Give me a cold day. Any cold day. Let me have time and peace to stir together something that incubates in my oven gently easing its teasing, come-hither aromas throughout the house and drawing near all who enter. Add an entrancing, captivating book waiting for me during that 3-hour parole and I am a happy girl. Ok, include a balanced, but lofty bottle of wine and the deal is sealed.
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.
Last Friday, I taught a class called, DESIGN YOUR OWN WHOLE MEAL SALAD, at First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs. This active church sponsors an excellent Health Ministry with lots of great wellness-promoting features including cooking classes that run from March – October. (If you’d like a copy of the booklet from the class, leave a note in the comments or email me/message me on fb.)
The class consisted of a couple of favorite salads, Salmon Caprese with Asparagus… (shown below in a bit neater variation than my very quick to fix and eat photo above… along with lots of tips, talk, and helps about making salads a weekly mainstay in your house)…
and Israeli Couscous Salad, right below here in all its attendant glory. I do love this salad! Both of them, if the truth be known. I’d like to have nickel for every time I’ve made either one, but especially the couscous. Continue reading
If you follow my blog, you could know I cooked a 50th birthday dinner for my next-door neighbor Mike a couple of weeks ago.
Maybe you made the Blueberry-Strawberry Pie I made him in lieu of cake; Mike is a pie-boy!
I’m not the best pizza maker in the family; that honor goes to my son Sean, who makes the most delicious pizza I’ve ever eaten. Since pizza is my favorite food, that’s saying a lot. So if I can make good pizza at home, anyone can. I’ve taught or made pizza to and with a few folks including parents and kids over the years and they, in turn, have made it with family and friends as it’s a fun group project. It’s simple for the solo cook as well. I made the first grilled pizza I ever saw back in the mid ’80s. And you? Always wanted to make pizza? Frightened off by words like yeast or wood-fire? Have an oven and a rimmed sheet pan? You’re in business, about to eat well, and this post is for you!
Food and health guru, writer Michael Pollan is fond of saying,
“Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.”
While pizza isn’t exactly junk food as it’s often full of good things, it is highly caloric for the nutrition available. It’s also really easy to chow down on it. If you make it yourself, you’ll be careful about how much you eat because you had to make it! Try making the salad first and eating it while the pizza bakes. You’ll eat less pizza. Do include the kids: get them in on the baking; they love to make pizza and you’ll add a great skill to their arsenal of abilities. To say nothing of the positive memories.
This pizza, based on a Tyler Florence recipe, makes 12 or 15 pieces –enough for 4 to 6 people–and goes from start of dough to ready-to-eat in about an hour and a half. Maybe less. The dough recipe makes enough for two pizzas, so you could be prepping a second while the first bakes if you have a crowd. It uses no special equipment like a pizza stone or pizza peel. In fact, if you don’t have a pizza cutter (the little gizmo handle with a spiffy wheel at the end), you are not in trouble; a knife works fine and perhaps better. You’ll need a large bowl, measuring cups and spoons, a saucepan, a jellyroll or half-sheet pan (2 for $8.99 at COSTCO), and a stove with an oven. If you have a standing electric mixer like a Kitchen Aid, that will help make the dough, but if not, your hands and arms will work just as well and you won’t have to lift weights that day. I give directions for both methods. You can also pick up fresh dough from your local pizza place or the grocery store (check refrigerated section), but it’s just as fast and much cheaper to make it.
If you’re not in tonight’s class, try this at home and join us that way:
Space available in next two Thursday night classes: Make Pizza at Home/Stellar Salad (5/21) and Kids Cook! Dinner (5.28) classes. For sign up and more info, click on top right corner link: CURRENT CLASSES. Additionally, I have the Pizza at Home/Stellar Salad open for 2 students only at my house on 5/27. $55./credit $50 cash/check. Includes recipe booklet and wine with dinner!
If you made my Tinfoil Salmon with Buttered Thyme Tomatoes on Brown Rice, or any of my other salmon dishes, and have a piece of salmon leftover, here’s a beautiful way to stretch that salmon to 3 or 4 servings and eat healthy while you’re at it. If you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you’ll know I’m crazy for caprese variations.
