Saturday, July 30, 2011

"sun dried" tomatoes

our first tomatoes to ripen
this season
were our romas
unfortunately
they ripened 
while we were away from home
by the time i picked them
they had
shriveled on the vine

handfuls upon handfuls
baking in the sun
going from
sun-kissed
to
heat stroke
solar energy
had zapped my tomatoes

once picked
i sliced each tomato in half
placed cut side up on a sheet pan
sprinkled with sea salt
and
placed in a 175-200 degree oven to dry
about 2 hours later
or maybe 3
i lost count
(check on them every 30 minutes after the 1st hour)
they were done
dry but not dried out

after cooling 
i stuffed the deep red chewy goodness
 into a fancy jar
and 
smothered them 
with good olive oil




Saturday, July 23, 2011

triple berry dessert sauce



we grow strawberries in our garden
and each june
joyfully harvest them
we also grow
raspberries
blackberries
and
boysenberries
only evident
by the bare vines
choking our fences
those sweet berries 
are harvested by
the local fauna
which possess
ripeness gauges
to rival a seasoned gardener

i buy most of our berries
at the local farmer's market

this week
i found gorgeous raspberries
perfectly ripe
and 
brightly colored
at
 four bucks a punnet

here i was
mulling my decision to buy
when
a woman beside me said
"they would make the most delicous coulis"
"do you know what a coulis is?"
i sweetly smiled (which is a bit of a feat)
and said
"yes i do" and "yes they would"
but what i was thinking was
lady
you are either crazy or rich
because 
four dollars a handful is not a bargain
furthermore
 if i planned to whirl these in a blender 
with some sugar
i might as well buy frozen ones
for
 half .the. price.
 at the grocery

this going through my mind
as i handed over my eight dollars
and chose
the ripest berries
in the most full containers

i brought them home
and they sat
then i moved them to the fridge
where they sat
some more

today
i am reminded of that woman at the market
with her clarvoyant premonition
as i 
simmer these over ripe berries
into a sauce

not a coulis
but a sauce
just 
the
same
triple berry dessert sauce
1 pint raspberries
1 pint blackberries
1 lb strawberries--hulled and cut in half
juice of 1 lime
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 oz cassis
place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on low until the berries are soft and the sugar is melted.  the strawberries may take a bit longer to soften than the raspberries or blackberries. if you find this happening, just turn the burner off and allow the berries to sit in the warm juice for 10 minutes or so, the strawberries will continue to soften from the residual heat.
allow to cool to warm. spoon over ice cream or a slab of shortcake. refrigerate whats left. will keep about 5 days.

Monday, July 18, 2011

lemon-chevre ravioli

i have been making homemade pasta for as long as i can remember
growing up
 as summer arrived
so would my grandparents
both sets
heavily ladened with luggage
and lessons
my grandparents were old school italians
"the grandpops" sat on the sun porch
playing cards and tending to the vegetable garden planted each year
(zucchini flowers were a must have every summer)
and the "grans" would sit at the kitchen table
compiling lists of what would be needed for the evening supper
pasta
always a side dish
always
homemade
we would make it several times each summer
filling our bellies and the freezer
the dining room
became
pasta central

a table only used at christmas
 in a room that appeared hermetically sealed
would become
a work bench,  covered in flour

we'd spend hours
kneading
rolling 
cutting
and 
drying
our summer staple

it must be said
we never used 00 flour
the type used for pasta in many regions of italy
it was hard to find
and expensive
we used what we had on hand

it was delicious

my grandparents have all passed
and with them
many of  the summer traditions
we all enjoyed
but
i still make pasta
in small quantities
with the same equipment
as generations past
however
it is abundantly less shocking
to see my dining room
littered with flour
and covered in pasta


sometimes i use 00 flour
when i have it on hand
but mostly
which works beautifully for a delicate pasta
like this lemon pasta 
used to make chevre ravioli

not quite how nonna would do it
but delicious
none
the
less

lemon-chevre ravioli
for the pasta
3 cups cake flour (i use king arthur)
5 extra large eggs
2 tsp finely grated lemon peel
place the flour in a mound on your work bench.  using your fist, make a large well in the center of the mound. 
Using the fork, bring the flour into the eggs to begin forming a dough. Continue bringing the flour in until you have a sticky mixture.  Begin working the rest of the flour in by hand and knead for at least 10 minutes, and until you have a very smooth dough.  The dough must be very smooth and well kneaded before leaving it to rest for 10 minutes or up to an hour at room temperature.  Cover the dough with plastic or a towel or something to discourage a "skin" from forming.  When ready, use a bit of flour so the dough does not stick and roll very thin.  cut in desired shape(s)
for the filling
5 oz chevre--room temperature
3 oz cream cheese--room temperature
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch nutmeg
1 tsp finely grated lemon peel
2 Tbs basil leaves--chiffonade
pinch salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
mix everything together until evenly incorporated.  place in refrigerator until using.  can be made up to a day in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.

