Monday, January 31, 2011

Root Vegetable Barley Beef Soup or Where's the weather, Craig?

Solution for a cold winter's day
 You know how you feel you know your weatherman?  Dave and I refer to the ones we like (Mike and Craig on channel 5 in Colorado Springs -NBC affiliate and Al Roker on TODAY) by their first names, though they wouldn't know us from Adam.

"What's Craig say today?"
or
"Did Mike say what the temperature would be tonight?  Should I bring the herbs in?" (cover the annuals, shut off the sprinklers, bring in the car.... oh the things governed by Mike.)

"Why is Al in another studio?"  "And what's he wearing?" "How'd he lose all that weight?"  Answer is always, "I dunno."

Today these intimate friends have forecast all day long for horrible weather...across the country, including Colorado Springs.  I canceled a trip to go oversee an inspection on our new house (actually quite old-built in 1915) in St. Paul:



 So the snow would come and go and disappear.  But the sky stayed gray.  Which it doesn't in Colorado Springs.  Except once a year or so.  But bad weather?  Not happening.  Not here.  Not yet.  No how.  Maybe later or tomorrow. 

Who knew, though?  Bad weather?  I make soup.  I make bread.  And I did.

The soup is hearty enough for a Super Bowl stew; it's a beef vegetable soup with nearly only root vegetables and  some barley.  Maybe it could be made from your pantry; I did it from mine.

The bread is a recipe from one of my favorite food writers,Mark Bittman- New York Times.  It's the quick version of the famous 2006 No-Knead Bread.  If you haven't yet made that bread, here's the link to the original article about Jim Lahey (Sullivan Street Bakery) and the bread.  It's world famous, by now.   Well, nearly.  Definitely the most famous recipe in the New York Times, at least for Bittman, in ten years.  That's what he said in his last (boohoo) column.  That's saying something.  ( I have made the "regular" no-knead bread, as well, and will include a pic of that below.)   And, yes, the longer version is definitely better, but the the quick one's good and it's short!  We don't always have 20 hours.  Here's how:

Root Vegetable Barley Beef Soup for a Bad Weather Day (right)
  • 3T canola oil
  • 5 # beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1" cubes
  • 3 large onions, chopped, divided
  • 1 bunch celery, including leaves, chopped coarsely; divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 carrots, cut into 1" pieces; divided
  • 3-4 parsnips, peeled and cored (if large) and cut into 1/4"-1/2" pieces; divided
  • 1 large turnip, peeled and cut into 1/4"- 1/2" piece; divided
  • 2 qts water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 c fresh parsley, chopped finely; divided
  • 2 qts beef stock, low sodium (your own fresh or frozen or boxed/jarred from the store)
  • 1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes, no salt
  • 2 c shredded green cabbage
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • several drops of Tabasco
  • 2/3 c medium pearled barley
  • 1T basil or 1 t dry thyme, optional
  1. In a very large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and add half the beef.  Let brown well and turn.  Let that side brown and remove meat to a plate.  Add rest of beef to the pot and repeat.  Add in onion, the garlic, and 1/3 of the celery, carrots, parsnips and turnips.  When meat is well-browned, add the already-cooked beef and stir well together.
  2. Pour in the water and add the bay leaf, pepper and half of the parsley.  Stir well and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce  heat.  Simmer until beef and vegetables are tender, 1 1/2- 2 hours.
  3.   Bring back to a boil and add the rest of the vegetables (including the cabbage), parsley, stock, tomatoes, salt, Tabasco, barley and basil or thyme, if using.  Cook until barley is tender, 40-50 minutes.
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  5.  Serve hot in large, warmed bowls with hefty hunks of baguette and butter if you didn't make the bread.
Cook's Note:  This is a one-afternoon soup in Alyce's tradition of making the stock and the soup nearly all together.  While it's not a perfect solution, it's tasty and workable.  You cook the meat with a few vegetables and make a stock, adding the rest at the end and including some store-bought stock to round out the soup.  It's definitely not original, but I worked it out myself raising a houseful of kids who needed meals every night for about twenty years.  Before adding the second round of vegetables and jarred/boxed stock, you can also remove the already cooked vegetables and puree them, if you like.  Of course, you throw them right back in the pot.  It gives you the opportunity for having only freshly-cooked veg in the final soup if that's important to you.

Cook's Note for the Bread: Read the recipe and instructions thoroughly before beginning.

A little gallery for you:








House so cold, I had to leave bread in the oven and take a temp; it needs to rise at 70 F.





Here's the bread trail... If you print the recipe from the link, you'll understand.
Simple, great crumb, lovely crust.. yummy.




Heat bowl 30 min 450F first



Smelling and tapping... Anyone remember James Beard's bread book?


