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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Peachy Keen


I'm baaaaack. Yes. It's true.  I'm back and I'm blogging.

It's summer and  the living is easy.  The produce is delicious.  The fruit is as sweet as candy, and as a result I'm all about the fruit dessert.

I've got my CSA going again this summer, and last week's bounty included a couple of delectable peaches.  Sweet, juicy, and ripe -- and quick to spoil.  What better than a crisp to use up the last of the peaches before it's too late?

I knew you'd agree.
Crisp topping, peaches, and raspberries. What could be better?
This is one of my favorite Ina Garten summertime recipes.  It's easy and fairly quick -- if you don't count the whole skinning the peaches thing -- and guaranteed to be a real homer.  Scoop a little vanilla ice cream on top and you've got yourself a grand slam!

Recipe:  Peach Raspberry Crisp
Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999

Ingredients

4 to 5 pounds firm, ripe peaches (10 to 12 large peaches)
1 orange, zested
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups plus 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pint raspberries
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the inside of a 10 by 15 by 2 1/2-inch oval baking dish.

Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place them in cold water. Peel the peaches and slice them into thick wedges and place them into a large bowl. Add the orange zest, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the raspberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid, add 1 more tablespoon of flour. Pour the peaches into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and the cold, diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of the peaches and raspberries. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator and reheat in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until warm.


Friday, May 15, 2015

It's What I Do


I know it's been awhile.  I'll admit it.

I've been cooking.  I just haven't been blogging.  And I have an excuse.  I just haven't been in the mood.  There's just been a lot going on -- nothing bad -- but a lot going on nonetheless.  So let me bring you up to date.

Charlie applied to law school.  Let me tell you, that's one long process.  Between the LSAT, the applications, my constant need to manage (and his constant need to tell me to lay off), and finally the acceptance letters, I feel like it's been about a year.  And it's been close.  The good news is that he's all set and will be off and running come fall.  All good news.  You may ask why I was so busy with Charlie's law school odyssey.  After all, he's an adult and he was the one applying to law school.  Well, the simple answer is that I wasn't.  I was just distracted by it.  Charlie had it all well in hand and barely conferred with us on important issues, let alone the minutiae, yet for some reason I felt compelled to obsess about it almost daily.

I'm a mother.  That's what I do.

Kate is... Kate.  Always lots going on in her life and somehow that translates to lots going on in my life.  I would like for there to be less of Kate's life going on in my own, and we are working on that.  She too has it well in hand, yet I obsess.

I'm a mother.  That's what I do.

The simple truth is that my kids have been distracting me of late.  To be fair, Ted has been distracted by them as well, but he's better at compartmentalizing than I am.  I'm working on that.

So, in an effort to move forward and not be so obsessive about things over which I have no control, I have made a commitment to start blogging again.  It's summer and all those delicious summer fruits and veggies will make this easy.  I hope.

Today's recipe from my fav Smitten Kitchen is something that, to be honest, wouldn't generally interest me.  I haven't jumped on the kale bandwagon with the same vigor as many others, but I guess the presence of bread and melted cheese somehow made the kale sound a whole lot more enticing.  In any case, this is a delicious one pan meal, quick and easy, and guaranteed to ease whatever you happen to be obsessing about.

Recipe:  Mushrooms and Greens with Toast
Adapted just a little from Tara O’Brady’s Seven Spoons Cookbook

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and torn into bite size pieces (see suggestions above)
2 thick slices bread from a large, crusty loaf (I’d use 4 from a smaller loaf)
2 cloves garlic or 1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, or more to taste (I used 2)
1 fresh red chile, stemmed, seeded and minced or red pepper flakes, to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces chopped fresh greens (kale, chard, spinach or nettles)
8 ounces of a good melting cheese, thickly sliced (Chèvre, mozzarella, burrata, taleggio or fontina)

Directions:

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil together in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. One fully hot, add mushrooms to pan and cook, stirring regularly, until they’ve released their water and started to turn golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, grill or toast your bread.

One the mushrooms have a nice color on them, add the garlic or shallots and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Drizzle with vinegar, most of the chile or chile flakes, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the greens; pretty much any kind aside from baby spinach will benefit from about 5 to 8 minutes cooking time, just until collapsed. If you’re me, you’ll add 1 more tablespoon vinegar for brightness at this point. Stir in remaining tablespoon butter and adjust seasonings to taste. Rip bread into irregular croutons and push them into the sauteed vegetables. Lay pieces of cheese atop everything. Turn the heat down to medium low, place a lid on the pan and let the cheese melt, which will take 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the pan and the kind of cheese you used.

