December 30, 2011

Baby Bootie Madness! (How to knit your own baby booties!)

So, I may have gone a little crazy knitting baby booties lately...

Perhaps you are also expecting, or have a grandbaby on the way, or a dear friend that is going to have a little one? Would you like to make them a special gift? These baby booties are honestly easier than they look! I might not recommend them if you are a very novice knitter, but, if you can already knit and purl, they will be a snap!

Here we go! Using (US) size 5 needles, and yarn that is #3 or #4 weight, cast on 32 stitches. I've found that if I make a slip knot for the first stitch and don't pull it tight, I can adjust any slack I accumulate when knitting the first row. It is illustrated here in the pictures. For the pattern, you'll be using the knit and purl stitches, you'll be setting aside some stitches on either a stitch holder (but I don't have any, so I use a different yarn / thread to hold them, using a large needle to pull it through, also shown in the pictures). 'Picking up' stitches may seem intimidating, but it is actually pretty easy. You don't have to be incredibly specific about what part of the pattern you're picking up, just do your best to spread out the number of stitches you're picking up over the distance so it is relatively even. Finally, have fun with this! Have fun with the color, the yarn texture, the ribbon, and don't feel it has to be the same color as the bootie! Some color combinations you might consider- green and pink, pink and orange, baby blue and lavender, it's really up to you! Fits roughly 0-6 months. If you're in doubt on size, try going up a needle size to US #6. Keep in mind the # of needle is not the cm measurement!

Size 5 needles
Cast on 32 stitches
Row 1 knit
Row 2 knit 21 stitches, put the remaining 11 either on a stitch holder or as described with contrasting yarn (turn)
Row 3 *k1, p1 12 stitches, place the remaining 11 either on a stitch holder or as described with contrasting yarn (turn)
Row 4 *k1, p1 (you are creating a ribbed pattern in this part)
Row 5 *k1, p1
Row 6 *k1, p1
Row 7 *k1, p1
Row 8 *k1,p1
Row 9 *k1, p1
Row 10 *k1, p1
Row 11 *k1, p1
Row 12 *k1, p1
Row 13 *k1, p1
Row 14 *k1, p1, but do not turn- pick up 7 stitches (knit stitch) along the ribbed panel, then knit the 11 stitches on the stitch holder (if using contrasting yarn, just cut it as needed and throw away)
Row 15 p28, then pick up 7 stitches (purl stitch) along the other side of the ribbed panel, then purl the 11 stitches on the stitch holder (if using contrasting yarn, just cut it as needed and throw away)
Row 16 knit
Row 17 purl
Row 18 knit
Row 19 purl
Row 20 knit
Row 21 purl
Row 22 knit
Row 23 bind off 2 stitches (purl), purl remainder of row
Row 24 bind off 2 stitches (knit), k2, k2tog, k14, k2tog, k2, k2tog, k14, k2tog, k2
Row 25 purl
Row 26 k2, k2tog, k12, k2tog, k2, k2tog, k12, k2tog, k2
Row 27 purl
Row 28 k2, k2tog, k10, k2tog, k2, k2tog, k10, k2tog, k2
bind off (purl)

To finish, sew together the bottom seam so that the stockinette stitch will be the outside of the bootie. Sew a ribbon to the outside back center seam, making sure it’s long enough to tie around the precious little ankle!

In addition to having fun with the color and ribbon choices, you can substitute a different pattern for the rib if you like, for example, a seed stitch, or a moss stitch!

December 11, 2011

Weekend Lunch Delicousness... Rib Eye, Cheese and Dijon Sandwiches

This sandwich is outstanding, and, while I recently made it for us for a weekend lunch, it's also wonderful as a weekday lunch if you are having people over, or if you just want to feel a little spoiled! I recently hosted a 'mailing party' for our local Ballet company, where we stuffed invitations and enjoyed lunch together. One of my dearest friends, who is just too cute, always says, 'Is there anything better than a mailing party?' and, no, there is not. You get to see your friends, you get to catch up with them amid the envelopes and glue sticks, or, you make new friends, which is always delightful. We enjoyed these sandwiches with an arugula salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette- but pair these with whatever you see fit!

These sandwiches have two components, the first is the cheese and Dijon spread that you make, the second is the rib eye. You sear and cook your rib eye(s) to your desired doneness, we like medium rare (although, being pregnant I have to make mine cooked through), the best way to do this is to cook them ahead of time, then refrigerate them before cutting them into thin slices. When they are cold, they are much, much easier to cut. But, if you are hungry and in a bit more of a hurry, it is absolutely ok to cut them after cooking them and skip the refrigeration step. Here we go!

Cheese and Dijon Spread
1 cup finely shredded gruyere or gouda (we recently used 'robusto,' and a micro plane grater)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (softened)
1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (we used Maile)
1/2 clove garlic through a press or minced
few grinds white pepper (black is fine if you don't have white)

1-2 Rib eyes (1 rib eye yields 3 reasonably sized sandwiches or 2 colossal sandwiches)
sourdough bread (or sourdough rosemary bread, etc.)

canola oil (for searing rib eyes)
olive oil (for cooking sandwiches)

In a medium bowl, combine the cheese, softened butter, mustard, garlic and pepper. It should come together and be a fairly firm consistency. Set this aside. In a cast iron skillet (or something that will sear nicely), heat a little canola oil at medium high heat. Season the rib eyes with salt and pepper on both sides. Sear for several minutes on each side, to reach your desired doneness. For us, this is about 4-5 minutes and the rib eyes are about 1" thick. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. (If doing this step ahead of time put in a zip lock bag or container and refrigerate). Now, to assemble our sandwiches! Take your rib eyes and slice as thinly as you can, discarding the pieces that are overly fatty. (If you need to cook them further, do so now, before you assemble the sandwich). Take two slices of your bread and spread a thin layer on both slices of the cheese and Dijon spread. Next, lay slices of the rib eye in a single layer across the bread. Close the sandwich. Heat some olive oil in a pan on medium low heat. Wait until the oil moves well in the pan. Place the sandwich in the pan and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then, turn over, and cook on the other side for an additional 5 minutes.

This is delicious! Enjoy!













December 1, 2011

Candied Kumquats! (and Hello Again!!!)