Note:  Above bread is the quick version of the No-Knead Bread.
Below is the regular version, which is NOT so quick, but still simple.  (Click on link.)





Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the 'Hood

Cooked up the beef trimmings for the pups...

80th Birthday for Grandpa Gene--Quite a party!






Prayers for peace in Egypt....particularly for the food supply.
Thinking of friend K. preparing a difficult Bartok piece for double piano; the concert's this week. 
Safe travel for my niece.
Thanks to folks in St. Paul putting our house through inspection.
Blessings on First Presbyterian of Champaign, Illinois, where we worshiped Sunday with family.
Warmth and safety to all those facing the weather in our country.
A great semester to daughter Emily and all her fellow-seminarians beginning the second semester of the school year.

Went to see "True Grit" with Dave, Bill, Lorna and Gene.  Come back, John Wayne?
 
Sing a new song, 
Alyce

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grilled Eggplant-Sausage Pasta with Fresh Mozzerella or What to Cook off the Plane

Italian sausage, red peppers, grilled eggplant, onions, garlic...a little fresh mozzerella.  Throw in some pasta and--

Note to readers:  for an updated, totally done on the grill version, please click here
    Coming off a plane, I'm often greeting thoughts like, "Did I leave anything at home that'll work for dinner?"  I usually stop by the store anyway for fresh produce or something to fix quickly.  Yesterday, as I traveled home from Minneapolis, I remembered a couple of eggplants wilting in the crisper.  Odd phrase, eh?  In other words, they needed to be used.  What else?  Italian sausage in the freezer that I had put in at Christmas, but hadn't yet cooked.  Sounded like a grilled pasta sauce night to me.  Mid-winter, I often am jonesing for something grilled.  I have two grill pans:  one is a square Calphalon and the other is a large, rectangular cast-iron grill that is flat on one side and ribbed on the other to siphon grease off the food or to provide the ubiquitous grill marks.

  I did run in for veggies for a chopped salad...bibb lettuce, radicchio, cilantro, parsley, red pepper, tomatoes...  I already had a little blue cheese.

Right now, the eggplant is sliced, salted and dribbling its dew (weeping copiously? bawling like a baby?) into a towel.  I'm about to start the pasta water, heat the grill, and start grilling cut pieces of sausage.  Oh, and a Seghesio Barbera's waiting on the table.  (If you don't know Seghesio, grab one of their zinfandels next time you're in the wine shop and try that with grilled sausage and peppers, pizza or anything grilled.)  The recipe isn't written, but will come together as I cook...and I'll place it below the pics....  Enjoy!


Slice the eggplant thickly, salt and let drain on toweling.

Ah, California wine.

Ah, Italian tomatoes!

Indoor grilling of cut Italian sausage and eggplant

Sauteed red peppers, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes...a little wine didn't hurt.

Cook some pasta.

The sauce comes together with the addition of the grilled eggplant and sausage

Adding the mozzerella and fresh basil to the hot pasta.  Mix this with the sauce and...
Vieni a mangiare! (Come and eat!)
 

















Grilled Eggplant-Sausage Pasta with Fresh Mozzerella serves 6  (8-10 for a first course)

  • 1# pasta such as penne, mostaccioli, tortiglione or rigatoni
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1# Italian sausage (sweet or hot), cut into 2" pieces
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled, and sliced into 1/2-1" pieces (salted and drained on toweling)
  • 1 large onion, chopped coarsely
  • 1 red pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 8 oz fresh, whole mushrooms, wiped, trimmed and cut into halves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28 oz can tomatoes (I like Italian-canned tomatoes)  or 4 chopped fresh tomatoes-in summer only
  • 1/4 c red wine or water
  • sprinkle ea of salt, pepper and crushed red pepper
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 pint container of fresh mozzerella
  • 1/2 c fresh chiffonade (julienned) basil (or 2t dried basil); save out a little for garnish
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, grated (opt)
  1. Bring pot of well- salted and peppered water (10 qts) to boil, reduce heat and hold.  (Bring it back to boil soon as you get part-way through making sauce.) I like 1 T dried or fresh basil in my water, too.
  2. Heat oven to 250 F and place oven-safe bowls or plates in to warm.
  3. Heat grill to medium (10 min) and wipe with an oiled paper towel.  Add sausage and eggplant.
  4. Meantime, heat saute pan with rest of oil and add onion, red peppers and mushrooms.  Cook until nearly tender and add garlic.  Saute together for 1-2 minutes and add tomatoes, wine, salt, pepper, red pepper and honey.  Stir, bring to a boil, and reduce heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  (More salt and/or honey will cut the acidity of the wine and tomatoes.)
  5. Bring water back to boil and add pasta.  Cook 11-13 minutes or til al dente. Drain and place back in pot.    Add mozzerella and most of the basil, saving some for garnish. Cover and hold.
  6. When sausage and eggplant are done, chop eggplant coarsely and add both to sauce. Simmer 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings again.  Add sauce to the pasta mixture and stir gently, breaking up large hunks of mozzerella.  
  7. Serve in warmed pasta bowls.  Garnish with reserved basil.  Pass Parmesan, if using.
Cook's Note:  If you're making this in the summertime, why not grill all of the ingredients and just use fresh tomatoes (skip wine/water, honey)  for a very light al fresco meal?  You could cook the pasta in the morning before the temperature rises, store it in the frig, and bring it out in time to let it warm to room temp.

