Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Two Red Pepper Recipes by Colleen

Hi Barb,

We went to dinner with some people from Steve's office and she made two fabulous red pepper dishes (there can never be enough red peppers!)  They are from Utica, NY.  By the by.  She is finding the Bay Area does not have some very important ingredients that are easy to come by in the upstate area. Some sort of bottled sweet peppers? Little ones? I think she is Italian.  Anyway, these are both easy peasy and delicious!

Thanks for contributing again to blog, Colleen!  Made the first one last week.  Yum!  And, I'll make the other over Easter weekend when we have guests. Will ask around about those little peppers in a bottle she uses.

Baked Stuffed Red Peppers with Cherry Tomatoes, Feta, and Thyme
Martha Stewart

2 small red bell peppers, halved lengthwise through the stem, seeds and ribs removed
1 heaping cup of cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 ounces feta cheese (preferably goat's milk), crumbled
1 tsp coarsely chopped fresh thyme
8 basil leaves, torn into pieces
Freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in the top third. Place bell pepper halves, cut sides up, in a baking dish.

Toss together the tomatoes, feta, thyme, and basil in a medium bowl: season with black pepper.

Fill each pepper with tomato and feta mixture, dividing evenly. Drizzle each with oil. Bake the peppers, covered with aluminum foil, until they begin to soften (about 30 minutes).

Remove the foil; continue to bake until the tomatoes begin to burst and the cheese turns light brown (about 13- 15 minutes more).

Remove the stuffed peppers and serve warm!

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

2 large jars roasted peppers
2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper in oil (in a jar)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 c. olive oil
1 c. freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
Sharp provolone cheese

Cult peppers into bite size pieces. Add all the other ingredients and stir. Microwave about 2 minutes or until warm. Serve with sharp provolone cheese (Boar's Head makes this) on buttered club crackers or french baguette slices.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Culinary Daytrip with Mary

New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua
My adventurous friend, Mary, invited me to join her for a daytrip to Canandaigua, about an hour and half north of here, to check out the New York Wine and Culinary Center.  I didn't even know it existed.  We are lucky to have it in our backyard.

Turns out it opened in 2006 and is situated at the northern tip of Canandaigua lake, at the lower end of Main street.  It's new construction of New York state materials, and funded by the owners of Constellation Brands, the Wegman family, and RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology).

Viking donated all of the equipment in the hands-on kitchen.

In addition to holding cooking classes, it has a large stadium-style lecture hall where demos are given, and conferences are held.  It has presentation screens. Companies can rent it out for meetings and also have team-building cooking classes next door. 

The information desk told us that lots of people give gift certificates for their popular couples cooking classes.  And that wedding parties come to cook together as well.  The list of classes looks interesting.  Would be fun to take a class when family or friends visit us at the lake, especially on a rainy day.

They have a winemaker's room for special dinners and it is rented out as a conference room.

There is a large wine tasting room with wines from all over New York state.  We learned that theThousand Islands is an up and coming wine area.  And that the Hudson River wine trail was the first. 

They also have an extensive selection of beers from New York state.  Lots of interesting microbreweries.

Upstairs is the restaurant.  The staircase is made of New York state cherry.  The building is very handsome inside.  It also houses the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.  It has an exhibit hall and a small gift shop, too.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a corner table and had the place to ourselves because it was a cold, rainy Thursday in the off-season.

Mary had a beautiful salad. 

And I had the braised lamb over couscous with turnips.

We thought it was well worth the visit.  It is an excellent resource to know about in our area.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where Were We?

No, we weren't at Primanti's in Pittsburgh.  But there are fries inside the sandwich like Primanti's. We did not expect fries inside our sandwiches.

Another hint:  The bread is very flat like Ciabatta, but crispier on the outside, and softer inside. 
Here is my sandwich.  Those fries reminded us of shoestring potatoes.

This restaurant had just expanded into its new location, and had opened the week prior.  It's 3pm when were were here.  Other times you can't get a table.

Beautiful tile floors.

Tom ordered the Churrasco and loved it -- the steak was marinated with cumin and other Cuban flavors. I ordered the Cuban sandwich, made with smoked pork, ham and Swiss cheese, pickles and served hot.  Glad I tried it.  Now I know what a Cuban is.  Wouldn't be my first choice next time. 

