Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Being just the two of us, James and I have given up the traditional Thanksgiving meal. And though I miss cooking all the old time favorites it is hardly as fun as serving up a beautiful bird to one tolerant fellow as it is to an awe-struck crowd. Our thanksgiving for two has become an annual mini-crab feast. Dungeness crab roasted with herbs and feel seeds and messily eaten with just slices of toast. I can't give up everything cold turkey as they say so I still make a little Thanksgiving specialty. This year a mini sweet potato pie, just right for one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Few Of My Favorite Things

A few things I love: butternut squash, chick peas, harissa, pomegranate, feta cheese, rice -- all in one dinner. First I oven roasted cubes of butternuts squash and chick peas (just drained form the can) in a mixture of harissa and olive oil with salt and pepper for about 35 minutes at 425º. Delicious. I served those over fluffy steamed rice toped with feta cheese and a quick relish of preserved lemons, pomegranate seeds, olive oil, and chopped mint. Vibrant flavors in a bowl.
"This is really yummy" James said. " I mean from the way it looked I wasn't really sure," he continued completely unnecessarily. "But it's really good."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Comfort Food: Risotto

Potato risotto. Okay, so I've never seen it on a menu but it seemed comforting and warm -- something James would like.
I started the way I always do with chopped onions and garlic sautéing in olive oil, and because I had some I tossed in diced celery for some crunch and small cubes of potato. I sautéd the vegetables until just soft but not colored and tossed in 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice.
Though I suppose you could make risotto with any kind of rice, short grained arborio has a nice tender texture and plenty of starch that helps to create risotto's signature creamy sauce. After the rice started to seem a bit translucent from being tossed in the hot oil I added in 1/2 cup of Marsala wine -- I used Marsala because I had a bottle near the stove and nothing else open but really any wine --white or red would do nicely here. When the marsala had just about cooked away I started to add warm chicken stock by the 1/2 cup -- allowing each ladle full to nearly cook away before adding the next, stirring regularly but not constantly and seasoning as I cooked. When the rice was tender (I'd added about 4 1/2 cup stock) I stirred in butter, a sprinkle of parmesan and a good sized hunt of brie cheese. Brie is probably pretty unusual in risotto -- then again so are potatoes -- but it combines easily, has lots of interesting flavor, and there is no need to peel the rind -- just cube and stir into the waiting rice and the soft cheese melts right in.
Because the risotto was soft and mildly flavored I wanted something with a little punch to liven up the dish. A quick salad of parsley and radicchio with a pretty forceful anchovy dressing (3 chopped anchovy filets, 2 cloves minced garlic, juice from 1 lemon, splash of sherry vinegar, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil shaken together) was just the thing.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Simple Squash Supper

Gardens are fickle masters. Last year we were overrun with squash. Every Tom Dick and Harry who crossed our property left with best wishes and a hefty bag of cucurbits.This year, despite close care taking we ended the season with three, only three kabocha. An Asian variety often called Japanese pumpkins, kabocha have meaty flavorful orange flesh and completely edible skins. With so few to savor I didn't want to hide my prizes in soup or curry sauce so I decided to roast them where their sweet flavor could shine.
After tossing the slices of kabocha with cumin, S&P, red chili flakes and olive oil they roasted for 25 minutes at 375º until cooked through and slightly caramelized. For a simple topping I whipped up a tahini sauce (another of my favorites) with 1/2 cup tahini. 1/2 cup water, juice of 1 lemon, and 3 cloves of garlic brought together with a pinch each of S&P in the blender. I love tahini and figured with some bright, tart pomegranate seeds the sweet squash flavor would still shine through.
Colorful, tasty, the last of our home grown squash.
Here's hoping for more next year.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Things To Eat With Toast

I'm clearing the freezer. First I pulled out the big bag of last spring's frozen fava beans and whipped them into a long cooked stew flavored with garlic, onions, peppers and bacon. That didn't seem quite enough. Buried under bags of elderberries waiting to become jelly and ham bones waiting for soups to flavor was the last of the brandade -- a meltingly rich spread of salt cod, potatoes and cream. It's a Christmas tradition around here (I missed last year and made it late in the year) and James and I both love it. Add some cheese and thinly sliced salami and out dinner of treats to eat with toast was ready for spreading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day Apple Pie

We have an apple tree. Every year at this time I try to make sure none of those beautiful apples go to waste. Jams, jellies, apple sauce, and today while I was slicing fruit for a jelly attempt (don't even ask it has not been a banner jelly year) I decided on a little pie. Unless we are having company I don't usually make dessert for dinner but the big bowl of apples on the table and more on the tree seemed like a good excuse -- and besides I had a beautiful all butter pie crust in the freezer ready to go.
Nothing fancy, I soaked some raisins in bourbon for about 1/2 hour for a little extra flavor. Added the drained raisins to my very thin apple slices along with a sprinkle of flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract and tiny cubes of butter. I rolled out the dough, fit it snugly into my mini pie pans, piled the filling as high as possible (like a softball sitting in the crust), dotted the top with butter and rolled on the top crust. After quickly crimping the edges, brushing on a little milk and sprinkling sanding sugar James' little pie baked for 20 minutes at 450º and another 20 minutes at 350º until the filling was bubbling and the crust golden brown.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kale Pesto

There are days -- as much as I like to grocery shop that I just don't want to go. Sometimes those days turn into a week.
Part of it I suppose is that I enjoy the challenge of making a dinner James likes from seemingly nothing or ingredients that don't seem to go together. Kind of a home version of the Food Network's Chopped where I am the only contestant and James the only judge.
Tonight James wanted spaghetti. Okay pasta I had but what to do for the sauce. I found some kale -- maybe a bit past it's prime and some parsley. Searching through my baking ingredients I came upon about 3/4 cup of walnuts. Pesto!
I put the kale, parsley, a couple cloves of garlic, a few pardon peppers I found in the veggie drawer, parmesan cheese, and the walnuts into the food processor. After I gave everything a good chop I poured in the olive oil to form a nice chunky pesto paste.
All I had to do was add a good dollop of pesto to the drained pasta -- along with about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water -- and a bit more parmesan, give everything a good stir and serve topped with crisped prosciutto.