FFwD: Spiced Carrots~

30 12 2010

My recipe selection this week was Dorie’s spiced carrots.   I fixed carrots with something else recently, and kicked myself for not fixing these…they were on the list, and I wanted a slightly sweet, slightly spicy contrast side dish.  Which is what I wanted again today.  A slightly sweet, slightly spicy side, to offset the saltiness of the ham and the creaminess of the au gratin potatoes.

The ingredient list is short, as is the prep…you’ll need carrots, onion, garlic, fresh ginger root, cardamom pods and chicken broth.  Oh, and a bit of butter, salt and white pepper.  This was my first experience using cardamom… I may be hooked.  I’m definitely studying it a little more now…especially since I’ve already invested in the whole jar of cardamom pods!

Tasting Notes~
The carrots get some sweetness from the ginger and the onions, but could benefit from careful cooking to caramelize them just a bit.  If you have the patience.  I was ready to eat as soon as the liquid evaporated and we had a butter sauce! LOL!  This might cook better in a covered skillet…  I’m just thinking that everything cooked just fine, but I didn’t cover the pan, and I cooked for 15 minutes, and still had a lot of liquid to cook off.  My carrots were stacked up in a saucepan.  I was thinking about how to spread them out more for caramelization…just a little color and sweetness…  As they were, they were completely delightful and quite easy to fix.  This could be a really nice “go to” sliced carrot recipe!

Happy New Year!!
As we close out another year, I thank you for dancing along this culinary path with me.  Every year I meet new folks and learn about new groups, and discover new cookbooks to explore.  Thank you dear Kayte…without your influence I wouldn’t have met Dorie, or Nick, or have 5 minute healthy artisan bread.  *giggle*  I love them all.  Thank you sweet Angela…Italian is at least a weekly visit, oftentimes twice a week.  When I say “pasta” my husband no longer cringes, but says, “What did you have in mind?”  You also introduced me to Giuliano Hazan…thank you so much! LOL!  Natashya…from cooking with Tyler on Fridays I met Deb, and have increased my reading.  What a joy that’s been!  Shari…you started it all when you “whisked” me off my feet and took me to LCB at Home.  Thank you dear, courageous Lady.  It’s been about 2 years now…maybe more…and it’s been a wonderful journey that I look forward to continuing, because I love learning!


Thirty Minute Thursday: Bucatini al Amatriciana

29 12 2010

First off, let me start out by welcoming my friend Kayte of Grandma’s Kitchen Table to TMT!!  So far we’ve cooked LCB French, Marcella Hazan Italian, and any number of other happy goodies across the miles with each other.  I’m tickled to have Kayte join in…these recipes are easy enough to teach her college bound son!   This week Kayte made Linguine with a pink shrimp sauce.  It looks as wonderful as I know it was!

My dish for the week is Bucatini all Amatriciana, which is a Roman dish made with spicy red peppers in the sauce.

The list of ingredients is short…onion, butter, red pepper flakes, pancetta, tomato, freshly grated cheese and bucatini.   I made this dish for Cooking Italy once too.  I loved the sauce, but I couldn’t find bucatini at the time, and bucatini is an experience in and of itself!  LOL!

Bucatini is a really different pasta.  It’s really long, about 24 inches, I’d say, and has a hollow center.  It’s not as hollow as rigatoni or penne, it’s got a tiny hole in the center.  However, as the hot pasta begins to cool, it creates a vacuum, and the sauce is pulled into the center of the pasta.  Do be ready for this pasta to take a while longer to cook though.  The deeper the pot of boiling water the better with this pasta as well.

Tasting Notes~
I was afraid the pasta would be kind of chewy, but it wasn’t.  It was pleasantly tender without being soggy or too chewy.  The big surprise was how the sauce got all the way into the center of the pasta.   I was a little heavy handed with the red pepper flakes this time.  It wasn’t bad, it was just a little spicier than I usually make it.  Although the recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, don’t hesitate to use a good canned variety.  I used the tomatoes I canned during the summer.

FFwD: Beef Daube and Spiced Nuts~

24 12 2010

One of the recipe selections for December is Dorie’s “Go to Beef Daube,” which is basically a take on braised beef with what you choose to put with it.  Dorie chose carrots and parsnips, so that’s what we have in ours as well.  You can find the recipe in her book, Around My French Table.  This recipe is unique in that it calls for an entire bottle of a fruity red wine (a syrah was recommended) for braising.

