Friday, October 30, 2009

What's Your Pumpkin Pleasure?

It's Halloween and pumpkins are everywhere. So are big bowls of candy. This year we decided to have some individual packages of healthier treats for the younger ghouls and goblins who knock on our door for Halloween.

Oh sure, we'll still have a big bowl of the usual teeth-rotting candy bars because dried cranberry and apple treats might get panned by the older Trick or Treaters. But I have a feeling that the parents of the really little ones, parents who worry about too much chocolate and sticky caramel, might like the idea of fruity snacks.

Come Sunday morning, when that old pumpkin is ready for tossing, it'll be tossed into a 350 degrees F oven, baked about an hour or until its insides are tender enough to be scooped into a bowl for mashing. An easy pumpkin loaf is the perfect Sunday morning breakfast treat and will go well with a cup of cinnamon coffee. For my friends who know how bad I am at making coffee, it will come as no surprise that while the loaf is in the oven, I'll be visiting the Dunkin' drive-thru!

I confess, the picture you see here was taken by my friend Anne. That big old Jack-O-Lantern is her creation and sitting on her windowsill. The two pumpkins gracing my bow window are much smaller sugar pumpkins. Cute and will bake up nicely -- but Anne's pumpkin picture was just too gorgeous not to share. Maybe she'll even try this easy recipe on Sunday morning too!

BREAKFAST PUMPKIN LOAF
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup cooked pumpkin
¼ cup olive oil
3 egg whites
3 tablespoons skim milk
2 cups cake flour (or sifted all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of salt
½ cup dried cranberries


Mix sugar, pumpkin, egg whites and milk until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, soda salt and spices. Blend well without over mixing. (Hint: over mixing make a tough batter. Mix batter until just smooth.) Stir in cranberries. Pour into well greased and floured 4 x 8 inch loaf pan. (Hint: cooking spray with flour works best.) Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour. Serve warm with whipped or softened cream cheese.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Polish Comfort Food

"Are you hungry?" she'd ask. Before you answered, a plate of ham or kielbasa or a mouth watering golumpki landed in front of you followed by a generous slice of the best cheesecake ever baked or some other more recent dessert discovery. It was best not to eat for days before visiting my husband's favorite aunt.

Cioce Sophie (Polish word for aunt and pronounced chuh-chee) and her sisters were easily recognizable as siblings. Short, round women with pretty heart-shaped faces, wide smiles and carrying around Polish cookbooks bought at a church bazaar back in the 1940s. In the margins were dozens of handwritten notes, add a pinch of this, don’t use that; also tucked in the pages were recipes torn from newspapers, scribbled on cards and scrap papers received from each other or one of their friends.

There were at least ten recipes for every Polish specialty because everybody made their pierogi or kapusta just a few ingredients different from the next person. Some experiments went better than others. "Nellie made cabbage and apple pierogi. It wasn't bad," might be met with a nod or a frown depending on who said it.

Cioce Sophie lived to her mid-nineties and some years later her sister Helen, who was my mother-in-law, passed away just shy of her own ninetieth birthday. In the scramble to choose something to hold onto in remembrance, my husband nabbed the recipes and we use them often. When talk in the family turns to the food and fun we all remember so well, Paul always gets a laugh when he says, “I’ve got the cookbook.” Then comes a request for one or another favorite family recipe and he's happy to share. Here's an easy one.

POLISH SUPPER BAKE
1 head green cabbage (Danish cabbage preferred), cut into quarters
2 pounds small red bliss potatoes, halved
1 medium size kielbasa (about 1 ½ pounds), cut into 2 inch chunks
2 cups chicken broth (use low fat, low sodium if using canned)
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Just throw all the ingredients into a French oven or covered baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 to 2 hours until veggies are soft. Serve in large bowls with fresh rye bread. Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chocolate Love

Local markets carry Lindt, Ghirardelli and other high quality chocolate. But for a really special selection, Fairway Supermarket in Manhattan is an adventure. The Upper West Side icon is half supermarket, and half foodie emporium. Jam-packed with goodies, from specialty meats to gourmet chutneys, and amazing chocolates for cooking and eating.

The history of chocolate is fascinating. Mayan and Aztec cultures offered chocolate to their gods in hopes of pleasing them. After the Spanish conquered Mexico, chocolate found its way to Europe as a profitable commodity. A few sips of deep rich chocolate probably explains more than a few l'affaires du coeur ... there's a reason chocolates are favored gifts between lovers.

