Sunday, September 28, 2008

Breathing In, Breathing Out

After letting the stress get to me, I let let it go. At least some of it.
Of course, one of the best stress relievers is comfort food.
So this weekend's foray into comfort food was a couple of fall favorites. Perfect for the dreary days we've had.
The first was my Papa's Paprikas (paprikash). My father always had his specialties, but he began really cooking for himself about 9 years ago, after my mother passed away. About 6 months after she passed, he had a business trip that took him to Europe. He and my mom lived in Germany when they were first married, so he took the opportunity to return to some of the places they had visited, but also had the time to check out some of his family back life. He spent a few days in Hungary, trying to track his mother's roots and eating food that reminded him of his youth. After this trip, he mad a mission of making a good, Hunky Paprikas. Emphasis on good!
So, like he made his recipe his own, I have made his recipe my own.
I don't have any pictures, because of technical difficulties (that Rex, couldn't stand the camera & hid the battery from me. the scoundrel!) I promise I'll have details soon, but I left my notes in the kitchen...

But I will say that the paprika's is a stew that warms you inside & out and sweet of the red peppers with the zip of some good hot paprika is enough to keep the boogeyman at bay!

Since I found the red peppers at a great price at a road-side stand in the middle of nowhere and some gorgeous eggplant alongside, I took advantage of them for my other comfort meal. This is one of those rare recipes that I make almost exactly as written. Just haven't found much in need of change. If you really have your act together & think about it in advance, you can roast the eggplant & red pepper early in the day and get rid of that chore. Don't skimp on the lemon or the Parmesan, those little garnish make the soup! Enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant Soup
Bon Appétit March 2001

The Stuff
2 eggplants (about 2 1/2 pounds total), halved

4 red bell peppers (about 22 ounces)

1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped (I usually add a shallot, too)
1 medium leek, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only; about 2 cups) (I used 2 big, because that what was fresh & I didn't want the second to go to waste)
6 large garlic cloves, minced
8 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Parmesan cheese shavings

The Method
Preheat oven to 450°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pierce eggplants all over with fork. Transfer, cut side down, to baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove peel and discard. Cut eggplants into large pieces. Rinse eggplant pieces under running water. Drain well. Set aside.

Char bell peppers over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag 10 minutes. Peel, seed and coarsely chop peppers.

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leek and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in eggplant, peppers, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in basil and thyme. Cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Season with salt and pepper. Add butter and lemon juice; stir over low heat until soup is heated through, about 5 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to simmer before continuing.) Transfer to large bowl; garnish with Parmesan.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008



The part-time job has full time responsibilities; classes start October 5 & I need to get things confirmed, canceled, registered and/or filed in duplicate (payment & programs) before then. And when I asked someone to do the brainless work, I was met with "That's not my job" That is probably my least favorite phrase in the English language. Especially when spoken by someone who regularly pawns off her job duties on others, sits and reads the paper for hours on end and does the part of the job she likes. (And gets on the computer to check her email, but when asked to do some work on the computer says she is computer illiterate, but gets paid more than me).

The side-project job has me out of town 2 days this week and on the computer in between. It is high profile & very important to me so I want to give it 110%. If it was the only thing I was working on, it would be no problem; I planned to get things done on it on my day "off" but instead I went to the part time job above & only got through 95% of what I planned for this project done before I went to work (and the last 5% needs to be done in business hours). I wonder if I can do the rest while I'm driving tomorrow...

I want very much to do a good job for everyone I'm working for and I want to make everyone's life a little easier for having hired me. I also want to find time to get all my ducks in a row before I leave town for 3 weeks.

Then there was my email. One message, from one of my neighbors said

I will not live in a third-world neighborhood.
And I will not let our neighborhood become one, without a fight

Wow, a little dramatic I think. While I don't live in LilyWhiteSuburbia, I don't, by definition, live in the third world.

But, another email told me:
An Italian Adventure Awaits.
It wasn't a travel email, or even a horoscope email, but just another food thing, but they are letting me send e-postcards. Does that mean I don't have to send them while I'm gone?

In a nutshell, I think I need a vacation! (but wait, getting ready for that is causing me stress...)


Introducing Our New Little Arrivals: The Twins.

I know, I didn't tell anyone we were "expecting," but with adoptions, sometimes it just happens one day. Meet Dory & Rex
Dory is our golden child, and loves the spotlight. Rex, with his regal purple, is a little more subdued, but likes to sit back & stir things up.
Can you believe that Dory loves to flash people. I'm trying to get her to stop, but she's incorrigible!

