Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sausage Pie, Green Beans & Potatoes

For lack of a more creative name! My Beloved is putting away dinner leftovers, nibbing here & there, while I type. She looks adorable & keeps telling me how excellent it was. She is also telling me that the very best brand of organic milk is Stonyfield Farm, so I will pass that recommendation on. I made:

Sausage Pie
1 pie shell, partially baked & cooled
1 lb. sausage (I am partial to Bob Evans & will use the hot variety whenever I think I can get away with it)
1/3 c. chopped onion
1 tbsp. butter
3/4 c. milk
3 oz. cream cheese, cut into small chunks
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. shredded cheddar
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sauté sausage & drain. Wipe out pan. In pan, sauté onions in butter until tender. Add milk & heat just until steam rises from it. Remove from heat & add cream cheese. Allow cheese to soften in hot milk. Mix together eggs, milk-cheese mixture, cheddar, seasonings. Pour into pie shell. Top with sausage. Bake 30 minutes, until firmly set. Let stand at leat 10 minutes before cutting into wedges to serve.

Country Green Beans & Potatoes
Sauté some trimmed green beans, with some chopped onions, in a small amount of oil heated in a Dutch oven, for about 5 minutes. Toss in some soy sauce & heat another couple minutes. Add water just to cover. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and cook on low 20-25 minutes. Throw in an equal amount of halved or quartered new potatoes. Add hot water to cover. Toss in a little more soy. Bring to a boil, cover & simmer on medium-low about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced by a fork. Drain & serve hot with butter.

The leftovers make a super lunch or even breakfast!

Chicago Eats

Just going to do highlights, since I have been so long in getting around to this!

-Anthony's in the Oakbrook Doubletree: Everything we had here was very good, but the sherried mushroom soup was soup nirvana.

-Art Institute of Chicago's Garden Restaurant: Great steak frites, but the peach crème brûlée was the true stand-out. It was made in shallow oval dishes, so the caramelized crust to creamy underneath ratio was perfect. Paper-thin slices of peach rested just under the sugar and the whole thing had lavender blossoms scattered all about. Fabulous!

-Ethel's Chocolate Lounge: While the chocolates & chocolate drinks weren't the best, the chocolate fondue for two was divine! After walking way the heck up & down Michigan Avenue, stopping in at Ethel's for this treat was just perfect. The chocolate of the fondue was rich and complex. My favorite side offerings were the pretzels & strawberries, while J liked the bananas & graham crackers. The marshmallows were a little much sweetness, as was the pound cake. The ambiance of the Ethel's in Naperville is much better than on Michigan. www.ethelschocolate.com

-Reza's: While the beef stew we had was fine, the herbed goat cheese with olives was just glorious! www.rezasrestaurant.com

-Café at Nordstrom's: Superior panini and very good key lime cheesecake

-Café Bolero: Good, homestyle Cuban cooking, no fancy fusion or gourmet stuff. We had an appetizer sampler with ham croquetas, stuffed plantains, Cuban tamales and papas rellenas. Then, J had roast pork with fried plantains & black beans & rice. Since they didn't have my beloved masitas, I had the palomilla, with a side of yuca. It was all very good, almost as good as what I get in Miami. The mojito was great, as was the Cuban coffee. For dessert, we split the flan, which was perfect. This was my birthday dinner. www.cafebolero.net

-Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House: Extravagant dinner out with J's boss & his wife. Fabulous swordfish & enormous baked potatoes...wished I had gotten the swordfish instead of the shrimp deJonghe, which was fairly bland. www.hugosfrogbar.com

-Sadly, no eating local because the large crowds from the Gay Games & Wrigley Field made parking impossible in Boys' Town, where we had wanted to try Firefly. We ended up having a very pleasant meal at the Cheesecake Factory.