Tasting Notes~
My own beef stew is hearty and full of thick gravy and vegetables, so I won’t be converting anytime soon, HOWEVER…  If you ran across a recipe challenge where you wanted to showcase a particular red wine, this would be the recipe to work with.  The recipe is solid and tasty.  I’d like to see what happens if it were left to marinate overnight…just for my own curiosity.  We enjoyed it as a stew with hot bread one night, and then converted it to Mexican shredded beef for tacos for a second go round by adding some red chili sauce and cumin.

Another of the selections for the month is Spiced Nuts:

These little nibbles couldn’t be easier to make, and they’d be hard to mess up.  It was only after I was well into the process that I realized I didn’t have chili powder.  Chilies, yes…chili powder…no.  I know that’s as hard for you to imagine as it was for me! LOL! So…I grabbed some fajita seasoning (it’s got chili powder in it…along with other seasonings) and added an extra pinch of cayenne pepper and a bit of extra sugar because the fajita seasoning also had salt in it…a little paprika as well…then the cinnamon…like I said…can you foul this up, really?  Could anything be much easier to mix up either?  Goodness!  I was trying to envision this…but it was so much easier than what I conjured up in my mind’s eye!  I selected pecan halves, raw Spanish peanuts and natural almonds for my mixture.   The nuts toast perfectly in the oven.

Tasting Notes~
Oh…these are nasty!  It’s hard to eat just one!  I can see that these little nibbles could easily find their way into a holiday repertoire!  A vellum cone of these little treats tied up with a bow and you’ve got a hot-sweet-spicy-salty snack that begs you to eat more-more-more!  As I mentioned, using raw, un-roasted nuts isn’t a problem, as they roast and toast nicely in the oven during the drying process.  The crust melts and forms a really yummy coating on the nuts that hardens nicely as the nuts cool.  Keep in a tightly closed container until the nuts disappear…I’m thinking they’ll be gone by the day after Christmas.  They’re just too addictive!  In my humble opinion, this is another good reason to purchase Around My French Table!  Definitely a “keeper” recipe!!

Shhhh…I’m sneaking back to the kitchen…

Behind the Kitchen Scenes~

19 12 2010

I’m finally off work and can begin to catch up on the things that have been going on.  This is a shot of the stage and emcee’s podium for the concert this year.  You can’t see the snowflakes hanging above the chorus or the audience in this shot, nor the foyer, but there was plenty of snow falling!  LOL!  The podium came out pretty well.

Yes…it was hand painted…every single “brick.”  Was.  Past-tense.  History.  But it was worth it!  It was totally different from anything we’ve ever done…  I think the emcee was afraid I was going to ask him to wear a Santa suit though.  He didn’t even talk to me that night! LOL!

In between other things, the weather has been changeable… Decently pretty one day, soaking and cold the next…Freezing somewhere along the way just for a fun surprise.  That means we’ve had some juggling with the various outside animals, to keep them relatively comfy.  Here awhile back, someone mentioned that they’d like to see my hens…so here in all their glory are my chookies…

This is my little flock.  The two black hens are Silver Cuckoo Marans and lay “Large” very dark brown eggs, sometimes referred to as chocolate brown eggs.  Their names are Crooked Beak and Henny-Penny.   The feather-footed “bantams” were adopted from Horse Plus Humane Society before they experienced the dog attack.  I wasn’t planning to get a rooster…but this fellow is pretty mellow and certainly serves his purpose by herding his ladies in when it’s night-fall.  His “crow” is so quiet and mellow that it’s no trouble at all.  We rarely hear it, so we know the neighbors aren’t annoyed by it either.  We call him “Roo” and the hen hasn’t found her name yet.  We also haven’t had any eggs from her that we’re aware of.  Since her comb is such a pale pink, I doubt that she’s laying right now.  That’s ok.  The other two girls are keeping us well supplied right now.  They have a support light in their hen house, partially for heat, and so we continue to have eggs.  Don’t worry…they both took a good vacation during the summer months.  We didn’t get eggs for about 2 months.

Here’s an example of how the topography of my land changes with just a bit of rain… The shot above is in the summer…nice and dry…

This shot is after the first Fall rain…a little mucky, but not desperately bad.   This drained off quickly and dried out because the sun came out.  And then December came…and with it…R A I N… The rain has caused us to scramble a bit.  The mud, combined with a couple of freezing nights (which causes the soil to spread and accept more water even more deeply) has happily turned to severe muck…not good for a horse’s feet.  Last Saturday morning, I made the executive decision that Willow had to be moved, while we had a break in the weather. 

