Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Corporate Responsibility - A Love Story



FYI:

Bob's Red Mill: (Press Release from Specialty Food Magazine, April, 2010)

"Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods founder Bob Moore celebrated his 81st. birthday by transferring ownership of the company he founded with his wife in 1978, to its 209 employees. The company is headquartered in Milwaukie, Ore., where it produces 400 offerings of stone-ground flours, cereals and bread mixes at a 15-acre production facility. It also has a retail outlet."

I love Bob's Red Mill Flours - their whole wheat pastry flour is the best I've ever used. Stone ground corn meal - yum... rye flour, wheat, organic white, 7-grain... all over the top.

I love them even more now.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rain and Chocolate Lava Cakes


The rain here in the Northeast is reaching epic proportions.

The ground is so saturated from previous rainstorms that it just can't take anymore.

This is a view of a corner of my backyard, taken from an upstairs window.



Highways are impassable. Small streams have burst their banks. And locally, neighbors are having to call the fire department to pump out their flooded basements. (crossing our fingers, our basement is currently dry).

A full moon last night spelled disaster for our coastal neighbors bringing high tide to their very doors.

This is the third such storm in so many weeks. Now what was that about Climate Change being a bunch of hooey?

Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes (easily doubled, this recipe makes four cakes)

1 stick (8 ounces) unsalted butter plus more for ramekins
2 teaspoons sugar, plus more for ramekins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Generous pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, rough chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Butter four 6 ounce oven proof ramekins. Dust with 1/4 teaspoon sugar.

In a heavy saucepan combine butter, sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, cayenne and nutmeg. Heat over low until butter and chocolate is melted and all is well combined. Stir often and slowly.

While the chocolate mixture is cooling slightly, whisk together the flour, confectioners' sugar, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla extract until creamy.

Slowly add some of the chocolate mixture to the egg/flour mixture - whisk to temper the eggs, then add the rest.

Pour into prepared ramekins.

You can stop here and refrigerate until you are ready to bake - up to 6 hours!

OR - proceed to baking. Place the ramekins on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Cakes will be puffed and slightly cracked and the edges will be dark.


Let rest for 5 minutes, run a small sharp knife around the edge of the ramekin, then invert onto individual plates or shallow bowls. Dust with powdered sugar or serve with freshly whipped cream if desired.



While enjoying, pray for sun in the Northeast.



A Cook's Notes: a teaspoon of orange liquor added to the batter is delicious. Or, experiment with mint, almond or coconut extracts. Instead of cayenne I have used Cocoa Chili Blend Spice by McCormick (also delicious in hot chocolate)

If you can't eat all the cakes in one sitting, microwave a cake (in the ramekin) for 30 seconds and invert as above. They will keep (baked) in the refrigerator for several days.







Monday, March 29, 2010

Alpacas, Pygmy Goats and Scallops with Hazelnut Vinaigrette



The weekend found TBHITW and I all alone. The girl was staying with friends and the boy was attending a two day interview at his summer camp in the hopes of being accepted into the Counselor in Training program (he made the grade!).

Two whole days with nothing to do except what we wanted to do.

And how did we choose to fill the hours?

We dreamed of course.

We talked about our future.

The land, the new house.

And for me, any future plans have to include a few animals. Yes, I'm one of those kind of people.

I am an animal lover.

We have our Holly Bear now. And some koi in a backyard pond. Do fish count as pets?

Anyway, we talked and I googled. There is a lot of information out there regarding small farm animals. Much more research and of course some solid courses are needed in the future but for now we have decided we would like:

Some Pygmy Goats AND some Alpacas























Alpacas are known to be gentle, intelligent animals and are raised for their luxurious fiber. Pygmy goats are well, just look at them, how cute are they? And their milk is sweeter and has more nutrients than cow's milk; not to mention goat cheese making is on my list of kitchen activities.

Of course we will also have some chickens. And TBHITW wants to add two Miniature Australian Shepherds to the mix as Holly will be entering her golden years (or at least middle age years) by then and may be more content laying in front of the fire instead of herding alpacas, goats and chickens.

These boys look up to the job, no?

All the dreaming and talking and planning put us in the mood for a romantic dinner for two. This is an elegant meal that is luxurious to eat, yet easy to make. While one of you tends the scallops and vinaigrette, the other can stir the polenta. While stirring, dream your own dreams.

