Pasta with clam sauce

I am finding that in the summer time I am having less motivation to sit with my computer to write. When I return home from work I want to sit out in my backyard soaking in the warm weather now that it has finally arrived. But we do still have to eat…

This recipe is inspired by my Hubby. Who now insists he has made his version for me not too long ago. I think I would remember that! He has talked about it but I don’t remember him making it. But I have just had one of those birthdays that end in O as in “0h, no, I moving into another decade!”

Clams and garlic over angel hair pasta is what he told me. Since I am home first to prepare the meal for the three of us it is up to me to figure out how to put this together. Hubby bought four cans of clams hoping we would get to feed both girls (young women) but just one is coming for dinner tonight. 😦

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I gather together cans of clams, garlic, olive oil, onion, butter, fresh parsley. I love parsley; it adds greenery! The angel hair pasta nests are cool. These get cooked in a pot of boiling water while the clam sauce is prepared.

  • 4 cans of clams with juice
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 a large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of butter
  • scant 1/4 cup of flour
  • handful of fresh parsley
  • 7 nests of angel hair pasta cooked in 4 quarts of boiling water

Saute the onion and the garlic in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper as you like. Then add in the butter until melted. Sprinkle on the flour to make a roux. I am thinking this is needed because I will have four cans of clam juice to thicken. Then stir in the four un-drained cans of clams. Let this simmer until the pasta is ready and/or the family comes home. Throw in the parsley to add some color.

I serve this with a salad, Italian bread, and grated Parmesan cheese. We sit outside to eat our dinner, enjoy the warm evening breeze, and each other’s company.

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Beef Goulash

And then there was a recipe that looked interesting and people to feed.

Not sure why I got out The Best Recipe Book from Cook’s Illustrated (1999) but I did. I was looking through soup recipes originally thinking about a lentil soup. I came across Beef Goulash (page 278) and as luck would have it, I had all the ingredients or a reasonable proximity thereof. Making this used up the remainder of my Hungarian Paprika from Soulard Market Spice Shop but it was worth it. Here is my version.

  • top sirloin butt or other beef steak cut into cubes, lean; Hubby estimates this as 10 ounces. It might be closer to 2 pounds. The original recipe called for 3 pounds,
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bacon, 3-4 ounces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 red mini-peppers, de-seeded and chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup homemade vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • bunch of baby carrots, halved; I think I used at least a dozen
  • 1/4 cup freshly minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

I am not sure the weight of this beef. But it was plenty. Hubby had cut it into stew meat when he cut up a huge hunk of meat a while back. These were the bits and ends leftover from steaks.

I modified the recipe by cooking it in the crockpot. I do not usually have 3-4 hours to cook a stew on a weeknight. Goulash is good served over egg noodles and Hubby loves egg noodles. One girl was coming over as she is home from college for the summer. We like to feed her meat since her mom is vegetarian and this is her opportunity to be an omnivore. (I like meatless meals every so often but this evening was not the night for lentil soup.)

This took me 30 minutes in the morning to prep since I did take the time to brown the meat and cook the bacon. I freeze entire packages of bacon and hack off the ends as I need. This way the bacon is already diced. I also chopped up the vegetables and then just threw everything in the crockpot. The vegetables filled a four cup measure.

The aroma was marvelous as I walked in the door after work. Now for the chopping of the parsley. I love fresh herbs. And there are the plantings I just bought in the background to grow my own.20160519_214041540_iOS

I served this over egg noodles after stirring in the parsley and sour cream. For the future I would stir in some flour or cornstarch to thicken the broth, but it was fine. I also had leftovers for lunches. It was a hit with the family diners that evening. I served it with a small salad with blueberries and pecans.

 

 

Dining Al Fresco (or is it Fresca?)

The sun came out this weekend. Yay! We bought dirt and planted the herbs and flower seeds for Four O’Clocks which rarely turns out. Four O’Clocks were in the front of the house where I grew up and I’ve been trying to get a bed going ever since I moved into this house. Some day?

When we bought dirt we came across the updated version of the Gas Grill that Hubby really likes. The one we have is breaking down bit by bit. So what the hey? We buy the new one. We also splurged on reclining zero gravity chairs, cheaply made, but at a great price!

Tonight we dine out. Cheeseburgers on the grill are a favorite and so simple to do. Hubby is the grill master!

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the new grill is in the background; and look who is under the table?

