Monthly Archives: September 2011

More Pottery Talk (as I said, I have a lot!)

So this blog is about food, but, I have been very interested in what I present my food on lately.

Pots by potter Michael Kline (that's the lingo for all ceramics in the business; I know they are plates!)

Michael was on his way to a wedding with his wife Stacey (another good friend!) and their two delightful children (yes I know, delightful, and children, can be over-used in the same breath, but this time, it is true), and detoured to our house for dinner, and, a night of catching up with old friends. We had lots of fun.

Great dinner and dessert plates

We all ate off of different plates and I saved the one above for me. This white and black plate was salt-fired by Michael and has the most beautiful fluted edge. It made me feel all girl-y and pretty.

More about dinner and this pot tomorrow!

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Cheaters Style Sausage with Red Sauce and Spaghetti (serves 4-6)

OK – I admit to cheating sometimes. I think cheating is fine when you have a good reason? Last night was one of those nights; I cheated!

Cheaters Sausage and Red Sauce with Spaghetti (fastest dish ever)

Before you go getting any ideas, it is clear that I am talking about red sauce, right? 

Yes, I am guilty of always having a back-up jar of plain old marinara sauce to use in a pinch. Yes, I love making my own, and I do make it 95% of the time, but I hate to be backed into a corner when time is short, and I have a family to feed on the double!

The beauty of this dinner is that it is ready in 20 minutes, start to finish. The thing that saves it from being hum-drum is the addition of fresh herbs, although it would certainly raise no complaints if you didn’t have any on hand.

I make dinners like this when getting food on the table is more important than me lolly-gagging at my leisure in the kitchen.

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You will need: 4 mild Italian sausages, out of casing and pulled into bite-sized pieces, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 sweet or red onion, small dice, 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves, 6 fresh basil leaves, salt to taste, freshly cracked pepper, 1 lb spaghetti pasta 9 I used Barilla brand), 1/2 – 1 cup warm pasta cooking water (you will have this when you boil the noodles).

1 – Put big pot of water on for pasta and when it comes to a boil cook noodles according to instructions. Before draining into colander, scoop out 1 cup of pasta water to use later in the finished sauce.

2 – While pasta is cooking, do the following; Put saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it has warmed, add the diced onions, garlic and sausage pieces. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the chopped rosemary and several grinds of black pepper.

 

cook sausage on pan with garlic and onions

3 – Continue to cook for another 10 minutes, in which time the sausage will start to brown nicely.

Let the meat get nice and brown

4 – Add the tomato sauce (bought or homemade) and cream, and give everything a stir to incorporate. When it is warm, stir in the basil leaves.

add sauce, cream & basil

5 – When pasta is cooked, add up to 1 cup of pasta water to sauce to thin it out. Divide drained pasta between warmed bowls and top with generous portion of red sauce. you can also toss the pasta directly into the sauce and let everyone help themselves.

Olive Oil Container (I have a few!)

 When it comes to kitchen stuff, I have to admit that I am spoiled rotten. I have a utensil and dish for just about everything, including several oil containers.

A tall and splendorous green container by Shawn Ireland

Being an artist, my world is naturally filled with creative people who make things. My friend Shawn is one such person. He has been making wood-fired pottery for the past 20 odd years, and his pots only get better. He is present in my house one way or another every day of the week. We use his pottery constantly, and they always make our meals happier occasions.

To hang out for a firing is fascinated, and a lot of fun. When I happen to around I am usually in charge of the kitchen, while my man Dave feeds the fire with sticks on Shawn’s command. In the 24 hours (or less) it takes to fire the kiln, we work, eat great food, chat, and at the end, drink plenty of wine.

This one is especially for my really good olive oil.

The kiln has to cool for a day or so before it can be opened brick by brick. There is always a slight dread lurking until Shawn gets to peek at his cooling pots and decide if it has been a good firing. Of course he is always a little critical of how things turn out, but in general, any pot that comes from his kiln is desirable (and that’s not just my humble opinion)

Top view of the perfect lid.

