Monday, October 29, 2007

Wine And Cookbook Reviews #1

In my last post, I talked about Anthony Bourdain's cookbook and told you about one of the recipes I fixed. After I did that, I told myself, Deb, you need to pay a little more attention to the wonderful collection of cookbooks that you have. They are screaming out to me to be brought into the kitchen and "played with"! In the past year, the inspiration for my cooking has been everyones wonderful blogs and the array of cooking and wine magazines that I subscribe to. So much that I have been completely ignoring my cookbook collection. Well, I am going to try and remedy that by choosing one cookbook a week or so, picking out a dish that looks appetizing, fix it and share my cookbook and dish with you. I also will pick up my wine books, find a wine out of those books and do the same thing. If I do all of my books, I will be blogging until...well, for the rest of this life! In doing so, if I happen to talk about a book that you might have in your collection and you have made a dish from it, let me know what you prepared from your book! When I did the chicken dish from Bourdain's book, Shaun at Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow commented that he had the same book and that he was going back and revisit his book and check out the recipe that I prepared. Maybe Shaun will find another good one in that book and share it with us! Anyhow, I think it will be a fun little adventure for me and I will be blowing the dust off of some very good books that have been with me for years and sharing them with you!

The first book I pulled out is Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven. I think everyone knows who Mollie Katzen is, but if not she is the celebrated author of Moosewood Cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Still Life With Menu. Mollie has a new book out titled The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without. I have not checked her new book out yet, but I surely will soon. Mollie also has a great webiste here that is chocked full of wonderful recipes and other topics that I enjoy and I am sure you will too. Vegetable Heaven is not only a great cookbook, but gracing the pages are over 50 of Mollie's luminous paintings, richly evocative of the pleasures of cooking and eating. This cookbook weaves together culinary styles from around the world: appetizers like Persian Eggplant Dip and Jamaican Salsa-Salad; soups ranging from Big, Bold Noodle to Tunisian Tomato; hearty main course features like Giant Mushroom Popovers and French Picnic Tarts; and a mix and match section of "side-by-side dishes" including grains like Coconut Rice with Ginger, Chiles and Lime, bean in her Stovetop Cassoulet and vegetables Asparagus with Warm Tarragon-Pecan Vinaigrette, which by the way is one of the dishes I prepared and have for you below. The book also has unusual pasta dishes like Farfalle With Artichokes, Mustard Greens and Slow Cooked Onions and a yummy assortment of desserts like Cherry Upside-Down Gingerbread and Pineapple Pomegranita. Well, I think that about wraps up a nice small review of Vegetable Heaven. Here are a couple of the recipes that I fixed the other night from this book. I must apologize as my photos of the dishes are not the greatest because the men in my life were wanting to eat ASAP! But I think you will get the idea. OK...

Arugula Salad With Orange Vinaigrette

1 medium sized head butter (Boston) lettuce, cleaned, dried and chilled
1 to 2 bunches if arugula, coarsely chopped, about 3 cups
10 radishes, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons minced chives or 1 scallion, finely minced
Nicoise olives (optional)

Orange Vinaigrette

2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
2 medium cloves of garlic finely minced
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine all in a jar and shake well. Shake well as you add to salad.

Break the lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces and place them in a medium large bowl. Add the arugula, radishes, chives and toss until combined.
Pour in about 1/4 cup of the dressing, grind in some black pepper and toss well from the bottom so everything gets well coated. Drizzle in small amounts of additional dressing as needed until the salad is dressed as you like it. You can serve with Nicoise olives if you desire.

Asparagus In Warm Tarragon-Pecan Vinaigrette

1-1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus, the thinner the better
2 tablespoons balsamic or cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar (this is substituted with honey to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced pecans
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh minced tarragon or 2 teaspoons of dried
Black pepper to taste

Break off and discard the tough bottom ends of the asparagus then cut into 1-1/2 inch or so pieces. I left mine fairly large. Combine the vinegar and sugar or honey in a bowl and mix well. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the pecans and saute over medium low heat for about 10 minutes or until they are fragrant and lightly toasted. Careful not to burn! Turn up the heat to medium high and add the asparagus, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the asparagus are just barely tender. Add the vinegar mixture stirring well. Cook for about 30 seconds and then remove from the heat. Stir in the tarragon and remaining salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, warm or at room temp.

