Feeding the Infirm

I think the most difficult part of my hip surgery recovery has not being able to be in the kitchen. I think the best part of my hip surgery recovery has not being able to be in the kitchen.

Needless to say, we have been eating well - either in spite of or because of - my absence in the kitchen.

We all know that Victor is a fantastic cook - and he has not disappointed these past 5 days.

The other fun has been local delivery from family! You can't get food this good from Door Dash or a Michelin-starred restaurant!

Niece Katie made an Artichoke Tart that was just out of this world good! Artichokes, cheese, fresh herbs, sesame seeds along the crust... It was outstanding in its simplicity. I have a tendency to overdo things like this and this was my wake-up call that less is more. Totally delish amd something I shall try and replicate in the future.

And then she made a soup that proved the opposite!

It was like a Sausage Chowder for lack of an official name, with Italian sausage, potatoes, sweet potatoes, orzo, and, lots of different vegetables in a wonderfully light, creamy - and ridiculously flavorful - broth. I can eat soup regardless of the weather and this is one that I could eat daily.

Anyone who has ever had surgery or was prescribed narcotics knows that they can wreak havoc on the digestive tract. [I have a very humorous story about my most recent adventure but a food blog is probably not the best place to share it...] Roughage and fiber are key things to ingest - along with your Colace.

Knowing this, Phoebe and Nancy came over with the perfect salad.

Marinated grilled Chicken, marinated grilled shrimp, and a bounty of fresh vegetables and leafy greens to keep the plumbing flowing and the tastebuds singing.

Every bite was a new flavor experience with the food gods whispering 'take another bite, take another bite...' until my plate was empty and I was smiling and pleasantly full.

Anyone can have a good surgery, but their ability to recover is how well their post surgery experience is.

And I have to say that I may be one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth and this shall definitely be a speedy recovery - thanks to all of you!

♥♥♥


Braciole

I do love me a man who can cook!

Victor cooked up Braciole last night - rolled, stuffed beef braised in whatever - his choice was a jar of his pasta sauce for this batch.

There are a billion and one recipes for Braciole - every family, region, and restaurant has their own variation on the theme.

For this batch, Victor took round steaks and pounded them thin and then topped with prosciutto, pecorino romano, chopped pistachios, some golden raisins, and breadcrumbs.

They're then rolled, tied, and lightly sauteed before adding red wine and then the sauce.

Cover, lower the heat, and let the stove do its magic.

And magic, it was! Fork-tender beef with tons of flavor. Every bite had a bit of something different. It was perfection on the end of a fork.

And definitely use what you have in the house! The fillings can all be swapped out... He was originally going to use the mini mozzarella balls, but they kept falling out. They became a side salad.

Use your imagination - there are no chiseled-in-stone rules.

We actually only ate two of them - the third one became a sandwich for lunch on a toasted ciabatta roll.

Yes. We eat well!


Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Filed under: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

We're skipping the family Mother's Day Brunch, today - I'm being neurotic about germs not wanting the slightest sniffle to postpone my new hip on Tuesday - but I did want to make something for all the great Mom's  to enjoy. Since everyone really enjoyed the Almond Tequila Cheesecake from last week, I thought I'd go with a Lemon Cheesecake this time around. When ya got a good thing going, stick with it, I always say...

 

 

I don't do cheesecakes in a water bath and usually put them on a sheet pan before sliding into the oven - something I didn't do with this one. Naturally, butter leaked out and formed a lovely sheen on the oven floor.

In typical I'll deal with it later mode - I didn't.

This morning I heated the oven to bake off croissants - Trader Joe's Almond - and wisps of smoke came out of the oven. I decided I would deal with it sooner, rather than later...

Out came the croissants and after devouring them, I set the oven to self-clean. In no time at all, the smoke alarms - plural - were going off and the house was rapidly filling with smoke. Open windows and doors. Turn on fan to high. Coughing and wheezing, eyes watering... small spaces cloud up fast.

