Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Food Trucks (Carts) Have Come To Vancouver

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

Quick Dinner

The Giants are world champions. We had one more ballpark dinner, sort of a cross culture quesadilla. Gruyere cheese, prosciutto and thinly sliced red onion all melted together in a skillet glazed with a shimmer of olive oil. Non traditional deliciousness.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Game 4 Too Close To Call

It's not ballpark but sometimes a man wants spaghetti. I started a skillet with plenty of olive oil, chopped garlic, chili peppers and 2 anchovy filets. While the pasta boiled I cooked that down to a smooth sauce. two minutes before I was ready to drain the spaghetti I added in a big bunch of chopped collards (and kind of hearty green would be good here -- kale, mustard greens, chard) from our garden. I added the drained pasta with the collards to the skillet along with 3/4 cup of pasta cooking liquid and a handful of shredded parmesan. After a few quick turns with my tongs dinner, and a tied game, was served.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Giants Up By Three!

Perfect for a cold night in Detroit -- even if you are just watching it on TV -- spicy hot chili. Turkey, beef and beans topped with cheese and chopped onions. Go Giants!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Start The Weekend Right

Time for steak. Our CSA meat package held a beautiful grass-fed sirloin steak begging to be pan-fried. I started a skillet with thinly sliced onions and a bit of garlic sautéing in butter and olive oil. About 15 minutes later I removed the onions from the pan, added a bit more oil, and laid in the steak aggressively seasoned with S&P. After around 5 minutes on each side the steak was set to rest on a platter while I added about 1/2 cup of bourbon to the pan. The bourbon reduced by about half and then the onions went back in along with a knob of butter and the juices that accumulated under the resting steak to smooth out the sauce. I served the steak on top of fluffy brown rice to soak up the delicious sauce.
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

Game 2 Not Very Ballpark

No not many salads in ballparks I suppose but James was in the mood for antipasto salad. Who am I to deny a man a salad made mostly of meat and cheese?? Especially when I have a fridge full of leftovers ready to be tossed and dressed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

World Series Game 1

Simple ballpark style food at home.
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.
Go Giants!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Big TV Night At Home

Plenty of entertainment last night. Not only did the Giants clinch a spot in the World Series with a 7th game playoff series win, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had a little playoff of their own -- the last presidential debate leading up to election day November 6th.
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).
 Debates are challenging menus to plan. Food that doesn't need a knife is key. Nothing that makes too much noise or requires conversation. No bones, no shells, no peels. A dish that can still be appealing if not piping hot is another plus. James was so happy with the pizza we had the other night he suggested I whip up a couple pies  for the event. James doesn't like fresh tomatoes (well, everyone has a flaw) and he's not all that crazy about tomato sauce so I try to make inventive pizzas featuring his favorite ingredients. Potatoes, a topping I often saw on white pizzas in Italy but rarely see in the states, is a house favorite. Our debate version was a garlicky pesto sauce, potato slices, peppery Calabrese salami, Mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan -- along with oregano and chili flakes. Because bread god 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.
 I rounded out our TV dinner with a couple of salads. Tricolore  -- arugula, endive, and radicchio with a piquant anchovy dressing and colorful cherry tomatoes from our backyard dressed with balsamic, olive oil, chili flakes, fresh oregano and plenty of basil.
Dessert is another challenge. Something tasty at room temperature, fairly light, that doesn't need last minute attention (I don't like to miss too much of the debate myself). In my dessert desperation -- I forgot the gelatin for my planned panna cottas at the store -- I once again turned to baking great 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.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Stuffed Pasta

Believe it or not. I was laying around the house reading a cooking magazine dreading the idea of making dinner. I didn't want to do the dishes, I didn't want to chop, I didn't want to defrost and find some meat main course. Suddenly an idea clicked. Cannelloni! Why hadn't I thought of it before? I had ricotta -- probably teetering close to it's expiration date, the end of a salami, parmesan, leeks pulled from the garden, and a bottle of milk nearly ready for retirement. Clearly that seemingly lack luster collection of ingredients -- along with ground turkey in the freezer -- could come together into meat stuffed pasta and bechamel sauce. Along with a jar of the tomato sauce I canned earlier this month and a box of no cook cannelloni tucked away in the pantry, I had dinner.
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!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Night Pizza

College football and homemade pizza, topped with a collection of fridge leftovers -- salami, prosciutto, garlicky pesto sauce, mozzarella, parmesan and thinly sliced potatoes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Autumn Pork Stew