Scallops with Hazelnut Vinaigrette over Soft Polenta: serves 2

1/2 pound fresh caught scallops
4 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
2 tablespoons hazelnuts, rough chopped
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup arugula

First, make the polenta:
2 cups chicken broth, simmering
4 tablespoons polenta (quick cooking kind)
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Bring the broth to a simmer. Whisk in the polenta (slowly, no lumps). Cook until thick (about 5 minutes). Switch to a wooden spoon. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Set to very, very low. Stir occasionally while you make the scallops.

For the scallops:
Place the butter in a large saute pan and melt over medium low heat until melted and foamy.
Pour off the butter (save). Do not wipe out the pan.
Dry the scallops on a paper towel and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat the pan over medium heat and add the scallops. Turn after 2 minutes. Cook for another 2 minutes. Remove to a warm plate and keep warm by loosely tenting with foil.

Put the reserved melted butter back in the pan and add the shallots. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes, just until soft. Add the hazelnuts and toss around to warm. Add the white balsamic vinegar and heat through - it will sizzle up. Toss in the arugula.

The finished vinaigrette is richly sweet, tangy and nutty.

Quickly, finish the polenta by stirring in the butter and cream. Ladle some polenta into two shallow bowls. Top with some scallops. Drizzle the hazelnut vinaigrette over the scallops and serve.



A Cook's Notes: of course every romantic meal needs an equally romantic dessert and what is more romantic than something chocolate? Tomorrow I'll give you the fastest, easiest make ahead recipe in the world for Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes. Until then, Bon Appetit!

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Recommendation and Sweet Pea Soup


I collect cookbooks.
All types of cookbooks; I especially like old, heritage books that feature REAL food. You know, the stuff your grandmother made.

TBHITW is going to sigh and say, "another cookbook?" when this one reaches my mailbox, but I just can't resist. Seasonal, local, sustainable food. What more can a cook (and an eater) ask for?

From Tasting Table: (a free national AND local email highlighting the new, the tasty and the trendy in your area)

People | NEW YORK CITY
Local Boy Makes Good
Changing our food systems--and your dinner--for the better
Sustainably Delicious
Photo: Andre Baranowski
Michel Nischan is always a step ahead.

Years before urban farming became a movement, the Connecticut-based chef had turned his backyard into a
vast garden that feeds his family of seven.

And long before area restaurants figured out how to support local farms, Nischan laid the groundwork at restaurants like
Heartbeat, Miche Mache and his latest venture, The Dressing Room, which he founded with the late Paul Newman.

Now, Nischan's
Wholesome Wave Foundation has launched a program thatdoubles the value of food stamps at farmers' markets across the country.

And the guy still finds time to write excellent cookbooks. His latest,
Sustainably Delicious, which draws on his expertise and experience from his long career as a sustainable-food pioneer, contains 100 recipes and a wealth of advice for the eco-minded home cook.

Nischan's recipes are as practical as they are personal, emphasizing everyday ingredients and seasonality over chef-y flourishes and exhaustive preparations.

BUYSustainably Delicious Online


Sweet Pea Soup

Recipe adapted from Sustainably Delicious


Makes 4 to 6 servings

½ pound Yukon gold potatoes (1 or 2 potatoes)

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1 cup diced onion

4 cups shelled sweet peas ( about 4 pounds in the pod),

or frozen organic peas

6 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade

2 to 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint or Thai basil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 to 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter


1. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the freezer to chill. In a

saucepan, cover the potatoes with a generous amount of

water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then

reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20

minutes, or until the potatoes are tender but not mushy.

Drain the potatoes; when they’re cool enough to handle,

peel and cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. (You should

have about 1 cup of cubed potatoes.) Set the potatoes

aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil and onion in a large skillet over

medium heat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the

onions are lightly caramelized. Add the fresh peas and

cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until just cooked through. (If

using frozen peas, heat them just until they get hot.)

Immediately transfer the onion and peas to the chilled

baking sheet and place them in the freezer for 8 to 10

minutes, or until the peas are cold.