 This warm burned-green colored pot sits on my counter-top and is picked up most days, by me, to drizzle oil over something or other. The thought of it being turned on the wheel, shaped, glazed, fired, before eventually sitting on a wooden plank outside of Shawn’s kiln is something that I am aware of every time I pick it up. It reminds me of my friend, and of how he knows that making a container to hold a specific thing, like olive oil is not a waste of time. He knows that the tools we use on a daily basic should be beautiful, and in turn enrich the user’s life in some way or other.

These are the corny, but important things I have to say about people who make lovely things. Settling for some piece of crap (there, I said it) from a shop whose sole purpose is to take your money without a though for how it was made, and under what conditions, is possibly something that is worth thinking about.

There is the question of what you can afford, but, maybe think about it a different way.  Think about how many times you have to replace said piece of junk for yet another piece of junk, and if you should really be putting money in the pocket of someone who doesn’t give a hoot about you, or the person who they paid next to nothing to make it.

I am as guilty as the next man of buying shoddy goods because they are cheap, but am trying very hard to go without until I can afford something that is beautifully made, with the best of intentions.

The BEST Curried Pork Tenderloin with Green Beans and Exemplary Boiled Potatoes (serves 6)

Let me be crass and exalt, OMG and then tell you that this dinner was inspired by Jane Austen; two very opposite words (the OMG & Ms. Austen, that is) that somehow get flung together in explaining how this dinner came about. It was outstanding.

I will admit right now (despite alienating some people and endearing others) that I love Jane Austen’s books, and consequently the movies. I have my favorites, but could happily watch any one of them every night of the week for the rest of my life. I love how people communicated to each other on the simplest matters.

The Best Curried Pork Tenderloin with Green Beans & Exemplary Boiled Potatoes

One of the lines from Pride and Prejudice has been quoted a lot lately by son in order to tease me, and, to poke at the stuffiness of  conversations from that time period. 

A Mr. Collins had come to dinner and in an effort to impress and flatter everyone present, he complimented the food by saying, “What excellent boiled potatoes, it’s been years since I have had such an exemplary vegetable”

Wow – what accolades to bestow on such a humble tuber, but honestly, I could listen to my food being praised like that all night long.

I had a lovely couple of pounds of yellow baby fingerling potatoes from my local farm source and wanted so badly to exemplify them! The best way to cook potatoes that are this fresh and good is to simply boil them and toss in butter and salt.

I had green beans and onions from the same place and decided to go with them and make the meal as local as possible. I had pork tenderloin, and instead of roasting it with the usual rosemary and a little broth, I sliced it, fried it in butter and oil, and made an unctuously dreamy curry sauce.

I think Mr. Collins would have had a lot to say last night!

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You will need: 2 1 lb pork tenderloin, sliced into 1/3″ pieces, 3 tbs unsalted butter, 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 medium red onion, small dice, 1 cup chicken broth, 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp strong curry powder,( I used a vindaloo, if your powder is mild, double the amount stated), 1/2 tsp sea-salt, several grinds black pepper, 2 lbs baby fingerling potatoes (or very small white or red potatoes will do also), 1 lb green beans (or green & yellow), cut into 1/2″ pieces. More salt, pepper, butter & oil as needed.

1 – Scrub potatoes and put in pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer with lid on until potatoes are soft all the way through. Drain into colander and then return back to pot. Add a tbs of butter, 1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper and mix in gently. Cover with a tea towel to keep warm until serving.

Exemplary Potatoes from Good Work Farm

2 – Slice pork and season with salt and pepper. Put big saute pan on med/high heat and working in batches cook pork on both sides adding 1 tbs of oil and 1 tbs of butter as needed. Cook until pork is done (about 6 or so minutes). Transfer to a plate as you go, and cover.

Cook pork

3 – While pork is cooking boil water for the beans. When it comes to a boil, add the beans and cook (covered) until they are soft and cooked completely through. Drain, return to their pot and add a little salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil.

