Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cleaning and Soft Shell Crabs

I hate to clean.

I mean really, really hate. it.

I don't mind making beds or doing laundry, although neither is on my favorite, can't wait to do list.

I don't mind gardening in the spring and summer or raking leaves in the fall.

I don't mind sweeping the porches.

I diligently load the dishwasher, morning, noon and night.

I can live with emptying the dishwasher.

Everyday I pooper scoop the dog's, um, stuff.

I pick up wet towels and clean up small spills and do all the little things that allow us to actually walk through the house without tripping over stuff.

But cleaning, that drudgery packed dusting, vacuuming, washing, scrubbing, polishing thing.. I despise.

Years ago I convinced TBHITW that anyone who worked full time outside of the home deserved, nay, NEEDED, a cleaning service. Reluctantly, he agreed. Well, he not so much agreed as also decided that he didn't like cleaning. Or like me so much, on cleaning days.

I was lucky enough to find the best, most reasonably priced woman in the world (perhaps I should call her TBMRPWITW?) to come to my house and lovingly, carefully and with the best eye for dirt, clean up our mess.

She is a doll and I love her. I mean really, really love her.

A few weeks ago TBHITW asked me what I was going to do when we move "up to the land" about cleaning.

After I stopped shaking I informed him we will need to add a wing onto the proposed new house. For the cleaning lady.

Here in the Northeast the first of the season's Soft Shell Crabs are hitting the markets. I have always loved these delicate crustaceans and I always cook them the same way, every year, week in and week out until the season is done. The fresh greens somehow make me feel less guilty about all that butter - and you only live once right?

Soft Shell Crabs over fresh spring greens: serves 2

Two soft shell crabs (make sure they are alive, you should see movement and they should be brightly colored with no missing claws) Have the fishmonger clean them by removing their lungs. You can do this yourself easily, but it's nicer if the FM does it)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper

4 cups Fresh greens
1/4 cup grated carrots
hand full of fresh pea sprouts if you can get them
1/2 cucumber, sliced

Toss all the vegetables together and set aside.

Pea sprouts are popping up in local markets, try them, they are tender, sweet and add a nice light crunch to your salad.

Dry the crabs between paper towels.

Season flour and dredge crabs in the flour, shaking off excess.
Melt butter in a heavy saute pan over medium heat.
When butter is hot and foaming, add crabs, top side down.

Saute over medium high heat for about 4 minutes or until top is crisp.
Flip and continue to saute bottoms for another 4 minutes or until browned and crisp.

Plating: Divide salad among 2 plates. Top each salad with one soft shell. A simple oil and vinegar based dressing will do, or if you really want to be decadent, try this dressing, my favorite. Pass hot, crusty bread and a nice cold bottle of white wine.

2 anchovy fillets (don't be afraid of anchovies, they add a rich, not fishy, taste - you can also use anchovy paste)
2 egg yolks**
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the anchovies, egg yolks, garlic, and lemon juice into a blender and process until smooth. With the blender running on low, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until thick and emulsified. Stir in the parmesan and season with salt and pepper.
**if you are queasy about raw egg yolks, substitute 1/2 cup mayonnaise.

A Cook's Notes: Is there anything in your everyday life that you just absolutely can't stand to do? How do you get around it? Hire someone? Ignore it? Get the significant other to do it? Or do you just cook your favorite food and forget it even exists?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cake Bite Scooper Winner and Morels

Oh, I got so caught up with Birthday Week I forgot to announce the winner of the restaurant grade scooper - just perfect for making Cake Bites, the absolutely delicious, pop-one-in-your-mouth dessert that is sweeping the blogs.

Whitney, email me your mailing address and I will get a scooper right out to you!

I'm sure you will find many uses for this mini scooper. It makes the perfect size cookies, miniture cupcakes and of course cake bites!

Congratulations and enjoy!

Look, look, look! This is what I got yesterday from Carlo's Bakery (The Cake Boss) in Hoboken.
It's my birthday cake.

It was very hard to choose - look at the selection!


