summer dinner

  It’s been a brutally hot week and I’m having people for dinner. We will start with Mutabbal which is basically Egyptian baba ghanouj and pita.

Next to accompany a marinated roast we will be grilling we will also be grilling marinated veggie shish kebabs, lentil salad, and for dessert a simple summer trifle.

Guests may have sparkling water, ice tea, a lovely rosé wine or glass of Sancerre.

vegetables marinating for veggie shish kebab. Marinade marinade made with an Arabian spice blend known as Baharat

 

Lentil salad made witjh red and regular lentils, for grated carrots, one purple onion, one small purple bell pepper, halved grape tomatoes, Italian flat leaf parsley and fresh basil diced, a simple vinaigrette made with lemon juice lemons asked, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, cumin

 

Mutabbal- two cans drained canned chickpeas, tahini paste, olive oil, one roasted white egg plant and one roasted red pepper, half an onion, three cloves of garlic, a few dashes of Tabasco, Stonington sea salt, a little fresh parsley, juice of one large lemon and zest as well, paprika, cumin, couple dashes of Ras el Hanout. Purée and refrigerate and serve with pita.

Summer trifle made with rasberries, blueberries, lady fingers, lemon and coconut puddings

easy summer entertaining

  Entertaining in the summer is so easy and fun! Fresh fruit and vegetables and flowers are so readily available and it is easy to be casual.

I am not for the paper plates and plastic cup casual, though. I like to make things look nice for my guests.

Last night was one of those nights. We got together with some of our favorite friends from high school and we don’t get together as often as we should and I wanted it to be special. 

  I did my table in my vintage finds that were season appropriate- Fiestaware and a cool Vera tablecloth.

I served summer food with my culinary twists. Started with a real gooey traditional French Brie with fresh strawberries on the side as well as crackers. Melon wrapped in prosciutto but not just cantelope, a lucious canary melon too.  And a super fresh caprese salad with my own garden basil. 

  For dinner, sweet cornbread muffins with dill, chili powder, and cinnamon. Chuck roast I had marinated for two days and roasted (they were supposed to be for the grill but Mother Nature changed the weather up). The roast was tender and flavorful!  

  We finished with a seasonal greens salad topped with sliced thin rings of lolipop scallions, Mert’s Nuts (the salad crumbles), goat cheese crumbles and a simple mustard vinegarette. Dessert was a triple berry trifle with three layers of pudding (lemon, coconut, white chocolate) and cookies my friend brought from Isgros.

  And on a whim along with some lovely French Rosés I served prosecco. The food was fresh and simple and the table seasonally festive. I did it buffet style so my guests could mingle and eat what they chose while catching up.

   

 Best of all it was just one of those fun evenings where it all felt like it was only five minutes long! Good friends, good food, good conversation and fun! 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

cooking gnocchi with mushrooms


I ended up having some people over for dinner last night.  So I butterflied a big roaster chicken and roasted Julia Child style simply with fresh herbs (you can see the chicken in the photo at the bottom of the page – that was what it looked like as it went into the oven – I forgot to take its picture when it came out). 

I served with a fresh mixed green salad to which I added a simple balsamic mustard vinaigrette, and the starch was homemade gnocchi with mushrooms. Dessert in case you were wondering was sliced fresh strawberries from Kimberton Whole Foods.

I have previously given you my gnocchi recipe. So use that as your guide to rolling them out until little logs and slicing them into bite-size pieces, but the dough composition is different and here’s how I did it:

 
1 egg beaten
 
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 
2  medium sized (not huge) potatoes roasted skins removed and smashed up
 
1 cup of ricotta strained to remove any extra liquid – whole milk is best
 
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
 
About 2 cups of flour, maybe  less – add half a cup at a time to your dough to see. You don’t want a dry dough with gnocchi, it should always feel not quite sticky but more elastic.
 
1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves dried, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt.
 
Basically you mix it all together until becomes a dough but don’t overwork it. Then I throw a cloth over my bowl and allow the dough to rest for at least half an hour.
 
When your dough has rested, break off pieces of the dough and roll into little logs and slice into bite-size pieces from the log. You can roll them off the edge of the forks so they have those lines in them or you can cook them just the way they are.
 
After I make my gnocchi I lay them out on a large baking sheet on parchment paper and put it on a shelf by itself in the refrigerator till I am ready to cook.
 
 
The sauce is pretty simple:
 
Melt one stick of butter which is half a cup in a sauté pan – a large sauté pan because you will be adding the gnocchi to it later.
 
When the butter is melted and starting to bubble just a slight bit, add half a large red onion diced. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  Add one finely grated medium sized carrot.
 
After the onion starts to turn slightly translucent, add thinly sliced baby Bella  mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, and a handful of white mushrooms. Basically you should use one 8 ounce package of shiitake, The same size package of baby Portabella mushrooms also known as crimini, and about 4 ounces of white mushrooms.
 
Next add a handful of fresh sage leaves chopped into small-ish pieces and about a teaspoon of dried rosemary  or if you have fresh dice up a smallish twig.
 
