Saturday, June 28, 2008

That artisan bread thing...

Remember I said I had brought home a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day? Oh, people. This is SOOOO good. And I'm not going to share the recipe because that's...stealing. Just wrong. And even if I did (share the recipe) I couldn't began to share all the tips and recipes so you're just going to have to take my word for it...go buy this book.

You make the dough once a week. It sits in the refrigerator and when you want to make bread, you get a chunk of dough, let it rise for 40 minutes and have bread. REALLY, really good bread that you can't make too far ahead of time or there won't be any for supper. (We've done that twice.)

So get thee to a book store. I promise, you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Red Onion and Gorgonzola Bruschetta

When my mother was eight years old, her mother died a week after giving birth to her second child. They were in Detroit for the "war effort," so my grandfather loaded up my mother on a train and brought her back to Tennessee, to his in-law's. The newborn stayed in the hospital for three months, and as soon as she was old enough he brought her to Mama's house, too. (Mama was 65 years old when she took in the eight-year-old and the newborn.) At one point, during the war, there were 17 people living in that house. It was a two-story Sears and Roebuck house and they were financially successful merchants but hey...17 people? Rationing? Oooh.

They told the story for years about how Mama liked chicken neck. On Sunday, when she fried chicken, everyone had a favorite piece and Mama's was the neck. It was only years later, when everyone was grown that they realized...Mama liked the neck because by the time she got to eat, it was the only piece left.

I tell that story to tell this story. (That's a direct quote from Ron White and if you didn't know that, well, you ort to.)

We had three tomatoes from the garden yesterday. Now, these are cheater tomatoes because the blooms were on the plants when we bought them and that's...just not right. You have to bloom the blooms yourself. But regardless, the taste of these (after the winter tomato famine) is divine. So here we sit...we have tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. We have home-made bread. This is REALLY looking good except that I birthed these babies and I know...three small tomatoes isn't even going to scratch the surface, so there better be a back-up plan. These kids are going to eat ALL of everything I make with the tomatoes so I'm going to have to have an alternative dish if I hope to get even a single bite. Hopefully, a dish that will let me have a bite of the (chicken breast) fresh tomato.

The back-up plan was SO good that it shared center stage and everyone was fed and happy. I didn't have to do without my share of the fresh tomato and the kids were ecstatic about some onions. Go figure.

Sweet Onion Bruschetta
1 red onion, very thinly sliced
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Roasted garlic
Good blue cheese
I heated a cast iron griddle, poured in some olive oil and let it get hot. I added the sliced onions (I love me a mandelione) and turned the heat down. While I was fooling with the other stuff, I let the onions wilt, stirring them occasionally. After a while I poured in about two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, sprinkled some kosher salt and black pepper and stirred. I left the onions on low heat and stirred them every now and then.
I sliced the bread I had about one-half inch thick, smeared it with roasted garlic and then brushed it with olive oil. Toasted it just until it was no longer soft and then topped it with the onions. I sprinkled the onions with blue cheese (this was the last of the Point Reyes I got for Christmas...I had frozen the last handful) and toasted the bruschetta to soften the cheese. When we got to the table I realized...I'd been a little stingy with the cheese so we added more and popped them under the broiler again.

Oh, Lordy. I should do this more often. Summer time and the livin' is easy.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fresh Berry Cobbler

Southern Living published a recipe for an easy blackberry cobbler in the July issue, which came last week. We have ACRES of blackberry bushes, which is what happens when you have a farm and you don' Every year, one weekend day, we pack up and go pick blackberries. Picking real blackberries off wild bushes is NASTY...everything bad you ever read about it is true. There are chiggers in them thar bushes. There are mosquitoes above them. There are snakes lurking in the depths...the saving grace is that when you have a pack of kids, the snakes tend to leave as soon as they hear the commotion. Those that are too dumb to slither off make themselves fair game for the dogs...and that's a whole 'nother entertainment committee.

ANYWAY. The recipe in the magazine looked interesting...I hate that cobbler topping where you take one cup milk, one cup flour and one stick butter, mix it all together and pour it over a dish of canned peaches. I HATE that stuff. This topping, however, had more of a crumb texture so we decided to give it a try. (For a family that doesn't usually do dessert, this season is a LOT of fun.)

Problem is, blackberries won't be ripe until the week of the Fourth. We have some bushes in our side yard, and they're pretty loaded, but only with bright red (re: not ripe) blackberries. So we took the last of the peaches from the peach farm, about 1/2 cup raspberries the fat little toad next door hadn't poached, and about...12?...ripe blackberries and made a cobbler. Nice, very nice. Not nice enough that when we pick the first real batch of blackberries I won't have to do that double crust, prebaked interior crust, lattice thing, but still really...nice.

Easy Fruit Cobbler
Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish and fill with four cups of assorted seasonal fruit. We had peaches, raspberries and blackberries. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Stir together 1 egg, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup all-purpose flour, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (I added a couple of gratings of fresh nutmeg into the topping because...that's what I do.) Sprinkle over the fruit and drizzle with 6 tablespoons melted butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly. We served ours in a bowl, with a scoop of Blue Bell vanilla bean ice cream alongside, slowly melting and seeping into the fruit.

