Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Veg

Memorial Day is over; summer is "officially" begun for most of the country.

Here, it's been rainy and cold for days (like every Memorial Day weekend we had rain, hail and snow on the Peak), but finally the sun is peeking through today with a high of 68. With a sweatshirt, we should be able to eat al fresco on the front deck tonight. I'm in the mood for pork tenderloin and think you will be too after you read this easy to make and remember recipe that comes together in an hour including prep.

Not cheap moneywise, pork tenderloin is cheap with your time and generous in its no-bone, great left-over for sandwiches goodness. Take your lunch tomorrow! A lovely value is what it is. Better than lunchmeat for snacking. It can also take the place of expensive fresh ahi tuna in some recipes. How about pork fajitas the next day? Why not make a double amount of meat and have plenty for whatever you decide?

Wine: My first choice would be Pinot Noir (but this is true most any time) followed by Cote du Rhone. Some tasty, inexpensive French wines in the shops right now. Buy a case (often 10% off) and have some on-hand.

Could also serve with: Some oil-drizzled asparagus could be added onto the vegetable roasting pan half-way through the cooking time. Apple salad would be a great foil for the meat.

Alyce’s Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Veg

Serves 4

2 medium Idaho potatoes, cut into 1” dice
2 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1” dice
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced ½” thick

2 -3 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick
1 large onion, cut into eighths
2T olive oil
1T fresh rosemary
½ t kosher salt
¼ t freshly ground pepper

4T Dijon mustard
4 large cloves garlic, slivered
1t kosher salt
2T coarsely ground black pepper
4T fresh rosemary (plus an extra sprig for garnish)
2 pork tenderloins

Preheat oven to 350 F.
On a half-sheet pan, mix vegetables (potatoes through onions) with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Set aside.
In a small roasting pan, place both tenderloins. Using a basting brush, paint pork tenderloins with Dijon mustard. Using a small, thin sharp knife, make ½” deep slits into the meat, about 2 per inch. Insert slivered garlic into slits. Sprinkle meat with salt, pepper and rosemary. Roast for about 25 minutes. Place sheet pan of vegetables in the oven and continue to roast both meat and vegetables for another 20 minutes til meat is160 degrees F. Remove meat from the oven and allow to sit 5-10 minutes covered with foil while vegetables continue to cook until tender and crispy at edges. Take vegetables out and place in a circle at the edge of a large platter. Meantime, slice pork thinly. (Pork should be barely pink and still juicy.) Place sliced pork at center of the platter and garnish with fresh rosemary.

Sing a new spring song,


Monday, May 25, 2009

Tomato-Carrot Soup

What is it about soup? I might define it as: A powerful liquid food adaptable to most any food situation or mealtime, including dessert. A comfort food to most people, it is also a food to cure illness and to inspire music and literature. Do you remember the Maurice Sendak song/book “Chicken Soup with Rice?”
If you’re “in the soup,” you’re what? You’re in trouble. If you “soup up” anything, you’re making it more powerful; if you go from “soup to nuts,” you’re going from beginning to end. Nuts have not been the end of a meal at my house ever, but I somewhat vaguely remember my colonial culinary history, where the tablecloth was removed for the dessert course which might be or include unshelled nuts.
Up next in the blog is a simple, yet incredibly tasty soup I made out of on-hand ingredients to preface a meal of steak with oven-browned potatoes accented with burnt onions and roasted asparagus. If your meal is easy and nearly instant, as was this, what a good time to make a first-course soup. Get ready for, “Oh, you made SOUP?!”
Bowls: I served this soup in small, square off-white china bowls made by Mikasa; these bowls could be used with almost any everyday dishes or china and I bought them just for first-course soups. At one time, many china patterns were available with “cream soup” bowls, which were tiny bowls with small handles on each side that typically had matching saucers. Now available mostly in antique or consignment shops, we must buy our china there or improvise. Lotus bowls are mostly too small and the typical bowls that come with dishes today are for cereal, green salad or chili.
Wine: If you’re having a separate wine with a first course, by all means serve an Italian Falanghina or a Spanish Albarino. An un-oaked Chardonnay might be a dog that would hunt here. We made do with a California Petite Syrah we were having with the steak—and loved it, but could imagine a light Italian red as well if you’re an only-red-wine-drinker.
For a soup/ sandwich meal: Grill Swiss, Gouda or Brie on ciabatta.
Bread for first course: This soup is lovely with a salt and pepper and/or parmesan crostini; I include directions.

