“Hey, this came out pretty good!”

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We feasted on an heirloom and mozzarella and basil salad last week and I had the end of the yellow heirlooms, now infamous for the epic fail of a cauliflower pizza topping, and decided to chop them up loosely and what them up with some olive oil, a teensy bit of garlic ( like a baby’s fingernail size dollop) salt and pepper. IMG_2943IMG_2944

I just put everything in a glass pyrex cup and whazzed the heck out of it with my stick blender. Perfect dressing for this plate, but would also be good on eggs, a piece of salmon and much more!

 

Note to Self

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In America’s quest to kill their daily intake of carbohydrates, cauliflower is getting a lot of play in kitchens across the US. Trader Joes of course is more than willing to play in that space and has produced a line of carb substitute, cauliflower centric items like this pizza crust, mashed and rice cauliflower and more. I figured…”I’ll bite”

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What starts out innocently enough as a quick pizza meal for the Hubs and myself on our ever humble grill based pizza stone, turned fairly rapidly into a LUMP. And it was completely due to operator error…aka Moi loaded it up too much.

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Because when you take big slices of heavy heirloom tomatoes that are really WET and add HEAVY chicken to that…

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And then you add some HEAVY cheese and maybe some bacon and try to cook it, well, not so much…

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But adding arugula and avocados and creme fraiche to the top is probably what really pushed the scales…dontcha think?

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Everything was cooked it just became a knife and fork pizza!

Eggs Two x Two

Did you ever watch “Moonstruck”? One of my top 3 movies and in this scene Loretta Castorini played by Cher and her mother Rose, played by Olympia Dukakis are having it out about Loretta’s new lifestyle. Of utmost importance in the scene however is what Rose is cooking for breakfast, shown in the opening shot. It’s called “eggs in a hole” and has been getting some serious play in my house recently because I had this loaf of brioche that was just perfect for pulling the middle out of!

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First I used a little measuring glass to punch the whole out of the middle of each slice in a not so tidy fashion. Then on a medium hot skillet that had a good coating of cooking spray I arranged the slices in the pan and cracked an egg into each hole.

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I let the bottom of each slice get medium brown and make sure the egg bottom is set and then flip over. You may get a little leak of egg out the bottom, but it’s not a deal breaker. In this mornings version I was using up a 1/2 avocado that was at its’ 5 second of ripeness stage, then heel of a knob of buffalo mozzarella, and the end of a jar of fried Italian peppers. The peppers can heat in the skillet once you flip the bread. I sprinkled some fresh parmesan on top for more flavor. You can top and season and garnish to your hearts content.

Speaking of hearts, the denouement of the scene concludes with the return of money to Loretta’s aunt and uncle, a showdown between her mother and father about a mistress, the return of Johnny Camerari, a confession of true love and a champagne toast ( with sugar cube!)

“Do you love him Loretta?”

“Oh, Ma, I love him something awful…”

 

Just another Meatless Monday…

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Nothing like a little Lidia Bastianich viewing to inspire you for some easy, stovetop, don’t have the stove on too long in the air conditioning recipes. Last week, I watched her with her granddaughter turn out a simple mushroom crostini recipe that I paired with some dressed greens and a little cheese for a dinner salad.

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I rubbed some french bread with garlic cloves and olive oil and sent them out to the Hubs for attention on the grill.

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Meanwhile, back at the stove, I melted a knob of butter and softened a package of sliced shiitake mushrooms.

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I splashed in some wine and then added a knob of mascarpone cheese and turned the heat down very low, barely on.

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I dressed plain arugula with olive oil, salt and pepper.

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Top the greens with 2 slices of grilled bread and the mushrooms from the pan while they are still hot.

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I shaved Ricotta Salata cheese but you can easily use a nice Asiago or goat cheese. Similarly you can add cream to the mushrooms instead of mascarpone. It’s an easily adaptable item and makes a nifty, quick and satisfying meatless dinner for a hot nite with a chilled glass of wine. Enjoy!

Currently Crushing…

Short version this week, only a couple of items of note…

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Christopher Nolan’s well told tale of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force in the spring of 1940. The US was not in the war yet, so this episode of history is often forgotten in the US. The movie portrays the evacuation from the perspective of the men on the beach, the “small boat navy” that rescued over 300,000 of them and the battles int the air over the site, bombing escaping vessels and the RAF providing cover and engaging the Luftwaffe in plane to plane combat to distract them from bombing.

