Tag Archives: cooking

Kitchen Confessions

Live long enough, cook long enough, and you’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way.  Last week I may have surpassed myself.

Lately, I’ve been baking bread using a perforated double loaf pan.  They can be hard to clean, so instead of putting the dough directly on the pan I first place a sheet of parchment paper on top.  The paper tends to slide around, so I weigh each side down with something to keep it in place until the dough goes on it.

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For last week’s French bread, I weight one side with an apple and the other side with a paring knife until I’m ready to put my dough down on the paper-covered pan. I let them rise and bake as usual.

Both loaves of bread look good, although I do notice a groove on the bottom of one loaf when I take them off the paper to cool.

Cue the music: “Dumb, da dumb dumb”….

I remove the paper and discover my paring knife… not in the bread, but under the paper, melted directly onto the loaf pan where it is stuck for all eternity! Of course, my loaf pan/knife combo has to be thrown away and both items replaced ASAP.

I still can’t figure out how this happened.

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Westward Ho! and Beyond

Happy holidays, everyone! Time for a quick blog….

We return from Wales to our cramped and clammy cottage.  Neither of us wants to be the first to state the obvious: Devon is not all it was cracked up to be. (Or maybe it is and we just weren’t listening.) In any event, we don’t want to spend another full week here.

IMG-0338What to do? After briefly considering other UK options, we decide: What the hell, let’s go somewhere neither of us have visited and probably won’t otherwise.  Brainwave: Copenhagen! We’ll drop off the rental car early at Heathrow, zip over for a few days, and fly back on the day we were supposed to arrive in London.

Much happier now, with travel plans set, we use our next few days for final explorations of the countryside, including nearby Westward Ho! and the beautiful Lanhydrock estate.

First up, Westward Ho! (yes, that is its actual punctuation).

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Creepy haunted-looking house at Westward Ho! parking lot is decorated for Halloween.

Westward Ho! is a beach town whose most notable resident was writer Rudyard Kipling. He attended United Services College here in 1878 and the first verse of “If” is inscribed on the promenade.IMG-0608.JPG

The town features a large sandy beach and beautifully-painted beach huts.

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Eat your heart out, Bermuda!

Another day, we tour Lanhydrock, a magnificent late Victorian property.

IMG-0649 (1)It’s well worth seeing for the stunning kitchens alone: individual rooms for cheese, game, cleanup etc.  Very Downton Abbey. I covet the copper pans — and of course a room dedicated to making bread and pastry.

The house encompasses many other rooms…

…and extensive grounds.

IMG-0670Best part: lawn care is provided by free-grazing cows and sheep!

IMG-0647A plate provides a useful recipe tip:

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And back to reality: our own little National Trust cottage.

IMG-0678Lanhydrock is so much more my speed. Maybe in another life….

3rd week of October, 2018.

The Joys of Improv

Leftovers! Why does that word have such an unfortunate connotation — “sad”, “dreary”, “unwanted”? For example: Last to be chosen for softball (that would be me in 6th grade). Late to losing one’s virginity (also me… age 20). Third tier invitee to a wedding or party (not me I hope, although I’ve never found out if I was on the C list.)

But in fact you can make amazing things out of leftovers because they invoke your creativity. Only downside… you’ll never make that dish the same way twice.

I refuse to take credit when a recipe I’ve read in a book turns out ok. All I had to do was read and follow instructions. (On second thought, maybe credit IS due because I suck at following instructions; just ask my Long Suffering Husband.)

Still, isn’t it much more fun to wing it without a net and make something up? That’s what we’re faced with at this point in the season, when we’re close to shutting down the summer house and have to invent recipes based on what’s in the fridge/freezer that needs to be used because I have some weird Puritanical Streak or Jewish Guilt telling me it’s a SIN TO WASTE FOOD!!!!

Last night, the LSH combined basic rice with leftover salsa, leftover cheddar and mozzarella, turmeric, salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder and moribund sliced jalapenos to create Mexican rice. Probably not authentic, but definitely tasty and it hit all the points for Using Up Crap In the Fridge.

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Below is an adaptation of a favorite recipe, tweaked to use up various bits of excellent cheese that were malingering in the fridge. Feel free to substitute other nuts and adjust based on your own leftovers; there’s pretty much no wrong way to make this.