Cook green beans

4 – When the pork is done, turn down heat to medium/low and add the diced onions (you may need to add a little more oil and butter). Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

saute red onions

5 – Add the curry powder to the onions and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the flour and stir for another minute. Add the cup of broth and stir until everything is smooth and flour is completely distributed. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. The sauce will thicken. Cook for about 5 minutes.

make sauce

6 – Add pork to the pan and after about a minute turn off heat. Taste for further seasoning, and add more liquid if you like a thinner sauce.

Add pork

Serve a portion of everything on warm plates. 

What an Amazing Monday Night Dinner!

Creamy Broccoli Cheddar and Bacon Soup (serves 4-6)

 Sometimes I am not in the mood for a big dinner, but still crave the savory taste of something lighter. This was the case when we had a very late lunch, and so I decided to make this sumptuous soup.

Creamy Broccoli Bacon & Cheddar Soup

It still had a vegetable, and protein, and, with the help of crusty bread, the carbohydrate was taken care of as well! Cooking, and then pulverizing the bacon into the soup puree gave the little bacon I used, a presence in every spoonful. 

I bought something called  a Double Cream Cheddar out of curiosity the other day and it turned out to be the perfect balance of creamy texture and sharpness.

This was a great light dinner, but of course would also make a lovely lunch or first course to a meal.

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You will need: 4 big broccoli, including all of the stem save the last 2 inches, separate the florets & slice the stem, 1 small red onion, diced, 6 pieces of bacon, 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 3 cups chicken broth, 1 cup heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste.

1 – Cut three pieces of bacon into slices. Put medium soup pot on medium/low heat and add the bacon. Cook until getting slightly crispy (8 or so minutes). Add the diced onion and continue to cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

saute onions and bacon

2 – While onions are cooking, fry the remaining stripes of bacon. When cool enough to handle, chop and set aside until serving soup.

fry bacon for garnish

3 – Add the broth and broccoli and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently until broccoli is soft (10 minutes).

add broth and broccoli, and simmer

4 – Turn off heat and let liquid cool for 10 minutes. Scoop solids from liquid and transfer to food processor along with the heavy cream. Blend until very smooth. Pour broccoli back into pot making sure to scrap the sides of the processor.

add cream and cheese

5 – Taste for addition of salt and pepper. Turn on stove to medium heat and add the cheese. Stir until cheese has melted and the soup is hot. Add more cream or broth if you like a thinner soup. Turn off heat.

Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of whipped cream and chopped bacon. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Roasted Peppers Simmered in Cream, (Rajas) Serves 6 as an appetizer

Yes, I know, more talk about peppers. This time however, it was purely accidental , in that I was not desperately trying to find new ways to use up my cut-and-come-again crop in the backyard!

Lucky I had these to satisfy my longing to try out a new recipe!

What happened was, this weekend, myself and my man Dave were in New York City, and met up with 2 very special friends whom we had not seen in many, many years. My one friend Ellen, is a chef, and lived and worked as a chef in the city for years before high-tailing it to a sunnier location for an easier life. So, going out to dinner can be a bit of a challenge, as her standards are high when it comes to food (lucky us!).

We were in luck the other night and found an amazing Mexican restaurant. When we got there the place was completely packed and buzzing with excitement. We got a table after only a short wait and from that moment on, all I remember is food, friends and bliss.

Ellen ordered all sorts of tidbits for us to taste, and we got to sample at least 6 different dishes. Myself and Ellen fell in love with the roasted pepper dish. She told me it was roasted poblano peppers cooked in cream and topped with a mild white cheese – wow, I was impressed that 3 ingredients could pack such a punch?

Roasted Peppers Simmered in Cream (Rajas)

I found out that roasted pepper strips in Mexican kitchens refer to Raja, which literally means “strips”, so I figured that is officially what we ate (I didn’t really look at the menu, it was dark and Ellen was in charge)

When I left the glamour of the city for the Crappy Kitchen, I wished for those creamy peppers. Peppers simmered in cream…….how hard could that be to replicate?

