About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cold Cucumber Soup

I played golf today and it was hot as blue blazes and humid.   It was match play and I got my brains beat out.  I was wiped out when I headed home and profoundly thankful I had cold cucumber soup in the frigerator when I got home. It hit the spot.  I've made cold pea and cold watercress in the last few weeks but neither where as good as the cucumber.  The other two remimded me of collected grass clippings mixed with chicken stock and I felt like a cow chewing it's cud rather than sipping something smooth that slid down my throat.  But Alex Hitz's cold, creamy cucumber soup has just the right texture and blend of flavor. I prefer making it with buttermilk and cream as opposed to yogurt.  Yes, I know, the cream, but it makes it so smooth and doesn't have the after bite of yogurt.  It's hot out there and this soup is a worthy opponent to a wilting oppressive summer.

2 English cucumbers (about 1 lb); peeled and chopped into quarter pieces
2-3 green onions, sliced  (white and green parts)
2 tbls chopped fresh dill
1 tsp lime zest
juice of 1 lime
1 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken stock(homemade if you have it)
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt (less if you are using store bought stock)
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper.

In a food processor, add the cucumber, green onions, dill and lime zest. Process for about a minute and until it's an even texture.  You may need to scrape down the sides once.  Yield should be about 2 cups of pulp. Remove and drain excess moisture through a fine mesh seive.  Drain for 5 minutes without pressing.  Put drained cucumber mixture in a large bowl and add the lime juice.  Mix with a spoon.  Add the remaining ingredients and combine throughly.  Pour in a 1 quart container and let sit refrigerated over night.  Serve cold with cheese straws for a light lunch.

Yummy for the tummy!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Paula Deen - Sticks & Stones...and the B-Word

I was warned by my son about what I put on the Internet.  It's a permanent record of my words and  might come back to haunt me in the land of free speech and Homeland Security.  So, I better leave it to others to sort out Paula and the Food Network.  Like Martha Stewart, Paula is flawed but her contributions out weigh her sins. She'll likely regroup and move on.  Now, I'm going to stick my neck out and use the B-word, butter, which seems to be akin to another issue about Paula.   I, frankly, enjoy using the B-word and use it quite liberally when called for.  I'm not afraid of  the B-word but don't go overboard with it either. 

I also use a lot of H-words (herbs) when cooking and, unfortunately, must buy them at the store since I don't have a garden.  Even though I have an H-word container, I have to find ways to use any excess before they spoil and the best way is to chop them up finely and mix with the B-word.  What an easy way to stretch them and add flavor to so many dishes. H-word B-word can be frozen and pulled out when you need it to give your dish that extra punch of flavor. I favor chive for savory breads, rosemary and thyme for chicken,  tarragon and shallot for fish, sage for butternut ravioli, parsley, cracked pepper and garlic for beef.  Basil doesn't freeze well so I make pesto with it, but that's another story. I used H-word B-word on grilled corn on the cob last week for the Father's Day BBQ. So don't waste your H-words; mix them with B-word and freeze.

Then there are the sweetened B-words to top off that piping hot biscuit or muffin; honey, orange marmalade, strawberry; the possibilities are endless.  Use your imagination (but not the B-word).

Frankly, I've used the B-word for most of my life, the H-word came later.  When I was little, if I got hungry before bedtime, my parents would fix me a slice of bread with the B-word on it.  There where seldom any "snacks" or treats in our house; three square meals a day, and that was it, so if I didn't eat my dinner, bread and the B-word was the alternative.  Pretty good deal to me. the B-word always made things better, even 50+ years ago.

I've been using the B-word all my life and this is in my frig! Please! Don't tell Food Network!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Brand X BBQ Sauce

I am the Sauce Boss 2013! I finally won our annual Father's Day barbecue sauce competition after being beaten in past years by my spouse and daughter-in-law, I came up with the winning recipe, but only after a taste off against my sister-in-law.  It was close, I tell you.  I'd tried a vinegar base, mustard base and a sweet concoction, but none were popular enough to win in the past, so I figured you have to play to the audience with a ketchup based blend and a balance of everything - sweet, smokey, tangy and the right amount of heat.  Mine isn't tricked up with bourbon, coffee or fruit juice but it did have a very *secret ingredient that no one else had access to. Just a little of the drippings of the pork butt I personally seasoned with dry rub and smoked with hickory.  It's the same principal I use when I save the "essence" of a roast chicken. I chill the excess juices, skim off the fat and freeze it to later flavor sauces and gravy.  After smoking the pork, I use most of the defatted drippings to keep the meat moist after the shredding or pulling part.  There's plenty left over to save for flavoring and it's a heap better than liquid smoke. It's the color of coffee and when chilled, assumes a gelatinous consistency and can be frozen for future use.

Here's my sauce recipe.  It's fine without the the *secret ingredient but better if you have access to those rich meat juices and it doesn't take much.

1 cup Heinz Ketchup
1/2 cup French's yellow mustard
1/2 cup finely diced Vidalia onion
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Heinz apple cidar vinegar
2 tbls molassas
1 tbls Dijon mustard
1 tbls Worstershire sauce
1 tbls bacon drippings
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
apple wood smoked bacon bits

*1 tbls defatted, seasoned, smoked pork butt drippings ( if your lucky)

Cook several slices of the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels.  Crumble one slice into bits. Cook the onion in 1 tbls of the bacon drippings until just golden and set aside. Combine with the remaining ingredients in a nonreactive sauce pan and simmer 10 mins on low heat.  Add the bacon bits and the *secret ingredient it you have some.  Makes about a pint.

