And while the New Zealanders, Australians, Brits, Scots, and Irish would strenuously object, Colorado has close to the best lamb in the world. It’s rare to find any in the store in Colorado itself–horrible pun, but there it is. We once had some Colorado lamb in a swank restaurant in London paired with high-priced French wine. (The quintessential pairing for lamb is Bordeaux.) But I’m an American and I adore lamb with Oregon Pinot Noir. The lack of Colorado lamb in Colorado groceries is a common complaint of mine. I apologize to those of you who’ve heard it before.
Want to buy American lamb? Check HERE.
If you’re like me and you can’t find any Colorado lamb without ordering it online (and that’s something you can do in the states), choose any lamb shoulder or boned leg of lamb for the meat in this stew. You can find a good-looking, decently-priced boneless leg of lamb at Costco; cut it up, use some and freeze the rest for another day. Alternately, California or other American lamb is often found in the regular grocery chains. Any will work and you don’t need too terribly much. Lamb is rich and that’s a complimentary way of saying it’s fatty and fattening. Let’s call it a treat. And who wants stew made with lean meat? What would THAT taste like? We’re talking stew here. Continue reading
My friend Mary Pat’s September birthday is always a reason for celebration. I often cook her a birthday dinner and find it a happy excuse to make a fallish meal after a long, long summer. (Is it fall YET? The garden’s dying, but it’s still in the 80’s. We sat out last night on the deck at 8 o’clock with a drink watching the blood moon.)
below: my front walk milkweed grown for the monarch butterflies
Here’s the menu that included her favorite dessert (after Cherries Jubilee, Baked Alaska, and Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie):
I like six people for dinner, eight at the most, so that I can truly pay attention to and hear each person. Otherwise, it’s a party–cacophony– and I approach it very differently. I also like to cook a lot of recipes that only serve eight. Continue reading
As summer very, very slowly wanes away, there are days when it’s cool enough to turn on the oven. My oven hasn’t been on in months with the exception of absolutely necessary baking (read birthday cakes), which is done before the sun rises lest the house take on one extra degree of warmth. Last Friday, as Dave flew in from Bogota, Columbia, I wanted to have a dinner ready for which he didn’t have to grill one single item. Enter SIMPLY MING ONE POT MEALS. (Aside: I am not in the business of selling any cookbooks except my own, but Truth in Recipes requires I note this simple dish’s provenance.)
I’ve owned this book not since in came out in 2010, but maybe since a year or two after that when a good friend mentioned she was cooking something from it. The book sounded entertaining (it is) and helpful (also true). Who doesn’t want a new spin on one-dish or one-pot meals? I made a few dishes from it and back it went on the shelf. If I’m not terribly intentional about looking at and using all of my cookbooks, they may sit a while before I drag them out to the kitchen again. The quality of the book may have nothing to do with it; I cook out of my head a lot. (Why did I leave this sit all this time?)
Something drew me to the Ming book last week, and with a few very small changes, I rustled up this one-pot meal very quickly; I think you could, too.
This plate full of goodness is based on a simple happy formula many Americans swear by: chicken and rice in the oven. Ming’s version has a bit of an Asian twist. What better, less expensive, easier dinner might you have other than sandwiches? The bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are sautéed, removed from the pan, where garlic, green onions and next rice are tossed in and cooked briefly. My pot includes a crisp, off-sweet chopped apple. Hoisin sauce is the secret weapon ingredient! Wine and broth are added; the chicken goes back in. The whole shezaam is covered and carefully stowed in the oven for just 20-30 minutes or so.
You can see and read about the recipe here. I’m not fond of printing recipes that are available in books (as Ming says–cookbook authors need to send their kids to college), but this one has been made available in several places on the internet; have at it.
Changes/additions I made were these:
- I added crushed red pepper to the seasoning of the chicken as it browned.
- With no fresh cranberries available in September here in Colorado, I substituted a peeled and diced Granny Smith apple along with a handful of dried cranberries. I didn’t want to use all dried cranberries as I thought it might sweeten the dish too much. I also knew the fresh cranberries would give off liquid and felt the apple would mimic that.