When I shop for a few meals, I often try to just buy a few extra things that will build a big salad or a few burritos, a frittata, an omelet, or even sandwiches. I typically buy and cook extra protein just because it’s a. nice to have around and b. I don’t always have time to cook a whole meal every day. Occasionally I’ll throw that extra cooked protein portion in the freezer for emergencies. This time I had grabbed some fresh mozzarella (often marked down in my grocery), tomatoes, basil, and I already had asparagus and kale in the drawer for salad. A ripe avocado blended with vinegar, raw egg yolk, some minced red onion, and a mixture of olive and canola oils gave me an avocado mayonnaise (or perhaps it’s an avocado-red onion aioli?) for a dressing. Try this:
SALMON CAPRESE-KALE SALAD WITH AVOCADO DRESSING or AIOLI
3-4 smaller servings or enough for 2 very hungry people
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped asparagus
- Kosher Salt and Fresh ground pepper
- 1 cup leftover rice and tomatoes, optional
- 3 cups finely chopped kale
- 2 Lemons-1 cut in half for juicing, the other cut into wedges for garnish
- 1 4-6 ounce cooked salmon fillet, skin removed, and sliced into about 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 small tomatoes, sliced thinly
- 1/3 – 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
- Fresh basil leaves
- Avocado mayonnaise or aioli (my recipe below)
1. In a small skillet over medium heat, cook the chopped asparagus in the oil seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper. About half-way through the cooking, add the leftover rice and tomatoes from the original meal if you have them; they’re optional.
2. Meanwhile, add kale in a ring 2-3 inches wide around the perimeter or edges of medium serving dish and squeeze half a lemon over the greens. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
3. Layer salmon slices, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves in a circle around the inside perimeter of the kale ring. Season with a little more salt and pepper over the salmon layer.
4. When asparagus is cooked and rice is hot, spoon into center beginning with rice and topping with asparagus. If using only asparagus, fill the ring as best you can, perhaps squeezing the concentric rings a bit to close any gaps. Squeeze a little more lemon juice over all. Dress with avocado dressing/aioli. Garnish with lemon wedges.
AVOCADO DRESSING OR AIOLI
In a food processor bowl fitted with metal blade, measure 2 tablespoons good-quality white wine vinegar, 2 room-temperature egg yolks, one peeled, seeded, and chopped avocado, a tablespoon or so of minced red onion, and a good pinch each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Blend until very smooth. With machine running, slowly drizzle about 1/4 cup each olive and canola oils until the mixture is well-blended or emulsified. Add a drop or two of hot sauce and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings. You might add a little lemon juice if you like. Use immediately or store, tightly wrapped in fridge for up to one day.
NO FOOD PROCESSOR? Follow this link for food blogger David Lebovitz’ post on making aioli by hand. While you’re there, enjoy all of David’s beautiful and always entertaining recipes, photos, and stories from Paris and elsewhere.
COOK’S NOTE: For Gluten-Free option, please check all purchased items labels for information on gluten.
Sing a new song; make a new salad out of leftovers,
I’m so ready for fall. There I said it. Ach. While the tomatoes are coming on (a good thing), the heat, too, doesn’t want to go away. I long for nights with the windows open and no air-conditioning white-noise drowning out the morning birds and joggers. (Ok, the late night drunks, too; I live in the city.)
Because heat IS NOT MY FAVORITE THING, I’m always glad when cool weather appears. Suddenly I’m cleaning house, working in the yard, roasting chickens, making chili, and generally appearing like I have a bit more energy than the dirty dish rag in the sink. But I do think that because I’m an avid home cook, and a person who loves change, that I only get about half-way through a season before I’m longing for the ingredients and cooking styles of the next. And that’s about where I’m at. The h— with salads and grilled salmon and definitely the h— with white wine. Give me some red meat to cook, for God’s sake. A couple of bottles of Pinot Noir. Let me want a rip-roaring fire. I long to wear a sweatshirt and jeans. I’ve destroyed my summer sandals and shoes cooking in them; it’s time for real leather, isn’t it??? (Isn’t it?)