Cheesy Shortbread Leaves

Ingredients

  • 3.5 ounces crumbled cheese (about ½ cup), e.g. gruyère/cheddar/conté
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/3 cup almonds, finely chopped

Preparation

  1. Blend cheese and butter in food processor until creamy.
  2. Add flour, cornstarch, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Add nuts and process just until it forms moist clumps.
  4. Gather dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Roll out dough between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8″-1/4” thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic and using a 2” x 1” leaf-shaped cookie cutter, cut out leaves. Note: if you don’t have a cookie cutter, you can roll the dough into a log, chill until firm enough to cut but not super-cold, and then cut slices instead. Gather dough scraps and re-roll to make additional leaves.
  7. Transfer leaves to baking sheets and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen, depending on thickness of dough and size of cookie cutter.

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“Got Your Goat” Quick Bread

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance” wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet.  Unfortunately I don’t remember where I first saw the original recipe and I’ve made a few changes to it along the way.

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Being blessed (or cursed, as the case may be) with abundantly-growing rosemary in our hot climate, I’m always looking for a new way to use it. This tangy, crunchy, slightly sweet loaf is super-easy to make. It’s also very versatile.  Substitute any of your favorite herbs or nuts, or add raisins, chopped figs or kalamata olives for a different flavor.

Savory Quick Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup lowfat milk
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter (unsalted)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried and crumbled)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose unbleached white flour
  • 2 ounces goat cheese (very cold), cut or crumbled into small chunks

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Directions:

  • Heat the oven to 350℉.  Butter a 9″ loaf pan (or use Baker’s Joy spray).
  • Beat the egg in a medium bowl and whisk in the milk and butter. Don’t worry if you still have small lumps of butter after whisking.
  • In a large bowl, stir together baking powder, rosemary, lemon zest, pecans, salt and flours.
  • Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir everything together with a wooden spoon until barely combined.
  • Sprinkle goat cheese pieces over the batter and fold in gently with 2 or 3 strokes.
  • Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake about 50 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean.

Yield: about 12 servings

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Mouthing Off

Yesterday I went to the dentist to have a crown made. “Crown” sounds so elegant, like you should dress up and be all Downton Abbey-ish, rather than the disturbing reality of someone jamming their elbow into your mouth while you’re drooling and wearing a paper bib.

I started wondering what kind of person chooses a profession where no one wants to see them. Sure they make good money but you could be a podiatrist. Feet have to be more appealing than rotting teeth and bad breath. Are all dentists masochists? Personally, I’d rather have a colonoscopy than visit the dentist. At least you are asleep through the ordeal and they give you nice warm blankets and juice. At the dentist you get lidocaine and vile-tasting mouthwash, and stumble off with lipstick all over your face because you can’t feel where your lips end.

Leaving with a swollen jaw and an admonition not to eat anything hard or sticky (Nuts! Caramels!) I decided on cauliflower for dinner. It’s nice and bland and won’t stick to the temporary crown. If you’ve never puréed cauliflower, it makes an excellent substitute for mashed potatoes, which I didn’t have in the house. It won’t fool anyone but it’s quite tasty and low cal too. All you do is steam the head and mush it up in a food processor with some milk, salt and pepper, plus grated parmesan to offset all that healthiness. Go easy on the milk, adding slowly until you get the right consistency.

Still, modern dentistry is a big improvement over the “good” old days, when they didn’t have anesthetic. If you’re not squeamish, check out http://hubpages.com/health/A-Short-Painful-History-of-Dentistry, which is fascinating. Did you know that an ancient Roman toothache remedy was gargling with urine? Aren’t you glad I told you?

I’ll have the temporary for 2-3 weeks so I’m thinking about other soft foods to eat.
Since it’s chilly I’m focusing on soup. In this easy recipe for veggie soup, start with whatever’s in the fridge and add your favorites. Bon appétit!

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Veg Out Soup

INGREDIENTS
• 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
• 1 lg. onion, chopped
• 1 leek, chopped
• 2 carrots, chopped
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 medium zucchini, chopped
• 1 medium yellow squash, chopped
• 1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
• Trimmed green beans, cut bite size
• 1 lg. can fire roasted (or other) diced tomatoes
• 8 cups low fat chicken broth (enough to cover all veggies)
• Rind of Parmesan cheese
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Any other veggies you like, such as turnips, parsnips, chard, etc.
Optional: add a can of beans at the end of cooking

DIRECTIONS:
• Cover bottom of large, heavy soup pot with olive oil
• Turn heat to medium
• Add chopped onion to pot, stirring occasionally so it browns lightly
• Add other veggies to pot, stirring with each addition. Start with thicker, heavier vegetables, then add lighter ones
• When all fresh vegetables have been added, add can of tomatoes, Parmesan rind and enough liquid to cover veggies well
• Raise heat until soup starts to bubble, then lower to a simmer
• Simmer for several hours, until liquid has reduced and soup has thickened
• Remove rind and season with salt and pepper to taste
• Serve with crusty bread and more grated Parmesan

Makes about 8 servings