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Archive for May, 2007

Salad Days – Part 4

From France to Greece. We’ve thought about Nicoise salad and now let’s cross the wine dark sea and visit Greece. While there, we’ll have a Greek salad which, for all I know, may be to Greece as Chop Suey is to China. Nevertheless, we’ll have a Greek salad.

Actually, a salad made of tomatoes, purple onion slices, cucumbers, green bell peppers, garnished with feta cheese and big black kalamata olives is of Greek origin. Make sure your vinaigrette is made of good quality olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano. Season it with salt and black pepper and it’s perfect. No lettuce needed, except for the Americanized version. Go ahead and add it. It won’t change the basic lemony, garlicky flavor. Some people add roasted red peppers to the mix. I like them in it and use them quite a lot.

You can make the salad well before dinner then grill a chicken breast at mealtime and presto! There’s your dinner. OK, maybe cut off a nice thick slice of that No Knead Bread you made and grill that too. Brush it with some olive oil. Enjoy.

Morgana

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Salade composee. Cobb salad. Insalata caprese. Antipasto plate. Chef salad. These are all examples of composed salads.

Picture a platter, filled with freshly prepared foods, arranged for maximum effect, tastefully, in both senses of the word. Colors, flavors, accents. A visual delight as well as a gustatory delight.

Composed salads, ones prepared ahead of the meal either on individual dishes or on platters from which one is served or serves himself, are the cook’s friend, especially when she is entertaining. They can be finished ahead of time, often well ahead of final dinner preparations. The cook has time then to play with the presentation. That is the time to experiment with “decorating” the plate, a well-placed grape tomato here, a few olives there, asparagus spears steamed to perfection, all on a bed of lettuce leaves.

Whatever the ingredients of a composed salad, whether served family style or individually, it is always an attractive counterpoint to the main attraction, meat, potato, casserole, pizza. Be careful, though, to not have the entire dinner become a beauty contest. A “fussy” composed salad will become the star if the rest of the meal is composed of more basic dishes.

One of the best known, and my personal favorite composed salad, is a Nicoise salad. It consists of steamed or boiled new potatoes, green beans, red onion silvers, tuna (preferably Italian in oil, but I often use Bumble Bee in water), Roma tomato wedges, hard boiled eggs and Nicoise olives. The Nicoise olives can be hard to find and are so small that sometimes they seem hardly worth the effort of carefully chewing around the pit which is nearly as bbig as the entire olive. All the ingredients can be served on a bed of lettuce if you’d like, and drizzled with vinaigrette. Some recipes call for anchovies, although anchovies can be incorporated in the dressing*. The individual items should be arranged in some sort of plan, either distributed evenly over the lettuce, or grouped together, i.e., all the potatoes together, the beans together, etc. I like to scatter the olives around the entire platter.

* Dressing for Nicoise salad – a simple vinaigrette
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar (or part lemon juice)
1 clove garlic—minced (crushed)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 t. anchovy paste, optional

I hope you find time to prepare a composed salad. Try this one. Fix it early in the afternoon, refrigerate it, and at dinner time, you are ready to eat. No heating up the kitchen, no last minute fretting. Open a bottle of wine and you’re good to go.

Next time, we’ll look at some other composed salads.

Morgana

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To continue with “Salad Days” here is a recipe for “Fiesta Corn Salad”, so called because of the bright colors and the Tex-Mex flavors. It is quick to prepare and can be done well ahead of time. In fact, 8 hours or even a day ahead allows the flavors to mingle and enhance each other.

I fix this often in the summer, and occasionally in the winter when I need a flavor boosting pick-me-up. It is great to fix for a crowd and also as a contribution to a potluck dinner or picnic. I have made large batches of it for 40-50 people stored in food bags and stuffed here and there in the frig.

Use fresh corn, cut from the cob and cooked in water just till tender, or grilled on the cob and then cut from it. You can pan roast cut corn in a nonstick skillet just till it begins to brown. Grilled or roasted corn has a sweetness that can’t be achieved by boiling or steaming it.

Frozen corn can be used if you thaw it first. Put it in a strainer and run cold water over it for a few minutes. Most of the time I use canned corn. It’s fast and I always have it on hand.

Broil or grill a steak (maybe a marinated flank steak), slice it and serve it with the corn salad for a complete meal.

FIESTA CORN SALAD

Corn (fresh from the cob, frozen and thawed, or canned and drained) (2 cans)
Red and/or green bell pepper, diced (1/4 c. each)
Green onions, sliced (4-5)
Red/purple onions, diced (1/4 c.)
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped (2 T.)
Olive oil (2 T.)
Lime juice (1 T.)
Red wine vinegar (2 t.)
Cumin (1/4 t.)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Mix all in large bowl. Serve as is or on red lettuce leaves. Garnish with whole cilantro leaves.
Can be kept refrigerated for several days.