Tomato-Carrot Soup
Serves 4 as a first course

1T butter
3 medium carrots, minced
4 stalks celery, minced
1 medium onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c parsley, chopped finely
¼ c fresh basil, chopped finely
½ 28oz can Italian (Cento is good) tomatoes
3 c low-sodium chicken broth
1/2t Kosher salt
¼ t freshly ground pepper
1/3 c feta cheese, crumbled (in bowl at table)

4 ½ slices baguette for salt and pepper crostini
2t olive oil
4t freshly-grated parmesan, opt.
Kosher salt and pepper

In four-quart saucepan, melt butter and add carrots, celery and onion. Sauté five minutes, adding garlic half-way through. Stir in fresh herbs and tomatoes, breaking up tomatoes with fork or knife. You could food-process the tomatoes beforehand if you'd like. Cook briefly, one-two minutes to marry flavors. Add broth and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer until veggies are tender, 10-15 min. Add extra broth or water if soup becomes too thick. Check seasoning. Ladle into small bowls and pass feta cheese at table. Serve w/ salt and pepper crostini.

Directions for crostini: slice French baguette into ½ in slices and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Top with a dusting of kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and/or grated parmesan cheese if desired. Bake at 350 F on a cookie sheet about 10 minutes or until toasted through.

Sing a new song,


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memorial Weekend Breakfast in the Living Room

Memorial Day Weekend….Do Breakfast Slowly...Remember it's a Holiday?.....
The food magazines and papers are most likely full of barbeques; it’s time to light the grills and bring out the brats or ribs. Time to stuff the coolers full of beer and white wine and head for…wherever you head for when the great, warm weather arrives. However, if you live in the Rockies, I can just about promise you that 1. The chance of your grilling this weekend , in good weather (unlike almost any other time in our lovely geographic area), is nil. 2. The chance of you finding ANYWHERE warm or dry to go is even less likely. In fact, it’s probably a good time to make beef stew and hunker down in your family room with a stack of movies and magazines and a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir. As I add a photo and publish this post Friday morning, it's 50 degrees and foggy with rain imminent. You can't SEE the mountains, much less decide to camp there.

We’ve tried tent camping Memorial Day weekend exactly twice. Both times were unmitigated disasters due to freezing rain, snow and early departures for home where warm showers and furnaces existed. Talk to anyone out here who's ever tried to do anything on Memorial Day weekend and you’ll get a similar story. Once, we had the same story over Fourth of July. Gospel.
So, instead of great bbq recipes, I’m putting up a delish fast spread for breakfast because, if you live where I live, you might actually have time to cook it indoors this weekend. (Get some soup out of the freezer for dinner.)

This kind of breakfast makes the week worthwhile. All week long, its cereal, yogurt and fruit, coffee on the run (don’t get me started about that). On the weekend, it’s time to eat slowly at breakfast with hours for reading the entire NYTIMES while listening to NPR or your favorite cd. There’s time to smile at your companion or not fuss at kids to “finish your breakfast.” In fact, feed the kids (if you have them) and let them go watch cartoons. Make a huge pot of fresh coffee and drink it while it’s hot.
Truly, there usually isn’t the hurry we think there is. But we do believe it because ---well, you figure out why YOU believe it or want to. This weekend is the time to let all that go and breathe in between the bites.
So scramble up some eggs, fry some bacon (newest reports say it’s healthy/true!)and bake some blueberry muffins. Get out a stick of real butter; put the cream in a pitcher and the coffee in a thermal carafe. I've added a great sparkling drink if you're in the mood. Not fancy, but luscious.
Set the coffee table in the living room where you can spread out with the papers. Turn on the stereo. What’s the hurry? I believe you’ll want to do it again. Promise.