This is a tense movie, not a lot of relaxation taking place in the seats, that’s for sure. Not a lot of dialogue either and there are more than a few memes floating around on the entertainment sites these days about how to tell the three main British actors apart because when you are wearing matching uniforms and constantly drenched in sea water, you do kind of resemble each other. Kenneth Branagh takes the star turn as the British naval commander sharing the evacuation responsibilities with his Army peer and the original man of few words Mark Rylance portrays a small boat owner that participates in the evacuation with a shell shocked soldier on board and an unfolding tragedy with his neighbor’s son that jumped on board to help  at the last minute.

Should get an Oscar nod for sound and possibly art direction and cinematography. In theaters nationwide….

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Short of moving to France, I try to infuse my daily life with as much French influence as possible. Le Petit Marseillais is one of the most iconic brands in France in household goods. So when I found that a brand I recognized from our travels in France was now selling in the US, AND they were selling the fabulously orange blossom scented body wash, well I just stocked right up! Less than $4 at Walgreens, CVS, Target and more. Orange Blossom is my favorite but the White Peach and Nectarine is a close second. Lavender is a classic. Just the right kind of summer treat!

 

Hail Caesar! ( Hail Ina!)

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I have a girl crush on Ina Garten. I love her simplicity of style in everything from her “uniform” of dress slacks and vibrant blouse, to her style of cooking. Fresh ingredients, simple steps, nothing fancy. Everything works together. I love her kitchen, her set design, her garden and I have always thought the moniker “Barefoot Contessa” was brilliant!

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Last week’s show was about eggs and now that I have poached eggs down pat thanks to my tutoring from Lidia Bastianich, I now have a killer Caesar dressing and salad menu from Ina. The egg features in both the dressing and as an ingredient in the salad, a step away from the more traditional greens and croutons or the 90’s version with chicken. Ina advocates for ingredients of cooked but slightly creamy boiled eggs, thick cut bacon and bleu cheese, along with the homemade dressing. There’s a few moving parts in this, so plan accordingly.

While I was cooking bacon in the oven, I whazzed up the salad dressing in the food processor. Always the long pole in the tent, homemade dressing take a bit of time, but the rewards are worth it. Ina’s recipe called for 1 egg yolk, 6-8 anchovies ( I  use anchovy paste) , 2 tsp of garlic, dijon mustard and salt ( I used 1 tsp of salt) and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Hit the pulse button with the egg, garlic, dijon and anchovies. Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice and the salt and pepper  and pulse again.

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Next with the blade on, drizzle 1 1/2 cups of olive oil into the food processor. DO NOT dump it all in at once or you will get a mess!

 

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Finally, add about a cup of grated fresh parmesan and pulse 3 times.

Meanwhile, your bacon should be done and nice and flat and crispy. Add whole slices of bacon to your long romaine leaves. Don’t cut them up, leave them long and add the bacon and slices of bleu cheese. I gave the Hubs bleu cheese and I shaved some ricotta salata cheese for myself. ( not a huge fan of the bleu, so the ricotta works for me). I added a little dressing to each salad.

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Now comes the science experiment, so make sure you have a lab partner or at least a trusty timer… Place whole eggs in cold water in a pan and bring to a rolling boil. Once a boil is reached, turn the pan OFF! Let set for  three and a half minutes. Then place the eggs into ice water for 2 minutes.

Tap each end of the egg and then roll the egg on a surface until it is cracked all over in order to peel it. Slice the eggs on the long side and place on your salad. Instead of croutons, Ina suggests ( and I agree) to rub baguette slices with garlic and a little oil and toast or broil!

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The Hubs and I missed the ice water bath and just used cold tap water so middles were not as creamy as Ina’s but they were delish anyway! Clean plates all around for this salad, and definitely something I will make again.

Here’s the link to watch the episode online!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/barefoot-contessa-back-to-basics/episodes/cook-like-a-pro-eggs

I’m also going to try the Jose Andres egg recipe thats also on this episode!

