mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

grilled chicken legs . . .

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In the past few months, I’ve been using a bottled teriyaki marinade when cooking fresh chicken legs. Today, I had some Whole Foods air-chilled chicken legs which I cut in pieces including making cuts down either side of the thigh bones to expedite thorough cooking. I then added Osawha organic soy sauce, cooking sherry (Holland brand,) two crushed cloves of garlic, green onions and fresh ginger root sliced into slivers. A spot of honey went into the mixture at the end. I turned the chicken with a big spoon and put a plate on top of the large pyrex mixing bowl that contained this ambrosia mixture for dinner.

After marinating, I’ll broil the chicken with the skin side up last. With it, I’m cooking up a pot of jasmine rice and sauteeing a skillet full of fresh kale. A simple supper that’s aromatic and healthy at the same time!

 

“bare bones apple pie. . . “

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I came across some thin pork chops on sale at the Stop and Shop today. Will cook them with a crisp outside and simmered in a mustard/brown sugar/apple cider glaze for supper tonight. Along with it will be baked potatoes and perhaps some sauteed kale with soy, Japanese seasoned vinegar and honey.

Casting around for something to become dessert, I found two and a half Honey Crisp apples in the righthand bin of the fridge; some golden raisins and a Pillsbury prepared pie crust. Peeled and cut up, I tossed the apples with a little flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and the raisins. Laid out the crust and filled it in a square baking pan, pulling  the crust around it to make a crostada of sorts. A few dabs of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice plus sprinklings of sugar and cinnamon on the crust dressed it up.

Into the oven it went for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees (because the pan was a dark metal non-stick pan.) Hope someone shows up with some nice vanilla bean ice cream to go with it for dessert!

 

 

a meal in a bowl . . .

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I’ve been thinking about how to eat more simply for a long time.  My cooking leans towards dear ingredients, such as Cape scallops, soft-shell crab or roast chicken with stuffing. It also tends toward butter on rolls and baked sweet potatoes. Popovers.  
 
Lately, I’ve been thinking about eating a meal in a bowl. Just that and no more. Rice and beans with red cabbage and apples, for example. Eating from bowls and spoons made of bamboo. Softer and lighter. Run the dishwasher twice a week rather than once a day. A good experiment to try now that Spring is almost here and lighter meals in a bowl can be part salad, part grains and maybe fruit? 

rosemary shortbread . . .

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For Christmas, I made a batch of rosemary shortbread. The squares disappeared quickly and my granddaughter, who’s graduating from college said, “These are delicious – and I don’t even like rosemary!”

It’s so simple to make if you have a food processor. If you don’t it’s difficult to combine the cold butter with the flour by hand. The dough is crumbly and is basically pressed gently into a square baking dish with your fingers. Here are the steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. If you use dark metal non-stick pans, turn the heat only to 315.
  2. In a Cuisinart or other food processor, cut 2 sticks of cold butter into pieces and put in the bowl. Measure 2/3 cup of granulated sugar and add. Using a spoon, lightly fill 2 cups of flour into measuring cup, making sure the flour isn’t packed. The secret to making tender shortbread is the ratio of flour to fat – and if there’s too much flour, the shortbread comes out hard rather than tender.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, torn from the stalks and chopped up with a knife.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of salt.
  5. Sprinkle in a couple of rounds of high quality honey.
  6. Pulse the mixture until the butter is in small bits in a coarse flour mixture. It won’t really congeal into a ball so don’t overmix it trying to do that.
  7. Take an 8 inch square pan and sprinkle the mixture into the pan, pressing it down gently with your fingers. Take a fork and prick it in rows before putting in the oven.
  8. Bake until the shortbread turns golden brown all over. I rotate the pan every once in awhile to ensure that it browns evenly. 35-45 minutes.
  9. IMPORTANT: when you take it out of the oven, prick it in rows again with a fork. Before it cools completely, cut into squares. If you wait until it’s cold, it will be too hard to cut well.
  10. When the shortbread is completely cool, I like to warm servings slightly in the microwave – which makes them very tender to the bite. Up to you, but it’s tasty when they’re slightly warmed.

