Saturday, June 30, 2012

Baby It's Hot Outside...Again!

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Last year around this time I posted a ton of recipes for drinks to see you through the heat.  I had to laugh seeing that I was complaining about temperatures in the 90's when this weekend we are expecting highs of 105 degrees! My advice to all who are suffering...keep the curtains drawn to insulate the house from the heat, make a big batch of any of these drinks and stay inside. Whatever you do, don't turn that stove on!

The Real Cuban Mojito

Believe it or not, alcohol is your worst enemy in this heat.

I'm ready, I got a puppy cut this week! Mom says I look years younger (and slimmer).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Eggs Flamenco!

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If you have noticed that I tend to publish a lot of recipes for eggs, there's a reason for it...I love them, for lunch.

In Europe, as well as most of Latin America, eggs are eaten mostly at lunch and not for breakfast as they do here in the United States.  Mexico and the U. K. are perhaps the only exception I can think of,  unless you are a farmer.  Breakfast is usually a light meal of juice, a small pastry and coffee, strong and lots of it.  Eggs, on the other hand, are served quite frequently for lunch and can be quite elaborate, hot or cold.

The Spaniards are quite good when it comes to making eggs (think Spanish Omelette) and can be counted on for a few variations of baked eggs.  Here is perhaps the most famous and my favorite, with or without the potatoes. For the recipe...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Let's Do Lunch In Cap Ferrat...Pasta Provencal

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Right about this time of the year I start thinking about light pastas,  fresh tomatoes,  anchovies and capers, and so many other things typical of the South of France;  but more than anything, I start thinking of tuna.  No, not tuna as in sushi, just plain tuna as in tuna fish.   I also switch my cocktails to French dry roses and start wearing espadrilles and striped t-shirts.  It must be time to move to the Riviera...physically or otherwise.

Cap Ferrat

La Leopolda, Cap Ferrat

If you are part of the well healed LWL (Ladies Who Lunch) you will be readying your home in Cap d"Antibes or Cap Ferrat  (Marbella and Ibiza are okay too),  drawing up your guest list and thinking of some menus for practically every day of the week.  The season, which goes from July to the end of August, is just around the corner.  Better stock up on Campari and plenty of dry Rose.

Restaurant Eden Roc, Hotel Du Cap, Cap D'Antibes

If you are not part of that upper echelon, you will be readying your house in the Hamptons, Newport or Maine, maybe in Litchfield County or somewhere along the Hudson Valley.  Everyone else will be hiding in their closet come the weekend.  No matter where you are, there better be water around and if there isn't, don't bother even mentioning you have a summer house even if it is a country house.  Case in point, now that our house is not directly on the lake, our weekend visitors have gone down by 90%!

Pastas in the Riviera are very popular in the summertime; but it's more about the main ingredient than the pasta itself.  A popular combination is pasta with tuna, anchovies, olives, tomatoes and olive oil.  As long as everything is in season, you can add or subtract anything you wish. Subtract the tuna or the anchovies and you have a good pasta, but not a great pasta.

To complement your lunch, don't forget a fresh tomato salad, some of those thin Italian breadsticks and a bottle of French rose from Provence. A lemon sorbet would be perfect for dessert.  Then espresso and a well deserved nap!

I guarantee you will like this pasta, but only if you have it by the water, any water....turn on the sprinklers if everything fails.

Something like this would do 

It's been awhile since I've visited any of those summer resorts but I still have the memories and the palate to try to reproduce some menus at home.  Just close your eyes, smell the roses,  listen to the birds and you could be anywhere! For the Pasta Provencal recipe click below.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pizza With Caramelized Onions, Figs, Bacon and Blue Cheese

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Sometimes the best recipes come from people who don't cook.  Case in point is my friend Silvia who can't cook but surely knows how to order.  Every time we go to a restaurant,  no matter where in the world, I always end up wishing I had ordered what is on her plate.  She's smug about it,  and practically makes me beg to get a taste of what I wished I had ordered.  She's the one who introduced me to grilled vegetables as an appetizer, hanger steak and potato and sweet potato puree, all favorites now;   and started ordering thin pizzas for lunch and  Veuve Cliquot for cocktails long before they were on my radar.  But then again, she has always been a fan of my cooking and a great buddy with whom to give a dinner party.  The Sous Chef could certainly learn a thing or two from Aunt Sil!