Fabulous decision!  Within mere days, the rain came in and decided to stay…for days and days and days on end…  Her paddock now looks like this…

It’s as though the stream jumps its banks here, and actually runs through the paddock.  It got deeper and you could actually see the current within half an hour of taking this picture.

Her lovely spot beneath the trees is completely under water right now.  She would easily be belly deep if she walked to the usual bank.

Here you can see the water flowing downstream, coming over the bottom of the fence panel.  We get quite a bit of run-off.  Fortunately, it does run off…

Bruce has already been out with Willow this morning, making sure the new area is draining.  She’s gotten it pretty sloppy up there as well, but it’s better packed up there.  That land has been grazed by cattle in the past, and is more compacted than down by the house.  It’s still muddy, but more easily drained.

Although you can’t see the top of the mesa, there’s a thousand foot mesa just outside my backyard.  Makes for nice scenery, but it also makes for some nasty wetness too.  That’s one reason we use raised beds.  I don’t have to wait as long for the ground to dry out.

And that’s just part of what’s been going on here at Rancho Roseberry! LOL!  I did a major “I’m getting ready to cook” shopping trip yesterday while I was out for other pleasures.  Thanks for a fabulous “girls lunch out” Ra!!  The pleasure of your company was gift enough!  I have pork and masa ready to start on for tamales. I have the needs for recipes for French Fridays with Dorie and Cooking Italy!  I really love the new book Cook the Books selected too!  Now if I’ll just pace myself, and enjoy it without overdosing! LOL!

And with that, I’m off to do something in the kitchen…It’s brunch time.  Happy Holiday Cooking and Merry Christmas!


FFwD: Leek and Potato Soup~

19 12 2010

It’s been busy.  It’s been chilly and rainy.  There’s nothing that works better on busy, rainy, chilly nights than a bowl of spirit and soul warming soup that tastes heavenly.  This is it.  So my choice this week is Dorie’s Leek and Potato soup from her book Around My French Table.  Get the book.  There are too many recipes that make the book worth it to count.  Tell Santa how incredibly good you really have been. Beg. Buy it yourself for yourself.  But if you don’t have it, get it.  It makes “French Cooking” elementary.

Back to the soup… Dorie is so easy… Creamy, chunky, this is your soup.  Hot or cold, this is your soup.  In other words, purée it for a smooth consistency, chill it to make vichyssoise, leave it chunky and peasant style…whatever suits your fancy…she’s that flexible with the outcome…just follow the extremely simple (and lower calorie) instructions than the usual French recipe and you’ve got it made.

Tasting Notes~
We enjoyed this with some hot bread and a salad.  Having made the LCB version of the same soup, this is a little less rich, a little less work, and a lot more home kitchen friendly without a great deal of loss of flavor.  Especially if you’ve gotten into the habit of making a little bouquet garni (a sprig of thyme, some celery tops, a bay leaf and a bit of fresh parsley wrapped in leek greens and tied into a package) to toss into little pots of broth…  Once you’ve learned how effective such little things are at generating huge flavors, you can apply them to a lot of recipes for great results.  I’ve started adding little bg’s to just about any generic broth I’ll be adding to something.  It really makes a difference in the flavors in the end.

I can’t comment enough on how versatile this recipe is.  With a tiny tweak of using clam juice and water and evaporated milk instead of water and milk, and adding lots of (sad to say, fresh weren’t available-rarely are!) canned, chopped clams, some diced celery and diced Yukon Gold potatoes, we had a really yummy clam chowder!  Ok, perhaps not strictly Boston nor “Pacific”…but it was thick and rich without any added roux, had a lovely underlying base flavor and was full of clams with the occasional potato or celery in a bite.  There was enough “clam” flavor in the soup to acknowledge it, without it being overwhelmingly “fishy.”  We’ll chat about that when I post about the clam chowder though!

Seriously…this soup is a keeper.  I can make this recipe without thinking now.  It’s that easy, and that good.