P.S.  The batch in this photo was made in a 9-inch square pan with 3 sticks of butter, 3 cups of flour, 1 cup sugar and 1.5 tablespoons of rosemary, 2 teaspoons salt and a little more honey. The important thing is to maintain the ratio of 1:1 for butter to flour, adjusting the other ingredients accordingly.

 

 

homemade tofu stir-fry. . .

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Today, our nephew visited to help G. with a piano move and draining the gas tank of the snowblower in anticipation of the storm we’re supposed to have on Friday.

Casey is a gentle soul, fresh out of college, and always eager to help out. He’s also taken up vegetarian eating and especially loves a tofu-stir fry that I make for him occasionally when he’s here at lunch time. Today, he asked me to write out the recipe which I did, emphasizing that the success is due to cooking everything separately, then combining the cooked ingredients right before serving.

Most of the ingredients are readily available at Trader Joe’s, especially the teriyaki pressed tofu that is essential to the dish. I also put together a box of thin spaghetti, two packs of tofu, some bokchoy and snow peas plus scallions and ginger root for him to take with him. I think he’s planning to make it tonight for supper with his folks.

Here’s the recipe:   Teriyaki Tofu Noodle Stir Fry Recipe for Casey

INGREDIENTS (at Trader Joe’s)

  1. teriyaki tofu (comes spicy or bland) – keeps well in fridge
  2. snow peas or sugar snap peas
  3. napa cabbage or bok choy (they have miniature bok choy)
  4. thin spaghetti  or rice noodles
  5. fresh edamame (if using)
  6. fresh garlic, fresh ginger root and scallions

COOKING STEPS: this dish calls for cooking the components separately and then combining them when ready to serve

  1. Rinse and slice up 2 scallions on the diagonal (greens and whites)
  2. Peel ginger root and slice up 3-4 thin pieces, then slice them into thin strips
  3. Peel and crush 2 cloves of garlic and mince them up

HOLD these on the side and use for each cooking step that it’s called for.

4.  Boil the thin spaghetti and rinse so it doesn’t stick together – hold drained noodles in a bowl.

5. Cut teriyaki tofu into strips the size that you want; heat some oil to medium high in a skillet and let them crisp up with a couple of drops of soy sauce and a little sesame oil. – set aside.

6. Clean the tofu skillet out and add a little oil. Rinse the cabbage and slice it up; take the strings off the snow peas if using and cut them on the diagonal; or use snap peas.

a.  In a medium high skillet, heat the oil and add scallions, garlic and ginger. Then saute the vegetables quickly so that they’re cooked through but not wilted. – set aside.

7. Now you’ll have a) tofu that’s been crisped up; b) noodles that are cooked; and c) vegetables that are cooked.

8. Clean the skillet and dry it – heat some fresh oil in the bottom of the skillet. Put in the remaining scallions, ginger and garlic and let it cook so it’s aromatic. Add the drained noodles and stir them around – add a little soy sauce to taste. When the noodles are mixed well with the ginger, scallions and garlic and soy, add the drained vegetables and stir well with the noodles.

9. When ready to serve, plate the noodle/veggies and then add the teriyaki tofu on top.

Footnote: it’s also tasty and easy to add or substitute some of these choices to the recipe above: broccoli florets, baby spinach, napa cabbage, rice noodles, fresh wonton noodles, angel hair pasta and bamboo shoots. If you’re not a vegetarian, you could also add a dollop of oyster sauce to the teriyaki tofu, shrimp or cut up teriyaki marinated chicken.

ENJOY!!

 

gravlax! . . .

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This past weekend, we drove to NYC for a family gathering, replete with a Carnegie Hall concert with box seats and an invitation to a family brunch. Instead of smoked salmon, I offered to make gravlax to go with freshly baked NYC bagels.

