Thursday, May 29, 2014

We Are Having A Baby! and...Strawberry Ice Cream

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Tomorrow is B Day....or Baby Day.  Yep, tomorrow Lindaraxa will be a grandmother for the third time; but today is the day we pick up the other two to come spend some time at our house while their mother concentrates on doing her thing.  And we do ours...spoil them rotten.

The house looks like camp.  My daughter has organized all kinds of activities to keep them entertained and Nani has planned fun menus, healthy and otherwise, for the next four days.  Did I just say four days?!

In the past I used to spend endless hours making stuff ahead of time that I thought they would enjoy.  Finally I learned my lesson, go with the flow and cook as you go.  My granddaughter, though, loves Nani surprises, as in cakes and cookies, and she has already asked me to bake a cake.  But Nani has a real treat up her sleeve this time...homemade ice cream! and what could be better than making homemade strawberry ice cream.





The recipe I chose comes from Chef John from Food Wishes and is, in my criteria, the one that makes the most sense.  It skips the custard base thus rendering a more intense flavored cream, something I prefer when making fresh strawberry ice cream. It was perfect except, to my taste, I would reduce the vanilla extract to 1/2 tsp instead of one.  I find that premium vanilla extracts tend to be stronger than normal and can overpower instead of enhancing the flavor.  Moreover, I ended up using more strawberries than the recipe called for and my blender did not have the capacity for more than 2 cups of heavy cream. So I skipped the one cup of milk. It was smooth and creamy, just like Chef John's.





I am posting the original recipe with a link to the video which I know you will enjoy.  As to a photo, frankly it is a quarter to nine and I feel like it's four o'clock in the morning.  I don't know how mothers do it and I am incredulous that I did it. But I was in my twenties then and now... let's just say I am a little bit older and boy do I feel the pain.

As of tomorrow there will be three little ones running around and I wonder what it will be like when my daughter and I babysit next time the parents take off.

Unlike the other two grandchildren, we won't know the sex of the baby until he or she is born around one o'clock tomorrow afternoon.  I have to say it makes it more exciting.  My granddaughter, being the eldest child, will receive a call from her dad when he gets to the recovery room and she will then make the announcement to the rest of the family.  I will let you know when I am fully recovered.

Ingredients:

12 ounces trimmed strawberries (one of those baskets should get you close)
3/4 cup white sugar
very tiny pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream

Photos 1 and 2 Google
Photo # 3 Food Wishes

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Weekend Entertaining...Flank Steak Salad With Arugula And Blue Cheese

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So Summer has officially begun.  Time to head to the beach or country house for the weekend and enjoy a few days with good friends.

Summer weekends are a time to take a break.  The idea is to have a good time and relax. You certainly don't want to spend too much time in the kitchen and if you live and work in the city, who wants to go out to an overcrowded restaurant for dinner?! There is a very simple and great solution.  The grill.  It is your best friend for the rest of the summer.  Use it.  If you don't have one, get one.




There is nothing like grilled meat or vegetables on the grill.  Corn is the only thing I prefer steamed, but I'm willing to be convinced.  While I haven't as yet experimented with pizza, it will be at the top of my list this summer.  

This hearty salad is the perfect meal for Friday night.  There's not much to do except marinade the meat for a few minutes and the salad comes together in no time.  I substituted skirt steak for the flank this time, but both work well.  While the original recipe says it will serve 4 people, if you are serving it for dinner, I would definitely double it, particularly if you are using skirt which shrinks considerably.  I found that my daughter and I could easily devour the one pound/ 2 cups of salad, with a few bites for the dogs.


You can slice the steak thinner and probably should if you are having guests.  I was too lazy to do it and it was just the two of us.  


You know what would be perfect for dessert? Strawberry Shortcake!







Flank Steak Salad with Arugula And Blue Cheese
Serves 2

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 lb. (500 g.) flank steak
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups (2 oz./60 g.) arugula
1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g.) crumbled blue cheese
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic, cumin and coriander. Place the steak on a plate. Spoon half of the dressing over both sides of the steak, reserving the remaining dressing. Sprinkle both sides of the steak with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.



Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over medium heat. Grill the steak directly over the fire, turning once, until seared on both sides and medium-rare inside, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes. In a bowl, combine the arugula, blue cheese, shallots and parsley, and drizzle the remaining dressing over the top. Season with salt and pepper and toss together well. Slice the steak, arrange the slices on a platter, top with the arugula salad, and serve. 

Adapted from Williams Sonoma recipes
All photos Lindaraxa

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Weekend Hostess...A Guide To Survival

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This post has been adapted from one originally published on my blog My Kitchen By The Lake on May 26, 2011.  
  
So here we are, finally, the first long weekend of the Summer season and the beginning of my summer job as head chef/housekeeper at the lake house. You think I'm kidding?  All of a sudden all your long lost friends and relatives remember there's a house on a lake, with full maid service, and a great chef.  All for free!  Just call and make a reservation...everyone is always welcomed...including dogs!




Whilst I love to entertain and have people over, my life now turns upside down and my weekends are my workdays.  The towels and bed sheets are the worst part, so this year I put my foot down and regulars get to make their own beds and leave the sheets in the laundry room when they leave.  Only first timers and "special" guests get the full treatment. It's called "tough love"!

The bathrooms are stocked with all kinds of goodies, including sun tan lotions and shampoo, but each guest gets ONE beach towel which they must guard with their life. The food is something else.  For this it pays to be organized and from years of entertaining at various places, I have developed a method that is easy for me.  Light breakfasts, light lunches, and great dinners.







Breakfast

We are not big breakfast people.  Once in awhile, we will have brunch on Sundays, particularly in Fall and Winter; but when you come to a lake, the main idea is to go boating or swimming and who wants to do that on a full stomach?

Breakfasts here consist of fresh fruit, orange juice, (great) coffee and English muffins or toast.  Homemade strawberry or peach preserves are a staple of the breakfast table, with cereal and granola also on hand. I usually leave a bowl of cut up cantaloupe and  blueberries or strawberries in the fridge the night before and when guests wake up they serve themselves.   Sometimes I make a coffee cake in advance, freeze it and serve it for breakfast or tea.




Lunch

Lunch is a make your own sandwich event if we are swimming around the dock;  but if we are going on the boat, everyone helps put a picnic together.  Have fresh tomatoes, olives, lettuce, bean sprouts, mayo, different mustards, you get the idea. Make it special by having artisanal breads and interesting cheeses and chutneys.  It is sometimes less expensive to roast a chicken or turkey breast during the week, have it for dinner, and slice the leftovers for sandwiches or salads.  Chicken salad sandwiches are a good alternative and are easy to make.

An antipasto tray of salamis, cheese, olives, and baguette also make a nice alternative for lunch.

Meatloaf sliders anyone? Another make ahead idea that everyone loves.Serve the meatloaf slices cold with mustard, mayonnaise and horseradish.  Sweet pickles or cornichons are a must and the cucumbers in sour cream go well.  Don't forget some cool potato chips!








Make a pound cake during the week and serve it for lunch or a mid afternoon snack.





Dinner 

Dinner is the highlight of the day and here I usually go all out.   Ribs, Shish Kebabs, chops, casseroles, and pies are at the top of the list.  I make it easy on myself by grilling the meat and making a vegetable or potato casserole.  If fresh corn or tomatoes are available at the farmers market, they go to the top of my list.  For dessert I make crumbles or cobblers with whatever fruit is in season or serve home made ice cream with fresh fruit. Other times I cheat and buy a pie at the nearest Fresh Market and add homemade whipped cream to make it special.




If you have guests arriving Friday night, don't plan to cook on the grill that night.  Instead make something that can be easily warmed up for those who arrive late.  My individual Mac And Cheese recipe from Harry's Bar in Venice is an old standby and a favorite of friends and family including little children.

