Sunday, May 24, 2015

What's My Line?

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Last week, while putting together what will be the next post on the blog, I came upon a set of these on E Bay. On a whim, I bought them.  They were worth the smile on Madame Mere's face.

Can you guess what they are?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Stuffed Red Bell Peppers With Salmon And Yellow Rice

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Stuffed red bell peppers are one of my favorite comfort meals.  There are many variations but the one we usually think of has beef, cheese or a combination of both with rice.  They are delicious but can be a bit heavy for lunch or on a warm summer night.  Last week I made them using leftover baked salmon and saffron rice.  If you can believe, they were the leftovers of leftovers.

Costco sells a  ready to bake salmon with basil pesto that comes in handy when you are pressed for time.   The first night we had it with boiled potatoes and asparagus with Parmesan cheese.  Nice and healthy.  The second night we had the leftovers cold with yellow rice and asparagus vinaigrette.  I mixed dill and chives with mayonnaise to go with the salmon.  And on the third night, I stuffed three of the six red peppers I had also bought at Costco.  Talk about averaging down on the price of a meal...

I have always splurged on food (and shoes) but these days, with the price of meat and seafood in the stratosphere, I have become an artiste in the kitchen.  We all need to start thinking this way for it's only going to get worse.

I will probably repeat this exercise very soon but next time, I will save the stuffed peppers for a lady's lunch.  A cold soup and a light dessert is all you need for a delightful ladies lunch.

I strongly recommend that you make the salmon the night before and enjoy it with the yellow rice for dinner.  If you want to make the stuffed peppers from scratch, here's the recipe.  I would still make the yellow rice the day before and keep it in the refrigerator.





Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked yellow rice from about 1 cup raw white rice*
4 large red bell peppers
1 1/4 lbs salmon
6 large basil leaves
2 TB butter softened
olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 TB mayonnaise
1 tsp dill
Parmesan cheese


For the rice:

1 TB butter
2 TB chopped scallions
2TB chopped red pepper
1 cup white rice
1 3/4 Chicken broth
pinch of saffron or use turmeric to color the rice

Procedure

If you haven't made the rice do it now so it can cool..Saute the scallion and pepper in the butter.  Add the rice and combine.  Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is done, about 20 minutes.  If the rice is not done you can always add more broth, cover and continue cooking. Set aside to cool.




Now bake the salmon. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the chopped basil leaves with the softened butter and place on top of the salmon.  Bake the salmon for 30 minutes or until done.  Do not overcook. When the salmon is done, take it out of the pan and let cool.







Cut the top off the peppers.  Remove and discard the stem and seeds.  Cut a small slice off the bottoms of the peppers so they sit level in the pan.




Oil the peppers all over with olive oil and set on an oven proof Pyrex or baking pan.  Cook at 375 for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

 Flake the salmon before adding to rice.




Combine the rice and salmon in a bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix the dill and the mayonnaise and add to the rice and salmon.  Check again for salt and pepper.




With a dessert spoon gently stuff the peppers.  Top with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Replace the top of the peppers and drizzle olive oil over the stuffed peppers, along the outside of the peppers, and into the pan.   Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until the peppers are cooked but slightly firm.  They should look like this.




Serve them hot or room temperature if serving them as part of a buffet.



Friday, May 8, 2015

The Garden On Mother's Day

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It's been a long time since I last posted, probably the longest since I started this blog six years ago.  A new Sous Chef named Madison has taken more of my time and energy than I remember a new puppy required,  Add to that the fact that this house then decided it also needed some TLC.

It started with the new roof last summer together with some renovations in the kitchen, a new water heater, plus a new garage door opener.  All this happening while building a new apartment worthy of Madame Mere which, as you know, was a nightmare..  Then we had the two frozen pipes in the winter resulting in extensive repairs to the newly finished apartment.  The death of our beloved Sous Chef, Lucy, took a big toll on the family.  It was the worst experience I have ever gone through, but getting a new puppy right away was the best cure for our broken hearts.  She arrived  two months to the day that Lucy passed away.




Spring surprised us with the need to replace two of the three air conditioning units.  As if that weren't enough, when we turned on the sprinkler system in the garden, guess what?! No dice.  Probably as a result of having to move the pipes on the side of the house due to the rock path we had to build to backstop the water  from the heavy rains we got this Spring.  The maintenance and upkeep of an older house is never ending.

The garden suffered quite a bit this past winter due to the cold weather.  Some of our most beautiful southern plants don't do frost very well,   That includes the Confederate jasmine, gardenias and the hydrangeas macrophylla which bloom on last year's growth.  The poor gardenias which made such a great show a couple of summers ago and were toast last year are now toast crumbs.  They will need to be replaced.  My pride and joy, the Moonlight hydrangea came back and then got hit by the late frost as well.  I am holding my breath and hoping for the best but I seriously don't think it will bloom this year.  I was really looking forward to showing it off to MM.

