Home gardening in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains is occasionally a joy, but more often a frustration. While gardening is surely those things everywhere, with about 16 inches of precipitation per year in our area (let’s compare it to Williamsburg, Virginia with 48 inches), it’s not only hard to grow anything, it’s sometimes impossible. Very little grows without irrigation and by the time you add sprinkler systems and pay for water, it’s surely easier and certainly less expensive to simply buy what you need. Continue reading
|Hot Spiced Cider with or without Rum (Pum Pum Pum)|
An afternoon open house is the perfect party … No main course. Everyone’s gone by dinner time… And folks show up because other commitments are for evening. Few dishes to wash. Food that’s easy to prepare ahead. Your goal: everything out and ready for guests to help themselves. Your reward: To be able to enter your own party!
|Ginger cookies, Chocolate Snowballs, Date bars–Made ahead and frozen|
A couple of perfect festive drinks (Sparkler and Hot Cider), as well as a pot of strong coffee and some thick cream (for those who must dunk cookies or are heading to a serious evening party), make set-up much easier than a cocktail or dinner party. People come dressed comfortably. Yes.
|A festive few dishes and a candle or two. Not much more needed.|
Your best cookies, a couple of great nibbles…Always vegetables…A bit of cheese-
|Lots of vegetables–some fresh, some grilled. Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts|
Something they’ll remember later…like my taste-like-jelly-filled-donut shortbread sandwiches:
|Crowded is ok. They’ll come and go.|
All set up ahead leaves time for visiting and listening to the great Christmas playlist you put together for the party. Everything from Revels to Tony Bennett to Harry Connick, Jr. to Cambridge Singers.
Something filling for those who skipped lunch. Here, a great tapenade. Don’t skimp on the olives; buy the best you can find. Grill your sliced baguette on the stove if it’s too cold outside.
|Spicy Tapenade with Crostini|
Spanish Cava is a lovely, inexpensive sparkler. Whatever’s leftover can be used for New Year’s or for
mimosas for brunch. There’s usually a discount if you buy a case. Think ahead.
|Cava and Cranberries. Back-up bottles all chilled in the frig.|
|Leave flutes set up with cranberries and folks will pour the sparkler over them.|
|David Lebovitz famous Pretzel and Nut Mix. No Chex Mix needed.|
Something crunchy is a must. Nuts, pretzels, chips…for the salty people.
My take on Eli Zabar’s shortbread recipe..Bittersweet chocolate and sea salt.. I like Valrhona chocolate for dipping, but could only find Callebaut locally this year. Makes excellent hot chocolate, too, by the way if you’ve any leftover from dipping. Valrhona is French chocolate; Callebaut is made in many places, but is basically Belgian-French in origin.
*Hot Cider with or without Rum (I leave the rum plainly marked in a pitcher on counter.)
*Pot of strong coffee and Hot Water for tea. The best cream you can find. Lemon, sugar.
*Cava (or your favorite bubbly)–Add a couple of fresh cranberries to the $1. glasses
*Cookies–4 of your favorites. Homemade or beg from friends-even buy at great bakery.
*Garlicky Rosemary Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts and Lots of Veggies (Recipe below)
*Spicy Tapenade and Crostini (Grilled Bread) – Recipe Below
*Cranberry Almond Bars with Tangerine —You must have chocolate. Make it yourself.
*Alyce’s Go Nuts! Salty, hot, and sweet pecans. Great protein.
*David Lebovitz Pretzel and Nut Mix–gotta have something that crunches.
Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts
12 oz goat’s cheese (chevre), softened
32 oz (4 c) ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon
Hot sauce- a few drops
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
2T fresh dill, minced (Can choose just one herb if you like.)
2T fresh basil chiffonade
2T fresh chives, minced
1T fresh thyme, chopped (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
1T fresh Rosemary, finely minced
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper (or more to taste)
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/4 cup sweet red pepper, diced
Place all ingredients except garnishes in the food processor and pulse until well-blended. Taste and readjust seasoning. If making the day before, the garlic will settle down a lot overnight in the frig. Store in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Spoon into serving bowl and garnish with pine nuts, peppers, and sprigs of rosemary Serve with fresh vegetables or crackers. If too thick, add a few drops of milk and stir well before serving.
