Monday, December 31, 2012
A recipe originally from Tuscany, the dish is thought to have originated in the town (really part of Florence now) of Impruneta famous for terra cotta tiles and pots -- just the thing to weigh down your cooking bird. Made for the feast day of Saint Luke -- Impruneta's patron -- Pollo Al Mattone has fed generations of revelers and pilgrims alike in the hillside village.
To help flatten our bird I removed the backbone and -- although this isn't at all traditional most of the ribcage and breastbone too. My chicken laid nearly flat with the legs giving just a bit of protection to the more easily dried out breast meat. I marinated our bird overnight in garlic, lemon, olive oil, rosemary and fresh thyme. When it was time to cook I poured a shimmer of olive oil in a hot skillet and laid in the chicken (with some sprigs of rosemary on the breast) skin side down, weighted with a heavy iron frying pan. After 5 minutes or so I moved the whole contraption to a 500º oven/. After 15 minutes I removed the weight and flipped the bird over to further crisp for another 10 minutes.
Though certainly not flashy and hardly chic of us this simple homey dish is the perfect way to ring in the new year and fortify for the perils and excitement of 2013.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
A diner style dinner that still feels like Christmas
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Christmas ended up being a pretty lazy day around here, fresh baked sweets for breakfast, napping, halfway watching Christmas movies and the NBA game. Instead of the elaborate Norman Rockwell style dinner I'd planned James ended up eating fried eggs and ham leftover from the night before. Not exactly magazine ready.
Ignoring the blasphemy I took a knife to the prime rib and sliced it into steaks for later in the week. The brussels sprouts cook up fine any day, but I couldn't let these popovers go. I had the batter ( 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 tsp salt, 4 eggs) mixed up and waiting in the fridge. So as I prepared to pan-fry the steaks I set the oven to 450º and filled each cup of a muffin tim with about 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp of beef fat. After 5 minutes in the oven the fat was melted and hot (it would have been better if I'd pre-heated the pan before adding the fat I think) I poured in the batter and popped the popovers into the hot oven. After 20 minutes I lowered the oven temperature to 350º and let the dough cook for another 20 minutes.
What emerged were delightfully puffy, high, eggy, crusty breads that really felt like an occasion.
I was more than a little proud.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Our CSA meat box from Victorian Farmstead came today. Inside were a pair of cube steaks. I'm sure there are other ways to prepare that cut but when I see cube steak I think chicken fried steak. For me it's hard to see anything but chicken fried steak.
So, though I honestly think it's been years since I made it, I whipped up a Southern/ Western style diner dinner -- chicken fried steak and cream gravy, mashed potatoes, and because we still have a fridge full of our garden harvest, kale braised with plenty of slab bacon.
It's been so long since I've made these crispy steaks I actually had to look up my recipe -- and then change it a bit of course. For our two steaks, in one bowl I beat one egg with a bit of tabasco sauce and S&P, In a second bowl I mixed about 1/2 cup of flour with garlic powder, paprika, and a dash of chili powder. I dipped the steaks in the egg and then coated them in the flour and laid them in a sizzling hot iron skillet loaded with melted bacon grease. I usually fry in oil which makes a lighter, crispier coating but tonight that smokey bacon flavor called to me. After the steaks were fried on both sides and moved to waiting plates I added the rest of the coating flour into the skillet and cooked a quick roux for the gravy that I thinned with fresh whole milk.
Steaks and cream gravy -- with just a little pickle on the side.
That's what I call vacation.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
I've been wanted an excuse to try an overnight cinnamon roll recipe -- the kind that take a long rise in the fridge before baking in time for breakfast. Sounds just like Christmas to me.I started with a recipe from -- someone I have never trusted before -- Food Network's Alton Brown. His dough was fairly similar to the parker house rolls I made for our Christmas eve dinner, milk butter eggs and just a bit more sugar. Easy enough. But Alton advocates a cream cheese frosting and I knew that was not the sticky super sweet white James had in mind. I whipped up a glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 TB melted butter, 2 TB milk and a dash of vanilla.
Merry Christmas Honey!
Monday, December 24, 2012
gingerbread cake every year. Flavored with hearty guinness stout, the recipe is a specialty of New York's Gramercy tavern's (former) elite pastry chef Claudia Fleming. Fleming may have moved on to her own restaurant on the North Fork but her recipe lives on.
Christmas for two -- warm hearts and lots of leftovers.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
I decided to start small. A quick pasta.