      Two-Dog Kitchen or What's Goin' on in the 'Hood:

      Back from Minnesota trip where we almost froze literally; my skin is still peeling.  The day I left Colorado, it was -20 in St. Paul.  We're not talking wind-chill.  I was so glad Dave wasn't coming that day.  A 6 hour delay in our airport first....  Hey, I had a wonderful time reading the NYT cover to cover, getting a good start on a novel, enjoying a long lunch, and--not so fun--listening to my fellow travelers talking on the phone all day.  (There are so many private spots in the airport; why?)

      House hunted for the third time! and this time made an offer on a house:



      The view from what might be my new kitchen window.  Lots of birds!!!


      Still job-seeking...like a million? other Americans.  I'm grateful to our president for his positive, healing speech last night. 

      More travel soon....family birthdays, inspections on new houses... and so on.
      Sunny and warm here.  Ah, Colorado!

      Happy 80th Birthday to Gene Morgan!

      Here's Dave's Dad, Gene, and his Mom, Lorna, at Emily's college graduation--all smiles.  
       

      Sing a new song,

      Alyce

      Sunday, January 16, 2011

      Turkey Taco Soup or Sneak Peak at Blue Cheese Biscuits with Steak

      Easy, healthy and truly yummy, as a good friend would say
      I'm sure this could have a better name. 

      Sometimes people ask how I name recipes and my answer is always the same, "It must say what it is." 
      Do I want catchy names?  Yes.
      I just seldom use them.  How about Taco Trouble Soup?  Tonza Turkey Soup? 

      Of course, as a working cook  of sorts, the recipe must also be FINDABLE IN WORD DOCUMENTS.  You could think about that and come up with wonderful storage ideas for people who cook on multiple levels and must maintain articles, recipes, photographs and so on.
      .
      This could be Turkey Chili Soup  or Taco Soup (of which there are many) or Turkey Vegetable Chili--etc., but it's very soupy and it tastes like tacos.  Without the gazillion calories of the tortillas.  Without the cheese (though you could add that at the end, if you'd like.)  And it's quick.
      .
      This hot bowl of fuel fulfills the black bean, onion and tomato portion of my series on meals or dishes including the "12 best foods,"
      1. Broccoli
      2. Black beans
      3. Tomatoes
      4. Salmon
      5. Soy
      6. Sweet potatoes
      7. Oats
      8. Onions
      9. Blueberries
      10. Walnuts
      11. Spinach
      12. Chocolate

        Nearly everyone I talk to about food just wants things fast.  I like everything at Alyce-speed.  I don't like to rush; I don't think it's worth while.  If I don't have time to cook, I always can have an omelet or grab a piece of cheese and an apple.  But, hey, I hear you.  I hear everyone who works,  everyone who has kids, everyone who just wants time to veg and I don't mean eating them in the kitchen.  So, for all my students, friends and family hard-pressed for time, here's something scrumptious that makes a ton (save some little containers for lunch) and can be frozen in batches.  So you can skip cooking next Saturday, too.  See below....  (For more really quick recipes, check out my examiner.com recipe page --link at right and below--some are labled "Dinner Now!")
      .
      Frozen Soup in the Crock-pot:  Place your container of frozen soup (or stew or casserole) upside down in the sink and turn on the hot water over it for a minute or two.  Dump that container into the crock-pot; add a 1/4 c water to the bottom, cover and turn on low.  Dinner that night is on the way.   You will have a hot and ready meal by late afternoon.  (Make sure you freeze your meals in containers that will easily turn out into your crock-pot.  This is worth buying a couple of extra containers just for this very purpose.)

      Turkey Taco Soup  serves 6-8 generously

      Note:  These ingredients can be changed to suit your tastes or what's in your cupboard.  The ingredient police will not arrive if you change what goes into this soup.  Add corn if you like.  Use no rice at all.  Cut down on seasonings.  Add canned chile peppers or roasted red peppers.   Leave out the zucchini.  Add a bag of mixed frozen veg.   Drop in a little Tabasco sauce or let a big jalapeno cook whole in the pot. Get in there and cook, honey.