There is nothing pretty about stew. The humble appearance more than hints at it's country favorites origins. Stew is place to hide cheaper, tough cuts of meat that benefit from slow cooking. Stew famously stretches when there are more mouths than the budget easily covers and it makes use of storage vegetables that maybe aren't as pretty as they once were. In short -- stew is as perfect at the harvest as it is a winter dish enhancing a variety of flavors with the magic of a long simmer.
All that being said. I love stew. It feels warm and comforting and truly homemade.
This past summer our neighbor and friend had a birthday pig roast. We ended up with a freezer bag of savory, long cooked pork. Tasty, but that bag takes up a lot of room in our -- I suspect -- less than standard size freezer. I started out to turn those leftovers into savory stew.
First I sautéed a chopped onion, chopped celery, 2 cloves of garlic, sage, fresh rosemary, 2 bay leaves and chopped bacon in a combination of butter and olive oil. When the vegetables softened a bit I added in the chopped pork (not for long since it was already cooked) and a good sized splash of white wine. When the wine cooked down I added in 3 cups of chicken broth, 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed, 2 tart apples cored and cubed, and thick wedges of potato. After simmering for about 15 minutes  the vegetables were almost tender but the broth seemed a little thin so I combined about 1/2 TB of corn starch with 2 TB of milk and mixed that into the bubbling stew ( I could have mixed some flour in with the early sauté). After a short boil to allow the cornstarch to thicken James' glistening harvest stew was ready to serve with plenty of bread to sop up the flavorful, shiny thick sauce.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall Harvest

Our garden keeps on giving. There's a chill in the air but we still get plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Old Fashioned Comfort Dessert

I felt like making something comforting, old fashioned. Something that would use up the milk in the fridge and feel like dessert. Pudding. I searched online and saw recipes with loads of eggs and heavy cream, but what I wanted was an old fashioned not overly rich. simple weeknight dessert.
Amidst the pastry chef specials and decadent custards one lone recipe seemed to crop up over and over again. A simple stove top pudding recipe from Scharffenberger chocolate.
Another thing I like about pudding. For three dinner guests (including James -- I have to stay clear of dessert) I was able to make 3 portions in 3 little glasses. No leftovers to call our name in the middle of the night. Just a quick treat and done.
My 3 portion pudding started with 2 TB of cornstarch and 4 TB of sugar in the top of a double boiler with a pinch of salt. I whisked in 1 1/2 cups of milk and cooked the mixture over gently simmering water for about 15 minutes -- scraping the sides and stirring occasionally. I added 3 ounces chopped chocolate (I used Scharffenberger bittersweet -- one of my favorites) and cooked for another 2 minutes.
I stirred in a scant teaspoon of bourbon -- instead of vanilla extract, that's become my cooking secret weapon lately, and poured my silky pudding into serving glasses to chill in the fridge.
Normally I'd have stirred up a fluffy cinnamon or even bourbon whipped cream but with just three glasses I cheated and went with a dollop of creme fraiche. A modern topping for an old fashion taste.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tomatoes Before And After

 It's getting towards the end of the season and our tomato plants are full of ripe fruit in every hue -- red, "black", orange and creamy white. We have way more than we can eat fresh so I decided to quickly whip up a pot of sauce to can for the winter months. I made a simple version, just onion, basil, oregano, garlic and plenty of fresh chopped tomatoes -- minus some of the skin and the seeds. Our melange of color made a creamy looking orange sauce that I tucked away on the shelf for future stews, spaghettis, and pizzas in the winter months.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Steamed Seafood Supper

Some things you never lose. I grew up in Maryland and honestly some days I think Old Bay Seasoning flows in my veins. I don't use it much anymore but when I taste that familiar mixture I feel the warm sun, lapping waves and the excitement of steamed crabs on a hot summer's day. It tastes like home.
This steamed combo of shrimp, clams and potatoes is a little more low country than it is "charm city". I've been struggling to get my diet back on track and I figured a steamed all in one pot dinner would keep James satisfied and the calories low -- besides, we had leftover beer in the fridge.
I started a pot (with a steamed insert) with a bit of butter, chopped garlic, shallot, bay leaf and a bottle of beer and brought the liquid to a boil. I tossed in the potatoes and let them steam for about 10 minutes. Next, because the clams were small and he shrimp were large, I let the clams steam for just a minute before adding the shrimp -- peels on -- heavily dusted with Old Bay. After about 5 minutes the shrimp were pink and tender and everything was flavored with the delicious mix of beer and "bay".