Gravlax is more delicate than smoked salmon and is easy to make. It uses a curing method of letting the freshest salmon you can find with salt/sugar and fresh dill. That’s it!

For 2 pounds of fresh salmon that my fishmonger cut especially to fit the plastic container I was going to travel with, I used about 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of Maldon sea salt. Mixed it together with lots of chopped fresh dill (or flash frozen dill in jar.)

DSCN0353Spread the mixture lightly on the flesh part of one fillet, then on to the second one. Gently put them together sprinkled sides together and cover with parchment paper and then plastic wrap (to keep the fish fresh from the refrigerator.) Set it in the fridge with room enough to place a jar of unopened spaghetti sauce or similar weight cans.

DSCN0357It can be served in two-three days (no longer.) Check it each day and spoon the liquid that comes out onto the fillets and rearrange them in the container.

When ready to serve, moisten a paper towel and brush off all of the curing marinade so that the salmon is ready for cutting. Be careful to excise any bones or spiny bits from the gravlax before slicing. Slice it with a very sharp, thin knife from the bottom up, away from you, pressing gently down until you’ve carved the thickness of the salmon you like and down to the skin. Lay each slice onto a serving plate and garnishes on the side in separate bowls (thin sliced red onion, capers and mustard glaze.)

The mustard glaze is made by stirring about 1/3 cup of Grey Poupon mustard, a tablespoon or so of olive oil, Marukan seasoned vinegar and some honey to taste. Add more chopped fresh dill into the bowl. Taste it for the amount of sweet sour taste that appeals to you by either adding some fresh lemon or more honey. You can add capers to the mustard sauce too.

The gravlax is wonderful on toasted bagels and is also tasty served on dense Russian rye or pumpernickel bread. Cream cheese is good too – with scallions and chives.

This recipe for gravlax is perfect for a brunch for twelve people – or for a dinner appetizer or just for a meal at home for the two of us (about 2/3rds of a pound.) It couldn’t be easier to make and we are fortunate to live in New England where really fresh salmon is available every day. This recipe relies on the freshness of the fish – and everything is a breeze to prepare from there!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

fresh peach pie in February! . . .

 

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I know peaches aren’t in season. But somehow, I had a hankering for fresh peach pie to have for our dessert tonight. Using three peaches, I peeled them and cut up the fruit. Sprinkled cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and flour on top. Mixed it gently together.

Took out one prepared pie crust (Pillsbury) and laid it out on a board. I spooned up the peaches onto half of the crust, dotted it with unsalted butter and closed up the pie by joining the circle and folding the crust edges together. Then, I made it look pretty by cutting the crust top to let the steam out and making a crimped edge with my fingers.

I beat up an egg and brushed the pastry all over with the beaten egg. Mixed up some sparkling sugar with Penzey’s cinnamon and sprinkled it on the top. In a 375 degree oven, it baked for about 35 minutes or so.

We’ll have it tonight, warmed up with some vanilla ice cream on top.

YAY, Spring is almost here!

a cherry winner for valentine’s day dessert!

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Happy Valentine’s Day today!

Here’s an inspiring recipe that I adapted for our Valentine’s dessert tonight.

Because I couldn’t find any frozen cherries at Whole Foods this a.m., I used tart cherry jam from Michigan that I had in the fridge. Heated it gently with a splash of red wine and a teaspoon of red wine vinegar. D-I-V-I-N-E!! slightly sour but still quite sweet.

Will heat it up and serve it in margarita glasses filled with vanilla ice cream for dessert tonight! YUM!

A contemporary and sophisticated pairing with classic vanilla ice cream!