Dory likes to stir up trouble when ever she can. She was enjoying this mix of ginger, garlic and onion.
But once the spices were added, Rex jumped right in, with Dory watching carefully over him. She is a big fan of the turmeric, garam masala, cumin, cayenne, coriander and other curry spices thrown in. Rex, was a little surprised at having his picture taken and tried to hide the next time I grabbed the camera When I added the Salmon, they both went running for the hills I guess they aren't fish fans like HP & I. (Recipe inspired by October Food & Wine's Creamy Indian-Spiced Halibut Curry)

Both the twins loved bath time
Though I did have to wait for Rex to come up from the bubbles!

While the twins were keeping me busy, HP was cookin' up some trouble of his own. Actually, he wasn't really cooking, he was mostly slicing and tearing and really, it wasn't trouble he was making, he was making the most of some organic heirloom tomatoes that someone had given me. Layered with fresh mozzarella & basil from our garden then drizzled with basalmic vinegar & olive oil with a sprinkle of black pepper, these were the best tomatoes of the season!


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Have I told ya I'm going to Italy?

I think I have. In fact, I don't think there is anyone I haven't told!
I'm just a little bit excited...
We start in Venice
We have almost 4 days of wandering along the canals, crossing the little bridges and getting as lost as you can get on an island. We are staying at the Casanova ai Tolentini Bed & Breakfast
I think that is a picture of it, at least it came from their website.
I wanted a local flavor & didn't want to got to a big hotel, so we are trying the B&B. It looks lovely & the owners seemed nice from their email making arrangements to meet us at the bus stop where we come in from the train. They are located in the Dorsoduro region, a little bit away from the high tourist saturation of Piazza San Marco, but close enough to wander over on a a water taxi, gondola, vaporetto or even traverse the many ponti (bridges). We have 2 days on our own before we board the ship, then we have a day & 1/2 in Venice with the family before we set sail. Our plan is to be the experts by then so we can show the other folks around, and wait until we have a group of us to split the gondola ride. The gondola is something we think we should do, but really, is it worth a $120 - $155 for the 2 of us? We'd rather split it among a group. (So it kills the romance, I'd rather spend the money shopping)
Once we set sail, our first port-of-call is Dubrovnick, Croatia.
With its amazing walls surrounding the city and overlooking the sea, the Pearl of the Adriatic will be the first test of how much my feet can stand! This is one of the few stops that we can stay out late; we don't set sail until the next morning.
After a short sail, we find ourselves in Kotor, Montenegro. "A beautiful walled medieval city of twisting, pink-paved streets, markets and architecture reflecting Byzantine to Venetian influences."

Then we leave the Dalmation Coast (I keep asking my husband if we can get a puppy while we are there, but he just rolls his eyes ) and cruise down to Corfu, Greece. I love Greek food and am looking forward to lunch. This looks like a lovely spot, no?

Next stop is Taormina, Sicily the historic resort town on the east coast of Sicily, midway between the towns of Messina and Catania. I think I'll pass on visiting Mt. Etna, but sign me up for the many pottery shops. (don't tell HP!)

Next stop: Capri--should I wear their pants?


Monday, September 15, 2008

How to succeed in business with out really frying...

Well, I failed that part, because I was a fryin' demon this weekend. I will share with you, that if you decide to fry, be smart, don't do it when the weather is over 90 with 80% humidity. That is just askin' for heat induced crankiness. Trust Me!

But, I was frying for a cause. 'Cause I'm a HO
My Potato Ho name is Mandy Lynn. I've been a lover of potatoes for many years but I am finally ending my my Potato Ho virginity with a little trip to the other side of the pond, but first I'm heading to Diane at AsthmaGirlCooksfor the Ho Down.

My entry into Hodom is Fish & Chips Wanna see how it's done?
I adapted my recipe from Gourmet magazine's Fish & Chips from Jan 2004. I really didn't make a lot of changes. I will warn you, this recipe is very simple, but it can be VERY time consuming. I think I spent about 2 hours over hot oil. Mostly that is because I didn't use a very big pot (I wanted to have depth in the peanut oil with out using all the oil in the house)

The Stuff:

  • 4 large potatoes
  • Peanut Oil**
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons corn meal
  • 8 oz Yuengling Lager (or other full bodied beer/ale)
  • 1 lb tillapia fillets, skinned, pin bones removed, and fish cut diagonally into 1-inch-wide strips
  • salt, pepper, super-fine sugar & dried porcini mushroom mill (if you can find it :( )
  • other seasonings as desired
  • Special equipment: a deep-fat thermometer
See, not a lot of stuff.
The Method:

Peel potatoes and halve lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick wedges, transferring as cut to a large bowl of ice and cold water. Chill 30 minutes.