3. In a 3-quart or larger saucepan, bring the stock to a

simmer over medium-high heat. Add the cold onion and

peas and the cubed potatoes to the hot stock. Bring the

soup to a simmer over medium-high heat. Working in

batches, transfer the soup to a blender and process until

very smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add the

mint or basil. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the

butter. For a more refined soup, strain through a fine-

mesh sieve. Garnish with additional mint or basil leaves

and serve immediately.


A Cook's Notes: Tasting Table and/or Michel Nischan have never heard of me. They didn't ask me to hype their site or the cookbook. I just happen to like Tasting Table AND sustainable, local food.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Laundry and Lemon Chicken Paillard with Mixed Greens

The laundry portion of this post first appeared in June, 2009 - I'm still not done.

I usually do laundry on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Yes, it takes me three days to do laundry, sometimes more. Not because there is sooo much, but because I really hate doing laundry.

It never ends.

First, you empty out all the hampers.
Then you haul it all downstairs to the basement (two flights) to the laundry room. My house is old so I don't have the luxury of having a laundry on the first floor.
Then it gets sorted. Whites, darks, delicates, towels, sheets, The Best Husband In The World's work clothes.

Work clothes get washed all by themselves because, well, because they are work clothes and they are filthy. Really filthy. If TBHITW has been out drilling wells (water, not the black stuff) they are beyond filthy.

I always do laundry in the same order. Funny how we are creatures of habit.

First the whites.
Then the darks.
Then the sheets
Next, the towels
Last, the stinky work clothes.

And I always forget about it. Three hours after the first load went in I remember, oh the laundry. I race downstairs to "switch" loads and three hours later I remember, oh the laundry. Two loads in six hours. No wonder it takes me three days.

Once everything is sorted and washed, everything has to be dried. Or hung to dry.
Once everything is dry, it all gets hauled back upstairs to be folded.

I always fold the laundry in the TV room. While I fold I watch the very little bit of television that I do watch. And what do I watch? The Food Network of course.

So here is tonight's dinner, courtesy of Tyler Florence* and my laundry, that still isn't done.

Lemon Chicken Paillard with Mixed Green Salad (serves 4)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup flour
2 or 3 eggs, slightly beaten with a splash of milk
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Zest of one lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Dressing: (optional, a honey mustard or light Italian would go equally as well)

2 anchovy fillets
2 egg yolks**
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup extra-virgin ollive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 bag baby arugula
1/2 cup shredded carrots
5 artichoke hearts, halved
1 head Romaine, sliced
Any other green you want to add
Lemon wedges for garnish

Begin by pounding out the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap.
Hint: "pounding" is really not what you want to do. You want to "sweep" out from the center. Hit and sweep. You are really pulling the meat, not pounding it. You want a nice thin, even breast that will cook quickly and evenly.

Set up a breading station with 3 pie plates. In one place the flour, in the other place the egg and in the last, the panko. Season the flour, egg and panko with salt and pepper, add the lemon zest to the egg. Dip the chicken first in the flour, then the egg, then the panko. Set on a rack to dry for about 10 minutes.
Place about an inch of oil in a frying pan. Fry the chicken paillards in hot oil for approximately 3 minutes per side until crisp and golden. Drain well, season with salt and set aside.

For the dressing:
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. Stir in the parmesan and season with salt and pepper.
Mix all your ingredients for your salad together, add dressing and toss to coat.

Plating:
Place one paillard on a plate. Mound some salad on top. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Repeat with remaining paillard.

I'm serving this with a fresh loaf of ciabatta bread and a nice bottle of chilled Pinot Grigio.

Oh, and I still haven't put the laundry away. Sigh.

A Cook's Notes: If you are squeamish about raw egg yolks, use 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sadness



I am sad today.

I am sad for this country.

People have resorted to violence over the Health Care Reform bill that has been signed into law by President Obama.

"Protesters outside the Capitol on Saturday called two black congressmen, the civil rights hero John Lewis of Georgia and Andre Carson of Indiana, a racial epithet as they walked by. Another, Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, was called that epithet and got spit on. Barney Frank of Massachusetts was called an anti-gay slur. The anti-abortion Democrat Bart Stupak was called a “baby killer” by Texas Republican Representative Randy Neugebauer, who says he’s had a “tremendous outpouring” of support for his outburst." *Maureen Dowd, NY Times, March 24, 2010.

John McCain told an Arizona radio station that "there would no cooperation for the rest of the year from Republicans"

A brick was thrown through Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter's office in Niagara Falls early Friday.