There are many online sources for fine chocolates if you aren't happy with what you find at your local grocers. And if you do find yourself in the city that never sleeps, head for Fairway Supermarket, wander around, read a few wrappers then buy yourself some luscious chocolate so that when you get home you can cook up something yummy!

CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING
1/2 loaf of day old bread, crust removed cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 half ounce squares bittersweet chocolate
3 egg yolks, beaten

Topping

1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped to a thickened but still pourable consistency

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill four 3/4 cup size ramekins about halfway with bread cubes. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, cream and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in chocolate until melted and well blended into milk mixture. Whisk in beaten egg yolks until mixture is slightly frothy. Equally divide the chocolate mixture among the four ramekins. Allow to sit ten minutes in order for the bread to soak in the custard mix before baking.

Set ramekins in a large baking pan and place on the middle rack in the oven. Pour hot water in the outer pan about halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the center of the custard is set. Remove from water bath and cool slightly before serving warm. Top with cold loosely whipped cream poured on top. Serves 4.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just Peachy Pie

Rainy and cold days like today make me pine for summer. Or at least for a flavor that reminds me of warmer weather. If I had to choose one favorite summer fruit, it would be a plump, juicy peach.

The peaches grown at the Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown are as good as I've ever tasted. Every summer, I can at least six quarts of brandied peaches to break out on days just like today. Because nothing makes me feel better on a bad weather day than opening a jar of my brandied peaches made from local fruit.

Except, of course, the aroma of a cinnamon and nutmeg spiced peach pie just taken out of the oven. This is a good one. Enjoy!

JUST PEACHY PIE
1 egg white, beaten with one tablespoon of water until slightly frothy
5 cups sliced fresh, canned (in juice not syrup) or frozen peaches
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 batch of pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate with one of the pie crust rounds. Drain liquid if using canned peaches. Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl, mix together the arrowroot, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Sprinkle over the peaches, and mix gently. Pour into the pie crust, and dot with butter.

Use decorative piecrust cutters and layer cutouts, lightly brush decorative cutouts with the egg wash as a sort of glue to keep from separating during baking. Or use the more traditional two crust method by covering with the filled pie crust with a second rolled out round, and folding the edges under then flute to seal. Brush the remaining egg over the top crust, sprinkle with raw or turbonado sugar for sparkle and a tasty crunch. For the traditional two crust method don’t forget to make a few steam vents with a fork or knife. No need to add vents to a decorative cutout top.

Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is brown and the juice begins to bubble through the vents. Cool before serving.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Grape Infused Vodka Update

It took an overnight frost for our homegrown grapes to sweeten up but the wait was worth it. A big sloppy thank you smooch goes out to Mayor Mike Tautznik of Easthampton, MA for sharing his home infusion method for fruit flavored vodka.

Fiddling around with Mayor Mike's sure-fire recipe helped me come up with the perfect formula for home infusing store-bought vodka with the Concord grapes from our backyard garden. And the abundance of those grapes carefully cultivated by the Man of the House deserves another big sloppy thank you smooch, this time for Farmer Paul.

Start by boiling a big pot of water to sterilize pint-sized canning jars and their covers. Once they are cool, fill each about 3/4 full with thoroughly washed Concord grapes plucked from the ripest of bunches. Add one teaspoon of super fine sugar. Pour your choice of plain vodka over the grapes, leaving about 1/2 inch headroom before closing the jars. Shake gently to dissolve sugar before storing in a cool dark spot.

Two weeks later you'll be rewarded with vodka that has a strong grape taste and aroma. Not at all perfumey like commercially infused vodkas but very fresh and fruity. Try it on ice in a tall glass topped off with your favorite mixer or as a martini with any number of complimentary add-ins. My Cran-Grape Martini is yummy but don't shy away from experimenting on your own -- it's hard to go wrong!

CRAN-GRAPE MARTINI
3 oz. grape infused vodka
½ oz. cranberry liqueur
½ oz. apricot brandy

Red or black seedless grapes for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add vodka, liqueur and brandy and shake. Drop two or three red grapes into a pretty glass. Pour and serve.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup: A Good Way to Warm Up

When I was young, raking leaves was the only chore the kids in my neighborhood were quick to volunteer for. Why? We loved to run through the piles, kicking and jumping and laughing our way to making a big enough mess all so we could grab our rakes and start the fun all over again.