Dear friends,

Thank you for your patience! We have had a busy, busy fall! We learned we are expecting again, hooray! And also, that we have to move to the North East. Both are exciting, although, we are of course sad to leave our wonderful friends and family that we live near now. This little baby, who is a girl, has been significantly harder on Mommy than the first. I think if I met the first pregnant me now, who was fortunate enough to be able to say things like, 'I never had morning sickness,' which, although true, would make me want to punch that me in the face.

A very special thank you to Ellen P, for her comments on Liqueur 44! You know, when I've made this in the past, I haven't experienced what you described, the amount of sugar that stays on the bottom. It is most likely just due to less vigorous shaking during the first week. I think it is most likely not a significant issue for two reasons- the first being, you may find the finished product sufficiently sweet and not mind that the full amount of sugar never became incorporated, or, a second reason, you can easily make the mixture sweeter, if you determine that's what you'd prefer, by mixing it with a simple syrup, (equal parts sugar and water). You need to heat the simple syrup to make it smooth, and then allow it to cool before mixing it with the liqueur. (Limoncello is made in a very similar way to taste). Thank you again for your enthusiasm! I hope that the finished product delights you and your guests this holiday season.

I love candied citrus peel. It is so delicious! And, I don't know if it's true, but I feel like it is very holiday-like. My mother loves candied citrus peel also. I have candied grapefruit peel before, and that's especially delicious, probably because on its own it's somewhat tart, so the finished product has a very nice balance of sweetness. I recently saw some kumquats in Whole Foods and I thought, they are citrus, why can't I candy them? So I did! Because they are small, I candied them in slices about 1/4-1/3" thick. They are delicious and look like little jewels! I gave a small jar of them to a friend yesterday and she loved them! I hope you will, too. While it seems like they take forever, it's more of a waiting game than a very involved process.

Candied Kumquats
1 pint kumquats
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
Extra sugar for coating (probably up to 1/3 of a cup)

First, rinse your kumquats in cool water. Remove the remainder of any green stems that are still on them and then slice them into pieces that are 1/4-1/3" wide. You'll need to pick out the seed fragments, this will be a little tedious, what helps is doing it partially in a bowl of water, which seems to help liberate them.

In a small pot on the stove, combine 2 1/2 cups sugar and 2 1/2 cups water. Combine over medium heat, and allow to form a syrup, this probably takes 10-20 minutes. Basically, you need equal parts sugar and water. Just adjust that up or down based on how much citrus you are candy-ing. You may want to use a candy thermometer for this, although, I feel like because mine sits on the outer edge of the pot, the temperature it registers is not completely accurate. In that 10-20 minute period, get it up to 200 degrees on your candy thermometer.

Add the kumquat slices and simmer over a very low heat for 30 minutes. Turn off the burner and allow the kumquats to sit in the syrup, absorbing it, for either the whole day, or overnight, depending on when you are starting this process. (This is 7-12 hours depending on when you are available again) After waiting either all day or overnight, heat over medium heat for about 10-20 minutes, reaching 210 degrees on the candy thermometer. Turn off the burner immediately, and allow to sit again, absorbing the syrup, either all day or overnight. Guess what is next... Yes! Do it again, heating over medium heat for 10-20 minutes, this time reaching 215-220 on the candy thermometer, again, turn off and leave for another day or night (7-12 hours).

You'll notice that the syrup amount is decreasing, this is good- it's being absorbed by your little kumquat jewels! Ok, now, to liberate the kumquats. After sitting for the last time, they'll be too sticky to remove without heating. So go ahead, and turn your burner on low, and after a few minutes, you'll be able to extract each piece with either a fork or tongs. For the drying step, I like to put them on a rack that is over a cookie sheet. However, the kumquats are quite petite, so you may need a more tightly meshed rack, like one for cooling cookies, etc. So, whatever you have, make sure it has the ability for syrup to drain off the kumquats. You'll want them and the syrup hot enough so that the excess syrup will actually drain off, as opposed to just warm enough to extract. Use your excellent judgment here!

Ok, let them dry on their rack for a day. Then, roll them in granulated sugar. Allow them to sit for a few hours after being rolled in the sugar before storing them. I store them either in a tin using layers of parchment or in small glass mason jars. I hope you'll be delighted at how delicious and special these treats are! Perhaps a good gift for your family, friends and children's teachers?

October 6, 2011

September 20, 2011

Liqueur 44



I am delighted to be posting about this recipe, with the gracious permission of Susan Loomis! This recipe is simply amazing- you will not believe that with these few simple ingredients and a little bit of time stewing in your cupboard, you can make something so special and delicious! This is also perfect timing for the holidays- if you make this now, it has just enough time to be created (44 days) and then mature for a few weeks in glass jars. I made this batch on 9/14/11, so I'll be ready to serve this at Thanksgiving!

Liqueur 44
1 large orange (ideally organic)
1 banana, peeled
1 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups sugar
44 coffee beans
1 liter vodka

I make this in a large glass beverage server and I double the recipe because it's so wonderful! First, why an organic orange? Well, since you aren't peeling the orange, you're absorbing everything that's on its skin. So. Ideally organic, right? With a knife, pierce the orange(s) 44 times, going through the peel only, not into the fruit. Place in the container. Pierce the banana(s) 44 times as well as the vanilla bean(s). Add to the container. Add the coffee beans and sugar, pour the vodka over. Seal the container so that it's air tight, I put a layer of plastic wrap and then the heavy glass lid. Place in a cool, dark place for (you guessed it) 44 days! The first week, you may gently shake it daily to help dissolve the sugar. After 44 days, strain and bottle in sanitized bottles with corks. Let it age a few more weeks and then enjoy! These make exceptional gifts. I made this a few years ago and gave it as gifts- people were thrilled to get something so special.

Who is Susan Loomis? Maybe you already know! I discovered Susan Loomis and her incredible talents about 10 years ago when I read one of her books, On Rue Tatin. It was part novel part cook book, about her life in France. In addition to being truly inspiring, it also has wonderful recipes. I am especially fond of the apples baked in white wine stuffed with goat cheese and leeks, and, when I made it for my father, he declared it one of the top 10 things he'd eaten in his life, ever. And this is truly high praise coming from my father, who would never exaggerate about praise, especially when it comes to food! I have also enjoyed her French Farm House Cookbook, which is where this liqueur recipe comes from. This cookbook is incredible as well- and the liqueur section has other lovely gems like Orange Wine, Peach Wine and Cherry Wine, which we've made as well, using leaves! Really! (You have to find a friend with peach and cherry trees!) And finally, last but absolutely not least, Susan has a cooking school in France!!!! I know!!! Unbelievably exciting! No, I haven't been yet, but I am absolutely dying to go. I need to round up my family and friends for a trip! Here is the link: http://www.onruetatin.com/ Hooray for Susan!

