Monday, October 29, 2007

Week of October 28

Sorry guys, weekend got out of hand ... back now.

We had a frost warning in the forecast, so Dave and I pulled all our remaining tomatoes off their vines to save them from freezing up.

Was out of the house all day Saturday, so all shopping and cooking happened on Sunday. On Sunday, I:
  • Made Spicy Grain Soup (from Food and Wine)
  • Prepped Chicken Cacciatore with tomatoes and bacon
  • Cooked chickpeas
  • Parboiled spinach
  • Made Sunday dinner
Week Menu


Grilled pork chops
Oven-roasted green beans
Fried green tomatoes
Corn bread

Spicy grain soup

Chicken cacciatore
Sauteed spinach

Pasta with chorizo and chickpeas (a la Mark Bittman)



Not Quite the Week of October 28

Back shortly.

To tide you over, here's a picture of a lovely calendula blossom from the garden.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

'Shrooms & Hash

Totally legal option.

I love hash. Hash is usually made of potatoes that have been cut up ("hashed") and fried with onions and beets (red flannel hash), corned beef (corned beef hash), smoked salmon (smoked salmon has... you get the point, ya?). Most recipes say to use "leftover" potatoes. When's the last time you had leftover boiled potatoes on hand? Right.

This is a mushroom hash and is great as a side dish for steaks or roasted chicken. You could use fresh mushrooms, but in this version I used dried mushrooms. There's not a lot of bulk provided by these little morsels, but oh ... the flavor.

Most hash recipes have you make everything in a skillet. That works fine, but for a large quantity of hash, I make it in the oven on a large sheet pan.

Mushroom Hash (Serves 4-6)
  • 1/2 cup dried mushrooms, porcini are best, but try what you can find at your market (although I think that shiitakes and morels are the wrong mushrooms for this technique - too fleshy)
  • 4 medium-large potatoes (8 small-medium potatoes or 5 medium potatoes), yukon golds are great for this
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves or garlic, minced or pressed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Put the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the potatoes into small chunks (hash-sized, your call how small. The smaller the pieces, the faster they'll cook.). On a large baking sheet, toss the potatoes and shallots together with enough olive oil to make everything glisten. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Put the pan into the oven.

Let the potatoes cook, stirring them around every 15 minutes or so. After 20-30 minutes, they should be browned and starting to crisp.

Lift the mushrooms out of the water and chop finely. Strain the water through a coffee filter. Take the pan out of the oven and toss into the potatoes: the mushrooms, garlic, thyme and 1/2 cup the soaking water. Put back into the oven for 10 minutes.

Serve hot as a side dish or as a bed for poached or fried eggs. This reheats

Fresh mushroom variation: Slice about 4 ounces of fresh mushrooms (about half of a box from the supermarket) into thick pieces (about the same thickness and size as you've sliced the potatoes). Put them in with the potatoes at the beginning of the cooking. Use dried mushrooms too, if you wish.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Week of October 21

Goodness. About halfway through last week, Dave mentioned that he was drinking A LOT of water. I looked at my menu, and thanks to the large part Rein's Deli played in our menu plan, the week turned into Hypertension Awareness Week. Lotsa salt. Now that the salt lick has been flushed from our systems (lots of water people, lots), we are ready to move along.

This Sunday, I:
  • Made Shoulder-Season soup (leeks and zucchini - to me, that's summer and fall in one dish)
  • Made Clothilde's Carrot and Rosemary Scones (mine are bigger than hers, but look lovely)
  • Prepped Eggplant Parmesan
  • Sauteed spinach for Wednesday
  • Made a batch of Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce (I swear I will post this shortly) before the summer's over
  • Made Brown-Sugar Butter Cake (post to come)
  • Made Sunday dinner
Week Menu

Flank steak with chimichurri sauce
Pinto beans with rosemary
Sliced tomatoes

Cream of zucchini and leek soup with yellow peppers
Carrot and rosemary scones

Pasta with broccoli, olives and goat cheese

Eggplant parmesan
Sauteed spinach

Chicken cutlets
Quinoa salad
Roast cauliflower

Green salad

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Drink of the Week: Junior Cocktail

Sorry for the pictureless post. Something's hinky with Blogger (grr!) and I can't post any images right now. (Updated with picture on Sunday morning.)

