Friday, September 30, 2011

Vanilla ice cream

Good ol' plain-jane vanilla ice cream. Once you've tasted homemade, you'll never go back to store-bought.

Note: if you still don't have an ice cream maker, please go get one. I like the Cuisinart one.

From David Lebovitz:

3 cups heavy cream, or 2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat 1 cup cream in a saucepan with the sugar and salt. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the mixture, add the pod. Warm over medium heat, stirring til sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the remaining cream/milk and vanilla extract. Chill thoroughly in the fridge. Remove the vanilla pod before mixing in your ice cream maker. (Note: the vanilla pod can be rinsed and re-used for homemade vanilla extract.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wine from my collection: Canoe Ridge Riesling 2008

It's almost that not-white-wine-drinking time of year; the time of year when I'll switch to reds almost exclusively. Which is not to say that a nice white isn't enjoyable in winter--but not when it's overly chilled, as most of them are.

Anyway, the point is, I'm running through my white wine supply and not replenishing it.

Canoe Ridge Riesling is a lovely dry, acidic riesling from Washington, a great under-$20 bottle and a great food wine. I'm leery of rieslings, because most tend to be too sweet for my tastes, but this one is just right. Well-balanced, fruity, just a hint of sea spray.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dinner party and a wine: Silver Lake 2008 Reserve Chardonnay

So, last weekend's dinner party recap: cream of celery soup; panzanella; crawfish etouffee; and apple pie with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert.

I accidentally stumbled upon a very delicious wine pairing: this Silver Lake 2008 Reserve Chardonnay with the crawfish etouffee. My What to Drink with What You Eat told me that New World chardonnays would pair splendidly with crawfish, so I went to my wine shelf and selected this bottle, from Washington.

When I served the crawfish, we finished off the last of the sauvignon blanc we'd had with the first two courses, and I poured the chardonnay. A few bites into the etouffee, I took a sip.

Wow. When wines pair correctly, they really pair--both the food and the wine are suddenly more than they were. The sweetness in the wine brought out the taste of the crawfish, and the spices in the etouffee brought out the floral notes in the wine.

Not bad for an under-$20 bottle of wine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Crawfish etouffee, redux

Okay, okay. I know I've already written about crawfish etouffee once (just about this time last year, in fact). But I made that version with some really terrible Chinese crawfish, and this time, I used good ol' Louisiana crawfish. Admittedly, frozen, but the difference was night and day.

Also, I used Donald Link's recipe, and it was so much better.

1 stick butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 hot peppers (I used jalapenos), diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons each salt, paprika, black pepper, thyme, red pepper flakes, and cayenne
2 pounds crawfish meat
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup flour
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 cups crawfish or other seafood stock (I used a little fish stock and a little vegetable stock)

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add the onion, celery, peppers, garlic and seasonings and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add crawfish meat and the rest of the butter and cook until butter is melted. Sprinkle the mixture with the flour and stir. Add crawfish stock and simmer 15-20 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add lemon juice, and serve over rice with fresh parsley and hot sauce on the side.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Cream of celery soup

I had a dinner party the other night, the last we'll have in the current place. In an effort to use up as much stuff in my fridge as possible before the move, I decided to start with a cream of celery soup (since I had about 3 pounds of celery I needed to use up, courtesy of my CSA).

3 tablespoons butter
1 lb celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
Vegetable broth
1/2 cup cream

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and gently saute the onion and celery until softened. Add the potato and broth, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or so, or until the potato is cooked through. Let cool. Puree in your food processor. (You can make ahead up to this step, refrigerate, and then heat through prior to serving.) Reheat gently, add the cream, and garnish with celery leaves or parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Lauren: a new drink

The other night, I had the last dinner party I'll have in our current home. (Don't worry; there'll be plenty more in the new place.) I created a new drink for my friend Lauren, using Absolut Brooklyn (red apple and ginger-flavored vodka), the ginger syrup from the Whiskey Smash, and a squeeze of lemon.