I had tons of peppers (no  poblano, but I did have cayenne peppers which would satisfy the heat element,  along with a colorful assortment of regular sweet peppers), and so gave the dish a try.

I am so brilliant, because it turned out amazing. I now have a new dish under my belt, which means, so do you! We had it with some sort of sweetened chip, but I think corn chips are just as good. I am also going to try it on a nice piece of toast for breakfast!

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You will need: 4 sweet peppers (mixture of red, yellow, green & orange), 3 fresh cayenne peppers, (OR, 2 sweet peppers & 3 poblano), 1 small red onion, small dice, 1/4 cup & 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 tsp sea-salt, 3/4 cup mild cheese (I used a double cream mild white cheddar), corn chips.

Preheat oven 450*

1 – Put peppers on baking tray and rub with 2 tbs of the olive oil. Place in preheated oven and cook for about 40 minutes, turning every 15. Remove and place in heavy brown paper or plastic bag and seal for 15 to 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, take out, remove the seeds, and peel the skin. Slice thinly into long strips and slice the cayenne peppers.

roast the peppers

roast the cayenne peppers too

2 – While peppers are roasting  saute the onions for 10 minutes on medium heat in the remainder of the oil (1/4 cup).  Add the sliced peppers to the pan, then the cream and salt.

slice the peppers

3 – Bring to a boil and simmer for about 3 minutes. Turn off heat and add the cheese. Give everything a stir until the cheese has melted into the cream.

Add cream and boil

Serve topped with more cheese and tortilla chips (or toast). I am also thinking it would be good with eggs and a flour tortilla.

Lovely rajas

Pasta Puttanesca with Fresh Cayenne Peppers (serves 4)

What else could I do with my crop of cayenne peppers besides drying them? I decided to see how they would fair in a spicy puttanesca sauce.

The three stages of color my peppers go through, green , orange-y & bright red

There were four main ingredients in this sauce and I am proud to announce that they came from either my garden (parsley & peppers), Rambler Farm (garlic) or Good Work Farm (tomatoes).

How could I possibly go wrong. I had never made a puttanesca sauce without using San Marzano canned tomatoes, and cayenne pepper flakes, so this was going to be very interesting.

Sublimely simple flavors

I was not particularly sure my kids would go for such a minimal dish either, but I was determined not to think about it, and let my curiosity take over.

I was so impressed with the final result! It was not as hot, but the heat felt fresher, if you can imagine that? The tomatoes were sharp and everything was balanced magically by the earthy-tasting parsley.

My kids couldn’t get enough of this fresh take on a spicy tomato sauce. I will long for this dinner when it is wintertime and there isn’t a tomato or pepper in sight. This meal was all about right-from-the-ground-taste and would be hard to replicate out of season.

What am I saying? Very simple; make this before the bounty disappears!

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You will need: 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 4 gorgeous red tomatoes, diced, 2 fresh cayenne peppers, thinly sliced, OR, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 4 tbs freshly chopped flat-leafed parsley, 1 tsp coarse sea-salt (I used Maldon salt – type Maldon in my search box for more info.), 3/4 lb spaghetti pasta (I use Barilla brand),

1 – Put saucepan or pot on low heat and add oil. Add chopped garlic and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

saute garlic in oil

2 – Add the diced tomatoes, salt, and cayenne pepper slices. Bring to a steady simmer and cook like this for about 15 to 20 minutes.

add fresh tomatoes and cayenne peppers

3 – While tomatoes are cooking put on pot of water for pasta. When it comes to a boil, cook pasta according to instructions. Try to have it ready when sauce is cooked. *Reserve about a 1/2 cup of pasta water in case you need it for the sauce.

simmer for 20 minutes

4 – Add the chopped parsley and give everything a stir. The moment the pasta is cooked, drain and add immediately to the sauce. add some pasta water if you want a looser sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Turn off heat.

add parsley

Serve on warmed plates with more parsley and Parmigiano Reggiano. Super good food!

Serve with more fresh parsley and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese