Category: Dinner

No-Cook Dinners

No-Cook Dinners

Food-Antipasti platter

  Antipasti platter or, in Italian, un piatta di antipasti.  A bit dear, but consummately satisfying for a special occasion. 

Every year about this time, there’s a night when we have only wine, cheese, and fruit for dinner. We eat it in the cool basement on three trays–one for each and then the cheese platter between us on the third.  An old movie plays on the tv. There’s not a salad or even a cooked vegetable and definitely not any sort of cooked meat. The wine is icy white or rosé.  Sometimes even the grill feels too much to do or too hot to light.

Continue reading “No-Cook Dinners”

Guinness Beef Pot Pie with Cheddar-Dill Biscuits or I’m So Full I Don’t Know Where I’m Going to Sleep Tonight

Guinness Beef Pot Pie with Cheddar-Dill Biscuits or I’m So Full I Don’t Know Where I’m Going to Sleep Tonight

Made in a deep, heavy 8 quart cast iron pot with a  lid  (Dutch oven)

Last year around this time, I made a pot roast with big pieces of butternut squash and halved onions in the oven.  A day later I took the leftovers, including the gravy, and made stew.  Stew from leftovers is definitely an improvement over freshly made stew.   There’s a deeper, fuller, and more flavorful rich quality–without question.  It’s just that there’s usually less than when you make a fresh pot. That stew made very quickly with the addition of more onions, celery, and Guinness stout, etc., was divine.   I mean it, it was an incredible stew.

No who knows totally why one time things are so scrumptious you want more and more — and another time (same ingredients and method apparently) it’s like, “This is ok. Yeah, we can eat dinner here.”  Perhaps it’s the quality of the meat (in the case of stew) or maybe it’s a little pixie dust.  Your taste buds might be on their “A” game so that you are able to season the pot in an extraordinary way.   Truly, I just don’t know.  I know when I’m tired — really exhausted– the meal prepared under those circumstances is plebian.  I just did that recently, so I know.  I know when I don’t give something my undivided attention that it’s bound to be less interesting.  (As in the kids are hungry-throw a bunch of cut-up chicken in the oven and make some rice for God’s sake.)

Despite the fact that I make several pots of stew over the winter each year, I remembered that one.  I also remembered I was determined to recreate it from scratch if possible.  Hence this pot of stew that, by the end of the cooking, morphed into one big pot pie.

Options:
If you’d like stew only, add a cup or two more liquid, and skip the biscuits. I did not try it, but I’d guess it’s possible to make the stew all day in the crock-pot–cutting down the amount of herbs–, pour it into an oven-safe pot and bake with the biscuits right at dinner time.  Another option might be (again, I didn’t try this) to cool the stew and top it with puff pastry.  (If you put the puff pastry on hot stew, it’ll be melting.)  That might appeal to some cooks more than making biscuit dough.  Like Bisquick biscuits?  Go on; I won’t know, though I encourage you to learn to make biscuits.  I once knew a woman whose husband insisted he married her because she could make beaten biscuits in her sleep.

Come cold, there’s little more satisfying than a pot of stew in the oven. (Play cards.  Listen to music.  Watch “Michael.”)  One of the interesting things about this stew is it’s made without potatoes though you could add some if you’d like.  I prefer root vegetables and stick with carrots, turnips, parsnips, as well as celery, onions, garlic, and butternut squash.   Serve this with another couple of cold Guinness stouts or a glass of your favorite Syrah or Côtes du Rhône if you’re not a dark beer person.  (You’ll still love the stew; I promise.) 

Here’s how in a picture recipe (scroll down for separate ingredients list and biscuit recipe):

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  To an 8 qt Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons canola oil. When hot, add 2-3 pounds beef chuck (seasoned well with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper) cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces. Brown well in two batches, removing the first batch to a plate while you cook the second.

To the second batch of browning beef, add 2 large chopped onions.  When beef is nearly brown, add four cloves chopped garlic.  Cook a minute, return first batch of beef to the pot, and stir in 3 tablespoons flour. Cook 2 minutes, stirring.

Pour in 2 cups each beef broth and Guinness stout and stir well to scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pot. Add 1 bay leaf,  1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, a large sprig each of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage.* Stir in 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish or a good hard shake or two of Tabasco.
Add 4 ounces quartered button mushrooms along with one each turnip and parsnip , 2 carrots, 2 stalks celery, and 1 cup of  butternut squash, all cut into around 1/2 inch pieces.
Bring to a boil stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Cover and bake in the oven 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until beef and vegetables are tender and sauce is thickened. 

 Remove from oven and take out the fresh herb sprigs.^ If stew is very, very thick, add a little water or broth.  Biscuits will soak up a lot of the liquid.
Meanwhile, make cheddar-dill biscuit dough. It’s a very wet dough.  (See below for recipe.)
Spoon biscuit dough (I used a wooden spoon) onto the top of the cooked stew. Brush biscuits with a tablespoon of melted butter. Biscuits will rise and expand to nearly cover top of pie. 
Return to oven and bake uncovered another 20-30 minutes until biscuits are golden brown.

Serve hot with a crisp green salad.  Store leftovers well covered in frig 2-3 days.  Rewarm in another casserole in oven.

Serves 6

Ingredients List:  2-3 pounds beef chuck roast cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces; salt and pepper; 2 large onions; 4 cloves garlic; 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour; 2 cups each beef broth and Guinness stout**; 4 ounces button mushrooms; one each turnip and parsnip; 2 carrots; 1 cup cut butternut squash; 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 bay leaf, and 1 sprig each rosemary, thyme, and sage*; 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish or Tabasco.

*You may substitute two teaspoons each dried rosemary (crumbled) and thyme with 1/2 teaspoon ground sage.

