My favorite year-round company meals often include a big, thick pork chop. If you’ve eaten at my house, you’ve probably had one. I’m talking 1 1/2 – 2-inches thick, bone-in, please. Cold months I’ll brown them to a crisp, throw them in the oven to finish off slowly with a sprinkle of warming rosemary, and serve them nestled down into a buttery root vegetable mash of some sort with lemony green beans or spicy sautéed spinach and a creamy mushroom sauce. Insert Pinot Noir. Continue reading
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
After being on a Canadian cruise (Boston- Quebec City- Boston on Holland America) for two weeks…. (in no special order)
|To say we ate a lot of mussels would be an understatement. Served here with lovely Prince Edward Island beer, of course.|
|Public (Victorian) Garden; Halifax, NS, Canada|
|Confederation Bridge: 8 miles long. Links Prince Edward Island with New Brunswick mainland. We went under it twice.|
|We clean up well.|
|We had brunch here at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. Oh, do go!
Above photo: courtesy Chateau Frontenac. All others: copyright 2013, Alyce Morgan.
|Breathalize yourself for $2 bucks in the Quebec bars.|
|A spruce swag indicates spruce beer is available on Cape Breton.|
|Here’s why I cruise. Taken off our balcony–above and below.|
|Margaret shows us how to tell the diff between male and female lobsters at Peggy’s Cove, not far from Halifax, Nova Scotia (left) and Dave ocean kayaking in Bar Harbor, Maine|
|Anne of Green Gables House — Prince Edward Island|
|Tavern at Louisbourg Fortress, Cape Breton Island, Canada–Drinkng real chocolate!|
Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove above. The warning on it below:
…it appears I must shop, cook, clean up, and even garden for myself. Upon returning home, Dave and I immediately were both ill for a couple of days (??) and that was topped off by several days of horrific storms in the Twin Cities, after which we were without power for two days. Nearly every neighborhood had many trees down in the streets and on buildings–not hit by lightning necessarily, but just toppled by heavy winds after their root systems were weakened by too much rain. Here’s what our neighborhood looks like when I walk; you’ll get the idea about how many trees we have:
Lots of cleanup all over; 410k people were without power. Some still don’t have power from last Friday’s storm. Today, the rain is predicted again; we don’t want it. Rain: go to Colorado.
Did you want the plan for the BLT Caprese with Chicken? I’ve blogged several similar things but perhaps never this exact salad. This is a cool meal that’s pretty much grill, slice, layer, and eat. (Or make a couple of extra chicken breasts the night before, though I do think it’s best fresh.) It solves the problem of meals for hot days, of which there are more than I’d like. That puts it nicely. Enjoy!
blt caprese with chicken
- 2 cups baby spinach
- Kosher salt; fresh ground pepper
- 2 boneless chicken breasts grilled or sautéed, sliced thinly
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
- 4 ounce (approximate) log fresh mozzerella, sliced thinly
- 16 fresh basil leaves (approximate)
- 8 slices cooked, crispy bacon cut in half
- Juice of half a lemon
- 12 kalamata olives, pitted, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below)
On a medium-sized platter, scatter spinach around the edges and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Layer chicken, tomatoes, mozzerella, basil leaves, and bacon either in two lines in the middle or in a circle inside the ring of spinach. There needn’t be every ingredient in each layer; some layers might be two pieces of chicken with basil between, etc. Strive to make the layers as even as possible without being too precise. Drizzle evenly with lemon juice and sprinkle layered salad with salt and pepper. Garnish with olives. Drizzle with about two tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette and serve immediately.
Serve with bread and olive oil.
Cook’s Notes: If you need to make this ahead, try to do it no more than an hour or two beforehand, cover and refrigerate. Do not add lemon juice or vinaigrette until it’s time to serve the salad. You could also make this salad with grilled or store-bought, cooked shrimp.
Wine: I like a very, very cold rosé with this–nearly any would do (I’m partial to French ones and they’re inexpensive as wine goes.), but a chilled nicely-rounded white like Viognier or even a lighter, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc– like one from New Zealand–would suit this dish with its herbal notes. Some folks might like a big-bellied California Chardonnay with this, but if you do go that route, don’t chill it to death. 2 hours or even room temperature works.
Dessert: Pineapple sherbet or fresh strawberries in melted chocolate ice cream.