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Apples Keep Coming

With so many varieties, apples have a long, fruitful season. Mercifully they are exceptionally versatile because all kind of apples show up in all kinds of dishes around here.
The other day I asked James to pull a package of ground beef out of the freezer and somehow he managed to thaw the lone pie dough I had tucked away instead. Clearly that was a sign. That along with the bowl of apples taking up space in the fridge.
I turned those ingredients, along with some apple sauce I made with the leftover cooked fruit while canning apple jelly, in a quick pie. First I rolled the dough out to a thin round and sprinkled the pastry with sugar. Next, following an idea for apple tarts I saw online and plan on making my own, I spread a thinnish layer of apple sauce on the dough (about 6-8 TB). Piled on top of the apple sauce were peeled apple slices tossed with lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, and sugar (about 1/2 cup). I folded up the crust around the apples for a rustic, no pan dessert. 
The pie sat in the fridge for 30 minutes while the oven preheated to 400º. Just before baking I brushed the crust with egg wash and sprinkled the dough with sugar. After 35 minutes in the oven I pulled out a fragrant, crisp, fall-worthy treat for James.
"Is that for eating now?" He said peering into the kitchen.
It's always time for dessert around here, especially during apple season.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cotechino and Beans

Usually served on a bed of braised lentils, cotechino sausage is an Italian New Year's Eve tradition, originally from the ancient town of Modena but now spread throughout the country. Eating the thick, round (coin shaped) slices if thought to bring good luck and good fortune in the new year. It's never too soon for fortune and good luck so when I saw a nice plump cotechino on the shelf I decided to bring it home and serve it up.
There were plenty of lentils in the pantry and polenta too -- another traditional accompaniment. But we had aplenty of fresh beans, north shell and green waiting to be picked so I decided on a sauté of beans topped with the mild flavored sausage.
I simmered the cotechino in water flavored with garlic, celery and bay leaves for about 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile I brought the beans (shelled only) up to a boil and let them simmered until tender (about 20 minutes). For the last 5 minutes or so I added in the green beans to cook through. Just before serving a sautéed the bean mix in olive oil with leeks, garlic, chili flakes, and prosciutto then added a dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and dijon mustard and let the mixture heat through. The sausage slices (not traditionally) I crisped in olive oil before placing on the colorful bean combo.
Good Luck, Good Fortune, Happy New Year (early).

Friday, October 12, 2012

She's Growing Up

Sweet Daisy in the field with her mom and aunties and friends.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Going Visiting

I'm not cooking tonight. We are going visiting. Our new friend Karin has come into town ready to make pasta and we are ready to eat. I brought this roasted tomato caprese salad ( a page from Nancy Silverton's Mozza playbook).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Crystal Apple Cucumbers

A new variety in my garden. From what I read these gently flavored cucs  -- believed to be from China originally -- were once popular in Australia and New Zealand and made it to our shores in the 1930's. I found them at a local plant sale and decided to give them a try. I was out of town when some of these came ripe so I missed picking the fruits at their optimal 3" size. Still they don't get bitter. Even when the peels grow too tough to eat the flesh is still sweet and mellow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Garden Patch Of Celery

For some reason in the excitement of my new garden this past spring, I planted a big bed of celery. True, I like to add the cleanly flavorful leaves to sauces and herb salads but rarely do I make a side dish of braised celery as the Italians do. Most recipes I whip up use just a couple stalks. So now with a patch brimming with bright green stalks I needed recipes featuring this oft maligned vegetable.
Today I stared with this creamy celery soup based on one I found at
I sautéed one chopped onion, one peeled, cubed potato, and about 15 stalks of celery with the leaves in a good sized knob of butter. After 10 minutes or so I added in 6 cups of water and S&P to season and brought the liquid up to a boil. After simmering for 20 minutes the potato and celery were tender and the broth delicately flavored. In two batches, I puréed the soup in the blender along with a good sized dollop of creme fraiche.
Even creamier might have been better (or with a "little garlic and onion" as James generally suggests) but all in all not bad for a quick, garden fresh, homemade soup. Just right for dipping a gooey grilled cheese.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cheery Cherry Tomatoes

