Grilled leeks 3 2014

Grilled Leeks and Dealing With Customer Service

We all have those days where one thing is planned and after a few left turns you end up with something completely different. 

I had planned to do the oven roasted tomato sauce with pasta that I made last week.  I have an irritating quirk that I’ll take the time to make a grocery list and still forget something.  This time I forgot pasta.  I had to come up with plan b as our pasta attachment is making weird loud noises.  Not a good sign!

So I decided to do grilled leeks, the oven roasted tomato sauce over grilled steak, and roasted potato medallions. 

As I was prepping the food for the grill the skies opened up and sheets of rain just poured down.  I thought I was heading for plan c thinking I’d have to grill them on the stove top.  Workable but just not the same.  Fortunately at the last minute the skies cleared.

I kept the steak simple with just salt and pepper as I was going to use the sauce with it. 

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Cut the leeks to size and coat them in some olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The ratio is 2 to 1.  Season with salt and pepper. 

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The leeks need to be grilled on medium heat, turning them as they cook.  Sear the steak on high heat.

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Then I nearly derailed dinner again.  I got my mobile phone bill and saw they were overbilling me.  Whenever we travel overseas I get an international plan for the time we travel.  I call when we get back I call to get the plan canceled and prorated.  I’ve never had trouble with this before but they didn’t do as I asked so I made the mistake calling while I was finishing dinner.  It should have been a five minute call to be done while the steak was resting.  Wrong!  I had the bad luck of getting someone with a bad attitude and not the brightest bulb.  So while I was alternating being on hold and trying to get a supervisor I was plating and taking pictures.  Not the best combo!

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And I missed most of dinner with the family which, while my fault for calling, wasn’t cool!

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I did get a good resolution with someone else in the end and I got a thumbs up from the family on the sauce with the steak and the grilled leaks.  Just could have done without the twisty turns.  :)

Leek and mushroom pastry 9 2014

Leek and Mushroom Puff Pastry

Our kids are coming home tomorrow!  They’ve been gone for nearly two weeks visiting grandparents in Florida.  While I’m thrilled they are having a blast swimming, getting ice cream, and being goofy, they are missed.

I asked what they are requesting for dinners for the few days they are with us before they dash off to overnight camp.  My son is asking for chicken cordon bleu.  And my daughter would love something Italian.  I think I can handle these requests.  :)

When I posted about the roasted veg with crepes I said there was another dish to post about from the French restaurant we went to at Terminal 3 Heathrow.  I did find out what the restaurant was called, it’s Oriel Grande Brasserie.  My husband ordered a puff pastry dish with leeks, mushrooms, and goat cheese.  It was delicious so I knew I would try to recreate it.

I confess I buy the puff pastry.  I do want to try to make some but I can get decent store bought and it’s one of the few ingredients I buy so what the heck.  :)  For this dish I used the puff pastry shells which need to be baked ahead of time.  Follow the directions given.  For mine I baked them at 425F/220C for about 20 minutes.

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Set aside. This recipe is for two servings. In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute 6 sliced mushrooms.

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I wanted a nice roasted flavour from the mushrooms.  As Julia Child taught the best way to do this is not mess about with the mushrooms.  In other words, don’t stir.  After the mushrooms are sauteed for a minute or so, let them “roast” on each side until browned.  In the meantime, finely chop 2 cloves of garlic and add to the skillet with a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.

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After a few minutes add a 1/4 cup of chicken stock and about 3/4 cup of sliced leeks.  Bring to a simmer.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Once the liquid reduces about half add a dollop of goat cheese and melt it into the sauce.

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Spoon into the pastry shells and grate fresh Jarlsberg or a similar cheese on top.

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Bake until the cheese is melted and golden.   The side dish that was served when my husband had the dish was a potato salad of some sort over greens.  I roasted some potato in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper.  I served it over mixed greens with a lemon thyme dressing.

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This was a light summer meal but would also be great as a starter or a party dish.  I really wish my son liked mushrooms as I’d like to make this for the kids.  It would be hard to pick round the mushrooms though!

Grilled carrots 2 2014

Something New to Grill – Carrots!

I love grilling season and have tried several things when it comes to veg.  The normal things like corn, peppers, onions.  Love grilling mushrooms but I came across a post by Farm to Table Life for grilled carrots

I was intrigued.  And as they said in their post, why haven’t I tried this before?  And I’m also wondering what else I can grill. 