On or table here are our cheeseburgers on plain hamburger buns. The onion rings are store-brand ring shaped onion “cookies” since they are formed with diced onions. These were purchased on a whim, nothing to be proud of! We have homemade ketchup Special Sauce,  and a summer salad Salad Days. For this salad I drizzled a bit of Persian Lime Olive Oil, a squeeze of fresh lime, and a couple pinches of Fleur de Sel. The lime-mint combination is very refreshing as I found out when Hubby and I made a Mojito earlier in the week to experiment with cocktails.

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layers of watermelon, cucumber, chopped mint leaves, and feta cheese

The iPhone is on top of a speaker as the source of beautiful classical music to enjoy with our cheeseburgers. We ate. We watched the birds in the bushes. A bumblebee buzzed around the yard. And the cat lounged about under the table. A lovely way to end the weekend. Now it is back to the daily grind…but the Memorial Day three day weekend is coming up next! Yay!

Fresh, fresh fish

 

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Just when I thought I had nothing to write about our neighbor left us a cooler full of freshly caught fish. He found a new fishing spot that has been very fruitful. I think these are trout.

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My mother would have just gotten in here and manhandled these without qualms. I am not my mother’s daughter regarding this. I don’t know how to clean and dress fish for cooking. Luckily Hubby loves to fish and even has a filet knife to do the job. I scoot around him and the fish entrails in the kitchen trying to get the “ooh, icky” grimace off my face. At one point I ask if what he was doing was the proper thing to do and he replies “Do you want me to do this?” with that “stop being a kitchen bully” tone of voice! Okay, yes, I want him to do this beheading and gutting, absolutely!

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Meanwhile I fix a bit of couscous and mixed vegetable. He decides to cook the fish on the grill so I go to the camping trailer to retrieve a foil grill pan for him to use. Once this is used it can be thrown away. Usually I do not use disposable pans but this is fish whose head and guts have been just removed and were swimming around that very morning. I get a brief glimpse into what vegetarians might feel when they think about meat. Maybe. Probably not. My sense is one of ickiness, not of moral outrage. I am an omnivore and I don’t plan to change.

Now Hubby removes the skin and then the bones. This is a delicate process. He does a better job than I do. Even though I have to pull one or two tiny bones out of a few the forkfuls I have put in my mouth. Nice tasting fish and we did not season it at all.

20160518_221330936_iOSHere Kitty waits for his bit of seafood! But this fish did not come out of the sea; is it still seafood? River food? Hmmm?

 

Puff tarts!

These are totally inspired by Lana-Once Upon a Spice and her Pie Week: “Pop tarts”. I have made homemade pop tarts with a short crust pastry before but this time I am using the one sheet of puff pastry that is leftover in my freezer. So they don’t end up flat enough for the toaster, so they are jam puff tarts! I love pie, any kind of pie. Well, I am not that fond of key lime or rhubarb, but just about everything else.

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The ingredients

Roll the pastry. I actually did not even have a whole sheet of pastry. I rolled it thin to about 12 inch square  on a floured surface. After thawing it, of course! Cut that into 4 squares, heaped a large tablespoon of the jam (technically not a jam or jelly or preserves, but a fruit spread), rubbed water on the edges and folded and crimped the edges with a fork.

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And I poked each one in the middle with the fork.

Before putting them in the oven at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, I sprayed the tops with cooking spray and sprinkled on a very little bit of granulated sugar. I thought this would help them brown a little.

So does the water, cooking spray, and sugar make it five ingredients instead of two?

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Voila!

What to do with egg whites?

20160504_214255930_iOSI have a cup of egg whites in my refrigerator taunting me to do something with them. I have these whites because Son made me a Parisien flan before he left for his job in Alaska. I showed him this  Parisien Flan from Nadia at Maison Travers and he made it for me! It was fabulous!

 

I’m thinking about a … (French word, meringue cake), it’ll come to me in a moment…Pavlova…Dacquoise! I describe this to Hubby and he looks at me with a blank face. I look through a few cookbooks for meringue recipes. Many of the recipes are for 2 egg whites with 2 cups of sugar, confectioners and granulated. That seems like a lot of sugar but sugar is important for the structure of a meringue. I have four egg whites so 2 cups of sugar will have to do. I suggest to Hubby that I could make espresso flavored meringue cookies and he says to go for it. I settle on adapting a recipe from Bakewise by Shirley Corriher. She explains the science behind the product. I do not have cream of tartar so must find a substitute: apparently 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice per egg white.

  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar; made by processing regular granulated sugar in the food processor for one minute
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar (I didn’t have a full cup!)
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon Hersheys Special Dark Cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon flour

First I beat the egg whites and lemon juice with all but two tablespoons of the superfine sugar until stiff peaks formed.

