Five for Friday

Reimagining winter at botanic gardens at nite….bring your own hot chocolate!

Back to work in downtown Boston and spending a lot of time in the transformed Seaport District. Found HUGE planters of FRESH holiday flowers in a little green space. Beautiful amaryllis, hydrangeas and bells of Ireland, mixed with evergreens, magnolias and bare branches.

Nearby an installation of “balloons” on street lamps and hiding under park benches..

Reminding us to be happy…

A lovely reminder for these confusing and stressful times…

Stay tuned…

hi·a·tus
hīˈādəs/
noun
noun: hiatus; plural noun: hiatuses
  1. a pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process.
    “there was a brief hiatus in the war with France”
    synonyms: pause, break, gap, lacuna, interval, intermission, interlude, interruption, suspension, lull, respite, time out, time off, recess; More

    You guys! I’m going back to work! Many of you know that I took a package in the middle of last year and after about a month of vacation, have been looking for gainful employment. I got an offer early in Thanksgiving week and will be starting a new phase on Monday, December 4th. I can’t wait to get going and learn a whole new business. I don’t have any responsibility for food for the first time in over 30 years. Even I’m shocked! But its a great opportunity with a great company with opportunity for growth and challenge that will utilize my experiences and skills in operations and client support.

    While I ramp up and learn a whole new company, new team, new clients and and customers and more…I’m going to take a hiatus in the production of CashmereTea. I will be back and may even post some oldie, moldy favorites, but can’t make any promises.  So stay tuned, 2018 will be a new year in a lot of ways.

    Happy Holidays! See you in 2018!

Something Fishy

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When my parents were both alive and well, they used to come to join the Hubs and I for most of Thanksgiving week. They only lived 50 miles away, but they would move in on Tuesday and go home on Friday. My father would take up a post in the chair with his newspapers and tea, my mother and I would plant bulbs, drink tea and on the nite before Thanksgiving, when the malls were empty, we would make a strategic strike for gifts at the advance sales. My father and the Hubs were left home to make the traditional homemade fish cakes with tartar sauce, baked beans, cole slaw and brown bread. It’s only traditional for us, but I cherished it.

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This year, because I had some frozen haddock in the freezer and am trying to work down the inventory, I made fish cakes for the first time since they passed. I think I did them justice. The above picture is a portion of the recipe file I had to wade through to find my father’s copy, originally published in the Boston Globe. It is foolproof.

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You will need 1 pound of cod or haddock for every 2 diners. Cook it in a 300° oven for about 20 minutes. Coat it with a little olive oil and sea salt before cooking. When it’s cool, flake it into a mixing bowl, removing any bones or skin.

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Mix the fish with mayo, an egg, finely chopped fresh parsley, “live” bread crumbs (meaning from fresh bread) and dijon mustard, preferably the country style.

Form the mixture into loose balls of mixture, then form them into patties. Coat the patties with dry bread crumbs. Keep flat on a  plate or pan and pop in fridge for about an hour.

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Meanwhile mix up a batch of the best tartar sauce you will ever have made out of mayo, lemon juice, pickle relish, finely chopped red onion, finely chopped parsley and Worcestershire. You can also add a little hot sauce if you like. Chill.

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Melt a boatload of butter in an ovenproof skillet and gently place the chilled fish cakes into the butter. Brown one side and then gently, gently use a spatula and large fork or another spatula to flip the over. Once the second side is browned, put the pan in a 300° oven until heated through. Add lemon quarters and the tartar sauce and your favorite sides. A great Saturday nite supper, especially for a snowy weekend!

Bloody Mary is the girl I love…

IMG_3592Remember that song by Rodgers and Hammerstein from “South Pacific”? They sang about a native woman tribal leader, but what they really should have sung about is the nifty cocktail of the same name made with vodka and spicy tomato juice and these days garnished with everything from olives to lobster to a slider sized cheeseburger.