When everything seems to be cooked together fairly well but not mushy remove from heat.
 
I do the mushroom mixture ahead of time and not at the same time I am cooking my gnocchi because there is not enough time.
 
After the mushroom mixture is cooled use a slotted spoon and remove the vegetables to their own bowl for the time being. Leave the butter and liquid from mushrooms in the bottom of the pan.
 
Boil a large pot of salted water and when everything is really boiling toss in all your gnocchi.
 
The same time you are boiling your gnocchi bring the pan with the butter and the mushroom juices back up to heat. You may have to add about another tablespoon of butter and do add a scant 1/4 cup of white wine.  (Last night I was roasting a chicken as I was making these gnocchi for a side dish so I also tossed in 2 tablespoons of pan juices. ) You need that mixture to reach almost boil but not cook off. Also toss in two or three whole sage leaves.
 
The gnocchi will cook probably in about 3 to 4 minutes – when they all are bubbling to the surface and bobbing around, use a slotted spoon to remove them.
 
Put the gnocchi immediately into the pan with butter and wine that should be really bubbling at this point. Move the gnocchi around gently to brown slightly. As you are moving the gnocchi around gently add back the mushrooms and red onion to heat again.
 
Be careful  with your gnocchi they are a slightly delicate things but once everything is browned through toss half a cup of grated Parmesan on on top and some diced flat leaf parsley if you choose. Toss one more time into a bowl and serve.
 
 

hamburger pie…or how to get veggies into a teenager

2015/01/img_2705.jpg
Hamburger Pie
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet red bell pepper chopped fine fine
1 cup frozen peas thawed/drained
4 or 5 mushrooms sliced thin
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup plain tomato sauce
1/2 cup brown gravy
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
Salt and pepper
Oregano, basil, and cumin to taste
Chili powder to taste

Pastry for 1 double-crust 9-inch pie (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Warm oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add herbs , chili powder, and cumin, garlic, onion, pepper, mushrooms, carrots and celery; sauté on medium about 5 or 7 more minutes. Turn off pan.

In a large mixing bowl stir together tomato sauce and gravy and then add Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Let cool slightly. Use a slotted spoon to lift contents of skillet into gravy-tomato sauce in mixing bowl and fold together. Add peas.

3. (*pie crust recipe below*) Roll out 1 sheet of pastry and fit into deep dish pie plate. Spoon filling into crust and add cheese lightly and evenly on top. Roll out second crust; place on top of pie. Fold top crust over bottom crust; crimp edges to seal. Brush top with egg wash if you want. Cut steam vents in top. Place on cookie sheet and put in oven.

4. Bake for 15 minutes at 400°F. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF; bake until crust is golden and filling bubbles at steam vents, 20 to 25 minutes longer.

5. Slice like a pie after allowing to cool about 20 minutes. Serve with a small dollop of sour cream on top of each slice.

❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️
Slightly Savory Pie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup vegetable shortening or butter
1/2 cup buttermilk

Sift flour and salt together in a bowl. Add pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano. Cut in shortening until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add milk until dough forms. Split dough in two even balls and keep wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated until you are ready to roll out.
❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️

christmas in july barn sale!

It’s Christmas in July! The Smithfield Barn is open tomorrow Saturday, July 26, 10 am to 4 pm! 425 Little Conestoga Road in Downingtown!

This is a barn clearing sale loaded with furniture, vintage china, vintage linens, tons of vintage Christmas ornaments, vintage fishing rods, tools, you name it it is there !

Cash and carry works best!

20140725-182843-66523019.jpg

20140725-182840-66520732.jpg

20140725-182839-66519671.jpg

20140725-182841-66521840.jpg

the trouble with pachysandra…..and other gardening tales

20140721-160054-57654527.jpg
The trouble with pachysandra is if it likes a place, it loves the place. And pachysandra is very happy in my gardens.

Where we live has well established pachysandra that grows like it is on steroids. It’s common name is Japanese spurge and is in the boxwood family. When we moved in, the flower beds weren’t so much flowers anymore as they were pachysandra ponds. Pachysandra was everywhere. So if you wonder what my first garden inspiration was, it was to break up the sea of GREEN.

My mother loves pachysandra and maybe part of my intense dislike was having to plant it for her too many years. (Yes, as much as I love my mother, her idea of gardening was to supervise, not actually plant things.) I did not want the pachysandra to go to waste, so what I have done is relocate it around the property. Waste not, want not when it comes to the garden.

I have become an expert at liberating pachysandra from planting beds. I cut it out with garden clippers and a sharp shovel edge like strips of turf or carpet and roll it up. All you have to do is plunk down the sections where you want it next and water it in. I have relocated my liberated pachysandra to bare spots on the edge of the woods and it regrows nicely and chokes out the weeds.

