Springing Forward

Spring is time for growth and renewal. But the world and the weather have been volatile this past week as we moved into this new season.

Growth is painful. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been in a funk for the last year. I left one job and took another, my father died, our daughter married, our son moved home to the US, and my house is a complete mess. BUT through all of this turmoil and upheavel, I have continued to cook.

I may print some of my cooking adventures out to cleanse myself, but not all at once. You as the reader won’t appreciate my purging, only I would.

So here’s to spring, new growth, moving on and putting away the Christmas decorations this Easter weekend.

Syrian Semolina and Nut Cake

I am a big fan of The Splendid Table. It is an American Public Media radio broadcast that can also be found on most podcast libraries. Lynn Rosetto Kasper has the best radio voice ever! I could listen to her all day. She is charming to her guests and to us, her listeners. Syrian Semolina and Nut Cake from the author Anissa Helou from her cookbook Sweet Middle East was featured last month. She describes it as a “delectable syrupy sponge cake topped with mixed nuts.”

I was drawn to the nuts as ingredients in the recipe. I have a stash of nuts in the freezer and my husband has been noshing on them lately.  The rest of the ingredients I did not have in my pantry: semolina, baker’s sugar, orange blossom water and rose water. I was not in a mood to go out searching store to store for these ingredients, so I went online.  King Arthur Flour had everything I needed in one location. What a wonderful website and a great reference for baking.

Go to The Splendid Table website for the recipe  and you will see that it is a pretty easy cake to put together. Flour, butter, sugar, yogurt, baking soda and of course NUTS.

The fragrant sugar syrup on the other hand was challenging. The orange blossom and rose water were extremely fragrant and seemed to be competing with each other as flavors. Once they settled down it was better.

Patty’s Points:

1.Timing. The cake has to set for 3 hours before baking, so plan accordingly.

2.Syrup. Even though the author recommends putting the syrup on the cake for it to soak in, I do not recommend doing that. The syrup was overpoweringly sweet and fragrant, just as the author stated. It was so sweet that it took away from the flavor of the cake and the nuts.

It is also quite possible that I overcooked the syrup and it wasn’t the proper consistency to soak into the cake. My husband and I liked the cake, but the syrup made the cake too sweet. I would recommend serving the cake, plain, with the syrup on the side and maybe with some plain or vanilla yogurt as a dollop.

3.Ingredients. Simple to make with complex ingredients. I had never purchased these ingredients before, ever. Semolina flour is used with breads or dough, like pizza, to give them extra crunch. Baker’s sugar is very fine. I used to shrug it off when I saw it in recipes and made my own by processing regular sugar. But this had such a lovely quality of fineness that I’ll think differently about it in the future.

Orange blossom water and rose water.  I’d heard of rose water but never orange blossom water. I actually saw an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown where he made rose water from chemical-free roses at home. This web post from Pam in the Garden follows the Alton Brown step-by-step process of making rose water. Orange blossom water and rose water I have seen as ingredients for baklava, but I’ve never had them on hand before. The uses for the fragrant waters go beyond food and are beneficial to skin and health enhancers.

4.Nuts. Despite the recipe directions to add the nuts prior to baking, they run the risk of burning. I would recommend adding them halfway through the baking time to prevent the char.

We had a blizzard hit here two days ago and I’ve been sick in bed all week so writing this blog helped me leap out of the doldrums. Thanks for reading. Be fearless and keep cooking.

 

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Garden Goodness

 Where have I been the past eight months? I’ve been absorbed in so many things I’m even overwhelmed to describe it.  Summer ends officially today. What a bumper crop we’ve had this year in our backyard garden.

These are the cherry tomatoes called the “Sweet 100” Lycopersicum esculentum.

cherry tomatoes

The crop later in the season was much sweeter, then even one month ago.

T  green cherry tomatoes

One of my favorite recipe to make with cherry tomatoes is Lidia Bastianich’s Anna’s Spaghetti and Pesto Trapanese (Pesto alla Anna).  It is an interesting pesto that I thought of immediately today when I came home from work and saw a bowl of the cherry tomatoes that my dear husband (dh) picked. Inspired, I went to the garden to pick more ingredients.

Basil

This is my modest basil plant that I “baby” in a pot in a bright spot that stays away from the hot direct sun.

I blended all the ingredients (sans spaghetti and parmesan) in my food processor

the sauce

It makes this luscious pesto with tomatoes, basil, almonds, salt, and olive oil.