Note: The amounts given are just a starting point. Let your taste buds be your guide. You may want more or less of some amounts. Taste as you go and adjust the amounts. Also, I like to use both white and yellow corn just for added appeal but one or the other is just fine. My neighbor Bonita made her own version of this dish and added black beans.

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These warm days at the beginning of summer make us think fondly of cold dishes, with the cooking portion, if any, done in the cool part of the day. Not only does this save heating up the kitchen during the hottest part of the day, but it also gets part of a meal’s preparation done ahead of time, freeing up time later for other things, maybe a cool drink in the shade. Mojito, anyone?

Salads are a great contribution to these meals. There are so many from which to choose that it is difficult to select just one to offer you today. Perhaps more may come your way when time permits. For now, let’s look at a simple pasta salad, well suited for warm weather. With some fruit, and maybe bruschetta with ciabatta or other good chewy bread, you have the fixings for a hearty meal.

TORTELLINI SALAD

Tortellini, cheese filled
Grape or cherry tomatoes
Black olives, Kalamata or Greek
Pepperoni slices, cut in half
Green onions, sliced
Optional ingredients: bell pepper pieces, roasted red peppers chopped, red onions, almost any vegetable you like; fresh herbs, chopped, especially basil.

Vinaigrette, garlicky, preferred

Cook the tortellini until just tender. Drain. Combine with cherry tomatoes and the rest of the vegetable ingredients, gently, so as not to break up the tortellini. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss gently.

There are no amounts given so as to let you decide what flavors you want to dominate the dish. Your eyes will tell you when there is enough of each for presentation’s sake and your tongue will tell you what else you need to know. Feel like more garlic? Add a minced clove either to the vinaigrette or to the salad itself. Want some fresh herbs? Add some basil. Feel free to make this to your own taste.

Enjoy.

Morgana

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Cole slaw is one of the ubiquitous picnic dishes, so much so that it is taken for granted. It seems that it is given short shrift when it comes to imaginative touches to the two main types, the vinegary ones and the creamy ones. Every now and then one runs across a slaw that has something different added to it that makes it rise above the ordinary slaws. It’s not that hard to do considering that ordinary slaws are usually too sweet or too bland.

I was pleased to find this recipe that has the addition of fresh cilantro (coriander) to give it some pizzazz. Cilantro always adds a brightness to the flavor of a dish and this is no exception. This recipe has a lot of garlic, so tailor it to your own “garlic tolerance.” I am sorry to say that I can’t relate it’s origin. I didn’t write the source on my recipe card. I thought it was from Cook’s Illustrated, but I can’t find it in any of those cookbooks. They do have a “Cilantro Slaw” recipe but it bears no resemblance to my recipe.

By the way, here is a link to more coleslaw recipes. I haven’t tried any of them but I will.

CILANTRO SLAW

Mix in a small bowl::
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. cider vinegar
1 t. sugar
2 t. minced garlic or less

Mix in a large bowl:
3 c. finely shredded cabbage
1/2 c. finely chopped green onions
1/2 c. finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 c. finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 c. minced fresh cilantro
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/4 t. cumin, optional

Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the cabbage mixture, stir. Store in the refrigerator.

Serve with finely sliced green onions and a few torn cilantro leaves as a garnish.

Happy picnicking.

Morgana

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This is the holiday weekend before Memorial Day, 2007. All over the country people will be having their first picnic of the year. Millions of hamburgers and hot dogs will be consumed with families and friends celebrating the return of summer and the three-day holiday weekend. Barbecue grills will be sizzling steaks, chicken legs, pork ribs and other tasty treats. Let’s hear it for barbecues! However, yesterday I left the grill cold and cooked BBQ pork in the house.

I found a small pork loin in the freezer that I decided to rescue from its frozen oblivion and use for last night’s dinner. I had some hamburger buns leftover so it seemed that BBQ pulled pork sandwiches were in order. I also had coleslaw in the frig, so I had everything for the sandwiches.

My recipe for pulled pork uses the crockpot and no grill. With the pork sitting in its freezer bag in cold water to thaw, I prepared the cooking liquid in the crockpot. The recipe doesn’t require a lot of ingredients but it certainly is good.

PULLED PORK SANDWICHES

Pork loin (3 lbs works well, but mine was only 2 lb.)
1/2 c. water
4 T. vinegar (I used cider vinegar but white would do)
2 t. Worcestershire
1 clove garlic minced
2 t. chili powder
3 T. BBQ sauce

BBQ sauce
Sandwich buns
Coleslaw
Pickles, dill slices

Put all in crockpot. Cover, cook on low heat for 8-10 hours, high heat for 5 hours.

Remove meat from the pot. Keep 2 T. of the liquid in the pot and throw away the rest. Use 2 forks to shred the meat into pieces appropriate for sandwiches. Put the meat back in the crockpot. Add as much BBQ sauce as needed to slightly coat the meat. Stir, cover and cook low for 30 minutes.

