Friday, December 31, 2010

Balsamic Sea Salt

I am ending the year with a bang~sprinkling a tad on fresh tomatoes with Mozzarella and fresh basil for a side salad. Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year...........

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Taboo after dinner?

A day without at least two cappuccinos while traveling out the country, for me, is a day without sunshine! I do order the short cups~still counting the calories. Look at how rich and creamy this cup is! This is a meal in itself!! Let me get to the point .....having a cappuccino after dinner was/is a major violation I have experienced for a long time when traveling to Italy. I considered this my dessert at times until someone close to me pointed out very quietly that drinking this type of coffee was never done after dinner. My heart shattered! This is incredulous! I was from Washington where Starbucks was created and had any selection of coffee drinks at any time of the day. So for a few days, I started to take notice and pay more attention to when people were ordering or drinking cappuccinos and really, I never observed anyone caught in the act after dinner or even late in the day-except, the tourist, like me. Whatever is the logic behind this taboo? To that question my friend just replied," it's just not what we do here in Italy." As an American visitor to foreign places, I make an extra effort to comply and conform and not make up my own rules as I go. I never wear tennis shoes and always have a scarf around my neck. I certainly do not wish to challenge the logic behind having a cappuccino after dinner, but I would like to know what it is! If you know, please do share!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Welcoming signs of Fall

I am crazy about pumpkins, any size or shape. And, if I can bake it or make soup, I am a happy camper! As a matter of fact, I found a few wartie looking pumpkins on a visit to Pennsylvania and had them shipped back to Florida. Of all things we don't grow here, it's pumpkins! It is great fun to decorate or experiment and tuck the little boos all around the house, even among the dishes in the kitchen hutch. This year I experimented with tiny little beads that Martha Stewart sells, available at JoAnne's Fabric Stores. I brushed glue on the top of the gourd and then just sprinkled the beads all around. Did all the work in a flat box so I could gather and save the unused beads that didn't stick to the glue.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Honey, we need more honey!"

Not too far from my home is a gal that sits in her car and sells honey. Actually, she has a table set up along the side of the road loaded with quarts of local honey. My husband was the first to notice her and purchased one of the smaller containers she was selling. I detected a hint of citrus~perfect for this little dessert!

wholewheat pecan bread, cut into small bite size pieces, actually three bites works well!
fresh Pecorino cheese, room temperature, sliced and served on top of bread.
one orange, sliced.
a piece of a honeycomb, if available to put on the top~talk about freshness!
freshly grated nutmeg.
honey, 2-3 tablespoons drizzled on top and on orange slice.

That's about it.Take the bread between your fingers, trying not to let ingredients slide off and wait for your taste buds to cry!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Food Florence Style-love the market!

Finding the right cheese to bring home~just too many to choose from!

Then we have all these gorgeous veggies to "wish" we could bring home!

Yes, this little" piggy" did go to market!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Signs of Fall

A favorite time of the year for me with great market finds.
The beginning of the salmon run from Lake Erie.

Signs of Halloween and Thanksgiving, just around the corner.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Goat Cheese Frittata

There have been a few nights when I made a mad dash to the pantry or refrigerator to figure out what in the world we are going to have for dinner tonight that is really fast, fresh and delicious. Finding a nice wine to accompany the dish is another question.......this is a simple, but spectacular all in one meal tasting its' best, directly from the oven to the table. Most of the ingredients are probably in your possession right now! It is so easy and quite filling!

Slice one large red onion, cut into medium size pieces
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Six eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Four ounces of goat cheese, broken into 1/2 inch chunks
One small garlic, pressed
Three medium cooked potatoes, sliced
Two T. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use a ten inch pan or pie plate, slightly greased. Heat a small frying pan and saute the onions and garlic, adding the potatoes and basil last. Stir everything well. Transfer the onion mixture in to the beaten eggs. Place the dish in oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the eggs are set and top is light brown. That's all there is to it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anyone For Fish-Trey Ngeat

Traveling to far off places gives me a real reality check. I may not have the top of the line dishwasher, cooking appliances or even the latest style in a kitchen design, but I am grateful for what I can come home to. I know most of us feel the same way. I look at the water in this photo and cringe at the thought of washing anything in it or even eating anything from it, but people have been surviving this life style for years and it continues to this day.

Drying freshly caught fish and spreading them open on wooden racks is a common sight along the waterways and lake areas around Cambodia. The fish must be quickly preserved as there are no means of modern freezing or cooling in many areas. Forget about electricity! As you can notice, the fish is split, insides removed and salt is added to remove much of the moisture as well keeping bacteria from forming. Pray for no rain!