**If you don’t want to use beer, use all beef broth.

^ Leave in bay leaf.  Whoever gets it has good luck!

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Cheddar Dill Biscuits for Pot Pie:

  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 1/2 cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter, diced–plus 1 more tablespoon, melted for tops of biscuits
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup milk

Stir together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add cold butter and using a pastry blender or two knives (you can use just your fingers or even do the whole thing in a food processor), cut in the butter until the butter is mostly blended and the mixture appears sandy.  Stir in cheese.  Pour in milk and mix well without over-mixing.  (Using a large spoon, divide dough fairly evenly around the top of the pot pie and brush with the tablespoon of melted butter before baking.)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
It’s my Mom’s birthday today…Lovely to remember her on her special day.  She crossed the river in  ’85. One of my mom’s many good lines was, “I’m so full I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight.” 

I often think of her in view the Hopi poem I heard again yesterday at the funeral of a fine, fine man… 

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet white doves in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.
 

In the house and yard this week….. 

I’ve re-worked and re-photographed one of the favorite recipes on both blogs–Cherry Tomato Chicken Pasta with Basil.  Updated version coming soon to a blog near you.

The 30 Second and No Pan to Wash Egg on Dinner Place (Cooking for One)–my other blog.
Miss Gab loves to stay under the piano–whether I’m working there or not.

Tuck ready for HIS close-up

The last roses of summer from my huge, old fashioned bush.  I brought them in as buds over a week ago!
Saturday, I baked oatmeal chocolate chips for the authors in town for Opus and Olives, one of the premiere literary events in the Twin Cities held each fall  at the Crown Plaza Hotel in St. Paul. (Mark Shriver said he’d eaten his six all in a row; he’d had no food in hours while traveling!)  Dave and I also went the banquet and enjoyed a fine meal with great folks while we listened to the each author speak.  (My favorite was Cheryl Strayed, but then again, I adored her book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.)

Meantime,  we have lots of ripe cherry tomatoes from the garden to eat and…

more ripening!  (It’s October 17…)

 And, because it’s October, I’m listening to the choir’s Christmas cantata (or playing it at the piano) every day.  This year, it’s By Heaven’s Light by Allen Pote.  For fun, it’s even on youtube, though it’s in six (I think!) different segments.

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Julia Child’s 100th Birthday — Salmon Fillet en Papillote with Shallots and Tomatoes: Fast Food!

Julia Child’s 100th Birthday — Salmon Fillet en Papillote with Shallots and Tomatoes: Fast Food!

Not spending the summer in St. Paul, I don’t have any of my Julia books on the shelf….And it’s Julia’s 100th birthday!  I shipped all of the ones I needed to work on the soup cookbook and I brought my own personal cookbook, but the whole library cannot come to Colorado.  Julia’s books sit in Minnesota: 

One bookcase of cookbooks

So to celebrate Julia’s 100th birthday (along with everyone else in the world), I had to come up with something on the web.  Salmon en Papillote with Shallots and Tomatoes seemed perfect.   Since I had salmon the freezer.   And I was alone.  Fish is perfect for one.

One.  Singular sensation:

First place the salmon filet on the parchment paper on a schmear of butter

While grilled salmon is the standard summer prep in the U.S., I’m here to tell you that you just might enjoy wrapping that little piece of fish up in parchment paper and throwing it in the oven.  Almost feels like a little craft project going on.  The oven is not on long enough to heat up the kitchen. The resulting fillet is tender, toothsome, done perfectly, and seasoned elegantly.  And if you don’t pour a loving glass of Pinot Noir or even a Syrah to go along with, I’ll be unhappy.  I will haunt you.  See below for the recipe that’s faster than calling for pizza.  Quicker than driving through the drive-through.  By the time you set the table and sauté some spinach, dinner is D-O-N-E.  If you’re still set on grilling, you could probably use the same recipe for the grill, switching foil for the paper and going the Girl Scout route.

Thanks, Julia.   I know you’re enjoying the kitchen that never gets hot, where feet never hurt, European and American measurements are the same,  knives are forever sharp, tupperware bottoms and tops always match, and watched pots do boil.  God speed.

Season with salt and pepper.  Top with shallots, tomatoes, and fresh herbs.

An aside…My favorite Julia Child recipe is French Bread.  Really.   A story for another day.

Wrap up and pin or staple as I did.  Bake at 425 degrees F about 8 minutes.   Et voila!

The fish recipe I used is from this book, but I found it here:

Jacques’ method for wrapping the fish in paper includes leaving a hole, inserting a straw, and blowing up the paper “balloon” before baking.  I went with Julia and even changed that.  As long as you get the paper packet sealed well, you’ll be fine.

Julia’s Salmon Fillet en Papillote with Shallots and Tomato
serves 1

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, soft (Cut this down to 1tsp)
1 skinless salmon fillet, 6 to 8 ounces
Salt and freshly ground white pepper  (I used black pepper)
1 tablespoon very finely minced shallots (or scallions) (Used minced red onion.)
1/2 cup diced fresh tomato garnish
Whole leaves of flat-leaf parsley, about a dozen  (I added a couple of thyme sprigs.)


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Smear the butter in the very center of a piece of parchment paper cut to 15″x20″
3. Season each side of the salmon with a big pinch of salt and several grinds
of pepper, and lay the salmon, its most attractive side up, on the buttered
area of the paper.
4. Mix the minced shallots and tomato together and spread on top of the
salmon fillet. Scatter the parsley leaves over and around the fish.
5. Lift the shorter (15-inch) sides of the parchment so the edges meet right
above the salmon, like a tent. Fold over several times, then fold the sides
together. Crimp the folds tightly with your fingers, or use several pins at
the end to seal the package completely.  (I stapled the paper.)
6. Set the package on the cookie sheet and bake 8 minutes for a fillet less
than an inch thick, or 10 minutes for a thick fillet 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick.
7. To serve, carefully transfer the package to a dinner plate, remove the pins
if you have used them, and simply unfold or cut the parchment open. If
you’d rather remove the package before eating, cut or tear the paper
alongside the fillet, and slide the fish right onto the plate.
Just cut open.
 