Maybe people are frightened. Perhaps they are confused as to what this new legislation means to them. I hope this post sheds some light on this new law. There is much work to be done. Nothing will change overnight. But this is a beginning. And I pray that Americans will band together - left or right and encourage thoughtful, due process. Let this madness stop.


(CNN) -- With the passage of the health care reform bill, CNN has been flooded with viewer questions about specifics of the measure and how their lives may be affected. In response, we're providing answers here, based on our reporting research, that address some of the issues you're raising most often.

Question: Can you explain whether the elimination of lifetime caps under the new health care bill applies to existing policy-holders as well as new insurance sign-ups?

Answer: Yes, within six months, the private insurance plans will have to stop some practices, such as setting lifetime limits on coverage and canceling policy-holders who get sick, on all new policies and current policies.

Question: I have been watching all of the debating. I still cannot figure out, what does this mean to me? I'm an unemployed 56-year-old. Lost my health care. Cannot afford COBRA. Now, what is there for me? I have a daughter in college. My insurance company refused to pay for therapy on my knees, calling it pre-existing. My unemployment just ran out. Now what?

Answer: When the insurance exchange opens, as required by the health care bill, people who are self-employed or whose employers don't offer coverage can purchase a plan. If you lost a job, you could get insurance through this new marketplace. Also, once this exchange opens, private insurers will no longer be able to turn away people with medical problems or charge them more. Individuals would be required to purchase coverage or face a fine of up to $695 or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater, starting in 2016. The plan includes a hardship exemption for poorer Americans. Exemptions will be granted for financial hardship, those for whom the lowest-cost option exceeds 8 percent of an individual's income and those with incomes below the tax filing threshold (in 2009, the threshold for taxpayers under age 65 was $9,350 for singles and $18,700 for couples).

Question: What happens to the cost of insurance to the company that is providing the insurance to the employee? Is there a set amount or percentage of the total premium that the employer is required to pay? Will it change the mix that already exists between employer and employee responsibility?

Answer: By no later than 2014, states will have to set up Small Business Health Options Programs, or SHOP exchanges, in which small businesses will be able to pool together to buy insurance. Small businesses are defined as those with no more than 100 employees, though states have the option of limiting pools to companies with 50 or fewer employees through 2016; companies that grow beyond the size limit will also be grandfathered in. But until the SHOP exchanges are set up, there will be a tax break for small businesses that goes into effect right away: Tax credits of 35 percent to 50 percent of premiums will be available to small businesses that offer coverage.

Question: I am living with HIV and cannot get health care coverage. If this reform passes, how long before I am able to get coverage?

Answer: By 2014, that there would be no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. You could not be denied based on an infection or some sort of pre-existing illness. That's four years away, though.

Question: What will happen when there are not enough doctors to oblige all the patients?

Last year, the American Academy of Family Physicians predicted a shortfall of 40,000 primary care doctors, and that was before the signing of the health care bill. That will put another 32 million people into the system -- with a promise of free preventive care -- and insurance to pay for regular doctor visits. Some physicians have expressed concern about this. Patients could see increased wait times, as in Massachusetts, where since "RomneyCare" went into effect, residents wait an 10 extra days to see the doctor. But others say the bill will help create more community health centers, so primary care can happen at these centers instead of expensive emergency rooms

Question: Isn't defensive medicine a big factor leading to overtreatment both at the beginning and at the end of life?

Answer: A recent Gallup Poll found that nine in 10 doctors admit having practiced defensive medicine at some time during their career. Some estimates put the cost at hundreds of billions of dollars in a year. If you look at all the lawsuits, there are about a million people who claim some sort of harm in any given year. But only about 11,000 lawsuits are actually paid out. Medical malpractice represents really only about 2 percent of the health care budget.

Question: Is there anything in the bill about rationing health care?

Answer: No one is using the term "rationing" as part of the bill. But there is a term called comparative effectiveness. And that's this idea that we figure out what works in medicine and make sure to pay for those things. This also means that there are a lot of things being done right now where there's not scientific proof that it works and maybe those things won't get paid any more. Some people call that rationing. Other people say, look, rationing exists under the current system. It's just that the insurance companies are essentially rationing by denying payment or dropping people off their coverage.