Serve on buns with coleslaw and pickles if desired. Pass extra BBQ sauce for those who want their meat more soupy.

I found the basis for this recipe in a library cookbook several years ago. I’m sorry I can’t remember which one it was.

I occasionally make my own BBQ sauce but there are so many good ones on the market now that I always have a bottle on hand. For this occasion, I used Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.

We have plenty of meat left for sandwiches this weekend so I’m a little ahead of the game, for once.

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This Memorial weekend take some time to remember the veterans living and dead who sacrificed time, health well-being, and for some life itself to give us the opportunity to live in this country and enjoy the bounties it has to offer. May those who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace.

Morgana

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There seems to be a lot of interest in stuffed green peppers. My previous post (“A Favorite Dish”) about stuffed peppers is by far the most visited. Since I never provided the recipe, I will do so now in case people were searching for a complete list of ingredients and procedures instead of just my guidelines.

My only changes to the original recipe are using hot sauce and the corn. I think the addition of corn makes the dish especially good. I also use a little more tomato than called fork, a 14 ounce can instead or a 7 1/2 oz. can. I like more tomato flavor. You might like to give it and the corn a try.

MORGANA’S STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS
Based on a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens

Serves 4

2 large green bell peppers, halved lengthwise
3/4 lb. ground beef, pork, sausage or combination
1/2 c. chopped onion
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 c. long grain rice
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 c. canned or frozen or fresh corn
1/2 t. dried basil or oregano, crushed

garlic, optional
hot sauce, to taste, optional
1/2 c. shredded Cheddar or Colby or Co-Jack or ANY cheese
salt and pepper
1/2 c. water

1. Put large pot of water on heat to boil. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove stem end from peppers. Cut out ribs and rinse out seeds. When water boils, put peppers into the pot of boiling water for 3 minutes only. Remove, salt the insides of the peppers. Let drain on towels, cut side down.

2. In a skillet, cook the meat with the onion until the meat is browned. Drain off as much fat as you can. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the uncooked rice, the corn, the Worcestershire sauce and whatever seasonings you desire, 1/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper, and the 1/2 c. water.

3. Bring to the boil; reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 to 18 minutes or until the rice is tender, adding more liquid as necessary. When rice is done and the mixture is fairly dry but still moist, add half of the cheese and stir to blend.

4. Fill the peppers with the stuffing and put in a casserole. (An 8 X 8 dish works if the peppers aren’t too large.)
Arrange any leftover meat and rice around the peppers.

5. Bake about 15 minutes or till heated through. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and let stand until cheese melts before serving.

Hope you enjoy the recipe.

Morgana

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Bread Update

[UPDATE:  I have added some photos of the no-knead bread method here.] 

The loaf of NO-KNEAD bread that I baked today was partly whole wheat. I used only 1/2 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 c. Artisan’s bread flour, and 2 c. unbleached bread flour. I put no seeds on the outside crust, baked it in my oval 3 qt. Corningware casserole and it turned out beautifully.

I had some with my lunch with a little butter. Very good. Just enough whole wheat flour for good color but not so much that it was bland and dry. Try it. Here is a repeat of the basic recipe.

No-Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (or 2 1/2 c. flour, and 1/2 c. whole wheat flour)
1/4 t. instant yeast (yes, one-fourth teaspoon)
1 1/4 t. salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 c. water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) on oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is OK; shake pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Hint:
A dough scraper or metal “hamburger” flipper makes folding the dough over on itself easy. The dough is very wet, and looks like it won’t hold together. It does.

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The official name of this recipe, from Epicurious.com, is Chicken Paillards with Tomato, Basil and Roasted-Corn Relish. Too long a name for me. I will think of a decent name for it later. In the meantime, it’s Delish Chick.

The recipe calls for roasting fresh corn kernels in a 375 degree oven for 18 minutes. I didn’t bother. The house was hot enough and so was I. Because I had no fresh corn, I used canned white shoepeg corn, drained. I didn’t cook it at all. If you want to follow the recipe exactly, go ahead. I probably will try it someday. Let me tell you, it was very good without the extra step of roasting the corn. I wonder if I can get an energy credit for not using the oven. Somebody call Al Gore.

Simple in preparation, my variation is a perfect last minute entree for a busy day. It has meat and two vegetables in the main course. All that’s needed is a salad, fruit, bread or pasta of some kind, and you’re good to go. I fixed a quick tossed salad (just lettuce and dressing) and some rice and dinner was on the table in about 15 minutes.

Here’s the recipe for the chicken.

Delish Chick – Serves 4

Relish:
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 c. fresh corn kernels
12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. chopped green onions
3 T. finely sliced fresh basil (I just rough chopped it)

Chicken:
4 skinless chicken breast halves, tenderloins removed, pounded evenly to about 1/2″ thickness
flour
1 1/2 T. butter
1 1/2 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper

For relish: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush rimmed baking sheet with 1 t. oil. Toss corn and 2 t. oil on the prepared sheet. Roast until the corn begins to brown, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Mix in tomatoes, green onions, basil, and 2 T. oil; season with salt and pepper.