Things finally settled down, but every now and again for an hour, the alarms would go off again. They're all hardwired - no batteries to take out to momentarily silence them. It's a really annoying noise.

And, it's not like that little bit of butter was the sole culprit... I do have a habit of not always using an underliner when putting things in the oven that can bubble over - and it has been a while since its last cleaning...

My Bad.

Fortunately, it's a lovely day and the cool breeze wafting through the house is a pleasure.

And we now have a clean oven.

 


Cooking Before Surgery

I'm getting a new hip on Tuesday - the first of two with possibly a couple of knees to follow. It seems the warranties have finally run out. Check-in Time is 05:30 in VA lingo...

Every job I have ever had - from baking and cooking to hotels to health care to TJ's - I was on my feet the majority of the time. It has finally taken its toll.

It's been rough for a while. Standing hurts, sitting hurts, walking hurts, not walking hurts, lying in bed hurts. Basically, it hurts. OTC pain pills are pretty worthless and I'm just not really mobile enough to wander the streets looking for illicit narcotics, so surgery is my best option - and the VA has come to my rescue.

I'm expecting a speedy recovery. My sister-in-law, Nancy, had her hip replaced in January, and is pretty much ready to tackle Mount Everest - I've been taking notes. In the meantime, I've also noted the limitations of the first couple of weeks. Seeing her progress has been a valuable resource and has helped alleviate any concerns I've had on my recovery. Every now and again I pay attention... (I even watched a YouTube video of the surgery - it is really cool!)

So... in preparation for not being able to be in the kitchen for a while, we've been making plans. Not wanting to dump all of the cooking on Victor - on top of everything else he's going to have to handle for a bit - we've been planning and making some batch foods to freeze and/or can - as well as a few fun condiments to spice up things.

One such thing was Hot Honey that Victor made - a chili pepper infused honey to drizzle on anything.

 

 

This stuff is a treat! We drizzled it over Andouille and Lentils last night, and Victor drizzled it over a salad with just a bit of olive oil. Definitely multi-purpose!!

 

 

Hot Honey

  • 1 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Add the honey and crushed red pepper flakes to a medium saucepan. Heat over fairly low heat until the honey very lightly begins to simmer. Stir to combine, then remove pan from the heat.

Let the mixture rest for 10 to 15 minutes so that the flavors can infuse.

Stir in the apple cider vinegar.

Strain the honey through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bottle.

Enjoy!

He used crushed peppers from peppers we grew and dried. They are potent! It will have a lot of uses dressing things up! And it's shelf-stable!

The Andouille and Lentils was a throw-together as was the vat of Chicken Soup.

I did andouille, lentils, shallots, canned tomatoes, garlic, and a bit of thyme. Easy peasy.

The soup started off as a whole chicken and clean-out-the-vegetable-bin odds and ends for the broth. Then it was carrots, celery, and odds and end near-empty packages of orzo, different rice blends, canned beans and the cut up chicken....

I canned 7 quarts of soup and froze another 4 - shockingly, I only had 7 empty quart mason jars!! And there's enough leftover lentils for a couple of lunches.

The freezer is full, the cupboards are brimming, and the waiting game has begun.

 

 


Almond Tequila Cheesecake

Back when we went to Cabo San Lucas last year, we went to a Tequila tasting. Naturally, we bought several bottles since 1) it was really good, and 2) it's not imported to the US. It wasn't exactly cheap, but whatever it was, it was affordable for a vacation purchase. Besides, after all the various tequilas we tasted - and re-tasted several times - I wasn't exactly in the mood to deny ourselves a little splurge. [hic]

One we tasted - an almond tequila - definitely stood out. Too sweet for casual drinking, but we knew it would be a great ingredient for cookies or something.

The other bottles were consumed over time, but the Almond has sat unopened on the liquor cart since we got it through customs...

Until a few days ago.

My sister was having the gang over for a Cinco de Mayo nosh so I volunteered to bring dessert. The Almond Tequila was telling me it was time to get cracked open, so an Almond Tequila Cheesecake was born.