Such great taste from simple, easy to find ingredients. Both of these dishes are loaded with garden fresh flavors that are very satisfying no matter what the season happens to be outside your door!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chicken And The Wine Sign Says It All!

Need I say more! And yes, I do put wine in a great majority of my cooking. I do not even start my evening meal until I have a glass of wine in hand to accompany me on my cooking adventure for the night! Speaking of adventure, I got hold of Anthony Bourdain's "Les Halles Cookbook" and decided to make his recipe , poulet basquaise. I plan to make a few more recipes from his book and then I will do a post on his book. If you do not know Anthony Bourdain, he is the chef that is on the Travel Channel program No Reservations. He is quite a character and I enjoy his style of writing. More on him at another time. Let's get on with dinner. I was in the mood for something French, but I do believe this has a hint of Italian to it also.

Poulet Basquaise

1 whole chicken about 4 lbs. cut into 8 pieces
salt and black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper, I used a hugh pinch!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 red bell peppers cut into julienne
2 green bell peppers cut into julienne
1 onion thinly sliced
16 oz. canned Italian plum tomatoes
1/2 cup of white wine - you know, some of the wine you are drinking right now while preparing this dish!
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light chicken stock or broth
3 sprigs of flat leaf parsley finely chopped

Season the chicken all over with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Heat a large pot over medium high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot add the butter. When the butter has foamed and subsided, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown on that side only! When brown, remove chicken with tongs and set aside on a plate. Add the peppers and onion to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the wine scraping, as always, to get the good stuff up. Cook until the wine is reduced by half then add the water and the chicken stock. Return the chicken to the pot with their juices. Cover the pot and allow to cook on low heat for about 25 minutes, then remove the chicken to your serving platter.

Crank up the heat to high and reduce the sauce for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately. I served mine with a white basmati rice.

This is so easy and so good! I served the Redwood Creek Sauvignon Blanc that I was cooking with and the match was wonderful!

What a way to start the end of the day!


Monday, October 22, 2007

Another Great Wine From Chile!

A fairly new blogger friend, Gloria over at Canela's Kitchen, is from a wonderful country for wines, Chile! This is the 2nd Chilean wine I have tasted in the past month and one I would purchase again, especially since it is priced under $10.00! I chilled and popped open a bottle of 2006 Chilensis Reserva Sauvignon Blanc last evening and was treated to a nice party on my palate! Chilensis is from the D.O. of Casablanca Valley, but the grapes, 100% Sauvignon Blanc, were from their Nilahue Vineyard in the Colchagus Valley. On opening the bottle, I caught the lovely aroma of grapefruit and a touch of lemon. Fresh and crisp on the palate was the nice tart flavor of gooseberries that lent themselves to a nice balanced finish. This wine is produced and bottled by VIA Wines of Chile. They have a beautiful web site that has nice photos of the vineyards and countryside of Chile. As you can see, we enjoyed the wine so much before dinner that I did not get a photo of the actual wine till it was all gone! So for dinner, I had to pull out another wine that I told you about a few weeks ago, Redwood Creek.

Speaking of Redwood Creek Wine, I have to show you a fun marketing item of that wine. Take a look at these corks. Yes, they are plastic but look at what is printed on them. They call them Adventure Tools! Adventure Tool #12 they call Yosemite and it has a picture of a mountain on it. They call it the GPS Hike with 1) 37 degrees, 43' 30" Latitude, 2) 119 degrees, 38' 00" Longitude, 3) Look up at El Capitan! That is the mountain on the cork! Adventure Tool #19 they call Bobber and it has a picture of, I guess you would call it a bobber. 1) Insert eyebolt, 2) Thread fishing line, 3) Cast! So see, you can make a fishing bobber out of the cork! Too Cool are these "Adventure Tools"! Not only do you get a good wine, the corks are very useful! What will they think of next!