For chicken: Pat chicken dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then dust with flour to coat. Melt butter with oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to skillet and saute until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plates; top with relish and serve.

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I rarely use cocoa for making cocoa. With all the available varieties of Swiss Miss and her clones, there is no need to make hot chocolate from scratch, at least not just for me. If I wanted to make it for a group of people, I would probably make it from scratch.

I mostly use cocoa for a chocolate cake that is divinely moist and rich. I also use it for the following recipes for chocolate sauce and for quick and simple brownies.

If you are hungry for an ice cream sundae and have the ice cream but don’t want to go out for the fudge sauce, never fear. A well-stocked pantry might provide the necessities for you to prepare your own. What’s more, it’s easy and quick. If you can afford the caloric binge, try making cocoa chocolate brownies, top a piece with vanilla ice cream and drizzle it with the following fudge sauce. Diet tomorrow.

Lacey’s Fudge Sauce:

Mix in a small saucepan:
1 1/2 c. sugar
6 T. cocoa
dash salt
4 T. water
dash cinnamon

Add:
1-13oz. can evaporated milk

Cook, medium heat, stirring constantly; bring to a boil and boil gently 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add:
4 T. butter, 2 t. vanilla, dash cinnamon and dash almond extract.

Let cool. Store in refrigerator up to a week.

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Granny’s Cocoa Brownies

(This recipe is nearly as easy as making a boxed mix. It makes a lot and costs very little.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 pan.

Mix in medium large bowl:
2 c. sugar
4 T. cocoa
2 sticks melted butter
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. vanilla

Pour into pan and bake about 25 minutes. Cool and cut into pieces.

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Sometime I will give you the recipe for the Deep Dark Chocolate Cake recipe that used to be on the Hershey’s Cocoa package. I am not a big fan of cake, but that recipe definitely makes the best chocolate cake I ever tasted. Rich and chocolately and very moist.

Morgana

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We had a remarkably great dinner at Jag’s last night with Franco and Jeannette. Jag’s striving for perfection, in food prep and presentation, has paid off. Everyone’s dinners were excellent.

I had Morel Scallops, “Dry Morel Encrusted Diver Scallops over Madeira Shallot Reduction.
Accompanied with Wild Mushroom Risotto & Steamed Asparagus”, as described in their menu.
There were 4 large scallops, more than enough, perfectly cooked, in a sauce that was just a tad sweet, and jam-packed with flavor. The risotto was wonderfully creamy with bits of mushrooms scattered throughout. The plate, decorated with an orchid, was beautiful, as well.

Mac and Franco had beef steaks, tender and flavorful, with mashed potatoes, rich and buttery, seasoned with just the right amount of garlic. Mac had the “Julius Caesar” salad with his meal.

Jeannette had sea bass, which is what I enjoyed the last time I was at Jag’s. It is flavored with Thai chili beurre blanc, and served with asparagus and mashed potatoes, although she asked for the risotto instead.

Delicious!

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[UPDATE: I have added lots of photos of the no-knead bread process here.] 

I mixed up dough for two more loaves of bread yesterday and they are nearly ready to pop into the oven or should I say “plop” into the oven. One of the loaves is pretty wet. I guess I put in a few drops too much water. It is hard to handle and refuses to stay in anything resembling a loaf shape. The other loaf is much better behaved. Not so sticky, is containing itself quite nicely in a round “boule” attitude. The dough is supposed to be quite wet. The wetter, the better, but it does make it hard to handle and “plop” into the hot pan without having it stick to the sides. I need to turn the ovens on now. I will keep you posted about the loaves.100_2164.jpg
The “Blob” Prior to “Plopping”

I am using a Corningware oval covered casserole for one loaf and my Mario Batali Dutch ooven for the other, 450 degrees F. for both ovens. I will salt each and coat them with seeds prior to baking.
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Update: They are in the oven and baking, covered, for the 30 minutes necessary.

Update: The lids are off for 15 more minutes, or until the tops are nicely browned. They smell great!

Update: Out of the oven and basted with melted butter. Hmmm.100_2168.jpg

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I bought golden/orange cauliflower from a grocery near my house this week. I had read about it and purple cauliflower but never tried them before. These colorful vegetables are natural mutants, not genetically altered by man. The orange cauliflower has an abundance of vitamin A which gives it the extraordinary color that lasts even after cooking. It tastes the same as the white does, maybe a little stronger, but since I like cauliflower, it was fine with me. I fixed a little cheese sauce to go with it. We also had potato salad and BBQ pork ribs.