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I recently ran across a recipe for Bloody Mary Soup that sounded perfect for a wreath making and shopping party I was attending on the holiday weekend. I made it in about 10 minutes and it tasted just like a cocktail. You don’t actually put vodka in the soup until after it’s cooked and if I had more time, I would have actually infused some vodka for service. But tempus fugit, so no infused vodka. Maybe next time. Basically it’s 4 cans of whole plum tomatoes, 3 cups of vegetable stock, garlic, a chunked up onion, 2 large peeled and chunked up carrots, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil and the key to success and authentic taste…Old Bay seasoning. Throw it all in your slow cooker and put on high for 3 hours or more, or your pressure cooker on soup setting (about 30 minutes).

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Once it’s cooked, smooth it out in your blender in small batches or put your stick blender in and move it around while smoothing it out.

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I brought it to the party in my Instant Pot because you can transport it with the cover locked down. I made skewers with these ginormous olives stuffed with blue cheese and the sweet hot peppers, both from Trader Joe’s and put them on a nice tray, put some vodka in a cute little bar pitcher and put out extra Old Bay seasoning and some creme horseradish for a little extra something.

It would be a great soup for brunch over the holidays, super bowl party, a football weekend and more. Highly recommended by the Hubs and all the guests at the decorating and shopping party!

Open the door to your Mystery Bake…

img_58761.jpgAs you know, I’ve been trying to clear my little rollie cart that lives in my pantry. Not that it did anything wrong…but I felt like the ingredients were underutilized. Meaning: I picked the ingredients out in always optimistic fashion that I would be using it quickly and then there it sits a year later ( or longer).

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When I peeked at the cart this week while doing my Thanksgiving baking, I found a bag of forgotten Semolina flour. Traditionally used to make pasta, which is why I originally procured it possibly, it’s much softer than normal all purpose flour.  Et voila! I browse the search results on Pinterest for semolina bread that was dead simple to make. It does require two risings, but you can use instant yeast and don’t have to worry about a starter.

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Add water, yeast, sugar, salt, flour and olive oil to the bowl and blend with a spatula. Pop the bowl on the stand mixer and add the dough hook. Knead it on slow/med speed for about 10 minutes until the dough is very soft and smooth, almost glassy.

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Put it into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temp until it doubles in size.

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Lightly flour a board and remove the dough from bowl and roll  out until it is as wide as your loaf pan and about 18″ long. Starting at end nearest you roll the dough up to form a log that you place in your lightly oiled loaf pan. Again, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until just above the rim of the pan. ( My second rise was a little aggressive and I had to fit it back into pan).

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Bake in center of a 375° oven for about 45 minutes. Bread will sound hollow when tapped lightly when done baking. The Hubs and I had for breakfast a couple of times and it toasts well, is slightly on the sweet side and will hold up for a sandwich!

A Day of Thanksgiving

Cashmere Tea

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There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.” — O. Henry

“All that we behold is full of blessings.” – William Wordsworth

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” — W.T. Purkiser

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” — Charles Dickens

“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” — W. Clement Stone

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” – Henry Van Dyke

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” – W.J. Cameron

“Forever on Thanksgiving Day the heart will find the pathway home.” – Wilbur D. Nesbit

“Give thanks for…

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This could go either way…

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Jamie Oliver, once known in his infancy as the Naked Chef, continues to contribute to the culinary scene both in the US and the UK where his home base is. I love to watch him in his garden kitchen, hard by his wood burning oven. It’s a perfect setting in that you can sweep scraps on the floor and not worry about making a mess.

Anyway, he had this recipe on YouTube that I watched a while ago and thought it would be a good meal for this past weekend when the temps on Saturday night were ridiculously low and the wind was howling.

Start by chunking up a butternut squash and (gasp) leave the peel on the squash. One inch chunks will do. Roughly chop a red onion and a long chili pepper of your choice. Put in a dry roasting pan on medium heat and move stuff around adding about 2 tsp of smoked paprika. Once the ingredients are hot, add 2 cloves of sliced garlic and about 2 tbsp of oil. Keep stirring….Then place in a 350° oven for about 45 minutes, until the squash is pretty soft. Leave the oven on.

Add one can each of cannelloni beans and garbanzo beans and 28 oz can of tomatoes. IF you are vegetarian you can stop here. Just stir everything up and put back in oven for about 45 minutes. Season to taste. Serve over sautéed greens like kale, mustard greens etc. Something hearty. Full Stop. BUT….

