Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Growing Year

Please, oh please, somebody ooh and ahh over this new shrub bed in our backyard. I worked my Dad like a rented mule for 3 days. This will look so fantastic... in about a year.
This was my latest project; partly for me to look out on some colorful plants that would attract butterflies and hummers, and partly for Shaw so he won't have to mow the super-slopey back part of the yard.
We have already had a hummer visitor.
From L to R, back row: Golden Euonymus, Pittosporum, Esperanza Tecoma (Orange Jubilee)
front row: Red Hot Poker lilies, Lantana, Sweet Broom, Bottle Brush, Indian Blanket Flower.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some Like it Hot

This pasta salad recipe is from Cooks Illustrated. More specifically, it is one of their Best Make Ahead recipes. Paw Paw and Yaya came out to help us landscape the front yard, and this was our quick dinner after a long day's work. It is supposed to be "made ahead" (gratuitous quotations justification: specific method prescribed as part of the title, and practically disregarded in the actual preparation on the field), but we were late, and I was hungry so we ate it warm. This can be made at least a day ahead and left in the fridge. When you want to eat it, add the rest of the dressing, and toss the tomatoes in. I've also added other things, like blanched green beans, just to keep it real.

Oh, and I'm not saying how I know, but rose wines are spectacular with this.
Pasta Salad For a Crowd, In Advance
Cooks titles it: Summer Garden Pasta Salad w/Olives and Feta, but I think that leaves nothing for the imagination

Recipe calls for farfalle (bowtie) pasta, but any smallish shaped pasta will work. It just might change the yield. Still cook until completely tender.

Serves 12-14

6 T olive oil
3 T red wine vinegar
3 T lemon juice
1 medium shallot
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T fresh oregano leaves, minced (1/2 t dried)
1 t salt
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t ground black pepper

1 lb farfalle
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated on large holes of grater
1 yellow bell pepper, 1/4 in. strips
8 oz crumbled feta (2 c.)
1 c pitted kalamata olives, chopped coarse
1/2 c minced fresh parsley leaves
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Whisk all dressing ingredients together in medium bowl. Set aside.

Boil the pasta with 2 T salt and cook until completely tender. Reserve 1 c of the cooking water, then drain in a colander. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.

Stir the reserved pasta water into the dressing. Pour half of this new mixture over the pasta and stir to coat. Stir in the carrots, pepper, feta, olives and parsley. Scatter the tomatoes on top.

To Store: Cover the salad tightly with plastic wrap and poke several holes in to vent. Refrigerate the salad and dressing separately for up to 2 days.

To Serve: Microwave the pasta on high power to remove the chill, 1-2 minutes. Shake the reserved dressing to recombine, then pour half over the salad, toss to combine. Add remaining dressing as needed to keep salad moist.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cobb Salad

After gorging ourselves in several Disney World restaurants, we have returned to recreate some of our favorites from our trip. On the top of the list was the Cobb Salad from MGM's Brown Derby. We ordered this salad as our first course, as it comes with 2 servings. I wish it was the only thing we ate, not just to leave that taste in our mouths all afternon, but because it was SUPER filling. Much more than expected. They prepare it in stripes of ingredients and toss it at your table with the dressing. We hope to do a more pretentious version for a Callaway meal in the near future, sort of striated and stacked in a mould.

And, as always, when you can't think of a wine for something, you are thinking of a rose (or Champagne/sparkling wine). I'm not saying how I know, but I know this is great with a rose.
A couple of notes: it calls for not-your-average greens. I couldn't find chicory, and just used more of the others. Truly anything works. Also, I just sort of vibed it for the dressing. The recipe makes about 1 keg full. I'll just list the ingredients and sort of my measurements.

Cobb Salad(for 4-6)

1/2 head iceberg
1/2 bunch watercress
1 small bunch chicory
1/2 head romaine
2 tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 breast turkey, (shaved from deli counter)
6 strips bacon, cooked and chopped fine, REALLY fine
1 avocado, diced small
3 eggs, hard boiled, and, you guessed it, chopped fine
2 T chives, chopped fine, or omitted if you are Shaw
1/2 bleu cheese, crumbled
1 c. dressing (below)

I'm guessing you are getting the idea that everything is finely chopped. It is really beautiful when finely chopped. But it is work! Save your breakfast bacon, hard boil some eggs early in the day, and wash all the lettuce when you get it home. The lettuce chopping takes longest, as it is best when finely chopped.

For the visual impact, place chopped greens on a large platter, and lay out all other ingredients in stripes across it. Bring along a bowl to the table and carve... er... toss all ingredients with dressing. Shaw doesn't like bleu cheese, and he said feta was just fine on his. And it was.

DRESSING (approx.)

2 T water
sugar, pinch
salt, pinch
Worcestershire, squirt
garlic, half clove pulverized
oil, as much as you like, maybe 1/2 c.
red wine vinegar, maybe 2 T
dijon mustard, 1/2 t.

It actually calls for 3 parts salad oil and then 1 part olive oil. I just used olive oil and added it at the end to come up with the consistency I liked.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Can I Stick My Cold Feet in Soup?

I don't know why I need warm liquids to stay warm when it is wintertime. I just do. And sometimes tea isn't enough. We are always looking for yummy soups, regardless of the weather. Martha provided one for us. (Martha Stewart, that is, from her January 2010 issue.) Unusual combination, but yummy results. I'll post a picture after I've finished my bowl.

Hearty Winter-Vegetable Soup
serves 10-12

2 T olive oil
4 leeks,, halved lengthwise and cut in 1 inch pieces (Shaw hates leeks, I used onion and shallot)
3 celery stalks. cut on the bias in 1/2 inch pieces
3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise, then cut in cubes
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2 pinches red pepper flakes
5 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups water
1 (1-1 1/2 lb) small butternut squash, diced in half inch pieces
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced in half inch pieces
1 head escarole, cut into 1 inch ribbons
1 can chickpeas, drained and re-rinsed
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T thinly sliced mint
2 T thinly sliced dill

Heat oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. Cook leeks, celery, carrots, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1 t. salt, stirring occasionally, until leeks are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add stock and water, and bring to a boil.

Add squash and potato, and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until veggies are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in escarole and chickpeas, return to a boil. Stir in lemon and herbs, season with salt and pepper, and stick your feet in it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

France, pt. neuf

The Carcasonne medieval cathedral was, of course, closed when we toured the medieval town. We went back to snap some pics that Friday.

France, pt. huit

After Collioure, we just went driving around hunting for castles. Many of these are spectacular ruins, but not enough restored to really look at. They like to charge admission for access, and then you have to walk about a mile straight up a cliff to get to it. Some of the castles had falconers doing their thing at certain times; Carcasonne even had jousting exhibitions, for a fee. Either way, the castles were cool to look at, and interesting to drive to.

Some of these pictured are the castles of Queribus and Peyrepetuse. We also found a delicious winery on this drive (Corbieres) and bought a few bottles for dinner.

France, pt. sept

I confess, this is my "money" shot. Probably the best one I took on the trip.

Collioure is on the Mediterranean coast in an area called the Vermillion Coast. Mom asked to see the Mediterranean sometime during the trip and Collioure is one of the most picturesque in the area. A few drawbacks: a bit of a drive, the heat almost slayed us, and Sean got splooshed by a pigeon at lunchtime. Aside from all that, it was an adorable town. We toured the local toured the local fortress/castle, as well, and I'm including some pictures of that.