Saturday, November 7, 2009

Zinfandel of Beef

I made the zinfandel of beef recipe from Julia Child's The Way to Cook. I did use a bottle of burgundy instead of zinfandel, but it sure was tasty.

To the stew I added some braised garlic cloves (whole garlic cooked in butter on low heat, covered, for about 20-30 minutes).

The garlic and the cooking butter was put into the stew just before serving.

Enchiladas and Beans

The enchilada recipe that I use is from Martha Stewart, here. Usually when I make the sauce I'd make a double batch and freeze half, to have on hand for the next time. I recently found that Trader Joe's enchilada sauce is very similar to the sauce from this recipe, so I used that in the version below:

I usually serve enchiladas with pinto beans (recipe from The Border Cookbook) and yellow rice.

Cabbage Strudel

I found this recipe for cabbage strudel on the New York Times web site. I just had to try it. I've become more fond of cabbage lately, so a new recipe is always welcome. Besides, phyllo dough makes everything taste good, right?

This was very good, and not difficult, but the cabbage should be cooked at least a day in advance because it has to be cold when rolled in the phyllo. I served it with pork chops and noodles, but that was completely unnecessary. The strudel and a good loaf of bread would make a fine dinner on its own.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Few Odds and Ends

In the past few days/weeks since I've posted, I've made some dishes that haven't appeared here yet.

First, the tomato tart from Martha Stewart's Living:

It is a great way to use up some of the summer tomato bounty, except that this year there is no bounty, and is just a yummy way to eat tomatoes. It's made with roasted garlic and fontina cheese baked in a pie crust, and then sprinkled with a little fresh basil when it comes out of the oven. Only problem with this one is that it takes almost an hour to cook, so it requires some advance planning.

Next is chicken paprikash from the Frugal Gourmet's Immigrant Ancestors:

This is a good cool, rainy day meal. There was enough for two dinners; the first night I served it with noodles and corn, and the next night I served it with spatzle and corn.

A few weeks ago DS and I spotted these at the farmers' market:

Purple potatoes. I roasted them with a little salt, pepper and poultry seasoning.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Veggies of Summer

It's August, and the farmer's market is overflowing with produce. We've been feasting on corn, summer squash, tomatoes, new potatoes, peaches, apples (Ginger Golds, one of the first varieties available in the season), and melons. My garden is doing okay, but we've had better years. It's been cool and wet this year, and the threat of late blight is hanging over the tomatoes.

At the moment, however, they are fine, and we've been harvesting a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes (I think cherry tomatoes only come in bumper crops). A few days ago I made cherry tomatoes in a balsamic vinegar sauce (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone).

The tomatoes are sauted in butter, then simmered in balsalmic vinegar with a bit of chopped onion or shallot tossed in. They were very good.

Another veggie dish I made last week was the Smoked Cheese and Vegetable Casserole from Thanksgiving 101 by Rick Rodgers. Again, pretty simple. Summer squash, zuchini, onion, garlic, rosemary, corn and green pepper with a topping of bread and smoked cheese. Excellent. I made this the last two Thanksgivings and it was a hit.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

For Garlic Lovers Only

Skordalia, sometimes called garlic mayonaise (a complete misnomer, as there is no mayo in real skordalia) is Greek dip/sauce made of some combination of white bread (or potatoes or both), ground almonds, olive oil, lemon juice and a good amount of fresh garlic. This all gets blended together until smooth sauce forms, which is served with meat, fish, veggies, or eaten as a bread dip.

It took years for me to figure out how to make this right, but I finally found a recipe in the Complete Middle East Cookbook (see the entry on Green Beans in Oil). The batch in the picture was a little stiff and should have been thinned out with a little olive oil or lemon juice. It was, and I had to admit this, just a tad too garlicky; one clove less would probably sufficed. Still it was good, especially with the cherry tomatoes I've been harvesting from the garden.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Corn Beans and Squash

The week we were away the corn must have grown two feet. It also produced tassels and ears. After not seeing the garden for a week it was quite a shock to pull into the driveway and find this:

The corn is taller than I am and has actual ears on it, and the squash plants (Sweet Dumpling) have teeny little squashes on them. No beans yet, but here's still time.

The tomatoes are doing great, should have a few cherry tomatoes ripen tomorrow. Picked some hot peppers and one sweet pepper.

I am a little concerned about the tomatoes, as there is a tomato blight in the Northeast. I think I should spray a fungicide to keep them going this summer.