September 7, 2011

Fantastic Fall Figs



It suddenly seems that Fall has arrived in the mid South! On Saturday, it was 100 degrees, then Sunday it rained, and on Monday it was chilly and overcast with lots of leaves on the ground! Don't get me wrong, I not so secretly LOVE the fall. Why? Well, as a brunette, we look stunning in fall colors (sorry, it's true!) and most importantly, the food is sooooo delicious. The richness of stews, hearty helpings of cheese, bacon, and roasted root vegetables, don't tell me you aren't excited too! This dish is a nice bridge, beautiful, delicious fresh figs, topped with goat cheese and bacon lardons, finished with ribbons of honey, it's a perfect way to welcome fall!

Figs with Goat Cheese and Bacon
Fresh figs (2-4 per person as an appetizer)
Goat cheese (roughly 4 oz. per 10 figs)
sea salt
pepper
bacon slices (roughly 3-4 slices per 10 figs)
honey

First and foremost, set your oven to 375 and take your goat cheese out of the refrigerator.

First, we are going to prepare our bacon. Have you made bacon lardons before? It's simple and you'll be excited to have this preparation technique in your arsenal. I used four slices of thick cut bacon for 10 figs, and it was just about enough with a few little lardons left over. Just peel the slices as a group from the rest of the bacon slab, don't worry about separation (yet). Place on a cutting board, and using a knife, (I like my 6" chef knife for this), cut them into pieces that are roughly 1/3" wide. As you can see from the picture, you're just cutting them as groups of pieces, and you'll then need to separate them before placing them in the pan. Go ahead and turn the heat on under either a frying pan or a wide bottomed casserole pan (I just use a medium-large dutch oven casserole pan for this, since I LOVE them and use them pretty much for everything). Add the bacon, and cook over medium heat until they are nice and brown and crispy. Remove and drain on a plate with paper towels. (Bacon lardons can be made ahead and then used as a topping for pretty much anything- yum- how about on your next salad or omelet?)

While the bacon is cooking, you can get your figs and cheese ready! To prepare your figs, wash them, remove the stems and any parts on the outside that look creepy, and then cut in half down the middle. To make the goat cheese filling, mix your slightly softened goat cheese with healthy amounts of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. If it's not coming together well, add a splash of milk. Get a baking sheet ready, rub with some olive oil so the figs won't stick. Place the figs, cut side up, and then top each with some goat cheese. Now here's where your personal preference comes in- I like goat cheese quite a bit, but not everybody does. So, if you like it less, put less on your figs. The figs in the pictures have generous amounts of it- so use that as a visual guide for how much you'd like to put on. Once you've topped each fig with goat cheese, position bacon lardons on top, pressing down a little in the cheese so they will stay put. Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes, the cheese will start to run a little, remove from the oven. Either on the baking sheet or on the plate you'll be serving them on, pour small ribbons of honey over the figs. Enjoy! An easy and delicious appetizer that you'll be inspired to make each time you see fresh figs in the grocery store!

A note on figs- did you know that figs are actually inverted flowers? Isn't that crazy? There are several different varieties of figs, although some seem easier to get than others. I used black mission figs to make these, and they are delicious, but I also love kadota and while they aren't my favorite, brown turkey figs are also great.

August 31, 2011

Peach Sorbet

Mmmm... Those fresh peaches in the supermarket look so good, don't they? I was inspired to make them into a simple and refreshing sorbet! Accented with a hint of mint and a pinch of ginger, it tastes a little more complex than just peach- it's delicious! It is also dairy-free, so if you or your family members have dairy allergies, this is a treat you can all eat!



Peach Sorbet

3 cups puree from fresh, peeled peaches (either 4 HUGE peaches or 6-8 regular sized peaches)

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

10 mint leaves

1/2 tsp. ground ginger



Do you have an ice cream maker? They are very cool- you can use them for sorbet, too! Make sure you have one of the bowls frozen and ready before you make this. In a small pot on the stove, combine the water, sugar and mint leaves and heat over medium-low heat. While that's happening and causing the sugar to dissolve nicely, peel and puree your beautiful peaches in the blender. I'd use a blender as opposed to a food processor because my food processor tends to leak when it's very liquid. Are your peaches firm and not yet ripe? Did you know that leaving peaches out of the refrigerator will cause them to ripen faster? In even more of a hurry? Place them in a paper bag. When I buy peaches, I buy them firm, and then when I know I want to use them, I leave them on the kitchen counter about 2-3 days before I want them to be ripe. So, we've got out wonderful peach puree now, set that aside, go back to the stove and stir the water, sugar and mint. You don't need this to boil, just heat until the sugar is dissolved and then turn off the burner and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes. This will just help the mint flavor get into the sugar syrup. After 20-30 minutes, combine with the peach puree and the ginger, removing the mint leaves, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.



After about 30 minutes, you can go ahead and put the mixture in the ice cream maker, run for about 30 minutes, or until it looks the right consistency to you. Then, scrape into containers with lids and freeze! Ta-da! Not only do you have a fun, refreshing dessert, but, you can obviously make this ahead of when you plan to eat it!

August 27, 2011

Adventures in Knitting




I apologize for neglecting the blog for the last several weeks- we went to visit friends and family in Connecticut and Maine, which was lovely, but, 'reentry,' as one of my girlfriends calls it, is difficult! There's laundry, unpacking, and just in general getting back into the swing of things. While we were in Maine, I was inspired to take up knitting again! My sweet grandmother, the one I've mentioned before, with the amazing garden in Maine, she taught me how to knit when I spent summers with her. We would knit in the living room, watching television. I can't remember anything else she watched other than General Hospital, which, I think she actually watched for the clothes. Despite the fact that she lived in a small town in Maine, she was sharp! My sister and I actually still have her beautiful mink stole that she used to wear down to the theater in Boston, it is even hollanderized with her initials on the inside. Anyhow, she was such a capable woman, in the kitchen, keeping a house as neat as a pin- (she ironed bed sheets) and even though she has passed away, when I visit Maine, I get to thinking about her and the things she taught me.

