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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dining al fresco

It's been a gorgeous day in Fort Worth and the evening is even more pleasant. For the first time since I've had my new deck, I pulled the table away from the railing, and we all sat around it like civilized folk instead of crowding around corners, etc. Susan from next door joined Jordan's family and me. As usual I forgot to take pictures, but we dined well on a blue cheese/pecan dip, a cheddar infused with raspberries, crockpot pork tenderloin (recipe follows), beet salad (only Susan and I ate that), spinach salad with blue cheese and bacon, and Luella's rice (recipe follows). Susan brought chocolate chip cookies and small brownies for dessert, and we had to restrain Jacob. Truly an outdoor feast.

The pork recipe is one that I've seen multiple times on Facebook. I'm sure it came from Pinterest, and I have no qualms about repeating it here. The meat was wonderfully moist, and there were drippings to put on it:

2 lb. pork tenderloin
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
2-3 Tbsp. maple syrup (I always have good pure maple syrup on hand for Jacob)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. dried minced onion
1-1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder

Put meat in crockpot. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over it. Cook six hours on low. Actually I cooked it seven hours on medium. I'm always so sure that the crockpot isn't going to cook the meat. This was just right.

Louella's Rice

I never met Louella. She was the late-in-life stepmother of my best friend in high school, Barbara Bucknell Ashcraft. Christian loves this recipe so much that I made a double batch so he'd have leftovers (along with some pork). Bonus: Barbara and her daughter Amy will be here to visit in two weeks. I'm excited.

1 c. Minute Rice (health-conscious Jordan has used wild rice, says it's okay but not as good)
1 c. sour cream (Jordan wants to try Greek yogurt; I'm all for health, but some recipes should not be messed with)              
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar
1 can cream of celery soup
1 4-oz. can chopped chilies
Mix and bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes.
I'm so glad it's truly deck weather!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

A new cookbook

A package arrived from Amazon the other day, and as I opened it I thought, "I didn't order this, but it would sure make a good present for John (my brother)." Then I saw the card--it was a birthday present from John and Cindy (my birthday was in July, but then his is in March, and I think I gave him a present in June--we wait until something jumps out at us as perfect). And this cookbook is perfect--perfectly fascinating.
It's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking  & Curing. When I called John to thank him, he said he didn't expect me to cure my own meat but thought I'd like the sections on brining, making your own corned beef, and other things. Every time I pick this book up, I find some new fascination--whiskey-glazed smoked chicken, Canadian bacon (who knew it's cured smoked pork loin?), smoked salmon, smoked scallops (still think about that one). I once had a mixer attachment for stuffing sausage casings (and used it, though the results were imperfect), and I'll have to see if I still have it. My German heritage comes out when you talk about bratwurst and weisswurst, venison sausage, even hot dogs. When my mom was in her eighties, she liked nothing better than sausages grilled with onions. Hey, at that age, we let her eat whatever she wanted. I'm not so sure about dry-cured meats but I will read up on them. I do love bresaola and salami. Blackstrap molasses country ham sounds good, but lardo and cured pork belly gives me pause.
My favorite chapter is "The Cinderella Meat Loaf" which is, of course, pate. There are recipes for smooth pates, pate en croute, country pates, a venison terrine with dried cherries, a veal terrine gratin, salmon pate in basil cornmeal crust, or how about avocado and artichoke terrine with poached chicken? I think I'll pass on headcheese, but it's there. I've never understood confits but apparently what they amount to is slow-cooking meats submerged in fat. Before you panic about fat content, you can make onion or tomato confit, and it's a great way to preserve meat..
And there's a bonus chapter on sauces and condiments, subtitled, "Not optional." An index of recipes and a list of sources complete the revised edition of this book--not sure where to get duck? The book offers the information. Line drawings clearly illustrate various techniques, such as putting a pate in a crust or making pancetta.
The dilemma here is where to begin. A lot of the recipes are complicated, and this is one of the times I want a cooking buddy, even if it's just someone to cheer me on. I'd like to start with a good pate, but I may have to work my way up to it. Meantime, I'm having fun just prowling through the book. Great birthday gift. With thanks to John and Cindy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gluten-free, dairy-free and delicious dessert

Please welcome my guest, poet and author T. L. Cooper—with a delicious dessert that is gluten- and dairy-free. I have a friend who has those dietary restrictions, and I know the difficulty of cooking to meet them. This recipe is a perfect dessert. My friend and my grandson both want some now!

 Growing up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky provided T. L. Cooper with a fertile place for her imagination to germinate.  She wrote her first short story around age eight, but even earlier she started entertaining her family with stories about saving a groundhog that lived in her father’s bar.  She studied corrections and juvenile services and psychology at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree.  She has lived in Kentucky, Ohio, and Idaho.  Extensive travel within the United States as well as visits to Germany, England, Spain, France, Jordan, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai provided her with rich opportunities to learn about different cultures, beliefs, and people.   Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published work includes a novel, All She Ever Wanted and four books of poetry, Strength in Silhouette: Poems, Love in Silhouette: Poems, Reflections in Silhouette: Poems, and Memory in Silhouette: Poems. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, and traveling. Currently, she resides in Albany, Oregon.

T. L. tells me she came up with this recipe one night when she had a chocolate craving. Her husband taste it and loved it. I plan to try it for my grandson soon.

TLC’s Frozen Chocolate Banana Almond cream
By T. L. Cooper

Serves: 2

Prep time: 10 minutes

Start to Finish: 2 hours ten minutes

Texture will be reminiscent of ice cream. If you prefer a milder chocolate flavor, cut down the amount of cocoa powder.

