Thursday, July 29, 2010

Yea, escarole came in

It's been months since I've seen any at the supermarket, and this week I found a nice, big, fresh bunch at Publix for one of my favorite soups -- one version of an Italian favorite. So simple, but so good:

Escarole Rice Soup

3 tablespoons butter
Small onion, minced
Garlic, minced, to taste
Head of escarole, cut into thin strips
½ cup Arborio rice
4 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons Romano cheese

Saute onion over low heat until softened. Add garlic and escarole. Stir to coat, Add ½ cup of broth and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Add rice and remaining broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in cheese and serve with additional cheese.

Since I still haven't got the hang of posting photos correctly, the cornbread picture is misplaced. And somehow I've lost the photo I took of escarole soup.

And, to make it a really eclectic meal, my favorite cornbread, nice and crumbly but almost puddinglike:

Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread

Vegetable oil for the pan
½ cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
Dash ground chipotle or cayenne pepper
¾ cup jalapeno jack cheese, grated
¾ cup corn kernels, fresh, canned or frozen
½ cup sour cream
6 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter

Coat a heavy 8- or 9-inch skillet or baking pan with oil and set aside. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients, corn, and cheese. Heat skillet or pan in the oven or on the stovetop. Whisk together eggs, sour cream, milk, and butter. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Spread in the hot skillet. Bake for about 22 minutes, until set and lightly browned around the edges. Cut into wedges and serve while hot.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Walmart find

Having finally caved to using the much-vaunted Kosher coarse sea salt called for in so many recipes, I'd set a recycled jar of the stuff next to my cooktop and got into the habit using it more and more. Then the other day, wandering around the cavernous isles of Walmart, I found a nice little glass salt cellar for only $4. Though you can't see it in the photo, the word salt is etched on the side. No need to take time to unscrew a jar lid when I'm in a hurry to grab a pinch. A cool little product from the venerable Fire King brand. Then I felt even better when I saw the same thing at Crate & Barrel for $7.99!

Outrage of the day

It wasn't a great start to the day -- opening the AJC and reading that Georgia's lawmakers say they want to add yet another burden to those who can least afford it. Now they want to tax groceries. Even cat food went up 15 cents to 40 cents a can seemingly overnight, so there's no help in going there for sustenance.

Do they never learn that trickle-down economics just doesn't work? Or is it just a feudal mentality and they simply don't care? Dateline NBC had a real eye-opener the other night on out-of-work people in Ohio who are struggling just to find a place to sleep and to feed themselves. While Congressmen still fight tooth and nail to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A hotlanta "snow day"

With the temps in the 90s and feeling like 100s, I'm literally and figuratively chillin', feeling so lazy that I'm posting here yet again today.

A kitchen thing I love: Anything silicone, from cookie sheet liners to spatulas and spoons, and now to a big, square silicone cake pan that I use to make a rustic plum tart. After lining metal pans with both foil and parchment and after ruining a silicone cookie sheet liner only to have burnt stuff everywhere, I bought this red square silicone thing at Tuesday Morning. Who says a roundish rustic tart can't be baked in a square pan anyway? So the tart filling oozed out even more than usual, creating not yummy brown caramelized stuff, but big shards of black carbonized stuff. The shards broke off from the tart and the pan, but there were lots of black bits left adhering to the pan. I got tired of scrubbing at them, and just stuck it in the dishwasher. Lo and behold, the good old Bosch actually cleaned off those nasty buggers. Couldn't believe it. I don't know how I cooked and baked in the bad old preprocessor, prenuke, premicroplane, and presilicone days.

A lyrical novel of the old West

Usually I race through a book I like, but The Color Of Lightening by Paulette Jiles (author also of Enemy Women, which I liked, too), has to be savored slowly for its poetic but realistic images and gripping but unsentimental story set in Texas after the Civil War. It's the story of a freed black slave who goes on a mission to free his wife and children who were taken captive in a Comanche raid on his homestead. And, oh, how I love the Internet, which allowed me to google the guy's name and learn a little more about the real guy this novel is written around. I can get easily bored with a lot of tedious physical description, but this novel has just enough -- with its descriptions of sights and smells -- to transport me to another time and another place. Just what I love about reading and what's missing in movies and TV dramas these days which lean toward police, criminals, and disfunctional families. Because of Jiles' novel, now I want to read a nonfiction book about the Comanche now on the bestseller list. From what I read, it's not just about the Indian chief, the son of a Comanche and a captive white woman, but the story of the Comanche tribe in Texas, and what a yarn that promises to be.

joyous colors from Trader Joe's

To the delight of women who like buying decent prepared foods, Trader Joe's opened here a couple of years ago. I stop in occasionally for a only few specific items: arborio rice for risotto, basmati rice, TJ's nice ciabatta bread, and -- when I want a little visual treat, a fresh flower bouquet. A couple of weeks ago, it was a bunch of sweet little white roses for a luncheon centerpiece. But yesterday, I bought this bunch of daisylike flowers (I forget what they're called) just for me, for their happy, summery colors to brighten up my fairly neutral-colored breakfast nook. The colors remind me of the yarn colors on a popular crochet website of an Englishwomen named attic24.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What's the big deal about salad dressing?

More often than not, when somebody comes over for a meal, asks for a recipe, and I provide it, I never hear that the person actually tried it. And very often it's because they expect it to be based on some processed food or mix. One day when I said I had finally arrived at the perfect cornbread recipe, an acquaintance asked, "What mix do you use?" Aaarrggh.

Well, today somebody said she'd made my Greek salad dressing, which I season proudly with not only dried oregano, but fresh oregano and fresh thyme from the planters on my deck. She said she was amazed at how easy it is to make your own salad dressing, and I'm tickled to have a convert away from those ghastly bottled dressings. Last night I was able to make a batch of my favorite sweet-and-sour Italian dressing in the actual time it took for the spaghetti water to come to a boil.

Greek Salad Dressing

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tablespoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon fresh oregano
½ tablespoon fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper.

Mix first five ingredients. Add salt and pepper taste. Add fresh oregano and thyme the same day it will be served. If refrigerated, remove from fridge about a half-hour before serving and whisk or shake well.
To serve four people, double the recipe to cover about 1 to 1½ heads of Romaine plus a small bag of field greens, along with sliced red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lunch for "the girls"

I've been on a Pavlova kick lately, between the succulent summer Georgia peaches and the cheap, plentiful raspberries from Costco. I must have made three in the past two weeks -- for family and for two luncheons I had at home for some of "the girls." This dessert really goes down easy for everybody.
I'm forever grateful to a New Zealander and wonderful cook named Eileen Lambert, who years ago introduced me to this wonderful concoction that has become just about our favorite dessert. I love the magical way a half-dozen egg whites are transformed into an amazingly thick, glossy thing that after a long, slow baking become a giant marshmallow with the loveliest almond-colored crust.
The trick is to separate the eggs while they're cold, then allow them to sit at room temperature for at least an hour or two before beating with a stand mixer, adding only a bit of sugar at a time. Oh, yeah, and the bowl and beaters must be free of even a smidge of anything oily. If these four requirements aren't met, the magic won't happen. I've learned, too, that Pavlova is a great do-ahead dessert: The meringue can be made the day before and stored, tightly covered at room temperature, and the whipped cream and fruit added in the morning and refrigerated until lunch time. I do wish I'd photographed one of these on a pretty plate.