Our "girls" have been working so we have plenty of eggs. Salami lasts quite a while so we have a bit to add for flavor into this make-shift carbonara. While the pasta boiled I sautéed chunks of salami, garlic and chili peppers in olive oil until the pork was just crisped and the oil flavored with the cured meat's spices. Next I beat a couple eggs and a small handful of grated parmesan cheese with plenty of cracked black pepper.
I poured the hot drained pasta back into the pot along with the salami mixture, eggs and a splash of pasta cooking water. With just a few minutes of vigorous stirring those separate ingredients came together to a creamy, cheesy sauce.
Dinner is back.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
We are busy working in the yard, trying to get ready for the next rainstorm. I decided to use the crock pot so our dinner could bubble away with no attention from me. James loves a little hit of chili. I dug out an old food network recipe for "Southwestern" brisket and decided to improvise (or rather avoid the searing and sauce cooking that recipe called for). I sliced up two onions (one red one yellow because that's what I grabbed first) and 5 chopped cloves of garlic and put them in the bottom of the crock pot. I placed the brisket, seasoned with salt and pepper, on top and started adding the spices -- 1 TB chili powder, 2 tsp coriander, 2 tsp cumin, and a healthy dash of paprika. To balance the spice I used about 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, a good handful of brown sugar and nearly 1/2 cup ketchup mixed with water.
"Honey, this is really good." I heard a mere 10 hours later. Not many leftovers today.
Monday, November 26, 2012
With our home tomato season having come to an end, even after a hefty green tomato cake, we still have a wealth of green tomatoes, ready for recipes.
James, you probably know by now, does not love (or some days even tolerate) tomatoes. I love them. I love to eat them. I love to grow them, I love to cook with them. But mostly I love to serve James vegetables from our own garden. I thought, the texture being so different, that maybe green tomatoes could slip by and that he'd probably like their tangy flavor. I zeroed in on Batali's recipe for spaghetti with green tomatoes.
Basically a nut free pesto this simple dish combines 1/4 cup each of fresh mint, dill, basil and arugula with1 clove of garlic, 5 green tomatoes, and 2 TBs of parmesan cheese (don't forget salt and pepper). I ground everything to a paste in the food processor and then -- just before the spaghetti was fully cooked -- added in about 1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil and pulsed until the mixture formed a vibrant green paste. I tossed the drained pasta and the sauce (about 1/3 of it -- I froze the rest for future green tomato dinners) in the hot pot to heat the sauce through and served James his dinner without a word about the tomatoes. green or otherwise.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
It just so happens I pulled our tomato plants the other day and have a ready supply of green tomatoes. Normally I would invite friends over for fried tomato sandwiches or salads featuring the southern specialty. But, since James is not a tomato fan, and -- as always -- I'm trying to stay away from fried and delicious, I decided to try this easy cake to share with our neighbors who have been under the weather and missed their Thanksgiving feast.
Talk about things I never thought I would do. After an internet search for a recipe I felt good about, I decided on a recipe from Paula Dean. Now I must admit, I NEVER even look at her recipes except as an example of what I don't want to do and I find her completely unwatchable. But I've been in the mood for a bundt cake and I actually liked the idea of this caramelly brown butter glaze (mine came out more like candy than glaze but still sweet and tasty) so I forged right in. I mean I guess I could do worse when looking for a Southern style recipe.
The result was a spice perfumed dense pound cake style bundt with raisins and walnuts kept moist by the 2 1/2 cups of chopped green tomatoes.
"Pound cake," James scoffed as he toted the my handy locking tupperware cake carrier to our neighbors. "More like 3 pound cake." he declared.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Yes I know, a hot chicken mess on a plate.
To be honest the adventure of not having an oven (well at least in the kitchen I use day to day) is losing it's charm. I had no idea how much I rely on it and now I have to think about our dinners in a whole new way. I could have roasted this bird in the other oven, walking across the yard feeling like Martha Washington's household "help" trundling off to the summer kitchen carrying pots and pans. I just didn't want to (besides I was drying yesterday's tomato harvest in there). So I started to scratch my head for a stove top, not fried, one pot easy chicken dinner.
I figured I'd start with bacon, pancetta to be exact since it is what I had in the fridge. I tossed chopped pancetta and onion in a dutch oven with butter and olive oil and then added in a few cloves of garlic. After a couple minutes I put in the seasoned chicken -- skin side down -- and a couple of cubed potatoes. My pan wasn't big enough for everything and so the chicken didn't get quite as brown and crispy as I would have liked. None the less I let the chicken cook for around 10 minutes and then added in about 1/4 cup white wine and the same measure of water. I brought the liquid up to a simmer and let the covered pan bubble away for another 15 minutes until the potatoes were tender and the chicken just cooked through. I served the bird, savory sauce, potatoes and all over fresh steamed green beans.