She really liked it, so in her honor, I've dubbed it The Lauren.

2 oz Absolut Brooklyn
1/2 oz ginger syrup
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake, serve over ice.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bacon Bloody Mary

It's just as good as it sounds.

A regular Bloody Mary (vodka or gin, tomato juice, spices--mine include Worchestershire, dry rub, hot sauce, and celery salt--lemon and horseradish) with cooked crumbled bacon added to it.

It doesn't really make it taste bacony, but hitting the bacon bits while drinking it sure is fun.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Boudin-stuffed cabbage rolls

I can't believe no one's ever done this before.

Traditional stuffed cabbage rolls (a Jewish staple) are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, rice and veggies (onion, carrot, celery, maybe a parsnip) and slow-cooked in a tomato sauce. Hearty, filling, real winter fare. I was poking around in my fridge the other day and realized I had a head of cabbage that needed to be used up. But I wasn't in the mood for either slaw or soup.

"Stuffed cabbage rolls!" says I.

"But I don't have any ground beef," I told myself.

"Pshaw," I scoffed, "I have this boudin right here. All thawed out even."

And boudin, as we all know now, is a loose pork-and-rice sausage. All I had to do was add the veggies, and voila! Instant cabbage roll filling! With pork, and spices, and yumminess!

For those of you without boudin, any other kind of ground meat is just as good.

1 head of cabbage
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 lb ground meat (or pork, or boudin filling, or whatever)
1/2 cup uncooked rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper
tomato sauce or juice

Core the cabbage by cutting out the core from the bottom, leaving the head intact. Put the head in a bowl and pour a pan of boiling water over it. Let sit.

Meanwhile, saute the carrot, celery and onion in a little olive oil until soft. Transfer to a bowl. Add the meat, rice and tomato paste and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Fill each cabbage leaf with a 1/4 cup or so of the mixture (you may need to cut out the bottom inch or two of the center vein) and wrap into a small roll. Fill a pan with the rolls. Add enough tomato sauce to just cover the rolls, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

Freezes beautifully.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Beet cake with orange glaze

Yes, beet cake. Remember how delicious that zucchini cake with lemon glaze was? This is just as delicious, and may I add, a really wonderful color. If you have a little girl who adores pink, you want to serve her this cake. (It tastes like cake, by the way, not like beets.)

My version is not uniformly pink, probably because I used one regular beet and one Chiogga beet (the stripey ones). I imagine the stripey-ness created the rainbow hue, above.

From Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian:

2 medium raw beets, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 sticks soft butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk

Grease a 9x13 pan with a little butter. Put the beets and 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor and pulse a few times to puree. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In your KitchenAid, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar till creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the beet puree. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the milk, another third of flour, the rest of the milk, and then the rest of the flour. Stir gently until just mixed.

Bake at 350 45-50 minutes. Let cool completely before adding the orange glaze:

3 cups confectionary sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
a splash of vanilla (optional)

Mix until thick and smooth.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beet burgers

Stay with me, now. I know you're all thinking, "Beet...burgers?" And then probably, "Ewwww..."

I got a bunch of beets with my CSA, and I wanted something to do with them that wasn't any of the usual things (pizza, risotto, salad). I found this recipe courtesy of Mark Bittman, and I think I have a new beet recipe to add to the repetoire.

I will say this: these burgers are sweet. They are excellent veggie burgers (and the color of blood, if you're into that kind of thing), but they are sweet. Traditional burger toppings, tomato/lettuce/cheese are okay, but you really want something to offset the sweetness--say, a jalapeno slaw on top. I tried spicy beer mustard on the first go-round, and that was fine, but pickle relish went better--and hot pickle relish would have been even better than that.

Also, handle the patties with care. They are soft.

From How to Cook Everything Vegetarian:

1 lb beets, peeled and grated (my food processor worked great for the grating part)
1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup almonds
1 inch peeled and sliced ginger
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
3/4 cup boiling red wine or water
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Red pepper flakes
Maybe some flour

Combine the beets, dates, almonds and ginger in a food processor and pulse until everything is almost a paste. Put that in a large bowl with the bulgur and some salt and pepper, and pour the boiling wine over everything. Cover and let sit 20 minutes. If the mixture is too wet to form decent patties, add some flour.

