Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Picture of You

How do we capture our images and impressions of the people that we love? How do we properly recognize the pauses, the glances that endear us to one another, the securing relationships so deep in our hearts as the years turn themselves into a beloved shelf of collected stories? To celebrate my friend's birthday, I did what I could: I poured, cooked, and served. A side of sentiment was tossed in as I prepared a menu of what I know she loves to eat. To whit, I pored over cookbooks in preparation, and so arrived a Sunday brunch of devilishly good stuffed eggs, beets, and duck.

I created place cards with a picture of us from 30 years ago and put the menu inside. She loves these Pottery Barn plates with yesteryear letters embossed on them. Fiddle head napkins accompanied.

Otherwise, the festive table was mostly orange and green with a few other friends scattered about.

Pugs in the form of salt and pepper shakers!

Behold the centerpiece! A set of serving trays with a fine giraffe stretched across found companions such as some Meyer lemons and an artichoke!


February 19, 2012
In Which We Celebrate
A 45th Birthday Brunch for Jennifer Buermann

To Drink
Bloody Good Prosecco

To Snack
Caviar Eggs

To Sup
Beet and Endive Salad

...I hadn't added the beets in yet.

Tangerine Duck with Dried Cherries, Vegetable Purees & Pear Chutney, Stuffing Cups

To Sweet
Pepperidge Farm Lemon Cake with Berries

Happy Birthday!

Luncheon Ladies Soundtrack: Billie Holiday, Billie's Best; Ella Fitzgerald, The Best of the Songbooks--The Ballads; The Dinah Washington Story; Nancy Wilson, Anthology.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shouldn't You Just...?

Valentine's Day!

Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new millennium.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pizza & Beer Party

Despite the presence of PBR, this wasn't exactly a throwback to college days. Our friend was visiting from Turks and Caicos sort of last minute and so we wanted to have a party! We filled up a few growlers of beer, picked up our Pabst, made our own pizzas and off we went. It wasn't a huge affair, or at least didn't start that way, but the evening did seem to grow as unexpected guests stopped by.

Prepping ingredients should always be first and foremost!

Baby made the crispy, exquisite (easy!) dough for our pizzas from Jim Lahey's book. Shown here are the Cubano and Veggie.


Cubano Pizza
Ingredients: pernil al horno, sliced ham and pickles
Sauce: mustard bechamel
Cheese: shredded provolone
Note: for the pernil, Baby does not use a mortar and pestle to make the time consuming paste; he just throws the ingredients into a food processor.

Veggie Pizza
Ingredients: thinly sliced zucchini and yellow squash
Sauce: leek-onion balsamic jam
Cheese: sprinkling from a bag of Emmi gruyere and Swiss cheese


Sausage Mushroom Pizza
Ingredients: sweet fennel sausage with sliced oyster and shiitake mushrooms
Sauce: San Marzano sauce with basil from Fresh Direct
Cheese: grated mozzarella

French Onion Soup
Ingredients: click here
Sauce: strained onions from the soup!
Cheese: more of the Emmi cheeses

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lazy Beans


This is such a festive soup and great to make with leftovers found after rummaging through the refrigerator and freezer. Why not throw a little kale or Swiss chard in to finish? We did!


This is how our lazy soup started, simmering bones and broth and whatever else we had on hand to make a fine stock.
Link

Lazy Pasta and Bean Soup
Serves 10
Ingredients
2 quarts of stock, any combination of chicken, pork, and beef
1 lb. sweet sausage, casings removed
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 lb. bag of Hurst 15-bean mix, soaked overnight and drained
1/2 lb. tubetti pasta, or any small tubular pasta such as elbow macaroni

Simmer the stock for one hour with one handful of dried soup greens (such carrots, garlic, celery, onions) and any bones you might have from the freezer. Liberally season with sea salt and ground black pepper.

Brown sausage in 4 quart pot with 1 TB olive oil, breaking it down as you go. Set aside and refrigerate.

In same pot, cook carrot, celery and onions until translucent, not browned. Add can of tomatoes with juice. Let simmer 3-5 minutes. Add beans and stock and let simmer further for 2 1/2 hours. Add sausage and continue simmering for 15 minutes. Stir in pasta, cover, turn off flame and let sit for 20 minutes.

Season with grated Parmesan and serve.

Do enjoy!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Snacks


Although I really have no affiliation with football at all, I loved Madonna during half-time and was sorry to see my home-based Patriots lose. But the Giants defeat over the Patriots had nothing to do with our mercurial girrlll!