And so many more live on the vine. I'll be roasting these to top sandwiches and a pesto drenched caprese salad.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Potatoes and Eggs

Leftover sliced potatoes from those homemade chips and a dozen eggs turned into this quick breakfast. I stared a pan with prosciutto, garlic, onions and olive oil, added in the thinly sliced potatoes  -- along with paprika, oregano, and thyme -- and, with a lid, let the potatoes cook until tender. A couple minutes uncovered gave the potatoes time to crisp and two farm fresh eggs time to just set in the flavorful olive oil.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Oven Fried Chicken

Dinner had to be something simple that could wait while James finished today's projects in the yard. He'd come in hungry but I had no idea when he'd be finished. I grabbed a package of drumsticks. Setting the oven to 450º I put half a stick of butter in a roasting pan and let the butter melt in the oven. Meanwhile I mixed flour (about a half cup) grated Romano cheese, thyme, S&P, paprika, and a bit of poultry seasoning (I used Les Epices Rabelais a French spice mix made in marseilles since 1880) in a zip lock bag. Three at a time I dusted the drumsticks in the seasoned flour and placed them in the roasting pan siting on the melted butter. The chicken baked for 40 minutes on one side and then 15 minutes after turning the drumsticks over. "Hey these are good," James, not usually a drumstick fan said  after his first bite. He quickly reached for another.

Alongside these crispy drumsticks a cool cucumber salad. Our garden is positively overflowing with bulging round yellow lemon cucumbers. This salad with it's white vinegar dressing is the perfect way to hide some of the bitterness from a cuke or two that stayed too long on the vine. I combined thinly sliced cucumbers and red onions with shreds of mint and celery leaves (we've got a lot of celery in the yard too) and dressed them in white vinegar and olive oil with just a splash of lemon juice. I gave everything a good toss and seasoned the salad with salt and pepper. Just before serving I mixed in crumbled feta cheese and brought our indoor picnic to the table.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Apple Brownies

Apples are still in season around here. So I'm still trolling the internet for ways to use them up. I've canned, I've jellied, I've rolled out pies. Today for a simple dessert I happened upon a recipe from Martha Stewart for apple brownies. Not chocolate but simple and quick and really delicious. I creamed 1 sick of melted butter with 1 cup of sugar and 1 egg under pale yellow. I stirred in 2 apple chopped into 1/2" pieces and 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. Lastly I stirred in 1 cup of flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp baking soda blended together. I scraped the batter into a oblong pyrex dish ( I think it was 7" x 13") and baked for about 40 minutes at 350º. Simple.
For dinner I "frosted" the top with spicy apple butter and dusted with powdered sugar but these are just as good right out of the pan.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

No Debate Over Homemade Chips

October is the month for quality TV. The baseball playoffs start Friday, Homeland is back on the air, and last night the first of four debates winding down to November's presidential election. Our friends from down the road came to watch at our house. James and I decided on snacks, not really a full menu. I knew we wanted food that is easy to eat, didn't require a lot of conversation or cutlery clacking, and didn't need an oven. Ours is still on the fritz. I started with a recipe I've been saving, meatball sliders from New York's Little Owl restaurant. We served these tiny meatballs drenched in a rich fennel flavored tomato sauce on soft Hawaiian dinner rolls (a favorite around here) with fresh basil, parsley, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
I just flew back into town yesterday ( a couple hours before our debate dinner) and grocery shopped without looking in our kitchen at home. That led to a near crisis. When it came time to make the sauce for the meatballs, I tore through the house looking for two cans of tomatoes I swore I had on hand, but every cupboard was bare. I was stumped for a minute trying to figure out my options -- if any -- when I suddenly (and stupidly) realized I was sitting on a gold mine of tomatoes. Right outside my kitchen window are the bushy, overgrown tomato plants I have been coddling since May -- heavy with bright red and yellow deliciousness. Who needs cans when I had the real thing? I gathered up all the ripe and over ripe and not so beautiful fruits for a mellow, sweetish, beautifully orange sauce straight from the garden.
Alongside our mini meatball sandwiches a bowl of homemade chips. Simple thinly sliced yukon golds (soaked in cold water to remove as much starch as possible) quickly fried in olive oil and lightly salted. Unlike fries these potatoes can be cooked in advance and are better cold than hot -- perfect for extended (dare I say longwinded) TV viewing.
Next match up -- October 11th in Kentucky.