And this is what I got today fresh from Oregon Mushrooms:

Double Yum! Morels.

Guess what we're having for dinner tonight?

The Perfect Morel:

1/2 pound of fresh morels
4 ounces fresh, cold, unsalted butter

Very gently wash each morel just prior to cooking. Drain and dry on paper towels.

Melt butter on medium low in a heavy saute pan. When sizzling and slightly foamy, add morels. Saute quickly, shaking pan to coat each morel with butter. When morels are soft and have just a slight golden sheen to them, remove from pan. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and serve.


A Cook's Notes: I am saving the other half pound until the weekend. I will quick saute the morels, let cool, then stuff with goat cheese and run them under the broiler. I WILL get back on my diet eventually - right? RIGHT??

Monday, April 26, 2010

King Tut and Lobster Mushroom Stuffing

Today, Monday, April 26th, is the last day of birthday week. Today is my actual birthday. At 1:08 pm I will officially be ahem years old... anyway,

I share my day with Carol Burnett, Stevie Nicks, Count Basie, Gracie Allen and a host of other famous and not so famous people.

Lucille Ball died on April 26th., 1989.

It has been a wonderful, fun filled week.

Yesterday was a day that was 3,430 years in the making.

Let me explain:

Liz is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We met in the 7th. grade. We were 12 years old and have been buddies ever since. That's a long time in friend years.

As is typical of 12-year olds we spent many hours at each other's homes. Where else do 12 year olds have to go?

As a tender preteen fresh out of St. Paul's Elementary School, Liz's family were to my young eyes, the most glamorous people I had ever met.

Fred, her father, played classical music on a huge grand piano that took up half of their large living room. Peggy, her mom, smoked long brown cigarettes and at dinner sat at the head of the table serving petite lamb chops from a silver platter.

They had worked and lived in New York City in the 40's which made them fantastically interesting and exotic (in my opinion) They both drank amber bourbon over ice from cut crystal glasses that clinked every time they set them down.

It all felt terribly sophisticated to me, one of six children whose mother didn't work and whose father drank a beer on occasion and dinner was always "family style".

Peggy was always trying to teach us culture and etiquette. Actually, she was trying to teach her daughter culture and etiquette, me and anyone else who happened to be visiting were included in the instruction.

She wanted us girls to learn how to play bridge (my parents played pinochle), or she wanted us to play the piano or watch the McNeil Report or try some odd type of food or would instruct us on the proper serving technique. We would constantly be admonished to sit up straight, cross our legs at the ankles or remove our elbows from the table.

One day, thirty years ago, when we were in our early 20's, Peggy got tickets to see the world premiere of the King Tutankhamun Exhibit; treasures of the like had never before been seen outside of Egypt. Of course, she wanted us to go. Of course, we said no. Why on earth would newly minted adults want to spend a day viewing dusty artifacts from some dead guy? Puhleeze..

Well, yesterday, this very unsophisticated, not so newly minted adult spent the day viewing the magnificent exhibit of King Tut's Tomb. The exhibit is in New York for a scant two weeks. It is making its final journey around the world (never to be in New York again) before it returns to Egypt, forever.

TBHITW and I followed up our exhibit tour with a lovely lunch at the world famous, Sardi's on West 44th Street, where I did not put my elbows on the table, even once.

Here's to you Peggy, you would have been proud of me.

I just received a sampler package of dried mushrooms from Marx Foods.

Until 2007, Marx Foods only customers were top restaurant chefs in the country. Now, they have opened up their online store to home chefs, allowing us to buy the finest and freshest foods driving current food trends.

Marx Foods is a family business. Five generations have overseen the company since its inception in 1895. They work with foragers, farmers, fisherman and artisans to supply only the finest food products available.

My most recent purchase consisted of 24 game quail, but more on that in a later post. An added bonus was a sampler package of wild foraged, dry mushrooms. Today, I'd like to share a brand new recipe I created using dried Lobster Mushrooms. You can use this stuffing for chicken, fish or vegetables. I used it to stuff eggplants and ended up with a wonderful vegetarian dinner that everyone agreed was flavorful and satisfying. Peggy would have loved this.