      1T olive oil
      3 slices bacon chopped into 1" pieces (optional)
      1 large onion chopped
      1/2 green pepper, chopped
      3 garlic cloves, minced
      1# ground turkey breast
      1t freshly ground black pepper
      2 t kosher salt
      1T ea dried basil and oregano (or 1T Herbes de Provence)
      2-4T chili power  to taste (You can make your own or I like Chili 3000 from Penzey's--Spice Islands is next)
      1/4 t ground cayenne pepper, opt.
      1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes (no salt)
      1 6oz can tomato paste
      2 c salsa
      1 zucchini, chopped into 1/2" pieces
      1 yellow squash, chopped into 1/2" pieces
      1 c red wine or water
      2 c low-sodium chicken broth or water
      1/4 c raw rice or use 1 c cooked rice or cooked small pasta (if cooked, add later)
      1 can no-salt black -or pinto- beans (if you use regular ones, rinse and drain)
      2T Dijon-style mustard (like Grey Poupon)

      Toppings: 2 ripe avocados, chopped; 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped; 2 c shredded lettuce; 1 c grated Cheddar, 1 c crushed tortilla chips-can use any, all or none

      Directions: 
      1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and brown the chopped bacon in it.  Remove bacon and reserve to add in a little while.  Add onions, green peppers, garlic and turkey breast.  Cook, stirring often, until turkey breast is done and no pink remains. 
      2. Add seasonings:  salt, pepper, basil, oregano, chili powder, cayenne.  Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring.
      3.  Taste and adjust seasonings; they should be very strong and bright!  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, salsa, water/broth/wine and uncooked rice if you're using.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
      4. Let cook about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add zucchini, yellow squash, canned beans, Dijon-style mustard and cooked rice or pasta if you're using that.
      5. Let simmer until all vegetables (and rice if you're cooking it) are tender, about another 10 minutes.  Add reserved bacon and stir.  Taste; adjust seasonings and serve hot with toppings if you choose.
      Around the 'Hood +Two-Dog Kitchen

      Why didn't anyone tell me to read THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE?  I couldn't put it down.  I ran into June at Costco and she, omnivorous she, had read it and seen the movie--which she didn't think anyone would understand if they hadn't read the book.  Often the case, I think.

      We watched "The American" with George Clooney.  Well done, slow-moving, sadly violent and just sad.  How many people are that lonely in our world...and why?

      Maybe you noticed I updated colors and pics on the blog.   Tell me if you liked it the other way better.  Or if you like this. 

      Prayers for my friend L's dad in the final stages of cancer.  Prayers for healing for C.

      Snow:  On the west side of Mesa, you can't walk ecause of the snow.  On the east (and by our house), it's all melted except in odd, shaded spots.  It's 40's and 50's every day.  Spring in the winter is what I call January and February in the Springs.

      Planning a trip ...we are, if I didn't tell you, in the midst of serious move plans.  To somewhere around the Twin Cities.  A several year topic around the house.   It is a huge thing in some ways; we've been in Colorado 15 years nearly.   How I walk away from my loved ones here is more than I can figure out.  To not worship at First Congregational ...ach.   On the other hand, this is our 23rd house and...why not have 24?  To live and cook at sea level has long been a goal for us...to be able to plant a big garden and eat a little off our own land is another...for me to find a job is a biggie.   That just hasn't happened here.
      So, it's time.  There are a few people I'd like to put in my suitcase and you know who you are.

      Drank some Chappellete cab Friday night--a soooo sweet Christmas gift from someone we love.  Ye gods and little fishes, that was a tasty wine.  2006.  Mymymy.   And did it have a steak?  Yes.  Thank you!!

      Going to the Mondavi wine dinner at The Blue Star Tuesday...a great night and someone's birthday, too.  Happy Day.

      I am working on BLUE CHEESE Biscuits w/ Steak.  Sneak Peak: 





      Happy Birthday on Monday to our much loved son, Sean

      Be well in 2011 as you sing a new song,
      Alyce

      Wednesday, January 12, 2011

      Pico de Gallo Halibut on Warm Rice Salad with Bacon Pintos

      
      Pico de Gallo Halibut on Warm Rice Salad with Bacon Pintos
      
         Yes, my jeans are tight.  I'm sure they shrank.   Didn't yours last month?
      Whatever--I'm working on lighter meals, like this halibut, to make up for things like whole baked potatoes with butter and sour cream (Did I do that???  I did.) at MacKenzie's Chop House.

        I'm also working on a series of meals that will use each of a dozen great foods (a la Dana Jabobi's 12 BEST FOODS COOKBOOK) and do double duty--decrease my waistline and make me tres healthy.  How about you?  You could get in on it, too.