When dried, the sun fish is stacked and hauled off to the local markets. Catfish is a common catch that can later be grilled or fried and served with a bowl of hot steaming rice.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Grand Terrine

Passing through the Marche Paul Bert last year, I came across a rather large terrine in one of the antique shops. Apparently there was exposition and this terrine was made just for the occasion. If I understood the story correctly, the ingredients did not cook according to planned and spoiled. I took a picture of a photograph of the chefs adding their last finishing touches. What a pity it was unable to completely cook all the way through.This would have fed a village!

The terrine was not for sale, just on display along with a few more photos of the exposition. So, what does one do with this rather large baking terrine afterwards? There is just no stopping the French when it comes to competitions, thank goodness!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Blueberries and the 4th of July

Every 4th of July we always have something with blueberries....oh, we have the watermelon as well, but the berries are my favorite.
Tonight we are having Blueberry Tartlets to start the celebration off with a bang and maybe an extra pound or two! No, this is all good for you!

Blueberry Tartlets

1 C. blueberry or blackberry jam
your favorite sweet short pastry
1 C. mascarpone
1 pint of fresh blueberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Gently melt the jam, set aside until cooled, but still runny. Using individual tart molds, non-stick, place and form dough inside, weigh down and blind bake until lightly browned. Cool pastry cases on wire rack. Spread the base of each with plenty of mascarpone, then top with berries and runny jam. This is just too easy and so delicious! Serves 6

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Avocado Salsa with Crab Fritters

This is such a wonderful time to be cooking ~ the endless array of fresh fish, crabs, fruits and vegetables are just around the corner! This dish is perfect for that hot day and does not require you to be slaving in the kitchen and missing out on a summer activity, like working in the garden or maybe mowing the yard or even riding on your motorcycle.
My house has been empty for over a month and this is the first meal I have prepared this summer! Maybe I passed some of you while riding on my motorcycle through the Rockies~it's great to be back in the kitchen again. Have lots of catching up to do reading previous posts.....I can't wait!

For the salsa
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 ripe avocado
1 firm mango
3 ripe tomatoes
1 small red onion
juice and finely grated rind of two limes
3 T. of fresh cilantro, chopped
Chop and dice all of the above into small pieces. Stir in the lime juice, rinds and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Crab Fritters
2 eggs,beaten
1/2 C. of all purpose flour
2 C. cooked fresh corn
2T. fresh parsley, chopped fine
10 Oz. cooked white crabmeat
3 to 4 T. of olive oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste, lime or lemon wedges for serving

Place the fresh corn, flour and eggs together in bowl and stir until well mixed. Lightly fold in the crabmeat, parsely and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drop large tablespoons of the fritter batter into the hot oil and cook 3 minutes or so on each side or until lightly browned.
Place on paper towel to absorb any oil and serve the fritters immediately with the salsa.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Eggplant Stemperata

One of these days, I am really going to figure out how to do all this blogging properly. I see that I have knocked out all my favorite bloggers sites~I changed the template and all hell broke loose! I'll keep working on it...

Anyway, this is a wonderful side or served on a grilled crostini. Tonight we are having lamb and I thought this would step up the flavor some. Most of the ingredients were on hand.

Preheat oven to 350.

2 medium eggplants
3 T. olive oil
1 sm. red onion, finely chopped
1 med. red and yellow pepper, finely chopped
sea salt to taste
1 T.honey
2 garlic gloves, crushed
1/3 c. raisins
1 med. tomato, diced
1 C. chopped green olives
1 T. capers
2 T.roasted pine nuts
pepper to taste
2 T. shredded fresh mint

Slice the eggplant into 1/2 thick slices. Brush with oil on both sides. Salt and pepper. Bake until well done, 30 minutes, but not to the point where it starts falling apart. Roughly chop when cooled.
Heat the oil and saute the peppers and onions until tender. Add the honey and cook until the vegetables have a caramelized coloring. Add vinegar, stir in olives, tomato, raisins, garlic, capers and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve: Combine the eggplant, stemperata, pine nuts and fresh mint and stir very gently. Makes 2-3 cups.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Waking up to the berry best Mother's Day ever~ right out of the oven, bursting with fresh berries and goodness!
Hoping your day was filled with love and happiness.......