Lobster Mushroom Stuffing (makes about 1 cup stuffing)

1/2 ounce dried Lobster* mushrooms soaked in one cup hot water for about 10 minutes (1/2 ounce is about 1/3 cup of dried mushrooms) then squeezed dry. Reserve soaking liquid.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/4 cup reserved mushroom soaking liquid
3 tablespoons fine, dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon heavy cream

One large eggplant, peeled and sliced thin on a mandolin. (about 1/4 inch, thin enough to be pliable)

Melt the butter and oil in a small heavy skillet. Add the shallots and sweat over very low heat until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute for one minute, until fragrant. Add mushrooms, stir and saute one minute, add parsley and soaking liquid. Turn up heat and simmer for about 3 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons or less fine bread crumbs - be stingy with the bread crumbs, you just want the mixture to hold together. Continue to saute for one more minute to thoroughly combine flavors. Off heat stir in heavy cream. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour a thin film of olive oil on a heavy rimmed cookie sheet. Set aside.

Lay out the egg plant slices. Place about a tablespoon of stuffing on the wide end of eggplant and roll up. Secure with a toothpick. Continue until all stuffing is used.

Place oiled cookie sheet in oven for 2 minutes to heat up the oil. Place the rolled eggplants on hot cookie sheet - careful! Drizzle with a little more olive oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper and roast for 8 minutes, turn gently and roast other side of rolls for another 8 minutes. Serve hot - about 3 rolls per person.

A side salad and a hot loaf of crusty bread make a satisfying meatless meal.

*I love the color, texture and flavor of Lobster mushrooms. They have a beautiful orange/red hue and a rich, yet delicate, meaty quality to them. If you can't find Lobster Mushrooms, substitute your favorite type of fungi - fresh or dried!

A Cook's Notes: I was developing this recipe so made it several different ways, experimenting with the eggplants. Some eggplant I sliced into thick rounds, scooped out the center and placed the stuffing inside. Other eggplant slices I stuffed, then dipped in egg, then panko and baked. Everyone at the table agreed the plain roasted eggplant rolls were the best. The rolled eggplant roasted up soft and buttery and the filling added a rich, creaminess to the dish. The panko coated rolls were too much a contrast in textures - good, but not best.

Don't be afraid to experiment! Cooking, like love, should be approached with abandonment!

Legal Stuff: I am not employed, nor am I affiliated with Marx Foods in any way. I have not been asked to review their products and have not received compensation for a review. I'm just a consumer and foodie - like you!

Experimental Eggplant Proving Ground

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Birthday Week and Fresh Morels

Is there anything more delicious, more delectable and more fleeting than fresh morels in the springtime?

These little forest morsels are so delicate, so illusive and so short-lived, few of us have the opportunity to savor them.

But now, because it is my birthday week, because you are dear to me and because that's just the way I roll I'm letting you in on a little secret:

I entered to win 2lbs of fresh morels. You should too! click here.

Of course if you win I'll expect dinner at 6:30 pm (prompt). I'll bring the wine.

The Legal Stuff: I am in no way affiliated with Marx Foods, other than being a customer. Nope, not employed, not paid, not even on their Christmas card list. I just love morels and want to share the goodness. Like I said, that's the way I roll.

Country Girl Meets Times Square and Cake Bites and a Giveaway

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Michele and her daughter Jenna, just left after a two day visit.

Their visit was part of Jenna's spring break from school AND it just happened to coincide with my birthday week. How lucky is that?

Jenna and Michele live on 110 beautiful acres in upstate New York. They call their home, "Windswept Farms". It is a far cry from the crowded streets of New York city.

We started our day by driving into the city. What was I thinking??? Hello, you live 4 minutes from the train station. Anyway, somehow we made it through the Lincoln Tunnel, found parking and walked to Time's Square. Every visitor to NYC has to go to Time's Square, right?