      The list of the twelve best foods reads like this:

      1. Broccoli
      2. Black beans
      3. Tomatoes
      4. Salmon
      5. Soy
      6. Sweet potatoes
      7. Oats
      8. Onions
      9. Blueberries
      10. Walnuts
      11. Spinach
      12. Chocolate
      We used sweet potatoes in the Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust (last post).  One down.  
      Next is tomatoes and tomatoes we have here in abundance with our halibut.  Onions is another and we've got onions in two places here.  3 down, folks.  Ok.  Let's talk fish for the halibut.  Bad joke from the Three Stooges. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

      Halibut, well, it's just an incredible fish.  Meaty, bright, filling, flexible, dependable.   Currently not cheap.   Good with nearly anything.  I had (bad me) frozen two pieces that just weren't going to get cooked last week.  I also had a quart of pico de gallo (the first I've ever bought instead of made) that said, "Use within 14 days of opening."  (The 14th day was fast approaching.)  It seemed the pico and the fish were meant for one another.  Add to that I had some rice from an old favorite dish (rice with creamed pork tenderloin and mushrooms) that also needed a home and this easy, fresh  mid-week meal was born.

      
      
      Warm Rice Salad in process.

      If you never cooked beans, you don't know how non-descript they can look in the pot while all the while tasting scrumptious.  Definitely not my photographic skills, right?  And, yes, they take a while at altitude.   They're good in the microwave, though.  I cooked these earlier in the afternoon so they were very tender by dinner time.  You could choose canned beans, unsalted or drained and rinsed very well indeed.

      The beginning of cooking the halibut--salted and peppered, it just goes into a very hot skillet with some olive oil.  Cook it for 4 minutes, turn and throw it into the oven (400 F) for about 6 minutes and it's done.

      Cilantro, tomatoes and avocado for the rice salad.

      When the halibut is cooked, pull it out and top with pico de gallo, thus warming the salsa.

      Add the rice "salad" to warmed bowls or plates, top with fresh tomatoes, cilantro and avocado and lay the fish w/ salsa on top.  Spoon some beans along side and squeeze fresh lime over all.  Maybe a quick dust of black pepper?  Eat while it's hot.

      Pico de Gallo Halibut with Warm Rice Salad and Bacon Pintos    serves 2

      Beans:   (Follow directions below or use canned, drained and heated beans.)

      1/2 # pinto beans (you'll have  alot left over for huevos or chili)
      2 onions, chopped (divided--1 for the pintos and 1 for the rice)
      3 cloves garlic, minced (divided--2 for the beans and 1 for the rice)
      4 thick-cut pieces of bacon, diced
      Fresh ground pepper
      Tabasco
      Kosher salt 

      Warm Rice Salad:
      1 T olive oil
      (onion and garlic from above)
      1 Medium zucchini, diced
      1 Yellow squash, diced
      2-3 c cooked rice
      1/2 c fresh cilantro, divided
      1 Roma tomato, diced
      1 Avocado, ripe, diced
      1 Lime, divided

      Halibut:

      2 T olive oil
      Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
      2 pieces (4-6 oz) fresh or unthawed and patted dry halibut filets
      1/2 c pico de gallo, home-made or store-bought 

      Directions: 
      1.   BEANS   --  In a 6 qt. kettle, place picked over and cleaned pinto beans and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for an hour.  Drain and replace beans in pot; pour in about 4 qts of water.  Add 1 chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic minced, all of the bacon, the pepper and several drops of Tabasco (or a whole, fresh jalapeno).  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2-3 hours until beans are tender.   While beans cook, check pot regularly and add water if needed.     When done, cover and keep warm  or cool and reheat when needed.  Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.
      2. WARM RICE SALAD --  In a large saute pan or skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions and squashes.  Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes or so until nearly tender. Stir in garlic and continue to cook until all vegetables are tender.   Add rice, stir, and season well with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with most of the cilantro, saving a little bit for garnish at the end.  Squeeze the juice from half of the lime over the rice and stir.   Turn off heat and cover to keep warm while you cook the fish.   Add the fresh tomato, cilantro and avocado right at serving time.
      3.   HALIBUT  --   Preheat oven to 400 F.  Heat a medium skillet over medium- high heat with 2 T olive oil.  Season fish well with salt and pepper and place skin side up in hot pan.  Do not disturb for 3-4 minutes until well-browned.  Turn fish over and place  skillet in oven for about 6 minutes until fish is firm and flaking.  Remove from oven and spoon salsa on top of each piece.  Let fish sit a minute or so.
      4. TO SERVE:  Spoon rice onto warmed plates or large shallow bowls (pasta bowls are nice) and top with halibut and salsa.   Add the tomato, the avocado and cilantro to the top of the rice.  Spoon some beans to the other side of the rice and fish.  Squeeze the other half of the lime over all of the food in each bowl or plate.  Dust with pepper if you'd like.
      5. Serve immediately while hot.   
      What I'm Reading, Listening to, Working at or Doing around the 'Hood:

      Had neighbors for dinner Sunday night at the spur of the  moment.