- I seasoned both the onions and garlic as well as the rice itself with a little salt and pepper.
The pot: I used a 5.5 quart covered, oven-safe sauté pan for this dish. If you don’t have such a large skillet, brown the chicken in batches in a smaller skillet. Remove the chicken, add the vegetables and rice, and then add them to a greased very large casserole dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake as the recipe directs.
A couple of other things: A meal good enough for company, this dish contains a lot of rice. You’ll likely have rice leftover that you can take to work for lunch even if four people have already had their way with it. There are 8 thighs, so the dish will serve 4 or 6 depending on hunger.
While dishes like these are touted as a whole meal–and they are– I’m always in need of some greenery on the table and on the plate. While the chicken and rice baked, I sautéed chopped asparagus, spinach, and tomatoes in grape seed oil with minced ginger, garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper.
Some of us cook for one every day and every night; some of us only on the rare occasion. If you’re a parent who’s had to cook for a big family most of your life, cooking for only you might seem like one of the highlights of the year, a cause for celebration. You can cook what you like, for as long as you like. You can set the table exactly as you want or choose a tray and do the previously unthinkable: read or movie your way through dinner. On the other hand, you might be totally mystified and ready to pour a bowl of cereal or order pizza. Take heart.
While the weather holds, I’m still outdoors when evening comes. The candle is lit, the music turned on, and I make sure I’m in a place where I can be grateful and enjoy the beauty of plenty to eat. I mostly like to cook for myself and I cook fish a lot. It’s maybe the fastest and easiest thing to cook for one person. Needless to say, I love fish. I encourage singles to decide you’re worth cooking for. (No more, “Oh, it’s just me.”)
I am, however, a tad cautious outside at dinner lately….
(photo courtesy C.P. Perry–right down the street from my house) Continue reading
NEW BAKING CLASS: Make Your Pie and Eat It, Too! Basics of American pie baking just in time for Thanksgiving. Given two Saturdays in November: November 7 and November 14, 1 – 4 pm. 6 openings for each date. $55. per student includes pie making ingredients/instruction, dessert, coffee, and digestif (after dinner drink), if desired. See CURRENT CLASSES above right.
My good friend Pam is a marvelous alto. She’s a fine cook, too. I know this because she and her husband are in our wine group and I get to sample her tasty fare fairly often. Here she is looking gorgeous and cooking at a house we rented near the Paso Robles wine country a couple of years ago.
This summer I discovered another talent of Pam’s; she, along with her husband, is an avid, generous gardener. Arriving last week at our house for a laid-back deck burger fest complete with homemade ice cream, she walked in brandishing a bouquet of sumptuous late summer herbs and two bright-as-sunshine summer (yellow) squash. Several very busy days went by and while I had pulled some herbs out for a dish or two, I hadn’t touched the summer squash. I’ve been on a serious diet for months and hadn’t had a bite of pasta all summer long. When I DO make pasta, it’s usually a good-quality whole-wheat variety and rarely white pasta. But yesterday it was time for a treat; I pulled out the Cipriani’s pappardelle and began grilling the squash with some big Portobello mushrooms. Try this easily-made-vegan dish for your end-of-summer grilled supper:
PAM’S SAGE PASTA WITH GRILLED SUMMER SQUASH AND PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS
No grill? Cook the squash and mushrooms in a skillet or roasted in the oven.
For vegan version, follow green instructions/ingredients. The large mushroom and squash pieces give this dish a really “meaty” feel. For a vegetarian version, simply leave out the bacon.
- 3 pieces thick bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled (Skip for vegan version)
- 2 summer (yellow) squash, sliced thinly lengthwise
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly lengthwise
- 3 Large Portobello mushrooms
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 each tablespoon butter or olive oil (2 tablespoons olive oil for vegan version)
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Crushed red pepper
- 4 tablespoons minced fresh sage (Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish.)*
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 2 large tomatoes, small dice (Reserve 1/3 cup for garnish.)