-Papagus Greek Taverna: Haughty service, but nice atmosphere and good food. Terrific saganaki, good calamari. Solid pastitsio, but the lemon chicken at the local Greek festival beat theirs hands-down. www.papagusgreektaverna.com

-Frontera Grill: I was iffy about going to Frontera, even though my foodie friend Suzette recomended it highly. I figured that a celebrity chef's place might be an overpriced tourist trap. I also thought it might be difficult to get a reservation on short notice, which tends to be the way we work. We almost didn't go, but J urged me to try it despite my reservations. We glided into valet parking and were graciously attended to. While we were waiting for our table, Rick Bayless himself hurried past us in his chef's jacket, which surprised me since I don't generally expect that celebrity chefs will actually be at their restaurants. We got to sit on the patio, which made for a lovely evening even if the food had been atrocious. It wasn't. I greatly enjoyed my summer margarita, made remarkable by the presence of cucumber. We had a nice selection of appetizers with a sampler of Mexico City-style quesadillas (gorgeous masa turnovers with amazing jack cheese melting inside), taquitos, ceviche tostadas (wow!) and a beautifully crunchy jicama salad. Oh, and guacamole. If that had been it, I would have left happy. But, we each ordered an entree. I had my heart set on chicken with mole & the enchiladas de mole poblano were very good, if a smidge sweeter than I am used to. J chose the superb carne asada. They were out of plantains, unfortunately, but the rest of the meal more than made up for that. Dessert was Mexican chocolate ice cream, not as good as Jeni's Splendid Mexican Hot Chocolate ice cream, with its cayenne heat, but still wonderful. When I thanked the waiter for the wonderful dinner to cap off my birthday week, the kitchen sent out a simply stupendous martini-glass-ful of rhubarb sorbet. It was out of this world. The presentation was charming, too, with the glass perched on a pink cut-paper decoration on a square white plate, edges adorned with "Happy Birthday" in chocolate script. www.fronterakitchens.com/restaurants/

-Lou Mitchell's: I never would have heard of this institution had Suzette not insisted we had to go. Suzette lives in New York City, works in theater & gets to all kinds of amazing restaurants. She said this was her favorite place in Chicago. I insisted we go. J resisted, but we finally went on our way out of town. We were greeted with a platter of doughnut bites, seated with small boxes of Milk Duds and pacified with orange wedges & stewed prunes while we waited for our orders. J had a terrific cheeseburger, while I tried a salami & cheese omelet. Wow! It was one of the best I've ever had. The home fries were great, too. After our meal, we were offered...and accepted...a free dish of soft serve ice cream that tasted exactly like the soft serve ice cream in a diner at the Northern end of Route 66 should taste...yum!

Egg Boy & His Egg Mamas

The night after our Saucy Bistro dinner, J & I found ourselves waking up late from a nap. Too late to reasonably cook anything elaborate. So, I made the dinner she had rejected the night before and she loved it. It was incredibly simple. I made scrambled eggs with fresh basil & sharp cheddar. I toasted some corn toasties & we had those & Rainier cherries with our eggs.

The following Monday night, I found out, too late to run to the store, that I was missing an important ingredient for the ham & asparagus quiche I'd planned to make...the crust! Since I am afraid of making pie crust most of the time, J suggested that I simply make omelets. Brilliant! So, we had wonderful omelets with asparagus, diced ham and sharp cheddar.

Now, Pie is back & he is into eggs. He bought a skillet & spatula for himself with his tooth fairy money & allowance. Yesterday, I taught him to make an omelet. He has cracked eggs & chosen fillings for countless omelets and loves to eat them. When he asked me to talk him through it, I was happy to. The omelet he made, his very first all by himself, turned out just beautifully! I was impressed & proud. So, he was spurred to delight in cooking again & bought his cooking tools. This morning, I talked him through fried eggs & he had those for breakfast. He made us cheesy scrambled eggs for lunch & will be making omelets for our dinner tomorrow night. He is very enthused about this whole cooking thing & plans to run a bed & breakfast someday.

Saucy Friday

Our last big shebang dinner out while the boys were gone was eaten on the patio at Saucy Bistro one Friday night. J was unenthusiastic, to say the least, about the dinner I had planned. Neither did she seem to want to hit T.G. I. Applechili's or the Winking Lizard. So, I took her to try the Saucy Bistro (www.saucybistro.com). When I first looked at the menu, I thought, "Oh, my lord! This is all totally frilly & unappetizing, not to mention overpriced!" So, I suggested just getting drinks & moving on. J, however, thought the menu looked great. On closer examination, I realized I could find some food I'd like.

