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Archive for May, 2010

Saturday Morning

Another Saturday, another opportunity to spend time in the kitchen with the back screen door and window open. I’m retesting two fall (as in the season of fall) recipes for my book. One of the recipes requires 2 hours in the oven so I thought I’d better heat the kitchen early because this afternoon it’s supposed to be nearly 85 degrees outside.

My grandmother lived in a small home with no air-conditioning. She would never have thought of “lighting the oven” on a hot afternoon. In her attempts to keep the kitchen cool we often ate sliced ham, tossed salad, and cottage cheese for dinner when the afternoon temperatures soared. To her a cold meal was better than a hot kitchen.

This weekend is Memorial Day and hopefully it presents plenty of opportunities to cook and share food and honor our veterans who make sacrifices for our freedoms.

If the grill is lit, a flat-iron steak is a perfect cut of beef for feeding a crowd because it’s a bit more economical than New York Strips or Rib-eyes.

If the garden is producing try this Arugula Pesto tasty and fresh-tasting mixed with pasta and served hot or cold.

If a picnic is in the works this Moist Carrot Cake travels well and pleases young and old picnickers.

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Statue
Mint, Bourbon, May, and Kentucky go hand in hand. Mint, Rum, and June (ok, it’s almost June) can walk the same path, but not for the same reason.
With a little imagination,  and a copy of Old Man And The Sea, I transport myself from Kentucky to Havana right in my own backyard.
In order to properly mix a Mint Julep, or a Mojito, you first need to make  mint sugar syrup. It’s quite “simple” and leftover syrup sweetens everything from herbed lemonade to sweet tea. If desired, wet the lip or edge of the highball glass with fresh lime juice and dip in granulated sugar. This will add a touch more sweetness to the drink.  I recommend a true sugar cane rum such as the Brazilian brand, Ypioca Cachaça, sold in a wicker wrapped bottle, sort of the Brazilian equivalent of Chianti wine in a basket-bottle.

Mint Simple Syrup
Makes 2 cups

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh mint leaves

In a small saucepan bring water to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add mint and stir. Let steep for at least 30 minutes. Cool and store in a glass jar or pitcher in the refrigerator.

Mojito
Makes 1 tall mojito

2 ounces rum
Juice of one lime
2 ounces mint simple syrup
about 4 ounces club soda
fresh mint leaves for garnish

Fill a tall highball glass with ice. Pour in the rum, lime juice, mint syrup, and top off with club soda. Stir to combine. Garnish with fresh mint, sip, and enjoy. Repeat only if you’re not driving anywhere.

Blueberry Mojito
Makes 1 tall, blended drink

about 2 cups ice cubes
2 ounces rum
2 ounces mint simple syrup
Juice of one lime
about 4 ounces club soda
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Put ice in a blender. Pour in the rum, mint simple syrup,  lime juice, club soda, and blueberries. Blend on high speed until frothy. Pour into a glass and garnish with fresh mint.

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Makes about 2 cups

This relish was made by the volunteer fire fighters at the May’s Lick Asparagus Festival a few weeks ago. The relish lit up the homemade brat the best male cook slathered it on. It was full of fresh asparagus and other flavors that blended together well. I had to ask how it was made and their secret was to start with a good, sweet pickle relish. I expected something a bit more complicated but this just goes to show me that sometimes the most flavorful food is the simplest. (The brown blobs in this photo are whole-grain mustard. The relish is peeking out from underneath.)

1 cup finely chopped fresh asparagus

3/4 cup high-quality sweet pickle relish

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

pinch salt

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for 30 minutes before serving.

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When I started blogging one of my regular posts was a weekly recap called What We Ate Last Week.  This was my explanation for the posts:

“For the past few years I’ve kept a log of all the food I cook. Yes, I write everything down in a little notebook. Not that high tech. When I create a new dish without a recipe I write it down. When I prepare a new dish with a new recipe I write it down, along with the source of the recipe. Whether I make Red Beans and Rice, Barbecue Chicken, or Blueberry Muffins, everything is documented in the book. Now my method of organization uses this blog as an electronic list. Maybe it might inspire you to try something new. Maybe it might make you mutter to yourself, “she doesn’t really cook all that”, or “wonder what the kids eat?”. Maybe I’ll reach a point where I can provide recipes, or shopping lists, to go along with the menus. I’m a long way from reaching that point, so for now I’ll just share the menus. Use as you wish, or not. Thank you for your support.”