Sprinkle with remaining chile, “hand out forks, then bring the the pan to the table.”

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Nuts for Nuts


I'll admit it.  Ted and I enjoy a little cocktail on occasion.  And if you're going to enjoy a little cocktail, you'll need a little nibble to go with it.  This recipe for Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts is the perfect accompaniment, not only for cocktail hour, but at any hour.

Feel free to use any combination of nuts you like.  Ina went for a fairly traditional mix, as did I, but I'm not all that creative.  Really, anything goes.  Anyway you do it, the cocktails will taste even better with a handful or two of these little gems.

Recipe:  Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts
Ina Garten

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil
3 cups whole roasted unsalted cashews (14 ounces)
2 cups whole walnut halves (7 ounces)
2 cups whole pecan halves (7 ounces)
1/2 cup whole almonds (3 ounces)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder
4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
Kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil. Combine the cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice and chipotle powder on the sheet pan; toss to coat. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of salt and toss again.

Spread the nuts in one layer. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large metal spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more teaspoons of salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of rosemary. Toss well and set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or cool completely and store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to a week.




Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Stew


Generally speaking, I think of stew as a winter dish.  It's comforting, stick-to-the-ribs kind of fare, perfect for cold blustery evenings.  In fact, usually around this time of the year, I retire my dutch oven in favor of my grill pan and give up on the whole stew thing.

The funny thing is that even as the chill goes out of the air, I still enjoy a good braised dish.  Enter David Tanis and his St. Patrick's Day inspired Irish Stew.  Made with lamb, it's just perfect for these very early days of spring.  Lamb is lighter than beef and this stew has a decidedly springier vibe.

Be prepared.  This recipe makes an absolute ton of stew so either (1) invite a crowd, (2) cut the recipe
 in half, or (3) plan for lots of leftovers.

Recipe:  Irish Stew
David Tanis, New York Times, March 11, 2015

Ingredients:

3 pounds lamb shoulder cut in 2-inch chunks (or use thick shoulder chops)
 Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds onions (about 6 medium), cut in wedges
1 pound carrots (about 6 medium), cut in 3-inch lengths
4 cups chicken, veal or beef broth (or water)
1 large sprig thyme
3 pounds russet potatoes (about 12 small), peeled and halved, or cut in 2-inch thick slices

Directions:

Pat lamb dry and season well with salt and pepper. Put oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Brown meat on all sides, working in batches.

Set meat aside and add onions and carrots to pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook vegetables, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Return meat to pot, add broth and bring to a simmer. Put in thyme sprig and arrange potatoes on top (it’s fine if potatoes are not completely submerged). Season potatoes, cover pot and transfer to oven.
Bake for about 1 hour, until lamb is quite tender when probed with a skewer or paring knife. Remove fat from top of broth. Ladle stew into shallow bowls and serve.

Alternatively, cook stew on stovetop instead of baking; keep covered at a gentle simmer for about 1 hour. For a thicker stew, crush a few of the potatoes from the stew and simmer in broth, or thicken with a slurry of flour and water (about 4 tablespoons flour).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fresh From the Oven


I am a lover of all things baked.  I am particularly fond of breakfast pastries, but let's be honest, muffins, scones, and coffeecakes are generally not the most virtuous way to start out the day.  In fact, usually I try to maintain my careful eating until at least mid-afternoon.  No sense in starting out in the hole.  That's what I always say.  Better to dig the hole around 4:00 p.m.
I was out of currants so I used gold raisins.
Add the cold butter and then the liquids.
Finish off with an egg yolk wash and a sprinkle of turbaned sugar, and then into the oven.
But if there's one thing I can't pass up, it's a fresh from the oven scone.  I am greatly aided by the fact that I live in a city with a paucity of bakeries, at least bakeries worth frequenting.  Things are getting a little better with a couple of new ones opening recently but generally, if I want something baked, I bake it myself.