The service was very friendly & it felt wonderful out there, like we were right by the lake instead of a few miles away. The sun was beginning to set. We shared a combo appetizer, with their superb rendition of sautéed calamari, deliciously flavored with lemon, garlic & herbs, spicy (not kidding) shrimp scampi with a soy-based glaze and a "lamb lollipop", pistachio-crusted and tasty. My entrée was filet mignon with a wild mushroom reduction (not terribly mushroom-y, but good nonetheless), dainty asparagus stalks and rosemary mashed potatoes that tasted nothing like rosemary but very much like earthy potatoes. J ordered huge & luscious seared scallops with soy glaze, ribbons of spiced carrot and the most wonderful sticky sesame rice cake with wicked good crispy brown edges. The rice cake was my favorite part of a very good meal. I kind of wished we hadn't bothered with dessert. We had a chocolate lava cake that was fine, but not nearly as good as my chocolate nemesis. It would have been better had they warmed it up a bit more. Overall, though, it was a very nice meal, not The Winds, but good.

The ambiance was an important part of the meal. The patio was lively and when the owner brought out tall heaters, we were reminded of great meals we've had in Monterey & Carmel, particularly one spectacular dinner at Forge in the Forest. There was even live music, which made J really happy.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sherry, Baby

My dearest poked around online before coming home & found a fabulous recipe for veal with sherry & an assortment of other things which made a delightful dinner. One of the allegations in our current custody case is that we leave empty liquor bottles lying around, I presume after we party all night. I have to laugh because, as I was going through our liquor collection this afternoon, the bulk of it was purchased for recipes. Not cocktail recipes, but food recipes like tonight's. And we rarely empty the bottles very quickly. Jack Daniels for barbecue, sherry & marsala & vermouth for various high-falutin' recipes, kirsch for fondue, a couple bottles of wine that were gifts & have probably gone to vinegar now, Tanqueray for guests desiring martinis. The last time I was drunk was July 3, 1995 and the time before that was 1991. I just don't find that out-of-control feeling at all appealing. J hasn't drunk liquor since the night of her brother's wake. Ridiculous.

Anyway, I don't know what this recipe is called, but it was fabulous & deserves to be made in many homes. It's nice & light. My Beloved served it with angel hair pasta, salad (Giant Eagle brand, which turned out to be flavorless and dry...I like Earthbound Farms best & won't be buying Giant Eagle again. It's almost as bad as Dole) & Italian bread with olive oil & herbs for dipping. I would add a couple wedges of lemon to squeeze over the top of the meat. If you are funky about veal (as, honestly, I am...I kept accidentally telling J that I loved the pork), I'm sure this would be great with chicken, as well. Or even portabellas.

Sherried Veal
2 lb. boneless veal medallions, pounded to 1/4" thickness (J just used veal scallopini)
1 c. flour + 3 tbsp. flour
Salt & white pepper, to taste
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. shredded mozzarella
1/2 c. sherry + 3 tbsp. sherry (please, for the love of God, use real sherry & eschew the "cooking sherry")
1/2 c. butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix 1 c. flour with salt & pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat veal in flour, shaking off the excess. Fry until just browned on each side. Do not cook through. Put in 13 x 9 baking dish & sprinkle with cheese. Wipe skillet clean. Melt butter with 1/2 c. sherry on low heat. Add garlic & cook 30 seconds. Mix 3 tbsp. flour with 3 tbsp. sherry & stir until well-blended. Whisk into butter mixture. Whisk constantly on low until thickened. Adjust seasonings. Pour sauce over veal. Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

It was my second fantastic meal of the day. For lunch, I toasted an English muffin. Then, I added thinly-sliced Muenster cheese, basil leaves and tomato slices with a sprinkle of salt. Summer heaven!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Pasta & Kebabs-One Good Turn Deserves Another

Last night, my beloved bride made a delicious dinner for me. Fresh fettucine cooked just barely al dente, with her company's alfredo sauce, tender chicken breast and delicate broccoli florets. To accompany this, she doctored up some pain rustique (rustic bread) with parmesan and garlic, with a few herbs thrown in for good measure. She made a bunch, too, so I didn't have to leave the house or cook to have a great lunch today. For dessert, we had two different kinds of chocolate cookies. Unbeknownst to one another, we had both purchased chocolate cookies. However, we didn't end up eating the ones she chose. They looked lovely and classy, but the taste was decidedly unpleasant. Perhaps there is a market for triple chocolate Seville cookies. We are not part of that market. We are much more the Archway Dutch Cocoa sort.