Tomorrow I’m cooking dinner for the cover artist for my book, the talented Daniel Craig and his lovely wife, the accomplished and beautiful pianist (St. Paul Conservatory) Kim Craig.
|Available Fall, 2013– amazon.com
Dan’s an inventive, top-flight commercial artist, and I thought I’d cook him a steakhouse meal as a thank-you for joining my team. (You feel pretty alone writing a book until you have an editor, designer, and artist.) Just to have Dan to talk to once in a while has been so heart-warming for me. Sharing my little baby with him. Trusting him to “get” my focus. Believing in his abilities–and he in mine. Anyway, I splurged on some Kobe beef, and am making crostini with homemade fresh cheese and grilled tomatoes (with Champagne), traditional Caesar salad, Old-School Twice-Baked Potatoes, Lemon Green Beans, and Tin Roof Sundaes — with homemade sauce as well as homemade ice cream. (I made David Lebovitz’ Salted Butter Chocolate Sauce.) Tin Roofs, you might guess, are Dan’s downfall. And, you knew it, the temperature is supposed to hit 91 degrees F. Insert nastiness of your own making. I’ll share one difficulty: Dan drinks beer or white wine. I’ve got to jump down into my small (but sweet) cellar and see if I have a big, oaky, chewy Chardonnay that will stand up to a steak. I might have ONE Fisher Chard. (Do you know Fisher? Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful California–actually Sonoma, not Napa winery.) Otherwise, I’m putting myself at the mercy of Thomas Liquors. I’ll admit that I’ll open a red for Dave and me. (We are still waiting on some editing and production items before the book goes to press. Hopefully soon!)
|Lemon Green Beans here.|
Today, already up in the ’80s, I’ll admit I was glad to have something cool to pull off for supper–Ina’s Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad. But I sure hope next month’s blog happens with it’s 50 degrees F so I can leave something in oven for a couple of hours. In between, I have to move. So if you’re a once a month reader, you’ll catch me on the flip side living in Colorado full-time again and cooking at-altitude recipes. So 50 degrees–it’s a real possibility!
|Our Colorado front yard (west) in the late fall. In the far distance is Pike’s Peak!|
As this recipe is posted on line, I felt free to re-print it here; I do include the link below. This is a hearty, but heart-healthy salad that could serve as a main dish or a side. If you’re taking it to someone’s house, put it together and dress it when you arrive so the melon doesn’t “melt” around the edges. For Weight Watchers, leave salad plain and let each guest dress their salad. The devil is in the details, i.e. the vinaigrette.
Just for fun, I took this salad outdoors and photographed it in different parts of my garden.
arugula, watermelon, and feta salad
For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup minced shallots (1 large)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
6 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/8 seedless watermelon, rind removed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
12 ounces good feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced
1 cup (4 ounces) whole fresh mint leaves, julienned
Directions: Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to form an emulsion. If not using within an hour, store the vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator. Place the arugula, watermelon, feta, and mint in a large bowl. Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly and toss well. Taste for seasonings and serve immediately.
Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/arugula-watermelon-and-feta-salad-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback
So what did I think: A toothsome journey into a mix of textures –juicy, tender-chewy, crunchy– and ambrosial-briny tastes. While this salad has been around a few years and blocks, I hadn’t made it yet. Dave and I both enjoyed the luscious sweet, liquid watermelon juxtaposed with the citrusy-onion vinaigrette, peppery arugula, and salty feta. With a piece of toasted or grilled bread, perhaps, this would be a whole meal for someone without a huge appetite. Summery, summery contrasts! The more Dave ate this, the better he liked it. While maybe a tad skeptical at the onset, he ate a lot, and ended up saying, “This is definitely my kind of thing!”
