Monday, June 22, 2009

what a wekend

My husband and I had a surprise visit from old friends and their amazing sons yesterday! Well, actually they are old friends of my husband's from grad school, but I am happy to claim them as old friends, too. They have three boys ages 8, 7, and 5 and all three are smart, funny, cute, and just amazing. I was really feeling the desire for three smart, funny, cute and amazing sons yesterday. Sigh... I still have the beagles, right?!? They are at least funny, cute, and amazing.

We had a great weekend despite the terrific thunderstorms all day on Saturday. We both got some much needed rest, did some much needed housework and spent some much needed time in each others faces.

I bought some boneless, country style ribs recently at the grocery store. I was not too sure what to do with them, actually. I mean isn't a boneless pork rib really just loin meat? Anyway, I decided to braise them in beer and barbecue sauce along with some spices and tomato paste. Wow was that a winner! The beer lends richness and bitterness, the tomatoes have rich and sweet undertones and the meat was tender and very flavorful. I decided to make sandwiches on cheap, white hamburger buns since that is what I had in the house. I served the sandwiches with homemade steak fries and green beans with bacon. OK, so maybe not the healthiest meal but I never claimed to cook healthy food now did I?

I really should have used my green plates since these french fries are about the fall off the edge here but oh well.

Beer and barbecue pork ribs
2 lbs. of boneless, country style pork ribs, washed and dried well
1 bottle of beer (I used Harp ale)
1 cup of prepared barbecue sauce (I used Stubbs original)
1 large onion, sliced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of yellow mustard
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon on paprika
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Heat the olive oil in an oven safe pan large enough to hold all the ribs. Salt and pepper the ribs liberally and then add to the pan. Sear the ribs on every side until golden brown - about 8 minutes total. Remove the ribs, add all the other ingredients except onions to the pan and mix well and let it come to a full bubbling boil. Add the ribs back in and place the onions on top of the ribs. Cover and put in the oven. I cooked mine for 2.5 hours at which time they were falling apart and the liquid was reduced to a thick sauce. Check on it every 30 minutes or unsure that there is enough liquid. If it evaporates too quickly, add about 1/2 cup of water or stock to it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

it's not like making shoes

Peach and blueberry cobbler must be one of the greatest things ever. Not too sweet and the blueberries turn the filling a lovely ruby red. Oh, and with a little bit of vanilla bean ice cream... it's heaven I tell you!

Peach and blueberry cobbler
8 peaches, peeled and sliced, about 6 cups
1 pint of blueberries
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar, divided, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for skillet
1/4 cup of heavy cream, plus more for brushing


Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl add the peaches, blueberries, water, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon and mix well to coat the peaches and blueberries evenly; set aside.

Prepare the dumplings: Into food processor add the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter into small pieces. Add it to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand. Mix just until the dough comes together. Add the 1/4 cup of cream. Don't overwork; the dough should be slightly sticky but manageable.

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the peach and blueberry mixture and cook gently until heated through, about 5 minutes. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls over the warm peach mixture. There can be gaps, the dough will puff up and spread out as it bakes. Brush the top with some heavy cream and sprinkle with some sugar; put it into the oven on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

cookie soldiers

Seeing all these little peanut butter blossoms all lined up makes me smile. I feel much this way when I see the pens in the stationery store... rows and rows of pens, neatly lined up by color, like disciplined soldiers ready to march.

I made these cookies for my fabulous friend Heather. I must admit that I have never made this type of cookie before last night. I never much cared for these when I had them as prepared for the church cookie walk. This is really strange since i love peanut butter and chocolate. I found them to be hard and a real challenge to eat. When I was plopping the kisses into the cookies last night, I recalled reading over on Sarah's blog that peanut blossoms are really phenomenal right out of the oven so I gave that a try. Whoa doggies, that was really amazing. I mean, really amazing!

This recipe is from the Hershey's website and can be found here. I did not make any substitutions or changes to the recipe. Even cooled, these were not hard but rather stayed nice and chewy including the kiss in the center. Oh, so tasty.

Monday, June 15, 2009

puppy love

I was very happy for my husband to come home yesterday.

A week is a long time to be apart from the love of your life.

I made fried chicken and waffles for him for dinner to celebrate.

We had a nice quiet evening together.

I think this little tri-colored lady was even happier to see him than I.

Well, maybe not.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

table for one, please part 3

Today is one of those days that I just feel so fatigued. I woke up feeling completely worn out. Ugg.. I hate that feeling. The bad part about fatigue and me is that it could be nothing or it could be an early symptom of an infection or it could be a side effect of the medications I take or it could be a Behcets flare. Sigh. I hope this time it's nothing.

I have been doing really well not eating junk food or eating out while my chubby hubby is away. I can't make any promises for tonight since I just want to crawl into bed. I had pasta Alfredo last night. I recall a young chef I worked with calling Alfredo sauce "a triple bypass on a plate" which is rather amusing. I love creamy things, despite their artery clogging reputation and I cannot remember the last time I had pasta Alfredo. It is such a simple yet rich dish.