Speaking of veggies, I made Summer Vegetables Cooked in Their Own Juices (From Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers Markets by Deborah Madison). It's basically a stew of vegetables, cooked with the garlic and herbs on the bottom, and the veggies layered according to how long the veggies take to cook (the ones that need more time are on the bottom of the pot). After it's all done, serve it with a basil puree (basically pesto without the pine nuts). I served this for dinner with a loaf of Italian bread and some sauteed chicken breasts.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Potatoes and Beans

I made a very good potato and bean dish a couple of days ago (recipe from The Classic Vegetable Cookbook by Ruth Spear). Boiled about a pound of small potatoes and cut them in quarters. Mix with one pound of cooked green beans. Top it off with pesto, and mix everything together. It was very good.

No picture because it's all gone.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's a Nice Day for a Roast Chicken

Okay, so the rain and the cool weather is getting old now. Thursday was another one of those cool rainy days we've been having so much of lately. Seemed like a good day for a roast chicken. I don't normally make roast chicken during the summer, because it's too hot to turn the oven on, but Thursday was chilly enough the oven needed to be turned on, just to warm the house up a bit.

I made my standard roast chicken: stuffed the cavity with a cut up lemon and some fresh rosemary; rubbed the skin with olive oil and sprinkled on salt, pepper, sage and thyme. Perfect chicken every time.

As much as I like roast chicken, I really dislike picking the meat off the carcass after dinner, but it must be done. The leftover meat went into the fridge (turned into quesedillas for dinner the next day and many lunches after that) and the skin and bones became a lovely stock:

I used half the stock to make a batch of frijoles for dinner on Friday, and the rest went into the freezer for another day.

The first blueberries arrived at the farmer's market over a week ago. So last weekend I made a blueberry crisp

and today I made a blueberry pie

It looks like the time has come to buy my blueberries by the flat and start to freeze them for the winter. I froze 3 flats last year (they were cheap) and am hoping that I'll be able to do the same this year, but I'm afraid the wacky weather might not be so good for the blueberry harvest.

Speaking of harvesting, I picked my first batch of peas last weekend:

Got about two spoonfulls worth. Thank goodness I bought a pound of peas from the farmer's market to go with them.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Beer Bread

The weather has been strange, and Thursday was pretty chilly, at least by June standards. And on a chilly day, the best way to warm things up is to bake bread.

I wasn't in the mood for a yeast bread, not even the relatively quick Cuban bread from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Bread. I decided to make beer bread. I found the recipe year's ago in the Creme de Colorado Cookbook, and it is very easy: 3 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 3-4 tablespoons sugar, and a 12 oz bottle of beer. Mix it up, put in a greased loaf pan, pour a stick of melted butter over it, and bake at 350 for about 50-55 minutes. Easy.

Many years ago I cut the butter down to 1/2 a stick. Tastes just as good but isn't nearly as greasy. Now, the same recipe appears in Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Bread but with an interesting twist: he adds 1/2 cup of chopped fresh oregano to the batter. I decided to give it a try, especially since my oregano is trying to take over the herb garden. Harvesting 1/2 a cup worth sounded like a pretty good idea.

And yes, it was. The oregano gave the bread a completely different flavor. Very tasty. A good way to keep the herbs in the garden in check, use up a cheap bottle of beer, and get a fresh loaf of bread for dinner.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I learned something interesting about carrots yesterday.

I bought a beautiful bunch of carrots from the farmer's market. They were long and thin with lovely, fresh green tops. So I wanted to cook them yet preserve their shape, in other words, not peel them. They were so thin that most of the carrot would disappear if I peeled them.

So I looked up carrots in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madsen. And she said that if you put the carrots in cold water, brought the water to a boil, added salt, and cooked them, the skins would slide right off. And you know what? They did. It was lovely.

So I boiled them, skinned them, then sauted them in butter with onion and parsely, and ended up with this:

Okay, there were more of them. I took the picture after dinner, not before. But you get the idea.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Strawberry Chiffon Pie

It's strawberry season. And I always make, at least one time during strawberry season, a strawberry chiffon pie.

It's a classic. Mashed strawberries gelled with unflavored gelatin; folded into merangue and whipped cream, chilled until set (this pie takes some time to put together). It's tasty, creamy and airy; one of the best pies around. I brought it to a cookout on Saturday and it was a hit. I should try some of the other chiffon pie recipes around (raspberry, orange, lemon).

Last night for dinner I made the Asparagus and Smoked Trout Frittata from the NYT website . (I meant to take a picture before we ate it, but in the rush to get food on the table kind of forgot.)

Okay, this was excellent. First of all, I loved smoked fish, and asparagus, and together they were great (actually I kept nibbling at the trout when I was cutting it up -- we're lucky it made it into the frittata). DH said it was a little salty, a side effect of the fish, but that didn't bother me. I would be happy to make this again. I would also be happy to buy some slabs of smoked trout and eat them right out of the package.