One of the reasons everyone loves to come here is the food so I try not to disappoint by having special things that I can make ahead and freeze.  Like I mentioned before, a coffee cake goes a long way and brownies or butterscotch bars can be made ahead and served with ice cream for dessert or wrapped for a picnic.  I also prepare Beer Cheese, Pimento Cheese Spread or a  Goat Cheese Log the day before to accompany cocktails.  Chorizos and special sausages that can be thrown on the grill and served with a special mustard are always on demand!

While menus are simple,  try to buy the best ingredients you can find to make the meals special. Don't try to have three complicated menus a day.   Keep it simple, make some things ahead, like appetizers and desserts, and let everyone help you.  It's a long summer, and this is just the beginning!




If you like dogs, you might like:

Memorial Day With The Family...The Little Westie That Could

And here she is a year later....




All photos except the last one are from my Pinterest Board Summer Weekends where credits can be found

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cucumbers in Sour Cream

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Finally the kitchen is finished and now the big, BIG project starts.  Yes, the kitchen was just a "little" job.  New back splash and counter top and a few lights here and there.  Oh, and a big new sink!  The big, BIG project is the basement, or first level if you look at it from the back of the house.  But, before the big, BIG project, there is small big project... a new roof!   No, we have not won the lottery, but circumstances have forced us to undertake three projects in a row that would normally take a few years to even consider.

The new roof is the result of the storms we had this year and last and qualify us for a new one, courtesy of our insurance company.  There is a time clause in which to apply, so here we are.  A new roof, now, before the big job.

I am telling you all this because last night was the first time in a month that I got creative in the kitchen.  Not that we have starved, but frankly I haven't been too excited about cooking as you can see from all the posts about the garden.  Not that this is unusual for me. April and May are mainly dedicated to the garden and we had so much damage from last winter that the work has been constant.  On the good news front, the gardenias are coming back, little by little; and I mean little by little.  The new growth is tiny, but it's there.  We will have to wait for blooms next year.

The weather has been... the weather.  Weird is more like it.  On Monday, 87 degrees was the high and Wednesday morning 40 degrees the low.  We are now back to long sleeve tees.  So it was stew weather, just like last year around this time.  My creative juices started to flow and the results were out of this world.  I will post it next, but first here is the salad that went with the meal.




I have posted a cucumber salad before but this one is slightly different.  First it is adapted from Craig Claiborne's book, Cooking With Herb And Spices, now out of print.   The main difference is the use of lemon juice instead of vinegar and the addition of chives.  It is subtle but tasty and goes well with a stew.  A good substitute also for tzatziki.








Cucumbers In Sour Cream
Adapted from Cooking With Herbs And Spices, by Craig Claiborne

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 tsps. salt
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
1 TB lemon juice
2 tsps. fresh dill
1 TB chopped chives
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsps sugar*
a few drops Worcestershire Sauce*
3 cucumbers, chilled (I used English cucumbers)

 Directions:

Combine the salt, Tabasco, lemon juice, dill, chives, sugar and Worcestershire Sauce with the Sour Cream.

Pare and slice the cucumbers and add them to the sour cream mixture.  Chill and serve garnished with additional dill.

*were my contribution to the recipe.  You don't want it sweet, so add just a touch of sugar for balance

All photos Lindaraxa

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name

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"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a commonly quoted part of a dialogue in William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet argues that the names of things do not matter, only what things "are".



In Act II, Scene 2 of the play, the line is said by Juliet in reference to Romeo's house, Montague which would imply that his name means nothing and they should be together.
Juliet:
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
Romeo:
[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
Juliet:
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.



The roses in this post are from one of my David Austin roses, "Heritage."  Rose is also the middle name of my daughter, Christina Rose, and my granddaughter, Taylor Rose.  Both are named after my mother in law, Rose, a great baker and gardener and a wonderful grandmother.  It is also the middle name of Princess Margaret Rose, Queen Elizabeth's sister.  I love the name and I think it makes for a beautiful middle name, when appropriate,  don't you?  Tell me, is there a favorite middle name in your family?






And although you can't see it because she wouldn't stay still, that is Coco Rose in her new rose collar. 