One of our activities in Maine on this trip, was to visit a cashmere goat farm! At first, I chose this activity because there was a special insert in the newspaper that listed farms nearby that were open to visitors. The write up for this particular farm was so charming- baby goats, you'd be able to pet them- so one morning, my husband, my mother, baby and I were all off! Well, two things happened. First of all, we couldn't find it at first, and the directions in the paper were completely unhelpful, AND, my mother realized reading the newspaper insert that there had been a special 'farm day' on which all these farms were open, and today was not that day. Well, my husband and mother particularly enjoyed that fact at my expense (hey, what do I care?) and we decided we'd invested so much into visiting the goats that we'd just show up and see what happened... Well, there was absolutely nothing to worry about, the woman who ran the farm was incredibly sweet and welcoming, introducing us to her favorite goat, explaining how when goats had children they typically had fraternal twins, but one of them had had triplets recently, and about how the shaggy hair that some goats had was a recessive gene and actually not related to their cashmere fiber production- that's actually the undercoat. In addition to petting the adorable goats and baby goats, she showed us some beautiful cashmere yarn that had been made out of her cashmere- I snapped up a lovely pink and a creamy blue and was immediately inspired to knit! If you have a chance to visit, I highly recommend it, it is Black Locust Farm in Knox County, Maine, but call first!

Well, I didn't remember how, exactly, so off I went to the town's knitting store, the aptly named "The Cashmere Goat". The two ladies running the store were so helpful, they paired me with a beginner's book and off I went. I was back a few days later, explaining that the knitting needles I had were slippery- they had an answer for that, too- wooden needles for softer, more slippery yarn, and true it was, working with a 2 ply cashmere yarn with bamboo wooden needles was incredibly easier! These two ladies were full of useful information- they introduced me to this knitting website called ravelry.com, which is wonderful- you can search for patterns and then look at them online- many are free, some are a few dollars. I can't yet read charted patterns, but written patterns I can follow.

I was wondering why recently I am enjoying knitting so much- I think that the reason is that knitting is actually a wonderfully complex three dimensional math problem- especially with complicated patterns- my favorites tend to me what are called 'lace.' This is when there's a lot of holes or eyelets created with yarn over stitches, and a lot of decreasing and increasing stitches going in certain directions. I recently completed my first project, a vine lace pattern scarf using 1/2 oz. of pink cashmere 2 ply yarn, and we met the goats it came from! This scarf is on its way to a sweet friend as a belated birthday present!

August 17, 2011

Pesto Chicken



The basil in the garden has been looking so inviting that I thought I'd make some pesto! Tonight, we went outside to play in the yard and I brought a little bag and picked some cucumbers, basil and flat leaf parsley from the garden. This pesto is simple and delicious, and even better, you can make it once and then enjoy it over the next few days in different ways! Tonight we had it as a marinade on chicken cutlets, but it is also wonderful tossed with pasta or on fresh baguette as a snack.

La Dolce Duchessa's Pesto
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, loosely packed
2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup whole walnuts, loosely packed
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup pecorino romano, freshly grated with a microplane
1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated with a microplane

You'll love how quick this is to make- grab your blender! Wash your parsley and basil, remove and discard the stems. Remove the skins from the garlic cloves, cut off the small root and chop coarsely. Add all of the ingredients to your blender and blend until combined. Use a spatula as needed to scrape down the sides. If there are any large pieces of garlic or nut that are resistant, just fish them out and chop them yourself, adding back to the pesto.

You're done! You're ready to either toss freshly boiled pasta in the delicious sauce, or use it as a marinade for chicken. Tonight, I used this pesto for chicken cutlets- chicken cutlets are breast halves that have been butterflied open. I used 1 Tbsp. to 1 1/2 Tbsp. of pesto for each chicken cutlet, covering the whole piece with pesto, and let it marinate for 1 hour before cooking. You can marinate it for longer if you like, or if you have less time, that's alright too! Whatever you can do- it will still be delicious. Store the unused pesto in the refrigerator and enjoy it tomorrow or later on in the week!



To cook the pesto chicken, heat some olive oil in a skillet on the stove over medium heat. Once the oil moves easily around the pan, add the chicken. I cooked it for about 4 or 5 minutes on the first side, waiting until the chicken was easily moved and flipped (don't hurry this, you want some nice browned parts on the chicken) and for about 3 or 4 minutes on the second side. Top this with some baby arugula and a little grated parmesan and you have a lovely presentation! This is a wonderful weeknight dinner, but you may like it so much that it may get upgraded to dinner party or weekend lunch!


August 15, 2011

Simple Summer Cucumbers



Celebrate summer with this delicious and wildly simple cucumber dish! This is the way my Grandmother would serve us cucumbers fresh from her garden. It is wonderful as a snack, an appetizer, or as a side dish- serve in place of a salad!



Simple Summer Cucumbers

Cucumber(s) (peeling optional)
Apple cider vinegar, Sea salt

First, wash your cucumber(s). Peeling is optional, I usually don't bother. Remove the very ends of the cucumber where the stem connected, then slice into pieces about 1/3" thick. Place in a shallow bowl, add a little apple cider vinegar (just enough to cover the bottom of the bowl or plate). Sprinkle with sea salt. This salt in the picture has a reddish tint because it is Alaea Hawaiian sea salt, colored by clay, but any variety will be delicious!



While we were traveling, the garden literally went insane! The PVC pipe and hardware cloth covers we put over the beds to keep out 'thieves' have proven to be too short, especially with regard to my ambitious plans to grow vine plants vertically... It probably would have worked a little better had I actually been around to train the vines?! Anyhow, I decided I would just make the covers taller- so one trip to Lowe's and several afternoons during the little one's nap time later, I am almost finished with making the cover on one of the beds super tall... I am hoping the crazy melon plants that might take over the yard will just keep growing up?




The only bad part of this process is that during this work, one of the beds has been completely open to the little thieves and vandals that maraud around the yard- and all of the green zebra tomatoes have been stolen! Even worse, I found a little tomato carcass on the ground today, all sad and empty.



I must console myself with the robust-ness of the melon plants and the promise of other tomato varieties! The basil is looking especially lovely- perhaps we should have some pesto?









Check out these exciting Cherokee purple tomatoes!








July 19, 2011

Garden Fun!