Question: I recently had to go to the ER for a rash. I had a $100 co-pay. If the new health care bill passes, would the co-pays for ER visits go down?

Answer: Not necessarily. In 2014, you will be able to buy a standardized health plan through a state-based exchange, with tiers of benefit packages available, if you do not have insurance through your employer, Medicare or Medicaid. You will be able to choose whether you want a plan with a higher premium and lower cost-sharing or a lower premium and higher cost-sharing. It will be very clear what the responsibilities will be for co-pays. Also, through the exchanges, there will be two multistate private plans under contract with the federal government, one of which must be nonprofit. But none of this means that your co-pays for ER visits will necessarily go down.

Question: I am on a Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO plan where I pay $252 now. It has been increasing every year, and I may have been to the doctor probably once or twice a year for physical. I do not smoke and am in perfect health, but every year for some reason, my they keep raising my insurance costs. With the new reform, are they going to have some checks and balance on these companies, who before did not have to answer to anyone? Or can I change my insurance to a government-run cheaper insurance?

Answer: Beginning in 2011, companies that spend more than a specified portion of premiums on administrative costs and profits must give a rebate to enrollees. In other words, large insurance companies will need to give rebates if they spend less than 85 percent of money from enrollees on medical costs. In the individual market, that figure is 80 percent. Also, the health care exchanges could reject premium increases that insurers propose if they think they are too high.

In 2014, on the individual market, you can buy your own insurance through the exchanges if you do not have health insurance through your employer, or through Medicare or Medicaid. These exchanges are supposed to provide plans that are as good as employer-based plans, which generally have good benefits. If you do have employer-based coverage, however, and don't spend more than 9.5 percent of your income on premiums and the plan covers at least 60 percent of medical costs, you are not eligible for premium subsidies. But if your employer-based coverage does not meet this standard, you will be able to get insurance through the exchange, and your employer is required to pay a penalty.

Question: Over 30 million couples suffer from infertility in the United States. Most insurers will not cover this problem. Will the new bill finally address this as a significant health problem?

Answer: There is nothing in the bill regarding this issue. One benefit is that insurance companies cannot deny coverage to couples who suffer from infertility because it was deemed a pre-existing condition. However, in terms of covering infertility treatments or in-vitro fertilization, none of that is made mandatory under the bill for insurance companies.

Question: Is there any provision for a part-time employee getting health insurance from their employer under the new health care bill?

Answer: It's not in the employer responsibility provision to offer health insurance to their part-time employees under the new law.

However, employers who have more than 50 full-time employees are required by 2014 to offer coverage to employees or pay a $2,000 penalty per employee after their first 30 if at least one of their employees receives a tax credit.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Technique and Lemon Pound Cake



I'm back home after spending two days in upstate New York. I catered a Chamber of Commerce mixer for Head Start. My best friend is the director for her county's Head Start program. And boy is she dedicated to her 125 three, four and five year olds who populate the program.

When I wasn't cooking, shopping for ingredients or catching up with my friend I was marveling at the beauty of her farm. Twenty years ago she and her husband made the pilgrimage from city life to farm life. One hundred and ten acres, two children, 6 horses, a bunch of chickens, roosters, dogs, cats and a duck that thinks it's a chicken later, they have never regretted their decision. It is exactly the environment I want to be in 5 years.

The other thing I noticed is her technique in life. Isn't technique everything? How do you manage a full time job, a full time farm (plus a bed and breakfast), 2 teenagers and all that life hands you?

Technique.

And her technique is a calm equilibrium, focus, humor and love.

We should all be so wise.

I nicked this recipe off the blog, Jan Can Cook. And boy can Jan cook. Go visit her while this cake is baking. You won't be disappointed.

As I read through the recipe one thing that struck me is that this cake is all about technique. By precisely following these directions you will turn out a superior pound cake - at least unlike any I've made before. I think lemons are the perfect prelude to spring. They are my favorite color, they're fresh, fragrant and oh so good.

Jan Can Cook: Better Than Starbucks Lemon Pound Cake: this makes a big cake.

Cake

4 lemons, organic if you can find them
3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, that is completely softened*
3 cups superfine, Baker's or caster sugar*
6 eggs, warmed for 10 minutes in hot tap water before using
1 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature

Glaze

2 lemons
2 cups powdered-sugar*, sifted
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 16-cup tube pan and dust with cake flour; tap out any excess. Be sure to grease and flour the center column too. You can also use Pam with Flour (I do).