All photos Lindaraxa

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Ladies Lunch In The Garden

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Here in the South, the irises are blooming, the lilacs are blooming, the peonies are blooming and the roses and clematis are starting their show.  What else do you need for a ladies lunch?  Yes, this is it.  If you have a decent garden, this is your time to host a ladies lunch and shine.  The temperature is perfect and the menu...the season for asparagus and strawberries and Meyer lemons.  What's not to like?

Don't be intimidated by the crab cakes.  Trust me, this is a no fail recipe.  You can fry them about an hour before the guests show up and crisp them up in a hot oven just before serving them.

The asparagus vinaigrette can be prepared way ahead.  It is just steamed asparagus in a vinaigrette sauce served cold.  You can substitute Meyer lemon for the vinegar and add finely chopped hard boiled eggs on top for decoration. The biscuits and the pickled shrimp can and should be made two to three days before and the soup and the tart the day before.

I like to serve Bellinis because they are easy to make and different.  When white peaches are not in season, you can substitute with a ready made peach puree mix you can buy at the liquor or grocery store.  I know its not the same but it's good.  Substitute your own favorite cocktail if you wish. Just don't get too complicated.

There is nothing like a French dry rose for a Summer or Spring lunch  Click on the link below for some suggestions.  If you must choose a white wine, go with a Fume or Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley such as a Sancerre.  They are dry, crisp and elegant  and go better with fish than a Chardonnay .

This really is an easy and elegant menu, one that will leave you free to enjoy your lunch and your friends on the day of the party.  Have fun.




A Spring Lunch In The Garden




Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

 Fresh Strawberries

********

Domaine Houchart, dry rose

Homemade Iced Tea


*I have given you two desserts to choose from in case you cant find Meyer lemons.  Both go well with this lunch.  Notice I have omitted the word Bourbon in the torte.  To accompany with the strawberries it is best to make the original recipe with vanilla extract.  Serve with home made whipped cream on the side.  It can be made the day before and refrigerated.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pickled Shrimp Two Ways

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As far as Southern recipes are concerned, pickled shrimp ranks up there at the very top.  There used to be a time when no Southern table would be complete without a chilled bowl of this iconic appetizer, and why not? They are obsessive, easy to make, great for a buffet or picnic and make for a great presentation.  I will have to say, though, that I had a hard time finding the recipe I was looking for and the one I used to make from the legendary food critic of the New York Times, Craig Claiborne, a Southerner himself.

In scrolling through the New York Times archives, I did find an article he wrote in 1967, Way Down South In The Land of...the Piquant Pickled Shrimp which featured the recipe of Mrs. Roy Hodges of Montgomery, Alabama.  Mr. Claiborne was known for getting behind a recipe and publishing it giving credit to the original source.  I thought that was really admirable of him, a real Southern gentleman.

There are many recipes for pickled shrimp, just as there are many for shrimp and grits.  Two of the ingredients that were missing from the ones I found in my cookbooks were two "staples of authentic Southern cooking, Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco sauce." * When I read this in the New York Times article, I knew I had found my long lost recipe.

The only secret to this recipe is that the longer it sits, the better it tastes.  Plan on making it ahead of time so it can marinade for a couple of days in the fridge.  There is also a reason for making it in two steps or, better said, two layers.  With this amount of shrimp you want to make sure all of it gets coated evenly with the marinade.

*Craig Claiborne

Mrs. Rodgers Pickled Shrimp

3C vegetable oil
3 tsps. dry mustard (I use Coleman's)
4 tsps. sugar
2/3 cup vinegar (I used white)
2/3 cup catsup
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 to 6 cloves of garlic (I mash them and chop fine)
4 tsps Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco Sauce to taste
5 to 6 lbs of shrimp, cooked, shelled and deveined
3 medium size sweet onions, sliced wafer thin (I use Vidalia)
6 Bay Leaves

Directions:

Combine all the marinade ingredients, including the Tabasco sauce.  Blend half the mixture in a blender.

Arrange half the shrimp in a layer in a deep serving dish.  Arrange half the onions and the bay leaves.

