Friday, May 14, 2010

Salade Tapenade

I've made this salad a few times and, each time, I felt like I was inventing something new.  Well, in the food world (or the whole world), there's seldom anything new.  But one of the most cool things about being a well-seasoned cook (ha ha) is that you begin to have a sense, a feel, a love for whatever's around and what you can do with it.  It's not just, for instance, that strawberries taste better in late spring and so that's when you make strawberry shortcake.  But that's part of it.  I mean, don't make shortcake with fedexxed strawberries in January.  The rest of it is being able to look around the at the weather, your loved ones, the refrigerator,  the general mood of life, and figure out something to eat that uses up what you have and makes you (and others) pretty happy.  Maybe avoids a trip to the store.  Keeps you at home.  Perhaps saves you time by making something that doesn't require cooking from scratch that day.

I often make tapenade, which is generally a mixture of chopped olives and something else.  Spread it on a cracker or toasted baguette.   Of course there's more than one kind.  I have a cracker-licking good one that involves olives, figs, walnuts, and thyme...  Gee!  But I make a regular old kalamata-anchovy-garlic-parsley one that I use to top grilled pork chops or chicken.  I always have some left.  Sometimes I throw it into or on top of an omelette.  But I adore this salad.  The tapenade, some greens, maybe a few sauteed cherry tomatoes..  That's it.   Have a little leftover grilled fish you don't know what to do with?  Throw it in.  Deli chicken?  Shred it and make a meal.  I like it just like it is, though.  A little bread.  A little wine.  A little tapenade salad.  Make some and see.  Even if you bought the tapenade in a plastic bucket at Sam's for a party.

If I don't post again for a little while, I'm on a vacation break.   I've also just begun another Examiner title, so watch for me under the "Food and Drink" section of Colorado Springs for recipes.    More later.

Salade Tapenade
serves 4

8 cups greens of choice
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 lemon, juiced, divided
3 T olive oil, divided
8T tapenade
1 c cherry tomatoes

Wash and dry salad greens.  Place in a large bowl.  Drizzle a little lemon juice over all and dust with salt and pepper.  Put in frig briefly while you cook the tomatoes and make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together   2T olive oil, 2T lemon juice, and a pinch each of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and add tomatoes.   Salt and pepper lightly.  Stir and saute for about 5 minutes until tomatoes begin to pop.

Remove greens from frig and divide among four salad plates.  Top with 2T tapenade for each salad.  Spoon the hot tomatoes over the greens.   Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.

News from the Two-Dog Kitchen and from Around the 'Hood

Well, Tucker survived neutering, but I hardly did.  He's been the weirdest dog and his personality totally changed.  He spent the last week running outside to pee, only to sit down very quickly and look around at the world, as if to say, "What???"   No playing.   Lying around like a dumb bunny.   Jumping up in the middle of my bed.  Crying.  Carrying on.  Finally took him back to the vet today; he's infected himself (a  little)  and given himself a rash.  So I guess you'd act weird, too, with a rash on your tush and a chewed-up incision that hurt.  I guess.  (Eeeck.  Dogs.)

   The weather?  Funny you should ask.
77 and sunny on Mother's Day.  Other days:  rain, snow.... freezing....   I have a couple of pots of flowers already, but am not fool enough to plant anything.  I keep spending my time bringing them in and hauling them out.  In Colorado, you should buy plants on Thursday of Memorial Day Weekend.  Then you'll  have that weekend to plant them, and won't have to go in and out, in and out.   Here, however are a couple of things:

            Flowering crab, left.  Primrose on front path, above.

Sing a new song; don't plant anything,

Friday, May 7, 2010

Prune Quick Bread or Something Different for Mother's Day Brunch

Before the quick bread post, click on the link below to send a Mother's Day Card that will work toward ending hunger...  from THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME--BLOGGERS AGAINST HUNGER.  HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, FRIENDS...

                                                NOW ON TO THE BREAD!!

My husband loves this bread.
But, when I mentioned to him (before he tasted it)  that I was working on a recipe for prune bread, he made a face, rolled his eyes and laughed.  Sometimes, we never escape third-grade humor.
I don't cook a lot with prunes, but have remembered a couple of great recipes was from THE SILVER PALATE.  I want to say it was Chicken Marabella and it was famous.  The other is a pork roast with prunes that's to exhale repeatedly over. French recipe. OOOOh.  It's lovely. So different.  So smooth.   So company friendly.  Reheats like a champ over the weekend after a Friday night dinner party.

Back to the bread.  I made this bread when I was working on an article called, "Quick Bread 101,"  in which I attempted to work out a basic quick bread recipe that let you add whatever you had on hand ...say bananas, apples, blueberries, etc.  I think I got it right, but this variation is my absolute favorite.  It would be a sweet Mother's Day gift, a great addition to brunch. 

I've been gone a few days to a funeral, so thought it was a good time to bring out the prune bread recipe and share it on the blog.  If you tried it from examiner, sorry.  I have re-written the recipe specifically for prunes.  It makes stuperous muffins!!  (stuperous is my word for something between stupendous and super)

Alyce's mom and nephew Michael.....