Peas were at the market on Friday, so I bought a pound (shelling or English peas, not snow peas). We had them for dinner, with a little butter and chives. Very tasty. My peas should be ready for harvest this weekend. I won't get a whole meal out of them, but they'll supplement this week's market purchase.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Let the Grilling Begin!

So, the grill has been cleaned and prepped, and last week I grilled almost every night. We had steak, burgers, chicken, salmon, and, one of my favorites, grilled pork sate (recipe from Bon Appetit, early 1990s).

This dish is good with rice. I made asparagus to go with it (it being asparagus season), but peas go well with it, too.

Yes, it's asparagus season. I bought a lot of it this weekend; I need to get it into the freezer, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I did spend Friday night processing strawberries for the freezer. I took the kids strawberry picking and we managed to pick 9 quarts of berries. Really ripe, flavorful, wonderful strawberries. Took us maybe 20 minutes or so. I froze 6 quarts of berries (washed, hulled, sliced and packed in bags in one cup portions). Most of them will probably end up in oatmeal during the winter. The fresh berries we've been eating as is and also with shortcake.

Last weekend I made a batch of Strawberry Shortcake Cookies (from this month's issue of Martha Stewart's Living magazine). They were very good (really did taste like strawberry shortcake), but very rich (made with heavy cream and butter). They don't keep very well, either, but to be honest, there weren't that many left after dinner.

The garden is doing great. Tomato plants are growing by leaps and bounds. I've got some actual pea pods on the pea plants and the herbs are looking great. Corn is up, but it seems a little small; I guess I should give it some time. The pepper plants don't seem to be growing as fast as I thought they would, but it's still early so I'm not fretting. Yet.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Garden Update

The garden is really taking off now. The roses and iris are beautiful:

I have two pink rose bushes (they live in the herb garden). They are very fragrant and a lovely pale pink. The iris are actually dark purple, not the blue that came out in the picture. Beautiful. I wish iris bloomed all summer.

The sage is blooming, too (this is new, as it was planted last year and only blooms in spring).

I also have a red Portugal pepper growing on one of the plants,

and the corn is sprouting.

I decided not to plant carrots this year (ended with up orange stubs last year), so I bought two Purple Prudens plants for that space. They are an heirloom tomato, similar to a Brandywine. (Easier to grow, I hope. I grew Brandywines a couple of years ago and lost a lot to blossom end rot. Very frustrating, as it hit just when a tomato was ready to harvest.) These will have to be the last tomato plants I put in this year (I have 11 total). I've used my last tomato cage.

I also put in four jalapeno pepper plants. Can't have too many hot peppers, you know. They're great in collards.

So, it looks like we'll get some rain tonight, which is very much needed. Hasn't rained in about a week; we could use a good soaking. (The rain barrel is almost empty, too. Needs a refill.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009


The first local strawberries were at the farmer's market yesterday. So of course I bought some.

And they are so good. So much better than the ones shipped in from the West Coast.

Strawberries need angle food cake. I made one (from a mix. I've never made angel food cake from scratch for the simple reason that I wouldn't know what to do with the dozen left over egg yolks). Angel food cakes need to be cooled off upside down. Beer bottles are very good for that.

And the finished product was a lovely, airy, angel food cake.

Topped with strawberries and, for some of us, whipped cream (I skip that part), it made a very tasty dessert.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spring at the Farmer's Market

On Friday I visited the farmer's market (was not able to go last weekend) and sort of went a little nuts at all the good stuff there:

This all came from the same stand. Leeks, lettuce, arugala, asparagus, green onions, beets, yellow and red onions. We've been having salad for dinner every night. I made half a bunch of asparagus with dinner on Friday (pork chops and corn bread). The leeks were cooked in a little broth with chicken and cayenne pepper for dinner last night. We'll have the beets with hamburgers and the rest of the asparagus in an asparagus tart. Salads all week long. I didn't buy spinach or radishes. I'm told that the strawberries are a few weeks away, and all the rain we had last week didn't help matters much; veggies need sun (of which there is a whole lot today).

So now I'm faced with clearing out my freezer before stocking up with this year's goodies. I still have one container of Hungarian gravy base (which I'll make up this week for the peppers); some green peppers (they'll be used up before new peppers appear in August); blueberries (I'm using them up in my oatmeal in the morning); one pack of green beans (which I can cook up for lunch if there's too much fresh stuff for dinner); and some tomato sauces and salsas. The sauces will be used up before tomatoes are available, but I'm not sure what to do with the salsa. Not too thrilled with it; maybe I can use it in frijoles some time. I'm going to ditch the freezer blueberry jam (don't like the texture and it doesn't taste a whole lot like blueberries) and there's a batch of beans I'm getting rid of as I did not like how they turned out. The only true failure is the bag of sliced, cooked beets in the freezer -- fresh is now available; need to think about how to deal with the frozen.