We were at  David's Cafe in South Beach Miami.  A popular Cuban restaurant, with several locations.  This one is on Collins, near 11th. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Easy Meatballs, Thanks to Colleen

Easy Meatballs

Colleen sent this recipe in quite a while back, but I hadn't had a chance to make it until last night.

If you have made hamburger patties, then you can make these meatballs with success!

Love the way they are finished in the oven in tomato sauce.   Gives you lots of latitude, timewise, for serving.  I made them ahead of time, not know exactly what time Tom would be home from the basketball tournament.  We put the spaghetti in the pot when he came through the door, and had dinner on the table in 15 minutes.  Tom isn't a fan of meatballs, but he really liked these.  The texture was just right, i.e., not sinkers.

Here's what Colleen had to say when she first sent me the recipe:

Hi Barb --

I have to tell you that you have inspired me. Today it was pouring rain, so I decided to make spaghetti and meatballs. Now I didn't have milk and only ground beef, no ground pork. But it was too nasty to head out to the store.

But I thought, "would this stop Barbara?" and I decided it would not. I had cream, so I mixed 1/4 cup cream with 1/4 cup water to make 1/2 cup milk and just went with ground beef. And herb garlic bread crumbs. And it worked!

William loved them. I haven't made meatballs since I was a teenager. For some reason it seemed so complicated then (I think the browning part threw me off). I decided it was an adventure. I could cover them with lots of sauce if all else failed. I made my own sauce too, instead of opening a jar and "doctoring" it with wine, etc.

Now I can't imagine trying to do this and take pictures at the same time.

But it was fun and I thank you for providing the right attitude!

Here is the recipe I sent for meatballs. Basically, Good Housekeeping circa 1960, I think. It was my mother’s cookbook. But they were very tasty. And if people are going to cook with whatever happens to be in the pantry, Good Housekeeping will usually not take you too far afield from the basics.                        


1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
1 cup bread crumbs (garlic and herb)
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup milk or cream (split half water)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
garlic crushed
1 Tablespoon parsley chopped

Mix all together until blended.

Form into big balls (golf sized).

Roll in flour and brown in heavy skillet or pot in olive oil.

Heat oven to 300 degrees and put meatballs in oven for 20 minutes to cook through.

Add to sauce and simmer gently 20 minutes before serving.

Notes from Barbara:  I seasoned the bread crumbs with dried oregano and dried basil.  Used granulated garlic powder instead of fresh garlic.  And I substituted dried chervil for parsley.  Didn't have enough grated cheese, so I used added some shredded.  And I didn't pay attention to the directions and put my spaghetti sauce (store bought) in for the entire 40 minutes, instead of only 20 minutes.  It made the sauce very thick, which we liked.  We added fresh basil to the sauce.  As you can see, this recipe is forgiving.  It's a keeper.  I am sure we will make them again soon. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Caraway Beet Soup by Barbara

Caraway Beet Soup

When Tom is away, I can make whatever I want.  He doesn't like beets, but I do.  It must be my western Pennsylvania blood. 

Being on my own, I made a beet soup from the calendar by Edible Finger Lakes which had the Beef Short Ribs with Balsamic recipe.

Why don't people like beets?? To me, they are just as good as carrots, for example.

I will probably be like Mrs. Shuttleworth, one of my mentors from my Westchester days, who was both my friend and my landlord.  And as she aged, she ate beets and cottage cheese almost daily.  But Cheetos might be on my list.  Or something else wicked.

Only make this soup if you like the flavor of caraway.  Caraway is dominant, in a good way.  It is a very good; however, when I make it again, I will figure out how to grind the seeds first so they don't make the texture of the soup seedy.

Savory Beet Borscht
adapted from Edible Finger Lakes

Serves 6
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (leaves are good)
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 T. caraway seeds
1 T. fresh thyme (I used dry)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I grated it)
4 large beets, roasted, peeled and chopped
6 cups beef or vegetable stock
2 T. tomato paste
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. honey
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
3 T. chopped fresh dill (optional)

Pop your washed beets with tops cut off into a 400 degree oven to roast for 1/2 hour.   Let them cool, then peel off the skin and chop.  I don't even use oil when roasted.  This is what they look like when they come out.  The skins will peel off easily, but the juice will stain your hands red.  So, beware.