 

 

Crunchy and Crispy

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I tasted the best cole slaw of my young life last week at a location that for the time will remain nameless.  Dead simple and anyone could make it. Here’s how.

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First I chopped a small head of broccoli and about 1/2 a head of green cauliflower ( because that was the cauliflower color of the week) in the food processor. I also added about a 1/4 of a red onion.

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Then I switched blades and sent some carrots and about 18 fairly hefty brussel sprouts to their certain doom.

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I added golden raisins and dried cranberries…(maybe 1/2 cup of each)

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Then I tossed the whole bowl with cole slaw dressing from your grocer’s refrigerator section. Quick and crunchy too. Also better after the dressing softens the sprouts a little and the flavors mesh. Enjoy!

 

Quick Bisque

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Boston area supermarkets wage lobster wars on the holiday weekends in summer. You can usually buy 1# or 1.25# “chicken” lobsters for about $6.99 a pound, which in today’s food world is pretty cheap for a retail priced lobster.

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We indulged in some ” bugs” on Saturday nite and after we had stripped them of everything they could contribute in the form of a lobster roll, and after setting aside a tail, I boiled the carapaces with some onions and carrots and bay leaves. Before I went to bed, I put the whole pot into the fridge to hold.

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Then Sunday afternoon, I sweated a medium onion and some carrots in butter and added the chopped lobster meat from the tail that I had saved.

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I added about 1/3 cup of flour and stirred until just turning brown….

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Added some dry rose wine that I had hanging around…( how did that happen?)

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Added the stock ( about 4 cups) from the shells from the night before and 2 oz of tomato paste. Reduced the whole pot by half.

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Added 1/2 cup of sherry and 1 cup of light cream and then whazzed it up with my trusty stick blender to smooth it out. Look Mom, no lumps!

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Season to taste and maybe garnish with some fresh parsley. A simple supper for anytime of year, but yummy in the summer by the beach or lake.

“Silky” Zucchini

Do you listen to podcasts? Any favorite food ones? For over a decade now I have been listening to 2 in particular. The first is “Good Food” from KCRW in Santa Monica. I could weep listening to the Santa Monica Farmers Market report on a weekly basis, especially in the dark months of winter here in New England.

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The second is “Splendid Table” from National Public Media and features as a host a woman by the name of Lynne Rosetto Kasper. I love how she brings food to life and has such a passion for all things cultural and culinary. Recently, Lynne spoke with the acclaimed chef Skye Gyngell and got this recipe for slow cooked zucchini. (As an aside, I have to state that the name Skye Gyngell is second only to Fuchsia Dunlop as a great name in female culinary talent and is also eligible to be a Bond Girl name…you know like Moneypenney or Eleanor Lavish from “Room with a View” or Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor.)

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Anyway, I digress. Skye talked about this method of cooking zucchini as slow and caring. No hot grill or pointy kebab stick.  And it’s ridiculously simple. The twist belongs to whatever fresh herb is added at the end. Start with 2 Tbsp each of olive oil and butter in a heavy pan on medium heat.

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Slice 12 small zucchini ( I used 2 medium/large) into 1/8″ coins. Put slices of zucchini in the pan with the melted butter and olive oil and toss gently to coat. Add two finely diced cloves of garlic. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting of the burner. Skye’s recipe, made on a commercial burner allegedly takes 40 minutes to soften and turn to it’s luxurious state. On my household burner, the time was closer to 1:10 hours. The key again is to stir it every ten minutes or so to prevent it from burning even the tiniest bit!

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Once the zucchini is cooked to soft and transparent state, take a good five or six stems of fresh tarragon ( although mint or basil or chervil will work also) and strip the stems and finely chop the leaves. Add about 3/4 of a tbsp of ground black pepper and about a teaspoon of kosher salt. Taste and adjust if needed.

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I will warn you that this is not a “pretty” vegetable side. But it more than makes up for it in taste. If you like the 5th taste of umami, then this is a dish for you. I suppose you could put it in a slow cooker, but still think you would have to check it for burning, although maybe not as frequently if your slow cooker was on low. I suggest using as a plain side dish, a topping for lightly tossed spinach, mixed with some lentils, or on a pasta with grated cheese…that would be yummy!