Spicy Tapenade (Basic recipe courtesy Tyler Florence)
Generous pinch of crushed red pepper
Tiny pinch ea kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
This week, we’re buying a few small gifts, making a vat of barbequed brisket, going to a choir party, taking some friends out to dinner and to a Rose Ensemble concert, baking a manger scene (yes!) and stollen, watching every Christmas movie we can, and picking up my sister at the airport. Emily and I are getting our hair done together tomorrow, so we’ll be all cleaned up for the whole deal. Work is slowing down, though I still have a couple of pieces to rehearse and direct. Probably need to get that Rutter out and practice! Dave’s week will be intense and then crawl, alternately….as co-workers world-wide try to get ready for Dell’s week-long break, but still make time for Christmas parties.
We’ll be at church on Christmas Eve, of course…it’s my favorite service. If there’s time, we’ll stop by a couple of open houses, but we’ll come home to cookies and eggnog in the wee early hours of Christmas morning and fall into bed to listen for the sleigh bells.
Christmas Day is a different story:
|Last year’s Christmas Day rolled flank steak with roasted tomatoes.|
|Christmas Day. Toys, movies, the pups.|
|Gabby and Tuck have been good all year, but they’re still worried there’ll be nothing in their stockings.
Maybe there are others with the same fears….
|courtesy Share Our Strength|
Want to feed some kids before the end of 2011?
No Kid Hungry this Holiday Season
With your help this holiday season, we can connect hungry children with nutritious meals all year long! Every $1 you donate to Share Our Strength helps connect a child with up to 10 meals. Through December 31, our No Kid Hungry Partners are matching the first $500,000 donated during the holiday season. Click here to donate.
Merry Days to you! Do the fun things.
If you have a yard surrounded by old lilacs, spring is a good time for a dinner party.
And, if it’s spring, it’s a good time for Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta).
And, if it’s time for Pasta Primavera, it’s a good time for pink wine. French rosé. Or Oregon rosé.
You needn’t be picky about the wine, though it must be dry and young (2010). It shouldn’t cost much–not more than $15 and often much less. Just make sure you have enough. A variety of choices would be a kind gesture to both you and your guests.
And if you were really loving that day, you might make an appetizer platter of tapenade and local goat’s cheese blended with fresh basil and grated lemon rind. Some proscuitto and tiny tomatoes make the plate.
The rosé will be quite stunning with that goat’s cheese. Promise.
I’m sold lately on lemon ice cream. In fact, it’s a perfect solution to dessert.
|Picture taken later after the ice cream had been in the freezer.|
I used a recipe from epicurious. com (Gourmet, 1993), though I didn’t use as much sugar. I thought 2/3 c was plenty and it was. The brightness and/or sourness of the lemon can easily be overwhelmed by too much sugar. (Click on the purple recipe.) Note that the mixture must be made ahead, cooked briefly, chilled very well, and have more half and half added right before freezing.
About the Primavera... you could look up twenty recipes for Primavera and they’d all be different, except that they should all have spring vegetables of some sort (leeks, ramps, scallions, peas, asparagus, baby greens, fennel, etc.). If you go to the farmer’s markets now (when you think there’ll be nothing), you should find some spring vegetables. If not, pick up your favorites at the grocery and use those.
|A gorgeous fennel bulb..use the fronds for garnish. There’s a core here much like in cabbage. Cut it out and slice the fennel into half moons.|
|Fresh pea shoots–leaves, shoots, and tendrils from pea plants. Yummy greens.|
The basic directions (serves 4) that would include your choice of vegetables would look like this (and I don’t think the Primavera police are out tonight if you want to change the process):
|Ramps–quite like scallions|
1. Bring a big pot of salted, peppered, and herbed pasta water to a boil. (Fresh herbs only–parsley, if it’s all you have. Parsley’s a perfect herb and quite nutritious.) Lower the heat to low until you need the water in a few minutes. That is, unless you’ve timed it perfectly. Ha.
2. Meantime, in a large, deep skillet, saute in a tablespoon of olive oil a half cup of sliced something(s) from the onion family: scallions, leeks, ramps (kind of like green onions…sort of between them and lilies of the valley), a mixture…even a bit of garlic, though just a bit–say 1 clove, minced. I would include fennel here (another half cup if you have it) as it requires a similar cooking time. Do not brown these vegetables, just cook until softened. A shake of salt and pepper wouldn’t come wrong here. Remove them from the pan and reserve.
