Make it a Food Network Weekend

So I’m working a lot right now.  When I say a lot, I mean 12 hour days.  And my husband also has a lot of overtime available at his job.  It’s great for the old bank account (especially as we have one daughter in college, graduating this summer and one daughter getting married this summer and one son potentially going to college next quarter, but don’t get me started on the son).  Only one problem with all that potential gain; since we’re not at home to cook, we eat out a lot.  Hmmm….kind of makes it harder to bank the gain.

Sooooo…I made last weekend a super cooking weekend.  I figured if I could get lots of food ready to go, we would be less inclined to nickle and dime ourselves out of the cash.

I had (still have) a lot of tomatoes from my step-mom’s garden.  After roasting two large pans of those, I looked for more recipes to use up these wonderful fruits of the season.  I found Tyler Florence’s Roasted Tomato Soup, delicious and easy.  I’ve never made fresh tomato soup before and was amazed at how tasty it was.  I like it so much, I made more the next day and froze it.  I just left out the fresh basil and cream and will add those when we’re ready to eat it.

The next wonderful find was Cheesy Vidalia Onion and Tomato Pie.  This is an Emeril Legasse recipe and I have to say, he never fails to please.  My husband was skeptical, but took one bite and wanted more.   It wasn’t hard, just a bit of prep time.  I hate to admit that I could not find fontina cheese anywhere and settled for an edam.  Not to be a food snob, or anything, but the poor girl in the deli made the mistake of assuming that fontina is normally  smoked.  Uhm… no, honey.  Italians everywhere like theirs unsmoked.  Maybe for sandwiches, but you’re missing the whole foodie thing if you think pre-sliced, mass marketed, smoked fontina is the standard.  Unfortunately, I may have left her with the impression that I was less than impressed with her food knowledge.  (God, I’m such a snob!)

Then, because I was kind of tomatoed out, I remembered I had 5 ears of fresh white corn in the spare fridge.  (I needed one ear for taco salad the weekend before, but they had them 6 ears for $2.00, so I bought 6.  I’m a sucker for a “deal”.)  Anyhow, I found Ina Garten’s Cheddar Corn Chowder and lo an behold I had all the ingredients in my kitchen.  This is a super yummy delicious chowder, rich but not too creamy.  I only made a half-recipe and it was a good sized pot of soup.  I’d need a crowd to make the whole recipe.  Or a larger freezer.  Anyhow, this gave me sever lovely hot lunches this last week.  Still a bit left, but it may have to go in the freezer.  Then I can remember its’ wonderfulness in a week or so.

So, with all this cooking, my husband requested meatballs.  I was a bit miffed that he wasn’t satisfied with all the lovely veggie dishes I had prepared, but he is a guy.  I decided I didn’t feel like making spaghetti and found this recipe for Swedish Meatballs from Alton Brown.  Dee-lish.  My son, who has a history of being a picky eater, loved them.  My only warning is, if you’re using bullion cubes for the beef broth, maybe use fewer cubes for the liquid.  I had to add lots of onion power and actually broke down and added sugar, it was so salty.  Of course, the directions did not call for bullion, but that’s what I had.  Next time….I’ll plan ahead.  I made up a bunch of mashed potatoes and the boys were happy.

Soooo….if you’ve needed some ideas of what to make, here’s a few.  After all that I made packaged brownies.  Hey, even wonder woman needs to cut a corner now and then.

Man Cannot Live by Bread Alone (Neither Can Woman)

While it may true that bread alone won’t satisfy our dietary needs, there are a lot of great breads that require very little added to make an amazing, soul satisfying meal.  In my book, the best breads are chewy, have some decent air bubbles, and are not pre-sliced.  I’ve found a wonderful supply of such bread at a French style bakery in Cashmere, Washington, Anjou Bakery .  Their bread reminds me so much of the bakeries that littered Paris like Starbucks in Seattle.

A few weeks ago my husband and I stopped in there and came home with a loaf of their Wenatchee white and another of their Wenatchee white with kalamata olives.  Amazingly, there was a small bit of the Wenatchee white still left in my bread drawer today, so I decided to make an Italian classic, Panzanella. 

Panzanella is a referigerator cleaning out dish using up old bread and left over fresh produce.  Why waste what you can use?  In my fridge, I had seedless cucumber, red onion, mushrooms, kalamata olives, basil, flat leaf (Italian) parsley.  Add some grape and roma tomatoes from my counter (I never put tomatoes in the fridge – they lose flavor) and oregano from my herb garden, olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh pepper and salt, chop, mix and voila, or prego as Italians would say, you’ve got dinner.  Keep in mind, when I say olive oil, I mean enough to make a vinaigrette, same with the vinegar. 

The wine I chose tonight is a classic Italian grape, Sangiovese, which I found at another Eastern Washington hot spot, Martin Scott Winery .  If you’re in the Wenatchee area, make sure to stop by.  Take your time and enjoy a glass of their great wine while marveling in their view of the Columbia River.  Take a snack and sit a spell, smell the fields of lavendar and take a walk over to their “pond” before leaving.  You’ll be glad you did.

I’m sure you can see why this salad is a fridge cleaner.  If you have a big block of parmaggiano reggiano or peccorino romano, think about rough grating these in instead of feta.  (*)  You can fancy it up by using your veggie peeler to shave off large pieces to sprinkle on top.  Or add pepperoncinis or pickled asparagus or artichoke hearts.  Or maybe squeeze your tomatoes into the dish to give extra juice to soften the bread.  If your bread is really dry, soak it in water for a minute and wring it out well.  Or use fresh lemon juice instead of the vinegar.  Whatever you do, enjoy your left overs and enjoy your life with an easy meal to eat alone or shared with friends, family, and wine. 

Salute!

* (Don’t buy that pre-grated stuff, you don’t know what you’re getting. If you don’t use these cheeses often, you can always keep a small block in your cheese drawer.  If you use them regularly, like my family, you can get them very inexpensively in the jumbo size at Costco.  You won’t be sorry and you’ll find they last forever in that same cheese drawer in a plastic bag.)

Beets Me

Beets, beets, the magical root, the more you eat, the more you…..well you know.

There are many reasons why I love summer; beets are one of them.  I had the joy of raiding my step-mom’s garden this last weekend and came home with a big bag of beets.  So the decision Monday night was what to make?  By the time I started scoping recipes, I was not of a mind to go to the store.  Fear not, I did not give up.  Out came the old standard, the red and white cookbook (you know the one I mean),  and I made Harvard Beets.  Yummy!  They went great with grilled chicken with mango bbq sauce one night and Memphis grilled pork chops the next.  After that I’m going to put up some pickled beets.  They make an amazing accompaniement to a grilled cheese, tomato and onion sandwich.  Talk about a treat! 

Beyond that, I’m still trolling the great internet highway to find the perfect beet dish to make next.  Maybe it will be Emeril’s Roasted Beet and Smoked Sturgeon Salad with Vodka Vinaigrette (intriguing),  or Anne Burrell’s Beet Salad with Arugula Pistachios and Shaved Pecorino (also love arugula).  Or maybe Beets and Carmelized Onions with Feta.  So many great recpes, so little time.   Now I just need a baguette and some red wine, and I’m good to go. 

Speaking of going……I’d better say goodbye.  The beets are kicking in.  I raise my glass to finding joy in beets and everything fresh from the garden; be it yours or a lucky relative’s.  But if it’s beets, you may not want to stray too far from home.  If you know what I mean.