Cooking tips: Get the coffee going and the coffee table set. Make the muffins first and give one to your helper to snack on with coffee while s/he waits for the rest. Next make the bacon (if you're having any), the raspberry sparklers, then, last of all, the eggs. The bacon can be reheated briefly in the microwave after the eggs are done. The ability to get coffee, eggs and bacon all hot to the table at the same time is a much-admired one in our world. Try it and see why. It's why people go out for breakfast so often.

Best Scrambled Eggs

Makes 2 large servings or 3 small ones

I've been making these eggs since my oldest son was a tiny tyke; I think you'll enjoy them as much as my family has.

2T butter
¼-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
6 eggs
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
Salt and pepper

Heat a medium skillet to medium heat; add butter and garlic. Sauté briefly. Add eggs to the pan and mix well. Let the egg mixture cook until about 50% set. Stir in cream cheese and cook another minute or so. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve while still creamy.

Options: Try with grilled tomatoes and feel like you’re in the UK

Blueberry Muffins for You and You and You and You!
Makes 1 dozen muffins

Sometime thirty years ago, working at Woodlawn Plantation in Mt. Vernon, VA, I found the recipe for these muffins called “Joseph Nichols Tavern Blueberry Muffins.” According to recent research, the Joseph Nichols Tavern in Lynchburg, Virginia, is a Federal building now transformed into four apartments. Apologies to any original recipe writers as I’ve tweaked the amounts over the years and still found the original proportions perfect. These muffins win kudos wherever they roam. They’re great for breakfast, of course, but are also tasty with chicken salad or even Salmon Nicoise. Comfort food par excellence, tuck them into a tote -if there are any left -when you travel by plane or car. Home will go with you.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 12-count muffin tin.

2 c unbleached flour
½ c sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

In large bowl, mix dry ingredients well. In separate 2-4 c measuring cup, beat together milk, egg and oil. Pour milk mixture into bowl of dry ingredients and mix briefly. Add blueberries.

Pour into greased muffin tins. Bake 12-15 min. until just barely done. Turn out into basket and serve warm with butter.

Cook's Note:  For lemon-blueberry muffins, stir 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind into the flour mixture.

Memorial Day Morning Raspberry Sparklers
A special drink for a special morning
(I'm sure these have another name; what is it?)
For each drink, place a fresh raspberry in the bottom of a champagne flute. Add one ounce Chambord. Fill flute with sparkling wine or champagne.

I love weekends!  Sing a new song,

note:  new photos added 8/2013

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fish Tacos in Five Minutes

What a fun thing this blog has turned into. My kitchen is full of notes for current and future recipes, as well as ideas from other people for meals they’d like simplified so that they, too, can spend more time at the table together. Looking at life OUT of the fast lane.
I have been a little amazed by how many people have said, “Oh, I bought the stuff to make ________ and I’ll make it this weekend.” This is for a meal that takes 20-30 minutes to fix. It makes me realize that folks who work full-time often don’t cook at all during the week. Maybe sandwiches or leftovers, certainly take-out and I’d guess a couple of restaurant meals. So, try this fish taco meal. My sister made a version of this once while visiting and we've been making it ever since.
This dish is faster than going and picking something up at the local pizza shop. The fish is done in FIVE MINUTES. You can make other things to go with it and it will take longer, but you can make a fairly balanced meal in nearly the time it takes the fish to cook.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like fish tacos. They’re on menus as main courses with beans and rice; they’re also listed as starter some places. They may come with tartar sauce and lettuce and tomatoes or with coleslaw and jalapenos. However you like them, I am sure you’ll make this super-easy and incredibly fast version one day soon—maybe today. This is one of those meals for which you would want to shop the day you’re cooking or, at very most, the day before.