… … …
Alyce’s (and soon to be yours) Balsamic Vinaigrette makes 1 cup dressing
1/3 cup fine quality balsamic vinegar (I like Masserie di Sant’eramo)
2 heaping tablespoons dijon-style mustard (Grey Poupon is fine)
1 tablespoon honey
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste–this is a cup of dressing)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
several drops tabasco
In the food processor, pulse until thoroughly pureed and very-well mixed. (Or whisk by hand in a medium bowl)
2/3 c best quality you can afford extra-virgin olive oil (I like Olio Santo (California) or Ravida (Italy)
With machine running, slowly pour the 2/3 c olive oil into the tube on top of the processor and leave running until thoroughly emulsified. (Or whisk in by hand one – two tablespoons at a time until thoroughly combined.) Taste and adjust seasonings.
|Alyce’s Salmon Chowder|
I have a title!!!! Soups & Sides for Every Season. We looked at lots of titles, but many are taken already. Fooey. Who knew? Well, as a longtime librarian, I did–or I guessed. Anyway: the designer’s designing and the artist is creating the cover art; the editor’s editing and the sommelier is “somming”–it’s nearly done. I look for a 1 September date available through amazon.com. Will let you know FIRST. Meantime, this is my great,loving, and hard-working team, along with a great list of testers across the country (can’t name them all here–they’ll be listed in the book):
Patty Miller, Editor
Amanda Weber, Designer
Daniel Craig, Artist
Drew Robinson, Sommelier
THANKS! YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL! I love working alone on a book, but this one became lots of fun once others were involved. There is beauty in numbers and multiple brains and talents. Blessings.
So what’s the book like? The short book is divided into seven quick and easy to use chapters. There is a chapter for every season with 6-8 wine-paired soups in each. Each soup recipe has a little story or blurb and also has recommendations for accompaniments; many are right in the book. The other three chapters are: Breads and Spreads, Salads and Vegetables, and Desserts. You can put meals together as I’ve indicated or mix and match as you like OR JUST MAKE SOUP! I can’t wait to share it with you.
Sing a new song; think soup!
I have a terrible time leaving caprese alone. I just keep messing with it. Adding this and that. Changing it up. Or Down. In part, I’ve just been overrun with tomatoes, so why not eat them fresh while they’re heavy, fragrant, juicy, and ripe? Make hay while the sun shines.
Here’s the Linguine Caprese from last week:
Sauté minced garlic and shallots in olive oil; cook up some fresh pasta. Add fresh tomatoes, chopped mozzarella, parsley and basil to the hot pasta and cover a couple of minutes. That’s it. Black pepper, of course.
Or you might remember Bacon Caprese? With Green Bean and mustard vinaigrette? I also have just a wee passion for composed salads (or other dishes) on huge round platters I’ve snagged on the cheap at ARC or, in one case, simply on the huge markdown at one of Williams-Sonoma’s end of season sales.
|There’s an easy recipe for making your own cheese here, though it’s not truly mozzarella.|
But I digress…the Proscuitto Caprese has a little different spin and takes some extra time. It’s worth it. And I love the juxtaposition of the warm Brussels sprouts with the room temp caprese; I don’t like cold tomatoes. I want them to taste of the sun. With salt, of course. Could you switch out the proscuitto for bacon, capacola, Serrano ham, Virginia ham, or thinly-sliced grilled chicken? Sure! I’ll write you a note. This is more of a method than a recipe, but I’ve written it out just in case. Amounts are approximate. (I also posted it on Food52.) Here’s how:
prosciutto caprese with toasty brussels sprouts and parmesan
First cook the Brussels Sprouts. While they’re cooking (20-30 minutes depending on size), you can prepare the caprese.
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and crushed red pepper
- 2 cups fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed (if large, cut in half)
- 1/2 cup large shaved slices Parmesan cheese (use potato peeler)
Heat to medium low a large, heavy saute pan or deep skillet with 2 tablespoons of the oil and a generous pinch each the salt and peppers. Add the sprouts and let cook, stirring, about ten minutes until they’ve started browning and softening. Add the Parmesan pieces to bottom of the pan. Cook without stirring until sprouts are very tender, quite brown, and the Parmesan slices have turned into chips.
In the meantime, prepare the caprese:
- 2 large, heavy and ripe tomatoes, sliced and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 8 ounces Proscuitto (you can definitely use less if you’d like)
- 3 cups salad greens (your choice)
- juice of one lemon
Layer, in a circle (overlapping) on a large round platter (or in lines on a rectangular one) the tomatoes, cheese, basil, and proscuitto. Surround the caprese with salad greens.
Then put it all together and dress the salad.
When the sprouts are done, and while they’re warm, place them at the center of the salad. Squeeze lemon juice over everything and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle all with just a bit more salt and pepper, making sure you season the salad greens.
Cook’s Notes: You can substitute the more traditional balsamic vinegar and oil if you’d like. If you’re using Italian proscuitto, be very careful with the salt you add. Our domestic (American) proscuitto, which is less expensive and perfectly usable–if different–is less salty.
|Layers and layers of textures and flavors.|
If you liked this, you might also like this week’s Dinner Place Blog (Cooking for One):
farro salad with canned wild Alaskan salmon, tomatoes, basil, and spinach
or our dinner the night after we had the proscuitto caprese…. Here are gorgeous fresh figs, fig jam, a little baguette, manchego thinly sliced and the rest of the proscuitto. Who needs to cook?
