Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Found Friends

Happpily in the garden, kissed by rain...

Remember this guy last week looking for a pole...

Better than a pole...a new found friend...the "grape" tomato vine:)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cookbook Review 5 - Stews, Bogs And Burgoos!

Still have any leftover turkey? By this time, probably not. If you do, here is a yummy way to use it up. Saturday I was tired of turkey soup, turkey sandwiches and poultry in general. But still starring me in the face when I opened the fridge was a good portion of left over turkey. So off to the book shelf I went. Now here is a book that I have had for several years and enjoy turning to when I want a one pot meal.
Stews, Bogs, and Burgoos – Recipes from the Great American Stewpot by James Villas. James has been the food and wine editor at Town and Country magazine and he has had several articles in Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appetit, New York Times and Esquire. I like his comment at the beginning of his introduction, “In a large, heavy pot… Just these five words, repeated over and over in recipes throughout this book, immediately evoke timeless memories of sitting around a big wooden kitchen table in North Carolina and watching my grandfather fill blue and white bowls with his steaming rabbit stew…”
This is just the beginning of a wonderful book filled with “down home” cooking such as stews, ragouts, burgoos, mulls, braises, bogs, hotpots, kettles, gumbos, chilis – whew, now I am hungry. After his introduction, which will keep you turning the pages of this book, James has chapters on Beef Stews, Pork Stews, Lamb and Veal Stews, Poultry Stews, Game and Variety Meat Stews, Seafood Stews, Vegetable, Bean and Fruit Stews and to accompany all these delicious pots his last chapter is on Biscuits! Another informative feature of his book are the "Stew Savvy" comments throughout the chapters. These are great helpful hints to make life easier while spending time in your kitchen. Here is an example of one of his tips - "To prevent small whole onions from coming apart during the cooking of stews, take a knife and score the root ends with an X". Good advice James!
Now it is time Mr. Turkey leftovers, you are headed for a Mull. Here is my version of James’ Turkey, Corn and Lima Bean Mull.

Turkey, Corn and Green Pea Mull

4 slices of pancetta, or you could use bacon
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 pieces of celery finely chopped
1 green bell pepper finely chopped
3 cups turkey stock and 1 cup chicken stock
One 10 oz. package frozen corn, thawed
One 10 oz. package frozen green peas – my favorite ingredient!, thawed
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
Whatever leftover turkey you have cubed, I had about 2-1/2 cups
One teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy pot, fry the pancetta or bacon till crisp, remove from pot, drain on paper towel and crumble. Add a touch of olive oil to the pot if it is too dry and add the onions, celery, bell pepper and cook until soft. Add the remaining ingredients plus your bacon and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are fork tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

As you can see, this is a great alternative to those cold turkey sandwiches. I served it for lunch, but you could definitely do this for supper and just add a crisp salad and some great biscuits to make a satisfying dinner on a “cool” fall evening.

If you are doing it for dinner, a nice wine to serve aside would be a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio!


Friday, November 23, 2007

Garden Update And Post Thanksgiving

Hope everyone is fully stuffed from your big bird and have lots of good memories under your belt besides turkey, stuffing, pie, etc. Our day was wonderful with lots of goodies to keep us in food for the next few days. Our table was graced with lots of wine, mostly Rieslings from Washington State, Three Mushroom Dressing, Cranberry and Apple Relish, Smashed Potatoes, Gravey, Pumpkin Pie and Mincemeat Pie. But the Highlight of the dinner table was Mike's grilled turkey straight off the hot charcoals. What a beauty! Good job Mike! It was all so yummy!

While I am listening to Christmas music this morning, I thought I would update you on the container garden!

Pole Beans

Pole Beans Heading For The Sky

Looking For A Pole

First Tomatoes

Hot Banana Peppers

Cayanne Peppers That Need Transplanting

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving and Enjoy Your Weekend!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoyed a glass of 2005 Maison Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay last evening while preparing my last list of goodies that I need for our Thanksgiving Dinner. I gave you the scoop on this wine a few months ago, but thought I would share with you again. It would be a nice wine to sip on Thanksgiving Day while that big bird is cooking in your oven and making your house smell so comforting. Chilled, the Ardeche Chardonnay is a nice wine that has a fresh crisp apple note to it and is smooth on the finish. Not a heavy Chardonnay at all! A good choice before you set the table. I have not purchased my wines yet for the big day, but will probably go with a Riesling. They are good chilled and have a nice sweet note that will pair well with the sweeter items on the Thanksgiving Table, such as sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce for instance. Also the Rieslings would be a good choice beside a nice slice of pumpkin or apple pie that is smothered in whip cream or ice cream! As for you red wine drinkers, I would go with a lighter red such as a Pinot Noir, Merlot or even a Shiraz. These will pair well with the light tasting meat of the turkey.