Lidia Bastianich is a master of Italian cooking so I  trust her recipes implicitly.

To make this recipe even more garden oriented, I used zucchini in place of the pasta to make it low carb.

my beautiful fresh Italian dish

Fresh picked today

Patty’s Points:

1.The recipe for the pesto itself uses only 1/2 teaspoon of salt. It is misleading how the recipe calls for

1 1/2 TBSP of salt – that is really for pasta water. This is fresh, fresh, garden fresh sauce.

2. One weekend I shredded and chopped ten monster zucchini, and spiralized five regular sized zucchini for “spaghetti”.  It was a big zucchini summer. The monster zucchini are best for shredding or chopping, removing the seeds prior to use.  Make sure the squash are not too soft or too hard, but instead firm.

zucchini quiche

Zucchini-Cheesy Quiche

savory zucchini cakes

Savory Zucchini Cakes

chocolate zucchini bread

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

zucchini casserole

Zucchini Casserole

zesty zucchini relish prep

Zesty Zucchini Relish

My famous chocolate zucchini cake never got it’s picture taken 😦  I’ve made six and gave away at least five.

3. The moral of the story, only plant in your garden what you can reasonably process or eat or give away. It is reasonable to plant in that way. Being the daughter of parents who lived through the Great Depression, I cringe thinking of food waste.  I’ll try to hold back the dh next year, but he loves being the happy farmer; planting until a jungle of plants appear.

This is only a small portion of the bumper crops

More to come now that my organizational skills have returned. Stay tuned.

Ahhhhh Italy

Italy is Eataly

We traveled to Italy in October. The food was fabulous and the scenery was spectacular.

Bay of Fegina Monterosso del Mare

The Cinque Terre (the five lands) was our favorite destination. Monterosso del Mare has the most beautiful beach of the five towns on the Italian Riviera. We stayed at the Hotel Pasquale, a small family-run hotel in the heart of this ancient village overlooking the Liguorian Sea.

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We were treated to a homemade Italian meal by Felicita, daughter of the original owners, and current co-owner with her husband and children.

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A personal demonstration of homemade pesto using a mortar and pestle.

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 The pesto was very fresh and bright.

lasagne al forno

Lasagne al Forno. Can you believe the amount of pesto atop?

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Our fellow travelers.

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Felicita and me.

The Fearless Cooking Club members gathered and made some of the Italian recipes. Barb and Cindy had been to Europe this past summer and stopped into Italy also.

Fearless Cooker w/fancy oven mitts

We tried our hand at mortar and pestle pesto.

Porchetta

Barb and Joe made this beautiful porchetta, they ate in Italy. It was a WOW!

mortar and pestle

The one in the foreground is marble with ribbed inner edges of the bowl.

presto pesto

Presto Pesto!

Felicita’s Pesto Sauce Recipe

Two servings pesto sauce

Ingredients

  • 80 Basil leaves
  • 1 garlic close
  • 2 TBSP pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese grated

Directions

Only wash basil leaves and dry on the tea towel.  Add 1 garlic close. Grind. Add 2 TBSP pine nuts. Grind. Mis with two heaping tablespoon parmesan cheese grated. Add olive oil until creamy consistency.  Have a good meal! Felicita.

Patty’s Points

1. Felicita’s pesto had a very loose consistency more like a sauce then a thick paste. We think it had to do with the moisture in the leaves from being so close to the sea nearby. We live in dry Colorado so our pesto was more like a paste.

2. Her recipe differs from most pestos I’ve made. She added no salt and very little garlic. You are tasting the freshness of the basil.

3. Our tour guide, Jamie, a Brit who has a home in Lucca, was quite the foodie. He advised us about only buying pine nuts from Italy and to stay away from the ones from China. My olive oil was from Italy but the pine nuts I found were from Spain. Sorry Jamie.

4. We used two different types of olive oils in each pesto recipe we made. We noticed a big difference in the taste from the olive oils. I pays to taste your olive oil and find one you like. Have you heard of the bug that has destroyed many of the olives in Italy? Olive oil prices will rise over the next year. Eeek!

5. We had two mortar bowls that were quite different. One had ridges on the bowl lining and one without. The combination of the pestle grinding and ridges in the bowl made the grinding process go quickly.

6. You’ll notice in the recipe it calls for 80 leaves of basil. If you have really large leaves then count it as two leaves. The amount of leaves accounts for the pure taste of the basil also.