I think cheesecakes are a pretty easy thing to make. They're something I have made for years - and years - so they're generally not something I need to break out the cookbook for... I think the biggest secret is to keep 'em simple and make them at least three days before serving. They really do improve with a few days in the 'fridge before cutting into them.

 

 

Since most of y'all are probably not going to have an Almond tequila sitting around, try it with Amaretto... and the brown sugar really does add a nice twist. Light or dark will work, although we usually only have dark in the pantry. Your call.

Almond Tequila Cheesecake

The Crust:

  • 3/4 cup almond meal or finely ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted

The Filling:

  • 5 pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Almond Tequila

The Topping:

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Almond Tequila

Putting it together:

Preheat oven to 350º.  Mix crust ingredients and press evenly into bottom of 10″ springform pan.  Set aside.

Cream the cheese until light and fluffy.  Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add sugars, vanilla, and , mixing until smooth and light. Pour into pan and bake 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool about 15 minutes.  Keep oven on.

Mix topping ingredients and spread onto top of cheesecake to within about 1/2 inch from edge.  Return to oven and bake about 7 more minutes.  Cool completely, cover, and refrigerate 2-3 days, if you can.

 

 

 

It really is that easy.

 


Sausage and Peppers and Piadina

I've been a bit lax at the blog writing, lately...

We're obviously still cooking and eating, but we haven't been making a lot of noteworthy dishes - one can only write so many times about a plate of spaghetti or a salad.

I'll admit to a bit of laziness in the kitchen... the hips and knees have been out of warranty for some time, now, so I've been on my butt more than on my feet. [If the warranty gods cooperate, the first of the replacements will be on May 14th. But that's another story for another day...]

Last night's dinner was an old standby as well, but with a fun addition.

Sausage and Peppers, and Onions - Italian comfort food. Sometimes with potatoes, sometimes with eggs scrambled in. Sometimes served in a roll, sometimes just on a plate.

And sometime - at our house, anyway - on an Italian flatbread called a piadina.

There are about as many ways to make a piadina as there are ways to make a pasta sauce. Most recipes I've seen call for lard, although newer ones use olive oil. Some call for milk, some call for yogurt or sour cream, some no dairy at all. I always use lard, because I always have lard in the freezer, but the only wrong way to make them is to not make them!

I used a variation of a recipe I got from Milk Street many moons ago. It's quick and easy...

Piadina

adapted from Milk Street

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup lard, room temperature

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Process to mix. Add the lard and process until combined, about 10 seconds. Add the sour cream and water. Process until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each into a ball, then cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

Roll each dough ball into a 6"-7" round. Brush lightly with olive oil.

Heat a skillet over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles immediately, 4 to 6 minutes. One at a time, place a dough round in the skillet and cook until the bottom is charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook for about another minute.

At this point, you're ready to eat. They're not pocket breads like a pita so they can be used as a wrap as with a tortilla or layered as with sandwich bread. We just tore them apart and used them as utensils like an Ethiopian Injera with our Sausage and Peppers.

I grilled the sausages. I sliced the potatoes with a mandoline, drizzled them with olive oil, and added salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some Italian seasoning, lined them up on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and baked them in a 425°F oven. While they were cooking away, I fried onions and peppers together.

When everything was done, I mixed it all together and sprinkled some pecorino romano on top.

And there are leftovers for lunch!

 


Chocolate Bread with Chocolate Raspberry Mascarpone

For me, recipes are not necessarily my own unique creations.

I read something, I saw a picture, I ate something at a restaurant or at someone's home. Someone mentioned something they had. Or, I wanted something and used what I had on hand because I was too lazy to go to the store.

The ideas comes from somewhere and I spin them.

The Chocolate Bread is a case in point. In one of my daily emails from La Cucina Italiana - in Italian - was a recipe for Pagnotta al cioccolato - Chocolate Loaf. I liked the concept, but it wasn't quite there, for me. I've had chocolate breads before and have found them to often be a bit bitter or flat. Chocolate bread should be dessert-like, not sandwich-like, in my not so humble opinion... Time to play!