Friday, October 19, 2007

Black Eye Pea Cakes & Garden Update

I know, I know. I have not reviewed a wine for a few posts now. I do have a new one I will be tasting tonight so stay tuned for the review! In the meantime, I would like to show you what is happening in my garden. This is especially for Christina at A Thinking Stomach. She is a fantastic gardener in Southern California and I really enjoy her site as she writes and shows us how her garden is coming along. Her narratives and photos are lovely. So Christina, here is what is happening outside my doors now.

This is a quick shot of how I garden - in containers. They are lined up everywhere there is a space!

Yesterday, I checked on my pole beans and noticed that one of the shoots have emerged!

Today, look how much it has grown since yesterday!

Here is the bannana pepper in bloom!

Christina had a discussion on her blog regarding how we who live in very warm climates all year round tell the difference between seasons. Here in Key West it is always green, but I can tell the seasons by the different flowers that bloom at different times of the year. I know it is fall in my yard when the "Chalice" starts to bloom.

When you see these pods coming to life

The next day the flower is in full bloom. I think these are beautiful flowers and they do look just like a chalice! And what is really neat about this flower is that there is no aroma until the sun sets. Then the flowers give off the most beautiful scent that can only be detected in the evening. What a wonderful gift from Mother Nature.

When the weather starts getting a little cooler, temps in the low 80's, more of the dainty flowers seem to get happy.
So even though we do not have the beautiful leaf colors that the fall season brings up north, we do have the changing of the season here, just a different way. Christina, and everyone, hope you enjoyed the small tour of my fall garden!

Now let's talk Black Eye Pea Cakes! I adapted this recipe from one I saw in Gourmet Magazine last year.

These are a great side dish for fish, which we popped on the grill last evening.

Black Eye Pea Cakes With Green Tomato Salsa

1 can black eye peas rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 of red bell pepper minced
1/2 of green bell pepper minced
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup panko (breadcrumbs)
2 or 3 eggs yolks, depending on the size of the egg
2 teaspoons of Tabasco Sauce
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley chopped
2 tablespoons of green onions chopped
1 heaping teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup of cornmeal for dusting
1/2 cup olive oil

Put the drained peas in a bowl and mash them with a potato masher but leave sort of chunky.
In a skillet heat the butter and add the onions, garlic and bell peppers until soft. Add these to the peas along with the bread crumbs, egg yolks, Tabasco, parsley, green onions, cumin and salt and pepper. Mix together. If mixture does not hold together when squeezed, and another egg yolk. Chill, covered for 1 hour.
Remove from fridge and take about a 1/4 cup of mixture in hand to make a patty. Put patties on a plate. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet, dredge patties in cornmeal, add to skillet. Cook until nice and brown turning once. Cakes should be finished in about 8 minutes. (The white coating you see is some of the cornmeal.)
Serve with:

Green Tomato Salsa

I used a mixture of tomatillos and green tomatoes to make about 3-1/2 cups, chopped
1/4 minced red onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice from one lime
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional - 1 chopped jalapeno pepper

Put all in a bowl and mix well. I let it set in fridge for about an hour so the flavors would meld.

Serve the salsa with the pea cakes and grilled fish for a marvelous healthy dinner! And of course, do not forget the wine, which I will post about next!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fall, Apples....

Ah, the Fall Season. And what is flooding the markets right now and everyone is baking with them ? Apples. Oh so many colors, yes different colors, such as red, green, yellow, and all various shades of those colors. Such a lovely fruit! Anyhow, trying to be healthy but yet sooth my craving for apples after reading all the blogs with wonderful cakes, pies, etc., I decided just to make an "apple snack". Does anyone out there, besides me, need a late afternoon pick me up? You know, it's long after lunch and way before dinner...I need a snack! So seeing my stash of apples and looking through the pantry, I started pulling out a few items and here is what I came up with!