This is one of the recipes she shared with me when I told her I had started baking my own pizzas.

The pizza dough recipe is from Mark Bittman and can be made at the blink of an eye.  You can also purchase ready made dough from Publix Markets, Trader's Joe's or your favorite pizzeria.  Take a look at the video, though, it comes together in no time;   but make sure you buy the quick rising yeast.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Spring Beef Stew In A Red Wine Sauce

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Making a stew at the height of Spring season is unusual for me but there is a story behind it.

Last week I asked my daughter to bring some things from the store,  including a sirloin steak for shish kebabs.  If the meat was on sale, she was to buy extra.  I could always make a stew for one of the nights she came home late from work.  As a caveat, let me tell you that if you think husbands are bad about going to the store, she is worse.  You can give her a list of five things to bring, all written out ,and she will forget three.  I've come to think that perhaps she tends to "forget" things she doesn't care for and have watched out for this.  But no, no matter what I ask for, she apparently zones out or claims to "forget" the list.

In any event, this time she nailed it  and I was ecstatic when she came home with everything I had asked for since it was a fairly long list.  A couple of days later I decided to rearrange the freezer and sure enough there was the sirloin steak for shish kebabs.  I was surprised as I moved to the refrigerator to find a small tray of meat still in a grocery bag.  When I opened it,  it was beef stew meat with a "Sale By" date two days later.  Oh dear, I thought, she must have misunderstood and bought that awful stew meat  instead of the extra sirloin I had asked for to make a stew.  Better cook it tonight so it won't go to waste.

The pieces were cut fairly small and instead of making a beef bourguignone, I decided to try a recipe I had seen by Jacques Pepin.  The method reminded me of the one Lidia Bastianich uses in her Beef Goulash for the Pope.  The stew did not include water or beef bouillon and cooked at a fairly low temperature for a relatively long period of time. That was what I needed,  for "beef stew" meat is amongst the toughest you can find on the shelves.  To boot, I had everything required in the recipe, including the pancetta and the small onions.  Jackpot!

The stew was everything I expected.  The flavor was concentrated and sublime.  The meat one of the tenderest I have ever tasted in a stew.  I accompanied it with pasta and it was perfect for an early Spring dinner.  We were both delighted.  Awhile later, as I was relaxing in front of the TV, I heard her go to the refrigerator and close the door.  "Gee Mom, I do hope you realize you just cooked the meat I had bought for the dogs.  It was really good, though!"

Well, all I can say is that if it was outstanding with meat meant for the dogs, imagine how it will turn out if you make it with a fairly decent cut.  Just goes to show, you don't have to spend a  lot of money to have a really good meal.  For less than four dollars, we had dinner for two with leftovers for another night. Not bad.

No words can express my disappointment in those two.  Sad, really sad...

Recipe after the break.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cheesy Spinach And Artichoke Dip

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This is the kind of recipe you need to keep around for summer entertaining, particularly if you are grilling.  I have noticed that men, in particular, really go for this dip so it's a safe bet for Father's Day.

You can assemble everything in advance, pour into a serving dish and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake.

There are lots of Father's Day recipes, menus and ideas in both this blog and the lake blog.  Go to the search box on both sites and enter Father's Day. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Garden Tour In Atlanta, Part I

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If you are going to go on a garden tour here in Atlanta, there is no better companion than my friend Sandra Jonas, the well known garden designer, plant collector and avid gardener who also publishes the blog Recreating Eden.  I know you have heard me mention her in this blog before, mostly in reference to her potager,  but nothing compares to her knowledge of plants and meeting her in person.  She is beautiful, charming, well versed in her craft, and simply a delight to be with on a garden tour or any other occasion.  I liked her the moment I met her.