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hihi Olive Estate

On March 9th, we left for New Zealand to help with the 2010 olive harvesting. Our friends in Hihi raise a variety of olives on hundreds of trees. With that number of trees, help is always needed when the olives ripen and must be picked. This season, not all the trees were bending over with the weight of the fruits. The water situation in the Far North may have a terrific impact on the oil and olives this year. We sure hope not! The ground was extremely hard and dry. Large cracks had formed, wide enough to sink your foot into at the base of the trees. The trees varied in the amount of olives that were produced, some with a
handful and other trees with baskets filled to the brim.

In spite of harsh weather conditions this fall, the Hihi Olive Estate continues to produce award winning oils to sell throughout New Zealand.

Here are a few pictures of the groves and landscape.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nuts about nuts!

A few days ago, I had an urge to bake something with macadamia nuts. I found a sight on Amazon where I could order them by the pound.......low and behold, they arrived today and the baking frenzy begins!

You are now viewing the box of ten pounds of raw, broken pieces of nuts, truly decadent and equally healthy. So, where does one begin cooking or baking?

Banana Macadamia Nut Bread

2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. of sugar
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. of packed brown sugar
3 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. Cinnamon
1 1/4 c. mashed bananas
1 t. vinegar
3 T. vegetable oil
1 egg
1 c. coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
1/3 c. milk

With mixer, blend all the ingredients together EXCEPT the macadamia nuts in a large bowl on medium speed. Mix three minutes or until everything is well blended. Add nuts and stir with spoon until incorporated into mixture. Pour into well greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes . Easy!!!

So, I only have have 9 and 1/2 pounds to go! Will be busy roasting! Fortunately, the nuts can be frozen and remain in good shape for a year.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Pasta made easy!

Getting down to the basics here.......and that fantastic pasta machine! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could do this, making pasta from scratch, but I had some great instruction and fresh range eggs!
This cooking experience took place a few years ago outside of Florence. The person pictured has much more gray hair now.....
Tonight for dinner we had Tagliatelle with walnut sauce. A light went off that somewhere in my collection of photos, there was a picture of me squeezing and re-squeezing the pasta through the machine trying to get the correct thickness. It was just a process of folding and refolding and making the setting smaller. The thickness I was attempting to achieve was thin enough to read a newspaper through. That never happened. Continuing on, it was a delight to be working on this marble surface and not in a bowl, something I don't do very often. I felt very professional as I broke the eggs in the flour well and then was able to whisk away, incorporating the flour as needed. Chilled water was added, a quarter of a teaspoon at a time to make a loosely massed dough ball.Then on a lightly floured surface, I was able to knead the dough until it was slightly glossy in appearance. We covered the dough with a tea towel while we drank wine for thirty minutes. Now, that's how you make pasta........

Tagliatelle with Walnut Sauce
1 3/4 lb. of butter
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of heavy cream-use whipping cream
2 cups of finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 extra large garlic, chopped very fine
1/3 cup of freshly chopped parsley
14-16 oz. of pasta, such as tagliatelle

Use a small frying pan and lightly brown the walnuts, about three minutes, moderate heat. Let the walnuts cool. Process the walnuts and parsley together until finely chopped and blended and then add the butter. Mix. Gradually add the oil in a steady stream while processing. Add the garlic, cream and then Parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook pasta according to directions, al dente, drain and toss with sauce. Serves four.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Do we ever have enough?

Astier de Villatte, 173 rue Saint Honore, Paris

Beautiful white-glazed earthenware based on designs from the 18th and 19th centuries.

I am not speaking about money, but all the extra elements that complete a well planned meal......dishes, serving pieces, tabletop luxuries..... those gorgeous accessories that make our meals taste more delicious than they appear. I have a passion ( big time) for any tabletop can be plates, cups, napkin rings, teapots, cups and saucers, crystal-you get the picture.
Throughout the holidays, I spent some time viewing blog sights of different shops and designers. I found a plethora of tabletop settings that almost caused me cardiac arrest a few times. How can there be so many beautiful pieces of china, ceramics, earthenware and porcelains produced and there are still more to come. Where does all this talent come from?
Having owned a shoppe or two with similar products, I'm constantly on the lookout for something calming and elegant that would suit my lifestyle today. I visited this shop in Paris last month and stole a few shots. I hate it when they have signs saying, no photos....some day I am going to get caught. Regardless, I got the shots that I wanted to share. It is worth the visit to stop in and view the beautifully designed earthenware if you are in the area.