Since J made me a great dinner (and brought me a gift of journals & a book today), I was really hoping that tonight's dinner would be good for her. Actually, she ended up cooking part of it, the margarita pork kebabs. I hadn't planned on an appetizer, but when I was in the grocery, they had placed a vase of fresh basil bunches right by the front door. The amazing scent wafting toward me was all the marketing ploy they needed. It didn't hurt that the price was very reasonable & the basil was local. I used some pre-made crostini slices, added basil, tomato slices, fresh mozzarella, grey sea salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and we had a perfect appetizer. To go with the pork kebabs, I made a pouch of Uncle Ben's long grain & wild rice blend (not great) & a mess of fried green tomatoes. I've discovered that the trick to keeping them nice and crisp, rather than soggy and unappealing, is to slice very firm green tomatoes very thinly. I also made sure the oil had plenty of time to get hot before adding my tomatoes. Before I put them in the pan, I dipped them in buttermilk and dredged them in a blend of cornmeal and garlic salt. Then, I fried them golden on each side & drained them on paper towels. They were my very favorite part of dinner.

Margarita Pork Kebabs
1/2 c. frozen margarita mix, thawed
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. pork loin, cut in 1" cubes
Baby portabellas, washed gently
Green peppers, cut into 1" pieces
Cipollini onions, peeled

Mix the first three in a gallon-size ziploc baggie. Add pork and let marinate at least 1/2 hour. Put on greased skewers, along with veggies. Grill on a greased rack, covered, until done, about 5 minutes per side. Or, you can bake or broil them, but the veggies' texture suffers. This serves 2 well & is my adaptation of a recipe that appeared in Southern Living in September 1998.

For dessert, we had Midsummer fruit in wine (which my almost-grandma Lenore calls "boozy fruit", a name I prefer) in martini glasses. It's very simple & refreshing:

Boozy Fruit
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. white wine (I used sauvignon blanc tonight)
4 sliced peaches (I did 3 regular & 1 white tonight)
2 c. cherries, pitted and halved

Stir sugar into wine, making sure that it dissolves. Add fruit and let rest at least an hour before serving. This makes plenty, which is a good thing.

Now, I'm off to bed to sip some mint yerba matte, iced with a smidge of organic cane syrup added. Mmm.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Simple Summer Meal

Ah, the wonderful things that can be done with eggs! Last night's dinner was an absolute delight. We had potato & fontina frittata, steamed asparagus and bibb & Boston lettuces with garlic butter dressing. Dessert was the whimsically-named raspberry flummery, which somehow manages to taste like cobbler even though there is no dough.

Potato & Fontina Frittata
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
3/4 lb. fingerling potatoes (since the store was out, I used tiny Yukon Golds)
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. chopped herbs (I used a couple pinches of dried herbes de Provence & it worked out fine)
10 eggs, beaten
8 oz. grated or thinly-sliced Fontina

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil & butter in well-seasoned 10" cast iron skillet. Add potatoes, salt and pepper. Cook about 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add herbs. Season eggs with salt & pepper. Add cheese to skillet, then pour eggs over everything. Stir until the eggs start to set slightly. Cook until set on sides and bottom. Put in oven and bake until completely set, about 13 minutes. Cut in wedges to serve. This would be espcially nice with a dollop of sour cream & a sprig of a fresh herb on top.

Garlic Butter Dressing
1/2 stick butter
1 clove garlic, halved
4 tsp. lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Melt butter & cook garlic golden in the butter. Remove from heat & remove garlic. Add the other ingredients, swirling to mix. If you like to eat garlic, though, mince the clove rather than halving it & leave it in. It's yummy that way. Toss this with lettuces and serve pronto.