Last Saturday morning she invited me to join her on the 2012 American Hydrangea Society Tour of some of the member's gardens north of Atlanta.  I was there with bells and whistles, bright eyed and bushy tailed, with banana muffins in hand  for a late morning snack.  Wait 'til you see these gardens!

Now, I must warn you, you know I know piddly squat about plants and gardens. If you want a real tour with all the names and expert commentary, visit Sandra's blog and Pretty Old Houses after you leave mine.

For the photos click below!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Crunchy Banana Muffins For The Hydrangea Society Tour In Atlanta

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Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I am meeting my friend Sandra Jonas of Recreating Eden for the annual  AHS 2012 Garden Tour  featuring many beautiful hydrangea-filled gardens here in Atlanta.  Sandra and I have been virtual friends for over a year but it seems every time we tried to meet,  one of us had an illness in the family.    Finally, tomorrow looks like a go and frankly, I can't wait to meet this wonderful lady.  As we are meeting fairly early in the day, and there seems to be quite a few gardens to tour, I am bringing along some muffins for a mid morning snack.

Banana muffins always seem to come up when there are a few of them over ripening in the kitchen.  I don't know where these came from.  Maybe a product of house guests from last weekend.  But they aint going to waste...not in this house.

If you like banana bread or muffins, these are a must...simply to die for!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chinese Chicken Salad With Crispy Wontons And Sesame Ginger Dressing

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This is a very easy salad if you plan ahead and buy some of the ingredients already at Target.  I am lucky to have a Super Target where I live and have noticed how they are expanding their grocery side, particularly their premium food brand, Archer Farms.

A couple of days ago,  on my way down the canned goods aisle, my right eye spotted something my mind couldn't believe.  Ready made Wonton Strips for salads!

I have been wanting to make a Chinese chicken salad for ages, but frankly my dedication to food doesn't transcend to actually making my own wonton strips.  So problem solved.  Armed with two bags and a can of their mandarin oranges I came home to make my long awaited salad.  Luckily I had some leftover grilled chicken thighs from the night before so the planets were aligned for a positive outcome.  Next time, though,  I will plan ahead and grill chicken breasts for dinner and use the leftovers for the salad.

Should you be so inclined or not able to find a Target with ready made wonton strips, I am including a recipe.  They can be made the day before and kept in an air tight container, after they are completely cooled.

Now you all know Chinese don't  have salads, right? What makes this "Chinese" is the ingredients.  Just checking....

The mandarin oranges and cucumbers make for a refreshing salad and the perfect choice for a hot summer day.   That, and the fact that it doesn't have that many calories, makes it the perfect lunch for The Ladies Who Lunch!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini Provencal Style

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After a long Memorial Day Weekend of drinking, eating and entertaining, this was the perfect meal for a quiet Sunday dinner. Let's just say it was the healthy alternative to macaroni and cheese .  You really don't need anything else, except maybe a bottle of Chianti Classico and a leftover piece of the Almond Cake With Berries.

In my search for the perfect recipe, I knew I wanted something with tomatoes, but not necessarily a tomato sauce.  Ripe Italian tomatoes are the perfect choice but no matter what kind you use, make sure you squeeze out as much liquid as possible before you add to the stuffing.  Same with the zucchini.

Sausage is the perfect meat for this dish and ground pork should work also.  Whatever you do, don't try substituting ground turkey.   Zucchinis are on the bland side and need something with character to complement the rest of the ingredients.  I used more cheese than the recipe called for and perhaps next time I will make them with Gruyere instead of Mozzarella so I can truly call it Gourgettes Farcies a la Provencal.. sounds more elegant than Stuffed Zucchini, n'est ce pas?

And in case you are watching your Wheat Belly, not an ounce of the stuff in this recipe!
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