And play, I did. My first loaf came out pretty good, but I thought it still could be a bit better. It was for Easter Brunch at my niece's house and I did want it to be at least as good as what everyone else was bringing... I come from a long line of great cooks and the next generation definitely ain't no slouches - and may even have a leg up on creativity! They're cooking, I'm in line with my plate! Need to up the ante...

I also think a good Chocolate Bread needs reasonably good chocolate. so I used a 78% Lindt Dark Chocolate Bar and a Cadbury Milk Chocolate Bar - and Hershey's Cocoa Powder, because I like Hershey's Cocoa. I've bought ridiculously-priced cocoa powders over the years and have found that they're generally just not worth the money. (I like Guittard Chocolate, as well - especially their Dutch Process Cocoa Powder.) I didn't want to go higher than 78% - but feel free to if you like a more bitter chocolate flavor.

Here's the first loaf before the tweaks... Right out of the oven...

 

 

This picture is what's left after three days...

 

 

Still tender with lots of nice, chocolate chunks.

Chocolate Bread

  • 450 g AP flour
  • 50 g cocoa powder
  • 25 gr sugar
  • 100 g milk
  • 220 g brewed coffee
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 100 g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • 100 g milk chocolate shaved into fine pieces
  • 12 g salt
  • 12 g instant yeast
  • 1 egg white mixed with a bit of water
  • coarse sugar

Knead the flour, cocoa, salt, sugar, and yeast with the milk, vanilla, and the coffee for at least 10 minutes.

Add the two chocolates and mix well. The milk chocolate will kinda melt into the dough while the dark chocolate remains in chunks.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours - or overnight.

Form into a round loaf and place it on a floured parchment-lined sheet pan. Cover and let rise for 1 hour at room temperature and then for 2 hours back in the 'fridge.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Remove loaf from 'fridge and let rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

Make a slash down the center and bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 400°F for another 20 or so minutes.

 

Look-wise, they were pretty much similar - except for the flour on the first - I over-did it, a bit. But the second was a bit richer by swapping out water for coffee. It's that old coffee make chocolate chocolatier phenomenon.

If you do a lot of bread baking, you'll find the dough to be a bit different. A different feel. Just go with it - it's what it's like.

 

 

Water or coffee - they'll both work - but you definitely want chunks of good chocolate to bite into now and again.

Chocolate Raspberry Mascarpone

  • 1 8oz container Mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp raspberry jam (I used seedless)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix and enjoy!

And don't do as I did...  I forget to bring the Chocolate Raspberry Mascarpone!

It was really good. Sorry, guys...

 


Cavatelli

Feeling lazy, I pulled some Italian Sausage out of the freezer, this morning. We have Victor's Pasta Sauce in the pantry, so I thought a simple spaghetti would suffice.

Victor had other plans...

He said he'd brown the sausage and take care of the sauce, so I happily agreed. A while later, he asked if I'd like homemade cavatelli instead of spaghetti.  I could not say "YES!" fast enough!

There really is something special about homemade pasta. Dried is just fine - better, I think, than 'fresh' pasta at the grocery store - but homemade?!? Molto Bene!

Since I was planning a lazy dinner, I didn't have a nice, crusty loaf of bread on hand, but the dinner didn't need it.

It was perfection on an Italian hand-painted-from-Florence, plate! (LOVE those dishes!)

Cavatelli

  • 1 1/8 cup semolina flour
  • 3/4 cup Tipo “00” flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Mix flours and salt on board. Make a well and add the water and oil. Slowly mix the liquid into the flour forming a dough. Knead about 5 minutes. Wrap and let rest about 30 minutes to an hour.

Roll pieces of dough into a thin rope and cut into 1/2″ pieces. Press and roll to make little shells.

Cook in salted boiling water. Drain and serve with your favorite sauce.

This was a higher semolina to 00 flour than Victor usually makes, and he - always critical of his own pastas - thought they were a bit heavy. I thought they were excellent, great flavor, great chew... extremely satisfying.