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Mix a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and some chopped rosemary.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wash and dry the carrots.  Lightly coat the carrots with the marinade.  Heat the grill to about 350F/175C.

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Grill until it is cooked the way you like.  Some like them firm like I do and some like it cooked much softer.  Do turn them as they cook keeping in mind that smaller ones will cook faster.

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Serve immediately.  I really enjoyed this and will make it again. And the colours really pop.  What do you grill that might be unusual?

Blackcurrant bars 6 2014

Blackcurrant Bars – On The Tart Side Of Life

We are looking at a blow for freedom as my mum likes to say.  What is it you ask?  Why getting rid of cable!  The bane of many of us.  I’m sure many of you have heard loads of horror stories lately about what happens when customers try to cancel the cable.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that we won’t have issues.  But it’s time to cut the cord as they say.  We only watch a handful of channels so it isn’t economical to have it.  Today we’ve been testing a digital antenna all round the house to find the best spot.  Where we live, we only get PBS but that is fine because with Hulu Plus and Netflix, we are pretty much covered.  The dogs spent the day looking at us funny while we stood in different rooms seeing if there was any improvement!

This weekend we also had a fun date night and went to see the movie Chef.  I really liked that movie.  Aside from a display of fabulous food the music was outstanding!  It was hard not to get up and dance. 

All the blackcurrants have been picked now.  I froze a bunch for later in the year but I saw a link to blackcurrant bars.  When I went to pin it it said it was a spam link but it sparked an idea.  I used my mother’s date bar recipe for the bar portion of it and then made up an apple blackcurrant jam. 

I did the jam ahead of time because the week got a little nutty.  Okay, a lot nutty.  Thank goodness for weekends!  But you can make the jam just before you bake the bars. Either way is fine. 

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In a small saucepan add a cup to a cup and a half of blackcurrants and a diced apple.  Add about a 1/4 cup of water and a few splashes of lemon juice.

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Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer until the fruit breaks down while stirring frequently.  Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of brown sugar depending on your taste.  Some like it to be really tart. 

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When you are ready to bake preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Melt 6 tablespoons in a small bowl.  In another bowl mix 1 cup quick oats, 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 cup flour, and 1/2 tsp of baking soda.  This is half the recipe of the date bars as the jam amount for the black currant is about half of what the date bar has.  Add the melted butter and mix well.  Press half into the baking tin.

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Spread the jam over the oat mixture.

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Put the rest of the oat mixture over the jam and bake for about 25 minutes until golden.

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This was definitely tart!  But my husband loved it.  :)

Wish me luck with the cable company! 

Oven roasted tomato sauce 3 2014

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

Got caught out with a summer cold today.  Miserable thing.  When colds come round it’s much preferable to be cosy but in the summer that’s hard to pull off.  Ah well, the dogs are keeping me company while I watch Bleak House.  Cheerful show, ahem.  I’m behaving myself so we can go out tonight to see the movie “Chef”.  It will be a quiet date night but that’s ok.  :)

When I made the Crêpes with Roasted Vegetables I really liked the taste of the oven roasted tomatoes and planned on making a sauce once we had a few ripened tomatoes from the garden.  This week I was able to get enough off the vines to do up a sauce.  This is an easy sauce that is packed with loads of flavour.

Slice the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper.  Slow roast in the oven at 300F/150C for about an hour.

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If you are making homemade pasta, prepare it before making the sauce.  In a skillet heat up olive oil.  You want enough to create enough sauce to coat the pasta.  Saute 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.  The heat should be medium low so the garlic doesn’t burn but softens instead.  Then add the tomatoes.

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Add a 1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar and a handful of chopped basil.  Toss the cooked pasta and serve immediately.  I also did up some parmesan toast to accompany this.

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As I said to my husband “not to toot my own horn” but I loved this dish.  It’s hard to beat fresh ingredients from the garden.  Love this time of year!

Radicchio risotto 8 2014

Don’t Be Radicchio With My Risotto…

Occasionally I find myself backed up in the book department.  I’m in the middle of a couple and have several in the wings.  When that happens and the kids want to make a trip to the library I find myself wandering in the cookbook aisle.  Oh the possibilities!