Cook patties over medium heat with olive oil or butter, 5 minutes per side.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Panzanella (tomato-bread salad)

I was a little skeptical about this recipe for panzanella, a traditional Italian recipe and excellent use for stale bread--not because I didn't think it would delicious, but because I assumed my reaction would be "Yawn, another tomato salad."

Well, hold the presses, because this is definitely the most awesome tomato salad I've ever put in my mouth.

My only regret was that I didn't have more bread.

This is essentially a tomato salad with lots of stale bread, and an anchovy-mint dressing. Don't let the anchovy part throw you--anchovies don't taste like fish, they taste like umami (that strange, savory fifth flavor). It gives the dish a depth and kind of dark saltiness that perfectly offsets the sweetness of the tomatoes. Without being fishy.

Reprinted from The Kitchn:

1 pound cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
4-6 ounces day-old peasant bread, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cucumber, peeled, seeds scooped out, and diced
1/2 small red onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons drained capers
small handful fresh mint (15-20 leaves) picked and sliced into thin ribbons, divided

For the dressing:
2 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup good-quality olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Slice the tomatoes in halves or quarters, going for manageable bite-size pieces. Place them in a colander set over a bowl and sprinkle the tomatoes with the salt. Set aside to drain for about 15 minutes (place a plate or bowl below to catch some of the juice).

In a large salad bowl, place the drained tomatoes (reserving 2 tablespoons of the juice), bread hunks, chopped cucumber, red onion, capers, and about half of the sliced mint.

In a mortar and pestle, combine the anchovies, garlic, half of the remaining mint and a small pinch of salt. Pound it aggressively to make a paste.

Add the olive oil and vinegar to the reserved 2 tablespoons of tomato juice. Drop in the anchovy paste and whisk until emulsified. Alternatively, shake it all up in a jar. Taste for seasoning; it may need more salt or a few cracks of pepper.

Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss. I like to use my hands to toss a panzanella to feel the juices start penetrating the bread. Allow the salad to rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the bread to soak in the juices.

Notes: I used a red pepper instead of cucumber; a shallot instead of red onion; and anchovy paste instead of two anchovy fillets. Also, my salted tomatoes did not produce any juice. So I just skipped that step. And make sure your bread is actually stale (as in, hard), otherwise the bread will soak up all the dressing and the tomatoes won't get any.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wine from my collection: Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir 2009

I've had Belle Glos wines before, and they were all delicious (if expensive). So when I saw this, I jumped on it. You can find it for around $20 (maybe $22, depending on the market).

But oh, it's worth it. This may well be the yummiest $20 pinot I've put in my mouth in some time. Fruity, layered, well-balanced, and bright. Really spectacular. Goes amazingly with pizza. Definitely worth some effort to find!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale

Another beer find from our time in New Orleans: Southern Pecan beer, made by Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Mississippi. It's the only beer made with whole roasted pecans, and as a result, has a wonderfully nutty flavor profile. If you live in that part of the country, or if you ever see any in a store, be sure to pick some up.

Random side note: I really must start drinking beers I can find locally.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fried rice with bok choy

Fried rice (like soup) is a great way to use up random bits of veggies. I used a green bell pepper, a carrot, an onion, half a bag of frozen peas, some ginger, and two heads of bok choy, but your mileage may vary. You could use almost anything (corn, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, etc.) in this. Tofu would be great, too.

I made a double batch of basmati rice (2 cups uncooked) and let that sit for half an hour or so before throwing this together.