Heat about 1 - 1 1/2" oil in a deep heavy pot over moderately high heat until it registers 350°F on thermometer. While oil is heating, drain potatoes and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Fry a pot of the potatoes, (make sure your potatoes aren't too crowded) stirring gently, until edges are just golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to fresh paper towels/newspaper to drain (I like to put newspaper over a wire cooling rack so the oil doesn't pool under the taters). Fry remaining potatoes in batches, returning oil to 350°F between batches. Remove oil from heat and reserve while getting organized to refry.

Heat oil over moderately high heat until it registers 375°F. Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 250°F.

Fry potatoes again, in batches, until deep golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per batch. Return oil to 375°F between batches. Transfer with slotted spoon to fresh paper towels as fried and drain briefly, then arrange in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan and keep warm in upper third of oven.

Return oil temperature to 375°F. Sift flour & cornmeal into a bowl, then whisk in beer gently until just combined. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Pat fish dry. Sprinkle fish on both sides with salt and pepper and any other spices (I used a rub we made for chicken), Coat pieces of fish in batter (Gourmet says to dredge in flour first, I always forget to do that & haven't had any problems), 1 at a time, and slide into oil as coated. Fry coated fish, turning over frequently, until deep golden and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in lower third of oven, then fry remaining fish in batches, returning oil to 375°F between batches.

Mix about one Tablespoon sea salt or Kosher salt, about 2 teaspoons superfine sugar and about 2 teaspoons dried porcini. Sprinkle on the Chips

Serve with malt vinegar or homemade tartar sauce (mayo, sweet pickles, fresh parsley, fresh tarragon, lemon, green onion & capers) or a chipotle "aioli" (mayo, sour cream, chipotles, dried chipotle powder, lime, cilantro, and I'm not sure what else) (or catsup if you are feeding kids)

The finished fish look like this:

I didn't get a pic of them together because we were all to hungry at that point and the family was threatening riot if I tried. But they looked good and tasted GREAT!

Beer & flour is the best way to fry fish, though fried, it is light & crunchy. YUM!

**If you or someone you are feeding is allergic, Veg or Canola oil can be used. I prefer peanut because it has a much higher burning point, with those oils you should decease the oil temp to 325 & 350 and increase cooking time. I think they aren't quite as crisp that way.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

That's what I get for complaining about the heat

Yes, I complained about the heat a little. I didn't think that I was overly whiny, but apparently I was. Karma said, ok, I'll cool things down with a little rain. And the rains came, and came, and came directly into my bathroom.

The roofing guys that smell like tar & cigarettes are now planning a vacation of their own working up an estimate.

I guess we did such a good job with the kitchen, that the bathroom will be next. The jigger of that is: if the kitchen is out of commission I can use the grill or even go out, if the bathroom is out of commission, I can only cross my legs & whimper. Yes, my house has only 1 bathroom.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Holding on to summer

With highs in the 90's around here, it seems that summer is hangin' in there. With "hazy hot & humid, highs in the mid 90's" I feel that we have returned to July's weather, so I will do a post that I planned to do back in July, but was too embroiled (with emphasis on the BROIL) with the kitchen project to come up to the computer.

This July, as happens every July, The Girl had a birthday. And every birthday it seems to be the hottest week of the year. I do not have central air, so the kitchen is usually hot & soupy before I begin cooking, but I usually make sure to do a nice birthday dinner and birthday cake for her (though it is often a shared celebration as HP's birthday is 3 days later). I have been known to make cakes in the middle of the night, hoping to avoid heat exhaustion.

This year, when The Girl had her birthday, it was not just any birthday. She turned "Sweet Sixteen." She had no interest in a big bash or a crazy party--"I don't want to have to entertain people on my birthday. I just want to enjoy myself." So 2 days after returning from the Poconos, 2 weeks after I had pulled 3/4 of the things in my kitchen in preparation for painting, and at the beginning of the hottest week of the year, I agreed to throw a casual dinner party for her and a few of her friends (and her brother, and her mom, and her mom's boyfriend).

The Girl & friends sat at the "Teen Table"

I think she liked this, we gave her a gift certificate for a Broadway show of her choice.
(She went to see Chicago with her grandmother. The both loved it.)