Mix the rest of the dry ingredients to sprinkle on top of the beaten egg whites and fold in until incorporated. I confess that I do not like folding. I always worry about mixing too hard and flattening the mixture.

This is to be piped or spooned onto parchment paper and baked in a 200 degree (F) oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. My oven is too small. I have three pans of meringue cookies and enough to make a nine inch circle for a Pavlova. I made this planning to dump a can of canned cherries mixed with sweetened yogurt on top and have a fancy dessert.

I don’t like my pastry bag so I just put huge spoonfuls on the pans. I don’t get marks for prettiness! These are baking away forever in the oven and I am on the phone with my sister when the timer goes off. I have never made meringues before, yes meringue topping for pies but not meringues. Smart phones are wonderful. I show her the meringues as I take them out of the oven and she says they look perfect. Now to let them cool. But wait, Hubby went in and took one off the tray. Yumm! They have a nice coffee flavor. Now I am not sure if cherries on top of the circle is the best flavor combination.

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It is a bit squishy because it is not completely cool.

I still need to do something with the large circle. I serve wedges with ice cream and Hubby pours on a bit of Irish Cream liquor. Too much of this will make us fat and drunk!

My summer kitchen…

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Hoping that spring had finally arrived we had a camping weekend. As usual, it rained the Friday we arrived at the campground. We have set up camp, even in tents, in worse. We set up a screen house three times inside out one time in a major rain storm in the dark at a new to us State Park a few years back! And then just ask my kids about “the flat top tent adventure!” On Saturday the sun came out and it was a perfect day to sit outside and read and walk around a bit. I took very few pictures and we just enjoyed the moments.

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Here is our end of camping weekend breakfast. It is cooked in a cast iron skillet. We fry up the leftover onion, the leftover potatoes, a few peppers, the remaining breakfast sausage, add a few eggs and a handful of cheese. Serve with a slice of bread toasted on the grill. Usually we cook our breakfast outside on the grill also. But not this time. The big bad wolf of the wind huffed and puffed and tried its best to blow down our house which is vinyl sided and on wheels but the wolf was not successful and we came home safely in one piece!

Timman Z’affaran

I have the privilege of being a part of a coalition of people who are helping in the resettlement of refugees from the war-torn Middle East. You are all entitled to your opinions, but this blog is about cooking, not the politics.

So at first we thought the refugee family would be from Syria so my task group leader gave me a recipe for Syrian meatballs. But the family is coming from Iraq. So I wanted to find a recipe that at least says it is Iraqi. So this I found from Food.com: Timman Zafffaran

I thought it would be prudent to practice the dish before having to deliver it to the family’s new home the day of arrival. So this is an Americanized version. The dish I make to deliver to the family will not have the American substitutes. It will be made with halal meat and basmati rice.

The first step is to make the Baharat, Middle Eastern Spice Mixture. You can find the recipe here: Baharat. I gather all the whole spices to grind for this mix. And the house smells wonderful while I am grinding these in the small spice grinder that has been lying unused in the cabinet for ever! (We bought it eons ago when we thought we would grind our own coffee beans. Yeah right!)

Cardamom seeds are mucho expensive. So I “google” for a substitute: equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg or cinnamon and ground cloves. That I can handle. So I grind the spices and grate the nutmeg. I am making half the recipe because that is how much whole peppercorns I have. This makes a good cup of spice. That will be enough for a container to give to the family, some to keep for my own kitchen, and some to give to my son to take to Alaska for his next job.

  • 1/4 cup whole peppercorns (some of these are directly from Vietnam)
  • 1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) whole coriander seeds
  • 1/8 cup cinnamon bark; I grind up quite a few cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 whole nutmegs
  • 1/4 cup ground paprika

I forget to toast the spices but they still smell wonderful. Mix the whole spices except the nutmeg and paprika. Grind these up a 1/2 cup at a time. I find I need to grind them three times in my little grinder to make them fine. Then grate the nutmeg; this should make about 1/8 cup. Mix the grated nutmeg and the paprika with the ground spices and store in an airtight jar. This is the Baharat.

Now for the Iraqi Saffron Rice with Meat. One reason for practicing making the dish is to determine if the recipe, as is, is sufficient for a family of six. I make the recipe “as is” with the exception of the amount of meat. I use one pound of ground turkey, and not 275 grams which is a little over 1/2 of a pound. The recipe calls for rose water, which is not a staple in my pantry. I “google” for a substitute: vanilla extract.