Raspberry Flummery
3 c. raspberries
3/4 c. cold water
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cornstarch

Cook berries & water, covered, on med-high about 5 minutes, until berries are tender. Mix the other ingredients together. Slowly add to berries. If you don't do this just a smidge at a time, you will end up with nasty clumps. Cook on low until thickened, about 7 minutes. Chill before serving.

We liked this dinner so much, when my Beloved came home for lunch today, we ate it again.

A Wicked Weekend in the Kitchen

Nothing seems to have gone right in my kitchen over the weekend. Okay, so I exaggerate. In fact, all of Saturday night's dinner went beautifully. It's just that by the time it was ready, we were too tired to want it. Friday was much worse. I tried out a crock pot recipe for "mock lasagna" that I got from a cooking list I used to be on. I was so pleased that I would have dinner all ready for my darling when she got home. However, it was not to be. Something was very wrong with the recipe & I am not experienced enough with crock pots to pick up on it until it was too late. I got everything done & in the pot by 8:30. I was supposed to cook it on low until 4:30 and on high until 8:30. Looking at those directions now, I see that the cook time looks quite long even for a crock pot. Around 10, I started to really smell it. Around 10:30, the smell began to resemble burning and I became alarmed. I added extra water when I saw the burned crust forming around the edges. I stirred & stirred & then put the lid back on. Around 1:30, it was utterly clear that it must cook no longer. I kept it warm until J got home, but I had already decided it was not edible. All the extra water I added (if I'd only thought to use tomato sauce) rendered it flavorless, even though I had managed to keep it from really burning.

So, we decided to eat dessert first and I made a white chocolate & walnut blondie similar to the one they serve at Applebee's. That turned out great! I served it with vanilla ice cream. My favorite part was the sauce. Oh, the sauce! Incidentally, I got this recipe from the very same e-mail list as the disastrous phony lasagna. This isn't as complicated as it looks.
White Chocolate & Walnut Blondie
4 egg whites
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
8 oz. white chocolate chunks
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. salt

8 scoops vanilla ice cream
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whip egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add butter, sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth. Sift together floir, baking soda & powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and mix well. Add milk, chocolate and nuts. Pour into greased 13x9 baking pan. Bake 40-45 minutes. Cut into squares. Don't make them too big...you don't want anyone to get sick from the richness!

Make the sauce: Mix all the ingredients with a mixer until smooth. Heat through until melty. It probably wouldn't hurt to double the sauce recipe. Or triple it. I could have cheerfully licked it from the pan.

Serve the cake: Top each slice of cake with a scoop of ice cream. Drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with nuts.

After we ate our dessert, we went book shopping & then had dinner at Hoggy's Barn & Grille. It was remarkably empty for a Friday night. Sadly, they were out of sweet tea so I settled for an anemic glass of lemonade. Sadly, we chose the chicken fritters for our appetizer. Not fritters at all, they were merely chicken tenders masquerading as something interesting. They were very good chicken tenders, but they were still chicken tenders. The bbq sauce was tasty and the buffalo sauce, while mouth-scorching, was too. I got a brisket sandwich, which was overstuffed & a tad bit bland. The macaroni and cheese with chili was an inspired idea. I liked it, but felt that if the chili had not been on top, I would not have liked the mac & cheese one tiny bit. I am opposed to cottage cheese in that dish. J got some kind of sandwich involving pulled pork and Jamaican sauce I think, which also seemed pretty blah. Oh, the food was actually pretty good. I am just being whiny & spoiled. Its major fault was that it was not Bubba's Q in Avon, a far superior barbecue joint, in my humble opinion. Or Hickory Home in Fairview, TN. Or any number of not-chain, for-real barbecue places.

Saturday morning, I had good luck in the kitchen. But, you really can't screw up scrambled eggs. I mixed some salsa & colby-jack cheese in with them, along with a sprinkling of spices...cumin, chili powder, cayenne. I warmed up a couple flour tortillas & satisfied my craving, which came on while I was reading The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Urrea, by pinching up the eggs in bits of tortilla. Yum!