      Enjoyed my husband at home...no travel this week.

      Wondered about a job for me..did some work on that.

      I'm reading DEVIL'S TRILL by Gerald Elias (I told you that.) and ordered DANSE MACABRE,  too.   Ah, violin mysteries.

       I also picked up, and started, THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE.  (I know--you read this in '03)

      I'm still reading Barbara Brown Taylor's AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD.  Superb.
      .
      THE ART OF CURATING WORSHIP by Mark Pierson arrived, but I haven't started it yet.

      The book club book is Isabel Allende's DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE.  Not yet, either.  Nope, I haven't begun it.

      I taught piano lessons and learned alot.  I let a student choose a piece to work on and it was Bach. 

      I did my best to listen to myself playing and singing old standards.  Piano bar retirement plan.  You know those jars that say, "Piano Player's 401K?"  They're real.  Put something in them, please.
      .
      As I write, I'm listening to Patti Digh's 37 DAYS, which you can listen to, too, right on her blog of the same name. (Link on my blog)  What would you do if you had 37 days?  Patti travels and speaks...if you can get her.

      We watched "Did You Hear What Happened to the Morgans?"  Glad it happened to them, though the bears are here, too-so that wasn't so funny to me.
      .
      I played through/listened to the new Lenten cantata from Pepper Choplin/Lorenz.  Hm.  Jury is out there.

      I think I finished washing all of the linens from Christmas.

      I'm looking at local hunger issues for examiner.com and figuring out a series of articles on same. 

      There's a second article about where to drink just a glass of wine in Co. Springs in the works as well.

      I played with the dogs every chance I had.

      Today--reupping my "Y" membership.

      Talked to my daughter on the phone twice and texted back and forth to Jeanne...several times.

      Spent a long time on the phone with Sue..,..such a treat.  A treat to have the time and a treat to have Sue.  Prayers here and now for Sue's father-in-law, in the last stages of cancer in Virginia.   Also praying for friend, C, recovering from surgery.

      Kept up with my family via fb.  My nephew is deer hunting and I wish I could get some sausage.  One of my nieces  is on the way to new health after a long New Year's hospital stay.

      Went out for supper at old-time family Italian Luigi's  to share a pizza and salad with Dave in front of their fireplace.  Listened to his work stuff and was grateful my jobs don't involve that kind of stuff.  The tough ones for me are getting mah, may, me, moh, mooo right.  Or answering questions like, "I don't see any reason why we shouldn't sing that hymn this Sunday.  You tell me why?"  I get to help make people happy, healthy and wise as they sing their hearts out or cook yum food for loved ones. 

      Nice work if you can get it.

      Healthy... yes. 

      Thanks, God.
         
      Two-Dog Kitchen


       
      Be well in 2001 as you sing a new song,
      Alyce
      
      

      Friday, January 7, 2011

      Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust or Get a Pedicurist Who Cooks

      Having my toes done is one of the guilty pleasures in life.  I guess you might call it getting a pedicure.  I go every month in the summer, sit with my feet soaking, and allow someone to trim and paint my feet.   And I love it.  I do it in the winter, too, but not so often.
      There've been a few toe-artists over the years, but the latest may be the best.  She's great at what she does, but also likes to cook.  Double dose of fun for me.

      Over Christmas, when my toes always turn bright red (called "I'm Not Really a Waitress" though I was for years of high school and college), she described this gratin that's baked in a crust.   In fact, she described it so well (after a story about her new pans) that I knew I could go right home and make it.  Being able to describe a dish and its prep that well is a definite talent.
      Still, by the time I got around to making it (after Christmas!), I thought I'd see if I could find the recipe online.  Search, hunt.  Well, well.  The recipe came from SOUTHERN LIVING (which I knew), a notoriously fattening publication, but the award-winning food blog, The Bitten Word had blogged it and I got the recipe there. 
      Clay Dunn and Zach Patton of The Bitten Word blog (photo-Chris Leaman/CC)
      I'll share it here, but note that it calls for store-bought pie crusts and I like to use my own.  Si place, as my conducting instructor (Angie, Angie)  at University of St. Thomas would say.  It means, "Do as you like."  I have nothing against store-bought crusts, but can make a crust at home faster than I can drive to the store.   And I do like mine better.