The meal.
 Since this sounded wonderfully suited to a bed of sautéed spinach, I took care of that
while the salmon cooked in the oven.  One pound of fresh spinach will cook down to one cup of cooked spinach.  I think I cooked about 3 ounces of fresh spinach for me.  I stirred in some hunks of garlic at the end, but started with a little crushed red pepper in the olive oil.  Do as you like.  This, along with a small piece of buttered whole wheat bread, rounded out the meal.  Along with the wine, of course.
 
Ready for its close-up.  Done, but oh-so-tender.  Just perfect.  Just Julia.
  Cook’s Note:   Whole Foods in Colorado Springs sells their gorgeous wild salmon frozen in individual pieces for four bucks and change.  I guess they’d rather freeze it than throw it away.  This salmon is luscious.  I throw it in a covered soup pot on the front porch for 30 minutes or so (summertime) and it’s unthawed.   I have also cooked it stone-cold-frozen on a very hot grill indeed.
  
more julia for fun
Sing a new song; buy some parchment paper,
Alyce
Alyce’s Tortellini Salad Goes to Denver, but Misses Olivia’s Birthday

Alyce’s Tortellini Salad Goes to Denver, but Misses Olivia’s Birthday

IMG_7688

Summer comes and this tortellini salad comes with it.  Just ask my family.
Full of tender cheese-filled tortellini and lots of chunky vegetables, it’s held together with a brisk mustard vinaigrette and lots of thin slices of sopressata or hard salami.  If I’m going to a family event or a church picnic, I make a big bowl of this salad and bring it along.  In Minnesota, it goes in the cooler and makes its way up north to celebrate Joe’s and Olivia’s birthdays. The original recipe was, I think, from the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE years ago, but it has changed quite a bit over time.

I missed Olivia’s birthday this year, but made the salad anyway.  See you soon, I hope!

Here in Colorado, it travels up I-25 to Denver for a family afternoon by the pool after a visit to a museum.

This year, Bill made a big hunk of brisket he smoked overnight.  Sean brewed some beer and I made (of course) the tortellini salad.  Occasionally it morphs just a bit; originally it didn’t have many vegetables.  I had to amend that.  The resulting salad is fine for a whole meal, but it’s also a total one-dish side for any barbequed meat.  You know how pasta salad can be pale, insipid, and less than interesting?  Perhaps only filling?  Easily left on the plate at picnics?  That is what this pasta salad is not.   

Nope, we don’t want to get out of the pool. Even for lunch.
This is either Cosmo or Gizmo tending bar.  Whichever one, he got no tortellini salad.
The unveiling of the smoked meat!

TORTELLINI SALAD FOR OLIVIA’S BIRTHDAY, BILL’S BRISKET, or YOUR SUMMER BASH
serves 12

18-20 oz. fresh cheese tortellini (find in refrigerator case)
2 small zucchini, cut into matchstick size pieces
1 small yellow squash, ditto
1 red sweet pepper, ditto
1 yellow sweet pepper, ditto
1 green or orange sweet pepper, ditto
1/4 c minced red onion
1/4# hard salami, cut into 1/4″ slices  (I like sopressata for this.)
1/3 c  each fresh basil and parsley, chopped (keep out 1 T for garnish)
1/2 t dried oregano or Herbes de Provence
1/2 c freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (keep out 2T for top of dish)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3T red wine vinegar
2T Dijon mustard
1/3 c Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt; Freshly-ground Pepper;1/8 t crushed red pepper
Cherry Tomatoes for garnish

In 8 qt. stock pot, bring 5-6 qts. well-salted water to boil. Add fresh tortellini and cook about 8 min or according to package directions.
Meantime, make dressing: In large bowl (or in food processor), whisk together red wine vinegar, garlic and Dijon mustard. Slowly pour in olive oil and whisk until emulsified (creamy and satiny). Add salt and peppers; stir well. Set dressing aside.
Drain tortellini while still a tad al dente and, while hot in colander, add all zucchini and yellow squash. Stir gently to let heat of pasta cook the squash just a tad. Allow pasta and squash to cool, stirring periodically.
Add sliced peppers, salami, all but 2 tablespoons parmesan all but 1 tablespoon fresh basil, and the oregano or Herbes de Provence.  Stir gently; tortellini can fall apart easily. Drizzle most of dressing onto salad and combine. (Save some dressing to add right before serving)
Refrigerate until needed or overnight. To serve, add extra dressing and taste salad for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with reserved basil or parsley, Parmesan cheese, and cherry tomatoes.  (If refrigerated overnight, you’ll definitely need to re-season.)

Note:  If you have any other vegetables, add them. This version has some fresh, minced broccoli as well as some diced carrots.

Note:  For vegetarian or vegan option, skip salami and, for vegan, use pasta made without eggs and leave off Parmesan.

{printable recipe}

Aunt Carolyn relaxing after lunch.

Sing a new song; make an old tortellini salad,
Alyce

Homemade Potato Chip-Steak Salad

Homemade Potato Chip-Steak Salad

Just add fork

Sometimes I don’t know what gets into me.  I know I have something leftover and simple from which to create a meal.  Say a piece of steak or two small pieces, in this case.  (Neither Dave nor I could finish our dinner the night before. Is there something wrong with us?)  I didn’t set out to make a homemade potato chip-steak salad…but here’s how it happened: 

First,  I take the steak out of the frig and begin casting around for something to go with it.  Toast?  I could make a sandwich.  Pasta?  I could cook up some vegetables to go with the steak while the water boils.  Stir fry?  Omelet filled with steak?  Steak and eggs?  I could make  mushrooms in velouté  sauce with cream (Supreme is the name, I think–I made it up as a young cook without knowing its name.) and Dijon mustard, add the steak and serve it over rice.  How about a childhood favorite, beef hash?  (Who would waste great steak on hash, Alyce?) 