- 1 cup heavy cream (1 cup rice or nut milk for vegan version)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Sub with a garnish of toasted bread crumbs for vegan version)
- 1 pound cooked and drained Pappardelle pasta–Cipriani’s is my favorite (Vegan pasta for vegan version.)
- Set cooked and crumbled bacon aside, if using.
- Heat grill to medium high. Toss squash and mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Grill, turning midway, until grill marks are quite dark and the squash is tender. Remove and set aside. Slice mushrooms into 1/4-inch pieces. If grilling indoors on the stovetop in a grill pan, you may have to grill in batches. (Cook pasta now if you haven’t done so already.)
- In the meantime, heat butter/oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium flame and cook onions until quite soft. Add garlic, a good pinch each of crushed red pepper, salt, black pepper, 2 tablespoons minced sage, spinach, and all but 1/3 cup diced tomatoes. Cook another minute or two, stirring, or until spinach begins to wilt.
- Stir in cream or rice/nut milk along with Parmesan cheese, if using. Lower heat and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add grilled mushrooms and chopped, cooked bacon, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Gently add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir. Taste again and adjust seasonings as needed.
- To serve, divide pasta between four bowls adding reserved grilled squash along side, on top, or around. Garnish with the reserved tomatoes and minced sage. Top with toasted bread crumbs for vegan version.
*Fresh sage is usually available in grocery stores, but if you can’t locate it, stir in 1/4 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage. Taste and add more if you like. Skip the sage garnish, perhaps substituting chopped fresh parsley instead.
WINE: White Burgundy or Chardonnay.
DESSERT: Sliced fresh peaches with a drizzle of Amaretto or apples with cheese.
Sing a new song,
While we were in Santa Fe for the opera a couple of weeks ago, we were kindly invited for dinner with nearby family of old friends. While we love eating anywhere in Santa Fe, it’s usually a restaurant. We not only saw Santa Fe in a whole new light by breaking bread in a home, but made new friends who then next day took us for a picnic and hiking in the Santa Fe National Forest (do it, do it, do it).
A gorgeous summer meal was prefaced with a slew of Dorothy and Tom’s grilled peppers, which have been part of their cooking repertoire for what sounded like a long time. We had to make them ours! Thanks, guys! Skip the relllenos; ditch the frying pan. Get out the grill while summer and the peppers are still available. You’ll fall in love with this.
Above: Mama deer and fawns strolled in front of our house as I cooked.
Dave and I tried them out earlier in the week for ourselves and then served them to our wine club as an appetizer last night. You can choose whatever kind of peppers you’d like; this will work. Unsure about the heat of those you’ve chosen? Cut off a tiny bit of one and put it on your tongue. You’ll know if you want to eat it or not. Chiles come in many variations and not all poblanos or Anaheims are really hot, but some are! If you’ve a group coming, some will love the heat and dig right in. I chose to also buy a number of regular Sweet, Tiny (bell) peppers that come in a bag at Costco and we grilled those, too, for folks who just can’t do heat. Yum. While it’s nearly a whole meal, I did flesh it out our trial run dinner with a luscious vegan avocado-brown rice salad and some end-of-summer olive oil-grilled Colorado corn.
DOROTHY AND TOM’S GRILLED CHEESE PEPPERS
aka Dorothy’s Chili Thingers
Count on at least 3 per person for appetizers as some are quite small. Leftovers are lovely chopped up and tossed into eggs or with rice or are good right out of the fridge.
- 24 assorted fresh chiles (poblanos, Anaheims, etc) and tiny bell peppers
- 2 1/2 – 3 cups grated Colby-Jack cheese (this mild, meltable cheese is a good foil for the heat or sweetness of the peppers, but use whatever you like)
- Salt and pepper
- Neutral oil
Wash and dry the peppers. Lay each pepper flat and cut out a canoe-shaped piece leaving enough room at the sides for the pepper to sit upright and also to hold the grated cheese. With a tiny spoon or your little finger, scrape out the membranes and seeds; turn over and tap the pepper to remove the last, stuck seeds. Gently fill about 1/2 – 2/3 full loosely with cheese. Push the cheese down lightly. Sprinkle evenly with a tiny bit of salt and pepper.