It's mid July and the garden is coming along! In early June, the beds were up- we got the dirt delivered- a lovely blend of compost and good soil- my husband's father, aunt and uncle were so sweet- they came over one morning and helped us haul it up to the beds! So kind! The plants have been in there for several weeks and they are definitely coming along. To keep the pests out (rabbits, birds, squirrels and chipmunks) I added these 10' long 1/2" pvc pipes- that was an amusing trip to Lowe's for mommy and baby- I don't know why I thought I could handle six 10' long poles and a toddler in a cart?! Anyhow, they eventually got home and on to the beds- then we have added this black plastic hardware cloth (not the metal kind), attached to the pipes with zip ties. The zip ties only go about halfway down, the hardware cloth lifts up from the bottom to give you access to the beds. Down the center I have tomatoes and vine plants. Each has a large tomato cage- they were slightly too tall, so I had to saw off all the legs with a small saw in the garage- and the garage gets 10 degrees hotter than outside so it was like 110 in there- like a hot yoga class!

So far, we've gotten a few strawberries and a bell pepper (so delicious!), and one jalapeno plant has three peppers coming along. The lemon cucumber has a nice sized cucumber, and the regular cucumber has about 10 small cucumbers growing. Surprises have included- hey, the chives are all dead! What are these crazy caterpillars? Two poblano seedlings died, as did a sweet orange bell pepper. And, one of the hardware cloth sheets wasn't totally secure and overnight something crept in and ate an entire tomatillo plant. Seriously, the whole plant. The bottom of the hardware cloth sheets are tied with ribbon strips that I untie when I want access to the plants. Finally, the two most exciting things happening in the garden are, first, the French melon plants are literally insane, you can watch them grow before your eyes and second, three of the five tomato varieties have started to flower! I'm so excited, I may have my very own tomatoes soon!

La Dolce Duchessa will be taking a short break. I will be back in early August with wonderful new ideas for you! (Seriously, there are two posts upcoming that are SO EXCITING- I've gotten permission to share with you a recipe for homemade butter (courtesy of the fantastic Ricki Carroll, Cheese Queen and the force behind the New England Cheese Making Supply Company) and Liqueur 44- an unbelievably delicious homemade aperitif courtesy of Susan Loomis, who, if you haven't heard of her yet, you should, she's an incredible cook- has several wonderful books including the French Farm House Cookbook and On Rue Tatin, and, she has a cooking school in France which is definitely on my list of future trips! Until then, enjoy your summer and thank you so much for reading!!!

July 12, 2011

Favorite Baby Books and Equipment!



As a new mom, or even a non-new mom, do you ever feel like there isn't time to do the research you'd like to? Like about baby food, sleep training, crib tents, swim lessons, etc., this list could be endless! I remember feeling like I had to understand how all this equipment worked before I had the baby, and it was so exhausting, figuring out how the diaper genie worked, installing the mobile above the crib- how do I collapse the #$%^ pack 'n play again? Forget even talking about the breast pump and all the rules about breast milk!


What I found I ended up doing was asking friends- friends that I felt had a similar point of view (about food, behavior, breast feeding) and it was so incredibly helpful. Before I had the baby, I also went over to two different people's houses who had small babies and spent a few hours with them, seeing how they interacted with their baby, how they disciplined, and what it was like. Before I had our baby, I had literally never changed a diaper (now I am fast- even impressing my own mom!) This post is inspired by a conversation I had recently with a dear friend with a six month old who is just starting solid food. She and I share a similar point of view- we both wanted to make our own baby food, we wanted to breast feed for as long as possible, etc. It occurred to me that some of the blog readers might be interested in these resources also!


Here's my absolute favorite book on caring for infants and toddlers, The New Basics by Dr. Michel Cohen: http://www.amazon.com/New-Basics--Z-Modern-Parent/dp/0060535482/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1310484250&sr=8-3
Here's why I love this book- it's set up like a dictionary, you just look up the topic you're interested in and read that entry. The entry will cover the topic from different ages if need be. Also, and probably the most important, this book doesn't make me feel guilty. It doesn't tell me I should be giving the infant a massage every day. (Let's be realistic here, Mommy is the one who needs the massage)


Solid foods- we started at 5 1/2 months and we loved the Beaba Babycook: http://www.amazon.com/Beaba-Babycook-Baby-Food-Maker/dp/B001LQCOIS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310484414&sr=1-1


and also this wonderful baby food cookbook, Top 100 Baby Purees: http://www.amazon.com/Top-100-Baby-Purees-Healthy/dp/0743289579/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310484474&sr=1-1
Some of these are really delicious, when you've made them, take a taste and see!


Moving farther down the development line, we have in the last few months moved from a high chair to a booster seat and now little baby boy sits at the table like a big person. Here's the mat we have in front of him on the table: http://www.diapers.com/p/Summer-Infant-TinyDiner-Blue-21410
It's also easy to take with you when you travel or go out to eat.


Our most recent baby related purchase is due to a recent 'escape' by baby boy- this past Sunday, early in the morning, my husband was taking the dog out in the morning and when he came back in the house, there the baby was, sitting half way down the stairs, pleased as punch! He'd climbed out of his crib (the first time), opened the gate of the nursery, come down the stairs into the family room and had started down the stairs behind the kitchen. So, crib tent it was! http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=309775&cmSource=Search

July 8, 2011

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Stuffed squash blossoms... yum! Have you had these? They are delicious- their flavor is vegetable and peppery, and yet still quite subtle. We learned about stuffed squash blossoms from an Argentine friend before our first trip to Italy. We ate them often- they are usually stuffed with a soft cheese, then lightly breaded and fried, they are fried just until the outside is golden brown and the inside is deliciously melted- such a treat!

We went earlier this week to a farmer's market and when we saw a stand with squash blossoms- $4 for 12 (although it was late in the day so he gave us 24 for $4), we snapped them up! We asked how long we'd have to stuff them- he recommended within two days, otherwise, they'd get fairly wilted and hard to open. If that happened, he recommended using them as a pizza topping, which sounded great. Well, I didn't get around to it until today, so that's three days later, and the majority of them were ok to open, just a few more wilted flowers. I plan to put them on a pizza :)

Let's get started- you are going to love these. They can be made ahead of time (apart from the final breading and frying), and are so elegant and impressive. I will definitely be serving these at my next dinner party!

Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese
Squash blossoms (fresh and closed) (for an appetizer, 3 per person is probably a good estimate)

Filling:
11 oz. goat cheese
1 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
bunch of thyme
2 Tbsp. milk

Breading:
1 egg, beaten
flour, mixed with a dash of salt and pepper

canola oil

Let's start by making the filling- this is a lot of filling, so you'll probably have a fair amount left over. You can use it as a spread on crackers or bread, it's just a lovely herbed goat cheese. It will be easier if your goat cheese is a little soft, so let it sit on the counter for a few minutes. In a medium sized bowl, combine the goat cheese, salt and white pepper. The thyme amount is something you'll just need to eye ball- I'd recommend more that you think you'd want- the cheese has somewhat of a strong flavor and thyme is not overpowering, so enough that you know it's there. I try to take the small thyme leaves off the hard stems by going backwards up the stem with two fingers pressed together. That will work until the stem is soft and young, then it will just break off. The younger softer stems are fine to include, you'll just want to chop them up finely. It's the harder woodier stems you want omitted. Add the thyme and the milk to the goat cheese and using either a spatula or a spoon, mix until well combined. Taste it and decide if you want more thyme or more pepper.

Who knew the cake decorating class I was taking would come in so handy? Using a disposable frosting bag is a great way to fill these squash blossoms. Fill the bag about 1/3-1/2 full of the filling. Rinse your squash blossoms- be very gentle when opening the flowers, you don't want to tear the sides, otherwise your filling will fall out. Take your bag of filling and using your hands on the outside of the bag, move the filling down toward the tip of the bag. Across the top, where the filling stops, twist your bag tightly. Snip the end off the tip to allow the filling to come out. Place the tip inside the first blossom and with your hand squeezing the bag where the bag is twisted, fill the flower about 1/2 full. You want to fill the part that still has sides, the top area where the ends of the petals twist around each other is not filled. Slightly twist the end of the blossom and place aside, repeat until all your blossoms are filled.

On the stove, heat about 1" to 1 1/2" of canola oil over slightly higher than medium heat. This may be a little higher on your stove, it was a 6 out of 10 on my stove, but on a very large gas burner. While the oil is heating, beat the egg in a small bowl and place the flour in a separate small bowl, add a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. Take the first squash blossom, dip it first in the egg, coating it well, but allow it to drain, either holding above the bowl or shaking off the excess. Roll in the flour until it has a light coat, also shake off the excess. Place in the hot oil, and using tongs, turn over once the color has become slightly golden brown. They don't cook for very long, it's really a visual indicator. Place on a plate lined with paper towels and allow to cool for just a few minutes before serving.

Enjoy! These are a wonderful way to enjoy the freshness of farmer's markets- you could use squash blossoms and goat cheese from your local farmers!

July 1, 2011

Cast Iron Seared Steak and Salad with Bacon Dressing

Mmmm... Salad with seared steak... We had a particularly delicious wine class this past weekend- it was a tour of the wines of Spain. I truly, truly, am not knowledgeable at ALL about wines of Spain. I couldn't even tell you what makes a rioja archetypal- until now! Great class, my favorites were the mencia (so delicious and dramatic, unfairly tasted with an archetypal rioja) and a very crisp and refreshing txakolina (pronounced 'chocoli'). So... after wine class I thought- we need a great meal!

Cast Iron Seared Steak and Salad with Bacon Dressing
NY strip steaks (1 per person or a little less)
4 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
2 garlic cloves (through a press or finely minced)
large zip lock bag

Dressing:
3 pieces bacon
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil
freshly cracked pepper (black or white)

Salad:
mixed greens or another lettuce of your choice, mache would be delicious
1 plum tomato
1 ear of corn
avocado (optional, my husband doesn't like avocado)
Gorgonzola crumbles

Let's talk cast iron skillets for a second. Do you have one? They might seem like a superfluous item (outside the South perhaps), but they are quite useful- for searing things on top of the stove at a high even temperature. Maybe you don't feel like lighting your big green egg or BBQ, maybe it's too cold, or the mosquitoes have taken your backyard hostage... Not a problem! Just fire up the cast iron skillet :)

First, let's get our steak ready. This is a cinch- just put those two beautiful strip steaks in a large zip lock bag, add the oil, sea salt (two or so generous pinches), freshly ground pepper, and the garlic. Seal the bag with a relatively small amount of air, and then, from the outside of the bag, use your hands to work the marinade over the meat. You can do this a good bit ahead of time, and put them back in the refrigerator, or just a few minutes while you heat up the cast iron skillet- they will be DELICIOUS either way, I promise. So fire up the cast iron skillet.

We're not cooking the steak first, though, we're going to take care of the bacon dressing- AND leave some bacon grease in the pan to cook the steaks. Nice. Bacon fat and steak. Could it get any more right? Ok- so once the cast iron skillet has been heating for a while at medium high heat, add some canola oil (not olive oil- you want something that withstands heat better than olive oil), and then place the three raw strips of bacon in the pan. They will cook fast at this heat, so pay attention and flip them over when they are crisped nicely on one side, and when both sides are nicely done, remove the bacon from the pan and put aside on a plate to cool. Now, without emptying the pan of the bacon grease, get those strip steaks in the pan- I cook them about 3 minutes each side at medium high heat- cook them to your desired doneness, this will vary depending on several factors, your burner, your pan, the temperature of the steaks to begin with... Be conservative, you can always cook longer, but once overcooked, you can't do much except chew chew chew. Ok! Once your beautiful steaks are done- place on a plate and let sit. You may cover them with foil if you like. Just let them sit at least 5 minutes before cutting them into slices.

In the meantime, take that gorgeous bacon, chop it into small pieces, and place in a small ball jar. Add the vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you don't have white balsamic), olive oil and pepper. Why no salt? Your bacon is made primarily with salt and pork belly, so you already effectively have salt. Close the jar and shake to mix thoroughly- congratulations, you have made bacon salad dressing- yum!

Ok- assemble that salad- washed mixed greens, some ripe plum tomato- cored and cut into small pieces, and with the ear of corn- this is how we did it in the summer salad recipe with chicken- husk the ear, then, cut in two. Cut off the 'handle' end. Hold one half vertically against the cutting board and using a small knife, cut off the kernels going toward the cutting board. This is so great- it's fast and easy, and the corn doesn't need to be cooked. It's sweet and delicious and just wonderful.

Arrange this salad on plates, sprinkle with gorgonzola crumbles, avocado is optional, then top with thin slices of steak. Using a spoon with the salad dressing, spoon dressing and bacon bits over the top. Just delicious- this will be a weeknight favorite for you, I promise. And, since you had a salad for dinner, have some CAKE!!!! Yes, cake decorating is still going on. Yum, yum!