Jenna in Time's Square

And what visit would be complete without a stop at the Ed Sullivan Theater?

The highlight of our day was seeing the Broadway production of "Promises, Promises" starring Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth. Chenoweth may be small but boy can she belt out a tune.

The first time I witnessed this singing dynamo was in the production of "Wicked".

If you ever get a chance to see her perform, run, don't walk to the ticket counter. Truly worth every penny. (Sean Hayes was awesome, too... but we just loved hearing Kristin sing)...

Anyway, Jenna has a legendary sweet tooth so I decided to test what all the hype is lately regarding Cake Balls - only I refuse to call them that and have renamed them Cake Bites. I have my boundaries.

The newly named Cakes Bites were a glorious hit. I can't wait to begin testing all different types of combinations. For Jenna, I stuck with her favorite flavors, chocolate on chocolate. I did, however, experiment with a few different toppings for the more adventurous in my house.

I also decided to throw kitchen snobbery to the wind and just go with cake mix and pre-made frosting (I know, and the roof DID NOT cave in)...

If you are tempted to try something a little off the wall and finally find out for yourself what all the hype is about, I urge you to try the newest home kitchen confection and internet sensation:

Cake Bites: Makes about 70 "bites"

1 package Cake Mix (I used Chocolate Fudge, but use any you like)
1 16 ounce can ready frosting (I used chocolate)
12 ounces confectioner's melting chocolate*

Make the cake according to package directions. Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then turn out into a large bowl and crumble. It will look like a big bowl of loose dirt.

Add all of the frosting to the loose dirt, I mean cake crumbs.

Stir it up until thoroughly mixed. It will look like this.

Now put this concoction in your refrigerator (covered) for about an hour or until completely cooled.

When cool, begin making the "bites". Using your hands or a scoop, form the batter into 1 inch balls. Place them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and freeze for at least one hour. You can keep them frozen for up to a month (just put them in a ziplock bag) and dip as needed. I needed to dip them all....

Melt the confectioner's chocolate in a double boiler until fully melted and smooth. Take about 5 or 6 bites out of the freezer (you want them to remain frozen, so just work with a few at a time) and dip, one at a time in the chocolate, placing it on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. I used a fondue fork and toothpick to aid in the dipping process.

Continue dipping until all bites are coated.

If you want to add another dimension to your cake bites, as you remove one from the dipping process, roll in nuts, coconut, or sprinkle with colored sugar crystals.

Pictured: Chocolate bites coated in both white and dark chocolate, some rolled in pistachios or almonds or coconut, or sprinkled with sugar. Some plain.

A Cook's Notes: *confectioner's chocolate: available at some grocery stores, and all craft and cake or candy making suppliers. Confectioner's chocolate is tempered chocolate, making it have a higher burn point and when dry, it will "crack".. giving the bites a soft, almost truffle like inside and a hard candy shell outside. I did experiment using semi-sweet chocolate chips, with some success, but the bites don't have that hard, crack outer coating, they stay somewhat soft. But still delicious!!

Some suggested flavors:
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese frosting and white chocolate coating
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and white chocolate coating
Yellow Cake with Orange Butter Cream Frosting and white chocolate coating
White Cake with Vanilla Frosting and Milk chocolate coating
White Cake with Caramel Frosting and Milk chocolate coating

What are some flavor combinations you can come with? Want to win a free restaurant grade "scooper" from The Good Cook? Leave a comment on this post and if you are chosen from a random drawing, I will feature your recipe on my blog and send you a scooper.

Can't think of any combinations of your own? Just comment with something like, Hey, I'd like some of those cake bites....

Entries must be received before midnight, EST, Sunday, April 25th.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Nice Surprise and Fish and Chips

I had just finished hauling the 10th. bag of groceries through the door when I noticed a long green box on the front porch.

The card read, "Happy Birthday Week"

The box contained my favorite flowers, long stemmed yellow roses.

TBHITW has done it again, proven why I call him The Best Husband In The World.

Tonight, to thank him, he is so getting .......