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook onions until translucent.  While the onions sweat, prepare the carrots, celery and cabbage.  If you need extra time to chop, turn down the onions to low so they don't brown or burn.

Then add them to the pot along with the thyme and caraway and cook for 10 minutes. 

Add the garlic and beets and cook for another minute before adding the stock, tomato paste and vinegar. 

Cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Let cook for 20 minutes for the flavors to develop. Turn off the heat.

Puree with a hand blender. 

Add honey, and salt and pepper, and stir in the creme fraiche.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Crocus, Iris and Robin

First Crocus and Iris
While Tom is in Buffalo for the NCAA basketball tournament this weekend, I am enjoying doing my outdoor Spring chores before the weather turns cold again.  Pruning, cleaning the birdhouses, picking up all of the branches that came down over the winter, feeding the emerging peonies, etc. 

This morning I made a hearty two egg omelette with sauteed mushrooms and Muenster cheese which will last me throughout the day.  Later it will be soup and a movie.  I'd rather be outside than cook. 

Just came inside to take a break and post this photo I just took.  The miniature iris and crocus have just bloomed.  Plus I saw my first robin today!

Bought this little handmade vase last year at the consignment shop where my Mom lived, not knowing what I would do with it.  It's only 2.5- 3 inches tall.  It's a lovely yellow ochre color and has a cherry blossom relief. 

It seems perfect to bring out for a beautiful day like today.  I like remembering celebrating the first robin last year with my Mom.   

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fudge Brownies by Colleen

Hi Barb,
I always know when I'm starting to feel better after being sick, because I want to bake. I just whipped these up - they are very fast and easy. I got the recipe from my friend Megan Fisher who loves to bake cookies and make custom cakes.

iPhoto by Colleen --- Her Feeling-Better Fudge Brownies
 Miss Megan's Fudge Brownies

4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (optional)

Melt on low in microwave the chocolate and the butter. Stir until smooth and let cool a few minutes. In another bowl beat sugar, eggs and vanilla together just until mixed. Then beat into the chocolate mixture until
thoroughly mixed. Stir in the flour and salt. Pour into a greased 9x13 glass pan and bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes.


1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips

While brownies are cooling, make the glaze. Combine sugar, butter and milk in small saucepan and cook over medium hit until mixture boils. Boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and beat in chocolate chips. Beat until chips melt and the mixture is smooth. Pour immediately over the cooling brownies. Let cool completely before cutting.

Yield:  Two teenage servings or 18 adult servings.

If you don't wait to cool the brownies, the glaze will not be set and will gooze (gush + ooze) all over the place. However, sneakage will occur.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Crisper Celery Longer

It really bugs me when veggies wilt and wither in the refrigerator before I get a chance to use them.  One kitchen character that was always on the limp list was celery...

until I learned somewhere --- I don't remember where --- that I could wrap it in aluminum foil and presto, magic!  the celery stays crisp.

How simple is that!

Trust me, it will last a long time ---if you take the time to take the celery out of its plastic wrapper, if it has one, and securely contain it in aluminum foil.  Be sure to enclose the ends.  The trick seems to be to fully wrap it.

Usually, I only need one or two stalks for a soup. And the rest of the celery would wither. Now, I save it in aluminum foil and break off a stalk or two whenever I need it.

Little things make me happy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Patrick's Meal, Thanks to Tom

I was in bed all weekend with a bug and spent too many hours watching a marathon of travel shows to Ireland on the local NPR channel.  I learned a lot about St. Patrick and Irish history as well as enjoyed seeing some of our favorite places, like Dingle.  Ireland is so lush and green. 

We had already planned to make a Sunday dinner of corned beef and Irish soda bread, but I didn't feel well enough to cook, so Tom kindly stepped in and made a delicious meal, including doing the shopping.  Thanks, Tom!

This meal wasn't heavy or greasy at all because it was boiled.  The vegetables were cooked perfectly, i.e., not mushy.  I even liked the cabbage.  The corned beef was tender and not dry. 