Scrub the lemons with hot soapy water. Rinse really well and dry completely. Zest four of the lemons, being careful to avoid the pith (the white part that live right below the yellow part of the lemon). With a very sharp paring knife, cut the tops and bottoms off of each lemon.

With one cut side down on the cutting board, trim the pith off the lemon, vertically, going all the way around each lemon, exposing the flesh of the lemon. (About.com has a great little tutorial how to do this. They illustrate the technique with an orange but it translates to any citrus fruit). Over a bowl, cut segments from membranes, letting fruit and juice fall into the bowl, being sure to discard the seeds and the remaining membranes. With a fork, break segments into 1-inch pieces.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and the lemon zest. Work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter for 2 minutes at medium speed in the electric mixer. Add half the sugar and mix for 2 more minutes, then add the rest of the sugar and mix again for 4 minutes, stopping once to scrape down the bowl and the beater blade.
Remove the eggs from the warm water and dry them. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition (about 30 seconds). On the lowest setting, mix in the dry ingredients, then the sour cream. Lastly, gently fold in the lemon juice and segments. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about an hour and a half. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Cut around the cake in the pan, turn out the cake. Carefully turn cake right side up on rack.

While the cake is cooling, juice the remaining 2 lemons. In a small bowl, slowly add the powdered sugar to the and stir until smooth. It should look thick, opaque, and should be thin enough to it should be pourable. If it's too thin, add more powdered sugar. If it's too thick, add more lemon juice. Poke small holes all over the top of the cake using a fork or toothpick. Carefully pour about 1/2 the glaze over the tops and the sizes of the cake. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours or overnight. Cover the remaining glaze and keep at room temperature. About a half hour before you're ready to serve, pour the remaining glaze over the cake.

Store in a covered container, either in the fridge or at room temperature.

Ingredient Notes:
* Butter - A butter knife dropped on a stick of butter should slide completely through the butter to its center. This means the butter needs to be at 70-72F.
* Superfine/Castor Sugar - You can make this by putting granulated sugar into the food processor and whizzing it around several times for a minute or two.
* Powdered Sugar - If you have an old, half-opened bag of powdered sugar sitting in your pantry, I'd strongly encourage you to throw it away! It's been my experience that powdered sugar that's been opened and not properly resealed starts to oxidize very quickly. It can give the sugar a metallic taste that will impart an "off" flavor into your dessert, especially glaze.

A Cook's Notes: I used Meyer Lemons because I love their extra fragrance and they are a bit sweeter than a regular lemon - but do use whatever you can find!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Flooding and Braised Short Ribs


What a weekend.

It started raining on Friday night.

It is now Monday morning and it is still raining, albeit, a drizzle.

But still.

On Saturday TBHITW and I went to a seminar presented by a company that specializes in Geothermal heating and cooling for log home construction.

We drove 3 hours in the pouring, and I mean, pouring rain. Wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour buffeted our car the entire way. Phew.

The seminar took place in the offices of Beaver Mountain Log Homes - this is who we will use to build our new home. We were able to browse the many different building plans and revisit one of the sample homes, which happens to be our favorite.

It is beautiful and I cannot yet grasp (or believe) that eventually this will be our home.

Here are a few pictures of the kitchen, living space and outside:






Meanwhile, back at the REAL ranch...

We arrived home around 6:00 pm and TBHITW noticed that the storm drain in front of our house was overflowing. He rushed into our basement and found water backing up in both of the laundry sinks and the sump pump... um, not NICE water either.. water from the sewer, um, yeah.

Did I mention that with the exception of the laundry room our basement is finished? As in carpeted and completely furnished.

So. Let the bailing begin. And bail we did. ALL NIGHT LONG. Thank the electric gods that we did not loose power like 1,000,000 other folks in the Northeast so our sump pump was able to keep pumping, and pumping and pumping. It is still pumping.

Our neighbor across the street was not so lucky. The fire department had to come and pump out her basement.

Have I ever mentioned that our little town is called the Venice of New Jersey? Yup. Normally very beautiful with little streams traversing all over town, some right through back yards. Not so picturesque when a winter hurricane blows through dumping 4 to 6 inches of rain in so many hours.