If I had the budget and space I would be buying cookbooks all the time.  Alas, I don’t have either.  Though over the years I’ve collected a few very old cookbooks from the 1800’s.  I find them fascinating.  I have tried to do recipes though it gets tricky when they talk about slow ovens or hot ovens.

This time round I found “Lidia’s Italy” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali.  Now there is a job I’d love to have!  Being paid to travel round Italy and creating a cookbook based on what I see.  Sign me up!

A risotto with radicchio caught my eye.  This is my version of it.  Instead of simmering water I chose to use chicken stock.  As I’ve mentioned before I find water to be a harsh ingredient.  I also changed the recipe to just make 2 portions with enough for a small lunch as leftovers. Before starting heat 2 – 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock.

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Melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet.  Chop 4 slices of streaky bacon and start rendering in the skillet.

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After a few minutes add in a half cup of thinly sliced red onions and two cloves of garlic finely chopped.

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Add a half cup of arborio rice and half a cup of dry white wine.  Stir well for a couple of minutes.  Add 3/4 cup of radicchio.

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Add stock a half cup at a time allowing the rice to absorb the liquid.

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Grate a cup of fresh parmesan cheese.  When the risotto is about halfway cooked add fresh peas to cook and then when the risotto is nearly cooked add the cheese.

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Season with salt.  Serve as soon as the risotto is cooked.  It needs to be firm and slightly al dente.

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The recipe called for putting in the radicchio near the beginning.  I think next time I would wait longer as the colour is lost as it is cooked.  But it lent a nice balance with the bacon.  And it was really good with toasted buttered ciabatta.

Eggs Benedict 7 2014

Eggs Benedict with Avocado

There was a break in the humidity this weekend which allowed us to take advantage of weather to do a lot of little chores in the garden.  I am a bit worried about the potatoes as the leaves are looking a worse for wear.  After some research I realised that we aren’t given enough nutrients for them.  Hopefully I can get that sorted this week. 

Still no sign of the parsnips.  I mean none sprouted.  I find it really strange so I’m wondering if the packet of seeds was any good.  Keeping fingers crossed we chased off the rabbits again this year.  We were dealing with squirrels and the rabbits snuck in.  One was bold.  I ran towards it making all sorts of noise and it just looked at me.  Guess I need to work on my technique. 

After several hours of puttering about I was in the mood for a hearty lunch.  I had an avocado and some homemade ciabatta bread so it was a small leap to eggs benedict.  Makes sense, right?

As delicious as this meal is there is some of juggling with the prep to get it all done at the same time.  I made a half recipe from the Fanny Farmer’s Cookbook as a 1/2 cup was enough.  Set up the ciabatta to be toasted and buttered, then set up the eggs to be poached

If you are new to hollandaise sauce definitely use a double boiler.  When I started I didn’t have one and so learned in a small saucepan. 

In the pan over very low heat whisk two small egg yolks.

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These need to be whisked but not so much you scramble them.  Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and slowly add 1/8lb of melted butter while stirring.

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Slowly add a tablespoon of hot water, dash of cayenne pepper, and salt to taste.  Stir for a minute or so until thickened.  

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Layer the bread, avocado, poached eggs, and the sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.

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This is such a treat when the egg is cut into and the yolk blends with the hollandaise sauce.

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After a hard morning working in the garden this was a great reward. 

Fig pizza 6 2014

Fig Pizza and Big Victories

A few years ago the leash that we used to walk Guinness wore out and my husband made a big mistake in tasking me to go online and see what hours the humane society was open.  Suddenly he hears me call out to him to come and look at the photo of the cutest dog.  We had been thinking about getting another dog but we were having a hard time pairing one with Guinness.  Guinness had been termed an inappropriate punk.  He is a lovely dog but is insecure around other dogs and tries to dominate them.  So we kept failing.

But this day we trooped down to the humane society to meet this goofy dog.  They did warn us that he was on prozac and that was my big oops.  We don’t know Murphy’s history but we do know he spent 6 months in 3 different humane societies.  But I thought we should take him off the meds.  Try training, that sort of thing.  It’s been a tough few years.  It took him a long time to trust us, understandably, and while he was a sweetheart in the home, he was a nut job on the walks.  His anxiety overran any attempts for him to listen.  He isn’t malicious just a big nut job.  We were despairing with my back being thrown out and my husband starting to feel it as well.