The Ultimate Afternoon Snack For Fall

1 apple of your choice, sliced
1 jar of peanut butter
1 box of granola cereal
Dried blueberries and cranberries

Put your sliced apples on a pretty plate, smear your apples with peanut butter, sprinkle with granola and dried fruit. How fast is that!!! And Yum! You are going to like this one!
Mike even said, "wow, this is pretty good"!


Monday, October 15, 2007

A Lovely Item In The Garden

Another happy herb in my garden is Sage. This herb reminds me of fall and the upcoming holidays as it is the main herb I use in stuffing for my turkey. Although I use Sage all during the year, this is the season it really shines. It is such a beautiful herb with its fuzzy little, very aromatic, leaves. Talk about aroma therapy, every time I pass my sage plant I find myself gently rubbing the leaves and then taking in their wonderful smell. Ah, freshness!

Sage (Salvia) is a member of the mint family and has a long tradition of medicinal importance, besides culinary. The word Sage comes from the Latin word, salvere, which means to be saved and refers to its alleged curing properties. It was a medicinal cure-all, even thought to cure baldness! In medieval times, sage was thought to impart wisdom and to improve the memory. (I knew there was a reason I liked this herb so much!) The old English word sage, meaning a wise man, comes from this belief. Europeans believe that is helps digest rich foods, which might account for its association with duck and game recipes there. Superstition has it that when all is well, sage will flourish. If things are going badly, it will hang its foliage!

There are many varieties of sage such as pineapple, blue, golden and tricolor, but I grow just a common garden sage. It is a hardy perennial that grows to a height of about 24-30 inches. Leaves are grayish green and oval. They prefer full sun and very well drained soil. You do not want to over water these guys either. They are very drought tolerant once established. Sage is a great herb as it does not need alot of "fussing about".

As I said earlier, I mainly use mine to flavor my stuffing, but if you make your own sausage it is a key ingredient. Sage is also good in egg dishes, cooked veggies and fish. Actually something that is very good that goes with fish is frying the sage leaves like you would a fritter. The Italians add fresh or dried sage leaves into the frying pan when they fry chicken to give the chicken a savory flavor and that great flavor transfers into the gravy if you make it from the drippings. Powdered sage makes a great rub on fresh pork roast before baking. Just remember, to extract the full flavor of the sage leaves, crush or grind the leaves before using. Sage is a strong flavored herb fresh or dried, so use it with discretion. It is very easy to grow in a container on your deck or by any sunny window in your home!

Cheers from the garden!

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Nice Wine With A Guest

I just have to show you my guest from last evening! He appeared on the door ledge just after dark and stayed there for over an hour! I turned all the lights on in the room hoping to attract a few stray bugs for him, but not sure there were any takers. So he left...hopefully not too hungry!

The other night when I had my cold and everything was tasting pretty much like cardboard, I did have a wine I told you that I was sipping, but the taste buds were not quite up to speed. Luckily they are slowly coming back and last night I popped open the other bottle of Chateau Chauvet that I had chilled, but had not reviewed a few nights ago. I picked up this bottle of 2005 Chateau Chauvet at the grocery store for $6.99! Sometimes I am skeptical when a wine is priced that low, but was pleasantly surprised with this one. I enjoy French White Bordeaux wines very much, but they have become so pricey lately that I only purchase them for special occasions. The winery is located in the tiny mid-West town of St. Hilaire due Bois which is situated between the Dordogne and Loire rivers and not too far from the coast. Chateau Chauvet is a nice, not heavy, but citrus flavored wine with a good balance in the acidity department. I also enjoyed a crisp note towards the end! Not a long finish, but enough flavor that sent my glass back for seconds! For dinner I had a baked sweet potato, sauteed broccoli and the most handsome salmon on the grill! The wine was excellent with dinner!