Instead of beginning any of those dishes,  I  find myself at the Cuisinart making homemade mayonnaise, using Daniel Boulud’s method:
    

Who is Daniel Boulud?

 

Make a poached egg and cook it for only two minutes.  Remove from water with a slotted spoon and place it in a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Pulse until well-blended. 

Into the food processor bowl, pour 1T good-quality  white-wine vinegar (such as Chardonnay or Champagne) and 1T Dijon mustard. (I like to use the whole grain variety.) Pulse until well blended.

Through the feed tube, with the machine running, drizzle 1 cup canola oil.* Process until thick.  Season with salt and pepper.

*Daniel Boulud uses peanut oil

~~

And then I take out a skillet, heat a little canola oil and fry up very thin slices of potato for potato chips.  This is coming together, I think:

Drain them on paper towels. Salt and pepper immediately.   Don’t eat them all.

~~

Meantime, I “boil” an egg in the microwave.  (Break an egg into a greased, microwave-safe cereal-sized bowl.  With a fork, poke the egg white all over several times and the yolk once.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for one minute.  Let sit one minute.  Remove wrap, tip egg onto cutting board and chop)

Next:  A large bowl comes out of the cupboard (nearly done now–pretty quick!) and I line it with  

4 cups of mixed greens topped with the steak, 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, the chopped egg, 1/4 cucumber, chopped, 2 green onions, chopped, 1 carrot, sliced, 1 stalk celery, sliced, 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, 1/2 each yellow and red pepper sliced, and whatever other vegetables I can find–including a beautiful warm summer tomato (don’t refrigerate them ever) and even a little leftover grilled sweet corn.

When the chips are done, I put them around the outside of the salad bowl.

A half-lemon is located and squeezed over the entire salad.  Salt and pepper are next.  I’m generous, but don’t go overboard.  After all, the salad will be dressed with real mayonnaise, right?

I slip a few pieces of baguette under the broiler.  (brushed with oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper)

And dinner is served:

I serve the mayonnaise separately; no need to over-dress this lovely bowl of goodness.

This process made enough for Dave and me.  He ate two servings; I ate one.  So I’d say this was about 3 servings!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

I’m tired of the daytime heat.  Like the whole rest of the country, I guess. Storms often arrive late afternoon or early evening.  Things blow and go; little rain arrives, though when it does, it’s incredibly forceful.  I water everything daily.  A beautiful part of near-mountain living is the coolness of the evening and night.   While we  resort to air conditioning during the day, in the evening after suppertime it’s turned off and the windows are thrown open wide to welcome the sweet breeze.  All night long the air graces our rooms unlike the midwest where the heat lingers heavily.

My favorite breakfast these days…when I’m not having yogurt and berries: 

On the dinnerplace blog now:  Egg+Egg White Omelet filled with Nonfat Cottage Cheese on WW Toast

If I don’t get out early to walk the doggies (by 7:30), and sometimes even if I do, I later get in a power walk on youtube.  Sometimes two! There are several walks from which to choose–3 minute for a desk break, 5 minute, 2 mile, etc. They are easy to fit into the day and I often stick up the laptop (with the walking video on and the sound off) next to the tv when a favorite show is on.   I do the walk/exercise and watch Ina all at the same time.

I’m working on the soups for the cookbook almost daily.  Once I develop a recipe, it must be tested several times and then I pass it on to someone else for testing.  Does it work when someone else makes it?  I’ve now made posole several times, shall we say.  (I think I’ve got it down.)  My dear friend, sommelier Drew Robinson, was to come today to taste three of the soups (and one secret very-fast dessert) in order to begin the process of pairing.  Long ago, at some far-away dinner with our wine group, Drew let it be known he would provide the wine pairings for a cookbook I would someday write.  Not sure either one of us believed it would ever happen, but it’s happening!  Anyway, Drew forgot he has another wine-tasting tonight and we’re rescheduling.   I am a bit relieved because as much as I love my new posole recipe, I’m ready for something else to eat.  The next soups are a quick vegetarian bean and a cold avocado.   As the book will not have photographs, I keep forgetting to take pictures….I must do it!

I play inside with Miss Gab in the afternoons for a few minutes–too hot for her to run outdoors. 

You’re throwing the ball, right?

We’ve had plenty of time to visit with old friends and worship at First Congregational…one of my very favorite churches anywhere.  Last Sunday, the ample sanctuary was filled to capacity.  Nothing special occuring…and it was summer when  a lot of churches are fairly empty.  Why is FCC so full?  While I might not be qualified to say why, I do know these things:  there’s a bow toward tradition…while embracing the new.  All are truly welcome and these folks are joyful; what more could you want?  Except that when the table is laid and communion is about to begin, these words are said, “Come, all things are ready.”  Such a breathing place.

    One of the best parts about being here is more time with my family

    off to a beer festival…

    and lunches/shopping trips in the middle of the day:

    Trip to Toys r Us:  expensive
    Smile on grandson’s face:  priceless

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce

    The Blog is on Vacation, but Make This 10-minute Salmon Supper

    The Blog is on Vacation, but Make This 10-minute Salmon Supper

    Out of sight, out of mind.

    The blog is on vacation.
    So are the the puppies.
    Dave, too.

    But until we all return, why don’t you make a 10-minute Salmon Supper I made for myself last night? I made enough for two meals, so I didn’t have to cook tonight.  There are still enough green beans for my lunch tomorrow.