This brings me to today's recipe for Flour Bakery's Classic Currant Scones.  My friend Mona reminded me of these when we were catching up the other day.  Flour Bakery is the most divine bakery ever.  If you're in Boston anytime soon, you really must stop in to sample some of Joanne Chang's goodies.

These scones are light, airy, rich, and so easy to make.  The key to success is to keep all of the ingredients as cold as possible.   Make sure to cut up your butter and combine the egg, buttermilk, and creme fraiche and then return everything to the refrigerator until the moment you're ready to add each one to the flour mixture.

You can prep these scones and then refrigerate them unbaked until you're ready to bake them off just before serving.  Preheat the oven and then pop the tray into the oven directly from the refrigerator.  The heat from the oven and the cold butter in the scones will cause steam which, in turn, will make the lightest scones ever.

Recipe:  Flour Bakery's Classic Currant Scones
Makes 8 scones

Note:  I actually cut the scones and baked them off that way instead of scoring the dough and cutting afterwards.  They bake much faster, which is key when you're really in the mood for a scone.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Extra Note:  I was out of currants so I used golden raisins.

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups (385 grams) unbleached all-purpose f lour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (80 grams) dried currants
1/2 cup (1 stick, 114 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
1/2 cup (120 grams) cold nonfat buttermilk
1/2 cup (120 grams) cold crème fraîche
1 cold egg
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sanding sugar, pearl sugar, or granulated sugar

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, and currants on low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top and beat on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the butter
is somewhat broken down and grape-size pieces are still visible.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, crème fraîche, and whole egg until thoroughly mixed. On low speed, pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour-butter mixture and beat for 20 to 30 seconds, or just until the dough comes together. There will still be a little loose flour mixture at the bottom of the bowl.

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. Gather and lift the dough with your hands and turn it over in the bowl, so that it starts to pick up the loose flour at the bottom. Turn over the dough several times until all of the loose flour is mixed in.

Dump the dough onto a baking sheet and pat it into an 8-inch circle about 1 inch thick. Brush the egg yolk evenly over the entire top of the dough circle. Sprinkle the sanding sugar evenly over the top, then cut the circle into 8 wedges, as if cutting a pizza. (At this point, the unbaked scones can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. Proceed as directed, baking directly from the freezer and adding 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time.)

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the entire circle is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, then cut into the prescored wedges (the cuts will be visible but will have baked together) and serve.

The scones taste best on the day they are baked, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. If you keep them for longer than 1 day, refresh them in a 300-degree-F oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Or, you can freeze them, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 1 week; reheat, directly from the freezer, in a 300-degree-F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Feeling Trendy


I've always made coq au vin with red wine.  I'm not a cooking renegade, so I've always made it the traditional way, or what I thought was the traditional way.  And that was with red wine.

Well, so much for that.

Lately, coq au vine jaune has been just about everywhere.  Is it because substituting a full bodied white wine for the tried and true red is new and trendy?  Or is this just the best kept secret, from me anyway, ever?

After a little research session with my close friend Google, it turns out that coq au jaune has been around in different incarnations for some time.  Not forever, but regional French chefs have, for years and years, been playing with different wine pairings in coq au vin.

Where the hell have I been?

In my defense, and I have kids so I've got a lot of experience defending myself and my lack of cool, despite being a tried and true version of coq au vin, coq au vin jaune has been gaining in popularity of late.  So, actually if you think about it, I'm actually with trend by blogging about it now.

True, it would have been more impressive had I caught on to this particular trend at the beginning, but I'm a 55 year old woman living in Pittsburgh.  I have no other defense.

So, on to the recipe.  It's divine.  So good.  So satisfying.  The really nice thing about this recipe is that it's a little lighter than its red wine counterpart.  It's still rich and delicious, but not quite as heavy.

This is not a recipe you're going to throw together in 15 minutes.  It takes time.  Don't skip steps or shorten up the recommended timing.  Cooking the stew slowly is what produces the deliciously tender chicken and the rich and velvety sauce.  It will seem, at the beginning, and even towards the middle of the cooking time, that you have a lot of liquid.  Be patient.  It will develop into a sauce roughly the consistency of half and half, perfect for spooning over noodles or rice.

Take your time and revel in your (almost) trendiness.  I did.