We supported our compatriots with this:


In anticipation of the kick-off, Baby and I made a Layered Chicken Three-Cheese Enchilada from a recent Williams-Sonoma catalog as well as a batch of Classic Margaritas to er, get the ball rolling. Both are simply executed and well suited up any time of year.

Do enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

One Pot Meals


A simple chili dinner for a friend turned into somewhat of a bacchanal when our neighbors dropped by last Friday. As always, a judicious scattering of elegant serving ware is prudent with some fine napkins to accompany, whatever the event and however unexpected it may be. My relatives used to speak of boiling an extra potato in case a friend or a hobo dropped by. Throw everything onto the table! Of course! With our one pot meals prepared beforehand, this was all such an easy delight.

A little unleashed ambiance created by candles will pull together any meal.

It was a total blast, as we also reheated some recently braised pork to add to the proverbial pot, poured a few more accompanying Fritos on our plates...

and cracked open at least a few more bottles of wine.


Do enjoy fully prepping beforehand--as well as embracing the unexpected!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Shouldn't You Just...?

Find a few old Simplicity patterns and use them as centerpieces and runners for your table, if only for a while? Adding a favorite cookbook to your table top works as well with perhaps a fanciful Nancy Drew mystery novel.

Further set your table by adding dishes, utensils and accoutrements...



And make Kalua pork with sriracha aioli! I don't have a slow cooker as the recipe suggests, so I just used an ample enamel Dutch oven. The oven temperature didn't go over 200 degrees and it cooked slowly overnight, about 12 hours.

Observe the gorgeous hue of preternatural blue from the black lava salt, and the fat cascading off the bone!


The pork turned into Frito pie!

Do enjoy!


Kalua Pork Sliders with Sriracha Aioli
Adapted from foodista.com
Ingredients
Kalua Pork Ingredients:
5-6 lbs pork butt
2 tbsp black Hawaiian lava salt
1 1/2 tbsp liquid smoke
Slider bunsLink
Dill pickle slices
Lots of time (16 - 20 hrs)
Sriracha Aioli Ingredients:
2 egg yolks
1 cup canola oil
2 tbsp Sriracha
Juice from one lemon
Pinch of salt

Preparation:
Take your pork butt, poke a bunch of holes in it with a knife and rub with the Hawaiian salt and liquid smoke.
After you thoroughly rub your pork but with the the salt and liquid smoke, put it in a crock pot on low for 16-20 hrs. It's a fantastic meal to start the night before you want to eat it. Let it cook all through the night and all day at work and you'll have a great surprise when you get home from work the next day.
After 16-20 hrs in the slow cooker, the kalua pork should be finely pulled apart. It's easy to pull apart by grabbing two forks and just getting to work. Mix the meat up with all of the delicious simmering sauce and keep it on warm.
Now it's time for the aioli. Simply add your egg yolks, Sriracha, lemon juice and a pinch of salt to bowl of your food processor and blend until the eggs are slightly frothy, about 1 minute.
Once the eggs are beaten, slowly add your canola oil while the mixer is running.
Garnish your slider buns with pickle and the aoili and serve!

Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new millennium.

Flan-tastic!

My friend from college loathes flan, and has even recently launched iwishilikedflan.com, where, among many other things that irritate him, he hilariously blogs about his discontent with the Spanish eggy confection. There are a range of foods that people wave away of course (my list is very small, including pretty much only brains, pickled snake, and crickets), but usually I tell these persnickety naysayers that if they don't like something, it's probably because they've never tried a proper preparation. So I assume that what my flan hating friend doesn't like about flan is the wiggly, syrupy consistency. I daresay this old-world recipe that I got from my Spanish neighbor might just change his ways. It's rather more like a granular, ricotta cheesecake and is the best I have ever tasted. Flan Hater is putting his wife to work to try it out and I anxiously await the details! And btw, congrats on the new website!

Flan
Ingredients
3 eggs (full)
3 yolks
2 cans condensed milk
2 can evaporated milk
Vanilla
Sugar

Method
Turn on oven at 375 degrees.
Turn 1/2 cup of sugar into caramel. When ready put in mold.
Put the 3 full eggs in blender with 1 can of condensed milk, and 1 can of evaporated milk. Blend and put aside.
Put the 3 yolks in blender and blend. Add 1 can of condensed milk, and 1 can of evaporated milk. Blend and add to the previous mix. Add a little bit of vanilla.
Put all this mix in the mold with the caramel.
Put this mold in a bigger one to do a Bano Maria (Bain Marie) in the oven.
Cook for one hour. Ready when a stick will come out clean.
When cooled down, turn mold upside down.