No better way to start the end of your day but with a glass of wine and a guest!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Wine With Our Pedal South

How could you not like a wine from a place called Casablanca Valley? Just saying Casablanca brings my thoughts immediately to the 1942 film staring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. I bet I have watched that movie 50 times! The part I love the most, and of course is famous, is the very end at the airport when she is leaving, just the softness of her face and the look in her eyes while they are speaking....and "here's looking at you kid". OK Deb, snap out of it. This is a wine review, not a movie review! Last night a bottle of 2006 Casas Del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc was on our tasting menu. This winery is located in the Casablanca Valley, not far from Santiago, the capital of Chile. The Casas Del Bosque was a nice crisp wine with a pleasing citrus, such as lime, taste on the plate with a hint of mineral following. A nice refreshing, balanced white wine for under $10.00. We did not have this wine with any particular food, just a nice sipping wine to start the end of the day!

In my last post I talked about the books by Sarah Leah Chase, Pedaling Through Provence and Pedaling Through Burgundy. Two great little cookbooks highlighting Sarah's trips through these two special spots in France. I told you about 2 dishes that I made from the Provence book, but I now want to give you a taste of potatoes that I prepared and served the other night with the Basil Green Bean Salad and the Tarragon Chicken dish.

Potato Gratin Dijonnaise

3 pounds of potatoes, I used Yukon Gold
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 teaspoons dried chervil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups creme fraiche
3 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 ounces freshly grated Gruyere cheese

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Cook until fork tender. Drain and let cool enough to handle. Remove skins and slice into 1/3 inch rounds.
Melt the butter in a small skillet and saute the onion until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter a shallow 12 inch wide baking dish and set aside.
Gently combine the potatoes with the onions in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley and chervil.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, mustard and lemon juice until smooth. Gently, but thoroughly, combine the mixture with the potatoes. Turn this into your buttered baking dish and cover with the shredded cheese.
Bake in the oven until bubbly and nicely brown on top, about 30 minutes. Cool and serve.

This is a great fall dish as the mustard and the creme fraiche make it so comforting. The flavors will surprise you!


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Let's Pedal South

As I surrounded myself with cookbooks the past few days during my down time, I got to the point where I could not stay out of the kitchen any longer! Granted, my taste buds were not back to power yet and my nose was still giving me a run for my money. But..I was hungry after reading all the yummy recipes that I was paging through. While I was in lounge mode, I picked up one of my all time favorite books "Pedaling Through Provence Cookbook" by Sarah Leah Chase. Back in the mid 90's, I was lucky to travel to France twice. I had fallen in love with that country many years before then when I started getting into wines and food. So I have quite a collection of French cookbooks. But when I found out I was actually going to go there, I started planning out the trip as I did not want to waste one moment while I was there. I even had a tutor teach me basic French so I would at least understand the menu's and how to find out where the bathrooms were located! So in my planning stages I came across Sarah's book. She wrote 2 of them, Pedaling Through Provence and Pedaling Through Burgundy. They are great little books because she actually did bike through these locals and documented her experiences by town and recipe. So I used these books as guidelines when we were traveling there. Fun to say, they were a big help! So last evening I got the books into the kitchen and prepared the following.

This is one of Sarah's "Market Day" recipes. The inspiration for this dish was the cooking of Simone Beck, or Simca, who was best known in America as the French woman who collaborated with Julia Child on "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking".

Basil-Strewn String Bean Salad

First make yourself a Basil Vinaigrette
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea or course salt
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil

Sarah mentions she uses a mortar and pestle to make this, but I took the easy way out and made it in the blender. I put the garlic, salt and basil in the blender and then added the juice and oil through the top while machine was running.

Bean Salad
1 pound of green beans, trimmed and sliced in half
4 large ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup imported black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
6 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained and chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
And she adds 3 large hard cooked eggs peeled and chopped, but I omitted

Blanch your green beans until just crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water, drain again. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives and anchovies. Stir in the beans and fennel. Add the basil vinaigrette and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Chill the salad a few hours so the flavors will blend. If you do decide to use the eggs, add them right before serving the salad. This bright and lively salad is a great beginning to a meal!