Never mind those leaf vacs and yard blowers. Whether you have a young one in your life or are simply young at heart, grab a rake and kick up a pile of leaves. And when you've had enough fun, this sweet and savory soup is a great choice for a lunch or dinner that will warm up your insides and tickle your taste buds. Plus it's low in sodium, high in nutrients and oh so good for you!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
1 medium large butternut squash, 3-4 pounds
1 medium yellow onion, finely grated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
6 sage leaves (1/4 teaspoon ground)
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups homemade chicken stock (*see how-to below)
1 cup creme fraiche (The Silver Palate Cookbook, Page 339)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prick the squash with a fork and place it whole on a sheet pan. Roast for 45 minutes in the oven until the squash has softened. Cool the squash, then cut it in half and remove the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan or French oven over medium heat. When the butter starts to brown, add the onion and saute until it is translucent and starts to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the honey to the onion and cook until it bubbles. Add the squash and sage. Season the mixture to taste with fresh ground pepper. Pour chicken stock and just enough water to cover the squash. Bring the soup to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the soup until squash is very tender, about an hour. Add more liquid if necessary to keep the squash submerged. Remove the pan from the heat and cool for at least 15-20 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender. Do not fill the blender more than half full at a time or you risk having the contents overflow.

Strain through a coarse strainer if you want a smoother soup or return it directly to the pan; season it with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the finished soup back to a boil. Ladle it into bowls and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche on top and an oven warmed crusty bread. Hint: Dip a whisk into the creme fraiche and swirl it into the soup. Serves 4.

*Cheap & Easy Chicken Stock How-to: Boil up a couple of chicken legs, adding sliced carrot, celery, and fresh parsley for about an hour to make a good easy stock to use in any recipe that requires chicken stock – strain excess fat and the veggies out for a nice clear broth, lightly season with salt if desired. You can save the cooked meat for a small pot pie or chicken salad.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eat your squash, it's good for you.

There are plenty of healthy reasons to love butternut squash.

One cup of butternut squash contains nearly three times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A, which protects against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration. Butternut squash has been reported to have anti-inflammatory effects because of its high antioxidant content and it may also reduce the risk of inflammation known to be present in arthritis and asthma.

That same cup of butternut squash provides 3 grams of fiber, 14% of the RDA of potassium which is important for bone health, 49% of the RDA for vitamin C, 14% of magnesium and 11% of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps your immune system, and with the cold and flu season about to start, isn't it a good idea to eat what keeps the sniffles away?

It’s bright orange color signals that butternut squash is full of carotenoids. Carotenoids protect against heart disease and are said to help lower cholesterol. So as you drop those extra yolks into this squash custard recipe, don't worry so much. Just remind yourself that you’re making a dessert with redeeming qualities and way better for you than say, a Napoleon pastry. And the taste? Yummy!

INDIVIDUAL BUTTERNUT CUSTARDS
1 and 1/2 cups cooked butternut squash (canned pumpkin is a fabulous sub)
3 eggs plus 2 extra yolks
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
dash of sea salt

Using a cookie sheet, bake one whole medium butternut squash at 350 degrees F until soft, about an hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool just enough to handle, slice squash in half and scoop out flesh, discarding the outer peel and the seeds. Set aside. Lower oven heat to 325 degrees F.

Butter the bottom of six 1/2 cup ramekins or custard cups. Set aside. In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Divide mixture equally among the buttered ramekins and set them in a large roasting pan. Add enough boiling water to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins and bake in the hot water bath for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the custard is set. You can test with a wooden toothpick, when the toothpick comes out clean the custard is cooked. Set the individual ramekins on a cooling rack after removing them from the water filled pan.

Serve in the ramekins, or if you prefer run a knife around the sides of the ramekins and turn out the custards onto individual dessert plates. Top with a small shortbread cookie or decorative pastry crust cutout and an extra drizzle of maple syrup.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Something's Fishy Around Here

Most Friday mornings, I head to the market for a pound of fresh haddock or sole. I prefer wild caught to farm raised but pretty much settle for whatever's on sale. Last week, a firm white filet caught my eye. I asked about it and was told that it was basa fish, a Vietnamese import, a mild cousin to catfish and a popular choice on the west coast that more recently made its way east.

I'm a strong advocate of supporting local producers and that includes fishery but I was too curious not to give this strange new item a try. The delicate, white basa is a perfect fish for baking in a spicy tomato sauce. A word to the wise: much of what's advertised as basa is really tra, a cheaper, inferior import. If you're going to live with the guilt of purchasing an import, don't settle for less than the real thing. Ask before you buy.

I've used this recipe for years with homegrown catfish. It also works with any mild white fish. For the optimum result, make sure it's a filet not the thicker loin cut. Meow-velous!

