About Me

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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Soup to Warm Your Bones

One look at the upcoming weather sent visions of chicken soup to my mind’s eye. I couldn’t wait for the happy sun to disappear under a blanket of grey clouds. First I had to start my broth base. I save as many random chicken bones and pieces as I can in the freezer to start my broth. I throw the frozen mess into a large le creuset pot along with a mirepoix, (large pieces of celery, onion, and carrot) thyme, parsley, garlic and boxed chicken broth. I like to use the boxed broth-it jump starts the flavor. After cooking the base until the chicken meat falls off the bones and the neck bones crumble with a pinch, I chill it overnight so the fat rises and can be skimmed off.

Call me a sissy but I hate to fondle cold meat. Squishing ground meat for meatloaf makes my fingers ache just thinking about it. The same is true with cold slimy chicken. After skimming the fat I warm the base until it is comfortable to plunge my digits in and commence to separate the meat from the bones and vegetables. It’s tedious but the happy wag from our dog’s docked tail keeps me filling the bowl for his breakfast.

Strained and golden, the broth is ready to turn into a soup. Originally I was going to do the usual; chicken vegetable with a medley of summer’s end vegetables undulating in the crock pot. This morning is another day and looking over at the pyramid of tomatoes cascading across the counter I realized I should branch out. Scurrying downstairs to my study I grabbed Splendid Soups by James Peterson Bantam Books CO 1993.

Page 394 held the answer to my soup du jour dilemma, Chicken Soup with Garlic, Saffron, Basil, & Tomatoes. I skimmed the ingredients and found I was only missing 3; leeks (a mixture of shallots and mild onions will suffice), turnips (no problem I’m not wild about them) and crusty French bread (everything bagels from Yom Kippur would step in). In a nod to France I grabbed some flageolets to substitute for cannellini and some chanterelles to ramp up the mushroom category. Then I stopped short. The recipe was for 4-8!I didn’t want that much sitting around for us. I used a little trick that works for me when making soups. I grab the size pot that will hold enough soup for us and use it for measurement. When it is full of all of the ingredients (in rough proportions to the recipe) the amount of soup made has been contained to a reasonable amount and I haven’t made vats. I fiddled and fondled until perfection was achieved!

I must say this turned out to be a sterling soup! Mixing in a portion of the saffron garlic added a creamy element and fresh garlic flavor. The basil cream gave a fresh herb flavor. All in all this would be a great entertaining dish or after skiing soup. All I need now are a few more friends or lessons in skiing!

I will give you the list of ingredients but you will have to mold the soup around your palate and larder. Have fun & Happy Eating!
Bouquet garni
Chicken broth
Olive oil
Heavy cream
Cannellini beans
Saffron & Garlic Mayonnaise
French bread
Soup is made from leeks, carrots, turnips, mushrooms, bouquet garni, and chicken broth. Poach chicken in this, shred. Add peeled and seeded tomatoes make green sauce with basil olive oil and heavy cream. Make saffron & garlic mayonnaise stir some in soup save some for garnish add rest of ingredients sans bread. Put bread on the bottom soup on top with saffron garlic mayo and basil cream.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall is Crashing In

September and October on the edge are a couple of months of perfect weather and fresh produce strawberries, raspberries plums and peaches are in profusion but quietly being nudged out by honey crisp, braeburn and granny smiths. Tomato plants haven’t given up and are still in frenzied production. Winter squash is squatting next to purple majesty and German butter potatoes.

Each day I switch between summer grilling and oven cooking. I wonder when we eat outside if it will be the last of the season. It takes longer for the house to warm up- we just put on another layer.

Last night it was summer and we made ribs. Not the slow cook kind but a somewhat quicker version. I patted the ribs with a dry rub and wrapped them in foil letting them “marinate” for a couple of hours in the fridge.

When ready the NSSP fired up the grill and cooked them covered for a little over an hour. He then took them out of the foil and slathered them with bbq sauce and finished them on a slow flame to crisp and caramelize. It wasn’t fall off the bone perfection but darn good Friday night vittles. I whipped up some classic cole slaw channeling my mother-in-law’s recipe and of course our daily intake of tomatoes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why Do I Think Of These Labor Intensive Tasks?