In Sarah's section of the book "Suppers of Lamb And Other Fine Fare", I opted for some other fine fare. I chose her:

Chicken With Tomatoes, Tarragon Vinegar, And Creme Fraiche

The recipe called for 2 chickens, about 3 lbs. each cut into pieces. Since there were only 2 of us, I used only chicken thighs and cut the recipe in half. But I will give you the full recipe, as I have made this in the past for a dinner party of 6 folks.

3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 chickens cut into pieces
Sea or course salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion minced
5 cloves of garlic minced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 heaping tablespoons of tomato paste
1-1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup tarragon vinegar
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon or 1-1/2 tablespoons dried
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup creme fraiche or heavy whipping cream

Heat the olive oil in a heavy large deep skillet over medium high heat. Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to the skillet to brown all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. You may have to do this in batches. Transfer browned chicken to a plate.
Add the onion, garlic and carrots to the skillet and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, vinegar, wine and thyme, bring to a simmer. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet, cover and simmer over medium heat until the chicken is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thick and reduced by 1/3. Stir in the fresh tarragon and creme fraiche and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Add more salt and pepper at this time if needed. Return the chicken to the pot and simmer until chicken is heated through. Serve the chicken with plenty of sauce spooned over it. This sauce just makes this dish so special. It is so smooth and silky with the full flavor of the tomatoes, fresh tarragon and tarragon vinegar whose acidity was mellowed by the addition of the creme fraiche.

I did serve a white wine with our dinner, a French White Bordeaux, Chateau Chauvet. But since my taste buds are not back with me yet, I will review this wine for you later this week since I have a couple bottles of it in my wine rack.
Thank You!

I want to "thank" all of my special blogging friends for their well wishes this week. With the loss of the Gumbo Tree last week and the terrible cold this week...I am ready and hoping for a "back at it" uneventful week this week!


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

No Wine For The Time...Being

I have a terrible cold! Yep, so bad that I cannot even taste water! So needless to say, no wine reviews this week till I can get the taste buds back in action again. And well, that goes for cooking anything this week also. I could probably make it look good, but who knows how it would taste! Therefore I am having a "pity party" for myself with lots of juice, not of the grape kind, and soup. I have submerged myself in the comfort of my cookbooks and I know during this down time they will give me much inspiration and wonderful ideas. Therefore, when I have recouped, look out kitchen!

As I was sitting out on the deck in my rocker the other morning trying to get acclimated to being vertical instead of horizontal due to much "laying around" with just me and my cold, I looked up to the right and mother nature gave me a little pick me up of a get well gift. The cactus had the most beautiful bloom emerging from the tippy-top of its head. These blooms only come out in the wee hours of the morning and only have a life of only a few hours. As soon as the sun hits them, they are history. I was fortunate to catch this one early! Such a beauty!

So for the next few days, I will be perched out in my rocker with a cookbook waiting...watching the clouds go by.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Back To The Herb Garden In Key West

OK, guess what herb this is in my little herb garden - Oregano! I so enjoy this versatile little beauty of an herb. Here is just a bit of info for you. Mediterranean Oregano was originally grown extensively in Greece and Italy. Since Greek and Roman times it has been used with all types of dishes containing meat, fish and veggies. In doing a little reading on this herb, I found this interesting tidbit - before World War II, Oregano was almost unknown in the U.S. It's popularity skyrocketed with the popularity of pizza, as Oregano is what gives pizza its characteristic flavor!
Oregano has a pleasing pungent aroma and flavor. There are quite a few types of Oregano, the most popular being the Mediterranean and the Mexican. I find the Mexican is a bit stronger than the Mediterranean. A simple favorite of mine is to saute aromatic veggies in olive oil with fresh garlic and Oregano. I also make a savory sauce with melted butter, lemon juice, a few capers, and a bit of Oregano which I drizzle over freshly grilled fish. Hey, I bet it would be good drizzled over grilled chicken also! Oh yes, just a hint - before using Oregano in your dish, crush it by hand or with a mortar and pestle. This little gesture releases even more flavor and a great aroma!
Again, I could go on and on about the versatility of this popular herb. It is such an easy herb to grow in a container on your deck, porch or kitchen window!

It is so easy to add a little "lively" spice to your life!