Prune Nut Bread        
makes 1 9x5x3  loaf
1 c prunes, chopped
1 1/2 c orange juice 
     Simmer chopped prunes in orange juice for about five minutes.   Let cool slightly.

4T melted butter, cooled, or canola oil 
1 egg (you might want to use 2 at altitude)

     Mix cooled butter/oil and egg and add to orange juice and prunes. 
     Set aside.

21/2 c unbleached flour
1 c sugar
3 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 c chopped nuts

     In a large bowl, mix well all dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients and stir just until well-mixed.
Spoon into greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pan.  Bake about 50 minutes until bread is firm to the touch, is pulling away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out with just a few moist crumbs.  Let cool in pan 5 min.   Bang pan on counter or board and turn out onto rack to cool completely before slicing.  Keep well-wrapped on counter for 1-2 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Can be made into muffins.  Pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 400F 15 min.  Turn out on to rack to cool.


  As I write, Friar Tuck is over at Dr. Bill's getting a little nip and tuck done to raise his voice.  Yes, Tucker's getting neutered, but, you know, it had to happen.   I apologized ahead of time because he'll be a little groggy afterward.

          ....              .....                .....                         .......

(Below:   Later this afternoon......Poor baby)


Our sour-cherry tree in bloom.  Pie cherries will be ready about the fourth of July.  Come pick before the birds get them all.  If we get up early to bake before the heat comes, we can have pie for the holiday.

Sing a new song; bake a new bread;
Happy Mother's Day!

In Memorium...Carol Curtiss..The Quintessential Lutheran Party Girl..
God, Love Her!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cherry Tomato Chicken Pasta with Basil or I'm Gonna Fit in the Slinky Black Dress in Three Weeks

Here with rotini  (new photos added November, 2012)
 As cooks, we sometimes wake up with something special on our minds.
Something that just keeps going round and round and, until we make that dish, we just can't do anything.
No one should get in our way then.  No how.
Then we go to the grocery store.
Are way-laid by a point of entrance display of, say, raspberries.  Or avocados.  Or, in this case,
I had every intention of making a Splendid Table newsletter dish called something like "Sicilian Chicken."
Until I saw cherry tomatoes

10 PINTS FOR $10

And my world went spinning until I could figure out and make  (a large detour from Sicilian Chicken)

Here, the original photo with linguine
Cherry Tomato Chicken Pasta with Basil
serves 4

3 pints cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a little extra for chicken
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, ditto
5 cloves garlic
1 small red onion, sliced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped very finely
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3/4  pound  (12 ounces) whole wheat linguine

10-12 fresh basil leaves

4 tablespoons gruyere cheese, grated, optional

Bring to a boil a 10qt pot of salted and peppered water for linguine.  Add a few leaves of fresh basil.  Lower heat a little and leave water ready for pasta as you make the sauce:

In a deep, 12 or 14" saute pan,  heat 2T olive oil over medium heat and add tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook 10 minutes until tomatoes begin to pop, stirring often.  Add garlic, onion, mushrooms, dried red pepper, wine, olives and rosemary.   Continue to cook for another 10 minutes as tomatoes begin to fall apart.  Heat another saute or grill pan and add 2t olive oil.  Salt and pepper chicken breasts and grill very briefly, about 1 minute on each side.  Lower heat under tomato sauce and add the chicken to the  sauce.  Cover and cook at a low simmer for about 12 minutes.   Bring pasta water back to a rolling boil and add linguine.   Let covered chicken in sauce sit 10  minutes.   Test pasta for doneness and pour out into colander.   Divide the pasta into four pasta bowls and top each with a piece of chicken and a good serving of the tomato sauce. Garnish with torn fresh basil leaves and a dusting of fresh ground pepper.  Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

Wine:  We liked a not-so-rough chianti with this dish.  Don't buy the bottom of the barrel, literally.  Go up one notch to a chianti classico for a tish more smoothness in your mouth and in your stomach.

Dessert:  Now you know I'm watching every bite (except at birthdays and wine dinners like Saturday), so I'm just having a bite of whatever Dave's having.  He eats dessert and he's thinner.  Hmm.  I consider this a justice issue.    I made a parfait for him out of layers of strawberries, blackberries, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.  In between each layer, I put a tablespoon or so of crushed shortbread cookies.  A long, skinny iced tea spoon and he was in business.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Neighborhood News

If you want to eat things grown with 50 miles of here, this is what you can eat....

So, 'Hood news in no apparent order:
Snowed every other day, at least.  Doves out this morning taking a walk right down the middle of the street at 5:30am.   Crab apple trees, bright pink, prettiest sight in town.  Book  Club is Wednesday night.  The neighbor with the best lawn already had to mow.  (Not us.)  Wed. we had 70mph winds and so much pollen that the entire sky was coated in waves of what looked to be smoke.  Praise God, there were no fires. 

 Sing a new song; change your mind at the store,


Judy Mays
Lover of politics and fried chicken.
(Always a great combination)