Summer is good.
(The picture is one The Not Nice Kid drew of the blackberry bushes when she was four. We use it on the labels when we make jam.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Zabaglione...and raspberries

Sometimes everything just...comes together. And supper last night was a meeting of all things good. Fresh mesclun greens out of the garden. The artisanal bread thing is LOVELY...I'll get into that in a couple of days. And then, for dessert, we had fresh peaches and raspberries off our bushes...with zabaglione. Heaven in a dish. The small children actually groaned.

6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup champagne (or white wine, but if you use champagne then you have to open the bottle and if you open it, well, have to drink it.)

In a double boiler (or a metal bowl set over a pan) over simmering water, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and lemon colored. Add the champagne and beat until mixture coats the back of a spoon. That's it. The only trick is NOT to let the water boil...the eggs will scramble and it's not even passable. You can also add, with the champagne, a spoonful or two of Grand Marnier, or a couple of gratings of orange zest. I added a couple of turns of fresh nutmeg, just because I put fresh nutmeg in almost everything.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Roast Beef Sandwiches for everyone!

Even though my kids will eat anything, they still have preferences. Which, occasionally, conflict with mine...and roast beef sandwiches are one of those conflictions! So we compromise when we have them, make everyone happy, and give the participants the opportunity to change sides with each meal!

Roast Beef Sandwiches
1 3-4 pound chuck roast
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 soup can coffee
2 cups sliced onions
1 jar Cheese Whiz
Optional: 1 batch homemade sandwich buns

Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven/heavy covered roasting pan. Let it get hot, then brown the roast on both sides. Sprinkle with the onion soup mix, then spread the cream of mushroom soup over that. Pour in one soup can of coffee. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about four hours until fork tender, adding additional water if needed.

For the adults: When the roast is done, remove it to a plate and tent with foil. Melt four tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan, add the onions and saute over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir one tablespoon cornstarch into 1/2 cup COLD water, then stir that into the leftover juice from the chuck roast in the roasting dish. Heat to boiling, to thicken. To serve, spread buns with mayonnaise, top with shredded beef and then sauteed onions. Use roasting juice for dipping.

For the kids: Pile roast beef on bottom half of bun. Spread the top half with a liberal tablespoon of Cheese Whiz (these are mini-buns, regular ones take a little more), top sandwich and wrap in a paper towel. Microwave for 20-30 seconds, so that the Cheese Whiz oozes down into the roast beef.

We got all about some homemade sandwich/hamburger buns this spring, and make them about once a week. That recipe is in a previous post.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I may take over the world

There are about...six or seven...blogs I love to read. I have a rule, Monday's and Friday's. I check blogs ONLY on those days because if I don't have a rule well, I'm sitting here all day frantically waiting on one of these brilliant people to post.

And earlier this week, over in Badger World , she mentioned her new favorite cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. And since I'm still sort of...confined...and looking for alternatives to watching the same Monk episodes three times a day, I bought it.

I love it. I left the house this morning to deliver a kid somewhere and on the way home I stocked up on unbleached all-purpose flour and jar yeast.

I am on a mission from God. (That's a Blues Brother's quote and if you didn't know that, you don't need to be here.)

You need this book.

(Maybe City Girl can make that picture bigger. I'm not fooling with it.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Spinach quesadillas

I am temporarily a semi-invalid, and while everyone's been great about keeping the residents fed, last night we sort of stalled. And while The Big Boy means well, his shopping skills just SUCK and the raw materials list around here is sadly lacking. So, dealing with what was available, we ended up with one of the better meals this week...thank you very much. We had, straight out of the box, Zatarain's Dirty Rice. I had half a pound of real pork sausage from Smith Farms in Cullman, seriously smoky so that made the box stuff a real treat. And in the bottom of the refrigerator was a bag of baby spinach, contemplating going bad.

Spinach Quesadillas
8 small flour tortillas
1 bag fresh spinach
Shredded mozzarella
Fresh nutmeg
I have a lovely cast iron griddle...just a round, flat pan. Beautifully seasoned and even The Not Nice Kid water and a scrub brush. You will die if you put detergent on Mama's cast iron. (I once fired a housekeeper because she put my grandmother's cast iron cornbread skillet in the dishwasher.)

I sauted the spinach in a little butter, then squeezed it as dry as possible. I smeared the griddle with a little butter and put a tortilla on to heat...about 15 seconds on medium heat. Flipped it and sprinkled it with 1/4 the spinach. Sprinkled that with about 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used mozzarella because that's what was here...preference would be Monterey Jack) and grated a dusting of nutmeg over the cheese. Topped it with a second tortilla and flipped it and let that heat about two minutes. I made four quesadillas, holding each one on a cookie sheet in the oven on warm until I was finished. Cut them into quarters and we ate them plain...they didn't really need any assistance!