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Last year I held a Bastille Day celebration and thought the only way to serve raspberries was to stuff them with melted chocolate. It was a decadent end to the evening and a perfect marriage but gee wiz what a gooey nightmare!

This year as an additional appetizer to the salmon mousse below I dreamed up these tasty morsels. Who in their right mind is going to hollow out cherry tomatoes (these babies were miniature plums from our garden) pat them dry, minuscule mince chives and uber chiffonade basil alternating on top and below with red dragon mustard cheese and mozzeralla pearls?

All I could think about was that it was only for 4 and I wasn't doing the deed on 1/2 sheet pans for the masses.

They were cute,and tasty and yes I will do them again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Little Things You Learn On The Cusp Of Your 25th Anniversary

On the cusp of our 25th Anniversary I thought I pretty much knew my NSSP's likes and dislikes. I mean lets face it I cook and he eats. It's a pretty easy division of duties. That fateful night it was a simple meal of large tube pasta, herbs, garlic, and chopped tomatoes.The tomatoes turned warm after the addition of the hot cooked pasta. It was a pleasant meal with the usual candles,jazz, and wine. We chatted as couples do about nothing profound in fact I am certain we were talking about our animals and wayward daughter probably in that order.

My plate was licked clean it was delicious and uncomplicated. I looked over at his plate and found herbs and pasta gone and a neat pile of chopped tomatoes to the side.

"Was there something wrong with the pasta?" I queried knowing full well that I had made yet another perfect meal.

"No I don't like warm tomatoes." he sheepishly admitted.

"Wait a minute! You like raw tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup, salsa and you don't like fresh slightly warm tomatoes in a sauce?" My voice started to squeak.

"You know I don't like those broiled tomatoes." he mumbled.

"Who does? Their gummy, burnt and soggy all at the same time. Slightly warm tomatoes fall into the same category?" I looked at those innocent red flavorful chunks that had been cast off as inedible and were cooling their jets as we argued.

"Is there anything else I should know about your likes and dislikes?" I pondered creating a form for him to fill out.

"No...Not really," the NSSP gave me his most winning smile trying get the dinner back on track and perhaps into a romantic culmination of the evening.

I'll let you finish the story as you feel fit...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Casual and Special Dinner for Friends

I recently invited a couple over for dinner. I would describe the meal as casually elegant. For appetizers I made salmon mousse with dill. Instead of using canned salmon I used the real thing and poached it in a court bouillon (wine, celery, onions, carrots, thyme & tarragon). I removed the skin and any feather bones lurking in the meat and cooked it until it was firm when gently squeezed. Leaving it in the liquid over night, the salmon retained its moisture. The next day I put it in the food processor with Neufchatel cheese (a light cream cheese substitute), fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt, white pepper and dried dill. It was puréed until silky smooth. The rich pink color and fresh subtle taste made it sublime.

Next I stuffed cherry tomatoes with Red Dragon cheese, a cheese studded with mustard seeds. Our first course was a red and green pepper soup with a splash of heavy cream to smooth the flavor out. Our entrée was grilled lamb chops with lemon and rosemary. A no-brainer since my NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) took care of the dirty work. The rest of the plate was a riot of color. I steamed purple new potatoes and garnished them with chopped chives. Next there were sautéed Romano beans that had been cut into diagonal pieces, sautéed in garlic oil and topped with toasted garlic chips. Nestled in the center of the plate were a healthy serving of chopped tomatoes finished with a turn from my black pepper grinder and French sea salt.

Dessert? Apple strudel made with the first apples of the season. What made it easy was that I didn’t have to tear around looking for recipes nor reinvent the wheel to impress. Also most of it was done beforehand a requirement for any entertaining culinary event I create. More pictures will follow!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Getting Connected

I knew I had stopped 'blogging" but didn't know it was over a year ago. One day the thoughts just flitted away and dried up. I'm starting to feel my muse and she's jumping up and down on my shoulder. If Julia can write "Mastering" in her 40's and be an icon into her '90's I should be able to make my mark as well.

For little snippets and quotes I'm twittering. Longer items will be blogged.

Onward and upward!