"This is better than our turkey," James said recalling our Thanksgiving dinner out and knowing just how to get my attention. Looks or not I might just try this dish again.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Instead of turkey and endless leftovers, when James and I heard that one of our favorite innkeepers, Margaret Grade of Manka's, was opening her still being renovated new property, The Olema, for Thanksgiving dinner we decided to join in. The menu, so local she seems to know every purveyor's name and family, hit all the seasonal favorites -- pumpkin, crab, peppery cress, and of course locally grown turkey.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Tonight we needed something special, a little treat.
Dungeness crab season is open here in Norcal and fish markets and grocery stores are stuffed full of fresh cooked, plump, meaty, delicious crab. The season here is so celebrated that besides local calendars boasting a plethora of charity crab feeds for every local cause (Sons of Italy, fire departments, Lions, etc) many locals include the delicacy as part of their Thanksgiving menu. Most people serve the steamed crabs cold, cleaned and cracked, along with cocktail or maybe a mayonnaise based dipping sauce.
At our house we elaborate on an idea from San Francisco chef Reed Hearon and marinate our crustaceans in fennel seeds, chili flakes, parsley, thyme, garlic and olive oil and roast them in a 400º oven. Spicy warm delicious. Make plenty of bread and potatoes for soaking up the delicious sauce.
We've decided -- this is our night before dinner.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Our neighbor has turned over her garden and had a picturesque collection of squash which she kindly shared with us. They are so beautiful I think I'll look at them a while before cooking them up.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Friday, November 9, 2012
Thursday, November 8, 2012
First I sautéed carrots, onions, celery and after a couple minutes a bit of chopped garlic in olive oil. When those vegetables softened up I added in sliced mushrooms, about 3 quarts of chicken broth, chopped turkey (I had that in the freezer) and some of the leftover chicken (without the skin) and a heavy half cup gravy. The soup came up to a boil and then simmered for about 10 minutes, One disappointment -- no egg noodles in the house. Cooked in the creamy savory broth they would have been delicious. Instead I grabbed the last of a bag of penne and tossed them in (pre-cooked) for a creamy noodle soup dinner.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The stakes are high. Four dollars in our electoral college pool still unclaimed waiting on Florida.
Yesterday was such a busy day around here. James was out on the tractor digging in a new water tank. I was trying to get the house and dinner ready (not so easy given our muddy yard and 3 cheerful dogs) for friends coming over to watch the election returns all while ordering materials for our current landscape extravaganza and checking in on the early reports form the poles. No time to blog, but we did -- exhausted -- manage to get dinner on the table for our friends.
Oddly enough I don't have any pictures in the middle but here's where it started and how it finished. It's been a good long while since I delved into Jim Lahey's bread recipes. We so love the rosemary meyer lemon bread from nearby Della Fattoria I knew I could never compete. But I had a beautiful bag of stone ground flour I bought from a family farm in Washington state and there's no time like the present. I whipped up (if you can say that about a recipe that takes 2 days) a nice crusty loaf of whole wheat bread and set it out with delicious McClelland butter and homemade tomato bacon jam. There in the distance are our mini-appetizers -- a bowl of cayenne spiced pecans and Southern style cheese straws. I figured those were a good companion for the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and kale salad that came later -- along with a neighborly pot of homegrown beans.
For dessert, since I still have apples on the tree, a brown sugar sweetened old-fashioned 3 layer apple cake from a recipe on marthastewart.com with a brown sugar buttercream. The frosting used egg white so I took that as a perfect excuse to make a quick batch of vanilla ice cream. James said it might be his favorite cake I'd ever made -- must be the apples right off the tree.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Found in every tapas bar in Spain, the Spanish Tortilla is nothing like the more familiar to Americans Mexican breadstuff. It is a thick slow cooked omelette most often chock full of olive oil fried potatoes. I've never made one before but I've eaten plenty of them. Eggs just seemed like the right thing for dinner but with the oven still out of commission no frittatas or soufflés for us. A stove top treat, a tortilla (equally good warm or at room temperature) seemed right -- and something a little new for James.
First I fried thin potato and onion slices in a prodigious amount of olive oil at medium heat -- a very slow bubble so the potatoes cook (and soak in the oil) but don't brown or crisp. Then you drain the potatoes and add them to 8 eggs beaten with salt and pepper. I should have had a non-stick pan for this adventure but tortillas have been everyday fare in spin long before Tfal so I forged ahead. I heavily slicked the bottom of the skillet with oil and poured in the egg mixture. The tortilla cooked for about 5 minutes -- again at medium heat -- until the bottom and edges were firm. Now the tricky part and the action that has kept me from trying my own tortilla for literally years now. First you slide the egg and potato cake onto a waiting plate (I could have used a bigger plate). Then using a second plate you flip the tortilla over so the less cooked side is down. Add more oil (the reserved olive oil form frying the potatoes) to the pan and slide your potato masterpiece back in to cook on the bottom.