There were no leftovers.


Green Velvet Cupcakes and Four Leaf Clovers

We're off to my sister's house for St Paddy's Day, tomorrow. And that's PADDY, not PATTY! Patty is a girl's name, just so ya know.

And... since we're learning things, today, let me tell ya what I learned. There is no plant called a "Shamrock"! It's the original WTF? How can that not be?!? I've learned and heard of Shamrocks all my life! Sang songs about them. Learned about them in Catholic School.

It appears that the word "Shamrock" is merely a bastardization of the Irish word for Little Clover - Seamair Bheag! Who knew?!? Besides the Irish, that is... One thing I did know was that the plant in the US that is sold as a shamrock around this time is actually oxalis - an invasive weed. You can buy oxalis killer at Ace Hardware - I know, I've bought it.

What started me on this was opening some decorations I bought for the cupcakes - and they were FOUR-leaf clovers. Another WTF moment.

I first found out that there was no plant called "shamrock" and then found out that only 1 in 10,000 clover leaves are 4-leaf. All the others are three. The little clover - the Seamair Bheag - was used to explain the Trinity in the Catholic religion and gained popularity, but it's the FOUR leaf clover that is lucky - The Luck of the Irish!

My own Irish roots are on both sides of the family. My mother's maternal great-grandfather was born in Tipperary in 1818, emigrated to the US in the 1840s and settled in Galena, IL. I haven't really been able to trace him because Michael Hickey. Tipperary. His name might as well be John Smith. There's a million of them. It's quite possible he came over in one of the first waves of immigrants escaping the Potato Famine. His first child was born in Galena in 1848, so the timing is close. Who knows?!?

My father's family is a bit easier. His paternal grandfather was born in Slievawaddera, Ballyduff, Co. Kerry, and emigrated in 1874 and settled in Omaha. We've traced his family back to at least three-great-grandfathers - all in the same town in Ireland. We also have the ship he arrived on, arrival date in New York - pre-Ellis Island - and his citizenship papers. He became Fire Chief of Omaha.

We were hoping to visit Ireland this year for our 30th Anniversary. Hard to believe that I've never been - but right now my hips are making it difficult to walk across the room, let alone do a decent pub crawl across the Emerald Isle! Hip Number One May 14th and Hip Number Two in November. Ireland 2025 is now the plan!

In the meantime, I have my Ancestry membership and I'm going to try and find out a bit more about The Hickey Family of Tipperary.

And eat cupcakes.

Green Velvet Cupcakes

adapted from Garnish & Glaze

For the Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons green liquid food coloring

Preheat oven to 350°F and line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. (The cocoa powder will clump if not sifted. Ask me how I know.)

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy - about 7 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate each. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and food coloring.

Mix in the flour until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners and bake for about 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

For the Frosting:

  • 2 8oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup butter butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Bring butter and cream cheese to room temperature. Place in mixing bowl and cream together until smooth.

Slowly add the sugar and then the Bailey's and vanilla.

Pipe onto cupcakes and decorate, as desired.

 


Chicken Rice Soup with Lemon

Victor came into the office yesterday afternoon and said he was making a pot of soup.

He was looking after me because I had had a bit of a rough night with my legs keeping me tossing and turning for most of the night. [My hip replacement will not come soon enough!]

The caveat was I had to make some cornbread to go with it.

It was an offer I couldn't refuse.

He had seen a soup on one of the cooking shows a while back - a Greek Chicken Soup with Rice, Lemon, and Egg. It may have said Greek, but it spoke to his Sicilian genes... Sans recipe, he headed to the kitchen.

Chicken Rice Soup with Lemon

  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast
  • 3 qts chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • Zest & juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp Oregano
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Place everything but eggs into a soup pot. Bring to boil, turn off heat, cover, and let sit for about 20 minutes for rice and chicken to cook.

Remove chicken and set aside to shred.