Could serve with: A can (or homemade) of black or pinto beans mixed with sautéed bits of onion and green or red peppers. A side of Southwestern rice if you’ve got time. Homemade pico de gallo--why not? If you have a Cuisinart, you have pico in 30 seconds Easiest: some finely shredded lettuce with minced tomatoes on top.
Wine: We had this last night with a South African Chenin Blanc. I adore Dry Creek (CA) Chenin Blanc and, there are surely lots more out there. A Riesling would also be appropriate or maybe even a no-oak Chardonnay. Something light and refreshing anyway.
Dessert: Definitely a fresh fruit salad with some blondies from the last blog!
Possibilities: You could grill the fish instead of sautéing it. Or,
surely you might sometime choose fish other than tilapia. Just be careful it’s a fish that comes very well-filleted. You wouldn’t see bones in the tacos.
Music: How about some Spanish guitar music or maybe some salsa? I am fond of planning meals (usually Friday night ones) and buying music just for the meal. Much cheaper than going out to the movies and music lasts.
Prep: Set the table, light the candles and pour the drinks before you begin to cook. Set out any condiments (cheese, salsa, fresh limes) or veg (cabbage) ahead of time so the fish doesn’t get cold while you try to get those things together. I suggest heating the bowl or platter for the fish so it stays warm throughout the meal. Wrap warmed tortillas in foil and then in a towel in the basket and they’ll stay warm for as long as you need them.

Sing a new song as you cook your heart out,

Fish Tacos in Five Minutes
Serves 4

2T olive oil
1½# filleted fresh Tilapia fish
2t chili powder
½ t Kosher salt; ¼ t freshly ground pepper

8-10 small (about 6”) corn tortillas
2 limes, cut into eighths
2 c shredded coleslaw mix (or shredded cabbage)
1 16 oz. container pre-made guacamole (or homemade)
½ c salsa
1 c shredded cheddar (white Vermont if possible)

Preheat oven to 200F. Place oven-proof bowl or platter (used later at table for fish) in oven. Place small cookie sheet or casserole in oven to hold tortillas as they are heated.
Mix coleslaw and guacamole in medium bowl and place on table with the bowls of salsa, cheese and limes.
Heat small griddle or skillet over medium heat and begin heating tortillas one at a time. Flip each as it becomes quite warm, but not toasted. After each tortilla is heated, place in a foil package on a small cookie sheet in oven to stay warm while fish cooks.
Heat 2T olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Place tilapia in pan and sprinkle with 1t chili powder and salt and pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes until light golden on the cooked side and turn gently to avoid breaking tender fish. Sprinkle second side with remaining chili powder and salt and pepper, cooking until barely done and flaking. If unsure fish is done, take a half piece out and cut a bit to taste for doneness. Fish should be opaque and smooth, not gooey. Place fish in warmed bowl, split pieces in thirds and remove bowl and warmed tortillas to table.
To assemble, place a piece or two of fish in the tortilla, add 3-4 T cabbage with guacamole, 2T cheese and salsa to taste. Squeeze lime over all of the filling and enjoy.

Couldn't resist showing off our newly graduated daughter:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blond(i)es Have More Fun

Meet Fiona and Gabby

Lots of Blondies at our house!

Who do you know that needs a cookie today?
Is it the day to set up the porch or the deck? Yard work will wait.