I stopped at another store on the way home from an appointment to buy real “homemade” storemade potato salad. As I approached the deli, I caught the aroma of something delicious cooking in thekitchen behind the deli counter. I told the deli staff that I had to buy whatever it was that smelled so wonderful, the ribs that they cook every Friday. The employees I spoke with said that they sellout every Friday. I wanted to dig into them right in the car, but, since I bought them for dinner, I took them home and put them in the refrigerator until supper time. They just needed a gently reheating and they were ready for us.

All I had to do for dinner was prepare the cauliflower and cheese sauce, and wash some tomatoes. Pretty easy and not very expensive. The ribs were on sale and the total for them was $5.99. I pay a lot more than that when I buy ribs to cook for the two of us from scratch. The potato salad was $4.66 and we have over half left so the cost of the potato salad was about $2.00. The cost of a handful of cherry tomatoes was negligible. I don’t remember how much the cauliflower was; let’s guess $2.00. The cheese sauce is hard to calculate to let’s just say $1.00, although it had to be less than that (1 T. of butter and flour, 1/2 c. milk, 1/2 c. cheddar). Anyway, this Friday night meal cost about $11.00. That’s a lot less than going out to dinner on a Friday night. Our regular pizzas cost more, and a typical Friday night out to dinner costs a lot more.

We are going out tonight with friends, Franco and Jeannette. Heading toward Cincinnati for dinner at Jag’s. I’ll review that dinner tomorrow.

One of these days, I’ll get back to the vegetable alphabet. I think we are ready for “K”. Ketchup, anyone?

Morgana

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I had a request from Kim to share one of my butterscotch pie recipes. I referred to butterscotch pie in a prior post about the Goody-Goody restaurant that featured that pie on its dessert menu.

Here it is; I think it is from an old Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Cookbook.

Butterscotch Pie

9″ baked pie shell

1 c. brown sugar (either light or dark or a mixture)
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt
1 c. water
1 2/3 c. milk (2% is fine)
5 1/3 T. butter
3 beaten egg yolks (save the whites for meringue if you want)
1 1/2 t. vanilla

1. Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium large saucepan with a heavy bottom. Gradually stir in water and milk, stirring to mix well. Add the butter.

2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly till thick and boiling. Boil for one minute.

3. Remove from heat. Gradually stir at least half of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. (Doing this slowly prevents the eggs from scrambling.) Return this egg mixture back into the cooking pan with the rest of the sugar mixture. Boil one minute more, stirring constantly to prevent the custard from burning. Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla.

4. Immediately pour into the cooked and cooled pie shell. Finish with meringue if desired (we never do) and let sit until the custard filling cools a bit before storing in the refrigerator with a circle of waxed paper directly on top of the custard. This prevents an unattractive skin from forming on the custard.

Some notes:
1. I use a 4 qt. pan and a long-handled wooden spoon to make the custard. A 3 qt. pan is fine, but I use a larger one to prevent splashes of the hot custard from burning my hand. That happened once and I had a nickel-sized burn that hurt for a while. I still have the scar.
2. I prefer the dark brown sugar, but either works well.
3. I save the egg whites for poaching rather than meringue which I don’t like. (One of my favorite breakfasts is poached egg whites on toast with hot milk and butter poured over. Great comfort food.)

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Last night I prepared a potato casserole to go with our steaks and salad.

The recipe was one from my secret recipe file, my memory. I peeled and sliced about 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, spread them in a gratin dish with one small onion, sliced, and a smashed clove of garlic minced. I added a sprinkle of salt and pepper and then made a quick sauce.

I melted a tablespoon of so of butter in a small saucepan and added a tablespoon of flour, stirred it a while to cook the flour a bit, and added about a half cup of chicken broth.* I stirred this until it started to thicken and added about a half cup of milk, a little more salt and pepper, some thyme and parsley (from the garden), and a half cup of diced Swiss cheese. I stirred it until the cheese had melted and the sauce was fairly thick. I poured it over the potatoes, covered the dish with foil and put it into a 350 degree oven. After an hour, I uncovered it for another half hour until the top was slightly browned and the potatoes were tender.

Mac always likes potato casseroles, escalloped potatoes, au gratin potatoes, whatever you want to call them. We have some leftover to have later for lunch, maybe, with leftover meatloaf sandwiches.

* I had opened an 8oz. carton of chicken broth the night before to use in the pork tenderloin sauce. I still had half left in the frig. Once again, ask your grocer to carry the 4-pack of Pacific Foods Organic Free Range Chicken Broth. The 8-oz. size of each carton is so convenient for recipes. Even if you only need a small amount, the container can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two without having the contents spoil. There is no need to transfer to a storage container and have it get lost in the back of the frig.

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Last night we had pork tenderloin, candied sweet potatoes, and a green salad with lettuce, arugula and chives from my garden, and roasted fresh beets with blue cheese dressing. Wow! What flavors!

