Monday, June 27, 2011

Melissa Clark's Greek Goddess Dip -- Again--for Holiday Fun

Sugar snap peas (blanched), new broccoli, and tiny baby bok choy were fun additions to the usual veggie "platter."

At Super Bowl time a couple of years ago, Melissa Clark, in her NYT Good Appetite column, wrote up a great dip that I immediately made and took to a Super Bowl party.  While I bring many pots of herbs in for the winter, I didn't have the needed parsley, dill, and basil.  (Rosemary, thyme, mint, sage--yes)  Buying plastic packages of herbs mid-winter is tediously expensive, but I did it.  A party.  Special occasion.   I thought at the time, I have to remember to make this in the summer.  Herbs are cheap or growing in the garden and the farmer's market vegetables are luscious.

And here we are.  It's summer.  Friends were coming for the evening.  And I remembered this dip.  Thanks, Melissa!  (If you haven't read her newest solo book, it's full of great recipes and want-more stories.  Wondering what you'll take to the Fourth of July cookout?  Look no further.  Get your sous to cut the veg; you throw the dip in the food processor.   Done.

In October, she's got another (order early) book out:   Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make.  

Melissa Clark's Greek Goddess Dip

1/2 cup packed fresh dill
1/2 cup packed fresh mint
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley
1/3 cup packed fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch kosher salt, more to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise, optional
Raw chopped vegetables or pita chips, for serving.

1. Place dill, mint, parsley, basil, garlic, scallions, lemon juice and salt in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
2. With motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until incorporated. Add feta and process until smooth; pulse in yogurt. Taste dip and add more salt, if desired. If you like a creamier, richer dip, add mayonnaise and pulse to combine.
3. Serve dip immediately with vegetables or pita chips or cover and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

These are my changes, etc:  Yes to a bit more salt.  I also added a few grounds of freshly ground black pepper, as well as a few drops of Tabasco.  I skipped the mayo to keep it a bit lighter and healthier.   The first time through,  I made my own pita chips--so much better than the ones in the bag.  (Cut up strips of pita bread,  sprayed them wih Pam, sprinkled on sesame seeds/salt/pepper.  Baked for 12 minutes or so in 350 degrees F til brown.)  Note:  If you keep the dip overnight, it thickens. 

This time, I made no pita chips.   The veg from the market was plenty and we had a filling meal ahead.  If you have tons of dill, basil, etc.,  this garlic-filled, spicy herb dip will be your summer staple.  It goes together all in the food processor and you could vary the herbs or leave some out depending on how your garden grows.  Simple, fresh and for Fourth of July?  You're now ready to roll.  Do leave the dip in a bowl of ice (change often) to keep it cool out there.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the 'Hood
Just some summer stuff.  Have cooked, but have been busy.  It's all good!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Vacation from the Cooking Blog and why God is Good

Bear with me...This is a learning process going on in the blog today.
We're skipping cooking today and doing a little soul searching.
God is good.  Of course, we don't always see it.  Certainly we don't understand it.  Sometimes we fight it mightily. Or don't believe it.  But if we live a faithful life, we learn the truth of the matter.  Our world isn't perfect because of it, nor is the world of others.  But life is strong within it and contains joy, as well as a larger possibility for healthy relationship with others and ourselves.

If we are faithful, I've found, our eyes are opened to the pathway(s) we're meant to be on.  The one that creates a healthy us.   There are lots of songs about opening our eyes (Lord,  I want to see Jesus... I once was blind, but now....Open the Eyes of my Heart--and so on) and I'd like to think there are just as many about opening our hearts.  This isn't about taking a spiritual gifts inventory (a worthwhile process), but it might be about our innate (or learned) abilities or desires and how our hearts beat regularly when we're accomplishing those that quench our soul's thirst for...not success, not happiness, but for the feeling of, "This is what I'm meant to do."  This is what makes me feel like I breathe better.  Like I'm comforted, open, available, closer, in a good spot, centered, able, making a difference.  This is what's needed.  This is what's meant by "come round right."

And so even if it's scrubbing the porch, we need to do it.  Can we scrub porches for God?  Definitely.  We are meant to be closer; we are called to come in contact.  If we do it scrubbing a porch, then it's fine and who doesn't like a clean porch?  How do we know?  Ah, the proof is in the pudding.  We know by this:  if we don't scrub the porch, we're simply not feeling good about ourselves.  We're spending all our time wishing we could scrub the porch.   At some point, it's necessary to give in to what our hearts call  us to do.  When on our lips is, "I simply can't do anything else; I'm not happy if I don't _______."  Happiness might be over-rated, and perhaps it's not exactly the right word, but it'll do for part of the equation.

My friends Ellen and Kim call it one's "passion."  There comes a time in life when you simply must pursue it or else decide to enter and live decades of life with a decided frown on your face and lump in your throat.  Or so I thought.