Place 1 cup of the rice in blender with the eggs. Blend until creamy smooth.

Return soup to a good simmer and add shredded chicken.

Stir egg/rice mixture into pot, stirring until well mixed and egg is cooked through.

Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper, as desired. Squeeze additional lemon juice if desired.

 

Really good. Simple with clean flavors. And totally filling without being heavy.

The perfect dinner!

I cheated with the cornbread - my mobility is a bit lacking, at the moment - but I did doctor it enough to be better than just the box!

 

I always have a couple of boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix in the cupboard. It's like 55¢ a box at WinCo and ready in 20 minutes. I used buttermilk and added minced jalapeño. 2 boxes make a perfect 8x8 pan. It does the job quite well.

It was the perfect lunch, today, and I'm planning on finishing it for lunch, tomorrow.

My stomach is smiling!


Żurek - a Polish Rye Soup - and a loaf of Rye Bread

We were invited over to Phoebe and Nancy's for dinner, last night. Phoebe was making a soup they had eaten in Poland that they really liked - Żurek. a soup made with a fermented rye starter - Zakwas Żytni. (Do not ask me to even try to pronounce any of this.)

We were the guinea pigs. Anyone who knows me knows I'm first in line to try a new food, so we were there with the proverbial bells on! And since we were having a soup with rye, I asked if I could bring a loaf of rye bread.

I must admit I had never heard of fermented grain soups. Evidently, they are quite common in the west Slavic countries - where my culinary knowledge is pretty bleak.

In doing a little research after the fact, I found that hardly anyone in Poland makes their own Zakwas Żytni, anymore... it's available in just about any grocery store. But... since there are not a lot of Polish grocery stores in Beaverton, Oregon, Phoebe made her own.

And I must say I am quite glad she did! The soup was excellent! Slightly sweet and sour, it was rich and flavorful - lots of root vegetables, kielbasa, bacon, and the crowning touch - a medium-cooked egg on top.

Stunning and delicious!

Also doing a bit of research after the fact, I found that there are variations in different regions of the country - and from home to home. Kinda like pasta sauce in Italy or tacos in Mexico. The constants are the Zakwas Żytni, sausage, and the boiled egg.

The fermented rye needs at least five days to develop, so plan accordingly!

Żurek - a Polish Rye Soup

adapted from The Polish Housewife

For the Zakwas:

  • 5 tablespoons rye flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 bay leaves

For the Soup:

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 pound Polish sausage
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 large parsnip, sliced
  • 1/2 celery root, peeled and diced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 4 large potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoon horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • hard-boiled eggs

To make the Zakwas:

Add the flour to a qt mason jar.

Add the water, garlic, and bay leaves.

Mix thoroughly, as it sits, it will separate with the flour sinking to the bottom

Cover the jar with a paper towel or kitchen towel and secure with a ring or rubber band.

Let sit for five days, giving it a stir daily to mix.

To make the soup:

Brown the bacon and sausage in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, carrot, parsnip and celery root.

Add broth and bay leaf and garlic, simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the potatoes and marjoram, cook until the potatoes are tender.

Add 2 cups of the zakwas (strained or flour mixed in, your choice) - add all of it if you want a more sour soup.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add horseradish and cream.

Return to a boil and remove from heat.

Serve by garnishing with hard-boiled egg half.

 

Recipes in our family are suggestions - or concepts, or a base idea to get the creative juices flowing and use up things that are already in the house. Rarely is something followed word-for word. Phoebe took the recipe and switched it around a bit to suit her needs. The above is a mere approximation.

Same hold true for the bread, below.

I saw a recipe for a Guinness Rye Bread and went to the site. The person making the bread more or less winged it - her oven doesn't work right, she left part of the dough out too long... more comedy routine than recipe. I went to the recipe site she was using. It had more structure, but I liked the first approach, better. Besides, the original site was using an Italian bread pan to make long rounded loaves - definitely not what I was looking for. I blended the two, added my own spin, and ended up with a hybrid. The recipe did not specify type of white flour, so I used bread flour. I had to play with the dough a lot in the making...