I planted my basil, parsley, tomatoes and peppers on Friday; put geraniums along the front walk yesterday morning. I want to get four more parsley plants in hopes of having a better harvest than last year. Put in two varieties of peppers (sweet green and hot red Portugals) and three tomatoes (red cherry, Rutgers, and one Ramapo, which will go in the upside down planter). Today I'll plant the corn and fill the window boxes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring Flowers

I took these pictures last week but did not have time to post them:

Bleeding heart.


We planted the bleeding heart a couple of years ago. I was afraid it had been removed at the end of summer by some overzealous flowerbed neatening, but it came back in its full glory. The lilac was one of the first things we planted when we bought the house. It blooms gloriously every spring, and is now spreading along the patio. In a few years it will be a perfect privacy screen.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ginger Snaps

I like ginger snaps, ginger bread, spice cookies and other ginger/spice confections. And yesterday I got the urge to make a batch of ginger snaps.

They turned out okay, but not fabulous. The recipe was from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and the dough was a little dry (not sure why), and of course I made the cookies bigger than they should have been, so they had to bake longer, so they got a little darker than they should (still taste good, though, even if now they are hard as rocks).

Now, my dad made fabulous ginger snaps. They were a rolled cookie, and each one was cut with a 2 inch round cookie cutter, all uniform and pretty. And his recipe, whatever it was, made a ton of cookies (his recipes generally made a ton of whatever it was he was making). I rarely have the time or patience for rolled cookies, except for Spice Crisps, a cookie recipe I found in Bon Apetit in the early/mid 90s. Thin, crisp and very spicy. Yum. (But more work than I was willing to put in after work yesterday. I make them around Christmas.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Green Beans in Oil

When I was an undergraduate I spent about 7 weeks in Greece. The food was fabulous, and I was especially fond of a dish of green beans cooked in a tomato sauce. For years I tried to replicate the recipe with no success, not until I bought a copy of The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Malos. In the Lebanon/Syria/Jordon section she has a recipe called Green Beans in Oil, which closely approximates the beans I had in Greece. And I do like them so much, I could make a meal of just these beans and a good loaf of bread. Except in the summer, when a fresh ear of corn and a fresh tomato (with that loaf of bread) makes a pretty good dinner, too.

Managed to do a lot of gardening the last two days. Prepared all the existing beds for planting, put new strawberry plants in one of the strawberry pots:

and planted a new thyme plant in the herb garden (the dog dug up the last one).

The peas are growing,

except in one row for some reason, so I planted arugula there.

So the plan for this year is: replace the two dead blueberry bushes with live ones, like this, but maybe bigger;
try carrots again here (I worked the soil so maybe I'll get real carrots and not little stubs);

put in a three sisters garden (corn, squash and beans); plant tomatoes (Ramapos this year, if I can get my hands on them); plant basil, parsley and dill in the herb garden; put cherry tomatoes in the upside down planter; and put hot peppers in the window box by the back door. We are in the process of opening up new beds (maybe next weekend, weather permitting), and in them I'll plant sweet peppers and maybe some cucumbers. (I'm avoiding members of the cabbage family because they always seem to be eaten by some kind of bug, and we aren't big fans of eggplant, zuchinni and summer squash so they're out.)

DH took down a dying tree near the driveway, and although I'd really like to replace it with an apple tree, it looks like that won't be happening. So I have to figure out what to put over there.

Could just fill the area with blueberry bushes, or maybe a different variety of tomatoes (one can never have too many tomatoes). Two other bushes along the side of the house will soon be taken down and I'm thinking of replacing them with hazelnuts, something I've wanted to plant since we bought the house. Have to look into that.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Little Baking

I made banana muffins for breakfast yesterday. The kids love muffins, specifically banana muffins and cinnamon muffins (aka French Breakfast Puffs). Sometimes I make blueberry (my favorite), but the kids just pick out the blueberries, and what's the point of that? Anyway, when I make muffins (fairly frequently), I'll make banana if there are some overripe bananas lying around, and cinnamon if there aren't. Both recipes are from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (1989 ed.) They are quick and easy.

Today I made the Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This is one of my favorite cakes. It's full of pears and studded with cloves. The batter has no leavening at all, which confused me the first time I made it, but it produces a very dense cake that surrounds the pears. It's very different from a light and fluffy cake, and honestly, I really like it.

I used the last of my cloves, though, so I'm going to have to place an order with Penzey's for more spices.

In other news, my peas have finally started sprouting. I'll post a photo when they get a little bigger (at least bigger than the weeds). And I restarted the Flow top; I'm now at the point I was when I ripped it out. Hopefully I can get some good knitting in....