One of his favorite meals.

Fish & Chips (American Style) - that's my apology for my across the pond friends, where Fish & Chips is a national past-time. (feeds 4-6 people easily)

2 pounds Cod
1 bag frozen "steak" cut fries
1 1/4 cup rice flour, divided
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 grinds of fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 egg
1 12 ounce can club soda
Vegetable or Canola oil for frying
2 brown paper bags

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Take your fish out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Cut into 4 inch pieces. Dry thoroughly. Shake the fish in 1/4 cup rice flour. Meanwhile:
Begin heating the oil (about 3 inches deep) in a big kettle. Oil should be 350 degrees.

Mix 1 cup rice flour with salt, pepper and baking powder. Beat egg slightly. Add to rice flour mixture and add club soda to make a thick batter. (start with 3/4 can and adjust as needed).

Take rice flour coated fish and dip into batter, place into hot oil and fry for about 10 minutes or until crisp and golden. Transfer to brown paper bag lined cookie sheet with a cooling rack placed on it. This will insure that the fish drains properly AND stays crisp. See cooks notes below.

Place in oven to keep hot.
Add fries to same oil and fry until golden. Drain fries on brown paper bags.

Serve fish and fries with cole slaw on the side. Lemon wedges, malt vinegar (for drizzling on fish) and store bought tartar sauce.

A Cook's Notes: use brown paper bags to drain grease from fish. Paper towels absorb oil, and your fish will sit on grease soaked towels and become soggy. Placing the fish on a rack with brown paper bags on the bottom will insure crisp, grease free fish.

If you don't have or can't find rice flour, use all purpose flour, sifted.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Greek Store and Arugula and Strawberry Salad with Pecan Crackers

In the next small town over from the small town where I live in is a great little store called, The Greek Store.

The Greek Store sells all manner of wonderfully sinful Greek delights (not that Greeks are sinful, just some of their food!).

Down each narrow aisle of the store, food treasure after treasure is offered up to the shopper while the owners yell back and forth in their native tongue.

Salty, briny olives, black, green and pink, glistening in huge vats.

Spanakopita that is oozing with feta and spinach all stuffed into light, buttery filo.

Hummus, made the right way, with lots of garlic and lemon.

Baklava that is so moist, the honey runs down your wrists when you take a bite and nobody cares if you suck your fingers when you're done.

Big jugs of red wine encased in twine, reminiscent of a 60's movie where fat candles ran hot wax down the sides of spent bottles.

First communion veils and rosaries are somehow sandwiched in with cheese, bread, olives, salt, anchovies and wine.

At Easter, there are fat loaves of round bread with hard boiled eggs baked right into the centers.

But the most impressive, beautiful, thing they sell is home made Filo dough.

Oh, perfection.

It is nothing like the dry, cracking frozen dough you buy in the grocer's freezer. You know the stuff I'm talking about.

The stuff that made you cry the first time you tried making anything with it? You brought it to room temperature and covered it with the moist kitchen towel just like the package said to and it still broke and splintered in your very hands. You did your best patching it up with more melted butter than should be legal, only to bake it and end up with tops that burned and a middle that was gooey and undercooked.

Not The Greek Store's Filo. This dough is soft and pliable. It has never seen the inside of a freezer and as long as The Greek Store is in business, it never will.


This salad is easy enough for company and impressive enough for family. No, I didn't get that mixed up. An old Greek saying tells us "To treat company like family and family like company if you wish to be blessed by both"

Arugula with Strawberries on Pecan Crackers (makes 4 salads)

Pecan Crackers: (makes 1 pan, about 12 to 14 crackers each 1"x4")
8 ounces Filo Dough* or 12 pieces + a few for mistake making
2/3 cup pecans, ground fine in a food processor
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick unsalted butter

4 cups fresh baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1 cup fresh sliced strawberries
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the crackers, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the ground pecans and the 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl. Set aside

Melt the butter in a small ramekin.

Using a pastry brush, use some of the butter and butter the bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet.