I love this kind of day. Spring’s here for sure and the neighborhood is beautiful.
The sun is shining, irises are in bloom (with more to come), and it’s warm enough to walk, but not so hot that you roast. In other words, it’s a day you dreamed of all winter long. And if you’re blessed enough to not be working inside today, you are blessed indeed. Get the earth under your feet and feel spring sprung. Big sigh. Smile!
It’s a great day to make some cookies while waiting for your husband and daughter (with new baccalaureate degree in hand) to drive in from the Midwest. Of course, I had to bake boocoo cookies because these lip-smackin’ blondies needed several testings. Make them for whoever might need a cookie today and can you think of anyone who won’t need a cookie? Or put them in the freezer for a weekend dessert.
One possibility: Cut them into 1/2” pieces and layer in tumblers with ice cream and swigs of caramel topping. Whipped cream at the top isn’t going too far, nor is a drizzle of chocolate syrup on top of the cream.
About the testing: I had an idea for a peanut blondie, but couldn’t resist adding some chocolate, though not a lot. I didn’t want brownies. Still, chocolate and peanut butter go together like Frank Sinatra and big band. One try was too dry (too many peanuts). Another was too chocolaty (too much like brownies.) But this one, like Goldilocks’ favorite bowl of porridge, is just right.
My neighbors today are eating BLONDIES because, while we adore these, there’s just too many for us to eat. This will make me a welcome guest today! I live in one of the best neighborhoods in town, which means my little corner of the world is filled with people who make the effort to be in tune with one another, cook when someone’s ill, plan get-togethers and sometimes get together without any planning at all. (I have soup, do you have wine?) We watch out for one another and certainly love to spend more time at the table anytime we can.
Make a pot of coffee, pour a glass of milk; call someone. It’s just not right to eat cookies alone. Sweep the porch; put out the folding chairs. Put the Chairman of the Board on the stereo. Smile at the sun. How do we forget from year to year about how good spring feels?
Note: I would be very interested in the results of this recipe from someone at sea level, as baking at altitude (around 6500 ft here) can be different and sometimes challenging. For instance, if your cookies were done baking in 15 min, I’d like to know. Thanks.

Sing a new song (or an old one) while you bake.... Here's the recipe:

Blond(i)es Have More Fun

Cooking spray (such as PAM)
½ c chopped, unsalted peanuts
8 T (1 stick) butter, melted
½ c peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
2 large eggs, beaten together
¾ c light or dark brown sugar
¾ c granulated white sugar
1Tvanilla extract
1t almond extract
1½ c all-purpose flour
1t baking powder
½ t salt
1 c chocolate chips (can use peanut butter chips instead, if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray cooking spray into 9”x13”x2” metal pan and set aside. Toast chopped peanuts in small skillet on top of stove over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about five minutes or until just starting to brown lightly. Set aside to cool briefly. In large mixing bowl, combine melted butter and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in eggs, both sugars, vanilla and almond extracts. On top of these wet ingredients, measure in the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the dry ingredients together on top before combining wet and dry ingredients. Do not over mix. Add chocolate chips and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, spread dough into the prepared pan and smooth top of dough to ensure even baking.
Bake 20-25 min. until golden brown at corners and light golden brown in middle. Cool pan on wire rack until blondies are cool to touch. Cut into 2” squares and serve. (Very good with milk!) Store tightly covered.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Here's the tree

Enjoy our Colorado sour cherry tree while you make the salmon.

Snap-Sauteed Salmon on a Bed of Chard...

showered with summer squash, onions and tomatoes....Well, it's quite a long recipe title, but it'll make sense once you make it. See...below for recipe.
( Oh, you thought "Blond(i)es Have More Fun" was next and it was. It's still coming, just not today. Needs some more testing and maybe some eating. My youngest daughter graduates from college this weekend--very proud mother-- and I'll need her home to taste-test those cookies. Stay blogged; it'll come soon!)
Meantime, enjoy my beautiful cherry tree in full bloom up against my deck.Yep, in Colorado, cherry trees bloom a bit later than in D. C. My cherries are ripe and ready to pick (by me or the birds) around the fourth of July. Our temps were in the 60's today and we had some wind and dark clouds around supper-time. I'm afraid quite a few blossoms are now on the ground.
Between now and the fourth of July, you'll have plenty of time to fix this done in a snap (well, almost) meal. This dish came about the way such things often do... it's what I had in the frig that needed to be used today. This cooks so fast you'll have to set the table, pour the drinks, light the candles and start something on the stereo long before you begin cooking. THIS is fast food, my friends.
Wine: If God is really good to you today, you'll have an Oregon Pinot Noir with this. Otherwise, an Aussie Shiraz would be another good choice.
Dessert: Fresh Strawberries...with...nope, with nothing. All by themselves.