The tenderloin was seasoned with salt and pepper and then browned all over in a Dutch Oven in a tablespoon of butter and one of olive oil. After a few minutes, I added a finely chopped shallot and a large clove of garlic, minced, a large spring of thyme, and a few stems of parsley. I stirred those for a minute or two and then added 1/4 c. red wine to deglaze the pan. I added about 1/2 c. chicken broth, then covered the pan and simmered on low heat for a half hour or so until the pork was done. I let the roast rest on a cutting board for a few minutes and added a tablespoon of heavy cream to the sauce in the pan. After slicing the pork I drizzled a little sauce over it. It was very good.

The house smelled so good all evening and even this morning.

We love roasted beets. They have such a mellow sweetness after roasting. I usually just cut the tops off, wrap the beets in a large piece of heavy foil, close it tightly, and put them in an oven at 375 for an hour or so. You can tell by squeezing one if it is done. Peel them over a sink with a fork to hold the hot beet and be sure to wear an apron and latex gloves because beet juice can really leave a stain. I sliced the beets about a half-hour before we ate to give them a chance to cool down before putting them on the salad.

I planted arugula about 5 years ago and unfortunately, or fortunately, let some of it go to seed. Now I have it popping up all over the yard. Whenever I need some for a recipe or to add to a salad, I just have to wander around the yard for a while until I see some growing where it shouldn’t. I pull up the whole plant and bring it in the house, roots and all. The whole thing gets washed in the sink, dried a little, wrapped in a paper towel and put in a plastic bag, unsealed. It lasts for a week, at least. The pungent, peppery taste adds to any green salad and is also good on a sandwich.

The pork tenderloin was a good purchase yesterday at Sam’s Club. The vacuum sealed package contained 2 whole tenderloins, which is really 4 pieces, more than enough for 4 meals for us. I separated the pieces and froze 3 of them. I always have ingredients in the pantry to make a meal with a tenderloin. Sometimes I pan roast it, sometimes, saute it and finish it in the oven. Sometimes I slice it into medallions and cook them quickly with a pan sauce. I could also cut the tenderloin into cubes for a stew or chili con carne. It is a versatile cut of meat and very easy to incorporate into your go-to list of everyday menu items.

Later,
Morgana

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Thanks to my friend Vicki who inspired tonight’s dinner. Last week for our knitting lunch her contribution was a delicious “Taco/Fajita” style chicken salad. It was great and I have been hungry for a repeat all week.

I seasoned a large boneless chicken breast with taco seasoning (from Penzey’s Spices). I broiled it and put it in the refrigerator to chill. In the meantime, I prepared a mixed green salad with red pepper slices, green onion slices, black olives, and cheddar cheese, shredded. When the chicken was cool, I cut it in small bite-size pieces, really dices. At dinnertime, we sprinkled the greens and veggies with the chicken and cheese. I used taco sauce and sour cream on mine, and Mac put vinaigrette on his.

We had fresh bread (naturally) to accompany it. I had tomatoes but forgot to cut them up for the salad. Too bad. They would have been great with it.

I hope some of you will be inspired to try your own variation of this excellent hot weather dinner salad.

Morgana

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loaf-of-bread2.jpg

No, I didn’t open and drink the wine. 10:30am is a little too early, even for me. It just seemed like a good prop for the photo.

For lunch today, I had 2 slices of the above bread, some fresh tomatoslices a few basil leaves, and some Swiss cheese. I had no mozzarella which would have been perfect. But what I had was good.

One of the loaves I mixed today and will bake tomorrow has 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1 cup unbleached bread flour, and 1 cup of the Artisan’s flour. This will be the first I’ve baked with the whole wheat flour. I’m eager to try it.

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I am taking a break from boring you with my raves about the “No-Knead” bread. Oh, I haven’t stopped baking it. In fact, there’s a loaf undergoing the second rising right now and I am about to place another order with King Arthur Flour today. I am going to order more flour and some rice flour to try “Shirley’s” suggestion. (See the preceding post.) However, the dough is rising on non-stick foil to see if that works.*

I fixed meatloaf last night. I am always searching for a new meatloaf recipe but the good ol’ standard one from a 1960’s era Betty Crocker cookbook is the one I use most often. I normally just use ground chuck or ground round, but yesterday, I bought my grocery’s meatloaf mix. No more do groceries use beef, pork and veal. Nowadays, it’s just beef and pork, and usually pretty fatty, at that. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the mix had little fat.

Here is the recipe that I used, adapted somewhat from the cookbook.

MEATLOAF

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together in large bowl:
1 1/2 lbs. meatloaf mix
1/4 c. minced onion
1 c. bread crumbs

Mix together in another bowl:
1 c. milk
1 egg
2 T. catsup (part BBQ sauce, optional)
1 T. horseradish
1/8 t. ground sage
1/4 t. dry mustard
2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. (I keep a box of disposable latex gloves under the sink for hand mixing meatloaf and other sticky things.) Bake in a loaf pan for 1 hour.

Mix 1 T. brown sugar, 1/4 c. catsup (part BBQ sauce if desired) and 2 drops Worcestershire sauce.
Spread over meat loaf and continue baking for 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing. This makes slicing it easier and keeps the juices in the meatloaf.