Now that my mouth is watering in anticipation of all the yummy "fixin's" for tomorrow, I will move along as I need to hit the market for my last minute items!

From my home to yours, have a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Cookbook Review 4 - "Baking With Julia"

We are rapidly approaching the Holiday Season. And with that thought, I start planning all the goodies that I want to adorn my table. Problem is - I am not a baker! Therefore, when a holiday does approach, I pull out my trusty baking companion, Julia. Everyone who cooks knows Julia Child. I have many of her books, but my favorite one that has many bookmarks and stains, is “Baking With Julia”. I picked up this book after tuning into her PBS TV series that aired back in the mid 1990’s. This book and her series is a gathering of 27 chefs of enormous talent which, one by one, visit Julia in her kitchen and prepare some of their specialties. I enjoy this book as it has very explicit instructions of each recipe and beautiful photos of work-in-progress and finished product. I need all the help I can get when baking and this is the perfect book!

After a nice introductory section, Baking With Julia starts with a chapter on “Baking Basics” which is great information from almond paste, baking pans, to the zest of citrus fruits. Following that is one on “Batters and Dough’s” which goes over many “how to’s” on making flaky pie dough, puff pastry, and many other basic batters and dough’s that will be used throughout the book.
Now let the baking begin with:
Daily Loaves
Artisanal Breads
Morning Pastries And Quick Breads
Everyday Delights
Cakes For Occasions
A Glorious Wedding Cake
Homey Pies And Tarts
Grand Pastries
Savory Pastries
Sweet Fillings And Savory Spreads
The ending chapters are on the bakers themselves, sources and the index.

One of my favorite recipes from Baking With Julia is the one for Galette. I have used the Galette Dough two different ways in the past, one for a Berry Galette using fresh berries and one for a more savory Galette using fresh plum tomatoes, Monterey Jack cheese, Mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. But the other day I had fresh pears and a big bunch of grapes on hand and thought, WOW, this would make a lovely Galette.

I served my Pear and Grape Galette with freshly made whip cream that I only added a touch of sugar and vanilla. I did not want to overpower the sweet taste of the fruit in the galette, but add a cool smooth texture along with the textures of the crust and fruit. What a happy party in my mouth!

The wine I would serve with my Pear and Grape Galette would be a nicely chilled Riesling from Germany or Washington State. The sweetness of the fruit in the galette would pair nicely with the sweetness of the wine.

Just an ending note – I highly recommend Baking With Julia for a no stress baking experience during your Holiday baking time. She is well worth picking up in your library or local bookstore. Not only is the book “user friendly”, I totally enjoyed the section that introduced us to all 27 chefs that collaborated on this wonderful series.
As Julia would say “Bon Appetit”, or Deb says…

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Visiting A Favorite Wine And Visiting Me!

I visit this wine from time to time
As it totally is a favorite of mine
So pour a glass and let it shine
Monkey Bay is so fine!

How do you guys like that! Well, you will like this wine I am sure. Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, is such a treat for under $10.00. As you all know, I really enjoy the Sauvignon Blancs from Australia and New Zealand. They spotlight great, concentrated tropical fruit with a hint of grassiness that I find irresistible. So refreshing and have just the right acidity to balance out all those tropical fruit flavors on your palate. I enjoyed this bottle last evening as the beginning of the end of my day. It went perfect with a fresh piece of fish on the grill basted with butter and lemon. I was on a green kick last night craving crispy green veggies, so I served the fish with grilled asparagus and steamed broccoli. The grassiness of the wine complimented all of the goodies for dinner! Cheers!

Katie from Thyme For Cooking, The Blog, tagged me the other day for a Meme! If you have not visited Katie's site yet, I highly recommend that you do. Her weekly menu's and delicious dishes she posts about will send you to your kitchen immediately! She also entertains us with her wonderful writings about life in France and the antics of her two beautiful dogs. Here ya go Katie!

Four places I have lived: my life started in Kentucky, then to Ohio, then to Tennessee, back to Ohio and now in Florida.

Four Jobs I have had: When I decided to start working in the real world, I planned my jobs as to what benefits I could get out of them. First job was in the accounting department of a Brewery - great benefits! Second job was at an Automotive Parts Distributor. Mike was in heaven because I could get parts for his Corvette! Third Job was for Levi Strauss - need I say more. Last major job was at a Material Handling Distributor. Again Mike was in heaven because we were able to outfit his garage with shelving, etc. for all of his toys, his tools!