Brush indoor grill pan or gas grill grates lightly with oil. Heat to medium. Grill peppers with lid down (on outdoor grill) until the peppers are tender, charred to your liking at the bottom, and cheese is melted–perhaps 10 minutes? (Time is dependent on the size of the peppers and the heat of your grill!) Watch carefully to make sure cheese doesn’t overrun and drip down into the grill.
Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold.
AVOCADO-BROWN RICE SALAD with tomatoes and lime
- 4 cups cooked brown rice, warm if possible
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 4 avocados, peeled, seeded, and chopped in large pieces
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced and chopped red or sweet onion
- Juice of 2-3 limes or to taste
- Hot sauce to taste, optional
Toss rice with a couple tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Gently stir in avocados, tomatoes, and onions. Squeeze lime juice over all–try 2 limes first– and drizzle with a little olive oil if you’d like more. Stir carefully, taste, and adjust seasonings, adding more lime juice as needed. Add hot sauce if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. Only make what you’ll eat in one meal; this doesn’t keep.
Cook a new pepper,
IN MEMORIAM Milton J. McClendon, Jr. (Pete)–a Great Cook and a Fine Baker!
In late summer in Colorado and New Mexico, there are chile roasters on busy street corners and if you haven’t the time or inclination to buy and roast your own chiles, this is the place you stop for our homegrown goodness. The aromas wafting around the intersections will call you even if you haven’t seen a roaster in years. Can’t eat them all right away–just warmed and layered with cheese, eaten with tortillas or tortilla chips? Then it’s time to gently tuck the chiles into small or large containers and freeze them for winter cooking.
Come cold weather, I like to pile up a big slow cooker full of sliced fresh salted and peppered pork loin, chopped onions and garlic, sliced or canned tomatoes, and the thawed or still frozen roasted chiles. At the end of a snowy day, we hit a fresh tortilla place on the way home and walk into the house full of blasting hot southwest aromas hitting us in the face. Tortillas go in the oven and a big bowl of pork and chiles is ladled out for each person. Time to sit down to summer complete with a cold beer. Meanwhile, we watch the wind whip down out of the mountains, screaming cold, cold, cold. Yes, it’s rather heavenly-sounding, isn’t it? Continue reading
My nearly daily breakfast is an egg white omelet or frittata, which is just the Italian word for an open-faced omelet. It’s fast, luscious, nutritious, and maybe best of all uses up my odds and ends of raw or cooked vegetables, restaurant leftovers (pizza toppings, too), bits of meat, and even a grate or two of cheese. I try and blog one of these a couple of times a year just to give a high five to
- eating healthy foods continually
- using up leftovers
- not throwing food out
- eating vegetables for breakfast
- getting a good start on the day.
There are times when I’m on a fresh fruit and Greek yogurt jag and even eat that with some of my homemade low-sugar granola, but this summer finds me working hard to lose weight and I’ve cut back both my fruit and my dairy in hopes of finding success. It seems to be working! I’m down a size or more and perhaps have taken off 20 pounds. No scale in the house; the clothes are the indicator.
Last Saturday, I made a brown and jasmine rice salad to take to my granddaughter’s birthday party (see below for opening presents through playing peek-a-boo, to eating cake and the very-necessary after cake sink bath–sorry for phone pics) mostly like any luscious summer pasta salad but with a combination of brown and jasmine rice added to a huge bowl of vegetables and a spicy mustard vinaigrette.
If you follow my blog, you could know I cooked a 50th birthday dinner for my next-door neighbor Mike a couple of weeks ago.
Maybe you made the Blueberry-Strawberry Pie I made him in lieu of cake; Mike is a pie-boy!