Monday, June 29, 2009

Fruits of My Labors

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Parmesan Crusted Halibut in crazy water w/zucchini, tomatoes and orzo

This one comes from Cuisine at Home Issue 72.  I enjoyed it - using prepared pesto to adhere the parmesan crumb topping was a great idea.  The crazy water was, well, a little too much water for me, but once I poured the excess from the dish, it was much better.  

I didn't use roasted red peppers because I didn't want to open a jar just for this, but it would add a little more color and flavor.  

Parmesan Crusted Halibut in Crazy Water with Zucchini, Tomatoes in Orzo - Cuisine at Home Issue 72 - Serves 2


1/4 c panko
2 T grated parmesan
minced zest 1/2 lemon
4 tsp purchased pesto
2 halibut filets, 4 oz each 1" thick

Crazy Water

1/4 red onion, minced
1 t minced garlic
1/4 t red pepper flakes
2 t olive oil
1/4 dry white wine
2 c water (orig recipe calls for 2.5 - I'd go less in the future)
1/2 c halved grape tomatoes
1/4 dry orzo pasta
1 t sugar
2 sprigs fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme from the garden)
1/2 c coarsely chopped zucchini (I shredded about half of one on a box grater)
1/3 c jarred roasted red pepper, cut in strips
1/4 c halved kalamata olives
2 T chopped fresh parsley
juice 1/2 lemon
Lemon Wedges

Preheat 450.  Coat baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Combine panko, parmesan, lemon zest, S&P in bowl.  Spread pesto on each halibut filet and arrange on prepared baking sheet.  Press panko mixture onto pesto side of fillets, spritz crumbs with nonstick spray, then refrigerated til ready to roast.

Saute onion, garlic, and pepper flakes in saucepan over med high for the crazy water.  Cook til soft, then deglaze with wine.  Simmer til nearly evaporated then stir in water, tomatoes, pasta, sugar and thyme.  Cook til orzo is tender, about 9 min. 

Roast fish in the meantime. Cook til crumbs are golden and flesh flakes easily w/fork, 10-12 minutes depending on thickness.

Add zucchini, red pepper, and olives to crazy water.  Simmer til heated through.  Off heat add parsley, lemon and season to taste w/S&P.  

To serve, divide broth between 2 bowls, top each with fish and garnish with lemon wedges.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quailcrest Farm Spring Garden Fair 2009

I had a great time on Sunday at Quailcrest Farm in Wooster.   They have a terrific greenhouse selection of herbs and perennials, including these beauties.  I forget what the orange flower is, but it's beautiful.

This is the aptly named Pineapple Lilly.

A "pregnant onion and shade loving caladium.

There were garden and craft vendors set up on the grounds including homemade ice cream whose crank was run by a John Deere engine.   

I had a yummy Root Beer Float with homemade vanilla.

This giant cardoon plant was blooming in the herb garden.  I just planted a couple; we'll see if mine get that big.

The buried chimney flues to contain the mint is also an idea I borrowed many years ago - it works.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Angie's Mushroom Bolognese

As soon as fellow personal chef, Angie Millanti, of Every Day...Gourmet Personal Chef Service
posted her recipe for this mushroom bolognese sauce I wanted to immediately go get the ingredients to make it.

Mushroom Bolognese

Serves: 4-6

3 T butter
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, halved
3 stalks celery, 1 inch pieces
2 carrots, 1 inch pieces
1 lb cremini or button mushrooms, quartered*
black pepper
1/2 c whole milk or 1/2 and 1/2
pinch nutmeg
1/2 c dry white wine (or 2 T white wine vinegar)
1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, basil leaves discarded, juice reserved
3 inch square parmesan rind (optional)
1/2 t dried oregano (optional)*

In a heavy, medium Dutch oven or sauce pan heat the butter and oil over medium until butter begins to foam. Meanwhile, finely mince onion and garlic together in the food processor. Saute 5 minutes or until softened and juices are released, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, process celery and carrot together until finely minced. Add to pot and continue to saute 3-5 minutes.

Process mushrooms, in batches if necessary, to the texture of fine ground beef crumbles; you may need to scrape down the processor to get the mushrooms small enough. Add to pot with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Saute until most of the liquid evaporates.

Add the milk and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in nutmeg and wine or vinegar and reduce liquid by half again. Meanwhile, pulse tomatoes in the processor until they resemble crushed tomatoes but still have some texture, or to your preference. Add tomatoes, parmesan rind, and oregano and stir well. Add as much of the reserved tomato juice as you like--since we really love the flavor of tomatoes I add all the juices from the can.

Bring sauce to a simmer; reduce heat to medium low and simmer, UNCOVERED, until the water has evaporated from the sauce and the fat floats on top. This will take 1-1 1/2 hours, depending on how much tomato juice you added and how well you reduced before adding the tomatoes. Yields 3 1/2-4 cups.