7. Eataly.com is a global company that promotes Italian products worldwide. When you go to Italy you see  authentic products in local towns. But when you are at home you don’t have access to those authentic products. Eataly.com is one way to find specialty pastas and probably pine nuts too! I saw a pasta in Monterosso that I should have bought. It looked like a communion wafer. When we went out to dinner that night, one of our fellow travelers had that pasta Croxetti. It is specifically made in the the Liguorian areas of Italy. It would take awhile for me to hunt it down and see if it exists in the Italian sections of my city.  So I would have to either make it or buy it through Eataly.com.

8. Lastly, Jamie our guide, said that when we all go home and try to recreate the Italian food, it won’t taste the same. I have to agree. The ingredients may be basil, olives, pine nuts, oranges, or lemons but they are grown in a different location of the world with different sun, water, soil, bugs, and weather conditions.

9. By the way, the lasagne al forno was homemade lasagne pasta sheets with a parmesan besciamella sauce through each layer. With that substantial amount of pesto atop it melted in my mouth. Delizioso! I could never recreate that sensation ever again at home.

10. Lastly, according to Felicita, the true term pesto only refers to the basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese and nuts (pine, walnuts) combination.

Until we meet again Italy! Arrivederci!

25th Anniversary Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

InvitationMy invitation to “cookie bomb” the Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange was taped to my front door. Isn’t it precious? This is a special year because it is the 25th Anniversary. I don’t live in the neighborhood but I get an invite from my friend Joy every year. She hosted it this year and did a bang up job.

I started a new job six weeks ago and my life has been crazy. Check out my other blog, the patty beat, to see the details of that. As I was reflecting just yesterday, that when life is crazy anyway, throw a major holiday and family wedding in the mix and *%#@!*#@!

I planned in advance knowing I would have little time this week get it altogether.

the recipe

I chose the recipe from Cook’s Country December/January 2015 and it was the Grand Prize Winner of the Christmas Cookie Contest entitled Chocolate Croissant Cookies by Karen Cope of Minneapolis, MN. The requirement for the cookie exchange is to make 5 dozen cookies to share among a group of people and take home a smorgasbord of cookies to share for the holidays I made the dough in advance and popped it in the freezer for the past two weeks. I put it in the refrigerator 24 hours before assembly for it to thaw.

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The dough is a mini version of the croissant. The chocolate bars are placed in the center, fold over the dough and pop it in the oven.

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Rolling out and cutting the dough into twenty 4 x 2 inch pieces was the challenging part of the construction.

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I was pretty amazed that I rolled out and assembled the cookies in 2 hours. The last batch was warm from the oven and placed separately from the first two batches. Didn’t want the chocolate to schmush.

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Lucky for me Joy had two lovely plates for me to put my cookies on to display.

Chocolate Croissant Cookies

Every year the cookies become more creative.

St Nick cookies

 St Nick Cookies

 

Almond Coconut Cookies

 Almond Coconut cookies

reindeer cookies

 Reindeer Cookies

Heath bar cookies

Pecan Pie Bars

snowman cookies

 Snowman Cookies

Joy displayed a poster of all the pictures from all the past years and it was a nice to reflect on the past and look to the future.

Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

 The 25th Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange 2014

What I did this summer

The summer of 2014 is at an end. In Colorado it was a wet one. The garden did well this year.

I kept up with the produce but I invited neighbors and friends to stop and “shop” as well. Joy said this was better than the grocery store because she could come in her nightgown.

the 2014 garden

The food processor I got for Christmas got plenty of action with chopping and shredding

the food processor

I used this batch for a zucchini chocolate cake with a chocolate cheese frosting.

I forgot to get a picture, but I’ve made the cake for two potlucks.

At Mary Beth’s Labor Day party I got a standing ovation from an admiring crowd stating it was the best chocolate cake ever. Then laughed when they heard I snuck vegetables in a dessert.

shredded zucchini

Our neighborhood is full of rabbits (lack of foxes and presence of coyotes). One and maybe two bunnies made it into our garden although interestingly they haven’t eaten anything that I can see.

the garden bunny

 We grew cilantro this year, it was gorgeous so I tried my hand at some Indian Chutney.

making chutney

This Cilantro Chutney recipe is from The Splendid Table (my favorite website).

I fell in love. I put it on roasted chicken and fried eggs.

cilantro chutney

I joined the spiralizer craze, getting one for my birthday.

the spiralizer

I spiralized carrots, zucchini, potatoes and yams. I loved placing the carrots and the zucchini in a microwave safe bowl, steaming it for about a minute and tossing basil pesto in it. Yummy!