What made the difference: Making this salad when Minnesota watermelon was at its peak made a world of difference. I also splurged on Spanish (sheep) feta — a square cut from the larger cheese in brine–and was really happy with the results. Ina’s instruction are to cut things into smaller pieces; I chose the lusher, larger cuts for grins and giggles. Why not? I like big wedges of melon. Instead of tossing the elements in a big bowl, I served the salad composed on a large platter so that the colors showed up a bit more. And, ok, I did use GOOD olive oil, as indicated. In fact, I used Ina’s favorite, Olio Santo. (California), available at Williams-Sonoma. In other words, one of Ina’s primary tenets — use the best ingredients you can afford in season — was proved totally valid. Shop well.
Alyce’s options: Try spinach, goat’s cheese, and cantaloupe in place of the arugula, feta, and watermelon.
If you’d like to try a similar salad of Ina’s that uses Parmesan in place of the feta and skips the orange juice, check here.
more ina??? why not???
Anna Quindlen’s Interview with Ina. (2011) Don’t miss this.
Take a tour of Ina’s barn at House and Beautiful–Fun Slideshow
ALL ABOUT INA FRIDAYS:
The first Friday of the month, food bloggers from many parts of the world join together in posting a favorite Ina recipe. This month we have Salads, Soups and Sides; next month we’re cooking a Main Course.
Stop in and see what all of our fine writers are cooking up today or any day:
- Ansh @ Spice Roots
- Barbara @ Moveable Feasts
- Bhavna @ Just a Girl From AAmchi Mumbai
- Chaya @ Bizzy Bakes
- Linda, @ Tumbleweed Contessa
- Martha @ Simple Nourished Living
- Minnie @ The Lady 8 Home
- Mireya @ My Healthy Eating Habits
- Nancy @ My Picadillo
- Peggy@ Pantry Revisited
- Ria @ Ria’s Collection
- Rocky Mountain Woman @ Rocky Mountain Woman
- Veronica@ My Catholic Kitchen
*Not all writers will blog Ina every week–there’s work, vacation, family–but take a peek anyway.
Are you a food blogger? We’d love to have you every month or even once in a while! Email Alyce @ email@example.com to join the group or link in to join us occasionally (click on blue oval link button at bottom and follow prompts) only if you’re blogging Ina! No other posts, please?!
On my Dinner Place (Cooking for One) Blog This Week:
Grilled Oregano Shrimp Caesar with Tomatoes and Crostini
Sing a new song… and Shanah Tovah! to all our Jewish friends and bloggers,
|Don’t know what to do with chicken? How about cook it?|
I simply don’t know how to do anything without doing it with all my heart. In fact, I don’t. Unless it’s washing sheets (yes, I’ll do it today), cleaning the stairs (twice a week with golden retrievers), driving through construction (not on googlemaps, of course), going to the DMV, shopping for a pair of black pants at Macy’s (How many places could black pants be and how much should I pay?), or picking up the trash folks leave in my yard (the price for living in the city.) I mean, boredom or even half-heartedness is not interesting and I don’t learn or grow from it. Thriving on change is a good way to live. Especially since change is the way things are. The new normal. Change, in fact, is the status quo. Hmm.
So when I look at the stack of chickens in my freezer (Book club friend’s husband has a tie to great organic, free-range poultry and the order just came a couple of weeks ago.) and go, “Oh, no!” I rear my head in disappointment at myself and begin dreaming chicken.
In the oven
On the grill
Poulet au vin blanc (chicken with white wine)
Con poblanos (with green chiles)
Next to asparagus
In the crock pot
Snuggled up in noodles, celery, and onions
In a world where the hungry numbered 925 million in 2010, I am embarrassed that how I cook chicken is even a topic. I do indulge myself on this blog, however, and go on after breathing deeply.
The other night, I just couldn’t come up with anything terribly new and entertaining for chicken (in the summer) and just began throwing the parts into the pan. They’d get done, wouldn’t they? We’d eat, wouldn’t we? But, wait: first the parts should be seasoned very well with salt and pepper. (Leaving out an entrancing snout-full of pepper is what people often do with chicken. And it’s pale and insipid and oh, you fill in the blank. Same for salt. Poultry HAS to be well-seasoned, whatever you choose to do it with. Particularly if you’re eating it as is or the poultry is of the very inexpensive sort.) And, oh, let’s roll into the pan some fragrant olive oil if we’re just cooking it any which old way.