3. Add a bit more oil, heat it to medium-high, and cook a cup of freshly sliced mushrooms for three or four minutes until golden. They needn’t be –though they could be!–expensive; button mushrooms will do. Don’t salt them til later. Do, however, add a tablespoon or so of fresh chopped herbs to them and pepper it all lightly. (I like marjoram, but rosemary or thyme is so good, too.) Remove them from the pan and add to the onion mixture. Note: Like meat, you must leave mushrooms unmoved for best browning. Don’t stir until well-browned on one side. Watch closely!
4. A little more oil, medium heat, and cook 1/2 cup each new peas (or frozen if you can’t find new), chopped asparagus, chopped haricots verts (very slim green beans), even a bit of zucchini or yellow squash sliced thinly–despite the fact that they are summer vegetables. We’ll let you slide by with it. After they’ve cooked a couple of minutes, add 1T cup each of your favorite fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, etc.) and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper. Throw in the onion-mushroom mixture, taste and adjust seasoning, and set aside. These vegetables should be just barely done…not crunchy like a salad, but not granny-done, either.
5. Cook your pound of pasta as directed (10 minutes for dried thin noodles like spaghetti or linguine…just a few minutes for fresh), drain it and add it the vegetables. Mix well. I do not believe in the ubiquitious addition of pasta water here.
6. If desired, a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of very fresh ricotta can be included here, as well as 1/2c-1 c fresh baby greens (pea shoots, baby spinach, watercress…). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Good cold, too.)
7. Pass Parmesan (you’ll need 1-2 cups grated), chopped parsley, cherry tomatoes (heirlooms are tasty), and white pepper at the table.
Alternatively, and much more quickly, you might try this method for ease of preparation: Bring a 10-12 qt (2/3 full) pot of well-seasoned water to boil; add 1 lb pasta and cook 7-8 minutes. Throw in peas, chopped asparagus, chopped green beans, etc. and continue cooking 2 more minutes. Drain well and drizzle with olive oil. Add a handful of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, etc.), 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 c sliced green onions. If you like ricotta, and have some, stir in 1/2-1 cup. Season quite liberally with salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Serve hot and pass a generous bowl of Parmesan and a grinder for black pepper around the table.
|Nothing like fresh ricotta.|
This is a fun meal to make if you like interactive dinners. Have each guest bring their favorite vegetable, cleaned and chopped. Someone who doesn’t cook can bring a couple of different rosés. Let a strong person grate the cheese, a detail-oriented friend supervise the pasta, and definitely get a wino to make sure everyone tastes all the wines. The ice cream can be put into the freezer (if it’s a small one) when you sit down to dinner.
If you’re a fan of Mark Bittman (NYT), as am I, here’s a link to his recent take (and ideas for variations) on Primavera, which he contends is American. Who am I to argue with Mark Bittman? Mr. Bittman also has ideas for pastas that, since they require fewer ingredients (and seldom meat), are pretty inexpensive. Which is always good.
Well–all that said:
It’s spring. The flowers are in bloom. Sit outdoors if it’s not too cold. Put spring flowers on the table and think loving thoughts.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
The house is still in process, but crystal is in the china cabinet, boxes are out of the living room, and I am walking, gardening, and practicing again.
|I must be home. The cream soups are here.|
|House being prepared for paint.|
|St. Paul Farmer’s Market Scallions|
|Made rhubarb pie yesterday…may blog it! From…|
|Farmer’s market rhubarb.|
|Flowers at the market downtown–a fine way to spend Saturday morning.|
|Our side yard (south)|
|Front yard tree.|
|Our house from the north.|
|Our driveway garden becoming a jungle.
I’m planting herbs, columbines, tomatoes, impatiens, pansies, alyssum…and looking for more light in the yard!
Happy Spring as you sing a new song, my friends!