Four Favorite Places I have been on Holiday: These 2 places tie for the best holidays I have ever had - France and Australia! Next would be San Francisco and the place I call home, Key West, Florida.

Four Favorite Foods: Wine, Artisan Breads, Olive Oils, and Green Peas.

Four Places I'd rather be: I enjoy my home here, but would love to spend more time in France, Australia, Italy, Canada and the UK. Oops, that is 5, oh well. I think it would be so cool to stay in each spot for 6 months or more to learn all about their history and seek out the best foods,wines and visit with my blogger friends in these areas.

Four Fantastic Bloggers To Tag: Only if you guys have the time, as I know your schedules are pretty full. Nora B., Lucy, Valli and Wendy.

Thank you Katie for the tag. It is fun to learn more about all of our blogging friends!

Cheers to all!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cookbook Review #3 Kate Hill's Culinary Journey In Gascony

I have been working on this post for the last week and it is one of the most exciting for me. Why? Let me tell you a quick little story. A few weeks ago, I was on Wendy’s site and decided to visit one of the blogs that she has listed on the side under her column Food. I liked the sound of Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook, so off I went. I was thrilled when I started reading Lucy’s blog because she is located in France. As you all may or may not know, France is one of my favorite spots on earth. I am not sure how I got hooked on France, but it was probably because I was starting my new venture in wines and I was enjoying French wine. This was back in the mid 1980’s. My fascination continued with French wine and then on into French cuisine. In the mid 1990’s I actually got to travel to France twice, due to Mike’s business travels. We met and became good friends with some folks who live in Saumur and that became home base for us. So in my travels of France, they were mostly in the northern part of the country.
OK, back to Lucy’s blog. I do not remember which day I was reading it, but she mentioned a person named Kate Hill and I saw the name Julia Hoyt somewhere. That name rang a bell to me as I read, and still have on my top shelf, a book I purchased back in the mid-90’s called “A Culinary Journey In Gascony” by Kate Ratliffe who lived on a canal barge called the Julia Hoyt. Oh my gosh! It cannot be the same person! So I hopped over to Kate’s sight and WOW! It is the same person who is still living on the Julia Hoyt on a canal in Gascony! I immediately pulled the book from the shelf for a revisit, besides spending hours on Kate’s blog. So let me introduce you to Kate Hill and the Julia Hoyt.

In A Culinary Journey In Gascony, Kate takes you on a six day tour on her canal barge the Julia Hoyt. The canal that she travels is “Canal Lateral a la Garonne”. This canal meanders close to the Garonne River between Bordeaux and Toulouse. During her travels on this slow moving canal, she gathers recipes and rituals from neighbors and friends who live in about nineteen villages along her route.

Her first chapters are Introduction pieces about her home on the Julia Hoyt, the river, the valley, and all the villages she visits while traveling up and down the canal. Day One, Kate takes us to the town of Castets-En-Dorthe, A Barge Town, gives us some lovely photos and takes us on the first part of her culinary journey – Aperitifs. Here she gives us the history and wonderful recipes for some of the aperitifs her and her friends enjoy. Day Two brings us to Meilhan-Sur-Garonne and Kate’s Soups. This was a wonderful chapter and the soup that caught my attention was the “Soupe Aux Poireaux Ma Facon” Leek Soup Vinaigrette.

This soup is comprised of leeks, potatoes, shallots, chives, and a surprise taste that you add at the end, vinaigrette composed of mustard, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt & pepper. This soup was so rich and creamy without a hint of milk or cream. So satisfying!!! Day Three brought us to Marmande-La-Jolie and market day. This chapter was on all the lovely veggies that Kate acquires on her trip. Day Four takes us to Le Mas D’Agenais and Lagruere. Here Kate presents us with “main courses”. I absolutely had to try “Lapin Aux Pruneaux D’Agen” Rabbit Cooked With Prunes of Agen.

I am sure the prunes that I used did not come from Agen, but once I took a bit of this stew, I was not sure I cared where the prunes came from! This rabbit stew was comprised of rabbit, salt & pepper, bacon, onions, shallots, olive oil (because I did not have duck fat!), flour, carrots, celery, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, prunes and 1 bottle of red wine – minus one glass! For a fall evening, this was one of the best dishes I have made in such a long time. So rich and full of flavor, all I added to the meal was salad, bread and another bottle of red wine! Day Five brought her travels to Damazan, Vianne and Buzet. Here we have a chapter on side dishes such a potatoes, vegetable puree’s, leeks and zucchini.