Sunday dawned dark, cloudy and you guessed it, rainy.

Short Ribs are the perfect winter, rainy day food. You take about 20 minutes to prepare them and let your stove or crock pot do the rest. Comfort food for when you need comfort from the rain, a cold, snow, bailing, mopping or whatever happens to be ailing you.

Braised Short Ribs: (serves 4)

Braise: a cooking method by which food (usually meat or vegetables) is first browned in fat, then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid at low heat for a lengthy period of time. The long, slow cooking develops flavor and tenderizes foods by gently breaking down their fibers. Braising can be done on top of the range or in the oven. A tight-fitting lid is very important to prevent the liquid from evaporating. - from Barron's "Food Lover's Companion"

Four Beef Short Ribs
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
2 stalks celery, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup red wine*
1 cup beef broth

Take the short ribs out of the refrigerator 1 hour before beginning to cook in order to bring them to room temperature. Pay attention to the next part, it is VERY important:
DRY the short ribs off by patting them all over with a paper towel. Do this even if they don't look wet to you. I'll wait. Okay then, now sprinkle them all over with salt, pepper and a dusting of flour.



Heat the oil in a heavy dutch oven or heat proof casserole over medium high heat (that has a lid to match).

Brown the ribs all over - this takes about 10 minutes.



Remove ribs from pot and add the diced celery, carrots and shallot. Saute until soft and fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and saute one more minute.


Add the beef broth and wine* and bring to a simmer.

Make a garni out of the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf (if you don't have cheese cloth, use a tea bell, or just use loose - you'll have to fish them out of the pot later). Add the herbs.

Put the short ribs back in the pot. Turn the heat down to very low - you just want the bubbles in the broth to break the surface. Place a lid on the pot and walk away. Cook for about 3 to 4 hours, turning short ribs every hour or so.


When you are ready to eat. Remove short ribs from pot. You can use the broth as is, thicken it, or puree it using an immersion blender. Serve the sauce on the side.

I served these ribs with mashed potatoes laced with blue cheese crumbles and a simple mixed green salad. A loaf of bread on the side goes nicely for sopping up all that delicious broth.

A Cook's Notes: A few things about cooking with alcohol. First, be careful. Alcohol is extremely flamable. You should turn off the flame before adding wine, brandy, etc.. to a pot or saute pan.

Now then, many people believe that cooking burns off the alcohol content, leaving behind only flavor. Not true.

Braising (cooking for at least 2.5 hours) burns off 95% - leaving 5% alcohol
Simmering in a mixture for 1 hour burns off 75% - leaving 25%
Flamed (flambe) burns off only 25% of the alcohol - leaving 75%

If you are avoiding alcohol, substitute all beef broth for the wine in this recipe.

I'm leaving tomorrow for a two day catering gig. Wish me luck, I'll see you all at the end of the week. Until then, Bon Appetite and Happy St. Patrick's Day.

PS. You cook Corned Beef the same way as short ribs - ie: braise. No need to brown the corn beef. Use water instead of broth - don't use salt, use whole pepper corns and a bay leaf. Add whole baby potatoes and cut cabbage to the cooking water. Cover and cook for 3 - 4 hours. Corned Beef, Cabbage and Potatoes!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Learning Italian and Orange Roasted Chicken





I have been sick for going on three days now.

A good old fashioned head cold has taken grip of my body and won't let go. I have had no energy, no appetite and no will to do anything other than lay on the coach with a hot cup of tea and listen to my Rosetta Stone for Italian CDs.

In 72 hours I have learned that I am:

Soffro come un cane. (sohf-froh coh-may oon cah-nay)

Sick as a dog.

That's me.

Last night TBHITW was returning from Boston after a quick business trip. I wanted him to have a decent meal on his return so I dragged myself off the coach and roasted this up.

David Becker from Burningheart Farm is my "chicken guy".. his little hens are free-range, organic and the tastiest birds I have ever eaten. Thank you David for my latest chicken shipment, as usual, you are spoiling my family with great food.

Orange Roasted Chicken (serves 4)

One 3 to 4 pound chicken
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 small orange, rind grated and reserved, cut the orange in quarters
1 tablespoon orange rind
1 tablespoon kosher salt
few grinds fresh black pepper

Four hours before roast time (or the night before)
Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Using your fingers, gently separate the skin around the breast from the meat.