1T olive oil
1/4 c red onion, chopped coarsely
1 stalk celer, minced
Kernels from 2 ears of corn, cut from the cob
1 eggplant, grilled and chopped into 1/2 ” pieces
2t jalapeno, very finely minced indeed
1/2 medium zucchini, chopped into 1/2 ” pieces
3T mixed fresh herbs (you could use one or many; I used marjoram, oregano, rosemary, parsley and tarragon)
In a very large skillet, heat oil and add onion. Saute for several minutes until wilted. Add everything else but the herbs and, stirring frequently, cook for about 10 or 12 minutes until vegetables are softened, but still holding their shape. Garnish with any fresh herbs and serve hot, warm, at room temp or cold the next day.
Dessert? Oh, it’s Colorado peach time!
This was Friday and Saturday night dessert. David Lebovitz’ Vanilla Frozen Yogurt and Colorado Peaches.
Two-Dog Kitchen and/or Around the Hood
I’ve started a new interim job at The Church at Woodmoor, a non-denominational church up in Monument, Colorado. I’m directing the choir through Advent. Come visit! Worship is 10am.
Skippy’s here this weekend.
Skippy trying to get into the Pinot glass cabinet
I never tire of the SILVER PALATE cookbook. In fact, I recently saw a perfect hardback copy at a used bookstore and snatched it up to put away for when my paperback copy -almost 30 years old-dies. Or for when one of my children or good friends loves something I’ve made and I want to hand them their own copy. My bent-paged, tattered covered, stained, smeared, and spilled-upon copy is one of the loves on my cookbook shelf. Within are notes, memories of special times, thoughts, re-writes (heavier salt back then and more ingredients available now), dreams, and just plain stuff that is still fun to look at and/or cook. Written back when women were just seriously beginning to need a reason to not cook (actually that’s when the shop hit it big in NY), it hit the market with a big keBANG and, I think, opened up a whole world to a whole lotta people. Funny, huh?
Think of it. My cookbookshelf before 1980. Julia. James. Betty Crocker. Joy. Galloping Gourmet. I think there were Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping books my mom threw in when I got married. I had a recipe box with 4×6 cards and I was a lot better off than many friends who had 3×5 cards. GOURMET. BON APPETIT. I had those. When I could afford them.
People cooked from newspapers and church cookbooks. A lot. More often, people cooked from scraps of paper quickly scribbled while you visited someone else and wanted a copy of a recipe they had made. Or, as with my Aunt Marie (Dad’s sister), you sat and wrote recipes while she talked. That’s how I got my grandma’s pound cake recipe. I never met my grandma; she died about 1938. Thank God for my Aunt Marie’s memory. Thank God for my mom’s memory because the imprints in my mind of watching her cook were of the times she cooked out of her head. Were there copy machines? Sure, but only in offices or libraries. And, if you did copy something onto that filmed sort of paper, what did you do with that piece of paper? If you were a very organized person or a secretary by profession, you might have punched them and put them in a 3-ring binder with your other typed recipes. Big if. I met one person like that in my life. And I cooked. People didn’t really have typewriters until (or if) they went to college, and those were wretched machines. If you wanted to type seriously you used the IBM at work after hours. If, by chance, you worked.
I thought I had truly made it to heaven food-wise when I made Sheila Lukins’ Cream of Asparagus Soup out of SILVER PALATE. One of the first times, it was the day before my daughter Sarah’s baptism (86) and I was cooking for a big celebration. My sister Helen, who flew in for the occasion, was serving as both sous chef and dish washer. Not for the first or last time. It wasn’t just a celebration of Sarah and her blessed baptism in Spokane, Washington, but it was also a celebration at having another live child. In 1978, God was good indeed and we had our first lovely boy, Sean. In 1979, I had had a miscarriage. In 1982, our daughter Elizabeth died—–SIDS–on July 20. In March of 1984, our son Ryan was stillborn. 9 pounds 2 ounces. Sarah, an adopted child, was one who might escape our run of horrific luck and live. Our families came. We cooked. We laughed. We bought a beautiful white dress and shoes. We celebrated. We went to church and laughed. Came home and ate. And what we ate was from the SILVER PALATE COOKBOOK! Cream of Asparagus Soup. Chicken Marabella. Things that later became very famous, indeed.
And Sarah lived.
Over the interim years, I’ve made that soup many times in many variations. I’ve switched the veg to broccoli and added parmesan. I’ve made it cold and I’ve made it hot. It’s been in paper bowls and china bowls. It’s been a starter and it’s been a main course. It’s been cooked for invalids and small children who don’t like vegetables, but who will eat this soup. This year, it’s in sweet, tiny cream soup bowls Dave bought me for our 36th wedding anniversary last week; he had to buy them used. (Below @ Margarita at Pine Creek dinner to celebrate!)