A few tablespoons of peanut oil
1 small chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1 chopped carrot
A thumb-sized piece of peeled, chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 heads of bok choy (optional)
Frozen peas
2 eggs
Sesame oil and soy sauce

In part of the peanut oil, saute the onion, carrot and bell pepper for a few minutes until soft. Remove that to a bowl. Next, more oil, and saute the bok choy (if you're using), and remove that to a separate bowl. Next, more oil, saute the peas for just a minute, and add to the onion bowl. Next, more oil, the ginger and garlic. Add the veggies back in. To that add the rice, a little at a time, stirring as you go. Add the eggs in the center, and stir to scramble/incorporate. Add the sesame oil and soy sauce to taste, mix together, and serve with the bok choy on top.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Finally, a way to preserve all those cherry tomatoes

The great thing about tomatoes is that they can be turned into tomato sauce. That's been the saving grace of my overabundant tomato harvest--I've been making batch after batch of fresh tomato sauce, then freezing it so I'll have fresh tomato yumminess to eat this winter.

But what to do with all those cherry tomatoes?

They can't easily be turned into sauce--it's too labor-intensive to peel and seed all those little tomatoes. They can't be frozen whole, my oven doesn't make a decent dehydrator (I tried, believe me; and I didn't want to sink money into a dehydrator just for tomatoes), the only other option I could come up with for preserving them was to make a lot of salsa and then can the salsa.

Or eat tomato salad every day for the next month, and I'm already tired of tomato salads.

BUT! I have found a way to preserve them! That is not labor-intensive!

Two magic words: food mill.

If you don't have one of these babies, run right out and get one. The food mill will turn your gently-cooked cherry tomatoes into fresh tomato goo--slightly thicker than tomato juice, runnier than sauce--that can be frozen or canned or added directly into a batch of tomato sauce.

My mom claims you can either a) cook down the tomato goo very gently, to get rid of some of the extra water, or b) just let it sit for a while, then pour off the water on top, to get a thicker goo. I did neither--I added half my new tomato goo to a current batch of tomato sauce, and froze the rest, to add to another batch of tomato sauce in the future.

So now my cherry tomato harvest CAN be made into sauce, with a minimum of effort on my part.

Just bring a pot of water to a boil, add the cherry tomatoes just for a minute or two, then drain. Add the slightly cooked cherry tomatoes to your food mill, and run them through on the finest setting. Collect the juice. Throw out the seeds and skins. From start to finish, the whole process took me 10 minutes, to use up a bowl of at least 100 big cherry tomatoes (which then became roughly 7-8 cups of goo).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Orzo with cherry tomato salsa, chard and feta

Orzo with _____ and feta is a great quick casserole. Fancy enough for guests, but cheap, quick and easy.

I've riffed on that template for years. Orzo with tomatoes, shrimp and feta is very good; so is orzo with tomatoes, green beans and feta; or orzo with sausage, chard and feta; and so on. (Orzo, in case you don't know, is a rice-shaped pasta.)

I had some leftover cherry tomato salsa I wanted to use up, and most of a head of chard. And lo! A box of orzo in the cupboard. Done and done.

1 box orzo, cooked
4 cups salsa (or two cans of tomatoes, plus chopped and sauteed onion and garlic)
Something green: chard, beet greens, green beans, peas, your choice
Shrimp and/or sausage are optional but yummy
Feta cheese (at least two big handfuls)

To the cooked orzo, add whatever it is you want to add. Like I said, in this case, leftover salsa, a chopped head of chard, and lots of crumbled feta cheese. If you're using canned tomatoes, cook them with a little sauteed onion and garlic first, and add some seasonings: maybe basil and oregano. Stir that all up and pour into an 8 x 13 casserole dish. Top with a little more feta, and bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

BLT + chee

BLT + chee = BLT with goat cheese instead of mayo.

What better use of a fresh-off-the-vine yellow tomato than a fresh, homemade BLT? I used fancy applewood-smoked bacon, with baby beet greens instead of lettuce, fresh yellow tomato, and a smear of goat cheese on toasted homemade bread.

It was an AWESOME sandwich.

In fact, I see a lot of BLTs in my immediate future.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Whiskey smash

I got the idea for this drink from the restaurant where I'm currently working. It's yummy.