Anyhoo ... this drink is really good (I say that a lot, don't I?). It requires that you own Benedictine, which according to the distiller's web site is "a judicious blend of the recipes created by Dom Bernardo Vincelli and by Alexandre Le Grand. It is made up of 27 plants and spices which come from the four corners of the globe." Benedictine also has the "zest of eternity." I didn't drink enough of these to figure out what that meant.

This cocktail tastes like a really good lime-flavored Jolly Rancher, and I mean that in the best possible way. It is not too sweet and has a remarkable full flavor.

Junior Cocktail

In an iced cocktail shaker, shake together:
  • 2 oz. rye
  • 3/4 oz. Benedictine
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • dash Angostura bitters
Strain into a chilled martini glass.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Beautiful Beans

This is lovely little side dish. I started roasting my green beans after I read an article about the method in Cook's Illustrated. It's really a great technique: it's relatively hands-off, it works well with crappy out of season beans, and the beans taste really good when they're done.

The roasting intensifies the bean flavors and it's really easy to toss the cooked beans with herbs or other seasonings. These are also great cold or at room temperature.

Roasted Green Beans
  • 4 small handfuls green beans (enough for 4 servings, eyeball the portion size) - I used green, purple and yellow green beans
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • minced herbs or garlic (optional)
Cut the stem end off the green beans and remove the strings if they are tough. On a large baking sheet toss the beans with enough oil so they're glistening. (Don't use so much oil that the beans are sitting in a pool of it.) Sprinkle with a little salt.

Put the baking sheet in the oven at 400 degrees. After 10-15 minutes, stir the beans around; they should be browning and softening.

After another 10 minutes, toss the beans with the herbs. If you're using garlic, toss the garlic with it and then put the beans back in the oven for a few minutes.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Week of October 14

This is picture of dried porcini mushrooms. They were a key ingredient in tonight's mushroom hash. Yum.

I was away all weekend so didn't get do to any cooking. So, this week's menu is a prize example of the "hunt and gather" philosophy of meal planning. I was down in New Jersey for the weekend, and on my drive back North, I stopped at the standard Boston-New York way station just north of Hartford: Rein's Deli in Vernon, Connecticut. That one pit stop allowed me to supplement my pantry staples and create a fun little meal plan.

This Sunday, I:
  • Went shopping.
  • Sent my husband to the supermarket. :-)
Menu for the Week

Dirty steak
Lazy mushroom hash (post to come)
Roasted green beans with thyme and marjoram

Pastrami sandwiches (pastrami and rye bread from Rein's)

White bean salad with smoked fish (salmon and sable from Rein's)

Kielbasa with red cabbage

Chili (and again ... thank you Rein's)

Chinese dumplings

Friday, October 12, 2007

Drink of the Week: $12 Martini

On a whim, I bought a copy of Food and Wine Cocktails 2007. I do recommend it, it's a great little book with lots of great cocktail ideas.

This is one we tried tonight: it's called the $12 Martini. It was absolutely delicious and the perfect way to start my Friday night.

According to the book, this drink was created at Saucebox in Portland, Oregon and is named to make fun of the high-dollar cocktail craze.

The $12 Martini
  • 3 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/2 Scotch (the recipe calls for an Islay, be we used Johnny Walker Black)
  • 1/2 ounce Pernod
Over ice in a mixing glass, mix together the gin, vermouth and Scotch. Rinse a chilled martini glass with the Pernod (swirl the Pernod around the glass and toss it out). Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You Dirty Ratatouille

Most of our meals this week are coming from the freezer (mac and cheese, Noney's sauce) or from the hit parade (red lentil soup), so there's nothing very exciting to post. So here's something different for you to try.

I know Fall is here, but you have about one week left to eat your last fresh eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and other such summery vegetables.

This baked ratatouille idea is liberally lifted from Smitten Kitchen. But something this good should be appropriated and adopted as your own. It's pretty, it's delicious and you can bake it ahead and serve at room temperature. Genius dish. (Apologies for the 1970's-era glamour shot.)

Baked Ratatouille
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 zucchini (1 yellow, 1 green if possible)
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • herbs: basil, thyme, chives (optional)
Slice all your vegetables into thin rounds. What's important is that they're all sliced to the same thickness, so if you can only slice 1/4" slices, that's fine. I like them thinthinthin and use my mandoline.

Layer the vegetables into a baking dish like so:

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss finely chopped fresh herbs over the top if you wish. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with foil.