to assemble
small bowl of water and pastry brush
flour
semolina flour or cornmeal
it is important that your dough is rolled out thin, because you are using two pieces. it doesn't have to be as thin as a won ton wrapper, but it should be close to it.  if you are using a pasta machine, roll the pasta to the second thinnest setting.
place 1 sheet of pasta, cut into strips 2" wide and as long as you like on your work surface. make sure your surface is dusted with flour to prevent sticking.  place filling with a teaspoon in the center of the dough, leaving room for even border on all sides. brush the dough, where you are going to seal the top piece, with water.  place a second piece of dough on top.  press around the filling with your fingers until you have a nice seal.  stamp with your ravioli cutter, cut with a knife, roller or cookie cutter to make uniform ravioli.  press the seams one more time.  place on a cookie sheet sprinkled with a bit of semolina or cornmeal to prevent sticking.  use immediately, or freeze for future use.

this recipe is being linked up to 
click here to see what other great recipes are being made with king arthur flour
*full disclosure...i received a coupon for a 5lb bag of flour from king arthur flour for agreeing to participate in this challenge.


you can also find me at the hearth and soul blog hop

Friday, July 15, 2011

i love sweets {buffet}

when asked to donate
a sweets table
for a school auction
i enlisted the help of a friend
because
well
to put it mildly
i can run amok
grand ideas
outlandish displays
(we shall never forget the 15 foot lighted eiffel tower we HAD to make for last year's french theme)
and
fancy packaging
always seem like a great idea
before
two days of frantic baking
my friend
is a voice of reason
incredible creative talent
meticulous taste
and
the queen of cones
together
we were able to put together 
this darling display
expressing the event theme of
LOVE



*labels and signs created by hubster

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tuesday Night Supper Club--link up no. 45 {spotlight}

welcome to our new monthly format of tuesday night supper club. 
this month, i would like to introduce you to an amazing woman with a very interesting culinary background.  i have always been intrigued by her recipes and have been following her blog for a very long time.
last week, camilla posted these mouth watering flourless chocolate cupcakes
but she doesn't just do sweets, actually she mostly doesn't make sweets. i have become fascinated by the way she takes rarely used and/or unknown ingredients and turns them into something that makes me want to jab a fork right into my computer screen for a little taste.
sit back and get to know camilla from culinary adventures with camilla.  fair warning, you will be hooked!

1. What is your culinary background...are you professionally trained, self-taught, love to cook?
I have a lot of childhood memories that involve food and cooking. I remember sitting on the kitchen counter because my dad had put me in charge of the spaghetti sauce. He often had all of his college students over for dinner parties. I was probably eight years old and I just kept stirring, stirring, and stirring while the aroma of the garlic, oregano, basil, and tomatoes swirled around me. It was intoxicating. But I wouldn’t say that I “learned to cook” until I was living in Italy during my early 20s. I had graduated from college, fled the country to let my LSAT scores expire without telling my parents that I had changed my mind about law school, and was working as an au pair in Rome. The woman I worked for was a countess who taught yoga in her studio on the bottom floor of the palazzo. One day she found out that I liked to cook. So she had the cook, Maria, teach me – processes, not recipes – and then she fired the cook. From that point on I was in charge of three meals a day for the family. While I resented it at the time, it was an incredible gift – both for my fluency in the Italian language and in the kitchen. Because electricity in Italy is so expensive, people shop on a daily basis. I went to the market every single day, except Sunday, learned what was in season, talked to the vendors, and found out how they would prepare things. So, I guess you could say I’m self-taught; but it would be more accurate to say that I absorbed ways to cook from many different Italian farmers and cooks.

2. How long have you been blogging and how did you get your start?
My first official blog post was on January 17, 2010 – for a spiced hot chocolate. But I’ve been writing down recipes and sharing them with friends for years, that’s sort of how this whole thing started. I have this red book that I’ve been scribbling recipes into for a long time. It’s tattered and there are stains and spills throughout the pages. After a meal they really liked my family would command, “Write that recipe in the red book” or declare, “that’s red-book worthy.” I’d cook for people or mention to others what I had for dinner. And, typically, the response was the same: “can I have the recipe?” So I started the blog as a way to write down the various ways I’ve put ingredients together. I don’t often measure, except when I bake, so my blog might be frustrating for some. But I hope my photos and “recipes” inspire people to step out of their culinary comfort zone and have some fun with new flavors.

