Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Wisconsin!

I took the time to sneak home to Wisconsin to see my family in June. Hadn't been home for over a year so it was great to be with everyone.

I timed it to coincide with my brother Tony's birthday and we started downtown Milwaukee with some drinks, a walk on the Riverfront and what else, but BURGERS.

Headed down to Twin Lakes with my sister to see my godson Stevie, boy he just doesn't quit growing, then Jackie and I headed up to the Derse slice of heaven... Riley's Point in Door County.

One of the best things about Riley's Point is the fact that you can't move without bumping into a Derse relative. Growing up this kinda stunk as you couldn't get away with anything, but now, it's pretty great. My grandma is 91 now and that seems as good an excuse as any for starting cocktail hour at 3:30. Manhattens and Miller Lite here we come.

Grandma's cottage is right on the lake (so is everyone's on the Point) so here's Jackie, wading around in Lake Michigan trying to convince me that it's warm.

She did manage to suck me in for some crabbing (that's what we call crayfish catching) and we spent a few hours turning over rocks in the lake trying to find the buggers. I only got pinched by one of these guys twice so I figure the effort we put into the crabbing in the deliciously cool lake (nope it wasn't cold) was well worth it.

We were in the mood for frogs legs so we sauteed them in garlic butter, cooked up our crabs with some caraway seed (the old german way) and boiled some corn. Invite a wonderful brownie-bearing Grandma over and you've got a meal made in heaven.

Finish up the day with a sunset at Aunt Rita's watching the pelicans go by and you've got a little slice of heaven. If you're lucky you might even get ice cream!

Thanks to my whole family for a superior (oops I mean Lake Michican) vacation!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Springtime Ramps

For weeks we have been wanting to get our hands on some fresh ramps and mentioning this to Chris and Pam the other night at their party, they blessed us with a copius spring bouquet of them. Now, what were we going to do with them...

We put them in the fridge and in the morning, even through the tupperware and the fridge door, the entire kitchen was redolent with ramps. We hied ourselves off to the market hoping for peas, (no such luck) and while there I managed to convince my sweetie to make us up a batch of fresh pasta.

All of the recipes I found called for blanching ramps, but they smelled so good I decided I would saute them with a bit of butter and olive oil instead. I had some sunflower seeds that needed eating and since this was a rare vegetarian meal, decided to add them into the mix.

We had picked up some pea shoots at the market as well, so my sweetie suggested we toss thos into the mixture, did that last minute as I wanted a bit of crunch to them. A bit of fleur de sel, some white pepper, a grating of parmesan and a Saturday lunch was ready to be eaten on the azelea blessed patio. It was the first time I had actually eaten ramps, I found them grassy yet nutty and sooo fresh and full of springtime flavor. Not an onion, not a chive, not garlic, but something in between with a hint of wild in it.

Here's to spring!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Le Creuset Envy No More

For years I have been going to my friend Tam's to visit and take over her kitchen. She has the most enviable le Creuset collection of anyone I know. We were gone last week and when we got home there was a very heavy box from Tam. I had NO idea what it could be so opened it up and started unpacking.

I have been BLESSED! multiple old beautiful le Creuset pans that we immediately decided to put to good use.

First up, an excellent oval baker that Tam said she had no idea what to put in it. I am imagining many meals of scalloped potatoes, but it's spring, so we decided to have rainbow trout. We laid it on a bed of fresh fennel fronds from the garden and stuffed it with fresh sorrel from same. A splash of white wine, tin foil and a 400 degree oven yielded delicious results.

I had never tried making fava beans before and we ran into them shopping at Wegmans. I didn't buy nearly enough, but enough to give them a try in a teeny tiny le Creuset that Tam sent. Parboiled, then sauteed with a bit of butter and mint for a couple of minutes... YUM!

Voila the finished dinner, Green Basmati Rice from the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook which has become our favorite, the Trout, the Favas and I made a lovely sorrel bechamel sauce to accompany. Dinner à deux.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Thomas Keller - Cookbook Club

We had a beautiful French Laundry Charm City Cookbook Club last week to finish off the week of Thomas Keller. Go to the the Charm City site and check out my Blogpost.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday night fun with salt

It was gorgeous out yesterday. I got to pick up Evan from the bus and we came home and made chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I don't know who was luckier, me, cuz I got to spend time with Evan, or him, cuz he got to lick the beaters. He certainly looked happy with his mouth covered in chocolate (sorry peeps, no picture).

Chris and Pam came over with a big slab of Himalayan pink salt to bake on and Chris tried it out last night on our grill. Isn't it beautiful? The kids were playing with the croquet set and the dulcet tones of their laughter, with good food and great friends made for a very enjoyable, relaxing evening.

You have to warm the salt block up for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes before you can use it, so we sat and talked and relaxed outside on the patio, the first beautiful evening of the year. Chris made shrimp, lobster and scallops, they were all verrry salty. Since we're all saltaholics, this worked out well, the scallops were almost too salty though. We're thinking a steak would be perfectly salted on the slab.

I made a huuuuge stir fry with the leftover Thai vegetables and herbs from Renee's brother Christopher's Thai cooking night on Monday. Sorry about the bad picture, I'll replace it when I get the other ones up.

We started with warm cookies, we ended with cold cookies and warming nut liquor (yes Chris) while the kids were very adorably snuggled up in my bed.

Thanks guys for a great evening!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ad Hoc - In Evergreen

It's a Thomas Keller kind of week. I'm hosting Charm City Cookbooking this week and decided to go a bit on the adventurous side and choose the French Laundry. I don't actually own any Keller books but in order to make up my mind I decided to borrow F/L from my friend Chris. He burdened me with Ad Hoc at Home as well so I was set for a Keller bonanza.