 

 

“perfect roast chicken for a snowy day. . . “

DSCN0309Yesterday at the new Whole Foods market that just opened in Shrewsbury, the next town over, I was surprised to find “Bell and Evans” whole chickens for sale. The last time I was there, I looked for it but found only Bell and Evans cornish hens that were about two dollars more than Perdue at the Stop and Shop. My eyebrows went up when I looked at the price: usually it costs about $9 for a small chicken at Market Basket – and around $13 at Idylwylde Farms. When I flipped the chicken over, the price was $2.95 or 99 cents/pound for a 3 pound bird!  Yup. I bought two of them at $2.95 and brought them home, one for the freezer and one for dinner tonight. That’s an amazing price to pay for a whole Bell & Evans chicken. They’re tender and very tasty.

We’re supposed to have heavy snow today starting around noon and turning to freezing rain until 10: p.m. tonight. It seems like a really good time to have a roast chicken dinner – (as long as the power holds out) and for leftovers tomorrow. There are as many recipes to roast a chicken as there are days in a year. I like to make some Pepperidge Farm stuffing and bake Japanese sweet potatoes alongside. Some fresh carrots and onions placed around the stuffed bird provide a nice side vegetable garnish along with what’s left of the herbs growing in the north window of the house. At the last minute, I’ll saute some fresh zucchini and onion together. There will be lots of vegetables, a nice bird with drippings and stuffing!

Here’s my easy prep to make this savory dinner:

  1. Rinse bird in cold water and dry well inside and out with paper towels.
  2. Butter a roasting pan and set the bird on it; smear the bird with unsalted butter, add salt and cracked pepper to it.
  3. In a skillet, heat up a tablespoon of butter, saute a small amount of chopped celery and vidalia onion, add some Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing and stir. Sprinkle on some Bell’s Seasoning on the stuffing and add bits of chicken broth to moisten the stuffing – but not too much. Let it COOL.
  4. When cool, stuff the bird and set it in the roasting pan; cut up carrots and onions to place around the bird in the serving pan. Preheat the oven to 375-400 (my oven has been temperamental lately and I’ve been using a oven thermometer to gauge what it’s really doing rather than what it’s set on.)
  5. Once the oven temp is around 400 degrees, I’ll also add a couple of Japanese sweet potatoes on a separate baking sheet. These are delicious if they’re cooked long enough so that they’re fork tender.
  6. Place the bird and vegetables in the oven and roast until golden brown. The inside temp of the chicken should be around 165 degrees when tested with an instant meat thermometer. Take the dish out and shield it with some aluminum foil for about 15-20 minutes before serving.
  7. Scoop the stuffing from the bird and plate, adding roast chicken pieces and juices on top. Spoon up the vegetables and place around the chicken. Serve the baked Japanese sweet potatoes alongside.
  8. Make a simple lettuce salad with vinaigrette dressing.  A snug, cozy meal for supper while the weather is inclement outside!

“homemade cream of mushroom soup . . . sort of” . . .

DSCN0305DSCN0308Our New England forecast for this Wednesday is for SNOW – starting midday and building until 10 p.m. tonight. For lunch today, I looked in the fridge for ingredients to make homemade soup. Usually, I make a tomato/broth based soup with celery, onion, carrots and a little macaroni. But today, there were only very large cans of stewed tomatoes in the pantry – and not much else to shore it up with.

In the fridge, I spied a half box of thickly sliced mushrooms which had served well for the brown rice tortilla pizzas we’ve been having for lunch. There was a can of cream of mushroom soup in the cupboard so mushroom soup it would be for our lunch. I chopped up half a leftover Vidalia onion; a tiny carrot and the fresh mushrooms. I heated up some Kalamata olive oil (from Trader Joe’s) in a small soup pot, added the vegetables and let them sizzle for a short time. Added a small splash of cooking sherry (too much is overwhelming) and stirred the can of soup into the pot. The mixture was pretty thick until I added a can of milk/water and stirred it well. Added some dried parsley that freshened up the soup and made it look more appetizing. Set the heat to low and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes.

With the soup, I’m toasting some whole grain bread. We’ll spread it thickly with plain cream cheese. This soup is partly homemade with a can of prepared soup. Can’t get any easier than that! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. . . !