Avoiding the kitchen, I did the old standby, pizza on the grill.
(Pictured are Mozzarella, Basil & Tomato; Caramelized Onion, Roasted Red Pepper, Shrimp & Goat Cheese; BBQ Chicken with Cheddar & Red Onions)

And I avoided the oven in the middle of the night by making a tart.

I searched the internet, but didn't find anything that was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted refreshing, not too heavy, not to sweet and didn't require turning my kitchen into a sauna. My needs were pretty simple don't ya think? Alas, the internet wasn't helping, so I created my own recipe. I call it

"I Hope-It-Turns-Out Lemon Cream Tart with Blueberries"
The Stuff:
  • 2 cup graham cracker crumbs (3 for big springform)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 3 Tablespoons Lemon Curd
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz marscapone cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • blueberry sauce (optional)
  • whipped cream (if that's the kind of girl you are...)

Preheat oven to 350°F with a baking sheet on middle rack. (yeah, I know it is supposed to be no oven. If you are that adamant go out & buy a crappy pre-made graham cracker crust from those creepy elves)

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture with your fingers and back of a spoon evenly and firmly onto bottom and up side of tart pan.

Put tart pan on preheated baking sheet and bake crusts until slightly darker, about 10 minutes, then cool 10 minutes on a rack. (see, it was only 10 minutes. I could live with that!)

While crust cools, whisk together brown sugar, sour cream and vanilla in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Beat cream cheese, marscapone, whipping cream and lemon curd & juice in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Next fold in sour cream mixture and zest, until just combined well (you want this to be uniformly blended, but not beaten to death.)
Is your crust cool? If not, take a break, clean your mess, have some lemonade, whatever.
When crust has cooled (as much as it can in a
100° ovenkitchen) smooth the filling into the crust, then top with as many blueberries as you like. (I only used a few here, I didn't know if her friends would like blueberries & lemon and I needed room for the candles)
Chill until firm (at least 8 hours in this heat, can be made the day before!). If you are so inclined it tastes great when topped with this blueberry sauce, but that does require some stove-top use, unless you have some left over. You can also top it with a little whipped cream if ya feel like it.

And, did it turn out?
It was a sweetheart of a tart!

The candles were blown out, the light faded away and soon another birthday was over. But the tart will live on!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

End of Summer

Another summer disappeared. It happened so quickly, I don't know where it went. Except is supposed to reach 90 today, so I guess it isn't really over, but The Boy is back at college and The Girl started her junior year of HS.
and HP has a Masters in Business Administration New Ventures & Entrepreneurial Studies. (Yes he usually is that blurry, it's not the camera.)

I have had problems off & on with my digital, and am desperately hoping that I will be able to get it to behave before I go to Italy next month. Wow, next Month???? (We've been talking about this trip for about a year and a half--HP's dad is taking us, HP's sis & her hubby so we can meet his new wife's family. A nice way to get to know each other, eh. I honestly didn't think it was going to happen, but it is almost here! I guess I better get back to those Italian lessons!)

Any way, I am trying to get back into a routine of answering email and posting. Hopefully I can, because really I'm shocked that I missed 2 Ho-Downs! I swear, I've been eating my potatoes like a good ho! Last night's mashed Yukon Gold with caramelized onions, goat cheese and smoked Parmesan were out of this world. But the camera was up here on the 3rd flr with the computer. Maybe I can do something with the left-overs.

Let's see if I have any good pics of our Major Kitchen Project, shall we?

The kitchen started a terra cotta color with these blue cabinets. When I bought the house I thought the kitchen was cozy and warm. After 7 years of cooking and living in it, I decided it was dingy and tortuous.
We started with the ceiling, then did prep & cut in around the miles of moulding in the kitchen. Can ya see the garden through the window?
We had a lot of prep, and had a hard time figuring out what to with the stuff we use every day. We worked around it for a little while.

We were still cutting in on HP's birthday, so I made him a card.

We put the new sink & countertop in after we painted the "racing stripes"
We had a dearth of doors for a while! I think this was supposed to show the "after" color on the yellow. The "before" picture is one that was eaten by my camera's random memory card issues. The yellow was very bright and sunny, but we didn't want to want to wear sunglasses for our morning coffee, so I toned it down with a glaze effect made with brown glaze and beer. (no, that doesn't count the beer I was drinking at the time, really I mixed the two and applied it to the wall)

And our kitchen will never look this clean again...


  © Blogger template Blogger Theme II by 2008

Back to TOP