Snap-Sautéed Salmon on a Bed of Chard Showered with
Summer Squash, Onion and Tomato
Serves 4
4 (6 oz) salmon fillets
2 T olive oil, divided
1t Kosher salt, ½ t freshly ground pepper
1T Rosemary, 1/8 t Ground cayenne
2 bunches (about 6 large leaves) Swiss Chard, any color, chopped (greens only)
Freshly ground nutmeg, optional
1 medium onion, minced
2 small summer (yellow) squash, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, chopped coarsely

In large, deep skillet, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Add salt, pepper, rosemary and ground cayenne. Sauté spices briefly. Add salmon to pan and cook about 2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily and fish is cooked as done as you like it. (Leave it a tad underdone; it will go back in the pan to warm up in a few minutes.)
Remove fish to plate.
Add other tablespoon of olive oil to pan and heat again to medium heat.
Add minced onion and squash. Saute briefly 1-2 minutes. Add garlic.
Stir. Toss in chard and season with salt, pepper and just a teense of fresh nutmeg if you have it. Cook, stirring together, about five minutes until chard is nearly done, but still retains some crispness. Add chopped tomato and stir briefly. Return salmon to pan as tomato warms.

Place vegetables on a serving platter and top with salmon fillets.

I won't be cooking for a few days as I travel to our girl's graduation.
Meantime, read

Sing a new song,

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ribollita to Drool for, Sing for, Dance for

What's Ribollita? Hmm... Mmmm... Well, in Italian, it means reboiled. It means what???? Doesn't sound very appetizing, does it? In reality, it's a lovely simple, but hearty vegetable soup (think minestrone) that you made a day or two ago and mayyyyyybe don't have quite enough of to go around tonight. The idea is to heat it up, make a few additions and pour it over some toasted bread. Great (grate!) parmesan on top and you're in business. You're in love. You gotta have this. There are many, I repeat, many ways to make such a soup.1. You can make it from scratch. You have the time; it's wonderful! (If you're really into learning about Italian soups--there are so many super ones---read ESSENTIALS OF CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKING by Marcella Hazan. Lots of Italian cookbooks out there over the last ten years --I've read one or two; how about you!--and so many are tasty, tasty (think TRATTORIA by Patricia Wells), but I often go back to the not-too-distant classics. Why reinvent that pot? Do try any of the Marcella Hazan books or even ITALIAN COOKING by Elizabeth David.) Anyway, find a delish recipe for minestrone, make it, refrigerate it overnight and the next night, add the bread as in my versions.)
2.You can also make it from deli-counter minestrone or...
3. I have a great 30-40 minute version for any night. Below, read on; I give you the last two quicker options.
First a couple of hints for the meal.

Have this in the spring?? Ribollita sounds like a typical great winter-night soup and it is. But why not make it on a cool spring night and eat outside? I made this last Thursday for a good friend who LOVES anything Italian and we were thrilled to eat it under my blooming cherry (sour-I know I'm blessed) tree.Of course, cool spring nights abound in Colorado.

Wine: California Nebbiolo is so happy on the tongue here (especially if a dear friend brought you a bottle) Any rough (regular, everyday) or classic Chianti would also be just fine. The price about doubles from regular Chianti to classico. If it's a birthday or special occasion, get classico. California zin would even work if that's what you have in the house and you can't get to the store.