Combine the other half of the marinade ingredients.  Repeat the layer of shrimp, onion and bay leaf. Pour the rest of the marinade over the whole dish. Cover and chill for at least a couple of days.

Serves 15






And here's the other from one of my favorite new Southern cooks, Frank Stitts. As you can see, it is hard to choose one or the other;  but I like the use of coriander, lemon, and celery seeds which is what I am used to in pickled shrimp.  Both are authentic versions of this iconic recipe and that is my main concern.

I only have two suggestions...marinade in the refrigerator for at least one day.  Serve in a chilled bowl with toothpicks and leave the bay leaves in.   It's easier, unless you are thinking of serving it as a first course.  It works.

Frank Stitts Pickled Shrimp

Time: About 20 minutes with cooked shrimp, plus 6 hours’ marinating (I highly recommend at least one day)

3 pounds shelled and deveined shrimp, boiled or steamed just until pink
2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 lemons, preferably organic, thinly sliced
14 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 dried hot chili peppers
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss thoroughly. Transfer to a serving bowl or glass crock, cover, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
2. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Remove bay leaves. Serve on small plates or with toothpicks.

Yield: 15 to 20 servings.

Adapted from “Frank Stitt’s Southern Table” by Frank Stitt (Artisan, 2004)
Photo Evan Sung

Both of these recipes can be halved or doubled.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mommy And Me Crab Cakes

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This was one of the very first recipes I posted five years ago.  It is as good today as it was then.  The only difference is we are five years older and the price of crab meat has gone from $16 per pound to $21.  We now live together, we fight and we laugh and she still calls me Mommy. 

If you want a special yet easy recipe to make for your Mom, this is a good bet!

 Have a nice Mother's Day.





My favorite kitchen mate is my daughter, Christina. She will be great cook one of these days. Whenever we get together, we gravitate towards the kitchen; like this afternoon, when she decided to show off my crab cake recipe with a few additions of her own. The ingredients are the same, except she gives it a final dredge in Panko and fries them in sesame oil. I loved it...but what I love the most about my 36 year old daughter is that after all these years and in spite of her independence, she still calls me Mommy. (May 2009)






Ingredients

1 lb lump crab meat
2 TB red or white onion
1 Egg
2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 TB Mayonnaise
1 tsp.lemon juice
1 TB mustard
1 TBS melted butter
1 tsp. Parsley Flakes
1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs
Panko for dredging

Crisco or Sesame oil for frying

Combine all ingredients except for crab meat. Gently fold in crab meat. Shape into 8 cakes. Pass through Panko. Pat well. Fry in regular or sesame oil. Serve with tartar sauce.

Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
2-3 tsps. relish

Serves 4


Cook's Note: Make sure you get good crab meat, such as Alaska King crab in lump. Otherwise, you will have mediocre crab cakes and will blame the recipe. The quality of the crab meat is 90% of making good crab cakes. Serve with a salad and a dry white or rose for lunch.



All photos Lindaraxa

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lilacs in May

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 One of the things I have missed the most since I left my home in Connecticut was the lilac bushes I had growing along a fence in the backyard.  The smell was breathtaking.  I remember taking bunches wrapped in wet paper towels and newspaper on the train to my office in the city where they would be arranged on a vase on top of my desk.  Everyone who walked in would marvel at their beauty and scent.




For the past five years I have had to "make do" with gardenias and camellias and moped at the site of photos of lilacs from my friends up north.  That is until yesterday when my next door neighbor surprised me with a bouquet of lilacs and irises from her garden.  She had been telling me she had a bush on the side of her house, right under her bedroom window, but I hadn't taken her seriously. Lilacs? in Georgia? get out! Well the pictures below show how wrong I was.  And the smell? Just as powerful as I remember.

There was no question where they were going to be enjoyed the most.  My sitting room! The question was where.



My folding table from Asprey, a relic from my office in New York



or...the wrought iron table from Marshall's




And if you want to know where everything comes together in this blog, there you have it...Lindaraxa's editorial offices, all decked out for May!


All photos Lindaraxa
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