Last time Tom made this bread was 3/17/02.  Neither of us could remember exactly how it was going to turn out.  It is rather sweet, not like the basic brown or white soda bread that I saw on the travel shows, but very tasty.  Baking soda was revolutionary in early 1800's, and allowed the Irish to make bread without yeast, or having to knead.  They could make it in a cast iron pot at home.  Most did not have an oven then.

Sweet Irish Soda Bread
Recipe by Jill Novatt, a Food TV recipe
2 cups flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 T. sugar
2 T. cold unsalted butter
2 T. cold vegetable shortening
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup currants
2 T. toasted caraway seeds
1 T. melted butter
1 T. sanding sugar (coarse sugar)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then mix well.  Cut the butter and shortening into small pieces and add to the flour mixture.  Using your fingers, work the cold butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the egg, the buttermilk, the currants and the caraway seeds and mix into the flour mixture until it is incorporated.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough forms a smooth ball.  Place the dough into a lightly greased loaf pan.  Score the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife.  Brush the top of the loaf with the melted butter.  Sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 40 -45 minutes or until golden brown.

For the corned beef, Tom chose a recipe from James Beard's American Cookery.  It is one of our go-to cookbooks.  It's a great reference to have on hand. We keep a copy both at home and at the lake. (fyi -It is readily available in used bookstores.) James Beard was amazing in his breadth of knowledge about food. His recipes are easy to understand and he provides lots of interesting tidbits of information along the way.

New England Boiled Dinner
adapted from James Beard's American Cookery

Piece of corned beef, preferably brisket, 4 to 5 pounds
6 white onions
4 to 5 small to medium turnips
6 to 8 potatoes
6 carrots
1 head cabbage
bouquet garni of spices (peppercorns, cloves, etc.) - came with corned beef

Wash the corned beef, place in a kettle of cold water, and bring to a boil.  Add bouquet garni.  Reduce heat and simmer 2.5 to 3 hours.  Add the onions and turnips and cook 30 minutes more.  Add the carrots and potatoes and simmer 15 minutes.  Add the cabbage, cut in quarters or sixths. 

When the meat and vegetables are tender, transfer the meat to a hot platter and surround with vegetables.  James Beard suggests serving it with horseradish or mustard.  This is also sometimes served with a sauce made of broth and melted butter.  And beets, cooked separately, were also added.

The bread was good the next day for breakfast and a snack.  It is more like a muffin loaf bread than regular bread, or plain soda bread.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pecan Munchie by Jane

                                                               photo by Barbara

Hi Barbara,
Here is a simple but great munchie for book club, bunco, bridge etc.

Sweet and Spicy Pecans
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
Pinch Cayenne
1 egg white
2 cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray.

Mix sugar and spices together in a small bowl. Beat the egg white in a larger bowl; toss pecans and stir to coat. Sprinkle with the spice mixture and coat pecans evenly. Lift the pecans out of the bowl and transfer to the baking sheet.

Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Keep in a dry place and they should keep fresh for 5 days.

Note from Barbara:  I made a cocoa version, too, after I made Jane's for the photo for her blog entry.  I am intriqued by the egg white as the vehicle to get the ingredients to stick to the nuts.  My cocoa version tasted like the crunchy part of a pecan pie, but not as sweet and not as fattening.  I think the egg white must add the crunch.  But I am not a food scientist---

Here's my cocoa version:

Cocoa Pecan Munchie

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1 pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 1/2 cups whole pecans
2 egg whites
sea salt for sprinkling on the top

Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  In a small bowl, mix together dry ingredients --- stir well.  In another bowl, place the two egg whites.  Set up an assembly line.  Coat nuts in egg white then roll in cocoa powder mixture, then place on aluminum foil, in one layer, without overlapping nuts.  Sprinkle sea salt on top.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes. 

I got the idea for putting the sea salt on top over the weekend.  Sarah served us one her favorite treats, a dark chocolate bar with sea salt. 

Messy but fun to make!!   I had too much cocoa powder and egg white left over, so you could  "manufacture" more pecans or just cut back on the proportions.  Also, this recipe might work with Splenda or part Splenda, part sugar. 

This is not an overly sweet treat.  It's more of a salty treat.

Thanks again to Jane for sending in her recipe.  I like serving nuts as a snack with cocktails.  We always put out a bowl of cashews when we entertain.  Now I will have something new to offer.