There is now light at the end of the tunnel!  We found a new harness that fits him better and a low dose med that takes the edge off of him without making him a drooling fool.  We still wanted Murphy to be Murphy.  I was able to take him back to training this past week and it’s been amazing.  He’s listening and we aren’t being jerked around.  I can’t tell you how big a victory this is for us!  I’m not dreading the walks, woot!

In the midst of all this the kids were getting ready to head to Florida to see their grandparents so for their last night here I made a light meal for us.  Given that figs are in season I thought it would be fun to do a pizza with naan using the figs.

I grilled the naan on a cast iron grill until it was almost cooked.

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While the naan is cooking chop up a shallot and a couple of cloves of garlic. Saute in olive oil until softened.

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I am late to the whole fig thing.  But now I love it when fig season swings round.  It works so well with many different recipes.  And I love it with the saltiness of prosciutto.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Layer the naan with the shallots and garlic, figs, prosciutto, and goat cheese.  Fontina also works for this.

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Bake until the cheese is warmed and melty.

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This is perfect with a small side salad.  The tomatoes in the picture are the last we’ll buy in awhile as our tomatoes are starting to ripen.  Can’t wait to start eating them!

And oh get this!  I finally have a preview button.  :)  They never responded to my note to support but at least I’m seeing positive changes.

 

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Time to Start Enjoying the Bounty of the Garden…

We were lucky to have a good friend take care of our gardens with her kids. She even sent pictures to us! I got a kick out of that. 😄

Despite seeing the photos it was surprising how well some of the plants were doing. The tomato plants and pepper plants struggled a bit when we planted them. The pepper plants didn’t seem to like the Epsom salts at first. What difference a few weeks make! The peppers are thriving and the tomato plants shot up big and strong and we will have a bigger harvest this year than last.

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I love how tomatillos look like lanterns whilst they are growing.

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I never appreciated how beautiful the flowers of vegetables can be until we seriously started growing them. Green beans have one of my favourites.

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Our son helped make a delicious black currant, gooseberry, and apple crumble. So good! Our little bushes are bursting this year much to my husband’s delight, he loves the tartness of these berries.

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Our flower garden survived the huge hacking we did to reclaim the garden. It seems counterintuitive to do that but the proof is in the pudding. The garden is happy and thriving sharing a beautiful bouquet of blooms.

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It’s turning into a great year. 😊

Corn bacon 7 2014

I Love the Colours of Summer Food!

We were spoilt when we were in England with the summer weather. My kind of summer weather where I don’t feel like I’m about to melt and I start to wonder if there is room in the fridge for me.  My husband heard a report on the BBC talking about how muggy the weather was.  Ha! I’ll take their version over the mugginess we get here any day of the week.  It was fabulous sleeping weather.  Right now there is a wall of humidity waiting for us just outside the door.  Ugh.  Thank goodness for A/C.

Of course this time of year comfort food is right out the window.  At least the heavy stick to your ribs kind.  Yesterday I reached back to one of my earlier cookbooks that I got when I moved out on my own to make a corn dish that is packed with flavour but is light and easy to make.  I drew inspiration from “Skillet Suppers” by Andrea Chesman.  It was published back in 1994.  I haven’t opened it in years so it was time to dust it off.  This is my version of their Cajun Macque Choux.  Their version has evaporated milk and prawns.  I took out the milk and replaced the prawns with chicken.

I also love this dish for all the bright colours of the ingredients.

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This is a one skillet meal which makes for very easy clean up.  Chop about 5-6 slices of streaky bacon depending on how thick they are and cube a breast of chicken.

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Start cooking the bacon in the skillet to render the fat.  Once it’s about half way cooked add the chicken in. 

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Thinly slice a quarter of a red onion and add it to the bacon and chicken.  When the onion begins to soften add the chopped jalapeno and a cup of chopped pepper.  Any colour you wish.  Stir well as this cooks.

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Add about 10oz of frozen corn, 1/3 – 1/2 cup of chopped scallion, and a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme. Have this on medium heat.

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Once the corn is about half way cooked add a handful of chopped fresh basil and a chopped tomato.  I used about a cups worth of tomato.

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Season with salt, black pepper, and white pepper.  Stir well and cook until the corn and chicken are finished. 

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This is a very simple but flavourful dish.  I only used one jalapeno in this dish but you could use hotter peppers or more hot peppers if you wish.  My son and I liked the mild heat in this dish but my husband would have loved more omph.  :)