As this what-the-hell supper began to cook, here’s what it looked like:
You know the drill; you have the picture. Well, I don’t know what you do with yours, but I’m not standing there watching chicken cook. I had other fish to fry. (Right.) After it browned well on both sides (a good 5-7 minutes each side over medium-high heat), I threw that sucker in the oven to finish cooking for another 20-25 minutes or so:
And wondered what else was for dinner. Just like you. A quick bang of the pantry and frig doors showed pasta, rice, capers, carrots, yellow squash, celery, lemon, and feta. On the counter were onions and garlic because in Alyce’s kitchen, God (and a gardening neighbor) is good and those things are always there. A glass full of basil sat at the sink. Mint’s in a pot next to the tub of rosemary (that needed water so badly it looked like a Christmas tree in January) outside my backdoor. And because there’s a difference between eating and enjoying the meal with my husband, I began to grab pots, knives, cutting board, and so on. It soon appeared that an orzo salad was coming together as orzo cooks quickly and is a great home for savory and piquant additions. And oh how I love olives! with orzo and feta. No olives, though, more’s the pity. Capers would have to suffice unless I wanted to sprint to the store during rush hour. Probably not. Before the chicken was done, the salad was ready:
So you have the idea of the chicken. Season well, brown throughly on both sides, and finish in a moderate (350 F) oven until quite browned and juices run clear or thermometer registers 165 F. Unsure about temperatures, read the USDA guidelines–very simple. While the chicken is in the oven, cook the orzo and chop the veg and cheese. While this chicken with an orzo salad isn’t an instant meal, it’s fairly quick and hits the major food groups in a tasty way. And, hey! There would be leftovers for lunch. Yum leftovers. Who isn’t, after all that, glad to reach in the frig and pull out a piece of chicken come noon?
Take the time to season this baby (the orzo salad) lovingly. It takes a bit of thought, and trial/error, but you can go from “Yeah, that’s ok” to “Wow!” with attention, care, and a bit of knowledge. Generally the wow factor comes from one of these:
The best ingredients you can find
Thorough, but not over-seasoning
Use fresh herbs (usually at the very end before serving)
Appropriate addition of acid (in this case lemon juice)
If you’re unsure, take a small portion, add the questionable ingredient and try it. See if that’s going to make the difference. Take three small portions and try three techniques…which do you like? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by this process. So here’s how I did it this time:
Alyce’s Orzo Salad on That Day (amounts are approximate) Serves 4 (as does a whole chicken)
1 cup uncooked orzo
1/2 cup each chopped finely diced carrots or cucumber, and yellow squash
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic smashed and finely minced (or more to taste)
2T minced red onion
2T ea chopped fresh mint and basil
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
Pinch of oregano
1T capers (or a small handful of chopped kalamata olives)
1/2 t grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and pepper to taste (try just a bit of salt at first as capers and feta are salty)
Big pinch of crushed red pepper
1T white or red wine vinegar
3T extra virgin olive oil, divided (You’ll use some to flavor the hot orzo and some later for dressing.)
Juice of half a lemon
Optional: Top with 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts
- Cook orzo according to package directions and drain well. Pour the orzo into a mixing bowl and stir in 1 T of the olive oil. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Add vegetables (including garlic and onions), feta, herbs, oregano, capers or olives, and lemon zest. Stir well.
- Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Taste and reseason.
- Sprinkle with vinegar and stir. Drizzle in other two tablespoons of olive oil and stir again. Add tomatoes and nuts, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Squeeze lemon over all.
- Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. Store leftovers in refrigerator, tightly covered, for 2-3 days.