SPICY CATFISH BAKE
1 pound basa or catfish filets
½
teaspoon olive oil
2 cups tomato, diced
1 clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon dried basil
(1 teaspoon chopped fresh)
¼ teaspoon dried oregano (1 teaspoon chopped fresh)
1 small hot red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium green Cuban sweet pepper, cut into thin strips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wash and pat the fish filets dry with a paper towel. Place the filets in a single layer in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. In a medium bowl, gently stir together garlic, basil, oregano and diced tomatoes. Top the filets with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle red and green pepper strips over tomatoes. Cover with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Fish will be white and flake easily with a fork. Serves 4.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mama Newton: Apples are good brain food.

No doubt young Isaac brought that fallen apple straight into the kitchen and his mom baked it into something delish before setting it before the lad with these words, "Apples are good brain food."

Obviously correct because some years later, Isaac Newton came up with the Law of Gravity. Probably while his mother furiously searched for ideas on how to cook something new with all those damned apples falling off that tree! And now here I am, more than three hundred years later, facing the same dilemma as Mama Newton.

I've sauced 'em, canned 'em, baked 'em, baked tarts and even a few pies with 'em. There are a number of good apple almond cake recipes out there but I wanted something just a little different and really easy. According to my live-in taste testers the experiment was a success.

AMARETTO APPLE CAKE
1/4 cup slivered almonds
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 cup granulauted sugar
1 ounce shot of amaretto liqueur
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin

Topping

1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon


Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a 9 inch springform pan for baking with your favorite cooking spray. Set aside. In a medium size bowl mix flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside. In a small bowl mix together topping ingredients. Set aside.

Using a food processor or a blender, process slivered almonds to fine ground, almost powder. Add butter and eggs and pulse to a frothy mix. Next, add the sugar and amaretto, use the mixing speed to blend. Slowly add pre-mixed dry ingredients using the mixing speed until blended thoroughly, about two-three minutes. Batter will be thick.

Pour about 1/2 the batter into prepared springform pan. Layer sliced apples on top. Pour remaining batter over apples. Sprinkle topping mixture on top of that. It might look lumpy but will even out in the baking. Bake at 325 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in the center. Allow to cool slightly, no more than ten minutes. Remove from pan to decorative plate.

Using a fork or small whisk, mix amaretto with powdered sugar to make the glaze. If it seems a little thick, add a drop of water to relax the consistency. Drizzle over cake top and let set a few minutes before serving warm. Cover remaining cake with plastic wrap. Leftover cake tastes good cool and also warms nicely in the microwave on the bread setting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Slow and Spicy and Really Good

Yesterday seemed like the perfect day to roast a pork shoulder with that Adobo Seco recipe the ladies at the Harvest Festival shared with me last month. Think about it.

If Christopher Columbus hadn't bumped into Puerto Rico while looking for a rest stop on his second trip to the New World, Juan Ponce de Leon would have never come back some fifteen years later to claim the beautiful island for Spain. As the first governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon used the island as his base of operations for his forays into North America. He died at age 47 from complications associated with a wound he recieved while looking for what he never found: The Fountain of Youth.

To this day, thousands upon thousands of East Coast retirees carry on the tradition of heading to Florida to avoid the ravages of winter and so find their own version of the famed fountain. So really, I couldn't imagine another holiday best suited to the long slow process of cooking pulled pork seasoned in the Puerto Rican way. It takes time but it's easy.

Start by lining a large roasting pan with heavy duty foil. Rub the seasoned salt under the skin of your pork shoulder as well as all over the outside of the meat. Place in the pan then cover with foil. Bake covered at 325 degrees F about 4 hours or until meat is very tender to touch (use a fork, so you don't burn your fingers!). Take off the foil top, turn oven heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 30 to 50 minutes until skin crisps. Turn off oven and whip up the sauce to serve on hard crusty rolls with a side of cole slaw. rice and beans, or for a real treat whip up a batch of sweet potato fries.

As for the history of barbecue sauce, it is also said to be linked to Columbus. Here's my own quickie recipe and the one I'll be using again on today's leftover pork (both heated in the microwave) that qualifies as an easy homemade version with a kick provided by a shot of Polish Honey Liqueur.


POLISH HONEY BBQ SAUCE
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar (for an interesting twist try raspberry vinegar)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or hot pepper sauce)

1 ounce shot of Old Krupnik Polish Honey Liqueur (or any whiskey)

In saucepan, combine all ingredients. Simmer uncovered, 10 minutes. Stir two or three times to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan as it thickens. Drizzle heated sauce over hot cooked pulled pork (or chicken) piled high on a crusty roll and enjoy your yummy sandwich!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rolling in Dough

We're still flush with apples and that means I'm rolling in dough -- or rather rolling the dough.

