Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Sunday, March 24, 2013
There are flashy flowered varieties, highly fragrant types, viburnums for sun and viburnums for shade.
My latest is this pink tinged, white flowered Viburnum Mohawk. oddly enough this deciduous shrub caught my eye with no flowers or leaves. It just had a very beautiful open form. When I looked closer I learned this variety, like the Korean spice I thought it was when I bought it, is highly fragrant. I'm going to use it in the back of the a border near the front door so we'll get that heavenly scent coming and going.
Friday, March 22, 2013
The other night I happened to watch an episode of Barefoot Contessa I had recorded by accident. Ins was making a hearty "winter minestrone." Given the rainy days and storehouse of last season's squash that seemed like a recipe worth keeping. She started with pancetta -- can't go wrong there. I added in Italian sausage I had in the freezer and browned everything together. Next BC sautes her vegetables in the same pot -- cubed butternuts squash, onions, carrots, celery, along with fresh garlic and thyme. Next goes in a large can of tomatoes, chicken stock, S&P, and a bay leaf (which I added earlier). The liquid is brought to a boil and left to simmer for 30 minutes. In Ina's recipe she uses spinach tossed into the hot liquid just a bit before serving. James and I prefer hearty kale so I added that with the liquid and let it simmer. Just like Ina I added beans and cooked pasta and to this point honestly it was like any other minestrone I ever made. Nothing too special. But then at the very end comes the lively touch that separates this recipe from everyday (and probably from any authentic Italian recipe). Just before ladling out bowls of the thick soup BC's recipe stirs in a couple TB of ready made (mine was homemade in the freezer) pesto sauce and about 1/2 cup of white wine.
I've never really thought too much about BC's recipes before. She has a fondness for mayonnaise I always found a bit overboard and most of her dishes seemed just a bit pedestrian. But his little touch not only enlivened this easy soup but is a trick I may steal for years of soups to come.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Basically any leftover spaghetti will do -- with sauce or without. I prefer the sauced versions. Take your leftovers and add eggs (as many as you need to give substance and structure to your batter) and grated cheese. Parmesan is a good choice but so is pecorino or any hard cheese you may like. Heat olive oil in a pan and layer in half of your spaghetti mixture. Top the spaghetti with sliced melting cheese (mozzarella or fontina) and bits of salami or prosciutto if you like and fry until crisp on the bottom. It is a bit of a maneuver to turn these heavy omelettes but with an extra plate and a little determination you can slide or flip your omelette (a frittata they would say in Italy) and return t to the skillet to cook through.
I've seen plenty of recipes where the melting cheese goes on top and the frittata is finished in the oven. At our house the cheese is a surprise in the middle and the outside edges are crispy and delicious. Viva Italia!
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Reaching into our monthly meat CSA from Victorian Farmstead Chop Shop I found a puzzling steak: Bavette. I guess I'd heard the term before but I am sure I have never eaten it and certain I have never cooked it. How exciting. It turns out bavette, in the US more commonly called -- however unappetizing it certainly is -- flap meat is the meat that covers the animal's diaphragm, more commonly and deliciously known as skirt steak. The butcher counter darlings of the last couple years skirt (and the similar but more rare -- there is only one per steer -- hangar steak are super flavorful if a bit more chewy. I love their super meaty flavor, James delicately prefers filet.
I figured if this bavette came from near the skirt it might also carry that wonderfully rich flavor and set out to cook this little steak up for dinner. I seasoned the meat generously with salt and pepper and then seared the steak on each side in a hot pan with olive oil. I popped the meat into the oven at 425º -- where I was already roasting potatoes -- for almost 8 minutes.
Earlier, somewhat following a recipe I found online I cooked down red wine, bay leaf, garlic and onions into a thick reduction. As the steak rested I whisked cold butter into the warm, cooked wine for a beurre rouge.
As it turns out bavette has all the flavor and none of the chewy texture James dislikes. It's a low cost cut that dresses up easily. French steak, French sauce, great dinner.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Monday, March 18, 2013
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Saturday, March 16, 2013
A classic Belgian bistro combo familiar in restaurants around the country and in Northern France. The fries served crisp and hot next to (so they don't get soggy) mussels in a buttery wine broth, Moules Marinières. For our quickly steamed seafood I jumped off with Julia Child's classic recipe. First I brought 2 cups of wine, 6 Tb of butter, 1 bay leaf, 2 smashed cloves garlic, a couple grinds of black pepper, and several sprigs fresh thyme to a boil in a heavy enameled pot (hmm it was a Belgian pot now that I think about it). After two minutes I poured in 3 pounds of mussels, cover the pan and let the mussels steam for 5 minutes until opened. I served our tender, briny seafood in wide bowls topped with the flavorful broth. Fast, easy delicious -- no wonder it's a classic.
Friday, March 15, 2013
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
aglio olio spaghetti. A simple preparation with olive oil and garlic -- an easy dinner dish James always likes. Batali's version had not just chili pepper flakes but chopped, jarred hot peppers. James has been liking a little heat in his dinner lately so I carefully tucked that recipe away thinking I could improve on the classic and make James' dinner even better. Well either Mario or I got carried away. For the first time ever James declared me a bit heavy handed with the spice -- he politely kept eating between coughs. I'd like to blame Batali but for now I'll stick with tried and true just a while longer.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
This Greek style lemon and chicken soup, avgolemono, is traditionally clear broth thickened with lemon juice and egg yolks. I saved some of the meat from the stock to mix into the soup. After straining the stock I brought the soup to a simmer and added in a few cups of leftover rice (and the reserved chicken meat). Avgolemono is generally made with orzo pasta but rice is sometimes substituted and we had rice on hand. In a separate bowl I whisked 3 eggs until frothy and then mixed in the juice of two lemons. I slowly mixed in a couple ladles of hot broth to temper the eggs and then added the now warm egg mixture back into the stockpot. After 10 minutes on low -- you don't want to boil the soup after the eggs are added so they don't curdle -- we had tangy, lemony, homemade soup.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Saturday, March 9, 2013
With a little bit of upload I thought I'd introduce you to a new plant -- to me, to my garden, and probably to a lot of flower lovers out there: the white mermaid camellia. A camellia japonica with a weeping habit and delicate white blossoms opening to show bright yellow stamens, the mermaid -- although lovely covered in it's fried egg blooms -- is known more for it's unusual leaves fused together at the tips to resemble -- hence the name -- a mermaid's or fish's tail. I'm anxious to find a special spot for this beauty so visitors to our future beautiful garden can stroll by and marvel at the unusual leaves.