Day Six brings us to the end of this journey back to the home port of the Julia Hoyt, Ste. Colombe-En-Bruilhois and Camont, the French Farmhouse where Kate also calls home. Camont and the Julia Hoyt are located just a wee bit north of the town of Agen, which I have pointed out to you on the map, just in case you want to drop by!

This ending chapter brings you to the end of dinner, dessert. Also, Kate introduces you to Camont and the wonderful folks who are her neighbors.

You must be an “arm chair” traveler and visit with Kate. This book is a travel journal and cookbook all in one. I so enjoyed it back in the mid-90’s and am so enjoying it again! Please visit Kate on her blog “Kate Hill – A French Kitchen Adventure”. Kate also has cooking classes at her “French Cooking School at Camont” and is now planning “Truffle Weekends & Winter Workshops for 2008”. You can now read on Kate’s blog about “Camp Cassoulet” where she had a group of folks, including Lucy and David Lebovitz, join her at Camont for the weekend to make Cassoulet. Wonderful fun posts about the weekend with lots of great photos!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Fun Fruits

I spend most of my time when I am grocery shopping in the produce section. It smells good and has lots of colorful items to keep me occupied for some time. In the past few weeks I kept eyeing this fruit - Dragon Fruit. Well the flesh I suppose looks like a dragons skin, but I was curious as to what the insides looked like. When I picked it up, it was hard and had no aroma to it. Hum, I wonder what I could do with this, and most of all, what does it taste like. But at a price of $5.00 for one, I put it back on the shelf, but kept my eye on it. I did this for several weeks. Yesterday, to my surprise, Chris came into the house with a sack of fruit and chocolate! He decided to make dessert for dinner and the fruits that he had in the sack were, you guessed it, DRAGON FRUIT!!! I was so excited! So immediately, out came the camera!

Dragon Fruit, a.k.a. Pitahaya, Strawberry Pear is the fruit of several cactus species. It is native to Mexico, South and Central America, but actually is cultivated around the world in all tropical regions. It is rich in fiber, vitamin C and has lots of minerals. In reading about it I found it interesting, that in Taiwan, diabetics use the fruit as a substitute for rice!

As you can see, the flesh of the Dragon Fruit is red. But what really surprised me was that the inside of the fruit was white! I guess I was thinking it would be the same color or pink. There are some that have a red core, but ours was white with lots of little tiny black seeds. OK, now for the taste test! One bite and disappointment spread over Chris' face and I am sure mine also. No flavor! (When I first saw the inside, I thought of Kiwi with those little black seeds.) A nice crunch, but nada on the taste buds. Maybe it was not ripe enough. I have no clue, but it sure looks interesting. Has anyone tried this fruit? What was your experience? Anyhow, we still served it with Chris' chocolate dessert.

What did save the day was the other fruit that Chris had in the sack - Star Fruit, Carambola! We all have had this beauty of a fruit and it saved the day! Star Fruit is originally from Sri Lanka and the Moluccas. It has also been cultivated for hundreds of years in Southeast Asia and Malaysia. Today it grows in South Florida and Hawaii due to our warm environment. It is a lovely little fruit that is an excellent source of Vitamin C and is low in fat. Star Fruit is crunchy and has the combination of flavors such as lemons, plums and a hint of pineapple in it. A touch of acidity in the fruit also adds a bit of sparkle to the palate.

Chris plated his dessert, a small chocolate souffle, on top of a light, creamy banana sauce with a couple of pieces of star fruit to the side. Heavenly! At this point, I said heck with the photos!


Monday, November 5, 2007

Book Review 2, Mario Batali

In case anyone has not heard of Mario Batali, he has been on the Food Network Channel for about the past 10 years with the shows, Molto Mario, Mediterranean Mario, Mario Eats Italy and Ciao America with Mario Batali. He is also one of the Iron Chefs on the Food Network's Iron Chef America. You can't miss him with his red hair and those distinctive orange gym shoes or orange clogs he wears. Seems always to have shorts on also. He is quite the character. You can check out Mario on his blog here. One of his big successes has been the restaurant Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York City. I have Mario's book Molto Italiano which includes recipes from his shows on TV. I enjoy Mario's distinctive, often humorous way he provides us with a historical and cultural perspective on his Italian dishes. In his book he also shows ways to shorten or simplify everything from purchasing great ingredients to tips on how to prepare things ahead of time. I like the sidebars where he provides the background for the recipe, including the places, people and history behind the dish, so it is not just a book filled with recipes! The book starts out with a small chapter on Italian wine then follows with antipasto; soup, rice and polento; pasta; fish; fowl; meat; vegetables and dolci! It also has an informative chapter on essential equipment and sources for some of the goodies that he includes in his recipes. Along with that are beautiful photos of some of his dishes. I enjoy photos in books as it gives me a guide as to what the dish should look like when "I" get finished with it! (Unfortunately, sometimes my food does not look like the photo! )