Now it’s May 2010. As some may or may not know I’ve used my  “little notebook”,  notes, and  menus as the basis for the cookbook manuscript submitted a few weeks ago with the publication of my book One Year in My Kentucky Kitchen (working title) in May 2011. Due to the number of  readers who benefited from the What We Ate Last Week posts I plan to resume them on a regular basis.  Here is a sample of the most recent What We Ate Last Week post.

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Today is tip Tuesday and today I offer a few tips for growing fresh herbs in a portable herb garden.

One demarcation I’ve noticed between a good cook and a better cook is they way the cook seasons food. I believe the seasonal use of fresh herbs in one way to improve the freshness and flavor of recipes along with the judicious use of salt, freshly ground black pepper, fresh lemon juice, and a variety of spices.

Herb plants can be either annuals or perennials. The edible part is usually the tender leaves and/or the stems of the herb plant that are chopped, or torn,and added to food for flavor and color. Most herbs grow quite well in warmer weather and even hot weather (except cilantro – it goes to seed or “bolts” in hot weather.) Now is a perfect time to plant herbs outside the kitchen door and a hole in the ground isn’t even required.

To grow herbs from plants I buy basil, dill, sage, oregano, thyme, and rosemary plants. This might initially be about a  $20.00 investment depending on the size of the plants. Using a planter or large pot I arrange and plant the herbs in loose, rich potting soil. I plant one pot of annual herbs (basil, dill, and parsley) and another pot of perennial herbs (sage, oregano, thyme, and rosemary.) Position the pot(s) in a sunny spot on a porch or patio, close to the kitchen door. Water regularly and fresh herbs will be available to snip and cook with all summer long.

The dill, basil, and parsley won’t survive the winter outdoors in the pot. Sometimes they grow OK indoors, but I typically replant the annual herbs every year just like I replant flowers like impatients, begonias, and petunias. The other herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage –  will grow every year without replanting. If the wintertime temperature drops below 10 degrees F it might be necessary to move the pots indoors. In the spring I give the plants a good haircut (or harvest and dry the herbs in the fall) and then the stems regrow the leaves for another season of fresh culinary herbs.

Herbs are good whole-leafed in salads or chopped in sauces, salads, pasta dishes, or spring and summer soups. With enough basil Fresh Basil Pesto is a favorite. Enjoy the fresh taste of herbs grown locally and seasonally in this portable kitchen herb garden

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1. I spent the better part of the morning purging my reading material: magazines, articles, and books. I’m getting rid of a bag of books, recycling a load of magazines, and creating a folder for articles I want to read. Reading is a hobby of mine. I love to read blogs, cookbooks, the local newspaper, biographies,  historical fiction, Anne-Tyler-type fiction, and books about spirituality. I came to the realization that while I can’t read everything I can take time everyday to read something. With this focus it was easier to do the purge.

2. Yesterday I made a batch of One-pan Blondies. When I melted the butter and added the sugar it got a bit warmer than I intended, so when I stirred in the chocolate chips they melted. Well the results of my mistake were (and still are) delicious: a chewy brownie with coconut and pecans. If you want to try my mistake just make this recipe but warm the butter and sugar enough so that the chocolate chips melt when added but not so warm that the eggs scramble. I did add the optional coconut.

3. Two of my LittleAprons get out of school on Thursday. Our plans for the summer involve a week-long camp for one, a baseball camp for another, a vacation together, and a visit with the best male cook’s family. In between we relish the lack of schedule and time for swimming, eating popsicles, and eating dinner later in the evening in my favorite place: the patio.

4. I can’t believe this but in my mind I’m outlining a new cookbook proposal. While I’m not sure where e-books will take the rest of the book world, I believe there’s a place in our kitchens and homes for real, hand-on cookbooks.

5. I’ve switched from electronic methods of to-do lists to a handwritten one in a Moleskine. I like it much better than anything electronic. I think this has to do with my pen and notebook addiction that I fear my TweenApron has caught. She’s always shopping for a new notebook or putting together a new 3-ring binder.

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Sunshiny Kentucky Day

The sun shines bright on this Kentucky morning. Even though the air is cool it was also quite moist while I enjoyed my coffee on our patio. The bayberry tree  beside the patio is full of berries. The wax-wings and robins fly into the tree and quickly leave with berries in their beaks. This sight reminds me that stone and pome fruits are on their way: cherries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, and nectarines.

Today my LittlestApron has a make-up baseball game and then we’re going to a family picnic after the game with the players and their families. I plan to make some Kentucky Dill Dip and Sweet Bourbon Baked Beans for the meal. (Both recipes from “the book”.) Good times for a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Here are some more recipes that make a picnic more delicious:

Red Beans and Rice with Chili Vinaigrette

Hummus

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

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