It could also be adapted into a cold salad and tossed with a vinaigrette or dressing.

spiraled carrots

I had a lot of cucumbers this year. This salad was a combo of cucumbers, mint (both from the garden) with black and white quinoa and brown rice

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This next recipe was from Bon Appétit  magazine Watermelon Gazpacho.

Cantaloupe was abundant and inexpensive at the grocery store, so I adapted the recipe.

melon gazpacho ingredients

Patty’s Cantaloupe Gazpacho. Oh it was so good. Sweet and cool eaten as an appetizer on the back porch.

melon gazpacho

 This recipe was also from Bon Appétit  magazine for a Grilled Salad.

I adapted this as well. The romaine lettuce was 99 cents per head. I brushed it with olive oil and my husband grilled each side for about 1-2 minutes. Oh this was wonderful! I adapted this recipe to what produce was available.

grilled salad

And finally, Ginger Marmalade. I was excited to make this recipe since sampling James Keillor and Sons Ginger Marmalade.

I surveyed many recipes on-line, it was a daunting task.

peeled ginger

shredded ginger

Time consuming little recipe!

hand blended ginger

canning the marmalade

Ginger can be a bit HOT. This marmalade was HOT. The ultimate experimenter, I looked at other recipes and found an Orange-Ginger Marmalade. So I mixed my marmalade with regular store-bought orange marmalade and tamed it down a bit.

I also used it as a glaze for roasted chicken and roasted carrots from the garden.

ginger glazed chicken & carrots

I went to Portland in August with nursing colleagues Nancy, Rita and Kathy, for a conference. A manager for a local retailer tipped us off on to Nong’s Khao Man Gai food truck for lunch.  Nong was the named Food Network Chopped Champion just 4 days before we visited.  What a sweet girl who has her own bottled sauce and make the best chicken and rice.

Nong's Food Truck

It was a summer of reflection for me. Autumn will bring some changes. Ready for new challenges.

A Fearless Woman

My favorite things Australia

Water served in wine bottlesMy husband and I returned from Australia about 100 days ago. We jumped back into the stress of work upon our return. Lucky for us, the house was clean and work tasks were addressed so the re-entry shock was minimal. After the lovely sunshine of Australia we returned to a Mother’s Day snowstorm and a rainy spring. I’ve now come out of my shell, we’re in the dog days of summer and it’s nearly Labor Day. It’s time to wrap up all things I loved about the Land Down Under.

1. Bottles of water served in wine bottles.

bottles of water

2. Cooking and eating with old friends

anne and me

 Anne and her husband Jerry, have been friends with Bob since for 30+ years. They moved to Melbourne from the US a year ago and we learned about living the Australian way. Anne loves the plentiful number of Chinese markets, restaurants, and community they are living in. She said she wished she could be in our cooking club and I wished she could be also. She is an experimental cook, trying new techniques and ingredients to make the dish interesting.

egg drop frothing

egg drop soup

stir fried veggies

steamed chicken

Chinese chicken soup

 This is Lai-fu. His name means good luck comes in Chinese.

Lai-fu good luck comes

Dinner and after dinner with the Willemens and Donovans on The Rocks in the Sydney Harbour!

eating in sydney

 

group picture at The Rocks

3. Touring the Yarra Valley. The lovely countryside north of Melbourne. Rolling hills, vineyards, fruit trees, dairy cows, and sheep.  Vineyards, tasting rooms, wine, cheese, cured meats, and restaurants.

chandon view from Chandon

Yering Station

wine glassess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yarra Valley Dairy goat cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Comic relief. My dear husband travels all over the world for his job. One would think he had a good sense of direction. But when there are no deadlines to meet, he wanders.  The first night he convinced us to jump on a bus after a rugby game in Brisbane saying it was the way home. It was heading north to the suburbs. I said he could wander but we weren’t going to follow any more.

He drank a lovely glass of wine from Squitchy Lane at lunch. We drove and twisted through the country back roads to discover it was not open during the week.

Squitchy Lane

view from Squitchy Lane

We found a perfect bottle of wine to sum up his trip.

the wanderer wine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The natural wonders

beach

palm tree

great barrier reef

crocodile

koala

rainforest

sand crabs

12 apostles

6. The Sydney Harbour

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7. Reuniting with family

the mining sculpture

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Cheers Australia! Until we meet again. Let’s hope we don’t wait 27 more years to pass until we meet again.