1/4 pound dried penne pasta or pasta of your choice
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish, optional


Cook the pasta in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (about 8 minutes for my penne).

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute until tender. Add heavy cream and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce has reduced slightly, about 7 minutes. The bubbles will get really big as the cream thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon and be nice and thick.

Add the pasta straight from the water with a slotted spoon and the add half of the Parmesan and toss to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

table for one, part 2

Wednesday already? Seems this week is going rather quickly. I was really dreading spending the week without my husband but it hasn't been too terrible, actually. Lenny jokes with me that saying something isn't too terrible isn't really much of an endorsement and he is certainly right about that! Can you imagine a book jacket with a review as follows - "It's not too terrible" raves Kelly!

Speaking of books, I am reading Valley of the Dolls right now and while it is certainly more ummm... well, it has more sex in it than my usual reading, I am enjoying it! I was determined to finish it last night. I must have read 150 pages but just could not stay awake for the final 25-30 pages. Oh, well, I have a date with that book tonight. Other than much reading, housework and playing "big dog" for the beagles, I am keeping myself busy watching the BBC's latest version of Robin Hood and I did watch the Wizard of Oz the other night. I love that movie very much.

We have had absolutely the most terrific thunderstorms on the eastern shore of Maryland the past two nights. The only trouble with thunderstorms is that the beagles are afraid! Ok, so maybe I am a little afraid, too!

I made shrimp with tomatoes and soft polenta for myself for dinner and was really rather pleased with it (now there's an endorsement). I got the recipe from Everyday Food. I had enough soft polenta left to have it for breakfast with a poached egg, so it was like totally a win-win situation.

I cut this recipe in half but ate all the shrimp and tomatoes but only half of the polenta, so I don't really know if this recipe would feed four for dinner. I did not consider what I ate to be more than a normal serving.

Shrimp and tomatoes over soft polenta from Everyday Food
1 1/2 pounds frozen medium shrimp, thawed, peeled, and deveined (tails removed)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice

Soft Polenta
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons butter

1. Season shrimp generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add shrimp; cook until opaque throughout, turning occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining tablespoon oil to pan; cook garlic and red-pepper flakes until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and their juice along with 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down and become saucy, about 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make Soft Polenta. Just before serving, stir reserved shrimp into tomatoes. Divide polenta among four bowls; spoon shrimp and tomatoes over polenta.

Soft Polenta
1. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring 4 cups water with 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to a boil. Very gradually, add cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, whisking often, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter until smooth.

Monday, June 8, 2009

table for one, please

My husband is gone for a full week. He left yesterday and will not return until Sunday, June 14. It's just me and the beagles. There is a temptation to eat junk food every night while standing in the kitchen. I am going to make an effort to cook every night for myself and sit down in the dining room to eat. This is Linguine alla Carbonara and it was absolutely delicious, rich, and decadent. I was feeling sorry for myself in my loneliness and this did the trick, you know? I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson but cut it back significantly since she calls for 1 pound of pasta per serving! Yikes! I cannot imagine the belly ache I would have if I ate that much pasta in one sitting. Wow.

There is something about cooking for one and eating alone that is really rather strange to me. I suppose I view food and a community endevor and not just something one does for nutrition. Eating Linguine alla Carbonara alone seems a little creepy... like, I know I have a problem now that I indulge in good food when I am alone. Having said that, I am not sure what else to say here.

Recipe time?

The loneliest pasta in the world, modified from Nigella Lawson's recipe so I didn't have a terrible belly ache from eating too much

1/4 pound of linguine
4 ounces cubed pancetta (rind removed)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/8 (just a splash, really) cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg


Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.
In another large pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta cubes in the oil until crispy but not crunchy. Pour over the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.
In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, and pepper. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, but since you want it kept al dente start checking it 2 minutes before end of the recommended cooking time.
When the pasta is done, remove approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the pan with the bacon cubes back on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy pancetta. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Thin with pasta water, if needed. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg to serve.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

a proper feast

My husband asked me to make Tandoori chicken. He even went to the store for all the ingredients. Of course he brought home strawberry yogurt by mistake instead of plain which made me giggle. Can you imagine tandoori chicken made with strawberry yogurt instead of plain? Yes, very tasty indeed. I have never made tandoori chicken before and was surprised by how easy it was.

I used a recipe from Savoring India by Julie Shahni which was really fabulous. The recipe is available online here. I grilled mine over charcoal (there is an option to broil it instead). Both beagles were really dialed in on the whole concept of grilling and then were totally enraptured by the smell of the chicken. Speaking of the chicken, it was tender, smoky, moist, flavorful... just perfect really. It wasn't red the way tandoori chicken is in restaurants but that is OK with me. I made homemade naan, orzo and rice pilaf, and hummus to serve with it. It was truly a feast and we were in heaven. Now I just need to find a use for 32 ounces of strawberry yogurt.