French home cooks always seem to have a dozen wonderful things up their sleeves to make on the spur of the moment. Great ideas to use up leftovers come awfully naturally, as well, and they all appear to know about how to feed 6 people with a cup and a half of milk, 3 eggs, a bit of ham, and a handful of grated cheese. How DO they do it? These folks are always frying croutons, whipping up homemade hot chocolate, baking an apple tart using apples from the backyard tree, simmering cream soups or vegetable pastas, stirring up something tasty with canned tuna … or even making quiche! How is it that even carbs aren’t a problem for them? This is proven routinely by the unending ubiquitous photos of yard-long baguettes being carried home by slim citizens riding bikes down tree-lined sunny Paris streets. (Well, right now they’re limited to an hour out a day and can’t go far from home. Sigh.) Over the years I’ve been writing the blog, I’ve read and seen quite a lot about this phenomenon, but staying in France for two weeks a couple of years ago gave me a much more complete and definitely personal insight. I’m finding it all definitely useful in today’s cooking world.Continue reading
EASY FRENCH 3-COURSE MEAL FOR VALENTINE’S DAY AT HOME: 2-HOUR COOKING CLASS @ SHOUSE APPLIANCE THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5: 5-7PM. INTRODUCTORY OFFER 2 FOR 1. $50.00 for two students–includes food, recipes and ideas for wine pairing. To sign up: Message me on fb if we’re friended, email me, or leave your email or phone in a comment at the end of the blog and I’ll get back to you. (Menu: Carrot Soup with Fresh Herbs, Chicken Fricassee, Chocolate Mousse.) Class limited to 6 students. I’ll repeat this class at home if needed to accommodate more students. Can’t wait to cook and eat with you!
Next week, I’ll be attending a DACOR training session (I work as a chef for them twice a month and demonstrate their products) and of course I’ll feed the team that morning so our brains will absorb the information a bit more quickly. Who doesn’t learn better with eggs, bacon, and cinnamon rolls? I’ll throw in a beautiful bowl of chopped fruit and we’ll have coffee from the built-in coffee system that makes on-demand espresso faster than you can say, “Just sugar, please.” I do lust after that coffee machine, I’ll be honest. Recently a customer bought their second one for the family room in their basement. We do have an electric kettle in the basement. Somehow it just isn’t the same. Hmph. If you’re at home, add a spicy Bloody Mary or a sweet Mimosa along side the coffee. Continue reading
|What’s in your frig? Make pasta for a cool fall evening. Pancetta helps.|
We lived for four years in Dayton, Ohio. How at home I felt there. The flora and fauna welcomed me warmly (and coldly) as, indeed, the atmosphere felt just like northern Illinois where I grew up. The summers were wilting (and our air conditioning never worked right) and the winters were damned cold. Gray. A long period of waiting for spring was how some approached it. I felt differently. I adore late fall; Thanksgiving is my favorite season. I’m entranced with Advent and greet it positively every year, knowing my walk to the stable will be a new one. Again.
But, in Ohio, summer seemed to disappear without a trace one wet day in October. It happened in such a way that a week or two later, you wondered what had happened. There were weeks of cool, sunny times and God’s great leaves flying. Lovely Saturdays at the farm watching cider being pressed. Nights on hayrides with bonfires later for hot dogs. A morning you dug out the sweaters. Any time, though, an 80 degree day could still pop up. Really. And then, one day on the way to work, you knew that day wasn’t appearing. At all. Anymore. It had been raining for a week or two, getting colder all the time. It just rained itself right into winter. And gray it was.
We’re on the edge of that here. Mostly the days are still perfect. A light sweater or short jacket needed sometimes. Flowers still in bloom—somewhat. The yard is drooping mightily, though, and the window boxes have definitely seen better days. I broke down and bought mums and pansies, but haven’t gotten them all out yet. And, truthfully, taking care of the yard (and watering) is beginning to seem like yesterday’s diapers. But today it’s rainy and there’s no sun. At all. Gabby still has her head hanging out by the window in case that German Shepherd or Black Lab has the nerve to walk by on the sidewalk. But soon she gives up and puts her head down on the rug near my chair. The other doggies are staying home more these days.
|The oven can stay on for bread now.|
|What will I do with these?|
|Why does it have to rain, Mom?|
A bunch of green tomatoes appeared on the back porch from the gardening neighbor. We won’t have enough sun or heat to ripen them. I go around turning lights on during the day. Think of making a big pot of beef vegetable soup. Planned activities are a girls’ night at Scusi and then out to a movie. Not a picnic or outdoor concert or backyard cook-out. This morning I ordered a long down coat and tall, warm boots. I’m looking for a freezer so I can make Christmas cookies ahead for Drop in and Decorate. We’re getting our floors redone before snow flies. That’s what time it is.