 2 large bananas

½ cup almond butter

4 Tbsp. cocoa powder, or to taste

2 Tbsp. apple butter

2 tsp. maple syrup

¼ tsp. vanilla (optional)

Peel bananas. Place all ingredients in food processor. Pulse a couple of times. Process until smooth, approximately 30-60 seconds, scraping bowl once. Place in serving dishes. Cover and place in freezer for two hours. If desired, sprinkle a few chopped almonds and/or chocolate chips on top. Serve.

Per serving (excluding unknown items): 584 calories; 39 g fat (54.4% calories from fat); 13 g protein; 61 g carbohydrate; 0 mg cholesterol; 11 mg sodium. Exchange: 1-1/2 grams starch; 1 lean meat; 2 fruit; 7 fat; 1 other carbohydrates.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Good food on a long weekend

This has been a lazy weekend. I've floated through it with almost an other-worldly feeling--maybe chalk that up to two intense naps, but I've enjoyed it. If anything but sleep has filled my weekend, it's good food.
Friday night for supper I entertained a friend--while Elizabeth fed Jacob scrambled eggs in her apartment, and he was thrilled. I fixed a '60s meal--vichyssoise and Caesar salad. For the vichyssoise I refer you to Peg Cochran's post on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, and easy recipe. I thought I'd over-peppered it until I added the cream--and then it needed more pepper and salt both. But so good. For the Caesar salad, I used the recipe in the original Joy of Cooking. That page is splattered almost beyond reading, testimony to the fact that I've used it a lot. But not for a while. It tasted so good, and the leftovers from that meal made a great Saturday lunch. One note: start marinating the oil for your home-made croutons twenty-four hours before serving.
Tonight, it was salmon cakes and roasted cabbage. Elizabeth has taught me a new trick about salmon cakes--or croquettes. Several years ago I gave up trying to make the logs my mom used to make and made patties--so much easier to brown. But I still, per Mom's instructions, used finely ground cracker crumbs as filling and coating. Elizabeth doesn't coat them in anything, and they're much easier to brown and stay together better.

Salmon cakes
Drain one 15 oz. can salmon, discard vertebrae and black skin (nothing bad happens if you don't)
Add two eggs
Chopped scallions, probably two
Dash Worcestershire
A good pinch of dry mustard
Stir together and add enough finely ground saltine crackers to make the mixture hold its shape
Shape into patties and brown in skillet
Serve with lemon

Absolutely one of my favorite foods. Elizabeth wants hers gluten free, so she made them with almond flour. Also great--I've eaten them and can't tell the difference.

Roast cabbage wedge--this recipe has been making the rounds on Facebook, so you may have seen it. Still it was so good, I want to recommend it.

Cut on medium size head of cabbage into four wedges.
Put each wedge on a heavy-duty sheet of foil, large enough to fold around it
Spread butter on each cut side of the cabbage wedge
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder
Drape one half slice of bacon over each wedge
Wrap foil tightly around and bake.
The recipe calls for putting on the grill, but I wasn't about to fire up the grill for two pieces of cabbage (I made these last night). So I put them in a 350 oven for 30 minutes. When I tested them, they were still way too firm. So I let them cook another 30 minutes and cool. Tonight I reheated them, and they were succulent and terrific. Somehow I got a taste of clove--must be something in the cabbage.
We topped the meal off with fresh strawberries. Delightful dinner.
Now I have half a head of cabbage left over. I'll use it plus another head next weekend for vinegar cole slaw for eight or nine people. Jordan, who says she doesn't eat cole slaw, loved it with vinegar last week.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer and salads

 With the end of summer now upon us (well, most places except Texas), I am reluctant to give up the salads I love better than the hot soup of cooler evenings--chicken, tuna, ham or egg salads.
Prowling in some old recipes recently, I found salads and salad combinations I haven’t made in a while. They’re a twist on move conventional salads, and now they've moved to the top of my cooking list..

One recipe calls for squatty wide-mouth Mason jars that you layer with salads—trouble is I never found enough of the right jars—need at least four because these are salads for sharing. I try to artfully (?) arrange the ingredients on a plate. A combination I really love: smoked salmon with egg salad and green beans:

Cook ½ lb. haricot verts until tender crisp and cool. Cut into bite-size pieces. Whisk together a dressing of 1 Tbsp. each Dijon mustard and chopped shallot, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and toss with beans. Layer them in the bottom of the jar. Top with layers of smoked salmon, again cut into bite-size pieces. Top that with egg salad made the way you like it best—I like a little celery and scallion, some Dijon and just enough mayonnaise to hold it together. (Tired of salads that are soupy from too much mayo.)

Another layered idea: Tuna tonnato with eggplant salad and cherry tomatoes. Tonnato is something that confuses many people but it’s so good—and easy.
Blend ¼ c. tuna with 1 large anchovy fillet or a good-sized squirt of anchovy paste (it keeps in the fridge—if you open the whole can of anchovies, what do you do with the rest?), 2 tsp. capers, juice of half a lemon, a bit of olive oil and a bit of mayo. Blend into smooth paste.

For the eggplant: pulse eggplant, roasted until soft, with 1 chopped garlic clove, a handful of parsley, grated zest of one lemon, and a tsp of red wine vinegar.

In jars, layer eggplant, 2 cans tuna minus what you used for tonnato (I prefer albacore packed in water), top with tonnato, halved cherry tomatoes, and croutons. Drizzle olive oil over all of it.

And then there’s plain tuna salad. How do you make yours? I use scallions, lemon, and mayo—plain and simple. But I found a recipe that adds a cup of shredded cheddar to one can of tuna, 1 stalk celery, chopped, a bit of chopped parsley, a good dollop of sour cream. Different and good. Maybe that’s my lunch today…or egg salad.