  • 2 cups basmati rice (I use brown rice for this preparation, but will buy basmati rice to prepare the dish for the family)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron thread (I have saffron from a spice market from my trip to Armenia)
  • 2 tablespoons rose water (I use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract + 1 tablespoon water)
  • 1/3 cup oil ( or ghee or butter); I use butter
  • 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground meat, lamb or beef (I am using turkey for this preparation but will buy Halal beef or lamb for the family)
  • 1 teaspoon baharat mixed spice
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 2 1/4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cups raisins
  • 3 cups chicken stock (I actually use 4 cups for the 2 cups of brown rice)

The directions are a bit fussy but I follow them pretty straight forwardly. Cover rice with cold water and soak while preparing the onion and meat. Pound saffron threads. I was not sure what this meant so I mushed them around a bit with the mortar and pestle. Put these in the rose water to steep. Heat half the oil/butter in a skillet and toast the almonds. Make sure they do not burn. Remove from the pan and put on a plate and reserve. Add onion to pan until transparent. Increase the heat and add meat and cook until “crumbly”. Add baharat, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and raisins, and cook for one minute more. Add tomato paste at this time as well. Remove from heat and cover with lid.

Meanwhile add the rest of the butter to a large pan along with 2 teaspoons of the saffron/rose water mixture and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, add rice, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let rice cook. For brown rice this took 45 minutes.

Fold the meat mixture into the rice, cover the rim of the pan with two paper towels (??) and set lid on tightly. Leave on low heat for 5 minutes.

Put in serving dish and sprinkle with browned almonds and the rest of the saffron-rosewater.

This will make enough to serve a family of six with half of them under the age of 10. My family of three (all adults with good appetites who generally eat more than a designated “serving”) devoured it all and we were very happy with the various flavors and textures.

I served this with mixed vegetables dry roasted in a skillet with a sprinkling of baharat. We enjoyed the meal with red wine and good conversation.

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I will be preparing this again in a week’s time. This has given me an interest to try to make some other international dishes that are not similar to American cooking, although American cooking does not have a single description. The middle eastern spice mix may be good on fish dishes. I will be looking closely at my Mediterranean cookbooks but I also have one from South Africa, Georgia, and a collection from RPCV from quite a few countries. The adventure begins!

Down on the Farm

After a weekend away visiting my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter we were at home and supper time was coming. What to have?

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My daughter does not live on a farm, but the town she lives in is more rural than where I live. There was a wild turkey walking through her backyard Saturday morning. Son wondered out loud if anyone was wanting turkey for dinner? Son is home and he came along to visit his sister before heading off to The Last Frontier for his next job! Truth be told though a few years ago a wild turkey was walking up our street and at first glance I wondered what type of tall dog was that?

For the weekend we were in the presence of some farm markets. And there was a booth set up at the town park. And granddaughter LOVES the park! She swung on the swing with Grandpop while I checked out the booth. I came away with farm fresh eggs (the hen lays 5 eggs every two days so it takes three days to get a dozen) and a small jar of honey; they have bees, too.

I have not mastered the art of biscuit making.The Elusive Biscuit. I read all sorts of recipes and the best I can figure is that one needs to use self-rising flour, and to not twist the biscuit cutter when cutting the dough. Well, biscuits would be a nice way to taste the honey but I do not have self-rising flour. Son and Hubby think breakfast for dinner would be fine. We had just bought a bunch of uncooked, fresh (now frozen) breakfast sausage links and they will be easy enough to cook without hours of thawing.

I have sourdough starter. I think that this may be the answer to the biscuits if I can use unfed starter. I have old, yellowed, newspaper clippings that my Mom put together for me when I first (eons ago) wanted to bake with sourdough. If we had an idea, Mom was there! For example, I was going to make my wedding dress out of muslin with my bridesmaids naturally dying their dresses of muslin as well. Mom bought 10 (TEN!) yards of muslin for me AND I had not even met the groom yet! What a Mom!

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I gather the ingredients (I use butter even though I have lard on hand) and while putting it all together realize that I only have 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar. I ask Son who is on his computer to look up a substitute. He says to use two teaspoons vinegar. Okay. That I do.

Now while these are baking, the sausages get cooked on the cast iron griddle and the eggs are cooked by Hubby in the cast iron skillet.

Serve all this up on a plate and let us see what the taste testers say.

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The biscuits are a hit. This recipe made 8 biscuits; the sourdough gave them a nice flavor and the texture was good. All three of us noted the difference in the taste of the eggs from the regular supermarket ones, and the honey was wonderful. Definitely not the taste of the honey that comes out of a plastic bear!