I should have let my tortilla brown a little more to be truly authentic but for a fairly quick weeknight dinner and a first try -- not too bad.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Prosciutto cream sauce. I started a pan with a bit of olive oil and a bit of butter and sautéed half an onion, finely chopped and a couple cloves of garlic. When the onions we just translucent I tossed in the prosciutto and gave that a few minutes to start to crisp up. Next I deglazed the pan with some of that white wine and then added the cream and let everything cook down to a sauce while the pasta boiled.
Pretty simple, but pretty delicious.
I've gotta go shopping.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
The search goes on for cumin noodles close to home, but for now we'll always have Vancouver.
Friday, November 2, 2012
History and tradition aside I first fell in love with the classic multi-colored stripes in the 60's. My father, a traveler and traditionalist (I had to get it somewhere), carried home a collection of these now very expensive trade goods from a family trip to Canada and Alaska that also gathered up a selection of totem pole sweaters and scores of legendary (or maybe forgotten) family stories.
I cuddled dogs, read comic books with a flashlight and slept soundly under those itchy winter weight covers.
Those old blankets are long gone now, lost in the shuffle of living and moving. So I visit. Surrounded by the myriad of items now sporting the signature stripes I gaze back through the years and for just a moment I find that carefree time hoping for snow days and never feeling cold.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
The craze has now assuredly crossed the country and the border. Food trucks (or in Vancouver's case handily park trailers) are everywhere. Obviously snot just tolerated but supported by the local government and merchants these carts park on downtown sidewalks with small awnings to protect customer from the frequently inclement weather.
Without so much as reading an online review we strolled up to Soho Street for one of their signature naan kebab sandwiches -- sort of an Indian walkaway sandwich. Nothing I'd ever seen before but what could be bad about butter chicken wrapped in a fluffy toasted naan or spicy links of ground lamb swimming in a cilantro spice base and tangy yogurt sauce. No great bargain at $12 a sandwich but pretty tasty on a chilly, rainy fall day.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Friday, October 26, 2012
As a side a dish from James' childhood -- green beans and potatoes long stewed in bacon and chicken broth. More delicious sauce to soak up.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
I started to make tacos but when I ran into the little (very little but they still find space to make homemade sausage) market in nearby Valley Ford all they had were large tortillas so I switched to burritos. A game friendly, one-handed dinner.
We still had leftover pork so I cooked it down into a tasty burrito filling with olive oil, cumin, garlic, smoked paprika, ground New Mexico chilies, coriander and oregano until the fat melted out and the meat was peppered with crispy brown delicious bits. I rolled and wrapped that filling into the tortilla along with rice, home cooked quick refried beans (canned beans smashed and cooked down with bacon, onion, cumin and a dash of tabasco) and a tangy tomatillo sauce made by our neighbor Sally. I had it all worked out in my head but as you can see I forgot to wrap the cheese up in the roll so I sprinkled a little feta on top. First game jitters I guess.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Our friends and fellow election followers down the road have been coming over to join us for dinner and debates. Last night's battle was centered on foreign policy so I opted for Italian (as I often do -- debate or not).
Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough recipe makes two crusts and because you can never have too much pizza (it is James' favorite leftover) I went for a second variety -- mushroom, prosciutto, red onion, thyme, and tangy Teleme cheese with the obligatory sprinkle of parmesan.
Jim Lahey. His tortinos di cioccolato are light, flourless (they use bread crumbs as a binder) make ahead wonders (the recipe claims they will keep 3 days in an airtight container though they never last that long around here). Just before closing statements I topped the chocolately cakes with soft bourbon flavored whipped cream and balsamic and sugar roasted figs.
No debate on dessert it's a winning combination.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Sunday, October 21, 2012
I sautéed the meat and finely chopped salami along with the leeks and garlic in olive oil until cooked through and almost crispy. Then I deglazed the pan with white wine -- the last of a bottle taking up space on the fridge door. That mixture from the skillet joined ricotta, parmesan and egg (S&P of course), to make a tasty filling. I stuffed the pasta tubes and laid them in a baking dish with a pool of tomato sauce on the bottom. I covered the single layer of cannelloni with parmesan flavored bechamel sauce and another drizzle of tomato sauce. After 40 minutes at 350º I had a fridge clearing dinner that still felt special to James. Double score!