Cleaning your cast iron skillet- we bought ours 'preseasoned.' What does that mean? It means that it already has some grease / oil worked into it, which is what makes it so great. Here's the deal- a great cast iron skillet has grease and oil in all the little tiny cracks and holes on the inside of the pan. That's what makes it useful to cook with and also imparts great flavor. How do you clean something that you want to stay basically, well, greasy? Well, pour off the excess grease. Then, using a stiff brush, and running water, scrub the large pieces off the bottom of the pan. Don't use soap. Then, wipe out with paper towels (they'll get dirty, so don't use a dishcloth). Store, then use again for something delicious.

June 22, 2011

La Dolce Duchessa's Summer Salad


Every few weeks, my husband professes his desire to eat healthier. While this often gets thrown out the window when there's an attractive rib eye on the menu, he especially requests more healthy weeknight meals during the summer. What he really means is a great salad with some tasty grilled chicken. This is great for you, too- not only is it delicious, it's really not that much work. And, you can have enough leftover for a delicious lunch!



La Dolce Duchessa's Summer Salad

Chicken:

1 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1-2" strips (tenders)

4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) olive oil

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. sea salt

freshly cracked pepper (20 grinds)

1 tsp. rosemary (dried)

1/2 tsp. thyme (dried)



Salad:

2 heads romaine lettuce

1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper (a sweet one, not a green one)

1 plum tomato

1 ear corn



Dressing:

2 Tbsp. lime juice

4 Tbsp. olive oil

sea salt

white pepper



While the little one is napping, marinate your chicken. Even if it's just a few hours, it will make a big difference! Our little boy takes a nap from 1-4 now, which is heavenly... I use his nap time to work on my garden beds. So! In a deep container, combine the olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Add the chicken and mix well to coat. Refrigerate and let this marinate for a few hours. I let mine sit for 2 1/2 hours before cooking.



In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat some olive oil. Once it's shimmering (that's when it looks sort of wobbly, if you find it hard to tell, get lower and look at it from a side angle, it may be easier to see that way). Add your chicken pieces and cook at about medium heat for about 8 minutes per side. Don't turn it over sooner- otherwise you won't get that nice browning. When it's been nicely browned on both sides, remove from the heat and place on a plate to cool.



While your chicken is cooking, you have the option of roasting your bell pepper. Never done this before? Don't worry, it is really, really simple. It works best with a gas stove. I really like cooking with a gas stove. My stove, as you can see in the pictures, has fairly open racks over the burner. I can just sit the (washed) bell pepper above the burner, the heat is a little higher than medium, and then using a pair of tongs, reposition when I get sufficient blistering. Have a zip lock bag or a bowl ready, once you've nicely blistered the outside, you need to either place it in the zip lock bag or in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. If you don't have a gas stove, give this a try over a conventional burner, using tongs. The results are not quite as dramatic, but they will taste just as good. After it's sat for about 10 minutes, using your hands, peel away what you can of the charred skin and loose skin. (If it's really hot, do this under running cool water) The flesh underneath likely won't be 'roasted' looking. It's ok if all the skin doesn't come off- you just want to remove what will texturally be unappealing, that's basically the charred and loose parts. Cut open the bell pepper, remove the stem and seeds. Chop into 1/2" pieces.



To assemble the remainder of the salad, wash your romaine, tomato and corn. Cut the romaine in 1" pieces, remove the stem portion of the tomato and cut into small pieces. Cut the ear of corn in half and then hold it vertically against the cutting board. Cut off the kernels using your knife. To make your lime dressing, combine the ingredients in a small mason jar. Shake well, that's it! On a plate or a bowl, place a mixture of the romaine, roasted bell pepper, tomato and corn. Top with the grilled chicken, you can cut it into smaller pieces or serve it in tact, up to you! Serve with the lime dressing. Enjoy! Have some cake for dessert. You can, because this dinner was so healthy!



We seriously are having cake for dessert. I am taking a cake decorating class! Here's an example of me practicing my shell border, rosettes and leaves. Hooray, cake!

June 16, 2011

Didn't My Jewelry Used to Be Sparkly?!



Summer- wonderful in many aspects, tough in others, especially tough on everyday jewelry! There is seriously so much crud in my engagement ring. Mostly it seems to be a combination of sunscreen (for myself and baby, which we wear every day) and taco juice. Taco juice? Yes. Here's why- remember how our refrigerator broke a little while back? It broke AGAIN- and was out of commission for another week, so we were eating every meal out of the house. And I happen to have a taco fixation. It certainly helps that the meat and three counter at Whole Foods got transformed into a taqueria, and there's a chipotle very near by- but it did get to the point that when we were deciding what to eat my husband would say, 'no more tacos!' Ok. So, what do you do? It couldn't be simpler, just get a little ball jar, put in just a drop of Dawn dish washing soap, add water about half way, and pop in your jewelry! A few things- first, I have used this method on diamonds set in both platinum and white gold and have gotten very good results. I would not, however, put in things that are more delicate (softer stones, metals, pearls, etc.). But, if your every day jewelry is made of these same materials, this will work really, really well. Here's all you do- put your jewelry in, shake a little, and leave for a little while, overnight if they are really dirty. When you're done soaking them, use a toothbrush to help loosen anything that's still stuck on there and rinse. Be careful when rinsing! They are slippery and you don't want them to fall down the drain! Finally, why Dawn? Well, Dawn is simply amazing for certain things. Its ability to cut grease is so good that rodeo cowgirls use Dawn to wash their horses to keep them looking sharp. How do I know? I have tied up a few goats in my life, doing high school rodeo. My goat string was pink, of course.

June 13, 2011

Tomato Sauce with Bacon and Mushrooms

This is a great weeknight dinner- or an anytime treat. It's tasty, easy to make, and reheats beautifully! What's also nice about it is that it doesn't have to be attended continually- you can be doing other things at the same time.




