Month: November 2015

Apple-Pear-Cranberry Pie and Being a Food Blogger at Thanksgiving

Apple-Pear-Cranberry Pie and Being a Food Blogger at Thanksgiving

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Other food bloggers or food writers will get this:  Thanksgiving is so over photographed, written about, schmoozed on, slobbered over, that we usually just don’t know what to do with it that hasn’t been done ad nauseum.  (How about another post on SIDES??? Another torch-browned turkey on the front of a magazine?)

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Rosemary Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Mash, Garlicky Spinach, and Mushroom Sauce — Dinner with French Wine, Please

Rosemary Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Mash, Garlicky Spinach, and Mushroom Sauce — Dinner with French Wine, Please

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On a night when the world reeled from the Paris attacks — and from the unending hate and carnage we seem to constantly face (Do we humans desire to end our world?) — I had planned some sort of a pork chop dinner.  That said, you’ll imagine I had a couple of great big, thick babies unthawed (1 1/2 -2-inches thick) and a few vegetables basking on the counter waiting to see what I’d do with them. I kept one eye on the tv and another on the sauté pans. I began without a perfectly clear idea, but it quickly came into focus:  tender, rosemary for remembrance-scented pork snuggled up to garlicky spinach and cozy mashed sweet potatoes, to which I added a regular Idaho potato.  A lusty French-style white wine-mushroom sauce tied the whole thing together. Why not? Love was the key, the answer here.  Wasn’t it?

Quote of the Day: Love

THE LOVE FOR equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.


The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.


And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

-Originally published in The Magnificent Defeat by Frederick Buechner

And I can’t help but think of the hundred of thousands of Syrians already killed in this horrific time.  No one has changed their Facebook page to mourn them.  Last count was 250,000, I thought–but as I researched it that number might be just a little too high.  Here’s what I found.

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Salmon on Eggplant Sauté with Olives and Peppadews

Salmon on Eggplant Sauté with Olives and Peppadews

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My cooking brain is sometimes most creative when first given a few desperate (or not so desperate) things with which to work.  For example, it’s cool to see there are almost-spotted sweet potatoes on the counter, bell peppers in the fridge shrinking, and come up with dinner.  I like a conservative approach to cooking and often think of the old, “Waste not, want not” adage.  I’m not perfect at using every tidbit, but I work on it. I hate throwing things away.  

Last week I had some olives and peppadews leftover from a birthday antipasti tray and had just bought a bag of frozen, wild salmon fillets — two pounds for $22.00. A real bargain. You know how I love salmon.

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Eggplant, red bell peppers (and a few other things) languished–leftover from making a veggie lasagna. I needed dinner in a half hour. I stuck the individually-sealed salmon fillets in a pot of water to thaw and made the nearly-instant couscous.  Next, a quick sauté of the eggplant with peppers and onions while grilling the asparagus.   4 minutes in the grill pan for the salmon and I think it was done just about exactly in the time I had allotted.  Try this, making the components in the order that suits you:

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Butternut Squash-Wild Rice Soup

Butternut Squash-Wild Rice Soup

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above: soup without half and half

If you’re a soup cookbook writer, you probably love soup. I love soup. I’m seldom happier than when I’m heating up a kettle while chopping a big pile of vegetables.  Perhaps I’m happier at the table with a hot bowl and a cold class of wine or driving home knowing there’s a big pot of soup in the fridge making me feel rich. I don’t know.  

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above: Vegetable soup was a puréed delight at a street cafe in Dubrovnik, Croatia last month

Coming up with a new soup happens in one of many different ways. Maybe there’s  something on sale I drag home or someone somewhere has a special dietary need. I might be watching my weight. Perhaps someone leaves garden bounty on my front porch.  Could be my sister’s in town and I’m cooking for her. More than once a freezer’s had to be cleaned out and some meat has to be cooked. Whatever happens, however it happens, a big pot of goodness somehow takes shape and comes to the bowl making us happy, healthy, and wondering where it came from. It’s a gift. That’s for sure.

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above: my Guacamole Soup with Grilled Shrimp from the soup book–made for my sister’s visit

Come fall, I’m nuts about winter squash. I’m always looking for something to do with it. Something new. Or old again. I also have a heart for wild rice–which is not really rice, but a water-grown grass– having lived in Minnesota.  Somehow, last week, needing a big pot of vegetarian soup for a church meeting (someone else was making a soup with meat), I kept thinking of butternut squash and I kept thinking of wild rice. I wasn’t sure how the two would come together, but I knew somehow it would work.

While this soup is naturally vegetarian and gluten-free for Meatless Mondays, it’s easily vegan (see notes to the sides of ingredients in recipe) or made with meat (cook’s notes.) Make it how you’d like. It’s good with or without half and half and, if you’d like a little smoother soup, purée a few cups and add them back into the broth at the end of the cooking time.

WILD RICE INFO:

Wild Rice is actually an acquatic grass and is the official state grain of Minnesota. Please buy Native-American grown, hand-harvested rice to support this important mid-west and Canadian industry. If it’s not available in your grocery, drive to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, or Canada and buy some! It’s worth the trip. Or ask your grocer to carry it. Why not?  Otherwise, order on line.  

What Native-American rice growers say…

“Manoomin, or wild rice is a gift given to the Anishinaabek from the Creator, and is a centerpiece of the nutrition and sustenance for our community. In the earliest of teachings of Anishinaabeg history, there is a reference to wild rice, known as the food which grows upon the water, the food, the ancestors were told to find, then we would know when to end our migration to the west. It is this profound and historic relationship which is remembered in the wild rice harvest on the White Earth and other reservations-a food which is uniquely ours, and a food, which is used in our daily lives, our ceremonies, and our thanksgiving feasts.”  From www.saveourwildrice.com.

Wild rice is a nutritional bonanza:

Wild rice is also a great source of folate, manganese, zinc, and iron, which is great for gluten-free eaters and grain-free eaters who don’t get those nutrients in typical grains like oats, rye, wheat, and other types of grains like brown rice.

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IMG_1962above: soup with half and half Continue reading “Butternut Squash-Wild Rice Soup”