Tip: Use the rest of the bacon in baked beans and add a little of the this sauce to make them extra good.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tomato Aspic - And the Angels Wept

It's been a long, two funeral day.  I left my house early this morning to drive almost two hours south of the large metropolitan area I live in to a smaller, less hectic one to attend the funeral of a dear friend's father.  An elderly doctor, husband, father and friend to countless people was remembered for a life well lived.  Then back to the city to the unbearable wretched, wretched grief of parents' loss of a first born son gone inexplicably and too soon in his 20's. I barely recognized their swollen eyes and slacken faces of grief.

 In the midst of an emotional day was a pause following the doctor's service for luncheon in the church Fellowship Hall.  It's already hot and sultry outside and I'd forgotten a bottle of water for the car.  I had that sinking feeling already when my eyes spotted a large punch bowl full of something sort of lavender, with big blobs of ice cream floating on top.  I wasn't sure what it was but it was bound to be wet and cool.  I was about to take a sip when I saw the widow besieged by condoling friends and offered her the cup in my hand before taking a sip.  If I needed it, she needed it worse and I was right.  I made my way back to the punch bowl to sample the mystery.  If ever there was something that could be described as refreshing, this was it.  There where hints of fruit juice, carbonation, and coconut.  The best of it, where the multitude of tiny, tiny slivers of crystalline ice floating throughout, not cubed, cracked nor crushed - shaved. How had they done it?  Little bits of ice that crunch but don't freeze the tooth and send you to the dentist for a crown.  Suddenly, I was taken back to my 6th birthday party with this sort of punch, birthday cake with pink roses and felt I should be wearing a party dress with a stiff petty coat and black patten Mary Janes and my hair would be in pig tails and ribbons.  Tomorrow is my 60th birthday so it was sweet to be swept back to the 6th, if only for a moment.

Miss Minnie, the church's renounded cook had prepared Hot Chicken Salad casserole with crushed potato chips on top at the family's request and assorted salads including tomato aspic and other delicacies.  I hadn't had the casserole since I was in college.  Lord, it was good!  I know those dishes our mother's made that included a can of creamed soup are now frowned upon but what a blast from the past.  Now, as to the tomato aspic, I had never associated it with funerals but, my minister denounced it from the pulpit one Sunday as something his mother prepared and took to the sick and bereaved.  He could not comprehend why anyone would like it much less consume such. It bordering on evil to him.  If you where not already sick or bereaved, tomato aspic would put you in that state.  Following the service, as is customary, he greets his flock as they depart the church door and we make some nice remark about his sermon.  My sole comment was, "Obviously, your mother didn't have my grandmother's famous tomato aspic recipe."  Well, there it was today confirming his pronouncement of tomato aspic as funeral food.  Not as good as my grandmother's but perfectly fine. Nene served it in a ring mold with chicken salad in the middle for bridge luncheons and lady like entertaining.   She used lemon jello in the recipe and I suppose that's what made hers so popular. Oh, how I miss my Nene!

As hard as today has been, Southern Comfort came to the rescue in the form of cool, slushy punch, a classic casserole in every church guild and Junior League cookbook and tomato aspic. 

My children, take note. Put Nene's Tomato Aspic on the menu when I'm gone.

Nene's Tomato Aspic

6oz. Lemon Jello
6oz. unflavored gelatin
9 cups of V-8 juice
3/4 cup sliced olives
1 cup of diced celery
2 tsp grated onion
1/4 cup Worstershire sauce

Spray a 10 cup mold with vegetable spray.  Heat 4 cups V-8 just to boiling point the pour over gelatin mix and stir until dissolved.  Add remaining ingredients he the rest of the V-8 juice. Pour into mold and chill 8 hours or over night.

Spray a 10 c

Sunday, June 2, 2013

En Papillote

My father used to order Pompano en Papillote sometimes when we ate in fancy restaurants.  The waiter would bring out his plate with just a paper pouch thing on it and then carefully open the bag to reveal the fish cooked along with crab, vegetables and herbs.  It didn't make much sense to me as a kid until a few months ago while shopping in a grocery store out of state, I ran across parchment bags.  You didn't have to cut the parchment out and fold it like origami to make a pouch.  This was just like a paper bag made of parchment that only needed the ingredients and folding.  Place the bag on a baking sheet and into the oven.  As the food cooks and creates steam, the bag puffs up.  At the table the paper is slit and peeled back to reveal the food.  Adds a little drama.

En Papillote is enjoying a revival as a healthier way of preparing fish and vegetables.  I tried it with halibut, lemon, leek and a few herbs, salt & pepper. First I put in some olive oil, then the fish, etc. and 1/2 a cup of dry white wine.  The halibut had been frozen and lost some moisture in thawing and I cooked it a bit too long and the fish so it was too dry for my taste but the flavor is there and worth giving it another effort. 

It's simple and the clean up is easy.  It also gives your dinner guests a extra entertainment when you serve their plates.  I'm going to give it another try.