3.I am always fascinated with your "theme" posts...you will take 1 ingredient and showcase it so many different ways...like your beetroot dinner for example. Is that something you have always done?
Thanks, Christy. Several New Year’s Eves ago I resolved to expand my culinary horizons by cooking a different kind of food each month. In the beginning I would pick a spot on the globe, research the culture and some traditional foods, then I would invite some close friends over for some tabletop travel. Somewhere along the way those geographically-themed dinner parties transitioned to include ingredient-themed dinners, again as a challenge. I have a good friend who says things such as “I don’t eat eggplant.” And to prove him wrong I created an entire menu around the eggplant. He gobbled it up and simply modified his declaration: “I only eat eggplant at Camilla’s house.” It’s a start. But to answer your question succinctly, whether it’s by location or ingredient, yes, themes give me focus and I have been creating my menus around them for years.

4. Your recipes use a lot of unusual and interesting ingredients...are you inspired first by what you find, or by a recipe?

I am all about adventure. I already mentioned my post-college escape to Italy. When I moved back to California I fell in love with similarly adventurous soul. A year later he proposed on a desert island off the coast of Venezuela during a SCUBA trip. A dozen years into this journey, we have two little boys and our travel adventures are slightly more tame and certainly less frequent. But, with unusual and interesting ingredients, it’s always an adventure around my dining room table. I would say that I am typically inspired, first, by an ingredient. Even my kids are trained in that regard; if we’ve never had it, heard of it, or seen it, we’ll buy it! One day at the farmers’ market, my little one gestured to a pile of prickly pear paddles and excited said, “Mommy, Mommy! We’ve never had those. Can you buy them?” So I forked over the cash and went home to research what to do with them. Together we made a tasty concoction inspired by  Rick Bayless's Sopa de Hongos y Nopales..

5. Do you have a food hero or heroine?
We don’t have a TV, or rather we don’t have any television stations, so I don’t often see cooking shows or really know who the TV food personalities are. But I do love Lidia Bastianich from PBS’ Lidia’s Italy; she reminds me of the Italian woman who taught me to cook. And for the reality check that I’m really not that adventurous and for the vicarious globe-trotting, I like Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods.

6. What is your least favorite food trend?
I’m sort of out of touch when it comes to food trends. On second thought – I just did a search for ‘food trends 2011.’ It turns out, I’m actually very trendy…not because it’s a trend, but because I’ve been doing some of these things for my family for a long time. Sustainable. Locally-grown. Organic. Is that really considered trendy?!?  Probably the thing I’ve seen pop up on blogs everywhere that I just don’t get: red velvet. Cakes, cupcakes, pancakes. Eating something that is made with an entire vial of food coloring should not be allowed. I tried a recipe for red velvet that included beet juice. I tried a recipe that used shredded beets. I even tried a recipe that claimed the combination of cocoa, buttermilk, and vinegar would result in a pretty red cake. No go. Maybe I just don’t like the red velvet trend because I can’t do it. That’s possible.

7. What is your number 1 kitchen essential?
Number one kitchen gadget?!? I’m admittedly low-tech. I have to remind myself how to use my can-opener every time I use it.  Scout’s honor, that is true. But what could I not live without? My wooden spoons. Olive oil. A corkscrew.

8. Dream dinner party--guest list, menu, location and music.
I have this group of friends, the HOGS – the Happy Omnificent Gourmet Society. We are nine couples that take turns hosting dinner parties. We’ve been doing this for about eight years. In answer to that question, I’m thinking about a party I would throw for them – and some other foodies folks – if money were no object. Italy. It would definitely be in Italy. I would recreate one of three most memorable meals of my life.  It’s not that the food was extravagant, it wasn’t. These were just the freshest, tastiest, most enjoyable wine-soaked dinners. Absolute bliss. Italian Dream Dinner One: On a farm on Lìpari, the largest of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the northern coast of Sicily. I had rented a room for a week and people that lived there would leave a basket of food outside of my room each morning. One night they invited me to eat with them. Fresh eggs simmered in a fresh tomato sauce with slices of the most perfect garlic I’ve ever seen and a sprinkling of fresh basil and sea salt. Freshly shelled fava beans. And fresh figs for dessert. Oh, and lots and lots of red wine. Italian Dream Dinner Two, embellished from an actual dinner that I had on my 24th birthday: On a white sand beach – Rena Bianca in Santa Teresa di Gallura - along Costa Smeralda on Sardinia. Fresh bread, pungent cheese, octopus salad, mussels steamed in wine, fresh wild strawberries, and lots of chilled, sparkling white Sardinian wine. Italian Dream Dinner Three: there’s a restaurant in Rome that we stumbled on for a joint birthday dinner. No sign. No menu. You just sit at the table and they bring you plate after plate and bottle after bottle. It was all delectable. As for music…I'd just want one really great mandolin player.