Thirty Minute Thursday: December Frenzy~

9 12 2010

When I started Thirty Minute Thursdays I forgot about a couple of major things…LIFE goes on and I’m really involved with my job in a lot of extra-curricular ways.  Not that I’d want to change that, but I forgot to warn you.  I forgot about it.  You see, I take such things in stride and go on.  It’s kind of like having a baby…  You know there was pain involved, but God blesses us with a wee bit of amnesia to forget just HOW MUCH pain was involved.  It’s a lot of work a few times a year for some of these projects I jump in to, but I really enjoy aspects of them so much that I completely forget, in between, how incredibly busy we get and now tired I get during those “project” times.  There’s just enough Type A in me to manage such things!  LOL! However, that usually means that I have to drop a few other things for that time period…

Sadly, I often end up not being able to do any cooking at all.  I’m usually pretty good with being able to hold up for a 12 hour day, but when they start moving past 12 hours, especially if I have to fast for more than 6 of those hours, cooking isn’t happening.  I “turn into a Diva.”  Ok, ok, but honestly, I truly don’t have much left by that point.  If there’s any hope that I might have anything left, 30 minute pasta is what works!

Last week Thursday was spent at the final rehearsal for the annual Community Band and Chorus Christmas Concert…kind of a Holiday Season kick-off…  Fabulous experience, but it’ll sure wear you down!  I really appreciated our director for not slaving us too much in final rehearsals.  He had the sense not to strain our voices before the concert.  So, there were stage rehearsals Tuesday and Thursday, then concerts on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.  This week, our school PTO has been hard at work to put together a Family Night for tomorrow night.  Busy, busy, busy! Tonight was my only night home this week, and I had some errands that really needed to be attended to.  So, I didn’t cook tonight either.  I’d like to think I will next week though…regardless, school is out for Christmas break on the 17th, and you can bet I’ll be cooking after that!

For now though, I’d say it’s safe to say Thirty Minute Thursday is on Holiday Leave until after the first of the year.  I’ll pick up again after January 1, 2011.  In the meanwhile, let’s enjoy the season, be kind to our fellow humans, and take a moment to do something nice for someone, or some animal.  Give something to your favorite charity if you can…if you can’t, then may God bless you by filling some of your needs.  Merry Christmas!

Marx Iron Foodie Challenge 2010~

3 12 2010
Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:
MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

I have for you today, a dried porcini mushroom, tellicherry peppercorn and smoked sea salt crusted standing rib roast…

served with a jacket-baked Idaho russet potato and pan au jus.

I chose Tellicherry peppercorns, dried porcini mushrooms and smoked sea salt as my ingredients.  I like savory.  That’s just how I am.  I reach for salty chips and such.  Wasabi peas.  I love tellicherry peppercorns because I just love the aroma the bursts out of them when they’re toasted.  Toasting releases a lot of the volatile oils in spices.  The smoked salt had me from the very first second.  It was love at first bite!  I’m enchanted!  *Ü*  I wanted to use the porcini mushrooms, but I didn’t want to make a standard risotto.  I also had to keep in mind that I don’t have the best choice of ingredients available.  Not a handicap necessarily…it could be an advantage to have fewer choices!  I was leaning toward a lobster risotto but couldn’t depend on lobster availability…when it occurred to me that I’d bought a standing rib roast at Thanksgiving.  Perfect.

That’s how I make a lot of kitchen decisions.  I’m an “evaluate the pantry and then decide” kind of cook.  If my work schedule permits, I work with raw ingredients as much as possible.  I’m a scratch cook.  Many of my recipes are borne of repeating a process or a recipe so many times through  life that I simply remember how much of this or that I need and then start changing it by switching broth for milk or vice-versa.   Dishes that represent my culinary point of view will utilize what’s available at hand whenever possible;  the dishes will have an element of “you’re kidding!” simplicity; the dishes will push ingredients to a higher level or purpose; will often be me “thinking out of the box.”

The Tellicherry peppercorns were toasted in a skillet over an open gas flame, and ground in a food processor with dried porcini mushrooms, dried thyme leaves, and garlic granules.  Once the peppercorns and mushrooms achieved a powdery state, I added 1/2 tsp. of the smoked sea salt and 1 tsp. kosher salt.  I spread the mixture in a pie plate and prepared the roast for “crusting.”

I start by taking my roast from the refrigerator and letting it come to close to room temperature before I get started.  I preheat my oven to 475°-500°.  Why the difference?  I have a roasting pan that shouldn’t go into an oven higher than 475°.    Dry the roast thoroughly.  Separate the ribs from the roast (don’t if it’s a very large roast) in one cut.   Layer smashed garlic cloves between the bone and the meat and tie the roast securely so the ribs are once again “one” with the roast.  Poke small cloves of garlic between the meat and the fat as desired.  Rub the exterior of the roast with a good vegetable oil.  I used rice bran oil.