* Oregano is not traditional, but it plays off the mushrooms well and adds depth. Dried savory or marjoram would be nice as well. With regard to the mushrooms, button are actually a better choice for most people; I only recommend cremini for mushroom lovers. Button mushrooms yield a sauce that looks, smells, and tastes uncannily like traditional meat ragu. Cremini yield a dark sauce with pungent mushroom notes. We like it both ways; either choice makes a good sauce.

**This recipe yields enough sauce for 1 1/2 or 2 lbs of pasta, but because we love it so much (and would rather fill up on the veggies than starchy pasta) I always toss this recipe with just one pound of pasta. Hope you enjoy!

Simple, wholesome ingredients, plus using the food processor as a sous chef, makes this a great recipe to get on the stove while baby is napping, then let it simmer away until dinnertime.

While the recipe could be made vegan by omitting the butter and parmesan rind, I really think both add a depth of flavor. I really liked the addition of the oregano as well.

I think meat eaters and vegetarians alike will enjoy this recipe. I used cremini mushrooms which really does lend a meaty, earthy taste and texture.

So, the plate could be prettier, and I could have garnished it with a little parsley and some shredded cheese. But I was so hungry after simmering this for an a few hours that I just wanted to snap the photo and dig in.

A delicious keeper! Thanks Angie!

Here comes Santa Claus, The Melon, That Is

Santa Claus melons are one of my favorites.  They are football shaped and sort of resemble a watermelon outside with green and yellow markings.

Be sure to rinse off and dry all melons before peeling or cutting to avoid transferring surface bacteria to the cut surfaces.

Inside, the flesh is white and creamy.  The flavor is delicate, sort of a vanilla, banana, peachy flavor.

Pay careful attention if you pick one of these up in the grocery.  Sometimes they are outlandishly priced per pound, and when you get to the check-out you discover you've selected a $7 melon the size of a Nerf football.

I got this one at the West Side Market for $1.99.

Here is some more info on Santa Claus melons, aka Christmas melons.

I was also very happy to see the first figs of the season, since I am a hard core fresh fig pig.

My favorite fruit vendor actually called me while I was still shopping the market to let me know they had just arrived.  She picked me out these two nice baskets.  I'm in fruit snacking heaven.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Akron Art Walk - June 2009

Looking for something cool to do on the first Saturday evening of each month (except July)?  Head for the newly chic Northside Art District and do the Artwalk.

Walk, or ride the free trolley, from location to location, to check out the galleries and and eateries, including Chrissie Hynde's Vegiterranean Restaurant.

I started my tour at the fabulous Zeber-Martell Studio.  I am fortunate enough to own a few of their beautiful bowls from the Akron Empty Bowl Project.

I was immediately attracted to the display of beautiful green glass jewelry (surprised?), but there were also cool blue items if you aren't as attracted to green.

I love that the pieces are a mix of functional beauty and art pieces.  These mugs would certainly brighten up a morning, and I can envision the unique triangular plates for serving tapas to friends.

The artists, Michael Martell and Claudia Zeber-Martell, shown here chatting with a guest, also made handmade tiles which cover the unique counter that's sheathed with found corrugated metal.

Music was provided by the talented Angie Haze.  I was really impressed and purchased her CD.  If you get the opportunity to hear her play live, don't miss it.

This is one of my favorite wall pieces.

I even got a tour of the back room including the kilns.

The next tour is August 1st.  Don't miss it!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Strawberry Jam: 3 Ingredients, 10 Minutes

I scored 2 quarts of strawberries this morning with the thought of turning at least one quart into jam.  While I was going through magazines this afternoon, I ran across this one in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, Quick Strawberry Jam.
I needed an excuse to quit screwing around on Facebook and get back to menu planning, so I thought, hey 3 ingredients, 10  minutes, go get it done.  I also thought Martha might be blowing a little smoke up my skirt about the simplicity and success of this recipe.

But there you have it.  Seriously, 3 ingredients, a whirl through the food processor, 10 minutes on the stove, and I'll be darned, you have strawberry jam.  And it smells fantastic.

Martha suggests stirring it into yogurt, cottage cheese or hot cereal, using as an ice cream topping, sandwiching between sugar cookies or folding into whipped cream and layer with more jam for a quick parfait.

I have some creme fraiche and mascarpone that might want to make it's acquaintance as well.

Says it will last 10 days in the frig, but I doubt it will last that long before I eat it all.

First Vegetable Garden - Playing in the Dirt with a Two Year Old

Yesterday I had fun helping my youngest client, age 2, plant her first vegetable garden.  It's never too early to start cultivating a discriminating vegetable eating locavore, right?  Here mommy is helping  plant a cucumber by the trellis.

It was so cute.  She had her Crocs, gardening gloves, plus a tool bag with her own trowel and cultivator. 

But the shoes didn't last long.  'Tis better to feel the dirt between your toes, especially when it's warm and squishy.  Plus there are holes to be dug.

New addition to the family,  Buckley, was stationed nearby to observe.  Despite the cute toy collection, what he really wanted was to get in on the action and help dig those holes.

I was pretty impressed with how long she remained interested in the project.  We planted some strawberries, two large tomato plants that are already loaded with green tomatoes, some bell peppers, a flying saucer squash, and white and orange mini pumpkins.  