    I write two very fun food blogs and I rarely blog the same recipe on both; today I am.  On Dinner Place, I’ve been occasionally experimenting with recipes that are more photos than text.  See what you think.

    grilled salmon with  balsamic-honey sauce and green beans vinaigrette serves 2-3

    Here’s how:

    Cook oiled and salt + peppered salmon (2-8oz portions Copper River Salmon here), skin-side up, over medium-high heat on a grill or skillet for 4 minutes.  Turn and cook until firm, but still moist– another 2-4 minutes  for 3/4″ thick fish.    Remove and let rest 2 minutes.  Thicker or larger fish will take a bit longer.

    Meanwhile, cook clipped package of haricots verts in microwave @ full power 2-3 minutes.
     Make vinaigrette for beans:  Whisk together in a medium bowl 1T white wine vinegar with 1/4 t each salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, Dijon-style mustard.  Then whisk in 2T olive oil, 1 T at a time until thickened or emulsified.
    Pour the beans carefully (HOT) into bowl and toss w/ vinaigrette.  Grate a bit of lemon zest on top.   Taste and re-season if necessary.

    Make the sauce for the fish like this:  In a small bowl, mix well together 2T balsamic vinegar and 2t honey with a good pinch of black pepper.  Another sauce I like is fig jam mixed with balsamic vinegar– about 2T jam to 1T balsamic, with some crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt.

    To serve:  Place a piece of cooked fish on each plate and drizzle with the sauce. Add the green beans and serve hot.

    Wrap well the second piece of fish (if not using) and store in frig; keeps one day.  Store beans in the bowl, covered, and refrigerated.  Use within 2-3 days.

     Wine? I typically like Oregon Pinot Noir with salmon, but this prep calls for a bit bigger wine, so go with an Australian Shiraz or a California Cab.

    two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

    Tucker loves to watch the neighbors come to and from The Wine Thief and The Ale Jail.  Gabby is more into, “Where’s the ball or what’s Mom doing?”

    Below:  my south garden.  Summer in St. Paul!

    yellow roses

    columbines like it here

    my favorite color rose

    When I come back, I’ll be ready to get into the next group-blogging adventure:

    Can’t wait to cook for you, but meantime read this article on summer cookbooks….

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce

    50 Women Game-Changers – #47 – Zarela Martinez’ Savory Cornbread

    50 Women Game-Changers – #47 – Zarela Martinez’ Savory Cornbread

    From my childhood on, cooking meant sharing and security and a way of “speaking” to people.  When I grew up I found that cooking grew also to be a means of celebrating and honoring those who would eat meals that I’d carefully prepared from scratch. Over the years as I lived and thought and learned, cooking grew even more to embrace nearly every aspect of culture and human relationships. I have been lucky to make my career as chef, consultant, and businesswoman a never-ending source of joy and fulfillment.”

                                                                                                                  –Zarela Martinez

    Each week for the last forty-six, a food-loving group of bloggers has been studying, choosing a recipe, cooking, photographing, and writing  about one very special food expert off the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women-Game Changers in Food.    I jumped on this yummy trolley last January at stop number 32, but a good number of these scribes started right from the beginning.   We’re near the end of the line, but this week we’re featuring number forty-seven, Mexican chef, author, teacher, philanthropist, and NYC restauranteur-caterer Zarela Martinez.

    Born on a northern Mexico ranch, Zarela moved to the U.S. in the ’70’s, and to make a few bucks, began catering.  Soon she was at culinary school, studying with Paul Prudhomme, and working at Cafe Marimba in NYC!  Her famed, but currently closed, restaurant, Zarela, came next and taught more than one generation of New Yorkers about just how fine true Mexican cuisine could be, as well as providing training ground for her son, chef Aaron Sanchez.

     Here, Zarela teaches us how to roast poblanos (used in her cornbread recipe-below) and gives us her “Creamy Rice Casserole” recipe.

    Lots of gorgeous recipes from Zarela out there, but I hit on Savory Cornbread for this week.  The recipe sounded perfect…lot of fresh corn, great cheese, gluten-free, but something somewhere just didn’t happen exactly as I expected.   While the bread was tasty (though quite rich), I struggled to get it done.  I baked it an extra tweny minutes and it was still underdone–more like spoon bread, which may be exactly what it was supposed to be like.  We simply enjoyed it just like that.  One thing, I did bake it in a metal 9×13 pan in the hopes of obtaining a crispy crust and if I tried it again, I’d put it in the recommended glass Pyrex casserole dish. While full of butter and cheese, the roasted peppers did shine through and provided a touch of heat usually missing from American Corn Bread recipes.  I think it would be great with a fish taco salad or a bowl of spicy chili.  Scroll down past my puppies and try it:

    Gabby and Tuck waiting for mom to get done cooking.  Geez Louise, it’s walk time.

    savory cornbread — Chefs Aaron Sánchez and Zarela Martínez (courtesy NY Magazine)

    Ingredients

    3 cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned
    2 sticks unsalted butter
    2 tablespoons sugar
    3 large eggs
    1 1/2 cups rice flour (use Goya’s, not rice flour from Chinatown) I used King Arthur’s Gluten-Free flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    8 ounces white Cheddar cheese, shredded
    4 ounces poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, and diced
    Cornstarch 

    Instructions

    Grind the corn by pulsing batches in the food processor until coarsely crushed but not puréed. Set aside.

    Corn ground in food processor

    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat in the eggs one by one until incorporated.

     Sift the dry ingredients, and add to the creamed mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed until combined. Fold the ground corn into the batter, followed by the cheese and chiles.

    I could not find Goya rice flour and subbed King Arthur…

    Weighing the cheese before grating.