Fresh mint
1-2 lemon slices
Ginger syrup (made by adding fresh ginger to simple syrup, and letting it steep; see below)
Dash of club soda

Muddle 10 or so mint leaves with a lemon slice, and add 1-2 tablespoons of the ginger syrup. Add bourbon (technically, 1.5 ounces, but we all know we'll end up using more bourbon than that), shake with ice, and serve over ice in a rocks glass. Top with a dash of club soda and another lemon slice. Adjust to taste.

To make the ginger syrup, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan, along with several slices of fresh ginger. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Cover and let steep until cool. Strain out the ginger, and refrigerate.

It's like a mojito, only with bourbon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tomato and wheatberry salad

There's going to be a lot of variations on the "tomato and ____ salad" theme. But hey, they're all tasty.

This is essentially tabbouleh, made with wheatberries instead of bulgur wheat. There's more prep involved, but there's also a chewier, more toothsome texture. If you like that sort of thing.

2 cups wheatberries
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup cucumber and/or celery, diced
3 tablespoons lemon juice and/or olive oil
1 tablespoon each sherry or tarragon vinegar and balsamic vinegar
Crumbled feta, chopped fresh parsley and mint (amounts to taste)

Soak the wheatberries in water at least one hour or overnight. Pour them with the soaking water into a saucepan, bring to boil, then cover and simmer for an hour. Let sit 15 minutes. Drain, and add the rest. Let that sit one hour, and serve at room temperature.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Well, loyal readers, if you haven't heard the news from me otherwise, I've been laid off.

This is the second corporate layoff I've endured in three years, and you know what? I'm getting off that merry-go-round. I'm tired of corporate b.s., tired of being last-hired-first-fired, tired of living in perpetual paranoia. I only had that particular corporate job to pay the bills anyway, it's not like I had any emotional attachment to it, so sayonara.

However, I still have to pay the bills.

So I've gone back to the restaurant industry.

Let's be honest, that's a fancy way of saying I've gone back to waiting tables. But I prefer waiting tables to what I was doing before. It's hard on my feet and back, but easier on my ass, and I don't have to spend large portions of my day trying not to look bored. (Bonus: I'm already losing weight!) The money is okay for now; I'd like to be earning more, but I think that we'll be able to pay the bills in this way.

I'm hoping to leverage this waiting-tables thing into a real stake in the restaurant industry--management, menu planning, even one day having my own place.

Or becoming a bartender. Right now I'd totally settle for being a bartender.

So how does this affect you? Because of the reduced income, husband and I are moving to the city where he works, where rents are cheaper and he won't have a soul-sucking commute. I'll work at my current restaurant until we move, at which point I'll just get a new gig in the new city. But that means we'll be, of course, MOVING.

So in the next few weeks, I'm going to be eating down the pantry. Look for creative recipes involving things in the back of my cabinets.

After that, we'll be tightening our belts a little, so you can look forward to creative recipes involving very little money.

(I've already switched to two meals a day, instead of three--with all the hours spent on my feet, I eat a big breakfast, wait tables through lunch, scarf down something around 4, wait tables until 10 or 11 pm, then collapse from exhaustion. See above re: losing weight. But hey, that's already one meal a day I don't have to worry about or pay for!)

For the upcoming week, I'll be making a lot of things with tomatoes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tomato, chard and egg white frittata

(There's going to be a lot of tomato recipes on here. Just bear with me.)

This was actually far tastier than I thought it would be. I thought, you know, egg white frittata, some oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, some swiss chard, some random bits of vegetables, it would taste like egg whites with vegetables. But this was really good.

Caveat: you'll need a cast-iron skillet for this, or some other kind of skillet that can go directly from stovetop to oven.