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. Take the foil off and bake another 10-15 minutes. Everything should be cooked through but not mushy.

This dish is great at room temp and is very good when baked a day ahead and left to mellow in the fridge.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Week of October 7

I am one of the fortunate few who works for a company which observes Columbus Day (yay me!). Thus my normal Sunday post is happening on Monday. Four-day week aside, this weekend was busy and the rest of week will be no better. Therefore, my meal plan is very made-ahead. I am harvesting some main dishes from the freezer and will be supplementing them with fresh side dishes from the farmstand.

On Monday I:
  • Made red lentil soup (with addition of fresh tomatoes)
  • Took Noney's tomato sauce out of the freezer
  • Took two portions of macaroni and cheese out of the freezer
  • Make Monday dinner

Week Menu


Chicken piccata (with lemon and capers)
Roasted beets with chervil and chives
Sauteed spinach
Roasted fingerling potatoes

Grilled sausage
Zucchini fritters
Tomato salad

Penne with Noney's tomato sauce

Red lentil soup with tomatoes
Cucumber salad

Macaroni and cheese
Green beans


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Drink of the Week: Bicyclette

Summer's not over yet! This is a really nice aperitif in that it's not too alcoholic (in other words, one or two won't knock you on your heiney).

A Bicyclette is similar to an Italian apertivo called a Spritz. A Spritz is made of a bitter apertivo (usually Campari) mixed with prosecco (usually in a 1 to 2 ratio). Ver' nice.

The Bicyclette is a little simpler and you may have the ingredients at hand. White wine and sparkling water take the place of the prosecco. It's a refreshing, very drinkable drink.


Put a few ice cubes into a shaker glass. Mix together:
  • 2 oz. white wine
  • 1 1/12 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. sparkling water
Pour over ice. Garnish with an orange or lemon slice.

A great variation is made with Aperol substituted for the Campari. Aperol is newly available in the US. It looks like orange Robitussin but does not taste medicinal in any way. It's orange-flavored, with a gentle bitter note.

An Aperol Bicyclette looks a little like orange Fanta.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Reruns - Just as Good the Second TIme

We had Muhammara and Tabouli for dinner the other night. Links to both recipes are here and here.

I did two things differently and with success: The tabouli was made with millet instead of bulgur wheat. The muhammara recipe calls for walnuts and this time I used toasted pine nuts.

Both were delicious and enjoyed by all. Just a reminder that you can adjust recipes for what you have in house. If I hadn't had pine nuts, I might have used walnuts. If no millet, maybe couscous or quinoa or a little pasta like orzo.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Grilled Sausage Ragout

No, I don't have a fog machine in my kitchen. That's steeeam, baby.

I brought this to the office yesterday and it was inhaled by my crew of tasters. I think this would be very nice over pasta (rigatoni or shells). At home, we had it with garlic toast.

This recipe uses the grill, both to add flavor and to keep the kitchen neat. You should feel free to saute everything instead if you prefer or if you don't have a grill at hand.

Grilled Sausage Ragout, serves 6
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • olive oil
  • 3 red bell peppers (or 1 cup roasted red peppers from a jar)
  • 8 sausages (italian, garlic and cheese, etc. - no maple or apple)
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped or torn coarsely
Heat your gas grill to medium heat. (I am no master of the charcoal grill, but if using charcoal: indirect heat for this step.)

Slice the eggplant (the short way) into thick rounds (about 3/4" thick). Brush with olive oil and put on the grill.

Slice the bell peppers into large pieces (you'll be cutting them smaller later). Brush with oil and put on the grill. Grill the vegetables slowly, until the red peppers' skins are brown and crackly and the eggplant is soft through (15-20 minutes). Set the vegetables aside.

Turn the heat up on the grill and cook the sausages until done. Refrigerate all these items until you are ready make the ragout.

Make the ragout: Cut the roasted eggplant into large chunks. Peel the skins off the peppers and tear the peppers into bite-sized pieces (discard the skins). Cut the sausage into rounds. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks. Put everything into a large saucepan or dutch oven on the stove. Heat everything together, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes and eggplant will break down, making a thick sauce. (This will take about 15 minutes.) Press the garlic through a garlic press and stir in to the ragout.

When the ragout is heated through and the tomatoes have broken down, stir in the basil. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve.

This tastes better the next day.
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