    Butter a 13-by-9-inch Pyrex baking dish, and lightly dust with cornstarch. Pour in the mixture and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until crust is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (2007)   

    (Published 2007)
    I write with a tasty group of bloggers!  Please take some time and visit

    If you liked this, you might like my Irish Soda Bread (with Potato Soup)

     
    And, also, on Dinner Place (Cooking for One) this week is Alyce’s Killer Guac to take to the Mother’s Day Cookout:
     
    Cook with a-band-on,
    Alyce
    Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

    Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

    Welcome spring!

    If you shop Trader Joe’s, you might know Israeli couscous–a bit more like round orzo than couscous.  Maybe you buy it?  And if you live in the metro D.C. area or read papers online, you might have read a recipe from the Washington Post a few weeks ago for a Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera.  I do not live in the D.C. area, though I did for years; these days my traveling husband occasionally brings me a WP home to Saint Paul.  I’m always glad to get it because it was the first paper away from Chicago to which I became really attached.   And as a food blogger, I like seeing what’s going on somewhere else food-wise.   If  you’re a regular reader, you know I rarely blog a recipe from a newspaper.  Until recently when I jumped on board the fun 50 Women Game-Changers in Food blogging adventure, I  blogged almost exclusively original recipes. This one’s yummy, though, and I wanted it on my own site–if only for my own self!  You can, and I did, buy everything you need to make this recipe at any Trader Joe’s.

    I don’t know how you feel about Trader Joe’s.  People praise it to the highest heavens and you would have thought our lives were being saved from the plague if you listened to the around-town chat before the store opened on its tight corner with underground parking.   I was in grad school at St. Thomas that summer, and even I heard about it.   And this is a city with fine, locally-owned groceries we can walk to in nearly every neighborhood.  The beauty of Saint Paul!

    So I’m of mixed emotions over what’s there–inside Trader Joe’s, I mean.  First off, I’m not drinking that wine not no-how.  Not even in Sangria.  I mean, have you tasted it?   I’d rather drink Coke and be sober.   Secondly, the produce (even though you can get cool things like fresh English peas) looks a little sad, a bit used, and not real green in both its meanings.  I mean, why wrap Italian parsley up on paper plates and in plastic?  The other thing is I have the sense (with no reason, I think) that some of this food might be processed in ways I wouldn’t like or in China maybe.   I feel like a snob.  And guess I am.  I repeat:  I have no basis for these feelings or ideas.  I even looked on the boxes of a few things I bought.  The Israeli couscous, for instance, says “Made in Israel.”  Duh.  The canned salmon is wild from Alaska.  Huh.

    The chef is always right.  This sign is right by my main prep space.  Just cookin’.

    But I go.  Once in a while.  I’ll only go at very specified times.  Like 10am on Tuesday.  If you try and shop at our Trader Joe’s in the afternoon, evening, or on the weekends, you just can’t get in and out of the parking lot or nearby streets.  The location, albeit the only one they could obtain in our city, is crowded, crowded.   While I’m there, I grab up stuff like sparkling pink lemonade in beautiful liter bottles, peanut-butter stuff pretzel chunks that are addictive, boxes of 100-calorie each scrumptious Belgian milk chocolate, and maybe even a plant or two.  Sometimes a little cheese, though I feel guilty not buying it at our local cheese shop, St. Paul Cheese, which is all of four blocks from my house.

    Just because I should, I did a little digging and, if you’d like, you can read a professional review–a bit dated– of Trader Joe’s here.  It’s all good.  Nothing to substantiate my weird, stuck up feelings.
    Well,  now that that’s off my chest…I can go on about the recipe.  Right?

    I tape upcoming recipes on the door.
    Things I’m testing or things I’d like to make sometime go up.  The couscous was up for a while before I got to it.

    A wonderfully simple all-in-one spring side dish (or summer-add whatever vegetables), we enjoyed this as a foil to a rosemary-roasted pork loin drizzled with homemade barbeque sauce for our second annual “Lilacs are Blooming” dinner party.  (A leek soup with a bit of bacon was the first course that night, but that’s another blog.)  Appearing and tasting something like  risotto, this is much easier; the couscous is cooked in only 10 minutes and the entire dish in about 15–no long-lived ladling and stirring.     My notes or changes are in red.   Try this:

    toasted israeli couscous primavera  courtesy WP/Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
      4 main-dish servings; 6 side-dish servings

    2T olive oil, divided
    2/3 c chopped scallions (1 bunch, white and light green parts)  I used ramps
    1 1/2 cups dried Israeli couscous
    Salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1 3/4 cups no-salt added or homemade chicken broth, heated just to boiling
    Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon (2t zest, 2T juice)
    8 oz asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces
    1 cup frozen peas, defrosted, or blanched fresh peas
    2 oz baby spinach leaves
    Aleppo pepper to taste
    2T fresh parsley, chopped

    1. Heat 1 T of the oil in a 2-3 qt over medium heat.  Add the sallions; cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until just softened.
    2. Add the couscous and season with salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine.  Add the hot broth, lemon zest and juice.
    3. Bring to a boil and add asparagus and peas; cover.  Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so the broth is barely bubbling at the edges, until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is cooked through.
    4. Combine the spinach, the parsley and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large serving bowl.  Add the cooked couscous and vegetables and stir until the spinach has wilted.  
    5. Dust with aleppo pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve immediately.

    Author’s Notes:  Couscous cooks quickly, and when it’s done, it will stick to the pan.   Keep a close eye on it, and stir every few minutes.  After cooking, the couscou will clump together if you let the dish sit too long.  Serve immediately, or add more oil if you plan to make the dish ahead of time.  Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth if desired.

    My notes:  I didn’t add more oil, but I did add more broth to keep the dish moist.  I made it  right before our guests arrived for dinner, turned it off, and reheated it for serving.  It was tender,  moist, quite warm, and was not over-cooked even though I had kept it covered.