Oh, we’re not at the point of storing the patio furniture. Or of skipping Saturday breakfast on the porch. But it’s coming. And I’ve just woken up to it. I still get up and put on capris and flip flops. Sometimes I change. Not always.
Last night, it was cold enough for a filling and warm dinner of whatever’s in frig for pasta. I occasionally blog these instant meals (and lately I’m doing it often) because that’s how so many of us have to eat. If we can even get THAT much cooked. I have friends who are happy to have time to pull out cheese, apples, and crackers because that’s all there’s time or energy for. But listen, 15-20 minutes will give you this admirable and filling meal. You’ll be busy the whole time, but you can put on Vivaldi while you do it and you’ll definitely have time to set the table in a welcoming way.
|Well maybe not quite like this, but why not set an attractive table?|
If you must (and who knows?), throw all of the vegetables in the food processor (except the tomatoes) and get it done even faster. (Note: I keep chopped pancetta on my freezer door all of the time. There’s almost nothing it won’t do. And, yes, a bit of American bacon will work.)
As this is more a method than a recipe, I write it in steps. Read it through to understand the process and then make it yourself. Boil the pasta, fry the pancetta (or bacon or ham), add vegetables, garlic and herbs, put it together and serve with cheese. So there. Maybe you need read no further. But go on.
Pasta with Eggplant and Pancetta serves 2 generously with a bit leftover for someone’s lunch
1. Put a covered 10 quart stockpot 3/4 full of salted and peppered water on to boil. Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed red pepper and dried oregano. Add 1/2 # whole wheat pasta when the water is boiling and cook about 10-11 minutes until al dente. Drain and reserve.
2. Meantime, in a large, deep skillet, brown about 1/4 cup of chopped pancetta or bacon. When it’s crisp, remove it to a plate lined with paper towels. Leave fat from pancetta in the pan.
3. Into that same pan, add 1 large chopped onion, 1 large chopped carrot, 1 chopped medium yellow squash or zucchini, 1/2 cup chopped, peeled eggplant, 1/2 sliced or whole fresh spinach leaves, and 1/2 cup chopped red or yellow pepper. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste) and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Vegetables can be changed to suit what’s in your crisper. I do think you need onions, garlic, something for bulk like squash or eggplant, and fresh herbs of some sort.
4. Cook vegetables until they’re softened and add 3 cloves garlic, minced. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 chopped ripe tomatoes (or a cup of cherry tomatoes) and 1/4 cup chopped parsley and/or basil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper. Return pancetta to the pan and stir well.
5. Add drained pasta to skillet. Mix and toss well, using tongs, and taste for seasoning.
6. Serve in pasta bowls with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese at the table.
Wine: We had a little Barbera leftover from burgers on the grill, so we drank that. A big Chardonnay would work, as would Zinfandel or even a Cabernet Sauvignon. While we think of big reds as the province of big meats, they stand up and support a hearty, vegetable-filled pasta–especially if it’s topped with a strong cheese like Parmesan or flavored with a warm, deep meat like pancetta.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
The singing fellowship:
|Choir came to lunch Saturday. Chicken chili, sangria, brownies.|
|Good bud Kim all but moved in to the kitchen to keep things going. Love you, Kim!|
|Nope, we didn’t sing. Just visited and ate. Rested our pipes.|
|Fall–Time for Grooming. Didn’t much like it. But they looked good for the choir.|
|Exhausted after their baths and trims. What did we have to do that for? And what’s with the bandanas?|
My life is currently full of playing catch-up at work. Reading all the fall lectionary texts so I can choose appropriate music. Off and on for a couple of weeks, the dining room table is full of music, bibles, notes, computer, etc. I run back and forth trying to familiarize myself with the music library at church. What’s there? What’s possible to learn (and do well) with only two rehearsals? Listening to anthems online. Listening to the choir. Attending one lectionary study at Cabrini Catholic church and one Bible Study with the neighborhood women. Praying for a co-worker, who had to undergo emergency surgery. Looking at a choir retreat in November. Dreaming of the cantata much later than I typically do. And I’m sooo excited and…
I’m so busy … Being grateful, grateful, grateful for the opportunity. Thanks, God.
Sing a new song,
While food trends wax and wane (Remember cupcakes?), I never-ha!-fall into the kitschy traps other foodies do. I did make gingerbread cupcakes for Super Bowl a couple of years ago, but I would have done that anyway. And you aren’t reading about pork belly here, though I’ve nothing against it. But I fall off the wagon a bit about bacon. While I am definitely NOT a bacon fanatic (and it’s on menus in quite odd places), my husband definitely IS. But he has been a bacon fanatic since Eisenhower was president.
His favorite movie moment is in “Grumpier Old Men,”