Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pasta e Ceci

PASTA e CECI IS NOT A FANCY DISH and I probably would not serve it for a dinner party. It did, however, make a perfectly delicious, healthful, and easy weeknight supper packed with flavor from olive oil, onions, garlic, anchovies, plum tomatoes, and fresh rosemary.

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs but I must admit I don't enjoy pine needles in my food. There are a couple of ways to avoid this, one is to wrap it in cheese cloth to be removed after cooking. I prefer to chop it very finely, always using fresh.

I hope you will use the anchovies; they add such an unrecognizable depth of flavor, never fishy.

I used the adorable and tiny acini de pepe but any small pasta will work just fine. I loved the appearance and texture of the miniature pasta with the chickpeas. Because the pasta is cooked in the same pot, right along with the beans, the starchy cooking liquid helps to form a sauce. Not to mention this is a one pot meal making cleanup easy.

Pasta e Ceci
1 Tbsp.olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 - 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 springs fresh rosemary, or 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
4 cups broth or spring water
6 - 8 oz. small pasta
Salt and pepper to taste

Warm olive oil over medium low heat. Stir in onion, garlic, and anchovies, cooking until anchovies are melted. Add chopped tomatoes and saute for 10 - 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are fully cooked.

Increase heat and add can of chick peas, the broth or spring water, salt to taste, along with the rosemary. Bring to a healthy simmer and stir in the pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked per the package, or taste.

When the pasta is done, spoon into warm bowls. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper, and garnish with shavings of Parmiigiano Reggiano.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Indian Lentil Soup

AN ERRAND HAD ME DRIVING TO A NEARBY TOWN in pouring rain. And I mean pouring. I had my wipers going as fast as they could go and still had to slow down to about 35 (in a 65) because of such poor visibility. Fortunately, other drivers were being sensible. Some had pulled over, but I kept pressing on. I ended up being in my car for about three hours.

When I got back home, I really wanted to cook up a steaming pot of soup. I knew I had all the ingredients on hand for one of my favorites--Indian Lentil Soup. I have made this recipe many, many times over the years and it is well loved by all who have tried it. I have posted it before but in case you missed it, here it is again. I served it with Naan and yogurt.

As we sat at the table, around six o'clock, enjoying our soup, I started noticing an unusual light coming in from outside. I commented on it and kept looking at all the windows. As a photographer, I am always observing light. I finally stopped eating and said I had to look out. I looked out the back door and reported my observation as a pale yellow sky. Then I walked to the front window, pulled back the sheers and gasped, "Oh Wow! It is a Huge Rainbow!"

We had to go outside to see the entire thing. It was the biggest and most intensely colored rainbow I have ever seen. What a blessing after that odious car trip.  Once it began to fade, we went back inside to finish dinner.

Life is good.

Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook by Julie Jordan, 1986

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mandarin Chicken Salad with Fresh Cranberries and Pecans

AFTER ROASTING A CHICKEN AND EATING IT for a couple of days, I decided to pick off the rest of the meat for a chicken salad. I knew I wanted fruit in it--maybe apples or grapes or both, neither of which I had on hand. Then I spotted the bowl of Clementines and thought, sure, why not.

I decided to add celery and scallions, and I knew I had some pecan halves leftover from Christmas baking. I also thought I would add some blue cheese and further thought I had some in the fridge, only to discover a little mouse (my husband) had eaten it. I did find a chunk of smoked Gouda so I used that.

After I got the ingredients together and dressed, I was stirring it and thinking how dull and colorless it looked. I was thinking, if I had some dried cranberries, I would add some for color as well as flavor. Then I remembered I had some homemade whole cranberry sauce in the refrigerator. Lovely. Perfect.

For serving, I garnished with additional tangerine sections and a dollop of cranberry sauce.

Mandarin Chicken Salad with Fresh Cranberries and Pecans
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup roasted pecan halves
2 Clementines/tangerines/cuties/satsumas (whatever the grower calls them, they are all Mandarin oranges) peeled, sectioned, and halved
3 oz. smoked Gouda, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup fresh whole cranberry sauce

1/2 cup mayo
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar or honey
1 clove garlic, minced

Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and chill while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Stir together the shredded chicken, celery slices, scallion slices, pecans, tangerines, cheese, and cranberry sauce. Pour over the chilled dressing and toss until evenly distributed. Chill before serving.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Children's Christmas Cookies

 HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I hope you have been enjoying your holidays. We sure have.

We actually still are. Have you taken down your Christmas Tree and put away your decorations? We haven't. In my world, the first day of Christmas is Christmas Eve (not the day after Thanksgiving). And the 12th day of Christmas is January 5th. Today is Epiphany and marks the day the wise men met the Christ child and bestowed Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. After today, my Christmas season will be over.

I finally got my camera back from the shop and what is the first thing I photographed? Christmas Cookies. My camera had to have its aperture control unit replaced (for the second time) and I have only had it for two years. Meanwhile, it went on quite an adventure--two local places, then on to Arizona, then Connecticut, and finally back home. It now seems perky, clean, and ready to go.

(Phone photo)

Once our favorite girl was out of school for the holidays, she came and spent a few days with us so we could bake cookies. The first one was a basic sugar cookie. She did all the measuring and mixing, I just supervised. While the dough was mixing, we made a mixture of sugar and red sprinkles to roll them in.. I scooped out the dough, then she rolled it into balls and then into the sugar. Perfect job for little hands.

We made more cookies and goodies than what is shown here, but they have been eaten/given away by now.

She kept telling me she wanted to make shape cookies, so shape cookies it was. Once again, she measured and mixed and I supervised. We made a cookie dough which can be rolled out right away without needing to be chilled. We rolled it out on sheets of parchment (she is also getting quite accomplished with the rolling pin) and slipped the sheets onto the baking pan.

Easier cutting is achieved if the dough is chilled after it is rolled out. We just sat a pan of dough outside for a few minutes while we rolled out the next batch. Once the dough is chilled, it cuts beautifully, with sharp edges.

Shape Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in egg, vanilla, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Add flour, one cup at a time, mixing until combined after each addition.

Divide dough into thirds and roll onto a piece of parchment paper to about 1/4 inch thick. No need to flour the parchment, but you may need to lightly flour the rolling pin to avoid sticking. Slide the parchment onto a baking sheet and chill 20 to 30 minutes for easier cutting.

Cut into desired shapes right on the sheet pan, then peel away the excess dough, which can be re-rolled. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes. The cookies will remain blonde but be set. Let cool completely before removing from the trays and decorate as desired.

Peanut butter cookies are my personal favorite. Once again, I scooped and she rolled into balls and then into sugar for a little extra sweetness and sparkle. She had a little trouble with the crisscross fork marks and asked me to finish. I suspect she was over it and wanted to get back to her Barbies.

Peanut Butter Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In mixing bowl, combine butter, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar. Beat well until creamy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well mixed.

Add flour and stir until combined.

Roll dough, by tablespoons, into balls, then roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Flatten balls with a fork using a crisscross pattern.

Bake 10 - 12 minutes.