In the past few days, I've had the opportunity to dream about those passions...because I'm blessed with friends (and acquaintances) who've pointed them out to me.  I really can be a dreamer at times, but the more I considered them--this whole notion, the more I realized that I have followed them, these loves--these have-tos--these passions--these "I HAVE TO DO THIS" things my entire life.  They are the framework of my journey; they are the cornerstones of my life.  And because they serve God and also serve the needs of my soul, I know I am blessed and I definitely know God is good.

I share this because as a Christian who is fast becoming "older," I know I'm meant to pass on what I've learned on the journey.  What my pilgrim steps were.  What songs I sang.  What songs my heart heard when God spoke in a way I could hear. Or how I learned to listen.  (How I'm learning to listen.)

I don't suppose it terribly matters what the list of passions were.  I don't suppose I'd get them right the first time, but I'm looking at naming them.  Past, present and future.  My calls.   The things I am convinced God wanted from me or wanted me to do.  How they're framed by the lattice of what it means to live a Christian life.   Measured by its tenets and boundaries.   How they sometimes meant giving up or giving away instead of insisting on having things my way.  How individual freedom and the acknowledgement of my own worth played a part. About throwing old wounds over the falls.  Of how they taught me to wait.  How I gradually came to be accepting and loving of those who didn't share my faith..or the "passions."  Perhaps there's a better word.  Certainly the faithful word is definitely, "call."

I'm thinking I can frame my calls somewhat with visuals:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lemoned Greens and Goat Cheese Toast or A Little Night Music in June

Dinner for a Hot Night

One day it was 103 and one morning it was 50....St. Paul doesn't seem to be able to decide between hot and cold.  Windows closed.  Water everything green that's dying out there.  Runs to Menard's for air conditioners.  Calls to St. Paul Heating and Cooling for help.  (Like everyone else in town.)  Ach, windows open.  And now it's cold...close them again.  So goes summer.  Meantime, the roses are blooming...

As are the later peonies, irises, and late lilacs.

Moses supposes his toeses are roses..... (If you're a "Singing in the Rain" fan.)

Closeup of rose tree

Tiny irises snuck up amidst the peonies.

Hostas burned in the heat, but tomatoes loved it and grew 2 inches, I think.  I now have baby tomatoes.  BLTS here we come.

Our house painters are done.  Now we're trying to figure out how to make our furniture fit.

Meantime, we have Emily home and she's been busy perfecting her Pad Thai game:

While I serve as chief bottle washer.  Sous chef sounds better, doesn't it?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fresh Pea Clam Chowder

I love oyster crackers.  Maybe it's the salt.
Despite days of unpacking (still) and rearranging (forever) and gardening, we've still had a few cool evenings and one such night last week, I made, for the first time, one of Dave's favorite soups.  Now we've been married thirty-seven years and why I haven't made this soup before, I don't know.  If you're from the midwest, fish or seafood soups weren't terribly much part of the cooking pattern when I grew up.  Fish?  Yes.  Fresh out of the thousands of lakes and in the summer. (Though my parents froze quite a bit for great winter fish fries.)  But not fish soup.  Seafood?  A rarity.  You ate it when you went south.  Or east.  Or west.

Now that we have great fish and seafood available all of the time (especially in St. Paul, I'd add), we have such great options for seafood dishes and I'm finally able to set aside my considerable food prejudices and make clam chowder.  I did look at a few recipes and then did it my way.  Naturally you can use fresh clams; I happened to have a couple of cans of clams in the pantry and used those.  In fact, with the exception of the fresh peas (and you can use frozen), this dinner is pretty much out of everyday pantry ingredients.  Note:  This is a regular old unthickened chowder.

This photo of my fresh peas from Trader Joe's just wants to be like this.  I give up.  You get the idea!

Fresh Pea Clam Chowder serves 4

4 pieces of bacon
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 t sea salt; 1/2 t white pepper
1 cup chopped fingerling or new potatoes
1 bottle of clam juice
1/4 c fresh peas (or frozen)
1-2 drops of hot sauce (put bottle on table)
2 cans drained clams
2 cups milk
3/4 c half and half
1T butter
1/4 c chopped parsley
Oyster (or other) crackers

In a 4 qt stock pot, cook bacon until well-browned and remove to toweling.  Chop the bacon and reserve.  Saute onion, celery and carrot in the bacon fat until softenedSeason well with salt and pepper.  Add chopped potatoes and clam juiceAdd enough water to cover all of the vegetables and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Add peas the last couple of minutes.  Season with hot sauce.  Add milk and half and half.  Stir in drained clams and butter and heat through.  Add fresh parsley and stir in bacon.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve hot with oyster crackers or saltines and let folks add hot sauce as desired.