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
As the weather turns from hot as ___ to immediately rainy and chilly (??), it’s time to harvest basil and make pesto for the freezer. I’m also making a treat for the choir for tomorrow night’s rehearsal. Probably apple crostatas, but maybe pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins. I’ve got some large carafes and will make coffee and tea before I leave home, toting it to church so I don’t have to go so early to make hot drinks. This will be our third rehearsal of the year, but we’ve been missing traveling folks until now so I waited to bring a welcoming, start of the year something special for breaktime.
|Prospect Park United Methodist–Here’s where I work and worship.|
|Our Tuck lapping up the remaining sun.|
Sing a new song; make a new caprese,
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,”
Grandpa: What the… what the hell is this?
John: That’s lite beer.
Grandpa: Gee, I weigh ninety goddamn pounds, and you bring me this sloppin’ foam?
John: Ariel’s got me on a diet because the doc said my cholesterol’s a little too high.
Grandpa: Well let me tell you something now, Johnny. Last Thursday, I turned 95 years old. And I never exercised a day in my life. Every morning, I wake up, and I smoke a cigarette. And then I eat five strips of bacon. And for lunch, I eat a bacon sandwich. And for a midday snack?
Grandpa: Bacon! A whole damn plate! And I usually drink my dinner. Now according to all of them flat-belly experts, I should’ve took a dirt nap like thirty years ago. But each year comes and goes, and I’m still here. Ha! And they keep dyin’. You know? Sometimes I wonder if God forgot about me. Just goes to show you, huh?
John: Goes to show you what?
Grandpa: Well it just goes… what the hell are you talkin’ about?
John: Well you said you drink beer, you eat bacon and you smoke cigarettes, and you outlive most of the experts.
John: I thought maybe there was a moral.
Grandpa: No, there ain’t no moral. I just like that story. That’s all. Like that story.
So last week when I shelled out the big bucks for a pound of Nueske’s bacon at the butcher counter at Widmer’s for the summer BLTs, I didn’t blink. In fact, I kept cooking that bacon daily to make sure it was all used before any stray pieces went bad. You know how good your house smells when you cook bacon (Try it when you have a for sale sign out front..)? Well, my house still smells like that. The scent is fixed in the rugs and on the dogs, who can’t stop walking around with their noses up in the air. Dave acts the same way. And if there’s a fine layer of fat sprayed all over my stove, he doesn’t wipe it up. “A little bacon grease never hurt anything.”
In the middle of that bacon for breakfast, bacon for lunch spree came a trip to the Saturday Farmer’s Market in downtown St. Paul. For all of you who’ve never been, this is the most beautiful market in the United States. The food that you can’t buy there doesn’t need to be bought.
|Spring market bounty|
Perhaps I exaggerate. But not by much. At the market, I gently loved a few more Minnesota tomatoes enough to coax them out of their owner’s hands and came home to make cheese for caprese.
(See how on my Dinner Place blog.) But that bacon called. And before I knew it, I’d fried up the last of it to tuck in between the caprese layers. Not only that, I threw the haricots verts in a pot of boiling water for two minutes, drained them and topped them with a dop of herb butter. (Here’s how Ina does this. Why should I reinvent the recipe?) I couldn’t resist making a beautiful salad of the entire thing with the beans in the middle.
I don’t see a reason for putting up a recipe for the caprese either; here’s one from epicurious.com. Just add the bacon! I will say this about my caprese: I place the salad on a bed of spinach and I squeeze lemon over all and dust the whole thing liberally with ground sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. I then drizzle not too much of my balsamic vinaigrette over everything but the green beans, which are already well-seasoned with the herb butter. Lemon on the beans–yes. One of my favorites.
Love summer, my friends.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
The end of August isn’t the end of summer, but there are signs. The flowers look too tired to continue blooming, despite fertilizing and watering. The road crews appear in a big hurry to get it all done. There are Christmas decorations out in a few stores. I’m looking for a guy to plow my driveway. Acorns are dropping and the squirrels are very squirrely. The big tubs of mums are for sale at Ace. Our floor refinishing (and installation in the kitchen) is scheduled so that we can do it while windows can remain open. And, of course, in Minnesota, it’s State Fair Week! (Half a million sticks for food used so far. And if you don’t know what that is, it’s anything edible that will stay on a stick. See what you dream up.)
|Neighbor’s Victory Garden (from my driveway)|
I close today with lovely news! I am now newly employed as a choir director at Prospect Park United Methodist Church, which is a church just across the line in Minneapolis. I’m thrilled, excited, and don’t have words (right) for how light my heart is. Watch this space for news of their fine singers and what fun stuff we’re up to. Thanks be to God. And: thanks to all who supported me and prayed for my employment. Cyberhugs as you
Sing a new song,