Choosing recipes from Keller's books is not easy. You have to consider time, availability of ingredients, and the level of patience for the recipe. My sweetie, paging through Ad Hoc, decided he was in the mood for spare ribs. He looooves him some ribs and we've decided that we prefer the spare ribs to baby backs as you get more meat from them. We needed to actually pair it with something and so in order to avoid my mundane habit of always wanting potatoes, I chose a celery root dish with melted onions and off we went.

We got a beautiful 5 lb rack of spare ribs and he got up early on Saturday and cut the ribs into sets of two. He mixed up the brown sugar rub to rub all over the ribs. The spice mixture used cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder and a few other things along with a cup of light brown sugar. He smeared this all over the ribs, noting that he'd never used so much rub in his life. There was a lot of rub. They marinated for 6 hours and then he grilled them with a bit of pear and hickory smoke for 2 hours.

The celery root dish was sooo good and sooo buttery. First you had to make the onions which he calls melted. Basically you saute them with a bouquet garni and lots of butter for about 30 minutes.

We had to make a paper cone so that they would steam but some steam woul d come out. I see this in both the Keller books that I'm working with this week. Look at the cute paper cone.

Celery root is bizarre looking stuff, but Keller has very specific instructions on how to cut it up. you cut off the ends and basically carve it down the sides. One of these years I'll get a mandoline, (I like Elizabeth's cheap one better than Chris' expensive one) but I needed to cut my celery root by hand for this exercise.

I had to sauté these in lots of butter with some fresh thyme, it took me about the same amount of time to cut and sauté these as it did to make the melted onions, which my sweetie took care of. The dinner was quite delightfully tasty.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

BAKE!!! with Nick Malgieri

Finally went to my first actual Baltimore Blogger event. This event, a cookbook publicity event for Bake! by Nick Malgieri was hosted in Julie's wonderful kitchen which is always a treat and put together by Dara of Dining Dish. She had quite the load to organize as she made sure everyone provided a delicious dish and there were wines donated from a few of the area vineyards.


Nick was great. He spent the evening in small private chats with people, talking about his experiences in the baking world, then did a talk on what it was like to be a pastry chef. Questions were asked on different things within the food world including the world of cookbook publishing and how he comes up with recipes. Nick made a fantastic bourbon chocolate cake (though he cheated and used rye instead) that is in the cookbook and gave us a sneak peek at some new biscotti. Looking forward to making that one.


The book BAKE! is a pretty book with a diverse set of baking recipes from breads to simple recipes for cookies to tips on making a perfect buttercream. I'm especially looking forward to trying out the puff pastry recipe.

Thanks Dara, Julie and Nick for a memorable evening.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thyme for a January warm-up

I love having fresh herbs. I have fresh rosemary that I can take from my bush outside any time I like (though it's covered with 8 inches of snow right now). I needed thyme for a recipe and actually had to buy thyme as I used all the stuff in my garden up. So I found myself with a large package of fresh thyme that needed to be used or dried. Usually I'm too lazy to dry my fresh herbs so I've been putting thyme in everything.

We have decided that winter, because the oven needs to be on for so long, is the very best time to make a long, slow roast. We had a Roseda top round in the freezer so I decided I wanted to make an herb-crusted roast. There are two options when making a top round rare roast beef. You can use the fancy method where you put it in a very hot oven for 20 minutes and then turn the oven off, or you can keep the kitchen nice and toasty for 2-3 hours at 300 degrees, just like Mom did when I was growing up. I went for option B.

First I coated the roast in a mixture of rosemary, thyme, 3 cloves of garlic, sea salt and pepper, ground up in the food processor with about 2 tbsp olive oil. I smeared this all over the roast, put it in the baking pan and popped it in the oven. DONE!

I'm on a fruits and vegetables kick. Understand, I don't necessairly admit to enjoying eating these things (meat and potatoes girl from Wisconsin you know ;-) but I bought the zucchini so I had to figure out what to do with it. My sweetie said roasted, I interpreted that to be gratin and found a lovely zucchini-basil gratin suggested in my Herbfarm cookbook. Since it's January, and my basil plants are definitely not out there in my herb garden, I change the gratin to a Zucchini-Thyme gratin, followed the recipe and popped it in next to the roast.

Now that the kitchen was all toasty warm, we decided to use some of the homemade bow-tie pasta that we had made over Christmas to go with it. We've been experimenting with homemade pastas for the last month. Lasagna, tagliatelle, raviolis, and now bows. We made so many bow-ties that we dried some. I decided to use them but found that I only had about 3oz, so we mixed them with egg noodles. I went for peas (more vegetables) as I had some fresh snow peas and a package of frozen peas so I decided to use those. I cut up a shallott and fried it up in some bacon grease and butter (yes I keep a thing of bacon grease in my fridge) and then added some thyme and a little bit of dried mint from last year's stash. Added the peas and snow peas cut up into 3/4 inch slices and then put in the cooked pasta. Drizzle with olive oil and voila!

As you can see, the plate turned out very tasty. The gratin with the parmesan on top was delciously salty, the meat tender and the pasta refreshing (yes even with three fats).

In order to complete the dinner we needed dessert. Luckily, I had frozen chocolate buttercream left over from the buche de noel this Christmas, and I had frozen a sugar tart crust so I took those out, baked up a couple of tart shells, smeared on the chocolate buttercream, some Door County Cherry preserves that I had brought home from WI last summer and sprinkled it with toasted almonds. YUM!