Do enjoy!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Covered in Treacle

It seems like I have been baking like mad recently, partly I suppose because all the freshly baked cookies and cakes are so comforting in these dreary months (no matter how warm they might be). While I was searching for a recipe for molasses cookies, an image of Lyle's black treacle popped up.

Baby had actually brought some of this stuff, akin to gasoline, back to the states from a recent business trip to London. With some trepidation, I wrested open the can and curiously peered inside before setting to work to make what turned out to be the most delicious cookies! If you don't happen to have black treacle skulking around your kitchen cabinets, dark molasses will do. What I suggest doing: bake the cookies somewhere around 8-10 minutes and then press each cookie once with the back of a spoon before putting them back into the oven for another 5 minutes. This dries them out a little, and makes them harder, turning them into more of a crisp pantry cookie than the soft-ish variety.

Conversions courtesy of me, in italics.

Black Treacle Cookies

Black Treacle Cookies adapted from Chew Treacle Cookies by Karin Christian on All Recipes UK
Makes: approximately 72 medium sized cookies
Ingredients
305 grams unsalted butter (beurre doux) 2 1/3 sticks
400 grams caster sugar (sucre semoule) 2 cups of superfine sugar in the states; take granulated and throw it in your food processor for a few minutes until dusty
120 ml black treacle 1/2 cup
2 eggs (oeufs frais)
500 grams plain flour (type 55 farine) 4 cups
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (2 cuillère à dessert cannelle)
1 teaspoon nutmeg (1 cuillère à dessert muscade)
1 teaspoon ground ginger (1 cuillère à dessert gingembre)
1 teaspoon salt (1 cuillère à dessert sel)
granulated sugar for coating (sucre cristal)

Instructions
1. Melt the butter then let it cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter, sugar, eggs, and black treacle. (Tip: Lightly grease your measuring device with vegetable oil before measuring out the black treacle so that it will slide out more easily.)
3. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
4. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in thirds, beating well after each addition. Chill dough for at least 3 hours.
5. Form the dough into walnut-sized balls and roll each ball in granulated sugar. Place on a greased baking sheet (or silicone baking mat) approximately 5 cm apart.
6. Bake cookies at 190 Celsius (375 degrees) for 8 to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Scones

Going through our kitchen cabinets, I found a can of pumpkin puree. As I am always trying to use things we already have on hand, I thought this would be a great opportunity to make pumpkin bread! Alas, I also discovered we hardly had any flour, which surely must signify end of days. There was a bag of whole wheat flour though and as I traipsed along the internet, I found this recipe for whole wheat pumpkin scones from adashofsass.com that was perfect to utilize a number of ingredients filling our kitchen shelves. As you can see above, I prepped most of my ingredients beforehand--baking powder, vanilla, the wheat flour and a blend of four spices in one ramekin, as they were all going in the mix together at the same time.

Cubed butter is seen here. Note to self: buy more butter!

Link
Get a solid pastry blender to work the butter into the flour and spices, until it is granular, like sand.

Mixing the dry ingredients that I had prepped, along with the wet ingredients such an egg, the puree and vanilla extract. I also incorporated some chocolate chips that were lurking about in the refrigerator and formed all into a 7'x7' shape, about an inch thick. This was then cut into pieces, glazed with an egg and topped with turbinado sugar.

Et voila, scones hot out of the oven!


Whole Wheat Pumpkin Scones
From adashofsass.com
Ingredients
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fine baker’s sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed or grated, then placed back in refrigerator until needed
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Raw sugar or sparkling sugar (optional)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or raisins or dried apricots (optional)

Directions
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a cast iron scone pan or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the pumpkin, cream, vanilla and one egg until combined. Place bowl in the refrigerator while preparing the dry ingredients.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.
- Using a pastry blender, two forks or your fingers, quickly work the cold butter cubes into the dry ingredients. Work until the mixture resembles a crumbly, sandy mixture.
- Add the cold wet ingredients to the crumbly mixture using a rubber spatula. Only stir until combined.
- Carefully add 1/2 cup of the chopped pecans and any additional add-ins (chocolate chips, raisins, apricots). Reserve the remaining 1/4 cup chopped pecans to sprinkle on the top of the scones. Knead the dough briefly, if needed.
- Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a 7 inch square that is approximately 1 inch thick. Using a large knife, carefully cut the square into quarters. Then cut each quarter into four even pieces. Place on lined baking sheet or prepared cast iron pan.
- In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a fork. Using a pastry brush, brush each scone lightly with the egg. Sprinkle with raw or sparkling sugar and the remaining pecans.
- Bake for 16-17 minutes. Be careful not to overbake or the scones will dry out. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or store in an airtight container for up to a week.