5-6 egg whites
2 whole eggs
a handful of cherry tomatoes (either fresh or roasted)
1 shallot, sliced
3 leaves of swiss chard, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Saute the shallot in a couple tablespoons of either olive oil or bacon fat (I used bacon fat) until soft. Add the swiss chard, and cook just until wilted. Mix together the egg whites, eggs, and feta cheese, and pour into the pan with the swiss chard. Mix together, and add the cherry tomatoes (I also threw in a few green beans). Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until puffy and browned on top. Salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Beet lasagna

I had all these beets in my CSA that I needed to use up, but I was tired of my usual beet options: salad, pizza, risotto. So I threw together this beet lasagna.

It's roasted sliced beets layered with goat cheese, lasagna noodles, and beet greens, with some parmesan cheese and basil on top. These were lovely golden stripey beets, so they weren't too beety and didn't turn everything red.

Caveat: don't use the no-boil lasagna noodles like I did. Be sure to use the regular kind of noodles, or fresh. The no-boil ones are too tough for this dish, since there's no liquid to soften them up like in a regular lasagna.

1 package of lasagna noodles
1 bunch of beets (4 medium size ones), roasted, peeled and sliced
the beet greens
1/2 log of goat cheese, mixed with 2 tablespoons heavy cream to make it more spreadable

Layer the ingredients as so: goat cheese in the bottom of an 8x8 pan, noodles, goat cheese, a few beet leaves, beets, parmesan, repeat. Like this:

Add parmesan on top. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or so.

This is a small lasagna, maybe 4 servings. On the plus side, I used up an open box of lasagna noodles I had left over.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cherry tomato tart

It finally happened. The tomato harvest came in.

I'm now hip-deep in tomatoes.

Most of them are cherry tomatoes (granted, enormous juicy heirloom cherry tomatoes), so I don't have quite enough big tomatoes to freeze/can in mass quantities. So when I found this recipe, I thought it would be a lifesaver.

Caveat: because my cherry tomatoes are SO big and juicy, this tart ended up tasting more like stewed tomatoes on crust. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and if you're using normal-sized cherry or grape tomatoes, you won't have that problem. It's just that there wasn't a lot of shriveling happening with this tart. So when it was done, I added a handful of crumbled blue cheese, to offset the tomato flavor.

1 1/2 cups flour
7 tablespoons cold butter, in pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream

Pulse the flour and salt together with the butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add the cream, and pulse until the dough just comes together.

Turn out on a floured surface, and work/knead just until it resembles a ball of dough. (You may think you need to add more cream; try to resist this urge. You will be able to incorporate all the crumbs into a dough ball, I promise.) Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the chilled dough out (it will act like regular dough now), and press into a buttered tart pan.

1-2 pints cherry tomatoes
Crumbled blue cheese (optional)

Mound the tomatoes in the crust and bake at 325 for an hour and forty minutes. Top with slivered fresh basil and blue cheese, and serve.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wine from my collection: ia Garnacha 2009

This is a ridiculously inexpensive grenache (under $10) from Spain. It's almost purple, but bright and zesty once it opens up, and would pair really well with a variety of foods. See here.

Grenache is not exactly a hard-to-find varietal, it's one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, but it is unusual to find it not blended with something else.

It's a great wine for the price, and was still tasty even after having been open on my counter for a week. That's high praise, in my book.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wine from my collection: Durigutti Bonarda 2009

Bonarda is the most-planted grape in Argentina, despite being overshadowed in sales by malbec (in America, at least). When I was in Argentina, I didn't have one malbec that really rocked my world. Not one. But a wine distributor friend there told me that bonarda was going to be the next big thing.

So I've been keeping my eyes open for bonarda since then (though it has yet to become the next big thing). This bottle is very fruity, not terribly structured, and very drinkable for the price--also retailing under $15.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wine from my collection: Tami Frappato 2009

Frappato is a harder-to-find Sicilian grape, kind of like a fruity cross between pinot noir and nebbiolo. I'm trying to expand my drinking into new varietals. I snapped this up when I found it, because it is somewhat hard to find, despite being under $15 retail.

It's a nice, light red wine, great for pairing with lighter pasta dishes (as you might imagine) but also good for general consumption.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Silver Monk

I'm always on the lookout for new drinks I can make from what I already have on hand. Granted, my "on hand" selection is better than most bars. Still, it gives me a warm glow.