Saturday lunch was so good that we made reservations for Sunday on our way out the door. The Tree House Gallery & Tea Room was heavily laden with cute vintage-y Halloween decorations, rhinestone-studded jackets and purses and scads of women. I should say scads of ladies. For, while they aren't really a tea room, they do specialize in lady food. I am still wondering if I should have had the peach salad. What I did have, both days, was wonderful. On Saturday, I had a cup of chicken artichoke soup & a half chicken salad sandwich on vegetable herb bread. This came with a plateful of fruit. Have I mentioned that I think chicken salad is one of the world's perfect foods? I do and this was up at the top of the list, tangy and delicious. J had lobster bisque, which she loves on any occasion and loved enough this time to order a second cup, and tuna salad on honey oat bread. Their tuna is superb, too. For dessert Saturday, I chose grasshopper pie. Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by this dessert. I never actually tasted it until Saturday, though, since hardly anyone makes it anymore. I felt as though I were at a Junior League luncheon in the years before I was born...or perhaps bridge club in the same era. It was delightful. It gave J all kinds of memories of her childhood & her mom's parties. I was raised on shrimp in beer, lentil pilaf, apple crisp & the blues. She had the card club, Singapore-Sling-drinking ladies, Rat Pack experience.

VEGETARIANS---Skip this part. Trust me.
Saturday night's dinner was supposed to be spectacular. The trouble is, it was so late by the time we actually ate that neither of us wanted it. Oh, we loved the salad, to be sure. But, we simply picked at the wine-braised lamb shanks and lemon caper mashed potatoes. I am guessing that on another occasion, we would have loved it. But, bones & gristle kind of give me the creeps, as does the idea of eating lamb or veal, so maybe the issue was the lamb shanks. I'll try it with boneless beef next time...and at 7 or 8 instead of 10:30! No one in their right mind eats lamb shanks at 10:30 at night. Still, I think the recipe was basically a good one, so here it is.

Wine-Braised Lamb Shanks with Herbes de Provence
5 tbsp. olive oil
2 lg. leeks, white & pale green parts only, chopped
6 cloves garlic, whole
6 (12-14 oz. each) lamb shanks
2 2/3 c. dry red wine
1 c. crushed tomatoes, with some added purée
1/4 oz. dried porcinis
1 1/2 tbsp. herbes de Provence
1 1/4 lb. carrots, cut in 1/2" diagonal pieces
1/2 c. chopped parsley

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in large pot. Add leeks & garlic. Sauté 5 minutes and set aside. Salt & pepper lamb. Dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Heat the rest of the oil in the pot. Add the lamb and brown evenly on all sides. Add everything but the parsley. Stir to ensure that the lamb is evenly coated. Cover and simmer on med-low about 1 1/2 hours. Uncover & simmer to reduce sauce slightly, about 10 minutes. Skim excess fat. Add salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

WE NOW RETURN TO VEGGIE-FRIENDLY WRITING (in other words...Mom, you can uncover your eyes!)
Lemon-Caper Mashed Potatoes
2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & quartered (I actually used red potatoes)
Coarse salt (so says the recipe...I would use regular salt, though, unless you like salt crunchies)
6 tbsp. butter
3/4 c. milk
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
3 tbsp. capers, chopped
1/4 c. flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Boil potatoes in water to cover until tender, about 15 minutes. Mix 5 tbsp. butter, milk, lemon juice & zest, capers. Heat to melt butter. Fold into potatoes. Add parsley, salt and pepper. Dot with butter. Serves 4.

And the salad that we just loved, loved, loved:

Iceberg Wedges with Blue Cheese and Toasted Almonds
2 oz. slivered almonds, toasted
4 1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese (I used Maytag)
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 head iceberg, cut into 4 wedges

Whisk cheese, lemon juice, buttermilk and oil until fairly smooth. Add pepper. Put the lettuce wedges on 4 salad plates. Top with dressing & sprinkle with almonds. Serves 4.

Sunday breakfast was part of a rather nasty cheese brioche from Starbucks...why do they insist on scarcely having any non-sweet things in their pastry case? And why did I get this again when I knew I didn't like it last time? Luckily, coffee hour at the new church we tried yielded a wonderful treat! Fat slices of lushly ripe watermelon! What a great summer coffee hour idea!