Dessert: Why not be traditional American-Italian and have a wee serving of spumoni or tortoni? Another option: some great vanilla ice cream with amaretti cookies crushed and crumbled on top and drizzled with Amaretto.
Coffee: Yes, make some espresso. (You barely had to cook.) Freshen it with a twist of lemon.

So, here are the two choices on how to make your Ribollita--make sure you say it like this: ree-boh-leeeee-tah. Surely all Italian food names deserve to have those vowels drawn out forever. Practice saying it out loud. Very sweet sound. Raise the pitch of your voice on "leeee" and you've got it right. (I make my piano students say "piaahhhno" VERY softly; you get the idea.) Anything that tastes this good should sound as good as it tastes.
So, first, see if you've got any opera on your ipod or in your cd collection.. No? How about a "3 Tenors?" Put on whatever has something Italian in it and THEN BEGIN! Sing along!

Ok : Option #1 The Very Fastest Ribollita of All
Serves four ( or two very hungry people)
2 quarts deli minestrone soup
A few dried herbs or some garlic... maybe
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans (or any canned white beans)
4 ciabatta rolls or four slices baguette
4 tsp. olive oil
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese-about 1/2 cup divided
Hot sauce, your choice

Heat oven to 350 F.
Gently pour the minestrone into a 6qt saucepan and heat on medium. Taste for seasonings. (Add a little oregano, or some pepper, a teense basil, a tad garlic, even any Provencal herbs out of that gorgeous jar you bought last year --it's hidden way in the back of the cupboard) You don't need to add salt; I can just about guarantee that one. Open the beans, drain and rinse to remove extra salt. Add them to the pot and stir. Meantime, slice the ciabatta rolls in half and brush them lightly with olive oil. Put them on a cookie sheet and slide them into the oven for around five minutes. Longer if you're at altitude like I am.When they're toasty, remove from oven and place them in the bottom of each of four soup bowls. I like pasta bowls for this. Ladle hot soup over the toast and top with cheese. Pass extra cheese and hot sauce at the table. Laugh; this is good!

Options: Need heartier soup?
Add some julienned ham or sliced leftover Italian sausage
Sliced meatballs stirred in right at the end are great
You could even chop up some toppings from your takeout pizza
leftover from last night; pitch the crust or give to the dog, honey

Option #2 Ribollita from " Scratch Today" in, oh, 40 min
Serves 6

2T olive oil (I use regular olive oil for cooking)
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, diced
4 slices bacon, pancetta or ham, chopped
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 28oz can Italian tomatoes, such as Cento
2 boxes (6 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup shredded and chopped cabbage
1T basil
1T oregano
1 bay leaf
1 t herbs de Provence
1 parmigiano reggiano rind (small is fine)
2 15 oz cans white beans of choice, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 ciabatta rolls, sliced or 12 slices baguette (buy extra if you'd like toserve more bread at the table)
6 t olive oil
1 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated, divided
1/4 cup chiffonade (sliced very thinly) fresh basil leaves for garnish, opt.
Hot sauce for table

Heat oven to 350 F. Brush ciabatta with olive oil and toast for five minutes or so. Set aside.
In 10 or 12 qt soup pot, heat olive oil to medium heat and add onion, celery, carrot, garlic and ham. Saute, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, broth, spinach, cabbage, herbs and parmigiano-reggiano rind. Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Simmer, stirring often until spinach and cabbage are tender. Add beans and stir. This soup should be thick, but if it's too thick for you, add some broth or water. Taste and adjust seasoning using salt and pepper. Place bread in bowls and ladle soup over top. Sprinkle with half of cheese and top with fresh basil if desired.Pass rest of cheese and hot sauce at table.

Options: See above for meat additions.
You could add a small zucchini or two, chopped
Shredded Swiss chard could replace the spinach
What veg have you got? Add it. See what you think.

Are you still singing?