*I just flipped the dough off the foil and into the hot pan with no trouble at all. The foil is so clean that I am going to just brush off the remaining flour and bran and use it again next time. No waste. I will, however, go ahead and get the rice flour and try that. Thanks, “Shirley”.

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[UPDATE:  I have added lots of photos of the bread making process here.]

I have made more bread in the last ten days than I did in my whole life before I found this recipe. I mixed up dough for two loaves Thursday morning to bake on Friday. I wanted to take a loaf to my knitting buddies for my lunch contribution and I took an extra loaf for them to share.

I received my order from King Arthur Flour earlier in the week which included bread flour, European Artisan bread flour, citric acid, and a seed mix for the top.

I used my original recipe (3 c. flour, 1/4 t. yeast, 1 1/2 t. salt, and 1 1/2 c. water) and I added a little garlic powder and onion powder (just a pinch each) to the dough when mixing the dry ingredients. I did not use the new flour. However, when I let the dough rise the second time, I sprinkled both sides of the loaf with the seeds and some Kosher salt. It turned out great! The seeds added to the taste and the appearance. I didn’t discern any difference using the garlic and onion powders. I probably used too little to make any difference. I did brush the warm loaf with butter after removing it from the oven. That was tasty.

I mixed up a batch yesterday morning using 2 cups of the King Arthur flour and 1 cup of the artisan flour, 1/4 t. citric acid, and the normal amount of yeast, instant this time, and salt. It rose much higher during the 20 hour rising than the other loaves. I am about ready to bake it. I hope it turns out even better than the others.

For me, the hardest part of the whole recipe is getting the bread off of the towel and into the hot pot. No matter how much flour I have on the towel, the wet dough sticks and I wind up struggling to get the dough off the towel without letting it slip away while I am trying to pull as much off the fabric as possible. I always wind up with a doughy mess left on the towel which does soak off pretty easily but I hate to waste the dough in a baking as well as monetary sense. Parchment paper didn’t work for me. Flour sacking towels were even worse. The next loaf I try may just sit in a greased bowl for the second rising. The bread is so good that this minor irritation is not going to prevent me making it.

UPDATE: I baked the bread this morning; I put it in the oven at 7:00. (I was up at 5:00 because my doggy was sick.) It was probably the best of the week.  It had a slight sour taste, due to the citric acid, I guess. I don’t know what made it so good.  Maybe it was just the combination of everything.  My daughter said that it was the best bread she ever tasted.  Now, she might have just been hungry, but her five year-old son also said it was good bread and her three year-old wanted a second piece after stuffing the first one in her mouth.  So, it is the winner so far.

I’m not baking bread tomorrow, just a cake, carrot cake with cream cheese icing.  I will share the recipe with you later. 

Morgana

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Phoebe is here

Precious Phoebe

Precious Phoebe

Please pardon the lack of recent posts. We were out of town for the birth of our fourth grandchild, Baby Phoebe. She is a beautiful 7 pound 7 ounce baby with perfect face and body. We are very glad to have this precious addition to our family. Her parents and big brother Hank are going to be very busy for a while but they are happy to have her too.

I took my laptop with me on our trip knowing that most hotels have internet connectivity, but I couldn’t keep my mind on blogging. I did find some interesting recipes as I browsed through magazines in the car and in waiting rooms. Perhaps I will be trying one soon and reporting to you about it.

In the meantime, I am baking my second loaf of no-knead bread today. I used a slightly different recipe, one with more yeast and more salt. We’ll see how it turns out. I started another loaf this afternoon and will bake it tomorrow, a tad more yeast than the first batch, but less than today’s loaf. I have ordered some King Arthur artisan bread flour and it should arrive soon and I will try that ASAP.

I bought a used enameled cast iron Dutch oven to use for bread and other things. Today’s loaf is baking in that. We’ll find out the difference in baking in cast iron than in ceramic. Lots of variables make this recipe interesting.

Update: The second loaf also tasted great. I used a different recipe, more yeast, instant instead of dry active, 2 t. salt, a different pot, and higher temperature. The bread spent 18 hours rising instead of 21 for the first loaf. The 480 degree oven today was too hot for the pot I used, an enameled cast iron Mario Batali Dutch oven (I bought it used on the internet for $cheap$). I will lower the heat to 360 degrees next time. The time spent rising wasn’t long enough. I will stick to 20-21. The additional salt was good. The bread tastes livelier, whatever that means. This loaf was a little flatter than the first loaf. All in all, there wasn’t a lot of difference in the two. This reinforces the statement about how forgiving the recipe is.

More later.
Morgana

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I must admit, I make good Swiss Steak – lots of onions, gravy, tender beef, slowly cooked for a deep, rich flavor, served over homemade mashed potatoes with green peas. O.K., I know it’s a full-fat dish and not one for everyday fare but it’s a good old standby.