Unroll your filo dough. Have a moist, clean kitchen towel ready and keep it on top of the filo when you are working with a piece. Don't put the towel directly on top of the filo, put a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap between the dough and the towel.

Lay one piece of dough on your cookie sheet and using your pastry brush, butter it well. Repeat until you have 6 pieces of filo dough stacked on top of one another, making sure you butter each piece all the way out to the ends of the dough.

I really should buy new pans, but these are so well seasoned... they just look nasty....

Next, sprinkle the nut and sugar mixture over the dough. Make sure it's even, all the way to the ends.

Stick a teaspoon into a jar of honey, lift it straight up and drizzle the nuts all over with a thin, steady stream of honey. Be scant, we are just giving it some sweet richness and a little moisture.

Do you know how hard this picture was to take? One hand on the spoon, the other on the camera?

Now, place a piece of filo dough on top of the nuts and honey, butter and repeat until you have 6 pieces of dough. Make sure you butter the top piece really well - you don't want it to dry out and crack while baking.

Even the best made dough misbehaves sometimes. Be gone you bad piece of Filo.

You are no help at all and no, you cannot have that piece of dough.

Pop the cookie sheet with your buttered filo cracker into the oven for 8 minutes or until golden brown and slightly puffed on top. The top will fall as the cracker cools.

When completely cool use a pizza cutter and cut the cracker in half horizontally, then into 1 inch "strips".. you will have a rectangular cracker about 1 inch by 4 inches.

Assemble the salad:

Place two crackers on each plate, to the side. Place about a cup of arugula on each plate, allow most of cracker to show. Sprinkle arugula with 1/4 cup fresh sliced strawberries and a few dobs of goat cheese. Drizzle each salad with about a teaspoon of high quality olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add a pinch of sea salt and a grind of fresh pepper. Serve.

A Cook's Notes: *filo dough - if you only have access to frozen filo dough check the date on the box and buy the absolute freshest box you can find. Filo tends to dry out the older it is, even when kept frozen. Defrost in the refrigerator and use it as soon as you can. With practice, you can master the filo!

A great variation to the strawberries (if they are not in season where you live) are roasted red pears. Peel, core and quarter 2 pears. Sprinkle with honey and thyme. Roast at 375 for 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Use blue cheese in place of the feta - everything else remains the same. YUM.

ps. you will have a few leftover crackers. Good, because people will ask for more.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Beekeeping and Spring Grilled Dinner


I've been busy.

Busy as a bee you might say.

The days have been dawning with perfect spring weather (a welcome change after all the rain, then blistering heat we've had). Cool, crisp, sunny. The perfect combination for cleaning out flower beds, setting in seed, spreading compost and learning about Beekeeping.

Yes, bees. Honey bees to be exact.

My friend Anne and I took an Apiarist Class on Saturday at Alstede Farm in Chester, NJ.

Such fun! And not a single sting.

What I learned:

  • A single healthy, backyard hive can produce about 70 pounds of honey for the home beekeeper (they produce more but you have to leave them some for the winter)
  • Bees are not out to sting you. They are merely guarding their home. Stay back about 5 feet from the hive and you are okay.
  • The queen bee lives about 2 years. All the other bees, about 4 to 6 weeks.
  • The hive is really an organized community with nurses, nurseries, workers, wax makers, nectar collectors, guards, honey makers and even bees whose job it is to cool or heat the place. I guess these are the HVAC Bees.
  • Bees are house trained. They will not soil in their hive and will "hold it" up to 3 weeks if need be, until they can leave the hive and seek relief outside.
  • A bee will travel up to 4 miles from their hive to seek nectar.
  • It takes 9 pounds of nectar to make 1 pound of wax or 1 pound of honey.
  • The drone bee's only job is to mate with the queen. Then, they die.
  • It's good to be the queen.
The class covered all aspects of beginning beekeeping. I was mesmerized. I would like to be an Apiarist once we move up to "the land". Studies have shown that gardeners who keep bees (about a hive per 2 acres) will increase their yield by 100% percent.
That sounds like a deal to me, plus you get HONEY!!