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But, if you are a carnivore, get your self some really good sausage with two different flavor profiles ( I used fresh kielbasa, and hot Italian turkey sausage). Form them into a rack by curling or laying them next to each other and then skewering them with wooden skewers soaked in water. You can also use long spears of rosemary with the leaves stripped as Jamie suggests.

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Sprinkle the top with some fresh nutmeg and tuck in some sage, rosemary and any other herbs you like and place on a bacon/baking rack that fits over your roasting pan. Don’t cover the pan, place the rack instead. Put back in the 350 ° oven. What will happen is that as the sausage cooks, the drippings will flavor the ragu in the pan. Forty five minutes should be plenty of time. The sausage will get nice and roasty looking.

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Meanwhile, back at the stove top, you can chop, rinse and saute some hearty greens like kale or swiss chard ( shown) as a base for the ragu.

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And yes, that was a lot of sausage for 2 peeps, but once cooked it can be frozen and used in a variety of ways. A perfect dinner for a cold winter nite! In retrospect, the Hubs is not a fan of Swiss chard, so next time it will be spinach, and the squash not being peeled ensures that the squash will hold together, but it adds nothing to the taste of the dish. Your fiber requirement for the day however will be fine…

And now for something completely different…

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A million years ago, when I was running my chubby little legs off as a catering director at a Boston area university, there was a defacto group of businessmen with ties to Armenia, who used the university facilities once a month. The president of the university at the time, who I adored, was a member, so they got first cabin treatment including being able to bring in their own food. So on the last Thursday of the month, a courier from a local Armenian caterer would arrive with a tray of steak tartare sans egg, a huge pan of addictive Armenian string cheese with nigella seeds, bags of choereg, the soft bread usually available at Easter and a giant, and I mean giant, jar of this perfumey giardinera type relish of carrots, celery and cauliflower. They would order up Mateus rose wine and go through the food like butter through a hot knife. Then they would eat dinner….

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Any way, I was thinking about this the other day because I found a different recipe for brussel sprouts. Not the usual roasted, glazed or steamed brussel sprouts that are found this time of year, but a giardinera with a suggested use on cold cut sandwiches or maybe on top of sliced and grilled chicken breast. Or you could add in a pita with falafel and hummus.

The recipe starts out with about a pound of shredded sprouts, a cup of thinly sliced carrots and thinly sliced shallots. I used the cuisinart for the sprouts and carrots and the mandoline for the shallots. There is also a serrano chile pepper sliced on the long side, in the mix.

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The recipe calls for sliced fennel, but I had none hanging around, but I did have this nifty tin of fennel pollen which gives you the same flavor. So I mixed in about a tablespoon. Then I added Kosher salt, mixed everything in the bowl and stuck it in the fridge to get the water out.

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Next morning, I mixed vinegar and oil, red pepper flakes and oregano and mixed together. I put the mix into a 1/2 quart jar and then poured the mix over and as you read this , the product is sitting in the back of my fridge, marinating …IMG_3528

The recipe says to let it “cook” for 3 days, so watch this space for an update!

Breakfast ….

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Today’s public service announcement…Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

Multi grain toast with avocado, sliced tomato, egg with a teensy bit of shredded cheese and top with pico de gallo…Will keep you going all day!

Hot Soup, Cold Night

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By the end of this week, the nighttime temps here in the higher elevations will be down in the 20’s and I’ll be happy to be making this soup again. Butternut squash and apple soup, topped with a little creme fraiche is an easy and satisfying winter supper when paired with some toasted bread like cranberry walnut and a little green salad, simply dressed.

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Roast off some cubed butternut squash and a little yellow onion or shallot ( milder in taste). Peel and cut 2 small apples and add to the squash after roasting. Put it all in a saucepan with some bay, some fresh thyme, cinnamon and nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cover the veggies and apples with veggie or chicken broth ( richer tasting) and boil till very soft.

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Use a stick blender or regular blender to smooth it out. You can add a little cream if you want. Remember if using a regular bar blender , add the hot liquid in very small amounts to blend. Maybe about 12 oz at most, then repeat as necessary. The risk of burns is high!

Garnish and serve!