I happened to watch “Pah-oh-lah Dieeeen’s” show on the Food Network one day last week when she prepared Swiss Steak. That’s what prompted my decision to have it for dinner tonight. Her recipe and mine are pretty similar. I usually add a tablespoon or so of tomato paste to the gravy as it simmers and Paula uses a can of diced tomatoes. This time I used half the can of diced tomatoes and no tomato paste for something a little different. It has been cooking in my slow cooker for the past 4 hours. I will report soon on how it tastes. You can find her recipe here if you want to check it out.

[Update: The Swiss Steak was great. Mac made the mashed potatoes for me after work. He used Yukon Gold potatoes which have so much great taste that they don’t need a lot of butter.]

On the same show, one devoted to slow cooking, not necessarily “slow cookers”, she featured peach cobbler. I made that last week and it was good. Her recipe suggests the option of adding a pint of blueberries to 2 cans of peach slices for the filling. The topping is based on biscuit mix, basically a shortcake type batter dropped on top of the fruit before baking. It tasted very good but I would make a few changes. I found that the topping-to-filling ratio was “top” heavy. I would have liked more peaches, but not more blueberries. I used less than a full pint of blueberries and it was too much blueberry flavor. Next time I make it I will use 3 or 4 cans of peaches and 1 pint of berries. That should solve the problem.

The taste was great, either way. We topped it with vanilla ice cream for a great midweek dessert. It’s good to have a dessert recipe that can come from the pantry when fresh fruits are not always available. Fresh peaches can be disappointing even when they are in season and locally available. Sometimes they are mealy and lacking in strong peach taste. Yuck! Frozen peaches can be a stand-in in certain dishes, fruit salad, for example.

Until next time, happy dining!

Morgana

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[UPDATE:  I have added lots of photos of the no-knead bread process here.]

smallbread-002.jpgI must have been living in a cave for the past few months. Somehow I missed an internet phenomenon, the whole No-Knead Bread excitement, that has been buzzing through the cooking blogs since last November.

The New York Times published an article about a simple bread recipe that requires no kneading and bakes, covered, in a Dutch oven. The resulting loaf was said to be as good as artisan bread from specialty bakeries. The article was accompanied by a video showing the few steps to prepare the bread. Well, this was the shot heard round the baking world, I guess, and thousands of people rushed to snap up all the instant yeast in NYC and beyond.

Before the ink was dry on the last edition of the paper, dough was mixed and left to rise on counters all around the country, and in fact, around the world. A quick trip through Google results for “no-knead bread” provided me with an enormous list of rave reviews. I found no complaints other than the fact that the bread didn’t last long enough!

Because the list of common ingredients is a short one, I had everything on hand. I mixed the dough yesterday at noon, let it rise overnight, shaped the dough at 9:00, let it rise another three hours, and baked it at 1:00 this afternoon. I let it cool for a while and sliced off a hunk. It is good. It is more than good. It is great. I’ve made bread before and have always been somewhat disappointed with the result. If you have a bread machine, you can throw it away and recapture your shelf space.

Here is a link to the original NYT article, complete with video. The recipe I used was the one available in the article. It appears at the bottom of this post.

I didn’t have instant yeast and used Red Star Active Dry Yeast instead.  After the night-long rise, I was concerned that it hadn’t risen very much, and in fact, after the second rising it still hadn’t doubled in size as the recipe suggests it should.  Nevertheless, the bread turned out great.  I will use instant yeast next time and compart the two loaves.

As I read some the internet discussion about this bread, I noticed a lot of debate about the best kind of Dutch oven to use.  The high heat required, 450 – 490 degrees F.,  made some unsuitable due to plastic handles being unable to withstand the hot ovens. With the ingredients being to inexpensive, a little flour, salt, yeast and water, I decided to experiment with a Corningware casserole.  No problem at all. The bread didn’t stick, formed a nice crust, and most importantly, tasted like it was straight from a bakery.smallbread-001.jpg

This is a very forgiving recipe, unusual for baking. I used the wrong yeast, let it rise 3 hours longer than called for (22 hours for first rising), baked it too hot (475), for too long (50 minutes), and it still was wonderfully tasty. We devoured it in one day.

Watch the video for inspiration. You have nothing to lose but a few cents worth of ingredients. Go for it.

No-Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 t. instant yeast (yes, one-fourth teaspoon)
1 1/4 t. salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 c. water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) on oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O>K> shake pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Hint:
A dough scraper or metal “hamburger” flipper makes folding the dough over on itself easy. The dough is very wet, and looks like it won’t hold together. It does. Also, one hint I saw on the internet was to use a clean pillowcase instead of a towel. Because the pillowcase has a finer weave than a towel, it won’t let the dough stick as much. If you put the dough on one end of the pillowcase, you can fold the other end over on top of the dough. You still have to flour it, or dust it with cornmeal or bran.

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