I left Alstede Farms with new found respect for bees, a better understanding of the nature of beekeeping and a real craving for honey.

Fortunately, along with freshly picked asparagus, the farm stand was selling honey. Go figure.

To me, this meal spells springtime, it incorporates fresh spring lamb, honey, peaches and of course, asparagus:

Coffee-glazed lamb chops with honeyed peach chutney and fresh grilled asparagus (serves 4)

1 rack of lamb (8 ribs) cut into double chops (2 bones) remove from refrigerator 1 hour prior to grilling and season with salt and pepper

Heat grill to medium high.

For the glaze:
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon white or dark rum
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes

Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to boil the liquid until it is reduced and becomes syrupy and coats the back of a spoon. About 6 minutes. Set aside.

Peach Chutney:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, apricots or cherries) I like cherries, but any are delicious!
2 cups frozen peach slices
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (torn)

Sweat the onion, ginger and pepper flakes in the olive oil until onion is soft and translucent.
Add the dried fruit, water, honey and vinegar and cook for about 5 minutes until the fruit is soft and the liquid is syrupy.
Take off the heat, stir in the peaches and seasonings, except for the mint. Cover.

Grilled Asparagus:
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed by snapping off bottoms
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar (I like white balsamic for this, but dark is good too)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper.

Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and vinegar, toss to coat.

Grill lamb chops, basting with the coffee glaze; about 6 minutes per side for medium.

Add asparagus to hot grill, grill for about a minute, roll and grill for another minute. Remove to platter and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Plate the lamb chops. Stir the mint into the chutney, serve on the side with the asparagus.

A Cook's Notes: If you feel you need a starch with this meal, make corn bread but substitute the milk in your recipe with coconut milk and throw in a hand full of flaked coconut to the batter. Bake as you normally would. This will add a Jamaican flair to your dinner. And who doesn't like the carribean?

While I was "bee"ing a bee student I caught sight of these little darlings, how cute are they?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Practicing What I Preach and Ginger Glazed Chicken

Just so you know, I really do practice what I preach:

5 pounds of shelled peas:

Blanched, bagged and ready for the freezer (off camera - a big bowl ready for tonight's dinner)

Ginger Glazed Chicken: serves 4

4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Wash and pat dry your chicken breasts. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill.

Combine chicken broth, brown sugar, honey, orange juice and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a big simmer and cook until syrupy, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly.

Grill chicken breast, brushing on the ginger glaze.

Serve with fresh peas. (what? that surprises you?)

A Cook's Notes: these chicken breasts were large so I made only 3 - plenty for dinner and some leftover for a delicious chicken salad for tomorrow's lunch. Cube leftover chicken, add raisins, celery, almonds and the least amount of mayo to hold together, serve on torn Boston Lettuce leaves.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kindle VS Nook and Spring Peas

I am a reader. I read ALOT. Books, newspapers, magazines, cookbooks, recipes, books, did I mention books? If I'm doing something where I can't read, like sewing, I listen to audio books. I TRY to visit my local library as often as possible but I also BUY books. ALOT.

TBHITW and I are trying to lighten our load and a big part of our load is books. Lots of books. Stacks of books. Bookcases full of books. Books under beds, on night stands and dressers, and on the coffee table (why is it called a coffee table? I never put coffee on it).

So TBHITW suggested I buy myself a Kindle from Barnes and Noble also have their version of a Kindle, it's called a Nook. I like the idea of a handheld device that can download a book (and store up to 1,500) in a matter of seconds. I like the idea of not having all these books laying around.

I like the idea of not having to drive to a book store or library.

I did some green research and if I buy 40-50 e-books, the environmental impact of electronic device versus print book is paid for. I will definitely buy more than 40-50 e-books.

Does anyone out there have either e-reader? Any opinions? Any help in comparison shopping? I'd appreciate any feedback anyone can offer.

Now then,

I don't care how many daffodils bloom in my front walkway garden.