Every year I swear I will not buy another plant.  Every year I break that promise and buy more than I can chew  For me, plants are the new shoes.

I could not resist the hydrangeas  Mathilda Gutges when I saw them at the garden center. This compact shrub bears attractive deep green leaves and large, rounded flower heads of deep pink in neutral soil, and intense violet-blue in acidic soil.  Our soil is acidic so in order to keep the beautiful lavender color, we decided to plant the pink in the whiskey barrel out back and the deep blues under the trees. 










The clematis put on quite a show and I am proud to say I now have a stress free garden around the mailbox. It's called KISS.(Keep it Simple Stupid) No more hauling a bucket of water up the hill in the middle of the summer sounds like a good idea to me.  It only took me three years to figure that one out.











We have many azaleas out back and they also put on quite a show in April.  This one, though, is my pride and joy although the photo doesn't do it justice.  It was a pitiful shrub when we bought the house but with some pruning and fertilizing  over the last three years it finally decided to join the parade.





The first of the David Austin roses, Winchester Cathedral.




The first of the David Austin Heritage rose.





I can't remember the name of this peony.  I planted it last Fall and it only gave us one bloom...but what a bloom!





The rest of the peonies are ready to burst out, right in Madame Mere's little garden.  Her apartment is to the right with a spectacular view of the garden.




And here they are the next day!




The tried and true, Sarah Bernhard.  She never fails me.




Bowl Of Beauty.





This little fellow was in the rose garden of my home in Connecticut.  When I moved to New York City.  I gave it to MM and it sat for years in the courtyard of her townhouse in Florida.  Who would have thought the three of us would reunite in a small town in Georgia!










Angelonia in front of MM's big window.





The dahlia garden (work in process!)



Geraniums for the deck.



Pots of fresh herbs on the deck.




The obligatory ferns by the front door of a true Southern home!





Winchester Cathedral bushes in the front garden




My feeble attempt at container gardening












Another new addition, the fox tail fern






But none of this would have been possible without the help of my garden crew, always by my side.













 Some of us work a little harder than others....





Keeping up a big garden like this is a lot of work, but I will have to say I rather enjoy it.  It beats getting up on a treadmill and lifting weights. It's funny,  people nowadays pay to exercise and pay again to have some one else do their yard work. Go figure.  Never mind the expense of buying the right shoes and the proper attire to get smelly and sweaty. I remember when I was young and only the very wealthy in this country could afford a full time gardener.  My father cut the grass, albeit in a small tractor, and he and my mother did all the weeding, planting and maintenance of our garden in Connecticut.  There was no Roundup in those days and a weed free lawn or flower bed meant you had to get on your hands and knees and pull.  If you had kids living at home between the ages of eight and sixteen, you had extra help for cheap.  It was called an allowance.  It paid for ice cream and movies. Extra work paid for dates.  Come Fall, you would hire a couple of kids from the neighborhood to help with the leaves.  People were thinner in those days and life was good.   We did not have a drug or a fat problem in this country like the one we have today. 

  Now that the garden is back in shape and I am a few pounds lighter, I will have more time to concentrate on cooking.  That is, unless something else falls apart...AGAIN.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Crispy Spanish Potatoes

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These potatoes were often served at home and I loved them.  They remind me of my mother and my childhood. They are so easy, yet hard to master until you figure out a couple of simple tricks.  I am sure every Spanish cook has his or her way of making it, but this is the way I finally got them to come out the way I remembered.

This is the only time I use small yellow potatoes. Russets or small red potatoes are usually what you will find in my food pantry, but for this recipe, yellow are the only way to go.  I say recipe, but there really is no recipe, just a method.  You can make as many or as few as you like, another advantage. All you need is olive oil, mashed garlic, sea salt and pepper.  Fresh parsley is a bonus; and they take no time, just a little patience.

These are perfect in a pinch, when you need to put together a meal and there is no time to fuss.  We had them the other night with lamb chops, but they go well with just about anything. Add some pimenton for a little heat and spice.