Guinness Rye Bread

adapted from Wild Yeast and One Perfect Bite (neither blog has been updated in years...)

Sponge Ingredients:

  • 195 g flour
  • 140 g coarsely-ground whole rye flour
  • 4.7 g (1.5 t.) instant yeast
  • 45 g water
  • 1 bottle Guinness Stout

Final Dough Ingredients:

  • 195 g flour
  • 11 g salt
  • All of the sponge

Make the starter:

1) Combine beer and water in a large bowl. Add yeast and stir until completely dissolved.

2) Add flours and mix until a thick batter forms. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about two hours. Refrigerate over night. (Since I used bread flour and my starter was rather thick.)

The Bread:

3) Add remaining flour and salt. Mix with machine for about 10 minutes. This is the tricky part - the recipe stated it as a sticky dough. Mine wasn't. I added a bit too much water and then had to add a bit more flour. After a good 10 minutes of mixing at medium speed, I had a dough that cleaned the sides of the bowl and was juuuuust attached to the bottom.

4) Place in a lightly oiled bowl and let rest for an hour.

5) Turn dough onto work surface shape into a ball and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

6) Reshape ball and place on flour-dusted parchment paper on peel or rimless cookie sheet. Let rise until double in size, about 1 to 2 hours.

7) Preheat oven lined with baking stones to 450°F. Place empty pan/container on rack below baking stones for water when ready to bake.

8) Slash loaves with a razor blade.

9) Slide loaves or pans into oven. Add water to bottom pan.

10) Reduce heat to 425° after 5 minutes. Bake for another 30 minutes or until bottom of loaves sound hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

I wasn't expecting to blog about this, so I didn't take any pictures of the whole loaf or the process. But I did get a couple of the part we brought home...

 

 

It came out pretty good and was a great accompaniment to a really great soup!

 

 

It had a nice, chewy crust and a really delicate crumb. I'll probably never be able to replicate it, but... I'm used to that.


Scallops with Bacon and Peas

Brain-Dead Dinner Night...

It happens now and again... I just have no idea what I want - or want to make - for dinner...

Open freezer.

There's all the usual suspects - chicken, ground beef, a steak, a small pork loin, langostinos, lots of frozen vegetables... and scallops.

The rusty wheels started turning... there was bacon in the 'fridge, red onions, frozen peas... A meal was born.

A main contributor to the recipe concept was the Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce from our friend, Tony at Zantonio.com. As you probably know if you read this thing, we've been helping Tony develop a mail order system for the butter, as well as coming up with easy recipes for its use.

One thing I learned from my Demo Years at Trader Joe's, if you want to make a product a pantry staple, you need to let people know how many ways they can use a product besides the obvious. It's how things like Pumpkin Dressing or Sweet Chili Soup came into existence. (There are still several hundred recipes we created on the site under Quick Meals In Minutes.)

Tony's product is so awesome it deserves pantry staple status.

But I digress...

I came up with a dinner made in the time it takes to cook the rice. Old habits die hard... And do I miss those thrilling days of yesteryear?!? Nope. I was born to be retired...

Scallops with Bacon and Peas

  • 1 lb scallops, cleaned
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon cut into strips
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup peas, thawed and blanched
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • pinch thyme
  • pinch oregano
  • 3 tbsp Zantonio Parmesan Garlic Butter/Scampi Sauce

Clean scallops and pat dry.

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pan. Add chopped onions and quickly saute . Add peas and quickly warm. Remove peas and onions to bowl with bacon.

Wipe out pan. Reheat and add scallops. Sear on one side about two minutes, flip, and cook another 2 minutes.

Add the Zantonio Parmesan Garlic Butter/Scampi Sauce, swirling the pan and covering the scallops.

Add the wine, and the bacon, onions, and peas.

Heat everything through.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve with rice or your favorite pasta.

 

 

A simple meal and clean-up was a breeze! (Not that I know first-hand... Victor does the dishes!)