Another cook might have added finely chopped fennel, marinated artichokes, green peppers, jicama….and so on.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
It isn’t quite the last rose of summer (above), but there are moments, despite the heat, that I want to run to each flower and smell each one up close while I can. I bravely planted some new things last week near the perennial hibiscus in my corner garden. I’ll show you when they bloom. (Please bloom.)
What else I’m cooking:
I’m considering some new recipes for those who are in the healing process or need softer meals:
|A lovely butternut (and other) squash soup with thyme for garnish.|
A healthier, chock-full of stuff zucchini bread is in the works and you’ll read about it here first.
|Whole wheat zucchini bread with dried cherries, raisins, nuts and bits of dark chocolate for your heart.|
About the house:
|And will it look like this again? Guess so.|
I am finally getting my house to make sense nearly three months after the moving truck arrived. While the kitchen, bedrooms and dining room quickly fell into place (though bedding and tablecloths still seem to be in short supply), the living room defied taming. A small, but pleasant light teal room that has a 3-season porch attached and boasts a bright, clean piano window (Thanks to my friend, Chris Brown:), it just made me shake my head (read that want to puke) whenever I took the time to look at it. Now my living room, unlike some, is in constant use. I often work at home and am at the piano or on the couch (with the good lamp) reading and studying. I run between the pots in the kitchen to the hymnal on the stand to the computer to write and I need that room to not only be comfortable, but to be feng shuied mighty fine. I nurse a glass of wine in there while enjoying the Sunday New York Times sometimes in the evening. (I never get it done on Sundays.) I sit and read while Dave naps with his head on my lap. The dogs have their favorite spot on the wool rug. To say nothing of sharing a cup of coffee with a friend. But the room had its own ideas about itself and it wanted to be tilted in the direction of what appeared to be a huge (it is) piano and a squeezed in sofa with two chairs nearly on top of one another in the corner with a beautiful table that cried, “Get rid of me. I’m too crowded.” It made my lip curl like Elvis and my brow crease like Bruce Willis when he’s in a real tight place. I said nasty stuff about my furniture. Talked about paying designers. Wrote friends who WERE designers. Hemmed and hawed. (What is hemmed and hawed?)
|They aren’t concerned about what color the walls are; they just want to be together. Rightly so. Love dogs!|
Our physical selves often mimic our emotional or spiritual circumstances and, in this case, it was exactly so. (Thanks to old friend Rev. Virginia Memmott for knowing that.) As long as I hithered and thithered and dithered about the move, living in Minnesota , the hot summer, our Colorado house, the need for a job, etc, I couldn’t settle down enough to “see” how things had to be.
|Living room the day the truck arrived|
One day last week, after receiving word of my new choir director job at Prospect Park United Methodist (Come sing!), I just walked in there, started moving stuff, called Dave down to pound nails in the walls for artwork, and found a way for that room to be arranged that not only made sense, but was downright charming. After a day or so, I also saw that the light had changed. The walls were more awake and you could read more easily as the sun was now in its late August position. No more cave feeling. And I like it. And so there, room. And, while it’s still hot outdoors, my eyes fall upon space that is welcoming, comfortable, and full of the things I love. I didn’t have to go buy all new furniture or consign the art; I just had to give myself time to breathe and want the space to work. Thanks, God.
|A bit more welcoming, huh?|
Below: Late hostas blooming on the east side of the house. In other places, leaves are falling and the acorns crunch underfoot. The acorns are even falling on the patio table that sits below a maple tree. Now there IS an oak tree in the yard next door. And somehow the acorns are moving from the oak to the maple and falling on us during dinner.
Sing a new song,
While food trends wax and wane (Remember cupcakes?), I never-ha!-fall into the kitschy traps other foodies do. I did make gingerbread cupcakes for Super Bowl a couple of years ago, but I would have done that anyway. And you aren’t reading about pork belly here, though I’ve nothing against it. But I fall off the wagon a bit about bacon. While I am definitely NOT a bacon fanatic (and it’s on menus in quite odd places), my husband definitely IS. But he has been a bacon fanatic since Eisenhower was president.
His favorite movie moment is in “Grumpier Old Men,”
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,