The tied and oiled roast was rolled in the crusting mixture prior to going into the oven to roast.  Our meat was started in a cast iron skillet, bones down in the skillet, at 475°.  The temperature was immediately reduced to 350° and the meat roasted until it temped 125°.   When the roast reached 125° it was removed from the oven, placed on a carving board and tented with foil to stand a bit.  Meanwhile, back at the cast iron skillet…a bit of water and a bit of wine…a bit spicy, but not too spicy.  Smoky…earthy…oh yeah.  That’s nice.  The au jus is just fine!

When it’s time to carve, the bone has already been separated, there’s no big loss of juice removing the rib bones.  The eye of the rib roast is ready to mount on the carving board, or parallel cut.  It’s so easy to carve this way!

Tasting Notes~
Did I mention how much I love Tellicherry peppercorns?  Mmmmm!  The Porcini mushrooms made a really unique crust on the rib roast.  It provided an earthiness…kind of a reminder that this is meat after all…  And the smoky salt came right on the heels of that and echoed the sentiment on the palate.  It was almost like tasting a bit of wood smoke on the breeze.  The combination of the 3 ingredients together was really fun.  Then…the au jus…  The woodsy-smoky crust of the roast gave the au jus a rustic-earthy tone that complimented the meat exceptionally well.

Thank you Marx Foods for the goodies!!  I’m enchanted!  It will be fun to use the various ingredients as “go withs” make themselves available.  It’s been an honor and a blast!

Cook the Books: Heat~

2 12 2010

This time around at Cook the Books we read Heat by Bill Buford.  I was kind of tickled by this selection as this was one of the first “foodie” books I picked up to read on my own.  I thoroughly devoured it the first time, so this time I was able to savor it a little more in a different way.  While Bill ricochets from one culinary adventure to another in search of his own culinary niche, studying, soaking up knowledge like pasta takes up sauce, I kept getting pulled back to one thing…”The egg is very important.”

If you study the 3 eggs in the first photo you might wonder if the difference is a trick of your eyes, due to placement of the eggs, or the lighting, perhaps.  No…one is actually elongated.  These aren’t McGrocery Eggs… They’re eggs from my happy hens.  I have Silver Cuckoo Marans and I can’t recommend them highly enough.  They’re grand girls!  Now the picture just above this paragraph shows a McGrocery Egg on the left (once in awhile, even I have to buy eggs if I need several all at one time) and a Happy Hen egg on the right.  The egg on the right is extremely fresh…it might be a day old already.  And look at that yolk…it’s almost orange!  I’ll tell you…that makes the prettiest Lemon Meringue pie!  But…back to eggs…and pasta….

This is my standard egg pasta from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking.  Her recipe makes about 3/4 pound of fresh pasta.  This time we’re making ravioli.  I use the regular pasta recipe, because I love the light texture of it.

My ravioli filling is an adaptation of Marcella’s filling for Cappellacci.  I had purchased and baked yams at Thanksgiving…except they were Asian yams and were very pale in color, but much drier and more sweet.   I thought at the time they would make excellent ravioli.  The flesh of the Asian yams was actually so dry that after adding parmesan and romano cheeses, and a bit of Italian parsley for color and a bit of complementary flavor, I needed to add both butter and cream to moisten the yams.  This is one ingredient that didn’t need any binder to take up moisture!

I have to agree that the egg is very important.  The very first time I made pasta, I used my own chickens’ eggs.  At the time, I had a pair of lovely Golden Seabrights, and their eggs were smaller, not Bantam small, but smaller than the large eggs I get today.  They were the absolute perfect size to go with Marcella’s recipe for pasta.  Her 1 cup flour to 2 eggs worked right on with those eggs, every time.  When I lost those hens, and these larger girls started laying, I was intimidated about pasta for awhile.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it work right with larger eggs.  I should know better though…it’s just like making bread.  You just keep working in more flour until you get that correct consistency, and then you stop.

The ravioli are served with a simple sage butter (2 Tbsp. unsalted butter heated until bubbling, drop in 10 torn sage leaves and cook a few moments; pour over cooked and drained ravioli) then sprinkled with kosher salt to taste.  All I can say is make sure you boil enough!  I didn’t and I was so sad!  I was also very glad that the rest were already in the freezer for another time.

Johanna…Great choice!  Thanks so much for hostessing us!  I had a great time with the read and with my dish!  Mr. Buford…Thank you for your insight into the back side of the culinary world.  It was a pleasure to learn at your apron strings…even when the apron was afire!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book!