Our friends Susan and Charles came to dinner last weekend; I made nicoise. (Above at their son’s wedding-Charles is hidden)
Summer ‘cueing is one of Dave’s favorite things, I’d guess. Perhaps it’s one of mine, too. I escape some of the main dish cooking (I don’t know from grill-), though I have to come with menus. I’m sure some husbands will come up with words like,
“I would really like ________________for dinner,”
but not my husband. He exercises his right to choose in restaurants and not even always there. Often, I’ll be torn between one entree and another. To make sure I get to taste both, he’ll order one of them and let me order the other. I know. He’s quite a guy.
Eat this, not that.
Dave and His Ribs and Thighs serves 6-8 or 4 really hungry folks
2 racks of pork spareribs and 4 turkey thighs
Rub is Memphis Shake from Food Network Kitchens GET GRILLING–we doubled it
6 T brown sugar
4 T dried oregano
4T granulated garlic
2T ancho (we used chipotle) chili powder
4t kosher salt
2t celery salt
Leave rib racks whole and rub all ribs and turkey thighs well with rub. Refrigerate 2 hours.
Light grill and heat to medium-low (about 250 F). Lay out ribs , evenly spaced, and cover. Cook for about 1.5 hours hours, turning occasionally. Meantime, make sauce and French potato salad (below). Add thighs to grill and continue grillin for another 1.5 hours or so until thighs register 170 F on instant-read themometer. Apply sauce over ribs and thighs with a brush the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.
Sauce: (GET GRILLING, PAGE 218)
makes 2 quarts
4 T canola oil
12 cloves garlic, smashed
4T tomato paste
2T chili powder
2 T paprika (we used smoked)
2t crushed red pepper
1/2 t allspice -ground
Double pinch ground cloves
4 c ketchup
4 c water
1 c cider vinegar
1/2 c molasses
1/2 c brown sugar
2T kosher salt
2T soy sauce
1T plus 1t dried mustard (like Coleman’s
2t freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
Heat oil in a large saucepan.Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, paprika, red pepper, allspice, cloves and cook for 3 min until paste is dark and thick. Add the ketchup, water, vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, soy, Worcestershire, mustard, black pepper, and bay leaf. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the flavors come together, about 30 min. Remove and discard bay leaves before using.
French Potato and Vegetable Salad with Mustard-Tarragon Dressing
1/2# (24 oz or 9-10 medium) red potatoes–cut larger ones into halves or fourths
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, sprig of tarragon (to flavor water)
1/2# fresh asparagus, chopped
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-1″ pieces (could use yellow squash)
1/2 ea medium sweet yellow and red peppers (any color combination fine)
1 c broccoli florets, cut into 1/2″-1″ pieces
1/2 small red onion, chopped finely (4-5 tablespoons)
5 spring onions (white and green fine) sliced thinly
Dressing (see below–make while potatoes cook)
In a 4 or 6 qt small stockpot, place potatoes and just cover with water. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper and a sprig of tarragon (or 1/2 t dried). Bring to a boil, lower heat a bit to keep from boiling over, and cook for about 12-15 minutes, until almost, but not quite, tender. (Make dressing. and set aside.) Add asparagus, zucchini and broccoli for the last few minutes. When potatoes are done, pour all into a colander in the sink and immediately pour back into pot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour 1/2-3/4 of the dressing over the hot vegetables. Add the chopped fresh sweet peppers, reserving 2T for garnish. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle with chopped spring onions and garnish with the reserved chopped yellow and orange peppers and a sprig of tarragon. Serve warm, at room temp, or cold.
1 clove of garlic, crushed and minced or grated
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
3T white wine vinegar (I like Chardonnay, but any will do.)
9T extra-virgin olive oil (the best you have for this salad)
1/2 t kosher salt and 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
2 drops hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1T chopped fresh tarragon (plus 2 extra sprigs, one for potato water and one for garnish) or 1 t dried
In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, mustard and vinegar. Slowly add olive oil, whisking with all the time or after every addition. Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce and tarragon. Whisk until well-emulsified. Store in a covered jar so you can shake the dressing right before each use.