It's no secret that I don't often bake whole pies -- except for family holiday dinners or when company's coming. And whether I bake a traditional all-American apple pie, a blueberry beauty or late harvest peach-raspberry melba, I like to use my own original yogurt crust recipe. This recipe works well for one crust pies like lemon meringue and pumpkin, too. Try it with vanilla yogurt instead of lemon for a baked shell worthy of your best cooked chocolate pudding topped with whipped cream after chilling. For savory recipes like quiche or even French meat pies (Stay tuned, my grandmere's tourtiere recipe will grace these pages before you know it!) eliminate the sugar and substitute plain yogurt for the flavored kind.

For a fancy finish, pick up a set of decorative pie crust cutters from your favorite kitchen boutique. My fall leaves came from Williams-Sonoma last year. I love them!


YOGURT PIE CRUST
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plus 2 tablespoons for rolling)
1 cup oat flour (or simply increase the all-purpose amount by one cup)
1 tablespoon white sugar
dash of salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup lemon yogurt

Make the pastry dough by combining flours, sugar and salt in a processor; pulse 2-3 times. Add shortening and pulse 4-5 times, or until mixture holds together in the shape of small peas. With the processor running, slowly add the yogurt through the chute, processing until the dough forms a ball. You may or may not use all the yogurt, the tricky part of making a flaky crust is no less tricky when moistening the dough with yogurt instead of water. Remove the dough ball and adhere any remaining pieces of dough to it, split dough into two balls, drop each in a ziploc bag and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to three days.

To use dough remove dough balls from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Use a pair of kitchen shears to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish.

Add your filling to the pie. Roll out second dough ball, as before. Gently place onto the top of the filling in the pie. Pinch top and bottom of dough rounds firmly together. Trim excess dough with kitchen shears, leaving about a 3/4 inch overhang. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork. Score the top crust with 3 or 4 small cuts so the steam from the pie can escape during baking.

If you like the fancy cutouts on my pie they are easy to do with decorative pie crust cutters found at most specialty cooking boutiques. Roll out excess dough to make decorative leaves or other shapes. Use brushed on egg wash as glue to secure the decorative shapes to the crust before baking then lightly brush egg wash on the decorative cutouts and sprinkle with turbonado sugar on shapes for a sparkly finished look to your pie.

Line a cookie sheet with foil and place your ready to bake pie on it to avoid cleaning messy spillovers from bubbling juices as it bakes. Follow baking instructions according to your favorite filling recipe. Most fruit fillings bake up nicely at 375 degrees F for about 45 minutes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Flex Some Mussels

Looking for an easy way to wow your dinner guests on the cheap? Watch for mussels to go on sale in the seafood department of your local grocer and try this simple recipe.

Before you wine snobs out there start shaking your heads at my serving the leftover Pinot Grigio to my guests, read this piece by Lettie Teague at Food & Wine. Serve mussels with hot crusty bread to sop up the flavorful liquid at the bottom of the pan.

Easy Mussels

2 pounds mussels (rinsed)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, grated
1 cup Pinot Grigio
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a 3 quart capacity French oven, melt the butter on a medium hot stovetop burner. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add wine and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half. Turn up the burner to medium high. Add clean, rinsed mussels and cover, steaming until mussels shells open fully to indicate doneness. Toss parsley on top of cooked mussels.

Serve with any crusty bread heated through in your oven while the mussels were steaming. Drink up the remaining chilled Pinot Grigio to wash it down and when that bottle is polished off, go ahead and open another! Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Gentle reminder not to drive if you've overindulged.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chasing the Chill Away

Woke up this morning and the tip of my nose was cold, marking the official end of the summer that never was. I asked my Facebook friends if summer had ever shown up in their neck of the woods. "We had summer here in Maine. I think it was a Tuesday," posted Marianne.

The best cure for a chilly morning is a pot of tea and a warm breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon and made-from-scratch cornbread. Not great for the cholesterol count but an oh so yummy way to start the day.


Old-fashioned Corn Bread

2 medium eggs
1-1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1-1/2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the milk and the oil. Mix this up until it is blended well. Add in the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and honey. Use a whisk or a wooden spoon and a strong arm to mix this all up until it is smooth. Turn batter into a round, oiled 9-inch cake pan. You can use a 9-inch cast iron skillet if you have one. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean from the center of bread. Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool for a few minutes before cutting it into wedges. Cut into eight wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.