Up next in the blog: Blond(i)es Have More Fun

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Moroccan Chicken

For months, I've been working on a cookbook called SMILE, LAUGH, SING: THE CHURCH CHOIR DIRECTOR'S COOKBOOK and, needless to say, it's not done yet. When will it be done? I don't know. Between teaching piano, cooking for friends, walking my golden retrievers (Fiona, 11 and Gabby, 10 months), caring for my husband, starting graduate school at age 55, and getting ready for my youngest child's college graduation, the time is minimal. I do work on it periodically. It has grown into what may, in the end, be two cookbooks. One for quick, easy delicious meals (Hence my blog TIME TO EAT: SPENDING MORE TIME AT THE TABLE THAN IN THE KITCHEN) and one for the more complicated dishes not everyone has time for. Meantime, my friends (who receive current testing recipes, notes, etc.) have encouraged me to begin blogging the recipes I've finished testing and finally make them available to more people. So here goes!


It's spring--you want to walk, garden, drink porch wine... so: I've been working on a Moroccan chicken recipe that comes together in 30 min or under and is bigtime easy to fix with simple ingredients. This is it; it 's delicious, healthy, cheap and easy. You could easily double it for company. First, a few ideas and options...
OPTION TO GRILL: If it's a great day, grill the chicken and do the rest in the skillet. Or, try it all on the grill, minus the canned tomatoes, broth and chickpeas. Add fresh tomatoes,chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil at the table; skip the broth.
Wine: We had a lovely, inexpensive (white) Spanish albarino that worked like a charm. If you spice or heat up the chicken more, you could use a riesling of the sort you like best.
Dessert: Make the most of rhubarb in a flash. No baking here! Stew some on the stove with water and sugar to taste until tender; add a few sliced strawberries and stir until slightly wilted. Serve over frozen vanilla yogurt. Or layer the stewed fruit, frozen yogurt and chunks of store-bought angelfood cake in large wine glasses. Drizzle lightly with honey.
Leftover couscous: If you have leftover couscous, grill or saute some veggies the next night and put them on top; grace with some feta. Or, since it has raisins and nuts, warm it up and top it with cinnamon, honey and milk for breakfast.
HAPPY SPRING! It's 50 and sunny on the mesa this morning in Colorado. I could see for ten miles when I walked Gabby and Fiona.
By the way, Gabby's just recovering from a stint in the ICU over the weekend. She ate tea. Yes, on purpose; golden retrievers don't know you're supposed to BREW tea. Black, PG tips. I hated to see it gone! She's been on a beta blocker to decrease her 200 bpm heart rate and hooked up to ekgs and ivs. A little subdued after the experiment. (This is why people say chocolate is poison to dogs--caffeine.) Dave and I will be skipping vacation this year, but the vet is going to Europe.

Next up in the blog is Ribollita from heaven; start drooling and watch this space!

Here's the recipe for the chicken:

Alyce’s Moroccan Chicken w/ Couscous
Serve with grilled pita bread

Couscous: Make plain couscous, adding ¼ c raisins and1/4 c toasted walnuts, according to box directions. Cover and hold while you prepare the chicken. Season w/ salt and pepper before serving.

1 – 11/2 # boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash*
1 can chickpeas
1 can salt-free chopped tomatoes
1 can low-sodium chicken broth
¼ t cayenne (or more to taste)
1t cumin
½ t cinnamon
2 lemons, cut into eighths
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
½ bunch cilantro, chopped

Saute chicken in 1 T olive oil for 2 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Add onions, garlic and squash. Cook 3 minutes until veggies are wilted. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and chicken broth. Season with cayenne, cumin and cinnamon. Add lemons. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat ; simmer about 10 minutes until chicken and veggies are done and tender. Season with salt and pepper.

To large shallow bowls, spoon couscous to one side and ladle chicken mixture to the other side. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Serve with grilled pita bread.

*Option: Use peeled eggplant, cut into 1” dice.