Mix the herbs with the softened butter and smear the mixture between the breast and the skin of the chicken.

Mix the orange rind and the kosher salt together.


Rub the outside of the chicken all over with the orange / salt mixture. Place the chicken on a rack on a rimmed cookie sheet.


Stuff the cavity with the quartered orange and place uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to roast. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Brush the underside of the chicken with the melted butter.
Roast in the upper 1/3 of the oven for 20 minutes per pound starting with the breast side DOWN. Half way through roasting, flip the bird over*, baste with the remaining melted butter and finish roasting. Let rest 15 to 30 minutes before carving.

* this is easy to do using two wooden spoons. Place one up the birds bum, the other in the neck cavity, lift and the bird will naturally turn breast side up.

A Cook's Notes: I don't have a picture of the finished bird because I was weak from hunger by the time it was done. You just have to believe me it was a roasted, golden, picture of perfection. Salting the skin and letting the chicken rest in the refrigerator draws the moisture out of the skin and allows it to roast up crackling and golden. Roasting the bird breast side down protects the white meat while automatically basting it with the juices from the fattier dark meat. Try this technique, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Funny Guy and Chicken with Almond Butter Sauce


My 10 year old nephew is a funny little guy.

His tastes run from football to soccer to chess.

Yes, chess.

It seems that he has been playing chess online. With some success.

He has only played chess in real life with his dad. But online, he has played with people from all over the world, of all ages.

Recently he got it into his head that he would like to play in a chess tournament. So like a good little 21st. century citizen he hit the internet and found himself a tournament. Problem is it was the Pennsylvania State Tournament. Did I mention that he only played chess on the internet or at home with his dad?

Now my sister and her husband are good parents. They encourage their children to branch out with their activities. So when Cal told them the good news of finding a tournament, off Calvin and his dad went (with tongue in cheek and many warnings from both mom and dad that maybe, just maybe, he wasn't quite ready for the big time).

I mean, come on, is this any way to treat an impressionable kid? He is only 10 years old. He has never played a local or a regional, let alone state tournament. Weren't they setting him up for defeat, maybe even humiliation? But off they went.

After 2 days of grueling matches, Cal came home with a trophy. Seems he won the 2010 Pennsylvania State Tournament Unranked Player award. Overall, he placed 13th. in a field of 100 K through 6th. graders.

When he was younger he wanted to be batman when he grew up.

Now he wants to be a professional football player and when he retires (or tires) from that he wants to be president.

You know, I think the kid has a shot.

Have you ever encouraged someone to follow their dream? Has anyone you know overcome what we mere mortals think of as obstacles? Tell me your success stories!

Chicken with Almond Butter Sauce (serves 4)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 4 pieces


Pound each chicken breast on the non-skin side until 1/2 inch thick.
Season with Salt and pepper. Then dredge in flour (both sides)

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Saute chicken until browned on each side, about 8 minutes total.

Remove cutlets from pan and keep warm.

Add shallots to pan and saute until soft over very low heat, about 3 minutes.
Add almonds to pan and saute until toasted, about 2 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the wine (or broth), scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened.

Remove from heat and swirl in the butter, one piece at a time.

Serve sauce over chicken.

A Cook's Notes: I am serving this with yellow rice and steamed baby bok choy.



Sunday, March 7, 2010

Walking The Land - Sort Of



We went up to our new land on Saturday. We had not seen it since we bought it.

Thankfully we ran into our realtor on the way and she gave us snow shoes. As gifts!

We are such rubes. We thought we'd just drive up and walk around a bit.

In 30 inches of snow.

NOT.

I love my new snowshoes, I have been wearing them everywhere. They are wrecking havoc on my hardwood floors ;-)


We have a stream. Holly approves.


TBHITW lay claim to his land - it was a proud moment

Looking up the meadow to where we will build our home. The meadow is surrounded by over 8 acres of woods. Our woods. We can't believe it.

I am standing on my (eventual) front porch looking down the meadow to the street (it is fun to imagine) - can you see our car way down there, to the right?

One day this view will be filled with flower and vegetable gardens. One day.
(click the pic to enlarge)


It was a good day.

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