      This is a show stopper dish.  Touted as a side for tenderloin or something equally luscious at holiday time, it could also be a brunch dish or a lovely vegetarian lunch with a big crunchy salad.

      I'm leaving the pics all in a row for you to see...
      While it was quite a process, it wasn't difficult, and was well worth the effort.
      I agree with The Bitten Word that it needs to bake longer than the recipe allows, but then again, I'm at altitude.  I've made notes for adjustments.

      Just when I know you needed salads or stir fries (frys?)....here's something gooey, warm, heartening, and fattening.  Sorry.  Check out examiner.com (Colorado Springs Entertainment--Food and Drink) for a healthy Chicken Minestrone--quick version I published yesterday if you need something slimming.  Meantime, this should be shared. Dave and I ate it twice and then I shared it with my book club.  I froze a little bit just to see how it'd hold.  I couldn't throw it out.

      P.S.  As is sometimes the case, the Gruyere was cheaper at Whole Foods than at King Soopers.  (This is true of chicken broth, orange juice, other cheeses and other stuff, too.)
      Here goes... I forgot to photograph making the pate brisee (pie crust made with butter) in the food processor.

      I made my own version of pate brisee in the food processor.  Carefully possible.  You might want to wait to put the rosemary and cheese on until after you put the first crust in the pan.  See pic below as I roll the crust onto the pin.


      Do buy Gruyere.


      Grate the cheese in the food processor if you have one.  Save your hands.


      This is one way to move a crust from the counter to the pan--wrapped very loosely around the rolling pin.


      The edge of this crust is purposely quite thick and will be very crunchy.  There's no way to get it looking perfect.  (Though is will taste that way!)

      Get a kitchen scale.  Don't guess at weights. Scales at groceries are inconsistent.  3 potatoes can weigh 3/4# or 1.5#, depending on their size.



      I slice most potatoes in the food processor.  The mandoline, while perfect for some, is dangerous for me!

      Warm the cream and garlic in the microwave.  Buen idea!!!




      After removing foil and before second baking.  Looking yum already.

      Oh dear.


       



      Ready for its closeup.

      Once more for grins and giggles.

      And now that you've gained a pound just looking, you're done.  Hey, let me know if you make this.  It's not any harder than scalloped potatoes really...and the presentation is just WOW.  Here's the recipe:

      Total: 2 hours, 20 minutes
      Yield: Makes 10 servings
      Ingredients
      • 1  (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts* (I make my own--recipe at end.)
      • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh rosemary
      • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
      • 2  cups  (8 oz.) shredded Gruy√®re cheese, divided (Grate in food processor)
      • 1 1/2  pounds  Yukon gold potatoes
      • 1 1/2  pounds  sweet potatoes
      • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt
      • 2/3  cup  heavy cream
      • 1  garlic clove, minced
      • Garnish: fresh rosemary sprigs
      Preparation
      1. Preheat oven to 450°. Unroll piecrusts on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle rosemary, pepper, and 1/2 cup cheese over 1 piecrust; top with remaining piecrust. Roll into a 13-inch circle. Press on bottom and up sides of a 9-inch springform pan; fold edges under. Chill.
      2. Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice Yukon gold and sweet potatoes. (Slice in food processor.)
      3. Layer one-third each of Yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, and salt in prepared crust. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers twice, pressing layers down slightly to fit.
      4. Microwave cream and garlic in a 1-cup microwave-safe measuring cup at HIGH 45 seconds; pour over potato layers in pan. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet.
      5. Bake at 450° for 1 hour.  (I added 10 minutes here.) Uncover and bake 25 minutes (I added 5 minutes here) or until potatoes are done and crust is richly browned. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully transfer to a serving plate, and remove sides of pan. If desired, carefully slide gratin off bottom of pan using a long knife or narrow spatula. Garnish, if desired.  Note:  At altitude, I still though this could have used an extra 10-15 minutes.


      Alyce's Double Pate Brisee Crust Made in the Food Processor


      2 2/3 c unbleached white flour
      1/4 t kosher salt
      12 T salted butter, quite cold, cut into chunks
      1/2 c ice water (you might need a tad more if flour very dry)

      In the bowl of your food processor, blend flour and salt.  Add butter and pulse until some pieces are pea-sized, some are smaller and some are bigger.  With machine running, pour water through food tube and process until dough comes together.  Stop machine and remove dough.  Carefully pat together into a ball and divide in half.  Sprinkle counter with some flour* and place one half of the dough on it.  Sprinkle dough and rolling pin liberally with flour.  Quickly (trying to keep it cold here), roll out into 12-13" circle.   Roll the dough loosely around the pin and place crust in pan.  Sprinkle crust with the cheese and rosemary.  Refrigerate pan.  Roll out other crust, roll it around the pin, and place on top of refrigerated crust.  Press top crust into bottom briefly and turn edges under, trimming crusts if needed.   Pinch edges of crust together quickly; don't spend long on this.  Continue as above.