Tomato Sauce with Bacon and Mushrooms

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 yellow onion, chopped finely

4 pieces raw bacon, cut into 1/3" pieces

1 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms (baby bella)

1/2 cup red wine

28 oz. canned diced tomatoes

sea salt

pepper

parmesan

farfalle pasta



In a large pot, heat the oil and butter over medium low heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion. It was hard to find regular yellow onions at the store this afternoon! They were really pushing the sweet onions and the yellow onions were tucked away in the back, and honestly, they'd seen better days. Poor, sad little onions :( Cook the onion for about five minutes, until the onion is getting a little browned in some parts. Did you know that you can keep the onion and garlic smell off your hands so, so easily? The trick is to wash your hands with COLD water after and during handling. It's hot water that will make the oils stick to you and the smell will linger. Give it a try, you'll be amazed!



While the onion is cooking, wash and chop your mushrooms and also cut the bacon. The easiest way to cut the bacon is to keep the 4 pieces together, don't separate them, and just cut perpendicular into pieces about 1/3" wide. Add the bacon to the onion in the pot, but separate a fair amount of the bacon pieces from each other first. Cook the bacon for about three to five minutes, you want it to cook a little, but not completely cook. Next, add the mushrooms. Give the mushrooms another five minutes. It's ok if there's some browning on the bottom of the pan. That's good, actually, because you'll use the wine to get the wonderful brown bits incorporated into your sauce.



Add the wine, taste a little to make sure it's good- it's for the good of the sauce, of course (wink), and then pour yourself a glass anyhow! Let the wine cook for a few minutes, you want it to reduce by about half. Now, add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and set your timer for 25 minutes. Keep the heat low, stir every now and then, and go do something else (play in a sandbox, give a baby a bath, watch Game of Thrones on your DVR- or at least some of it).



We had this sauce with farfalle, but use whatever type of pasta you like! Although, because it's somewhat chunky, it will work best with pasta shapes that are medium in size and have some depth in their shape to hold sauce and pieces of bacon, mushroom and onion. Get your water boiling, when it's boiling add some salt (not before, it will adhere to the bottom of the pot and be very stubborn about being removed) and cook your pasta until it's just done- remove from the boiling water and rinse with cold water, this helps the cooked pasta from sticking together.



This is great with La Dolce Duchessa's Simple and Delicious Garlic Bread, here's the link:




Here's another handy thing about this dish- once the sauce has simmered for 25 minutes, you can just turn off the burner and leave it for a little while until you are ready to assemble the dish to eat- same thing with the pasta, especially if you rinse it with the cool water. I left both of these for a little while while we were upstairs putting the little one to bed. Then, we were ready to eat, so we came back downstairs and in the same pot I had used to boil the pasta, I spooned in some sauce, added some pasta, and heated both together, adding a little grated parmesan. This is a great thing to do with pasta, it really coats the pasta better than just placing the plain pasta in a bowl and then ladling sauce over the top. Once you've heated up the pasta and sauce sufficiently, place in bowls or on plates, and top with some additional grated parmesan. Place your garlic bread on the side. Enjoy! This amount served two adults with some leftover.

June 1, 2011

Super Easy Chicken Tacos

This is one of those great weeknight recipes- it's quick, but still healthy and delicious! No marinating time, either!



Chicken Tacos

1 lb. chicken breasts (whole or cut into 2" strips)

1 jalapeno (stemmed, seeded and chopped)

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced

juice 1 lime

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp. ground cumin


canola oil


jack cheese, shredded

salsa verde (canned or in a jar)

guacamole (optional)

flour or corn tortillas


I used chicken breast meat that was already cut up into tenders / chicken finger pieces. In a bowl, combine the jalapeno (use gloves when you are handling and seeding), garlic, lime, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. If your chicken isn't already cut up into 2" strips, go ahead and cut it. Add the chicken to the bowl and toss to coat. Heat about 1 Tbsp. canola oil in a pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer over medium heat. Add the chicken and all of the bowl's contents. Cook about 10 minutes each side- you want it to cook mostly through, but if it hasn't browned, that's ok. Remove the chicken from the pan and place in a new bowl, using two forks, shred the chicken. Meanwhile, pour about 4 Tbsp. canola oil into the pan you were just using. Add the shredded chicken back to the pan- you may need to do this in two batches, and turn up the heat to a little above medium. Fry the chicken for a few minutes, this will help it cook all the way through but also crisp and brown up the outside a little. Once it's nicely browned and a little crispy, place in a bowl.


Heat your tortillas, either in a pan over the stove or in the microwave (you can wrap them in a paper towel and microwave for about 15 seconds or so). To assemble the tacos, start with a warm tortilla, then spoon on some chicken, then sprinkle generously with the shredded jack, a spoonful or two of salsa verde and then guacamole (store bought or homemade). Salsa verde is primarily tomatillos- I buy mine in the Spanish food section of the grocery store. It comes in small cans or in glass jars.


You'll be pleasantly surprised that this is not only very fast and easy, but it tastes great! This also makes really good leftovers. You can have it the next day for lunch or dinner if you have enough. You can double the recipe if you want to have more- 1 lb. of chicken is probably going to only feed 2-3 people.

May 31, 2011

Fresh Fava Beans with Pecorino Romano






Tonight we ate our very own fava beans- and they were delicious! Remember the tiny little plants I was telling you about on the patio about two months ago? They've since grown to about four feet high and have started producing bean pods! I was curious if they would taste differently than fava beans from the store, so I did a taste test. While the fava beans from the store were lovely, I did notice that mine tasted sweeter, and less bitter. This dish is fresh and delicious and you can make it very, very quickly.



Fava beans require a little extra step to remove the outer shell of the individual beans. First, open the bean pods and remove the beans. On the stove, bring some water to a boil. Get a small bowl ready with ice water, that's where you'll put the fava beans after they've boiled for just a minute. Once the water is boiling, add the fava beans and boil for just one minute- remove and place in the ice water. The ice water serves two purposes, actually, the first is that it halts the cooking, the second is that it will make you able to touch them faster. You can just use gentle pressure and your fingernail to pierce the outside of the individual beans, the outer skin will come off easily. The lovely green interior beans are your prize!



Place small portions of the prepared fava beans on a small plate. Serve with small chunks of pecorino romano, top with a grind or two of white or black pepper, and a small drizzle of olive oil. This can be a small appetizer, an accompaniment to wine, or the topping of a salad. You'll probably notice that the fava beans have a lovely peppery aroma and taste. Enjoy!



Before



After


These fava beans were really, really easy to grow! They didn't seem to mind in April when it was still chilly at night and they seem to be withstanding the 90+ degree weather alright. They do not get full sun, though, more like 6 hours of direct sun.