Or how many incredible pink trees I see:

Or how many little yellow flowers Holly stops to sniff (she loves these things):

To me, it is not officially spring until these babies appear in the market:

Fresh, spring peas. Oh joy, oh rapture. I could eat these little green pearls everyday and not regret one mouthful. And when my family can absolutely eat not one more pea? Time to freeze for the winter. Peas freeze beautifully and on a cold dark day in January, steaming up a few handfuls of peas will give you hope for spring.

Finally, it's here - spring AND peas!

Fresh Peas with Olive Oil and Mint: (make as much as you want)

Peas in their pods - shell as many as you need (about 1/2 cup per person)
Salted boiling water
Sea Salt
Olive Oil
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

Shell the peas and place in a fine mesh strainer. Meanwhile, set a pot of water on to boil. Add some salt to the water.
Immerse the strainer into the pot of water and boil peas for 3 to 5 minutes. Taste a pea to make sure it is tender.

Raise the strainer out of the water, place peas in serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and toss in the fresh mint.


Freezing Peas: Blanche the shelled peas in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Strain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Let peas drain and dry off. Freeze in individual zip lock bags. They stack beautifully and take up hardly any room in your freezer. To cook, steam or microwave in a little water.

Do your local farmer a favor, if you find peas at the market that were grown locally, buy 10 pounds or so. Come this winter, you and your local farmer will be happy you did.

A Cook's Notes: I just realized that it has been a year since I opened this blog. Thank you all for following, encouraging, commenting and most of all COOKING!

As always, Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Spring Break and Pasta with Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Last Wednesday we packed up the truck and headed north to Killington, Vermont for a much needed spring break. The kidadults were off from school, I had no cooking gigs and TBHITW squeezed out a few days of rest from his non-stop work schedule. (yeah, right.. he took calls from the slopes, but that's another post)

Ah. Spring Skiing.
Sun, Snow and temperatures in the 70's.

Here I am enjoying the freedom of warm weather skiing without the cumbersome coat, ski pants, hats and scarves of typical winter downhilling.

NOT. I mean, who doesn't wear a helmet these days?

But I do remove the lining from my coat and (gasp) go without long johns. (and we do wear helmets, we just removed them for the photo op)

We rented a small condo slope side and enjoyed uncrowded lifts, warm sun and incredible conditions. And if you ask the 16 year old kidadult, great views. ahem.

One of my favorite things about family vacations is long, leisurely dinners. Because all things food fall to me, I usually plan half our meals out at casual, local, innovative restaurants.

And the other half as eat-in, easy, yet delicious dinners around a big dining room table filled with stories of the day's adventures. Someone will toss the salad while someone else will slice the bread. TBHITW will fix us a cocktail and I will make the main course.

Wait, that's in a dream I once had. Reality: I make the salad, slice the bread, make some cocktails and cook the main course while the family asks 400 times if dinner is ready yet because they are starving.

Anyway, these are the memories I cherish as a family. All of us healthy, tired from a physically exhausting day spent outside, hungry (with true hunger) and together, enjoying good food and happy times.

This recipe will feed a crowd of hungry adventurers as well as satisfy the gourmond in you and you can toss the salad, slice the bread AND make a cocktail without wearing yourself out.

Pasta with Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes: serves 6

1 medium onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced
1 (15 1/2) ounce can artichoke hearts (8-10 count) drained and halved
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 can (13-ounce) chicken broth (low salt)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon flour
1 pound penne rigate pasta
grated romano cheese to taste

Saute onions in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute another minute, just until fragrant and soft. Add sun dried tomatoes and artichokes, basil and parsley and cook 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Dissolve flour in 1/4 cup cold water. Bring sauce back up to a boil and whisk into sauce. Reduce heat and allow to simmer and thicken.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add pasta to sauce, cook and stir for 2 minutes. Turn out in large bowl, sprinkle with grated romano cheese and serve.

I serve a crusty loaf of hot Italian bread and a simple romaine salad on the side.

What are some of your favorite vacation memories?

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