      * You can also roll dough between  two pieces of waxed paper (some of the crust will escape!) and leave out the floured counter entirely:

      First--dampen the counter by wiping it well with a very damp cloth.  This insures the waxed paper will stay put and not slip around.  


      -Place half of the dough between two sheets of waxed paper, place "package" on damp counter and, with rolling pin, roll out (start at center, roll to edge, and repeat- Go around the crust clock-wise) until crust is 12-13"...

      -  Flip the crust over, quickly give one roll with the pin on that other side, take off that paper, flip again and, as you gently ease the crust into the pan, peel off the second piece of paper. 

      -  Throw that paper away, get new paper and repeat procedure. 



      Reading, Listening, Viewing, Whatever else and Cooking Currently:

      I'm so late.  I just finished THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein for book club.   I love the idea of a dog talking, but wish he'd re-write this in 20 years.  The club, over all, liked the book and, I think, all of them read it! 

      I am reading -all at once!- DEVIL'S TRILL by Gerald Elias (2009), THE APPRENTICE  by Jacques Pepin (biography) and MATHILDA SAVITCH by Victor Lodato.  I continue to read Dorie Greenspan's newest book, AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE, as well as Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.     Want cookbooks?  Buy these gems.



      I am listening to Hildegard von Bingen...a Christmas gift.

      We saw "The King's Speech" last weekend and were bowled over.  Stunning film.  Go.
      This week, I made a point to find out when "Glee" was on and watched an episode.  Interesting, but I couldn't figure out what all the hoopla was about.   Maybe because I'm a choir director.

      I am playing things I haven't played in months.  Did Advent intervene here?  Maybe.  But I spent an hour playing and singing last night before I read DEVIL'S TRILL.  Singing your heart out is good for you.  Remember singing around a camp fire?  Or on a road trip?

      I am not dreaming this week (I'm not a big dreamer), but I did wake up over and over one night thinking about a new job I've applied for.  As I glanced out the windows in the dark, I saw (and  I'm near-sighted) a white bird--a big one--fly into a tree in the wildwood between our house and Mike and Sara's.  I laid there a minute or two, wondering if I'd imagined it and finally got up to put my glasses on and peer out into the gloom of early morning.  No bird then, but there was a falling star!! I haven't seen one since Emily and I beat it up the road of the campground in Brown County, Indiana to hit the outhouse in the middle of one long night.

      I talked to Tina from Prive (lovely, lovely Oregon winery)  today about our upcoming shipment.  While they did make wine, they made a lot less.  Oregon weather just didn't cooperate for a large yield.  A cool fall meant delaying and delaying picking, though they had pruned hugely in September and knew they might not get much, but they'd get tasty.  And so it happened.  She's concerned that the wine being shipped now (last year's) will travel through places with temperatures under freezing, thus not just compromising, but ruining the wine--blowing the corks for the cardboard to drink the fine Pinot.  Tina and her husband Mark have a capital T Teensy vineyard in Oregon Pinot country, where they make boutique Pinot Noir (there's another name, I'm thinking) from their own on-site grapes and also a couple of other wines  from grapes they borrow and whip into shape from Washington (a Syrah and a red blend).  Between the pristine, reminiscent of France winery and their house is a comfortable patio replete with tables, chairs, plants, flowers and, the piece de resistance, an outdoor pizza oven.  Now I envy Mark his vineyard and Tina her winery, but what I really covet is the pizza oven.  Wineries like Prive sell pretty much on futures only; you must buy ahead (barrel tasting that vintage sometimes) or  you get no wine.  These wines don't appear in stores or restaurants often, though you might have a better chance in Oregon itself.  So our wine, waiting for shipment in her cellar, is well worth the wait for good shipping weather.   It'll keep just fine right there.  Our Sunday weather promises a snow storm and -12.

      Our friends (and students)  Jacque, Tom, Joel and Miss Ellie moved this last week.  Current cooking includes a big pot of bean soup (I do this a couple of times a winter and make 20 qts or so), a slab of corn bread and hazelnut brownies (with Valhrona chocolate frosting)  I'll take to them tonight for dinner.  A big, fat bottle of Cotes du Rhone goes with it, along with some sparkling apple cider for the kiddoes.

      For dinner, I'm trying a halibut with pico de gallo in the oven in foil.  Yes, I actually do have to stop eating things like Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust.  Let you know how it comes out.

      Two-Dog Kitchen--




      Was this a self-indulgent blog?  Surely was, but it's been a while since I did one.  Thanks for putting up with and reading as you
      Sing a new song,
      Alyce