So when I found this recipe in Food and Wine, I made it right away.

This would easily be a $15 cocktail in an upscale bar, and I made it at home for practically free. Yay me!

3 cucumber slices
8 mint leaves
pinch of sea salt
1/2 oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water mixed and heated until the sugar dissolves)
2 oz tequila
3/4 oz yellow Chartreuse
1 oz lime juice

Muddle the cucumber, lime, salt and simple syrup together. Add ice and the rest, and shake well. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a cucumber slice and/or a mint leaf.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

No-bake cookies

This was a childhood favorite. Technically, this is supposed to be poured into a dish, and let cool before cutting it into squares and eating it. But I don't ever remember the cookies making it that far--we always ate it hot, with a spoon, right out of the mixing bowl. In fact, we were usually prancing around the mixing bowl with spoons at the ready, just waiting for the stuff to be poured in so we could descend on it like vultures.

You know what? I think it tastes better hot. But you decide for yourself.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cocoa
2 sticks of butter
2 cups sugar (but you can cut this back to 1 1/2 cups if you want)

Melt together in a saucepan, and boil for 2 minutes.

Pour this over 3 cups of quick oats and 1 cup of peanut butter. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Eat with a spoon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hurricane aftermath

We lost power for two and a half days.

But thanks to all my prep work, we passed through largely unscathed.

Because I'd turned most everything in the fridge into something that could be eaten at room temperature, fridge losses were minimal: a container of ricotta that had already started to go bad, and some cracked eggs that dropped out of the bottom of the soggy egg container when I lifted it out of the cooler.

That's it, really. I was worried about losing the meat in the freezer, but we kept it closed the entire time--well, except to remove the rest of the ice cream, which we ate for dinner one night. Some of the meat had started to thaw a little, but as long as it doesn't thaw all the way, you can refreeze it without worry. So everything in the freezer should be okay. I haven't checked the chicken broth in the fridge yet, that might be a loss, but when you consider all the eggs and cream and cheese that survived, we did pretty well.

So, here's how to get through a major power loss with minimal food loss:

1. DON'T OPEN THE FREEZER. Keep it shut tight.
2. Transfer all the perishables (eggs, cream, milk, cheese, meat) into a big cooler with ice. Keep the ice replenished daily. Everything that doesn't have to stay cold--condiments, juice, butter, bread, fruit, beer, veggies, etc.--leave out on the counter.
3. Take stock of the stuff in the cooler that might not make it (lunch meat, cheese about to go bad) and make sure you eat those things first.
4. Otherwise, leave the coolers closed as much as possible.
5. Make sure you have what you'll need: flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, a battery-operated radio, car chargers for your phones, cash, a propane camp stove with propane, and a manual can opener. If you have well water, make sure you have plenty of bottled water on hand, as well. (We only lost power, not water, fortunately.) Also plenty of books and board games.

Most importantly, do your prep work ahead of time. Because I'd made all the stuff that could survive at room temperature (no-mayo coleslaw, ratatouille salad, tabbouleh, kale salad), we had plenty of good stuff to eat without resorting to crackers and canned peaches. We even had enough around for my husband to continue to brown-bag it to work.

As far as the garden was concerned, minimal losses there as well. Some of the tomato plants were largely flattened, and my zucchini plants look awfully mildewy and waterlogged; but I don't think I lost any actual tomatoes, and I'd moved all the herb containers inside.

No flooding or wind damage or major tree-limb losses, thankfully. I hope y'all can say the same!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fried okra salad

Oh yes, leftover fried okra can be made into a salad.

1/2 red onion or bunch of scallions, sliced thin
1 tomato, diced
your leftover fried okra
maybe some cilantro

Combine those, and add this vinaigrette:

1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup blended oil (25% olive oil, 75% canola oil)

Boil vinegar and sugar together to dissolve sugar. Bring to room temperature, and whisk in the oil.

Toss everything together, and serve.