This weekend I had stopped at Home Depot in Frazer and noticed a lot of plants were on sale. A lot of the sale plants looked horrible because they needed watering, but along the side of the store where the “nursery” is were a ton of day lilies at $3.00 a pot. They were decent cultivars and were from their Vigoro line which is grown by Bell Nurseries in Maryland. Bell has their own land and a network of growers. They are all along the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

And incidentally, if you are looking for plant nurseries, the Eastern Shore of Maryland has some amazing places. One nursery I used to go to is called Pumpkin Shell Nursery on Route 213 in Cecilton, Maryland. They used to have the most amazing boxwood and trees, shrubs, perennials.
20140721-182113-66073470.jpg
So anyway, I found a bunch a day lilies that had bloomed but were still vigorous and healthy plants. I will be honest I don’t really buy too many plants from Home Depot, but I will look for things in the Vigoro line like hydrangeas and day lilies when they go on sale to use to fill in spots in the garden. The day lilies I bought were the same cultivar, “Baby Moon Cafe“.

……BUT before I planted the day lilies I had to liberate more pachysandra. And the formation I ended up planting the day lilies in was not what I originally envisioned because I also discovered today that the concrete path along which I wanted to plant was well, a foot wider than I originally thought. So I spent quite a while excavating the path and trimming pachysandra along other borders too.

I also noticed my deer friends have been munching a section of garden I planted near the woods this year that I hadn’t sprayed with Deer Out. Apparently my oak leaf hydrangeas are even more yummy than my hostas.

Ah yes, Deer Out. My friend Melanie (who has a gorgeous garden) told me about this stuff. It smells vaguely minty and it is working…..where I sprayed it of course LOL. (I had forgotten about this particular planting area, so they ate the buds off the day lilies and topped one of the oak leaf hydrangeas.)

Right now the late summer flowers are blooming. The garden phlox is just delightful and smells amazingly fragrant especially in the early morning. The phlox was inherited with my house, I can take no credit for it. Three different shades of pink, pink with white edges, and white. It’s old school , tall garden phlox and as opposed to more newly introduced cultivars it is fairly mildew resistant. I have split a lot of this up as well. When we first moved in it took up almost the entire front half of an old perennial bed, so I split it and replanted it all over the garden. Same with the inherited yellow lilies and flag irises.

I also cooked up a batch of hummingbird food (nectar) today. It’s easy. Four parts water to one part sugar, bring to boil in a pot on the stove, cool completely and fill your feeder. You can store the nectar in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days per batch. When temperatures reach the 80s and higher you should change the nectar in your hummingbird feeder every couple of days, and it works best when the feeder is in a more shady location. For more information check out the Wild Bird Shop website.

Planning ahead, I have also reserved my next pile of bulbs. Daffodils and Narcissus from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia. I also might have to take another peek at the bargain hosta bin at Bridgewood Gardens , also located in Virginia. I will also be waiting to see what else Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market has to tempt me with between now and fall!

Gardening is one of my favorite things. It is a great thing to be able to connect with nature, and it is a creative outlet. Anyone can garden. You just have to try. Start small, experiment with what you like. Get your garden on a routine and it really starts to take care of itself. I realize I garden more than a lot of people I know, yet what I am doing is not so unusual as I see a lot of similar plantings and groupings of plants in my friend Abbi’s garden in Northern New Jersey. Abbi is an artist among other things so her garden is very cool. And she does her own gardening as well.

Digging in the dirt is fun!

Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know how your garden is growing as well!

20140721-185004-67804160.jpg

much ado about chicken

20140226-120814.jpg

The humble roast chicken. A backbone of American cuisine. I am one of those people that loves roasted chicken. But I need to spice it up a little and not just roast it in the style of Julia Child all of the time.

So I have been experimenting with marinades that use plain Greek yogurt as a base. My favorite plain Greek yogurt is the Fage brand.

As I am especially pleased with today’s marinade so I thought I would share the approximate ingredients:

1 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
Salt to taste (kosher is best in my opinion)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Dash or two of hot sauce/Tabasco

Combine marinade a greedy ingredients in a small bowl whisk well, taste for salt and set aside.

Take a 4 1/2 to 5 pound roasting chicken and butterfly it – basically you are cutting it in half and spreading it open so it lies flat.

Take butterflied chicken, put it in a large Ziploc freezer bag and dump the marinade on top. Squeeze all the air out of the bag and seal the bag and smoosh the marinade around. I then put this bag in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator for anywhere from five hours to overnight. I periodically smoosh the marinade around in the bag and turn the bag over so it coats evenly.

When ready to cook bring your chicken out of the refrigerator and remove from marinade and lay out flat in a roasting pan lined with onion slices. Discard the rest of the marinade. It has had raw poultry and it so you can’t use marinade for anything else.

The chicken goes into a preheated 350° oven skin side up and flat out for approximately 15 minutes per pound at 350° . I actually use a meat thermometer to check for proper doneness with poultry.

The chicken is delicious when you use a yogurt marinade. I will serve this with something like roasted carrots and a salad, or a wild rice mixture and a salad, or oven roasted potatoes and a salad.

Enjoy!

20140226-120833.jpg