Lunch at the Tree House was again superb. I had wised up & ordered my own cup of lobster bisque. J had one, as well, and lobster salad that was scrumptious. I had a slice of spinach quiche that was quite good. It wasn't Lenore's, but it was good. I love quiche. I always think of Lenore when I have either quiche or fondue, for she is the one who has made them most fequently in my life. For dessert, we split the ridiculously decadent "turtle brownie", warm, ala. The ice cream was a gorgeous shade of light yellow with a rich vanilla flavor. The brownie turned out to be cake, gooey with hot caramel. So yummy, but too rich! I'd have been in trouble had J not split it with me.

Dinner was good, too, with J decreeing that we should eat dinner out because of her fear of another 10:30 dinner & subsequent morning tummy ache! So, we dined at 6 at the Savannah, which was much less smoke-laden than on our previous visit, when we ended up walking right back out due to the smoke clouds billowing around our heads as soon as we walked in. It was a great call, with huge juicy burgers and hand-cut fries available 3 ways (plain, seasoned or Cajun-style). I was disappointed that they didn't have any low-country cooking, but man were those burgers primo!

Sweets For The Kiddos

When the kids returned home for a long weekend in the midst of visitation with their father, we wanted to make them a dinner they would like. It was Pie's turn to choose & he wanted steak, so J made that, along with curly fries and steamed broccoli for the main meal. I was in charge of sweets. I made a couple pitchers of lemonade with fresh fruit floating in it and a hot fudge cake. While not as yummy as the stuff at Frisch's, it was pretty darn good.

Fresh Fruit Lemonade
6 c. cold water
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. superfine granulated sugar (and I do recommend you use the superfine)
3/4 c. fresh lemon juice (or more, if you like it more tart...and the fresh part really matters)
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
4 c. mixed fruit, cut in 1/2" cubes (I picked up strawberries, pineapple & watermelon from the grocery store salad bar)

Mix everything but fruit in a pitcher until the sugar dissolves. Add fruit and chill for 1 hour. Serve over crushed ice. The fruit can get kind of odd the next day, so drink it up!

Hot Fudge Cake
1 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
6 tbsp. cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. brown sugar
1 3/4 c. hot water

Mix flour, sugar, 2 tbsp. of the cocoa, baking powder & salt. Add milk, oil and vanilla. Mix well and pour into ungreased 9" square baking pan. Mix brown sugar and remaining 4 tbsp. cocoa. Sprinkle over batter. Pour hot water over the whole shebang & do not stir. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 35-40 minutes. Serve warm. Best with some vanilla ice cream. I used Breyer's Sugar-Free Vanilla & it was great!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cooking For Comfort

After our nearly 6-hour session with the guardian ad litem in this third round of custody, and our nearly-as-long drive home with a subsequent 5 hours of sleep, J developed a migraine on Tuesday. Her first in months, it knocked her off her feet. Emotionally drained & in physical pain, she requested comfort food. I rubbed an organic roaster chicken with butter, sea salt and herbes de Provence. I roasted the chicken to a tender juiciness and served it with buttery smooth whipped potatoes, chicken gravy and golden corn. We ate on trays in bed.

Last night, with moods improved and migraine vanished, we ate on the couch. However, we still ate comfort food. By the time J got home from work, the air was redolent with the smells of the Southwest, squash and peppers, cumin and chiles. I made a spicy tomato-based beef stew with beer bread and baby spinach with vinaigrette (light raspberry for me, balsamic for J).

Southwest Beef Stew
2 tbsp. oil
2 lb. stew beef, in 1" cubes
2 onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 zucchini, sliced
1 red pepper, in thin strips
16 oz. frozen corn (I used canned, well-drained)
1 c. parsley, chopped
1/2 c. salsa (I used Newman's Own, medium)
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt

In large Dutch oven or stew pot, heat oil. Add beef & onions & cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the other ingredients,bring to boil, cover and simmer on low 2 hours. Remove lid and simmer 1/2 hour longer. To make a vegetarian version, throw in some beans in place of the beef.

Beer Bread
3 c. self-rising flour
2 tbsp. sugar
12 oz. beer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together. Put in a greased loaf pan. Bake 45 minutes.