Ingredients:

Small yellow potatoes
Olive oil, preferably Spanish
Plenty of mashed garlic (about 4 or 5 big ones)
Parsley
Sea Salt and Pepper

I find the trick is to parboil them for about twenty minutes.  Remove from the water, drain and let them cool.  Cut in half.   Coat the frying pan generously with olive oil..Heat the oil on medium high. Mince the mashed garlic, 3 or 4 big cloves, and add to the oil.  Cook for a couple of minutes on medium heat until golden, making sure the garlic does not burn.  What you are doing is flavoring the oil.  Remove the garlic from the pan. Add the potatoes, cut side down, and cook on medium heat until golden and crispy on that side.  Leave them alone, don't fiddle with them until ready to turn.  Cook on the other side in the same way.  Add back the garlic and sprinkle some sea salt, pepper and fresh parsley.  Toss a couple of times.



  Remove to paper towels and serve.  You can drizzle a little of the flavored oil over them if you want.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chicken With Potatoes, Prunes And Pomegranate Molasses

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You will be knocked off your socks when you find out that there's nothing more to this recipe than throwing a few ingredients into a pot and waiting for it to cook. Two hours later you will be marvelling at the genius of Yotam Ottolenghi. Yes I know, I'm one of his groupies and after this dish I will follow him blindly to the end of the earth!

To begin with, there's no fat.  Take it from me, I read through the ingredients twice, There's no browning of the chicken either.  A few of my regular readers who watch their waistline like a hawk will like that.  What did it for me, though, was the one-pot dish...talk about minimizing the clean-up!





I really don't know what made me take a plunge and make this recipe.  It must have been the simplicity of it all.  I do try to keep things low key during the week, seeing that my life has so drastically changed in the last few months.  What I never expected was what came out  two hours later.  It was a masterpiece and worthy of serving to your most distinguished guests.  Let's just say that Madame Mere cleaned her plate and she does not go for the exotic at this stage of her life.  

That being said, here are a few steps that I suggest you follow.  First, if you are using a large Le Creuset pot or cocotte, it is easier to work with legs and thighs separately.  They don't need to fit in one layer, but they are easier to maneuver.  Just throw them in and let them fall where they will.  Do not buy skinless.  People! this is the only fat in this dish! you can remove the skin later, if you must, after you have been served.  Without the skin you won't get that color and the chicken pieces may not come out as juicy as they are meant to.





I bought the small lgolden potatoes, called honey potatoes.  I don't think it much matters which ones you get as long as they are small and yellow,  but I would peel them.  I didn't do it thinking the skin was so thin I could get away with it;  but I think the skin prevents them from absorbing some of the flavors.

I obviously could not find pomegranate molasses in my little town in Georgia but I read that it is very similar to balsamic vinegar and that was what I used.  You can find it on Amazon or you can make your own.  I have placed an order and will definitely use it next time as I hear it is fantastic on marinades and sauces.

The top photo of this dish is by Colin Campbell for the Ottolenghi website., The rest are mine.  You know I'm just a cook with a little camera, not a photographer with fancy equipment.  The reason I put his up on top is to show you that, when compared to my results, one gets exact ly as promised.  No fancy camera work in mine, just point and shoot.

Although Ottolenghi suggests crusty bread and a salad to accompany, I couldn't resist the white rice with a simple salad on the side. It's up to you, bread or rice.

For the amount of work involved, the depth of flavor in this recipe is remarkable.  It is the work of a genius. Just take a leap of faith with me and make it, just the way it says.  You will be amazed at the results and may even become an Ottolenghi groupie together with Madame Mere and me! 






 Ingredients

 Serves four generously (It really serves 6!)


8 whole chicken legs (ie, each with a drumstick and a thigh; 2kg in all)
16 medium charlotte potatoes, peeled (about 800g net)
3 large onions, peeled and quartered
120g/ 1/2 cup pitted prunes 
30g/ 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
100ml/ 6 TB soy sauce
90ml/ 3 oz pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp maple syrup 
120g/4 oz sweet mango chutney
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
20g oregano sprigs, plus a few picked leaves to garnish

Method

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, then tip into a large casserole dish. Cover with a lid (or thick foil), and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, and cook for two hours longer, stirring every now and then.

When the time is up, remove the dish from the oven, stir once more, cover and set aside for at least 15 minutes, to rest and allow the flavours to mingle. Garnish with a few oregano leaves, and serve with a sharp green salad and some good bread to mop up the lovely juices.
       

Saturday, March 14, 2015

New Addition to the Staff...

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 It is with great pleasure that I introduce Madison (Maddie) Macintosh to all our readers.  Madison has joined us as a junior member of the clean up crew under the supervision of Lily the lab and Coco the cat.  Her participation and enthusiasm have been above average and show great promise for a bright future as a senior member of Lindaraxa's staff. We expect her training as Apprentice Sous Chef to begin in the Spring of 2015.  We are all very excited to have Madision as part of our family.

Chef's Note: For those of you not familiar with the West Highland White Terrier (Westie) breed, in time, their bodies catch up to their ears!  

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