Since the "fall season" is upon us, and we have finally gotten down into the cool low 70 degree mark at night with low humidity, I decided to do a meat dish with a hearty sauce to go along. I must apologize that this recipe again is a tomato based dish, but I adore tomatoes! So I promise in my next cookbook review I will make something without tomatoes! Anyhow, please find below Mario's "Braciole di Vitello"!

Braised Veal Rolls In Tomato Sauce

12 thin slices veal shoulder or leg
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup dried currents, I used raisins
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
3 oz. sliced Prosciutto Di Parma, cut into 1/8 in. dice
1 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
4 cloves of garlic - I doubled
3 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 oz. sliced Pancetta cut into 1/8 in. dice
1 large Spanish onion thinly sliced
2 cups basic tomato sauce, see below
2 cups dry red wine - and a glass for yourself while you are preparing this!

Basic Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion cut into 1/4 inch dice
4 cloves of garlic - I doubled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or you could use dried - 1-1/2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or used 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot finely shredded
2 - 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes - squished!
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste

Here are the instructions for the tomato sauce.
Heat olive oil over medium heat, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme, oregano and carrots and cook about 5 minutes long, until the carrot is soft. Add the tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer until it gets really thick, about 30 minutes. Season with the salt.

Now for the veal rolls.

Using a meat mallet, gently pound each veal slice to 1/4 inch thick. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the pine nuts, currants, pecorino, prosciutto, parsley and garlic. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well. Season the veal with salt and pepper on both sides and lay out on a work surface. Divide the pine nut mixture onto the veal slices, leaving 1/2 inch border uncovered on each slice. Roll up each piece tightly, starting from the short side, then tie with butcher's twine.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add the veal rolls, working in batches if necessary, and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and add your pancetta to the oven and cook for 2 minutes, add the onion and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce and wine to the pot and bring to a boil scraping up those yummy brown bits. Reduce to a simmer and add the veal back into the pot. Cover tightly and simmer for 1 hour. Remove from heat and let rest about 10 minutes.

I then put my veal on a platter and spooned the rich tomato sauce over.

The tip on this one is to have your tomato sauce pre-made. Then all you have to do is the veal part. It looks like alot of work, but actually if I can do it, so can you! For this dinner I served an Italian salad, fusilli pasta with olive oil, and Italian Country bread with sauteed mushrooms atop. I used fusilli pasta because those wonderful little grooves grabbed onto the sauce perfectly! We enjoyed a bottle of "A-Mano" 2005 Primitivo from Puglia with this dinner.

What a way to start the end of the day!


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rose' Wine For That Summer But Fall Evening

Everyone is talking about the Fall Season and the weather getting cooler. In everyone's kitchens are baskets of apples, squashes, pumpkins and the last go round of summer's bounty of veggies. Here in Key West, temperature wise, it is still summer. Our sunny days are bringing us to the low to mid 80 degree range and the night time temps are "dipping down" to about 79 degrees. I still am clad in my shorts and flip flops and the only sign of Fall here are the pumpkins in the grocery store and the Christmas decorations going up in a few of the stores. Oh yes, they do have a few Thanksgiving items for sale like napkins with a pattern of Fall colored leaves and salt and pepper shakers that look like little Pilgrims. Anyhow, since it is still summer for me, I decided to pull out one of my favorite Rose' wines to sip out on the deck last evening.

I popped open a chilled bottle of Chivite's 2005 Gran Feudo Rosado Wine. This is a Spanish Rose' wine made from 100% Garnacha Grapes from the Navarra Region of Spain which borders the Atlantic side of France. I found the bright color, I would say strawberry pink with a hint of violet, to be so eye pleasing! And speaking of strawberry, I found a touch of flavor of that great little berry on my palate. I found this wine to be clean and fresh with a nice balance of low acidity and fruit. Very soft and long on the finish this wine is a perfect pre-dinner treat!

Even though your outdoor temperatures are becoming quite chilly, do not shy away from a fresh and perky wine! It can be the perfect start to the end of your day!