups of fresh blueberries/blackberries or raspberries
Sparkling white sugar (I use King Arthur's)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Use paper liners in 12 muffin cups.

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt until well mixed.  Stir in the melted butter.  Add the lemon zest, vanilla, beaten eggs and milk.  Mix by hand until well blended.  Fold in the berries.
2.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each to the top (not the usual 2/3).  Sprinkle the tops with the sparkling white sugar.
3.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Test with a toothpick.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Container Gardening and Post 4th of July Post

Container gardening is the way to go--at least for me with limited space.

No weeds!

Basil for pesto.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (and basil)
for the table.

A delicious spread for our 4th indoor picnic.

Diana always wins the coveted "Best Plating" award.

Apple pie or strawberry shortcake for dessert?
This year, strawberry shortcake was the winner.

It was good to have Scott, Sue, Jane, Jim, Diana and Steve to join in our celebration!!  Later, we settled in to view A Capitol Fourth.  Despite the fact that the fireworks were not live, it was a good show.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Blueberry-Ricotta Cheesecake

It rained during the night.  Outside my window, there is an explosion of green.  It is amazing at how many shades of green there are in nature.  Crayola could devote an entire box of 64 crayons just to the color green.

As I've traveled about the countryside this past week, I've noticed that the green blueberry bushes are starting to add the color blue(ish) to the landscape.  After a long and blustery winter, I am impatient for the bounty of summer to come to market.  We've already enjoyed the sweet and juicy local strawberries.  Every spring, I think it would be good to make strawberry jam.  It is a fleeting feeling.  Why spoil the freshness of those beautiful berries.  Hopefully a friend will show up with a jar or two of jam made in a kitchen other than mine.

Blueberries are at their best fresh off the vine and untouched in any way.  This cheesecake, made by The Baker,  is the ultimate vehicle in which to enjoy that freshness.  The berries are added after baking!  The cheesecake itself is much like the one his mother made.  The texture is not the silky smooth one we are used to.  The base of the cake, with the lemon zest is perfect with the juicy berries and the crunchy almonds.

Here is the recipe.  Give it a try.  You won't be disappointed!

Blueberry Ricotta Cheesecake

2 Tbsp butter, melted
3 ounces of amaretto cookies or graham crackers
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into smallish pieces
1 15 oz. package of whole-milk ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one lemon, finely grated
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

1.  Butter a 9" springform pan and place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
2.  Place the cookies and cut-up butter into a food processor and pulse until you have a fine mixture.  Pat it into the bottom of the prepared pan.
3.  Bake the crust until slightly browned and crisp--about ten minutes.
4.  Clean the bowl of the food processor and add the ricotta cheese.  Process until smooth, a minute or so.
5.  With a mixer on medium and using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until broken down a bit then slowly add the sugar with the mixer running.  Beat until thick and pale.  This will take 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the ricotta, flour, vanilla and lemon zest and beat until just combined.
6.  Pour the mixture over the pre-baked crust and bake until just set, about 30 minutes.  It will still be slightly moist in the center.
7.  While the cheesecake is baking, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and place into the oven (with the cheesecake) and toast until golden--4 to 5 minutes.
8.  When the cheesecake comes out of the oven, top with the nuts and blueberries while still warm.  Gently press down on them.  Chill completely before unmolding.