The hanging basket is cherry tomatoes that are already ripening; she picked the first ones last week. 

Instead of eating them, she decided to check the texture by squishing them.  Not an entirely unreasonable approach when you are new to this whole gardening thing.

She gave mom a big hug when we were done and said "Thank you garden mommy".  How sweet is that?  She thanked me too, then remembered the Sponge Bob Square Pants cookie that I brought, and toddled off to the kitchen to reclaim it.

And thanks to the unseasonably cool weather, the salad bar I planted for the back patio is already looking good.  Practically ready for harvesting already.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grilled Rosemary Chicken Thighs w/Sweet & Sour Orange Dipping Sauce

I really wasn't in the mood to cook last night. It's been unseasonably cool and rainy, and that just makes me sleepy and blah. But I had an extra package of natural chicken thighs which took me several trips to several stores to locate for a client last week, and I wasn't about to waste them. (I grind my own chicken for burgers for myself and my personal chef clients - that way I know exactly what I am getting).

I went to Fine Cooking, my current favorite source for recipes, and did a search for chicken thighs. This one sounded like a quick and tasty one: Grilled Rosemary Chicken Thighs with Sweet and Sour Orange Dipping Sauce.

There aren't a lot of ingredients, so I lit the grill, then rounded everything up. Putting some canola oil in a small dish and dipping a paper towel in before wiping down the hot grill is a good trick to keep things from sticking.

Since the thighs were boned and skinned, they only took about 10 minutes total to grill. Smelled great with the rosemary.

The sauce went together in a snap. Living not far from Orrville, the home of Smuckers, I usually have a supply of marmalade and jams specifically for cooking, Dipping the smoky, grilled chicken into the warm sweet and sour sauce made me happy that I got off my behind and actually made dinner.

I ate the rest for lunch and it was just as good gently reheated. There are also instructions to do them as kabobs. Might try that next time.

Strawberry Season

Some great local strawberry info posted on the Whitehouse CSA Blog - check it here.

Strawberry on Foodista

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Savoring Silver Lake - Recipes & Reveries

I've got a few cookbooks.  A few hundred... I've donated hundreds to the Akron library.  I need another cookbook like I need the proverbial hole in the head.

But I'm a sucker for one with soul, and a good local cookbook with the kind of recipes that make me remember when my family got along well enough to actually have a reunion, that it was all about the food.

Savoring Silver Lake - Recipes and Reveries, is that kind of cookbook.  I went to eat breakfast on Sunday at Michaels am in Merriman Valley (often my weekly treat,  the only meal someone else cooks for me), and they had a few copies for sale on the counter.

I thumbed through the sample.  Tucked among the potluck standards were a few gems like Pumpkin Mushroom Soup, Finger Beans (steamed green beans with truffle oil submitted by Kikki Widing Brackney), Spice Roasted Asian Pear with a Gorgonzola-Marscarpone Fluff .   Ok that last one clearly didn't come from someone's grandmother, it was submitted by a local chef/caterer with whom I am acquainted.

Another  that caught my eye: , Blowtorched Honey Baked Ham (instructions for glaze: Light a blowtorch with medium flame; carefully wave it over the sugar to caramelize the sugar mixture. Can't you just picture a lady with a lacy apron and cats eye glasses whipping out Dad's blowtorch at Easter?  Maybe it's just me, but I totally went there immediately.

This book makes me want to bake a Blueberry Grunt, Bernita Bishop White's Almond Crescents, Coffee Blonde Brownies, and Oatmeal Shortbread.  And not share.

There are some cool old photos of Silver Lake in the days when it was the "Coney Island of Ohio".

Get your copy at Michaels am or directly from the church for $25.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gadget Love: Wheeled Shopping Tote

It really hasn't been that long since I got funny looks from store clerks when I brought my own shopping tote  and declined the stuffing of my purchases into a flimsy piece of plastic.

As someone who shops nearly everyday for either myself or my personal chef clients, I appreciate the time saved by packing my own things, my own way.  

This also annoys stores who employ bored baggers, which these days are about as rare as a full service gas station.  Remember when stores had special carts that the bagger filled, then followed you to your car and actually helped you put them in the trunk?  (If you are under 35, probably not).

But I digress.  My weapon of choice for shopping trips is this European handle model.  I picked up several at Home Goods for about a fourth of the Sur la Table price.  They always bring comments of admiration from clerks and other shoppers.

For heavy duty market shopping at West Side Market, I have the "old lady" folding  cart.  Without the optional liner, I have been known to leave a trail of small potatoes.

The latest weapon in my shopping arsenal is this yummy lime green (you're surprised?) tote on wheels that I scored at Home Goods for $20.  Plenty of room inside, a couple of pockets outside, with nice big wheels.  This will be great for zipping through the farmer's market.  The only drawback for me is that the handle doesn't telescope up a little more; I'm tall and it's a little low for me.  

I test drove it Saturday night by toting my tablecloths and dishes for my dinner for two.  It worked perfectly.  I also have a cooler that's very similar in size, and shape (and color), which is indispensable for summer grocery shopping.