Recipe:  Coq au Vin Jaune
Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2015

Total Time: 2 hours Serves: 5-7

Ingredients:

½ cup all-purpose flour
1 (6-pound) capon, cut into 8 pieces, or 6 pounds chicken thighs and/or breasts
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons clarified unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely minced
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4½ cups Vin Jaune or other big, rich white wine, such as Riesling
1½ pounds white button mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 ounces dried morels, soaked in warm water at least 30 minutes, soaking liquid reserved
⅔ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2½ cups chicken stock or water, as needed
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, as needed
Sherry vinegar, as needed
Chopped fresh parsley and/or chives, for garnish
Cooked, buttered noodles or rice, for serving

Directions:

Place flour in a large Ziploc bag. Add chicken, seal bag and shake to coat chicken in flour on all sides. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour, and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat half the clarified butter in a large lidded Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, cook chicken pieces, working in batches if necessary, until lightly browned, 5-10 minutes per side. Add onions and garlic, and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, 2-3 minutes. Deglaze pan with ⅓ cup of wine, scraping up brown bits from bottom. With all chicken pieces in pan, cover, place in oven and cook 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining clarified butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add button mushrooms, and sauté, tossing frequently, until very tender and slightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Remove chicken from oven and add all but ½ cup of remaining wine to pan. Place on stove over medium-low heat and simmer to marry flavors and let some alcohol evaporate, 10 minutes. Add morels and soaking liquid to pot. Simmer, stirring frequently, 20 minutes more.

Stir crème fraîche into pot along with sautéed button mushrooms and simmer until chicken is very tender, 30 minutes more. Sauce should be just thick enough to coat a spoon, similar to half-and-half. If too thick, stir in remaining wine, then stock or water, ¼ cup at a time, to reach desired consistency. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice or vinegar, as needed.

Garnish with herbs, if using, and serve with noodles or rice.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cold Weather Chicken


There's a reason you haven't been hearing much from me.  I'm just not in the mood.  I've had enough winter.  I've had enough braised meat.  I've had enough citrus.  And I've had enough cold, dreary days.  Yup, spring can't come faust enough for me.

Unfortunately, the weather gods have other ideas.  Snow is falling, the wind is blowing, and the snow drifts are growing.  Temperatures are plummeting.  Punxsutawney Phil wasn't kidding when he said six more weeks of winter.  We've settled in for the long hall.

I feel a little guilty complaining because Kate is up there in the wilds of Maine.  At last report, there was something like three feet of snow on the ground on the Bates campus.  The "icicle problem" has become so widespread that Bates sent an "Icicle Safety" email to all students.  My daughter, of course, thought this funny.  "What?  Do they think we're idiots?  Like we would walk under icicles?"  In a word, yes, they do think you're all idiots.  And for good reason.  You're college students.  Good judgment is never to be assumed.

So, anyway...

Despite my lack of interest in all things culinary, except for maybe hot cocoa, I had to cook dinner tonight.  I just couldn't justify macaroni and cheese, (what I really wanted), and instead opted for the cover recipe from this month's Cooking Light: Chicken 25 Ways, Weeknight Lemon Chicken Skillet Dinner.

I'm going to start by saying that this isn't really lemon chicken.  Rather, it's a chicken dish with all kinds of other good stuff (potatoes, green beans, mushrooms), and a couple of slices of lemon,  Yes, the lemon adds some nice sparkle to the dish, but it's really not lemon chicken.

What it is, is very good.  It's takes a couple of steps to get it going, but nothing too difficult.  The ingredients are monthly things you're apt to have on hand, and it's really tasty.  It's satisfying on a cold winter night, without being too heavy, and will make you feel less guilty about having mac and cheese tomorrow night.

Recipe:  Weeknight Lemon Chicken Skillet Dinner
Slightly adapted from Cooking Light, January/February, 2015

Ingredients:

12 ounces baby red potatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded to 3/4-inch thickness
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 thyme sprigs
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup whole milk
5 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
8 very thin lemon slices
8 ounces fresh trimmed haricots verts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°.

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil, and simmer 12 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken and thyme sprigs to pan; cook 5 minutes or until chicken is browned. Turn chicken over. Place pan in oven; bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan.

Return pan to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Add potatoes, cut sides down; mushrooms; and 1 tablespoon thyme; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring once. Combine milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add remaining salt, remaining pepper, flour mixture, stock, lemon, and beans to pan; simmer 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Add chicken; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender. Sprinkle with parsley.