9. 3 things always in your shopping cart?
garlic, capers, whatever fruits and vegetables are in season

10. sweet or savory?
I used to answer this unequivocally: savory. I am a sucker for potato chips, but I try to stay away from them; they aren't good for my muffin-top. All my boys have sweet tooths, so I’ve ventured down the path of sugary treats more, especially during the holidays. My favorite sweet is a hearty gingerbread cake with topped with a dollop of lemon curd, or just a square of super dark chocolate from a bean to bar chocolatier.  Whatever I pick as a treat, I am definitely embracing moderation more as 40 looms on the horizon.


You can find Camilla HERE...take some time and see what makes her one of my faves...
Now, it is time to see what you are working on-- (if you are new to the supper club, please go here first), then link up

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

walldogs like cheeseheads {travel}


wisconsin is hubster's home state

we travel to his hometown
about once a year

while driving into town, after a long day of travel, 
hubster and i noticed
the little town of plymouth 
seemed brighter
what we were noticing
but not seeing fully, because of darkness
was the brilliant work of
who descended onto plymouth
for a few days last month
to paint 
murals showcasing 
the long and wonderful history
of this small town
a town 
considered to be
the 
CHEESE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
if you appreciate
history of small communities
and
signage vernacular
take a walk through plymouth, wisconsin
then stop at
photo
for a great burger served by a car hop
follow it up
with a custard sundae
at

if you are in town on a thursday in summer
go to the city park
you can hang with the locals
and
work off your meal
while
dancing the polka


Friday, July 1, 2011

maple bacon


here is something i can hardly believe myself
i shunned bacon
for 5 years
it was complicated
and in hindsight
foolish
i mean really
religious convictions aside
i can't think of a reason NOT to eat it
it is 
just. that. good.

recently
curing my own bacon has elevated to
obsession status
a few bats of my baby blues
and
 hubster agreed to buy a smoker

it was time
he is itching to make venison jerky
and of course
i have my bacon thing

here is my first attempt
and an honest report
it is good
now
i made the mistake of washing off the brine, but not soaking the bacon before smoking
which meant
it came out very salty
i soaked it after the smoke
in desperation
which meant
i not only soaked out the salt, i also soaked out the smokiness
so i cold smoked it again
and it just isn't perfect
but it is close
maple-brown sugar-rosemary bacon
3lbs pork belly
1/4 cup +/- kosher salt
1/4 cup +/- brown sugar
3 Tbs good quality maple syrup
1 Tbs fresh rosemary
place pork belly in a large tupperware type container
3 Tbs maple syrup & rosemary sprig (post curing)
apple or cherry wood chips for smoking
rub all sides with salt
mix together the brown sugar, maple syrup and rosemary. rub all sides of the pork belly with the mixture. cover and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  after 24 hours, repeat the process and place back in the refrigerator.  check daily, if liquid begins to gather on the bottom, pour it off and place back in the refrigerator.  at 5-7 days, you should be done. the pork belly will be a bit more dense, and firm.  rinse the pork belly well and dry with paper towel. slice off a small piece and fry.  if too salty, place the belly in a bowl of cold water and place in the fridge for 1 hour. dry, slice off a piece and fry a piece.  if it is still too salty, repeat the soaking process, 1 hour at a time.  once the bacon is to your liking, dry off.  rub the fatty side with maple syrup and place rosemary sprig on top. 
meanwhile prepare your smoker
i smoked my bacon at 120 degrees and smoked it to an internal temperature of 130.  there are so many different philosophies on this. you can cold smoke it, hot smoke it, not smoke it at all.  this will not keep in the fridge like store bought bacon...it does not have nitrites.  it is best to cut what you will eat within a week, then freeze the rest.
it is very important to keep your pork belly at proper temperatures and to keep all surfaces it touches very clean. this is not a time to be lenient in your sanitary rituals.  bacon should not be eaten raw, once cured and smoked, it should be cooked fully before enjoying.



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