    Made Derby pies for a friend’s Derby party…

    Congratulations to Poor Man’s Feast--the blogging winner for the James Beard Awards!  Give a shout-out!

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce

    50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #46 – Gael Greene – Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon

    50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #46 – Gael Greene – Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon

    “Do you sing, too?” I asked, tickling his tweed elbow.

    I have a good friend who is fond of this phrase:  “She was born with the words, ‘Please peel me a grape,’ on her lips.”   That could very well have been said about spicy bon vivant Gael Greene (1933-  ), this week’s  number 46 on Gourmet Live’s List of 50 Women Game-Changers in Food.  Greene, the 40-year New York Magazine restaurant critic and columnist, novelist, and philanthropist from Detroit, is best known for her erotic encounters with food, as well as with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley.   Want details?  It’s all (probably not) chronicled in Greene’s memoir, the infamous Insatiable : Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess (Grand Central, 2007.)  And while I promise I’m not telling tales out of school, you can listen to her own description of Presley as appetizer here.

    Lest we consider the ground-breaking critic light-weight or even shallow,  life-long achiever  Greene (still writing, appearing on “Top Chef,” and tweeting as I blog)  has also spent a sizable portion of her adult life making sure New York’s elderly poor had food come weekends and holidays: 

    Marcia Stein: Citymeals began in 1981 when Gael Greene and Jim Beard, the founders, read that homebound elderly New Yorkers only got meals from the city Monday through Friday, and not on holidays. They were going very long periods of time without food. Especially over the holidays: at times when other people were over-eating, these people were alone and starving.

    Gael and Jim called their friends in the industry; Gael called the city government and wrote about it. She was just as good at describing their situation as she is at describing food, and it made people aware. Checks started coming in, but you can’t just send a check to the government or the Department for the Aging. We had to create an organization that was a not-for-profit so we could receive the checks we were getting. So Citymeals started as a public/private partnership with the city’s meal delivery program.

    We started feeding 6,000 homebound elderly, but the number has grown over time. Now we are feeding 18,000 every weekend and holiday.

    We receive about 50,000 contributions a year to Citymeals. It’s a cause that New Yorkers have embraced. Six dollars a day can save a person’s life.

    Read the entire interview with Marcia Stein, Executive Director of Citymeals-on-Wheels on starchefs.com

    But after you get your fill reading and listening — more by scrolling down– do a little cooking with Gael and try her

    Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon  serves 4

  • 6 ears corn
  • 4 cups water (reserve water after the corn has cooked)
  • 2 tsp olive oil for vegetables
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced                                        
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Clam broth, to taste
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 6 large sea scallops, quartered       
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper  
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro or basil
  • Cook corn in four cups of water. Remove corn, strain water of corn silk, and reserve cooking water.
    Cut kernels from cobs and reserve the corn. Return cobs to cooking water, simmer till water reduces   to half. Then remove cobs and reserve water.
    Scrape cobs with dull knife to extract all the corn milk and reserve this liquid.
    Sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeño in olive oil in nonstick skillet. Don’t let them brown.
    Add reserved corn kernels and corn milk to vegetables, then toss and cook on low heat for 2 minutes. Puree half of this mix in a blender or food processor.
    Add puree and remaining corn-vegetable mix to reduced corn water. Then add lime juice and clam broth, to taste.
    Cook bacon until crisp, drain, and cut into ribbons.
    Sauté scallop quarters quickly in bacon fat till slightly browned. Don’t overcook.
    Reheat soup. Add scallops and bacon to mixture in the corn water. Season with ground pepper and salt, to taste. Add more lime or clam juice if necessary.
    Serve in bowls with minced cilantro or basil sprinkled on top

    A little bacon garnish might not go amiss.  A nice grind of black pepper, too.

    While this soup is perfectly suited to late summer when the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, I managed to snare a few fresh? ears from our local grocer, who had Fed-exxed a little out of Florida.  If you can’t find any corn,  I think you could use vegetable broth (along with the clam broth) and frozen (cooked) corn kernels.  You won’t have the same soup, but I think it would be tasty.  Corn cooking tip here, though I just bring the water to boil, drop the corn in, let it come up to a boil again, and cover it for 10 minutes or so.  The other great way is to microwave it or grill it right in the husks.  Easy and maybe the tastiest version, but not possible for this recipe.

    I did pepper and sugar – 1/2 tsp each- the corn-cooking water for this soup.  Oh, summer…hurry up!

    My best sous and lunchtime taste tester.

    At first taste, my excellent taster wondered what all the shouting was about.  By the second taste, he was hooked.  The subtle heat left a gentle warm buzz in the mouth and the corn and scallops provided good contrast in texture.   I had one small bowl leftover that I ran over to Paul, the owner of our two-doors down wine and beer shop,  The Wine Thief and Ale Jail.  Love living in the city do I.

    The Wine Thief and The Ale Jail

     I chose this recipe because I adored the idea of a mostly healthy  (ok, there’s bacon) seafood soup that used only 6 scallops for four servings.  I calculated about five bucks per serving, which is a less-expensive way to splurge on a little scallop action.   The soup sounded like a luscious and light warm-weather meal that could easily be made outdoors utilizing a grill with a side burner.  It might also serve as a small first-course offering for a special dinner.  I liked a sip of a great big California Chardonnay with this soup.

    Here’ s a review one cook left on epicurious fyi:
    I followed this recipe exactly. I was surprised that the color was not as bright as I had expected (sort of a dull yellow), and the texture was, well, corny. Pureeing the corn mixture did not make it creamy at all, as I could still feel the fibers of the corn kernels in my mouth. I decided to puree all of it, and then strain it, which yielded a something I would describe as a corn broth, great for poaching fish in or serving in shot glasses with some crispy shallots or scallops right on top. 

    by A Cook from Miami Beach, Fl on 07/10/06

    Fyi I pureed three-quarters of the corn.

    Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/reviews/Corn-Soup-with-Sauteed-Scallops-and-Bacon-234219#ixzz1tok3W1g5

    Want more Gael Greene?
    • Read  epicurious.com
    • Check out a NYT article about Gael here.
    • Visit Gael’s personal website, Insatiable Critic, here.
    • Follow Gael on twitter for a daily hoot.
    **
    If you liked this, you might also like my one-pan meal:
    I write with a tasty group of bloggers!  Please take some time and visit
    Cook with a – band – on,
    Alyce
    50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #35 – Delia Smith

    50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #35 – Delia Smith

    Would you cook with this woman?  Meet Delia Smith.

    In North America, we might argue over who taught us to cook.  While Julia really was on tv, I’m sure I learned to cook from a. my mother, b. James Beard, and c. SILVER PALATE.  (We all teach ourselves right in our kitchen, don’t we?)  But in the UK, there’s no question about who taught you to cook; Delia Smith, #35 in Gourmet’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, did.  (photo courtesy BBC)

    Way back in the ’70s (was it that far away?), you only had to tune in to the telly to learn how to make pastry (or lots else) with Delia in London or Edinburgh. For grins, scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on the video and see what the buzz was about.  Could you bake a blind tart shell after watching that television program? I admit I missed Julia a bit as I watched!

    After a couple of false starts as a hairstylist and travel agent, and without much education, Delia began reading cookbooks in the reading room at the British Museum.  Not long after, she was cooking and writing for the Daily Mirror starting in 1969, where she met her husband, Michael Wynn Jones.

    Many television episodes, newspaper articles,  books (21 million sold), a website, and even a soccer club later, Delia continues to deliver basic, commonsense, always-trusted cooking advice, recipes, and technique.  She’s so successful at delivering the goods that, within the world marketplace, there’s now something called “The Delia Effect.”  Which means it’ll sell like the proverbial hotcakes, as her stamp on anything makes product fly off the shelves in the UK. Reportedly, egg sales in England rose by 10% after her book How to Cook was published.

    Delia’s Complete How to Cook can be ordered through amazon.com, as can other volumes, though some appear to be more available overseas than here in the States.   Time for a few days in London, I’d say.

     Reading through recipes and trying to decide which to try for this blog, I found no shortage of tasty and wonderful-sounding things to cook.  Oven-Baked Smoked Pancetta and Leek Risotto caught my eye, as did Grilled Venison Steaks with Red Onion, Grape, and Raisin Confit, a selection from Delia’s website under the banner, “What Should You be Cooking This Month?”  There’s also a tab for ingredients and the available recipes to use them.  Special diets, Under 30 minutes, Freezing, and Cooking for One are just a few of the sections you might want to peruse on the site.   I especially enjoyed “Recipe of the Day” and “Competitions.”  At the very bottom are links to lists of recipes like, “French,” “Pasta,” and so on.  While it might not be true, the website has every indication of containing a good portion of her thirty-plus years’ recipes and information, which makes it a treasure trove, to say nothing of a great value.

    You could make “Italian Baked Fish” (and who doesn’t want more baked fish recipes) as did I, and give Delia a whirl:

    First:  Make a little marinara with mushrooms.

     italian baked fish  serves 4  (recipe courtesy deliaonline.com)

    4 thick pieces of cod or other white fish (MN cooks:  try our Lake Superior white fish here.)
    2T olive oil (no need for extra virgin oil)
    1 medium onion, finely chopped
    1 fat clove garlic, crushed
    1# ripe tomatoes or 400g tin of Italian tomatoes
    4 oz (110 g) sliced mushrooms
    1 T chopped fresh basil
    1 T capers, chopped
    Juice of 1/2 lemon
    12 black olives (I opted for kalamata.)
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    method

    Start by making a good, thick tomato sauce:  heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.  Now add the garlic and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper, then bring to a simmering point and cook gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Next add the sliced mushrooms, making sure they are well stirred in.  Simmer for a further few minutes until it looks like a thick sauce.  Lastly, stir in the fresh basil and chopped capers.

    Next, season the fish with lemon, salt, and pepper

     Now place the fish in a shallow baking dish or tin, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little lemon juice on each piece.  Next spoon an equal quantity of the sauce on to each piece of fish and arrange a few olives on top.   Cover the dish with foil and bake on a high shelf (in upper 1/3 of oven) for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Serve with new potatoes or brown rice and a tossed green salad.  

    Last, top with marinara, and bake.

     I sometimes cook fish right down in a chunky tomato-onion-garlic-etc bath either on top of the stove or in the oven; you might try that idea if it appeals to you.  Here’s my fast snapper in tomato sauce.  Get your vegetables, honey.

    Next week, join us when we’ll feature #36, Edna Lewis. “The granddaughter of an emancipated slave, Lewis, another Judith Jones protégée, brought sophisticated Southern dishes into the spotlight.” 
     ~~~~~

    If you’d like to cook a few other gorgeous Delia Smith (or other) meals, click on the blogs of the food bloggers featuring Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food this (or another) week:
     
    Val – More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan – The Spice Garden, Heather – girlichef, Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney, Jeanette – Healthy Living  Mary – One Perfect Bite, Kathleen – Bake Away with Me, Sue – The View from Great Island Barbara – Movable Feasts , Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits, Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen Annie – Most Lovely Things, Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table, Amrita – Beetles Kitchen Escapades
    ~~~~~
    What’s on Alyce’s blog about cooking for one, Dinner Place?

    Pork Tenderloin Salad with Berries and Oranges and a Sherry Vinaigrette

     Thanks for stopping by.


    just for fun, here’s the early video of Delia teaching pastry-making  in the late ’70s.  courtesy BBC                              Bake a new tart, Alyce